Saturday, December 17

Bush: It depends on what the meaning of "link" is...

As diaried by George10 on Dailykos: In yet another stunning move - the President recently claimed that he never said that Saddam and 9/11 were "Linked".

Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, had also warned before the war of possible links between Hussein's government and the planners of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Bush acknowledged on Friday there was no evidence of such a link.

"There was no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with the attack of 9/11," Bush said. "I've never said that and never made that case prior to going into Iraq."

But he added that he believed the two issues were related even in the absence of direct ties.

"I think they are related in the war on terror because he (Saddam) had terrorist connections. Again, he was a sworn enemy and he'd had weapons of mass destruction, had used them," Bush said.

But it seems if you even do a cursory examination of President Bush's various statements regarding Saddam Hussein and 9/11 a rather different picture emerges.

Bush Discussing Terrorism with Columbian President - 9-25-2002

Q: Mr. President, do you believe that Saddam Hussein is a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda?

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's a -- that is an interesting question. I'm trying to think of something humorous to say. (Laughter.) But I can't when I think about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. They're both risks, they're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world.

Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. And so it's a comparison that is -- I can't make because I can't distinguish between the two, because they're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive.

Bush Discussing Iraq with Congress 9-26-2002

The [Saddam Hussein] regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. And there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq.

Bush on Iraq, WMD and al Qaeda - 2-06-03

The Iraqi regime has actively and secretly attempted to obtain equipment needed to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Firsthand witnesses have informed us that Iraq has at least seven mobile factories for the production of biological agents, equipment mounted on trucks and rails to evade discovery. Using these factories, Iraq could produce within just months hundreds of pounds of biological poisons.

The Iraqi regime has acquired and tested the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction. All the world has now seen the footage of an Iraqi Mirage aircraft with a fuel tank modified to spray biological agents over wide areas. Iraq has developed spray devices that could be used on unmanned aerial vehicles with ranges far beyond what is permitted by the Security Council. A UAV launched from a vessel off the American coast could reach hundreds of miles inland."

"One of the greatest dangers we face is that weapons of mass destruction might be passed to terrorists, who would not hesitate to use those weapons. Saddam Hussein has longstanding, direct and continuing ties to terrorist networks. Senior members of Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda have met at least eight times since the early 1990s. Iraq has sent bomb-making and document forgery experts to work with al Qaeda. Iraq has also provided al Qaeda with chemical and biological weapons training.

We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network, headed by a senior al Qaeda terrorist planner. The network runs a poison and explosive training center in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad. The head of this network traveled to Baghdad for medical treatment and stayed for months. Nearly two dozen associates joined him there and have been operating in Baghdad for more than eight months.

Bush Cabinet Meetings - 06-09-03

Q: Sir, is U.S. credibility on the line over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not exactly sure what that means. I mean, Iraq had a weapons program. Intelligence throughout the decade showed they had a weapons program. I am absolutely convinced with time we'll find out that they did have a weapons program. The credibility of this country is based upon our strong desire to make the world more peaceful and the world is now more peaceful after our decision; the strong desire to make sure free nations are more secure -- our free nations are now more secure; and the strong desire to spread freedom. And the Iraqi people are now free and are learning the habits of freedom and the responsibilities that come with freedom.

I read a report that somehow, you know, that there is no al Qaeda presence in Baghdad. I guess the people who wrote that article forgot about Al Zarqawi's network inside of Baghdad that ordered the killing of a U.S. citizen named Foley. And history will show, history -- time will prove that the United States made the absolute right decision in freeing the people of Iraq from the clutches of Saddam Hussein.

Note: Bush found Zarqawi so dangerous, he refused to attack him - when he had the chance in June 2002.

President Bush Addressing the Nation - 09-07-2003

Nearly two years ago, following deadly attacks on our country, we began a systematic campaign against terrorism. These months have been a time of new responsibilities, and sacrifice, and national resolve and great progress. ...

Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front.

Bush to UN General Assembly - 9-23-2003

The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction. It used those weapons in acts of mass murder, and refused to account for them when confronted by the world.

Bush during the Presidential Debates with John Kerry

LEHRER: Mr. President, new question. Two minutes. Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?

BUSH: I would hope I never have to. I understand how hard it is to commit troops. Never wanted to commit troops. When I was running -- when we had the debate in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that.

