New CIA director Hayden plans massive expansion of spying on Americans
May 31, 2006

Now that he is officially sworn in as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Hayden plans to build a vast domestic spying network that will pry into the lives of most Americans around the clock.

President George W. Bush told Hayden to “take whatever steps necessary” to monitor Americans 24/7 by listening in on their phone calls, bugging their homes and offices, probing their private lives, snooping into their financial records and watching their travel habits.

Can I prove this in a court of law? No. Do I know it is happening? Yes, without a doubt. Enough sources within the CIA, FBI, NSA and Pentagon have come forward in recent days to warn about Hayden’s plans for an expanded, consolidated spy network aimed at Americans, not terrorists, and violating numerous laws that prohibit such activities against citizens of this country.

“What Hayden plans to do is not only illegal, it is immoral,” says a longtime CIA operative who may retire early rather than participate in what he sees as an illegal extension of the spy agency’s activities.

Hayden, who oversaw the National Security Agency’s questionable monitoring of phone calls and emails of Americas, plans to consolidate much of the country’s domestic spying into a new desk at the CIA, calling it a “domestic terrorism prevention” operation.

The desk will oversee not only NSA’s increased monitoring of electronic communications by Americans but also the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s “terrorist information awareness” program that monitors travel and financial activities by Americans by gathering real-time data from banks, airlines, travel agencies and credit card companies.

The CIA operation will also coordinate with the Pentagon’s domestic spying program that monitors activities of anti-war groups, organizations critical of the Bush administrations and others tagged as enemies of the state.

FBI agents will step up monitoring of journalists to identify leaks of stories embarrassing to the government. The bureau is already monitoring phone calls and emails by reporters on a routine basis and has increased surveillance of writers for major news organizations and monitoring of travel and financial records using the DARPA computers.

“This is not ‘total information awareness’ but ‘total information control’ aimed at watching Americans fulltime and ignoring the protections that are supposed to be guaranteed by the Constitution,” says an FBI agent familiar with the programs. “I didn’t sign on for this and I’m getting the hell out.”

In fact, resignations at major U.S. spy agencies are at an all-time high. Exact numbers are classified but sources say field agents, data analysts and others are leaving in droves rather than join the frenzy to spy on Americans.

Hayden sailed through the Senate confirmation process defending his domestic spying program at NSA, claiming it was legal. Privacy experts and Constitutional law professors say otherwise but the Senate rubber-stamped Bush’s choice anyway, choosing to ignore the threats to freedom.

Hayden will have little problem concealing the operation from the public and Congress. Many of the CIA’s programs are classified and the agency has, in the past, concealed programs even from the intelligence committees in both the House and Senate. The DARPA project and the Pentagon domestic spying programs are “black bag” operations that do not require Congressional approval or oversight.

Likewise, many of the details of the NSA domestic spying program were withheld from Congress and escaped public notice until media reports unearthed them and the Bush administration now threatens to jail the reporters who broke the story.

I wish I could prove this. I wish one, just one, source on the inside was willing to come forward and allow his or her name to be used but those who might be tempted see what happened to Mary McCarthy, the CIA employee fired and under threat of prosecution for leaking information about CIA torture camps in Europe.

But I know it is happening. People I’ve known for years and trust tell me it is happening and the past record of spying, lies and deceit by the Bush administration point to just such an operation.

This nation is under attack. We, the people, are under attack. And the enemy in this case is not an Islamic radical hiding in a cave in Afghanistan but a cabal of truly evil men and women at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and on Capitol Hill aided by carefully-picked, law-ignoring appointees at the Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, a black glass-walled building at Fort Meade, MD, and a complex in Langley, Virginia.

Canadians Healthier Than Americans, Survey Says

Canadians are healthier than Americans, have better access to health care and have fewer unmet health needs, a new study of both countries reveals.

The findings come in spite of the fact that the United States spends almost twice as much per capita on health care as Canada, the researchers noted.

“This shows that you can spend much less than we [Americans] do, and deliver much more and better care then we do,” said study co-author Dr. David U. Himmelstein, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Mass.

The new study appears to reinforce the findings of a Rand Corporation report issued earlier this month that showed a similar health care gap between the U.S. system and that of Great Britain, which, like Canada, has a universal health care system — subsidized by tax dollars.

In the current study, Himmelstein and his colleagues reviewed responses from more than 3,500 Canadians and almost 5,200 Americans over the age of 18 who participated in the Joint Canada/U.S. Survey of Health — a one-time phone survey conducted between 2002 and 2003.

In addition to documenting race, class and immigrant status, the survey sought to assess each individual’s current health status, access to health care, use of health care, history of illness, and ongoing behaviors — such as smoking — considered to be health risks.

Reporting in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers found that although Canadians smoke more than Americans, Americans are more likely to be inactive and obese, and have higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and lung disease.

Specifically, Americans are one-third less likely to have a regular doctor, two times less likely to take needed medications, and one-fourth more likely to have unmet health care needs than Canadians.

While Americans were more likely to identify cost as the impediment to care, Canadians were more likely to cite waiting times as their main obstacle to good care. However, just 3.5 percent of Canadians were impacted by treatment delays, the survey found.

Despite generally better health and access to care, however, Canadians do not appear to be any happier with their health care system than Americans.

In fact, Americans said they were more satisfied than Canadians with the quality of care they received at either a hospital or a community-based facility. Canadians were happier with their physicians, however.

As well, American health care did excel in some areas compared to the Canadian system. For example, American women were more likely to have had a Pap smear and a mammogram than their Canadian counterparts.

Nevertheless, the American health system appears weakest in relation to the Canadian approach when it comes to caring for the uninsured.

Americans lacking insurance were found to have a much worse health care experience than both insured Americans, and (universally insured) Canadians. The survey found that nearly one in every three (30.4 percent) uninsured Americans had gone without some kind of needed care because of cost.

Overall, 7 percent of all U.S. residents cited cost as a barrier preventing them from getting needed care. That number was just 0.8 percent for Canadians.

The influence of wealth on access was also less acute in Canada, where poorer patients have better access to health care than low-income Americans.

In terms of race and health, non-whites in both countries were less satisfied with their health care than whites. However, racial differences in accessing care appear to be less drastic in Canada.

Based on the results, the researchers conclude that universal health care coverage should be implemented in the United States. But they also called for the health care community to improve services to the poor, and particularly the immigrant populations. They also urged reforms to prevent waiting-period issues that have impeded Canada’s system.

Although this research indicts the American health care system, Himmelstein said he wanted to accent the positive.

“Actually it’s a very hopeful message,” he said. “We (Americans) have the best doctors, best hospitals, and best nurses in the world. But the way we finance healthcare just doesn’t let us do the job. Given what we are now spending on our healthcare system, we can do better — if we just had national health insurance and were allowed to do it right.”

Jon Gabel, vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based non-partisan research organization Center for Studying Health System Change, agreed. He said the absence of a national health insurance system in the U.S. means patients don’t get full access to care or a better bang for their health-care buck.

However, Gabel noted that any between-country comparison depends in large part on whether the focus is on each system’s “haves” or “have-nots”.

“For example, once you’re in the U.S. health care system, patient satisfaction is higher than in Canada,” he noted.

Greg Scandlen, the founder of the non-profit Consumers for Health Care Choices based in Hagerstown, Md., disputed the findings.

“In terms of overall satisfaction with the health care system, Americans score better,” noted Scandlen. “So, the headline coming out of this ought to be that ‘Americans are more satisfied with their healthcare system than Canadians are.'”

Scandlen also criticized the way the study was conducted, noting that there was too much focus on routine health issues, to the relative exclusion of crisis situations that can demand more costly and dramatic interventions.

“Canada clearly emphasizes primary care pretty strongly, and I give them credit for that,” he said. But he added, “This survey doesn’t look at the more serious stuff, like surgery and cardiac care — serious, expensive things that apply to a minority of the population.”

The Power Of Stupidity


Chicken and egg debate unscrambled
Egg came first, ‘eggsperts’ agree
May 26, 2006

LONDON, England — It’s a question that has baffled scientists, academics and pub bores through the ages: What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Now a team made up of a geneticist, philosopher and chicken farmer claim to have found an answer. It was the egg.

Put simply, the reason is down to the fact that genetic material does not change during an animal’s life.

Therefore the first bird that evolved into what we would call a chicken, probably in prehistoric times, must have first existed as an embryo inside an egg.

Professor John Brookfield, a specialist in evolutionary genetics at the University of Nottingham, told the UK Press Association the pecking order was clear.

The living organism inside the eggshell would have had the same DNA as the chicken it would develop into, he said.

“Therefore, the first living thing which we could say unequivocally was a member of the species would be this first egg,” he added. “So, I would conclude that the egg came first.”

The same conclusion was reached by his fellow “eggsperts” Professor David Papineau, of King’s College London, and poultry farmer Charles Bourns.

Mr Papineau, an expert in the philosophy of science, agreed that the first chicken came from an egg and that proves there were chicken eggs before chickens.

He told PA people were mistaken if they argued that the mutant egg belonged to the “non-chicken” bird parents.

“I would argue it is a chicken egg if it has a chicken in it,” he said.

“If a kangaroo laid an egg from which an ostrich hatched, that would surely be an ostrich egg, not a kangaroo egg.”

Bourns, chairman of trade body Great British Chicken, said he was also firmly in the pro-egg camp.

He said: “Eggs were around long before the first chicken arrived. Of course, they may not have been chicken eggs as we see them today, but they were eggs.”

The debate, which may come as a relief to those with argumentative relatives, was organized by Disney to promote the release of the film “Chicken Little” on DVD.

Magic Bean Wishes – “Within each hot stamped velour pouch is a collection of agricultural and heirloom beans that have been marked with thoughtful words using a patent pending process.”
Patently Silly – home of Alcoholic beverages derived from animal extract, and methods for the production thereof and the Gas combustion type hair drier


Baby Born With Third Arm
May 30, 2006

three armed baby

SHANGHAI, China — Doctors in Shanghai on Tuesday were considering surgery options for a 2-month-old boy born with an unusually well-formed third arm.

Neither of the boy’s two left arms is fully functional and tests have so far been unable to determine which was more developed, said Dr. Chen Bochang, head of the orthopedics department at Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.

“His case is quite peculiar. We have no record of any child with such a complete third arm,” Chen said in a telephone interview.

The boy, identified only as “Jie-jie,” also was born with just one kidney and may have problems that could lead to curvature of the spine, local media reports said. Jie-jie cried when either of his left arms was touched, but smiled and responded normally to other stimuli, the reports said.

Chen said doctors hoped to work out a plan for surgery, but the boy’s small size made it impossible to perform certain tests that would help them prepare.

Media reports said other children have been reported born with additional arms and legs, but in those cases it was clear what limb was more developed.

Chen’s hospital is one of China’s most experienced in dealing with unusual birth defects, including separating conjoined twins.


Bush ‘planted fake news stories on American TV’
By Andrew Buncombe
29 May 2006

Federal authorities are actively investigating dozens of American television stations for broadcasting items produced by the Bush administration and major corporations, and passing them off as normal news. Some of the fake news segments talked up success in the war in Iraq, or promoted the companies’ products.

Investigators from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are seeking information about stations across the country after a report produced by a campaign group detailed the extraordinary extent of the use of such items.

The report, by the non-profit group Centre for Media and Democracy, found that over a 10-month period at least 77 television stations were making use of the faux news broadcasts, known as Video News Releases (VNRs). Not one told viewers who had produced the items.

“We know we only had partial access to these VNRs and yet we found 77 stations using them,” said Diana Farsetta, one of the group’s researchers. “I would say it’s pretty extraordinary. The picture we found was much worse than we expected going into the investigation in terms of just how widely these get played and how frequently these pre-packaged segments are put on the air.”

Ms Farsetta said the public relations companies commissioned to produce these segments by corporations had become increasingly sophisticated in their techniques in order to get the VNRs broadcast. “They have got very good at mimicking what a real, independently produced television report would look like,” she said.

The FCC has declined to comment on the investigation but investigators from the commission’s enforcement unit recently approached Ms Farsetta for a copy of her group’s report.

The range of VNR is wide. Among items provided by the Bush administration to news stations was one in which an Iraqi-American in Kansas City was seen saying “Thank you Bush. Thank you USA” in response to the 2003 fall of Baghdad. The footage was actually produced by the State Department, one of 20 federal agencies that have produced and distributed such items.

Many of the corporate reports, produced by drugs manufacturers such as Pfizer, focus on health issues and promote the manufacturer’s product. One example cited by the report was a Hallowe’en segment produced by the confectionery giant Mars, which featured Snickers, M&Ms and other company brands. While the original VNR disclosed that it was produced by Mars, such information was removed when it was broadcast by the television channel – in this case a Fox-owned station in St Louis, Missouri.

Bloomberg news service said that other companies that sponsored the promotions included General Motors, the world’s largest car maker, and Intel, the biggest maker of semi-conductors. All of the companies said they included full disclosure of their involvement in the VNRs. “We in no way attempt to hide that we are providing the video,” said Chuck Mulloy, a spokesman for Intel. “In fact, we bend over backward to make this disclosure.”

The FCC was urged to act by a lobbying campaign organised by Free Press, another non-profit group that focuses on media policy. Spokesman Craig Aaron said more than 25,000 people had written to the FCC about the VNRs. “Essentially it’s corporate advertising or propaganda masquerading as news,” he said. “The public obviously expects their news reports are going to be based on real reporting and real information. If they are watching an advertisement for a company or a government policy, they need to be told.”

The controversy over the use of VNRs by television stations first erupted last spring. At the time the FCC issued a public notice warning broadcasters that they were obliged to inform viewers if items were sponsored. The maximum fine for each violation is $32,500 (£17,500).

okay, here we go again… 8/

if this gets much worse, i’ll probably do something like Pliny the Weird (a very good friend of mine) came up with the last time this was an issue, and make “FLAG BURNING KITS” with an american flag on a cocktail toothpick and a strike-anywhere match…

Flag-burning amendment does too much harm
May 28, 2006

Some time this summer, the Congress will likely set in motion the steps needed to amend the U.S. Constitution to make it unlawful to desecrate the flag.

The amendment, which has bipartisan support, will make it against the law to burn the American flag. Unfortunately, in the process, it will trample all over the very thing the flag stands for: your personal freedom.

The Constitution, and specifically the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights, set out the freedoms that protect every citizen and set us apart from virtually every other country in the world.

Burning, mutilating or destroying the flag is a juvenile and despicable form of protest best suited for unruly mobs in faraway dictatorships, not the streets of America.

But as wrong-headed as it is, flag desecrating shouldn’t be against the law.

The flag is a proud symbol of America. We show our respect (or should) by removing our hats when it passes in a parade. We pledge our allegiance to the United States of America while facing the flag. It has been carried into battle around the world and our troops have died beneath it.

However, we should not confuse the symbol for the substance. The flag is a symbol of the freedoms that make America great. One of our most important freedoms is the freedom to disagree with the government and our neighbors. When we make it against the law to disagree, even in a way that is offensive, we are desecrating the Constitution.

Dissent is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of strength. Only in a country that is strong is dissenting a freedom that enjoys equal protection under the law.

Demanding everyone support a particular cause or face consequences, real or social, is contrary to the personal liberties that have made our country strong.

You are free to express your thoughts, no matter how contrary to prevailing sentiment, because the First Amendment guarantees you that right. Thanks to that same amendment, the government can’t open your mail or listen to your phone calls without a search warrant. The First Amendment also permits us to publish this newspaper without prior approval of any government authority.

The only way supporters can make burning a flag illegal is to amend the Constitution and specifically exclude that activity from First Amendment protection.

This exercise is an unfortunate example of how politicians of both parties pander to voters on issues that sound profound and patriotic, but in reality will do great harm to the very institution they profess to protect.

Ironically, the number of reported flag burning incidents declined rapidly following 9/11 and hasn’t shown any signs of rebounding – further evidence that this constitutional amendment is a solution in search of a problem or, more accurately, in search of votes.

If the backers of this travesty are successful in amending the Constitution, America will join an elite club of nations that punish flag burners: China, Cuba and Iran.

Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country. No doubt, many veterans past and present, along with many other citizens, join us in deploring flag burning.

The only thing worse than desecrating the flag is violating the Constitution to punish offenders.

Congress reveals its double standard
May 28, 2006

Members of Congress last week finally decided that invasion of privacy and the president’s overstepping his power are matters of grave importance.

And it took an FBI raid of the office of one of their own to get them all worked up.

As The Washington Post first reported, FBI agents obtained a warrant to search the offices of Rep. William Jefferson, a long-time New Orleans Democrat after they secretly taped him accepting $100,000, ostensibly to help a company win Internet contracts in Africa.

Never mind that this time the FBI obtained a search warrant unlike, say, the CIA or the NSA in their attempts to listen in on Americans’ private phone conversations.

Democrats and Republicans alike called on the FBI to return the documents seized from Jefferson’s office, saying along the way that it represented an extraordinary overreaching of power on the part of the executive branch.

“No person is above the law, neither the one being investigated nor those conducting the investigation,” said a letter signed by both House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “The Justice Department must immediately return the papers it unconstitutionally seized. Once that is done, Congressman Jefferson can and should fully cooperate with the Justice Department’s efforts, consistent with his constitutional rights.”

It was apparently the first time in Congress’ history that a member’s office had been raided by the Justice Department. Of course, as The Washington Post explained in an editorial, “this was no fishing expedition.”

It’s great that there is bipartisan anger at law enforcement officials executing a lawfully obtained search warrant against someone suspected of wrongdoing. That should play well here in the rest of America.

Vermonters are no strangers to outrage over invasions of privacy on the part of our congressional delegation. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has been one of the most vocal critics of the recently disclosed collection of millions of phone records by the country’s top spy agency. Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., has been one of the loudest opponents of the Patriot Act and provisions that allow government snooping into our library borrowing habits.

Heck, a former member of Congress who couldn’t disagree more with Sanders’ socialist leanings, came to the state a few weeks ago to decry the ever-encroaching nature of the current president’s administration.

“I can’t understand that while you have a president thumbing his nose at Congress and the country and expressing disdain for the Constitution that Congress just sits there and takes it,” former Rep. Bob Barr, a Republican from Georgia, said during his visit here. “How is it that one individual can take power from the people and not be held accountable?”

How is it, indeed? On the one hand, Congress seems to just sit by and do nothing more than express frustration when the executive branch is reaching its tentacles into the private lives of the people from whom it derives its powers.

But if one of their own – no matter what party or what wrongdoing is suspected – is the recipient of a little intrusion from the executive branch, well, then, something must be done.

Vermonters are proud of their government’s relative absence from our lives and about its strong protection of individual liberties. Recall that when the latest phone-records scandal broke, calls for an immediate investigation of the state’s largest telephone company were swift and bipartisan.

I suspect, however, that Vermonters and other Americans will look at Pelosi and Hastert and Jefferson with more than a little skepticism.

It’s one thing for the crew of insiders to act like they’ve somehow been wronged by what looks like, from all accounts, a perfectly lawful and reasonable search of a crime suspect’s office, a suspect whom authorities say didn’t cooperate with them for months.

It’s quite another for them to expect that we will share their outrage.

After all, they certainly don’t seem to share ours when it is our privacy that is being violated.


Every little man thinks that only Jesus Christ himself is good enough to be his teacher. But you can learn from the most ordinary circumstances once you have the key that opens all doors.
     — Georges I. Gurdjeiff


jac is waiting to hear from his supplier, and has been for the past 3 days, i haven’t been able to get hold of jim because he has moved since the last time i called (typical), and gunnar isn’t answering his phone. bleh.


What If They Gave a War…?
May 26, 2006
by Tony Long

1968. It was the height of the Vietnam War, the year of My Lai and the Tet offensive. Student riots in Paris nearly brought down the French government. Soviet tanks put a premature end to Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring.

In the United States, the streets were teeming with antiwar protesters and civil rights demonstrators. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within two months of each other. The Democratic convention in Chicago dissolved into chaos. And by the summer, America’s cities were in flames.

The world was seething, and for good reason. There was a lot to be angry about. It was a lousy year, 1968.

I was in high school then. I quit the baseball team because, frankly, sports seemed frivolous. In 1968, there were more important things to worry about than perfecting a curveball. All very high-minded and, in retrospect, more than a little pompous. But nearly 40 years down the road I don’t regret having done it. My political consciousness was awakened and I was actively engaged in the world around me.

But as bad as things were then, they seem infinitely worse now.

So why aren’t the streets clogged with angry Americans demanding to know why their president lied and deceived them so he could attack a country that had absolutely nothing to do with his so-called war on terror? To an extent, we got suckered into Vietnam. We can’t make that claim about Iraq. Iraq was the premeditated, willful invasion of a sovereign nation that was threatening nobody. “Saddam Hussein is a prick who treats the Kurds miserably” is no justification. By the principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal and international law, our president is a war criminal.

Why aren’t we marching to demand an end to the illegal surveillance of American citizens by their own government, again under the pretext of waging war on terror? Why do we so blithely surrender our civil liberties — the very thing that supposedly separates us from other societies — to the illusion of security? All the high-tech snooping in the world won’t stop a determined terrorist from striking. If it could, Israel would be the safest country on earth.

Why aren’t irate Americans camping out in the lobby of every newspaper and TV station from coast to coast, demanding that the press reassert the right to perform its single most important function, that of government watchdog? The ghost of Richard Nixon, and a very corporeal Bill Clinton, must be cursing their rotten luck.

Why aren’t enraged college students occupying their campus administration buildings, demanding that the United States sign the Kyoto Protocol? Hell, it might already be too late, but is the luxury of driving your mom’s SUV really worth the coming dystopian world that you, more than I, will inherit?

Why aren’t we storming the battlements of every filthy oil company in America, demanding that their executives be tossed into fetid dungeons for cynically manipulating gas prices while raking in obscene profits?

Why aren’t we demanding that religion return to the pulpit, where it belongs, and keep out of the White House and the courts?

In short, where the hell is everybody?

I’ll tell you where they are. They’re at home, tuning in to root for the next “American idol.” They’re plugged into their iPods, utterly self-involved and disconnected from what lies just outside their doors. They’re spending 25 hours a week playing video games in virtual worlds instead of fighting to save the only world that really matters. They’re surfing porn. They’re text messaging and e-mailing and scheming to close that next big deal. They’re flogging their useless crap on eBay.

All that technology at their fingertips, and they’re completely blind. Two terms for George W. Bush? They’re deaf and dumb, too.

Bread and circuses. The government and the corporations are giving us bread and circuses to keep us sufficiently distracted so the powers that be can pursue their agendas. Television (flat screens only, please) serves up Donald Trump and Paris Hilton as role models, and gives us the abomination of Fox News, which is more a wolf in sheep’s clothing than any Vulpes vulpes you’re likely to encounter.

Hollywood only cares about blockbusters, chick flicks and inane buddy movies. Tiresome reality doesn’t make for good escapism and, more importantly, it doesn’t fill coffers. And George Clooney can’t be expected to produce every movie.

Whither the press? Forget it. Britney Spears gets more ink — and better play — than global warming does.

Iraq civilian deaths unjustified
May 26, 2006

WASHINGTON – Military investigators probing the deaths last November of about two dozen Iraqi civilians have evidence that points toward unprovoked murders by Marines, a senior defense official said Friday.

The Marine Corps initially reported 15 deaths and said they were caused by a roadside bomb and an ensuing firefight with insurgents. A separate investigation is aimed at determining if Marines lied to cover up the events, which included the deaths of women and children.

If confirmed as unjustified killings, the episode could be the most serious case of criminal misconduct by U.S. troops during three years of combat in Iraq. Until now the most infamous occurrence was the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse involving Army soldiers, which came to light in April 2004 and which President Bush said Thursday he considered to be the worst U.S. mistake of the entire war.

The defense official discussed the matter Friday only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk publicly about the investigation. He said the evidence found thus far strongly indicated the killings in the insurgent-plagued city of Haditha in the western province of Anbar were unjustified. He cautioned that the probe was not finished.

Once the investigation is completed, perhaps in June, it will be up to a senior Marine commander in Iraq to decide whether to press charges of murder or other violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Three officers from the unit involved — 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. — have been relieved of duty, although officials have not explicitly linked them to the criminal investigation.

In an indication of how concerned the Marines are about the implications of the Haditha case, their top officer, Gen. Michael W. Hagee, flew to Iraq on Thursday. He was to reinforce what the military said was a need to adhere to Marine values and standards of behavior and to avoid the use of excess force.

“Many of our Marines have been involved in life or death combat or have witnessed the loss of their fellow Marines, and the effects of these events can be numbing,” Hagee said a statement announcing his trip. “There is the risk of becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life, as well as bringing dishonor upon ourselves.”

A spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters in the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Scott Fazekas, declined to comment on the status of the Haditha investigation. He said no information would be provided until the probe was completed.

According to a congressional aide, lawmakers were told in a briefing Thursday that it appears as many as two dozen civilians were killed in the episode at Haditha. And they were told that the investigation will find that “it will be clear that this was not the result of an accident or a normal combat situation.”

Another congressional official said lawmakers were told it would be about 30 days before a report would be issued by the investigating agency, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Both the House and Senate armed services committees plan to hold hearings on the matter.

