Thursday, December 22, 2005

Patriot Act Extended for Six Months, But Not a Sign of Victory.

From Truthout:

New Life for Patriot Act Is No Bush Win
By Richard B. Schmitt and Mary Curtius
The Los Angeles Times

Thursday 22 December 2005

The Senate's six-month extension effectively kills a deal to make key provisions permanent.
Washington - In a major setback for the White House on a top domestic priority, the Senate on Wednesday passed a six-month extension of the Patriot Act, due to expire Dec. 31, even though President Bush had demanded that most of the law become permanent.

The move effectively killed a House-Senate compromise that would have made permanent 14 of the 16 provisions of the statute, which gives law enforcement officials sweeping power to track and prosecute suspected terrorists. The House adopted the compromise last week.

But senators from both parties balked, saying the compromise legislation failed to include enough safeguards of civil liberties and privacy. They began filibustering the measure Friday and sustained the filibuster through the end of a tumultuous session Wednesday night, withstanding blistering public attacks by Bush, Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), who said that allowing the provisions to expire would put the American people at risk.

Ultimately, the Senate agreed to the six-month extension without opposition.

"We had a pretty broad coalition and it held together," said Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire, one of four Republicans who joined 43 Democrats on Friday to launch the filibuster.

The Senate Democratic minority seemed delighted by the rare and hard-fought victory over a president who since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has built his presidency around the pursuit of terrorists.

"The White House - couldn't break the filibuster, couldn't break the bipartisan group," said Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.), who led the fight against the House-Senate compromise legislation.

"It was only the president, the White House and Atty. Gen. Gonzales who wanted to play that game of chicken - and they lost that game," Feingold said. The administration had made it clear, he added, that "it was their way or the highway, but they did not prevail."

Frist, who said Tuesday that he would not agree to a temporary extension, said Wednesday night that he had changed his mind when faced by what he described as a decision by Democrats "to kill the Patriot Act." He said he decided that he wasn't "going to let the Patriot Act die."

In a written statement late Wednesday, Bush said that he appreciated the Senate's work "to keep the existing Patriot Act in law" but that "the work of Congress on the Patriot Act is not finished."

"The act will expire next summer, but the terrorist threat to America will not expire on that schedule," Bush said.

If the House convenes today and agrees to the extension, as expected, and if Bush signs it, as expected, House and Senate negotiators will have six months to come up with a proposal.

"This is the way legislation used to be done when I first came here," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, who worked with the committee's chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), to negotiate the temporary extension. "There were many good things in this conference report, but not enough. Now we have six months to get it right."

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), another Judiciary Committee member, said the turning point came Wednesday morning when a bipartisan majority of senators - 52 - signed a letter urging Frist to support a three-month extension of the expiring measures. The letter touched off intense negotiations and high-level lobbying as the White House sought to persuade Republican senators to support the compromise legislation.

The administration found stiff resistance among the senators, some of whom resented the haste with which the Patriot Act was pushed through Congress by the Republican leadership within weeks of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:49 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hillary's challenger quits race


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Jeanine Pirro, the longtime prosecutor who had been set to run against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton next year, has decided to drop out of the U.S. Senate race in New York, Republican Party officials confirmed Wednesday.

An official announcement is expected later Wednesday, the officials said.

Pirro instead will run for state attorney general, an adviser said.

"This is the job that she really wants to do," the adviser said. "She's more familiar with the issues. That's what it comes down to."

Party officials said that the candidate already has discussed her plans with state party officials -- state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who publicly called for her to change races, and Gov. George Pataki, who had endorsed Pirro when she entered the race in August.

Pataki's endorsement caused Pirro's main rival for the Republican nomination, Ed Cox, 58, son-in-law of former President Nixon, to suspend his campaign. Cox has been considering a return to the race.

Pirro, 54, is in her third elected term as district attorney in affluent Westchester County, north of New York City.

When she announced that she would not seek a fourth term, she said she would run for statewide office -- either for governor, to succeed Pataki, who is stepping down after three terms, or attorney general, to succeed Eliot Spitzer, the leading Democratic candidate for governor, or for U.S. Senate against Clinton.

When Pirro launched the Senate bid against the Democrat, her announcement speech was marred by an embarrassing 30-second silence after she lost a page of her prepared remarks. Then her fund-raising got off to a slow start, raising less than $500,000 in her first month.

A majority of 62 Republican county chairs meeting last week in Albany announced their belief that Pirro should quit the Senate race but did not agree on a substitute candidate.

Posted by crimnos @ 3:11 PM :: (0) comments

Thank God: Senate rejects drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge

There are some sane politicians after all.

