Saturday, February 04, 2006
By SARAH FERGUSON
The irony couldn't be more clear. New York City police and their union, the Police Benevolent Association, are suing the NYPD for spying on them at rallies and demonstrations held during their contract dispute with the city in the summer of 2004.
As reported on the front page of today's New York Times,the lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include New York firefighters and other police unions, charges that the NYPD's own surveillance of off-duty cops who attended these rallies was so heavy-handed and "intimidating" that it violated their civil rights.
The cops' lawyer even called videotaping a form of "political harrassment."
Talk about the cat calling the kettle black. For years activists at antiwar demos, Critical Mass bike rides and other political protests have found themselves under the heavy gaze of camera-toting TARU (Technical Assistance Response) officers seemingly recording their every move.
"For years we have complained about the NYPD videotaping protesters," says Chris Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which has been fighting to curb police surveillance of activists since it filed its landmark Handschu case in 1971.
"It's nice to see that police officers now agree with us," Dunn adds. "It sure is ironic, however, how cops turn into the biggest advocates of constitutional rights when they become the targets of police misconduct."
Following the Republican National Convention, when the NYPD even equipped a Fuji blimp with a high-powered camera to hone in on street protests, the NYCLU fired off yet another round of legal papers to challenge the blanket surveillance of political protests, along with the NYPD's new practice of retaining tapes and photos for as long as it deems necessary.
So will this police suit help the NYCLU's case? "Anything that makes the public more aware of the intimidating affect of police surveillance helps. When the police say it, that helps," says Dunn.
Activists found news of the cops' suit a bit galling, but were nevertheless pleased. "It just shows that this is too much already, if even the police are upset about it," says Bill DiPaolo of Times Up!, the eco group that helps promote the monthly Critical Mass bike rides, which have been subject to much undercover surveillance of late.
Lately, Times Up! volunteers have taken to spying on the cops that come to spy on bikers during the mass rides. "We videotape them videotaping us. Since we've started doing it, we've noticed a significant decrease in the number of [police] who show up to videotape. But that may be
because it's become an issue in the press," says DiPaolo.
Perhaps the cops suing the cops should trying videotaping those cops, too.Sarah Ferguson writes for the Village Voice website. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Bush administration, which apparently believes that secrecy is its best defense against charges of abuses and incompetence, is at it again.
This time, the Justice Department is refusing to share its classified legal opinions on President Bush's domestic surveillance program with the Senate committee that is to begin hearings Monday.
The administration has laid out a public legal defense, but its strategy has rested chiefly on the deceptive ploy of portraying the spying program as "terrorist surveillance." It thus miscasts its actions as an urgent response to immediate danger, with little supporting evidence, and it dodges concerns that telephone conversations and e-mail of many non-terrorists have been monitored.
Also, by keeping internal documents under wraps, administration officials can hide the serious conflicts within the Justice Department in 2004 over the program's legality.
The Senate Judiciary Committee shouldn't let them get away with it.
The papers in question are legal memorandums, not reports on sensitive field operations. They are critical in helping the Senate and the public understand why the administration felt it could ignore explicit requirements in federal law for warrants, and why the law's procedures for obtaining warrants from a secret court (after the fact, if necessary) were inadequate.
And they should shed light on whether the administration sees the President's powers in national security matters as virtually unlimited.
There are, of course, legitimate arguments for some degree of privileged communications within the executive branch. But there are also compelling needs for accountability and transparency.
And it is significant that the dispute over the spying documents hardly stands alone. The administration is currently embroiled in quarrels with Congress over its refusal to release documents related to its response to Hurricane Katrina and on White House dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Moreover, there has been a series of previous battles over withheld White House records, including those regarding pre-9/11 warnings of possible attacks by al-Qaida and Vice President Dick Cheney's secret energy task force.
This administration's attitude seems to be: We'll do as we please without any interference from you.
That is an affront to Congress, to the principle of balance of power and to the American people. It must be vigorously challenged.
Friday, February 03, 2006
Yesterday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing may have seemed just like a dry-run for Gonzales grilling set to take place next week. Yet there were some startling revelations made that may shed light on just how explosive a scandal this story has become.
Specifically, note this exchange between Senator Wyden and General Hayden:
A similarly revealing sparring session came when Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, pressed the intelligence officials about whether a controversial Pentagon data-mining program called Total Information Awareness had been effectively transferred to the intelligence agencies after being shut down by Congress.
Mr. Negroponte and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, both said they did not know. Then came the turn of Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who headed N.S.A. for six years before becoming the principal deputy director of national intelligence last spring.
"Senator," General Hayden said, "I'd like to answer in closed session."
Right around the time Bush says he signed his domestic spying order, the government created a massive data-mining program called "Total Information Awareness" (TIA). Created in January 2002, the program was heralded as "adapting" our technology to meet the threat of terrorism. The New York Times reported on the controversial program in 2002:
The Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast electronic dragnet, searching for personal information as part of the hunt for terrorists around the globe -- including the United States.
As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter (yes, that Poindexter), has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.
More background on TIA and the Information Awareness Office here and here. On January 16, 2003, Senator Feingold introduced S. 188, the "Data-Mining Moratorium Act of 2003." His bill called for a moratorium on data-mining under TIA and "any other program." It also called on the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, and the head of any other Department, to fully report to Congress on any data-mining activites. Feingold's bill was referred to committee.
While Feingold's bill didn't pass, the program was so controversial, Congress eventually pulled its funding on September 24, 2003. It wasn't just the program, it was the way the program was implemented. As the Conference Report explains: "The conferees are concerned about the activities of the Information Awareness Office and direct that the Office be terminated immediately." So why is Wyden's question so critically important? In pulling its funding for the program, Congress explicitly said the following:
c) In this section, the term "Terrorism Information Awareness Program" means the program known either as Terrorism Information Awareness or Total Information Awareness, or any successor program, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or any other Department or element of the Federal Government, including the individual components of such Program developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Was TIA resurrected? The DoD had already spent quite a bit of money on equipment for the program. When the program's funding was pulled, the government didn't want all this precious data-mining software to go to waste. So, the conferees agreed "to shift some of the TIA's high-powered software tools to agencies involved in gathering foreign intelligence."
Ahem. That would of course, include the NSA.
Thus, if Bush was using the "Total Information Awareness" technology for his "Terrorist Surveillance Program" after Congress explicitly said he could not, well, that would clearly be an illegal act. Is Bush's "terrorist surveillance program" just the same TIA program but with a fancier name? Could that account for why Bush has fervently refused to inform Congress about the nature of the program? Could that account for why the "briefings" he gave to eight members of Congress were given solely on a "don't tell, don't question" basis? Also, was this one reason why Comey refused to sign off on the program in 2004? All we have as a result of Hayden's answer are more questions, questions that need to be addressed in the upcoming hearings.
I'd note that in May 2004, the General Accounting Office revealed that the government had been using or was planning to use some 200 data-mining programs, 122 of which involve personal information. (PDF report). When officials at the Senate Intelligence Committee were asked whether the government is employing any other spying programs without informing Congress, the officials refused to answer in open session.
Update [2006-2-3 16:33:43 by georgia10]:: Slate is also running a piece on TIA. In it, they describe the program in detail:
Poindexter envisioned a "privacy appliance," a device that would strip any identifiers from the information—such as names or addresses—so that government miners could see only patterns. Then if there was reason to believe that the information belonged to a group that was planning an attack, the government could seek a warrant and disable the privacy control for that specific data. TIA funded research on a privacy appliance at the Palo Alto Research Center, a subsidiary of Xerox Corp. "The idea is that this device, cryptographically protected to prevent tampering, would ensure that no one could abuse private information without an immutable digital record of their misdeeds," according to a 2003 government report to Congress about TIA. "The details of the operation of the appliance would be available to the public."
The NSA's domestic eavesdropping program, however, appears to have none of these safeguards.
What Dobson neglected to mention--and has yet to discuss publicly--is his own pivotal role in one of Abramoff's schemes. In 2002 Dobson joined a coterie of Christian-right activists, including Tony Perkins, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, to spearhead Abramoff's campaigns against the establishment of several Louisiana casinos that infringed on the turf of Abramoff's tribal clients. Dobson and his allies recorded messages for phone banking, lobbied high-level Bush Administration officials and took to the airwaves. Whether they knew it or not, these Christian soldiers' crusade to protect families in the "Sportsmen's Paradise" from the side effects of chronic slot-pulling and dice-rolling was funded by the gambling industry and planned by the lobbyist known even to his friends as "Casino Jack."
