Saturday, September 23, 2006

U.S. Democrats wary of detainee trials compromise

U.S. Democrats wary of detainee trials compromise
By Vicki Allen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Democrats were skeptical on Friday of a deal negotiated by three hold-out Republican senators to rein in President George W. Bush's program to interrogate and try terrorism suspects.

As Bush's fellow Republicans prepared to move the agreement through Congress next week, lawmakers checked the fine print of a compromise bill that would allow aggressive CIA interrogations of foreign suspects but require that they comply with Geneva Conventions, which ensures humane treatment of prisoners of war.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the deal "a substantial improvement" over Bush's plan, but said it still had "a number of problems."

But Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, derided it for using "legal mumbo jumbo to obscure the fact that the CIA will continue to be allowed to use torture and will actually be insulated from legal liability for previous acts of torture."

Many Democrats were formulating their positions on the bill.

Bush went to Congress after the Supreme Court in June ruled that his plan for trying foreign suspects did not meet judicial standards. He has repeatedly denied charges by international critics that interrogations of suspects amount to torture.

Bush and the Senate Republicans who challenged his proposal -- John McCain of Arizona, John Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- cinched a deal on Thursday that allows aggressive CIA interrogations and would more narrowly define what is punishable as a war crime under U.S. law.

But Bush agreed to drop an effort to redefine U.S. obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

The agreement gives defendants access to classified evidence being used to convict them, although it could be in redacted or summary form. It sets stricter limits than Bush wanted on evidence obtained by coercion, requiring a judge to decide if it is reliable and in the interest of justice.


Congress is expected to consider the legislation next week to set up trials for suspects at the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S intelligence chief John Negroponte, at a conference in Oxford, England, told Reuters and the International Herald Tribune that "work is already being done amongst our prosecutors to prepare the cases for trial," but declined to give a timetable for their start.

Human rights groups disagreed on whether the bill would significantly change CIA's interrogations, which have been condemned for violating international standards.

Christopher Anders, of the American Civil Liberties Union, called it "a significant step back," although much better than Bush's proposal.

But Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First said the agreement that would criminalize "serious" acts of cruelty and would bar "waterboarding" that simulates drowning, and should bar other harsh methods such as induced hypothermia.

With the deal, Bush would outline interrogation techniques that must comply with the Geneva Conventions, and the Senate and House Intelligence committees would review those.

Levin complained that while the deal limits use of testimony obtained by coercion, "it inexplicably" allows such statements obtained before December 30, 2005.

A number of Democrats also object that the deal strips detainees' habeas corpus rights to challenge their detentions.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said excluding habeas corpus rights was unconstitutional and set a hearing on the issue for Monday.

(Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan in Oxford, England)


U.S. conservatives frustrated by Republicans

U.S. conservatives frustrated by Republicans
By John Whitesides and Ed Stoddard

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Religious conservatives voiced frustration on Friday with Republican Party leaders and their failure to push key social initiatives through the U.S. Congress and said it could hurt voter turnout in November's elections.

At a "Values Voters Summit" sponsored by leading religious conservative groups, some activists said President George W. Bush and Republican leaders showed too much pragmatism and too little concern for issues like abortion, immigration and banning gay marriage.

"There is no question people are frustrated with the Republican Party. The message it sends is: 'We don't care where you stand, we just want you to be a Republican,'" said Phil Burress, president of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values.

Burress was a leader in the state's 2004 fight for a ballot initiative banning gay marriage, credited with helping turn out conservative support for Bush. He said he was not sure religious conservatives would turn out with the same vigor in 2006.

"There is a big number who may not show up to vote," he said.

Social and religious conservatives are a crucial Republican voting bloc as the party battles to keep control of Congress in November's elections. Bolstering their turnout has been a top concern for the White House.

"In the next weeks before the election they are going to realize that if they want to mobilize the conservative social values base they are going to have to keep our issues on the agenda and not just pay lip service," said Chris Slattery, an anti-abortion activist from New York.

"There is some sense the people's priorities haven't necessarily been Washington's priorities. There is frustration," said Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, one of a handful of potential 2008 Republican White House candidates who addressed the gathering.

Also speaking at the conference were Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Virginia Sen. George Allen.

Speaking on Saturday will be Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Allen and Santorum face tough re-election fights in November.

"People who are tired of K Street corruption and Wall Street greed are ready for some old-fashioned Main Street values," Huckabee said in a reference to the corridors of political and financial power in Washington and New York.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, said Republican congressional leaders had rallied spirits with a summer agenda that featured issues like immigration, stem cell research and parental notification laws on abortion.

"It's brought back some trust and confidence in the leadership," Perkins said, although he acknowledged, "I don't think the enthusiasm is at the level it was in 2004."

Mentions of Bush and his leadership drew cheers from the crowd, but several attendees said the president could have done more for their movement.

"It would have been nice to see that bully pulpit used more ... on same-sex marriage and issues of life," said Thomas McClusky, vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council.


A $1 billion reading program that is a key part of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind education law was mismanaged and rife with conflicts

Bush reading program blasted in internal audit
By Joanne Morrison

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A $1 billion reading program that is a key part of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind education law was mismanaged and rife with conflicts of interest, according to an internal audit released on Friday.

The audit by the inspector general's office of the Reading First program -- the largest early reading program in U.S. history -- found that officials in 2002 and 2003, shortly after the program was established, improperly tried to influence states on which curricula they should use.

In addition, some officials with the power to approve certain reading materials for states had connections with the publishers, according to the report. It said the department had not properly reviewed the officials for such potential conflicts.

"The department did not identify any of these connections in its conflict of interest screening process; therefore, it would not have been in a position to deal with the potential conflict raised by these connections," the report said.

The director of this reading program at the Education Department will leave his post this month to return to the private sector, a department spokeswoman said.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has taken to improve the department's screening process and management, the spokeswoman told Reuters. It has also taken the steps recommended by the inspector general to avoid conflicts of interest.

"Some of the actions taken by Department officials and described in the Inspector General's report reflect individual mistakes," Spellings said in a statement.

"Although these events occurred before I became Secretary of Education, I am concerned about these actions and committed to addressing and resolving them," she added, vowing to put all the inspector general's recommendations in place.

The department acknowledged there had been issues with management and conflicts of interest, but said the program had been successful in improving reading skills among younger students.

Reading First has served more than 1.7 million students in kindergarten through third grade.

State educational agencies have received over $4.8 billion in Reading First grants, helping about 5,600 schools.


Friday, September 22, 2006

Ehrlich Wants Paper Ballots For Nov. Vote

Ehrlich Wants Paper Ballots For Nov. Vote
State Election Chief Says Staff Toiling to Fix Electronic Glitches
By Christian Davenport and Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writers

A week after the primary election was plagued by human error and technical glitches, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) called yesterday for the state to scrap its $106 million electronic voting apparatus and revert to a paper ballot system for the November election.

"When in doubt, go paper, go low-tech," he said.

Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, quickly denounced the plan to swap voting systems just seven weeks before the general election as "crazy." And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said it "cannot happen. It will not happen."

Ehrlich said that, if necessary, he would call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to change the law to allow paper ballots. But Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) dismissed the idea of a special session, saying elections officials should focus instead on fixing the current system.

"We paid millions. These are state-of-the-art machines," said Miller, who called Ehrlich's announcement a political ploy to energize his Republican supporters.

In Montgomery and Prince George's counties yesterday, election officials continued to count the thousands of paper provisional ballots that could determine the outcome of the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn and challenger Donna Edwards. Prince George's officials cracked opened 26 machines yesterday and retrieved votes that had not been counted.

The problems playing out in Maryland have created unease elsewhere in the nation, where more than 80 percent of voters will use electronic voting machines in the Nov. 7 election and a third of all precincts are using them for the first time.

Ehrlich's statement came after a State Board of Public Works hearing at which Lamone said her staff would "work around the clock" to correct the problems that plagued the primary. She vowed that her office would help local election boards retrain judges, recruit new ones and force Diebold Election Systems to fix the problems that caused some of its machines to malfunction.

The idea of switching systems now worried local election officials who said testing new equipment and educating election judges and voters about a new system would be a daunting -- if not impossible -- task.

"There isn't a lot of time," said Marjorie Roher, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery Board of Elections.

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Ehrlich, said the governor's top priority is to replace the electronic poll books, used to check in voters. But he said Ehrlich "is also interested in moving voters to a paper ballot for this year's general election."

"He realizes it's a tall order," Fawell said. But moving to paper ballots would "eliminate the chronic problems that electronic voting machines demonstrated [Sept. 12] with respect to crashing and susceptibility to tampering."

In the spring, Ehrlich advocated leasing optical scan machines that use paper ballots, a proposal that won unanimous support in the House of Delegates but was rejected by the Senate.

