40 is the new 30 . . .
Saturday, June 04, 2005
FBI hurt terror probe:
BY ADAM NICHOLS
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
A probe into suspected Al Qaeda fund-raising was blocked by the FBI in a petty turf war, a customs chief said last night.
Joe Webber, a Sept. 11 survivor and now chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Houston, said FBI chiefs stood in the way of his probe. And he alleged they barred it because the information came from outside the bureau - despite President Bush's directive that law enforcement agencies must work together to beat terrorism.
Webber told Dateline NBC, "My concern is that we have learned nothing from the events of Sept. 11."
Webber, who was based in the World Trade Center when he was chief of the New York office of U.S. Customs, was inside the building when it collapsed. He was rescued by two firefighters. He began his Houston investigation into the suspected terrorism fund-raising operation 2-1/2 years ago.
"There's clearly probable cause to believe that the target of the investigation was in communication with those involved in international terrorism, with those associated with Osama Bin Laden," he said.
He said a wiretap was needed to get more evidence, but that required approval from FBI headquarters in Washington.
His request sat on a desk for four months, he said, and eventually he asked for a direct meeting. "The answer was, 'We have too many people on vacation,'" he said. "I was shocked."
Eventually, friends in the FBI told him the delay was because the case was not generated by the FBI. "That's absolutely my impression," he said. "If one dollar found its way into the hands of a terrorist that impacted the life of a U.S. citizen or a soldier in Iraq...we lost."
An FBI statement said, "There is often healthy debate about the best approach, [but] it's never at the expense of public safety or national security."
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:56 PM
W backs way off on Soc Sec plan
WASHINGTON - President Bush has all but conceded his plan for private accounts for Social Security is dead, admitting privatization won't save the federal retirement system.
"You can solve the solvency issue without personal accounts," Bush said in an interview with the Radio-Television News Directors Association.
Private accounts have been the cornerstone of Bush's Social Security plan, and the White House insisted he's not abandoning them. He still plans to talk up privatization as an option for young Americans, but his primary focus now will be on keeping the program healthy.
"The personal accounts, optional personal accounts, would make Social Security a much better option or deal for young workers, because you'd get a better rate of return," Bush said.
Kenneth R. Bazinet
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:54 PM
White House Downplays Missing-Arms Report
By JENNIFER LOVEN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House on Friday played down a report in which U.N. weapons inspectors documented additional materials missing from weapons sites in Iraq.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Bush administration had taken steps to ensure sites were secured, and he suggested it was doubtful the looted material was being used to boost other countries' weapons programs.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, acting chief weapons inspector Demetrius Perricos said that satellite imagery experts had determined that material that could be used to make biological or chemical weapons and banned long-range missiles had been removed from 109 sites, up from 90 reported in March.
The sites have been emptied of equipment to varying degrees, with the largest percentage of missing items at 58 missile facilities.
For example, 289 of the 340 pieces of equipment to produce missiles - or about 85 percent, had been removed, the report said.
Biological sites were the least damaged, according to the analysts at the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission.
Perricos said he's reached no conclusions about who removed the items or where they went. He said it could have been moved elsewhere in Iraq, sold as scrap, melted down or purchased.
He said the missing material can be used for legitimate purposes. "However, they can also be utilized for prohibited purposes if in a good state of repair."
McClellan said that the United States has helped to remove low enriched uranium and radioactive sources, offered jobs to weapons experts from Saddam Hussein's programs to keep them from taking their expertise elsewhere, and helped Iraq establish an independent radioactive source regulatory authority.
"We have been working closely with the government in Iraq to ensure that Iraq's former weapons of mass destruction personnel and proliferation materials do not contribute to proliferation programs in other countries," McClellan said.
U.N. inspectors have been blocked from returning to Iraq since the U.S.-led war in 2003. They have been using satellite photos to see what happened to the sites that were subject to U.N. monitoring because their equipment had both civilian and military uses.
Since the war, U.S. teams took over the weapons search. Former chief arms hunter Charles Duelfer and his Iraq Survey Group found no weapons of mass destruction in the country, discrediting President Bush's stated rationale for invading Iraq.
McClellan referred to findings by Duelfer, saying that "any looting was the work of uncoordinated elements rather than directed at an effort to try to export equipment to a country that might obtain or have a weapons of mass destruction program."
He also noted that Duelfer had concluded that, since the looted materials are easily obtained elsewhere, "other governments are not likely to look to Iraq to buy used versions of it."
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:33 AM
Bush Returning Funds From Coin Dealer
CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) -- President Bush is returning $4,000 in campaign contributions from an Ohio coin dealer who is the subject of state and federal investigations, the White House said Friday.
Tom Noe, who is from suburban Toledo, is under investigation for his handling of $55 million the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation gave to him to invest in rare coins. Noe's lawyer has reported that $10 million to $12 million is missing.
"I think that there are some serious allegations that have been raised against this individual," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said in Texas while Bush spent time at his ranch.
"They have raised concerns with people in Ohio. They have raised concerns with the White House. And the president felt it was the right thing to return those contributions that came directly from him," McClellan said.
Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said Thursday that the $2,000 donated by Noe to the RNC will be given to charity. McLear added that Bush has no immediate plans to return more than $100,000 Noe raised for the Bush-Cheney campaign last year.
"Those are from other individuals," McClellan said. "In the past, I think, the campaign - if you'll go back and look - has returned contributions from individuals that maybe have been convicted of crimes, and so forth."
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, three other statewide officeholders, several House lawmakers and Sen. Mike DeWine also said they were giving up campaign contributions from Noe totaling nearly $60,000. Many of the officials designated charities or a workers' compensation fund to receive the money.
Meanwhile, a former governor's aide has told federal authorities that he gave $2,000 to Bush's re-election campaign at the urging of Noe and was later reimbursed by the coin dealer, a newspaper reported Friday.
H. Douglas Talbott appeared this week before a federal grand jury in Toledo that is looking into whether Noe, who headed the Bush-Cheney campaign in northwest Ohio, skirted campaign finance laws by giving others money to donate, according to a report published in The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.
Noe also contributed $10,000 to a fund supporting California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's legislative priorities. "Allegations about Mr. Noe became public a year after we accepted his contribution," Marty Wilson, executive director of the fund, said Friday, and Schwarzenegger has no plans to return the donation.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:31 AM
Bush Neglects Counterror Agency
The nation's primary agency for analyzing terrorist threats and planning counterterrorism operations at home and abroad is waiting for President Bush to name its director and settle whether that person will report directly to the president or go through Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.
The legislation that established the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) requires the organization to begin operations by June 17. The center was established last fall under a presidential executive order.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:25 AM
Arianna Huffington: The Russert Watch: What Important Questions Won’t He Ask This Week?
Okay, it’s Friday, time to gear up for another round of missed opportunities and vital questions that won’t be asked on this week’s edition of Meet the Press.
Welcome to Week Three of The Russert Watch. For those of you who missed our previous installments (and we know who you are), this is the plan: every Friday we’ll give you a sneak peak at the guest list for the upcoming MTP (gathered from our moles on the show... okay, we’ll actually just look at the MTP website) and offer up a few of the hard-hitting questions we’re sure that our man Tim won’t be asking. We’ll also ask for your suggestions for questions Russert should be asking his guests, and we’ll post the best of them. And if Russert doesn’t take them, they will stand in virtual reality as a reprimand, conspicuous by their absence. Then, on Sunday, after the show, we will count the bodies.
This week, according to the MTP website, Russert will have an "Exclusive!" (love the exclamation point!!!) tete a tete with "Ken Mehlman in his first Sunday show interview as Chairman of the Republican National Committee." They also helpfully note: "This Sunday, June 5th, due to NBC coverage of the French Open, Meet the Press will air at a special early time." (At least we know NBC has its priorities straight.)
Hmm... A full hour with the Chair of the RNC (and the campaign manager for Bush/Cheney 2004) should leave Russert plenty of time to really dig in... and, since Mehlman is basically a mouthpiece for Bush and Rove, ask all the hard hitting questions one might want to ask of the White House. But knowing Russert and his love of inside the Beltway arcania, will he instead "grill" Mehlman about his success raising money for the party (having helped raise over $32 million in the first quarter of 2005)? That’ll really make Ken sweat.
So here are my top four questions I’d love to hear Russert ask Mehlman (but am sure he won’t):
"Ken, following on the heels of one of the bloodiest months of the Iraq war, can you seriously tell us that the White House believes that the insurgency is in its 'last throes'? And if so, what are they smoking over there?"
"Ken, 31 days ago Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and 88 other members of Congress sent a letter to President Bush asking him to respond to the many questions raised by the Downing Street Memo. Why won’t the White House respond to this exercise of Congressional oversight?"
"Ken, at different times this week, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary Rumsfeld all dismissed the new Amnesty International report criticizing the U.S. for human rights abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay -- without ever denying the facts in the report. When is this administration finally going to come clean about -- and accept responsibility for -- the horrors that have been perpetrated in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib?"
"Ken, you won the election by scaring the American people into believing that your guy was better equipped to keep this country safe. Given the sorry state of port security -- and the potentially even more deadly lack of security around our nation's chemical plants -- why isn’t the president willing to spend more money securing the homeland? Is it because we’re spending too much money on Iraq?"
And here’s a bonus, uh, query: "Ken, as a man who has famously refused to comment on rumors concerning your personal life... do you believe that matters such as a person’s sexual orientation have no place in the public arena? And, if so, how do you feel about the unseemly way your party -- and specifically the campaign you managed -- used wedge issues such as gay marriage to win re-election?"
Now it's your turn, HuffPost readers. Go to the comments section (of huffingtonpost.com) and send us your "Questions Russert Should Ask But Almost Certainly Won’t".
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:23 AM
Arianna Huffington: Follow the Memo: Can Redford and Hoffman Play the Entire Blogosphere in the Downing Street Memo Movie?
