Saturday, April 09, 2005

U.S. Seeks Access to Bank Records to Deter Terror

The New York Times
April 10, 2005
U.S. Seeks Access to Bank Records to Deter Terror

WASHINGTON, April 9 - The Bush administration is developing a plan to give the government access to possibly hundreds of millions of international banking records in an effort to trace and deter terrorist financing, even as many bankers say they already feel besieged by government antiterrorism rules that they consider overly burdensome.

The initiative, as conceived by a working group within the Treasury Department, would vastly expand the government's database of financial transactions by gaining access to logs of international wire transfers into and out of American banks. Such overseas transactions were used by the Sept. 11 hijackers to wire more than $130,000, officials said, and are still believed to be vulnerable to terrorist financiers.

Government officials said in interviews that the effort, which grew out of a brief, little-noticed provision in the intelligence reform bill passed by Congress in December, would give them the tools to track leads on specific suspects and, more broadly, to analyze patterns in terrorist financing and other financial crimes. They said they were mindful of privacy concerns that such a system is likely to provoke and wanted to include safeguards to prevent misuse of what would amount to an enormous cache of financial records.

The provision authorized the Treasury Department to pursue regulations requiring financial institutions to turn over "certain cross-border electronic transmittals of funds" that may be needed in combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

The plan for tracking overseas wire transfers is likely to intensify pressure on banks and other financial institutions to comply with the expanding base of provisions to fight money laundering, industry and government officials agreed. The aggressive tactics since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have already caused something of a backlash among banking compliance officers - and even some federal officials, who say the effort has gone too far in penalizing the financial sector for lapses and has effectively criminalized what were once seen as technical violations.

The initiative, still in its preliminary stages, reflects heightened concerns by administration and Congressional officials about the government's ability to track and disrupt financing for terrorist operations by Al Qaeda and other groups - an effort identified by President Bush as a top priority in the campaign against terrorism.

Terrorist money has been difficult to identify, much less seize, in part because terror operations are conducted on relative shoestring budgets. Planning and operations for the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, were believed to have cost Al Qaeda $400,000 to $500,000, with no unusual transactions found, according to the 9/11 commission, and the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa cost only $10,000.

While counterterrorism officials have made some inroads in tracking terrorist money, clear successes have been few and sporadic, experts say, and a number of recent reports have pointed up concerns about the government's ability to deter and disrupt such financing.

"I don't think we really have a full grasp of how to deal with the problem yet," said Dennis M. Lormel, the former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's terrorism-financing unit, who is now in the private sector. "The framework is certainly getting better, but in general, we don't have the full capability yet to get at the money."

The federal government has taken a number of aggressive steps since the Sept. 11 attacks to disrupt terrorist financing. It has expanded its list of terrorist-related groups banned from financial dealings with the United States, it has set up new investigative offices to track terrorist financing, and it has required more financial data and tighter compliance from financial industries as part of the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act and other measures.

Senior officials throughout the administration have emphasized repeatedly that they want the financial sector to be a full partner in the stepped-up efforts to deter terrorist financing.

But in a letter in January to Treasury Department officials, 52 banking associations around the country said that a "lack of clarity" by the government in explaining what is expected of them in complying with regulations to deter terrorist financing and money laundering has "complicated, and in some cases undermined" those efforts.

The result, banking officials say, is that many banks, now in a defensive mode, are sending the government far more reports than ever before on "suspicious activities" by their customers - and potentially clogging the system with irrelevant data - for fear of being penalized if they fail to file the reports as required.

Some smaller community banks have sold out to larger companies for fear of increased liability, banking officials say, and banks have dropped some money-transmittal businesses that do significant business overseas because of the risk. Some executives, meanwhile, are steering away from serving on bank boards, concerned that they will be hit with punitive measures, banking industry officials say.

"It seems like the rules keep changing on us, and there's a lot of confusion and anxiety in the industry about what constitutes a proper compliance program," said John Byrne, who oversees compliance issues for the American Bankers Association.

Of particular concern to industry officials are five criminal enforcement actions in the last several years against banks for failing to comply with laws to combat money laundering. None of the cases involved terrorist financing, but prosecutors say most centered on egregious lapses by banks in turning a blind eye toward possible money laundering, for instance, by accepting duffel bags from drug dealers with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.

Tensions over the issue broke into public display last month in Hollywood, Fla., at a conference sponsored by Money Laundering Alert, an industry newsletter, as even some federal officials expressed sympathy for the bankers and criticism of what they characterized as overly aggressive tactics by the Justice Department.

By sharply increasing prosecutions against banks over compliance failures, "law enforcement is shooting the messenger," said Herbert A. Bierne, a senior enforcement official with the Federal Reserve System's board of governors. "You shoot the messenger, you stop getting the messages."

The Federal Reserve System has begun meeting with Justice Department officials to resolve internal friction over the enforcement actions, and it is seeking changes that would require such prosecutions to be overseen by Justice Department officials at headquarters in Washington, rather than at the discretion of federal prosecutors in the field, officials said.

Lester Joseph, a Justice Department official who oversees money-laundering cases, told the conference that the department, despite its keen interest in tracking terrorist financing, has no interest in singling out banks for technical violations and has begun no concerted crackdown.

But he added, "When we detect evidence of what we perceive as a crime, we're going to pursue that."

The Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or Fincen, which is leading the effort to gain access to international wire transfers, has created a working group with about 20 employees, begun meetings with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, and developed a general concept for how to proceed. Officials also have begun looking at similar models in Canada and Australia.

A final plan is not expected until the end of the year, and a senior official at Fincen, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the plan is still in development, acknowledged in an interview that numerous logistical and legal issues must still be worked out.

For instance, although some rough estimates cited by Fincen suggest that there are at least a half-billion international wire transfers a year totaling trillions of dollars, officials want to develop clearer data. The financial data demanded by Fincen is likely to total several hundred million records, and the agency wants to minimize the logistical and financial disruption to banks, officials said.

Officials are looking at whether to give higher priority to wire transfers from the Middle East or other regions considered high risk, but they said they want to avoid provoking a public outcry over charges of ethnic profiling or driving terrorist financiers out of banks and into underground markets.

Advocates see the international transfers as a vital tool in tracking terrorist financing.

"The idea is for the government to make it more difficult and more risky for terrorists to move money, and right now international wire transfers provide the fastest, cheapest and most reliable way for the terrorists to do that," said John Roth, a former staff member for the Sept. 11 commission and a co-author of its terrorist financing report.

But some within the financial industry are skeptical.

"This strikes me as a fruitless exercise, an impossible task," said Charles A. Intriago, a former federal prosecutor who runs Money Laundering Alert. "This risks further burdening the industry, and it's tough to see how it will produce much if any useful data for the government in tracking terrorist financing."


U.S. military: Cameraman with CBS credentials detained in Iraq
U.S. military: Cameraman with CBS credentials detained in Iraq

By Associated Press, 4/9/2005 04:42

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) A cameraman carrying CBS press credentials was detained in Iraq earlier this week on suspicion of insurgent activity, the U.S. military said Friday, while the network issued a statement saying it was investigating the incident.

The cameraman suffered minor injuries Tuesday during a battle between U.S. soldiers and suspected insurgents, and was standing next to an alleged insurgent who was killed during the shootout, the military said.

The military issued a statement at the time saying the cameraman was shot because his equipment was mistaken for a weapon. But on Friday, the military said the cameraman was detained because there was probable cause to believe he posed ''an imperative threat to coalition forces.''

''He is currently detained and will be processed as any other security detainee,'' the military said.

In a statement released Friday, CBS News said the man had worked as a freelancer for CBS for three months and that he was videotaping for the network when he was shot.

''It is common practice in Iraq for Western news organizations to hire local cameramen in places considered too dangerous for Westerners to work effectively. The very nature of their work often puts them in the middle of very volatile situations,'' the statement said.

''CBS News continues to investigate the situation, and when more information becomes available, we will report it.''


Friday, April 08, 2005

Man arrested, cuffed after using $2 bills
Thursday, April 7, 2005
Man arrested, cuffed after using $2 bills
Best Buy customer on being jailed: 'At this point, I'm a mass murderer'
Posted: April 7, 2005
5:12 p.m. Eastern

© 2005

A man trying to pay a fee using $2 bills was arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail after clerks at a Best Buy store questioned the currency's legitimacy and called police.

According to an account in the Baltimore Sun, 57-year-old Mike Bolesta was shocked to find himself taken to the Baltimore County lockup in Cockeysville, Md., where he was handcuffed to a pole for three hours while the U.S. Secret Service was called to weigh in on the case.

Bolesta told the Sun: "I am 6 feet 5 inches tall, and I felt like 8 inches high. To be handcuffed, to have all those people looking on, to be cuffed to a pole – and to know you haven't done anything wrong. And me, with a brother, Joe, who spent 33 years on the city police force. It was humiliating."

After Best Buy personnel reportedly told Bolesta he would not be charged for the installation of a stereo in his son's car, he received a call from the store saying it was in fact charging him the fee. As a means of protest, Bolesta decided to pay the $114 bill using 57 crisp, new $2 bills.