But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us.

I think that by speaking clearly and doing what we say and not sending mixed messages, it is less likely we'll ever have to use troops.

But a president must always be willing to use troops. It must -- as a last resort.

I was hopeful diplomacy would work in Iraq. It was falling apart. There was no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was hoping that the world would turn a blind eye.

And if he had been in power, in other words, if we would have said, "Let the inspectors work, or let's, you know, hope to talk him out. Maybe an 18th resolution would work," he would have been stronger and tougher, and the world would have been a lot worse off. There's just no doubt in my mind we would rue the day, had Saddam Hussein been in power.

So we use diplomacy every chance we get, believe me. And I would hope to never have to use force.

But by speaking clearly and sending messages that we mean what we say, we've affected the world in a positive way. [...]

LEHRER: Senator Kerry, 90 seconds.

KERRY: Jim, the president just said something extraordinarily revealing and frankly very important in this debate. In answer to your question about Iraq and sending people into Iraq, he just said, "The enemy attacked us."

Saddam Hussein didn't attack us. Osama bin Laden attacked us. Al Qaida attacked us. And when we had Osama bin Laden cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, 1,000 of his cohorts with him in those mountains. With the American military forces nearby and in the field, we didn't use the best trained troops in the world to go kill the world's number one criminal and terrorist.

Throughout these many quotes, Bush is clearly creating a link between Saddam/Iraq and terrorism - including al-Qaeda, but is now straddling the claim that this does not involve 9/11 -- except of course during the debates when he himself slipped-up and starting saying "the enemy attacked us".

Well, which "Enemy" is that Mr. President? When you state that "you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror" - then exactly how are you supposed to distinction between 9/11 (which was commited by al-Qaeda) and the invasion of Kuwait (which was commited by Iraq and Saddam)? All those "Terrorists" are the enemy then, Saddam, the Sunni Insurgents, Zarqawi and bin Laden.. and they are all "Linked".

But then I guess it all depends on what the meaning of "Link" is - now doesn't it?


Thursday, December 15

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

In addition to the Pentagon Spying Story, we also have this story from the NY Times:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 ­- Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches." Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said.

The Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to this country, the officials said. Defenders of the program say it has been a critical tool in helping disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States.

Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say. In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States. The officials said the administration had briefed Congressional leaders about the program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that deals with national security issues.

The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.

While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it said the N.S.A. eavesdropped without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands over the past three years, several officials said. Overseas, about 5,000 to 7,000 people
suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time, according to those

I personally fail to see how the President has any personal authority to overide and disregard the 4th Amendment, unless we are to assume that he has essentially declared a Stealth form of Martial Law for the entire country. If that is the case, we haven't been a true democracy for quite some time now.

I find this completely shocking, but also not completely unexpected. I've recently become a fan of the Showtime Drama "Sleeper Cell". In the very first episode of that show, one member of an American-based terrorist cell made a phone call to his cousin in Egypt to brag about what he was doing -- and his boast was discovered by the head of the cell to promptly proceeding in having him executed just because "The NSA might have been listening...". So if even the screenwriters of shows such as this already expect that the NSA is doing domestic monitoring, why shouldn't the actual terrorist expect the same and adjust their communications to secure email, secure websites and coded voice messages accordingly?

Update from SusanG on Dailykos:

In his radio address this morning, Bush acknowledged authorizing warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens more than a dozen times - and he vowed to continue to do so.

WASHINGTON Dec 17, 2005 -- President Bush said Saturday he personally has authorized a secret eavesdropping program in the U.S. more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks and he lashed out at those involved in publicly revealing the program.
"This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the United States," Bush said.
Appearing angry at times during his eight-minute address, Bush left no doubt that he will continue authorizing the program.

"I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al-Qaida and related groups," he said.

This appears to me to be a true "line in the sand" moment for America, with a president openly and defiantly declaring himself ready to continue a program that legal scholars, members of Congress and - according to the Friday New York Times article that started this all - several NSA analysts themselves believe to be unconstitutional.

There appears to be no acknowledgement whatsoever of concerns voiced by critics of the program. There is the feeling in the air about all this - and perhaps it's just me - that we are being forced to a constitutional crisis by a president who no longer believes he needs to wear a mask to court public opinion. This reeks of raw will and power.

