Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bush and Abramoff on a golf outing. Posted by Picasa

Indicted Officials Consider Suing Pro-Israel Lobby

Indicted Officials Consider Suing Pro-Israel Lobby - Forward Newspaper Online: "WASHINGTON - Two former employees of the nation's main pro-Israel lobby, who are facing trial for allegedly receiving classified information and relaying it to foreign diplomats and the press, are considering lawsuits against the lobbying powerhouse.

Steve Rosen, former director of foreign policy at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Keith Weissman, Aipac's former Iran analyst, are considering suing Aipac over its stopping payments of legal fees to their attorneys, sources close to the two said. They are also considering a defamation suit against Aipac, if they are exonerated, for accusing them of unbecoming conduct.

Indications that Rosen and Weissman were preparing to sue Aipac have caused the collapse of negotiations between their attorneys and Aipac's attorneys over the lobby's coverage of the two men's legal fees, sources close to both sides said.

To the dismay of many Aipac members and supporters, relations between Aipac's leadership and its two former employees have deteriorated sharply in recent months, to the point of bitter exchanges of accusations and threats of legal action.

The hostility between the two dismissed officials and Aipac's leadership is expected to peak at the two men's trial, scheduled to start in late April 2006. Defense attorneys will try to establish that the men were following the organization's routine practice and that Aipac's top officials were fully aware of their actions. 'The evidence in this case will show that Dr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman always acted in Aipac's interests, never were on their own and acted with the knowledge and approval of their superiors,' Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, told the Forward.

Aipac's top officials, by contrast, are attempting vigorously to distance the agency from its ex-employees, maintaining that the reason Rosen and Weissman were fired in March was "conduct that was not part of their job, and beneath the
standards required of Aipac employees," said Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for Aipac.

The quarrel over paying Rosen's and Weissman's legal fees is the latest manifestation of this escalating adversarial relationship, although it is not clear whether bad blood was the reason Aipac first halted the lawyers' fees last spring.

What is clear is that the two sides' conflicting arguments regarding the lobby's routine working norms are likely to collide in court. ...

[bth: AIPAC is likely to cut all ties with Rosen and Weissman and distance themselves.

Abbe Lowell is the attorney for both Dr. Rosen indicted here and Mr. Jack Abramoff indicted elsewhere.]
 Posted by Picasa

Pentagon to Purge Part of its Illegally Retained Data on Americans

Early Warning by William M. Arkin - :... "Now Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordan England is not only order sensitivity training at the Pentagon, but also directing CIFA to purge its 'TALON' database of 'any reports that should not be in the database.

TALON was a program initiated in May 2003 by former Deputy Secretary Pail Wolfowitz to provide the military services with a common reporting scheme for 'non-validated' threat warnings with a possible link to terrorism. At least between 2003 and December of last year, that reporting was used to characterize the 'threat' to the U.S. military domestically, and included reporting on incidents that had nothing to do with terrorism or had any conceivable terrorist connection.

It's somewhat funny that the Pentagon is now directing a review and purging of the TALON program, even though I reported on December 22 that the database in question is actually one that is larger and broader than TALON called the Joint Protection Enterprise Network (JPEN) database, an intelligence and law enforcement sharing system managed by CIFA.

JPEN incorporates not just TALON reporting from the military services, but also intelligence reporting and law enforcement information. Though it must comply with the same requirements to purge information about U.S. 'persons' after 90 day if there is shown to be no foreign government, terrorist, or law enforcement connection, the Pentagon has so far managed not to discuss this expanded program of domestic information collection, nor the overall work of the super-secret CIFA.

England's memo might only solve part of the problem.

But it certainly sends the public message into the military ranks that the lawful activities of U.S. citizens are off-limits.

The Pentagon's willingness to make changes does stand in stark contrast to the administration's insistence not only as to the legality of the NSA program but also to its continuation.

[bth: here is the link to the pdf file of the actual Memo.]

What's wrong with this picture? Posted by Picasa

Al-Qaida No.2 at Site of Airstrike in 2005

"A captured al-Qaida leader told interrogators that he and the terror group's second in command met last year at the same home hit by a U.S. missile strike last week, Pakistani intelligence officials said Saturday.

Ayman al-Zawahri, the al-Qaida No. 2, was the apparent target of the Jan. 13 attack but apparently was not at the home when it and two other residences in the town near the Afghan border were destroyed by U.S. missiles.

Pakistani authorities nonetheless suspect al-Qaida operatives had gathered for dinner that night at the home in Damadola to plan attacks early this year in Afghanistan and Pakistan, an intelligence official said.

Al-Zaqahri and other al-Qaida officials had met there at least once before, in early 2005, according to Pakistani officials, who said they learned the details from interrogations of Abu Farraj al-Libbi, once al-Qaida's No. 3 leader.

Al-Libbi, who twice tried to assassinate Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf for making the Islamic nation a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, was captured last May after a shootout in another remote hamlet in northwestern Pakistan. After his arrest in Pakistan, he was eventually turned over to Washington for further investigation.

Al-Libbi said he had met with al-Zawahri at the house months before his arrest, one Pakistani security official said, adding 'his statement was later verified, and we were able to confirm that al-Zawahri visited Damadola.'

U.S. and Pakistani intelligence - helped by area tribesmen and other Afghans - began monitoring Khan's home after al-Libbi's confession, officials said.

