Saturday, July 01, 2006

Florida Terror Suspects Had No Explosives and Few Contacts
Terror Suspects Had No Explosives and Few Contacts
Sears Tower Plan Never Finished, Authorities Say
By Peter Whoriskey and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers

MIAMI, June 23 -- Federal authorities announced charges here Friday against seven men they described as "a homegrown terrorist cell" that planned to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and other buildings. But officials conceded that the group never had contact with al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups and had not acquired any explosives.

The group, which operated from a small, warehouse-like building in Miami's impoverished Liberty City neighborhood, adhered to a vague and militant Islamic ideology, claimed the U.S. government had no authority over it, and was led by a charismatic Haitian American named Narseal Batiste, according to officials and the four-count indictment. All but one of the members were citizens or legal residents of the United States.

The case underscores the murkiness that has been common to many of the government's terrorism-related prosecutions since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, cases that often hinge on ill-formed plots or debatable connections to terrorism. It is also the latest in a series of FBI-run stings involving informants or government agents who pose as terrorists to build a case.

The indictment, which charges the men with seeking support from al-Qaeda to wage a "ground war" on the United States, is based primarily on Batiste's interactions with an unidentified government informant who posed as an al-Qaeda "representative" and discussed plans for bombings and assaults on the Sears Tower, the FBI office in Miami and other targets. Batiste and the six others also allegedly swore an oath of loyalty to al-Qaeda during meetings with the informant, according to the charges.

"On or about December 16, 2005, Narseal Batiste provided the 'al Qaeda representative' (actually the FBI informant) with a list of materials and equipment needed in order to wage jihad, which list included boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios and vehicles," the indictment said. The indictment said the group's aim was to " 'kill all the devils we can' in a mission that would 'be just as good or greater than 9/11.' "

But officials said the plot never progressed beyond the early planning stages and the group had no known contact with al-Qaeda. Batiste allegedly recorded video of the U.S. courthouse and other federal buildings in Miami as part of a casing operation, but the camera was provided by the government informant, the indictment said.

Deputy FBI Director John S. Pistole said at a news conference in Washington that the talk of attacking the 110-story Sears Tower -- the tallest building in the United States -- was "aspirational rather than operational." He said none of the men appeared on U.S. terrorism watch lists.

But Pistole and other U.S. officials said aggressive policing and early arrests were necessary to ensure that potential terrorist attacks -- no matter how improbable they may seem -- are thwarted. Prosecutors say that the group's alleged actions, including the video recordings and the requests for weapons and explosives, amounted to overt acts that can be prosecuted under federal anti-terrorism laws.

"Our philosophy is that we try to identify plots in the earliest stages possible, because we don't know what we don't know about a terrorism plot, and that once we have sufficient information to move forward with the prosecution, that's what we do," Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said at the Washington news conference.

Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who heads the Washington office of the Rand Corp., said that the Miami plot appears to be "embryonic at best" but that "amateur terrorists can kill as effectively as the professional kind."

"It seems clear that their ambitions were serious; what's not clear is whether they had any real capabilities to pull it off," Hoffman said. "This is the difficult balance that we're trying to strike between being vigilant and not overreacting and equating this with 9/11 or something."

The group came to the attention of authorities when its members began to seek the aid of foreign agents who could help them, federal officials said at a Miami news conference. One of the people the group sought aid from tipped terrorism investigators. A federal informant then presented himself to the group as an al-Qaeda representative, officials said.

On Dec. 16, 2005, Batiste met in a hotel room with the informant and, around the same time, said he was trying to build an "Islamic Army" to wage jihad, according to the indictment. He also asked for boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles and $50,000 in cash.

But the suspects received little other than military boots and the video camera from the false al-Qaeda representative, according to the indictment. By May, the indictment suggests, the plan had largely petered out because of organizational problems.

Batiste appeared in federal court in Miami on Friday along with four other defendants who had been arrested during the FBI raids Thursday: Patrick Abraham, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin and Rotschild Augustine. Another defendant, Lyglenson Lemorin, was arrested in Atlanta, while the seventh, Stanley Grant Phanor, was already in custody on a probation charge.

Five of the men are U.S. citizens. Abraham is a Haitian illegally in the country, and Lemorin is a Haitian with legal residency here, officials said. At least six of the seven appear to have faced criminal charges before, according to records, for marijuana possession, battery, assault and concealed weapons.

Phanor had worked in construction, his family said, and took up studying Islam at the warehouse-like building a year ago. He called it "the temple."

"He does not have the heart to kill people," his disbelieving mother, Elizene Phanor, said, falling to her knees. "I swear to God."

The men gathered daily at the building, neighbors said. It used to be a sandwich shop, but less than a year ago the men moved in and remodeled, a neighbor said.

The men sported a variety of dress -- sometimes they were seen in black fatigues, sometimes in ski masks, sometimes in fezzes and dashikis -- and at one point they arranged flags from a number of nations, including Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba, around the building, according to neighbors.

They were not well funded: Neighbors said the men drove old cars and some of them made money by selling shampoo and hair tonic on the street. At Friday's hearing, the defendants said they were self-employed, and all qualified to be represented by a public defender. Batiste, who did stucco work, told the judge he made about $30,000 a year.

"We used to wonder, 'What are they doing? Who are they?' " said Babalu Nesbitt, 67, an immigrant from the Bahamas who collects cans for recycling for a living and who lives close to the building. "But they were the kind that only wanted to talk to their own."

They held readings of the Koran at times, and at others could be seen practicing martial arts outside. After Hurricane Wilma knocked out the electricity in the area for days last fall, the group passed out water from a silver van, some neighbors recalled.

Christopher Johnson, 37, a bodyguard and former Navy SEAL, said he recalled watching the martial arts they were using and being surprised that it seemed to be less about self-defense and more about attack. "A little bell went off," he said. "I thought, 'There's got to be a bigger purpose.' But I let it ride."

In Chicago, Police Superintendent Philip J. Cline told reporters that Batiste used to live in Chicago and was once arrested on a misdemeanor property damage charge. But he said the Miami group never came close to mounting an attack there.

"There was never any imminent danger to the Sears Tower or Chicago," Cline said.

Eggen reported from Washington. Staff writer Peter Slevin in Chicago and researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.


Ex-Homeland nominee and Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik pleads guilty to corruption

Ex-Homeland nominee pleads guilty to corruption

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, whose Homeland Security nomination was withdrawn because of ethics questions, pleaded guilty on Friday to misdemeanor charges of accepting gifts while serving as a top city official.

Kerik was convicted of two charges in a deal that allowed him to avoid prison time. He acknowledged accepting $165,000 worth of renovations on his Bronx apartment while he was commissioner of New York's corrections department and failing to report a loan from a real estate developer as required by city law.

Kerik was ordered to pay $221,000 in fines, Bronx Supreme Court officials said. He waived his right to appeal the convictions.

Officials began an investigation into Kerik's dealings in December 2004 in connection with allegations he helped Interstate Industrial Corp., a New Jersey construction company, seek business with the city in exchange for renovation work to his apartment.

In his plea, Kerik admitted speaking with city officials about the company but did not acknowledge a link between the renovations and his support of the company.

Kerik, who as police commissioner led the New York Police Department's response to the September 11 attacks, previously denied any wrongdoing.

"We had an investigation, we looked into allegations and the charges that were brought were charges we believed we could sustain proof beyond a reasonable doubt," said Bronx District Attorney spokesman Steven Reed.

President George W. Bush nominated Kerik in 2004 for Homeland Security chief but Kerik withdrew after admitting he had failed to pay taxes for a family nanny alleged to be in the country illegally.

Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a close friend of Kerik's, said in a statement on Friday the guilty pleas did not diminish Kerik's accomplishments.

"This should be evaluated in light of his service to the United States of America and the city of New York," Giuliani said.


Guantanamo ruling heralds political showdown

Guantanamo ruling heralds political showdown
By Patricia Wilson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats see the Supreme Court's Guantanamo ruling as repudiation of a power-hungry White House. Republicans say it shows how tough President George W. Bush is on terrorists and voters will eat it up.

Both parties face a contentious political debate over the decision declaring military tribunals illegal as they look to capitalize on a national security issue ahead of crucial congressional elections in November.

"How do you go back to Chicago, Illinois, or Las Vegas, Nevada, and say 'You know what? The president is just being too mean to these people," said Don Stewart, spokesman for Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. "That's a very difficult argument to make."

In Thursday's ruling, the nation's highest court found the tribunals, which Bush created right after the September 11 attacks for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, violated the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military rules.

The White House has been accused of using the war against terrorism to grab executive power at the expense of the U.S. Congress. Vice President Dick Cheney has spoken publicly about restoring the powers of the presidency after what he saw as "an erosion"' in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

The Bush administration has turned that tide in many ways, ranging from the fight to keep secret the deliberations of its energy task force, to its assertion of authority after September 11, including secret domestic surveillance and financial tracking programs.


