Saturday, August 06, 2005
I wish I had known, as I stood in the breakroom of a defense contractor less than two miles from the Pentagon, and watched as the planes hit the towers, then turned to see a plume of black smoke in the sky, that that was the beginning of what was coming. I knew the world would change, but I had no idea how drastically that would happen. Training jobs dried up; I was one of the first casualties at our company. I was fortunate enough to grab on to a company that was up-and-coming in the defense industry, taking advantage of the need for the military complex to archive old information in an attempt to transform to a new era.
Then I went to work for a company that worked in intelligence. Nuff said.
It was hard for me to trust the military at first, as I was very suspicious of them, but I grew to trust and even like the guys. The last few years completely ruined that, transforming it into this mean, ugly thing. It was like watching a friend go downhill due to an addiction, but someone else is plunging the needle into them.
That said, I'm seeing some signs of the kinds of folks I used to work with today. I seriously want to salute the US and UK forces. I've been pretty critical of the miliary for the last few years, but the arrival of US and UK teams in Russia are a great example of how they can do something right. It's also heartwarming to see the world coming together to try to help. This is more of what we need to see from the Administration, even if it is only a small gesture. (Okay, seriously, I've had a pretty right-wing week, so I promise to get back to bitching about politicians and stem cells and Roe Vs. Wade and Gitmo next week!)
Sub: U.S., UK rescue teams arrive
MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) -- Teams from the United States and Britain have arrived in Russia to help rescue seven Russian sailors trapped in a mini-submarine 625 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
A U.S. Air Force C-5, loaded with two unmanned submersible rescue vehicles along with 40 submariners, divers and other experts, landed in eastern Russia about 3:15 a.m. ET, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman said. A U.S. C-17, carrying equipment and specialists, landed about two hours later.
"This is an international effort, involving the British and Japanese, and led and coordinated by the Russians," said spokesman John Yoshishige.
A British plane, also carrying an unmanned rescue vehicle, landed about two hours earlier. The Scorpio 45 has three cameras as well as cable-cutting equipment.
Friday, August 05, 2005Yahoo! News:
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A leading Republican senator allied with the religious right differed on Thursday with President Bush's support for teaching an alternative to the theory of evolution known as "intelligent design."
Republican Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record), a possible 2008 presidential contender who faces a tough re-election fight next year in Pennsylvania, said intelligent design, which is backed by many religious conservatives, lacked scientific credibility and should not be taught in science classes.
Bush told reporters from Texas on Monday that "both sides" in the debate over intelligent design and evolution should be taught in schools "so people can understand what the debate is about."
"I think I would probably tailor that a little more than what the president has suggested," Santorum, the third-ranking Republican member of the U.S. Senate, told National Public Radio. "I'm not comfortable with intelligent design being taught in the science classroom."
Evangelical Christians have launched campaigns in at least 18 states to make public schools teach intelligent design alongside Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.
Proponents of intelligent design argue that nature is so complex that it could not have occurred by random natural selection, as held by Darwin's 1859 theory of evolution, and so must be the work of an unnamed "intelligent cause."
Santorum is the third-ranking member of the U.S. Senate and has championed causes of the religious right including opposition to gay marriage and abortion.
He is expected to face a stiff challenge from Democrat Bob Casey in his quest for re-election next year in Pennsylvania, a major battleground state in recent presidential elections.
The controversy over intelligent design is a hot topic in Pennsylvania, where the Dover Area School District in south central Pennsylvania has included the theory in its biology curriculum.
The American Civil Liberties Union has sued to block the policy, calling it a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.
Most Americans believe that God created human beings or guided the process of evolution, according to a CBS poll last November. Two-thirds said they wanted creationism taught alongside evolution in schools.
Critics, including many science teachers, say intelligent design cannot be scientifically tested and has no place in a science curriculum.
Santorum sided in part with intelligent-design proponents in saying that there were gaps in the theory of evolution.
"What we should be teaching are the problems and holes -- and I think there are legitimate problems and holes -- in the theory of evolution. What we need to do is to present those fairly, from a scientific point of view," he said in the interview.
"As far as intelligent design is concerned, I really don't believe it has risen to the level of a scientific theory at this point that we would want to teach it alongside of evolution."
Santorum had proposed an unsuccessful measure in 2001 that would have required discussing the "controversy" of evolution when the theory is taught in classes.
Bush's science adviser, John Marburger, was quoted in The New York Times this week as saying intelligent design was not a scientific concept, and that Bush's remarks should be interpreted to mean he thinks the concept should be taught as part of the "social context" in science classes. Think Progress:
Just now on CNN’s Inside Politics, in the midst of a ho-hum discussion about Katherine Harris’ Senate race:
Novak: Just let me finish what I’m going to say, James, please. I know you hate to hear me —
Carville: He’s got to show these right-wingers that he’s got a back bone, ya know? Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching. You show ‘em you’re tough…
Novak: You know I think that’s bullshit. And I hate that. Just let it go.