As the owner of Capital City Student Tours, the Baltimore resident has a hearty supply of the uncommon currency. He often gives the bills to students who take his tours for meal money.

"The kids don't see that many $2 bills, so they think this is the greatest thing in the world," Bolesta says. "They don't want to spend 'em. They want to save 'em. I've been doing this since I started the company. So I'm thinking, 'I'll stage my little comic protest. I'll pay the $114 with $2 bills.'"

Bolesta explained what happened when he presented the bills to the cashier at Best Buy Feb. 20.

"She looked at the $2 bills and told me, 'I don't have to take these if I don't want to.' I said, 'If you don't, I'm leaving. I've tried to pay my bill twice. You don't want these bills, you can sue me.' So she took the money – like she's doing me a favor."

Bolesta says the cashier marked each bill with a pen. Other store employees began to gather, a few of them asking, "Are these real?"

"Of course they are," Bolesta said. "They're legal tender."

According to the Sun report, the police arrest report noted one employee noticed some smearing of ink on the bills. That's when the cops were called. One officer reportedly noticed the bills ran in sequential order.

Said Bolesta: "I told them, 'I'm a tour operator. I've got thousands of these bills. I get them from my bank. You got a problem, call the bank.' I'm sitting there in a chair. The store's full of people watching this. All of a sudden, he's standing me up and handcuffing me behind my back, telling me, 'We have to do this until we get it straightened out.'

"Meanwhile, everybody's looking at me. I've lived here 18 years. I'm hoping my kids don't walk in and see this. And I'm saying, 'I can't believe you're doing this. I'm paying with legal American money.'"

Bolesta was taken to the lockup, where he sat handcuffed to a pole and in leg irons while the Secret Service was called.

"At this point," he says, "I'm a mass murderer."

Secret Service agent Leigh Turner eventually arrived and declared the bills legitimate, adding, according to the police report, "Sometimes ink on money can smear."

Commenting on the incident, Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey told the Sun: "It's a sign that we're all a little nervous in the post-9/11 world."


Coming to Your Pocket: A Terrorist Beacon?
Coming to Your Pocket: A Terrorist Beacon?

By David Coursey
What do you suppose our enemies would pay for a device capable of identifying all the Americans walking down the street in a foreign city? And why might the U.S. Department of State be making such a weapon possible?

We're talking about a plan to embed RFID (radio-frequency identification) chips into U.S. passports, which the State Department claims will help swoosh U.S. citizens through border crossings. The Washington Post says the RFID chip will include all the printed information from the passport along with an enhanced photograph of the passport holder, useful for photo recognition.

The State Department claims the RFID data will be readable only out to a distance of about four inches. It plans to begin issuing new passports using the technology to diplomats starting in August. (You have to give these people credit for eating their own dog food.)

The rest of us would get the RFID model as our current passports expire. Mine was recently renewed and is good for another 10 years. I expect the issue will be solved long before I must face it personally, but I hate to think of the danger this might pose to our diplomatic corps.

The comment period on the proposal ended Monday, with more than 1,500 comments filed, many in opposition. A decision on whether to go ahead with the new passports is due later this spring.

Critics from the travel industry and elsewhere say the RFID passports could become electronic beacons, allowing terrorists to more easily separate Americans from a group of potential victims.

"This is an inappropriate use of technology and it's dangerous," said Bill Scannell, a California publicist and former intelligence officer who created the Web site to fight the new passports, which he calls "terrorist beacons."

Scannell said he believes State Department officials "fell in love" with RFID technology when it was presented to them and only later became aware of the potential dangers of using it. He says U.S. intelligence agencies have already chosen not to use RFID in their employee ID badges, a common use for the technology in the private sector.

Click here to read more about a controversy surrounding possible use of RFID in government ID badges.

Here's the problem: To find the Americans in a crowd, a terrorist wouldn't need to "read" the information contained in the passport. If only Americans are carrying RFID passports, then all a terrorist need do is determine whether the device exists. A simple "wanding" by an RFID receiver would be enough to find the U.S. passport holders at close range.

The question—or bet, if you like to think of the world that way—is the distance at which the RFID might be detectable in the future, especially by someone with a fanatical "need-to-know."

Common sense says that if you don't actually need to read the data you can discover the device from a greater distance than if you do. How great that distance is will be the subject of a National Institute of Standards and Technology study due later this year. How the report will deal with how future technological improvements might increase that distance remains to be seen.

If this distance extends far enough, there's the possibility that hidden readers could find U.S. passport holders for other reasons besides terrorism, in other situations such as entering and leaving buildings.

A version of this is already being done with automobiles, where the "toll tags" used to pay bridge and other vehicle tools are also used for traffic monitoring. To do this, monitors are installed along freeways that record when a particular tag passes a particular place. Later, when the tag passes a monitor down the road it is possible to measure the time it took the vehicle to get from the first point to the second.

That information becomes the "drive time" estimates used by some radio, television and Internet traffic reporters.

Thinking about the RFID problem, I stumbled upon a possible solution: Lead envelopes, such as those used to protect film from X-ray devices at airports. It would be interesting to see how well a plasticized lead envelope could protect the RFID device and prevent it from working unless it was removed from the shielded pouch.

The State Department might provide these with the new passports it issues and they could be available at airport shops and other retail locations. I can't imagine these costing more than a few dollars.

Maybe the NIST will include these simple lead sleeves in its testing. I am not sure they'd work, but the concept seems sound and perhaps could make both sides happy.

Scannell didn't like my proposed "cure," saying that with all the other technology available, including bar codes and smart cards, that RFID shouldn't even be considered. I can't say that I really disagree, thought if it can't be stopped there may at least be a way to mitigate the damage.

To read more about RFID security issues, click here.

As things stand today, the concerns about the RFID plan are well-founded, just as I believe the State Department is sincerely trying to improve the quality of service it offers American citizens. The problem—and this is why I believe the State Department's plan will ultimately be shelved—is that we can't predict advances in RFID technology. Except to guess that they will be significant, including the ability to "read" cards at ever-greater distances.

Given the importance of safeguarding Americans abroad and protecting their privacy at home, I believe the State Department would be wise to adopt a different technology. In this case, Scannell is probably right: RFID would kill. Let's hope it doesn't.

originally published April 5, 2005


Abu Ghraib Officers Claimed They Were Scapegoats

Abu Ghraib Officers Claimed They Were Scapegoats
Documents show that three who served at the prison said they were unfairly singled out.

By Richard A. Serrano
Times Staff Writer

April 8, 2005

WASHINGTON — As the Abu Ghraib scandal was going public a year ago, junior Army officers at the prison in Iraq formally protested that they were being singled out for discipline for the actions of a few rogue soldiers. They also complained that it was unfair for senior military leaders to get away without a blemish on their careers.

According to documents released Thursday by the Army, three reservist prison supervisors wrote to Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, then commander of day-to-day operations in Iraq, to complain that the scandal had ruined their Army careers, yet left supervisors such as Metz and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, formerly the head of U.S. military operations in Iraq, basically unscathed.

The three said that they never were properly trained to run a prison, and complained that they were not given written Geneva Convention rules to post at the prison warning against torturing inmates.

They also said Red Cross reports of abuse were kept from them. And they said Sanchez and other top officers never alerted them to shortcomings, despite their numerous visits to the facility, where in the fall of 2003 inmates were being abused and sexually humiliated by Americans.

In the end, seven prison guards, none ranking above staff sergeant — the sixth-lowest rank in the Army — pleaded guilty or were convicted for the abuses. Charges against two others are pending.

An unknown number of prison supervisors, including the three who wrote to Metz, received administrative discipline that effectively ended their Army careers.

Separate from the Abu Ghraib case, the Army has said it has charged 21 soldiers in 11 incidents involving the deaths of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan and is investigating 16 other cases in which prisoners were killed.

However, Pentagon reports have not implicated any top military commanders or civilian Pentagon leaders in the Abu Ghraib abuses or other misconduct problems.

"I accept full responsibility for the actions of the soldiers of the 372nd [Military Police Company]," one junior officer, whose name was blacked out in documents released Thursday, wrote to Metz last year. "I fully agree that I should have done a better job at supervising them." Most of those charged in the Abu Ghraib case were members of the 372nd Military Police Company.

But the officer said it was unfair that others were not held accountable. "Unlike the general officer appointed above me," he wrote, apparently referring to Metz, "I take the responsibility of what my soldiers did. It's easy sitting back as the Monday morning quarterback and second-guessing everything."

The officer concluded, "It's amazing that the entire chain-of-command could be so incompetent."

The records were released as part of a lawsuit initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Abu Ghraib inquiry began in January 2004 but did not become public until last spring. By then, Army officials had begun investigating some of the guards, and military supervisors were meting out administrative discipline for officers.

The Army declined Thursday to comment on the new documents. "We'll continue to hold people appropriately accountable, and we will go wherever the truth leads for as long as it takes," said Lt. Col Jeremy Martin, an Army spokesman.

The three memos to Metz were dated April 12, 2004. On each, the writer's signature was redacted above the notation that he or she came from the 372nd Military Police Company.