The Pakistani officials, all speaking on condition of anonymity due to the issue's sensitivity, believe at least four foreign militants may have died in last week's attack, including an al-Qaida explosives and chemical weapons expert and a son-in-law of al-Zawahri.

Also killed were 13 villagers, including Bakhtpur Khan, whose home had been the site of the 2005 meeting, the officials said....
 Posted by Picasa

Mystery firm linked to US lobbyist scandal

"US government investigators probing Washington's explosive Congressional bribery scandal centered on disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff recently visited Hong Kong, according to a witness interviewed by the authorities.

The investigators reportedly are chasing convoluted money trails leading to Abramoff and government officials he sought to influence.

Among the likely subjects of interest here is a previously unknown company called Rose Garden Holdings. In May 2002, Abramoff notified the US Senate that Rose Garden had hired him and Greenberg Traurig, his firm at the time, to represent Rose Garden's 'interests before federal agencies and [the] US Congress.'

Abramoff recorded Rose Garden's address as a luxury flat in Tai Hang, above Causeway Bay, and its business as international trade. Over the next year and a half, the records show, Rose Garden paid Greenberg Traurig US$1.4 million (HK$10.92 million) for putting its case to the Senate, House of Representatives and US Department of Labor.

Hong Kong's Companies Registry has no record of Rose Garden Holdings; nor does the telephone directory. The apartment listed by Abramoff as Rose Garden's premises has been owned since 1992 by Luen Thai Shipping and Trading, according to the Land Registry.

Luen Thai Holdings and its controlling shareholders, the Tan family, were leading beneficiaries of Abramoff's Washington lobbying. "

Luen Thai Holdings, which held a HK$669.4 million initial public stock offering in 2004, was built on the business of sewing together clothing for top US brand-names such as Liz Claiborne, with the assistance of young women from China and other Asian countries on the US-controlled Pacific island of Saipan.

The foundations of the company's profitable niche are loopholes in US law that allow free migration to the island, set its minimum wage below mainland US levels and allow clothing sewn there to carry the "Made in USA" label and be exempt from quotas and tariffs.

Before the Tan family had friends in Washington, they made enemies. In 1991, the US Labor Department sued six Tan companies for paying 1,350 mainly Chinese workers less than Saipan's minimum wage and forcing them to work up to 90 hours a week without required overtime pay. ...

[bth: So Abramoff received millions through phony companies and groups which he passed on to DeLay and others to allow chinese sweatshop labor to have the Made in USA label. DeLay et al allowed Saipan to bring in Chinese textile workers at below minimum wage, forced them to work 90 hours per week and gave them an exemption from tariffs and levies and a 'Made in the USA' label. Now how bad is that? Why weren't congressmen working to protect American jobs for God's sake? Instead it looks like the Republicans were being bought off to export those jobs to Chinese laborers being exploited at substandard conditions by the Than family and others in Saipan. This whole thing just wreaks.]

Note the improved armor and ballistic glass on this truck. Certainly an encouraging sign. Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa

Ex-Pentagon Analyst Sentenced to 12 Years

"ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A former Pentagon analyst was sentenced Friday to more than 12 years in prison for giving classified information to an Israeli diplomat and members of a pro- Israel lobbying group. "

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said he gave Lawrence A. Franklin a sentence on the low end of federal guidelines because it appeared Franklin was trying help the United States, not hurt it.

The judge also agreed to let Franklin remain free while the government continues with the wider case. His prison time could be sharply reduced in return for his help in prosecuting two former members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Franklin — who had worked with top Pentagon officials, including Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense for policy, and has expertise on
Iraq' and Iran' pleaded guilty in October to three felony counts. Three other counts were dropped in exchange.
Franklin, 59, did not speak at his sentencing.

At his plea hearing, he said he was motivated by frustration with U.S. policy in the Middle East when he gave the classified information to the diplomat and AIPAC. He said he received far more information from the Israeli diplomat than he ever disclosed and did not intend to harm the United States.

The two former AIPAC members, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, are scheduled to go on trial in April. Their lawyers have argued the two were engaged in routine lobbying work.

The judge said Friday that Franklin believed the National Security Council was insufficiently concerned with the threat posed by an unspecified Middle Eastern nation.

Franklin thought leaking information might eventually persuade the Security Council to take more serious action, he said.

While the Middle Eastern country was not identified in the court record, sources and facts in the case point to Iran.

Ellis said he viewed Franklin's case differently from a case involving information leaked to the Soviets at height of the Cold War. "But not different to the extent of excuse. Not at all," Ellis said.

Franklin admitted that he met periodically with Rosen and Weissman between 2002 and 2004 and discussed classified information, including information about potential attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq. Rosen and Weissman would later share what they learned with reporters and Israeli officials.

Rosen was a top lobbyist for Washington-based AIPAC for more than 20 years, and Weissman was the organization's top Iran expert. AIPAC fired them in April and said it has cooperated with the investigation.

[bth: Rosen and Weissman have also been indicted. Franklin must be cooperating with prosecutors in this case given the way the other charges were dropped. He was also free to leave the courtroom. I'm guessing Feith, Ledeen and perhaps Wolfowitz are the next likely targets of the FBI investigation. ]

Iraq's religious demographics

Posted by Picasa

Marines saved by SAPI plates they are holding. Posted by Picasa

ABC News: How Does al Qaeda Send Terror Tapes Without Getting Caught?

