Saturday, June 11

Strategic Disinformation?

<>Posted by Steve Soto on The Left Coaster

Critical Issues For Conyers To Explore At Next Week's DSM Hearing

As you can see from Eriposte’s fine piece below, even though the corporate conservative media has largely failed to cover the Downing Street Memo here in this country, the memo is finally getting the attention it deserves. The British media has been all over this story, to the point that Tony Blair will soon be sued by Military Families Against the War to demand an independent public inquiry into the background behind the decisions taken by Blair and Bush to take the two nations into war. Here in this country, several groups, spearheaded by have focused on getting more congressional and media attention to the memo and what it portends, namely that Bush and Blair had plans in place in the Summer of 2002 to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein regardless of what happened subsequently at the United Nations, which is contrary to what Bush told Congress and the American people.

The leading congressional Democrat who has taken up the charge to push the Downing Street Memo into public view has been Michigan Democratic congressman John Conyers, who with the support of the House Democratic leadership has scheduled a Democratic policy committee hearing for next Thursday, June 16 to take testimony and hear from witnesses on the issues of whether or not Bush planned to go to war anyway and whether or not the Bush Administration “fixed” the collection of intelligence to support a decision that had already been made in the Summer of 2002 to go to war, even if Saddam totally capitulated to Bush’s demands. Blog coordination work is being done by the BigBrassAlliance.

The White House, as might be expected, is brushing off the memo, and hiding behind Blair himself who is trying to downplay it without denying its authenticity. As usual with the White House and Bush, they will either say things like “conspiracy theories,” or “this has been answered and dealt with before”, or “numerous investigations have been done and have shown that ….” without ever directly answering the charges themselves. And the corporate conservative media lets it go at that. However, Conyers is going to force the media to pay attention to the memo by staging a news event that will package evidence for them, doing the work for a lazy and disinterested media.

The White House to date has dismissed one of the memo’s basic conclusions, that the intelligence was “fixed around the policy”, and Conyers can expect the same treatment in response next week. One way to make it more difficult for the White House to slither away this time would be for Conyers to not only focus on the intelligence, for which the administration holds many corrupted cards in its favor, but to build an argument of related events around and leading up to the period addressed by the memo to prove that in the context of other developments in the run up to the war, the memo’s contentions are quite plausible and invulnerable from White House challenge. Namely, if Conyers can build a strong argument that goes beyond the intelligence and deals with the issue of whether or not the decision had already been made to go to war, then the White House is in a more precarious position.

I’d like to suggest that Conyers focus on three issues and call these individuals as possible witnesses next week in his efforts to build a case that the decision had already been made in the summer of 2002. All three of these supporting arguments have already been covered here at the Left Coaster:

First and most damaging to me, as we first reported back in October 2003, why would the White House see a need to build a strategic information campaign using White House staff to manipulate media coverage in favor of a war months in advance of going to the UN, Congress, and the American people if the issue and decision had not already been made? Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner wrote a little-noticed but never disputed paper that outlined the steps the Bush Administration took to build what in essence was a strategic influence and disinformation campaign to manipulate the media and sway public opinion in favor of a war that Bush says he hadn’t yet decided upon. These efforts started with the creation of the Coalition Information Office by none other than Karen Hughes at about the same time the Downing Street Memo said that Bush had made up his mind. Colonel Gardiner feels that the organization was in fact put together at the time of the memo, and that the “marketing” of the war began in September when Congress returned from summer recess. Since his study came out, Colonel Gardiner has received confirmation from a number of sources including sources inside the Bush Administration that almost all of his initial conclusions were correct. Even though the whole study is chilling, pay particular attention to his material from Page 50 onward to see how the Downing Street Memo can be supported with Gardiner’s work. Perhaps Congressman Conyers can call Colonel Gardiner as a witness next week to lay out the involvement of the White House and outside GOP public relations firms in selling a war to the Congress and the American people through an intimidated and spoon-fed media, a campaign that actually commenced around the same time that the Downing Street Memo indicated a decision had already been made. And yes, I've talked with Gardiner today, and Colonel Gardiner is willing to share his information with Conyers.

Second, none other than Bob Woodward himself in his wet-kiss book “Bush at War” reported that Bush authorized Rumsfeld to move approximately $700 million from Afghanistan reconstruction to the establishment of a logistical infrastructure to support an Iraq invasion, without the required congressional notice and authority. When did this happen, as Woodward notes with a great deal of risk of legal problems for the White House? It happened in July 2002, at about the same time as the Downing Street Memo was written saying the decision had already been made by Bush, within a month of the Downing Street Memo. Perhaps Conyers can call Bob Woodward as a witness to testify about what he found in researching his book on this congressionally-unauthorized transfer of funds from Afghan reconstruction to Iraq war planning during the Summer of 2002.

