Saturday, March 18

NYT: Task Force Torture

New Expose from the New York Times. (I am quoting liberally as NYT articles do not remain easily accessible indefinately...)

As the Iraqi insurgency intensified in early 2004, an elite Special Operations forces unit converted one of Saddam Hussein's former military bases near Baghdad into a top-secret detention center. There, American soldiers made one of the former Iraqi government's torture chambers into their own interrogation cell. They named it the Black Room.

In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball. Their intention was to extract information to help hunt down Iraq's most-wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to Defense Department personnel who served with the unit or were briefed on its operations.


And as we can all tell, these tactics were extremely succesful since we've had Zarqawi in cus.... um, never mind.

The Black Room was part of a temporary detention site at Camp Nama, the secret headquarters of a shadowy military unit known as Task Force 6-26. Located at Baghdad International Airport, the camp was the first stop for many insurgents on their way to the Abu Ghraib prison a few miles away.

Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, "NO BLOOD, NO FOUL." The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. "The reality is, there were no rules there," another Pentagon official said.


No rules other than "No BLOOD, NO FOUL". What a crock of shit.

It adds to the picture of harsh interrogation practices at American military prisons in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as well as at secret Central Intelligence Agency detention centers around the world.

The new account reveals the extent to which the unit members mistreated prisoners months before and after the photographs of abuse from Abu Ghraib were made public in April 2004, and it helps belie the original Pentagon assertions that abuse was confined to a small number of rogue reservists at Abu Ghraib.

Yep, so much for the - it was only a few misfits on the nightshit playing frat-boy games argument.

For an elite unit with roughly 1,000 people at any given time, Task Force 6-26 seems to have had a large number of troops punished for detainee abuse. Since 2003, 34 task force members have been disciplined in some form for mistreating prisoners, and at least 11 members have been removed from the unit, according to new figures the Special Operations Command provided in response to questions from The New York Times. Five Army Rangers in the unit were convicted three months ago for kicking and punching three detainees in September 2005.
But of course, these were just isolated incidents. Riiight.

According the report many of these individual acts of abuse have been reveald by documents obtained by the ACLU and previously reported over the past 16 months, but in this NYT report - they finally connect the dots to a specific classified unit within the military that has been specifically using these tactics. But then there are reasons for that as well.

The veil of secrecy surrounding the highly classified unit has helped to shield its conduct from public scrutiny. The Pentagon will not disclose the unit's precise size, the names of its commanders, its operating bases or specific missions. Even the task force's name changes regularly to confuse adversaries, and the courts-martial and other disciplinary proceedings have not identified the soldiers in public announcements as task force members.

But you say, those dirty terrorist deserve it? Anything goes when it comes to preserving American lives? Really?

In January 2004, the task force captured the son of one of Mr. Hussein's bodyguards in Tikrit. The man told Army investigators that he was forced to strip and that he was punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited. Army investigators were forced to close their inquiry in June 2005 after they said task force members used battlefield pseudonyms that made it impossible to identify and locate the soldiers involved. The unit also asserted that 70 percent of its computer files had been lost.

This is a criminal conspiracy. What these soldiers have done clearly violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibitions against Maltreatment of Prisoners(Section 893, Article 94). Clearly some of them were caught, but the point here is that these events we not isolated, they were not random - they were part of an deliberate plot to obstruct the law. And there were many warnings.

Accusations of abuse by Task Force 6-26 came as no surprise to many other officials in Iraq. By early 2004, both the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. had expressed alarm about the military's harsh interrogation techniques.

The C.I.A.'s Baghdad station sent a cable to headquarters on Aug. 3, 2003, raising concern that Special Operations troops who served with agency officers had used techniques that had become too aggressive. Five days later, the C.I.A. issued a classified directive that prohibited its officers from participating in harsh interrogations. Separately, the C.I.A. barred its officers from working at Camp Nama but allowed them to keep providing target information and other intelligence to the task force.

The warnings still echoed nearly a year later. On June 25, 2004, nearly two months after the disclosure of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, an F.B.I. agent in Iraq sent an e-mail message to his superiors in Washington, warning that a detainee captured by Task Force 6-26 had suspicious burn marks on his body. The detainee said he had been tortured. A month earlier, another F.B.I. agent asked top bureau officials for guidance on how to deal with military interrogators across Iraq who used techniques like loud music and yelling that exceeded "the bounds of standard F.B.I. practice."

It does appear that eventually, reluctantly the Pentagon has taken action resulting in the prosecution of 34 former members of the unit -- but whether this action has ended the units practices or simply acted as cover to allow them to continue remains unclear.

Vyan

Warrantless Physical Searches

Keith Olbermann and Attorney John Turley on Countdown - courtesy of Crooks and Liars

It never stops with this administration. Turley is up in arms over this one, calling it horrific-saying it removes the 4th amendment from the Constitution. He also rips Congress for laying down like dogs and not even holding serious hearing on the NSA warrantless searches.

Turley: ...the fact that it was so quick as a suggestion shows the inclinations unfortunately of this administration-it treats the constitution like some legal technicality, and instead of the thing we're trying to fight to protect.

Video-WMP Video-QT

mcjoan has a transcript up...

Olbermann: (reading from a U.S. News & World Report press release) "Soon after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, lawyers in the White House and the Justice Department argued that the same legal authority that the same legal authority that allowed warrentless electronic surveillance inside the US, could also be used to justify physical searches of terror suspects homes & businesses without court approval. Doesn't that send chills down your spine?

