Friday, February 03, 2006

Bristling Defiance - In Retreat

Bristling defiance – in retreat
Patrick J. Buchanan
Posted: February 3, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2006

"The road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting, yet it ends in danger and decline," railed President Bush in his State of the Union. Again and again, Bush returned to his theme.

"America rejects the false comfort of isolationism ...

"Isolationism would not only tie our hands in fighting enemies, it would keep us from helping our friends in desperate need ...

"American leaders from Roosevelt to Truman to Kennedy to Reagan rejected isolation and retreat."

Why would a president use his State of the Union to lash out at a school of foreign policy thought that has had zero influence in his administration? The answer is a simple one, but it is not an easy one for Bush to face: His foreign policy is visibly failing, and his critics have been proven right.

But rather than defend the fruits of his policy, Bush has chosen to caricature critics who warned him against interventionism. Like all politicians in trouble, Bush knows that the best defense is a good offense.

Having plunged us into an unnecessary war, Bush now confronts the real possibility of strategic defeat and a failed presidency. His victory in Iraq, like the wars of Wilson and FDR, has turned to ashes in our mouths. And like Truman's war in Korea and Kennedy's war in Vietnam, Bush's war has left America divided and her people regretting he ever led us in. But unlike the world wars, Korea and Vietnam, Bush cannot claim the enemy attacked us and we had no choice. Iraq is Bush's war. Isolationists had nothing to do with it. To a man and woman, they opposed it.

Now, with an army bogged down in Afghanistan and another slowly exiting Iraq, and no end in sight to either, Bush seeks to counter critics who warned him not to go in by associating them with the demonized and supposedly discredited patriots of the America First movement of 1940-41. His assault is not only non-credible, it borders on the desperate and pathetic.

"Abroad, our nation is committed to a historic long-term goal. We seek the end of tyranny in our world," said Bush. "Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, the future security of America depends upon it."

Intending no disrespect, this is noble-sounding nonsense. Our security rests on U.S. power and will, and not on whether Zimbabwe, Sudan, Syria, Cuba or even China is ruled by tyrants. Our forefathers lived secure in a world of tyrannies by staying out of wars that were none of America's business. As for "the end of tyranny in our world," Mr. President, sorry, that doesn't come in "our world." That comes in the next.

"By allowing radical Islam to work its will, by leaving an assaulted world to fend for itself, we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals or even in our own courage," said Bush.

But what has done more to radicalize Islam than our invasion of Iraq? Who has done more to empower Islamic radicals than Bush with his clamor for elections across a region radicalized by our own policies? It is one thing to believe in ideals, another to be the prisoner of some democratist ideology.

Bush has come to believe that the absence of democracy is the cause of terror and democracy its cure. But the cause of terror in the Middle East is the perception there that those nations are held in colonial captivity by Americans and their puppet regimes, and that the only way to expel both is to use tactics that have succeeded from Algeria in 1962 to Anbar province in 2005.

Given the franchise, Arab and Islamic peoples from Pakistan to Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank and Egypt have now voted for candidates with two credentials. They seemed to be devout Muslims, and they appeared dedicated to tossing America out of the region and the Israelis into the sea.

With opposition also rising to his free-trade policy, Bush reverted to the same tactic: Caricature and castigate critics of his own failed policies. "Protectionists," said Bush, pretend "we can keep our high standards of living, while walling off our economy."

But it was protectionists from Lincoln to Coolidge who gave us the highest standard of living on earth. And the record of Bush's merry band of free-traders? The largest trade deficits in history, a $200 billion trade surplus for Beijing at our expense in 2005, and 3 million lost manufacturing jobs since Bush first took the oath.

If America is angry over what interventionism and free trade have wrought, George Bush cannot credibly blame isolationists or protectionists. These fellows have an alibi. They were nowhere near the scene of the crime.

It is George W. Bush who is running out of alibis.

VOA News - Rumsfeld Compares Venezuela's Chavez to Hitler

VOA News - Rumsfeld Compares Venezuela's Chavez to Hitler: "Rumsfeld Compares Venezuela's Chavez to Hitler
By Al Pessin
02 February 2006

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has compared Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the Nazi leader Adolph Hitler, saying both were elected legally and then 'consolidated power.' Secretary Rumsfeld made the comment as part of an answer to a reporter's question about the election of left-wing leaders in Latin America.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, Secretary Rumsfeld told the questioner that the rise of corruption in democratic governments in Latin America caused voters to look for what he called more 'populist' leaders.

'We've seen some populist leadership appealing to masses of people in those countries and elections, like Evo Morales in Bolivia, take place that clearly are worrisome,' said Mr. Rumsfeld.

Secretary Rumsfeld said he would not characterize the situation as 'a new wave of left-wing anti-American regimes,' as the questioner did. But he went on to criticize the leftist Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez, who has become a sharp critic of the United States and a close friend of Cuba's communist leader, Fidel Castro.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez
'We've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money,' he noted. 'He's a person who was elected legally, just as Adolph Hitler was elected legally, and then consolidated power, and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others. It concerns me.'

As Secretary Rumsfeld spoke, President Chavez was preparing to travel to Cuba late Wednesday to visit President Castro and accept an award from the United Nations for promoting Latin American culture.

Secretary Rumsfeld did not comment on, and at that time may not have known about, Venezuela's expulsion of a U.S. military attach�. The official, a U.S. Navy captain, was accused of spying. Several Venezuelan military officers have been accused of passing information to the U.S. military through the embassy in Caracas. There was no immediate response from the U.S. government."

Venezuela expels U.S. military official

International News Article |

Venezuela expels U.S. military official
Thu Feb 2, 2006 8:29 PM ET

By Patrick Markey

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Venezuela expelled a U.S. Embassy naval attache on Thursday after accusing him of espionage for trying to get Venezuelan officers to hand over state secrets.

The expulsion aggravated already tense relations between the United States and the world's No. 5 oil exporter, as President Hugo Chavez aggressively promotes his socialist revolution to counter U.S. influence in South America.

Chavez, a populist former soldier allied to Cuban President Fidel Castro and Iran, warned he could expel the full U.S. military mission if its officers were caught spying.

"We have declared persona non grata U.S. naval captain John Correa, he must leave the country immediately," Chavez said at a ceremony to celebrate his seven years in government.

A U.S. State Department official in Washington rejected the espionage charges and the Pentagon said Correa was a Navy commander who had returned to the United States as part of his duties. He did not say when Correa left Caracas.

"We will respond through diplomatic channels," State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said, referring to a January 30 letter the United States received about Correa. "None of the U.S. attaches was or is engaged in inappropriate activities."

U.S. officials brand leftist Chavez an authoritarian who has trampled over democracy at home and threatened regional stability by using Venezuela's oil wealth to meddle in the politics of his South American neighbors.

Chavez often calls U.S. President George W. Bush "Mr. Danger," criticizes his foreign policies and has repeatedly accused Washington of trying to overthrow his government since he survived a 2002 coup.

Venezuelan authorities said last week they had "confidential evidence" that U.S. Embassy staff were involved with a group of Venezuelan military officers accused of passing state secrets to the U.S. Defense Department.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said they had received a letter from authorities demanding Correa appear before investigators earlier this week and on Thursday another ordering him out.

Venezuela has 65 military officials in the United States and Washington has 21 officials in Venezuela.


Speaking later before a huge armed forces parade, Chavez lambasted U.S. imperialism and demanded Venezuelan soldiers reject attempts to turn them against his revolution aimed at reversing years of neglect of the impoverished majority.

Chavez purged the armed forces after the 2002 coup. He has created a national reserve he says will help defend Venezuela against a U.S. invasion and sought military equipment from Spain and Brazil with deals the United States says could destabilize the region.

"We must finish the exorcism, because they injected us with the devil of a military doctrine ..., the imperialist military doctrine," roared Chavez, a former paratrooper who himself led a coup six years before winning power at the ballot box.

Chavez was due to travel to Havana later on Thursday to meet with Castro.

Flush with oil cash, Chavez has promoted himself as the frontman for a burgeoning left-wing resurgence in South America, where Evo Morales has become Bolivia's first indigenous president on the back of resistance to U.S.-backed policies.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had harsh words for Chavez but did not address the expulsion.

"He's a person who was elected legally, just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally and then consolidated power, and now is of course working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others," he said at the National Press Club.

(Additional reporting by Saul Hudson in Washington)

The Silence of the Democrats

The Silence of the Democrats

The choice between abrupt withdrawal and endless war in Iraq is false.
We can negotiate an honorable exit -- in fact, we're already talking
with the insurgents.

Joe Conason, Salon, February 3, 2006
In this year's State of the Union address, George W. Bush proved again
his preference for the rhetoric of deception. Unable to marshal a
convincing argument for his war in Iraq yet determined to silence his
critics, Bush insisted that for patriotic Americans there is simply no
choice except his failing strategy.

"A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi
allies to death and prison, would put men like [Osama] bin Laden and
[Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that
a pledge from America means little," he warned. "However we feel about
the decisions and debates of the past our nation has only one option: We
must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American
military in this vital mission."

Predictably those clich?s won strong applause -- who doesn't clap when
the president demands support for U.S. troops? -- but as usual the bid
for inspiration concealed more than a bit of deception.