The New York Times reported on Friday that the civilians killed at Haditha included five men who had been traveling in a taxi and others in two nearby houses. The newspaper quoted an unidentified official as saying it was a sustained operation over as long as five hours.

Hagee met with top lawmakers from those panels this week to bring them up to date on the investigation.

“I can say that there are established facts that incidents of a very serious nature did take place,” Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the Senate panel, said Thursday. He would not provide details or confirm reports that about 24 civilians were killed. He told reporters he had “no basis to believe” the military engaged in a cover-up.

Separately, the Marines announced this week that a criminal investigation was under way in connection with an alleged killing on April 26 of an Iraqi civilian by Marines in Hamandiyah, west of Baghdad. No details about that case have been made public.

In the Haditha case, videotape aired by an Arab television station showed images purportedly taken in the aftermath of the encounter: a bloody bedroom floor, walls with bullet holes and bodies of women and children. An Iraqi human rights group called for an investigation of what it described as a deadly mistake that had harmed civilians.

On May 17, Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record), D-Pa., a former Marine, said Corps officials told him the toll in the Haditha attack was far worse than originally reported and that U.S. troops killed innocent women and children “in cold blood.” He said that nearly twice as many people were killed as first reported and maintained that U.S. forces were “overstretched and overstressed” by the war in Iraq.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was being kept apprised. Ruff said he did not expect any announcements in the next few days.

Iraqis shot ‘for wearing shorts’
26 May 2006

The coach of Iraq’s tennis team and two players were shot dead in Baghdad on Thursday, said Iraqi Olympic officials.

Coach Hussein Ahmed Rashid and players Nasser Ali Hatem and Wissam Adel Auda were killed in the al-Saidiya district of the capital.

Witnesses said the three were dressed in shorts and were killed days after militants issued a warning forbidding the wearing of shorts.

Other Iraqi athletes have been targeted in recent incidents.

In this case, according to accounts, the men dropped off laundry and were then stopped in their vehicle by gunmen.

Two of the athletes stepped out of the car and were shot in the head, said one witness. The third was shot dead in the vehicle.

“The gunman took the body out of the car and threw it on top of the other two bodies before stealing the car,” said the witness, who requested anonymity.

He said leaflets had been recently distributed in the area warning residents not to wear shorts.

Last week, 15 members of Iraq’s taekwondo team were kidnapped between Falluja and Ramadi, west of Baghdad, said a member of the Iraqi Olympic Committee. The kidnappers have demanded $100,000 for their release.


i left for seattle at 7:30 this morning because i wanted to get a good parking place, which i did, right across from the “skybridge”. it was early enough that most of the vendors weren’t even there yet, so i wandered for a couple of hours. minor things have changed recently: the second floor of the center house no longer goes all the way around, and some things have vanished from the main floor, like an escalator and a stairway. i found the place to check in and confused the volunteers when i wasn’t the whole group. got my button and went and wandered for a couple more hours until the performance. it was raining until we got onstage, and then it stopped. liz said that it always happens that way, which is a good thing, i think. they told me (i’ve got it written down in email) that our performance was at 11:45, but it was really at 12:45. also, the volunteers at the check in said that we had two performances, and that the second one was at 1:00, but we really only had one performance… i think that maybe the volunteers’ schedule was broken up into 15 minute increments, but i don’t know because they were pretty confused without me adding to it. we’re performing again for a party given by the canadian consulate at the intiman theatre at 10:00 tonight… one piece – oh canada – and we’ve never played it before, so it should be exciting.

anyway, after the band played, i went up to swamp creek to fill my water bottles and then i came home.


the ballard sedentary sousa band is playing tomorrow at folklife, at approximately 12:30 pm at the fountain lawn stage. we’re also playing at 10:00 pm for the party after.

i got an incense order today. first one in almost 2 months.


Highway sign brews up controversy
By Adam Shub

GASTONIA, N.C. — Eyebrows are being raised because of a new sign along Highway 74 and a pagan group’s promise to keep the road clean.

The Silvermoon Pagan Wicca Group, through the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program, recently sponsored the stretch of road in Gastonia. At the head of the group is Kym Miller, a self-proclaimed witch who owns the Witch’s Brew Café in Lincolnton.

“We want to be community-minded and active in the area, and we wanted to do something to help keep the area clean,” Miller said Thursday.

But many Gastonia residents have their objections.

“I’m not for it if it’s got anything to do with witchcraft,” resident Mildred Bumgardner said.

Resident Cody Sams said, “They should change the name or something.”

Miller insists that her group does nothing more than cast spells and experiment with herbal magic.

“We don’t worship the devil, we don’t believe in the devil,” she said. “We’re not Satanists.”

Miller said she has been receiving death threats since her café opened last summer, but she hopes the highway adoption can prove to people that her group wants to make a positive impact on the community. She said it also intends to adopt another highway in the near future.

“So that they realize that we’re not evil people doing evil things,” she said.

Bumgardner doesn’t buy it.

“They’re just trying to get into our communities with that type of thing,” she said.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation said it has not received any written complaints about the Silvermoon sign. Officials said it’s unfair to discriminate against any group that wants to adopt a highway.

It doesn’t cost any money to adopt a highway, but whoever does must pledge to clean it up at least a couple of times a year.

The Transportation Department said the program saves taxpayers $4 million a year in cleanup costs.


Desmond Dekker is dead
26 May, 2006

Desmond Dekker

Desmond Dekker, the first Jamaican pop act to score a major hit in the UK, has died.

The singer died of a heart attack in London on Wednesday night. Dekker was 64 years old.

Born Desmond Adolphus Dacres in Kingston, on July 16, 1941, Dekker and his backing group the Aces (consisting of Wilson James and Easton Barrington Howard), had the first international Jamaican hit with Israelites. Other hits include 007 (Shanty Town), from 1967, and It Mek (1969).

Orphaned as a teenager, Dekker began working as a welder, singing around his workplace while his coworkers encouraged him. In 1961, he auditioned for the late Coxsone Dodd at Studio One and Dodd’s archrival, Duke Reid at Treasure Isle. Neither was impressed by his talents, and Dekker moved on to Leslie Kong’s Beverley’s label, where he auditioned before Derrick Morgan. With Morgan’s support, Dekker was signed but did not record until 1963, because Kong was reportedly waiting for the perfect song. That came in the form of Dekker’s Honour Your Father And Mother.

The song was a hit and Dekker followed up with Sinners Come Home and Labour for Learning. It was at this time that he changed his surname from Dacres to Dekker.

His next hit, King of Ska, on which he was backed by the The Cherrypies (also known as The Maytals), became one of his early signature tunes and remains well-known among ska fans.

Until 1967, Dekker’s songs, including Parents, Get Up Edina, This Woman and Mount Zion. were polite and conveyed mainstream messages. In that year, however, he appeared on Morgan’s Tougher Than Tough, which marked the beginning of the rude boy craze. Dekker’s own songs did not go to the extremes of many other popular tunes, though he did introduce lyrics which resonated with the rude boys, starting with the aforementioned 007 (Shanty Town). The song established Dekker as a rude boy icon, and helped him become a leading figure in the British mod scene.

Dekker continued with songs in the same vein, such as Rude Boy Train and Rudie Got Soul, as well as continuing with his previous themes of religion and morality in songs like It’s a Shame, Wise Man, Unity, It Pays, and Sabotage. His Pretty Africa is among the earliest popular songs to promote repatriation.

Israelites, released in 1968, appeared on both the US and UK charts, eventually topping the latter and peaking in the Top Ten of the former. He was the first Jamaican performer to enter US markets with pure Jamaican music, but he never managed to repeat in the US. That same year saw the release of Beautiful And Dangerous, Writing On The Wall, the Jamaica Festival song winner Intensified [Music Like Dirt], Bongo Girl and Shing a Ling.

At the end of the 1970s, Dekker signed with Stiff Records, a punk label linked with the Two-Tone movement, a fusion of punk and ska. He recorded an album called Black & Dekker, which featured his previous hits backed by The Rumour, Graham Parker’s backing band. Dekker’s next album was Compass Point, produced by Robert Palmer. Though that album did not sell well, Dekker remained a popular live performer, and he toured with The Rumour.

Only a live album was released in the late 80s, but a new version of Israelites reawakened public interest in 1990, following its use in a commercial for the audio recording products maker Maxell and on the soundtrack for the 1989 movie Drugstore Cowboy. He re-recorded some old singles, and worked with The Specials for 1992’s King of Kings, which used hits from Dekker’s musical heroes, including Derrick Morgan.


despite the fact that i haven’t had any orders for more than a month, i signed up as a distributor for shoyeido incense (they now have a “resell from internet” policy, which they haven’t in the past), and ordered $125 worth of incense from them, primarily because chris wants more hori-kawa. the added bonus is that i get to order their $100 a box incense at wholesale.


Whistle-Blower’s Evidence
May, 22, 2006

Former AT&T technician Mark Klein is the key witness in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s class-action lawsuit against the telecommunications company, which alleges that AT&T cooperated in an illegal National Security Agency domestic surveillance program.

In a public statement Klein issued last month, he described the NSA’s visit to an AT&T office. In an older, less-public statement recently acquired by Wired News, Klein goes into additional details of his discovery of an alleged surveillance operation in an AT&T building in San Francisco.

Klein supports his claim by attaching excerpts of three internal company documents: a Dec. 10, 2002, manual titled “Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco,” a Jan. 13, 2003, document titled “SIMS, Splitter Cut-In and Test Procedure” and a second “Cut-In and Test Procedure” dated Jan. 24, 2003.

AT&T’s Implementation of NSA Spying on American Citizens
31 December 2005

I wrote the following document in 2004 when it became clear to me that AT&T, at the behest of the National Security Agency, had illegally installed secret computer gear designed to spy on internet traffic. At the time I thought this was an outgrowth of the notorious Total Information Awareness program, which was attacked by defenders of civil liberties. But now it’s been revealed by The New York Times that the spying program is vastly bigger and was directly authorized by President Bush, as he himself has now admitted, in flagrant violation of specific statutes and constitutional protections for civil liberties. I am presenting this information to facilitate the dismantling of this dangerous Orwellian project.

AT&T Deploys Government Spy Gear on WorldNet Network
16 January, 2004

In 2003 AT&T built “secret rooms” hidden deep in the bowels of its central offices in various cities, housing computer gear for a government spy operation which taps into the company’s popular WorldNet service and the entire internet. These installations enable the government to look at every individual message on the internet and analyze exactly what people are doing. Documents showing the hardwire installation in San Francisco suggest that there are similar locations being installed in numerous other cities.

The physical arrangement, the timing of its construction, the government-imposed secrecy surrounding it and other factors all strongly suggest that its origins are rooted in the Defense Department’s Total Information Awareness (TIA) program which brought forth vigorous protests from defenders of constitutionally protected civil liberties last year:

“As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.” The New York Times, 9 November 2002

To mollify critics, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) spokesmen have repeatedly asserted that they are only conducting “research” using “artificial synthetic data” or information from “normal DOD intelligence channels” and hence there are “no U.S. citizen privacy implications” (Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General report on TIA, December 12, 2003). They also changed the name of the program to “Terrorism Information Awareness” to make it more politically palatable. But feeling the heat, Congress made a big show of allegedly cutting off funding for TIA in late 2003, and the political fallout resulted in Adm. Poindexter’s abrupt resignation last August. However, the fine print reveals that Congress eliminated funding only for “the majority of the TIA components,” allowing several “components” to continue (DOD, ibid). The essential hardware elements of a TIA-type spy program are being surreptitiously slipped into “real world” telecommunications offices.

In San Francisco the “secret room” is Room 641A at 611 Folsom Street, the site of a large SBC phone building, three floors of which are occupied by AT&T. High-speed fiber-optic circuits come in on the 8th floor and run down to the 7th floor where they connect to routers for AT&T’s WorldNet service, part of the latter’s vital “Common Backbone.” In order to snoop on these circuits, a special cabinet was installed and cabled to the “secret room” on the 6th floor to monitor the information going through the circuits. (The location code of the cabinet is 070177.04, which denotes the 7th floor, aisle 177 and bay 04.) The “secret room” itself is roughly 24-by-48 feet, containing perhaps a dozen cabinets including such equipment as Sun servers and two Juniper routers, plus an industrial-size air conditioner.

The normal work force of unionized technicians in the office are forbidden to enter the “secret room,” which has a special combination lock on the main door. The telltale sign of an illicit government spy operation is the fact that only people with security clearance from the National Security Agency can enter this room. In practice this has meant that only one management-level technician works in there. Ironically, the one who set up the room was laid off in late 2003 in one of the company’s endless “downsizings,” but he was quickly replaced by another.

Plans for the “secret room” were fully drawn up by December 2002, curiously only four months after Darpa started awarding contracts for TIA. One 60-page document, identified as coming from “AT&T Labs Connectivity & Net Services” and authored by the labs’ consultant Mathew F. Casamassima, is titled Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco and dated 12/10/02. This document addresses the special problem of trying to spy on fiber-optic circuits. Unlike copper wire circuits which emit electromagnetic fields that can be tapped into without disturbing the circuits, fiber-optic circuits do not “leak” their light signals. In order to monitor such communications, one has to physically cut into the fiber somehow and divert a portion of the light signal to see the information.

This problem is solved with “splitters” which literally split off a percentage of the light signal so it can be examined. This is the purpose of the special cabinet referred to above: Circuits are connected into it, the light signal is split into two signals, one of which is diverted to the “secret room.” The cabinet is totally unnecessary for the circuit to perform — in fact it introduces problems since the signal level is reduced by the splitter — its only purpose is to enable a third party to examine the data flowing between sender and recipient on the internet.

The above-referenced document includes a diagram showing the splitting of the light signal, a portion of which is diverted to “SG3 Secure Room,” i.e., the so-called “Study Group” spy room. Another page headlined “Cabinet Naming” lists not only the “splitter” cabinet but also the equipment installed in the “SG3” room, including various Sun devices, and Juniper M40e and M160 “backbone” routers. PDF file 4 shows one of many tables detailing the connections between the “splitter” cabinet on the 7th floor (location 070177.04) and a cabinet in the “secret room” on the 6th floor (location 060903.01). Since the San Francisco “secret room” is numbered 3, the implication is that there are at least several more in other cities (Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego are some of the rumored locations), which likely are spread across the United States.

One of the devices in the “Cabinet Naming” list is particularly revealing as to the purpose of the “secret room”: a Narus STA 6400. Narus is a 7-year-old company which, because of its particular niche, appeals not only to businessmen (it is backed by AT&T, JP Morgan and Intel, among others) but also to police, military and intelligence officials. Last November 13-14, for instance, Narus was the “Lead Sponsor” for a technical conference held in McLean, Virginia, titled “Intelligence Support Systems for Lawful Interception and Internet Surveillance.” Police officials, FBI and DEA agents, and major telecommunications companies eager to cash in on the “war on terror” had gathered in the hometown of the CIA to discuss their special problems. Among the attendees were AT&T, BellSouth, MCI, Sprint and Verizon. Narus founder, Dr. Ori Cohen, gave a keynote speech. So what does the Narus STA 6400 do?

“The (Narus) STA Platform consists of standalone traffic analyzers that collect network and customer usage information in real time directly from the message…. These analyzers sit on the message pipe into the ISP (internet service provider) cloud rather than tap into each router or ISP device” (Telecommunications magazine, April 2000). A Narus press release (1 Dec., 1999) also boasts that its Semantic Traffic Analysis (STA) technology “captures comprehensive customer usage data … and transforms it into actionable information…. (It) is the only technology that provides complete visibility for all internet applications.”

To implement this scheme, WorldNet’s high-speed data circuits already in service had to be rerouted to go through the special “splitter” cabinet. This was addressed in another document of 44 pages from AT&T Labs, titled SIMS, Splitter Cut-In and Test Procedure, dated 01/13/03. “SIMS” is an unexplained reference to the secret room. Part of this reads as follows:

“A WMS (work) Ticket will be issued by the AT&T Bridgeton Network Operation Center (NOC) to charge time for performing the work described in this procedure document…. “This procedure covers the steps required to insert optical splitters into select live Common Backbone (CBB) OC3, OC12 and OC48 optical circuits.”

The NOC referred to is in Bridgeton, Missouri, and controls WorldNet operations. (As a sign that government spying goes hand-in-hand with union-busting, the entire (Communication Workers of America) Local 6377 which had jurisdiction over the Bridgeton NOC was wiped out in early 2002 when AT&T fired the union work force and later rehired them as nonunion “management” employees.) The cut-in work was performed in 2003, and since then new circuits are connected through the “splitter” cabinet.

Another Cut-In and Test Procedure document dated January 24, 2003, provides diagrams of how AT&T Core Network circuits were to be run through the “splitter” cabinet. One page lists the circuit IDs of key Peering Links which were “cut-in” in February 2003, including ConXion, Verio, XO, Genuity, Qwest, PAIX, Allegiance, AboveNet, Global Crossing, C&W, UUNET, Level 3, Sprint, Telia, PSINet and Mae West. By the way, Mae West is one of two key internet nodal points in the United States (the other, Mae East, is in Vienna, Virginia). It’s not just WorldNet customers who are being spied on — it’s the entire internet.

The next logical question is, what central command is collecting the data sent by the various “secret rooms”? One can only make educated guesses, but perhaps the answer was inadvertently given in the DOD Inspector General’s report (cited above):

“For testing TIA capabilities, Darpa and the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) created an operational research and development environment that uses real-time feedback. The main node of TIA is located at INSCOM (in Fort Belvoir, Virginia)….”

Among the agencies participating or planning to participate in the INSCOM “testing” are the “National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the DOD Counterintelligence Field Activity, the U.S. Strategic Command, the Special Operations Command, the Joint Forces Command and the Joint Warfare Analysis Center.” There are also “discussions” going on to bring in “non-DOD federal agencies” such as the FBI.

This is the infrastructure for an Orwellian police state. It must be shut down!


this is sort of a backhanded compliment… they say that there’s no link between pot and lung cancer, but they still recommend not smoking pot because of problems like “cognitive impairment and chronic bronchitis”, in spite of the fact that there’s no mention of alcohol or other “legal” drugs that have identical, if not more severe problems linked with them. also i’d be willing to bet that they didn’t test pot smoked through a water filtration device like a bong because tobacco isn’t smoked that way… 8/

U.S. study sees no marijuana link to lung cancer
Baby-boomer research results surprise doctors expecting to find connection
May 23, 2006

LOS ANGELES – Marijuana smoking does not increase a person’s risk of developing lung cancer, according to the findings of a new study at the University of California Los Angeles that surprised even the researchers.

They had expected to find that a history of heavy marijuana use, like cigarette smoking, would increase the risk of cancer.

Instead, the study, which compared the lifestyles of 611 Los Angeles County lung cancer patients and 601 patients with head and neck cancers with those of 1,040 people without cancer, found no elevated cancer risk for even the heaviest pot smokers. It did find a 20-fold increased risk of lung cancer in people who smoked two or more packs of cigarettes a day.

The study results were presented in San Diego on Tuesday at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society.

The study was confined to people under age 60 since baby boomers were the most likely age group to have long-term exposure to marijuana, said Dr. Donald Tashkin, senior researcher and professor at the UCLA School of Medicine.

The results should not be taken as a blank check to smoke pot, which has been associated with problems like cognitive impairment and chronic bronchitis, said Dr. John Hansen-Flaschen, chief of pulmonary and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia. He was not involved in the study.

Previous studies showed marijuana tar contained about 50 percent more of the chemicals linked to lung cancer, compared with tobacco tar, Tashkin said. In addition, smoking a marijuana joint deposits four times more tar in the lungs than smoking an equivalent amount of tobacco.

“Marijuana is packed more loosely than tobacco, so there’s less filtration through the rod of the cigarette, so more particles will be inhaled,” Tashkin said in a statement. “And marijuana smokers typically smoke differently than tobacco smokers — they hold their breath about four times longer, allowing more time for extra fine particles to deposit in the lung.”

He theorized that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a chemical in marijuana smoke that produces its psychotropic effect, may encourage aging, damaged cells to die off before they become cancerous.

Hansen-Flaschen also cautioned a cancer-marijuana link could emerge as baby boomers age and there may be smaller population groups, based on genetics or other factors, still at risk for marijuana-related cancers.


Katrina autopsy: Police shot retarded man in back
May 22, 2006
By James Polk, Drew Griffin and Kate Albright-Hanna

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — Autopsy results obtained by CNN show a retarded man was shot in the back when he was killed by New Orleans police in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

This contradicts testimony by a police sergeant that the victim had turned toward officers and was reaching into his waistband when shot.

“Clearly he was shot from behind,” said famed New York pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, who examined the body for the family’s lawyer.

A prosecutor said the case will go before a grand jury soon and acknowledged the investigation includes the possibility of police wrong-doing.

Ronald Madison, 40, was mentally retarded and lived at home with his mother. He had no criminal record. He was shot when police responded to a report of gunfire on a bridge over the flooded Industrial Canal on Sunday, September 4, six days after Katrina hit New Orleans last year.

It was a week of dire flooding, rampant looting, death by drowning. Police were strained, beset by suicides and desertion. Four people were killed in confrontations with police that weekend alone.

Madison’s older brother, Lance, said he and Ronald were walking across the Danziger bridge toward another brother’s dental office when teen-agers ran up behind him and opened fire that Sunday morning.

By his account, he and Ronald were running away toward the crest of the bridge when a police team, responding to the report of gunshots, arrived in a rental truck and opened fire on people on the bridge.

Police Superintendent Warren Riley told CNN, “Several of the people were shot and two were killed by our officers in a running gun battle… Most police shoot-outs last somewhere between six and twelve seconds, and it’s over with. This was a running gun battle that went on several minutes.”

One teen-ager, still unidentified, was killed near the base of the bridge. Another was critically wounded. Three other people with them were also shot and were hospitalized.

Lance Madison said a policeman pointed a rifle at Ronald and shot him as the two of them were running up the bridge. Lance said he helped carry his wounded brother to a motel on the other side of the canal and left him there as Lance kept running to seek help.

The Police Department said in a press release last fall that Ronald Madison, whom it called a second unidentified gunman, “was confronted by a New Orleans Police Officer. The suspect reached into his waist and turned toward the officer who fired one shot fatally wounding him.”

Testifying in a preliminary hearing last fall, Police Sgt. Arthur Kaufman said much the same thing: “One subject turned, reached in his waistband, turned on the officers.”

Autopsy results, made available to CNN by a source involved in the investigation, directly contradict that police account.

The findings list five separate gunshot wounds in Ronald Madison’s back. Three went through the body and exited in front. There were two other wounds in his right shoulder. None of the shots entered his body from the front.

CNN had sued the coroner of Orleans Parish to try to get official access to the autopsy report. At a court hearing on that lawsuit in New Orleans a week ago, the coroner, Dr. Frank Minyard, verified the handwritten autopsy report obtained elsewhere by CNN was indeed prepared in his office by a pathologist on his staff who listed the wounds in the victim’s right back.

Under cross-examination by a CNN lawyer, Dr. Minyard testified those five wounds in the back “were entrance wounds, yes.”

Dr. Michael Baden, chief forensic pathologist for the New York State Police, met with CNN in New York City two weeks ago to discuss his own observations when he examined Ronald Madison’s body for the family lawyer last fall. Asked if Ronald could have been facing the police when shot, Dr. Baden said, “Absolutely not.”

No weapon was found on or near Ronald Madison’s body.

Asst. District Attorney Dustin Davis, testifying in the same court hearing on the CNN lawsuit, said a grand jury has been assigned to investigate the Danziger Bridge shootings. However, the grand jury has not yet met on the case because the New Orleans Police Dept. has yet to complete its final report, eight months after those deaths.

The CNN attorney asked Davis, “What you are investigating in that case is whether any of the police officers may be indicted for homicide, is that correct?”

Davis answered, “That’s partially correct. We are also looking at Mr. Madison’s involvement in the incident.”

Lance Madison was arrested on the other side of the bridge where his brother was killed and was accused of shooting at the police officers in the gun battle. He, too, had no weapon when taken into custody. He was released from bail after six months because the District Attorney’s office had not initiated any prosecution, although the investigation remains pending.

Sgt. Kaufman testified at the bail hearing for Lance Madison last fall that another policeman saw Lance throw a gun into the Industrial Canal as he was going over the bridge. Lance Madison denies that. He told CNN correspondent Drew Griffin, “I had no gun, at all.” Asked if Ronald had a gun, Lance answered, “No, he didn’t.”

In a CNN interview earlier this month, Griffin told Police Chief Warren Riley, “We understand Ronald Madison was shot in the back five times.”

Riley said, “Those are things I can’t comment on and no one can comment on until the investigation is concluded.”

Griffin asked Riley if he was concerned about his officers’ actions and Riley replied, “Certainly, we do not condone our officers overreacting, even in the most chaotic time,” but he went on, “We don’t know that they overreacted. From the radio transmission, it sounds like their lives were in danger.”

Riley turned down a request by CNN to interview the officers who were involved.

A 25-year career employee at Federal Express, Lance Madison has no criminal record.

At the end of the CNN interview, Riley conceded the two Madison brothers may not have been connected with the other people on the bridge that day.