Turley: Well it does. It's horrific, because what that would constitute is to effectively remove the 4th Amendment from the U.S. Constitution and the fact that it was so quick as a suggestion shows the inclinations, unfortunately, of this administration. It treats the Constitution as some legal technicality instead of the thing were trying to fight to protect. Notably, the U.S. News & World Report story says the FBI officals, or some of them apparently, objected... [W]e're seeing a lot of people in the administration with the courage to say "Hold it, this is not what we're supposed to be about. If we're fighting a war, it's a war of self definition and if we start to take whole amendments out of the Constitution in the name of the war on terror-we have to wonder what's left at the end, except victory."...read on


FROM ATRIOS:

Warrantless Physical Searches

According to Countdown, US News and World Report will tell us tomorrow that Bush administration lawyers (Torture Yoo and Abu Gonzales presumably) after 9/11 made the case that Bush had the power to engage in warrantless physical searches of terrorism suspects on domestic soil.

Cue wingers screeching Clinton/Aldrich Ames. I actually don't agree with what Clinton did with Aldrich Ames, but it nonetheless isn't the same thing as at the time the FISA law had no provision for dealing with physical searches. After the FISA law as amended the Clinton administration didn't argue they could violate the law.

http://atrios.blogspot.com/2006_03_12_atrios_archive.ht...

AND FROM DAILY KOS:

US News announces
Fri Mar 17, 2006 at 06:42:35 PM PDT

Just saw on Olberman that US News will publish a story that the Justice Department has authorized domestic search and seizure of homes and offices without warrant.

According to Keith, this is the same legal finding that they used for the NSA warrantless wiretaping.

Let's see how many Senators sigh up for Censure now. Maybe they will bypass censure and go right to impeachment.

I am sick to my stomach.

The U.S. News article will be published on their site tomorrow (Saturday) evening and will be the lead story in the magazine published Monday.


Update: chapel hill guy pulls up this revealing exchange from AG Gonzales's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

SCHUMER: ... We talked before about the legal theory that you have, under AUMF [authority to use military force]. And I had asked you that under your legal theory, can the government, without ever going to a judge or getting a warrant, search an American's home or office. ...

GONZALES: I'm not suggesting that it is different, quite frankly. I would like the opportunity, simply, to think...

SCHUMER: I'm sorry. If you could pull the mike up. Sorry.

GONZALES: I'm sorry. I'm not saying that it would be different. I would simply like the opportunity to contemplate over it and give you an answer.[...]

Now, here's the next question I have: Has the government done this? Has the government searched someone's home, an American citizen, or office, without a warrant since 9/11, let's say?

GONZALES: To my knowledge, that has not happened under the terrorist surveillance program, and I'm not going to go beyond that.

SCHUMER: I don't know what that -- what does that mean, under the terrorist surveillance program? The terrorist surveillance program is about wiretaps. This is about searching someone's home. It's different.

So it wouldn't be done under the surveillance program. I'm asking you if it has been done, period.

GONZALES: But now you're asking me questions about operations or possible operations, and I'm not going to get into that, Senator.

Y'know, I hate to say "I told you so", but Jesus H. Cross-eyed Christ - I can't say that I'm a bit surprised after Glenn Greenwald's excellent work pointing out that Abu Gonzales was clearly been hiding something when he spoke (but not under oath) to the Senate last month.

We've already seen that the targets of these investigations are not terrorist, they are activist who oppose Bush administration policies and the war, while we have government lawyers completely screwing up the case against the one lone 9-11 terrorist we actually have in custody.

Instead of actually fighting terrorism the Pentagon is staging elaborate Photo-Ops to show that the Iraqi Forces and Americans are soooo bad-ass. Time.com on "Operation:Swarmer"
[Link] But contrary to what many many television networks erroneously reported, the operation was by no means the largest use of airpower since the start of the war. ("Air Assault" is a military term that refers specifically to transporting troops into an area.) In fact, there were no airstrikes and no leading insurgents were nabbed in an operation that some skeptical military analysts described as little more than a photo op. What's more, there were no shots fired at all and the units had met no resistance, said the U.S. and Iraqi commanders.
And now we learn, yet again, that they aren't just "listening in when al Qaeda calls" they're performing illegal physical searches too? We have met the enemy and the enemy is us?

Maybe it's time that Feingold added some amendments to that Censure Resolution of his. And this time don't forget about the torture and war crimes.

[Update: - It didn't even take 30 mins to get the answer to my rhetorical "What's Next?" question -- now we have Special Task Force Torture. Color me not surprised.]

Vyan

Friday, March 17

America : Human Rights Abuser

UN Assembly, New York
From Truthout.org
United Nations - A running gag at the United Nations is that whenever the United States takes a defiant stand against an overwhelming majority of the 191 member states, there are only three countries that predictably vote with Washington most of the time - whether it is right or dead wrong.



As expected, this incongruous voting pattern was repeated Wednesday when the three loyal US allies - Israel and the two tiny Pacific Island nations of Palau and the Marshall Islands - were the only member states to stand in unison with the United States when it rejected a resolution calling for the creation of a new Human Rights Council.



The vote in the General Assembly was 170 in favor and four against (United States, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau), with three abstentions (Venezuela, Iran and Belarus).



...



But such an effort [to allow the U.S. to "work with" the new Human Rights Council] should be rejected, [Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies] said, as countries evaluating human rights records keep in mind the continuing patterns of US human rights violations both within the United States itself and internationally, where US military or political officials are in power.



"No country with such a record of torture, secret detentions, 'extraordinary renditions,' rejection of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), denial of due process and generations of capital punishment, even for minors and the mentally disabled - all as a matter of official policy - should be allowed to serve on the new Human Rights Council," said Bennis, author of "Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy US"



If the General Assembly does indeed allow the United States a seat, she argued, special care should be taken to insure that the mandatory human rights evaluation carried out of all members be taken very seriously when it comes to the US, so that the claim that the so-called "indispensable nation" should be somehow exempt from human rights scrutiny will be rejected.