Novak removes his microphone and walks off the set.
Hmm. Seems innocent enough, right? Well, there’s more…
Update I: Novak Was About to Be Asked About Leak The Inside Politics host ended the Carville/Novak segment saying, “Thanks, James Carville. And I’m sorry as well that Bob Novak left the set a little early. I had told him in advance that we were going to ask about the CIA leak case, he was not here for me to be able to ask him about that. Hopefully, we’ll be able to ask him about that in the future.”
Of course, CNN has suspended him for the blowup.
So what’s really going on? What would make this questioning about the Plame incident any different than any other time he’s faced the heat? Well, there’s this from Talking Points Memo:
Look at the still frame of Novak and Carville at the Crooks & Liars site. Mickey Kaus says there's a big reddish-brown book sitting there on the table and that it's Who's Who in America, the book Novak has sorta kinda implied was his source for the name Plame. And, yes, there it is, sitting right there on the table, or at least something that looks a lot like it. (Perhaps we can enlist a forensic videographic to enhance the image to see just what's written on the spine of the tome.)
I'm still not sure I see just what about the book would make Novak freak out. I've always thought his Who's Who in America story was a crock. But surely he looked it up to make sure she was named, right?
So Bobby’s alibi was probably about to be blown sky-high. Are you bastards feeling the heat yet? I’m so giddy over here I could dance. I’ll follow this as it develops…
Thursday, August 04, 2005
From the Post...
Before the War, CIA Reportedly Trained a Team of Iraqis to Aid U.S.
By Dana Priest and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, August 3, 2005; A12
Before the war in Iraq began, the CIA recruited and trained an Iraqi paramilitary group, code-named the Scorpions, to foment rebellion, conduct sabotage, and help CIA paramilitaries who entered Baghdad and other cities target buildings and individuals, according to three current and former intelligence officials with knowledge of the unit.
The CIA spent millions of dollars on the Scorpions, whose existence has not been previously disclosed, even giving them former Soviet Hind helicopters. But most of the unit's prewar missions -- spray-painting graffiti on walls; cutting electricity; "sowing confusion," as one said -- were delayed or canceled because of poor training or planning, said officials briefed on the unit. The speed of the invasion negated the need for most of their missions, others said.
After Baghdad fell, the CIA used the Scorpions to try to infiltrate the insurgency, to help out in interrogations, and, from time to time, to do "the dirty work," as one intelligence official put it.
In one case, members of the unit, wearing masks and carrying clubs and pipes, beat up an Iraqi general in the presence of CIA and military personnel, according to investigative documents reviewed by The Washington Post and according to several defense and intelligence officials.
Post inquiries about the case prompted the CIA to brief the House and Senate intelligence committees on the unit, said several members of Congress and two defense officials.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, asked if he was satisfied with the information he received on the unit, said, "Yes -- if it existed." But he added: "We're not spending a lot of time going back and dissecting tactical programs."
CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise declined to comment on the unit. Defense Department spokesmen referred comments on the unit to the CIA. All former and current government officials interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the classified nature of the Scorpions.
Authorized by a presidential finding signed by President Bush in February or March 2002, the Scorpions were part of a policy of "regime change" in Iraq. The covert members, many of whom were exiles recruited by the Kurds, were trained in target identification, explosives and small arms at two secret bases in Jordan, according to one U.S. government official.
They were sent surreptitiously into Iraq before the war and were in cities such as Baghdad, Fallujah and Qaim to give the impression that a rebellion was underway and to conduct light sabotage, according to the two defense sources and the three former and current intelligence officials.
"They painted X's [for targeting] on buildings and things like that," said one former intelligence officer.
After the initial combat phase of the war, the CIA used the paramilitary units as translators and to fetch supplies and retrieve informants in an increasingly dangerous Iraq where CIA officers largely stayed within the protected Green Zone, according to the officials.
CIA control over the unit became weaker as chaos grew in Iraq. "Even though they were set up by us, they weren't well supervised," said an intelligence official.
"At some point, and it's not really clear how this happened, they started being used in interrogations . . . because they spoke the local dialect" and were caught roughing up detainees, Curtis E. Ryan, an Army investigator, told a military court in Colorado where four soldiers are charged in connection with the death of Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush in 2003.
Many of the paramilitaries did not speak English. When they entered Iraq after the invasion, because they wore civilian clothes and traveled in civilian vehicles, the Scorpion teams were often mistaken for insurgents. On a couple of occasions, U.S. soldiers unknowingly tracked the teams as insurgents and focused on their official safe houses as possible targets until they were discovered to be working with U.S. officials.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005Washington Post:
Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush was being stubborn with his American captors, and a series of intense beatings and creative interrogation tactics were not enough to break his will. On the morning of Nov. 26, 2003, a U.S. Army interrogator and a military guard grabbed a green sleeping bag, stuffed Mowhoush inside, wrapped him in an electrical cord, laid him on the floor and began to go to work. Again.
