Saturday, March 04, 2006

Its Real: Prison Labor for the Military

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Its Real: Prison Labor for the Military

We received an interesting news tip yesterday - and one that we find quite interesting. It has to do with official plans of the US Army to enact something called the "Civilian Inmate Labor Program." The general idea is that with troop manpower running low, and local demand for prisoner housing running high, the US Army can pick up some cheap labor from the Federal Bureau of Prisons and perhaps State prisons.

As you may recall, we reported a few weeks back that we've heard that troops are in such short supply in Iraq that ordinary seamen off Navy Trident subs are being given quickie training as sentries, rather than serving on strategic missile platforms, and off they go to Iraq. Now, with the receipt of the Army plans to use federal prisoners for labor, we have to ask what kind of picture this paints of the military's state of readiness?

Specifics of the program, outlined in official Army Regulation 210-35 at include some of the following:


The newest set of changes quietly went into effect 14 February 2005.

The unclassified regulations describe their purpose as follows: "This regulation provides Army policy and guidance for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations. Sources of civilian inmate labor are limited to on– and off–post Federal corrections facilities, State and/or local corrections facilities operating from on–post prison camps pursuant to leases under Section 2667, Title 10, United States Code (10 USC 2667), and off–post State corrections facilities participating in the demonstration project authorized under Section 1065, Public Law (PL) 103–337. Otherwise, State and/or local inmate labor from off–post corrections facilities is currently excluded from this program."

"(2) Under no circumstances will the following types of inmates be permitted in the Civilian Inmate Labor Program: (a) A person in whom there is a significant public interest as determined by the corrections facility superintendent in coordination with the installation commander. (b) A person who has been a significant management problem in their current corrections facility or in another facility. (c) A principal organized crime figure. (d) An inmate convicted of a sex offense or whose criminal history includes such conduct. (e) An inmate convicted of a violent crime or whose criminal history includes such conduct. (f) An inmate convicted of the sale or intent to distribute illegal drugs who held a leadership position in any drug conspiracy, or has been involved with drugs within the last 3 years while in prison. (g) An escape risk. (h) An inmate who poses a threat to the general public as determined by the corrections facility superintendent in coordination with the installation commander. (i) An inmate declared or found insane or mentally incompetent by a court, administrative proceeding, or physician, or under treatment for a mental disease or disorder. (j) An inmate convicted of arson. (k) A Federal inmate convicted while on active duty, presently serving a sentence for that conviction.

In short, this seems to be a low key program, perhaps driven in part by state facilities that are trying to find "creative ways" to offload minimum security inmates because of the huge number of prisoners in US prisons today. Nevertheless, some of the wording is troubling:

Chapter 3 Establishing Civilian Inmate Prison Camps on Army Installations 3–1.

Policy statement It is not Army policy to solicit offers from correctional systems to establish civilian inmate prison camps on Army installations. Nevertheless, the Army recognizes that these correctional systems may approach installations to lease land on which to build corrections facilities, or to lease unoccupied facilities. The Army will evaluate requests to establish civilian inmate prison camps on Army installations on a case by case basis. These prison camps will house minimum and low security inmates, as determined by the correctional systems. However, the Army’s primary purpose for allowing establishment of prison camps on Army installations is to use the resident nonviolent civilian inmate labor pool to work on the leased portions of the installation.

The regulations are not particularly complex, and are an interesting read if you have worries about the Army building prison camps at which a nonviolent civilian could be impressed. Has as kind of World War II-ish kind of ring to it, doesn't it?

Deal gives Dubai firm control of 23 U.S. ports- The Buffalo News
Deal gives Dubai firm control of 23 U.S. ports

News Washington Bureau Chief
WASHINGTON - A Dubai-owned company will control 23 American ports - not six - as a result of the deal approved by a Bush administration panel in January.
The takeover of the British company Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. involves almost every major Atlantic seaport from Portland, Maine, to Miami and along the entire Gulf Coast, according to an attorney fighting the deal.
The list includes Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas, which have handled about 40 percent of the war materiel the Army has shipped to combat theaters in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It also includes Norfolk, Va., home to most of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic fleet, along with three seaports in Louisiana that handle massive shipments of crude oil.
In the spreading controversy, it was known that the British firm being bought by Dubai Ports World runs operations at New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.
Attorney Joseph Muldoon III represents Eller & Co., a Miami-based shipping firm that is fighting the transaction here and in Britain's highest court.
In an interview, the attorney said Eller & Co. does not want to become an unwilling partner of DP World's Miami operations.
Muldoon told The News he unsuccessfully appealed two months ago to Sen. John Warner, R-Va., whom he knows personally, and also saw staff members for Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to stop the sale on national security grounds.
"I'll check it out," Muldoon quoted Warner as responding.
"Finally, I went to Sen. [Charles E.] Schumer because he is a member of the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the Treasury Department board which approved this thing. If this hadn't been for Sen. Schumer," Muldoon said in an interview, "this issue would never had gotten any traction.
"My client, and I personally, believe that the seaports of this country should not be run by a foreign government," Muldoon said.
He said claims by the Bush administration that security is not involved is a myth.
"The port operator is the one who lays out the security plan," he said, "and the Coast Guard and other government operations follow suit."
In London, Eller & Co. attorneys have been given the right to appeal the deal by Britain's highest court. It was not until Muldoon called Schumer's office three weeks ago that it bloomed into an issue that threatens the president's hold on Republican majorities in the House and Senate.
"I had an instinct about this situation," Schumer said, "and it was to keep it as bipartisan as possible. So I went first to [Sen. Tom] Coburn [R-Okla.] and he was very concerned."
Muldoon said "Schumer was hanging out there all alone on it until" Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., announced his opposition. King is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Both national and statewide polls indicate the planned takeover of operations of American ports has helped plunge Bush to the lowest ratings of his presidency.
A New York poll done by the Republican-oriented Strategic Vision LLC gives Bush an overall approval rating of 24 percent. National polls have Bush at between 36 and 39 percent.
In the state survey, 81 percent of respondents think an act of terrorism is more likely if the Dubai ports deal goes through.
Although the Bush administration officially approved the deal Jan. 16, DP World, the company owned by rulers of the United Arab Emirates, has requested the United States conduct a 45-day review of the transaction in an effort to defuse opposition.
Schumer and King are sponsoring nearly identical bills that would empower Congress to block the deal if Congress is dissatisfied with the results of the review.
Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, was an early supporter of King's bill, which now has 97 co-sponsors. Backers include almost the entire state delegation.
Bureau assistant Sara Blumberg contributed to this article.

A Fearful Master- by Justin Raimondo

A Fearful Master- by Justin Raimondo

A Fearful Master
We're fighting for "freedom" in Iraq – but certain Web sites are off limits to U.S. soldiers
by Justin Raimondo

"Government is not reason," George Washington reputedly said, "it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." The fear factor works both ways: the present administration has spent a great deal of time and energy on scaring us half to death with tales of imminent terrorist attacks – especially around election time – but they, in turn, stand in fear of their own subjects, particularly the ones in uniform. That is why the Pentagon is now censoring the Internet, declaring certain Web sites – including those of some major news organizations – off limits to military personnel. Check out this e-mail from a U.S. soldier in Iraq (via Wonkette):

"Just to let you know, the US Marines have blocked access to 'Wonkette' along with numerous other sites such as personal email (i.e. Yahoo, AT&T, Hotmail, etc), blogs that don't agree with the government point of view, personal websites, and some news organizations. This has taken effect as of the beginning of February. I have no problem with them blocking porn sites (after all it is a government network), but cutting off access to our email and possibly-not-toeing-the-government-line websites is a bit much.