Many of the problems that marred this month's primary resulted from human error. Election judges in Baltimore failed to show up, meaning the polls opened late. In Montgomery, voting at nearly all 238 precincts was delayed because officials forgot to distribute plastic cards needed to operate voting machines.

In Prince George's, election officials struggled to transmit data electronically from polling places to a central office on election night, delaying the counting process for hours. In the days since, they have also discovered that dozens of memory cards were not counted after the election; some remained locked in voting machines for days.

Yesterday, county election officials began opening selected machines to locate the missing cards and capture the voting information contained on them.

Also yesterday, Gene Raynor, the Baltimore election director, resigned, saying Lamone and the General Assembly "have set dangerous precedents that, in my opinion, threaten the integrity of November's elections." Raynor previously sat on the State Board of Elections, where he had joined members in trying to oust Lamone two years ago.

There were also technical problems during the primary, mainly with the electronic poll books that were used in the state for the first time. They replaced the paper printouts of the voter registration rolls, allowing election judges to check in voters electronically.

Some crashed and needed to be rebooted, election judges reported. Others failed to transmit the name of a checked-in voter to the other machines in the same polling place. That meant, theoretically, that a voter could cast more than one ballot. Officials said they had no evidence of any voter fraud.

Lamone said the electronic poll books, purchased from Diebold in June and July, were tested in the days before the election. But those tests did not reveal any problems.

Mark Radke, a Diebold spokesman, said many of the poll books crashed because software created exclusively for Maryland caused the machines' memories to fill up after about 40 people had checked in to vote.

He said the company was investigating the synchronization problems.

But Ehrlich said he wasn't willing to risk the possibility that such glitches would remain for the November election, in which he is seeking a second term.

"I'm not sure we can afford another experiment," Ehrlich said after the Board of Public Works hearing. "I want to play it safe."

His position was supported in the hearing by Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins University computer scientist who worked as an elections judge during the primary and has long been critical of the touch-screen voting machines.

Gilles W. Burger, chairman of the State Board of Elections, said his panel has requested that Diebold officials appear at its meeting Tuesday.

"Their feet are going to be held to the fire," Burger said.

Maryland's election law leaves it to the State Elections Board to pick a voting system and certify its reliability and security. Mark Davis, the assistant attorney general who represents the board, said it has already performed required tests on the touch-screen machines.

"The board feels it would be catastrophic to try to do that for another system between now and the general election," he said. "It just doesn't make any sense."

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.


White House Names Names in Abramoff Scandal

ABC News
White House Names Names in Abramoff Scandal
The Associated Press

— - The Bush administration on Wednesday released records showing White House appointments landed by several figures in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Among them:

--Conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who was cleared for 97 visits to the White House complex between 2001 and 2006, including a half-dozen events with the president.

-- Republican activist Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, who had 18 appointments, including two events with Bush.

-- Former Abramoff lobbying associate Neil Volz, a former aide to Ohio Republican Rep. Bob Ney, with 18 appointments. Volz has pleaded guilty to conspiring to corrupt Ney and others with trips and other largess.

-- Former Abramoff lobbying colleague Shawn Vasell, who also had 18. Two were Bush events, likely a February bill signing and a Ford's Theatre gala, that occurred this year, when Vasell was no longer working with Abramoff.

--Abramoff business partner Michael Scanlon, a former aide to then-Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who may have had one appointment. The White House couldn't say for certain whether the name in the Secret Service log was the same person. Scanlon has pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe public officials while lobbying on behalf of Indian tribes.

--Tony Rudy, a former DeLay aide and Abramoff lobbying team member, had 13, none with Bush. Rudy has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Abramoff.

-- Former Abramoff lobbying associate Kevin Ring, a former aide to California Republican Rep. John Doolittle, who had 21, none with Bush.

--Two former Abramoff lobbying colleagues who joined Bush's administration, David Safavian and Patrick Pizzella, show up in the appointment logs often. Pizzella, an assistant secretary of labor, had 48, none with Bush. Among the many meetings for Safavian, a former Bush administration procurement official who pleaded guilty to trying to hide his dealings with Abramoff, just one was with Bush, a 2004 event that likely was an employee holiday reception.


Conservative websites claim Rove has been promising GOP insiders an 'October surprise'

Conservative websites claim Rove has been promising GOP insiders an 'October surprise'
Published: Thursday September 21, 2006

According to two conservative websites, White House political strategist Karl Rove has been promising GOP insiders that there will be an "October surprise" before the midterm elections.

"In the past week, Karl Rove has been promising Republican insiders an 'October surprise' to help win the November congressional elections," reports Ronald Kessler for Newsmax.

"President Bush's political strategist is also saying that the final two weeks before the elections will see a blitz of advertising, and the Republican National Committee is deploying an army of volunteers to key locations to help the grass-roots effort and monitor the election," the article continues. "The RNC is offering to fly in volunteers and cover their expenses."

A few weeks ago, another conservative publication, The American Spectator, reported that White House staffers had "been talking up the possibilities of an 'October Surprise' or two leading into the mid-term elections."

"They say the President feels confident he can still play a role in the election, that he intends to campaign hard for Republicans, and that on the policy front, there are a couple of issues that can be used as wedges along the way," according to a column written by "The Prowler."

Excerpts from Newsmax article:

Rove is not saying what the October surprise will be. Asked if he would elaborate and give his thinking about the coming elections, Rove told NewsMax that his take largely parallels what RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman said in a Sept. 5 NewsMax story.

As for the October Surprise, Rove said, "I'd rather let the balance [of plans for the elections] unroll on its own."


U.N. expert: Iraq torture may be worse

Yahoo! News
U.N. expert: Iraq torture may be worse
By ELIANE ENGELER, Associated Press Writer

Torture in Iraq may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein, with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the humane treatment of prisoners, the U.N. anti-torture chief said Thursday.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, made the remarks as he was presenting a report on detainee conditions at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay as well as to brief the U.N. Human Rights Council, the global body's top rights watchdog, on torture worldwide.

Reports from Iraq indicate that torture "is totally out of hand," he said. "The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it has been in the times of Saddam Hussein."

Nowak added, "That means something, because the torture methods applied under Saddam Hussein were the worst you could imagine."

Some allegations of torture were undoubtedly credible, with government forces among the perpetrators, he said, citing "very serious allegations of torture within the official Iraqi detention centers."

"You have terrorist groups, you have the military, you have police, you have these militias. There are so many people who are actually abducted, seriously tortured and finally killed," Nowak told reporters at the U.N.'s European headquarters.

"It's not just torture by the government. There are much more brutal methods of torture you'll find by private militias," he said.

A report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq's Human Rights office cited worrying evidence of torture, unlawful detentions, growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and a rise in "honor killings" of women.

Iraq's government, set up in 2006, is "currently facing a generalized breakdown of law and order which presents a serious challenge to the institutions of Iraq" such as police and security forces and the legal system, the U.N. report said, noting that torture was a major concern.

Nowak has yet to make an official visit to Iraq and said such a mission would be unfeasible as long as the security situation there remains perilous. He based his comments on interviews with people during a visit to Amman, Jordan, and other sources.

"You find these bodies with very heavy and very serious torture marks," he said. "Many of these allegations, I have no doubt that they are credible."

According to the U.N. report, the number of Iraqi civilians killed in July and August hit 6,599, a record-high that is far greater than initial estimates suggested, the U.N. report said Wednesday.

It attributed many of the deaths to rising sectarian tensions that have pushed Iraq toward civil war.


Associated Press writers Bradley S. Klapper in Geneva and Nick Wadhams at the United Nations contributed to this report.


Commerce Department loses 1,137 laptops

Yahoo! News
Commerce Department loses 1,137 laptops
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press Writer

The Commerce Department has lost 1,137 laptop computers since 2001, most of them assigned to the Census Bureau, officials said Thursday night. No personal information has been known to have been improperly used.

The number of people affected could not be determined, officials said, in what was the latest in a series of data losses at government agencies that have raised concerns about identity theft.

"All of the equipment that was lost or stolen contained protections to prevent a breach of personal information," Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez said in a statement. "The amount of missing computers is high, but fortunately, the vulnerability for data misuse is low."

The review was prompted by a request for information by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform. In addition, a media inquiry — the department would not identify the source — came via a Freedom of Information Act filing, Commerce spokesman Richard Mills said in an interview.

The Census Bureau, the main collector of information about Americans, lost 672 computers, the Commerce Department said in a statement. Of those, 246 contained some personal data.

More than 30,000 laptops were used within the department's 15 operating unit since 2001, the department said, and a total of 1,137 were stolen or missing.

Census data collected during survey periods were downloaded each day and removed from the laptops at the end of the survey periods, making impossible an estimate of how much personal information may have been on the computers, Mills said.

Fifteen handheld devices used to record survey data for testing processes in preparation for the 2010 Census also were lost, the department said. The department was in the process of contacting the 558 households with data recorded on the missing devices, although because of encryption technology, the risk of data misuse was considered low, it said.

