Saturday, August 05, 2006

E-voting security under fire in San Diego lawsuit

E-voting security under fire in San Diego lawsuit
Marc Songini

August 04, 2006 (Computerworld) A lawsuit has grown out of alleged breaches in security procedures around electronic voting machines in San Diego County after a hotly contested congressional election, throwing a spotlight on the reliability of the machines themselves.

The suit, filed on Monday, requests that a special election on June 6 to fill the 50th Congressional District seat be invalidated. It also seeks a complete hand recount of the paper ballots, said Paul Lehto, an Everett, Wash.-based attorney handling the case. The suit was filed in Superior Court in San Diego and names Mikel Haas, county registrar of voters, and Brian Bilbray, the winner of the seat, as defendants.

San Diego voters used AccuVote optical-scan and TSx touch-screen systems from Diebold Election Systems.

Whatever the specific merits of the suit, it could heighten some citizens' concerns about e-voting technology if critics' claims of the inherent security deficiencies get debated in court during the run-up to the fall elections.

One of the main points raised by the suit is the so-called sleepover policy, under which Haas directed that all the machines be released to poll worker supervisors before the election. These sleepovers lasted from three days to more than a week.

"During these sleepovers, the voting machines were unsecured, subject to access by innumerable neighbors, strangers and family members, and stored without records or proof of actual chain of custody, eliminating the ability of any person to detect whether or not fraud or improper access to the voting machines occurred," according to the lawsuit.

"The sleepover issue is fairly egregious," said Lehto. Tampering with one card in one device conceivably could change race results.

The suit also alleges that keys for touch-screen voting machines were released to poll workers -- which is a violation of state and federal law. In addition, the suit cites a recent report that alleges testers discovered a "heretofore unknown switch" in the circuitry of the Diebold TS touch-screen system, the predecessor to the TSx. This allows the machine to boot from an external source, which would circumvent the software and safeguards inside completely.

The suit accuses Haas of suppressing or not collecting relevant materials, such as audit logs and electronic programs and ballots, for potential review after the election.

Haas declined to comment in detail about the suit, citing pending litigation, but he did defend the sleepover practice as being something commonly done in California and other states.

"Supervising poll workers take all supplies home following a training class so they are prepared. They are directed to keep it [the machine] secure wherever they are responsible for it," he said.

A spokesman for Bilbray (R-Calif.) said, "Nothing has been brought to our attention that the election wasn't conducted with the utmost integrity."

Ion Sancho, head of elections for Leon County, Fla., and an outspoken critic of e-voting, acknowledged that the sleepover policy is commonplace, even in his jurisdiction. Nevertheless, he said that the voting machine vendors had yet to come up with proper guidance to address any potential vulnerabilities. Elections officials really don't know how safe it is to allow the machines to be taken home, he said.

"All it takes is a Phillips-head screwdriver to reprogram a voting machine," said Sancho.

A Diebold spokesman said that the alleged TS security flaw requires unfettered access to the machines, the complicity of elections officials and extraordinary technical expertise to succeed. Such tampering would also cause the Diebold machine to fail, he said.

This lawsuit is an example of what could happen in upcoming contests, said Brad Friedman, who covers e-voting issues in his blog. "Is this the sort of thing we want to see happen in 435 House races, 33 Senate races and 20-something gubernatorial races around the country on Nov. 7 this year?" said Friedman.

Lehto said this is a top-priority civil case that will probably go to trial within 30 to 45 days.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Sept. 11 investigations still going on

Sept. 11 investigations still going on

WASHINGTON (AP) — Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, investigators are still looking into the government's response to the hijackings, specifically to determine why aviation and military officials inaccurately reported their performance on that day.

The Defense Department inspector general will soon release a report into whether the military's testimony to the Sept. 11 commission was "knowingly false," Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Brian Maka said Thursday.

The counterpart office at the Transportation Department has completed and is writing a report on whether Federal Aviation Administration officials misspoke in their testimony, said David Barnes, the inspector general's spokesman.

Sept. 11 panel members have said that timelines on the tapes did not match accounts given in testimony by government officials and have asked for the two investigations.

The FAA and defense officials have corrected some information originally given to the panel, such as the exact times the FAA notified the military of the hijackings and the military's assertion that it was tracking one of the planes and intended to intercept it when, in fact, the plane had already crashed.

Meanwhile, newly disclosed tapes made by the military that day confirm again that there was widespread confusion on the morning of the attacks as military fighter jets were scrambled and aviation and defense officials tried to identify the hijacked planes and figure out how to counter them.

The tapes recorded at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) were the basis for an article in the new edition of Vanity Fair magazine by Michael Bronner, an associate producer on the movie "United 93."

The Pentagon gave Bronner 30 hours of tapes. They had previously been given to the Sept. 11 panel, though only parts of them were revealed publicly.


Audit: Security problems seen in ID plan for port workers

Audit: Security problems seen in ID plan for port workers

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Homeland Security plan to require port workers to carry tamperproof photo ID cards has numerous security problems that threaten to delay it, investigators said Thursday.

In an audit, Homeland inspector general Richard Skinner said his review of prototype systems at participating U.S. ports identified several vulnerabilities in the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program, known as TWIC.

The weaknesses, some of which were deemed "high risk," included instances of "false positives" in detecting which workers might pose a security risk as well as cases in which the system inadvertently disclosed sensitive personal information inappropriately.

The report is redacted to prevent public disclosure of specific weaknesses.

"TWIC prototype systems are vulnerable to various internal and external security threats," Skinner wrote. "Until remedied, the significant security weaknesses jeopardize the certification and accreditation of the systems prior to full implementation of the TWIC program."

In a written response, the Transportation Security Administration, which runs TWIC, said that it had expected to encounter some problems with its test program and was now working to fully address them.

"It was acknowledged in discussions with (Skinner) that a prototype system will always need further enhancements and additional work to ready it for production," wrote TSA deputy assistant secretary Robert Jamison.

A call to the TSA seeking additional comment was not immediately returned Thursday.

Congress ordered the administration to develop the card as part of port security legislation passed in late 2002. Under the plan, the Transportation Security Administration would collect biographic information including fingerprints, name, birth date, address and phone number; alien registration number if applicable; and photo, employer and job title.

Before issuing a card, the government would conduct a background check on the worker, including a review of criminal history records, terrorist watch lists, legal immigration status and warrants. In May, the Homeland Security Department said it would soon ask outside contractors to bid on handling the project.

In his audit, Skinner recommended that TSA create a formal office to oversee TWIC security to ensure weaknesses are fixed.

The program at first is expected to cover 750,000 workers who have unescorted access to secure port areas, including longshoremen, port employees, truck drivers and rail workers.


Appeals Panel Keeps DeLay on Ballot; GOP Will Ask Supreme Court to Delist Former Lawmaker
Appeals Panel Keeps DeLay on Ballot
GOP Will Ask Supreme Court to Delist Former Lawmaker
By Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writer

AUSTIN, Aug. 3 -- The court fight to take Tom DeLay, the indicted former House majority leader, off the November ballot in Texas will be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, Republican officials said Thursday.

The announcement came hours after a federal appeals court panel refused to allow the Texas Republican Party to replace DeLay, who won the GOP nomination to run for reelection in the March primary and then changed his mind. Some political observers believe this was influenced by polls showing he might lose his suburban Houston congressional district to a Democrat.

DeLay is under indictment in Austin on charges of money laundering and conspiracy relating to illegal corporate donations allegedly being funneled to Texas legislative campaigns in 2002. DeLay resigned from Congress in June and declared his condominium in Northern Virginia his primary residence so the Texas Republican Party could declare him ineligible to run for the 22nd Congressional District seat. His wife, Christine, still lives in their home in Sugar Land, Tex.

The state Republican Party's subsequent attempt to replace DeLay on the ballot was challenged by the Texas Democratic Party, whose lawyers assert that the action violated state law and the Constitution, and was an attempt to remove a weakened GOP candidate from the field.

The Texas Democratic Party won its case in U.S. District Court in Austin. Republican officials appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.

On Thursday, a panel of three 5th Circuit judges affirmed the lower court ruling, saying that the Texas ineligibility statute was unconstitutionally applied by the state GOP, and that state Republican Chairwoman Tina Benkiser did not meet the standards of the statute "because the public records did not conclusively establish DeLay's ineligibility" to run for reelection.

James Bopp Jr., the attorney for the Texas Republican Party, said he will file an expedited appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. It is in recess until Oct. 1, but it does review emergency applications during this period.

"We have various options in effectuating that appeal and we're considering those options," Bopp said. "We will do what we determine is necessary to move the case and to get a replacement on the ballot prior to the election. The Democratic Party is trying to choose the Republican candidate, which is fundamentally incompatible with our democratic process."

Cris Feldman, an attorney for the Texas Democratic Party, said that the only question regarding DeLay's eligibility to run for office is where he will be living on Nov. 7, Election Day.

