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Gaza’s children suffering from malnutrition- 8 June 08
Gaza’s hospitals are used to treating victims of rocket attacks and gunfire. But now their waiting rooms are increasingly filled with severely malnourished children. Since Israel imposed a blockade on the strip following the Hamas takeover a year ago, families have been struggling to feed their children. Al Jazeera’s Owen Fay reports from Gaza.
A Peek At The Neocon Agenda Behind The Mask
Oh, they will tell you they are about God’s work and are saved in the arms of Jesus, but the true business of the GOP does not reflect their vote-getting, Jesus talking points in the remotest way. But wait. Let’s be fair. It’s not really the GOP that’s to blame; it’s the Necons. You know, the new chip off the GOP block who tries to sanctify wars and violence, stealing from the Treasury, war-profiteering attacks of Iraq (who never harmed us), and shredding the Constitution so that not all Americans will enjoy the same rights that Bush’s cronies do? We know them; they are the Neocon scoundrels who have borrowed and spent us into the Dark Ages. Indeed, we know these villains; they been in power for years, and until Bush’s term expires, they will continue to scorch the country blacker than when Sherman burned Atlanta.
It’s not the Republican Party, the GOP. It’s those who slithered into power and took over the GOP so they could steal and, and at the same time, make it all sound holy and righteous. Today’s GOP Neocons in charge, starting with George W. Bush, are dedicated to eliminating the Middle Class and the Poor. Don’t believe it? Just take a look at Bush’s lopsided Tax Cuts for the Rich. Yep, 2 Trillion dollars worth of payback rewards to Bush’s self-proclaimed “Have-More” base for supporting him. And who pays? The taxpayer who gets little or no tax cuts while the Neocons laugh all the way to the bank. So what part of Jesus’ teachings did the Neocons twist to line their own pockets? And why did we buy into it?
So you ask them, “Who would Jesus attack?” The Religious Right squirms when you ask them about that or any of their “fantasy-world” teachings of Jesus, nonexistent on any page in the Bible. Respectability by association, not by deeds, is the Neocon mantra. They cannot tell you where the Bible says Jesus advises us to smite thy brother on the other cheek before he smites thee. Yet these Neocon Christians are big on starting wars against Muslims. And their need to legitimize their acts is demonic. And what does Jesus have to say about money and the love of it? Well, He said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven. Yet, these modern Neocons who attach themselves to the Bible like barnacles will tell you outright, “Jesus doesn’t want you to be poor.” Guess that’s why it’s okay for Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Baker, and Pat Robertson to drive Mercedes and keep yachts and slush funds for exotic vacations, all in the name of Jesus, right? Forget the scriptures where Jesus tells the rich man who wants to join Him as a disciple to first give all his money away to the poor. It didn’t happen. Neocons hate that part. It stomps on too many of their toes, and even tears their socks.
When asked about the correctness of paying taxes to Rome, Jesus asked to see a coin of the realm during the reign of Caesar. He then asked whose picture was on the coin, and when ‘Caesar’ was the reply, Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. And unto God what is God’s.” Would Jesus advocate the reckless throwing away of money to pay taxes by the Roman occupiers of Israel? He would. And would rich Neocons like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, or Sean Hannity favor rendering their $92,000.00 annual tax cuts to the U.S. Treasury to help pay off the $9.5 Trillion dollar debt we accumulated by financing the Iraq War OFF BUDGET? Probably not. Why not? What would Jesus say?
The Crusades said it all about how spoils and money taken in the name of Jesus were distributed. Various Popes of Rome rallied thousands of knights from many countries in Europe to go to Jerusalem and take back the Holy Land from the Infidels (Muslims and Jews who had lived there from before the time of Jesus). In the IV Crusade, 1204 AD, Crusaders intended to take the city of Constantinople back from the Muslims and to protect and defend the riches of the church therein (like, in gold and silver). Word had it that the Infidels held the city. When they arrived, however, the gallant knights found that Christianity was alive and well within the walls of the church. Catholic mass and vespers routinely were still conducted; the Infidels had no claim on the church or its riches. What a letdown the Crusaders experienced. All that gold and no Infidels to behead in its taking. They waited a few days. Then without provocation, they attacked the church and sacked it of all its treasures anyway. They saved Christianity from the Christians. Say what? Psst. As James Carville might say, ‘It’s the gold, stupid.’ Dude, don’t we need to get a clue on how nations and churches use Jesus to justify stealing? Or as justification to attack countries with oil? Oops, I meant to say gold. Check it out at: http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/1204.html
Back in those days, the defenders of the Christian faith had the quest of running all the Infidels out of the Holy Land. Best to forget about the gold the Crusaders stole and the towns they pillaged while on their godly mission. And forget about from whom the gold was taken or who was pillaged. Sound familiar?
In retrospect, how were those divinely propagandized motives of the Crusades different from today’s Neocon talking points for bringing democracy to the Middle East? Pay attention for there will be a quiz at the end as to the Necons’ bottom line reason for attacking Iraq in 2008.
