Sunday, December 31, 2006

Feel Safer?

No-Fly List: Dead 9/11 Hijackers, Saddam, and "John Williams." Feel Safer?
Submitted by BuzzFlash on Fri, 10/06/2006 - 11:58am.

Uh-oh, we're in trouble. Five of the 19 dead September 11 hijackers are not on the U.S. no-fly list, according to a 60 Minutes report to be broadcast this Sunday. Luckily, the other 15 are. Thanks to George Bush's vigilant anti-terrorism policies, these remaining hijackers would be stopped in their tracks at the airport should they decide to come back to life to strike again.
Hey, they might be getting bored in paradise: those 72 women are probably not virgins anymore.

While it is unclear if Homeland Security would be able to stop the deceased terrorists should they be reincarnated as someone else (or at least get their names changed), it's good to know our government is hard at work protecting us against zombies. If we thought these guys were hard to stop the first time, imagine the struggle we would have fighting off an army of the living dead. The no-fly list also includes people who still have a pulse. If Saddam Hussein wants to fly our friendly skies, well, too bad! He's on the list too. The deposed dictator murdered thousands of his own people and duped our president into ordering one of the biggest blunders in U.S. history, but it looks like he will just have to take the bus next time he travels. America always gets the last laugh.Names like John Williams, Gary Smith, and Robert Johnson are also on the list of 44,000 people banned from flying. If you know any of these three men, you should probably call the FBI immediately. Who would have guessed the famous Star Wars composer was really a terrorist all along? Well, that's why we have the list. You would have to assume Osama bin Laden is on the no-fly list as well, making Bush's brilliant strategy to catch him finally clear: just wait for him to try to redeem his frequent flier miles, and then nab him at the airport. It's bound to happen eventually. Disney World probably isn't his style, but we do have some great caves he might be interested in visiting. In the 60 Minutes show, a former FBI agent says that the government "basically did a massive data dump" and compiled the list quickly. "When we heard the name list . . . the eyes rolled back in my head, because we knew what was going to happen," he said.In case you were wondering, the British terrorists planning to blow up airplanes flying to the U.S. didn't happen to make the list, meaning that, unlike the Robert Johnsons of the world, these men would have been cleared for takeoff.

Unless they were flying with Saddam, of course.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Dictator Created Then Destroyed by America

Published on Saturday, December 30, 2006 by the Independent/UK
A Dictator Created Then Destroyed by America
by Robert Fisk

Saddam to the gallows. It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold - that crack of the neck at the end of a rope - than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies? Our masters will tell us in a few hours that it is a "great day" for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his death sentence was signed - by the Iraqi "government", but on behalf of the Americans - on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.

But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers - what about the other guilty men?

No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don't gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn't invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead - and thousands of Western troops are dead - because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.

In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalized and killed the innocent - we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu Ghraib - and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.
Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.

And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our "bunker buster" bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our "victory" - our "mission accomplished" - who will be found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might expect will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy retirement.

Hours before Saddam's death sentence, his family - his first wife, Sajida, and Saddam's daughter and their other relatives - had given up hope.

"Whatever could be done has been done - we can only wait for time to take its course," one of them said last night. But Saddam knew, and had already announced his own "martyrdom": he was still the president of Iraq and he would die for Iraq. All condemned men face a decision: to die with a last, grovelling plea for mercy or to die with whatever dignity they can wrap around themselves in their last hours on earth. His last trial appearance - that wan smile that spread over the mass-murderer's face - showed us which path Saddam intended to walk to the noose.
I have catalogued his monstrous crimes over the years. I have talked to the Kurdish survivors of Halabja and the Shia who rose up against the dictator at our request in 1991 and who were betrayed by us - and whose comrades, in their tens of thousands, along with their wives, were hanged like thrushes by Saddam's executioners.

I have walked round the execution chamber of Abu Ghraib - only months, it later transpired, after we had been using the same prison for a few tortures and killings of our own - and I have watched Iraqis pull thousands of their dead relatives from the mass graves of Hilla. One of them has a newly-inserted artificial hip and a medical identification number on his arm. He had been taken directly from hospital to his place of execution. Like Donald Rumsfeld, I have even shaken the dictator's soft, damp hand. Yet the old war criminal finished his days in power writing romantic novels.

It was my colleague, Tom Friedman - now a messianic columnist for The New York Times - who perfectly caught Saddam's character just before the 2003 invasion: Saddam was, he wrote, "part Don Corleone, part Donald Duck". And, in this unique definition, Friedman caught the horror of all dictators; their sadistic attraction and the grotesque, unbelievable nature of their barbarity.

But that is not how the Arab world will see him. At first, those who suffered from Saddam's cruelty will welcome his execution. Hundreds wanted to pull the hangman's lever. So will many other Kurds and Shia outside Iraq welcome his end. But they - and millions of other Muslims - will remember how he was informed of his death sentence at the dawn of the Eid al-Adha feast, which recalls the would-be sacrifice by Abraham, of his son, a commemoration which even the ghastly Saddam cynically used to celebrate by releasing prisoners from his jails. "Handed over to the Iraqi authorities," he may have been before his death. But his execution will go down - correctly - as an American affair and time will add its false but lasting gloss to all this - that the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing (and this will be the terrible get-out for Arab historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died a "martyr" to the will of the new "Crusaders".

When he was captured in November of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity. After his death, it will redouble in intensity again. Freed from the remotest possibility of Saddam's return by his execution, the West's enemies in Iraq have no reason to fear the return of his Baathist regime. Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair. And there's a thought. So many crimes avenged.

But we will have got away with it.

John W. Dean

What Should Congressional Democrats Do, When the Bush Administration Stonewalls Their Efforts To Undertake Oversight?:
Part Two in a Three-Part Series
Friday, Dec. 29, 2006

"We see a war coming on Capitol Hill," a well-connected Republican attorney based in Washington recently told me, as I reported in my last column on the subject. The clash is not surprising, because Vice President Dick Cheney -- who is at the center of many of the subjects the Democratic Congress will be investigating -- is strongly opposed to Congress's inquiring into these areas. He believes the power of the presidency is at stake. Accordingly, as I noted earlier, he has made it quite clear that he is not going to cooperate with these investigations.

Before the conflict develops, it might seem helpful to go over the rules of the game -- to appreciate who is on solid ground, who is on shaky ground, and why this is the case. But as it happens, there are no rules!

That is, there is simply no well-established law of the land regarding what Congress can require a president, or a vice president, to provide them. Similarly, there is no well-settled law regarding what the president can, and cannot, withhold from Congress by citing "executive privilege" or other rationales. Thus, while this ground has been traveled many times, it still remains essentially uncharted.

Of course, there are precedents, and even U.S. Supreme Court rulings, in this area. But they have virtually no applicability when the contest involves Congress and the White House. Also, while forests have doubtless been consumed to publish copious learned treatises, essays, articles, and reports on this subject, at bottom, this is a matter not of law, but purely of politics. There is, however, evidence regarding this matter that can be drawn from history.

Allow me to elaborate - in this column, and the next - on the legal and political situation.

The Elusive Rules Regarding Congress's Access to Executive Branch Information

The Constitution is silent regarding Congress's power to investigate the president, and his constitutional partner, the vice president. It is equally silent about the power of a president and vice president to withhold information from Congress, when it is requested.

Thus, the implied powers of Congress and the President, respectively, are exclusively at issue; express constitutional language offers no guide.

Moreover, federal courts often cede jurisdiction in disputes between these constitutionally co-equal entities, for they involve "political questions." In the end, such disputes are most frequently resolved by political accommodation by either the Congress, or the President.

Column continues below ↓

"Congressional oversight is one of the most important responsibilities of the United States Congress," the Committee on Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives states, adding that this responsibility extends to "the review, monitoring, and supervision of federal agencies, programs and policy implementation, and it provides the legislative branch with an opportunity to inspect, examine, review and check the executive branch and its agencies." For all practical purposes, then, there is nothing that transpires within the Executive Branch that is beyond Congressional oversight.

Historical Practice: Congress Seeks and Gets Wide-Ranging Information on the Executive

Indeed, since the beginnings of our government, Congress has sought, and been given, information relating to every facet of executive actions.