“I don’t know if those young men were innocent or not. I really don’t know if they were with that group or not,” Riley said. “I really don’t know.”


you know how hard it is to place a coin on it’s edge when you’re trying… you can do it, but it’s difficult, and especially so when the surface is uneven. i wasn’t paying attention, and wasn’t trying to put this penny down in any particular way, and it came to rest like this anyway.

a penny on edge
a penny on edge
a penny on edge


urgh… depressed…

in the past four days, i’ve updated ‘ links on the The Church of Tina Chopp (which i was just notified about this morning) and applied for a job <shudder> at a place where i’ve applied about every six months for the past three years and not been hired. i’ve known the guys who run the print shop for 25 years – since we both lived in bellingham – and i’ve never been hired by these guys for any of the jobs that they have had available during that period of time, so i don’t expect much different this time, but i applied again because moe asked me to.


okay, i’ve been looking for a version of this meme that i can do with minimal effort, and i found one yesterday. i would have done it yesterday except for the fact that i was depressed and cleaned up the house instead of listening to music.

  1. Turn on your favorite media player and turn your shuffle feature on.
  2. Hit “play” and keep track of the next 10 songs that come up.
  3. Post your 10 shuffled songs, along with these instructions. You are not allowed to lie, omit tracks or otherwise try to make your musical taste seem hipper than it actually is.
  4. Tag five people on your friends list to do the same. horseshit. tag yourselves.
  1. Hollowmusic – St. Fred, Hollow Music — yeah, listening to music that you, yourself, created is a guaranteed way to move up on the “hip” list… 8/
  2. Fantastic Voyage – David Bowie, Lodger
  3. Bulky Rhythm – The Bobs, My I’m Large
  4. Under Wraps #1 – Jethro Tull, Under Wraps
  5. Kill Him! – The Residents, Wormwood
  6. Loss Of Innocence – The Residents, Commercial Album
  7. Francisco – Brian Eno, The Shutov Assembly
  8. Catholic Girls – Frank Zappa, You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore vol. 6
  9. African Reggae – Nina Hagen, Nunsexmonkrock
  10. The Attack – Roger Wateres, When The Wind Blows


okay, i’m depressed again.

there have been no hybrid elephant orders for over a month, since that guy who runs an oriental medicine practice in nevada was talking about ordering $1,000 worth of incense, and then decided that he only wanted $400 worth, and then – after i had already ordered it – he decided that he wasn’t going to order from me at all, so i had to send $400 worth of incense back to the supplier. not only do i not know where he’s getting it from, but since then i have had no orders of any kind. i’m getting concerned, and i don’t know what to do.

i have decided that i’ve got to have a workshop… i’m going crazy not having anything to do. so i’m looking into buying a 8’x8.5’x20′ shipping container and transforming it into a workshop… but i get the very strong impression that moe would much rather i get a more building-like “shed”. the problem is that i have exactly enough money to buy either one or the other, and at this point, i don’t have any money to make the “improvements” necessary to make both into a functioning workshop. i get the very strong impression that, of the two, the shipping container would come in a state that is much more workshop-ready – all i’d have to do is put in some overhead lights and run a couple of extension cords, but, as i said, i get the very strong impression that moe would much rather i get something other than a shipping container, and at this point, i feel like if i don’t do what she wants, there’s likely to be bigger problems.

the other option, if i decide that i’m not buying a workshop structure, is that i could buy a new computer. if i were to do so, it would very likely be either a mac book, or a G5 mac mini. however, if i get a new computer, a workshop of any kind is going to be completely out of the question for at least another year, unless the hybrid elephant market does an amazing turnaround.

i replied to a post whose subject was “seattle’s most fabulous horn players” about a month ago, and it turned out to be someone i know from bellingham, 25 years ago. well, it turns out that, like 25 years ago, the guy has grandiose dreams of stuff he’d like to do, but he doesn’t have the talent or the organisational skills to do it the way he wants to. the third rehearsal is coming up on saturday, and this week he emailed me to say that he hasn’t been able to get any other horn players (unlike last week when i showed up only to find that i was the only horn player out of three people at the rehearsal), so “in case you don’t want to be the only horn again” i can cancel… what i’m going to tell him is that when he’s ready for horn players to show up, that he can give me a call, but i’m not expecting a call any time soon.


Dell is apparently putting hardware keyloggers in their laptops at the behest of the Department of Clownland Security,although when asked about it, they say “the intregrated service tag identifier is there for assisting customers in the event of lost or misplaced personal information” and hang up. the only thing i know for sure is that the guy who submitted a FOIA request for an explanation of why his new laptop had a device that can and is used to spy on terrorists (among other, less legal uses) got a reply that included the following statement from DHS: “the requested records are exempt from being disclosed under FOIA”… dude, i’m not getting a dell!!! (and here’s evidence that the whole thing is a hoax, but i’m not getting a dell anyway, i’m getting a mac, if i’m getting a computer at all)

Hayden Insists NSA Surveillance Is Legal
CIA Nominee Gen. Michael Hayden Insists NSA Warrantless Surveillance Program Is Legal
May 18, 2006

WASHINGTON — CIA nominee Gen. Michael Hayden insisted on Thursday that the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program was legal and that it was designed to ensnare terrorists not spy on ordinary people.

“Clearly the privacy of American citizens is a concern constantly,” the four-star Air Force general told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing. “We always balance privacy and security.”

Hayden was peppered by as many questions about the National Security Agency, the super-secret agency that he headed from 1999-2005, as about his visions for the CIA.

Senators grilled him on the NSA’s eavesdropping without warrants on conversations and e-mails believed by the government to involve terrorism suspects, and reports of the tracking of millions of phone calls made and received by ordinary Americans.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush decided that more anti-terrorism surveillance was necessary than the NSA had been doing, said Hayden.

Hayden said he decided to go ahead with the then-covert surveillance program, which has been confirmed by Bush, believing it to be legal and necessary.

“When I had to make this personal decision in October 2001 … the math was pretty straightforward. I could not not do this,” Hayden said.

He said the surveillance program used a “probable cause” standard that made it unlikely that information about average Americans would be scrutinized.

But he declined to openly discuss reports that the NSA was engaged in even broader surveillance, including a story in USA Today that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone-call records of tens of millions of U.S. citizens.

Under questioning from Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, Hayden said he would only talk about the part of the program the president had confirmed.

“Is that the whole program?” asked Levin.

“I’m not at liberty to talk about that in open session,” Hayden said. A closed-door session was planned for later in the day.

Hayden was asked about reported friction between him and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld over how the NSA and other intelligence agencies would work with the Pentagon, which has the lion’s share of intelligence dollars.

Had they disagreed, he was asked by Levin? “Yes sir,” said Hayden.

Some critics have suggested that Hayden, 61, who remains an active general, is too closely aligned with the Pentagon to objectively run the civilian CIA.

Hayden declined to answer a string of questions by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., saying he would answer them later in a closed-door session.

They included whether he believed that “waterboarding,” in which prisoners are strapped to a plank and dunked in water until nearly drowning, was an acceptable form of interrogation. He also declined to say publicly how long he believed the United States could hold terror suspects without a trial.

“He didn’t answer any of them,” Feinstein said into an open mike as the hearing recessed for lunch.

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Tony Snow expressed the president’s full confidence in Hayden. “The guy’s got a record of trying to take on big reform tasks and carrying them out,” Snow told reporters.

Hayden acknowledged a series of intelligence failures in the run-up to the U.S. decision to invade Iraq and promised to take steps to guard against a repeat of such errors.

“We just took too much for granted. We didn’t challenge our basic assumptions,” he told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing.

He said that since launching the surveillance program a month after the terror attacks, targeting decisions have been made by NSA experts on al-Qaida.

Asked by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., whether a NSA analyst could intentionally look at information unrelated to suspected terrorist activity, Hayden said, “I don’t know how that could survive.”

Committee Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas complained about the CIA’s performance on Iraq. While “nobody bats 1,000 in the intelligence world,” Roberts cited “a terribly flawed trade craft” in the CIA’s intelligence suggesting the presence of weapons of mass destruction there.

At the same time, Roberts complained that the discussion among lawmakers had not been over Hayden’s long intelligence-services resume “but rather the debate is focused almost entirely” on controversy over NSA surveillance and eavesdropping programs.

Hayden, as expected, drew the most fire from Democratic members. “I now have a difficult time with your credibility,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

In an opening statement, Hayden said that intelligence-gathering has become “the football in American political discourse” since the terror attacks of Sept. 11.

He said the embattled agency “must be transformed, without slowing the high tempo under which it already operates, to counter today’s threats.”

“Yes, there have been failures, but there have also been many great successes,” Hayden said.

If confirmed, “I would reaffirm the CIA’s proud culture of risk-taking,” said Hayden, who was selected by President Bush to succeed Porter Goss, who was forced out after serving for 18 months.

Hayden’s hearing before the Intelligence Committee was much different than a year ago, when the panel approved him unanimously to be the nation’s first principal deputy director of national intelligence.

Bush chose Hayden as CIA director-nominee after consultation with Hayden’s current boss, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. Goss announced his retirement earlier this month after disputes with Hayden and Negroponte about the CIA’s direction.

Preacher: God told him about storms, tsunami
Robertson says warning was for this year; tsunami might hit Northwest

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – In another in a series of notable pronouncements, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson says God told him storms and possibly a tsunami will hit America’s coastline this year.

Robertson has made the predictions at least four times in the past two weeks on his news-and-talk television show “The 700 Club” on the Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded.

Robertson said the revelations about this year’s weather came to him during his annual personal prayer retreat in January.

“If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms,” Robertson said May 8. On Wednesday, he added, “There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest.”

Robertson has come under intense criticism in recent months for suggesting that American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke was divine retribution for Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip.

not to mention blaming 9/11 on gays and "liberal" groups”


okay, this is strange…

Black and white twins
21st February 2006

When Kylie Hodgson gave birth to twin daughters by caesarean section, she was just relieved that they had arrived safely.

It was only when the midwife handed them over for her to hold that she noticed the difference between them.

Remee, who weighed 5lb 15oz, was blonde and fair skinned. Her sister Kian, born a minute later weighing 6lb, was black.

‘Our two gorgeous little girls’
“It was a shock when I realised that my twins were two different colours,” said Kylie, 19. “But it doesn’t matter to us – they are just our two gorgeous little girls.”

The amazing conception happened after two eggs were fertilised at the same time in the womb.

Both Kylie and her partner Remi Horder, 17, are of mixed race. Their mothers are both white and their fathers are black.

According to the Multiple Births Foundation, baby Kian must have inherited the black genes from both sides of the family, whilst Remee inherited the white ones.

Kylie, from Nottingham, discovered she was pregnant in the summer of 2004 and a scan at the Queen’s Medical Centre revealed that twins were on the way.

“It was a shock at first to discover I was expecting as we hadn’t been trying for a family,” she said I had my 14-week scan and the sonographer ran the scanner over my stomach and announced that I was carrying twins.

“We couldn’t believe it. Neither of us could take our eyes off the scanner – you could just see two of everything, even the outline of their little noses. We were both overwhelmed.”

The twins were born by caesarean in April last year because one of the girls was lying in an awkward position in the womb.

“I didn’t see them at first,” added their mother. “They were both whisked away to be checked over and then the midwife came back and placed them both in my arms.

“I noticed that both of them had beautiful blue eyes, but whilst Remee was blonde, Kian’s hair was black and she had darker skin.

“It seemed strange, but I was feeling so ill that I didn’t really take it in at that stage.”

The next day she mentioned the colour difference to her mother, who told her that Remee’s skin would darken as she grew older.

But as the weeks passed, Remee became lighter still while Kian went darker. And while Remee’s eyes stayed blue, Kian’s turned brown.

“There are some similarities between them,” said their mother. “They both love apples and grapes, and their favourite television programme is Teletubbies.

“If they haven’t seen each other for a few hours, they are so pleased to see each other and will hold out their arms, wanting to hug each other. And their smiles just light up their faces.

“I’ll explain it all to them when they get older about why they look so different.”

Million to one odds
The odds against of a mixed race couple having twins of dramatically different colour are a million to one.

Skin colour is believed to be determined by up to seven different genes working together.

If a woman is of mixed race, her eggs will usually contain a mixture of genes coding for both black and white skin.

Similarly, a man of mixed race will have a variety of different genes in his sperm. When these eggs and sperm come together, they will create a baby of mixed race.

But, very occasionally, the egg or sperm might contain genes coding for one skin colour. If both the egg and sperm contain all white genes, the baby will be white. And if both contain just the versions necessary for black skin, the baby will be black.

For a mixed-race couple, the odds of either of these scenarios is around 100 to one. But both scenarios can occur at the same time if the woman conceives non-identical twins, another 100 to one chance.

This involves two eggs being fertilised by two sperm at the same time, which also has odds of around 100 to one.

If a sperm containing all-white genes fuses with a similar egg and a sperm coding for purely black skin fuses with a similar egg, two babies of dramatically different colours will be born.

The odds of this happening are 100 x 100 x 100 – a million to one.


Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You’re Calling
By Brian Ross and Richard Esposito
May 15, 2006

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

“It’s time for you to get some new cell phones, quick,” the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

One former official was asked to sign a document stating he was not a confidential source for New York Times reporter James Risen.

Our reports on the CIA’s secret prisons in Romania and Poland were known to have upset CIA officials. The CIA asked for an FBI investigation of leaks of classified information following those reports.

People questioned by the FBI about leaks of intelligence information say the CIA was also disturbed by ABC News reports that revealed the use of CIA predator missiles inside Pakistan.

Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers.

The official who warned ABC News said there was no indication our phones were being tapped so the content of the conversation could be recorded.

A pattern of phone calls from a reporter, however, could provide valuable clues for leak investigators.


FBI Acknowledges: Journalists Phone Records are Fair Game
By Brian Ross and Richard Esposito
May 15, 2006

The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters’ phone records in leak investigations.

“It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,” said a senior federal official.

The acknowledgement followed our blotter item that ABC News reporters had been warned by a federal source that the government knew who we were calling.

The official said our blotter item was wrong to suggest that ABC News phone calls were being “tracked.”

“Think of it more as backtracking,” said a senior federal official.

But FBI officials did not deny that phone records of ABC News, the New York Times and the Washington Post had been sought as part of a investigation of leaks at the CIA.

In a statement, the FBI press office said its leak investigations begin with the examination of government phone records.

“The FBI will take logical investigative steps to determine if a criminal act was committed by a government employee by the unauthorized release of classified information,” the statement said.

Officials say that means that phone records of reporters will be sought if government records are not sufficient.

Officials say the FBI makes extensive use of a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL).

The NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge. Under the law, a phone company receiving a NSL for phone records must provide them and may not divulge to the customer that the records have been given to the government.

bush crime family


how to build a HandySwipe portable magnetic card reader for less than $20.

Drug War Clock

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 20% Conservative, 80% Liberal
Social Issues: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
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more information about my (new) icon can be found here and here… interesting, no?


Military Ignoring Mental Illness
May 14, 2006

HARTFORD, Conn. – U.S. military troops with severe psychological problems have been sent to Iraq or kept in combat, even when superiors have been aware of signs of mental illness, a newspaper reported for Sunday editions.

The Hartford Courant, citing records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act and more than 100 interviews of families and military personnel, reported numerous cases in which the military failed to follow its own regulations in screening, treating and evacuating mentally unfit troops from Iraq.

In 1997, Congress ordered the military to assess the mental health of all deploying troops. The newspaper, citing Pentagon statistics, said fewer than 1 in 300 service members were referred to a mental health professional before shipping out for Iraq as of October 2005.

Twenty-two U.S. troops committed suicide in Iraq last year, accounting for nearly one in five of all non-combat deaths and the highest suicide rate since the war started, the newspaper said.

Some service members who committed suicide in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite clear signs of mental distress, sometimes after being prescribed antidepressants with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring, the Courant reported. Those findings conflict with regulations adopted last year by the Army that caution against the use of antidepressants for “extended deployments.”

“I can’t imagine something more irresponsible than putting a soldier suffering from stress on (antidepressants), when you know these drugs can cause people to become suicidal and homicidal,” said Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a New York-based advocacy group. “You’re creating chemically activated time bombs.”

Although Defense Department standards for enlistment disqualify recruits who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, the military also is redeploying service members to Iraq who fit that criteria, the newspaper said.

“I’m concerned that people who are symptomatic are being sent back. That has not happened before in our country,” said Dr. Arthur S. Blank, Jr., a Yale-trained psychiatrist who helped to get post-traumatic stress disorder recognized as a diagnosis after the Vietnam War.

The Army’s top mental health expert, Col. Elspeth Ritchie, acknowledged that some deployment practices, such as sending service members diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome back into combat, have been driven in part by a troop shortage.

“The challenge for us … is that the Army has a mission to fight. And, as you know, recruiting has been a challenge,” she said. “And so we have to weigh the needs of the Army, the needs of the mission, with the soldiers’ personal needs.”

Ritchie insisted the military works hard to prevent suicides, but said that is a challenge because every soldier has access to a weapon.

Commanders, not medical professionals, have final say over whether a troubled soldier is retained in the war zone. Ritchie and other military officials said they believe most commanders are alert to mental health problems and are open to referring troubled soldiers for treatment.

“Your average commander doesn’t want to deal with a whacked-out soldier. But on the other hand, he doesn’t want to send a message to his troops that if you act up, he’s willing to send you home,” said Maj. Andrew Efaw, a judge advocate general officer in the Army Reserves who handled trial defense for soldiers in northern Iraq last year.

Mentally Unfit, Forced To Fight – a report in three parts, of which the following is one…

Mentally Unfit, Forced To Fight
May 14, 2006

Despite a congressional order that the military assess the mental health of all deploying troops, fewer than 1 in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out.

Once at war, some unstable troops are kept on the front lines while on potent antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, with little or no counseling or medical monitoring.

And some troops who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq are being sent back to the war zone, increasing the risk to their mental health.

These practices, which have received little public scrutiny and in some cases violate the military’s own policies, have helped to fuel an increase in the suicide rate among troops serving in Iraq, which reached an all-time high in 2005 when 22 soldiers killed themselves – accounting for nearly one in five of all Army non-combat deaths.

The Courant’s investigation found that at least 11 service members who committed suicide in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite exhibiting signs of significant psychological distress. In at least seven of the cases, superiors were aware of the problems, military investigative records and interviews with families indicate.

Among the troops who plunged through the gaps in the mental health system was Army Spec. Jeffrey Henthorn, a young father and third-generation soldier, whose death last year is still being mourned by his native Choctaw, Okla.

What his hometown does not know is that Henthorn, 25, had been sent back to Iraq for a second tour, even though his superiors knew he was unstable and had threatened suicide at least twice, according to Army investigative reports and interviews. When he finally succeeded in killing himself on Feb. 8, 2005, at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, an Army report says, the work of the M-16 rifle was so thorough that fragments of his skull pierced the barracks ceiling.

In a case last July, a 20-year-old soldier who had written a suicide note to his mother was relieved of his gun and referred for a psychological evaluation, but then was accused of faking his mental problems and warned he could be disciplined, according to what he told his family. Three weeks later, after his gun had been handed back, Pfc. Jason Scheuerman, of Lynchburg, Va., used it to end his life.

Also kept in the war zone was Army Pfc. David L. Potter, 22, of Johnson City, Tenn., who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression while serving in Iraq in 2004. Potter remained with his unit in Baghdad despite a suicide attempt and a psychiatrist’s recommendation that he be separated from the Army, records show. Ten days after the recommendation was signed, he slid a gun out from under another soldier’s bed, climbed to the second floor of an abandoned building and shot himself through the mouth, the Army has concluded.

The spike in suicides among the all-volunteer force is a setback for military officials, who had pledged in late 2003 to improve mental health services, after expressing alarm that 11 soldiers and two Marines had killed themselves in Iraq in the first seven months of the war. When the number of suicides tumbled in 2004, top Army officials had credited their renewed prevention efforts.

But The Courant’s review found that since 2003, the military has increasingly sent, kept and recycled troubled troops into combat – practices that undercut its assurances of improvements. Besides causing suicides, experts say, gaps in mental health care can cause violence between soldiers, accidents and critical mistakes in judgment during combat operations.

Military experts and advocates point to recruiting shortfalls and intense wartime pressure to maintain troop levels as reasons more service members with psychiatric problems are being deployed to the war zone and kept there.

“What you have is a military stretched so thin, they’ve resorted to keeping psychologically unfit soldiers at the front,” said Stephen Robinson, the former longtime director of the National Gulf War Resource Center. “It’s a policy that can do an awful lot of damage over time.”

Army officials confirmed that 22 soldiers killed themselves in Iraq, and three in Afghanistan, in 2005. The Army suicide rate was about 20 per 100,000 soldiers serving in Iraq – nearly double the 2004 rate, and higher than the 2003 rate that had prompted alarm. Three Marines also committed suicide in Iraq last year.

The military does not discuss or even identify individual suicide cases, which are grouped with other non-combat deaths. The Courant identified suicide victims through Army investigative reports and interviews with families.

Although The Courant determined that a spate of six suicides occurred within eight weeks last year, from late May to July, there is no indication that the military took steps to respond to the cluster.

While the 2005 jump in self-inflicted deaths was as pronounced as the 2003 spike that had stirred action, Army officials said last week that there were no immediate plans to change the approach or resources targeted to mental health. They said they had confidence in the initiatives put in place two years ago – additional combat stress teams to treat deployed troops and increased suicide prevention programs.

Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the top psychiatry expert for the Army surgeon general, said that while the Army is reviewing the 2005 suicides as a way to gauge its mental health efforts, “suicide rates go up and down, and we expect some variation.”

Ritchie said the mental health of troops remains a priority as the war enters its fourth year. But she also acknowledged that some practices, such as sending service members diagnosed with PTSD back into combat, have been driven in part by a troop shortage.

“The challenge for us … is that the Army has a mission to fight. And as you know, recruiting has been a challenge,” she said. “And so we have to weigh the needs of the Army, the needs of the mission, with the soldiers’ personal needs.”

But The Courant’s investigation shows that troubled soldiers are getting lost in the balance:

Under the military’s pre-deployment screening process, troops with serious mental disorders are not being identified – and others whose mental illness is known are being deployed anyway.

A law passed in 1997 requires the military to conduct an “assessment of mental health” on all deploying troops. But the “assessment” now being used is a single mental health question on a pre-deployment form filled out by service members.

Even using that limited tool, troops who self-report psychological problems are rarely referred for evaluations by mental health professionals, Department of Defense records obtained by The Courant indicate. From March 2003 to October 2005, only 6.5 percent of deploying service members who indicated a mental health problem were referred for evaluations; overall, fewer than 1 in 300 deploying troops, or 0.3 percent, were referred.

That rate of referral is dramatically lower than the more than 9 percent of deploying troops that the Army itself acknowledges in studies have serious psychiatric disorders.

In addition, despite its pledges in 2004 to improve mental health care, the military was more likely to deploy troops who indicated psychological problems in 2005 than it was during the first year of the war, the data show.

The Courant found that at least seven, or about one-third, of the 22 soldiers who killed themselves in Iraq in 2005 had been deployed less than three months, raising questions about the adequacy of pre-deployment screening. Some of them had exhibited earlier signs of distress.

Also, at least three soldiers who killed themselves since the war began were deployed despite serious mental conditions, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The military relies increasingly on antidepressants, some with potentially dangerous side effects, to keep troops with known psychological problems in the war zone.

Military investigative reports and interviews with family members indicate that some service members who committed suicide in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite clear signs of mental distress, sometimes after being prescribed antidepressants, including a class of drugs known as SSRIs.

In one case, a 26-year-old Marine who was having trouble sleeping was put on a strong dose of Zoloft, an SSRI that carries a warning urging doctors to closely monitor new patients for suicidal urges. Last April, within two months of starting the drug, the Marine killed himself in Iraq.

Some service members who experienced depression or stress before or during deployments to Iraq described being placed on Zoloft, Wellbutrin and other antidepressants, with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring. Some of the drugs carry warnings of an increased risk of suicide, within the first weeks of their use.

Those anecdotal findings conflict with regulations adopted last year by the Army cautioning that antidepressants for cases of moderate or severe depression “are not usually suitable for extended deployments.”

Also, the military’s top health official, Assistant Defense Secretary William Winkenwerder Jr., indicated in testimony to Congress last summer that service members were being allowed to deploy on psychotropic medications only when their conditions had “fully resolved.”

The use of psychiatric drugs has alarmed some medical experts and ethicists, who say the medications cannot be properly monitored in a war zone. The Army’s own reports indicate that the availability and use of such medications in Iraq and Kuwait have increased since mid-2004, when a team of psychiatrists approved making Prozac, Zoloft, Trazodone, Ambien and other drugs more widely available throughout the combat zone.

“I can’t imagine something more irresponsible than putting a soldier suffering from stress on SSRIs, when you know these drugs can cause people to become suicidal and homicidal,” said Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a patient advocacy group. “You’re creating chemically activated time bombs.”

The military is sending troops back into combat for second and third tours despite diagnoses of PTSD or other combat-related psychological problems – a practice that some mental health experts fear will fuel incidents of suicide and violence among troops abroad and at home.