Would the withdrawal of our forces leave Baghdad to al-Qaida? No,
because the foreign-led jihadists represent a small fraction of the
insurgency. Must we continue the occupation indefinitely to prove that
we "stand behind" the American military? No, because the war is damaging
our military strength, and to support the troops means finding a way out
of the sand trap as swiftly as possible. And is there "only one option"
for the American nation? That's wrong too, although the Democratic
leadership didn't dare say so in the feeble response delivered by
Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine.

"There's a better way," Kaine repeated like a mantra, but he never
bothered to tell us what that might be. The answer is straightforward,
is honorable and might even succeed: The United States, its coalition
partners and the Iraqi government must open serious negotiations with
the Sunni insurgency, aiming toward a durable cease-fire and a timetable
for American withdrawal. There need be no political penalty for
advocating such negotiations because U.S. officers have already pursued
discussions with Iraqi insurgents -- and because those discussions
represent official policy in Iraq.

The U.S. media has devoted little space to those talks, but the
Washington Post and the British press have occasionally reported on
them. Last summer, the Sunday Times of London revealed that American
officers had participated in two meetings with insurgent leaders in a
villa north of Baghdad. Among those in attendance were representatives
of the Ansar al-Sunna army, the group responsible for the atrocious mess
hall bombing at the U.S. base near Mosul, Iraq, in December 2004.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. John Abizaid both
confirmed that those talks had taken place -- and that many more
meetings had occurred in hopes of "splitting" the insurgency.

This week, news of peace talks with the insurgents surfaced again. The
United Nations news service, IRIN, reported that Sunni politicians
claimed to be making progress in discussions with insurgent leaders,
while confronting an obstacle that remains beyond their control. "For
the last month we've been trying to convince militias to put down their
guns until they see whether or not the new government can bring positive
results," said Adnan al-Dulaimi, one of the leaders of the Iraqi Accord
Front, a Sunni Islamist coalition that supports participation in the
political process. According to him, the weekly meetings between his
party and the insurgents have encouraged hope for an eventual cease-fire.

"We've made good progress," he said. "But the presence of foreign troops
could cause this accord to fail at any time." That is hardly surprising,
since recent polls indicate that about 80 percent of Iraqis want
Washington and Baghdad to set a date for when the occupation will end.
The IRIN article quoted a man known as Abu Omar, identified as a leader
of the insurgent Muhammad army in Anbar province. He confirmed that his
group and several others had approved a possible cease-fire, but vowed:
"We will quit fighting only if the U.S. military gives us a date for its
Then the insurgent leader hinted that serious negotiations could not
only extricate our troops from Iraq but simultaneously create the
conditions for an important victory against our real enemy.
"We're more open to the possibility of improvements in Iraq," said the
insurgent commander, "but al-Qaeda doesn't care for such things because
it's not composed of Iraqis. It's made up of foreigners who have come to
exploit the differences between our brothers."

The meaning of Omar's remarks could hardly be clearer. He and his
insurgent comrades will end their murderous rebellion against the Iraqi
government if and when they can be assured that U.S. troops will
withdraw. And when they are assured that we will leave, they will turn
on al-Qaida and either wipe it out or expel it from Iraq.

If the Bush administration insists that we must "defeat" the insurgency,
or stand up an Iraqi army that can pacify the country, then negotiations
are useless. If Bush insists on identifying all of the insurgents with
al-Qaida, then there isn't anyone with whom we can negotiate. If the
American objective is to create large permanent bases and to win control
of Iraqi oil, then our troops cannot leave and the bloody conflict will
grind on without any foreseeable conclusion.

The negotiations that have occurred already, fitful though they may be,
show another way home for our troops. The president's claim that we have
"only one option" in Iraq is untrue -- and the alternative is far more
likely to advance the interests of America and the civilized world.
Too bad we have no politician with the wisdom and stature to say so.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The White House Memo

The White House Memo
By Gary Gibbon
Channel 4, London

Thursday 02 February 2006

Revealed: Bush and Blair discussed using American spy plane in UN colors to lure Saddam into war.

Channel 4 News tonight reveals extraordinary details of George Bush and Tony Blair's pre-war meeting in January 2003 at which they discussed plans to begin military action on March 10th 2003, irrespective of whether the United Nations had passed a new resolution authorising the use of force.

Channel 4 News has seen minutes from that meeting, which took place in the White House on 31 January 2003. The two leaders discussed the possibility of securing further UN support, but President Bush made it clear that he had already decided to go to war. The details are contained in a new version of the book 'Lawless World' written by a leading British human rights lawyer, Philippe Sands QC.

President Bush said that: "The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway."

Prime Minister Blair responded that he was: "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam."

But Mr. Blair said that: "a second Security Council resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected, and international cover, including with the Arabs."

Mr. Sands' book says that the meeting focused on the need to identify evidence that Saddam had committed a material breach of his obligations under the existing UN Resolution 1441. There was concern that insufficient evidence had been unearthed by the UN inspection team, led by Dr Hans Blix. Other options were considered.

President Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

He went on: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated."

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr. Sands said: "I think no one would be surprised at the idea that the use of spy-planes to review what is going on would be considered. What is surprising is the idea that they would be used painted in the colours of the United Nations in order to provoke an attack which could then be used to justify material breach. Now that plainly looks as if it is deception, and it raises some fundamental questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law."

Also present at the meeting were President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice and her deputy Dan Fried, and the President's Chief of Staff, Andrew Card. The Prime Minister took with him his then security adviser Sir David Manning, his Foreign Policy aide Matthew Rycroft, and and his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell.

Those present, as documented in Mr. Sands' book, also discussed what might happen in Iraq after liberation.

President Bush said that he: "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups."

The Foreign Office issued a statement: "The Government only committed UK forces to Iraq after securing the approval of the House in the vote on 18 march 2003."

"The decision to resort to military action to ensure Iraq fulfilled its obligation imposed by successive UN Security Council Resolutions was taken only after all other routes to disarm Iraq had failed."

"Of course during this time there were frequent discussions between UK and US Governments about Iraq."

Fitzgerald Hints White House Records Lost

Fitzgerald Hints White House Records Lost
By PETE YOST , Associated Press, 02.01.2006, 09:28 PM

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is raising the possibility that records sought in the CIA leak investigation could be missing because of an e-mail archiving problem at the White House.

The prosecutor in the criminal case against Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff said in a Jan. 23 letter that not all e-mail was archived in 2003, the year the Bush administration exposed the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

Lawyers for defendant I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby this week accused prosecutors of withholding evidence the Libby camp says it needs to mount a defense.

"We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby which has been destroyed," Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to the defense team.

But the prosecutor added: "In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." His letter was an exhibit attached to Libby's demand for more information from the prosecution.

Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said the vice president's office is cooperating fully with the investigation, and referred questions to Fitzgerald's office.

Libby is charged with five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI regarding how he learned of Plame's identity and what he did with the information.

The Presidential Records Act, passed by Congress in 1978, made it clear that records generated in the conduct of official duties did not belong to the president or vice president, but were the property of the government.

The National Archives takes custody of the records when the president leaves office.

"Bottom line: Accidents happen and there could be a benign explanation, but this is highly irregular and invites suspicion," said Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists government secrecy project.

"A particular subset of records sought in a controversial prosecution have gone missing," Aftergood said. "I think what is needed is for the national archivist to ascertain what went wrong and how to ensure it won't happen again."

From the people that brought you Gitmo... - Media Monitors Network (MMN)

Home / Headlines / From the people that brought you Gitmo... - Media Monitors Network (MMN)

From the people that brought you Gitmo...
by Tom Mysiewicz
(Thursday February 02 2006)

"Chances are, though, the camps may be populated not just with illegal immigrants but with Moslems and others whose religious beliefs are "incompatible with a democratic society."

The people that brought you Gitmo are at it again, and this time their camps could be located right in the mainland U.S. These camps could be activated in the event of an "emergency", such as a threat to U.S. "national security" resulting from an attack on Iran and/or the expulsion of the Palestinians from East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Chances are, though, the camps may be populated not just with illegal immigrants but with Moslems and others whose religious beliefs are "incompatible with a democratic society".

Neoconservative lightning rod and talk-show host Michael "Savage" (a.k.a. Weiner) has been discussing the topic of late. While he is careful to intersperse terms like "radical Islam" with Moslem, Palestinian, Iranian and Arab (its doubtful the audience appreciates any of these subtle nuances), he has begun testing the waters for a roundup and possible expulsion of such individuals from the U.S. because their religious beliefs are "incompatible with a democratic society". To make such a roundup more palatable, he declares that such individuals are "cockroaches, mentally ill... lunatics... in filthy nightshirts.”

At about the same time Savage began his latest diatribe, word came that a conditional $385-million contract has been issued to the Kellogg Brown Root (KBR) subsidiary of Halliburton to construct temporary detention and processing camps--concentration camps--for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE could use such camps as part of its so-called "removal program". Halliburton was apparently selected, in part, due to its previous and highly successful installation at the Gitmo facility in Cuba.

The U.S. is currently swamped with nearly 20-million illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico. These are creating an intolerable social-welfare burden on many local governments and depressing overall U.S. wages. However, President Bush, in his recent State of the Union message, proposed legalizing such individuals through a "guest worker" proposal. So it's unlikely ICE would be targeting any such documented aliens in a future program of removal.

