Friday, September 29, 2006

House Approves Warrantless Wiretap Law

House Approves Warrantless Wiretap Law

The Associated Press
Friday, September 29, 2006; 1:27 AM

WASHINGTON -- The House approved a bill Thursday that would grant legal status to President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program with new restrictions. Republicans called it a test before the election of whether Democrats want to fight or coddle terrorists.

"The Democrats' irrational opposition to strong national security policies that help keep our nation secure should be of great concern to the American people," Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement after the bill passed 232-191.

"To always have reasons why you just can't vote 'yes,' I think speaks volumes when it comes to which party is better able and more willing to take on the terrorists and defeat them," Boehner said.

Democrats shot back that the war on terrorism shouldn't be fought at the expense of civil and human rights. The bill approved by the House, they argued, gives the president too much power and leaves the law vulnerable to being overturned by a court.

"It is ceding the president's argument that Congress doesn't matter in this area," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., that give legal status under certain conditions to Bush's warrantless wiretapping of calls and e-mails between people on U.S. soil making calls or sending e-mails and those in other countries.

Under the measure, the president would be authorized to conduct such wiretaps if he:

_ Notifies the House and Senate intelligence committees and congressional leaders.

_ Believes an attack is imminent and later explains the reason and names the individuals and groups involved.

_ Renews his certification every 90 days.

The Senate also could vote on a similar bill before Congress recesses at the end of the week. Leaders concede that differences between the versions are so significant they cannot reconcile them into a final bill that can be delivered to Bush before the Nov. 7 congressional elections.

For its part, the White House announced it strongly supported passage of the House version but wasn't satisfied with it, adding that the administration "looks forward to working with Congress to strengthen the bill as it moves through the legislative process."

But with Congress giving Bush the other half of his September anti-terrorism agenda _ a bill setting conditions on how terrorism suspects are to be detained, interrogated and tried _ Republicans shifted from lawmaking to campaign mode.

After the House voted 253-168 to set rules on tough interrogations and military tribunal proceedings, Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was even more critical than Boehner.

"Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and 159 of her Democrat colleagues voted today in favor of more rights for terrorists," Hastert said in a statement. "So the same terrorists who plan to harm innocent Americans and their freedom worldwide would be coddled, if we followed the Democrat plan. "

Retorted Pelosi: "I think the speaker is a desperate man for him to say that. Would you think that anyone in our country wants to coddle terrorists?"

She and other Democratic critics of the GOP's September anti-terrorism agenda contend the Republican-written bills make Bush's programs vulnerable to being overturned in court. More broadly, they argue the legislation reflects the White House's willingness to fight the war on terrorism at the expense of civil and human rights.

A Democratic majority in either House would set the balance right, Democrats say. "In 40 days, we can put an end to this nonsense," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass, referring to the election.

A federal judge in Detroit who struck down the warrantless surveillance program turned aside a government request for an indefinite stay Thursday. U.S. Judge Anna Diggs Taylor said the government could have a week to appeal.


The House bill is H.R. 5825; the Senate bill is S. 3931.


On the Net:

Many Rights in U.S. Legal System Absent in New Bill

Many Rights in U.S. Legal System Absent in New Bill

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006; A13

The military trials bill approved by Congress lends legislative support for the first time to broad rules for the detention, interrogation, prosecution and trials of terrorism suspects far different from those in the familiar American criminal justice system.

President Bush's argument that the government requires extraordinary power to respond to the unusual threat of terrorism helped him win final support for a system of military trials with highly truncated defendant's rights. The United States used similar trials on just four occasions: during the country's revolution, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and World War II.

Included in the bill, passed by Republican majorities in the Senate yesterday and the House on Wednesday, are unique rules that bar terrorism suspects from challenging their detention or treatment through traditional habeas corpus petitions. They allow prosecutors, under certain conditions, to use evidence collected through hearsay or coercion to seek criminal convictions.

The bill rejects the right to a speedy trial and limits the traditional right to self-representation by requiring that defendants accept military defense attorneys. Panels of military officers need not reach unanimous agreement to win convictions, except in death penalty cases, and appeals must go through a second military panel before reaching a federal civilian court.

By writing into law for the first time the definition of an "unlawful enemy combatant," the bill empowers the executive branch to detain indefinitely anyone it determines to have "purposefully and materially" supported anti-U.S. hostilities. Only foreign nationals among those detainees can be tried by the military commissions, as they are known, and sentenced to decades in jail or put to death.

At the same time, the bill immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year. It gives the president a dominant but not exclusive role in setting the rules for future interrogations of terrorism suspects.

Written largely, but not completely, on the administration's terms, with passages that give executive branch officials discretion to set details or divert from its protections, the bill is meant to provide what Bush said yesterday are "the tools" needed to handle terrorism suspects U.S. officials hope to capture.

For more than 57 months after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Bush maintained that he did not need congressional authorization of such tools. But the Supreme Court decided otherwise in June, declaring the administration's detainee treatment and trial procedures illegal, and ruling that Bush must first seek Congress's approval.

Now Bush has received much of the authority he desired from party loyalists and a handful of Democrats on Capitol Hill. "The American people need to know we're working together," Bush told senators before yesterday's vote.

But Tom Malinowski, the Washington office director for Human Rights Watch, said Bush's motivation is partly to protect his reputation by gaining congressional endorsement of controversial actions already taken. "He's been accused of authorizing criminal torture in a way that has hurt America and could come back to haunt our troops. One of his purposes is to have Congress stand with him in the dock," Malinowski said.

The bill contains some protections unavailable to the eight Nazi saboteurs who came ashore in the United States in 1942 and were captured two weeks later. Six were executed that year after a closed military trial on the fifth floor of Justice Department headquarters. That proceeding was upheld by the Supreme Court in a decision it explained two months after the electrocutions.

Under the new procedures, trials are supposed to be open, but can be closed to protect the security of individuals or information expected to harm national security. Defendants have a right to be present, unless they are disruptive, and a right to examine and respond to the evidence against them. Proof of guilt must exceed a reasonable doubt.

Many constitutional experts say, however, that the bill pushes at the edges of so much settled U.S. law that its passage will not be the last word on America's detainee policies. They predict it will shift the public debate to the federal courts, a forum where the administration has had less success getting its way on counterterrorism policies.

"This is a full-employment act for lawyers," said Deborah Perlstein, who directs the U.S. Law and Security Program at the New York-based nonprofit group Human Rights First.

Former White House associate counsel Bradford A. Berenson, a supporter of the bill and one of the authors of the rules struck down by the Supreme Court, agreed. "Some of the most creative legal minds are going to be devoted to poking holes in this," he said.

Anticipating court challenges, the administration attempted to make the bill bulletproof by including provisions that would sharply restrict judicial review and limit the application of international treaties -- signed by Washington -- that govern the rights of wartime detainees.

The bill also contains blunt assertions that it complies with U.S. treaty obligations.

University of Texas constitutional law professor Sanford V. Levinson described the bill in an Internet posting as the mark of a "banana republic." Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh said that "the image of Congress rushing to strip jurisdiction from the courts in response to a politically created emergency is really quite shocking, and it's not clear that most of the members understand what they've done."

In contrast, Douglas W. Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, said Congress "did reasonably well in terms of fashioning a fair" set of procedures. But Kmiec and many others say they cannot predict how the Supreme Court will respond to the provision barring habeas corpus rights, which he said will leave "a large body of detainees with no conceivable basis to challenge their detentions."

There are other likely flashpoints. In the Supreme Court's June decision overturning previous administration policies, four members of the court who joined the majority opinion said conspiracy is not a war crime. The new bill says it is.

Georgetown University law professor Neal Katyal said the bill's creation of two systems of justice -- military commissions for foreign nationals and regular criminal trials for U.S. citizens -- may violate the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which requires equal protection of the laws to anyone under U.S. jurisdiction.

