Saturday, April 15, 2006

Exxon Chairman Gets $400 Million Retirement Package Amid Soaring Gas Prices; Exxon Made Record Profits in 2005

ABC News
Exxon Chairman Gets $400 Million Retirement Package Amid Soaring Gas Prices
Exxon Made Record Profits in 2005

April 14, 2006— - Soaring gas prices are squeezing most Americans at the pump, but at least one man isn't complaining.

Last year, Exxon made the biggest profit of any company ever, $36 billion, and its retiring chairman appears to be reaping the benefits.

Exxon is giving Lee Raymond one of the most generous retirement packages in history, nearly $400 million, including pension, stock options and other perks, such as a $1 million consulting deal, two years of home security, personal security, a car and driver, and use of a corporate jet for professional purposes.

Last November, when he was still chairman of Exxon, Raymond told Congress that gas prices were high because of global supply and demand.

"We're all in this together, everywhere in the world," he testified.

Raymond, however, was confronted with caustic complaints about his compensation.

"In 2004, Mr. Raymond, your bonus was over $3.6 million," Sen. Barbara Boxer said.

That was before new corporate documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that revealed Raymond's retirement deal and his $51.1 million paycheck in 2005. That's equivalent to $141,000 a day, nearly $6,000 an hour. It's almost more than five times what the CEO of Chevron made.

"I think it will spark a lot of outrage," said Sarah Anderson, a fellow in the global economy program at the Institute for Policy Studies, an independent think tank. "Clearly much of his high-level pay is due to the high price of gas."

Exxon defends Raymond's compensation, pointing out that during the 12 years he ran the company, Exxon became the largest oil company in the world and that the stock price went up 500 percent.

A company spokesman said the compensation package reflected "a very long and distinguished career."

Some Exxon shareholders are now trying to pass resolutions criticizing the company's executive pay policies. The company is urging other shareholders to vote against those resolutions.


Cheneys are entitled to a refund of $1.9 million! on adjusted gross income of $8.8 million!; Bush reported adjusted gross income of $735,180
Bush, Cheney’s tax returns made public
Vice president reports higher adjusted gross income of $8.8 million
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - President Bush reported adjusted gross income of $735,180 for last year, on which he paid $187,768 in federal taxes, according to the president’s return released Friday by the White House. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne reported a significantly higher adjusted gross income, largely due to exercising stock options.

In 2004, the president and first lady Laura Bush reported $784,219 in adjusted gross income and paid $207,307 in federal income taxes.

On their 2005 return the Bushes listed as income his presidential salary — about $400,000 — and investment income from trusts that hold their assets.

The White House also released the 2005 tax return filed by the Cheneys. They reported adjusted gross income of nearly $8.82 million, which was largely the result of exercising stock options that had been set aside in 2001 for charity.

According to the return, they have overpaid their taxes this year and are entitled to a refund of about $1.9 million.

The couple contributed $75,560 to churches and charitable organizations, about $2,200 less than last year. Those included the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army’s funds for hurricane relief in the United States and Pakistan; Martha’s Table, which provides food and services to the underprivileged in the Washington area; the Archdiocese of New Orleans Catholic Charities; and the Mississippi Food Network.

The Bushes paid $26,172 in state property taxes on their ranch near Crawford, Texas, up about $4,000 from the year before.

The Cheneys donated just under $6.87 million to charity from the stock options and royalties from Mrs. Cheney’s books. That left about $1.9 million in income on which the Cheney’s owed $529,636 in taxes.

Over the year, the Cheneys paid $2,468,566 in taxes through withholding and estimated tax payments. As a result, the Cheneys are entitled to a refund of $1,938,930.



Katherine Harris Getting Crushed In Florida Senate Race
Katherine Harris Getting Crushed In Florida Senate Race...
Political Wire

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) continues to struggle in her bid to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), according to a new Rasmussen Reports poll.

Nelson currently leads Harris by an astonishing 30 points, 57% to 27%. These numbers have Nelson "counting down the days until May 12," the Florida filing deadline which would ensure a Nelson-Harris match-up should no other candidates enter the race.


Eight States Apply to Vote Early in 2008

ABC News
Eight States Apply to Vote Early in 2008
Eight States Apply to National Democrats to Vote Early in 2008
The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. - At least eight states applied Friday to join Iowa and New Hampshire in voting early in the 2008 Democratic presidential contest.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada and South Carolina had put in a bid by Friday afternoon. Democratic National Committee spokesman Damien LaVera said he wasn't sure how many more states might apply.

The DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee agreed last month to let several other states more racially diverse than Iowa and New Hampshire choose their presidential favorites early.

Under a process that still must be approved by the Rules Committee and the full national committee, one or two states would be allowed to hold caucuses between Iowa and New Hampshire, while another one or two would hold primaries shortly after New Hampshire. In 2004, both Iowa and New Hampshire votes were in January. The rest of the states would hold their primaries and caucuses beginning in early February.

Next Thursday, representatives of some other states will be in New Orleans for the DNC's spring meeting to tell the committee why their states should be early ones.

New Hampshire is still trying to hold onto its spot as the nation's second presidential contest. Last week, lawmakers there passed legislation designed to keep any state from holding a caucus between Iowa and New Hampshire. The measure would allow the New Hampshire secretary of state to set the candidate filing date far earlier than usual, forcing presidential candidates to commit to the race before they know when the state will hold its primary.

New Hampshire could face sanctions if it doesn't comply with Democrats guidelines.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan were instrumental in pushing for a special Democratic commission to look at changes in the Democrats' presidential calendar.


Hurt by Hamas, Americans Sue Banks in U.S.

The New York Times
Hurt by Hamas, Americans Sue Banks in U.S.

Not one but two Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up on a Jerusalem boulevard where an American college student, Jason Kirschenbaum, was strolling one night in December 2001. The blast shattered his left arm and hammered chunks of metal into his leg. But at least, he says, it left him alive.

Five months later, a suicide bomb blast hurled Gloria Kushner, a nurse, against a stand in an outdoor market, wrenching her spine. On a crowded bus, another bomber's shrapnel carved a hole in the shoulder of Sarri Singer, a youth group volunteer. Eugene Goldstein has a bullet lodged near his heart from an ambush. He does not have his son, who was killed at his side.

They are Americans who went to Israel and came home with enduring wounds after they were caught in attacks claimed by Hamas, the militant Islamic organization that took over the Palestinian government last month.

These victims of terrorism in a foreign land seek more than healing; they want justice, but lack a clear remedy. So they are trying a novel strategy: going after banks they say helped to finance Palestinian terrorism.

They are among some 50 Americans — either survivors or relatives of people killed in attacks — who have filed multimillion dollar suits in federal court in Brooklyn against three prominent international banks, Arab Bank, NatWest and Crédit Lyonnais. The suits charge that the banks helped to channel funds to Hamas, which the United States designated as a terrorist organization in 1997. Some of the suits claim that Arab Bank transferred millions of dollars in life insurance payments from a Saudi charity to families of suicide bombers, providing Hamas with a recruiting tool.

The three banks are vigorously challenging the lawsuits. They say many of the financial transactions were tiny electronic blips in their routine international business and that they were not aware of any links to Hamas or terrorism. In a motion to dismiss one of the cases, a lawyer for NatWest and Crédit Lyonnais, Lawrence B. Friedman, said the plaintiffs' efforts "to foist responsibility for their tragic circumstances" onto the banks were "misguided" and had no legal basis.

The prospects for the plaintiffs are uncertain. The suits against Arab Bank have survived a motion for dismissal, the first major hurdle in any lawsuit, but the judge in the suits against the other two banks has not yet ruled on dismissal motions.

Anti-terror litigation of this sort has few precedents. The suits are the first to focus on international banks, saying they were a central link in terror finance. In 2004 a federal court in Chicago ordered three Islamic charities and a fund-raiser in the United States to pay $156 million in damages to the parents of David Boim, who was killed by Hamas. But federal suits against Saudi Arabia's royal rulers, charging they financed al Qaeda in advance of Sept. 11, have largely been rejected by the courts.

The plaintiffs in the banking lawsuits have felt a new urgency to their cause since Hamas took over the Palestinian Authority on March 30, after winning elections in January. The United States and the European Union have cut off direct aid to the authority, and Middle Eastern banks are looking warily at handling its business, in part because of the New York suits.

While the lawyers do battle in testy letters and dense briefs, the survivors cope with injuries and memories that leave them feeling isolated.

Mr. Kirschenbaum, 22, who had left his home in New Rochelle, N.Y., for a year of study at an Israeli yeshiva, recalls the easygoing mood on Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in Jerusalem as young people flocked there on Saturday night, Dec. 1, 2001.

The two bombers detonated themselves at opposite ends of the street within seconds of each other. One was 20 feet away. With blood dripping from his pants cuff and his left arm limp, Mr. Kirschenbaum stumbled up the street. A friend took him to a hospital. Hamas soon claimed responsibility for the bombings.

The bomber near Mr. Kirschenbaum had been wearing a jacket stuffed with nails and other bits of metal. Israeli doctors dug half a dozen nuts out of Mr. Kirschenbaum's arms and legs and repaired his fractured arm. But they could not repair his outlook. He was fearful of staying in Israel, but did not feel entirely right back at home either, eventually leaving college without graduating to join his father's diamond business.

"You get all these questions," he said. "People would ask me, so what happened? How did you take it? All these questions. I would answer them. But I didn't believe anybody understood what I was going through."