Other Neoconservative talk-show hosts have decried the presence of "Arabs" in South and Central America, citing countries such as Paraguay as particularly egregious examples. It may also be necessary to capture and deport such subversives during some future "emergency". The proposed FEMA camps could also be used to process and deport such dangerous aliens. There is a precedent for this. During World War II, German farmers and businessmen were seized throughout South and Central America and detained for the duration of the war. Most of the farmers lost their farms and all property built up over many years. (At least one of these "dangerous" subversives reportedly asked his captors about the health of the Kaiser, the leader of Germany in the First World War, because he was so isolated.)


by courtesy & © 2006 Tom Mysiewicz

Bush to Request $120B More for War Funding

Bush to Request $120B More for War Funding

Thursday February 2, 2006 9:46 PM


Associated Press Writer

NOTE: This comes less than 24 hours after a party line vote in the House to pass a savage $40 billion five year cut in social spending that targets the elderly, children, the infirm and the impoverished. It took Putsch less than a day to piss away three times as much on his useless, futile war.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration said Thursday it will ask Congress for $120 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18 billion more this year for hurricane relief.

If approved by Congress, the war money would push spending related to the wars toward a staggering half-trillion dollars.

Details of the requests are not final, but the 2007 budget proposal that President Bush will submit next week will reflect the totals for planning purposes. The president also will ask Congress to devote an additional $2.3 billion this year for prepare for a bird flu epidemic.

About $70 billion of the new war money will be requested for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, bringing total spending on the two campaigns to $120 billion for the current budget year. The other $50 billion in new war money will be set aside in the 2007 budget for the first few months of the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. More money will likely be needed in 2007.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that $320 billion has been spent on Iraq and Afghanistan since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including $50 billion that Congress sent Bush in December.

Administration officials said the new figures were estimates.

Joel Kaplan, deputy director of the White House's budget office, said the administration was ``trying to balance the desire for transparency and accurate estimating with the unpredictable nature of war and the needs on the ground.''

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the requests reflect the president's desire to ``commit the resources that are necessary to fight and win the war on terrorism.''

The requested money would cover troop salaries and benefits, repairing and replacing equipment, supporting U.S. embassies in the two countries and taking on the insurgency. It would cover the costs of continuing to train Iraqi and Afghan security forces and protect U.S. troops.

Kaplan said the $50 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan for 2007 is a placeholder and he suggested that the combined costs of the two campaigns could be different.

``We're still in the process of working out the details,'' he said.

Meantime, Donald Powell, the coordinator for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, confirmed that the administration would request $18 billion for that effort.

The money would push the total federal commitment for rebuilding to more than $100 billion, according to administration tallies. He said it probably would be the last such spending request for the current budget year. He said a detailed request would go to Congress within 10 days to 30 days.

Powell said he does not anticipate additional money for the region in the 2007 budget Bush planned to announce Monday.

Powell provided little detail about specifically what the money would be used for, saying it would include money for housing, roads and levees.

``That's a lot of money,'' he said, referring to the $100 billion.

The request is also likely to include funding for federal facilities such as military bases and veterans hospitals damaged by the September storm.

In December, Congress dedicated $29 billion of previously appropriated funds for such purposes as levee repair and construction, emergency funds to compensate homeowners whose hurricane insurance does not cover flood losses, and child care, mental health and other social services.

At that time, Congress exceeded Bush's request by $10.4 billion, mostly by approving $11.5 billion in flexible Community Development Block Grants.


Associated Press writers Liz Sidoti and Lara Jakes Jordan contributed to this story.

'Marlboro Man' Turns Against War He Symbolised

'Marlboro Man' Turns Against War He Symbolised
By Andrew Buncombe
The Independent UK

Thursday 02 February 2006

A cigarette hung from his mouth in the manner of John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart, his grime-covered face showed the exhaustion of battle.

This image of US Marine Lance-Corporal Blake Miller, taken during the battle of Fallujah, instantly captured the public imagination and for a while he was known simply as Marlboro Man.

But 15 month after that photograph appeared in more than 100 US newspapers, the 21-year-old is back from Iraq, back on civvy street and he is talking about the trauma of what he experienced and the scars he still bears, physical and mental. The once unquestioning Marine is now also questioning whether US forces should be in Iraq.

The mental health experts who are treating him call his condition post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but Mr Miller describes it in more immediate language: nightmares, sleeplessness and periods when he will "blank out", not knowing where he is or what he is doing. "I could tell you stories about Iraq that would make the hair stand up on the back of your neck," he said. "And I could tell you things that were great over there. But that would still not tell you what it was actually like. You had to be there and go through it to really understand."

Mr Miller is not alone. The federal Veterans Affairs (VA) department revealed last week that up to a third of US troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan - about 40,000 - suffer mental health problems. It is to spend an extra $29m (£16.3m) on troops who have PTSD. Days ago, The Independent reported the suicide of another veteran of the Iraq war, Doug Barber, a National Guardsman who took his life after struggling with his experiences of the war after he returned to civilian life.

Mr Miller, who received an honourable discharge last November after military psychologists decided he would be a threat to himself or his colleagues if he continued to serve, said there remained a stigma about mental health issues. He told Knight Ridder Newspapers: "I want people to know that PTSD is not something people come down with because they are crazy. It's an anxiety disorder, where you've experienced something so traumatic that you're close to death." Mr Miller's photograph was taken in November 2004 during the battle for Fallujah, the insurgent stronghold. The two-week operation resulted in the deaths of up to 50 US troops, an estimated 1,200 insurgents and an unknown number of civilians.

The former Marine says he now questions the US tactics and believes troops should have been withdrawn some time ago. He said: "When I was in the service my opinion was whatever the Commander-in-Chief's opinion was. But after I got out, I started to think about it. The biggest question I have now is how you can make a war on an entire country when a certain group from that country is practising terrorism against you. It's as if a gang from New York went to Iraq and blew some stuff up and Iraq started a war against us because of that."

Mr Miller's image was captured by the Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco. At the time, he smoked five packs a day. Now, recently married and looking to make a fresh start, he has cut down to just one.

Deputy's Gunfire Looks Like a Crime to Some,0,28796.story?track=tottext,0,3216044.story?track=tothtml
From the Los Angeles Times
Deputy's Gunfire Looks Like a Crime to Some
By Matt Lait and Lance Pugmire
Times Staff Writers

February 2, 2006

A San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who shot a 21-year-old Air Force security officer in an incident captured by a video camera appears to have violated accepted police tactics and may have committed a criminal offense, experts in the use of force by police said Wednesday.

The experts cautioned that the low quality of the digital recording may obscure some important evidence. But what is visible — the image of the deputy firing multiple rounds at 21-year-old Elio Carrion as he appeared to follow the deputy's order to get off the ground — was shocking, they said.

"It's a criminal act," said Roger Clark, a former Los Angeles County sheriff's lieutenant who routinely testifies in court as an expert in police tactics. Clark has worked both for police officers and for citizens who have sued the police. "He shot an unarmed man who was complying with his orders," Clark said.

David Klinger, a use-of-force expert who teaches at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and wrote a book titled "Into The Kill Zone: A Cop's Eye View of Deadly Force," said the recording was "the screwiest thing I've ever seen. It makes no sense."

"What I saw was totally incongruous with standard police doctrine," said Klinger, a professor of criminology and onetime LAPD officer.

San Bernardino County sheriff's officials have refused to release the name of the deputy, although state law makes the identity of law enforcement officers involved in shootings a matter of public record.

A source close to the investigation confirmed the identity of the deputy as Ivory J. Webb IV, 45.

Answering the front door of Webb's home, a woman said the deputy, currently on paid administrative leave, was not willing to discuss the shooting.

"We have nothing to say," the woman said. "Please leave our property."

Webb was named as one of seven co-defendants in a 2004 federal civil lawsuit against San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies that alleged excessive use of force by another deputy. Jurors in that case ruled for the officers and cleared Webb, who had been accused of failing to stop his colleague from misconduct.

Webb is believed to be the son of a former Compton chief of police, also named Ivory Webb. The elder Webb has a son whose birth date matches that of the San Bernardino deputy. That son played college football at Iowa, where he was a two-time letterman receiver and played in the 1982 Rose Bowl.

A woman who answered the telephone at the elder Webb's home said, "my son didn't do anything."

The shooting, which occurred on a residential street in Chino, was recorded by a bystander and shows Carrion crouching on the ground telling the deputy that he was "on your side" and meant him "no harm."

At one point, a voice on the recording appears to say "stay on the ground." Seconds later, however, the deputy appears to tell Carrion: "Get up, get up." As Carrion rises, the deputy, who is standing several feet away, shoots him three times.

Carrion remains hospitalized in good condition.

Carrion was the passenger in a blue Corvette that had led the deputy on a brief high-speed chase Sunday night. The chase ended when the driver crashed into a fence on a residential street. Neither Carrion nor the driver had any weapons, sheriff's officials said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. attorney's office said a federal civil rights probe of the shooting had been opened.

A separate investigation is being conducted by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

On Wednesday, county Dist. Atty. Michael Ramos said in a statement that "we fully expect the investigation to be both thorough and comprehensive." Once the sheriff's investigation is finished, Ramos said, his prosecutors will decide whether to bring charges against the deputy.

