Friday, December 16, 2005
Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say
By JAMES RISEN
and ERIC LICHTBLAU
WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."
Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.
According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said.
The Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to this country, the officials said. Defenders of the program say it has been a critical tool in helping disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States.
Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues.
The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.
While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it said the N.S.A. eavesdropped without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands over the past three years, several officials said. Overseas, about 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time, according to those officials.
Several officials said the eavesdropping program had helped uncover a plot by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker and naturalized citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches. What appeared to be another Qaeda plot, involving fertilizer bomb attacks on British pubs and train stations, was exposed last year in part through the program, the officials said. But they said most people targeted for N.S.A. monitoring have never been charged with a crime, including an Iranian-American doctor in the South who came under suspicion because of what one official described as dubious ties to Osama bin Laden.
Dealing With a New Threat
The eavesdropping program grew out of concerns after the Sept. 11 attacks that the nation's intelligence agencies were not poised to deal effectively with the new threat of Al Qaeda and that they were handcuffed by legal and bureaucratic restrictions better suited to peacetime than war, according to officials. In response, President Bush significantly eased limits on American intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the military.
But some of the administration's antiterrorism initiatives have provoked an outcry from members of Congress, watchdog groups, immigrants and others who argue that the measures erode protections for civil liberties and intrude on Americans' privacy. Opponents have challenged provisions of the USA Patriot Act, the focus of contentious debate on Capitol Hill this week, that expand domestic surveillance by giving the Federal Bureau of Investigation more power to collect information like library lending lists or Internet use. Military and F.B.I. officials have drawn criticism for monitoring what were largely peaceful antiwar protests. The Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security were forced to retreat on plans to use public and private databases to hunt for possible terrorists. And last year, the Supreme Court rejected the administration's claim that those labeled "enemy combatants" were not entitled to judicial review of their open-ended detention.
Mr. Bush's executive order allowing some warrantless eavesdropping on those inside the United States including American citizens, permanent legal residents, tourists and other foreigners is based on classified legal opinions that assert that the president has broad powers to order such searches, derived in part from the September 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing him to wage war on Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, according to the officials familiar with the N.S.A. operation.
The National Security Agency, which is based at Fort Meade, Md., is the nation's largest and most secretive intelligence agency, so intent on remaining out of public view that it has long been nicknamed "No Such Agency.'' It breaks codes and maintains listening posts around the world to eavesdrop on foreign governments, diplomats and trade negotiators as well as drug lords and terrorists. But the agency ordinarily operates under tight restrictions on any spying on Americans, even if they are overseas, or disseminating information about them.
What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible, the officials said.
In addition to eavesdropping on those numbers and reading e-mail messages to and from the Qaeda figures, the N.S.A. began monitoring others linked to them, creating an expanding chain. While most of the numbers and addresses were overseas, hundreds were in the United States, the officials said.
Under the agency's longstanding rules, the N.S.A. can target for interception phone calls or e-mail messages on foreign soil, even if the recipients of those communications are in the United States. Usually, though, the government can only target phones and e-mail messages in this country by first obtaining a court order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which holds its closed sessions at the Justice Department.
Traditionally, the F.B.I., not the N.S.A., seeks such warrants and conducts most domestic eavesdropping. Until the new program began, the N.S.A. typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions in Washington, New York and other cities, and obtained court orders to do so.
Since 2002, the agency has been conducting some warrantless eavesdropping on people in the United States who are linked, even if indirectly, to suspected terrorists through the chain of phone numbers and e-mail addresses, according to several officials who know of the operation. Under the special program, the agency monitors their international communications, the officials said. The agency, for example, can target phone calls from someone in New York to someone in Afghanistan.
Warrants are still required for eavesdropping on entirely domestic-to-domestic communications, those officials say, meaning that calls from that New Yorker to someone in California could not be monitored without first going to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Rep. Davis says humbug to a PC Christmas
December 16, 2005 12:50 am
By MICHAEL ZITZ
Rep. Jo Ann Davis wants to make the world safe for saying, "Merry Christmas."
Davis, the 1st District Republican who represents much of the Fredericksburg area, launched a frontal assault yesterday on the Grinch of political correctness.
To the surprise of no one, she won--resoundingly.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 401-22 to pass HR 597, Davis' nonbinding resolution expressing its sense of the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas "for those who celebrate Christmas."
The resolution also states that the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution was not intended to prohibit any mention of religion "in civic dialogue."
Virginia congressmen Jim Moran, D-8th District, and Bobby Scott, D-3rd, were among those voting against the resolution.