The fact that a president's actions are undertaken pursuant to his Constitutional authority, such as that granted by the Commander-in-Chief clause or the "Take Care" clause, does not preclude Congress from examining that activity. There is almost no area of presidential activity into which Congress has not previously made inquiry. Thus, Bush and Cheney are going to be hard-pressed to justify any refusal to cooperate with the Democratic Congress.

When Congress seeks information from the Executive Branch, it typically starts with an informal request at the staff level, made of an official in one of the departments or agencies. If the request is refused, the relevant congressional staffer goes to a member of his or her committee, and requests that the member seek the information. If the member is also turned down, the request is taken to the full committee, or its chair, and a decision is made whether to issue a subpoena.

Often, before the Chairman or the full committee issues a subpoena, further informal negotiations occur. There is a long-existing tradition, recognized by all three branches, that Congress and the President are expected to work through a series of negotiations and accommodations to avoid a constitutional clash. Sometimes this process works, and the Congress narrows its requests, agrees to keep the information confidential, or obtains the information informally. When it does not work, the president must claim privilege.

The Bush Administration has been reluctant to claim "executive privilege" - given the bad name Nixon gave the use of the privilege. Accordingly, the Administration has on several occasions claimed a "deliberative privilege" - even though no such privilege exists, and it is merely another name for executive privilege.

Often, Congress folds when the president invokes executive privilege, for there is no real judicial remedy (as noted above, courts tend to punt, citing the "political question" doctrine). However, a determined Congress - or committee thereof - can prevail over a recalcitrant president (or vice president) if its members are determined and persistent.

Thus, if the 110th Congress, controlled by the Democrats, fails to get the information it needs -- and the public wants -- about the workings of the Bush/Cheney presidency, it will not be because it does not have the tools with which to obtain that information. Rather, it will be because it lacks the will to use those tools.

Forcing Executive Compliance with Congressional Information Requests

When Congress plays hardball, it gets the information it wants from the president. The Congressional Reference Service (CRS) has prepared a complete manual on oversight, which they updated recently. In the manual, CRS has laid out all Congress needs to know to crack any stonewall Bush and Cheney may erect to block their oversight efforts.

Lou Fisher, one of the authors of the CRS manual, catalogued a number of the methods available to Congress in his essay: "Congressional Access To Information: Using Legislative Will And Leverage." Drawing on historical examples, Fisher shows that Congress has a host of tools, of various size and shape and depending on the situation, to "extract information from the President."

Together, the manual, the update, and Fisher's excellent article provide an adept guide to everything Congress needs to exercise meaningful oversight as to the Bush Administration - everything, that is except the intestinal fortitude required for winning this staring contest, without blinking.

In my next column, I will take a specific look at some of the weapons in this awesome arsenal.

Send-Off for James Brown

A Loud, Proud Send-Off for an Icon of Soul

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Thousands of fans and mourners — some singing and dancing, some crying and praying — gathered at the Apollo Theater in Harlem to pay respects to James Brown.

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

A white carriage drawn by two white Percheron horses carried Brown's coffin to the Apollo Theater.

James Brown gave one last show in Harlem yesterday, three days after his death, in a golden coffin lined with white velvet, on the flower-bedecked stage of the famed Apollo Theater, before a crowd of thousands who had lined up for blocks to see him.

Mr. Brown’s body arrived beneath the Apollo’s red-neon sign just before 1 p.m. in a white-painted carriage pulled by two white horses with feathery plumes atop their heads. The carriage was small, with tall windows and white curtains with silver fringe. Two solemn men sat atop it, guiding the horses, and Mr. Brown’s friends and associates and Harlem dignitaries walked alongside and behind it.

Hundreds who lined 125th Street outside the theater on a chilly, overcast afternoon cheered and applauded. Helicopters hovered. Photographers aimed their cameras from the surrounding rooftops. A guy hawked commemorative T-shirts for $10. Mr. Brown’s cries and exultations filled the street, blaring from one of his concert videos playing on a beat-up television mounted above a sign for Uptown Tattoos. A chant rose up: “James Brown! James Brown! James Brown!”

When the theater’s doors finally opened, people began streaming in for a public viewing. They walked up a few stairs and stepped onto the red-carpeted stage, where Mr. Brown’s body lay in an open coffin, washed in white and gold stage lights. The coffin was made of 16-gauge steel with a gold paint finish. Mr. Brown was wearing a cobalt, sequined satin suit with white gloves and pointed silvery shoes. Loudspeakers played his breakthrough album, “Live at the Apollo,” recorded Oct. 24, 1962.

Women wearing veils approached. A man in a suit dropped to his knees and crossed his heart. One couple broke into a brief dance. “Right now,” Mr. Brown said on the loudspeakers, in a snippet of between-song banter, “I’m going to get up and do my thing.”

Mr. Brown did his thing yesterday: he put on a show. Throughout the day, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, formed two lines on 125th Street outside the Apollo, one to its east and one to its west, each one filling up 125th Street, reaching the corner and then stretching for blocks up Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, forming a giant U. Some had been waiting since midnight Wednesday.

“We’re sending him out in the style he lived,” said Nellie Williams, 58, of Greer, S.C., who stood near the front of one line. “He was a man that had to be seen and heard.” She brought her daughter, and a copy of an oil painting her brother did of Mr. Brown, his pompadour perfectly teased, his shirt open, his smile wide. “I want to show my last respects for his last show in New York,” Ms. Williams added.

Mr. Brown, 73, died of congestive heart failure early Monday in Atlanta. He was remembered, during a private ceremony for family and friends at the Apollo, and amid the lines of fans standing outside for the public viewing, as a singer, dancer, bandleader, funk pioneer, entrepreneur, black-pride icon and entertainer who many said transformed American pop music and African-American culture.

A private ceremony will be held today near Augusta, Ga., Mr. Brown’s adopted hometown, and a public service is set for tomorrow at the James Brown Arena in Augusta.

Yesterday, the somber pageantry that accompanies the death of a dignitary could be found on the streets of Harlem, retuned for the death of a showman in the nation’s black cultural capital. The spectacle — the horse-drawn hearse gliding down 125th Street, the Apollo temporarily transformed into a funeral parlor, the crowds of admirers waiting in line for up to five hours to say a prayer near the coffin — made clear this was a different kind of funeral for a different kind of man. This was a man who personified, as the headwaiter at a soul-food restaurant put it, “the outrageous expression of life.”

Mr. Brown’s journey to Harlem began in Augusta the day before. A white hearse carrying his body left the city about 9:30 p.m., accompanied by the Rev. Al Sharpton, a longtime friend who considered Mr. Brown a father figure. Fourteen hours later, about 11:30 a.m., the hearse pulled up to Mr. Sharpton’s National Action Network headquarters on West 145th Street in Harlem.

Outside the headquarters, it was impossible to tell people were waiting for a hearse. One man played a bongo drum, and someone else played the upbeat funk of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” on a portable stereo. The carriage waited, and so did the horses, Commander and Whitey, and the man who would hold the reins, Vet Harris, 66. “It’s an honor,” Mr. Harris said. “It’s beautiful.”

When the golden coffin was removed from the hearse and placed in the carriage, there was applause. Some onlookers cried. A group of friends and dignitaries assembled behind the carriage for the march down Lenox Avenue to the Apollo, among them Mr. Sharpton; Frank Copsidas, Mr. Brown’s agent; Ali Woodson, former lead singer of the Temptations; and the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, pastor of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn.

Outside the Apollo, throughout the morning and into the evening, hordes of people assembled on both sides of 125th Street behind metal police barricades. They were a largely black crowd, young women and retired men, elderly couples and families with children. Mr. Brown’s tunes played from storefronts, and women danced to the beat and sang along to his 1968 song “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud.” His image was everywhere: On T-shirts, posters, paintings people brought from home. The computerized Apollo marquee read, “Rest in Peace Apollo Legend, The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, 1933-2006.”

Burnis Hall, 65, stood near Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard with his wife. They were on vacation from Lathrup Village, Mich. “I first saw him in 1959, in Amarillo, Tex., when I was young airman in the Air Force,” Mr. Hall said of Mr. Brown. They stood with others in the chilly wind, struggling for the words to capture the legacy of a man who worked hard to defy convention. “Here’s an old guy that’s been there since the mid-’50s, still active in 2006,” Mr. Hall said. “How can you ignore this person?”

