Friday, November 04, 2005
Allow torture, Cheney urges senators
John McCain, himself tortured in Vietnam, said to oppose proposal
WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to Republican senators this week to allow CIA exemptions to a proposed ban on the torture of terror suspects in U.S. custody, according to participants in a closed-door session.
Cheney told his audience the United States doesn’t engage in torture, these participants added, even though he said the administration needed an exemption from any legislation banning "cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment in case the president decided one was necessary to prevent a terrorist attack.
The vice president made his comments at a regular weekly private meeting of Senate Republican senators, according to several lawmakers who attended. Cheney often attends the meetings, a chance for the rank-and-file to discuss legislative strategy, but he rarely speaks.
In this case, the room was cleared of aides before the vice president began his remarks, said by one senator to include a reference to classified material. The officials who disclosed the events spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the confidential nature of the discussion.
“The vice president’s office doesn’t have any comment on a private meeting with members of the Senate,” Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for Cheney, said today.
The vice president drew support from at least one lawmaker, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, while Arizona Sen. John McCain dissented, officials said.
McCain, who was tortured while held as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, is the chief Senate sponsor of an anti-torture provision that has twice cleared the Senate and triggered veto threats from the White House.
Cheney’s decision to speak at the meeting underscored both his role as White House point man on the contentious issue and the importance the administration attaches to it.
The vice president made his appeal at a time Congress is struggling with the torture issue in light of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and allegations of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The United States houses about 500 detainees at the naval base there, many of them captured in Afghanistan.
Additionally, human rights organizations contend the United States turns detainees over to other countries that it knows will use torture to try and extract intelligence information.
Cheney’s appeal came two days before a former senior State Department official claimed in an interview with National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” that he had traced memos back to Cheney’s office that he believes led to U.S. troops abusing prisoners in Iraq.
Lawrence Wilkerson, Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff in the first Bush administration and a former colonel, said Thursday that the view of Cheney’s office was put in “carefully couched” terms in memos but that to a soldier in the field it meant sometimes using interrogation techniques that “were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war” to extract better intelligence.
The Senate recently approved a provision banning the “cruel, inhuman or degrading” treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. The vote was 90-9, and an identical provision was added to a second measure on a voice vote today.
Comparable House legislation does not include a similar provision, and it is not clear whether anti-torture language will be included in either of two large defense measures Congress hopes to send to Bush’s desk later this year.
The White House initially tried to kill the anti-torture provision while it was pending in the Senate, then switched course to lobby for an exemption in cases of “clandestine counterterrorism operations conducted abroad, with respect to terrorists who are not citizens of the United States.” The president would have to approve the exemption, and Defense Department personnel could not be involved. In addition, any activity would have to be consistent with the Constitution, federal law and U.S. treaty obligations, according to draft changes in the exemption the White House is seeking.Cheney also has met several times with McCain, including one session that CIA Director Porter Goss attended in a secure room in the Capitol.
American War Criminals: Bush Administration Operates Soviet Style Gulag. Is this how we spread Democracy?
CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons
Debate Is Growing Within Agency About Legality and Morality of Overseas System Set Up After 9/11
By Dana Priest / Washington Post
The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.
The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.
The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA's unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA's covert actions.
The existence and locations of the facilities -- referred to as "black sites" in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents -- are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.
The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony about the conditions under which captives are held. Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long.
While the Defense Department has produced volumes of public reports and testimony about its detention practices and rules after the abuse scandals at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at Guantanamo Bay, the CIA has not even acknowledged the existence of its black sites. To do so, say officials familiar with the program, could open the U.S. government to legal challenges, particularly in foreign courts, and increase the risk of political condemnation at home and abroad.
But the revelations of widespread prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq by the U.S. military -- which operates under published rules and transparent oversight of Congress -- have increased concern among lawmakers, foreign governments and human rights groups about the opaque CIA system. Those concerns escalated last month, when Vice President Cheney and CIA Director Porter J. Goss asked Congress to exempt CIA employees from legislation already endorsed by 90 senators that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoner in U.S. custody.
Although the CIA will not acknowledge details of its system, intelligence officials defend the agency's approach, arguing that the successful defense of the country requires that the agency be empowered to hold and interrogate suspected terrorists for as long as necessary and without restrictions imposed by the U.S. legal system or even by the military tribunals established for prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
The Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation.
The secret detention system was conceived in the chaotic and anxious first months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the working assumption was that a second strike was imminent.
Since then, the arrangement has been increasingly debated within the CIA, where considerable concern lingers about the legality, morality and practicality of holding even unrepentant terrorists in such isolation and secrecy, perhaps for the duration of their lives. Mid-level and senior CIA officers began arguing two years ago that the system was unsustainable and diverted the agency from its unique espionage mission.
"We never sat down, as far as I know, and came up with a grand strategy," said one former senior intelligence officer who is familiar with the program but not the location of the prisons. "Everything was very reactive. That's how you get to a situation where you pick people up, send them into a netherworld and don't say, 'What are we going to do with them afterwards?' "
It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States, which is why the CIA placed them overseas, according to several former and current intelligence officials and other U.S. government officials. Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA's internment practices also would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.
Host countries have signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as has the United States. Yet CIA interrogators in the overseas sites are permitted to use the CIA's approved "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," some of which are prohibited by the U.N. convention and by U.S. military law. They include tactics such as "waterboarding," in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning.
Some detainees apprehended by the CIA and transferred to foreign intelligence agencies have alleged after their release that they were tortured, although it is unclear whether CIA personnel played a role in the alleged abuse. Given the secrecy surrounding CIA detentions, such accusations have heightened concerns among foreign governments and human rights groups about CIA detention and interrogation practices.
The contours of the CIA's detention program have emerged in bits and pieces over the past two years. Parliaments in Canada, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands have opened inquiries into alleged CIA operations that secretly captured their citizens or legal residents and transferred them to the agency's prisons.
More than 100 suspected terrorists have been sent by the CIA into the covert system, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials and foreign sources. This figure, a rough estimate based on information from sources who said their knowledge of the numbers was incomplete, does not include prisoners picked up in Iraq.
The detainees break down roughly into two classes, the sources said.
About 30 are considered major terrorism suspects and have been held under the highest level of secrecy at black sites financed by the CIA and managed by agency personnel, including those in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, according to current and former intelligence officers and two other U.S. government officials. Two locations in this category -- in Thailand and on the grounds of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay -- were closed in 2003 and 2004, respectively.
A second tier -- which these sources believe includes more than 70 detainees -- is a group considered less important, with less direct involvement in terrorism and having limited intelligence value. These prisoners, some of whom were originally taken to black sites, are delivered to intelligence services in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Afghanistan and other countries, a process sometimes known as "rendition." While the first-tier black sites are run by CIA officers, the jails in these countries are operated by the host nations, with CIA financial assistance and, sometimes, direction.
Morocco, Egypt and Jordan have said that they do not torture detainees, although years of State Department human rights reports accuse all three of chronic prisoner abuse.
The top 30 al Qaeda prisoners exist in complete isolation from the outside world. Kept in dark, sometimes underground cells, they have no recognized legal rights, and no one outside the CIA is allowed to talk with or even see them, or to otherwise verify their well-being, said current and former and U.S. and foreign government and intelligence officials.
Most of the facilities were built and are maintained with congressionally appropriated funds, but the White House has refused to allow the CIA to brief anyone except the House and Senate intelligence committees' chairmen and vice chairmen on the program's generalities.
The Eastern European countries that the CIA has persuaded to hide al Qaeda captives are democracies that have embraced the rule of law and individual rights after decades of Soviet domination. Each has been trying to cleanse its intelligence services of operatives who have worked on behalf of others -- mainly Russia and organized crime.
Origins of the Black Sites
The idea of holding terrorists outside the U.S. legal system was not under consideration before Sept. 11, 2001, not even for Osama bin Laden, according to former government officials. The plan was to bring bin Laden and his top associates into the U.S. justice system for trial or to send them to foreign countries where they would be tried.
