Saturday, October 07, 2006

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Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: A Policy and Strategy of Realism

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2006: A Policy and Strategy of Realism: "'Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said the U.S. should consider a ``change of course'' in Iraq if the government there can't stabilize the country in the next two to three months.

Senator John Warner's comments, after returning from a one- day visit to Iraq, were the most critical assessments yet from a top congressional Republican about the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who President George W. Bush has championed as a strong leader. They also may serve notice to the president that even his strongest allies in Congress may be running out of patience.

Warner, a former Navy secretary and longtime Republican leader on defense issues, didn't outline what changes to U.S. strategy should be made and whether that includes withdrawing or redeploying U.S. troops.

``I wouldn't take any option off the table,'' he said during a news conference today at the Capitol. Steinman in Bloomberg News

------------------------------------------------------------------------

John Warner is my senator and I have always respected him greatly. I continue to do so. In my view he has labored mightily to keep the ship of state afloat in spite of the Utopian nonsense that has dominated the Bush Administration. He has done so in spite of the disrespectful way that Rumsfeld and company have treated his opinions and nominations of people for important jobs, for example, Secretary of the Army."

For him to say that the Maliki government has 90 days to get control of the situation or the United States should reconsider it options is a major step. The bomb throwers may not think it is a big deal, but it is. He says that "no option should be off the table."

I was taught at the War College (Carlisle) that military strategy should be made in an orderly fashion based on perceived national interests. The way this is supposed to happen is that based on such interests, a national strategy is imagined which combines ALL the civil and military tools available to the government in a plan intended to achieve the national interest under consideration. Once that is done, then military means contributory to that goal are brought into the plan in a coherent design that always keeps the end state desired in mind.

In other words, military strategy can not be made in a policy vacuum. In my opinion, no change of deployments or new military courses of action will have a real meaning unless they are grounded in a new US foreign policy in the Middle East, and specifically a new policy intended to deal with Iraq in the context of its own geo-strategic position in the midst of the Islamic World.

So far, we have been following a policy that envisions revolutionary change in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East leading to a Utopian and Earthly Paradise of the sort fantasized by Frum and Perle in their egregious book, "The End of Evil." The military strategy we have been following was inflicted on the armed forces by the Bush Administration in pursuit of that goal. Large forces were not thought necessary because Iraq, like the rest of the Middle East, was thought by the Bush Administration to be a "pile of tinder" awaiting only a match in order to burst into revolutionary flames. That did not happen. Instead the various "centrifugal" forces of tribal, and sectarian Iraq are tearing the country apart while at the same time protesting the authenticity of their "Iraqiness."

The game is actually over in Iraq. It has been decided in the streets and its outcome is symbolized by the piles of tortured corpses "discovered" each day by the same police who may well have been complicit in the "drillings" and shootings of the previous night.

Iraq is going to be partitioned. This may be either de facto or de jure but it will be partitioned. The process of disintegration launched by the United States in eliminating the mechanisms of state integrity has progressed so far that effective dissolution of the old Iraq is inevitable. The recent frustrated desperation evident in the statements of the US command in Baghdad, and the ridiculous futility of Dr. Rice's latest trip are unmistakable signs of disintegration. Indeed, the partition is now underway.

US forces have been pulled back into the capital for a so far unsuccessful attempt to quell the violence.

Not only has this concentration been unsuccessful but it has stripped Anbar Province of troops that were need to deal with growing Sunni insurgent and Islamist power.

What will the partitioned Iraq look like?

-A Kurdish region either completely or nearly independent with massive oil assets and the city of Kirkuk. Will Turkey accept that? Ah. That should be the subject of creative diplomacy on all sides.
-A "rump" state of Iraq extending from (but not necessarily including) Baghdad to the Kuwait border. Wealthy in oil, dominated by the Shia Arabs and friendly to Iran, it may be impossible for this state to maintain its capital in Baghdad. So far, its security forces show no sign of being able to control the situation there.

-An insurgent "redoubt area" dominated by Sunni Arabs and international jihadis will cover all of what is now called the "Sunni Triangle" and perhaps much of Baghdad as well. This "land of insolence" will be poverty stricken but supported by many states and individuals in the Sunni Islamic world as a bulwark against further expansion of the area of Shia triumphalism. The idea has been "floated" of an economic compact between these three successor entities which would provide the Sunni Arabs with considerable oil revenue. This idea underestimates the actual hatred among these groups, but, nevertheless, such an accord should also be the subject of creative diplomacy.

A recognition that this partition of Iraq has now become inevitable and beyond the ability of the United States to prevent is a pre-condition for the adoption of a "reality based" policy which can deal with the vital issue of American relations with the pieces of Iraq. Equally important are the issues of relations among the states which surround, and influence the tri-partite Mesopotamia of the future.

James Webb, now a candidate for the US Senate, has indicated that an international conference is needed for the purpose of "launching" diplomatic efforts to stabilize the region. That is true, but a pre-requisite for that conference would have to be an American acknowledgment that its present policy has failed and that a policy of reconciliation with and among the disputants, including Iran, must take place before anything fruitful can occur.

A sensible American military strategy would emerge from the adoption of such a policy.

Pat Lang
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Brave heroes hounded out

The Sun Online - News: Brave heroes hounded out: "MUSLIM yobs who wrecked a house to stop four brave soldiers moving in after returning from Afghanistan sparked outrage last night.

The house in a village near riot-torn Windsor had BRICKS thrown through windows and was DAUBED with messages of hate.

Four young Household Cavalry officers who had planned to rent it were also the target of phone THREATS.

They were yesterday forced to look elsewhere to live — after top brass warned them against inflaming racial violence near the Queen’s Windsor Castle home.

Last night furious Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: “This is a shocking development.”"

Colleagues of the officers branded the vandalism a “disgrace”. A source at the regiment said: “These guys have done nothing but bravely serve their country — yet they can’t even live where they want in their own country.” The £3,000-a-month detached home in picturesque Datchet, Berks, is less than a mile from Windsor Castle. It was attacked as extra police were drafted into Windsor — where battles have raged for days between Asian and white gangs.

On Wednesday a Muslim-run dairy was firebombed.

The young officers — from the same regiment as Prince Harry — had planned to use the four-bed house for rest and recuperation after months risking their lives on the frontline.

Louts struck two days after the four arrived in uniform in an Army Land Rover to view it.

The source said: “A gang of local Muslims set about keeping them away. They hurled bricks through the windows and then wrote offensive graffiti across the front of the house.” The vile messages included one in 4ft letters on the drive — warning: “F*** off”.

Sources inside Windsor’s Combermere Barracks — where the officers are based — confirmed Muslims had made calls threatening the men.

The scandal comes as Tony Blair today pledges the Army in Afghanistan can have ANYTHING it needs to hammer the Taliban. Writing exclusively in The Sun he declares that Our Boys are “the best in the world”.

A Household Cavalry insider said of the Muslims’ insult to Britain’s heroes: “Everyone in the regiment is really upset. It’s one thing coming under attack in Helmand in Afghanistan but quite another getting this abuse in England. The officers were determined to face down the yobs and still move in — but didn’t want a race riot on their hands.”

Police hunting the vandals confirmed: “One line of inquiry is that it is racially aggravated.”

The house’s owner Johanna Ledwidge refused to comment beyond saying she was very upset. A shocked neighbour in the quiet street said: “We pride ourselves in this neighbourhood that we welcome all cultures.”

Tory MP Philip Davies said of the attack: “This is outrageous.

“If there’s anybody who should f*** off it’s the Muslims who are doing this kind of thing. Police should pull out the stops to track down these vile thugs.”

Sir Andrew Green, director of the think-tank Migrationwatch UK, said: “Incidents like this are absolutely inexcusable and seriously undermine efforts by all sides to achieve integration. Those who choose to live in this country owe a loyalty to Britain.”

A spokesman for letting agency Kings, who are marketing the property, said: “It was an isolated case of vandalism. We do not know the reasons behind it.”

Earthquake orphans 'in hands of jihadists'

Telegraph News Earthquake orphans 'in hands of jihadists': "Charities linked to jihadist groups have been using humanitarian aid operations to extend their influence over children orphaned by last year's earthquake in north Pakistan."

Contrary to government rules that earthquake orphans must be cared for only by the state or relatives, large numbers have been taken into care by religious charities and madrassa Islamic schools.

A senior cleric, Qazi Mahmood-ul Hassan, who runs the Jamia Dar-Uloom al Islamia madrassa in Muzaffarabad, said that he had taken 55 orphans into care. His madrassa helped the Al-Rashid Trust carry out relief work immediately after the earthquake last October.

The trust has been accused by the United States of channelling funds to al-Qa'eda.

The cleric said that hundreds of other orphans had been taken into care by other madrassas and Jamaat-ud Dawa, proscribed by America as a front for Lashkar-i-Toiba, which is held responsible for terrorist attacks in India.