Nearly everyone had a James Brown story. They wanted to talk about the time they jumped on stage and danced with him, or met him at a party, or, like Samuel A. Herbert of Buffalo, once shined his black boots behind the Apollo. “He gave me $5 and he touched me on my shoulder and said, ‘God bless and be in courage,’ ” said Mr. Herbert, 57, retired from his work as a cancer research technician.

Inside during the viewing, Mr. Sharpton stood near the coffin, which was flanked by sprays of white lilies, white carnations and red and white roses. One flower arrangement spelled out “J B”; another, “Godfather.” A velvet rope kept people in the fast-moving line several feet from the coffin. Mr. Brown’s friends and family members sat in the first several rows of seats.

Tomi Rae Brown was there, dressed in black, chewing gum and passing out pink roses to Mr. Brown’s relatives. Ms. Brown has described herself as Mr. Brown’s wife, but his lawyer has depicted her as the singer’s partner, and she was barred from his South Carolina home a day after his death. “He’s my husband and the father of my child,” she said. “I’m mourning.”

About 6 p.m., the public viewing was interrupted for a service for Mr. Brown’s family, friends and the news media. “One era had a Bach, another had a Beethoven, but we had Brown,” Mr. Sharpton told the few hundred who sat in the Apollo. He said that those close to Mr. Brown decided Wednesday evening that he deserved a special procession and a special coffin. “We had some 30 people offering their planes, but because of the weight of the casket, we couldn’t get an ordinary flight,” Mr. Sharpton said. “I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, we’ll drive.’ ”

Mr. Sharpton said the public viewing was being extended by an hour, to 9 p.m., to accommodate the hundreds outside who still wanted to pay their respects. At 9:20, the police announced that no one else would be allowed inside, and the few hundred people remaining moved across the street.

During the service, Mr. Sharpton called six of Mr. Brown’s children to the stage, where they held hands. Then he introduced Charles Bobbit, Mr. Brown’s personal manager, and Ms. Brown, who spoke through tears. “My name is Tomi Rae Brown,” she said. “I love that man, and I have loved that man since the day I met him.”

Mr. Bobbit was with Mr. Brown when he died in Atlanta. “Before he passed, he said, ‘I think I’m going to leave you tonight,’ ” Mr. Bobbit recalled. “I said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’ ”

Cassi Feldman and Eric Konigsberg contributed reporting.

Bush fast asleep when Saddam's execution happened

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bush fast asleep when Saddam's execution happened

Picphoto123006bush We went through all of this trouble to go into Iraq, remove Saddam and execute him; yet our own President -- the man responsible for this invasion -- did not even bother to stay awake when the execution took place.

George W. Bush claimed that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a grave and gathering danger to United States security. We unilaterally went in there and deposed his regime. In 2003, once U.S. soldiers found Saddam Hussein, who was hiding in a hole near his hometown of Tikrit, Bush assured the American people that he would be brought to justice. Almost 3,000 U.S. soldiers and at least 50,000 Iraqi civilians lost their lives, and almost a half-trillion dollars was spent during this conflict.

Yet, while this was so important for us to go to war, remove Saddam and execute him, President Bush was fast asleep when the execution took place:

Bush was informed by national security adviser Stephen Hadley around 6:15 p.m. CST (0015 GMT) that the execution would take place in a few hours and was asleep when it occurred, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

Forget the fact that the Duelfer Report proved Saddam Hussein was a diminishing threat, not a grave and gathering one. Forget that Saddam Hussein did not posses weapons of mass destruction. Forget that the American people were lied to over and over about this war. Still, after all this Iraq hype, shouldn't the man behind the invasion at least garner up the motivation and energy to stay awake past his normal bed time? Since he is in Texas, he would have had to fall asleep before 9 PM CT in order to miss the execution. That means he probably got ready for bed in the 8 PM hour. What President goes to bed that early? Major world events are happening, and our President chooses to sleep. This is like "My Pet Goat" all over again.

Friday, December 29, 2006

On My Mind
They're Watching
Bruce Schneier 01.08.07, 12:00 AM ET

If you read this piece we'll have to kill you.

If you've traveled abroad recently, you've been investigated. You've been assigned a score indicating what kind of terrorist threat you pose. That score is used by the government to determine the treatment you receive when you return to the U.S. and for other purposes as well.

Curious about your score? You can't see it. Interested in what information was used? You can't know that. Want to clear your name if you've been wrongly categorized? You can't challenge it. Want to know what kind of rules the computer is using to judge you? That's secret, too. So is when and how the score will be used.

U.S. customs agencies have been quietly operating this system for several years. Called Automated Targeting System, it assigns a "risk assessment" score to people entering or leaving the country, or engaging in import or export activity. This score, and the information used to derive it, can be shared with federal, state, local and even foreign governments. It can be used if you apply for a government job, grant, license, contract or other benefit. It can be shared with nongovernmental organizations and individuals in the course of an investigation. In some circumstances private contractors can get it, even those outside the country. And it will be saved for 40 years.

Little is known about this program. Its bare outlines were disclosed in the Federal Register in October. We do know that the score is partially based on details of your flight record--where you're from, how you bought your ticket, where you're sitting, any special meal requests--or on motor vehicle records, as well as on information from crime, watch-list and other databases.

Civil liberties groups have called the program Kafkaesque. But I have an even bigger problem with it. It's a waste of money.

The idea of feeding a limited set of characteristics into a computer, which then somehow divines a person's terrorist leanings, is farcical. Uncovering terrorist plots requires intelligence and investigation, not large-scale processing of everyone.

Additionally, any system like this will generate so many false alarms as to be completely unusable. In 2005 Customs & Border Protection processed 431 million people. Assuming an unrealistic model that identifies terrorists (and innocents) with 99.9% accuracy, that's still 431,000 false alarms annually.

The number of false alarms will be much higher than that. The no-fly list is filled with inaccuracies; we've all read about innocent people named David Nelson who can't fly without hours-long harassment. Airline data, too, are riddled with errors.

The odds of this program's being implemented securely, with adequate privacy protections, are not good. Last year I participated in a government working group to assess the security and privacy of a similar program developed by the Transportation Security Administration, called Secure Flight. After five years and $100 million spent, the program still can't achieve the simple task of matching airline passengers against terrorist watch lists.

In 2002 we learned about yet another program, called Total Information Awareness, for which the government would collect information on every American and assign him or her a terrorist risk score. Congress found the idea so abhorrent that it halted funding for the program. Two years ago, and again this year, Secure Flight was also banned by Congress until it could pass a series of tests for accuracy and privacy protection.

In fact, the Automated Targeting System is arguably illegal, as well (a point several congressmen have made recently); all recent Department of Homeland Security appropriations bills specifically prohibit the department from using profiling systems against persons not on a watch list.

There is something un-American about a government program that uses secret criteria to collect dossiers on innocent people and shares that information with various agencies, all without any oversight. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from the former Soviet Union or East Germany or China. And it doesn't make us any safer from terrorism.

Bruce Schneier, Chief Technology Officer of BT Counterpane, which manages security for corporate clients.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq

By Bob WoodwardWashington Post Staff WriterThursday, December 28, 2006; A01
Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration.

In a four-hour conversation at his house in Beaver Creek, Colo., Ford "very strongly" disagreed with the current president's justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as sanctions, much more vigorously. In the tape-recorded interview, Ford was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney -- Ford's White House chief of staff -- and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who served as Ford's chief of staff and then his Pentagon chief.

"Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."

In a conversation that veered between the current realities of a war in the Middle East and the old complexities of the war in Vietnam whose bitter end he presided over as president, Ford took issue with the notion of the United States entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy.

"Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."

The Ford interview -- and a subsequent lengthy conversation in 2005 -- took place for a future book project, though he said his comments could be published at any time after his death. In the sessions, Ford fondly recalled his close working relationship with key Bush advisers Cheney and Rumsfeld while expressing concern about the policies they pursued in more recent years.