One letter said an assessment of prison operations by Army Provost Marshal Donald Ryder during the period of much of the abuse "was never shared" with the military units at Abu Ghraib.

The officer maintained that it was unfair to blame prison supervisors. "The unit had less than two weeks to prepare for the [prison] operation," he said.

But, he added, "a few individuals, conducting criminal activity, left the boundaries of good training and judgment. Recognize their shortcomings and take the appropriate action."

Another writer, who identified himself as a noncommissioned officer-in-charge at the prison, said that if Red Cross memos and other documents had been made available to the prison staff, "corrective action would have been taken, possibly making the duties of the MPs safer and easier, and in turn doing the same for the detainees."

The writer took exception to being disciplined for failing to take action after seeing a guard stomp on a detainee's hand, saying he never saw the prisoner actually being hurt.

"The detainee did not flinch, nor did he cry out in pain as if he had been struck," the officer wrote.

The officer recalled later speaking with the guard who was handling that inmate.

The officer added: "The care and welfare of the detainees were priority to me. The Iraqi people were taught by Saddam [Hussein] to hate the Americans. I wanted to prove to them that we were not the bad guys that he made us out to be."


Times staff writer Mark Mazzetti contributed to this report.


Iraq is becoming 'free fraud' zone
Iraq is becoming 'free fraud' zone
Corruption in Iraq under US-led CPA may dwarf UN oil-for-food scandal.
By Tom Regan |

A former senior advisor to the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ran Iraq until the election of an interim Iraq government last January, says that the US government's refusal to prosecute US firms accused of corruption in Iraq is turning the country into a "free fraud zone."

Newsweek reported earlier this week that Frank Willis compared Iraq to the "wild west," and that with only $4.1 billion of the $18.7 billion that the US government set aside for the reconstruction of Iraq having been spent, the lack of action on the part of the government means "the corruption will only get worse."

More than US money is at stake. The administration has harshly criticized the United Nations over hundreds of millions stolen from the Oil-for-Food Program under Saddam [Hussein]. But the successor to Oil-for-Food created under the occupation, called the Development Fund for Iraq, could involve billions of potentially misused dollars.

In late March, the New Standard reported, the annual Global Corruption Report issued by the "corruption watchdog," Transparency International (TI), heavily criticized the US for "mismanaging" Iraq's oil revenues and "for using faulty procedures for awarding reconstruction contracts."

The report also criticizes efforts to rapidly privatize Iraqi assets and industries as a means of reducing the country’s debt. TI warns that unless immediate corrective measures are taken, Iraq’s reconstruction could become 'the biggest corruption scandal in history.'

The BBC reported that a UN report that came out in January also criticized the US as being a "poor role model" in "keeping corruption at bay."

The Christian Science Monitor reported on other allegations of corrpution in Iraq leveled against companies, including a "report by special inspector Stuart Bowen [which] found that $8.8 billion dollars had been disbursed from Iraqi oil revenue by US administrators to Iraqi ministries without proper accounting."

Meanwhile the Washington Post reported recently that both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations had long known that monies used in the in the UN oil-for-food program were lining the pockets of Saddam Hussein, and did little to stop it.

CNN reported in February that "unclassified State Department documents sent to congressional committees with oversight of US foreign policy" show that the US actually condoned Jordan and Turkey breaking the UN sanctions against Iraq.

Rep. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, one of five panels probing the oil-for-food program, told CNN the United States was 'complicit in undermining' the UN sanctions on Iraq.

'How is it that you stand on a moral footing to go after the UN when they're responsible for 15 percent maybe of the ill-gotten gains, and we were part and complicit of him getting 85 percent of the money?" Menendez asked.

One of the corruption cases that has drawn the most attention has been the attempts by two former employees of Custer Battles, a "private security company that was one of the highest-profile firms operating in Iraq" to sue the company on behalf of the US government. The whistler-blowers allege that the company and founders Mike Battles and Scott Custer, set up "shell companies in the Cayman Islands to falsely bill the government on two Iraq contracts."

The Washington Post reported last Friday that the Justice Department gave "strong support" to the men suing the company, "concluding that the company can be held liable for allegedly defrauding authorities in Iraq of tens of millions of dollars." Twice before the US governmment had declined to participate in the case when asked to do so by lawyers for the plaintiffs.

The judge, however, had asked the Justice Department "Does federal fraud law apply when the contract was administered by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq for a year after the US invasion?"

Newsweek reported that lawyers for Custer Battles, and until last week, the Bush administration, had argued the CPA was an "international authority" and thus US laws could not be used.

It [the US government] has argued privately that the occupation government, known as the Coalition Provisional Authority, was a multinational institution, not an arm of the US government. So the US government was not technically defrauded. Lawyers for the whistle-blowers point out, however, that President George W. Bush signed a 2003 law authorizing $18.7 billion to go to US authorities in Iraq, including the CPA, 'as an entity of the United States government.' And several contracts with Custer Battles refer to the other party as 'the United States of America.'

Max Boot, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in the Los Angeles Times, the heavy use of contractors by the Bush administration not only lead to corruption problems, but is impeding the US military's progress in Iraq.

Peter W. Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of 'Corporate Warriors,' estimates that there are 20,000 to 30,000 civilians in Iraq performing traditional military functions, from maintaining weapons systems to guarding supply convoys. If you add foreigners involved in reconstruction and oil work, the total soars to 50,000 to 75,000.

To put this into perspective: All of Washington's allies combined account for 23,000 troops in Iraq. In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Singer quips that "President George W. Bush's 'coalition of the willing' might thus be more aptly described as the 'coalition of the billing.' "

And the corruption problems go far beyond US contractors and other international firms. Reuters reported in March that one of the biggest problems facing the establishment of a legitimate government in Iraq is the corruption rampant in many Iraq government departments.

Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, head of the Commission on Public Integrity (CPI), an agency set up by the CPA to fight fraud committed by Iraqis, said that he faces many obstacles to fighting corruption in Iraq, including pressure from government officials to not work so hard.

Our work is new in Iraq and being an observer is not welcomed by many. We were asked many times by the government via official letters or phone calls not to speak to the media or not to speak to ministers. There were too many cases of 'Don't...'.


US unready for rising threat of 'moles'

The Christian Science Monitor -

from the April 08, 2005 edition

US unready for rising threat of 'moles'
A recent report on US intelligence harshly critiqued counter-spy efforts.

By Faye Bowers | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - Amid all the criticism of the US's faulty intelligence-gathering, a new concern is surfacing about America's premier national-security agencies - their vulnerability to counterespionage.

Because the US has reached such lone, superpower status, government officials say, at least 90 countries - in addition to Al Qaeda - are attempting to steal some of the nation's most sacred secrets.

It's not only foes, like members of terror groups or nations that are adversaries of the US, but friends as well. The top five countries trying to snoop on US plans and cutting-edge technology, according to an official who works closely with the FBI on this issue, are China, Russia, Israel, France, and North Korea. Others running close behind: Cuba, Pakistan, and India.

"With the end of the Soviet Union, people stopped taking counterintelligence seriously," says Patrick Lang, former head of Middle East intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency. "Not enough attention has been devoted to keeping people from getting into our secret store of knowledge."

The issue is getting more attention now. The Silberman-Robb commission, the latest to scrutinize the intelligence capabilities of the US, harshly criticized the US's counterintelligence efforts across the 15 agencies and recommended major changes. During the same week, the Bush administration released its National Counterintelligence Strategy of the United States. And top counterintelligence officials participated in a conference at Texas A&M University earlier in March.

A chief concern, officials say, is that Al Qaeda or other terror groups may try to infiltrate US national security agencies. Paul Redmond, a former CIA counterintelligence official who spoke at the conference last month, said it is an "actuarial certainty" that foreign spies have again infiltrated US national-security agencies.

The CIA, according to a recruiter at the conference, has already flagged about 40 applicants who they think may have tried to be double agents. This would fit Al Qaeda's pattern, according to Michael Scheuer, a former top CIA counterterrorism official. Al Qaeda operatives, he says, have already penetrated several security agencies in Middle Eastern countries.

The US has long had trouble with double agents. During the cold war, essentially every component of the US's national- security apparatus - with maybe the exception of the Coast Guard - was penetrated, experts say. Moles working for adversaries of the US stole closely guarded secrets, including details on nuclear weapons programs, cryptographic codes, and information on how the US spies on its adversaries.

Moreover, intelligence officials and experts say, this is an area where the US has never gained an advantage overseas, and it's becoming more difficult to operate in an ever-changing world.

For one thing, all 15 US intelligence agencies have ramped up their recruiting efforts - possibly opening the door to infiltrators - to support the government's policies in the war on terror. At the same time, the US has engaged in more information-sharing activities with allies - the coalition in Iraq, for example, and several other arrangements with foreign governments for strategic reasons.

The US shares critical technology and weapons programs with allies, like Israel. But in the past, and again more recently, the US has censured Israel for selling that technology to US adversaries, like China. Just last week, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with Israel's defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, and reportedly made it clear that Israel was to stop selling US-originated weapons systems, like the HARPY unmanned aerial vehicle, to China.

"We continue to raise these concerns with allies, friends, and partners and look for them to take a responsible approach to arms sales to China," says Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.

