Friday, July 07, 2006


Hate Groups Are Infiltrating the Military, Group Asserts

A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines.

"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, "That's a problem."

A Defense Department spokeswoman said officials there could not comment on the report because they had not yet seen it.

The center called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to appoint a task force to study the problem, declare a new zero tolerance policy and strictly enforce it.

The report said that neo-Nazi groups like the National Alliance, whose founder, William Pierce, wrote "The Turner Diaries," the novel that was the inspiration and blueprint for Timothy J. McVeigh's bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, sought to enroll followers in the Army to get training for a race war.

The groups are being abetted, the report said, by pressure on recruiters, particularly for the Army, to meet quotas that are more difficult to reach because of the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq.

The report quotes Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator, saying, "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don't remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members."

Mr. Barfield said Army recruiters struggled last year to meet goals. "They don't want to make a big deal again about neo-Nazis in the military," he said, "because then parents who are already worried about their kids signing up and dying in Iraq are going to be even more reluctant about their kids enlisting if they feel they'll be exposed to gangs and white supremacists."

The 1996 crackdown on extremists came after revelations that Mr. McVeigh had espoused far-right ideas when he was in the Army and recruited two fellow soldiers to aid his bomb plot. Those revelations were followed by a furor that developed when three white paratroopers were convicted of the random slaying of a black couple in order to win tattoos and 19 others were discharged for participating in neo-Nazi activities.

The defense secretary at the time, William Perry, said the rules were meant to leave no room for racist and extremist activities within the military. But the report said Mr. Barfield, who is based at Fort Lewis, Wash., had said that he had provided evidence on 320 extremists there in the past year, but that only two had been discharged. He also said there was an online network of neo-Nazis.

"They're communicating with each other about weapons, about recruiting, about keeping their identities secret, about organizing within the military," he said. "Several of these individuals have since been deployed to combat missions in Iraq."

The report cited accounts by neo-Nazis of their infiltration of the military, including a discussion on the white supremacist Web site Stormfront. "There are others among you in the forces," one participant wrote. "You are never alone."

An article in the National Alliance magazine Resistance urged skinheads to join the Army and insist on being assigned to light infantry units.

The Southern Poverty Law Center identified the author as Steven Barry, who it said was a former Special Forces officer who was the alliance's "military unit coordinator."

"Light infantry is your branch of choice because the coming race war and the ethnic cleansing to follow will be very much an infantryman's war," he wrote. "It will be house-to-house, neighborhood-by-neighborhood until your town or city is cleared and the alien races are driven into the countryside where they can be hunted down and 'cleansed.' "

He concluded: "As a professional soldier, my goal is to fill the ranks of the United States Army with skinheads. As street brawlers, you will be useless in the coming race war. As trained infantrymen, you will join the ranks of the Aryan warrior brotherhood."

Thursday, July 06, 2006


'Shadow' human rights report to accuse United States of violating international human rights treaties

Larisa Alexandrovna

A scathing report submitted to the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee and copied to RAW STORY by a coalition of 142 U.S. non-governmental organizations alleges serious human rights violations by the United States.

The report, which will be delivered to the UN Human Rights Committee July 10, alleges that the US violated the right to life and non-discrimination statutes of international human rights treaties to which the US is a signatory – citing evacuations based on income and property levels in New Orleans after Katrina, alleged abuse at California prisons and the incarceration of children in adult jails.

It also chides the US for capital punishment, which it says “allows for individuals to be sentenced to death, even if they did not kill, intend to kill, or even contemplate that another human being would die as a result of their actions.”

The “shadow report,” as non-governmental rebuttals to state presentations are called, was leaked to RAW STORY early Wednesday. Its authors believed the 456-page document is a blistering indictment of U.S. violations of the 1992 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Representatives of the State Department and other federal agencies are expected to appear in Geneva in July to answer questions from the UN committee. Department of State Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs John Bellinger is scheduled to appear on behalf of the United States. Bellinger was not immediately available for comment.

According to Cindy Soohoo, Director of Bringing Human Rights Home for the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute, shadow reports provide a window into what the Committee would otherwise not be privy to.

"The Committee welcomes shadow reports because they provide information about country conditions that the Committee does not have access to,” SooHoo said Wednesday. “The shadow reports often provide information that challenge or supplement a country's report. This allows the Committee to probe behind countries' official accounts.”

The UN Human Rights Committee meets twice a year and reviews state sponsored reports every four years. The government report is then examined against a “shadow report,” a non-governmental report done usually by not-for profit groups of the parent country. Since 1994, the U.S. has failed to honor its treaty obligations and has failed to produce any type of report for the routine review, breaking its international obligation for the last seven years.

The shadow report provided to the Committee for review later this month by the coalition addresses areas of immediate concern, citing as examples over 100 instances of alleged human rights violations and covering areas ranging from immigration to Katrina, alleged election-based racism and the criminalization of dissent.

Alleged Katrina human rights violations

Part of the shadow report deals specifically with how minorities were treated prior to, during, and after Hurricane Katrina, the storm that literally drowned New Orleans last year and took over a thousand lives.

The report alleges the U.S. violated the right to life and principle of non-discrimination statues of the ICCPR treaty. For example, it cites evacuation plans that disregarded the poor and infirm and allegedly focused evacuations based on property ownership and income levels, drastically damaging the African American community in New Orleans.

Monique Harden, Co-Director & Attorney, Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, and a member of the shadow report coalition, said Katrina failures violated the treaty as well as basic human rights.

"Katrina exposed the fact that our US government failed to protect lives,” Harden said. “Ten months after the storm, our government is failing to protect the right to return to Gulf Coast residents who need housing and a comprehensive rebuilding. We strongly believe that by bringing international pressure through the ICCPR hearings, our government will realize the importance of protecting the human rights of our families and neighbors in the gulf region.”

According the US Human Rights Campaign, New Orleans residents were seemingly stripped of their citizenship status and described as refugees, denying them the rights of displaced persons status.

Executive Director of the US Human Rights Network Ajamu Baraka says government neglect was directly responsible for loss of life and issues surrounding displaced persons.

Examples, she said, included “failure of the government to prevent the unnecessary loss of life by shoring up the levee system in New Orleans to withstand a category three hurricane and above. This failure resulted in the loss of over 1,500 lives.”

“As a result of government negligence and failure to establish an effective evacuation plan that would have addressed more than 100,000 people in New Orleans who were transit dependent, the government has re-traumatized individuals by providing inconsistent assistance and by cutting off housing assistance to thousands of displaced persons who still lack permanent housing,” Baraka added.

Internationally displaced persons are those who have been forced from their homes because of domestic strife, natural disasters and other external events. UN principles list those with displaced persons status as having basic human rights to shelter, medical treatment, right to life, liberty, security and protection during their displacement.

Yet according to a March, 2006 report by Oxfam, 750,000 households remain displaced, roughly a year since Katrina ravaged the area the area.

The irony, Soohoo says, is that the U.S. State Department has “recognized that these principles should be applied to [displaced persons] in other countries, and they have been adopted by USAID Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons policy,” but doesn’t apply the same standard domestically.

In Katrina-battered New Orleans, the report describes the April 2006 election in Orleans Parish, where tens of thousands of African American voters displaced by the storm were denied access to facilities and equipment. The report criticizes the US for failing to take appropriate measures and actions to accommodate the displaced residents of New Orleans and allegedly denying them the right to vote.

US treatment of prisoners

The report also tackles US prisons. It cites California as an example of gross mistreatment of prisoners, alleging abuse, neglect, discrimination and denial of due process for violations of international treaties and U.S. legislation such as the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

“California, home to approximately 10 percent of the nation’s prison population, is an example of the gravity of human rights concerns facing imprisoned populations,” the report says. “The mistreatment of inmates incarcerated in California prisons has resulted in a spectrum of abuses that particularly impact marginalized populations including transgender persons, women, the elderly, youth, the disabled, and the mentally ill. Prisoners… are subjected to violence based on their gender and racial identities, economic status, age and sexual orientation.”

According to the report, U.S. legislation such as the Prison Litigation Reform Act effectively prevents many prisoners from seeking redress in federal court. These laws prevent prisoners from having access to courts and drastically reduces the ability of courts to remedy human rights violations.

The report recounts cases of rape of prisoners by prison guards, abusing female prisoners who are pregnant and minority prisoners specifically, and cites examples of horrific cases that have gone unaddressed.