"The issue of detaining and interrogating people was never, ever discussed," said a former senior intelligence officer who worked in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, or CTC, during that period. "It was against the culture and they believed information was best gleaned by other means."
On the day of the attacks, the CIA already had a list of what it called High-Value Targets from the al Qaeda structure, and as the World Trade Center and Pentagon attack plots were unraveled, more names were added to the list. The question of what to do with these people surfaced quickly.
The CTC's chief of operations argued for creating hit teams of case officers and CIA paramilitaries that would covertly infiltrate countries in the Middle East, Africa and even Europe to assassinate people on the list, one by one.
But many CIA officers believed that the al Qaeda leaders would be worth keeping alive to interrogate about their network and other plots. Some officers worried that the CIA would not be very adept at assassination.
"We'd probably shoot ourselves," another former senior CIA official said.
The agency set up prisons under its covert action authority. Under U.S. law, only the president can authorize a covert action, by signing a document called a presidential finding. Findings must not break U.S. law and are reviewed and approved by CIA, Justice Department and White House legal advisers.
Six days after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush signed a sweeping finding that gave the CIA broad authorization to disrupt terrorist activity, including permission to kill, capture and detain members of al Qaeda anywhere in the world.
It could not be determined whether Bush approved a separate finding for the black-sites program, but the consensus among current and former intelligence and other government officials interviewed for this article is that he did not have to.
Rather, they believe that the CIA general counsel's office acted within the parameters of the Sept. 17 finding. The black-site program was approved by a small circle of White House and Justice Department lawyers and officials, according to several former and current U.S. government and intelligence officials.
Deals With 2 Countries
Among the first steps was to figure out where the CIA could secretly hold the captives. One early idea was to keep them on ships in international waters, but that was discarded for security and logistics reasons.
CIA officers also searched for a setting like Alcatraz Island. They considered the virtually unvisited islands in Lake Kariba in Zambia, which were edged with craggy cliffs and covered in woods. But poor sanitary conditions could easily lead to fatal diseases, they decided, and besides, they wondered, could the Zambians be trusted with such a secret?
Still without a long-term solution, the CIA began sending suspects it captured in the first month or so after Sept. 11 to its longtime partners, the intelligence services of Egypt and Jordan.
A month later, the CIA found itself with hundreds of prisoners who were captured on battlefields in Afghanistan. A short-term solution was improvised. The agency shoved its highest-value prisoners into metal shipping containers set up on a corner of the Bagram Air Base, which was surrounded with a triple perimeter of concertina-wire fencing. Most prisoners were left in the hands of the Northern Alliance, U.S.-supported opposition forces who were fighting the Taliban.
"I remember asking: What are we going to do with these people?" said a senior CIA officer. "I kept saying, where's the help? We've got to bring in some help. We can't be jailers -- our job is to find Osama."
Then came grisly reports, in the winter of 2001, that prisoners kept by allied Afghan generals in cargo containers had died of asphyxiation. The CIA asked Congress for, and was quickly granted, tens of millions of dollars to establish a larger, long-term system in Afghanistan, parts of which would be used for CIA prisoners.
The largest CIA prison in Afghanistan was code-named the Salt Pit. It was also the CIA's substation and was first housed in an old brick factory outside Kabul. In November 2002, an inexperienced CIA case officer allegedly ordered guards to strip naked an uncooperative young detainee, chain him to the concrete floor and leave him there overnight without blankets. He froze to death, according to four U.S. government officials. The CIA officer has not been charged in the death.
The Salt Pit was protected by surveillance cameras and tough Afghan guards, but the road leading to it was not safe to travel and the jail was eventually moved inside Bagram Air Base. It has since been relocated off the base.
By mid-2002, the CIA had worked out secret black-site deals with two countries, including Thailand and one Eastern European nation, current and former officials said. An estimated $100 million was tucked inside the classified annex of the first supplemental Afghanistan appropriation.
Then the CIA captured its first big detainee, in March 28, 2002. Pakistani forces took Abu Zubaida, al Qaeda's operations chief, into custody and the CIA whisked him to the new black site in Thailand, which included underground interrogation cells, said several former and current intelligence officials. Six months later, Sept. 11 planner Ramzi Binalshibh was also captured in Pakistan and flown to Thailand.
But after published reports revealed the existence of the site in June 2003, Thai officials insisted the CIA shut it down, and the two terrorists were moved elsewhere, according to former government officials involved in the matter. Work between the two countries on counterterrorism has been lukewarm ever since.
In late 2002 or early 2003, the CIA brokered deals with other countries to establish black-site prisons. One of these sites -- which sources said they believed to be the CIA's biggest facility now -- became particularly important when the agency realized it would have a growing number of prisoners and a shrinking number of prisons.
Thailand was closed, and sometime in 2004 the CIA decided it had to give up its small site at Guantanamo Bay. The CIA had planned to convert that into a state-of-the-art facility, operated independently of the military. The CIA pulled out when U.S. courts began to exercise greater control over the military detainees, and agency officials feared judges would soon extend the same type of supervision over their detainees.
In hindsight, say some former and current intelligence officials, the CIA's problems were exacerbated by another decision made within the Counterterrorist Center at Langley.
The CIA program's original scope was to hide and interrogate the two dozen or so al Qaeda leaders believed to be directly responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, or who posed an imminent threat, or had knowledge of the larger al Qaeda network. But as the volume of leads pouring into the CTC from abroad increased, and the capacity of its paramilitary group to seize suspects grew, the CIA began apprehending more people whose intelligence value and links to terrorism were less certain, according to four current and former officials.
The original standard for consigning suspects to the invisible universe was lowered or ignored, they said. "They've got many, many more who don't reach any threshold," one intelligence official said.
Several former and current intelligence officials, as well as several other U.S. government officials with knowledge of the program, express frustration that the White House and the leaders of the intelligence community have not made it a priority to decide whether the secret internment program should continue in its current form, or be replaced by some other approach.
Meanwhile, the debate over the wisdom of the program continues among CIA officers, some of whom also argue that the secrecy surrounding the program is not sustainable.
"It's just a horrible burden," said the intelligence official.
Spy names source of fake Iraq documents
Cheney's Office Implicated in Torture of Prisoners
Wilkerson says he traced a trail of memos authorizing the questionable practices through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office directly to Cheney's vice presidential staff.
Wilkerson paraphrased the directions given to U.S. soldiers: "We're not getting enough good intelligence and you need to get that evidence, and, oh, by the way, here's some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war."
In recent weeks, Wilkerson has been very critical of the "cabal" run by Rumsfeld and Cheney in planning the Iraq war.
Fox News Hates Black People.
From Media Matters for America
As 4,000 people gathered in Detroit to pay their final respects to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks during four hours of her funeral ceremony on November 2, Fox News devoted just 23 minutes of air time to live coverage, compared with 108 minutes of coverage on CNN and 100 on MSNBC.* Dozens of politicians and business and religious leaders participated in the funeral ceremony for Parks at Greater Grace Temple.
Former President Bill Clinton spoke for approximately 11 minutes shortly after noon, and all three outlets carried his speech for the duration. But while Clinton's remarks constituted roughly 10 percent of the total coverage on both CNN and MSNBC, they accounted for nearly half of Fox's coverage.
After Clinton spoke, Fox aired only three more segments, lasting two or three minutes each, for seven additional minutes of coverage. CNN aired 67 more minutes, and MSNBC aired 59. During the hour and a half of coverage following Clinton, several elected officials delivered eulogies for Parks, including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) -- the only African-American currently serving in the Senate -- Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Both CNN and MSNBC aired large portions of their speeches, in some cases presenting them in their entirety. Fox News recapped some of the speeches in its final two segments on the event, which lasted four minutes total.