"These people have taken orphans," said Mr Hassan. "They have a target of convincing people to accept their ideology." Before Pakistan reversed its policy of supporting jihad groups under pressure from America after September 11, the two groups were openly united.

Last week the US Treasury advised that charity organisations risked contributions being diverted to finance terrorist activities and the use of charities to build up grass-roots support for a terrorist organisation.

The report singled out Jamaat-ud-Dawa, accusing it of "exploitation" without elaborating further.

A senior professional who works with Jamaat-ud Dawa in Muzaffarabad said that most of the members he worked with had waged jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

He said the head of security at one of its hospitals was called "Dr Bomblast" because he was reputed to be a bomb-maker for terrorist operations.

"I do not trust them," he said. "They bring books in favour of jihad for the patients to read and preach a hard-line form of Islam. They do not allow radio or television on the wards."

A BBC radio report broadcast this week included the lyrics of a madrassa morning assembly song recited by earthquake orphans: "When people deny our faith, ask them to convert, and if they do not, destroy them utterly."

A spokesman for Jamaat-ud Dawa, Abdullah Muntazir, denied the charge that his organisation had taken care of any orphans and had any links to Lashkar-i-Toiba. "We are not preaching extremism," he said.

"Perhaps we have influenced people but they were already committed to Islam."

Jamaat-ud Dawa ran a training camp close to Muzaffarabad at Shawai. When the earthquake struck, the group provided fast and effective relief in areas where the government and military struggled to reach. It was so well organised that UN agencies used it to distribute aid materials.

In the absence of a convincing government plan, tens of thousands of earthquake victims have been left homeless and Jamaat-ud Dawa has provided schools, hospitals and construction work.

The earthquake zone has become an ideological battlefield between Islamic groups and Christian aid groups.

Mr Muntazir said Christian and Muslim clerics argued recently over the burial rites of a woman who died in a camp. The tale, perhaps apocryphal, related that she was discovered to be one of Pakistan's secret converts to Christianity as she had a cross tattooed on her chest.
fpress@telegraph.co.uk

Sailor Testifies That Marines Shot to Death Iraqi Civilian in Hamdania

FOXNews.com - Sailor Testifies That Marines Shot to Death Iraqi Civilian in Hamdania - Local News News Articles National News US News: "CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — A Navy corpsman testified Friday that Marines in his patrol seized an Iraqi civilian from his home, threw him into a hole and put at least 10 bullets in his head after growing frustrated in their search for an insurgent.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos said he saw a Marine put fingerprints from the victim onto a rifle and on a shovel to implicate him as an insurgent.

'I was shocked and I felt sick to my stomach,' Bacos said.

Bacos, a medic who had been on patrol with the squad, was charged along with seven Marines in the slaying of Hashim Ibrahim Awad last spring in the town of Hamdania. But Bacos struck a deal with prosecutors under which he pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy and agreed to testify Friday at his court-martial about what he saw.

'I knew what we were doing was wrong,' Bacos testified, speaking nearly in a whisper. 'I tried to say something and then I decided to look away.'

Bacos said he asked the Marines to let Awad go, but Cpl. Marshall L. Magincalda told him in crude terms that he was being weak and should stop protesting."

Bacos, 21, was the first of the servicemen to be court-martialed. The seven others could get up to life in prison.

Military judge Col. Steven Folsom sentenced Bacos to 10 years in prison but reduced the term to one year because of the plea agreement. That will be further reduced by time served. Other counts of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy were dropped in exchange for his cooperation.

Prosecutors have said that the servicemen killed Awad out of frustration and then planted the assault rifle and shovel by the body to make it look as if he had been caught digging a hole for a roadside bomb.

Bacos testified that the squad entered Hamdania on April 26 while searching for a known insurgent who had been captured three times, then released. Squad leader Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins was "just mad that we kept letting him go and he was a known terrorist," Bacos said.

The group approached a house where the insurgent was believed to be hiding, but when someone inside woke up, the Marines instead went to another home and grabbed Awad, according to the testimony.

Bacos said the squad had intended to get someone else if they did not capture the insurgent, then stage a firefight to make it appear they had found an Iraqi planting a roadside bomb.

Awad, 52, was taken from the home with his feet and hands bound, then placed in a hole, Bacos said.

"I felt I couldn't stop it any more that day," Bacos testified. "They were going to do it. They were going to carry out the plan, so I continued on."

Bacos said Hutchins fired three rounds into the man's head, then Cpl. Trent Thomas fired seven to 10 more rounds into his head.

After the killing, Bacos said Hutchins called in to a command center and reported the squad had seen a man digging a hole and wanted permission to fire at him.

Bacos said he saw Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington put the victim's fingerprints onto an AK-47 and on a shovel to implicate him as an insurgent who had fired first. Bacos was told to fire an AK-47 into the air to simulate the sound of a firefight.

"Why didn't I just walk away?" Bacos asked from the witness stand before being sentenced. "The answer to that question was I wanted to be part of the team. I wanted to be a respected corpman, but that is no excuse for immorality."

After the killing, Bacos said, he was standing in the road when another Navy corpsman drove by.

"He asked me what happened, and I was very vague," Bacos testified. "I said, 'I want you to remember something. We're different. We're not like these men."'

Bacos' wife and father sat in the front row of the courtroom during the court-martial. During a break, Bacos turned to her and mouthed the words, "I love you."

The tiny courtroom was still as Folsom repeatedly asked Bacos if he had been coerced into giving his account of the shooting.

Bacos said he was testifying voluntarily. On the witness stand, he wore a white Navy uniform and a Purple Heart his wife said he had been awarded during a previous tour in Iraq.

Bacos was recently transferred from Camp Pendleton, where the Marines have been held, to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar for his own safety.

Military prosecutors had charged Bacos under the theory that he did nothing to stop the alleged crime.

In return for his testimony, murder charges and other counts against him were dropped.

Along with Magincalda, Hutchins and Thomas and Pennington, the other Marines charged are: Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, Pfc. John J. Jodka and Lance Cpl. Jerry E. Shumate Jr.

David Brahms, Pennington's lawyer, said Bacos' account will be subjected to intense scrutiny. "This is just one guy who is going to tell the story as he sees it," Brahms said.

Former Army prosecutor Tom Umberg suggested that others might follow Bacos' lead and strike similar plea bargains.
"You don't want to be the las
t guy standing. The first guy gets the best deal," he said.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Terrorist 'Dirty Bomb' Seizures Double

Terrorist 'Dirty Bomb' Seizures Double - Yahoo! News UK: "International seizures of smuggled radioactive materials which could be used to make a terrorist 'dirty bomb' have doubled in four years.

The Times newspaper claims to have seen figures from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showing more than 300 seizures of the dangerous materials since 2002 - primarily in Europe. The statistics appear to suggest a sharp increase in the frequency of attempts to traffic radioactive materials which could end up in terrorist hands.

There were 103 cases of illicit trafficking in 2005, almost double the figure for the 2002 (58), the report said.

The number of attempts rose to 90 in 2003 and as high as 130 in 2004, the report added.

The Times said that Western security agencies thwarted 16 attempts to smuggle plutonium or uranium last year alone.

The report said that scientists were warning that traffickers looking to supply terrorists could turn to hospital X-ray equipment as a source of radioactive material."
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Soldiers in Baghdad chasing 'ghosts' - Oct 5, 2006

CNN.com - Soldiers in Baghdad chasing 'ghosts' - Oct 5, 2006: "BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- 'Last I heard, one wounded in action -- and they are still taking enemy fire. Let's go!'

Staff Sgt. Michael Lopez slams the door of his humvee. The men of 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, Task Force 1-26 Infantry, 1st Infantry Division had just received a call for back-up from another platoon a few hundred meters away.

What was meant to be a day meeting the Iraqi people in one of Baghdad's eastern neighborhoods abruptly turned into a long day of what the soldiers now refer to as 'chasing the ghosts of small arms fire.'

The troops used to laugh about these 'ghosts' and their poorly aimed potshots, but now they take them very seriously. (Watch soldiers chase the ghosts -- 2:19)

That's because the situation has escalated beyond the random potshots. Now, U.S. troops are hunted by well-trained sniper teams who lay in wait on rooftops and other well-shielded positions."

So far this month, at least nine of the 19 U.S. troop deaths in Iraq involved small arms fire and not roadside bombs.

Death is very real to these men. Most have seen it in front of their own eyes.

By the time the soldiers of the 2nd Platoon arrived at the scene of the sniper attack, the ghost is long gone. Inside the house where the soldiers believe the attack came from is a nervous, stuttering man trying to say in broken English that the sounds of shooting came from somewhere else. But shell casings litter the rooftop.

He is taken in for questioning and gunpowder tests.

The street below looks deceptively normal. Small children wave up to the troops on the roof. It's hard to imagine that a U.S. soldier was just shot through the arm here.