"The Guantanamo ruling is a repudiation of their entire governing philosophy," said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the centrist New Democrat Network. "This philosophy has failed. It's not only failed, it hasn't passed the test of the Supreme Court."

"Unless they address that, they're just putting lipstick on a pig."

The Supreme Court rebuff pushes the issue into Congress where the road ahead is likely to be long and hard, especially with four months to go before mid-term elections that will decide if Bush's Republican Party keeps control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The president, who is struggling with the lowest poll ratings of his term mostly because of the unpopular Iraq war, and his political architect Karl Rove have played the national security card to successfully trump Democrats in previous elections.

And Republicans believe the Supreme Court has dealt them another winning hand, especially with voters in middle America.

"The president's fighting and killing terrorists and we think he has to be more gentle?" Stewart said. "The Democrats are making a gigantic mistake by going out and talking about what will be translated into English as the president is too tough on terrorists."

Republican consultant Scott Reed said the court's decision served to "remind everybody what it was like right after 9/11."

"I think in raw politics, it is a net positive for Bush to bring clarity and remind people we're in this war," he said.

Democrats believe they're ready for any Republican onslaught and don't think voters will buy into the Democrats-are-weak argument again.

"They'll throw the biggest chunk of mud that they can come up with," a senior Democratic official said. "That we must be heartened by this ruling because we don't want to see any terrorists get prosecuted. That is just ridiculous."

Bush and Rove already have stepped up their attacks on Democrats in the past couple of weeks, accusing some of wanting to "cut and run" and "waving the white flag" in Iraq.

"They haven't worked," the official said, citing polls showing most Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq and think the U.S.-led invasion was a mistake.

"I just don't think people are going to buy it," Rosenberg said. "We've seen the movie before and we know what happens."


IMF says terror finance oversight varies greatly

IMF says terror finance oversight varies greatly

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund on Friday encouraged countries to improve monitoring of suspected terror financing and money laundering after an IMF report found significant differences in the quality of supervision.

The report showed the quality and consistency of national and regional banking supervisors' monitoring of such activities varied greatly, the fund said.

IMF executive directors "encouraged all assessor bodies to strengthen internal review procedures."

The IMF said a large majority of reports were of high or medium quality and IMF directors asked staff to keep providing technical assistance to banking supervisors to help improve their capacity to produce quality assessments.

"Directors expressed concern over the poorer quality of reports prepared by some other assessor bodies and the variability in quality across reports generally," it added.

Most directors agreed that reports by assessor agencies of IMF member countries should be reviewed in five years.

The report comes about a week after the U.S. Treasury acknowledged a secret program to uncover terror activity by tracking financial records of a Brussels-based consortium, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, a messaging system which is owned or controlled by nearly 8,000 commercial banks in 20 countries.

The Washington-based multilateral lender, which has 184 member countries, said it endorsed efforts to improve the quality and consistency of reports by all monitoring agencies.

The world's top financial regulator and standard setter, the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, issued proposals in April to strengthen its global scorecard for banking supervisors, emphasizing the fight against terror finance.

It sought public comment before issuing a final version of those principles which would be used by the IMF and World Bank to rate the effectiveness of national banking supervisors.


Friday, June 30, 2006

What the press isn't reporting and the Republicans Don't want you to know about the not-so-secret work of SWIFT in fighting illegal financial activity

What the press isn't reporting and the Republicans Don't want you to know about the not-so-secret work of SWIFT in fighting illegal financial activity

The following is excerpted from the very public website of SWIFT:

SWIFT is the financial industry-owned co-operative supplying secure, standardised messaging services and interface software to 7,800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries. SWIFT's worldwide community includes banks, broker/dealers and investment managers, as well as their market infrastructures in payments, securities, treasury and trade.

SWIFT has a history of cooperating in good faith with authorities such as central banks, treasury departments, law enforcement agencies and appropriate international organisations, such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF*), in their efforts to combat abuse of the financial system for illegal activities.

* The FATF is an inter-governmental body, which develops and promotes policies to combat money laundering.

The FATF monitors progress in building effective anti-money laundering systems, it reviews laundering techniques, and it promotes the adoption and implementation of money laundering counter-measures in non-member countries.

The challenge facing the financial industry is to implement measures that prevent illegal behaviour without penalising the efficient processing of legitimate financial transactions. SWIFT is fully committed to doing its part to address this challenge and remains committed to its policy of cooperation to fight money laundering and illegal activities within the scope of its activity.


Behind Bush's Fury, a Vow Made in 2001

The New York Times
Behind Bush's Fury, a Vow Made in 2001

WASHINGTON, June 28 — Ever since President Bush vowed days after the Sept. 11 attacks to "follow the money as a trail to the terrorists," the government has made no secret of its efforts to hunt down the bank accounts of Al Qaeda and its allies.

But that fact has not muted the fury of Mr. Bush, his top aides and many members of Congress at the decision last week by The New York Times and other newspapers to disclose a centerpiece of that hunt: the Treasury Department's search for clues in a vast database of financial transactions maintained by a Belgium-based banking consortium known as Swift.

Speaking at a fund-raising event in St. Louis for Senator Jim Talent, Mr. Bush made the news reports his central theme.

"This program has been a vital tool in the war on terror," Mr. Bush said. "Last week the details of this program appeared in the press."

Mr. Bush received a prolonged, standing ovation from the Republican crowd when he added, "There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it — and no excuse for any newspaper to print it."

On Thursday, the House is expected to take up a Republican resolution supporting the tracking of financial transactions and condemning the publication of the existence of the program and details of how it works. The resolution says Congress "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans and the capability of the government to identify, disrupt and capture terrorists by not disclosing classified intelligence programs." Democrats are proposing a variant that expresses support for the treasury program but omits the language about the news media.

The director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, has ordered an assessment of any damage to counterterrorism efforts from the disclosures, but the review is expected to take months, and its findings are likely to remain classified.

Experts on terror financing are divided in their views of the impact of the revelations. Some say the harm in last week's publications in The Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal may have been less in tipping off terrorists than in putting publicity-shy bankers in an uncomfortable spotlight.

"I would be surprised if terrorists didn't know that we were doing everything we can to track their financial transactions, since the administration has been very vocal about that fact," said William F. Wechsler, a former Treasury and National Security Council official who specialized in tracking terrorism financing.

But Mr. Wechsler said the disclosure might nonetheless hamper intelligence collection by making financial institutions resistant to requests for access to records.

"I wouldn't be surprised if these recent articles have made it more difficult to get cooperation from our friends in Europe, since it may make their cooperation with the U.S. less politically palatable," Mr. Wechsler said.

Though privacy advocates have denounced the examination of banking transactions, the Swift consortium has defended its cooperation with the counterterrorism program and has not indicated any intention to stop cooperating with the broad administrative subpoenas issued to obtain its data.

A former federal prosecutor who handled major terrorism cases, Andrew C. McCarthy, said he believed that the greatest harm from news reports about such classified programs was the message that Americans could not keep secrets.

"If foreign intelligence services think anything they tell us will end up in the newspapers, they'll stop sharing so much information," said Mr. McCarthy, now a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington.

Mr. McCarthy said he thought the Swift disclosure might encourage terrorist plotters to stop moving money through the banking system, depriving the United States and its allies of a valuable window on their activities. "Methods they assumed were safe they now know are not so safe," he said.

But Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9/11 commission and former Democratic senator from Nebraska, took a different view, saying that if the news reports drive terrorists out of the banking system, that could actually help the counterterrorism cause.

"If we tell people who are potential criminals that we have a lot of police on the beat, that's a substantial deterrent," said Mr. Kerrey, now president of New School University. If terrorists decide it is too risky to move money through official channels, "that's very good, because it's much, much harder to move money in other ways," Mr. Kerrey said.

A State Department official, Anthony Wayne, made a parallel point in 2004 before Congress. "As we've made it more difficult for them to use the banking system," Mr. Wayne said, "they've been shifting to other less reliable and more cumbersome methods, such as cash couriers."

As such testimony suggests, government agencies have often trumpeted their successes in tracking terrorist funding. President Bush set the tone on Sept. 24, 2001, declaring, "We're putting banks and financial institutions around the world on notice — we will work with their governments, ask them to freeze or block terrorists' ability to access funds in foreign accounts."

Since then, the Treasury Department has produced dozens of news releases and public reports detailing its efforts. Though officials appear never to have mentioned the Swift program, they have repeatedly described their cooperation with financial networks to identify accounts held by people and organizations linked to terrorism.

Working with "our allies abroad and our partners in the private sector," an April news release said, "Treasury follows the terrorists' money trails aggressively, exploiting them for intelligence."

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, convened a hearing in 2004 where Treasury officials described at length their efforts, assisted by financial institutions, to trace terrorists' money. But he has been among the most vehement critics of the disclosures about the Swift program, saying editors and reporters of The New York Times should be imprisoned for publishing government secrets.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. King said he saw no contradiction. "Obviously we wanted the terrorists to know we were trying to track them," Mr. King said. "But we didn't want them to know the details."