The only Christian-right activist confirmed to be completely aware of Abramoff's rip-off was Ralph Reed. He and Abramoff have a long and storied history together. When Abramoff chaired the College Republican National Committee in the early 1980s, Reed served as the organization's executive director. They reunited in 1989, when Abramoff helped Reed organize the remains of Pat Robertson's failed 1988 presidential bid into the Christian Coalition. In 1997, with the Christian Coalition under IRS investigation and Reed facing accusations of cronyism from the group's chief financial officer, he left to start his own consulting firm, Century Strategies. Reed contacted Abramoff right away. "I need to start humping in corporate accounts," Reed told him in 1998. "I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts."
Though Abramoff apparently was not fond of Reed, he viewed him as useful. "I know you (we!) hate him [Reed], but it does give us good cover and patter to have him doing stuff," he wrote in a February 14, 2002, e-mail to his business partner, Michael Scanlon. "Let's give him a list of things we want...and give him some chump change to get it done." Reed thus became Abramoff and Scanlon's liaison to the Christian right, enlisting his evangelical allies into a web of shadowy casino hustles for "chump change."
Reed's first sleight of hand was enticing Perkins, Falwell and Robertson to try to block a 2001 bill in the Louisiana legislature loosening restrictions on riverboat casinos, which would have posed a competitive threat to Abramoff's clients, the Coushattas. At the time, Perkins was a right-wing State Representative hailed by Reed as the legislature's "anti-gambling leader."
As Perkins lobbied his colleagues against the riverboat bill, he pushed Reed to pour money into an aggressive phone-banking campaign to rally conservative Christian voters.
With a steady supply of gambling industry cash, Abramoff dumped a phone-bank budget of more than $60,000 into Reed's war chest for PR efforts against his clients' rivals, the Jena Choctaws (Reed had asked for $150,000)--supplementing the $10,000 in tribal gambling money he directed to Reed's 2001 campaign for chair of the Georgia GOP and the nearly $4 million he ultimately funneled into Reed's personal account. Reed then recruited Falwell to record a phone message against the bill. He also solicited the help of his former boss at the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, thanking him for his "leadership for our values." Like the answering of a prayer, tens of thousands of Louisiana Republicans suddenly were bombarded with the voice of God against vice, played by Robertson and Falwell.
On March 22, 2001, the bill was resoundingly defeated in the legislature. "You are the greatest!!!" an ecstatic Abramoff wrote to Reed.
Miracle accomplished, Abramoff tapped Reed's services again in January 2002, when his clients learned that then-Louisiana Governor Mike Foster had secretly approved a casino site for the Jena Choctaws. Following a battle plan devised by Scanlon (who inexplicably signed a memo outlining the plan, Mike "The Sausage King" Scanlon), Reed re-enlisted his evangelical allies to rev up grassroots pressure on Bush Interior Secretary Gail Norton, who had the final say on the Jena deal.
Reed first prompted Dobson to attack the Jenas' lobbyist, Washington super-lawyer, former RNC chair and current Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, during a Focus on the Family broadcast. (In his 2002 campaign for governor, Barbour described himself as "a five-point Calvinist" on American Family Radio.)
"Let me know when Dobson hits him," Abramoff wrote to Reed on February 6, 2002. "I want to savor it." That same day, he e-mailed Scanlon, "He [Dobson] is going to hit Haley by name! He is going to encourage people to call Norton and the WH [White House]. This is going to get fun." Abramoff transferred more cash to Reed to blast Dobson's tirade against the Jena casino across Louisiana airwaves. Abramoff was confident his Bush Administration contacts would make sure all the right people heard Dobson's hit. "Dobson goes up on the radio next week!" he told Scanlon on February 20. "We'll play it in WH [the White House] and Interior." Abramoff's gamble paid off when word of the ad filtered through the tension-filled halls of the Interior Department. "[White House liaison] Doug [Domenech] came to me and said, 'Dobson's going to shut down our phone system,'" an unnamed former Interior official recounted to the Washington Post. " 'He's going to go on the air and tell everyone who listens to Focus on the Family to call Interior to oppose the Jena compact.' "
But Abramoff's fun didn't stop there. Reed urged a Who's Who of the Christian right to lobby Norton against the Jena compact with a stream of breathless letters. On February 19 Perkins warned Norton that gambling leads to "crime, divorce, child abuse." American Family Association chair Don Wildmon sent a lengthy missive to Norton filled with statistics on gambling's adverse social impact. The Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly sent another. American Values president Gary Bauer declared in a letter to Norton that the compact ran "contrary to President Bush's pro-family vision." Focus on the Family vice president Tom Minnery wrote Norton and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card to demand they stop the deal. Dobson capped the mail blitz with his own missive against gambling expansion.
Despite the best efforts of Abramoff and the Christian soldiers Reed recruited, in December Norton approved the Jena compact. Soon after, Louisiana's new governor, Kathleen Blanco, reversed the deal on the basis of her opposition to casino growth. Abramoff's goal was achieved, but all his work was for naught. And his skulduggery was beginning to catch up with him. "I hate all the shit I'm into," he moaned to Scanlon in a February 2003 e-mail. "I need to be on the Caribbean with you!"
However, Abramoff's campaign against the Jena compact was a blessing for most of its Christian-right players. Perkins got to prove his mettle in a national campaign, prompting his appointment the following year by Dobson to president of the Family Research Council, the Washington-based lobbying powerhouse. Dobson, for his part, got to demonstrate his grassroots muscle to the Bush White House, raising his visibility to Karl Rove & Co. and helping him increase his influence over its social agenda as the presidential election approached.
Among Abramoff's evangelical surrogates, only Reed emerged from their relationship with visible baggage. But this was not apparent at the time. Now, as a result of extensive media coverage of his involvement with Abramoff, his campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia, intended as a stepping stone to higher office, is lagging. He has gone from denying early in his campaign that he accepted gambling money to claiming most recently that Abramoff lied to him about the source of his fees. To generate a strong turnout for his January 21 appearance at a Georgia Christian Coalition meeting, Reed was reduced to enticing his dwindling band of "supporters" with cash and free hotel rooms.
It is still unknown whether Dobson and his allies knew that Reed was working for Abramoff during the anti-Jena campaign. Abramoff claimed in a February 2002 e-mail to his employee Todd Boulanger that he was "working FOR and WITH them [emphasis in original]," referring to Christian-right activists. Dobson, Perkins, Robertson and Falwell have remained silent. Whether or not evidence surfaces to support the claim Abramoff made in his e-mail, it is undeniable he was deeply embedded in the Christian right's infrastructure.
In July 2002, at the height of the anti-Jena campaign, Bauer and Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a fixture at Christian-right events, founded the American Alliance of Christians and Jews. On the group's board were Dobson, Robertson, Falwell and one Jack Abramoff. Lapin's organization, Toward Tradition, which administered the AACJ, received $25,000 from one of Abramoff's gambling industry clients in 2000; took $75,000 from Abramoff and his clients; and then, upon Abramoff's written instructions, hired the wife of Tony Rudy to the tune of $5,000 a month. Rudy, who was Tom DeLay's deputy chief of staff at the time, later a lobbyist, has been named in Abramoff's guilty plea.
While Abramoff cooperates with federal prosecutors, his former Christian-right surrogates have abstained from coming clean about their relationship with him. Acknowledging willing collusion with a disgraced casino lobbyist would be suicidal among their followers. But there are also risks in casting themselves as useful idiots in Abramoff's game. Such a tactic would reveal the "pro-family" movement as just another gear in a sordid Republican political operation. What did Dobson know and when did he know it? As the wheels of justice grind on, those who claim to speak with the authority of Scripture may soon find themselves under oath.
The first question involved the existence of other domestic intelligence collection programs that have not been disclosed to the full intelligence committee (a CRS report this month found this practice illegal):
SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D-WI): Mr. Ambassador, without getting into what the specific programs might be, can you assure us today that there are not other intelligence collection — and I emphasize collection — programs that you are aware of and that you are keeping from the full intelligence committee?
NEGROPONTE: Um… Senator, I … I don’t know if I can comment on that in an open session.
In the second exchange, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) asked officials to provide estimates of the number of communications, and the number of individuals affiliated with terrorist organizations, monitored by the NSA’s warrantless domestic spying program.