The soldiers of the 2nd Platoon soon return to their original mission: meeting the people. But within minutes of arriving in the neighborhood, potshots ring out again.

The men move through the dusty, rubble-strewn alleys of eastern Baghdad looking for clues, scanning rooftops. But the ghosts have faded away.

Patrolling here is a contradiction of emotions. U.S. troops have to keep up their guard against snipers and bombs while maintaining a friendly approach toward the Iraqi population.

This same day, a small-arms fire attack claimed the life of another soldier. His unit was flagged down by Iraqis. There was a drive-by shooting in the area, and two Iraqi's lay dead in the street. As the Americans called in the Iraqi police, a deadly shot rang out.

The troops cope with such events by drawing strength from one another. On the surface they still joke around, but the pain of their losses is evident in their eyes.

"It's about controlling your fear," one soldier said. Every time soldiers hit the streets, they are rolling the dice.

"It's tough, but it's the mission we were given," he said.
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Thursday, October 05, 2006

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U.S. military denies killing al Qaeda leader in Iraq - Yahoo! News

U.S. military denies killing al Qaeda leader in Iraq - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military on Thursday denied reports it had killed the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq Abu Ayyub al-Masri. "

"There was a raid where we thought he may have been among those killed. We are still doing DNA tests but we do not believe coalition forces have killed al-Masri," U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson told Reuters.

Earlier, an Iraqi government source, who did not want to be named, said Masri and three of his aides were killed in the western Iraqi town of Haditha on Wednesday after U.S. forces launched an airstrike and ground assault on a safe house.

Masri's predecessor, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June
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Suicide bombers brainwashed in Pakistan, says Afghan spy agency

Khaleej Times Online - Suicide bombers brainwashed in Pakistan, says Afghan spy agency: "KABUL - Would-be suicide bombers detained in Afghanistan claim they have been brainwashed and equipped by Arab, Chechen and Uzbek militants in Pakistan, the Afghan intelligence service said Wednesday.

The claims were from 17 attackers who were arrested in the past month before they had the chance to strike, Sayed Ansari, the spokesman for the Afghan National Directorate of Security told reporters.

Pakistan, which like Afghanistan is a key US ally in the “war on terror”, has repeatedly denied the existence of militant training facilities on its soil.

“All of the detained have confessed they received training for suicide attacks, attacks against schools and institutions from Arab, Chechen and Uzbek instructors on the other side of the border (Pakistan),” said Ansari.

He said illiterate people, those with a poor religious education or from deprived backgrounds were being “brainwashed” in Pakistani training camps across the border and sent to Afghanistan.

“They focus on religious feelings of people, show them made-up videos of coalition forces in Afghanistan, preach that Islam is in danger in Afghanistan and the government does not have control to make them ready for their inauspicious attempts,” he said.

Dozens of Arabs and Central Asian Al Qaeda militants fled from Afghanistan to Pakistan after US-led forces ousted the Taleban in late 2001 for sheltering Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

Suicide attacks in Afghanistan have soared this year. Ansari said there had been 72 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year killing 101 civilians, who made up 80 percent of casualties.

The United Nations says there have been 91 attacks in which around 170 civilians have died.
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Counterterrorism Blog: Possible Military Connection to New Indonesia Arrest

Counterterrorism Blog: Possible Military Connection to New Indonesia Arrest: "On Tuesday, an Indonesian woman who had a considerable amount of explosives in her bag was arrested at the Sidoarjo train station in Indonesia's East Java province. This was first reported in The Jakarta Post, which stated that the woman (whose name is Kangiyani) was fifty-five years old and was carrying two kilograms of explosives. The details concerning her age and the amount of explosives were contradicted by later reports in the Indonesian press, but many of the basic details of The Jakarta Post's account have been generally accepted.

My colleague Nick Grace, of Global Crisis Watch, provides further details from the Indonesian-language press. He notes that later press accounts state that Kangiyani's age is forty rather than fifty-five, and that she was carrying 9 kg of explosives rather than 2 kg. But the most interesting aspect of the developing story is the possible link between the explosives and Indonesia's military. Nick writes:

The 40 year old woman was in the process of completing a sale of the materials to an Indonesian named Mahmud, who paid 3 million rupiah (equivalent of US$250 and approximately 3 months salary for the average Indonesian). Both were detained by [elite Indonesian anti-terror unit] Detachment 88.

According to DetikNews and Jawa Pos, Kangiyani was selling the TNT on behalf of her husband, "AH," who is a sergeant in the Indonesian Navy. There are conflicting reports over whether "AH" has been captured and is under interrogation. . . . Mahmud claims that he bought the TNT for "fish bombs" so that he could more easily fish. Meanwhile, fear is building in Jakarta over suicide attacks and President Bush's planned 6 hour layover and visit with [Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] on or around Nov 20.

One obvious aspect to this is the possible terrorism connection -- particularly if Kangiyani had 9 kg of TNT. Each of the three suicide bombers in the October 2005 Bali bombings carried around 10 kg of TNT in their backpacks. Nick Grace notes that Detachment 88 raided a house in central Java in May that netted a cache of TNT, and it's believed that rising jihadist star Noordin Top's branch of Jemaah Islamiyah, Tandzim Qaedatul Jihad, "is desperate to replenish its stockpile."

Second, the military connection noted above is interesting beause there have long been suspicions in Indonesia that Jemaah Islamiyah receives bomb-making materials from corrupt soldiers. Of course, it's too early to draw any conclusions. After all, the fog of war can often make the first information to emerge following a terrorist arrest or attack unreliable: note, as one example, the differing accounts of Kangiyani's age and the amount of explosives she had. Nonetheless, this story is well worth following.
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Iraq pulls police brigade out of service

Iraq pulls police brigade out of service - Yahoo! News: "BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi authorities pulled a brigade of about 700 policemen out of service Wednesday in its biggest move ever to uproot troops linked to death squads, aiming to signal the government's seriousness in cleansing Baghdad of sectarian violence. "

The government move came amid steadily mounting violence, particularly in the capital. A U.S. military spokesman said the past week had seen the highest number of car bombs and roadside bombs in Baghdad this year.

Four U.S. soldiers patrolling in Baghdad were killed by gunmen on Wednesday, the U.S. military said, also announcing the deaths of two other soldiers a day earlier in Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk. The deaths brought to 21 the number of Americans killed in combat since Saturday.

The suspension of the police brigade was the first time the Iraqi government has taken such dramatic action to discipline security forces over possible links to militiamen, though some individual soldiers have been investigated in the past. Baghdad's Sunnis widely fear the Shiite-led police, saying they are infiltrated by militias and accusing them of cooperating with death squads who snatch Sunnis and kill them.

The brigade was responsible for a region of northeast Baghdad with a slight Shiite majority, where gunmen on Sunday kidnapped 24 workers from a frozen food factory. Hours later, the bodies of seven of the workers were found dumped in a district miles away.

Sunni politicians have said all those who were kidnapped were Sunnis. They blamed Shiite militias for the abduction and accused police of allowing the gunmen to escape and move freely with their captives.

Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the chief ministry spokesman, said the brigade was being investigated because it "didn't respond quickly" to the kidnapping.

The top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq' Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, said the police brigade in the area had been ordered to stand down and was undergoing retraining. He said some were being investigated and that any found to have militia ties would be removed.

"The government of Iraq was very clear as we go through this process that if that (unit) comes out at 30 percent of what it went in with, that's OK with the government of Iraq," he told a Baghdad news conference.

"There is clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely when, in fact, they were supposed to have been impeding their movement," Caldwell said.

The U.S. military appeared to have a key role in getting the brigade sidelined. Caldwell said problems with the unit had emerged during a broad brigade-by-brigade assessment of police in Baghdad carried out by the U.S. military over the summer — and the decision was made by the Interior Ministry to act Tuesday.

U.S. forces have been carrying out raids and arrests of militia members for the past month as part of a wide-scale U.S.-Iraqi sweep of Baghdad launched in August, which has seen the number of American troops in the capital double.

Forces have been moving from neighborhood to neighborhood, searching houses, confiscating weapons and arranging services like water and electricity for residents in an attempt to stop sectarian violence and insurgent attacks. The rise in U.S. deaths in recent days may be linked to their increased presence in the capital, commanders have said.

But at the same time, Sunnis have accused the Shiite-led government of balking at sending its security forces against the Shiite militias, many of which are linked to parties in the coalition.

The suspended brigade had about 650-700 members, and the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Tuesday that its commander of the unit, a lieutenant colonel, has been detained for investigation. The major general who oversees the brigade and two others in the area has been suspended temporarily and ordered transferred.

Khalaf said a random selection of troops in the suspended unit were being investigated for ties to militias.
The sectarian spiral of revenge killings between Shiites and Sunnis has become the deadliest violence in Iraq, with thousands slain in recent months. "Over the past three months, murders and executions (by death squads) have caused the majority of civilian deaths in Iraq," Caldwell said.

