Thursday, July 08, 2004

Sgt. Bogus

Marine Sgt. with Phony Record Awarded Lucrative Pentagon Contracts

By Brian Ross and Vic Walter

July 7, 2004— In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the United States Navy awarded contracts valued at some $66 million to enhance security at its bases on the West Coast and in Hawaii. But Pentagon officials would soon come to regret their choice of company to receive the lucrative deal. The contracts went to a company, Surgical Shooting Inc., run by former Marine Sgt. Gary Lakis, who cited his special operations combat experience from Panama to Somalia and wore a chest-full of medals.

"I think it was two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, two Air Medals," said Rick Sweeney, who was Lakis' former chief of operations and previously had served in the Special Forces. "He had pretty much everything you could imagine on his chest except for the Medal of Honor."

Under the contracts, Lakis' company was to teach Marines and sailors how to track and take on terror threats.

He and his company were featured several times on San Diego's local television news broadcasts in stories about special military operations.

"You can teach a lot of people basic marksmanship skills and teach 'em how to shoot, but then to teach them to be able to do precision, surgical shooting is difficult," Lakis said in one news report.

Special Forces' Suspicions

But for all his talk, some of his own employees soon became suspicious that Lakis was a phony.

"He was my boss," said Sweeney. "We had all pretty much heard about his qualifications and I was fairly embarrassed by his performance."

ABC News has learned there is no record of combat during Lakis' 10 years of active and reserve duty: no special operations, no Silver Stars, no Bronze Stars, and no Purple Hearts.

A group of Marine veterans questioned the huge number of decorations Lakis wore to a Marine veterans reunion where he even posed for pictures with the then-Marine commandant, Gen. James Jones.

"All he was, was nothing but a dirty liar and a phony. That's all he turned out to be," said Dick Sasser, a former Marine veteran who was a member of the Marines' elite special operations unit called Force Reconaissance.

Pentagon Procedures Under Fire

When Lakis' own employees went out to set up the training facilities, it became clear to them that Lakis didn't know what he was doing. When they found out his experience certificates and medals were all fabricated, they approached the Navy.

The Navy has since cancelled Lakis' contract, but a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security said the case raises questions about the Pentagon's procedures.

"You wouldn't hire an employee, a single employee, without checking their resume," said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). "You're going to give a guy a $66 million contract and not look beyond the piece of paper he gave you that states something that may or may not be true?"

The Navy declined to comment on its failure to check Lakis' background or his many supposed medals. The FBI and the Defense Department — specifically the Defense Criminal Investigative Service — have opened a criminal investigation into Lakis and how the contract was awarded.

"A lot of folks that I know have died for those medals and people are buried all over this world," said Sasser. "Whatever happens to Lakis, he deserves everything he gets."

Lakis, who has not been criminally charged, disappeared in 2003, leaving a forwarding address in Australia. Multiple efforts to reach him for contact were unsuccessful.


Breck Girl Takes On Dr. No

July 8, 2004

Breck Girl Takes On Dr. No


I'm happy for John Kerry.

Long-faced guy, as some Bushies refer to him, finally found somebody to stand at the podium and give him an adoring look.

Heaven knows Teresa was never going to do it. Her attention rarely seems to light on her husband when she's at a microphone with him.

It's sort of mesmerizing, really. She's unlike any other political wife I've ever seen -- unscripted and ready to do as she likes, in her intriguing, world-weary way, even as her second husband introduced his running mate at her adored first husband's 88-acre, $3.7 million "farm" in suburban Pittsburgh. The white-columned colonial mansion and swimming pool were out of sight and bales of hay strategically placed to give a populist touch.

She doesn't gaze like Nancy or glare like Lee Hart or look appraisingly at her husband like Elizabeth Edwards. She doesn't always seem to notice he's there. When Mr. Kerry moves in for a nuzzle or a kiss, she sometimes makes a little face.

She's easily distracted, waving and mouthing "Hello" at the audience and languidly arranging her hair and the red-and-blue "John Kerry for President" scarves she designed.

She siphons attention from a husband who has a hard enough time getting it. Yesterday, she distracted the audience when she seemed to be trying to get young Jack Edwards to stop sucking his thumb. Sometimes she'll laugh and smile in inappropriate places -- she once chuckled while her husband talked about curbing tax breaks for the rich.

Teresa has the air, as Chris Matthews noted, of an old-fashioned European movie star. She projects a quality like Marlene Dietrich or Jeanne Moreau, a sultry touch-me-and-you-die look with an accent to match: a rare political perfume of I don't give a hoot, I'm worth a billion dollars and you're not and he's not and the Bushes are not; of I have four mansions and he doesn't; of I'm so confident I can admit to using Botox and I can wear Chanel while my husband complains about manufacturing jobs' going overseas.

Her detachment seems all the more appealing now that John Kerry can't stop patting and grabbing his new pup, John Edwards. Mr. Edwards awkwardly reciprocates, sliding his arm around the big guy's torso.

(But nothing was as painful as watching Mr. Kerry determinedly trying to cavort on the farm's lawn with the adorable little Jack.)