"He was an excellent chief of staff. First class," Ford said. "But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious" as vice president. He said he agreed with former secretary of state Colin L. Powell's assertion that Cheney developed a "fever" about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. "I think that's probably true."

Describing his own preferred policy toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Ford said he would not have gone to war, based on the publicly available information at the time, and would have worked harder to find an alternative. "I don't think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly," he said, "I don't think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer."

Ford had faced his own military crisis -- not a war he started like Bush, but one he had to figure out how to end. In many ways those decisions framed his short presidency -- in the difficult calculations about how to pull out of Vietnam and the challenging players who shaped policy on the war. Most challenging of all, as Ford recalled, was Henry A. Kissinger, who was both secretary of state and national security adviser and had what Ford said was "the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew."

"I think he was a super secretary of state," Ford said, "but Henry in his mind never made a mistake, so whatever policies there were that he implemented, in retrospect he would defend."
In 1975, Ford decided to relieve Kissinger of his national security title. "Why Nixon gave Henry both secretary of state and head of the NSC, I never understood," Ford said. "Except he was a great supporter of Kissinger. Period." But Ford viewed Kissinger's dual roles as a conflict of interest that weakened the administration's ability to fully air policy debates. "They were supposed to check on one another."

That same year, Ford also decided to fire Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger and replace him with Rumsfeld, who was then Ford's White House chief of staff. Ford recalled that he then used that decision to go to Kissinger and say, "I'm making a change at the secretary of defense, and I expect you to be a team player and work with me on this" by giving up the post of security adviser.

Kissinger was not happy. "Mr. President, the press will misunderstand this," Ford recalled Kissinger telling him. "They'll write that I'm being demoted by taking away half of my job." But Ford made the changes, elevating the deputy national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, to take Kissinger's White House post.

Throughout this maneuvering, Ford said, he kept his White House chief of staff in the dark. "I didn't consult with Rumsfeld. And knowing Don, he probably resented the fact that I didn't get his advice, which I didn't," Ford said. "I made the decision on my own."

Kissinger remained a challenge for Ford. He regularly threatened to resign, the former president recalled. "Over the weekend, any one of 50 weekends, the press would be all over him, giving him unshirted hell. Monday morning he would come in and say, 'I'm offering my resignation.' Just between Henry and me. And I would literally hold his hand. 'Now, Henry, you've got the nation's future in your hands and you can't leave us now.' Henry publicly was a gruff, hard-nosed, German-born diplomat, but he had the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew."

Ford added, "Any criticism in the press drove him crazy." Kissinger would come in and say: "I've got to resign. I can't stand this kind of unfair criticism." Such threats were routine, Ford said. "I often thought, maybe I should say: 'Okay, Henry. Goodbye,' " Ford said, laughing. "But I never got around to that."

At one point, Ford recalled Kissinger, his chief Vietnam policymaker, as "coy." Then he added, Kissinger is a "wonderful person. Dear friend. First-class secretary of state. But Henry always protected his own flanks."

Ford was also critical of his own actions during the interviews. He recalled, for example, his unsuccessful 1976 campaign to remain in office, when he was under enormous pressure to dump Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller from the Republican ticket. Some polls at the time showed that up to 25 percent of Republicans, especially those from the South, would not vote for Ford if Rockefeller, a New Yorker from the liberal wing of the Republican Party, was on the ticket.
When Rockefeller offered to be dropped from the ticket, Ford took him up on it. But he later regretted it. The decision to dump the loyal Rockefeller, he said, was "an act of cowardice on my part."

In the end, though, it was Vietnam and the legacy of the retreat he presided over that troubled Ford. After Saigon fell in 1975 and the United States evacuated from Vietnam, Ford was often labeled the only American president to lose a war. The label always rankled.
"Well," he said, "I was mad as hell, to be honest with you, but I never publicly admitted it."
Christine Parthemore contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Are Bush and Blair preparing to start another war?

Two men on the wrong mission
Their tough talk suggests Bush and Blair may be preparing to attack Iran, says robert fox
I hope George Bush and Tony Blair aren't about to do something daft over Iran. There are ominous signs that they are.

On the last stop of his Middle East in Dubai, Blair named Iran as the number one destabilising force in the region. Iran's government, he said, is "openly supporting terrorism in Iraq to stop a fledgling democratic process, trying to turn out a democratic government in Lebanon and flouting the international community's desire for peace in Palestine."

Blair and Bush are, in their different ways, like the G-men in the early days of the FBI. They love to have a public enemy number one. Sometimes the top slot has been taken by al-Qaeda, sometimes Hezbollah, Hamas or the Iraqi militia leader Moqtada al Sadr. And now they have the ramshackle regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to take on.

Blair and Bush love to have a public enemy number one. Sometimes it’s al-Qaeda or Hamas. Now it’s the turn of Iran

To reinforce the sense of growing danger from Tehran, Bush has asked his new Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, to dispatch a second aircraft carrier group to the Gulf. This is needed to counter the threat of Iran mining the Straits of Hormuz in response to UN sanctions. To help out, the Royal Navy is sending two more minesweepers to join the international force there. "And yet," warned Blair, in best parsonical finger-wagging mode in Dubai, "a large part of world opinion is frankly almost indifferent. It would be bizarre if it weren't so deadly serious."
The retiring UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, has warned the US and the UK that war is no solution for resolving the differences with Iran. If they believe they are acting in support of democracy, the Bush-Blair axis is showing pretty bad timing in turning up the rhetoric against Tehran.

In local elections this month, voters in Iran have turned away from Ahmadinejad. They have voted for moderate reformers led by the former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, for places on the council of guidance, and
page 1 of 2
Wednesday December 27, 2006 Updated 5:00 pm ET

Meehan Prepares To Reintroduce DADT Repeal Bill(Washington) Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) said Wednesday he will reintroduce legislation to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." early next year.
Five Charged In Scam Involving Sale Of HIV Drug (Concord, New Hampshire) Federal authorities in New Hampshire have charged four people from California and a New Hampshire woman with fraud and conspiracy involving the drug Serostim, used to treat people with HIV.
Mass. High Court Refuses To Order Anti-Gay Amendment Vote(Boston, Massachusetts) A bid by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to force the legislature to take up a proposed amendment to ban same-sex marriage was rejected Wednesday by the state's highest court.
Ford Death Rekindles Memories Of Gay Man Who Thwarted Assassination Attempt (Washington) Former President Gerald Ford died Tuesday night in California. He was 93.
Marriage Oath In Ohio County Asks If Person Is Transsexual(Springfield, Ohio) Couples planning to marry in Clark County, Ohio are asked if either person is transsexual. It is believed to be the only jurisdiction in the country where people are asked to swear they are not transgendered before receiving a marriage license.
Gay Man Awarded Half Million Dollars In Toronto Police Assault (Toronto, Ontario) A gay man beaten by Toronto police in what a jury described as a "gay bashing" has been awarded more than a half million dollars.
Gay Travelers Rack Up Air Miles(San Francisco, California) Chances are you were among the millions of people on the move over the holiday weekend. In fact a recent study shows gays and lesbians the most traveled of Americans.
Oz Gov't Threatens New Attempt To Pass Civil Unions Bill(Canberra) A renewed attempt to pass legislation creating civil partnerships in the Australian Capital Territory could be destined for the same federal veto as befell the last bill six months ago.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?

Guardian (UK)
November 20, 2006
Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?

In 1968, Robert Kennedy seemed likely to follow his
brother, John, into the White House. Then, on June 6,
he was assassinated - apparently by a lone gunman. But
Shane O'Sullivan says he has evidence implicating three
CIA agents in the murder

At first, it seems an open-and-shut case. On June 5
1968, Robert Kennedy wins the California Democratic
primary and is set to challenge Richard Nixon for the
White House. After midnight, he finishes his victory
speech at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles and is
shaking hands with kitchen staff in a crowded pantry
when 24-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan steps down
from a tray-stacker with a "sick, villainous smile" on
his face and starts firing at Kennedy with an eight-
shot revolver.