"We are hoping to build on the U.N. Committee Against Torture's strong findings criticizing the widespread use of excessive and often deadly force by police and corrections officers, including the abuse of TASERs, the prevalence of rape and sexual assault in prisons and by law enforcement officers, the appalling conditions of confinement in U.S. prisons, and the impunity enjoyed by those who violate basic civil and human rights of individuals caught up in the criminal justice system,” New York City civil attorney Andrea Ritchie, who also authored the shadow report police brutality section, says.

“The U.S. government may not be willing to answer to us at home, but it has to answer to the U.N,” she added.

Report makes other charges

The report extensively covers several other key areas, including children’s rights to special protection, citing cases where children as young as 10 are forced into adult criminal proceedings and are incarcerated in adult penitentiaries.

“More than 9,000 children are housed in adult prisons and jails and more than 4,000 children per year enter the adult system,” it says.

U.S. death penalty cases are another violation of the right to life provision, the groups say. The report specifically cites as an example the felony-murder rule, which “allows for individuals to be sentenced to death, even if they did not kill, intend to kill, or even contemplate that another human being would die as a result of their actions.”

Immigrants’ legal rights are also raised.

“Immigrants are routinely denied access to counsel, both when federal agents do not inform immigrants of their right to counsel and when immigrants are not allowed access to counsel in the cases of expedited removal of immigrants crossing the southern border,” the report says.

Immigrants who are permanent residents often lose their right to family integrity when family members are deported, the groups say. Such occurrences are increasing due to the expansion of deportable offenses and the limitations on discretionary relief.

Among cases of immigrant abuse, trafficking of women and children are perhaps the most serious of the alleged violations cited.

Human rights panel has little power

Last May, after hearings held by the U.N.'s Committee Against Torture -- an international review process similar to the human rights hearing that will be held in late July -- the Committee Against Torture demanded that the U.S. close the prison at Guantanamo. The U.N. Human Rights Committee is expected to release its findings July 28.

But while the U.N. Human Rights Committee has the ability to apply international political pressure, there is nothing else that the body can do, short of intervention. Ultimately, each country must hold its own leadership accountable is the sentiment shared across the board by many of the coalition members and legal scholars providing guidance.

“The U.S. has an international legal obligation to respect human rights, both domestically and abroad, and to comply” with the treaty, Soohoo said.

“Enforcement depends on political pressure from the international community, but perhaps more importantly from the American people demanding that the U.S. live up to its human rights obligations,” Soohoo added. “That's why it is so significant that a historic number of domestic organizations are participating in the U.N. review. They will ensure that the Committee's conclusions and recommendations don't sit on a shelf.”


Sen. Graham’s Strategy To Restore Bush’s Detainee Policy Is Unconstitutional

In an interview with the National Review, Sen. Lindsey Graham strongly objected to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that the Geneva Conventions applied to enemy combatants. Graham suggested that Congress should reverse the Supreme Court’s interpretation:

We’ve got to put a fence around this decision by the Court to grant Common Article Three of the Geneva Convention rights to terrorists. In 2002, Bush said that enemy combatant terrorists will be treated humanely within the spirit of the Convention but not given Convention status. I think he was right. You don’t want to erode the Convention.

What Graham is sugesting is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has the final say on how treaties should be interpreted. The Court explained in another case, Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, issued the same day has Hamdan:

Under our Constitution, “[t]he judicial Power of theUnited States” is “vested in one supreme Court, and insuch inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Art. III, §1. That “judicialPower . . . extend[s] to . . . Treaties.” Id., §2. And, as Chief Justice Marshall famously explained, that judicial power includes the duty “to say what the law is.” Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 177 (1803). If treaties are to be given effect as federal law under our legal system, determining their meaning as a matter of federal law “is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department,” headed by the “one supreme Court” established by the Constitution.

It’s difficult for Graham and other loyal supporters of the Bush administration to accept that their legal approach to combating terrorism is dysfunctional. The Hamdan decision spelled this out. And it’s not a problem they can rubber stamp their way out of.


Bush Nominates Anti-Regulatory Zealot To Head ‘Super-Powerful’ Public Safety Office

President Bush is expected to nominate Susan Dudley as the next head of an obscure but “super-powerful office that oversees many business regulations.” The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs holds sway over federal regulatory agencies like the EPA and helps set regulatory policy for a wide range of issues, from workplace safety to water quality.

The most recent head, John Graham, has “demonstrated consistent hostility to protections for public health, safety and the environment over his career.” And according to Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch, Dudley “makes John Graham look like Ralph Nader.”

As the director of regulatory studies at the industry-backed Mercatus Center she has worked to oppose vital public health regulation as a “hidden tax” that hinders profits. Some of her targets:

Opposed EPA plans to set tougher public health standards for smog.

Opposed lower-polluting cars and SUVs and cleaner gasoline.

Opposed air bags in cars, preferring to leave public safety decisions “to the market place.”

Opposed stronger regulations for arsenic in drinking water, claming that there “is a wide range of uncertainty in the science surrounding the health effects of arsenic in U.S. drinking water supplies.”

Opposed measures to curb global warming, stating that the “evidence regarding global warming and human contribution to it is mixed, and…if a slight warming does occur, historical evidence suggests it is likely to be beneficial, occurring at night, in the winter, and at the poles. Taking ‘precautionary action’ to protect human health based on a series of tenuous linkages would likely create a new set of risks.”

Not surprisingly, Exxon Mobil has donated $80,000 to Dudley’s think tank.


Western Union blocks Arab cash transfers

By ANJAN SUNDARAM, Associated Press Writer

Money transfer agencies have delayed or blocked thousands of cash deliveries on suspicion of terrorist connections simply because senders or recipients have names like Mohammed or Ahmed, company officials said.

In one example, an Indian driver here said Western Union prevented him from sending $120 to a friend at home last month because the recipient's name was Mohammed.

"Western Union told me that if I send money to Sahir Mohammed, the money will be blocked because of his name," said 36-year-old Abdul Rahman Maruthayil, who later sent the money through UAE Exchange, a Dubai-based money transfer service.

In a similar case, Pakistani Qadir Khan said Western Union blocked his attempt this month to wire money to his brother Mohammed for a cataract operation.

"Every Mohammed is a terrorist now?" Khan asked.

Dubai-based representatives from Western Union Financial Services, an American company based in Colorado, and Minnesota-based MoneyGram International, said their clerks are simply following U.S. Treasury Department guidelines that scrutinize cash flows for terrorist links. Most of the flagged transactions are delayed for a few hours. Some are blocked entirely.

In many cases, would-be customers like Maruthayil simply find another way to send the funds — often through informal exchanges with less stringent monitoring.

Critics say the screening is far too broad. The number of people inconvenienced in the Emirates alone, which closely cooperates with U.S. counterterror operations, is thought to be in the tens of thousands. One Western Union clerk said about 300 money transfers from a single Dubai franchise were blocked or delayed each day — none of which has turned up a terrorist link.

In Washington, U.S. Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said foreign banks have used the department's list of terrorist names to freeze $150 million in assets since Sept. 11. Millerwise didn't know the value of money transfers blocked using the list, but said frustrations endured were regrettable but necessary.

"We have an obligation to do all we can to keep money out of the hands of terrorists," Millerwise said.

The list of names, available on the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control Web site, contains hundreds of Mohammeds.

Inconveniences from the screening go far beyond money transfers in the Middle East.

In the United States, banks, car dealers, title companies, landlords, and employers have used the list to unjustly block scores of ordinary transactions, said Shirin Sinnar, a San Francisco attorney with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.

In one case, a couple in Sacramento, Calif. was thwarted from purchasing a treadmill on a financing plan, simply because the husband's first name was Hussein, Sinnar said in an e-mail interview.

Western Union's caution is perhaps understandable. Sept. 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta sent money from two Western Union agencies in Maryland before boarding a plane he helped crash into New York's World Trade Center.

The money transfer crackdown comes amid revelations that the U.S. Treasury and CIA have tracked millions of confidential transactions handled by the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

In Dubai, a Western Union branch manager said he was forced to obey U.S. rules he and others consider too broad.

"Mohammed and Ahmed have become problematic names because they are so common on the list of terrorists," said Nixon Baby, who runs a Western Union franchise in Bur Dubai, a neighborhood packed with South Asian businesses. "These are regulations that Western Union is required to obey. We have no control."