In his otherwise terrific insider’s take on the Deep Throat story, former Washington Post editor and columnist Bob Levey says that the "next Watergate" won’t happen without "Big Journalism." I couldn’t disagree more. It will happen in spite of Big Journo... and because of the "little journalism" of the blogosphere.
Take the biggest under-reported story of the moment (at least in America): what the Downing Street Memo reveals about the Bush administration and how it led us into the Iraq war.
For those of you not up on the details -- and considering the woeful lack of coverage in the American mainstream media, who can blame you? -- the Downing Street Memo, disclosed by The Sunday Times of London, details a secret meeting on July 23rd, 2002 -- eight months before the invasion of Iraq -- at 10 Downing Street between Tony Blair and Richard Dearlove, the head of MI-6, who, just back from Washington, reported that Bush was determined to go to war. Here is the money quote from the memo:
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. [Bush's National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.
It is, in short, as close to a smoking gun as you are going to find (a lot closer than the Bushies ever found on Saddam).
Big story, right? Possibly impeach the president big. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at the bastions of Big Journalism. No, they are too consumed with the Jackson trial, the runaway bride, endless discussions over whether Mark Felt is a hero or a traitor, and whether Tom and Katie are more in love than Brad and Angelina.
So far, no mainstream media Woodward and Bernstein have taken up the charge of asking the grave questions raised by the Downing Street Memo. Luckily, the story is being kept alive by a small but growing number of bloggers and activist websites. They include After Downing Street, which describes itself as "a coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups, which launched on May 26, 2005, a campaign to urge the U.S. Congress to begin a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war."
There's also Downingstreetmemo.com, a clearinghouse for all things Downing Street, with an action center designed to force the mainstream media to do their jobs and investigate whether the invasion wasn’t a result of bad intelligence, but, as the memo suggests, the result of premeditated lies.
Also doing yeoman’s work on the issue is Rep. John Conyers, who besides being a Huffington Post blogger is also the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. Conyers devotes much of his website to the memo -- especially the letter he and 88 other Congressmen sent to President Bush thirty days ago demanding that the president address the "serious ramifications for the integrity of the United States Government" the memo raises.
The present-day mainstream press seems about as frail now as the present-day Mark Felt. We can only hope that if a Deep Throat emerges on Iraq, he will have the good sense to get in touch with a blogger.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:16 AM
US Guantanamo guard kicked Koran
US guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre kicked, threw water and splashed urine on copies of Koran.
The Pentagon has released details of five incidents in which the Koran was mishandled by US personnel at the camp, some intentional and others accidental.
In another incident a two-word English obscenity was found written in a Koran.
The Pentagon carried out the investigation after Newsweek published, then retracted, a report that the Koran has been flushed down a toilet.
According to a newly-completed military inquiry into the alleged mishandling of Korans at the high-security detention centre in Cuba, some of the incidents were unintentional.
In one instance, a guard urinated near an air vent.
The wind allegedly blew his urine through the vent, soiling one detainee and his Koran.
According to the report, the guard was reprimanded and sanctioned, and the inmate was given a new uniform and Koran.
Other Korans became wet after night-shift guards had thrown balloons filled with water into a cell block, the report found.
In a third case, an interrogator reportedly apologised to a detainee after stepping on his Koran.
In a fourth incident, a soldier deliberately kicked Islam's holy book.
Finally, a prisoner found a "two-word obscenity" in English written in his copy of the Koran.
Brigadier General Jay Hood, commander at Guantanamo, concluded in his report that the words might have been written by a guard or by the detainee himself.
The Newsweek report sparked protests across the Muslim world. In Afghanistan riots resulted in the deaths of at least 15 people.
Thousands rallied in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon and Malaysia, demanding apologies from the US and punishment for those involved.
The magazine withdrew its story after saying it could no longer corroborate the report.
The inmate who made the original allegation about the Koran being flushed down the toilet had retracted it, said Brig Gen Hood.
The White House rounded on the magazine, saying its report had done "lasting damage" to the US image in the Muslim world.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:07 AM
Friday, June 03, 2005
The Other Bomb Drops
by JEREMY SCAHILL
It was a huge air assault: Approximately 100 US and British planes flew from Kuwait into Iraqi airspace. At least seven types of aircraft were part of this massive operation, including US F-15 Strike Eagles and Royal Air Force Tornado ground-attack planes. They dropped precision-guided munitions on Saddam Hussein's major western air-defense facility, clearing the path for Special Forces helicopters that lay in wait in Jordan. Earlier attacks had been carried out against Iraqi command and control centers, radar detection systems, Revolutionary Guard units, communication centers and mobile air-defense systems. The Pentagon's goal was clear: Destroy Iraq's ability to resist. This was war.
But there was a catch: The war hadn't started yet, at least not officially. This was September 2002--a month before Congress had voted to give President Bush the authority he used to invade Iraq, two months before the United Nations brought the matter to a vote and more than six months before "shock and awe" officially began.
At the time, the Bush Administration publicly played down the extent of the air strikes, claiming the United States was just defending the so-called no-fly zones. But new information that has come out in response to the Downing Street memo reveals that, by this time, the war was already a foregone conclusion and attacks were no less than the undeclared beginning of the invasion of Iraq.
The Sunday Times of London recently reported on new evidence showing that "The RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war." The paper cites newly released statistics from the British Defense Ministry showing that "the Allies dropped twice as many bombs on Iraq in the second half of 2002 as they did during the whole of 2001" and that "a full air offensive" was under way months before the invasion had officially begun.
The implications of this information for US lawmakers are profound. It was already well known in Washington and international diplomatic circles that the real aim of the US attacks in the no-fly zones was not to protect Shiites and Kurds. But the new disclosures prove that while Congress debated whether to grant Bush the authority to go to war, while Hans Blix had his UN weapons-inspection teams scrutinizing Iraq and while international diplomats scurried to broker an eleventh-hour peace deal, the Bush Administration was already in full combat mode--not just building the dossier of manipulated intelligence, as the Downing Street memo demonstrated, but acting on it by beginning the war itself. And according to the Sunday Times article, the Administration even hoped the attacks would push Saddam into a response that could be used to justify a war the Administration was struggling to sell.
On the eve of the official invasion, on March 8, 2003, Bush said in his national radio address: "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force." Bush said this after nearly a year of systematic, aggressive bombings of Iraq, during which Iraq was already being disarmed by force, in preparation for the invasion to come. By the Pentagon's own admission, it carried out seventy-eight individual, offensive airstrikes against Iraq in 2002 alone.
"It reminded me of a boxing match in which one of the boxers is told not to move while the other is allowed to punch and only stop when he is convinced that he has weakened his opponent to the point where he is defeated before the fight begins," says former UN Assistant Secretary General Hans Von Sponeck, a thirty-year career diplomat who was the top UN official in Iraq from 1998 to 2000. During both the Clinton and Bush administrations, Washington has consistently and falsely claimed these attacks were mandated by UN Resolution 688, passed after the Gulf War, which called for an end to the Iraqi government's repression in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south. Von Sponeck dismissed this justification as a "total misnomer." In an interview with The Nation, Von Sponeck said that the new information "belatedly confirms" what he has long argued: "The no-fly zones had little to do with protecting ethnic and religious groups from Saddam Hussein's brutality" but were in fact an "illegal establishment...for bilateral interests of the US and the UK."
These attacks were barely covered in the press and Von Sponeck says that as far back as 1999, the United States and Britain pressured the UN not to call attention to them. During his time in Iraq, Von Sponeck began documenting each of the airstrikes, showing "regular attacks on civilian installations including food warehouses, residences, mosques, roads and people." These reports, he said, were "welcomed" by Secretary General Kofi Annan, but "the US and UK governments strongly objected to this reporting." Von Sponeck says that he was pressured to end the practice, with a senior British diplomat telling him, "All you are doing is putting a UN stamp of approval on Iraqi propaganda." But Von Sponeck continued documenting the damage and visited many attack sites. In 1999 alone, he confirmed the death of 144 civilians and more than 400 wounded by the US/UK bombings.
After September 11, there was a major change in attitude within the Bush Administration toward the attacks. Gone was any pretext that they were about protecting Shiites and Kurds--this was a plan to systematically degrade Iraq's ability to defend itself from a foreign attack: bombing Iraq's air defenses, striking command facilities, destroying communication and radar infrastructure. As an Associated Press report noted in November 2002, "Those costly, hard-to-repair facilities are essential to Iraq's air defense."
Rear Admiral David Gove, former deputy director of global operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on November 20, 2002, that US and British pilots were "essentially flying combat missions." On October 3, 2002, the New York Times reported that US pilots were using southern Iraq for "practice runs, mock strikes and real attacks" against a variety of targets. But the full significance of this dramatic change in policy toward Iraq only became clear last month, with the release of the Downing Street memo. In it, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon is reported to have said in 2002, after meeting with US officials, that "the US had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime," a reference to the stepped-up airstrikes. Now the Sunday Times of London has revealed that these spikes "had become a full air offensive"--in other words, a war.
Michigan Democratic Representative John Conyers has called the latest revelations about these attacks "the smoking bullet in the smoking gun," irrefutable proof that President Bush misled Congress before the vote on Iraq. When Bush asked Congress to authorize the use of force in Iraq, he also said he would use it only as a last resort, after all other avenues had been exhausted. But the Downing Street memo reveals that the Administration had already decided to topple Saddam by force and was manipulating intelligence to justify the decision. That information puts the increase in unprovoked air attacks in the year prior to the war in an entirely new light: The Bush Administration was not only determined to wage war on Iraq, regardless of the evidence; it had already started that war months before it was put to a vote in Congress.
It only takes one member of Congress to begin an impeachment process, and Conyers is said to be considering the option. The process would certainly be revealing. Congress could subpoena Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Gen. Richard Myers, Gen.Tommy Franks and all of the military commanders and pilots involved with the no-fly zone bombings going back into the late 1990s. What were their orders, both given and received? In those answers might lie a case for impeachment.