"Initially all web blocking was done locally at the hub sites in Iraq. If you wanted a site 'unblocked' you just had to email the local administrator with a reason (like, 'I'd like to read my email, please.'), and if it wasn't porn or offensive, they'd allow it. Now, all blocking is done by desk-weenies at the USMC Network Operations Center in Quantico, VA, who really don't care if we get our email (or gossip) out here, as they get to go to happy hour after working 9 to 5 and go home to a nice clean, warm home with a real bed! (Sorry, I'm a little peeved.)"

So, we're fighting for "freedom" in Iraq – according to George W. Bush and those desk weenies over at The Weekly Standard – but we don't practice what we preach when it comes to our own enlisted personnel. America's fighting men and women aren't just being asked to sacrifice their physical well-being, including possibly their very lives, but their freedom, too.

I suppose it's possible to justify anything under the rubric of "military discipline," but one can't help thinking that the impetus for this clampdown was a noticeable uptick of antiwar dissent within the ranks. That recent poll reporting that over 70 percent of our troops on the ground in Iraq want us out by the end of the year shocked even me: it must have sent the boys in the Pentagon into gibbering conniptions.

Yes, the whole world is afraid of the U.S. military – and that includes our rulers in Washington, who stand in such fear that their armed servants will discover the truth about this rotten war that they have resorted to censoring the Internet. Hey, what is this – Red China?

Actually, it's worse: the Chinese Reds block access to the kooky cultists of Falun Gong and Western accounts of the Tiananmen Square massacre: the range of what's forbidden is relatively narrow compared to the broad restrictions described above.

I don't know that is among the blocked sites, but I'm assuming it is: I often get letters from U.S. military personnel, but none, suspiciously, directly from Iraq. Hmm… At any rate, perhaps someone reading this will write in to correct me, but if we aren't among the censored sites I'd be very much surprised.

The Zogby poll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq noted that 77 percent said they also believe the main or a major reason for the war was "to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda in Iraq." What happens when they discover that this is a lie?

The War Party can't afford to take chances with the body of armed men and women that is the source of their power, and it is no wonder they are doing their best to shield the troops from the truth. Because when our soldiers discover how and why they were lied into war, and when most of them are on their second and even their third tour of duty in Iraq, they are bound to get pretty angry – and who knows but that they just might decide to do something about it.

That is every ruling class's worst nightmare: the day their own servants turn against them. When that happens, we call it a revolution.

It's funny, but the minute some obscure blogger in some godforsaken Third World hellhole with no tradition of civil liberties is shut down by the authorities, the entire blogosphere is up in arms, firing off outraged e-mails of protest. And when Google compromised with the Chinese government's attempts to censor search engine results within its territory, the outcry was immediate. Yet we hear nary a peep out of these prophets of cyber-freedom when it comes to the efforts of their government to limit American citizens' access to the Internet.

Gee, why am I not surprised that Glenn Reynolds, Roger L. Simon, and all the rest of the Usual Suspects have yet to leap to the defense of an American soldier's right to surf the Internet unconstrained by meddling desk weenies? Why has the usually voluble Christopher Hitchens said nothing about this outrage? Doesn't he support our troops?

And what about those desk weenies in Congress, you know, the ones who gave George W. Bush a blank check to wage a war based on a lie. Oh, but we didn't know they were lying, our congresscritters cavil: they had us fooled! Then why, one hastens to ask, do they sit passively by while the U.S. government prevents its own citizens from learning the truth?

There is no way the warlords of Washington – or any government – can control the Internet. This is true because of the nature of the technology, and also because the very act of forbidding something makes it attractive – especially to Americans, a cantankerous and inherently anarchic people who don't like being told what they can or cannot know.

Our rulers live in constant fear: of exposure, of rebellion, of the sudden realization on the part of their subjects that the game is rigged in favor of a self-perpetuating elite. One day, the people simply refuse to go along with the rules and start breaking them en masse: it happened to the Soviet Empire, and it can happen to us.

Of course they're trying to interfere with access to the Internet – I'm only surprised they are limiting their efforts to military personnel in Iraq. After all, the Pentagon has come up with a program to counteract the power of the Internet to spread the truth about this rotten war, appropriately dubbed "fight the net," including the development of "computer network attack systems."

Hostility to the untrammeled freedom of the Internet is a bipartisan phenomenon. Remember what Hillary Clinton said about the issue back in 1998, as she accused Matt Drudge of spreading lies when he was exposing her husband as a serial slut and brazen perjurer?

"'We are all going to have to rethink how we deal with this, because there are always competing values. There's no free decision that I'm aware of anywhere in life, and certainly with technology that's the case.'

"Although technology's new developments are 'exciting,' Hillary continued, 'There are a number of serious issues without any kind of editing function or gatekeeping function. What does it mean to have the right to defend your reputation.'"

What it means, one is tempted to reply, is that you can set up your own Web site to refute the "lies" – the answer to false or hurtful speech is not censorship but more speech, i.e., a debate. But tyrants aren't interested in debates: their whole shtick is to limit debate as much as possible. And that is the instinct of any and all governments everywhere, be they dictatorships or democracies.

In the end, however, the truth will come out: they can't hermetically seal their own soldiers in a womb-like cocoon of ignorance, at least not for very long. Through contacts with family and friends, word is bound to get out of what is really going on with this war – and with a foreign policy that has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, least of all protecting the continental U.S. from al-Qaeda. The War Party's crude attempts to circumvent the truth and create their own reality is bound to fail and backfire badly in their faces.

ABC News: Exclusive: Top CIA Official Under Investigation

ABC News: Exclusive: Top CIA Official Under Investigation

Exclusive: Top CIA Official Under Investigation
No. 3 Official at CIA Is Subject of Investigation Related to Bribery Probe

March 3, 2006 — - A stunning investigation of bribery and corruption in Congress has spread to the CIA, ABC News has learned.

The CIA Inspector General has opened an investigation into the spy agency's executive director, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, and his connections to two defense contractors accused of bribing a member of Congress and Pentagon officials.

The CIA released an official statement on the matter to ABC News, saying: "It is standard practice for CIA's Office of Inspector General -- an aggressive, independent watchdog -- to look into assertions that mention agency officers. That should in no way be seen as lending credibility to any allegation.

"Mr. Foggo has overseen many contracts in his decades of public service. He reaffirms that they were properly awarded and administered."

The CIA said Foggo, the No. 3 official at the CIA, would have no further comment. He will remain in his post at the CIA during the investigation, according to officials.

Two former CIA officials told ABC News that Foggo oversaw contracts involving at least one of the companies accused of paying bribes to Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham. The story was first reported by Newsweek magazine.

Friendship With Defense Contractor

The California Republican has pleaded guilty after admitting he accepted $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for arranging defense contracts. He was sentenced today to eight years and four months in prison for corruption. Federal law enforcement officials said Cunningham is cooperating and the investigation is continuing.

As executive director of the CIA, Foggo oversees the administration of the giant spy agency. He was appointed to the post by CIA Director Porter Goss after working as a midlevel procurement supervisor, according to former CIA officials.

While based in Frankfurt, Germany, he oversaw and approved contracts for CIA operations in Iraq.

Foggo is a longtime friend of Brent Wilkes, listed as unindicted co-conspirator No. 1 in government documents filed in the Cunningham investigation. The two played high school football and were in each other's weddings.

According to government documents, Wilkes gave Cunningham $630,000 in cash and gifts in exchange for help in getting government contracts.