Mrs. Kushner, the nurse, had recently left Florida to resettle in Israel when she was caught in the blast at the open-air market in Netanya, on the coast, on May 19, 2002. Now 69, she lives behind a scrim of pain from her damaged spine and a knee that is still painful. She had to give up her life in Israel, returning to Florida for medical care. Her days are migrations from one doctor's office to another. Her nights bring dreams of ambulances and screaming. She hopes the suits will bring financial relief from the costs of the special orthopedic treatment she needs.

For years, Mrs. Kushner said, she felt defeated, though that is changing. "I thank God for every new day. I thank him that I'm a survivor of terrorism," she said.

Ms. Singer, now 32, was in a hurry to meet a friend for a drink after work in Jerusalem on June 11, 2003. Ignoring caution, she jumped on a crowded No. 14A bus. By chance, a seat opened up. Moments later, a Hamas bomber, dressed in a prayer shawl as an orthodox Jew, blew himself up in the aisle, killing 17 people, including everyone between himself and Ms. Singer.

She remembers screaming so long that her throat ached. The shrapnel split her clavicle. That wound healed, but she has a perpetual low hissing in one ear.

Ms. Singer took the attack as a sign that she should live life even more vigorously. "Obviously, my time isn't up yet," she says. "I have more to do here."

The daughter of a New Jersey state senator, Robert W. Singer, a Republican of Jackson, Ms. Singer had been living in Israel as a volunteer for Jewish youth groups. Now she runs an Internet radio program for young American Jews and still travels regularly to Israel. She pushes herself, she said, as a way of defying the Palestinian youth who tried to kill her.

For the survivors, the lawsuits are also a means of defiance. The first was filed in July 2004 against Arab Bank, based in Jordan, which with $27 billion in assets is a leading financial institution in the Middle East. It is accused of moving money from the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada al Quds, a private charity in Saudi Arabia, to Hamas front organizations. Based on hundreds of documents of financial transactions, the suit claims that Arab Bank worked with the committee to compile lists of beneficiaries of life insurance payments from Hamas suicide bombers and to open accounts for them.

Arab Bank has responded that it never held accounts for the Saudi Committee or consulted with it. Rather, the bank says, it made routine electronic transfers — about 200,000 payments worth $90 million — to accounts in its Palestinian branches based on instructions from the committee's Saudi banks. The transfers went to groups in good standing with Palestinian banking authorities, according to Arab Bank, which also noted that the Saudi committee was never listed by the United States as a supporter of terrorism.

"Arab Bank never created, managed or had knowledge of any programs to finance terrorism through the Bank," it said in a statement.

But the bank has faced some setbacks. It was forced to scale back its New York operations in February 2005 after Treasury Department officials cited deficient controls against money-laundering. And last August, it agreed to a $24 million fine after Treasury investigators found it gave inadequate scrutiny to transactions with groups later designated as terrorist organizations. Judge Nina Gershon of Federal District Court in Brooklyn denied motions in September to dismiss the Arab Bank suits.

In January, the victims sued National Westminster Bank, or NatWest, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, for maintaining accounts of the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, a British charity known as Interpal. President Bush designated Interpal as a Hamas fund-raiser in 2003, and barred banks in the United States from doing business with it. NatWest responded in legal papers that United Kingdom charity regulators had twice cleared Interpal of terrorist links.

A third suit targets Crédit Lyonnais, which held accounts for a French charity known as C.B.S.P. that was designated a terrorist group by the United States in 2003. In court papers, the bank said that French authorities had cleared the charity. The judge in those cases, Charles P. Sifton, has not yet ruled on dismissal motions.

So the survivors wait. Some, like Mr. Goldstein, who is 76, and his wife, Lorraine, 74, also grieve. The day they were attacked, June 20, 2003, had been a joyous one, when they attended the wedding of a grandson. They were on a West Bank highway, with their son Tsvi driving, when two Hamas gunmen opened fire on them. Tsvi was killed instantly. Mr. Goldstein, shot three times, took the wheel and steered for several miles before overturning in a ditch. Doctors decided not to remove the bullet that sits centimeters from his heart.

A bullet ripped through Mrs. Goldstein's jaw, necessitating repeated surgery and taking away much of the motion of her mouth.

They try not to be angry. "If I spent all my energy on being bitter, it takes away from me," Mr. Goldstein said.

That sentiment was echoed by others. "It's not like I hate them," Mr. Kirschenbaum said, measuring his words. "It's just that you ask that question: Why? I don't go over to you and set off a bomb."

About the lawsuits, he said: "If you can win, it's mental, a win upstairs. You can't go over there and attack them or beat them or shoot at them. But you can attack them in this way, and say, look, this is how we want to fight back."


Report says Rumsfeld allowed Guantanamo abuse

Report says Rumsfeld allowed Guantanamo abuse

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld allowed an "abusive and degrading" interrogation of an al Qaeda detainee in 2002, the online magazine Salon reported on Friday, citing an Army document.

In a report a Pentagon spokesman denounced as "fiction," Salon quoted a December 2005 Army inspector general's report in which officers told of Rumsfeld's direct contact with the general overseeing the interrogation at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The report at, titled "What Rumsfeld Knew," comes amid calls by a string of respected military commanders for the Pentagon chief to resign to take responsibility for U.S. military setbacks in Iraq.

Rumsfeld spoke regularly to Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, a key figure in the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo, during the interrogation of Mohammed al-Kahtani, a Saudi suspected to have been an intended September 11 hijacker, the Salon report said.

Kahtani received "degrading and abusive" treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan Rumsfeld had approved, Salon said, quoting the 391-page report, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Over 54 days in late 2002, soldiers forced Kahtani to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, accused him of being a homosexual, forced him to wear women's underwear and made him perform "dog tricks" on a leash, the Salon report said.

Salon cited Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, an Army investigator, as saying in a sworn statement to the inspector general that "The secretary of defense is personally involved in the interrogation of one person."

Schmidt is quoted as saying under oath that he concluded Rumsfeld did not specifically order the interrogation methods used on Kahtani, but that his approval of broad policies permitted abuses to take place.

Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, dismissed the report's allegation that Rumsfeld or the defense department condoned abuse.

"We've gone over this countless times and yet some still choose to print fiction versus facts," Gordon said by telephone.

"Twelve major reviews, to include one done by an independent panel, all confirm the Department of Defense did not have a policy that encouraged or condoned abuse. To suggest otherwise is simply false."

Schmidt, an Air Force fighter pilot, was quoted as telling the inspector general he had concerns about the length and repetition of the harsh interrogation methods, which he likened to abuses later uncovered at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"There were no limits," Schmidt is quoted as telling the inspector general in an August 2005 interview.

The Pentagon has said Kahtani gave interrogators information on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's health and methods of evading capture as well as the group's infiltration routes.

Miller -- who headed the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, helped shape detention practices at Abu Ghraib and later oversaw all detention operations in Iraq -- in January invoked his right not to incriminate himself in the courts martial of soldiers tried for Abu Ghraib abuses.

In an interview with Dubai's Al Arabiya television aired on Friday, Rumsfeld acknowledged the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and said that soldiers had been punished for that.

"It's something that should not have happened, it did happen, and we regret it deeply," he said.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Passover Footnote
Passover Footnote
Mark Kleiman

No matter what anybody tries to tell you, there is absolutely no basis, either textual or traditional, for translating עֲבָדִים הָיִינוּ, לְפַרְעֹה בְּמִצְרַיִם (Avodim hayyinu l'pharoh b'mitzyrayim) as "We were guest-workers for Pharaoh in Egypt."

Hag samayach!


U.S. Immigration and Naturalization

David Mamet


AT&T, Organization Wage Privacy Battle in Court That Could Expose Reach of Wiretapping Program

ABC News
AT&T, Group Challenge U.S. Spy Program
AT&T, Organization Wage Privacy Battle in Court That Could Expose Reach of Wiretapping Program
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - AT&T Inc. and an Internet advocacy group are waging in federal court a privacy battle that could expose the reach of the Bush administration's secretive domestic wiretapping program.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said it obtained documents from a former AT&T technician showing that the National Security Agency is capable of monitoring all communications on AT&T's network.

"It appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the Internet, whether that be people's e-mail, Web surfing or any other data," whistle-blower Mark Klein, who worked for the company for 22 years, said in a statement released by his lawyers.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker is considering whether to unseal documents that Klein provided and AT&T wants kept secret. EFF filed the documents under seal as a courtesy to the phone company, but is seeking to unseal them.

The EFF lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, seeks to stop the surveillance program that started shortly after the 2001 terror attacks. The suit is based in large part on the Klein documents, which detail secret spying rooms and electronic surveillance equipment in AT&T facilities.

The suit claims AT&T company not only provided direct access to its network that carries voice and data but also to its massive databases of stored telephone and Internet records that are updated constantly.

AT&T violated U.S. law and the privacy of its customers as part of the "massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications" without warrants, the EFF alleged.

Klein said the NSA built a secret room at the company's San Francisco central office in 2003, adjacent to a "switch room where the public's phone calls are routed." One of the documents under seal, Klein said, shows that a device was installed with the "ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets."

Other so-called secret rooms were constructed at AT&T sites in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, the statement said.

Other documents under seal show that fiber optic cables from the secret room tapped into WorldNet Internet subscribers, Klein said. The documents also instructed technicians how to connect cables to the secret room. Klein said he was required to connect circuits that fed information to the secret room.

The NSA declined directly to address the lawsuit or Klein's allegations, which covered activities at AT&T Corp. before SBC Communications Inc. bought it and became AT&T Inc. late last year.

"Any discussion about actual or alleged operational issues would be irresponsible as it would give our adversaries insight that would enable them to adjust and potentially inflict harm to the U.S.," NSA spokesman Don Weber said.

