Saturday, June 19, 2010

Prepare Yourselves For Speaker Boehner | The New Republic

Prepare Yourselves For Speaker Boehner | The New Republic...Democrats must face the fact that much of the legislation that seems both necessary and proper to them looks quite different to the portion of the electorate that holds the balance of political power. And they must face a choice as well—between (to be blunt) the politics of conviction and the politics of self-preservation. They can continue on as they have been going since January 2009, or they can adopt a concerted strategy designed to take the edge off public anger and reduce their losses. They can spend the summer arguing about matters like immigration, climate change, and the war in Afghanistan, all of which are valid and important but way down on the public’s list of the most urgent problems—or they can refocus on jobs and the economy, reinforcing the “Recovery Summer” theme the White House unveiled on Thursday....

[bth: very likely the Dems will lose 35 or more seats in the House. For the life of me I do not understand why the House and Senate are not focusing everything on jobs and the economy.]

Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

ROS robotics news: Search Results
Willow Garage

Free Range International » A Trillion Dollars

Free Range International » A Trillion Dollars.... When I talked with average Afghans the other day about this supposed 1 Trillion dollars of mineral wealth I rapidly discovered that not one them could imagine how all that money could possibly benefit them. The thought that they had rights to minerals in land they owned or that the government would negotiate for tons of cash which would be dispersed to Afghans just like Saudis do with their oil wealth is beyond their comprehension.

This is an opportunity for us to attack a problem asymmetrically. Our problem is that we do not have a viable partner in Afghanistan, we do not have a competent Commander in Chief, we do not have military leadership which has the temperament or confidence required to unleash the superior problem solving and fighting skills of the junior leaders on the ground and we do not have anything remotely resembling professional or competent diplomats. What we do have is a compelling story line which would resonate with the Afghan people if it were messaged correctly. That story line is simple – if you do not force an end to the fighting, if you do not force accountability in your leaders, if you do not stand up for your rights and human dignity then a Trillion Dollars, which should belong to you is going to flow directly into the banks of Dubai and the coffers of the Peoples Republic of China.

[bth: an article well worth reading in full. I've posted the conclusions.]

Medvedev sees chance for new world order / Europe - Medvedev sees chance for new world orderDmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, said Moscow was bidding to help lead efforts to build a new world economic order after the old system collapsed in the global financial crisis.

Opening Russia’s annual economic forum in St Petersburg where hundreds of global chief executives have flocked, Mr Medvedev said the renewed interest in Russia this year was a sign of a changing world in which the institutions of the western-dominated world order had had their day amid thousands of corporate defaults and the threat of sovereign defaults.

“What had seemed untouchable has collapsed. The bubbles that created the illusion of flourishing economies have burst,” Mr Medvedev said. “For Russia this situation is a challenge and an opportunity. We are living in a unique time. And we should use it to build a modern, flourishing and strong Russia ... which will be a co-founder of the new world economic order and a full participant in the collective political leadership of the post-crisis world.”

Mr Medvedev insisted “Russia has changed” in the past year as it sought to pursue a course of “smart politics” that would leverage its competitive advantages in the raw materials sector, while shifting emphasis towards modernising the economy and focusing on boosting innovation over resources....

[bth: Russia smells blood in the water; weakness in America and its western allies.]

Friday, June 18, 2010 News Article: Gates Concerned About Pessimism on Afghanistan News Article: Gates Concerned About Pessimism on AfghanistanWASHINGTON, June 17, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is concerned about emerging public pessimism and cynicism regarding the outcome of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said here today.

Gates says Americans need to remember what was happening in Afghanistan a year ago to appreciate how far the country has progressed since then, Morrell said.

“I don’t know that he’s laying the blame with anyone in particular,” the press secretary said. “It just seems as though there is a great deal of not just skepticism, but cynicism about … our operations there, and an effort to prematurely judge the outcome of the strategy.”

Morrell stressed that last year, the Taliban had increased their control over many areas in the country. The Taliban controlled whole swaths of Regional Command – South and the trend in Regional Command – North was going in the wrong direction.

