Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Trust Gap? (try the contempt inferno)

There is no gap, because there is no trust, except by the ideologically brain-damaged and the religiously insane.
Published: February 12, 2006

We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers — and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less.

This has been a central flaw of Mr. Bush's presidency for a long time. But last week produced a flood of evidence that vividly drove home the point.

DOMESTIC SPYING After 9/11, Mr. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the conversations and e-mail of Americans and others in the United States without obtaining a warrant or allowing Congress or the courts to review the operation. Lawmakers from both parties have raised considerable doubt about the legality of this program, but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made it clear last Monday at a Senate hearing that Mr. Bush hasn't the slightest intention of changing it.

According to Mr. Gonzales, the administration can be relied upon to police itself and hold the line between national security and civil liberties on its own. Set aside the rather huge problem that our democracy doesn't work that way. It's not clear that this administration knows where the line is, much less that it is capable of defending it. Mr. Gonzales's own dedication to the truth is in considerable doubt. In sworn testimony at his confirmation hearing last year, he dismissed as "hypothetical" a question about whether he believed the president had the authority to conduct warrantless surveillance. In fact, Mr. Gonzales knew Mr. Bush was doing just that, and had signed off on it as White House counsel.

Read On for other Bush horrors

Bob Barr, Bane of the Right?

Reminiscent of Hitler on the Communists and the Jews.

Be afraid, be very afraid; the commies and the brown people are coming to get us, destroy our way of life. Oh My God! Stand up for the fatherland and the pure-blooded, magnificent white guys. 

Anyone want to bet that more people have been killed by car accidents in the last 5 years that by Al Qaeda?

Go ahead, brainless wonders of the Right; allow Bush, Cheney and company to suspend the Constitution, one amendment at a time.

Osama, wherever he is, is laughing his ass off at you guys. All he has to do is say, "boo," and you guys do more harm than he and Al Qaeda could ever imagine.

I don't believe I have ever in my life seen so many candy-asses, rallying around a couple of paranoid buffoons who have been complete and utter failures in making even a dent in terrorism. There have been more attacks world-wide, since Bush declared war on terror, a ridiculous concept in itself, than in all the years previously.

Where is bin Laden? Where is the Al Qaeda guy in Iraq?

Why do we have to run through airports in our socks while un-inspected cargo still makes it on to planes? What about those seaports? What about the trains? What about the nuclear and chemical plants that still go unprotected, because it would cost the corporations who own them too much money to secure them?

Here is one for you; why are the borders more porous than ever?

What have these guys done to earn anyone's faith and trust?

Their campaign slogan should be, "Wet your pants and vote for us, suckers!"

By Dana Milbank
Saturday, February 11, 2006; A02

You could find just about everything at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this week: the bumper sticker that says "Happiness is Hillary's face on a milk carton," the "Straight Pride" T-shirt, a ride on an F-22 Raptor simulator at the Lockheed exhibit, and beans from the Contra Cafe coffee company (slogan: "Wake up with freedom fighters").

As of midday yesterday, a silent auction netted $300 for lunch with activist Grover Norquist, $275 for a meal with the Heritage Foundation president and $1,000 for a hunting trip with the American Conservative Union chairman. But lunch with former congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.), with an "estimated value" of $500, had a top bid of only $75 -- even with a signed copy of Barr's book, "The Meaning of Is," thrown in.

No surprise there. The former Clinton impeachment manager is the skunk at CPAC's party this year. He says President Bush is breaking the law by eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without warrants. And fellow conservatives, for the most part, don't want to hear it.

"You've heard of bear baiting? We're going to have, today, Barr baiting," R. Emmet Tyrell, a conservative publisher, announced as he introduced a debate Thursday between Barr and Viet Dinh, one of the authors of the USA Patriot Act.

"Are we losing our lodestar, which is the Bill of Rights?" Barr beseeched the several hundred conservatives at the Omni Shoreham in Woodley Park. "Are we in danger of putting allegiance to party ahead of allegiance to principle?"

Barr answered in the affirmative. "Do we truly remain a society that believes that . . . every president must abide by the law of this country?" he posed. "I, as a conservative, say yes. I hope you as conservatives say yes."

But nobody said anything in the deathly quiet audience. Barr merited only polite applause when he finished, and one man, Richard Sorcinelli, booed him loudly. "I can't believe I'm in a conservative hall listening to him say [Bush] is off course trying to defend the United States," Sorcinelli fumed.

Far more to this crowd's liking was Vice President Cheney, who stopped by CPAC late Thursday and suggested the surveillance program as a 2006 campaign issue. "With an important election coming up, people need to know just how we view the most critical questions of national security," he told the cheering crowd.

Dinh, now a Georgetown law professor, urged the CPAC faithful to carve out a Bush exception to their ideological principle of limited government. "The conservative movement has a healthy skepticism of governmental power, but at times, unfortunately, that healthy skepticism needs to yield," Dinh explained, invoking Osama bin Laden.

Dinh brought the crowd to a raucous ovation when he judged: "The threat to Americans' liberty today comes from al Qaeda and its associates and the people who would destroy America and her people, not the brave men and women who work to defend this country!"

Read On

Photograph Shows Lobbyist at Bush Meeting With Legislators

It doesn't take photos to know what is going on with Junior and Abramoff, but they will tend to put Bush's lie, "I don't know him," in stark relief.

Problem is, Junior lying is not big news. He does it daily.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 — After weeks in which the White House has declined to release pictures of President Bush with Jack Abramoff, the disgraced lobbyist, the first photograph to be published of the two men shows a small, partly obscured image of Mr. Abramoff looking on from the background as Mr. Bush greets a Texas Indian chief in May 2001.

By itself, the picture hardly seems worthy of the White House's efforts to keep it out of the public eye. Mr. Abramoff, a leading Republican fund-raiser who pleaded guilty last month to conspiring to corrupt public officials, is little more than a blurry, bearded figure in the background at a gathering of about two dozen people.

But it provides a window, albeit an opaque one, into Mr. Abramoff's efforts to sell himself to Indian tribes as a man of influence who could open the most secure doors in Washington to them. And it leaves unanswered questions about how Mr. Abramoff and the tribal leader, whom he was trying to sign as a client, gained access to a meeting with the president on the White House grounds that was ostensibly for a group of state legislators who were supporting Mr. Bush's 2001 tax cut plan.

The White House confirmed the authenticity of the photograph. It was provided to The New York Times by the Indian chief, Raul Garza of the Kickapoo tribe of southwest Texas. Mr. Garza, who is under indictment on federal charges of embezzling money from his tribe, said he was eager to demonstrate that he had "nothing to hide" in his dealings with the White House and Mr. Abramoff.

Read On and see photo

We predicted this over a year ago...Rage Killings Way Up!

Lawless at the top always trickles down, unlike money.
Violent Crime Rising Sharply in Some Cities

MILWAUKEE — One woman here killed a friend after they argued over a brown silk dress. A man killed a neighbor whose 10-year-old son had mistakenly used his dish soap. Two men argued over a cellphone, and pulling out their guns, the police say, killed a 13-year-old girl in the crossfire.

While violent crime has been at historic lows nationwide and in cities like New York, Miami and Los Angeles, it is rising sharply here and in many other places across the country.

And while such crime in the 1990's was characterized by battles over gangs and drug turf, the police say the current rise in homicides has been set off by something more bewildering: petty disputes that hardly seem the stuff of fistfights, much less gunfire or stabbings.

Suspects tell the police they killed someone who "disrespected" them or a family member, or someone who was "mean mugging" them, which the police loosely translate as giving a dirty look. And more weapons are on the streets, giving people a way to act on their anger.

Police Chief Nannette H. Hegerty of Milwaukee calls it "the rage thing."

"We're seeing a very angry population, and they don't go to fists anymore, they go right to guns," she said. "A police department can have an effect on drugs or gangs. But two people arguing in a home, how does the police department go in and stop that?"

Here in Milwaukee, where homicides jumped from 88 in 2004 to 122 last year, the number classified as arguments rose to 45 from 17, making up by far the largest category of killings, as gang and drug murders declined.

In Houston, where homicides rose 24 percent last year, disputes were by far the largest category, 113 out of 336 killings. Officials were alarmed by the increase in murders well before Hurricane Katrina swelled the city's population by 150,000 people in September; the police say 18 homicides were related to evacuees.

In Philadelphia, where 380 homicides made 2005 the deadliest year since 1997, 208 were disputes; drug-related killings, which accounted for about 40 percent of homicides during the high-crime period of the early 1990's, accounted for just 13 percent.

