Friday, May 19, 2006


John Gibson Doesn't get it. Now he says that he was telling EVERYONE to make babies. Then why discuss Demographic Trends of Hispanics John?

Gibson again invoked Europe's growing Muslim population to explain "make more babies" remarks from media matters for america.

Summary: Fox News' John Gibson again responded to criticism of his comments that advised his viewers to "[d]o your duty" and "[m]ake more babies," before citing a report that found that nearly half of all children under the age of 5 in the United States are minorities. Gibson claimed that the "outrage" is "confined to the left-wing blogs, which hate Fox and hate [him] for speaking [his] mind and for the war on Christmas and some other things." Gibson then purported to explain his comments again, this time asserting that "I said people in this country should make more babies, particularly those groups whose birth rates are not as high as others. Why? Because we see what is happening in Europe. ... [W]hen people stop having babies ... populations cease being self-sustaining, end up filling population gaps with immigrants who then make demands on the culture the homies might not like, such as demands for Sharia law in some parts of Europe."

On the May 18 edition of Fox News' The Big Story, host John Gibson again responded to criticism (here and here) of his May 11 comments, documented by Media Matters for America, in which he advised his viewers to "[d]o your duty" and "[m]ake more babies," just before claiming that half of all Americans could be Hispanic within 25 years, a conclusion Gibson based on a May 10 report that nearly half of all children under the age of 5 in the United States are minorities. During his May 18 "My Word" segment, attacking "self-appointed media watchdogs," Gibson reiterated his May 16 defense that he had urged viewers to make more babies because the United States should avoid the trend in Europe, which, according to Gibson, will eventually be overrun with a Muslim immigrant population because of the low birth rate among native Europeans. Gibson asserted: "I did say Hispanics have a higher birth rate than others in this country, but what I also said was that the others shouldn't make Hispanics carry the whole load of population replenishment."

But his purported explanation simply does not hold up. In his original comments, he predicted that in the United States in 25 years, Hispanics would be in the majority. He then noted that in Europe, immigrant populations are rising, while native Europeans are not "having enough babies to sustain their population." While Gibson said that "others shouldn't make Hispanics carry the whole load of population replenishment" in his May 18 defense, his original comments made no mention of any other ethnic groups in the United States, only "European ancestry people, white people" and Hispanics, and noted the rising Hispanic population.

Despite noting that Time magazine and Comedy Central's The Colbert Report had cited his May 11 comments, Gibson then claimed that the "outrage" is "confined to the left-wing blogs, which hate Fox and hate [him] for speaking [his] mind and for the war on Christmas and some other things." Gibson added: "Normally I ignore it. This time I can't." Gibson later stated: "These attacks fit a pattern. Certain people and self-appointed media watchdogs purposely misinterpret what I've said in order to mount vicious personal attacks," adding that a "Fox-hating and Gibson-hating blog reported [that] Gibson said brown people are bad, whites should have babies to keep browns down."

As Media Matters noted, on May 16, Gibson defended his May 11 comments, asserting: "My concern was simply that I didn't want America to become Europe, where the birth rate is so low the continent is fast being populated by immigrants, mainly from Muslim countries, whose birth rate is very high." He added, "I said ... it was also a good idea if people other than Hispanics also got busy and have more babies. Those people would include both blacks and whites. I suppose Asians, too."

From the May 18 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: Now it's time for "My Word." Since I'm the kind of guy who runs his mouth, I tend to get in a lot of trouble. People get outraged about something I said, but most often it's confined to the left-wing blogs, which hate Fox and hate me for speaking my mind and for the war on Christmas and some other things. Normally I ignore it. This time I can't.

These attacks fit a pattern. Certain people and self-appointed media watchdogs purposely misinterpret what I've said in order to mount vicious personal attacks. I said people in this country should make more babies, particularly those groups whose birth rates are not as high as others. Why? Because we see what is happening in Europe. Russia is a good example. When people stop having babies because they are inconvenient, populations cease being self-sustaining, end up filling population gaps with immigrants who then make demands on the culture the homies might not like, such as demands for Sharia law in some parts of Europe.

My saying this has been widely and incorrectly interpreted as me meaning to say white people in the U.S. should be making more babies because they're being eclipsed by brown people. I did say Hispanics have a higher birth rate than others in this country, but what I also said was that the others shouldn't make Hispanics carry the whole load of population replenishment. It's hard work having kids.

A Fox-hating and Gibson-hating blog reported [that] Gibson said brown people are bad, whites should have babies to keep browns down. This is not true. Not what I said, not what I meant, not what I think, yet this lie has even appeared in Time magazine.

The Colbert Report actually aired a cleverly edited "My Word" to have me saying something they evidently wanted me saying, something shockingly racist. I have expressly stated I have no problem with the evolving racial demographic trends in this country. A browner America doesn't bother me in the slightest. I expect it, and I welcome it.

I don't mind getting hammered for what I did say, that happens plenty. But to get hammered for what I did not say amounts to nothing more than partisan attack for partisan purposes. That's "My Word," and as a grandfather of two babies and the uncle of two adult Hispanic Americans, I repeat my real feelings on the matter: Have more babies. Everybody. I like babies.

— B.A.


Republicans Hostile To NAACP; Accused them of political advocacy. Can you say JUSTICE SUNDAY?

Documents highlight GOP scrutiny of NAACP
Republicans passed along constituent requests that IRS probe organization
The Associated Press
Updated: 7:05 p.m. ET May 18, 2006

BALTIMORE - Several Republican members of Congress forwarded constituents’ letters to the Internal Revenue Service claiming the NAACP had veered into political advocacy, a potential violation of the civil rights group’s tax-exempt status, according to documents released by the NAACP.

The IRS began looking into the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People about a month before the 2004 presidential election after a speech by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond that was largely critical of President Bush’s policies.

Political campaigning is prohibited under the NAACP’s tax-exempt status. The IRS said its inquiry would focus on whether Bond’s speech was too political, and that the investigation is among dozens into the activities of tax-exempt groups during the 2004 election season.

The NAACP received more than 500 pages of documents the IRS has gathered to begin its inquiry and posted them on its Web site. The group had made requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents include letters that members of Congress sent to the IRS on behalf of their constituents. The lawmakers include Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Susan M. Collins of Maine, Rep. Jo Ann Davis of Virginia, the late Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and former Reps. Larry Combest of Texas and Joe Scarborough of Florida. All are Republicans.

Spokespeople for those members of Congress still in office said they simply forwarded the concerns of their constituents, as they would for any constituent, and took no position on the issue.

“When we get letters like this, we pass them along to the appropriate agency without taking a position on them,” said Harvey Valentine, a spokesman for Alexander.

“Senator Collins never asked for a probe into the NAACP’s tax status,” said Jen Burita, Collins’ communications director.

Smear campaign alleged by group

The NAACP has called the IRS audit a political smear campaign. Marcus Owens, an attorney for the NAACP, said the letters from Republican politicians raised questions about the motivation of the IRS probe.

“It’s clear that the NAACP drew a lot of criticism and complaints from the Republican Party and many of the complaints don’t have a lot of substance to them,” he said. “The circumstances of the audit came just weeks before the election, and apparently they were triggered from members of the Republican Party at some level.”

The chief fund-raiser to Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich wrote a letter asking for an IRS investigation shortly after the 2000 presidential campaign, the documents showed. Ehrlich was a congressman at the time.

Response to TV ad prompts one letter

Richard Hug said his letter was prompted by a television ad sponsored by the NAACP’s National Voter Fund. In it, the daughter of James Byrd, a black man dragged to death by three white men in a pickup truck, faulted then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush for refusing her pleas for a hate-crime law.

“I was acting as a citizen, and I think that everyone else ought to be concerned if they have nonprofit status and they are using political ads,” he said Wednesday.

In a report issued in February, the IRS said it found some level of prohibited political activity in nearly three-quarters of the 82 examinations it had completed by that point into the conduct of churches and other tax-exempt groups during the 2004 elections. The IRS said that in most cases the prohibited actions were isolated cases that the agency addressed through letters to the organizations.



Republican Aristocracy: Massive Tax Cuts for These Guys? I'm sure glad I'm paying higher interest rates so that these guys can have more money.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Awful
by Melissa Lafsky Huffington Post

Mainstrea media often brims with depressing images. Iraq footage, newly-released Abu Ghraib photos, still shots of Tom Hanks with truly awful hair. But the newest widely-circulated video of Paris Hilton and her cohort debasing Lindsay Lohan tops this week's list of material most likely to prompt a Paxil overdose.

The film footage displays Hilton walking to and from the ubiquitous nightclub back door accompanied by beefy oil heir Brandon Davis, a name that should rightfully singe newsprint pages with its insignificance. As Hilton laughs and plasters her Sidekick to her ear (the standard gesture of celebrity indifference in the face of cameras), her greasy friend spouts X-rated taunts regarding Lohan's genitalia and personal appearance, referring to the red-headed starlet as "fire crotch" and demanding, "Would you fuck her?" In the background, a linebacker bodyguard parts the river of paparazzi swarming to snap close-ups of the pair.

Catty remarks about her classless ways aside, Hilton and her proteges have created a new behavioral code for the offspring of the obscenely rich: act rude and disrespectful to the point of abhorrence in the presence of cameras, then sit back and reap the rewards. It's present here, Hilton and Co. preening and flaunting their effortless celebrity, greeting everyone around them with blistering scorn, all with the knowledge that tomorrow their names and faces will pollute gossip pages nationwide. The scene has become a recipe for instant press tidal waves. Simply brandish a personality that slashes every modicum of social decency, then enjoy the resulting guaranteed attention.

