Saturday, September 30, 2006


Huffington Post
Davis Sweet

(Editors note: this article contains explicit language)

Now that the United States, or whatever the new incarnation will be called, has torched its inconvenient constitution specifically to please Osama bin Spookymonster, it'll probably need a new one. Just for looks, since we know constitutions are about as vital to a nation as celebrity memoirs.

The original constitution, the always-buggy 1.0 version, was based on a couple radical ideas: that this country is not a monarchy; that people have freedoms beyond the reach of the government; that if the government gets up your ass (figuratively or otherwise), you'll get a fair chance at justice.

Good stuff. But the framers may as well have made the whole thing one of those "You might be a redneck" chainmails, since as soon as it showed up on Bush's desktop, he giggled himself into fits of involuntary urination and then deleted it.

The constitution's system of laws (R.I.P.) was based on proof. Evidence. Magna Carta stuff like the requirement that the government demostrate, not just assert, "Her blood is in the flippin' Bronco, Your Honor!" (That's in there, but in Olde English. "Har blud bee narf veeking Broncoe, Yore Honour!" I was surprised too.) Rumors, suspicions, and fantasies might take the place of evidence for kings and despots, but not this new nation of the brave and civilized. Inspiring, really. Ideals so strong you could build a superpower on 'em, with bold citizens and non-citizens willing to die to make sure that core document stood for something.

Until it got too weird for Sleepy Bush, that is. "Proof?!" he whined. "Like those millions of scientific studies by la-di-dah eggheads with their thermometers and compasses and spatulas that show all kinds of evidence and crap, like that oh-so-convenient theory about the moon goin' 'round the... or is it earth goin' 'round the... where's my soft pillow Pilly?" Again thanks to one way-too-churchy psychopathic spoiled brat caveman (not Bush in this case; Osama), evidence is now actually beneath fantasy and suspicion in the American book of "Why We Get To Lock You in a Cage and Do Horrible Things To You, Nyah."

So let's recap. No mo constitutio. What do we put in its place?

I humbly suggest an honest document, just to quash the howling hypocrisy. Now that Bush has all the privileges of a monarch, put it right there in the title. "constitution 2.0: The constitution of King George." Since we've totally rejected any kind of morality, civilization, and even physical reality, go ahead and make that the text. "His Majestic Codpiece gets to do whatever he likes, even if it's retarded or impossible, end of conversation, zzzip!" There's something appealing about a one-line constitution, like Burger King has. "Have it your way." In this case, "Have it George's way." Put that on the money in place of those creepy cyclops pyramids and way-too-spread eagles.

When our foreign cousins ask, "What does your country stand for?" we'll no longer have to say, "Well... technically we have laws, and a citizen president, and all kinds of things you could see yourself charging onto Omaha Beach to protect, but in practice it's pretty much North Korea with food." We'll be able to say, "Read the money, Czech Republic-y!"

Of course, we could just introduce the old constitution as a replacement for the heavily stained and redacted version Bush and his co-conspirators have left us with. Like in 1995, when Newt and his knee-breakers took over Congress, Congressman and relatively brave soul Mel Watt introduced the entire text of the Fourth Amendment as a bill. The fourth pillar in the flippin' Bill of Rights was presented to the flag-humpin' Republicans for their approval and... thanks for playin', you old bit of yellowing paper, we have some lovely parting gifts for you. What do you think this crowd of the loudly cowed would do if they got to vote on the entire, no-asterisks-needed big-C Constitution? Well, we know now, don't we? They'd let urine sprinkle on it through an air vent, "accidentally" flush it down a toilet, and treat it with the same contempt they display whenever anything stands between them and a sadomasochistic orgy.

Not that there was ever a risk that someone would cock-block the horny-for-torture majority, of course, because that would require people in government with working cojones. Senators who would say, "You know that oath I took to protect this centuries-old scribble that made my country the light of the world? Maybe I should honor that oath, even if it means I'll get one less lobbying gig after I leave office."

As we approach Electionlet 2006, with hundreds of millions of dollars in teevee ads telling us why one bozo will be able to suck up more government money for the local economy than the other bozo, a lot of us have been thinking, "This time, if we get some more Democratic bozos in there, maybe we can restore some balance and sense to this intentionally messy system." But this week's constitution evisceration party -- with about a quarter of ostensible Democrats tripping over themselves to get in their stabs -- means that there's zero point in voting. Neither the Congress nor the Supreme Court they confirm has any impact on how this place is run. Both houses could go 110% Democratic, and America would still suffer under one-ruler rule. The three-branch government laid out by the so-cute-you-just-want-to-pinch-their-naïve-little-oojie-boojie-cheeks founders has collapsed, under the weight of Bush's monumental weakness, into one big finger.

Come to think of it, that single finger is probably a pretty accurate replacement for the constitution. C2: Fuck you.

See also Tony Hendra's newly accurate Bill of Rights. Somewhat wordier than the single-finger constitution, but the spirit's still there.


New Slogan: Clinton Tried; Bush Lied

Huffington Post
Joshuah Bearman
New Slogan: Clinton Tried; Bush Lied

Let's play another round of Condi: Liar or Stupid or Both?

Here's Rice on Hannity still trying to tar Clinton for Bush's mistakes: "What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years...The notion that somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false."

Well, the 9/11 Commission Report says otherwise. Now, I'm not one to give Clinton a free pass. He had his weaknesses. Although I think all rational people can agree that philandering is preferable to a destabilizing war under false pretenses and violating the basic tradition of due process and rule of law by selectively suspending habeas corpus. I'm not sure Clinton was as dedicated to fighting Bin Laden as was necessary in retrospect. But hey -- those are the breaks when you're being hounded by the high horsemen of the moral apocalypse. When Clinton bombed Bin Laden's camps, he was accused of wagging the dog. He probably was, to some extent. But at least he did something. Unlike Bush, who never had a passport before becoming President and leaves details to incompetent (but loyal!) subordinates, Clinton was actually interested in the nitty gritty of solving problems around the world. He engaged the terrorist threat rather than pretending to clear woods on his ranch for photo-ops during a month-long vacation.

Remember, that's where Bush was on August 6, 2001, when received the President's Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S." According to the 9/11 Commission Report, here's how the Bush administration reacted:

"[President Bush] did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the Attorney General or whether Rice had done so." [p. 260]


"We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. DCI Tenet visited President Bush in Crawford, Texas, on August 17 and participated in the PDB briefings of the President between August 31 (after the President had returned to Washington) and September 10. But Tenet does not recall any discussions with the President of the domestic threat during this period." [p. 262]

Now here how Clinton responded when he received a President's Daily Brief in December 1998 entitled "Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks," according to the 9/11 Commission report:

"The same day, [Counterterrorism Czar Richard] Clarke convened a meeting of his CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] to discuss both the hijacking concern and the antiaircraft missile threat. To address the hijacking warning, the group agreed that New York airports should go to maximum security starting that weekend. They agreed to boost security at other East coast airports. The CIA agreed to distribute versions of the report to the FBI and FAA to pass to the New York Police Department and the airlines. The FAA issued a security directive on December 8, with specific requirements for more intensive air carrier screening of passengers and more oversight of the screening process, at all three New York area airports." [pg. 128-30]

How about a new slogan? Maybe:



Bush chief of staff urged Rumsfeld be fired: book

Bush chief of staff urged Rumsfeld be fired: book
By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's former chief of staff tried twice to persuade Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld but failed, according to a new book by investigative reporter Bob Woodward.

The book describes a White House divided by infighting over how to handle the unexpectedly tough Iraqi insurgency. It claims Bush resisted demands to increase the number of U.S. troops and is misleading Americans about the level of violence in Iraq, according to news accounts of "State of Denial."

Woodward wrote that White House chief of staff Andrew Card urged Bush to replace Rumsfeld with former Secretary of State James Baker following the 2004 election, The Washington Post reported on its Web site.

Bush decided not to do so after Vice President Dick Cheney and political adviser Karl Rove convinced him it would be seen as an expression of doubt about the direction of the war and expose him to criticism, according to the book.

Card, with the backing of first lady Laura Bush, tried a second time to persuade Bush to fire Rumsfeld around Thanksgiving 2005, the book says. But the president again refused to act.

But Card, in a telephone interview, denied pushing for Rumsfeld's resignation. He said he kept a list of potential Cabinet and staff changes for Bush to consider after the 2004 election as he did after other important dates.

"To say that it was a campaign or an orchestrated effort would be wrong," he said.

"But were there times that we talked about potential changes in the Cabinet? Yes. Did they center around Rumsfeld? Not necessarily. They were in a broader context."

The book raises many questions about the administration's handling of the Iraq war less than six weeks before November 7 congressional elections that Democrats hope will be a referendum on the unpopular war.

White House press secretary Tony Snow, besieged by questions about it at his daily briefing, said the book was similar to others critical of the war effort and that much of it was less than meets the eye.

"In a lot of ways, the books are like cotton candy. They kind of melt on contact," he said.

