Friday, March 17, 2006

McClellan Gets Grilled Over Pre-Emption Claim

Okay, so you've probably heard by now that the new NSS claims that he US has pre-emptive rights, that Iran is a threat, blah blah, basically stating everything BUT the obvious: that we're going to attack Iran. Heard about this the other day. ANYWAY, what I want to share is not the text for that, because some wonk somewhere can do that better than me. I just wanted to share McClellan getting grilled on it yesterday. Helen Thomas got him good...

Q Does the President know that he's in violation of international law when he advocates preemptive war? The U.N. Charter, Geneva, Nuremberg. We violate international law when we advocate attacking a country that did not attack us.

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I would just disagree with your assessment. First of all, preemption is a longstanding principle of American foreign --

Q It's not a long-standing principle with us. It's your principle.

MR. McCLELLAN: Have you asked your question?

Q It's a violation of international law.

MR. McCLELLAN: First of all, let me back up, preemption is a longstanding principle of American foreign policy. It is also part --

Q It's never been.

MR. McCLELLAN: It is also part of an inherent right to self-defense. But what we seek to do is to address issues diplomatically by working with our friends and allies, and working with regional partners. That's what we're doing when it comes to the threat posed by Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. That's what we're doing when it comes to resolving the nuclear issue with North Korea. So we seek diplomatic solutions to confront threats.

And it's important what September 11th taught us --

Q The heavy emphasis of your paper today is war and preemptive war.

MR. McCLELLAN: Can I finish responding to your question, because I think it's important to answer your question. It's a good question and it's a fair question. But first of all, are we supposed to wait until a threat fully materializes and then respond? September 11th --

Q Under international law you have to be attacked first.

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, you're not letting me respond to your question. You have the opportunity to ask your question, and I would like to be able to provide a response so that the American people can hear what our view is. This is not new in terms of our foreign policy. This has been a longstanding principle, the question that you bring up. But again, I'll put the question back to you. Are we supposed to wait until a threat fully materializes before we respond --

Q You had no threat from Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: September 11th taught us --

Q That was not a threat from Iraq.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:28 AM :: (1) comments

FCC Now Fining for Suggested Behaviours

F%*$in sweet...

Okay, so let's get this straight. The Surreal Life 2, which deserves to be fined for "being shitty (excuse me, s*&!ty"), gets fines for it being "obvious" what was going on beneath censorship (which defeats the point of black boxing or blurring anyway, which is to cover up so-called obscenity despite it still being obvious), Without A Trace gets a record fine for suggesting teen sexual acts, and we're now in the habit of randomly fining some affiliates and not others for broadcasting obscenity based solely on which affiliates are named in the original complaint.

It boggles my mind to think that a government can take responsibility over lewd TV but not the health of its citizens, but there you go: welcome to Bush Country.

FCC Levies Record Indecency Fine on CBS Show
'Without a Trace' Episode
Draws $3.6 Million Penalty
For Network and Affiliates
March 16, 2006; Page B13

WASHINGTON -- Federal regulators proposed a record $3.6 million fine against a single TV show, penalizing CBS and its affiliates for an episode of "Without a Trace" that suggested a teenage sexual orgy, in the first batch of indecency fines proposed in more than a year.

In total, the Federal Communications Commission addressed about 60 outstanding complaints against television broadcasts, finding violations against 11 shows. Of those, seven received fines.

Overall, the FCC's action didn't provide a broad sweeping vision for broadcasters about what is appropriate for television despite suggestions from new Chairman Kevin Martin that such guidance was forthcoming. Nor were the fines as harsh as some broadcasters had feared, given Mr. Martin's previous comments about fining stations every time a dirty word was spoken, instead of once an episode.
Notably, the FCC backed away from an effort to impose higher fines by holding all network affiliates responsible for a broadcast, instead of just the stations that had been flagged by a viewer in a complaint.

Overall, the complaints affirmed the FCC's stance that common four-letter expletives aren't suitable for broadcast and would draw fines, except in "rare cases" that such language was "demonstrably essential to the nature of an artistic or educational work," such as the war film "Saving Private Ryan," which the FCC had previously found was permissible to broadcast.

FCC officials said yesterday's fines against the seven shows were designed to provide broadcasters guidelines on acceptable use of dirty words and sexual innuendo, but many of the offenses deemed to violate FCC guidelines were somewhat routine. For example, the FCC assessed a $27,500 fine for a "Pool Party" episode of the WB Television Network's "The Surreal Life 2" in 2004, which the FCC said went over the line by featuring 20 nude female friends of porn actor Ron Jeremy. Although the network used pixilation to obscure the women's bodies, the FCC ruled it was "unmistakable" that partygoers were exposing themselves and "participating in sexual activities."

CBS's "Without a Trace" drew the $3.6 million fine against 111 stations for an episode that showed no nudity, but featured scenes suggesting a teen orgy. The FCC also rejected an appeal by CBS Corp. and upheld a $550,000 fine for Janet Jackson's breast-flashing Super Bowl halftime show two years ago, finding that the network didn't do enough to protect viewers from the flash of skin.

In a statement, CBS said it disagrees with the FCC about its fines on the Super Bowl broadcast and "Without a Trace" and suggested it would take the FCC to court over the matter, noting the network would "pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights."