Lest we forget:

George Bush: "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier - just so long I'm the dictator." December 18, 2000

I sincerely hope America is up to the challenges I sense ahead. Or let's hope I'm reading this wrong.


I really don't think you are, Susan - not even a little.


Who had the Intelligence?

From SusanG on Dailykos:

Seems like it was just yesterday, Bush was saying:

Some of the most irresponsible comments - about manipulating intelligence - have come from politicians who saw the same intelligence I
saw and then voted to authorize the use of force against Saddam Hussein, These charges are pure politics."

Whoops! It was yesterday! Ha ha ha ha ha! What a difference a day makes, eh? Because today from Knight Ridder, we have:

WASHINGTON - President Bush and top administration officials have access to a much broader range of intelligence reports than members of Congress do, a nonpartisan congressional research agency said in a report Thursday, raising questions about recent assertions by the president. ...The Congressional Research Service, by contrast, said: "The president, and a small number of presidentially designated Cabinet-level officials, including the vice president ... have access to a far greater overall volume of intelligence and to more sensitive intelligence information, including information regarding intelligence sources and methods." ...The CRS report identified nine key U.S. intelligence "products" that aren't generally shared with Congress. These include the President's Daily Brief, a compilation of analyses that's given only to the president and a handful of top aides, and a daily digest on terrorism-related matters.

Surprisingly, the White House refused to comment on the issue.
We can only hope some fightin' Dems come out tomorrow with plenty to say.

I'm pretty sure they will.

Here are more details directly from the Congressional Research Service Report requested by Sen. Feinstein (D-CA). The report found that:

The executive branch generally does not routinely share with Congress four general types of intelligence information:

  • the identities of intelligence sources;
  • the "methods" employed by the Intelligence Community in collecting and analyzing intelligence;
  • "raw" intelligence, which can be unevaluated or "lightly" evaluated intelligence, (18) which in the case of human intelligence (19) sometimes is provided by a single source, but which also could consist of intelligence derived from multiple sources when signals (20) and imagery (21) collection methods are employed; and,
  • certain written intelligence products tailored to the specific needs of the President and other high-level executive branch policymakers. Included in the last category is the President's Daily Brief (PDB), a written intelligence product which is briefed daily to the President, and which consists of six to eight relatively short articles or briefs covering a broad array of topics. (22) The PDB emphasizes current intelligence (23) and is viewed as highly sensitive, in part, because it can contain intelligence source and operational information. Its dissemination is thus limited to the President and a small number of presidentially-designated senior administration policymakers. (24)

The report further broke down the intelligence information excluded from Congress into Nine Areas:

  • The President's Daily Brief (PDB) is a written intelligence product which is briefed daily to the President orally by a small cadre of senior Intelligence Community analysts. As previously mentioned, it consists of six to eight relatively short articles or briefs covering a broad array of topics (48) and is viewed as a current intelligence product, in that it focuses on the events of the past day or two, or on issues expected to arise over the next few days. (49) The PDB is viewed as highly sensitive, in part, because it can contain sensitive intelligence source and operational information. Thus its dissemination is limited to the President and a small number of presidentially-designated senior administration policymakers.
  • Presidential Daily Brief Memoranda are products containing responses to questions posed by the President and any of the small number of designated senior policymakers who receive the PDB. After briefing the handful of designated policymakers, members of the analytic briefing team return to CIA each morning, and task Intelligence Community personnel to provide answers to the various inquiries posed during the each briefing session.
  • Senior Executive Memoranda are tailored analytic products that also can be produced in response to policymaker questions arising from PDB briefings. (50)
  • National Terrorism Brief (NTB) is prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center, is appended to the daily PDB, and is briefed to the President by the DNI.
  • The Director's Daily Report is prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and is used by the FBI Director to verbally brief the President. (51)
  • Red Cell analyses are products that are speculative in nature and sometimes take a position at odds with the conventional wisdom. (52)
  • Raw intelligence is unevaluated intelligence.
  • TDs (Telephonic Disseminations) are raw intelligence reports disseminated by the CIA's Directorate of Operations. TDs are slightly finished intelligence, in that they contain some commentary as to the credibility of the source providing the intelligence.
  • Chief of Station (COS) Reports are reports prepared by the CIA's chief representative in a particular country and contain the COS's views of the current situation. The COS can share his reports with the resident ambassador for comment, but is under no obligation to incorporate any comments by the ambassador into his final report.