Scott said he believes Davis' resolution is a Republican ploy to divert the public's attention away from what Congress has done in the last month, including cutting the food-stamp program, cutting health care for the working poor, cutting student aid and slashing support for single parents.
"The spirit of Christmas demands generosity and goodwill towards others," Scott said on the floor. "We ought to express our passion for Christmas through deeds, not words."
But Davis said political correctness has gotten so bad that when she sent out a "dear colleague" letter promoting her resolution, a House office that oversees internal communications called Davis' office to complain.
Davis said a member of her staff received a call to advise that, "She can't say 'Merry Christmas' in this 'dear colleague' letter."
"This is in a letter about a resolution about protecting the freedom to say 'Merry Christmas,'" Davis said, incredulously. "Things are getting ridiculous. It's political correctness run amok."
On the floor, Davis made a speech straight out of a Frank Capra film:
"Overzealous civil-liberties lawyers are making their list and checking it twice," she said. "Change the Christmas tree to a Friendship tree--check! Change 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas' to 'We Wish You a Happy Holiday' --check! Remove the colors green and red--check! Get rid of Christmas music, even instrumental--check!
"Christmas has been declared politically incorrect," Davis continued. "Any sign or even mention of Christmas in public can lead to complaints, litigation, protests and threats. America's favorite holiday is being twisted beyond recognition."
Still, Mark J. Rozell, director of the Master of Public Policy Program at George Mason University in Fairfax, was appalled enough by the resolution to risk being called a Scrooge.
"Talk about meaningless drivel," Rozell said. "Let's also have a congressional resolution affirming our national support for motherhood and apple pie.
"I understand that Congress has to do symbolic things as well as the occasional substance," Rozell said. "And it costs nothing to pass symbolic measures that almost everyone agrees with. This is the easy work of representation."
Chris Connelly, a Davis aide, cited this week's theft of a baby Jesus from a Nativity scene outside a Fredericksburg dentist's office as evidence of a nationwide attack on Christmas.
Noting a recent poll found that 96 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, Davis said, "When did wishing someone a 'Merry Christmas' show insensitivity?
"This is a selective assault on religious free speech. The framers intended that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States would prohibit the establishment of religion, not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialogue," she said.
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations issued a statement supporting Davis: "We concur with those who say that the framers of the Constitution did not intend to demand that America's public square be purely secular. Rather, the Constitution and its traditions argue for a public domain, which embraces and protects religious diversity."
Davis argued that the PC police are hurting America and its children by banning Santa Claus in an effort to "morph Christmas into this generic 'winter celebration' [going] beyond the secularization of the day."
Her claim prompted Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, to pen a tongue-in-cheek holiday poem dedicated to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and the House GOP, which he recited on the floor of the House chamber. It includes these lines:
We can pretend that Christmas is under attack,
Hold a vote to save it--then pat ourselves on the back;
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger,
Wake up, Congress, they're in no danger!
This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go,
From churches, to homes, to schools, and yes, even Costco.
Also yesterday, an international retail chain based in Seattle denied that it tells its employees not to say "Merry Christmas."
The coffee giant explained to The Free Lance-Star: "Starbucks [does] not give direction or provide a script to our partners as to what holiday greeting to give our customers. There is no policy prohibiting [an employee] from wishing a customer 'Merry Christmas.'"
Starbucks offers the same seasonal coffee blend in two different packages--one marked "Merry Christmas," and the other "Happy Holidays."
No sooner had the House's reauthorization of the Patriot Act then we encountered this nifty bit of federal synergy, news of which comes courtesy of NBC News' investigative team: The
Pentagon has been conducting wide-ranging, data-mining surveillance on U.S. antiwar activists and anyone else it might whimsically designate a "person of interest." The domestic spying intitiative comes under the jurisdiction of a little-known Pentagon agency called Counterintelligence Field Activity. Here are a few of its lovelier contracts, as characterized by NBC investigative reporters Lisa Myers, Douglas Pasternak and Rich Gardella:
One of the CIFA-funded database projects being developed by Northrop Grumman and dubbed “Person Search,” is designed “to provide comprehensive information about people of interest.” It will include the ability to search government as well as commercial databases. Another project, “The Insider Threat Initiative,” intends to “develop systems able to detect, mitigate and investigate insider threats,” as well as the ability to “identify and document normal and abnormal activities and ‘behaviors,’” according to the Computer Sciences Corp. contract. A separate CIFA contract with a small Virginia-based defense contractor seeks to develop methods “to track and monitor activities of suspect individuals.”
