Pentagon Agency's Contracts Reviewed
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Federal investigators are looking into contracts awarded by the Pentagon's newest and fastest-growing intelligence agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity, which has spent more than $1 billion, mostly for outsourced services, since its establishment in late 2002, according to administration and congressional sources.
The review is an outgrowth of the continuing investigation that resulted in charges against Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who resigned from Congress in November and is scheduled to be sentenced today after pleading guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy to take $2.4 million in bribes.
In pre-sentencing documents filed this week, prosecutors said that in fiscal 2003 legislation, Cunningham set aside, or earmarked, $6.3 million for work to be done "to benefit" CIFA shortly after the agency was created. The contract went to MZM Inc., a company run by Mitchell J. Wade, who recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Cunningham.
Also this week, prosecutors released a letter dated Feb. 24, 2004, from Cunningham to CIFA Director David A. Burtt II, in which the former member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence thanked the CIFA staff for supporting another multimillion-dollar program that involved MZM.
CIFA, whose exact size and budget remain secret, was established in September 2002 to coordinate policy and oversee the counterintelligence activities of units within the military services and Pentagon agencies. In the past three years, it has grown to become an analytic and operational organization with nine directorates and widening authority focused primarily on protecting defense facilities and personnel from terrorist attacks. The agency was criticized after it was revealed in December that a database it managed held information on Americans who were peacefully protesting the war in Iraq at defense facilities and recruiting offices.
Officials said CIFA's contracting is under review by federal prosecutors as they continue to investigate the Cunningham corruption case, and by Defense Department officials. Pentagon officials declined to discuss CIFA's connections to the inquiry. "There is an ongoing review by appropriate organizations within the Department, and it would be premature to discuss any possible outcomes of that review," said a statement provided yesterday by Cmdr. Gregory Hicks, a Defense Department public affairs officer who also serves as CIFA's spokesman.
Burtt has said that about 70 percent of CIFA's funding is contracted out and that his agency may soon absorb the Defense Security Service, the Pentagon outfit that monitors handling of classified government information by contractors.
CIFA has had a connection to MZM dating to its formation, said congressional and administration sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigations. Burtt, who was a deputy assistant secretary of defense for counterintelligence at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, developed the concept for CIFA.
A consultant to Burtt on the CIFA project was retired Lt. Gen. James C. King, who joined MZM after retiring in late 2001 as director of the Pentagon-based National Imagery and Mapping Agency. In August 2005, investment firm Veritas Capital bought MZM and changed its name to Athena Innovative Solutions Inc. King, who replaced Wade as president of MZM in June 2005, has remained president of Athena. A spokesman for Athena said yesterday that neither King nor the company would comment on MZM or matters under investigation.
In late 2002, Cunningham made the contract for Wade's company, MZM, one of "his top priorities" in the defense appropriations bill, according to the prosecutors' pre-sentencing filing. After Congress approved the money, Wade told unnamed Defense Department officials they had to "work something up" that would provide a "real benefit to CIFA," according to the prosecutors' documents.
The resultant program saw more than $6 million spent for a mass data storage system supposedly for CIFA that, according to the prosecutorial document, included almost $5.4 million in profit for MZM and a subcontractor. "Adding insult to injury," the prosecutors wrote, "the final system sold to the government was never installed (as it was incompatible with CIFA's network system) and remains in storage in Arlington, Va."
In January 2004, Cunningham sought about $16.15 million to be added to the defense authorization bill for a CIFA "collaboration center." A month later, Cunningham wrote Burtt his thank you note about the center, adding: "I wish to endorse and support MZM, Inc.'s work." He concluded, "As the Collaboration Center is completed, I hope to help you inaugurate the center as I did at the inception of CIFA." Defense spokesman Hicks said he was unaware of a CIFA collaboration center.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Harris Requested Funds At Behest of Contractor
By Charles R. Babcock
Washington Post Staff Writer
Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) has acknowledged that she requested last year that $10 million in federal funds be set aside for a Navy intelligence program in her district at the request of Washington contractor Mitchell J. Wade, who pleaded guilty last week to bribing another House member.
Harris, who gained notoriety as secretary of state in Florida during the contested Bush-Gore presidential race in 2000, is running for the Senate this year. News media in her home state have been focusing on her dealings with Wade since prosecutors disclosed last week that she was the unwitting recipient of $32,000 in illegal campaign donations from Wade in 2004.
In a statement Thursday, Harris said: "I never requested funding for this project in exchange for any contributions, but rather to bring more high-skill, high-wage jobs to the region."
In court filings as part of Wade's plea for bribing convicted former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), prosecutors said Wade had had dinner with Harris early last year and discussed another fundraising event and possible funding for an unnamed Navy counterintelligence program. The court filing said the project was not funded but did not address whether Harris sought funding. She did not respond to questions about such a request last week.
On Thursday, she released copies of letters she sent to appropriations subcommittee chairmen in 2004 and 2005 requesting funding for more than 80 specific projects. She said she was doing so to bring transparency to the appropriations process, and that she supports identifying the individuals and organizations making the requests.
Last year, she first requested five defense projects totaling $15.8 million. A month later, she wrote another letter to Reps. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), the senior members of the panel, adding the Wade project. It was for Naval Criminal Investigative Service airborne capability, which she placed third on her list of funding priorities. She said it was "to support counterintelligence and combating terrorism missions."
Harris said she has not been contacted by any officials regarding the incident.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:11 AM
Hearing Set on Agencies' Withdrawal of Papers From Archives
By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
A congressional committee will look into a secret program under which federal intelligence agencies have withdrawn thousands of historical documents from public access at the National Archives, even though the records had been declassified.
"We are spending literally millions and millions of dollars to keep secrets from ourselves," said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), chairman of the Government Reform subcommittee on national security, emerging threats and international relations. "We've got a huge problem."
The panel plans to hold an oversight hearing March 14 on federal policies for the handling of sensitive information. Shays said the suppression of documents that pose no threat to national security is indicative of a larger problem in which government secrecy is on the rise.
About 9,500 records totaling more than 55,000 pages have been withdrawn from the public shelves and reclassified since 1999, according to the National Archives. The New York Times reported last month that outside historians discovered the practice and complained about it. Archivist Allen Weinstein announced a moratorium on the reclassification efforts Thursday.
While the archives will not name the agencies involved, historians with the National Security Archive, a nonprofit research library housed at George Washington University, say the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Department and the Justice Department have participated.
Many of the records date to the 1940s and 1950s and their continued disclosure would pose no conceivable security risk, said historians who obtained copies of the records before reclassification. Such documents include old Cold War intelligence analyses and studies of political affairs in Mexico in the 1960s. Other documents appear to be the sort that should not have been declassified, historians say.
Weinstein said he is suspending the agencies' efforts to withdraw documents until the archives' Information Security Oversight Office completes an audit of the removed material. Results of the audit, which will help determine which records should be secret, are expected by late April.
"I felt that it was important to give people time to cool off in this whole matter," Weinstein said in a telephone interview yesterday. "It's an effort to slow the trains down."
The program dates to the Clinton administration, when the CIA and other agencies began recalling documents they believed were improperly released under a 1995 executive order requiring declassification of many historical records 25 years old and older. The pace of the removal picked up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Some documents appear to have been withdrawn for no reason other than to spare official embarrassment, historians said. One document -- excerpts of an Oct. 12, 1950, memo from the CIA director to President Harry S. Truman -- says that while Chinese intervention in the Korea War was possible, "a consideration of all known factors leads to the conclusion that barring a Soviet decision for global war, such action is not probable in 1950." The Chinese invaded Korea on Nov. 26.
Independent historian Matthew M. Aid uncovered the reclassification program last summer when his requests for documents formerly available at the archives were delayed or denied.
"This isn't the first instance I've run into where intelligence agencies and the Pentagon and other government agencies have used classification to cover up faux pas," said Aid, author of a book on Cold War intelligence. "It just galled me."
Weinstein is scheduled to meet next week with national security agencies involved in the reclassification. The matter also is being studied by the Public Interest Declassification Board, a new, nine-member advisory panel that helps the executive branch sort out which classified documents should be made public.
Weinstein said the process has to be credible to the public. "Stuff has to be held back when it's important to hold it back, when you can make a legitimate legal case for not releasing it, not when you are going on impulse or gut reaction or just because you don't like something in some document," he said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:10 AM
North Pole Meets South Pole: Both Ends of Earth Are Melting; Melting Ice Caps Could Spell Disaster for Coastal Cities
North Pole Meets South Pole: Both Ends of Earth Are Melting
Melting Ice Caps Could Spell Disaster for Coastal Cities
By BILL BLAKEMORE
March 2, 2006 — - For the first time, scientists have confirmed Earth is melting at both ends, which could have disastrous effects for coastal cities and villages.
Antarctica has been called "a slumbering giant" by a climate scientist who predicts that if all the ice melted, sea levels would rise by 200 feet. Other scientists believe that such a thing won't happen, but new studies show that the slumbering giant has started to stir.