A half-dozen other federal agencies or departments have reported data thefts and security breaches involving personal information in the last six months.

The Veterans Affairs Department suffered the biggest loss with the theft in May of a laptop and external drive containing information for 26.5 million veterans and active-duty troops. Burglars stole the equipment from the home of a Veterans Affairs employee, but the computer was later recovered and showed no signs of having been accessed for the personal data.

Other government departments reporting the loss of computers with personal information include the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services and Transportation. The Federal Trade Commission also has lost laptops with sensitive data.

Census Bureau data collectors ask Americans the most personal questions about their lives, from how much money they earn and the value of their homes to their ages and their number of children. That information is used by governments, academic researchers and businesses, among others, to discover what Americans are doing in their lives. Privacy and confidentiality are guaranteed by law.

Thousands of Census field representatives — many of them temporary, hourly employees — use laptop computers to compile survey data. The department said half the laptops containing personal information were stolen, often from employees' vehicles, and 113 were not returned.

Second only to the Census Bureau in missing laptops at the Commerce Department was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It reported 325 missing computers, three of them containing personal data.

Among those stolen was one used by a NOAA law enforcement agent and containing some case file information. In July, a laptop containing Social Security numbers and other information on 146 employees and contractors was reported stolen after a fire in a NOAA facility in Seattle, the department said.

Gutierrez said the department was taking steps to protect against further missing laptops or potential breaches of personal identity data. Among them were inventory reforms, including creating a database for all departmental property, and "raising employee accountability standards."

"This review process has clearly pointed out the flaws in the department's inventory and accountability efforts going back many years," Gutierrez said. "We are viewing this process with the spirit of actively rooting out the problems and addressing them immediately."


On the Net:

Commerce Department:


Black Republicans run racially tinged ad

Yahoo! News
Black Republicans run racially tinged ad
By KRISTEN WYATT, Associated Press Writer

A national black Republican group is running a radio advertisement accusing Democrats of starting the Ku Klux Klan and saying the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, a claim challenged by civil-rights researchers.

Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, the black Republican nominee for Maryland's open Senate seat, disavowed the ad Thursday as "insulting to Marylanders". He said his campaign asked the Washington-based National Black Republican Association to stop running it.

At an event in Baltimore, Steele said, "I don't know exactly what the intent of the ad was" but that "it's not helpful to the public discourse."

The ad does not mention Steele or his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin.

The association's president, Frances Rice, did not return calls for comment. The group, founded a year ago, promotes the GOP to black voters.

It was not immediately clear which radio stations were airing the 60-second ad or how long it had been running. The group's Web site announced the ad's release in a statement dated two weeks ago. The Washington Post reported Thursday that the ad was running on Baltimore stations.

The spot begins with one woman telling another, "Dr. King was a real man. You know he was a Republican."

Steve Klein, a senior researcher with the Atlanta-based King Center, said Thursday that King never endorsed candidates from either party.

"I think it's highly inaccurate to say he was a Republican because there's really no evidence," Klein said.

A King biographer, Taylor Branch, also said Thursday that King was nonpartisan.

In the ad, the woman goes on to say, "Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan." Her companion replies, "The Klan? White hoods and sheets?"

The KKK, never a political party, was a racist group of white men that started in the South after the Civil War, when Republicans were almost unheard of in former Confederate states. The mainstream Democratic Party never endorsed the Klan nor claimed to have founded it.

The first woman also says, "Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks."

The ad asserts that "Democrats want to keep us poor while voting only Democrat" and, "Democrats want us to accept same-sex marriages, teen abortions without a parent's consent and suing the Boy Scouts for saying 'God' in their pledge."

About the GOP, the ad says: "Republicans freed us from slavery and put our right to vote in the Constitution."

The group running the ads describes itself on its Web site as "a resource for the black community on Republican ideals." It does not say how many members it has.

Race is a prominent theme in the Maryland race for the seat held by retiring Democrat Paul Sarbanes. Steele, the first black candidate elected statewide in Maryland, faces a white Democrat in a heavily Democratic state with the highest percentage of black residents — 29 percent — of any state outside the South.


Associated Press Writer Ben Greene contributed to this report.


On the Net:

National Black Republican Association:

Hear the ad:

Steele campaign:

Cardin campaign:


Venezuela's Chavez continues anti-Bush harangue

Venezuela's Chavez continues anti-Bush harangue
By Daniel Trotta

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After branding President Bush as the devil at the United Nations, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took his anti-imperialist rhetoric to Harlem on Thursday and ridiculed the Texan as a puffed-up John Wayne wannabe.

And the crowds -- a carefully selected group of leftists and liberals -- loved it.

Chavez stunned delegates at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday by calling Bush "the devil himself" and saying he left the smell of sulfur hanging in the chamber from his appearance the previous day.

He received an ovation at the United Nations, but nothing like the raucous and upbeat receptions later Wednesday at a free university and again on Thursday at a Baptist church in the predominantly black neighborhood of Harlem.

Friendly leftist crowds soaked up his critique of the Iraq war, his interpretation of the history of U.S. military interventions and his stories about visiting Cuban President Fidel Castro, who is recovering from surgery.

They chanted pro-Chavez slogans and applauded his oil diplomacy. Chavez extended his policy of giving away heating oil or selling it at a discount to poor Americans, this time benefiting a Native American group.

"Every day I ask God, and the sooner the better, for the American people to elect a president who you can talk with, who you can work with, who you can talk with face-to-face as a brother and see each other as equals," Chavez told the Harlem Church on Thursday.

"Not this gentleman who walks like John Wayne," Chavez said, puffing out his chest and swinging his elbows back and forth. The crowd went wild, but the carefully chosen audiences reflected public opinion outside the American mainstream.

U.S. officials said Chavez's remarks did not dignify a response. Even Nancy Pelosi, a liberal member of Congress and one of Bush's fiercest political opponents, called Chavez a "thug" for likening Bush to the devil.

"Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern day Simon Bolivar but all he is an everyday thug," the House Democratic leader said at a news conference.

Simon Bolivar led the fight for independence against Spanish rule in several South American countries in the early 19th century and is a political role model for Chavez.

In his New York appearance, Chavez invoked Bolivar and his other favorite leaders and thinkers as he lectured Americans on their own history and race relations, such as slavery and the conquest of Native Americans.

The dark-skinned, mixed race leader told New Yorkers to read Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain as well as modern thinkers like Noam Chomsky and John Kenneth Galbraith, lamenting he could not meet Galbraith before he died in April at age 97.

"It's not easy talking to Americas about these topics, but it is the truth," Chavez said. "You need to understand the truth."

On Wednesday, Chavez began his speech by displaying a copy of American writer Chomsky's 2004 book "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance," and recommending it to U.N. delegates and U.S. citizens.

By Thursday, the book had risen from backlist obscurity to the No. 3 bestseller at online bookseller


U.S. threatened to bomb Pakistan after 9/11: Musharraf

U.S. threatened to bomb Pakistan after 9/11: Musharraf
By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan said that after the September 11 attacks the United States threatened to bomb his country if it did not cooperate with America's campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Musharraf, in an interview with CBS news magazine show "60 Minutes" that will air on Sunday, said the threat came from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and was given to Musharraf's intelligence director.

"The intelligence director told me that (Armitage) said, 'Be prepared to be bombed. Be prepared to go back to the Stone Age,'" Musharraf said. "I think it was a very rude remark."

Armitage was not immediately available to comment. A Bush administration official said there would be no comment on a "reported conversation between Mr. Armitage and a Pakistani official."

But the official said: "After 9/11, Pakistan made a strategic decision to join the war on terror and has since been a steadfast partner in that effort. Pakistan's commitment to this important endeavor has not wavered and our partnership has widened as a result."

Musharraf is now in Washington and is due to meet President George W. Bush in the White House on Friday.

The Pakistani leader, whose remarks were distributed to the media by CBS, said he reacted to the threat in a responsible way. "One has to think and take actions in the interest of the nation, and that's what I did," Musharraf said.

Before the Sept 11, 2001 attacks, Pakistan was one of the only countries in the world to maintain relations with the Taliban, which was harboring al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and many Pakistanis were sympathetic with the neighboring Islamic state.

But within days of the attacks Musharraf cut his government's ties to the Taliban regime and cooperated with U.S. efforts to track and capture Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces that sought refuge in Pakistan.

The official 9/11 Commission report on the attacks and their aftermath, based largely on government documents, said U.S. national security officials focused immediately on securing Pakistani cooperation as they planned a response.

Documents showed Armitage met the Pakistani ambassador and the visiting head of Pakistan's military intelligence service in Washington on September 13 and asked Pakistan to take seven steps.


They included ending logistical support for bin Laden and giving the United States blanket overflight and landing rights for military and intelligence flights.