Although Department of Defense standards for enlistment in the armed forces disqualify recruits who suffer from PTSD, the military is redeploying service members to Iraq who fit that criteria. The practice, which military experts concede is driven partly by pressure to maintain troop levels, runs counter to accepted medical doctrine and research, which cautions that re-exposure to trauma increases the risk of psychological problems.

At least seven troops who are believed to have committed suicide in 2005 and early 2006, and one who has been charged with killing a fellow soldier, were serving second or third tours in Iraq. Some of them had exhibited signs of combat stress after their first deployments, according to family members and friends.

Some soldiers now serving second tours in Iraq say they are wrestling with debilitating PTSD symptoms, despite being placed on medications.

Jason Sedotal, a 21-year-old military policeman from Pierre Part, La., returned home in March 2005 after seven months in Iraq, during which a Humvee he was driving rolled over a land mine, badly injuring his sergeant. After completing his tour, Sedotal was diagnosed with PTSD and placed on Prozac, he said.

Last October, after being transferred to a new unit, he was shipped back to Iraq for a one-year tour. During a short visit home last week, he described being wracked by nightmares and depression and convinced that “somebody’s following me.” When he conveyed his symptoms to a doctor at Fort Polk in Louisiana last Tuesday, he said, he was given a higher dose of medication and the sleeping pill Ambien and told that he was to go back to Iraq.

“I can’t keep going through this mentally. All they do is fill me up on medicine and send me back,” he said. “What’s this going to do to me in the future? I’m going to be 60 years old, hiding under my kitchen table? I’m real scared.”

More than 378,000 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard troops have served more than one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, representing nearly a third of the 1.3 million troops who have been deployed, according to Department of Defense statistics. That repeat exposure to combat could dramatically increase the percentage of soldiers and Marines who experience PTSD, major depression or other disorders, some experts say.

Recent studies have estimated that at least 18 percent of returning Iraq veterans are at risk of developing PTSD after just one combat tour.

“The [Department of Defense] is in the business of keeping people deployable,” said Cathleen Wiblemo, deputy director for health care for the American Legion. “What the consequences of that are, we haven’t begun to see.

“This is uncharted territory. You’re looking at guys being extended or sent back multiple times into an extremely stressful situation, which is different than past wars. … I think the number of troops that will be affected, it will be a huge number.”

Preserving The Force

Military officials insist they have made aggressive efforts to improve mental health services to troops in Iraq in the past two years. After the spate of suicides in 2003, the Army dispatched a mental health advisory team, which issued a report recommending additional combat-stress specialists to treat troops close to the front lines, and encouraging training and outreach to reduce the stigma associated with mental health problems.

A follow-up report, released January 2005, cited the drop in suicides in 2004 as evidence that the Army’s efforts were successful. It also highlighted a decline in the number of soldiers who were evacuated out of Iraq for mental health problems – from about 75 a month in 2003 to 36 a month in 2004. In 2005, an average of 46 soldiers were evacuated each month, Army data show.

Overall, barely more than one-tenth of 1 percent of the 1.3 million troops who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been evacuated because of psychiatric problems.

Both advisory team reports recommended that soldiers with mental health problems be kept in the combat zone in order to improve return-to-duty rates and help soldiers avoid being labeled unfit.

“If you take people out of their unit and send them home, they have the shame and the stigma,” said Ritchie, the Army’s mental health expert.

But with the suicide rate climbing, the emphasis on treating psychologically damaged soldiers in the war zone is raising new questions.

“You think it’s a stigma to be sent home from the Iraq war? That might be the line they’re using” to justify retaining troops, said Dr. Arthur S. Blank Jr., a psychiatrist who formerly served as national director of the Veterans Administration’s counseling centers. “I wouldn’t say that.”

Mental health specialists who have served in Iraq acknowledge that their main goal, under military guidelines, is to preserve the fighting force. Some have grappled with making tough calls about how much more stress a soldier can handle.

“You have to become comfortable with things we wouldn’t normally be comfortable with,” said Bob Johnson, a psychologist in Atlanta who counseled soldiers last year as chief of combat stress control for the Army’s 2nd Brigade. “If there were an endless supply [of soldiers], the compassionate side of you just wants to get these people out of here. They’re miserable. You can see it in their faces. But I had to kind of put that aside.”

Army statistics show that 59 soldiers killed themselves in Iraq through the end of last year – 25 in 2003, 12 in 2004, and 22 in 2005. Twelve Marine deaths also have been ruled self-inflicted.

The only confirmed Connecticut suicide is that of Army Pfc. Jeffrey Braun, 19, of Stafford, who died in December 2003. His father, William Braun, told The Courant he still did not have a full explanation of what happened to Jeffrey, but said, “I’ve chosen not to pursue it or question it. It’s over and done with.”

Military data show that deaths in Iraq due to all non-combat causes, such as accidents, rose by 32 percent from 2004 to 2005. Of the more than 500 non-combat deaths among all service branches since the start of the war, gunshot wounds were the second-leading cause of death, behind vehicle crashes but ahead of heart attacks and other medical ailments.

While many families of service members who died of non-combat causes say they are not familiar with military deployment policies, some question whether the military knowingly put their loved ones at risk.

Among them are relatives of Army Spec. Michael S. Deem, a 35-year-old father of two, who was deployed to Iraq in January 2005 despite a history of depression that family members say was known to the military. Shortly before Deem deployed, a military psychiatrist gave him a long-term supply of Prozac to help him handle the stress, his wife said.

Just 3½ weeks after he arrived in Iraq, Deem died in his sleep of what the Army later determined was an enlarged heart “complicated by elevated levels of fluoxetine” – the generic name for Prozac.

Family members of some troops whose deaths have been labeled suicides complain that the military has given them limited information about the circumstances of the deaths. Some have had to wait more than a year for autopsies and investigative reports, which they say still leave questions unanswered.

Barbara Butler, mother of Army National Guard 1st Lt. Debra A. Banaszak, 35, of Bloomington, Ill., said she has trouble understanding why her daughter would have taken her own life in Kuwait last October, as the military has determined. She said that while Banaszak, the single mother of a teenage son, was proud to serve her country and had not complained, the stresses of the deployment may have exacerbated her depression.

“She was used to being in charge and being a leader, but never in these circumstances,” said Butler. “If the Army is right that she did this, it was nothing she would have done ordinarily. It was that war that brought it about.”

Recognizing Trouble

Some autopsy and investigative reports obtained by The Courant make clear that service members who committed suicide were experiencing serious psychological problems during deployment.

In the months before Army Pfc. Samuel Lee, of Anaheim, Calif., killed himself in March 2005, an investigative report says, the 19-year-old had talked to fellow soldiers about a dream in which he tried to kill his sergeant before taking his own life, and of kidnapping, raping and killing Iraqi children. Three times, a soldier recounted in a sworn statement, Lee had pointed his gun at himself and depressed the trigger, stopping just before a round fired.

But two of Lee’s superiors gave statements saying they did not realize Lee was having trouble until the day he balanced the butt of his rifle on a cot, put his mouth over the muzzle and fired.

But a number of other reports on 2004 and 2005 suicides indicate that military superiors were aware that soldiers were self-destructing.

Among them was Army Staff Sgt. Cory W. Brooks, 32, of Philip, S.D., who shot himself in the head on April 24, 2004. In sworn statements, a major and first lieutenant acknowledged they had conducted “counseling” with Brooks, and a first sergeant “detailed his knowledge of SSG Brooks’ suicidal ideations.”

Brooks’ father, Darral, said he believes his son’s death stemmed from a combination of personal and combat-related stress, and he does not blame the military for retaining him in Iraq.

“Cory was a dedicated soldier. He wanted to be there,” he said. “If his captain told him to walk off a cliff, he’d do it.”

But in other cases in which superiors retained a soldier who was experiencing mental health problems, families are not so forgiving.

Ann Scheuerman, mother of the soldier who shot himself after his suicide note was discounted by Army officials, said her family has had a frustrating time getting the military to acknowledge mistakes in the way her son was treated.

“We wanted to make sure that whatever protocol they have in place is used, and if it doesn’t work, fix it,” Scheuerman said. “And to date, we’re just not getting anything at all.

“Nothing can bring back my son,” she said. “But if something can be done to prevent any more deaths, then if I offend a couple of people, I’ll go ahead and apologize up front. Go ahead and come after me, but something needs to be done.”

Family members of Jeffrey Henthorn, the Choctaw, Okla., native, are concerned that the Army ignored blatant warnings that Henthorn was suicidal.

An investigative report into Henthorn’s death contains statements indicating that Henthorn’s “chain of command” was aware that he had tried to harm himself in November 2004 – by slashing his arm “intentionally, in a [horizontal] manner” – in the weeks leading up to his second deployment to Iraq, while he was stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas.

Then, soon after his deployment in December, a distressed Henthorn took his gun into a latrine in Kuwait and charged it, in what fellow soldiers feared was a suicide gesture. Although his superiors at the scene grabbed the weapon away, his platoon sergeant returned the gun the same day, after talking to Henthorn for about a half-hour, according to a sworn statement. The platoon’s first lieutenant was notified, but there is no indication that Henthorn was referred for a mental health evaluation or counseling.

Eighteen days later, after crossing into Iraq with his unit, Henthorn finished what he had started.

“If you lock yourself in a latrine for 10 minutes with your gun and threaten to hurt yourself, you don’t just get your gun back. You get relieved of duty and sent home,” said Henthorn’s father, Warren, who is still struggling to understand what happened to his only son.

“It’s the same as Vietnam – all they care about is the numbers in the field,” he said. “That’s all that matters, having the numbers.”

Ritchie insisted the military is working hard to prevent suicides, which she said is a challenge, given that soldiers have access to weapons.

“When you go back, in retrospect, there may be warning signs,” she acknowledged.

Addressing The Courant’s findings, she added, “What you don’t see from that are the other cases that perhaps had the same warning signs and were kept in [the combat] theater and went on to do OK in their job.”

While they would not comment on particular cases, Ritchie and other military officials said they believe most commanders are alert to mental health problems and open to referring troubled soldiers for treatment. It is commanders, not medical professionals, who have final say over whether a troubled soldier is retained in the war zone.

“I think the majority of our commanders are very receptive,” Ritchie said.

But some service members say commanders’ sensitivity to mental health issues varies.

“As a practical matter, the quality … of the military’s mental health care professional is uneven,” said Maj. Andrew Efaw, a judge advocate general officer in the Army Reserve who handled trial defense for soldiers in northern Iraq last year. “Likewise, the understanding of mental health issues by commanders may also be spotty.”

He said commanders weighing whether a service member should be retained have to be mindful of how their troops will perceive the decision.

“Your average commander doesn’t want to deal with a whacked-out soldier. But on the other hand, he doesn’t want to send a message to his troops that if you act up, he’s willing to send you home,” Efaw said.

Some troops and their families say the military has not made good on its pledge to make mental health care easily accessible in the field.

Summer Lipford of Statesville, N.C., said she urged her son, Pfc. Steven Sirko, to talk to a counselor in April of last year, after he complained in a phone call from Iraq that he was having nightmares, losing weight and not sleeping.

“I asked Steven, `If you’re having dreams that are so [messed] up, why don’t you go talk to somebody?'” Lipford recalled. “He said, `Yeah, Mom, like that’s gonna happen.’ He said it was an act of God to get to see somebody.”

Four days later, Sirko, a 20-year-old medic, injected himself with vecuronium, an anesthetic that causes muscular paralysis, and died of an accidental overdose, according to what the military has told Lipford.

Some returning troops acknowledge that their own fear of being stigmatized kept them from seeking psychological help during deployments. Despite the military’s efforts to improve mental health care, soldiers’ perceptions of a stigma associated with seeking such care remained unchanged between 2004 and 2005, with more than half of the soldiers surveyed by Army teams expressing concerns that they would be viewed as weak.

Matthew Denton, a Camp Pendleton Marine and helicopter mechanic, said he spent most of his six-month deployment in 2005 quietly contemplating his own death aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf.

“My head was in a scary place. I remember thinking, `I can’t believe I’m working on a $14 million aircraft. I just don’t care about this,'” he said. “When I’d come out of my daze, I was worried about messing up and endangering the life of my guys.”

Denton, 30, said his depression was easy to keep secret – pre- and post-deployment health screenings were self-reported, and commanders hustling Marines through six-month rotations never probed his mental state.

Now back home, Denton, who is being treated for depression, isn’t sure whether he managed to stay below the radar – or whether there was any radar to stay below.


Clinton outperformed Bush
May 12, 2006

(CNN) — In a new poll comparing President Bush’s job performance with that of his predecessor, a strong majority of respondents said President Clinton outperformed Bush on a host of issues.

The poll of 1,021 adult Americans was conducted May 5-7 by Opinion Research Corp. for CNN. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Respondents favored Clinton by greater than 2-to-1 margins when asked who did a better job at handling the economy (63 percent Clinton, 26 percent Bush) and solving the problems of ordinary Americans (62 percent Clinton, 25 percent Bush).

On foreign affairs, the margin was 56 percent to 32 percent in Clinton’s favor; on taxes, it was 51 percent to 35 percent for Clinton; and on handling natural disasters, it was 51 percent to 30 percent, also favoring Clinton.

Moreover, 59 percent said Bush has done more to divide the country, while only 27 percent said Clinton had.

When asked which man was more honest as president, poll respondents were more evenly divided, with the numbers — 46 percent Clinton to 41 percent Bush — falling within the poll’s margin of error. The same was true for a question on handling national security: 46 percent said Clinton performed better; 42 percent picked Bush.

Clinton was impeached in 1998 over testimony he gave in a deposition about an extramarital sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinksy. He was later aquitted by the Senate.


Administration cites state secrets in bid to derail spy lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO – As lawmakers demand answers about warrantless electronic eavesdropping on Americans, the Bush administration says its secretive program’s constitutionality cannot be challenged.

The government is taking that position in seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed in federal court here against AT&T Inc. over its alleged involvement in the surveillance program adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The federal government is invoking the “state secrets privilege” in arguing that the lawsuit must be thrown out because it threatens to divulge information that is deemed critical to national security.

“The state secrets privilege permits the government to protect against the unauthorized disclosure in litigation of information that may harm national security interests,” the Justice Department wrote to the judge presiding over the lawsuit filed by the San Francisco-based Internet privacy advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The government announced that position in a legal brief late last month and is expected to expand on its arguments in an upcoming filing.

The tactic, first recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court in a McCarthy-era lawsuit, has been increasingly invoked by federal lawyers seeking to shield the government from scrutiny by the courts.

Legal experts say it usually prevails.

“The state secrets privilege is sometimes called the ‘nuclear option,'” said Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists. “In almost every case, it terminates the lawsuit.”

He suspects the San Francisco case will meet the same fate.

The government invoked the state secrets privilege to defeat a similar lawsuit in 1979 that accused the National Security Agency of illegally spying on Americans.

Lawmakers erupted Thursday when USA Today reported the NSA was secretly collecting the records of phone calls by millions of ordinary Americans to build a database of all calls within the country.

The revelation renewed debate about whether Americans’ privacy rights were being violated. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., announced he would demand phone companies to appear before the panel.

President Bush quickly weighed in. “We’re not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans,” he said.

The president confirmed in December that the NSA has been conducting warrantless surveillance of calls and e-mails thought to involve al-Qaida terrorists.

Experts said the Bush administration has turned often to the state secrets defense, from espionage cases and patent disputes to routine employment discrimination lawsuits.

On Friday, citing the state secrets defense, the government urged a federal judge in Virginia to block a lawsuit filed by a German national who says he was illegally held in a CIA-run prison in Afghanistan for four months and tortured.

The Supreme Court upheld the defense as recently as January, when it rejected an appeal from a former covert CIA officer who accused the agency of race discrimination.

The high court first recognized the doctrine in 1953, when it dismissed a lawsuit against the government brought by family members of people killed in a plane wreck while testing secret electronic surveillance equipment.

Gregory Sisk, an expert on the state secrets doctrine at the St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minn., said legal precedent dictates that judges should give the “utmost deference” to the government when it raises the privilege.

“The thesis is that the courts lack the competence to second-guess the executive on military needs or national security threats,” he said.

Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit, filed in January, differs slightly from past cases in that it does not name the government, instead targeting AT&T.

The group accuses the telecommunications giant of cooperating with the NSA to make all communications on AT&T networks available to the spy agency without warrants.

Legal experts suggest it’s possible for the judge to rule on whether the president possesses wartime powers to authorize warrantless eavesdropping in the United States without disclosing any classified or sensitive material.

“I’m not surprised that the defense is being asserted,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. “There’s no reason necessarily that the case should be dismissed.”

AT&T, the San Antonio-based telecommunications giant, says it is following all applicable laws.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has scheduled a hearing Wednesday to determine whether documents supplied to the Electronic Frontier Foundation by a former AT&T technician should remain under seal.

The case is based largely on the technician’s documents, which the technician and EFF assert show that the NSA is capable of monitoring all communications on AT&T’s network after the NSA installed equipment at AT&T offices in San Francisco and elsewhere.

The case is Hepting v. AT&T Inc., 06-0672.


thanks to [info]St. Fred:

Telcos Could Be Liable For Tens of Billions of Dollars For Illegally Turning Over Phone Records

This morning, USA Today reported that three telecommunications companies – AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth – provided “phone call records of tens of millions of Americans” to the National Security Agency. Such conduct appears to be illegal and could make the telco firms liable for tens of billions of dollars. Here’s why:

  1. It violates the Stored Communications Act. The Stored Communications Act, Section 2703(c), provides exactly five exceptions that would permit a phone company to disclose to the government the list of calls to or from a subscriber: (i) a warrant; (ii) a court order; (iii) the customer’s consent; (iv) for telemarketing enforcement; or (v) by “administrative subpoena.” The first four clearly don’t apply. As for administrative subpoenas, where a government agency asks for records without court approval, there is a simple answer – the NSA has no administrative subpoena authority, and it is the NSA that reportedly got the phone records.
  2. The penalty for violating the Stored Communications Act is $1000 per individual violation. Section 2707 of the Stored Communications Act gives a private right of action to any telephone customer “aggrieved by any violation.” If the phone company acted with a “knowing or intentional state of mind,” then the customer wins actual harm, attorney’s fees, and “in no case shall a person entitled to recover receive less than the sum of $1,000.”

    (The phone companies might say they didn’t “know” they were violating the law. But USA Today reports that Qwest’s lawyers knew about the legal risks, which are bright and clear in the statute book.)

  3. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act doesn’t get the telcos off the hook. According to USA Today, the NSA did not go to the FISA court to get a court order. And Qwest is quoted as saying that the Attorney General would not certify that the request was lawful under FISA. So FISA provides no defense for the phone companies, either.

In other words, for every 1 million Americans whose records were turned over to NSA, the telcos could be liable for $1 billion in penalties, plus attorneys fees. You do the math.

     – Peter Swire and Judd Legum

then, to top everything off…

New security glitch found in Diebold system
Officials say machines have ‘dangerous’ holes
By Ian Hoffman

Elections officials in several states are scrambling to understand and limit the risk from a “dangerous” security hole found in Diebold Election Systems Inc.’s ATM-like touch-screen voting machines.

The hole is considered more worrisome than most security problems discovered on modern voting machines, such as weak encryption, easily pickable locks and use of the same, weak password nationwide.

Armed with a little basic knowledge of Diebold voting systems and a standard component available at any computer store, someone with a minute or two of access to a Diebold touch screen could load virtually any software into the machine and disable it, redistribute votes or alter its performance in myriad ways.

“This one is worse than any of the others I’ve seen. It’s more fundamental,” said Douglas Jones, a University of Iowa computer scientist and veteran voting-system examiner for the state of Iowa.

“In the other ones, we’ve been arguing about the security of the locks on the front door,” Jones said. “Now we find that there’s no back door. This is the kind of thing where if the states don’t get out in front of the hackers, there’s a real threat.”

This newspaper is withholding some details of the vulnerability at the request of several elections officials and scientists, partly because exploiting it is so simple and the tools for doing so are widely available.

A Finnish computer expert working with Black Box Voting, a nonprofit organization critical of electronic voting, found the security hole in March after Emery County, Utah, was forced by state officials to accept Diebold touch screens, and a local elections official let the expert examine the machines.

Black Box Voting was to issue two reports today on the security hole, one of limited distribution that explains the vulnerability fully and one for public release that withholds key technical details.

The computer expert, Harri Hursti, quietly sent word of the vulnerability in March to several computer scientists who advise various states on voting systems. At least two of those scientists verified some or all of Hursti’s findings. Several notified their states and requested meetings with Diebold to understand the problem.

The National Association of State Elections Directors, the nongovernmental group that issues national-level approvals for voting systems, learned of the vulnerability Tuesday and was weighing its response. States are scheduled to hold primaries in May, June and July.

“Our voting systems board is looking at this issue,” said NASED Chairman Kevin Kennedy, a Wisconsin elections official. “The states are talking among themselves and looking at plans to mitigate this.”

California, Pennsylvania and Iowa are issuing emergency notices to local elections officials, generally telling them to “sequester” their Diebold touch screens and reprogram them with “trusted” software issued by the state capital. Then elections officials are to keep the machines sealed with tamper-resistant tape until Election Day.

In California, three counties — San Joaquin, Butte and Kern — plan to rely exclusively on Diebold touch screens in their polling places for the June primary.

Nine other counties, including Alameda, Los Angeles and San Diego, will use Diebold touch screens for early voting or for limited, handicapped-accessible voting in their polling places.

California elections officials told those counties Friday that the risk from the vulnerability was “low” and that any vote tampering would be revealed to voters on the paper read-out that prints when they cast their ballots, as well as to elections officials when they recount those printouts for 1 percent of their precincts after the election.

“I think the likelihood of this happening is low,” said assistant Secretary of State for elections Susan Lapsley. “It assumes access and control for a lengthy period of time.”

But scientists say that is not necessarily true.

Preparations could be made days or weeks beforehand, and the loading of the software could take only a minute or so once the machines are delivered to the polling places. In some cases, machines are delivered several days before an election to schools, churches, homes and other common polling places.

Scientists said Diebold appeared to have opened the hole by making it as easy as possible to upgrade the software inside its machines. The result, said Iowa’s Jones, is a violation of federal voting system rules.

“All of us who have heard the technical details of this are really shocked. It defies reason that anyone who works with security would tolerate this design,” he said.

Armed Madhouse, the new book by Greg Palast

May 10, 2006


Kerry Won. Now Get Over It . . .

…because they’re putting ’08 in their pocket. Republicans just seem to have that winning spirit. They also have caging lists, felons of the future,
rotting ballots, snuffed canaries, and a lock on the votes of Kissinger- Americans and the undead.

WARNING! There are cranks and kooks and crazies out there on the Internet who say that George Bush lost the 2004 election, like one titled, “Kerry Won” published on the TomPaine.com web site two days after the election. I wrote it.

On November 11, a week after TomPaine.com published it, I received an e-mail from The New York Times Washington Bureau. Hot on the investigation of the veracity of the vote, The Times reporter asked me pointed questions:

Question #1: Are you a “sore loser”?

Question #2: Are you a “conspiracy nut”?

There was no third question. Investigation of the vote was, for The Times at any rate, complete. The next day, the paper’s thorough analysis of the evidence yielded this front-page story, “VOTE FRAUD THEORIES, SPREAD BY BLOGS, ARE QUICKLY BURIED.”

As America’s self-proclaimed Paper of Record had no space for the facts, I thought I’d share some with you here.

“Kerry Won” was not a two-day inquiry à la Times. It was the latest in a series of investigative reports coming out of a four-year team examination, begun for BBC Television’s Newsnight, Britain’s Guardian papers and Harper’s Magazine, dissecting that greasy sausage called American electoral democracy.

And, by the way, the answer to Question #1: I didn’t lose, so I’m not sore. This investigation isn’t about John Kerry. As a journalist, I don’t give a toss which rich white kid won the game. But I’m not so blasé that I don’t care about the disappearance of American democracy. And I really wanted to know how the Bushes swallowed the sausage.

How’d they do it? Again. And how will they do it in ’08? The answer arrived just after midnight on October 8, 2004, three weeks before the official voting, in a series of extraordinary e-mails. The e-mails were intended for the chieftains of the President’s re-election campaign in Washington. Strangely enough, they were misaddressed and ended up in my mailbox. Such things happen.

Night of the Uncounted: How to Disappear Three Million Votes
But the e-mails and their technical attachments won’t mean a thing unless you understand some arcane facts about elections American-style.

First, consider CNN’s Ohio exit polls broadcast just after midnight after the voting ended on Election Day. They show John Kerry defeated George Bush among women voters by 53% to 47%. And among men voters, Kerry defeated Bush 51% to 49%.

So here’s your question, class: What third sex put George Bush over the top in Ohio and gave him the White House?

Answer: The Uncounted.

In Ohio, there were 153,237 ballots simply thrown away, more than the Bush “victory” margin. In New Mexico the uncounted vote was fives times the Bush alleged victory margin of 5,988. In Iowa, Bush’s triumph of 13,498 was overwhelmed by 36,811 votes rejected. In all, over three million votes were cast but never counted in the 2004 presidential election. The official number is bad enough-1,855,827 ballots cast not counted, reported to the federal government’s Election’s Assistance Commission. But the feds are missing data from several cities and entire states too embarrassed to report the votes they failed to count. Correcting for the under-reporting of the undercount, the number of ballots cast but never counted goes to 3,600,380. And there are certainly more we couldn’t locate to tote up.

rejection of vote by race

Why doesn’t your government tell you this? Hey, they do. It’s right there in black-and-white on a U.S. Census Bureau announcement released seven months after the election-in a footnote to the report on voter turn-out. The Census tabulation of voters voting “differs,” from ballots tallied by the Clerk of the House of Representatives for the 2004 presidential race by 3.4 million votes.