Michael Balmoris, an AT&T spokesman, said the San Antonio-based telecommunications company "follows all laws with respect to assistance offered to government agencies." He declined further elaboration, saying AT&T is "not in a position to comment on matters of national security or litigation."

President Bush confirmed in December that the NSA has been conducting the surveillance when calls and e-mails, in which at least one party is outside the United States, are thought to involve al-Qaida terrorists.

In congressional hearings last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested the president could order the NSA to listen in on purely domestic calls without first obtaining a warrant from a secret court established nearly 30 years ago to consider such issues.

He said the administration, assuming the conversation related to al-Qaida, would have to determine if the surveillance were crucial to the nation's fight against terrorism, as authorized by Congress following the Sept. 11 attacks.


2002 N.H. Scandal Shadows GOP Anew
2002 N.H. Scandal Shadows GOP Anew
By Thomas B. Edsall and David A Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writers

A three-year-old political scandal in New Hampshire -- where Republican operatives conspired to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002 -- has suddenly become a national headache for GOP leaders, who are being pressed to explain why one author of the scheme was repeatedly calling the White House.

A Democratic activist group, combing through evidence from a trial last year in which the former New England regional director of the Republican National Committee was convicted, uncovered 22 calls from New Hampshire officials to the White House political office on Nov. 5-6, 2002. During the same time, according to prosecutors, state GOP officials started -- and then frantically sought to stop -- a plan to have a telemarketer bombard the phone banks of Democrats and a local firefighters association that was offering voters rides to the polls.

The nuisance calls were blamed for paralyzing part of the Democratic operation during the first hours of a close-fought Senate race that Republican John E. Sununu eventually won against then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D). With the revelation of the calls, a state-level scandal has become a national issue, and a top political hand to President Bush has been pressed for answers.

Ken Mehlman, former director of the White House political office and current chairman of the Republican National Committee is fighting Democratic efforts to force him to testify under oath in a civil suit about the New Hampshire scandal. Mehlman said the calls from James Tobin -- a consultant who in 2002 led the RNC's New England effort -- were for the White House to get the latest information about a close race, which would be unexceptional on election night. He said none of the calls to him or his staff involved the phone-jamming operation.

While under no legal obligation to do so, the RNC has paid more than $2.5 million in legal fees incurred by Tobin, who in 2004 was the New England director for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

In an interview on CNN, Mehlman said the decision to pay Tobin's legal fees was made "before I was chairman -- that in this case that was going to happen based on assurances he made." Mehlman stood by the continuing payments under his chairmanship, saying "it was right to honor that decision."

The court documents describing the calls were only discovered recently by researchers at the Senate Majority Project, a Democratic group based in Washington. In addition to Tobin, two GOP operatives pleaded guilty in the case.

There are no public documents or public sworn testimony concerning the matters that were discussed in the phone calls. "They started calling the White House about 11 a.m., and didn't stop until 2 a.m.," said Christy Setzer, a Senate Majority Project spokeswoman.

Paul Twomey, of Epsom, N.H., an attorney for the Democratic Party in its civil lawsuit, said that he wants to question Mehlman and Davis to determine if the calls dealt with the phone-jamming scheme.

"You have somebody who's committing a felony, and he's calling [the White House] during the planning, the execution and when it's falling apart," Twomey said, adding that he will request records listing what outgoing calls were made from the White House during the same time. Twomey told New Hampshire reporters that the RNC's coverage of the legal fees "raises questions of who they were protecting, how high does this go and who was in on this."

Yesterday, White House spokesman Ken Lisaius declined to comment on the suit, saying "we don't comment about ongoing legal proceedings." Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the Justice Department, which prosecuted Tobin, said, "The investigation was thorough." Sierra appeared to accept Mehlman's argument, saying that "it would not be unusual for the director of a particular region of the country to be in communication with officials of the Republican Party" on Election Day.

Kathy Sullivan, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said she is unwilling to accept Mehlman's assurances. She cited a sequence of events as the phone-jamming case unfolded starting in February 2003, in which Republican officials repeatedly changed their version of events as new evidence emerged.

Fahrenthold reported from Boston.


Bush to make decision on Dubai defense purchase

Bush to make decision on Dubai defense purchase
By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. panel that reviews foreign investments behind closed doors was sending President George W. Bush a recommendation on Thursday on a Dubai-owned company's proposed $1.24 billion takeover of Doncasters, a British group with U.S. plants that supply the military.

The recommendation, from the inter-agency Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS) was going to Bush for review and a decision, said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the White House national security council.

Bush's decision, due in 15 days, follows a congressional uproar over security fears that scuttled another Dubai state-owned company's plan to acquire operations at six major U.S. ports.

Jones disclosed no details of the recommendation from CFIUS, which weighs security implications of foreign acquisitions of U.S. firms.

Bush "will thoroughly review the findings and recommendations of CFIUS, he will make a determination within the 15-day period and send a report to Congress as required by statute," he said.

Among Doncasters' units is a plant that is the sole supplier of turbine fan parts for U.S. Abrams battle tanks, according to a spokesman for Rep. John Barrow, a Georgia Democrat who represents a district that is home to the plant.

CFIUS is chaired by the Treasury Department and includes representatives from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State, Commerce, Justice, and other agencies.

Congressional critics have launched a drive to give lawmakers some oversight of the review process. The Treasury had no comment on the Doncasters review.

By law, the president has the authority to block foreign acquisitions and mergers involving U.S.-based firms if they are deemed to present credible threats to U.S. national security.

Dubai International Capital said in a statement on Thursday that the parties expected to close the acquisition following "successful completion of all reviews." The company did not immediately return a phone call seeking further comment.

Dubai Ports World opted last month to transfer terminal operations at the six U.S. ports in question to a U.S. entity after a bipartisan furor over security fears.

The administration had approved DP World's $6.85 billion purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. in January without the matter having gone to an extended, 45-day, security review. Without the extended review, the matter did not rise to Bush as the Doncasters deal has.

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria)


More Generals demand Rumsfeld's resignation

Generals demand Rumsfeld's resignation
By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two more retired U.S. generals called for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign on Thursday, claiming the chief architect of the Iraq war and subsequent American occupation should be held accountable for the chaos there.

As the high-ranking officers accused Rumsfeld of arrogance and ignoring his field commanders, the White House was forced to defend a man who has been a lightning rod for criticism over a war that has helped drive President George W. Bush's public approval ratings to new lows.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni told CNN Rumsfeld should be held responsible for a series of blunders, starting with "throwing away 10 years worth of planning, plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq."

The spreading challenge to the Pentagon's civilian leadership included criticism from some recently retired senior officers directly involved in the Iraq war and its planning.

Six retired generals have now called for Rumsfeld to step down, including two who spoke out on Thursday.

"I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him," said retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, who led the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq.

"Specifically, I feel he has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces," he told CNN.

Retired Major Gen. John Riggs told National Public Radio that Rumsfeld had helped create an atmosphere of "arrogance" among the Pentagon's top civilian leadership.

"They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda. I think that's a mistake, and that's why I think he should resign," Riggs said.

But at the White House, the 73-year-old Rumsfeld drew unflinching support. "Yes, the president believes Secretary Rumsfeld is doing a very fine job during a challenging period," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq before his retirement, urged Rumsfeld on Wednesday to resign.

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold and Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton have also spoken out against Rumsfeld.

The outcry came as opinion polls show eroding public support for the 3-year-old Iraq war in which about 2,360 U.S. troops have died and Bush is struggling to bolster Americans' confidence in the war effort.


Rumsfeld has offered at least twice to resign, but each time Bush has turned him down.

Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said Rumsfeld is ignoring the calls for him to quit and they have not been a distraction.

"Has he talked to the White House? The answer is no, he's not. And two, the question of resignation: was he considering it? No."

Ruff added: "I don't know how many generals there are -- a couple thousand, at least. And they're going to have opinions."

Critics have accused Rumsfeld of bullying senior military officers and disregarding their views. They often cite how Rumsfeld dismissed then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's opinion a month before the 2003 invasion that occupying Iraq could require "several hundred thousand troops," not the smaller force Rumsfeld would send.

But retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Mike DeLong rejected the idea that new leadership was needed at the Pentagon.

"Dealing with Secretary Rumsfeld is like dealing with a CEO," he told CNN. "When you walk in to him, you've got to be prepared. You've got to know what you're talking about. If you don't, you're summarily dismissed. But that's the way it is, and he's effective."

The White House pointed to comments supportive of Rumsfeld from Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and said criticism was to be expected at a time of war in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We are a nation at war and we are a nation that is going through a military transformation. Those are issues that tend to generate debate and disagreement and we recognize that," McClellan said.

(Additional reporting by David Morgan)


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fiddling While Darfur Burns

The New York Times
Fiddling While Darfur Burns

It is enormously distressing to watch the sausage-making that passes for the world's attempt to do something about the carnage in Darfur. The United Nations is still dawdling over plans to replace the African Union force currently there with a well-armed U.N. peacekeeping force. An attempt last week by the United Nations' top official on humanitarian issues, Jan Egeland, to visit Darfur was rebuffed by the Sudanese government. With all of the raping, murdering and butchering going on in Darfur, why would Sudan want an eyewitness account from a high-ranking international diplomat?

While this goes on, Arab militias calling themselves the janjaweed and backed by the Sudanese government continue to raid villages in Darfur and now across the border in Chad. Not satisfied with the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children they've systematically raped and murdered as part of their ethnic cleansing campaign, the janjaweed are continuing their campaign to eliminate entire African tribes from the Sudanese countryside.