And lastly, it has been reported that Bush dropped in on a White House meeting in Condi Rice’s office in March 2002, and blurted to the three startled US senators Rice was meeting with “Fuck Saddam, we’re going to take him out.” Perhaps Conyers can call the three senators as well as Michael Elliott and James Carney of Time Magazine to confirm what Bush said and did, three months before the Downing Street Memo said that a decision had already been made.

Again, the key for Conyers is not to get trapped into building his case primarily upon the fixed intelligence claim in the memo, but to build also a circumstantial case as well that supports the bigger claim that the decision had already been made by the White House to go to war in the Summer of 2002, despite what was being told to Congress and the American people.

Steve Soto

Sensenbrener shuts down Patriot Act Hearing

James Sensenbrener
Republicans turn off microphones on Democrats at Patriot Act meeting

Watch the Video

Last nights Judiciary Commitee hearing on renewal of the Patriot Act was indeed an awesome event. I have to give primary props to witness James Zogby (Arab American Institute), who was exactly on point each and every time he spoke. I also have to give some respect to the Majority opposition - they were quite cagey in their efforts to disenfrancise dissent and debate, which has to be respected as a job well done. From Rep. Dan Lungren to Chairmen Sensenbrener, they were amazing in their recitation of RNC talking points. As purveyors of truth Democrats have to give it up to them - they had their "game faces" on.

The number and quantity of abuses which occured at the Stalanist Gulags in fact does not compare to the abuses at Abu Ghraib or Guantanemo. Tens of millions of people were abused in the former Soviet Union, Millions of them were killed - literally exterminated - and that should not be cheapened. However, the fact that must be recognized which is consistent with Soviet Russian is not the quantity of people affected - but the quality of the abuses, and more importantly the strenuous desperation and denial of those abuses as well as obfuscations of the ultimate responsibilty for them - all of which are completely in line with the events at the Soviet Gulags and many other human rights tragedy's around the world.

No, it is not true that America has destroyed anywhere near as many lives as have many other oppressive nations around the world - but the path to accomplishing that is paved with the denials of each and every element of abuse and murder which occurs under the American Flag.

Are we as bad as Stalin? No. Not yet, but there's still time - and honestly, that's all we seem to need at this point.

On the issue brought by Chairman Sensenbrener that this particular hearing should be limited in scope to the 16 specific provisions of the Patriot Act which are scheduled for "Sunset" -- I find it interesting that he drew that conclusion based on a Democratic memo, and just about every Democrat involved in the hearing disagreed with his characterization of a memo, that they themselves wrote and endorsed!!! Could it be that Sensenbrener, regardless of the legitimacy of his abrubpty adjourning the hearing, simply - and possibly quite deliberate - had the facts completely wrong?

I think that he could, but I'm just one guy in a big, bad world who has the ability to read and comprehend basic law and fact. What do I - or for that matter the entire American public - know, really?

Yes - what indeed.

Perhaps, far more than Chairman Sensenbrener seem to expect.

The following are the 16 Provisions of the Patriot Act which are set to expire (Sunset) on Dec 31, 2005:

§201. Authority To Intercept Wire, Oral, And Electronic Communications Relating To Terrorism.

§202. Authority To Intercept Wire, Oral, And Electronic Communications Relating To Computer Fraud And Abuse Offenses.

§203(b), (d). Authority To Share Criminal Investigative Information.

§206. Roving Surveillance Authority Under The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Of 1978.

§207. Duration Of FISA Surveillance Of Non-United States Persons Who Are Agents Of A Foreign Power.

§209. Seizure Of Voice-Mail Messages Pursuant To Warrants.

§212. Emergency Disclosure Of Electronic Communications To Protect Life And Limb.

§214. Pen Register And Trap And Trace Authority Under FISA.

§215. Access To Records And Other Items Under FISA.

§217. Interception Of Computer Trespasser Communications.

§218. Foreign Intelligence Information. (Lowers standard of evidence for FISA warrants.)

§220. Nationwide Service Of Search Warrants For Electronic Evidence.

§223. Civil Liability For Certain Unauthorized Disclosures.

§224. Sunset. (self-cancelling)

§225. Immunity For Compliance With Fisa Wiretap.

Fact Check of Conyersblog Trolls:

Pitts only brought up ONE subject that has anything to do with the Patriot ACT---and that is the Library problem...