House condemns intelligence leaks

House condemns intelligence leaks
By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday condemned public disclosure of secret surveillance programs as Republicans stepped up their criticism of news media that published details of a bank-monitoring program last week.

By a largely party-line vote of 227 to 183, the House passed a nonbinding resolution condemning the disclosure of classified information and declaring that the House "expects the cooperation of all news media ... by not disclosing classified intelligence programs."

Lawmakers said a secret Treasury Department program that monitors bank transactions with the aim of tracking down terror groups had been compromised by news reports in the New York Times and other newspapers.

Ohio Republican Rep. Michael Oxley, the resolution's sponsor, echoed complaints from President George W. Bush and others who said such disclosures helped terrorists hide their activities more effectively.

"What's the average terrorist going to think? He's going to find a different way to move his money around," Oxley said.

Democrats prepared a similar resolution but the Republican majority did not allow it to come up for a vote. Republicans should not blame newspapers for holding the Bush administration accountable when they themselves had failed to do so, Democrats said.

"This is a clear, bald-faced attempt to strangle criticism of this administration," said Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell.

Democrats also argued that Republicans have not been interested in investigating leaks that advanced the Bush administration's agenda, such as the disclosure of a CIA official Valerie Plame's identity after her husband criticized the administration's use of intelligence before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In the Senate, Texas Republican John Cornyn introduced a similar resolution, but the chairman of the Judiciary Committee declined to endorse it.

"I think there would have to be a clear-cut showing of prejudice and damage before I would favor any resolution to inhibit media coverage," Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter told reporters.

In a separate effort, Arizona Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth has gathered 70 signatures on a letter calling for Times reporters' media credentials to be revoked.


To Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, and Mark Cuban: Answer the Treason Charge With a Murrow Moment
To Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, and Mark Cuban: Answer the Treason Charge With a Murrow Moment
Brent Budowsky

There comes a point in the life of a nation, and a profession, where it is time to make a stand. This is Bush's McCarthy moment; for Dan this could be his Murrow moment; where it airs is less important than what he says, the message will carry far and wide.

Charging treason is different. It is bad enough to demean a hero who came home from Vietnam in a wheelchair; bad enough for those who never wore the uniform to demean the service record of an authentic hero awarded the Bronze and Silver stars; bad enough to call a decorated Marine and lifetime brother of the troops a coward on the Floor of Congress; bad enough to demean hispanics who sing our anthem in Spanish, bad enough to treat gays as an enemy of Christ; bad enough to mock and slander the widows of 9-11.

It is bad enough for the President of the United States, the commander in chief of our military; the man who boasts of being a war president in a nation he believes is permanently at war, to host a National Political Convention, as George W. Bush did in 2004, handing out toys that make fun of the Purple Heart, a sickening spectacle of a partisan without conscience.

These things are bad; but accusations of treason are different. Let us understand exactly what is going on, with this charge of treason. It is more than whipping up a radical political base that long ago lost touch with the cardinal principles of Americanism.

Our President claims the inherent, unilateral and pre-emptive powers to abrogate the Bill of Rights and the Constitution claiming some authority as commander in chief; he claims the inherent, unilateral and pre-emptive power to violate Federal laws on his own decision. He claims the power to violate time honored international laws such as the Geneva Convention, which is supported almost unanimously by the military who's advice he falsely claims to always follow.

Remember: the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon included the charge that he failed to faithfully execute the laws of the land, which had put his hand on a bible, and swore to uphold.

First a question, then an observation;

Does President Bush believe that he has the unilateral, presumptive power to violate or ignore the Constitutional provisions giving Congress a role in war making powers? Does the President believe he has the unilateral, presumptive powers to violate any version of a Congressionally enacted and Presidentially signed war powers act or authorization? Does the President believe he has the unilateral and pre-emptive power to violate the Nuremberg Rules?

Does the President claim the sole personal power to wage any war, any time, in any way, against any foe, using any tactic? The other powers he claims inevitably lead to this. These questions must be asked clearly and directly by Congress and the nation, now.

I would observe this, when considering this charge of treason or espionage violations levelled against the New York Times or any other institution of media: the public's right to know, the purpose of the First Amendment, is to enable our democratic society to make decisions based on an informed public, but it is even more than that, and this critical and historic point must be fully understood.

Had the New York Times not published the two stories that led to this charge of treason and demand for criminal prosecution, it is not just the public that would not have been informed, it would have been the courts and the Congress who would not have been informed either.

I will repeat this for emphasis: what the President in fact wants is not merely the power to keep information from the public, but the power to keep information from the courts and the Congress. When the President in fact wants is to have secret, unilateral and pre-emptive power to determine for himself, without judicial review, without Congressional oversight, without regards to Constitutional, statutory or international law exactly what it means to faithfully execute the laws of the land.

What is at stake is this unprecedented grasp for unilateral power for one man, in one party, in one branch of government, alone, without knowledge or review by any other branch of government, to determine alone what it means for the leader of the free world to faithfully execute the laws. He presumes to put himself above Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Adams and more than two hundred years of American Presidents who never made claims so sweeping, secretive and contemptous of the first principles of our democracy.

The treason charge is different; shame on certain television personalities for treating this charge of treason as just another issue for distorted banners across the television screens.

This is about whether there is even minimal tolerance, good will and integrity among Americans of different points of view.

This is about whether the phrase "faithfully execute the laws of the land" is based on more than two hundred years of American history or the whims of one man, operating in secret, violating the cardinal rules of wartime Presidents to unite the country, to win the war, rather than divide the country, which hurts the war, to win an election, to maximize personal powers that conservative George Will among others has called monarchical.

The charge of treason is not merely to demean opponents or whip up an extremist political base; it is to prevent the Congress, the Courts and the country from even knowing what is happening on fundamental issues of war, peace and freedom. This is about one man seeking the inherent, pre-emptive power to not faithfully execute the laws, and not tell any branch of government of the American people that he is doing so.

Perhaps Mark Cuban, or some other man or woman of means, should simply buy two hours of television time, and give it to Dan Rather without fear or favor or strings attached, and let him do this his way, have his Murrow moment, and keep our constitution, now under hostile attack from within, a living document that no man, no party, no partisan has the inherent, pre-emptive power to treat with such contempt.


The Supreme Court said he’s wrong
Hamdan Beats Bush
Bill Press

There’s nothing I like better than seeing George Bush smacked down.

And, make no mistake about it, yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on Gitmo was a royal smack-down for the Bush man.

It repudiates everything Bush and Cheney have asserted since September 11.

Bush said he could do whatever he wanted to in conducting the war on terror, with no further congressional authority.

The Supreme Court said he’s wrong.

Bush said detainees in the war on terror have no rights.

The Supreme Court said he’s wrong.

Bush said, in the war on terror, the United States is not bound by the Geneva Conventions.

The Supreme Court said he’s wrong.

Bush said we could round up suspects and hold them for years, without a trial, without counsel, without charges being filed against them.

And the Supreme Court said he’s wrong.

What a repudiation of everything George Bush stands for. And what an embarrassment for this pitiful excuse for a president.

He denied over 500 others a fair trial. And yet, in his own fair trial, before his very own, conservative Supreme Court, George Bush lost – to Osama bin Laden’s driver!

O Justice! How sweet it is.

I couldn’t have written a better decision myself.


Justices, 5-3, Broadly Reject Bush Plan to Try Detainees

The New York Times
Justices, 5-3, Broadly Reject Bush Plan to Try Detainees

WASHINGTON, June 29 — The Supreme Court on Thursday repudiated the Bush administration's plan to put Guantánamo detainees on trial before military commissions, ruling broadly that the commissions were unauthorized by federal statute and violated international law.

"The executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction," Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the 5-to-3 majority, said at the end of a 73-page opinion that in sober tones shredded each of the administration's arguments, including the assertion that Congress had stripped the court of jurisdiction to decide the case.

A principal flaw the court found in the commissions was that the president had established them without Congressional authorization.

The decision was such a sweeping and categorical defeat for the administration that it left human rights lawyers who have pressed this and other cases on behalf of Guantánamo detainees almost speechless with surprise and delight, using words like "fantastic," "amazing" and "remarkable."

Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a public interest law firm in New York that represents hundreds of detainees, said, "It doesn't get any better."

President Bush said he planned to work with Congress to "find a way forward," and there were signs of bipartisan interest on Capitol Hill in devising legislation that would authorize revamped commissions intended to withstand judicial scrutiny.

The ruling marked the most significant setback yet for the administration's broad expansions of presidential power. [News analysis, Page A19.]