Read On

Bushite Twisting of Science worthy of the Third Reich

This Deutsch guy is a real piece of work.
After faking his resume and presuming to edit scientific papers, when it is doubtful he would know a Petri dish if one hit him in the face (now that's a thought), further claims that this NASA scientist and others are persecuting Republicans, Bush supporters and Christians.
These goofy people do not know what persecution is, but we can only assume that, to them, it means checking out a person's C.V.
How dare anyone do that!
Most of the time that is done before a person is hired, makes no difference about belief system or party affiliation.
But apparently the Bush administration doesn't believe in that old practice.
That's good to know.
Maybe I can get a job as an engineer, building bridges or dams. Doesn't matter that I couldn't build a damn in a drainage ditch. Who cares?
Scientists Afraid to Speak Out, NASA Climate Expert Reports

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 11, 2006; A07

NEW YORK, Feb. 10 -- James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who sparked an uproar last month by accusing the Bush administration of keeping scientific information from reaching the public, said Friday that officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also muzzling researchers who study global warming.

Hansen, speaking in a panel discussion about science and the environment before a packed audience at the New School university, said that while he hopes his own agency will soon adopt a more open policy, NOAA insists on having "a minder" monitor its scientists when they discuss their findings with journalists.

"It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," said Hansen, prompting a round of applause from the audience. He added that while NOAA officials said they maintain the policy for their scientists' protection, "if you buy that one please see me at the break, because there's a bridge down the street I'd like to sell you."

NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher denied Hansen's charges, saying his agency requires its scientists to tell its press office about contacts with journalists but does not monitor their communications.

"My policy since I've been here is to have a free and open organization," Lautenbacher said. I encourage scientists to conduct peer-reviewed research and provide the honest results of those findings. I stand up for their right to say what they want."

Hansen prefaced his speech, which focused largely on how quickly humans must act in order to prevent irreversible climate change, by saying he was speaking as an individual. "I'm not speaking for the agency or the government," he said.

Most scientists who study climate change have concluded that Earth's current warming is being driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The administration does not question the link between human activity and climate change, but it has called for more research and supports solutions other than mandatory limits on carbon emissions.

After the panel discussion -- which also featured Princeton University professor Michael Oppenheimer, American Enterprise Institute fellow Steven Hayward and Stanford University professor Paul Ehrlich -- Hansen said he knows of NOAA scientists who are chafing at the administration's restrictions but are afraid to speak out.

New School President Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic senator from Nebraska, said he invited Hansen to speak because he was "very concerned" about what he called the administration's efforts to steer the debate over global warming: "It's not only inappropriate; it stifles the very debate we're trying to have today, and that we need to have on this issue."

Kerrey said of Hansen, "He's not a radical; he's a scientist who's studied the issue. Let the disagreement occur without stifling one side of the argument."

Bird Flu, now spreading across Eurpoe

Bulgaria is the latest country to confirm the H5N1 form has been found in wild swans, in an area close to the Romanian border.

Earlier Greece and Italy announced they have detected their first cases too.

What's up with the Irish?

WEDNESDAY 01/02/2006 08:46:48  
Government denies depleted uranium ammunition claims

The Government has denied claims that depleted Uranium ammunition is being transported through Shannon Airport on U.S. military cargo planes destined for Iraq. Read On
So, does that mean that you don't bother to check it out?
Don't you know by now that Bush and Company do not ever tell the truth about a damn thing.
Do you honestly believe they would respect any of you enough to inform you?
Who do you think you are? They don't even tell us or our congress what they are doing.
Come on, guys, stay out of the Taverns and think, just for a few freakin' days!

Porter Goss' Op-ed: 'Ignoturn per Ignotius'!

by Sibel Edmonds (a.k.a. whistleblower)

Dear Mr. Goss, the timing of your recent op-ed in the New York Times interestingly coincides with the upcoming congressional hearing by the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats & International Relations on National Security Whistleblowers. Your comments are predictably consistent with the pattern of "preemptive strikes" you and the administration have been keen on maintaining. I do not blame you for your opposition to legislation to protect courageous whistleblowers, which will enable the United States Congress to reclaim some of its authority and oversight that it has given up for the past five years. No sir, you have all the right and reason to be nervous. However, I must take issue with your attempt to mislead the American public - another habit of your heart - by presenting them with false information and misleading statements.

Sir, as you must very well know after your years in congress as a representative and as a member of the intelligence committee, there are no meaningful legal protections for whistleblowers. What is troubling is that while you are well aware of the fact that there are no meaningful or enforceable laws that provide protection to national security whistleblowers, you nevertheless state that such workers are covered by existing laws. That is simply false. You state that "the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act was enacted to ensure that current or former employees could petition Congress, after raising concerns within their respective agency, consistent with the need to protect classified information." The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, which appears to be the legal channel provided to national security employees, turns out on closer inspection to be toothless. Please refer to the recent independent report issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on National Security Whistleblowers on December 30, 2005. The report concludes that there currently are no protections for national security whistleblowers - period. Let me provide you with a recent example illustrating the fallacy of your claim:

In December 2005, Mr. Russ Tice, former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst and action officer, sent letters to the chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, and requested meetings to brief them on probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while he was an intelligence officer with the NSA and DIA. In his letter Mr. Tice, as a law abiding and responsible intelligence officer, stated "Due to the highly sensitive nature of these programs and operations, I will require assurances from your committee that the staffers and/or congressional members to participate retain the proper security clearances, and also have the appropriate SAP cleared facilities available for these discussion." On January 9, 2006, the NSA sent an official letter to Mr. Tice stating "neither the staff nor the members of the House or Senate Intelligence committees are cleared to receive the information.

Now, Mr. Goss, please explain this to the American public: What happened to your so-called appropriate congressional channels and protections available to national security whistleblowers? Mr. Goss, what "protected disclosure to congress" According to the NSA no one in the United States Congress is "cleared enough" to hear reports from national security whistleblowers. Please name one whistleblower to date who has been protected after disclosing information to the United States Congress; can you name even a single case? Or, is that information considered classified? How do we expect the United States Congress to conduct its oversight responsibility and maintain the necessary checks on the Executive Branch, when agencies such as yours declare the members of congress "not cleared enough" to receive reports regarding conduct by these agencies? Where do you suggest employees like Mr. Tice go to report waste, fraud, abuse, and/or illegal conduct by their agencies? Based on your administration's self-declared claim of inherent power and authority of the executive branch overriding courts and the United States Congress, what other channels are left to pursue?

Okay, now let's move to this notion you and the administration seem to be so very keen on: Classified & Sensitive Information. Let's start by asking how we define "classified & sensitive information," and who decides what is classified and sensitive? According to the statement by Thomas S. Benton, National Security Archive, on March 2, 2005, during the congressional hearing on "Emerging Threats: Overclassification & Pseudo-Classification," the deputy undersecretary of defense for counterintelligence and security declared that 50% of the Pentagon's information was over-classified, and the head of the Information Security Oversight Office said it was even worse, "even beyond 50%." Don't you find the percentage of falsely classified information appalling? Well, you should; it is your responsibility, because the executive branch, under the office of the United States President, is solely responsible for classification or pseudo-classification of information. Now, based on this knowledge, what should happen when you tell the public, when you tell the United States Congress and the media "Oh, you are not allowed to have this information; this information is highly sensitive and classified"? This is what should happen: we, the people, the Congress, and the media, should first ask you for the merits of the classification; have you prove to us that the information in question should in fact be classified; and you, the executive branch, have the obligation to truthfully respond.

On the issue of classification in your op-ed you go further and cite the cost of unauthorized disclosure to the American taxpayer, "unauthorized disclosures have cost America hundreds of millions of dollars." Since you brought up the issue, let's explore it fully and give the American people the real facts, shall we? The Office of Management and Budget report on classification costs to U.S. agencies (the CIA's are still classified; but of course!), gave us a benchmark number and some sense of comparative expense to the taxpayer - the reported dollar figure was over $6.5 billion in fiscal 2003. Now, since the percentage of falsely classified data has been determined to be in the range of 50%, the cost of our agencies' pseudo classification to the American taxpayer amounts to over $3 billion. Mr. Goss, you do the math; do you really want to attempt to twist and misuse the cost of classification to try to strike a chord with the taxpayers? It is not going to stick; wouldn't you agree?

Let's try your security angle on the subject of classification, where you state "disclosure of classified intelligence inhibits our ability to carry out our mission and protect the nation." The entire 9/11 Commission report includes only one finding that the attacks might have been prevented (Page 247 & 376). They quote the interrogation of the hijackers' paymaster, Ramzi Binalshibh, who commented that if the organizers, particularly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had known that the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, had been arrested at his Minnesota flight school on immigration charges, then Bin Laden and KSM would have called off the 9/11 attacks, because news of that arrest would have alerted the FBI agent in Phoenix who warned of Islamic militants in flight schools in a July 2001 memo; a memo that vanished into the FBI's vaults in Washington. The Commission's wording is important here: only "publicity" could have derailed the attacks. Classification is indeed a very important mechanism, if it is applied diligently and wisely; however, as illustrated above, in certain circumstances, even with respect to national security information, classification can run counter to our national interests.