In lieu of coverage of Parks's funeral, Fox News ran several reports on terror warnings, avian flu, the Democrats forcing a closed-door session of the Senate on November 1, and a manhunt for two escaped convicts in South Carolina. During the 1 p.m. hour, on DaySide, Fox News hosts Mike Jerrick and Kiran Chetry interviewed talk show host, cookbook author, and former Wilson Phillips band member Carnie Wilson. The segment included the following:
* Wilson spoon-feeding Jerrick her special "Fall to Your Knees Mac and Cheese."
* A critique of Camilla Parker Bowles's wardrobe:
CHETRY: Although is it a bad call to wear bright poppy red to a 9-11 memorial, uh, to go down and visit ground zero? Everyone called that a big faux pas in New York.
JERRICK: Well, if she had 50 outfits with her, she could have picked something besides fuchsia probably for that.
WILSON: I think she looked good.
* An extended discussion, with accompanying visuals, of the top-five ranked celebrities from In Touch Weekly magazine's Best Cleavage in Hollywood poll, including speculation whether each was real.
Parks's funeral received no coverage during the 1 pm hour on DaySide.
Judge Alito: Ethically Challenged: Bush, Republicans and the "Family Values" crowd love him.
Maharaj, 50, discovered Alito's ownership of Vanguard shares in 2002 when she requested his financial disclosure forms after he ruled against her appeal . . . ''I just started seeing Vanguard after Vanguard, and I almost fell to the floor," she said in an interview at the Jamaica Plain home she shares with a friend after losing her own home in the course of the prolonged litigation. ''I just couldn't believe that it could be so blatant."
In 1990, when Alito was seeking US Senate approval for his nomination to be a circuit judge, he said in written answers to a questionnaire that he would disqualify himself from ''any cases involving the Vanguard companies."
After Alito ruled in Vanguard's favor in the Maharaj case, he complained about her efforts to vacate his decision and remove him from the case, writing to the chief administrative judge of the federal appeals court on which he sat in 2003: ''I do not believe that I am required to disqualify myself based on my ownership of the mutual fund shares."
. . . .
In the 1990 questionnaire, Alito was asked how he would resolve potential conflicts of interest. He responded: I do not believe that conflicts of interest relating to my financial interests are likely to arise. I would, however, disqualify myself from any cases involving the Vanguard companies."
Model Code of Judicial Conduct
A JUDGE SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL OF THE JUDGE’S ACTIVITIES
FOX NEWS: WE PAY REPUBLICANS, YOU DECIDE.
Fox News Paid for DeLay's Travel
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) "filed a report with the Clerk of the House of Representatives indicating he received free travel valued at $13,998.55 from Fox News Sunday for 'officially connected travel' on October 1-2, 2005, from Sugarland, TX to Washington, D.C. and back to Sugarland, TX. Rep. DeLay appeared on Fox News Sunday on October 2, 2005, the weekend after his indictment on September 28, 2005."
Mainstream Media to American Democracy: Drop Dead!
by Brad Friedman
It's been a full two weeks now since the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO came out with their 107-page report [PDF] confirming what so many of us have been trying to ring the bell about for so long: The Electronic Voting Machines which are proliferating counties and states across America even as I type, are not secure, not accountable, not recountable, not transparent, not accurate and not adequately monitored or certified by anybody.
To quote from the alarming landmark report:
[C]oncerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.
The Mainstream Corporate Media couldn't care less.
The report was requested by several high-ranking members of the U.S. House of Representatives. It culminated a year-long investigation into the secret Voting Machines and Software now being deployed to the tune of millions of tax-payer dollars to privatize our American Democracy.
The release of the report was accompanied by a bi-partisan News Release which lauded its findings.
That's right. Six high-ranking U.S. Congressmen (3 Dems and 3 Reps) issued the incredibly rare joint News Release together. Two of those Congressmen were Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee respectively. You do understand how rare it is that those two can agree on anything much less issue a joint press release, right?!
And yet, none of the above has been carried by even one wire service or one major American Newspaper. Not one.
News of the landmark non-partisan report and bi-partisan news release was carried on a few Internet sites (here, here and here) in a few tech journals (here, here and here) and a couple of tiny independent newspapers (here and here). But there has not been a single wire-service (not AP, not UPI, not Reuters, not AFP etc.) nor a single mainstream American print newspaper (not NYTimes, not Washington Post, not any of them) to run even a paragraph on any of it. Not one.
While I'd expect the usual crappy coverage of something this important from both the wires and the print media, I am completely without explanation as to why none of them (Not one! Did I mention that?!) bothered to do even the usual sub-par, unsatisfactory, wholly misinformed, shitty job that we've come to expect from the Mainstream Corporate Media.
But why should they bother to run even a paragraph on it? It's only about our VOTE, the very heart of our democracy.
I've tried to encourage the respected Editor & Publisher to look into the matter. They cover the coverage of such things and it'll be a hell of a lot more difficult for the media to ignore the inquiries of E&P than it would be for them to simply disregard me. Perhaps E&P can find out from the four major wire services and America's two most important and influential newspapers why the GAO report and accompanying news release confirming that those of they previously labeled as "conspiracy theorists" are now confirmed as nothing of the kind. Perhaps they can find out why those organizations, apparently, consider a report which rocks the very foundation of our democracy to be less than "newsworthy".
I'd encourage you to do so as well by dropping a polite request to E&P that they inquire and report on the matter. Perhaps that'll help get some action. And some coverage. Their address is: Letters@EditorAndPublisher.com
I hope you'll help. This democracy ain't gonna save itself, ya know. I hope you realize that.
THICK AS THIEVES: JACK ABRAMOFF'S REPUBLICAN TIES
Wednesday's Senate hearings yielded more scandalous revelations about how the dynamic lobbying duo bilked American Indian tribes out of millions and used the money to win elections for their Republican clients.
By Michael Scherer
Nov. 03, 2005 | Up-and-coming Republican hacks would do well to watch closely the ongoing Senate investigations of superstar lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his former business partner Michael Scanlon. The power duo stand accused of exploiting Native American tribes to the tune of roughly $66 million, laundering that money into bank accounts they controlled and then using it to buy favors for powerful members of Congress and the executive branch.
But they sure did know how to play the game.
Consider one memo highlighted in a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday that Scanlon, a former aide to Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, sent the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana to describe his strategy for protecting the tribe's gambling business. In plain terms, Scanlon confessed the source code of recent Republican electoral victories: target religious conservatives, distract everyone else, and then railroad through complex initiatives.
"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees," Scanlon wrote in the memo, which was read into the public record at a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." The brilliance of this strategy was twofold: Not only would most voters not know about an initiative to protect Coushatta gambling revenues, but religious "wackos" could be tricked into supporting gambling at the Coushatta casino even as they thought they were opposing it.
Another lesson from the Abramoff-Scanlon school: Pad your public numbers. In October 2001, the lobbying team decided to inflate the amount they were billing Indian tribes so Abramoff could make it into a "top ten" ranking of Native American lobbyists. They planned to tell the Coushatta tribe that $1 million was needed for a "public affairs" strategy. Then, by apparently falsifying an invoice from Abramoff's law firm, Greenberg Traurig, they would reroute the money to a charity Abramoff had founded, which was paying to build a school for his children and give "sniper training" courses in Israel.
It worked like a dream, mainly because nobody knew what was happening -- not the tribe, not the law firm, and certainly not the readers of the "top ten" ranking. Oversight was so lacking that it did not even matter that someone misspelled the name of Greenberg Traurig on the fraudulent invoice. "I doubt we would be issuing an invoice with our name misspelled," said Fred Baggett, the head of Greenberg Traurig's governmental affairs shop, who once worked closely with Abramoff. Asked to describe his former colleague, Baggett offered this faint praise: "He is an amazingly gifted person at having two sides to him."
Others were less kind. Kevin Sickey, the chairman of the Coushatta Tribe, described Abramoff as greedy and corrupt. "He is the golden boy gone bad of the American political system," Sickey said. William Worfel, a former Coushatta Tribal Council member, was even more blunt about the lobbying team. "In my mind, they are educated thieves who must be brought to justice," he said.