Melting at Both Ends
Recent studies have confirmed that the North Pole and the South Pole have started melting.
Experts have long predicted that global warming would start to melt Greenland's two-mile-thick ice sheet, but they also thought the more massive ice sheet covering Antarctica would increase in the 21st century.
It seems they were wrong.
Two new studies find that despite the increasing snowfall that comes with global warming as a result of the increased moisture in the air, Antarctica's ice sheets are losing far more than the snow is adding.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, Earth's surface temperature has risen by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last century, with accelerated warming during the last two decades. Most of the warming over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities through the buildup of greenhouse gases -- primarily carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Although the heat-trapping property of these gases is undisputed, uncertainties exist about exactly how Earth's climate responds to them.
"The warming ocean comes underneath the ice shelves and melts them from the bottom, and warmer air from the top melts them from the top," said NASA glaciologist Jay Zwally. "So they're thinning and eventually they get to a point where they go poof!"
Zwally explains that the ice shelves, which the Antarctic ice cap pushes out into the ocean, are responding more than they expected to Earth's warming air and water. If the melting speeds up to a rapid runaway process called a "collapse," coastal cities and villages could be in danger.
James Hansen, director of NASA's Earth Science Research, said that disaster could probably be avoided, but that it would require dramatically cutting emission outputs. If the proper actions aren't taken, Hansen said, Hansen said, then the sea level could start rising much more quickly, ultimately reaching 80 feet, and be well underway toward that by the time today's children are in middle age.
"We now must choose between a serious problem that we can probably handle and, if we don't act soon, unmitigated disaster down the road," Hansen said.
Scientists looking at ice cores can now read Earth's temperatures from past millennia and match them to sea levels from those eras.
"Based on the history of the Earth, if we can keep the warming less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit, I think we can avoid disastrous ice sheet collapse," Hansen said.
Hansen and other scientists point out that a rise of at least 1 degree Fahrenheit -- and another few feet of sea level -- seem virtually certain to happen because of the carbon that mankind has already put in the atmosphere.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:06 AM
Exclusive: Top CIA Official Under Investigation
No. 3 Official at CIA Is Subject of Investigation Related to Bribery Probe
By BRIAN ROSS, RICHARD ESPOSITO and RHONDA SCHWARTZ
March 3, 2006 — - A stunning investigation of bribery and corruption in Congress has spread to the CIA, ABC News has learned.
The CIA Inspector General has opened an investigation into the spy agency's executive director, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, and his connections to two defense contractors accused of bribing a member of Congress and Pentagon officials.
The CIA released an official statement on the matter to ABC News, saying: "It is standard practice for CIA's Office of Inspector General -- an aggressive, independent watchdog -- to look into assertions that mention agency officers. That should in no way be seen as lending credibility to any allegation.
"Mr. Foggo has overseen many contracts in his decades of public service. He reaffirms that they were properly awarded and administered."
The CIA said Foggo, the No. 3 official at the CIA, would have no further comment. He will remain in his post at the CIA during the investigation, according to officials.
Two former CIA officials told ABC News that Foggo oversaw contracts involving at least one of the companies accused of paying bribes to Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham. The story was first reported by Newsweek magazine.
Friendship With Defense Contractor
The California Republican has pleaded guilty after admitting he accepted $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for arranging defense contracts. He was sentenced today to eight years and four months in prison for corruption. Federal law enforcement officials said Cunningham is cooperating and the investigation is continuing.
As executive director of the CIA, Foggo oversees the administration of the giant spy agency. He was appointed to the post by CIA Director Porter Goss after working as a midlevel procurement supervisor, according to former CIA officials.
While based in Frankfurt, Germany, he oversaw and approved contracts for CIA operations in Iraq.
Foggo is a longtime friend of Brent Wilkes, listed as unindicted co-conspirator No. 1 in government documents filed in the Cunningham investigation. The two played high school football and were in each other's weddings.
According to government documents, Wilkes gave Cunningham $630,000 in cash and gifts in exchange for help in getting government contracts.
Wilkes was the founder of ADSC Inc, in 1995. Under Wilkes, the company obtained more than $95 million in government contracts.
Officials say they could not describe the CIA contracts in question because some of them were classified secret.
Cunningham is involved in what prosecutors call a corruption case with no parallel in the long history of the U.S. Congress. He actually priced the illegal services he provided.
Prices came in the form of a "bribe menu" that detailed how much it would cost contractors to essentially order multimillion-dollar government contracts, according to documents submitted by federal prosecutors for today's sentencing hearing.
"The length, breadth and depth of Cunningham's crimes," the sentencing memorandum states, "are unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress."
Prosecutors will ask federal Judge Larry Burns to impose the statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The sentencing memorandum includes the California Republican's "bribery menu" on one of his congressional note cards, "starkly framed" under the seal of the United States Congress.
The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe.
The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.
At one point Cunningham was living on a yacht named after him, "The Dukester," docked near Capitol Hill, courtesy of a defense company president.
ABC News' Vic Walter contributed to this report.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:04 AM
The New York Times
The Mayor Speaks His Mind
In his first term, Michael Bloomberg was often diplomatic to a fault. He was loath to criticize publicly members of his adopted Republican Party in Washington and Albany. He preferred working behind the scenes — with mixed success — to change policies that were often at odds with city needs as basic as security and the schools. Now, in his second and final term, Mr. Bloomberg seems to have decided he isn't taking any guff from anyone.
This week the mayor criticized the Bush administration's plans to cut federal housing assistance as "shortsighted." He said that the history of urban America was "a story with a strong and bitter subtext of racial segregation" and that federal help in housing was "a matter of social justice."
His passion is understandably fanned by his own plans to build or rehabilitate 165,000 housing units in New York by 2013, a lofty goal that will be very difficult to achieve without federal aid.
The mayor seems to have learned what it takes to get Albany to listen hard. When he recently threatened to help unseat a Queens Republican and help tilt power to Democrats in the State Senate — payback for the short shrift the G.O.P. has given the city — the shudders from Albany were palpable. Lawmakers there, and the governor, are finally on notice that the mayor will do what it takes to get the billions of dollars overdue for school construction.
Mr. Bloomberg has also entered the fray on gun control and promised to take the campaign to the national stage — the only way that the flow of handguns from out of state can be controlled. Hitting another hot button, he donated $100 million of his fortune to Johns Hopkins University for stem cell research. The mayor is now unchained, and that should make for fascinating politics and policy.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:54 AM
The New York Times
U.S. Reveals Identities of Detainees
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba, March 3 (AP) — After four years of secrecy, the Pentagon released documents on Friday that have the names of detainees at the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay.
The Bush administration had hidden the identities, home countries and other information about the men, who were accused of having links to the Taliban or Al Qaeda. But a federal judge rejected administration arguments that releasing the names would violate the detainees' privacy and could endanger them and their families. The release resulted from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by The Associated Press.
The names were scattered throughout more than 5,000 pages of transcripts of hearings at Guantánamo Bay, but no complete list was given, and it was not immediately clear how many names the documents contained. In most of the transcripts, the person speaking is identified only as "detainee." Names appear only when court officials or detainees refer to people by name.
In some cases, even a name does not clarify the identity. In one document, the tribunal president asks a detainee if his name is Jumma Jan. The detainee responds that no, his name is Zain Ul Abedin.
The story of Zahir Shah is one of hundreds in the transcripts.
The Pentagon says Mr. Shah had a rocket-propelled grenade launcher in his house, but Mr. Shah says that he had only a rifle — for protection against a cousin in a family feud — and that the only time he shot anything was when he hunted with a BB gun.
"What are we going to do with R.P.G.'s?" he asks, adding: "The only thing I did in Afghanistan was farming. We grew wheat, corn, vegetables and watermelons." The documents also have the names of former prisoners, including Moazzam Begg and Feroz Ali Abbasi, both British citizens. A handwritten note shows Mr. Abbasi pleading for prisoner-of-war status.
The status of other named detainees, like Naibullah Darwaish, was not immediately clear. Mr. Darwaish was described as having been the chief of police for the Shinkai district in Zabol Province, Afghanistan, when he was captured.
The men were mostly captured in the 2001 American-led war that drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and sent Osama bin Laden deeper into hiding.
Most of the Guantánamo Bay hearings were held to determine if the detainees were "enemy combatants." That classification, Bush administration lawyers say, deprives the detainees of Geneva Convention prisoner-of-war protections and allows them to be held indefinitely without charges.
Documents released last year, also because of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by The A.P., had the detainees' names and nationalities blacked out.
Buz Eisenberg, a lawyer for a detainee, said he hoped the released documents could help clear his client.
"We have been trying to litigate a case without ever knowing what the allegations were that the government claimed justified his continued detention," Mr. Eisenberg said. "Thanks to The A.P.'s successful lawsuit, we're looking forward to receiving that evidence so that we can properly prepare our client's substantive case in court."
Mr. Eisenberg did not want to name his client because he had not asked the man for permission.
Neal Sonnett, chairman of the American Bar Association's task force on enemy combatants, said he hoped the documents would help focus attention on the conditions for the detainees and the way the hearings were handled.