When he was asked by one of the Reps if he could even name ONE person that had been unfairly treated by the FBI because of their library habits, he couldn't---

That is incorrect, Mr Pitts (Amnesty International) did indeed provide a specific name during the hearing, and he had more names, which Chairman Sensenbrener required him to provide within the next week.

There was also considerable discussion by Mr. Zogby and Ms. Tapia-Ruano (American Immigration Lawyers Assoc) on Section 204, which involves the detention of foreign nations on immigration issues when they been labeled as "terrorist" - and the lack of any methodology for them to protest that label.

He had every right to end this meeting abruptly since it was the 11th one since April.

But it was the first and only hearing that included more than one witness called by the minority - all the others it would appear are simply show hearings, telling the majority what it wants to hear.

Everyone had an opportunity to question the panel. Maxine Waters, the last questioner, spent four minutes and 45 seconds of her alloted five minutes in a diatribe against Bush. Conyers, the ranking member, then asked for four additional minutes so the panel members could respond to Waters' comments. Rightfully, Sensenbrenner refused and after some closing remarks adjourned the meeting.

Another fact: Maxine Waters (D-California) was not at the hearing, the last questioner was Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas). I know black female Congresspeople look alike to some, but that doesn't make them literally alike. There are actually several black women who are current members of Congress.

As I said before (on a Conyersblog post), it seems quite curious that based on a Democratic Letter - Chairman Sensenbrener would try to restrict the meeting merely to the 16 Sunseting Provisions, despite clear objections by the Democrats who wrote the letter. That restriction was Sensenbreners own construction, not the intent of the Democrats.

To be fair, Sensenbrener not only cut off Democrats and the witnesses when the time expired - he also cut off Republicans such as Dan Lungren. He was technically correct that abuses at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are not part of the Patriot Act, but they also are not "random occurances" - they were clearly given the green light by the Bybee Memos from the Department of Justice (Which is indeed under the jurisdiction of the Judicial Committee), and the Haynes Memo from the Department of Defense.

Even a cursory viewing of hearings on C-Span would show that it's quite normal to allow people to finish their answers to a question, even though their time has expired -- or allow them, with Unanimous Consent -- to have a few additional minutes for one more question or answer. That's normal, what is not normal is to be as rude as Sensenbrener was in interrupting people in mid-statement and then abruptly adjourning the meeting because he didn't like the answers the witnesses were giving.

The rules of the house do not allow for a Chairmen to abruptly end a hearing without first asking for "Unanimous Consent".

Clause 1(a)(1)(b) of Rule XI of the House Rules states: "It is not within the power of the Chair to unilaterally recess or adjourn a committee hearing or meeting. If an objection is heard, a non-debatable motion to adjourn must be entertained and passed in order to do so."

The bottom-line point was made by Rep Jerrold Nadler was key - "Just what are the Republicans afraid of?"

The answer to that question just might be the additional witnesses, including several Muslim women who had tails of abuse and several Librarians who had been the subject of FISA warrants, who attended the hearing but due to Sensenbrener's actions, were not allowed to testify and be heard by the American public.

Listen to additional audio on this subject from:
Randi Rhodes
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz
Rep. Jerrold Nadler


Thursday, June 9 joins Conyers for 500,000 Signatures

Over the last week, Rep John Conyers has been asking for internet signatures on his second letter to President Bush on the Downing Street Minutes. His initial goal was 100,000 signatures, however the overwhelming response he received quickly made that goal a reality within a few days, at which point Randi Rhodes of Air America Radio joined in and Conyers changed his goal to 250,000. Three days later and he has 145,000 signatures. Now he's turned to Conyers wrote today on his blog:
New Goal on DSM: Half a Million Signatures Joins the Fray

Today, I am pleased to announce that, one of the pioneers in internet activism has joined our drive to demonstrate that the stonewalling of the White House on the Downing Street Minutes will not stand. We deserve answers and we deserve them now.

Given Moveon's involvement, I think we can go for half a million signatures, don't you?

The blog itself has become the frontline for the political battle on this subject. Republican friendly trolls and freepers (Free, regularly show up and attempt to disrupt the flow of conversation and make claims such that the minutes are merely the impression of someones impression of someone's elses hearsay comments in Washington (which is true) - to claiming that no one in England has substatiated the contents of the minutes (which is not).