Ordinarily, the John-John ticket might seem a bit off-putting -- a little too glib, a little too ingratiating, a little too forced, a little too expedient, a little too eager to please. But when the competition is two oilmen who don't seem to want to please anybody but Halliburton and the Saudis -- ask Pat Leahy, Old Europe and the 9/11 panel -- overeagerness is a relief.

It's hilarious that the Republicans are trying to paint their ticket as the more optimistic one.

Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush radiate negativity, even as Mr. Edwards and his photogenic blond kids glow for the cameras. Dick Cheney glowers for the camera, a Dr. No with a dark vision that has resulted in a gigantic global mess. (When he was stopped by applause at a campaign stop in Altoona, Pa., on Sunday, he asked, "You guys want to hear this speech or not?")

Unfortunately for this White House, it is Mr. Edwards's great talent to talk about the class warfare of "two Americas" in a sunny way. The Breck Girl is already getting under the Boy King's thin skin.

President Bush should have easily knocked a question about Mr. Edwards -- nicknamed the Breck Girl by Bush officials -- out of the park. But he whiffed. Steve Holland of Reuters noted that Senator Edwards was being described "as charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist and even sexy. How does he stack up against Dick Cheney?"

W. should have given a sly smile and drawled, "You mean you don't find Vice sexy?" Instead, he looked irritated and spit out his answer: "Dick Cheney can be president." Indeed, he already is.

Except for the fact that the Secret Service has already advised journalists to bring "escape hood respirators" to the Democratic convention in Boston in case of a terrorist attack, it looks as if happy campaign days are here again.


Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Republicans Move Fast to Make Experience of Edwards an Issue


Republicans Move Fast to Make Experience of Edwards an Issue

WASHINGTON, July 7 - At President Bush's first campaign stop in North Carolina on Wednesday morning, he was asked how Vice President Dick Cheney stacked up against the new Democratic vice-presidential candidate who, the president was told, is already being described as "charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist and even sexy."

Mr. Bush was ready with a one-liner: "Dick Cheney can be president."

With that sharp retort, Mr. Bush showed how aggressively Republicans were moving to expose what party leaders view as Senator John Edwards's greatest vulnerability: his lack of experience.

Hoping to offset what they acknowledge is the fresh-faced political appeal of Mr. Edwards, Republicans are trying to make the case that in a dangerous new world, filled with marauding terrorists and nations racing to go nuclear, Mr. Edwards is not ready to step into the Oval Office should events require. They argue that he does not even have a full Senate term under his belt, that he was responsible for no significant legislation, and that his service on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which Democrats say amounts to far more experience than many candidates have had, hardly amounts to adequate preparation.

"He may have left some footprints on the beaches of North Carolina, but you couldn't find any on the floor of the Senate," said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the No. 2 Republican, who said he could not "think of a single thing" memorable about Mr. Edwards's Senate service.

In fact, Mr. Edwards's record indicates he is neither the neophyte that the Republicans portray him to be nor the kind of deeply engaged thinker about terrorism and United States security that one might envision after listening to the conference calls of the campaign of Senator John Kerry. Mr. Edward spent significant time on security issues before and after Sept. 11, 2001, but by that time he was already contemplating running for president, an effort that kept him away from Capitol Hill.

Before he dropped out of the race earlier this year, Mr. Edwards won praise when he gave a speech that focused on how to create a "global nuclear compact" that would deal with nations abusing provisions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to build nuclear weapons. It paved the way for a similar set of proposals Mr. Kerry made only recently.

What remains to be seen, however, is how well Mr. Edwards can integrate national security issues, when he is away from his speechwriters, when there are no briefing books. When The New York Times was interviewing the Democratic hopefuls on foreign policy early this year, Mr. Edwards was the only one of the major candidates who did not sit down for a detailed discussion. He cited scheduling pressures.

On Wednesday, Democrats were ready for the critique that their candidate was a lightweight on national security, and they wasted no time opening a counteroffensive. They asserted that Mr. Edwards's five years in the Senate stacked up nicely with the amount of time Mr. Bush himself served as governor of Texas - his first public office - before moving to the Oval Office and that he is just as prepared. Within hours of the announcement of Mr. Edwards's selection on Tuesday, the Kerry campaign was already offering old Democratic foreign policy hands to testify to the candidate's bona fides as a quick learner, if not a long time player.

"His proliferation speech was probably the best foreign policy speech of any candidate during the primaries," Samuel R. Berger, the national security adviser under President Bill Clinton, said

Tuesday. "And when 9-11 came along, he probably knew more about the terror issues than most members of the Intelligence Committee."

On Capitol Hill, that theme was echoed with a jab at President Bush. "John Edwards has a lot more Washington experience than George Bush had four years ago," said the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "But secondly, it isn't the length of experience in any case, it's the quality of the experience." Moreover, they argue, Mr. Kerry's depth of experience makes it far less important that his running mate do for him what Mr. Cheney did for Mr. Bush.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts and a close ally of Mr. Kerry, noted that his brother, John F. Kennedy, fell just short of being chosen as vice president in 1956 with only four years in the Senate to his credit and was elected president at age 43 in 1960.