But Snow did not deny the account of Card's actions, saying he had not talked to either Card or the president about it. But he said Mrs. Bush had denied pushing for Rumsfeld's scalp.


A group of top Senate Democrats promptly renewed calls for Rumsfeld's resignation.

"We believe, many of us, that he has to go and we are going to be renewing our efforts in a number of ways to urge the president to find a new secretary of defense," Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said on Capitol Hill.

Snow could neither confirm nor deny a Woodward claim that there was an attack every 15 minutes against U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, saying Woodward was referring to a report that remains classified.

Woodward reported that both Bush and Rumsfeld had resisted recommendations to increase troop levels in Iraq, which Snow said was not new. "Quite often in a book like this, you're going to see people who are on the losing side of arguments being especially outspoken about their opinions that nobody listened to them," he said.

"As a matter of fact, the average Washington memoir ought to be subtitled, 'If Only They'd Listened to Me,'" he said.

The book, written by the Post assistant managing editor well known for his role in forcing President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974 in the Watergate scandal, was tougher than the two others he has written about the Bush White House since the September 11 attacks. It is scheduled for release next week.

Some in the administration felt Woodward was trying to get his reputation back after he was accused of being too soft in his earlier works.

While the earlier books were criticized by some as painting Bush as a hero, the current work portrays senior administration officials as unable to face the consequences of their Iraq policy, the Post reported.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Caren Bohan)


US and UK must end "megaphone" diplomacy on Darfur

US and UK must end "megaphone" diplomacy on Darfur
By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and the United States must stop making threats over the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region because the Khartoum government knows they cannot back them up with action, a top U.N. official said on Friday.

Mark Malloch Brown, Britain's outgoing U.N. deputy secretary-general, told the Independent newspaper that London and Washington needed to tone down the rhetoric and build an international consensus.

"The megaphone diplomacy coming out of Washington and London: 'you damn well are going to let the U.N. deploy and if you don't beware the consequences' isn't plausible," Malloch Brown said in an interview published on Friday.

"So Tony Blair and George Bush need to get beyond this posturing and grandstanding," he said.

In response, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Malloch Brown should apologize to Bush and Blair, the British prime minister.

"These remarks bring discredit on the United Nations and are a stain on its reputation," Bolton told reporters in New York. "We are proud that we have called the attention of the international community to the tragedy in Darfur."

"To have Mr. Malloch Brown attack those efforts" gives a terrible signal to the government in Khartoum, he said.

Fighting among militias, government forces and rebel groups has ravaged the vast region for three years, resulting in the killing of an estimated 200,000 people and the displacement of 2.5 million others.

The Sudanese government, accused of supporting the militias, has refused to allow the United Nations to send in a 22,000-strong force to replace the African Union and has accused it of attempting to recolonize the country.

"The Sudanese know we don't have troops to go in against a hostile Khartoum government; if Sudan opposes us there's no peace to keep anyway; you're in there to fight a war," he added. "It's just not a credible threat," Malloch Brown said.

The African Union mandate in Darfur had been set to expire at the end of September but the AU mission has now been extended by three months with additional logistical and material support from the United Nations and a funding commitment from the Arab League.


Britain, which has called repeatedly for action to resolve the Darfur crisis, has also called for a concerted political effort to turn a shaky peace agreement signed by one rebel faction and the government in May into practice.

Malloch Brown said the veiled threats left the Sudanese government free to portray itself as the "victims of the next crusade after Iraq and Afghanistan."

What was needed instead was a carrot-and-stick package, backed by an international consensus, of incentives and sanctions that could be clearly understood by Khartoum.

He said Khartoum wanted normalized relations with Britain and the United States, the ability to use its new oil wealth, a supportive U.N. deployment and protection from the International Criminal Court.

"But in the other pocket there needs to be sanctions. And those pluses and minuses need to be echoed not just by a group of Western leaders but by a much broader cross-section of countries that Sudan respects and trusts," he said.

He noted efforts to bring China, a major oil client of Sudan, into the international coalition to bring pressure to bear on Khartoum.

Malloch Brown also urged the West to fill the $300 million shortfall in aid to the starving millions in Darfur.

(Additional reporting by Evelyn Leopold at the United Nations)


Senate rejects mining safety nominee again

Senate rejects mining safety nominee again

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - For the second time in two months, the U.S. Senate rejected President George W. Bush's nominee to head the federal mine safety agency, former energy executive Richard Stickler, West Virginia Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd said on Friday.

"The fact that the nomination has twice failed to receive Senate confirmation reflects a strong lack of confidence in the president's choice for this critical position. By continuing to insist on a nominee with a weak safety record, the White House is playing political games with mine safety," Byrd said in a statement.

Byrd originally put a hold on Stickler's nomination for three months. When Congress adjourned for its August recess, the nomination was automatically rejected.

Bush then renominated Stickler at the beginning of September. Once again, the nomination will be sent back to Bush when Congress ends its current session this week.

Bush can nominate Stickler yet again or choose a new candidate. He can also appoint someone to the post while Congress is in recess, a choice he made when appointed John Bolton the ambassador to the United Nations.

A spokeswoman from Byrd's office said that under Senate rules, the Senate could also meet during its break in a special session to appoint him, but that was unlikely.

Stickler, who currently has a six-month contract to work as an adviser to the Department of Labor, which oversees the Mine Safety and Health Agency, oversaw Pennsylvania's mine safety for six years. He also worked for Massey Energy and the former Bethlehem Steel.

The position has been vacant for about two years, with David Dye acting as MSHA's temporary head.


Internet gambling ban added to U.S. port security bill

Internet gambling ban added to U.S. port security bill
By Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress was pushing on Friday to finish legislation that would boost security at U.S. ports, but at the last minute lawmakers added provisions to prohibit Internet gambling.

Rushing to finish their work by the weekend to go home and campaign for elections in which control of Congress is at stake, lawmakers were linking up unrelated measures in an effort to get them approved.

The House passed an Internet gambling ban earlier this summer, but the bill had difficulty moving in the Senate. However it was a priority of Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, and attaching it to the popular port security bill appeared aimed at insuring its passage.

Votes were expected by midnight Friday in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Port security advanced as an issue in Congress this year after an outcry over the Bush administration's decision to allow an Arab company, Dubai Ports World, to buy major U.S. port assets.

House and Senate negotiators agreed late on Thursday on the outlines of the port security legislation. It would authorize $3.4 billion over five years for actions such as installing radiation detectors at the largest U.S. ports.

There were attempts on Friday to add other unrelated amendments, but apart from the Internet gambling provisions, the others were rejected, a top House leadership aide said.

Those rejected included an attempt to shield telephone companies from liability for privacy violations if they supply the U.S. government with access to customer records. This idea came from Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens, Republican sources said.

"Our bill is slimming down and I'm very pleased with the port security portions," said Rep. Dan Lungren, a California Republican and one of the key negotiators on the legislation.

Another proposed add-on that was rejected would have tightened security at courthouses and stiffened penalties for attacks on judges.

Language that would have added billions more for rail and mass transit security had been stripped out of the port security bill earlier, lawmakers and their aides said. So was language to lift a cap on federal airport security screeners.

The heart of the port security bill deals with cargo container security. Only a fraction of the millions of containers that enter U.S. ports each year are inspected. That has prompted warnings that sea cargo remains a serious security risk, five years after the September 11 attacks.

The issue languished in Congress until earlier this year when lawmakers said they had security concerns Dubai Ports World's acquisitions at six major U.S. ports. To quell the uproar, the company said it would sell the port assets.

The ports bill requires the government to finish installing radiation-screening equipment at 22 major U.S. ports, which handle 98 percent of all containers, by the end of 2007.

It also sets up a pilot program at three foreign ports to test the feasibility of scanning cargo headed for the United States while it is still overseas.

But another bill that was inspired by the Dubai furor -- proposed tightening of the rules governing approval of foreign takeovers -- has stalled in Congress. The two chambers passed competing versions and have not reached a compromise.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Zawahri calls Bush a failure over war on terrorism

Zawahri calls Bush a failure over war on terrorism
By Firouz Sedarat

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri called President Bush a lying failure for talking of progress in the war on terrorism, according to a video posted on the Internet on Friday.

In the 18-minute tape posted by al Qaeda's media arm al-Sahab, the Egyptian militant leader referred to the arrest of al Qaeda figures such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

"Bush, you are a lying failure and a charlatan. It has been three and-a-half years (since the arrests)...What happened to us? We have gained more strength and we are more insistent on martyrdom," he declared.

"Bush, O failure and liar, why don't you be courageous for once and confront your people and tell them the truth about your losses in Iraq and Afghanistan?" said Zawahri, wearing a black turban and sitting in front of a banner with Islam's statement of faith: "There is no god but Allah, Mohammad is his prophet."

A U.S. intelligence official in Washington dismissed the video as a "typical al Qaeda propaganda stream" but said analysts were scrutinising its contents for clues that might aid U.S. efforts to track down the militant leader.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) spokeswoman Michele Neff said: "After conducting a technical analysis of the videotape, the CIA can confirm with confidence that the voice on the tape is that of Ayman al-Zawahri."