On the whole, I have nothing against rich kids. A society that worships and glorifies wealth has little right to begrudge its heirs and heiresses. They make up the microscopic percentage of human beings born with access to every luxury, the highest possible jackpot in a capitalist system. As symbols of the supposed bond between riches and happiness that fuels our culture, they may as well spend their lives lounging on Capri-anchored yachts, chartering jets to Ibiza and licking Cristal off the bodies of supermodels (though the exception lies in those with ties to the public sector. When your father becomes a wartime president, you obtain a social responsibility greater than dancing in VIP rooms and posing for Vanity Fair covers, whether or not you choose to accept it).

While the resulting lack of social conscience may offend those us wallowing in the working class pits, such is the inequitable nature of the world we've created. As such, these kids didn't ask to be born inside the coveted "One Percent", so why should they feel bad about it?

But the bile begins to rise when access to ancestral bounty becomes a free pass for degrading others and flaunting repulsive behavior to deliberately insult the rest of the world. This video presents a perfect example, as well as an exercise in controlling the vomit reflex of even the biggest Hilton fan (whoever you are). Following Davis' misogynistic tirade mixed with Hilton's manic laughter, the duo speeds off into the consequence-free vacuum of their untroubled lives, smirking at the reporters and security officials left inhaling their exhaust fumes. Belief in karma aside, if any justice-doling higher power existed, the next morning the pair would awake to find themselves transformed into some combination of Gregor Samsa, and Louis Winthorpe.

The video's piece de resistance occurs when Davis, from the passenger seat of Hilton's car, snaps, "I think [Lohan] is worth around $7 million, which means she's really poor." While defending the honor of Lindsay Lohan ranks high on the list of things I never thought I'd do, my chest filled with righteous indignation upon hearing the insult. Reports of her tabloid-readiness and antics with Hilton's ex-boyfriend aside, Lohan is a self-made millionaire and worldwide celebrity at age nineteen, a feat far surpassing the accomplishments of Hilton or any other walking embodiment of abundance without effort. From humble roots, Lohan became a teenage idol and Hollywood icon, achieving praise (however grudging) for her acting talent and amassing a fortune greater than the average American sees in a lifetime. And here's the heir to untold millions made in oil (true insult to injury) practically spitting on her measly $7 million. One can only imagine how a boy who heaps such crushing disdain on Lindsey Lohan views the rest of us, the great unwashed masses.

On the miniscule chance that any heirs to the wealth of the modern world read blogs, I leave you with a message: revel in your easy life and spend your riches in peace. Just don't use your lucky birth as a launchpad for public displays of repulsiveness. And be sure to pray that the whole karma thing is just a massive hoax.


Republican Aristocracy: Is BushCo an Organized Crime Ring?

Incompetence Is Simply a Byproduct of Something Far More Sinister
By Bob Johnson

Monday 15 May 2006

I don't think the Bush administration is incompetent, in the pure sense of the word, as so many pundits have claimed. Everytime I read that charge, it doesn't sit right in my mind.

No, that's not the whole of it, I think. Their particular brand of incompetence is an outgrowth of something else - something far more sinister. If those who populate this administration, along with their co-conspirators in Congress, were simply happy-go-lucky fools, the incompetence tag would hang on them like a too-big suit. They'd wear incompetence like a pair of oversized clown shoes.

Osama's escape, the Iraq Debacle, Katrina, Medicare D... The list of incompetent actions and policies stretches on for miles, as far as the eye can see on a flat, blazing hot desert road.

But "incompetence" lets them off too easily.

Incompetence is an outgrowth - or an end product - of indifference. Cold, callous, cold-hearted, criminal indifference:

* Indifference towards the troops they put in harm's way.
* Indifference toward the elderly who must cope with the trainwreck that is Medicare D.
* Indifference toward the hundreds of thousands of Gulf states residents who lost everything in Katrina.
* Indifference toward future generations by giving away national forests and refusing to abide by environmental agreements.

Indifference after indifference after indifference.

Incompetence? Sure. But only because, fundamentally, they do not give a flying fuck about America or its citizens. (Nevermind how little they think of the citizens of the rest of the world.) They care only of themselves - and money. Simple, really.

It is no accident that indifference is a synonym for selfishness. And that selfishness can be synonymous with greed.

When Grover Norquist uttered his famous proclamation that his dream was to "drown the federal government in the bathtub," he was only giving the half of it.

The likes of Rove and Cheney and Rumsfeld quickly figured out that the best way to accomplish Norquist's dream - a dream they avidly shared - was to not only govern indifferently (thus underlying their assertion that government is an inefficent and ineffectual way of operating everything from wars to disaster relief), but that they also could enrich themselves and their corporate sponsors in the process, effectively looting the government as they "drown it in the tub."

"Two birds with one stone" and all that.

The deficit is no accident. It is the ultimate manifestation of Norquist's dream. Cheney and company (through their idiotic puppet and perfect foil, George Bush) paint the government as incompetent while bankrupting the federal treasury and lining the pockets of everyone from Halliburton to the religious right.

The Bush years have been nothing less than a criminal enterprise. Organized crime. Thievery on a scale never before witnessed in the history of humankind. Billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars looted from the national treasury and delivered to the pockets of the well-connected. (Tax relief? For whom?)

The NSA spying program was never about ferreting out terrorist plots. We knew that. It was simply another tool to be used to stop any person or entity which sought to uncover their criminal cabal. And the Patriot Act is more of the same. This crew will stop at nothing to protect their criminal enterprise.

So I wish the Paul Krugmans of the world would stop letting Cheney et. al. off so easy with the "incompetent" tag.

Like Liberace, they are laughing all the way to the bank.


Leader of the Republican Aristrocracy Says LET THEM EAT CAKE!

This is just lovely. A man who makes $212,000 dollars a year and has his health care paid for FOR LIFE is claiming that Americans who make $40,000 dollars a year DON'T PAY ANY TAXES! Is he nuts? Is he just so used to bashing Mexicans, claiming they don't pay ANY taxes, that he mixed them up with American Families?

Seriously, I don't think these guys have the slightest clue what $3.00 a gallon gas does to someone who's making $40,000 dollars a year and supporting an entire family. Or what rising health care costs do to that $40,000 dollar a year salary. Or how that $40,000 dollar a year salary is going to get an annual 3% raise while inflation will rise at 4.5%. Or what higher interest rates do to someone living on a $40,000 dollar a year salary.

And just for the record, the median household income for the U.S. is somewhere around 41-43,000 dollars a year. So Mr. Hastert believes that half of Americans don't pay ANY taxes. Nice. No wonder his policies always favor the rich.

Hastert: ‘If You Earn $40,000 a Year and Have a Family of Two Children, You Don’t Pay Any Taxes’

During a late session last night, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) made a stunning claim on the House floor:

Well, folks, if you earn $40,000 a year and have a family of two children, you don’t pay ANY taxes. So you probably, if you don’t pay any taxes, you are not going to get a very big tax cut.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


FAUX News John Gibson; The Dumbest Man On the Planet. Oh yeah, and he's not only a racist, he's a religious bigot. Nice.

Fox News John Gibson really is a fucking idiot. Intolerance at Fox News is alive and well.

I can’t believe this racist piece of shit has a job as a NETWORK NEWS MAN. After advising Fox viewers to “Do your duty. Make more babies. ... Half of the kids in this country under five years old are minorities. By far, the greatest number are Hispanic. Know what that means? Twenty-five years and the majority of the population is Hispanic. ... Put it bluntly, we need more babies.”

He’s now backtracking and claiming that he wasn’t advising white people to have more babies, he was advising white people to be more like Hispanics and have more babies. See how that works, he’s ignoring the entire part about what’s going to happen in 25 years, and he’s just saying that Christians need to make more babies.

His concern wasn’t that there weren’t enough WHITE BABIES, but simply that there aren’t enough BABIES. However, if that is true, then what the hell is his concern with what’s going to happen in 25 years? If Babies are babies then it shouldn’t make a bit of difference who’s having them.

The bottom line is that John Gibson is a racist turd. He also seems to think that the only way one is ever actually a racist is if you put on a pointy hat and ride around with a torch. Sorry John, but racism is a bit more complicated than that.

I’ll let you read his words and decide for yourself.

From the May 16 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

GIBSON: Now time for "My Word."

Some misunderstandings about a recent "My Word." I've been accused of being a racist because I said something simple. It was a couple of days ago, and I said procreate not recreate. It was a thought or two about demographics, about the science of looking into population trends and making predictions.

My concern was simply that I didn't want America to become Europe, where the birth rate is so low the continent is fast being populated by immigrants, mainly from Muslim countries, whose birth rate is very high. That fact was coupled with a news item that said half of all babies in America under five are minorities and the majority of those are Hispanic.

I said, fine, but it was also a good idea if people other than Hispanics also got busy and had more babies. Those people would include both blacks and whites. I suppose Asians, too. I said you can't expect Hispanics to do all the work when it comes to supplying our country with babies.

Well, you would have thought I put on a sheet and a pointed cap and started riding around at night carrying torches. People called me a racist. And for what? For simply saying that we ought to be having more babies in this country, and that while Hispanics were doing their part, others should be doing more.

If you look at the demographic trends, as I have, you could conclude, as I have, that 50 years from now, Europe will be brown and Muslim, and America will be brown and Christian. I am fine with that, America, and I've said so many times. I'd rather live with the Christians here than live in -- under Sharia law in Europe. Of course, I won't be alive anyway, but I hope you get the point.