Law enforcement officials warned against making quick judgments about the shooting until the recording had been thoroughly analyzed and investigations completed.

The recording, which has received national media attention, is poor in quality and was shot at night and on a dark residential street. Conversations between the deputy and Carrion are at times difficult to hear, and some statements are too faint or garbled to be discerned.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said some dialogue appeared to be inaudible because of background noise.

"We're hoping the FBI's forensic exam of the tape will provide a complete description of the dialogue," Beavers said. "And then there will be no doubts."

Under state law, officers are allowed to use deadly force if they perceive that a person presents a deadly threat to themselves or others.

However, several law enforcement experts who reviewed the recording said they did not see any threat from Carrion that would justify the use of deadly force.

Carrion was not charged with any crime. The driver of the vehicle, Luis Fernando Escobedo, 21, was arrested on suspicion of felony evading but has not been charged. He was released from jail Tuesday night.

Escobedo held an impromptu news conference on the front lawn of his home in Montclair on Wednesday afternoon and said both he and Carrion were trying to cooperate with the deputy and that the deputy had no reason to open fire.

"We were both talking to the officer, saying, 'We're not armed,' " Escobedo said.

"Carrion opened his door to speak to the deputy, who told Carrion to move to the ground, Escobedo said. Later, the deputy ordered Carrion to get up, he said.

"When he pushed himself up, that's when the officer [started] shooting," said Escobedo, who remained in the vehicle throughout the incident. When asked if Carrion reached for anything, Escobedo said his friend had no weapon to reach for.

Some experts said the shooting could have been avoided had the deputy used better tactics. Specifically, they said, the deputy should never have placed himself so close to suspects. Instead, he should have used his own vehicle as cover, called for backup and issued commands from a safe distance.

Ideally, they said, a suspect should be lying prone on the ground and handcuffed before he is asked to stand up.

"It's a two-man operation," said Clark, "one to handcuff the suspect and the other to provide cover."

Good police tactics, he said, "prevent injuries and unnecessary uses of force." And, he added, "there is no room for anger in this profession, and this deputy looks really mad."

Geoffrey Alpert, another police expert on deadly force, said that even if Carrion were disobeying the deputy and standing up without permission, that would not seem to justify the shooting.

"I don't see where there is a threat to the officer," said Alpert, chairman of the University of South Carolina's department of criminology and criminal justice.

Alpert, like other experts, suggested that the deputy might have been pumped up with emotion after being involved in an adrenaline-charged pursuit.

"It's hard to say what was going through that deputy's mind," he said.

The incident was the second controversial shooting by a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy that was recorded in the past seven months.

The county district attorney's office is investigating an August shooting.

In that incident, a store security camera showed an undercover deputy firing into an SUV at a Rialto shopping center, killing the unarmed driver, Antuan Conners.

Conners was a suspect in two jewelry store robberies, and deputies, traveling in unmarked cars, were attempting to take him into custody. They boxed in his car in the parking lot and got out of their cars. When Conners tried to accelerate around them, he was shot to death.

Sheriff's homicide investigators determined the deputy in that case was compelled to shoot because he feared for the safety of the deputies around him.

"We have the same diligence toward officer-involved shootings as we do with homicides," said Sgt. Frank Bell, the sheriff's lead homicide investigator in the Conners shooting.

"Our job is to present what happened as accurately as possible…. Mistakes are made. We have to understand [deputies] are human. If a guy panicked, we'll say it."

Bell, who is not involved with the investigation of Sunday's shooting, said videotape evidence can be extremely helpful, but added that it does not answer all the questions or reveal what's in the minds of the deputy or suspect.


Times staff writers Ashley Powers, Susannah Rosenblatt and Michelle Keller contributed to this report.

Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports

Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports

By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's
dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent
by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said
Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters,
was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports
equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle
East in 2025.

But America still would import oil from the Middle East, because that's
where the greatest oil supplies are.

The president's State of the Union reference to Mideast oil made
headlines nationwide Wednesday because of his assertion that "America is
addicted to oil" and his call to "break this addiction."

Bush vowed to fund research into better batteries for hybrid vehicles
and more production of the alternative fuel ethanol, setting a lofty
goal of replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the
Middle East by 2025."

He pledged to "move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our
dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."

Not exactly, though, it turns out.

"This was purely an example," Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said.

He said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from
anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a
freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms.
Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any
single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth.

Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't
really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to
dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there
listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on
condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him
in trouble.

Presidential adviser Dan Bartlett made a similar point in a briefing
before the speech. "I think one of the biggest concerns the American
people have is oil coming from the Middle East. It is a very volatile
region," he said.

Through the first 11 months of 2005, the United States imported nearly
2.2 million barrels per day of oil from the Middle East nations of Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. That's less than 20 percent of the total U.S.
daily imports of 10.062 million barrels.

Imports account for about 60 percent of U.S. oil consumption.

Alan Hubbard, the director of the president's National Economic Council,
projects that America will import 6 million barrels of oil per day from
the Middle East in 2025 without major technological changes in energy

The Bush administration believes that new technologies could reduce the
total daily U.S. oil demand by about 5.26 million barrels through
alternatives such as plug-in hybrids with rechargeable batteries,
hydrogen-powered cars and new ethanol products.

That means the new technologies could reduce America's oil appetite by
the equivalent of what we're expected to import from the Middle East by
2025, Hubbard said.

But we'll still be importing plenty of oil, according to the Energy
Department's latest projection.

"In 2025, net petroleum imports, including both crude oil and refined
products, are expected to account for 60 percent of demand ... up from
58 percent in 2004," according to the Energy Information
Administration's 2006 Annual Energy Outlook.

Some experts think Bush needs to do more to achieve his stated goal.

"We can achieve energy independence from the Middle East, but not with
what the president is proposing," said Craig Wolfe, the president of
Americans for Energy Independence in Studio City, Calif. "We need to
slow the growth in consumption. Our organization believes we need to do
something about conservation" and higher auto fuel-efficiency standards.

Wide Plot Seen in Guilty Plea in Iraq Project

Wide Plot Seen in Guilty Plea in Iraq Project

Robert J. Stein Jr. could not have been clearer about his feelings toward the American businessman who was receiving millions of dollars in contracts from Mr. Stein to build a major police academy and other reconstruction projects in Iraq.

"I love to give you money," Mr. Stein wrote in an e-mail message to the businessman, Philip H. Bloom, on Jan. 3, 2004, just as the United States was trying to ramp up its rebuilding program in Iraq.

As it turned out, Mr. Stein had the money to give. Despite a prior conviction on felony fraud that his Pentagon background check apparently missed, Mr. Stein was hired and put in charge of at least $82 million of reconstruction money in the south central Iraqi city of Hilla by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-led administration that was then running Iraq.

In United States District Court in Washington, court papers indicate, Mr. Stein will plead guilty today to conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, possession of a machine gun and being a felon in possession of firearms, for essentially giving millions of that money to Mr. Bloom, and taking millions more for himself. Mr. Stein used some of his stolen money, the papers say, to buy items as wildly diverse as grenade launchers, machine guns, a Lexus, "an interest in one Porsche," a Cessna airplane, two plots of real estate in Hope Mills, N.C., a Toshiba personal computer, 18 Breitling watches, a 6-carat diamond ring and a collection of silver dollars. The papers say that the ring of corruption was much wider than previously known, drawing at least seven Americans, including Mr. Stein, Mr. Bloom and five Army reserve officers, into what is portrayed as a maelstrom of greed, sex and gun-running at the heart of the American occupation of a conservative Muslim country.

As part of their bribery scheme, Mr. Stein and his co-conspirators dispensed and received a wide range of other items like cigars, alcohol, first-class plane tickets and "money laundering services," according to the papers. And if all of that were not enough reason for Mr. Stein to love giving money to his partner, the papers say, there was another: Mr. Bloom kept a villa in Baghdad where he provided women who gave sexual favors to officials he hoped to influence, including Mr. Stein. Mr. Bloom's lawyer, Robert A. Mintz, declined to comment on the case.

The court papers say the money was taken by outright theft of millions of dollars in cash — some of it then lugged aboard commercial flights back to the United States — by steering millions of dollars in construction contracts to Mr. Bloom's companies in return for bribes, and through international wire transfers of millions more.

Over all, Mr. Stein is accused of stealing at least $2 million of American taxpayer money and Iraqi funds, which came from Iraqi oil proceeds and money seized from Saddam Hussein's government, accepting at least $1 million in money and goods in direct bribes and grabbing another $600,000 in cash and goods that belonged to the Coalition Provisional Authority. In return, Mr. Stein and his cronies used rigged bids to steer at least $8.6 million in contracts for buildings like the police academy, a library and a center meant to promote democracy, the papers say.

The papers say "Stein and his co-conspirators recommended numerous construction projects in Hilla, Iraq, that were intended to be, and were in fact, steered" to Mr. Bloom. That charge suggests that Mr. Stein, using his perch at the provisional authority, was manipulating at least part of the reconstruction program to enrich himself and his cronies.