The violence has also threatened to undermine the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as Shiite and Sunni parties in his coalition accuse each other of backing militias.

On Monday, al-Maliki announced a new security plan to unite the feuding parties, creating local committees in which Sunnis and Shiites will work together to manage efforts to stop the violence on a district-by-district level.

But contentious details of the plan still must be worked out — and Shiite and Sunni parties for a second day on Wednesday put off negotiations.

At the same time, Sunni-led insurgents have continued their attacks targeting civilians, Iraqi officials and U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Car bombs, as well as other explosions and shootings, killed 34 people across the country Wednesday. In the deadliest attack, a string of two bombs and an explosive-packed vehicle blew up in a district of stores and auto shops in a mainly Christian neighborhood of Baghdad, killing 12 people and wounding 56, police said.

Hours later, after sunset and the end of the day's Ramadan fast, gunmen opened fire on a popular cafe in an overwhelmingly Shiite district of southeast Baghdad, killing four patrons and wounding seven others.

Caldwell said the number of car bombs and roadside bombs that went off or had been found and defused over the past week was the highest this year. He declined to give firm numbers, but said, "The trend line has been up over the last couple of months."

But he also said the military has killed or captured an increasing number of suspected members of al-Qaida in Iraq, the most feared Sunni insurgent group. In September, 110 al-Qaida suspects were killed and 520 detained — including a driver of the group's leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, captured on Sept. 28.
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Muslims are waging civil war against us, claims police union

Telegraph News Muslims are waging civil war against us, claims police union: "Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared 'intifada' against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day."

As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.

It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.

The number of attacks has risen by a third in two years. Police representatives told the newspaper Le Figaro that the "taboo" of attacking officers on patrol has been broken.

Instead, officers – especially those patrolling in pairs or small groups – faced attacks as soon as they tried to arrest locals.

Senior officers insisted that the problem was essentially criminal in nature, with crime bosses on the estates fighting back against tough tactics.

The interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is also the leading centre-Right candidate for the presidency, has sent heavily equipped units into areas with orders to regain control from drug smuggling gangs and other organised crime rings. Such aggressive raids were "disrupting the underground economy in the estates", one senior official told Le Figaro.

However, not all officers on the ground accept that essentially secular interpretation. Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, has written to Mr Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armoured cars in the most dangerous areas.

He said yesterday: "We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested."

He added: "We need armoured vehicles and water cannon. They are the only things that can disperse crowds of hundreds of people who are trying to kill police and burn their vehicles."

However, Gerard Demarcq, of the largest police unions, Alliance, dismissed talk of an "intifada" as representing the views of only a minority.

Mr Demarcq said that the increased attacks on officers were proof that the policy of "retaking territory" from criminal gangs was working.

Mayors in the worst affected suburbs, which saw weeks of riots and car-burning a year ago, have expressed fears of a vicious circle, as attacks by locals lead the police to harden their tactics, further increasing resentment.

As if to prove that point, there were angry reactions in the western Paris suburb of Les Mureaux following dawn raids in search of youths who attacked a police unit on Sunday. The raids led to one arrest. They followed clashes on Sunday night when scores of youths attacked seven officers who had tried to arrest a man for not wearing his seat belt while driving. That driver refused to stop, and later rammed a police car trying to block his path.

The mayor of Les Mureaux, Francois Garay, criticised aggressive police tactics that afterwards left "the people on the ground to pick up the pieces".
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Gurkha spirit triumphs in siege of Nawzad

Telegraph News Gurkha spirit triumphs in siege of Nawzad: "The Gurkhas were never supposed to fire a shot in anger in Helmand. Their main duty was to protect the main British Army base at Camp Bastion."

But as British forces found themselves fighting a full-scale war, the Gurkhas were thrust into the front line and became involved in some of the fiercest fire fights of the summer-long campaign.

One of the most dramatic engagements took place in the town of Nawzad, a key strategic post in southern Helmand.

The Gurkha commanders realised that trouble was brewing when the town centre emptied of civilians.

As night fell they heard the sounds of holes being chipped through the walls of the buildings close to their fortified ''platoon house", the town's police station. Then the sound of civilian electricity generators in the town abruptly ceased, so that in the silence approaching British helicopters could be heard sooner.

"We knew it was the calm before the storm. We sensed what was coming," said Major Dan Rex, 35, the Gurkhas' tall, softly spoken commander.

During the next 10 days, the 40 Gurkhas sent to Nawzad to hold the police station fought tenaciously to defend themselves as they were subjected to 28 attacks lasting one to six hours each, including five full scale efforts by hundreds of Taliban fighters to over-run their compound.

Senior British officers say it was one of a series of gruelling attritional sieges that have characterised the bloody first six months of the British deployment to Helmand.

They paid tribute to the courage displayed by the 110- man mixed force from the 1st and 2nd Gurkha Rifles, particularly those who fought so valiantly to defend the Nawzad police station.

"I held a Shura (meeting) with the town elders to discuss the deteriorating situation just before the attacks began," Major Rex said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph.

"Several of those present eyeballed me throughout, and I subsequently discovered they were the Taliban commanders coming to size me up."

The first major attack began at 1.50am when a Gurkha corporal spotted armed men "leopard crawling" towards the compound 60 yards away. He opened fire killing four.

Ten minutes later a coordinated assault began from three directions. Every one of the six sand-bagged positions around the compound and on its roof were hit by rocket-propelled grenades. The command post on the roof received four separate hits.

For many of the Gurkhas, seven of whom had just finished training, it was their first experience of combat. "For the first five minutes under fire I was just so frightened," said Tkam Paha Dur, a 19-year-old Gurkha rifleman, to the amusement of his comrades."After that it became just like a live firing exercise."

With the Taliban closer than 50 yards, Rifleman Nabin Rai, 20, manning a heavy machinegun on the roof, had several rounds ricochet off his weapon before a bullet went through the gunsight and hit him in the face.

"His commander called for him to be medi-vacced out, but he refused to come down from the roof," said Major Rex. "Later he was again hit, this time in the helmet. He sat down and had a cigarette, then went back to his position."

With a full moon negating the advantage of British night vision equipment, the Taliban launched another full-scale assault the next night, using dried up underground watercourses to move men and ammunition around the British position.

"We took two or three RPG hits on one position and significant machinegun fire from a range of about 20 yards," said Lt Angus Mathers, 26.

"They had used tunnels and knocked holes in the compound walls to get close."

The Gurkhas threw 21 grenades at the Taliban position before an Apache helicopter arrived overhead.

The pilot later described the situation as "like the Wild West", with tracer converging on him from numerous positions. He hovered 20 yards above the compound firing back with the helicopter's cannon while the empty shell cases cascaded on to the heads of the Gurkhas below.

The Gurkhas faced constant danger from several snipers and Taliban mortar teams.

"The snipers had positions in buildings two rooms back with holes cut through the walls to give them a field of fire," said Major Rex.

British troops could not show themselves during the day and a signaller was shot in the back, but survived his injuries. In response the Gurkhas flew in a specialist sniper. "It was cat and mouse for a couple of days," said Major Rex. "Then our sniper, Corporal Imbahadar Gurung, got four confirmed kills."

Two mortar positions were spotted and destroyed by aircraft but the third continued to elude British spotters for several days. "Eventually my JTAC (ground-air coordinator) caught the smoke as it fired out of the corner of his eye," said Major Rex. "An American aircraft dropped a 2,000lb bomb on the spot and that ended the mortar fire." After a particularly heavy attack Major Rex used the Afghan police radio, which was known to be listened to by the Taliban, to send them a message through an interpreter.

"I said 'you have two paths here. If the attacks continue you will suffer. We are being restrained. We take no pleasure in this. We are here to help you if you want a better life. It is in your hands.' "

By the time the attacks began to peter out the British estimated that they had killed 100 Taliban fighters. Three British soldiers were injured.

Explosion near Musharraf's house

Explosion near Musharraf's house - NDTV.com - News on Explosion near Musharraf's house: "An explosion was heard in a public park not far from the residence of Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, and the cause was unclear.

Police have cordoned off the Ayub Park, site of the reported blast, in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

The park is located in a military cantonment, about a kilometer from Musharraf's residence and about 12 kilometers from the capital Islamabad.

At least 10 armed policemen were guarding the park's main gate and four police pickup trucks were parked nearby. About half a dozen army soldiers were also standing near the gate.

Mohammed Azhar, a police control officer in Rawalpindi, said that there were no reports of injuries from the explosion and its cause was unclear. (AP) "

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Up to 90,000 displaced by southern Afghanistan fighting: UNHCR

Up to 90,000 displaced by southern Afghanistan fighting: UNHCR: "Up to 90,000 Afghans have been displaced by fighting between NATO-led forces and Taliban rebels in southern Afghanistan, the United Nations refugee agency has said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) expressed concern Wednesday for the 15,000 affected families in the insurgency-hit provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helmand since July.