The overall point here today is to say people are wrong if they say I am urging white people to have more babies because I'm afraid of more brown people and I'm a racist. Couldn't be farther from the truth. Not that the truth matters when people want to lie about you for their own personal and vicious motives, which seems to happen a lot lately. That's "My Word."


Racism Goes Mainstream: FOX News Takes the Lead in Protecting White Power.

Fox News Presents! The War On Darkies
by Bob Cesca the Huffington Post

Last week, Fox News Channel's John Gibson urged white people to make more babies in order to counter the growing Latino population in America.

Next up... Tony Snow, former Fox pundit and current White House press secretary, blurted out "squeezing the tar baby" in his first official press conference.

And most recently, Media Matters took note of O'Reilly's Talking Point Memo segment in which he lashed out at "far left thinkers" for opposing the "white power structure that controls America".

O'Reilly thinks it's a bad thing that idiots like you and me want a society and government that's multicultural. Gibson thinks it's a matter of national urgency that, in decades to come, white people will be a minority in America. Now, name any white power group, be it Stormfront, the KKK, the Aryan Nation, or the Neo-Nazis and tell me if the collective talking points aren't oh so eerily similar.

It's one thing for O'Reilly and Gibson to roll out their annual "War on Christmas" comedy spoofs. It's one thing for the network to be the unabashed mouthpiece for the Republican government and the Bush administration. But it's another thing entirely for FNC's pundits to literally encourage white power.

But at least they're out in the open with dwindling ratings and almost zero credibility as a legitimate news source. And it'll only get worse once they roll out the seizure-inducing graphics package heralding:

FOX NEWS PRESENTS! The War On Darkies! Gibson offering tips on how to generate the "whitest sperm". O'Reilly belting out Talking Point Memos about how to tell if your neighbor is a mud person -- or simply covered in mud. Sean Hannity shouting "packow! packow!" whilst blasting fire hoses at minorities from his really cool helicopter. Geraldo will leave the network, of course. Maybe he'll jump over to PAX -- the only network to not have employed him so far.

Yes, it's all so funny, isn't it? Actually it's not. Unless I'm very wrong, hate speech and white power is going mainstream. Again. And I, for one, welcome Fox News to be the leader on this one. I don't think they should be fined or pulled off the air. I think they ought to be allowed to prance around in pointy hoods and arm bands and shown for who they really are. Then as their ratings continue to drop and their advertisers abandon them, we can be satisfied that justice has been served in America.


Kentucky Gov Ernie Fletcher Indicted. The words "Republican Indicted" seem to go together often these days. Must be those "family values."

Monster Mash: Governors vs. Attorneys General - Chandler says Fletcher ‘Guilty of Fraud on the Public’

By Michael Lindenberger

Happy anniversary, Governor Fletcher. Almost a year to the day after it began investigating Fletcher’s administration for alleged violations of state law regarding the merit system, the grand jury indicted Fletcher on one count each of criminal conspiracy, first-degree official misconduct and violation of the prohibition against political discrimination. The charges were gift-wrapped by Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who did not include a Get Out of Jail Free card.

Maybe by design, and maybe not, the indictments were announced the Thursday just after the Derby and just before the Primary Elections, a period when many Kentuckians already are suffering from sensory overload.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s angry reaction to his indictments last week had a familiar ring to anyone who paid attention to the end stages of his embattled predecessor’s tenure.

On Friday, Fletcher denounced the indictments as mere political maneuvering by a man — Stumbo — who is widely considered a likely candidate for governor in 2007.

But just three years ago, it was Fletcher’s predecessor — the man whose example Fletcher blasted at every campaign stop — who was savaging an attorney general for what he called ruthless political opportunism.

In June of his last year in office, then-Gov. Paul Patton pardoned four men, including his chief of staff, who had been indicted for allegedly violating the state’s campaign finance laws during Patton’s bitter 1995 contest against Republican Larry Forgy. After his defeat, Forgy filed a complaint with then-Attorney General Ben Chandler, prompting a case that drug on nearly eight years.

“It was obvious from day one that Ben Chandler was looking at this as an opportunity to put Paul Patton in prison,” Patton said at the time, explaining the pardons. “You’ve got innocent people being persecuted and prosecuted by a politically ambitious candidate for governor; that’s an unprecedented situation.”

In response, Chandler, a Democrat by then running against Fletcher for governor, immediately called for Patton to resign.

On Friday, Fletcher was reading from Patton’s playbook, rather than the clean-up-the-mess-in-Frankfort script he used during his campaign.

On Saturday, his spokesman repeated Fletcher’s charges against Stumbo in an interview.

“We’re talking about Greg Stumbo, the most partisan Democrat in modern Kentucky history,” said Brett Hall, Fletcher’s communications director. “He’s a very wily and skillful political operator … (who is) bored with the mundane work an attorney general has to do, like bringing drug dealers to justice, focusing on deadbeat dads and finding welfare cheats.”

To press that charge into the legal arena, Fletcher’s lawyers filed a motion in Franklin Circuit Court asking that Stumbo and his entire office be removed from the case, citing a conflict of interest, given his potential run for governor next year.

Vicki Glass, a spokesman for Stumbo, called the motion “baseless,” adding that “political corruption” is precisely the kinds of cases attorneys general are elected to pursue.

“The only person running for governor is Ernie Fletcher,” she said, repeating remarks made by Stumbo the day before.

Over the weekend, Chandler, now a congressman who said he has not ruled out a repeat campaign for governor, said Stumbo would have to withdraw from the case — if he had officially filed to run against Fletcher in 2007. But since Stumbo has only said he is considering the race, the ethics rules for prosecutors and executive branch officials prohibiting conflicts of interest wouldn’t apply, Chandler said.

“I think that, if there was an immediate conflict of interest, he would step aside from the case — if there were that conflict,” Chandler said Saturday. “But you have to understand the legal definition of a conflict — it’s a present conflict, not a potential one.”

(On Monday, in a statement broadcast on television, Stumbo said he would not file to oppose Fletcher for governor, so long as the investigation continues.)

Besides, Chandler said, Stumbo is simply doing what he was elected to do.

“Having been there myself as attorney general, I’d ask, ‘What can he do, other than his job?’ You have to follow the law,” Chandler said. “This idea that he is just leading the grand jury around the room by the nose is nonsense. When I was pursuing indictments, they called me to testify — and I was the one who empanelled them. … Patton said the same thing about me … that I was on a witch hunt, trying to put him in jail — that it was all politics.”

Patton, in an interview on Monday, defended his pardons — but said he would not comment on Fletcher’s indictments. His successor deserves to lead Kentucky without taking any “cheap shots” from the man he replaced, he said.

Generally, Patton said, there are enough career staff members in the Office of the Attorney General to head off a purely political prosecution. “Someone is going to stand up and object,” he said.

An attorney general has to investigate accusations of public wrong-doing, he added.

Still, he said, politics can play a role. He said he believes top prosecutors in Chandler’s office objected to Chandler’s hardball pursuit of the investigation into possible campaign irregularities, but that Chandler overruled them.

“With the General Chandler situation in particular, I asked him to investigate charges of vote-buying that Larry Forgy had made (following the 1995 election). The state police had already determined that there was no evidence of vote-buying, and Attorney General Chandler, to my knowledge, never turned up any evidence of vote-buying anyplace. But he took off on a totally differently tangent.”

That tangent involved untested provisions of the 1992 campaign-finance law. On Saturday, however, Chandler said that he, like Stumbo, had only been following the law.

“I see a lot of similarities between what Fletcher is saying now and what we heard from Patton,” said Chandler, who added he enjoys his work in Congress but won’t rule out running for governor again. “What he is saying now is what everybody says who is charged with an infraction or a crime. You can just script it.”

Chandler said he took flak from many, including Fletcher during the campaign, for not pursuing an indictment against Patton instead of just two of the governor’s top aides and two labor-union leaders.

But Chandler said prosecutors can only pursue cases as far as their evidence takes them. He said suggestions that Patton’s team also violated merit employee rules were made during his time as attorney general — but said his office never received the kind of evidence that Stumbo is working with.

“We had no similar allegations,” he said. “Nobody brought me anything like what Stumbo has received. In this case, the whistle-blower, Doug Doerting, brought Stumbo some 250 pages of very carefully documented material. We never received anything close to that.”

Patton isn’t the only former living governor to have endured an investigation while in office.

Former Gov. Julian Carroll, who served five years in the 1970s, was also investigated and saw a close associate, Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Howard “Sonny” Hunt, go to federal prison on charges stemming from an insurance scam. Carroll, best known now for his swept-back white hair and booming oratorical style, was elected to the State Senate in 2004. He called Fletcher’s charges that the charges are driven by politics “absolutely ludicrous.”

“You start with the simple fact that the attorney general did not start this investigation,” Carroll said. “A whistle-blower did, when he brought claims of a violation of the law. Had the attorney general refused to act, then he would have been guilty of misfeasance in office. … The governor’s charges are so ludicrous. … It simply hasn’t happened.”

Carroll said Fletcher’s defiance of the charges, more than any actual wrong-doing, has doomed his governorship.

That defiance has included issuing pardons for 13 current or former members of his administration and an attempt to have a judge order the grand jury’s job completed before its term expired.

On Saturday, Hall conceded that the Fletcher administration had been under great pressure by supporters in Republican-dominated areas of the state to put party members on the state payroll.

“There were places that were 80-percent Republican, where the local complaint was that Democrats were always getting the jobs,” he said, adding that the party loyalists wanted to correct that imbalance. “But we resisted that pressure.

“We never went there,” Hall said. “Every time it was discussed, it was made clear, each and every time, that merit jobs were off limits.”