Pentagon Spying on Peaceful Americans

As reported by NBC, it just might be that the "Un-American Activies" witch-hunts of the 50's have begun again.
Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?
Secret database obtained by NBC News tracks ‘suspicious’ domestic groups

Lisa Myers
Senior investigative correspondent

WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project. ...

“This is incredible,” adds group member Rich Hersh. “It's an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We're not doing anything illegal.”

The Defense Department document is the first inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence collection inside this country since 9/11, which now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups.

“I think Americans should be concerned that the military, in fact, has reached too far,” says NBC News military analyst Bill Arkin.

The Department of Defense declined repeated requests by NBC News for an interview. A spokesman said that all domestic intelligence information is “properly collected” and involves “protection of Defense Department installations, interests and personnel.” The military has always had a legitimate “force protection” mission inside the U.S. to protect its personnel and facilities from potential violence. But the Pentagon now collects domestic intelligence that goes beyond legitimate concerns about terrorism or protecting U.S. military installations, say critics.

Department of Defense database listing domestic ‘threats’: (pdf)

And it's not like this hasn't happened before...
The military’s penchant for collecting domestic intelligence is disturbing — but familiar — to Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer.

“Some people never learn,” he says. During the Vietnam War, Pyle blew the whistle on the Defense Department for monitoring and infiltrating anti-war and civil rights protests when he published an article in the Washington Monthly in January 1970.

The public was outraged and a lengthy congressional investigation followed that revealed that the military had conducted investigations on at least 100,000 American citizens. Pyle got more than 100 military agents to testify that they had been ordered to spy on U.S. citizens — many of them anti-war protestors and civil rights advocates. In the wake of the investigations, Pyle helped Congress write a law placing new limits on military spying inside the U.S.

But Pyle, now a professor at Mt. Holyoke College in Massachusetts, says some of the information in the database suggests the military may be dangerously close to repeating its past mistakes.

“The documents tell me that military intelligence is back conducting investigations and maintaining records on civilian political activity. The military made promises that it would not do this again,” he says.

Certainly the military has a right to protect itself from genuinely credible threats against the security of it installations in the U.S. We should expect no less diligence, but as with many cases - the actual practice may diverge significantly from the theory. We need to protect our soldiers both abroad and at home, but we also need to respect the rights of our citizens to peacefully speak out and make their own cases either for or against the war if that is what they wish to do. Persons without a criminal record, a history of violence or collections to violent anti-US Government organizations should not be spied on.


Bush 2.0 Released - but will it sell?

This weeks marks the Official roll-out of Bush 2.0 - the kinder, gentler more truthy version.

After years of only making prepared statements to hand-picked and heavily screened audiences - Bush actually answered open questions from an audience in his latest speech before the Woodrow Wilson Center.

When asked why he and his administration continues to link Iraq and al-Qaeda he actually answered the question!

"September 11 changed my look on foreign policy..."

Wben asked how many Iraqis have died in the war he said "about 30,000".

In addition to this President Bush gave an exclusive and extensive interview to Brian Williams of MSNBC -- instead of Hannity at Faux News -- including answering tough questions about Katrina, The Economy, his isolation in "the Bubble", Iraq, and Torture and most importantly did it all with a smile instead of the being the scowling chimp that we've all grown to know and loath.

Just who is this guy and what has he done with the Real George W. Bush?

Crossposed on Dailykos.

Bush Talking to Williams about being in a "Bubble".

Williams: Now, how do you wake up on a Monday morning? I brought some visual aids. I have Newsweek and Time. Cover of Newsweek, look what they've done to you. "Bush's World: The isolated president, can he change?" And inside Time, it says "Bush's search for his new groove." Time magazine says you're out there talking to people. Newsweek says you're in here not talking to people. So what is truth, Mr. President?

President Bush: Well, I'm talking to you. You're a person.

Williams: This says you're in a bubble. You have a very small circle of advisors now. Is that true? Do you feel in a bubble?

President Bush: No, I don't feel in a bubble. I mean, you feel in a bubble in the sense that I can't go walking out the front gate and, you know, go shopping, like I'd love to do for my wife. Although I may, I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to buy her. Look, I feel like I'm getting really good advice from very capable people and that people from all walks of life have informed me and informed those who advise me. And I feel very comfortable that I'm very aware of what's going on.