As Kennedy lies dying on the pantry floor, Sirhan is
arrested as the lone assassin. He carries the motive in
his shirt-pocket (a clipping about Kennedy's plans to
sell bombers to Israel) and notebooks at his house seem
to incriminate him. But the autopsy report suggests
Sirhan could not have fired the shots that killed
Kennedy. Witnesses place Sirhan's gun several feet in
front of Kennedy, but the fatal bullet is fired from
one inch behind. And more bullet-holes are found in the
pantry than Sirhan's gun can hold, suggesting a second
gunman is involved. Sirhan's notebooks show a bizarre
series of "automatic writing" - "RFK must die RFK must
be killed - Robert F Kennedy must be assassinated
before 5 June 68" - and even under hypnosis, he has
never been able to remember shooting Kennedy. He
recalls "being led into a dark place by a girl who
wanted coffee", then being choked by an angry mob.
Defence psychiatrists conclude he was in a trance at
the time of the shooting and leading psychiatrists
suggest he may have be a hypnotically programmed

Three years ago, I started writing a screenplay about
the assassination of Robert Kennedy, caught up in a
strange tale of second guns and "Manchurian candidates"
(as the movie termed brainwashed assassins). As I
researched the case, I uncovered new video and
photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA
operatives were behind the killing. I did not buy the
official ending that Sirhan acted alone, and started
dipping into the nether-world of "assassination
research", crossing paths with David Sanchez Morales, a
fearsome Yaqui Indian.

Morales was a legendary figure in CIA covert
operations. According to close associate Tom Clines, if
you saw Morales walking down the street in a Latin
American capital, you knew a coup was about to happen.
When the subject of the Kennedys came up in a late-
night session with friends in 1973, Morales launched
into a tirade that finished: "I was in Dallas when we
got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we
got the little bastard." From this line grew my odyssey
into the spook world of the 60s and the secrets behind
the death of Bobby Kennedy.

Working from a Cuban photograph of Morales from 1959, I
viewed news coverage of the assassination to see if I
could spot the man the Cubans called El Gordo - The Fat
One. Fifteen minutes in, there he was, standing at the
back of the ballroom, in the moments between the end of
Kennedy's speech and the shooting. Thirty minutes
later, there he was again, casually floating around the
darkened ballroom while an associate with a pencil
moustache took notes.

The source of early research on Morales was Bradley
Ayers, a retired US army captain who had been seconded
to JM-Wave, the CIA's Miami base in 1963, to work
closely with chief of operations Morales on training
Cuban exiles to run sabotage raids on Castro. I tracked
Ayers down to a small town in Wisconsin and emailed him
stills of Morales and another guy I found suspicious -
a man who is pictured entering the ballroom from the
direction of the pantry moments after the shooting,
clutching a small container to his body, and being
waved towards an exit by a Latin associate.

Ayers' response was instant. He was 95% sure that the
first figure was Morales and equally sure that the
other man was Gordon Campbell, who worked alongside
Morales at JM-Wave in 1963 and was Ayers' case officer
shortly before the JFK assassination.

I put my script aside and flew to the US to interview
key witnesses for a documentary on the unfolding story.
In person, Ayers positively identified Morales and
Campbell and introduced me to David Rabern, a freelance
operative who was part of the Bay of Pigs invasion
force in 1961 and was at the Ambassador hotel that
night. He did not know Morales and Campbell by name but
saw them talking to each other out in the lobby before
the shooting and assumed they were Kennedy's security
people. He also saw Campbell around police stations
three or four times in the year before Robert Kennedy
was shot.

This was odd. The CIA had no domestic jurisdiction and
Morales was stationed in Laos in 1968. With no secret
service protection for presidential candidates in those
days, Kennedy was guarded by unarmed Olympic decathlete
champion Rafer Johnson and football tackler Rosey Grier
- no match for an expert assassination team.

Trawling through microfilm of the police investigation,
I found further photographs of Campbell with a third
figure, standing centre-stage in the Ambassador hotel
hours before the shooting. He looked Greek, and I
suspected he might be George Joannides, chief of
psychological warfare operations at JM-Wave. Joannides
was called out of retirement in 1978 to act as the CIA
liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations
(HSCA) investigating the death of John F Kennedy.
Ed Lopez, now a respected lawyer at Cornell University,
came into close contact with Joann-des when he was a
young law student working for the committee. We visit
him and show him the photograph and he is 99% sure it
is Joannides. When I tell him where it was taken, he is
not surprised: "If these guys decided you were bad,
they acted on it.

We move to Washington to meet Wayne Smith, a state
department official for 25 years who knew Morales well
at the US embassy in Havana in 1959-60. When we show
him the video in the ballroom, his response is instant:
"That's him, that's Morales." He remembers Morales at a
cocktail party in Buenos Aires in 1975, saying Kennedy
got what was coming to him. Is there a benign
explanation for his presence? For Kennedy's security,
maybe? Smith laughs. Morales is the last person you
would want to protect Bobby Kennedy, he says. He hated
the Kennedys, blaming their lack of air support for the
failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

We meet Clines in a hotel room near CIA headquarters.
He does not want to go on camera and brings a friend,
which is a little unnerving. Clines remembers "Dave"
fondly. The guy in the video looks like Morales but it
is not him, he says: "This guy is fatter and Morales
walked with more of a slouch and his tie down." To me,
the guy in the video does walk with a slouch and his
tie is down.

Clines says he knew Joannides and Campbell and it is
not them either, but he fondly remembers Ayers bringing
snakes into JM-Wave to scare the secretaries and seems
disturbed at Smith's identification of Morales. He does
not discourage our investigation and suggests others
who might be able to help. A seasoned journalist
cautions that he would expect Clines "to blow smoke",
and yet it seems his honest opinion.

As we leave Los Angeles, I tell the immigration officer
that I am doing a story on Bobby Kennedy. She has seen
the advertisements for the new Emilio Estevez movie
about the assassination, Bobby. "Who do you think did
it? I think it was the Mob," she says before I can

"I definitely think it was more than one man," I say,

Morales died of a heart attack in 1978, weeks before he
was to be called before the HSCA. Joannides died in
1990. Campbell may still be out there somewhere, in his
early 80s. Given the positive identifications we have
gathered on these three, the CIA and the Los Angeles
Police Department need to explain what they were doing
there. Lopez believes the CIA should call in and
interview everybody who knew them, disclose whether
they were on a CIA operation and, if not, why they were
there that night.

Today would have been Robert Kennedy's 81st birthday.
The world is crying out for a compassionate leader like
him. If dark forces were behind his elimination, it
needs to be investigated

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Insurgents offer U.S. 30-day truce to get out of Iraq

Insurgents offer U.S. 30-day truce to get out of Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The leader of an umbrella organization for Iraqi insurgent groups is offering the United States a one-month truce to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq and turn over its military bases "to the mujahedeen of the Islamic state."

In an audiotape posted on Islamic Web sites Friday, a speaker identified as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Mujahideen Shura Council, said that if U.S. forces begin withdrawing from Iraq immediately and leave their heavy weaponry behind, "we will allow your withdrawal to complete without anyone targeting you with any explosive or anything else."

"We say to Bush not to waste this historic opportunity that will guarantee you a safe withdrawal," al-Baghdadi said on the audiotape.

The United States was given two weeks to respond to the offer.

The Mujahideen Shura Council is an umbrella group formed in late 2005 that includes several terrorist and insurgent groups, including al Qaeda in Iraq.

On the audiotape, al-Baghdadi also called on officers from the former Iraqi army to join an "army of the Islamic state," promising them a house and a salary as long as they pass a "test of faith" intended to demonstrate the extent of their "hatred" for Saddam Hussein and his regime.

The U.S. military Friday reported five U.S. troop deaths, while Iraqi authorities reported the discovery of a dozen bodies and the kidnapping of a Sunni imam in Baghdad.

One soldier was killed and another wounded when attackers targeted a coalition patrol west of the capital, the U.S. military said. Three Marines and a sailor assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Thursday from wounds suffered during combat in Anbar province, the military also said.

The deaths bring the December U.S. military death toll to 73 and the overall total during the war to 2,955; seven U.S. contractors also have been killed.