"The most important qualities are character and judgment and I think he has demonstrated those here in the Senate and clearly over the course of his life," said Mr. Kennedy.

But Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi and a fellow panel member on the Intelligence Committee, said that Democrats would be making a mistake if they were planning to use Mr. Edwards's service on the committee as evidence that he is now ready to participate in Oval Office decision-making.

"The very idea they would maintain that being on the Intelligence Committee for four years would qualify him in a national security-foreign policy sense is ridiculous," Mr. Lott said. "That is very slim reed."

Republicans are also assailing Mr. Edwards, a former trial lawyer, for his opposition to limiting liability suits, a favorite cause of Mr. Bush and many business organizations. But it is the experience issue, they are convinced, that has the broader political impact. A senior White House official, who would not speak on the record, said that Mr. Bush's sharp comment on Wednesday morning was an effort to remind Mr. Kerry of his own criteria for a vice president. "Kerry said the primary test is whether he is experienced enough to do the job of president," the official said. "That is the very thing that he took issue with in the case of Edwards and Edwards fails the senator's own test."

But just in case the president's own words were not enough, on Wednesday afternoon the Bush campaign issued a roundup of quotations and commentary focusing on Mr. Edwards's experience.

"I think it is a problem," said Charlie Black, a Republican strategist, about Mr. Edwards's public service résumé. "What it shows is that Kerry picked the guy because of his campaigning ability rather than his experience and his ability to govern. That just confirms what people think, that Kerry is a political opportunist rather than a political leader."

Senator John Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, said he believed the choice also put a spotlight on what he viewed as Mr. Kerry's own lackluster Senate record. "Now you have two people with a total of 25 years in the Senate with no substantial legislation," he said.

Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster, agreed with Republicans that voters would set a higher standard for competence and experience in this election, given terrorism and the war in Iraq. But he said Mr. Kerry had already cleared that hurdle on the basis of his own qualifications.

"Unlike George W. Bush, who needed a Cheney, unlike Carter who needed a Mondale, unlike Clinton who needed a Gore, and unlike Reagan who needed a Bush, Kerry has the freedom to add to his ticket in terms of linkage with the voters," Mr. Hart said.

Some of Mr. Edwards's Democratic colleagues on the Intelligence Committee also rejected the assertion that he did not have the credentials for the job. Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said he sat two seats away from Mr. Edwards and recalled that he was among the first to articulate flaws he saw in intelligence gathering.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Email from John Kerry announcing John Edwards will be his running mate

Email from John Kerry
Tue, 6 Jul 2004 08:45:56

Introducing my running mate, John Edwards

In just a few minutes, I will announce that Senator John Edwards will join me as my running-mate on the Democratic ticket as a candidate for vice president of the United States. Teresa and I could not be more excited that John and Elizabeth Edwards will be our partners in our journey to make America stronger at home and respected in the world.

I want you to know why I'm excited about running for president with John Edwards by my side. John understands and defends the values of America. He has shown courage and conviction as a champion for middle class Americans and those struggling to reach the middle class. In the Senate, he worked to reform our intelligence, to combat bioterrorism, and keep our military strong. John reaches across party lines and speaks to the heart of America -- hope and optimism. Throughout his own campaign for President, John spoke about the great divide in this country -- the "Two Americas" -- that exists between those who are doing well today and those who are struggling to make it from day to day. And I am so proud that we're going to build one America together.

In the next 120 days and in the administration that follows, John Edwards and I will be fighting for the America we love. We'll be fighting to give the middle class a voice by providing good paying jobs and affordable health care. We'll be fighting to make America energy independent. We'll be fighting to build a strong military and lead strong alliances, so young Americans are never put in harm's way because we insisted on going it alone.

I can't tell you how proud I am to have John Edwards on my team, or how eager I am for the day this fall when he stands up for our vision and goes toe-to-toe with Dick Cheney.

This is the most important election of our lifetime, and a defining moment in our history. With you by our side every day of this campaign, John and I will lead the most spirited presidential campaign America has ever seen, and fight to lead our nation in a new and better direction.

Thank you,

John Kerry


Ill-Serving Those Who Serve


July 6, 2004
Ill-Serving Those Who Serve

The Pentagon's decision to press 5,600 honorably discharged soldiers back into service, mainly in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the latest example of President Bush's refusal to face the true costs of pre-emptive war. As with other stopgap measures to paper over the poor planning of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, this one demands more from those who have already given the most: volunteer soldiers and their families. And because this call-up comes uncomfortably close to conscription, it highlights more than other emergency deployments the callousness of the administration's failure to budget for an adequate number of ground troops.

Last week's mobilization decision involved the Army's Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of 117,000 former officers and soldiers who have completed their active or reserve duty, but still have time left on the eight-year contracts they signed when they enlisted. Given the urgency of the need for more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, we can see why tapping that ready reserve was so tempting. But that urgency is of the administration's own making.