The courtroom was, surprisingly, not full, but among those in attendance there was no doubt they were witnessing a historic event, a defining moment in the ever-shifting balance of power among branches of government that ranked with the court's order to President Richard M. Nixon in 1974 to turn over the Watergate tapes, or with the court's rejection of President Harry S. Truman's seizing of the nation's steel mills, a 1952 landmark decision from which Justice Anthony M. Kennedy quoted at length.

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill immediately and said his committee would hold a hearing on July 11, as soon as Congress returned from the July 4 recess. Mr. Specter said the administration had resisted his effort to propose similar legislation as early as 2002.

Two Republican senators, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jon Kyl of Arizona, said in a joint statement that they were "disappointed" but that "we believe the problems cited by the court can and should be fixed."

"Working together, Congress and the administration can draft a fair, suitable and constitutionally permissible tribunal statute," they added.

Both overseas and in the United States, critics of the administration's detention policies praised the decision and urged Mr. Bush to take it as an occasion to shut down the Guantánamo prison camp in Cuba.

"The ruling destroys one of the key pillars of the Guantánamo system," said Gerald Staberock, a director of the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. "Guantánamo was built on the idea that prisoners there have limited rights. There is no longer that legal black hole."

The majority opinion by Justice Stevens and a concurring opinion by Justice Kennedy, who also signed most of Justice Stevens's opinion, indicated that finding a legislative solution would not necessarily be easy. In an important part of the ruling, the court held that a provision of the Geneva Conventions known as Common Article 3 applies to the Guantánamo detainees and is enforceable in federal court for their protection.

The provision requires humane treatment of captured combatants and prohibits trials except by "a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized people."

The opinion made it clear that while this provision does not necessarily require the full range of protections of a civilian court or a military court-martial, it does require observance of protections for defendants that are missing from the rules the administration has issued for military commissions. The flaws the court cited were the failure to guarantee the defendant the right to attend the trial and the prosecution's ability under the rules to introduce hearsay evidence, unsworn testimony, and evidence obtained through coercion.

Justice Stevens said the historical origin of military commissions was in their use as a "tribunal of necessity" under wartime conditions. "Exigency lent the commission its legitimacy," he said, "but did not further justify the wholesale jettisoning of procedural protections."

The majority opinion was joined by Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, who wrote a concurring opinion focusing on the role of Congress. "The court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the executive a blank check," Justice Breyer said.

The dissenters were Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Each wrote a dissenting opinion.

Justice Scalia focused on the jurisdictional issue, arguing that Congress had stripped the court of jurisdiction to proceed with this case, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, No. 05-184, when it passed the Detainee Treatment Act last December and provided that "no court, justice, or judge" had jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions filed by detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

The question was whether that withdrawal of jurisdiction applied to pending cases. The majority held that it did not.

Justice Thomas's dissent addressed the substance of the court's conclusions. In a part of his opinion that Justices Scalia and Alito also signed, he called the decision "untenable" and "dangerous." He said "those justices who today disregard the commander in chief's wartime decisions" had last week been willing to defer to the judgment of the Army Corps of Engineers in a Clean Water Act case. "It goes without saying that there is much more at stake here than storm drains," he said.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. did not take part in the case. Last July, four days before Mr. Bush nominated him to the Supreme Court, he was one of the members of a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court here that ruled for the administration in the case.

In the courtroom on Thursday, the chief justice sat silently in his center chair as Justice Stevens, sitting to his immediate right as the senior associate justice, read from the majority opinion. It made for a striking tableau on the final day of the first term of the Roberts court: the young chief justice, observing his work of just a year earlier taken apart point by point by the tenacious 86-year-old Justice Stevens, winner of a Bronze Star for his service as a Navy officer in World War II.

The decision came in an appeal brought on behalf of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001 and taken to Guantánamo in June 2002. According to the government, Mr. Hamdan was a driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. In July 2003, he and five others were to be the first to face trial by military commission. But it was not until the next year that he was formally charged with a crime, conspiracy.

The commission proceeding began but was interrupted when the federal district court here ruled in November 2004 that the commission was invalid. This was the ruling the federal appeals court, with Judge Roberts participating, overturned.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, Mr. Hamdan's Navy lawyer, told The Associated Press that he had informed his client about the ruling by telephone. "I think he was awe-struck that the court would rule for him, and give a little man like him an equal chance," Commander Swift said. "Where he's from, that is not true."

The decision contained unwelcome implications, from the administration's point of view, for other legal battles, some with equal or greater importance than the fate of the military commissions.

For example, in finding that the federal courts still have jurisdiction to hear cases filed before this year by detainees at Guantánamo Bay, the justices put back on track for decision a dozen cases in the lower courts here that challenge basic rules and procedures governing life for the hundreds of people confined at the United States naval base there.

In ruling that the Congressional "authorization for the use of military force," passed in the days immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, cannot be interpreted to legitimize the military commissions, the ruling poses a direct challenge to the administration's legal justification for its secret wiretapping program.

Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who has also introduced a bill with procedures for trying the Guantánamo detainees, said the court's refusal to give an open-ended ruling to the force resolution meant that the resolution could not be viewed as authorizing the National Security Agency's domestic wiretapping.

Perhaps most significantly, in ruling that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to the Guantánamo detainees, the court rejected the administration's view that the article does not cover followers of Al Qaeda. The decision potentially opened the door to challenges, by those held by the United States anywhere in the world, to treatment that could be regarded under the provision as inhumane.

Justice Stevens said that because the charge against Mr. Hamdan, conspiracy, was not a violation of the law of war, it could not be the basis for a trial before a military panel.


Republicans slow Voting Rights Act renewal

Republicans slow Voting Rights Act renewal
By Amanda Beck

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Prospects for a swift renewal of the Voting Rights Act faded on Thursday as lawmakers called for new congressional hearings on the landmark civil rights law first approved in 1965.

The House leadership had expected an easy 25-year extension of the act last week but southern Republicans rebelled, objecting that their states would be subjected to special scrutiny based on the legacy of discrimination from the 1960s.

The Voting Rights Act is designed to end discrimination at the polls and has been renewed four times. If Congress does not act again, parts of it will expire in 2007.

Lawmakers are divided on several issues, including whether districts should supply bilingual voting ballots and whether hearings should examine the impact of this week's Supreme Court ruling on Texas redistricting.

House Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said Congress would return to the matter after a weeklong July 4 recess. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, said party members were "holding our fire and patiently waiting for the Republicans to work out their politics."

The Senate has not yet taken up the bill.


Thursday, June 29, 2006

Delay: Valerie Plame was not a CIA agent
Delay: Valerie Plame was not a CIA agent
By: John Amato

The Bugman was back on Hardball today and he was really just a swell guy. Delay is totally one hundred percent against any type of leaks—except—if they concern Karl Rove. Tom actually said that Valerie Plame wasn’t even a CIA agent. It sounded like the "Who’s on First," Abbott and Costello routine once Delay got caught,

Matthews: Isn’t this like the Yankees and baseball? Everyone wants to beat the Yankees…

Delay: It’s not politics; This is war.

Matthews: It’s not politics?

Delay: The American people understand the real war…

Matthews: You don’t think Karl Rove is behind this and saying, "Hey put in more fire, shoot ’em again, keep this going a couple of weeks"?

Delay: Absolutely not. This is war. The New York Times has undermined our national security and there ought to be consequences. It has nothing to do with politics.

Matthews: So you’re against leaking?

Delay: Yes, I’m against leaking.

Matthews: All leaking by the administration. So even this thing with the CIA agent shouldn’t have been leaked?
Delay: Absolutely not.

Matthews: So guys like Rove shouldn’t have been talking to the papers… and people like Scooter Libby shouldn’t have been talkin’;…I’m asking you.

Delay: I’m not gonna… I’m not a [???]; I’m not a judge.

Matthews: You said you were against leaking

Delay: You said something that Karl Rove is not being commited of, convicted of…

Matthews: He never denied it, and nobody is going to contest it. It’s public record that he leaked.

Delay: It’s just you saying that he is guilty.

Matthews: I am not saying it’s a crime. I’m saying he leaked.

Delay: How do you know he leaked?

Matthews: Because it’s the public record now that he leaked (laughs in frustration)! That doesn’t bother you?

Delay: No! Leaking national security secrets at a time of war is outrageous and shouldn’t be done.

Matthews: But not the identity of a CIA agent?

Delay: We can spend an hour on that. Valerie Plame was not a CIA agent.

Matthews: What was she?

Delay: (dismissively) She was behind a desk over at Langley.

Matthews: But was her classification undercover? She deep background?

Delay: Yes, but she was not an out-in-the field CIA agent, and that’s what the law is all about.