In a second portion of the tape, apparently shot at a different location, Zawahri labeled Pope Benedict a "charlatan" because of his remarks on Islam.

"This charlatan accused Islam of being incompatible with rationality while forgetting that his own Christianity is unacceptable to a sensible mind," Zawahri said, this time wearing a white turban.

He also compared the Pope to the 11th century Pope Urban II who backed the first crusade.

In a speech to a university in his native Germany on September 12, Pope Benedict quoted criticism of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad by 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus, who wrote that Mohammad commanded that Islam be spread by the sword.


Zawahri urged Muslims to launch a holy war against proposed U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region.

"O Muslim nation, come to defend your lands from crusaders masked as United Nations (troops). Nothing will protect you except popular jihad (holy war)," Zawahri said on the video, that showed the date of the Muslim lunar month that ended about a week ago.

The European Commission said on Friday its President Jose Manuel Barroso and a top EU aid official would go to Sudan this weekend to try to persuade Khartoum to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur.

The Sudanese government has repeatedly rebuffed a United Nations offer to send 22,000 peacekeepers to replace an ill-equipped and under-funded African Union force.

Zawahri's last video was issued on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities by al Qaeda.

Zawahri and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden are believed to be hiding in tribal borders areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

(Additional reporting by Diala Saadeh in Dubai and Washington bureau)


Pirro's Husband Continues Role as Campaign Issue
Pirro's Husband Continues Role as Campaign Issue

The news of the day — the week, the election? — is that Jeanine Pirro, Republican candidate for state attorney general is under investigation for wiretapping her husband. At an afternoon press conference, Pirro admitted to asking former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to bug the family boat to determine if her husband — convicted tax evader Albert J. Pirro Jr. — was having an affair.

As political spouses go, Al is no Laura Bush. He spent eleven months in prison, fathered an illegitimate daughter during his marriage to Pirro, and was recently arrested for speeding. This latest disaster comes on the heels of the revelation that Pirro, as Westchester D.A., had ignored a call to examine DNA evidence that ultimately exonerated a murderer.

You almost have to admire the mixture of incompetence and fortitude that compels Jeanine Pirro to press on, Job-like, with her political career. She has to know these things can become public. She certainly doesn't do much to ensure they stay private (Holler, Bernie!), yet she ignores these probable pitfalls and continues to seek public office, at higher and higher levels.

In a certain sense, Pirro endures. Early this month, a win over Andrew Cuomo seemed, if not probable, at least possible. It might even have been a contest. Now, it looks assured that New York will be denied the thrill of the horse race in 2006.

Watch the press conference. (WNBC)


Junking Checks and Balances?

Huffington Post
Aziz Huq
Junking Checks and Balances?

"Checks and balances" has a nice ring. But it's a currency that doesn't go a long way in Washington today.

The Military Commissions Act of 2006, or MCA, passed by the House and Senate and likely to be signed by the President tomorrow is a wholesale assault on the idea of a limited government under law.

It will be taken by the Bush Administration as a blank check to torture, to detain indefinitely without just cause, and to trample the values that win America respect in the world. From tomorrow, counter-terrorism is the "land of do as you please" for the President and the wise men of the Defense Department--those savants who brought you Iraq, the gift that keeps on giving (at least if you're a jihadist).

The MCA comprehensively assaults two ideas: The idea of checking executive power by laws. And the idea of a separate branch of government ensuring those limits are respected. These are the basic tools of accountability. The MCA frontally attacks both of these--although only time will tell whether it succeeds.

How does the Military Commissions Act assail checks and balances? Consider the key issues of detention and torture:

The MCA says nothing explicit about the detention power. Indeed, I would argue that nothing in the legislation ought to be read to imply a detention power. Of course, that's not what David Addington and his colleague Alberto Gonzales will tell us. Rather, they will contend--publicly or not, it's hard to predict--that the MCA allows the executive branch power to detain literally anyone it wants provided it complies with a token gesture at procedure.

Here's how the Addington play for detention power will work. The opening definition of the Act describes elaborately what an "unlawful enemy combatant" is. Why? The term is a neologism. The laws of war do not use or define this term. Indeed, it is a mutation of a phrase used in a subordinate clause of a 1942 Supreme Court opinion. Nothing else in the Act directly turns on this definition--although only an "alien unlawful enemy combatant" can be subject to trial by military commission. So why bother with the elaborate definition? And why extend the definition to U.S. citizens as well as non-citizens?

Back in 2004, the Supreme Court, in the now well-known Hamdi v. Rumsfeld decision, stated that an "enemy combatant" captured in hostilities could be held for the duration of those hostilities. The Court made very clear it was talking about only the limited context of the ground war in Afghanistan, not some amorphous and unending "war on terror." But Addington et al. will, however, take Hamdi's sanction of detention--and extend it far, far beyond Hamdi. It will be a detention power that applies anywhere and anytime.

There are two ways in which you--citizen or non-citizen, resident of Topeka or Timbuktu--can become an "unlawful enemy combatant."

The first way is if you engage "in hostilities" or "purposefully and materially support" hostilities. This sounds reasonable enough until you realize that no-one has the slightest clue what it means to "purposefully and materially support" hostilities. Do you need to intend to aid the hostilities? Or is it enough to intend to give the support? Would purposely giving to a charity that then gave money to Hamas count, even if you knew nothing about the Hamas? What about writing an editorial that gave "aid and comfort" to the enemy--say, by criticizing the Administration's Iraq policy?

The second way is--if it's even possible--more dangerous: You are designated an enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal--the Potemkin proceedings jerry-rigged at Guantánamo--or you are designated by "another competent tribunal" created by the Defense Secretary.

It's the latter that catches in the throat, because the MCA does not define what Rumsfeld's "competent tribunal" must look like. Rummy himself with the always-fair-and-impartial Addington? Five Syrian torturers (like the ones to whom the U.S. sent the hapless Canadian Maher Arar)? A bunch of guys who flip coins for your liberty? Sure, why not? The MCA doesn't stop the executive from using any of these, provided Rumsfeld gave them power and hence made them "competent."

At least for non-citizens, moreover, that would be that: For the first time in U.S. history, an Act of Congress singles out a group of persons--non-citizens--and deprives them of any right to challenge their detention wherever they are picked up. No non-citizen would, the MCA seems to say, be able to challenge this detention. And while citizens are certainly entitled to a hearing, the Government will fight tooth and nail to make sure this hearing doesn't allow any effective inquiry into the facts on which a detention is based. So no judicial review--and no accountability.

The same dynamic is at play in the anti-torture rules. The MCA alters a criminal statute called the War Crimes Act, which imposed criminal sanctions for certain violations of the laws of war.

Until recently, the United States could proudly point to a long history of supporting a universal ban on torture, and to a strong record in ensuring that those who in fact tortured did not escape accountability. No longer. Now a gamut of horrendous kinds of treatment will be non-criminal--and, the Bush Administration will argue, within the discretion of the President.

Start with the substantive anti-torture rules themselves (which cover both torture and the lesser "cruel and inhuman" treatment). The MCA contains an incredibly complex and convoluted set of definitions. Despite all the cant about clarity, the rules no longer in plain English--as they were in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions --and they are so full of holes they might have been tortured themselves.

Here are three examples of the duplicitous ambiguity of the MCA when it comes to torture and abuse.

First, "cruel and inhuman" treatment is defined as acts that cause "severe or serious" pain. We know "severe" is worse than "serious" because "severe" is used to define torture (yes, we'll get there in a moment). But then "serious pain" is defined as "bodily injury" that causes "extreme physical pain." So "serious" pain is only "extreme" pain? Isn't extreme worse than serious? It would seem so--but the MCA is deliberately confusing and circular.

And why the reference to bodily injury? Does that mean that hypothermia and long-time standing and those other wretched "enhanced" techniques more fitting for Stalin's gulags than American facilities are not criminal? Well, yes, I reckon it does.

Second, in another convoluted section, "serious mental pain" is defined in terms of "non-transitory" harms. Thus, if a CIA agent threatens to kill a detainee, or to rape his spouse and his children--all long-recognized as forms of torture--that's not torture; it's not even the lesser "cruel and inhuman" treatment.

Finally, the torture statute itself. Almost unnoticed, the Bush Administration has gutted the no-torture rule. It has added the requirement that a person "specifically" intend to cause the pain that amounts to torture. This technical change--foreshadowed in the August 2002 OLC memo--has tremendous implications. It means that any government agent who says his goal was to get information, and not to cause pain, hasn't tortured no matter how bad the things he does. If the person water-boards or knee-caps a person, or buries them alive, if it's to get information--well, that's just dandy.

Once again, it's not just the substantive rules that have been assailed: It's also the mechanisms to ensure the rules are followed. Under the MCA, there is no accountability for torture. The MCA cuts off courts' power to hear claims of torture by aliens held as "unlawful enemy combatants." And it vests the President with power to interpret the relevant laws of war. So if he says that "cold cell" and sexual abuse are not "cruel and inhumane," that's the end of the matter.