In total, the FCC proposed fines of about $4 million, including the $3.6 million "Without a Trace" fine but not including the Super Bowl fine, which had been previously levied. A further four shows were found to be indecent, but didn't have fines levied against them. Complaints against dozens of shows were rejected, including one about an episode of Oprah Winfrey's talk show that featured graphic language about teen sex.

Broadly, the FCC also stepped back from its effort to impose indecency fines against any station that broadcast a show found to be lewd. In several cases it fined only network affiliates that actually had a complaint lodged against them. That's in contrast to the FCC's $1.2 million fine two years ago against Fox Television and affiliates that broadcast an episode of "Married by America," even though the complaint didn't list those affiliates.

Democratic FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said it was "patently arbitrary to hold some stations but not others accountable for the same broadcast."

Posted by crimnos @ 9:04 AM :: (0) comments

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Executive Order Creates a Faith-Based "Center" in DHS

Violation of seperation betweeen church and state? If not that, an incredible waste of money. Okay, seriously, this whole "faith-based" crap of government and the churches chumming up together has crossed the bend from disturbing to downright creepy. What, exactly, are churches going to do to prevent terror?

Oh, wait, don't tell me, they're going to pray to keep bad things from happening. Right.

Seriously, if the government is going to give churches money for social programs, then they need to get rid of the tax exemption to those churches. It drives me insane when churches already have tithing to take care of these issues, and money is being drained from every citizen (including those crumbling inner-city schools and the millions of uninsured in this country) and given to "faith-based" charities and initiatives. Look, I have no problem with them in general, I know that most of the charities are doing good work and providing for the poor and homeless, and I applaud them for that, but the government has no business trying to piggyback on that; we have our own social systems, and could be doing even more if this money wasn't going elsewhere.

In summary, stop kissing fundamentalist ass, W.

Executive Order 13397 of March 7, 2006

Responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security With Respect to Faith-Based and Community Initiatives

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to help the Federal Government coordinate a national effort to expand opportunities for faith-based and other community organizations and to strengthen their capacity to better meet America’s social and community needs, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Establishment of a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Department of Homeland Security.

(a) The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) shall establish within the Department of Homeland Security (Department) a Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (Center).

(b) The Center shall be supervised by a Director appointed by Secretary. The Secretary shall consult with the Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (WHOFBCI Director) prior to making such appointment.

(c) The Department shall provide the Center with appropriate staff, administrative support, and other resources to meet its responsibilities under this order.

(d) The Center shall begin operations no later than 45 days from the date of this order.

Sec. 2. Purpose of Center. The purpose of the Center shall be to coordinate agency efforts to eliminate regulatory, contracting, and other programmatic obstacles to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the provision of social and community services.

Sec. 3. Responsibilities of the Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. In carrying out the purpose set forth in section 2 of this order, the Center shall:

(a) conduct, in coordination with the WHOFBCI Director, a department-wide audit to identify all existing barriers to the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the delivery of social and community services by the Department, including but not limited to regulations, rules, orders, procurement, and other internal policies and practices, and outreach activities that unlawfully discriminate against, or otherwise discourage or disadvantage the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in Federal programs;

(b) coordinate a comprehensive departmental effort to incorporate faith-based and other community organizations in Department programs and initiatives to the greatest extent possible;

(c) propose initiatives to remove barriers identified pursuant to section 3(a) of this order, including but not limited to reform of regulations, procurement, and other internal policies and practices, and outreach activities;

(d) propose the development of innovative pilot and demonstration programs to increase the participation of faith-based and other community organizations in Federal as well as State and local initiatives; and

[[Page 12276]]

(e) develop and coordinate Departmental outreach efforts to disseminate information more effectively to faith-based and other community organizations with respect to programming changes, contracting opportunities, and other agency initiatives, including but not limited to Web and Internet resources.

Sec. 4. Reporting Requirements.
(a) Report. Not later than 180 days from the date of this order and annually thereafter, the Center shall prepare and submit a report to the WHOFBCI Director.

(b) Contents. The report shall include a description of the Department’s efforts in carrying out its responsibilities under this order, including but not limited to:

(i) a comprehensive analysis of the barriers to the full participation of faith-based and other community organizations in the delivery of social and community services identified pursuant to section 3(a) of this order and the proposed strategies to eliminate those barriers; and

(ii) a summary of the technical assistance and other information that will be available to faith-based and other community organizations regarding the program activities of the agency and the preparation of applications or proposals for grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, and procurement.

(c) Performance Indicators. The first report shall include annual performance indicators and measurable objectives for Departmental action. Each report filed thereafter shall measure the Department’s performance against the objectives set forth in the initial report.

Sec. 5. Responsibilities of the Secretary. The
Secretary shall:

(a) designate an employee within the department to serve as the liaison and point of contact with the
WHOFBCI Director; and

(b) cooperate with the WHOFBCI Director and provide such information, support, and assistance to the WHOFBCI Director as requested to implement this order.

Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) This order shall be implemented subject to the availability of appropriations and to the extent permitted by law.

(b) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(Presidential Sig.)B

March 7, 2006.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:36 AM :: (0) comments

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Feingold's Quixotic Battle Against an Administration Out of Control

Okay, so I'll admit it, I've been a little behind on this story, but it's pretty important, at least when it comes to politics within the Democratic Party, so I want to catch up on it. I figured it couldn't hurt to share my own discoveries here, for others who might not have been following the story.