"Our position in this case has been that Tom DeLay is eligible to be on the general election ballot, and that his attempts to manipulate the system and remove himself after the primary are in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the state election code," Feldman said. "Both major political parties have nominees on the general election ballot, and it's time to move forward to the election."

Former congressman Nick Lampson is the Democratic nominee for the 22nd Congressional District.

If Texas Democrats prevail, DeLay will have to decide whether to campaign for his former office. He has hinted in recent interviews that he may.

But Dani DeLay Ferro, acting as her father's spokeswoman, said no decision had been made. In a statement issued Thursday, Ferro said "Mr. DeLay continues to reside and work in the Washington, D.C., area. He is exploring his options and has not made any decisions."

Scott Haywood, a spokesman for the Texas secretary of state, said the office must certify ballots for the November election by Sept. 6.

If the state Republican Party appeal is still pending then, Haywood said that "we'll probably move forward with the ballot as it is at this point, and right now a judge has ruled DeLay should remain on the ballot."
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U.S. General Says Iraq Could Slide Into a Civil War

The New York Times
U.S. General Says Iraq Could Slide Into a Civil War

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 — The commander of American forces in the Middle East bluntly warned a Senate committee on Thursday that sectarian violence in Iraq, especially in the capital, Baghdad, had grown so severe that the nation could slide toward civil war.

The commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, also acknowledged that since the security situation remained so unstable, significant reductions in American forces were unlikely before the end of this year.

Asked by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, whether Iraq risked falling into civil war, General Abizaid replied, “I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I’ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war.”

In March, General Abizaid told the Senate Appropriations Committee that sectarian violence in Iraq was replacing the insurgency as the greatest threat to security and stability.

But the tone of the testimony at the Armed Services Committee’s three-and-a-half-hour hearing was strikingly grimmer than the Pentagon’s previous assessments, which have sought to accentuate the positive even as officials acknowledged that Iraq’s government was struggling to assert authority and assure security amid a tide of violence.

The general spoke during a sometimes contentious hearing that drew attention after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at first declined to testify, but, under criticism from Democrats, decided to attend.

Mr. Rumsfeld, sitting between General Abizaid and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took notes and did not contradict their assessments of the shredded security situation in Iraq. But he emphasized that the war must not be lost.

The harshest criticism of Mr. Rumsfeld and the administration’s war-fighting policy came from Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, who said: “Yes, we hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the administration’s strategic blunders and, frankly, the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy.

“Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?”

Mr. Rumsfeld responded with a trademark colloquialism. “My goodness,” he said.

“First of all, it’s true, there is sectarian conflict in Iraq, and there is a loss of life,” he said. “And it’s an unfortunate and tragic thing that that’s taking place. And it is true that there are people who are attempting to prevent that government from being successful. And they are the people who are blowing up buildings and killing innocent men, women and children, and taking off the heads of people on television. And the idea of their prevailing is unacceptable.”

General Pace added his voice to General Abizaid’s somber assessment of the increasing sectarian violence, in an exchange with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

Senator McCain: “You said there’s a possibility of the situation in Iraq evolving into civil war. Is that correct?”

General Pace: “I did say that, yes, sir.”

Senator McCain: “Did you anticipate this situation a year ago?”

General Pace: “No, sir.”

Before the session ended, the two generals made a point to offer relatively upbeat predictions.

While civil war in Iraq is possible, General Pace said, “I do not believe it is probable.”

General Abizaid said: “So the question is, am I optimistic whether or not Iraqi forces, with our support, with the backing of the Iraqi government, can prevent the slide to civil war? My answer is yes, I’m optimistic that that slide can be prevented.”

After a subsequent closed-door session for members of Congress with the defense secretary and the two generals, Senator Clinton for the first time called on President Bush to accept Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation.

The security situation in Iraq was described in even starker terms by a senior British diplomat in Baghdad, according to British news reports. He contradicted the official stance in London and Washington by concluding that Iraq was closer to civil war and partition than to democracy.

In a confidential telegram seen by a BBC correspondent in Baghdad, the diplomat, William Patey, who finished his tour in Iraq last week, told Prime Minister Tony Blair that “the prospect of a low intensity civil war and a de facto division of Iraq is probably more likely at this stage than a successful and substantial transition to a stable democracy.”

The situation in Iraq “is not hopeless,” he wrote, but he said that, for the next decade, Iraq would remain “messy and difficult.”

In a news conference on Thursday in London, Mr. Blair responded to questions about the description, saying that Britain was committed to fighting for a “vision of the Middle East based on democracy, liberty and the rule of law.”

“That is what we are doing and however tough it is, we will see it through,” he said, “and actually if you read the whole of the telegram, that is precisely what William is saying.”

American commanders have described the violence in Iraq as being caused variously by a mix of foreign terrorists, Sunni loyalists to Saddam Hussein, Shiite radicals and criminals. After the bombing of a Shiite mosque in February, officers coalesced in their views that sectarian violence — Sunni on Shiite, and Shiite on Sunni — had become the biggest threat to stability in Iraq.

In recent weeks, thousands of additional Iraqi and American troops have been ordered into Baghdad from other areas of Iraq, and an Army brigade has had its 12-month tour extended by 90 days to join the security effort in the capital.

Senator McCain said the orders to move troops from one violence-plagued part of Iraq to another was no better than playing a game of “whack-a-mole.”

The senior American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., had spoken over recent months of significant reductions in troops this year, if conditions on the ground warranted. With sectarian violence raging, General Abizaid on Thursday sought to tamp down expectations that large numbers of America troops might come home this year.

“Since the time that General Casey made that statement, it’s clear that the operational and the tactical situation in Baghdad is such that it requires additional security forces, both U.S. and Iraqi,” General Abizaid said. “It’s possible to imagine some reductions in forces, but I think the most important thing to imagine is Baghdad coming under the control of the Iraqi government.”

From President Bush on down through his advisers, a more sober assessment of the situation in Iraq has been presented by the administration, with officials stressing the difficulty of counterinsurgency as well as the importance of preventing Iraq from descending into chaos and becoming a haven for terrorists.

Alan Cowell contributed reporting from London for this article.


Republican Senator Faults Bid to Classify Report on Iraq

The New York Times
Senator Faults Bid to Classify Report on Iraq

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 — The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee lashed out at the White House on Thursday, criticizing attempts by the Bush administration to keep secret parts of a report on the role Iraqi exiles played in building the case for war against Iraq.

The chairman, Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, said his committee had completed the first two parts of its investigation of prewar intelligence. But he chastised the White House for efforts to classify most of the part that examines intelligence provided to the Bush administration by the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group.

“I have been disappointed by this administration’s unwillingness to declassify material contained in these reports, material which I believe better informs the public, but that does not — I repeat, does not — jeopardize intelligence operations, sources and methods,” Mr. Roberts said in a statement issued Thursday.

One completed section of the Senate report is said to be a harsh critique of how information from the Iraqi exile group made its way into intelligence community reports, said people who have read the report but spoke on condition of anonymity because it is still classified.

The second section compares prewar assessments of Iraq’s unconventional weapons programs and its links to terrorism with what American troops and intelligence operatives have found since the war began in March 2003.

The two parts of the report will not be made public for weeks, and neither is likely to present conclusions very different from past investigations into faulty prewar intelligence. Yet the current dispute is a sign that more than three years into the conflict, emotions remain raw over the role that the Iraqi group and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi — who was close to Pentagon officials and Vice President Dick Cheney — played in the administration’s decision to wage war against Saddam Hussein.

The group’s role in building the case against Mr. Hussein has been the source of fierce ideological arguments in Washington for years. The report also concludes that the group did provide useful information regarding the disposition of Iraq’s military. In the end, four Republicans on the committee and all seven Democratic members approved of the section of the report about the group. Four Republicans voted against it.

Congressional officials said Thursday that they were puzzled by White House efforts to keep large portions of that section classified. Mr. Roberts pledged in his statement to maintain the pressure to declassify all of the Senate’s conclusions.

“This Committee will not settle for anything less,” he said. “Neither will the American people.” A spokesman for the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, whose office is in charge of the declassification, declined to comment.

The committee approved the other section of the report 14 to 1.


The Truth Shall Set You Free

Huffington Post
Harut Sassounian
The Truth Shall Set You Free

And it can also get you fired, as the US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans found out. Evans, a career diplomat, has been recalled (not reassigned) by the State Department and the White House for daring to say, "I will today call it the Armenian Genocide." He made these remarks during a visit to California last year.

Genocide is what is happening today in Darfur, happened in Rwanda, Cambodia, Bosnia and Kosovo. And what Evans was referring to is the genocide in Armenia, the Ottoman Empire's successful plot to exterminate the Armenian population in 1915, deporting and slaughtering 1.5 million Armenians. This is well documented and accepted as historical fact. Samantha Power in her Pulitzer Prize winning book. "A Problem from Hell", calls the mass murders in Armenia by the Turkish government the first genocide of the twentieth century, and the blueprint Hitler used for the Holocaust.