Apart from such activity being apparently, well, illegal, one wonders how the DoD us going about classifying "abnormal activities and 'behaviors.' " We suspect, after all, that if it were to discover activists engaged in waterboarding, the software automatically switches into recruitment mode. Or directs them on to senior levels of the Justice Department.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
WASHINGTON - After months of resistance, the White House has agreed to accept Sen. John McCain’s call for a law specifically banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror, several congressional officials said Thursday.
The congressional officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to pre-empt an expected announcement later in the day at the White House, possibly by President Bush and McCain.
These officials also cautioned the agreement was encountering opposition in the House from Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
The White House at one point threatened a veto if the ban was included in legislation sent to his desk, and Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to all Republican senators to give an exemption to the CIA.
But congressional sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of the ban, and McCain, who was held and tortured for five years in Vietnam, adopted the issue.
Weeks of negotiations
He and the administration have been negotiating for weeks in search of a compromise, but it became increasingly clear that he, not the administration, had the votes in Congress.
McCain’s original amendment would have prohibited “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” of anyone in U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held. It also would have required that service members follow procedures in the Army Field Manual during interrogations of prisoners in Defense Department facilities.
In discussions with the White House, that was altered to bring it into conformity with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That says that anyone accused of violating interrogation rules can defend themselves if a “reasonable” person could have concluded they were following a lawful order.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Pentagon Rolls Out Stealth PR
By Matt Kelley
Wednesday 14 December 2005
Washington - A $300 million Pentagon psychological warfare operation includes plans for placing pro-American messages in foreign media outlets without disclosing the US government as the source, one of the military officials in charge of the program says.
Run by psychological warfare experts at the US Special Operations Command, the media campaign is being designed to counter terrorist ideology and sway foreign audiences to support American policies. The military wants to fight the information war against al-Qaeda through newspapers, websites, radio, television and "novelty items" such as T-shirts and bumper stickers.
The program will operate throughout the world, including in allied nations and in countries where the United States is not involved in armed conflict.
The description of the program by Mike Furlong, deputy director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element, provides the most detailed look to date at the Pentagon's global campaign.
The three companies handling the campaign include the Lincoln Group, the company being investigated by the Pentagon for paying Iraqi newspapers to run pro-US stories. (Related story: Contracts for Pro-US Propaganda)
Military officials involved with the campaign say they're not planning to place false stories in foreign news outlets clandestinely. But the military won't always reveal its role in distributing pro-American messages, Furlong says.
"While the product may not carry the label, 'Made in the USA,' we will respond truthfully if asked" by journalists, Furlong told USA TODAY in a videoconference interview.
He declined to give examples of specific "products," which he said would include articles, advertisements and public-service announcements.
The military's communications work in Iraq has recently drawn controversy with disclosures that Lincoln Group and the US military secretly paid journalists and news outlets to run pro-American stories.
White House officials have expressed concern about the practice, even when the stories are true.
National security adviser Stephen Hadley said President Bush was "very troubled" by activities in Iraq and would stop them if they hurt efforts to build independent news media in Iraq. The military started its own probe.
It's legal for the government to plant propaganda in other countries but not in the USA The White House referred requests for comment about the contracts to the Pentagon, where officials did not respond.
WASHINGTON, DC—In a sudden and unexpected blow to the Americans working to protect the holiday, liberal U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Stephen Reinhardt ruled the private celebration of Christmas unconstitutional Monday.
"In accordance with my activist agenda to secularize the nation, this court finds Christmas to be unlawful," Judge Reinhardt said. "The celebration of the birth of the philosopher Jesus—be it in the form of gift-giving, the singing of carols, fanciful decorations, or general good cheer and warm feelings amongst families—is in violation of the First Amendment principles upon which this great nation was founded."
In addition to forbidding the celebration of Christmas in any form, Judge Reinhardt has made it illegal to say "Merry Christmas." Instead, he has ruled that Americans must say "Happy Holidays" or "Vacaciones Felices" if they wish to extend good tidings.
Within an hour of the judge's verdict, National Guard troops were mobilized to enforce the controversial ruling.
"Sorry, kids, no Christmas this year," Beloit, WI mall Santa Gene Ernot said as he was led away from his Santa's Village in leg irons. "Write to your congressman to put a stop to these liberal activist judges. It's up to you to save Christmas! Ho ho ho!"
Said Pvt. Stanley Cope, who tasered Ernot for his outburst: "We're fighting an unpopular war on Christmas, but what can we do? The military has no choice but to take orders from a lone activist judge."
Across America, the decision of the all-powerful liberal courts was met with shock and disappointment, as American families quietly took down their holiday decorations and canceled their plans to gather and make merry.