Hall also said it’s revealing that this is the first time that violations of the hiring laws have resulted in indictments, rather than being handled as complaints to the personnel board or the Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

“A lot of people have told us that were the governor and Greg Stumbo of the same party, he would have never gone down this road,” Hall said.

Carroll argues that by fighting the charges so stubbornly, Fletcher has forced himself into a corner where his only option left is to attack the motivation of the prosecutor.

“He could say, ‘No, I didn’t do it,’ but the evidence is going to contradict that,” Carroll said. “All he can say is, ‘This is political.’ He has used the only course of action that is open to him. He is going to get a few people out in the state to believe that, but there is not going to be many.”

Carroll said he believes Fletcher could head off a trial, and possible jail sentence, if he stepped forward and admitted unintentional wrong-doing, and accepted a minor reprimand.

But no matter what, he said, the indictments have ruined any chances for a second term.

“This has damaged the governor beyond repair,” said Carroll, his own political ressurection notwithstanding. “He’s already been polling 32- and 33-percent approval for nearly a year. You can’t run a statewide race with a 32 positive. Republicans for some time have been looking for another candidate. A member of the governor’s staff has told me that they expect that when he starts trying to raise money, he’s going to get the message.”

Chandler, too, said Fletcher’s insistence that the charges are mere politics may not insulate him from voters who feel betrayed.

“I think everybody in the state is somewhat surprised by this ultimate outcome,” Chandler said. “In my opinion, he’s guilty of a fraud on the public. He ran his entire campaign on the theme of cleaning up the mess in Frankfort. He talked repeatedly about doing things differently, his rock-solid values and getting rid of the old-boy network. But what they’ve done is use everything in their power to replace one old-boy network with a new one.”

But Fletcher won’t have to face the voters for another year. In the meantime, one wonders where his support is coming from. Certainly not Sen. Mitch McConnell. Not Senate President David Williams. And not, apparently, from the state party itself.

“We are not commenting on the indictment at all,” said Michael Clingaman, executive director of the Republican Party of Kentucky. “Unless you want to talk about the 2006 races, we just aren’t going to comment.”

Could this reluctance stem from Fletcher’s failed attempt to replace the party chairman last year?

“I am not commenting on that, either,” he said, adding that he also wouldn’t comment on whether state and congressional candidates for the 2006 election are worried about the fallout of the indictments in their races.

“We’re focusing on raising money, and putting our candidates in a position to win their election, no matter what environment they are running in,” Clingaman said.

But whatever the voters decide, even Patton, Chandler’s scandal-plagued nemesis, suggested that the “it’s-all-politics” defense is a weak one when fighting criminal charges by elected politicians.

He said despite good intentions, every politician makes mistakes — sometimes mistakes their opponents view as criminal. But it’s that very scrutiny that helps wise politicians make mid-course corrections, he said.

“It’s that adversarial system — between those governing and the press, and between the political opponents — that keeps the system working efficiently,” Patton said. “Even in our case, say with the campaign finance situation, we didn’t think we did anything wrong. But you better believe that it is that adversarial system that makes you aware of it the next time, and you do do things differently the next time.”

Right now, with a date in court, the challenge for Fletcher and his supporters is to figure out how to manage their adversaries long enough to get a chance to have a “next time


Another Republican Goes to Prison. Bush sure surrounds himself with winners, doesn't he?

Former Bush campaign official sentenced to prison
Wed May 17, 2006 8:30 PM ET

By Jason Szep

CONCORD, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A senior official in U.S. President George W. Bush's re-election campaign was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Wednesday for his role in suppressing votes in a key U.S. Senate race, a scandal that Democrats charge may involve the White House.

James Tobin, 45, one of three Republican campaign operatives convicted in a phone-jamming scheme designed to keep New Hampshire Democrats from voting in a 2002 election, was convicted in December of two telephone harassment charges.

Prosecutors had asked for a two-year sentence.

U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe described the crime as "extremely serious" and a threat to the U.S. political tradition of free and fair elections.

"People in your position need to know they cannot do these things and if they do the consequences are very, very serious," he said in handing down a sentence harsher than the six months home detention and community service sought by Tobin's lawyer.

Democrats want an investigation into 22 telephone calls made by Tobin and New Hampshire Republican Party officials to the White House on November 5 and 6, 2002, and say they believe national Republican officials may be involved in the scheme.

"I don't consider this sentencing to be the end of the matter. I consider this to be one more step in the process of uncovering exactly who knew about this," said Kathleen Sullivan, the New Hampshire Democratic Party chair.

"There are still unanswered questions," she said.

The national Republican Party, which has paid more than $2.5 million in legal fees to defend Tobin, has said the calls to the White House were routine during a tight state Senate race and had nothing to do with the phone-jamming.


Get-out-the-vote hot lines set up by state Democrats and a firefighter's association to urge residents to vote were jammed by more than 800 hang-up calls. State Republican officials say they tried to stop it once they learned of the scheme.

Republican John Sununu beat then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen in the election and state Republicans swept a number of close polls.

"This is going to continue to be an issue for a while," said Dean Spiliotes, director of research at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

He said it remained unclear why the national Republican Party spent millions of dollars defending Tobin.

"At first it seemed like he was a free agent working on his own with maybe one or two people. But then pretty quickly we saw that the Republican National Committee was spending millions to help with his legal defense. That shot us some pretty large red flags among people in the state," he said.

"Ever since then it's kind of grown slowly but surely. It hasn't gone away and I don't think it has peaked yet either."

Republican Party officials say they financed Tobin's defense because he had occupied a senior position in the national Republican Party when he was charged and because he had maintained his innocence.

Tobin, the former New England regional director of the Republican National Committee, stepped down as New England chairman of Bush's 2004 re-election campaign when he became subject of a federal criminal investigation.

The former executive director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, Chuck McGee, was also convicted after testifying that he had come up with the idea for the scheme.

Allen Raymond, former president of a Republican consulting firm in Virginia, was jailed after admitting to arranging for telemarketing company to make the calls.

"We need to find out how high this goes in the Republican Party," said Paul Twomey, an attorney for the Democratic Party who is leading a separate civil lawsuit that alleges Republican voter fraud and seeks monetary damages.

Tobin was denied bail and also fined $10,000 and given two years of probation. He plans to appeal, his lawyers said.


If Judy Miller Knew This Much, What The Hell Did The Government Know? And Why The Hell Didn't They Do Something About It?

"The Process of Transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - Like a New Pearl Harbor." -- Rebuilding America's Defenses; Strategy Forces and Resources for a New Century page 51 -- September 2000. (Wolfowitz, Cambone, Libby, Kristol, Cohen.... )

The 9/11 Story That Got Away

By Rory O'Connor and William Scott Malone, AlterNet
Posted on May 18, 2006, Printed on May 18, 2006

On Oct. 12, 2000, the guided missile destroyer USS Cole pulled into harbor for refueling in Aden, Yemen. Less than two hours later, suicide bombers Ibrahim al-Thawr and Abdullah al-Misawa approached the ship's port side in a small inflatable craft laden with explosives and blew a 40-by-40-foot gash in it, killing 17 sailors and injuring 39 others. The attack on the Cole, organized and carried out by Osama bin Laden's Al Qaida terrorist group, was a seminal but still murky and largely misunderstood event in America's ongoing "Long War."

Two weeks prior, military analysts associated with an experimental intelligence program known as ABLE DANGER had warned top officials of the existence of an active Al Qaida cell in Aden, Yemen. And two days before the attack, they had conveyed "actionable intelligence" of possible terrorist activity in and around the port of Aden to Gen. Pete Schoomaker, then commander in chief of the U.S. Special Operation Command (SOCOM).

The same information was also conveyed to a top intelligence officer at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), headed by the newly appointed Gen. Tommy Franks. As CENTCOM commander, Franks oversaw all U.S. armed forces operations in a 25-country region that included Yemen, as well as the Fifth Fleet, to which the Cole was tasked. It remains unclear what action, if any, top officials at SOCOM and CENTCOM took in response to the ABLE DANGER warnings about planned Al Qaida activities in Aden harbor.

None of the officials involved has ever spoken about the pre-attack warnings, and a post-attack forensic analysis of the episode remains highly classified and off-limits within the bowels of the Pentagon. Subsequent investigations exonerated the Cole's commander, Kirk Lippold, but Lippold's career has been ruined nonetheless. He remains in legal and professional limbo, with a recommended promotion and new command held up for the past four years by political concerns and maneuvering.

Meanwhile, no disciplinary action was ever taken against any SOCOM or CENTCOM officials. Schoomaker was later promoted out of retirement to chief of staff, U.S. Army, and Franks went on to lead the combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Enter Judith Miller, the Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-New York Times reporter at the center of the ongoing perjury and obstruction of justice case involving former top White House official I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby. Miller spent 85 days in jail before finally disclosing that Libby was the anonymous source who confirmed to her that Valerie Plame was a CIA official, although Miller never wrote a story about Plame.

Now, in an exclusive interview, Miller reveals how the attack on the Cole spurred her reporting on Al Qaida and led her, in July 2001, to a still-anonymous top-level White House source, who shared top-secret NSA signals intelligence (SIGINT) concerning an even bigger impending Al Qaida attack, perhaps to be visited on the continental United States.

Ultimately, Miller never wrote that story either. But two months later -- on Sept. 11 -- Miller and her editor at the Times, Stephen Engelberg, both remembered and regretted the story they "didn't do."