There are two reasons for hope. First, any reading of the Act that reaches an untrammeled detention power may be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court in the 2004 case of Rasul v. Bush--in what one day will be called "famous footnote 15"--strongly hinted that even non-citizens captured overseas have Due Process rights. Combined with another clause of the Constitution called the Suspension Clause, this means the unchecked detention power and the jurisdiction-strip are likely unconstitutional.

Second, even if the War Crimes Act has been amended, the Due Process Clause also ought still to protect detainees held overseas: Torture is un-American. It's also unconstitutional--and that doesn't change depending on where it's done. Moreover, the law of war, embodied in the Geneva Conventions, is clear: There is no "specific intent" requirement for torture. Countries--whether it's the United States or North Korea--cannot unilaterally define down the rules against torture.

"Unchecked and unbalanced" government--I argue at length in a forthcoming book--is antithetical to American government. The MCA is also anathema to our best traditions. We must hope it is our traditions that win, and not the selfish partisan posturing that animated this week's votes.


Orwell Would Be Proud

Huffington Post
Joshuah Bearman
Orwell Would Be Proud

The Daily Orwellianism Award goes to Bush, speaking on openness in government on Tuesday: "We believe that the more we inform our American citizens, the better our government will be." And: "The more transparency there is in the system, the better the system functions on behalf of the American people."

This from the "trust me" President, a guy who has tried to systematically curtailed access to government information with a record number of classification decisions and even growing security controls on unclassified documents.
Not to mention the absolute fetish for administration secrecy and witch-hunts against leakers, those "informers of American citizens" who Bush and Cheney liken to traitors. That's transparency for you!

This particular embrace of openness by Bush came just before Bush selectively declassified 4 of 30 pages of the National Intelligence Estimate. Why only 4? Because those were the 4 pages that best diluted the advance word on the document's vivid portrayal of Bush's failure in Iraq and the fight against terrorism. If the NY Times and other reports on the NIE that "create confusion in the minds of the American people," as Bush complained, what is it when he tries to release a friendlier version of the same information?

And incidentally, if that grim excerpt is the most favorable for Bush, I wonder what the rest says.

By now, we've all read the choicest parts of those 4 pages: the NIE says the war in Iraq has increased the threat from terrorism by "shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives" and that Iraq has become "the cause célèbre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

So, yes, Bush is right that "the more we inform our citizens, the better our government will be." In light of that, where's the rest of the NIE? And for that matter, where's the companion report Jane Harman mentioned that focuses exclusively on Iraq?

I'm sure Bush had seen both reports and their consensus that the war was making us less safe by September 7, 2006, when he declared: "Five years after September the 11th, 2001, America is safer -- and America is winning the war on terror." I guess we have to retroactively award him with the Daily Orwellianism Award for that day too.


The Lessons of Shame

Huffington Post
Janis Karpinski
The Lessons of Shame

Stand proud for true patriotism and hold a screening of Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers during Profits Over Patriotism week.

One of the questions I am asked most often in speaking at locations in the US and international locations relates to complacency. The question cuts across all ethical, religious, age, sex and income brackets.

People want to know why Americans accept the way things are and the direction this country is moving - why aren't Americans living up to the right to free speech and the right to disagree? Our history is replete with incidents of famous, infamous and anonymous Americans speaking up and speaking out against opinions, decisions and laws especially those affecting the way we live and think. Why not now?

I am asked this question often and repeatedly and I hear the frustration and fear in Americans' voices. I am never really sure if they want the answer because it is all too obvious to me. We are complacent because we are afraid and we are ashamed. Our actions, this administration's actions, raped Iraq of every chance of freedom and democracy. We are the invaders. We are the occupiers. We are the torturers. And we are ashamed.

While serving in Iraq, I had an opportunity to speak to the leaders in the Khurdish Region of Iraq. It is a beautiful and peaceful area of Iraq. The Khurdish population knows what democracy is and what it feels like to lose it. They were never counted amongst Saddam Hussein's favorite citizens; however they certainly consider themselves to be Iraqis. They are very patient people. We were discussing the improvements around the different regions of Iraq and at the time, Baghdad was the most resistant area in terms of accepting democracy and the new road ahead for all of Iraq. It was easy to recognize this in comparison to the other regions, but nobody was able to offer an explanation as to why. The leaders in the Khurdish Region offered a clear explanation when I asked them about it. They explained the people who lived in and around Baghdad were considered as Saddam's "privileged" class; they were the cream of the Sunni crop. The people of Baghdad were considered to be the most loyal and fervent in their support so they were rewarded with privilege, higher salaries and more benefits. As such, they told me, they undoubtedly heard the tell tale signs and disturbances of the Saddam Fedayheen units, visiting dissenters or alleged dissenters, in the middle of the night - the screams and pleadings of the targeted individuals whose names were provided to the Fedayheen as orchestrates of plots to overthrow Saddam.

It mattered very little if there was truth in the reports, the Fedayheen would pay a visit and they did not play nice. The pleas of the victims were often heard through the walls of the adjoining houses in the villages. The Fedayheen were responsible for ferreting out and eliminating the disloyal and unfaithful in an effort to maintain loyal and ardent support for Saddam.

They were silenced in their lust for privilege, for more, for better, and for greed. They sold out their neighbors and friends and kept quiet about what they heard and what they knew. They continued their silence and refused to join in the efforts for creating a new democracy and way of life for all Iraqis largely because they had the most to lose. They are ashamed of what they did and did not do. So too, are we.

We are ashamed because we let our elected officials fool us and lie to us and mislead us. Members of this administration have become our Fedayheen and they are trying to silence us. Our silence will beget more of the same and worse. We must find courage. We must stand up. One of the ways to do this is by screening and sharing a new documentary I appeared in called Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers - which calls for a stop to the shameful war profiteering this administration has allowed to occur. We must speak up. We must because we are Americans and we know better than this. We can move beyond the shame only when we stop this from getting worse and participate in making it better.


Iraq police college a symbol of failed U.S. plan

Iraq police college a symbol of failed U.S. plan
By Sue Pleming

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It was intended to showcase U.S. rebuilding efforts in Iraq, but instead Baghdad's new police academy was declared a health hazard by U.S. inspectors who found human waste dripping from the ceilings.

In a congressional hearing on Thursday, where even the Republican chair said the U.S. rebuilding effort was not a "pretty picture," the Baghdad Police College was held up as an example of how the $21 billion U.S. reconstruction plan for Iraq went wrong.

"Poor security, an arcane, ill-suited management structure and a dizzying cascade of setbacks," said committee chair Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, of the U.S. reconstruction program.

Democrats had much harsher words. "One doesn't know whether to call it the theater of the absurd or the chamber of horrors," Rep. Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, told the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform.

The chief U.S. inspector monitoring how U.S. funds are spent in Iraq, Stuart Bowen, recalled his recent visit to the police academy, which cost U.S. taxpayers $75 million, and said he was shocked by the unsanitary conditions there.

Wastewater plumbing installations were faulty and urine and fecal matter oozed through the ceilings, depositing itself in light fittings. In one room there was so much water dripping through that the college director called it a "rain forest."

With about 140,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq, the training of Iraq's military and police is a key aim of the Bush administration, which says U.S. soldiers can come home only when Iraq's security forces can control the country.

"What could be a more important symbol than getting police trained for security and buildings which will give them a boost," said California Rep. Henry Waxman, a Democrat.


The police college contract was handed out to California firm Parsons which in turn subcontracted it to an Iraqi company. "It boils down to a lack of oversight," said Bowen of the problems with the police college.

Bowen's inspectors looked at 14 other projects Parsons was involved with in Iraq and found that 13 of those also did not meet standards. The only one that did was stopped because of cost over-runs.

Parsons Senior Vice President Earnest Robbins defended his company's performance in a chaotic security environment but conceded the challenges in Iraq had far surpassed anything the firm had predicted.

"It is with deep regret and frustration that these projects could not be finished as intended," he said.

He added the U.S. government shared some blame, pointing out it had taken up to 15 months in some instances for the government to identify what was to be built, where it should be constructed and what funding was available.

In late 2003, Congress allocated $18.4 billion to rebuild Iraq and immediately handed out giant contracts to a small number of big U.S. construction companies, drawing criticism for not giving work directly to Iraqi firms.

The State Department's senior advisor on Iraq, David Satterfield, said the U.S. government had learned from its mistakes and was adapting programs, now handing out more work to Iraqi firms.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office issued a report this week and said the Pentagon's own auditors had questioned $3.5 billion in unsupported charges for Iraqi reconstruction projects.

"When we break down this amount, it averages $2.7 million in overcharges each day we've been in Iraq. That's amazing," said Waxman, one of the Democratic Party's most vocal critics of Iraq rebuilding programs.


Woodward: Bush concealing level of Iraq violence

Woodward: Bush concealing level of Iraq violence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is concealing the level of violence against U.S. troops in Iraq and the situation there is growing worse despite White House and Pentagon claims of progress, journalist Bob Woodward said in advance of a new book.