Where are the Muslims who took to the streets to protest Danish cartoons? Where are the African leaders who demanded boycotts of South Africa?

The Bush administration, to its credit, has finally stopped dragging its feet and is now trying to push the United Nations in the right direction. But the diplomats are moving too slow. For weeks, the Security Council's sanctions committee has been working on a list of Sudanese responsible for the bloodshed in Darfur. The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said yesterday that America is pressing to get out the list, which he called a "down payment toward justice."

We're waiting. But time is one thing that what is left of the Darfur population doesn't really have. We're glad to see that a rally is planned in Washington on April 30. We're glad to hear that Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick invited Darfur refugees to the State Department. Now President Bush needs to do the same thing. A photo op at the White House with Darfur refugees would go a long way toward embarrassing the government of Sudan.

That should also embarrass the rest of the Security Council members, like China, Qatar, Ghana and Tanzania, that continue to give diplomatic cover to Sudan. Rwanda should have taught us all something; it's tragic that it apparently has not.


Documents Show Link Between AT&T and Agency in Eavesdropping Case

The New York Times
Documents Show Link Between AT&T and Agency in Eavesdropping Case

SAN FRANCISCO, April 12 — Mark Klein was a veteran AT&T technician in 2002 when he began to see what he thought were suspicious connections between that telecommunications giant and the National Security Agency.

But he kept quiet about it until news broke late last year that President Bush had approved an N.S.A. program to eavesdrop without court warrants on Americans suspected of ties to Al Qaeda.

Now Mr. Klein and a few company documents he saved have emerged as key elements in a class-action lawsuit filed against AT&T on Jan. 31 by a civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The suit accuses the company of helping the security agency invade its customers' privacy.

Mr. Klein's account and the documents provide new details about how the agency works with the private sector in intercepting communications for intelligence purposes.

The documents, some of which Mr. Klein had earlier provided to reporters, describe a mysterious room at the AT&T Internet and telephone hub in San Francisco where he worked.

The documents, which were examined by four independent telecommunications and computer security experts at the request of The New York Times, describe equipment capable of monitoring a large quantity of e-mail messages, Internet phone calls, and other Internet traffic.

The equipment, which Mr. Klein said was installed by AT&T in 2003, was able to select messages that could be identified by keywords, Internet or e-mail addresses or country of origin and divert copies to another location for further analysis.

The security agency began eavesdropping without warrants on international phone calls and e-mail messages of people inside the United States suspected of terrorist links soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.

After disclosing the program last December, The New York Times also reported that the agency had gathered data from phone and e-mail traffic with the cooperation of several major telecommunications companies.

The technical experts all said that the documents showed that AT&T had an agreement with the federal government to systematically gather information flowing on the Internet through the company's network.

The gathering of such information, known as data mining, involves the use of sophisticated computer programs to detect patterns or glean useful intelligence from masses of information.

"This took expert planning and hundreds of millions of dollars to build," said Brian Reid, director of engineering at the Internet Systems Consortium in Redwood City, Calif. "This is the correct way to do high volume Internet snooping."

Another expert, who had designed large federal and commercial data networks, said that the documents were consistent with administration assertions that the N.S.A. monitored only foreign communications and communications between foreign and United States locations, partly because of the location of the monitoring sites. The network designer was granted anonymity because he believed that commenting on the operation could affect his ability to work as a consultant.

The documents referred to a second location, in Atlanta, and suggested similar rooms might exist at other AT&T switching sites.

Mr. Klein said other AT&T technicians had told him of such installations in San Jose, Calif.; Los Angeles; San Diego; and Seattle.

The Internet hubs there carry a significant amount of international traffic. The network designer and other experts said it would be a simple technical matter to reprogram the equipment to intercept purely domestic Internet traffic.

The Department of Justice initially asked the Electronic Frontier Foundation not to file Mr. Klein's documents in court, but a review determined that they were not classified and the government dropped its objection. The foundation filed the documents under seal because of concern about releasing proprietary information.

On Monday, AT&T filed a motion with a federal judge in San Francisco asking the court to order the foundation to return the documents because they were proprietary.

The documents showed that the room in San Francisco, which Mr. Klein says was off-limits to most employees but serviced by a company technician working with the security agency, contained computerized equipment that could sift through immense volumes of traffic as it passed through the cables of AT&T's WorldNet Internet service.

According to the documents, e-mail messages and other data carried by 16 other commercial Internet providers reached AT&T customers through the San Francisco hub.

One piece of filtering equipment described in the documents was manufactured by Narus, based in Mountain View, Calif.

The equipment could be programmed to identify and intercept voice or data conversations between e-mail, telephone or Internet addresses, said Steve Bannerman, the company's vice president for marketing.

Buyers included companies trying to comply with the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which requires that communications systems have a wiretapping capability built in.

Typically, law enforcement interceptions are done on a case by case basis and require warrants.

Mr. Bannerman said he could not comment further because Narus had not announced any sales to the federal government. William P. Crowell, a former deputy director of the N.S.A, is on the Narus board.

In an interview, Mr. Klein said he did not have a security clearance but had witnessed interactions between colleagues who did have clearances and the highly secretive N.S.A. "It was strange and sort of suspicious," he said.

Mr. Klein said he learned of an agency connection to the mysterious room in 2002 when a company manager told him to expect a visit from an N.S.A. official who wanted to speak with another senior company technician about "a special job." That technician later installed the equipment in the room, he said.

Based on his observations and technical knowledge, Mr. Klein concluded that the equipment permitted "vacuum-cleaner surveillance" of Internet traffic. Mr. Klein, 60, who retired in 2004 after 23 years with AT&T and lives near Oakland, Calif., said he decided to make his observations known because he believed the government's monitoring was violating Americans' civil liberties.

An AT&T spokesman at the company's corporate headquarters in San Antonio declined to comment on Mr. Klein's statements.

"AT&T does follow all laws with respect to assistance offered to government agencies," said Walt Sharp, the AT&T spokesman. "However, we are not in a position to comment on matters of national security."

Asked to comment, Don Weber, a spokesman for the N.S.A., said, "It would be irresponsible of us to discuss actual or alleged operational issues as it would give those wishing to do harm to the United States the ability to adjust and potentially inflict harm."

John Markoff reported from San Francisco for this article, and Scott Shane from Washington.


Librarians Win as U.S. Relents on Patriot Act Secrecy Law

The New York Times
Librarians Win as U.S. Relents on Secrecy Law

After fighting ferociously for months, federal prosecutors relented yesterday and agreed to allow a Connecticut library group to identify itself as the recipient of a secret F.B.I. demand for records in a counterterrorism investigation.

The decision ended a dispute over whether the broad provisions for secrecy in the USA Patriot Act, the antiterror law, trumped the free speech rights of library officials. The librarians had gone to federal court to gain permission to identify themselves as the recipients of the secret subpoena, known as a national security letter, ordering them to turn over patron records and e-mail messages.

It was unclear what impact the government's decision would have on the approximately 30,000 other such letters that are issued each year. Changes in the Patriot Act now allow the government discretion over whether to enforce or relax what had been a blanket secrecy requirement concerning the letters.

Lawyers for the group, the Library Connection of Windsor, Conn., argued that their client was eager to participate freely in the debate last year over the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. But federal prosecutors asserted that the Patriot Act required that the group's identity remain secret and that the government would suffer irreparable harm if any information about its investigations became known.

The decision by the Justice Department to drop the case was applauded by the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the librarians. The civil liberties group said it would identify its clients at a news conference once court proceedings in the case are completed in a few weeks.

"We are obviously very much looking forward to the day where they can explain how it felt to be under threat of criminal prosecution for merely identifying themselves," said Ann Beeson, the civil liberties union's associate legal director. "The clients are happy that the fight over this gag is nearing its end."

Kevin J. O'Connor, the United States attorney in Connecticut, said yesterday that the government decided drop its case largely because the Patriot Act's secrecy provisions concerning national security subpoenas were changed to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation discretion in allowing recipients to identify themselves.

The government was also under pressure to drop its fight after mistakenly disclosing in court records the very information it was fighting to keep secret. Government lawyers failed to redact all of their references to the Library Connection in court filings, leading to the disclosure of the group's identity in The New York Times and other newspapers.

"Certainly that was a factor," Mr. O'Connor said. But he said "the legal basis" for the decision was the change in the Patriot Act giving the government the authority to allow recipients of the subpoenas to identify themselves.

"For both practical and legal reasons, we have determined that continuing to pursue this appeal does not make sense," he said.

Mr. O'Connor was in the process of appealing a decision by a federal district judge last September to allow the library to identify itself, saying the nondisclosure provision in the national security letter violated the library's First Amendment rights.

That appeal is pending in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York.

Mr. O'Connor said that in light of the changes to the Patriot Act, the Justice Department would re-examine whether the secrecy requirements that apply to recipients of past national security letters should continue to be enforced.

He said the government would also make a determination when sending future letters whether the recipient would be prohibited from saying he had received one.

George Christian, the executive director of Library Connection, a cooperative of 26 libraries that share an automated system, has answered "no comment" when asked about the case by reporters. He did not respond to several messages seeking comment last night.

According to court records, the federal government's national security letter to Library Connection last year asked Mr. Christian to "personally" hand over records that might be of use in a counterterrorism investigation and that he not disclose the matter "to any person."

But the group challenged the request in federal court, arguing through its lawyers that it wanted the ban lifted immediately. The group said that time was of the essence in lifting the ban because the Patriot Act was set to be reauthorized by Dec. 31 and, as a party with an interest in the matter, it wanted the right to speak out against the act.