"Perhaps even more important than just the identities of the detainees," Mr. Sonnett said, "are the unedited transcripts of the hearings, which I think will reveal a lot about the way in which the detainees have been treated and the way in which their status has been determined."
Mr. Sonnett was at Guantánamo Bay to observe pretrial hearings for two detainees charged with crimes.
Last year, the judge ordered the government to ask each detainee whether he or she wanted personal identifying information to be turned over to The A.P. as part of the lawsuit.
Of 317 detainees who received the form, 63 said yes, 17 said no, 35 returned the form without answering and 202 declined to return the form.
The judge said none of the detainees, not even the 17 who said they did not want their identities exposed, had a reasonable expectation of privacy during the tribunals.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:50 AM
The New York Times
No Iraq Trip for Legislator Who Opposed Deal on Ports
By CARL HULSE
WASHINGTON, March 3 — Representative Peter T. King's prominent opposition to a proposal to allow a Dubai company to take over some terminal operations at American ports may have earned him some punishment from the Bush administration: He has been grounded.
Mr. King, the New York Republican who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, confirmed Friday that a few days after he first threatened legislation to hold up the port deal, the Pentagon informed him that it could not provide an aircraft for his planned March Congressional delegation to Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
A Feb. 22 e-mail notice to Mr. King's office said the legislative affairs branch of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's office had determined "they do not have any aircraft to support" the official trip to Baghdad and other points. "Please advise if the CODEL will now pursue commercial air," it concluded, referring to the Congressional trip. Mr. King said he did not know if the paucity of aircraft was related to his leading role in the port dispute, but he was suspicious.
"It is very coincidental," said Mr. King, who talked reluctantly when pressed about the canceled trip, which had first been unintentionally disclosed by another lawmaker. Mr. King said that he did not intend to make an issue out of it or allow it to affect his stance in the port dispute.
At the Pentagon, a spokesman said that the decision on the trip was simply due to a lack of resources and that the port fight played no role. "We support as many trips as possible subject to the operational requirements of our military forces and the capacity of the command to support the visit," said the spokesman, Bryan Whitman. "Often Congressional requests to travel exceed our capacity to support."
The conflicting views illustrate the tension between Congress and the White House over a policy fight that has caused one of the deepest rifts of Mr. Bush's tenure with his Republican allies on Capitol Hill. The president's quick threat to veto any legislation blocking the takeover by the state-owned company DP World has been a sore point. Mr. King and other Republicans on Capitol Hill have been outspoken in challenging the administration on the port plan and their comments cannot have gone unnoticed at the White House.
Mr. King said the trip had been on the radar for months and all but a few minor details had been wrapped up. He said lawmakers had already adjusted their schedule once to avoid conflicting with another Congressional visit to Iraq in an effort not to strain American officials and troops. Four Republicans and two Democrats were scheduled to go to Iraq after a stop in Jordan to review a facility for training the Iraqi police.
Lawmakers have regularly visited Iraq and the surrounding region during the war, using military aircraft. Mr. Whitman, in his statement, said, "Congressional travel to observe our military is important to understanding our operations in theater."
Mr. King has broken with his party at points in his House career, including opposing the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. But he has a conservative record on foreign policy issues and has been a strong supporter of Mr. Bush in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. King demonstrated that he had the confidence of the Republican leadership last year when he was named to the vacant chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, and Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois has been supportive of Mr. King in his challenge to the Dubai decision.
Two Congressional leadership aides, who would only speak anonymously because of the nature of the dispute, said Friday that some Congressional trips had been held up because of security concerns or a lack of aircraft, but the aides said they were surprised Mr. King's trip could not be accommodated.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:48 AM
Man dies of suspected bird flu in Guangzhou: report
HONG KONG (Reuters) - A man has died of suspected H5N1 avian influenza in southern China, just over the border from Hong Kong, a local newspaper said on Saturday.
The 32-year-old man frequently visited wet markets where chickens were often slaughtered, the South China Morning Post said.
He developed fever and pneumonia on February 22 and died on March 2, Hong Kong's Center for Health Protection (CHP) said in a statement late on Friday.
Hong Kong lies less than two hours away from Guangzhou by train and the flow of travelers between the two cities is heavy.
The risk of avian influenza appearing in the city was increasing, CHP head Leung Pak-yin was quoted as saying. "We expect there could be human cases in Hong Kong and we all need to be well prepared for that."
If Beijing confirms the case as avian influenza, Hong Kong public hospitals and clinics will be required to report any flu cases with unclear diagnoses to the CHP, the Post said.
Chinese authorities had attempted to muzzle news coverage, the daily said.
"The Guangdong propaganda and health departments jointly issued a notice to local media not to report on the case, saying there should be no coverage until it was confirmed," it said.
Although Hong Kong has been free of human avian influenza cases since early 2003, the city continues to screen the temperatures of people entering the city at immigration, the CHP said.
Experts familiar with the situation in China have always maintained that there have been outbreaks of H5N1 in birds in Guangdong province as early as the first half of 2005. Beijing has always denied this.
Despite outbreaks in several other areas of mainland China, this is the first time that Chinese officials have said that there could be a case in Guangdong province.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:43 AM
SEC can partly roll back Sarbanes-Oxley: Oxley
By Joel Rothstein
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Rep. Michael Oxley, an author of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform law passed after Enron and other corporate scandals, said federal regulators have the legal authority to roll back key provisions for smaller U.S. public companies, according to a letter released on Friday.
A Securities and Exchange Commission advisory panel recently urged the elimination of the law's stiff internal controls accounting requirements -- known as Section 404 -- for companies under a certain size. Companies of all sizes have complained the requirement is costly and burdensome.
Oxley's letter to SEC Chairman Christopher Cox was prompted by at least one panel member, who questioned if the SEC had legal authority to adopt the recommendation.
"We write to support the view that the Commission currently possesses the authority to provide relief from the provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act" under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 as well as the Sarbanes-Oxley law, the letter said.
The letter addressed only the SEC's legal authority and not the substance of the proposed reforms.
It was signed by Oxley, the retiring chairman of the House Financial Services Committee; and by Louisiana Republican Richard Baker, chairman of a Financial Services subcommittee.
SEC advisory panel member Kurt Schacht, director of the CFA Center for Financial Market Integrity, dissented last month, writing that "it is unclear to many whether the broad exempting recommendations of this subcommittee are even within the commission's legal authority."
"Comprehensive, sweeping exemptions from Section 404 may not be possible under the current legislation, which specifically excluded Section 404 from the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934," Schact also wrote.
While Oxley and Baker acknowledged in their letter that Section 404 is not "a provision included in the Exchange Act," they noted that the two laws "must be construed together."
Section 404 requires U.S.-listed companies to explain their internal controls publicly each year and have outside auditors attest to the controls' effectiveness.
Georgetown University law professor Donald Langevoort said last month that while the panel is recommending major revisions to the Sarbanes-Oxley law, he saw nothing "inappropriate" in the way it was proceeding.
Investor advocate Barbara Roper told Reuters that regardless of the law, the recommendations are outside the advisory panel's original charter.
"There is a big difference between making this work for smaller companies and eliminating the requirements altogether. They were supposed to come up with suggestions on how to make this work," said Roper, director of investor protection at the Consumer Federation for America.
The advisory panel's charter said that its objective was to assess current securities regulations for smaller public companies "and to make recommendations for changes."
The panel's recommendations defined "smaller public companies" as those with market capitalizations under $787 million. Those companies account for 80 percent of all U.S. public companies.
The panel urged the SEC to give a complete exemption from Section 404 requirements to micro-cap companies with less than $125 million in annual revenue, and to small-cap companies with less than $10 million in annual revenue.
The committee defines companies with market capitalization under $128 million as "micro-cap companies" and those with market capitalization between $128 million and $787 million as "small-cap companies."
Small-cap companies with annual revenue between $10 million and $250 million would also be exempt from the external audit requirements of Section 404 under the recommendations.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:41 AM
Friday, March 03, 2006
Too Sad For Words
For me the saddest part of the latest Zogby poll of U.S. service men and women was the least reported:
"While 85% said the U.S. mission is mainly 'to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9-11attacks,' 77% said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was 'to stop Saddam from protecting al Qaeda in Iraq.'"
If Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld bothered to read this poll then they now go to sleep each night knowing that over 19,000 men and women (85% of the so-far approximately 23,000 dead and wounded) have lost their lives or their arms or their legs or their eyes not for their country but only for the lies that this administration has so carefully engineered.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:17 AM
Harris Denies Campaign Funds Wrongdoing
Rep. Katherine Harris Says She Did Not Knowingly Do Anything Wrong in Campaign Funds Case
By MITCH STACY
The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. - U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris said Thursday she did not knowingly do anything wrong in her associations with a defense contractor who prosecutors say illegally funneled thousands of dollars to her campaign in 2004.
Questions about the donations have arisen as Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who oversaw the 2000 presidential election recount, tries to unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
The donations were described in a plea agreement last Friday, when Mitchell Wade, the former president of MZM Inc., pleaded guilty to bribing U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham in exchange for assistance in getting $150 million in Defense Department contracts for his company.