Wednesday's hearings provided just the latest in a long line of scandalous revelations about Abramoff's lobbying operation, which is now under investigation by two Senate committees and the Justice Department. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chaired the meeting, said his committee was preparing "many" legal reforms that could prevent a repeat of the Abramoff debacle. "We'll be coming out with that in about a week," he said. The Indian Affairs committee is scheduled to hold one more hearing on Abramoff before issuing a report; it still needs to gather testimony from Italia Federici, a close associate of Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Federici is accused of setting up a meeting for Abramoff with Interior Department officials after her nonprofit company, Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, received six-figure donations from Abramoff's clients. Environmentalists charge that Federici's company -- which was founded by Norton -- is a front for big industry polluters. Federici was scheduled to testify Wednesday, but has so far ducked a Senate subpoena. "I believe U.S. marshals will do their duty," McCain said. "She has been unable to be located."
Abramoff, meanwhile, is already facing the prospect of significant jail time. He has been charged with fraud in connection with an unrelated casino deal in Florida, which ended in a gangland-style killing of the man Abramoff is alleged to have defrauded. (Several people have been charged with that killing, including two employees of a company controlled by Abramoff's business partner, Adam Kidan.) At the same time, the former top procurement official in the White House, David Safavian, has been arrested on charges of lying about a trip he took to Scotland with Abramoff. Another former White House official, Timothy Flanigan, recently withdrew his nomination to become deputy attorney general, after it became clear that he would have to testify under oath to the Senate about his relationship with Abramoff.
On Wednesday, a third former Bush administration official, J. Steven Griles, was asked to account for his relationship with Abramoff, which is detailed in dozens of e-mails obtained by the Senate. Griles claimed that he had never done Abramoff's bidding, despite Abramoff's own boasts that Griles was working on his behalf, and might even consider a job at Greenberg Traurig after he left government. "I can't reconcile what Mr. Abramoff put in e-mails to anyone," said Griles, a former coal industry lobbyist who recently served as deputy secretary of the interior.
Griles' denials were disputed by Michael Rossetti, a former counsel to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who said Griles had shown a "very keen interest" on one matter where Abramoff had an interest. "Mr. Rossetti has a different memory on that issue than I do," said Griles, who appeared distraught, at times, during his testimony. "I don't want to dispute a former friend of mine and a former colleague." After the hearing, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the conflicting testimony created confusion about the facts. "Mr. Rossetti is very credible," McCain said. A reporter asked if Griles was also credible. "He is certainly sincere," said the senator.
There was much less doubt, however, about the skills of Abramoff and Scanlon. They collected huge amounts of money from their unwitting clients. In September of 2001, Abramoff wrote to Scanlon asking how much money he was set to collect from two of their Native American clients. "I need to assess where I am at for the school's sake," he wrote, in an apparent reference to his children's Jewish day school, the Eshkol Academy, which Abramoff was secretly bankrolling with the Indian money. Scanlon wrote back, "Your project on the project as proposed is at least 800k." All in all, Abramoff was set to earn "a total of 2.1" million dollars, Scanlon wrote.
Abramoff responded to his business partner, "How can I say this strongly enough: YOU IZ DA MAN."
If political infamy is the measure of a man, nobody in Washington doubts that now.
-- By Michael Scherer
Scott "Trust Me" McClellan Got the Same Karl Rove Talking Points Memo As that Lying Hack David Brooks....
"If Democrats want to talk about the threat that Saddam Hussein posed and the intelligence, they might want to start with looking at the previous administration and their own statements that they've made," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. This is the ever popular "Blame Clinton" defense.
He said the Clinton administration and fellow Democrats "used the intelligence to come to the same conclusion that Saddam Hussein and his regime were a threat." Notice the Red Herring, saying Clinton and Democrats agreed Saddam was a threat does not mean that they Chose War as the Answer to that threat. In fact Clinton chose a very different strategy.
Once again the Republicans think you are stupid. Clinton said Saddam was a threat. But Clinton Chose Limited Military Action, Sanctions, and Weapons Inspections. Bush said Saddam was a threat. And than Bush and His Neo-Con Republican Cronies chose to Start A War which has so far cost 2000 American Lives, Uncounted Thousand of Iraqi Lives, and cost over $200 Billion Dollars, has created a breeding ground for new terrorists, and looks every day more like Vietnam...
If Republicans want to keep comparing Clinton to Bush, I say give them all the rope they want.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Deconstructing Brooks - the Neo-Con smear of Harry Reid
Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 08:56:53 AM PDT
Today, David Brooks maligns Sen. Harry Reid by childishly painting him as a paranoid nutcase who doesn’t understand that which all true Republicans (and their courtesans in the punditocracy) now perceive as a received truth: If a Democrat ever claimed that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s, then the Bush administration couldn’t have fixed the intelligence in making their case for the Iraqi War.
- ellinton's diary :: ::
How dare Reid demand that we investigate how the administration used – or misused – intelligence in the run up to the war! He must be crazy; for that matter, Pat Roberts must be as well! After all, Roberts promised his Intelligence Committee would look into this after the 2004 elections – doesn’t he understand that the point is moot because Bill Clinton once said Saddam had WMD?
Of course, it’s lost on Brooks that Clinton said this in 1998, in the run-up to a military action Brooks has apparently never heard of: Operation Desert Fox. An operation that actually succeeded in containing Saddam and didn’t cost one American life. But you wouldn’t know that from reading Brooks – nor would you know the context in which his cherry-picked statements from Democrats are presented. So let’s put David to the test:
Do the quotes from Democrats he cobbled together let Bush off the hook for going to war over WMD’s?
Let’s start with Clinton – Brooks quotes him as saying:
Reid now knows that as far back as 1998, Karl Rove was beaming microwaves into Bill Clinton's fillings to get him to exaggerate the intelligence on Iraq. In that year, Clinton argued, "Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions ... and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons."
Here’s the original quote, from February 17, 1998, in context:
It is obvious that there is an attempt here, based on the whole history of this operation since 1991, to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the missiles to deliver them, and the feed stocks necessary to produce them.
The UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many more weapons.
Now, against that background, let us remember the past here. It is against that background that we have repeatedly and unambiguously made clear our preference for a diplomatic solution.
The inspection system works. The inspection system has worked in the face of lies, stonewalling, obstacle after obstacle after obstacle. The people who have done that work deserve the thanks of civilized people throughout the world.
It has worked. That is all we want. And if we can find a diplomatic way to do what has to be done, to do what he promised to do at the end of the Gulf War, to do what should have been done within 15 days within 15 days of the agreement at the end of the Gulf War, if we can find a diplomatic way to do that, that is by far our preference.
But to be a genuine solution, and not simply one that glosses over the remaining problem, a diplomatic solution must include or meet a clear, immutable, reasonable, simple standard.
Iraq must agree and soon, to free, full, unfettered access to these sites anywhere in the country. There can be no dilution or diminishment of the integrity of the inspection system that UNSCOM has put in place.
First, let’s again acknowledge that this quote is from 1998 – BEFORE Desert Fox crippled Saddam’s WMD capabilities. This makes this statement IRRELEVENT to the Bush case for war that started in 2002.
Further, Clinton specifically called for international inspections with “…free, full, and unfettered access…” Only in the mind of David Brooks can this quote be misconstrued as supporting the Bush case for war.
Unfortunately, three other quotes Brooks cites – those of Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, and Sandy Berger – are also presented in the same mendacious fashion. Brooks won’t come clean with his readers about the context of these statements: they were made before Desert Fox, they were made in support of a limited military action, and they had NOTHING to do with the case Bush made for the current war.
Not to fear, however: Brooks also quotes former Clinton officials who opined during the Bush administration. Here, for example, is Brooks’ remix of Richard Einhorn:
This is why in 2001, a Clinton assistant secretary of state, Robert Einhorn, said at a Congressional hearing, "Today, or at most within a few months, Iraq could launch missile attacks with chemical or biological weapons against its neighbors."