Wilkes was the founder of ADSC Inc, in 1995. Under Wilkes, the company obtained more than $95 million in government contracts.

Officials say they could not describe the CIA contracts in question because some of them were classified secret.

'Bribe Menu'

Cunningham is involved in what prosecutors call a corruption case with no parallel in the long history of the U.S. Congress. He actually priced the illegal services he provided.

Prices came in the form of a "bribe menu" that detailed how much it would cost contractors to essentially order multimillion-dollar government contracts, according to documents submitted by federal prosecutors for today's sentencing hearing.

"The length, breadth and depth of Cunningham's crimes," the sentencing memorandum states, "are unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress."

Prosecutors will ask federal Judge Larry Burns to impose the statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The sentencing memorandum includes the California Republican's "bribery menu" on one of his congressional note cards, "starkly framed" under the seal of the United States Congress.

The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe.

The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.

At one point Cunningham was living on a yacht named after him, "The Dukester," docked near Capitol Hill, courtesy of a defense company president.

Venezuela aims for biggest military reserve in Americas

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Venezuela aims for biggest military reserve in Americas

Venezuela aims for biggest military reserve in Americas

Greg Morsbach in Caracas
Saturday March 4, 2006
The Guardian

Around 500,000 Venezuelans will start a four-month military training programme today to turn them into members of the country's territorial guard. They are the first group of a total of 2m Venezuelan civilians who have so far signed up to become armed reservists.

By the summer of 2007, Venezuela is likely to have the largest military reserve in the Americas, which is expected to be almost double the size of that in the United States.

The huge recruitment drive is part of President Hugo Chávez's plan to create a people's army that would answer directly to him in the event of civil unrest or an armed conflict.

General Alberto Muller Rojas, one of the members of the army high command who helped to devise the new thinking in military strategy being adopted by Venezuela's leftwing government, said: "If for example the United States were to invade Venezuela one day, and that's what many people are expecting, the only way we could repel such an attack would be a full scale guerrilla war against the foreign aggressors.

"Our professional army only numbers 80,000 soldiers, so we would need to use civilians like in Iraq to fight the Yankee forces."

Top military officials are confident that a reserve force of 2m, or one in five adults, would be sufficient to dissuade any country from invading Venezuela, the world's fifth biggest oil exporter and fifth biggest supplier of crude oil to the US.

Many of Venezuela's state-owned companies, such as the oil giant PDVSA, have started their own territorial guard units. However, they are being asked to join the formal training programme offered by the armed forces.

Richard Arrais, 40, a marketing executive who works at PDVSA's headquarters in Caracas, has his own office and works in a nine-to-five job Mondays to Fridays. But once a week he and his friends meet up as reservists.

He said: "Since January we've been holding informal meetings to discuss military tactics and to receive courses such as first aid.

"But the training starting this Saturday will be tougher. There will be drill, weapons training and assault courses, as well as a military exercise in the countryside."

Mr Arrais and others like him say they are happy to give up every Saturday in defence of their fatherland and the values of President Chávez's socialist revolution. They believe internal opposition forces and the United States could strike at any moment.

So far service in the territorial guard is voluntary. But the Venezuelan parliament is studying proposals to make it obligatory for all Venezuelan adults to join the territorial guard.

Mr Chávez has sought to position himself at the vanguard of a bloc of Latin American leftist leaders acting as a counterpoint to US hegemony in the region.

Tensions between Caracas and Washington have simmered in recent weeks with an espionage row that has resulted in a US naval attache being expelled and disputes on a range of issues from the war on drugs to aviation safety restrictions.

The Moderate Voice - Is Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff About To Be Axed?

The Moderate Voice - Is Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff About To Be Axed?

Is Homeland Security's Michael Chertoff About To Be Axed?
by Joe Gandelman

According to the conservative website Human Events, Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff may soon be sending out his resume:

In the aftermath of the public revelation of the presidential "teleconference" and mounting criticism of the performance of Michael Chertoff, Administration sources told HUMAN EVENTS today that the secretary of Homeland Security has "only a few days left" in the Bush Cabinet.

As one source acquainted with the former federal prosecutor and U.S. appellate judge said under promise of anonymity, "They will give [Chertoff] a little time so it won't hurt his reputation too much, but he's probably got only a few days left."

For weeks, Chertoff has been under fire from Capitol Hill and in the media for his performance during the disaster last year. In addition, more criticism has been fuelded by his clash with former FEMA Director Michael Brown in the so-called post-Katrina "blame game."

Two things: (1) It wouldn't be surprising since the image people saw of Brown on those videos didn't coincide with how he was being characterized in early post-Katrina reports. Who put out that early info (was it an operative in the White House encouraging some of the news stories or someone in Homeland Security)? (2) President George Bush is again politically bleeding due to these videos (even though his staunchest partisans are telling millions of Americans who saw them that their impression was wrong). Letting Chertoff explore new career areas would help stem it (i.e., bring in a fresh face).

Another factor: in his appearances on MSNBC's Hardball and elsewhere, Brown is making it clear that he faults Chertoff (whom he suggests is getting off easily and should be fired) and defends Bush (whom he says he talked things over with extensively and whom he feels is getting a raw deal). Most news reports and also sentiment in Congress are critical of Chertoff, in particular.

So, to be blunt: no matter how it's couched ("...wants to spent some time in new areas....wants to move in another accepting a new position at...wants to prepare for his upcoming appearance as a contestant on American Idol...") dumping Chertoff ASAP would be a smart political move (take the heat off) and a smart administrative move (he failed to provide efficient leadership in one of the worst natural American catastrophes ever).

US creating network of ‘Iran watchers’ overseas

Daily Times - Site Edition

WASHINGTON: The United States, as part of its new effort to promote democracy in Iran, will open a new office of Iranian affairs in the State Department and station more diplomats in key foreign cities to develop ties with Iranian exiles, according to a US cable made public on Thursday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last month announced plans to ask Congress to boost 2006 spending for pro-democracy initiatives in Iran to $85 million from $10 million.

But even before that money is voted on, the State Department has moved to “realign its existing resources with policy priorities,” a senior US official told Reuters.

The cable, released by the liberal Center for American Progress and authenticated by the State Department, said that addressing the challenge posed by Iran is one of the highest US foreign policy priorities for the next decade.

As a result, Rice approved a plan authorizing 12 to 15 new positions to increase her department’s capabilities to focus on Iranian issues, reach out to Iranian people and promote democracy, the cable said. It is part of a broader campaign to reshape the State Department to meet 21st century challenges. Diplomats have been asked to apply for new posts in Dubai, London, Istanbul, Frankfurt and Baku that will require them to learn Persian. State Department expertise in Iran’s language and culture withered after the 1979 Iranian revolution and Washington’s severing of ties with Tehran in 1980.

The goal is to assemble, beginning this summer, a network of “Iran watchers” to develop contacts with Iranian exiles, seek ways to use US funds to support Iranian civil society groups, and report on Iran’s foreign policy and oil-sector activities, the cable said.

Iran will be given its own “office” within the department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs to coordinate Iran-related activities and staffing will rise to five from two, US officials said. Washington’s pro-democracy drive has gathered steam as an international nuclear standoff with Iran worsened. Iran has defied Western demands to halt uranium enrichment-related activities, but talks aimed at a diplomatic solution continue. reuters

ABC News: Pentagon Releases Names of Gitmo Inmates

ABC News: Pentagon Releases Names of Gitmo Inmates

Pentagon Releases Names of Gitmo Inmates
Pentagon Releases Names of Detainees Secretly Held for Years at U.S. Military Prison at Guantanamo
The Associated Press

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - After four years of secrecy, the Pentagon handed over documents Friday that contain the names of detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The release resulted from a victory by The Associated Press in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The Bush administration had hidden the identities, home countries and other information about the men, who were accused of having links to the Taliban or al-Qaida. But a federal judge rejected administration arguments that releasing the identities would violate the detainees' privacy and could endanger them and their families.