It was inside the sleeping bag that the 56-year-old detainee took his last breath through broken ribs, lying on the floor beneath a U.S. soldier in Interrogation Room 6 in the western Iraqi desert. Two days before, a secret CIA-sponsored group of Iraqi paramilitaries, working with Army interrogators, had beaten Mowhoush nearly senseless, using fists, a club and a rubber hose, according to classified documents.
The sleeping bag was the idea of a soldier who remembered how his older brother used to force him into one, and how scared and vulnerable it made him feel. Senior officers in charge of the facility near the Syrian border believed that such "claustrophobic techniques" were approved ways to gain information from detainees, part of what military regulations refer to as a "fear up" tactic, according to military court documents.
The circumstances that led up to Mowhoush's death paint a vivid example of how the pressure to produce intelligence for anti-terrorism efforts and the war in Iraq led U.S. military interrogators to improvise and develop abusive measures, not just at Abu Ghraib but in detention centers elsewhere in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mowhoush's ordeal in Qaim, over 16 days in November 2003, also reflects U.S. government secrecy surrounding some abuse cases and gives a glimpse into a covert CIA unit that was set up to foment rebellion before the war and took part in some interrogations during the insurgency.
The sleeping-bag interrogation and beatings were taking place in Qaim about the same time that soldiers at Abu Ghraib, outside Baghdad, were using dogs to intimidate detainees, putting women's underwear on their heads, forcing them to strip in front of female soldiers and attaching at least one to a leash. It was a time when U.S. interrogators were coming up with their own tactics to get detainees to talk, many of which they considered logical interpretations of broad-brush categories in the Army Field Manual, with labels such as "fear up" or "pride and ego down" or "futility."
Other tactics, such as some of those seen at Abu Ghraib, had been approved for one detainee at Guantanamo Bay and found their way to Iraq. Still others have been linked to official Pentagon guidance on specific techniques, such as the use of dogs.
Two Army soldiers with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Fort Carson, Colo., are charged with killing Mowhoush with the sleeping-bag technique, and his death has been the subject of partially open court proceedings at the base in Colorado Springs. Two other soldiers alleged to have participated face potential nonjudicial punishment. Some details of the incident have been released and were previously reported. But an examination of numerous classified documents gathered during the criminal investigation into Mowhoush's death, and interviews with Defense Department officials and current and former intelligence officials, present a fuller picture of what happened and outline the role played in his interrogation by the CIA, its Iraqi paramilitaries and Special Forces soldiers.
Determining the details of the general's demise has been difficult because the circumstances are listed as "classified" on his official autopsy, court records have been censored to hide the CIA's involvement in his questioning, and reporters have been removed from a Fort Carson courtroom when testimony relating to the CIA has surfaced.
Despite Army investigators' concerns that the CIA and Special Forces soldiers also were involved in serious abuse leading up to Mowhoush's death, the investigators reported they did not have the authority to fully look into their actions. The CIA inspector general's office has launched an investigation of at least one CIA operative who identified himself to soldiers only as "Brian." The CIA declined to comment on the matter, as did an Army spokesman, citing the ongoing criminal cases.
Although Mowhoush's death certificate lists his cause of death as "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression," the Dec. 2, 2003, autopsy, quoted in classified documents and released with redactions, showed that Mowhoush had "contusions and abrasions with pattern impressions" over much of his body, and six fractured ribs. Investigators believed a "long straight-edge instrument" was used on Mowhoush, as well an "object like the end of an M-16" rifle.
"Although the investigation indicates the death was directly related to the non-standard interrogation methods employed on 26 NOV, the circumstances surrounding the death are further complicated due to Mowhoush being interrogated and reportedly beaten by members of a Special Forces team and other government agency (OGA) employees two days earlier," said a secret Army memo dated May 10, 2004.
Hours after Mowhoush's death in U.S. custody on Nov. 26, 2003, military officials issued a news release stating that the prisoner had died of natural causes after complaining of feeling sick. Army psychological-operations officers quickly distributed leaflets designed to convince locals that the general had cooperated and outed key insurgents.
The U.S. military initially told reporters that Mowhoush had been captured during a raid. In reality, he had walked into the Forward Operating Base "Tiger" in Qaim on Nov. 10, 2003, hoping to speak with U.S. commanders to secure the release of his sons, who had been arrested in raids 11 days earlier.
Officials were excited about Mowhoush's appearance.
The general, they believed, had been a high-ranking official in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard and a key supporter of the insurgency in northwestern Iraq. Mowhoush was one of a few generals whom Hussein had given "execution authority," U.S. commanders believed, meaning that he could execute someone on sight, and he had been notorious among Shiites in southern Iraq for brutality.
Mowhoush had been visited by Hussein at his home in Sadah in October 2003 "to discuss, among other undisclosed issues, a bounty of US$10,000 to anyone who video-taped themselves attacking coalition forces," according to a Defense Intelligence Agency report.
Military intelligence also believed that Mowhoush was behind several attacks in the Qaim area.