"They've been chipping away at Christmas rights for decades," Fox News personality John Gibson said. "Even before this ruling, you couldn't hear a Christmas song on the radio or in a department store. I hate to say it, America, but I told you so."
Gibson then went into hiding, vowing to be a vital part of the Christmas resistance that would eventually triumph and bring Christmas back to the United States and its retail stores.
The ban is not limited to the retail sector. In support of Reinhardt's ruling, Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Jew, introduced legislation that would mandate the registration of every Christian in the United States and subject their houses to random searches to ensure they are not celebrating Christmas. American citizens exercising their rights to free speech. Good job, guys! You're doing a great job protecting us. I know I feel safe from all those evil war protestors who only care about killing and maiming us...
WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.
A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.
“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.
“This is incredible,” adds group member Rich Hersh. “It's an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We're not doing anything illegal.”
The Defense Department document is the first inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence collection inside this country since 9/11, which now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups.
“I think Americans should be concerned that the military, in fact, has reached too far,” says NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin.
The Department of Defense declined repeated requests by NBC News for an interview. A spokesman said that all domestic intelligence information is “properly collected” and involves “protection of Defense Department installations, interests and personnel.” The military has always had a legitimate “force protection” mission inside the U.S. to protect its personnel and facilities from potential violence. But the Pentagon now collects domestic intelligence that goes beyond legitimate concerns about terrorism or protecting U.S. military installations, say critics.
The DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center. One “incident” included in the database is a large anti-war protest at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles last March that included effigies of President Bush and anti-war protest banners. Another incident mentions a planned protest against military recruiters last December in Boston and a planned protest last April at McDonald’s National Salute to America’s Heroes — a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The Fort Lauderdale protest was deemed not to be a credible threat and a column in the database concludes: “US group exercising constitutional rights.” Two-hundred and forty-three other incidents in the database were discounted because they had no connection to the Department of Defense — yet they all remained in the database.
The military’s penchant for collecting domestic intelligence is disturbing — but familiar — to Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer.
“Some people never learn,” he says. During the Vietnam War, Pyle blew the whistle on the Defense Department for monitoring and infiltrating anti-war and civil rights protests when he published an article in the Washington Monthly in January 1970.
The public was outraged and a lengthy congressional investigation followed that revealed that the military had conducted investigations on at least 100,000 American citizens. Pyle got more than 100 military agents to testify that they had been ordered to spy on U.S. citizens — many of them anti-war protestors and civil rights advocates. In the wake of the investigations, Pyle helped Congress write a law placing new limits on military spying inside the U.S.
But Pyle, now a professor at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, says some of the information in the database suggests the military may be dangerously close to repeating its past mistakes.
“The documents tell me that military intelligence is back conducting investigations and maintaining records on civilian political activity. The military made promises that it would not do this again,” he says.
The Defense Department refused to comment on how it obtained information on the Lake Worth meeting or why it considers a dozen or so anti-war activists a “threat.”
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
All that said, you know if Bush is saying it's 30,000, it wouldn't surprise me if they gave this seemingly high number to deflect away from a true, higher number. I'd add an additional 15-25 thousand on to that number, just on general principles of paranoia - I just can't expect the truth from these people.
By NEDRA PICKLER, Associated Press Writer
Mon Dec 12,10:57 PM ET
In a rare, unscripted moment, President Bush on Monday estimated 30,000 Iraqis have died in the war, the first time he has publicly acknowledged the high price Iraqis have paid in the push for democracy.
In the midst of a campaign to win support for the unpopular war, Bush unexpectedly invited questions from the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia after a speech asserting that Iraq was making progress despite violence, flawed elections and other setbacks.
He immediately was challenged about the number of Iraqis who have lost their lives since the beginning of the war.
"I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis," Bush said. "We've lost about 2,140 of our own troops in Iraq."
The U.S. military does not release its tally of Iraqi dead, but there is some consensus from outside experts that roughly 30,000 is a credible number. White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Bush was not giving an official figure but simply repeating public estimates.
Another questioner challenged the administration's linkage of the Iraq war to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Bush said Saddam Hussein was a threat and was widely believed to have weapons of mass destruction — a belief that later proved false.
"I made a tough decision. And knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again," Bush said. "Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country."
Monday, December 12, 2005
Abuse Cited in 2nd Jail Operated by Iraqi Ministry
By Ellen Knickmeyer
The Washington Post
Monday 12 December 2005
Official says 12 prisoners subjected to 'severe torture.'