Fast-forwarding about 320 years, we have Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain, taking a break from directing the Spanish Inquisition to send Columbus to discover America. Later, their grandson, Charles V sent mercenaries like Hernando Cortez to bring Christianity to the American Indians. Charles V was not only King of Spain, but Pope of Rome at the same time. So bringing Christianity to the American Indians was a divine right of kings in spades, so to speak. Once ashore, Cortez met Montezuma, chief of the Aztecs who escorted Cortez and his army to the Aztec capital city Teotihuacan, where Mexico City stands today. In a short time, the Spanish Friars burned the Aztecs’ history books and the Aztecs like firewood to properly cleanse the savages of all their evil ways. And all this, in the name of Jesus was directed by Cortez, an ex-convict. He and his Conquistadores soldiers of fortune became rich. With the blessing of King/Pope Charles V, Cortez and his marauders took all the gold they could find and sent it back to Spain where each soldier got lucrative credits in the Spanish Treasury for their missionary work in the name of Jesus. Their gold quotas were high, but no matter, the more they stole, the more they got to keep. So gold was the prize, once again, once the Aztecs were routed, their cities torn down, and Christian churches erected on the same sites with the same stones. Blessed by the Church the stones became pure again. King Charles V enlisted the Friars just as surely as the GOP enlisted Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and all his Christian voters to do the bidding of the Lord by twice electing Ronald Reagan to the presidency. Without shame, the new GOP (Neocons) and the Religious Right became one. Having Jesus on your side helps when you are destroying the Aztecs for gold or attacking Iraq for oil.
George W. Bush, a self-proclaimed born-again Christian, told Russian president Alex Putin that he speaks to God, and God speaks back. According to Putin, Dubya told him that God told him to attack Iraq. What a wonderful combination to get preemptive war with Iraq blessed by God in advance. And all that oil, to boot. Holy enmeshment! But listen, how are today’s Bushite policies similar to those of the Crusaders and the Conquistadors? Quiz time. What is the bonus received from Bush’s attacking Iraq and bringing them democracy? If you answered, we feel good, no points. To remove an evil dictator who gassed his own people? Nope. To kill terrorists? Nope. There weren’t any until we attacked Iraq and opened the door for them to blow across the border like Katrina blew across Lake Ponchatrain. So what is the correct answer? To control the Oil? Well, partly. But that’s a sub bonus if we ever get around to taking it. So what’s our payoff for venturing into nation-building and keeping boots on the ground in Iraq?
Simple: It’s good for bidness. George W. Bush, himself, said so recently. Halliburton, General Electric, Exxon, every company that makes goods or renders services to a war economy, wins. Blackwater, a mercenary army for hire owned by fundamentalist Christian, Erik Prince, got a Billion dollar no-bid contract for services rendered in Iraq. That was a few months ago, the check was cashed, and now it’s probably at Two Billion. All the security-oriented corporations who advise and manufacture anti-terrorist equipment such as flak jackets and night vision optics, all win. The big bucks are in bullets and planes, hardware, tanks, the big iron stuff. Software sales flourish, and Tomahawk Missiles, at a million bucks a copy ain’t nothing to sneeze at, either. The money flows and flows and flows. And when the government is at war, the multiplier increases by at least 10 times. For example, a $60.00 toilet at Lowes or the Home Depot can now be charged off to Uncle Sam for at least $600.00. Wait a minute, I got confused. It’s the toilet seat, not the toilet that sells for $600.00 when you got a no-bid gummint contract. My, my, the multiplier might be more like 30 times, who knows? But more importantly, who cares? Nobody, it seems, because the Neocons at war always carry their Bibles to the podiums of America and they sign off with ‘God Bless America’ so that we will rest assured that they are about God’s business. Even now, nobody demonstrates in the streets against Bush’s Iraq War. Or the decimated dollar or a shredded Bill of Rights we once had under the Constitution. Habeas Corpus, what’s that? Military tribunals? No way, you say. After the Bush/Cheney juggernaut finishes with us and takes it all and sells us down the river for good, what will we have left? Jobs? Anybody see the airline layoffs in the thousands this week? How ‘bout them gas prices at the pump? We used to get it. But now, maybe we are in shock and just don’t get it. Perhaps ‘God Bless Us Poor Americans’ might be a more urgent and to the point plea for help.
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By Rosie Boycott
07th June 2008
The phrase ‘nine meals from anarchy’ sounds more like the title of a bad Hollywood movie than any genuine threat.
But that was the expression coined by Lord Cameron of Dillington, a farmer who was the first head of the Countryside Agency – the quango set up by Tony Blair in the days when he pretended to care about the countryside – to describe just how perilous Britain’s food supply actually is.
Long before many others, Cameron saw the potential of a real food crisis striking not just the poor of the Third World, but us, here in Britain, in the 21st Century.
The scenario goes like this. Imagine a sudden shutdown of oil supplies; a sudden collapse in the petrol that streams steadily through the pumps and so into the engines of the lorries which deliver our food around the country, stocking up the supermarket shelves as soon as any item runs out.
If the trucks stopped moving, we’d start to worry and we’d head out to the shops, stocking up our larders. By the end of Day One, if there was still no petrol, the shelves would be looking pretty thin. Imagine, then, Day Two: your fourth, fifth and sixth meal. We’d be in a panic. Day three: still no petrol.
By Greg Grandin
June 08, 2008
Google “neglect,” “Washington,” and “Latin America,” and you will be led to thousands of hand-wringing calls from politicians and pundits for Washington to “pay more attention” to the region. True, Richard Nixon once said that “people don’t give one shit” about the place. And his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger quipped that Latin America is a “dagger pointed at the heart of Antarctica.” But Kissinger also made that same joke about Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand — and, of the three countries, only the latter didn’t suffer widespread political murder as a result of his policies, a high price to pay for such a reportedly inconsequential place.
Latin America, in fact, has been indispensable in the evolution of U.S. diplomacy. The region is often referred to as America’s “backyard,” but a better metaphor might be Washington’s “strategic reserve,” the place where ascendant foreign-policy coalitions regroup and redraw the outlines of U.S. power, following moments of global crisis.
When the Great Depression had the U.S. on the ropes, for example, it was in Latin America that New Deal diplomats worked out the foundations of liberal multilateralism, a diplomatic framework that Washington would put into place with much success elsewhere after World War II.