But another question looms, particularly for Democrats who voted for the war and now say they were misled: Why weren't these unprovoked and unauthorized attacks investigated when they were happening, when it might have had a real impact on the Administration's drive to war? Perhaps that's why the growing grassroots campaign to use the Downing Street memo to impeach Bush can't get a hearing on Capitol Hill. A real probing of this "smoking gun" would not be uncomfortable only for Republicans. The truth is that Bush, like President Bill Clinton before him, oversaw the longest sustained bombing campaign since Vietnam against a sovereign country with no international or US mandate. That gun is probably too hot for either party to touch.
Posted by politicalstuff at 5:53 PM
Waiting for a scandal
Geov Parrish - WorkingForChange.com
06.02.05 - I have a three-word response to the media frenzy that followed Tuesday's revelation of the long-secret identity of Deep Throat.
Downing Street Memo.
Here's what John Dean, key Watergate figure, wrote about Dubya's case for the Iraq war in a June 2003 column for findlaw.com: "To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked... Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be a 'high crime' under the Constitution's impeachment clause."
That's exactly what the Downing Street Memo, first reported a month ago by the Times of London, proves. The memo is an account of the report given to British leadership by Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's MI-6 (the equivalent of the CIA), after a meeting with top White House officials. Dearlove described, fully eight months before Dubya went to war, an American determination to go to war and to manipulate public and Congressional opinion with what Dearlove characterized as a "thin" case for WMD and links to Al-Qaeda.
It's hard not to contrast the frenzy that greeted the revelation of a 30-year-old secret with the thudding indifference U.S. media has given the Downing Street Memo. The memo has scarcely been mentioned in the country's leading newspapers, and has been completely ignored by evening network news.
The reasons are numerous, but it adds up to a depressing reminder that Watergate, as reported in 1974, would never be reported today. The same secrecy, paranoia, and demands for absolute loyalty that were the undoing of the Nixon Administration have been used, in our modern media climate, to resoundingly successful effect by the Bush Administration. Media outlets today are far less willing to invest the time and money into investigative journalism, far less willing to rock the boat or risk being tagged with the dread "liberal media" tag. The right-wing firestorm that followed the miscues of Dan Rather and Newsweek has further cowed big media outlets from taking risks, but the barriers were already there; as Gary Webb could testify, the career costs are enormous for enterprising journalists who want to take on power, and the chances that your publisher will back you up these days, as Woodward and Bernstein were once backed up by the Post, are nearly nil.
The result is that the information needed to impeach George Bush for lying to Congress, the U.N., and the American public about the most serious imaginable matter -- the use of military force -- is all out there. It's been reported, in foreign media, in alternative press, in the margins. But it has not been championed by major media, and it has subsequently not been taken to heart by either the American public or by Congress. George Bush and his aides intentionally lied about the case for mounting an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign country. The outcome has been a conflict that has left over 1,400 American soldiers dead, many thousands more maimed, and an estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead. If there were ever any doubt about the intentional nature of the disinformation campaign waged upon us to justify this war, the Downing Street Memo erases those doubts.
Obviously, a Republican-controlled Congress is not about to impeach its own president. Enormous public pressure would have to be brought to bear first. But that public pressure has also been missing, starting with the media coverage. It's difficult to imagine, at this point, any sort of "smoking gun" sufficient to generate that sort of momentum against the Bush Administration. Vietnam era dissident Daniel Ellsberg has been touring the country for the past year, urging federal officials within earshot to do as he did with the Pentagon Papers, to do as Deep Throat did with the Watergate cover-up, and to leak to the press what they know of the Bush Administration's misdeeds. But that may not be enough -- because there is no guarantee that the press would even carry, let alone highlight in their proper context, such allegations.
We now know the identity of Deep Throat. Fine. But take a moment to mourn the fact that the courage and integrity displayed by Deep Throat would not be possible today, because there is nobody, in our country's major media, willing to hear such secrets. Without that, we've lost an essential tool for accountability of our country's highest powers. They still lie and cheat -- only, today, we no longer seem to care.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:28 PM
"'Papers, please': I smell the long-forgotten rot of fascism"
Those were the magic words of the time: "Papiere, Bitte."
(Translation: "Papers, Please.") Hearing those words, even now, causes
dull echoes of sounds akin to bodies hitting dirt, or bullets
penetrating flesh to thud into my mind. Because, if those papers
weren't correctly in order, or, if you were a Jew sneakily present in
any place (including the grocery store) which displayed the usual "NO
JEWS OR DOGS ALLOWED" sign, you were dead meat--literally. And, yes,
of course I'm talking about my childhood as a little Jewish kid in
No one ever forgets stench. Whether it is a long-forgotten encounter
with a ripe skunk, or a ripe egg, or a ripe decomposing body, once one
of those odors has been brain-documented, then even the slightest
tinge of such an aroma pops back up immediately, along with the
circumstances under which it first offended the nostrils.
And, that's what's happening now. I smell the long-forgotten skunk,
the long-forgotten rot of fascism. What is happening all around can no
longer be denied. What I ran away from so desperately in 1938 is
coming back full circle. Only the jack-boots have not yet arrived.
America quite literally saved my life. The love and gratitude deep in
my heart for this country will never go away. But I'm scared now.
Haunted by deep fear for the generations to come, who may wind up as I
did -- looking over their shoulders, scurrying for cover, mute with
terror. And it hurts.
Think I'm some kinda elderly nut-job neurotically manufacturing
dictatorship? Well, let's look at the 82 billion dollar defense bill
passed just a few weeks ago, which (with a vote tally of 100 to 0) had
the Real ID Act hidden inside it. This law allows a national
identification process in which each and every person in the U.S.A.
will be on computer.
This ID will be based on driver's license applications, although it
isn't just for driving. Just like the infamous "Internal Passport" of
Nazi Germany, no one will need it unless needing to fly, cash checks,
apply for jobs, walk the streets, enter federal buildings -- or drive.
As stated in TIME magazine on May 15, 2005, "If you are a wealthy
recluse with liquid assets, it doesn't concern you." Everyone else
better watch out! Well, maybe that wealthy recluse had better watch
out also. After all, he/she might be of a forbidden religion, or of
suspicious racial origin.
Legal "ID Theft" and legal "illegal surveillance?"  The Real ID Act
links driver's licenses of all states, creating a data base including
the private details of every single U.S. citizen. It mandates that
your driver's license share a common machine-readable digital photo of
you, all the better to track your every movement. It hands the federal
government unfunded mandate power to dictate what data all states must
collect for license holders, including everything from fingerprints to
retinal scans". And, if you don't drive, you'll still need to submit
to the national ID card. How else, after all, will the cop who doesn't
like the shape of your face, or the fact that you are (God Forbid)
wearing a turban get to arrest you? Yes, "Papiere Bitte" has come home
And, folks, that's only the beginning. More technically sophisticated
techniques will be implemented as they occur. If the Nazis had had
electronic surveillance, phone bugging and all else that the Patriot
Act not only condones but advises, there would have been an even
tighter grip on the populace.
After all, the Patriot Act is modeled directly after Gestapo methods:
Those 3:00 AM home intrusions -- without warrant or reason for arrest
-- will get our undesirable "domestic terrorists" straight to the
nearest version of Guantanamo with no need for trial. The USA is
currently building thirty seven "detention centers" nationwide, and
they'll soon be filled with persons who protest too much, or are
simply of the wrong nationality. After all, it worked very well in
Germany, successfully eliminating Jews, Gypsies, and anyone willing to
stand up, and refuse to "Hail Hitler."
What's next? Well, it's already happening: The Geneva Conventions were
initiated after WW II to prevent the insane war crimes and crimes
against humanity perpetrated by Nazi Germany from ever happening
again. Now, with blithe disregard of all of the above, the U.S.A. not
only institutes torture (not just physical, but deliberately mental
and emotional) on its prisoners, but actually exports these folks to
countries in which such torture is governmentally approved. What the
U.S. domestic prison system has kept hidden for years, is now right
out there for everyone to applaud. How long it will take before the
prison guards tie together the legs of a woman in labor and then make
bets on how long it will take her to die? After all, that's what
guards did for fun in Nazi Germany. Abu Ghraib, anyone?
So, you ask, "If that's all true, why doesn't the media expose it
all?" Now, that's such a classic example of Nazi strategy, it's almost
funny. The Nazis took over the media, folks. No newspaper published a
single sentence without governmental approval, and propaganda was fed
to the populace instead of news. Sound familiar? A TIME magazine
article, (April, 2005), gave illustrated examples of how the current
administration administers this process.
And, last but certainly not least, the Nazis took over the German
government in its entirety with one simple maneuver: They simply took
over the courts. You know, like it's happening right now, today, even
as we speak: Our filibuster was busted, and those neo-con activist
judges are a-sittin' on the bench, ready to take over the Supreme
Court. Because, once that Supreme Court is co-opted, hey, driver's
license ID cards are gonna be the least of our worries. Ask me. I
 Jim Babka, Canyon Lake Week, Canyon Lake, TX 5-11-2005
Doris is an independent writer and may be contacted at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:26 PM
Payrolls Grow by Just 78,000 in May
By JEANNINE AVERSA, AP Economics Writer
Employers throttled back hiring in May, boosting jobs by just 78,000, the government reported Friday. The most sluggish pace of payroll expansion in nearly two years dramatized the erratic behavior of the nation's job market.
Despite the slow growth in payrolls, the Labor Department's latest snapshot of the jobs picture in the United States showed that the civilian unemployment rate actually dipped fractionally last month — to 5.1 percent. That was down a notch from April's 5.2 percent jobless rate and was the lowest overall since September 2001.
The payroll gain of 78,000 followed a hiring spurt of 274,000 in April. Job cuts last month were reported in the categories of manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business. Those losses tempered gains elsewhere.