The report did not discuss any threat the United States may have made, but it said Musharraf agreed to all seven U.S. requests the same day.

Lisa Curtis, a South Asia specialist with the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, said she did not know exactly what was said by Armitage but was skeptical he would have threatened to bomb Pakistan.

"The question of any bombing taking place, that question revolves around Afghanistan," said Curtis, who has previously worked on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.

"I would find it difficult to believe he talked about bombing Pakistan specifically because, while I don't know the exact contents of the conversation, I do know it was a pretty firm ultimatum in terms of ... choosing between the Taliban or the U.S.," she added.

With the Taliban still fighting in Afghanistan and statements by the Afghan government that Pakistan must do more to crack down on militants in its rugged border area, the issue is again a sensitive one between Islamabad and Washington.

Musharraf reacted with displeasure to comments by Bush on Wednesday that if he had firm intelligence bin Laden was in Pakistan, he would issue the order to go into that country.

"We wouldn't like to allow that. We'd like to do that ourselves," Musharraf told a news conference.


Pentagon dismisses September 11 intelligence claims

Pentagon dismisses September 11 intelligence claims
By Kristin Roberts and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's inspector general on Thursday dismissed claims that an Army intelligence unit code-named Able Danger uncovered data that could have thwarted the September 11 attacks, saying the allegations could not be substantiated.

"Able Danger team members did not identify Mohamed Atta or any other 9/11 hijacker," Acting Pentagon Inspector General Thomas Gimble wrote. "In fact, Able Danger produced no actionable intelligence information," Gimble said in the 71-page report to Defense Department officials.

The probe into claims made by former Able Danger members and their champion in Congress, Republican Rep. Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, also found unit members were not prohibited from sharing information with the FBI, as they had claimed.

Gimble's report also dismissed allegations that Defense Department officials retaliated against former Defense Intelligence Agency liaison officer Lt. Col Anthony Shaffer for his disclosures.

But the report was roundly criticized by Weldon and an attorney for Shaffer. Both disputed the findings and said the inspector general ignored testimony that backed Shaffer's statements.

"Acting in a sickening bureaucratic manner, the (inspector general) cherry picked testimony from witnesses in an effort to minimize the historical importance of the Able Danger effort," Weldon said. "I question their motives and the content of this report, and I reject the conclusions they have drawn."

Able Danger, disbanded in early 2001, was a data-mining operation that used state-of-the-art computer technology to glean information about international terrorism, specifically al Qaeda, from media reports, government data bases and other publicly available sources.


Former unit members and Weldon have held for more than a year that Able Danger discovered intelligence in 2000 on Atta and others that should have been a tip-off of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people and led to the Bush administration's war on terrorism.

Shaffer has said Pentagon lawyers prevented the team from warning the FBI. Others associated with Able Danger, including the team's former leader, Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott, have made statements similar to Shaffer's.

According to the inspector's report, investigators interviewed four witnesses who claimed to have seen a chart depicting Atta and possibly other terrorists or "cells" involved in the attacks.

But they determined the witnesses' recollections were not accurate and that testimony varied significantly.

In addition, the inspector general concluded that the destruction of Able Danger documents was appropriate and complied with regulations and the data-mining program was not shuttered prematurely.

The probe also addressed Shaffer's claims that the Defense Department retaliated against him by revoking his access to classified information and his security clearance, effectively ending his career as an intelligence officer.

The inspector general said the action was not the result of Shaffer's public statements.

"We found that the action was based on misconduct by LTC Shaffer that was substantiated during an official (Defense Intelligence Agency inspector general) investigation taken together with other security-related issues," the report said.

Shaffer's attorney rejected the report's conclusions.

"The report seems to give more weight and credence to those who have changed their stories than those who have stayed consistent," said Mark Zaid. "Tony Shaffer's been the only one throughout the entire time who has stayed consistent with what he recalls he either knew personally or was told."

The inspector general began reviewing the case of Able Danger in late 2005 after written requests from several members of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The inspector general's report follows an earlier exhaustive Pentagon search of tens of thousands of documents and electronic files related to the operation. That probe also failed to corroborate the claims.


New air pollution rules rankle health groups

New air pollution rules rankle health groups
By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government approved new air pollution standards on Thursday, promising "cleaner air to all Americans," but health and environmental groups said the revised rules are too weak to protect against lung disease and other pollution-related ailments.

Meanwhile, groups that represents U.S. electric power companies -- one key source of the particle pollution addressed by the standards -- said the new rules were too stringent.

Stephen Johnson, who heads the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, told reporters: "Today EPA is issuing the most health-protective national air quality standards in our nation's history."

The new standards will reduce premature deaths, heart attacks and hospital stays for people with heart and lung disease and bring health benefits valued at between $20 billion and $160 billion a year, Johnson said.

Daily standards for the amount of particles in the air were strengthened by nearly 50 percent, he said. Previously, U.S. law allowed 65 micrograms of soot particles per cubic meter of air; the new rules call for a limit of 35 micrograms.

That reduction was less than what was sought by a broad coalition of environmental and health organizations, and a panel of EPA's own scientific advisers.

EPA's decision to keep annual standards for soot particles at the same levels they have been since 1997 -- 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air -- drew the ire of environmentalists, who had sought to have these strengthened.


"EPA's action is truly breath-taking in ignoring the dangerous impact of particulate pollution on Americans' hearts and lungs," Dr. John Balbus, health program director of the group Environmental Defense, said in a statement.

"By ignoring medical science, EPA is fundamentally failing to protect Americans from the serious death and disease associated with particulate pollution," Balbus said.

Dozens of health groups -- including the American Medical Association, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and American Academy of Pediatrics -- had urged the agency to set tougher standards for short-term and long-term exposure to particle pollution.

Particle pollution comes from vehicle tailpipes and factory smokestacks, and can trigger asthma attacks, heart attacks and premature death from various heart and lung ailments.

Environmental opponents of the new rules said EPA's chief had ignored the recommendations of its key committee of scientific experts, but Johnson said there was no agreement on the panel as to what the level should be.

EPA's decision also rankled those representing U.S. electric utilities.

"The industry believed that the existing standards continued to meet the legal requirement for the protection of human health," said Joe Stanko, counsel to the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council.

Stanko said complying with the new standards would cost an estimated $20 billion to $60 billion a year. He said his group was considering possible legal appeal of EPA's decision.

States must meet these new standards by 2015, with a possible extension to 2020.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Evidence of Plans for US Government to Torture US Demonstrators

Huffington Post
RJ Eskow
Future Shock: Evidence of Plans to Torture US Demonstrators

Remember this story from last week? "The Air Force secretary says nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before they are used on the battlefield." It's worse than we heard ... much worse. These weapons, which cause "intolerable pain" and have been condemned by scientists as mass torture devices, may be coming soon to a demonstration near you. And there are stranger and more lethal weapons where these came from.

The Secretary, Michael Wynne, is a longtime exec at defense contractor General Dynamics - a fox now in charge of the henhouse. The weapon he was describing is "intended to cause heating and intolerable pain in less than five seconds," as described in this Australian newspaper account.

And guess which company is one of the world's leaders in military microwave technology? General Dynamics. So you can rest assured that Wynne's very knowledgeable about this technology's intended use here and abroad, both by the military and other agencies.

Microwave beam devices are just one of a number of new weapons under development that could be used against US crowds. This article in Defense Update magazine describes the variety of anti-personnel energy weapons being developed by the Department of Defense. These include the Laser Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) pictured above, which can "work like 'artificial lightning' to disable human targets" and "can be adjusted for non-lethal or lethal use."

Other weapons being developed include the "Pulsed Energy Projectile" (PEP) device which, as New Scientist explains, "delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away." New Scientist observes that "pain researchers are furious that (medical research) aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon," adding that "they fear that the technology will be used for torture."

The Wynne story came and went so quickly that radio journalist Charles Goyette from KFNX in Phoenixtried to follow up. An interview was scheduled with the Air Force Secretary's spokesman, USAF Major Aaron Burgstein, to get elaboration on the Secretary's remarks. But Burgstein cancelled at the last minute without explanation.

Burgstein's email to Goyette added that "SECAR (Wynne) is not advocating using non-lethal weapons on the American public," just that they be "fully tested first before they're employed overseas" because our enemy "uses any and all opportunities to wage a propaganda war."

Sounds benign enough. Unfortunately, it directly contradicts what Wynne actually said. "If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens," said Wynne, "then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation."

"If they are used in the US," Burgstein wrote Goyette, "it would be by the police, not the military." Burgstein equates these energy beams to tasers, perhaps unaware of the controversy surrounding a number of taser injuries and deaths.

Wynne, a major defense contractor turned Pentagon insider, tipped his hand. Pentagon planners intend to use high-tech weapons on Americans before turning them on Iraqis, either directly or by making the technology available to police and other agencies. And that's not a new story, either. ABC News reported in 2004 that there were active discussions to use sonic weaponry against demonstrators during the Republican National Convention in New York. When in "weapon" mode, the "LRAD" (long range acoustic device) "blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting."