Other developments

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates concluded his three-day tour of Iraq to assess U.S. troop levels and Iraq's security situation. He was headed for Washington on Friday and was expected to issue a report of his consultations with U.S. troops, commanders and Iraqi officials to President Bush during the weekend. (Watch what insights Gates is getting from U.S. troops in Iraq Video)
  • Coalition forces in Baghdad killed an insurgent and detained 35 others Friday morning during raids aimed at al Qaeda in Iraq members, the U.S. military said. In Basra, about 1,000 British troops arrested four and seized weapons in a sweep to arrest police suspected of death squad activities. Iraqi troops in Diyala province also launched raids, detaining 13 people in a sweep that targeted "an illegal armed group cell."
  • The Shiite leadership says it will not exclude radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a statement that appeared to douse hopes for the emergence of a moderate political alliance that would include Sunni and Kurdish parties. (Full story)
  • President Bush and first lady Laura Bush made bedside visits to 38 American service members at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Friday, The Associated Press reported. They joined Girl Scouts and children of hospital staff to wrap presents for families and children of wounded military personnel and were to head for Camp David later Friday for the Christmas holiday, AP reported. (Full story)
  • Polish President Lech Kaczynski has approved a one-year extension through 2007 for his country's 900 troops to serve in Iraq, the AP cited his foreign policy adviser as saying Friday. They are mainly involved in training Iraqi security forces, AP reported.
  • Eight Marines have been charged in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last year, the Marine Corps announced Thursday. (Full story)

    CNN's Jomana Karadsheh, Jamie McIntyre and Eileen Hsieh contributed to this repor

  • Friday, December 22, 2006

    Dickey: Bush's Disastrous Troop Plan

    In Iraq there are no good options, but President Bush's plan to expand the armed forces appears inclined to the worst.
    By Christopher Dickey
    Updated: 5:02 p.m. ET Dec 21, 2006

    Dec. 21, 2006 - Not so very many years ago, Baghdad thrived with intellectuals and artists, a few of whom survived even during the decades of Saddam Hussein’s single-minded tyranny. The poets considered T.S. Eliot something of a god, and his iconic work, “The Waste Land,” a kind of scripture. They found hope in the notion that love and sacrifice might triumph over the despair and sterile devastation of their own “cracked earth.”

    Today, those I knew in Baghdad who remembered Eliot and wrote about him have died or, long since, abandoned a city that has become the epicenter of a widening civil war. But as I watched President George W. Bush give his press conference yesterday, I couldn’t help thinking of another Eliot poem. In “The Hollow Men,” there is that line about “paralysed force, gestures without motion,” and the famous conclusion about the world ending “not with a bang but a whimper.” And there was Bush: trying desperately to contrive some way to claim a triumph in a country he has turned into death’s dream kingdom, pretending to have strategies where none exist, ignoring realities and taking refuge in willful ignorance even as he claimed to feel the pain of the dying.

    What Bush appears to be talking about now is essentially an incremental change masquerading as a bid to turn the tide of the conflict. He wants to increase the size of the American armed forces, he said. But when he was asked if he supported a proposed “surge” of 20,000 or more American soldiers on the ground in Baghdad, he equivocated: “I haven't made up my mind yet about more troops.” He is listening to advice, he claimed, and he doesn’t want to give away the big announcements he’s got planned for January: “I'm not going to speculate out loud about what I'm going to tell the nation, when I'm prepared to do so, about the way forward.” Apparently The Decider has decided not to explain to the public what he’s decided until he decides he’s good and ready.

    Decidedly, we’ve heard this kind of spin before. Four years ago, when Bush knew damn well he was going to invade Iraq, he kept telling the public he hadn’t made any final determination. That’s just his way. But I hope I’m wrong. I hope the president really does listen to his generals and to the Iraq Study Group and to others who are explaining to him ever so patiently that the surge would be a bad idea. Maybe a sports metaphor would work: this is like calling a quarterback sneak for a final desperate push into the end zone—when you’re still back at the 50-yard line.

    “Operation Forward Together” in August and September, the last grand plan to secure Baghdad by pouring in more troops (and cruelly extending their tours at the last minute was a dismal failure. Insurgent attacks increased 22 percent by October. A few thousand more Americans on the streets aren’t going to change such savage arithmetic. And, as the skeptical generals keep asking, what function are those boots on the ground supposed to serve? If their job is to separate Iraqi Shiite and Sunni neighbors who’ve learned to fear and loathe each other since the U.S. invasion, who now nourish ferocious vendettas, and who thoroughly disrespect American grunts who share nothing of their language, faith, culture or long-term concerns—well, that’s just not going to work. We will have made our big push, our last-ditch drive, and come up short.

    The surge is a surefire formula, in fact, for turning what still could be called a retreat with honor into an outright defeat with humiliation. That is just what America’s enemies around the world would like to see—and it is just what the wise men and the sage woman on the Iraq Study Group wanted to avoid. Their plan as of two weeks ago (it seems so long already) was for “our” Iraqis to win the war, of course, if such a thing were possible, but much more importantly for the Iraqis to bear responsibility for losing it if they fail to get their act together. It was a cynical strategy for shifting blame, and far from ideal, but at least it wasn’t built on a cheerleader’s delusion that more American muscle is what it takes to set the Iraqis straight.

    Meanwhile, the chances to pursue diplomacy that could stabilize the region are fast disappearing. Flynt Leverett, formerly a senior CIA analyst and a National Security Council staffer in Bush’s first term, presented a powerfully argued paper at a Century Foundation conference in Washington earlier this month advocating a “grand bargain” with Iran. To help defuse the conflict in Iraq, stabilize Lebanon and persuade Tehran to curtail its nuclear ambitions, the United States would offer Iran solid security guarantees as well as economic and technological cooperation. Why does Leverett think this would be effective? Because he and his wife, diplomat Hillary Mann, were involved with the secret negotiations the Bush administration conducted with Tehran for a year and a half. His paper traces those talks—and the way the administration fumbled them, then sabotaged them—step by step. Now, Leverett warns that the window for any such agreement is closing as Iran sees American power and prestige waning quickly, its own strength growing and its nuclear centrifuges spinning.

    The White House reaction to Leverett’s ideas? He sought official clearance to publish essentially the same material on The New York Times op-ed page last week (as a former CIA man, Leverett has to do this, and he already had gotten approval for the academic paper). He was told the op-ed piece couldn’t be published. It touched on material that was too sensitive.

    And so we go on: led by the hollow men toward a waste land of their own making.

    Thursday, December 21, 2006


    The Man Needs to be Hauled Before a Grand Jury, After Receiving Appropriate Mental Health Treatment. Today's Gem from the Man Who Lets Other Die for His Stubborn Vanity: "U.S. Not Winning War in Iraq, Bush Says for 1st Time." 12/20

    Dave Lindorff: Only the People Can Save Us Now: Sell-Out Democrats Have Walked into a Bush Trap on Iraq -

    Purge the surge. Bush's idea to raise troop levels "is so breathtakingly bad in so many ways that it's almost unimaginable." 12/21

    'Iraq not a threat before war'

    'Iraq not a threat before war'
    15/12/2006 21:22 - (SA)

    London - Britain's former top Iraq expert at the United Nations said in previously secret testimony that most government officials did not believe Iraq posed a threat in the months leading to the US-led invasion, according to a new report.

    Carne Ross, a former first secretary to the British mission at the UN responsible for Iraq policy, told a house of commons committee that he and other analysts believed that Iraq had only a "very limited" ability to mount an attack of any kind, including one using weapons of mass destruction, or WMD.

    Ross declined to comment on his testimony on Friday, saying it spoke for itself.

    The house of commons foreign affairs committee on Thursday published the testimony, which Ross gave to Lord Butler's 2004 official inquiry into intelligence on Iraq.
    Butler didn't fault the government but criticised intelligence officials for relying in part on "seriously flawed" or "unreliable" sources.

    The committee published Ross' testimony after assuring him that parliamentary privilege would protect him from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

    Ross served in the British mission at the UN headquarters from 1998 until 2002. Later, he was posted in Kosovo and Afghanistan, but kept in contact with British foreign ministry and defence ministry experts on Iraq and inquired about the shift toward war.

    "At no time did HMG (Her Majesty's Government) assess that Iraq's WMD posed a threat to the U.K. or its interests. It was the commonly held view among officials that the threat had been contained," Ross said in the written testimony.