After being taken into custody, Mowhoush was housed in an isolated area of the Qaim base within miles of the Syrian border, according to a situation summary prepared by interrogators.
The heavyset and imposing man was moderately cooperative in his first days of detention. He told interrogators that he was the commander of the al Quds Golden Division, an organization of trusted loyalists fueling the insurgency with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles, machine guns and other small arms.
In the months before Mowhoush's detention, military intelligence officials across Iraq had been discussing interrogation tactics, expressing a desire to ramp things up and expand their allowed techniques to include more severe methods, such as beatings that did not leave permanent damage, and exploiting detainees' fear of dogs and snakes, according to documents released by the Army.
Officials in Baghdad wrote an e-mail to interrogators in the field on Aug. 14, 2003, stating that the "gloves are coming off" and asking them to develop "wish lists" of tactics they would like to use.
An interrogator with the 66th Military Intelligence Company, who was assigned to work on Mowhoush, wrote back with suggestions in August, including the use of "close confinement quarters," sleep deprivation and using the fear of dogs, adding: "I firmly agree that the gloves need to come off."
Another e-mail exchange from interrogators with the 4th Infantry Division based in Tikrit also suggested "close quarter confinement" in extremely claustrophobic situations, because "discomfort induces compliance and cooperation."
Taking the Gloves Off
A week into Mowhoush's detainment, according to classified investigative documents, interrogators were getting fed up with the prisoner. In a "current situation summary" PowerPoint presentation dated Nov. 18, Army officials wrote about his intransigence, using his first name (spelled "Abid" in Army documents):
"Previous interrogations were non-threatening; Abid was being treated very well. Not anymore," the document reads. "The interrogation session lasted several hours and I took the gloves off because Abid refused to play ball."
But the harsher tactics backfired.
In an interrogation that could be witnessed by the entire detainee population, Mowhoush was put into an undescribed "stress position" that caused the other detainees to stand "with heads bowed and solemn looks on their faces," said the document.
"I asked Abid if he was strong enough a leader to put an end to the attacks that I believed he was behind," the document said, quoting an unidentified interrogator. "He did not deny he was behind the attacks as he had denied previously, he simply said because I had humiliated him, he would not be able to stop the attacks. I take this as an admission of guilt."
Three days later, on Nov. 21, 2003, Mowhoush was moved from the border base at Qaim to a makeshift detention facility about six miles away in the Iraqi desert, a prison fashioned out of an old train depot, according to court testimony and investigative documents. Soldiers with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and the 101st Airborne Division were running a series of massive raids called Operation Rifles Blitz, and the temporary holding facility, nicknamed Blacksmith Hotel, was designed to hold the quarry.
U.S. troops searched more than 8,000 homes in three cities, netting 350 detainees, according to court testimony. Even though Mowhoush was not arrested during the raids, he was moved to Blacksmith Hotel, where teams of Army Special Forces soldiers and the CIA were conducting interrogations.
At Blacksmith, according to military sources, there was a tiered system of interrogations. Army interrogators were the first level.
When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the three. "The personnel were dressed in civilian clothes and wore balaclavas to hide their identity," according to a Jan. 18, 2004, report for the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.
If they did not get what they wanted, the interrogators would deliver the detainees to a small team of the CIA-sponsored Iraqi paramilitary squads, code-named Scorpions, according to a military source familiar with the operation. The Jan. 18 memo indicates that it was "likely that indigenous personnel in the employ of the CIA interrogated MG Mowhoush."
Sometimes, soldiers and intelligence officers used the mere existence of the paramilitary unit as a threat to induce detainees to talk, one Army soldier said in an interview. "Detainees knew that if they went to those people, bad things would happen," the soldier said. "It was used as a motivator to get them to talk. They didn't want to go with the masked men."
The Scorpions went by nicknames such as Alligator and Cobra. They were set up by the CIA before the war to conduct light sabotage. After the fall of Baghdad, they worked with their CIA handlers to infiltrate the insurgency and as interpreters, according to military investigative documents, defense officials, and former and current intelligence officials.
Soon after Mowhoush's detention began, soldiers in charge of him "reached a collective decision that they would try using the [redacted] who would, you know, obviously spoke the local, native Iraqi Arabic as a means of trying to shake Mowhoush up, and that the other thing that they were going to try to do was put a bunch of people in the room, a tactic that Mr. [redacted] called 'fear up,' " Army Special Agent Curtis Ryan, who investigated the case, testified, according to a transcript.
Classified e-mail messages and reports show that "Brian," a Special Forces retiree, worked as a CIA operative with the Scorpions.
On Nov. 24, the CIA and one of its four-man Scorpion units interrogated Mowhoush, according to investigative records.
"OGA Brian and the four indig were interrogating an unknown detainee," according to a classified memo, using the slang "Other Government Agency" for the CIA and "indig" for indigenous Iraqis.
