Rule by fear or rule by law? By Lewis Seiler & Dan Hamburg

Dandelion Salad

By Lewis Seiler, Dan Hamburg
ICH
02/12/08
San Francisco Chronicle02/04/08

“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.” – Winston Churchill, Nov. 21, 1943

Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissidents (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse in the event of “an emergency influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.”

Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.

According to diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part of a Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of “all removable aliens” and “potential terrorists.”

Fraud-busters such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, have complained about these contracts, saying that more taxpayer dollars should not go to taxpayer-gouging Halliburton. But the real question is: What kind of “new programs” require the construction and refurbishment of detention facilities in nearly every state of the union with the capacity to house perhaps millions of people?

Sect. 1042 of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,” gives the executive the power to invoke martial law. For the first time in more than a century, the president is now authorized to use the military in response to “a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or any other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order.”

The Military Commissions Act of 2006, rammed through Congress just before the 2006 midterm elections, allows for the indefinite imprisonment of anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on a list of “terrorist” organizations, or who speaks out against the government’s policies. The law calls for secret trials for citizens and noncitizens alike.

Also in 2007, the White House quietly issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51), to ensure “continuity of government” in the event of what the document vaguely calls a “catastrophic emergency.” Should the president determine that such an emergency has occurred, he and he alone is empowered to do whatever he deems necessary to ensure “continuity of government.” This could include everything from canceling elections to suspending the Constitution to launching a nuclear attack. Congress has yet to hold a single hearing on NSPD-51.

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice (Los Angeles County) has come up with a new way to expand the domestic “war on terror.” Her Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR1955), which passed the House by the lopsided vote of 404-6, would set up a commission to “examine and report upon the facts and causes” of so-called violent radicalism and extremist ideology, then make legislative recommendations on combatting it.

According to commentary in the Baltimore Sun, Rep. Harman and her colleagues from both sides of the aisle believe the country faces a native brand of terrorism, and needs a commission with sweeping investigative power to combat it.

A clue as to where Harman’s commission might be aiming is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a law that labels those who “engage in sit-ins, civil disobedience, trespass, or any other crime in the name of animal rights” as terrorists. Other groups in the crosshairs could be anti-abortion protesters, anti-tax agitators, immigration activists, environmentalists, peace demonstrators, Second Amendment rights supporters … the list goes on and on. According to author Naomi Wolf, the National Counterterrorism Center holds the names of roughly 775,000 “terror suspects” with the number increasing by 20,000 per month.

What could the government be contemplating that leads it to make contingency plans to detain without recourse millions of its own citizens?

The Constitution does not allow the executive to have unchecked power under any circumstances. The people must not allow the president to use the war on terrorism to rule by fear instead of by law.

Lewis Seiler is the president of Voice of the Environment, Inc. Dan Hamburg, a former congressman, is executive director.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Naomi Wolf Celebrated Author of “The End of America” (must-see video)

Ralph Nader: The Road to Corporate Fascism (must-see video)

National Security & Homeland Security Presidential Directive 51 (2007)

Habeas Corpus/HR 6166/Military Commissions Act/MCA

Detention Centers/Concentration Camps in the US

Detention Camps

Fascism

Declassified letter exposes Democratic Party complicity in CIA torture By Joe Kay

Dandelion Salad

By Joe Kay
WSWS
8 January 2008

Last week, the CIA declassified a February 2003 letter from Democratic Representative Jane Harman of California discussing the planned destruction of videotapes depicting the interrogation and torture of prisoners held by the CIA.

Harman requested that the CIA release the letter in order to show her supposed criticism of the agency’s plans to destroy the evidence. In a statement on the letter, Harman said that it “makes clear my concern about possible destruction of any tapes.” In fact, the letter only underscores the fact that the Democratic Party was aware of and supported the CIA’s secret policy of torture.

Democrats knew of plans to destroy evidence of interrogations, but made no serious attempt to stop it or inform the American people. Indeed, Harman’s “concern” was in effect an indication to the CIA that the Democrats would not challenge a decision to destroy the tapes and would not expose the agency if it did so.

The videotapes, involving hundreds of hours of interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, were secretly destroyed in November 2005. Their destruction was only publicly disclosed last month, though several Democrats had been made aware of the action at least a year ago.

continued…

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Social Repression & Internet Surveillance By Nikki Alexander

Dandelion Salad

By Nikki Alexander
01/04/08 “ICH

H. Res. 1695, 1955 & S.1959

Perhaps a clear and simple law is needed that states: “Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech. Speech includes ‘the broad and constant streams of information’ freely exchanged on the Internet.” Does the Internet need to be singled out? Or is this self-evident in the First Amendment to the Constitution?  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Clearly, Jane Harman (D-CA) who sponsored H.Res.1955 does not respect the Constitution. Nor does her partner, Dave Reichert (R-WA), who authored the original bill, H.Res.1695. Both bills seriously violate the most precious amendments to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are preparing to follow suit with a Senate companion bill, S.1959. Did any of the 404 members of the House of Representatives who voted for the passage of this bill understand that they violated our Constitutional rights, once again? The “immanent threat” charade seems to nullify their capacity for critical thinking and erase their memory of the Constitution, as well as their oath to defend it. How many Senators will succumb to terrorist fear tactics and betray the American people?

Among the Powers granted to the Federal Government by the People of the United States which one authorizes Congress to investigate the so-called “belief systems” of private citizens? Which Power granted by the People endows Congress with authority to investigate the motivations and clairvoyantly predict the intentions of private citizens? Which Power granted by the People authorizes Government surveillance and censorship of the Internet? Which Power granted by the People authorizes the Government to data mine the personal records of US citizens, subjectively filter the personal beliefs of Americans and categorize them for acceptability or to infiltrate local communities and eradicate ‘unacceptable’ beliefs? Which Power authorizes the Federal Government to gather intelligence on American citizens for use by Federal, State and local law enforcement? What is the Constitutional authority for Frau Harman’s storm troopers to terrorize the public through “vertical information sharing from the Intelligence Community to the local level and from local sources to State and Federal agencies”?

Is this Congress aware of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution? “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Is this Congress unclear about its Constitutional boundaries? Which rights are reserved to the People? The Ninth Amendment to the Constitution states: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the People.” The Tenth Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the People.” In other words, the People retain all rights not specifically granted to the Government. The rights to think freely, to exchange information, to choose values and beliefs and to freely associate with others are reserved to the People.

If current employees of the Federal Government are not happy with the laws that govern this country and would prefer to live under totalitarian regimes they are free to exit and live elsewhere. They are not free to pervert our laws to conform with their own personal belief systems and ideologically based values. In fact, they have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution as a prerequisite for holding public office.

This bill establishes a National Commission and Center of so-called “Excellence” to censor and crush social concerns which are subjectively perceived to be “threats” by RAND spokesmen, who supplied the content for this bill.  RAND coined the folksy epithets “homegrown terrorism,” “violent radicalization” and “ideologically based violence” to invalidate expressions of social conscience that conflict with corporate interests. RAND does not propose restraints on corporate abuse or explore US policy corrections that acknowledge the validity of these concerns. Rather, it characterizes individuals who care deeply about international human rights, national sovereignty and ecological protection as “homegrown terrorists” who have been “violently radicalized” by “extremist belief systems.” This bill quotes RAND ideology verbatim.

The People of the United States did not elect RAND Corporation or its emissaries on Capitol Hill to rewrite the laws of our nation “to advance political and social change” that serves the special interests of selected individuals. Our Constitution was carefully crafted to protect citizens from precisely this type of despotism. Regardless of emotional pretexts which appeal to fear, it is not the Constitutional prerogative of Congress to investigate, evaluate, censor or suppress the personal beliefs of United States citizens.

The Internet, which is a public channel of communication, is being systematically strangled by surveillance devices that police the flow of information; filtering web servers, search engines, web sites, email content and keystrokes.  Specifically, the information-sharing networks of citizens whose concerns are inconsistent with global corporate objectives are being censored, blacklisted and suffocated. In direct violation of our Constitution, channels of communication which are protected by the First Amendment are under surveillance by the National Security Agency. The Open Net Initiative reports, “With respect to online surveillance, the United States may be among the most aggressive states in the world in terms of listening to online conversations.”

This bill is a direct assault on Internet privacy and freedom of speech. Packaged as a pretext for “preventing terrorism”, the authors of this bill claim that, “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.” Even if this gibberish were true, it would not legitimize Government censorship. There is no Constitutional authority for Government supervision of information freely chosen by American citizens.  This assault on the First Amendment is a transparent attempt to police the Internet by slandering the personal values of citizens and denouncing their activities, a practice well underway in Britain where Internet Service Providers are required to install software with secret “offender” lists that block out blacklisted websites.

China’s 60,000 strong Internet police force uses western surveillance technology to repress its citizens. There are currently 64 Chinese citizens in prison for signing online petitions. The Open Net Initiative reports that “Australia maintains some of the most restrictive Internet policies of any Western nation. Britain has been criticized for leading a ‘Web takedown’ culture where Internet Service Providers immediately remove content that is allegedly defamatory for fear of facing law suits.” Comcast, the second largest US Internet Service Provider is forging TCP RST packets with faked return addresses that disrupt file sharing among its customers, using equipment sold by the Canadian company, Sandvine. These are the exemplary democratic models of “lessons learned by foreign nations” that this bill declares the United States “can benefit from”; citing Canada, Australia and the UK.

The Baltimore Sun reported In November that George Bush requested $154 million in preliminary funding to “prevent cyberspace attacks”, which current and former government officials say is expected to become a seven-year, multibillion-dollar program to “track threats” in cyberspace on both government and private networks. A lawless administration which is notorious for covert surveillance and conjuring up fictitious threats of immanent danger can hardly be trusted to identify genuine threats or use this revenue in the public interest. Nor would an incoming administration be able to alleviate these unconstitutional invasions of our privacy. These Government crimes would be permanently institutionalized through the National Security Agency CAEIAE program, the Center of so-called “Excellence” designated by this bill. There is nothing excellent about unlawful surveillance and social repression by storm troopers.

What Harman describes as “vertical information sharing from the Intelligence Community to the local level and from local sources to State and Federal agencies” is equivalent to The Third Reich’s Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda which terrorized German citizens from Party Headquarters through a chain of command that reached all the way down into local communities. With modern telecommunications technology this terror campaign of “intelligence sharing” will persecute citizens in the privacy of their homes, monitoring their online conversations and reporting dissidents to the Gestapo. Lawmakers who voted for this malicious operation have forgotten that pogroms always begin by targeting a contrived enemy and expand exponentially to terrorize the whole society. We have laws for a reason.

Inventing a special “Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Officer” embedded in this unlawful operation to create rules for handling the Constitutional rights of US citizens should raise a red flag for lawmakers. Those procedures have been on the books for two hundred and thirty years. All civil servants in every branch of Government are required to uphold the Constitution and follow the rules established by the Bill of Rights. Assigning one individual to tailor those rules to an illegal Cointelpro operation is an indication of deep antisocial contempt for the Constitutional rights of all citizens protected by our system of law.

Masquerading as an “academic” assembly, the political appointees to this Commission will have “relevant expertise” in Information Technology, Juvenile Justice, Corrections, Counterterrorism, Intelligence and Local Law Enforcement. All members of the group will be endowed with sweeping investigative powers and unlimited access to classified files in all branches of government ~ A McCarthy Inquisition with a mandate to hold hearings, administer oaths, take testimony and propose “initiatives to intercede” in the so-called “radicalization process,” a RAND euphemism for crushing social dissent. This mandate to subjectively define and eradicate “unacceptable” social values and beliefs is a gross violation of our Constitution and Bill of Rights. The operation neatly sidesteps peer review systems and strict academic privacy safeguards for data collection that would be imposed on genuine academic scholars and conveniently bypasses the process of competitive bids for taxpayer-funded recommendations deemed “necessary” by this coterie of political insiders. If this assemblage of political appointees had wholesome objectives it would not have been released from congressional oversight and public transparency secured by The Federal Advisory Committee Act. The bill requires only that the Commission produce a public “version” of its findings before disbanding, permitting secret versions to permanently remain at the Center of so-called “Excellence” as a catalyst for Government abuse by Federal, State and local law enforcement agents trained to believe that their targets deserve persecution.

The Waco Texas massacre is a perfect example of citizens being assaulted without provocation by Government agents who ‘believed’ they were targeting “radicals”. The men, women and children who were poisoned and set on fire by Federal agents had not committed any crime, nor were their religious beliefs posing any threat to the community. Yet these Government agents tormented their victims for 51 days, violently destroying their homes and gassing 76 American citizens including 21 children. This bill would authorize exactly this type of ideological profiling perpetrated by self-righteous bigots under Color of Authority whose personal values direct them to commit acts of ‘ideologically based violence.

RAND spokesman, Brian Jenkins whose personal ideology is fully incorporated into this bill said to Jane Harman’s Committee: “Unless a way of intervening in the radicalization process can be found, we are condemned to stepping on cockroaches one at a time.” This statement perfectly expresses the deep contempt for Constitutional law that pervades this legislation. Is there any doubt that exterminating people would come easily to someone who views his victims as cockroaches? This particular characterization of human beings is the precise terminology that was used by Nazis to justify exterminating Jews.

If members of Congress were the intended victims of this malicious legislation they would instantly comprehend why the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Make no exceptions to the rule of law. Violating the Constitutional rights of any group or individual jeopardizes the security of our whole society.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all Beings are created equal, that they are endowed by Creation with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these Rights governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ~ that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Government long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind is more disposed to suffer than to right itself by abolishing the forms to which it is accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”  ~ The Declaration of Independence, 1776.

Nikki Alexander is a freelance writer and fine art painter living in southern California.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Thinking for yourself is now a crime By Paul Craig Roberts

Thinking for yourself is now a crime By Paul Craig Roberts

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Craig Roberts
1/04/08 “ICH

Extinguishing Liberty’s Light and Independent Views

What was the greatest failure of 2007? President Bush’s “surge” in Iraq? The decline in the value of the US dollar? Subprime mortgages? No. The greatest failure of 2007 was the newly sworn-in Democratic Congress.

The American people’s attempt in November 2006 to rein in a rogue government, which has committed the US to costly military adventures while running roughshod over the US Constitution, failed. Replacing Republicans with Democrats in the House and Senate has made no difference.

The assault on the US Constitution by the Democratic Party is as determined as the assault by the Republicans. On October 23, 2007, the House passed a bill sponsored by California Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman, chairwoman of a Homeland Security subcommittee, that overturns the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression, association, and assembly.

The bill passed the House on a vote of 404-6. In the Senate the bill is sponsored by Maine Republican Susan Collins and apparently faces no meaningful opposition.

Harman’s bill is called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. When HR 1955 becomes law, it will create a commission tasked with identifying extremist people, groups, and ideas. The commission will hold hearings around the country, taking testimony and compiling a list of dangerous people and beliefs.

The bill will, in short, create massive terrorism in the United States. But the perpetrators of terrorism will not be Muslim terrorists; they will be government agents and fellow citizens.

We are beginning to see who will be the inmates of the detention centers being built in the US by Halliburton under government contract.

Who will be on the “extremist beliefs” list? The answer is: civil libertarians, critics of Israel, 9/11 skeptics, critics of the administration’s wars and foreign policies, critics of the administration’s use of kidnapping, rendition, torture and violation of the Geneva Conventions, and critics of the administration’s spying on Americans.

Anyone in the way of a powerful interest group—such as environmentalists opposing politically-connected developers—is also a candidate for the list.

The “Extremist Beliefs Commission” is the mechanism for identifying Americans who pose “a threat to domestic security” and a threat of “homegrown terrorism” that “cannot be easily prevented through traditional federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts.”

This bill is a boon for nasty people. That SOB who stole your girlfriend, that hussy who stole your boyfriend, the gun owner next door—just report them to Homeland Security as holders of extreme beliefs. Homeland Security needs suspects, so they are not going to check. Under the new regime, accusation is evidence.

Moreover, “our” elected representatives will never admit that they voted for a bill and created an “Extremist Belief Commission” for which there is neither need nor constitutional basis.

That boss who harasses you for coming late to work—he’s a good candidate to be reported; so is that minority employee that you can’t fire for any normal reason. So is the husband of that good-looking woman you have been unable to seduce. Every kind of quarrel and jealousy can now be settled with a phone call to Homeland Security.

Soon Halliburton will be building more detention centers.

Americans are so far removed from the roots of their liberty that they just don’t get it. Most Americans don’t know what habeas corpus is or why it is important to them. But they know what they want, and Jane Harman has given them a new way to settle scores and to advance their own interests.