The generally lackluster performance surprised economists. Before the report was released, they were predicting jobs to grow by around 175,000 and the jobless rate to hold steady at 5.2 percent.
"Clearly there's some disappointment here," said Anthony Chan, senior economist at JP Morgan Asset Management. "But this may be a gift to financial markets and Main Street because the Federal Reserve might not have to be so aggressive in raising rates. In that regard, it is almost a good report."
But on Wall Street, the report disheartened investors. The Dow Jones industrials were off 26 points and the Nasdaq was down 7 points in morning trading
The employment report often can offer seemingly conflicting pictures of what is happening in the labor market because figures are based on two separate statistical surveys. And there clearly was a mismatch between the two surveys in the report released Friday.
The unemployment rate is calculated on the basis of a survey of 60,000 households, sort of a poll of the jobs market. That survey showed that 376,000 people said they found employment last month, outpacing the number of people who couldn't find work.
But economists tend to give more credence to a much broader survey of business payrolls, one which examines 400,000 work sites. And that's the one that showed only 78,000 jobs added to payrolls.
President Bush wants to see the economy and the job market in good shape, especially as he tries to sell the public and Congress on his vision for revamping Social Security, which includes letting workers set up individual investment accounts.
Earlier this week, the president declared that the economy was strong, with more than 3.5 million new jobs added in two years. "Obviously, these are hopeful signs," he told a news conference Tuesday. "But Congress can make sure that the signs remain hopeful."
The 78,000 gain new jobs registered in May was the smallest since August 2003, when payrolls grew by a tiny 2,000.
Some analysts believe the high energy prices, rising costs for health care and certain raw materials could be making some employers cautious.
Oil prices surged to a new all-time closing high of $57.27 a barrel at the beginning of April and are now hovering above $54 a barrel.
To thwart an inflation flare-up, the Federal Reserve has boosted short-term interest rates eight times — each in modest, quarter-point moves — since last June. Economists still expect another increase when the Fed meets next at the end of this month. But Chan and other economists believed the report raised the odds that the Fed might take a pause or order fewer rate increases in the future.
Workers' average hourly earnings rose to $16.03 in May, up from $16 in April.
The average time that the unemployed spent in their search for work in May was 18.8 weeks, an improvement from the average of 19.6 weeks registered the month before.
On the payroll front, the report showed that manufacturers cut 7,000 jobs in May, following a loss of 9,000 in April. Leisure and hospitality companies shed 6,000 jobs last month, compared with a gain of 63,000 in April. Professional and business services trimmed payrolls by 1,000 in May, a deterioration compared to an increase of 33,000 reported in April.
Retailers added more than 10,000 jobs in May, a deceleration from the nearly 27,000 added in April. Construction companies boosted payrolls by 20,000 last month, compared with 48,000 in April.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:24 PM
Whistleblower of the year
originally published December 27, 2002
(but relevant to the current state of affairs!!)
A young, tenacious journalist did our country a great service this year by refusing to accept conventional wisdom and the status quo. He blew the whistle on powerful figures of authority, exposed deceit and forced change. But you won't see him celebrated on the cover of Time magazine.
That's because Joel Mowbray, a Townhall.com columnist and reporter for National Review magazine and its online counterpart, is too politically incorrect and fearlessly skeptical of official lies to be embraced by the media elite.
Mowbray, 26, hammered the State Department and scooped the jaded Beltway press corps with story after story exposing the bureaucratic foul-ups and diplomatic sellouts that led to national security nightmares.
Mowbray first targeted Visa Express, a corner-cutting gift program created by the State Department that allowed wealthy Saudi Arabian tourists to obtain visas through travel agencies. Among the recipients: three of the September 11 terrorists.
It took relentless questioning from Mowbray before the Bush administration killed the craven program -- ten months after the terrorist attacks.
State tried to punish the messenger. In mid-July, Mowbray was physically detained. Not in Beijing or Baghdad, mind you, but in our own nation's capital. Government security guards prevented him from leaving the State Department building after a daily press briefing. Officials leaned on Mowbray to produce a classified memo he had obtained. He refused.
Here was a clear act of government intimidation of the press. Shamefully, not a single reporter in the State Department media herd criticized these bullying tactics against a fellow journalist. But Mowbray remained undaunted.
He investigated State's Consular Affairs chief Mary Ryan, a Clinton holdover, who "wanted to eliminate the interview requirement for vis a applicants wherever possible." Ryan was forced to resign as a result of Mowbray's whistleblowing. (Mowbray later reported that Ryan received a $5,000 cash bonus, perhaps to soothe the veteran bureaucrat's bruised ego.)
Mowbray charged that Ryan "knowingly deceived Congress" by telling lawmakers "that there was nothing State could have done to prevent the terrorists from obtaining visas." He debunked Ryan's bald lie in an exhaustive Oct. 28 cover story for National Review. One of the most underappreciated pieces of journalism of the year, Mowbray's "Visas for Terrorists" article laid out how the State Department violated its own laws repeatedly in allowing at least 15 of the 19 September 11 terrorists to obtain visas.
Their applications forms, obtained exclusively by Mowbray, were a deadly mess.
Only one of the 15 provided an actual address as required by law -- and that was only because his first application was refused. "The rest listed only general locations -- including 'California,' 'New York,' 'Hotel D.C.,' and 'Hotel.' One terrorist amazingly listed his U.S. destination as simply 'No.' Even more amazingly, he got a visa," Mowbray reported. Another terrorist listed his occupation as "teater" and his travel destination as "Wasantwn."
Consular officials ignored a basic provision of immigration law known as 214(b), which holds that almost all non-immigrant visa applicants are presumed to be would-be immigrants and must prove to interviewers that they won't break the terms of their visas.
Mowbray concluded: "(I)f the law had been enforced, most of the 9/11 terrorists never would have entered the United States. Most of them were young, single men with no demonstrated means of support, and with few or no ties to their home country -- meaning that they were classic 'overstay' candidates. Given that visa applicants have the burden of proving their eligibility, this raises the question: How did they clear the hurdles the law is intended to put in their path when they were already saddled with forms that could generously be described as sloppy?"
Countless red flags in the visa application process were negligently overlooked -- at the expense of 3,000 innocent people. Both the General Accounting Office and the State Department's Inspector General have come to similar conclusions in lengthy reports. State's "existing policies," the Inspector General noted just last week, "remain inadequate."
Gutsy and tireless, Mowbray has only just begun. His unyielding pursuit of the truth in the interest of national security may be bad news for the State Department. But it's welcome news for all Americans who prefer pit-bull journalism to the passive puppy act so common in the media today.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:22 PM
Forget 9/11 — Just For a Minute
What Should We Really Be Afraid Of?
By W. David Jenkins III
Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be
maintained by violence. ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Although tyranny...may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can
stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national
institutions of its own people. ~Hannah Areddt
That's right, I said it. Forget about 9/11. Just put all
those horrible images away. I mean no disrespect but I think it's time
to put things in perspective.
9/11 has become an excuse for those who would exploit it and the world
is a sadder and more dangerous place because of those who have used
the tragedy for their own gains. This isn't exactly a news flash but
it is reality. An unfortunate reality that you and I had no part in
making. That responsibility lays with the people who are still scared
and those who would continue to exploit their fear. And that fear is
the very foundation, the very source of strength of the present
administration. Fear is now the guiding principle of almost every
aspect of almost every person in America today. We have all become
afraid — just for different reasons.
Lately I've been doing a bit of research on fear and the
odds we all face when it comes to our eventual deaths. Let's face it;
we're all going to go sometime.
With acknowledgements to The National Safety Council (NSC), the FBI,
the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and some great work by writer,
John Schettler (Scare Tactics), I've come to the conclusion that many
Americans are afraid of the wrong things.
The Bush administration has been able to thrive by not
only perpetuating the fear that "the terrorists will strike again" but
also, they've managed to keep secret the reasons why the terrorists
were able to hit us in the first place. You can see the results of
their efforts from those who defend Bush by always going back to 9/11.
So what if we torture people? So what if we have fewer liberties? So
what if we cause "collateral damage" in other countries? So what if
the Qu'ran gets thrown into a toilet? So what if we're using all that
leftover duct tape to silence the media? Bush is bringing the war to
them so we don't have to fight them here or experience another 9/11.
You and I have heard all this alleged reasoning ad nauseum for years
now but this line of reasoning (or lack thereof) is the real problem —
not the solution.
There are people in this country who are still scared to death of
another attack (even though they insist Bush has made us safer) by
those dastardly terrorists but, guess what? These yahoos have a better
chance of dying by committing suicide than being attacked by
Really, I'm not kidding.
According to the CDC and NSC there's a better chance that any one of
us will die by our own hand rather than by a terrorist attack. And ya
know what else? You better be on the look-out for falling vending
machines more than that next-door neighbor about whom you've had
suspicions. That's because you have a one-in-six-million chance of
dying in a terrorist attack but you have a one-in-three-million chance
of dying from a Coke machine falling on top of you. Think about it;
you have more chance of kicking it putting a dollar in the slot for a
bag of Doritos than you do getting stuck in another 9/11. And don't
even get me started on the "eye" 4 in Orlando or I95 coming into
Boston . If you're from out of town and find yourself on either one of
those interstates then just build yourself a box, climb in and nail it
The Fear of Knowing the Truth
Look, not to make light of death or the tragedy which affected us all,
but we have far more important things to be afraid of than al Qaeda or
another 9/11. It's just that the Bushies and their media pals don't
want anybody to know that and — so far — they've been quite
successful. But as I've stated many times before; the fact that we
haven't been attacked again should raise more questions than it does.
But it would appear that even the 'independent" 9/11 Commission was
too afraid to raise those questions. Take, for example, former
Attorney General John Ashcroft's testimony before the commission last
>From the hearing transcript:
MR. BEN-VENISTE - "Let me ask you, as my time is expiring, one
question which has been frequently put to members of this commission.