But it is also difficult for Americans to become double agents and counter foreign spies because of cultural sensitivities. "We're never going to be as good at developing techniques and strategies [as] ... countries in opposition to us," says Peter Crooks, a 20-year veteran of the FBI's counterintelligence program.

He explains that countries like Cuba, former Soviet bloc countries, and several in the Middle East don't hesitate to use such tactics. But in the US, people find it distasteful, even dishonorable, to spy on neighbors or to try to turn them into informants.

Indeed, Mr. Lang tells the story of speaking on intelligence gathering at a recent conclave at Penn State. A South Korean in the audience, a member of that country's equivalent of the FBI, asked why the US is so bad at espionage.

Lang replied: "Well, we've got you here for two years, right? Wouldn't it be logical for us to put a couple of our guys next to you, recruit you, so that when you return home, you can provide us information from inside your government?"

The South Korean responded that would be perfectly appropriate: It's what other countries routinely do.

Lang says he paused a moment, smiled, then pointed out how uncomfortable the audience had become - most, he says, were squirming in their seats.

Yet experts like Lang and Crooks say that's exactly what needs to be done. The US needs to recruit members of the large immigrant communities in the US who travel back and forth to home countries and know the cultures.

The Silberman-Robb report called for more aggressive tactics, too. "Even as our adversaries - and many of our 'friends' - ramp up their intelligence activities against the United States, our counterintelligence efforts remain fractured, myopic, and marginally effective," the report states. "Our counterintelligence philosophy and practices need dramatic change, starting with centralizing counterintelligence leadership ... and taking our counterintelligence fight overseas to adversaries currently safe from scrutiny."


Florida to allow use of force even outside home

Florida to allow use of force even outside home
'Good, common sense, anti-crime issue'

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (AP) -- Gov. Jeb Bush said Tuesday he intends to sign a bill that would allow people who feel threatened -- even on the street or at a baseball game -- to "meet force with force" and defend themselves without fear of prosecution.

The measure, the top priority of the National Rifle Association in Florida this year, passed the House 94-20 on Tuesday. It had already passed the Senate.

Bush, who has championed tougher penalties for people convicted of using guns in crimes, said the bill is about self-defense and called it "a good, common sense, anti-crime issue."

The measure essentially extends a right Floridians already have in their home or car. Under present law, however, people attacked anywhere else are supposed to do what they can to avoid escalating the situation and can use deadly force only after they've tried to retreat.

"I'm sorry, people, but if I'm attacked I shouldn't have a duty to retreat," said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Dennis Baxley. "That's a good way to get shot in the back."

Baxley said that if people have the clear right to defend themselves without having to worry about legal consequences, criminals will think twice.

Opponents feared the bill would make Florida resemble the wild West, but defenders say it is no different from what most other states allow in laws governing self-defense.

The bill says a person has "the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so, to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another."


Saddam's Old Foes Become New Iraqi Leaders

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Saddam's Old Foes Become New Iraqi Leaders

By TRACI CARL, Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Cementing Iraq's first democratic government in 50 years, one of Saddam Hussein's most implacable enemies took his oath as president Thursday and quickly named another longtime foe of the ousted dictator to the powerful post of prime minister.

The new government's main task will be to draft a permanent constitution and lay the groundwork for elections in December, although some worry that the two months of political wrangling taken up in forming the leadership hasn't left enough time.

The swearing-in ceremony came just two days short of the second anniversary of Baghdad's fall to U.S.-led forces and underlined the growing power and cooperation of the Shiite Arab majority and Kurdish minority — groups that were long oppressed by Saddam's regime.

There were stumbles, though.

After his inaugural speech, interim President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, walked off the stage, and members of the National Assembly and onlookers began to disperse and television feeds were cut.

Talabani came back about 10 minutes later and had to shout to a dwindling crowd that the President's Council — Talabani and his two vice presidents — had, as expected, selected Shiite Arab leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari as interim prime minister.

Senior Kurdish official Barham Saleh blamed the misstep on miscommunication, saying lawmakers didn't realize the ceremony hadn't ended with Talabani's speech.

Some Shiite lawmakers felt snubbed.

"We hope that they forgot," said Abbas Hassan Mousa al-Bayati, a top member of al-Jafaari's Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance. "This happened because of bad management."

Al-Jaafari didn't seem upset, telling reporters afterward: "This day represents a democratic process and a step forward."

"I'm faced with a big responsibility, and I pray to God that everyone will work hand-in-hand and that their efforts will lead to progress and development," he added.

Some Iraqis have expressed concern about al-Jaafari's close ties to the Islamic government in Iran and his work for the conservative Islamic Dawa Party, which has called for the implementation of Islamic law. But lawmakers didn't express any reservations Thursday.

Al-Jaafari said women will play a bigger role in his government, and he promised to fight the violence of the insurgency.

"There are two kinds of terrorism: terrorism from inside Iraq — and these are criminals, some of them with ties to the former regime — and the other is the terrorism exported from abroad," he said.

Iraq's new leaders were longtime foes of Saddam, who watched a videotape of Talabani's election Wednesday but was not expected to be shown Thursday's ceremony.

Al-Jaafari spent more than two decades in exile helping to lead anti-Saddam opposition forces among Shiite Arabs, while Talabani was one of the most influential leaders in the resistance of ethnic Kurds to Saddam as well as Arab domination.

Shiite Arabs and Kurds have worked together in putting the government together, and Talabani — whose post is largely ceremonial — reached out Thursday to Sunni Arabs, who are believed to make up the backbone of the insurgency and were the dominant group under Saddam.

"It is time for our Sunni brothers to participate in the democratic march," the president said.

Lawmakers have appointed Sunni Arabs to several top posts in an effort to build a broad-based government, but prominent Sunni Arab groups have distanced themselves from the new administration.

Sunni Arabs have only 17 seats in parliament, largely because many boycotted the Jan. 30 elections or stayed home for fear of attacks at the polls. Shiites have 140 of the 275 seats in the National Assembly, while Kurds have the second largest bloc with 75 seats.

Al-Jaafari has a month to name his Cabinet, clearing the way for the new government to begin drafting a permanent constitution before an Aug. 15 deadline. If the constitution is approved in an October referendum, elections for a permanent government are to be held in December.

Parliament speaker Hajim al-Hassani, a Sunni Arab, urged Iraq's new leaders to begin immediately. "Your people are looking at you and waiting," he said. "So, work!"

Al-Hassani added that outgoing interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who took over from a U.S.-appointed National Governing Council in June, turned in his resignation Thursday. But he said Allawi was asked to conduct the day-to-day work of the government until the Cabinet is named.

Meanwhile, Iraq purchased 60,000 metric tons of U.S. rice, the U.S. Agriculture Department said Thursday. Growers hope "that this is the first of many more export sales to this key market," said Lee Adams, chairman of the USA rice federation.

Iraq was once the No. 1 market for U.S. rice, buying 345,000 metric tons annually before the 1991 Gulf War.

In violence Thursday, armed men blew up Shiite Muslims' al-Khudir shrine in the Latifiya area, 35 miles south of Baghdad, Babil police spokesman Muthana Khalid said.

Insurgents fired rockets into Fallujah, the restive city in Anbar province, the U.S. military said. It said Marines returned fire but did not immediately know if the rockets caused any damage.

In the northern city of Mosul, a bomb attack on an Iraqi army patrol killed three soldiers and wounded 20, said Maj. Gen. Khalil Ahmed al-Obeidi, the Iraqi commander in Mosul. Seven assailants were captured, he said.

In Kirkuk, about 180 miles north of Baghdad, a projectile hit an oil tanker, causing an explosion that set several other trucks ablaze. Six drivers were seriously wounded, and another was missing, said Sarhat Qader, the police chief of the suburbs surrounding Kirkuk.


Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin, Qasim Abdul-Zahra, Omar Sinan and Mariam Fam contributed to this report.


Air Security Agency Faces Reduced Role

Yahoo! News

Air Security Agency Faces Reduced Role

By Sara Kehaulani Goo, Washington Post Staff Writer

The Transportation Security Administration, once the flagship agency in the nation's $20 billion effort to protect air travelers, is now targeted for sharp cuts in its high-profile mission.

The latest sign came yesterday when the Bush administration asked David M. Stone, the TSA's director, to step down in June, according to aviation and government sources. Stone is the third top administrator to leave the three-year-old agency, which was created in the chaos and patriotism following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The TSA absorbed divisions of other agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration only to find itself the subject of a massive Department of Homeland Security reorganization.

The TSA has been plagued by operational missteps, public relations blunders and criticism of its performance from both the public and legislators. Its "No Fly" list has mistakenly snared senators. Its security screeners have been arrested for stealing from luggage, and its passenger pat-downs have set off an outcry from women.

Under provisions of President Bush's 2006 budget proposal favored by Congress, the TSA will lose its signature programs in the reorganization of Homeland Security. The agency will likely become just manager of airport security screeners -- a responsibility that itself could diminish as private screening companies increasingly seek a comeback at U.S. airports. The agency's very existence, in fact, remains an open question, given that the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security contains a clause permitting the elimination of the TSA as a "distinct entity" after November 2004.