But here’s what Einhorn said about inspections in the SAME testimony:
There are steps we can take now to address the Iraqi WMD threat. We can put in place smarter sanctions that can help shore up international support for retaining restrictions on sensitive Iraqi imports. We can seek to minimize illicit Iraqi oil revenues, urge tighter monitoring of trade at Iraq’s borders, press supplier governments to adopt more rigorous scrutiny and control over exports to Iraq, and work with other governments to interdict sensitive cargoes headed to Iraq when we receive information about such shipments. And if Iraq agrees to admit U.N. inspectors on terms provided for in existing Security Council resolutions, we can give our full support to that resumed verification effort, while stressing to the other P-5 members the need to be resolute and unified in the face of any Iraqi failure to provide full cooperation.
Yes, Einhorn was for “regime change,” but he was also for inspections. And, to speak directly to Brooks’ argument, does Einhorn believe that there are grounds for the investigation of the failure/fixing of intelligence?
Einhorn believes that the most basic intelligence assumptions on Iraq were misguided. 'In retrospect it did not really make sense for Iraq to hold on to large stocks of WMD over a decade to obsolescing junk, when it could meet the letter of the law required by UN resolutions, have sanctions lifted, and covertly develop what you might call a just-in-time WMD capability.
'I am talking about missiles just below the nominal range permitted that could be upgraded quickly, and dual-use facilities that could quickly be turned into a capability for producing chemical and biological weapons.
'What is so remarkable is that it became very quickly apparent in the post-war interviews with scientists and other officials, that no one even admitted that even plans such as those existed.
'In our intelligence community there was simply not a lot of incentive to second-guess the casual assumptions of a decade about Iraq. No one was asked to offer alternative explanations for what they were seeing... to second-guess what had become conventional wisdom.'
Does this sound like a man who doesn’t think the second phase of the Intelligence Committee’s investigation is needed?
Brooks also quotes Kenneth Pollack, he of the now (in)famous The Gathering Storm, a tome that neo-cons used to make the case for war with Iraq:
This is why the Clinton National Security Council staffer Kenneth Pollack has written, "The U.S. Intelligence Community's belief toward the end of the Clinton administration [was] that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program and was close to acquiring nuclear weapons.
Wow, sounds bad. Pollack couldn’t possibly think now that the Bush administration was fixing the intelligence – could he (January 8, 2004)?
And on the political side, there's no question that there were some Bush administration officials who played fast and loose with the intelligence of weapons of mass destruction, who took what, it turns out to have been, exaggerated estimates from the intelligence community and then further embellished on them when they were presenting the case in public.
Nice try, David – even Pollack demonstrates that there is a justification for Reid’s call to finish what the Intelligence Committee only started. Brooks’ smoking gun, however, must be this quote from the neo-con’s favorite whipping boy, Al Gore:
This is why in 2002 Al Gore declared that Saddam Hussein "has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
Again, here’s the full quote, in context:
Moreover, if we quickly succeed in a war against the weakened and depleted fourth rate military of Iraq and then quickly abandon that nation as President Bush has abandoned Afghanistan after quickly defeating a fifth rate military there, the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam. We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.
We have no evidence, however, that he has shared any of those weapons with terrorist group(s). However, if Iraq came to resemble Afghanistan - with no central authority but instead local and regional warlords with porous borders and infiltrating members of Al Qaeda than these widely dispersed supplies of weapons of mass destruction might well come into the hands of terrorist groups.
If we end the war in Iraq, the way we ended the war in Afghanistan, we could easily be worse off than we are today. When Secretary Rumsfield was asked recently about what our responsibility for restabilizing Iraq would be in an aftermath of an invasion, he said, "that's for the Iraqis to come together and decide.
Gore was DIRECTLY contracting the claim the administration was making at the time – that Saddam was sharing his WMD’s with terrorists. But somehow this quote proves Harry Reid is off his rocker.
Brooks’ article is just the latest iteration of a neo-con fiction that the right is desperately trying to sell the American public: “The Democrats supported the war, because they thought Saddam had WMD’s as well – and they had the same access to the same intelligence that the Bush Administration did.”
Let me use Brooks’ own technique against him – here’s Kenneth Pollack again:
The President is responsible for serving the entire nation… Only the Administration has access to all the information available to various agencies of the US government – and withholding or downplaying some of that information for its own purposes is a betrayal of that responsibility.
David, Harry Reid does not “sit(s) alone at his kitchen table at 4 a.m.”
Harry Reid stands and leads a party that will not put politics above national security.
Harry Reid will not accept the fictions perpetrated by the neo-cons regarding the run-up to this war – fictions sold primarily through the pages of YOUR OWN NEWSPAPER.
Harry Reid stands and demands that the loss of over 2000 American lives be explained.
Harry Reid stands with millions of us who want the truth.
By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
As if the indictment of Lewis “Scooter” Libby wasn’t enough to give the White House some heavy concerns, a report from the Government Accounting Office takes a big bite out of the Bush clique’s pretense of legitimacy.
This powerful and probing report takes a hard look at the election of 2004 and supports the contention that the election was stolen. The report has received almost no coverage in the national media.
The GAO is the government’s lead investigative agency, and is known for rock-solid integrity and its penetrating and thorough analysis. The agency’s agreement with what have been brushed aside as “conspiracy theories” adds even more weight to the conclusion that the Bush regime has no business in the White House whatever.
Almost a year ago, Rep. John Conyers, senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, asked the GAO to investigate the use of electronic voting machines in the Nov. 2, 2004, presidential election. That request was made as a flood of protests from Ohio and elsewhere deluged Washington with claims that shocking irregularities were common in that vote and were linked to the machines.
CNN said the Judiciary Committee got more than 57,000 complaints after Bush’s claimed re-election. Many were made under oath in a series of statements and affidavits in public hearings and investigations carried out in Ohio by the Free Press and other groups seeking to maintain transparent elections.
Online Journal.com reported that the GAO report stated that “some of [the] concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes.”
This is the only democratic nation that permits private partisan companies to count and tabulate the vote in secret, using privately-held software. The public is excluded from the process. Rev. Jesse Jackson and others have declared that “public elections must not be conducted on privately-owned machines.” The makers of nearly all electronic voting machines are owned by conservative Republicans.
The chief executive of Diebold, one of the major suppliers of electronic voting machines, Warren “Wally” O’Dell, went on record in the 2004 campaign vowing to deliver Ohio and the presidency to George W. Bush.
In Ohio, Bush won by only 118,775 votes out of more than 5.6 million cast. Honest election advocates contend that O’Dell’s statement to hand Ohio’s vote to Bush still stands as a clear indictment of an apparently successful effort to steal the White House.
Some of the GAO’s findings are: 1. Some electronic voting machines “did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected.” In short, the machines; provided a way to manipulate the outcome of the election. In Ohio, more than 800,000 votes were cast on electronic voting machines, some registered seven times Bush’s official margin of victory.
2: the report further stated that: “it was possible to alter the files that define how a ballot looks and works, so that the votes for one candidate could be recorded for a different candidate.” Very many sworn statements and affidavits claim that did happen in Ohio in 2004.
Next, the report says, “Vendors installed uncertified versions of voting system software at the local level.” The GAO found that falsifying election results without leaving evidence of doing so by using altered memory cards could easily be done.
The GAO additionally found that access to the voting network was very easy to compromise because not all electronic voting systems had supervisory functions protected by password. That meant access to one machine gave access to the whole network. That critical finding showed that rigging the election did not take a “widespread conspiracy” but simply the cooperation of a small number of operators with the power to tap into the networked machines. They could thus alter the vote totals at will. It therefore was no big task for a single programmer to flip vote numbers to give Bush the 118,775 votes.
Another factor in the Ohio election was that access to the voting network was also compromised by repeated use of the same user ID, coupled with easy-to-guess passwords. Even amateur hackers could have gotten into the network and changed the vote.
System locks were easily picked, and keys were easy to copy, so gaining access to the system was a snap.