On Katrina.

Williams: Were you watching the coverage? Were you seeing the same pictures that Americans were seeing?

President Bush: I was. I was. I was disturbed by the fact that there's, I guess my reaction was, "Where's the communications?" I mean, we had news people able to really be the fact witness on the ground when, in fact, it should have been government officials at all levels gathering the information, sending it back to headquarters so there could be an appropriate response. [V. Yeah, you mean government officials like Marty Bahamonde?] I was amazed that our communication system was basically down to a certain extent. And the reason why it's troubling not only for the people on the ground affected by the storm, but imagine an attack or a pandemic of avian flu. And those are the lessons that we need to learn from Katrina and better prepare this nation.


President Bush: Somebody I heard -- you know, a couple of people said -- you know, said, "Bush didn't respond because of race, because he's a racist." That is absolutely wrong. And I reject that. Frankly, that's the kind of thing that -- you can call me anything you want -- but do not call me a racist. [Why not, if the shoe fits bub?] Secondly, this storm hit all up and down. It hit New Orleans. It hit down in Mississippi too. And people should not forget the damage done in Mississippi. [V. Of course not, but you didn't have people trapped and starving in the Missippi Superdome, while FEMA turned away the Red Cross did you?]


Williams: Do you see the blame as being shared? Governor, Mayor, that kind of thing?

President Bush: I hope we're beyond that. As I said, I'll take the blame for the federal response. And I genuinely mean that. But think it's very important for people to not focus on politics, but focus on how we work together to achieve what we all want, which is a Louisiana that's vibrant and a New Orleans that's a shining light down there and a Gulf Coast of Mississippi that's been rebuilt and is vibrant and thriving.

On Torture

Williams: Can you meet John McCain at his definition?

President Bush: Yes, I'm confident we can. On the other hand, we want to make sure that we're in a position to be able to interrogate without torture. These are people that still want to hurt us, Brian. And the American people expect us to do that which we can do within international law and our own declaration of supporting the premises of international law is what I really meant to say -- to protect us. I mean, if they know something, we need to know it. And we think we can find it without torturing people.

[V. Sure you can, as long as you define "torture" only as causing pain that is equivelent to organ failure and death - you can still put people in stress positions and water-board them all day...]

Even though his answers are still the bullcrap we've grown to expect, this newfound candor of his shows that this is clearly this new version of Bush, one that betrays a desperate attempt to end the President's sliding poll numbers. His three speeches on Iraq, which began with a vicious attack on Democrats for "Rewriting History", have gradually been adjusted - and his poll numbers have begun to rebound.

The Latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll has the President at 39% Approval, 55% Disapproval. That's up from his low-point of 36% Approval/ 53% Disapproval from a Newsweek Poll on Nov. 11th, but considerably down from 42 and 43% ratings that the AP and Gallop Polls (Respectively) gave him on December 5th. He's doing better than he was, but the trend is still going through fits and coughs as it inches it way upward from the Post-Katrina/Fitzmas basement.

It just might be that the latest news on the Plamegate story where Viveca Novak of Time Magazine has apparently blown Karl Roves recollection alibi apart, has caused old Turd-blossom to be completely benched. It's possible that he's not running the show anymore, not arranging for the President to have a fake Q&A with the Troops. And the President, finally unleashed, is practically giddy about it.

It also might be, that they've changed his meds.

Just a few weaks ago there were reports that the President was "cracking up" on the eve of Fitzmas, that he was yelling at aids and losing his temper. During the interview with Williams, besides being completely at ease, he appeared rather glassy-eyed to myself and others who watched the interview with me.

"The way he clips and re-adjusts his phrasing -- seems like he's on some type of anti-depressent or mood adjusting medications" they claimed.

That's just great - now we've got President Prozac to deal with.

At any rate, the question remains as to whether this New and improved Bush is here to stay or whether he's just a temporary phenomenon - and with the Iraqi Elections taking place today, just how far Bush 2.0 will be able to pull the Republican Congress fat out of the fire prior to the mid-term elections in 06?


Tuesday, December 13

Arnold is a Cold-Blooded Killer

Stanley "Tookie" Williams is now dead. Executed at 12:35 this morning, but the question of whether he was wrongly executed remains.