It is interesting that the State Department and the Bush Administration recognize what Hitler did to the Jews as Holocaust and the mass killings in Darfur as genocide, but avoid giving the same label to what happened in Armenia. They sidestep the term "genocide" because they are concerned about ruffling the feathers of Turkey, a NATO ally. So rather than ruffle a few feathers, they fire a gutsy ambassador who does what we all tell our children to do, "tell the truth."

Not only was Evans forced to make a clarification and retraction for his genocide declaration, he also lost the "Constructive Dissent Award" he was scheduled to receive from the Foreign Service Association. The State Department arranged to have the award rescinded.

For months now, State Department officials have been giving evasive answers to persistent media questions regarding the sacking of Evans, repeatedly stating that all government officials "serve at the pleasure of the President."

For months, letters from more than 60 members of the House of Representatives and Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, seeking an explanation for the recall of Amb. Evans, fell on deaf ears.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and international media provided extensive coverage of the recall of Amb. Evans. In a hard-hitting editorial published on March 22, the Los Angeles Times said: "The State Dept. has long avoided the word genocide, not out of any dispute over history but out of deference to Turkey. It is time to stop tiptoeing around this issue and to accept settled history. Punishing an ambassador for speaking honestly about a 90-year-old crime befits a cynical, double-dealing monarchy, not the leader of the free world."

In a second editorial on July 16, the Los Angeles Times called on the U.S. Senate "to block the nomination altogether until the ambassador-to-be dares to utter the g-word. And the Bush administration should have the courage of its lack of conviction and explain forthrightly not just to Armenian Americans but to all Americans who believe in calling evil by its proper name why U.S. policy is being dictated by Ankara nationalists."

The diplomatic career of Amb. Evans is being terminated for speaking honestly about the Armenian Genocide. Why is telling the truth a crime for the Bush administration? Amb. Evans did nothing more than uphold Pres. Bush's unkept campaign pledge to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. Ironically, Amb. Evans is losing his job for his honesty, while the President is keeping his by not keeping his word!

It is amazing that the remarks of Amb. Evans on the Armenian Genocide would elicit such a hostile reaction from the Bush administration. After all, Pres. Ronald Reagan himself issued a Presidential Proclamation in 1981 that mentioned the Armenian Genocide, and no one in the U.S. government dared to either criticize him or call for his removal from office. Furthermore, the House of Representatives passed two resolutions in 1975 and 1984 recognizing the Armenian Genocide.

On June 28, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Richard Hoagland as the new Ambassador to Armenia and after his lengthy grilling, held up his confirmation. During the hearing, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota said: "I am of the Jewish faith. I cannot imagine an Ambassador to Israel being effective without talking about the Holocaust. I am not sure how we can continue to have Ambassadors to Armenia who can be effective, unless they give recognition to the Genocide."

Given the unresponsiveness of the State Department to the e-mails of the public at large and to the many inquiries of the Members of Congress, the Senate is now obligated to place a hold on the nomination of Amb. Hoagland, even though he has had no involvement in this debacle. A "hold" request by any one member of the Senate on this nomination would delay its consideration by the full Senate until that Senator is fully consulted. It is regrettable that the Senate has to resort to such tactics to force the Bush Administration to be more forthcoming on this issue. It is imperative that before the U.S. government sends another envoy to Armenia, Members of Congress be told what caused the early termination of the career of the current ambassador. The Senate might also want to know, what steps need to be taken to ensure that this unfortunate situation is not repeated during the tenure of his successor?

Pres. Bush and the State Department should know better than firing a distinguished career diplomat for telling the truth! This is not the right message we would like to send neither to our children nor the rest of the world.


The neocons' next war
The neocons' next war

By secretly providing NSA intelligence to Israel and undermining the hapless Condi Rice, hardliners in the Bush administration are trying to widen the Middle East conflict to Iran and Syria, not stop it.

By Sidney Blumenthal

Aug. 03, 2006 | The National Security Agency is providing signal intelligence to Israel to monitor whether Syria and Iran are supplying new armaments to Hezbollah as it fires hundreds of missiles into northern Israel, according to a national security official with direct knowledge of the operation. President Bush has approved the secret program.

Inside the administration, neoconservatives on Vice President Dick Cheney's national security staff and Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative senior director for the Near East on the National Security Council, are prime movers behind sharing NSA intelligence with Israel, and they have discussed Syrian and Iranian supply activities as a potential pretext for Israeli bombing of both countries, the source privy to conversations about the program says. (Intelligence, including that gathered by the NSA, has been provided to Israel in the past for various purposes.) The neoconservatives are described as enthusiastic about the possibility of using NSA intelligence as a lever to widen the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel and Hamas into a four-front war.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is said to have been "briefed" and to be "on board," but she is not a central actor in pushing the covert neoconservative scenario. Her "briefing" appears to be an aspect of an internal struggle to intimidate and marginalize her. Recently she has come under fire from prominent neoconservatives who oppose her support for diplomatic negotiations with Iran to prevent its development of nuclear weaponry.

Rice's diplomacy in the Middle East has erratically veered from initially calling on Israel for "restraint," to categorically opposing a cease-fire, to proposing terms for a cease-fire guaranteed to conflict with the European proposal, and thus to thwarting diplomacy, prolonging the time available for the Israeli offensive to achieve its stated aim of driving Hezbollah out of southern Lebanon. But the neocon scenario extends far beyond that objective to pushing Israel into a "cleansing war" with Syria and Iran, says the national security official, which somehow will redeem Bush's beleaguered policy in the entire region.

In order to try to understand the neoconservative road map, senior national security professionals have begun circulating among themselves a 1996 neocon manifesto against the Middle East peace process. Titled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," its half-dozen authors included neoconservatives highly influential with the Bush administration -- Richard Perle, first-term chairman of the Defense Policy Board; Douglas Feith, former undersecretary of defense; and David Wurmser, Cheney's chief Middle East aide.

"A Clean Break" was written at the request of incoming Likud Party Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and intended to provide "a new set of ideas" for jettisoning the policies of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Instead of trading "land for peace," the neocons advocated tossing aside the Oslo agreements that established negotiations and demanding unconditional Palestinian acceptance of Likud's terms, "peace for peace." Rather than negotiations with Syria, they proposed "weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria." They also advanced a wild scenario to "redefine Iraq." Then King Hussein of Jordan would somehow become its ruler; and somehow this Sunni monarch would gain "control" of the Iraqi Shiites, and through them "wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria."

Netanyahu, at first, attempted to follow the "clean break" strategy, but under persistent pressure from the Clinton administration he felt compelled to enter into U.S.-led negotiations with the Palestinians. In the 1998 Wye River accords, concluded through the personal involvement of President Clinton and a dying King Hussein, the Palestinians agreed to acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel and Netanyahu agreed to withdraw from a portion of the occupied West Bank. Further negotiations, conducted by his successor Ehud Barak, that nearly settled the conflict ended in dramatic failure, but potentially set the stage for new ones.

At his first National Security Council meeting, President George W. Bush stunned his first secretary of state, Colin Powell, by rejecting any effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. When Powell warned that "the consequences of that could be dire, especially for the Palestinians," Bush snapped, "Sometimes a show for force by one side can really clarify things." He was making a "clean break" not only with his immediate predecessor but also with the policies of his father.

In the current Middle East crisis, once again, the elder Bush's wise men have stepped forward to offer unsolicited and unheeded advice. (In private they are scathing.) Edward Djerejian, a former ambassador to Israel and Syria and now the director of the James Baker Institute at Rice University, urged on July 23, on CNN, negotiations with Syria and Iran. "I come from the school of diplomacy that you negotiate conflict resolution and peace with your enemies and adversaries, not with your friends," he said. "We've done it in the past, we can do it again."

Charles Freeman, the elder Bush's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, remarked, "The irony now is that the most likely candidate to back Hezbollah in the long term is no longer Iran but the Arab Shiite tyranny of the majority we have installed in Baghdad." Indeed, when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came to Washington in the last week of July he preceded his visit with harsh statements against Israel. And in a closed meeting with U.S. senators, when asked to offer criticism of Hezbollah, he steadfastly refused.

Richard Haass, the Middle East advisor on the elder Bush's National Security Council and President Bush's first-term State Department policy planning director, and now president of the Council on Foreign Relations, openly scoffed at Bush's Middle East policy in an interview on July 30 in the Washington Post: "The arrows are all pointing in the wrong direction. The biggest danger in the short run is it just increases frustration and alienation from the United States in the Arab world. Not just the Arab world, but in Europe and around the world. People will get a daily drumbeat of suffering in Lebanon and this will just drive up anti-Americanism to new heights." When asked about the president's optimism, he replied, "An opportunity? Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?"