This is the hidden presidential count which, excepting the Census’ whispered footnote, has not been reported.

Unfortunately, that’s not all. In addition to the 3 million ballots uncounted due to technical “glitches,” millions more were lost because the voters were prevented from casting their ballots in the first place. This group of un-votes includes voters illegally denied registration or wrongly purged from the registries.

In the voting biz, most of these lost votes are called “spoilage.” Spoilage, not the voters, picked our president for us.

Joe Stalin, the story goes, said, “It’s not the people who vote that count; it’s the people who count the votes.” That may have been true in the old Soviet Union, but in the U.S.A, the game is much, much subtler: He who makes sure votes don’t get counted decides our winners.

In the lead-up to the 2004 race, millions of Americans were, not unreasonably, panicked about computer voting machines, “black boxes,” that could flip your vote from John Kerry to George Bush. Images abounded of an evil hacker-genius in Dick Cheney’s bunker rewriting code and zapping the totals. But that’s not how it went down. The computer scare was the McGuffin, the fake detail used by magicians to keep your eye off their hands. The new black boxes played their role, albeit minor, but the principal means of the election heist-voiding ballots, overwhelmingly of the poor and Black-went unexposed, unreported and most importantly, uncorrected and ready to roll out on a grander scale in 2008.

I went to sleep election night with the exit polls showing Kerry ahead in swing states. But between 1:05 am and 6:41 am the next morning, goblins went to work. By dawn, the network’s exit poll for Ohio showed Kerry dead even with Bush among women, and down by five percentage points among men.

What happened? Were thousands of Bush voters locked in the voting booths, released at 2am, then queried about their choices? Not quite. The network’s polling company applied a fancy “algorithm,” a mathematical magic wand, to slowly transform the exit polls to match the official count.

And that’s bad. By deliberately contaminating the exit polls, the networks snuffed the canary that would signal that something was deeply wrong about the vote count.

Hunting for a Democrat to defend the Twilight Zone between the exit polls and the “official” polls, media grabbed on Dick Morris, Bill Clinton’s old advisor. An expert at walking that fine line between minor criminality and psychopathic ambition, Morris knows which way his next client’s wind blows.

Morris said:

“Exit polls are almost never wrong. So reliable are the surveys that actually tap voters as they leave the polling places that they’re used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World Countries. To screw up one exit poll is unheard of. To miss six of them is incredible.”

His opening was promising, but then he switches into full Morris:
“It boggles the imagination how pollsters could be that incompetent and invites speculation that more than honest error was at play here.”

So, Dick, you’re telling us there was an evil cabal among six pollsters, competitors who don’t even like each other, conspiring one dark night to make George Bush look like a vote thief.

There’s another explanation: Kerry won.

We’ve got the body (the wounded elections), we’ve got the bullet holes (the missing votes), now where are the smoking guns? How does the GOP disappear the vote? And why do Democratic ballots spoil so much more readily than Republican ballots? How’s it done?

But that little Bill O’Reilly in your head is screaming, Get over it; let’s move on already. That’s the point of investigation. What they tested in 2000 and practiced in 2004, they are preparing to roll out in 2008 big time.


oh my god, every time i think bush couldn’t get any stupider, he pulls something like this…

Bush challenges hundreds of laws
President cites powers of his office

By Charlie Savage
April 30, 2006

WASHINGTON — President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, “whistle-blower” protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush’s assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty “to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to “execute” a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush’s domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws — many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush’s theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Phillip Cooper, a Portland State University law professor who has studied the executive power claims Bush made during his first term, said Bush and his legal team have spent the past five years quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

“There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government,” Cooper said. ”This is really big, very expansive, and very significant.”

For the first five years of Bush’s presidency, his legal claims attracted little attention in Congress or the media. Then, twice in recent months, Bush drew scrutiny after challenging new laws: a torture ban and a requirement that he give detailed reports to Congress about how he is using the Patriot Act.

Bush administration spokesmen declined to make White House or Justice Department attorneys available to discuss any of Bush’s challenges to the laws he has signed.

Instead, they referred a Globe reporter to their response to questions about Bush’s position that he could ignore provisions of the Patriot Act. They said at the time that Bush was following a practice that has “been used for several administrations” and that “the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution.”

But the words “in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution” are the catch, legal scholars say, because Bush is according himself the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution. And he is quietly exercising that authority to a degree that is unprecedented in US history.

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation’s sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files “signing statements” — official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills — sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

“He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises — and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened,” said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.

Military link
Many of the laws Bush said he can bypass — including the torture ban — involve the military.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to create armies, to declare war, to make rules for captured enemies, and “to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces.” But, citing his role as commander in chief, Bush says he can ignore any act of Congress that seeks to regulate the military.

On at least four occasions while Bush has been president, Congress has passed laws forbidding US troops from engaging in combat in Colombia, where the US military is advising the government in its struggle against narcotics-funded Marxist rebels.

After signing each bill, Bush declared in his signing statement that he did not have to obey any of the Colombia restrictions because he is commander in chief.

Bush has also said he can bypass laws requiring him to tell Congress before diverting money from an authorized program in order to start a secret operation, such as the “black sites” where suspected terrorists are secretly imprisoned.

Congress has also twice passed laws forbidding the military from using intelligence that was not “lawfully collected,” including any information on Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches.

Congress first passed this provision in August 2004, when Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program was still a secret, and passed it again after the program’s existence was disclosed in December 2005.

On both occasions, Bush declared in signing statements that only he, as commander in chief, could decide whether such intelligence can be used by the military.

In October 2004, five months after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in Iraq came to light, Congress passed a series of new rules and regulations for military prisons. Bush signed the provisions into law, then said he could ignore them all. One provision made clear that military lawyers can give their commanders independent advice on such issues as what would constitute torture. But Bush declared that military lawyers could not contradict his administration’s lawyers.

Other provisions required the Pentagon to retrain military prison guards on the requirements for humane treatment of detainees under the Geneva Conventions, to perform background checks on civilian contractors in Iraq, and to ban such contractors from performing “security, intelligence, law enforcement, and criminal justice functions.” Bush reserved the right to ignore any of the requirements.

The new law also created the position of inspector general for Iraq. But Bush wrote in his signing statement that the inspector “shall refrain” from investigating any intelligence or national security matter, or any crime the Pentagon says it prefers to investigate for itself.

Bush had placed similar limits on an inspector general position created by Congress in November 2003 for the initial stage of the US occupation of Iraq. The earlier law also empowered the inspector to notify Congress if a US official refused to cooperate. Bush said the inspector could not give any information to Congress without permission from the administration.

Oversight questioned
Many laws Bush has asserted he can bypass involve requirements to give information about government activity to congressional oversight committees.

In December 2004, Congress passed an intelligence bill requiring the Justice Department to tell them how often, and in what situations, the FBI was using special national security wiretaps on US soil. The law also required the Justice Department to give oversight committees copies of administration memos outlining any new interpretations of domestic-spying laws. And it contained 11 other requirements for reports about such issues as civil liberties, security clearances, border security, and counternarcotics efforts.

After signing the bill, Bush issued a signing statement saying he could withhold all the information sought by Congress.

Likewise, when Congress passed the law creating the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, it said oversight committees must be given information about vulnerabilities at chemical plants and the screening of checked bags at airports.

It also said Congress must be shown unaltered reports about problems with visa services prepared by a new immigration ombudsman. Bush asserted the right to withhold the information and alter the reports.

On several other occasions, Bush contended he could nullify laws creating “whistle-blower” job protections for federal employees that would stop any attempt to fire them as punishment for telling a member of Congress about possible government wrongdoing.

When Congress passed a massive energy package in August, for example, it strengthened whistle-blower protections for employees at the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The provision was included because lawmakers feared that Bush appointees were intimidating nuclear specialists so they would not testify about safety issues related to a planned nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada — a facility the administration supported, but both Republicans and Democrats from Nevada opposed.

When Bush signed the energy bill, he issued a signing statement declaring that the executive branch could ignore the whistle-blower protections.

Bush’s statement did more than send a threatening message to federal energy specialists inclined to raise concerns with Congress; it also raised the possibility that Bush would not feel bound to obey similar whistle-blower laws that were on the books before he became president. His domestic spying program, for example, violated a surveillance law enacted 23 years before he took office.

David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive-power issues, said Bush has cast a cloud over “the whole idea that there is a rule of law,” because no one can be certain of which laws Bush thinks are valid and which he thinks he can ignore.

“Where you have a president who is willing to declare vast quantities of the legislation that is passed during his term unconstitutional, it implies that he also thinks a very significant amount of the other laws that were already on the books before he became president are also unconstitutional,” Golove said.

Defying Supreme Court
Bush has also challenged statutes in which Congress gave certain executive branch officials the power to act independently of the president. The Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed the power of Congress to make such arrangements. For example, the court has upheld laws creating special prosecutors free of Justice Department oversight and insulating the board of the Federal Trade Commission from political interference.

Nonetheless, Bush has said in his signing statements that the Constitution lets him control any executive official, no matter what a statute passed by Congress might say.

In November 2002, for example, Congress, seeking to generate independent statistics about student performance, passed a law setting up an educational research institute to conduct studies and publish reports “without the approval” of the Secretary of Education. Bush, however, decreed that the institute’s director would be “subject to the supervision and direction of the secretary of education.”

Similarly, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld affirmative-action programs, as long as they do not include quotas. Most recently, in 2003, the court upheld a race-conscious university admissions program over the strong objections of Bush, who argued that such programs should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Yet despite the court’s rulings, Bush has taken exception at least nine times to provisions that seek to ensure that minorities are represented among recipients of government jobs, contracts, and grants. Each time, he singled out the provisions, declaring that he would construe them “in a manner consistent with” the Constitution’s guarantee of “equal protection” to all — which some legal scholars say amounts to an argument that the affirmative-action provisions represent reverse discrimination against whites.

Golove said that to the extent Bush is interpreting the Constitution in defiance of the Supreme Court’s precedents, he threatens to “overturn the existing structures of constitutional law.”

A president who ignores the court, backed by a Congress that is unwilling to challenge him, Golove said, can make the Constitution simply ”disappear.”

Common practice in ’80s
Though Bush has gone further than any previous president, his actions are not unprecedented.

Since the early 19th century, American presidents have occasionally signed a large bill while declaring that they would not enforce a specific provision they believed was unconstitutional. On rare occasions, historians say, presidents also issued signing statements interpreting a law and explaining any concerns about it.

But it was not until the mid-1980s, midway through the tenure of President Reagan, that it became common for the president to issue signing statements. The change came about after then-Attorney General Edwin Meese decided that signing statements could be used to increase the power of the president.

When interpreting an ambiguous law, courts often look at the statute’s legislative history, debate and testimony, to see what Congress intended it to mean. Meese realized that recording what the president thought the law meant in a signing statement might increase a president’s influence over future court rulings.

Under Meese’s direction in 1986, a young Justice Department lawyer named Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a strategy memo about signing statements. It came to light in late 2005, after Bush named Alito to the Supreme Court.

In the memo, Alito predicted that Congress would resent the president’s attempt to grab some of its power by seizing “the last word on questions of interpretation.” He suggested that Reagan’s legal team should “concentrate on points of true ambiguity, rather than issuing interpretations that may seem to conflict with those of Congress.”

Reagan’s successors continued this practice. George H.W. Bush challenged 232 statutes over four years in office, and Bill Clinton objected to 140 laws over his eight years, according to Kelley, the Miami University of Ohio professor.

Many of the challenges involved longstanding legal ambiguities and points of conflict between the president and Congress.

Throughout the past two decades, for example, each president — including the current one — has objected to provisions requiring him to get permission from a congressional committee before taking action. The Supreme Court made clear in 1983 that only the full Congress can direct the executive branch to do things, but lawmakers have continued writing laws giving congressional committees such a role.

Still, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton used the presidential veto instead of the signing statement if they had a serious problem with a bill, giving Congress a chance to override their decisions.

But the current President Bush has abandoned the veto entirely, as well as any semblance of the political caution that Alito counseled back in 1986. In just five years, Bush has challenged more than 750 new laws, by far a record for any president, while becoming the first president since Thomas Jefferson to stay so long in office without issuing a veto.

“What we haven’t seen until this administration is the sheer number of objections that are being raised on every bill passed through the White House,” said Kelley, who has studied presidential signing statements through history. “That is what is staggering. The numbers are well out of the norm from any previous administration.”

Exaggerated fears?
Some administration defenders say that concerns about Bush’s signing statements are overblown. Bush’s signing statements, they say, should be seen as little more than political chest-thumping by administration lawyers who are dedicated to protecting presidential prerogatives.

Defenders say the fact that Bush is reserving the right to disobey the laws does not necessarily mean he has gone on to disobey them.

Indeed, in some cases, the administration has ended up following laws that Bush said he could bypass. For example, citing his power to ”withhold information” in September 2002, Bush declared that he could ignore a law requiring the State Department to list the number of overseas deaths of US citizens in foreign countries. Nevertheless, the department has still put the list on its website.

Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who until last year oversaw the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel for the administration, said the statements do not change the law; they just let people know how the president is interpreting it.

“Nobody reads them,” said Goldsmith. “They have no significance. Nothing in the world changes by the publication of a signing statement. The statements merely serve as public notice about how the administration is interpreting the law. Criticism of this practice is surprising, since the usual complaint is that the administration is too secretive in its legal interpretations.”

But Cooper, the Portland State University professor who has studied Bush’s first-term signing statements, said the documents are being read closely by one key group of people: the bureaucrats who are charged with implementing new laws.

Lower-level officials will follow the president’s instructions even when his understanding of a law conflicts with the clear intent of Congress, crafting policies that may endure long after Bush leaves office, Cooper said.

“Years down the road, people will not understand why the policy doesn’t look like the legislation,” he said.

And in many cases, critics contend, there is no way to know whether the administration is violating laws — or merely preserving the right to do so.

Many of the laws Bush has challenged involve national security, where it is almost impossible to verify what the government is doing. And since the disclosure of Bush’s domestic spying program, many people have expressed alarm about his sweeping claims of the authority to violate laws.

In January, after the Globe first wrote about Bush’s contention that he could disobey the torture ban, three Republicans who were the bill’s principal sponsors in the Senate — John McCain of Arizona, John W. Warner of Virginia, and Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina — all publicly rebuked the president.

“We believe the president understands Congress’s intent in passing, by very large majorities, legislation governing the treatment of detainees,” McCain and Warner said in a joint statement. “The Congress declined when asked by administration officials to include a presidential waiver of the restrictions included in our legislation.”

Added Graham: “I do not believe that any political figure in the country has the ability to set aside any… law of armed conflict that we have adopted or treaties that we have ratified.”

And in March, when the Globe first wrote about Bush’s contention that he could ignore the oversight provisions of the Patriot Act, several Democrats lodged complaints.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused Bush of trying to “cherry-pick the laws he decides he wants to follow.”

And Representatives Jane Harman of California and John Conyers Jr. of Michigan — the ranking Democrats on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, respectively — sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales demanding that Bush rescind his claim and abide by the law.

“Many members who supported the final law did so based upon the guarantee of additional reporting and oversight,” they wrote. “The administration cannot, after the fact, unilaterally repeal provisions of the law implementing such oversight…. Once the president signs a bill, he and all of us are bound by it.”

Lack of court review
Such political fallout from Congress is likely to be the only check on Bush’s claims, legal specialists said.

The courts have little chance of reviewing Bush’s assertions, especially in the secret realm of national security matters.

“There can’t be judicial review if nobody knows about it,” said Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State law professor who was a Justice Department official in the Clinton administration. “And if they avoid judicial review, they avoid having their constitutional theories rebuked.”

Without court involvement, only Congress can check a president who goes too far. But Bush’s fellow Republicans control both chambers, and they have shown limited interest in launching the kind of oversight that could damage their party.

“The president is daring Congress to act against his positions, and they’re not taking action because they don’t want to appear to be too critical of the president, given that their own fortunes are tied to his because they are all Republicans,” said Jack Beermann, a Boston University law professor. “Oversight gets much reduced in a situation where the president and Congress are controlled by the same party.”

Said Golove, the New York University law professor: “Bush has essentially said that ‘We’re the executive branch and we’re going to carry this law out as we please, and if Congress wants to impeach us, go ahead and try it.'”

Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said the American system of government relies upon the leaders of each branch ”to exercise some self-restraint.” But Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers, he said, and then ruled for himself every time.

“This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy,” Fein said. “There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn’t doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited executive power.”

the only thing that really surprises me about this is that qwest is turning out to be the best possible option, unlike my previous rants about qwest would seem to have indicated… maybe it’s time i re-examined my bias about them…

NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls
By Leslie Cauley

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated Monday by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency’s domestic call-tracking program. Hayden declined to comment about the program.

The NSA’s domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA’s efforts to create a national call database.

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. “In other words,” Bush explained, “one end of the communication must be outside the United States.”

As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers’ names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA’s domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.

Don Weber, a senior spokesman for the NSA, declined to discuss the agency’s operations. “Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment on actual or alleged operational issues; therefore, we have no information to provide,” he said. “However, it is important to note that NSA takes its legal responsibilities seriously and operates within the law.”

The White House would not discuss the domestic call-tracking program. “There is no domestic surveillance without court approval,” said Dana Perino, deputy press secretary, referring to actual eavesdropping.

She added that all national intelligence activities undertaken by the federal government “are lawful, necessary and required for the pursuit of al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists.” All government-sponsored intelligence activities “are carefully reviewed and monitored,” Perino said. She also noted that “all appropriate members of Congress have been briefed on the intelligence efforts of the United States.”

The government is collecting “external” data on domestic phone calls but is not intercepting “internals,” a term for the actual content of the communication, according to a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program. This kind of data collection from phone companies is not uncommon; it’s been done before, though never on this large a scale, the official said. The data are used for “social network analysis,” the official said, meaning to study how terrorist networks contact each other and how they are tied together.

Carriers uniquely positioned
AT&T recently merged with SBC and kept the AT&T name. Verizon, BellSouth and AT&T are the nation’s three biggest telecommunications companies; they provide local and wireless phone service to more than 200 million customers.

The three carriers control vast networks with the latest communications technologies. They provide an array of services: local and long-distance calling, wireless and high-speed broadband, including video. Their direct access to millions of homes and businesses has them uniquely positioned to help the government keep tabs on the calling habits of Americans.

Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.

Qwest’s refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database. Based in Denver, Qwest provides local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states in the West and Northwest. But AT&T and Verizon also provide some services — primarily long-distance and wireless — to people who live in Qwest’s region. Therefore, they can provide the NSA with at least some access in that area.

Created by President Truman in 1952, during the Korean War, the NSA is charged with protecting the United States from foreign security threats. The agency was considered so secret that for years the government refused to even confirm its existence. Government insiders used to joke that NSA stood for “No Such Agency.”

In 1975, a congressional investigation revealed that the NSA had been intercepting, without warrants, international communications for more than 20 years at the behest of the CIA and other agencies. The spy campaign, code-named “Shamrock,” led to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was designed to protect Americans from illegal eavesdropping.

Enacted in 1978, FISA lays out procedures that the U.S. government must follow to conduct electronic surveillance and physical searches of people believed to be engaged in espionage or international terrorism against the United States. A special court, which has 11 members, is responsible for adjudicating requests under FISA.

Over the years, NSA code-cracking techniques have continued to improve along with technology. The agency today is considered expert in the practice of “data mining” — sifting through reams of information in search of patterns. Data mining is just one of many tools NSA analysts and mathematicians use to crack codes and track international communications.

Paul Butler, a former U.S. prosecutor who specialized in terrorism crimes, said FISA approval generally isn’t necessary for government data-mining operations. “FISA does not prohibit the government from doing data mining,” said Butler, now a partner with the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, D.C.

The caveat, he said, is that “personal identifiers” — such as names, Social Security numbers and street addresses — can’t be included as part of the search. “That requires an additional level of probable cause,” he said.

The usefulness of the NSA’s domestic phone-call database as a counterterrorism tool is unclear. Also unclear is whether the database has been used for other purposes.

The NSA’s domestic program raises legal questions. Historically, AT&T and the regional phone companies have required law enforcement agencies to present a court order before they would even consider turning over a customer’s calling data. Part of that owed to the personality of the old Bell Telephone System, out of which those companies grew.

Ma Bell’s bedrock principle — protection of the customer — guided the company for decades, said Gene Kimmelman, senior public policy director of Consumers Union. “No court order, no customer information — period. That’s how it was for decades,” he said.

The concern for the customer was also based on law: Under Section 222 of the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, telephone companies are prohibited from giving out information regarding their customers’ calling habits: whom a person calls, how often and what routes those calls take to reach their final destination. Inbound calls, as well as wireless calls, also are covered.

The financial penalties for violating Section 222, one of many privacy reinforcements that have been added to the law over the years, can be stiff. The Federal Communications Commission, the nation’s top telecommunications regulatory agency, can levy fines of up to $130,000 per day per violation, with a cap of $1.325 million per violation. The FCC has no hard definition of “violation.” In practice, that means a single “violation” could cover one customer or 1 million.

In the case of the NSA’s international call-tracking program, Bush signed an executive order allowing the NSA to engage in eavesdropping without a warrant. The president and his representatives have since argued that an executive order was sufficient for the agency to proceed. Some civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, disagree.

Companies approached
The NSA’s domestic program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the sources. Right around that time, they said, NSA representatives approached the nation’s biggest telecommunications companies. The agency made an urgent pitch: National security is at risk, and we need your help to protect the country from attacks.

The agency told the companies that it wanted them to turn over their “call-detail records,” a complete listing of the calling histories of their millions of customers. In addition, the NSA wanted the carriers to provide updates, which would enable the agency to keep tabs on the nation’s calling habits.

The sources said the NSA made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation. AT&T, which at the time was headed by C. Michael Armstrong, agreed to help the NSA. So did BellSouth, headed by F. Duane Ackerman; SBC, headed by Ed Whitacre; and Verizon, headed by Ivan Seidenberg.

With that, the NSA’s domestic program began in earnest.

AT&T, when asked about the program, replied with a comment prepared for USA TODAY: “We do not comment on matters of national security, except to say that we only assist law enforcement and government agencies charged with protecting national security in strict accordance with the law.”

In another prepared comment, BellSouth said: “BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority.”

Verizon, the USA’s No. 2 telecommunications company behind AT&T, gave this statement: “We do not comment on national security matters, we act in full compliance with the law and we are committed to safeguarding our customers’ privacy.”

Qwest spokesman Robert Charlton said: “We can’t talk about this. It’s a classified situation.”

In December, The New York Times revealed that Bush had authorized the NSA to wiretap, without warrants, international phone calls and e-mails that travel to or from the USA. The following month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group, filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T. The lawsuit accuses the company of helping the NSA spy on U.S. phone customers.

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales alluded to that possibility. Appearing at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Gonzales was asked whether he thought the White House has the legal authority to monitor domestic traffic without a warrant. Gonzales’ reply: “I wouldn’t rule it out.” His comment marked the first time a Bush appointee publicly asserted that the White House might have that authority.

Similarities in programs
The domestic and international call-tracking programs have things in common, according to the sources. Both are being conducted without warrants and without the approval of the FISA court. The Bush administration has argued that FISA’s procedures are too slow in some cases. Officials, including Gonzales, also make the case that the USA Patriot Act gives them broad authority to protect the safety of the nation’s citizens.

The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., would not confirm the existence of the program. In a statement, he said, “I can say generally, however, that our subcommittee has been fully briefed on all aspects of the Terrorist Surveillance Program. … I remain convinced that the program authorized by the president is lawful and absolutely necessary to protect this nation from future attacks.”

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., declined to comment.

One company differs
One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest’s CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA’s assertion that Qwest didn’t need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers’ information and how that information might be used.

Financial implications were also a concern, the sources said. Carriers that illegally divulge calling information can be subjected to heavy fines. The NSA was asking Qwest to turn over millions of records. The fines, in the aggregate, could have been substantial.

The NSA told Qwest that other government agencies, including the FBI, CIA and DEA, also might have access to the database, the sources said. As a matter of practice, the NSA regularly shares its information — known as “product” in intelligence circles — with other intelligence groups. Even so, Qwest’s lawyers were troubled by the expansiveness of the NSA request, the sources said.

The NSA, which needed Qwest’s participation to completely cover the country, pushed back hard.

Trying to put pressure on Qwest, NSA representatives pointedly told Qwest that it was the lone holdout among the big telecommunications companies. It also tried appealing to Qwest’s patriotic side: In one meeting, an NSA representative suggested that Qwest’s refusal to contribute to the database could compromise national security, one person recalled.

In addition, the agency suggested that Qwest’s foot-dragging might affect its ability to get future classified work with the government. Like other big telecommunications companies, Qwest already had classified contracts and hoped to get more.

Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest’s lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

The NSA’s explanation did little to satisfy Qwest’s lawyers. “They told (Qwest) they didn’t want to do that because FISA might not agree with them,” one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest’s suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general’s office. A second person confirmed this version of events.

In June 2002, Nacchio resigned amid allegations that he had misled investors about Qwest’s financial health. But Qwest’s legal questions about the NSA request remained.

Unable to reach agreement, Nacchio’s successor, Richard Notebaert, finally pulled the plug on the NSA talks in late 2004, the sources said.

Questions and answers about the NSA phone record collection program

Q: Does the NSA’s domestic program mean that my calling records have been secretly collected?

A: In all likelihood, yes. The NSA collected the records of billions of domestic calls. Those include calls from home phones and wireless phones.

Q: Does that mean people listened to my conversations?

A: Eavesdropping is not part of this program.

Q: What was the NSA doing?

A: The NSA collected “call-detail” records. That’s telephone industry lingo for the numbers being dialed. Phone customers’ names, addresses and other personal information are not being collected as part of this program. The agency, however, has the means to assemble that sort of information, if it so chooses.

Q: When did this start?

A: After the Sept. 11 attacks.

Q: Can I find out if my call records were collected?

A: No. The NSA’s work is secret, and the agency won’t publicly discuss its operations.

Q: Why did they do this?

A: The agency won’t say officially. But sources say it was a way to identify, and monitor, people suspected of terrorist activities.

Q: But I’m not calling terrorists. Why do they need my calls?

A: By cross-checking a vast database of phone calling records, NSA experts can try to pick out patterns that help identify people involved in terrorism.

Q: How is this different from the other NSA programs?

A: NSA programs have historically focused on international communications. In December, The New York Times disclosed that President Bush had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international phone calls to and from the USA. The call-collecting program is focused on domestic calls, those that originate and terminate within U.S. borders.

Q: Is this legal?

A: That will be a matter of debate. In the past, law enforcement officials had to obtain a court warrant before getting calling records. Telecommunications law assesses hefty fines on phone companies that violate customer privacy by divulging such records without warrants. But in discussing the eavesdropping program last December, Bush said he has the authority to order the NSA to get information without court warrants.

Q: Who has access to my records?

A: Unclear. The NSA routinely provides its analysis and other cryptological work to the Pentagon and other government agencies.

Bush says U.S. not ‘trolling through personal lives’
USA Today reports NSA building massive phone records database
May 11, 2006

WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Bush said Thursday the government is “not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans” with a reported program to create a massive database of U.S. phone calls.

“Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates,” Bush said. “The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.”

Bush’s comments came after USA Today reported Thursday that three telecommunication firms provided the National Security Agency with domestic telephone call records from tens of millions of Americans beginning shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

According to the report, Qwest, a Denver-based telecommunications company, refused to cooperate with the program.

Bush did not specifically mention the newspaper’s report.

In response to the USA Today article, NSA spokesman Don Weber issued a statement saying, “Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment on actual or alleged operational issues; therefore, we have no information to provide.

“However, it is important to note that NSA takes its legal responsibilities seriously and operates within the law.”

The report comes at an awkward time for CIA director nominee Gen. Michael Hayden, whom President Bush named this week to replace Porter Goss as head of the spy agency. Hayden, whose confirmation hearings are to begin next Thursday, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. Hayden on Thursday met with Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican whip, about his nomination.

Afterward, Hayden refused to comment about the report when meeting with reporters but said, “Everything that NSA does is lawful and very carefully done, and the appropriate members of the Congress — both House and Senate — are briefed on all NSA activities.”

The report comes months after the Bush administration came under criticism on Capitol Hill for ordering an NSA surveillance program, that allowed communication to be monitored between people in the United States and terrorism suspects overseas without a court order.

Hayden headed the NSA when the wiretapping program was launched in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

Lawmakers concerned
Members of Congress expressed concern Thursday about the report. (Watch angry senator say, “Shame on us” — 3:56)

“It’s our government, government of every single American — Republican, Democrat or independent,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “… Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing.”

In the House, Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “I’m concerned about what I read with regard to the NSA database of phone calls. … I’m not sure why it’s necessary to us to keep and have that kind of information.”

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, said he would call on representatives from the companies named in the USA Today story; AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth; to testify.

However, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, told reporters he “strongly” agrees that the program is necessary, and said, “We’ll discuss whether hearings are necessary.”

In the House, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, asked Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, for hearings into the program during a Thursday afternoon meeting.

Pelosi said the hearings should be conducted by the House Intelligence Committee because “those people have the clearance.”

Pelosi declined to say how Hastert responded to her request.

Conservatives defend program
During a morning session, Republican members of the committee defended the legality and necessity of such a database.

The USA Today report said the program did not involve the NSA “listening to or recording conversations,” a point that Sen. Jeff Sessions touched on.

“No recordings and no conversations were intercepted here, so there was no wiretapping here,” the Alabama Republican said.

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona also faulted the revelation of the program as harmful to national security.

“This is nuts,” Kyl said. “We are in a war and we’ve go to collect intelligence on the enemy, and you can’t tell the enemy in advance how you are going to do it. And discussing all of this in public leads to that.”

Hayden nomination to proceed
Despite the controversy, the White House intends to go “full steam ahead” with Hayden’s nomination, Reuters reported.

“I think General Hayden has had a really good start to his confirmation process. He’s met with several members, the feedback is positive and we’re full steam ahead on his nomination,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters while traveling with President Bush to Mississippi.

Facing Senate confirmation hearings before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 18, Hayden’s meeting today with Republican Sens. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were canceled.

The meeting with Santorum has been tentatively rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon, said Santorum aide Robert Traynham. “But the White House called it very tentative,” Traynham said.

Investigation dropped
The Justice Department has been denied security clearances for access to information, which prompted it to drop an investigation into the domestic spying program revealed late last year by the New York Times.

The Democrats’ No. 2 member of the Senate, Sen. Richard Durbin, called the development “evidence of a cover-up.”

“The fact … that the Department of Justice has abandoned their own investigation of this administration’s wrongdoing because there’s been a refusal to give investigators security clearances is clear evidence of a cover-up within the administration.”

by the way… that doesn’t make it any more legal, or excuse the nastiness of having to view everyone as suspects until proven otherwise, which is sort of like the ideas that this country was founded to get away from… 8/

Bush: Brother Jeb would be ‘great president’
Sen. Trent Lott tells Hardball he would ‘not be supportive’ of the candidacy

May 10, 2006

ORLANDO, Fla. – President Bush suggested Wednesday that he’d like to see his family’s White House legacy continue, perhaps with his younger brother Jeb as the chief executive.

The president said Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is well-suited for another office and would make “a great president.”

“I would like to see Jeb run at some point in time, but I have no idea if that’s his intention or not,” Bush said in an interview with Florida reporters, according to an account on the St. Petersburg Times Web site.

The president said he had “pushed him fairly hard about what he intends to do,” but the younger Bush has not said.

“I have no idea what he’s going to do. I’ve asked him that question myself. I truly don’t think he knows,” Bush said.

Jeb Bush, 53, will end his second term as governor in January. His brother George ends his second presidential term in January 2009. Neither can seek re-election because of term limits.

Lott to ‘Hardball’: Not a good idea
Jeb Bush has repeatedly said he is not going to run in 2008. And one veteran Republican Party leader suggested Wednesday that it wouldn’t be a good idea.

Just hours after President Bush endorsed a presidential run someday by his brother, Sen. Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican, flatly rejected the idea in an interview with Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

Lott, whose ouster from the Senate Republican leadership in 2002 was helped in part by the Bush administration, offered a swift assessment of another Bush presidential campaign.

“I would not be supportive of Jeb Bush running for president, but I certainly understand why the president would say that about his own brother,” Lott said.

Lott has previously said he is supporting fellow Sen. John McCain of Arizona for the 2008 Republican nomination.

Asked if Gov. Bush could beat Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York in a 2008 matchup, Lott said, “I don’t think so. No.”

Lott went on to say that “the Republican nominee will eventually be able to win, will be able to beat Hillary Clinton or any Democrat.” But he repeated that the president’s brother would not be the right choice in his mind.

“I don’t think he’d be the best candidate for the nomination. You know, I’ve said that before, and I’m not backing off of that,” Lott said.

Dad: Jeb would be ‘awfully good’
Former President George H.W. Bush told CNN’s “Larry King Live” last year that he would like Jeb Bush to run one day and that he would be “awfully good” as president.

The Florida governor laughed when asked about his father’s comments last June. “Oh, Lord,” he said and shook his head no. “I love my dad.”

The brothers Bush appeared together Tuesday during the president’s visit to the Tampa area. Gov. Bush was waiting on the tarmac when Air Force One arrived and greeted the president with a politician’s handshake and “Welcome to Florida.” The president brushed aside the formality and playfully adjusted his younger brother’s necktie.

Jeb Bush introduced his brother at a retirement community in Sun City Center, where the president touted the new Medicare prescription drug benefit as the governor watched intently from a politically appropriate seat stage right.

Brotherly love
They had a private lunch together with political supporters, then visited a fire station and appeared together before television cameras to express concern about wildfires that were blazing across the state.

The governor was not with the president during his visit to the Puerto Rican Club of Central Florida in Orlando on Wednesday — the president’s final stop on a three-day trip to the state. But the president was sure his brother still got some attention.

“Yesterday I checked in with my brother,” President Bush said as he took the stage. “Make sure everything’s going all right. I’m real proud of Jeb. He’s a good, decent man, and I love him dearly.”

and finally
Bush Ratings Hit New Low
which i’m too lazy to copy, but goes right along with everything else…


wouldn’t you know it… the bush administration is afraid of what an inquiry into the domestic spying issue might uncover, so…

Security issue kills domestic spying inquiry
NSA won’t grant Justice Department lawyers required security clearance

WASHINGTON – The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.

The inquiry headed by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers’ role in the program.

“We have been unable to make any meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program,” OPR counsel H. Marshall Jarrett wrote to Hinchey. Hinchey’s office shared the letter with The Associated Press.

Jarrett wrote that beginning in January 2006, his office has made a series of requests for the necessary clearances. Those requests were denied Tuesday.

“Without these clearances, we cannot investigate this matter and therefore have closed our investigation,” wrote Jarrett.

Hinchey is one of many House Democrats who have been highly critical of the domestic eavesdropping program first revealed in December.

In February, the OPR announced it would examine the conduct of their own agency’s lawyers in the program, though they were not authorized to investigate NSA activities.

Bush’s decision to authorize the largest U.S. spy agency to monitor people inside the United States, without warrants, generated a host of questions about the program’s legal justification.

The administration has vehemently defended the eavesdropping, saying the NSA’s activities were narrowly targeted to intercept international calls and e-mails of Americans and others inside the U.S. with suspected ties to the al-Qaida terrorist network.

can we say “watergate”?

can we even remember watergate?


Recruiting Abuses Mount as Army Struggles to Meet Goals
May 7, 2006

PORTLAND, Ore. — Jared Guinther is 18. Tall and lanky, he will graduate from high school in June. Girls think he’s cute, until they try to talk to him and he stammers or just stands there — silent.

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jared is polite but won’t talk to people unless they address him first. It’s hard for him to make friends. He lives in his own private world.

Jared didn’t know there was a war raging in Iraq until his parents told him last fall — shortly after a military recruiter stopped him outside a Portland strip mall and complimented his black Converse All-Stars.

“When Jared first started talking about joining the Army, I thought, `Well, that isn’t going to happen,”‘ said Paul Guinther, Jared’s father. “I told my wife not to worry about it. They’re not going to take anybody in the service who’s autistic.”

But they did. Last month, Jared came home with papers showing that he had not only enlisted, but signed up for the Army’s most dangerous job: cavalry scout. He is scheduled to leave for basic training Aug. 16.

Officials are now investigating whether recruiters at the U.S. Army Recruiting Station in southeast Portland improperly concealed Jared’s disability, which should have made him ineligible for service.

What happened to Jared is a growing national problem as the military faces increasing pressure to hit recruiting targets during an unpopular war.

Tracking by the Pentagon shows that complaints about recruiting improprieties are on pace to again reach record highs set in 2003 and 2004. Both the active Army and Reserve missed recruiting targets last year, and reports of recruiting abuses continue from across the country.

A family in Ohio reported that its mentally ill son was signed up, despite rules banning such enlistments and the fact that records about his illness were readily available.

In Houston, a recruiter warned a potential enlistee that if he backed out of a meeting he’d be arrested.

And in Colorado, a high school student working undercover told recruiters he’d dropped out and had a drug problem. The recruiter told the boy to fake a diploma and buy a product to help him beat a drug test.

Violations such as these forced the Army to halt recruiting for a day last May so recruiters could be retrained and reminded of the job’s ethical requirements.

The Portland Army Recruiting Battalion Headquarters opened its investigation into Jared’s case last week after his parents called The Oregonian and the newspaper began asking questions about his enlistment.

Maj. Curt Steinagel, commander of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Portland, said the papers filled out by Jared’s recruiters contained no indication of his disability. Steinagel acknowledged that the current climate is tough on recruiters.

“I can’t speak for Army,” he said, “but it’s no secret that recruiters stretch and bend the rules because of all the pressure they’re under. The problem exists, and we all know it exists.”

* * *

Jared lives in a tiny brown house in southeast Portland that looks as worn out as his parents do when they get home from work.

Paul Guinther, 57, labors 50- to 60-hour weeks as a painter-sandblaster at a tug and barge works. His wife, Brenda, 50, has the graveyard housekeeping shift at a medical center.

The couple got together nearly 16 years ago when Jared was 3. Brenda, who had two young children of her own, immediately noticed that Jared was different and pushed Paul to have the boy tested.

“Jared would play with buttons for hours on end,” she said. “He’d play with one toy for days. Loud noises bothered him. He was scared to death of the toilet flushing, the lawn mower.”

Jared didn’t speak until he was almost 4 and could not tolerate the feel of grass on his feet.

Doctors diagnosed him with moderate to severe autism, a developmental disorder that strikes when children are toddlers. It causes problems with social interaction, language and intelligence. No one knows its cause or cure.

School and medical records show that Jared, whose recent verbal IQ tested very low, spent years in special education classes. It was only as a high school senior that Brenda pushed for Jared to take regular classes because she wanted him to get a normal rather than a modified diploma.

Jared required extensive tutoring and accommodations to pass, but in June he will graduate alongside his younger stepbrother, Matthew Thorsen.

Last fall, Jared began talking about joining the military after a recruiter stopped him on his way home from school and offered a $4,000 signing bonus, $67,000 for college and more buddies than he could count.

Matthew told his mother that military recruiting at the school and surrounding neighborhoods was so intense that one recruiter had pulled him out of football practice.

Recruiters nationwide spend several hours a day cold-calling high school students, whose phone numbers are provided by schools under the No Child Left Behind Law. They also prospect at malls, high school cafeterias, colleges and wherever else young people gather.

Brenda phoned her two brothers, both veterans. She said they laughed and told her not to worry. The military would never take Jared.

The Guinthers, meanwhile, tried to refocus their son.

“I told him, `Jared, you get out of high school. I know you don’t want to be a janitor all your life. You work this job, you go to community college, you find out what you want. You can live here as long as you want,”‘ Paul said.

They thought it had worked until five weeks ago. Brenda said she called Jared on his cell phone to check what time he’d be home.

“I said Jared, `What are you doing?’ `I’m taking the test’ — he said the entrance test. I go, `Wait a minute.’ I said, `Who’s giving you the test?’ He said, `Corporal.’ I said, `Well let me talk to him.”‘

Brenda said she spoke to Cpl. Ronan Ansley and explained that Jared had a disability, autism, that could not be outgrown. She said Ansley told her he had been in special classes, too — for dyslexia.

“I said, `Wait a minute, there’s a big difference between autism and your problem,”‘ Brenda said.

Military rules prohibit enlisting anyone with a mental disorder that interferes with school or employment, unless a recruit can show he or she hasn’t required special academic or job accommodations for 12 months.

Jared has been in special education classes since preschool. Through a special program for disabled workers, he has a part-time job scrubbing toilets and dumping trash.

Jared scored 43 out of 99 on the Army’s basic entrance exam — 31 is lowest grade the Army allows for enlistment, military officials said.

After learning Jared had cleared this first hurdle toward enlistment, Brenda said she called and asked for Ansley’s supervisor and got Sgt. Alejandro Velasco.

She said she begged Velasco to review Jared’s medical and school records. Brenda said Velasco declined, asserting that he didn’t need any paperwork. Under military rules, recruiters are required to gather all available information about a recruit and fill out a medical screening form.

“He was real cocky and he says, `Well, Jared’s an 18-year-old man. He doesn’t need his mommy to make his decisions for him.”‘

* * *

The Guinthers are not political activists. They supported the Iraq war in the beginning but have started to question it as fighting drags on. Brenda Guinther said that if her son Matthew had enlisted, she “wouldn’t like it, but I would learn to live with it because I know he would understand the consequences.”

But Jared doesn’t understand the dangers or the details of what he’s done, the Guinthers said.

When they asked Jared how long he would be in the Army, he said he didn’t know. His enlistment papers show it’s just over four years. Jared also was disappointed to learn that he wouldn’t be paid the $4,000 signing bonus until after basic training.

During a recent family gathering, a relative asked Jared what he would do if an enemy was shooting at him. Jared ran to his video game console, killed a digital Xbox soldier and announced, “See! I can do it!”

“My concern is that if he got into a combat situation he really couldn’t take someone’s back,” said Mary Lou Perry, 51, longtime friend of the Guinthers. “He wouldn’t really know a dangerous thing. This job they have him doing, it’s like send him in and if he doesn’t get blown up, it’s safe for the rest of us.”

Steinagel, the processing station commander, told The Oregonian that Jared showed up after passing his written exam. None of his paperwork indicated that he was autistic, but if it had, Jared almost certainly would have been disqualified, he said.

On Tuesday, a reporter visited the U.S. Army Recruiting Station at the Eastport Plaza Shopping Center, where Velasco said he had not been told about Jared’s autism.

“Cpl. Ansley is Guinther’s recruiter,” he said. “I was unaware of any type of autism or anything like that.”

Velasco initially denied knowing Jared, but later said he’d spent a lot of time mentoring him because Jared was going to become a cavalry scout. The job entails “engaging the enemy with anti-armor weapons and scout vehicles,” according to an Army recruiting Web site.

After he’d spoken for a few moments, Velasco suddenly grabbed the reporter’s tape recorder and tried to tear out the tape, stopping only after the reporter threatened to call the police.

With the Guinthers’ permission, The Oregonian faxed Jared’s medical records to the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion commander Lt. Col. David Carlton in Portland, who on Wednesday ordered the investigation.

The Guinthers said that on Tuesday evening, Cpl. Ansley showed up at their door. They said Ansley stated that he would probably lose his job and face dishonorable discharge unless they could stop the newspaper’s story.

Ansley, reached at his recruiting office Thursday, declined to comment for this story.

S. Douglas Smith, spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, in Fort Knox, Ky., said he could not comment on specifics of the investigation in Portland. But he defended the 8,200 recruiters working for the active Army and Army Reserve.

Last year, the Army relieved 44 recruiters from duty and admonished 369.

“Everyone in recruiting is let down when one of our recruiters fails to uphold the Army’s and Recruiting Command’s standards,” Smith said.

The Guinthers are eager to hear whether the Army will release Jared from his enlistment. Jared is disappointed he might not go because he thought the recruiters were his friends, they said. But they’re willing to accept that.

“If he went to Iraq and got hurt or killed,” Paul Guinther said, “I couldn’t live with myself knowing I didn’t try to stop it.”


have you ever wondered what that long stick with a ball on the end of it that sign painters use to steady their hands when they’re lettering is called? i know i have… for a long time… i’ve known what it is used for, and i’ve actually made a couple of them (the most recent one is a piece of dowl with a rubber ball on the end, that i made to assist with the Ganesha the car project), but i didn’t know what it was called before yesterday. it’s called a mahlstick (also called a “maulstick”, from the dutch malen – to paint. definition here), and here is the next logical step in mahlstick evolution, which is a pretty slick idea indeed. now we both know.

Seattle Art Car Blowout – i went to a “djazz djam” at gasworks park on saturday, and when i went back to my car, there was a thing that looked, at first, like a ticket on the window, which i thought was strange since i parked in a public, no-pay parking lot… but when i looked at it more closely, it was an invitation to be a part of this… which, it turns out, will be very convenient, as i need to find a place close to the center of the universe to park while i’m playing with the fremont philharmonic at the solstice parade. the “djazz djam”, by itself, was really interesting… i went to it as the result of responding to someone in a LJ community (i don’t remember if the actual post was in or or or some other community) whose post included “seattle’s most fabulous horn players” in the subject line. well, it turns out that i know the guy who is the motivating force behind it. we were sort of housemates for a short period of time, 25 years ago, and i haven’t seen or heard from or about him since then. i’d be tempted to say it is because we are former bellinghamsters, or that it is because it’s seattle, or even because it’s me, and i attract things like that on a regular basis, but it goes to support frank zappa’s theory that “there are forty people in this world, and five of them are hamburgers.”

i posted yesterday from edinburgh, tristan de cunha, and what came up when i clicked the “Location” link was edinburgh, scotland, which is not the same place… edinburgh, tristan de cunha is 37° 4′ south latitude, 12° 19′ west longitude, and it is the largest city (which isn’t saying much) on the most remote island in the world. livejournal, if you’re going to post locations, then at least make them in the correct hemisphere… 8/

Dolphins ‘have their own names’

Dolphins communicate like humans by calling each other by name, scientists in Fife have found.

The mammals are able to recognise themselves and other members of the same species as individuals with separate identities.

St Andrews University researchers studying in Florida discovered bottlenose dolphins used names rather than sound to identify each other.

The three-year-study was funded by the Royal Society of London.

Dr Vincent Janik, of the Sea Mammal Unit at St Andrews University, said they conducted the research on wild dolphins.

He said: “We captured wild dolphins using nets when they came near the shore.

“Then in the shallow water we recoded their whistles before synthesising them on a computer so that we had a computer voice of a dolphin.

“Then we played it back to the dolphins and we found they responded. This showed us that the dolphins know each other’s signature whistle instead of just the voice.

“I think it is a very exciting discovery because it means that these animals have evolved the same abilities as humans.

“Now we know they have labels for each other like we do.”

The research was conducted in Sarasota Bay off Florida’s west coast.

The findings are published in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


U.S. Marines Go Hungry; Beg Iraqis For Food

[As if any further argumentation were needed, this merely underlines the great truth of this war. There is no enemy in Iraq. There never was any enemy in Iraq. The common enemies of the U.S. troops and the Iraqis are to be found in Washington DC, running their Imperial government for their own personal private profit.

[“Traitors” is too mild a term to describe them. At a certain point, rhetoric becomes exhausted, and only bright, white rage remains. A government that would do this, on top all the greed, lies, and stupidity that have characterized this war, has long outlived its usefulness, and has become a mere collection of incompetent cancerous predators.

[Of all the reasons to bring all the troops home now, immediately, one reason begins to tower above all the rest: we need them here to protect us against the filth in command at every level of power in this society. Our troops have the power to sweep that filth away, forever. Payback is overdue.]

02 MAY 06 By BOB KERR, The Providence Journal

The Iraq war has been the war fought on the cheap: not enough body armor, not enough armor on vehicles, not enough night vision equipment.

It has been the war in which packages from back home have had to fill some crucial needs.

Now, we have chow call at the Greenwood Credit Union in Warwick, R.I. It’s the latest in home-front intervention. It’s partially in response to the unthinkable image of U.S. Marines approaching Iraqi citizens and asking for food because they do not have enough.

There’s a big barrel in the lobby of the credit union on Post Road in Warwick. It’s decorated with ribbons and it’s there because Karen Boucher-Andoscia’s son, Nick Andoscia, called and asked his mother to send food.

Nick’s a Marine corporal. He was in Afghanistan last year, where there was enough to eat. He’s in Iraq now even though his enlistment was up last year.

He’s one of those Marines who can’t walk away. His unit, the 3rd Battalion of the 3rd Marines, was headed for Iraq and he just couldn’t head for civilian life while those he had served with were heading to their second war.

“He extended,” says Karen. “He told me, ‘I really have to go. I can’t let my guys go alone.’”

There are a lot of stories like that. We don’t hear them much. They’re kind of personal.

So Nick Andoscia went to Iraq. And hunger soon followed.

“I got a letter,” says Karen. “And he had called me before that. He said, ‘Send lots of tuna.’”

Nick told his mother that he and the men in his unit were all about 10 pounds lighter in their first few weeks in Iraq. They were pulling 22-hour patrol shifts. They were getting two meals a day and they were not meals to remember.

“He told me the two meals just weren’t cutting it. He said the Iraqi food was usually better. They were going to the Iraqis and basically saying, ‘feed me.’”

Karen started packing in that wartime tradition as old as mothers and sons. She packed a lot of the packaged tuna, not the canned.

She happened to mention her hungry son to people she works with at Greenwood Credit Union, where she is a teller and has worked for 30 years.