Detainee rests inside his cell, Camp Delta, Guantánamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba.
Detainee rests inside his cell, Camp Delta, Guantánamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba.
© AP GraphicsBank
Four years ago, the USA transferred the first “war onNow, I'm sure those on the right would consider this to be "America Bashing", but I have to point out that what Bennis is saying here is simply true. America's Human Rights Record is a failure.



Amnesty International Reports:

Many cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees held in facilities controlled by the Iraqi authorities have been reported since the handover of power in June 2004. Among other methods, victims have been subjected to electric shocks or have been beaten with plastic cables. The picture that is emerging is one in which the Iraqi authorities are systematically violating the rights of detainees in breach of guarantees contained both in Iraqi legislation and in international law and standards – including the right not to be tortured and to be promptly brought before a judge.



Amnesty International is concerned that neither the MNF nor Iraqi authorities have established sufficient safeguards to protect detainees from torture or ill-treatment. It is particularly worrying that, despite reports of torture or ill-treatment by US and UK forces and the Iraqi authorities, for thousands of detainees access to the outside world continues to be restricted or delayed. Under conditions where monitoring of detention facilities by independent bodies is restricted – not least, due to the perilous security situation – measures which impose further limitations on the contact detainees may have with legal counsel or relatives increase the risk that they will be subject to torture or other forms of abuse.

Connecting the dots on torture
A screenshot from the Amnesty International flash movie "Connecting the Dots," shows a photo of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was arrested by U.S. officials and sent to Syria, where he was reportedly tortured. He was never charged with a crime.
There is also the Habeas Schabeas Report from NPR where for Gitmo detainees were interviewed. The vast majority (over 90%) of those who have been and were held at Gitmo and subjected to torture - are completely innocent of any crime or connection to al Qaeda or terrorism.



Some would argue that the UN has no standing following the Oil For Food Scandal, however it should be pointed out that the U.S., as a member of the UN Security Council had full veto power over any deals made with Iraq to provide for Humanitarian aide, and that the best estimates on the money siphoned by Saddam Hussein under OFF ($1.7 Billion) are far less than the amount of money squandered by the Coalition Provisional Authority ($8.8 Billion) long after "Mission Accomplished" was declared. So what makes the credibility of the U.S. (Government) any greater than that of the UN?



Clearly America has a right to protect itself from acts of brutal and violent terrorism. But it also has a responsibilty to abide by the rule of law in the process. If we not only throw out the Geneva Conventions, but our own Constitution (which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment) what exactly is it we're protecting - certainly not our way of life if we allow it to be degraded to a point where illegal surveillance, detention, torture and even murder of uncharged and unprosecuted persons?



I for one am glad that the new UN Human Rights Council has been formed, and also the likelyhood that U.S. involvement will increase once (temporary) Ambassador John Bolton - who has vehemently opposed the Council - is retired at the end of the year.



Vyan

How do Republicans expect to survive 06?

Ok, let me get this straight here -- yesterday Right-wingers in Congress blocked an amendment to Fix our Port Security Problems.

null

the House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN) that would have provided $1.25 billion in desperately needed funding for port security and disaster preparedness. The Sabo amendment included:

$300 million to enable U.S. customs agents to inspect high-risk containers at all 140 overseas ports that ship directly to the United States. Current funding only allows U.S. customs agents to operate at 43 of these ports.

$400 million to place radiation monitors at all U.S. ports of entry. Currently, less than half of U.S. ports have radiation monitors.

$300 million to provide backup emergency communications equipment for the Gulf Coast.

Meanwhile, the Bush budget – which most of the members who voted against this bill will likely support – contains an increase of $1.7 billion for missile defense, a program that doesn’t even work.

Ok, that's bad - but what's worse is that today they defeated an amendment to Fix the Levee's in New Orleans.

Yesterday freshman Democrat Charlie Melancon, who represents St. Bernard's, Plaquemines and the parishes southwest of New Orleans, offered an amendment to the emergency supplemental that would have restored $260 million for levee funding the President had requested but the Congressional Republicans slashed from the bill. "The people of southern Louisiana need the levees to protect them," Melancon said. "We are in an emergency situation."

The Republicans don't care that the levees are so compromised that even a minor hurricane hitting southern Louisiana could flood the entire region. They voted down Melancon's amendment, with even two Louisiana Republicans--Jim McCreary and turncoat coward Rodney Alexander--joining the Republican majority in screwing over their home state.

And the grand prize for worst of all... Making Bush's illegal domestic spying program - legal.

Yesterday, these four Senators (Dewine, Snowe, Graham & Hagel) introduced the "Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006." The bill would legalize the President's crimes. It would allow this Congress to rubber-stamp the administration's violation of FISA and the Fourth Amendment by condoning warrantless spying. According to their ass-backwards approach to oversight, the President can continue to spy on Americans without a warrant for 45 days. After 45 days, the President has three choices:

    1. "Stop" the spying: Because naturally, we can trust this government to cease and desist on demand, given its amazing track record of self-restraint;
    2. Ask the FISA court for a court order: Because naturally, this President has shown great respect for the FISA court process and would dutifully follow Congressional directives when it comes to applying for a FISA order; or
    3. Inform the Intelligence Sub-committee: Because, of course, the President has proven he can be trusted to follow the law and notify intelligence activities about warrantless spying.

The bill is co-sponsored by four so-called "moderates" in order to hide its radical and catastrophic nature. What these four extremists accomplish with their bill is to amend the Constitution unilaterally--without the consent of the states--by nullifying the Fourth Amendment. Warrant? Reasonable cause? Psssh. Remnants of a pre-9/11 world, my friends.

And they wish us to beleive they have the best interests of the American people at heart? They won't protect our ports from terrorists, they won't protect our people from predictable natual disasters and they think they should be able to spy on us without a warrant?

This is the Republican Party of 2006.

I say we hang these votes and bills around their necks like anchors come November. Going down...for the last time.