Insurgent attacks against U.S.-led forces in Iraq occurred, on average, every 15 minutes, Woodward said in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview taped for broadcast on Sunday.

"It's getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces," Woodward said in excerpts of the interview released on Thursday before the release of his book on the administration, called "State of Denial."

"The assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon (saying) 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" Woodward added.

Parts of a National Intelligence Estimate that President George W. Bush ordered released this week showed an upsurge in Islamic militancy, while a new U.N. report said the Iraq war was providing al Qaeda with a training center and fresh recruits.

A senior administration official saw little new in Woodward's charges "except that Bob believes he has a lot of making up to do since the Washington establishment criticized him for being too soft in his first two books (on the Bush administration)."

"We've seen this movie before, and we shouldn't be surprised of another critical book about the Bush administration 40 days before an election," said the official.

Bush's Republican Party faces a strong challenge from Democrats as it seeks to retain control of Congress in the November 7 elections. The unpopular war in Iraq is a major issue in the campaign.

The official added there was nothing revealing in Woodward's account of the daily attack numbers. "You print them all the time."

Woodward said Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney often met with Henry Kissinger as an adviser. Kissinger was President Richard Nixon's national security adviser and then secretary of state during the Vietnam War.

The reporting of Woodward and fellow Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein played an important role in exposing the Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign in 1974.

According to Woodward, Bush was absolutely certain he was on the right course on Iraq. The writer said that when Bush invited key Republicans to the White House to discuss Iraq, the president told them, 'I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me,'" referring to his wife and Scottish terrier.


Disgraced lobbyist had more White House ties - over 450 contacts with top Bush officials

Disgraced lobbyist had more White House ties
By Joanne Kenen and Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff had hundreds more contacts with top White House officials than those Bush administration officials had previously acknowledged, according to a congressional report to be released on Friday.

The report by the House Government Reform Committee, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said the panel found about 485 contacts between Abramoff and his associations and the White House, including 10 with Karl Rove, who is President George W. Bush's top political adviser.

The committee based its findings on 14,000 pages of e-mails and billing records spanning three years ending in 2003, the committee report said.

The White House challenged the credibility of the report, saying it was based on material originally generated by Abramoff. Abramoff and associates have pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and related crimes in an influence-peddling scandal that reached into the U.S. Congress.

"The billing records that are the basis for this report are widely regarded as fraudulent in how they misrepresent Abramoff's activities and level of access. There is no reason why they should suddenly be viewed as credible," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

The committee findings, first reported by ABC TV, found "circumstantial" evidence that Abramoff got at least some of what he wanted for his lobbying clients.


He failed to get many of the appointments he sought, but he did get appropriations of more than $16 million for a native American Indian jail and $3 million for school construction, and a favorable ruling on at least one Indian casino project, the report noted.

Committee Chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, said in a statement prepared for release on Friday: "It was our job to examine whether and to what extent Jack Abramoff's extravagant claims of influence actually reached their intended targets in the executive branch, and what that might mean about the adequacy of current ethics and lobby disclosure laws."

Abramoff and his lobbying team had offered dinners, drinks and concert tickets to White House officials. It was not clear whether they violated lobbying laws or a ban on gifts.

According to the billing records and e-mails, Abramoff and his team had 485 lobbying contacts with White House officials between January 2001 and March 2004 -- 345 described as meetings or other in-person interactions, 71 described as phone conversations, and 69 e-mail exchanges.

The report found that more than half of the in-person contacts involved meals or drinks with White House officials.

One e-mail discusses how often Rove visited a downtown Washington restaurant then owned by Abramoff. "I am not kidding. Karl loves the restaurant (he's been there a lot) and we could do the back room," it said.

The report also quotes Abramoff about using Ralph Reed, former leader of the conservative Christian Coalition, to lobby Rove. Reed's recent bid to become lieutenant governor of Georgia failed, in part because of his Abramoff ties.

Abramoff and his team claimed to have lobbied the White House Office of Political Affairs in 17 instances, the report says.

In six of these instances, the documents describe a direct contact with Ken Mehlman, now chairman of the Republican Party. At the time of the contacts, he was director of the office.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland)


Thursday, September 28, 2006

CIA-FBI Cooperation: The Case of John Lennon

Huffington Post
Jon Wiener
CIA-FBI Cooperation: The Case of John Lennon

Today everyone agrees that cooperation between the CIA and FBI is a key to preventing future terrorist attacks. But what if CIA-FBI intelligence sharing isn't about terrorist threats? What if the CIA is telling the FBI about people who criticize the president and speak out against an unpopular war?

That's precisely what we found in the John Lennon FBI files, released in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act.

That took 15 years of litigation that went all the way to the Supreme Court (I was the plaintiff, represented by the ACLU of Southern
California). Those files were assembled in 1972 when Lennon was living in New York City, campaigning against the Vietnam War, and Nixon was in the White House, trying to deport him - that story is told in the documentary "The US vs. John Lennon," which opens nationwide Sept. 29 (view the trailer here).

Several documents in the Lennon FBI files provide vivid examples of the wrong kind of "interagency cooperation" in the sharing of intelligence information. In one, from "Director, Central Intelligence Agency" (at the time, Richard Helms) to "Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation" (J. Edgar Hoover), dated Feb. 8, 1972, Helms told Hoover that Lennon had planned to lead "a caravan of entertainers, which will follow US election primaries" (see the document here).

The CIA was right about that: in 1972 Nixon was running for reelection, and Lennon had been talking about organizing a national concert tour where he and others would sing, antiwar leaders would speak, and young people would register to vote - and vote against Nixon that fall.

The CIA memo to the FBI concluded, "Project organizers are seeking to avoid publicity at present in order not to jeopardize the stay of John Lennon, who is in the United States on a one-month visa." A month later the INS refused to renew Lennon's visa and began deportation proceedings. Lennon then cancelled plans for the anti-war caravan.

Another document provides the source of the Agency's information: CIA Operation CHAOS. It was secret, illegal program of surveillance of domestic political dissent - a violation of the CIA charter. The Agency sent intelligence reports on antiwar activists first to President Johnson and later to Nixon, as well as to Henry Kissinger and John Dean. Under Nixon, the CHAOS program was expanded to 60 agents. Its existence was documented in 1976 by the Senate's "Church Committee," which investigated CIA and FBI misconduct and was headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2000, when, according to the 9-11 Commission, the CIA had the names of two men who would become hijackers on 9-11 -- Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi -- but somehow the FBI failed to get the information and/or investigate them. The problem: how to get the CIA and FBI to share information about future al-Mihdhars, but stop the CIA and FBI from sharing information about future John Lennons?

The Church Committee Final Report, issued in 1976, addressed this problem in a way that is remarkably relevant today. Their basic conclusion: "intelligence activities have undermined constitutional rights . . . primarily because checks and balances designed by the framers of the Constitution to assure accountability have not been applied." The problem is greater "in time of crisis," when "the distinction between legal dissent and criminal conduct is easily forgotten."

Yes, the Church Committee worked before the US became the target of terrorist attack. But they understood one key principle: "Unlike totalitarian states, we do not believe that any government has a monopoly on truth." Therefore challenging official policies and arguments is crucial to a democratic society. No one should have to "weigh his or her desire to express an opinion, or join a group, against the risk of having lawful speech or association used against him."

The Church Committee made 95 recommendations. Number one: Congress must "make clear to the Executive branch that it will not condone, and does not accept, any theory of inherent or implied authority to violate the Constitution."

When Lennon made plans for "a caravan of entertainers," he wasn't conspiring to engage in terrorism or other criminal acts. All he was saying was give peace a chance. Thirty years ago the Church Committee argued that Congress should create strong safeguards to prevent "interagency sharing of intelligence information" from violating fundamental rights. We need those safeguards today more than ever.


article with links can be found at:

Jon Wiener is professor of history at the University of California, Irvine, author of Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI File, and historical consultant on the documentary "The US vs. John Lennon."


Six Conspiracy Theories I Want To Know More About-And Maybe You Do As Well

Huffington Post
Russell Shaw
Six Conspiracy Theories I Want To Know More About-And Maybe You Do As Well

By training and occupation, I'm one for hard evidence rather than automatic conspiracy-theory buy-in. Just because something can happen doesn't mean it will, has, or is. And as has often been said, correlation does not imply causation.

That said, there are six conspiracy theories and related matters that I do wonder about from time to time.

Stuff that despite lack of confirmation, I am unable to totally dismiss. I'd like to share these with you now, and invite your comments.

Here goes:

Has The U.S. Government Been Opening Census Records?- U.S. Census records contain personally identifiable information on nearly every American. There are strict statutes mandating the sealing and lock-down of these records for 70 years after the latest Census. Yet with the Bush Administration constantly violating the rights of American citizens in the quest to investigate "terrorism," how many of us can be totally sure that they haven't at least tried to open Census records, with secret courts then granting that right? The only realistic reason this may not have happened is that with the last full Census having taken place in April, 2000, those records may be too old to yield results of interest to prying government eyes. If news hits the fan about this some months down the line, I will be pissed- but not shocked.