United States District Judge Janet C. Hall agreed with the group, ruling last year that the order of silence should be lifted. But the federal government appealed the decision, ultimately preventing the group from weighing in on how the Patriot Act should be rewritten before the Dec. 31 deadline.

Ms. Beeson said yesterday that she believed the government's decision to drop the appeal was politically timed.

"The issue over whether the government was using its Patriot Act powers to demand library records was one of the hot-button issues in this debate," she said. "And our clients could have been extremely powerful spokespeople in opposing the reauthorization of the act, because they had actually received one of those national security letters."

Now that the debate in Congress is over, she said, "There's no longer any reason to keep our clients quiet."

Mr. O'Connor dismissed that argument and said that the language in the Patriot Act was such that the federal government had no choice but to insist that Library Connection refrain from speaking out.

"I know it's being perceived as a flip-flop, but that is simply not the case," he said.


White House denies report on Iraq WMD

White House denies report on Iraq WMD
By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Wednesday angrily denied a newspaper report that suggested President George W. Bush in 2003 declared the existence of mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq while knowing it was not true.

"It's reckless reporting. Everybody should be agitated about it," White House spokesman McClellan told reporters of The Washington Post report.

On May 29, 2003, Bush hailed the capture of two trailers in Iraq as mobile biological laboratories and declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

Two days earlier, on May 27, 2003, the Pentagon confirmed on Wednesday, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) team faxed its preliminary report on the mobile labs. This report concluded the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons, the Post said.

McClellan said Bush made his statement based on the combined conclusions of the CIA and DIA that were given to him in a May 28 white paper.

That white paper reflected the intelligence community's position at the time that the mobile units were biological weapons laboratories.

The dissenting May 27 view did not appear to have made it to the White House, and in fact, the intelligence community for months stuck to its analysis that the units were weapons labs.

Bush cited the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction as the prime justification for invading Iraq. No such weapons were found. In May 2003, U.S. officials were urgently seeking evidence to support prewar intelligence claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the field report was a preliminary finding that had to be evaluated.

"You don't change a report that has been coordinated in the (intelligence) community based on a field report," the official said. "It's a preliminary report. No matter how strongly the individual may feel about the subject matter."

McClellan said the Post story was "nothing more than rehashing an old issue that was resolved long ago," pointing out that an independent commission on Iraq had already determined the intelligence on alleged Iraqi biological weapons was wrong.


McClellan criticized ABC News' "Good Morning America" for its version of the report on Wednesday morning.

The network responded later by posting a "clarification" on its Web site acknowledging that anchor Charles Gibson misstated the gist of the Post story by saying that when Bush spoke, he knew what he was saying was not true.

"I hope they will go and publicly apologize on the air about the statements that were made, because I think it is important given that they had made those statements in front of all their viewers," he said.

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were classified and shelved, the Post reported. It added that for nearly a year after that, the Bush administration continued to publicly assert that the trailers were biological weapons factories.

The authors of the reports -- nine U.S. and British civilian experts -- were sent to Baghdad by the DIA, the newspaper said.

A DIA spokesman told the paper that the team's findings were neither ignored nor suppressed, but were incorporated in the work of the Iraqi Survey Group, which led the official search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The team's work remains classified. But the newspaper said interviews revealed that the team was unequivocal in its conclusion that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons.

(Additional reporting by Will Dunham and JoAnne Allen)


Retired US Iraq general demands Rumsfeld resign

Retired US Iraq general demands Rumsfeld resign
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A recently retired two-star general who just a year ago commanded a U.S. Army division in Iraq on Wednesday joined a small but growing list of former senior officers to call on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

"I believe we need a fresh start in the Pentagon. We need a leader who understands teamwork, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation," Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the Germany-based 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, said in an interview on CNN.

In recent weeks, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton and Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni all spoke out against Rumsfeld. This comes as opinion polls show eroding public support for the 3-year-old war in which about 2,360 U.S. troops have died.

"You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are speaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense," Batiste said.

"But when decisions are made without taking into account sound military recommendations, sound military decision making, sound planning, then we're bound to make mistakes."

Batiste, a West Point graduate who also served during the previous Gulf War, retired from the Army on November 1, 2005. While in Iraq, his division, nicknamed the Big Red One, was based in Tikrit, and it wrapped up a yearlong deployment in May 2005.

Critics have accused Rumsfeld of bullying senior military officers and disregarding their views. They often cite how Rumsfeld dismissed then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's opinion a month before the 2003 invasion that occupying Iraq could require "several hundred thousand troops," not the smaller force Rumsfeld would send.

Many experts believe that the chaos that ensued and the insurgency that emerged just months later vindicated Shinseki's view.

Batiste told CNN "we've got the best military in the world, hands down, period." He did not say whether he felt the war was winnable.


"Whether we agree or not with the war in Iraq, we are where we are, and we must succeed in this endeavor. Failure is frankly not an option," Batiste said.

Batiste said he was struck by the "lack of sacrifice and commitment on the part of the American people" to the war, with the exception of families with soldiers fighting in Iraq.

"I think that our executive and legislative branches of government have a responsibility to mobilize this country for war. They frankly have not done so. We're mortgaging our future, our children, $8 to $9 billion a month," he said, referring to the cost of the war.

He defined success in the war as "setting the Iraqi people up for self-reliance with their form of representative government that takes into account tribal, ethnic and religious differences that have always defined Iraqi society."

"Iraqis, frankly, in my experience, do not understand democracy. Nor do they understand their responsibilities for a free society," Batiste said.

Newbold, the military's top operations officer before the Iraq war, said in a Time magazine opinion piece on Sunday that he regretted having not more openly challenged U.S. leaders who took the United States into "an unnecessary war" in Iraq. Newbold encouraged officers still in the military to voice any doubts they have about the war.

On Tuesday, Marine Corps Gen. Pete Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended Rumsfeld from the criticism.

Rumsfeld said that "there's nothing wrong with people having opinions," and that criticism should be expected during a war as controversial as this one.


FEMA to Public - Be prepared to handle emergencies without their help

Changes at FEMA as storm season nears
By Jim Loney

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Sharply criticized for a sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina, top U.S. emergency officials on Wednesday announced an overhaul of disaster relief planning but put the onus on local responders and warned Americans to be better prepared.

With the hurricane season just seven weeks away, local emergency managers expressed skepticism about changes at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, saying the government bureaucracy was no better prepared to deal with a devastating hurricane than it was last year.

Acting FEMA director David Paulison, speaking to emergency managers at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, said FEMA is installing satellite tracking of disaster supplies and stationing federal officials in coastal states. But he said local officials were the first line of defense.

Paulison told Americans they had to take "personal responsibility" for storm planning and be ready to cope with the effects of a big storm without help.

"I believe it is a civic responsibility for Americans to prepare themselves to take care of their families for the first 72 hours," said Paulison, who has been nominated to take the job permanently and awaits confirmation from Congress.

He was named interim director of FEMA last year after the resignation of Michael Brown following the agency's widely criticized response to Katrina in August.

The storm burst the levees protecting New Orleans, leaving hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Tens of thousands were stranded in flooded houses, hospitals, nursing homes and the Superdome sports stadium. About 40,000 were rescued.

Katrina killed about 1,300 people across the Gulf coast and caused at least $80 billion in damage.


FEMA was scrutinized after its poor response and more than 100 recommendations made for improvements, including removing it from the Department of Homeland Security into which it had been absorbed.

Paulison and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said they expected to have some of the recommendations in place by June 1, the official start of the hurricane season.

FEMA disaster planners will be stationed in coastal states, communications systems are being improved and stocks of water, ice, pharmaceuticals and other supplies are being replenished.

FEMA is upgrading its phone-in aid systems to allow it to register 200,000 people a day and installing a global positioning satellite tracking system for supplies. Much of the aid for Katrina sat idle because no one knew where it was.

Chertoff warned hospitals and nursing homes to be prepared to care for, and if necessary, to evacuate their charges.

He pledged to pressure oil companies to make sure fuel was available, saying: "We've got to get gas stations up and running and we've got to get fuel into the trucks."

But local disaster response planners say FEMA was decimated when it was moved into Homeland Security after the September 11 attacks and will not improve unless it is made an independent agency again.

"FEMA lost their expertise, their ability to help local governments," said John Murray, emergency management director with the Corpus Christi fire department in Texas.

Paulison told reporters he believed FEMA belonged under Homeland Security because it gave him access to assets like the Coast Guard that are critical in a disaster.

But Don McKinnon, emergency management director for Jones County, Mississippi, said he had no confidence that FEMA had been fixed. "None whatsoever. We're in the same position we were in last year," he said.

"I liked FEMA as a stand-alone agency. They understood the business because that's the business they were in."


Problems mount from 9/11 fallout

Problems mount from 9/11 fallout
By David Shukman
BBC News science correspondent

The number of people with medical problems linked to the 9/11 attacks on New York has risen to at least 15,000.

The figure, put together for the BBC, counts those receiving treatment for problems related to breathing in dust.

Many of the victims say the government offered false reassurances that the Manhattan air was safe and are now pursuing a class-action lawsuit.

On Tuesday, a coroner said the death of a policeman who developed a respiratory disease was "directly linked" to 9/11.

James Zadroga - who worked at Ground Zero - died in January. The New Jersey coroner's ruling was the first of its kind.

WTC 'cough'

Jeff Endean used to be the macho leader of a police Swat firearms team. Now, he has trouble breathing and survives on the cocktail of drugs he takes every day.