Mr. Steven Aftergood, the Director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, so very eloquently stated "the information blackout may serve the short-term interests of the present administration, which is allergic to criticism or even to probing questions. But it is a disservice to the country. Worst of all, the Bush administration's information policies are conditioning Americans to lower their expectations of government accountability and to doubt their own ability to challenge their political leaders. Information is the oxygen of democracy. Day by day, the Bush administration is cutting off the supply."

Mr. Goss, since you proudly quoted from the Rob-Silberman Report released in March 2005, let me do the same and present you with another quote: "In just the past 20 years the CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA, NRO, and the Departments of Defense, State, and Energy have all been penetrated. Secrets stolen include nuclear weapons data, U.S. cryptographic codes and procedures, identification of U.S. intelligence sources and methods (human and technical), and war plans. Indeed, it would be difficult to exaggerate the damage that foreign intelligence penetrations have caused." It appears that the only ones not privy to our so-called sensitive government and intelligence information are the American citizens, since our enemies and allies have been successfully penetrating all our intelligence agencies (including yours sir) and nuclear labs and facilities. Sir, with all due respect, you have not even succeeded in protecting your own agencies, offices and facilities against foreign penetration; you seem to be incapable of conducting appropriate background checks on your own employees; you failed to protect us against the 9/11 attacks; and you have failed in gathering intelligence and reporting it accurately on the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. With this kind of record how can you go on lecturing the Congress and the American people on your superiority and inherent authority to do whatever you wish, however you wish, and without having to provide any report or any answer to anybody, including the United States Congress?

Last year, the CIA, your agency, classified the entire findings of the Inspector General's investigation into the failures of CIA managers prior to 9/11. Sir, I believe you made the case for this classification based on your intention to protect the wrongdoers within the CIA bureaucracy from being "stigmatized." Is this what your op-ed intended to say? Did you mean to say that these national security whistleblowers may end up stigmatizing the wrongdoers and incompetents within the rank and file of the CIA by divulging information that you decided to classify to prevent exposure of embarrassing and criminal activity? Was that a Freudian slip, since nowadays the lines get blurry between classification for national security purposes and classification to protect the agency's bureaucrats?

Mr. Goss, I cannot attribute this misleading op-ed to your ignorance, since you were a member of Congress until recently and are surely aware of the lack of meaningful protection for national security whistleblowers; so I won't. I will not attribute it to your stupidity, since obviously our Congress confirmed your position and I do not intend to insult their wisdom and intelligence. Thus, it must be your arrogance, nurtured and fed by your boss on your purported inherent and limitless authority and power, leading you to treat us, the American Public, as stupid.

Sibel Edmonds
A Proud National Security Whistleblower


Sibel Edmonds is the founder and director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding national security whistleblowers. Ms. Edmonds worked as a language specialist for the FBI's Washington Field Office. During her work with the bureau, she discovered and reported serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security implications. After she reported these acts to FBI management, she was retaliated against by the FBI and ultimately fired in March 2002. Since that time, court proceedings on her issues have been blocked by the assertion of "State Secret Privilege" by Attorney General Ashcroft; the Congress of the United States has been gagged and prevented from any discussion of her case through retroactive re-classification by the Department of Justice. Ms. Edmonds is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani; and has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, and a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University.

But, you Ms. Edmonds are anything but stupid.
What's more you have more courage in your little finger than most of the macho-men in Congress put together and more patriotism that most of the flag-waving, slack-jawed wing-nutters who vote, consistently Republican. 
You have our undying admiration and more, if and when you need it.

UPDATE: Total Information Awareness Lives

You really did not believe that the Bushites would shut down a program inspired by Iran/Contra felon, Adm. Poindexter, did you?

Congress voted to shut down the Pentagon’s controversial Total Information Awareness program in 2003 (though not before it was renamed “Terrorism Information Awareness” — sound familiar?).

During a Senate hearing last week, General Michael Hayden was asked whether TIA had simply been “moved to various intelligence agencies” after Congress tried to terminate it. As ThinkProgress noted, Hayden stonewalled:

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): I and others on this panel led the effort to close it [Total Information Awareness]. We want to know if Mr. [John] Poindexter’s programs are going on somewhere else. Can anyone answer that?

HAYDEN: Senator, I’d like to answer in closed session.

In fact, the answer is yes.

[T]oday, very quietly, the core of TIA survives with a new codename of Topsail (minus the futures market), two officials privy to the intelligence tell NEWSWEEK. … “It is truly Poindexter’s brainchild. Of all the people in the intelligence business, he has the keenest appreciation of using advanced information technology for intelligence gathering,” [says John Arquilla, an intelligence expert at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.]. Poindexter, who lives just outside Washington in Rockville, Md., could not be reached for comment on whether he is still involved with Topsail.

The will of Congress thwarted again. Why do they even bother?


Ken Starr caught lying and suborning perjury?

Irony, fuckin' irony

Ken Starr, caught lying and trying to suborn perjury!

Lawyers for a death row inmate, including former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, sent fake letters from jurors asking California’s governor to spare the man’s life, prosecutors said Friday.

The jurors denied they thought Michael Morales deserved clemency because some of the testimony at his trial may have been fabricated, said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

“We showed each person the declaration on their behalf and they all said they didn’t say that,” Barankin said.
Read On
I am sooo against the death penalty, but this is really too much. Now how in the hell do we know that Clinton wasn't set up?

Mother Earth is about to rid herself of millions of us.

The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The spread of bird flu from Asia to eastern Europe and now west Africa has increased the chance the virus will mutate and set off a pandemic, the U.N. bird flu chief said.

Dr. David Nabarro said there is no evidence yet of any change in the virus, which has killed at least 88 people since 2003.

Almost all the deaths have been linked to contact with infected poultry, but experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that spreads easily among humans, setting off a pandemic.

"Unfortunately, we cannot tell when the mutation might happen, or where it might happen, or how unpleasant the mutant virus will turn out to be," he said in an interview. "Nevertheless, we must remain on high alert for the possibility of sustained human-to-human virus transmission and of a pandemic starting at any time."

Nabarro said the arrival of bird flu in Nigeria should be "a strong wake-up call" to all countries to ensure that their veterinary services are on alert and report any instances of birds or poultry dying, and that health services quickly identify unexpected clusters of unexpected disease that could represent the start of a pandemic.

"We have got bird flu now in southeast Asia, central Asia, eastern Europe, and west Africa," he said. "Compared with eight months ago, this is a major extension of the avian influenza epidemic."

Nabarro said control measures put in place by countries have helped to contain the spread but bird flu is still expanding across the world "putting at risk the health of people who are living intimately with poultry and also adding to the overall load of the H5N1 virus."

He said it is the increase in the quantity of the virus in the world today that has boosted the overall chance of mutations, including a mutation that could cause a disease which could then spread through the human population.

"That's why we get so concerned about the spread of the virus, because we want to do everything we can to reduce the opportunity for mutation," Nabarro said.

He said one of the urgent needs is to establish how avian influenza reached west Africa.

Who the hell could possibly blame her?

A sheep-like nation is allowing Bush to erode our liberties and well-being

If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.”

— President George W. Bush, Dec. 18, 2000

“As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.”

— Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

What is it going to take for the American people to wake up to the presidential coup d’état that is now under way, a takeover that is occurring in broad daylight by a president who has declared that as commander in chief he has unfettered power to fight an undeclared and never-ending war on terrorism, even if that means ignoring the courts, disregarding laws passed by Congress and circumventing the Bill of Rights in the process?

First the Bush administration rams through the so-called Patriot Act in the hysteria immediately following Sept. 11, 2001, legislation that includes the infamous “sneak and peak” provision. Then they usurp the power of the Senate (though our senators didn’t put up much of a fuss) and use fabricated intelligence to initiate a pre-emptive war against a nonaggressive nation. Next this administration decides that it can detain foreign (and several domestic) adversaries as “illegal enemy combatants” without charge for as long as it desires. After that, it chooses to authorize torture of selected prisoners under the designation of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Now we discover the Bush administration has used the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on telephone conversations and e-mails of U.S. citizens on American soil without a warrant and that several other government agencies have been illegally tracking our computer activities.

If the president has the unfettered power that he and his acolytes proclaim, what is the logical next step? Dissolving Congress should it endeavor to forestall his illegal activities? Packing the Supreme Court with his supporters should it declare some of his actions unconstitutional? Proclaiming times so dangerous that he must remain in office even after his term is over?

And if he did so, would we finally revolt against this King George as we did against another during the first American Revolution?