Although it has long been obvious that American ground forces would be overstretched by commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and elsewhere, the administration has resisted Congressional efforts to enlarge the Army permanently to cover projected needs -- by most estimates, that means 20,000 to 40,000 more people. Such an expansion would cost as much as $10 billion and would need to be accounted for in the more than $400 billion military budget. To date, most of the cost of the Iraq war has not been paid from the military budget, but from nearly $100 billion in so-called supplemental funds. An additional "supplemental" of at least $25 billion is expected for fiscal year 2005. This type of accounting ensures that politicians' pet weapons projects do not have to compete for funds with the cost of more soldiers. Just slowing down the deployment of the Rube Goldberg ballistic-missile defense system would pay for a lot of soldiers.

In the meantime, overworked soldiers get orders for extended and multiple tours, even as new evidence shows that one in six soldiers who returned home from earlier tours in Iraq is showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other severe emotional difficulties. If the Army persists in these extended tours and rapid-fire redeployments, the cost could be a drop in morale and in recruitment and re-enlistment rates. In general, Americans are made more vulnerable as soldiers are pulled out of the nuclear-armed Korean peninsula to serve in Iraq and are diverted from a real war against terrorism in Afghanistan.

The military argues that while the need for more soldiers is immediate, staffing and equipping new permanent divisions would take nearly two years -- and that by then, they might not be needed. That is the same type of hope-for-the-best planning that caused this disaster.


Bye-Bye, Bush Boom


July 6, 2004

Bye-Bye, Bush Boom

When does optimism -- the Bush campaign's favorite word these days -- become an inability to face facts? On Friday, President Bush insisted that a seriously disappointing jobs report, which fell far short of the pre-announcement hype, was good news: "We're witnessing steady growth, steady growth. And that's important. We don't need boom-or-bust-type growth."

But Mr. Bush has already presided over a bust. For the first time since 1932, employment is lower in the summer of a presidential election year than it was on the previous Inauguration Day. Americans badly need a boom to make up the lost ground. And we're not getting it.

When March's numbers came in much better than expected, I cautioned readers not to make too much of one good month. Similarly, we shouldn't make too much of June's disappointment. The question is whether, taking a longer perspective, the economy is performing well. And the answer is no.

If you want a single number that tells the story, it's the percentage of adults who have jobs. When Mr. Bush took office, that number stood at 64.4. By last August it had fallen to 62.2 percent. In June, the number was 62.3. That is, during Mr. Bush's first 30 months, the job situation deteriorated drastically. Last summer it stabilized, and since then it may have improved slightly. But jobs are still very scarce, with little relief in sight.

Bush campaign ads boast that 1.5 million jobs were added in the last 10 months, as if that were a remarkable achievement. It isn't. During the Clinton years, the economy added 236,000 jobs in an average month. Those 1.5 million jobs were barely enough to keep up with a growing working-age population.

In the spring, it seemed as if the pace of job growth was accelerating: in March and April, the economy added almost 700,000 jobs. But that now looks like a blip -- a one-time thing, not a break in the trend. May growth was slightly below the Clinton-era average, and June's numbers -- only 112,000 new jobs, and a decline in working hours -- were pretty poor.

What about overall growth? After two and a half years of slow growth, real G.D.P. surged in the third quarter of 2003, growing at an annual rate of more than 8 percent. But that surge appears to have been another blip. In the first quarter of 2004, growth was down to 3.9 percent, only slightly above the Clinton-era average. Scattered signs of weakness -- rising new claims for unemployment insurance, sales warnings at Target and Wal-Mart, falling numbers for new durable goods orders -- have led many analysts to suspect that growth slowed further in the second quarter.

And economic growth is passing working Americans by. The average weekly earnings of nonsupervisory workers rose only 1.7 percent over the past year, lagging behind inflation. The president of Aetna, one of the biggest health insurers, recently told investors, "It's fair to say that a lot of the jobs being created may not be the jobs that come with benefits." Where is the growth going? No mystery: after-tax corporate profits as a share of G.D.P. have reached a level not seen since 1929.

What should we be doing differently? For three years many economists have argued that the most effective job-creating policies would be increased aid to state and local governments, extended unemployment insurance and tax rebates for lower- and middle-income families. The Bush administration paid no attention -- it never even gave New York all the aid Mr. Bush promised after 9/11, and it allowed extended unemployment insurance to lapse. Instead, it focused on tax cuts for the affluent, ignoring warnings that these would do little to create jobs.

After good job growth in March and April, the administration declared its approach vindicated. That was premature, to say the least. Whatever boost the economy got from the tax cuts is now behind us, and given the size of the budget deficit, another big tax cut is out of the question. It's time to change the policy mix -- to rescind some of those upper-income cuts and pursue the policies we should have been following all along.

One last point: government policies could do a lot about the failure of new jobs to come with health benefits, a huge source of anxiety for many American families. John Kerry is right to make health care a central plank of his platform. I'll analyze his proposals in a future column.


Accommodating the Protesters


July 6, 2004
Accommodating the Protesters

It does not require extensive polling to predict that when the Republican convention comes to New York, there will be a lot of protesters. If the city wants to be the host of a convention -- and Mayor Michael Bloomberg vigorously pursued this one -- it has to give reasonable access to those with alternative views. The city has not been forthcoming in its offers of protest sites, and it has been unduly dismissive of the free-expression interests at stake. It should do a better job of coming up with an acceptable site for the protesters.