First, on Sunday, Russ Feingold announced that he would move to censure Bush on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos". Here's a bit of the transcript, with relevant passages highlighted:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tomorrow in the Senate, you're going to introduce a resolution to censure George W. Bush. Let me show that to our viewers.

It says, "Resolved that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, president of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans."

That is a big step. Why are you taking it now?

FEINGOLD: It's an unusual step. It's a big step, but what the president did by consciously and intentionally violating the Constitution and laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping, has to be answered.

There can be debate about whether the law should be changed. There can be debate about how best to fight terrorism. We all believe that there should be wiretapping in appropriate cases -- but the idea that the president can just make up a law, in violation of his oath of office, has to be answered .

STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, the president says he was acting on his inherent authority under the Constitution -- and even your resolution acknowledges that no federal court has ruled that a president does not have that authority as commander in chief.

So aren't you jumping the gun?

FEINGOLD: Not at all. You know, we've had a chance here for three months to look at whether there's any legal basis for this -- and they're using shifting legal justifications.

First, they try to argue that, somehow under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, they can do this. It's pretty clear that they can't.

Then there's the argument that somehow the military authorization for Afghanistan allowed this. This has basically been laughed out of the room in the Congress.

So the last resort is to somehow say that the president has inherent authority to ignore the law of the United States of America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Inherent authority...

FEINGOLD: And that has a consequence that the president could even order the assassination of American citizens if that's the law.

So there is no sort of independent, inherent authority that allows the president to override the laws passed by the Congress of the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you're so convinced -- if you're so convinced -- that the president has broken the law, why not file an article of impeachment?

FEINGOLD: Well, you know, that's an option that we could look at, if somebody thought that was a really good idea.

There are other options out there.

In fact, this conduct is right in the strike zone. Even though the founding fathers, they didn't have strike zones; they didn't have baseball -- but this is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors.

They also noted, later, that Rep. Conyers will take over the judiciary committee if the Democrats take over the House in November, and he wants impeachment. Can I get a hell yeah?

Frist, genius as always, came on afterwards, and continued to wield the usual weapons of Republicans: appeals to emotion, dodging of the actual issue, and scaremongering. Don't believe me? Read this shit:

STEPHANOPOULOS: You heard Senator Feingold there. He wants Democrats and Republicans to come together on the censure resolution he's going to introduce tomorrow.

I can't imagine you're going to support that.

FRIST: George, what was interesting in listening to my good friend, Russ, is that he mentioned protecting the American people only one time.

And although you went to politics a little bit later, I think it's a crazy political move.

And I think it, in part, is a political move because here we are, the Republican Party, the leadership in the Congress, supporting the president of the United States as commander in chief who is out there fighting Al Qaida and the Taliban and Osama bin Laden and the people who have sworn -- have sworn -- to destroy Western civilization and all the families listening to us; and they're out now attacking -- at least today through this proposed censure vote -- out attacking our commander in chief.

It doesn't make sense.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're against it. Are you going to allow it to come up for a vote?

FRIST: Well, George, this is the first I've heard about it. I really am surprised about it, because Russ is just wrong. He is flat wrong. He is dead wrong.

And as I was listening to it, I was hoping deep inside that the leadership in Iran and other people who really have the U.S. not in their best interests are not listening because of the terrible -- the terrible -- signal it sends.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're saying that censure resolution actually weakens America abroad?

Well, I think it does because we are right now at a war, in an unprecedented war, where we do have people who really want to take us down. And we think back to 9/11 and that war on terror is out there.

So the signal that it sends that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander in chief who is leading us with a bold vision in a way that we know is making our homeland safer is wrong. And it sends a perception around the world.

And, again, that's why I'm saying -- as leader at least of the Republican side of this equation -- that it's wrong, because leadership around the world of our sworn enemies are going to say, "Well, now we have a little crack there."

There is no crack. The American people are solidly behind this president in conducting this war on terror.

Uggggggh. This coming from a guy who voted to impeach Clinton is rich. "Supporting" the current president means nothing to how people around the world perceive us. Besides, how can Frist say something like this when Bush is hanging low with a 34% approval rating? By his own reasoning almost 2/3 of the country is "sending a bad signal" right now.

Anyway. Monday, Feingold issued a press release detailing his plan for the resolution. Key arguments:

The President Broke the Law by Wiretapping Outside of FISA

It Is Illegal to Wiretap Without the Requisite Warrant or Court Order: The law is clear that the criminal wiretap statute and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) “shall be the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.”

FISA Has an Emergency Exception: The Administration has indicated that it ignored FISA because the application process takes too long. In fact, in an emergency where the Attorney General believes that surveillance must begin before a court order can be obtained, FISA permits him to immediately authorize the surveillance as long as the government goes to the court within 72 hours. Prior to 2001, the emergency wiretap period was only 24 hours. The Administration requested and received the increase to 72 hours in intelligence authorization legislation that passed in late 2001.

FISA Provides for Wartime Situations: FISA also permits the Attorney General to authorize warrantless electronic surveillance in the United States during the 15 days following a declaration of war, to allow time to consider any amendments to FISA necessitated by a wartime emergency.

The Administration Has Used FISA Thousands of Times Since 9/11: Administration officials have criticized FISA, but they have obtained thousands of warrants approved by the FISA court since 9/11, and have almost never had a warrant request rejected by that court.