"Jan. 20, 2006 - The broadcast of terror tapes on al Jazeera highlights a question that has haunted U.S. intelligence for a number of years now: How do these tapes find their way to the offices of the Qatari news channel, and why can't something be done to follow their trail to Osama bin Laden's doorstep?

This question remained largely unanswered until the arrest last May in Pakistan of Abu Faraj al Libbi, one of al Qaeda's operational commanders. Under intense interrogation, al Libbi revealed that Osama bin Laden's tapes - like his operational directives - are hand carried from courier to courier in a long and intricate route that involves several dozen 'runners.' "

According to al Libbi, it takes six to 12 weeks of travel in the remote and inhospitable areas along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahri are still hiding. Based on this piece of intelligence, the Pakistani government succeeded in infiltrating parts of these courier networks in 2005.

But because of the extraordinary precautions taken by al Qaeda's messengers, the Pakistanis were unable to trace them back to either Zawahri or bin Laden.

The system involves each courier hand delivering the tape or the written message to another courier or location without knowing the courier's identity, the origin of the tape or message or its destination. It makes it almost impossible for intelligence agencies to roll up the entire network.

Some of these intermediaries are recruited among the thousands of travelling Muslim preachers who roam Pakistan's tribal and northern areas, usually on foot.

Analysts believe this system is still in place today, and may span several countries. According to a senior Pakistani intelligence source, the latest tape was hand delivered by an anonymous source to al Jazeera's Dubai bureau in the United Arab Emirates. The tapes are usually dropped off in an envelope at al Jazeera's offices in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

A 'Back Channel' Relationship?

Many commentators suspect a "back channel" relationship between the news channel and the terrorist organization. In 2005, al Jazeera reporter Taysir Alluni, who had interviewed bin Laden in Afghanistan several weeks after 9/11, was sentenced by a Spanish court to seven years in prison for providing help to two al Qaeda operatives wanted in connection with the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

Despite this high-profile case, there is little evidence of any formal relationship, agreement or even sustained communication between al Jazeera and al Qaeda. And al Jazeera strongly denies it.

Osama bin Laden's use of the Qatari news channel likely has more to do with strategy than ideology. With its audience of 50 to 70 million viewers around the world, al Jazeera has emerged not only as the Muslim world's most-watched news outlet but as a powerful force driving political views of Muslims around the world.

By using al Jazeera to broadcast its messages, al Qaeda is simply borrowing the network's global reach to further its own, while making sure that the message will reach the audience with little alteration or editing, and no mistranslation.

This is especially key when bin Laden or Zawahri, as Western intelligence agencies report, wish to send covert messages to their operatives across the world.

ABC News consultant Alexis Debat is a terrorism analyst and contributing editor of the National Interest in Washington, D.C.

Forces foil plot against Iraq Shiite leader: military source.

"Iraqi forces foiled a plot to mount an attack with gunmen and suicide bombers against a senior Shiite Islamist leader coinciding with the release of election results, a senior Iraqi military source said on Friday.

Speaking hours before results were issued showing continued domination by the Shiite Islamist Alliance, the source said several suspects had confessed to a role in a plot by Sunni Arab rebels to attack the Baghdad headquarters of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a key figure in the Alliance.

'About 50 people, including several suicide bombers, were going to take part in the attack just as the election results were being announced,' the source said, showing Reuters official documents to support his statement.

A political source said he was aware of a threat warning and said operations against the plotters were still continuing.

Such a mass assault on a heavily guarded political compound would be unusual, although US military commanders have warned of such a threat after large-scale frontal attacks on Iraqi police and army bases over the past year or so.

Mr Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), is a controversial figure for Sunni Arabs for his close ties to Iran, where his movement and its armed wing the Badr Brigades were founded during Saddam Hussein's war with Tehran's Shiite rulers in the 1980s.

The Alliance, of which SCIRI is the most powerful component, won 128 seats, 10 short of a majority in the 275-seat parliament, an Electoral Commission official announced later on Friday.

The military source said the plotters had received training in Hawija near Kirkuk in the north and were counting on back-up from other groups in towns north and east of Baghdad. "
 Posted by Picasa

Army Signs Emergency Body Armor Contract

"WASHINGTON - The U.S. Army, under pressure to issue more protective gear to its soldiers in Iraq, has signed a $70 million emergency contract with a California company to rush ceramic body armor to the front lines. "

The sole-source contract, with California-based Ceradyne Inc., was approved last week and announced Friday. It comes on the heels of a
Pentagon' name=c1> SEARCHNews News Photos Images Web' name=c3> Pentagon study that found side armor could have saved dozens of U.S. lives in Iraq.
The Army is planning to buy 230,000 sets of the ceramic side plates. Army spokesman Paul Boyce said that one company will not be able to deliver that order in the time required, so additional vendors are being sought through an open-bid process.

"Our goal is to continue providing the American soldier with the best, most protective body armor in the world," Boyce said. "We are working with soldiers, commanders, the medical community and industry to continue these improvements while ensuring the safety of our soldiers."

The company is expected to begin shipping the armor plates in January and to complete the order by May or June.

Each of the side plates weighs 2 1/2 pounds. Earlier this week, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said he thought soldiers should be required to wear the ceramic side plates even though they added weight and may limit mobility.