At another Western Union office, an executive who deals with security measures said about 1 percent of the store's 30,000 daily money transfers — about 300 a day — are delayed or blocked because of suspected terrorist links. Thus far, all have proven false, the executive said on condition of anonymity, because she wasn't permitted to speak to a reporter.

Western Union routinely delays or blocks transfers between customers whose names even partially match names on the Treasury list. The money is usually released once suspects show identity documents that prove they are not on the list, the executive said.

Bernie Rabina, a representative at Dubai airport's MoneyGram outlet, said her company follows a similar process. Rabina didn't know what percentage of her franchise's daily transactions were blocked.

The U.S. regulations apply to Western Union money transfers made anywhere, said Marc Aubry, the company's Dubai-based Mideast marketing director.

But the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is one of seven city-states, is especially susceptible to the Treasury's restrictions because it is home to more than a million foreign laborers who sent home a collective $14 billion last year, according to a government report.

The Emirates government has cooperated with the U.S. Treasury in tightening oversight after a 2004 U.S. investigation found that Emirates banks handled most of the $400,000 spent on the Sept. 11 attacks.

Dubai expatriates like Khan and Maruthayil say Western Union, which earns about $3 billion annually from operations in 200 countries, has no valid basis for delaying cash meant for their families.

They say Treasury guidelines are sending more people to informal money transfer networks called "hundis" or "hawalas" that have been used by gangsters and terrorists because they circumvent such scrutiny.

"Sending money by hawala is cheaper and it does not get checked by banks, so it is quicker," said a Pakistani taxi driver who called himself Munir Ahmed. "They say it is not legal, but it is a reliable alternative to Western Union."

At the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, spokesman Corey Saylor said Treasury needs to reform its rules.

"The Treasury program interferes with even the most innocent transactions," Saylor said. "Just because Ahmed is a common name on their list, everyone with that name is suddenly stuck."


NY Post Wants Lay's Coffin Checked...


"Reckless" soldiers should stay home: Iraqi PM

By Ibon Villelabeitia

Iraq's prime minister urged the U.S. military on Thursday to keep "reckless" troops from serving in Iraq in order to prevent abuses like the alleged rape and murder of a teenager and her family by U.S. soldiers in March.

Expanding on calls for an independent inquiry and a review of foreign troops' immunity from Iraqi law, Nuri al-Maliki said commanders should do a better job in preparing their soldiers.

"There needs to be a plan to educate and train soldiers, and those who are brought to serve in Iraq shouldn't bear prejudices nor be reckless toward people's honor," Maliki said.

The U.S. military is investigating a group of its soldiers over the rape and killing of a family of four in Mahmudiya, south of the capital, in a case that has strained relations between Washington and Baghdad.

Former private Steven Green, 21, has been charged with rape and murder in a U.S. federal court. He had been discharged from the army because of a "personality disorder" before the case came to light.

At least three other soldiers are being investigated in the case.

"The Mahmudiya incident and other incidents before that ... produce sadness, pain and condemnation from Iraqis," Maliki said.


Maliki, facing pressure from Shi'ites and Sunnis to hold Americans accountable, has slammed a U.S. occupation authority decree that grants immunity from Iraqi law for the 140,000 or so foreign troops in Iraq, saying it "emboldens" soldiers.

"I think this matter has become necessary to review and solve, either by reviewing the issue of immunity or reviewing the nature of the investigating committees," he told reporters in Baghdad, a day after he first called for a review of the law.

The rape and murder case is the fifth in a high-profile series of U.S. inquiries into killings of Iraqi civilians in recent months and has outraged Iraqis.

American commanders, keen to repair the military's tarnished image after three years of complaints from Iraqis that U.S. abuses go unpunished, pressed murder charges against 12 military personnel last month. Marines are under investigation for the killing of 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.

Iraqis have complained of Americans' lack of cultural sensitivity -- including searching women's rooms during raids or not taking their boots off when entering. Commanders say they are improving such procedures.

Though heavily dependent on America's military muscle, Maliki faces delicate negotiations with its main ally Washington over how to regulate the presence of the U.S.-led forces in Iraq, now under a U.N. mandate that expires in December.


The thug and intimidation tactics of the Far Right go mainstream

by Glenn Greenwald

As is true for many lawyers who have defended First Amendment free speech rights, I have represented several groups and individuals with extremist and even despicable viewpoints (in general, and for obvious reasons, it is only groups and individuals who espouse ideas considered repugnant by the majority which have their free speech rights threatened). Included among this group were several White Supremacist groups and their leaders, including one such group -- the World Church of the Creator -- whose individual members had periodically engaged in violence against those whom they considered to be the enemy (comprised of racial and religious minorities along with the "race traitors" who were perceived to defend them).

One of the favorite tactics used by such groups is to find the home address and telephone number of the latest enemy and then publish it on the Internet, accompanied by impassioned condemnations of that person as a Grave Enemy, a race traitor, someone who threatens all that is good in the world. A handful of the most extremist pro-life groups have used the same tactic. It has happened in the past that those who were the target of these sorts of demonization campaigns that included publication of their home address were attacked and even killed.

But these intimidation tactics work even when nothing happens. Indeed, these groups often publish the enemy's home address along with some cursory caveat that they are not encouraging violence. The real objective is the same one shared by all terrorists -- to place the person in paralyzing fear. The goal is to force the individual, as they lay in bed at night, to be preoccupied with worry that there is some deranged individual who read one of the websites identifying them as the enemy and which provided their address and who believes that they can strike some blow for their Just Cause by visiting their home and harming or killing them. The fear that they are vulnerable in their own home lurks so prominently and relentlessly in a person's mind that it can be as effective as a physical attack in punishing someone or intimidating them.

This thuggish tactic of intimidation -- publicly railing against someone's grave crimes and then publishing their home address -- has been creeping out of the most extremist precincts on the Right and is becoming increasingly common among mainstream right-wing individuals and organizations.

This weekend, prominent neoconservative David Horowitz proclaimed that the United States is fighting a war and "the aggressors in this war are Democrats, liberals and leftists." In particular, he cited the now infamous NYT Travel section article on Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld's vacation homes as evidence that the employees of the NYT are among the enemies in this war, and he then linked to and recommended as a "proposal for action" this post from his associate, Front Page contributor Rocco DiPippo. The post which Horowitz recommended was entitled "Where Does Punch Sulzberger Live?" and this is what it said:

I issue a call to the blogosphere to begin finding and publicly listing the addresses of all New York Times reporters and editors. Posting pictures of their residences, along with details of any security measures in place to protect the properties and their owners (such as location of security cameras and on-site security details) should also be published.

DiPippo published the home address of NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, along with directions to his home, and linked to a post by right-wing blogger Dan Riehl which contained directions to Sulzberger's home along with photographers of it. In a now-deleted post, DiPippo also published the home address of Linda Spillers, the NYT photographer who took the photograph of Don Rumsfeld's vacation home (with Rumsfeld's express permission), and he urged everyone to go (presumably to the home address he provided) and confront Spillers about her actions.

That was not an isolated incident. This week, Bartholomew's Official Notes on Religion reported on the new "project" implemented by the group As that group describes it, the project is called "Expose the ACLU Plaintiffs," and promises to publish the home addresses of all individuals who are "using the ACLU" in any First Amendment lawsuit based on the Establishment clause which challenges the constitutionality of governmental promotion of Christianity. The first such enemy targeted for this treatment is a Jewish family in Delaware who sued their local school district over its alleged promotion of Christianity in the public schools. StopTheACLU published their home address and telephone number on its website, and the family -- due to all sorts of recriminations and fear of escalating attacks -- was forced to leave their home and move to another town, which was one of the apparent goals of StopTheACLU in publishing their home address.

Stop the ACLU is not some fringe, isolated group. To the contrary, the "official blog" of is (h/t Hunter), a very prominent player in the right-wing blogosphere. That blog is the 14th most-linked-to blog on the Internet, and is often promoted and approvingly cited to as a source by numerous right-wing bloggers such as Instapundit and Michelle Malkin. The blog Expose the Left (which aspires to be the C&L of the Right), yesterday condemned the "nutcases on the left side of the blososphere" who "are sending unfounded attacks" against StopTheACLU for this plainly despicable thug behavior.

These self-evidently dangerous tactics are merely a natural outgrowth of the hate-mongering bullying sessions which have become the staple of right-wing television shows such as Bill O'Reilly's and websites such as Michelle Malkin's (who, unsurprisingly, has become one of O'Reilly's favorite guests). One of the most constant features of these hate fests is the singling out of some unprotected, private individual -- a public school teacher here, a university administrator there -- who is dragged before hundreds of thousands of readers (or millions of viewers), accused of committing some grave cultural crime or identified as a subversive and an enemy, and then held out as the daily target of unbridled contempt, a symbol of all that is Evil.