By Jeremy Scahill
06/07/08 “The Nation”
This past September, the secretive mercenary company Blackwater USA found its name splashed across front pages throughout the world after the company’s shooters gunned down seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. But by early 2008, Blackwater had largely receded from the headlines save for the occasional blip on the media radar sparked by Congressman Henry Waxman’s ongoing investigations into its activities. Its forces remained deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and business continued to pour in. In the two weeks directly following Nisour Square, Blackwater signed more than $144 million in contracts with the State Department for “protective services” in Iraq and Afghanistan alone and, over the following weeks and months, won millions more in contracts with other federal entities like the Coast Guard, the Navy and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
Blackwater’s Iraq contract was extended in April, but the company is by no means betting the house on its long-term presence there. While the firm is quietly maintaining its Iraq work, it is aggressively pursuing other business opportunities.
The George W. Bush administration responded to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon with an assault on U.S. civil liberty that Bush justified in the name of the “war on terror.” The government assured us that the draconian measures apply only to “terrorists.” The word terrorist, however, was not defined. The government claimed the discretionary power to decide who is a terrorist without having to present evidence or charges in a court of law.
Frankly, the Bush administration’s policy evades any notion of procedural due process of law. Administration assurances that harsh treatment is reserved only for terrorists is meaningless when the threshold process for determining who is and who is not a terrorist depends on executive discretion that is not subject to review. Substantive rights are useless without the procedural rights to enforce them.
Terrorist legislation and executive assertions created a basis upon which federal authorities claimed they were free to suspend suspects’ civil liberties in order to defend Americans from terrorism. Only after civil liberties groups and federal courts challenged some of the unconstitutional laws and procedures did realization spread that the Bush administration’s assault on the Bill of Rights is a greater threat to Americans than are terrorists.
The alacrity with which Congress accepted the initial assault from the administration is frightening. In 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act passed by a vote of 98 to 1 in the Senate and by 357 to 66 in the House. The act was already written and waiting on the shelf before the 9/11 attack. Indeed, the FBI and Department of Justice have tried for years to introduce PATRIOT Act provisions into the law. That act was introduced immediately after the attacks, and few members of Congress read its contents prior to passing it.
Federal courts declared some provisions of the legislation to be unconstitutional. Vague language criminalizing “expert advice or assistance” as material support for terrorism was thrown out, as were gag orders and “National Security Letters” used to obtain private information without judicial oversight. Despite challenges from the American Civil Liberties Union and resolutions passed in 8 states and 396 cities and counties condemning the act for its attack on civil liberties, Congress reauthorized the act in March 2006, making most of it permanent and sending a clear signal that the “war on terror” takes precedence over civil liberty.
The PATRIOT Act’s infringements of civil liberty are serious, but they pale by comparison to the Bush administration’s assertion of executive power to set aside habeas corpus protection for both citizens and noncitizens declared by the executive branch to be “enemy combatants.” The Bush administration claimed and exercised the power to hold indefinitely anyone so designated without access to legal representation. In other words, the Bush administration claimed the discretionary and unaccountable power to imprison whomever it wished.
In keeping with its self-declared powers, the Bush administration quickly rounded up hundreds of detainees whom it claimed – without evidence – to be “enemy combatants.” Four detainees, Rasul, Hamdi, Padilla, and Hamdan, consisting of a British citizen, two American citizens, and an Afghan, respectively, challenged the administration in federal court cases that reached the Supreme Court.
In Rasul v. Bush the Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that, contrary to Bush administration assertions, the courts have jurisdiction over Guantánamo and that detainees must be allowed to challenge their detention.
Also in June 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that Hamdi, an American citizen, was deprived of due process and had the right to challenge his detention. However, the ruling was far from a clean sweep for civil liberty. Both noted civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate (Reason, January 2005) and John Yoo, a Department of Justice apologist for the new tyranny, agree that the Supreme Court decision left flexibility and room for the government to maneuver and prevail in the end.
In December 2003, an appellate court ruled that U.S. citizen José Padilla could not be denied habeas corpus protection. To forestall another Supreme Court ruling against the Bush administration, the administration withdrew Padilla’s status as “enemy combatant” and filed criminal charges that bore no relationship to the administration’s original assertions that Padilla was plotting to explode a “dirty bomb” in an American city. As Harvey Silverglate has documented (Boston Phoenix, September 16, 2005), the Padilla case is also an extraordinary story of “forum shopping” (picking a court where judges are friendly to its case) by the Department of Justice.
Forced by the federal judiciary to release José Padilla from years of illegal detention or to put him on trial, the Bush administration had to scramble to put together some kind of charges. The best that the Bush administration could do was to charge Padilla not with any terrorist acts, but with wanting to be a terrorist – a “terrorist-wannabe” to use the words of Andrew Cohen (WashingtonPost.com, August 16, 2007).
By the time Padilla went to trial, he had been demonized for years in the media as an “enemy combatant” who intended to set off a radioactive bomb. Peter Whoriskey (Washington Post, August 17, 2007) described the Padilla Jury as a patriotic jury that appeared in court with one row of jurors dressed in red, one in white, and one in blue. It was a jury primed to be psychologically and emotionally manipulated by federal prosecutors. No member of this jury was going to return home to accusations of letting off the “dirty bomber.”
Evidence, of which there was little, if any, played no role in the case. The chief FBI agent, James T. Kavanaugh, testified in court that the intercepted telephone conversations were innocuous and contained no references to terrorism or Islamic extremism, but the jury wasn’t listening. The judge allowed prosecutors to show the jury a ten-year-old video of Osama bin Laden that had no relevance to the case, but which served to arouse in jurors fear, anger, and disturbing memories of September 11, 2001. The jury convicted Padilla on all counts, despite the total absence of any evidence that he had ever committed a terrorist act or had agreed to commit such an act.