The names were scattered throughout more than 5,000 pages of transcripts of hearings at Guantanamo Bay released Friday, but no complete list was given and it was unclear how many names the documents contained. In most of the transcripts, the person speaking is identified only as "detainee." Names appear only when court officials or detainees refer to people by name.

In some cases, even having the name did not clarify the identity. In one document, the tribunal president asks a detainee if his name is Jumma Jan. The detainee responds that no, his name instead is Zain Ul Abedin.

The men were mostly captured during the 2001 U.S.-led war that drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and sent Osama bin Laden deeper into hiding, and the newly released documents shed light on some of the detainees' explanations.

In one unedited transcript, Zahir Shah, an Afghan accused of belonging to an Islamic militant group and of having a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and other weapons in his house, admits having rifles. He says they were for protection he had a running feud with a cousin and insists he did not fight U.S. troops.

The only time he shot anything, he says, was when he hunted with a BB gun.

"What are we going to do with RPGs?" he asks, adding: "The only thing I did in Afghanistan was farming. ... We grew wheat, corn, vegetables and watermelons."

In another document, a detainee identified as Abdul Haim Bukhary denies he is member of al-Qaida but acknowledges he traveled from his native Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces, and says he met Osama bin Laden about 15 years ago while fighting in Russia. He praises his captors for running a good prison.

"Prisoners here are in paradise," he says. "American people are very good. Really. They give us three meals. Fruit juice and everything!" Still, he says, he wants to return to his family.

It was not clear whether Shah and Bukhary are still being held.

The documents do not name all current and former Guantanamo Bay detainees. And even when detainees are named, the documents do not make clear whether they have since been released.

The documents do contain the names of some known former prisoners, like Moazzam Begg and Feroz Ali Abbasi, both British citizens. A handwritten note shows Abbasi pleading for prisoner-of-war status.

Most of the Guantanamo Bay hearings were held to determine whether the detainees were "enemy combatants." That classification, Bush administration lawyers say, deprives the detainees of Geneva Convention prisoner-of-war protections and allows them to be held indefinitely without charges.

Documents released last year also because of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the AP included transcripts of 317 hearings, but had the detainees' names and nationalities blacked out. The current documents are the same ones this time, uncensored.

A U.S. military spokesman in Guantanamo Bay said the Pentagon was uneasy about handing over the transcripts.

"Personal information on detainees was withheld solely to protect detainee privacy and for their own security," said Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler. He said the Defense Department remains concerned that the disclosure "could result in retribution or harm to the detainees or their families."

Buz Eisenberg, a lawyer for a detainee, said he hopes the uncensored documents can help clear his client.

"We have been trying to litigate a case without ever knowing what the allegations were that the government claimed justified his continued detention," Eisenberg said. "Thanks to the AP's successful lawsuit, we're looking forward to receiving that evidence so that we can properly prepare our client's substantive case in court."

Eisenberg did not want to name his client because he had not asked the man for permission.

The documents should shed light on the scope of an insurgency still battling U.S. troops in Afghanistan, in part by detailing how Muslims from many countries wound up fighting alongside the Taliban there.

Abdul Gappher, an ethnic Uighur, says he traveled from China to Afghanistan, passing through Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan, in June 2001 to "get some training to fight back against the Chinese government." But he denied doing anything against the United States. He was captured in Pakistan, and said Pakistani police officers "sold us to the U.S. government."

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of New York ruled in favor of the AP last week, a major development in a protracted legal battle. In the ongoing litigation, the AP has also asked the Pentagon to release a complete list of all detainees ever held at the prison on a U.S. Navy base in eastern Cuba.

"This is extremely important information," said Curt Goering, senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. "We've been asking ever since the camp opened for a list of everyone there as one of the most basic first steps for any detaining authority."

Human rights monitors say keeping identities of prisoners secret can lead to abuses and deprive their families of information about their fate.

About 490 prisoners are being held at Guantanamo Bay, but only 10 of them have been charged with a crime.

"You can't just draw a veil of secrecy when you are locking people up," said Jamie Fellner, director of the U.S. program for Human Rights Watch. "You have to do at least the minimum, which is to acknowledge who you are holding."

Some of the testimony seemed bound to embarrass the military.

Abbasi complains that on two occasions, military police officers had sex in front of him, while others tried to feed him "a hot plate of pork," food banned by the Islamic faith. Some, he said, misled him into praying north toward the United States rather than toward Mecca as Muslims are required to do.

Like the other detainees, Abbasi wasn't allowed to see classified evidence against him. He repeatedly cited international law in arguing that he was unfairly classified as an enemy combatant. An Air Force colonel whose identity remains blacked out would have none of it.

"Mr. Abbasi, your conduct is unacceptable and this is your absolute final warning. I do not care about international law. I do not want to hear the words international law again. We are not concerned about international law," the colonel says. Then he has Abbasi removed from the courtroom.

Last year, Rakoff ordered the government to ask each detainee whether he or she wanted personal identifying information to be turned over to the AP as part of the lawsuit. Of 317 detainees who received the form, 63 said yes, 17 said no, 35 returned the form without answering and 202 declined to return the form.

The judge said none of the detainees, not even the 17 who said they did not want their identities exposed, had a reasonable expectation of privacy during the tribunals.

A Pentagon lawyer delivered the documents 60 files on a CD-ROM about 20 minutes after the deadline at the close of business Friday. But within minutes, an officer returned and took back the CD-ROM, which contained letters from relatives of some of the prisoners that were not intended for release. A new version was provided over an hour later.

Associated Press reporters Ben Fox contributed to this story from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Lolita C. Baldor contributed from Washington.

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Defense Department:

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

Friday, March 03, 2006

BELLACIAO - Rumsfeld: Today’s weapons of war include e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, cameras & blogs - Daniel Trotta - Collective Bellaciao

BELLACIAO - Rumsfeld: Today’s weapons of war include e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, cameras & blogs - Daniel Trotta - Collective Bellaciao

Rumsfeld: Today’s weapons of war include e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, cameras & blogs
2 comment(s).
By Daniel Trotta
Fri Feb 17, 3:57 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The United States lags dangerously behind al Qaeda and other enemies in getting out information in the digital media age and must update its old-fashioned methods, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Friday.

Modernization is crucial to winning the hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide who are bombarded with negative images of the West, Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Pentagon chief said today’s weapons of war included e-mail, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras and Web logs, or blogs.

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media age, but ... our country has not adapted," Rumsfeld said.

"For the most part, the U.S. government still functions as a ’five and dime’ store in an eBay world," Rumsfeld said, referring to old-fashioned U.S. retail stores and the online auction house, respectively.

Rumsfeld said U.S. military public affairs officers must learn to anticipate news and respond faster, and good public affairs officers should be rewarded with promotions.

The military’s information offices still operate mostly eight hours a day, five or six days a week while the challenges they faces occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Rumsfeld called that a "dangerous deficiency."

Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy of the opposition Democratic Party immediately criticized Rumsfeld as missing the point.

"Clearly, we need to improve our public diplomacy and information age communication in the Muslim world," Kennedy said in a statement. "But nothing has done more to encourage increased Al Qaeda recruitment and made America less safe than the war in Iraq and the incompetent way it’s been managed. Our greatest failure is our policy."