"When he didn't answer or provided an answer that they didn't like, at first [redacted] would slap Mowhoush, and then after a few slaps, it turned into punches," Ryan testified. "And then from punches, it turned into [redacted] using a piece of hose."
"The indig were hitting the detainee with fists, a club and a length of rubber hose," according to classified investigative records.
Soldiers heard Mowhoush "being beaten with a hard object" and heard him "screaming" from down the hall, according to the Jan. 18, 2004, provost marshal's report. The report said four Army guards had to carry Mowhoush back to his cell.
Two days later, at 8 a.m., Nov. 26, Mowhoush -- prisoner No. 76 -- was brought, moaning and breathing hard, to Interrogation Room 6, according to court testimony.
Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. did a first round of interrogations for 30 minutes, taking a 15-minute break and resuming at 8:45. According to court testimony, Welshofer and Spec. Jerry L. Loper, a mechanic assuming the role of guard, put Mowhoush into the sleeping bag and wrapped the bag in electrical wire.
Welshofer allegedly crouched over Mowhoush's chest to talk to him.
Sgt. 1st Class William Sommer, a linguist, stood nearby.
Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Williams, an intelligence analyst, came to observe progress.
Investigative records show that Mowhoush "becomes unresponsive" at 9:06 a.m. Medics tried to resuscitate him for 30 minutes before pronouncing him dead.
n a preliminary court hearing in March for Williams, Loper and Sommer, retired Chief Warrant Officer Richard Manwaring, an interrogator who worked with Welshofer in Iraq, testified that using the sleeping bag and putting detainees in a wall locker and banging on it were "appropriate" techniques that he himself used to frighten detainees and make them tense.
Col. David A. Teeples, who then commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, told the court he believed the "claustrophobic technique" was both approved and effective. It was used before, and for some time after, Mowhoush's death, according to sources familiar with the interrogation operation.
"My thought was that the death of Mowhoush was brought about by [redacted] and then it was unfortunate and accidental, what had happened under an interrogation by our people," Teeples said in court, according to a transcript.
The CIA has tried hard to conceal the existence of the Scorpions. CIA classification officials have monitored pretrial hearings in the case and have urged the court to close much of the hearing on national security grounds. Redacted transcripts were released only after lawyers for the Denver Post challenged the rulings.
Autopsy Shields CIA
The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology's standard "Autopsy Examination Report" of Mowhoush's death was manipulated to avoid references to the CIA. In contrast to the other autopsy reports of suspicious detainee deaths released by the Army, Mowhoush's name is redacted and under "Circumstances of Death," the form says: "This Iraqi [redacted] died while in U.S. custody. The details surrounding the circumstances at the time of death are classified."
Williams was arraigned yesterday on a murder charge and is scheduled for court-martial in November, a Fort Carson spokeswoman said. Welshofer's court-martial is set for October. Loper and Sommer have not been referred for trial. Commanders are still considering what, if any, punishment to impose.
Frank Spinner, an attorney for Welshofer, said his client is going to fight the murder charge. Reading from a statement prepared by Welshofer during his Article 32 hearing this spring, Spinner quoted his client as saying that he is proud of the job he did and that his efforts saved U.S. soldiers' lives. "I did not torture anyone," Spinner quoted him as saying.
William Cassara, who represents Williams, cited Mowhoush's brutal encounters in the days before he died as possibly leading to his death. He said Williams, who was not trained in interrogation tactics, had little to do with the case.
"The interrogation techniques were known and were approved of by the upper echelons of command of the 3rd ACR," Cassara said in a news conference. "They believed, and still do, that they were appropriate and proper."
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
The article I'm speaking of specifically studies the confluence of three influential philosphical ideas to create a sort of perfect storm that is the Bush Administration. The main concept behind the article is the Administration's use of Religious symbolism and secrecy. One key passage is as follows:
However, the truly astonishing acts of concealment really began when he became president—indeed, almost from the moment he assumed that office. According to U.S. News & World Report, on Day 1 of this presidency, White House chief of staff Andy Card issued a directive to "wall off records and information previously in the public domain." Bush's own first act as president was not to initiate a new economic strategy or plan to combat terrorism, but to make a concerted effort to conceal his own Texas gubernatorial records. As soon as he received word of the Supreme Court's favorable ruling on his election, W. arranged for his records to be "gathered, placed on sixty large pallets, shrink-wrapped in heavy plastic and, with no announcement, quietly shipped off to his father's presidential library at Texas A & M University." After a year-long battle with the director of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Bush's records were finally returned to their rightful place in the state library (though with the provision that the keys to the filing cabinets containing Bush's records remain in the hands of the new Governor). In sum, "it is difficult to believe one would go to so much trouble to hide his records unless he had something he really did not want someone to know about."