The President Made Misleading Arguments Defending his Wiretapping Program

Military Force Resolution Did Not Authorize Wiretapping: The President has argued that Congress gave him authority to wiretap Americans on U.S. soil without a warrant when it passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force after September 11, 2001. There is no language in the resolution and no evidence to suggest that it was intended to give the President authority to order these warrantless wiretaps. Warrantless domestic surveillance is not an “incident of war” akin to detaining an enemy soldier on the battlefield as the Administration has argued.

In fact, Congress passed the Patriot Act just six weeks after September 11 to expand the government’s powers to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists and spies. Yet the Administration did not ask for, nor did the Patriot Act include, any change to FISA’s requirement of judicial approval for wiretaps of Americans in the United States.
Prohibition on Wiretapping Limits Executive Power: The President’s assertion of inherent executive power is also wrong. The President has extensive authority when it comes to national security and foreign affairs, but given the clear prohibition in FISA, that authority does not include the power to wiretap American citizens on American soil without a warrant.

Executive Branch Review of Wiretapping Is Not Enough: The President has argued that periodic executive branch review provides an adequate check on the program. But Congress when it passed FISA explicitly rejected the idea that the executive branch should be fully entrusted to conduct national security wiretaps on its own – a power that the executive had abused in the past. In addition, the Administration has said that NSA employees decide whose communications to tap. Executive branch employees are no substitute for FISA Court judges.

Congress Did Not Approve This Program: The extremely limited briefings of the President’s warrantless surveillance programs to a handful of Congressional leaders did not constitute Congressional oversight, much less approval. In fact, the failure of the President to keep the Congressional Intelligence Committees “fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities” was a violation of the National Security Act.

Then came the ever-surprising news that, yet again, the Democrats were shying away from a necessary battle. Sigh.

Feingold Draws Little Support for Censure
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
Mon Mar 13, 6:04 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Democrats distanced themselves Monday from Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold's effort to censure President Bush over domestic spying, maneuvering to prevent a vote that could alienate swing voters. Republicans dared Democrats to vote for the proposal.

"Some Democrats in Congress have decided the president is the enemy," Vice President Dick Cheney told a Republican audience in Feingold's home state.

Feingold, a potential presidential candidate, said on the Senate floor, "The president has violated the law and Congress must respond."

"A formal censure by Congress is an appropriate and responsible first step to assure the public that when the president thinks he can violate the law without consequences, Congress has the will to hold him accountable," Feingold said.

Even as he spoke, Democratic leaders held off the immediate vote that Majority Leader Bill Frist requested. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he didn't know if there ever would be one.

Throughout the day, Feingold's fellow Democrats said they understood his frustration but they held back overt support for the resolution.

Several said they wanted first to see the Senate Intelligence Committee finish an investigation of the warrantless wiretapping program that Bush authorized as part of his war on terrorism.

Asked at a news conference whether he would vote for the censure resolution, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada declined to endorse it and said he hadn't read it.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said he had not read it either and wasn't inclined simply to scold the president.

"I'd prefer to see us solve the problem," Lieberman told reporters.

Across the Capitol, reaction was similar. Feingold's censure resolution drew empathy but no outright support from Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Okay, I'm cutting this one off here and finishing later, because this is getting long, but one little stinger Lieberman's statement again, then look at what he had to say about impeaching Clinton:

Lieberman of Connecticut said he was angered and disappointed in Clinton's behavior, and what he called Clinton's "premeditated" deception.

Lieberman said Clinton "apparently had extramarital relations with an employee half his age and did so in the workplace in the vicinity of the Oval Office. Such behavior is not just inappropriate. It is immoral."

Said Lieberman: "I was disappointed because the president of the United States had just confessed to engaging in an extramarital affair with a young woman in his employ and to willfully deceiving the nation about his conduct."

Guess blowjobs are worthy of scolding, but illegal wiretapping of US citizens: not worth scolding.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:28 PM :: (0) comments

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

DynCorp in Colombia: Rating the company that will take over police functions in New Orleans

From shady to shadier...Late entry... George just tipped me off to this. More on Dyncorp in the morning.

DynCorp in Colombia: Outsourcing the Drug War
by Jeremy Bigwood, Special to CorpWatch
May 23rd, 2001

A U.S.-made Huey II military helicopter manned by foreigners wearing U.S. Army fatigues crash lands after being pockmarked by sustained guerrilla fire from the jungle below. Its crew members, one of them wounded, are surrounded by enemy guerrillas. Another three helicopters, this time carrying American crews, cut through the hot muggy sky. While two of them circle, firing machine-guns at hidden enemy, one swoops down alongside the downed Huey, and the Americans jump through the wash of the blades into the firefight on the ground, successfully rescuing the downed crew members. It could be a scene from a soon-to-be-released Hollywood blockbuster based on the war in Vietnam or El Salvador. But, it happened in Colombia last February, as part of the U.S. $1.3 billion intervention called "Plan Colombia." The Americans who braved the bullets were members of an armed "airmobile" Search and Rescue Team. However, they were not part of the U.S. Armed Forces, but civilian employees of a private company called DynCorp, the new "privateer mercenaries" of a U.S. policy that now "outsources" its wars.