Probably all of us have heard this one way or another and the -- we
are mindful that part of the problem with the Warren Commission's work
on the Kennedy assassination was the failure to address certain
theories that were extant, and questions, and much of the work was
done behind closed doors. So I would like to provide you with the
opportunity to answer one question that has come up repeatedly.
At some point in the spring or summer of 2001, around the time of this
heightened threat alert, you apparently began to use a private
chartered jet plane, changing from your use of commercial aircraft on
grounds, our staff is informed, of an FBI threat assessment.
And indeed, as you told us, on September 11th itself you were on a
chartered jet at the time of the attack. Can you supply the detail,
sir, on -- regarding the threat which caused you to change from
commercial to private, leased jet?
You folks remember this little tidbit of information,
right? Many of us were convinced that this was just one of the events
that had come to light after the attacks which showed that the
administration knew a hell of a lot more than they were letting on
about what happened that day. Now here's what Ashcroft told the
ATTY. GEN. ASHCROFT: "Let me just indicate to you that I never ceased
to use commercial aircraft for my personal travel. My wife traveled to
Germany and back in August. My wife and I traveled to Washington ,
D.C. on the 3rd of September, before the 17th -- before the 11th
attack, on commercial aircraft. I have exclusively traveled on
commercial aircraft for my personal travel, continued through the year
2000, through the entirety of the threat period to the nation."
Oh really, Reverend? You continued to use commercial
aircraft for your "personal travel" right up until September 11? Shall
we go back to the news story that started all this? From the CBS story
dated July 26, 2001 :
Fishing rod in hand, Attorney General John Ashcroft left on a weekend
trip to Missouri Thursday afternoon aboard a chartered government jet,
reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.
In response to inquiries from CBS News over why Ashcroft was traveling
exclusively by leased jet aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the
Justice Department cited what it called a "threat assessment" by the
FBI, and said Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet
for the remainder of his term.
"There was a threat assessment and there are guidelines. He is acting
under the guidelines," an FBI spokesman said. Neither the FBI nor the
Justice Department, however, would identify what the threat was, when
it was detected or who made it.
So there it is. Another source that contradicts Ashcroft's
testimony easily obtained on the Internet. But did the commission
pursue the line of questioning?
MR. BEN-VENISTE: "Well, I'm pleased to have been able to give you the
opportunity to clarify that issue for all who have written to this
commission and communicated in other ways about their questions about
Apparently not. But are enough people asking why? Was the
9/11 Commission so hell-bent on appearing non-partisan that they just
avoided the obvious contradictions in testimony by members of this
administration? Were they afraid to pursue this and other
Author David Ray Griffin has published two remarkable
books that point out what Americans really need to be concerned about,
even more than terrorism. And that is the unsettling fact that this
administration has gone out of its way to hide what happened that
grizzly day in September and the days that led up to it. And as
Griffin points out in New Pearl Harbor, one would have to believe in
an impossible set of coincidences and incompetence, which can only be
applied to that one day, in order to accept the official version of
the events of that day. In other words, one would have to be more of a
conspiracy theorist in order to believe the official version rather
than any alternative explanation. So basically, many Americans
continue to live in fear because they've been convinced to have faith
in an explanation that makes no sense and doesn't hold up to even
Ignorance of the Real Threat
This mindset of irrational fear based on a series of various illogical
excuses and denials has allowed those in positions of power to
implement policies and laws that otherwise would never have seen the
light of day, let alone be embraced by a quivering electorate. And
this choke-hold on the country is aided further by a fearful and
For instance, there is an ongoing story out there right
now that should demand the attention of anyone who truly cares about
this country and what is happening to it and that would be the
circumstances surrounding the Sibel Edmonds case. Unfortunately, far
too many people, even those who don't support the Bush administration,
aren't familiar with her story.
Edmonds is a former FBI translator who expressed concern
to the Department of Defense, the Attorney General and members of
Congress that intelligence data is being compromised by another FBI
translator who happened to be the wife of Air Force major, Douglas
Dickerson. She also stated that members of her family were threatened
with arrest due to her actions. She has also made other statements
regarding cover-ups in the FBI's translation department, complete with
documentation and corroborating witnesses. Edmonds was subsequently
fired from the FBI and courageously filed suit to get her story out.
In turn, she has been shut down repeatedly by the courts and gagged by
the Department of Justice. Why? What is the government afraid of?
Obviously, they're afraid of the truth coming out. The
Edmonds case shows that there is more of a threat to our national
security from within our own system than there is sitting behind a
fence down in Guantanamo Bay . However, as long as the media continue
to ignore this story and run out the clock, more people will continue
to live in fear – of the wrong things.
Only through the destruction of the rights we hold dear
(at least we used to) has this rogue administration been able to
survive without question as long as they have. But imagine if there
had been no 9/11 for them to exploit in order to destroy the fabric of
this country. Does anybody remember where Bush was pre-9/11?
Like Flies to……….
George W. Bush was in the process of becoming the original
first-term lame duck president in history. Half the country believed
(correctly) that he pulled a fast one in order to slither into the
White House in the first place. One of his first orders of business
was to eliminate repetitive motion injury claims for working
Americans. Vermont Senator, Jim Jeffords, defected to an independent
status in order to hand power to the Democrats in protest of the
bullying tactics displayed early on by the White House. Bush's tax-cut
package was already doing damage to the surplus. America was bumped
off the UN Human Rights panel while Bush was letting Russia know that
he was dumping the ABM Treaty. Cheney was holding fund raisers in the
Veep Mansion (shades of Clinton White House Teas!) while his and
Bush's pals at Enron were laughing about soaking somebody's grandma in
California for a "C note" every time she used her toaster.
There were also the twenty-four military personnel that
had been held hostage until Bush said he was really, really sorry for
them colliding into a Chinese aircraft which prompted his neo-con
buddies to weep and whine that Bush had been made to look "weak." Oh,
and let's not forget about "faith-based environmentalism" which
started getting airplay around the same time that Bush told everyone
to go pound salt when it came to the Kyoto Treaty. Then there was his
speech from Crawford, Texas, on that August night (after he saw the
"Bin Laden is gonna get you good" PDB) regarding his tortuous policy
on stem cell research where Bush shared the stage with a huge
Texas-sized fly for all of America to see. It just kept buzzing around
the set, occasionally causing the Boy King to divert his gaze while
many Americans realized the irony of the situation. After all, we do
know flies are attracted to…
And to make matters worse; the NORC recount results from
the sham election of 2000 were due out the second week of September.
One can almost imagine the bells clanging and whistles blowing in the
White House. Talk about your "Maydays."
That Blessed "Trifecta"
Does anybody really believe we would be stuck in the
quagmire that is Iraq if it weren't for the Bushies whoring of 9/11?
Could the Patriot Act have been passed, let alone expanded without
9/11? Could this administration have gotten away with gagging the
media, torture, arrests without charge or due process, or arresting
citizens for speaking up during one of those orchestrated, pathetic
Bush "town hall" meetings without 9/11? Could the administration have
gotten away with impeding the investigations into the very crime that
allowed them such lawless and arrogant behavior without 9/11? Do you
see how this goes around and around? As Griffin asks in his writings
of that day, when a crime is committed the first thing to ask is who
Folks need to put 9/11 away for just a second and take a
real good hard look around at what's happening to their country. We're
on the brink of reinstating the Draft in order to facilitate not only
the continuing farce (illegal) in Iraq but also the designs these
ideological vermin have on Iran, Syria, North Korea and possibly
certain South American neighbors who might have a bit of that Texas
See, most Americans don't even know what they should
actually be afraid of. Although the fear of what happened on 9/11 is
very real to many, those same people haven't a clue as to what
actually happened and, what's worse, they've stopped asking.
Although terrorists were less of a threat four years ago than they are
now (the Bushies have done a remarkable job inciting more and more
Arabs into becoming anti-American recruits), the odds are still in
your favor. For now, that looming vending machine poses a greater
threat to your life than a terrorist attack. But as long as Americans
are more concerned with the finals of American Idol rather than the
dangers that are being cooked up and covered up by the Bush
administration, then those odds are going to change.
When that happens, they'll really have something to be scared of.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:20 PM
Everybody always talks about religious conservatives, but nobody ever
does anything about them.
By Matt Taibbi
The topic for my column this week is religious conservatives. There
are a few reasons for this. The 80th anniversary of the Scopes Monkey
trial is approaching, for one. For another, the city of Dover,
Pennsylvania, has just approved the teaching of "intelligent
design"—the latest semantic end-around for use in questioning
Darwinism. But the real reason to talk about religious conservatives
is because the last few months have been something of a coming-out
party for them as a mainstream political force.
Beginning with the Terri Schiavo affair, and continuing most pointedly
with the latest fight against the filibuster, what we have seen lately
is something new: the congressional leaders of the ruling political
party (Tom Delay, Bill Frist) signing on with the more extreme
representatives of the evangelical movement to push highly dubious and
eccentric political objectives. The presence of such people as James
Dobson and Al Mohler side by side with leading congressional
Republicans has even led some respected political commentators to
wonder aloud if a schism is developing within the Republican party, if
the fiscal conservatives who have long been stomped on in the Bush
years are finally going to start wondering what payoff they're getting
for their political support. Even Andrew Sullivan, that foul whore of
right-wing commentary, admitted as much recently in the New Republic.
"Conservatism isn't over," he wrote. "But it has rarely been as
All of this talk has led to false hope among progressives, who think
they see an opening in the Republicans' apparent strategic error in
backing fundamentalist causes.
The decision by Tom Delay to jump in
bed with the snake-handlers in the Terri Schiavo case—when polls
showed that even a majority of evangelicals opposed him—seemed to
indicate a rare suspension of electoral judgment by his party. There
is a feeling among the pointy-headed secular set that the evangelicals
are a doomed anachronism who will die out with increased exposure to
the open air, and that hitching a political wagon to their causes must
result in failure.