“In the year since, that growth has been halted, and we are taking back territory from the Taliban,” Morrell said. “Their momentum has been thwarted, but it is still far too soon for us to say it has swung completely in our favor.”

The International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan National Security Forces have regained the initiative and continue to make headway, he said.

“But I would remind you that this new strategy has really only been under way in earnest for a few months now, and the full complement of surge forces are not in theater yet,” Morrell said. “And not all of those that are in theater are yet in the fight. So we need to give, I think, the strategy a chance to work.”

Still, the clock is ticking, Morrell acknowledged. “The American people and those of our coalition partners are growing tired of war,” he said. “After all, we’ve been at this for nearly nine years.”...

[bth: I'm growing concerned that Gates is losing touch with the public. He has been a good Sec of Defense but in recent months he seems to have lost touch and perspective. Why shouldn't the American public be skeptical of what they are seeing in Afghanistan? And to complain about the public's pessimism over what has become the longest war in American history? He should be thankful he has this much support from the public. Put bluntly I see no indication of positive long term progress year over year in Afghanistan.]

The Government Now Wants ISPs To Link Your Online History With Your Passport | Gizmodo Australia

The Government Now Wants ISPs To Link Your Online History With Your Passport | Gizmodo AustraliaLast week we were duly shocked by the discovery that the government is looking into a proposal to make ISPs retain a log of every website you ever visit. Now it’s coming out that they may want ISPs to link that information to other personal data like your passport number.

Ben Grubb over at ZDNet broke the original story, and yesterday followed it up with a deeper insight into the proposed scheme. While the government is denying it would capture individual browsing histories, unnamed sources from ISPs are saying that the original data set sent to ISPs from the government said that they’d require allied personal information, including passport numbers.

The entire post at ZDNet is well worth a read – it seems the government is defending its intentions purely by claiming different definitions. It’s an extremely scary position to find ourselves in as a country and something every one of us should be paying close attention to....

[bth: I continue to be amazed at how people are willing to have their rights and personal liberties encroached upon by government in the name of national security.]

Arms spending: India grows as west shrinks

Arms spending: India grows as west shrinks... The Deloitte-CII report points out that as defence expenditure drops in the traditionally big-spending western economies, including the USA, Indian defence spending will grow steadily over the next 20-25 years, as New Delhi implements a major defence modernisation.

Linking defence spending to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prediction that India’s economy will grow in real terms by 7.5 per cent from 2010 to 2014, the Deloitte-CII report says that India’s current defence expenditure of $32.03 billion will rise to an estimated $42 billion by 2015. The capital expenditure on new weapons platforms will rise from the current $13.04 billion to $19.2 billion in 2015.

Inflation, warns the report, somewhat tempers these figures: the real growth in defence expenditure is expected to be marginal over the next two years and about 5.3 per cent from 2012 to 2015.

Nevertheless, the figures remain impressive. During the current Five Year Plan (2007-12), India will spend $100 billion on weaponry, which will rise to $120 billion during the next Five Year Plan (2012-17).

Deloitte-CII point out that 70 per cent of this procurement, in value terms, is from foreign sources; Indian companies supply only 30 per cent, the bulk of that as components and sub-assemblies to state-owned companies. The report is sceptical about the Indian MoD’s (Ministry of Defence’s) oft-repeated target of 70 per cent indigenous production. If that target is to be achieved by 2015, local industry would need to more than double in size, an unlikely event.

India’s domestic defence sector benefits from increasing MoD requirements to “buy local” as well as taxation arrangements that advantage local firms; in the case of defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs), tax advantages can be as high as 50 per cent. Deloitte-CII, however, see clear opportunities for foreign firms in providing specialist inputs to Indian defence manufacturers, which they require for developing advanced platforms and systems....

[bth: the world is gradually shifting to asia]

US: Manslaughter case against Blackwater guards should have gone forward | Raw Story

US: Manslaughter case against Blackwater guards should have gone forward | Raw StoryThere was more than enough untainted evidence to justify a trial for five Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in a deadly 2007 shooting in Baghdad, the Justice Department told a federal appeals court.