"If you're an American citizen, you get the Cadillac system of justice. If you're a foreigner or a green-card holder, you get this beat-up-Chevy version," he said.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

We've lost

The Blind Leading the Willing
A compromise between those who don't care and those who don't want to know.
By Dahlia Lithwick
Posted Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2006, at 6:11 PM ET

Is it still called a compromise when the president gets everything he wanted?

A major detainee bill hurtling down the HOV lane in Congress today would determine the extent to which the president can define and authorize torture. The urgency to pass this legislation has nothing to do with a new need to interrogate alleged enemy combatants. The urgency is about an election.

Last time Congress rubber-stamped a major terrorism-related law no one had bothered to read in the first place, we got the Patriot Act. That alone should lead us to wonder whether there shouldn't be a mandatory three-month cooling-off period whenever Congress enacts broad laws that rewrite the Constitution.

The White House version of the detainee bill met with some resistance among ranking GOP members of Congress last week, but not enough to matter. And now, with a "compromise" at hand, nobody seems to agree on the meaning of the bargain we've struck. Sen. John McCain still believes that he's won on the bedrock principle of U.S. adherence to the Geneva Conventions. The Bush administration sees it as granting the president the authority to decide what Geneva really means.

That led to all the confusion last Sunday, when, appearing on Face the Nation, McCain claimed that the current bill "could mean that … extreme measures such as extreme deprivation—sleep deprivation, hypothermia, and others would be not allowed." This, on the same weekend that the editors at the Wall Street Journal crowed: "It's a fair bet that waterboarding—or simulated drowning, the most controversial of the CIA's reported interrogation techniques—will not be allowed under the new White House rules. But sleep deprivation and temperature variations, to name two other methods, will likely pass muster." So, what did we agree to? Is hypothermia in or out? What about sexual degradation or forcing prisoners to bark like dogs? Stress positions?

I'd wager that any tie goes to the White House. One hardly needs a law degree to understand that in a controversy over detainee treatment between the executive and legislative branches, the trump will go to the guy who's holding the unnamed detainees in secret prisons.

That brings us to a second stunning aspect of the so-called compromise: Not only do our elected officials have no idea what deal they've just struck, but they also have no idea what they were even bargaining about. In his Face the Nation interview, McCain revealed that he was in fact quite clueless as to what these "alternative interrogation measures"—the ones the president insists the CIA must use—actually include. "It's hard for me to get into these techniques," McCain said. "First of all, I'm not privy to them, but I only know what I've seen in public reporting."

Asked whether he had "access to more information about this than any of us because you've been in the negotiations," the senator was not reassuring. He knows "only what the president talked about in his speech." To clarify: McCain, the Geneva Conventions' great defender, is signing off on interrogation limits he knows nothing about. And so, it appears, will the most of the rest of Congress.

But that's not all. Congress doesn't want to know what it's bargaining away this week. In the Boston Globe this weekend, Rick Klein revealed that only "10 percent of the members of Congress have been told which interrogation techniques have been used in the past, and none of them know which ones would be permissible under proposed changes to the War Crimes Act." More troubling still, this congressional ignorance seems to be by choice. Klein quotes Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican, as saying, "I don't know what the CIA has been doing, nor should I know." Evidently, "widely distributing such information could result in leaks."

We've reached a defining moment in our democracy when our elected officials are celebrating their own blind ignorance as a means of keeping the rest of us blindly ignorant as well.

Over at the National Review Online they exult that the CIA torture program isn't just the president's project anymore. "Now it is just as much the program of Congress and of John McCain." Not quite right. Now it's the president's program that John McCain chooses not to know about.

And just to be completely certain, Congress is taking the courts down with it. No serious reader of the detainee-compromise bill can dispute that the whole point here is to sideline the courts. This bill immunizes some forms of detainee abuse and ignores others. It strips courts of habeas-corpus jurisdiction and denies so-called unlawful enemy combatants (a term that sweeps in citizens and noncitizens, Swiss grandmothers and Don Rumsfeld's neighbor if-that-bastard-doesn't-trim-his-hedge) the right to assert Geneva Convention claims in courts. Many detainees may never stand trial on the most basic question of whether they have done anything wrong. And courts will apparently now be powerless to do anything about any of this.

For the five years since 9/11, we have been in the dark in this country. This president has held detainees in secret prisons and had them secretly tortured using secret legal justifications. Those held in secret at Guantanamo Bay include innocent men, as do those who have been secretly shipped off to foreign countries and brutally tortured there. That was a shame on this president.

But passage of the new detainee legislation will be a different sort of watershed. Now we are affirmatively asking to be left in the dark. Instead of torture we were unaware of, we are sanctioning torture we'll never hear about. Instead of detainees we didn't care about, we are authorizing detentions we'll never know about. Instead of being misled by the president, we will be blind and powerless by our own choice. And that is a shame on us all.
Dahlia Lithwick is a Slate senior editor.

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Copyright 2006 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bizzaro Conservatism

September 27, 2006Bizarro Conservatism
And its discontents by Justin Raimondo

Our parent organization, the Randolph Bourne Institute, is named after an early 20th-century liberal famous for, among other things, his trenchant observation that "war is the health of the State" – a phrase that takes on quite a different connotation in our degraded era. In these dark times, Bourne's statement might be taken as meaning approval of war: after all, the State, in this age of Big-Brotherism and "big government conservatism," is a Good Thing, and it's only natural in this context to wish it good health: the more overweening and built-up, the better.

There was a time, however, when Americans feared the accumulation of power, especially when it accrued to the federal government in Washington: conservatives of the Goldwater stripe (and, further back, the followers of Sen. Robert A. Taft), were especially vigilant against this danger. The liberals of Bourne's day, before they were Wilsonized and Rooseveltized, were wary of government's coercive essence. Both Left and Right were joined at the root by the American libertarian consensus – a reflexive distrust of government power rooted in history and reinforced by a rebellious temperament embedded in the American consciousness.

No more: today, the "conservatives" on the Fox "News" channel and the Rush Limbaugh-radio talk show circuit are worshippers at the altar of State Power. No expansion of governmental authority is too vast, too broad, too brazenly contrary to the spirit and letter of the Constitution to evade their enthusiastic endorsement. Liberals, to some extent, are regaining their old distrust of government power, largely in reaction to the radical incursions on our civil liberties authored by the Bush administration. Yet the liberal mainstream, which extends from the Hillary Clinton Fan Club on the "far left" to the editors of The New Republic in the supposed center, stood by in silence or else openly applauded while this president eviscerated our civil liberties.

A massive attack on the traditional principle of habeas corpus – which means that the authorities must have some stated reason, some evidence that a crime has been committed, to hold an individual in detention – would, in normal times, have provoked a storm of protest. However, that was before 9/11, before the impact of those planes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon tore a gaping hole in the space-time continuum and propelled us into an alternate universe known to avid readers of Superman comics as Bizarro World – a parallel plane of existence where up is down, right is wrong, and the Constitution is really a mandate for the president's unlimited authority.

The Republican Party, previously devoted to the principles of less government, decentralized authority, and economic liberty, immediately transformed itself into the champion of more government, including a significant increase in federal spending and, more ominously, the establishment of a rudimentary police state. Thus was born Bizarro Conservatism, an ideology that, in every conceivable aspect, inverts the core principles of pre-9/11 conservatism.

Accordingly, Bizarro Conservatives welcome a government that routinely spies on its own people and has the power to indefinitely detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, without having to explain why to a judge or a jury. This "right" has been claimed by the administration, on behalf of the president, on the theory that the executive branch enjoys effectively unlimited power in wartime, and now they are moving to consolidate this aspiring presidential dictatorship in legislative form [.pdf], as the Washington Post reports:

"Lawmakers and administration officials announced last week that they had reached accord on the plan for the detention and military trials of suspected terrorists, and it is scheduled for a vote this week. But in recent days the Bush administration and its House allies successfully pressed for a less restrictive description of how the government could designate civilians as 'unlawful enemy combatants,' the sources said yesterday. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations over the bill."