By convicting Padilla, the jury opened Pandora’s box and created a Benthamite precedent for imprisoning U.S. citizens on the suspicion that they might commit a terrorist act.
In July 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court ruled that Bush’s military tribunals violate U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions.
Republicans, who tend to regard civil liberties as devices that coddle criminals and terrorists, turned to legislation in attempts to subvert the Supreme Court’s defense of the U.S. Constitution. In November 2005, the Senate Republicans passed an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act offered by Lindsay Graham of South Carolina authorizing the president to deny habeas corpus protection to Guantánamo detainees. The fact that it was known by this time that the vast majority of the detainees were hapless individuals who were captured by Afghan warlords and sold to the Americans, who were paying a bounty for “terrorists,” carried no weight with the Republican senators.
The Republicans replied to Hamdan v. Rumsfeld with the Military Commissions Act passed in September 2006 and signed by Bush in October. The act strips detainees of protections provided by the Geneva Conventions: “No alien unlawful enemy combatant subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights.” Other provisions of the act strip detainees of speedy trials and of protection against torture and self-incrimination. This heinous law has a breathtaking provision that retroactively protects torturers against prosecution for war crimes.
The act explicitly denies habeas corpus protection and access to federal courts to any alien detained by the U.S. government as an “enemy combatant” and any alien awaiting determination of his status. The act reads: “No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the US who has been determined by the US to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.”
This act is as atrocious a piece of legislation as the world has ever seen. It permits people to be sentenced to death on the basis of hearsay, secret evidence, and on a confession extracted by torture. Indeed, detainees could be shot in the back of the head without undergoing the kangaroo tribunal and no one would ever know or be held legally responsible.
A number of legal experts have concluded that there is no assurance that the act cannot be applied to U.S. citizens. Although language in the act refers to “alien unlawful enemy combatant,” other language in the document does not limit the act’s applicability only to aliens. Legal scholars have warned that the legislation defines enemy combatant in such broad language that the act applies to any person whom the executive branch declares has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States. No evidence for the charge is necessary. By seizing the power to decide who is and who is not an “enemy combatant,” the executive branch has seized the power to decide who shall and who shall not be permitted the protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The Bush administration has resurrected the dungeons and torture chambers that Blackstone’s Rights of Englishmen banished from the English-speaking world.
It is too early to know how the act will be interpreted and applied to American citizens or whether it can be challenged and overturned on constitutional grounds, but forebodings are severe. What we can say is that the act is draconian and dangerous legislation that is completely unnecessary. If the U.S. government has enough correct information to designate a person truthfully to be an enemy combatant, the U.S. government has enough information to put the person on trial in open court with all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to defendants. The U.S. government only needs indefinite detention, torture, and secret evidence when it has no evidence. Every American should be concerned that John Yoo, one of the Justice Department authors of this totalitarian legislation, is now a law professor at the University of California. Liberty has no future in America if law schools provide legitimacy to those who would subvert the U.S. Constitution.
The Assault on the Constitution
We concluded the first edition of this book with a call for “an intellectual rebirth, a revival of constitutionalism.” Alas, far from a rebirth of constitutionalism, we are witnessing a rending that we would not have imagined. On January 17, 2007, the attorney general of the United States, Alberto Gonzales, declared in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that “the Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas.” The chairman of the committee, Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) was incredulous when Gonzales insisted that “there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution.”
In June 2007, Dick Cheney astonished Americans with his claim that the Office of Vice President is independent of both the executive branch and Congress and is accountable to neither.
Americans should pay attention to the power that the Bush administration is claiming over them. If Americans are not protected by habeas corpus, the government can pick us up at its will and cast us into dungeons for the rest of our lives without ever giving any accountability of its action. If the Constitution does not grant habeas corpus protection, the administration is under no compulsion to provide indictments, evidence, and trial. The government can simply imprison at will.
The Bush administration is using every strategy to push aside the remains of the legal principles that shield the people from arbitrary government power. It is a short step from denying Americans’ constitutional right to a public trial by an impartial jury to denying every other constitutional right. Clearly, on the basis of an indefinite “war” against an indefinite “terrorist enemy,” the Bush regime is attempting to claim powers that are not limited by the Constitution, Congress, or the courts. It is a life-and-death matter for Americans to understand that the Bush administration is seeking to undermine all rights by shutting off the procedural avenues for enforcing rights.
Few Americans seem alarmed. Conservative attorneys, such as members of the Federalist Society who present themselves as defenders of “original intent,” are pushing for more power to be concentrated in the executive. One of the tools used to obtain this goal is Bush’s misuse of “signing statements.” Scholars, such as Phillip J. Cooper of Portland State University writing in the September 2005 issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly, warn that Bush uses signing statements not only as illegal line-item vetoes that evade congressional override but also as “wide-ranging assertions of exclusive authority and court-like pronouncements that redefine legislative powers under the Constitution. They reveal a systematic effort to define presidential authority in terms of the broad conception of the prerogative both internationally and domestically under the unitary executive theory.”
Signing statements deserve a closer look than they are receiving. There is no provision in the Constitution for signing statements. Courts often look to congressional debates and proceedings to ascertain legislative intent when a statute’s meaning is not obvious. The Bush administration is endeavoring to establish the judicial practice of also looking to the president’s signing statements in the same way, an absurd idea as the president does not enact legislation. President Bush’s use of signing statements signals the refusal of the executive branch to abide by the rule of law, a frightening prospect.