For well over a year, a group called United for Peace and Justice has been seeking a Central Park permit for a protest that it expects could draw 250,000 people. The city offered a park in Queens, hardly appropriate when the convention is in Manhattan. Now it is offering the West Side Highway, but the organizers are understandably unhappy. A highway is hardly a natural setting for a rally. Since the space is narrow, a "rally" there could end up being a three-mile string of people, many of them unable to see the stage or hear the speakers.

The mayor has acted as if demonstrators are an annoyance, to be shunted as far away as possible. Recently, he unfairly accused organizers of trying to gum up the negotiations in the interests of getting publicity. But New York City has a long and proud history of welcoming peaceful protests and political dissent. This tradition, and the First Amendment, cannot be tossed aside simply because a political convention has come to town.

Both sides should work harder to forge a compromise. When the city rejected a permit to use the Great Lawn in Central Park, saying that costly renovation had made the site too fragile to handle a protest, organizers said they would take the North Meadow, but the city rejected that location, too.

All of Central Park should not be off limits. The city should consider whether there are ways to make it accessible, while limiting damage. If the park isn't feasible, the city should do better than offering the highway. One alternative is Times Square, a central location with a history of accommodating crowds.

The city is already rolling out the red carpet for the Republicans, with an ad campaign urging New Yorkers to "make nice" to the delegates. People who want to take exception to Republican policies are also a legitimate part of convention week, and the city needs to make nice to them, too.


You've Got Mail (and Court Says Others Can Read It)

July 6, 2004

You've Got Mail (and Court Says Others Can Read It)

When everything is working right, an e-mail message appears to zip instantaneously from the sender to the recipient's inbox. But in reality, most messages make several momentary stops as they are processed by various computers en route to their destination.

Those short stops may make no difference to the users, but they make an enormous difference to the privacy that e-mail is accorded under federal law.

Last week a federal appeals court in Boston ruled that federal wiretap laws do not apply to e-mail messages if they are stored, even for a millisecond, on the computers of the Internet providers that process them - meaning that it can be legal for the government or others to read such messages without a court order.

The ruling was a surprise to many people, because in 1986 Congress specifically amended the wiretap laws to incorporate new technologies like e-mail. Some argue that the ruling's implications could affect emerging applications like Internet-based phone calls and Gmail, Google's new e-mail service, which shows advertising based on the content of a subscriber's e-mail messages.

"The court has eviscerated the protections that Congress established back in the 1980's," said Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a civil liberties group.

But other experts argue that the Boston case will have little practical effect. The outcry, said Stuart Baker, a privacy lawyer with Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, is "much ado about nothing."

Mr. Baker pointed out that even under the broadest interpretation of the law, Congress made it easier for prosecutors and lawyers in civil cases to read other people's e-mail messages than to listen to their phone calls. The wiretap law - which requires prosecutors to prove their need for a wiretap and forbids civil litigants from ever using them - applies to e-mail messages only when they are in transit.

But in a 1986 law, Congress created a second category, called stored communication, for messages that had been delivered to recipients' inboxes but not yet read. That law, the Stored Communications Act, grants significant protection to e-mail messages, but does not go as far as the wiretap law: it lets prosecutors have access to stored messages with a search warrant, while imposing stricter requirements on parties in civil suits.

Interestingly, messages that have been read but remain on the Internet provider's computer system have very little protection. Prosecutors can typically gain access to an opened e-mail message with a simple subpoena rather than a search warrant. Similarly, lawyers in civil cases, including divorces, can subpoena opened e-mail messages.

The case in Boston involved an online bookseller, now called Alibris. In 1998, the company offered e-mail accounts to book dealers and, hoping to gain market advantage, secretly copied messages they received from In 1999, Alibris and one employee pleaded guilty to criminal wiretapping charges.

But a supervisor, Bradford C. Councilman, fought the charges, saying he did not know about the scheme. He also moved to have the case dismissed on the ground that the wiretapping law did not apply. He argued that because the messages had been on the hard drive of Alibris's computer while they were being processed for delivery, they counted as stored communication. The wiretap law bans a company from monitoring the communications of its customers, except in a few cases. But it does not ban a company from reading customers' stored communications.

"Congress recognized that any time you store communication, there is an inherent loss of privacy," said Mr. Councilman's lawyer, Andrew Good of Good & Cormier in Boston.

In 2003, a federal district court in Boston agreed with Mr. Councilman's interpretation of the wiretap law and dismissed the case. Last week, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-to-1 decision, affirmed that decision.

Because most major Internet providers have explicit policies against reading their customers' e-mail messages, the ruling would seem to have little effect on most people.

But this year Google is testing a service called Gmail, which electronically scans the content of the e-mail messages its customers receive and then displays related ads. Privacy groups have argued that the service is intrusive, and some have claimed it violates wiretap laws. The Councilman decision, if it stands, could undercut that argument.

Federal prosecutors, who often argue that wiretap restrictions do not apply in government investigations, were in the somewhat surprising position of arguing that those same laws should apply to Mr. Councilman's conduct. A spokesman for the United States attorney's office in Boston said the department had not decided whether to appeal.