I awaken many mornings asking myself: “Why haven’t I taken to the streets with my fellow citizens demanding the resignation of this pretender to the throne?” “How can I go about my usual daily routine, while my country gradually slides into fascism in the name of national security?” “What am I so fearful of that I stand immobilized while innocent men, women and children are being killed in my name?” “How can I, in good conscience, continue to pay my federal taxes knowing that a large portion of them is going to the immoral war in Iraq and other such military adventures?”

In 1775, speaking in favor of action to throw off the tyranny of the British crown, Patrick Henry declared: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? ... I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Today we Americans seem to be saying quite the opposite by our acquiescence: “Give me a powerful ruler to save me from the terrorists even if this means surrendering my rights as an American citizen.”

From where I stand, there are worse things than passing from this mortal form. For if I permit the loss of my individual freedom, my personal integrity and the liberties that this nation stands for, am I not already among the living dead?

Bruce Mulkey is an Asheville writer and a communications consultant. A former community columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times, a collection of his commentaries have been published in “Peaceful Patriots: Taking a Stand for Peace in an Era of Endless War,” now available in paperback at or Malaprops. You may contact Mulkey at


We think that members of congress are afraid of Bush

If you’re having trouble with this issue about the president’s warrantless wiretaps, it’s because there isn’t one.

What there is is a political problem. The president has confessed to practices that are unconstitutional; actions for which he can’t blame low-ranking, ill-trained zealots. This is personal. It’s about George W. Bush and no one else. But your Congress (both parties) isn’t about to impeach him, although they wish he’d stop. So they thumb through obscure texts, knit their brows and murmur about the complexity of something they know to be simple.

Take it from the bottom, meaning the foundation.

Bush did NOT swear an oath to “protect and defend America,” although some such duty is implied in Article II, which makes him commander in chief. But the idea that this entails authority to order wiretaps on civilians collapses on itself. If he’s our top general, so to speak, then whatever authority that confers is military, and the military has no jurisdiction over civilians.

Some civil power to protect does exist. But what limits does the Constitution set for it? Regarding wiretaps, turn to the Fourth Amendment. It doesn’t say that people’s right to be secure in their homes and “effects” may be violated only by Congress or only by the judiciary or only by the president. It says that the right “shall not be violated.” It doesn’t say that Congress shall issue no warrants without probable cause, or the judiciary shall not issue such warrants, or the president shall not issue them. It says “no Warrants shall issue” in violation of the conditions that immediately follow.

The president, having routinely ignored the Fourth Amendment rights of a host of victims, insists that the amendment doesn’t apply to him because of an invisible grant of discretion hiding in Article II. He invokes some heretofore undetected constitutional immunity to the Constitution, and asserts that the unwritten trumps the written. (Strict constructionists, where are you?) It’s reminiscent of another pious but pointless defense: that nobody bugged communications in which both parties were on U.S. soil. Finally, critics are asking the obvious question: Why not? If it’s his duty to protect America by ignoring the Fourth Amendment, what difference does it make where one of the suspects plants his feet?

Go back to the oath Bush DID take, twice. In it he promised (as required by Article II), so help him God (not required, but adding it was his decision), to “preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.” Was it clear to you, as he spoke, that he meant to preserve, protect and defend only select parts of it?

Members of Congress, most of whom have personal reasons for avoiding the constitutional brawl that the president is forcing, tarry over the law that created a secret court to expedite urgent requests for warrants and even provides for issuance of a warrant after the deed has been done. But federal laws don’t trump the Constitution. How long will it take for someone to question the constitutionality of the act itself? Without question, Congress has power to create “inferior” courts. But to create one with power to waive a part of the Constitution, doesn’t it need to amend the Constitution?

The truth? The president ordered unlawful things that he can’t blame on anyone else. There’s no one he can sacrifice, no aide or faithful secretary to fall on his sword. So now he’s escalating, preferring to be thought a fool rather than a knave. And those who should be wrestling him to the ground are instead offering him a fig leaf.

Congress, whose job it is to stop him, will leave the task to the courts, which it will then vilify for having done their best with the mud-ball Congress lobbed at them.

So much for leadership. So much for honor.

Read On
They are a bunch of friggin' cowards...afraid  to do their damn jobs.
Are we going to have to do it for them, right  after we run them all out of town on a rail?
Senator Feingold is the only exception!

When crass is called for

Rosa Brooks

February 10, 2006

IT'S TIME TO TAKE a stand against civility, decency and appropriateness.

No, I'm not suggesting that you should stop saying "please" and "thank you." But lately, the claims about civility that come from the political right seem to mask an unstated and troubling assertion: Never, ever, challenge anyone in power.

Take this week's kerfuffle over the funeral of Coretta Scott King. After her death, politicians from both parties tripped over one another in their haste to offer tasteful, inoffensive eulogies. Speaking at King's funeral, President Bush had the formula down pat. With just the right tone of fervent gravity, he informed mourners that "Coretta Scott King showed that a person of conviction and strength could also be a beautiful soul."

But apparently not everyone at the funeral got the right script. Some of the eulogists — including the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery and former President Carter — had to go and "politicize" the funeral.

Lowery — a prominent civil rights leader himself — boorishly insisted that King actually had opinions on matters other than desegregation (now relegated, by happy bipartisan consensus, to the quaint historical past). Lowery informed the audience that she "deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew, and we knew, that there are weapons of misdirection right down here…. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor."

Then Carter crassly reminded the assembled mourners that — back in the day — Coretta and Martin Luther King Jr. were "not appreciated even at the highest level of the government." In fact, Carter observed pointedly, "the civil liberties of both husband and wife [were] violated as they became the target of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance and … harassment from the FBI."

Within hours, conservative pundits began to condemn Carter and Lowery for tactlessness, poor manners and a range of other sins. On MSNBC's "Hardball," the National Review's Kate O'Beirne denounced Lowery's and Carter's remarks as "completely inappropriate … cheap shot[s] … bad form." On Fox, Sean Hannity inveighed against Lowery and Carter for "attacking" Bush while he was at a funeral "to honor this woman … can you not see the lack of decency?"

Even liberals seemed to be having trouble holding their ground. On CNN, anchor Miles O'Brien suggested that Lowery's and Carter's remarks were "coarse," and analyst Jeff Greenfield glumly agreed: "Maybe there's a more appropriate way to talk at a funeral."

It's this sort of idiocy that makes me feel like saying something genuinely coarse.
Amen, Sister!
What's more it makes us want to do something pretty damned crass, but because of Coretta's and Martin's example, we probably won't, at least not yet

A Hard Rain; holy crappola

Damn, there are some mean, dimwitted, whackos in this country!
For almost 30 years, Pete Peters has been going on about the Jews from his pulpit in Laporte, Colo. Until now, it's always seemed an uphill battle.

But hope springs eternal. After years of denouncing "Satanic" Jews, Martin Luther King Jr., homosexuals and any other number of enemies, Peters -- who has hosted a collection of Klansmen, neo-Nazis and assorted other Jew-bashers at his Laporte Church of Christ -- thinks he may finally have the upper hand.

He figured out the secret weapon.

During a three-day "Scriptures for America Christian Weekend" held in late October in The Dalles, Ore., Peters sounded more militant than he has in years. Good Christians, he told the assembled, were created to build, but reborn to destroy. There are "serpents" among us, he warned darkly, bent on wiping out the white man (he illustrated this by reminding his listeners of The Ventures' 1960s hit "Wipeout"). The end-times are coming (this preceded by a recording of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" by Bob Dylan, who, as Peters explained, had cut a deal with Satan).

But there's a way out: "Anointing and Un-Anointing Oil."

It turns out that "Satanic, demonic, destroying, unjust spirits" -- Masons, to speak plainly -- have performed evil rituals over the cornerstones of just about every major public building in America. Once you know that, it's not hard to understand the wicked decisions coming out of the American court system, not to mention the horrors emanating from a multitude of other government facilities.

Read On

Hate Crime; vastly underreported

The real number of hate crimes in the United States is more than 15 times higher than FBI statistics reflect, according to a stunning new government report.

Hate crime statistics published by the FBI since 1992, based on voluntary reports from law enforcement agencies around the country, have shown annual totals of about 6,000 to 10,000, depending on the year. But the new report, "Hate Crimes Reported by Victims and Police," found an average annual total of 191,000 hate crimes. That means the real level of hate crime runs between 19 and 31 times higher than the numbers that have been officially reported for almost 15 years.

"It's an astounding report," said Jack Levin, a leading hate crime expert at Northeastern University. "It's not necessarily completely accurate, but I would trust these data before I trusted the voluntary law enforcement reports to the FBI."

The revealing new report, compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and published in November, was based on an analysis of three and a half years of detailed survey data from the biannual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS raw data comes from interviews with almost 80,000 statistically representative people and is the most accurate crime survey extant.

Doesn't surprise us in the least. This is the most hate-mongering administration since Reagan.