Matthews: That’s what the law is about, but it doesn’t say that… it just says… OK, we have exceptions here…Let me ask you….[goes on to next topic]

(h/t Patricia for the transcript)


Profits and War

Profits and War
Partisan Washington put itself on display at the screening of a new documentary inspired by President Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech about militarism.
By Eleanor Clift

June 23, 2006 - The American people don’t like to lose. Until the Democrats find a withdrawal plan that looks like a victory, the Republicans will have the upper hand. John Kerry’s amendment to bring the troops home within a year highlighted his party’s confusion on the war, attracting only 13 of the Senate’s 42 Democrats. Republicans reveled in their unified front, heralding the virtues of “staying the course” and with some even claiming that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. “How is it these lunatics who screw up everything have us on the defensive,” grumbled an aide to a Democratic senator.

The Senate debate is yet another reminder of the skill with which Republicans can turn an election into a referendum on loser Democrats. Still, President Bush and his party remain hostages to events on the ground in Iraq, and it’s a good bet that things won’t be any better this November or next November. The unwelcome truth is that nobody knows how to salvage a good outcome in Iraq or, alternatively, manage the impending disaster that looms. Staying because leaving would mean more than 2,500 Americans died in vain is not a plan.

Partisan differences were evident at a Washington screening of Eugene Jarecki’s documentary “Why We Fight,” a depiction of the events leading up to the Iraq war that features, among others, Richard Perle, an architect of the war, and Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of the president who first used the phrase “military-industrial complex” and warned of its dangers. Both were on hand to discuss the film along with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, formerly Colin Powell’s chief of staff and a vocal critic of the war. “Any panel that has Wilkerson and Perle on it has to have its heart in the right place,” said Eisenhower. “Why We Fight” is Michael Moore lite, intelligently done and more restrained than “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but unabashedly antiwar. It draws its inspiration from Dwight D. Eisenhower, the five-star general who led America to victory in World War II, served two terms as president and sounded an alarm about the “grave implications” of an immense military establishment joined with a large and growing arms industry when he left the office in 1961.

It’s worth pointing out to generations who barely know Eisenhower’s name that he was in a unique position to call our attention to the unholy alliance between profits and war. He was a Republican and a military man, and he experienced firsthand the pressures pushing for a defense buildup. “God help this country when someone sits at this desk who doesn’t know as much about the military as I do,” he said—a remark that drew titters from the present-day Washington audience. Director Jarecki updates Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” by adding think tanks to the mix, specifically the Project for the New American Century, a group of influential neoconservatives, including Perle, who promoted America as the new Rome. They argued for elements of the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption long before Bush became president, and they brought with them a calculated and predeveloped foreign policy that had Iraq in its sights.

The story is told through the eyes of a retired New York City cop and Vietnam vet who lost his son in the World Trade Center on 9/11. “If Iraq is responsible, let’s kick the hell out of them,” he says. He asks the Pentagon to put his son’s name on a piece of armament in the Iraq war. His request is kicked around in the bureaucracy until finally he gets an e-mail declaring, “Can do—Semper Fi.” A photo follows with his son’s name on a bomb with the words “In loving memory,” the date the bomb was dropped and the assurance of “100 percent success.” Well into the war, when Bush is forced to say that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, this burly cop feels betrayed. “My first thought, ‘You’re a liar',” he says. “I’m from the old school. Certain people walk on water, and the president is one of them … The government exploited my feelings … I was so insane with wanting to get even that I was willing to believe anything.”

After the screening, Perle complained his side is underrepresented in the film and wondered, “Would he [the cop] have felt cheated if the bomb had been dropped in Afghanistan?” He acknowledged the cinematic effectiveness of “Why We Fight,” and, reading from notes he took during the screening, took issue with the way Vice President Dick Cheney is portrayed. “Richard, you’re a smart cookie and I’ve admired you for years,” Judith Kipper, a Mideast specialist with the Council on Foreign Relations, said at the screening. “Whether Cheney is treated this way or that way, who cares? Why has the American public, which no longer supports this war, allowed our elected leaders to get away with it?” A good question, and one the public will answer in November.



How to Beat 'Cut and Run'

How to Beat 'Cut and Run'
If Rove can successfully con Democrats into ignoring Iraq and reciting their laundry list of other priorities, Republicans win.
By Jonathan Alter

July 3-10, 2006 issue - For more than a quarter century, Karl Rove has employed a simple, brilliant, counterintuitive campaign tactic: instead of attacking his opponents at their weakest point, the conventional approach, he attacks their strength. He neutralizes that strength to the point that it begins to look like weakness. When John McCain was winning in 2000 because of his character, Rove attacked his character. When John Kerry was nominated in 2004 because of his Vietnam combat experience, the Republicans Swift-Boated him. This year's midterm elections will turn on whether Rove can somehow transform the Democrats' greatest political asset—the Iraq fiasco—into a liability.

After escaping indictment, Rove is focused again on what he does best: ginning up the slime machine. Anyone who dares criticize President Bush's Iraq policy is a "cut-and-run" Democrat. The White House's object here is not to engage in a real debate about an exit strategy from Iraq; that would require acknowledging some complications, like the fact that Gen. George Casey, commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, believes it's time to start bringing some troops home. The object is instead to either get the Democrats tangled up in Kerryesque complexities on Iraq—or intimidate them into changing the subject to other, less-potent issues for fear of looking like unpatriotic pansies.

These are the stakes: if Rove can successfully con Democrats into ignoring Iraq and reciting their laundry list of other priorities, Republicans win. It's shameful that the minimum wage hasn't been raised in nine years and that thousands of ailing Americans will ultimately die because of Bush's position on stem-cell research. But those issues won't get the Congress back for Democrats. Iraq can.

You would think it would be the GOP running away from the war. Instead, in gamblers' parlance, Republicans "doubled down" on Iraq. After the good news about Zarqawi's death, they bet that by uniting behind Bush, they would shift the blame to the squabbling Democrats, even though the Democrats have no power at all to change—or even affect—policy on the ground. Rove's notion is that strong and wrong beats meek and weak.

It almost worked. It looked recently as if Democrats were so fearful of being cast as war weenies that they would change the subject. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid & Co. held a press conference on the Democratic issues for the fall that barely mentioned Iraq. Hillary Clinton tried to focus on a lengthy list of worthy issues that, except for the mistreatment of veterans, had little to do with the war.

Why are Democrats having so much difficulty holding Bush accountable for his myriad failures? I think it's because they've lost touch with the basic merits of accountability, particularly on education, where they let interest-group politics trump tough judgments on performance.

But then, some Senate Democrats got smart for a change. They recognized that the party out of the White House doesn't need a detailed strategy for ending a war, just a general sense of direction. When Dwight Eisenhower ran for president in 1952, his plan wasn't any more specific than "I will go to Korea." When Richard Nixon was asked how he would end the Vietnam War in 1968, he said he had a "secret plan"—and got away with it. So now 80 percent of Senate Democrats are united behind something called the "Levin-Reed Amendment." The details of it (begin withdrawal without a firm timetable for getting out completely; diplomacy with the Sunnis; purging the Iraqi military and police of bad guys) are less important than that they finally came up with something.

Of course parrying "cut and run" with "Levin-Reed" won't suffice. But Sen. Joe Biden's riposte to the GOP's symbolic roll-call votes—"The Republicans are now totally united in a failed policy"—is a start. This isn't rocket science. Unless things improve dramatically on the ground in Iraq, Democrats have a powerful argument: If you believe the Iraq war is a success, vote Republican. If you believe it is a failure, vote Democratic.

Isn't that irresponsible? Not in the slightest. It's only under Bush that criticizing the conduct of a war has been depicted as somehow unpatriotic. Lincoln was lambasted by opponents during the Civil War as was FDR during World War II. To take a lesser example, some of the same Sean Hannitys of the world who slam antiwar critics were blasting Bill Clinton's Bosnia policy in 1999 when U.S. planes were in the air over Belgrade.

We'll see this summer if Democrats begin to get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, "This isn't about us. It's about them." We'll see if, when Karl Rove wants to talk about Iraq, the Democrats respond with three familiar words: "Bring it on."



VA worker had OK to access data from home

USA Today
VA worker had OK to access data from home

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Veterans Affairs worker faulted for losing veterans' personal information had permission to access millions of Social Security numbers on a laptop from home, agency documents obtained by The Associated Press show.

Separately, President Bush on Wednesday asked Congress for $160.5 million for credit monitoring for millions of veterans affected by the May 3 burglary. He proposed tapping dollars set aside but not used yet for food stamps, student loans and trade assistance for farmers.

The department's documents raise questions as to whether top officials condoned a practice that led to a theft with the potential to affect 26.5 million veterans and active-duty troops.

VA Secretary Jim Nicholson and others were to testify Thursday before a House committee investigating the government's largest security breach involving Social Security numbers.

The documents show that the data analyst, whose name was being withheld, had approval as early as Sept. 5, 2002, to use special software at home that was designed to manipulate large amounts of data.

A separate agreement, dated Feb. 5, 2002, from the office of the assistant secretary for policy and planning, allowed the worker to access Social Security numbers for millions of veterans.

A third document, also issued in 2002, gave the analyst permission to take a laptop computer and accessories for work outside of the VA building.