"Arnie is a cold-blooded killer" stated Barbara Becnel at San Quentin Prison less than an hour after Williams was pronounced dead. Becnel is the journalist whose relationship with Wiliams led to his "Redemption", his renouncement of the Crips gang and who also co-authored several books with Williams intended to help young kids avoid gangs. And it now appears that Ms. Becnel had good reason to make that statment.

Since 1973 there have been over 160 people who had been placed on death row who have been found completely innocent due to DNA evidence. The problem is that DNA isn't always available. It's quite likely that there are many more cases where the accused is in fact, an innocent man - yet they remain in jail and like the case with David Garza, they have been executed although they were innocent.

In Williams case there was no DNA, but there was an affidavid of a witness who indicated that the LA Sherriff's Dept suborned perjury and coached a witness to testify about a false escape plot by Williams from an inmate named Ogelsby.
During my incarceration with Mr. Ogelsby, I personally observed a series of events wherin Los Angeles Sherriff's department personel delivered to Mr. Ogelsby copies of documents relating to various criminal cases including Police reports relating to the prosecution of Mr. Williams, which I personally read.

In my conversations with Mr. Ogelsby he told me that he intended to use information in the reports for the purpose of testifying against Mr. Williams and others, claiming he would to this in order to gain a reduction or eliminate charges pending against him.

I specifically recall him telling me "he was gonna put that nigger away", and "that shotgun crip is gonna do the time" reffering to Williams.

On numerous occasions, I observed Mr. Ogelsby with handwritten "kites" [secret notes between inmates] that he claimed came from Mr. Williams, that he had failed to deliver and instead was using as a model to duplicate Mr. Williams handwriting. He told me he was doing this to create incriminating documents that would appear to be written by Mr. Williams.

During this time in which I was incarcerated in the Los Angeles County Jail, it was common practice in my observation for inmates to testify against other inmates in order to obtain a benefit in their own case, and I was personally aware of Los Angeles Sherriff's personnel who would provide information to these inmates so that they could help frame defendants for crimes.

Copies of this affidavit from Gordon Bradbury Von Ellerman - which is dated December 10th, 2005 and names four other possible corraberating witnesses - was delivered in a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger as well as the Supreme Court and consequently ignored.

Information similar to this was used to overturn the conviction of former Black Panther "Geronimo" Pratt. In his case the judge threw his case out after more than 27 years when it was discovered the the primary witness against him had been a Sherriff's Department informant.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Everett Dickey, a conservative Republican, ruled that Pratt's 1972 conviction on murder and kidnapping charges should be overturned because of misconduct by the Los Angeles district attorney's office, which concealed from the defense and the jury that the key witness against Pratt was a paid police informant.

This is not something that should be taken lightly. Acoording to the analysis done by the Innocence Project of first 70 DNA exonerations they have secured so far, false testinmony has been a factor in 17 of those cases, Prosecutorial Misconduct 34 times and Police Misconduct 38 times.

If indeed the Sherriff's department coached and recruited Ogelsby to perjure himself and create false evidence - exactly how can we be certain of the testimony of any of the other witnesses, all of whom were criminals and/or gang-members, let alone any other physical evidence such as the "one lone shotgun shell" that was provided by police after the Vermont Ave Murders?

Williams may indeed have been guilty, most likely IMO of the 7-11 shooting, but without a thorough investigation of the claims of witnesses such as Von Ellerman, and an examination of the tactics used by the Sherriff's Dept in 1979 - tactics which have led to the release of other convicted felons such as such as Pratt even after 27 years of incarceration - how can we ever be sure?


Monday, December 12

Judgement Day for Stanley "Tookie" Williams

  Today is Judgement Day for Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the founder of the deadly L.A. Crips gang and death-row inmate whose case has become an international cause celebre.

I first became aware of Williams and his case through the FX biopic "Redemption" starring Jamie Foxx, even though ironically I had been living and working in the middle of his story for the past year and half in South Central L.A. The mom-n-pop Silkscreen company I've been doing graphics for has two locations, one is across the street from the Park that Williams along with Raymond Washington originally gathered and formed the Crips. Our other location is almost directly across the street from the motel where Prosecutors claim Williams shot three people to death.

Because of this proximity to key locations in the case, I was even included and interviewed in a peice on Williams by the Sacramento Bee:

Convicted and sent to San Quentin's death row in 1981, Williams remained a menace until he found transformation during six years of isolation.