U.S. Trade Deficit Sets Record, With China and Oil the Causes

The United States trade deficit widened to a record $726 billion in 2005, the government reported yesterday, adding more fuel to the increasingly partisan debate between advocates of further globalization and those who contend that free trade is causing the loss of too many American manufacturing jobs.

Hitting its fourth consecutive annual record, the gap between exports and imports reached almost twice the level of 2001. It was driven by strong consumer demand for foreign goods and soaring energy prices that added tens of billions of dollars to the nation's bill for imported oil. The nation last had a trade surplus, of $12.4 billion, in 1975.

The continued growth in the trade deficit, particularly with China, is likely to renew a fight in Congress as early as this spring over President Bush's trade policies. Lawmakers have seized on the growing imbalance with China to call on the White House to take a harder line with Beijing over its currency practices.

But as long as the American economy is growing faster than most of its trading partners and energy prices stay at elevated levels, economists expect little improvement, and perhaps even a slight widening, in the trade imbalance this year.

"You would need a dramatic slowdown in domestic U.S. demand to bring down the U.S. trade deficit, and we think that is unlikely," said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays Capital in New York.

That means the nation will go deeper into debt with the rest of the world as Americans continue to rely on the strong flow of foreign money, particularly from central banks in Asia, to finance the trade gap. China, Japan and other foreign governments are some of the biggest holders of government securities, lending money to cover the substantial federal budget deficit and helping to keep interest rates and home mortgage costs here relatively low.

As a result, American consumers are able to spend more and save less.

Many economists say this situation is unsustainable over the long run, arguing that the United States could eventually face a harsh correction that would depress spending, increase the cost of borrowing and sharply lower the value of the dollar.

Never thought we would see the Right sell the country to those "Godless Communists."  What would Saint Ronald say?

France Backs Putin on Speaking to Hamas

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 — France on Friday endorsed Russia's decision to hold talks on the Middle East conflict with Hamas, the radical Islamist Palestinian group, saying the discussion "can contribute to advancing our positions."

Other European countries distanced themselves from the French statement, which appeared to be in defiance of the American and European view that Hamas is a terrorist organization and therefore should not be officially recognized. Israel condemned it. But the United States took a more cautious approach.

"Our position is not to tell the whole world that they can't talk to Hamas," said a senior State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "That would be hard to enforce. The issue is less who's talking than what they are saying."

On Thursday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said he was considering inviting Hamas, the winner of the Palestinian parliamentary elections on Jan. 25, to Moscow for talks, and on Friday the Kremlin confirmed that it would do so. Mr. Putin's remarks took the Bush administration and European leaders by surprise.

Israel reacted to the Russian decision with fury on Friday. Transportation Minister Meir Sheetrit called the Putin invitation "a real knife in the back."

But in Washington, a State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, on Friday and was reassured to hear that the Russians would deliver a "clear, strong message" to Hamas.

The United States considers Hamas a terrorist group, and American officials are forbidden to talk to the organization. The European Union's policy on talks is not as clear, several officials and diplomats said in interviews. But none said their countries would talk with Hamas.

Read On

Republican Speaks Up, Leading Others to Challenge Wiretaps

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 — When Representative Heather A. Wilson broke ranks with President Bush on Tuesday to declare her "serious concerns" about domestic eavesdropping, she gave voice to what some fellow Republicans were thinking, if not saying.

Now they are speaking up — and growing louder.

In interviews over several days, Congressional Republicans have expressed growing doubts about the National Security Agency program to intercept international communications inside the United States without court warrants. A growing number of Republicans say the program appears to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that created a court to oversee such surveillance, and are calling for revamping the FISA law.

Ms. Wilson and at least six other Republican lawmakers are openly skeptical about Mr. Bush's assertion that he has the inherent authority to order the wiretaps and that Congress gave him the power to do so when it authorized him to use military force after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The White House, in a turnabout, briefed the full House and Senate Intelligence Committee on the program this week, after Ms. Wilson, chairwoman of the subcommittee that oversees the N.S.A., had called for a full-scale Congressional investigation. But some Republicans say that is not enough.

"I don't think that's sufficient," Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said. "There is considerable concern about the administration's just citing the president's inherent authority or the authorization to go to war with Iraq as grounds for conducting this program. It's a stretch."

The criticism became apparent on Monday, when Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was the sole witness before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a hearing on the legality of the eavesdropping. Mr. Gonzales faced tough questioning from 4 of the 10 Republicans on the panel, including its chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

By week's end, after Ms. Wilson became the first Republican on either the House or the Senate Intelligence Committees to call for a Congressional inquiry, the critics had become a chorus. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said the more she learned about the program, the more its "gray areas" concerned her.

Mr. Specter said he would draft legislation to put the issue in the hands of the intelligence surveillance court by having its judges rule on the constitutionality of the program.

Even Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican and Judiciary Committee member who has been a staunch supporter of the eavesdropping, said that although he did not think the law needed revising, Congress had to have more oversight.

Read On
Seems the Republicans are hearing growly noises from their Libertarian wing.
All I can say is; It is about damned time!

Ex-FEMA Leader Faults Response by White House

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 — Michael D. Brown, the former federal emergency management chief who became a ridiculed symbol of the Bush administration's flawed response to Hurricane Katrina, returned in anger to Capitol Hill on Friday and lashed back at his former superiors.

Mr. Brown said that he told a senior White House official early on of the New Orleans flooding, and that the administration was too focused on terrorism to respond properly to natural disasters.

Testifying before a Senate committee, Mr. Brown said he notified a senior White House official — who he said was probably Joe Hagin, the deputy White House chief of staff, but might have been Andrew H. Card Jr., the chief of staff — on the day the hurricane hit to report that it had turned into his "worst nightmare" and that New Orleans was flooding.

It was the first public identification of any White House official who was said to have directly received reports of extensive flooding on Monday, Aug. 29, the day Hurricane Katrina hit.

In the aftermath of the storm, administration officials said they were caught by surprise when they were told of the levee breach on Tuesday, Aug. 30. Mr. Hagin was the senior staff member with President Bush on the day the hurricane hit, when Mr. Bush was traveling in California.

Mr. Brown's politically charged appearance before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs quickly divided the panel's members by party.

Several Republican senators peppered him with hostile questions and suggested he was trying to deflect the blame from his own failures.

In contrast, Mr. Brown drew a gentle, even warm response from Democrats who said he had unfairly been made a scapegoat by the administration, though last year it was frequently Mr. Brown himself who drew the most fire from Democrats in Washington.

In contrast to low-key statements in the past, Mr. Brown, who resigned under pressure on Sept. 12 as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was aggressively on the defensive, saying he was "sick and tired" of his remarks or e-mail messages being taken out of context or hearing that he lacked the leadership skills for his job.

Mr. Brown said it was "baloney" for Department of Homeland Security officials to claim they did not know of the extent of the flooding until Tuesday, because he and other FEMA officials had notified them the day before.

Read On

Hey, Kids: Spying Is Fun!

By Simon Maxwell Apter,
Posted on February 11, 2006, Printed on February 11, 2006

Move over, McGruff. The trench-coated canine mascot of the National Crime Prevention Council has some youthful competition in the battle for the hearts and minds of America's children. Now in virtual training on the website of the National Security Agency are the CryptoKids, the code-makers and code-breakers of America's future.

The NSA, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, has seven CryptoKids in its trademarked menagerie, including Crypto Cat, versed in Navajo, the language of the storied code talkers of World War II; Decipher Dog, a cryptanalyst who learned the fine points of broadband networking from his stepmother, an NSA network engineer; T. Top, a turtle who knows how to design and build computers; and a language analyst named Rosetta Stone.

This Toys 'R' Us approach to spying is nothing new for the fifteen agencies that comprise the "intelligence community" of the US government, including the CIA, the NSA and the National Reconnaissance Office. In 1997 President Bill Clinton mandated that all government agencies set aside virtual space on their websites for child-friendly material. Today, these sites serve as recruiting portals for America's youth.

The CryptoKids were born in February 2004 within the bowels of Fort Meade and, according to Kwanza Gipson of the NSA public affairs office, were designed "strictly" to reflect only the official information contained within the main website. Of course, since the official stance of the agency concerning the recent warrantless wiretapping scandal has been to deny the program's illegality and to treat domestic spying as business as usual, this strict adherence to the office line conveniently recuses the CryptoKids from having to discuss the issue with children. After all, if General Michael Hayden insists that the program is not "domestic spying," as he did at the Washington Press Club recently, then what more could Sergeant Sam possibly add to the debate?

Moreover, as Gipson points out, "The site offers parents a safe, online environment in which their children can learn and play." Parents can be sure that, of all the voices on the Internet, at least the CryptoKids won't offer underage visitors any controversial information that could lead to a warrantless wiretap. A similar mentality prevails at other kid-friendly government sites.