The question of just who is or can be an "unlawful combatant" – and therefore, according to the Bush administration, may be seized and jailed without trial or even an acknowledgment from the authorities – is the issue at hand, and the authoritarian "conservatives" of the Bizarro persuasion are pushing hard to breach the inner battlements of the Constitution, as the Post piece makes all too clear:

"Human rights experts expressed concern yesterday that the language in the new provision would be a precedent-setting congressional endorsement for the indefinite detention of anyone who, as the bill states, 'has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States' or its military allies. The definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant."

The ultimate expansion of the "unlawful combatant" definition to include any and all opposition to the War Party, whether military or political, is only a matter of time, and not much time at that. This administration and its allies have long maintained that their critics are "objectively" aiding the terrorist enemy. If Iraq is the main theater of our war on terrorism, then criticism of the war effort, such as organizing an antiwar demonstration, amounts to "material support" for "hostilities against the United States." And if we include in this legal interdict all criticism of our "military allies," then participating in a demonstration against Israeli aggression in Lebanon could also get one designated an "unlawful combatant."

According to Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, the inclusion of individuals said to have "supported hostilities" – as opposed to those who "engage in acts" of warfare against the U.S. – shows that "the government intends the legislation to sanction its seizure and indefinite detention of people far from the battlefield." Which raises an important point: where is the battlefield, anyway? When it comes to the all-pervasive "war on terrorism," it is everywhere. As Suzanne Spaulding, former assistant general counsel at the CIA, explains it, the proposed legislation,
"Would give the administration a stronger basis on which to argue that Congress has recognized that the battlefield is wherever the terrorist is, and they can seize people far from the area of combat, label them as unlawful enemy combatants, and detain them indefinitely."

First they came for José Padilla. Now they're coming for the rest of us…
The War Party cannot carry out its program of overseas conquest and "regime change" without cracking down on the home front – that is, by equating antiwar sentiment with treason, including in the legal sense. The "area of combat" is far wider than the mountainous passes of Afghanistan or the growing mountain of bloodstained rubble that is Iraq: the main battlefield, as this administration well knows, is on the home front. It is a war for the hearts and minds of Americans – the one theater of operations in which they cannot afford to lose.

War is indeed the health of the State, because all states are simply instruments of coercion. It is precisely in time of war that governments exercise their core function, which is the large-scale deployment of organized violence. The efficient delivery of this violence, in such places and instances as required, demands a highly centralized, authoritarian command structure, one ideally suited to the mindset and proclivities of our Bizarro Conservatives in that it brooks no dissent.
For once, I agree with Andrew Sullivan:

"Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent, without end. "

I might add, however, that Sullivan is only getting what he asked for. After all, he was one of the biggest and loudest supporters of the invasion of Iraq: he railed and ranted for months on end until he finally got what he wanted. It was Sullivan who declared, shortly after 9/11, that the late Susan Sontag and the intellectual elites on the East and West coasts amounted to an intellectual "fifth column" in the struggle against Osama bin Laden. Nor do I recall him protesting when this president declared that the hostilities would last for at least a generation. Now he's shocked – shocked! – that the War Party is moving to seize "emergency powers" in what amounts to a coup d'état against the Constitution.

Sullivan may protest that no, he never asked for this, but what did he imagine would happen in the atmosphere of war hysteria he and his erstwhile neocon allies promoted? In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when the anthrax letters sent to the media and congressional offices opened up a whole new level of public panic, Sullivan was demanding that we use nuclear weapons on the Iraqis. We had to "act now," he screeched, certain in the knowledge that the Iraqis had sent the anthrax, and "draw a line." While this "need not mean nuclear weapons," on the other hand, it just might mean nuking the crap out of Baghdad.

In the face of such emotionalism as was unleashed by the events of 9/11 and their immediate aftermath, no measure, no matter how draconian or cruel, seemed unreasonable to some, like Sullivan, who had even fancied themselves "libertarians." (See Cathy Young's extraordinary endorsement of police-state measures in the "libertarian" Reason magazine for a particularly reprehensible example.)
Of all those now decrying this administration's political and legal onslaught against our civil liberties, Sullivan is the one least entitled to feign surprise. He and his fellow neocons utilized the emotionalism and hysteria generated by 9/11 to unleash the U.S. military on Iraq and prepare the ground for further "regime change" throughout the region, including Iran and Syria. What Sullivan apparently didn't realize – or, rather, washes his hands of – is that this meant regime change on the home front as well.

The program of the War Party – perpetual war and the creation of an American empire – had to mean the overthrow of our constitutional republic, and the rise of… something else. Something that has been, so far, alien to America, but is now, sadly, a looming possibility: a dictatorship "legally" empowered by "emergency" measures, such as the one presently before the Senate [.pdf].

Bizarro Conservatism, birthed in the firestorm of intellectual radioactivity sparked by 9/11, is the mutant offspring of a philosophy that once meant something quite other than war, torture, and the police state. That Sullivan is coming around to this realization rather late – and with a history of having helped midwife this monster into existence – is cold comfort for those of us who warned of this outcome from the very beginning.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Terrorism...a technique

Lest anyone forget, if this war on terrorism is suppose to make "us and our allies safer" allow me to refresh your memory. No the US hasn't been hit by terrorism since 9-11, but what about London. The UK hadn't been targeted by Muslim terrorists before they joined the US to invade Iraq. Terrorists bombed the london subway last year and killed 52. The terrorists, contrary to what is continually spewed by the administration were not middle eastern but all British. One bomber was of Jamaican decent.

In 2004, the Madrid commuter train system was bombed, which resulted in the deaths of 191. The attacks were in response to Spain's support of the US and UK's invasion of Iraq.

As I've said before any nut who wants to commit suicide will be practicly impossible to stop. These wackos who committed these atrocities did not know bin Laden. They weren't affiliated with al Quaeda, they just rallied around the jihadist movement which the invasion of Iraq has inflamed.

The next extremist or group of extremists that want to kill themselves will do so. The 911 hijackers were in country a long while before they acted. The London bombers were all home grown and the bombers in Spain were already there. The war in Iraq isn't preventing jihadists from entering the US or Europe, they're already in place just waiting for the right blend of inflammatory rhetoric to set off the loose screw they have in their head. The continued aggression of the West will be utilized as a rallying point for extremist rabble rousers, giving whack jobs who are already close to the edge the impetus to go over the line and become mass murderers.

Bush claims Intelligence Estimate "niave"

Well, here we go again, Bush is again claiming that you shouldn't believe the intelligence estimate that was put together by the sixteen US government spy agencies. (I had no idea there were sixteen and could not tell you the names of more than three) Here's there modus operandi, you must trust us, our intelligence tells us this that and the other, then later, the intelligence we told you that you should trust us on is crap, don't pay any attention to what we said...

I'll just dive right in to some quotes from the IHT...

President George W. Bush said Tuesday that he had ordered the declassification of key parts of a major intelligence report that reportedly found that the Iraq war has helped produce a new generation of Islamic radicals and increased the threat of terrorism.

The president was clearly unhappy that findings from the document, a National Intelligence Estimate completed in April, had made their way into news reports. The New York Times disclosed some of the details in its Sunday editions.

"Some people have guessed what's in the report and concluded that going into Iraq was a mistake," the president said. "I strongly disagree."

"I think it's naïve. I think it's a mistake for people to believe that going on the offense against people that want to do harm against the American people makes us less safe."