This idea was put most explicitly by Tom Junod in Esquire a few months
back, when he wrote: "Whether the issue is Internet porn or stem-cell
research, what conservatives are up against is not Blue-State America,
or liberal America, or secular America, or decadent America, or
enlightened America. It's not even, as some have suggested, the
Enlightenment itself. It's technology, and it's time."
This is a common belief among the overeducated east coast set. It is
also exactly what H.L. Mencken believed 80 years ago, when he filed
what he thought was the obituary of American yahoo-ism from Dayton,
Tennessee. He concluded from the Scopes trial: "On the one side was
bigotry, ignorance, hatred, superstition, every sort of blackness that
the human mind is capable of. And on the other side was sense. And
sense achieved a great victory."
Little did Mencken know that 80 years after Dayton, the supporters of
William Jennings Bryan's point of view would still outnumber the
supporters of Clarence Darrow's opinion by a ratio of about five to
one; not just in Tennessee, but in the country at large. Polls on the
issue have been remarkably consistent for decades. A New York Times
survey last year showed that 55 percent of Americans believed that
"God created us in our present form," while only 13 percent believed
that "we evolved from less-advanced life-forms over millions of years,
and God did not directly guide this process." A similar Gallup poll in
1997 placed those numbers at 44-10; in 1991, the numbers were 47-9.
Progressives in this country have always maintained a kind of fuzzy
belief that fundamentalists will eventually just disappear, as if by
magic, that the phenomenon of grown men and women believing in devils
and witches and angels will inevitably be outgrown, the way children
outgrow Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Marx. When some pastor in
rural Alabama takes the pulpit to denounce SpongeBob Squarepants as
the agent of the Evil One, we figure no response is really
necessary—folks will figure out the joke on their own, somewhere down
Because of this, nothing like an organized resistance to this
buffoonery has ever taken root in America. Though fundamentalists
themselves imagine their secular opponents as a great and unified
conspiracy, in truth the only weapons trained on Christians in this
country are the occasional lawsuit by the ACLU (a group which normally
opposes not religion itself, as I would prefer, but some ostensibly
unconstitutional intrusion of religion into the public sphere) and the
sarcastic barbs of ineffectual heathen media figures like Maureen Dowd
and Jon Stewart.
Our pornographic pop culture, seen by religious conservatives as a
coordinated, premeditated military offensive against Christian values,
is as indifferent to Christianity as it is to environmentalism. It is
not a true opponent of fundamentalist Christianity, because it doesn't
give a shit about fundamentalist Christianity—or about anything else
for that matter, except ratings and sales.
What organized political resistance fundamentalists do encounter comes
in the form of groups that oppose their political objectives, not
Christianity itself. Even pro-choice groups like NARAL, which come
into direct and often violent contact with Christians, restrict
themselves to agitation for abortion rights, and leave the issue of
their opponents' religion alone. In general, there is almost no public
figure, anywhere, who has ever suggested publicly that fundamentalist
Christianity, as a thing-in-itself, should be opposed. The strongest
suggestion most critics will make is to say that it should be
contained, and indeed that seems to be the best-case strategy of
progressives: that the God-fearing set can be boxed in, kept from
being a nuisance and from meddling in areas where they don't belong,
just long enough for them to eventually die out of natural causes.
This is a mistake, and it is the same mistake people have made for
centuries: underestimating the American zeal for superstition, for
boobism, for living the intellectual lives of farm animals. A large
statistical majority of Americans would rather live their whole lives
in perpetual fear of the devil than listen to ten minutes of common
sense. When you consider where these people live intellectually, the
idea that the Democratic Party can somehow succeed in Middle America
by making small tactical changes, by waving a few more flags, seems
absurd. You either believe in the devil or you don't; and if you
don't, you're never going to fool these people. The Republicans, for
all their seeming "confusion," understand this now better than ever.
Their seemingly open attempts in recent months to radicalize and
embolden their evangelical base may have had a temporary desultory
effect with regard to their poll numbers.
But this current crew of Republican strategists has always understood
American thinking better than the Tom Junods of the world. They know
that most political trends are fleeting. Liberalism vanished at the
first sign of trouble; pacifism disappeared one generation after
Vietnam; even fiscal conservatism is easily forgotten. The one thing
that never disappears in this country is stupidity, and if you court
it, you'll always have votes down the line. Especially when it lives
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:14 PM
Thursday, June 02, 2005
The International Herald Tribune
Intimidated by extremists
ATLANTA One day, when historians study this first major war of the 21st century, they will scratch their heads in disbelief, wondering how it came to pass that Muslim extremists managed to intimidate moderates of every religion - including Islam - on every continent on earth.
The whole planet, it seems, twisted itself into knots trying to untangle the forces at work behind the retracted Newsweek story about desecration of the Koran. Journalistic practices came under attack, while experts on Islam tried to soothe the less erudite, not quite justifying, but more than thoroughly explaining why desecration of the Holy Book leads to mob rampage and murder in a Muslim society.
No question, insulting any religion is beyond reprehensible. It appears, however, that nothing is more reprehensible than insulting the Muslim religion. And the extremists now decide what constitutes an insult.
In Pakistan, a Muslim nation whose president Muslim extremists have twice tried to assassinate, Islamists have decided that women's sports constitute a grievous offense to Islam. Some women, it turns out, find the idea of using Islam to repress them itself quite offensive. So, when the government of President Pervez Musharraf, which lately bends to the will of extremists, placed bans on women's rights, women decided to stage a protest
A leading Pakistani human rights activist, Asma Jahangir, was brutally attacked by the police during the peaceful demonstration. Participants in the "mini-marathon," a kind of sports event/political protest, came under violent police assault. This from a key U.S. ally, a government presumably fighting to defeat Islamist extremists. A fine way to strengthen the moderates!
And speaking of moderates, and of respect for religion, consider the official sermon on Palestinian Authority television, which is financed largely by the contributions of democratic countries in the West, shown to viewers on May 13. Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris explained that "the Jews are a virus resembling AIDS." This man of God told the faithful that "the stones and the trees will want every Muslim to finish off every Jew," and he predicted that "the day will come when we (Muslims) will rule the entire world again."
With the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, on his way to the United States, the authority did not want such notions to dominate the headlines, so it took a stand against the imam. But this kind of rhetoric by religious figures goes unchallenged every day in much of the Middle East, including so-called moderate countries friendly to Washington.
Even in Africa, moderate governments behave timidly before mob-stoking Islamists. Muslim radicals in Nigeria a few years ago whipped the masses into a murderous frenzy days before the scheduled Miss World Pageant, all because a newspaper columnist speculated, tongue in cheek, that the Prophet Muhammad might have taken the winning contestant as his wife.
Frenzied Muslims killed 220 Nigerians to defend Islam from such an insult. Nigeria's moderate president accused the media of insensitivity and blamed the riots on "irresponsible" journalists. We can add the 220 to the hundreds who have died in protests against other affronts to symbols of Islam.
While Muslim moderates get swept away by the tide of extremism, unprotected by so-called moderate governments, the rest of the world frets in well-intentioned angst. Moderates everywhere now seem terrified of making missteps that might upset the extremists, while they obsess over the question, "What can we do to avoid offending Muslims?" Standing Pentagon orders instruct those touching the Koran that "clean gloves will be put on" and that "two hands will be used at all times."
Let me say it again: Disrespecting the Koran or Islam or any other religion is contemptible behavior. If American soldiers do it, it is particularly egregious because the United States self-righteously argues for more tolerance in the Muslim world. But tolerance must be demanded from all sides.
The views and life choices of moderate Muslims must be respected, as must those of people of all religions, by members of all religions. The demands fall on Muslims, too. And the requirement of standing up against intolerance falls on all governments. Only intolerance is undeserving of tolerance.
(Frida Ghitis is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." )
originally published JUNE 1, 2005
Posted by politicalstuff at 6:39 PM
How Mark Felt Became 'Deep Throat'
As a Friendship -- and the Watergate Story -- Developed, Source's Motives Remained a Mystery to Woodward
By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
In 1970, when I was serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and assigned to Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, the chief of naval operations, I sometimes acted as a courier, taking documents to the White House.
One evening I was dispatched with a package to the lower level of the West Wing of the White House, where there was a little waiting area near the Situation Room. It could be a long wait for the right person to come out and sign for the material, sometimes an hour or more, and after I had been waiting for a while a tall man with perfectly combed gray hair came in and sat down near me. His suit was dark, his shirt white and his necktie subdued. He was probably 25 to 30 years older than I and was carrying what looked like a file case or briefcase. He was very distinguished-looking and had a studied air of confidence, the posture and calm of someone used to giving orders and having them obeyed instantly.
I could tell he was watching the situation very carefully. There was nothing overbearing in his attentiveness, but his eyes were darting about in a kind of gentlemanly surveillance. After several minutes, I introduced myself. "Lieutenant Bob Woodward," I said, carefully appending a deferential "sir."
"Mark Felt," he said.
I began telling him about myself, that this was my last year in the Navy and I was bringing documents from Adm. Moorer's office. Felt was in no hurry to explain anything about himself or why he was there.
This was a time in my life of considerable anxiety, even consternation, about my future. I had graduated in 1965 from Yale, where I had a Naval Reserve Officers' Training Corps scholarship that required that I go into the Navy after getting my degree. After four years of service, I had been involuntarily extended an additional year because of the Vietnam War.
During that year in Washington, I expended a great deal of energy trying to find things or people who were interesting. I had a college classmate who was going to clerk for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, and I made an effort to develop a friendship with that classmate. To quell my angst and sense of drift, I was taking graduate courses at George Washington University. One course was in Shakespeare, another in international relations.