He also admitted making illegal campaign contributions in the names of MZM employees and their spouses to Harris and Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va. Prosecutors said Harris got $32,000 from employees who were reimbursed by Wade. Harris said she recently donated the money to charity, and didn't know the donations would be reimbursed.
In the plea agreement, Wade acknowledged dining with Harris at a Washington restaurant in 2005 to discuss a possible fundraiser for her and obtaining funding for a Navy counterintelligence program involving his company. She requested the funding, but Wade didn't get it.
"I requested a $10 million appropriation for the U.S Naval Criminal Investigative Services project because I thought it would bring new jobs to Sarasota," said Harris, R-Fla. "I never requested funding for this project in exchange for any contributions, but rather to bring more high-skill, high-wage jobs to the region."
Wade has been cooperating with federal prosecutors in Washington and San Diego since last summer and is required to continue to do so as part of his plea agreement with the government. He faces up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors said they are continuing to investigate and won't say if Harris is a subject.
Harris said her office has not been contacted about the investigation.
"I think these revelations should matter to voters because I think ethics should count for something in a public servant," said Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for Nelson.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:15 AM
Paper Said to Show NSA Spying Given to Post Reporter in 2004
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
A classified document that an Islamic charity says is evidence of illegal government eavesdropping on its phone calls and e-mails was provided in 2004 to a Washington Post reporter, who returned it when the FBI demanded it back a few months later.
According to a source familiar with the case, the document indicated that the National Security Agency intercepted telephone conversations in the spring of 2004 between a director of the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and lawyers for the foundation in the District.
Al-Haramain, a Saudi group that once operated in Oregon, sued the Bush administration in federal court this week, alleging it was a victim of President Bush's secret domestic eavesdropping program. Its lawyers asked a judge to privately review the classified material, which the organization contends would help prove its claim.
Treasury Department officials inadvertently provided the classified document, which was marked "top secret" and dated May 24, 2004, to al-Haramain lawyers that same month, according to FBI correspondence with The Post. Treasury was investigating the foundation for possible links to terrorists and soon designated the group a terrorist organization.
At the same time, an attorney for al-Haramain, Wendell Belew, provided a copy of the document to Post reporter David B. Ottaway. Ottaway was researching Islamic groups and individuals who had been designated terrorists by the U.S. government and were attempting to prove their innocence.
In November 2004, FBI agents approached Belew, and soon thereafter Ottaway, saying that the government had mistakenly released the document. They demanded all copies back and warned that anyone who revealed its contents could be prosecuted.
Ottaway declined to discuss the contents of the document other than to confirm it appeared to be a summary of one or more conversations intercepted by the government.
"The FBI said that . . . it contained highly sensitive national security information," Ottaway said yesterday in a statement. "I returned it after consulting with Washington Post editors and lawyers, and concluding that it was not relevant to what I was working on at the time."
Leonard Downie Jr., executive editor of The Post, also declined to discuss the document but said it did not directly aid Ottaway's reporting.
"At the time we had this document, it was before we had any knowledge of the eavesdropping program. Without that knowledge, the document provided no useful information," Downie said. "At the time, all we knew was that this document was not relevant to David's reporting."
Tom Nelson, an attorney for al-Haramain who filed the suit, declined to comment yesterday on whether the document Ottaway reviewed was the same as the classified material he hopes to present to the judge as part of al-Haramain's lawsuit.
The suit contends that the government's interception of conversations between al-Haramain officer Suliman al-Buthe in Saudi Arabia and lawyers Belew and Asim Ghafoor in Washington violated the Fourth Amendment, attorney-client privilege and the federal law that requires a court warrant to tap certain domestic phone conversations.
Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:14 AM
U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban
McCain Law May Not Apply to Cuba Prison
By Josh White and Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantanamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.
In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."
Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to U.S. courts for all Guantanamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions.
Bawazir's attorneys contend that "extremely painful" new tactics used by the government to force-feed him and end his hunger strike amount to torture.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a hearing yesterday that she found allegations of aggressive U.S. military tactics used to break the detainee hunger strike "extremely disturbing" and possibly against U.S. and international law. But Justice Department lawyers argued that even if the tactics were considered in violation of McCain's language, detainees at Guantanamo would have no recourse to challenge them in court.
In Bawazir's case, the government claims that it had to forcefully intervene in a hunger strike that was causing his weight to drop dangerously. In January, officials strapped Bawazir into a special chair, put a larger tube than they had previously used through his nose and kept him restrained for nearly two hours at a time to make sure he did not purge the food he was being given, the government and Bawazir's attorneys said.
Richard Murphy Jr., Bawazir's attorney, said his client gave in to the new techniques and began eating solid food days after the first use of the restraint chair. Murphy said the military deliberately made the process painful and embarrassing, noting that Bawazir soiled himself because of the approach.
Kessler said getting to the root of the allegations is an "urgent matter."
"These allegations . . . describe disgusting treatment, that if proven, is treatment that is cruel, profoundly disturbing and violative of" U.S. and foreign treaties banning torture, Kessler told the government's lawyers. She said she needs more information, but made clear she is considering banning the use of larger nasal-gastric tubes and the restraint chair.
In court filings, the Justice Department lawyers argued that language in the law written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) gives Guantanamo Bay detainees access to the courts only to appeal their enemy combatant status determinations and convictions by military commissions.
"Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantanamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts."
Thomas Wilner, a lawyer representing several detainees at Guantanamo, agreed that the law cannot be enforced. "This is what Guantanamo was about to begin with, a place to keep detainees out of the U.S. precisely so they can say they can't go to court," Wilner said.
A spokeswoman for McCain's office did not respond to questions yesterday.
Murphy told the judge the military's claims that it switched tactics to protect Bawazir should not be believed. He noted that on Jan. 11 -- days after the new law passed -- the Defense Department made the identical health determination for about 20 other detainees, all of whom had been engaged in the hunger strike.
Guantanamo Bay officials deny that the tactics constitute torture. They wrote in sworn statements that they are necessary efforts to ensure detainee health. Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the facility's commander, wrote that Bawazir's claims of abuse are "patently false."
"In short, he is a trained al Qaida terrorist, who has been taught to claim torture, abuse, and medical mistreatment if captured," Hood wrote. He added that Bawazir allegedly went to Afghanistan to train for jihad and ultimately fought with the Taliban against U.S. troops.
Navy Capt. Stephen G. Hooker, who runs the prison's detention hospital, noted that the hunger strike began on Aug. 8, reached a peak of 131 participants on Sept. 11, and dropped to 84 on Christmas Day. After use of the restraint chair began, only five captives continued not eating.
Hooker wrote that he suspected Bawazir was purging his food after feedings. Bawazir weighed 130 pounds in late 2002, according to Hooker, but 97 pounds on the day he was first strapped to the chair. As of Sunday, his weight was back to 137 pounds, the government said.
Kessler noted with irritation that Hood and Hooker made largely general claims about the group of detainees on the hunger strike in defending the switch to the new force-feeding procedures used on Bawazir.
"I know it's a sad day when a federal judge has to ask a DOJ attorney this, but I'm asking you -- why should I believe them?" Kessler asked Justice Department attorney Terry Henry.
Henry said he would attempt to gather more information from the officials but said there was no legal basis for the court to intervene. Bawazir's weight is back to normal, his health is "robust" and he is no longer on a hunger strike, Henry said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:12 AM
Dems say '05 deficit was more than double the reported figure
By Bill Theobald, Gannett News Service
WASHINGTON — If the United States kept its books like General Motors and nearly every other business in the country, the 2005 budget deficit would be $760 billion and rising, not $319 billion and falling, as is commonly reported.
A group of fiscally conservative Democrats who call themselves the Blue Dog Coalition pointed out this more dire number Thursday and accused the Bush administration of playing hide the ball with the report that includes the higher figure.
"These are genuinely alarming numbers," Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., said of the figures in the 2005 Financial Report of the United States Government, issued by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Cooper, who unearthed the annual report on the department's website, said fewer than 20 members of Congress received copies of the 154-page financial report.
"When we called for copies they almost laughed at me," Cooper said at a Thursday news conference. Calls to the Treasury Department seeking comment were not returned.
How can two reports on the same budget be so different? It's a matter of what's counted.
The budget figures usually bandied about in Washington are the amounts the government takes in and spends each year.
The financial report, which has been an annual requirement since the mid-1990s, does what businesses are required to do: include the cost of promised benefits. And between Veterans Affairs, Social Security and Medicare, the U.S. government has made huge financial promises to a growing number of people.
The three dozen members of the Blue Dog Coalition have offered a 12-point proposal for improving the budget process.
Meanwhile, Congress is poised in the next few weeks to raise the debt ceiling — the total amount of borrowing the country is allowed — from $8.18 trillion to nearly $9 trillion.
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:10 AM
Britain's High Court approves Dubai deal
LONDON (AP) — Britain's High Court on Thursday approved a Dubai state-owned port operator's takeover of British shipping company P&O, a deal that has caused an uproar in the U.S. among lawmakers concerned about port security.