    "Iraq's ability to launch a WMD or any form of attack was very limited," he said.

    "There were approx 12 or so unaccounted-for Scud missiles; Iraq's air force was depleted to the point of total ineffectiveness; its army was but a pale shadow of its earlier might; there was no evidence of any connection between Iraq and any terrorist organisation that might have planned an attack using Iraqi WMD (I do not recall any occasion when the question of a terrorist connection was even raised in UK/US discussions or UK internal debates)."

    During the months leading up to the war, he said, the evidence of the threat posed by Saddam's regime did not change. "What changed was the government's determination to present available evidence in a different light," he testified.

    Britain, Israel, US to 'vanish'

    Britain, Israel, US to 'vanish'20/12/2006 12:12 - (SA)

    Tehran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday predicted that Britain, Israel and the United States would eventually disappear from the world like the Egyptian pharaonic kings.

    "The oppressive powers will disappear while the Iranian people will stay. Any power that is close to God will survive while the powers who are far from God will disappear like the pharaohs," he said, according to Iranian news agencies.

    "Today, it is the United States, Britain and the Zionist regime which are doomed to disappear as they have moved far away from the teachings of God," he said in a speech in the western town of Javanroud.

    "It is a divine promise."

    Ahmadinejad's comments were the latest salvo by the deeply religious president against the West and Israel. He has repeatedly predicted that Israel is doomed to disappear.

    The remarks come amid mounting efforts by UN Security Council powers to agree a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.

    "They are threatening us with sanctions. But they have to know that nuclear energy is the desire of all the (Iranian) people and the people will insist on their right," Ahmadinejad said.

    Fox Guest Says Joy Behar, Matt Damon & Keith Olbermann Should Be Rounded Up And Put In A Detention Center Because They're Traitors

    Fox Guest Says Joy Behar, Matt Damon & Keith Olbermann Should Be Rounded Up And Put In A Detention Center Because They're Traitors

    Reported by Donna - December 19, 2006

    Today in a segment on Fox On Line with Bill Hemmer he had two guests on to talk about Joy Behar's comparing Rumsfeld to Hitler. One of the guests pulled a Gestapo move on the conversation with his rounding up people to send to detention camps.

    The following is my transcription between Bill Hemmer, right wing radio host, Mike Gallagher and left wing radio host, Rob Thompson.

    Bill Hemmer: They talk about Godwins Law, internet junkies, as discussions grow longer someone makes a comparison to Hitler and that person loses the argument. The view, Joy Behar weighing in on the Times Person of the Year.

    Video Clip of Joy Behar: "I don't think anyone cares anymore about Time Magazines Person of the Year. You have to put like a Hitler type, like you put Donald Rumsfeld there or something."

    Onscreen is a picture of Hitler and Donald Rumsfeld side by side and the words 'The View from the Left?'

    Bill Hemmer: Rob, can you defend that?

    Rob Thompson: Who can? Godwins Law stands true in all instances. Nobody believes he's like Hitler, c'mon.

    BH: I like Joy Behar. I think she's smart. I think she's funny but this is a bit unexcusable, Mike?

    RT: Now, if she'd have said something like Rumsfeld alone or Rumsfeld is a lot like Bob MacNamera, we'll put him on the cover of Time Magazine.

    Mike Gallagher: You know it's a little bit ridiculous that we continue to watch these TV stars and movie stars who smear our leaders. I just wonder, Rob, if you'll think for a moment what our enemies think (Comment: Now our enemies are watching The View?) of seeing TV personalities comparing the outgoing Defense Secretary to Adolph Hitler.

    I mean, you know, conservatives never get a pass. Strom Thurmond is wished a Happy Birthday by Trent Lott and the sky falls in on Trent Lott. But if Joy Behar goes on national TV and compares a good man like Rumsfeld to the evilest man in the world and there's no repercussions for Joy Behar. You know, I think we should round up all of these folks. Round up Joy Behar, round up Matt Damon, who last night on MSNBC attacked George Bush and Dick Cheney. Round up Olbermann, take the whole bunch of them and put them in a detention camp until this war is over because they're a bunch of traitors.

    RT: They're not traitors, they're Americans. You know what the great thing about America is? You get to say what you like and you don't get thrown into detention camps...

    MG:..No, you don't...

    RT: ...And that's what the rest of the world sees. They see free Americans say what they like without having any fear of going to jail. So, if I wanted to compare someone to Hitler or anybody else, Pol Pot, whatever it might be, I have no fear of going to jail because that is what an America is.

    MG: There's such a thing as treason, Rob.

    RT: That's not treason. That's just political talk and satire and it's a little funny at the least.

    BH: Mike, what do you want? An apology from ABC, Barbara Walter, who runs the show? What do you want?

    MG: Listen, I think we ought to have the same standard for Joy Behar that Rush Limbaugh was held to when he said Donovan McNabb was an over-rated quarterback. He was out. (Comment: Rush Limbaugh also said the league was eager to see a black quarterback do well in the NFL) Michael Richards is under siege right now, as he should be for his racist rant, but he's out. So why is Joy Behar not out? Why is Rosie O'Donnell not out? Why is Rosie O'Donnell not facing any consequences for going 'ching-chang, ching-chang, ching-chang' (he says this while he pulls at his eyes to mimic and make fun of an Asian person)? And making fun of Danny DeVito and sluring Aisian Americans or comparing , she said radical Christianity is as dangerous as radical Islam. These people ought to be held accountable.

    BH: Almost out of time (overtalk)

    JT: Mike, you just did it. And Danny DeVito? I don't know what that's about. And Rush Limbaugh was fired because he didn't know football. That was why he was fired and he called Donovan McNabb a couple of racist slurs. But the fact is he was (overtalk) wrong, McNabb is a great quarterback. Richards is suffering as well.

    MG: Oh really? Hey, Rob, ask an Eagle fan if Donovan McNabb wasn't over-rated this year? He's out. Look, they're winning. Rob, you better watch your football.


    RT: We'll talk football as well if you like. (more overtalk)

    BH: Nex week, Happy Holidays, see you guys.

    Comment: It's so nice to see that Fox has professional guests on who suggest rounding up Americans who practice free speech and putting them in detention centers. It's ironic to say the least that this is what Hitler did.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    Giuliani Omits His Children AND Annulled Marriage To Second Cousin On Presidential Exploratory Website...

    Giuliani Omits His Children AND Annulled Marriage To Second Cousin On Presidential Exploratory Website...

    Pentagon Asks For $99.7 Billion More For Iraq, Afghanistan Wars...

    Classified Doc. Shows Bush Admin. Plotting To Undermine Syrian Regime...

    Bush: I'll do Iraq my way. No matter what; Dems: Prez is "trapped" and "stubborn and isolated"

    Bush: I'll do Iraq my way. No matter what; Dems: Prez is "trapped" and "stubborn and isolated"

    by Joe in DC - 12/20/2006 03:11:00 PM

    An analysis of the Washington Post's interview with Bush yesterday reveals a President who is ignoring reality. His interpretation of the elections is way off. The hope is fading that Bush has grasped the fact that he's gotten the U.S. in to an un-winnable quagmire. Bush is ignoring the elections results -- and he's adamant that he'll do the war in Iraq his way:
    The comments were another strong indication of the president's determination to chart his own way forward on Iraq, no matter the election results nor any amount of free advice from senior statesmen of past administrations. Bush may well announce a major drawdown of the U.S. presence in Iraq when he appears before the nation after the turn of the year, but that possibility seems remote after statements from him and his aides that suggest an intention to keep the basic contours of the Iraq policy in place -- and possibly even raise the ante by sending more troops.
    The President is delusional. The response from top Democrats has been right on target. They're seeing a President who is not based in reality:
    "There hasn't been a change from the president," observed Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the incoming House majority leader. "The president may be trapped in his own policy, sensing, 'If I don't succeed, it will be a huge blot on my record, and so therefore I have no choice but to try to succeed.' "

    Hoyer pointedly added: "I don't think the Democratic Congress is going to say, 'Well, that's okay.' "
    And the Democratic Congress shouldn't say it's okay. It's not:
    Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said he could not think of anyone more "stubborn and isolated" than the president. "The American people have spoken, and voices inside and outside the national security apparatus . . . have all come to the conclusion: Doing more of the same and hoping for a different result is not going to be successful," Emanuel said.
    Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity.