WASHINGTON - The Senate blocked oil drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge Wednesday, rejecting a must-pass defense spending bill where supporters positioned the quarter-century-old environmental issue to garner broader support.

Drilling backers fell four votes short of getting the required 60 votes to avoid a threatened filibuster of the defense measure over the oil drilling issue. Senate leaders were expected to withdraw the legislation so it could be reworked without the refuge language. The vote was 56-44.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was among those who for procedural reasons cast a “no” vote, so that he could bring the drilling issue up for another vote.

Posted by crimnos @ 2:39 PM :: (1) comments

The White House's Changing Intrepretation of the Constitution

From intrepid reporter George:

From a White House Press Briefing transcript (the change in how this administration interprets our Constitution mentioned here is subtle, but very important) –

Scott McClellan: Go ahead.

Q Congress defines oversight as "the authority to conduct inquiries or investigations, to have access to records or materials, or to issue subpoenas or testimony from the executive." Which of these powers were members of Congress granted with regard to the NSA surveillance program?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you just pointed out, Congress is an independent branch of government, and they're elected by their constituents. We briefed and informed members of Congress about this program going back to 2001; more than a dozen times since then we've briefed members of Congress --

Q But briefing isn't power to investigate or issue subpoenas to ask questions. And I'm asking you, which of the powers of oversight were they granted?

MR. McCLELLAN: Congress is an independent branch of government. That's what I just pointed out, Jessica.

Q Which has the right to check the functions of the executive. And these are --

MR. McCLELLAN: They have an oversight role, that's right.

Q Okay, so in what way --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's why we thought it was important to brief members of Congress about this vital tool that we're using to save lives and to protect the American people, and why we talked to them about how it is limited in nature and limited in scope.

Q But as you know, members of Congress who were briefed said that they were informed -- yes, briefed, but given absolutely no recourse to formally object, to push back and say, this is not acceptable.

MR. McCLELLAN: They're an independent branch of government.

Q So in what way were they given oversight?

MR. McCLELLAN: They were briefed. And we believe it's important to brief members of Congress, the relevant leaders --

Q Would you also say they were given full oversight?

MR. McCLELLAN: They're an independent branch of government. Yes, they have --

Q Were they given oversight?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, they have oversight roles to play.

Q So they have oversight. So, in what way could they have acted on that oversight?

MR. McCLELLAN: You should ask members of Congress that question.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:12 AM :: (0) comments

Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls

The hits keep coming. Now it's turning out that at least some domestic phone calls were intercepted by the NSA. There's actually a really good point to be made in all of this:

Telecommunications experts say the issue points up troubling logistical questions about the program. At a time when communications networks are increasingly globalized, it is sometimes difficult even for the N.S.A. to determine whether someone is inside or outside the United States when making a cellphone call or sending an e-mail message. As a result, people that the security agency may think are outside the United States are actually on American soil.

I work in telecom and this never even occurred to me. Exactly how are they determining where some of these phone calls are being sent? I think it's just a matter of time before we learn that even more overt domestic spying was going on. Not that the program as it stood wasn't illegal as hell'll just get worse, I believe.

Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.

The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a small number of communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact "international."

Telecommunications experts say the issue points up troubling logistical questions about the program. At a time when communications networks are increasingly globalized, it is sometimes difficult even for the N.S.A. to determine whether someone is inside or outside the United States when making a cellphone call or sending an e-mail message. As a result, people that the security agency may think are outside the United States are actually on American soil.

Vice President Dick Cheney entered the debate over the legality of the program on Tuesday, casting the program as part of the administration's efforts to assert broader presidential powers.

Eavesdropping on communications between two people who are both inside the United States is prohibited under Mr. Bush's order allowing some domestic surveillance.

But in at least one instance, someone using an international cellphone was thought to be outside the United States when in fact both people in the conversation were in the country. Officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified, would not discuss the number of accidental intercepts, but the total is thought to represent a very small fraction of the total number of wiretaps that Mr. Bush has authorized without getting warrants. In all, officials say the program has been used to eavesdrop on as many as 500 people at any one time, with the total number of people reaching perhaps into the thousands in the last three years.

Mr. Bush and his senior aides have emphasized since the disclosure of the program's existence last week that the president's executive order applied only to cases where one party on a call or e-mail message was outside the United States.

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the former N.S.A. director who is now the second-ranking intelligence official in the country, was asked at a White House briefing this week whether there had been any "purely domestic" intercepts under the program.

"The authorization given to N.S.A. by the president requires that one end of these communications has to be outside the United States," General Hayden answered. "I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are always outside the United States."