The number of families amounted to approximately 80,000 to 90,000 people, a UNHCR statement said.
This had added a 'new hardship to a population already hosting 116,400 people earlier uprooted by conflict and drought', the statement said.

'People have lost everything, their vineyards, orchards, schools and clinics. Some assistance has already reached them, but more needs to be done,' it added.

Kandahar governor Assadullah Khalid said in September that around 15,000 families had been displaced from the region.

The UNHCR and Afghan government have been helping the displaced families, who are mainly from the Zhari and Panjwayi districts of Kandahar.

NATO and Afghan forces launched a massive operation there last month to drive out entrenched Taliban rebels. NATO said more than 1,000 rebels and 19 of its own troops were killed.

A government-appointed commission found that 53 civilians also died."

CBS: Death Squads In Iraq Hospitals, Intelligence Seen By CBS News Says Hospitals Are Command Centers For Shiite Militia - CBS News

CBS: Death Squads In Iraq Hospitals, Intelligence Seen By CBS News Says Hospitals Are Command Centers For Shiite Militia - CBS News: "(CBS) An assembly line of rotting corpses lined up for burial at Sandy Desert Cemetery is what civil war in Iraq looks like close up. "

The bodies are only a fraction of the unidentified bodies sent from Baghdad every few days for mass burial in the southern Shiite city of Kerbala, CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan reports.

They come from the main morgue that's overflowing, relatives too terrified to claim their dead because most are from Iraq's Sunni minority, murdered by Shiite death squads.

And the morgue itself is believed to be controlled by the same Shiite militia blamed for many of the killings: the Mahdi Army, founded and led by anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

The takeover began after the last election in December when Sadr's political faction was given control of the Ministry of Health.

The U.S. military has documented how Sadr's Mahdi Army has turned morgues and hospitals into places where death squads operate freely. The chilling details are spelled out in an intelligence report seen by CBS News. Among some of the details of the report are:

Hospitals have become command and control centers for the Mahdi Army militia.

Sunni patients are being murdered; some are dragged from their beds.

The militia is keeping hostages inside some hospitals, where they are tortured and executed.

They're using ambulances to transport hostages and illegal weapons, and even to help their fighters escape from U.S. forces. Iraq's Health Minister, Ali al-Shameri, is a devoted follower of Moqtada al-Sadr.

He disputes the report's claims. "I am ready now, and in the future, to receive investigation teams and journalists to get into any place they want and see whether the Madhi Army are there or not," the Health Minister says. "

They will find only doctors, nurses, pharmacy staff and labs and they would find nothing else." But a hospital worker says Mahdi Army spies are everywhere, and would only talk with both face and voice masked.

"A man was bringing his murdered brother to the morgue. They asked him if he knew who the killers were and he said ‘yes.’ They shot him right there," she says. More than 80 percent of the original doctors and staff where she works are gone, replaced by Shia supporters of the Mahdi Army.

"It's going to get worse because there is no control and no accountability," the hospital worker adds. "No one can stop them. They are terrified... No one will be safe.

There will be destruction. Complete destruction is what we are watching with our own eyes and it's getting worse."

In burial, the victims of Iraq's sectarian slaughter still have no names, only a number on an anonymous grave marker. And with neither the Iraqi government nor the U.S. willing to act, the numbers keep climbing. ©MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Court says eavesdropping program can continue | Top News | Reuters.com

Court says eavesdropping program can continue Top News Reuters.com: "CHICAGO (Reuters) - The government can continue to use its warrantless domestic wiretap program pending the Justice Department's appeal of a federal judge's ruling outlawing the program, an Appeals Court in Cincinnati ruled on Wednesday.

The ruling overturned District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's decision last week to deny a lengthy stay in the case, which is expected to end up with the Supreme Court.

In August, Taylor ruled that the National Security Agency's five-year-old surveillance program, implemented as part of the government's war on terrorism, violates the civil rights of Americans.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit in March on behalf of scholars, attorneys, journalists and non-profit groups that regularly communicate with people in the Middle East."
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Beatings, abductions, shootings: on patrol with the al-Mahdi army - World - Times Online

Beatings, abductions, shootings: on patrol with the al-Mahdi army - World - Times Online: "ABU MAHA admits freely that he kills and kidnaps Sunni “terrorists”. At checkpoints Iraqi soldiers greet him by name and let him pass.

For Abu Maha is a leader of Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army in western Baghdad, a deadly force with such power that no politician dares take it on."

The thousands-strong militia and a political power base of 32 seats in Parliament have made Hojatoleslam al-Sadr’s militant Shia movement the strongest in Iraq. The group is blamed for many death squad killings, but has such grassroots appeal that even the Shia premier cancelled plans to clear Sadr City, its Baghdad stronghold.

Accompanied by The Times, Abu Maha cruises past Iraqi soldiers as he plans an attack in Ghazaliyah, a mixed neighbourhood that has been a battleground for months. Ghazaliyah abuts Shula to the north, another enclave of the al-Mahdi Army, and Abu Maha is looking to extend his militia’s influence. He has been watching Sunnis who fled to the neighbourhood from another part of western Baghdad, convinced that they are in league with the Sunni al-Qaeda terrorists. He says that his men will target them — just business as usual for the militant who has no qualms about shedding blood in his mission to protect the Shia.

He shares some of his chilling exploits that have ended with the now familiar sight of a corpse dumped on the street. In July, when Sunni insurgents were firing mortars toward Shula, Abu Maha and a team of fighters received calls from an informer and chased down four suspects by the telephone exchange. They beat the men, forced them into their cars and drove back to Shula. There, Abu Maha says, he took out his 9mm pistol and shot one of the suspects in the head. His gang killed the other three.

His company generally detains people for several days before deciding whether to kill them. In one recent case, Abu Maha says his men abducted a guard from a Sunni mosque. They were convinced that he belonged to a Sunni death squad called the Omar Brigades, known for killing Shias, but after beating and questioning him in a building behind Hojatoleslam al-Sadr’s Shula office, they decided that he was innocent and released him.

Abu Maha, who used to be a gun seller, is just one of the many foot soldiers in the al-Mahdi Army’s intricate command structure. He reports back to a head officer in the Shula office. He, in turn, turn reports to the Sadr City office.

The al-Mahdi Army calls its Baghdad headquarters the operation room. The space can change, but the top commanders always convene in Sadr City to go over strategy and instructions from Hojatoleslam al-Sadr, says a high-ranking officer calling himself Abu Bakr.

Abu Bakr says that he and a superior officer called Abu Haidar take turns to make a weekly trip to Najaf to receive Hojatoleslam al-Sadr’s commands. “Orders go from Najaf to every region’s operation room.”

Hojatoleslam al-Sadr has apparently been tightening his grip on the movement. According to Abu Bakr, he has just sent to Sadr City a list of names of members who should be sacked for abusing their power. “Sayed [al-Sadr] is very angry and wants them fired.”

Such moves have fed speculation that the cleric is trying to rein in his group’s daily attacks on Sunnis, apparently fearful that the Americans or the Iraqi Government might soon strike against him. A campaign against the militia would be complicated because its members continue to work in the police, and count supporters in the official Army.

The Americans believe that Hojatoleslam al-Sadr no longer has full control of his soldiers and one senior military intelligence official said that some militants had formed splinter groups with funding from third parties such as Iran. Such breakaway factions were more likely to be found outside Baghdad.

US intelligence believes that the militia in the capital boasts 15 special forces companies and at least eight intelligence companies. Basra and Amara in the south are places where the cleric has had difficulty guarding his authority, he said.

But military officials admitted that it may suit him to have some elements operating under the cover of being a rebel faction. “There are probably elements that are not rogue but are deniable,” the officer said.

Abu Bakr smiles and makes clear that even if his boss is firming up his command, the killing of Sunni “terrorists” will not end soon. The plump middle-aged militia leader, who frequently bursts into laugher, praises the al-Mahdi Army’s most notorious Baghdad fighter, Abu Derra, whom some call the Shia al-Zarqawi. The Americans have been chasing this militant since July and some Sadrist political leaders have publicly disowned him.

On a recent visit to Sadr City by The Times, Abu Bakr warmly greeted Abu Derra. “He is the al-Mahdi Army’s first member. He kills many terrorists and we like him.”

[bth: so much for Thomas Jefferson in a turban.]
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IRAQ: INSURGENTS PROVIDE BREAKDOWN OF ATTACKS

IRAQ: INSURGENTS PROVIDE BREAKDOWN OF ATTACKS: "Baghdad, 2 Oct. (AKI) - Some 790 victims - among them US soldiers, Iraqi policemen and members of the Shiite militias - have been killed by al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies since June, the groups boast in a bloody balance sheet posted to the Internet on Monday. The Council of the Mujahadeen, which groups some eight Sunni insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, offers a precise breakdown of casualties inflicted, from 8 June, the day that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed, to 23 September in what they refer to as 'Operation Blood Vengeance for Abu Musab.'