A growing number of thoughtful Americans believe, rightly or wrongly, that the “war on terror” is a hoax that is providing cover for what former President Nixon’s White House counsel, John W. Dean, says is an assault on American liberty by “authoritarian conservatives.” Time will tell whether Americans will continue to tolerate the neoconservatives’ wars and attacks on civil liberty.
The Case of Sami Al-Arian
The demise of the Rights of Englishmen, the unaccountability of police and prosecutors, the witch-hunt atmosphere created by the “war on terror,” the government’s need to find terrorist suspects in order to maintain the public’s alarm, and the sadistic and bigoted attitudes of many prison guards and even federal prosecutors and judges toward Muslims have resulted in the use of law for persecution. The case of Sami Al-Arian, who was a professor of computer science at the University of South Florida, is a pure example of the use of law as a weapon for persecution.
Most Americans know only the Israeli side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinian side is rarely heard. Even prominent Americans, such as former president Jimmy Carter, who point out that there are two sides to the story, are subjected to demonization and name-calling. Sami Al-Arian was gaining success as a voice for a more even-handed Middle East policy. He spoke to intelligence personnel and military commanders at MacDill Air Force Central Command. He gave interviews. He even invited the FBI to attend meetings where he spoke.
This was too much for the Israeli Lobby, which has enjoyed a total monopoly on the explanation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the United States. The hysteria following 9/11 created the opportunity to destroy Sami Al-Arian. Alexander Cockburn (CounterPunch, March 3, 2007) reports that “at the direct instigation of Attorney General Ashcroft” trumped-up terrorism and conspiracy charges were leveled at Al-Arian.
The neoconservative media and right-wing talk radio went to work on Al-Arian. Pushed by Gov. Jeb Bush, the university fired him. He was arrested and deemed too dangerous for bail. He was held in solitary confinement for two and a half years while the federal government tried to manufacture some evidence against him. Wikipedia reports that “Amnesty International said Al-Arian’s pre-trial conditions ‘appeared to be gratuitously punitive’ and stated ‘the restrictions imposed on Dr. Al-Arian appeared to go beyond what were necessary on security grounds and were inconsistent with international standards for humane treatment.’”
The government failed to produce any evidence. The jury acquitted Al-Arian on all serious charges and voted 10–2 for acquittal on all other charges. The jury acquitted him despite U.S. District Court judge James Moody’s many biased rulings against Al-Arian.
Knowing that Al-Arian and his family could not stand the strain of solitary confinement for another two and a half years while a new case was prepared, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would retry him. His attorney urged him to make a plea in order to end the ordeal.
Al-Arian’s plea is innocuous and bears no relationship to the serious charges on which he was tried. According to Wikipedia, as part of the plea agreement “the government acknowledged that Al-Arian’s activities were non-violent and that there were no victims to the charge in the plea agreement.”
Under the plea agreement, Al-Arian’s sentence amounted essentially to time served, but he was double-crossed by Judge Moody, who according to Alexander Cockburn used “inflamed language about Al-Arian having blood on his hands” (a charge rejected by the jury) and handed down the maximum sentence.
The “terrorist” prosecutors had yet more in store for Al-Arian. In October 2006, federal prosecutor Gordon Kromberg, reportedly “notorious as an Islamophobe,” demanded, in violation of the plea agreement, that Al-Arian testify before a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, investigating an Islamic research center. According to Wikipedia, “in a verbal agreement that appears in court transcripts, federal prosecutors agreed [as part of the plea agreement] that Al-Arian would not have to testify in Virginia.”
Al-Arian’s lawyers saw Kromberg’s subpoena of their client as a setup, and Al-Arian refused to testify. On January 22, 2007, Al-Arian was brought before a federal judge on contempt charges. He described to the judge the extraordinary abuse he had suffered at the hands of federal prison officials. The guards and officers all felt free to abuse Al-Arian, because they had heard the lie on right-wing talk radio and from neoconservative media that he was a terrorist who hated Americans. The hostile judge sentenced Al-Arian to eighteen months more on a civil contempt charge for refusing to testify about a case that he knew nothing about.
Kromberg contrived to put Al-Arian in a situation in which truthful answers in court under oath could be turned into a perjury charge by offering the defendants reduced charges in exchange for their testimony that Al-Arian was involved with them in some alleged activity and lied under oath. Alternatively, Al-Arian would be cited for civil contempt for refusal to testify. The ease with which Kromberg violated the plea agreement and abused the prosecutorial power in full view of federal judges should give pause to every American.
When a university professor, who has done nothing but try to correct the one-sided story Americans are fed about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, can be treated in this way by the U.S. Department of Justice, civil liberty in the United States is in a precarious condition.
The ease with which Al-Arian was transformed into a terrorist should be a lesson to us all. People in charge of Homeland Security are no less inclined than police and prosecutors to make expansive interpretations of their mandate and what constitutes terrorism and suspect behavior. On May 28, 2007, the Associated Press reported that the Alabama Department of Homeland Security had included among terrorist groups listed on its Web site environmentalists, antiwar protesters, abortion opponents, and gay- and animal-rights advocates. It is an ancient practice of government to hype fear in order to gain arbitrary power that can be turned against anyone. Perhaps this expansive definition of terrorist explains the eighty thousand names on the government’s no-fly list.
Another problem with arbitrary and undefined power is that it ends up being exercised by people who tend to receive low marks for good judgment and intelligence. English film director Mike Figgis was held for five hours in an interrogation cell at Los Angeles International Airport because U.S. immigration officers are unfamiliar with the professional language of television show producers and lacked the common sense to avoid a misunderstanding. When asked the reason for his visit, Figgis said: “I’m here to shoot a pilot.” “Shoot,” of course, means to film, and “pilot” is the first episode of a new TV show. The people providing our security concluded that Figgis had voluntarily confessed to a plot to come to America in order to murder an airline pilot. Figgis survived his assumption that people in Los Angeles understood movie talk, but the desire of people empowered to thwart terrorism to use their power is great. Any excuse will do.
Sliding Toward Dictatorship
The assaults of the Bush regime on civil liberty, the Constitution, and the separation of powers are more determined and more successful than its military assaults on the Middle East, which provide the “war time” justification for the attack on civil liberty in the United States. The regime and its supporters are determined to raise the president to dictatorial powers, at least in times of war, the initiation of which is being turned into a presidential prerogative.
On May 9, 2007, President Bush signed the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive. If in the president’s opinion a “catastrophic emergency” occurs, the directive places all governmental power in the hands of the president, effectively abolishing the checks and balances in the Constitution. Underlying this directive is the “unitary executive” doctrine, a theory pushed by the Federalist Society, an important source of law clerks, DOJ appointees, and judicial nominees for the Republican Party. The doctrine, supported by Supreme Court justices such as Samuel Alito, claims that the executive power of the president is completely separate and independent of the legislative and judicial powers and not subject to infringement by them. The manner in which this doctrine is being institutionalized is creating the additional claim that executive power is the supreme power. In effect, unitary executive theory is elevating the president to a dictator with the power to ignore or suspend laws.
The unitary executive doctrine is a direct attack on the constitutional separation of powers established by the Founding Fathers. One of the alleged advantages of the unitary executive is that the president can act more quickly and efficiently if he is not subject to interference from Congress and the judiciary. However, as Justice Louis Brandeis explained in 1926, “the doctrine of the separation of powers was adopted by the convention of 1787 not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power. The purpose was not to avoid friction, but, by means of the inevitable friction incident to the distribution of the governmental powers among three departments, to save the people from autocracy.”
News reports that the Bush administration has contracted with Halliburton to build detention centers in the United States at a cost of $385 million revive memories of the World War II detention of Japanese American citizens. It has not been explained who are the intended detainees for the new detention centers. Do the American people want to trust with detention centers an executive branch, which claims the power to set aside habeas corpus, statutory law, due process, and the prohibition against torture?
Polls show that 36 percent of the American public and more than half of New Yorkers lack confidence in the 9/11 Commission Report. Despite a significant percentage of the public’s disbelief in the explanation of the event that took America to war in the Middle East, Congress and the media continue to tolerate the Bush administration’s aggressive rhetoric, which seeks to widen the “war on terror” from Afghanistan and Iraq to Iran, Syria, and Lebanon. The diligence with which Vice President Cheney and the neoconservatives press for an attack on Iran, and the extreme position that the Bush administration has taken on executive power, raise the question whether the Bush administration has an agenda that takes precedence over America’s constitutional democracy.
Never in its history have the American people faced such danger to their constitutional protections as they face today from those in the government who hold the reins of power and from elements of the legal profession and the federal judiciary that support “energy in the executive.” An assertive executive backed by an aggressive U.S. Department of Justice and unobstructed by a supine Congress and an intimidated corporate media has demonstrated an ability to ignore statutory law and public opinion. The precedents that have been set during the opening years of the twenty-first century bode ill for the future of American liberty.
Excerpted from The Tyranny of Good Intentions by Paul Craig Roberts and Lawrence M. Stratton. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Paul Craig Roberts a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, has been reporting shocking cases of prosecutorial abuse for two decades.
Lawrence M. Stratton is a Ph. D. candidate in Christian Ethics at Princeton Theological Seminary and a former adjunct professor of Georgetown University Law Center. He is currently on the adjunct Ethics faculty at Villanova University. A new edition of their book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, a documented account of how Americans lost the protection of law, has just been released by Random House.
Copyright © 2008 Paul Craig Roberts
By Ben Bain
June 6, 2008
The Bush administration has required agencies to increase their capability to share among themselves biometric information on people believed to pose a threat to national security.
A presidential directive issued June 5 requires the increased compatibility of methods agencies use to collect, store and share fingerprints, face and iris recognition data and behavioral characteristics to identify and screen “known and suspected terrorists.” The directive also applies to other categories of individuals the directive said would be identified soon who may also pose a threat to national security.
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 5, 2008
NATIONAL SECURITY PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE/NSPD — 59
HOMELAND SECURITY PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE/HSPD — 24
SUBJECT: Biometrics for Identification and Screening to Enhance National Security
This directive establishes a framework to ensure that Federal executive departments and agencies (agencies) use mutually compatible methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information of individuals in a lawful and appropriate manner, while respecting their information privacy and other legal rights under United States law.
(1) The executive branch has developed an integrated screening capability to protect the Nation against “known and suspected terrorists” (KSTs). The executive branch shall build upon this success, in accordance with this directive, by enhancing its capability to collect, store, use, analyze, and share biometrics to identify and screen KSTs and other persons who may pose a threat to national security.
(2) Existing law determines under what circumstances an individual’s biometric and biographic information can be collected. This directive requires agencies to use, in a more coordinated and efficient manner, all biometric information associated with persons who may pose a threat to national security, consistent with applicable law, including those laws relating to privacy and confidentiality of personal data.
(3) This directive provides a Federal framework for applying existing and emerging biometric technologies to the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of data in identification and screening processes employed by agencies to enhance national security, consistent with applicable law, including information privacy and other legal rights under United States law.