Rumsfeld lamented that vast media attention about U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq outweighed that given to the discovery of " Saddam Hussein’s mass graves."

On the emergence of satellite television and other media not under Arab state control, he said, "While al Qaeda and extremist movements have utilized this forum for many years ... we in the government have barely even begun to compete in reaching their audiences."

By : Daniel Trotta
March Thursday 2nd 2006

AlterNet: Blogs: Evan Derkacz: O'Reilly threatens caller (audio)

AlterNet: Blogs: Evan Derkacz: O'Reilly threatens caller (audio)
O'Reilly threatens caller (audio)
By Evan Derkacz
Posted on March 3, 2006, Printed on March 3, 2006

Keith Olbermann's unapologetic digs at disingenuous and media personalities is really beginning to wind Bill O'Reilly up. After Olbermann named him the Worst Person in the World for the second night in a row, O'Reilly began a petition to replace Olbermann.

Olbermann responded and the duel is on...

Mike Stark decided to add a bit of gas to the fire by calling O'Reilly and mentioning Olbermann's name...

O'Reilly promptly cut him off and proceeded to tell him that "we have your phone number by the way" and that he should expect a visit to his door from the local authorities so that "you will be held accountable. Believe it."

According to Stark: "It didn’t get broadcast - Bill dumped it. This sound comes from the Bill O’Reilly premium membership I just paid for. (I vomited in my mouth as I hit the 'Finalize Order' button). Listen to it [HERE]. (CallingallWingnuts; HT: Marc)

--> Sign up for Peek in your inbox... every morning! (Go here and check Peek box).

Evan Derkacz is a New York-based writer and contributor to AlterNet.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Lethal ‘flying gunships’ returning to Iraq - Conflict in Iraq -

Lethal ‘flying gunships’ returning to Iraq - Conflict in Iraq -

Lethal ‘flying gunships’ returning to Iraq
AP: Armed airplanes used in Vietnam War secretly moved to Iraqi base
The Associated Press
Updated: 8:14 p.m. ET March 3, 2006

AN AIR BASE IN IRAQ - The U.S. Air Force has begun moving heavily armed AC-130 airplanes — the lethal “flying gunships” of the Vietnam War — to a base in Iraq as commanders search for new tools to counter the Iraqi resistance, The Associated Press has learned.

An AP reporter saw the first of the turboprop-driven aircraft after it landed at the airfield this week. Four are expected.

The Iraq-based special forces command controlling the AC-130s, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, said it would have no comment on the deployment. But the plan’s general outline was confirmed by other Air Force officers, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Military officials warned that disclosing the location of the aircraft’s new base would violate security provisions of rules governing media access to U.S. installations.

The four-engine gunships, whose home base is Hurlburt Field in Florida, have operated over Iraq before, flying from airfields elsewhere in the region. In November 2004, air-to-ground fire from AC-130s supported the U.S. attack that took the western city of Fallujah from insurgents.

Basing the planes inside Iraq will cut hours off their transit time to reach suspected targets.

Planes heavily armed
The left-side ports of the AC-130s, 98-foot-long planes that can slowly circle over a target for long periods, bristle with a potent arsenal — 40 mm cannon that can fire 120 rounds per minute, and big 105 mm cannon, normally a field artillery weapon. The plane’s latest version, the AC-130U, known as “Spooky,” also carries Gatling gun-type 20 mm cannon.

The gunships were designed primarily for battlefield use to place saturated fire on massed troops. In Vietnam, for example, they were deployed against North Vietnamese supply convoys along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where the Air Force claimed to have destroyed 10,000 trucks over several years.

The use of AC-130s in places like Fallujah, urban settings where insurgents may be among crowded populations of noncombatants, has been criticized by human rights groups.

The slow-moving AC-130s also offer an intelligence gathering advantage in the Iraq fight: sophisticated long-range video, infrared and radar sensors.

American commanders are marshaling all available tools to detect the Iraqi insurgents’ stealthy operations, especially at night, when they plant roadside bombs targeting American road patrols and convoys.

The Air Force’s senior tactical commander in Iraq said the AC-130 can be both a high-intensity and low-intensity weapon.

“It’s got tons of guns, and it’s got all kinds of stuff on it that can be applied to the problems you have,” Brig. Gen. Frank Gorenc, who refused to discuss the current AC-130 deployment, said in an AP interview.

That “stuff” includes “the ability to take these high-tech pods and to use them to find guys planting (bombs) and to find other nefarious activity,” he said.

The Predator drone — the MQ-1 unmanned aerial vehicle — has been a reconnaissance workhorse in Iraq, but Air Force officers say they don’t have enough to meet demand for missions. The fiscal 2007 Defense Department budget proposed last month by the Bush administration envisions spending $1.6 billion on additional reconnaissance drones.
© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

© 2006


Israel threatens to assassinate the future Palestinian Authority prime minister : SF Indymedia

Israel threatens to assassinate the future Palestinian Authority prime minister : SF Indymedia

Israel threatens to assassinate the future Palestinian Authority prime minister
by repost Thursday, Mar. 02, 2006 at 6:34 PM

The Jewish Telegraph is reporting that a "SENIOR member of Israel's Kadima Party hinted that the future Palestinian Authority prime minister could be assassinated."

The Jewish Telegraph is reporting:

Avi Dichter, a former Shin Bet chief tipped as the next defence minister if Kadima wins the March 28 elections in Israel, said that Ismail Haniyeh should not consider himself "immune" once he takes over the Palestinian Authority government.

"In my eyes, he remains a man of terror, no matter what post he serves in," Dichter told the newspaper Yediot Aharonot. "If there is a terror attack to which Israel decides to respond with a preventive measure, then Haniyeh would be a legitimate target because Hamas cannot carry out a terror attack without Haniyeh's authorisation."

Fred Branfman | On Torture and Being 'Good Americans'

Fred Branfman | On Torture and Being 'Good Americans'

On Torture and Being 'Good Americans'
By Fred Branfman

Friday 03 March 2006

"Gestapo interrogation methods included: repeated near drownings of a prisoner in a bathtub."
-- The History Place

"The CIA officers say 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lasted the longest under water boarding, two and a half minutes, before beginning to talk, with debatable results."
-- Brian Ross, ABC World News Tonight, November 18, 2005

"When President Bush last week signed the bill outlawing the torture of detainees, he quietly reserved the right to bypass the law under his powers as commander in chief...Bush believes he can waive the restrictions, the White House and legal specialists said."
-- "Bush Could Bypass Torture Ban," Boston Globe

As a teenager, I could not understand how the German people could claim to be "good Germans," unaware of what the Nazis had done in their names. I could understand if these ordinary German people had said they had known and been horrified, but were afraid to speak up. But they would then be "weak or fearful or indifferent Germans," not "good Germans." The idea that only the Nazis were responsible for the Holocaust made no sense. Whatever the Germans as a whole know about the concentration camps, they certainly knew about the systematic mistreatment of Jews that had occurred before their very eyes, and from which so many had profited. And if they were not really "good Germans," what should or could they have done, given the reality of Nazi tyranny?

The issue became personal for me in the summer of 1961, when I hitchhiked through Europe with a lovely German woman named Inge. Still in love after an idyllic summer, we visited Hyde Park the day before I was to return home. A bearded, middle-aged concentration-camp survivor was angrily attacking the German people for standing by and letting the Jews be slaughtered. I was moved beyond words. Suddenly the woman I loved began yelling angrily at him, screaming that the Germans did not know, that her father had just been a soldier and was not responsible for the Holocaust.