That 'mission' concluded last week with the message from Abu Ayyub al-Masri, al-Zarqawi's successor. Al-Masri announced the launch of a new 'campaign' for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan entitled 'Operation Outright Victory'.

The figures are invariably exaggerated for propaganda purposes, analysts believe, but give an idea of the commitment of the Iraqi insurgency groups on the ground.

They claim to have killed 390 'crusader' soldiers (from US and other foreign contingents) 270 'apostates' (Iraqi policemen and soldiers) and 130 Shiite militiamen from the Al-Mahdi Army as well as 23 from the Badr brigades.

Most of these victims were caused by 35 suicide bombers in action during this period, while 95 were reportedly struck by snipers. Al-Qaeda also claims to have destroyed during this period 152 armoured vehicles, seven tanks, 12 trucks and eight cars used by the multinational contingent. "
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In Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory

In Bill’s Fine Print, Millions to Celebrate Victory - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — Even as the Bush administration urges Americans to stay the course in Iraq, Republicans in Congress have put down a quiet marker in the apparent hope that V-I Day might be only months away. "

Tucked away in fine print in the military spending bill for this past year was a lump sum of $20 million to pay for a celebration in the nation’s capital “for commemoration of success” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Not surprisingly, the money was not spent.

Now Congressional Republicans are saying, in effect, maybe next year. A paragraph written into spending legislation and approved by the Senate and House allows the $20 million to be rolled over into 2007.

The original legislation empowered the president to designate “a day of celebration” to commemorate the success of the armed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to “issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe that day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

The celebration would honor the soldiers, sailors, air crews and marines who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it would be held in Washington, with the $20 million to cover the costs of military participation.

Democrats called attention to the measure, an act that Republicans are likely to portray as an effort to embarrass them five weeks before the midterm election. The Democrats said both the original language and the extension were pushed by Senate Republicans. A spokesman for the Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee said it was protocol not to identify sponsors of such specific legislation.

The overall legislation was approved in the Senate by unanimous consent and overwhelmingly in the House after a short debate.

Democrats nevertheless said they were not pleased.

“If the Bush administration had spent more time planning for the postwar occupation of Iraq, and less time planning ‘mission accomplished’ victory celebrations, America would be closer to finishing the job in Iraq,” said Rebecca M. Kirszner, communications director for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader.

Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a Pentagon spokesman, said late Tuesday that the event was envisioned as an opportunity for “honoring returning U.S. forces at the conclusion” of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. “As the funds were not used in F.Y. 2006,” the official said, using the initials for fiscal year, “the authorization was rolled over into F.Y. 2007.”
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Arrest over Cheney barb triggers lawsuit

Rocky Mountain News: Local: "A Denver-area man filed a lawsuit today against a member of the Secret Service for causing him to be arrested after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney in Beaver Creek this summer and criticized him for his policies concerning Iraq. "

Attorney David Lane said that on June 16, Steve Howards was walking his 7-year-old son to a piano practice, when he saw Cheney surrounded by a group of people in an outdoor mall area, shaking hands and posing for pictures with several people.

According to the lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Denver, Howards and his son walked to about two-to-three feet from where Cheney was standing, and said to the vice president, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible," or words to that effect, then walked on.

Ten minutes later, according to Howards' lawsuit, he and his son were walking back through the same area, when they were approached by Secret Service agent Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr., who asked Howards if he had "assaulted" the vice president. Howards denied doing so, but was nonetheless placed in handcuffs and taken to the Eagle County Jail.

The lawsuit states that the Secret Service agent instructed that Howards should be issued a summons for harassment, but that on July 6 the Eagle County District Attorney's Office dismissed all charges against Howards.

The lawsuit filed today alleges that Howards was arrested in retaliation for having exercised his First Amendment right of free speech, and that his arrest violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful seizure.

Copyright 2006, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

[bth: welcome to the New American Century.]
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'Can do'? Not anymore

Star-Telegram 10/02/2006 'Can do'? Not anymore: "The Bush administration and Congress have so starved the Army of funds -- in the middle of a war whose burdens fall most heavily on that Army -- that push finally has come to shove."

Without major reinforcements, both in money and manpower, the Army won't be able to provide enough units for the next rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan, much less provide the additional troops that many, if not most, officers think are needed to stave off disaster in both countries. The Marines aren't much better off.

Put simply, the Army doesn't have enough soldiers, equipment or money to do the jobs assigned to it, even as the administration and the Pentagon talk about a "long war" against global terrorism and as the nation's intelligence community warns that our policies are stoking the global spread of Islamic terrorism.

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, clearly signaled in mid-August just how bad the situation has become when he refused to put an Army budget on the table.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had told Schoomaker that he had to come up with a spending plan that provided approximately $114 billion for fiscal 2008 -- a $2 billion cut from 2007

Schoomaker's response: "There is no sense in us submitting a budget that we cannot execute ... a broken budget."

He said it would cost an additional $17 billion just to work through the huge backlog of broken and worn out Army tanks and Bradleys and Humvees at Army repair depots. Nearly 1,500 worn-out fighting vehicles are sitting at the Red River Army Depot in Texas, and 500 useless M1 tanks are at the Anniston Depot in Alabama.

Meanwhile, the Army is so bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq that only two or three of its combat brigades, fewer than 10,000 soldiers, are ready and able to deal with any new crisis elsewhere in the world.

None of the other brigades that have returned from combat duty for a year at home are ready for combat: Some of them have only half their allotted number of troops and none of their fighting vehicles.

Army leaders say they'll require substantial numbers of Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers to make the next rotation that Gen. John Abizaid, the regional commander, says will be required in Iraq.

Since most Reserve and Guard units already have maxed out at the permitted two years on active duty out of every five, Congress will have to change the law so they can be sent back again.

Schoomaker has told the Pentagon and the White House that the Army needs $138.8 billion in 2008, 41 percent more than the current budget of $98.2 billion. So either Congress ponies up the money or the administration will have to scale back demands on the force that's carrying virtually all the load in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of course there's an alternative, and one that I predict the politicians will grab for in desperation: cutting back on the Army's $200 billion Future Combat System, the only major weapons system on the Army's books.

That would be eating the seed corn -- cutting off research and development of future fighting vehicles and the only hope of rebuilding and refitting the Army in the wake of Iraq -- but a little thing like that has never bothered our politicians.

This is a problem that could have been addressed in the Pentagon's last Quadrennial Defense Review, the one in which Rumsfeld was going to reorder the world of defense contracting and kill all those costly and unnecessary Air Force and Navy weapons programs that consume much of the defense budget.

He was going to, but he didn't, and now the Army and the Marines are paying the price.

Rumsfeld came into office convinced that brilliant technological leaps were rendering the Army ground-pounders obsolete. He thought the quick victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan confirmed that.

But just as some of us always knew, it turned out that if you want to hold and pacify a hostile land, or two hostile lands, you need soldiers and Marines standing on that ground, rifles in hand, bayonets fixed.

It's galling in the extreme for the leaders of our Army -- an outfit that believes in "Can Do" as a way of life -- to admit that they can't do it anymore, to admit that they can't do a 12-division mission with 10 divisions.

There are no more easy fixes. The people who are fighting your wars are broke. It's time for the people who proclaim their support for our military and use soldiers as extras in their political events to put up or shut up.

Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." His column is distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. P.O. Box 399, Bayside, TX 78340 jlgalloway2@cs.com

[bth; next year the national guard and reserve are going to be heavily tapped. They will be tapped like in 2005 just after the election, not before. Imagine walking through rows of 500 tanks and 1500 Bradleys that are at depots and broken. This isn't making the news in any meaningful way. Its shameful. Where are the reporters? Mr. Galloway is as usual balls-on the issues, but he is only one man. The word just isn't getting out.]
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Friends rally to realize Hack's goal

Friends rally to realize Hack's goal - Greenwich Time: "Col. David Hackworth, a man who launched an extraordinary military career when he used phony papers to join the Merchant Marine as a 14-year-old, never was afraid to speak his mind.

'Hack,' as he was known, the youngest full colonel in Vietnam at 40, already had won 70 valor medals by the time he denounced the Vietnam War in 1971 on national television --Êa move that led to his forced resignation from the Army."

In protest, he gave up his nine Silver Stars, eight Bronze Stars, eight Purple Hearts and other awards, then lived for several years in Australia before his medals were reissued in the 1980s. Upon returning to the United States, Hackworth published a best-selling autobiography and started Soldiers for the Truth, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for military reforms.

At the time he succumbed to bladder cancer at age 74 in May 2005, Hackworth was arguing that soldiers in Iraq are ill-equipped, particularly as regards body armor and lightly armored Humvees.