Malkin frequently includes contact information for the identified Enemies, and O'Reilly often shows photographs or video of them on multiple programs. These bullying tactics of intimidation -- whereby people who are often just private individuals and who have no defenses (as opposed to, say, prominent politicians or media figures) are singled out for widespread public rituals of contempt -- have quite foreseeable consequences, chief among them placing those targets in fear of retribution. Publishing the home addresses of such individuals is not some wholly different approach, but is merely the next small and foreseeable step, an obvious outgrowth of the hate sessions on which many leading representatives of the Right now heavily rely.

And it is not only those who engage in the tactics themselves who bear responsibility for the consequences, but also those who offer coldly bureaucratic indifference towards these tactics, or even an implicit defense of them. While numerous right-wing bloggers commented this weekend on the truly inane attacks against the NYT Travel article, none (at least that I read) condemned Horowitz for promoting the campaign to publish the home addresses of editors and reporters of the Times. They had much to say about the Evil that is the NYT, but nothing to say about this extraordinary and despicable campaign perfected by extremist groups on the Right and now promoted by Horowitz and groups such as StopTheACLU, to intimidate and endanger journalists and private individuals by collecting and publishing their home addresses.

Beyond merely failing to condemn these tactics, Glenn "Instapundit" Reynolds yesterday deliberately defended them by arguing that they are no different than what the NYT did in its Travel article. Reynolds attacked a post written this weekend by Reason's Dave Weigel, in which Weigel condemned publication of the home address of the NYT photographer. Reynolds -- who pointedly avoided condemning Horowitz and publication of Spiller's home address -- quoted and then attacked Weigel's condemnation as "incoherent":

As so often happens with these things, angry bloggers have struck back and posted the addresses and phone numbers of the Times' photogs. (No link.)

No link? Why not? By Weigel's standards, a link wouldn't contribute to invasion of privacy. Anybody can find that stuff, right?

And if anybody can find that stuff, why's he so upset about publishing office phone numbers of public officials?

In order to avoid criticizing his comrades on the Right who are engaging in thug tactics, Reynolds actually equates discussion of the vacation homes of top government officials (who enjoy the most extensive and high-level security on the planet) with publication of the home addresses of private individuals and journalists (who have no security of any kind). By his reasoning, mentioning that the Vice President has a vacation home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland is no different than publishing the home address of private individuals who are publicly identified as traitors.

And, lo and behold, the Right's tactics of intimidation against private individuals are reduced by the conniving Reynolds into nothing more than a common and innocuous invasion of privacy of which the NYT and many others are also guilty. And with that corrupt equivalency established, Reynolds is able to posts on these matters without condemning the Right's thug tactics, and in fact, implicitly defends them by suggesting that they are rather innocuous and common and nothing to get excited about.

And revealingly, in choosing which villains to criticize from this weekend's treason accusations against the NYT and the thug tactics they inspired, Reynolds chooses Weigel for attack. But he has nothing to say about Horowitz and company for their newly announced campaign "to begin finding and publicly listing the addresses of all New York Times reporters and editors."

As people like Horowitz, Malkin and Reynolds well know -- and just as my most extremist former White Supremacist clients well knew -- if you throw burning matches at gasoline enough times, an explosion is inevitable. The rhetoric of treason -- accusing individuals and organizations of aiding and abetting our nation's enemies and even waging war on this country -- is a lit match. After all, the widely accepted penalty for traitors is execution, which is why it is such an inflammatory yet increasingly common accusation being hurled by the Right against their domestic "enemies" (for precisely the same reason, the favorite accusation of the World Church of the Creator was to label someone a "race traitor," since everyone knows what should be done with traitors).

Openly speculating about whether journalists and politicians are guilty of treason has become unbelievably common of late. And when those accusations are paired with publication of the traitor's home address, the intended result is both obvious and inevitable. Anyone who endorses those tactics in any way -- or who plays cute, coy games in finding ways to justify or minimize them -- knows exactly what they are doing.

As the Bush movement collapses, it is only to be expected that its more fevered adherents will resort to increasingly extremist rhetoric and tactics, out of frustration and anger, if for no other reason. The penetration of these thug tactics into increasingly mainstream venues on the Right is one of the more glaring, and more disturbing, developments of late.

UPDATE: In response to several comments here, let me be clear that I do not believe that the despicable statements referenced in this post can or should be grounds for criminal or civil liability. For reasons I set forth in comments here, here and here, the First Amendment should bar (and the Supreme Court has held it does bar) the imposition of liability based on the consequences flowing from the expression of protected political speech. The point is that these statements are despicable and dangerous, not illegal. The persons who engage in such tactics, or who defend them, bear the ethical and moral responsibilites -- but not legal liability -- for what they spawn.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Senators Kyl and Graham's Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Scam: The Deceptive Amicus Brief They Filed in the Guantanamo Detainee Case

by John W. Dean

Last week, the Supreme Court issued its historic decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. There, it dealt a substantial blow to the Bush/Cheney Administration's plans for the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and, potentially, elsewhere as well - ruling out, for instance, the option of using military commissions without due process to try detainees.

The decision itself has been widely discussed. Less widely discussed, however, has been its backstory.

Click here to find out more!

The Bush/Cheney Administration has been doing everything possible to keep its treatment of purported terrorist detainees out of the federal courts, particularly the Supreme Court. To assist the Administration, Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jon Kyl of Arizona engaged in a blatant scam that was revealed during the briefing of Hamdan.

Senators Graham and Kyl not only misled their Senate colleagues, but also shamed their high offices by trying to deliberately mislead the U.S. Supreme Court. Their effort failed. I have not seen so blatant a ploy, or abuse of power, since Nixon's reign.

To understand their ruse, a bit of background information about both the Hamdan case and the Detainee Treatment Act is necessary.

The Chronology Of The Hamdan Case

Salim Ahmed Hamdan is undoubtedly a bad fellow. Indeed, he is claimed to have once served as Osama bin Laden's driver and bodyguard. Hamdan was captured by tribal forces and turned over to the U.S. Military in November 2001, during the hostilities in Afghanistan against the Taliban. In June 2002, Hamdan was sent to Guantanamo.

In July 2003, the President designated Hamdan for trial by military commission, and in December 2003, Hamdan was given military counsel. In February 2004, Hamdan's attorneys filed an action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) asking that formal charges be made against Hamdan, and that he be given a speedy trial. The U.S. military, however, held that the UCMJ did not apply.

Next Hamdan's attorney filed a petition for habeas corpus in federal court, to test the legality of his detention. That petition made its way from the state of Washington, where it was filed, to Washington, DC.

On November 8, 2004, Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (a Clinton appointee, who had been active in civil rights) ruled that both the UCMJ and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions were applicable, so he stayed the proceedings of the military commission that had taken jurisdiction of Hamdan. The government appealed immediately to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. There, on July 15, 2005, a three-judge panel (which included the future Chief Justice John Roberts) ruled in the government's favor. But Hamdan's attorney filed a petition for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. And the Court took the case on November 7, 2004.

Subsequently, Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), and on December 30, 2005, President Bush signed it. Then, on February 13, 2006, the government filed an extraordinary motion before the Supreme Court, calling for the Court to dismiss Hamdan's case on the ground that the DTA had stripped the High Court of jurisdiction of any and all habeas corpus actions emanating from the detainees at Guantanamo.

In support of the government's motion, Senators Kyl and Graham filed an amicus brief. There, they brazenly attempted to hoodwink the Court regarding the actions of Congress in adopting the DTA. (It is not clear if their attorney, Jeffrey Lamken, a distinguished and highly able appellate practitioner, was privy to their scheme. But I would be at a loss to explain how he might have missed it.)

The Passage of the Detainee Treatment Act

Readers may recall that, after the Abu Ghraib scandal and related revelations became public, Senator John McCain sponsored provisions of law geared specifically to prevent the use of torture by the Bush/Cheney Administration, as well as those that follow. Those provisions, along with others, constitute the DTA. The other provisions were championed by Senators Graham and Kyl, who sought to nullify the Supreme Court's ruling in Rasul v. Bush. In that June 28, 2004 ruling, the High Court held that federal courts - contrary to the government's claim - do indeed have jurisdiction over Guantanamo's military prisons.