Justice Nicholas Warren dismissed a last-minute appeal by U.S.-based Eller & Co. as he gave the required go-ahead for DP World's 3.9 billion pound ($6.8 billion) acquisition of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.
"The objections of Eller do not persuade me that I should not sanction the scheme," Warren said.
The judge agreed to place a stay on his ruling until 3 p.m. Friday to allow the U.S. company time to take its case to the Court of Appeal.
Eller, which provides cargo-handling services to 90% of cruise ships at the port of Miami, had argued that U.S. concerns about a United Arab Emirates company owning significant operations at six major U.S. seaports could substantially harm its business.
The judge said he took U.S. concerns into account.
"I have been treated to a large amount of evidence on press releases and articles which were no doubt being spun to this direction or that," Warren said.
DP World, which has already received approval from the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States, has tried to douse some of the U.S. outcry. It volunteered to submit to a second 45-day investigation of the potential security risks of its plans to run shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
Paul Downes, Eller's lawyer, argued it was irrelevant to Eller's case whether the U.S. worries about DP World's takeover were justified.
"The concern was that the United Arab Emirates was a player, was involved, was associated with terrorist funding," Downes told the court. "It doesn't matter whether this is right or wrong, that is the mindset of the individuals that are concerned about this takeover."
Martin Moore, a lawyer for P&O, had told the High Court during a three-day hearing that Eller's case against the deal was "woefully thin."
President Bush has supported the deal and U.S. lawmakers initially opposed seem to have softened slightly, tempering calls for an immediate vote on legislation to block the takeover. Many said the new probe reassured them and negated the need for legislation for now.
Warren noted that the company has agreed to the extra review.
"The ports involved will continue to operate and it will be an overriding concern of everyone, including Congress and the president, to ensure that is so," he said.
A U.S. federal judge also has ruled against a request by the state of New Jersey to order an investigation into the takeover.
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:09 AM
Republican Will Try to Squash Ports Deal
By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer
One of the most prominent House Republicans on military issues said Thursday he would try to scuttle a Dubai-based company's effort to manage U.S. ports as lawmakers' complaints about the Bush administration's handling of the issue continued to spread.
"Dubai cannot be trusted," said Rep. Duncan Hunter (news, bio, voting record), R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and normally one of the administration's most trusted allies. He called the United Arab Emirates "a bazaar for terrorist nations" and asserted that the United States should not permit DP World to take over significant operations at six U.S. ports.
"I intend to do everything I can to kill the deal," Hunter said.
Across Capitol Hill, lawmakers criticized the Bush administration anew following disclosures that the United States had launched a fresh investigation Tuesday into a proposed business deal by a second Dubai-owned company. Also sparking the furor was word of a previously unconfirmed investigation into a separate transaction by a leading Israeli software firm.
The government initially approved DP World's $6.8 billion purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. But on Sunday, the administration agreed to a 45-day investigation of potential security risks to quell a political backlash.
"Too little, too late," Hunter said.
Opening a hearing on the matter, Hunter said it was "quite remarkable" that the administration did not initially undertake a full review of security implications, given that the company is owned by the United Arab Emirates — "a bazaar for terrorist nations to receive prohibited components from sources from the free world and from the non-free world."
Hunter listed instances between 1994 and 2003 in which he said the country helped move materials for weapons of mass destruction, such as heavy water and high-speed electrical switches, to Pakistan, Iran and other countries. He plans to introduce legislation that would require U.S. companies to be the sole owners of infrastructure critical to national security.
The chairman's sharp remarks underscore the political tempest the White House has run into at a time when events in Iraq and renewed interest in the administration's failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina have pushed President Bush's popularity downward.
Sen. John Warner (news, bio, voting record), R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has sided with the administration on the DP World deal. He and the White House have praised the United Arab Emirates as a key ally in the fight against terrorism.
Congressional GOP leaders want to wait for the results of the administration's new DP World investigation before considering legislation to delay or block the deal.
House Democrats tried to force a debate and vote on legislation Thursday that would require the 45-day security review and congressional approval of the takeover. That effort failed on a procedural, largely party-line vote.
Leading Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee also asked the administration for details about all pending reviews of foreign business deals and any that have been conducted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
The U.S. has conducted only 25 such investigations among 1,600 business transactions reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States since 1988. The panel, made up of 12 government representatives, judges the security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry.
Rep. Peter King (news, bio, voting record), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, complained that he learned about the second Dubai investigation from news reports, despite regular meetings and discussions with the administration and others on the ports issue recently.
"Maybe they still haven't gotten their act together over the last few days," said King, R-N.Y.
Senior U.S. officials told lawmakers they will try to inform Congress better in the future.
"We clearly have to do quite a bit in finding ways to provide you more promptly with the information you need," Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt told the Senate Banking Committee.
Dubai International Capital LLC confirmed Thursday it faced investigation over its plans to buy a British precision-engineering company, Doncasters Group Ltd., with plants in Georgia and Connecticut that make parts used in engines for military aircraft and tanks.
The same U.S. review panel also is investigating plans by an Israeli software company, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., to purchase a smaller U.S. rival.
Kimmitt said U.S. officials notified congressional leaders and oversight committees about the second Dubai-related investigation Monday. The company's lawyers were notified the following day.
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:08 AM
Robertson loses broadcasters' board seat
VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) — Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, criticized by some evangelicals for comments about Venezuela's president and Israel's prime minister, lost a bid for re-election to the National Religious Broadcasters' board of directors.
Robertson, founder of the Virginia Beach-based Christian Broadcasting Network, was one of 38 candidates for 33 board seats during the NRB's recent convention. The group represents mostly evangelical radio and TV broadcasters.
NRB President Frank Wright said there was no broad effort to distance the group from Robertson. But "there was broad dismay with some of Pat's comments and a feeling they were not helpful to Christian broadcasters in general," he said in Wednesday's Washington Post.
In the past few months, Robertson suggested that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez should be assassinated and that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for pulling out of the Gaza Strip.
A Robertson spokeswoman said Thursday that he had been a board member for 30 years but attended only one board meeting "due to his extensive schedule."
"It was amicable and expected that he would not continue to serve" on the board, spokeswoman Angell Watts said in a statement.
Robertson has had a close relationship with the NRB, which named him Christian Broadcaster of the Year in 1989. The network's latest tax statement shows that CBN donated $161,300 to the NRB in 2004-05, The Virginian-Pilot newspaper of Norfolk reported Thursday.
Among the successful candidates for the board was Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the Washington-based American Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit group founded by Robertson. Also on the NRB board is Michael D. Little, CBN president.
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 1:06 AM
Legal fight over US National Guard pay intensifies
By Svea Herbst-Bayliss
BOSTON (Reuters) - Four Massachusetts National Guard soldiers accused the U.S. Defense Department and state officials of selectively refusing to pay travel and hotel expenses in a new addition on Thursday to a suit over on-the-job reimbursements since the September 11 attacks.
The lawsuit, initially filed in January, names Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and appears to be the first such suit in the U.S. Army National Guard, which has faced mounting demands since the September 11 attacks, lawyers in the case said.
January's complaint says the National Guard owes the soldiers for meals, car fuel, hotel costs and daily allowances.
The amendment, filed in U.S. district court in Boston on Thursday, says Massachusetts National Guard officers deliberately refused to pay the travel expenses of on-duty soldiers, as way to cut costs.
The plaintiffs' lawyer, John Shek, said a senior National Guard officer may have singled out particular positions which would not receive expenses and that officers appear to have known they lacked enough money to meet multiple demands.
Shek also said the soldiers hope the lawsuit will include at least 1,000 soldiers, seeking $73 million.
Thousands of soldiers in the Guard, a part-time force whose 440,000 members live civilian lives while doing periodic military training, were mobilized after the September 11 attacks to protect airports, borders and other possible targets. Tens of thousands also have been deployed from across the United States to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Massachusetts National Guard spokesman Maj. Winfield Danielson declined to comment on the new accusations, saying "It is a pending legal matter and we don't want to jeopardize the legal process."
He said the Guard launched an internal audit of soldier compensation issues in May, adding that properly compensating soldiers has always been a top priority.
At the heart of the suit is the system of reimbursing Guard troops who say they traveled hundreds of miles and paid for their own food, fuel and lodging to perform their duties.
Shek said while most U.S. National Guard soldiers were paid under federal orders that included daily allowances, hundreds of troops in Massachusetts were given different orders that excluded daily allowances but required the same work.
When soldiers complained of discrimination, Shek said, many were told to stop asking or risk being laid off.
Capt. Louis Tortorella, 51, spent $14,600 of his own money that has not been reimbursed, Shek said, adding that he would have been entitled to significantly more money if he had been paid the expenses for the time he worked with the Guard.
(Additional reporting by Jason Szep)
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:47 AM
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Veterans On The Dubai Port Deal
Here's a press release the Band of Brothers put out today. I think it's pretty interesting. I'm trying to work with these guys, a group of veterans running for Congress as Democrats against incumbent Republicans. I'm hosting fundraisers for them in San Francisco and New York. Stay posted.