At the National Reconnaissance Office's NRO Junior site, for example, an animated extra-terrestrial named Whirly Lizard shares stories--first-person accounts ostensibly written by anonymous children but eerily recited by adult voices. With all the sophistication of a Saturday-morning cartoon, these simplistic anecdotes are designed to boost patriotism and an interest in outer space. In a cyber-chapter titled "Proud to Be an American," an unidentified young author explains, "I have my teachers, my friends, my pet, my toys, my home, and my family. I have God to watch me. I love America. I love being me." Corey Corona, an NRO character named for the Eisenhower-era spy satellite, hosts a series of games including Catch, in which the player pilots a cargo plane and tries to intercept various robotic figures falling from outer space.

Cathy Bowers, a spokeswoman for the NRO, based just south of Washington-Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, hearkens back to the educational push of the Sputnik era to explain the purpose of the NRO kids' site. "We need to have children understand the importance of space," she says, "to get them interested in careers in space, intelligence and government. We call space the 'Ultimate Vantage Point.'"

Sparking an interest in the cosmos for a target audience of kindergarteners, first- and second graders shouldn't be difficult. As Bowers points out, kids are already excited by outer space, especially by aliens. The twist here is translating that purely exploratory interest into a desire to spy on friends and neighbors. And ultimately, Bowers says, the website is about security. "It's all about protection," she says.

When asked about the warrantless surveillance that NRO-designed and -operated satellites enable, Bowers toes the intelligence community's line. "We stand behind the President," she says. "Everyone's trying to protect everyone else. Some degree of secrecy is required."

Back at CryptoKids virtual HQ, with a toothy, sugar-cube smile and a nineteenth-century electro-transmitter, an eagle named CSS Sam presides over Operation: Dit-Dah, one of the NSA's games for aspiring young snoops and narcs. Sam teaches Morse code and challenges players to decrypt various words and phrases. For those skeptical about the applicability of 160-year-old Morse code in the Internet age, Sam reminds them in a "fun fact" that "in the movie Independence Day, when all other ways of communicating had been destroyed, the survivors of the alien attack used Morse code to collaborate a counter-attack plan."

It's not just government snoop organizations that blur fiction and fact, imagination and reality on their child-friendly sites. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms website, for example, features the essay "I'm a Bomb Dog Now!"--a first-canine account by Truman, an explosives-sniffing Labrador retriever who works with ATF Special Agent Joe Harrington in New England. Truman's job is essential to national security, he says, because "sometimes people do bad things to try to hurt others. I can help stop that from happening, or, if it has already happened, I can find evidence to help law enforcement officers find out who did it so that the person can never do it again."

With cartoons, games and anthropomorphic animals, America's intelligence community is ensuring security for the next generation. How safe do you feel?

Simon Maxwell Apter, a former muffin baker from Oregon, is an intern at The Nation.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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CIA Leak Scandal Goes to the Top

By Jason Leopold,
Posted on February 10, 2006, Printed on February 11, 2006

Vice President Dick Cheney and then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley led a campaign beginning in March 2003 to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson for publicly criticizing the Bush administration's intelligence on Iraq, according to current and former administration officials.

The officials work or had worked in the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council in a senior capacity and had direct knowledge of the Vice President's campaign to discredit Wilson.

In interviews over the course of two days this week, these officials were urged to speak on the record for this story. But they resisted, saying they had already testified before a grand jury investigating the leak of Wilson's wife, covert CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson, and added that speaking out against the administration and specifically Vice President Cheney would cause them to lose their jobs and subject their families to vitriolic attacks by the White House.

The officials said they decided to speak out now because they have become disillusioned with the Bush administration's policies regarding Iraq and the flawed intelligence that led to the war.

They said their roles, along with several others at the CIA and State Department, included digging up or "inventing" embarrassing information on the former Ambassador that could be used against him, preparing memos and classified material on Wilson for Cheney and the National Security Council, and attending meetings in Cheney's office to discuss with Cheney, Hadley, and others the efforts that would be taken to discredit Wilson.

A former CIA official who has worked in the counter-proliferation division, and is familiar with the undercover work Wilson's wife did for the agency, said Cheney and Hadley visited CIA headquarters a day or two after Joseph Wilson was interviewed on CNN.

These were the first public comments Wilson had made about Iraq. He said the administration was more interested in redrawing the map of the Middle East to pursue its own foreign policy objectives than in dealing with the so-called terrorist threat.

"The underlying objective, as I see it, the more I look at this, is less and less disarmament, and it really has little to do with terrorism, because everybody knows that a war to invade and conquer and occupy Iraq is going to spawn a new generation of terrorists," Wilson said in a March 2, 2003, interview with CNN.

"So you look at what's underpinning this, and you go back and you take a look at who's been influencing the process. And it's been those who really believe that our objective must be far grander, and that is to redraw the political map of the Middle East," Wilson added.

This was the first time that Wilson had spoken out publicly against the administration's policies. It was two and a half weeks before the start of the Iraq war.

But it wasn't Wilson who Cheney was so upset about when he visited the CIA in March 2003.

During the same CNN segment in which Wilson was interviewed, former United Nations weapons inspector David Albright made similar comments about the rationale for the Iraq war and added that he believed UN weapons inspectors should be given more time to search the country for weapons of mass destruction.

The National Security Council and CIA officials said Cheney had visited CIA headquarters and asked several CIA officials to dig up dirt on Albright, and to put together a dossier that would discredit his work that could be distributed to the media.

"Vice President Cheney was more concerned with Mr. Albright," the CIA official said. "The international community had been saying that inspectors should have more time, that the US should not set a deadline. The Vice President felt Mr. Albright's remarks would fuel the debate."

The officials said a "binder" was sent to the Vice President's office that contained material that could be used by the White House to discredit Albright if he continued to comment on the administration's war plans. However, it's unclear whether Cheney or other White House officials used the information against Albright.

A week later, Wilson was interviewed on CNN again. This was the first time Wilson ridiculed the Bush administration's intelligence that claimed Iraq tried to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger.

"Well, this particular case is outrageous. We know a lot about the uranium business in Niger, and for something like this to go unchallenged by US -- the US government -- is just simply stupid. It would have taken a couple of phone calls. We have had an embassy there since the early '60s. All this stuff is open. It's a restricted market of buyers and sellers," Wilson said in the March 8, 2003, CNN interview. "For this to have gotten to the IAEA is on the face of it dumb, but more to the point, it taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq."

What Wilson wasn't at liberty to disclose during that interview, because the information was still classified, was that he had personally traveled to Niger a year earlier on behalf of the CIA to investigate whether Iraq had in fact tried to purchase uranium from the African country. Cheney had asked the CIA in 2002 to look into the allegation, which turned out to be based on forged documents, but was included in President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address nonetheless.

Wilson's comments enraged Cheney, all of the officials said, because they were seen as a personal attack against the Vice President, who was instrumental in getting the intelligence community to cite the Niger claims in government reports to build a case for war against Iraq.

The former Ambassador's stinging rebuke also caught the attention of Stephen Hadley, who played an even bigger role in the Niger controversy, having been responsible for allowing President Bush to cite the allegations in his State of the Union address.

At this time, the international community, various media outlets, and the International Atomic Energy Association had called into question the veracity of the Niger documents. Mohammed ElBaradei, head of IAEA, told the UN Security Council on March 7, 2003, that the Niger documents were forgeries and could not be used to prove Iraq was a nuclear threat.

Wilson's comments in addition to ElBaradei's UN report were seen as a threat to the administration's attack plans against Iraq, the officials said, which would take place 11 days later.

Hadley had avoided making public comments about the veracity of the Niger documents, going as far as ignoring a written request by IAEA head Mohammed ElBaradei to share the intelligence with his agency so his inspectors could verify the claims. Hadley is said to have known the Niger documents were crude forgeries, but pushed the administration to cite it as evidence that Iraq was a nuclear threat, according to the State Department officials, who said they personally told Hadley in a written report that the documents were bogus.

The CIA and State Department officials said that a day after Wilson's March 8, 2003, CNN appearance, they attended a meeting at the Vice President's office chaired by Cheney, and it was there that a decision was made to discredit Wilson. Those who attended the meeting included I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff who was indicted in October for lying to investigators, perjury and obstruction of justice related to his role in the Plame Wilson leak, Hadley, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, and John Hannah, Cheney's deputy national security adviser, the officials said.

"The way I remember it," the CIA official said about that first meeting he attended in Cheney's office, "is that the vice president was obsessed with Wilson. He called him an 'asshole,' a son-of-a-bitch. He took his comments very personally. He wanted us to do everything in our power to destroy his reputation and he wanted to be kept up to date about the progress."

A spokeswoman for Cheney would not comment for this story, saying the investigation into the leak is ongoing. The spokeswoman refused to give her name. Additional calls made to Cheney's office were not returned.

The CIA, State Department and National Security Council officials said that early on they had passed on information about Wilson to Cheney and Libby that purportedly showed Wilson as being a "womanizer" and that he had dabbled in drugs during his youth, allegations that are apparently false, they said.

The officials said that during the meeting, Hadley said he would respond to Wilson's comments by writing an editorial about the Iraqi threat, which it was hoped would be a first step in overshadowing Wilson's CNN appearance.

A column written by Hadley that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on February 16, 2003, was redistributed to newspaper editors by the State Department on March 10, 2003, two days after Wilson was interviewed on CNN. The column, "Two Potent Iraqi Weapons: Denial and Deception" once again raised the issue that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger.

Cheney appeared on Meet the Press on March 16, 2003, to respond to ElBaradei's assertion that the Niger documents were forgeries.

"I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong," Cheney said during the interview. "[The IAEA] has consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past."

Cheney knew the State Department had prepared a report saying the Niger claims were false, but he thought the report had no merit, the two State Department officials said. Meanwhile, the CIA was preparing information for the vice president and his senior aides on Wilson should the former ambassador decide to speak out against the administration again.

Behind the scenes, Wilson had been speaking to various members of Congress about the administration's use of the Niger documents and had said the intelligence the White House relied upon was flawed, said one of the State Department officials who had a conversation with Wilson. Wilson's criticism of the administration's intelligence eventually leaked out to reporters, but with the Iraq war just a week away, the story was never covered.

It's unclear whether anyone disseminated information on Wilson in March 2003, following the meeting in Cheney's office. Although the officials said they helped prepare negative information on Wilson about his personal and professional life and had given it to Libby and Cheney, Wilson seemed to drop off the radar once the Iraq war started on March 19, 2003.

With no sign of weapons of mass destruction to be found in Iraq, news accounts started to call into question the credibility of the administration's pre-war intelligence. In May 2003, Wilson re-emerged at a political conference in Washington sponsored by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. There he told the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff that he had been the special envoy who traveled to Niger in February 2002 to check out allegations that Iraq tried to purchase uranium from the country. He told Kristoff he briefed a CIA analyst that the claims were untrue. Wilson said he believed the administration had ignored his report and were dishonest with Congress and the American people.

When Kristoff's column was published in the Times, the CIA official said, "a request came in from Cheney that was passed to me that said 'the vice president wants to know whether Joe Wilson went to Niger.' I'm paraphrasing. But that's more or less what I was asked to find out."

In his column, Kristoff Had accused Cheney of allowing the truth about the Niger documents the administration used to build a case for war to go "missing in action." The failure of US armed forces to find any WMDs in Iraq in two months following the start of the war had been blamed on Cheney.

What in the previous months had been a request to gather information that could be used to discredit Wilson now turned into a full-scale effort involving the Office of the Vice President, the National Security Council, and the State Department to find out how Wilson came to be chosen to investigate the Niger uranium allegations.

"Cheney and Libby made it clear that Wilson had to be shut down," the CIA official said. "This wasn't just about protecting the credibility of the White House. For the vice president, going after Wilson was purely personal, in my opinion."

Cheney was personally involved in this aspect of the information gathering process as well, visiting CIA headquarters to inquire about Wilson, the CIA official said. Hadley had also raised questions about Wilson during this month with the State Department officials and asked that information regarding Wilson's trip to Niger be sent to his attention at the National Security Council.

That's when Valerie Plame Wilson's name popped up showing that she was a covert CIA operative. The former CIA official who works in the counter-proliferation division said another meeting about Wilson took place in Cheney's office, attended by the same individuals who were there in March. But Cheney didn't take part in it, the officials said.

"Libby led the meeting," one of the State Department officials said. "But he was just as upset about Wilson as Cheney was."

The officials said that as of late May 2003 the only correspondence they had had was with Libby and Hadley. They said they were unaware who had made the decision to unmask Plame Wilson's undercover CIA status to a handful of reporters.

George Tenet, the former director of the CIA, took responsibility for allowing what is widely referred to as the infamous "sixteen words" to be included in Bush's State of the Union address. Tenet's mea culpa came one day after Wilson penned an op-ed for the New York Times in which he accused the administration of "twisting" intelligence on Iraq. In the column, Wilson revealed that he was the special envoy who traveled to Niger to investigate the uranium claims.

Tenet is working on a book titled At the Center of the Storm with former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, which it is expected will be published later this year. Tenet will reportedly come clean on how the "sixteen words made it into the President's State of the Union speech, according to, an industry newsletter.

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame Wilson leak for more than two years, questioned Cheney about his role in the leak in 2004. Cheney did not testify under oath, and it's unknown what he told the special prosecutor.

On September 14, 2003, during an interview with Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press," Cheney maintained that he didn't know Wilson or have any knowledge about his Niger trip or who was responsible for leaking his wife's name to the media.

"I don't know Joe Wilson," Cheney said, in response to Russert, who quoted Wilson as saying there was no truth to the Niger uranium claims. "I've never met Joe Wilson. And Joe Wilson -- I don't who sent Joe Wilson. He never submitted a report that I ever saw when he came back … I don't know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn't judge him. I have no idea who hired him."

Jason Leopold, a regular contributor to TruthOut, spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires.

© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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The Permanent Energy Crisis

Published on Friday, February 10, 2006
by Michael T. Klare
President Bush's State of the Union comment that the United States is "addicted to oil" can be read as pure political opportunism. With ever more Americans expressing anxiety about high oil prices, freakish weather patterns, and abiding American ties to unsavory foreign oil potentates, it is hardly surprising that Bush sought to portray himself as an advocate of the development of alternative energy systems. But there is another, more ominous way to read his comments: that top officials have come to realize that the United States and the rest of the world face a new and growing danger – a permanent energy crisis that imperils the health and well-being of every society on earth.

To be sure, the United States has experienced severe energy crises before: the 1973-74 "oil shock" with its mile-long gas lines; the 1979-80 crisis following the fall of the Shah of Iran; the 2000-01 electricity blackouts in California, among others. But the crisis taking shape in 2006 has a new look to it. First of all, it is likely to last for decades, not just months or a handful of years; second, it will engulf the entire planet, not just a few countries; and finally, it will do more than just cripple the global economy -- its political, military, and environmental effects will be equally severe.

If you had to date it, you could say that our permanent energy crisis began, appropriately enough, on New Year's Day, 2006, when Russia's state-owned natural gas monopoly, Gazprom, cut off gas deliveries to Ukraine in punishment for that country's pro-Western leanings. Although Gazprom has since resumed some deliveries, it is now evident that Moscow is fully prepared to employ its abundant energy reserves as a political weapon at a time of looming natural gas shortages worldwide. It won't be the last country to do so in the years to come. In just the few weeks since then, the world has experienced a series of similar energy-related disturbances:

* The sabotage of natural gas pipelines to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, producing widespread public discomfort at a time of unusually frigid temperatures;

* An eruption of oil-related ethnic violence in Nigeria, resulting in a sharp reduction in that country's petroleum output;

* Threats by Iran to cut off exports of oil and gas in retaliation for any sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council over its suspect nuclear enrichment activities;

* And as result of such developments, a series of mini-spikes in crude oil prices as well as reports in the business press that, if this pattern of instability continues, such prices could easily rise beyond $80 per barrel to hit the once unimaginable $100 per barrel range.

Vectors of Crisis

Events like these will certainly spread economic pain and hardship globally, especially to those who cannot afford higher transportation and heating-fuel costs. As it happens, though, these are not isolated, unrelated events. Think of them as expressions of a deeper crisis. Like the tremors before a major earthquake, they suggest the dangerous accumulation of powerful energy forces that will roil the planet for years to come.

Although we cannot hope to foresee all the ways such forces will affect the global human community, the primary vectors of the permanent energy crisis can be identified and charted. Three such vectors, in particular, demand attention: a slowing in the growth of energy supplies at a time of accelerating worldwide demand; rising political instability provoked by geopolitical competition for those supplies; and mounting environmental woes produced by our continuing addiction to oil, natural gas, and coal. Each of these would be cause enough for worry, but it is their intersection that we need to fear above all.

Energy experts have long warned that global oil and gas supplies are not likely to be sufficiently expandable to meet anticipated demand. As far back as the mid-1990s, peak-oil theorists like Kenneth Deffeyes of Princeton University and Colin Campbell of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO) insisted that the world was heading for a peak-oil moment and would soon face declining petroleum output. At first, most mainstream experts dismissed these claims as simplistic and erroneous, while government officials and representatives of the big oil companies derided them. Recently, however, a sea-change in elite opinion has been evident. First Matthew Simmons, the chairman of Simmons and Company International of Houston, America's leading energy-industry investment bank, and then David O'Reilly, CEO of Chevron, the country's second largest oil firm, broke ranks with their fellow oil magnates and embraced the peak-oil thesis. O'Reilly has been particularly outspoken, taking full-page ads in the New York Times and other papers to declare, "One thing is clear: the era of easy oil is over."