Pounds and pounds of food started showing up amid the daily business of loans and deposits and withdrawals. Marianne Barao, the branch manager, said it could be done, the credit union could become the place where people help feed hungry Marines who are risking their lives on a skimpy diet.

“We sent out 51 pounds this week,” says Karen. “There are customers coming in saying, ‘What do you need?’”

The credit union is paying the cost of packing and shipping.

Any packaged food is welcome. So are baby wipes because showers are even rarer than a full meal. And foot powder.

Nick Andoscia, who is 22, is due to come home later this year. He wants to study criminal justice, his mother says, then go to work for a fire or police department.

But for the next few months he will be on patrol in western Iraq, dealing with the heat and the dirt and the danger.

The last thing he should have to worry about is an empty stomach. The last thing he should have to do is approach Iraqis and ask for food.

You have to wonder what the gracious hosts must think when a fighting man from the richest country on earth comes to their door in search of something to eat.

Q. What could a boarding pass tell an identity fraudster about you?
A. Way too much

A simple airline stub, picked out of a bin near Heathrow, led Steve Boggan to investigate a shocking breach of security
Wednesday May 3, 2006
The Guardian

This is the story of a piece of paper no bigger than a credit card, thrown away in a dustbin on the Heathrow Express to Paddington station. It was nestling among chewing gum wrappers and baggage tags, cast off by some weary traveller, when I first laid eyes on it just over a month ago.

The traveller’s name was Mark Broer. I know this because the paper – actually a flimsy piece of card – was a discarded British Airways boarding-pass stub, the small section of the pass displaying your name and seat number. The stub you probably throw away as soon as you leave your flight.

It said Broer had flown from Brussels to London on March 15 at 7.10am on BA flight 389 in seat 03C. It also told me he was a “Gold” standard passenger and gave me his frequent-flyer number. I picked up the stub, mindful of a conversation I had had with a computer security expert two months earlier, and put it in my pocket.

If the expert was right, this stub would enable me to access Broer’s personal information, including his passport number, date of birth and nationality. It would provide the building blocks for stealing his identity, ruining his future travel plans – and even allow me to fake his passport.

It would also serve as the perfect tool for demonstrating the chaotic collection, storage and security of personal information gathered as a result of America’s near-fanatical desire to collect data on travellers flying to the US – and raise serious questions about the sort of problems we can expect when ID cards are introduced in 2008.

To understand why the piece of paper I found on the Heathrow Express is important, it is necessary to go back not, as you might expect, to 9/11, but to 1996 and the crash of TWA Flight 800 over Long Island Sound, 12 minutes out of New York, with the loss of 230 lives. Initially, crash investigators suspected a terrorist bomb might have brought down the aircraft. This was later ruled out, but already the Clinton administration had decided it was time to devise a security system that would weed out potential terrorists before they boarded a flight. This was called Capps, the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening System.

It was a prosaic, relatively unambitious idea at first. For example, in highly simplistic terms, if someone bought a one-way ticket, paid in cash and checked in no baggage, they would be flagged up as an individual who had no intention of arriving or of going home. A bomber, perhaps.

After 9/11, the ambitions for such screening grew exponentially and the newly founded Department of Homeland Security began inviting computer companies to develop intelligent systems that could “mine” data on individuals, whizzing round state, private and public databases to establish what kind of person was buying the ticket.

In 2003, one of the pioneers of the system, speaking anonymously, told me that the project, by now called Capps II, was being designed to designate travellers as green, amber or red risks. Green would be an individual with no criminal record – a US citizen, perhaps, who had a steady job and a settled home, was a frequent flyer and so on. Amber would be someone who had not provided enough information to confirm all of this and who might be stopped at US Immigration and asked to provide clearer proof of ID. Red would be someone who might be linked to an ever-growing list of suspected terrorists – or someone whose name matched such a suspect.

“If you are an American who has volunteered lots of details proving that you are who you say you are, that you have a stable home, live in a community, aren’t a criminal, [Capps II] will flag you up as green and you will be automatically allowed on to your flight,” the pioneer told me. “The problem is that if the system doesn’t have a lot of information on you, or you have ordered a halal meal, or have a name similar to a known terrorist, or even if you are a foreigner, you’ll most likely be flagged amber and held back to be asked for further details. If you are European and the US government is short of information on you – or, as is likely, has incorrect information on you – you can reckon on delay after delay unless you agree to let them delve into your private details.

“That is inconvenient enough but, as we tested the system, it became clear that information was going to be used to build a complete picture of you from lots of private databases – your credit record, your travel history, your criminal record, whether you had the remotest dubious links with anyone at your college who became a terrorist. I began to feel more and more uncomfortable about it.”

Eventually, he quit the programme.

All of this was on my mind as I sat down with my computer expert, Adam Laurie, one of the founders of a company called the Bunker Secure Hosting, to examine Broer’s boarding-pass stub. Laurie is known in cyber-circles as something of a white knight, a computer wizard who not only advises companies on how to make their systems secure, but also cares about civil rights and privacy. He and his brother Ben are renowned among web designers as the men who developed Apache SSL – the software that makes most of the world’s web pages secure – and then gave it away for free.

We logged on to the BA website, bought a ticket in Broer’s name and then, using the frequent flyer number on his boarding pass stub, without typing in a password, were given full access to all his personal details – including his passport number, the date it expired, his nationality (he is Dutch, living in the UK) and his date of birth. The system even allowed us to change the information.

Using this information and surfing publicly available databases, we were able – within 15 minutes – to find out where Broer lived, who lived there with him, where he worked, which universities he had attended and even how much his house was worth when he bought it two years ago. (This was particularly easy given his unusual name, but it would have been possible even if his name had been John Smith. We now had his date of birth and passport number, so we would have known exactly which John Smith.)

Laurie was anything but smug.

“This is terrible,” he said. “It just shows what happens when governments begin demanding more and more of our personal information and then entrust it to companies simply not geared up for collecting or securing it as it gets shared around more and more people. It doesn’t enhance our security; it undermines it.”

Just over $100m had been spent on Capps II before it was scrapped in July 2004. Campaigners in the US had objected to it on grounds of privacy, and airlines such as JetBlue and American faced boycotts when it emerged that they were involved in trials – handing over passenger information – with the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration. Even worse, JetBlue admitted it had given the private records of 5 million passengers to a commercial company for analysis – and some of this was posted on the internet.

But the problems did not end with the demise of Capps II. Earlier that month, after 18 months of acrimonious negotiation, the EU caved in to American demands that European airlines, too, should hand over passenger information to the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, BCBP, before their aircraft would be allowed to land on US soil. The BCBP wanted up to 60 pieces of information routinely gathered by booking agencies and stored as a Passenger Name Record, PNR. This included not only your flight details, name, address and so on, but also your travel itinerary, where you were staying, with whom you travelled, whether you booked a hire car in the US, whether you booked a smoking room in your hotel, even if you ordered a halal or kosher meal. And the US authorities wanted to keep it all for 50 years.

At first, the European Commission argued that surrendering such information would be in breach of European data protection law. Eventually, however, in the face of huge fines for airlines and cancelled landing slots, it agreed that 34 items from PNRs could be handed over and kept by the US for three and a half years.

Capps II was superseded by a new system called Secure Flight in August 2004. Later, in October last year, the BCBP demanded that airlines travelling to, or through, the US should forward “advance passenger information”, including passport number and date of birth, before passengers would be allowed to travel. It called this the advance passenger information system, or APIS. This is the information that Laurie and I had accessed through the BA website.

“The problem here is that a commercial organisation is being given the task of collecting data on behalf of a foreign government, for which it gets no financial reward, and which offers no business benefit in return,” says Laurie. “Naturally, in such a case, they will seek to minimise their costs, which they do by handing the problem off to the passengers themselves. This has the neat side-effect of also handing off liability for data errors.

“You can imagine the case where a businessman’s trip gets delayed because his passport details were incorrectly entered and he was mistaken for a terrorist. Since BA didn’t enter the data – frequent flyers are asked to do it themselves – they can’t be held responsible and can’t be sued for his lost business.”

By the time I found the ticket stub and went to Laurie, he had already reported his suspicions about a potential security lapse to BA (on January 20) by email. He received no response, so followed up with a telephone call asking for the airline’s security officer. He was told there wasn’t one, so he explained the lapse to an employee. Nothing was done and he still has not been contacted.

Three months ago, after further objections in the US, but before our investigation, Secure Flight was suspended after costing the US taxpayer $144m. At the time, Kip Hawley, transportation security administrator, said: “While the Secure Flight regulation is being developed, this is the time to ensure that the Secure Flight security, operational and privacy foundation is solid.”

The TSA said it would continue its passenger pre-screening programme in yet another guise after it had been audited and added that it had plans to introduce more security, privacy and redress for errors – confirming critics’ suspicions that no such systems were yet in place. To the consternation of privacy activists in Europe, the TSA also spelled out plans for its desire for various US government departments to share information, including yours and mine.

Dr Gus Hosein, a visiting fellow specialising in privacy and terrorism at the London School of Economics, is concerned about where the whole project will go next.

“They want to extend the advance passenger information system [APIS] to include data on where passengers are going and where they are staying because of concerns over plagues,” he says. “For example, if bird flu breaks out, they want to know where all the foreign travellers are. The airlines hate this. It is a security nightmare. Soon the US will demand biometric information [fingerprints, retina scans etc] and they will share that around.

“But what the BA lapse shows is that companies cannot be trusted to gather this information without it getting out to criminals who would abuse it. The potential for identity theft is huge, but the number of agencies among which it will be shared is just growing and growing.”

And that is where concern comes in over the UK’s proposed ID cards, which may one day be needed to travel to the US. According to the Home Office, the identity cards bill currently going through Parliament allows for up to 40 pieces of personal information to be held on the proposed ID card, with digital biometric details of all of your fingerprints, both your irises and your face, all of which can be transmitted to electronic readers. The cards will contain a microchip the size of a grain of sand linked to a tiny embedded antenna that transmits all the information when contacted by an electronic reader.

This readable system, known as Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, has recently been installed in new British passports. The Home Office says the information can be transmitted across a distance of only a couple of centimetres because the chips have no power of their own – they simply bounce back a response to a weak signal sent from passport readers at immigration points.

However, the suspicion is that the distance over which the signal can be read relates only to the weakness of the signal sent out by the readers. What if the readers sent out much stronger signals? Potentially, then, criminals with powerful readers could suck out your information as you passed by. The Government denies that this scenario is viable, but, in January, Dutch security specialists Riscure successfully read and de-encrypted information from its country’s new biometric passports from a distance of about 30ft in just two hours.

“The Home Office says British passport information is encrypted, but it’s a pretty basic form of encryption,” says Hosein. “Everyone expects the ID cards to be equally insecure. If the government insists they won’t be cracked, read or copied, they’re kidding themselves and us.”

BA has now closed its security loophole after being contacted by the Guardian in March, but that particular lapse is beside the point. Because of the pressure being applied to airlines by the US, breaches will happen again elsewhere as our personal data whizzes around the globe, often without our knowledge or consent.

Meanwhile, accountability remains lamentable. Several calls to the US Transportation Security Administration were not returned.

Perhaps the last word should go to Mark Broer, the man whose boarding pass stub started off this virtual paper chase. He is aged 41 and is a successful executive with a pharmaceutical recruitment company. When I told him what we had done with his boarding pass stub, he was appalled.

“I travel regularly and, because I go to the US, I submitted my personal information and passport number – it is required if you are a frequent flyer and want to check yourself in,” he says. “Experienced travellers today know that they have to give up information for ease of travel and to fight terrorism. It is an exchange of information in return for convenience. But as far as I’m concerned, having that information leaked out to people who could steal my identity wasn’t part of the deal.”



those who frequent the LJ pic feed sites may have noticed pics from this site. it’s a rather amusing little site that takes you through a quick 25-question “IQ” test, and give you a quick thumbnail sketch of your “real” IQ.

unfortunately, there’s a catch. here’s what I see as my results on my home computer

but here’s what everyone else sees

apparently, the site uses some sort of script that shows your IP one graphic and shows everyone else another. a rather juvenile (but funny, in a really nasty way) trick that seems to have nailed hundreds (myself included).

by the way, the person who foisted this off on all of us (which is easily available to the general public by typing

whois iq-challenge.com

) is:

Kevin Kelm, otherwise known as
8240 Lighthouse Court

970- -0967

and the stooge he used as an artist is … wanna do nasty things to him? i sure do…


what do you know… today is 6/6/06 5/6/06… brain injury… 8/

Feds to Retry Man Accused of Lying to FBI

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Federal prosecutors will retry an ice cream vendor on charges that he lied to the FBI about his son’s attendance at a terrorist training camp, authorities announced Friday.

Umer Hayat’s first trial ended with the jury deadlocked last month. The same day, a separate jury convicted his son, Hamid Hayat, of supporting terrorism by attending an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan.

U.S. District Court Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. set June 5 to begin selecting a new jury for the father’s retrial.

“This case is simply too serious to walk away after one hung jury,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Brown said Friday as he left the courthouse.

Brown said prosecutors interviewed jurors in the first trial, and found that “there was not a lot of dispute about whether or not Umer Hayat lied to the FBI. Still, there were some jurors who looked down upon the investigative techniques that were used by agents.”

During the nine-week trial, jurors heard separate videotaped confessions the father and son made to FBI agents. The defense said the two were worn down by hours of questioning and were merely responding to leading questions by agents.

Umer Hayat, a 48-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, was released from federal custody Monday after Burrell lowered his bail from $1.2 million to $390,000. He will remain under house arrest in the Central Valley town. If convicted of the charges, he could face up to 16 years in prison.

His 23-year-old son, also a U.S. citizen, was working at a cherry-packing shed when he was arrested. Hamid Hayat faces up to 39 years in prison at sentencing July 14.

The FBI began focusing on the 2,500-member Pakistani community in Lodi shortly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Agents initially were interested in pursuing a tip that Lodi businesses were sending money to terror groups abroad. They recruited a 32-year-old former Lodi resident of Pakistani descent who was then living in Oregon.

The informant soon befriended Hamid Hayat and secretly recorded their conversations. In some of those discussions, the younger Hayat said he planned to attend a terrorist training camp in Pakistan during a visit there from 2003 to 2005.

Hamid Hayat’s attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, said her client never actually attended the camp and argued that prosecutors had no direct evidence that he had. She has requested a new trial for her client.

The Hayats were arrested in June, shortly after Hamid Hayat returned from Pakistan, along with two Muslim clerics who later were deported for immigration violations.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said lying to the FBI during a terrorism investigation could cause them to lose valuable time that would be better spent foiling deadly plots.

“Seven citizens serving as jurors in the Umer Hayat trial found beyond a reasonable doubt that he had lied to the FBI about his son’s attendance at a terrorist training camp,” Scott said in a statement Friday.

US defends treatment of terror suspects to UN body
By Stephanie Nebehay
May 5, 2006

GENEVA – The United States on Friday defended its treatment of foreign terrorism suspects held abroad, telling a U.N. committee it backed a ban on torture and stressing there had been “relatively few actual cases of abuse.”

John Bellinger, the U.S. State Department’s top legal adviser, said Washington was “absolutely committed to uphold its national and international obligations to eradicate torture.”

Human rights groups this week accused the United States of mistreating detainees through cruel interrogation methods including “water-boarding,” a form of mock drowning.

Bellinger, who heads the American delegation to the U.N. Committee Against Torture, said allegations of U.S. abuse had been greatly exaggerated.

“This committee should not lose sight of the fact that these incidents are not systemic,” he told the 10-member panel at the start of a two-day review of U.S. compliance with the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment.

“Relatively few actual cases of abuse and wrongdoing have occurred in the context of U.S. armed conflict with al Qaeda,” he said.

The United States is holding hundreds of terrorism suspects, most arrested since al Qaeda’s September 11 attacks in 2001, at its prisons in
Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Barry Lowenkron told the committee the “notorious” abuses that occurred at
Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq “inexcusable and indefensible.”

“We know that the image of Abu Ghraib and questions about Guantanamo have been damaging to the reputation of the United States,” Bellinger told a news briefing after the session.

“That is one reason the U.S. government is trying very hard to set things on the right course through investigations that have been conducted and through our appearance at the committee today,” he said.

The 10-member U.N. committee grilled the U.S. delegation on whether criminal responsibility has been established for known abuses, and challenged the U.S. definition of torture.

“We would like to have more details regarding the chain of command,” said Andreas Mavrommatis, the committee’s chairman.

Vice-chairman Wang Xuexian from China asked: “Where would you put such methods as interrogation by mock drownings — as torture or as other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment?”

“Are there measures to monitor CIA operations to ensure they are not violating the Convention Against Torture?”

The panel also asked about “extraordinary renditions” whereby prisoners are moved to other countries where, critics say, they can face torture, and asked whether seeking “diplomatic assurances” from governments was enough to prevent abuse of those moved.

“I would like to emphasize that the United States has not transported detainees to countries for purposes of interrogation using torture and will not,” Bellinger said in response, adding diplomatic assurances were relied on only “sparingly.”

Speaking after the session, Jennifer Daskal of Human Rights Watch decried what she called “a continued attempt by the U.S. to say that the abuse we see in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan was just limited to a few bad apples.”

“The (Bush) administration is unwilling to assume responsibility for policies and practices that were promulgated at a high level, which allow a climate of abuse to flourish,” she said.

apparently, now the movie of flight 93 has become “the official history”, and the war against terror has officially become “world war III”… he said it, i didn’t… 8/

Bush says fight against terror is ‘World War III’
May 05, 2006

US President George W. Bush said the September 11 revolt of passengers against their hijackers on board Flight 93 had struck the first blow of “World War III.”

In an interview with the financial news network CNBC, Bush said he had yet to see the recently released film of the uprising, a dramatic portrayal of events on the United Airlines plane before it crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

But he said he agreed with the description of David Beamer, whose son Todd died in the crash, who in a Wall Street Journal commentary last month called it “our first successful counter-attack in our homeland in this new global war — World War III”.

Bush said: “I believe that. I believe that it was the first counter-attack to World War III.

“It was, it was unbelievably heroic of those folks on the airplane to recognize the danger and save lives,” he said.

Flight 93 crashed on the morning of September 11, 2001, killing the 33 passengers, seven crew members and four hijackers, after passengers stormed the cockpit and battled the hijackers for control of the aircraft.

The president has repeatedly praised the heroism of the passengers in fighting back and so launching the first blow of what he usually calls the “war on terror”.

In 2002, then-White House spokesman Ari Fleischer explicitly declined to call the hunt for Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda group and its followers “World War III.”


very weird situation: i went to the bank to deposit my (substantially more than i expected it to be) check from the moisture festival, and the ATMs were acting strangely, wouldn’t let me make deposits, and said my balance is $2,700… the computer says the account has $233 in it, which is a lot closer to what i expected, but i can always hope… and if nothing else, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to deposit anything in the machine until they get the machines straightened out anyway.



A kiivott hordóban egy szeszben aszalódott múmiára bukkantak a munkások
A kiivott hordóban egy szeszben aszalódott múmiára bukkantak a munkások

Literszámra nyakalták és vitték haza a jóféle rumot a pincében álló 300 literes hordóból egy szegedi családi ház felújításán dolgozó melósok. Amikor az utolsó csepp szesz is elfogyott, odébb akarták tenni a kiivott fahordót, de még kotyogott benne valami. Szétbontották, egy összeaszalódott holttest d?lt ki bel?le.

A rémregénybe ill? történet több évtizedes múltra tekint vissza. A Szeged kertvárosában lév? régi ház els? tulajdonosa egy nyolcvanas éveiben járó özvegyaszszony volt, aki csendes öregségben, magányosan éldegélt. A zárkózott, úri all?rökkel megáldott nénikér?l keveset tudtak a szomszédok.

Sajátos íz
Az a hír járta, hogy a matróna valaha nagyvilági életet élt a Karib térségben diplomataként dolgozó urával, ám egyedül tért haza a mesés tengerentúlról. Egyetlen távoli rokona volt, akinek annyit mondott, hogy a férje meghalt, azt azonban senki nem firtatta, hol nyugszik a szebb napokat idéz? fotókon fest?i szépség? nejét átkaroló, daliás ember. Az otthonából ki sem mozduló, ?sz öregasszony egy nap nem nyitott ajtót a nála kopogtató szomszédoknak, akik rosszat sejtvén rend?rt hívtak. A behatoló zsaruk az ágyban találtak rá a holttestére, halálát végelgyengülés okozta. A titokzatos házat néhány hónap múlva egy fiatal pár vette meg, és elkezdték felújíttatni új otthonukat. Az átépítési munkálatok azonban kissé elhúzódtak, mert a melósok rájártak a pincében talált 300 literes, rummal teli hordóra. Sajátos íze volt, osztályozták kés?bbi vallomásaikban a jóféle szeszt, amivel hetekig locsolgatták a torkukat. Még haza is vittek bel?le néhány flaskával, s csodájára járt, aki belekóstolt.

Konzervált ember
? Fél év sem telt el az id?s asszony halála óta, amikor ismét riasztottak minket a házhoz ? emlékezett a felejthetetlen eseményekre Pénzes Zoltán százados. ? Egy meztelen férfi holttestre bukkantak a munkások a rumos hordóban, amit azért szedtek szét, mert bár elfogyott bel?le a szesz, mégis kotyogott benne valami, ahogy mozgatták. Az összeaszalódott halott embriópózban helyezkedett el a hordósírban. Külsérelmi nyom nem volt rajta, a boncolás megállapította, hogy természetes halállal halt meg. A rum, amiben a munkások megjelenéséig információink szerint legalább 20 éven keresztül ázott, tartósította, így csupán valamelyest összetöpörödött. A helyszíni szemlét végz? szegedi zsaruk szerint a múmiát megtaláló brigád tagjainak arcáról lerítt, hogy jó id?re elment a kedvük az ismeretlen eredet? szeszes hordók megcsapolásától. A tanúkihallgatások során többen rosszul lettek, amikor szóba került, hogy ittak a konzerválóléb?l.

Pincesírból temet?be
A rend?rségi vizsgálat kiderítette, hogy az elhunyt a ház egykori asszonyának diplomata ura, akit Jamaica partjainál ért a végzet. A holttest hivatalos hazahozatása azonban túl költséges és a szükséges okmányok beszerzése miatt körülményes is lett volna, ezért a találékony özvegy a kurrens jamaicai rummal teli hordóban, hajón csempészte haza az urát. Azt azonban senki sem tudja, hogy kés?bb miért nem temettette el, és titkolta a pincében lév? hordósírt. Az öregurat végül a szegedi köztemet?ben helyezték végs? nyugalomra.

Body at bottom of barrel shocks rum-drinking workers

Budapest, May 4 – Workers renovating an empty house in Szeged, SE Hungary, dipped deep into a 300 litre barrel of rum they found in the basement, but the drinking came to a screeching halt when they discovered a long-dead body at the bottom of the barrel, the website of a police magazine reported.

The house had been owned by an elderly lady who had spent many years in the Caribbean region with her diplomat husband before returning home alone some 20 years ago, Zsaru Magazine wrote. Her husband had died abroad, she said.

The lady herself died recently and the house was sold to a young couple who ordered a basement-to-attic renovation.

Workers soon discovered that a 300-litre barrel left behind by the former owner was filled with rum, and they took it upon themselves to empty it, commenting on its unusual bouquet. The rum tasting lasted some six months before the body was discovered, preserved in the alcohol. Stunned by the discovery, they called police.

Yes, the body was that of the diplomat husband, but no, he had not met with foul play, police found. An autopsy revealed that death had been due to natural causes, and a bit of investigation found that he had died in or around Jamaica over 20 years earlier. The widow, on learning how expensive and complicated it was to return a corpse to Hungary, avoided officialdom by having him packaged in a barrel of rum, which she brought home and kept in her basement until her own death.

The man was finally buried in Szeged cemetery.

Melton pulls over buses to get a hug
By Cathy Hayden
May 4, 2006

Jackson Mayor Frank Melton said he impulsively asked his police escort to pull four Callaway High buses over on I-220 on Friday afternoon because he needed a hug.

The buses were taking students home from school, about 4:30 p.m.

“It’s been such a stressful two weeks,” Melton said. “I wanted to shake their hands. I wanted to touch them. That’s all it was. … I went through the buses and shook their hand and hugged them and told then how proud I was of them.”

Melton said students saw him out their windows and waved before he had the buses stopped. “I told the kids to have a great weekend and a safe weekend,” he said. “I didn’t do anything stupid or illegal.”

He said there was no safety hazard. The drivers pulled the buses off the interstate on the right median.

Jackson school officials learned about Melton’s actions from a television video clip and called his office to see if there was a problem on any of the buses.

Superintendent Earl Watkins was out of town.

“It is certainly unorthodox,” Watkins said Wednesday. “Unless there is an issue occurring on a bus, it is always better not to prevent bus drivers from transporting their kids.”

Watkins said something like this opens up “unintended problems and consequences.”

“We don’t want to get into a negative conversation with the mayor,” said Michael Thomas, deputy superintendent for operations. “Our concern was purely perception – people thinking buses had done anything wrong.”

Melton has long been known to interact with students, going into schools unannounced when he was director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics and touring schools when he was a member of the state Board of Education.

“I reserve the right to go into our schools. I reserve the right to encourage kids. I reserve the right as the mayor,” he said.