Even educated liberals believe that the US Constitution is a “living document” that can be changed to mean whatever it needs to mean in order to accommodate some new important cause, such as abortion and legal privileges for minorities and the handicapped. Today it is the “war on terror” that the Constitution must accommodate. Tomorrow it can be the war on whomever or whatever.

Think about it. More than six years ago the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked. The US government blamed it on al Qaeda. Scant evidence has been presented. The 9/11 Commission Report has been subjected to devastating criticism by a large number of qualified people—including the commission’s chairman and co-chairman.[ Stonewalled by the C.I.A. By Thomas H. Kean And Lee H. Hamilton, New York Times,(Op-Ed) January 2, 2008]

Since 9/11 there have been no terrorist attacks in the US. The FBI has tried to orchestrate a few, but the “terrorist plots” never got beyond talk organized and led by FBI agents. There are no visible extremist groups other than the neoconservatives that control the government in Washington. But somehow the House of Representatives overwhelmingly sees a need to create a commission to take testimony and search out extremist views (outside of Washington, of course).

This search for extremist views comes after President Bush and the Justice (sic) Department declare that the President can ignore habeas corpus, ignore the Geneva Conventions, seize people without evidence, hold them indefinitely without presenting charges, torture them until they confess to some made up crime, and take over the government by declaring an emergency. Of course, none of these “patriotic” views are extremist.

The search for extremist views follows also the granting of contracts to Halliburton to build detention centers in the US. No member of Congress or the executive branch ever explained the need for the detention centers or who the detainees would be. Of course, there is nothing extremist about building detention centers in the US for undisclosed inmates.

Clearly the detention centers are not meant to just stand there empty. Thanks to 2007’s greatest failure—the Democratic Congress—there is to be an “Extremist Beliefs Commission” to secure inmates for Bush’s detention centers.

President Bush promises us that the wars he has launched will cause the “untamed fire of freedom” to “reach the darkest corners of our world.” Meanwhile in America the fire of freedom has not only been tamed but also is being extinguished.

The light of liberty has gone out in the United States.

COPYRIGHT CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

Maxine & Ted – Don’t Call Us If You Call Us Terrorists! by Linda Milazzo

Police State America – A Look Back and Ahead by Stephen Lendman

Naomi Wolf Celebrated Author of “The End of America” (must-see video)

Kucinich: Give me the vote, I’ll give you back your country! (video)

Kucinich on HR 1955 Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act

US House passes Democrat-crafted “homegrown terrorism prevention” legislation by Naomi Spencer

The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act: A Tutorial in Orwellian Newspeak By Robert Weitzel

The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 by Matt Renner

The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act by Philip Giraldi

‘Homegrown Terror’ Act an Attack on Internet Freedom? by Rep. Ron Paul

The plan to topple Pakistan’s military? by Ahmed Quraishi

Dandelion Salad

by Ahmed Quraishi
Global Research, December 30, 2007
The New Nation, Pakistan – 2007-12-12

Editor’s note:

The following article in the Asian Times and New Nation, Pakistan was published several weeks prior to the assassination of Benzir Bhutto.

***

Islamabad – On the evening of September 26, 2006, Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf walked into the studio of Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the first sitting president anywhere to dare do this political satire show.Stewart offered his guest some tea and cookies and played the perfect host by asking, “Is it good?” before springing a surprise: “Where’s Osama bin Laden?””I don’t know,” Musharraf replied, as the audience enjoyed the rare sight of a strong leader apparently cornered. “You know where he is?” Musharraf snapped back, “You lead on, we’ll follow you.”

What General Musharraf didn’t know then is that he really was being cornered. Some of the smiles that greeted him in Washington and back home gave no hint of the betrayal that awaited him.

As he completed the remaining part of his US visit, his allies in Washington and elsewhere, as all evidence suggests now, were plotting his downfall. They had decided to take a page from the book of successful “color revolutions” where Western governments covertly used money, private media, student unions, NGOs and international pressure to stage coups, basically overthrowing individuals not fitting well with Washington’s agenda.

This recipe proved its success in former Yugoslavia, and more recently in Georgia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

In Pakistan, the target is a president who refuses to play ball with the US on Afghanistan, China and Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.

To get rid of him, an impressive operation is underway:

. A carefully crafted media blitzkrieg launched early this year assailing the Pakistani president from all sides, questioning his power, his role in Washington’s “war on terror” and predicting his downfall.

. Money pumped into the country to pay for organized dissent.

. Willing activists assigned to mobilize and organize accessible social groups.

. A campaign waged on the Internet where tens of mailing lists and “news agencies” have sprung up from nowhere, all demonizing Musharraf and the Pakistani military.

. European- and American-funded Pakistani NGOs taking a temporary leave from their real work to serve as a makeshift anti-government mobilization machine.

. US government agencies directly funding some private Pakistani television networks; the channels go into an open anti-government mode, cashing in on some manufactured and other real public grievances regarding inflation and corruption.

Some of Musharraf’s shady and corrupt political allies feed this campaign, hoping to stay in power under a weakened president.

All this groundwork completed and chips were in place when the judicial crisis broke out in March. Even Pakistani politicians were surprised at a well-greased and well-organized lawyers’ campaign, complete with flyers, rented cars and buses, excellent event-management and media outreach.

Currently, students are being recruited and organized into a street movement. The work is ongoing and urban Pakistani students are being cultivated, especially using popular Internet Web sites and “online hangouts”. The people behind this effort are mostly unknown and faceless, limiting themselves to organizing sporadic, small student gatherings in Lahore and Islamabad, complete with banners, placards and little babies with arm bands for maximum media effect. No major student association has announced yet that it is behind these student protests, which is a very interesting fact glossed over by most journalists covering the story.

Only a few students from affluent schools have responded so far, and it’s not because the Pakistani government’s countermeasures are effective. They’re not. The reason is that social activism attracts people from affluent backgrounds, closely reflecting a uniquely Pakistani phenomenon where local non-governmental organizations are mostly founded and run by rich, Westernized Pakistanis.

All of this may appear to be spur-of-the-moment and Musharraf-specific. But it all really began almost three years ago, when, out of the blue and recycling old political arguments, Akbar Bugti launched an armed rebellion against the Pakistani state, surprising security analysts by using rockets and other military equipment that shouldn’t normally be available to a smalltime village thug. Since then, Islamabad has sat on a pile of evidence that links Bugti’s campaign to money and ammunition and logistical support from Afghanistan, directly aided by the Karzai administration and India, with the US turning a blind eye.

For reasons not clear to our analysts yet, Islamabad has kept quiet on Washington’s involvement with anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan. But Pakistan did send an indirect public message to America recently.

“We have indications of Indian involvement with anti-state elements in Pakistan,” declared the spokesman of the Pakistan Foreign Office in a regular briefing in October. The statement was terse and direct, and the spokesman, Tasnim Aslam, quickly moved on to other issues.

This is how a Pakistani official explained Aslam’s statement: “What she was really saying is this: We know what the Indians are doing. They’ve sold the Americans on the idea that [the Indians] are an authority on Pakistan and can be helpful in Afghanistan. The Americans have bought the idea and are in on the plan, giving the Indians a free hand in Afghanistan. What the Americans don’t know is that we, too, know the Indians very well. Better still, we know Afghanistan very well. You can’t beat us at our own game.”

Bugti’s armed rebellion coincided with the Gwadar project entering its final stages. No coincidence here. Bugti’s real job was to scare the Chinese away and scuttle Chinese President Hu Jintao’s planned visit to Gwadar a few months later to formally launch the port city.

Gwadar is the pinnacle of Sino-Pakistani strategic cooperation. It’s a modern city that is supposed to link Pakistan, Central Asia, western China with markets in Mideast and Africa. It’s supposed to have roads stretching all the way to China. It’s no coincidence that that country has also earmarked millions of dollars to renovate the Karakoram Highway linking northern Pakistan to western China.

Some reports in the US media, however, have accused Pakistan and China of building a naval base in the guise of a commercial seaport directly overlooking international oil-shipping lanes.

The Indians and some other regional actors are also not comfortable with this project because they see it as commercial competition.

What Bugti’s regional and international supporters never expected is Pakistan moving firmly and strongly to nip his rebellion in the bud. Even Bugti himself probably never expected the Pakistani state to react in the way it did to his betrayal of the homeland. He was killed in a military operation where scores of his mercenaries surrendered to Pakistan army soldiers.

United States intelligence and their Indian advisors could not cultivate an immediate replacement for Bugti. So they moved to Plan B. They supported Abdullah Mehsud, a Pakistani Taliban fighter held for five years in Guantanamo Bay, and then handed him over back to the Afghan government, only to return to his homeland, Pakistan, to kidnap two Chinese engineers working in Balochistan, one of whom was eventually killed during a rescue operation by the Pakistani government.

Islamabad could not tolerate this shadowy figure, who was creating a following among ordinary Pakistanis masquerading as a Taliban while in reality towing a vague agenda. He was eliminated earlier this year by Pakistani security forces while secretly returning from Afghanistan after meeting his handlers there. Again, no surprises here.

This is where Pakistani political and military officials finally started smelling a rat. All of this was an indication of a bigger problem. There were growing indications that, ever since Islamabad joined Washington’s regional plans, Pakistan was gradually turning into a “besieged-nation”, heavily targeted by the US media while being subjected to strategic sabotage and espionage from Afghanistan.Afghanistan, under America’s watch, has turned into a vast staging ground for sophisticated psychological and military operations to destabilize neighbouring Pakistan.

During the past three years, the heat has gradually been turned up against Pakistan and its military along Pakistan’s western regions:

. A shadowy group called the BLA, a Cold War relic, rose from the dead to restart a separatist war in southwestern Pakistan.

. Bugti’s death was a blow to neo-BLA, but the shadowy group’s backers didn’t repent. His grandson, Brahmdagh Bugti, is currently enjoying a safe shelter in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where he continues to operate and remote-control his assets in Pakistan.

. Saboteurs trained in Afghanistan have been inserted into Pakistan to aggravate extremist passions here, especially after the Red Mosque operation.

. Chinese citizens continue to be targeted by individuals pretending to be Islamists, when no known Islamic group has claimed responsibility. . A succession of “religious rebels” with suspicious foreign links have suddenly emerged in Pakistan over the past months claiming to be “Pakistani Taliban”. Some of the names include Abdul Rashid Ghazi, Baitullah Mehsud, and now the Maulana of Swat. Some of them have used, and are using, encrypted communication equipment far superior to what the Pakistani military owns.

. Money and weapons have been fed into the religious movements and al-Qaeda remnants in the tribal areas.

Exploiting the situation, assets within the Pakistani media started promoting the idea that the Pakistani military was killing its own people. The rest of the unsuspecting media quickly picked up this message. Some botched US and Pakistani military operations against al-Qaeda that caused civilian deaths accidentally fed this media campaign.This was the perfect timing for the launch of Military, Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, a book authored by Ayesha Siddiqa Agha, a columnist for a Pakistani English-language paper and a correspondent for “Jane’s Defence Weekly”, a private intelligence service founded by experts close to British intelligence.

Ahmed Quraishi is an investigative reporter, currently hosting a weekly political talk show titled Worldview from Islamabad.


Target: Pakistan militaryThe book was launched in Pakistan in early 2007 by Oxford Press. And, contrary to most reports, it is openly available in Islamabad’s biggest bookshops. The book portrays the Pakistani military as an institution that is eating up whatever little resources Pakistan has.

The Pakistani military’s successful financial management, creating alternate financial sources to spend on a vast military machine and build a conventional and nuclear near-match with a neighboring adversary five times larger – an impressive record for any nation by any standard – was distorted in the book and reduced to a mere attempt by the military to control the nation’s economy in the same way it was controlling its politics.

The timing was interesting. After all, it was hard to defend a military in the eyes of its own proud people when the chief of the military is ruling the country, the army is fighting insurgents and extremists who claim to be defending Islam, grumpy politicians are out of business, and the military’s side businesses, meant to feed the nation’s military machine, are doing well compared to the shabby state of the nation’s civilian departments.

A closer look at Siddiqa, the author, revealed disturbing information to Pakistani officials. In the months before launching her book, she was a frequent visitor to India where, as a defense expert, she cultivated important contacts. On her return, she developed friendship with an female Indian diplomat posted in Islamabad. Both of these activities – travel to India and ties to Indian diplomats – are not a crime in Pakistan and don’t raise interest anymore. Pakistanis are hospitable and friendly people and these qualities have been amply displayed to the Indians during the four-year-old peace process.

What is interesting is that Siddiqa left her car in the house of the said Indian diplomat during one of her recent trips to London. And, according to a report, she stayed in London at a place owned by an individual linked to the Indian diplomat in Islamabad.

The point is this: Who assigned her to investigate the Pakistani Armed Forces and present a distorted image of a proud and efficient Pakistani institution?

From 1988 to 2001, Siddiqa worked in the Pakistan civil service and the Pakistani civil bureaucracy. Her responsibilities included dealing with Military Accounts, which come under the Pakistan Ministry of Defense. She had 13 years of experience in dealing with the budgetary matters of the Pakistani military and people working in this area.

Siddiqa received a year-long fellowship to research and write a book in the US. There are strong indications that some of her Indian contacts played a role in arranging financing for her book project through a paid fellowship. The final manuscript of her book was vetted at a publishing office in New Delhi.

All of these details are insignificant if detached from the real issue at hand. And the issue is the demonization of the Pakistani military as an integral part of the media siege around Pakistan, with the US media leading the way in this campaign.

Some of the juicy details of this campaign include:

. The attempt by Siddiqa to pit junior officers against senior officers in Pakistan Armed Forces by alleging discrimination in the distribution of benefits. Apart from being malicious and unfounded, her argument was carefully designed to generate frustration and demoralize Pakistani soldiers.

. The US media insisting on handing over Khan to the US so that a final conviction against the Pakistani military can be secured.

. Benazir Bhutto demanding after returning to Pakistan that the ISI be restructured; and in a press conference during her house arrest in Lahore in November she went as far as asking Pakistan army officers to revolt against the army chief, a damning attempt at destroying a professional army from within.

Some of this appears to be eerily similar to the campaign waged against the Pakistani military in 1999, when, in July that year, an unsigned full-page advertisement appeared in major American newspapers with the following headline: “A Modern Rogue Army With Its Finger On The Nuclear Button.”Until this day, it is not clear who exactly paid for such an expensive advertisement. But one thing is clear: the agenda behind that advertisement is back in action.

Strangely, just a few days before Bhutto’s statements about restructuring the ISI and her open call to army officers to stage a mutiny against their leadership, the conservative US magazine The Weekly Standard interviewed an American security expert who offered similar ideas:

“A large number of ISI agents who are responsible for helping the Taliban and al-Qaeda should be thrown in jail or killed. What I think we should do in Pakistan is a parallel version of what Iran has run against us in Iraq: giving money [and] empowering actors. Some of this will involve working with some shady characters, but the alternative – sending US forces into Pakistan for a sustained bombing campaign – is worse,” Steve Schippert was quoted as saying a November 2007 issue of Weekly Standard.

In addition to these media attacks, which security experts call “psychological operations”, the US media and politicians have intensified over the past year their campaign to prepare the international public opinion to accept a western intervention in Pakistan along the lines of Iraq and Afghanistan:

Newsweek came up with an entire cover story with a single storyline:

Pakistan is a more dangerous place than Iraq.

. Senior American politicians, Republican and Democrat, have argued that Pakistan is more dangerous than Iran and merits similar treatment. On October 20 , Senator Joe Biden told ABC News that Washington needs to put soldiers on the ground in Pakistan and invite the international community to join in. “We should be in there,” he said. “We should be supplying tens of millions of dollars to build new schools to compete with the madrassas. We should be in there building democratic institutions. We should be in there, and get the rest of the world in there, giving some structure to the emergence of, hopefully, the reemergence of a democratic process.” . The International Crisis Group (ICG) has recommended gradual sanctions on Pakistan similar to those imposed on Iran, e.g. slapping travel bans on Pakistani military officers and seizing Pakistani military assets abroad.

The process of painting Pakistan’s nuclear assets as pure evil lying around waiting for some do-gooder to come in and “secure” has reached unprecedented levels, with the US media again depicting Pakistan as a nation incapable of protecting its nuclear installations. On October 22, Jane Harman from the US House Intelligence Panel gave the following statement: “I think the US would be wise – and I trust we are doing this – to have contingency plans [to seize Pakistan’s nuclear assets], especially because should [Musharraf] fall, there are nuclear weapons there.”