"TSA, at the end of the day, is going to look more like the Postal Service," said Paul C. Light, a public service professor at New York University and a Brookings Institution scholar who has tracked the agency since its birth in February 2002. Light calls the TSA "one of the federal government's greatest successes of the past half-century," and likens it to the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the late 1950s, which was also born during great public excitement to serve an urgent national need.

But the TSA's time in the spotlight is over and it should now step back to serve a more narrow role, Light said. "It's a labor-intensive delivery organization that is not going to be making many public policy decisions. Its basic job is to train and deploy screeners," he said.

Bush administration officials say they don't expect the demise of the TSA, adding they will know little about the future of the agency until new Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff completes his review of the department, which will likely prompt major changes.

"TSA has taken significant steps to enhance the nation's transportation and aviation security over the course of the past two years, and TSA continues to have the confidence, not only of nation's air travelers, but of departmental leadership, to continue in this important mission," said Brian Roehrkasse, a Homeland Security spokesman. "Secretary Chertoff is open to adjustments in the way that DHS does business but will not advocate for or against any change until a thorough review of the changes is complete." The review is expected to be completed in May or June.

The government has pumped more money into airline security than any other Homeland Security effort. Much of it goes toward salaries for more than 45,000 security screeners at over 400 airports.

Travelers know the TSA mostly by its operations at the airport security checkpoint, a highly public role that magnifies the agency's smallest blunders and often forces it to defend itself.

"Most Republicans didn't want to create this [agency] in the first place. Democrats see security as an easy target. So you don't have anyone to defend it," said C. Stewart Verdery Jr., a former assistant secretary for policy and planning at Homeland Security's border and transportation security directorate, which includes the TSA. "If someone sneaks a knife through an airport, it makes the news. If the Coast Guard misses a drug boat, no one hears about it."

The TSA won early plaudits for swiftly building the first new federal agency in decades and restoring confidence in the nation's aviation system. It achieved 51 goals demanded by Congress under tight deadlines and took over many responsibilities from the FAA, including the expansion and operation of a program of undercover air marshals. At its peak, it had 66,000 federal employees and met deadlines that were unthinkable by the federal government, installing luggage-scanning technology and hiring a new workforce of airport security screeners within a year.

Bit by bit, however, the agency's responsibilities have steadily dwindled through a succession of directors. Many of its operations have been folded into Homeland Security, which it joined in 2003. The TSA scrapped early plans to create a broad law-enforcement division. The air marshals, who lobbied to leave the agency, were transferred to the department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division -- to the dismay of TSA leaders. Next, the explosives unit left. Now, the agency's high-tech research labs in Atlantic City are also going to another division of the department.

Last week, momentum accelerated in the push to replace federal screeners with private contractors at the nation's airports. FirstLine Transportation Security, a Cleveland-area private security firm, became the first company to win approval for liability coverage under the SAFETY Act, which means that if the firm takes over checkpoints, claims will be capped in the event of a terrorist attack. The move clears a major hurdle in the return of private screening companies. The law creating the TSA allowed for federal screeners to be replaced by private companies after two years.

"We need to step back and look at the billions of dollars we spent on the system, which doesn't provide much more protection than we had before 9/11," said Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), referring to tests conducted by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general that gave a "poor" rating to TSA screeners for their ability to catch weapons at checkpoints. Mica, a key lawmaker who helped write the law that created the agency and chairs the House aviation subcommittee, would like to see private contractors take over screening jobs at airports. "TSA was something we put in place in an emergency, but it needs to evolve. You could whittle TSA down to a very small organization and do a much better job."

Each of the TSA's three leaders has had a distinct management style and approach to security, creating a culture of perpetual change. Its first leader, John W. Magaw, was a former head of the U.S. Secret Service who wanted to make the TSA into a broad law enforcement agency with police at every checkpoint and agents directing investigations at airports. After six months of protest from Congress and the airline industry, Magaw was replaced by a popular, industry-friendly former Coast Guard Commandant, James M. Loy. Loy spent much of his first year getting rid of what he called Magaw's "stupid rules" such as the secondary screening at the gates. Loy was so well liked that he was promoted to the number two job at Homeland Security, from which he resigned along with former secretary Tom Ridge earlier this year.

Stone, the TSA's current leader, is new to Washington and has been known for his cautious -- some say near paranoid -- approach to security. He presides over a much slimmer TSA, with 52,000 employees, and said he supports the president's proposed changes and is happy to give up programs -- even large ones. "I'm a big optimist," Stone said in a recent interview in his office, which looks out on the side of the Pentagon hit by an American Airlines jet in the 2001 attacks. "I'm not really concerned about turf if that's what is best for the American people. I want to look back 10 years from now and say we did it right at TSA."

TSA and Homeland Security spokesmen declined to comment on Stone's departure. "We don't discuss personnel issues," Roehrkasse said.

Every morning, Stone begins a daily two- to four-hour intelligence meeting, in which he and 40 of his top managers review incident reports from the country's 429 major airports and from train, bus and trucking systems. They comb reports of evacuated terminals, unruly passengers and unattended bags, looking for the next big threat.

Travelers, airport workers and flight crew members involved in incidents are nominated to the government's "watch lists," meaning they will be singled out for extra screening the next time they arrive at an airport. So-called "selectees" wind up on the agency's secret list because they disrupted a flight -- not necessarily because they are viewed as terrorists. For at least six months, the selectees will be pulled aside for extra scrutiny every time they fly. Several thousand names are believed to be on the list.

Stone, 52, said the exercise shows that the TSA still serves a critical role in the nation's intelligence network. He has told Chertoff that he hopes the agency will keep this role.

Airlines have complained that hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent passengers, and even pilots, have been added to the TSA's selectee list or that some names are confused with those on the "No Fly" list, subjecting travelers to hassles.

At a February meeting between the TSA and 18 major carriers, airline representatives were asked who had crew members on the list and "they all raised their hands," said one airline source who was present. Airline officials said crew members on the list must be stripped of their badges and cannot perform their duties, according to TSA rules.

Stone said "one or two" pilots who are approved to carry guns in the cockpit have been put on the selectee list in the past year. He said he recalls a "handful" of other pilots who have been added to the selectee list because they were involved in "outrageous" incidents. He cited an incident last year in which an intoxicated pilot punched a patron at a restaurant and threatened him.

"We take all of these incidents seriously and we work to resolve them quickly because we know that people's livelihoods are at stake," said Mark Hatfield, a TSA spokesman.

Stone faces the challenge of keeping the TSA's workforce motivated. Many screeners took their jobs expecting that the new agency would provide a path to a federal career. At a recent hearing, Stone acknowledged that screeners suffer from low morale. According to an internal survey last year, 35 percent of employees are satisfied with their job.

Stone said other security directors sympathize with him, saying: "You've got the toughest job in federal government. You're under the gun for every little thing. You're constantly under the microscope."


Colombia 'will not try US troops'


Colombia 'will not try US troops'

A group of US soldiers arrested for alleged cocaine smuggling cannot be allowed to stand trial in Colombia, Washington's envoy to Bogota has said.

Colombian senators have been calling for the men, who were based in the country, to be extradited from the US.

But US ambassador William Wood said the soldiers are immune from prosecution.

More than 200 Colombian citizens have been extradited to the US to face trial for drug trafficking, under a bilateral deal between the two countries.

Colombian politicians have asked the government to push for the US to hand over the men, arguing that the extradition agreement works both ways.

"In practical terms, these military personnel committed the alleged crime in Colombia, and according to the extradition treaty, which is bilateral, they should be tried here," legislator Gustavo Petro said.

President Alvaro Uribe, who is visiting China, has said he will review the issue "very carefully".


The US ambassador in Colombia has said the men cannot be extradited because of an agreement between the two countries signed in 1974.

He also argued that the men were working for US embassy staff in Colombia and therefore qualify for diplomatic immunity.

He sought to assure Bogota that the soldiers, who are thought to be in military custody somewhere in the US, would not escape justice.

"We do not tolerate corruption," he said.

The whole affair has been extremely embarrassing for the US, which supplies Colombia with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to fight drug trafficking, says the BBC's Jeremy McDermott.

However, he adds that the Colombian authorities are unlikely to insist upon the extradition because they depend on the US aid.

Aid recipient

Five US soldiers were arrested at a US military base in Texas after they stepped off a flight from Colombia on 29 March.

They are suspected of attempting to smuggle 16kg (35 lb) of cocaine on a US military aircraft.

According to the Associated Press news agency, one of the men was later released.

The agency also reports that three of the five suspects were initially detained on Colombian soil - a point Colombian senators say supports their demands for extradition.

The US has more than 1,000 soldiers and civilian contractors working in Colombia as part of a plan to combat a 40-year-old Marxist insurgency and one of its major revenue sources - the cocaine trade.

Colombia is the third biggest recipient of US military aid, after Israel and Egypt.


Facing State Protests, U.S. Offers More Flexibility on School Rules

The New York Times
April 8, 2005
Facing State Protests, U.S. Offers More Flexibility on School Rules

MOUNT VERNON, Va., April 7 - Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings offered greater flexibility to states on Thursday in meeting the requirements of the Bush administration's education reform law, calling the changes a major policy shift.