Coming out of solitary confinement in 1994, he wrote nine books telling kids of the evils of gang life. They earned him a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2001 by a member of the Swiss Parliament. He's been nominated every year since, by an assortment of anti-death penalty advocates.

Along with the books, Williams also has participated by phone in anti-violence mentoring programs. He has helped broker gang truces in Los Angeles and Newark, N.J., and received a "Presidential Call to Service Award" from President Bush this year to commemorate his 4,000-plus hours of community service. Williams also has written an autobiography and was the subject of a TV movie in which he was played by Academy Award-winner Jamie Foxx.

"He's had an impact on thousands of teachers, parents and youth," Fleming said. "These are kids who don't have an opportunity, and he's telling them they have to fight through it. That is exactly the message that has to be sent. Clemency says we agree with that message. Killing him says we don't."

But police and prosecutors say any discussion about Williams must begin and end with the events of Feb. 28 and March 11, 1979.

On the first date, Williams shot and killed store clerk Albert Lewis Owens, 26, during the robbery of a 7-Eleven in Pico Rivera.

Less than two weeks later, he murdered Tsai-Shai Yang, 63, her husband, Yen-I Yang, 76, and their daughter, Yee-Chen Lin, 43, in a robbery of their motel in South Los Angeles.

"He killed four people - that's the bottom line," said Wes McBride, a retired Los Angeles sheriff's sergeant who is now the president of the California Gang Investigators Association. "You can't write a couple of books and think that forgives you for being a murderer."

Williams, who claims he is innocent of the four killings, also has refused to "debrief" in prison, or tell authorities what he knows about gang activity inside the institutions or anything he might have been involved with on the outside, said San Quentin spokesman Vernell Crittendon.

"He said, 'A man doesn't rat, and I'm not going to rat,' " Crittendon said. "I asked him point-blank, and that's what he said back to me."

Still, about 1,000 people showed up outside the main gate at San Quentin on Saturday to hear about a dozen speakers, including rapper Snoop Dogg, express support for Williams.

Conversations with 11 residents of South Los Angeles last week turned up a fairly split view on Williams and his clemency petition. Everyone interviewed by The Bee knew of the Williams case, through recent news stories in the newspapers and on television, and of him personally, by reputation and street legend.

"Everybody's heard of Tookie, pretty much," said Dale Franklin, 36, an unemployed Los Angeles man who was interviewed at Jesse Owens Park in Southwest Los Angeles, where Williams and another young gang member named Raymond Washington - since murdered - founded the Crips in 1971.

Hundreds of localized "sets" copied the original gang founded by Washington and Williams, and scores more rival groups calling themselves the Bloods organized to fight them. Gunfire and violence and literally thousands of murders have since laid waste to many neighborhoods in South Los Angeles.

Jimmy "Jam" Ewing, who owns a T-shirt shop across Vermont Avenue from the motel where Williams killed the owners, said the gang wars "destroyed our neighborhood" and "took all the fun out of L.A." Ewing said economic and social conditions played a huge role in fanning the gang lifestyle in the city's African American community. But none of that should let Williams off the hook, Ewing said.

"If he did it, he's got to go," said Ewing, 55. "If that's the life they choose, they've got to pay the price. Hey, I'm O.G. (an original gangster) myself. But I never pulled the trigger. You can't pull the trigger and not pay the price."

Frank Vyan Walton, 42, who works in Ewing's T-shirt shop, disagreed with his boss on the subject of Williams' sentence.

"I'm anti-death penalty on principle," Walton said. "Specifically about Tookie ... for better or worse, for the wrong things he's done and the right, all the little gang bangers around here look up to him."

To eloborate - I feel the way may of "Tookie's" support do on this issue, that although he may have done wrong in the past - it's clear that he's worked hard to correct that mistake and has made some headway. If anyone can truly discredit the rationale for the gang-lifestyle and help permenently stop the violence - "Tookie" can.

People like me, can't. I may have been born and raised in South Central, but I was never a "banger" - I was frankly far too much of a nerd and egg-head. All the kids called me "The Professor" when I was growing up, none of the rough-boys would have anything to do with me and I had nothing to do with them, the feeling was mutual. I didn't have their respect, but Tookie does.