In court papers seeking to reinstate criminal charges, the department asserted that some of the evidence tainted by immunized statements in the case was harmless and did not justify scuttling the manslaughter charges against the guards.

In December, a federal judge dismissed the case against the security guards, who had opened fire on a crowded Baghdad street. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.

In the filing released Wednesday by the appeals court, the government said the judge who dismissed the charges lost sight of the key question of whether the defendants' testimony given under a grant of immunity from prosecution was actually used against them....

[bth: so now what? This whole affair, which seriously disrupted relations between the US and the Iraqi government has been one injustice followed by another.]

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Israeli defense employees recalled from Turkey | JTA - Jewish & Israel News

Israeli defense employees recalled from Turkey | JTA - Jewish & Israel NewsJERUSALEM (JTA) -- Two Israeli defense contractors recalled their employees from Turkey.

Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit Systems Ltd. over the weekend ordered back to Israel engineers and flight instructors working with the Turkish military to teach them how to operate the Heron unmanned aerial vehicles provided to Turkey as part of a $180 million deal.

The Turkish English-language news service Zaman reported late Monday that following the withdrawal, the Turkish army has decided to use Turkish-produced aircraft for intelligence gathering.

The Turkish unmanned aerial vehicles will surpass Israel's Herons with some of its qualifications, according to Zaman.

Turkey struck the deal to buy 10 Herons in 2004, but the companies missed several deadlines to deliver all of the drones. Turkey reportedly was not satisfied with the six drones that were delivered, since they did not achieve the maximum flight times detailed in the agreement.

[bth: I think this is pretty significant and unfortunate for both countries.]

‘Anti-Semitism’ Charges Unleashed: Don’t Mention the Mavi Marmara -- News from

‘Anti-Semitism’ Charges Unleashed: Don’t Mention the Mavi Marmara -- News from

...In the run-up to Thomas’ resignation, the White House publicly condemned her remarks as “reprehensible” and demanded she apologize. There were several open calls to punish her for the comment, and several claimed that the comment proved Thomas was secretly an anti-semite for years, the new explanation for her years of criticizing the wars of the Bush and Obama Administration.

The situation is even more incredible in our neighbor to the north. Canadian member of parliament Libby Davies, a representative from Vancouver, called Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands “the longest occupation in the world” and hinted that she personally supports a boycott campaign against Israel.

The backlash against Ms. Davies was quick and astonishing, with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding that she resign and insisting that he had called Israel’s ambassador to reassure him that this was not the position of the Canadian government.

Ms. Davies may be thankful that she is not in Germany, however, where three MPs who were on board the Mavi Marmara are facing charges of “incitement to hatred” for even being on the ship. The MPs and their Left Party were, in public comments by rival politicians, condemned as “anti-semites” on a number of occasions....

[bth: accusations of terrorism for the organizer and participants and charges of anti-semitism against anyone who raises concerns about the handling of the Mavi Marmara are way out of line.]
Arlington National Cemetery headstones found lining stream bed
Several mud-caked headstones line the banks of a small stream at Arlington National Cemetery, the country's most venerated burial ground. Farther upstream in a wooded area, a few others lie submerged with the rocks that line the stream bed.
 One of the headstones is worn and faded but offers some clues, including that its owner might have been a Navy captain.

Arlington National Cemetery headstones found lining stream bed

Arlington National Cemetery headstones found lining stream bedSeveral mud-caked headstones line the banks of a small stream at Arlington National Cemetery, the country's most venerated burial ground. Farther upstream in a wooded area, a few others lie submerged with the rocks that line the stream bed. ...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

PostPartisan - Gen. Petraeus's pregnant pause on Afghanistan

PostPartisan - Gen. Petraeus's pregnant pause on Afghanistan

.... Petraeus went on to describe how he had managed U.S. troop withdrawals during the surge in Iraq. He reiterated that he supports “the policy of the president.” But, he added, “There was a nuance to what the president said that was very important, that did not imply a race for the exits.”