Gangs claim their turf in Iraq
May 1, 2006

The Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings and Vice Lords were born decades ago in Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods. Now, their gang graffiti is showing up 6,400 miles away in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods — Iraq.

Armored vehicles, concrete barricades and bathroom walls all have served as canvasses for their spray-painted gang art. At Camp Cedar II, about 185 miles southeast of Baghdad, a guard shack was recently defaced with “GDN” for Gangster Disciple Nation, along with the gang’s six-pointed star and the word “Chitown,” a soldier who photographed it said.

The graffiti, captured on film by an Army Reservist and provided to the Chicago Sun-Times, highlights increasing gang activity in the Army in the United States and overseas, some experts say.

Military and civilian police investigators familiar with three major Army bases in the United States — Fort Lewis, Fort Hood and Fort Bragg — said they have been focusing recently on soldiers with gang affiliations. These bases ship out many of the soldiers fighting in Iraq.

“I have identified 320 soldiers as gang members from April 2002 to present,” said Scott Barfield, a Defense Department gang detective at Fort Lewis in Washington state. “I think that’s the tip of the iceberg.”

Of paramount concern is whether gang-affiliated soldiers’ training will make them deadly urban warriors when they return to civilian life and if some are using their access to military equipment to supply gangs at home, said Barfield and other experts.

‘They don’t try to hide it’
Jeffrey Stoleson, an Army Reserve sergeant in Iraq for almost a year, said he has taken hundreds of photos of gang graffiti there.

In a storage yard in Taji, about 18 miles north of Baghdad, dozens of tanks were vandalized with painted gang symbols, Stoleson said in a phone interview from Iraq. He said he also took pictures of graffiti at Camp Scania, about 108 miles southeast of Baghdad, and Camp Anaconda, about 40 miles north of Baghdad. Much of the graffiti was by Chicago-based gangs, he said.

In civilian life, Stoleson is a correctional officer and co-founder of the gang interdiction team at a Wisconsin maximum-security prison. Now he is a truck commander for security escorts in Iraq. He said he watched two fellow soldiers in the Wisconsin Army National Guard 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry, die Sept. 26 when a roadside bomb exploded. Five of Stoleson’s friends have been wounded.

Because of the extreme danger of his mission in Iraq, Stoleson said he does not relish the idea of working alongside gang members, whom he does not trust. Stoleson said he once reported to a supervisor that he suspected a company of soldiers in Iraq was rife with gang members.

“My E-8 [supervising sergeant] told me not to ruffle their feathers because they were doing a good job,” he said.

Stoleson said he has spotted soldiers in Iraq with tattoos signifying their allegiance to the Vice Lords and the Simon City Royals, another street gang spawned in Chicago.

“They don’t try to hide it,” Stoleson said.

Army doesn’t see significant trend
Christopher Grey, spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, did not deny the existence of gang members in the military, but he disputed that the problem is rampant — or even significant.

In the last year, the Criminal Investigation Command has looked into 10 cases in which there was credible evidence of gang-related criminal activity in the Army, Grey said. He would not discuss specific cases.

“We recently conducted an Army-wide study, and we don’t see a significant trend in this kind of activity, especially when you compare this with a million-man Army,” Grey said.

‘Lowering our standards’
“Sometimes there is a definition issue here on what constitutes gang activity. If someone wears baggy pants and a scarf, that does not make them a gang member unless there is evidence to show that person is involved in violent or criminal activity,” Grey said.

Barfield said Army recruiters eager to meet their goals have been overlooking applicants’ gang tattoos and getting waivers for criminal backgrounds.

“We’re lowering our standards,” Barfield said.

“A friend of mine is a recruiter,” he said. “They are being told less than five tattoos is not an issue. More than five, you do a waiver saying it’s not gang-related. You’ll see soldiers with a six-pointed star with GD [Gangster Disciples] on the right forearm.”

Fort Lewis offers free tattoo removal, but few if any soldiers with gang tattoos have taken advantage of the service, Barfield said.

In interviews with the almost 320 soldiers who admitted they were gang members, only two said they wanted out of gangs, Barfield said.

None has been arrested for a gang-related felony on the base, Barfield said. But some are suspected of criminal activity off base, he said.

“They’re not here for the red, white and blue. They’re here for the black and gold,” he said, referring to the gang colors of the Latin Kings.

Barfield said most of the gang members he has identified are black and Latino. He has linked white soldiers to racist groups such as the Aryan Nations.

Barfield acknowledged that the soldiers he pegged as gang members represent a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of soldiers based at Fort Lewis in the period he reviewed. But he stressed that he only investigates a fraction of the soldiers on base.

Barfield said he normally identifies gang members during barracks inspections requested by unit commanders. He interviews them about possible gang affiliation when he sees gang graffiti in their rooms, photos of a soldier flashing gang hand signals or a soldier with gang tattoos.

Learning urban warfare
“I know there is a lot more going on here,” he said. “I don’t inspect off-base housing or married soldiers’ housing.”

The Gangster Disciples are the most worrisome street gang at Fort Lewis because they are the most organized, Barfield said.

Barfield said gangs are encouraging their members to join the military to learn urban warfare techniques they can teach when they go back to their neighborhoods.

“Gang members are telling us in the interviews that their gang is putting them in,” he said.

Joe Sparks, a retired Chicago Police gang specialist and the Midwest adviser to the International Latino Gang Investigators Association, said he is concerned about the military know-how that gang-affiliated soldiers might bring back to the streets here.

“Even though they are ‘bangers, they are still fighting for America, so I have to give them that,” Sparks said. “The sound of enemy gunfire is nothing new to them. I’m sure in battle it’s a truce — GDs and P Stones are fighting a common enemy. But when they get home, forget about it.”

Barfield said he knows of an Army private who fought valiantly in Iraq but still maintained his gang affiliation when he returned home.

The private, a Florencia 13 gang member from Southern California, spoke to Barfield of battling a 38th Street Gang member when they were civilians.

Then the 38th Street Gang member became a sergeant in the Army and the Florencia 13 member became a private. They served in Iraq together, Barfield said.

“They had exchanged blows in Inglewood [a city near Los Angeles], but in the Army, they did get the mission done,” he said. “The private is a decorated war veteran with a Purple Heart.”

The private still has his gang tattoos and identifies himself as a Florencia 13, Barfield said.

Marine killed cop in California
Barfield said a big concern is what such gang members trained in urban warfare will do when they return home.

He pointed to Marine Lance Cpl. Andres Raya, a suspected Norteno gang member who shot two officers with a rifle outside a liquor store in Ceres, Calif., on Jan. 9, 2005, before police returned fire and killed him. One officer died, and the other was wounded by the 19-year-old Raya, who was high on cocaine. Raya had spent seven months in Iraq before returning to Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

Photos of Raya wearing the gang’s red colors and making gang hand signs were reportedly found in a safe in his room.

Hunter Glass, a Fayetteville, N.C., police detective, said he has seen an increase in gang activity involving soldiers from nearby Fort Bragg. A Fort Bragg soldier — a member of the Insane Gangster Crips — is charged with a gang-related robbery in Fayetteville that ended in the slaying of a Korean store owner in November, said Glass, a veteran of the elite 82nd Airborne based at Fort Bragg.

He estimated that hundreds of gang members are stationed at the base as soldiers.

“I have talked to guys who say ‘I’m a SUR 13 [gang member], but I am a soldier,’ ” Glass said. “Although I see the [gang] problem as a threat, I do believe the majority of the military are good people and that many of those [military officials] that I have made aware of the situation have expressed concern in dealing with it. It is safe to say that I am less worried about a gang war in the sand box [Iraq] but more about the one on our streets upon its end.”

Glass has given presentations to military leaders in Washington, D.C., about gang members in the military.

Sending flak jackets home
A law enforcement source in Chicago said police see some evidence of soldiers working with gangs here. Police recently stopped a vehicle and found 10 military flak jackets inside. A gang member in the vehicle told investigators his brother was a Marine and sent the jackets home, the source said.

Barfield said he knows of civilian gang members in the Seattle area who also have been caught with flak jackets that he suspects were stolen from Fort Lewis.

Barfield said he has documented gang-affiliated soldiers’ involvement in drug dealing, gunrunning and other criminal activity off base. More than a year ago, a soldier tied to a white supremacy group was caught trying to ship an assault rifle from Iraq to the United States in pieces, he said.

In Texas, the FBI is bracing for the transfer of gang-connected soldiers from Fort Hood in central Texas to Fort Bliss near El Paso as part of the nation’s base realignments. FBI Special Agent Andrea Simmons said gang-affiliated soldiers from Fort Hood could clash with civilian gang members in El Paso.

“We understand that [some] soldiers and dependents at Fort Hood tend to be under the Folk Nation umbrella, including the Gangster Disciples and Crips,” Simmons said. “In El Paso, the predominant gang, without much competition, is the Barrio Azteca. We could see some kind of turf war between the Barrio Aztecas and the Folk Nation.”

FBI agents have visited Fort Hood to learn about the gang activity on the base, Simmons said.

“We found most of the police departments say they do see gang activity due to the military — soldiers and dependents,” she said. “Our agents also have been in contact with Fort Bliss to discuss the issue.”

Simmons said investigators may conduct background checks on soldiers relocating from Fort Hood to Fort Bliss to assess the level of the potential gang problem.

Barfield said he welcomes the FBI’s scrutiny of gang members in the Army.

“Investigators as a whole across the military aren’t getting the support to remove gang members from the ranks,” he said.

But Grey, the spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Command, said the unit is open to any tips about gang activity in the Army.

“If anyone has any information, we strongly recommend they bring it to our attention,” he said.

Bush: Sing ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ in English
Producer says song not meant to discourage learning English
April 28, 2006

WASHINGTON — The national anthem should be sung in English — not Spanish — President Bush declared Friday, amid growing restlessness over the millions of immigrants here illegally.

“One of the things that’s very important is, when we debate this issue, that we not lose our national soul,” the president exclaimed. “One of the great things about America is that we’ve been able to take people from all walks of life bound as one nation under God. And that’s the challenge ahead of us.”

A Spanish language version of the national anthem was released Friday by a British music producer, Adam Kidron, who said he wanted to honor America’s immigrants.

When the president was asked at a Rose Garden question-and-answer session whether the anthem should be sung in Spanish, he replied: “I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.”

He made his remarks during a wide-ranging briefing with reporters.

“The intention of recording ‘Nuestro Himno’ (Our Anthem) has never been to discourage immigrants from learning English and embracing American culture,” Kidron said in a statement issued after the president spoke.

“We instead view ‘Nuestro Himno’ as a song that affords those immigrants that have not yet learned the English language the opportunity to fully understand the character of the Star-Spangled Banner, the American flag and the ideals of freedom that they represent,” Kidron said.

The president’s comments came amid a burgeoning national debate — and congressional fight — over legislation pending in Congress, and pushed by Bush, to overhaul U.S. immigration law.

Bush called on lawmakers to move forward on legislation — now stalled — that would revamp immigration laws.

“I want a comprehensive bill,” Bush said, that includes enforcement as well as giving temporary worker status to some illegal immigrants.

Large numbers of immigrant groups have planned an economic boycott next week to dramatize their call for legislation providing legal status for millions of people in the United States illegally.

“You know, I’m not a supporter of boycotts,” Bush said. “I am a supporter of comprehensive immigration … I think most Americans agree that we’ve got to enforce our border. I don’t think there’s any question about that.”

The president’s remarks followed the release of the Spanish language version of the song.

Bush’s Spanish ‘no muy bueno,’ White House says
May 4, 2006

WASHINGTON — President Bush likes to drop a few words of Spanish in his speeches and act like he’s proficient in the language. But he’s really not that good, his spokesman said Thursday.

“The president can speak Spanish but not that well,” White House press secretary Scott McClellan said. “He’s not that good with his Spanish.”

McClellan’s comment was noticeable because presidential press secretaries usually boast about a president’s ability rather than talk about any shortcomings. McClellan is in the last days of his job, leaving the White House next week.

McClellan made his remark in response to a report that Bush had sung the Star-Spangled Banner in Spanish during the 2000 campaign. Just last week Bush said the national anthem should be sung in English, not Spanish.

“It’s absurd,” McClellan said of the report, suggesting that Bush couldn’t have sung it in Spanish even if he had wanted to.


this is a test of my new icon…

all kinds of sexual goodies, with no exception for foot fetishists, although i’ve got to wonder what if the foot fetishist was female…

Mexico’s Fox to OK drug decriminalization law
By Noel Randewich
May 2, 2006

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s president will approve a law that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs to concentrate on fighting violent drug gangs, the government said on Tuesday.

President Vicente Fox will not oppose the bill, passed by senators last week, presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar told reporters, despite likely tensions with the United States.

“The president is going to sign that law. There would be no objection,” he said. “It appears to be a good law and an advance in combating narcotics trafficking.”

Public Security Minister Eduardo Medina-Mora said Mexico’s legal changes are in line with other countries and warned drug users they should not expect lenient treatment from the police if they are caught.

The approval of the legislation, passed earlier by the lower house of Congress, surprised Washington, which counts on Mexico’s support in its war against gangs that move massive quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines through Mexico to U.S. consumers.

Under the federal law, police will not criminally prosecute people or hand out jail terms for possessing up to 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of opium, or 25 milligrams of heroin. Nor does the law penalize possession of 500 milligrams of cocaine — enough for a few lines.

The legal changes will also decriminalize the possession of limited quantities of LSD, hallucinogenic mushrooms, amphetamines, ecstasy and peyote — a psychotropic cactus found in Mexico’s northern deserts.


But city and state governments may pass their own misdemeanor laws against drug possession, levying fines, forcing law-breakers to spend up to 48 hours in police station holding cells or even making them accept medical treatment for substance addiction, Medina-Mora told reporters.

“International practice, including in the United States, in many cases dictates that possession of small amounts of drugs does not require a penal sanction,” he said.

Hundreds of people, including many police officers, have been killed in Mexico in the past year as drug cartels battle for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.

The violence has raged mostly in northern Mexico but in recent months has spread south to cities such as vacation resort Acapulco.

Medina-Mora warned that vacationing college students and other foreigners caught with even with small amounts of drugs could be breaking municipal or state misdemeanor laws and could easily be shown to the airport or the border.

Vacation cities including Cancun, Acapulco, Tijuana and Mazatlan already have their own laws against drug possession, he said.

The legislation is expected to make the rules clearer for local judges and police, who currently decide on a case-by-case basis whether people should be criminally prosecuted for possessing small quantities of drugs, often leading to corruption.

While likely to complicate relations with the U.S. government, the legislation has drawn relatively little attention from the media in Mexico, where drug use is less common than in the United States.

Medina-Mora said Fox has until September to sign the bill, but neither he nor Aguilar could say more specifically when it might be signed.

King Tut’s Penis Rediscovered
By Rossella Lorenzi

May 3, 2006 — King Tutankhamun’s rediscovered penis could make the pharaoh stand out in the shrunken world of male mummies, according to a close look into old pictures of the 3,300-year-old mummified king.

The formerly missing sex organ has been just another puzzle in the story of the best-known pharaoh of ancient Egypt.

Photographed intact by Harry Burton (1879-1940) during Howard Carter’s excavation of Tut’s tomb in 1922, the royal penis was reported missing in 1968, when British scientist Ronald Harrison took a series of X-rays of the mummy.

Speculation abounded that the penis had been stolen and sold.

“Instead, it has always been there. I found it during the CT scan last year, when the mummy was lifted. It lay loose in the sand around the king’s body. It was mummified,” Zahi Hawass, chief of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Discovery News.

At first look, Burton’s pictures may seem to indicate that King Tut could have been a little better endowed. But according to mummy expert Eduard Egarter Vigl, the pharaoh was normally built.

Caretaker of Ötzi the Iceman, the world’s oldest and best-preserved mummy, Egarter was also a member of the Egyptian-led research team that examined King Tut’s CT scan images.

“The pharaoh’s sex organ is clearly visible in Burton’s pictures. All was normal in King Tut. The penis is a highly vascularized organ and shrinks when it is mummified. Actually, King Tut has been flattered by the embalmers’ work. There is no comparison with Ötzi’s penis,” Egarter told Discovery News.

Ötzi’s natural mummification and dehydration in an Alpine glacier produced a “collapse of the genitalia,” which left the Iceman with an almost invisible member.

“He would not make a bella figura today,” Egarter said.

According to the mummy expert, it is not possible to see if King Tut was circumcised or not.

Eugene Cruz-Uribe, professor of history at Northern Arizona University and an expert on Tutankhamun, told Discovery that some earlier documents mention circumcision at King Tut’s time.

“It was probably done for hygienic reasons, but some ritual issues may have occurred as well,” Cruz-Uribe said.

Tut.ankh.Amun, “the living image of Amun,” ascended the throne in 1333 B.C. at the age of nine, and reigned until his death in 1325 B.C., aged 19.

He married 13-year-old Ankhesenpaaten, who was probably his stepsister, on his accession to the throne. During their marriage, Ankhesenpaaten, who had changed her name to Ankhesenamun, gave birth to two stillborn girls.

Keith Richards Falls Out Of Palm Tree In Fiji

Keith Richards, a guitarist of Rolling Stones British Rock Group, is still nursing a sore head in an Auckland hospital after falling out of a tree in Fiji last week. The English Guitarist, 62, was airlifted brought from Fiji to Auckland by air and admitted to the Ascot Hospital with mild concussion.

Richards suffered a head injury and concussion after falling from a coconut tree at a luxurious resort in the Fiji Islands on April 29, where Richards and fellow band member, Ron Wood, 58, were apparently climbing the tree.

After initial treatment in Suva-the capital of Fiji, he was airlifted to a private hospital in Auckland, New Zealand, where he was given a brain scan to check for neurological damage.

However, neither the Hospital nor the air ambulance company which transported him to Auckland from Fiji said anything about his fall or his condition. During the treatment his wife, Patti Hansen, was beside him at the hospital. They had been staying at the luxury Club Resort on Wakaya.

Richards-the songwriter, best recognized for his work with The Rolling Stones, is better known for his drug-related outlaw image than for his songwriting contributions, to the general public.

Richards is no stranger to unforeseen injuries as in 1998 the Stones had to delay a tour after he fell off a ladder while trying to find a book in the library of his Connecticut residence. He needed treatment for rib and chest injuries and there were even fears he had punctured a lung when he fell while stretching amid the library’s floor-to-ceiling shelves. In another incident, according to band mate Ron Wood, he once slipped on a frankfurter lobbed on stage while playing a concert in Frankfurt, Germany.

The fall story of the guitarist is on the top of Newspapers and news networks throughout America and the United Kingdom, who are giving the story a good airing. An American newsreader tried to conceal her laugh as she asked, after reading the story, why was the Stone up a tree in the first place.

According to the overseas reports, the reformed heroin addict and one-time hell raiser – who still smokes and drinks – was halfway up the five-meter tree when he slipped and fell, hitting his head.

Richards, who once kicked a serious heroin habit by having his entire blood supply replaced in a Swiss clinic, fell out of the tree on Wednesday but refused to go to hospital until his holiday ended on Friday.

The rock star, who is nearly into his seventh decade, does not let the age come between him and his good time.

what do i have in common with bill gates?

more than i’d care to speculate, apparently… i suppose that could be a good thing or a bad thing…

Outcast Genius
60 % Nerd, 56% Geek, 69% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in all three, earning you the title of: Outcast Genius.
Outcast geniuses usually are bright enough to understand what society wants of them, and they just don’t care! They are highly intelligent and passionate about the things they know are *truly* important in the world. Typically, this does not include sports, cars or make-up, but it can on occassion (and if it does then they know more than all of their friends combined in that subject).

Outcast geniuses can be very lonely, due to their being outcast from most normal groups and too smart for the room among many other types of dorks and geeks, but they can also be the types to eventually rule the world, ala Bill Gates, the prototypical Outcast Genius.


My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

free online dating free online dating
You scored higher than 99% on nerdiness
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You scored higher than 99% on geekosity
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You scored higher than 99% on dork points

Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid.


green detail

this is the “disguise” i came up with for the swastika, but to me it still looks enough like a swastika that i wonder what other people see… especially when they see the car from the outside, as it is travelling down the street…



i’ve decided to “disguise” the swastika on Ganesha the car. i think i can do a pretty good job of it by duplicating it in different colours, and rotating it. after the incident with housemate i wrote to ManWoman, who is my inspiration for doing bizarre shit like this, and he said that he wouldn’t paint a swastika on his car, so i guess i don’t feel too bad about it.

     Thanks for supporting the swastika. It can be trying and even dangerous. I have been very close to people getting very violent in their denial of the perceived violence of the swastika.

     I would not paint one on my car because, I fear that sooner or later some angry person will do society a favor by vandalising it. People see a swastika and it is like waving a red flag in front of a bull, rationality goes out the window.

     I honor you for your vision and understanding around the sacredness of the symbol. Please do not martyr yourself needlessly. I need you in the world, quietly educating others about its vast sacred history.

     — ManWoman

it is really depressing to realise that even someone with as much notariety as manwoman would not put a swastika on his car. every time i read about some neo-nazi horseshit in the newspaper or see them on TV i shudder to think about how many people still buy their crap and equate the swastika with them instead of what the swastika really means. the swastika has been around as a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck for thousands of years and the nazis have only been around for less than one hundred years, and yet the majority of people completely reject the swastika’s thousands of years of history and focus on the wrong stuff that has only been around for a comparitively short period of time… which strikes me as just about as ridiculous a way of doing things as any that i can think of…

but then again, it’s the same group of people, more or less, which “elected” george w. bush into office, so i guess i may be expecting too much from these folks… 8/

UPDATE: pictures are available.


Mission Accomplished Day
April 30, 2006
by Cindy Sheehan

May 1st, 2006 will be the 3rd Anniversary of the end of “major combat” in Iraq. It was a glorious day when George Bush flew onto the deck of the Abraham Lincoln and was hailed by the rapturous throngs of toadie “news” persons such as Chris Matthews (“And that’s the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star,” Hardball, May 1, 2003) and Bob Schieffer (“As far as I’m concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time. And if you’re a political consultant, you can just see campaign commercial written all over the pictures of George Bush.” Meet the Press, May 4, 2003). What a fast and clean war! G. Gordon Liddy was enthralled with the president’s package (“all those women who say size doesn’t count — they’re all liars.” Hardball, May 7, 2003) and a new era free from terrorism was ushered in.

This is the faith based fable of what happened almost exactly three years ago. The reality based scenario goes something like this:

*Over 2400 American soldiers (including my son who was killed almost a year after Mission Accomplished Day) have come home in cardboard boxes in cargo areas of planes in the secrecy of the night.

*Thousands of our young people wounded, many grievously also bused into Walter Reed and other hospitals in the dark of the night.

*Tons of rubble upon rubble in Iraq with inconsistent electrical power still and not much clean water or chance of future power and clean water.

*Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians are dead, being punished for the sins of a leader who was propped up, armed and supported by many US Regimes.

The Mission Accomplished Day (or, Operation Codpiece) public relations’ dream for the presidential pelvic zone has turned into a frighteningly real nightmare for so many people around the world who have had sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and oftentimes entire families wiped out and devastated by the strutting and smirking terrorist who was feeling mighty “chipper” last night at the Washington Correspondent’s annual dinner as the 2400 th soldier was being killed and as the 2400th Gold Star Mother was falling on the floor screaming for her child. There are hundreds of thousands of people on our planet who will have a hard time ever feeling chipper again because of George Bush, no matter how good he looks in a flight suit.

Now that BushCo has done such a fantastic job with the invasion and occupation of Iraq that never should have happened, but now that it has happened is extraordinarily evil in its scope and tactics, he is warning Iran that if it doesn’t shape up the US is going to come and impose freedom and democracy on that country. The rah-rah, “yes, sir” Congress who has an easy job of approving everything that George Bush does, thereby eliminating critical thinking, debate, or any semblance of rational discussion has voted for sanctions that will lead to an attack on Iran which will be devastating for our troops in Iraq and for that poor region that had the unfortunate luck to be built upon tremendous oil and natural gas reserves.

Only 21 Congress people voted “nay” on the Iran Freedom Support Act which is incredible considering what happened when they voted “yea” to give George Bush the green light for every sanction against Iraq and to invade it. I ran into one of the “yea” voters on the Iran Freedom Support Act, Rep. Major Owens, and I asked him why he voted that way. He said it was because he hated the “evil” regime of Iran. I asked him about our own evil, irresponsible regime! The radical President of Iran says very irresponsible and inflammatory things, but by all accounts is over a decade away from a nuclear weapon and is reigned in by the mullahs and the young population of Iran that is very westernized. We are in trouble with our one party system of government, which is the War Party.

Before we the people need to be subjected to another swaggering spectacle from George after he has bombed Iran back into the stone ages and has made we the people of the United States of America even more hated around the world, it is time to rein him in ourselves. Congress won’t do it and the media is falling into lockstep behind the murder again.

It is time to fire the warniks whose bloodlust cannot be slated and hire people who will finally use their wisdom, integrity, and non-violence to solve problems, and won’t create imaginary problems out of smoke and mirrors. We need a Congress that will hold George accountable not one that is complicit in the war crimes.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “We must live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.” God protect us from the fools that we elected to protect us!