The issue is still far removed from the day-to-day consciousness of the average American, whle the revelation that President Bush may have manipulated the intelligence facts to make War with Iraq inevitable - is hardly suprising to most. At this point in time, a lot of them simply don't care -and don't see how closed door discussions between high-level U.S. and British officials have any impact on their daily lives. Yes, we have over a 150,000 troops in Iraq and yes we've suffered tens of thousands of wounded as well as 1,600 American casualties. In a country of 250 Million, most people still don't even know anyone whose been to Iraq, let alone been wounded or killed. It's all far below the radar screen.

But not for everyone. Like the die-hard freepers who troll through conyersblog, there are an equally obsessed group of democrats and disaffected republicans who are growing increasingly angered and disgusted by the curruption and disception of this Administration. I have little doubt that, with the continued aid of the new democratic infrustructor of progressive radio such as Air America and grassroots internet campaign sites such as, Rep Conyers will indeed find his 500,000 signatures and possibly a bit more within two weeks or less.

But will that be enough to make the average American finally look up from the pile of bills on his brand new (Non GM) SUV, Mortgage, Cable and multiple Cell phones? And more importantly, will it finally cause President Bush to stop ducking the question?

We'll just have to wait and see.

Click here to submit your signature.


Wednesday, June 8

DSM : Extensive Report on CNN

CNN's Aaron Brown
Tonight on "Newsnight With Aaron Brown" the second report aired was an extensive piece on the Downing Street Minutes (still referred to as a "Memo" by the report), emphasing primarily the lack of response stateside compared to the uproar abroad, as well as the potential explosiveness of it's contents.

Both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair's recent denial ("Somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth,") of the key elements of the minutes were repeated during the report, but these were taken with more a pinch of salt by correspondents as the fact that previous allegations by both former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and former Counter-Terrorism Chief Richard Clarke were re-iterated without spin.

CNN Stated: British officials have not disputed the authenticity of the document, first published last month by the Times of London.

Ironically, the lead report of the evening was one concerning the "fixing of the facts" by senior White House aids on Global Warming, which has lead to the resignation of senior members of the White House's Council on Environmental Policy.

Could this "fact fixing" be the indication of a pattern?

And could this set of hard-hitting reports be an example of the "Brand New CNN with more facts and less opinion"?

Only time will tell, but I for one certainly hope so.


Tuesday, June 7

RNC Chair Mehlman on Meet the Press

Media Matters response to Ken Mehlman's appearance this weekend on Meet the Press, points out the latest strategy of obfuscation by the Right-wing on the Downing Street Minutes.

On the June 5 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, moderator Tim Russert questioned but failed to correct Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman's claim that the "findings" of the Downing Street Memo, a secret British intelligence memo suggesting that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to support its case for war in Iraq, "have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it," including the 9-11 Commission and the Senate.

In fact, neither the 9-11 Commission nor the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence addressed the Bush administration's use of pre-war intelligence.


When Russert raised the issue of the Downing Street Memo's contention that, in the Bush administration's push for war in Iraq, "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," Mehlman replied: "Tim, that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it since then. Whether it's the 9-11 Commission, whether it's the Senate, whoever's looked at this has said there was no effort to change the intelligence at all." When Russert noted "I don't believe that the authenticity of this report has been discredited," Mehlman reiterated: "I believe that the findings of the report, the fact that the intelligence was somehow fixed, have been totally discredited by everyone who's looked at it."

The Senate Intelligence committee's report examined the creation of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which was the intelligence community's most comprehensive and authoritative statement about Iraq. But the committee decided at the outset not to investigate the Bush administration's use of intelligence, including public statements by administration officials, in the first phase of its investigation.

Though the committee initially planned to conduct the second phase of its investigation following the 2004 election, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) indicated in March that the committee's investigation into whether the administration misrepresented intelligence judgments in its public statements would be indefinitely postponed, because of administration officials' insistence that "they believed the intelligence, and the intelligence was wrong." "e sort of came to a crossroads, and that is basically on the back burner," Roberts said.


The 9-11 Commission report said even less about the Bush administration's use of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. The 567-page report focuses entirely on issues surrounding the September 11 terrorist attacks, addresses Iraq only in the context of Al Qaeda and September 11, and does not assess the accuracy or honesty of the Bush's public statements about the Iraqi threat.

Other official reports have similarly avoided the question of whether the Bush administration politicized intelligence. The Robb-Silberman commission's report on intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction noted: "(W)e were not authorized to investigate how policymakers used the intelligence assessments they received from the Intelligence Community." The Duelfer report presented the results of the Iraq Survey Group's hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq following the invasion but did not compare these findings either with Bush's prewar statements to the public or with the prewar assessments of the intelligence community.


Monday, June 6

Karen Kwaitkowski Interview