Implicit in those comments was a recognition of the problem that has haunted the U.S. mission ever since Obama laid out his strategy -- and that continues to divide his military and civilian aides. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) bluntly described the trouble at the hearing, saying the deadline is “convincing the key actors inside and outside of Afghanistan that the United States is more interested in leaving than succeeding in this conflict. And as a result, they’re all making the necessary accommodations for a post-American Afghanistan.”

That seems to be true of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been moving toward negotiations with the Taliban despite the reservations of U.S. commanders, and who last week fired two of the three members of his cabinet who have been closest to the United States. McCain cited an interview that one of those dismissed, intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, gave last week to the New York Times, in which he suggested, as the senator put it, “that President Karzai no longer believes the United States will succeed and that he is shifting, as a result, to a policy of accommodation with the Taliban and the Pakistani military.”

Before he briefly took ill and the hearing was suspended, Petraeus said he disagreed with that description of Karzai. But McCain also drew a telling contrast between Petraeus’s account of the July 2011 withdrawal date and that of Vice President Biden, who is known to be the leader in the White House of a faction opposed to the counterinsurgency strategy Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, are trying to implement.

Petraeus, quoting Obama’s December speech at West Point, said, “what happens in July 2011 is a beginning of a process for transition that is conditions-based, and the beginning of a ... responsible drawdown of U.S. forces.”

McCain then read Biden’s version, as quoted by Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter in a recently released book: “In July of 2011, you are going to see a whole lot of people moving out,” the vice president told Alter. “Bet on it.”

That sounds a lot like a un-nuanced race for the exits. It also sounds like the version that Karzai has internalized, judging by his recent actions. Hence the general’s long pause.

Life under the Taliban: how a boy of seven was hanged to punish his family - Telegraph

Life under the Taliban: how a boy of seven was hanged to punish his family - TelegraphDel Awar, aged seven, was taken at sunset and found hanging in an orchard at sunrise the following day.

Bruises and scratches around the young boy's neck suggested his murder had been neither quick, nor easy, according to those who saw his slight body after it was cut down.

His death is widely believed to have been punishment for the stand taken by his family against the Taliban in their remote Helmand village.

Reports from the village of Heratiyan in Sangin district said Del Awar's father, Abdul Qudoos, and grandfather, Abdel Satar, had grown tired of Taliban intimidation and the violence the militants attracted.

The family had either demanded rebel fighters stop using village compounds to stage ambushes or had refused a demand of £400 for machine guns, villagers reported. ...

[bth: I guess this defines reality for villagers in the area.]

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

US, Afghan forces kill Haqqani Network commander during raid in Khost - The Long War Journal

US, Afghan forces kill Haqqani Network commander during raid in Khost - The Long War Journal

Coalition and Afghan forces killed a Haqqani Network commander who is known to help al Qaeda fighters enter Afghanistan and carry out attacks in the region.

The commander, Fazil Subhan, was killed along with an undisclosed number of Haqqani Network fighters last week during a two-day-long military operation in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, the International Security Assistance Force said in a press release. Subhan was "known to facilitate foreign fighters" in eastern Afghanistan. ISAF often uses the term "foreign fighters" to describe al Qaeda operatives.

Subhan and his fighters were holed up "in fortified fighting positions in an area known for ambush attacks against international troops, southwest of Kowte Kheyl in the Shamul district" when the battle took place. An ammunition and weapons depot was also destroyed during the clearing operation....

Monday, June 14, 2010

Video of US strike that killed top Taliban commander in Kandahar - The Long War Journal

Video of US strike that killed top Taliban commander in Kandahar - The Long War Journal

Video of US strike that killed top Taliban commander in Kandahar - The Long War Journal

Iran's Revolutionary Guards cash in after a year of suppressing dissent - Telegraph

Iran's Revolutionary Guards cash in after a year of suppressing dissent - Telegraph

... Mr Ahmadinejad is understood to have been hugely grateful for the Guards' support, which did not seem guaranteed at the time because of the way his presidency had bitterly divided the population.