Noting that evidence-gathering for the assessment had concluded in February, and that the report itself had been finished two months later, he said: "Here we are, coming down the homestretch of an election campaign and it's on the front page of your newspapers. Isn't that interesting?"

The president made the announcement during a brief White House news conference alongside a key ally in the terror fight, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

Saying that people were drawing the wrong conclusion from the leaked news reports, Bush said he had asked John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, to declassify key findings of the assessment, which reflects the consensus of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies.

Bush made it clear that the matter rankled.

"I think it's a bad habit for our government to declassify every time there's a leak," he said, before saying that he had told Negroponte to do so.

"I told the DNI to declassify the document, you can read it for yourself," Bush said. "Everybody can make their own judgments."

It was not immediately clear when the declassified text would be released.

The House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, then asked her colleagues to convene a highly unusual secret session of the full House to discuss the intelligence analysis, which she called "the administration's worst nightmare." But Republicans control the chamber, and rejected the proposal.

No such session has taken place since July 1983, when lawmakers met behind closed doors to discuss U.S. support for paramilitary operations in Nicaragua, according to The Associated Press.

Democrats have seized on reports that the document linked the war in Iraq to a rising terror threat - a potentially damaging blow to the central administration argument that the war has made Americans safer. The Democrats hope to keep voters focused on setbacks in Iraq even as the administration wants them to think about its efforts to fight terrorism.

Several Democrats had called for the declassification.

Representative Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, joined those calls Tuesday. She said that the Iraq war had "made the global jihadist threat more dangerous."

"We created a failed state by removing Saddam Hussein and established a recruiting tool and training ground for global jihadists."

The administration had resisted the declassification. But as the security debate has exploded ahead of the Nov. 7 legislative elections, the pressure to respond to Democrats' furious criticism may have tipped the balance.

In earlier responses, the administration had said that the news reports about the intelligence document did not reflect it fairly or wholly, and gave too little credit to the administration for its understanding of a complex and evolving terror threat.

The leaked intelligence assessment was not the only one in recent weeks to question the administration's underlying assumptions about Iraq. The Washington Post reported Sept. 11 that the chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq had filed a secret report concluding that chances for securing Anbar Province were extremely dim. Officials told The Post this was the first time a senior U.S. military officer had filed so negative a report from Iraq.

Bush also said Tuesday that he would not be drawn into an argument with the former President Bill Clinton, who said in an interview aired Sunday on Fox-TV that the Bush administration had done too little in its first months in office to counter the Al Qaeda threat.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did not shy from confronting those criticisms, doing so in an interview published Tuesday in The New York Post.

She directly challenged a claim by Clinton that he had done more than many of his conservative critics, including some in the Bush administration, to pursue Osama bin Laden.

And she rejected Clinton's assertion that he had left behind a comprehensive plan to fight Al Qaeda.

"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," she said, according to a transcript provided by the State Department.

Some Republicans have suggested that Clinton's furious rejoinder to the Fox interviewer - accusing him of carrying the water of Clinton's political foes - was more calculated than it might have seemed, aimed at giving Democrats the courage to fight back when Republicans brand them as weak on terror.

Clinton's wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, appeared to say as much.

"I just think that my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take this," she told Newsday on Monday.

The political adviser James Carville told NBC-TV on Tuesday that his former boss had given Democrats "a spinal implant."

Bush also used the news conference Tuesday to urge Congress to act quickly to pass legislation covering permissible treatment of suspected terrorists and the military commissions at which they may be tried.

Lawmakers are set to leave Washington at the end of the week to return to their districts to campaign ahead of the November elections, and the administration fears key legislation might not come to a vote.

Monday, September 25, 2006

National Intelligence Report - D +, whoo-hoo!

The New York Times
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September 24, 2006
Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

The report “says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,” said one American intelligence official.

More than a dozen United States government officials and outside experts were interviewed for this article, and all spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a classified intelligence document. The officials included employees of several government agencies, and both supporters and critics of the Bush administration. All of those interviewed had either seen the final version of the document or participated in the creation of earlier drafts. These officials discussed some of the document’s general conclusions but not details, which remain highly classified.

Officials with knowledge of the intelligence estimate said it avoided specific judgments about the likelihood that terrorists would once again strike on United States soil. The relationship between the Iraq war and terrorism, and the question of whether the United States is safer, have been subjects of persistent debate since the war began in 2003.

National Intelligence Estimates are the most authoritative documents that the intelligence community produces on a specific national security issue, and are approved by John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence. Their conclusions are based on analysis of raw intelligence collected by all of the spy agencies.

Analysts began working on the estimate in 2004, but it was not finalized until this year. Part of the reason was that some government officials were unhappy with the structure and focus of earlier versions of the document, according to officials involved in the discussion.

Previous drafts described actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, and some policy makers argued that the intelligence estimate should be more focused on specific steps to mitigate the terror threat. It is unclear whether the final draft of the intelligence estimate criticizes individual policies of the United States, but intelligence officials involved in preparing the document said its conclusions were not softened or massaged for political purposes.

Frederick Jones, a White House spokesman, said the White House “played no role in drafting or reviewing the judgments expressed in the National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism.” The estimate’s judgments confirm some predictions of a National Intelligence Council report completed in January 2003, two months before the Iraq invasion. That report stated that the approaching war had the potential to increase support for political Islam worldwide and could increase support for some terrorist objectives.

Documents released by the White House timed to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks emphasized the successes that the United States had made in dismantling the top tier of Al Qaeda.

“Since the Sept. 11 attacks, America and its allies are safer, but we are not yet safe,” concludes one, a report titled “9/11 Five Years Later: Success and Challenges.” “We have done much to degrade Al Qaeda and its affiliates and to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism.”

That document makes only passing mention of the impact the Iraq war has had on the global jihad movement. “The ongoing fight for freedom in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry,” it states.

The report mentions the possibility that Islamic militants who fought in Iraq could return to their home countries, “exacerbating domestic conflicts or fomenting radical ideologies.”

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee released a more ominous report about the terrorist threat. That assessment, based entirely on unclassified documents, details a growing jihad movement and says, “Al Qaeda leaders wait patiently for the right opportunity to attack.”

The new National Intelligence Estimate was overseen by David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats, who commissioned it in 2004 after he took up his post at the National Intelligence Council. Mr. Low declined to be interviewed for this article.

The estimate concludes that the radical Islamic movement has expanded from a core of Qaeda operatives and affiliated groups to include a new class of “self-generating” cells inspired by Al Qaeda’s leadership but without any direct connection to Osama bin Laden or his top lieutenants.

It also examines how the Internet has helped spread jihadist ideology, and how cyberspace has become a haven for terrorist operatives who no longer have geographical refuges in countries like Afghanistan.

In early 2005, the National Intelligence Council released a study concluding that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists, and that veterans of the Iraq war might ultimately overtake Al Qaeda’s current leadership in the constellation of the global jihad leadership.

But the new intelligence estimate is the first report since the war began to present a comprehensive picture about the trends in global terrorism.

In recent months, some senior American intelligence officials have offered glimpses into the estimate’s conclusions in public speeches.

“New jihadist networks and cells, sometimes united by little more than their anti-Western agendas, are increasingly likely to emerge,” said Gen. Michael V. Hayden, during a speech in San Antonio in April, the month that the new estimate was completed. “If this trend continues, threats to the U.S. at home and abroad will become more diverse and that could lead to increasing attacks worldwide,” said the general, who was then Mr. Negroponte’s top deputy and is now director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

For more than two years, there has been tension between the Bush administration and American spy agencies over the violence in Iraq and the prospects for a stable democracy in the country. Some intelligence officials have said the White House has consistently presented a more optimistic picture of the situation in Iraq than justified by intelligence reports from the field.

Spy agencies usually produce several national intelligence estimates each year on a variety of subjects. The most controversial of these in recent years was an October 2002 document assessing Iraq’s illicit weapons programs. Several government investigations have discredited that report, and the intelligence community is overhauling how it analyzes data, largely as a result of those investigations.

The broad judgments of the new intelligence estimate are consistent with assessments of global terrorist threats by American allies and independent terrorism experts.

The panel investigating the London terrorist bombings of July 2005 reported in May that the leaders of Britain’s domestic and international intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, “emphasized to the committee the growing scale of the Islamist terrorist threat.”

More recently, the Council on Global Terrorism, an independent research group of respected terrorism experts, assigned a grade of “D+” to United States efforts over the past five years to combat Islamic extremism. The council concluded that “there is every sign that radicalization in the Muslim world is spreading rather than shrinking.”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Kiyosaki on the state of America

Robert Kiyosaki – Rich Dad, Poor Dad

"Most Americans live in la-la land. They're clueless about what's going on
in the world of money, and still think we're the richest country in the
world. In reality, we're the biggest debtor nation there is.

"Most Americans also still think our government will protect them. The
world is changing at an alarming rate, yet most people here waddle
stubbornly through the crosswalk, so to speak, still believing that this
country has the right of way and that our political institutions are still

"In the next five years, the United States and the world will go through
some of the most financially disturbing times in the history of the world.
Once again, the rich will become very, very, rich, and the unsuspecting
will be left like the passengers on the S.S. Titanic, heading straight for
an economic iceberg."

Just to add to Kiyosaki’s theme. I recently read that the United States imports 40% of it’s oil from Venezuela. Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan jeffy, is notoriously anti-American in his rhetoric and Bush anti-Chavez with his. So picture this, Hugo Chavez derives all of his clout from the rich oil reserves Venezuela sits on, otherwise he’s just another clap-trap spewing left-wing dictator.

So in essence, we, the American consumer, are propping up a dictatorial regime by buying Chavez’s oil, while the leaders of the United States pontificate about democracy, they’re not interested enough in the subject to embargo Venezuela’s oil, which would put a real crimp in the amount of power Chavez wields. And while Chavez speaks of his contempt for the U.S. incessantly, he isn’t serious enough about his own rhetoric to stop taking Yankee dollars in exchange for oil.

Not a thing any of them say, theirs or ours, is worth a plug nickel.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Leading a Rebellion (Time article)

Why G.O.P. Senator Lindsey Graham is taking on the President over rules for enemy combatants

If you want to understand how a baby-faced freshman Republican Senator from conservative South Carolina has come to be standing against President George W. Bush on the issue of how to interrogate and try terrorism suspects, it helps to know how Lindsey Graham spent part of his summer. A month ago, when most Senators were back home campaigning and fund raising, he was in Kabul, Afghanistan, answering to "Colonel." Wearing desert fatigues, with an M9 pistol strapped to his hip, Graham was conducting a two-day tutorial on the principles of U.S. military law at the Afghan Defense Ministry. He recalls coaching Afghan military lawyers, who are modeling their system after that of the U.S.: "It's important that when the troops act badly, they are punished to keep good order and discipline, but it's equally important that people believe that the punishment and the system itself are fair." The only Senator now serving in the National Guard or reserve, and the first in decades to do military duty in a combat zone, Graham adds, "It has to be based on what the person did and not who the person is."

That's pretty much the same argument that Graham is making back in Washington, where he is helping turn what looked like a smart political strategy into an internecine battle among Republicans on Capitol Hill. White House and congressional leaders had hoped that focusing on terrorism in the final months before a tight midterm election would give their party an advantage over the Democrats. But they didn't count on a rebellion in their own ranks, made worse by the fact that it is led by Graham and two more senior members of the Armed Services Committee who also have impressive military credentials: chairman John Warner, a former Secretary of the Navy who was a Marine ground officer in the Korean War, four years before Graham was born; and John McCain, a former Navy pilot whose father and grandfather were admirals and who still suffers from what he endured during 5 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese POW camp.

Graham got his battle testing in a military courtroom, first at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina and then as chief prosecutor for the Air Force in Europe during the 1980s. He insists that Bush's proposal to tamper with the interpretation of the Geneva Conventions and put detainees on trial without letting them see all the evidence against them would have far-reaching consequences because it would invite future enemies to do the same, or worse, to Americans they capture. That argument has drawn strong support from such powerful voices as Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ex--Secretary of State, who in a rare public criticism of Bush policy sent McCain a letter warning that "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism." Caught in the middle have been Graham's fellow military lawyers, many of whom share misgivings about the detainee program. At a closed session of the Armed Services Committee last week, Senator John Cornyn of Texas brandished a letter signed by top lawyers of each service saying they "do not object" to a key part of Bush's plan. But he may have overstated their level of support. "That's not the whole story," Graham said to Cornyn, according to a witness. Last week, amid bitter Republican infighting and despite a White House lobbying effort that brought both Bush and Vice President Cheney to Capitol Hill, the committee defiantly passed the trio's proposal for trying and interrogating terrorism suspects, rather than Bush's. The showdown on the Senate floor, where majority leader Bill Frist is expected to introduce the President's proposal, is not likely to be pretty.

It's not the first time Graham has put the Bush Administration on the spot. When the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke most inconveniently in a presidential election year, he demanded accountability up the chain of command. "What are we fighting for?" the Senator asked at a hearing. "To be like Saddam Hussein?" On Bush's biggest domestic initiative, Graham supported the President's idea to add individual savings accounts to Social Security but also suggested a heretical payroll-tax increase to finance them. He infuriated the right last year by joining the bipartisan, largely moderate "Gang of 14" that blocked a change in Senate rules that would have ended Democratic filibusters of Bush's judicial nominees. Graham more recently helped ice the appeals-court nomination of Defense Department counsel William Haynes, an architect of the Administration's detainee policy.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Support Ghraham and McCain

Briefly, here is a quote from an article on Saturday,

"Bush's proposed bill also would allow enemy combatants to be tried by military tribunals without having access to classified information used against them by prosecutors. But the Senate Armed Services Committee instead backed a rival bill by McCain that would make it more difficult to make classified information off-limits to the accused."

This is the deal folks, the reason why it is so important for the administration's proposal to be defeated is because if these tribunals are established,all the government would have to do is declare you an "enemy combatant" and your right to due process, guaranteed by the constitution, goes out the window.

Don't think it could happpen? Suppose you were in a feud with your neighbor and he called Homeland Security and told them that you were building bombs in your basement and that you were known for radical speech. At this point the government could label you a "terroist" and put you in jail with no recourse, no lawyer, no due process...indefinitely.

The sixth amendment to the Constitution guarantees us the right to confront our accusers and the evidence against us:

Amendment VI.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence

I've already laid out a scenario that is not beyond possiblility. If we allow this administration to skirt the sixth amendment, then we are no better off than people in Communist China. Think about it...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bush bitchslapped by Republicans

Well, it looks as though Bush is finding himself in an ever weakening position. Yesterday, Senate Republicans joined with Democrats in crafting legislation contrary to the white house position on military tribunals and the use of torture. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner were the most prominent republicans to break ranks
with Bush.

Bush made a rare visit to the capital to do some arm twisting, but to no avail. The amazing thing is that Bush continues to demand that the CIA be allowed to torture people, even though he has already signed legislation which bans the practice. But in true Machiavellian fashion, this president believes that redefining the term “torture” gives them carte blanche to do whatever they like.

“Bush said CIA interrogators should have wide latitude when questioning terrorists, as long as they don't engage in torture. The Senate bill would ban abusive techniques the Bush administration doesn't consider torture, such as "water-boarding," which simulates drowning.

"In order to protect this country, we must be able to interrogate people who have information about terrorist attacks," Bush said after his private visit with House Republicans. "I will resist any bill that does not enable this program to go forward with legal clarity." - By RON HUTCHESON and MARGARET TALEV - McClatchy Newspapers

Colin Powell, whose credibility is shot to hell, sent a letter in support of the dissenters to the Senate, saying, "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism…”

So can we glean from Powell that now he has misgivings for previously shilling for Bush or is he merely speaking for the world? It’s still not clear. In my mind Colin Powell is a day late and a dollar short, however, his letter did cause a certain amount of consternation for the administration, which is always fun to see.

“Bush brushed off Powell's opposition, but White House spokesman Tony Snow didn't conceal the annoyance that his defection caused within the president's inner circle. Snow said Powell was "confused" about Bush's goals and suggested that the former secretary of state should have contacted the White House for clarification before writing his letter.”

So though we shouldn’t expect any of the republican yahoos in the House to wander to far off the reservation, at least, it seems that the Senate is displaying a modicum of common sense, for now. The bottom line is that Bush’s power is eroding.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


from the Daily Reckoning...

Which makes us wonder more and more about the great British bomb plot. What really was going on?

The question seems to have occurred to Craig Murray, former British ambassador to the gentle republic of Uzbekistan, which has acquired an unpleasant reputation for boiling suspects in vats of boiling liquid. Either water or oil, we are not quite sure which. Murray brings his close acquaintance with the fine arts of coercion to bear on the subject:

"None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the U.K. Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

"In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in Internet chat rooms.

"What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

"Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

"The gentleman being 'interrogated' had fled the U.K. after being wanted for questioning over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to cast some doubt on his reliability...

"We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for 'Another 9/11.' The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shoveled.

"We then have the appalling political propaganda of John Reid, Home Secretary, making a speech warning us all of the dreadful evil threatening us and complaining that 'Some people don't get' the need to abandon all our traditional liberties. He then went on, according to his own propaganda machine, to stay up all night and minutely direct the arrests. There could be no clearer evidence that our Police are now just a political tool. Like all the best nasty regimes, the knock on the door came in the middle of the night, at 2.30am. Those arrested included a mother with a six-week-old baby.

"We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket.

"In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offense the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.

"Be skeptical. Be very, very skeptical."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How Neo-cons infiltrated the administration

The Weird Men Behind George W Bush's War

By Michael Lind

04/07/03 "New Statesman (UK)"
-- -- America's allies and enemies alike are baffled. What is going on in the United States? Who is making foreign policy? And what are they trying to achieve? Quasi-Marxist explanations involving big oil or American capitalism are mistaken. Yes, American oil companies and contractors will accept the spoils of the kill in Iraq. But the oil business, with its Arabist bias, did not push for this war any more than it supports the Bush administration's close alliance with Ariel Sharon. Further, President Bush and Vice-President Cheney are not genuine 'Texas oil men' but career politicians who, in between stints in public life, would have used their connections to enrich themselves as figureheads in the wheat business, if they had been residents of Kansas, or in tech companies, had they been Californians.

Equally wrong is the theory that American and European civilisation are evolving in opposite directions. The thesis of Robert Kagan, the neoconservative propagandist, that Americans are martial and Europeans pacifist, is complete nonsense. A majority of Americans voted for either Al Gore or Ralph Nader in 2000. Were it not for the over-representation of sparsely populated, right-wing states in both the presidential electoral college and the Senate, the White House and the Senate today would be controlled by Democrats, whose views and values, on everything from war to the welfare state, are very close to those of western Europeans. Both the economic-determinist theory and the clash-of-cultures theory are reassuring: they assume that the recent revolution in US foreign policy is the result of obscure but understandable forces in an orderly world. The truth is more alarming. As a result of several bizarre and unforeseeable contingencies - such as the selection rather than election of George W Bush, and 11 September - the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the US population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment.

The core group now in charge consists of neoconservative defence intellectuals (they are called 'neoconservatives' because many of them started off as anti-Stalinist leftists or liberals before moving to the far right). Inside the government, the chief defence intellectuals include Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defence. He is the defence mastermind of the Bush administration; Donald Rumsfeld is an elderly figurehead who holds the position of defence secretary only because Wolfowitz himself is too controversial. Others include Douglas Feith, the number three at the Pentagon; Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, a Wolfowitz protege who is Cheney's chief of staff; John R Bolton, a right-winger assigned to the State Department to keep Colin Powell in check; and Elliott Abrams, recently appointed to head Middle East policy at the National Security Council. On the outside are James Woolsey, the former CIA director, who has tried repeatedly to link both 9/11 and the anthrax letters in the US to Saddam Hussein, and Richard Perle, who has just resigned from his unpaid defence department advisory post after a lobbying scandal. Most of these 'experts' never served in the military. But their headquarters is now the civilian defence secretary's office, where these Republican political appointees are despised and distrusted by the largely Republican career soldiers.

Most neoconservative defence intellectuals have their roots on the left, not the right. They are products of the largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history. Their admiration for the Israeli Likud party's tactics, including preventive warfare such as Israel's 1981 raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, is mixed with odd bursts of ideological enthusiasm for 'democracy'. They call their revolutionary ideology 'Wilsonianism' (after President Woodrow Wilson), but it is really Trotsky's theory of the permanent revolution mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism. Genuine American Wilsonians believe in self-determination for people such as the Palestinians.

The neo-con defence intellectuals, as well as being in or around the actual Pentagon, are at the centre of a metaphorical 'pentagon' of the Israel lobby and the religious right, plus conservative think-tanks, foundations and media empires. Think-tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) provide homes for neo-con 'in-and-outers' when they are out of government (Perle is a fellow at AEI). The money comes not so much from corporations as from decades-old conservative foundations, such as the Bradley and Olin foundations, which spend down the estates of long-dead tycoons. Neoconservative foreign policy does not reflect business interests in any direct way. The neo-cons are ideologues, not opportunists.

The major link between the conservative think-tanks and the Israel lobby is the Washington-based and Likud-supporting Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (Jinsa), which co-opts many non-Jewish defence experts by sending them on trips to Israel. It flew out the retired General Jay Garner, now slated by Bush to be proconsul of occupied Iraq. In October 2000, he co-signed a Jinsa letter that began: 'We . . . believe that during the current upheavals in Israel, the Israel Defence Forces have exercised remarkable restraint in the face of lethal violence orchestrated by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.'

The Israel lobby itself is divided into Jewish and Christian wings. Wolfowitz and Feith have close ties to the Jewish-American Israel lobby. Wolfowitz, who has relatives in Israel, has served as the Bush administration's liaison to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Feith was given an award by the Zionist Organisation of America, citing him as a 'pro-Israel activist'. While out of power in the Clinton years, Feith collaborating with Perle, co-authored for Likud a policy paper that advised the Israeli government to end the Oslo peace process, reoccupy the territories and crush Yasser Arafat's government.

Such experts are not typical of Jewish-Americans, who mostly voted for Gore in 2000. The most fervent supporters of Likud in the Republican electorate are southern Protestant fundamentalists. The religious right believes that God gave all of Palestine to the Jews, and fundamentalist congregations spend millions to subsidise Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

The final corner of the neoconservative pentagon is occupied by several right-wing media empires, with roots - odd as it seems - in the Commonwealth and South Korea. Rupert Murdoch disseminates propaganda through his Fox Television network. His magazine the Weekly Standard, edited by William Kristol, the former chief of staff of Dan Quayle (vice-president, 1989-93), acts as a mouthpiece for defence intellectuals such as Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith and Woolsey as well as for Sharon's government. The National Interest (of which I was executive editor, 1991-94) is now funded by Conrad Black, who owns the Jerusalem Post and the Hollinger empire in Britain and Canada.

Strangest of all is the media network centred on the Washington Times - owned by the South Korean messiah (and ex-convict) the Reverend Sun Myung Moon - which owns the newswire UPI. UPI is now run by John O'Sullivan, the ghost-writer for Margaret Thatcher who once worked as an editor for Conrad Black in Canada. Through such channels, the 'Gotcha!' style of right-wing British journalism, as well as its Europhobic substance, have contaminated the US conservative movement.

The corners of the neoconservative pentagon were linked together in the 1990s by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), run by Kristol out of the Weekly Standard offices. Using a PR technique pioneered by their Trotskyist predecessors, the neo-cons published a series of public letters, whose signatories often included Wolfowitz and other future members of the Bush foreign policy team. They called for the US to invade and occupy Iraq and to support Israel's campaigns against the Palestinians (dire warnings about China were another favourite). During Clinton's two terms, these fulminations were ignored by the foreign policy establishment and the mainstream media. Now they are frantically being studied.

How did the neo-con defence intellectuals - a small group at odds with most of the US foreign policy elite, Republican as well as Democratic - manage to capture the Bush administration? Few supported Bush during the presidential primaries. They feared that the second Bush would be like the first - a wimp who had failed to occupy Baghdad in the first Gulf war and who had pressured Israel into the Oslo peace process - and that his administration, again like his father's, would be dominated by moderate Republican realists such as Powell, James Baker and Brent Scowcroft. They supported the maverick senator John McCain until it became clear that Bush would get the nomination.

Then they had a stroke of luck - Cheney was put in charge of the presidential transition (the period between the election in November and the accession to office in January). Cheney used this opportunity to stack the administration with his hardline allies. Instead of becoming the de facto president in foreign policy, as many had expected, Secretary of State Powell found himself boxed in by Cheney's right-wing network, including Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Bolton and Libby.

The neo-cons took advantage of Bush's ignorance and inexperience. Unlike his father, a Second World War veteran who had been ambassador to China, director of the CIA and vice-president, George W was a thinly educated playboy who had failed repeatedly in business before becoming the governor of Texas, a largely ceremonial position (the state's lieutenant governor has more power). His father is essentially a north-eastern, moderate Republican; George W, raised in west Texas, absorbed the Texan cultural combination of machismo, anti-intellectualism and overt religiosity. The son of upper-class Episcopalian parents, he converted to southern fundamentalism in a midlife crisis. Fervent Christian Zionism, along with an admiration for macho Israeli soldiers that sometimes coexists with hostility to liberal Jewish-American intellectuals, is a feature of the southern culture.

The younger Bush was tilting away from Powell and toward Wolfowitz ('Wolfie', as he calls him) even before 9/11 gave him something he had lacked: a mission in life other than following in his dad's footsteps. There are signs of estrangement between the cautious father and the crusading son: last year, veterans of the first Bush administration, including Baker, Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger, warned publicly against an invasion of Iraq without authorisation from Congress and the UN.

It is not clear that George W fully understands the grand strategy that Wolfowitz and other aides are unfolding. He seems genuinely to believe that there was an imminent threat to the US from Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction', something the leading neo-cons say in public but are far too intelligent to believe themselves. The Project for the New American Century urged an invasion of Iraq throughout the Clinton years, for reasons that had nothing to do with possible links between Saddam and Osama Bin Laden. Public letters signed by Wolfowitz and others called on the US to invade and occupy Iraq, to bomb Hezbollah bases in Lebanon and to threaten states such as Syria and Iran with US attacks if they continued to sponsor terrorism. Claims that the purpose is not to protect the American people but to make the Middle East safe for Israel are dismissed by the neo-cons as vicious anti-Semitism. Yet Syria, Iran and Iraq are bitter enemies, with their weapons pointed at each other, and the terrorists they sponsor target Israel rather than the US. The neo-cons urge war with Iran next, though by any rational measurement North Korea's new nuclear arsenal is, for the US, a far greater problem.

So that is the bizarre story of how neoconservatives took over Washington and steered the US into a Middle Eastern war unrelated to any plausible threat to the US and opposed by the public of every country in the world except Israel. The frightening thing is the role of happenstance and personality. After the al-Qaeda attacks, any US president would likely have gone to war to topple Bin Laden's Taliban protectors in Afghanistan. But everything that the US has done since then would have been different had America's 18th-century electoral rules not given Bush the presidency and had Cheney not used the transition period to turn the foreign policy executive into a PNAC reunion.

For a British equivalent, one would have to imagine a Tory government, with Downing Street and Whitehall controlled by followers of Reverend Ian Paisley, extreme Eurosceptics, empire loyalists and Blimpish military types - all determined, for a variety of strategic or religious reasons, to invade Egypt. Their aim would be to regain the Suez Canal as the first step in a campaign to restore the British empire. Yes, it really is that weird.

Copyright: 2003 New Statesman (UK)

Monday, September 11, 2006

On this anniversary...

Listen up, the war on terrorism is a fraud concocted to keep the American people in constant fear from an indefinable enemy. You will have a much greater chance in your lifetime of having to defend your property from confiscation against eminent domain than you will of encountering terrorists.

Terrorism is a technique. Terrorism is neither a country nor an enemy. Any group of people can resort to the technique of terrorism. Terrorism cannot be defended against. Any nut or group of extremists can resort to terrorist techniques for any radical cause. Muslim extremists as well as Christian zealots come to mind. Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph were both terrorists and avowed Christians.

The notion that a far flung group of jihadists hiding out in caves in Southeast Asia pose a dire threat to the United States is asinine. The group of people who hijacked the aircrafts on 9-11 numbered nineteen. Nineteen people were all that was required to send this nation into a state of hysteria. The American military is designed to confront the militaries of other nations, not combat miniscule cells of wackos residing inside the borders of the United States. Had American law enforcement acted upon any number of warning signs the tragedy might have been prevented.

The grandiose scale of the crashing of the airliners into the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, understandably weigh heavily on the minds of Americans. Let’s not forget however that the World Trade Center had been targeted before, again by a small group of extremists. The same can be said for the Oklahoma bombing.

Only infiltration by law enforcement can defeat plots such as these that involve small groups of saboteurs and then not all plots can be thwarted. The KKK was a classic terrorist organization who were largely infiltrated and then prosecuted by FBI agents.

None of the recent plots carried out by suicidal saboteurs could have been defended against by a military force. Therefore it is disingenuous for our leaders to portray our ongoing military campaigns in the far reaches of the world as a fight against people determined to attack the United States. The United States is under no exterior threat from jihadists. Any campaign of terrorism, from the bombing of abortion clinics, lynchings, kidnappings, robberies and hijackings that occur in the future will be initiated from inside our borders as they have all been.

The governmentally defined war on terror hysterics that now dominate America’s collective psyche is designed, patently, to ensure a perpetual, indefinable enemy that politicians can call upon to spook the public and guarantee increasing defense budgets and endless military campaigns into infinity. It’s time for Americans to wake up to this reality and quit jumping at shadows and stop wantonly surrendering their freedom.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Senate Intelligence Report - No Iraqi-Al Quaeda connection

Damning Report released on Friday as usual

The senate report on pre-war intelligence has finally been declassified. Could this be the reason behind the sudden surge of war-cheerleading by the administration?

Report: No prewar Saddam-al-Qaida tie

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 19 minutes ago

There's no evidence Saddam Hussein had a relationship with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his Al-Qaida associates, according to a Senate report on prewar intelligence on Iraq. Democrats said the report undercuts President Bush's justification for going to war.

The declassified document being released Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee also explores the role that inaccurate information supplied by the anti-Saddam exile group the Iraqi National Congress had in the march to war.

It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates."

Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam's government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.

The long-awaited report, said Sen. Carl Levin (news, bio, voting record), D-Mich., a member of the committee, is "a devastating indictment of the Bush-Cheney administration's unrelenting, misleading and deceptive attempts" to link Saddam to al-Qaida.