Among his next decisions as President was a similar attempt to restrict access to the presidential records of Ronald Reagan (and of his then vice-President father). According to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, these were to be released in January, 2001. However, after requesting a series of extensions to review the many "legal questions" relating to the documents, Bush issued an executive order in November, 2001 that created an entirely new set of procedures for handling presidential papers and new standards for obtaining information about former presidents. Although the American Historical Association filed a lawsuit to acquire access to these records, the case has been filed and re-filed repeatedly and remains unresolved, apparently until after the 2004 election. Unless overturned, this newly expanded secrecy could allow presidential papers to remain sealed indefinitely; it would require that access to a former president's papers be approved by both the former president and the incumbent president; and it would allow representatives of former president to invoke executive privilege after a president is dead. It is worth noting here some of the sensitive documents that Bush decided should remain secret: a six-page memo dated December 8, 1986 entitled "Talking Points on Iran/Contra Affairs" and a series of memos dated November 22 and December 1, 1988 entitled, "Pardon for Oliver North, John Poindexter, and Joseph Fernandez," among others.
No less secrecy surrounds the activities of the Bush-Cheney "Energy Task Force," which has been highly controversial ever since its national energy plans were unveiled in May 2001. These plans focused primarily on promoting oil, gas and nuclear power, while largely ignoring alternative energy technologies; they significantly weakened environmental regulations; and they called for opening environmentally sensitive areas like the ANWR to oil drilling. Not surprisingly, all of this alarmed many environmentalists and members of Congress. The General Accounting Office, headed by David Walker, therefore requested that the White House reveal who was consulted by Cheney and what was discussed. Cheney's blunt reply, however, was that the GAO had no authority to seek the information—a move that many see as a bold assertion of the administration's autonomy and its exemption from any sort of congressional oversight. Walker in turn filed a suit to obtain the information, which was dismissed in December, 2002, by Judge John D. Bates (a conservative appointed by Bush).
I highly recommend the rest of the article, as it's way too big for me to recreate here. The article can be found at the Esoterica website.
Anyway, today’s article examines not only the crucial question of how Administration wonks and key personnel tie together in the web that leads between the Downing Street memo and the Plame case, but also the truth of how early the Administration began pushing for its illegal war. Here’s a little sample to whet your appetite:
Vice President Cheney, for instance, is widely credited with having launched the administration's nuclear drumbeat to war in Iraq via a series of speeches he gave, beginning in August 2002, vividly accusing Saddam of having an active nuclear weapons program. As it happens though, he started beating the nuclear drum with vigor significantly earlier than most remember; indeed at a time that was particularly curious given its proximity to the famous mission former Ambassador Joseph Wilson took on behalf of the CIA.
Cheney's initial public attempts to raise the nuclear nightmare did not in fact begin with his August 2002 barrage of nuclear speeches, but rather five months before that, just after his return from a tour of Arab capitals where he had tried in vain to gin up local support for military action against Iraq. Indeed, the specific date on which his campaign was launched was March 24, 2002, when, on return from the Middle East, he appeared on three major Sunday public-affairs television programs bearing similar messages on each. On CNN's "Late Edition," he offered the following comment on Saddam:
"This is a man of great evil, as the President said. And he is actively pursuing nuclear weapons at this time."
The question is, just how deeply involved is the Vice President in this whole mess? I mean, sure, we Liberals generally assume that he’s pulling a lot of strings in the White House (and I’m sure that’s a fair assumption, along with our assumptions about Karl Rove), but it seems to me that there is more meat to the accusation than we previously could have believed. To me, the smoking gun is here:
It's worth asking, then: On what basis could Cheney make such assertions with such evident certainty, nearly six months before, on September 7, 2002, Judith Miller and Michael Gordon of the New York Times first broke a story about how Iraq had ordered "specially designed aluminum tubes," supposedly intended as components for centrifuges to enrich uranium for Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program. Even five months later, after all, those tubes would still be the only real piece of evidence for the existence of an Iraqi nuclear program offered by Colin Powell in his presentation to the UN Security Council.
I think it’s become very clear that there was no “hidden intelligence” that the Administration was hiding from the American people, Congress, or the UN. So what was Cheney doing beating the drums?
I’m not going to cover the entire story here and take away from their thunder, but I urge you to check it out at Mother Jones right now.
Monday, August 01, 2005
"This post is too important to leave vacant, especially now during a war". Shut the fuck up, you coward.
"The United States Senate held thorough confirmation hearings, and a majority of United States senators agree that he is the right man for the job. Yet, because of partisan delaying tactics by a handful of senators, John was unfairly denied the up or down vote that he deserves."
UP OR DOWN VOTE PARTISAN TACTICS What a blithering fucking idiot. Rot in hell.
Bush installs Bolton as U.N. ambassador
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush bypassed the Senate and installed John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Monday over protests by Democrats that the combative critic of the world body would hurt U.S. credibility.
Five months after nominating Bolton, Bush appointed him in a subdued White House Roosevelt Room ceremony with the mustachioed Bolton beside him and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice standing nearby.
"This post is too important to leave vacant any longer, especially during a war and a vital debate about U.N. reform. So today I've used my constitutional authority to appoint John Bolton as America's ambassador to the United Nations," Bush said.