The US media has now begun discussing the possibility of Pakistan breaking up and the possibility of new states of “Balochistan” and “Pashtunistan” being carved out of it. Interestingly, one of the first acts of the shady Maulana of Swat, after capturing a few towns, was to take down the Pakistani flag from the top of state buildings and replace them with his own party flag.

The “chatter” about Musharraf’s eminent fall has also increased dramatically in the mainly US media, which has been very generous in marketing theories about how Musharraf might “disappear” or be “removed” from the scene. According to some Pakistani analysts, this could be an attempt to prepare the public opinion for a possible assassination of the Pakistani president.

Another worrying thing is how US officials are publicly signaling to the Pakistanis that Bhutto has their backing as the next leader of the country. Such signals from Washington are not only a kiss of death for any public leader in Pakistan, but the Americans also know that their actions are inviting potential assassins to target Bhutto.

If she is killed in this way, there won’t be enough time to find the real culprit, but what’s certain is that unprecedented international pressure will be placed on Islamabad while everyone will use their local assets to create maximum internal chaos in the country. A dress rehearsal of this scenario has already taken place in October when no less than the UN Security Council itself intervened to ask the international community to “assist” in the investigations into the assassination attempt on Bhutto on October 18. This generous move was sponsored by the US and, interestingly, had no input from Pakistan which did not ask for help in investigations in the first place.

Some Pakistani security analysts privately say that US “chatter” about Musharraf or Bhutto getting killed is a serious matter that can’t be easily dismissed. Getting Bhutto killed can generate the kind of pressure that could result in permanently putting the Pakistani military on a back foot, giving Washington enough room to push for installing a new pliant leadership in Islamabad.

Getting Musharraf killed isn’t a bad option either. The unknown Islamists can always be blamed, the military will not be able to put another soldier at the top, and circumstances will be created to ensure that either Bhutto or someone like her is eased into power.

The US is very serious this time. They cannot let Pakistan get out of their hands. They were kicked out of Uzbekistan last year, where they were maintaining bases. They are in trouble in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran continues to be a mess for them and Russia and China are not making it any easier. Pakistan must be “secured” at all costs.

This is why most Pakistanis have never seen US diplomats in Pakistan active like this before. And it’s not just the current US ambassador, who has added one more address to her other most-frequently-visited address in Karachi, Bhutto’s house. The new address is the office of GEO, one of two news channels shut down by Islamabad for not signing the mandatory code-of-conduct. Thirty-eight other channels are operating and no one has censored the newspapers. But never mind this. The Americans have developed a “thing” for GEO. No solace of course for ARY, the other banned channel.

There’s also Bryan Hunt, the US consul-general in Lahore, who wears the national Pakistani dress, the long shirt and baggy trousers, and is moving around these days issuing tough warnings to the Pakistani government and Musharraf to end emergency rule, resign as army chief and give Bhutto access to power.

Pakistan’s options

So what should Islamabad do in the face of such a structured campaign to bring Pakistan down to its knees and forcibly install a pro-Washington administration?

There is increasing talk in Islamabad these days about Pakistan’s new tough stand in the face of this malicious campaign.

As a starter, Islamabad blew the wind out of the visit of US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte who came to Pakistan recently “to deliver a tough message” to the Pakistani president. Musharraf, to his credit, told him he won’t end emergency rule until all objectives are achieved.

These objectives include:

. Cleaning up northern and western parts of the country of all foreign operatives and their domestic pawns.

. Ensuring that Washington’s plan for regime-change doesn’t succeed. . Purging the Pakistani media of all those elements that were willing or unwilling accomplices in the plan to destabilize the country.

Musharraf has also told Washington publicly that “Pakistan is more important than democracy or the constitution”. This is a bold position. This kind of boldness would have served Musharraf better had it come a little earlier. But even now, his media management team is unable to make the most out of it.

Washington will not stand by watching as its plan for regime change in Islamabad goes down the drain. In case the US insists on interfering in Pakistani affairs, Islamabad, according to sources, is looking at some tough measures:

. Cutting off oil supplies to US military in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials are already enraged at how Afghanistan has turned into a staging ground for sabotage in Pakistan. If Islamabad continues to see Washington acting as a bully, Pakistani officials are seriously considering an announcement where Pakistan, for the first time since October 2001, will deny the US use of Pakistani soil and air space to transport fuel to Afghanistan.

. Reviewing Pakistan’s role in the “war on terror”. Islamabad needs to fight terrorists on its border with Afghanistan. But our methods need to be different to Washington’s when it comes to our domestic extremists. This is where Islamabad parts ways with Washington. Pakistani officials are considering the option of withdrawing from the war on terror while maintaining Pakistan’s own war against the terrorists along Afghanistan’s border.

Talks with the Taliban. Pakistan has no quarrel with Afghanistan’s Taliban. They are Kabul’s internal problem. But if reaching out to Afghan Taliban’s Mullah Omar can have a positive impact on rebellious Pakistani extremists, then this step should be taken. The South Koreans can talk to the Taliban. Karzai has also called for talks with them. It is time that Islamabad does the same.

The US has been telling everyone in the world that they have paid Pakistan $10 billion over the past five years. They might think this gives them the right to decide Pakistan’s destiny. What they don’t tell the world is how Pakistan’s help secured for them their biggest footprint ever in energy-rich Central Asia.

If they forget, Islamabad can always remind them by giving them the same treatment that Uzbekistan did last year.

Ahmed Quraishi is an investigative reporter, currently hosting a weekly political talk show titled Worldview from Islamabad.

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Ahmed Quraishi, The New Nation, Pakistan, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7709

see

ISI’s Desperate Bid To Save Musharraf By Abid Ullah Jan (+ vids)

Pakistan: Violent state repression of protests over Bhutto assassination by Keith Jones

The Benazir Bhutto assassination by Trevor Murphy

The Destabilization of Pakistan by Prof. Michel Chossudovsky

Creeping Fascism: History’s Lessons By Ray McGovern

Dandelion Salad

By Ray McGovern
Consortium News
December 27, 2007

“There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theater. … Perhaps the only comparably odd thing is the way that now, years later….”

These are the words of Sebastian Haffner (pen name for Raimund Pretzel), who as a young lawyer in Berlin during the 1930s experienced the Nazi takeover and wrote a first-hand account. His children found the manuscript when he died in 1999 and published it the following year as “Geschichte eines Deutschen” (The Story of a German).

The book became an immediate bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages—in English as “Defying Hitler.”

I recently learned from his daughter Sarah, an artist in Berlin, that today is the 100th anniversary of Haffner’s birth. She had seen an earlier article in which I quoted her father and e-mailed to ask me to “write some more about the book and the comparison to Bush’s America. … This is almost unbelievable.”

More about Haffner below. Let’s set the stage first by recapping some of what has been going on that may have resonance for readers familiar with the Nazi ascendancy, noting how “odd” it is that the frontal attack on our Constitutional rights is met with such “calm, superior indifference.”

Goebbels Would be Proud

It has been two years since top New York Times officials decided to let the rest of us in on the fact that the George W. Bush administration had been eavesdropping on American citizens without the court warrants required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.

The Times had learned of this well before the election in 2004 and acquiesced to White House entreaties to suppress the damaging information.

In late fall 2005 when Times correspondent James Risen’s book, “State of War: the Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration,” revealing the warrantless eavesdropping was being printed, Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., recognized that he could procrastinate no longer.

It would simply be too embarrassing to have Risen’s book on the street, with Sulzberger and his associates pretending that this explosive eavesdropping story did not fit Adolph Ochs’s trademark criterion: All The News That’s Fit To Print.

(The Times’ own ombudsman, Public Editor Byron Calame, branded the newspaper’s explanation for the long delay in publishing this story “woefully inadequate.”)

When Sulzberger told his friends in the White House that he could no longer hold off on publishing in the newspaper, he was summoned to the Oval Office for a counseling session with the president on Dec. 5, 2005. Bush tried in vain to talk him out of putting the story in the Times.

The truth would out; part of it, at least.

Glitches

There were some embarrassing glitches. For example, unfortunately for National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the White House neglected to tell him that the cat would soon be out of the bag.

So on Dec. 6, Alexander spoke from the old talking points in assuring visiting House intelligence committee member Rush Holt, D-New Jersey, that the NSA did not eavesdrop on Americans without a court order.

Still possessed of the quaint notion that generals and other senior officials are not supposed to lie to congressional oversight committees, Holt wrote a blistering letter to Gen. Alexander after the Times, on Dec. 16, front-paged a feature by Risen and Eric Lichtblau, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts.”

But House Intelligence Committee chair Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan, apparently found Holt’s scruples benighted; Hoekstra did nothing to hold Alexander accountable for misleading Holt, his most experienced committee member, who had served as an intelligence analyst at the State Department.

What followed struck me as bizarre. The day after the Dec. 16 Times feature article, the president of the United States publicly admitted to a demonstrably impeachable offense.

Authorizing illegal electronic surveillance was a key provision of the second article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. On July 27, 1974, this and two other articles of impeachment were approved by bipartisan votes in the House Judiciary Committee.

Bush Takes Frontal Approach

Far from expressing regret, the president bragged about having authorized the surveillance “more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks,” and said he would continue to do so. The president also said:

“Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.”

On Dec. 19, 2005, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-NSA Director Michael Hayden held a press conference to answer questions about the as yet unnamed surveillance program.

Gonzales was asked why the White House decided to flout FISA rather than attempt to amend it, choosing instead a “backdoor approach.” He answered:

“We have had discussions with Congress…as to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible.”

Hmm. Impossible? It strains credulity that a program of the limited scope described would be unable to win ready approval from a Congress that had just passed the “Patriot Act” in record time.

James Risen has made the following quip about the prevailing mood: “In October 2001, you could have set up guillotines on the public streets of America.”

It was not difficult to infer that the surveillance program must have been of such scope and intrusiveness that, even amid highly stoked fear, it didn’t have a prayer for passage.

It turns out we didn’t know the half of it.

What To Call These Activities

“Illegal Surveillance Program” didn’t seem quite right for White House purposes, and the PR machine was unusually slow off the blocks.

It took six weeks to settle on “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” with FOX News leading the way followed by the president himself. This labeling would dovetail nicely with the president’s rhetoric on Dec. 17:

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. … The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September 11 helped address that problem…” [Emphasis added]

And Gen. Michael Hayden, who headed NSA from 1999 to 2005, was of course on the same page, dissembling as convincingly as the president. At his May 2006 confirmation hearings to become CIA director, he told of his soul-searching when, as director of NSA, he was asked to eavesdrop on Americans without a court warrant.

“I had to make this personal decision in early October 2001,” said Hayden. “It was a personal decision. … I could not not do this.”

Like so much else, it was all because of 9/11. But we now know…

It Started Seven Months Before 9/11.

How many times have you heard it? The mantra “after 9/11 everything changed” has given absolution to all manner of sin.

We are understandably reluctant to believe the worst of our leaders, and this tends to make us negligent. After all, we learned from former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that drastic changes were made in U.S. foreign policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue and toward Iraq at the first National Security Council meeting on Jan. 30, 2001.

Should we not have anticipated far-reaching changes at home as well?

Reporting by the Rocky Mountain News and court documents and testimony on a case involving Qwest strongly suggest that in February 2001 Hayden saluted smartly when the Bush administration instructed NSA to suborn AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest to spy illegally on you, me, and other Americans.

Bear in mind that this would have had nothing to do with terrorism, which did not really appear on the new administration’s radar screen until a week before 9/11, despite the pleading of Clinton aides that the issue deserved extremely high priority.

So this until-recently-unknown pre-9/11 facet of the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” was not related to Osama bin Laden or to whomever he and his associates might be speaking. It had to do with us.

We know that the Democrats briefed on the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, (the one with the longest tenure on the House Intelligence Committee), Rep. Jane Harman, D-California, and former and current chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham, D-Florida, and Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, respectively.

May one interpret their lack of public comment on the news that the snooping began well before 9/11 as a sign they were co-opted and then sworn to secrecy?

It is an important question. Were the appropriate leaders in Congress informed that within days of George W. Bush’s first inauguration the NSA electronic vacuum cleaner began to suck up information on you and me, despite the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment?

Are They All Complicit?

And are Democratic leaders about to cave in and grant retroactive immunity to those telecommunications corporations—AT&T and Verizon—which made millions by winking at the law and the Constitution?

(Qwest, to its credit, heeded the advice of its general counsel who said that what NSA wanted done was clearly illegal.)

What’s going on here? Have congressional leaders no sense for what is at stake?

Lately the adjective “spineless” has come into vogue in describing congressional Democrats—no offense to invertebrates.

Nazis and Their Enablers

You don’t have to be a Nazi. You can just be, well, a sheep.

In his journal, Sebastian Haffner decries what he calls the “sheepish submissiveness” with which the German people reacted to a 9/11-like event, the burning of the German Parliament (Reichstag) on Feb. 27, 1933.

Haffner finds it quite telling that none of his acquaintances “saw anything out of the ordinary in the fact that, from then on, one’s telephone would be tapped, one’s letters opened, and one’s desk might be broken into.”

But it is for the cowardly politicians that Haffner reserves his most vehement condemnation. Do you see any contemporary parallels here?

In the elections of March 4, 1933, shortly after the Reichstag fire, the Nazi party garnered only 44 percent of the vote. Only the “cowardly treachery” of the Social Democrats and other parties to whom 56 percent of the German people had entrusted their votes made it possible for the Nazis to seize full power. Haffner adds:

“It is in the final analysis only that betrayal that explains the almost inexplicable fact that a great nation, which cannot have consisted entirely of cowards, fell into ignominy without a fight.”

The Social Democratic leaders betrayed their followers—“for the most part decent, unimportant individuals.” In May, the party leaders sang the Nazi anthem; in June the Social Democratic party was dissolved.

The middle-class Catholic party Zentrum folded in less than a month, and in the end supplied the votes necessary for the two-thirds majority that “legalized” Hitler’s dictatorship.

As for the right-wing conservatives and German nationalists: “Oh God,” writes Haffner, “what an infinitely dishonorable and cowardly spectacle their leaders made in 1933 and continued to make afterward. … They went along with everything: the terror, the persecution of Jews. … They were not even bothered when their own party was banned and their own members arrested.”

In sum: “There was not a single example of energetic defense, of courage or principle. There was only panic, flight, and desertion. In March 1933, millions were ready to fight the Nazis. Overnight they found themselves without leaders. … At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown. … The result is today the nightmare of the rest of the world.”

This is what can happen when virtually all are intimidated.

Our Founding Fathers were not oblivious to this; thus, James Madison:

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. … The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.”

We cannot say we weren’t warned.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. A former Army officer and CIA analyst, he worked in Germany for five years; he is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

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Should Gen. Hayden Be Confirmed or Court-Martialed? By Ray McGovern

NSA Spying: What Did Pelosi Know? By Ray McGovern

The torture tape fingering Bush as a war criminal By Andrew Sullivan

It’s time to impeach our VP and Pres: http://www.wexlerwantshearings.com

Dandelion Salad

By Andrew Sullivan
ICH 12/25/07
The Times” 12/23/07

Almost all of the time, the Washington I know and live in is utterly unrelated to the Washington you see in the movies. The government is far more incompetent and amateur than the masterminds of Hollywood darkness.

There are no rogue CIA agents engaging in illegal black ops and destroying evidence to protect their political bosses. The kinds of scenario cooked up in Matt Damon’s riveting Bourne series are fantasy compared with the mundane, bureaucratic torpor of the Brussels on the Potomac.

And then you read about the case of Abu Zubaydah. He is a seriously bad guy – someone we should all be glad is in custody. A man deeply involved in Al-Qaeda, he was captured in a raid in Pakistan in March 2002 and whisked off to a secret interrogation, allegedly in Thailand.

President George Bush claimed Zubaydah was critical in identifying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind behind 9/11. The president also conceded that at some point the CIA, believing Zubaydah was withholding information, “used an alternative set of procedures”, which were “safe and lawful and necessary”.

Zubaydah was waterboarded. That much we know – it was confirmed recently by a former CIA agent, John Kiriakou, who even used the plain English word “torture” to describe what was done. But we know little else for sure. We do know there was deep division within the American government about Zubaydah’s interrogation, and considerable debate about his reliability.

Ron Suskind’s masterful 2006 book The One Percent Doctrine recorded FBI sources as saying that Zubaydah was in fact mentally unstable and tangential to Al-Qaeda’s plots, and that he gave reams of unfounded information under torture – information that led law-enforcement bodies in the US to raise terror alert levels, rushing marshals and police to shopping malls, bridges and other alleged targets as Zubaydah tried to get the torture to stop. No one disputes that Zubaydah wrote a diary – and that it was written in the words of three personalities, none of them his own.