While his pronouncement was not an order, it reflected the military's ongoing struggle to answer criticism that soldiers are going to war without the armor they need. Soldiers have said the added armor will weigh them down and limit their fighting flexibility.

Friday, January 20, 2006

WWI Posted by Picasa

2 empty graves found at Bajaur

"ISLAMABAD: Investigators said on Wednesday that they had found two empty graves at the site of a controversial US air strike in the Bajaur Agency, a day after officials said that up to five foreign militants had died in the attack.

However, there was no information about the identities of the insurgents who died in the raid, despite initial US intelligence reports that Al Qaeda's Egyptian number two Ayman al-Zawahri may have been among them.

Officials said that local militants may have shifted the bodies before their scheduled burials to stop authorities from DNA testing the remains and finding out who was killed in Friday’s missile attack.Residents of Damadola village in Bajaur, however, have reported that 18 civilians died in the attack, for whom as many graves were dug, and that no militants were in the area.

“The residents dug 18 graves but buried 16 people and two graves were left vacant before they covered them over,” a senior security official said, citing a report by intelligence officials in the region. On Tuesday, the Bajaur regional administration chief said that the missile strike was aimed at foreign militants invited to a dinner and that four or five were killed – the first such public confirmation by Pakistan.

The tribal administration said that two local militants, Maulana Faqir Mohammad and Maulana Liaqat, had removed the bodies of the foreign extremists killed in the attack to “suppress the actual reason of the attack”, but gave no evidence.On Wednesday, Shah Zaman Khan, director general of media relations for the tribal areas, said that the terrorists’ bodies are now probably in “inaccessible mountainous areas” along the rugged, ill-defined border. “Efforts are underway to investigate further,” Khan said.

“The administration is also trying to arrest those clerics who were believed to be there.”A counter-terrorism official said that several of those killed were believed to be Egyptian.

The air strike prompted mass protests at the weekend and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Tuesday that Pakistan “could not accept” such attacks. Pakistan has said that it received no warning of the attack despite being a key ally in the US-led “war on terror”. US intelligence sources said that the air strike was carried out by a US Central Intelligence Agency Predator drone. The situation in Bajaur remained tense on Wednesday, a day after officials banned all journalists from the area. agencies

Officials said that local militants may have shifted the bodies before their scheduled burials to stop authorities from DNA testing the remains and finding out who was killed in Friday�s missile attack."
 Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa

Ahmadinejad meeting Syria's Assad

"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began a visit, his first since taking office, to Syria Thursday to consolidate an old alliance made increasingly crucial as both countries face mounting US pressure and the threat of international sanctions.

Iran's standoff with the West over its nuclear program and the threat to refer it to the UN Security Council as well as Syria's own troubles over a UN investigation that implicated it in the assassination of a Lebanese politician were expected to figure high in the talks between Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad. "...

Former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter, who is considered a top choice for a future defense minister, said Thursday that Israel should let the international community act to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons but, if pushed to the wall, should act against Iran.

Dichter told Army Radio that Israel was currently satisfied with the international community's efforts to stop Iran from enriching uranium but must act if it faces the real danger of Iran possessing nuclear weapons....

Iran 'moves financial holdings' - Jan 20, 2006 - Iran 'moves financial holdings' - Jan 20, 2006: "TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Amid the threat of possible U.N. economic sanctions, Iran announced Friday it is transferring its foreign exchange accounts out of U.S. and European banks, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Ibrahim Sheibani, the head of Iran's Central Bank, said the Islamic state will transfer all of its foreign accounts related to its oil income to Southeast Asian banks, according to the conservative news agency."....
 Posted by Picasa

US work carried out worth just one-tenth of money being spent on power plants: minister.

"Iraq needs 20 billion dollars over the next five years to solve a chronic electricity crisis after US reconstruction funds failed to flick the right switches, the Iraqi electricity minister said.

'When you lose electricity the country is destroyed, nothing works, all industry is down and terrorist activity is increased,' said Mohsen Shlash.

Power cuts are part of daily life for millions of Iraqis who paradoxically have an ever increasing need for energy because of an influx of electronic goods, such as air conditioners, over the past three years.

Total power production is lower than before the March 2003 US-led invasion, at about 3,700 megawatts, because of insurgent attacks and other reconstruction problems, according to a Western diplomat with expertise in the sector.

Pre-war production peaked at about 4,300 megawatts -- well under half of Iraq's potential capacity.

The United States earmarked 4.7 billion dollars for the neglected electricity sector in 2003, but much of the money has gone and there is little to show for it, Shlash said.
The Iraqi government has a few projects underway to rebuild or replace parts of the country's dilapidated electricity infrastructure, he added.

'But this is not enough. There is a big need to build more power plants and of course this needs time and money -- and we lack both,' Shlash said."...

But now the capital and much of the central regions are suffering some of their worst power shortages, with just two to six hours of electricity per day.

Shlash said US reconstruction money would have gone further in the hands of Iraqi contractors who charge a fairer price and carry a lower security risk.

Had this happened, "by now we would have had very little power problems or maybe no power cuts at all," said Shlash.

A US official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington was increasingly contracting Iraqi companies for its electricity jobs.

But he insisted it had been necessary to employ large, foreign firms with experience in organising the projects at the start....