When I mentioned the graduate work to Felt, he perked up immediately, saying he had gone to night law school at GW in the 1930s before joining -- and this is the first time he mentioned it -- the FBI. While in law school, he said, he had worked full time for a senator -- his home-state senator from Idaho. I said that I had been doing some volunteer work at the office of my congressman, John Erlenborn, a Republican from the district in Wheaton, Ill., where I had been raised.
So we had two connections -- graduate work at GW and work with elected representatives from our home states.
Felt and I were like two passengers sitting next to each other on a long airline flight with nowhere to go and nothing really to do but resign ourselves to the dead time. He showed no interest in striking up a long conversation, but I was intent on it. I finally extracted from him the information that he was an assistant director of the FBI in charge of the inspection division, an important post under Director J. Edgar Hoover. That meant he led teams of agents who went around to FBI field offices to make sure they were adhering to procedures and carrying out Hoover's orders. I later learned that this was called the "goon squad."
Here was someone at the center of the secret world I was only glimpsing in my Navy assignment, so I peppered him with questions about his job and his world. As I think back on this accidental but crucial encounter -- one of the most important in my life -- I see that my patter probably verged on the adolescent. Since he wasn't saying much about himself, I turned it into a career-counseling session.
I was deferential, but I must have seemed very needy. He was friendly, and his interest in me seemed somehow paternal. Still the most vivid impression I have is that of his distant but formal manner, in most ways a product of Hoover's FBI. I asked Felt for his phone number, and he gave me the direct line to his office.
I believe I encountered him only one more time at the White House. But I had set the hook. He was going to be one of the people I consulted in depth about my future, which now loomed more ominously as the date of my discharge from the Navy approached. At some point I called him, first at the FBI and then at his home in Virginia. I was a little desperate, and I'm sure I poured out my heart. I had applied to several law schools for that fall, but, at 27, I wondered if I could really stand spending three years in law school before starting real work.
Felt seemed sympathetic to the lost-soul quality of my questions. He said that after he had his law degree his first job had been with the Federal Trade Commission. His first assignment was to determine whether toilet paper with the brand name Red Cross was at an unfair competitive advantage because people thought it was endorsed or approved by the American Red Cross. The FTC was a classic federal bureaucracy -- slow and leaden -- and he hated it. Within a year he had applied to the FBI and been accepted. Law school opened the most doors, he seemed to be saying, but don't get caught in your own equivalent of a toilet-paper investigation.
A TWO WEEK TRYOUT: Coming to The Post
In August 1970, I was formally discharged from the Navy. I had subscribed to The Washington Post, which I knew was led by a colorful, hard-charging editor named Ben Bradlee. There was a toughness and edge to the news coverage that I liked; it seemed to fit the times, to fit with a general sense of where the world was much more than law school. Maybe reporting was something I could do.
During my scramble and search for a future, I had sent a letter to The Post asking for a job as a reporter. Somehow -- I don't remember exactly how -- Harry Rosenfeld, the metropolitan editor, agreed to see me. He stared at me through his glasses in some bewilderment. Why, he wondered, would I want to be a reporter? I had zero -- zero! -- experience. Why, he said, would The Washington Post want to hire someone with no experience? But this is just crazy enough, Rosenfeld finally said, that we ought to try it. We'll give you a two-week tryout.
After two weeks, I had written perhaps a dozen stories or fragments of stories. None had been published or come close to being published. None had even been edited.
See, you don't know how to do this, Rosenfeld said, bringing my tryout to a merciful close. But I left the newsroom more enthralled than ever. Though I had failed the tryout -- it was a spectacular crash -- I realized I had found something that I loved. The sense of immediacy in the newspaper was overwhelming to me, and I took a job at the Montgomery Sentinel, where Rosenfeld said I could learn how to be a reporter. I told my father that law school was off and that I was taking a job, at about $115 a week, as a reporter at a weekly newspaper in Maryland.
"You're crazy," my father said, in one of the rare judgmental statements he had ever made to me.
I also called Mark Felt, who, in a gentler way, indicated that he, too, thought this was crazy. He said he thought newspapers were too shallow and too quick on the draw. Newspapers didn't do in-depth work and rarely got to the bottom of events.
Well, I said, I was elated. Maybe he could help me with stories.
He didn't answer, I recall.
During the year I spent on the Sentinel, I kept in touch with Felt through phone calls to his office and home. We were becoming friends of a sort. He was the mentor, keeping me from toilet-paper investigations, and I kept asking for advice. One weekend I drove out to his home in Virginia and met his wife, Audrey.
Somewhat to my astonishment, Felt was an admirer of J. Edgar Hoover. He appreciated his orderliness and the way he ran the bureau with rigid procedures and an iron fist. Felt said he appreciated that Hoover arrived at the office at 6:30 each morning and everyone knew what was expected. The Nixon White House was another matter, Felt said. The political pressures were immense, he said without being specific. I believe he called it "corrupt" and sinister. Hoover, Felt and the old guard were the wall that protected the FBI, he said.
In his own memoir, "The FBI Pyramid: From the Inside," which received almost no attention when it was published in 1979, five years after President Richard M. Nixon's resignation, Felt angrily called this a "White House-Justice Department cabal."
At the time, pre-Watergate, there was little or no public knowledge of the vast pushing, shoving and outright acrimony between the Nixon White House and Hoover's FBI. The Watergate investigations later revealed that in 1970 a young White House aide named Tom Charles Huston had come up with a plan to authorize the CIA, the FBI and military intelligence units to intensify electronic surveillance of "domestic security threats," authorize illegal opening of mail, and lift the restrictions on surreptitious entries or break-ins to gather intelligence.
Huston warned in a top-secret memo that the plan was "clearly illegal." Nixon initially approved the plan anyway. Hoover strenuously objected, because eavesdropping, opening mail and breaking into homes and offices of domestic security threats were basically the FBI bailiwick and the bureau didn't want competition. Four days later, Nixon rescinded the Huston plan.
Felt, a much more learned man than most realized, later wrote that he considered Huston "a kind of White House gauleiter over the intelligence community." The word "gauleiter" is not in most dictionaries, but in the four-inch-thick Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language it is defined as "the leader or chief official of a political district under Nazi control."
There is little doubt Felt thought the Nixon team were Nazis. During this period, he had to stop efforts by others in the bureau to "identify every member of every hippie commune" in the Los Angeles area, for example, or to open a file on every member of Students for a Democratic Society.
None of this surfaced directly in our discussions, but clearly he was a man under pressure, and the threat to the integrity and independence of the bureau was real and seemed uppermost in his mind.
On July 1, 1971 -- about a year before Hoover's death and the Watergate break-in -- Hoover promoted Felt to be the number three official in the FBI. Though Hoover's sidekick, Clyde Tolson, was technically the number two official, Tolson was also ill and did not come to work many days, meaning he had no operational control of the bureau. Thus, my friend became the day-to-day manager of all FBI matters as long as he kept Hoover and Tolson informed or sought Hoover's approval on policy matters.
EARLY TIPS: Agnew, and Then Wallace
In August, a year after my failed tryout, Rosenfeld decided to hire me. I started at The Post the next month.
Though I was busy in my new job, I kept Felt on my call list and checked in with him. He was relatively free with me but insisted that he, the FBI and the Justice Department be kept out of anything I might use indirectly or pass onto others. He was stern and strict about those rules with a booming, insistent voice. I promised, and he said that it was essential that I be careful. The only way to ensure that was to tell no one that we knew each other or talked or that I knew someone in the FBI or Justice Department. No one.
In the spring, he said in utter confidence that the FBI had some information that Vice President Spiro T. Agnew had received a bribe of $2,500 in cash that Agnew had put in his desk drawer. I passed this on to Richard Cohen, the top Maryland reporter for The Post, not identifying the source at all. Cohen said, and later wrote in his book on the Agnew investigation, that he thought it was "preposterous." Another Post reporter and I spent a day chasing around Baltimore for the alleged person who supposedly knew about the bribe. We got nowhere. Two years later, the Agnew investigation revealed that the vice president had received such a bribe in his office.
About 9:45 a.m. on May 2, 1972, Felt was in his office at the FBI when an assistant director came to report that Hoover had died at his home. Felt was stunned. For practical purposes, he was next in line to take over the bureau.
Yet Felt was soon to be visited with immense disappointment. Nixon nominated L. Patrick Gray III to be the acting director. Gray was a Nixon loyalist going back years. He had resigned from the Navy in 1960 to work for candidate Nixon during the presidential contest that Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy.
As best I could tell Felt was crushed, but he put on a good face. "Had I been wiser, I would have retired," Felt wrote.
On May 15, less than two weeks after Hoover's death, a lone gunman shot Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace, then campaigning for president, at a Laurel shopping center. The wounds were serious, but Wallace survived.
Wallace had a strong following in the deep South, an increasing source of Nixon's support. Wallace's spoiler candidacy four years earlier in 1968 could have cost Nixon the election that year, and Nixon monitored Wallace's every move closely as the 1972 presidential contest continued.
That evening, Nixon called Felt -- not Gray, who was out of town -- at home for an update. It was the first time Felt had spoken directly with Nixon. Felt reported that Arthur H. Bremer, the would-be assassin, was in custody but in the hospital because he had been roughed up and given a few bruises by those who subdued and captured him after he shot Wallace.
"Well, it's too bad they didn't really rough up the son of a bitch!" Nixon told Felt.
Felt was offended that the president would make such a remark. Nixon was so agitated and worried, attaching such urgency to the shooting, that he said he wanted full updates every 30 minutes from Felt on any new information that was being discovered in the investigation of Bremer.
In the following days I called Felt several times and he very carefully gave me leads as we tried to find out more about Bremer. It turned out that he had stalked some of the other candidates, and I went to New York to pick up the trail. This led to several front-page stories about Bremer's travels, completing a portrait of a madman not singling out Wallace but rather looking for any presidential candidate to shoot. On May 18, I did a Page One article that said, among other things, "High federal officials who have reviewed investigative reports on the Wallace shooting said yesterday that there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that Bremer was a hired killer."