Interview with Judith Miller:

"I was working on a special project in 2000-2001 -- trying to do a series on where Al Qaida was, who Al Qaida was, and what kind of a threat it posed to the United States. In the beginning I thought it was going to be pretty straightforward, but it turned out to be anything but. And it took me a long, long time, and a lot of trips to the Middle East, and a lot of dead ends, before I finally understood how I could tell the story to the American people. It was a long-term investigative piece, which meant that for the most part, I didn't write articles on specific individual attacks -- I was working the story …

"I was fairly persuaded that the attack on the Cole was an Al Qaida operation, based on the sources that I was talking to, because I had no independent information, obviously. The people that I was covering ardently believed that Al Qaida was behind a lot of these attacks on American forces and Americans throughout the Middle East that we were beginning to see. At the time there was still a fair amount of debate and a fair amount of resistance to that thesis within the intelligence community, as it's so-called. But from the get go, I think the instinctive reaction of the people I was covering was that this was an Al Qaoda operation. So I started looking at the attack on the Cole as an example of Al Qaida terrorism.

"I learned that the Al Qaida Cole attack was not exactly a hugely efficient operation, and I learned later on that there had been an earlier attempt to take out the Cole or another American ship that had floundered badly because of poor Al Qaida training. Because of incidents like that -- you know, overloading a dinghy that was supposed to go have gone out to the ship and blow it up, so that the dinghy would sink -- people tended to discount Al Qaida. They said, 'Oh, they are just a bunch of amateurs." But I'd never thought that. I never believed that. And the people I was covering didn't think that …

"I had begun to hear rumors about intensified intercepts and tapping of telephones. But that was just vaguest kind of rumors in the street, indicators … I remember the weekend before July 4, 2001, in particular, because for some reason the people who were worried about Al Qaida believed that was the weekend that there was going to be an attack on the United States or on a major American target somewhere. It was going to be a large, well-coordinated attack. Because of the July 4 holiday, this was an ideal opportunistic target and date for Al Qaida.

My sources also told me at that time that there had been a lot of chatter overheard -- I didn't know specifically what that meant -- but a lot of talk about an impending attack at one time or another. And the intelligence community seemed to believe that at least a part of the attack was going to come on July 4. So I remember that, for a lot of my sources, this was going to be a 'lost' weekend. Everybody was going to be working; nobody was going to take time off. And that was bad news for me, because it meant I was also going to be on stand-by, and I would be working too.

"I was in New York, but I remember coming down to D.C. one day that weekend, just to be around in case something happened … Misery loves company, is how I would put it. If it were going to be a stress-filled weekend, it was better to do it together. It also meant I wouldn't have trouble tracking people down -- or as much trouble -- because as you know, some of these people can be very elusive.

"The people in the counter-terrorism (CT) office were very worried about attacks here in the United States, and that was, it struck me, another debate in the intelligence community. Because a lot of intelligence people did not believe that Al Qaida had the ability to strike within the United States. The CT people thought they were wrong. But I got the sense at that time that the counter-terrorism people in the White House were viewed as extremist on these views.

"Everyone in Washington was very spun-up in the CT world at that time. I think everybody knew that an attack was coming -- everyone who followed this. But you know you can only 'cry wolf' within a newspaper or, I imagine, within an intelligence agency, so many times before people start saying there he goes -- or there she goes -- again!

"Even that weekend, there was lot else going on. There was always a lot going on at the White House, so to a certain extent, there was that kind of 'cry wolf' problem. But I got the sense that part of the reason that I was being told of what was going on was that the people in counter-terrorism were trying to get the word to the president or the senior officials through the press, because they were not able to get listened to themselves.

"Sometimes, you wonder about why people tell you things and why people … we always wonder why people leak things, but that's a very common motivation in Washington. I remember once when I was a reporter in Egypt, and someone from the agency gave me very good material on terrorism and local Islamic groups.

"I said, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you giving this to me?' and he said, 'I just can't get my headquarters to pay attention to me, but I know that if it's from the New York Times, they're going to give it a good read and ask me questions about it.' And there's also this genuine concern about how, if only the president shared the sense of panic and concern that they did, more would be done to try and protect the country.

"This was a case wherein some serious preparations were made in terms of getting the message out and responding, because at the end of that week, there was a sigh of relief. As somebody metaphorically put it: 'They uncorked the White House champagne' that weekend because nothing had happened. We got through the weekend … nothing had happened.

"But I did manage to have a conversation with a source that weekend. The person told me that there was some concern about an intercept that had been picked up. The incident that had gotten everyone's attention was a conversation between two members of Al Qaida. And they had been talking to one another, supposedly expressing disappointment that the United States had not chosen to retaliate more seriously against what had happened to the Cole. And one Al Qaida operative was overheard saying to the other, 'Don't worry; we're planning something so big now that the U.S. will have to respond.'

"And I was obviously floored by that information. I thought it was a very good story: (1) the source was impeccable; (2) the information was specific, tying Al Qaida operatives to, at least, knowledge of the attack on the Cole; and (3) they were warning that something big was coming, to which the United States would have to respond. This struck me as a major page one-potential story.

"I remember going back to work in New York the next day and meeting with my editor Stephen Engelberg. I was rather excited, as I usually get about information of this kind, and I said, 'Steve, I think we have a great story. And the story is that two members of Al Qaida overheard on an intercept (and I assumed that it was the National Security Agency, because that's who does these things) were heard complaining about the lack of American response to the Cole, but also … contemplating what would happen the next time, when there was, as they said, the impending major attack that was being planned. They said this was such a big attack that the U.S. would have to respond.' Then I waited.

"And Stephen said, 'That's great! Who were the guys overheard?'

"I said, 'Well, I don't know. I just know that they were both Al Qaida operatives.'

"'Where were they overheard?' Steve asked.

"Well, I didn't know where the two individuals were. I didn't know what countries they were in; I didn't know whether they were having a local call or a long-distance call.

"'What was the attack they were planning?' he said. 'Was it domestic, was it international, was it another military target, was it a civilian target?'

I didn't know.

'Had they discussed it?'

"I didn't know, and it was at that point that I realized that I didn't have the whole story. As Steve put it to me, 'You have a great first and second paragraph. What's your third?"'

Anatomy of a scoop

Stephen Engelberg confirms Miller's tale in all respects. Engelberg first mentioned the incident in an article by Douglas McCollam in the October 2005 edition of Columbia Journalism Review, which noted:

"Miller was naturally excited about the scoop and wanted the Times to go with the story. Engelberg, himself a veteran intelligence reporter, wasn't so sure. There had been a lot of chatter about potential attacks; how did they know this was anything other than big talk? Who were these guys? What country were they in? How had we gotten the intercept? Miller didn't have any answers, and Engelberg didn't think they could publish without more context. Miller agreed to try and find out more, but in the end, the story never ran."

In a recent interview, Engelberg expanded on his comments. "I recall thinking it made perfect sense at the time," Engelberg told us. "The Cole attack was out of character -- unlike the Africa embassy attacks, the Millennium plot, the earlier World Trade Center bombing.

"That weekend, pre-4th of July, everybody was nervous," said Engelberg. "Judy went down to check with the White House and the NSC types at the Old Executive Office Building and CTC. And she came back in and had the story. And I knew the source.

"Judy had two guys talking, but no names or details," Engelberg recalled. "One guy says, 'The U.S. didn't retaliate for the Cole.' And the other guy says the coming attack 'will be so big they're gonna have to retaliate.' But no details … Judy had the what but not the who and the where.

"I said, 'Check with the CIA, NSA, DIA,'" Engelberg remembered. "But we couldn't get anything that week."

Interview with Judith Miller:

"I realized that this information was enormously sensitive, and that it was going to be difficult to get more information, but that my source undoubtedly knew more. So I promised to Steve that I would go back and try to get more. And I did … try.

"He knew who my source was. He knew that the source was impeccable. I had also confirmed from a second source that such a conversation had taken place -- that there was such an intercept -- though my second source did not seem to know as much about the content of the intercept as the first source did. But that was enough for me to know that there was a good story there.

"But whoever knew about the 'who' and the 'where' was not willing tell me at that time. After the fact I was told that, 'The bad guys were in Yemen on this conversation.' I didn't know that at that time. I remember knowing that the person who'd told me seemed to know who had been overheard, but he was not about to share that information with me …

"And Washington being Washington, and the CT world being the CT world, I was soon off pursuing other things. I simply couldn't nail it down with more specificity. I argued at that time that it was worth going with just what we had, even if it was vague, that the fact that the Al Qaida was planning something that was so spectacular that we have to respond was worth getting into the paper in some way, shape or form. But I think Steve decided, and I ultimately agreed, that we needed more details. And I simply couldn't pry them loose.

"At the time I also had had a book coming out. Steve, Bill Broad and I were co-authors of a book about biological terrorism. So we were working flat out on that book trying to meet our deadline. I was desperately trying to get my arms around this series that we were trying to do on Al Qaida. I was having a lot of trouble because the information was very hard to come by. There was a lot going on. I was also doing biological weapons stories and homeland security stories. And in Washington, if you don't have a sense of immediacy about something, and if you sense that there is bureaucratic resistance to a story, you tend to focus on areas of less resistance.

"Our pub date was Sept. 10th. I remember I was very worried about whether or not the publisher was actually going to get copies of the books to the warehouses in time. Because of course, Steve, Bill and I had delivered the manuscript late -- everything was very late.

"The morning of Sept. 11, I was downtown about 12 blocks from the World Trade Center. I remember walking to a school around the corner with a very clear view of the World Trade Center, because it was just a few blocks away. And all I can remember thinking was, 'Are they going to get those books to the warehouses on time?' I was also trying to make up my mind who I was going to vote for in the New York Democratic Primary. And -- everybody says this -- it was one of most beautiful days in New York I ever remember!

"When I got to the Baxter School, there were people standing out in front of the school, pointing at the World Trade Center, which was on fire, and I looked up. I asked what had happened, and they said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. There was an awfully big gash in the building and I didn't see the plane, but there was an awful lot of smoke and I thought, 'Gosh! That was a pretty big space for a Cessna or something to have gotten into that building.'

"And here I had spent my whole summer, my whole past year thinking about an Al Qaida attack, and I yet wouldn't let myself believe that it was happening right then. I simply wouldn't believe. So I turned around without voting, without going into the building, and I started to call my CT sources in Washington, and I remember reaching the counter-terrorism office at the White House, and I was told that nobody was there, that all of the principals were out giving speeches or doing something else. And I said, 'OK, I'll try to call back in 15 minutes.'

"By that time I walked to my house a couple of blocks away, and I heard a boom, and I turned around and once again I didn't see the plane, but I saw the fire shoot out from the building from the plane.

"It was only then, after the second plane hit, that I allowed myself to believe that it really was a terrorist attack -- the attack that we had been so worried about for so long. And I think I was kind of amazed at myself, at the power of denial. When you don't want to believe something's happening, it does not, it's not happening! And I think that was what was going on in the intelligence community. The idea that Al Qaida would actually strike in the United States, not at the Cole or overseas, or in Jordan as part of a warning bombing plot, but here in the U.S., that was just kind of unthinkable! People were in the state of denial, as I was that morning.

"I remember calling back the White House that morning, and at that point, I talked to the secretary in the counter-terrorism office and she said: 'Nobody's here, Judy, and we're evacuating this building. I gotta go. Bye.' At that point, I hadn't even heard about the Pentagon attack, but I knew.

"It was very strange … it was a strange feeling to have written a series that virtually predicted this, and to have had not a single other reporter call, not a single other newspaper follow up on some of the information that we had broken in that series. At the time of the series, which was published in January 2001, we had information about chemical and biological experiments at Al Qaida camps.

We had gotten the location of the camps, we had gotten satellite overhead of the camps. I had interviewed, in Afghanistan, Al Qaida-trained people who said that they were going to get out of the 'prison' in Afghanistan and go back and continue their jihad. They had talked about suicide bombings. We had Jordanian intelligence say that attempts to blow up hotels, roads and tourist targets in Jordan over the millennium was part of the Al Qaida planned attack. And yet I guess people just didn't believe it. But I believed it. I believed it absolutely, because I've covered these militants for so long. There was nothing they wouldn't do if they could do it."

The one that got away

Like Miller, Steve Engelberg, now managing editor of the Oregonian in Portland, still thinks about that story that got away. "More than once I've wondered what would have happened if we'd run the piece?" he told the CJR. "A case can be made that it would have been alarmist, and I just couldn't justify it, but you can't help but think maybe I made the wrong call."

Engelberg told us the same thing. "On Sept. 11th, I was standing on the platform at the 125th Street station," he remembered ruefully more than four years later. "I was with a friend, and we both saw the World Trade Center burning and saw the second one hit. 'It's Al-Qaida!' I yelled. 'We had a heads-up!' So yes, I do still have regrets."

So does Judy Miller.

"I don't remember what I said to Steve on Sept. 11," she concluded in her interview with us. "I don't think we said anything at all to each other. He just knew what I was thinking, and I knew what he was thinking. We were so stunned by what was happening, and there was so much to do, and I think that was the day in which words just fail you.

"So I sometimes think back, and Steve and I have talked a few times about the fact that that story wasn't fit, and that neither one of us pursued it at that time with the kind of vigor and determination that we would have had we known what was going to happen. And I always wondered how the person who sent that [intercept] warning must have felt.

"You know, sometimes in journalism you regret the stories you do, but most of the time you regret the ones that you didn't do."

Filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor writes the Media Is A Plural blog. William Scott Malone is an investigative journalist and senior editor of and its newsletter, "BlackNET Intelligence."


"Net Neutrality" Republicans Oppose It, So It Must Be A Good Thing.

The corporate toll on the Internet
Telecom giant AT&T plans to charge online businesses to speed their services through its DSL lines. Critics say the scheme violates every principle of the Internet, favors deep-pocketed companies, and is bound to limit what we see and hear online.

By Farhad Manjoo

Apr. 17, 2006 | To say that AT&T was once the nation's largest phone company is a bit like describing the Pentagon as America's leading purchaser of guns and bullets. Until its government-imposed dissolution in 1984, AT&T, which provided a dial tone to the vast majority of Americans, enjoyed a market dominance unlike that of any corporation in modern history, rivaling only state monopolies -- think of the Soviet airline or the British East India Tea Company -- in size and scope. In commercials, the company encouraged us to reach out and touch someone; the reality was that for much of the 20th century, you had no choice but to let AT&T touch your loved ones for you.

Now -- after a series of acquisitions and re-acquisitions so tangled it would take Herodotus to adequately chronicle them -- AT&T is back, it's big, and according to consumer advocates and some of the nation's largest technology companies, AT&T wants to take over the Internet.

The critics -- including Apple, Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo -- point out that AT&T, along with Verizon and Comcast, its main rivals in the telecom business, will dominate the U.S. market for residential high-speed Internet service for the foreseeable future. Currently, that market is worth $20 billion, and according to the Federal Communications Commission, the major "incumbent" phone and cable companies -- such as AT&T -- control 98 percent of the business. Telecom industry critics say that these giants gained their power through years of deregulation and lax government oversight. Now many fear that the phone and cable firms, with their enormous market power, will hold enormous sway over what Americans do online.

Specifically, AT&T has hinted that it plans to charge Web companies a kind of toll to send data at the highest speeds down DSL lines into its subscribers' homes. The plan would make AT&T a gatekeeper of media in your home. Under the proposal, the tens of millions of people who get their Internet service from AT&T might only be able to access heavy-bandwidth applications -- such as audio, video and Internet phone service -- from the companies that have paid AT&T a fee. Meanwhile, firms that don't pay -- perhaps Google, Yahoo, Skype, YouTube, Salon, or anyone else -- would be forced to use a smaller and slower section of the AT&T network, what Internet pioneer Vint Cerf calls a "dirt road" on the Internet. AT&T's idea, its critics say, would shrink the vast playground of the Internet into something resembling the corporate strip mall of cable TV.

The fears have been deepened by AT&T's new heft. Early in March, AT&T announced that it will spend $67 billion to acquire BellSouth, the phone company that serves nine states in the Southeast. The merger will make AT&T the nation's largest telecom company, and the seventh-largest corporation of any kind. According to one study, the new AT&T will take in almost a quarter of all money American households spend on communications services. In addition to maintaining a near monopoly on local phone and DSL service in 22 states, the new AT&T would provide land-line long-distance service throughout the country; cellular coverage through its subsidiary Cingular, the nation's largest wireless carrier; and soon, even television broadcasts to millions of Americans.

The government is expected to approve the AT&T-BellSouth deal, but the merger has already prompted debate in Congress and at the FCC over how this new behemoth may control content online. Currently, there are few rules governing what broadband companies can do on their network lines; if AT&T wanted to, for instance, it could give you only slowed-down access to the iTunes store unless Apple paid it a cut of every song you buy.

To fight back, online companies like Apple and Amazon, along with Internet policy experts and engineers, are pushing the government to draw up a set of rules to ensure what they call "network neutrality." The rules, debated this past February in a Senate hearing, would force broadband companies to treat all data on the Internet equally, preventing them from charging content companies for priority delivery into your house. AT&T and other broadband companies oppose laws to restrict how they operate online -- the free market, they say, will ensure an even playing field. In 2005, phone companies poured nearly $30 million into lobbying to ensure that the telecom industry remains free of regulation.

The battle may sound wonky but its outcome could well determine the shape of tomorrow's media universe. Increasingly, we're all using the Internet for much more than surfing the Web; film, music, TV and phone companies are looking at the network as the primary channel for delivering media into our homes, and AT&T and other telecom firms are spending billions to deploy deliciously fast fiber-optic lines to handle the expected traffic. The regulatory tangle between broadband providers and Web companies over network neutrality reflects a more fundamental fight over precious communications real estate -- a battle for control of the lines that will serve as our main conduit for media in the future.

Each side predicts dire consequences if its opponents win. Jim Ciccone, AT&T's senior executive vice president for external affairs, says that if broadband service is regulated, AT&T won't be able to recoup its costs for building these new lines -- "and then we don't build the network." The Web firms say that if the big broadband companies are allowed to charge content firms for access to your house, we'll see the Internet go the way of other deregulated media -- just like TV and radio, where a small band of big companies used their wealth to swallow up consumer choice. If broadband companies get their way, says Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, the Internet will one day feature nothing much more exciting than "the digital equivalent of endless episodes of 'I Love Lucy.'"

In 2003, when Internet policy experts first began discussing network neutrality, their primary worry was that broadband providers would strike deals with certain Web sites to block people's access to competing sites or services online. For instance, what if Comcast worked with Barnes and Noble so that every time a Comcast Internet user pointed his browser to, he was instead redirected to FCC officials have frowned upon the possibility of ISPs blocking certain Web sites, but they have not regulated against it; Paul Misener, the vice president for global public policy at, argues that "under current rules," a company like AT&T "would be able to block us without punishment."

Although such actions are theoretically possible, most experts concede that broadband firms wouldn't do something as brazen as blocking customers from going anywhere on the Web; such actions would probably prompt immediate regulation. Now Amazon, eBay, Google, Yahoo and others argue that broadband firms like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are looking to institute a more subtle kind of discrimination. They're looking to "prioritize content from some content companies over others," Misener says.