There have so far been four arrests in the case, including Mr. Stein, of Fayetteville, N.C., and Mr. Bloom, who lived for many years in Romania. The others, who like Mr. Stein served as C.P.A. officials whose authority extended over a vast territory centered on Hilla, are Lt. Col. Debra Harrison of Trenton and Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler of Amherst Junction, Wis. They were all arrested late last year. Lawyers for Colonel Harrison and Colonel Wheeler did not immediately respond to phone messages left late last night.

The papers covering Mr. Stein's likely plea deal refer to Mr. Bloom, Colonel Harrison and Colonel Wheeler only as numbered co-conspirators, but their names are easily deduced from the context. The remaining three people called co-conspirators have not yet been publicly charged with crimes and their names are not known. The papers also suggest that others may have been involved.

As described in the court papers, reports by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and other public documents, the story of Mr. Stein's slide into the depths of corruption began shortly after he was sent to Iraq after being hired by S&K Technologies, a St. Ignatius, Mont., company that had won Army contracts to provide administrative support in Iraq.

Although S&K's contract called for Pentagon background checks, some of which were actually carried out, according to former S&K employees, Mr. Stein was given extraordinary authority in Iraq to authorize and spend money, in spite of his fraud conviction in the mid-1990's.

Mr. Stein's control over astonishing sums of cash became so great, interviews with former officials in Hilla indicate, that at one point he and others picked up $58.8 million in shrink-wrapped $100 bills from provisional authority headquarters and drove back with it to Hilla. There Mr. Stein controlled access to the vault where the cash was put — though not before local employees posed for pictures in front of the money.

The story of Mr. Stein's misdeeds begins, according to the court papers, with an e-mail message Mr. Stein sent to Mr. Bloom asking if one of the other conspirators was now "on board." A few days later, Mr. Stein sent an exultant note saying that he had pushed through the first of the police academy contracts, for preparing the ground. "I will give you 200K sometime tomorrow afternoon!" Mr. Stein wrote.

Some $7.3 million in contracts and grants ultimately was written for the academy, with much of it going to Mr. Bloom, the papers say. Agents from the special inspector general's office later found that the work was done improperly or not at all. Mr. Stein had authority only to write contracts for under $500,000. He evaded that limit by writing at least 11 separate contracts, each for under that amount, federal papers say.

A few days after that first e-mail message, in the first of a series of wire transfers, Mr. Bloom sent $30,000 from a bank in Kuwait to an account controlled by Mr. Stein's wife at the Bragg Mutual Federal Credit Union in North Carolina. Two weeks later, the papers indicate, $70,000 more went out by the same route. The bribes had begun.

From that point on, through contract after contract, Mr. Stein, Mr. Bloom and the other conspirators descended into unbridled corruption, the papers indicate. They appeared to draw more people into the scam and became fearful of being exposed. On Feb. 25, 2004, Mr. Stein wrote a message saying that the official who had been brought "on board" had just stomped out of Mr. Stein's office, the papers say. "I guess he was expecting the next chunk for 60 sent," Mr. Stein wrote, referring to a bribe of $60,000, "and he got a call from his wife stating he had not received it."

And after Mr. Bloom wrote back saying "I sent the funds a week ago" and "tell him to stop acting like a child," Mr. Stein replied, seemingly with trepidation: "Shall I go ahead and give" the official "the 50 or 60 to shut him up?" The demands of the co-conspirators seemed to grow more extreme as time went on. By late June, Mr. Bloom carried on a correspondence with a car dealer in the United States to satisfy highly expensive demands by yet another alleged player in the scheme.

"Your friend is seeking a very desirable, hard-to-find color: electric blue," the dealer wrote back. "It appears that there are only two blue Nissan 350Z hardtops in the western United States," adding that the person "wants the following specifications: Touring model, manual transmission, aerodynamics package, cargo convenience package, floor mats, splash guards and trunk mat." Cost: $35,990.

A frantic tone crept into Mr. Stein's correspondence as he realized investigators could be closing in. One official, Mr. Stein wrote on June 25 to the person who wanted the Nissan, "is pushing some things that could snowball out of control."

"I am doing my best to keep a formal investigation from happening," Mr. Stein wrote. He added, "I would like to know if you are going to stand behind me or not!"

Elizabeth Rubin contributed reporting for this article.

STATE OF THE UNION: An Underwhelmed Nation Yawns

An Underwhelmed Nation Yawns

Last night, President Bush attempted to shift attention from his failing strategy in Iraq. He couldn't do it. The Washington Post notes that "his address lacked the rhetorical lift of some of his best efforts of the past, and the domestic policy agenda, although lengthy, included initiatives that have been around for some time. In that sense, the speech was a reminder of how much the war in Iraq has drained the administration's energy and creativity, and how much it continues to define the Bush presidency." Bush stressed that "with so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor." But Bush frequently glossed over " harsh global and political realities" in an effort to paint an optimistic picture of the State of the Union. Check out our comprehensive reality check on

THE REVIEWS ARE IN: " Encumbered by some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency," President Bush delivered a speech that has been characterized as "generic," "small-bore," and without ambition. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that Bush's address last night received the lowest positive reaction of any State of the Union speech delivered during his tenure. News analyses have noted that Bush "displayed little ambition to tackle some of America's greatest challenges at home or abroad." In comparison to Bush's previous State of the Union addresses, last night's speech was "far less ambitious, his tone noticeably different." In style, the speech was "lackluster, ordinary and, most of all, generic." Bush repeated "arguments he regularly makes in national security speeches while running through a succession of economic proposals with little evident passion." " No sweeping proposals," according to Reuters. The New York Times adds, "[T]he speech was notable largely for a lack of big new proposals from a president who for five years has not shied from provocative and politically risky initiatives." "The solutions Bush offered were relatively small-bore and wrapped in familiar language," writes the Associated Press. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) captured the sentiments of many: "we didn't hear anything new, and we didn't get any real answers."

BUSH ADDICTED TO ENERGY INDEPENDENCE RHETORIC: President Bush last night called for America to drastically reduce its dependence on foreign oil -- just as he's done in every other past State of the Union address -- despite the fact that our dependence on foreign oil has increased every year. Bush departed from his past failed policies of drilling our nation's remaining oil and gas supplies, cajoling Saudi Arabia and the other "allies" upon whom we depend for oil, and increasing subsidies to the fossil fuels industry. Despite seeking cuts in both alternative energy and biofuels programs in the FY06 budget, Bush last night proposed a 22 percent increase in financing for various clean energy research projects. Yet even those funding boosts represent "incremental adjustments" compared to the subsidies dished out in the energy bill Bush signed last year, "including $2 billion in tax breaks for oil and gas drillers over five years." Also missing from Bush's speech was any mention of "requiring higher fuel economy standards for consumer vehicles," which analysts say "would have the greatest impact on reducing U.S. oil demand and cutting imports." All in all, the New York Times noted, last night's rhetoric "was hardly the bold signal we've been waiting for through years of global warming and deadly struggles in the Middle East, where everything takes place in the context of what Mr. Bush rightly called our 'addiction' to imported oil." For a comprehensive progressive roadmap to energy independence, check out American Progress's plan: "Resources for Global Growth."

MEDIA HEAD-FAKE ON HEALTH CARE: The White House can claim at least one success from this year's State of the Union: falsely convincing the media that President Bush would take America's health care crisis seriously. " Health Care Is Now at Top of Bush's Agenda," a New York Times headline proclaimed prior to the speech, while the Associated Press reported that Bush would "attempt to shift focus from the polarizing war in Iraq to a more popular domestic priority: taming health care costs." "Health care will be the centerpiece of the White House's domestic agenda for 2006," reported the Weekly Standard. "In Tuesday's State of the Union, the president will focus on rising health costs, with more detailed policy announcements to follow in the weeks ahead." In fact, just 170 words of Bush's 5,400 word speech were devoted to the topic, reflecting the true priority Bush has placed on health care during his time in office.

WHAT WASN'T IN THE SPEECH: "The speech was notable for what Mr. Bush did not mention. He offered no new ideas for rebuilding New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, made no mention of his troubled Medicare prescription drug program and offered no proposal to clamp down on lobbying abuses in Congress that have led to the investigation of Jack Abramoff, a formerly powerful lobbyist and a major fund-raiser for Mr. Bush." For any listener last night holding out hope that Bush would address these key issues, the speech was "a grave disappointment." Bush's own previous bad decisions have limited the scope of what he can achieve; he is in essence "hampered by his own track record." "The president's future horizons are constrained by his past choices, budgetary and political. At home, expensive tax cuts and a Medicare prescription drug entitlement limit his scope for new initiatives. Abroad, the commitment of troops, money and diplomatic capital to Iraq has narrowed the president's options."

SOTU Tour Hits Music City USA

President Bush travels today to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry to promote his State of the Union agenda, focusing on health care, tax cuts, and energy costs. For the last five years, residents of the Volunteer State have seen their energy prices skyrocket, their number of uninsured swell, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots widen to a chasm. In response, Bush is offering "repackaged versions" of old proposals. There is a reason why the audience is hand-selected by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN): for average Tennesseans this song is played out.

ENERGY -- TENNESSEE GASOLINE PRICES HAVE INCREASED NEARLY 50% SINCE 2004: Gas in Tennessee currently costs $2.27 per gallon, up from $1.53 per gallon in January 2004. The change in prices represents a 48 percent increase.