Is The Price of Oil Being Manipulated To Remove High Prices as a Campaign Issue?- As the peak summer driving season fades and the composition of gasoline is tweaked to lessen expensive anti-pollution chemistry, gasoline prices commonly dip each autumn. But there may be more at play here. It's no secret that Americans have been blaming Bush for high gas prices. Many who drive a lot live in the Republicna- friendly outer suburbs and exurbs- and might be tempted to switch to the Democrats this Congressional election out of anger with a Republican party seen as cozy with big oil. At least partially, are these lower prices an effort to keep sprawlville in the Republican camp- and hold the House and Senate as a result?

Does Fidel Castro Have Terminal Cancer?- Let me lay this one out for you. A few months ago, Fidel nearly died from internal intestinal bleeding. Weakened, he turned power over "temporarily" to his brother Raul. When Fidel did so, he said something to the effect that Cubans need to be prepared for really bad news. We've seen few photos or video footage of Castro since then. Add this up- near-grave intestinal bleeding, ominous admissions from the man about his own mortality, a virtual news blackout since then- get where I am going with this?

Have UFO Reports Been Suppressed By Conservative Christians In The Military and Government?- A veil of silence and secrecy followed the UFO sightings in Roswell, New Mexico in the late 1940s. Other reports of alien landings and abductions have similarly been suppressed. Many highly conservative Bible-thumping preachers believe the Bible teaches us that not only were we made in the image of God, but we are special, and the only sensient creation in the universe. But what if we had physical proof this was not the case? I buy that the authorities have feared any such news would frighten the public, but we now live under a regime where the cultivation of fear is not avoided, but strategically embraced. We now have a military with a strong base of evangelical believers, and many of their civilian and military commanders adhere to the same beliefs. So if in fact there are UFOs (which I am not sure of) would suppression of alien intelligence be an effort to not introduce a Bible-disproving element into the world?

Is "Stolen Election" Talk Being Used As a Voter Mobilization Tactic?-
Although I side more with Mother Jones and Salon than Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Mark Crispin Miller on this issue, I say that if all this Diebold-bashing helps motivate enough progressive voters to turn out that either or both the House and Senate change hands, all this talk will be worth it. And Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is at it again in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. Not that he and authors like Miller aren't sincere in what they are asserting, but is at least part of their motivation in keeping this issue alive to drive up turnout from citizens who have had enough? But will all these conspiracy allegations motivate progressive voters or dishearten them so that they don't turn out while the GOP base does? (Of course if you say what's the use of voting, the election will be rigged anyway, then you aren't part of the solution to ending this one-party rule in Washington).

Now my last question goes back five years, but has relevance to the present day.

Was The October, 2001 Downing Of American Flight 587 Really a Terrorist Attack?- It happened two months after 9/11- an American Airlines jet bound for Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic crashed shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport in New York City. Rudder-related pilot error was found to be the cause. Immediately, I began to think that if this actually was a terror attack- such as a bomb in the cargo hold- and word got out, few people would fly for years and the entire U.S. passenger airline industry and the American economy would be decimated beyond financial repair. I than began to consider the possibility of a desperate conspiracy of silence promoted by a government who didn't want to see this happen. I do, however, have to counterbalance those suspicions with the fact that unlike other terror incidents, no person or group took "credit." Also, would Al-Qaeda or some other group plant a bomb on a plane whose passengers were as I recall, mostly Dominicans who the terror group had no direct quarrel with?


26 protesters arrested at House building

26 protesters arrested at House building
By Natasha T. Metzler / Associated Press

WASHINGTON - About 100 demonstrators protesting the Iraq war marched past the Capitol carrying mock coffins Wednesday and lay down in front of doorways at a House office building, where 26 were arrested.

Many covered themselves with sheets designed to make them resemble dead bodies.

"I had to bring my body down here to say no," Paki Wieland, 63, of Northampton, Mass., said as she waited in line to get on a police bus.

The protest was organized by Declaration of Peace, a coalition of about 500 groups that has organized war protests around the country during the past week. The events started Sept. 21, to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Peace.

Protesters started their demonstration in a park and marched along the street in front of the Capitol carrying 20 mock coffins draped in American flags or black cloth.


Overseas voting a concern — again

Overseas voting a concern — again
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Six years after problems counting overseas votes clouded the 2000 presidential election, U.S. troops and other Americans abroad face tight timetables and emerging technologies that still make it difficult to have their votes counted.

•Fourteen states with September primaries risk getting absentee ballots out too late for remote voters to return them in time.

•Efforts to speed things by using e-mail and fax machines pose a risk to voters' confidentiality.

•websites intended to help overseas voters navigate the process are not widely used. A private group's site was taken down earlier this month in a contract dispute.

The problems with timing and technology concern federal election officials, who try to ensure that overseas votes are counted on time. An estimated 29% of troops who wanted to vote did not get absentee ballots in 2000 or received them too late.

About 3.7 million Americans live overseas, and more than 400,000 members of the military are stationed or deployed overseas. In 2004, Pentagon officials estimate, 58% of Americans abroad voted, compared with overall turnout of 60%. Military participation overseas was estimated at 75%.

Those figures are disputed by the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Government Accountability Office because of the sample size and response rate.

"You cut the time so short that people start getting disenfranchised," says Paul DeGregorio, chairman of the EAC, which held a hearing in St. Louis last week on issues concerning overseas voting. "This problem needs to be addressed nationwide."

The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing on the issue for today.

The biggest problem is timing. Polly Brunelli, director of the Pentagon's Federal Voting Assistance Program, and other experts say there should be 45 days between the time ballots are sent to voters and when completed ballots are received at election offices. Only 40 days remain until the Nov. 7 general election.

Congress has approved $2.5 million for the expansion of Web technologies, including e-mail and secure-server transactions. Those methods risk voters' privacy.

Fewer than one in five uniformed military personnel know about Pentagon websites, according to a March report by the Pentagon's inspector general. And the Overseas Vote Foundation's website, which helps users register and request ballots, recently had to be taken down and reconfigured.

DeGregorio says the problems may require legislation setting deadlines for states to send out ballots. Internet voting deserves another look, after a $22 million project was scrapped in 2004, he says. "I believe the technology can be found to fix this problem," he says.

Find this article at:


Giuliani defends Clinton on 9/11 efforts

Yahoo! News
Giuliani defends Clinton on 9/11 efforts
By MATT SEDENSKY, Associated Press Writer

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended Bill Clinton on Wednesday over the former president's counterterrorism efforts, saying recent criticism on preventing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is wrong.

Political bickering over which president — Clinton or George W. Bush — missed more opportunities to prevent the attacks has been escalating since Clinton gave a combative interview on "Fox News Sunday" in which he defended his efforts to kill Osama bin Laden.

"The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it," Giuliani said in response to a question after an appearance with fellow Republican Charlie Crist, who is running for governor. "I don't think President Bush deserves it. The people who deserve blame for Sept. 11, I think we should remind ourselves, are the terrorists — the Islamic fanatics — who came here and killed us and want to come here again and do it."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice challenged Clinton's claim that he did more than many of his conservative critics to pursue bin Laden, and she accused the Democrat of leaving no comprehensive plan to fight al-Qaida.

Giuliani said he believed Clinton, like his successor, did everything he could with the information he was provided.

"Every American president I've known would have given his life to prevent an attack like that. That includes President Clinton, President Bush," the former mayor said. "They did the best they could with the information they had at the time."

Giuliani also said a recently declassified report that said the Iraq war had become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists demonstrated the need to continue the fight there.

"The jihadists very much want a victory in Iraq. They feel that if they could defeat us in Iraq they will have a great victory for terrorism," Giuliani said. "What that should do is organize us to say if they want a big victory in Iraq then we have to deprive them of that victory."

Giuliani said he was "very interested in considering" a run for president but would not make a decision until after the November election.


Bush contends with 2 reports refuting Iraq gains

Bush contends with 2 reports refuting Iraq gains
By Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An intelligence report showing an upsurge in Islamic militancy put the White House on the defensive on Wednesday in an election-year debate over whether President George W. Bush has made America safer.

In a second blow to the president, a new U.N. report said the Iraq war was providing al Qaeda with a training center and fresh recruits, and was inspiring a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan hundreds of miles away.

Bush ordered the release of parts of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Tuesday to try to stamp out a political fire after a leaked portion said the Iraq war had increased Islamic extremism.

But a key judgment in the declassified version that could backfire on Bush said intelligence experts believed activists identifying themselves as jihadists "are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion."

The report, prepared in April, also said the Iraq war had become the "cause celebre" for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

The U.N. report released on Wednesday jibed with the NEI's conclusions.

"New explosive devices are now used in Afghanistan within a month of their first appearing in Iraq," it said. "And while the Taliban have not been found fighting outside Afghanistan/Pakistan, there have been reports of them training in both Iraq and Somalia."

The U.N. report was prepared by terrorism experts for the Security Council,


The White House has scrambled to try to explain the intelligence assessment, given Bush's September 7 claim that "America is winning the war on terror."