Yesterday, an estimated 100 friends gathered in a Greenwich home to carry out Hackworth's mission and raise money for Soldiers for the Truth.

"He saw things he thought needed bringing attention to power, and when you bring truth to power, sometimes you pay the consequence," Dan Rather, anchor and managing editor for the CBS Evening News for 24 years and a friend of Hackworth's, said from the dining room of Shelly Tretter and Ralph Lynch.

"So his valor isn't just battlefield valor. He had it in all walks of life."Rather joined Hackworth's widow, Eilhys England Hack-worth, journalists Roger Charles and Ashleigh Banfield and others for a three-hour get-together and discussion about troops in Iraq. Guests paid at least $120 to attend.

"It's very important to understand that what (Soldiers for the Truth) is about is trying to get people to support the troops with more than lip service," Rather said."Whatever anybody thinks about the (Iraq) war, whether we should or shouldn't be there, I would think we could reach not just a national consensus but a unanimity, that the troops should be as well-equipped as we can possibly make them, and they aren't."

Some of them don't have helmet liners, some of them don't have the right body armor.

So many of the Humvees didn't have the right armor, right down to personal medical equipment which every solider is supposed to have though not every solider has it."

Soldiers for the Truth has continued Hackworth's legacy.

Thanks in large part to Charles, a retired U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel who serves as the organization's president, Soldiers for the Truth found and made public earlier this year a secret Pentagon report detailing how at least 80 percent of the Marines killed in Iraq during the war's first 27 months died from wounds to the upper body that they could have survived if they had extra upper body armor.

Charles, who is leading an effort to get a new, flexible body armor called "Dragon Skin" to troops in Iraq, said Hackworth was outraged by ineffective efforts to protect the military.

"He knew it was going to be hard but he never quit, no matter how tough," Charles said as guests mingled over champagne, wine, cheese and crackers. "He would tell us to keep at it. We think of him all the time."

Born on Veterans Day 1931 in Santa Monica, Calif., Hackworth's parents died when he was a year old and he was raised by his grandmother.

A shoeshine boy at a military base in Santa Monica after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hackworth gravitated toward the military early on and carved out a decorated career.

A year after joining the Merchant Marine, he enlisted in the Army and fought in Europe at the close of World War II.

He won a battlefield commission in Korea and, at 20, had ascended to the rank of captain and earned a Silver Star and Purple Heart. Hackworth served four tours in Vietnam.His widow said not enough Americans understand what Soldiers for the Truth is fighting for.

"People are shocked that the troops don't have the right stuff," England Hackworth said.More is needed to protect troops' lower bodies, said Lt. Col. Gary Stahlhut, who returned from Iraq in June after serving as an adviser to an Iraqi police unit in Baghdad.

"In a lot of cases, the protection of vital organs is there but a lot of soldiers are getting wounded in the legs, some of my soldiers took shrapnel in the legs," said Stahlhut, a New Jersey resident who returned from Iraq earlier than expected to be with his wife, who has cancer.

"It's a very tough time over there. The mission that troops have with the violence in Baghdad is as high as it's ever been since we've been there, and they're stuck in the middle.

They're given a mission to stop the sectarian violence, but the Sunnis and the Shiites are hell bent, literally hell bent, on killing each other."So they're in a tough situation.

I think a lot of Americans need to understand that when these soldiers go out on patrols, they don't know where the enemy is or who the enemy is in a lot of cases. É The average American soldier over there is just trying to survive and God bless them."

Copyright © 2006, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Letter Gives Glimpse of Al-Qaeda's Leadership - washingtonpost.com

Letter Gives Glimpse of Al-Qaeda's Leadership - washingtonpost.com: "Six months before the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June, a senior al-Qaeda figure warned him in a letter that he risked removal as al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq if he continued to alienate Sunni tribal and religious leaders and rival insurgent groups.

The author of the Dec. 11 letter, who said he was writing from al-Qaeda headquarters in the Waziristan region of Pakistan, was a member of Osama bin Laden's high command who signed himself 'Atiyah.' The military's Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, which last week released a 15-page English translation of the Arabic document made public in Iraq, said his real identity was 'unknown.'"

But counterterrorism officials said they believe he is Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, a 37-year-old Libyan who joined bin Laden in Afghanistan as a teenager during the 1980s. He has since gained considerable stature in al-Qaeda as an explosives expert and Islamic scholar. After becoming acquainted with Zarqawi in the western Afghan city of Herat in the late 1990s, he became al-Qaeda's main interlocutor with the fiery Jordanian.

Atiyah's name does not appear on any published U.S. government list of known or suspected terrorists. But his biography, as described by counterterrorism officials who agreed to discuss him on the condition that they not be named, offers a rare glimpse into the cadre of loyal senior aides who escaped with bin Laden into the mountainous Afghan-Pakistani border region in the fall of 2001.

The letter, the first document to emerge from what the military described as a "treasure trove" of information uncovered from Iraqi safe houses at the time of Zarqawi's death, provides new details of a debilitated al-Qaeda leadership-in-hiding, locating it in Waziristan.

"I am with them," Atiyah writes Zarqawi of the high command, "and they have some comments about some of your circumstances."

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, said on a visit to the United States last week that he believes bin Laden and his top lieutenants are on the Afghan side of the border. U.S. military and intelligence officials have long believed that the al-Qaeda leadership is hiding in one of the tribal provinces on the Pakistani side of the border, and Atiyah's letter, if accurate, would confirm their location at the time it was written.

Atiyah bemoans the difficulty of direct communications between Waziristan and Iraq and suggests that it is easier for Zarqawi to send a trusted representative to Pakistan than the other way around. The "brothers," he writes, "wish that they had a way to talk to you and advise you, and to guide and instruct you; however, they too are occupied with vicious enemies here.

"They are also weak," he continued, "and we ask God that He strengthen them and mend their fractures. They have many of their own problems, but they are people of reason, experience and sound, beneficial knowledge. . . . This letter represents the majority of, and a synopsis of, what the brothers want to say to you."

Deemed authentic by military and counterterrorism officials, Atiyah's letter adds context to events in al-Qaeda's often rocky relationship with its Iraqi subsidiary, shedding new light on the depth of the organization's concern over Zarqawi and the limits of its control over him.

An earlier letter to Zarqawi, written in July 2005 by bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, made some of the same points in more formal and less pointed words. But it appeared to have little effect. In September 2005, Zarqawi released an audiotape accusing Sunni leaders and Shiites of cooperating with U.S. forces and promising their certain death.

Atiyah's letter begins with warm personal words for Zarqawi. "I am setting this out as an introduction," he says, because the rest of his letter "will be primarily about the negatives and cautioning against things that are perilous and ruinous."

Zarqawi had been placed in a position of high responsibility, Atiyah continues, but needed to expand his circle of advisers in Iraq and listen more to those with a better sense of al-Qaeda's wider political objectives. If his words led Zarqawi to wonder if he were being asked to step down, Atiyah writes, the response would be "not necessarily." But, he continues, "it is a possibility if you find at some point someone who is better and more suitable than you." Sharia law, he reminds, requires that "proper fitness be ordained."

Atiyah orders him not to make "any decision on a comprehensive issue" without consulting bin Laden, Zawahiri and the other "brothers." He said Zarqawi should improve his relationship with other Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq and be more judicious in using the al-Qaeda name in his operations.

Atiyah refers to a bombing in Jordan ordered by Zarqawi as the kind of operation that requires consultation. He urges the utmost caution "against attempting to kill any religious scholar or tribal leader who is obeyed, and of good repute in Iraq from among the Sunnis, no matter what." After they have succeeded in driving out U.S. forces and dismantling the Iraqi government, he writes, "then we can behave differently."

"Know that we, like all mujahiddin, are still weak. . . . We have not yet reached a level of stability. We have no alternative but to not squander any element of the foundations of strength or any helper or supporter."

Atiyah's December missive seemed to produce at least temporary results. In January, Zarqawi's organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq, announced it was melding operations with other Sunni insurgent groups under a new umbrella organization called the Mujaheddin Shura Council. But any hopes of appealing to Shiites -- seen by al-Qaeda as an interim necessity that would be abandoned once U.S. forces were ejected -- was eliminated when Zarqawi-affiliated forces blew up an important Shiite shrine, the golden-domed al-Askari mosque in Samarra, in February. A number of Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq's Anbar province have also been killed this year under the Shura Council banner.

Since Zarqawi's death in a U.S. air raid near the Iraqi city of Baqouba in June, the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, has appeared more in tune with al-Qaeda's wishes and has reached out to Sunni tribal and religious leaders. Competing for their support with the U.S.-backed Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, al-Muhajer on Thursday issued a public appeal for their forgiveness and pledged to respect their scholarship and status.

Atiyah is no longer in Waziristan, according to U.S. officials who declined to speculate on his current whereabouts. But they said he was not in U.S. custody and expressed certainty that he is still alive.