HEALTH CARE -- MORE THAN 800,000 TENNESSEANS ARE UNINSURED, HEALTH COSTS RISING RAPIDLY: According to data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 803,130 people in Tennessee do not have health insurance and 157,070 children are uninsured. The number of uninsured among the nonelderly increased by 4.0 percent from 2000-04.

TAX CUTS -- BUSH'S TAX CUTS ON DIVIDENDS AND CAPITAL GAINS DISPROPORTIONATELY BENEFIT STATE'S WEALTHY: The Citizens for Tax Justice found that if Bush made his tax cuts on dividends and capital gains permanent, Tennessee's wealthiest citizens would receive the lion's share of the benefits. According to the CTJ study, in the year 2010, the top 1% of earners in the state would receive 56.2 percent of the tax cuts. The lowest 20 percent earners would receive only 0.1 percent. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found Tennessee to be one of five states - along with New York, Texas, Arizona, and Florida - with the "largest income gap between the top and bottom fifths of families."

MEDICARE -- TENNESSEANS 'TEARING THEIR HAIR OUT' OVER MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PLAN: The Nashville Tennessean reported local pharmacists "are saying that the federal government's new drug plan for the elderly and disabled is a nightmare for druggists and an out-and-out catastrophe for the poor." "I've talked to pharmacists who have been in practice for 25 years who say this is the most difficult time they've ever had," Baeteena Black, executive director of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association, said. "They're saying we have it rough right now, but the patients have it even worse." Roughly 25 companies offering 80 insurance plans are operating the drug plan in Tennessee. "It's been a nightmare only the government could have come up with," one pharmacist said. "Any pharmacy serving an older population is tearing their hair out." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) said the plan would improve access to drugs for seniors. "Prescription drugs in the past have been denied to our seniors, but will be there as a result of this legislation," Frist said in 2003. Frist called the bill's passage a "victory for our nation's seniors, and for all Americans," and he thanked Bush for his "leadership on the issue."

CORRUPTION -- BUSH OFFERS NO SOLUTIONS, STATES LIKE TENNESSEE TAKE THE LEAD: Bush said in the State of the Union Americans are "concerned about unethical conduct by public officials," but did not offer any solutions. Meanwhile, "Tennessee lawmakers are in special session to consider tough new restrictions on lobbying and campaign finance." Gov. Phil Bredesen (D-TN) convened the session to deal with the "culture of corruption in Nashville." The governor wants "a ban on most gifts by lobbyists to government employees and elected officials, disclosure of spending by lobbyists, new limits on cash campaign contributions and the creation of an independent ethics commission with broad enforcement power." Bredesen said of Abramoff scandal in Washington, "I'm telling the Legislature this is going to be front-page news for a year, so let's get out in front of the curve and be actively addressing these issues." The Tennessee state senate passed a version of the reform package yesterday.

Under the Radar

INTELLIGENCE -- GONZALES LIED UNDER OATH ABOUT BUSH'S SPYING PROGRAM: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have lied under oath to the Senate during his confirmation hearings a year ago. In a Jan. 30 letter to Gonzales, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) charged that Gonzales misled the Senate "when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens." According to a transcript of the Jan. 6, 2005, exchange, Gonzales tried to waive off Feingold's question as "hypothetical," and said that "it's not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes." But in fact, Gonzales personally approved Bush's warrantless domestic spying program, in contravention of a criminal statute.

ECONOMY -- WAGE GROWTH LOWEST IN NINE YEARS: Wages and benefits "rose last year by the smallest amount in nine years," according to new figures released by the Labor Department. But even this small increase was not enough to keep up with inflation. "When inflation is considered, overall compensation fell by 0.3 percent." Additionally, "there was a slowing of benefit costs in 2005 as employers struggled to deal with surging health costs." But while working Americans struggle to deal with skyrocketing health care and home heating costs, Exxon Mobile's profits surged to a record $10.7 billion -- $1,073 a second -- "capping the most profitable year for any company in U.S. history."

CONTRACT CORRUPTION -- LITTLE-KNOWN CONTRACTOR PULLING IN BIG MONEY FOR SHODDY, UNFINISHED WORK: In 2002, the National Security Agency (NSA) hired Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) "to help it build a state-of-the-art tool for plucking key threats to the nation from a worldwide sea of digital communication," in a project code-named "Trailblazer." More than three years later, the project has yet to get off the ground, but has cost taxpayers $1.2 billion. This isn't the first time SAIC has been paid high dollars by the federal government for unfinished business. SAIC received seven no-bid contracts for Iraq, including an $82 million no-bid contract to run the country's first post-Saddam TV network, even though the company had no broadcast experience. A surprise government visit found that while the work had not happened, SAIC had been paid anyway. Lucky for SAIC, it has friends in high places. Adm. William Owens, for example, went from SAIC president and CEO to a Secretary Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board. Christopher Henry, former senior vice president at SAIC, became a key aide to Douglas Feith, who supervised contract work done by SAIC in Iraq.

ADMINISTRATION -- BUSH ADMINISTRATION RESTRICTS NEWS COVERAGE, ONE PHOTO AT A TIME: Not only does the Bush administration screen its audiences at speeches, but it also shuts out media photographers from many events, instead offering the press only White House-approved photos. "A review of Associated Press archives found that during the entire eight years of the Clinton administration, only 100 handout photos of events were released to the press. During the first five years of Bush's presidency, more than 500 have been distributed." Media photojournalists are regularly blocked out of White House events, forced to use official White House photos. "Would anyone on the word side take a press release and regurgitate it verbatim and publish it in the newspaper as legitimate news," asked Susan Walsh, an Associated Press photojournalist and president of the White House News Photographers Association. " Of course not." Other photographers "point out the power such an arrangement gives the White House to literally control news."

POLL - IRAQIS WANT TIMETABLE FOR A U.S. WITHDRAWAL: A new poll of the Iraqi public by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) found that 70 percent of Iraqis favor setting a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, but 76 percent believe the United States would not withdraw within six months if asked to do so by the Iraqi government. 80 percent of the Iraqi public believes the United States plans to have permanent bases in Iraq.

Everything you always wanted to know about Able Danger data mining project

Media is a Plural - Rory O'Connor's Blog - February 1, 2006

Able Danger Twenty Questions
Everything you always wanted to know (but were afraid to ask, or the answers were classified…) about the controversial Able Danger data mining project, which identified four 9/11 hijackers a year before the terror attacks.

1. Did Anthony Shaffer, or anyone on the Able Danger team, obtain a photo of Mohamed Atta from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), as Shaffer's interview with Government Security News (GSN) states?

The photo of Atta came from an information broker who provided it and others. Shaffer's comments were made to GSN based on his knowledge at the time, which came from his knowledge of what the US Army's Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) operations center had access to. Shaffer's interview with GSN took place before civilian analyst JD Smith came forward and clarified the issue. Shaffer did not know in 1999-2000 all the specifics of how Smith and company were doing the detailed data mining -- it was Shaffer's belief at the time that the photo had come from INS records. LIWA did have access to INS documents - and a Defense Department intelligence program called the Foreign Visitor Program, in which not only photos of foreign nationals but also their entire visa application were provided -- but Shaffer was not aware of LIWA's use of information brokers.

2. If Atta was identified as early as January or February of 2000 – as Captain Scott Phillpott has said - when were the other three hijackers (Shehhi, Mihdhar, and Hamzi) identified by Able Danger?

Within the same timeframe, since the missing chart contained the names of all four of the then-future hijackers. They were all listed in what Phillpott had called "the Brooklyn Cell" - not that they were all in Brooklyn, but they met the search criteria that linked them to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

3. Did anyone on the Able Danger team know that any of these four were ever in the US? If so, when did they find out and how?

They did not know, as it was not Able Danger's job to track individuals in the U.S. (based on legal restrictions.) Once it was determined by Defense Department (DOD) lawyers that the "Brooklyn Cell" information could not be used for offensive planning by the Able Danger planners, the Able Danger team then attempted to pass the information to the FBI for its use. At any given time, there was no specific knowledge of where the terrorists were regarding the continental United States. The Able Danger effort, and targeting of specific individuals, was focused on overseas locations.

4. By early June 2000, these four were the only ones to have entered the US. Most of the hijackers entered the US after May 2001. Is it reasonable to predict that Able Danger could have identified the others, had it not been shut down by then?

When the 2.5 terabytes of data were destroyed by LIWA in the summer of 2000, all information relating to the terrorists was destroyed as well. However, Able Danger II, which started from scratch (i.e. a 90 day full time search of the open Internet and open data sources to re-create the data base), did detect the same basic information about the Brooklyn Cell - and in addition discovered the Al Qaeda activity in the Port of Aden in Yemen.

5. Was there any effort by the Able Danger team not only to identify those individuals' link to Al Qaeda, but also to keep track of where they were located and what they were going?

Yes, but not in the continental United States. Able Danger was extensively targeting specific individuals and activities that were located overseas - and there were "options" prepared for Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to take action against these individuals and groups. The specifics of this remain highly classified.

6. Shaffer's attorney Mark Zaid told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Able Danger never identified Mohamed Atta as being physically present in the US. Does that mean that no one on the team knew he was in the US, or simply that they found out from someone else?