Bolton, 56, will be able to serve until January 2007, when a new Congress is sworn in. Bush gave Bolton a "recess appointment," taking advantage of a loophole that allows him to make such appointments when Congress is in recess.
Recess appointments are by no means rare but it was believed to be the first time such an appointment had been made for the job of U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy called it an abuse of power.
"It's a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton's credibility at the U.N.," he said.
Bush sidestepped the Senate confirmation process after it became clear he would not be able to overcome Democrats who held up the nomination of the outspoken conservative on charges he tried to manipulate intelligence and intimidated intelligence analysts to support his hawkish views as the top State Department diplomat for arms control.
Bush blamed "partisan delaying tactics by a handful of senators" but Delaware Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Democrats have legitimate concerns.
After intelligence failures in Iraq, he said, "We need someone who has credibility with the international community and Americans can trust. That is not John Bolton."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan fired back: "Ambassador Bolton has been confirmed four times by the Senate. It's the Senate Democrats who have a credibility problem."
Bolton was to be sworn into office and depart quickly for New York to begin his job.
'STONEWALL THE SENATE'
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Bolton could have gotten a vote if Bush had provided information that Democrats wanted to determine Bolton's fitness for the job but instead "the president chose to stonewall the Senate."
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, who failed to obtain a vote for Bolton, said Bush had done the right thing because the Bolton nomination "has been stymied in the name of politics."
Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich (news, bio, voting record), who broke ranks with Bush and opposed Bolton, said he was disappointed.
"I am truly concerned that a recess appointment will only add to John Bolton's baggage and his lack of credibility with the United Nations," he said.
Bush has insisted that Bolton has the type of personality to pursue reforms at the United Nations and wants to get him into office to prepare for the U.N. General Assembly in September.
"I'm sending Ambassador Bolton to New York with my complete confidence," Bush said.
Taking the podium after Bush spoke, Bolton said he was prepared to work tirelessly.
"It will be a distinct privilege to be an advocate for America's values and interests at the U.N., and, in the words of the U.N. charter, to help maintain international peace and security," Bolton said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan stayed out of the fight.
"We look forward to working with him, as I do with the other 190 ambassadors and we will welcome him at a time when we are in the midst of major reform," Annan said at the United Nations in New York.
In making the appointment, Bush was calculating that Senate outrage would not spill over to confound September confirmation hearings for John Roberts, his nominee to the Supreme Court. Operation Northwoods…
U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba
Book: U.S. Military Drafted Plans to Terrorize U.S. Cities to Provoke War With Cuba
By David Ruppe
Sep. 30, 2004 - In the early 1960s, America's top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.
Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.
The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba's then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.
America's top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and, "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."
Details of the plans are described in Body of Secrets (Doubleday), a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford about the history of America's largest spy agency, the National Security Agency. However, the plans were not connected to the agency, he notes.
The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy's defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.
"These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing," Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.
"The whole point of a democracy is to have leaders responding to the public will, and here this is the complete reverse, the military trying to trick the American people into a war that they want but that nobody else wants."
Gunning for War
The documents show "the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government," writes Bamford.
The Joint Chiefs even proposed using the potential death of astronaut John Glenn during the first attempt to put an American into orbit as a false pretext for war with Cuba, the documents show.
Should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, they wrote, "the objective is to provide irrevocable proof … that the fault lies with the Communists et all Cuba [sic]."
The plans were motivated by an intense desire among senior military leaders to depose Castro, who seized power in 1959 to become the first communist leader in the Western Hemisphere — only 90 miles from U.S. shores.
The earlier CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles had been a disastrous failure, in which the military was not allowed to provide firepower.The military leaders now wanted a shot at it.
"The whole thing was so bizarre," says Bamford, noting public and international support would be needed for an invasion, but apparently neither the American public, nor the Cuban public, wanted to see U.S. troops deployed to drive out Castro.
Reflecting this, the U.S. plan called for establishing prolonged military — not democratic — control over the island nation after the invasion.
"That's what we're supposed to be freeing them from," Bamford says. "The only way we would have succeeded is by doing exactly what the Russians were doing all over the world, by imposing a government by tyranny, basically what we were accusing Castro himself of doing."
'Over the Edge'
The Joint Chiefs at the time were headed by Eisenhower appointee Army Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, who, with the signed plans in hand made a pitch to McNamara on March 13, 1962, recommending Operation Northwoods be run by the military.
Whether the Joint Chiefs' plans were rejected by McNamara in the meeting is not clear. But three days later, President Kennedy told Lemnitzer directly there was virtually no possibility of ever using overt force to take Cuba, Bamford reports. Within months, Lemnitzer would be denied another term as chairman and transferred to another job.
The secret plans came at a time when there was distrust in the military leadership about their civilian leadership, with leaders in the Kennedy administration viewed as too liberal, insufficiently experienced and soft on communism. At the same time, however, there real were concerns in American society about their military overstepping its bounds.
There were reports U.S. military leaders had encouraged their subordinates to vote conservative during the election.