Our relationship essentially ended then and there. I understood intellectually that she was just defending her father and was neither an anti-Semite nor an evil person. But there it was. She on one side. The survivor on the other. A gulf between them. Whatever my head said, my heart knew that the world is divided into evil-doers, their victims, and those like Inge who do not want to know. And that I had no choice but to stand with the victims.

I never dreamed at that moment that I, as an American, would a few years later face this same question as my government committed mass murder of civilians in Indochina in violation of the Nuremberg Principles. Or that more than four decades later I would still be struggling with what it means to be a "good American" after learning that a group of US leaders has unilaterally seized the right to torture anyone it chooses without evidence and in violation of international law, human decency, and the sacrifice of the many Americans who have died fighting autocracy and totalitarianism.

Bush Embraces Torture

To ask what it means to be a "good American" is not to compare Bush to Hitler or Republicans to Nazis. The question does not arise only when leaders engage in mass murder on the scale of a Hitler or Stalin, which Bush has not. It requires only that they engage in actions that are clearly evil, which Bush has.

Every generation or so an evil arises which is so monstrous, so degrading to the human spirit, so morally bankrupt that even to debate it is a sign of moral corruption. Native American genocide, slavery, totalitarianism, and Jim Crow laws are evils so unspeakable that we cannot understand today how anyone with a shred of decency could have once supported them. Today, torture, a practice far more degrading to us than to our victims, represents such an evil.

The issue has become urgent because Bush has chosen to demand the legal right to torture anyone he wishes. When torture was revealed at Abu Ghraib, the administration - falsely and shamelessly - attempted to shift its own responsibility onto foot-soldiers like Lynndie England. Since then, however, leaks have revealed that the CIA has tortured terrorist suspects all around the world, using techniques like "water boarding." In response, Senator John McCain proposed an amendment, attached to the 2006 Defense bill, that would ban torture.

Bush's first response to McCain's amendment was to threaten to veto the Defense Bill if it passed. When it became clear that McCain's amendment would pass by an overwhelming majority (it passed in by a 90-9 margin in the end), Bush reversed course and said he would support the amendment. Yet when he actually signed the bill, Bush added something called a "signing statement" in which he reserved the right to do whatever he chooses as Commander-in-Chief to "protect the American people from further terrorist attacks." In short, even as he signed McCain's amendment, Bush let it be known that he intends to ignore it as he sees fit.

Bush's demand is unprecedented. No leader in all human history, not even Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, has publicly demanded the right to torture. All others have behaved as Bush did before the amendment when he secretly tortured on a scale unseen in American history even while saying he wasn't. Forced into the open by the McCain amendment, however, Bush chose to openly demand the legal right to torture. Most experts assume he will continue to torture.

It is important to understand what this means. Bush justifies his right to torture on the grounds of saving American lives in a global "war on terrorism." Unlike previous wars, however, this war will never end. On the contrary, Bush's bungling of the war on terror - including the increased Muslim hatred of the United States that the practice of torture has caused - makes it more likely that there will be another domestic 9/11, leading in turn to more demands to torture. Bush's assertion of his right to torture, therefore, would make torture a permanent and growing instrument of US state policy.

Also, by opposing the McCain amendment, Bush took direct responsibility for the torture he and his administration have inflicted on countless suspects. As you read these words, people are screaming in agony from Gestapo techniques used in CIA and "allied" torture chambers around the world. Many or even most of the victims are innocent. The New Republic has noted that "Pentagon reports have acknowledged that up to 90 percent of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, many of whom were abused and tortured, were not guilty of anything.... And Abu Ghraib produced a tiny fraction of the number of abuse, torture, and murder cases that have been subsequently revealed."

Mr. Bush's statement that "we do not torture," even as he was threatening to veto the entire Defense bill because it limited his right to torture, is a dramatic example of how torture degrades the torturer even more than it does his victims. And it is a disgraceful commentary on our nation that no major church, business, or political leader, nor the fawning media personalities who interview him and his officials, has expressed outrage at this bald-faced lie. And one can barely mention an unspeakable Congress, which ignored his lying about torture after spending two years impeaching his predecessor for lying about sex.

The real question for us, however, is what this says not about President Bush and our other leaders, but about ourselves. What are we, as citizens, as human beings, willing to live with? Are we willing to live with a President, Vice-President, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and Attorney-General who either engage in or rationalize torture in our names, even as they shamelessly deny they are doing so?

If we are willing to live with this evil, the torture will continue. If not, it can be brought to an end. Who are we?

Becoming "Good Americans"

We are in some ways more morally compromised than the "good Germans" of the 1930s. To begin with, we are far less able to claim we do not know. Our daily newspapers regularly report new revelations of Bush administration torture.

Second, by opposing torture, we face far less severe threats than did Germans who tried to help Jews. Even the strong possibility that we could become targets of illegal spying by this administration for protesting its torture is far less frightening than the death or imprisonment faced by Germans who helped Jews.

And, third, unlike the Germans, we cannot reasonably claim that it is futile to oppose our leaders. Creating or joining an organized effort to prevent torture can succeed because we possess one great advantage that human rights advocates in Germany did not have: the public is with us. Most Americans abhor torture and can understand the argument that it does not protect American lives. This is why the McCain amendment enjoyed 90 percent majorities in the Republican-controlled House and Senate, and why it is possible to bring to power leaders who are not committed to torture.

If we can build a movement to limit and ultimately remove from power those who torture, and thus endanger our lives, we will be achieving other important goals as well.

We will be building support for international law, which is one of humanity's few frail protections against far greater violence. If we can implement international law against torture, perhaps we can extend it to preventing the murder of civilians or aggressive war. We will be reaffirming America's once-strong commitment to building the kind of new international order that is required to reduce international terrorism, and fostering a world in which US leaders would once again be respected as fighters for human decency rather than despised as threats to it.

We will bring the once-powerful but forgotten force of morality and nonviolent action - for civil rights, for peace, for women's rights - back into our politics. A false morality that claims to love Jesus while torturing and killing in his name will be replaced by an authentic morality that seeks to address the root-causes of terrorism and violence.

We will thus also join this renewed moral force with a practical strategy that can actually protect us from terrorism. Torture is only the most dramatic example of how Bush has endangered our lives by bungling the war on terrorism. He has also dangerously neglected homeland security, alienated world opinion, helped Al Qaeda grow in numbers and fervor, wasted vast resources in Iraq in ways that increase terrorist ranks, failed to build an effective democracy in Afghanistan, failed to bring peace to the Middle East, and failed to address the poverty that fuels anti-American terrorism. Ending torture is a necessary precondition to developing an effective strategy that will actually protect rather than endanger Americans.

And we will strengthen democracy at home. Nothing is more un-American and undemocratic than the idea that a small group of executive branch leaders should be free to torture, kill, and spy at will. This idea is in fact precisely what generations of Americans have died fighting against. Ending Bush's use of torture will be the beginning of restoring an accountable and democratic government to this nation.

Conservative Totalitarianism

Ending torture will have a major impact beyond torture itself for a simple reason: as slavery was the linchpin to the entire pre-bellum Southern social order, torture has become integral to today's conservative ideology. Conservative ideology was once a coherent set of ideas built around limiting state power over the individual. It has today degenerated into a rationale for expanding executive power over the individual, including not only the right to torture but the right to spy on citizens, wage aggressive war while lying about it, prevent gay people from marrying, deny a woman the right to an abortion, publish disguised government propaganda in the media, and even deny us the right to die in peace if conservatives decree that we must live as vegetables or in unendurable pain.