As Levin noted, both President Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff have openly discussed these issues: Bush described the program as “one that listens to a few numbers,” and Chertoff hypothesized about “culling through literally thousands of phone numbers.” Yet the officials refused to answer Levin’s questions:
SEN. CARL LEVIN: Can you give us an estimate as to the number of such communications which were tracked by NSA last year? …
HAYDEN: I’d be very uncomfortable doing it in open session, and I don’t actually know that number. …
LEVIN: Secretary Chertoff says if you’re “culling through literally thousands of phone numbers” you wind up with a huge problem managing the amount of paper. Why is it alright for Secretary Chertoff to talk about “thousands of phone numbers,” but you can’t give us or won’t give us in open session an estimate of the number of those communications?
HAYDEN: Senator, as I said, I’d be uncomfortable doing it in open session, and I don’t know the precise numbers.
LEVIN: I’m not saying precise numbers, I asked for an estimate.
HAYDEN: I cannot give you an estimate of the number of communications intercepted.
LEVIN: Is it a few or is it thousands?
HAYDEN: Sir, I’d be very uncomfortable talking about in open session.
LEVIN: Alright. Now, do you have an estimate as to the number of persons who are members of al Qaeda, or agents of al Qaeda, or are members of affiliated organizations to al Qaeda, or their agents — because that’s the test — whose communications have been intercepted, say, in the last year? Do you have an estimate of a number of persons?
HAYDEN: Yes, sir, I do know that number, but I’m unable to give it in this kind of an environment, sir.
LEVIN: Alright. Will you give us to that in closed session?
HAYDEN: Sir, that’s part of the briefing that I’ve given to the chairman and vice chairman on multiple occasions.
LEVIN: Will you give us that number in closed session, the rest of us that are on the intelligence committee?
HAYDEN: Sir, I’m not at liberty to do that.
Finally, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked the officials whether the widely-criticized Total Information Awareness program was still active. Congress voted to shut down the operation in 2003, and terminated the related “Matrix” collection program last year:
WYDEN: Mr. Director, is it correct that when John Poindexter’s program, Operation Total Information Awareness, was closed, that several of Mr. Poindexter’s projects were moved to various intelligence agencies?
NEGROPONTE: I don’t know the answer to that question.
WYDEN: Do any of the other panel members know? The press has reported intelligence officials saying that those programs run by Mr. Poindexter — I and others on this panel led the effort to close it. We want to know if Mr. Poindexter’s programs are going on somewhere else. Can anyone answer that? Mr. Mueller?
MUELLER: I have no knowledge of that, sir.
WYDEN: Any other panel members?
HAYDEN: Senator, I’d like to answer in closed session.
For full transcriptions of the exchanges above, click here.
Bush and Illegal Spying: It Appears the Facts have an Anti-Bush Agenda.
Many rebut assertion of presidential powers
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff | February 2, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Legal specialists yesterday questioned the accuracy of President Bush's sweeping contentions about the legality of his domestic spying program, particularly his assertion in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that ''previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have."
Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush authorized the National Security Agency to intercept overseas calls from the United States without first seeking a warrant, asserting he had the right to do so under his wartime powers. On Tuesday night, he defended his program by saying past presidents have exerted the same powers.
But legal specialists said yesterday that wiretaps ordered by previous presidents were put in place before warrants were required for investigations involving national security. Since Congress passed the law requiring warrants in 1978, no president but Bush has defied it, specialists said.
Bush's contention that past presidents did the same thing as he has done ''is either intentionally misleading or downright false," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. Only Bush has made the assertion that his wartime powers should supersede an act of Congress, Cole said.
Bush repeated his assertions about the legality of his spying program at a speech yesterday in Nashville. The president has been seeking to build public support for the program in advance of Senate hearings into the matter next week.
But Bush's comments in the State of the Union, which highlighted a week of election-style campaigning to defend the program, were almost entirely disputed yesterday by legal specialists across the ideological spectrum.
For example, Bush strongly implied that if his program had been in place before the terrorist attacks, the government would have identified two of the hijackers who were placing international calls from inside the United States.
But the 9/11 Commission found that the government had already grown suspicious about both of the hijackers in question before the attacks took place. Bureaucratic failures to share information about the hijackers, not ignorance of their existence, was the problem, the commission said.
Moreover, Bush said in his address that ''appropriate members of Congress have been kept informed" about the program. But Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has said that under law Bush was required to brief all members of the intelligence committees -- not just their leaders, as he did.
Bush's assertion that his program was legal prompted a group of 14 prominent law professors, including both liberals and conservatives, to pen a joint letter objecting to his arguments. An expanded version of their letter rebutting Bush's assertions will be released today, the professors said.
Richard Epstein, a University of Chicago law professor and a member of the group, said he believes the Supreme Court would reject Bush's assertions that his wartime powers authorized him to override the law.
''I find every bit of this legal argument disingenuous," Epstein said. ''The president's position is essentially that [Congress] is not doing the right thing, so I'm going to act on my own."
The White House referred all questions about the spying section of Bush's speech to the Justice Department, where spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos acknowledged yesterday that all of the surveillance programs approved by past presidents pre-dated the warrant requirement.
But, she said, no court has said the 1978 the law changes the president's inherent constitutional power to conduct surveillance for national security purposes. And she said a 2002 opinion by a secret federal court acknowledged that the president had sweeping surveillance powers.
But Cole, the Georgetown professor, said the Bush administration is misstating the ruling in the 2002 case, including its requirement that the Justice Department seek warrants in national security cases. Cole said the case supported the notion that Congress could regulate the president's use of his surveillance powers.
Scolinos said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the program on Monday, would offer a more detailed defense of the administration's legal theories.
Yesterday, some of Bush's defenders pointed out on conservative websites that the Clinton administration had authorized a search of the home of Aldrich Ames, a suspected Soviet spy, without a warrant in 1993.
But legal specialists said the Ames case is irrelevant because it involved a physical search of Ames's home, and the 1978 law did not require warrants for physical searches. The year after the Ames search, 1994, the law was amended to require warrants for physical searches and wiretaps. (Editor's Note: the law was Amended with President Clinton's Support.)
Philip Heymann, a Harvard law professor who was then the deputy US attorney general and helped oversee the Ames investigation, said the Clinton administration began seeking warrants for physical searches as soon as the new law went into effect.
''The bottom line is, I know of no electronic surveillance for intelligence purposes since [the 1978 warrant law] was passed that was not done under the . . . statute," Heymann said.
White House Officials Urged EPA to Give Misleading Assurances of Air Quality in NYC after 9/11.
By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press WriterFri Feb 3, 12:52 AM ET
A federal judge blasted former Environmental Protection Agency chief Christine Todd Whitman on Thursday for reassuring New Yorkers soon after the Sept. 11 attacks that it was safe to return to their homes and offices while toxic dust was polluting the neighborhood.
U.S. District Judge Deborah A. Batts refused to grant Whitman immunity against a class-action lawsuit brought in 2004 by residents, students and workers in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn who said they were exposed to hazardous materials from the destruction of the World Trade Center.
"No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws," the judge said.
She called Whitman's actions "conscience-shocking," saying the EPA chief knew that the collapse of the twin towers released tons of hazardous materials into the air.
Whitman had no comment, according to a spokeswoman. A Justice Department spokesman said the government had no comment.
Spokeswoman Mary Mears said the EPA was reviewing the opinion but was pleased that the court had dismissed two of four civil claims against the agency, including allegations brought under the federal Superfund law.
"The EPA will continue to vigorously defend against the outstanding claims," she said.
The judge let the lawsuit proceed against the EPA and Whitman, permitting the plaintiffs to try to prove that the agency and its administrator endangered their health.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and reimbursement for cleanup costs and asks the court to order that a medical monitoring fund be set up to track the health of those exposed to trade center dust.
In her ruling, Batts noted that the EPA and Whitman said repeatedly — beginning just two days after the attack — that the air appeared safe to breathe. The EPA's internal watchdog later found that the agency, at the urging of White House officials, gave misleading assurances. (Editor's Note: Which White House Officials?)
Quoting a ruling in an earlier case, the judge said a public official cannot be held personally liable for putting the public in harm's way unless the conduct was so egregious as "to shock the contemporary conscience." Given her role in protecting the health and environment for Americans, Whitman's reassurances after Sept. 11 were "without question conscience-shocking," Batts said.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., said in a statement that New Yorkers are still depending on the federal government to describe any ongoing risk from contaminants.
"I continue to believe that the White House owes New Yorkers an explanation," she said.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (news, bio, voting record), a Democrat whose district includes the trade center site, said the many people who worked at the site and developed respiratory diseases deserve answers.