"These data are protected under the Privacy Act," one document states. The analyst is the "lead programmer within the Policy Analysis Service and as such needs access to real Social Security numbers."

The department said last month it was in the process of firing the data analyst, who is now challenging the dismissal.

VA officials have said the firing was justified because the analyst violated department procedure by taking the data home; they also said he was "grossly negligent" in handling sensitive information.

Lawmakers expressed dismay over the latest disclosure. They noted that the analyst immediately notified his supervisors after the theft from his suburban Maryland home, but supervisors delayed publicizing the crime until May 22. Nicholson was informed on May 16.

"The gross negligence in this case are the people above him," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the acting top Democrat on the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. "They gave him express permission to take the information home. When it was stolen, he reported it right away."

"They're trying to pin it on this one guy, but I think it's other people we need to be looking at," he said.

A spokesman for the VA did not have immediate comment Wednesday.

Separately, the president asked in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., for the $160.5 million to help the VA cover the costs of credit monitoring and fraud watch services.

The money would be taken from programs in the departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Labor, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs whose money would otherwise go unused or from programs previously set for elimination, according to Scott Milburn, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget.

They include:

•$20 million from food stamp employment and training.

•$40 million from trade adjustment assistance for farmers.

•$6.7 million from health professions student loans.

•$49.1 million from the program, "Responsible Reintegration of Youthful Offenders."

•$9 million from "Next Generation High Speed Rail" program.

•$1.4 million from the Bureau of the Public Debt.

•$5.3 million from the Internal Revenue Service.

•$29 million from VA.

Some Democrats said money to pay for veterans' protection should not come at the expense of other programs.

"It's outrageous to first expose millions of Americans to credit fraud and identity theft and then to try to cut food stamps, student loans, and youth programs to pay for it," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "This is a new problem that needs to be solved with new money."

Nicholson told lawmakers this week that the money would cover monitoring for about half of the 17.5 million people whose Social Security numbers were compromised. He said it also would pay for out-of-pocket expenses ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 for those whose identities are stolen.

No identity theft has been reported in connection with the computer theft.


VA asking for more money to protect veterans after data theft

USA Today
VA asking for more money to protect veterans after data theft

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson promised Congress on Tuesday he could turn his agency into a "model for information security" but said lawmakers will have to be patient.

Nicholson also said the Bush administration was asking for at least $160.5 million in emergency funds for credit monitoring and other measures to protect veterans and military troops whose sensitive personal information was stolen from a VA employee's laptop computer.

Besides covering monitoring for about half of the 17.5 million people whose Social Security numbers were compromised, the money would pay for out-of-pocket expenses ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 for those whose identities are stolen, Nicholson told a House panel.

Under questioning, Nicholson acknowledged that much more money may be needed to revamp information security at the VA and other agencies. He also left the door open to providing veterans more than one year of free credit monitoring following the May 3 burglary at a VA data analyst's home.

"Unfortunately, a very bad thing happened," Nicholson told a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees VA spending.

"I think we can turn VA into the model for information security," he added. "I will not try to mislead you and delude. This will not be easy and it will not be overnight."

Of the $160.5 million requested for monitoring, Nicholson said, about $29 million will be taken from VA funds budgeted in 2006 to cover personnel costs at the Veterans Benefit Administration. That money would not have been used this year due to hiring plans that already had been pushed back to 2007, he added. The other $131.5 million would be reallocated from other areas of the White House budget.

"It will take some belt tightening. It will not come out of veterans' benefits," Nicholson said.

No reports of identity theft have been reported in connection with the May 3 theft of a computer from the data analyst's home in suburban Maryland. The laptop contained names, birth dates and Social Security numbers for up to 26.5 million people.

Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $160 million in emergency funds to pay for credit monitoring. It is one of many expected payments as the government struggles with fallout from data thefts and other breaches now crossing at least six agencies.

Earlier in the hearing, the House panel was urged to spend whatever necessary to avoid undue hardships for data theft victims.

David McIntyre, president and CEO of TriWest health care Alliance, which administers the Pentagon's health care program in 21 Western states, proposed creating a central government "nerve center" to assist agencies after any such security breach.

"Unfortunately, as we have all come to realize, the question is not whether another incident of information theft will occur but when," McIntyre said. "Events such as these are happening with increased regularity — and, surely, spending a few million to prepare is preferable to spending hundreds of millions to react."

Rep. James Walsh, R-N.Y., chairman of the House subcommittee, chastised the VA for waiting three weeks to notify veterans about the theft. "This represents a significant lapse of time that could have been vital to protect identity theft," Walsh said.

In his testimony, Nicholson called the burglary a "wake-up call" that should not have come at the expense of veterans, some of whom have challenged the free monitoring in court as potentially inadequate. He said about half of the affected veterans were expected to take the government's offer.

Separately, the VA asked a federal judge to revise his order barring the VA from publicizing its free credit monitoring offer. The VA said it wished to continue providing information to veterans through its website and call center and had no intention of asking veterans to relinquish their rights to a potentially larger payout in court.

U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman in Kentucky scheduled a hearing for Friday to determine whether the VA should revise its deal.

The class-action lawsuits, which are pending in Covington, Ky., and Washington, seek free monitoring and other credit protection for an indefinite period as well as $1,000 in damages for each person — or up to $26.5 billion total.

Stacy Hinners, an attorney representing veterans, said veterans did not wish to shut down the call center and website but simply wanted the VA to be clear what rights veterans would have if they accepted the free offer.

Veterans groups and lawmakers from both parties have criticized the VA for the theft and noted years of warnings by auditors that information security was lax. The data analyst — who was in the process of being dismissed — had taken the information home on a personal laptop for three years.


US general: Strong, sophisticated Taliban emerging

US general: Strong, sophisticated Taliban emerging
By Kristin Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Taliban forces fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan have grown stronger and more sophisticated, and are directing operations from neighboring Pakistan, a senior U.S. commander said on Wednesday.

More than four years into the war in Afghanistan, an operation often overshadowed by the focus on Iraq, the top U.S. commander there said the Taliban has grown in the south and reconstituted itself elsewhere. It is displaying better military command and its leaders remain elusive, he said.

"The fact remains that we're up against an enemy that is able to operate very effectively on both sides of the border," Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry said in testimony to U.S. lawmakers. "There's areas that they're able to stay within and to direct combat operations against ourselves and against the Afghan National Army."

Despite growing violence funded, U.S. officials say, by drug money, NATO will take over military operations in southern Afghanistan in July, according to Mary Beth Long, the Defense Department's principal deputy assistant secretary for international security affairs.

Ultimately, NATO rather than the United States will play the lead military role throughout Afghanistan. Long did not offer lawmakers a timeline, saying NATO would take full responsibility when conditions were "right."

The planned transition to NATO's military leadership will allow the United States to bring home some of its 23,000 troops in Afghanistan, a Pentagon spokesman said.

But in his public testimony, which preceded a closed-door classified briefing to lawmakers, Eikenberry did not discuss troop levels or offer a timeline for their drawdown.

While the U.S. military had disclosed plans in December to cut its contingent from 19,000 to about 16,500 this spring, troop levels remain higher. Including troops from other countries, the coalition force on the ground numbers 28,000, Eikenberry said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said U.S. troop levels may continue to climb.

"The number of troops that we have there and that other coalition countries have there are, in fact, going up," he told reporters on Wednesday. "As NATO took over the north, took over the west, is now in the process of taking over the south, they have actually increased the number of troops."

But Democrats challenged U.S. plans and operations in the face of a re-emerging Taliban.

"I do not see a long-term comprehensive strategy from the administration," said Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the committee. "And if one exists, it is not being clearly communicated to Congress, the American people or the people of Afghanistan."


Bush's Use of Authority Riles Senator Specter, others

The New York Times
Bush's Use of Authority Riles Senator

WASHINGTON, June 27 — Senators on the Judiciary Committee accused President Bush of an "unprecedented" and "astonishing" power grab on Tuesday for making use of a device that gave him the authority to revise or ignore more than 750 laws enacted since he became president.

By using what are known as signing statements, memorandums issued with legislation as he signs it, the president has reserved the right to not enforce any laws he thinks violate the Constitution or national security, or that impair foreign relations.

A lawyer for the White House said that Mr. Bush was only doing his duty to uphold the Constitution. But Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, characterized the president's actions as a declaration that he "will do as he pleases," without regard to the laws passed by Congress.

"There's a real issue here as to whether the president may, in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes and exclude the ones he doesn't like," Mr. Specter said at a hearing.

"Wouldn't it be better, as a matter of comity," he said, "for the president to have come to the Congress and said, 'I'd like to have this in the bill; I'd like to have these exceptions in the bill,' so that we could have considered that?"

Mr. Specter and others are particularly upset that Mr. Bush reserved the right to interpret the torture ban passed overwhelmingly by Congress, as well as Congressional oversight powers in the renewal of the Patriot Act.