Vyan

Judy Miller thinks the bloggers did her in?

Crossposed on Dailykos.

Ok, put down your coffee cup - you don't want to spray the cat. In a Vanity Fair article written by Marie Brenner, Judy Miller (the New York Times reporter who was pretty much Ahmad Chalabi and the Bush Administrations stenographer on non-existent Iraq WMD's) says that she lost her credibility because those darn bloggers gave her a bad name.

The ones tossing the fire were those dastardly--but unnamed--bloggers, according to Miller. Upon returning to New York later in May, Miller met with the Times' two top editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, who were then battling a staff revolt triggered by the Jayson Blair scandal. They acknowledged the "flak" her stories had gotten and told her foreign editor Roger Cohen did not want her to go back to Iraq. Cohen opposed her return because, as he tells Brenner, "There were concerns about her sources and her sourcing." Still, Miller managed a quick trip to Iraq.

For those who don't remember (yeah, right) one of the biggest stories of last year, which by the way is ongoing, Judy Miller was the one reporter who did jail time for refusing to divulge her sources on the Plame-gate story to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Now she says, her troubles are all our fault?

From Slate...

In June, back in New York, "Miller realized that she was losing her authority" inside the Times. "None of my colleagues ever spoke to me about my reporting. But they would say, 'We don't want to work with her.' "

In August, Bill Keller replaced Raines as executive editor, and according to Miller, he told her, "You are radioactive. ... You can see it in the blogs."

However...

"I'm pretty sure I never said any such thing," Keller tells Brenner.

Que? Not the first time Judy's had a problem with truthiness. But wait, it gets worse.

Miller: "The bloggers were without editing, without a way for people to understand what was good, what was well reported--to distinguish between the straight and the slanderous. Things would get instantly picked up, magnified, and volumized."

Slate: (Sounds more like what my hairdresser does with my thinning locks. But never mind.)

Ok, so let me get this straight, experienced, educated reporters from the "Paper of Record" were afraid to consort with poor Judy Miller because bloggers (who she doesn't name - but one can easily guess she means people like us, Josh Micah Marshall at TalkingpointsMemo and Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake ) regularly ripped her apart for spreading lies to the American people that led us into an unwarranted illegal and endless War in Iraq?

And the main problem with bloggers is that they don't have editors? (Has she ever read a blog with active and boistrous comments, which invariably will cause a good and responsible blogger to adjust or correct any "magnification and volumization" in their stories?)

Nah, I don't think so either.

Say what you will about New York Times reporters and editors, but nobody with half a mind would ever call them uncritical guzzlers of blog bilge. I don't know what's more astonishing--that Miller said this with a straight face or that Brenner ran it without comment.

Not that progressive bloggers didn't already have a few dozen reasons (WMD's, Plame) to slag Judy Miller - here's yet another one. If she thought the blogs had made her radioactive before -- she's about to do live through a reenactment of The China Syndrome now.

And I really don't think Judy's part will mirror Jane Fonda's role of intrepid investigative reporter in that scenario. No, Judy's the core with her rods of lies exposed.

If there's any truth to Miller's claim at all, I'd consider it a credit to the blogs that they managed to call her out on her bullshit while she was reporting fabrications and lies. Something the great New York Times and all their "Editors" should have done, but didn't.

(BTW Vanity Fair's Marie Brenner is a good friend of Miller's ("Surprise, Surprise!") who helped organize her fairwell dinner before she went to jail - and in the end Miller seems to be doing just fine as an editor for the Miami Herald, well enough that she turned down a job to work for the Associated Press in order to become an investigator for Kroll and Associates.

Oh, poor Judy....how low those damned bloggers have brought you. /snark)

Vyan

Thursday, March 16

The Red-State of Mind

Crossposted on Dailykos

Yesterday I called up the Senate to support the motion to Centure President Bush. I was actually happy to find that I couldn't get through to Senator Feinstein, Kerry or Feingold as their lines were too busy. I did speak with the staffer with Senator Graham (who has publically doubted the legallity of the NSA program) and finally Senator Reid's Office.

After making my point, as ask him just what kind of calls they had been receiving and whether the all volume was exceedingly high or not (compared to say the Alito Confirmation Calls). His reponse was that the call volume was about equal to Alito, but that they were receiving a variety of responses.

    1) Support for Senator Feingold's Censure Resolution.

    2) Opposition to Censure because it would hinder the War on Terror and let Al Qaeda communicate freely within the U.S.

I have to ask myself, who put forth position 2? Who the hell are these people who are trapped in this Red-State of Mind?

I admit that I laughed out loud at his second answer, because it's such a gross distortion of the facts and the truth. Asking the President to abide by the Law and the Constitution by getting a WARRANT FIRST does not help al Qaeda, it protects all of us. That Republicans can routinely make claims of Treason against someone like Feingold yet block Democratic attempts to genuines improve our Port Security, is clearly no laughing matter.

The results of informal my question are clearly mirrored by the results of the First Poll on Censure. (46% Support, 44% Opposition).

Even though the Nation rose up and spoke with nearly one voice on the Dubai Ports Deal (80% Opposition), it has yet to do this in the NSA Wiretaping. This despite the reports that the FBI have designated Pacifists (Not to mention Quakers and Vegans) as subjects of International Terrorism Surveillance. ACLU Attorney Ben Wizner hit the nail on the head on yestesday's Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

WIZNER: You know, we have to look at the broader picture here also. I mean, we have released other documents, this is not the first one, where the FBI has labeled the Catholic Worker group as advocating a communist-like redistribution of resources, that talk about vegans, that talk about Quakers.

And when the administration says, with respect to the NSA spying that you led with, that we don`t have to worry about it, this is a terrorist surveillance program, and therefore we don`t need permission of courts, we don`t need oversight from Congress, whose definition of terrorism are they using? Are they using this one?