Following Rasul, virtually all the detainees at Guantanamo filed habeas corpus actions. On the morning of Thursday, November 10, 2005, the government filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to put on hold many of these pending actions - as many as 160, if not more - until all the procedural issues could be resolved by the cases already on appeal.

That same Thursday, in the afternoon, as the Senate was rushing to leave town for the Veterans Day holiday, Senator Graham proposed an amendment (to an Defense Department authorization bill) that would deny detainees at Guantanamo the right to file habeas actions in federal courts, and strip the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of jurisdiction over all the cases then pending, including the Hamdan case.

The thrust of Senator Graham's argument was that he wanted to reverse the Supreme Court's ruling in Rasul. "Habeas corpus rights have been given to Guantanamo Bay detainees because the location is under control of the United States," Graham observed. He then incorrectly told his colleagues, time and again, that the United States had never before given aliens, enemy combatants, and prisoners of war the right to file a habeas corpus action. "Never in the history of the law of armed conflict has an enemy combatant, irregular component, or POW been given access to civilian court systems to question military authority and control, except here," Graham protested.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court had considered just such habeas petitions during and relating to World War II in Ex parte Quirin and In re Yamashita.

Graham's proposal caught the Senate by surprise. It is not the Senate's practice to address complex issues willy-nilly. (These are the kinds of ploys played in the House of Representatives, where Graham started his political career.) Accordingly, Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues that until his committee had held hearings on the matter, he was "not prepared, at this stage, to support legislation which calls for removal of habeas corpus." Senator Specter believed the matter "require[d] a lot more analysis." Similarly, Democratic Senator Jeffrey Bingaman of New Mexico, one of the more able attorneys in the Senate (a Stanford Law graduate and former Attorney General of New Mexico), objected. As the debate proceeded, Senator Bingaman did eventually call Graham on his misleading claim about federal courts and habeas actions.

Another of the Senate's better lawyers, Democratic Senator Carl Levin of Michigan -- who agreed that some restrictions should be placed on putative terrorists being given open access to federal courts -- noted, however, that Graham's proposed amendments would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas petitions that had already been filed. The relevant provision's Effective Date clause made clear, after all, that it would "apply to any application or other actions that is pending on or after the enactment of this Act." "[The Act] would eliminate the jurisdiction already accepted by the Supreme Court in Hamdan," Levin pointed out, and he objected to that consequence.

Nonetheless, that same pre-holiday Thursday afternoon, the Republican leadership forced a vote on Graham's Amendment, which had its blessing - and surely that of the Administration. It passed, and was made part of the Defense Authorizations Act for Fiscal Year 2006, by a vote of 49 to 42.

Amending the Graham and Kyl's Jurisdiction-Stripping Provisions

Over the long holiday weekend, Senator Levin and others advised Graham that they were going to seek to amend his provision. Graham, always congenial with his colleagues, agreed to work with Levin, and they fashioned revised language.

On November 14, the Senate debated the revised amendment. "Last week, when Senator Levin was arguing with me about my amendment, I think he made some very good points," Senator Graham explained during the debate. "By working with him, … and Senator Kyl, we have addressed some of the weaknesses in my original amendment," Graham said.

Senator Levin provided further explanation for the record: "The … problem which I focused on last Thursday with the first Graham amendment was that it would have stripped all the courts, including the Supreme Court, of jurisdiction over pending cases. What we have done in this [new] amendment, we have said that … the amendment will not strip the courts of jurisdiction over those cases. For instance, the Supreme Court jurisdiction in Hamdan is not affected."

The change had been accomplished by redrafting the Effective Date clause to eliminate habeas corpus actions. Senator Levin summarized the change this way: "The habeas prohibition in the [original] Graham amendment applied retroactively to all pending cases -- this would have the effect of stripping the Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of jurisdiction over all pending cases, including the Hamdan case. The [new] Graham-Levin-Kyl amendment would not apply the habeas prohibition … to pending cases. So, although the amendment would change the substantive law applicable to pending cases, it would not strip the courts of jurisdiction to hear them. Under the Graham-Levin-Kyl amendment, the habeas prohibition would take effect on the date of enactment of the legislation. Thus, this prohibition would apply only to new habeas cases filed after the date of enactment."

The revised Graham-Levin-Kyl amendment passed 84 to 14.

Graham and Kyl's Ghosted Legislative History

Given the fact the Administration was fighting tooth and nail to defeat Senator McCain's prohibitions against torture, which were also part of this legislation, it did not exactly sail through the House of Representatives. While there was some effort in the House to change the language relating to habeas actions, that effort failed, and the provisions as agreed upon in the Senate remained.

When the conference report came back to the Senate on December 21, 2005, the Congressional Record reported a lengthy colloquy between Senators Graham and Kyl, briefly joined by Senator Brownback. (This extended dialogue runs some 12,000 words.) In this discussion of the meaning of the legislation, Graham and Kyl make several startling statements -- none more so than those that concerned the jurisdiction of federal courts over pending habeas petitions.

"So once this bill is signed into law, you anticipate that the Supreme Court will determine whether to maintain their grant of certiorari [in the Hamdan case]?" Graham asked Kyl. Kyl answered, "Yes, in my opinion, the court should dismiss Hamdan for want of jurisdiction. . . . I think that a majority of the court would do the right thing--to send Hamdan back to the military commission." (Emphasis added.)

In other words, after previously insisting - and to address Senator Levin's very specific concern on this score - that the revised language would in no way strip the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over Hamdan, Kyl was now maintaining exactly the opposite, with Graham's full cooperation.

Kyl continued, "As for legislative history" -- which he and Graham, his reference implied, were clearly making right then on the floor of the Senate -- "I think it usually is regarded as an element of the canons of [statutory] construction. It gives some indication of what Congress at least understood what it was doing--the context in which a law was enacted. Although, I understand that Justice Scalia does not read legislative history. I suppose that for his sake, we will have to strive to be exceptionally clear in the laws that we write." (Ironically, one reason Scalia disregards legislative history appears to be that he is well aware that Senators have been known to distort it.)

Those viewing C-Span's coverage of the Senate, and the Senators on the floor of the Senate, never heard this part, or any of the rest of, this lengthy colloquy between Graham and Kyl. That's because it never happened. No doubt aides of the Senators wrote this bogus and protracted dialogue, and either Graham or Kyl had it inserted in the record.

I first became aware of it when Emily Bazelon, a senior editor at Slate, wrote about it, after she confirmed the colloquy had never happened. As she noted, inserting comments into the Congressional Record is "standard practice." But what is "utterly nonstandard is implying to the Supreme Court" that Senate debate was live, when it most certainly was not. "When a senator wants to put a statement into the record," Bazelon noted, "he or she signs it, and writes 'live' on it, and, with the routine consent of the rest of the body, into the record it goes." This fact was not revealed by Graham and Kyl in their brief, however.

The Graham-Kyl Amicus Brief in Hamdan

In February 2006, Senators Graham and Kyl filed their amicus brief in the Hamdan case, supporting the Government's motion to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction under the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA). If they had been keeping faith with Senator Levin and the rest of their colleagues, they should have filed a brief on precisely the other side - making clear that the DTA, as amended, had had no intention to touch the Supreme Court's pending Hamdan case, and thus opposing the government's motion!

Instead, Graham and Kyl advised the Court they were sponsors of the Graham-Levin-Kyl amendment, and throughout their brief, cited their fictitious colloquy on December 21, 2005. Indeed, that colloquy is the core of their brief and its argument as to why the Court should dismiss the Hamdan case. Their hubris reaches the point of deception when they claim that the "legislative history confirms that Congress intended all pending claims to be governed by the DTA."

"In an extensive colloquy (which appears in the Congressional Record prior to the Senate's adoption of the Conference Report), Senators Graham and Kyl made it clear that the statute 'extinguish[es] one type of action - all of the actions now in the courts - and create[s] in their place a very limited judicial review of certain military administrative decisions." (This misleading statement is cited again later in the brief.)

Absent this bogus colloquy, in which the brief quotes Senator Graham as saying "I want our colleagues to know exactly what they will be agreeing to," there was actually no dispute throughout the deliberation of the Graham-Levin-Kyl language in the House or Senate as to the fact that the DTA would not retroactively remove the jurisdiction of the federal courts over pending cases. Indeed, it is unlikely any of Graham and Kyl's colleagues were aware of this dispute, which was manufactured after the fact.