One digital machine model was shown to have been networked in such a rudimentary manner that if one machine experienced a power failure, the entire network would go down. That is too fragile a system to decide the presidency of the United States.
Problems obviously exist with security protocols and screening methods for vendor personnel.
The GAO study clearly shows that no responsible business would operate with a computer system as flimsy, fragile and easily manipulated as the one used in the 2004 election.
These findings are even more damning when we understand the election in Ohio was run by a secretary of state who also was co-chairman of Bush’s Ohio campaign. Far from the conclusion of anti-fraud skeptics, the GAO’s findings confirm that the network, which handled 800,000 Ohio votes, was vulnerable enough to permit a handful of purposeful operatives to turn the entire election by means of personal computers using comparatively simple software.
One Ohio campaign operative, Tom Noe, a coin dealer, was indicted Oct. 27 for illegally funneling $45,400 to Bush by writing checks to others, who then wrote checks to Bush’s re-election campaign, allegedly dodging the $2,000 limit on contributions by an individual.
“It’s one of the most blatant and excessive finance schemes we have encountered,” said Noel Hillman, section chief of the U.S. Department of Justice’s public integrity section, as quoted in the Kansas City Star.
In the 2000 election, Florida was the key; in the 2004 election, Ohio was the key.
From the Nov. 2-8, 2005, issue
Bizarro Robin Hoods: Republicans Rob the Poor to Pay the Rich.
Committees scramble to assemble $50B in budget cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans voted to cut student loan subsidies, child support enforcement and aid to firms hurt by unfair trade practices as various committees scrambled to piece together $50 billion in budget cuts.
More politically difficult votes -- to cut Medicaid, food stamps and farm subsidies -- were on tap Thursday as more panels weigh in on the bill.
It was originally intended to cut $35 billion in spending over five years, but after pressure from conservatives, GOP leaders directed committees to cut another $15 billion to help pay the cost of hurricane recovery.
President Bush met with House and Senate GOP leaders and said he was pleased with the progress.
He also appeared to endorse a plan by House Speaker Dennis Hastert for an across-the-board cut in agency budgets, perhaps including the Pentagon, by the end of the year.
"I encourage Congress to push the envelope when it comes to cutting spending," Bush said.
Dozens of issues are at play as Republicans in both the House and Senate cobble together the sprawling budget bill.
The measure is the first in eight years to take aim at the automatic growth of federal spending programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
In the Senate, the Budget Committee voted along party lines to bundle together the work of eight legislative committees into a bill that will be debated next week by the full Senate.
The Congressional Budget Office said the Senate measure would save $39 billion over five years -- $4 billion more than the budget passed last spring.
Pressed to produce more savings than the Senate, House committees took more political chances in drafting the $50 billion House plan, which has become a rallying point for the GOP's conservative wing and its anxiety about hurricane relief worsening the deficit.
The House Education and the Workforce panel, for example, was told to generate $18 billion in savings over five years.
On Wednesday it approved squeezing lenders in the student loan program and raising premiums to employers for government insurance of their employees' and retirees' pension benefits.
'Raid on student aid'
It also imposes new fees on students who default on loans or consolidate them and higher fees on parents who borrow on behalf of their college-age children. California Rep. George Miller, the senior Democrat on the panel, called the package a "raid on student aid."
The Ways and Means Committee approved on a party-line vote a plan by its chairman, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-California, with so many difficult-to-swallow provisions that lawmakers and aides whispered about whether the intent was to make it hard for GOP leaders to win its passage in the full House.
It includes $3.8 billion in cuts to child support enforcement. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-North Dakota, charged that Republicans were appealing to the "constituency of deadbeat dads."
The bill also would tighten eligibility standards for foster care assistance in nine states and delay some lump-sum payments to very poor and elderly beneficiaries of Social Security's Supplemental Security Income program.
"It was abundantly clear that Thomas didn't want to do this stuff," said an aide to a Ways and Means Republican who spoke on condition of anonymity but cited meetings that occurred behind the scenes.
House GOP leaders this month directed Thomas to produce $8 billion in savings, eight times the original target he was assigned.
The Ways and Means plan also would eliminate payments to industries harmed by unfair foreign trade practices. Those payments come from the proceeds of duties on foreign goods "dumped" into the U.S. market.
The House Resources Committee approved a controversial plan to raise $2.4 billion in lease revenues by permitting oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Minority Democrats opposed virtually everything that was done, saying Wednesday's actions are part of a broader GOP budget blueprint that also calls for $106 billion in new tax cuts over the next five years.
"They are targeting programs for poor people to pay for tax cuts for rich people," said Rep. David Obey, D-Wisconsin. Once those tax cuts are passed, Obey added, deficits will be increasing again.
Scott McClellan's Eventual Replacement.
Boy, Those Local Officials in New Orleans Sure Fucked Up During Hurricane Katrina....
E-mails give insight into Brown's leadership, attitude
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Louisiana congressman says e-mails written by the government's emergency response chief as Hurricane Katrina raged show a lack of concern for the unfolding tragedy and a failure in leadership.
Rep. Charlie Melancon, whose district south of New Orleans was devastated by the hurricane, posted a sampling of e-mails written by Federal Emergency Management chief Michael Brown on his Web site on Wednesday.
The lawmaker cited several e-mails that he said show Brown's failures. In one, as employees looked for direction and support on the ravaged Gulf Coast, Brown offered to "tweak" the federal response.
Two days after Katrina hit, Marty Bahamonde, one of the only FEMA employees in New Orleans, wrote to Brown that "the situation is past critical" and listed problems including many people near death and food and water running out at the Superdome.
Brown's entire response was: "Thanks for the update. Anything specific I need to do or tweak?"
On September 12 Brown resigned, 10 days after President Bush told him, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
Brown is still on the federal payroll at his $148,000 annual salary. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, saying Brown's expertise was needed as he investigated what went wrong, agreed to a 30-day extension when Brown resigned. Chertoff renewed that extension in mid-October.
Brown took over FEMA in 2003 with little experience in emergency management. He joined the agency in 2001 as legal counsel to his college friend, then-FEMA director Joe Allbaugh, who was Bush's 2000 campaign manager. When Allbaugh left FEMA in 2003 Brown assumed the top job.
Before joining the Bush administration, Brown spent a decade as the stewards and judges commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association.
The e-mails Melancon posted, a sampling of more than 1,000 provided to the House committee now assessing responses to Katrina by all levels of government, also show Brown making flippant remarks about his responsibilities.
"Can I quit now? Can I come home?" Brown wrote to Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of public affairs, the morning of the hurricane.
A few days later, Brown wrote to an acquaintance, "I'm trapped now, please rescue me."
"In the midst of the overwhelming damage caused by the hurricane and enormous problems faced by FEMA, Mr. Brown found time to exchange e-mails about superfluous topics," including "problems finding a dog-sitter," Melancon said.
Melancon said that on August 26, just days before Katrina made landfall, Brown e-mailed his press secretary, Sharon Worthy, about his attire, asking: "Tie or not for tonight? Button-down blue shirt?"
A few days later, Worthy advised Brown: "Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt, all shirts. Even the president rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this [crisis] and on TV you just need to look more hard-working." (The Republican Answer to Everything, Look Hard Working.)
On August 29, the day of the storm, Brown exchanged e-mails about his attire with Taylor, Melancon said. She told him, "You look fabulous," and Brown replied, "I got it at Nordstroms. ... Are you proud of me?"
An hour later, Brown added: "If you'll look at my lovely FEMA attire, you'll really vomit. I am a fashion god," according to the congressman.
The e-mails came from Chertoff, who oversees FEMA, following a request by Melancon and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Virginia, chairman of a House committee appointed to investigate what went wrong during Katrina, Melancon said.
Brown resigned amid accusations that FEMA acted too slowly after Katrina hammered Louisiana and Mississippi, killing more than 1,200 people. He defended the government's response and blamed leaders in Louisiana for failing to act quickly as the hurricane approached.
He acknowledged he made some mistakes as FEMA's director, but he stressed that the agency "is not a first responder," insisting that role belonged to state and local officials.