If they`re using this one, then the program may be a lot more troubling than people even think. I mean, terrorism is defined here so broadly, as anyone really opposing the administration`s war policy, that I think it really highlights the need for both the courts and for Congress to play a little bit more of a role.

Ya think?

This seems quite obvious to many of us - but is far less than obvious to those who oppose our efforts to bring this Presidency and Congress under control.

I don't think it's because of Faux News. It's not Limbaugh's fault, it's not Hannity or O'Reilly.

The other day when Ann Coulter (on Hannity) was able to completely shut-down arguments about the legitmacy of the Iraq War, claiming that Democrats are weak on National Defense because John Kerry called for the inspections to continue, then completely bypassing the WMD issue by proclaiming we did it to end the "Rape Rooms".

Colmes and the nominal Faux-macrat guest had nothing to say in response, but the comeback is easy... The Iraq War Resolution as written by the Bush Administration required that the President Wait until all Diplomatic Options were Exhuasted to have Saddam abide by the UN Resolutions to disarm his WMD's (which he had already done, and the Inspectors Knew it) -- but it didn't say anything about "Rape Rooms"!.

The simply fact is that this President violated the terms of his own resolution by not letting the inspectors complete their job before HE declared war (Something Kerry has been saying for years), and the result is that where in the middle of an endless, intractable and increasing violent Civil War in Iraq.

It's just common sense - but that simply isn't good enough to cute the Red-State of Mind. The people we are fighting with continue to not know this fact because it's not what they want to believe. They want to believe Coulter because it's comforting.

When the President says...

Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

They want to believe it. So Feingold puts forth his measure to Censure the President for this blatant lie (amongst others) their response is...


Never ceases to amaze me By: Shaggy Dog

No matter how bad things get for the Bush admin from time to time, we can always count on the Dems to squander it. Looks like they're about to come through once again.

A little advice to Feingold & Co.- if you ever want to win elections again, you might want to try at some point to convince the country that you are even 1% as interested in defeating Al Qaeda as you are in defeating President Bush. This "Censure" motion is not the way to accomplish that.

President violating the Constution and the Law? It simply doesn't matter to them. When Democrats claim that this Administration and Congress drowning in a Sea of Corruption they ignore it... even when you put it right in front of their face.

List of Recently Arrested and Indicted GOP Officials




I Lewis "Scooter" Libby - Vice-President Cheney's Cheif of Staff, Indicted and Arrested for Purjery and Obstrution of Justice in CIA Leak Case
Claude Allen - Bush's Top Domestic Policy Advisor, Arrested for Theft
David Safavian - Bush's Top Procurement Official, Arrested for Lying about his Business Ties to Jack Abramoff
Mike Scanlon - Lobbyist and Former Delay Spokesman charged with a Conspiracy and Bribery of Government Officials
Jack Abramoff - Lobbyist Conspiracy and Wirefraud
Randy "Duke" Cunningham - GOP Congressman arrested for Accepting $2.4 Million in Bribes from Defense Contractors
Tom Delay - Former GOP House Majority Leader indicted for Money Laundering

Other GOPers still in the cross-hairs.




Bob Ney - GOP Congressman who set up Jack Abramoff's Defense Fund, is himself under investigation for Connections to Abramoff
Bill Frist - GOP Senate Majority Leader under SEC Investigation for Stock Fraud
Karl Rove - White House Deputy Chief of Staff under investigation for his connections to CIA Leak Scandal

When they read this stuff, their mind immediately looks for the excuses.

"It's just a coincidence. It's just Democrat Prosecutors trying to get payback for the Clinton Impeachment."

Never mind the fact that prosecutors like Patrick Fitzgerald are Republican. They refuse to recognize that the problem here is a pathology of entitlement. It's unbridled greed, selfishness and self-aggrandizement of Neo-Con/Artists deeply embedded within the Republican Party.

People who simply don't believe in Government can not be trust to Run the Government, unless the target is to run it miles into the ground. Take the money, get the contracts, get the cushy lobbying jobs and run like hell.

That's today's GOP.

That's what these people calling the Senate and telling them to support warrantless wiretaping, torture and death squads in Iraq are saying - meanwhile they're claiming that it's all because we eliminated the "Rape Rooms". No we didn't, we simply changed the personel in charge of the Rape Rooms.

Most signs point to a probably Landslide Democratic Victory in November, but we can not afford to become complacent.

The GOP is as powerful as they are not because Democrats are weak and ineffectual (although they often are), they are who they are because there are literally Millions of hard core wing-nuts out there who jump as high as the GOP wants whenever they push a hot-button cultural issue like Abortion or Gay-rights. The hate, intolerance, self-righteousness and greed of these people is real. It's palpable. When Mike Scanlon said...

"Simply put," Scanlon wrote, "we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them. The wackos get their information from the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the Internet and telephone trees."

He was dead right.

Make no mistake, this upcoming November we will be in the fight for the soul of this nation. Do we allow the kind of corruption and gross negligent disgregard that left thousands of American stranded after Katrina to go on... or do we go a different path. Do we start fighting the Terrorist Smart - rather than Hard? Do we start abiding the by Constitution, and rejoin the International Community on issues such as Human Rights and War Crimes? Do we get those people who are currently sitting on the sidelines and letting the game whiz-by them - to Stand Up and get involved?

Or do we continue on this long slow slide into debt and criminal decadence that began as soon as George W. Bush was (s)elected in 2000?

This isn't about George Bush. Bush is simply an enabler for PNAC Neo-Con ("F-ning Crazies") like Cheney, Rumseld, Bolton and hundreds upon hundreds of theocrats who have an agenda to rape and pillage our national treasury, then escape all scrutiny or accountability.

Saying these guys are "Gangsters" is an insult to the Mob.

Call your Senator toll free at (888) 355-3588 and let them know what you think.