Remarkably, the government's brief, too, relied on the same sham exchange when seeking dismissal of the Hamdan case.

The Hoax Fails: The Supreme Court Is Not Fooled

Hamdan's lawyers, however, spotted the hoax. In their opposition to the motion to dismiss the case, they advised the Court that the supposedly conflicting legislative history was entirely invented after the fact, and that it consisted of "a single scripted colloquy that never actually took place, but was instead inserted into the record after the legislation had passed." The brief noted, quite accurately, that this Graham-Kyl colloquy was "simply an effort to achieve after passage of the Act precisely what [they] failed to achieve in the legislative process."

Ultimately, the Supreme Court did not decide the jurisdictional issue until it rendered its full ruling on June 29 of this year. There, Justice Stevens concluded correctly that the Congress had not stripped the Court of jurisdiction with the DTA.

Out of an apparent concern for interbranch comity, the High Court has chosen to ignore the bogus brief filed by Senators Graham and Kyl, rather than reprimanding the Senators. Nevertheless, when Graham and Kyl sought to file the very same brief, a month later, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columba, Slate's Emily Bazelon reports that court "issued an unusual order rejecting" their amicus brief alone, although they accepted five others.

No one familiar with this remarkable behavior by Graham and Kyl can doubt why the court did not want to hear from these senators.


Italian spies arrested, Americans sought for kidnap

By Phil Stewart and Massimiliano Di Giorgio

ROME (Reuters) - Police arrested two officials from Italy's military intelligence agency on Wednesday and a judge issued arrest warrants for four Americans over the alleged CIA kidnapping of a terrorism suspect in 2003, officials said.

Three of the Americans were alleged CIA agents and the fourth worked at the U.S. military air base in Aviano, northern Italy, a statement from the Milan prosecutor's office said.

It said Marco Mancini, director of a division of the Sismi military intelligence agency, and another Sismi official, had been arrested.

The new arrests and the warrants relate to the abduction of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. He says he was seized on a Milan street in broad daylight, bundled into a van and driven to Aviano.

He says he was then flown to Egypt and tortured under questioning.

An Italian court has already issued arrest warrants for 22 suspected U.S. agents over the abduction.

But it was the first time Italian officials have been linked to the investigation.

If an Italian role is confirmed, it would lend evidence to allegations that European countries colluded with the United States in the secret "renditions" of terrorism suspects.

Lawmakers in Italy's new centre-left ruling coalition accused former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of a cover-up during his five-year administration, which ended in April.

Berlusconi has fiercely denied that his administration or Sismi were involved in the kidnapping -- and even once summoned the U.S. ambassador to request Italian sovereignty be respected.


"Mancini's arrest confirms what we've said for a long time -- that is, that the previous government knew about Sismi's involvement in Abu Omar's kidnapping by the CIA," said Giovanni Russo Spena, a Senator with the Communist Refoundation party in the ruling coalition.

Italian investigators had been wiretapping Nasr before his abduction and accuse him of having ties to al Qaeda and recruiting combatants for Iraq, according to court documents.

They say the kidnapping broke Italian law and ruined a promising investigation.

Mancini was accused of collaborating in the kidnap, judicial sources said earlier on Wednesday.

The European Union's Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said he respected the prosecutor's decision to arrest Mancini.

"The prosecutor is investigating, he is accusing this officer of the Italian secret service, we'll see whether he is responsible or not," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The Abu Omar case is one of the best known examples of alleged CIA secret operations in the U.S.-led "war on terror".

Human rights groups condemn "extraordinary rendition", saying suspects have frequently been sent by the United States to countries that practice torture.

Washington acknowledges making secret "rendition" transfers of terrorism suspects between countries, but denies either using torture itself against suspects or handing them over to countries that do so.

(Additional reporting by Emilio Parodi in Milan and Ingrid Melander in Brussels)

This article:


Washington Post Columnist Grossly Distorts Study To Argue ‘We Can’t Do Much’ About Global Warming

In today’s paper, Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson asserts that there is little we can do about global warming:

The real truth is that we don’t know enough to relieve global warming, and — barring major technological breakthroughs — we can’t do much about it.

Samuelson draws his conclusions from “a new report from the International Energy Agency.” Actually, the study – Energy Technology Perspectives, Strategies and Scenarios for 2050 (purchase required) — concluded the exact opposite:

[B]y employing technologies that already exist or are under development, the world could be brought onto a much more sustainable energy path. The scenarios show how energy-related C02 emissions can be returned to their current levels by 2050.

Samuelson twists the data to argue we are now “powerless” in the face of global warming:

[T]he IEA simulates five scenarios with differing rates of technological change. In each, greenhouse emissions in 2050 are higher than today. The increases vary from 6 percent to 27 percent…the IEA report indicates we’re now powerless. We can’t end annual greenhouse emissions, and once in the atmosphere, the gases seem to linger for decades.

Here is what Samuleson doesn’t tell you. Without taking action, the IEA estimates that greenhouse emission will increase by 138%, so even the most pessimistic action scenario decreases growth in emissions by 111%. Samuleson doesn’t bother to mention a sixth scenario where greenhouse emissions decrease by 16%.

You can contact the Washington Post at Please be polite.


Crispy: Bush's Pal Kenny Boy Burning In Hell.

Too bad he got to spend the last four years at his Multimillion dollar vacation home in Colorado before the Lord called him home.

I say the Chickens have come home to Roost. I say what the Bible says. I say what the Koran says. I say it's Justice.

Although frankly I don't actually believe it. He's probably been moved to Argentina just like the Nazi's. I think I'm gonna need to see the body. Maybe they could frame a picture in a nice big gold frame so we could all see that he is in fact dead. I may still need at least two coroner's reports, preferably one of them from a Democrat.

Enron founder Ken Lay dead of heart attack
Ex-Enron exec convicted of helping perpetuate a huge business fraud
The Associated Press

Updated: 10:44 a.m. ET July 5, 2006

HOUSTON - Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay, who was convicted of helping perpetuate one of the most sprawling business frauds in U.S. history, has died of a heart attack in Colorado. He was 64.

A secretary at his church and another secretary for his lead criminal lawyer, Michael Ramsey, both confirmed the death. Lay, who lived in Houston, frequently vacationed in Colorado.

Lay, who faced life in prison, was scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 23.

Nicknamed “Kenny Boy” by President Bush, Lay led Enron’s meteoric rise from a staid natural gas pipeline company formed by a 1985 merger to an energy and trading conglomerate that reached No. 7 on the Fortune 500 in 2000 and claimed $101 billion in annual revenues.

He was convicted May 25 along with former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling of defrauding investors and employees by repeatedly lying about Enron’s financial strength in the months before the company plummeted into bankruptcy protection in December 2001. Lay was also convicted in a separate non-jury trial of bank fraud and making false statements to banks, charges related to his personal finances.

Lay had built Enron into a high-profile, widely admired company, the seventh-largest publicly traded in the country. But Enron collapsed after it was revealed the company’s finances were based on a web of fraudulent partnerships and schemes, not the profits that it reported to investors and the public.

When Lay and Skilling went on trial in U.S. District Court Jan. 30, it had been expected that Lay, who enjoyed great popularity throughout Houston as chairman of the energy company, might be able to charm the jury. But during his testimony, Lay ended up coming across as irritable and combative.

He also sounded arrogant, defending his extravagant lifestyle, including a $200,000 yacht for wife Linda’s birthday party, despite $100 million in personal debt and saying “it was difficult to turn off that lifestyle like a spigot.”

Both he and Skilling maintained that there had been no wrongdoing at Enron, and that the company had been brought down by negative publicity that undermined investors’ confidence.

His defense didn’t help his case with jurors.

“I wanted very badly to believe what they were saying,” juror Wendy Vaughan said after the verdicts were announced. “There were places in the testimony I felt their character was questionable.”


He Died Defending "Freedom." Apparently the Department of Veterans Affairs believes that Freedom of Religion Doesn't Include His Religion. Nice.

July 4th, 2006 2:02 pm
Fallen Soldier Gets a Bronze Star but No Pagan Star

By Alan Cooperman / Washington Post

At the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in the small town of Fernley, Nev., there is a wall of brass plaques for local heroes. But one space is blank. There is no memorial for Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart.

That's because Stewart was a Wiccan, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has refused to allow a symbol of the Wicca religion -- a five-pointed star within a circle, called a pentacle -- to be inscribed on U.S. military memorials or grave markers.