Band of Brothers, a PAC dedicated to helping over fifty veterans running for Congress as Democrats in 2006, released the following statement today regarding port security. Contact Director Mike Lyon at 804.263.0717 or Mike@bandofbrothers2006.org.
Democrats have always been stronger on security than Republicans. Since before the attacks of 9/11 port security has been a major issue for Democrats. Charles Schumer, the Senator from New York, has repeatedly called for better port security and port security was a major plank on John Kerry's presidential bid.
Following the sale of operations in six American ports to Dubai Port World, a wholly owned subsidiary of the United Arab Emirates, we now know that not only have we not properly funded port security - only inspecting five percent of all cargo coming in to America - we are also selling off port assets to foreign nations.
The Band of Brothers finds this approach to securing our nation's borders unacceptable. Instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a war of choice in Iraq we should be spending the money at home on things like inspecting cargo and installing radiation detectors at all major America ports.
Further, we take issue with Senator John McCain's statements on This Week (ABC) calling removal of foreign owners of our ports an "overreaction". It is agreed upon among security experts that weapons entering our country through our ports is one of the greatest threats we face. We do not consider taking those threats seriously an "overreaction". McCain also stated that it would help al-Qaeda's cause for us to leave Iraq. McCain and others in congress need to take responsibility for leading us into a war that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda and everything to do with weapons of mass destruction that do not exist. A war that has sucked our resources dry while we sell our ports to foreign countries.
A week ago Democrat and Veteran Dr. Bob Johnson who is challenging incumbent Republican John McHugh in New York's 23rd District was not allowed to board a flight to Florida. He was put on the "no fly" list. McCain has so far not made any statement in defense of Dr. Johnson, preferring to spend his time defending the sales of our ports to Dubai.
Senator McCain was instrumental in the push for war in Iraq and campaigned heavily for George Bush in 2004. The war in Iraq has cost over two thousand American lives but has done nothing to stabilize the Middle East. The two elected officials most responsible for this war are now telling us it is OK to sell our ports to foreign nations. The Democratic veterans running for Congress this year could not disagree more.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:56 AM
AP: Video shows Bush, Chertoff warned before Katrina
By Margaret Ebrahim and John Solomon, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — In dramatic and sometimes agonizing terms, federal disaster officials warned President Bush and his homeland security chief before Hurricane Katrina struck that the storm could breach levees, put lives at risk in New Orleans' Superdome and overwhelm rescuers, according to video footage obtained by the Associated Press.
Bush didn't ask a single question during the final briefing before Katrina struck on Aug. 29, but he assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: "We are fully prepared."
The footage — along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by The Associated Press — show that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.
Key portions of the transcripts obtained by the AP have previously been made public. Video of the briefing, however, had not been released.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said his department would not release the full set of videotaped briefings, saying most transcripts from the sessions were provided to congressional investigators months ago.
"There's nothing new or insightful on these tapes," Knocke said. "We actively participated in the lessons-learned review and we continue to participate in the Senate's review and are working with them on their recommendation."
Linked by secure video from his home in Crawford, Texas, Bush on Aug. 28 described the government as "fully prepared," even as his disaster chief and numerous federal, state and local officials expressed worries about the magnitude of the hurricane.
A top hurricane expert voiced "grave concerns" about the levees and then-Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown told the president and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren't enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome.
"I'm concerned about ... their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe," Brown told his bosses the afternoon before Katrina made landfall.
The White House and Homeland Security Department urged the public Wednesday not to read too much into the video footage.
"I hope people don't draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing," presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said, citing a variety of orders and disaster declarations Bush signed before the storm made landfall. "He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times."
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, a critic of the administration's Katrina response, had a different take after watching the footage Wednesday afternoon from an AP reporter's camera.
"I have kind of a sinking feeling in my gut right now," Nagin said. "I was listening to what people were saying — they didn't know, so therefore it was an issue of a learning curve. You know, from this tape it looks like everybody was fully aware."
Some of the footage and transcripts from briefings between Aug. 25 and 31 conflicts with the defenses that federal, state and local officials have made in trying to deflect blame and minimize the political fallout from the failed Katrina response:
•Homeland Security officials have said the "fog of war" blinded them early on to the magnitude of the disaster. But the video and transcripts show federal and local officials discussed threats clearly, reviewed long-made plans and understood Katrina would wreak devastation of historic proportions. "I'm sure it will be the top 10 or 15 when all is said and done," National Hurricane Center's Max Mayfield warned the day Katrina lashed the Gulf Coast.
"I don't buy the 'fog of war' defense," Brown told the AP in an interview Wednesday. "It was a fog of bureaucracy."
•Bush said four days after the storm, "I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. He later clarified, saying officials believed, wrongly, after the storm passed that the levees had survived. The transcripts and video show there was discussion of that possibility even before the storm, but no definitive assessment whether they would be topped.
White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Brown discussed fears of a levee breach the day the storm hit.
"I talked to the president twice today, once in Crawford and then again on Air Force One," Brown said. "He's obviously watching the television a lot, and he had some questions about the Dome, he's asking questions about reports of breaches."
•Louisiana officials angrily blamed the federal government for not being prepared but the transcripts show they were still praising FEMA as the storm roared toward the Gulf Coast and even two days afterward. "I think a lot of the planning FEMA has done with us the past year has really paid off," Col. Jeff Smith, Louisiana's emergency preparedness deputy director, said during the Aug. 28 briefing.
It wasn't long before Smith and other state officials sounded overwhelmed.
"We appreciate everything that you all are doing for us, and all I would ask is that you realize that what's going on and the sense of urgency needs to be ratcheted up," Smith said Aug. 30.
Mississippi begged for more attention in that same briefing.
"We know that there are tens or hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana that need to be rescued, but we would just ask you, we desperately need to get our share of assets because we'll have people dying — not because of water coming up, but because we can't get them medical treatment in our affected counties," said a Mississippi state official whose name was not mentioned on the tape.
Video footage of the Aug. 28 briefing, the final one before Katrina struck, showed an intense Brown voicing concerns from the government's disaster operation center and imploring colleagues to do whatever was necessary to help victims.
"We're going to need everything that we can possibly muster, not only in this state and in the region, but the nation, to respond to this event," Brown warned. He called the storm "a bad one, a big one" and implored federal agencies to cut through red tape to help people, bending rules if necessary.
"Go ahead and do it," Brown said. "I'll figure out some way to justify it. ... Just let them yell at me."
President Bush, center, takes part in a briefing the day before Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29 from his ranch in Crafword, Texas.
Bush appeared from a narrow, windowless room at his vacation ranch in Texas, with his elbows on a table. Hagin was sitting alongside him. Neither asked questions in the Aug. 28 briefing.
"I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm, but we will move in whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm," the president said.
A relaxed Chertoff, sporting a polo shirt, weighed in from Washington at Homeland Security's operations center. He would later fly to Atlanta, outside of Katrina's reach, for a bird flu event.
One snippet captures a missed opportunity on Aug. 28 for the government to have dispatched active-duty military troops to the region to augment the National Guard.
Chertoff: "Are there any DOD assets that might be available? Have we reached out to them?"
Brown: "We have DOD assets over here at EOC (emergency operations center). They are fully engaged. And we are having those discussions with them now."
Chertoff: "Good job."
In fact, active-duty troops weren't dispatched until days after the storm. And many states' National Guards had yet to be deployed to the region despite offers of assistance, and it took days before the Pentagon deployed active-duty personnel to help overwhelmed Guardsmen.
The National Hurricane Center's Mayfield told the final briefing before Katrina struck that storm models predicted minimal flooding inside New Orleans during the hurricane but he expressed concerns that counterclockwise winds and storm surges afterward could cause the levees at Lake Pontchartrain to be overrun.
"I don't think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not but that is obviously a very, very grave concern," Mayfield told the briefing.
Other officials expressed concerns about the large number of New Orleans residents who had not evacuated.
"They're not taking patients out of hospitals, taking prisoners out of prisons and they're leaving hotels open in downtown New Orleans. So I'm very concerned about that," Brown said.
Despite the concerns, it ultimately took days for search and rescue teams to reach some hospitals and nursing homes.
Brown also told colleagues one of his top concerns was whether evacuees who went to the New Orleans Superdome — which became a symbol of the failed Katrina response — would be safe and have adequate medical care.
"The Superdome is about 12 feet below sea level.... I don't know whether the roof is designed to stand, withstand a Category Five hurricane," he said.
Brown also wanted to know whether there were enough federal medical teams in place to treat evacuees and the dead in the Superdome.
"Not to be (missing) kind of gross here," Brown interjected, "but I'm concerned" about the medical and mortuary resources "and their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe."
Associated Press writers Ron Fournier and Lara Jakes Jordan contributed to this story.
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:53 AM
Feds may soon check all workers' IDs
By Kathy Kiely, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Congress is headed toward approving a plan that would require employers to check every worker's Social Security number or immigration work permit against a new federal computer database.