Mr. Baker said that another federal appeals court ruling, in San Francisco, is already making it hard for prosecutors to retrieve e-mail that has been read and remains on an Internet provider's system.

In that case, Theofel v. Farey-Jones, a small Internet provider responded to a subpoena by giving a lawyer copies of 339 e-mail messages received by two of its customers.

The customers claimed the subpoena was so broad it violated the wiretap and stored communication laws. A district court agreed the subpoenas were too broad, but ruled they were within the law. The plaintiffs appealed, and the Justice Department filed a friend of the court brief arguing that the Stored Communications Act should not apply.

In February, the appeals court ruled that e-mail stored on the computer server of an Internet provider is indeed covered by the Stored Communications Act, even after it has been read. The court noted that the act refers both to messages before they are delivered and to backup copies kept by the Internet provider. "An obvious purpose for storing a message on an I.S.P.'s server after delivery," the court wrote, " is to provide a second copy of the message in the event that the user needs to download it again - if, for example, the message is accidentally erased from the user's own computer."

Calling e-mail "stored communication" does not necessarily reduce privacy protections for most e-mail users. While the Councilman ruling would limit the applicability of wiretap laws to e-mail, it appears to apply to a very small number of potential cases. The Theofel decision, by contrast, by defining more e-mail as "stored communications," is restricting access to e-mail in a wide range of cases in the Ninth Circuit, and could have a far greater effect on privacy if courts in the rest of the country follow that ruling.


US Chamber of Commerce Endorses Offshore Outsourcing

JULY 1, 2004 6:01 PM Sarah Massey 202-637-5018

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on Chamber of Commerce's Endorsement of Sending American Jobs Overseas

WASHINGTON - July 1 - It is a shocking slap in the face to America’s hard working men and women for Tom Donohue, President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to brazenly call for even more good American jobs to be sent overseas, blindly arguing that this is good for America because this is best for corporations’ bottom line.

It is absolutely stunning that Donohue would then go on to accuse those men and women of "whining" when giant corporations ship their jobs overseas -- despite the fact that these men and women are the ones who suffer the resulting home foreclosures, bankruptcies, loss of health care and the missed chance for a college education that follows such community devastation.

Donohue is oblivious to the fact that our nation is reeling from a major jobs crisis as good jobs disappear overseas every single day. We’ve lost two million family-supporting manufacturing jobs under the Bush Administration, and long term unemployment is at a 20-year high. Wages are at their lowest levels in two years, there are more people uninsured than when Bush took office, and the new jobs that are being created -- WalMart type jobs -- pay on average 20 percent less than the jobs that went overseas.

Tom Donohue would benefit from taking a hard look at the world in which he actually lives -- rather than seeing the world solely through his comfortable corporate bubble -- and considering whether his pointed rhetoric drives even further the wedge between the wealthy and the rest of the people in this nation.


Monday, July 05, 2004

Sex, Lies and No Chalabi

July 4, 2004
Sex, Lies and No Chalabi

No sooner did the epic Ronald Reagan funeral finally sputter out, leaving about as much residual trace on the national memory as the last "Matrix" sequel, than it was Bill Clinton's turn for the saturation resurrection tour. Like its immediate predecessor, the Clinton mediathon quickly proved too much of a muchness.

For me, toxic shock started to set in before "My Life" officially went on sale. When Mr. Clinton and Dan Rather jointly donned rustic wear for an Arkansas summit on "60 Minutes," they seemed as authentic as Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie slumming in red-state America on the Fox reality show "The Simple Life 2." On publication day 36 hours later, Mr. Clinton did "Oprah," this time in an income-appropriate power suit, set off by a natty pink tie that once again matched his interviewer's ensemble. The hour began with two separate standing ovations -- one each for the host and the author. It concluded with her giving him two thumbs up. In between, the mutually assured narcissism never quit. The closest the conversation got to testy was when Oprah asked why her status as a White House visitor did not propel her onto any of the book's 957 pages. The author blamed his editor -- a vast Alfred A. Knopf conspiracy.

As with the Reagan farewell, pundits obsessively ask of the Clinton rollout: how will it affect the election? This is a recipe for infinite bloviation, since there is no answer. Voting day is four long months away. The more realistic question is what the re-emergence of these past presidents tells us about the country that will make that choice. The comeback kid's current comeback, even more dramatically than the weeklong siege of Reagan redux, gives us a snapshot of an America eager to wallow in any past, even the silt of Whitewater, to escape the world we live in now. It's a mood that feels less like the sunny nostalgia we imbibe on the Fourth of July than high anxiety. Better a clear-cut evil empire than an axis of evil whose members can't always be distinguished from our "allies." Better lying under oath about oral sex than dissembling with impunity about gathering "mushroom clouds" to justify the wholesale shipping of American troops into a shooting gallery.