It is no coincidence that the executive's right to torture was defended not only by Bush and Cheney, but also by conservative ideologues at The Weekly Standard, financed by media mogul Rupert Murdoch and edited by William Kristol, who published a cover story by Charles Krauthammer - widely admired in conservative circles - which declared that "we must all be prepared to torture" to save American lives. Or that the National Review opined that "if McCain's amendment becomes law ... we will then be able to apply only methods formulated to deal with conventional soldiers in a different sort of conflict than the one that faces us now. This is folly."

Today's conservative movement has been reduced to a set of impulses, above all a totalitarian impulse to support the expansion of autocratic power it was founded to restrain. Since its ideological blinders prevent it from developing sensible measures to reduce terrorism, it has turned to justifying only those policies that expand executive power and seek to rule through coercion, threats, and violence.

Whatever a movement to abolish torture will achieve for society, it is clear what participating in it means for each of us as individuals. It means above all that our children and grandchildren will not remember us with shame, that they will not one day have to try to justify to our victims our failure to oppose the torture being conducted in our names, and that the term "good Americans" will mean just that, and not become an excuse for fear or indifference.

When we fight to end torture we are not only fighting for human decency, international law, democracy, and freedom. We are fighting for ourselves.

Fred Branfman is a writer and long-time political activist. His website is He is writing a book entitled Facing Death at Any Age.

US Claims Torture Ban Void at Guantanamo

US Claims Torture Ban Void at Guantanamo

US Cites Exception in Torture Ban
By Josh White and Carol D. Leonnig
The Washington Post

Friday 03 March 2006

McCain law may not apply to Cuba prison.

Bush administration lawyers, fighting a claim of torture by a Guantánamo Bay detainee, yesterday argued that the new law that bans cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of detainees in US custody does not apply to people held at the military prison.

In federal court yesterday and in legal filings, Justice Department lawyers contended that a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, cannot use legislation drafted by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to challenge treatment that the detainee's lawyers described as "systematic torture."

Government lawyers have argued that another portion of that same law, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, removes general access to US courts for all Guantánamo Bay captives. Therefore, they said, Mohammed Bawazir, a Yemeni national held since May 2002, cannot claim protection under the anti-torture provisions.

Bawazir's attorneys contend that "extremely painful" new tactics used by the government to force-feed him and end his hunger strike amount to torture.

US District Judge Gladys Kessler said in a hearing yesterday that she found allegations of aggressive US military tactics used to break the detainee hunger strike "extremely disturbing" and possibly against US and international law. But Justice Department lawyers argued that even if the tactics were considered in violation of McCain's language, detainees at Guantánamo would have no recourse to challenge them in court.

In Bawazir's case, the government claims that it had to forcefully intervene in a hunger strike that was causing his weight to drop dangerously. In January, officials strapped Bawazir into a special chair, put a larger tube than they had previously used through his nose and kept him restrained for nearly two hours at a time to make sure he did not purge the food he was being given, the government and Bawazir's attorneys said.

Richard Murphy Jr., Bawazir's attorney, said his client gave in to the new techniques and began eating solid food days after the first use of the restraint chair. Murphy said the military deliberately made the process painful and embarrassing, noting that Bawazir soiled himself because of the approach.

Kessler said getting to the root of the allegations is an "urgent matter."

"These allegations . . . describe disgusting treatment that if proven, is treatment that is cruel, profoundly disturbing and violative of" US and foreign treaties banning torture, Kessler told the government's lawyers. She said she needs more information, but made clear she is considering banning the use of larger nasal-gastric tubes and the restraint chair.

In court filings, the Justice Department lawyers argued that language in the law written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) gives Guantánamo Bay detainees access to the courts only to appeal their enemy combatant status determinations and convictions by military commissions.

"Unfortunately, I think the government's right; it's a correct reading of the law," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The law says you can't torture detainees at Guantánamo, but it also says you can't enforce that law in the courts."

Thomas Wilner, a lawyer representing several detainees at Guantánamo, agreed that the law cannot be enforced. "This is what Guantánamo was about to begin with, a place to keep detainees out of the US precisely so they can say they can't go to court," Wilner said.

A spokeswoman for McCain's office did not respond to questions yesterday.

Murphy told the judge the military's claims that it switched tactics to protect Bawazir should not be believed. He noted that on Jan. 11 - days after the new law passed - the Defense Department made the identical health determination for about 20 other detainees, all of whom had been engaged in the hunger strike.

Guantánamo Bay officials deny that the tactics constitute torture. They wrote in sworn statements that they are necessary efforts to ensure detainee health. Maj. Gen. Jay W. Hood, the facility's commander, wrote that Bawazir's claims of abuse are "patently false."

"In short, he is a trained al Qaida terrorist, who has been taught to claim torture, abuse, and medical mistreatment if captured," Hood wrote. He added that Bawazir allegedly went to Afghanistan to train for jihad and ultimately fought with the Taliban against US troops.

Navy Capt. Stephen G. Hooker, who runs the prison's detention hospital, noted that the hunger strike began on Aug. 8, reached a peak of 131 participants on Sept. 11, and dropped to 84 on Christmas Day. After use of the restraint chair began, only five captives continued not eating.

Hooker wrote that he suspected Bawazir was purging his food after feedings. Bawazir weighed 130 pounds in late 2002, according to Hooker, but 97 pounds on the day he was first strapped to the chair. As of Sunday, his weight was back to 137 pounds, the government said.

Kessler noted with irritation that Hood and Hooker made largely general claims about the group of detainees on the hunger strike in defending the switch to the new force-feeding procedures used on Bawazir.

"I know it's a sad day when a federal judge has to ask a DOJ attorney this, but I'm asking you - why should I believe them?" Kessler asked Justice Department attorney Terry Henry.

Henry said he would attempt to gather more information from the officials but said there was no legal basis for the court to intervene. Bawazir's weight is back to normal, his health is "robust" and he is no longer on a hunger strike, Henry said.

New Leadership Crisis as Iraq Descends Into Anarchy

New Leadership Crisis as Iraq Descends Into Anarchy

New Leadership Crisis as Iraq Descends Into Anarchy
By Qassim Abdulzahra
The Independent UK

Friday 03 March 2006

A bomb ripped through a vegetable market in a Shia section of Baghdad and a senior Sunni leader escaped assassination as at least 36 people were killed yesterday in a surge of violence that pushed Iraq closer still to sectarian civil war.

An aide to Ibrahim al- Jaafari, the Prime Minister, meanwhile, lashed out at Sunni, Kurdish and secular political leaders who have mounted a campaign to deny him another term, saying the Shia United Iraqi alliance will not change its candidate.

Haider al-Ibadi accused Mr. Jaafari's critics of trying to delay the formation of a new government. "There are some elements who have personal differences with Mr. Jaafari. The Alliance is still sticking to its candidate," he said.

Leaders of three parties, including Sunnis, Kurds and the secularists of the former prime minister Iyad Allawi, agreed on Wednesday to ask the main Shia bloc to withdraw Mr. Jaafari's nomination for prime minister. Shia officials confirmed receiving a letter asking them to put forward a new candidate.

The move raises a new hurdle in US-backed talks on an inclusive government, which broke down last week when Sunni parties pulled out in protest against attacks on Sunni mosques triggered by the bombing on 22 February of the golden-domed Askari shrine, a Shia mosque in the central city of Samarra.

Hundreds were killed in the sectarian fury that followed. They included 45 Sunni preachers and mosque staff, according to Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samaraie, the head of the government's Sunni Endowment, which takes care of Sunni mosques and shrines. He told a news conference that 37 Sunni mosques were destroyed and 86 were damaged by grenades, rockets or gunfire. Six others remained in the hands of Shia militiamen, he said.