The Guards' reward has been contracts that will not only channel huge funds into their operations budget - which has included financing terrorist operations and attacks on British troops in Iraq - but will also line the pockets of its seniormost figures, buying future loyalty to Mr Ahmadinejad.

Among the contracts is an $850 million pipeline deal which has been awarded to GHORB, an engineering company affiliated to the Guards, and a $7 billion project in the huge South Pars oil and gas field that became vacant after a Turkish consortium withdrew.

"The Revolutionary Guards are making the case that they are the guarantors of the regime's survival and security," said Mark Dubowitz, who advises the US government as head of the Iran Energy Project at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies policy institute.

"From Ahmadinejad's perspective, this is case of 'you do our business and we'll give you yours'."

The prospering of the regime's most stalwart defenders is in stark contrast to the fortunes of the reformist movement, which has been cowed by the brute force of the clampdown on its supporters.

Repeated demonstrations over the last year have led to more than 5,000 people arrested, some of them undergoing torture in prison, according to human rights groups. And although most detainees have since been freed, more than 80 have received stiff jail sentences of up to 15 years.

As a result, the mood on Tehran's tree-lined boulevards this weekend is one of "repression and suffocation", according to one Iranian journalist, with little hope of a repeat of last year's protests.

"I don't see the general public coming out as they did before, as the risks of attending or holding such protests is just too great," he told The Sunday Telegraph, asking that his name not be printed for fear of official reprisals.

"The people know full well that the government does not hesitate to unleash its paramilitary forces."

Any protests in coming weeks would be limited to hard-core activists, he predicted, whom Mr Ahmadinejad can easily dismiss as Western stooges. The broader ranks of the ordinary public are likely to stay away, scared not just of arrest, beatings and jail, but of losing their jobs or college places.

"My friends who took part in previous rallies are in jail or are banned from pursuing their studies," said Reza Alesadegh, 24, a physics student in the central city of Shiraz. "I cannot endanger my future by taking part in any anti-government rally." ...

[bth: One wonders why the CIA isn't having a field day with this situation in Iran? Talk about recruitment potential.]

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan -

U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan -

WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys.

The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said.

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war.

“There is stunning potential here,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the United States Central Command, said in an interview on Saturday. “There are a lot of ifs, of course, but I think potentially it is hugely significant.” ...

So the Obama administration is hungry for some positive news to come out of Afghanistan. Yet the American officials also recognize that the mineral discoveries will almost certainly have a double-edged impact.

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. The minister has since been replaced. ...

[bth: there have been rumors of these discoveries for several years now. So why has it become official all the sudden? Why today and not 2 years ago when the reports were done or 2 years fro now? This goes right up to Petraeus who has been silent on so many things in recent months, but shows up on this topic.]

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Tag Turkish aid group as terrorist, groups ask State Dept. | JTA - Jewish & Israel News

Tag Turkish aid group as terrorist, groups ask State Dept. | JTA - Jewish & Israel News(JTA) -- American Jewish groups are calling on the State Department to designate a Turkish relief group, a main organizer of last month's Gaza flotilla, as a terrorist organization.

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Anti-Defamation League said that the Insani Yardim Vakfi (Humanitarian Relief Fund, or IHH) has “well-documented ties to Hamas.”

The ADL also has written to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urging his department to add IHH to its lists of terror-sponsoring organizations, which triggers restrictions on business and banking transactions with Americans.

The American Jewish Committee also urged the State Department to investigate ties between IHH and terrorist organizations on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist groups.

"As the result of IHH’s activities in support of terrorism, we believe it is vital that IHH’s involvement with Al-Qaida and Hamas be investigated and that appropriate action be taken to prevent it from abusing its non-profit status to aid terrorists," AJC Executive Director David Harris said in a letter to Clinton. ...