Spokesman Tony Snow insisted during a combative session with reporters that the United States and allies had made great gains against al Qaeda, including taking out key leaders, taking away a safe haven in Afghanistan and attacking its financial support.

He said even if the United States had not been fighting the Iraq war, the threat from Islamic extremists would still exist, given the attacks attributed to al Qaeda before September 11.

After a high-profile series of speeches by Bush marking the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Republicans had felt better about their chances of holding on to both houses of the U.S. Congress in November 7 elections.

The question now is whether that momentum will be stalled by an intelligence report both sides are battling to use to their advantage.

Democrats tried to raise doubts about Bush's handling of the war on terrorism.

"The president likes to say 'we're winning the war on terror' but now the American people can read for themselves that the intelligence community believes something different: The war in Iraq is increasing the threat of terrorism at home and around the world," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

Republican strategist Scott Reed said a debate over terrorism helps Republicans. "Any day Republicans can keep it on terrorism and taxes is a winner," he said.

Democrats also called on Bush to release the entire National Intelligence Estimate after the White House declassified only 3-1/2 pages.

The White House refused, saying to do so would reveal sources and methods of intelligence collection, put agents at risk and imperil relations with foreign governments.

At the same time, California Rep. Jane Harman, senior Democrat on the House intelligence committee, accused the Bush administration of holding back until after the election a new NIE being prepared on Iraq.

Snow said Harman was "just flat wrong," that the report was not even in a draft form and would take time to complete.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Tabassum Zakaria, Matt Spetalnick, David Morgan, Vicki Allen and Irwin Arieff)


Former NY challenger to Clinton in federal probe

Former NY challenger to Clinton in federal probe
By Ellen Wulfhorst

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York's Republican candidate for attorney general, who last year gave up a failing bid against U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, is under federal investigation for considering secretly recording her husband to learn if he was having an affair, officials said on Wednesday.

Jeanine Pirro, a former district attorney whose efforts at higher public office have been plagued by personal scandal and public gaffes, revealed the probe at a news conference and insisted she broke no laws by discussing the idea with a security consultant.

"Prying into the personal lives of married couples is not the business of federal prosecutors," a visibly angry Pirro said. "This is personal and highly improper ... I have no respect for this investigation."

She claimed it was a political witchhunt and smear campaign, based on "a partisan political agenda" that was "using taxpayer money and public resources to pursue a baseless investigation ... to affect the outcome of an election."

Pirro said she would not pull out of her race against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, for attorney general. He holds a wide lead in polls.

Federal prosecutors confirmed the investigation.

"This office is, as Jeanine Pirro said today, investigating allegations recently brought to our attention," said Michael Garcia, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in a statement, citing federal law that prohibits the interception, or endeavoring to intercept, any wire, oral or electronic communication.

"Because the investigation is ongoing, we will not comment as to its substance, except to say that we do not take politics into account in deciding either the subject matter or timing of our investigations," Garcia said.


Sources told local media that authorities overheard Pirro last year discussing the possibility of recording her husband with former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.

Kerik, who was working as a security consultant, had been nominated to head U.S. Homeland Security but withdrew amid ethics questions. He later pleaded guilty to accepting gifts while serving as a city official.

Pirro's husband Albert has caused his wife a number of political headaches. He has fathered an out-of-wedlock child and served 11 months in federal prison for tax fraud.

She said she suspected last year he was having an affair.

"In the midst of matrimonial discord I was angry and had him followed to see if what I suspected was true," Pirro said. "Although I spoke about taping him, there was no taping by me or anyone.... I didn't do anything here other than vent.

"This is a waste of taxpayer's money trying to affect the outcome of a statewide election ... of something that happened a year ago," she said.

The former district attorney of Westchester County, Pirro abandoned her race against Clinton when polls showed her badly trailing the Democratic former first lady.

That campaign got off to a bumpy start when Pirro fumbled and misplaced a page of her announcement speech. She raised less than $400,000 when Clinton had nearly $14 million in campaign funds.


Woman tried as announcer Tokyo Rose dies in Chicago

Woman tried as announcer Tokyo Rose dies in Chicago

CHICAGO (Reuters) - An American woman convicted of treason and later pardoned for being "Tokyo Rose," one of several radio announcers Japan used during World War Two to spew propaganda to undermine American morale, has died, a Chicago hospital said on Wednesday.

Iva Toguri, 90, died on Tuesday from undisclosed causes, a hospital spokesman said.

She was convicted of treason in 1949 based on suspect testimony that she was the legendary "seductress of the short wave" who had sought to persuade American soldiers to surrender because their cause was lost and their girlfriends were deserting them at home.

She served more than six years in prison, though many historians believe she was not one of the dozen announcers dubbed "Tokyo Rose" by American soldiers, who mostly laughed off the surrender appeals.

Toguri did work as an announcer for the "Zero Hour" program on Radio Tokyo, but mostly played jazz records and uttered facetious comments meant to bolster, not weaken, American resolve, say historians.

Born July 4, 1916, in Los Angeles, the young college graduate was visiting a sick relative in Japan when she became trapped there as war broke out. Starving and sick, unable to speak Japanese, she answered an ad to become an English-language typist for Radio Tokyo.

She married another station employee, Felipe D'Aquino, a Portuguese of Japanese descent.

After the war, a pregnant Toguri sought to return to the United States but broadcaster Walter Winchell and others cited her possible role as Tokyo Rose and criticized the U.S. administration for not punishing her. Toguri eventually signed interview notes implicating herself, thinking she could speed her return home.

Later, U.S. President Gerald Ford, made aware that she had likely been made a scapegoat during the nervous climate in the early days of the Cold War, pardoned Toguri in 1977.

After her release from prison, Toguri opened a small shop in Chicago and fought for a pardon.

The only other American woman convicted of treason was Mildred Gellers, known as "Axis Sally" as a broadcaster for Germany.


Fear of offending Islam spurs hot debate in Europe

Fear of offending Islam spurs hot debate in Europe
By Mark Trevelyan and Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Four canceled performances of a Mozart opera have reignited an anxious and heated debate in Europe over free speech, self-censorship and Islam.

By canning its production of "Idomeneo", fearful of security threats because of a scene that might offend Muslims, Berlin's Deutsche Oper provoked front-page headlines across the continent and found itself fending off charges of cowardice.

The controversy centered on a scene in which King Idomeneo is shown on stage with the severed heads of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad and the sea god Poseidon.

"Here we go again. It's like deja vu...This is exactly the kind of self-censorship I and my newspaper have been warning against," said Flemming Rose, culture editor of Denmark's Jyllands-Posten paper, which met a storm of Muslim protest after publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad last year.

He said bowing to fears of a violent Muslim reaction would only worsen the problem: "You play into the hands of the radicals. You are telling them: your tactics are working. This is a victory for the radicals. It's weakening the moderate Muslims who are our allies in this battle of ideas."

The drawings, including one showing Mohammad with a bomb in his turban, triggered violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world but were defended by the newspaper as an expression of free speech and a challenge to religious taboos.

Berlin security officials had warned that staging the opera "Idomeneo" would pose an "incalculable security risk".


The decision to cancel the production even before any protests had materialized was singled out for criticism.

"To do it in advance of any actual protest I think invokes the next protest, because the radicals in any community are aided and abetted by that," said Lisa Appignanesi, a novelist and deputy president of the writers' group PEN in England.

"We don't want to end up in a situation where we don't dare to speak up. What we do not want is a society where one is constantly fearful about what the people holding the bombs or the guns might say."

European countries, rocked by a series of events including Islamist bombings in Madrid and London and widespread rioting in French immigrant communities last year, are struggling to find better ways of integrating their Muslim minorities.

The latest controversy follows a furor in the Muslim world over comments by Pope Benedict this month in which he cited a medieval emperor who associated Islam with violence. He has since distanced himself from the quotations and assured Muslims of his respect, although without directly apologizing.

Some analysts fear a climate is developing in which people are afraid to speak out publicly. In a speech to the annual conference of think-tank Oxford Analytica last week, its head, David Young, said political correctness posed a threat to free expression for journalists, politicians and academics alike.

Nirjay Mahindru, an Asian playwright who runs a theater company in Britain, told Reuters: "British Asian writers are without a shadow of a doubt not writing what they want to write about or what they feel is reflective of what is out there. They are writing what is now expected of them."

"This has been going on for at least two or three years and it's almost like a coalition of fundamentalist forces, whether they are Christian or Muslim or Hindu or whoever. I just wish more members of the artistic community would be brave."


The opera cancellation was just the last of a series of incidents in recent years where religious sensitivities and artistic expression have clashed.

In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered after outraging Muslims with a film accusing Islam of promoting violence against women, and a British play featuring sexual abuse and murder in a Sikh temple was canceled after protests.

Last year London's Tate Britain museum removed a sculpture by John Latham which it feared would offend Muslims and a British tour of "Jerry Springer - The Opera" was temporarily canceled when conservative Christian groups complained.