As a result, the United States pushed back a goal to lift Iraq's power production to 6,000 megawatts from the middle of 2004 to the end of this year.

Going forwards, Shlash said the 20 billion dollars needed to generate power 24 hours a day should come from Iraqi coffers or in the form of loans rather than slow-to-emerge donations from the international community.

Iraq, however, is severely strapped for cash. The electricity ministry asked for 1.8 billion dollars for this year's budget, but the government only approved one third of that amount, some 650 million dollars, said Shlash.

[bth: a further indication that economic warfare waged by the insurgents is working. I cannot see how the Iraqi government will appear competent to its people when the lights are on only 2-6 hours per day! The economy has no chance of functioning in a manner resembling the 20th or 21st century without electricty.]

Why isn't this rat bastard dead already?

Shouldn't the US focus its considerable resources on chasing him clear to hell's heart? Instead we frisk old ladies boarding airplanes and neglect the cargo holds -- not to mention our entire waterfront.

In the time that has passed since 9-11, WWII could have been fought, won and the troops brought home -- Hitler dead in a bunker and Tojo on trial, yet we don't even know what country OBL is in (except we know he isn't in Iraq). Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

The White House Press doesn't even ask the President where OBL is anymore. I hope he is as incompetent as our leaders in this so called war on terror
. Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa

In Iraqi Oil City, a Formidable Foe

... "Baiji has emerged as a critical priority for the U.S. military because of its importance to Iraq's oil industry, a fact underscored last month when insurgent threats forced officials to shut down the country's biggest oil refinery here, which handles 200,000 barrels a day."...

[bth: this is an excellent article worth reading in full. The general conclusion is that the local Sunnis have a vested interest at this point in fully disrupting the flow of petroleum products from the local refinery - Iraq's largest.]

Talk about over the top! I've been trying to figure out if this is a real or a faked photo? Posted by Picasa

Web site encourages attacks on pipeline

"A recent posting on a Web site purportedly affiliated with al-Qaida urges attacks against the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and Valdez tanker dock, calling on jihadists to either shower the pipe with bullets or hide and detonate explosives along its length.

The unknown author encourages small cells of four or five mujahideen, or Muslim guerrillas, living in the United States or in Canada or Mexico to mount the attacks.

The 10-page posting includes numerous links to Web sites providing maps and other, basic information about the pipeline.

Attacking oil and gas targets in the United States and other countries is key to bringing down the economy of the 'American devils,' the author writes, saying the message was posted in response to calls from Osama bin Laden and his top al-Qaida deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri"...
 Posted by Picasa

Chirac threatens nuclear weapons against 'terrorist' states - Yahoo! News

"ILE LONGUE MILITARY BASE, France (AFP) - President Jacques Chirac for the first time raised the threat of a nuclear strike on any state that launches 'terrorist' attacks against France."

He also said France's doctrine of nuclear deterrence has been extended to protect the country's "strategic supplies", taken to mean oil.

"Leaders of any state that uses terrorist means against us, as well as any that may be envisaging -- in one way or another -- using weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would be exposing themselves to a firm and appropriate response on our behalf," he said.

"That response could be conventional, it could also be of another nature," Chirac said in a clear reference to nuclear weapons during a visit to a French nuclear base in the northwestern region of Brittany.

The president said he was extending the definition of "vital interests" protected by France's nuclear umbrella to include allies and "strategic supplies".

The French press understood "strategic supplies" to include oil. Le Monde newspaper said that was aimed "probably also at those countries from which France imports part of its energy needs"....
 Posted by Picasa

Arianna Huffington: Dems Pick Kaine for State of Union Response; What the Hell Are They Thinking? | The Huffington Post

The Blog Arianna Huffington: Dems Pick Kaine for State of Union Response; What the Hell Are They Thinking? The Huffington Post: "So the Democrats have chosen Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to deliver the party's response to President Bush's State of the Union speech. Chalk up another one for the What the Hell Are They Thinking? file.

On the same day that Osama Bin Laden's chilling warnings make it Red Alert clear that Bush's obsession with Iraq has not made us safer here at home -- and, indeed, has caused us to take our eye off the real enemy -- the Dems decide that the charge against Bush shouldn't be led by someone who can forcefully articulate why the GOP is not the party that can best keep us safe, but by someone whose only claim to fame is that he carried a red state."...

I know I've said this before and before, but the Democrats will never become the majority party until they can prove to the American people that they have a better plan for keeping us safe. And that means having someone like Jack Murtha give the State of the Union response -- someone with the authority to make the point that, on every level, Iraq is the wrong priority. And that the hundreds of billions already spent on Iraq (and the countless billions to come) would be better spent shoring up our ports, roadways, railways, securing our nuclear installations and chemical plants, and properly supporting our first responders.....

Side panels 3.5 lbs. total addition. Approx. total wt. 20 lb. Old flak jacket type vests were ~25 lb. in contrast. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Economic Warfare in Iraq

The following two articles illustrate how difficult it will be for Iraq to establish economic viability. If the oil feeds are disrupted then any chance the new government has of establishing itself are diminished since the cash flow for the country depends on oil flowing to export markets. Further reliable electrical power is key to any domestic economic viability beyond security forces. It is a lot easier to disrupt oil and electrical supplies than to establish or maintain them. Very challenging situation.