Kelly Colangelo, an IT specialist, used to have good health but now endures a range of problems including asthma and sinus pain.

"It worried me that I've been damaging my health just being in my home," she told the BBC News website. "It also worries me that I see the health impact on the [the emergency crews at the scene]. We were also exposed and I wonder if in 10-15 years from now, am I going to be another victim?"

Both are victims of what used to be called "World Trade Center cough", an innocuous sounding condition that many thought would pass once the dust that rose from the attacks of 9/11 had blown away.

But the medical problems have not merely intensified; the list of victims has grown alarmingly at the same time.

The apparent cause? The long line of contaminants carried by the dust into the lungs of many of those at, or near, the scene on that fateful day.

'Real' figure

One list of sufferers has been compiled at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. Its World Trade Center Screening Programme has 16,000 people on its books, of whom about half - 8,000 - require treatment.

A further 7,000 firefighters are recorded as having a wide range of medical problems, producing a total of 15,000. But the overall numbers affected could easily be far higher.

As the US government's newly appointed "health czar" John Howard confirmed to the BBC, there were between 30,000 and 50,000 people at or near Ground Zero who might have been exposed to the hazardous dust and no one really knows how many are suffering problems now.

Consisting of billions of microscopic particles, the dust was especially toxic because of its contents.

A grim list includes lead from 50,000 computers, asbestos from the twin towers' structures and dangerously high levels of alkalinity from the concrete.

Long time

Many of the people now suffering were sent to Ground Zero to help search for survivors. Others volunteered. Still more just happened to be living or working in the area.

The latter feel particularly aggrieved, even betrayed.

In the days following the attacks, the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared that monitoring operations had proved the "air was safe to breathe". And with that reassurance, the authorities reopened the globally important financial hub of Wall Street.

At the time it was seen as a critical morale-booster to a wounded nation.

Yet now the federal courts have allowed a class-action lawsuit to be filed against those very authorities.

Last month, a judge described the EPA's reassurances as "misleading" and "shocking the conscience". The legal process could last years.

A special report on the dust fallout from the 9/11 attacks will be featured on BBC World starting on Wednesday 3 May at 1930 GMT. The documentary will also be carried on BBC News 24.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Autopsy Linking Death to Ground Zero Work Prompts Calls for More Sept. 11 Health Treatment

ABC News
Autopsy Spurs Calls for 9/11 Health Care
Autopsy Linking Death to Ground Zero Work Prompts Calls for More Sept. 11 Health Treatment
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - A new autopsy attributing a 34-year-old New York police detective's death this year to exposure to toxic Sept. 11 dust should spur the government to do more for sick ground zero workers, lawmakers said Wednesday.

The federal official charged with overseeing the government's Sept. 11 health programs will examine the autopsy report and plans to meet again with the lawmakers to discuss the matter, a spokesman said.

A coroner's report released Tuesday found James Zadroga's death after developing respiratory disease was "directly related" to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Zadroga, of Little Egg Harbor, N.J., died Jan. 5.

Researchers say it will take decades to determine which illnesses and deaths among ground zero workers were caused by their exposure to the asbestos-laden dust cloud.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-Manhattan, Vito Fossella, R-Staten Island, and Christopher Shays, R-Conn., say the report should prompt more action from the federal government in screening and treating sick ground zero workers.

The government now funds screening and treatment programs, but lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., have for years complained the programs do not get enough federal support to reach and treat all the people affected by the attacks and their aftermath.

"It is truly sad," Maloney said in a statement, "that four and a half years after 9/11 the federal government still does not have a comprehensive plan to treat those who are suffering."

Zadroga's family and union released his autopsy results, the first known medical ruling positively linking a death to recovery work at ground zero.

"It is felt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the cause of death in this case was directly related to the 9/11 incident," wrote Gerard Breton, a pathologist at the Ocean County (N.J.) medical examiner's office in the Feb. 28 autopsy.

A class action lawsuit and families of ground zero workers have alleged that more than two dozen deaths are related to exposure to trade center dust, which doctors believe contained a number of toxic chemicals including asbestos and more than 1 million tons of debris from the twin towers.

Zadroga died of respiratory failure and had inflammation in his lung tissue due to "a history of exposure to toxic fumes and dust," Breton wrote.

The New York Police Department detective spent 470 hours after the attacks sifting through the twin towers' smoldering ruins, wearing a paper mask for protection. His breathing became labored within weeks, he developed a cough and he had to use an oxygen tank to breathe. He retired on disability in November 2004.

The coroner found material "consistent with dust" in Zadroga's lungs and damage to his liver and said his heart and spleen were enlarged.

Federal health officials will examine the autopsy findings, according to a spokesman for Dr. John Howard, the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Howard is charged with overseeing the government's Sept. 11 health programs.

"We haven't seen the (autopsy) report ourselves," NIOSH spokesman Fred Blosser said. "Dr. Howard has said that he will look for and wants to read any report, documentation, information that would provide more details on the illnesses that are being reported by responders and also these reports of deaths among some 20 responders."


Your Tax Return Could Reveal Private Information; Millions Unwittingly Allow Personal Data to Be Shared

ABC News
Your Tax Return Could Reveal Private Information
Millions Unwittingly Allow Personal Data to Be Shared

April 12, 2006 — - Connie Barber of Philadelphia assumed her private financial information stayed between her and the IRS.

"Absolutely, I think it's going to be safe because it's going right to the IRS," Barber said. "I think that's the only people who have that information."

Like many taxpayers, she never knew her tax preparer could share or even sell her information, and all it took was her signature.

Here's how it works: Say you take your return to any of the big tax preparers and you want your refund right away. Your financial information is given to a bank that advances the money.

But then you have no control over what that bank does with your information.

It's been the law since the mid-1970s. But so much has changed since then, most notably, the risk of identity theft.

Helping or Hurting?

So the IRS is proposing a new regulation. The problem? Consumer advocates say the change makes the situation worse.

It will allow more tax preparers to give your information to virtually any third party who can then market products to you.

"The government tells us that we must turn over very private, personal financial information to them or we go to jail," said Beth McConnell of the Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group. "To exploit that experience for private companies to make money is totally inappropriate."

But IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said the agency tries to protect the taxpayer by adding more explicit disclaimers, even typed in larger fonts. "So that when a taxpayer shares information with their preparer, he or she is well aware that it can in turn be reshared, go overseas or to financial institutions," he said.

If you don't want that, the IRS says simply don't sign.

But with 10 million victims of identity theft last year, attorneys general for nearly every state have signed a letter to the IRS saying they've got problems with the change, too.

"We don't think any taxpayer should be in the situation where they could sign away their rights to privacy," McConnell said.

Which is precisely what Barber did. She's already witnessed her mother fall victim to identity thieves who racked up thousands on the family credit card.

Now, she fears, she could be next.

ABC News' David Muir reported this story for "World News Tonight."


Scalia stands by decision in Cheney case

Scalia stands by decision in Cheney case

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Wednesday called his 2004 decision not to recuse himself from a case involving Vice President Dick Cheney the "proudest thing" he's done on the court.

Scalia's remarks came as he took questions from students during a lecture at the University of Connecticut's law school.

The case in question involved Cheney's request to keep private the details of closed-door White House strategy sessions that produced the administration's energy policy.

The administration fought a lawsuit brought by watchdog and environmental groups that contended that industry executives, including former Enron chairman Ken Lay, helped shape that policy. The Supreme Court upheld the administration position on a 7-2 vote.

Scalia refused to step aside from deliberations in the case, rejecting arguments by critics who said his impartiality was brought into question because of a hunting vacation that he took with Cheney while the court was considering the vice president's appeal.

"For Pete's sake, if you can't trust your Supreme Court justice more than that, get a life," he said Wednesday.

He told students he would have recused himself if the case had involved Cheney personally, but that he viewed the situation differently because the vice president was acting in his official capacity.

"I think the proudest thing I have done on the bench is not allow myself to be chased off that case," Scalia said.

The justice's appearance at the law school brought some protests.

Some gay rights activists set up a same-sex kissing booth outside the lecture hall. They said they believe some of Scalia's opinions amount to attacks on gays, women and other minorities.

"His visit opened a lot of conversation on this campus," said third-year law student Colby Smith, who was wearing an "I Kiss Boys" T-shirt. "We want to make sure people understand what the concerns are with him, and why his views are particularly offensive."

Inside the lecture hall, students whose names were drawn randomly from a lottery to attend said that having a chance to hear a sitting justice in person was a thrill. "Having a justice visit your campus is exciting no matter what you think about his views," said third-year student Hugo Tomasia of Norwalk, Conn.

Scalia, 70, was appointed in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Reagan nominated him four years later to the U.S. Supreme Court, filling the opening that occurred when William H. Rehnquist was elevated to the position of chief justice.

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National intelligence office not doing much

Critics: National intelligence office not doing much
By John Diamond, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — A year after John Negroponte became the first director of national intelligence, key lawmakers worry that the spy agency they created is not fulfilling its vital mission.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is "not adding any value" by enlarging the bureaucracy, said Rep. Pete Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican who leads the House Intelligence Committee. "They're lengthening the time to make things happen. ... We want them to be lean and mean."

The agency does some tasks well, Hoekstra said in an interview Tuesday, but is only slowly improving the quality of intelligence. Negroponte was sworn into office last April 21.

Congress created the agency in December 2004 to streamline and centralize control over the nation's intelligence community. Last month, a bipartisan majority of Hoekstra's committee asked Congress to freeze part of the agency's budget until it answers lawmakers' concerns, including worries that new employees are being hired too quickly.