The same day that Haass' comments appeared Brent Scowcroft, the elder Bush's national security advisor and still his close friend, published an Op-Ed in the Washington Post written more or less as an open letter to his erstwhile and errant protégé Condoleezza Rice. Undoubtedly, Scowcroft reflects the views of the former President Bush. Adopting the tone of an instructor to a stubborn pupil, Scowcroft detailed a plan for an immediate end to the Israel-Hezbollah conflict and for restarting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, "the source of the problem." His program is a last attempt to turn the president back to the ways of his father. If the elder Bush and his team were in power and following the Scowcroft plan, a cease-fire would have been declared. But Scowcroft's plan resembles that of the Europeans, already rejected by the Bush administration, and Rice is the one offering a counterproposal that has put diplomacy into a stall.

Despite Rice's shunning of the advice of the Bush I sages, the neoconservatives have made her a convenient target in their effort to undermine all diplomatic initiatives. "Dump Condi," read the headline in the right-wing Insight Magazine on July 25. "Conservative national security allies of President Bush are in revolt against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that she is incompetent and has reversed the administration's national security and foreign policy agenda," the article reported. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a member of the Defense Policy Board, was quoted: "We are sending signals today that no matter how much you provoke us, no matter how viciously you describe things in public, no matter how many things you're doing with missiles and nuclear weapons, the most you'll get out of us is talk."

A month earlier, Perle, in a June 25 Op-Ed in the Washington Post, revived an old trope from the height of the Cold War, accusing those who propose diplomacy of being like Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who tried to appease Hitler. "Condoleezza Rice," wrote Perle, "has moved from the White House to Foggy Bottom, a mere mile or so away. What matters is not that she is further removed from the Oval Office; Rice's influence on the president is undiminished. It is, rather, that she is now in the midst of and increasingly represents a diplomatic establishment that is driven to accommodate its allies even when (or, it seems, especially when) such allies counsel the appeasement of our adversaries."

Rice, agent of the nefarious State Department, is supposedly the enemy within. "We are in the early stages of World War III," Gingrich told Insight. "Our bureaucracies are not responding fast enough. We don't have the right attitude."

Confused, ineffectual and incapable of filling her office with power, Rice has become the voodoo doll that Powell was in the first term. Even her feeble and counterproductive gestures toward diplomacy leave her open to the harshest attacks from neoconservatives. Scowcroft and the Bush I team are simply ignored. The sustained assault on Rice is a means to an end -- restoring the ascendancy of neoconservatism.

Bush's rejection of and reluctance to embrace the peace process concluded with the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. This failure was followed by a refusal to engage Hamas, potentially splitting its new governmental ministers from its more radical leadership in Damascus. Predictably, the most radical elements of Hamas found a way to lash out. And Hezbollah seized the moment by staging its own provocation.

Having failed in the Middle East, the administration is attempting to salvage its credibility by equating Israel's predicament with the U.S. quagmire in Iraq. Neoconservatives, for their part, see the latest risk to Israel's national security as a chance to scuttle U.S. negotiations with Iran, perhaps the last opportunity to realize the fantasies of "A Clean Break."

By using NSA intelligence to set an invisible tripwire, the Bush administration is laying the condition for regional conflagration with untold consequences -- from Pakistan to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Israel. Secretly devising a scheme that might thrust Israel into a ring of fire cannot be construed as a blunder. It is a deliberate, calculated and methodical plot.

-- By Sidney Blumenthal
Salon Media Group, Inc
101 Spear Street, Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94105
Telephone 415 645-9200
Fax 415 645-9204


Bush Calls for Regulation of "Netcasting"

The Huffington Post
James Love
Bush Calls for Regulation of "Netcasting"

The Bush Administration is asking the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for new global regulations on "netcasting." What is "netcasting"? No one really knows. According to this recent US government submission to WIPO:

"netcasting" means the transmission by wire or wireless means over a computer network, such as through Internet protocol or any successor protocol . . . of sounds or of images or of images and sounds or of the representation thereof . . . consisting of . . . audio, visual or audiovisual content of the type that can be carried by the program-carrying signal of a broadcast or cablecast. . . "

This week's proposal by the Bush administration was the product of an inter-agency review that included the US Patent and Trademark Office, the US Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the State Department, and the Library of Congress, plus others. But it was really the product of a handful of lobbysts for big corporations -- most prominent in this particular case -- Murdoch's News Corp (owner of Fox News and MySpace), Yahoo, and AT&T.
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The Bush Administration is expected to have public consultations on this proposal this month. Let's hope people are reading the federal register in August.

For more on this general issue, start here.


"Culture war" in America may be overblown (Who are these people they polled?)

Who are these people they polled? The results seem to contradict what most people actually know and experience.

"Culture war" in America may be overblown: poll

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The so-called culture wars rending America over such issues as abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research may be overblown, based on a U.S. poll released on Thursday.

"Despite talk of 'culture wars' and the high visibility of activist groups on both sides of the cultural divide, there has been no polarization of the public into liberal and conservative camps," the Pew Research Center said, commenting on its poll of 2,003 American adults.

Best illustrating the willingness of Americans to consider opposing points of view is that two-thirds of poll respondents supported finding a middle ground when it comes to abortion rights -- a solid majority that stood up among those calling themselves evangelicals, Catholics, Republicans or Democrats.

The issue of abortion continued to split the country -- 31 percent want it generally available, 20 percent say it should be allowed but want to impose some restrictions, 35 percent want to make it illegal with few exceptions, and 9 percent want it banned altogether.

The poll, sponsored by the nonpartisan research group, was conducted with adults by telephone July 6-19 and had a margin of error of 2.5 percentage points.

On five prominent social issues -- abortion rights, stem cell research, gay marriage, adoption of children by gay couples, and availability of the "morning-after" pill -- most Americans did not take consistent stances.

Just 12 percent took the conservative position on all five issues, while 22 percent took the opposite stance on all five. The bulk of Americans had mixed opinions.

On the subject of gay unions, 56 percent opposed giving gays the right to marry, but 53 percent favored allowing gays to enter into legal agreements that provide many of the same rights as married couples.

There has been an increase in recent years in the proportion of Americans who believe homosexuality is innate -- 36 percent, up from 30 percent in 2003. Similarly, 49 percent believed homosexuals cannot be changed to heterosexual, compared to 42 percent in 2003.

The poll's findings on stem cell research -- which preceded President George W. Bush's veto of a bill to expand federal funding -- showed 56 percent favored the research even though human embryos would be destroyed, while 32 percent were opposed. Most of the gains in support of stem cell research occurred prior to 2004 and has been stable since.

But perhaps more significantly, 57 percent of the respondents said they had heard little or nothing about the stem cell debate.


AOL to shrink workforce by 5,000

AOL to shrink workforce by 5,000

Time Warner Inc.'s AOL LLC online division said today that some 5,000 workers, or about a quarter of its staff, would no longer be on its payroll within six months as part of a restructuring that includes selling its European Internet access businesses.

"At a company meeting this morning, [AOL CEO] Jon Miller told AOL's worldwide workforce of 19,000 people that within six months, it was likely that around 5,000 employees would no longer be with the company," an AOL spokesman said.

AOL said yesterday during a conference call that it has a new strategy to boost online advertising sales by offering its e-mail and other Web services for free. It said it would continue selling dial-up Internet access, but would no longer market those services.

The company said it expects to book restructuring charges of up to $350 million by the end of 2007. It also plans to cut more than $1 billion in operating expenses in 2007.

AOL, which said during the call that it expected to reach deals to sell its European Internet access businesses by the fall, employs about 3,000 people in its access business in Europe, said one source who was on the call and asked not to be named.

AOL said yesterday that it entered into exclusive negotiations to sell its France-based access business with Neuf Cegetel, France's second-largest fixed-line telecommunications service provider. The deal could fetch about $384.1 million, sources have said.

Sources have said that AOL is in discussions in the U.K. with a round of bidders including British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC, The Carphone Warehouse Group PLC and France Telecom's Orange SA unit to sell its access business in the U.K. Bidders for AOL's German unit include VersaTel Telecom International NV, AG, United Internet AG, Telecom Italia SpA and KPN NV, several sources close to the sale process have said.

Other employees affected by the restructuring are likely to be workers who market the Internet service business and customer service representatives, said one source with knowledge of the plans.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

'Not Getting Better': A new study finds serious lung problems among thousands of 9/11 responders

'Not Getting Better'
A new study finds serious lung problems among thousands of 9/11 responders.
By Jennifer Barrett

Aug. 1, 2006 - It’s no surprise that many of the responders and volunteers who spent days—sometimes months—at the World Trade Center after the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, have reported physical and psychological after-effects. Ailments ranging from insomnia to post-traumatic stress disorder to various respiratory problems have been diagnosed in both responders and in residents who lived or worked in the immediate vicinity of Ground Zero. Still, with so many people exposed to the resulting toxins and at different levels, it's been difficult to demonstrate a causal link between time spent at the site and specific health problems suffered afterwards.

A new study published in the August issue of the American Thoracic Society's journal, the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, aims to do just that. Researchers compared lung-function data compiled by the New York City Fire Department for 12,079 of its firefighters and emergency personnel for the four years before the attacks and one year after. All of those included in the study were directly exposed to the toxic cloud that enveloped Ground Zero after the twin towers collapsed—arriving either before the collapse or in the days immediately following. The result? Researchers found that in the year after the attacks, the firefighters who'd spent time at Ground Zero suffered a decrease in lung function capability equal to 12 years of age-related decline. What could this mean for the long-term health of the estimated 40,000 police, firefighters and other workers who came to the site to assist in rescue and recovery efforts? NEWSWEEK's Jennifer Barrett spoke with the study's lead author Dr. Gisela Banuach, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What is the most significant aspect of these findings?
Dr. Gisela Banauch: I was surprised at the extent of the breathing capacity loss—12 years is a lot. Another aspect that makes it very solid from a research perspective is that we are comparing data from the same person before and after 9/11. Usually that's not possible. But the Fire Department performed periodic medical examinations before 9/11. Also, the exposure intensity response gradient is unique. We grouped people by exposure: high, moderate, and less exposed. So we can show that the same person had normal breathing function before and then it dropped [after spending time at Ground Zero] and that those with high exposure had a more intense response than those with less. That is very suggestive of causal relationship.

What about those who smoked, or had respiratory problems, before the attacks?
We considered all the factors that can influence breathing capacity like gender, race, age, height and smoking. We had to get all of this into one database then compare the before-9/11 measurement to after-9/11 measurements. We only used the year after 9/11/2001.

Have you analyzed data from the same group from 9/11/02 through the present?
I have not seen it yet, but there is more data now on the nearly five years following 9/11. We will follow up.

What do you expect to see?
With long-term measurements, what you will always see when you have a situation like this is that the sickest ones are the ones who are most likely not to show up for repeat exams because they get too sick or they die.

Did that happen in this study?
Death has not been a big factor yet. But you can get this “healthy worker effect,” where the healthiest people are those who show up for repeat exams while those who are sicker or who have died are not included. The cost of living is also high here [in New York]. So the sickest ones have retired or may retire and move away because it is too expensive to stay here. So you think that there's not too much of a problem anymore, when that is not the case. It's not necessarily because the problem went away, but because the people have gotten so sick they don't come for measurements anymore. That's not so much of a problem for the first year but it could affect the 2-5 year period after 9/11.

Do you think the health problems you noted in this study—asthma, chest pains, diminished lung capacity—will be evident, or even worse, in the follow-up study?
I think there will be some persistent problems. It'd be foolish not to think so. This is not to say that everyone who had problems initially will have problems now. But a number of workers are not getting better.

I have followed about 151 workers more closely [who were not part of this study] who were there when the towers collapsed or in the following two days. I know some who didn't want to face up to the fact that they were sick in the first year. Now they are worse; they have to take medications. Then some didn't develop a real problem on the breathing tests until one year later. One man I have followed never had any asthma and now it is horrendous. He is still feeling very sick and he's on all these medications. Others got treatment early on and are feeling better.

What other health problems have you seen emerge over the long term in the small group you've been following?
It's more anecdotal. I don't have specific numbers, but I have seen more than lower airway problems like asthma and reactive airways syndrome. I've seen upper airway problems like sinus problems, obstructive sleep apnea and reflux problems like acid indigestion and heartburn. It makes sense because people inhaled an abundance of dust and swallowed parts of what they inhaled. We've seen inflammation in the stomach and esophagus.

Are any of these problems life threatening?
The symptoms themselves, no, but the diseases even four years out, yes. I have seen those in my group that I'm monitoring. One has very bad, life-threatening asthma. I think we'll see deaths related to this in the future. Maybe not in five or 10 years, but in 20 years.

The study notes that many responders didn't have proper protective equipment. Was that because the masks weren't available or because the firefighters wrongly assumed the air was okay?
It's probably a combination of both. The fire department did not plan for this type of environment because it is really geared toward fire emergencies, not to building site emergencies and collapses. Proper equipment was not immediately available. In my personal opinion, I think that there would have been some protection from even a basic air mask. But I was down there and no one was wearing them. Their use was enforced later, but it took a couple weeks.

What can this study tell us about the tens of thousands of others exposed to the toxic plume on and after 9/11?
It's difficult to draw parallels because other residents and other workers around there were not present for such a length of time and right on the pile as these firefighters were. There's something called the threshold effect with exposure—below which you may not see any kind of change in health or sickness. We're not sure if you needed to have a certain dose accumulated before there was a health effect. Obviously, a resident who looked for a neighbor for three weeks down there [at Ground Zero] probably had exposure just as bad as a firefighter paid to work down there. But on a group basis, it's hard to draw parallels.

What should be done now?
We have to have more monitoring of those who were exposed—and do it for a long time. With chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, for example, you'd need to monitor it for a decade to start documenting deaths from it. Some of these problems can develop over decades, so the symptoms have probably emerged, but not necessarily the changes in lung function. I think there was a delay between many people getting the symptoms and realizing it was something that's not going away and could be connected to 9/11. And we have to raise awareness within the medical community about this. Some may have concluded that since the symptoms have improved, everyone is doing better. But that is not the case.


What's the real federal deficit?

What's the real federal deficit?
By Dennis Cauchon, USA TODAY

The federal government keeps two sets of books.

The set the government promotes to the public has a healthier bottom line: a $318 billion deficit in 2005.

The set the government doesn't talk about is the audited financial statement produced by the government's accountants following standard accounting rules. It reports a more ominous financial picture: a $760 billion deficit for 2005. If Social Security and Medicare were included — as the board that sets accounting rules is considering — the federal deficit would have been $3.5 trillion.

Congress has written its own accounting rules — which would be illegal for a corporation to use because they ignore important costs such as the growing expense of retirement benefits for civil servants and military personnel.

Last year, the audited statement produced by the accountants said the government ran a deficit equal to $6,700 for every American household. The number given to the public put the deficit at $2,800 per household.

A growing number of Congress members and accounting experts say it's time for Congress to start using the audited financial statement when it makes budget decisions. They say accurate accounting would force Congress to show more restraint before approving popular measures to boost spending or cut taxes.

"We're a bottom-line culture, and we've been hiding the bottom line from the American people," says Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., a former investment banker. "It's not fair to them, and it's delusional on our part."

The House of Representatives supported Cooper's proposal this year to ask the president to include the audited numbers in his budgets, but the Senate did not consider the measure.

Good accounting is crucial at a time when the government faces long-term challenges in paying benefits to tens of millions of Americans for Medicare, Social Security and government pensions, say advocates of stricter accounting rules in federal budgeting.

"Accounting matters," says Harvard University law professor Howell Jackson, who specializes in business law. "The deficit number affects how politicians act. We need a good number so politicians can have a target worth looking at."

The audited financial statement — prepared by the Treasury Department — reveals a federal government in far worse financial shape than official budget reports indicate, a USA TODAY analysis found. The government has run a deficit of $2.9 trillion since 1997, according to the audited number. The official deficit since then is just $729 billion. The difference is equal to an entire year's worth of federal spending.

Surplus or deficit?

Congress and the president are able to report a lower deficit mostly because they don't count the growing burden of future pensions and medical care for federal retirees and military personnel. These obligations are so large and are growing so fast that budget surpluses of the late 1990s actually were deficits when the costs are included.

The Clinton administration reported a surplus of $559 billion in its final four budget years. The audited numbers showed a deficit of $484 billion.

In addition, neither of these figures counts the financial deterioration in Social Security or Medicare. Including these retirement programs in the bottom line, as proposed by a board that oversees accounting methods used by the federal government, would show the government running annual deficits of trillions of dollars.

The Bush administration opposes including Social Security and Medicare in the audited deficit. Its reason: Congress can cancel or cut the retirement programs at any time, so they should not be considered a government liability for accounting purposes.

Policing the numbers

The government's record-keeping was in such disarray 15 years ago that both parties agreed drastic steps were needed. Congress and two presidents took a series of actions from 1990 to 1996 that:

•Created the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board to establish accounting rules, a role similar to what the powerful Financial Accounting Standards Board does for corporations.

•Added chief financial officers to all major government departments and agencies.

•Required annual audited financial reports of those departments and agencies.

•Ordered the Treasury Department to publish, for the first time, a comprehensive annual financial report for the federal government — an audited report like those published every year by corporations.

These laws have dramatically improved federal financial reporting. Today, 18 of 24 departments and agencies produce annual reports certified by auditors. (The others, including the Defense Department, still have record-keeping troubles so severe that auditors refuse to certify the reliability of their books, according to the government's annual report.)

The culmination of improved record-keeping is the "Financial Report of the U.S. Government," an annual report similar to a corporate annual report. (The 158-page report for 2005 is available online at

The House Budget Committee has tried to increase the prominence of the audited financial results. When the House passed its version of a budget this year, it included Cooper's proposal asking Bush to add the audited numbers to the annual budget he submits to Congress. The request died when the House and Senate couldn't agree on a budget. Cooper has reintroduced the proposal.

The Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board, established under the first President Bush in 1990 to set federal accounting rules, is considering adding Social Security and Medicare to the government's audited bottom line.