This isn't to say that the spirit of Kenneth Starr has been exorcised from public life. But it's now mutated into a parody of itself, a reliable form of national comic relief just when we need it. Even as Americans gorge on porn, Washington's Keystone sex Kops remain on the march. On June 22, the same day that "My Life" hit the shelves with its promise of a fresh slice of Monica, the Senate voted almost unanimously, in a rare bipartisan gesture, to increase by more than $240,000 the penalty on broadcasters who trade in "indecency." Like an outrageous coincidence in a bedroom farce, the day of this historic vote was also the one on which Vice President Cheney, visiting the Senate floor for a photo session, used a four-letter word to tell a Democratic Senator, Patrick Leahy, what he could do to himself.

Mr. Cheney didn't seem to realize he had chosen the very word that had helped spur the Congressional smut crackdown in the first place -- the one Bono had used at the Golden Globes last year. Has the vice president no sense of indecency? Had C-Span only caught his transgression on camera, we might have seen Brian Lamb placed under house arrest and fined on the spot. Later Mr. Cheney said he "felt better after I had done it," and of all commentators, only Jon Stewart had a theory as to why. The vice president's demand that Senator Leahy commit an act of auto-eroticism, he reasoned, may be a signal that the Republicans are belatedly endorsing the gay-friendly ethos of the Clinton administration. "I think it's them opening up their hearts to a different lifestyle," Mr. Stewart said to Larry King.

In its account of the Cheney incident, The Washington Post ran the expletive verbatim -- another throwback to the Clinton era. It was the first time the paper had printed this epithet since publishing the unexpurgated Starr Report in 1998. The White House didn't seem to mind. Though Andrew Card, the president's chief of staff, condemned John Kerry for using this same word in a Rolling Stone interview in December -- "I'm very disappointed that he would use that kind of language," the sorrowful Mr. Card had said -- this time the transgression was given a pass. We're all moral relativists now.

Surely the moral clarity promised by Mr. Clinton's successors is long gone. Much as Democrats helped push for the television V-chip while looking the other way at their president's private life, so the party of Kenneth Starr now tosses worthless family-friendly initiatives to religious conservatives while countenancing Clinton-style behavior among its own if holding on to power is at stake. You could see this dynamic in action, conveniently enough, during the same week of the "My Life" publication. President Bush was in the swing state of Ohio promoting a "healthy marriage" program to a cheering crowd just as fellow Republicans were rallying around a rumored swing voter of another sort, Jack Ryan, the party's scandal-beset senatorial candidate in Illinois.

For those who missed this delightful bit of hard-core politics, here are the good parts: unsealed court documents from Mr. Ryan's custody battle with his former wife, the TV starlet Jeri Ryan ("Star Trek: Voyager"), included accusations that he had tried to coerce her into joining him in public sex at a New York club equipped with "cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling." Mr. Ryan, whose denomination of religiosity extends to opposing legal abortion and gay civil rights, defended himself, saying, "There's no breaking of the Ten Commandments anywhere." On The Chicago Sun-Times's Web site, coverage of this scandal carried banners touting Mr. Clinton's "My Life" as a "related advertising link."

George F. Will, who wrote a column last fall extolling Mr. Ryan for his daily attendance at mass and an overall beneficence that makes "the rest of us seem like moral slackers," did not raise his voice in condemnation now. Nor did any major Republican leader, including Mr. Cheney, who had just appeared at a Ryan fund-raiser. "Jack Ryan, unlike Bill Clinton, did not commit adultery and did not lie," was how the columnist Robert Novak stood up for his man, sounding very much like Arnold Schwarzenegger's conservative apologists of last summer. Mr. Ryan, who had been regularly praised by Mr. Will and other admirers for being "Hollywood handsome," dropped out of the race anyway last week but only because he lacked Mr. Schwarzenegger's big-screen bravura (and poll numbers) to tough it out.

Mr. Ryan's demise was the cue for another sex sleuth minted in the Clinton years, Matt Drudge, to seek tit for tat by trying to gin up a new Clinton-style scandal about a Democrat. A banner story on his site, unsullied by any evidence, suggested that "media outlets" might soon go to court to unseal John Kerry's divorce records just as Mr. Ryan's had been. Even if this titillating possibility hadn't been posted just as an American marine was taken hostage in Iraq, it's hard to imagine it creating the stir in 2004 it would have six years ago. An earlier attempt by Drudge to pin an intern on Mr. Kerry had also flopped, despite the efforts of the former Bush speechwriter David Frum to keep the rumor alive on The National Review's Web site until it was proved false.

Such prurient fun and games, Washington style, seem like innocent escapism post-9/11. Not even Mr. Clinton's renewed omnipresence can help us revive the apocalyptic hysteria that attended the Lewinsky revelations. History is supposed to play out first as tragedy, then as farce. But this time you have to wonder if the farce, though once taken as tragedy, came first. Mr. Clinton's claim that he had "never had sexual relations with that woman" just doesn't seem as compelling as Mr. Bush's replay of the same script last month when disowning his administration's soured affair with Ahmad Chalabi. Asked if Mr. Chalabi had fed us some of the false intelligence on weapons of mass destruction that took us to war in Iraq, the president said he had never "had any extensive conversations" with that man and knew him from greeting him on a rope line (more shades of Monica!). To buy that, you have to believe that Mr. Chalabi's appearance with Laura Bush as a guest of honor at January's State of the Union is as irrelevant to this president's assertion of innocence as the stained dress was to his predecessor's.