Once a bureaucracy takes root, Hoekstra said, "It's awfully hard to get rid of."

Gen. Michael Hayden, Negroponte's deputy, said the agency is within the limit set by Congress of 500 new positions. About 400 intelligence jobs from other agencies also have moved under Negroponte's control, Hayden said, along with about 400 staffers at new centers focused on issues such as nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

The agency's staff must have enough power to know what's happening in the intelligence community, Hayden said. "I'm confident we can do that (without) another layer of bureaucracy."

Rep. Jane Harman of California, the committee's ranking Democrat, said Negroponte should concentrate on improving the quality of intelligence, not on new hires and office space.

"He needs to focus on capability, not on buildings, billets (budgeted positions) and bureaucracy," Harman said. "What we're lacking is leadership, leadership and leadership."

Improvements are underway, said John Scott Redd, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Redd, who reports to Negroponte, told the House Armed Services Committee last week that his center has developed a list of 200,000 known terrorists in a highly classified database.

Hoekstra acknowledged that communication among agencies — a major flaw in pre-9/11 counterterrorism operations — has improved. He also said Negroponte has largely avoided turf wars with the Pentagon.

Other concerns surround the United States' $44 billion intelligence apparatus:

•Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters earlier this year the Bush administration was surprised by Hamas' victory in January's Palestinian elections. "Nobody saw it coming," she said. She did not single out any one U.S. intelligence agency. Harman called it "a stunning failure."

•After being briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence on Iran, Harman said she found the evidence on Iranian nuclear weapons programs unconvincing and "not where it needs to be."

•The Pentagon still dominates intelligence decision-making, despite Congress' intent to create more civilian control, said John Pike of, a Washington-based defense think tank. That's because the nation is at war and field commanders demand the most immediate intelligence. Also, the Pentagon has more people, money and power, Pike said.

Negroponte needs a large enough staff to have a hands-on role in controlling large Pentagon-funded agencies such as the National Security Agency and National Reconnaissance Office, Pike said. "You have no influence over a meeting that you didn't attend."

The new agency and Pentagon officers are "working side by side on a daily basis on intelligence issues," said Navy Cmdr. Gregory Hicks, a spokesman for Pentagon intelligence operations.

John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission and Navy secretary under President Reagan, said Negroponte is a prisoner of a Bush administration tendency to address problems by creating large entities such as the Homeland Security Department. "This is really a big-government administration," Lehman said in an interview. "That's not any fault of Negroponte or Hayden."

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America’s Secret Police? Intelligence experts warn that a proposal to merge two Pentagon intelligence units could create an ominous new agency

America’s Secret Police?
Intelligence experts warn that a proposal to merge two Pentagon intelligence units could create an ominous new agency.
By Mark Hosenball

April 12, 2006 - A threatened turf grab by a controversial Pentagon intelligence unit is causing concern among both privacy experts and some of the Defense Department’s own personnel.

An informal panel of senior Pentagon officials has been holding a series of unannounced private meetings during the past several weeks about how to proceed with a possible merger between the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), a post-9/11 Pentagon creation that has been accused of domestic spying, and the Defense Security Service (DSS), a well-established older agency responsible for inspecting the security arrangements of defense contractors. DSS also maintains millions of confidential files containing the results of background investigations on defense contractors’ employees.

The merger was initially suggested by a government commission set up to recommend military base closures last year. The commission said that the Pentagon could achieve some savings by relocating both CIFA, now housed in a building near Washington’s Reagan National Airport and DSS, headquartered in nearby Alexandria, Va. The panel suggested moving the two agencies to the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., where FBI training and laboratory facilities are also based.

The Base Realignment and Closure Commission also suggested that the Pentagon could “disestablish” CIFA and DSS and “consolidate their components into the Department of Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.”

Pentagon officials began discussions about merging the two after the commission issued its recommendations. An initial round of meetings about the merger, however, failed to come up with a plan. In the meantime, CIFA, a mysterious and secretive unit created in 2002 and charged with making Defense counterintelligence efforts more effective, became the subject of two public controversies.

The first erupted late in 2005 when documents surfaced indicating that CIFA (whose mission, according to its own officials, is supposed to be limited to analysis of counterintelligence data produced by other agencies) was discovered to have put together a database that included reports on anti-administration demonstrators, including peace activists protesting alleged “war profiteering.” (NEWSWEEK’s Michael Isikoff reported on this in depth earlier this year in this story.) CIFA and Pentagon officials subsequently assured Congress in writing that CIFA’s activities would be more carefully focused in the future on genuine potential terror threats to defense facilities and personnel and that data collected on legitimate peaceful protestors would be destroyed.

Another controversy over CIFA took hold during the corruption scandal surrounding former San Diego congressman Randall (Duke) Cunningham, who before he resigned in disgrace earlier this year, had been a member of both the House Intelligence Committee and the Armed Services Committee. Federal prosecutors alleged Cunningham used his congressional influence to direct CIFA to grant defense contracts to a company called MZM. Earlier this year, Cunningham and MZM’s former president, Mitchell Wade, both pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. (The CIFA contracting probe has been covered in depth by investigative blogs and, as well as The Washington Post.) Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gregory Hicks said the CIFA contracting issue was the focus of a continuing “review by appropriate organizations within the Department [of Defense] and it would be premature to discuss any possible outcomes of that review.”

As stories about the CIFA scandals circulated earlier this year, talk about merging the controversial unit with the less controversial DSS appeared to stall. But in the past few weeks, Pentagon officials said, such discussions have regained momentum, with an informal committee led by Robert Rogalski, a deputy to Stephen Cambone, the under secretary of Defense for intelligence, meeting regularly to discuss the agencies’ consolidation.

But both Pentagon insiders and administration critics remain queasy about the merger idea. Some veteran officials recall that DSS itself became the subject of unwelcome public attention during the Clinton administration when political appointees in the Pentagon press office got hold of the DSS security file on Linda Tripp, the disgruntled bureaucrat who blew the whistle on President Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The file contained reports about an embarrassing incident from Tripp’s past that were leaked to the media. The Pentagon Inspector General investigated, and security procedures surrounding the security files supposedly were improved.

Both Pentagon insiders and privacy experts fear that if CIFA merges with, or, in effect, takes over DSS, there would be a weakening of the safeguards that are supposed to regulate the release of the estimated 4.5 million security files on defense-contractor employees currently controlled by DSS. Those files are stored in a disused mine in western Pennsylvania.

According to one knowledgeable official, who asked for anonymity because of the extreme sensitivity of the subject, since its creation CIFA has on at least a handful of occasions requested access to the secret files stored in the mine without adequate explanation. As a result, the source said, DSS rejected the requests. A merger between CIFA and DSS would weaken those internal controls, the source said.

A CIFA merger with DSS could also alter the job responsibilities of the 280 inspectors employed by DSS to inspect security arrangements and procedures at defense contractors’ offices. According to the official source, these inspectors are responsible for making sure that contractors have taken proper measures to protect classified information. But if DSS merges with CIFA, there are fears that CIFA will pressure the DSS inspectors to expand their mandate to include inspecting contractors to see if they are protecting information that could be considered “sensitive but unclassified”—a term the Bush administration has tried to use to expand restrictions on access to government records. Security professionals regard that expansion as too elastic and open to misinterpretation. By acquiring control of the DSS inspector force, a merged CIFA-DSS would also have something that CIFA at the moment claims not to have, which is a force of field investigators. Today CIFA has to rely for raw field reports on other defense and military intelligence agencies, such as branches of Army, Navy and Air Force intelligence.

Defense analyst and Washington Post blogger Bill Arkin, who first brought allegations about CIFA’s domestic spying to light, says that in its efforts to trying eliminate waste and better coordinate intelligence activities, “we are creating an American military secret police that is clearly acquiring way too much information and way too much power.”

But Cindy McGovern, a spokeswoman for DSS, maintains that even if CIFA does merge with DSS, officials will not be able to get access to secret security files unless they have a “legitimate need and we verify that ... People who have access to these records need to have a verified need, a legitimate bona fide need.” Asked how many times CIFA requests for access to DSS files were turned down because of lack of adequate justification, McGovern said she did not have that information at hand. Hicks, the Pentagon spokesman, said there was “no clear answer” to this question, adding: “There are protocols in place to request information that CIFA follows, but there is no quick grasp as to how many times or instances that has been sought.”

In an e-mail to NEWSWEEK, Hicks added: “The Defense Security Service takes the release of personnel files and the information contained therein very seriously ... For the purposes of disclosure and disclosure accounting, the Department of Defense is considered a single agency. Notwithstanding, disclosures of DSS records within DOD are only authorized when a justifiable official need for the information exists. These same safeguards would apply in the event of a merger with CIFA.”



Giving Rudy a hard 'Time'; Film depicts an iron-fisted mayor
Giving Rudy a hard 'Time'
Film depicts an iron-fisted mayor

Rudy Giuliani better hope that a new documentary on his mayoralty, "Giuliani Time," never makes it to cineplexes in Iowa, New Hampshire and other presidential battlegrounds.

The two-hour film, which debuts May 12, casts Giuliani not as the hero of 9/11 - the role that won him acclaim as America's Mayor - but rather as the iron-fisted ruler of a city where children went hungry, the poor were forgotten and many city cops were racists.

In short, "Giuliani Time" seeks to do for Giuliani what Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" did for President Bush - namely, shine an unsparing light on the darker corners of his life and career, just as he starts to run for President.

"It is always a mixed message with Rudy," said Kevin Keating, 61, a veteran cameraman who is making his directorial debut with "Giuliani Time." "But I don't think he is going to be remembered as a great mayor."