Such tensions are not new, although artists argue they have become more common since September 11, 2001. In 1989 British author Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding after Iran issued a fatwa calling for his death after he wrote "The Satanic Verses".

"You can't be afraid of constantly watching your back in the arts," PEN's Appignanesi said. "One is in the business of provoking response. Otherwise there is no art."


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bush Admin. Blocked Report Linking Hurricanes To Global Warming, Says Report...

Yahoo! News
Journal: Agency blocked hurricane report
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer

The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.

The possibility that warming conditions may cause storms to become stronger has generated debate among climate and weather experts, particularly in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

In the new case, Nature said weather experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -- part of the Commerce Department -- in February set up a seven-member panel to prepare a consensus report on the views of agency scientists about global warming and hurricanes.

According to Nature, a draft of the statement said that warming may be having an effect.

In May, when the report was expected to be released, panel chair Ants Leetmaa received an e-mail from a Commerce official saying the report needed to be made less technical and was not to be released, Nature reported.

Leetmaa, head of NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in New Jersey, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

NOAA spokesman Jordan St. John said he had no details of the report.

NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher is currently out of the country, but Nature quoted him as saying the report was merely an internal document and could not be released because the agency could not take an official position on the issue.

However, the journal said in its online report that the study was merely a discussion of the current state of hurricane science and did not contain any policy or position statements.

The report drew a prompt response from Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (news, bio, voting record), D-N.J., who charged that "the administration has effectively declared war on science and truth to advance its anti-environment agenda ... the Bush administration continues to censor scientists who have documented the current impacts of global warming."

A series of studies over the past year or so have shown an increase in the power of hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, a strengthening that many storm experts say is tied to rising sea-surface temperatures.

Just two weeks ago, researchers said that most of the increase in ocean temperature that feeds more intense hurricanes is a result of human-induced global warming, a study one researcher said "closes the loop" between climate change and powerful storms like Katrina.

Not all agree, however, with opponents arguing that many other factors affect storms, which can increase and decrease in cycles.

The possibility of global warming affecting hurricanes is politically sensitive because the administration has resisted proposals to restrict release of gases that can cause warming conditions.

In February, a NASA political appointee who worked in the space agency's public relations department resigned after reportedly trying to restrict access to Jim Hansen, a NASA climate scientist who has been active in global warming research.


On the Net


The Cover Story That Newsweek Doesn't Want to Sell to America

Huffington Post
Michelle Pilecki
The Cover Story That Newsweek Doesn't Want to Sell to America

Thanks to truthout for flagging this story on "Losing Afghanistan: The Rise of Jihadistan," which appears on the cover of international editions of Newsweek, but not the U.S. version. Truthout explains

Editor's Note: Newsweek has scrubbed the cover of its United States edition for October 2, 2006. The cover of its international editions, aimed at Europe and other world regions, has maintained the original title of the story, "Losing Afghanistan." The new cover for the United States edition features photographer Annie Leibovitz and is titled "My Life in Pictures." We offer the European edition cover and story here.
- vh/TO

Although I haven't seen the printed Newsweek, I will note that the website still labels the in-depth feature on the regression in Afghanistan as its "cover story," and I assume that it did appear in print (commenters can please alert me if it did not). It's an important and timely story about the inroads the Taliban is making while the US-backed Afghan government crumbles.

Jabar Shilghari, one of Ghazni's members of Parliament, is appalled by his province's rapid reversal of fortune. Only a year ago he was freely stumping for votes throughout the province. Today it's not safe for him to return to his own village. In a recent meeting he asked Karzai for more police and soldiers; he was rebuffed by the deputy director of intelligence, who told him the Taliban threat in Ghazni is minimal. "We have patiently waited five years for change, for an end to official corruption and abuse of power and for economic development," says Shilghari, who now lives in the increasingly sequestered capital of Kabul. "But we've received nothing."

(Also check out the Q&A with President Karzai and excerpts from a Taliban recruitment video.)

As a former magazine editor, I can make an educated guess why the folks at Newsweek opted for a celebrity cover rather than a news cover: a better shot at big newstand sales. Celeb covers nearly always sell far more than mere news -- you don't need to sit through the seminars I've endured to figure that one, but the actual differences in sales can be huge. And a foreign news story, in particular, is the kiss of death for newstand sales, regardless of how important the story is.

So the powers-that-be at Newsweek figure that they can attract readers in Europe, Asia and Latin America with a dramatic cover depicting an Islamist armed with an evil-looking rocket-propelled grenade launcher that seems to be aimed right at the reader, who -- it is to be assumed -- would be thus "grabbed" by the prospect of a hard-hitting news story. American readers, on the other hand, are assumed to prefer the soft pap of Newsweek Entertainment. "The audience is stupid" is the prevailing sentiment among the people at the top of the MSM, as Harry Shearer pointed out last week: "Whether or not they actually started out stupid, your programming [or editorial] decisions may help make them stupid." It's a self-fulfilling belief.


Sen. Clinton hits back at Rice over 9/11

Yahoo! News
Sen. Clinton hits back at Rice over 9/11

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton hit back at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday as the political fighting escalated over which president — Bill Clinton or George W. Bush — missed more opportunities to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.

Clinton, D-N.Y., took aim at President Bush and Rice over their roles in 2001 before the attacks, part of the growing argument touched off after Bill Clinton gave a combative interview on "Fox News Sunday" in which he defended his efforts to kill Osama bin Laden.

"I think my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take these attacks," Hillary Clinton said. "I'm certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled 'Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States' he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team."

The senator was referring to a classified brief given to Bush in August 2001, one that Democrats say showed the Bush administration did not do enough to combat the growing threat from al-Qaida.

When the brief was delivered, Rice was Bush's national security adviser, and Clinton's response was clearly designed to implicate her in the same criticisms that have been made of Bush.

Clinton's response came a day after Rice denied Bill Clinton's claim in the television interview that the Bush administration had not aggressively pursued al-Qaida before the attacks of 2001.

"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years," Rice said during a meeting with editors and reporters at the New York Post. "The notion somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't do that is just flatly false, and I think the 9/11 commission understood that."

Rice also took exception to Clinton's statement that he "left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy" for incoming officials when he left office.

"We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al-Qaida," she told the newspaper, which is owned by News Corp., the company that owns Fox News Channel.

The former president became furious during the television interview when asked why he did not do more to fight al-Qaida.

"That's the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now," Clinton said in the interview. "They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try. They did not try."

The interview has been the focus of much attention, earning the show its best ratings in nearly three years.

Rice questioned the value of the dialogue.

"I think this is not a very fruitful discussion," she said. "We've been through it. The 9/11 commission has turned over every rock, and we know exactly what they said."


Intelligence report is made public: main conclusion is Iraq war is "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists

Intelligence report is made public
By Tabassum Zakaria and David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush blasted political opponents on Tuesday for selectively leaking from a secret intelligence assessment on global terrorism and then made public the report's main conclusion that the Iraq war had become a "cause celebre" for Islamic extremists.

Democrats had seized on leaked portions of the National Intelligence Estimate to criticize the administration's handling of the Iraq war and members of the U.S. Congress had pressed the White House to declassify the entire document.

At a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Bush said it was "a bad habit for our government to declassify every time there's a leak."

But he said he decided to make it public so "you can read it for yourself" and stop the speculation that he said was aimed at confusing the American public.

"Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes," Bush said.

The office of intelligence director John Negroponte released a 3-1/2 page section of the April report "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" compiled by the 16 U.S. spy agencies hours after Bush ordered it declassified.

"The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement," the report said.

"Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."

Democrats, hoping to take control of Congress in November elections, pounced on media leaks about the report as evidence that Bush's Iraq policy had worsened the global terrorism threat.

Bush is intent on portraying his Republican party as stronger on national security than Democrats and better able to protect Americans.

The report said al Qaeda would continue to pose "the greatest threat" to the United States by a single group.

It said there was a large body of information indicating that activists identifying themselves as jihadists were increasing in number and geographic dispersion.

White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend said that estimate came in part from reviewing the increasing number of hostile Internet postings.

"If this trend continues, threats to U.S. interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide," the report said.


Bush agreed with the report's conclusion that successes against the al Qaeda leadership had led to extremists "becoming more diffuse and independent" and that they were using Iraq as a recruiting tool.

But, he strongly disagreed with critics conclusions that the Iraq war was a mistake. "I think it's naive," he said.

Bush insists his decision to invade Iraq was necessary to deal with a potential threat. But the American public has become increasingly weary of the war in which about 2,700 U.S. troops have died and sectarian violence is rampant.

Democrats said the report supported their view that the administration's Iraq policies were a failure.

"The Bush administration's failed policies in Iraq are fueling global terrorism and making America less safe," said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"These results are the unfortunate consequences of the administration's decision to cherry pick prewar intelligence, ignore our senior military leaders, and completely fail to plan for the post-Saddam occupation."

Townsend defended the decision not to release the whole document, saying the few key judgments held back "go directly to national security concerns" and there were fears about disclosing sources and methods.

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland)