Saturday, December 17, 2005

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Agents' visit chills UMass Dartmouth senior: 12/ 17/ 2005

"NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called 'The Little Red Book.'

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a 'watch list,' and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

'I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book,' Professor Pontbriand said. 'Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it.' "......

[bth: so instead of inspecting baggage checked in as luggage on airplanes for bombs, we sent two agents to interview a student who requested from a college library a copy of Chairman Mao's little red book. I don't like people telling me how or what to think and I don't like thought police. When did we give up our constitional rights? Our freedom? Not to this government or any other. We must be willing to fight for our freedom - protect it from threats foreign and domestic.]
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JibJab on 2005

Here is a link to a JibJab parody on 2005. Its good.

Western Politicians Given Board Seats on Russian Oil & Gas Companies

Gerhard Schröder, the former German chancellor, is to be a director of a Russian-German pipeline consortium controlled by Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled gas group said on Thursday. As chancellor Mr Schröder backed the Baltic pipeline, which he deemed essential for ensuring German energy supplies. It will carry gas directly to Germany via the Baltic seabed from 2010. Mr Schröder, with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, attended the signing of the contract in Berlin on September 7, some 10 days before the election that ended his second term. The opposition criticised Mr Putin’s visit as endorsement of the chancellor’s re-election bid. Mr Schröder, a friend of Mr Putin, whom he once called a “dyed-in-the-wool democrat”, was criticised for failing to consult neighbours that opposed the project.

Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans has been offered the post of board chairman at a state-run oil company by Russian President Vladimir Putin'. Evans served as commerce secretary during President George W. Bush's first term before resigning to return to Texas.
Rosneft leapt into the top rankings of Russian oil companies after it acquired the largest production unit of the Yukos oil company following a highly disputed auction. Rosneft is preparing for an initial public offering sometime in 2006. Kommersant reported that Evans was being courted to signal the company's commitment to good management practices.


Vietnamese makeshift pontoon bridge along supply line 1950 Posted by Picasa

Will The Real Al Qaeda No. 3 Please Stand Up? -- 12/16/2005

"The reported killing of a senior al Qaeda operative by a CIA-launched missile in Pakistan on Dec. 1 has sparked debate among terrorism experts over the true identity of the target and the accuracy of numerical rankings that the Pentagon and White House have attached to other captured or killed terrorists.

Some say the rankings represent public relations run amok, while others say they prove that the U.S. continues to rely on faulty Pakistani intelligence.

On Dec. 3, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told reporters that Abu Hamza Rabia had been killed in an explosion two days earlier. An aide to Musharraf told reporters that Rabia was 'very important in al Qaeda, maybe number three or five' in the terror group's hierarchy. Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao added that Rabia's death was a 'big blow to al Qaeda.'

Several American news organizations, including the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, then quoted multiple, unnamed U.S. intelligence officials as saying that Rabia was al Qaeda's number-three man, the operational commander or military commander, all terms typically used interchangeably. Headlines around the world trumpeted the death of the 'al Qaeda number three man'

Last weekend, Stephen Hadley, national security advisor to President Bush, appeared on CNN and Fox News Sunday, describing Rabia as 'the chief operational planner for al Qaeda,' who had been 'involved in planning attacks against the United States.'

But the day before Hadley's appearances, terrorism expert and author Christopher L. Brown was labeling it all a case of mistaken identity. Rabia was wanted for plotting to assassinate Musharraf, Brown said, was probably a local senior "....

Rabia has never appeared on the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists" list and no known reward has been posted for his capture, Brown points out.

A LexisNexis database search turns up no news articles written about Rabia prior to his reported killing, except for an Aug. 18, 2004, announcement by the Pakistani government of a reward for his capture and that of six other al Qaeda suspects accused of attempting to assassinate President Musharraf on Dec. 14 and 25, 2003.

The 'real' al Qaeda number three, Brown contends, is Saif al-Adel (also known as Muhammad Ibrahim Makkawi), who was previously reported by numerous independent sources to have become al Qaeda's chief of the military committee (operational commander) following the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in March 2003.

Unlike Rabia, al-Adel and his ranking are mentioned in numerous news articles, briefings and even in congressional testimony. On May 20, 2003, Reuters quoted terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna as saying that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's arrest elevated al-Adel because he was "the most competent man" and "extraordinarily bright." Gunaratna also pointed out that as a "highly structured organization," Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda "would have made a point of formally appointing a successor to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed."

Saif al-Adel is also still listed on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list with a $5 million reward offered for his apprehension. Al-Adel is suspected of having trained some of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers and has been linked to the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. The U.S. has sought al-Adel since his alleged involvement in the training of Somali rebels, who killed 18 U.S. servicemen in Mogadishu in the notorious 'Blackhawk Down' incident in October 1993.

In March of 2005 Jordanian analyst Bassam al-Baddarin wrote of al Qaeda's "2020" plan, which outlined the vision of the "strategic brain" of the group -- Saif al-Adel. The "2020" plan made world headlines.

Al-Adel's Iranian connection

Following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the battle at Tora Bora, some al Qaeda fighters, including al-Adel, were reported to have fled to Iran. ...

In June 2005, the German investigative magazine Cicero, known for its intelligence contacts, reported that about 25 al Qaeda leaders, including al-Adel and three of bin Laden's sons were running terrorist operations from their refuge in Iran, where they were provided safe haven, logistical support and equipment by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Soon after the reports of the CIA missile attack on Abu Hamza Rabia, Iran's top intelligence official announced that "there are no al-Qaeda leaders inside Iran.

"We do have a long border with Afghanistan and when the Americans bombed the country, some people crossed this area, but we extradited them or sent them back," the Iranian official added....

Still another al Qaeda number three official

Raman also referenced Abu Faraj al-Libbi, another terrorist previously described by Pakistani intelligence, then U.S. officials, as al Qaeda's third ranking official when he was captured in May of this year. "[W]hile the FBI did not believe that Abu Faraj and Rabia were that highly placed in Al Qaeda, the CIA rated both of them as among the top planners of Al Qaeda." Raman noted.

Raman reported that before the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., Rabia was trained by Midhat Mursi (aka Abu Khabab), another Egyptian, in an Afghan camp to do research and development on chemical and biological weapons, particularly toxins. "[This] was not highlighted by the Pakistani authorities in their media briefing," Raman said.

On Dec. 5, the global intelligence firm Stratfor reported that neither Rabia nor Abu Faraj al-Libbi were likely the masterminds Pakistani and U.S. intelligence agencies made them out to be. "It is more likely that these individuals, rather than being third in command of the jihadist network, were high-level leaders involved in day-to-day operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan," the Stratfor report stated.

"The Pakistanis would have an interest in propagating the notion that al Qaeda's third-highest ranking member was killed. By assigning a high value to Rabia, Islamabad can placate Washington by showing progress and cooperation in the war on terrorism," according to Stratfor.

"The Pakistani officials [previously] stated that they were not aware of the involvement of Abu Faraj [al-Libbi] in any act of jihadi terrorism outside the Pakistan-Afghanistan region," Raman noted. "They were unable to explain why they projected him as the international operational head of Al Qaeda when there was no evidence of his role in any terrorist strike outside the Afghanistan-Pakistan region."

Why the confusion?

What Rabia and al-Libbi have in common is they both targeted Pakistani President Musharraf for assassination, said Brown.

"The truth is Pakistan is yanking our chain on al Qaeda and getting America and the CIA to eliminate threats to their regime," he added. The elimination of lower level leaders or threats to Musharraf is "not necessarily a bad thing," but relying on Pakistani intelligence to rank al Qaeda members "puts us in potential danger."

Saif al-Adel is believed to still be operating today and remains listed on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists....


[bth: Musharraf has a knack for killing an al-Qaeda lieutenant or a number three type just before a high level meeting with Washington or a defense contract. It was just announced that Cheney is in route and will be stopping by in Pakistan. In a separate announcement, there is apparently an arms deal on the table that is about to be consummated allowing the US to sell heavy artillery to Pakistan. As usual the timing is suspect -- as are the motives as far as I'm concerned. We will never get Osama or his number two as long as we rely on the Pakistanis. They have a vested interest in keeping them alive and in a threatening posture so that we - the US - continue to support and more importantly fund President Musharraf.]

Bangladesh uncovers another explosives cache

"DHAKA - Police in Bangladesh seized a huge amount of bombs and explosives and arrested four militants in the second major success this week against radicals fighting for Islamic rule, officials said on Saturday.
The elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) force uncovered the arms cache in Rajshahi city, 300 km (185 miles) northwest of the capital Dhaka, on Friday.

"Two hundred bombs, 2,000 detonators, 144 pieces of power gel explosives and bomb making materials were seized from two hideouts late on Friday,"a spokesman for the RAB said.

The hideouts were raided after police had detained four militants hours earlier.
On Wednesday, RAB arrested three militant leaders including operations commander Ataur Rahman Sunny and seized 120 kg (240 pounds) of explosives, 27 grenades, dozens of detonators and 24 revolvers in Dhaka and southeastern Chittagong.

Police said Abu Isha, one of the four militants detained in Rajshahi, was a regional operations commander.
Bangladesh authorities blame the banned Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group for a recent wave of bombings that has killed at least 30 people and wounded 150 since Aug. 17.

Most of those killed by suicide bombs have been judges, lawyers, police and journalists.
Police have detained more than 800 suspected militants in the last four months, mostly members of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. The others were activists of another outlawed Islamist group, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB).
Bangladesh is the world's third largest Muslim country after Indonesia and Pakistan. "

Op-Eds for Sale

"A columnist from a libertarian think tank admits accepting payments to promote an indicted lobbyist's clients. Will more examples follow?

A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff's clients. Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid '90s. "

"It was a lapse of judgment on my part, and I take full responsibility for it," Bandow said from a California hospital, where he's recovering from recent knee surgery.

After receiving BusinessWeek Online's inquiries about the possibility of payments, Cato Communications Director Jamie Dettmer said the think-tank determined that Bandow "engaged in what we consider to be inappropriate behavior and he considers to be a lapse in judgment" and accepted his resignation. "Cato has an excellent reputation for integrity, and we're zealous in guarding that," Dettmer said...

MULTIPLE TRAVAILS. A former Abramoff associate says Bandow and at least one other think-tank expert were typically paid $2,000 per column to address specific topics of interest to Abramoff's clients. Bandow's standing as a columnist and think-tank analyst provided a seemingly independent validation of the arguments the Abramoff team were using to try to sway Congressional action.

Bandow confirms that he received $2,000 for some pieces, but says it was "usually less than that amount." He says he wrote all the pieces himself, though with topics and information provided by Abramoff. He adds that he wouldn't write about subjects that didn't interest him.

Abramoff was indicted in Florida in August on wire-fraud charges in relation to his purchase of a Florida casino-boat company. He faces trial in January in that case.

Separately, a Senate committee and a Justice Dept. task force are investigating allegations that Abramoff defrauded some of his clients -- a handful of American Indian tribes that had gotten wealth from running casino-gaming operations on their reservations. Abramoff's business partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty in November to conspiring to corrupt public officials with gifts, including political contributions, and defrauding clients, and is cooperating with the ongoing probe...

In none of Bandow's op-eds were any Abramoff payments disclosed, however -- nor were they disclosed to the Cato Institute. On Dec. 16, Copley News Service announced it is suspending Bandow pending its own review. In a statement, Glenda Winders, Copley News Service editor and vice-president, said: "We want to make sure we have all the facts before we take final action. But it had never been our policy to distribute work paid for by third parties whose role is not disclosed by the columnist."

For years, rumors have swirled of an underground opinion "pay-for-play" industry in Washington in which think-tank employees and pundits trade their ability to shape public perception for cash.

"NAIVE PURITY STANDARD." Bandow isn't the only think-tanker to have received payments from Abramoff for writing articles. Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation, says he, too, took money from Abramoff to write op-ed pieces boosting the lobbyist's clients. "I do that all the time," Ferrara says. "I've done that in the past, and I'll do it in the future." ...

Prosecutors Investigate High Radiation Levels in Chechnya

"Chechen prosecutors are investigating reports of high radiation levels at a factory in the republic.

They said the radiation posed a danger to people living near it in the Chechen capital of Grozny, AP reported.

According to Russian television reports, the radioactive levels at the factory were 58,000 times higher than normal levels, half those recorded at the Chernobyl plant catastrophe in 1986.

The case has raised fears militants could use radioactive waste to build a crude nuclear bomb.

Chechen prosecutor Valery Kuznetsov was quoted by the agency as saying the failure to remove the radioactive material or isolate access to the plant had made it "a threat to the population". He called this a "catastrophic radioactivity situation."

"It is a threat to the population because the management of the plant is taking no steps whatsoever to remove the radioactive material or isolate access to the plant," he added."

[bth: any story that has Chechens and radiation in the same paragraph deserves our upmost attention.]

Afghan killed for teaching girls - Dec 16, 2005

"KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- Suspected Taliban guerrillas dragged a teacher from a classroom of teenagers in southern Afghanistan and killed him at the school gate after he ignored their orders to stop teaching girls, police said on Friday.

The attack was carried out by two armed men who arrived at the secondary school in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province by motorcycle on Thursday, Helmand police chief Abdul Rahman Sabir told Reuters.

'They dragged the teacher from the classroom and shot him at the school gate,' he said.
'He had received many warning letters from the Taliban to stop teaching, but he continued to to do so happily and honestly -- he liked to teach boys and girls,' Sabir said.
He identified the teacher by the single name, Laghmani.

The fundamentalist Taliban banned education of girls during their rule before being overthrown by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

The guerrillas have carried out a series of attacks in the provinces on schools teaching girls since them, often burning them down at night"

Sharia police, motorcyclists clash in Nigeria over ban on women

"KANO, Nigeria -- A clash between Sharia police (hisbah) and commercial taxi moped operators called 'Achaba' in northern Nigeria's Kano city on Wednesday left 11 people injured and scores of vehicles vandalized.

Fighting broke out on the frenetic streets of this commercial city when the hisbah began to enforce the state's ban on women riding on taxi mopeds, a common and speedy means of transportation in Nigerian cities.

Hundreds of hisbah took positions at strategic locations in the city, forcing women passengers to get off mopeds. This angered the moped operators who mobilized and launched attacks on the hisbah. "...

Kano, one of a dozen mainly Muslim northern states to readopt the Sharia legal system since 1999, passed a legislation banning women riding on taxi mopeds in May 2004.

Tagged the Traffic Amendment Law 2004, the law provides for six months imprisonment for defaulting motorcyclists with a fine of 5,000 naira ($36). He also risks to forfeit permit for six months.

A month later, a 9,000-man hisbah outfit was formed by the state government to enforce the Sharia, including the new traffic law.

"This is just the beginning of our resolve to enforce the ban on women riding on achaba", Yahaya Farouk Chedi, head of the hisbah, told a press conference.

"We have begun by asking the women to get off the bikes and soon we will start arresting defaulters and taking them to court for prosecution", he added.

"The government ought to ban more grievous offenses than carrying women on motorbikes", said Sahabi Idris, a taxi moped operator, after he was forced by the hisbah to drop his female passenger.

"There are beer parlors, night clubs and brothels close to the governor's residence and nobody is saying anything about them. The government is just playing politics with the Sharia," he said


A drawing from WWI "We regret to inform you..." Posted by Picasa

Pelosi Hails Democrats' Diverse War Stances

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.

Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq. There is consensus within the party that President Bush has mismanaged the war and that a new course is needed, but House Democrats should be free to take individual positions, she sad.

'There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position,' Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors"...

[bth: the Democratic alternative cannot be 'none of the above"]

Bush Approved Eavesdropping, Official Says

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official said Friday night.

The disclosure follows angry demands by lawmakers earlier in the day for congressional inquiries into whether the monitoring by the highly secretive National Security Agency violated civil liberties.

'There is no doubt that this is inappropriate,' declared Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He promised hearings early next year."....

Friday, December 16, 2005

Arab Newspapers Reluctant to Criticize Iranian Leader's Remarks on Israel

"Arab governments appeared reluctant Thursday to condemn Iran's president for calling the Holocaust a 'myth' used by Europeans to create a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world."...

[bth: such irresponsible statements by the President of Iran deserve condemnation and at a minimum a correction. To deny the holocaust is to deny the suffering and death of millions of innocents. His statements and their lack of comment is offensive in the extreme.]


The photos in this series were taken by embedded reporters with the Virginian-Pilot. They lost their credentials as a result of them. Please read the articles below providing details.

My concern is that if these photos are banned and the Pentagon is spending $100-$300 million per year to pump fake news into the media stream, how on earth are Americans supposed to really understand what is going on in Iraq?

Should we be expected to accept the spoon-fed shit served to us by the Department of Defense and declare it good and true? The Pentagon and the Administration should not be afraid of truth or democracy.

Since when may I add did NYTs reporters lose their credentials for publishing truth like these two Virginian-Pilot reporters did? Fact is the NYTs has become the towel boy for the DOD and Administration -- Judith Miller being one clear example. Posted by Picasa


Photo taken in Kuwait of a Marine LAV hit by RPG in Iraq. Five marines died in the vehicle. Posted by Picasa


Melted interior of a Marine LAV hit by RPG. Posted by Picasa


50 caliber round which exploded from the heat inside a US military vehicle hit by an RPG Posted by Picasa


Humvee being sterilized before its return to the U.S. Red circle in window denotes that a casualty occurred in this vehicle as a result of enemy attack. Picture from Virginian-Pilot Posted by Picasa


Photo from Virginian - Pilot showing bullet holes through glass of US military truck. Posted by Picasa


Photo of vehicles in bone yard in Kuwait being sterilized and returned to the U.S. Posted by Picasa


Photos of damaged vehicles being shipped back to the U.S. This series of photos resulted in pulling the credentials of Virginian-Pilot reporters Posted by Picasa

Journalists' Embedded Credentials Pulled for Photos of Damaged US Vehicles

An embedded journalist, Louis Hansen and his photographer, both from the Virginian-Pilot had their embedded credentials pulled by the Navy this week after posting an article and photos of damaged US military vehicles being returned to the US.

It appears to me after reviewing their article and pictures that no operational information was released -- the vehicles could not be linked to a specific insurgent attack and the information provided was of the most generic nature.

The only people left in the dark on this matter are the American people -- the insurgents know the impact of their work as do the US troops.

There are on average only 3 dozen embedded reporters in Iraq at any one time. If their work is highly censored and the US government is spending $100 million per year to plant fake news into the media stream, it seems that the American public cannot help but fail to get an objective information from Iraq.

Consequently I am posting below along with links, three articles - one being the original Dec. 10 article in the Virginian-Pilot, one being an editorial from the paper subsequent to the loss of credentials and one from the Military Reporters and Editors president.


With the 5th Fleet: Scouring the skeletons of war


CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT — In a mostly vacant, sand-covered lot, a dozen heavy Marine vehicles were parked in a square formation, unattended in the mid day sun.


The light armored vehicle sat hidden in the middle.

Navy Chief Petty Officer Donald Hatch and Senior Chief Petty Officer Michael Blank walked around the troop carrier. Heat melted four of its eight tires. Flames had scorched parts of the cream-colored body, and rust ate the rest. Shrapnel pocked the thick armor.

Hatch, then Blank, stuck their heads into the open rear door. It was quiet.

Gray ash covered the floorboard. Unspent rounds from a twisted ammunition belt poked above the cinders. There was a flame-licked page from a men’s magazine, and a .50-caliber round exploded into the shape of an orchid.

Marine policy dictates cleaning the vehicle and shipping it home. Hatch and Blank did not think that was a good idea.

“My God,” Blank said quietly.

At Camp Arifjan in southern Kuwait, machines and men arrive from the war broken. The sailors cannot fix the vehicles or heal the soldiers’ trauma. But they can collect the pieces of battle-scarred hardware, scour the war from them and send them home.

A Williamsburg-based battalion of 450 Navy reservists took over customs work from the Air Force in January. The Air Force had assumed the job from a strained Army force eight months earlier.

The Navy picked reservists from 46 states and from many different jobs: boat and truck drivers, technology experts, and cooks.

A two-month crash course in Norfolk and Williamsburg prepared the sailors to become customs agents. They arrived in Kuwait in August. By the time they leave in April, the members of the Naval Expeditionary Logistics Support Force will have inspected and cleaned 72,000 combat-worn vehicles and will have inspected the luggage for 36,000 departing passengers.

“Anything and everything comes through customs,” said Hatch, 39, from Horseheads, N.Y. He supervises about 100 of the blue-vested customs agents at the base.

Every person, military or civilian, who comes through Arifjan spends time with the agents.

Admirals, generals, grunts and guests stop through the airy, two-story white tent filled with about a dozen wooden tables.

Larger units are taken to basketball and tennis courts, where they spread their gear across dusty concrete. There, agents ask the men and women to unpack, set gear out on blankets and muster for a briefing.

They gather them close and read them a list of things they may not carry home. The list takes almost 10 minutes to recite. Sand, soil, rocks and marble are forbidden, because t hey may carry invidious insects.

“Even the ants over here are different,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Bruce Nixon, 42, of Long Island, N.Y. “We saw one ant carrying a Cheerio on his back.”

Outbound travelers may not leave the country carrying alcoholic beverages, canned meat, live ammunition, shell casings, mines, pornography, human remains, loot taken from Iraqi soldiers, switchblades or Cuban cigars.

At the end of the briefing, agents point to an empty box and give the troops five minutes to dump contraband before inspection. Amnesty boxes also dot the compound.

The team expects to collect or seize 12,000 items during their tour. Anything , from Arabic books to shrapnel picked from a soldier’s wound, has become a souvenir.

The sailors try to give the combat Marines and soldiers space and understanding, Hatch said.
Small contraband is taken, but soldiers are usually not punished.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Kennie McFall has confiscated ammunition, knives, pornography, bottles of sand and maps. He also finds empty stares.

“You can see that look on their faces. They just want to go home,” said McFall, a 24-year-old carpenter from Culpeper, Va. “A couple of guys … some of them are just not there.”

Truck convoys as long as five miles rumble into Camp Arifjan from “up north,” as the troops call Iraq.

Flatbeds haul Humvees pierced by grenades, improvised explosive devices, shrapnel and bullets to the desert yards. Scores of combat-scarred Humvees must be washed, drained and inspected.

Foreign workers and service members dressed in heavy waterproof gear hose down the machinery with power washers.

Dried blood, bone, fluid, oil, shrapnel and spent munitions flush down long drains around the large concrete wash yard.

Inspectors yank up upholstery at the end of the wash to catch any live ammunition before the vehicles go back to the states.

Most equipment will sail from Kuwait to New Jersey or Charleston, S.C. From there, the vehicles and machinery will be placed on trains and hauled back to military bases across the country.

Sailors stare at the Humvees, tanks and light armored vehicles and try to piece together their combat stories.

Some are so blown apart “to a point that just makes you wonder,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Troy Saunders, 41, of Chesapeake. “All of us do.”

Saunders escorts the convoys from camp south to the Kuwait Naval Base. Soldiers have shared their war stories, and they all laughed. It doesn’t make sense, Saunders said.

“You’re laughing,” he said, “but it’s that laughter of relief.”

The scorched light armored vehicle in the middle of the square remained a question.

A Marine sergeant inspecting nearby tanks approached Hatch and Blank. They walked around the burnt, rusted shell again. The men spoke.

Blank, a serious 49-year-old from Pennsylvania, nodded in agreement with the sergeant. No one wanted to send that thing home. The charnel house should stay in the desert.

Their commanding officers might later disagree.

Reach Louis Hansen at louis.hansen@pilotonline.com.
Reach military editor Ray Tessler at (757) 446-2355 or ray.tessler@pilotonline.com

Here is the link to the photos.

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Newspaper objects to Navy yanking credentials

By KATE WILTROUT, The Virginian-Pilot © December 16, 2005
NORFOLK — The Virginian-Pilot is objecting to the military’s decision Monday to revoke the credentials of two staff members for what it deemed a violation of ground rules for journalists in Kuwait.

Pilot military reporter Louis Hansen and photographer Hyunsoo Leo Kim spent two and a half weeks with the Navy in the Persian Gulf region, chronicling Navy and coalition units in the region.

At an Army base in Kuwait, a week into the assignment, both were asked to sign a three-page list of ground rules. The rules contained 28 categories of information that could not be reported because doing so “could jeopardize operations and endanger lives.” An additional 12 items were prohibited from being photographed or filmed due to “operational security” requirements. The fifth item on that list specified, “No video/photography of battle-damaged vehicles.”
Both men signed the agreement on Dec. 6 .

During the next two days, the pair visited Camp Arifjan in Kuwait with Navy public affairs officials. They were assigned escorts who gave them a tour of several lots where battle-damaged vehicles were stored. They were also shown an area known as the wash rack, where vehicles from Iraq were cleaned.

The pair asked the escorts if they could take photos. Each time, the Navy escorts, trained by public affairs officers, told them yes, according to Hansen and Kim.

Saturday, the newspaper published the story and photos under the headline “Scouring the skeletons of war.” Both also appeared on the Pilot’s Web site.

Monday, a senior Navy officer told both journalists they had broken the rules and could not continue reporting in Kuwait. Kim’s and Hansen’s badges that had allowed them to interview and photograph service members were confiscated.

The reporter and photographer returned to Norfolk on Wednesday.

Denis Finley , the paper’s editor, said he did “not for a minute” regret publishing the photos. He also said he didn’t believe Kim and Hansen willfully violated the agreement and believed they thought they had approval for the story and images.

“Yes, they signed an agreement, but the Navy brought them to the site and allowed them to take pictures,” Finley said.

“The truth should always win out, and it did here,” said Finley, who is drafting a letter objecting to the action.

“It is in violation of operational security and puts future troops in harm’s way by showing the vulnerabilities of vehicles which the insurgents can use against them,” Army Lt. Col. Debbie Haston-Hilger wrote in an e-mail to Hansen’s editor Monday from Camp Arifjan.

Thursday, Haston-Hilger said the rule had recently been added to the policy of the Coalition Forces Land Component Command , which oversees the base in Kuwait.

That policy is unique to Kuwait. Neither Central Command nor Multi-National Force Iraq forbid journalists from depicting such damage. The Marines have photos of vehicles hit by bombs, mortars and grenades on their Web site; the Army’s Web site has at least two such photos.

Col. Barrett King , chief public affairs officer at Coalition Forces Land Component Command’s headquarters in Atlanta, acknowledged the command’s policy is inconsistent with wider military regulations. He said he would revisit the policy.

King explained that similar photos on the Army’s Web site are cleared before publishing to ensure they don’t violate security.

Insurgents can use pictures of damaged vehicles to learn how to make bombs more powerful and effective, he said.

“In any other arena, any other time, it was a very good story and a very reasonable photo, but we’re at war,” he said.

Sig Christenson , a Texas journalist and president of Military Reporters & Editors , said the Pentagon should review its rules and develop a set that strikes “a more appropriate and realistic set of conditions for our work.”

Christenson, who has reported from Iraq, said he understands some information could put U.S. troops in danger and should be off-limits. Yet, he’s concerned that the military’s rules may have broadened as the war has become more politically sensitive.

“It is a violation of our ethics and core values as journalists to be a party to any rule that is designed to suppress legitimate information and/or spin news about conflicts involving U.S. forces.”

Reach Kate Wiltrout at (757) 446-2629 or kate.wiltrout@pilotonline.com.


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MRE Criticizes Expelling of Embeds Over Pix of Shot-Up Humvee


By Joe Strupp Published: December 15, 2005 5:40 PM ET


NEW YORK The expulsion by U.S. military officials of two embedded journalists in Kuwait, reportedly for photographing a shot-up military vehicle, has prompted outrage from Military Reporters and Editors (MRE), which is calling for a change in embed rules that apparently led to the action.Sig Christenson, MRE president and a military writer with the San Antonio Express-News, said no rule barring photographs of damaged vehicles existed when he first embedded in 2003.

He said the alleged rule is one of several that have been added to the embedding program since it first began nearly three years ago, and should be changed."This rule does not have any legitimate purpose in preventing future attacks," Christenson said. "I'm pretty sure the rule was not in the agreement I signed. I think the insurgents already know about the vulnerability of the vehicles."MRE Vice President Jim Crawley, a military writer with MediaGeneral, cited the original embed rule list currently posted by Reporters Without Borders that does not include such a restriction. He also pointed to a number of photos on the U.S. Army and Marines official Web sites that clearly show damaged vehicles.

"It is unrealistic to have in there that you can't take any pictures of damaged vehicles," Crawley said. "Especially damaged vehicles being sent back to the states."Major Matthew Mclaughlin of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the embedding program, acknowledged that the photography rule had not been in place when embedding began in Iraq, but said the Army command in Kuwait had issued a new set of ground rules since the first list was issued that included the tighter photography control. "That is perfectly within their purview to do," he told E&P.

"I understand this reporter had signed those ground rules."When asked about the Army and Marine Web sites posting of damaged vehicle photos, Mclaughlin said he had heard of those photos, but had not seen them. "I think it is (the Army command's) contention that there is a good deal of difference between the photos," he said.

The incident that sparked MRE's concerns occurred earlier this week when reporter Louis Hansen and photographer Hyunsoo Leo Kim of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk lost their embed credentials. The duo was forced to leave after the newspaper published a story Dec. 10 on the removal of battle-damaged military vehicles.The story included at least one photo of a bullet-ridden Humvee at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that the journalists had been escorted by military personnel to a compound where the vehicles were located and believed that that gave them permission to photograph them.

Virginian-Pilot Editor Denis Finley, who couldn't be reached for comment Thursday, told the Richmond paper that the Coalition Forces Land Component Command in Kuwait pulled the pair's credentials, claming they violated the rule about photographing damaged vehicles. He said the journalists' two-week assignment had already ended, "so we were done anyway."

Still, the expulsion has drawn fire from military journalists who claim the alleged rule is one of several that have been added since the war began and is a clear violation of press freedom. "Our job is not to be stooges of the administration or the Pentagon and be complicit in their attempt to manage the news," said Christenson, a three-time embed.

"We are here to tell our readers about the war."Christenson also sent a memo to MRE members Thursday urging that the organization form a committee to push for a review of embed rules with the Pentagon during its next board meeting in January.

"Reporters ought to draw a line in the proverbial sand when there are questionable provisions in these agreements," the memo said, in part. "Our reputation as journalists independent of government and political control, and beholden first and foremost to our editors and readers, is at stake. Maybe by raising consciousness on this matter we can avoid incidents like the one earlier this week and the bad blood that comes with it."

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1945. US General Gallagher and Ho Chi Minh

NYT 'SPYING' SPLASH TIED TO BOOK RELEASE

"**Exclusive**

Newspaper fails to inform readers 'news break' is tied to book publication

On the front page of today's NEW YORK TIMES, national security reporter James Risen claims that 'months after the September 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States... without the court approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.'

Risen claims the White House asked the paper not to publish the article, saying that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny.

Risen claims the TIMES delayed publication of the article for a year to conduct additional reporting.

But now comes word James Risen's article is only one of many 'explosive newsbreaking' stories that can be found -- in his upcoming book -- which he turned in 3 months ago!

The paper failed to reveal the urgent story was tied to a book release and sale.

'STATE OF WAR: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration' is to be published by FREE PRESS in the coming weeks, sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT.

Carisa Hays, VP, Director of Publicity FREE PRESS, confirms the book is being published.

The book editor of Bush critic Richard Clarke [AGAINST ALL ENEMIES] signed Risen to FREE PRESS.

Developing... "

[bth: if Drudge is correct, the NYT then is manipulating the timing of the release of the news for reasons unrelated to the public interest.]
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Pentagon Is Said to Mishandle a Counterterrorism Database - New York Times

"WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Pentagon analysts appear not to have followed guidelines that require deleting information on American citizens and groups from a counterterrorism database within three months if they pose no security threats, Pentagon officials said on Thursday.

As a result, dozens of alerts on antiwar meetings and peaceful protests appear to have remained in the database, even though analysts had decided that those involved presented no threat to military bases or personnel, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program is classified.

The requirement to delete information after 90 days is in a set of procedures for handling reports entered into the Defense Department database, which is known as the Threat and Local Observation Notice reporting system, or Talon. Pentagon officials on Thursday refused to release the full list of procedures for handling information on citizens.

Details of the database were disclosed this week by NBC News, which said it had obtained a 400-page document on more than 1,500 'suspicious incidents' across the country entered into the system in a 10-month period from 2004 to 2005.

A summary of the document put out by NBC said that among the incidents monitored was a 'protest against Army recruiters' in Wayne, N.J., last April that the database notes happened 'without incident.'

Pentagon officials said Thursday that the Talon program was created in 2003 as a central repository of possible threats against military personnel and installations. Tips and other unverified information from military personnel, law enforcement agencies and intelligence entities are entered into the system and evaluated, they said.

Stephen A. Cambone, under secretary of defense for intelligence, ordered a review of the database on Wednesday, looking at "retention of information about any U.S. persons" and whether guidelines for collecting such information are consistent with current laws, officials said

[bth: it amazes me that this story was actually broken by the Washington Post and that the NYT's sat on a story for a year that the Pentagon was illegally monitoring internal US electronic communications of citizens. The NYTs is just a tool now for those in power within the administration and it has lost its place as a source of investigative reporting and protector of basic civil liberties. Who will fill the void? Raw Stories, a blog, has done more to expose abuses of civil liberties by the government that the NYTs this year. ... and newspapers can't figure out why their circulation has declined....]

The Truth On the Ground

"When I told people that I was getting ready to head back to Iraq for my third tour, the usual response was a frown, a somber head shake and even the occasional 'I'm sorry.' When I told them that I was glad to be going back, the response was awkward disbelief, a fake smile and a change of subject. The common wisdom seems to be that Iraq is an unwinnable war and a quagmire and that the only thing left to decide is how quickly we withdraw. Depending on which poll you believe, about 60 percent of Americans think it's time to pull out of Iraq.

How is it, then, that 64 percent of U.S. military officers think we will succeed if we are allowed to continue our work? Why is there such a dramatic divergence between American public opinion and the upbeat assessment of the men and women doing the fighting?"

Open optimism, whether or not it is warranted, is a necessary trait in senior officers and officials. Skeptics can be excused for discounting glowing reports on Iraq from the upper echelons of power. But it is not a simple thing to ignore genuine optimism from mid-grade, junior and noncommissioned officers who have spent much of the past three years in Iraq.

We know the streets, the people and the insurgents far better than any armchair academic or talking head. As military professionals, we are trained to gauge the chances of success and failure, to calculate risk and reward. We have little to gain from our optimism and quite a bit to lose as we leave our families over and over again to face danger and deprivation for an increasingly unpopular cause. We know that there are no guarantees in war, and that we may well fail in the long run. We also know that if we follow our current plan we can, over time, leave behind a stable and unified country that might help to anchor a better future for the Middle East.

It is difficult for most Americans to rationalize this optimism in the face of the horrific images and depressing stories that have come to symbolize the war in Iraq. Most of the violent news is true; the death and destruction are very real. But experienced military officers know that the horror stories, however dramatic, do not represent the broader conditions there or the chances for future success. For every vividly portrayed suicide bombing, there are hundreds of thousands of people living quiet, if often uncertain, lives. For every depressing story of unrest and instability there is an untold story of potential and hope. The impression of Iraq as an unfathomable quagmire is false and dangerously misleading.

It is this false impression that has led us to a moment of national truth. The proponents of the quagmire vision argue that the very presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is the cause of the insurgency and that our withdrawal would give the Iraqis their only true chance for stability. Most military officers and NCOs with ground experience in Iraq know that this vision is patently false. Although the presence of U.S. forces certainly inflames sentiment and provides the insurgents with targets, the anti-coalition insurgency is mostly a symptom of the underlying conditions in Iraq. It may seem paradoxical, but only our presence can buffer the violence enough to allow for eventual stability.

The precipitous withdrawal of U.S. troops would almost certainly lead to a violent and destabilizing civil war. The Iraqi military is not ready to assume control and would not miraculously achieve competence in our absence. As we left, the insurgency would turn into internecine violence, and Iraq would collapse into a true failed state. The fires of the Iraqi civil war would spread, and terrorists would find a new safe haven from which to launch attacks against our homeland.

Anyone who has spent even a day in the Middle East should know that the Arab street would not thank us for abandoning Iraq. The blame for civil war would fall squarely on our shoulders. It is unlikely that the tentative experiments in democracy we have seen in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere would survive the fallout. There would be no dividend of goodwill from heartbroken intellectuals or emboldened Islamic extremists. American troops might be home in the short run, but the experienced professionals know that in the long run, quitting Iraq would mean more deployments, more desperate battles and more death.

Sixty-four percent of us know that we have a good shot at preventing this outcome if we are allowed to continue our mission. We quietly hope that common sense will return to the dialogue on Iraq. Although we hate leaving our families behind, many of us would rather go back to Iraq a hundred times than abandon the Iraqi people.

A fellow Marine and close friend epitomizes this sentiment. Sean has served two tours in Iraq as a reserve officer. During his last tour, he was informed of the birth of his baby girl by e-mail, learned his father was dying of cancer, and was wounded in the same blast of an improvised explosive that killed his first sergeant on a dirt road in the middle of the western desert. Sean loves his family and his job, but he has made it clear that he would rather go back to Iraq than see us withdraw.

Everyone in uniform does not share this sentiment. Thirty-six percent of military officers are less confident in the mission. But these officers will continue to work as hard as the rest of us toward success because they, too, are professionals. With men and women such as this, the United States has an excellent chance of success in Iraq. We can fail only if the false imagery of quagmire takes hold and our national political will is broken. In that event, both the Iraqi people and the American troops will pay a long-term price for our shortsighted delusion.

The writer is a major in the Marine Corps.

Report: Bush Had More Prewar Intelligence Than Congress

"A congressional report made public yesterday concluded that President Bush and his inner circle had access to more intelligence and reviewed more sensitive material than what was shared with Congress when it gave Bush the authority to wage war against Iraq.

Democrats said the 14-page report contradicts Bush's contention that lawmakers saw all the evidence before U.S. troops invaded in March 2003, stating that the president and a small number of advisers 'have access to a far greater volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information.'"

The report does not cite examples of intelligence Bush reviewed that differed from what Congress saw. If such information is available, the report's authors do not have access to it. The Bush administration has routinely denied Congress access to documents, saying it would have a chilling effect on deliberations. The report, however, concludes that the Bush administration has been more restrictive than its predecessors in sharing intelligence with Congress....

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Exit poll shows close race in Iraq - Yahoo! News

"BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A straw poll conducted after voting closed in Iraq's election on Thursday showed the dominant Shi'ite Islamist bloc retained a strong following, but was being challenged by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's secular list. "...

House GOP Leaders Draft Bill Rejecting Calls for Pullout From Iraq

"WASHINGTON - House Republican leaders drafted legislation on Thursday that rejects calls for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq as 'fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory' and said they would force a vote on Friday.

It would be the second time in five weeks that GOP leaders maneuvered for a vote on the war in the face of Democratic calls for a timetable for withdrawal.

The resolution expresses the commitment of the House 'to achieving victory in Iraq.'"...

But a Pelosi spokeswoman, Jennifer Crider, said: "Talk about playing politics with the Iraq war, American troops and the American troop deserve a real debate — not the Republican stunt."

She said Democrats sought changes "that would reflect the bipartisan spirit that a resolution like that should be offered with" but they were rebuffed

Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say - New York Times

"WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 -Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible 'dirty numbers' linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

'This is really a sea change,' said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. 'It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches.'

Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight. ...

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it said the N.S.A. eavesdropped without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands over the past three years, several officials said. Overseas, about 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time, according to those officials.

Several officials said the eavesdropping program had helped uncover a plot by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker and naturalized citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches.

What appeared to be another Qaeda plot, involving fertilizer bomb attacks on British pubs and train stations, was exposed last year in part through the program, the officials said. But they said most people targeted for N.S.A. monitoring have never been charged with a crime, including an Iranian-American doctor in the South who came under suspicion because of what one official described as dubious ties to Osama bin Laden. ...

Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States ­ including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners ­ is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation.

The National Security Agency, which is based at Fort Meade, Md., is the nation's largest and most secretive intelligence agency, so intent on remaining out of public view that it has long been nicknamed "No Such Agency.'' It breaks codes and maintains listening posts around the world to eavesdrop on foreign governments, diplomats and trade negotiators as well as drug lords and terrorists. But the agency ordinarily operates under tight restrictions on any spying on Americans, even if they are overseas, or disseminating information about them.

What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, the officials said.

In addition to eavesdropping on those numbers and reading e-mail messages to and from the Qaeda figures, the N.S.A. began monitoring others linked to them, creating an expanding chain. While most of the numbers and addresses were overseas, hundreds were in the United States, the officials said.

Under the agency's longstanding rules, the N.S.A. can target for interception phone calls or e-mail messages on foreign soil, even if the recipients of those communications are in the United States. Usually, though, the government can only target phones and e-mail messages in this country by first obtaining a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which holds its closed sessions at the Justice Department.

Traditionally, the F.B.I., not the N.S.A., seeks such warrants and conducts most domestic eavesdropping. Until the new program began, the N.S.A. typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions in Washington, New York and other cities, and obtained court orders to do so.

Since 2002, the agency has been conducting some warrantless eavesdropping on people in the United States who are linked, even if indirectly, to suspected terrorists through the chain of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, according to several officials who know of the operation. Under the special program, the agency monitors their international communications, the officials said. The agency, for example, can target phone calls from someone in New York to someone in Afghanistan.

Warrants are still required for eavesdropping on entirely domestic-to-domestic communications, those officials say, meaning that calls from that New Yorker to someone in California could not be monitored without first going to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court. ...

The next year, Justice Department lawyers disclosed their thinking on the issue of warrantless wiretaps in national security cases in a little-noticed brief in an unrelated court case. In that 2002 brief, the government said that "the Constitution vests in the President inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority."

Administration officials were also encouraged by a November 2002 appeals court decision in an unrelated matter. The decision by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which sided with the administration in dismantling a bureaucratic "wall" limiting cooperation between prosecutors and intelligence officers, noted "the president's inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance."

But the same court suggested that national security interests should not be grounds "to jettison the Fourth Amendment requirements" protecting the rights of Americans against undue searches. The dividing line, the court acknowledged, "is a very difficult one to administer."

[bth: several points of concern besides the obvious - did the Administration use this to spy on Kerry as alleged by his camp during the campaign? Moreover did they use this power in conjunction with the Pentagon's illegal collection of intelligence against peaceful demonstrators in the US under a separate program? I fear we are surrendering our Fourth Amendment rights much to easily.]

US no-fly list vexes travelers from babies on up

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sarah Zapolsky was checking in for a flight to Italy when she discovered her 9-month-old son's name was on the United States' 'no-fly' list of suspected terrorists.

'We pointed down to the stroller, and he sat there and gurgled,' Zapolsky said, recalling the incident at Dulles International Airport outside Washington in July. 'The desk agent started laughing. ... She couldn't print us out a boarding pass because he's on the no-fly list.'

Zapolsky, who did not want her son's name made public, said she was initially amused by the mix-up. 'But when I found out you can't actually get off the list, I started to get a bit annoyed.'
Zapolsky isn't alone.

According to the Transportation Security Administration, more than 28,000 people have applied to the TSA redress office to get on the 'cleared list,' which takes note of individuals whose names are similar to those on the terrorism watch list, but does not guarantee an end to no-fly list hassles.

The TSA does not reveal how many or which names are actually on the list, and complaints do not get names removed since they refer to suspected terrorists. The best innocent travelers can hope for is a letter from the TSA which it says should facilitate travel, but is no panacea.

In addition to babies, the victims of mistaken identity on the no-fly list have included aging retirees and public figures such as Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska and Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia."....
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Early Warning by William M. Arkin - washingtonpost.com

"The Pentagon now says that it has ordered a 'review' of the collection of information about U.S. citizens, particularly those who pose no plausible terrorist threat, after my NBC Nightly News piece ran Tuesday and my blog yesterday revealed some of the contents of a Pentagon database compiling 'suspicious incidents.'

Shocked that there is gambling going on in the casino, here's my prediction of what the Pentagon 'review' will find:

- They will conclude that information collected on certain incidents fell within Pentagon guidelines for 'force protection.'
They will find that no information naming U.S. persons was disseminated outside of valid law enforcement or intelligence channels.

- They will find that perhaps over-zealous anti-terrorism and law enforcement personnel retained information beyond a 90 day limit set to determine if real threats exist.

- They will order a further review of the practices of the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) in compiling and disseminating databases of incidents deemed non-threatening.

In other words, the Pentagon will not conclude that the military shouldn't spy on peace groups and anti-war protestors.

The problem here is that the United States is seen as another battlefield in the war on terrorism. We, ladies and gentleman, are the potential enemy"

Sources: White House to Accept Torture Ban

"WASHINGTON - After months of resistance, the White House has agreed to accept Sen. John McCain's call for a law specifically banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror, several congressional officials said Thursday. Under the emerging deal, the CIA and other civilian interrogators would be given the same legal rights as currently guaranteed members of the military who are accused of breaking interrogation guidelines, these officials added. Those rules say the accused can defend themselves by arguing it was reasonable for them to believe they were obeying a legal order. "...

The White House at one point threatened a veto if the ban was included in legislation sent to the president's desk, and Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to all Republican senators to give an exemption to the CIA.

But congressional sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of the ban, and McCain, a former Navy pilot who was held and tortured for five years in Vietnam, adopted the issue.

The Republican maverick and the administration have been negotiating for weeks in search of a compromise, but it became increasingly clear that he, not the administration, had the votes in Congress.

As passed by the Senate and endorsed by the House, McCain's amendment would prohibit "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held. It also would require that service members follow procedures in the Army Field Manual during interrogations of prisoners in Defense Department facilities.

In discussions with the White House, that languge was altered to bring it into conformity with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That says that anyone accused of violating interrogation rules can defend themselves if a "reasonable" person could have concluded they were following a lawful order.

The Senate included the McCain provisions in two defense bills, including a must-pass $453 billion spending bill that provides $50 billion for the Iraq war. But the House ommitted them from their versions, and the bills have been stalled. ...



French Police Snare Zarqawi-linked Terror Suspects

"BAGHDAD, Iraq French counterterrorism agents on Thursday arrested three people suspected of belonging to a terror group with 'indirect links' to Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a police spokeswoman said.
The roundup near Paris came in connection with a similar sweep Monday near the capital and in the northern Oise region which netted 25 suspects, said national police spokeswoman Catherine Casteran.

The three were believed to be part of a terror ring with 'indirect links' to al-Zarqawi, she said.

During the overnight sweep, police found a stash of weapons in a garage in the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, said a police investigator who cannot be identified because his agency does not authorize it.

They found several pounds of explosives, AK-47 and Famas assault rifles, revolvers, ammunition, balaclavas and bulletproof vests, he said.

Investigators believe the weapons were used to carry out armed robberies in France to finance jihad, or holy war, and that some of the funds may have gone to al-Zarqawi's group."...

The police investigator said one member of the group under investigation was in contact with a middleman who was in contact with al-Zarqawi. The middleman was killed last spring in either Syria or Iraq, he said.

After questioning the group since Monday, investigators now suspect the network was focused on carrying out armed robberies to finance operations. They have found no solid proof to confirm their original suspicion that the group was planning to carry out terror attacks.
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Let Iraq's Sunnis chase Al Qaeda out | csmonitor.com

"BRONXVILLE, N.Y. - President Bush's 'Plan for Victory' refuses to set a timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq on the basis that a premature departure could turn the country into 'a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America.'

On the contrary, convincing Muslims and Sunni Iraqis, the backbone of the rebellion in Iraq, that US troops will return home sooner, not later, is prerequisite to dismantling the terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born emir of Al Qaeda, as well as securing peace in the war-torn country. The presence of foreign forces has not only divided Iraqis and fueled local armed resistance but it has given impetus to Al Qaeda for building a foothold in the Anbar Province in western Iraq, the heart of the Sunni territory."

Iraqis themselves are eager for coalition forces to depart. For example, a new poll by several news organizations, including ABC and Time magazine, found that two-thirds of Iraqis said they oppose the presence of US and coalition troops - 14 percentage points higher than in February 2004. Nearly 60 percent disapprove of how the US has acted in Iraq. Nearly half want US forces to leave soon. Reassuring Sunnis that the United States is genuine about leaving Iraq is key to convincing them to lay down their arms and instead confront the Zarqawi network.

Last month, in a rare moment of consensus, Iraq's political factions, represented by more than 100 Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish leaders, collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces at an Arab League-sponsored reconciliation conference in Cairo.

Although a pullout date was not specified, it was an important symbolic gesture from Shiites, who now control Iraq's government, to Sunni Arabs who feel disfranchised and marginalized. In another effort by Shiites and Kurds to compromise with Sunnis, Iraqi leaders condemned terror attacks and religious backing for them, while broadly acknowledging a general right to resist foreign occupation, distinguishing between Zarqawi's illegitimate terrorism and "legitimate national resistance."

Since the Cairo meeting, Sunni leaders and clerics, who largely boycotted the last election in January, have urged their followers to go to the polls Thursday and publicly voice their opposition to Zarqawi. Now the rallying cry in Sunni mosques all over the Sunni heartland is that the community must vote "in order not to be marginalized."

Joining Iraqi forces against the spread of Al Qaeda is necessary in paving the way toward social harmony and stable democracy. At least 10 members of the Iraqi Islamic Party have been reportedly killed since the party announced in October its decision to run in the election. Sunni leaders and clerics have accused Al Qaeda of carrying out most of the killings. After the assassination of two prominent Sunni clerics last month, the Association of Falluja Scholars, a Sunni group, pointed a finger at Zarqawi's followers whom they labeled as "collaborators with the occupation." Those strong words voiced by hard-line clerics, who support the nationalist rebellion, reveal deepening schisms with Zarqawi cohorts.

Further, a coalition of nationalist guerrillas in the Anbar region have released a joint statement urging fellow Sunnis to vote Thursday and warning Al Qaeda militants not to attack voters. This warning is another indicator of the widening rift between homegrown Iraqi fighters and the Al Qaeda network, who have been, until recently, cooperating in their efforts to expel US forces.

Zarqawi's indiscriminate slaughter of civilian Shiites reportedly pushed many Iraqis who had fought under his banner to join the Islamic Army, a local resistance faction. According to Sheikh Mahmoud Mehdi al-Sumaydai, a member of the Association of Muslim Scholars, Iraq's highest Sunni religious authority with links to the rebellion, called on Iraqis to resist not just foreign occupation but also Zarqawi's "masked terrorism." Now more and more Sunnis say Zarqawi is impeding their ability to regain a measure of political influence in the new Iraq. They resent the lumping of their nationalist resistance with Zarqawi's small but deadly operation.

Al Qaeda lacks the military capability or the broad power base for a permanent foothold in Iraq. In fact, thought prevails within the country that once US troops have withdrawn, Zarqawi would be chased out. Since the hotel bombings in Zarqawi's native Jordan, Sunni public opinion in Iraq and elsewhere turned against his global jihad ideology. Zarqawi is a creature of the war in Iraq, and his fate depends on the social turmoil there. Once Sunni Iraqis are fully brought into the new political order in Baghdad, they will find it in their own interests to defeat the terrorists in their midst.

The Cairo tentative agreement, a pivotal milestone, brought all Iraqi communities together and offered a peaceful vision - a way out of the violent struggle - that must be translated into action in a much larger reconciliation conference in late February.

The US should not cut and run from Iraq. But setting a realistic timetable for withdrawing forces is crucial to co-opting disaffected Sunnis into politics and weaning them off the armed struggle. That would also force Iraqi communities to compromise with one another and resolve their political differences. Equally important, extracting the US from Arabia's shifting sands would make young Muslims, enraged by the American occupation of an Islamic country, less receptive to Al Qaeda's global jihad call.

• Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern studies and international affairs at Sarah Lawrence College, is the author of "The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global."

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The Raw Story | Eighteen House Democrats meet Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld to discuss Iraq

"As part of his two-week effort to regain credibility on the war in Iraq, President Bush and senior members of his Cabinet met privately with 18 moderate House Democrats on Wednesday in order to gauge their concerns and once again make the case for the war, ROLL CALL reports Thursday. Excerpts"

Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called the Democrats to the White House for the hour-long session. The meeting was held just one day before the Iraqi national elections.

Publicly, Democrats characterized the meeting as a positive give-and-take session. Privately, however, some worried that the White House may be trying to provide itself political cover.

The 18 Democrats included at least four ranking members — Reps. John Spratt (S.C.) of Budget, Jane Harman (Calif.) of Intelligence, Tom Lantos (Calif.) of International Relations and Ike Skelton (Mo.) of Armed Services — as well as other Democrats who either voted for the October 2002 resolution authorizing U.S. involvement in Iraq or have not embraced a timeline for troop withdrawal.

An aide to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told the paper the president should “also reach out to Members who disagree with him.”

“We’ve said all along he should talk more to Congress and have a dialogue,” spokesman Brendan Daly said. “But he should also talk to people who don’t agree with him, who didn’t vote for the war. He needs to hear dissenting views on this because obviously what he’s doing now isn’t working.”


Heavy Turnout Reported in Iraqi Election

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqis voted in a historic parliamentary election Thursday, with strong turnout reported in Sunni Arab areas and even a shortage of ballots in some precincts. Several explosions rocked Baghdad throughout the day, but the level of violence was low. "...
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WorldNetDaily: 51 terror suspects nabbed trying to enter U.S. illegally

"At least 51 people who crossed the border illegally have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism since such tracking began 14 months ago, according to figures released to Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., by the Department of Homeland Security. "...

It's dirty tricks all over again - Los Angeles Times

"READING THE new reports that the Pentagon is conducting surveillance of peaceful antiwar groups and protests, I feel like I'm having a bad '60s flashback.

But this time, I'm not seeing psychedelic lights and thinking I can fly. I'm remembering how the Defense Department aggressively infiltrated antiwar and civil rights groups during that era, spying and compiling files on more than 100,000 Americans -and how J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI used every dirty trick in the 'black bag operation' handbook to sabotage the antiwar and civil rights movements."...

MSNBC - Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?

"WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a "threat"and one of more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" across the country over a recent 10-month period.

"This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible," says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.

"This is incredible"adds group member Rich Hersh. "It's an example of paranoia by our government,"he says. "We're not doing anything illegal."

The Defense Department document is the first inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence collection inside this country since 9/11, which now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups".....

Monday, December 12, 2005

Next post on Thursday

I will be unable to post again until Thursday.
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BBC NEWS | World | Middle East | Survey finds optimism in new Iraq

"An opinion poll suggests Iraqis are generally optimistic about their lives, in spite of the violence that has plagued Iraq since the US-led invasion.

But the survey, carried out for the BBC and other media, found security fears still dominate most Iraqis' thoughts.

Their priority for the coming year would be the restoration of security and the withdrawal of foreign troops.

A majority of the 1,700 people questioned wanted a united Iraq with a strong central government.

Hopes for future

Although most Iraqis were optimistic about the future, the poll found significant regional variations in responses. "...

When asked to choose a priority for the new government due to be formed after this week's parliamentary elections, 57% wanted to focus on restoring public security

Removing US-led forces from Iraq came second with 10%, while rebuilding the country's infrastructure was third.

Half of those questioned felt Iraq needed a single, strong leader following December's vote, while 28% thought democracy was more important.

However, opinions changed when people were asked about what Iraq would need in five years' time.

Support for a strong leader fell to 31% and that for democracy rose to 45%.

The support for democracy does not translate into support for Iraq's political parties.

Only 25% had confidence in Iraq's politicians - far lower than the 67% who trust its religious leaders and army...




Darwin Posted by Picasa

FEMA reimbursements mainly benefit higher income groups: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"A Hollywood surgeon got FEMA money for Hurricane Wilma for a generator.

A Plantation lawyer received $274 more from the agency than he paid for his generator."

Yet, a Fort Lauderdale teen with serious medical problems had to insert catheters by candlelight when the Oct. 24 storm knocked out power. His family couldn't afford a generator.

A FEMA program to reimburse applicants for generators and storm cleanup items has benefited middle- and upper-income Floridians the most and so far cost taxpayers more than $332 million for the past two hurricane seasons, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found in a continuing investigation of disaster aid.

For Wilma alone, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had spent $84 million as of last Monday on generators for 101,028 people in 13 Florida counties, including Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. Another $6 million paid for chain saws for 27,394 applicants.

"I see people making $200,000 a year putting in for a rebate for a generator," Davie Fire Chief Don DiPetrillo said last month, as the town scrambled to open a shelter for people left homeless by Wilma. "This is just not a good use of public resources."

By agreement with the state, which pays 25 percent of the cost, FEMA reimburses for generators, chain saws, dehumidifiers, air purifiers and wet/dry vacuums purchased for home use after a disaster.

For the four Florida hurricanes in 2004, the reimbursements amounted to $242 million. Eighty percent of the money went to applicants in middle- and upper-income areas, including 45 residents of the moneyed island of Palm Beach and 221 people in a posh Orlando suburb with sprawling estates on lakes and fairways....
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Senior cleric in Iraq wields great influence over election

"Najaf, Iraq -- The recent traffic to the doorstep of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in this southern shrine city leaves little doubt about who is really the most powerful man in Iraq.

Shiites make up Iraq's majority, and an alliance of Islamist Shiites -- many with ties to Iran -- dominates the current government in no small part because Sistani told Shiites to vote for the alliance in January.

Since then, Shiite politicians in the salons of power and the faithful on the streets alike have been turning to Najaf to seek Sistani's orders on nearly everything, from the drafting of the Constitution this summer to campaign strategies for Thursday's national parliamentary elections and even how people should vote.

'Every religious man, he will ask Sistani who to vote for in the election,' said Ahmed Nouri, a secular independent running for parliament from Najaf, who said that his anti-corruption and anticlerical platform will probably get no support. 'That is the problem.'

As the most senior cleric in Najaf's Hawza, or constellation of Shiite religious academies, Grand Ayatollah Sistani is considered the ultimate authority in Iraq on all religious questions. It is also increasingly clear from that the clerics at the Hawza are directing the most important political decisions of the dominant Shiite parties. Their views are particularly important on the eve of Thursday's vote for a permanent legislative assembly, the first to be elected under the constitution adopted in a referendum in October.

The United Iraqi Alliance, which coasted to 51 percent of the vote in January, is once again campaigning as the Najaf ticket, putting Sistani's face on all its posters and telling supporters that the top clerics all endorse their parties."....
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Abuse Cited In 2nd Jail Operated by Iraqi Ministry

"BAGHDAD, Dec. 11 -- An Iraqi government search of a detention center in Baghdad operated by Interior Ministry special commandos found 13 prisoners who had suffered abuse serious enough to require medical treatment, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday night.

An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said that at least 12 of the 13 prisoners had been subjected to 'severe torture,' including sessions of electric shock and episodes that left them with broken bones."

"Two of them showed me their nails, and they were gone," the official said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns....


Mortar attack earlier this month in Tikrit Posted by Picasa