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales also emphasized that the order only applied to international communications. "People are running around saying that the United States is somehow spying on American citizens calling their neighbors," he said. "Very, very important to understand that one party to the communication has to be outside the United States."

A spokeswoman for the office of national intelligence declined comment on whether the N.S.A. had intercepted any purely domestic communications. "We'll stand by what General Hayden said in his statement," said the spokeswoman, Judy Emmel.

The Bush administration has not released the guidelines that the N.S.A. uses in determining who is suspected of having links to Al Qaeda and may be a target under the program. General Hayden said the determination was made by operational people at the agency and "must be signed off by a shift supervisor," with the process closely scrutinized by officials at the agency, the Justice Department and elsewhere.

But questions about the legal and operational oversight of the program last year prompted the administration to suspend aspects of it temporarily and put in place tighter restrictions on the procedures used to focus on suspects, said people with knowledge of the program. The judge who oversees the secret court that authorizes intelligence warrants - and which has been largely bypassed by the program - also raised concerns about aspects of the program.

The concerns led to a secret audit, which did not reveal any abuses in focusing on suspects or instances in which purely domestic communications were monitored, said officials familiar with the classified findings.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:55 AM :: (0) comments

Graham shares details of his wiretap `briefing'

Well, well. So the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was neverproperly briefed on the expanded role of the NSA in monitoring the conversations of American citizens. This puts paid to the theory that this program had any form of congressional oversight whatsoever.

Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham reiterated Tuesday that the Bush administration never briefed him, as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, about a covert domestic wiretap program -- and suggested the possibility that it grew out of ``a creep of presidential authority.''

Rather, Graham recalled being summoned to a classified briefing by Vice President Dick Cheney in late 2001 or early 2002. He was informed about a presidential directive that let the National Security Agency eavesdrop on overseas calls that moved through U.S. communications lines -- not people speaking on the phone inside the United States.
President Bush said in a national radio address Saturday that he had approved the secret NSA program more than 30 times under a law that required authorization every 45 days.

''I don't know whether these 35 findings represented a repetition of the first or whether they represented a creep of presidential authority,'' Graham said in a lengthy telephone interview with The Miami Herald.
Critics, including Graham, consider the activity illegal because the president empowered the spy agency to do it without judicial oversight.

At issue is precisely when and what mechanism the White House used to ignore, in some instances, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- and authorized American wiretappers to listen in on calls between the United States and overseas that the NSA suspected involved al Qaeda members or sympathizers.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:12 AM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

And now for something completely different...

Live from my cubicle...the horror, the horror.

Posted by crimnos @ 10:21 AM :: (2) comments

Bush tried to kill New York Times NSA Story

Hmmm...yeah, I think I can imagine the desperation...

By Jonathan Alter
Updated: 6:17 p.m. ET Dec. 19, 2005
Dec. 19, 2005 - Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

No wonder Bush was so desperate that The New York Times not publish its story on the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant, in what lawyers outside the administration say is a clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president’s desperation.

The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference. His comparison to the damaging pre-9/11 revelation of Osama bin Laden’s use of a satellite phone, which caused bin Laden to change tactics, is fallacious; any Americans with ties to Muslim extremists—in fact, all American Muslims, period—have long since suspected that the U.S. government might be listening in to their conversations. Bush claimed that “the fact that we are discussing this program is helping the enemy.” But there is simply no evidence, or even reasonable presumption, that this is so. And rather than the leaking being a “shameful act,” it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab.

No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing “all necessary force” in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:34 AM :: (1) comments

More Bush Revelations: FBI spying on Activist Groups

So now we learn that the FBI was authorized to spy on groups that worked on topics like environment, animal cruelty, and poverty relief. Yeah, those sure seem like top-priority organizations for terrorism and certainly not groups that would oppose Bush's agenda. This whole thing is turning into Vietnam War part II.

I would wish for impeachment proceedings, but come on, we know the drill by now. Shitting all over US citizens' rights in a worthless attempt to bring terrists to freedom justice or whatever the fuck? A-OK! Lying to us about why we should invade a sovereign nation? Wonderful! Getting a hummer and then lying about it? Burn him!

F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show


WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 - Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show.

F.B.I. officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.

But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The documents, provided to The New York Times over the past week, came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. For more than a year, the A.C.L.U. has been seeking access to information in F.B.I. files on about 150 protest and social groups that it says may have been improperly monitored.

The F.B.I. had previously turned over a small number of documents on antiwar groups, showing the agency's interest in investigating possible anarchist or violent links in connection with antiwar protests and demonstrations in advance of the 2004 political conventions. And earlier this month, the A.C.L.U.'s Colorado chapter released similar documents involving, among other things, people protesting logging practices at a lumber industry gathering in 2002.