"It is my assumption that thousands of people — workers and residents — are being slowly poisoned today because these workplaces and residences were never properly cleaned up," Nadler said in a telephone interview.
Rumsfeld likens Bush to Hitler
The Associated Press
Updated: 10:00 a.m. ET Feb. 3, 2006
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld likened President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, reflecting continuing tension in relations between Washington and the American people.
Rumsfeld, asked during a National Press Club appearance Thursday about indications of a deteriorating general relationship between Washington and parts of America, said he believes such a characterization “misses the mark.”
“We saw dictatorships there. And then we saw most of those States, with the exception of California and those Blue States, for the most part move towards democracies,” he said. “We also saw corruption in Washington and many Republican run state governments. And corruption is something that is corrosive of democracy.”
The secretary acknowledged that “we’ve seen some populist leadership appealing to masses of people. And elections like Tom Delay in Texas take place that clearly are worrisome.”
“I mean, we’ve got Bush in America with a lot of oil money,” Rumsfeld added. “He’s a person who was elected legally — just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally — and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Mr. Delay and Mr. Rove, the Rebulican party and others.”
There have been increasing signs of hostility between Washington and America, and on Monday Bush said American intelligence agencies have “infiltrated” a group of peace activists who were allegedly involved in Sedition.
American authorities, including the vice president, have been accused of involvement in a spying case in which an American CIA agent's name was revealed to reporters in retaliation for her husband telling the truth about the Administrations misleading claims.
In addition, it has been revealed that Bush decided to invade another country and chose to deliberately mislead the American public about the reasons for that decision.
In addition, the President has been accused of illegal spying on American citizens and trying to cover it up, even though he has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution.
It was not the first such charge by Bush.
He has accused Democrats of backing efforts to overthrow his Right Wing government, and specifically has denied charges that his Right Wing Friends on the Supreme Court supported his coup in 2000, and has denied that the 2004 election was rigged by his Republican friends and contributors who controlled the disputed Ohio ballot.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Channel 4 News tonight reveals extraordinary details of George Bush and Tony Blair's pre-war meeting in January 2003 at which they discussed plans to begin military action on March 10th 2003, irrespective of whether the United Nations had passed a new resolution authorising the use of force.
Channel 4 News has seen minutes from that meeting, which took place in the White House on 31 January 2003. The two leaders discussed the possibility of securing further UN support, but President Bush made it clear that he had already decided to go to war. The details are contained in a new version of the book 'Lawless World' written by a leading British human rights lawyer, Philippe Sands QC.
President Bush said that:
"The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.''
Prime Minister Blair responded that he was: "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam."
But Mr Blair said that: "a second Security Council resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected, and international cover, including with the Arabs."
Mr Sands' book says that the meeting focused on the need to identify evidence that Saddam had committed a material breach of his obligations under the existing UN Resolution 1441. There was concern that insufficient evidence had been unearthed by the UN inspection team, led by Dr Hans Blix. Other options were considered.
President Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."
He went on: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated."
Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr Sands said:
"I think no one would be surprised at the idea that the use of spy-planes to review what is going on would be considered. What is surprising is the idea that they would be used painted in the colours of the United Nations in order to provoke an attack which could then be used to justify material breach. Now that plainly looks as if it is deception, and it raises some fundamental questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law."
Also present at the meeting were President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice and her deputy Dan Fried, and the President's Chief of Staff, Andrew Card. The Prime Minister took with him his then security adviser Sir David Manning, his Foreign Policy aide Matthew Rycroft, and and his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell.
Those present, as documented in Mr Sands' book, also discussed what might happen in Iraq after liberation.
President Bush said that he: "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups."
The Foreign Office issued a statement:
"The Government only committed UK forces to Iraq after securing the approval of the House in the vote on 18 march 2003.
"The decision to resort to military action to ensure Iraq fulfilled its obligation imposed by successive UN Security Council Resolutions was taken only after all other routes to disarm Iraq had failed.
"Of course during this time there were frequent discussions between UK and US Governments about Iraq."
SPECIAL REPORT, PART 1: The Deadliness Below
Weapons of mass destruction thrown into the sea years ago present danger now - and the Army doesn't know where they all are.
BY JOHN M.R. BULL
October 30 2005
In the summer of 2004, a clam-dredging operation off New Jersey pulled up an old artillery shell.
The long-submerged World War I-era explosive was filled with a black tarlike substance.
Bomb disposal technicians from Dover Air Force Base, Del., were brought in to dismantle it. Three of them were injured - one hospitalized with large pus-filled blisters on an arm and hand.
The shell was filled with mustard gas in solid form.
What was long feared by the few military officials in the know had come to pass: Chemical weapons that the Army dumped at sea decades ago finally ended up on shore in the United States.
It's long been known that some chemical weapons went into the ocean, but records obtained by the Daily Press show that the previously classified weapons-dumping program was far more extensive than ever suspected.
The Army now admits that it secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard agents into the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, land mines and rockets and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste - either tossed overboard or packed into the holds of scuttled vessels.
A Daily Press investigation also found:
These weapons of mass destruction virtually ring the country, concealed off at least 11 states - six on the East Coast, two on the Gulf Coast, California, Hawaii and Alaska. Few, if any, state officials have been informed of their existence.
The chemical agents could pose a hazard for generations. The Army has examined only a few of its 26 dump zones and none in the past 30 years.
The Army can't say exactly where all the weapons were dumped from World War II to 1970. Army records are sketchy, missing or were destroyed.
More dumpsites likely exist. The Army hasn't reviewed World War I-era records, when ocean dumping of chemical weapons was common.
"We do not claim to know where they all are," said William Brankowitz, a deputy project manager in the Army Chemical Materials Agency and a leading authority on the Army's chemical weapons dumping.
"We don't want to be cavalier at all and say this stuff was exposed to water and is OK. It can last for a very, very long time."
A drop of nerve agent can kill within a minute. When released in the ocean, it lasts up to six weeks, killing every organism it touches before breaking down into its nonlethal chemical components.
Mustard gas can be fatal. When exposed to seawater, it forms a concentrated, encrusted gel that lasts for at least five years, rolling around on the ocean floor, killing or contaminating sea life.
Sea-dumped chemical weapons might be slowly leaking from decades of saltwater corrosion, resulting in a time-delayed release of deadly chemicals over the next 100 years and an unforeseeable environmental effect. Steel corrodes at different rates, depending on the water depth, ocean temperature and thickness of the shells.
That was the conclusion of Norwegian scientists who in 2002 examined chemical weapons dumped off Norway after World War II by the U.S. and British militaries.
Overseas, more than 200 fishermen over the years have been burned by mustard gas pulled on deck. A fisherman in Hawaii was burned in 1976, when he brought up an Army-dumped mortar round full of mustard gas.
It seems unlikely that the weapons will begin to wash up on shore, but last year's discovery that a mustard-gas-filled artillery shell was dumped off New Jersey was ominous for several reasons:
It was the first ocean-dumped chemical weapon to somehow make its way to U.S. shores.
It was pulled up with clams in relatively shallow water only 20 miles off Atlantic City. The Army had no idea that chemical weapons were dumped in the area.
Most alarming: It was found intact in a residential driveway in Delaware.
It had survived, intact, after being dredged up and put through a crusher to create cheap clamshell driveway fill sold throughout the Delmarva Peninsula.
DECADES OF DUMPING
The Army's secret ocean-dumping program spanned decades, from 1944 to 1970.
The dumped weapons were deemed to be unneeded surplus. They were hazardous to transport, expensive to store, too dangerous to bury and difficult to destroy.
In the early 1970s, the Army publicly admitted it dumped some chemical weapons off the U.S. coast. Congress banned the practice in 1972. Three years later, the United States signed an international treaty prohibiting ocean disposal of chemical weapons.
Only now have Army reports come to light that show how much was dumped, what kind of chemical weapons they were, when they were thrown overboard and rough nautical coordinates of where some are.
The reports contain bits and pieces of information on the Army's long-running dumping program. The reports were released to the Daily Press - which cross-indexed them to obtain the most comprehensive, detailed picture yet of what was dumped, where and when.
To put the information in context, the newspaper also examined nautical charts, National Archive records, scientific studies and interviewed dozens of experts on unexploded ordnance and chemical warfare in the United States and overseas.
The Army's Brankowitz created the seminal report on ocean dumping. He examined classified Army records and in 1987 wrote a long report on chemical weapons movements over the decades. It included the revelation that more than a dozen shipments ended up in the ocean. The report wasn't widely disseminated.
His follow-up report in 1989 uncovered - through review of other previously classified documents - the rough nautical coordinates of some dumpsites and the existence of more dump zones. In 2001, a computer database was created to include additional dump zones that the Army found and more details on some of the dumping operations.
The database summary and the 1989 report had never been released publicly before.
"I know I didn't find everything," said Brankowitz, who's worked for more than 30 years on chemical weapons issues for the Army. "I'm very much convinced there are records at the National Archives that have been misfiled. Short of a major research effort that would cost a lot of money, we've done the best we can."
The reports reveal that the Army created at least 26 chemical weapons dumpsites off the coast of at least 11 states - but knows the rough nautical coordinates of only half.
At least 64 million pounds of liquid mustard gas and nerve agent in 1-ton steel canisters were dumped into the sea, along with a minimum of 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, grenades, landmines and rockets - as well as radioactive waste, the reports indicate.
The Army's documents are incomplete or vague. Years of records are missing or were destroyed to clear office space at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, a longtime chemical weapon research and testing base.
And the Army hasn't reviewed its records of chemical weapons dumping before World War II, when it was common to just throw the weapons into the ocean in relatively shallow water, Brankowitz said.
As a result, more dumpsites likely exist, he conceded.
The environmental effect of chemical weapons dumpsites is unknown but potentially disastrous.
Ocean depth varies widely off the East Coast. As a rule, it gradually deepens to 600 feet before hitting the outer continental shelf, which drops into very deep water. The shelf's location can be as close as 60 miles, or as far as 200 miles, from shore.
"The perception at the time was the ocean is vast - it would absorb it," said Craig Williams, director of the Chemical Weapons Working Group in Kentucky, a grass-roots citizens group. "Certainly, it is insane in retrospect they would do it."
"It would be inevitable, I assume, all of this will be released into the ocean at some point or another," said Williams, who has fought Army plans to incinerate some of the 44 million pounds of chemical weapons the country still has stockpiled. "I don't think anyone knows for sure the true danger. It's just a matter of opinion. You can say, 'It's going to kill everyone,' or you can say, 'It's not a problem.' The truth is somewhere in between."
Based on the information available, the Army presumes that most of the weapons are in very deep water and are unlikely to jeopardize divers or commercial fishing operations that dredge the ocean bottom.
John Chatterton doesn't believe that.
"I don't think it all is where they say it is," said Chatterton, a 25-year veteran diver who searches for undiscovered shipwrecks as host of The History Channel's "Deep Sea Detectives." "I've found a lot of stuff where it's not supposed to be. Absolutely, positively, it is not a guarantee it is there (in deep water)."
Chemical weapons were dumped long before electronic navigation systems were invented. Their nautical locations are based on the words of ship captains, who surely wanted to ditch their cargo quickly and, Chatterton suspects, likely cut corners.
"The guys who were doing this were scared of this stuff. They were well motivated to get rid of this stuff as fast as they could," he said. "So they could take it all the way out there or else they could say, 'This is good enough,' and be back in port in three hours. I know what they did. It's mariner nature."
STATE OFFICIALS IN THE DARK
One of the first of the now-identified dump zones created at the end of World War II was also one of the largest. The Army dubbed it Disposal Site Baker.
The Army has only the vaguest idea where it is on the ocean floor - somewhere off the coast of Charleston, S.C., the most specific surviving records indicate.
"I have never had any information to suggest this was done," said Charles Farmer, a marine biologist who's worked for South Carolina's Department of Natural Resources for almost 40 years.
"I would say this is not well known to us at all. This is something that is new, at least to me. It's incredible some of the things we've managed to do."
The first documented dump near that state was in March 1946, when four railroad cars full of mustard gas bombs and mines were tossed over the side of the USS Diamond Head, an ammunition ship.
Several months later, an estimated 23 barges full of German-produced nerve gas bombs and U.S.-made Lewisite bombs were dumped in the same location. Lewisite is a blister agent akin to mustard gas. A single barge carried up to 350 tons.
"If we don't have any idea of depths of water or location, hell, they could be anywhere," Farmer said. "As we have more and more activity and more and more development off the coast, I hope this was buried in 6,000 feet of water ... or a lot of this stuff is going to come back to haunt us."
There's one indication that those weapons were dumped in relatively shallow water: Army records show many of those 23 slow-moving barges were unloaded in one-day, out-and-back operations.
The records leave no doubt that other chemical weapons were dumped close to shore:
In 1944, at least 16,000 mustard-filled 100-pound bombs were unloaded off Hawaii in deep water only five miles from shore.
Several mustard gas bombs fell into the Mississippi River near Braithwaite, La., in 1945 and have never been found.
A reported 124 leaking German mustard gas bombs were tossed in the Gulf of Mexico off Horn Island in Mississippi in 1946 from a barge that returned to port a few hours later. The island is now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, a popular vacation and fishing destination.
A 1947 dumpsite in Alaska's Aleutian Islands is only 12 miles from a harbor.
VIRGINIA AND MARYLAND DUMPSITES
By the 1950s, the Army shifted much of its chemical dump operations north to the Virginia-Maryland state line and into deeper water.
In 1957, the Army dumped 48 tons of Lewisite off Virginia Beach, in 12,600 feet of water.
Four more dump zones were created more than 100 miles off the coast between Chincoteague, Va., and Assateague, Md. - tourist spots known for their unsullied beaches and populations of wild horses.
Dumped there in about 2,000 feet of water were at least 77,000 mustard-filled mortar shells, 5,000 white phosphorous munitions, 1,500 1-ton canisters of Lewisite and 800 55-gallon barrels of military radioactive waste.
It couldn't be determined what kind of radioactive waste was dumped. But there's one indication that it could be highly dangerous waste with a half-life of thousands of years.
National Archive records of the Army's secretive chemical weapons escort unit, reviewed by the Daily Press, show several shipments in the 1950s between a laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; other Army bases with chemical weapons slated for sea disposal; and the Yuma Testing Station in Arizona.
Oak Ridge was where thermonuclear weapons were being developed at the time. Yuma was a military test ground for weapons in development. Records show a shipment on March 7, 1953, contained 35,000 pounds of unidentified "classified materials."
The Army apparently stopped dumping radioactive waste in the late 1960s, the records show, when chemical weapons disposal operations again headed north in the Atlantic Ocean.
Two ships full of the most potent of all nerve gases, known as VX, were scuttled in 6,000 feet of water - miles off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J., as part of Operation CHASE. "CHASE" was Pentagon shorthand for "Cut Holes and Sink 'Em."
The nerve gas was in rockets encased in concrete before the ships were scuttled. The Army desperately wanted to get rid of these particular weapons. They also contained jet fuel to propel the rockets. The fuel had a tendency to "auto-ignite," or spontaneously explode.
The ships - the S.S. Corporal Eric G. Gibson and S.S. Mormactern - remain a potential danger. Although the rockets were encased in concrete, scientists don't know how quickly concrete breaks down from water pressure at such depths.
A third ship scuttled nearby is no longer a hazard: It blew up on its way to the ocean floor Aug. 7, 1968.
That ship, the S.S. Richardson, was filled with conventional high-explosive weapons and 3,500 1-ton containers of mustard agent mixed with water. It was on its way to the 7,800-foot bottom when a chain-reaction explosion went off, presumably caused by water pressure on one of the weapons that set off the rest.
"This is really quite disturbing," said U.S. Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J., who's been fighting Army plans to dump chemically neutralized nerve gas in the Delaware River. "I did not know of any of this. It's a very serious problem that state officials haven't been told."
NOT ON ANY MAPS
Boaters, divers, fishermen and commercial seafood trawlers have no way to steer clear of the dumpsites.
That's because the Army has put only one of its 26 known chemical weapons dumps on nautical charts, according to records kept by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
The federal agency in charge of undersea cable-laying operations, as well as gas and oil ventures, has only a vague idea of where chemical weapons were thrown into the ocean, spokesman Gary Strasburg said.
That agency, the Minerals Management Service, knows only what the Army has revealed to that agency: that chemical weapons were dumped at sea and that some are in the Gulf of Mexico and off South Carolina, agency records show.
The effect of the dumping operations has never been studied. Few scientists knew that it was done, so studies of the decline in sea life over the years has never focused on the possibility of leaking chemical weapons.
Commercial fishing operations, as well as scallop and clam trawlers, have been forced to go farther and farther from shore over past 25 years because sea life has thinned for unknown reasons. Some scallopers now dredge in up to 400 feet of water, which is more than 100 miles from the shore in some East Coast locations.
The bottom-dwelling cod population in the Northern Atlantic has been decimated.
Hundreds of bottlenose dolphins mysteriously washed up on Virginia and New Jersey shores in 1987. They died with large, never-explained skin blisters that resembled mustard gas burns on humans.
Federal marine scientists ultimately attributed the unprecedented number of dolphin deaths to a combination of morbillivirus - related to distemper in dogs - and potent vibrio bacteria from industrial pollutants.
That combination has killed other marine mammals over the years. But none has ever been found with its skin partly peeling off.
One marine mammal specialist who suspects that leaking chemical weapons killed the dolphins met Army officials and was told dumping had been done. But he was assured the weapons were unloaded too deep to harm the coastal-living creatures.
"You'd see the photos and you'd say, 'Man, this animal was burned by something,' " said Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, N.J. He said "it is a very good possibility" that leaking chemical weapons killed the dolphins.
"It'd be nice to see the Army go down there and investigate, but nobody wants to open that book, it seems," Schoelkopf said. "You'd think they'd want to go look at those sites and say once and for all this isn't a problem. The amazing thing is they are not being monitored."
The Army also wondered whether its chemical weapons were responsible for the dolphin deaths and was preparing to investigate some dump zones. The project was scrapped when the deaths were attributed to the virus and bacteria, the Army's Brankowitz said.
LITTLE OR NO MONITORING
Over the decades, the Army has conducted environmental tests on only four of its dumpsites - and none since 1975.
Some of the last tests the Army conducted were on the nerve-gas-filled ships off New Jersey. They found no evidence the weapons had leaked, Brankowitz said.
He said that led the Army to presume the pressure on the weapons as they sank to the bottom crushed the shells and made them squirt their deadly contents onto the seabed, where they long ago broke down into their non-lethal chemical components.
That might be wishful thinking, some scientists said.
Shells filled with chemical weapons are more likely to slowly leak over time than to be crushed while sinking, said Peter Brewer, a marine scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California.
Regardless, he said, he considers the dangers of leaking chemical weapons in deep-water sites to be low.
He noted that the only Army chemical weapons dumpsite on nautical charts - the wreck of the S.S. William Ralston, scuttled 117 miles off San Francisco in the 1950s - hasn't been found to be leaking, though he said scientists have monitored it only "from a distance."
Not far from that wreck, scientists have determined that drums of radioactive waste dumped by industry in the 1950s have so corroded, they're now paper-thin - with holes in some of them, said Richard Charter, a California-based environmentalist with Environmental Defense.
He said he feared that recent congressional approval for offshore gas and oil exploration off the East and West coasts - permitted through this summer's lifting of a 22-year-old moratorium on the activity - could release the chemical agents from their containers.
"It certainly is within the realm of possibility," he said. "This is an invasive activity."
Seismic exploration is conducted by setting off huge airguns on the ocean surface and measuring the blasts when they bounce off the ocean floor. Such exploration and drilling operations have been conducted for decades in the Gulf of Mexico without releasing chemical warfare agents dumped by the Army in that body of water.
Overseas, scientists who monitor chemical weapons dumpsites off other countries have identified an unmistakable problem in the Skagerrak Strait, a narrow but deep body of water that separates Norway and Denmark.
In 2002, Norwegian scientists sent a remote-controlled vehicle to investigate four ships full of captured German chemical weapons. The U.S. and British militaries scuttled them after World War II in about 2,000 feet of water.
The Norwegians found that the sunken ships remained intact. Some of the shells had leaked. Others were slowly corroding. That reveals a problem that could last hundreds of years, the scientists concluded.
Soil sediment showed high levels of arsenic, a component of some of the chemical weapons. Arsenic is bioaccumulative. This means bottom-feeding shellfish are likely to be contaminated and pass arsenic up the food chain to accumulate in humans who eat them, the scientists learned.
Also worrisome: Nets from fishing trawlers were found tangled on some of the weapons-filled wrecks.
"It might be possible to get chemical ammunition in the nets, which could then be brought up to the surface and poison fishermen," the scientists wrote in a report on the expedition.
"It is also a possibility that fishing equipment could damage the wrecks and expose the chemical ammunition to the water, increasing the release of the agents to the environment."
The Army is obliged to at least assess the danger that the dumpsites pose today, said Lenny Siegel, director of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight who specializes in chemical weapons issues.
"If no one does a study looking for three-legged fish, how do they know it's not a problem?" he wondered.
"My guess is the risks are remote in most cases, but I think you have to at least evaluate the risk. They have to take continuing responsibility.
"They need to see if there is an impact on the food chain. If there is, you have to warn people. If so, they have to do something with them."
Rep. John Mutha: Patriot
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
This March will mark the beginning of the 4th year of the war in Iraq. In contrast, U.S. involvement in WWI came to an end after 19 months. Victory in Europe was declared in WWII after 3 years 5 months. In the Korean War, a cease-fire was signed after 3 years and 1 month. But after more than three and a half years into the war in Iraq, your administration finally produced what is called a "Plan for Victory" in Iraq.
Iraq is not the center for the global war on terrorism. I believe Iraq has diverted our attention away from the fight against global terrorism and has depleted the required resources needed to wage an effective war. It is estimated that there are only about 750 to 1,000 al-Qaeda in Iraq. I believe the Iraqis will force them out or kill them after U.S. troops are gone. In fact, there is now evidence that Iraqi insurgent groups are increasingly turning against al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists.
Our country needs a vigorous and comprehensive strategy for victory against global terrorism. The architect of 9/11 is still out there but now has an international microphone. We must get back to the real issue at hand - we have to root out and destroy al-Qaeda's worldwide network.
There are 4 key elements that I recommend to reinvigorate our global anti-terrorism effort: Redeploy, Replace, Reallocate, and Reconstitute.
The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it. Our continued military presence feeds the strong anti-foreigner fervor that has existed in this part of the world for centuries. A vast majority of the Iraqi people now view American troops as occupiers, not liberators. Over 80% of Iraqis want U.S. forces to leave Iraq and 47% think it is justified to attack Americans. 70% of Iraqis favor a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces, with half favoring a withdrawal in the next six months. In fact, 67% of Iraqis expect day-to-day security for Iraqi citizens will improve if U.S. forces withdraw in six months and over 60% believe violent attacks, including those that are ethnically motivated, will decrease. Our military presence is the single most important reason why the Iraqis have tolerated the foreign terrorists, who account for less than 7 percent of the insurgency. 93% of the insurgency is made up of Iraqis. Once our troops are re-deployed, the Iraqis will reject the terrorists and deny them a safe haven in Iraq. The Iraqis are against a foreign presence in Iraq of any kind.
The steadfast and valiant efforts of the United States military and coalition partners have provided the Iraqi people with the framework needed to self govern. The Iraqis held elections that have been touted as highly successful, based primarily on the accounts of Iraqis who went to the polls. But our continued military presence in Iraq, regardless of the motives behind it, is seen by Iraqis as interfering in Iraq's democratic process and undercuts the chances for the newly elected government to be successful. Recently, Iraq's National Security Adviser accused U.S. negotiators of going behind the back of the Iraqi government on talks with insurgents, saying the process could encourage more violence. He said, "Americans are making a huge and fatal mistake in their policy for appeasement and they should not do this. They should leave the Iraqi government to deal with it... The United States should allow the new Iraqi government to decide on how to quell the insurgency."
In December 2005, an ABC News poll in Iraq produced some noteworthy results. 57% of Iraqis identified national security as the country's top priority. When asked to rate the confidence in public institutions, they gave Iraqi police a 68% confidence level, the Iraqi army 67%, religious leaders 67%. But the U.S./U.K. forces scored the lowest, a mere 18%.
The longer our military stays in Iraq, the more unwelcome we will be. We will be increasingly entangled in an open-ended nation building mission, one that our military can not accomplish amidst a civil war. Our troops will continue to be the targets of Iraqis who see them as interfering occupiers.
Redeploying our forces from Iraq and stationing a mobile force outside of the country removes a major antagonizing factor. I believe we will see a swift demise of foreign terrorist groups in Iraq if we redeploy outside of the country. Further, our troops will no longer be the targets of bloody attacks.
The ever-changing justifications of the war in Iraq, combined with tragic missteps, have resulted in a worldwide collapse of support for U.S. policies in Iraq.
The credibility of the United States of America will not be restored if we continue down the path of saying one thing and doing another. We must not lower our standards and tactics to those of the terrorists. In order to keep our homeland secure, we must hold true to the values that molded our American democracy, even in the face of adversity. Former Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, said it best during a speech in March 2004 to the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies: "America knows we cannot seek a double standard. And, America knows we get what we give. And so we must and will always be careful to respect people's privacy, civil liberties and reputations. To suggest that there is a tradeoff between security and individual freedoms -- that we must discard one protection for the other -- is a false choice. You do not defend liberty to forsake it."
Restoring the world's confidence in America as a competent and morally superior world leader is essential to winning the war on global terrorism.
A recent pubic opinion poll, conducted jointly with Zogby International and taken in Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, found that 81% said the war in Iraq had brought less peace to the Middle East. A majority of the respondents said they view the United States as the biggest threat to their nations.
Mr. President, I believe in order to restore our credibility, you must hold accountable those responsible for so many missteps and install a fresh team that demonstrates true diplomatic skill, knowledge of cultural differences and a willingness to earnestly engage other leaders in a respectful and constructive way. This would do much to reinvigorate international participation in a truly effective war on global terrorism.
The Department of Defense has been allocated $238 billion for the war in Iraq, with average monthly costs growing significantly since the beginning of the war. In 2003 the average monthly war cost was $4.4 billion; by 2005 the average monthly cost had reached $6.1 billion.
Despite the urgent homeland security needs of our country, the bipartisan 9/11 Commission issued a dismal report card on the efforts to improve our counter-terrorist defenses. Even the most basic of recommendations, such as the coordination of fire and police communication lines, still have not been accomplished.
In the face of threats from international terrorists, we need to reallocate funds from the war in Iraq to protecting the United States against attack. A safe and swift redeployment from Iraq will allow us to do just that.
The U.S. army is the smallest it's been since 1941. It is highly capable. But this drawn out conflict has put tremendous stress on our military, particularly on our Army and Marine Corps, whose operations tempo has increased substantially since 9/11.
The Government Accountability Office issued a report in November 2005 addressing the challenges of military personnel recruitment and retention and noted that the Department of Defense had been unable to fill over 112,000 positions in critical occupational specialties. This shortfall includes intelligence analysts, special forces, interpreters, and demolition experts-- those on whom we rely so heavily in today's asymmetric battlefield.
Some of our troops have been deployed four times over the last three years. Enlistment for the regular forces as well as the guard and reserves are well below recruitment goals. In 2005, the Army missed its recruitment goal for the first time since 1999, even after offering enlistment bonuses and incentives, lowering its monthly goals, and lowering its recruitment standards. As Retired Army officer Andrew Krepinevich recently warned in a report to the Pentagon, the Army is "in a race against time" to adjust to the demands of war "or risk 'breaking' the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment.
The harsh environment in which we are operating our equipment in Iraq, combined with the equipment usage rate (ten times greater than peacetime levels) is taking a heavy toll on our ground equipment. It is currently estimated that $50 billion will be required to refurbish this equipment.
Further, in its response to Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard realized that it had over $1.3 billion in equipment shortfalls. This has created a tremendous burden on non-deployed guard units, on whom this country depends so heavily to respond to domestic disasters and possible terrorist attacks. Without relief, Army Guard units will face growing equipment shortages and challenges in regaining operational readiness for future missions at home and overseas.
Since 9/11, Congress has appropriated about $334 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the insurgents have spent hundreds of thousands. We have seen reports estimating that the total cost of the wars may reach as high as $1 trillion. These estimates are said to include such costs as providing long-term disability benefits and care for injured service members. It is estimated today that over 16,000 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq, 10,481 of whom have been wounded by "weaponry explosive devices."
But while war costs continue to climb, cuts are being made to the defense budget. As soon as the war is over there will be pressure to cut even more. This year, even while we are at war, 8 billion dollars was cut from the base defense spending bill. You ordered another $32 billion in cuts to the defense budget over the next five years, with $11.6 billion coming from the Army. The Pentagon told Congress only last year that it needed 77 combat brigades to fulfill its missions, but now insists it only needs 70. In fact, 6 of the 7 combat brigades will be cut from the National Guard, reducing its combat units from 34 to 28. Even though all of the National Guard combat brigades have been deployed overseas since 9/11, your Administration has determined that, because of funding shortfalls, our combat ground forces can be reduced. Not only will these cuts diminish our combat power, but our ability to respond to natural disasters and terrorist threats to our homeland will be adversely affected. It is obvious that the cost of the war, in conjunction with the Army's inability to meet recruitment goals, has impacted this estimate. My concern is that instead of our force structure being based on the future threat, it is now being based on the number of troops and level of funding available.
I am concerned that costly program cuts will lead to costly mistakes and we will be unable to sustain another deployment even if there is a real threat. The future of our military and the future of our country could very well be at stake. The high dollar forecasts of our future military weapons systems and military health care add pressure to cut costs on the backs of these programs. As our weapons systems age, the concern becomes even greater.
During a time of war, we are cutting our combat force, we have not mobilized industry, and have never fully mobilized our military. On our current path, I believe that we are not only in danger of breaking our military, but that we are increasing the chances of a major miscalculation by our future enemies, who may perceive us as vulnerable.
JOHN P. MURTHA
Member of Congress
Thu Feb 02, 2006 at 08:58:01 AM PDTI've seen some strange things in my life, but I cannot describe the feeling I had, sitting on the House floor during Tuesday's State of the Union speech, listening to the President assert that his executive power is, basically, absolute, and watching several members of Congress stand up and cheer him on. It was surreal and disrespectful to our system of government and to the oath that as elected officials we have all sworn to uphold. Cheering? Clapping? Applause? All for violating the law?
The President and his administration continue their spin and media blitz in attempts to defend the fact that they broke, and continue to break, the law. Their weak and shifting justifications for doing so continue. The latest from the President seems to be that basically the FISA law, passed in 1978, is out of date. His decision that he can apparently disregard "old law" fits the pattern with the President and his administration. He's decided to disregard a statute (FISA) and the Constitution (the 4th Amendment) by continuing to wiretap Americans' phone calls and emails without the required warrant, while at the same time claiming powers of the presidency that do not exist. (Perhaps he feels the Constitution is too "old," as well.) This administration reacts to any questions about spying on American citizens by saying that those of us who stand up for our rights and freedoms are somehow living in a "pre-September 11th, 2001 world."
In fact, the President is living in a pre-1776 world.
Our Founders lived in dangerous times, and they risked everything for freedom. Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death." The President's pre-1776 mentality is hurting America and fracturing the foundation on which our country has stood for 230 years. The President can't just bypass two branches of government, and obey only those laws he wants to obey. Deciding unilaterally which of our freedoms still apply in the fight against terrorism is unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately.
Many of you saw this week's story in the Washington Post on the exchange Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and I had during his confirmation hearing in January of last year. Mr. Gonzales misled me and the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath about whether the President could spy on Americans without a warrant. (Many of you blogged about it when the story first broke and I thank you for getting the word out.) That exchange is extremely telling about the depths to which this administration will go to grab power. I look forward to a little more honesty from the Attorney General when he testifies about the spying program before the Judiciary Committee on Monday.
I don't have to tell you how important this issue is. It gets to the core of what we as a country are all about. We all agree that we must defeat the terrorists who threaten the safety and security of our families and loved ones. Why does this President feel we must sacrifice our freedoms to fight terrorism? This is a gut check moment for members of Congress. Do we sacrifice our liberty? Do we bow to those who try to use security issues for political gain? Do we stand and applaud when the President places himself above the law? Or, do we say enough?
Stop the power grab, stop the politics, stop breaking the law.
It's time to stand up - not to cheer, but to fight back.
An Obfuscation Report Exclusive: We have a draft of Bush's next speech in defense of warantless spying on Americans.
"Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of two-foot tall Ewoks? That does NOT MAKE SENSE! But more important, you have to ask yourself: What does this have to do with this case? Nothing. Ladies and gentlemen, it has nothing to do with this case! It does NOT MAKE SENSE! Look at me. I'm a President accused of breaking the law, and I'm talkin' about Chewbacca! Does that make sense? Ladies and gentlemen, I am not making any sense! None of this makes sense! And so you have to remember, when you're in that jury room deliberatin' and conjugatin' the Emancipation Proclamation, does it make sense? No! Ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, it does NOT MAKE SENSE! If Chewbacca lives on Endor, you must acquit! The defense rests."
Bush Dazzles Audience at the Grand Ole Opry with an "Army of Straw Men and a Fleet of Red Herrings."
Editorial New York Times
The March of the Straw Soldiers
President Bush is not giving up the battle over domestic spying. He's fighting it with an army of straw men and a fleet of red herrings.