In fact, AT&T is not at all secret about its plans. In an interview with BusinessWeek magazine last year, Edward Whitacre, AT&T's CEO, took a hard line against Web companies that oppose paying for high-speed access to AT&T's customers. "What they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it," he said of Google and Microsoft. "Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!"

The pipes Whitacre is referring to are those his company is building under a plan it calls Project Lightspeed, a multibillion-dollar initiative to install high-capacity fiber-optic Internet lines into thousands of residential neighborhoods across AT&T's service area. The company expects to serve about 18 million households with fiber-optic lines by 2008; Verizon has similar plans to roll out fiber lines. The new pipes will dramatically improve Internet speeds to home customers. Today a typical DSL line downloads data at about 1 or 2 Mbps, and cable modems run about double that rate. Advanced fiber-optic systems will see download speeds of at least 25 to 30 Mbps. Today's DSL can barely download a single standard-quality video stream in real time. In tests AT&T recently ran in San Antonio, Project Lightspeed lines carried three standard-quality streams and one high-definition stream down the line simultaneously.

What will customers do with all this broadband capacity? As the phone companies envision it, we'll use it to watch a lot of TV. Both Verizon and AT&T are betting heavily on a technology called IPTV, a service that delivers television signals into people's homes over the new fiber-optic Internet lines. According to the phone companies, IPTV will be a boon to consumers, delivering high-quality video and advanced services like TV shows "on demand," and providing much-needed competition to cable companies.

What's not clear, though, is what else -- besides watching TV -- customers will be allowed to do with the new lines. This is the heart of the fight over network neutrality. If you subscribe to AT&T's Project Lightspeed service, will you be able to use the 30 Mbps line coming into your house for, say, downloading high-definition movies from Apple, high-definition home videos from YouTube, or some other bandwidth-heavy application we haven't yet dreamed of? Or, instead, will AT&T reserve the line for its own TV service and for data from other companies that pay a fee -- thereby making AT&T the arbiter of content in your home?

At the moment, phone companies are cagey about their plans. What they will say is they're not going to stop their customers from getting to any site or service on the Internet. "Let me be clear: AT&T will not block anyone's access to the public Internet, nor will we degrade anyone's quality of service," Whitacre said in a speech to a trade conference in Las Vegas recently. "Period. End of story." But just because AT&T won't block people from accessing Google's videos doesn't mean it will give Google's videos the same status on the broadband pipe as other content -- meaning that while AT&T's TV service may come in at high-definition quality, those from competing firms might only run at standard-definition.

Indeed, AT&T and other network operators are building their networks in a way that would make it possible to split up network traffic into various lanes -- fast, slow, medium -- and then to decide what kind of data, and whose data, goes where, based on who's paid what. Broadband companies argue that engineering their networks in this way will benefit customers in two ways. First, they say, splitting up the Internet into several lanes will generally improve its efficiency -- the network will simply run better if it's more logically managed.

The phone companies' second argument concerns cost. If AT&T builds a blindingly fast new Internet line to your house but only allows some firms -- firms that pay -- to get the fastest service, it can significantly offset the costs of the build-out. And that's good for you, AT&T says, because if the company can charge the likes of Apple and Google to pay for the line, it doesn't have to charge you. "I think what we're saying is friendly to the consumer," Ciccone says. "If we're building the capacity, what we're doing is trying to defray some of the cost from consumers to the business end of this."

AT&T's critics don't buy this claim. They argue that by slicing up the Internet into different lanes, broadband companies are violating one of the basic network design principles responsible for the Internet's rise and amazing success. They add, too, that there's no proof that AT&T's plan would result in reduced broadband costs for home customers. Instead, consumers could lose out in a big way. If AT&T's plan comes to pass, the dynamic Internet, where innovation rules and where content companies rise and fall on their own merit, would shrivel. By exploiting the weaknesses in current laws, telecom firms would gain an extraordinarily lucrative stake in the new media universe. In the same way that a corporation like Clear Channel controls the radio airwaves, companies like AT&T could become kingmakers in the online world, granting priority to content from which they stand to profit most. Britney Spears, anyone?

To understand why critics worry about the future of the Internet in the absence of what they call network neutrality, it helps to look at the underlying philosophy of the ubiquitous network. Engineers are fond of describing the Internet as a "dumb network," a designation that's meant to be a compliment. Unlike other large communications systems -- phone or cable networks -- the Internet was designed without a specific application in mind. The engineers who built the network didn't really know what it would be used for, so they kept it profoundly simple, making sure that the network performed very few functions of its own. Where other networks use a kind of "intelligence" to define what is and what isn't allowed on a system, the various machines that make up the Internet don't usually examine or act upon data; they just push it where it needs to go.

The smallest meaningful bit of information on the Internet is called a "packet"; anything you send or receive on the network, from an e-mail to an iTunes song, is composed of many packets. On the Internet, all packets are equal. Any one packet hurtling over the pipe to my house is treated more or less the same way as any other packet, regardless of where it comes from or what kind of information -- video, voice or just text -- it represents. If I were to download a large Microsoft Word e-mail attachment at the same time that I were to stream a funny clip from Salon's Video Dog, the Internet won't make any effort to give the video clip more space on my line than the document, even if I may want it to. If the connection is too slow to accommodate both files at the same time, my video might slow down and sputter as the Word file hogs up the line -- to the network, bits are bits, and a video is no more important than a Word file.

The notion that the Internet shouldn't perform special functions on network data is known as the "end-to-end principle." The idea, first outlined by computer scientists Jerome Saltzer, David Clark, and David Reed in 1984, is widely seen as a key to the network's success. It is precisely because the Internet doesn't have any intelligence of its own that it's been so useful for so many different kinds of things; the network works consistently and evenly for everyone, and, therefore, everyone is free to add their own brand of intelligence to it.

Today's largest broadband firms, though, aren't accustomed to running dumb networks built on the end-to-end principle. AT&T ran the phone network at its own behest -- and the company usually benefited from it. Historically, in the telecom industry, "there's been this instinct toward control," says Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia and a co-author of "Who Controls the Internet?" At firms like AT&T and Verizon, both of which have roots in the monopolistic old AT&T, there's now an effort afoot to reengineer parts of the Internet by introducing more intelligence to manage and control data.

One firm that has been a vocal proponent of prioritizing data is Cisco, the giant network equipment company whose products currently power much of the Internet. "We think that as people use their broadband connections more intensively, the need to manage traffic is going to increase," says Jeff Campbell, director of government affairs at Cisco. The company has designed an array of products that allows service providers like AT&T and Verizon to scrutinize everything on their networks extremely closely. One Cisco brochure (PDF) touts a system called the Cisco Service Control Engine, which is described as "a deep packet inspection engine that helps enable service providers to identify, classify, monitor, and control traffic" on the network. "Deep packet inspection" refers to the practice of looking at each slice of data on the network and determining exactly what kind of information it is -- whether it's part of an e-mail message, or a bit of a video file you're trading over Bittorrent, or perhaps a New York Times news story on the Web.

After examining each packet and deciding which user asked for it, where it's coming from, and what application it's meant for, the Cisco system allows network operators to assign various network privileges to the data. During a time of network congestion, data that is "delay-sensitive" -- like part of a voice phone call or a streaming video -- can be moved along the network in a hurry, while packets that represent less urgent data -- peer-to-peer file transfers, or downloads of e-mail attachments -- might be put on a slow lane. In this sort of network, were I to download a video file and a Word file at the same time, the network would notice it, and may decide to slow down the Word file so that the video file plays smoothly.

Many Web entrepreneurs and network policy experts think that giving priority to some traffic is good for the Internet. In February, Mark Cuban, the billionaire media entrepreneur and sports-team owner, posted a rant on his blog decrying the current state of network traffic management, and calling on broadband firms to offer high-speed service for some kinds of data. "There are some basic facts about the Internet that remind me of driving on the 405 in Los Angeles," Cuban wrote. "Traffic jams happen. There is no end in sight for those traffic jams. The traffic jams are worse at certain times of the day. Whether it's the 405 or the Internet." If we use carpool lanes to allow some cars to bypass traffic on our freeways, Cuban asked, why not add HOV lanes to the Internet, so that media that needs fast service can get to its destination more quickly?

Cuban is a co-founder of HDNet, a high-definition cable and satellite TV network, and has a particular interest in seeing the Internet give special treatment to certain files. In fact, the new Internet schemes are specifically designed to boost audio and video on the network. If your Word file slows down for a half-second during download, you're not going to notice it; but if your Internet phone call has a half-second interruption, it would annoy you to no end.

Opponents of neutrality regulations say other applications currently being designed for the Internet will only work well if the network is improved. For instance, imagine if you were watching an Internet TV broadcast of a basketball game that allowed you to switch to different camera angles during the game. That program would be only useful, says Campbell of Cisco, if the camera angles appeared instantly, not seconds after you switched. Other advocates point to new medical diagnostic devices with which hospitals can monitor the status of patients at home; in that situation, it would seem obvious to give such traffic priority.

"I guess we could leave the Internet in the dark ages and leave everything as an unprioritized, unorganized mass where all bits are treated the same," says Campbell. "But we think good network management technology will improve overall performance and consumers will have a better experience in the long term."

Despite Cisco's position, there is fractious division among network engineers on whether prioritizing certain time-sensitive traffic would actually improve network performance. Introducing intelligence into the Internet also introduces complexity, and that can reduce how well the network works. Indeed, one of the main reasons scientists first espoused the end-to-end principle is to make networks efficient; it seemed obvious that analyzing each packet that passes over the Internet would add some computational demands to the system.