IRAQ: Power shortages continue to affect millions

Reuters AlertNet - IRAQ: Power shortages continue to affect millions: "BAGHDAD, 19 January (IRIN) - Lengthy power cuts over the past two weeks due to insecurity and a decrease in oil production are seriously affecting the lives of Iraqis in the capital, Baghdad.

With temperatures below zero degrees centigrade, residents of the city are currently getting fewer than eight hours of electricity per day, making them dependant on generators which require fuel that is both in short supply and prohibitively priced.

'I can't afford a generator and can't buy food because my refrigerator is constantly subject to power cuts,' said Mariam Hussein, resident of Sad'r City, a major suburb of the capital. 'We have less than six hours of power daily.'

The closure in December of a major oil refinery in the northern town of Baiji, say observers, made the situation considerably worse, increasing the number of daily power cuts in Baghdad.

Khalid Ala'a, a senior official at the electricity ministry, blames the deteriorating security situation: 'The difficulties in guaranteeing security to our employees and the increase of demand for power during the winter season have caused a decrease in the production of power at our plants,' Ala'a said.

Iraqi employees working for foreign energy companies have received threats on a regular basis, while dozens have been killed for what insurgents see as a betrayal.

At least four power plants were critically affected during the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, when energy infrastructure represented a primary target for insurgents fighting US-led forces.

Three years later, local electricity production remains lower than pre-war levels.

According to Ala'a, Iraq will be able to produce 5,500 megawatts of energy once a US-run electricity programme begins production in October of this year. He added, however, that the country would need a further 4,000 megawatts to completely satisfy demand.

[bth: A modern economy cannot function without reliable electricity. The insurgency can target the grid with impunity. This is a classic asymetric warfare situation in the modern age.]

Iraq crude sector hit hard by ongoing insurgency

Gulf Daily News: "MANAMA: Terrorism and instability has brought Iraq's oil industry to a standstill, an official declared in Bahrain yesterday. The result is starvation of investment and technology, the same problem the industry has suffered for 35 years, said Oil Ministry public relations manager Mohammed Ali Mustafa.

'Iraq has been isolated from the rest of the world for all this time, especially since the start of the Iran-Iraq war, but of course, the problem reached its peak following the invasion of Kuwait,' he said.

'But terrorism has meant that we are not getting the foreign investment that we desperately need to get back on our feet.
'In all this time, not a single major oil industry-related contract has been awarded and no joint venture projects announced

Mr Mustafa cited as an example Iraq's biggest oil refinery, in Bayji, having to shut down production for two weeks because of terrorist threats.

'The threats were as a result of Iraq raising oil prices. The terrorists had become used to buying oil very cheaply and then smuggling it out of the country and selling it for hefty margins,' he said. ...

Mr Mustafa said that those opposed to the US's involvement in Iraq were not looking at the situation fairly.

'There is no doubt that the US toppled the former regime for its own interests, but we are in need of foreign expertise and investment as well, so the benefits are reciprocal,' he said.

"We also have a fledgling democracy, whereas the previous regime ruled by force. Things take time, but the Iraqi people are better off now."...

[bth: This sector accounts for 80% of the GDP of Iraq. Its development is critical to any future Iraqi government.]
 Posted by Picasa

My Interview Jan 18, 2006 on NECN with Jim Braude Re: Body Armor

Follow this link to my New England Cable News discussion of the latest body armor issues with Jim Braude on Newsnight. Then click on the video feed titled, "Pentagon Showing Off New Body Armor For Troops." to hear the discussion.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Saved by a SAPI plate Posted by Picasa

Russian-made missile brought down US chopper in Iraq: report

"WASHINGTON: A Russian-made surface-to-air missile launched by anti-American insurgents brought down a US military helicopter that crashed in Iraq on Monday, US Media reported Tuesday, citing unnamed Pentagon officials.

The network said the shoot down represented 'a troubling new development' because there are hundreds and possibly thousands of SA-7 missiles that remain unaccounted for in Iraq. The AH-64 Apache went down north of Baghdad, killing its two crew members and becoming the third US helicopter to be shot down in 10 days.

According to the report, the weapons had been part of Saddam Hussein`s arsenal, much of which was looted after the invasion. But until now, insurgents had never successfully used them against an American aircraft. "
 Posted by Picasa

Iraqi minister's sister released

"The sister of Iraq's interior minister has been freed some two weeks after being kidnapped at gunpoint, an interior ministry official has said.

Ali al-Khaqani confirmed Bayan Jabr's sister had been released, but would not say whether a ransom had been paid.

Mr Jabr's sister, Iman, 43, was travelling in north-eastern Baghdad on 3 January when she was ambushed.

Mr Jabr and his ministry came under criticism last year over alleged abuse of detainees in Iraqi prisons.

Some Sunni Arabs have also claimed that squads connected to the interior ministry and the Badr Brigades - a Shia militia in which Mr Jabr used to be a senior official - have been targeting and killing Sunnis.

Mr Jabr is a member of the country's largest Shia party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

It is not known if the kidnapping was politically motivated.

Three months ago, the minister's brother was abducted as he drove to work at a hospital near the Sadr City district of Baghdad. He was released the following day. "

[bth: So coincidentally six of eight Sunni women are released and then the kidnappers release the Interior Minister's sister the same day. Now what about the American Christian Science Monitor's female reporter? So are we negotiating with terrorists?]