Sounds like waterboarding, doesn't it? It too would pass the Gonzales test of not "duplicating the pain associated with major organ failure" (assuming anyone has done a study comparing the two levels of pain.) As it turned out, there were no reports of LRADs being used against demonstrators in 2004, although many citizens were illegally detained during a temporary suspension of civil liberties on the streets of New York. (The city was eventually fined for mass violations of due process.)

As for the microwave beam, New Scientist reported that when it was tested, "experimenters banned glasses and contact lenses to prevent possible eye damage to the subjects, and in the second and third tests removed any metallic objects such as coins and keys to stop hot spots being created on the skin. They also checked the volunteers' clothes for certain seams, buttons and zips which might also cause hot spots."

In other words, this beam doesn't only inflict agony on its targets. If you can't move out of the way quickly enough it can cause serious burns and potentially even fuse contact lenses onto their wearers' eyeballs.

Goyette stayed on this story long enough for me to realize that I had missed its real significance. He's understandably struck by how quickly the Secretary's remarks seem to have been forgotten. I am, too, but I think I understand. This government is dismantling the world as we know it at an unprecendented rate. The suspension of civil liberties and the codifying of torture into law are only two examples. It's becoming increasingly difficult for many people to keep up with the pace of change while its happening, either psychologically or cognitively.

These revelations about mass "torture technology," and the Secretary's remarks, need to be viewed in the context of our collective "future shock." This Administration - which illegally uses the military to spy on Quaker peace demonstrators, violates laws and the Constitution with impunity, and degrades its country through torture - is literally capable of anything.

The idea of subjecting demonstrating Americans to group torture may seem unthinkable today. Yet a few years ago we couldn't have imagined that our government woul ban public demonstrations by forcing protesters into "Free Speech Zones" behind fences, miles away from other Americans. The unimaginable has now become real. This is only the next logical step, and it could happen soon.

Welcome to the Brave New America. Be careful out there.


Senate Democrats plan probes into Iraq war

Senate Democrats plan probes into Iraq war
By Joanne Kenen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Accusing Republicans of failing to adequately monitor the conduct of the war in Iraq, Senate Democrats on Wednesday announced their own series of hearings into what they called a failed policy.

"Three years into war, the American people still don't have a clear picture of what's gone wrong in Iraq -- or how to set it right," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"We've been going backward for too long," he said.

Democrats said they had invited Republicans to attend the hearings, which will start in Washington on Monday and move across the country in October and November -- before and after the November 7 congressional elections in which control of both houses are at stake.

Reid and other top Democrats told a news conference the current Congress had conducted fewer oversight hearings than previous wartime Congresses. They said lawmakers held 152 days of hearings on the Korean War and 328 days on Vietnam.

Republicans countered that they had held dozens of hearings and briefings on Iraq and the full Senate had debated many aspects of the war.

"We all understand how important the war on terror is, especially the ongoing fighting in Iraq," said a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. "It's no surprise, however, that on the day after a national poll showed improving American attitudes toward the liberation of Iraq that the Democrat leadership would want to change the subject."

Democrats earlier this week called for Congress and the Pentagon to probe the Bush administration's rebuilding effort. They said hiring and contracting practices in Iraq recalled the government's botched response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Opinion polls show significant voter disapproval of President George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war, a trend worrying Republicans trying to keep control of the House and Senate in November.

Democrats have tried to keep a spotlight on the violence in Iraq, while Republicans have hammered Democrats for planning to "cut and run" from that country.

Also on Wednesday, White House spokesman Tony Snow denied reports the White House was losing confidence in Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

"That's absolutely false," Snow said, adding Maliki was working toward suppressing violence and creating national reconciliation. "So it is not true to say there's a lack of confidence in the prime minister. The man has been in power for barely more than a hundred days, and frankly there has been considerable progress.


Pentagon ordered to identify detainee abuse cases

Pentagon ordered to identify detainee abuse cases
By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge ordered the Pentagon on Wednesday to identify some detainees who say they were abused by U.S. military personnel at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff rejected arguments by the Defense Department that it needed to black out the names and other identifying information of detainees to protect their privacy and he ordered the redactions removed within a week.

The Associated Press filed a lawsuit last year seeking the detainees' names and transcripts of U.S. military hearings.

In response to a ruling in the case earlier this year, the Pentagon released all the names of detainees being held at the naval base and the transcripts, but blocked which names matched eight files of disciplinary actions taken against Defense Department personnel for detainee abuse.

"By redacting the names of the abused detainees, DOD (Department of Defense) has seriously interfered with the ability of the public to engage in the independent fact-finding necessary to properly evaluate the allegations of abuse," the judge said.

In the ruling, the judge noted the "considerable public interest" in learning the treatment of detainees, "whether they have been abused, and whether such abuse has been properly investigated," outweighed the privacy interest argued by the government.

"This is not like the situation of, say, a whistleblower, whose anonymity is protected to avoid retaliation," he said. "Here, the detainees' identities were fully known to both the personnel they accused and the personnel who responded to the accusations."

The allegations of abuse contained in the eight files include an attempt by a soldier to spray a detainee with a water hose, a guard inappropriately using pepper spray on a detainee, a guard striking a detainee and another guard verbally harassing a detainee and splashing a cleansing product in his face, according to the ruling.

As part of the ruling, the Pentagon must also release the names of detainees who have accused other detainees of abuse as well as identifying information in documents explaining why a detainee was released or transferred.

Heather Tasker, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, had no immediate comment on whether the government would appeal.


Florida Republican raises money for Lieberman

Florida Republican raises money for Lieberman

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Reuters) - Democrat Joe Lieberman got some help from a prominent Florida Republican on Wednesday night in his bid to win re-election to the U.S. Senate from Connecticut as an independent.

Lieberman attended a fund-raising reception hosted for him by Mel Sembler, a former finance committee chairman for the Republican National Committee.

Lieberman lost the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut on August 8 to Ned Lamont, who made Lieberman's support for the Iraq war the main issue of his campaign.

He immediately filed to run as an independent in the November 7 general election against Lamont and Republican nominee Alan Schlesinger.

In addition to his fund-raising work for the RNC, Sembler was also the U.S. ambassador to Italy during President George W. Bush's first term and the ambassador to Australia during the term of Bush's father, George H.W. Bush.

About 100 guests attended the event at Sembler's office in St. Petersburg. His company develops shopping centers in Florida and nearby states.

Guests were asked to contribute a minimum of $1,000 up to a maximum of $2,100 to Lieberman's campaign.

The reception was closed to the media.

New York Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week he would host a fund-raiser for Lieberman in New York on November 1 with former Democratic Mayor Ed Koch as one of the co-hosts.


Most voters dissatisfied with Congress: poll

Most voters dissatisfied with Congress: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With the congressional election less than two months away, an overwhelming majority of Americans expressed a negative opinion of the Republican-led Congress in a poll by The New York Times and CBS News released on Wednesday.

Only 25 percent of respondents said they approved of the way Congress was handling its job, and 77 percent -- including 65 percent of the Republicans polled -- said they did not believe current members of Congress deserved re-election.

The Times said public approval of Congress was at its lowest level since 1994 when Republicans wrested control of both the House of Representatives and Senate from Democrats for the first time in four decades.

Few could name a major piece of legislation Congress had passed and two-thirds said lawmakers had accomplished less in the past two years than in other congressional sessions, the Times said.

An overwhelming majority, 73 percent, said members of Congress were more interested in serving special interest groups than in meeting the needs of their district. Only 20 percent said they put the public first. Sixty-nine percent said lawmakers did not understand the problems faced by the public.

But the newspaper said the poll results did not indicate a sure victory for Democrats on November 7, when the party tries to pick up the six Senate seats and 15 House seats that would give it majorities in each chamber.

While 61 percent said they did not approve of the work of Congress, only 29 percent disapproved of the job being down by their own representatives, while 39 percent said their representatives deserved re-election. Forty-eight percent said it was time to elect someone new.

The poll found 50 percent of voters intended to select a Democrat in November, while 35 percent said they would support a Republican. Still, 45 percent said Republicans had a clear plan for the country, compared with 38 percent who said Democrats offered such a clear view.

President George W. Bush had an approval rating of 37 percent in the poll conducted Friday to Wednesday, no change from a poll in August. Approval of the way he handles terrorism also remained unchanged at 54 percent, and approval of the way he has handled the war in Iraq rose to 36 percent from 30 percent, the poll showed.

A USA Today/Gallup poll released on Tuesday showed Bush's approval rating had bounced up to 44 percent from 39 percent.

Strategists in both parties have said the glum mood of the public has created a desire for change and given Democrats the edge in the autumn campaigns.