Gary Bachula, vice president for external affairs of Internet2, a nonprofit project by universities and corporations to build an extremely fast and large network, argues that managing online traffic just doesn't work very well. At the February Senate hearing, he testified that when Internet2 began setting up its large network, called Abilene, "our engineers started with the assumption that we should find technical ways of prioritizing certain kinds of bits, such as streaming video, or video conferencing, in order to assure that they arrive without delay. As it developed, though, all of our research and practical experience supported the conclusion that it was far more cost effective to simply provide more bandwidth. With enough bandwidth in the network, there is no congestion and video bits do not need preferential treatment."

Today, Bachula continued, "our Abilene network does not give preferential treatment to anyone's bits, but our users routinely experiment with streaming HDTV, hold thousands of high-quality two-way videoconferences simultaneously, and transfer huge files of scientific data around the globe without loss of packets."

Not only is adding intelligence to a network not very useful, Bachula pointed out, it's not very cheap. A system that splits data into various lanes of traffic requires expensive equipment, both within the network and at people's homes. Right now, broadband companies are spending a great deal on things like set-top boxes, phone routers and other equipment for their advanced services. "Simple is cheaper," Bachula said. "Complex is costly" -- a cost that may well be passed on to customers.

Expensive as they may be, the new network schemes will allow for myriad moneymaking opportunities. The new technology will allow AT&T and company to reserve the fast lane for the highest bidders. And AT&T says such a plan is perfectly fair. "It costs a lot to maintain and operate a network," says Ciccone of AT&T. "You don't pay for that by offering a raw pipe. We didn't build a copper line network a hundred years ago so people could do whatever they want on it. We offered a phone service. And you don't build networks so that somebody else can necessarily use them for free. We have the capability through dedicated lines of service for offering a high-quality product. There's a service there. We should be able to offer that in the market."

Ciccone is particularly galled by the fact that those who are the most opposed to AT&T's plans are enormous firms -- such as Google -- that want to make money by offering video services online. "This really is just coming from a couple companies who have plans to stream movies," he says. "They hide behind the guise of the innovator in the garage who's building the next big Google. That's a lot of hooey because the little guy is not streaming movies. This is about the companies that want to stream movies, and they want to not just compete with us but with cable companies in doing so. What disturbs them is that we're building network capacity to be able to accommodate ourselves with a very high-quality product, and the Googles won't be able to deliver the same quality."

Technology companies do say they fear AT&T's network won't provide a level playing field, and that AT&T's competitors won't be able to deliver videos that work as well as AT&T's content. Networks have finite space, and it is a fact of network engineering that when some data is given a priority on the network, other data will be pushed aside. At the Senate hearing, Stanford Law professor and Internet policy expert Lawrence Lessig argued that this will put companies or individuals that can't pay for high-quality service at an enormous disadvantage, "reducing application or content competition on the Internet." In the past year, streaming-video Web sites have proliferated on the Internet, and some of the most popular services have come from start-ups like YouTube. Under AT&T's plan, flush firms like Google would be able to pay for all the space on the line, leaving the smaller guys out of luck. The Internet has long been a meritocracy, where smart and creative companies can act quickly and beat out established players. That wouldn't be so on AT&T's Internet.

Broadband operators respond by declaring they will offer high-speed services to all companies, big or small, and anybody will be able to pay for a spot in the fast lane. "Generally companies shy away from doing exclusive deals," says AT&T's Ciccone. "You don't say I'm only going to provide telephone service to only one bank." But as Amazon's Misener points out, "This is a zero-sum game. If you prioritize anyone's content you necessarily degrade someone else's. That's how it works." When you convert one lane on a freeway into a toll lane, it's true that you make traffic better for cars that can pay. But you also make traffic worse for cars that cannot.

Indeed, that's what makes AT&T's plan so lucrative. The company can't offer fast service to everyone. If it did offer all companies access to the fast lane for a low fee, the lane would soon become congested and nobody would have an incentive to pay. To make the most money, the network operators may charge just a few firms huge sums to ride on the pipe. This means that one or two companies could lock in a preferred position on the network.

And AT&T's own services could benefit greatly from the new plan. For instance, AT&T offers a voice-over-the-Internet phone plan called CallVantage that competes with Skype, a free service owned by eBay. "Let's say there's a certain amount of revenue in voice services, maybe $125 billion in voice," explains Wu. If AT&T determines that letting Skype onto the fast lane will cause it to lose customers and, thus, revenue, it could decide to only let Skype ride the slow lanes. "If you're going to lose $10 billion to Skype by letting them on, why give them that money?" Wu says that under current regulations, this practice would be perfectly legal.

While such deals may be legal, AT&T says, they would be bad for business. If a broadband company didn't allow a popular service like Skype a spot in the fast lane, consumers would choose a different provider. "If you do make dumb decisions, your customers go somewhere else," Ciccone says. "Nobody wants to offer half a service with only special deals or arrangements for something of that nature. You're competing against other companies that may do it differently."

But if you don't like your Internet provider, would you really be able to go elsewhere? Cerf, who is now Google's chief Internet "evangelist," pointed out in the Senate hearing that only 53 percent of Americans now have a choice between cable modem and DSL high-speed Internet service at home. According to the FCC, 28 percent of Americans have only one of these options for broadband Internet access, and 19 percent have no option at all.

Moreover, phone and cable companies have been trying to reduce competition in the broadband business even further. They convinced the FCC to allow them to prohibit rival Internet service providers -- such as Earthlink -- from offering high-speed net access on phone- and cable-company-owned lines. (Phone and cable companies do lease their lines to independent ISPs like Earthlink, but under current rules they can decline to do so at any time.) AT&T, Verizon and Comcast have also pushed hard to stop cities across the country from launching free or low-cost municipal wireless Internet systems.

In this marketplace, if your DSL or cable modem provider begins to favor some content over others, you will have very little recourse. Even if you could choose another provider, doing so isn't easy. "It's not like there are two supermarkets in town and if you don't like one you can go to the other," Amazon's Misener says. He adds that "every economic theory we know suggests that when there's a duopoly" -- in this case between cable broadband and phone broadband -- "there will be tacit collusion in the market." So even if you could choose between broadband or cable service, eventually, like radio stations in any metro area, you will find they all sound the same. Or think about your cable lineup. When your provider doesn't carry the TV network you like, what choice do you have? Almost none.

At the moment, there are very few regulations that outline what broadband companies can and cannot do with content on their lines. So far, the FCC has only been willing to outline some principles to which firms should adhere. In a speech in Boulder, Colo., in February 2004, Michael Powell, the former FCC head, said that he didn't see the need for regulation. Instead, he set out a list of "Internet freedoms" that he "challenged the broadband network industry to preserve." Specifically, Powell called on high-speed network providers to allow their customers to access any legal content on the Internet, use any legal applications, and plug in any devices to their networks. The FCC later outlined these principles in a "policy statement," and imposed these conditions on Verizon and AT&T as temporary conditions of the mergers the companies underwent last year.

But while these "freedoms" allow customers access to any services, they don't outline whether AT&T can give some content priority on the network. In addition, there is a debate about whether Powell's "challenge" is enforceable at all. Last year, when one small North Carolina ISP began blocking Internet voice calls on its network, the FCC quickly stepped in and fined the firm. Telecom firms say the incident proves that the FCC has enough authority to block egregious behavior. But AT&T's Ciccone also acknowledges that adhering to the FCC's vision is a "voluntary commitment. It's not a rule or a regulation of the FCC. They laid out the broadband principles and our compliance is purely a voluntary act on our part."

Wu explains the issue this way: "Right now it's like the ghost of Michael Powell has his finger in the dike" protecting us against the worst behavior of big companies. But if you were starting a new service on the Internet, "do you want to bet your business on the ghost of Michael Powell?"

Today, as numerous proposals for reforming telecom law float around Congress, broadband firms are fighting hard against a neutral network, and apparently winning. (AT&T may certainly be on the government's good side, as it has been secretly allowing the National Security Agency to monitor its phone and Internet lines, according to a retired AT&T technician, as reported by Wired News.) In a party-line vote last week, Republicans on a House subcommittee defeated one neutrality proposal. According to many observers, another bill in the Senate, offered by Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, faces similar dim prospects. In addition to lobbying, broadband firms have launched a campaign aimed at urging Americans to join their fight. Large telecom firms back a "coalition" called Hands Off the Internet, which argues that instituting network neutrality amounts to government "regulation" of the Internet. On its Web site, the group -- which is funded by, among other companies, AT&T, and is headed by former Bill Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry -- beseeches, "Join us and say NO to government regulation of the Internet!"

Opponents say that regulation is the only way to save the Internet from the likes of AT&T. "They would have the pipe split between the public Internet -- which might get 1 Mbps speeds -- and a toll lane on the rest of the 100 Mbps pipe they're laying," Tod Cohen, the director of government affairs at eBay, says of the AT&T's plans. By "public Internet," Cohen is referring to today's Internet, the Internet of Google, Blogger, Skype, YouTube and Flickr, services that came out of nowhere and are now indispensable. "They're saying, 'We'll leave the public Internet to be like the public-access station. But if you want to be on one of the fast channels, you have to pay.'"

Consumer advocate Chester sees a dark future for the Internet if big companies like AT&T gain unregulated control. "I think the public requires a serious national debate about what this means and what it's going to look like," he says. "There's a basic assumption that the Internet is going to remain forever open and diverse and affordable. I'm saying we should be cautious. We should really understand what these proposals mean for the kind of diverse voices we would want to see online."

-- By Farhad Manjoo

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