Iraq detainees to be freed early

BBC NEWS Middle East Iraq detainees to be freed early: "Iraq's ministry of justice has told the BBC that six of the eight women being held by coalition forces in Iraq are to be released early.

The six will be freed because there is insufficient evidence to charge them, a justice ministry spokesman said.

The US forces have refused to confirm the releases, but say they would not be based on any operational activities.

The group holding US journalist Jill Carroll has said she will die unless all Iraqi women prisoners are freed.

The status of prisoners held by coalition forces is reviewed twice a week by a committee made up of the justice, human rights and interior ministries, and a representative of the US-led coalition. "

The justice ministry spokesman said it was this committee which had studied the cases of the six women and found insufficient evidence against them.

However, the US military stressed that decisions over such matters were a detailed process that were unrelated to any other operational activity.

The demand that all Iraqi female prisoners held by coalition forces should be released was made in a video of Ms Carroll which aired on Arab TV channel al-Jazeera on Tuesday.

Her captors said the 28-year-old journalist would be killed within 72 hours if their demand was not met.

The video showed Ms Carroll apparently speaking to the camera, but did not include her voice.

Al-Jazeera did not say where it got the tape. The station itself has called for her release.

It was the first sighting of Ms Carroll since gunmen abducted her in Baghdad 10 days earlier, fatally wounding her translator during the attack.

Past demands

She is the 31st foreign journalist kidnapped in Iraq since the invasion almost three years ago, according to Reporters Sans Frontieres.

Ms Carroll has been a freelance reporter for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, among others.

She had been reporting from the Middle East for Jordanian, Italian and other media organisations for the past three years, the Christian Science Monitor said in a statement.

The Monitor describes itself as a non-religious newspaper.

It is not the first time that the abductors of Western hostages in Iraq have called for the release of women prisoners.

In October 2004, Briton Ken Bigley and two American hostages were beheaded by members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, who had demanded female prisoners be freed.

At the time the Bush administration said that only two women were being held in Iraq - Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, nicknamed by the US "Mrs Anthrax" and Rihab Taha, also known as "Dr Germ".

The pair were amongst a group of eight senior aides to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein who were released in December 2005.

In November 2004, British aid worker Margaret Hassan was abducted and murdered in Iraq. Before her death she appeared in a similar hostage video calling for foreign troop withdrawals and the release of women prisoners.

[bth: match this is with the release of the Interior Minister's sister.]

Army adding body armor side plates

Army adding body armor side plates - Army Secretary wants usage mandatory in Iraq: "PENTAGON Army Secretary Francis Harvey says starting next month, soldiers in Iraq will get a new piece of body armor -- side plates that are an add-on to the current 'Interceptor' vest.

The plates will add another two and a-half pounds to the heavy load soliders tote while on patrol. But Harvey says it's worth it, and he believes that their use should be mandatory.
The Army can't force soldiers to wear the add-ons, but U-S Central Command can. It has yet to issue a formal directive.

Harvey says Army figures show that only one soldier died in Iraq from a side wound that might have been prevented by this new add-on. But he says it's also his responsibility to reduce injuries to American servicemen and women, and the plates will do that.

[bth : this statement that there is only one soldier is a total crock.]

Some soldiers have complained about the weight of the body armor they currently wear, even without the add-on. Harvey says his people have done their best to 'balance protection with mobility.'"
 Posted by Picasa

Hosenball: Whose Fault Is 'Curveball' Mess? - Newsweek National News -

Hosenball: Whose Fault Is 'Curveball' Mess? - Newsweek National News - "Jan. 16, 2006 - The Bush administration's reliance on a secret source, code-named Curveball, to make its case that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction is one of the great embarrassments of the run-up to the Iraq war. Curveball, the primary source for Secretary of State Colin Powell's prewar assertion to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein was hiding mobile germ-warfare labs, was later discredited. By why was the United States fooled to begin with?"

U.S. officials learned about Curveball from German intelligence. But Germany’s spymasters came to believe that the CIA relied on Curveball without backing up his story, says a European official familiar with the case who declined to be identified discussing sensitive matters. According to a document cited to NEWSWEEK, in December 2002 Dr. August Hanning, then chief of Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the BND, wrote to CIA director George Tenet that Curveball’s story was “plausible” but had not been “verified.” The Germans repeatedly asked the CIA if they had corroborating evidence but were rebuffed. U.S. officials say the cautionary letter never reached Tenet. But these officials, also requesting anonymity, say the Germans were shown Powell’s testimony before his U.N. talk, and they raised no objection.

When Curveball was later discredited, news organizations including NEWSWEEK initially reported that Curveball was planted on German intel by Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi dissident who was trying to inspire the United States to overthrow Saddam Hussein. A presidential commission later concluded that there was “no evidence” Chalabi’s organization was “directing” Curveball to mislead U.S. intel.

A key NEWSWEEK source at the time was David Kay, who had just left his post as chief CIA representative on a Bush administration team created to track down Iraqi WMD. Kay said last week that his belief was based on the fact that Curveball was related to one of Chalabi’s bodyguards.

The presidential commission did note that a corroborating source for Curveball, cited in Powell’s speech, was “brought to the attention” of U.S. intelligence by representatives of Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress.