    In Shift To Right, McCain Embraces Henry Kissinger

    In Shift To Right, McCain Embraces Henry Kissinger

    Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has known former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger since 1973, but during the 2000 presidential campaign, “McCain’s handlers opted not to have the two appear publicly together,” fearing Kissinger “would taint the image of the ‘Straight Talk Express.’”

    Now, in his latest shift to the right, McCain is openly embracing Kissinger. Hotline On Call reports that McCain has chosen Kissinger to be the Honorary Co-Chair for his presidential campaign in New York.

    The selection reflects an increasingly unified position on Iraq advocated by Kissinger, McCain, and President Bush. Bush is reportedly set to adopt McCain’s plan to escalate the war with tens of thousands of additional U.S. troops, and has taken up Kissinger’s mantra that victory in Iraq simply requires “sticking it out”:

    Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw it through the prism of the Vietnam War. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.

    In his writing, speeches and private comments, Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of the weakened resolve of the public and Congress.

    In a column in The Washington Post on Aug. 12, 2005, titled “Lessons for an Exit Strategy,” Kissinger wrote, “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.”

    Asked recently about his friendship with Kissinger, McCain said, “I’m not at all embarrassed about it; I’m proud of it.”

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    In an Unseemly and Unconscionable Act, Bush Will Expand the Number of GIs to Die for His Lost Honor and Disastrous War. Who Will Remove This Man From Power and Put Him on Trial? Why Does the Press Treat Him With an Ounce of Credibility? He is a Liar and a Loser. 12/20

    The Pentagon is still struggling to get a handle on the unprecedented number of contractors now helping run the nation's wars, losing millions of dollars because it is unable to monitor industry workers stationed in far-flung locations, according to a congressional report.

    NYC violated Constitution by jailing protesters

    NYC violated Constitution by jailing protesters
    Mon Dec 18, 2006 7:52 PM ET

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City violated the U.S. Constitution for more than two months in 2001 with a policy to detain arrested protesters overnight instead of giving them summonses to appear in court, a U.S. federal jury found on Monday.

    The suit stemmed from the city's handling of the mass protests and arrests in New York immediately after the 1999 killing by police of unarmed Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo, who was hit by 19 shots.

    An eight-person jury in Manhattan federal court found that the city's police department violated the First Amendment right to free speech and the 14th Amendment right to due process between May 1, 2001, and July 13, 2001, by its policy of locking up protesters overnight in city jails.

    However, the same jury ruled that the 350 protester plaintiffs failed to show that in the two years before 2001 the city followed an unwritten policy of locking up protesters.

    "It's not the victory we wanted, but certainly it's a victory for the 30 plaintiffs who alleged they were discriminated against by the police department for those more than two months," said Jonathan Moore, a lawyer for the protesters.

    Susan Halatyn, a city attorney, said decision was a victory for the city.

    "We are very pleased that, after hearing and carefully considering all the evidence, the jury understood that the city never had an unwritten policy to deny demonstrators equal treatment under the law," Halatyn said.



    news photo



    Monday, December 18, 2006

    Objections Mounting over Bush Library

    Objections Mounting over Bush Library

    By: Nicole Belle @ 6:05 PM - PST

    There are literally dozens of snarky remarks floating through my head over this. Like will they include Camus and three Shakespeares in his library? However, for a president so preternaturally concerned over his "legacy", this has gotta hurt.
    Raw Story:

    Southern Methodist University is one of the three schools that may play host to the presidential library of George W. Bush, along with the University of Dallas and Baylor University.
    The blog of Paul Burka, the senior executive editor of the magazine Texas Monthly, includes excerpts of a letter written to SMU's president by faculty, administrators, and staff of the university's Perkins School of Theology, worrying about siting the library at the university. In it, they say they would:

    …regret to see SMU enshrine attitudes and actions widely deemed as ethically egregious: degradation of habeas corpus, outright denial of global warming, flagrant disregard for international treaties, alienation of long-term U.S. allies, environmental predation, shameful disrespect for gay persons and their rights, a pre-emptive war based on false and misleading premises, and a host of other erosions of respect for the global human community and for this good Earth on which our flourishing depends.

    Read on…

    Behar Compares Rumsfeld To Hitler

    Behar Compares Rumsfeld To Hitler


    British lord to U.S. senators: Apologize to Exxon or resign

    Video: Bush drops to new poll lows on Iraq, war on terror

    Powerful Dem: No troop adds without 'compelling reason'

    White House blocking op-ed that has 'no classified info'

    Objections mount at Texas university to Bush 43 library

    Vilsack's next campaign stop: 'The Daily Show

    '• Johnson passes 72-hour mark after surgery

    Bush signs law allowing nuclear fuel shipments to India

    Clinton on Obama: He's terrific

    Biden: 'I am running for president'

    Defying Reid, Sen. Clinton opposes short-term 'surge' of troops

    N. Korea brings 'exhaustive' wish list to revived talks

    Bush to sign momentous, contentious U.S.-India nuclear pact

    Sense of political vacuum as U.S. lawmakers told Castro will return
    Censored former official: White House blocked op-ed with no classified data Brian BeutlerPublished: Monday December 18, 2006

    At a public discussion of his proposal for American diplomatic overtures to Iran today, a retired Bush administration official blasted the White House not only for its unwillingness to negotiate with the Islamic Republic, but also for threatening him with criminal prosecution pending publication of a column he penned.

    Former CIA analyst Flynt Leverett had planned to publish a one-thousand word New York Times op-ed chronicling several of the U.S. government's missed opportunities to engage senior officials from Tehran.

    But Leverett, who was described by host Steve Clemons as a "dissident Republican," is contractually bound to have all of his written work vetted by the agency's pre-publication review board to ensure that it does not contain classified information. That board, after intervention from the White House, blocked his article from being published.

    In response to a question from RAW STORY about the technical obligations of his disclosure agreement with the CIA, Leverett highlighted the fact that, "Up until last week with regard to this particular op-ed at this particular time...they have cleared on order of thirty drafts that i have sent them in three and a half years out of government."

    Leverett went on to add that, "until last week they never asked to change a word."
    The contract, described at the CIA's website, reads in part:

    "I contemplate disclosing publicly or that I have actually prepared for public disclosure, either during my employment...or at any time thereafter, prior to discussing it or showing it to anyone who is not authorized to have access.... I further agree that I will not take any steps toward public disclosure until I have received written permission to do so from the Central Intelligence Agency."

    But Leverett contends that the op-ed in question is based on a larger paper that passed the same oversight process without a change made to a single word, and that people who work on the review board have told him that the piece would have been approved--were it not for intervention by the White House.

    The op-ed, Leverett said, contains "no classified information," and called the claims of those who are involved in the campaign to see it go unpublished "fraudulent." It details, he says, publicly discussed though ultimately unsuccessful diplomatic discussions with Tehran.

    Despite his insistence that the op-ed does not contain classified information, and, political motivations for the censorship notwithstanding, he added that he will meet his "obligation to respect" his contract with the CIA and will not press forward with publication.
    However, he did finger three senior NSC officials who he thinks were most likely behind the "unprecedented" White House intrusion into the pre-publication review process.

    On Saturday, Leverett wrote:

    "My understanding is that the White House staffers who have injected themselves into this process are working for Elliott Abrams and Megan [sic] O'Sullivan, both politically appointed deputies to President Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley."

    Today, Leverett added Michael Doran, Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs National Security Council to that list. All three have been widely described as "Iran hawks" and have been subjected to wide criticism for their part in what many have concluded is the administration's failed Middle East policy.

    However, speculation was also raised today that the intervention could have come from within the Vice President's office or as a result of potential diplomatic operations underway whose success could be derailed by the op-ed.

    A successful diplomatic operation, noted Clemons and former member of the National Security Council and State Department Hillary Mann, would require an "amnesia" about missed chances to negotiate with Iran, and the stricken portions of the op-ed were largely a historical recounting of those chances.

    Mann is Leverett's wife, and co-author of the op-ed. Leverett says it will not run without written approval from the CIA.