(4) The executive branch recognizes the need for a layered approach to identification and screening of individuals, as no single mechanism is sufficient. For example, while existing name-based screening procedures are beneficial, application of biometric technologies, where appropriate, improve the executive branch’s ability to identify and screen for persons who may pose a national security threat. To be most effective, national security identification and screening systems will require timely access to the most accurate and most complete biometric, biographic, and related data that are, or can be, made available throughout the executive branch.
(5) This directive does not impose requirements on State, local, or tribal authorities or on the private sector. It does not provide new authority to agencies for collection, retention, or dissemination of information or for identification and screening activities.
(6) In this directive:
(a) “Biometrics” refers to the measurable biological (anatomical and physiological) and behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition; examples include fingerprint, face, and iris recognition; and
(b) “Interoperability” refers to the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.
(7) The ability to positively identify those individuals who may do harm to Americans and the Nation is crucial to protecting the Nation. Since September 11, 2001, agencies have made considerable progress in securing the Nation through the integration, maintenance, and sharing of information used to identify persons who may pose a threat to national security.
(8) Many agencies already collect biographic and biometric information in their identification and screening processes. With improvements in biometric technologies, and in light of its demonstrated value as a tool to protect national security, it is important to ensure agencies use compatible
methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric information.
(9) Building upon existing investments in fingerprint recognition and other biometric modalities, agencies are currently strengthening their biometric collection, storage, and matching capabilities as technologies advance and offer new opportunities to meet evolving threats to further enhance national security.
(10) This directive is designed to (a) help ensure a common recognition of the value of using biometrics in identification and screening programs and (b) help achieve objectives described in the following: Executive Order 12881 (Establishment of the National Science and Technology Council); Homeland Security Presidential Directive‑6 (HSPD‑6) (Integration and Use of Screening Information to Protect Against Terrorism); Executive Order 13354 (National Counterterrorism Center); Homeland Security Presidential Directive‑11 (HSPD‑11) (Comprehensive Terrorist Related Screening Procedures); Executive Order 13388 (Further Strengthening the Sharing of Terrorism Information to Protect Americans); National Security Presidential Directive‑46/Homeland Security Presidential Directive‑15 (NSPD-46/HSPD-15) (U.S. Policy and Strategy in the War on Terror); 2005 Information Sharing Guidelines; 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism; 2006 National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel; 2007 National Strategy for Homeland Security; 2007 National Strategy for Information Sharing; and 2008 United States Intelligence Community Information Sharing Strategy.
(11) Through integrated processes and interoperable systems, agencies shall, to the fullest extent permitted by law, make available to other agencies all biometric and associated biographic and contextual information associated with persons for whom there is an articulable and reasonable basis for suspicion that they pose a threat to national security.
(12) All agencies shall execute this directive in a lawful and appropriate manner, respecting the information privacy and other legal rights of individuals under United States law, maintaining data integrity and security, and protecting intelligence sources, methods, activities, and sensitive law enforcement information.
(13) The Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, in coordination with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, shall be responsible for interagency policy coordination on all aspects of this directive.
Roles and Responsibilities
(14) Agencies shall undertake the roles and responsibilities herein to the fullest extent permitted by law, consistent with the policy of this directive, including appropriate safeguards for information privacy and other legal rights, and in consultation with State, local, and tribal authorities, where appropriate.
(15) The Attorney General shall:
(a) Provide legal policy guidance, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), regarding the lawful collection, use, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information to enhance national security; and
(b) In coordination with the DNI, ensure that policies and procedures for the consolidated terrorist watchlist maximize the use of all biometric identifiers.
(16) Each of the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the DNI, and the heads of other appropriate agencies, shall:
(a) Develop and implement mutually compatible guidelines for each respective agency for the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information, to the fullest extent practicable, lawful, and necessary to protect national security;
(b) Maintain and enhance interoperability among agency biometric and associated biographic systems, by utilizing common information technology and data standards, protocols, and interfaces;
(c) Ensure compliance with laws, policies, and procedures respecting information privacy, other legal rights, and information security;
(d) Establish objectives, priorities, and guidance to ensure timely and effective tasking, collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information among authorized agencies;
(e) Program for and budget sufficient resources to support the development, operation, maintenance, and upgrade of biometric capabilities consistent with this directive and with such instructions as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget may provide; and
(f) Ensure that biometric and associated biographic and contextual information on KSTs is provided to the National Counterterrorism Center and, as appropriate, to the Terrorist Screening Center.
(17) The Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the DNI, shall coordinate the sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information with foreign partners in accordance with applicable law, including international obligations undertaken by the United States.
(18) The Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, through the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), shall coordinate executive branch biometric science and technology policy, including biometric standards and necessary research, development, and conformance testing programs. Recommended executive branch biometric standards
are contained in the Registry of United States Government
Recommended Biometric Standards and shall be updated via the NSTC Subcommittee on Biometrics and Identity Management.
(19) Within 90 days of the date of this directive, the Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the DNI, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, shall, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, submit for the President’s approval an action plan to implement this directive. The action plan shall do the following:
(a) Recommend actions and associated timelines for enhancing the existing terrorist-oriented identification and screening processes by expanding the use of biometrics;
(b) Consistent with applicable law, (i) recommend categories of individuals in addition to KSTs who may pose a threat to national security, and (ii) set forth cost-effective actions and associated timelines for expanding the collection and use of biometrics to identify and screen for such individuals; and
(c) Identify business processes, technological capabilities, legal authorities, and research and development efforts needed to implement this directive.
(20) Within 1 year of the date of this directive, the Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the DNI, and the heads of other appropriate agencies, shall submit to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, a report on the implementation of this directive and the associated action plan, proposing any necessary additional steps for carrying out the policy of this directive. Agencies shall provide support for, and promptly respond to, requests made by the Attorney General in furtherance of this report. The Attorney General will thereafter report to the President on the implementation of this directive as the Attorney General deems necessary or when directed by the President.