Asked what priority they attach to his capture, one official said: "He is an important figure. . . . The world would be a much safer place with him off the streets."

The official said that Atiyah is one of a number of senior al-Qaeda figures whose names have not been made public. "We knew about him," he said. "There are a lot of key al-Qaeda people that might not be on lists for the general public or the press." Rita Katz, whose Washington-based SITE Institute monitors extremist Web sites, said she believes that Atiyah is a "top al-Qaeda strategist" who frequently appears on a password-protected site under the name of Louis Atiyah Allah. "He's the one the jihadists go to when they have a question. He tells them what to do, what fatwahs to provide. He communicates with the jihadi online community."

The counterterrorism official declined to say whether the government believes Louis Atiyah and Atiyah Abd al-Rahman are the same person.

Atiyah's journey from Libya to a prominent position in the al-Qaeda hierarchy began like that of many young Muslims who traveled to Afghanistan to join the Afghan mujaheddin fighting a Soviet military occupation in the 1980s. Many were recruited and organized there by bin Laden, a charismatic Saudi who had joined the mujaheddin cause. U.S. officials said Atiyah was principally based around the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

In the early 1990s, after a brief return to Saudi Arabia, bin Laden transferred his operations to Sudan. The 1991 U.S. action against Iraq had given him a new cause, and his al-Qaeda organization, formed of the foreign recruits he had organized in Afghanistan, declared war against the U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf.

As bin Laden organized in Sudan, Atiyah went to Algeria, where he is believed to have fought with the Armed Islamic Group (known as GIA, its French initials).

When the Taliban took power in Kabul in 1996, bin Laden returned to Afghanistan, where Atiyah joined him in establishing terrorist training camps. After his release from a Jordanian prison, Zarqawi arrived in Afghanistan in 1999. Although he had only a tenuous relationship with al-Qaeda, Zarqawi took bin Laden's money to set up his own training camp near Herat to prepare to overthrow the Jordanian government in Amman.

It was in Herat, U.S. officials believe, that a relationship was established between Zarqawi and Atiyah.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Zarqawi traveled to Iran and then to northern Iraq. After U.S. forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, he leveraged his al-Qaeda connections to gain legitimacy and adherents to an anti-U.S. insurgency. In October 2004, he changed the name of his burgeoning organization to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Atiyah's liaison role was "more a function of his long-term ties to al-Qaeda and his relationship with the al-Qaeda central leadership and their interest in seeing him assume this role as opposed to a close relationship with Zarqawi," a counterterrorism official said.

[bth: its interesting that Zarqawi was eventually ratted out by Jordanian intelligence and Sunnis that apparently had enough of him. Also if it is the case that some command and control structure does exist, then there may be some opportunity to disrupt it.]

Russian Deputy Mayor Pleads Guilty to Attempt to Blow Up Oil Tanker

Russian Deputy Mayor Pleads Guilty to Attempt to Blow Up Oil Tanker - NEWS - MOSNEWS.COM: "Former deputy mayor of a closed territory in the north of Russia has pleaded guilty to an attempt to blow up an oil tanker, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday."

Igor Senin, formerly Deputy Mayor of the Zaozersk closed administrative territory near Murmank, is now facing up to six years’ prison term.Senin, who was apprehended in April this year, admitted he had been promised $100,000 for organizing an explosion at an oil tanker in the Kola Bay that would result in a massive environmental disaster. Zaoaersk is a closed territory at the Barents Sea, where Russian Fleet nuclear subs are based. The region is also known as housing one of the world’s biggest spent nuclear fuel storages.

[bth: you know there must be more to this story.]

Rumsfeld, Ashcroft received warning of al Qaida attack before 9/11

McClatchy Washington Bureau 10/02/2006 Rumsfeld, Ashcroft received warning of al Qaida attack before 9/11: "WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and former Attorney General John Ashcroft received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target that was given to the White House two months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "

The State Department's disclosure Monday that the pair was briefed within a week after then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was told about the threat on July 10, 2001, raised new questions about what the Bush administration did in response, and about why so many officials have claimed they never received or don't remember the warning.

One official who helped to prepare the briefing, which included a PowerPoint presentation, described it as a "10 on a scale of 1 to 10" that "connected the dots" in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al-Qaida, which had already killed Americans in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and East Africa, was poised to strike again.

Former CIA Director George Tenet gave the independent Sept. 11, 2001, commission the same briefing on Jan. 28, 2004, but the commission made no mention of the warning in its 428-page final report.

According to three former senior intelligence officials, Tenet testified to commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste and to Philip Zelikow, the panel's executive director and the principal author of its report, who's now Rice's top adviser.

A new book by Bob Woodward of The Washington Post alleges that Rice failed to take the July 2001 warning seriously when it was delivered at a White House meeting by Tenet, Cofer Black, then the agency's chief of top counterterrorism, and a third CIA official whose identity remains protected.

Rice's deputy, Stephen J. Hadley, who became national security adviser after she became secretary of state, and Rice's top counterterrorism aide, Richard Clarke, also were present.

Woodward wrote that Tenet and Black considered the briefing the "starkest warning they had given the White House" on the threat posed by Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. But, he wrote, the pair felt as if Rice gave them "the brush-off."

Speaking to reporters late Sunday en route to the Middle East, Rice said she had no recollection of what she called "the supposed meeting."

"What I'm quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told that there was an impending attack and I refused to respond," she said.

Ashcroft, who resigned as attorney general on Nov. 9, 2004, told the Associated Press on Monday that it was "disappointing" that he never received the briefing, either.

But on Monday evening, Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement confirming that she'd received the CIA briefing "on or around July 10" and had asked that it be given to Ashcroft and Rumsfeld.

"The information presented in this meeting was not new, rather it was a good summary from the threat reporting from the previous several weeks," McCormack said. "After this meeting, Dr. Rice asked that this same information be briefed to Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General Ashcroft. That briefing took place by July 17."

Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, a Pentagon spokesman, said he had no information "about what may or may not have been briefed" to Rumsfeld at Rice's request.

David Ayres, who was Ashcroft's chief of staff at the Justice Department, said that the former attorney general also has no recollection of a July 17, 2001, terrorist threat briefing. Later, Ayres said that Ashcroft could recall only a July 5 briefing on threats to U.S. interests abroad.

He said Ashcroft doesn't remember any briefing that summer that indicated that al-Qaida was planning to attack within the United States.

The CIA briefing didn't provide the exact timing or nature of a possible attack, nor did it predict whether it was likely to take place in the United States or overseas, said three former senior intelligence officials.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because the report remains highly classified.

The briefing "didn't say within the United States," said one former senior intelligence official. "It said on the United States, which could mean a ship, an embassy or inside the United States."

In the briefing, Tenet warned in very strong terms that intelligence from a variety of sources indicated that bin Laden's terrorist network was planning an attack on a U.S. target in the near future, said one of the officials.

"The briefing was intended to `connect the dots' contained in other intelligence reports and paint a very clear picture of the threat posed by bin Laden," said the official, who described the tone of the report as "scary."

It isn't clear what action, if any, the administration took in response, but officials said Rumsfeld was focused mostly on his plans to remake the Army into a smaller, high-tech force and deploy a national ballistic missile defense system.

Nor is it clear why the 9/11 commission never reported the briefing, which the intelligence officials said Tenet outlined to commission members Ben-Veniste and Zelikow in secret testimony at CIA headquarters. The State Department confirmed that the briefing materials were "made available to the 9/11 Commission, and Director Tenet was asked about this meeting when interviewed by the 9/11 Commission."

The three former senior intelligence officials, however, said Tenet raised the matter with the panel himself, displayed slides from the PowerPoint presentation and offered to testify on the matter in public.

Ben-Veniste confirmed to McClatchy Newspapers that Tenet outlined for the 9/11 commission the July 10 briefing to Rice in secret testimony in January 2004. He referred questions about why the commission omitted any mention of the briefing in its report to Zelikow, the report's main author.

Zelikow didn't respond to e-mail and telephone queries from McClatchy Newspapers.

Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism chief, Ben-Veniste and the former senior intelligence officials all challenged some aspects of Woodward's account of the briefing given to Rice, including assertions that she failed to react to the warning and that it concerned an imminent attack inside the United States.

Clarke told McClatchy Newspapers that Rice focused in particular on the possible threat to President Bush at an upcoming summit meeting in Genoa, Italy, and promised to quickly schedule a high-level White House meeting on al-Qaida. That meeting took place on September 4, 2001.

Ben-Veniste said the commission was never told that Rice had brushed off the warning. According to Tenet, he said, Rice "understood the level of urgency he was communicating."

McClatchy Newspapers correspondents Matt Stearns and Drew Brown contributed to this report.

[bth: kind of interesting how sharp their memory has become, especially since they seem to have forgotten about the meetings altogether when the commission was doing its work two years ago. curious.]