The report, two years in the making, comes out amid a series of Bush speeches stressing that pursuing the military effort in Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terrorism, and two months before that policy will be tested in midterm elections.

The report deals with two aspects of prewar intelligence — the role of the Iraqi National Congress and its exile leader Ahmed Chalabi and a comparison of prewar intelligence assessments and postwar findings on weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's links to terrorist groups. - AP

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Normalizing thuggery

Wednesday Bush admitted that the United States has secret CIA facilities around the world used to keep “terrorists” prisoner. He also reiterated that the US does not torture people. If that is the case, one has to wonder why back in January when the congress passed a law banning torture; Bush signed it and then issued a caveat saying that he would not have to abide by the law he just signed. The Washington Post wrote,

“On Friday, in signing the ban on torture, Bush issued a ''signing statement," saying he would interpret the restrictions in the context of his broader constitutional powers as commander in chief. A ''signing statement" is an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

A senior administration official later confirmed that the president believes the Constitution gives him the power to authorize interrogation techniques that go beyond the law to protect national security. But in enacting the law, Congress intended to close every loophole and impose an absolute ban on all forms of torture, no matter the circumstances, Graham said.”

How can anybody who signs something into law and then declares that the law only applies when its convenient, have any credibility with the people?

Now he has admitted what the world has known for a couple of years that the CIA operates “black” spots across the globe. Human rights watchers have suspected for quite a while that the United States has been keeping detainees in former Soviet, Eastern European nations like Romania.

Why would the United States need to use former eastern bloc nations like Romania to house detainees when there are traditional allies all over Europe?

It seems fairly simple to me that places like Romania, where communism only recently fell, would be a lot more accommodating when it comes to things like disregarding Geneva conventions and allowing torture. Ceausescu may be deposed, but his minions and the whole police state apparatus are probably not too far removed, after all, old habits die hard and it hasn’t even been a generation since the revolution. Not to mention the fact that the fledgling government would like to do anything possible to curry favor with the U.S.

The inevitable consequences of such a policy make me shudder. This is our new best friend, Romania?! The whole ex-eastern bloc part of the world, rampant with organized crime and a thousand year history of tribal feuds, not to mention Soviet gerrymandering, just makes the whole region a basket case. Criminals and thugs run the show, maybe that’s the kind of people the Bush administrations likes to cozy up to. It seems so.

If that is the case, then so be it, but if the war on terrorism is so critical that the United States needs to consort with criminal gangs, corrupt governments, and resort to torture and kidnapping then, haven’t we become the very thing we purport to be combating?

Rene van der Linden, president of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly said on Wednesday,

Kidnapping people and torturing them in secret, however tempting the short-term gain may appear to be, is what criminals do, not democratic governments,

"In the long term, such practices create more terrorists and undermine the values we are fighting for," he said. - AP

I think he hit the nail on the head. Although the American ideal is basically just an abstraction not really based in reality, it is an ideal none the less. Our ideals and image of ourselves, no matter how far fetched, go to the core of our civilization. When we think, act, behave and associate with thugs, we become thugs in reality. Any notion of high minded ideals and morality cannot coincide with a gangster mentality.

So when our leaders rationalize repugnant activity and claim it is for the benefit of our safety, we are intellectually and culturally diluted. Bad behavior becomes the norm because it is tolerated at the highest level.

We were constantly reminded by Republicans that Clinton’s peccadilloes while in office were setting a low moral standard for impressionable American kids. This has borne out, mostly, to be true. Why should it be any different now?

Fascism Talking Points

Speaking in Washington, D.C., the president said there had been progress in making the country safer in the five years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He also said that, even though U.S. actions have weakened al-Qaida since the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans must take seriously the words of the enemy.

Also Tuesday, the White House released a document titled the National Strategy for Fighting Terrorism, which says that America is safer than it was five years ago, but that significant threats remain.

So here's their message to us.

"Though weve successfully quelled the risk of any future terrorist attacks, prepare to be attacked at any moment."

Its a total contradiction, like Perpetual war for perpetual peace.

I hope this new line of asinine talking points, which invokes Stalin and Hitler, creates a backlash with the public. Its obviously an act of desperation, since you know Rove has cooked this shit up.

No one should miss the irony of an administration making comparisons to Stalin and Hitler that holds its own citizens incommunicado, skirts the illegal court established to skirt the fourth amendment to eavesdrop on its own people without warrants, institutes a doctrine of torture and when congress reacts and passes a law to uphold the Geneva Convention, which we were already a signator of in the first place, the President signs a signing statement indicating that he will not abide by the law.

In a knee jerk reaction to the countrys rising tide of right wing tendencies, the Supreme Court rules that it is constitutional for private property to be confiscated for private development. Hows that for imminent domain?

The vote went right down ideological lines, opposed by conservatives and favored by liberal leaning judges. But heres the kicker, if you subscribe to the notion that in general, the wealthy tend to be conservative and lower income people tend to be democrat, then the court has just handed the right/wealthy a gift on a silver platter. I hate to quote Boortz, but he made a good point. Whos ever heard of property being seized to put up low income housing? Nobody. Municipalities want to put in condos to generate more income from property taxes. The modern day definition of blight being, those $100K houses are in the way of putting up a row of condos, they gotta go.

I dont subscribe to the notion that some nebulous, grand conspiracy exists that is allowing oil companies in collusion with the government to gouge the consumer, however, why is it a stretch to believe that politicians from the ranks of the oil business wouldnt be supportive of legislation that curries favor with the oil industry? And we know this to be the case because the energy policy of the Bush administration provides tax exemptions for oil companies. It is simply the nature of the relationships of the politicians in power at any given time. They are going to look out for their donors and supporters, all politicians do.

Isnt it pertinent to suspect that when Jimmy Carter was president he supported favorable legislation for farmers? That he pressured law makers behind the scenes to get votes for an agricultural bill that was supportive of food growers? I think that an investigation into legislation from that era would reveal this to be the case.

That being said, I find it comical when I hear people who were encouraged to buy SUVs by the administration after 911, who have the furthest commutes and who are ardent Bush supporters, complain about the cost of gasoline. And many go so far as to claim that oil companies are gouging. Whether or not oil companies are gouging is a topic for another day. The one thing that is irrefutable is that oil companies are making record profits. So shouldnt people who profess to be conservative and support Bush be ecstatic that big oil is reaping record profits? You are capitalists arent you? Dont you invest in natural resource stocks?

Clearly they either have no fundamental core values or they are totally misguided and ill informed and dont really have any idea what it means to be conservative, in the historical sense. I suspect it is a little of both and what its devolved into now is team sports cheerleading. We root for the team in red, no matter how difficult it makes our lives.

A rise in gas prices in and of itself is bad enough. Couple that with the fact that many families have recently purchased homes. A large majority of these new buyers have been lured into buying more house than they can actually afford through creative financing. Many new home buyers have forgone the traditional mortgage that locks in a rate for thirty years in favor of interest only loans and adjustable rate mortgages. People who have left themselves no room for safety are now being squeezed by higher gas prices and rising interest rates.

Greenspans unprecedented interest rate slashing has fueled a bubble in the housing market. The housing bubble has given rise to suspect lending practices. People who wouldnt have been able to attain a mortgage five years ago are now handing out advice on real-estate as though they were tycoons.

The reality is that they have been bamboozled into thinking their house is a piggy bank. One day soon they are going to realize that extracting equity from their houses isnt increasing their wealth, merely their debt.

Rising interest rates, rising fuel costs, rising heating bills, increased minimum monthly credit card payments, and a zero savings rates are all merging at a time when the new bankruptcy law, essentially written by the banking industry, will make it much more difficult for Americans to declare bankruptcy.