[bth: I have seen not one single thread of evidence linking IHH with al Qaeda. This PR campaign appears to be a coordinated effort by Likud and its surrogates to smear IHH and paint them as terrorists. There may be a connection to Hamas but then Hamas was elected into the government of Gaza. I grow weary of propaganda and lies from friend and foe alike.]

Thanks You Gina Gray for Trying to Make Things Right at Arlington National Cemetery

The man at the center of the Arlington scandal - Arlington National Cemetery Investigation - Salon.comNBC News reported Friday that the Army's ongoing investigation into massive problems at Arlington National Cemetery, first revealed by Salon almost a year ago, is focusing on the de facto boss of the cemetery, Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham. A senior defense department official told Jim Miklaszewski that Higginbotham could face possible criminal charges.

No one has confirmed exactly what the Army is investigating. But Higginbotham was in charge of the cemetery's botched attempt to computerize its burial records, which is at the heart of the scandal. Poor record-keeping is blamed for the cemetery's misidentifying or misplacing hundreds of graves, sending burial urns to landfill, and other tragic mishaps. Officials have known about record-keeping problems since at least 2004, and they have spent between $6 million and $15 million to computerize the system. Higginbotham has been in charge of the project for more than six years, but very little progress has been made.

As Salon reported last September, interviews, internal cemetery e-mails and budget documents show that Higginbotham steered millions of dollars to a small cast of contractors operating under a succession of different company names, either though no-bid contracts or methods that tightly limited competition. Internal e-mails show Higginbotham appearing to exert complete control over the awarding of the contracts. The companies, however, produced almost nothing, and the cemetery still relies almost exclusively on pieces of paper to track operations, leading to mistakes like the kind uncovered by Salon.

The Army investigation released this week confirms that Higginbotham acted as a contracting officer and highlights two questionable payments of $200,000 and $800,000 to those contractors who produced little or nothing in return.

The report also amplifies concerns about lax handling of private information on service members and their families, another issue that was the focus of previous Salon articles. Salon reported that Higginbotham last summer mailed to a Florida contractor two computer servers full of personal data -- including Social Security numbers -- of thousands of deceased service members. He ordered them sent despite federal law that bars such unauthorized shipping, and despite the objections of the cemetery's IT manager, who warned of possible privacy law violations. The new Army report says that also last summer, Higginbotham sent a bogus memorandum to Army officials at Fort Belvoir falsely claiming Arlington had adequate protocols to safeguard sensitive private information. The report says Higginbotham, described by title but not name in the report, “knowingly signed a memorandum that contained false information, which demonstrated his failure to adhere to the Army value of exemplifying the highest ethical and professional standards.”

Questions about Higginbotham's failure to complete the computerization system, and other cemetery management problems, were also at the heart of a controversy that led to an Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) probe. In May 2009, CID concluded that Higginbotham made false statements to Army investigators as they examined what they later classified as wire fraud at Arlington — a female employee's computer had been tapped into without authorization, and she had been impersonated online. ("Based on information provided," according to the report, "it is possible Mr. Higginbotham routinely reviews employee's email when he deems necessary.")

But the heart of the dispute between Higginbotham and the employee in question, former Arlington public relations officer Gina Gray, were Higginbotham's concerns that Gray was blowing the whistle on the cemetery's management problems – or as the embattled deputy put it in an email, that she was part of a "conspiracy" against him. He fired Gray, allegedly for poor job performance, and then took steps to find out what she knew about troubles at the cemetery, and who she might be telling about it.

One of his trusted contractors, Bobbie Garrett of Alpha Technology Group, which had been awarded funding for cemetery computerization, accessed Gray's computer without official Army authorization. "I was able to access Ms. Gray's computer," Garrett wrote in an email to Higginbotham and one of his subordinates. "I changed her domain account to be able to log in with the username and password. To login to this PC, use the following: Username: gina.gray. Password: PublicAffairs11**." Army agents also learned Higginbotham ordered Garrett to remove Gray's hard drive and send it out to a private company to mine for information. And someone impersonated Gray in an email to a former Arlington employee, after she had been terminated.