Like the old English "privateer" pirates of the Caribbean five hundred years ago, sailing under no national flag - robbing and plundering Latin America's riches for the English Crown, Washington now employs hundreds of contract employees through U.S. corporations to carry out its policies in Colombia and other countries. In the old days, the British maintained that because the pirate ships did not fly the English flag, the Crown was not responsible for their actions. While the new privateers are underwritten through U.S. taxes, they are technically "contract employees." Like the sixteenth century pirates, if they get caught in an embarrassing crime, or are killed, the U.S. government can deny responsibility for their actions. What's more only a select few in Congress know of their activities and their operations are not subject to public scrutiny, despite the fact that they are on the government payroll.

"It's very handy to have an outfit not part of the U.S. armed forces, obviously. If somebody gets killed or whatever, you can say it's not a member of the armed forces," former U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, Myles Frechette told reporters. Meanwhile, Former Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey recently described himself as an "unabashed admirer of outsourcing." And there is an economic consideration too. Deploying high ranking active duty military officers to staff Colombian operations is far more costly than hiring retired officers working privately. A U.S. government official, who asked not to be named, said that there were several reasons that the U.S. government outsources projects: "[Outsourcing] can be a flexible, cost-effective means of providing specific labor-intensive services on a short-term basis. Once we hire government workers, they are here forever. Some of these jobs are only short-term."

Outsourcing belligerent activities on the part of the U.S. government is not new. It goes back to the Revolutionary War. Many such companies were involved in the Vietnam war, but they were only a minuscule presence compared to the major military effort by the U.S. there. What is new is that now contract employees are in the forefront of operations. In the Colombian war, private outsourced military men are out on the frontlines, while the real U.S. troops are hidden on bases as trainers. The exact number of contract employees in Colombia is not known. A recent State Department report states that there are only 200 U.S. military soldiers and about 170 American contractors working in Colombia. Historically, official counts of U.S. personnel and contractors tend to be underestimated in counter-insurgency operations.

DynCorp and Plan Colombia

By far the largest U.S. contractor company in Latin America is DynCorp, headquartered in Reston, Virginia near the CIA, and Pentagon. It hires and places many ex-military personnel, but is actually much more diverse and more high-tech than that. The company's website promotes it as an Internet Technologies corporation. DynCorp describes its areas of expertise as "Information Systems, Information Technology/Outsourcing and Technical Services." Once you dig a little deeper, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary high-tech start up.

According to its own literature, "DynCorp's expertise spans more than five decades - encompassing events from the computer revolution, the Space Age, the Cold War and conflicts from Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm. Through these times, we have dedicated ourselves to providing customers with the best and most educated solutions. Our IT experience has evolved with this ever-changing industry, and we continue to offer our clients solid solutions based on this evolution." DynCorp has "worked with domestic and foreign government agencies to provide successful information, engineering and aerospace technology solutions. As a result, few companies understand the public sector like DynCorp, or can boast a government client base with the depth and breadth of ours."

Indeed, government contracts account for 98% of DynCorp's business. It contracts with more than 30 U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense, State Department, FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency, Bureau of Prisons, and the Office of National Drug Policy. About half of DynCorp's revenue comes from the Pentagon and many of its employees are retired military men. The rest of the contracts are mostly with civilian government agencies. According to its website, last year it generated more than $1.8 billion in annual revenues, a $4.4 billion-dollar contract backlog and more than 20,000 employees in more than 550 locations. CEO Paul Lombardi recently boasted to the Washington Technology website that he projects 2001 revenue will top $2 billion. Like many transnational giants DynCorp has gobbled up some of the competition. In 1999 it acquired GTE Information Systems which has helped the company pursue government mega-contracts.

Since 1997, DynCorp has operated under a $600 million-dollar State Department contract in Latin America. But, according to its contract with the State Department, recently acquired by CorpWatch, "mission deployments may be made to any worldwide location, including, potentially, outside of Central and South America." The company mainly "participates in eradication missions, training, and drug interdiction, but also participates in air transport, reconnaissance, search and rescue, airborne medical evacuation, ferrying equipment and personnel from one country to another, as well as aircraft maintenance," according to the contract. DynCorp operates several State Department aircraft, including armed UH-1H Iroquois and Bell-212 Huey-type helicopters and T-65 Thrush crop dusters. DynCorp provides the pilots, technicians, and just about any kind of personnel required to carry out the war in Colombia, including administrative personnel. Some of its personnel in Colombia, such as its helicopter pilots are Colombians, Peruvians, and Guatemalans, but most are from the U.S. All must speak passable Spanish and English, and all must possess U.S. government "Secret" personnel security clearances, except in the cases of foreign contractors, where this requirement may be waived.

DynCorp is tight lipped when it comes to its clients. Company spokesperson Janet Wineriter refused to comment on the company's overseas operations. Nor will the State Department make on-the-record statements about DynCorp's operations. Company paramedic Michael Demons apparently recently died of a heart attack on a Colombian military base and the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá attempted to keep his death secret. Because Demons was not a military officer and didn't work directly for the U.S. government, there was no official report and his death was treated as if he were a tourist. DynCorp has also lost three pilots in action. None of these deaths were reported in the news media.

DynCorp also operates in Bolivia and Peru, in conflict zones where indigenous coca growers feel U.S. drug operations encroach on their cultural use of coca and their economic livelihood. In Peru these areas also face renewed activity of Shining Path guerillas. But by far the largest DynCorp operations are in Colombia, and according to its contract with the State Department, it has a "command and control" function in the field, apparently outside any government oversight.