A former FBI agent who was involved in the interrogation, Daniel Coleman, said last week that the CIA knew Al-Qaeda’s leaders all believed Zubaydah “was crazy, and they knew he was always on the damn phone. You think they’re going to tell him anything?” Even though preliminary, legal interrogation gave the US good – though not unique – information, the CIA still asked for and received permission to torture him in pursuit of more data and leads.

The Washington Post reported that “current and former officials” said the torture lasted weeks and even, according to some, months, and that the techniques included hypothermia, long periods of standing, sleep deprivation and multiple sessions of waterboarding. All these “alternative procedures”, as Bush described them, are illegal under US law and the Geneva conventions. They are, in fact, war crimes. And they were once all treated by the US as war crimes when they were perpetrated by the Nazis. Waterboarding has been found to be a form of torture in various American legal cases.

And that is where the story becomes interesting. The Bush administration denies any illegality at all, insists it does not “torture” but refuses to say whether it believes waterboarding is torture or not. But hundreds of hours of videotape were recorded of Zubaydah’s incarceration and torture. That evidence would settle the dispute over the extremely serious question of whether the president of the United States authorised war crimes.

And now we have found out that all the tapes have been destroyed.

See what I mean by Hollywood? We know about the destruction because someone in the government told The New York Times. We also know the 9/11 Commission had asked the administration to furnish every piece of relevant evidence with respect to Zubaydah’s interrogation and was not told about the tapes. We know also that four senior aides to Bush and Dick Cheney, the vice-president, discussed the destruction of the tapes – including David Addington, Cheney’s right-hand man and the chief legal architect of the administration’s detention and interrogation policies.

At a press conference last Thursday the president gave an equivocal response to what he knew about the tapes and when he knew it: “The first recollection is when CIA director Mike Hayden briefed me.” That briefing was earlier this month. The president is saying he cannot recall something – not that it didn’t happen. That’s the formulation all lawyers tell their clients to use when they need to avoid an exposable lie.

This is not, of course, the first big scandal to have emerged over the administration’s interrogation policies. You can fill a book with the sometimes sickening details that have come out of Guantanamo Bay, Bagram in Afghanistan, Camp Cropper in Iraq and, of course, Abu Ghraib.

The administration has admitted that several prisoners have been killed in interrogation, and dozens more have died in the secret network of interrogation sites the US has set up across the world. The policy of rendition has sent countless suspects into torture cells in Uzbekistan, Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere to feed the West’s intelligence on jihadist terrorism.

But this case is more ominous for the administration because it presents a core example of what seems to be a cover-up, obstruction of justice and a direct connection between torture and the president, the vice-president and their closest aides.

Because several courts had pending cases in which testimony from Zubaydah’s interrogation was salient, the destruction of such evidence triggers a legal process that is hard for the executive branch to stymie or stall – and its first attempt was flatly rebuffed by a judge last week.

Its key argument is a weakly technical one: that the interrogation took place outside US territory – and therefore the courts do not have jurisdiction over it. It’s the same rationale for imprisoning hundreds of suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba – a legal no man’s land. But Congress can get involved – especially if it believes that what we have here is a cover-up.

What are the odds that a legal effective interrogation of a key Al-Qaeda operative would have led many highly respected professionals in the US intelligence community to risk their careers by leaking top-secret details to the press?

What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?

What are the odds that, under congressional grilling, the new attorney-general would also refuse to say whether he believed waterboarding was illegal, if there was any doubt that the president had authorised it? The odds are beyond minimal.

Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have – without any bias – would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.

Congresswoman Jane Harman, the respected top Democrat on the House intelligence committee in 2003-06, put it as simply as she could: “I am worried. It smells like the cover-up of the cover-up.”

It’s a potential Watergate. But this time the crime is not a two-bit domestic burglary. It’s a war crime that reaches into the very heart of the Oval Office.

Yes, it is Hollywood time. And the ending of this movie is as yet unwritten.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

see

New York Times bows to White House pressure over CIA tapes story by Bill Van Auken

9/11 Panel Study Finds That CIA Withheld Tapes By Mark Mazzetti

Former CIA analyst says evidence abounds for impeachment

CIA chief to drag White House into torture cover-up storm  h/t: ICH

Maxine & Ted – Don’t Call Us If You Call Us Terrorists! by Linda Milazzo

Dandelion Salad

by Linda Milazzo
Atlantic Free Press
Thursday, 20 December 2007

On October 23rd, Congress voted to stifle Americans’ right to dissent when it passed House Resolution 1955, the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007,” sponsored by California Congresswoman, Jane Harman. In sanctioning the ambiguous definitions for “homeland terrorism” contained in this bill, Congress equated American participatory democracy to American “homegrown terror.” The First Amendment is under assault:

H.R. 1955 DEFINITIONS:

(1) COMMISSION- The term `Commission’ means the National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism established under section 899C.

(2) VIOLENT RADICALIZATION- The term `violent radicalization’ means the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.

(3) HOMEGROWN TERRORISM- The term `homegrown terrorism’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

(4) IDEOLOGICALLY BASED VIOLENCE- The term `ideologically based violence’ means the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.

Despite the ambiguity of the language in H.R. 1955, it still passed the House by an overwhelming 404 to 6 – rammed through by Jane Harman, under the guise of deterring another American mass murderer like Timothy McVeigh. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_McVeigh

Point of fact: In recent years, America’s most horrific mass murderers have primarily been teenagers – Columbine’s Harris and Klebold, and the Omaha mall shooter, Robert Hawkins, to name just a few. Virginia Tech 23 year old college student, Seung Hui Cho, murdered 32. None of their “plans” would have been detected and prevented if H.R. 1955, or its Senate clone, S. 1959, had been in place at the time.

Among the 404 deluded Congress members who voted for H.R. 1955 was California Congresswoman Maxine Waters – one of the few progressive heroes in the House. Odd that Congresswoman Waters would support legislation laden with such ambiguous language. The definitions in this bill are written so broadly that nearly anyone can be accused of planning or threatening terror if they disagree with their government and attempt to alter policy. Considering Congresswoman Water’s fabled advocacy for participatory democracy, one might conclude she hadn’t adequately read the bill before voting for it.

Underscoring this contention was Congresswoman Waters’ apparent lack of understanding of the blow-back from this bill. In a December 10th interview on Lila Garrett’s KPFK Pacifica Radio talk show, “CONNECT THE DOTS,” the Congresswoman said the following:

“I do think that the American public, who have shown through the polls that they want to end this war on Iraq, have not gotten angry enough and they’re not doing enough to force their elected officials to fight.”

By imploring Americans to get angry and “force their elected officials to fight,” Congresswoman Waters is asking her “homegrown” supporters to carry forth actions that H.R. 1955 characterizes as “terrorism.” With H.R. 1955 in place, if non-violent anti-war activists make a plan to force the “furtherance of political or social objectives,” they meet the bill’s criteria for “homegrown terrorists.”

Tragically, Congresswoman Waters’ support for H.R. 1955 has endangered the rights of her supporters.

I’m a huge admirer of Congresswoman Waters. I know how seriously she values free speech, peaceful assembly, and the freedom to petition the government as ordained by the First Amendment. I was surprised and dismayed that she supported this bill. When I called her office last Thursday to get a statement as to why she had, I was told by a staffer that the Congresswoman had asked to see the bill just moments before.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Congresswoman did revisit her support for the bill after THE PEOPLE so vocally opposed it. She may have even instigated the formal written defense of the bill issued by the House Majority Staff in response to the public outrage.

However, THE PEOPLE are so incensed by this bill that the “official” House response has not allayed their concerns in the least. The language of the bill has not been altered or improved upon and remains as inept as the Homeland Security Department charged with overseeing it.

To be fair, there is legitimate rationale for vigilance in protecting the nation. Violence of any kind is intolerable – which explains why millions of Americans oppose the current Bush regime. It deems pro-peace groups un-American and imprisons their members routinely. CODEPINK is a prime example.

During one week in 2004, over 1800 non violent Americans were arrested and jailed during the Republican National Convention. Some have been harassed and arrested for T-shirts. Some for the bumper stickers on their cars. Should it be any wonder why millions of Americans are suspicious that at the very start of the 2008 Presidential election year, H.R. 1955 is born?

A nation that views its own people as enemies creates laws to suppress them. A Congress that ignores the will of its people creates laws to redefine them. Homegrown activists become homegrown terrorists. Per the vague designations in H.R. 1955, activists and terrorists are the same.

The Senate version of H.R. 1955, S. 1959 is scheduled for vote this week. Last week I called Senators Boxer, Feingold and Kennedy to see how they would vote. I got a “we don’t know yet” from Boxer’s office. A staffer for Feingold said his Senator would vote against it because it stifles free speech. Since Feingold was the lone Senator to vote against the PATRIOT ACT, I’m hopeful his staffer is correct.

My call to Senator Kennedy was prompted by the same rationale as my call to Congresswoman Waters. On December 7th, in an article on the HuffingtonPost, Senator Kennedy vented his anger over the CIA’s destruction of the prisoner interrogation tapes. According to Senator Kennedy:

Because these tapes constituted necessary evidence for the 9/11 Commission, their destruction was illegal under “Section 1512 of Title 18 of the United States Code [which] makes it a felony to “corruptly alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal a record, document, or other object… with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding.”

At the end of his article, Senator Kennedy made a pronouncement and a request to supporters. He said:

“I’m headed to the floor to demand answers. I hope you will demand them as well.”

If Americans respond to Senator Kennedy’s plea to ‘demand answers,’ and devise a plan to force the “furtherance of political or social objectives,” they too, can be designated “homegrown terrorists” if S. 1959 is passed. These dutiful patriots would be going forward at Senator Kennedy’s behest, employing acts he defined as “homegrown terrorism” if he votes this legislation in place.

But this won’t be the case if Senator Kennedy and his Senate colleagues vote NO on S. 1959. If they vote it down, they earn the right to engage their supporters to act on their behalf. If they vote for it, they forfeit the right to put citizens at risk by requesting their help.

One can only hope that Senators Kennedy, Boxer and Feingold, and their 97 colleagues, won’t make the same mistake in the Senate that Congresswoman Waters and 403 of her colleagues made in the House. When Legislators place Americans in the precarious circumstance of teetering between activist and terrorist, they forego all claim to public support.

The current government, including the Homeland Security Department which will oversee this bill, has been incompetent in intelligence gathering again and again. Just last week, the domestic terrorism case against the so-called “Liberty City Seven,” ended in a mistrial. According to The Washington Post:

“Evidence presented at the trial portrayed the “Liberty City Seven” as a group of somewhat hapless low-income laborers, and defense attorneys said the men had become ensnared in what they characterized as an overzealous FBI investigation.”

If S. 1959 passes the Senate, unfounded cases like this will occur with greater regularity. Whomever the government seeks to silence will be subjected to reprisal, fomented by a purposely ambiguous law.

It takes just one Senator to put a HOLD on a bill to stop it indefinitely. Right now it appears that Russ Feingold of Wisconsin may be the one Senator who will do it. It would be particularly significant if the four Democratic Senators running for President would come together to stop this bill. Senators Clinton, Obama, Biden and Dodd should demonstrate their leadership by quelling this assault on dissent. Senator Dodd has already shown his heroism by challenging retroactive immunity for telecom companies. He should not be the only one! Senators Clinton and Obama should demonstrate respect for THE PEOPLE by not voting against THE PEOPLE’S rights. Removing THE PEOPLE’S freedoms is a symptom of fear – not valor.

Senator Kennedy uses his family tradition to ask Americans to participate in their nation. With a belief in participatory democracy that deep, he should stop this bill.

Senator Boxer, who regularly recruits activists to push through legislation, should also stop this bill. According to Marcy Winograd, President of Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, who challenged Harman for Congress in 2006:

“Senator Boxer, one of our more courageous lawmakers, needs to put a hold on this bill before we see a return of the McCarthy hearings, with committees interrogating conscientious Americans who have spoken out against the war and globalization. This legislation ostensibly targets those who promote violence and extremist ideology, but if that were really the case the lawmakers supporting this legislation would be impeaching and indicting George Bush and Dick Cheney.”

This First Amendment assault crosses party and ideological lines in the same way as media consolidation. Progressives and conservatives alike deplore the suppression of freedom. Even the ultra right wing John Birch Society opposes H.R. 1955 and S. 1959. http://www.jbs.org/node/644

This week the Senate can support the First Amendment, or let the First Amendment die. S. 1959 must NOT pass. Tell your Senators to vote NO on S. 1959.

Email them here

Phone them at: (202) 224-3121

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Are Americans Really “Better Than That?” By Ray McGovern

Dandelion Salad

By Ray McGovern
12/12/07 “ICH

A boyish, inquisitive face with an innocent look peered out from the Washington Post’s lead story yesterday on torture. It was well groomed, pink-shirted John Kiriakou, a CIA interrogator who could just as easily pass for the local youth minister.

The report by the Post’s Joby Warrick and Dan Eggen, which describes Kiriakou’s experience in interrogating suspected terrorists, raises in an unusually direct way an abiding question: Should the United States of America be using forms of torture dating back to the Spanish Inquisition?

Nowhere is the mood of that infamous period better portrayed than in the famous Grand Inquisitor chapter of Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky was unusually gifted at plumbing the human heart. While it has been 127 years since he wrote Brothers Karamazov, he nonetheless captures the trap into which so many Americans have fallen in forfeiting freedom through fear. His portrayal of Inquisition reality brings us to the brink of the moral precipice on which our country teeters today. It is as though he knew what would be in store for us as fear was artificially stoked after the attacks of 9/11.

In the story, Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor (the Cardinal of Seville) ridicules Christ for imposing on humans the heavy burden of freedom of conscience, and explains how it is far better, for all concerned, to dull that conscience and to rule by deceit, violence, and fear:

“Didst thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil?…We teach them that it’s not the free judgment of their hearts, but mystery which they must follow blindly, even against their conscience…. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet [and] become obedient…We shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name…. we shall be forced to lie…. We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated if it is done with our permission.”
The Grand Inquisitor, in Brothers Karamazov


Kiriakou was one of the first interrogators to interview suspected terrorist Abu Zubayda in a Pakistani military hospital, where Zubayda was recovering from wounds suffered during his capture in early 2002. When he refused to provide information about al-Qaeda’s infrastructure, he was flown to a secret CIA prison where, according to Kiriakou, the interrogation team strapped Abu Zubayda to a board, wrapped his nose and mouth in cellophane, and forced water into his throat. In just 35 seconds, viola! Abu Zubayda starting talking. That is called waterboarding.

The 15 & 16 Century Spanish inquisitors were not squeamish, and had little need for circumlocutions or euphemisms like “alternative set of procedures” that are part of President George W. Bush’s lexicon. The Spanish called this procedure, quite plainly, “tortura del agua.” Lacking cellophane, they inserted a cloth into the victim’s mouth, forcing the victim to ingest water spilled from a jar starting the drowning process. Four centuries later, the Gestapo put out several technically improved releases of this operating system of torture, so to speak.

Quick; someone please tell newly confirmed Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who told reporters yesterday he still cannot decide whether waterboarding is torture.

Abu Zubayda: Poster Child

The information from John Kiriakou confirms what has long been a no-brainer but not definitively established before; namely, that President George W. Bush’s “alternative set of procedures” for interrogation by C.I.A. includes waterboarding. Zubayda was given pride of place in George W. Bush’s remarkable speech of Sept. 6, 2006, in which he bragged about the effectiveness of such procedures and appealed successfully for passage of the Military Commissions Act. That law allows a president to define what set of interrogation procedures can be used by the C.I.A. This is Bush on Sept. 6, 2006:

We believe that Zubayda was a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden…[and that] he had run a terrorist camp in Afghanistan where some of the 9/11 hijackers trained…We knew that Zubayda had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking…And so the CIA used an alternative set of procedures…The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful…. But I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary.

Zubayda was questioned using these procedures, and soon he began to provide information on key al-Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th. For example, Zubayda identified one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s accomplices in the 9/11 attacks — a terrorist named Ramzi bin al Shibh. The information Zubayda provided helped lead to the capture of bin al Shibh. And together these two terrorists provided information that helped in the planning and execution of the operation that captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.