The Able Danger team could not and did not ascertain Atta's presence in the U.S. for two reasons: first, his ID came up as part of the "Brooklyn Cell" and therefore the Able Danger team could not look at him based on the legal guidance they were forced to follow; and second, the focus was on overseas targets. There were specific individuals and activities, which Able Danger could pursue, such as information relating to the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000, and the Able Danger team did provide the specific details of the threat days before the attack on the Cole.

7. Did anyone on the Able Danger team know Atta was in contact with the other three hijackers, as Mike Kelly of the Bergen Record reported? If so, when did Able Danger learn of contact between Atta and the others and how?

There were linkages discovered between multiple "clusters" of individuals. The clusters were tested to see if they were functioning as "cells." The connections between the individuals and the cells cannot be known without looking at the original chart and data. Therefore, at this point it is not possible to re-create how the four were linked. They were on the chart and in the "Brooklyn Cell" cluster. There was contact between cells - the contacts were examined and "tested" using classified methods - but this was done focused on overseas locations.

8. When Able Danger attempted to share information with the FBI, did this information include the names, photos, or any other information about Atta, Shehhi, Mihdhar, or Hamzi? Did it include their location in the US or any other specific information?

At the time that SOCOM wanted to pass "all data relating to the Brooklyn Cell" (since the SOCOM/DOD lawyers would not allow the Able Danger team to pursue them as a target), Shaffer attempted to set up meetings to pass this information. But SOCOM lawyers stopped the Able Danger officers from attending these meetings, and therefore prevented the passage of the information to the FBI. There were other disclosures made to the FBI on other targets within the continental United States, from LIWA (not Able Danger) to the FBI regarding other US locations of known terrorist activity. Both Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI head Louis Freeh were briefed on these other locations and the FBI did take action and make arrests based on the information. The specifics of this remain classified.

9. After the attack on the USS Cole, was there any attempt to use the information Able Danger had based its prediction on - either to investigate the attack, or to determine how they had been so accurate - in order to replicate their efforts?

Yes - there was an "after action" forensic investigation and briefing of the Able Danger data, which is still extant but highly classified.

10. Was Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) terrorism intelligence analyst Kie Fallis, who resigned in protest after the Able Danger warnings about the USS Cole were ignored, ever involved with the Able Danger program in any way?

Kie Fallis' superiors Bob Pecha and Greg Pruett were both aware of Able Danger since Shaffer briefed them on the program in the spring of 2000. In addition, DIA official Cal Temple (who worked Al Qaeda as a target) was aware and even made a visit to Garland, Texas to observe the Able Danger project. The intelligence data being produced by Able Danger was shared with Temple. It is possible he later shared this information with Fallis. Cal Temple, by his own admission, was sent to "spy" on the Able Danger effort so that he could secretly get the information for DIA and then learn the method and technology involved so that DIA could build its own version. DIA did have Cal build a version in secret, since DIA officials did not want SOCOM to know that they were creating a DIA model.

11. Others have said privately that the Cole attack had a "chilling effect" on anything related to "warnings" after Fallis quit. Was this also true of the Able Danger team?

The Able Danger effort culminated in a two-hour briefing to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which General Shelton now publicly acknowledges he received in January of 2001. It was very clear that once General Peter Schoomaker departed as the Commander in Chief of SOCOM in the fall of 2000, and Air Force General Holland took over, there was a diminution of focus and priority on the Able Danger effort. The Able Danger team was disbanded despite the best efforts of the team to continue the work and push to implement the offensive "options" that were derived from the intelligence information.

12. Did the correct prediction (in effect) of the Cole attack play any role, positive or negative, in the discussions when the program was shut down only months later?

Nothing was ever said directly linking the 'prediction' of the Cole attack or its after-action briefing with the demise of the Able Danger project. No one in Able Danger has a clear answer as to why Able Danger was shut down - all they know is that they fought to keep it going and lost.

13. After the Cole attack, did Able Danger make any further discoveries or predictions?

After the January 2001 briefing to General Shelton, the project was changed. There was no clear "ending" - just a quiet and deliberate dismantling of the personnel and capability. As the project was moved from Garland, Texas in January 2001 and dismantled, there was no opportunity to continue to exploit the intelligence information. Therefore, there were no new predictions.

14. When did Shaffer's last conversation with Scott Phillpott before 9/11 take place, when Phillpott was "desperately" trying to preserve the data so that someone could use it, even though Able Danger was being shut down?

The conversation occurred in the May 2001 timeframe. Shaffer was jogging outside the Pentagon at the outdoor portion of the Pentagon Athletic Center. Phillpott called Shaffer on his mobile phone to ask if he (Phillpott) could move the data to a clandestine facility in the area – one of four under Shaffer's control. This one in particular was used for other highly classified intelligence operations and Phillpott had toured it before. Shaffer had already been directed by Major General Rod Isler to "cease all support to Able Danger. " Shaffer said that he'd love to let Phillpott "use the facility" but felt that his leadership would say no. When Shaffer asked his boss, Colonel Mary Moffitt, she not only said no but also began the process of moving Shaffer from his leadership position to a "desk job" on the Latin America desk of DIA.

15. When were Phillpott and his team members reassigned to other work? Were they each reassigned to different projects or was their unit assigned a new task?

Everyone went back to his "normal" job as Able Danger was disbanded - Able Danger was a form of standing "Task Force". There was some DIA leadership retaliation against the DIA members of Able Danger, but that cannot be fully addressed until the DOD Inspector general completes his current investigation.

16. Raytheon's Robert Johnson has told Congressman Curt Weldon that data was transferred to SOCOM, including data the Garland unit used to identify Mohamed Atta, separate from the LIWA effort. When was this transferred and how much data was involved?

A new open Internet data run was conducted from about July to September 2000 - this consisted of "spiders" doing whole searches and downloading of web based information, as well as the integration of all available open sources of data. In addition, copies of the full DIA and NSA data bases were moved by STRATUS IVY (Shaffer's unit) to Garland, Texas - in essence the entire LIWA capability was re-created from scratch and began to function in earnest in early September 2000.

17. While not physical cells, Able Danger identified five cells of Al Qaeda worldwide. Who was identified as a member of which cells?

There were multiple data runs done with the technology, and cells were produced based on the search criteria. The chart that contained Atta and the Brooklyn cell also contained a German cell, a Mauritania cell, a Malaysia cell, and a cell in Yemen. The members on those cells would be on the charts that were produced, but the charts are not available, at least at this point.

18. Did the network of centers originally used to raise funds for the mujahadeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan have any relation to these cells?

There were connections to Afghanistan that the Able Danger team were targeting - this was then and remains classified. This information has been provided to Congress in closed discussions.

19. Shaffer told the 9/11 Commission that Able Danger had identified "two of the three cells" that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Which two of the three and who had the Able Danger team identified with what cells?

Shaffer did not know the specific membership of each terrorist to each cell - he knew from his work on Able Danger that the team had found two of the three cells - and the only name he remembered after the 9/11 attacks was Atta (due to seeing his picture on the news and hearing his name repeatedly.)

20. Was Able Danger a Top Secret code name, or was it just an operational name - which may or may not have itself been classified?

There are three categories of "names" in the Pentagon - Able Danger was the unclassified "nickname." Codenames are different and they are classified - there are also "trigraphs," which are three letters that stand for a three letter classified program. Other codenames and trigraphs were associated with Able Danger - but which ones and their names and associations are still classified.

Comment on this post . . .

This and other articles by Rory O'Connor are available on his blog.

Venezuela to Tighten Terms on Oil Fields

MSN Money - Associated Press Business News: Venezuela to Tighten Terms on Oil Fields: "CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuela plans to tighten the tax terms on 32 privately operated oil fields as it rewrites contracts that were signed in the 1990s, an executive at Venezuela's state-run oil company said Wednesday.

If royalty and income taxes payments are less than 50 percent of total revenue in any given year, companies will have to pay the difference, said Eulogio Del Pino, director of Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA.

Companies operating the 32 fields pump approximately 500,00 barrels a day, roughly a fifth of the Venezuela's total petroleum production.

'The state will never receive less than 50 percent of gross revenue,' Del Pino said.

Companies operating the fields currently pay a 50 percent income tax rate and a 30 percent royalty rate after the oil ministry hiked taxes last year.

The new tax clause is part of an effort by President Hugo Chavez to assert greater control over Venezuela's vast oil reserves.

Private oil firms are currently negotiating with PDVSA to form joint ventures in which the state company will hold majority stakes and control management decisions. These firms currently pump oil under contract for PDVSA, but last year they signed letters of intent to become minority partners with the state firm in the joint ventures.

ExxonMobil Corp. is the only firm that has refused the terms, preferring to sell its stake in one of the fields to Spanish-Argentine oil giant Repsol.

PDVSA plans to deliver the terms of the new ventures, or so-called 'mixed companies,' for approval this year to a Venezuelan Congress dominated by allies of Chavez.

Following congressional approval, Del Pino said the 32 companies will undergo a series of mergers in an effort to reduce costs.

Venezuela is the world's fifth-largest exporter of oil. It has the largest proven oil reserves outside of the Mideast and the second-largest gas reserves in the Western Hemisphere.