In his State of the Union address and in a follow-up speech in Nashville yesterday, Mr. Bush threw out a dizzying array of misleading analogies, propaganda slogans and false choices: Congress authorized the president to spy on Americans and knew all about it ... 9/11 could have been prevented by warrantless spying ... you can't fight terrorism and also obey the law ... and Democrats are not just soft on national defense, they actually don't want to beat Al Qaeda.
"Let me put it to you in Texan," Mr. Bush drawled at the Grand Ole Opry House yesterday. "If Al Qaeda is calling into the United States, we want to know."
Yes, and so does every American. But that has nothing to do with Mr. Bush's decision to toss out the Constitution and judicial process by authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a warrant. Let's be clear: the president and his team had the ability to monitor calls by Qaeda operatives into and out of the United States before 9/11 and got even more authority to do it after the attacks. They never needed to resort to extralegal and probably unconstitutional methods.
Mr. Bush said the warrantless spying was vetted by lawyers in the Justice Department, which is cold comfort. They also endorsed the abuse of prisoners and the indefinite detention of "unlawful enemy combatants" without charges or trials.
The president also said the spying is reviewed by N.S.A. lawyers. That's nice, but the law was written specifically to bring that agency, and the president, under control. And there already is a branch of government assigned to decide what's legal. It's called the judiciary. The law itself is clear: spying on Americans without a warrant is illegal.
One of the oddest moments in Mr. Bush's defense of domestic spying came when he told his audience in Nashville, "If I was trying to pull a fast one on the American people, why did I brief Congress?" He did not mention that some lawmakers protested the spying at the briefings, or that they found them inadequate. The audience members who laughed and applauded Mr. Bush's version of the truth may have forgot that he said he briefed Congress fully on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We know how that turned out.
Editor's Note: A straw-man argument is the practice of refuting a weaker argument than an opponent actually offers. To "set up a straw man" or "set up a straw-man argument" is to create a position that is easy to refute, then attribute that position to your opponent. A straw-man argument can be a successful rhetorical technique (that is, it may succeed in persuading people) but it is also a logical fallacy, since the argument actually presented by your opponent has not been refuted, only a weaker argument.
Editor's Note: A Red Herring is a logical fallacy committed when someone introduces irrelevant material to the issue being discussed, so that everyone's attention is diverted away from the points made, towards a different conclusion. A logical fallacy is used in an attempt to intentionally confuse or distract someone else, it is known as a "red herring". This phrase is thought to have originated from the use of smoked herring fish to distract dogs following a scent trail. The herring's strong smell could obscure the real trail and lay a false one.
As I rewatched the President's SOTU speech, I discovered a way to actually enjoy it. Turn the volume off and listen to Fortunate Son on a loop.
ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail To The Chief",
oh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no senator's son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no,
Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, why don't they help themselves? oh.
But when the taxman come to the door,
Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale, yes,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no millionaire's son, no, no.
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no.
Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, how much should we KILL,
oh, they only answer, more, more, more, yoh,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no military son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no no no,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate son, son son son
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) based in the US has today joined in a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act which are being filed across the country to uncover exactly who the Pentagon is spying on and why.
The FOIA requests, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and its affiliates, come in the wake of new evidence revealing the US Defense Department has been secretly conducting surveillance of peace groups and protest activities.
"While thousands are dying in Iraq, here at home our government is waging a new war, a 'war on dissent' that threatens to dismantle the constitution and severely challenge our country's basic democratic principles of free speech and peaceful assembly," said Michael McConnell, director of AFSC's Great Lakes region, which recently found itself under Pentagon scrutiny.
"If the government has avowed pacifists under surveillance, then no one is safe," he adds.
Recent reports reveal the Government is spying on its own citizens, and mere attendance at a peace rally could merit placement on a secret Defense Department list of "potential terrorist threats."
The President now admits secretly authorizing an electronic surveillance program to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the U.S. without court-approved warrants or presenting any evidence of wrong-doing. These revelations have caused a bi-partisan outcry in Congress.
In addition to the Service Committee, the ACLU filed national Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on behalf of Veterans for Peace, United for Peace and Justice and Greenpeace, as well as dozens of local groups in Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island, Maine, Pennsylvania and California.
The ACLU is seeking the disclosure of all documents maintained by the Department of Defense on the individual groups. M
any of the groups involved in today's action, such as the Rhode Island-based Community Coalition for Peace, have already learned that they are listed in the Pentagon's Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database.
The TALON program was initiated by former Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 to track groups and individuals with possible links to terrorism. But according to portions of the database that were leaked to the media in December, the Pentagon has been collecting information on peaceful activists and monitoring anti-war and anti-military recruiting protests throughout the United States.
Following public outcry over the domestic spying program, current Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England issued a memorandum on January 13 directing intelligence personnel to receive "refresher training on the policies for collection, retention, dissemination and use of information related to U.S. persons."
At least four of the incidences of surveillance uncovered were activities coordinated or supported by the American Friends Service Committee, a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947.
Founded by Quakers in 1917, the Service Committee began as a vehicle for conscientious objectors to the First World War to contribute to binding up the wounds of war: by building houses for war victims, feeding hungry children, and clothing the displaced. AFSC has historically felt called to witness against war and for changing the conditions that cause violent conflict.
"How can we speak of spreading democracy in Iraq while dismantling it here at home?" asks Joyce Miller, AFSC associate general secretary for justice and human rights. "Political dissent is fundamental to a free and democratic society. It should not be equated with crime."
AFSC's work, always open and resolutely nonviolent, has been under government surveillance for decades.
The Service Committee secured nearly 1,700 pages of files from the FBI under a Freedom of Information request in 1976. These files show that the FBI kept files on AFSC that dated back to 1921. Ten other federal agencies kept files on AFSC, including the CIA, Air Force, Navy, Internal Revenue Service, Secret Service, and the State Department. The CIA has intercepted overseas mail and cables in the 1950s, and some AFSC offices (and even its staff's homes) have been infiltrated and burglarized in the late 1960s into the 1970s.
Over and over again, AFSC was targeted as a subversive element, followed by investigations that established that it's a "serious pacifist organization," or a "religious, charitable, peace organization."
"We all want to be safe," Miller concludes. "However, trampling upon the Bill of Rights and dismantling our constitution will not make us more safe or secure, nor will it erase the threat of terrorism. Conversely, eroding the safeguards of the Constitution make us less safe and destroy the principles of democracy on which our country was founded."
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on National Security Agency eavesdropping starting on February 6.
By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.
What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.
But America still would import oil from the Middle East, because that's where the greatest oil supplies are.
The president's State of the Union reference to Mideast oil made headlines nationwide Wednesday because of his assertion that "America is addicted to oil" and his call to "break this addiction."
Bush vowed to fund research into better batteries for hybrid vehicles and more production of the alternative fuel ethanol, setting a lofty goal of replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025."
He pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."
Not exactly, though, it turns out.
"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.
He said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms. Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth.
Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.
Presidential adviser Dan Bartlett made a similar point in a briefing before the speech. "I think one of the biggest concerns the American people have is oil coming from the Middle East. It is a very volatile region," he said.
Through the first 11 months of 2005, the United States imported nearly 2.2 million barrels per day of oil from the Middle East nations of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. That's less than 20 percent of the total U.S. daily imports of 10.062 million barrels.
Imports account for about 60 percent of U.S. oil consumption.
Alan Hubbard, the director of the president's National Economic Council, projects that America will import 6 million barrels of oil per day from the Middle East in 2025 without major technological changes in energy consumption.
The Bush administration believes that new technologies could reduce the total daily U.S. oil demand by about 5.26 million barrels through alternatives such as plug-in hybrids with rechargeable batteries, hydrogen-powered cars and new ethanol products.
That means the new technologies could reduce America's oil appetite by the equivalent of what we're expected to import from the Middle East by 2025, Hubbard said.
But we'll still be importing plenty of oil, according to the Energy Department's latest projection.
"In 2025, net petroleum imports, including both crude oil and refined products, are expected to account for 60 percent of demand ... up from 58 percent in 2004," according to the Energy Information Administration's 2006 Annual Energy Outlook.
Some experts think Bush needs to do more to achieve his stated goal.
"We can achieve energy independence from the Middle East, but not with what the president is proposing," said Craig Wolfe, the president of Americans for Energy Independence in Studio City, Calif. "We need to slow the growth in consumption. Our organization believes we need to do something about conservation" and higher auto fuel-efficiency standards.