Critics see the move — aimed at stemming illegal immigration — as the beginning of a government information stockpile that could be used to track U.S. residents.
"We're getting closer and closer to a national ID card," says Tim Sparapani, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Lawmakers such as conservative House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and liberal Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., have signed on to the verification plan, which is included in some form in every immigration bill currently before Congress. The goal is to make sure everyone working in the USA is doing so legally.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which handles immigration, begins drafting its version of the bill today. The House bill passed in December.
The bills would require that a pilot program now used by 5,000 employers to check the legal status of job applicants be made mandatory. President Bush's 2007 budget includes $135 million to start expanding the verification system nationwide.
Leading proposals to verify workers' legal status:
• A bill that has passed the House of Representatives would require all employers to use an electronic verification system. It calls for a federal study of tamper-proof Social Security cards.
• A bill by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., calls for all employers to check documents against an electronic database within five years of enactment. There would be a $10,000 fine for hiring undocumented workers.
Proponents say new tools are needed to curb illegal immigration. There are now an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the USA. "If we're going to have any means of controlling our borders, you have to have a tamper-proof Social Security card and verification at the time of employment," says Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif.
Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., says "this is not a national ID system." But several bills authorize studies of "tamper proof" Social Security cards or their issuance. The cards would include some biometric data and would be harder to counterfeit.
During a debate in 1984, former representative Don Edwards, D-Calif., compared a proposed enhanced Social Security card to an "internal passport." Twelve years later, conservative GOP lobbyist Grover Norquist flooded Capitol Hill with activists wearing washable tattoos of an inventory bar code to show how a government clearinghouse could become a way to "track" Americans.
Both sides agree that Congress' willingness to consider such proposals represents a political shift. "They're talking about things that, if I had talked about, they would have burned my humble butt," says former GOP senator Alan Simpson, who helped write immigration laws passed in 1986 and 1996. He contends that Congress' past refusal to create a secure ID system to verify employment eligibility is a reason that neither law stemmed the flow of illegal immigrants.
Former Republican representative Bob Barr of Georgia, now on the ACLU's advisory board, agrees that attitudes have changed, but he doesn't think that is positive. "Far too many people have been swept into the post-9/11 system of fear that is the basis of all public policy these days," he says.
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:52 AM
The New York Times
Alito's Note to Evangelist Is Called Just Thanks
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
WASHINGTON, March 1 — In his first weeks on the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. sent a note to Dr. James C. Dobson, the influential Christian conservative, thanking him for his support and vowing that "as long as I serve on the Supreme Court, I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me," Dr. Dobson said Wednesday in a radio broadcast.
Kathy Arberg, a spokeswoman for the court, said Justice Alito had written the note in response to a letter of congratulations from Dr. Dobson. "The justice has responded to scores of congratulatory letters from people of all walks of life, and he has included as a standard sentiment in the letters the hope that he will live up to the trust and confidence that has been placed in him," Ms. Arberg said.
She declined to identify who else had received such letters from Justice Alito.
Dr. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and host of its radio program, is one of the most popular evangelical Christian authors and speakers in the country, and he urged his millions of listeners to do everything they could to support Justice Alito's confirmation.
Justice Alito alluded to the response in his letter. "I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my appreciation to the good people from all parts of the country who wrote to tell me that they were praying for me and for my family," he wrote.
In his broadcast on Wednesday, Dr. Dobson indicated that he had taken that as a request to share the letter with his audience. Celebrating the Supreme Court confirmations of both Justice Alito and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Dr. Dobson said, "We do not yet know how these men will vote, but every indication is that they get it, they understand."
Their confirmation may be "just in time," Dr. Dobson said, "because partial-birth abortion is now being considered by the Supreme Court."
In an e-mail message on Wednesday, Dr. Dobson said it was "wild speculation" and "simply ridiculous" to suggest that Justice Alito was pledging his votes on the court.
"He simply wrote asking me to thank those who prayed for strength and wisdom during the past few months," Dr. Dobson said.
Sending thank-you notes after judicial confirmations is relatively common, but Stephen Gillers, a law professor and ethics expert at New York University, said the note's wording was surprisingly ambiguous for a letter from a Supreme Court justice.
"It is inartful, it is clumsy, it is a poor choice of language, it is unfortunate, but I think we have to give Justice Alito the benefit of the doubt," Professor Gillers said.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:50 AM
Suggestions to close 'tax gap' have vocal opponents
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Buried deep inside a package of tax cuts that Republicans want to send President Bush this month is an obscure Senate proposal to limit the deduction taxpayers can claim for donated clothing.
By assigning values for the first time to items such as shirts and shoes, the Internal Revenue Service could reduce exaggerated claims and raise an estimated $280 million over five years, according to the congressional Joint Tax Committee. That's tiny compared with the $12.5 trillion in taxes the government is projected to collect over those five years, but the provision has picked up strong opposition from charities that receive clothing donations.
The Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, which runs 300 shelters and about 150 thrift stores, depended on donations for the 20 million pieces of clothing it distributed last year. It doesn't want to limit taxpayers' deductions.
"We think that it will decrease donations," the association's Phil Rydman says. "What happens is, the charity becomes the bad guy."
The battle over the treatment of clothing donations illustrates how difficult it is to close the nation's "tax gap," a $345 billion chasm between taxes owed and taxes paid. Virtually every suggestion for closing the gap — more audits, harsher penalties, new income reporting and tax withholding requirements, or an overhaul of the tax code — has vocal opponents. (Related story: U.S. sees red over back taxes)
"Tax-shelter promoters and others ... are tough adversaries," says Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Most scrutiny focuses on corporations and wealthy individuals who use bogus tax shelters to hide income. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., cites the case of a five-story building in the Cayman Islands that's the official tax "home" to more than 12,500 companies.
The fastest-growing portion of the tax gap comes from individual tax filers with business income, including the self-employed. They account for more than half of the tax gap that comes from underreported income. Yet only 2% of self-employed taxpayers are audited, according to J. Russell George, the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration.
The actions of paid tax preparers also have helped fuel a rise in unpaid taxes, says Conrad, a former state tax commissioner. "The world has changed dramatically in the accounting profession" since the 1980s, he says. "They've adopted very aggressive techniques to avoid taxes."
Part of the tax gap — the IRS doesn't know how much — stems from taxpayer confusion rather than fraud. About 15,000 changes have been made since 1986 in a code that now comes with 52 related schedules and worksheets.
The code is so complicated that in 2004, the IRS itself answered more than one in four questions to its toll-free lines incorrectly. Even Comptroller General David Walker, a certified public accountant, has trouble doing his taxes by hand. "It is mind-numbingly complex," he says.
For all those reasons, tax experts say only a small part of the tax gap can be recovered.
"Some of it is just not gettable," says Eric Toder of the non-partisan Urban Institute, who headed the IRS research division during President Bush's first term. "You're playing a game where there are very smart and clever people on the other side."
The number of audits and auditors dropped during the late 1990s, when Congress — angered by stories of aggressive IRS enforcers — ordered the IRS to focus more on helping honest taxpayers.
Since 2001, however, the IRS has renewed its focus on enforcement. More than 1.2 million individual returns were audited last year, the most since 1998. More than 220,000 audits were conducted on individuals who earned more than $100,000, the highest number in a decade. One in five companies with assets of $10 million or more was audited.
This year, Bush is seeking $137 million more for enforcement. Congress is considering twice that much. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Judd Gregg, R-N.H., refers to it as "an investment in revenue."
The potential solutions go beyond money. The Joint Tax Committee last year listed 69 proposals for closing the tax gap. Among them was one that would require withholding taxes on payments to government contractors, which the Bush administration has suggested this year.
Bush also wants credit card companies to tell the IRS how much they pass on to businesses — to restaurants where customers charge their meals, for example — so the businesses can't underreport their receipts.
Those who want to close the tax gap must overcome opposition from conservatives and the small-business lobby, who worry that additional reporting and withholding would be overly burdensome.
"The only solution the IRS seems to have is to go after the legal guys with reporting requirements that can be expensive," says Martin Regalia, chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "The gap should not be closed on the backs of businesses."
Adds Dan Mitchell of the conservative Heritage Foundation: "If we want to reduce the tax gap, lower tax rates, period. That's the only way it works."
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:47 AM
Federal judge in N.J. refuses to order investigation into port deal
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — In a setback for the state of New Jersey, a federal judge Wednesday refused to order an investigation into the deal that would put an Arab company in charge of operations at Newark and other major U.S. ports.
U.S. District Judge Jose Linares also said the state cannot see documents the company gave to a federal committee reviewing the deal. The judge said the state "needs to show an immediate need for those documents."
Under the $6.8 billion deal, Dubai Ports World would take over major commercial operations at ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia. The state of New Jersey and other critics of the deal say it could compromise national security.
The Bush administration agreed Sunday to the company's request for a 45-day investigation of the deal's potential security risks; the judge on Wednesday said that review should be sufficient.
The Justice Department argued that Dubai Ports has already agreed to an investigation and that the documents sought by the state are confidential.