In her first national response to growing resistance among state officials to the law, known as No Child Left Behind, Ms. Spellings sought to set a new, more cooperative tone. She compared the law's tempestuous first years to those of an infant's experiencing "the terrible 2's."

"This is a new day," she said. "States that show results and follow the principles of No Child Left Behind will be eligible for new tools to help you meet the law's goals."

Although President Bush promoted the law during his re-election campaign as one of his major accomplishments, more than 30 states - including many Republican strongholds - have raised objections to it. Some argue that the federal government is not adequately financing its requirements, which include a broad expansion of standardized testing. Others object to federal intrusion into an area long considered the domain of the states.

It was unclear whether Ms. Spellings's proposals went far enough to assuage state officials' concerns, though several state superintendents expressed approval, as did both national teachers unions and several members of Congress.

But Connecticut officials, who announced earlier this week that they would sue the federal government for forcing the state to conduct more testing without providing the money to pay for it, were not impressed.

"This supposed initiative offers less than meets the eye," said Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut attorney general. "Nothing in all of today's verbiage corrects the key legal lapse: by the law's clear terms, no mandate means no mandate, if it's unfunded. Our determination to sue continues."

Ms. Spellings announced specific concessions in only one area, concerning how learning-disabled students must be tested.

Until now, the administration has allowed only 1 percent of all students, those most severely handicapped, to be given special tests; all other disabled students have been required to take the test administered to regular students. Dozens of state officials have called that policy unfair and unrealistic. On Thursday, Ms. Spellings said states would be allowed to administer alternative tests to an additional 2 percent of students.

Ms. Spellings also said the Department of Education could give some states additional flexibility, but she said they must first prove that they deserve it.

The states that may be eligible, she said, must have generally sound educational policies in place, demonstrate that student achievement is rising and follow the "basic principles of the law," which she listed as administering standardized tests every year in Grades 3 through 8, reporting test results by ethnic groups and others to make sure that all students are advancing, and working to improve teacher training and parent participation.

For states that meet those criteria, Ms. Spellings said, "it is the results that truly matter, not the bureaucratic way you get there."

That and several other of her statements brought applause from the education officials gathered here in an auditorium at George Washington's plantation.

Ms. Spellings invited all 50 state education superintendents to appear. About 15 did, as did 10 deputy superintendents, said G. Thomas Houlihan, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, an association of state superintendents that gets significant financing from the Department of Education.

"We have some members who do not like this law," Mr. Houlihan said after the speech.

"It's meant a lot of heavy lifting," he said, "but this speech has left me cautiously optimistic" about chances for improving federal-state relations.

Trent Blankenship, Wyoming's superintendent of public instruction, said: "I thought she nailed it. I'm delighted that we'll be having more flexibility if we stick to the law's principles."

Terry Bergeson, the superintendent in Washington State, said she had met repeatedly with federal officials in recent months to request changes in the testing policies for disabled students.

"We've been doing a disservice to those kids under the No Child Left Behind testing rules," Ms. Bergeson said. "So I was very excited to hear the changes."

Some education advocates worried that Secretary Spellings's offer of new flexibility to some states but not others would lead to favoritism.

"That could make the law even more subject to political manipulation than it already is," said Monty Neill, co-executive director of FairTest, a group that opposes heavy reliance on standardized testing.

Patti Harrington, the superintendent of public instruction in Utah, said she welcomed the new rules for testing disabled students. The state's Legislature passed a resolution last month protesting the federal law and is poised to vote on a bill at a special session later this month that would require Utah officials to follow state educational priorities rather than federal ones.

As for the broader promise of further flexibility, Ms. Harrington said, "I hope it's more than a speech."

"I receive these letters from the department that say, 'You must do this and this and this,' " she added. "They've got to let us do our work."

Betty J. Sternberg, the education commissioner in Connecticut, did not attend the speech. In January, she sent Secretary Spellings a letter noting that Connecticut had tested elementary students effectively in alternate years for two decades and did not want to expand to every year, preferring to use the money to expand reading and other programs proven to raise achievement. Ms. Spellings denied that request and repeatedly rebuffed Dr. Sternberg's requests for a meeting.

Dr. Sternberg said by phone from Connecticut on Thursday that she had considered attending the secretary's speech.

"I would have gone," she said, "had I thought that I would be able to sit down with her, because I'd like to work out our differences in a conference room, not in a courtroom."

Ms. Spellings left the auditorium immediately after her speech without taking questions. Dr. Sternberg, who downloaded the speech from the Internet, pointed to one of the secretary's statements: "No Child Left Behind was designed not to dictate processes, but to promote innovation and improve results for kids."

Dr. Sternberg said, "Taking the secretary at her word about flexibility, then we would ask that the feds not dictate to us the process of giving standardized tests in every grade, and instead consider our proposal as an innovation."

"And I still would like to meet with her personally," she added.


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Politics, Television and Reality
Politics, Television and Reality

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - - Michael Sheehan is standing in front of a packed room of Harvard students looking into a video camera.

On a TV off to the side, we see the live picture of Michael Sheehan.

"Don't look at the TV; look at me," Sheehan tells the students. "When I get a good, neutral expression on my face, I will freeze the picture."

We all look at him. He arranges his face until he has a nice, neutral, perfectly acceptable expression on his face. He looks neither happy nor sad.

He freezes the picture.

Then we look at the TV screen. There is a shocking difference.

Even though Sheehan looked fine in person, he looks very glum, even angry on TV. How can this be? Can TV alter reality?

Go ask Howard Dean about his scream.

Sheehan, a Yale School of Drama graduate, now charges up to $15,000 per day (the Harvard students, who may run for public office some day, were getting Sheehan's advice for free) to teach politicians and corporate big shots how to use TV to their advantage, instead of letting TV alter their reality.

He is very, very good at what he does. But like all great teachers, great students bring out his best. The year was 1996 and incumbent President Bill Clinton was prepping for his first presidential debate with Republican candidate Bob Dole. This is from my book on that year's campaign, called "Show Time. " The setting is the Chautauqua Institution, a 750-acre retreat in the countryside about 60 miles southwest of Buffalo:

Michael Sheehan crouched by the videotape machine, making small notes on a pad. Bill Clinton stood on the stage, behind the lectern, beneath blazing lights, answering questions. Sometimes Sheehan noted on his pad when the president had made a good comment or a bad one, but he often made notes merely about Clinton's gestures or the expression on Clinton's face, whether his lip curled or his forehead crinkled. Or simply how Clinton stood.

George Stephanopoulos joined Sheehan at the tape machine, watching Clinton on the monitor rather than watching the live Clinton who was standing just a few yards away. How it looked on TV is what mattered, not what it looked like in real life.

Sometimes, Clinton would come down from the lectern and stand over Stephanopoulos and Sheehan and say, "Show me."

And Sheehan would roll back the tape and say, "Be careful of your reaction at the end" or "That looks good, keep that." And Clinton would nod and make a mental note.

At the second debate, which would be a town-meeting format, Clinton would be able to move around on the set a lot and Sheehan carefully prepped Clinton to move toward Dole because he knew Dole would find it disconcerting, even threatening. "I wanted Dole to hear the pitter-patter of his feet," Sheehan told me later. But for the first debate, the two would remain relatively stationary. Or at least that's how Bob Dole viewed it.

To Sheehan, TV presentations were almost always about movement. The movement was not always obvious to the participants, but it could have a huge effect on the viewer. "We scripted Clinton's moves in all the right places," Sheehan said. "We told him how to perch behind the lectern and how to use reaction shots."

"When he goes negative on you," Sheehan told Clinton, "have no reaction at all. None."

"Don't worry," a Clinton aide interrupted. "They can't use reaction shots. Both sides have agreed." Heads nodded around the room.

"You're all nuts!" Sheehan shouted. "And I'm going to quit if we don't practice for reaction shots right now!"

His fellow preppers were shocked. Sheehan was a mild-mannered, entertaining person. He didn't shout. But he was shouting now. After they calmed Sheehan down, Clinton practiced some reaction shots for him. "You listen to Dole with a cocked ear when he attacks you," Sheehan said. "When you are attacked, just jot it down. To react to the attack is to reinforce the attack."

And even though the two were not supposed to move about the stage, Sheehan worked out with Clinton exactly when he was to step inside the lectern and when to step outside the lectern at the first debate.

But didn't this all get very complicated? I asked Sheehan afterwards. Clinton had to worry about what he was saying, what Dole was saying, what his facial expressions should be, how to move, how to gesture. Wasn't that an awful lot to absorb?

"That's why we went through it so much," Sheehan said. "It was an organized, coherent, rational process."

Later, Sheehan said that Clinton was like an "improvisational actor," which is an actor who immerses himself in his role, becomes his role. "You feel the part, and you see what comes out," Sheehan said.

Some people thought Clinton was such a success on the campaign trail because he was a "natural" or "born" campaigner. But Sheehan knew how hard Clinton worked at it.

"For me," Sheehan once told me "working with Clinton is like Kazan getting to work with Brando."