� 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Pentagon Review Calls for No Big Changes - New York Times

Pentagon Review Calls for No Big Changes - New York Times

Pentagon Review Calls for No Big Changes

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — A comprehensive military strategy review once billed as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's architecture for revamping the armed forces eliminates no major weapon systems and calls for only incremental change in other priorities, according to Pentagon officials, outside advisers and independent analysts.

The plan, which is due to be made public next week along with the Bush administration's fiscal 2007 budget, does contain some significant shifts like calls for training thousands of additional special operations troops and for building futuristic weapons to defeat terror groups and potential new adversaries like China.

But initial hopes by Defense Department civilians to use the yearlong reassessment, which takes place every four years, to force far-reaching changes in spending priorities have not materialized, in part, analysts said, because of resistance by the military services.

With much of his time taken up with managing the war in Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld was far less involved in this year's review than he was in 2001, when the last review was conducted, officials and analysts said. He delegated much of the decision-making to aides and to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England.

In addition, some of the Pentagon civilian leadership's more innovative ideas were rejected because they were judged too expensive or ineffective by the many teams of the officers and analysts who have been combing through drafts of the blueprint for the past year.

Even Mr. Rumsfeld played down expectations on Wednesday that the review would produce monumental shifts, calling the document "a way point along a continuum of change that began some years past and will continue some years hence."

From the outset, the administration itself raised high expectations for the review, and the theme of "transformation" came to be something of a mantra in the Pentagon's corridors. Some said the fruits of the review might be as lasting a legacy of the Rumsfeld years as the outcomes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ryan Henry, a top Pentagon planning official, declared last fall that the effort, instead of the usual "periodic tool of refinement," would be the "fulcrum of transition to a post-9/11 world."

Instead, by keeping alive some programs whose projected costs have soared in recent years like the F/A-22 fighter, the Army's Future Combat Systems and the Navy's DD(X) destroyer, the review has raised questions about how more exotic weapons and capabilities that Mr. Rumsfeld believes are vital to fight terror groups and other unconventional foes can fit into future military budgets.

Andrew Krepinevich, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who participated in the review, said there was a widespread expectation that the review "would find the Defense Department confronting some tough decisions."

"In a sense, a lot of these tough choices are kicked down the road," Mr. Krepinevich said.

The essence of Mr. Rumsfeld's agenda for the military is to make the armed services more mobile and lethal, more capable of dealing with emerging threats from terror groups and insurgents, including weapons of mass destruction, while still able to dominate conventional battlefields. His imprint is plainly visible in decisions like the move to expand the number of special operations troops trained in psychological warfare and civil affairs by 3,700.

Mr. Rumsfeld also has long been worried that the armed forces lack the capability to strike quickly anywhere in the world with conventional weapons.

The review, known formally as the Quadrennial Defense Review, or Q.D.R., calls for doubling the procurement of attack submarines, from one a year to two, by 2012, and arming submarine-carried Trident missiles with conventional warheads.

But beyond such relatively small-scale initiatives, the review generally is better at defining the new threats the armed forces must deal with than precisely laying out how to defeat them, military analysts said. In the past few days and weeks, the conclusions of the review have been widely previewed in Washington.

"While the thrust of the document is that traditional threats are receding and unconventional threats are growing, you don't get the impression that they know what to do about it," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, a research organization in Washington.

Even small-scale initiatives in the plan could be derailed in Congress. A proposal to reduce the number of National Guard combat brigades from 34 to 28 has run into opposition from governors and lawmakers, who have argued that reducing the Guard's combat capability at a time it is playing a substantial role in Iraq and Afghanistan does not make sense.

Pentagon aides say the idea is to consolidate often underequipped and undermanned Guard units, increasing their effectiveness.

One reason this year's review did not make more far-reaching changes seems to be that the conflict in Iraq prevented Mr. Rumsfeld from devoting as much attention to this review as he did in the past.

"In 2001, you couldn't make a major decision without Secretary Rumsfeld in the room," said a former Pentagon official, Michelle Flournoy, who took part in the last review. "This time, he didn't take the hands-on role that he did in 2001."

Mr. Rumsfeld delegated much of the daily work to his aides and to Mr. England, a former weapons industry executive who was Navy secretary before succeeding Paul D. Wolfowitz in April. Several analysts who followed the process closely said that when Mr. England took over the review in early summer, he helped a process that was adrift but that he shied away from far-reaching changes in the priorities of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines.

When Mr. Rumsfeld's aides did try to pare down the services' wish lists, they were often outmaneuvered, analysts said. The Air Force was able to defeat a proposal to require it and the Navy to buy the same basic version of the Pentagon's next-generation fighter plane, an idea proposed as a cost-savings measure.

But Air Force officials argued that its needs differed substantially from the Navy's, and that it would end up needing costly modifications to any common design, said Mr. Thompson of the Lexington Institute.

"Analysis played a key role, and a lot of times the analysis did not support a lot of trendy ideas," Mr. Thompson said.

- They're expanding it...instead of Sunseting it....the Patriot ACT...not what we want???? The right to petition ou

New Patriot Act Provision Creates Tighter Barrier to Officials at Public Events
By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
Fox News
Tuesday 31 January 2006
Washington - A new provision tucked into the Patriot Act bill now before Congress would allow authorities to haul demonstrators at any "special event of national significance" away to jail on felony charges if they are caught breaching a security perimeter.
Sen. Arlen Specter , R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored the measure, which would extend the authority of the Secret Service to allow agents to arrest people who willingly or knowingly enter a restricted area at an event, even if the president or other official normally protected by the Secret Service isn't in attendance at the time.
The measure has civil libertarians protesting what they say is yet another power grab for the executive branch and one more loss for free speech.
"It's definitely problematic and chilling," said Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy at the American Civil Liberties Union , which has written letters to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, pointing out that the provision wasn't subject to hearings or open debate.
Some conservatives say they too are troubled by the measure.
"It concerns me greatly," said Bob Barr, former US prosecutor and Republican representative from Georgia. "It clearly raises serious concerns about First Amendment rights."
But not everyone agrees that rights are being trampled on by the additional provision. In fact, some say the ACLU is the problem when it comes to protecting national security.
Rocco DiPippo, a freelance writer for the conservative and editor of The Autonomist Web log, said the ACLU has fought the government every step of the way over security measures following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"Its opposition to Specter's reasonable proposal is simply more of the same," he said. "I can understand the concern that we should be suspicious of government, but we shouldn't adopt this mindset: 'government is evil.' This is just more hatred of (President) Bush."
Under current law, the Secret Service can arrest anyone for breaching restricted areas where the president or a protected official is or will be visiting, but the new provision would allow such arrests even after those VIPs have left the premises of any designated "special event of national significance." The provision would increase the maximum penalty for such an infraction from six months to one year in jail.
In a post-Sept. 11 world many non-political events have been designated National Special Security Events and would rise to the higher status. Examples of possible NSSEs are the Olympics or the Super Bowl. In 2004, the presidential inaugural balls and President Ronald Reagan's June funeral procession in Washington, D.C., were designated NSSEs.
According to government sources with knowledge of the legislation, Secret Service protection and law enforcement authority would extend beyond protecting a specific person, rather the event itself would become the "protectee."
Currently, non-violent demonstrators who enter restricted areas at such events previously would be arrested and charged by local law enforcement with simple trespassing, said Graves. Under the provision included in the new law, they will be charged with felonies by the Secret Service.
"It's a different consequence to people," she said.
"You are talking about giving the executive branch broader authority to create these exclusion zones which could cover broad areas and last for days [during an event ]," David Kopel, a constitutional expert with the Cato Institute, told
A spokesman at Specter's office said the senator was surprised by the clamor over the provision, which merely makes a technical change to clear up legal confusion over who has arresting authority at NSSEs. His office had no further comment on the provision. Committee Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also declined comment. Republican and Democratic House Judiciary Committee leaders did not return calls for comment.
White House sources say the measure was not instigated by the administration and pointed out that it was a stand-alone bill that was rolled into the Patriot Act by Specter's office during House-Senate conference negotiations. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told that the White House would not comment on the intent of the measure, but that the president is concerned with preserving individual rights.
"President Bush is committed to protecting the American people's national security as well as their civil liberties," she said.
Secret Service representatives said the agency does not comment on pending legislation.
The Bush administration has been criticized in the past for what many say are tactics that keep protesters far away from official events and by employing stringent policies to ensure favorable audiences for the president.
Last year, three ticket-holding audience members at one of the president's Social Security events in Denver, Colo., were apprehended by a man who they said identified himself as Secret Service. The three were forced away from the event because of an anti-war sticker on the driver's car.
"[The administration] has certainly demonstrated a desire to have carefully-controlled events," said Graves.
John Pike, director of, an Alexandria, Va.-based clearinghouse for domestic and international security information, said he "could certainly understand why the Secret Service would want that legal authority," given the enormous burden of making venues safe for VIPs today.
"However, I think many people have concluded that the way it is being used has nothing to do with protecting the president from Usama bin Laden and everything to do with suppressing dissent and making sure the protesters don't get on TV," Pike said.
Bush is not the first president to flex his authority in this area, said Kopel, who pointed out that beginning with Reagan, presidents have created a larger security bubble and greater distance between themselves and dissenters at public events. The 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States just intensified the situation, he said.