Vyan

Tuesday, March 14

Rawstory: First Evidence of Domestic Espionage on War Protestors

Rawstory -- ACLU releases First Concrete Evidence of Domestic Espionage against War Protestors

Documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal that the Federal Bureau of Investigations has indeed monitored political groups solely on the basis that they opposed a U.S.-led war.

According to a memo written in 2002, the FBI launched a classified investigation into the activities of Pittsburgh's Thomas Merton Center after becoming concerned that the group held "daily leaflet distribution activities in downtown Pittsburgh and [was] currently focused on its opposition to the potential war on Iraq." The memo aimed to summarize the investigation's results.

It identifies the group as "a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism."

We have to have the FBI out and investigating people who believe in NOT using violence to solve their problems? Where is the crime here? Why are FBI Resources being misdirected away from protecting the Homeland, to this?

More details from the ACLU.

Two documents released today reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents show that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, these documents are the first to show conclusively that the rationale for FBI targeting is the group's opposition to the war.

“It makes no sense that the FBI would be spying on peace activists handing out flyers,” said Jim Kleissler, Executive Director of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice. “Our members were simply offering leaflets to passersby, legally and peacefully, and now they’re being investigated by a counter–terrorism unit. Something is seriously wrong in how our government determines who and what constitutes terrorism when peace activists find themselves targeted.”

“From the FBI to the Pentagon to the National Security Agency this administration has embarked on an unprecedented campaign to spy on innocent Americans,” said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the national ACLU. “Investigating law-abiding groups and their members simply because of their political views is not only irresponsible, it has a chilling effect on the vibrant tradition of dissent in this country.”

And it's clear that a chilling effect is exactly the goal. This is intimidation, pure and simple. Just like the silly brujah over comments made by Colorado School Teacher Jay Bennish. If the Reich-wing had it's way - and it very nearly does - people like Bennish would be on the terrorist watch list simply for pointing out the failures and lies of the Bush Administration. People like the following (who are already under surveillance by the FBI for their political views)

Nancy Hollander
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Possible NSA Target
"The government has invaded not only my privacy but the sacred bond I have with my clients to keep their confidences."

Konstanty Hordynski
Santa Cruz, California
Pentagon Target
"When lawfully standing up for my beliefs—standing up for what I think is right and just—is a 'threat' to the government, something is wrong."

Caitlin Childs
Atlanta, Georgia
Homeland Security Target
"I refuse to live in fear of what could happen for speaking out and fighting for the things in which I believe. We learn as young children that freedom of speech is a fundamental right guaranteed in America."

John Amidon
Albany, New York
Pentagon Target
"Maybe, just maybe if the leaders of the 'Free' world stopped spying on Quakers and librarians and Veterans For Peace, they might actually engage in the work we are paying them to do."

Betty Ball
Denver, Colorado
FBI Target
"I am worried about how far the government will go to squelch First Amendment rights and silence dissent. Will we all be rounded up and incarcerated?"

Debbie Clark
Atlanta, Georgia
Pentagon Target
"We ... have been acting as vigilant Americans should act in a time when government officials are suspected of high crimes and treason."

Kirsten Atkins
Crested Butte, Colorado
FBI Target
"The government is gathering information illegally under the guise of protecting us from the threat of terrorism. By doing so, they are trying to intimidate and crush the voices of dissent."

Peter Ackerman
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Pentagon Target
"The fabric of our Democracy had a big hole in it... War had just been declared against American citizens and anyone else who disagreed with this President."

George Main
Sacramento, California
Pentagon Target
"I am offended that my government would even consider surveilling a group of honorably discharged veterans. Our patriotism and love of country is as strong today [as] when we carried arms in defense of America."

But in the end, we have to realize that this issue is simply not going to get anywhere near the traction that the Dubai deal did. Most people aren't activists, they don't see how the FBI impeding the rights of a few "trouble-makers with flyers" is really important to them. Not compared to the idea that a dirty bomb could be shipped into their own city. It's "Screw everyone else, I'm out for Numero Uno" mentality.

People should respond to this because by the time they effectively silence all the naysayers -- it's going to be far too late, and they'll be noone left to tell them about the next Dubai deal.

Vyan

Bradblog : Another E-Voting Whistleblower comes forward

Following in the footsteps of Stephen Heller in California and Ion Sancho in Florida, Bradblog reports that yet another E-Voting Whistleblower has come forward, this time in Texas (and Ohio).

During last Tuesday's Primary Election in the state of Texas, scores of "computer glitches" -- as voting officials and electronic voting machine vendors like to refer to them -- were revealed occurred across the state. Many of those "glitches" occurred on electronic voting equipment manufactured and supplied to various counties in Texas by the Hart InterCivic company.

One such "glitch" occurred in Texas' Tarrant County, which encompasses Fort Worth. That "glitch" resulted in some 100,000 votes being added to the result totals across the county's paperless Hart-Intercivic "eSlate" touch-screen voting system.

The BRAD BLOG can now report, however, that according to a Hart InterCivic company whistleblower -- who also happened to have later worked as an "election programmer" in Tarrant County -- the problems with Hart InterCivic's systems in Tarrant County, Texas and elsewhere are not new at all. Not by a longhorn long shot.

Letters sent by William Singer of Fort Worth, a former Hart InterCivic "technical specialist" and Tarrant County election worker, to state officials back in July of 2004 warned of exactly such problems. The letters, obtained and published here for the first time exclusively by The BRAD BLOG, reveal that serious problems and concerns of possible election system meltdowns were already apparent with the Hart machines in Tarrant County long ago. However, the warning letters were all but ignored by both election officials and even state law enforcement officials.

...

A review of several notarized letters sent by Singer to officials in both Texas and Ohio in 2004 warned of fraudulent activities, buggy software and hardware, dysfunctional testing and development procedures, unsecured working environments and possible criminal behavior by both Hart InterCivic and Election Workers in both states.