Bush claimed that his interrogation program had saved lives, and Kiriakou says the use of waterboarding “probably saved lives.” We cannot know for sure if this is true. Off-the-record interviews with intelligence officials strongly suggest that there is much prevarication and exaggeration in
the president’s claims about lives saved and operations disrupted, and that his assertions merit no more credulity than other claims—for example, that Iran’s nuclear weapons program poses a threat to the U.S., even though it has been stopped for four years.

Other U.S. intelligence officials take issue with the C.I.A.’s version of the questioning of Zubayda. Some say that initially he was cooperating with F.B.I. interrogators using a nonconfrontational approach, when C.I.A. assumed control and opted for more aggressive tactics. After that experience, the F.B.I. reportedly warned its agents to avoid interrogation sessions at which harsh methods were used.

As for credibility, never has a U.S. president’s word been so cheapened as it is today. In late July 2007, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity joined with Justin Frank, MD, psychiatrist, professor at George Washington University Hospital, and author of “Bush on the Couch,” to search for insight on how President Bush thinks. See “Dangers of a Cornered Bush,” http://www.consortiumnews.com/Print/2007/072707a.html, from which we excerpt the following:

His pathology is a patchwork of false beliefs and incomplete information woven into what he asserts is the whole truth…He lies—not just to us, but to himself as well…What makes lying so easy for Bush is his contempt—for language, for law, and for anybody who dares question him…. So his words mean nothing. That is very important for people to understand.


This Is Oversight?

The past few weeks have witnessed an unseemly square dance in Congress, highlighting conflicting claims about what those who are supposed to be overseeing the intelligence community knew and when they knew it—about torture, about Iran, about many things. It is nothing short of an insult to the Founders that members of the House and Senate can find nothing more useful to do than wring their hands over their largely self-inflicted powerlessness.

Lawmakers have been so thoroughly intimidated by the White House that I get physically ill watching the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Jane Harman, Bob Graham, and Jay Rockefeller moan about how secretive and nasty the Bush administration has been. Harman complained recently that when she was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee some of the material (on interrogations) was so highly classified that she had to take a “second oath” to protect it.

What about the solemn oath they all take to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic? Should not that oath transcend and govern others that an administration might require for access to secret materials?

Senator Dick Durbin of the Senate Intelligence Committee has complained that he was aware that classified information did not justify the conclusion in 2002 that Iraq had unconventional weapons, but he could not say anything because it was classified! Durbin explained:

…We’re duty-bound once we enter that room to respect classified information. Everything you hear is supposed to stay in the room…I certainly had enough to know that the statements that were made about mushroom clouds were not the conclusions of someone in the administration who was really being honest about the full debate. But you really know, walking in the room, what the rules of the game will be.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has admitted knowing for several years about the Bush administration’s eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. She was briefed on it when she was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee when Bush and Cheney took office. One key unanswered question is this: Was she told that within days of their taking office—that is, seven months before 9/11, the National Security Agency’s electronic vacuum cleaner had already begun to suck up information on Americans—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, not to mention the Constitution, be damned?

In a Washington Post op-ed of Jan. 15, 2006, Pelosi proudly advertised her uniquely long tenure on the Intelligence Committee and acknowledged that she was one of the privileged handful of lawmakers who were briefed. “This is how I came to be informed of President Bush’s authorization for the NSA to conduct certain types of surveillance.” She then proceeded to demonstrate the bowing and scraping characteristic of her subservient attitude toward the Executive Branch:

“But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval. There is a clear expectation that the information will be shared by no one, including other members of the intelligence committees. As a result, only a few members of Congress were aware of the president’s surveillance program, and they were constrained from discussing it more widely.”


And so too, may we assume, with respect to torture? This is oversight?

Neutered Watchdogs: Rockefeller and Reyes

What can we expect from the current Senate and House oversight chairmen regarding the recently disclosed, deliberate destruction of two tapes of harsh interrogations of Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri? (Al-Nashiri is thought to have played a role in the attack on the USS Cole.) On the Senate side, expect nothing of Mr. Milquetoast Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who, it is said, is so afraid of his own shadow that he only ventures outdoors at night or in bad weather.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes has a different kind of problem, and should recuse himself. He has been fawning all over José Rodriguez, the former CIA Deputy Director of Operations who ordered the tapes destroyed.

On August 16, 2007 Congressman Reyes told a conference in El Paso he considered Rodriguez “an American hero,” proudly adding that, “with a few liberties that Hollywood takes, the exploits of José Rodriguez are documented in the FOX TV series “24.” I am told that almost every episode of “24” includes at least one scene glorifying torture, usually with lead man Jack Bauer playing a main role. Reyes made it clear he is a big fan of Bauer and “24.”

Were that not enough, after Rodriguez’ role in destroying the interrogation tapes became public, Reyes immediately cautioned against allowing investigations to find just one “scapegoat” (no secret to whom he was referring). And so, unless Reyes does recuse himself, look for a “complete and thorough” investigation of the kind favored by the Nixon White House. (Just when you may have thought it could not get any worse!)

Torture as Technique: Stark Differences in View

On Sept. 6, 2006, the very day Bush bragged about his “alternative set of procedures for interrogation” and appealed for legislation allowing the C.I.A. to continue using them, the head of Army intelligence, Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, took a very different tack. Conducting a Pentagon briefing shortly before the president gave his own speech, Kimmons underscored the fact that the revised Army manual for interrogation is in sync with the Geneva treaties. Then, conceding past “transgressions and mistakes,” Kimmons updated something I learned 45 years ago as a second lieutenant in Army intelligence:

“No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that.”


Grabbing the headlines the following day, was Bush’s admission that the CIA has taken “high-value” captives to prisons abroad for interrogation using “tough” techniques prohibited by the revised Army field manual—and by Geneva, for that matter. Gen. Kimmons displayed uncommon courage in facing into that wind.

How About— Stop Torture Because It’s Wrong?

Have you noticed the shameful silence of our institutional churches, synagogues, and mosques? True, on occasion a professor of moral theology will speak out. Professor William Schweiker of the Chicago Divinity School, for example, has heaped scorn on the scenario of the lone knower of the facts whose torture is thought to be able to save millions of lives. He notes that such is “the stuff of bad spy movies and bad exam questions in ethics courses.” Schweiker warns Christians, in particular:

“Not to fall prey to fear and questionable reasoning and this continue to support an unjust and vile practice that demeans the nation’s highest political and moral ideals, even as it desecrates one of the most important practices and symbols (Baptism) of the Christian faith.”
http://marty-center.uchicago.edu/sightings/archive_2007/1129.shtml


And, to its credit, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a coalition of 130 religious organizations from left to right on the political spectrum, yesterday issued a strong call for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the C.I.A.’s destruction of the videotapes of harsh interrogation techniques. NRCAT’s founder, Princeton Theological Seminary professor George Hunsinger told the press that “to acknowledge that waterboarding is torture is like conceding that the sun rises in the east,” adding:

“All the dissembling in high places that makes these shocking abuses possible must be brought to an end. But they will undoubtedly continue unless those responsible for them are held accountable. Clearly a joint probe by the Justice Department and the CIA — agencies that are both seriously compromised — is not enough. A special counsel is an essential first step.”


But where are the official voices of the institutional churches, synagogues, and mosques in this country. In effect, they are ordaining Jack Bauer with their silence.

This Happened Before

With very few exceptions, the institutional churches in Nazi Germany kept a shameful silence, denying believers the moral authority and leadership so needed to stand up to Gestapo torturers. Indeed, many of the bishops—like military leaders, and jurists—swore a personal oath to Hitler. For his part, the Nazi leader moved quite quickly to ensure that there was a pastor—whether Evangelical or Catholic—in every parish in Germany. He saw this as a source of support and stability for his regime. And, sadly, it was.

While the Nazis were systematically torturing and even murdering defenseless victims, they kept repeating assurances that not a single hair of anyone’s head would be harmed. (Shades of the familiar refrain “we do not torture.”) And the propaganda machine under Joseph Goebbels made a fine art of what President Bush calls the need to “catapult the propaganda.”

Sebastian Haffner, a young German lawyer in Berlin during the thirties kept a journal that his children subsequently published in book form as “Defying Hitler.” His fascinating account of Germany in the thirties provides many thoughtful insights into prevailing attitudes and the lack of moral leadership. Haffner’s journal depicted the kind of ambiance in which the approach of the Grand Inquisitor would, and did, flourish—“in the end they will lay their freedom at our feet [and] become obedient:”

“The weather in March 1933 was glorious. Was it not wonderful to…merge with festive crowds and listen to speeches about freedom and homeland? (It was certainly better than having one’s belly pumped up with a water hose in some hidden secret police cellar.)”


Breeding and Breakdown

Haffner closes his chapter on 1933 with observations that, in my view, apply much too aptly to America today:

“The sequence of events is, as you see, not so unnatural. It is wholly within the normal range of psychology, and it helps to explain the almost inexplicable. The only thing that is missing is what in animals is called ‘breeding.’ This is a solid inner kernel that cannot be shaken by external pressures and forces, something noble and steely, a reserve of pride, principle, and dignity to be drawn on in the hour of trial. It is missing in Germans. As a nation we are soft, unreliable, and without backbone. That was shown in March 1933. At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown.”


C.I.A.’s John Kiriakou says he is now convinced that waterboarding is torture and he is against it. He adds, “Americans are better than that.”

But Are We Better Than That?

Sadly, that remains to be seen. With virtually all religious institutions, politicians, and educators all squandering what moral authority they have left, the Jack Bauer culture threatens to win out in the end. We cannot let that happen.

The upcoming duel on the missing interrogation tapes will again bring the issue of torture front and center. And, strangely, waterboarding and other Jack Bauer tradecraft tools still enjoy a strong constituency.

Here’s where we come in; for we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. As one of my intelligence alumni colleagues noted recently, this is about our country losing its soul. Let’s rise to the occasion and stop unconscionable policies like torture. True patriotism goes well beyond a flag-on-the-lapel. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. noted, “Sometimes you have to put your body into it.” Besides, we need to keep the water hose from pumping up our bellies and those of our loved ones. I only wish that were as remote a possibility as it was before President Bush and his associates came up with their “alternative set of procedures.”

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He was an Army officer and then a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years, and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).


This article appeared first on Consortiumnews.com.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

CIA destroyed torture tapes by Joe Kay

Dandelion Salad

by Joe Kay
Global Research, December 9, 2007
WSWS.ORG

The revelation that the Central Intelligence Agency destroyed at least two video tapes depicting the torture of prisoners held by the United States underscores the brazen criminality of the Bush administration. Aside from the torture itself, the elimination of evidence of brutal interrogation exposes top CIA and government officials to obstruction of justice charges.

In an article published on Friday, the New York Times cites several unnamed current and former government officials in reporting that “at least two videotapes” were destroyed. The tapes showed the 2002 interrogation of two prisoners, one of whom was Abu Zubaydah, considered a top member of Al Qaeda. The other individual was not named.

Although the government has never officially acknowledged it, Zubaydah, captured by the CIA in March 2002, was subjected to water-boarding, a form of torture involving the near drowning and suffocation of the prisoner. One can only assume that the tapes depict water-boarding or worse forms of torture.

The existence and destruction of the tapes was first revealed on Thursday by CIA Director Michael Hayden in a letter to CIA employees. Hayden issued the letter only after the government was informed by the New York Times Wednesday that the newspaper planned to publish an article on the topic.

Hayden’s letter attempts to create a rationale for what was clearly a move to hide the government’s actions from American and world public opinion and destroy evidence of criminal activity by CIA operatives and government officials, up to and including President Bush.

As the CIA well knew, if the tapes had become public—especially in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib revelations—they would have evoked a wave of shock and revulsion in the United States and around the world, and confirmed that Abu Ghraib, far from an aberration, was the outcome of US government policy.

Hayden made the improbable claim that the tapes were destroyed to protect CIA interrogators from retaliation by Al Qaeda. He wrote in his letter that the CIA halted the practice of taping interrogations in 2002, after only a few recordings had been made.

The Times reported that the tapes were destroyed “in part because officers were concerned that video showing harsh interrogation methods could expose agency officials to legal risks, several officials said.”

If this statement is true, it is clear evidence of obstruction of justice. The officials also “said that CIA officers had judged that the release of photos or videos depicting his interrogation would provoke a strong reaction.” That is, the destruction involved a conspiracy to prevent the population from learning of the actions of the American government.

The tapes were destroyed in late 2005, as the extent of the CIA program of abusive interrogations was first coming to public light. On November 2, 2005, the Washington Post published the first report on the CIA interrogation program overseas. Subsequent reports detailed the techniques used, and on November 18, ABC News reported that one of these techniques was water-boarding. ABC reported on December 5, 2005 that one of the prisoners involved in the program was Zubaydah, and that he had been held in a CIA prison in Thailand.

The destruction of the tapes also took place in the context of the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, accused of conspiring in the September 11 attacks. Moussaoui’s lawyers wanted to review any videotapes of interrogations of Al Qaeda members in order to demonstrate that Moussaoui was not involved in plans for the attacks.

In 2003 and again in 2005, US District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered the prosecutors to disclose whether any interrogations had been recorded, but the government refused to comply. On November 3, 2005, Brinkema asked about videotapes of specific interrogations. On November 14, the government reported that it did not have any tapes of these interrogations.

It is not clear exactly when the tapes were destroyed. According to the Washington Post, however, the destruction came after the November 14 response to Brinkema. According a CIA spokesman, the videotapes destroyed were not among those specifically requested by Brinkema.

Last month, the government acknowledged that it had in its possession two videotapes and one audiotape that it had failed to report in 2005, but again did not mention the video tapes that it had destroyed. The revelation of the destroyed tapes is only the latest in a pattern of government misconduct in the prosecution of Moussaoui.

There were several other investigations and lawsuits ongoing at the time the tapes were destroyed. Among these was a Freedom of Information request brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. In August 2004, a judge ordered the government to turn over all records relating to interrogation or explain why the records could not be released.

Before being destroyed, the tapes were also withheld from the commission established by Bush administration and Congress to investigate the attacks of September 11. The 9/11 Commission issued its final report in 2004, one year before the tapes were destroyed, but it was never informed of their existence.

The Times quotes Philip Zelikow, who served as executive director of the commission, as saying, “The commission did formally request material of this kind from all relevant agencies, and the commission was assured that we had received all the material responsive to our request. No tapes were acknowledged or turned over, nor was the commission provided with any transcript prepared for recordings.”

The Times goes on to report, “Daniel Marcus, a law professor at American University who served as general counsel for the Sept. 11 commission and was involved in the discussion about interviews with Qaeda leaders, said he had heard nothing about any tapes being destroyed. If the tapes were destroyed, he said, ‘it’s a big deal, it’s a very big deal,’ because it could amount to obstruction of justice to withhold evidence being sought in a criminal or fact-finding investigation.”

The 9/11 Commission was from the beginning intended as a whitewash of government inaction and likely foreknowledge of the terrorist attacks. The fact that the commission was denied access to interviews of an individual who was purportedly a close associate of Osama bin Laden only underscores the fraudulence of its findings.

In addition to depicting torture, it is possible that the interrogation of Zubaydah included information contradicting the official story of September 11. This would explain why no transcript of the interrogation was provided to the commission.

In his letter to CIA employees, Hayden wrote: “Beyond their lack of intelligence value—as interrogation sessions had already been exhaustively detailed in written channels—and the absence of any legal or internal reasons to kept them, the tapes posed a serious security risk. Were they ever to leak, they would permit identification of your CIA colleagues who had served in the program, exposing them and their families to retaliation from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers.”

These are flat-out lies. The suggestion that there was no reason to keep the tapes is absurd, as Zubaydah was at the time under US custody and potentially faced some form of trial or military judicial proceeding. He has since been transferred to Guantánamo Bay and may be brought before a military commission. Videotapes of his interrogation would obviously be one of the most critical pieces of evidence in such proceedings.

As for the question of security, it would be a simple matter to obscure the identity of the interrogators in any videotape, if this were really the government’s concern. According to Hayden’s logic, the CIA would have to destroy any document in its possession identifying CIA interrogators, to prevent them from being leaked.

The threadbare character of Hayden’s attempt to justify the tapes’ destruction only serves to highlight the criminal intentions of the government.

Complicity of the Democratic Party

A central question emerges from these revelations: Who knew about the tapes and their destruction, and when did they know it? The answer to this question points to the complicity of the entire political establishment in the cover-up of torture.

In his letter, Hayden declared, “The decision to destroy the tapes was made within CIA itself.” Hayden’s claim that the decision to eliminate the evidence was entirely internal to the CIA is almost certainly a lie. It is highly unlikely that the tapes were destroyed without the knowledge and approval of top administration officials.