Michelle Boardman, a deputy assistant attorney general, said the statements were "not an abuse of power."

Rather, Ms. Boardman said, the president has the responsibility to make sure the Constitution is upheld. He uses signing statements, she argued, to "save" statutes from being found unconstitutional. And he reserves the right, she said, only to raise questions about a law "that could in some unknown future application" be declared unconstitutional.

"It is often not at all the situation that the president doesn't intend to enact the bill," Ms. Boardman said.

The fight over signing statements is part of a continuing battle between Congress and the White House. Mr. Specter and many Democrats have raised objections to the administration's wiretapping of phones without warrants from the court set up to oversee surveillance.

Last month, Mr. Specter accused Vice President Dick Cheney of going behind his back to avoid the Judiciary Committee's oversight of surveillance programs.

"Where will it end?" asked Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. "Where does it stop?"

The bills Mr. Bush has reserved the right to revise or ignore include provisions that govern affirmative action programs, protect corporate whistle-blowers, require executive agencies to collect certain statistics, and establish qualifications for executive appointees.

Senators and two law professors before the panel said that if the president objected to a bill, he should use his power to veto it — something he has not done in his six years in office.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, said the expansion of executive power would be the "lasting legacy" of the Bush administration. "This new use of signing statements is a means to undermine and weaken the law," she said.

What the president is saying, she added, is "Congress, what you do isn't really important; I'm going to do what I want to do."

Ms. Boardman said the president had inserted 110 statements, which senators said applied to 750 statutes, compared with 30 by President Jimmy Carter. The number has increased, she said, but only marginally, and only because national security concerns have increased since the attacks of Sept. 11 and more laws have been passed. She acknowledged that the increase might be construed as "a lack of good communication" with Congress.

But Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, said the committee was making too much of the statements. "It is precedented," he said, "and it's not new."

Senators said they had been expecting a higher-ranking official from the office of legal policy, and Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the senior Democrat on the committee, chastised the White House for not sending "anybody who would have authority to speak on this."

"But then, considering the fact that they're using basically an extra-constitutional, extra-judicial step to enhance the power of the president, it's not unusual," he said.


Lawmakers Question Lucrative Hefty Contract of Bush Administration's Cybersecurity Chief; He has no formal technical background in computer security.

ABC News
Cybersecurity Chief's Contract Scrutinized
Lawmakers Question Lucrative Hefty Contract of Bush Administration's Cybersecurity Chief
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's cybersecurity chief is a contract employee earning $577,602 over two years under an agreement with a private university that does extensive business with the federal office he manages.

Donald "Andy" Purdy Jr. has been acting director of the Homeland Security Department's National Cyber Security Division for 21 months. His contract with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has drawn attention from members of Congress. By comparison, the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, makes $175,000 annually.

Purdy is on loan from the school to the government, which is paying nearly all his salary. Meanwhile, Purdy's cybersecurity division has paid Carnegie Mellon $19 million in contracts this year, almost one-fifth the unit's total budget.

Purdy said he has not been involved in discussions over his office's business deals with the school. "I'm very sensitive to those kinds of requirements," Purdy said. "It's not like Carnegie Mellon has ever said to me, 'We want to do this or that. We want more money.'"

Some lawmakers who oversee the department questioned the decision to hire Purdy as acting cybersecurity director. They noted enduring criticism by industry experts and congressional investigators over the department's performance on cybersecurity matters.

Purdy's contract "raises questions about whether the American people are getting their money's worth," Democratic Reps. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Loretta Sanchez and Zoe Lofgren, both of California, wrote in a letter to Republicans.

Purdy is a longtime lawyer who has held a number of state and federal legal and managerial jobs. He has no formal technical background in computer security.

His two-year contract expires in October. He said it could be extended two more years. Under the contract, the government pays Purdy $245,481 in salary and benefits a year but not including travel reimbursements; Carnegie Mellon pays $43,320 a year. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Purdy's contract.

Purdy said his salary was commensurate with those of some other government contractors. Purdy works four levels below Chertoff and controls a budget of about $107 million and as many as 44 full-time federal employees.

"Frankly, it's a very competitive market place out there, and I could make a lot more in the private sector," said Purdy, a former White House cybersecurity adviser and the former top lawyer at the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Purdy's former boss and predecessor as cybersecurity chief, Amit Yoran, earned $131,342 before he resigned abruptly in October 2004. Chertoff agreed one year ago to create a position of assistant secretary over cybersecurity. The job is unfilled, a point of consternation among many security experts.

"Andy has done a pretty good job under the circumstances, working in an 'acting' capacity and buried in the bureaucracy of the department," said Shannon Kellogg, director of government affairs for RSA Security Inc., a leading security firm. "He's had one of the tougher jobs in America."

Carnegie Mellon, which is in the home state of former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, is highly regarded among experts who study hacker attacks and software flaws.

The university declined to comment on Purdy's salary, citing employee confidentiality. It said it has avoided discussing government contracts with Purdy in his role as chief of the cybersecurity office that awards those contracts.

Some of the school's U.S. contracts preceded Purdy's tenure as cybersecurity chief.

The department said Purdy consulted with ethics lawyers when he signed his employment contract. Purdy is so careful about avoiding potential conflicts that he leaves the room when employees discuss contracts related to Carnegie Mellon's work, said one DHS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because this official is not authorized to speak with reporters.

Among other activities, Carnegie Mellon helps run the U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team. The team sends urgent e-mails to subscribers about major virus outbreaks and other Internet attacks as they occur, along with detailed instructions to help computer users protect themselves.

The cybersecurity division's flagship achievement under Purdy this year was "Cyber Storm," an exercise to test how the government would respond to devastating Internet attacks. Internal documents show planners were preoccupied in the weeks before the exercise trying to persuade high-ranking officials to attend.

The AP sought copies in February of all records related to the exercise under the Freedom of Information Act. The only documents turned over after four months include e-mails among planners fretting about whether a department undersecretary and others would attend. An official said other internal records were still being reviewed; none of the records already turned over was written by Purdy.

On the Net:

Homeland Security Department:

U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team:

Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute:


Bush and Rove’s political stunt
Bush and Rove’s political stunt
Joe Scarborough

The Senate has just finished a heated debate of flag burning, an act that some Republicans say is an attack on American troops. Democrats blasted back, saying the constitutional amendment to ban flag burning was pure politics. Ultimately, the amendment failed by one vote.

Whether Republicans were playing partisan politics with the flag issue is open to debate, but few can argue that this constitutional amendment would actually impact many Americans’ lives.

Last year there were only four reported cases of flag burning; the year before, the grand total was three. In fact, incidents of torching Old Glory have plummeted ever since the Supreme Court ruled that it was OK to set a match to Old Glory.

Still, if the White House and congressional Republicans pulled off a political stunt, it was a popular one. A poll released this month shows that 56 percent of Americans support a flag-burning amendment, while 40 percent oppose it.

And like the marriage amendment that went up in flames last month, this flag-burning proposal is an example of George Bush and Karl Rove setting political traps for Democrats, who can now count on being painted as the party of gay marriage and flag burning.

Not exactly the best way to win back “Red State” America.


Berkeley, Calif. wants vote on Bush impeachment

Berkeley, Calif. wants vote on Bush impeachment
By Jim Christie

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Berkeley plans to give voters a say on a measure calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the mayor of this famously liberal California city said on Wednesday.

A number of local governments across the United States have passed resolutions urging impeachment. But the Berkeley city council wants to be the first to put the issue directly to voters, Mayor Tom Bates said in an interview.

"This is basically giving the people a chance to talk, to join the debate," Bates said. "The issues go way beyond impeaching the president. They go to safeguarding the Constitution."

Cheered on by Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan, who has moved to Berkeley, the council voted unanimously on Tuesday to have the city attorney review the measure that would appear on the November ballot.

The Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, which advises the city on civil rights issues, recommended the measure to the council.

The panel accuses the Republican White House of intentionally misleading Congress to justify an unnecessary war in Iraq, pursuing unlawful surveillance programs and permitting torture of detainees suspected of links to terrorism.

Bush and Cheney "have acted in a manner contrary to their trust as President and Vice President of the United States and subversive of Constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the People of the United States of America," the commission said in a statement.

Berkeley has seen its politics march steadily leftward since the 1960s, when the Free Speech Movement and Vietnam War protests at the University of California, Berkeley, drew political activists to the city.

Bush received 4,010 votes in Berkeley in the 2004 presidential election, compared with 54,409 votes for Democratic challenger John Kerry.

Republican National Committee spokesman Tucker Bounds said the city council's move was "absolutely out of step with mainstream American voters ... but entirely predictable for liberals in Berkeley."

Berkeley resident Albert Sukoff said he was not surprised by the council's decision.

"I think they overextend themselves and get into things that aren't their business," said Sukoff. "Berkeley has always had a foreign policy, the national one notwithstanding."