Recognizing costly programs

Adding those costs would make federal accounting similar to that used by corporations, state and local governments and large non-profit entities such as universities and charities. It would show the government recording enormous losses because the deficit would reflect the growing shortfalls in Social Security and Medicare.

The government would have reported nearly $40 trillion in losses since 1997 if the deterioration of Social Security and Medicare had been included, according to a USA TODAY analysis of the proposed accounting change. That's because generally accepted accounting principles require reporting financial burdens when they are incurred, not when they come due.

For example: If Microsoft announced today that it would add a drug benefit for its retirees, the company would be required to count the future cost of the program, in today's dollars, as a business expense. If the benefit cost $1 billion in today's dollars and retirees were expected to pay $200 million of the cost, Microsoft would be required to report a reduction in net income of $800 million.

This accounting rule is a major reason corporations have reduced and limited retirement benefits over the last 15 years.

The federal government's audited financial statement now accounts for the retirement costs of civil servants and military personnel — but not the cost of Social Security and Medicare.

The new Medicare prescription-drug benefit alone would have added $8 trillion to the government's audited deficit. That's the amount the government would need today, set aside and earning interest, to pay for the tens of trillions of dollars the benefit will cost in future years.

Standard accounting concepts say that $8 trillion should be reported as an expense. Combined with other new liabilities and operating losses, the government would have reported an $11 trillion deficit in 2004 — about the size of the nation's entire economy.

The federal government also would have had a $12.7 trillion deficit in 2000 because that was the first year that Social Security and Medicare reported broader measures of the programs' unfunded liabilities. That created a one-time expense.

The proposal to add Social Security and Medicare to the bottom line has deeply divided the federal accounting board, composed of government officials and "public" members, who are accounting experts from outside government.

The six public members support the change. "Our job is to give people a clear picture of the financial condition of the government," board Chairman David Mosso says. "Whether those numbers are good or bad and what you do about them is up to Congress and the administration."

The four government members, who represent the president, Congress and the Government Accountability Office, oppose the change. The retirement programs do "not represent a legal obligation because Congress has the authority to increase or reduce social insurance benefits at any time," wrote Clay Johnson III, then acting director of the president's Office of Management Budget, in a letter to the board in May.

Ways of accounting

Why the big difference between the official government deficit and the audited one?

The official number is based on "cash accounting," similar to the way you track what comes into your checking account and what goes out. That works fine for paying today's bills, but it's a poor way to measure a financial condition that could include credit card debt, car loans, a mortgage and an overdue electric bill.

The audited number is based on accrual accounting. This method doesn't care about your checking account. It measures income and expenses when they occur, or accrue. If you buy a velvet Elvis painting online, the cost goes on the books immediately, regardless of when the check clears or your eBay purchase arrives.

Cash accounting lets income and expenses land in different reporting periods. Accrual accounting links them. Under cash accounting, a $25,000 cash advance on a credit card to pay for a vacation makes the books look great. You are $25,000 richer! Repaying the credit card debt? No worries today. That will show up in the future.

Under accrual accounting, the $25,000 cash from your credit card is offset immediately by the $25,000 you now owe. Your bottom line hasn't changed. An accountant might even make you report a loss on the transaction because of the interest you're going to pay.

"The problem with cash accounting is that there's a tremendous opportunity for manipulation," says University of Texas accounting professor Michael Granof. "It's not just that you fool others. You end up fooling yourself, too."

Federal law requires that companies and institutions that have revenue of $1 million or more use accrual accounting. Microsoft used accrual accounting when it reported $12 billion in net income last year. The American Red Cross used accrual accounting when it reported a $445 million net gain.

Congress used cash accounting when it reported the $318 billion deficit last year.

Social Security chief actuary Stephen Goss says it would be a mistake to apply accrual accounting to Social Security and Medicare. These programs are not pensions or legally binding federal obligations, although many people view them that way, he says.

Social Security and Medicare are pay-as-you go programs and should be treated like food stamps and fighter jets, not like a Treasury bond that must be repaid in the future, he adds. "A country doesn't record a liability every time a kid is born to reflect the cost of providing that baby with a K-12 education one day," Goss says.

Tom Allen, who will become the chairman of the federal accounting board in December, says sound accounting principles require that financial statements reflect the economic value of an obligation.

"It's hard to argue that there's no economic substance to the promises made for Social Security and Medicare," he says.

Social Security and Medicare should be reflected in the bottom line because that's the most important number in any financial report, Allen says.

"The point of the number is to tell the public: Did the government's financial condition improve or deteriorate over the last year?" he says.

If you count Social Security and Medicare, the federal government's financial health got $3.5 trillion worse last year.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, a certified public accountant, says the numbers reported under accrual accounting give an accurate picture of the government's condition. "An old photographer's adage says, 'If you want a prettier picture, bring me a prettier face,' " he says.

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Ex-Bush Aide Makes Plea Deal in Thefts
Ex-Bush Aide Makes Plea Deal in Thefts
Claude Allen Might Avoid Jail, Files Show
By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Staff Writer

Former White House adviser Claude A. Allen is expected to plead guilty tomorrow to a misdemeanor theft charge after reaching a deal with Montgomery County prosecutors that probably will spare him from jail, according to court documents filed yesterday.

As part of the agreement, Allen's attorneys and Montgomery prosecutors plan to recommend to a District Court judge in Rockville that Allen be given an $850 restitution fine.

Allen, 45, was charged in March with stealing more than $500 in merchandise and conspiracy to commit theft, which are felonies. A conviction on each is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

John McLane, a spokesman for the Montgomery state's attorney's office, declined to comment last night about the agreement, which was outlined in a plea memorandum signed by both parties and entered into Allen's file yesterday afternoon.

Mallon Snyder, one of Allen's attorneys, declined to comment "until everything is resolved."

Allen was arrested after Montgomery police accused him of stealing more than $5,000 in merchandise from Target and Hecht's stores through a refund scheme. Police said this is how the scheme worked: Allen would walk into a store, pick up items and pay for them. He would later return to the store, pick up identical items and seek a refund using the receipt from the purchase.

Police said he did this at least 25 times from October to January, buying items including a Bose home theater system, clothes and merchandise worth as little as $2.50. Several of the transactions were recorded by store surveillance cameras.

Shortly after his arrest, Snyder said Allen was innocent and attributed the transactions to a "series of misunderstandings."

Allen resigned as President Bush's top domestic policy adviser in February, shortly after police issued him a criminal theft citation stemming from a Jan. 2 incident at a Gaithersburg Target. Allen, who joined the White House at the beginning of Bush's second term, said he was resigning to spend more time with his family.

He appeared in court in March on the Jan. 2 misdemeanor theft charge, where he learned that prosecutors had dismissed it because police said they had obtained enough evidence to charge him with the felonies.

Allen was taken into custody at the courthouse. He was released shortly after his arrest and has lived at home while awaiting the outcome of the case.

Before joining the White House, Allen served as a deputy secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services and was nominated in 2003 for a federal appeals court seat. He also served as secretary of Health and Human Resources in Virginia.

Staff writer Allan Lengel contributed to this report.


Former Aide Says Rep. Katherine Harris' Senate Campaign Subpoenaed by Federal Grand Jury; Ex-Aide Says Harris Hid Subpoena

ABC News
Ex-Aide Says Harris Hid Subpoena
Former Aide Says Rep. Katherine Harris' Senate Campaign Subpoenaed by Federal Grand Jury
The Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Rep. Katherine Harris' floundering Senate campaign received a grand jury subpoena from federal investigators, but she kept it from her top advisers, prompting several staff members to quit when they found out, a former aide said Wednesday.

The Justice Department is investigating Harris' dealings with Mitchell Wade, a defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing another congressman.

Harris, a Republican, has trailed Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in most polls. Fundraising has been slow, GOP leaders tried desperately to find another candidate, and core campaign staff members have quit in recent months.

Some Republican leaders have warned that Harris the former Florida secretary of state who played a key role in the 2000 recount that gave George W. Bush the White House is so hated among Democrats that she could drag down the entire GOP ticket.

In June, the Harris campaign received a legal bill for thousands of dollars that contained a reference to "DOJ subpoena," according to the aide, who spoke with The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to avoid hurting his career.

It was only then that Harris disclosed that the campaign had received the Department of Justice subpoena, the aide said.

About two weeks later, the aide and several other campaign staff quit. The disclosure was one of several factors that led to their departures, the aide said.

Harris was reached on her cell phone Wednesday by the AP, but said she had a bad connection and referred the call to her campaign office.

Campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Marks said Harris is cooperating with the investigation but is "not a target." She would not comment further.

This week, two former members of Harris' congressional and Senate campaign staffs said they had been contacted by the FBI.

The receipt of the subpoena was first reported by The Tampa Tribune, which spoke with former campaign manager Glenn Hodas. Hodas, the third person to hold the position, resigned after three months on the job, saying Harris was uncontrollable.

Wade admitted giving Harris $32,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Harris sought $10 million in federal money to help Wade's company, MZM Inc., set up a Navy counterintelligence program in her district. The request was rejected.