According to the New York Times, the decision was made by Jose Rodriguez—a long-time CIA operative who at the time occupied the high-ranking position of head of the Directorate of Operations, in charge of clandestine and covert actions. Until shortly before his retirement in September, Rodriguez’s identity was classified.

The Times report quotes “two former intelligence officials” as saying that then-CIA director Porter Goss—Rodriguez’s direct superior—was not told of the decision and was angered when he learned of the tapes’ destruction.

For his part, Bush was quick to issue a carefully hedged denial of knowledge. White House spokesman Dana Perino said on Friday that Bush “has no recollection of being made aware of the tapes or their destruction before yesterday.”

The CIA has said that it received direct authorization to use the methods employed in the videos, though the form of this authorization has never been released to the public. This position was reiterated by Hayden on Wednesday, when he wrote in his letter, “Before [the interrogation procedures] were used, they were reviewed and approved by the Department of Justice and by other elements of the Executive Branch.”

This means that ultimate responsibility for any actions depicted in the videos lies with Bush, Cheney, former Attorney General John Ashcroft and others in the administration. In this sense, the videos are more damaging even than the photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib, which the government could claim was the unauthorized behavior of a few individuals.

Bush has repeatedly declared that the US does not “torture,” but the tapes would provide incontrovertible proof that it does.

Hayden also insisted, “The leaders of our oversight committees in Congress were informed of the videos years ago and of the Agency’s intention to dispose of the material.” This would include the ranking members of the Senate and House intelligence committees at the time, Democratic Representative Jane Harman and Senator Jay Rockefeller, and the Republican chairmen, Representative Pete Hokestra and Senator Pat Roberts.

A spokesman Hoekstra denied any knowledge of the tapes, but remarks from Harman and Rockefeller confirm Hayden’s account.

The Associated Press reported that Harman was “one of only four members of Congress informed of the tapes’ existence,” and cited her as saying she “objected to the destruction when informed of it in 2003.”

“I told the CIA that destroying videotapes of interrogations was a bad idea and urged them in writing not to do it,” Harman said.

This is a dodge. Harman, and therefore the Democratic Party, knew of the tapes in 2003, but decided not to inform the American people or do anything to expose the government’s policy of torture. This knowledge was withheld from the American people throughout the Abu Ghraib scandal, which began in 2004. The tapes’ existence was known by leading Democrats two years before the American people were first made aware that the US government had used water-boarding.

The AP goes on to report, “While key lawmakers were briefed on the CIA’s intention to destroy the tapes, they were not notified two years later when the spy agency went through with the plan.” It reports that Rockefeller “only learned of the tapes’ destruction in November 2006.”

Even if one were to accept this account as true, it means that the Democrats have known for over a year that these tapes were destroyed but decided to say nothing about it.

In September 2006, Rockefeller voted, along with 11 other Democrats in the Senate, for the Military Commissions Act. Both that act and the Detainee Treatment Act, passed in December 2005, included provisions shielding CIA operatives and Bush administration officials from prosecution for torture and other war crimes.

From the beginning of the Bush administration, the Democratic Party has played a critical role in facilitating the massive attack on democratic rights and legal constraints. It has helped confirm the nomination of all the administration officials who have spearheaded a policy of torture—including Hayden and, most recently, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who was approved by a Democratic-controlled Senate despite his refusal to denounce water-boarding as torture.

The complicity of the Democrats in covering up the existence and destruction of the videotapes means that any investigation will be a whitewash. On Friday, Rockefeller said the Senate Intelligence Committee would “review the full history and chronology of the tapes, how they were used and the reasons for destroying them, and any communication about them that was provided to the courts and Congress.” Senator Edward Kennedy called on the Justice Department—headed by Mukasey—to open an investigation.

The Democrats are now pushing for a bill that would bar the CIA from using “enhanced interrogation techniques,” knowing full well that if passed—which appears unlikely—it will simply be vetoed by Bush.

By itself, the destruction of the CIA torture tapes constitutes a sufficient basis for impeachment of top government officials. It comes on top of revelations of massive domestic spying and illegality. It was done by a government that routinely violates and ignores laws, launches illegal wars of aggression, and conspires against the democratic rights of the American people.

But the Democratic leadership has resolutely, since winning control of both houses of Congress over a year ago, ruled out any impeachment investigation. No serious hearings or investigations have been carried out into the Bush administration’s torture program and other brazen violations of American and international law under the Democratic Congress.

There may be fall-out from the destruction of the videos. Some lower-level individuals may be made fall guys for the White House and the CIA. But the Bush administration is counting with good reason on the Democrats to keep things under control.

This new revelation underscores the lawless character of the clique around Bush and the immense dangers it represents to the democratic rights of the people. It also highlights the Democratic Party’s lack of any serious commitment to the defense of democratic rights. These rights can be defended only through the independent political mobilization of the working population against the two-party political establishment and the US ruling elite whose interests it serves.


Joe Kay is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Joe Kay

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see

CIA photos; Guantanamo Bay; Torture cover-up; Director to Testify and more (links) + Biden (video)

Bush Goes Private to Spy on You By Tim Shorrock

Dandelion Salad

By Tim Shorrock
AlterNet.org
CorpWatch
December 6, 2007

The Bush administration is launching a new government agency that will rely heavily on private security contractors to conduct surveillance in the U.S.

A new intelligence institution to be inaugurated soon by the Bush administration will allow government spying agencies to conduct broad surveillance and reconnaissance inside the United States for the first time. Under a proposal being reviewed by Congress, a National Applications Office (NAO) will be established to coordinate how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and domestic law enforcement and rescue agencies use imagery and communications intelligence picked up by U.S. spy satellites. If the plan goes forward, the NAO will create the legal mechanism for an unprecedented degree of domestic intelligence gathering that would make the United States one of the world’s most closely monitored nations. Until now, domestic use of electronic intelligence from spy satellites was limited to scientific agencies with no responsibility for national security or law enforcement.

The intelligence-sharing system to be managed by the NAO will rely heavily on private contractors, including Boeing, BAE Systems, L-3 Communications and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). These companies already provide technology and personnel to U.S. agencies involved in foreign intelligence, and the NAO greatly expands their markets. Indeed, at an intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, last month, the titans of the industry were actively lobbying intelligence officials to buy products specifically designed for domestic surveillance.

The NAO was created under a plan tentatively approved in May 2007 by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell. Specifically, the NAO will oversee how classified information collected by the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and other key agencies is used within the United States during natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other events affecting national security. The most critical intelligence will be supplied by the NSA and the NGA, which are often referred to by U.S. officials as the “eyes” and “ears” of the intelligence community.

The NSA, through a global network of listening posts, surveillance planes, and satellites, captures signals from phone calls, email and internet traffic, and translates and analyzes them for U.S. military and national intelligence officials.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which was formally inaugurated in 2003, provides overhead imagery and mapping tools that allow intelligence and military analysts to monitor events from the skies and space. The NSA and the NGA have a close relationship with the supersecret National Reconnaissance Agency (NRO), which builds and maintains the U.S. fleet of spy satellites and operates the ground stations where the NSA’s signals and the NGA’s imagery are processed and analyzed. By law, their collection efforts are supposed to be confined to foreign countries and battlefields.

The National Applications Office was conceived in 2005 by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), which Congress created in 2004 to oversee the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community. The ODNI, concerned that the legal framework for U.S. intelligence operations had not been updated for the global “war on terror,” turned to Booz Allen Hamilton of McLean, Va., one of the largest contractors in the spy business. The company was tasked with studying how intelligence from spy satellites and photoreconnaissance planes could be better used domestically to track potential threats to security within the United States. The Booz Allen study was completed in May of that year and has since become the basis for the NAO oversight plan. In May 2007, McConnell, the former executive vice president of Booz Allen, signed off on the creation of the NAO as the principal body to oversee the merging of foreign and domestic intelligence collection operations.

The NAO is “an idea whose time has arrived,” Charles Allen, a top U.S. intelligence official, told the Wall Street Journal in August 2007 after it broke the news of the NAO’s creation. Allen, the DHS’s chief intelligence officer, will head the new program. The announcement came just days after President George W. Bush signed a new law approved by Congress to expand the ability of the NSA to eavesdrop, without warrants, on telephone calls, email and faxes passing through telecommunications hubs in the United States when the government suspects agents of a foreign power may be involved. “These [intelligence] systems are already used to help us respond to crises,” Allen later told the Washington Post. “We anticipate that we can also use them to protect Americans by preventing the entry of dangerous people and goods into the country, and by helping us examine critical infrastructure for vulnerabilities.”

Donald Kerr, a former NRO director who is now the No. 2 at ODNI, recently explained to reporters that the intelligence community was no longer discussing whether or not to spy on U.S. citizens: “Our job now is to engage in a productive debate, which focuses on privacy as a component of appropriate levels of security and public safety,” Kerr said. ”I think all of us have to really take stock of what we already are willing to give up, in terms of anonymity, but [also] what safeguards we want in place to be sure that giving that doesn’t empty our bank account or do something equally bad elsewhere.”

What will the NAO do?

The plan for the NAO builds on a domestic security infrastructure that has been in place for at least seven years. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NSA was granted new powers to monitor domestic communications without obtaining warrants from a secret foreign intelligence court established by Congress in 1978 (that warrantless program ended in January 2007 but was allowed to continue, with some changes, under legislation passed by Congress in August 2007).

Moreover, intelligence and reconnaissance agencies that were historically confined to spying on foreign countries have been used extensively on the home front since 2001. In the hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, for example, the Bush administration called on the NGA to capture imagery from lower Manhattan and the Pentagon to help in the rescue and recovery efforts. In 2002, when two deranged snipers terrified the citizens of Washington and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs with a string of fatal shootings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asked the NGA to provide detailed images of freeway interchanges and other locations to help spot the pair.

The NGA was also used extensively during Hurricane Katrina, when the agency provided overhead imagery — some of it supplied by U-2 photoreconnaissance aircraft — to federal and state rescue operations. The data, which included mapping of flooded areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, allowed residents of the stricken areas to see the extent of damage to their homes and helped first-responders locate contaminated areas as well as schools, churches and hospitals that might be used in the rescue. More recently, during the October 2007 California wildfires, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asked the NGA to analyze overhead imagery of the fire zones and determine the areas of maximum intensity and damage. In every situation that the NGA is used domestically, it must receive a formal request from a lead domestic agency, according to agency spokesperson David Burpee. That agency is usually FEMA, which is a unit of DHS.

At first blush, the idea of a U.S. intelligence agency serving the public by providing imagery to aid in disaster recovery sounds like a positive development, especially when compared to the Bush administration’s misuse of the NSA and the Pentagon’s Counter-Intelligence Field Activity (CIFA) to spy on American citizens. But the notion of using spy satellites and aircraft for domestic purposes becomes problematic from a civil liberties standpoint when the full capabilities of agencies like the NGA and the NSA are considered.

Imagine, for example, that U.S. intelligence officials have determined, through NSA telephone intercepts, that a group of worshipers at a mosque in Oakland, Calif., has communicated with an Islamic charity in Saudi Arabia. This is the same group that the FBI and the U.S. Department of the Treasury believe is linked to an organization unfriendly to the United States.

Imagine further that the FBI, as a lead agency, asks and receives permission to monitor that mosque and the people inside using high-resolution imagery obtained from the NGA. Using other technologies, such as overhead traffic cameras in place in many cities, that mosque could be placed under surveillance for months, and — through cell phone intercepts and overhead imagery — its suspected worshipers carefully tracked in real time as they moved almost anywhere in the country.

The NAO, under the plan approved by ODNI’s McConnell, would determine the rules that will guide the DHS and other lead federal agencies when they want to use imagery and signals intelligence in situations like this, as well as during natural disasters. If the organization is established as planned, U.S. domestic agencies will have a vast array of technology at their disposal. In addition to the powerful mapping and signals tools provided by the NGA and the NSA, domestic agencies will also have access to measures and signatures intelligence (MASINT) managed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the principal spying agency used by the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(MASINT is a highly classified form of intelligence that uses infrared sensors and other technologies to “sniff” the atmosphere for certain chemicals and electromagnetic activity, and “see” beneath bridges and forest canopies. Using its tools, analysts can detect signs that a nuclear power plant is producing plutonium, determine from truck exhaust what types of vehicles are in a convoy, and detect people and weapons hidden from the view of satellites or photoreconnaissance aircraft.)

Created by contractors

The study group that established policies for the NAO was jointly funded by the ODNI and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), one of only two domestic U.S. agencies that is currently allowed, under rules set in the 1970s, to use classified intelligence from spy satellites. (The other is NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.) The group was chaired by Keith Hall, a Booz Allen vice president who manages his firm’s extensive contracts with the NGA and previously served as the director of the NRO.

Other members of the group included seven former intelligence officers working for Booz Allen, as well as retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick M. Hughes, the former director of the DIA and vice president of homeland security for L-3 Communications, a key NSA contractor; and Thomas W. Conroy, the vice president of national security programs for Northrop Grumman, which has extensive contracts with the NSA and the NGA and throughout the intelligence community.

From the start, the study group was heavily weighted toward companies with a stake in both foreign and domestic intelligence. Not surprisingly, its contractor-advisers called for a major expansion in the domestic use of the spy satellites that they sell to the government. Since the end of the Cold War and particularly since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, they said, the “threats to the nation have changed, and there is a growing interest in making available the special capabilities of the intelligence community to all parts of the government, to include homeland security and law enforcement entities and on a higher priority basis.”

Contractors are not new to the U.S. spy world. Since the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the modern intelligence system in 1947, the private sector has been tapped to design and build the technology that facilitates electronic surveillance. Lockheed, for example, built the U-2, the famous surveillance plane that flew scores of spy missions over the Soviet Union and Cuba. During the 1960s, Lockheed was a prime contractor for the Corona system of spy satellites that greatly expanded the CIA’s abilities to photograph secret military installations from space. IBM, Cray Computers and other companies built the supercomputers that allowed the NSA to sift through data from millions of telephone calls and analyze them for intelligence that was passed on to national leaders.

Spending on contracts has increased exponentially in recent years along with intelligence budgets, and the NSA, the NGA and other agencies have turned to the private sector for the latest computer and communications technologies and for intelligence analysts. For example, today about half of staff at the NSA and NGA are private contractors. At the DIA, 70 percent of the workers are contractors. But the most privatized agency of all is the NRO, where a whopping 90 percent of the work force receive paychecks from corporations. All told the U.S. intelligence agencies spend some 70 percent of their estimated $60 billion annual budget on contracts with private companies, according to documents this reporter obtained in June 2007 from the ODNI.

The plans to increase domestic spying are estimated to be worth billions of dollars in new business for the intelligence contractors. The market potential was on display in October at GEOINT 2007, the annual conference sponsored by the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF), a nonprofit organization funded by the largest contractors for the NGA. During the conference, which took place in October at the spacious Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio, many companies were displaying spying and surveillance tools that had been used in Afghanistan and Iraq and were now being rebranded for potential domestic use.

BAE Systems Inc.

On the first day of the conference, three employees of BAE Systems Inc. who had just returned from a three-week tour of Iraq and Afghanistan with the NGA demonstrated a new software package called SOCET GXP. (BAE Systems Inc. is the U.S. subsidiary of the U.K.-based BAE, the third-largest military contractor in the world.)

GXP uses Google Earth software as a basis for creating three-dimensional maps that U.S. commanders and soldiers use to conduct intelligence and reconnaissance missions. Eric Bruce, one of the BAE employees back from the Middle East, said his team trained U.S. forces to use the GXP software “to study routes for known terrorist sites” as well as to locate opium fields. “Terrorists use opium to fund their war,” he said. Bruce also said his team received help from Iraqi citizens in locating targets. “Many of the locals can’t read maps, so they tell the analysts, ‘there is a mosque next to a hill,'” he explained.

Bruce said BAE’s new package is designed for defense forces and intelligence agencies but can also be used for homeland security and by highway departments and airports. Earlier versions of the software were sold to the U.S. Army’s Topographic Engineering Center, where it has been used to collect data on more than 12,000 square kilometers of Iraq, primarily in urban centers and over supply routes.

Another new BAE tool displayed in San Antonio was a program called GOSHAWK, which stands for “Geospatial Operations for a Secure Homeland — Awareness, Workflow, Knowledge.” It was pitched by BAE as a tool to help law enforcement and state and local emergency agencies prepare for, and respond to, “natural disasters and terrorist and criminal incidents.” Under the GOSHAWK program, BAE supplies “agencies and corporations” with data providers and information technology specialists “capable of turning geospatial information into the knowledge needed for quick decisions.” A typical operation might involve acquiring data from satellites, aircraft and sensors in ground vehicles, and integrating those data to support an emergency or security operations center. One of the program’s special attributes, the company says, is its ability to “differentiate levels of classification,” meaning that it can deduce when data are classified and meant only for use by analysts with security clearances.