The mention of Ohio should come as no surprise to anyone who remembers the statistically improbable exit polls results of the 2004 election.

From Singer's July 2004 for letter to Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor (Word Format), following irregularies in the Texas Primary.

Some of those irregularities, which involved by Hart and ES&S Machines, included --

    -Invalid Entries in the Audit Trail

    -Faking the Public Tests

    -Corrections of improper work performed by untrained technicians

    -Votes lost when disabling the units

    -ES&S pushing to use unapproved software for election day

    -No Password assigned for critical path systems

    -No Physical Security (Locked Doors)

Singer also sent another letter (on the same day) to Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell (Word Format) in which he pointed out problems as well as the potential of criminal fraud by Hart.

I have been fervently hoping that Hart would decide to step forward and do the right thing; to break the industries habit of silence and concealment, and admit to wrongdoing and apologize for their mistakes.
...
Had this been a handful of rare incidents, where the repercussions were indeed minor, I could have continued to believe that Hart as a company was doing the right thing. I eventually left Hart Intercivic because it became clear to me that the company's silence had little to do with "rare" incidents but instead revealed a number of potentially serious problems which appeared to be systematically hidden or ignored largely for the sake of corporate profits. While at Hart I had evidence of what I believed to be criminal fraud, extreme negligence, and a distinct and troubling pattern of failure to uphold the public trust both in violations of the spirit of its contracts, but also in concealing problems in an industry which so crucially represents the public interest.

It should be pointed out, as noted by bradblog, that Singer left out of his letter the most egregious violations as they were protected by a Non-Disclosure Agreement. In this way, Singer has been able to avoid the legal blowback that has fallen on Stephen Heller (Who has been charged with 3 Felonies for sharing Diebold documents which revealed that their machines were in violation of California Election Regulations with the CA Secretary of State and Attorney General).

Bradblog has more details....

Vyan

Stephen Heller Defense Fund

In response to one of my Dkos posts on E-voting and the persecution of Diebold Whistleblower Stephen Heller, I received the following comment posted by Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org.

Hello everyone, this is Michele Gregory, Stephen Heller's wife. Once again, Stephen and I thank you for all of your help and support. Your encouragement and kind words have been invaluable to us in this very difficult and frightening time.

As you know, Stephen has been charged with some very serious crimes for allegedly blowing the whistle on Diebold Election Systems. He has pleaded innocent to all charges. He needed the very best legal defense, but criminal defense attorneys are very expensive. So far, starting in August of 2004, we have covered Stephen's legal bills with our personal savings and by taking a second mortgage on our house. Our savings are now gone, and our credit is strained.

And so, with the help of some friends, I have started the Stephen Heller Legal Defense Fund and corresponding website.

http://www.hellerlegaldefensefund.com

Please visit the site. It has details on Stephen's case, news, press articles, blog posts, and information about the defense fund, including detailed information on how it is run and how you can donate, should you wish to.

Whether or not you are able to donate, please pass the website around to everyone you know. Stephen's lawyer has said that public awareness of his situation will be beneficial to his defense.

Thank you all for all you have done, are doing, and will do. Stephen and I are in your debt; you have our gratitude.

With love,

Michele Gregory, proud and loving wife of Stephen Heller

* * * * *

Should you wish to donate with a check, please make the check out to "The Stephen Heller Legal Defense Fund" and mail it to:

The Stephen Heller Legal Defense Fund
17216 Saticoy St., Box 234
Van Nuys, CA 91406-2103

The fund itself is a non-interest bearing, FDIC insured checking account opened on March 7, 2006 at the First Federal Bank of California, Encino branch. Stephen's name is not on the account and he does not have access to the money. Monies can only be used for payments to Stephen's attorneys, and the account has been set up after advice from attorneys and with full transparency.

* * * * *

YOU ARE URGED TO COPY THIS POST SEND IT TO YOUR LISTS, POST IT ON BLOGS, AND INFORM AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE

Stephen Heller was faced with the ethical dilemma from hell. What do you do when a presidential primary is just weeks away, and you are assigned a word processing assignment that has you looking at evidence that the secretary of state is being lied to by the voting machine company counting millions of votes? What do you do when those lies explode into thousands of disenfranchised voters? Nothing?

In times like these, the citizenry depends on honesty and courage like Stephen Heller has shown. If you want citizens of courage like Heller successfully threatened and ultimately silenced, do nothing. If you believe that he went to the front lines for YOUR rights, please give what you can.

Next

After giving to the Stephen Heller Defense Fund, please also join the important VoteTrustUSA.org initiative to fight for Ion Sancho. This involves simply clicking a link and sending an important letter to Florida officials.

Here is the Ion Sancho support link:
http://votetrustusa.org/...

* * * * *

Stand together and fight, folks, or let them pick us off one by one.

* * * * *

WHISTLING DIEBOLD
By Robert C. Koehler
Tribune Media Services

They ain't gonna kiss you just because you're a whistleblower. No matter that you exposed wrongdoing and struck a blow for fair elections. The larger good isn't always obvious to the powers that be.

So Steve Heller, a Los Angeles-based actor whose day job is doing temporary office work, faces three felony charges, all of which are a stretch: felony access to computer data, commercial burglary and receiving stolen property. The Los Angeles County District Attorney's office says he's a thief, an Internet criminal, and that's that. And, oh yeah, he violated attorney-client confidentiality, and cost a big law firm a million dollars in lost business.

Serious stuff. And if the DA's office has its way, this is all the judge and jury will look at: the law in its narrowest sense, as though ethical issues aren't sometimes murky and enormously complicated.