It was rather brazen of me. Though I was technically protecting my source and talked to others besides Felt, I did not do a good job of concealing where the information was coming from. Felt chastised me mildly. But the story that Bremer acted alone and without accomplices was a story that both the White House and the FBI wanted out.
THE STORY BREAKS: Secrecy Is Paramount
A month later, on Saturday, June 17, the FBI night supervisor called Felt at home. Five men in business suits, pockets stuffed with $100 bills, and carrying eavesdropping and photographic equipment, had been arrested inside the Democrats' national headquarters at the Watergate office building about 2:30 a.m.
By 8:30 a.m. Felt was in his office at the FBI, seeking more details. About the same time, The Post's city editor woke me at home and asked me to come in to cover an unusual burglary.
The first paragraph of the front-page story that ran the next day in The Post read: "Five men, one of whom said he is a former employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, were arrested at 2:30 a.m. yesterday in what authorities described as an elaborate plot to bug the offices of the Democratic National Committee here."
The next day, Carl Bernstein and I wrote our first article together, identifying one of the burglars, James W. McCord Jr., as the salaried security coordinator for Nixon's reelection committee. On Monday, I went to work on E. Howard Hunt, whose telephone number had been found in the address books of two of the burglars with the small notations "W. House" and "W.H." by his name.
This was the moment when a source or friend in the investigative agencies of government is invaluable. I called Felt at the FBI, reaching him through his secretary. It would be our first talk about Watergate. He reminded me how he disliked phone calls at the office but said the Watergate burglary case was going to "heat up" for reasons he could not explain. He then hung up abruptly.
I was tentatively assigned to write the next day's Watergate bugging story, but I was not sure I had anything. Carl had the day off. I picked up the phone and dialed 456-1414 -- the White House -- and asked for Howard Hunt. There was no answer, but the operator helpfully said he might be in the office of Charles W. Colson, Nixon's special counsel. Colson's secretary said Hunt was not there this moment but might be at a public relations firm where he worked as a writer. I called and reached Hunt and asked why his name was in the address book of two of the Watergate burglars.
"Good God!" Hunt shouted before slamming down the phone. I called the president of the public relations firm, Robert F. Bennett, who is now a Republican U.S. senator from Utah. "I guess it's no secret that Howard was with the CIA," Bennett said blandly.
It had been a secret to me, and a CIA spokesman confirmed that Hunt had been with the agency from 1949 to 1970. I called Felt again at the FBI. Colson, White House, CIA, I said. What did I have? Anyone could have someone's name in an address book. I wanted to be careful about guilt by association.
Felt sounded nervous. He said off the record -- meaning I could not use the information -- that Hunt was a prime suspect in the burglary at the Watergate for many reasons beyond the address books. So reporting the connections forcefully would not be unfair.
In July, Carl went to Miami, home of four of the burglars, on the money trail, and he ingeniously tracked down a local prosecutor and his chief investigator, who had copies of $89,000 in Mexican checks and a $25,000 check that had gone into the account of Bernard L. Barker, one of the burglars. We were able to establish that the $25,000 check had been campaign money that had been given to Maurice H. Stans, Nixon's chief fundraiser, on a Florida golf course. The Aug. 1 story on this was the first to tie Nixon campaign money directly to Watergate.
I tried to call Felt, but he wouldn't take the call. I tried his home in Virginia and had no better luck. So one night I showed up at his Fairfax home. It was a plain-vanilla, perfectly kept, everything-in-its-place suburban house. His manner made me nervous. He said no more phone calls, no more visits to his home, nothing in the open.
I did not know then that in Felt's earliest days in the FBI, during World War II, he had been assigned to work on the general desk of the Espionage Section. Felt learned a great deal about German spying in the job, and after the war he spent time keeping suspected Soviet agents under surveillance.
So at his home in Virginia that summer, Felt said that if we were to talk it would have to be face to face where no one could observe us.
I said anything would be fine with me.
We would need a preplanned notification system -- a change in the environment that no one else would notice or attach any meaning to. I didn't know what he was talking about.
If you keep the drapes in your apartment closed, open them and that could signal me, he said. I could check each day or have them checked, and if they were open we could meet that night at a designated place. I liked to let the light in at times, I explained.
We needed another signal, he said, indicating that he could check my apartment regularly. He never explained how he could do this.
Feeling under some pressure, I said that I had a red cloth flag, less than a foot square -- the kind used as warnings on long truck loads -- that a girlfriend had found on the street. She had stuck it in an empty flowerpot on my apartment balcony.
Felt and I agreed that I would move the flowerpot with the flag, which usually was in the front near the railing, to the rear of the balcony if I urgently needed a meeting. This would have to be important and rare, he said sternly. The signal, he said, would mean we would meet that same night about 2 a.m. on the bottom level of an underground garage just over the Key Bridge in Rosslyn.
Felt said I would have to follow strict countersurveillance techniques. How did I get out of my apartment?
I walked out, down the hall, and took the elevator.
Which takes you to the lobby? he asked.
Did I have back stairs to my apartment house?
Use them when you are heading for a meeting. Do they open into an alley?
Take the alley. Don't use your own car. Take a taxi to several blocks from a hotel where there are cabs after midnight, get dropped off and then walk to get a second cab to Rosslyn. Don't get dropped off directly at the parking garage. Walk the last several blocks. If you are being followed, don't go down to the garage. I'll understand if you don't show. All this was like a lecture. The key was taking the necessary time -- one to two hours to get there. Be patient, serene. Trust the prearrangements. There was no fallback meeting place or time. If we both didn't show, there would be no meeting.
Felt said that if he had something for me, he could get me a message. He quizzed me about my daily routine, what came to my apartment, the mailbox, etc. The Post was delivered outside my apartment door. I did have a subscription to the New York Times. A number of people in my apartment building near Dupont Circle got the Times. The copies were left in the lobby with the apartment number. Mine was No. 617, and it was written clearly on the outside of each paper in marker pen. Felt said if there was something important he could get to my New York Times -- how, I never knew. Page 20 would be circled, and the hands of a clock in the lower part of the page would be drawn to indicate the time of the meeting that night, probably 2 a.m., in the same Rosslyn parking garage.
The relationship was a compact of trust; nothing about it was to be discussed or shared with anyone, he said.
How he could have made a daily observation of my balcony is still a mystery to me. At the time, before the era of intensive security, the back of the building was not enclosed, so anyone could have driven in the back alley to observe my balcony. In addition, my balcony and the back of the apartment complex faced onto a courtyard or back area that was shared with a number of other apartment or office buildings in the area. My balcony could have been seen from dozens of apartments or offices, as best I can tell.
A number of embassies were located in the area. The Iraqi Embassy was down the street, and I thought it possible that the FBI had surveillance or listening posts nearby. Could Felt have had the counterintelligence agents regularly report on the status of my flag and flowerpot? That seems highly unlikely, if not impossible.
A KINSHIP: Felt Knew Reporters' Plight
In the course of this and other discussions, I was somewhat apologetic for plaguing him and being such a nag, but I explained that we had nowhere else to turn. Carl and I had obtained a list of everyone who worked for Nixon's reelection committee and were frequently going out into the night knocking on the doors of these people to try to interview them. I explained to Felt that we were getting lots of doors slammed in our faces. There also were lots of frightened looks. I was frustrated.
Felt said I should not worry about pushing him. He had done his time as a street agent, interviewing people. The FBI, like the press, had to rely on voluntary cooperation. Most people wanted to help the FBI, but the FBI knew about rejection. Felt perhaps tolerated my aggressiveness and pushy approach because he had been the same way himself when he was younger, once talking his way into an interview with Hoover and telling him of his ambition to become a special agent in charge of an FBI field office.
It was an unusual message, emphatically encouraging me to get in his face.
With a story as enticing, complex, competitive and fast-breaking as Watergate, there was little tendency or time to consider the motives of our sources. What was important was whether the information checked out and whether it was true. We were swimming, really living, in the fast-moving rapids. There was no time to ask why they were talking or whether they had an ax to grind.
I was thankful for any morsel or information, confirmation or assistance Felt gave me while Carl and I were attempting to understand the many-headed monster of Watergate. Because of his position virtually atop the chief investigative agency, his words and guidance had immense, at times even staggering, authority. The weight, authenticity and his restraint were more important than his design, if he had one.
It was only later after Nixon resigned that I began to wonder why Felt had talked when doing so carried substantial risks for him and the FBI. Had he been exposed early on, Felt would have been no hero. Technically, it was illegal to talk about grand jury information or FBI files -- or it could have been made to look illegal.
Felt believed he was protecting the bureau by finding a way, clandestine as it was, to push some of the information from the FBI interviews and files out to the public, to help build public and political pressure to make Nixon and his people answerable. He had nothing but contempt for the Nixon White House and their efforts to manipulate the bureau for political reasons. The young eager-beaver patrol of White House underlings, best exemplified by John W. Dean III, was odious to him.
His reverence for Hoover and strict bureau procedure made Gray's appointment as director all the more shocking. Felt obviously concluded he was Hoover's logical successor.
And the former World War II spy hunter liked the game. I suspect in his mind I was his agent. He beat it into my head: secrecy at all cost, no loose talk, no talk about him at all, no indication to anyone that such a secret source existed.
In our book "All the President's Men," Carl and I described how we had speculated about Deep Throat and his piecemeal approach to providing information. Maybe it was to minimize his risk. Or because one or two big stories, no matter how devastating, could be blunted by the White House. Maybe it was simply to make the game more interesting. More likely, we concluded, "Deep Throat was trying to protect the office, to effect a change in its conduct before all was lost."
Each time I raised the question with Felt, he had the same answer: "I have to do this my way."
Posted by politicalstuff at 11:27 AM