Giuliani is making his first trip to Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus in 2008, next month just a few days before "Giuliani Time" opens at Landmark's Sunshine Theatre on East Houston St. - its only venue right now.

The movie's producers hope it will grow from there, with plans for a broader DVD release in the fall - just in time for election season.

For New Yorkers who lived through the Giuliani era, the film offers few revelations: It winds from his Catholic school upbringing to his days as a mob-busting prosecutor and ultimately to his two terms as mayor, with particular focus on the racially charged police shooting of African immigrant Amadou Diallo.

Perhaps the most startling comments come from former schools Chancellor Rudy Crew, a one-time pal of Giuliani's who emerges as one of his toughest critics.

"There's something very deeply pathological about Rudy's humanity," says Crew, now the Miami-Dade schools superintendent. "He was barren, completely emotionally barren, on the issue of race."

Former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton adds his two cents, saying that "the great failing" of Giuliani was his inability "to put himself in [the] shoes" of the city's vast immigrant population.

Village Voice writer Wayne Barrett, a persistent critic of Giuliani's, serves as the movie's chief narrator, with lesser roles filled by Giuliani fans like Myron Magnet of the conservative Manhattan Institute.

Giuliani spokeswoman Sunny Mindel did not return calls for comment.

Some experts opined yesterday that such a film could even be helpful to the moderate Giuliani as he seeks to woo conservative GOP primary voters.

"If he is seen as the victim of a left-wing smear," said GOP consultant Nelson Warfield, "there are going to be a lot of conservative Republicans who say, 'Hey, Giuliani is my kind of guy.'"


Football Killing Fields: Outrage and disbelief as world soccer body condemns Israel, not Hamas
Football Killing Fields
Outrage and disbelief as world soccer body condemns Israel, not Hamas.
By Tom Gross

Israel is used to being singled out for unjust criticism and subjected to startling double standards by the United Nations, the European Union, much of the Western media and numerous academic bodies. But now FIFA — the supposedly nonpolitical organization that governs the world's most popular sport, soccer — is getting in on the act as well.

FIFA has condemned Israel for an air strike on an empty soccer field in the Gaza Strip that was used for training exercises by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. This strike did not cause any injuries. But at the same time FIFA has refused to condemn a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli soccer field last week which did cause injuries.

With the soccer World Cup, which takes place only once every four years, just weeks away, it is a time of mounting emotion for the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who passionately follow the game.

As FIFA meets in the next few days to decide what action to take against Israel, the double standards involved could not be more obvious. Up to now FIFA, which sees itself as a purely sporting body, has gone out of its way to avoid politics, and has refrained from criticizing even the most appalling human-rights abuses connected to soccer players and stadiums.

When Saddam Hussein's son Uday had Iraqi soccer players tortured in 1997 after they failed to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in France, FIFA remained silent. Uday, who was chairman of the Iraqi soccer association, had star players tortured again in 1998. And in 2000, following a quarterfinal defeat in the Asia Cup, three Iraqi players were whipped and beaten for three days by Uday's bodyguards. The torture took place at the Iraqi Olympic Committee headquarters, but FIFA said nothing.

Again, FIFA simply looked the other way while the Taliban used U.N.-funded soccer fields to slaughter and flog hundreds of innocent people who had supposedly violated sharia law in front of crowds of thousands chanting "God is great." (Afghan soccer coach Habib Ullahniazi said that as many as 30 people were executed in the middle of the field during the intermissions of a single soccer match at Kabul's Ghazi Stadium.)

FIFA equally failed to speak out when soccer stadiums in Argentina were turned into jails.

FIFA's silence was no less deafening when, according to the International Red Cross, about 7,000 prisoners were detained (and some tortured) in Chile's national soccer stadium after Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973.

Nor did the organization threaten Russia with sanctions after Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov was murdered by a bomb explosion at Grozny's Dynamo stadium.

As for the Middle East, FIFA refused to criticize the decision to name a Palestinian soccer tournament after a suicide terrorist who murdered 31 people at a Passover celebration at the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002. (At the tournament, organized under Yasser Arafat's auspices in 2003, the brother of the suicide bomber was given the honorary role of distributing the trophies to the winning team.)

FIFA also failed to condemn the suicide bomb at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa in October 2003 which injured three officials from the leading Israeli soccer team Maccabi Haifa.

But then last week, FIFA finally found a target worthy of its outrage, and leapt into action. That target was Israel.

The international governing body for soccer condemned the Jewish state, and announced that it was considering possible action over the Israeli air strike last week on the Gaza soccer field that had been used for terrorist training exercises. The field, which had also reportedly served as a missile launching pad, was empty at the time; the strike itself came in response to the continuing barrage of Qassam rocket attacks directed at Israeli towns and villages.

Only a couple of days earlier, one of those Qassam rockets landed on a soccer field at the Karmiya kibbutz in southern Israel, causing light injuries to one person. Several other Israeli children and adults needed to be treated for shock. The attack was claimed by the Al-Quds brigades, an armed wing of Islamic Jihad. The soccer pitch is regularly used by children and it was only a matter of luck that there were not greater injuries. (Since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year, several members of the kibbutz, including a ten-month-old baby, have been wounded after their homes took direct hits from Qassams. Israelis elsewhere have died after being hit by these weapons.)

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Jerome Champagne, FIFA's deputy general secretary, who had personally condemned the attack on the Palestinian soccer pitch, refused to extend a similar condemnation to the attack on the Israeli pitch.

Champagne said he had discussed the matter with FIFA president Sepp Blatter and that a decision on what action to take against Israel would be announced soon. Champagne, a French national, also sent an official letter to the Israeli ambassador to Switzerland. (FIFA is based in Zurich.)

A FIFA condemnation of Israel is no small matter. The incredible passions that soccer arouses in most countries around the globe seem to have few boundaries. For example, it was said that the only time the guns fell silent during the Lebanese civil war was during the 1982 World Cup matches.

Individual Israelis, outraged by FIFA's blatantly one-sided decision, have been sending e-mails to FIFA asking why "they care more about the grass on an empty soccer pitch than the human lives saved by strikes on the Qassam launching pads."

They have also asked where FIFA is when anti-Semitic banners go up in European soccer stadiums, and there are chants from spectators about sending Jews to the gas? And where, they wonder, are the FIFA sanctions against the Arab or Asian countries that refuse to allow Israel to compete in Asia?

Other questions have been raised, too — why, for instance, FIFA has moved games from Israel because guest teams were afraid to come to Israel, but has never banned any other national teams from playing home games on account of local Islamic violence. Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey were allowed to continue playing matches at home.

In response to some of this criticism Champagne — perhaps unaware of the phenomena of some radical Jews being at the forefront of whipping up hate against the Jewish state — wrote to the Jerusalem Post saying he couldn't possibly be biased against Israel because his wife was Jewish.

In its widely circulated report on the FIFA condemnation of Israel, the Associated Press also failed to mention the Qassam rocket attack on the Israeli soccer pitch. As a result, and not for the first time, AP gave its readers around the globe an unbalanced impression of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The popularity of soccer ensured AP's story was used by dozens of news outlets — among others, Al-Jazeera, CBC News of Canada, and the Los Angeles Times. Only the Israeli press mentioned the Qassam attack on the kibbutz Karmiya soccer pitch, an attack which the Islamic Jihad website admits to carrying out.

The outrage felt in soccer-mad Israel at these astonishing double standards is all the greater since FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made it clear that FIFA should not become involved in politics. Following calls last December from German politicians that Iran should be banned from participating in the forthcoming World Cup (which starts in Germany on June 9, 2006) because of repeated Holocaust denial by the Iranian president, Blatter said "We're not going to enter into any political declarations. We in football, if we entered into such discussions, then it would be against our statutes. We are not in politics."

Indeed so emboldened does Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now feel by FIFA's support that he announced last week that he will likely attend Iran's opening match against Mexico in Nuremberg on June 11. Holocaust denial is a serious crime punishable by a prison term of up to five years in Germany, but Ahmadinejad no doubt feels that powerful international bodies like FIFA will protect him.

Meanwhile FIFA (and other sporting bodies) continually turn a blind eye to boycotts of Israeli sportsmen.

In February, Tal Ben Haim — the Israeli national soccer team captain, who plays his club soccer for the English Premiership team Bolton Wanderers — was banned from joining his Bolton teammates for their training matches in Dubai. FIFA pointedly ignored this. So did Bolton despite the fact that the team claims to be among the leaders of the campaign to "Kick racism out of football" in the U.K.

Only last week, another English club, West Ham, left their two Israeli players, Yossi Benayoun and Yaniv Katan, at home when they went to Dubai. FIFA naturally had nothing to say.

Whilst Israel is often slandered as an "apartheid state," (despite having several Arabs playing in its national team), Dubai has received no criticism for what appears to be a clear "apartheid" policy.

Indeed, were Israel allowed to compete against other Asian teams for a World Cup berth, rather than against the likes of England and France, the relatively strong Israeli team would most probably have been able to qualify for this year's World Cup.

Not all is rotten in world soccer. Some individuals still seem to know right from wrong. Last week, Ronaldinho, the Brazilian superstar widely regarded as the best current player in the world, donated signed footballs and shirts to Israeli child suicide bomb survivors, saying he hoped his gifts would "warm the hearts of the children who have suffered so much."

But FIFA, meanwhile, apparently thinks it is acceptable for Palestinian terror groups to continue targeting such Israeli children, firing missiles from the Gaza Strip, even though Israel has left the area.

— Tom Gross is the former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and New York Daily News. Among his previous pieces for NRO is "Jeningrad".