And at least two popular books were published focusing on a right-wing military leadership pushing the limits against government policy of the day. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee published its own report on right-wing extremism in the military, warning a "considerable danger" in the "education and propaganda activities of military personnel" had been uncovered. The committee even called for an examination of any ties between Lemnitzer and right-wing groups. But Congress didn't get wind of Northwoods, says Bamford.
"Although no one in Congress could have known at the time," he writes, "Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge."
Even after Lemnitzer was gone, he writes, the Joint Chiefs continued to plan "pretext" operations at least through 1963.
One idea was to create a war between Cuba and another Latin American country so that the United States could intervene. Another was to pay someone in the Castro government to attack U.S. forces at the Guantanamo naval base — an act, which Bamford notes, would have amounted to treason. And another was to fly low level U-2 flights over Cuba, with the intention of having one shot down as a pretext for a war.
"There really was a worry at the time about the military going off crazy and they did, but they never succeeded, but it wasn't for lack of trying," he says.
After 40 Years
Ironically, the documents came to light, says Bamford, in part because of the 1992 Oliver Stone film JFK, which examined the possibility of a conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy.
As public interest in the assassination swelled after JFK's release, Congress passed a law designed to increase the public's access to government records related to the assassination.
The author says a friend on the board tipped him off to the documents.
Afraid of a congressional investigation, Lemnitzer had ordered all Joint Chiefs documents related to the Bay of Pigs destroyed, says Bamford. But somehow, these remained.
"The scary thing is none of this stuff comes out until 40 years after," says Bamford.
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Today, I'm probably going to lose some of my Lefty credibility, but I want to bitch about something that liberals get on about that I just don't get: gun control. Yes, I understand the statistics that show that some forms of gun control cut down on violent crime (though it's practically impossible to show a direct causal link between them). The problem is that it's impossible to measure what the influence is of certain elements in violent crime. Is it the guns themselves? Is it the media? Is it poor parenting and role models? Is it the fact that many people feel they have no choice but to turn to violent crime to survive?
Whatever the cause (and there are individual situations where each are probably valid - there is no cure-all), I think that, until you address the fact that children are seeing incredibly violent imagery without their parents (NOT THE GOVERNMENT!) providing proper context (as opposed to not just showing it to them at all - I think that's just as dangerous), as well as the crushing poverty that so many Americans live in, and the non-stop treadmill that American life has become, you will not see an elimination of violent crime.
Regardless, I think it's important that some form of firearms remain legal. The potential for abuse of the citizenry that exists when guns are taken away from them is just too great; after all, that’s what the country was based on, and I absolutely believe that the founders intended the general citizenry to be armed. To me, that should temper some of the attempts to legislate gun control.
Okay, then, with my beliefs generally established, what follows is a piece that probably shows me what Conservatives see when they look at how Liberals speak about their beliefs. Quite a piece, this one. What he's bitching about here is that the Senate voted to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits regarding violent crimes carried out with their weapons. I'm not sure where I stand on Elisa Barnes' allegations - they seem pretty outlandish, but not totally out of the realm of possibility. All of this is ancillary to my main point, however, and that is the bombastic language used throughout the article. I’ve bolded inflammatory language in a passage from the heart of the article to show what I’m talking about.
Barnes thought it was just too convenient for gun makers to blame the criminal alone. Through investigation and statistical analysis she concluded that sales to criminals are a much-valued - if unpublicized - market segment sought out and provisioned by these upstanding manufacturers.
Her calculations are compelling. Gun companies dumped (this one is particularly insidious and obscure, but it certainly evokes a negative image in my mind)several million weapons into outlets in states with few curbs on purchases, super-saturating the legal market so that excess would flow up the "Iron Pipeline" to meet black market demand in New York and other big cities.
I bolded this one because I want to see some articles to bolster this claim – this is incredibly bold and I’d be very surprised if such a thing or tactic exists. This is the meat of my argument with her point of view.
Like the company that sells cigarette rolling papers in quantities far outstripping sales of legal tobacco, gun manufacturers have a nod-and-wink understanding of where their products end up. Their market models cannot account for half the gun sales in loose-law states such as Georgia.
Now see, here I can’t even understand the logic. Are they alleging that rolling-paper manufacturers flood the market until they flow up a black market pipeline? Or this just an OMG DRUGS argument? Because it doesn’t really work.
Anyway, that’s just a small sample of the language and logic faults. Okay, yes, I know what you’re saying, “But it’s an editorial! Of course it’s supposed to be inflammatory!” Inflammatory? Sure. Illogical? Well, if you want to weaken your argument, I guess? Anyway, I have to admit that I see the ugliness that Conservatives sometimes complain about showing through here, and I have to say I’m not too fond of it. I spoke about framing the other day, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the Left running with it after all. I don’t know. I’m not sure what to say about this. I’d encourage you to read the article and make up your own mind on it.
t r u t h o u t - Greg Palast | Lawyers Guns and Money