The latest batch of documents, parts of which the A.C.L.U. plans to release publicly on Tuesday, totals more than 2,300 pages and centers on references in internal files to a handful of groups, including PETA, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group, which promotes antipoverty efforts and social causes.

Many of the investigative documents turned over by the bureau are heavily edited, making it difficult or impossible to determine the full context of the references and why the F.B.I. may have been discussing events like a PETA protest. F.B.I. officials say many of the references may be much more benign than they seem to civil rights advocates, adding that the documents offer an incomplete and sometimes misleading snapshot of the bureau's activities.

"Just being referenced in an F.B.I. file is not tantamount to being the subject of an investigation," said John Miller, a spokesman for the bureau.

"The F.B.I. does not target individuals or organizations for investigation based on their political beliefs," Mr. Miller said. "Everything we do is carefully promulgated by federal law, Justice Department guidelines and the F.B.I.'s own rules."

A.C.L.U officials said the latest batch of documents released by the F.B.I. indicated the agency's interest in a broader array of activist and protest groups than they had previously thought. In light of other recent disclosures about domestic surveillance activities by the National Security Agency and military intelligence units, the A.C.L.U. said the documents reflected a pattern of overreaching by the Bush administration.

"It's clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency, from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on Americans," said Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the A.C.L.U.

"You look at these documents," Ms. Beeson said, "and you think, wow, we have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when you see in F.B.I. files that they're talking about a group like the Catholic Workers league as having a communist ideology."

Posted by crimnos @ 8:31 AM :: (2) comments

Monday, December 19, 2005

House Votes to Open ANWR

It's not just the fact that this passed, but the margin. 308-106?? What the hell happened? Lots of oil money?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday approved opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling.

The House approved the measure when it voted 308-106 in favor of a defense spending bill that contained the ANWR drilling language.

Giving oil companies access to the refuge's possible 10 billion barrels of crude oil is a key part of the Bush administration's national energy plan to increase U.S. petroleum supplies and cut America's oil imports.

Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, noted that majorities in the House and Senate have voted in favor of ANWR drilling only to be "frustrated" by minority-party Democrats who used procedural tactics to block Senate passage.

The initiative is expected to be debated by the Senate this week, where it is likely to face stiff opposition from pro-environmental Democrats and possibly some moderate Republicans.

"The defense bill should be about delivering equipment and support to our troops. Instead, it is being used to deliver a multi-billion bonanza to oil companies," said Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

The administration believes ANWR oil production could eventually reach 1 million barrels a day. However, drilling opponents want the refuge protected and say that raising vehicle fuel standards for new cars, mini-vans and sport utility vehicles could save the same amount of oil.

Posted by crimnos @ 3:24 PM :: (1) comments

List of Ghost Prisoners Possibly in CIA Custody

From Human Rights Watch:

1. Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi
Reportedly arrested on November 11, 2001, Pakistan.
Libyan, suspected commander at al-Qaeda training camp.
Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.

2. Abu Faisal
Reportedly arrested on December 12, 2001
Nationality unknown. See next entry.

3. Abdul Aziz
Reportedly arrested on December 14, 2001
Nationality unknown. In early January 2001, Kenton Keith, a spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, produced a chart with the names of senior al-Qaeda members listed as killed in action, detained, or on the run. Faisal and Aziz were listed as detained on Dec. 12 and 14, 2001. See: Andrea Stone, “Path to bin Laden may lie behind bars; US interrogates al-Qaeda, Taliban prisoners in hope of nailing down war on terror’s prime targets,” USA Today, January 8, 2002; Bradley Graham and Walter Pincus, “Al-Qaeda Trainer in U.S. Hands,” The Washington Post, January 5, 2002.

4. Abu Zubaydah (also known as Zain al-Abidin Muhahhad Husain)
Reportedly arrested in March 2002, Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Palestinian (born in Saudi Arabia), suspected senior al-Qaeda operational planner. Listed as captured in “George W. Bush: Record of Achievement, Waging and Winning the War on Terror,”
available on the White House website. Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.

5. Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi (aka Riyadh the facilitator)
Reportedly arrested in January 2002
Possibly Yemeni, suspected al-Qaeda member (possibly transferred to Guantanamo). Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch (see note 27).

6. Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi
Reportedly arrested in January 2002
Nationality unknown, presumably Iraqi, suspected commander of al-Qaeda training camp. U.S. officials told Associated Press on January 8, 2002 and March 30, 2002, of al-Iraqi’s capture. See e.g., “Raid May Have Nabbed Bin Laden Lieutenant,” Associated Press, March 30, 2002. Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch (see note 27).