DynCorp's shroud of secrecy has the potential for giving cover to a wide range of activities outside stated US policy objectives. DynCorp is contracted to help eliminate drug production in Colombia. But a DEA document (see image), recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, stated that on May 12, 2000 the Colombian National Police intercepted a FedEx parcel at the airport. It was sent from the Bogota DynCorp site and destined for DynCorp's office on Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. The name of the sender has been blacked out. The 250 Gram liquid "tested positive for heroin," according to the DEA. "My understanding is that was a faulty test result," DynCorp spokesperson Wineriter told CorpWatch.

DynCorp is openly labeled "mercenary" by a hostile Colombian press, a charge they vigorously deny. A State Department official told CorpWatch that "mercenaries are used in war. This is counter-narcotics." But in Colombia, the line between the counter-insurgency and counter-narcotics has been blurred for many years. While it is true that Colombia now produces much of the cocaine used in the United States making it a target for the "war on drugs," Washington's policy objectives may go beyond drugs. The U.S. is also concerned about Colombia's more than 30-year long guerilla insurgency. Critics say that Plan Colombia is an expansion of Washington's involvement in counter-insurgency.

A hint of other U.S. policy aims is visible to anyone taking a commercial flight from Houston to Bogotá. Amongst the U.S. passengers, the embassy types, the businessmen and older ex-military types are easily recognizable. But those who stand out most are the young gringos with cocker-spaniel hairdos wearing blue jeans and sweatshirts with oil company logos inscribed on them. Increasing oil supplies is at the heart of Bush administration energy policy. And both U.S. presidential candidates during the 2000 elections had ties to major oil investments in Colombia. Al Gore's family owns shares in Occidental Petroleum and now-President George Bush has ties to Harken Energy Inc., of Houston, Texas.

According to Fernando Caicedo, a middle-aged, mustached, but sprightly guerilla commander interviewed in southern Colombia: "the gringos want to exploit the whole upper Amazon region, an area that includes parts of Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, known for its richness in black gold -- oil."

DynCorp's day to day operations are overseen by a secretive clique of officials in the State Department's Narcotic Affairs Section (NAS) and the State Department's Air Wing, a group that includes unreformed cold warriors and leftovers from the Central American wars of the 1980's. Working hand-in-hand with U.S. military officials, Narcotic Affairs is supposed to be part of the drug war only, running the fumigation operations against drug crops. But there are indications that it is also involved in the counter-insurgency. In areas that are targeted for fumigation by Narcotic Affairs, Colombian right-wing paramilitaries arrive, sometimes by military helicopter, according to a human rights worker living in the Putumayo who asked for anonymity. Members of these paramilitaries "clear the ground" so that the planes spraying herbicides, often piloted by Americans, are not shot at by angry farmers or insurgents.

"If we did not take control of zones ahead of the army, the guerrillas would shoot down their planes" said southern Colombia paramilitary leader, "Comando Wilson" last April. Many of these paramilitary forces have benefited from U.S.-financed military training in the Colombian Army. Their frequent apparent coordination with the Narcotic Affairs Section and their DynCorp employees, as well as with the Colombian Armed forces, raises the question of U.S. collaboration with "outsourced" death squads, a charge vehemently denied by U.S. officials.

Questions on Capitol Hill

The growing death toll around the use of contractors like DynCorp has caught the attention of U.S. lawmakers. In April, private forces under a CIA contract in Peru identified U.S. missionaries flying in a plane as suspected drug dealers. They notified the Peruvian Air Force which shot them down, killing a woman and her seven month old daughter. While there was speculation that DynCorp might be involved, the company vehemently denied the allegations. "DynCorp does not provide surveillance services under this program and was not involved in any manner in the incident that occurred in Peru," according to spokesperson Charlene A. Wheeless. The New York Times reports another company, Aviation Development, was responsible for the downing of the plane. Aviation Development works in the same areas of Colombia as DynCorp, mainly as an airborne intelligence gatherer under contract to the Central Intelligence Agency.

Moved to action by the incident, Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill, submitted the Andean Region Contractor Accountability Act H.R. 1591, "legislation that would prohibit U.S. funds from being used to contract with private military companies in the Andean region."

"U.S. taxpayers are unwittingly funding a private war with private soldiers," Schakowsky recently testified in Congress. "American taxpayers already pay $300 billion per year to fund the world's most powerful military. Why should they have to pay a second time in order to privatize our operations? How is the public to know what their tax dollars are being used for? If there is a potential for a privatized Gulf of Tonkin incident, then the American people deserve to have a full and open debate before this policy goes any farther."

"Are we outsourcing in order to avoid public scrutiny, controversy or embarrassment? Is it to hide body bags from the media and thus shield them from public opinion?" she asked. "Or is it to provide deniability because these private contractors are not covered by the same rules as active duty U.S. service persons."

As Schakowsky's bill winds its way through the bureaucracy on Capitol Hill, DynCorp continues to operate in Latin America free from public scrutiny or accountability.

Posted by crimnos @ 5:45 PM :: (0) comments

Fukuyama, former leading neocon architect, attacks his old ideology

Another offshoot of a discussion with George...this one concerns Francis Fukuyama, who has been a leading intellectual influence in the neocon movement, beginning with his thesis on how we were at the end of history, because of the triumph of the idea of liberal democracy, which could not be improved upon. He has gone on to be a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, and generally a key figure in the neocon movement, but his new book out at the end of this month seems to suggest he has now rejected neoconservative ideology, criticizing its theory and application in the middle east.