Army investigators declared Higginbotham "made false and misleading statements to agents from this office, regarding access to Ms. Gray's email account and government computer." The report said agents could not determine precisely who impersonated Gray online, but called the act "wire fraud." Higginbotham faced no official punishment or censure after the CID report.

Nor has there been any official action, until now, to determine why Higginbotham had steered millions in contracts to computerize cemetery records to the same group of people who produced such poor results. When CID found that Alpha Technology Group's Bobbie Garrett was involved in unauthorized tampering with Gina Gray's computer, Garrett left ATG. But Garrett quickly teamed up with ATG's CEO, Carleton Wells, to form a new technology firm, Optimum Technical Solutions, and Arlington awarded that firm almost $200,000 to work on the computerization project almost immediately. A month later, U.S. marshals arrested Garrett, on more than a dozen counts of child sex abuse in Charles County, Md.

Higginbotham's troubles have not been limited to his work at Arlington. He came out of Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings in 2002. In the case, a judge did not excuse Higginbotham for a debt associated with "a death or personal injury caused by the debtor's unlawful operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated" in 1990.

While NBC's Miklaszewski quoted an senior Defense official saying Higginbotham could face criminal charges in the case, another Defense official told the Associated Press on Thursday that criminal charges were unlikely, because of a lack of evidence.

[bth: Everything Gina Gray told me a year ago has proven out to be fact. It is a scandal that she was fired and that neither congress nor the army appeared willing to do anything about correcting these problems until they appeared in

She was subjected to harassment, wrongful discharge, she had her email accounts hacked and tampered with to the point of actually being impersonated, likely by one of the two administrators that were fired.

She has stood up for the families who have been abused by the top administrators at Arlington and she has righted wrongs done to over 200 service members who cannot make things right themselves.

I first had contact with Gina in 2003 when she video taped and presented us with a record of the memorial services for our son John Hart and David Bernstein in Kirkuk Iraq after they were killed in an ambush as part of the 173rd Airborne. We kept intermittent correspondence.

When she left the army she went to work at Arlington National Cemetery and began running into political gaming with regard to media coverage and access at Arlington by the administrator.

Further she began to stumble onto case after case of miss markings. Then there is the open assertion that will likely result in charges that there was a backdoor deal between certain administrators and corrupt contractors.

Our service members deserve better from our government and our army. This has to be made right. If we can identify remains found 40 years later in Laos, we can properly identify soldiers buried in uniform and with honors at our nation's most sacred cemetery.

Well done and thank you Gina Gray for the services you have done for our our families, our sacred dead and for our country.]

Arlington Cemetery chief's reprimand will disappear in a month - Arlington National Cemetery Investigation -

Arlington Cemetery chief's reprimand will disappear in a month - Arlington National Cemetery Investigation - Salon.comThe Army reacted to reports of unmarked and misidentified graves at the Arlington Cemetery Thursday by demoting superintendent John Metzler and sending him a letter of reprimand. But before bells ring for justice finally served, read the letter a little closer: It will be in his file for less than a month.

Metzler has been accused of not reining in his deputy superintendent, Thurman Higginbotham, as he lost track of remains, leading to bodies piled on top of one another, sites improperly identified and remains popping up in supposedly empty grave sites, a situation that went on for six years.

A yearlong Salon investigation into mismanagement at the cemetery led to the Army investigation that resulted in Metzler's demotion....

[bth: basically Metzler found a way to scam the system. He'll retire and his reprimand will simply vanish after 1 month. Amazing how those in power can skirt justice.]

House committee to investigate Arlington - War Room -

House committee to investigate Arlington - War Room -

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., has announced that his committee will conduct an investigation into the burial scandal at Arlington National Cemetery uncovered by Salon in a year-long investigation....

[bth: about time. I give Skelton credit for finally addressing this issue though it took him 2 years to do it. I personally apprised a senator's office and and congress person's staff of this issue over six months ago but to no avail and I know that Sen. Webb's office was directly contacted by others. Gina Gray was fired 2 years ago after reporting the problems. Finally some justice is done.]