More than 20 years after I originally moved out while working for a Defense Contractor, first to Gardena, then LA Habra, Tarzana, Glendale and eventually to Sacramento where I became a software consultant for various state agencies such as CalTrans and the Dept of Consumer Affairs -- I find myself back again, and not entirely voluantarily. Starting over from the beginning - and right in the middle of this "Tookie" situation.

Although I've always been anti-gang, I support Tookie cause for one primary reason - he's a greater asset to society alive, rather than dead.

Beyond the issue of whether Tookie has genuinely reformed, I'm anti-death penalty for many reasons. It doesn't serve the cause of justice, only retribution , it's irreversable, and our justice system is far too imperfect to avoid the wrongful execution of an innocent person.

Just last month it was revealed that a Texas teenager who had been executed almost a decade ago - was innocent of the crime he was convicted of.

After years of official reassurances that Texas' capital punishment system is, well, infallible (including more than one such condescending assurance from former Gov. George W. Bush), new evidence in an old death case suggests that the state has executed at least one innocent man.

An investigation by the Houston Chronicle suggests that Ruben Cantu, who was executed in 1993, may in fact have been innocent. Cantu, who at 17 was sentenced to die for a 1984 robbery and shooting murder in San Antonio, steadfastly maintained his innocence in the slaying of Pedro Gomez, but was convicted based on the testimony of an alleged accomplice, then 15-year-old David Garza, and on the eyewitness testimony of Juan Moreno, who was with Gomez the night he was killed and barely survived the shooting. Moreno now says he was pressured by police to identify Cantu as the shooter, and Garza says it was another local teen with him the night of the killing, not Cantu. According to the Houston daily, Garza pled guilty to robbery in exchange for the state dropping a murder charge, but says he never told police that Cantu was his accomplice. Amazingly, Garza was never compelled to testify at Cantu's trial. The daily also reports that a third witness, Eloy Gonzales, who, like Garza, never testified at Cantu's trial, says that he and his brothers were actually with Cantu in Waco on the day of the Gomez murder.

Over the past 30 years since the Death Penalty was re-instated, forensic and DNA evidence have shown via the Innocence Project that 164 People (so far) who had been sentenced to die were, like David Garza, innocent of the crime they were accused.

Those against Tookie argue that the evidence against him is "overwhelming". Well, I'm certain that was said about Garza and the other 164 innocent persons. (In many of these cases, there was prosecutorial misconduct and coerced witness statements which led to conviction) They argue that Williams has "failed to admit his crime and repent" - (which has fervently done for his involvement with the Crips) but why should he do that in the case of these murders if he didn't do the crime? Does our system of justice require that people LIE in order to stay alive?

In addition, just yesterday new evidence that Tookie's own conviction isn't as solid as many have claimed has appeared.

With the deadline fast approaching, Williams' supporters said Sunday that they had found new evidence that might help exonerate him, which they had passed on to Schwarzenegger. The evidence reportedly came from a former Los Angeles county jail inmate who says he can back up Williams' allegation that he was framed by police working with a jailhouse informant. The inmate reportedly said he saw officers deliver police reports about Williams' case to George Oglesby, an inmate who later testified against the gang leader. The informant said he didn't come forward until now because he didn't know until last week that Oglesby had testified in Williams' trial.

Still, innocence isn't the ultimate answer to the death penalty. Those who hold a principled position against state sponsored murder have to do so even if it looks like the perpetrator is guilty. Murder is a crime, whether it's is commited by an individual - or the state. "Innocence" can not be used as a rationalization or excuse, because that is exactly how some extreme anti-abortionists manage to navigate the waters of protecting unborn life by attacking and bombing medical clinics. It's a schizophrenic position, those who oppose capital punishment should avoid it.

Schwarzenegger is scheduled to release his decision on clemency today at 3pm. Some are afraid that a negative decision will ignite a firestorm of protest in LA -- and many doubt that a Republican Governor (which his polls in the toilet) would be likely to commit political suicide. No California Governor has granted clemency to a prisoner since Ronald Reagan in 1967. But you never know, some people I've met have claimed that Tookie and the Gubernator used to work-out together on Venice beach. Be that as it may, I have my doubts that Arnold will do the right thing - or that any King-styled riots will erupt.

We should all know the answers fairly soon. For all the reasons I've stated I'm hoping for clemency, but expecting the worst.