The exact moment of peak oil's arrival is not as important as the fact that world oil output will almost certainly fall short of global demand, given the fossil-fuel voraciousness of the older industrialized nations, especially the United States, and soaring demand from China, India, and other rapidly growing countries. The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) projects global oil demand to grow by 35% between 2004 and 2025 -- from 82 million to 111 million barrels per day. The DoE predicts that daily oil output will rise by a conveniently similar amount -- from 83 million to 111 million barrels. Voilá! -- the problem of oil sufficiency disappears. But even a cursory glance at the calculations made by the DoE's experts is enough to raise suspicions: Behind such estimates lies the assumption that key oil producers like Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia can double or triple their oil production -- unlikely in the extreme, according to most sober analysts. On top of this, the DoE has been lowering its own oil-production estimates: In 2003, it predicted that global oil output would reach 123 million barrels per day by 2025; by the end of 2005, that number had already dropped by12 million barrels, reflecting a growing pessimism even among the globe's great oil optimists.

This is not to say that oil will disappear in the years ahead: There will still be adequate supplies for well-heeled consumers who can afford higher fuel bills. But much of the world's easy-to-acquire petroleum has already been extracted and significant portions of what remains can only be found in places that present significant drilling challenges like the hurricane-prone Gulf of Mexico or the iceberg-infested waters of the North Atlantic -- or in perennially conflict-ridden and sabotage-vulnerable areas of Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

No Escape from Scarcity

To make the energy picture grimmer, "spare" or "surge" capacity seems to be disappearing in the major oil-producing regions. At one time, key producers like Saudi Arabia retained an excess production capacity, allowing them to rapidly boost their output in times of potential energy crisis like the 1990-91 Gulf War. But Saudi Arabia, like the other big suppliers, is now producing at full tilt and so possesses zero capacity to increase output. In other words, any politically inspired (or sabotage related) cutoff in oil exports from countries like Russia or Iran will produce instant energy shock on a global scale and send oil prices soaring to, or through, that $100 a barrel barrier.

A chronic shortage of oil would be hard enough for the world community to cope with even if other sources of energy were in great supply. But this is not the case. Natural gas -- the world's second leading source of energy -- is also at risk of future shortages. While there are still major deposits of gas in Russia and Iran (potentially the world's number one and two suppliers) waiting to be tapped, obstacles to their exploitation loom large. The United States is doing everything it can to prevent Iran from exporting its gas (for example, by strong-arming India into abandoning a proposed gas pipeline from Iran), while Moscow has actively discouraged Europe from increasing its reliance on Russian gas through its recent cutoff of supplies to Ukraine and other worrisome actions.

In North America, the supply of natural gas is rapidly disappearing. In a reflection of our desperate (and demented) condition, Canada is now starting to divert some of its remaining natural gas to the manufacture of synthetic oil from tar sands, so as to ease the pressure on supplies of conventional petroleum. Given the prohibitive cost of building gas pipelines from Asia and Africa, the only practical way to get more gas supplies to North America would be to spend several hundred billion dollars (or more) on facilities for converting foreign sources of gas into liquified natural gas (LNG), shipping the LNG in giant doubled-hulled vessels across the Atlantic and Pacific, and then converting it back into a gas in "regasification" plants in American harbors. Although favored by the Bush administration, plans to construct such plants have provoked opposition in many coastal communities because of the risk of accidental explosion as well as the potential for inviting terrorist attacks.

As for renewables -- wind, solar, and biomass -- these are still at a relatively early stage of development. With a trillion dollars or so of added investment they could indeed ease some of the strain on fossil fuels in decades to come; however, at present rates of investment, this is not likely to occur. The same can be said of "safe" nuclear power and "clean" coal -- even if the severe problems associated with both of these energy options could be overcome, it would take several decades and a few trillion dollars before they could possibly replace existing energy systems. The only source of energy that can compensate for a shortage of oil and gas at this time is conventional (unclean) coal, and a rise in its consumption would increase the risk of catastrophic climate change.

The New "Great Game"

With looming energy shortages, the risk of conflict over energy access (and the wealth fossil fuels generate) is certain to grow. Throughout history, competition over the control of key supplies of vital raw materials has been a source of friction between major powers and there is every reason to assume that this will continue to be the case. "Just at it did when the Great Game was played out in the decades leading up to the First World War, ongoing industrialization is setting off a scramble for natural resources," John Gray of the London School of Economics observed in a recent article in the New York Review of Books. "The coming century could be marked by recurrent resource wars, as the great powers struggle for control of the world's hydrocarbons."

As in the Great Game, such conflicts most likely would not arise from head-on clashes between the great powers, but rather through the escalation of local conflicts sustained by great power involvement, as was the case in the Balkans prior to World War I. In their competitive pursuit of assured energy supplies, today's great powers -- led by the United States and China -- are developing or cementing close ties with favored suppliers in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa. In many cases, this entails the delivery of large quantities of advanced weaponry, advisors, and military technology -- as the United States has long been doing with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, and China is now doing with Iran and Sudan.

Nor should the possibility of a direct clash over oil and gas between great powers be ruled out. In the East China Sea, for example, China and Japan have both laid claim to an undersea natural gas field that lies in an offshore area also claimed by both of them. In recent months, Chinese and Japanese combat ships and planes deployed in the area have made threatening moves toward one another; so far no shots have been fired, but neither Beijing nor Tokyo have displayed any willingness to compromise on the matter and the risk of escalation is growing with each new encounter.

The likelihood of internal conflict in oil-producing countries is also destined to grow in tandem with the steady rise of energy prices. The higher the price of petroleum, the greater the potential to reap mammoth profits from control of a nation's oil exports -- and so the greater the incentive to seize power in such states or, for those already in power, to prevent the loss of control to a rival clique by any means necessary. Hence the rise of authoritarian petro-regimes in many of the oil-producing countries and the persistence of ethnic conflict between various groups seeking control over state-oil revenues -- a phenomenon notable today in Iraq (where Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds are battling over the allocation of future oil revenues) and in Nigeria (where competing tribes in the oil-rich Delta region are fighting over measly "development grants" handed out by the major foreign oil firms).

"Up to this point," Senator Richard G. Lugar told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 16, "the main issues surrounding oil have been how much we have to pay for it and whether we will experience supply disruptions. But in the decades to come, the issue may be whether the world's supply of oil is abundant and accessible enough to support continued economic growth…. When we reach the point where the world's oil-hungry economies are competing for insufficient supplies of energy, oil will become an even stronger magnet for conflict than it already is."

Averting Environmental Catastrophe

In addition to this danger, we face the entire range of environmental perils associated with our continuing reliance on fossil fuels. Consider this: The DoE predicted in July 2005 that worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide (the principal source of the "greenhouse gases" responsible for global warming) will rise by nearly 60% between 2002 and 2025 -- with virtually all of this increase, about 15 billion metric tons of CO2, coming from the consumption of oil, gas, and coal. If this projection proves accurate, the world will probably pass the threshold at which it will be possible to avert significant global heating, a substantial rise in sea-levels, and all the resulting environmental damage.

The surest way to slow the increase in global carbon emissions is to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to alternative forms of energy. But because such alternatives are not currently capable of replacing oil, gas, and coal on a significant scale (and won't be, at present rates of investment, for another few decades), the temptation to increase reliance on fossil fuels is likely to remain strong. We are, in fact, caught in a conundrum: the world needs more energy to satisfy rising global demand, and the only way to accomplish this at present is to squeeze out more oil, gas, and coal from the Earth, thereby hastening the onset of catastrophic climate change. In turn, the only way to avert such change is to consume less oil, gas, and coal, which would involve severe economic costs of a sort that most national leaders would be reluctant to consider. Hence, we will be trapped in a permanent crisis brought on by our collective addiction to cheap energy.

The sole way out of this trap is to bite the bullet and adopt heroic measures to curb our fossil-fuel consumption while embarking upon a massive program to develop alternative energy systems – an effort comparable to, and in some sense a reversal of, the coal-and-oil-fueled industrial revolution of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In the United States, this would, at an utter minimum, entail the imposition of a hefty tax on gasoline consumption, with the resulting proceeds used to fund the rapid development of renewable energy systems. All funds now slated for highway construction should instead be devoted to public transit and high-speed inter-city rail lines and all new cars sold in America after 2010 should have minimum average fuel efficiencies of 50 MPG or higher. This will prove costly and disruptive -- but what other choice is there if we want to have some hope of exiting the permanent global energy crisis before the global economy collapses or the planet becomes uninhabitable by humans.

Michael T. Klare is the Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum (Owl Books) as well as Resource Wars, The New Landscape of Global Conflict.

© 2006 Tom Engelhardt