Independent Online Edition > Americas

It has taken more than three years, tens of thousands of Iraqi and American lives, and $200bn (£115bn) of treasure - all to achieve a chaos verging on open civil war. But, finally, the neo-conservatives who sold the United States on this disastrous war are starting to utter three small words. We were wrong.

The second thoughts have spread across the conservative spectrum, from William Buckley, venerable editor of The National Review to Andrew Sullivan, once editor of the New Republic, now an influential commentator and blogmeister. The patrician conservative columnist George Will was gently sceptical from the outset. He now glumly concludes that all three members of the original "axis of evil" - not only Iran and North Korea but also Iraq - "are more dangerous than when that term was coined in 2002".

Neither Mr Buckley nor Mr Sullivan concedes that the decision to topple Saddam was intrinsically wrong. But "the challenge required more than [President Bush's] deployable resources," the former sadly recognises. "The American objective in Iraq has failed."

For Mr Sullivan, today's mess is above all a testament to American overconfidence and false assumptions, born of arrogance and naïveté. But he too asserts, in a column in Time magazine this week, that all may not be lost.

Of all the critiques however, the most profound is that of Francis Fukuyama, in his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads. Its subtitle is "Democracy, Power and the Neo-Conservative Legacy" - and that legacy, Mr Fukuyama argues, is fatally poisoned.

Posted by crimnos @ 8:27 AM :: (0) comments

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Salvador Option Returneth: Death Squads in Iraq

Long-time Junkheap readers may remember when I posted about the Salvador Option way back when...well, George and I were discussing this just the other night. Well, he just sent me a story that indicates that, well, it seems to have been followed up on within Iraq. Could this have something to do with the "sectarian" violence that's been going on? Hmmm...

Death Squads Operated from Inside Iraqi Government, Officials Say
by Matthew Schofield

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Senior Iraqi officials Sunday confirmed for the first time that death squads composed of government employees had operated illegally from inside two government ministries.

"The deaths squads that we have captured are in the defense and interior ministries," Minister of Interior Bayan Jabr said during a joint news conference with the Minister of Defense. "There are people who have infiltrated the army and the interior."

Also, Sunday, a series of deadly attacks hit the Shiite Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, which had recently been relatively safe, initiating another round of sectarian killings and threatening to provoke more.

Seven car bombs were left in markets around the poor Shiite area. Two exploded at 5:30 p.m., another at 5:35 p.m., two at 5:40 p.m. in a different market, and one at 5:45 p.m. Police found and defused the seventh.

The blasts, set off at the busiest time of the day just after poor residents would have returned from their jobs, yet before curfew, killed 46 people and wounded another 204. By Sunday night, the suburb of 2.5 million had been sealed off by police and the private militia of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the Mahdi Army.

The targeting of Sadr City could provoke a strong political backlash. Sadr City is a bastion of support for al-Sadr, a key backer of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's bid for re-election. Al-Jaafari's nomination is strongly opposed by Sunni and Kurdish leaders, although he is supported by United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite political bloc that is the largest in parliament.

The Mahdi Army was also extremely active in attacks on Sunni mosques in the aftermath of last month's bombing of a key Shiite shrine in Samarra that touched off a wave of sectarian killings.

Elsewhere around Baghdad, a series of roadside bombs and gun attacks killed another 17 people.

Interior Minister Jabr said that investigations into death squads were still ongoing in the Defense Ministry. He said the Interior Ministry had arrested 22 people, and subsequently released 18 as innocent after interrogation, detaining four for further questioning.

"Now we have sent them (the four) to the court because it hasn't been proven that all four were involved," Jabr said. "Although I did not have clear signs (of their guilt) I sent them to the justice ministry so that the law could be carried out."

Although Jabr appeared to confirm the existence of death squads, the scale of the operation uncovered would appear to be far smaller than critics had alleged.

Sunni Muslims have long complained about Shiite death squads that arrived wearing official uniforms and rode in official-looking vehicles to haul away victims.

Knight Ridder first reported the accusation of death squads in February last year, and in June documented many cases in which victims were taken away allegedly by men wearing Interior Ministry commando uniforms were later found handcuffed and executed with a bullet to the back of the head.

The government had long denied the existence of such death squads. Sunnis had accused the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia supported by Iran, of being behind the killings, inside or outside of government ministries. Jabr is a senior leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party, and has close ties to the Badr Organization.

The investigation that led to Sunday's confirmation of government death squads came after American forces stopped a group of men who were passing through a checkpoint in late January. The men wore official uniforms and said they were preparing to execute a Sunni man in their custody.

The atmosphere of chaos in Iraq has been stoked in part by the failure of politicians to form a new government nearly three months after national elections.

A spokesman for President Jalal Talabani said Iraq's political parties would meet Tuesday to resolve differences and would convene the first parliamentary session Thursday, three days ahead of what had been planned.

At the Saddam Hussein trial, where he is accused of having 148 people from Dujail slaughtered in 1982 after a failed assassination attempt, three of his fellow defendants took the witness stand, although they said little and denied their involvement in the killings.

Two cited faulty eyesight as the reason spoken testimony differed from earlier signed statements.

The trial is expected to progress through the week and culminate with the prosecution examination of Saddam.