7. Muhammed al-Darbi
Reportedly arrested in August 2002
Yemeni, suspected al-Qaeda member. The Washington Post reported on October 18, 2002: “U.S. officials learned from interviews with Muhammad Darbi, an al Qaeda member captured in Yemen in August, that a Yemen cell was planning an attack on a Western oil tanker, sources said.” On December 26, 2002, citing “U.S. intelligence and national security officials,” the Washington Post reports that al-Darbi, as well as Ramzi Binalshibh [see below], Omar al-Faruq [reportedly escaped from U.S. custody in July 2005], and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [see below] all “remain under CIA control.”

8. Ramzi bin al-Shibh
Reportedly arrested on September 13, 2002
Yemeni, suspected al-Qaeda conspirator in Sept. 11 attacks (former roommate of one of the hijackers). Listed in “George W. Bush: Record of Achievement, Waging and Winning the War on Terror,” available on the White House website. Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.

9. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (or Abdulrahim Mohammad Abda al-Nasheri, aka Abu Bilal al-Makki or Mullah Ahmad Belal)
Reportedly arrested in November 2002, United Arab Emirates.
Saudi or Yemeni, suspected al-Qaeda chief of operations in the Persian Gulf, and suspected planner of the USS Cole bombing, and attack on the French oil tanker, Limburg. Listed in “George W. Bush: Record of Achievement, Waging and Winning the War on Terror,” available on the White House website. Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.

10. Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman (aka Asadullah)
Reportedly arrested in February 2003, Quetta, Pakistan.
Egyptian, son of the Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted in the United States of involvement in terrorist plots in New York. See Agence France Presse, March 4, 2003: “Pakistani and US agents captured the son of blind Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel Rahman. . . a US official said Tuesday. Muhamad Abdel Rahman was arrested in Quetta, Pakistan, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.” David Johnston, New York Times, March 4, 2003: “On Feb. 13, when Pakistani authorities raided an apartment in Quetta, they got the break they needed. They had hoped to find Mr. [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed, but he had fled the apartment, eluding the authorities, as he had on numerous occasions. Instead, they found and arrested Muhammad Abdel Rahman, a son of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric. . .”

11. Mustafa al-Hawsawi (aka al-Hisawi)
Reportedly arrested on March 1, 2003 (together with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad), Pakistan.
Saudi, suspected al-Qaeda financier. Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.

12. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Reportedly arrested on March 1, 2003, Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Kuwaiti (Pakistani parents), suspected al-Qaeda, alleged to have “masterminded” Sept. 11 attacks, killing of Daniel Pearl, and USS Cole attack in 2000. Listed in “George W. Bush: Record of Achievement, Waging and Winning the War on Terror,” available on the White House website. Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.

13. Majid Khan
Reportedly arrested on March-April 2003, Pakistan.
Pakistani, alleged link to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, alleged involvement in plot to blow up gas stations in the United States. Details about Khan’s arrest were revealed in several media reports, especially in Newsweek: Evan Thomas, “Al Qaeda in America: The Enemy Within,” Newsweek, June 23, 2003. U.S. prosecutors provided evidence that Majid Khan was in U.S. custody during the trial of 24-year-old Uzair Paracha, who was convicted in November 2005 of conspiracy charges, and of providing material support to terrorist organizations.

14. Yassir al-Jazeeri (aka al-Jaziri)
Reportedly arrested on March 15, 2003, Pakistan.
Possibly Moroccan, Algerian, or Palestinian, suspected al-Qaeda member, linked to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Details of arrest reported: Alex Spillius, “FBI Questions al-Qaeda Man in Pakistan,” Daily Telegraph, March 17, 2003; Paul Haven, “Al-Qaida suspect begins cooperating with authorities, Pakistani security officials say,” Associated Press, March 17, 2003.

15. Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (aka Ammar al Baluchi)
Reportedly arrested on April 29, 2003, Karachi, Pakistan.
A Pakistani, he is alleged to have funneled money to September 11 hijackers, and alleged to have been involved with the Jakarta Marriot bombing and in handling Jose Padilla’s travel to the United States.
U.S. Judge Sidney Stein ruled that defense attorneys for Uzair Paracha could introduce statements Baluchi made to U.S. interrogators, proving that he was in U.S. custody. Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey also mentioned Baluchi during remarks to the media about the case of Jose Padilla on June 1, 2004