Harris has said that she was not aware of the illegal contributions and that she was only trying to bring high-wage jobs to her district.

In February, Wade pleaded guilty to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, in exchange for help in getting $150 million in Pentagon contracts.

Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday that Harris has had "a tough go at it."

"I feel bad. Every time there's a story about the Senate race it's about her troubles rather than about ideas that might help our country or help our state," he said. "It just seems like it's one bad news story after another."

Still, those who've worked for her say nothing will get her out of the race that even Republican leaders say she can't win.

"I honestly believe that if she's indicted, she will continue to run," said Jamie Miller, a former campaign manager. "At this point I don't know what she could be thinking."


Senate Bill Lifts Hopes of Big Oil Offshore

The New York Times
Senate Bill Lifts Hopes of Big Oil Offshore

Big oil has been pressing Congress for years to expand its rights to drill for domestic offshore oil and gas, with little to show for its efforts. But with tensions in the Middle East and gasoline prices at home rising, the industry’s fortunes on Capitol Hill may be changing.

Both houses of Congress have now passed legislation on new exploration, and though the bills differ, any final version is expected to liberalize offshore drilling for the oil companies.

There is a sense around the industry that a break may be coming from a quarter-century of federal policy that put a higher priority on environmental concerns than on opportunities to produce energy supplies offshore.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted to open for bidding 8.3 million acres of federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, thought to hold 5.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 1.3 billion barrels of crude oil. That would be enough gas to heat and cool six million homes for 15 years, and enough oil to satisfy two months’ demand in the United States.

The House passed a far more ambitious bill in June that would effectively end a federal moratorium since 1982 on offshore drilling on most of the outer continental shelf in the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Because it has been so long since exploration has been done , industry officials say it is anyone’s guess just how much oil and gas are out there, especially in deep waters 50 miles or more from the coast. But industry officials say the potential could be enormous.

As the energy companies see it, either version of the legislation would be a step in the right direction, although they prefer the broader House bill.

But with drilling still in disrepute among some senators, the companies say they will be delighted to see virtually any compromise worked out in conference and enacted after the summer recess.

“We’re making real headway, there is no question about that,” Shell’s vice president for exploration in the Americas, Annell R. Bay, said, attributing the advances in the House and the Senate in large part to a shift in popular opinion in favor of exploiting more domestic oil and gas resources.

She said that Shell would still concentrate its efforts in the gulf and the Alaska coast, but that “future opportunities off the eastern and western coasts are going to be worthwhile to look at as well.”

A spokesman for Exxon Mobil, Russ Roberts, said, “We very much appreciate that both of the houses are now taking steps, legitimate steps, to expand our nation’s access to the oil and gas resources that we have offshore of the U.S.A.”

The most important part of the Senate bill would require the Interior Department within a year to open bidding on leases in and around an area known as Lease Area 181, a section about the size of Vermont situated 125 miles south of the Florida Panhandle and 235 miles west of Tampa.

The water there is relatively shallow and close to pipelines and other infrastructure built for previous development, so it would be economically attractive to explore at a time of mounting project costs. Industry lobbyists said they expected Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips and less-known independents to make bids.

“It’s an extremely promising area,” said Bob Slaughter, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. “I would think everybody would be taking a look at this acreage.”

But there is much in the Senate bill the industry does not like. While the House version would prohibit drilling within 100 miles of the Florida gulf coast, the Senate version would prohibit drilling over a far greater area, to 125 miles off most of the state’s west coast and farther out in some places.

Moreover, the Senate measure extends a drilling moratorium to the year 2022, from 2012, in some areas off the Florida coast, a provision the oil companies strongly oppose.

“We don’t think its prudent if you’re truly worried about improving our energy security and increasing domestic supplies of oil and gas,” said Robert L. Greco III, group director for upstream and industry operations at the American Petroleum Institute. “Each bill has its strengths and weaknesses.”

The House bill would give the coastal states the power to override the current federal moratorium and decide whether they wanted drilling conducted off their coasts. State legislatures would have to explicitly vote for drilling within 50 miles of the shore. Drilling would be allowed 50 to 100 miles out, unless legislatures voted to forbid it.

Beyond 100 miles, drilling would be authorized and states would have no authority to stop it. But energy industry officials noted that they would need the cooperation of state governments for the installation of pipelines and other infrastructure.

Some states, particularly Florida and California, have long opposed offshore drilling. But the House bill offers an inducement by allowing the states to share in the revenue from offshore leases and royalties, and energy industry officials say they hope that Virginia and the Carolinas will become interested in drilling off their coasts.

According to government estimates, there are reserves of 21 trillion cubic feet of gas and 13 billion barrels of oil off the Pacific coast and 37 trillion cubic feet of gas and 3.8 billion barrels of oil off the Atlantic coast.

Those figures pale in comparison with known reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska. And industry officials say that the government estimates were obtained in an era when exploration technology was relatively primitive compared with what is available today.

“What has typically been the case,” Mr. Greco of the American Petroleum Institute said, “is the more we study an area, the more oil and gas we find. Right now, we are prohibited from even assessing those reserves.”

Still, at the end of the legislative process, it is unlikely that the Senate will accept anything close to the House version, and the oil and gas industry will probably have to accept a partial victory.

“We look forward to having those differences being ironed out in conference,” Mr. Greco said.


White House Asks Congress to Define War Crimes

The New York Times
White House Asks Congress to Define War Crimes

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 — Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales pressed Congress on Wednesday to refine the definition of war crimes prohibited under the Geneva Conventions, as the Bush administration and lawmakers continued to debate the rules for treatment and trials of terror suspects.

Administration proposals on how to bring suspects to trial had moved closer to what key senators have said they will demand, but two hearings on Capitol Hill on Wednesday foreshadowed a fight over the definition of coercive interrogation tactics.

And administration lawyers and senators continued to clash over evidence obtained through coercion or hearsay and how to deal with classified evidence.

The Supreme Court ruled in late June that terror suspects must be extended the protections outlined in a provision of the Geneva Conventions that prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, and in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

Mr. Gonzales argued that the language of the provision was too vague. And because the federal War Crimes Act passed a decade ago makes it a felony to violate that provision, he said that troops could be prosecuted for interrogation tactics considered too harsh. Congress, he said, could “help by defining our obligations” under the provision, known as Common Article Three.

Mr. Gonzales, publicly discussing the administration’s new proposal for detainee trials for the first time since the court’s ruling, said it would offer legislation that included a proposal to change the War Crimes Act, to bring “clarity” in defining which violations of Common Article Three rise to the level of war crimes.

“The surest way to achieve that clarity and certainty, in our view, is for Congress to set forth a definite and clear list of offenses serious enough to be considered war crimes,” he said.

But senators said Congress should not endorse any treatment it would not want used on American soldiers..

“We must remain a nation that is different from, and above, our enemies,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.

The differences between the administration and the Senate were most pronounced when Mr. McCain asked Mr. Gonzales whether statements obtained through “illegal and inhumane treatment” should be admissible. Mr. Gonzales paused for almost a minute before responding.

“The concern that I would have about such a prohibition is, what does it mean?” he said. “How do you define it? I think if we could all reach agreement about the definition of cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, then perhaps I could give you an answer.”

Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war, said that using illegal and inhumane interrogation tactics and allowing the evidence to be introduced would be “a radical departure” from longstanding United States policy.

The court ruled in June that the military tribunals that President Bush had established for suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, violated international law and were not authorized by federal statute.

Lawyers from the Defense and Justice Departments initially tried to persuade Congress simply to approve the tribunals. By Wednesday’s hearings, the administration had changed its position. “What we are considering now is a better product,” Mr. Gonzales said.

He said the administration proposed enacting a new code of military justice modeled on court-martial procedures.

The new proposal departs from the initial tribunals in several ways. The presiding officer would be a military judge, for example, and would rule on evidence but not participate in the final verdict. The jury would have 5 members, instead of 3, with 12 in death penalty cases. Conviction would require two-thirds of the jury to agree, and unanimity in death cases.

But the proposal also departs from court-martial procedures, in that suspects would not be entitled to Miranda warnings, or to Article 32 proceedings, which are similar to a grand jury. It would allow the introduction of hearsay evidence that the judge ruled “reliable” and would share classified evidence with the defense counsel, but not necessarily the defendant.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said it would “not serve us well” to ignore the military rules against hearsay.

But Mr. Graham supported a move to refine what kind of treatment violated the War Crimes Act, under which, he said, a slap could be a crime.


Guantanamo detainees may remain indefinitely: Gonzalez

Yahoo! News
Guantanamo detainees may remain indefinitely: Gonzalez

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the US government could "indefinitely" hold foreign 'enemy combatants' at sites like the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"We can detain any combatants for the duration of the hostilities," said Gonzales, speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"If we choose to try them, that's great. If we don't choose to try them, we can continue to hold them," he said.

Yet neither the Bush administration nor the US military wants "to remain the world's jailers indefinitely," he said.