(21) This directive:
(a) shall be implemented consistent with applicable law, including international obligations undertaken by the United States, and the authorities of agencies, or heads of such agencies, vested by law;
(b) shall not be construed to alter, amend, or revoke any other NSPD or HSPD in effect on the effective date of this directive;
(c) is not intended to, and does not, create any rights or benefits, substantive or procedural, enforceable by law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
GEORGE W. BUSH
So they are it again, the great and the good of American democracy, grovelling and fawning to the Israeli lobbyists of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), repeatedly allying themselves to the cause of another country and one that is continuing to steal Arab land.
Will this ever end? Even Barack Obama – or “Mr Baracka” as an Irish friend of mine innocently and wonderfully described him – found time to tell his Jewish audience that Jerusalem is the one undivided capital of Israel, which is not the view of the rest of the world which continues to regard the annexation of Arab East Jerusalem as illegal. The security of Israel. Say it again a thousand times: the security of Israel – and threaten Iran, for good measure.
Yes, Israelis deserve security. But so do Palestinians. So do Iraqis and Lebanese and the people of the wider Muslim world. Now even Condoleezza Rice admits – and she was also talking to Aipac, of course – that there won’t be a Palestinian state by the end of the year. That promise of George Bush – which no-one believed anyway – has gone. In Rice’s pathetic words, “The goal itself will endure beyond the current US leadership.”
Of course it will. And the siege of Gaza will endure beyond the current US leadership. And the Israeli wall. And the illegal Israeli settlement building. And deaths in Iraq will endure beyond “the current US leadership” – though “leadership” is pushing the definition of the word a bit when the gutless Bush is involved – and deaths in Afghanistan and, I fear, deaths in Lebanon too.
It’s amazing how far self-delusion travels. The Bush boys and girls still think they’re supporting the “American-backed government” of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon. But Siniora can’t even form a caretaker government to implement a new set of rules which allows Hizbollah and other opposition groups to hold veto powers over cabinet decisions.
Thus there will be no disarming of Hizbollah and thus – again, I fear this – there will be another Hizbollah-Israeli proxy war to take up the slack of America’s long-standing hatred of Iran. No wonder President Bashar Assad of Syria is now threatening a triumphal trip to Lebanon. He’s won. And wasn’t there supposed to be a UN tribunal to try those responsible for the murder of ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005? This must be the longest police enquiry in the history of the world. And I suspect it’s never going to achieve its goal (or at least not under the “current US leadership”).
There are gun battles in Beirut at night; there are dark-uniformed Lebanese interior ministry troops in equally dark armoured vehicles patrolling the night-time Corniche outside my home.
At least Lebanon has a new president, former army commander Michel Sleiman, an intelligent man who initially appeared on posters, eyes turned to his left, staring at Lebanon with a creditor’s concern. Now he has wisely ordered all these posters to be torn down in an attempt to get the sectarian groups to take down their own pictures of martyrs and warlords. And America thinks things are going fine in Lebanon.
And Bush and his cohorts go on saying that they will never speak to “terrorists”. And what has happened meanwhile? Why, their Israeli friends – Mr Baracka’s Israeli friends – are doing just that. They are talking to Hamas via Egypt and are negotiating with Syria via Turkey and have just finished negotiating with Hizbollah via Germany and have just handed back one of Hizbollah’s top spies in Israel in return for body parts of Israelis killed in the 2006 war. And Bush isn’t going to talk to “terrorists”, eh? I bet he didn’t bring that up with the equally hapless Ehud Olmert in Washington this week.
And so our dementia continues. In front of us this week was Blair with his increasingly maniacal eyes, poncing on about faith and God and religion, and I couldn’t help reflecting on an excellent article by a colleague a few weeks ago who pointed out that God never seemed to give Blair advice. Like before April of 2003, couldn’t He have just said, er, Tony, this Iraq invasion might not be a good idea.
Indeed, Blair’s relationship with God is itself very odd. And I rather suspect I know what happens. I think Blair tells God what he absolutely and completely knows to be right – and God approves his words. Because Blair, like a lot of devious politicians, plays God himself. For there are two Gods out there. The Blair God and the infinite being which blesses his every word, so obliging that He doesn’t even tell Him to go to Gaza.
I despair. The Tate has just sent me its magnificent book of orientalist paintings to coincide with its latest exhibition (The Lure of the East: British Orientalist Painting) and I am struck by the awesome beauty of this work. In the 19th century, our great painters wondered at the glories of the Orient.
No more painters today. Instead, we send our photographers and they return with pictures of car bombs and body parts and blood and destroyed homes and Palestinians pleading for food and fuel and hooded gunmen on the streets of Beirut, yes, and dead Israelis too. The orientalists looked at the majesty of this place and today we look at the wasteland which we have helped to create.
But fear not. Israel’s security comes first and Mr Baracka wants Israel to keep all of Jerusalem – so much for the Palestinian state – and Condee says the “goal will endure beyond the current American leadership”. And I have a bird that sits in the palm tree outside my home in Beirut and blasts away, going “cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep” for about an hour every morning – which is why my landlord used to throw stones at it.
But I have a dear friend who believes that once there was an orchestra of birds outside my home and that one day, almost all of them – the ones which sounded like violins and trumpets – got tired of the war and flew away (to Cyprus, if they were wise, but perhaps on to Ireland), leaving only the sparrows with their discordant flutes to remind me of the stagnant world of the Middle East and our cowardly, mendacious politicians. “Cheep-cheep-cheep,” they were saying again yesterday morning. “Cheap-cheap-cheap.” And I rather think they are right.