New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber said that despite the judge's decision, she was satisfied because she believes the state's lawsuit prompted the company to agree to the 45-day review.
Farber said that neither she nor New Jersey's acting domestic security chief had the highest level of national security clearance. Applications for those clearances are pending, she said.
Four officials in the state's Office of Counter-Terrorism have top security clearance, in addition to the governor, according to the attorney general's office.
The state's lawsuit isn't the only one addressing the ports deal.
The owner of Port Newark, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, last week sued the company operating the port.
The suit claims the pending acquisition violates a 30-year lease with the Port Authority and the port operator, London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Co. The contract was signed in 2000.
Find this article at:
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:45 AM
The New York Times
Refugee Crisis Grows as Darfur War Crosses a Border
By LYDIA POLGREEN
ADRÉ, Chad — The chaos in Darfur, the war-ravaged region in Sudan where more than 200,000 civilians have been killed, has spread across the border into Chad, deepening one of the world's worst refugee crises.
Arab gunmen from Darfur have pushed across the desert and entered Chad, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes, making them refugees in their own country.
Hundreds of thousands more people in this area, along with 200,000 Sudanese who fled here for safety, find themselves caught up in a growing conflict between Chad and Sudan, which have a long history of violence and meddling in each other's affairs.
"You may have thought the terrible situation in Darfur couldn't get worse, but it has," Peter Takirambudde, executive director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said in a recent statement. "Sudan's policy of arming militias and letting them loose is spilling over the border, and civilians have no protection from their attacks, in Darfur or in Chad."
Indeed, the accounts of civilians in eastern Chad are agonizingly familiar to those in western Sudan. One woman, Zahara Isaac Mahamat, described how Arab men on camels and horses had raided her village in Chad, stealing everything they could find and slaughtering all who resisted.
The dead included her husband, Ismail Ibrahim, who tried to prevent the raiders from burning his sorghum and millet fields. Like so many others in this desolate expanse of dust-choked earth, she fled west with her three children, much as people in Darfur have been forced to do in recent years.
"I have lost everything but my children," she said, her face looking much older than her 20 years. She is now a refugee, with thousands of other displaced Chadians, in Kolloye, a village south of here.
"We have three bowls of grain left," she said. "When that is gone, only God can help us."
The spreading chaos is a result of two closely connected conflicts in the neighboring countries.
In Darfur, rebels have been battling government forces and the janjaweed, Arab militias aligned with the government, in a campaign of terror that the Bush administration has called genocide.
The United Nations Security Council has agreed to send troops to protect civilians, but they will take months to arrive. In the meantime, President Bush has said, NATO should help shore up a failing African Union peacekeeping mission there, but a surge of violence has chased tens of thousands of people from their homes in recent weeks.
In Chad, the government is fighting its own war against rebels based in Sudan and bent on ousting Chad's ailing president, Idriss Déby.
The rebels include disgruntled soldiers who defected and tribes tired of being ruled by members of the president's tribe, the Zaghawa, who represent just a small percentage of the population but have long dominated politics and the military.
In a sign of how inseparable the two conflicts have become, President Déby has accused Sudan of supporting the rebellion against his government, and Sudan has long suspected members of Mr. Déby's family of supporting Zaghawa-led rebels in Darfur.
Both sides agreed at a summit meeting in Libya in early February to stop supporting rebels on each other's territory and to tone down the belligerent talk. But Chadian rebels have remained on the Sudanese side of the border, and it is not clear whether Mr. Déby has the capacity to stop members of his clan from supporting Darfur rebels.
If unchecked by international intervention, this complex and volatile mix of government forces, allied militias and at least a half-dozen rebel groups in a remote region awash with weapons will almost inevitably lead to disaster, said John Prendergast, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, and an expert on the Darfur conflict.
"The principle strategy of all these actors, both state actors and proxy militias, is to displace people in order to destabilize and undermine the support base of your opponent," he said. "We are going to see an increasing spiral of displacement on both sides of the border and an increasingly dangerous environment for humanitarian workers."
In Chad, the trouble began in December when rebel groups attacked Adré and two other strategic border towns. The Chadian Army repelled the rebels, but it withdrew its troops from garrisons along the border to fortify Adré.
The withdrawal has left a security vacuum into which the janjaweed have rushed. The once well-traveled road between Adré, a bustling border town, and Kolloye has become a terrifying gantlet roamed by bandits and Arab militias. Dozens of villages have emptied; some have been burned. The few aid agencies working in this lawless region avoid the road, using a circuitous route farther west to reach Abéché, the regional capital.
In six days of traveling along the frontier, a reporter and photographer for The New York Times saw just four policemen to keep the peace, equipped only with horses and armed with battered AK-47's. Outside of Adré, only one military patrol was visible.
What appeared to be another military patrol just south of Adré, four soldiers commanded by an aging officer with thick glasses and rheumy eyes, was in fact a search party for the missing cattle of the commanding officer, Adoum Allatchi Gaga. His cows had been stolen by raiders across the border. Asked about the security situation in the region, Mr. Gaga said: "I don't have any idea. I am just looking for my cows."
At the hospital in Adré, the number of gunshot victims in December and January almost doubled, to about 100 a month, relief officials said, a grim sign of the growing lawlessness.
In one ward lay Fatime Youma, a 13-year-old girl with a tube draining the gunshot wound that had punctured her lung.
She was shot, her father explained, by janjaweed who happened upon her and her 16-year-old sister, Zenab, who lay in the next room with a gunshot wound to her arm.
"I was just looking for firewood with my sister," Zenab said softly. "When the raiders saw us we ran away but they shot at us."
Adré's police chief, Mahamat Lony, said he was short of both officers and weapons.
"We have a very catastrophic situation," he said. "We have a very long frontier with Sudan, and many heavily armed raiders on the other side. There have been many incursions, and they attack the population. We have many displaced, and no one is helping them."
The man charged with defending Chad's border and protecting refugees and civilians is Gen. Abakar Youssouf Mahamat Itno, 38, a nephew of President Déby who was dispatched here the day of the rebel attack.
"Sudan wants to export the war in Darfur to us here," General Itno said at his camp in the hills above Adré. "They want to use the janjaweed they armed to terrorize Darfur, to terrorize our population. We will not allow it."
Even so, he acknowledged his inability to patrol the border areas. "It is a long border," he said. "We cannot be everywhere at once."
That Chadian rebels have found sanctuary in Sudan is beyond doubt. Geneina, the capital of Western Darfur, resembles a garrison town; armed men from at least six forces are visible on the streets, as are Arabs in street clothes carrying AK-47's. Local residents identify them as janjaweed.
In the market in the evening, Chadian Army deserters wearing their distinctive turbans sit drinking tea, submachine guns beside them. Freshly dug machine-gun pits surround the police and army stations, and aid agencies are putting sandbags around their offices. The Chadian rebels have new weapons, uniforms and vehicles, aid officials in Geneina said, leading many to conclude that they are getting support from the Sudanese government.
With so much firepower on the Sudanese side of the border, residents in villages like Adé, south of Adré, have borne almost daily attacks.
"There is no security here," said Hisseine Kassar Mostapha, secretary general of the local government in Adé. "We are out here completely on our own, with no one to protect us."
The lack of security means little assistance from international aid groups. In Kolloye, 10,000 Chadians, refugees like Ms. Mahamat, live in roofless grass shelters that give little protection from the frigid night air and no shelter from the punishing desert sun. Water is scarce and food supplies are low, villagers said. The only assistance is a mobile clinic run by Doctors Without Borders that operates three times a week.
One refugee, Kaltam Abdullah, cradled her year-old son in her lap; his head lolled on his neck, his eyes were glazed and his limbs slender.
"He has had running stomach for 10 days," Ms. Abdullah said. "He is coughing. But there is no doctor."
Meanwhile, Sudanese refugees continue to arrive in Chad. Last month there were 1,500 arrivals, up from 1,000 over the previous three months, said Claire Bourgeois, the deputy representative for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Abéché. She said all the camps were full except one, and that it was filling up quickly.
Several camps holding tens of thousands of refugees will be moved further west, Ms. Bourgeois said, to protect the refugees from the violence. But safety remains a serious problem, she added, and "if there is no security, the humanitarian actors will leave."
Sudanese refugees who have arrived in recent weeks recount grim tales of slaughter, rape and plunder.
Ibrahim Suleiman Mahamat, a herder from the Masalit tribe who lived along the border, said janjaweed had stolen his livestock: 40 cows, 20 goats and sheep, 2 camels and 2 horses. Penniless and terrified, he had little choice but to cross into Chad with his two wives and six children. Dozens of relatives left behind plan to join him, he said. Even in the relative safety of the Gaga Refugee Camp, far west of the border, he said, he does not feel safe.
"We are in a very dangerous situation," Mr. Mahamat said. "What happens if there is a war in the country you are from and the country you have fled to? We are nowhere. There is nowhere for us to go."
Michael Kamber contributed reporting from Geneina, Sudan, for this article.
Posted by politicalstuff at 12:43 AM