A Supreme Court ruling last month declared that government of President George W. Bush had overstepped his authority in forming military commissions to try detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

That authority, the court said, belongs to Congress, and the Senate committee is now hearing testimony on how the Guantanamo prisoners should be dealt with.

Gonzales said he was waiting for a green light from Congress to reinstate military tribunals to try war-on-terror prisoners at Guantanamo, Cuba.

Gonzales has proposed minor modifications to rules that inmate attorneys have decried as violating the rights of their clients.

The proposed rules would allow hearsay evidence to be introduced, including evidence obtained under duress, unless a military judge considers it unreliable, Gonzales said.

To prevent terrorists from having access to confidential information, judges handling the cases must be able to temporarily exclude defendants from their own trial if deemed necessary for national security.

And if a defendant faces the death penalty, he will face a panel of 12 judges who must rule unanimously for a death sentence to be issued.

Around 450 prisoners are being held in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- some for years -- without charges being brought. Human and civil rights lawyers have brought suit on behalf of detainees, many of them picked up as suspected Al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters on Afghanistan's battlefields.

The Washington Post, quoting anonymous Bush administration officials, reported Wednesday that the White House also hopes to allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to the military court's jurisdiction.

Senators did not question Gonzales directly about this, though the attorney general gave assurances that no US citizen would face these courts.


Iran working with N.Korea on missiles

Iran working with N.Korea on missiles: Institute

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has been working closely with Iran to develop its long-range ballistic missiles, possibly using Chinese technology, and is building large bases to prepare for their deployment, a South Korean state-run think tank said.

Communist North Korea is also building new sites near the Demilitarized Zone border for short-range missiles and is deploying missiles with improved precision that can strike most of Japan, the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS) said in a report.

"The development of Taepodong-2 is conducted jointly with Iran, and it is possible China's technology is used in the development of the Taepodong-2 engine," said the IFANS report, which Reuters obtained on Thursday.

The collaboration is part of an international network, including Pakistan, that made it possible for the impoverished North to develop and deploy missiles despite scarce resources and limited testing, the study said.

North Korea fired seven missiles on July 5, including the long-range Taepodong-2, which U.S. officials said failed seconds into its flight and fell into waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula.

Christopher Hill, the top U.S. envoy to talks on the North's nuclear program, said last month one or more Iranians watched the North's missile launch, deepening concerns about the ties between two countries with troubling nuclear capabilities.

The Taepodong-2 is the product of joint efforts with Tehran, coinciding with Iran's development of the Shehab-5 and 6, and "it is highly possible that design and technology from China, which has an arms trade with Iran, were used", the report said.

The North is building a missile command base 50 km (30 miles) north of the Demilitarized Zone for as many as 30 mobile launch pads for the short-range Scud-type Hwasong missiles that can hit military and industrial targets deep in the South, IFANS said.

"With the deployment of Rodong and SSN-6 missiles and the pursuit to deploy the Taepodong-2, the North is pushing ahead with the construction of new sites and silos" on the east coast and on the border with China, the IFANS report said.


White House seeks new foreign detainee trials

White House seeks new foreign detainee trials
By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration on Wednesday said it would be willing to use much of the military justice code to try foreign terrorism suspects, but Democrats said its plan still fell short of meeting the U.S. Supreme Court's demands for fair trials.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said the administration was still drafting its plan, but that it would propose trying enemy combatants based on military court martial procedures -- although with a number of key changes.

Those include admitting hearsay evidence, limiting rights against self-incrimination before a trial, and limiting defendants' access to classified information.

Gonzales also told the Senate Armed Services Committee the administration's current thinking was to allow testimony obtained by coercion if it was reliable and useful.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's top Democrat, said those provisions would leave the new trial system vulnerable to another rebuke by the Supreme Court, which in June struck down the system of tribunals that President George W. Bush established following the September 11 attacks.

Admitting coerced testimony could allow interrogation techniques such as "water-boarding" to simulate drowning, use of intimidating military dogs and other methods that top military lawyers have said are inconsistent with the Geneva Conventions and U.S. military rules, Levin said.

Gonzales offered the administration's plan as Congress crafts a process to try terrorism suspects, who are mostly held in prison at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


The court said Bush's tribunals lacked congressional authorization and did not meet U.S. military or international justice standards.

That system would have allowed defendants to be barred from their own trials, limited their access to evidence, and allowed testimony from interrogations that critics said amounted to torture.

In a testy exchange, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who was tortured as a war prisoner in Vietnam, asked whether testimony obtained by illegal or inhumane means could be used.

After a long pause, Gonzales said that would depend on how inhumane was defined. He argued that the Geneva Convention's prohibition on "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment" was too vague and needed to be defined by Congress.

Gonzales said Congress should provide a list of offenses that would constitute crimes under the Geneva Convention's requirement for humane treatment of prisoners. He said that would clarify rules for U.S. interrogators, who would be subject to felony charges for violations.

Human rights advocates contend the White House wants to more narrowly define and weaken the humane treatment standard.

Gonzales said the administration had no intention of using the proposed military commission system to try U.S. citizens or prisoners of war.

He said the proposal calls for having at least five members on commissions instead of three in the system the court rejected, and death penalty cases would require a unanimous vote. It also would have a military appeals process, and convicted detainees could appeal to the Washington, D.C., Circuit.


US rebukes UN No. 2 for criticizing Mideast policy

US rebukes UN No. 2 for criticizing Mideast policy
By Saul Hudson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States sharply rebuked the No. 2 U.N. official on Wednesday for his repeated criticism of Washington after he said America should allow others to share the lead in solving the Lebanon crisis.

"We are seeing a troubling pattern of a high official of the U.N. who seems to be making it his business to criticize member states and, frankly, with misplaced and misguided criticisms," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

While Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown denied his comments were even critical of the United States, he had touched a nerve. McCormack's complaint deviated from the typically measured diplomatic exchanges between the State Department and the United Nations.

Senior U.N. officials normally refrain from overt public censure of member states. But the Briton known for his blunt remarks who finishes his term at the end of the year has criticized U.S. policy over the last few months.

McCormack's remarks were in response to an interview published in the Financial Times on Wednesday, in which the U.N. official also told Britain to adopt a lower profile to end fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Malloch Brown defended his remarks.

"I don't think the U.S has anything to object to in the comments," he told PBS.

"I was really in fact in the interview calling for the U.S. to reach out to France and others to make sure it was demonstrating a broad multilateral coalition and within a single news cycle of my calling for that, it was doing it," he added. "I may be prophetic but I wasn't critical."

The controversy reignited tensions between the United Nations and the Bush administration that had gradually eased since officials on both sides repeatedly clashed during the buildup to the Iraq war.

Wednesday's dispute also reflects international strains over the Lebanon crisis, where the United States has few backers other than Britain for its refusal to demand a quick cease-fire from Israel, its top Middle East ally.

In June, Malloch Brown drew U.S. ire after he accused the Bush administration of failing to stand up to domestic critics of the United Nations. In that instance, Annan resisted U.S. calls to repudiate his deputy.

(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz)


Rumsfeld, in reversal, to attend public hearing

Rumsfeld, in reversal, to attend public hearing
By Will Dunham and Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a reversal, the Pentagon on Wednesday said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will testify publicly on the Iraq war to a key Senate committee after Democrats blasted him for planning to bypass it because of a busy schedule.

Earlier in the day, Rumsfeld told reporters he would not attend a morning Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, but would have a closed briefing for all senators along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and two generals later on Thursday.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, a New York Democrat who led the charge against Rumsfeld, called his "11th hour decision to reverse course ... the right one."

She said senators and the American people "should hear directly from the top civilian leader at the Pentagon, the person most responsible for implementing the President's military policy in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Rumsfeld, known for frosty relations with some lawmakers, had denied he was reluctant to face senators in public, and suggested critics were playing politics.

Democrats, trying to regain control of Congress from Republicans in elections in November, have made Rumsfeld a prime target of criticism over the handling of the three-year-old Iraq war.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada fired off a letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee urging him to call on Rumsfeld to appear in the open hearing.

Rumsfeld has not testified publicly to the Armed Services Committee since February. Instead of Rumsfeld, Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, and Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the top U.S. military officer, were set to testify.

Virginia Republican Sen. John Warner, the committee's chairman, and the panel's top Democrat wrote Rumsfeld on July 26 "to confirm your invitation to testify" at the hearing on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Warner said on Wednesday "at no time did he refuse to come up here," adding the Senate Republican leadership preferred having Rumsfeld, Rice, Pace and Abizaid brief in private.

At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld said that "my calendar was such that to do it in the morning ... would have been difficult."

Without mentioning anyone by name, Rumsfeld added, "Let's be honest. Politics enters into these things. And maybe the person raising the question is interested in that." Clinton is a possible 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.

Democrats have used these committee hearings to savage Rumsfeld. At a 2005 hearing, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts asked Rumsfeld, "Isn't it time for you to resign?"