These two products were just a sampling of what BAE, a major player in the U.S. intelligence market, had to offer. BAE’s services to U.S. intelligence — including the CIA and the National Counter-Terrorism Center — are provided through a special unit called the Global Analysis Business Unit. It is located in McLean, Va., a stone’s throw from the CIA. The unit is headed by John Gannon, a 25-year veteran of the CIA who reached the agency’s highest analytical ranks as deputy director of intelligence and chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Today, as a private sector contractor for the intelligence community, Gannon manages a staff of more than 800 analysts with security clearances.

A brochure for the Global Analysis unit distributed at GEOINT 2007 explains BAE’s role and, in the process, underscores the degree of outsourcing in U.S. intelligence. “The demand for experienced, skilled and cleared analysts — and for the best systems to manage them — has never been greater across the Intelligence and Defense Communities, in the field and among federal, state and local agencies responsible for national and homeland security,” BAE says. The mission of the Global Analysis unit, it says, “is to provide policymakers, warfighters and law enforcement officials with analysts to help them understand the complex intelligence threats they face, and work force management programs to improve the skills and expertise of analysts.”

At the bottom of the brochure is a series of photographs illustrating BAE’s broad reach: a group of analysts monitoring a bank of computers; three employees studying a map of Europe, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa; the outlines of two related social networks that have been mapped out to show how their members are linked; a bearded man, apparently from the Middle East and presumably a terrorist; the fiery image of a car bomb after it exploded in Iraq; and four white radar domes (known as radomes) of the type used by the NSA to monitor global communications from dozens of bases and facilities around the world.

The brochure may look and sound like typical corporate public relations. But amid BAE’s spy talk were two phrases strategically placed by the company to alert intelligence officials that BAE has an active presence inside the United States. The tip-off words were “federal, state and local agencies,” “law enforcement officials” and “homeland security.” By including them, BAE was broadcasting that it is not simply a contractor for agencies involved in foreign intelligence but has an active presence as a supplier to domestic security agencies, a category that includes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI, as well as local and state police forces stretching from Maine to Hawaii.

ManTech, Boeing, Harris and L-3

ManTech International, an important NSA contractor based in Fairfax, Va., has perfected the art of creating multiagency software programs for both foreign and domestic intelligence. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it developed a classified program for the Defense Intelligence Agency called the Joint Regional Information Exchange System. DIA used it to combine classified and unclassified intelligence on terrorist threats on a single desktop. ManTech then tweaked that software for the Department of Homeland Security and sold it to DHS for its Homeland Security Information Network. According to literature ManTech distributed at GEOINT, that software will “significantly strengthen the exchange of real-time threat information used to combat terrorism.” ManTech, the brochure added, “also provides extensive, advanced information technology support to the National Security Agency” and other agencies.

In a nearby booth, Chicago-based Boeing, the world’s second largest defense contractor, was displaying its “information sharing environment” software, which is designed to meet the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s new requirements on agencies to stop buying “stovepiped” systems that can’t talk to each other. The ODNI wants to focus on products that will allow the NGA and other agencies to easily share their classified imagery with the CIA and other sectors of the community. “To ensure freedom in the world, the United States continues to address the challenges introduced by terrorism,” a Boeing handout said. Its new software, the company said, will allow information to be “shared efficiently and uninterrupted across intelligence agencies, first responders, military and world allies.” Boeing has a reason for publishing boastful material like this: In 2005, it lost a major contract with the NRO to build a new generation of imaging satellites after ringing up billions of dollars in cost overruns. The New York Times recently called the Boeing project “the most spectacular and expensive failure in the 50-year history of American spy satellite projects.”

Boeing’s geospatial intelligence offerings are provided through its Space and Intelligence Systems unit, which also holds contracts with the NSA. It allows agencies and military units to map global shorelines and create detailed maps of cities and battlefields, complete with digital elevation data that allow users to construct three-dimensional maps. (In an intriguing aside, one Boeing intelligence brochure lists among its “specialized organizations” Jeppesen Government and Military Services. According to a 2006 account by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, Jeppesen provided logistical and navigational assistance, including flight plans and clearance to fly over other countries, to the CIA for its “extraordinary rendition” program.)

Although less known as an intelligence contractor than BAE and Boeing, the Harris Corp. has become a major force in providing contracted electronic, satellite and information technology services to the intelligence community, including the NSA and the NRO. In 2007, according to its most recent annual report, the $4.2 billion company, based in Melbourne, Fla., won several new classified contracts. NSA awarded one of them for software to be used by NSA analysts in the agency’s “Rapidly Deployable Integrated Command and Control System,” which is used by the NSA to transmit “actionable intelligence” to soldiers and commanders in the field. Harris also supplies geospatial and imagery products to the NGA. At GEOINT, Harris displayed a new product that allows agencies to analyze live video and audio data imported from UAVs. It was developed, said Fred Poole, a Harris market development manager, “with input from intelligence analysts who were looking for a video and audio analysis tool that would allow them to perform ‘intelligence fusion'” — combining information from several agencies into a single picture of an ongoing operation.

For many of the contractors at GEOINT, the highlight of the symposium was an “interoperability demonstration” that allowed vendors to show how their products would work in a domestic crisis.

One scenario involved Cuba as a rogue nation supplying spent nuclear fuel to terrorists bent on creating havoc in the United States. Implausible as it was, the plot, which involved maritime transportation and ports, allowed the companies to display software that was likely already in use by the Department of Homeland Security and Naval Intelligence. The “plot” involved the discovery by U.S. intelligence of a Cuban ship carrying spent nuclear fuel heading for the U.S. Gulf Coast; an analysis of the social networks of Cuban officials involved with the illicit cargo; and the tracking and interception of the cargo as it departed from Cuba and moved across the Caribbean to Corpus Christi, Texas, a major port on the Gulf Coast. The agencies involved included the NGA, the NSA, Naval Intelligence and the Marines, and some of the key contractors working for those agencies. It illustrated how sophisticated the U.S. domestic surveillance system has become in the six years since the 9/11 attacks.

L-3 Communications, which is based in New York City, was a natural for the exercise: As mentioned earlier, retired Army Lt. Gen. Patrick M. Hughes, its vice president of homeland security, was a member of the Booz Allen Hamilton study group that advised the Bush administration to expand the domestic use of military spy satellites. At GEOINT, L-3 displayed a new program called “multi-INT visualization environment” that combines imagery and signals intelligence data that can be laid over photographs and maps. One example shown during the interoperability demonstration showed how such data would be incorporated into a map of Florida and the waters surrounding Cuba. With L-3 a major player at the NSA, this demonstration software is likely seeing much use as the NSA and the NGA expand their information-sharing relationship.

Over the past two years, for example, the NGA has deployed dozens of employees and contractors to Iraq to support the “surge” of U.S. troops. The NGA teams provide imagery and full-motion video — much of it beamed to the ground from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) — that help U.S. commanders and soldiers track and destroy insurgents fighting the U.S. occupation. And since 2004, under a memorandum of understanding with the NSA, the NGA has begun to incorporate signals intelligence into its imagery products. The blending technique allows U.S. military units to track and find targets by picking up signals from their cell phones, follow the suspects in real time using overhead video, and direct fighter planes and artillery units to the exact location of the targets, and blow them to smithereens.

That’s exactly how U.S. Special Forces tracked and killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the alleged leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the NGA’s director, Navy Vice Adm. Robert Murrett, said in 2006. Later, Murrett told reporters during GEOINT 2007, the NSA and the NGA have cooperated in similar fashion in several other fronts of the “war on terror,” including in the Horn of Africa, where the U.S. military has attacked Al Qaeda units in Somalia, and in the Philippines, where U.S. forces are helping the government put down the Muslim insurgent group Abu Sayyaf. “When the NGA and the NSA work together, one plus one equals five,” said Murrett.

Civil liberty worries

For U.S. citizens, however, the combination of NGA imagery and NSA signals intelligence in a domestic situation could threaten important constitutional safeguards against unwarranted searches and seizures. Kate Martin, the director of the Center for National Security Studies, a nonprofit advocacy organization, has likened the NAO plan to “Big Brother in the Sky.” The Bush administration, she told the Washington Post, is “laying the bricks one at a time for a police state.”

Some Congress members, too, are concerned. “The enormity of the NAO’s capabilities and the intended use of the imagery received through these satellites for domestic homeland security purposes, and the unintended consequences that may arise, have heightened concerns among the general public, including reputable civil rights and civil liberties organizations,” Bennie G. Thompson, a Democratic member of Congress from Mississippi and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, wrote in a September letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Thompson and other lawmakers reacted with anger after reports of the NAO and the domestic spying plan were first revealed by the Wall Street Journal in August. “There was no briefing, no hearing, and no phone call from anyone on your staff to any member of this committee of why, how or when satellite imagery would be shared with police and sheriffs’ officers nationwide,” Thompson complained to Chertoff.

At a hastily organized hearing in September, Thompson and others demanded that the opening of the NAO be delayed until further studies were conducted on its legal basis and questions about civil liberties were answered. They also demanded biweekly updates from Chertoff on the activities and progress of the new organization. Others pointed out the potential danger of allowing U.S. military satellites to be used domestically. “It will terrify you if you really understand the capabilities of satellites,” warned Jane Harman, a Democratic member of Congress from California, who represents a coastal area of Los Angeles, where many of the nation’s satellites are built. As Harman well knows, military spy satellites are far more flexible, offer greater resolution, and have considerably more power to observe human activity than commercial satellites. “Even if this program is well-designed and executed, someone somewhere else could hijack it,” Harman said during the hearing.

The NAO was supposed to open for business on Oct. 1, 2007. But the congressional complaints have led the ODNI and DHS to delay their plans. The NAO “has no intention to begin operations until we address your questions,” Charles Allen of DHS explained in a letter to Thompson. In an address at the GEOINT conference in San Antonio, Allen said that the ODNI is working with DHS and the Departments of Justice and Interior to draft the charter for the new organization, which he said will face “layers of review” once it is established.

Yet, given the Bush administration’s record of using U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on U.S. citizens, it is difficult to take such promises at face value. Moreover, the extensive corporate role in foreign and domestic intelligence means that the private sector has a great deal to gain in the new plan for intelligence sharing. Because most private contracts with intelligence agencies are classified, however, the public will have little knowledge of this role. Before Congress signs off on the NAO, it should create a better oversight system that would allow the House of Representatives and the Senate to monitor the new organization and to examine how BAE, Boeing, Harris and its fellow corporations stand to profit from this unprecedented expansion of America’s domestic intelligence system.

Tim Shorrock has been writing about U.S. foreign policy and national security for nearly 30 years. His book Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence will be published in May 2008 by Simon & Schuster.

h/t: Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

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Video Discussion of H.R. 1955 Homegrown Terrorist Prevention Act (link)

Write To Congress

US House passes Democrat-crafted “homegrown terrorism prevention” legislation by Naomi Spencer

Dandelion Salad

by Naomi Spencer
Global Research, December 2, 2007
wsws.org

A month ago, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved passage of legislation that would set up a commission targeting domestic “radicalization” as a threat to so-called homeland security. Although it has received little media attention, civil liberties groups have expressed concerns for the future of public protest and other forms of constitutionally protected speech.

The bill, H.R. 1955, “The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Act of 2007,” was crafted and sponsored by Democrat Jane Harman of California and approved by the House by a margin of 404-6. A mere three Democrats and three Republicans voted against the bill.

Twenty-three congress members abstained, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers. The bill is currently pending approval in the Senate and is widely anticipated to pass by a similar proportion before the end of the session.

Introduced in April as an amendment to the 2002 Homeland Security Act, the legislation adds provisions for the establishment of a 10-member commission to collect data on radicalization. Evoking the memory of the anticommunist House Committee on Un-American Activities headed by Joseph McCarthy, the anti-radicalization commission would be granted authority to “hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties.”

As Equal Justice Alliance director Odette Wilkens pointed out, the commission would be empowered to subpoena and investigate anyone, and would “create a public perception that whoever is being investigated by the Commission must be involved in subversive or illegal activities.” Wilkens noted to Truthout.org reporter Matt Renner, in an article published November 29, “It would give the appearance that whoever they are investigating is potentially a traitor or disloyal or a terrorist, even if all they were doing was advocating lawful views.”

The commission would be composed of appointees, one chosen each respectively by Bush, Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, the Senate and House majority and minority leaders, and by the ranking majority and minority members of the two congressional homeland security committees. Such a selection process would certainly result in an extremely right-wing panel.

The language of the bill is very broad and includes in its designations of terrorist activity a category of intent. For example, “ideologically based violence” is defined as “the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.” No force or violence need have occurred; the government commission needs only charge, without the burden of evidence, that an individual or group thought about violence.

Similarly, the term “violent radicalization” is defined as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” The definition of “an extremist belief system” is not specified, leaving interpretation to the discretion of the commission.

“Homegrown terrorism” is defined by the bill as “the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

The implications of this definition of terrorism are far-reaching. Participants in protests against US policy, for instance, could be designated as terrorists if the conduct—or intent—of any individual were alleged by police to be violent.

Under the legislation, after 18 months the anti-radicalization commission would report to Congress on its findings, then establish a university-based organization, the “Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States.”

The Center’s mission would not be limited to research, but also would include a mandate to “contribute to the establishment of training, written materials, information, analytical assistance and professional resources to aid in combating violent radicalism and homegrown terrorism” in coordination with federal, state and local homeland security officials. This could have a definite chilling effect on the political activity and exercise of free speech on campuses because of the virtual enlistment of students and academics into the campaigns of the government’s intelligence apparatus.

The legislation specifically singles out the Internet as a “weapon” for domestic radicalization. In remarks introducing the legislation November 6 to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Congresswoman Harman said, “There can be no doubt: the Internet is increasingly being used as a tool to reach and radicalize Americans and legal residents.” The web, Harman said, allowed Americans “to become indoctrinated by extremists and to learn how to kill their neighbors … from the comfort of their own living rooms.”

In the same speech, Harman portrayed American youth in a thoroughly contemptuous manner. “Combine … personal adolescent upheaval with the explosion of information technologies and communications tools,” she said, “tools which American kids are using to broadcast messages from Al Qaeda—and there is a road map to terror, a ‘retail outlet’ for anger and warped aspirations. Link that intent with a trained terrorist operative who has actual capability, and a ‘Made in the USA’ suicide bomber is born.”

Even more absurdly, she added, “How we address violent radicalization—while respecting the Constitution in the process—is not easy. There is no magic pill or rulebook or law that will fix this.”

It is already clear that not the slightest attempt will be made, by legislators or by the empanelled commission, to actually explain the social origins of unrest, let alone the political aggravators of extremism.

Both the bill’s content and its landslide congressional support underscore the fact that the entire “war on terror” is geared toward quashing political opposition and dissent and dismantling constitutional protections, not fighting a supposed terrorist threat. While targeting the civil liberties of the population as a whole, it poses a particular threat to workers’ and students’ organizations as well as left-wing and socialist parties.

As with the bill’s predecessors since 2001—including the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act, and the Military Commissions Act—the Democrats are working to actively undermine free speech and protections against government surveillance in their role as the nominal opposition in Congress.

Global Research Articles by Naomi Spencer

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© Copyright Naomi Spencer, wsws.org, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7520

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Kucinich on HR 1955 Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act

The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act: A Tutorial in Orwellian Newspeak By Robert Weitzel

The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 by Matt RennerThe Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act by Philip Giraldi

Note:

Dennis Kucinich voted against this bill.

10/23/07 Vote 993: H R 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 No

Source

Ron Paul missed voting on this bill.

10/23/07 Vote 993: H R 1955: Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 Not Voting

Source

The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 by Matt Renner

Dandelion Salad

by Matt Renner
Global Research, November 30, 2007
t r u t h o u t – 2007-11-29

A month ago, the House of Representatives passed legislation that targets Americans with radical ideologies for research. The bill has received little media attention and has almost unanimous support in the House. However, civil liberties groups see the bill as a threat to the constitutionally protected freedoms of expression, privacy and protest.

HR 1955, “The Violent Radicalization Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007“, apparently intended to assess “homegrown” terrorism threats and causes is on a fast-track through Congress. Proponents claim the bill would centralize information about the formation of domestic terrorists and would not impinge on constitutional rights.