Baghdad - An Iraqi government search of a detention center in Baghdad operated by Interior Ministry special commandos found 13 prisoners who had suffered abuse serious enough to require medical treatment, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday night.
An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said that at least 12 of the 13 prisoners had been subjected to "severe torture," including sessions of electric shock and episodes that left them with broken bones.
"Two of them showed me their nails, and they were gone," the official said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.
A government spokesman, Laith Kubba, said Sunday night that any findings at the prison would be "subject to an investigation," but he declined to comment on the allegations.
The site, which was searched Thursday, is the second Interior Ministry detention center where cases of prisoner abuse have been confirmed by U.S. and Iraqi officials.
U.S. troops found the first site last month when they entered an Interior Ministry building in central Baghdad to look for a Sunni Arab teenager they believed had been detained, officers said at the time. Several prisoners at that site appeared to have suffered beatings, and many were emaciated, U.S. and Iraqi officials and witnesses said.
The abuse alleged at the prison found this week appeared to have been more severe. Asked specifically what types of torture were found in the commandos' prison, the official cited breaking of bones, torture with electric shock, extraction of fingernails and cigarette burns to the neck and back.
International law, including the U.N. Convention Against Torture, bans torture in all cases. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad issued a sharp public rebuke of the Iraqi government after the secret prison was discovered last month, demanding in a statement that all detainees nationwide be treated in accord with human rights.
Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, under heavy pressure from Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, ordered a nationwide investigation of detention centers after that discovery. The prison investigated Thursday was the first center examined as part of the government-ordered inquiry.
Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, a spokesman for U.S. military detention issues, said American authorities had already been aware that the prison searched Thursday existed. U.S. forces had not known about the previous facility.
Prison inspectors from the Ministry of Human Rights and representatives of other ministries participated in the commando prison search, the ministry said in a statement. Authorities did not say whether any Americans were involved in the inquiry.
Ugh, this just pisses me off. Since mankind began, life has been dangerous and people have died for shitty reasons. We shouldn't throw away our country because a bunch of radicals are pissed at us.
SAN FRANCISCO--A federal appeals court wrestled Thursday with what seems to be a straightforward question: Can Americans be required to show ID on a commercial airline flight?
John Gilmore, an early employee of Sun Microsystems and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says the answer should be "no." The libertarian millionaire sued the Bush administration, which claims that the ID requirement is necessary for security but has refused to identify any actual regulation requiring it.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seemed skeptical of the Bush administration's defense of secret laws and regulations but stopped short of suggesting that such a rule would be necessarily unconstitutional.
"How do we know there's an order?" Judge Thomas Nelson asked. "Because you said there was?"
Replied Joshua Waldman, a staff attorney for the Department of Justice: "We couldn't confirm or deny the existence of an order." Even though government regulations required his silence, Waldman said, the situation did seem a "bit peculiar."
"This is America," said James Harrison, a lawyer representing Gilmore. "We do not have secret laws. Period." Harrison stressed that Gilmore was happy to go through a metal detector.
Gilmore sued the federal government after being told he could not fly without ID from Oakland, Calif., to Washington, D.C., which he said he was doing to exercise his First Amendment right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. U.S. District Judge Susan Illston dismissed (PDF) his case in March 2004, ruling that Gilmore had "numerous other methods of reaching Washington."
Oral arguments on Thursday, which lasted about 40 minutes, returned repeatedly to that point. Judge Richard Paez suggested that when your ID is requested at an airport, "You can always leave."
Waldman, the Justice Department attorney, said that as long as no commercial airline flight is required, Americans "can assemble wherever they want. They can petition wherever they want." He added, "I'm not aware of any right to travel anonymously."
Two cases that were mentioned on Thursday could provide a glimpse into how the appeals court will rule. In one, decided in 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that police could arrest anyone they stopped who refused to show ID. In the other, U.S. v. Davis, the 9th Circuit said in 1973 that airport searches were permissible as a form of administrative screening.
It's unclear what will happen next. Because of a procedural twist involving lawsuits against federal agencies, the district court concluded that only an appeals court enjoys authority to resolve some aspects of the dispute. But the 9th Circuit judges also could, if they side with Gilmore, send the case back to the lower court for a full trial.
On the courthouse steps after the arguments, Gilmore said he felt confident about the case and welcomed a verbal concession from the Justice Department. "I was glad the government admitted it was 'peculiar' and Orwellian to make secret laws," Gilmore said.
The Justice Department has said it could identify the secret law under seal, which would be available to the 9th Circuit but not necessarily Gilmore's lawyers. But any public description would not be permitted, the department said.