The department has approved the symbols of 38 other faiths; about half of are versions of the Christian cross. It also allows the Jewish Star of David, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel, the Mormon angel, the nine-pointed star of Bahai and something that looks like an atomic symbol for atheists.

Stewart, 34, is believed to be the first Wiccan killed in combat. He was serving in the Nevada National Guard when the helicopter in which he was riding was shot down in Afghanistan last September. He previously had served in the Army in Korea and Operation Desert Storm. He was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

His widow, Roberta Stewart, scattered his ashes in the hills above Reno and would like him to have a permanent memorial.

She said the veterans cemetery in Fernley offered to install a plaque with his name and no religious symbol. She refused.

"Once they do that, they'll forget me. They don't like having a hole in the wall," she said. "I feel very strongly that my husband fought for the Constitution of the United States, he was proud of his spirituality and of being a Wiccan, and he was proud of being an American."

Wicca is one of the fastest-growing faiths in the country. Its adherents have increased almost 17-fold from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001, according to the American Religious Identification Survey. The Pentagon says that more than 1,800 Wiccans are on active duty in the armed forces.

Wiccans still suffer, however, from the misconception that they are devil worshipers. Some Wiccans call themselves witches, pagans or neopagans. Most of their rituals revolve around the cycles of nature, such as equinoxes and phases of the moon. Wiccans often pick and choose among religious traditions, blending belief in reincarnation and feminine gods with ritual dancing, chanting and herbal medicine.

Federal courts have recognized Wicca as a religion since 1986. Prisons across the country treat it as a legitimate faith, as do the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. military, which allows Wiccan ceremonies on its bases.

"My husband's dog tags said 'Wiccan' on them," Stewart noted.

But applications from Wiccan groups and individuals to VA for use of the pentacle on grave markers have been pending for nine years, during which time the symbols of 11 other faiths have been approved.

Department spokeswoman Josephine Schuda said VA turned down Wiccans in the past because religious groups used to be required to list a headquarters or central authority, which Wicca does not have. But that requirement was eliminated last year, she noted.

"I really have no idea why it has taken so long" for the Wiccan symbol to gain approval, Schuda said.

The department declined repeated requests from The Washington Post to speak to higher-ranking officials about the issue.

Retired Army Chaplain William Chrystal, a United Church of Christ minister who was chaplain of Stewart's National Guard unit, has strongly backed Roberta Stewart's request.

"It's such a clear First Amendment issue, I can't even conceive of why they are not granting it, except for political reasons," he said. "I think the powers that be are afraid they'll alienate conservative Christians if they approve a symbol that connotes witches and warlocks casting spells and brewing potions."

Nevada's congressional delegation, including Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D), also has supported Roberta Stewart.

But letters printed by Nevada newspapers indicate how much hostility Wiccans face. "I don't see how anything that supports witchcraft and satanism can legitimately be called a religion," one reader wrote to the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Stewart said that she is trying to educate people about Wicca, as well as to fulfill her husband's wishes. "Until he is laid to rest," she said, "I cannot rest."


Bush Signaling Shift in Stance on Immigration

WASHINGTON, July 4 — On the eve of nationwide hearings that could determine the fate of his immigration bill, President Bush is signaling a new willingness to negotiate with House Republicans in an effort to revise the stalled legislation before Election Day.

Republicans both inside and outside the White House say Mr. Bush, who has long insisted on comprehensive reform, is now open to a so-called enforcement-first approach that would put new border security programs in place before creating a guest worker program or path to citizenship for people living in the United States illegally.

"He thinks that this notion that you can have triggers is something we should take a close look at, and we are," said Candi Wolff, the White House director of legislative affairs, referring to the idea that guest worker and citizenship programs would be triggered when specific border security goals had been met, a process that could take two years.

The shift is significant because Mr. Bush has repeatedly said he favors legislation like the Senate's immigration bill, which establishes border security, guest worker and citizenship programs all at once. The enforcement-first approach puts Mr. Bush one step closer to the House, where Republicans are demanding an enforcement-only measure.

"The willingness to consider a phased-in situation, that's a pretty big concession from where they were at," said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, whose closeness to Mr. Bush dates to his days as a top Republican National Committee official. "It's a suggestion they are willing to negotiate."

In a sign of that willingness, the White House last week invited a leading conservative proponent of an enforcement-first bill, Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, to present his ideas to Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney in the Oval Office.

Ms. Wolff said the president found the Pence plan "pretty intriguing."

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Pence said the president used precisely those words in their talk. Mr. Pence said that the meeting was scheduled to last 10 or 20 minutes but went on for 40, and that the president "was quite adamant throughout the meeting to make the point that he hoped I would be encouraged."

Mr. Bush has little choice but to negotiate, although he is on delicate terrain. Some House Republicans remain deeply opposed to even a guest worker program, and any move closer to the House could upset the delicate bipartisan compromise that enabled legislation to pass the Senate.

Polls show the public is deeply troubled by the problem of illegal immigration, and Mr. Bush, who has made the issue his domestic policy initiative, is eager for a victory on Capitol Hill. But a carefully constructed White House strategy to prod the House and Senate into compromise collapsed last month when skittish House Republicans opted for field hearings instead.

The House hearings begin Wednesday in Laredo, Tex., and San Diego and will continue throughout the summer. In the Senate, Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, will convene his committee on Wednesday in Philadelphia.

The meetings will undoubtedly expose the deep Republican rift just as the elections draw near, and some say they are simply a way to stave off legislation until after November. Democrats, eager to pick up Congressional seats, intend to use the hearings to drive home the idea that Republicans have failed to address illegal immigration, a tactic that could further complicate prospects for a bill before Election Day.

One major question is whether Mr. Bush would give up on a path to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million to 12 million people living here illegally. He has said repeatedly that it is impractical to deport those who have lived in the United States for a long time and built lives here; the Senate bill permits some longtime illegal residents to become eligible for citizenship if they learned English and paid taxes and a fine.

Many House Republicans deride such a proposal as amnesty. Mr. Pence would require illegal immigrants — even those in the United States for decades — to leave the country briefly before returning, with proper documentation, to participate in a guest worker system. Private employment agencies would set up shop overseas to process applications; after six years in a guest worker program, an immigrant could apply for citizenship.

"I believe it's amnesty if you can get right with the law by paying a fine but never have to go home," Mr. Pence said.

Whether Mr. Bush would accept that is not clear. Aides to Mr. Bush, including Karl Rove, the White House chief political strategist, and Tony Snow, the press secretary, say he remains adamant that any bill must address the status of the immigrants who are here illegally.

But one Republican close to the White House, granted anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, predicted that Mr. Bush would ultimately abandon the idea of a path to citizenship.

Giving up, though, would doom the legislation in the Senate. Mr. Pence met last week with leading Republican senators, including Mr. Specter, John McCain of Arizona and Mel Martinez of Florida.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Specter said that proponents of the Senate bill "are determined to see comprehensive" legislation, and that "comprehensive means all parts, including the 11 million." But he also said that he was very interested in Mr. Pence's approach, and that the tenor of the meeting was that the Senate could "move toward a middle ground" with the House.

The question now is whether President Bush will be able to find that middle ground in time for the midterm elections. Mr. Cole, the Oklahoma Republican, was not optimistic.

"Our people would like to have some sort of solution," he said, "but my instinct tells me this is much more likely to be a post-November, or a 2007 kind of deal than it is to happen between now and then."

Carl Hulse contributed reporting for this article.


Occupation: The Inconvenient Truth About Iraq

by George Lakoff

It is time to tell an inconvenient truth about Iraq: it is an occupation, not a war. In wars, armies fight to dominate land. The US won the war three years ago when Bush said, “Mission Accomplished”. Then the occupation started, and our troops were not trained or equipped for an occupation under predictably hostile circumstances. Finally getting the courage to tell the truth that the US is an occupying force drastically changes the picture in Iraq. You cannot “win” an occupation. “Cut and run” does not apply to an occupation. Occupiers have to leave; the only question is when and how. Progressive Democrats agree that it should be soon; they only disagree on details. Political courage is called for. Truth now!

We’ve begun with global warming. Now the U.S. and its military allies need to face another inconvenient truth, this one about Iraq: This is an occupation, not a war.

The war was over when Bush said "Mission Accomplished." A war has one army fighting another army over territory. U.S. fighting men and women defeated Saddam’s military machine three years ago. Then the occupation began. Our troops were trained to fight a war, not to occupy a country where they don't know the language and culture; where they lack enough troops, where they face an anti-occupation insurgency by the Iraqis themselves; where most of the population wants them out; where they are being shot at and killed by the very Iraqis they are training; and where the U.S. has given up on reconstruction and can't do much positive good there.