Asked whether the coming election was about the president, 46 percent said it was not, while 35 percent felt it was a vote against him and 16 percent saw it as a vote for him.

The poll showed greater trust in Democrats than Republicans to tell the truth about the war in Iraq, 44 percent to 23 percent, and about terrorism, 42 percent to 28 percent.

Regardless of how they planned to vote, 54 percent of those polled expected Democrats would win more seats in November and 32 percent thought Republicans would.

About 40 House seats and a dozen Senate seats are seen as important battlegrounds with all 435 House seats and 34 of 100 Senate seats at stake in the November election.

The nationwide telephone poll of 1,131 adults, of whom 1,007 said they were registered voters, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Three-fourths of the respondents said they would "definitely vote" in the upcoming election.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Here is the beginning of my post.

New, First-of-Its Kind, University Study Reveals Malicious Code Can Be Easily Inserted into Voting Machine, Spread from One System to the Next, Resulting in Flipped Votes, and Stolen Elections…All Without a Trace Being Left Behind
Study Also Confirms that Voter Access Cards Can Be Created At Home to Defeat Security Protocols, Allowing Voters to Vote Multiple Times in a Single Election!

– Brad Friedman, EXCLUSIVE
– ( has posted a shortened version of the following report:
"Hack the vote? No problem")

A vote for George Washington could easily be converted to a vote for Benedict Arnold on an electronic voting machine and neither the voter, nor the election officials administering the election would ever know what happened. It wouldn't require a "conspiracy theory" or a "conspiracy" at all. It could be done by a single person with just a few moments of access to the voting systems.

Those new findings are detailed, and illustrated on video-tape, in a new first-of-its-kind study released today by computer scientists and security experts at Princeton University's Center for Information Technology Policy.

(The version of the video demo at the Princeton website is being hit hard, and thus, slow to download and view currently. We've got a quick flash version available here for your convenience, courtesy of David Edwards.)

The scientific study has revealed, for the first time, that a computer virus can be easily implanted on an electronic voting machine which could, in turn, result in votes flipped for opposing candidates. The virus, as well, could be written to then spread itself from one machine to the next resulting in a stolen election. The malfeasance would likely never be discovered, the scientists have said.

Though the concept of stolen votes via electronic voting systems has been widely regarded as theoretically possible by experts up until now, a top-secret four-month long hands-on study of an actual touch-screen voting system, by the scientists at Princeton, has confirmed the worst nightmares of elections officials and American voters…not to mention a voting machine company known as Diebold.

The BRAD BLOG has had exclusive access to the scientists and information being tested as the team's various hack attempts have been designed and carried out over the course of the study.

Working directly with a Diebold AccuVote TS touch-screen voting system, the computer scientists have been able to implant a nearly-undetectable virus onto a touch-screen voting system, managing to successfully alter a voter's ballot — after it's already been confirmed and cast — in order to flip the vote so that it is recorded for a candidate other than the one the voter had intended.

According to the study's team leader, Edward W. Felten, a professor at Princeton's Department of Computer Science, the report confirms – and records in a video-taped demonstration – that such a malicious virus could be easily inserted onto a Diebold touch-screen voting system by a single individual "with just one or two minutes of unsupervised access to either the voting machine or the memory card" used with the system to store ballot definitions and vote tabulations.

The virus, as programmed by the Princeton team, could then spread from one voting system to the next depending on the way the machine in use is configured, or the way in which votes are tabulated in any particular jurisdication.


"We've demonstrated that malicious code can spread like a virus from one voting machine to another," said Felten in an exclusive interview, "which means that a bad guy who can get access to a few machines — or only one — can infect one machine, which could infect another, stealing a few votes on each in order to steal an entire election."

The question of such unsupervised access to voting systems has been widely debated since access was quickly granted by an election official in Emery County, Utah to a Diebold touch-screen system last March. When the information revealed by that brief investigation [PDF] was made public just days prior to this year's primary election in Pennsylvania, elections officials were sent scrambling for last minute security mitigation procedures.

The Emery County report, arranged by election watchdog organization and carried out by computer scientist Harri Hursti and the firm Security Innovation, revealed that a "feature" built into Diebold's touch-screen system could allow a malicious individual to completely overwrite the election software, operating system and computer firmware with just a minute or two of unsupervised access to the machines – no password necessary.


What sort of danger could be caused by that access, however, has been hotly debated — and largely speculative — until the revelations of the Princeton report which detail exactly how the system might be compromised by viral computer code which could change vote tabulation, replicate itself across the entire system and hide its own tracks after the election.

After news of the Emery County study was released, dozens of scientists, including Carnegie Mellon computer scientist, professor Michael I. Shamos – an examiner of electronic voting systems for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania – described the newly discovered vulnerability as "The most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system." The discovery sent elections officials in states across the country scrambling for temporary emergency security mitigation procedures prior to upcoming primary elections.

The debate about security for the systems grew even louder when, in California's June election (and since then other states as well) those hastily enacted security procedures were largely ignored by the administrators of the election. Diebold voting machines were sent home unsupervised overnight with poll workers in the days and weeks, prior to the election by San Diego County's Registrar of Voters.

The security breaches in the so-called voting machine "sleepovers" in San Diego County led to a contest of the U.S. House Special Election held that day between Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray to replace jailed congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham in California's 50th congressional district. The legal suit, brought to contest the reported results of the election, charged that the unrestricted access to the machines by poll workers compromised the election in addition to violating both state and federal law.

David Jefferson, a lead voting systems technology advisor for the California Secretary of State and a computer scientist at Livermore National Laboratory told The PBS News Hour just after California's primary election, that "You can affect multiple machines from a single attack, that's what makes it so dangerous." He was right.

At the time, Jefferson was speaking in the wake of the Emery County investigation. Jefferson's comments were largely theoretical back then, though shared by the bulk of the country's election systems experts. The theory, however, had never actually proven and carried out on an actual machine. The Princeton study puts an end to such speculation, showing conclusively for the first time how a single malicious person could insert a virus into a single machine which could both flip votes and then be passed from machine to machine.

"We've also found how malicious code could also modify its own tracks [afterwards] and remain virtually undetectable by elections officials," says Felten. "It wouldn't be found in the standard tests performed either before or after an election."

The Princeton study is the first such extensive, independent, publicly-released investigation of the hardware, software, and firmware of a Diebold AccuVote DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) system of the type used in Maryland, Florida, Georgia and many other states. In all, such touch-screen voting systems made by Diebold, will be in use in nearly 40 states across the country this November.

The study, which also reveals a number of other troubling vulnerabilities – including the confirmation that voter access cards used on Diebold systems may be created inexpensively on a personal laptop computer, allowing a voter to vote as many times as they wish – was released this morning in full on Princeton University's website along with video demonstrations of some of the most disturbing revelations of the report.

Though all electronic voting systems currently in use in the United States employ similar secret software to count the votes in America's public elections, Diebold Inc., of North Canton, Ohio, has long been the target of election integrity advocates since its former CEO had promised in a fundraising letter to Republican supporters that he was committed "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes" to George W. Bush prior to the 2004 election.

A number of reports over the last several months on various aspects of the Diebold voting system have revealed startling vulnerabilities to hacking along with failures to record election results accurately. Those reports have sent federal, state and county elections officials scrambling to either deny the magnitude of the problem, or develop last minute security mitigation procedures prior to this November's mid-term election.

While previous reports have examined a limited set of vulnerabilities, this is the first such study – conducted under extraordinary security measures — to look at the entire system as a whole over an extended period.

"These are, by far, the most serious electronic vulnerabilities that have been published to date," explained Felten. "It's far more serious than even the very serious vulnerabilities that have been published" in previous studies and reports.


After previous studies, both Diebold officials as well as some elections officials have downplayed the significance of the type of security vulnerabilities revealed today by Princeton, claiming that normal security procedures should sufficiently ward off any such malicious attack. Though the recent examples of security breaches in the contested Busby/Bilbray race, and primary elections elsewhere this year, demonstrate that officials have little basis for such confidence.

They certainly have no scientific evidence to back up their claims that all is well.
When San Diego County Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas was asked about the security breaches in the Busby/Bilbray election and whether they might have put the election at risk, he downplayed the dangers.

Though he admitted such hacks were possible during the voting machine "sleepovers" that he allowed, he told The BRAD BLOG during an interview just after the election that he felt it "highly improbable" that anyone would do anything untoward in such a situation.

"You'd have to want to commit a felony, which knocks out most of our poll workers," Haas explained.

"I'm sure they could stick something in the system…Whether it's detectable or not, I'm pretty sure that it is. But again, you're tampering with election equipment, so it seems unlikely."

Such wishful thinking has similarly long been shared by Diebold in public statements.

Diebold spokesman, David Bear did not immediately return our call for comment, but he has, in the recent past, denied that such security concerns are notable.