On October 23, the bill passed the House of Representatives by a 404-6 margin with 23 members not voting. If passed in the Senate and signed into law by George W. Bush, the act would establish a ten-member National Commission on the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, to study and propose legislation to address the threat of possible “radicalization” of people legally residing in the US.

Despite being written by a Democrat, the current version of the act would probably set up a Commission dominated by Republicans. By allowing Bush and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to each appoint one member of the Commission, and splitting the appointment of the other eight positions equally between Congressional Democrats and Republicans, the Commission would consist of six Republican appointees and four Democratic ones.

The Commission would be tasked with collecting information on domestically spawned terrorism from a variety of sources, including foreign governments and previous domestic studies. The Commission would then report to Congress and recommend policy changes to address the threat. There is no opposition to this consolidation or research. However, the Commission would be given broad authority to hold hearings and collect evidence, powers that raise red flags for civil liberties groups.

Civil liberties activists have criticized the bill, some comparing the Commission it would establish to the McCarthy Commission that investigated Americans for possible associations with Communist groups, casting suspicion on law-abiding citizens and ruining their reputations. The Commission would be empowered to “hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties.”

Odette Wilkens, the executive director of the Equal Justice Alliance, a constitutional watchdog group, compared the legislation to the McCarthy Commission and to the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which infiltrated, undermined and spied on civil rights and antiwar groups during the 1950s and 60s.

“The commission would have very broad powers. It could investigate anyone. It would create a public perception that whoever is being investigated by the Commission must be involved in subversive or illegal activities. It would give the appearance that whoever they are investigating is potentially a traitor or disloyal or a terrorist, even if all they were doing was advocating lawful views,” Wilkens said.

In a speech on the floor of the House before the vote, Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-California), the chair of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and author of the bill said, “Free speech, espousing even very radical beliefs, is protected by our Constitution – but violent behavior is not. Our plan must be to intervene before a person crosses that line separating radical views from violent behavior, to understand the forces at work on the individual and the community, to create an environment that discourages disillusionment and alienation, that instills in young people a sense of belonging and faith in the future.”

In the same speech, Harman explained why “homegrown” terrorists are a threat to the US. She offered the explanation that adolescents who might be susceptible to recruitment by gangs might also be potential terrorists.

“Combine that personal adolescent upheaval with the explosion of information technologies and communications tools – tools which American kids are using to broadcast messages from al-Qaeda – and there is a road map to terror, a ‘retail outlet’ for anger and warped aspirations. Link that intent with a trained terrorist operative who has actual capability, and a ‘Made in the USA’ suicide bomber is born,” Harman said.

The bill specifically identifies the Internet as a tool of radicalization. “The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.”

In a press release, Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington American Civil Liberties Union legislative office, took issue with this characterization. “If Congress finds the Internet is dangerous, then the ACLU will have to worry about censorship and limitations on First Amendment activities. Why go down that road?” Fredrickson asked in a press release.

The ALCU has “serious concerns” about the bill. Fredrickson said, “Law enforcement should focus on action, not thought. We need to worry about the people who are committing crimes rather than those who harbor beliefs that the government may consider to be extreme.”

According to Wilkens, the bill, in its current form, lacks specific definitions. which would give the Commission expansive and possibly dangerous powers. The Committee would be set up to address the process of “violent radicalization,” which the bill defines as “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious, or social change.” According to Wilkens, the bill does not adequately define “an extremist belief system,” opening the door for abuse.

“An ‘extremist belief system’ can be whatever anyone on the commission says it is. Back in the 60s, civil rights leaders and Vietnam War protesters were considered radicals. They weren’t committing violence but they were considered radicals because of their belief system,” Wilkens said.

The bill would also create a “Center of Excellence for the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism in the United States,” on an unspecified University campus. Unlike other Centers of Excellence university-based government research centers created by the Department of Homeland Security, the Center established by this bill could have a chilling effect on political activity on campus because of its specific mission to “assist Federal, State, local and tribal homeland security officials through training, education, and research in preventing violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism,” according to Wilkens.

“If you are on campus and the thought police are on campus are you going to want to join a political group?” Wilkens asked.

Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) was one of three Democrats who voted against the bill, but he has given no public explanation for his opposition and his office did not respond to a call for comment as of this writing.

Neither the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) nor Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, voted on the bill.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut). With overwhelming support from the House, it is likely to pass quickly through the Senate.

Matt Renner is an assistant editor and Washington reporter for Truthout.

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Matt Renner, t r u t h o u t, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7506

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The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act by Philip Giraldi

Civil Libertarians Warn of ‘Patriot Act Lite’ By William Fisher

Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States by Jessica Lee

Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Raises Fears of New Government Crackdown on Dissent (link)

Big Brother: House passes the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” by Lee Rogers

Fear-mongering legislation: The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act by Philip Giraldi

Dandelion Salad

by Philip Giraldi
Global Research, December 1, 2007
Huffington Post

There has been a long tradition of fear-mongering legislation in the United States directed against groups and individuals believed to threaten the established order. The first such measures were the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by Congress in 1798 during the administration of the second president of the United States John Adams. The Acts, consisting of four separate laws, made it more difficult to become a citizen, sought to control real or imagined foreign agents operating in the United States, and also gave the government broad powers to control “sedition.” Sedition was defined as “resisting any law of the United States or any act of the President” punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years. It also made illegal “false, scandalous or malicious writing” directed against either the government or government officials. The next President, Thomas Jefferson declared that three out of the four laws were unconstitutional and pardoned everyone who had been convicted under them.

Early in the last century, hysterical fear of anarchists resulted in the conviction and execution of Sacco and Vanzetti 1927 despite clear evidence that the two men were innocent. A few years later, in 1934, a Special Committee on Un-American Activities was set up by Congress to monitor the activities of fascists in the United States. Ironically, the two congressmen who were most instrumental in the establishment of the committee, Samuel Dickstein of New York and Martin Dies of Texas, both Democrats, were themselves tainted by activities that might reasonably be described as Un-American. Dickstein was himself a paid agent of the Soviet NKVD intelligence agency and Dies regularly spoke at Ku Klux Klan rallies. After the Second World War, the committee was renamed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and focused almost exclusively on communists, continuing to do so until it was incorporated into the House Judiciary Committee in 1974. Concurrent with HUAC on the Senate side, Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, a Republican, became the public face of anti-communism in the early 1950s, with his frequent claims that communists had infiltrated the US government at various levels. Few of the claims could be substantiated, however, and McCarthy eventually fell out of favor and was censured by the Senate.

More recently, there has been the post 9/11 creation of a virtual avalanche of legislation and commissions designed to protect the country at the expense of the Bill of Rights. The two Patriot Acts of 2001 and 2006 and the Military Commission Act or 2006 have collectively limited constitutional rights to free speech, freedom of association, freedom from illegal search, the right to habeas corpus, prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom from the illegal seizure of private property. The First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments in the Bill of Rights have all been disregarded in the rush to make it easier to investigate people, put them in jail, and torture them if necessary. A recent executive order of July 17th, 2007 goes even farther, authorizing the President to seize the property of anyone who “Threatens Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.” The government’s own Justice Department decides what constitutes “threatening stabilization efforts” and the order does not permit a challenge to the information that the seizure is based on.

One would have thought that the systematic dismantling of the Constitution of the United States would have been enough to satisfy even the most Jacobin neoconservative, but there is more on the horizon, and it is coming from people who call themselves Democrats. The mainstream media has made no effort to inform the public of the impending Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. The Act, which was sponsored by Congresswoman Jane Harman of California, was passed in the House by an overwhelming 405 to 6 vote on October 24th and is now awaiting approval by the Senate Homeland Security Committee, which is headed by Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. It is believed that approval by the committee will take place shortly, to be followed by passage by the entire Senate.

Harman’s bill contends that the United States will soon have to deal with home grown terrorists and that something must be done to anticipate and neutralize the problem. The act deals with the issue through the creation of a congressional commission that will be empowered to hold hearings, conduct investigations, and designate various groups as “homegrown terrorists.” The commission will be tasked to propose new legislation that will enable the government to take punitive action against both the groups and the individuals who are affiliated with them. Like Joe McCarthy and HUAC in the past, the commission will travel around the United States and hold hearings to find the terrorists and root them out. Unlike inquiries in the past where the activity was carried out collectively, the act establishing the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Commission will empower all the members on the commission to arrange hearings, obtain testimony, and even to administer oaths to witnesses, meaning that multiple hearings could be running simultaneously in various parts of the country. The ten commission members will be selected for their “expertise,” though most will be appointed by Congress itself and will reflect the usual political interests. They will be paid for their duties at the senior executive pay scale level and will have staffs and consultants to assist them. Harman’s bill does not spell out terrorist behavior and leaves it up to the Commission itself to identify what is terrorism and what isn’t. Language inserted in the act does partially define “homegrown terrorism” as “planning” or “threatening” to use force to promote a political objective, meaning that just thinking about doing something could be enough to merit the terrorist label. The act also describes “violent radicalization” as the promotion of an “extremist belief system” without attempting to define “extremist.”

As currently envisioned, the Commission will not operate in perpetuity. After the group has done its work, in eighteen months’ time, a Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism will be established to study the lessons learned. The center will operate either out of the Department of Homeland Security or out of an appropriate academic institution and will be tasked with continuing to monitor the homegrown terrorism problem and proposing legislation and other measures to counter it.

As should be clear from the vagueness of the definitions, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act could easily be abused to define any group that is pressuring the political system as “terrorist,” ranging from polygamists, to second amendment rights supporters, anti-abortion protesters, anti-tax agitators, immigration activists, and peace demonstrators. In reality, of course, it will be primarily directed against Muslims and Muslim organizations. Given that, there is the question of who will select which groups will be investigated by the roving commissions. There is no evidence to suggest that there will be any transparent or objective screening process. Through their proven access both to the media and to Congress, the agenda will undoubtedly be shaped by the usual players including David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, Steve Emerson, and Frank Gaffney who see a terrorist hiding under every rock, particularly if the rock is concealing a Muslim. They and their associates will undoubtedly find plenty of terrorists and radical groups to investigate. Many of the suspects will inevitably be “anti-American” professors at various universities and also groups of Palestinians organized against the Israeli occupation, but it will be easily to use the commission formula to sweep them all in for examination.

The view that 9/11 has “changed everything” is unfortunately all too true. It has unleashed American paranoia, institutionalized mistrust of foreigners, and created a fantasy universe in which a US beset by enemies must do anything and everything to counter the alien threat. If it were a sane world, it would be difficult to imagine why anyone would believe that a Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act is even necessary. The United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars in strengthening law enforcement and intelligence capabilities against terrorists and has every tool imaginable to investigate and make arrests. It has created a whole new bloated and dysfunctional branch of government in the Department of Homeland Security. What is not needed is groups of congressionally empowered vigilantes roaming the country at will looking for “homegrown terrorism.”

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Philip Giraldi, Huffington Post, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7509

see

Civil Libertarians Warn of ‘Patriot Act Lite’ By William Fisher

Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States by Jessica Lee

Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Raises Fears of New Government Crackdown on Dissent (link)

Big Brother: House passes the “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” by Lee Rogers

Civil Libertarians Warn of ‘Patriot Act Lite’ By William Fisher

Now, the good news is that it is sitting in the Senate Ctte doing nothing. ~ Lo

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s110-1959

h/t: mary (CRONE)*

Read her post: Mary’s Blog Post

Dandelion Salad

By William Fisher
ICH
11/28/07 “IPS

NEW YORK, 27 Nov (IPS)

Civil libertarians are worried that a little-known anti-terrorism bill now making its way through the U.S. Congress with virtually no debate could be planting the seeds of another USA Patriot Act, which was hurriedly enacted into law after the al Qaeda attacks of Sep. 11, 2001.

The Violent Radicalisation and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act, co-authored by the former chair of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Jane Harmon, a California Democrat, passed the House by an overwhelming 400-6 vote last month, and will soon be considered by the Senate.

The bill’s co-author is Republican Congressman David Reichert of Washington State. The Senate version is being drafted by Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is chaired by the hawkish Connecticut independent, Sen. Joe Lieberman. Harmon is chair of the House Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee.

Civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), say the measure could herald a new government crackdown on dissident activity and infiltration of universities under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The CCR’s Kamau Franklin, a Racial Justice Fellow, told IPS, ‘This measure looks benign enough, but we should be concerned about where it will lead. It may well result in recommendations for new laws that criminalise radical thought and peaceful dissent, posing as academic study.’

Franklin added, ‘Crimes such as conspiracy or incitement to violence are already covered by both state and federal statute. There is no need for additional criminal laws.’

He speculated that Congress ‘may want to get this measure passed and signed into law to head off peaceful demonstrations’ at the upcoming Republican and Democratic Party conventions. ‘And no Congressperson of either political party wants to vote against this bill and get labeled as being soft on terrorism.’

Harman’s bill would convene a 10-member national commission to study ‘violent radicalisation’ (defined as ‘the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically-based violence to advance political, religious, or social change’) and ‘homegrown terrorism’ (defined as ‘the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States […] to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives’).

The bill also directs the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to designate a university-based research ‘centre of excellence’ where academics, policy-makers, members of the private sector and other stakeholders can collaborate to better understand and prevent radicalisation and homegrown terrorism. Some experts are concerned that politics will unduly influence which institution DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will designate.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Chertoff was head of the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ), and played a key role in implementing the department’s roundup of hundreds of Muslims who were detained without charge, frequently abused, and denied access to legal counsel.

Critics of Harmon’s bill point out that commission members would all be appointed by a high-ranking elected official. Those making these appointments would include the president, the secretary of Homeland Security, the speaker and ranking member of the House, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and senior members of the House and Senate committees overseeing homeland security.

Critics also fear that the bill’s definitions of ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’ are too vague and its mandate too broad, and that government-appointed commissions could be used as ideological cover to push through harsher laws.

Congressional sponsors of the bill claim it is limited in scope. ‘Though not a silver bullet, the legislation will help the nation develop a better understanding of the forces that lead to homegrown terrorism, and the steps we can take to stop it,’ Harman told Congress.

But the bill’s purpose goes beyond academic inquiry. In a Nov. 7 press release, Harman said, ‘the National Commission [will] propose to both Congress and Chertoff initiatives to intercede before radicalised individuals turn violent.’

According to the Centre for Constitutional Rights, the commission ‘will focus in on passing additional federal criminal penalties that are sweeping and inclusive in criminalising dissent and protest work more surveillance on thought rather than on actions. Further, this bi-partisan attempt can set the ground for an even more acquiescent Congress to presidential power, never wanting to look weak on terrorism.’

The commission would be tasked with compiling information about what leads up to violent radicalisation, and how to prevent or combat it with the intent to issue a final report with recommendations for both preventative and countermeasures.

Implementing the bill would likely cost some 22 million dollars over the 2008-2012 period, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But critics point out that the bill would duplicate work already being done in and out of government.

For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) already has a domestic terrorism unit; the U.S. intelligence community monitors the homegrown terrorists and overseas networks that might be reaching out to U.S. residents; and many universities and think-tanks are already specialising in studying the subject.

But Harman argues that a national commission on homegrown terrorism could benefit the country in much the same way as the 9/11 Commission, the Silberman/Robb Commission or other high-profile national security inquiries.

But groups like the CCR are wondering what exactly is meant by ‘an extremist belief system’.

‘The term is left undefined and open to many interpretations — socialism, anarchism, communism, nationalism, liberalism, etc. — that would serve to undermine expressions that don’t fit within the allowable areas of debate. A direct action led by any group that blocks traffic can be looked upon as being coercive,’ CCR says.

The bill says the Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalisation, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the U.S. by providing access to ‘broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to U.S. citizens.’

While civil liberties groups agree that focus on the Internet is crucial, they fear it could set up far more intrusive surveillance techniques, without warrants, and the potential to criminalise ideas and not actions could mean penalties for a stance rather than a criminal act.

The bill also uses the term ‘ideologically-based violence, meaning the use, planned use, or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious, or social beliefs.’

But the CCR and other groups ask, ‘What is force? Is civil disobedience covered under that, if arrested at a protest rally and charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, or even assault, does that now open you up to possible terrorist charges in the future?’

Some of the most egregious terrorist attacks in U.S. history have been carried out by U.S. citizens, including the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Copyright © 2007 IPS North America


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see

Bringing the War on Terrorism Home: Congress Considers How to ‘Disrupt’ Radical Movements in the United States by Jessica Lee

Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act Raises Fears of New Government Crackdown on Dissent (link)