Sheehan finished with the Harvard kids and prepared to fly back to Washington. The 2008 presidential election is not very far away and potential candidates are already calling him.

originally published April 06, 2005


Sen. Salazar seeks probe of trio's Bush-event ouster
Thursday, April 07, 2005

Sen. Salazar seeks probe of trio's Bush-event ouster

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., on Wednesday asked a Treasury Department official and a Denver prosecutor to investigate the removal of three Denver residents from President Bush's town hall meeting on Social Security last month.

Karen Bauer, Alex Young and Leslie Weise allege they were told to leave Bush's March 21 meeting after arriving in a car with a bumper sticker that read "No More Blood for Oil." They said a man wearing an earpiece, navy blue suit and lapel pin asked them to leave.

The three believed the man was a Secret Service agent, but the White House has said he was a volunteer.

In a letter to Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey and Dennis Schindel of the office of inspector general of the Treasury Department, which oversees the Secret Service, Salazar said he was troubled by allegations that the residents may have been removed by someone posing as a Secret Service agent.


DeLay's Lavish Island Getaway

ABC News
DeLay's Lavish Island Getaway
Embattled Lobbyist Arranged DeLay Trip

Apr. 7, 2005 - A Washington lobbyist under federal investigation for his lobbying activities arranged a lavish overseas trip to the island of Saipan for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, over the New Year's holiday in 1997.

DeLay, his wife and daughter, and several aides, stayed for free at a beachfront resort.

The DeLay trip to the South Pacific island, originally reported by a "20/20" investigation, was part of an effort by former aide Jack Abramoff to stop legislation aimed at cracking down on sweatshops and sex shops in the American territory, which is known as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Abramoff, who was working for the law firm Preston Gates Ellis and Rouvelas Meeds LLP at the time, was paid $1.36 million by Saipan officials and wrote in a memo obtained by ABC News that such congressional trips were "one of the most effective ways to build permanent friends on the Hill."

Abramoff is now under federal investigation for his lobbying activities, including Saipan, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Abramoff's attorney, said on behalf of Abramoff that they did not comment on pending grand jury investigations.

Also, Blum defended Abramoff's lobbying efforts in Saipan, including DeLay's trip. "Any money paid to Preston Gates from the CNMI was for work that Mr. Abramoff and his team did on behalf of the CNMI during the course of their six-year representation," he said. "Rep. DeLay was one of over 100 members of Congress and their staff to visit the CNMI during that time.

After touring one garment plant, DeLay praised Saipan at the New Year's Eve party attended by top factory owners.

"You represent everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America," DeLay said at the time to his audience, which included Saipan officials and factory owners.

Later, according to a recording made by a human rights investigator posing as a potential customer, one of the prominent factory owners said that DeLay had promised to stop the reform laws.

"Do you know what Tom told me?" Willie Tan said. "He said, 'Willie, if they elect me majority whip, I make the schedule of the Congress, and I'm not going to put it on the schedule.' So Tom told me, 'Forget it, Willie. No chance.' "

At least three other DeLay free trips connected to Abramoff and other lobbyists have been coming under intense scrutiny. A 1997 trip to Moscow cost roughly $57,000, a trip to London and Scotland in the year 2000 cost $70,000, and a trip in 2001 to South Korea came to nearly $107,000.

Government watchdog groups found DeLay's trips to be troubling.

"There appears to be a pattern here of foreign travel being improperly paid for and that needs to be investigated by the House ethics committee," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21.

Blum said it was a worthwhile, common practice in Washington for lobbyists to accompany the congressmen on such trips.

"The tradition of lobbyists traveling with members of Congress to visit various jurisdictions so that they could learn about issues that impact the Congress and government policy is well known," he said. "Mr. Abramoff once again is being singled out by the media for actions that are commonplace in Washington, D.C., and are totally proper," he said.

A representative for DeLay said that under disclosure rules, because the Saipan government funded his trip, DeLay did not have to include it on his financial disclosure statements.


Papers Say Leak Probe Is Over
Papers Say Leak Probe Is Over

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page A12

The special prosecutor investigating whether Bush administration officials illegally revealed the identity of a covert CIA operative says he finished his investigation months ago, except for questioning two reporters who have refused to testify.

The information in a March 22 court filing by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald suggests that syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who first published the name of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame, has already spoken to investigators about his sources for that report, according to legal experts. Novak, whose July 2003 column sparked the investigation, and his attorney have refused to comment on whether he was questioned.

Legal experts and sources close to the case also speculated yesterday that Fitzgerald is not likely to seek an indictment for the crime he originally set out to investigate: whether a government official knowingly exposed a covert officer. The sources, who asked not to be named because the matter is the subject of a grand jury investigation, said Fitzgerald may instead seek to charge a government official with committing perjury by giving conflicting information to prosecutors.

Fitzgerald's filing was part of his effort to persuade the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that he needs the testimony of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper to wrap up his investigation.

The two reporters and their news organizations have refused to discuss their confidential sources with prosecutors. They appealed to the full court after a three-judge panel ruled last month that Miller and Cooper should be held in contempt and face possible jail unless they agree to be questioned before a grand jury.

In the court documents, Fitzgerald said that by October 2004, "the factual investigation -- other than the testimony of Miller and Cooper . . . was for all practical purposes complete."

That special prosecutor's characterization of his efforts led to indignation among press advocates who learned of the filing yesterday. They said it bolsters their suspicion that Fitzgerald has put two journalists in jeopardy of incarceration though he may not have sufficient evidence to indict someone for the felony he was appointed to investigate.

Lucy Dalglish, of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, called the special counsel's case "disturbing."

"Boy, I tell you if those two reporters go to jail and there was nothing to this entire investigation, that will be an outrage," Dalglish said. Floyd Abrams, the First Amendment attorney who represents Miller and Cooper, said he has long worried that the special prosecutor has used extreme measures to get reporters to talk and yet may not have evidence of a serious crime.

Proving that the leak is a felony requires showing substantial evidence that the government official revealed the operative's name or likeness while knowing that the administration was working to keep it concealed.

Plame's identity was revealed in Novak's column after a report by her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV. Wilson had published an opinion column in the New York Times that criticized the Bush administration for relying on faulty intelligence to make the case for going to war with Iraq. Wilson, who had led a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger to investigate claims that Iraq was trying to buy enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, reported that the allegations were probably baseless.

Novak's column challenged Wilson's assertions, and reported that two anonymous senior administration sources told him that Wilson was chosen to lead the mission because Plame had suggested him for the job. Lawyers and experts familiar with the case said it is unthinkable that Fitzgerald would not interview Novak.

"This would lead me to probably conclude that Mr. Novak testified and did not provide nearly the treasure trove that Fitzgerald expected," Dalglish said.


Author Of Schiavo Memo Steps Forward
Author Of Schiavo Memo Steps Forward
Sen. Martinez's Counsel Cited Upside for GOP

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 2005; Page A01

The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo, the senator said in an interview last night.

Brian Darling, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

Martinez said he earlier had been assured by aides that his office had nothing to do with producing the memo. "I never did an investigation, as such," he said. "I just took it for granted that we wouldn't be that stupid. It was never my intention to in any way politicize this issue."

Martinez, a freshman who was secretary of housing and urban development for most of President Bush's first term, said he had not read the one-page memo. He said he inadvertently passed it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had worked with him on the issue. After that, other Senate aides gave the memo to reporters for ABC News and The Washington Post.

Harkin said in an interview that Martinez handed him the memo on the Senate floor, in hopes of gaining his support for the bill giving federal courts jurisdiction in the Florida case in an effort to restore the Florida woman's feeding tube. "He said these were talking points -- something that we're working on here," Harkin said.

The mystery of the memo's origin had roiled the Capitol, with Republicans accusing Democrats of concocting the document as a dirty trick, and Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to duck responsibility for exploiting the dying days of a brain-damaged woman.

Conservative Web logs have challenged the authenticity of the memo, in some cases likening it to the discredited documents about Bush's National Guard service that CBS News reported last fall.

The staff of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, at the request of a Democrat, spent a week trying to determine the memo's origin and had come up empty, said an official involved in the investigation.

The unsigned memo -- which initially misspells Schiavo's first name and gives the wrong number for the pending bill -- includes eight talking points in support of the legislation and calls the controversy "a great political issue."

"This legislation ensures that individuals like Terri Schiavo are guaranteed the same legal protections as convicted murderers like Ted Bundy," the memo concludes.

It asserts that the case would appeal to the party's core supporters, saying: "This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue."

The document was provided to ABC News on March 18 and to The Post on March 19 and was included in news reports about congressional intervention in the Schiavo case. Bush returned from an Easter vacation in Texas and signed the bill shortly after 1 a.m. on March 21.

At the time, other Senate Republican aides claimed to be familiar with the memo but declined to discuss it on the record and gave no information about its origin.

In a statement issued last night, Martinez said that Harkin asked him for background information on the bill and that he gave him what he thought was a routine one-page staff memo on the legislation. "Unbeknownst to me, instead of my one page on the bill, I had given him a copy of the now infamous memo that at some point along the way came into my possession," the statement said.