Brown could not be reached for comment Wednesday night on the e-mails and Melancon's charges.
Although Chertoff has not turned over all the documents requested by the committee, Melancon charged that the material received so far contradicts testimony by Brown before the committee in which he described himself as an effective leader. (Melancon's analysis of e-mails -- PDF)
Melancon used an e-mail sent September 2, four days after the hurricane hit, to illustrate his point. On that day, Brown received a message with the subject "medical help." At the time, thousands of patients were being transported to the New Orleans airport, which had been converted to a makeshift hospital. Because of a lack of ventilators, medical personnel had to ventilate patients by hand for as long as 35 hours, according to Melancon.
The text of the e-mail reads: "Mike, Mickey and other medical equipment people have a 42-foot trailer full of beds, wheelchairs, oxygen concentrators, etc. They are wanting to take them where they can be used but need direction.
"Mickey specializes in ventilator patients so can be very helpful with acute care patients. If you could have someone contact him and let him know if he can be of service, he would appreciate it. Know you are busy but they really want to help."
Melancon said Brown didn't respond for four days, when he forwarded the original e-mail to FEMA Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks Altshuler and Deputy Director of Response Michael Lowder.
The text of Brown's e-mail to them read: "Can we use these people?"
Melancon also charged that few of the e-mails from Brown show him assigning specific tasks to employees or responding to pressing problems.
On September 1, FEMA officials exchanged e-mails reporting severe shortages of ice and water in Mississippi. They were to receive 60 trucks of ice and 26 trucks of water the next day, even though they needed 450 trucks of each.
Robert Fenton, a FEMA regional response official, predicted "serious riots" if insufficient supplies arrive.
Brown was forwarded the series of e-mails about the problem, but no response from him is shown in the e-mails provided to the committee, Melancon said.
Katrina came ashore along the Louisiana-Mississippi state line, after being downgraded from a Category 5 to a Category 4 storm. It flooded 80 percent of New Orleans. It was followed about a month later by Hurricane Rita, which caused more damage and flooding.
Melancon and several other Democrats from districts directly affected by Katrina were invited to participate as a ex-officio members of the Katrina investigative committee, though they have no formal role. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi refused to appoint any Democrats to the panel after GOP leaders rebuffed Democratic demands for an independent probe.
This is the second time a congressional committee had dealt with e-mails relating to FEMA's Katrina response. A complete transcript of Brown's e-mail traffic during the Katrina crisis has not been released by the Department of Homeland Security.
WHERE IS KENNETH STARR WHEN WE REALLY NEED HIM?
The point is that what we really need is Kenneth Starr to investigate this affront to America. He should call President Bush in for depositions and make him answer for his crimes. I want to know the details: Who is this intern? How often does she blow him? Does she wear a thong? Has he ever stuck a cigar up her cunt? I need to know and the American Public needs to know! I demand answers! It's time for a Special Prosecutor! And if Bush doesn't come clean (no pun intended) then we must Impeach! We Must Impeach I Say!
Of course this Special Prosecutor should have an unlimited mandate to investigate, and if he doesn't turn up anything about this intern, maybe he could spend a little time trying to figure out what Bush knew about the smearing of Joe Wilson, or about making the case for War in Iraq based on lies, or Saddam Hussein's WMD, Dick Cheney's Secret Energy Task Force, Stealing the Florida Election in 2000, or Stealing the Ohio Election in 2004, or Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, Republican Staffers Accessing Democratic Congressional Computer Files, botched 9/11 Terrorism Cases (see Convertino), Jack Abramoff, Bunnatine Greenhouse and Halliburton’s 5 year 7 BILLION no-bid contract, Halliburton’s KBR overcharging the Army 61 Million for Gas, Halliburton’s 1.8 BILLION unaccounted for in Iraq, While Dick Cheney was CEO Halliburton Bribed Nigerian Officials in violation of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Halliburton’s Dealings with Iran in violation of U.S. Law, Bush Diverting $700 Million from Afghanistan to Iraq in violation of Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Iraq’s Coalition Provisional Authority Losing 600 Million while working with Halliburton’s Kellogg Brown and Root, U.S. and British Officials Wiretapping the United Nations, Pundits on the Payroll, Karl Rove Meeting with Companies in which he had a financial interest in 2001 and then Alberto Gonzales covering it up, Scalia’s Conflict of Interest Cases, Bush’s National Guard Service.... I hope you get the point.
Hugs and Kisses,
We've Been Here Before
By Anna Quindlen / Newsweek
What was the cause, the point, the strategy? Suddenly many Americans started to realize that there was no good answer.
Oct. 31, 2005 issue - The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a tapering wall of black granite cut into the grass of Constitution Gardens. Maya Lin envisioned a scar when she designed it, a scar on this land, which is exactly right. Maybe someday his security detail could drive George W. Bush over to take a look. He'll be able to see himself in the reflective surface.
The list of names etched into the wall begins with a soldier who died in 1959 and ends with one who died in 1975. Nearly 60,000 dead are commemorated here. It is the most personal of war memorials. You can touch the cold names with your warm fingers.
The president never wanted the war in Iraq to be personal. His people forbade photographs of coffins arriving home. They refused to keep track of how many Iraqis had been killed and wounded. When "Nightline" devoted a show to the faces of soldiers who had died, one conservative broadcast outlet even pulled the program from its lineup.
The president wanted this to be about policy, not about people. Even that did not go well. The policy became a moving target. First there were weapons of mass destruction that were not there and direct links to the terrorists who attacked on September 11 that didn't exist. The removal of Saddam Hussein was given as the greatest good; it has been done. Then it became the amorphous goal of bringing freedom to the Iraqi people, as though liberty were flowers and we were FTD. The elections, the constitution, the rubble, the dead. Once again we were destroying the village in order to save it.
This all took an unfortunate turn for the administration during the president's vacation in August, when Cindy Sheehan showed up at his ranch. Say what you would about her politics or tactics, there was no doubt that she was a mother whose soldier son was now dead, and who wanted to know why. What was the cause, the point, the strategy? And suddenly many Americans started to realize that there was no good answer.
The Vietnam Memorial stands, in part, as a monument to blind incrementalism, to men who refused to stop, not because of wisdom but because of ego, because of the fear of looking weak. Not enough troops, not enough planning, no real understanding of the people or the power of the insurgency, dwindling public support. The war in Iraq is a disaster in the image and likeness of its predecessor.
During each election cycle, we ponder the question of whether character matters. Of course it does. Does anyone doubt that the continued prosecution of this war has to do with the personality of the commander in chief, a man who is stubborn and calls it strength, who wears blinders and calls it vision? When he vowed to invade Iraq, the advisers he heeded were those who, like him, had never seen combat. The one who had was marginalized and is now gone. The investigation of who leaked what to whom, of what the reporter knew and how she knew it, may be about national security and journalistic ethics, but at its base it is about something more important: the Nixonian lengths to which these people will go to shore up a bankrupt policy and destroy those who cross them on it.
The most unattractive trait of the American empire is American arrogance, which the president embodies and which this war elevated. It is not simply that we have a good system. It is the system everyone else should have. It is the best system, and we are the best people. We can mend rivalries so ancient that they not only predate our nation but the birth of Christ. We will install the leaders we like in a country we scarcely understand, leaders who will either be seen as puppets by their people or who will eventually turn against us. We have been here before.
"In Vietnam we didn't have the lessons of Vietnam to guide us," says David Halberstam, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of that war. "In Iraq we did have those lessons. The tragedy is that we didn't pay attention to them." Or maybe only our leaders did not. The polls show the American people have turned on this war much more quickly than they did on the war in Vietnam. Of course, they are the ones who pay the price.
Perhaps the leaders of the Democratic Party should take time off from their fund-raisers and visit the Vietnam Memorial, too. They should remember one of the most powerful men the party ever produced, Lyndon B. Johnson, and how he was destroyed by opposition to the war in Vietnam and bested by those brave enough to speak against it.