16. Waleed Mohammed bin Attash (aka Tawfiq bin Attash or Tawfiq Attash Khallad)
Reportedly arrested on April 29, 2003, Karachi, Pakistan.
Saudi (of Yemeni descent), suspected of involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, and the Sept. 11 attacks. See Afzal Nadeem, “Pakistan Arrests Six Terror Suspects, including Planner of Sept. 11 and USS Cole Bombing,” Associated Press, April 30, 2003. His brother, Hassan Bin Attash, is currently held in Guantanamo. Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.
President Bush described his arrest as a “major, significant find” in the war against terrorism: “He’s a killer. He was one of the top al-Qaeda operatives. . . . He was right below Khalid Shaikh Mohammad on the organizational chart of al-Qaeda. He is one less person that people who love freedom have to worry about.” David Ensor and Syed Mohsin Naqvi, “Bush Hails Capture of Top al Qaeda Operative,”, May 1, 2003.

17. Adil al-Jazeeri
Reportedly arrested on June 17, 2003 outside Peshawar, Pakistan.
Algerian, suspected al-Qaeda and longtime resident of Afghanistan, alleged “leading member” and “longtime aide to bin Laden.” (Possibly transferred to Guantanamo.) Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.

18. Hambali (aka Riduan Isamuddin)
Reportedly arrested on August 11, 2003, Thailand.
Indonesian, involved in Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda, alleged involvement in organizing and financing the Bali nightclub bombings, the Jakarta Marriot Hotel bombing, and preparations for the September 11 attacks. Listed in “George W. Bush: Record of Achievement, Waging and Winning the War on Terror,” available on the White House website. Previously listed as “disappeared” by Human Rights Watch.

19. Mohamad Nazir bin Lep (aka Lillie, or Li-Li)
Reportedly arrested in August 2003, Bangkok, Thailand.
Malaysian, alleged link to Hambali. See next entry.

20. Mohamad Farik Amin (aka Zubair)
Reportedly arrested in June 2003, Thailand.
Malaysian, alleged link to Hambali. For more information on the arrest of Mohammad Farik Amin and Mohamad Nazir bin Lep, see: Kimina Lyall, “Hambali Talks Under Grilling—Slaughter of Innocents,” The Australian, August 21, 2003; Kimina Lyall, “Hambali Moved JI Front Line to Bangladesh, Pakistan,” The Weekend Australian, September 27, 2003; Simon Elegant and Andrew Perrin, “Asia’s Terror Threat,” Time Asia Magazine, October 6, 2003; Simon Elegant, “The Terrorist Talks,” Time, October 13, 2003.

21. Tariq Mahmood
Reportedly arrested in October 2003, Islamabad, Pakistan.
Dual British and Pakistani nationality, alleged to have ties to al-Qaeda. See “Pakistan grills detained British al-Qaeda suspect,” Agence-France Presse, November 10, 2005; Sean O’Neill, “Five still held without help or hope; Guantanamo,” The Times, January 12, 2005.

22. Hassan Ghul
Reportedly arrested on January 23, 2004, in Kurdish highlands, Iraq.
Pakistani, alleged to be Zarqawi’s courier to bin Laden; alleged ties to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. President Bush described Hassan Ghul’s arrest on January 26, 2004, in comments to the press, Little Rock, Arkansas: “Just last week we made further progress in making America more secure when a fellow named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Hassan Ghul reported directly to Khalid Sheik Mohammad, who was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. . . . He was captured in Iraq, where he was helping al Qaeda to put pressure on our troops.”

23. Musaad Aruchi (aka Musab al-Baluchi, al-Balochi, al-Baloshi)
Reportedly arrested in Karachi on June 12, 2004, in a “CIA-supervised operation.”
Presumably Pakistani. Pakistani intelligence officials told journalists Aruchi was held by Pakistani authorities at an airbase for three days, before being handed over to the U.S., and then flown in an unmarked CIA plane to an undisclosed location. Anwar Iqbal, “Pakistan Hands Over 1998 Bomber to US,” United Press International, August 3, 2004. See also, reports cited in next entry, and Zahid Hussain, “Pakistan Intensifies Effort Against al Qaeda,” The Asian Wall Street Journal, August 5, 2004; Bill Powell, “Target: America,” Time Magazine, August 16, 2004, Vol. 164, Issue 7; “Pakistani Aides: Al-Qaida Arrest in June Opened Leads,” Dow Jones International News, August 3, 2004; “CIA-supervised arrest in Pak opened valuable leads: Report,” The Press Trust of India, August 3, 2004.

24. Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan (aka Abu Talaha)
Reportedly arrested on July 13, 2004, Pakistan.
Pakistani, computer engineer, was held by Pakistani authorities, and likely transferred to U.S. custody. (Possibly in joint U.S.-Pakistani custody.) See Douglas Jehl and David Rohde, “Captured Qaeda Figure Led Way To Information Behind Warning,” New York Times, August 2, 2004. Kamran Khan, “Al Qaeda Arrest In June Opened Valuable Leads,” Washington Post, August 3, 2004; Kamran Khan and Dana Priest, “Pakistan Pressures Al Qaeda; Military Operation Results In Terror Alert and Arrests,” Washington Post, August 5, 2004; “Pakistan questioning almost 20 Al-Qaeda suspects,” Agence-France Presse, August 5, 2005; Robert Block and Gary Fields, “Al Qaeda’s Data on U.S. Targets Aren’t New: Surveillance of Listed Sites In Eastern Cities Took Place Over Time, Perhaps Years,” The Asian Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2004; Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, “One Huge U.S. Jail,” The Guardian, March 19, 2005.

25. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani
Reportedly arrested on July 24, 2004, Pakistan
Tanzanian, reportedly indicted in the United States for 1998 embassy bombings. U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials told UPI that Ghailani was transferred to “CIA custody” in early August. See Anwar Iqbal, “Pakistan Hands Over 1998 Bomber to US,” United Press International, August 3, 2004. Pakistani security officials told AFP and Reuters in January 2005, that Ghailani was handed over to the United States “several months ago.” See e.g., “Pakistan hands Tanzanian Al-Qaeda bombing suspect to US,” Agence France Presse, January 25, 2005. Listed as captured in “George W. Bush: Record of Achievement, Waging and Winning the War on Terror,” available on the White House website.

26. Abu Faraj al-Libi
Reportedly arrested on May 4, 2005, North Western Frontier Province, Pakistan.
Libyan, suspected al-Qaeda leader of operations, alleged mastermind of two assassination attempts on Musharraf. Col. James Yonts, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, “said in an email to The Associated Press that al-Libbi was taken directly from Pakistan to the U.S. and was not brought to Afghanistan.”

Posted by crimnos @ 12:09 PM :: (3) comments

DHS Monitoring Interlibrary Loans

It's just a cavalcade of good news today!

NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.

The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.

"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."

Although The Standard-Times knows the name of the student, he is not coming forward because he fears repercussions should his name become public. He has not spoken to The Standard-Times.

The professors had been asked to comment on a report that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency to spy on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country.

The eavesdropping was apparently done without warrants.

The Little Red Book, is a collection of quotations and speech excerpts from Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung.

In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was required reading. Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.

The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.

Dr. Williams said in his research, he regularly contacts people in Afghanistan, Chechnya and other Muslim hot spots, and suspects that some of his calls are monitored.

"My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think," he said.

Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.

"I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless."

Posted by crimnos @ 9:32 AM :: (3) comments

Torture Ban Undercut

Hey, you had to know it was toogood to be true. That's right...

"Even as the U.S. Congress has passed a prohibition against the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, it is set to adopt legislation that would strip the judiciary’s ability to enforce the ban, Human Rights Watch warned today."

So here is our compromise and exactly HOW they got Bush to accept the damn ban: it's a paper tiger. To wit:

"...the legislation containing the McCain Amendment currently includes another provision – the Graham-Levin Amendment – that would deny the five hundred-some detainees in Guantánamo Bay the ability to bring legal action seeking relief from the use of torture or cruel and inhumane treatment. And it implicitly authorizes the Department of Defense to consider evidence obtained through torture or other inhumane treatment in assessing the status of detainees held in Guantánamo Bay.

If passed into law, this would be the first time in American history that Congress has effectively permitted the use of evidence obtained through torture.

“With the McCain amendment, Congress has clearly said that anyone who authorizes or engages in cruel techniques like water boarding is violating the law,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. “But the Graham-Levin amendment leaves Guantánamo detainees no legal recourse if they are, in fact, tortured or mistreated. The treatment of Guantánamo Bay detainees will be shrouded in secrecy, placing detainees at risk for future abuse.”"

So, essentially, the torture ban is what it is: political posturing to make its supporters look good while really offering nothing substantive in the way of reform. That sounds about par for the course for this government.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:47 AM :: (0) comments

A Tale of Rendition: "America Kidnapped Me"

Here's a really poignant piece from yesterday's LA Times about a Kuwait-born German citizen who was "detained" (kidnapped) by American forces in 2003 and the ordeal that he went through after a simple "mistake" in rendition:

America kidnapped me
By Khaled El-Masri, KHALED EL-MASRI, a German citizen born in Lebanon, was a car salesman before he was detained in December 2003.

THE U.S. POLICY of "extraordinary rendition" has a human face, and it is mine.