Senate panel backs telco bill, no Net neutrality

Senate panel backs telco bill, no Net neutrality
By Jeremy Pelofsky

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved sweeping communications reform legislation on Wednesday that would make it easier for telephone companies like AT&T Inc. to offer subscription television to consumers.

But the panel narrowly rejected attempts by some lawmakers to strengthen safeguards on Internet service, which had pitted high-speed Internet, or broadband, providers such as AT&T against Internet companies like Google Inc.

In a room packed with lobbyists representing companies and consumer groups, debate raged over whether broadband providers can charge more to carry unaffiliated content or to guarantee service quality, an issue called Net neutrality.

The bill included provisions aimed at preserving consumers' ability to surf anywhere on the public Internet and use any Internet-related application, software or service, similar to a bill that passed the House of Representatives.

Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe and Sen. Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, tried to add further protections by barring discrimination of content or service based on origin, destination or ownership, but it failed to get a majority vote. The final tally was 11 to 11.

"That means for the first time we are going to have a two-tiered Internet," said Snowe, who bucked her party. "Broadband operators will be able to pick winners and losers, they will be able to choose the Web sites of their choice."

Other Republicans countered that further protections were not needed because there were no complaints about consumers being denied access to services or content. Adding rules would hobble competition, innovation and deployment, they said.

"We haven't seen anything yet that indicates there is discrimination," said Ted Stevens, chairman of the committee and an Alaska Republican. "If this amendment is adopted, this bill will never come out of conference (with the House)."

The bill would not prevent cable and telephone companies tacking on an extra charge for content that requires more Internet bandwidth than others, such as movie downloads.


Despite extensive lobbying by the telephone carriers, prospects for a final law this year remain uncertain.

Congress faces a dwindling number of work days because of the November elections.

If the measure passes the full Senate, it would have to be reconciled with the narrower bill approved by the House. Stevens told reporters on Tuesday he did not yet have the votes to get the bill through the Senate.

The measure is in part a result of pressure from AT&T and Verizon Communications for Congress to simplify the process for them to get licenses to offer television service. They argue it can take years to get permission from thousands of local cities and counties.

Still, AT&T's corporate political action committee was second in donations to candidates so far during the 2005-2006 election cycle, giving $1.3 million to candidates -- mostly to the Republicans who control Congress, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks money in politics.

The measure would limit local authorities to 90 days to review and negotiate a license with a video provider. It would allow cities to collect up to 6 percent of gross revenue earned by a company for its video service.

Additionally, the committee voted to require the Federal Communications Commission to adopt consumer-protection and customer-service regulations on wireless communications service.

Facing opposition, Sen. John Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, withdrew his amendment that would have eliminated provisions in the bill preempting states from imposing numerous regulations on wireless service.

The panel also approved a permanent ban on taxing Internet access and handily rejected an amendment to encourage cable providers to offer consumers the ability to pay only for the cable television channels they want, known as a la carte.


Top court upholds most of Texas redistricting plan

Top court upholds most of Texas redistricting plan
By James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld almost all of a bitterly contested Texas congressional map engineered by then-Rep. Tom DeLay to help solidify Republican control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The high court by a 7-2 vote refused to overturn the entire map and rejected the argument that it involved an illegal partisan drawing of boundaries of voting districts.

"We reject the statewide challenge to Texas' redistricting as an unconstitutional political gerrymander and the challenge to the redistricting in the Dallas area as a violation of the Voting Rights Act," Justice Anthony Kennedy said for the court majority.

Only one district violated the federal voting rights law and must be redrawn, he said.

Liberal Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer voted to strike down the entire plan. Stevens said it cannot survive constitutional scrutiny because the sole motivation was a desire to minimize the strength of Texas Democrats.

The court decision was a blow to Democratic hopes of winning back seats in Texas as they fight to get control of the 435-seat House in the November elections.

Julian Zelizer, a Boston University professor and expert on U.S. politics, called it a "huge decision" by the justices that "made it easier for parties to protect themselves."

Other experts said the ruling gave states more discretion to do mid-decade redistricting. Traditionally, states redraw their congressional boundaries once at the start of the decade, just after the national Census.

J. Gerald Hebert, a lawyer for the Texas Democratic challengers, said, "The decision could open the floodgates for partisan redistricting."


Mary Wilson, president of the League of Women Voters, said "We now can expect an even more vicious battle between the political parties as they redraw district lines every two years for partisan gain."

Before the plan, Democrats had a 17-to-15 majority over the Republicans in the Texas congressional delegation. After it took effect, the delegation had 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats.

The court ruling that one district in southwestern Texas violated the federal voting rights law and will have to be redrawn was hailed by a leading Latino legal group.

"The Texas Legislature chose to violate the integrity of the democratic process by intentionally removing 100,000 Latino voters from a district to try to control the election result," said John Trasvina of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

DeLay, once one of the most powerful politicians in Washington, strongly supported the 2003 plan that added to the slim Republican majority in the House. DeLay, a former House Republican leader, resigned from the U.S. Congress on June 9 and faces money laundering charges in Texas.

The ruling produced a total of six separate opinions from the nine-member court, amounting to more than 120 pages.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, the court's newest members who were appointed by President George W.) Bush, voted to uphold the entire plan.

Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry called the ruling a "clear victory."

(Additional reporting by Deborah Charles)


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Disgracefully" Attacking the Messenger

The Huffington Post
"Disgracefully" Attacking the Messenger
Robert Scheer

Originally posted at

The Bush administration's jihad against newspapers that reported on a secret program to monitor the personal-banking records of unsuspecting citizens is more important than the original story. For what the president and his spokesmen are once again asserting is that the prosecution of this ill-defined, open-ended "War on Terror" inevitably trumps basic democratic rights in general and the constitutionally enshrined freedom of the press in particular.

The stakes are very high here. We've already been told that we must put up with official lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the unprecedented torture of prisoners of war and a massive electronic-eavesdropping program and other invasions of privacy. Now the target is more basic -- the freedom of the press to report on such nefarious government activity. The argument in defense of this assault on freedom is the familiar refrain of dictators, wannabe and real, who grasp for power at the expense of democracy: We are in a war with an enemy so powerful and devious that we cannot afford the safeguard of transparent and accountable governance.

"We're at war with a bunch of people, who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program, and for a newspaper to publish it, does great harm to the United States of America," President Bush said Monday.

The "bunch of people" Bush says we are fighting was originally believed to be those behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, specifically Osama bin Laden and his decentralized al Qaeda terrorist organization. Yet Bush, prodded by the neoconservative clique, quickly expanded this war beyond what should have been a worldwide manhunt for al Qaeda operatives into an open-ended occupation of Saddam Hussein's Iraq -- which, as we know from the Sept. 11 commission report, had nothing to do with al Qaeda or Sept. 11.

In fact, if the media, or Congress, had aggressively pursued the truth earlier, rather than being overwhelmed by the shock of Sept. 11, anti-U.S. terrorists of every stripe would not now be swarming over Iraq. Nor would the degenerating situation in Afghanistan and the enhanced power of religious fanatics throughout the Mideast, from Tehran to Gaza, pose such threats to peace if a fully informed public had held this president in check. Even today, the Bush administration continues to place the situation in Iraq in the "War on Terror" framework, instead of acknowledging the primary role of religious and nationalist passions unleashed by the unwarranted U.S. invasion.

As Bush has continued to stretch it to cover all of his leadership failings, the "War on Terror" has become a meaningless phrase, to be exploited for the political convenience of the moment. Terrorism, which should be treated clinically as a dangerous pathology threatening all modern societies, instead has been seized upon as an all-purpose propaganda opportunity for consolidating this administration's political power. In such a situation, the press' role as a conduit of both information and debate is more essential than ever. Freedom of the press, enshrined in our Constitution at a time when our fragile nation was besieged by enemies of the new republic, is not an indulgence to be allowed in safe periods but rather an indispensable tool for keeping ourselves safe. That is just the point that Vice President Dick Cheney, the high priest of excessive secrecy -- even in domestic matters, such as refusing to reveal the content of his negotiation with Enron lobbyists in framing the administration's energy policy -- is bent on obscuring.

"Some in the press, in particular the New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult," said Cheney, all but calling the newspaper traitorous.

How convenient to leave out the Wall Street Journal, which editorially supports the administration, but which also covered this latest example of Bush's abuse of power in its news pages. The administration's attack on the Times, in fact, is not really about national security, but rather follows a domestic political agenda that requires attacking free media which dare offer criticism.

On Monday, following the pattern, Cheney also attacked the Times' earlier disclosure that the National Security Agency had simply ignored the legal requirement of court warrants in monitoring telephone calls. "I think that is a disgrace," he said of the Times winning a Pulitzer Prize for the stories.

What is truly a disgrace, though, is an administration that has consistently deceived the public about its intentions and which continues to shamefully exploit post-Sept. 11 fears to ensure its grip on the body politic.