At least Johnson had the good sense to be heartbroken by the body bags. Bush appears merely peevish at being criticized. Someone with a trumpet should play taps outside the White House for the edification of a president who has not attended a single funeral for the Iraqi war dead. As I am writing this, the number of American soldiers killed is 1, 992. By the time you read it, it may have topped 2,000. Will I be writing these same things when the number is 3,000, 5,000, 10,000? If we are such a great nation, why are we utterly incapable of learning from our mistakes? America's sons and daughters are dying to protect the egos of those whose own children are safe at home. Again.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
The Snake Oil Merchants Who Sold Us A War!
The White House Iraq Group (WHIG)- Nov, 2005
Nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go to war.
Talk about putting one over on the American people. This one takes the cake, it really does. Did you hear anyone even mention the White House Iraq Group until recently? Did you have a clue about who they were or what they were about? Luckily, Scooter Libby screwed up somehow and got himself indicted, and now we know. Talk about a con job.
It seems that the White House Iraq Group was quite an impressive bunch with an even more impressive job. They had to sell the entire population of the United States a really big dose of snake oil in a very short time. I kid you not. That really was their assignment, and boy did they ever carry it out in style!
The WHIG group met secretly, as is so characteristic of the Bush White House, and that might explain why so little was known about them. They worked with the diligence and dedication of any fawning Bush task force and they ultimately succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Despite its reputation, WHIG snake oil was not as difficult a sell to Americans as one might imagine, especially after 9/11. Good salespeople know their market.
The group was organized in the summer of 2002, when the nation was still reeling from the events of 9/11 and was largely distracted by the war against the Taliban. In charge of the set-up was Andrew Card, the WH Chief of Staff. Chairman of the committee was Karl Rove, then Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush. Together, these two opportunistic charlatans gathered the very best and most successful spin doctors ever assembled in one place, and the plan was set in motion.
The goal was to market a new brand of snake oil developed by the neocons who had come into power in 2000. With practiced confidence, they came together to sell the American people something they really didn’t want. They plotted to sell them a war.
Let me run that by you one more time: In August of 2002, six men and three women got together in Washington, D.C. to devise a plan that would sell the invasion of Iraq to the people of this country. It’s totally mind-boggling, but that is exactly what they did.
But this is not a TvNewsLIES scoop. The story is not new. The WHIG group was first identified in a Washington Post article in 2003. So why were people not screaming in the streets? But, we digress…
The nine merchants of death were chosen with care. Some had high visibility while others worked in the background, but all were insiders with keys to the White House kingdom. Not unlike the cast of Mission Impossible, each brought a singular skill to the table. But unlike the high-minded characters in the series, the WHIGs were engaged in a nefarious and despicable scheme to delude a nation.
Here, then, is a list of the men and women who teamed up to sell us a war:
* Karl Rove: then Senior Advisor to the President; now Deputy White House Chief of Staff in charge of policy.
* Andrew Card: White House Chief of Staff
* Condoleezza Rice: then National Security Advisor; now Secretary of State
* Mary Matalin: political strategist and consultant; formerly an advisor to the President
* Karen Hughes: then counselor to the President; now Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy
* Stephen Hadley: then Deputy National Security Advisor; now National Security Advisor
* Lewis (Scooter) Libby: then Chief of Staff and assistant for National Security Affairs to Dick Cheney; now resigned; founding member of Project for a New American Century
* James R. Wilkinson: Deputy National Security Advisor for Communication
* Nicholas E. Calio: Senior Vice-President for Global Government Affairs at Citigroup
This infamous array of accomplished Americans did their dirty work in the House of the People. They sat in OUR White House trying to devise a way to betray us all. That’s probably the most insulting aspect of it all.
Understand that this unearthly cabal was formed to use its cunning and its expertise to draw the United States into an illegal, immoral, and ultimately failed war against Iraq. And keep in mind as well that it worked like a charm.
The WHIG group met to formulate a plan that would convince an unsuspecting public that invading Iraq was vital to their own security. They were plotting their strategy even as George Bush was assuring the nation that military action was a last resort in his foreign policy. They were coordinating their sales pitch months before George Bush so brazenly sold Congress their impeachable lies. The WHIGs knew that planning ahead was an effective sales policy.
Duping Congress was easy; selling the war to the majority of Americans was a bit more challenging. In order to break down any resistance to an invasion that was already a done deal, the WHIG pros knew exactly what they had to do.
The primary strategy in their plan was to escalate the rhetoric about the danger that Iraq posed to the US. They would saturate the news networks with their fabricated tales of nuclear stockpiles and chemical weapons. They would sell their ominous warnings of mushroom clouds and weapons of mass destruction with a vengeance. They would provide the fodder for propaganda speeches that the President would read to the nation, and that the Secretary of State would deliver to the United Nations.
And of course, they would cleverly establish a damning link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and more deviously – between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
The case for war was being professionally packaged, hyped and sold.
The perfect forum for publicizing the WHIG wares was theirs for the asking. News networks opened their arms to the war mongers and shamefully competed for their participation. Not a single voice of dissent was permitted by the corporate media, as the WHIG promotion for war was broadcast to every home in the nation for months on end.
Fast forward now to March of 2003. The time between had been filled with WHIG members and their spokesmen - Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Wolfowitz, Chalabi, Kristol and other cohorts – spewing WHIG mantras day after day. The snake oil sales people were anywhere and everywhere, pushing the war and selling it well.
They did such a good job that after only seven months of snake oil sales the Bush regime was able to launch Shock and Awe. The bombardment of Baghdad was hailed as the first step in a War against Terror. The snake oil had taken effect.
The WHIGs had suckered most of the nation into cheering the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They had conned the American people into asking their God to bless the country that was raining daisy cutters and 500 pound bombs on other human beings. They truly believed that by going to war with Iraq, George Bush was going to save them from imminent annihilation. Snake oil, in the right hands, can be smooth, sedating and seductive.
And so, without a single headline to expose their crimes, the White House Iraq Group sold the nation a war. Without a single investigative report about the lies and deceptions of their sales techniques, the WHIGs accomplished their mission. Without a single newscaster to question the hoax that had been perpetrated on the nation, the WHIG members could congratulate themselves for a job well done.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
This group should have made headlines across the nation. It did not. It was given far less coverage than any high profile wife slaying of the day. The work of the White House Iraq Group should have been exposed by every news network in the nation before the 2004 election. It was not.
The people of the United States had the right to know. They did not.
Even now, with the WHIG group uncovered as a result of Plamegate, there is no discernable outrage over their mission. The lies that led us to war do not appear to disturb the nation as a whole. A secret plot to frighten the American people into supporting a war seems almost commonplace. So they lied. Not a big deal.
If that is how it is, the nation is lost. If cynicism and apathy rule the day, there is no more America is we knew it. If the WHIG group passes into history as an acceptable agency of government, there is nothing at all left for us to hope for
Not surprisingly, the corporate media have remained compliantly unresponsive. They have not made this hoax an issue for discussion or exposure. The pundits and reporters refer to the WHIGs with no special concern or curiosity. They existed, they did their job, and we went to war. End of story.
But it is not the end of the story. This administration has three more years to go. The war shows no signs of abating. At this moment, the chaos and the deaths in Iraq are rarely newsworthy, and the policy set in motion by the WHIG machinery moves ever forward. WHIG efforts have paid off handsomely.
The full payoff, however, is yet to come. Condoleezza Rice recently said she would not rule out the possibility of a US military presence in Iraq for another ten years. The media made very little of that remark. War is hell – deal with it.
Thousands more will die in the war that the White House Iraq Group was hired to promote. It seems fairly certain that no members of the group will be held accountable for their despicable deeds. They were hired guns who have a great deal of blood on their hands, but they know that blood washes off. Snake oil does not.
So be it. We’ve put the story out again. Share it if you wish. Make others aware of the wool that was so expertly pulled over their eyes. One has to wonder why there is so much indifference and complacency in light of such subterfuge.
Maybe it’s the snake oil.