Harkin said that when he read the part about the politics of the case he thought that was "rather out of line," but he said he did not discuss the matter with Martinez. Harkin said he has no complaints about Martinez.

"I really worked in good faith with Senator Martinez on this issue and I found him to be a decent, caring person to work with on this, and so I have a lot of respect for him," Harkin said.

Martinez said Harkin called him about 5 p.m. yesterday and told him that the memo had come from his office. Martinez said he then called in his senior staff and said, "Something is wrong here." He said that Darling later confessed to John Little, Martinez's chief of staff, and that he said he did not think he had ever printed the memo.

"It was intended to be a working draft," Martinez said. "He doesn't really know how I got it."

Efforts to reach Darling last night were unsuccessful.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a member of the Rules and Administration Committee, wrote to the panel's leaders last week to ask for an investigation into the "document, its source, and how it came to be distributed."

"Those who would attempt to influence debate in the United States Senate should not hide behind anonymous pieces of paper," he said.

A Republican Senate official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not a committee spokesman, said yesterday that an informal inquiry began almost immediately and is likely to be concluded within a week. He said that conversations with senators, aides and reporters have turned up nothing definitive and that the inquiry is likely to end with a letter to Lautenberg saying just that.

Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said in an interview Friday that he considered it "ludicrous" to suggest that his party created the document and said Republicans were using such talk to divert responsibility.

"I guess the best defense is a good offense -- that's their theory," he said.

In interviews at the Capitol yesterday, senators from both sides said they find the case perplexing, and a sign of the intense partisanship that permeates the building. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said that the torrent of accusations reflects the bitterness over the life-and-death issues in the Schiavo case, which he said were a proxy on both sides for what provokes "every other ugly political conversation -- that's abortion."

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said he believed that the memo originated with the GOP because it is "totally consistent" with how the Republicans have operated for the past four years. "They just shouldn't lose their memos," he said.


Fake bomb 'reaches castle area'


Fake bomb 'reaches castle area'

Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair has ordered an inquiry into claims journalists drove a van carrying a fake bomb into Windsor Castle's grounds.

The Sun said the van passed St George's Chapel, where Camilla Parker Bowles' and Prince Charles' marriage will be blessed this Saturday.

The "apparent security breach" raised "serious concern", Scotland Yard said.

The report comes after it emerged that on Sunday two tourists scaled a fence and entered a private castle area.

Establish facts

Scotland Yard said Sir Ian wanted to establish the facts surrounding the latest report in Thursday's Sun.

The newspaper claimed it breached the castle's £5m security barrier with "breathtaking ease" and got to within a "stone's throw" of the Queen's apartments.

One of its reporters and a photographer say they drove up in a hire van with no security passes and no pre-arranged delivery time.

On board was a brown box marked "bomb" and the reporter says he had a fake delivery note.

After an attempt to check up on them failed, they were allowed to drive into the grounds - past the chapel where the royal couple will be blessed - and they were not searched, the paper said.

Wedding costs

Scotland Yard said in a statement: "It's only right the facts are established before any action is taken against any person who may be culpable."

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said: "Security is a matter for the police who have been asked to investigate."

Windsor Castle staff are already investigating how two men were able to enter one of its private areas last weekend.

Scotland Yard said the tourists were detected immediately and taken back to the public area but not arrested.

"The secure area of the castle was not breached at any stage", a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, police said they hoped Buckingham Palace would contribute to costs caused by the change in the royal wedding date.

The switch, from Friday to Saturday because Prince Charles will be attending the Pope's funeral, may result in a big rise in security costs as extra police are drafted in on their days off.

Final engagement

Meanwhile, Prince Charles is preparing for his last official UK engagement before the wedding.

He is a patron of Breast Cancer Haven and will visit the charity's centre in Fulham, London, on Thursday.

The new wedding date and time - 1230 BST on Saturday - has also affected the Grand National at Aintree, with a change in start time from 1545 BST to 1610 BST.

Weathermen say it is set to rain on Saturday, with Windsor having quite chilly temperatures of 6C (43F), which is lower than the seasonal average of 12C (54F).


Shameless Photo-Op

The New York Times
April 7, 2005

Shameless Photo-Op

Imagine this: On his next trip to Japan, President Bush visits the vault at the Bank of Japan, where that country's $712 billion in United States government bonds is stored. There, as the cameras roll, he announces that the bonds, backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, are, in fact, worthless i.o.u.'s. He does the same thing when he visits China and so on around the world, until he has personally repudiated the entire $2 trillion of United States debt held by foreigners.

Mr. Bush rehearsed just that act on Tuesday, when he visited the office of the federal Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg, W.Va. He posed next to a file cabinet that holds the $1.7 trillion in Treasury securities that make up the Social Security trust fund. He tossed off a comment to the effect that the bonds were not "real assets." Later, in a speech at a nearby university, he said: "There is no trust fund. Just i.o.u.'s that I saw firsthand."

Social Security takes in more money than it needs to pay current beneficiaries, and the excess is invested in the Treasury securities that Mr. Bush was discussing. They carry the same legal and political obligations as all other forms of Treasury debt, every penny of which has always been paid in full and on time.

In his speech, Mr. Bush went on to acknowledge that future generations would have to make good on the debt. But the intended meaning of the photo-op was clear. In the hope of persuading people to privatize Social Security - a move that would only add to the growing debt burden for future generations - Mr. Bush wants Americans to believe that the trust fund is a joke. But if the trust fund is a joke, so is the full faith and credit of the United States.

Fortunately, the governments, institutions and individuals who hold United States debt can tell a publicity stunt from a policy statement. Still, casting aspersions on a basic obligation of the United States government is insulting and irresponsible.


The Passion of the Tom

The New York Times
April 7, 2005

The Passion of the Tom


Before, Republicans just scared other people. Now, they're starting to scare themselves.

When Dick Cheney tells you you've gone too far, you know you're way over the edge.

Last week, the vice president told The New York Post's editorial board that Tom DeLay should not have jumped ugly on the judges who refused to order that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube be reinserted. He said he would "have problems" with the DeLay plan to get revenge on the judges: "I don't think that's appropriate."

Usually, the White House loves bullies. It embraces John Bolton, nominated as U.N. ambassador, even though, as The Times reports today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is reviewing allegations that Mr. Bolton misused intelligence and bullied subordinates to help buttress W.M.D. hokum when he was at State.

But there's some skittishness in the party leadership about the Passion of the Tom, the fiery battle of the born-again Texan to show that he's being persecuted on ethics by a vast left-wing conspiracy. Some Republicans are wondering whether they need to pull a Trent Lott on Tom DeLay before he turns into Newt Gingrich, who led his party to the promised land but then had to be discarded when he became the petulant "definer" and "arouser" of civilization. Do they want Mr. DeLay careering around in Queeg style as they go into 2006?

On Tuesday, Bill Frist joined Mr. Cheney in rejecting Mr. DeLay's call to punish and possibly impeach judges - who are already an endangered species these days, with so much violence leveled against them. "I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary today," Dr. Frist said. "I respect that."

Of course, Dr. Frist and the White House still want to pack the federal courts with right-wing judges, but they don't want it to look as if they're doing it because Tom DeLay told them to or because of unhappiness at the Schiavo case.

No matter how much Democrats may be caviling over the House Republicans' attempts to squelch the Ethics Committee before it goes after Mr. DeLay (the former exterminator who pushed to impeach Bill Clinton), privately they're rooting for Mr. DeLay to thrive. They're hoping to do in 2006 what the Republicans did in 1994, when Mr. Gingrich and his acolytes used Democratic arrogance and ethical lapses to seize the House.

Mr. DeLay is seeking sanctuary in Rome at the pope's funeral, and he will hang on to the bitter end. He got thunderous applause from his House colleagues yesterday morning, showing once more that Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader, has a strong hold on the loyalty of those who have benefited from the largesse of his fat-cat friends and from his shrewdness in keeping them in the majority.

"I think a lot of members think he's taking arrows for all of us," Representative Roy Blunt told the press yesterday, backing up Mr. DeLay's martyr complex.

Mr. DeLay lashed out at the latest article questioning his ethics, calling it "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me." Philip Shenon reported in The Times that Mr. DeLay's wife and daughter have been paid more than half a million dollars since 2001 by the DeLay political action and campaign committees.

Republican family values.

The political action committee said in a statement that the DeLay family members provided valuable services: "Mrs. DeLay provides big picture, long-term strategic guidance and helps with personnel decisions."

Political wives are renowned for injecting themselves into the middle of their husbands' office politics at no charge; a lot of members would pay them to go away.

The Washington Post also splashed Mr. DeLay on the front page with an article about a third DeLay trip under scrutiny: a six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by Mr. DeLay was "underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements."

All the divisions that President Bush was able to bridge in 2004 are now bursting forth as different wings of his party joust. John Danforth, the former Republican senator and U.N. ambassador, wrote an Op-Ed piece in The Times last week saying that, on issues from stem cell research to Terri Schiavo, his party "has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement."

When the Rev. Danforth, an Episcopal minister who prayed with Clarence Thomas when he was under attack by Anita Hill, says the party has gone too far, it's way over the edge.