"[Our critics are] throwing out a 'what if' that's premised on a basis of an evil, nefarious person breaking the law," Bear told NEWSWEEK after the march Emery County study. "For there to be a problem here," he explained to the New York Times, "you're basically assuming a premise where you have some evil and nefarious election officials who would sneak in and introduce a piece of software…I don't believe these evil elections people exist."

Unfortunately, such "evil elections people" do exist. During a radio interview I conducted with Monterey County, California Registrar of Voters Tony Anchundo prior to the November 2005 election, the 13-year election official explained, when asked which results would be official in the event that their new voting machine "paper trails" didn't match up with the machine-reported totals that, "There is obviously going to have to be some trust and faith in the elections official, or in this case, it's me."

Several months later Anchundo was charged with 43 criminal counts including charges of forgery, misapplication of funds, embezzlement, falsification of accounts and grand theft to the tune of $70,000 charged on county credit cards.

Add that misplaced "trust and faith in elections officials" to the many other cases of felony indictments for elections officials including three recently in Ohio where Cuyahoga County election workers were found to have gamed the Green and Libertarian party sponsored 2004 Presidential recount in the crucial Buckeye State.

And add to that a recent report [PDF] from the U.S. Dept. of Defense which, as Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) pointed out in a speech last month, "noted that a total of 1,213 public officials had been federally charged with corruption in 2004, that 1,020 of them had been convicted of corruption, and that 419 cases remained pending."


Electronic voting systems such as those made by Diebold and a hand-full of other private corporations now litter the electoral landscape across the nation as the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed by the U.S. Congress in 2002, kicks in in full for the first time as of this year. Major problems with the systems have been previously confirmed by independent scientists, revealing dozens of vulnerabilities and many problems and meltdowns have cropped up on the machines throughout the 2006 primary season, affecting elections in dozens of states.

Critics have charged that the systems, which are disallowed from full, independent testing and so-called "red team" hack attempts by computer security professionals at either the federal, state or county level, were rushed out by the companies in order to take advantage of the $3.8 billion in federal money made available by HAVA to encourage jurisdictions to "upgrade" their older voting systems in light of the 2000 election debacle in Florida. Ironically enough, it was a Diebold electronic system which reported some negative 16,000 votes in Volusia County, Florida on election night which then kicked off the eventual 36-day firefight surrounding the counting of the older punch-card systems in the Sunshine State back in 2000.

"We put junk out there when HAVA came out, and now they've gotten caught," explained one of the Diebold insiders who The BRAD BLOG has reported on for some time. The source — code-named "DIEB-THROAT" due to their sensitive relationship with the company – said, "They hate this, they don't want publicity. They want to run this [their election division] like their banking side. Quietly. Hoping nobody will notice."

But Americans have noticed.

Computer scientists and security experts, as well as a vocal election integrity activist community, have been reporting on, and revealing vulnerabilities in systems made by Diebold as well as ES&S, Sequoia Voting systems and Hart InterCivic for some time. The mainstream media, however, as well as the political parties — and certainly elections officials who have staked their reputations on the accuracy and security of such machines — have been slow to catch up with the extraordinarily detailed and documented threats.


Study after study has found scores, if not hundreds of vulnerabilities in such systems. The Princeton study radically ups the ante in its first-hand, explicit, before-your-very-eyes hack of one such system. Even while the issue has been largely ignored over the past several years by both the media and the political parties, many of those elections officials continue to publicly deny the concerns of scientists and activists in the face of what is now a towering mountain of evidence documenting the insecurity of these systems.

Deborah Hench, Registrar of Voters in San Joaquin County, California has gone on record denying the vulnerabilities and failures of the systems even after California conducted the largest mock-election test ever held in her own warehouse, on her own Diebold touch-screen voting systems. That test, conducted in July of 2005 found that the systems failed to operate properly nearly 30% of the time.

Later, after the California Secretary of State's office issued their own scientific study [PDF], conducted at UC Berkley and finding more than 16 new vulnerabilities, Hench was, remarkably enough, quoted telling a local San Joaquin paper; "The state tested this system seven ways to Sunday…They didn't find anything wrong."

Hench furthered the denial and public misinformation when she told the PBS News Hour that a virus hacked into a Diebold voting system by a single person simply couldn't work, because "You're going to have to break into my warehouse before we deploy. You're going to have to change 1,660 units." Neither of those requirements, we now learn, are necessary according to Princeton.

Once again, the latest study proves Hench, an election official who has succeeded in encouraging her county to allocate millions of dollars for these systems, is entirely wrong.

On the other hand, there are some elections officials, such as Leon County, Florida's Ion Sancho and Yolo County, California's Freddie Oakley who have been far more honest in their public comments.

Sancho, who was forced by the state of Florida to use Diebold voting machines even after he allowed computer hackers the opportunity to test – successfully – their theoretical hack, which flipped a mock election on an optical scan paper ballot system manufactured by Diebold told an election integrity gathering last May that the public should "Trust no one," when it comes to our electoral system. "If it can't be verified, it can't be used," he told the enthusiastic crowd.

Oakley was even more to the point in an email sent to The BRAD BLOG as the "sleepover" controversy erupted after the June elections in California: "If, as a practical matter," she wrote about the Diebold electronic voting machines used in the election, they "can't be secured, then perhaps they ought not be used at all. Period."

In the meantime, there is also a notable lack of computer scientists or security experts who are willing to declare the current systems being used across the nation are a secure way to carry out our precious democracy. In two-plus years that The BRAD BLOG has been reporting on these issues, we've yet to come across a single one who is willing to declare these systems are secure and ready for prime time voting.

The Diebold voting system obtained by Princeton for use in their investigation was obtained in cooperation with the election integrity umbrella group As explained in their report, the machine was "obtained from a private party." The details of that acquisition, however, reveal even more damning information about the way in which Diebold rushed these systems to market. A full report on that background, including exclusive insider details obtained by The BRAD BLOG, will be forthcoming in the near future.

While virtually all of the systems manufactured by all of the major American voting machine companies currently set for use this November have been found to be vulnerable to hacking, tampering, inaccuracy and error, various elements of the Diebold voting systems have found their way into more independent hands-on investigations than any of the other companies' systems to date. As access is gained by private individuals to machines made by the other manufacturers, more vulnerabilities on those systems as well are likely to be revealed. A recent landmark report issued by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice detailed some 120 threats to e-voting security across all such systems. So the worst is likely still ahead.

But for now, Diebold once again finds itself in the cross-hairs of election integrity advocates and computer scientists.

Said Johns Hopkins computer scientist and elections-security expert, Aviel Rubin recently – one of the original voices to declare the dangers of Diebold's systems after he analyzed source code from their voting machines which was left, by the company, unsecured on a public Internet site — "If Diebold had set out to build a system as insecure as they possibly could, this would be it."


The Let America Vote Act: Call on Congress to Pass 'Emergency Paper Ballot Legislation' Now

Huffington Post
The Let America Vote Act: Call on Congress to Pass 'Emergency Paper Ballot Legislation' Now
Brad Friedman

Given this year's primary election meltdowns and train wrecks that we've been reporting since March 7th of this year, in which electronic voting machines have failed to start up and thousands of American voters have been turned away from the polls when they came to vote, but couldn't...

Given the fact that one such meltdown occurred last Tuesday in Maryland, where many of the DC media and politicos live...

Given VelvetRevolution's new Princeton Diebold Virus Hack report demonstrating conclusively that electronic voting machines may be hacked in a minute's time resulting in flipped elections without a trace left behind...

Giving that American democracy and the right to vote in that democracy ought to be a beacon to the world...

It is NOW time for Emergency Paper Ballot Legislation to be brought and passed immediately by both houses of the U.S. Congress, in order to at least mitigate the coming train wreck this November 7th.

Call it the Let America Vote Act (LAVA) of 2006...Let democracy flow!

The legislation can, and should be, as short as a single paragraph so that it can be read and passed quickly by every U.S. Congress member. It can apply only to this November's general election, if that is needed to get it passed and signed quickly.

It should read something like this...


Emergency paper ballots shall be made available at every voting jurisdiction in the United States during the November 7th, 2006 General Election. These paper ballots shall be available in sufficient numbers for optional use by voters who prefer to use them, and by all voters in the event of voting machine failure or unavailability. These paper ballots are not to be provisional ballots, but regular paper ballots that shall be counted immediately upon the close of polls on election night along with all other votes cast by properly registered voters.

Note: At this point, I don't give a damn how the Emergency Paper Ballots will be counted; by hand, by optical scanner, whatever. So long as voters are not disenfranchised by the millions -- as thousands have already been so far in this year's primary elections across the country -- by showing up to the polling place only to be told they can't vote at all, or by being told they must vote provisionally (provisional ballots are not counted on election night, and frequently not at all) because the new voting machines are broken or otherwise unavailable.