Two days after Mr. Clinton's appearance on "Oprah," Mr. Bush aped him again -- becoming the first sitting president to be questioned by prosecutors at the White House since Mr. Starr was in his Whitewater heyday. Ah, Whitewater! I wonder if any of its sleazy particulars are as vivid in the public mind as the alleged crime that led the new special prosecutor to question Mr. Bush 10 days ago: the leaking of the name of an undercover C.I.A. officer (to the ubiquitous Mr. Novak) by an administration official as payback for the agent's husband's criticism of Mr. Bush. Somehow wartime scandals that threaten national security, putting American lives in jeopardy, trump those of money and real estate just as they do sex.

Many of Mr. Clinton's old antagonists, as we're learning since "My Life" was published, are starting to realize exactly that. "The Monica Lewinsky stuff now really seems so last century," said the conservative radio host Laura Ingraham on Fox as book buyers lined up for Mr. Clinton. "I mean, it just seems so old and tired and nothing new." Thus the new tactic is to update the brief to include 9/11. When Mr. Clinton appeared on "60 Minutes," the same anti-Clinton group that led the Whitewater charge a decade ago took out ads implying that it's entirely the former president's fault that al Qaeda wasn't stopped.

Actually, there's more than enough blame to go around -- Osama bin Laden has now gotten away during two presidencies. How the current president used semantic tricks to conflate Saddam with bin Laden, allowing him to escape yet again, is something we'd rather not think about just now. No doubt the Clinton revival will be as short-lived as Reagan's. But for the moment it takes us back to that halcyon time when we could despise a president for falsifying the meaning of a word as free of terror as "is."


Rights of Terror Suspects

July 5, 2004

Rights of Terror Suspects

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -- "Misadvised by a frustrated and panic-stricken attorney general, a president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power to jail or execute aliens."

So wrote a purpling libertarian kook on Nov. 15, 2001, the day after President Bush issued an executive order cracking down on suspected terrorist captives. "At a time when even liberals are debating the ethics of torture of suspects," this soft-on-terror wimp went on, "weighing the distaste for barbarism against the need to save innocent lives -- it's time for conservative iconoclasts and card-carrying hard-liners to stand up for American values."

They did not, of course; hard-line commentators dismissed the wimp as a "professional hysteric" akin to "antebellum Southern belles suffering the vapors." Attorney General John Ashcroft said such diatribes "aid terrorists."

At the same time, most liberals -- supposed advocates of the rights of the accused -- did not want to appear to be insufficiently outraged at terrorists. Only two months after the shock of 9/11, with polls showing strong public approval of Bush's harsh measures to protect us, these liberals turned out to be civil liberty's summer soldiers. No senator from Massachusetts rose promptly to challenge Bush's draconian order, thereby to etch a profile in courage.

But one cabinet member reacted curiously. Despite the White House order to give enemy combatants no legal rights in what the vaporing wimp sniffled were "kangaroo courts," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld convened a panel of serious outside lawyers aware of the wartime mistakes of Lincoln, Wilson and F.D.R. They reshaped the Bush order to give accused noncitizens before military tribunals the rights to counsel, public trial, appellate review and other protections in the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Then Ashcroft Justice dug in its heels and the system stalled for years. Military tribunals of aliens captured in Afghanistan were placed in abeyance while Justice claimed in court that the president has the authority to impose open-ended detention on citizens and noncitizens alike. Such wholesale denial of due process is what the soft-on-terror professional hysteric had called "the seizure of dictatorial power."

Last week the Supreme Court that helped put Bush in office intervened to prevent his abuse of it. "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in agreement with the majority, "has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the executive."

The right of a prisoner -- even a noncitizen suspected of plotting to blow up a city -- to take his case before some sort of judge has been reaffirmed. The panicked Ashcroft and the hapless White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, clearly misadvised the president; both should depart in a second term. Separation of powers lives, and we should extend habeas corpus to all four corners of the earth.

Though coverage of the Supreme Court's rulings led with "a state of war is not a blank check for the president," its decisions were also deferential. Provided that an accused combatant has a chance to rebut, there should be "a presumption in favor of the government's evidence"; hearsay might be allowed. With military tribunals now tilted toward the prosecution, we should stop delaying and start prosecuting.

Liberals, in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib and now with Supreme Court restraints on executive power, are piling on. It's safe; civil liberty is suddenly in vogue, at least until the next terror strike. That's why the bosoms of Bush critics are now heaving in hypocritical hyperventilation. But where were they on Nov. 15, 2001, when due process needed them? In spider holes all their own.

There's a lesson, too, for conservatives and other hard-liners: Libertarians are not to be despised even when infuriatingly contrarian. Remember our Jeremiah-like presence in your ranks on the privacy issue when you demand a national ID, or when you hamstring embryonic stem-cell research, or when you make a show of festooning the Constitution with a marriage amendment.

Why do I fear no libel suit from that wimpish professional hysteric, that antebellum Southern belle suffering the vapors, that aider of terrorists? Because I'm him. (It's uncool to say I told you so, but I have not had many chances to say it lately.)