After proceedings, the prosecutor said, "Anyone convicted of these crimes could be executed within 30 days."

Knight Ridder Newspapers special correspondents Huda Ahmed, Mohammed Alawsy and Shatha Alawsy contributed to this report.

Posted by crimnos @ 1:30 PM :: (1) comments

With the ICC? WHY do you hate freedom?

I just can't imagine why American Politiciansfear the International Court so much. Certainly has nothing to do with our numerous Geneva violations.

U.S. Blocks Military Aid to Mexico
By GEORGE GEDDA, Associated Press Writer
11:08 AM PST, March 8, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Since last fall, the United States has halted military assistance to Mexico because of a dispute over whether U.S. citizens should be exempt from prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

The sanctions were imposed in October after Mexico became a signatory to the Hague-based ICC, which was set up in 2002 to hunt down perpetrators of genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Mexico was the 12th country from the Latin America-Caribbean area to be sanctioned by the U.S. under a law approved by Congress four years ago.

In each case, the sanctions have been imposed without an official announcement. Jan Edmonson, spokeswoman for the State Department bureau of Western Hemisphere affairs, confirmed the sanctions against Mexico in response to an inquiry from The Associated Press.

The penalties involve the loss of $1.1 million budgeted for English language, counterterrorism and counter-narcotics training. Also affected was a $2.5 million program to provide counterterrorism equipment to the Mexican military.

ICC-related sanctions have cut the roster of trainees from the hemisphere by almost 800 over the past few years, eroding the traditionally deep military ties between the U.S. and Latin American militaries. Worldwide, about two dozen countries have been sanctioned.

Countries that wish to join the ICC and evade sanctions have the option of signing immunity agreements with the United States that shield Americans from ICC jurisdiction.

Mexico announced last month that it has no plans to enter into any such deal, known in government lexicon as an "Article 98" agreement.

Ruben Aguilar, President Vicente Fox's spokesman, said Mexico "will be irrefutable in supporting the protocols of the international court, whatever the cost. Nobody in the world should be immune from the action of justice." More than 100 countries have signed immunity agreements.

The Mexican government declined comment on the U.S. sanctions. Historically, Mexico has not been a recipient of U.S. assistance. The programs suspended last fall were relatively new.

The sanctions could create a political tempest in Mexico, which often views actions by its northern neighbor with suspicion.

President Bush could mitigate that by using his authority to waive the sanctions. His relations with Fox have been generally good, though Fox has been disappointed in the absence of progress toward a new migration agreement.

Bush plans to meet with Fox at the end of March, days after cabinet-level discussions between the two countries in Washington.

The 2002 U.S. law, known as the American Servicemembers Protection Act, gives Bush the authority to waive the sanctions if he deems it to be in the national interest.

Lawmakers approved the legislation out of concern that Americans overseas, including military personnel, diplomats and ordinary citizens, could be subject to politically motivated ICC prosecutions.

Defenders of the court insist that such concerns are greatly exaggerated because of safeguards written into the ICC statute.

Army Gen. Bantz Craddock, the commander of U.S. military forces in Latin America, said the United States is paying a price for the sanctions.

"We now risk losing contact and interoperability with a generation of military classmates in many nations of the region, including several leading countries," Craddock told Congress last year.

He will repeat his concerns next week during separate appearances before the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jonathan S. Gration, the director of strategy, policy and assessments for U.S. European Command, said the sanctions are impairing the U.S. counterterrorism effort in East Africa.

"The restrictions we've put on our ability to move in Africa may be hurting the very people we are trying to help," he said.

Posted by crimnos @ 11:27 AM :: (0) comments

BBC NEWS | Americas | Internet blows CIA agents' cover

How long before Scooter Libby uses this as his defense?

Internet blows CIA agents' cover
The Chicago Tribune says it has compiled a list of 2,653 CIA employees, just by searching the internet.

The newspaper said it gathered the information from online services that compile public data, that any fee-paying subscriber can access.

It did not publish the names, at the CIA's request. Many of the agents are believed to be covert. The paper also located two dozen "secret" facilities.

A CIA spokeswoman admitted the internet had scuppered some of its methods.

"Cover is a complex issue that is more complex in the internet age," said Jennifer Dyck.

"There are things that worked previously that no longer work. [CIA Director Porter] Goss is committed to modernising the way the agency does cover in order to protect our officers who are doing dangerous work."

Ms Dyck declined to detail the remedies "since we don't want the bad guys to know what we're fixing".

Terror targets?

The Chicago Tribune article was headlined: "Internet blows CIA cover."

It began: "She is 52 years old, married, grew up in the Kansas City suburbs and now lives in Virginia, in a new three-bedroom house."

It went on to explain that the online service describes the woman in question as a CIA employee who has been assigned to several American embassies in Europe.

The CIA confirmed that she was a covert operative.

The paper also identified facilities in Chicago, northern Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington state. It said some were heavily guarded, but others appeared outwardly to be private residences.

Asked how so many personal details of CIA employees had found their way into the public domain, a senior US intelligence official told the Tribune "I don't have a great explanation, quite frankly".

Asked about fears that the details might be accessed by terrorist groups, he replied: "I don't know whether al-Qaeda could do this, but the Chinese could."

The disclosure comes as the US justice department continues an investigation into whether members of the Bush administration deliberately exposed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:18 AM :: (0) comments