Indeed, this is the story of a 44-year-old man who had a problem in practical ethics fall into his lap a little over two years ago, when he was temping in the word-processing center of Jones Day, a major Los Angeles law firm. Among the firm's clients was Diebold Election Systems, the largest manufacturer of electronic voting machines and voting machine software in the U.S. - and probably the most controversial.

Diebold machines are notoriously hackable and unreliable, and the company itself is as secretive as it is politically connected. The company is in the forefront of the spread of unverifiable ("trust us") electronic voting across the country, a phenomenon that many computer experts and fair-election advocates find utterly terrifying.

"In connection with his duties on Jan. 29, 2004, suspect Heller was given an assignment to work on a Jones Day document regarding Diebold voting machines," Heller's arrest warrant attests. "After completing that assignment, suspect Heller, without authorization, accessed and printed 107 Jones Day documents concerning
their representation of Diebold."

What the arrest warrant leaves out is that, in 2004, Diebold machines were going to be used in a number of California counties in the March primary and the November general elections, and the machines' questionable reliability was in the news a lot. And indeed, Diebold machines did malfunction in the March elections. But they didn't malfunction in November because by then they had been decertified by California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley - thanks in large part to Heller's actions.

The documents Heller, the temp word processor, happened upon and subsequently printed out revealed a potential crime in progress. Here's where the ethics become urgent. He could either ignore what he saw or, at considerable personal risk and with nothing to gain except clarity of conscience, take action. He took action.

He gave the documents to election-reform advocates, who got them into the hands of the media and state officials. Because he did, data concerning Diebold's use of uncertified software, which was supposed to remain private, became public knowledge. "In one memo," the Los Angeles Weekly wrote, "the law firm warned Diebold, before the March primary, that its use of uncertified vote-counting software in Alameda County, starting in 2002, violated California election law and broke its $12.7 million contract."

And election-reform advocate Peter Soby wrote on Huffington Post: "So in a nutshell, Diebold was defrauding the state government and taxpayers of California, and disenfranchising the voters of California. And the documents prove it."

More can be found at: http://www.hellerlegaldefensefund.com
Vyan

Monday, March 13

Censure is TOO GOOD for 'em

Crossposted on Dailykos.

Yesterday Senator Russ Feingold, the one lone dissenting vote in the original passage of the Patriot Act announced that he was putting forth a resolution to Censure the President for his illegal warrantless wiretaping of U.S. Citizens.

Today I expect all hell's about to bust loose.

In defense of this program, President Bush and his aide de camp Attorney General Gonzales have made claims of executive powers that are second only to those of Nixon, and that if anyone still remembers, didn't end too well.

Still I find it quite sad, that when so many legal scholars and even politicials (including Conservatives) reluctantly admit that what the President did was wrong and illegal -- that the best action they can think of is to simply say exactly that in a Congressional Censure not, actually enforce the law.

We find ourselves in an arcane and sad situation, where the Top Law Enforcement Officer of the United States (AG Gonzales) stands shoulder to shoulder with an admitted evil-doer and blatant liar, President George W Bush.

Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

Senator Feingold makes an excellent point when he states:

Congress may consider a range of other actions, including investigations, an independent counsel, or even impeachment. But at a minimum, and as a first step, Congress should censure a president who has so plainly broken the law.

At a minimum? Yes, of course - Censure is the absolute least we can expect Congress to do. But Censure is certainly far less than what should be done. Far, far indeed.

Senator (and sometimss neo-psychic Doctor) Bill Frist has already claimed that Feingold's resolution "sends a bad signal to our allies and the Arab world".

You mean a signal like - "We completely and totally fucked up by giving this incompetent and criminal President the power and authority to conduct war?" I happen to believe that admitting you've made a tragic and costly mistake under grossly BAD FAITH, and are now taking steps to correct that mistake just might send exactly the right message.

But we must be willing to admit that this is the political reality of the situation - we now live in a world where up is down, truth is treason, law is lawlessness and our President is a criminal.

Most of us, even people who are deeply in the tank like Grover Norquist, know the truth (CBS News Poll for 2/22 has Bush at just 29% Favoribility/ 53% Not Favorable) - yet the Senate has refused to investigate and when Sen Rockefeller correctly points out how the Intelligence commitees arms where twisted in order to torpedo any series investigation of tha NSA Warrantless Wiretap program - he himself gets quickly reined in.

What else is left but for this one vainglorious action by Feingold?

Will each and every Democrat in the House and Senate immediately sign on to this Censure motion? Probably not. I wouldn't expect much more than the ten Senators who most recently voted against the Reauthorization of the Patriot Act (Akaka (D-HI), Bingaman (D-NM), Byrd (D-WV), Feingold (D-WI), Harkin (D-IA), Jeffords (I-VT), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Murray (D-WA), Wyden (D-OR)), and the 30 Congressmen who support John Conyers (who has already put forth his own Censure motion) in his call for a full investigation of Impeachment - if those.

This resolution is going to fail, and in some ways - it has to fail. What we need is Senator Feingold said on Meet the Press - "Balance back in our Government".

The Freepers and Faux News love to claim we need "Balance in the Media", but never do they proclaim the same thing about our Government -- and this is a major Achilles heel for them.

This Rubber-Stamp Congress has to be put to an end. They are hopelessly corrupt, and without conscience. They will never censure this President, nor hold him accountable in any way what-so-ever.

This President needs to be Impeached (Feingold:"It's right in the strike-zone") and then Prosecuted for Felony violations of FISA.

(4)
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection or in subsection (5), whoever violates subsection (1) of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

However, we all know this won't happen and Censure is the last, best option. In and of itself, this Censure motion will accomplish one thing - and one thing only. It is a chance for those true patriots still left in the House and Senate to stand and by counted.

Republicans are certain to rally around the President (their favorite game since "Ring around the Rosie". Democrats will be split.

Heaven help those in November, both Republican and Democrat alike, who shirk from their duty and sworn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States at this time.

Amen.

Vyan