I am still recovering from an experience that was completely beyond the pale, outside the bounds of any legal framework and unacceptable in any civilized society. Because I believe in the American system of justice, I sued George Tenet, the former CIA director, last week. What happened to me should never be allowed to happen again.

I was born in Kuwait and raised in Lebanon. In 1985, when Lebanon was being torn apart by civil war, I fled to Germany in search of a better life. There I became a citizen and started my own family. I have five children.

On Dec. 31, 2003, I took a bus from Germany to Macedonia. When we arrived, my nightmare began. Macedonian agents confiscated my passport and detained me for 23 days. I was not allowed to contact anyone, including my wife.

At the end of that time, I was forced to record a video saying I had been treated well. Then I was handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to a building where I was severely beaten. My clothes were sliced from my body with a knife or scissors, and my underwear was forcibly removed. I was thrown to the floor, my hands pulled behind me, a boot placed on my back. I was humiliated.

Eventually my blindfold was removed, and I saw men dressed in black, wearing black ski masks. I did not know their nationality. I was put in a diaper, a belt with chains to my wrists and ankles, earmuffs, eye pads, a blindfold and a hood. I was thrown into a plane, and my legs and arms were spread-eagled and secured to the floor. I felt two injections and became nearly unconscious. I felt the plane take off, land and take off. I learned later that I had been taken to Afghanistan.

There, I was beaten again and left in a small, dirty, cold concrete cell. I was extremely thirsty, but there was only a bottle of putrid water in the cell. I was refused fresh water.

That first night I was taken to an interrogation room where I saw men dressed in the same black clothing and ski masks as before. They stripped and photographed me, and took blood and urine samples. I was returned to the cell, where I would remain in solitary confinement for more than four months.

The following night my interrogations began. They asked me if I knew why I had been detained. I said I did not. They told me that I was now in a country with no laws, and did I understand what that meant?

They asked me many times whether I knew the men who were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, if I had traveled to Afghanistan to train in camps and if I associated with certain people in my town of Ulm, Germany. I told the truth: that I had no connection to any terrorists, had never been in Afghanistan and had never been involved in any extremism. I asked repeatedly to meet with a representative of the German government, or a lawyer, or to be brought before a court. Always, my requests were ignored.

In desperation, I began a hunger strike. After 27 days without food, I was taken to meet with two Americans — the prison director and another man, referred to as "the Boss." I pleaded with them to release me or bring me before a court, but the prison director replied that he could not release me without permission from Washington. He also said that he believed I should not be detained in the prison.

After 37 days without food, I was dragged to the interrogation room, where a feeding tube was forced through my nose into my stomach. I became extremely ill, suffering the worst pain of my life.

After three months, I was taken to meet an American who said he had traveled from Washington, D.C., and who promised I would soon be released. I was also visited by a German-speaking man who explained that I would be allowed to return home but warned that I was never to mention what had happened because the Americans were determined to keep the affair a secret.

On May 28, 2004, almost five months after I was first kidnapped, I was blindfolded, handcuffed and chained to an airplane seat. I was told we would land in a country other than Germany, because the Americans did not want to leave traces of their involvement, but that I would eventually get to Germany.

After we landed I was driven into the mountains, still blindfolded. My captors removed my handcuffs and blindfold and told me to walk down a dark, deserted path and not to look back. I was afraid I would be shot in the back.

I turned a bend and encountered three men who asked why I was illegally in Albania. They took me to the airport, where I bought a ticket home (my wallet had been returned to me). Only after the plane took off did I believe I was actually going home. I had long hair, a beard and had lost 60 pounds. My wife and children had gone to Lebanon, believing I had abandoned them. Thankfully, now we are together again in Germany.

I still do not know why this happened to me. I have been told that the American secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, confirmed in a meeting with the German chancellor that my case was a "mistake" — and that American officials later denied that she said this. I was not present at this meeting. No one from the American government has ever contacted me or offered me any explanation or apology for the pain they caused me.

Secretary Rice has stated publicly, during a discussion of my case, that "any policy will sometimes result in errors." But that is exactly why extraordinary rendition is so dangerous. As my interrogators made clear when they told me I was being held in a country with no laws, the very purpose of extraordinary rendition is to deny a person the protection of the law.

I begged my captors many times to bring me before a court, where I could explain to a judge that a mistake had been made. Every time, they refused. In this way, a "mistake" that could have been quickly corrected led to several months of cruel treatment and meaningless suffering, for me and my entire family.

My captors would not bring me to court, so last week I brought them to court. Helped by the American Civil Liberties Union, I sued the U.S. government because I believe what happened to me was illegal and should not be done to others. And I believe the American people, when they hear my story, will agree.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:39 AM :: (0) comments