States such as Texas, Arkansas and other have already had to do this this year when Secretaries of State put out emergency notices to Elections Administrators to create such Emergency Paper Ballots after the voting machine companies failed to provide programmed ballots or working machines.

All states are already required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to have such paper ballots available at every polling place as Provisional Ballots, so those can be copied NOW if need be for use as Emergency Paper Ballots (which is better than the scraps of paper some counties reportedly have tried to use in emergency situations so far this year!)

BOTTOM LINE: With the passage of this Emergency Legislation, at least properly registered American citizens will be able to vote on Election Day if they choose to!

Feel free to call it the "Hail Mary Emergency Election Protection Act" if you want. I don't much care, so long as it's passed by Congress in time to ensure that voters can actually vote this November!

I've spoken with a number of people on the Hill and within the Election Integrity movement...scientists, activists, politicians, in DC and around the country, and they have all been in favor of this legislation and have pledged their support.

I am attemping to find sponsorship for this bill in Congress, and I'm calling on all Election Integrity organizations and concerned citizens who may have better connections than I to help find such Congressional sponsorship immediately.

I am calling on these same people to then call on Congress to pass this legislation immediately!

I am hoping to have an official version/wording of the bill posted shortly. It will, of course, be available as a new item here at The BRAD BLOG no later than tomorrow. It will spell out, in official "bill-like" language, precisely what I've posted above.

Democracy is at stake. After at least two years of reporting in exhaustive details on these matters here, and at this late stage of the game, I believe the above "reform" is, unfortunately, the most we can likely hope for in time to have any real impact in mitigating a full-on train wreck during this November's crucial excercise of the rite of democracy.

Please forward this item to everybody you know, cross-post it or link to it as you see fit (this is the URL: please contact your Congress person and ask them to support and/or sponsor this initiative today!

Originally posted at The BRAD BLOG


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Attorney General Gonzales Defends Interrogation Methods, Says Geneva Conventions Too Vague

ABC News
Gonzales Defends Interrogation Methods
Attorney General Gonzales Defends Interrogation Methods, Says Geneva Conventions Too Vague
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The White House told lawmakers it would send Congress a revised proposal late Monday for dealing with terrorism suspects as the number of GOP senators publicly opposing President Bush's initial plan continued to grow.

A Republican-led Senate committee last week defied Bush and approved terror-detainee legislation that Bush vowed to block. Sen. John Warner, normally a Bush supporter, pushed the measure through his Senate Armed Services Committee by a 15-9 vote.

John Ullyot, a spokesman for Warner, said the Virginia senator expected to receive another draft of the legislation. No details were immediately available.

The White House was adamant last week that the Senate proposal would end the CIA program to interrogate terrorists. Top officials spoke with reporters and senators in a bid to shore up support for Bush's legislation instead.

Whether Bush would have enough votes to win on the Senate floor remained unclear. On Monday, Warner appeared to have the majority of support in the Senate, with at least 52 votes in their favor if Democrats backed them as expected.

GOP Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Olympia Snowe of Maine said they favor Warner's bill, joining Warner and three others who voted for it during the committee meeting last week.

There are 44 Democratic senators plus a Democratic-leaning independent, Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont.


Holocaust survivor siblings reunite 65 years later

Holocaust survivor siblings reunite 65 years later
By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - "This is my sister, my darling baby sister," said Simon Glasberg through tears as he hugged Hilda Shlick, 75, who he had not seen for 65 years since their family split up in a bid to flee the Nazi Holocaust.

The two were hosted on Monday by Israel's Yad Vashem, a national memorial in Jerusalem to the six million Jews slain in World War II, just days after Glasberg, 81, flew in from Canada to meet a sister he was sure had died during the war.

Shlick's Israeli grandchildren had tracked Glasberg down through the Internet, after coming across their grandmother's name in Yad Vashem's database of Holocaust victims in mid-June.

Besides finding each other, brother and sister were also surprised to learn as a result that two other brothers and a sister survived the Holocaust, more than each had thought, though one sister and a niece had apparently perished.

"My sister, I've waited 65 years for this kiss," Glasberg, a retired furrier said, meeting Shlick, a former hairdresser, at Yad Vashem's Hall of Names, whose walls are lined with black files listing the details of millions of Holocaust victims.

"I am very happy to see you," the delicate-framed Shlick said, her words translated from Russian by a grandson.

While it is rare for sibling survivors to take so long to find each other, many Holocaust survivors take years to locate relatives scattered around the globe since fleeing Nazi Europe.

Many couldn't even begin to search for relatives until the Soviet bloc began to crumble in 1989.

The Glasbergs split up in 1941 when the Nazis invaded their native Romania. Shlick fled their hometown Chernowitz with an older sister to the Soviet Union and changed her name. Later she married and became Hilda Shlick.


Shlick later moved with a sister to Estonia, then a part of the Soviet Union, and in 1998, to Israel. The sister, Bertha, died after the war.

Glasberg remained in Romania during the war with three brothers and their parents. All survived a Nazi camp.

They moved to Canada after a brief stay in Israel where Simon Glasberg and a brother fought in the 1948 Independence War. Glasberg never knew what happened to any of his sisters, and Shlick feared all her brothers and parents had perished.

That was until last June, when her grandson, David Shlick, looked at the Yad Vashem database put online two years ago, and found her name -- listed erroneously as a war victim.

It took him some weeks to track down the uncle in Canada who had made that entry. The uncle had since died. But two of his brothers, including Glasberg, were still alive, Shlick discovered, and his grandmother hadn't been aware.

Plans for a reunion were partly delayed by Israel's month-long war with Hizbollah guerrillas in Lebanon that ended on August 14. One brother was too ill to make the trip, but Glasberg finally arrived last Friday.

Their first meeting was in private. "I couldn't even talk, after 65 years, what could I say?" Glasberg said.

For Shlick, the reunion contained two surprises, since she also learned through him that their parents had survived the war and lived into their 90s, but died about two decades ago.

Now she dreams of visiting their gravesites in Montreal.

"This is a very unique and exciting moment," Avner Shalev, the chairman of Yad Vashem said, welcoming the reunited siblings. "A grandson has searched the Web and linked up two parts of a family that didn't know each other still existed."


Carter says Bush backs torture, shrinks U.S. influence

Carter says Bush backs torture, shrinks U.S. influence
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said on Monday the Bush administration had eroded America's global influence with its conduct in Iraq and by condoning the torture of terrorism suspects.

"They have redefined torture to make it convenient for them," Carter said of the Bush administration in an interview with Reuters.

"Things that are unanimously almost or globally assumed to be torture, they claim that this is not torture. I don't think there is any doubt that is what they are doing," said Carter, a Democrat who was president from 1977 to 1981.

He has since been a leading voice on global human rights issues and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Carter, 81, said he was "filled with admiration" for Republican Sens. John McCain and John Warner and former Secretary of State Colin Powell for their effort last week to block President George W. Bush's policies on the treatment of suspected terrorists. The White House and senators are continuing talks in search of a compromise.

"We've lost the support and trust and confidence and admiration that we've had for generations," Carter said, adding the administration "has stonewalled so they can continue to perpetrate this illegal punishment."

"They have obviously subverted facts, that has been proven, and subversion of the law is now becoming more and more apparent," he said, referring to the administration's repeated appeals of court rulings concerning the treatment and legal rights of prisoners at the Guantanamo prison in Cuba.


Carter, who has called treatment of detainees at Guantanamo an embarrassment and disgrace, said Americans were less safe since September 11 because Bush mishandled the Iraq war and failed to promote peace efforts between Israel and Palestinians.

Those two factors, he said, "combined to stir up additional animosity and threats of violence not only against us but against allies like Great Britain."

Carter, who is serving as the honorary chairman of Democrats Abroad, said in the telephone interview from his home in Plains, Georgia, that he would encourage Democrats overseas to vote in November, when the party must pick up six Senate seats and 15 House seats to reclaim majorities.

Republicans rejected Carter's criticism and said Bush would not change course.

"While Jimmy Carter is committed to attacking this administration's efforts to keep us safe, President Bush remains committed to waging an aggressive battle with those whose stated goal is to harm Americans," said Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

Carter criticized Bush's approach to foreign diplomacy as the president headed to the United Nations for a general session expected to highlight by international skepticism over U.S. policies toward Iran and Iraq.

The White House has ruled out a meeting between Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will also address the General Assembly, and says there will be no lower-level contacts with the Iranian delegation.

"Our government now has a strange and unprecedented and pervasive policy of not speaking to anybody who doesn't agree with us in advance on controversial issues. So we close the door, we go into a closet and pout," Carter said.

"So we don't talk to Iran, we don't talk to Syria, we don't talk to the Palestinian government, we don't talk to North Korea, we don't talk to any leaders around the world who disagree with us and this is where the problems arise," he said.