U.S. intel quickly figured the source was a “fabricator,” but a so-called burn notice about the source’s unreliability was somehow mislaid. On the botched WMD intelligence, there’s enough blame to go around.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

[bth: operatives that deliberately allowed this to occur should be tried for treason, but they won't be.]

American who advised Pentagon says he wrote for magazine that found forged Niger documents

"A controversial neoconservative who occasionally consulted for the Bush Defense Department has confirmed that he was a contributor to the Italian magazine Panorama, whose reporter first came across forged documents which purported that Iraq was seeking to obtain uranium from Niger.

The bogus documents became the basis for the infamous sixteen words in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address, in which he detailed his case for war. Their origin has been one of the most persistent mysteries in how American intelligence on Iraq was so wrong.

In an email to RAW STORY, occasional Bush foreign affairs advisor Michael Ledeen confirmed that he was, 'several years ago,' a regular contributor to Panorama. Leeden would not provide more specificity. "

While most Americans have yet to hear of Ledeen or Panorama, the confirmation of his work with the publication adds yet another dimension to the Niger forgeries scandal and possible U.S. government involvement in pre-war intelligence manipulation.

Ledeen denies that he was involved in the Niger forgeries. He says he has no knowledge of the documents or how they came to be provided to the U.S. government.

"I've said repeatedly, I have no involvement of any sort with the Niger story, and I have no knowledge of it aside from what has appeared in the press," Ledeen said in an email. "I have not discussed it with any government person in any country."

But Ledeen confirmed that he wrote for Panorama and worked with the publication's Editor-in-Chief, Carlo Rossella.
"I have no current relationship with Panorama," Ledeen said. "For a year or two I wrote an occasional column for Panorama, I would guess on average twice a month."

"That ended when the editor, Carlo Rossella, became a TV star," he added.

A closer look at the series of overlapping relationships and events, however, suggests that Ledeen may have been connected, even if inadvertently, to the Niger forgeries.

Panorama has been in the crosshairs since late 2002, when one of its journalists, Elisabetta Burba, was handed a set of documents -- including contracts -- purporting to show that Saddam Hussein had purchased 500 tons of yellowcake uranium from the African nation of Niger. These documents were critical in supporting the administration's claims that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program.

The documents were later debunked as forgeries, though not before their content had been referenced in the President's State of the Union Address. Questions remain over whether the Administration knew they were forgeries, since it took the International Atomic Energy Agency just a few hours to discredit them in March 2003, shortly after which the U.S. invaded Iraq.

John Pike, director of the military watchdog, recently told RAW STORY the path of the documents from Italy to the White House is troubling.

"The thing that was so embarrassing about the episode was not simply that the documents were forgeries, but that they were clumsy forgeries, as was so quickly determined by the IAEA," Pike said. "It is one thing to be taken in, but to be so easily taken in suggests either bewildering incompetence or intentional deception, or possibly both."

While Ledeen admits to writing for Panorama, he explained that the work had been in the past, saying, "That would be a couple of years ago."

But "a couple of years ago" would be right around the time when the forgeries were delivered to Burba or sent from the U.S. embassy in Rome via backchannels to the U.S. State Department, bypassing the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

Burba says she got the documents from former Italian intelligence asset Rocco Martino. Martino handed the documents off to Burba in the fall of 2002, initially demanding money and then simply providing them.

After investigating the documents for an article and finding them to be suspect, Burba suggested to her editor, Carlo Rossella, that she take a trip to Niger to investigate further.

Rossella diverted her to the U.S. embassy in Rome instead. She never ran the article. Burba dropped off the forgeries to the US embassy on Oct. 9, 2002.

But as Burba was investigating the veracity of the documents, head of Italian intelligence Nicolo Pollari was meeting with then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

The meeting, which took place in September 2002, is alleged to be brokered by Ledeen, although the only U.S. official Pollari claims to have met is George Tenet, whom he also met in October 2001. Questioned about the meeting, Hadley has said no one involved in the meeting had "any recollection of a discussion of natural uranium, or any recollection of any documents being passed."

Burba delivered the forgeries to the U.S. embassy a month after the Pollari and Hadley meeting.

Questions also surround Burba's attempts to authenticate the documents.

Speaking to RAW STORY, foreign intelligence sources say they wonder why she delivered documents she felt to be bogus to the U.S. embassy. These sources say there are two questions surrounding Burba's account: If she did indeed find the documents to be forgeries, why did she did take them to an embassy as opposed to her own authorities -- and why did she deliver them to the U.S. embassy specifically?

It was Burba's editor at Panorama, Carlo Rossella, who allegedly told her to take the documents to the U.S. embassy, despite her own requests to travel to Niger to further investigate the claims.

It was also Rosella who intervened when Burba requested to contact the White House after hearing the infamous "16 words" in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address, dissuading her from contacting U.S. officials.

Rosella, intelligence sources say, could have been acting on the orders of Panorama's owner, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's equivalent of Rupert Murdoch. Berlusconi -- who also happens to be the current Prime Minister -– was a supporter of President Bush leading up to the war.

Berlusconi was not immediately available for comment.

[bth: Ledeen and Haldey left tracks all over the forged intel debacle. I believe they deliberately allowed fake intel into the White House.]

Execution of a German collaborator by the French Resistance. Posted by Picasa
 Posted by Picasa