The Occupation Frame fits a politically inconvenient truth. Most people don’t want to think of our army as an occupation force, but it is. An occupying army can’t win anything. The occupation only helps Al Qaeda, which Iraqis don’t want in their country since Al Qaeda attracts foreigners who have been killing Iraqis.

Our nation has been held trapped in a fallacious War Frame that serves the interests of the Bush administration and the Republican Party. The term “cut and run,” used to vilify Democrats, is defined relative to the following frame:

    There is a war against evil that must be fought. Fighting requires courage and bravery. Those fully committed to the cause are brave. Those who "cut and run" are motivated by self-interest; they are only interested in saving their own skins, not in the moral cause. They are cowards. And since those fighting for the cause need all the support they can get, anyone who decides to “cut and run” endangers both the moral cause and the lives of those brave people who are fighting for it. Those who have courage and conviction should stand and fight.

Once the false frame is set, it is hard to use any pure self-interest frame that ignores the just cause of fighting evil. That is the trap the Democrats have fallen into. Their proposed slogans evoke self-interest frames: John Murtha’s “stay and pay and ”John Kerry’s “lie and die” have an X-and-Y structure that evokes, and thus reinforces, “cut and run.”

These, as well as Senator Jack Reed’s “The Republican Plan to Be in Iraq Forever,” are self-interest frames that accepts the “cut and run” frame and says it is in our interest to leave. We “pay,” we “die,” we are stuck there forever. As long as Democrats accept the war-against-evil frame, any self-interest framing will be treated as immoral -- acting as a coward, letting evil win out, and endangering our troops.

The Cut-and-Run Frame put forth as a reason why we cannot withdraw from Iraq fits a gallant war. It does not fit a failed occupation. When you have become the villain and target to the people you are trying to help, it’s time to do the right thing — admit the truth that this is an occupation and think and act accordingly. All occupations end with withdrawal. The issue is not bravery versus cowardice in a good cause. The Cut-and-Run Frame does not apply.

In an occupation, there are pragmatic issues: Are we welcome? Are we doing the Iraqis more harm than good? How badly are we being hurt? The question is not whether to withdraw, but when and how? What to say? You might prefer “End the occupation now” or “End the occupation by the end of the year” or “End the occupation within a year, “ but certainly Congress and most Americans should be able to agree on “End the occupation soon.”

In an occupation, not a war, should the president still have war powers? How, if at all, is the Supreme Court decision on military tribunals at Guantanamo affected if we are in an occupation, not a war? What high-handed actions by the President, if any, are ruled out if we are no longer at war?

Telling an inconvenient truth takes some political courage.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Joe Must Go!

Lieberman Launches "Cut & Run" Campaign

by Paul Bass | July 3, 2006 02:39 PM

In a sign that he fears for his political future, three-term U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman announced outside the state Capitol Monday that his reelection campaign will take out petitions to get his name on the November ballot as an independent -- just in case challenger Ned Lamont beats him in an Aug. 8 Democratic primary. Lieberman's brief announcement signalled both the spin he'll use to try to limit the political fallout of the move, as well as the main tack he'll use to try to blunt Lamont's challenge.

Lieberman reiterated that he's running as hard as he can to win the Democratic primary, the first time an incumbent Democratic senator has faced such a challenge in Connecticut in 36 years.

But as of Monday, his campaign will canvass voters to sign petitions to get him a place on the November ballot as an independent.

It was a striking symbol of how political tides have turned in Connecticut and of a downward trajectory in Lieberman's own career. Just six years ago he was an international celebrity as Al Gore's running mate in the presidential campaign. He ran for president in 2004, although he didn't get far. He started this year far ahead of Lamont in the polls. Now a three-term incumbent is fighting for his life to retain his own party's nomination.

In anticipation of today's announcement, Lieberman's online blog critics have already dubbed his quest the "Cut and Run 2006" campaign. If he loses the primary to Lamont, that move will ensure a wild three-way race beyond the ability of pundits and consultants to call, with Lamont running as a Democrat, Alan Schlesinger as a Republican and Lieberman as an independent.

Or as "an independent Democrat," as he chose to portray his candidacy. Lieberman hesitated to announce this move until he decided he needed to, because it risks losing him votes in the Aug. 8 primary from Democrats angered over his willingness to bolt the party for his own political future.

Lieberman addressed that issue at the Capitol press conference, where he appeared alongside his wife Hadassah in front of a battery of youthful sign-holding backers who'd been ordered not to wear hats or sunglasses in the hot sun.

"I have been a proud, loyal and progressive Democrat since John F. Kennedy inspired my generation into public service," claimed Lieberman, who has come under fire for siding with Republicans on the Iraq war, tax policy, civil liberties, the right to question the president, health care, the recently passed energy bill, and the nominations of right-wing presidential appointees like Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Supreme Court nominees John Robers and Samuel Alito. "I will stay a Democrat."

Lieberman said he informed Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Tuesday morning that if elected as an independent, he remain part of the Democratic Caucus and consider himself a party member.

So why bolt?

Lieberman noted that if 30 percent of Democrats vote in the primary -- the highest expected by analysts, especially in the midst of summer -- the primary winner will need only about 105,001 votes. That's about 5 percent of the state's 2 million voters. Independents are by far the state's largest voting bloc.

"I want the opportunity to put my case before all the people of Connecticut in November. They after all have the voters who have been good enough to elect me to the Senate," he said.

"This will be a competitive election. Once I decided I wanted to give all the voters in the state" the "opportunity" to vote for him in November, Lieberman said, he decided to "do it quickly and early."

"I have loyalties that are greater than those to my party," he said. Namely: "My state and my country.

"This is an act of pride and purpose and commitment to the Democratic Party," he said. If Lamont convinces Democrats to reject him in a primary based on the Iraq War, for which he has been the Democrats' most prominent cheerleader, "my party is headed down the road that will not lead us to victory," he said.

Lieberman used the appearance to try to define the Lamont campaign as a single-issue quest: the Iraq war. He asked voters to "respect" his stand in favor of the war and judge him on his whole record. The challenge for Lamont -- represented by his latest TV commercial -- is to define his candidacy as representing a set of issues, from health care to civil liberties to the environment, on which Lieberman has abandoned the Democratic Party.

Lamont was prepping for his Thursday evening debate with Lieberman when Lieberman's press conference took place. Lamont parried Lieberman's spin with his own at a 3:30 press conference outside his Meriden headquarters.

He offered a nuanced response to Lieberman's depiction of the Lamont challenge as a one-issue antiwar campaign.

On the one hand, Lamont said, "The war is a big issue. It speaks volumes about what kind of a country we are."

On the other hand, Lamont said his campaign focuses on a host of issues on which he and Lieberman disagree, citing the energy bill, school vouchers, and Alito's Supreme Court nomination.

In contrast to Lieberman's press appearance, Lamont's took place in the shade of a tree. He sat at a picnic table and answered all the questions the press could think to ask. (Like Lieberman, he appeared alongside his wife.)

His low-key responses -- no signs of passion or outrage at Lieberman's decision -- raised the question of how tough he'll be as he enters the prime-time phase of this campaign. As a bonafide candidate with a real chance of winning, Lamont will need to convey a sense of toughness and strength. The debate Thursday will test whether he'll be able to do that.

He did characterize Lieberman's independent petitioning as in keeping with the senator's stands on issues like school vouchers, social security, and the Supreme Court nominations of Alito and Clarence Thomas -- as "hedging his bets."

Lamont also responded to Lieberman's argument that Lamont's personal wealth (estimated at between $90 and $300 million) requires Lieberman to take extra steps to compete fairly. Lamont noted that Lieberman has had up to $7 million in the bank and far outspent the Lamont campaign. Lieberman has focused on the fact that Lamont has contributed $1.5 million to his own campaign, with the ability to contribute more.

"If he wants to cap spending, let's go at it," Lamont said, referring to a previous challenge to Lieberman to agree to a maximum each campaign would spend. He noted that Lieberman has raised millions from "corporate lobbyists." Lamont added that "well over 10,000 people" have made small donations to his campaign.

"If he wants to run as a Democrat, run as a Democrat. Stop gaming the system," Lamont said. "Over 18 years on a lot of issues, he has tried to have it both ways."

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