Yesterday's bomb attack in the Baghdad vegetable market killed at least eight people and wounded 14. Police evacuated the market after finding a second bomb. Another bomb exploded in a minibus traveling through Sadr City, a Shia ghetto in the Baghdad, killing five.

Gunmen also attacked the car of Adnan al-Dulaimi, the senior Sunni cleric who leads the Sunnis' largest parliamentary bloc. One bodyguard was killed. Mr. Dulaimi had already sped away in another vehicle.

In the aftermath of the attacks, the government announced a one-day ban on private vehicles in Baghdad and its outskirts. Police and army were instructed to seal off the capital and seize any private vehicles that defy the ban.

Pentagon Intelligence Agency Reviewed for Corruption

Pentagon Intelligence Agency Reviewed for Corruption

Pentagon Agency's Contracts Reviewed
By Walter Pincus
The Washington Post

Friday 03 March 2006

Federal investigators are looking into contracts awarded by the Pentagon's newest and fastest-growing intelligence agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity, which has spent more than $1 billion, mostly for outsourced services, since its establishment in late 2002, according to administration and congressional sources.

The review is an outgrowth of the continuing investigation that resulted in charges against Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who resigned from Congress in November and is scheduled to be sentenced today after pleading guilty to tax evasion and conspiracy to take $2.4 million in bribes.

In pre-sentencing documents filed this week, prosecutors said that in fiscal 2003 legislation, Cunningham set aside, or earmarked, $6.3 million for work to be done "to benefit" CIFA shortly after the agency was created. The contract went to MZM Inc., a company run by Mitchell J. Wade, who recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe Cunningham.

Also this week, prosecutors released a letter dated Feb. 24, 2004, from Cunningham to CIFA Director David A. Burtt II, in which the former member of the House defense appropriations subcommittee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence thanked the CIFA staff for supporting another multimillion-dollar program that involved MZM.

CIFA, whose exact size and budget remain secret, was established in September 2002 to coordinate policy and oversee the counterintelligence activities of units within the military services and Pentagon agencies. In the past three years, it has grown to become an analytic and operational organization with nine directorates and widening authority focused primarily on protecting defense facilities and personnel from terrorist attacks. The agency was criticized after it was revealed in December that a database it managed held information on Americans who were peacefully protesting the war in Iraq at defense facilities and recruiting offices.

Officials said CIFA's contracting is under review by federal prosecutors as they continue to investigate the Cunningham corruption case, and by Defense Department officials. Pentagon officials declined to discuss CIFA's connections to the inquiry. "There is an ongoing review by appropriate organizations within the Department, and it would be premature to discuss any possible outcomes of that review," said a statement provided yesterday by Cmdr. Gregory Hicks, a Defense Department public affairs officer who also serves as CIFA's spokesman.

Burtt has said that about 70 percent of CIFA's funding is contracted out and that his agency may soon absorb the Defense Security Service, the Pentagon outfit that monitors handling of classified government information by contractors.

CIFA has had a connection to MZM dating to its formation, said congressional and administration sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigations. Burtt, who was a deputy assistant secretary of defense for counterintelligence at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, developed the concept for CIFA.

A consultant to Burtt on the CIFA project was retired Lt. Gen. James C. King, who joined MZM after retiring in late 2001 as director of the Pentagon-based National Imagery and Mapping Agency. In August 2005, investment firm Veritas Capital bought MZM and changed its name to Athena Innovative Solutions Inc. King, who replaced Wade as president of MZM in June 2005, has remained president of Athena. A spokesman for Athena said yesterday that neither King nor the company would comment on MZM or matters under investigation.

In late 2002, Cunningham made the contract for Wade's company, MZM, one of "his top priorities" in the defense appropriations bill, according to the prosecutors' pre-sentencing filing. After Congress approved the money, Wade told unnamed Defense Department officials they had to "work something up" that would provide a "real benefit to CIFA," according to the prosecutors' documents.

The resultant program saw more than $6 million spent for a mass data storage system supposedly for CIFA that, according to the prosecutorial document, included almost $5.4 million in profit for MZM and a subcontractor. "Adding insult to injury," the prosecutors wrote, "the final system sold to the government was never installed (as it was incompatible with CIFA's network system) and remains in storage in Arlington, Va."

In January 2004, Cunningham sought about $16.15 million to be added to the defense authorization bill for a CIFA "collaboration center." A month later, Cunningham wrote Burtt his thank you note about the center, adding: "I wish to endorse and support MZM, Inc.'s work." He concluded, "As the Collaboration Center is completed, I hope to help you inaugurate the center as I did at the inception of CIFA." Defense spokesman Hicks said he was unaware of a CIFA collaboration center.


Dubai funds Neil Bush's company

Dubai funds Neil Bush's company

Posted: February 27, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2006

Investors from the United Arab Emirates helped fund
the $23 million Neil Bush raised for Ignite!, the
learning systems company that holds lucrative No Child
Left Behind Act contracts in Florida and Texas. The
"Cow" is an Ignite! portable computer designed to work
in a classroom, providing interactive instruction
aimed at improving students' scores on standardized
tests. If you loved Billy Carter and "Billy Beer,"
you're certain to love Neil Bush and the "Ignite!

Neil Bush's frequent travels to Dubai are documented
by Datamatix, a Dubai-based information technology
company that has featured Neil Bush as a speaker. The
Datamatix website features several prominent
photographs of Neil Bush addressing a Dubai
conference, identifying Neil Bush as "the brother of
U.S. President George Bush."

Dubai's Datamatix appears to be bipartisan, as the
company's website also shows Dubai appearances of
various Democratic Party luminaries including Al Gore
(with and without a beard), Sandy Berger – the
National Security Adviser under President Clinton who
achieved fame by stuffing classified documents in his
socks – and Howard Dean, the current Democratic
National Committee chairman. The site also shows
photographs of Tipper Gore and John Sununu receiving
"Token of Appreciation" awards in Dubai from
Datamatix. Anti-Bush Internet websites have been
touting the Neil Bush connection with Dubai for
months, although the story has been largely shut out
of the mainstream media. (See Debbie Schlussel's Feb.
23, 2006, column, "Something's Rotten in Dubai.")

Many times over, Neil Bush has won the distinction of
being the "black sheep" of the Bush family. In 1988,
Neil Bush was a director of the failed Silverado
Savings and Loan, which collapsed in a scandal that
ultimately cost taxpayers an estimated $1 billion. For
his role in the savings and loan debacle, Neil Bush
was personally fined and permanently banned from any
further activities in banking. In a messy divorce
ending a 23-year marriage with Sharon Bush, the mother
of his children, Neil Bush gave a deposition in which
he admitted multiple sex romps with Oriental
prostitutes during his many "business trips" to Asia.

Reports also document Neil Bush traveling around the
ex-Soviet Union to raise money for Ignite! with the
notorious Boris Berezovsky, a Russian wheeler-dealer
who has sought asylum in London to avoid Russian
authorities who want to prosecute him for fraud. Bush
has also turned up in the Philippines and Taiwan at
the side of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the head of the
controversial Unification Church. State Department and
White House spokespersons often disavow any comment
when pressed to respond to reports of Neil Bush's
business activities. In a separate business venture
involving semiconductors, Neil Bush took investment
money from Jiang Mianheng, the son of former Chinese
President Jiang Zemin.

Neil Bush is hardly the first to trade on the name of
his president brother. We all remember Donald Nixon,
who took a $200,000 never-repaid loan from Howard
Hughes to establish a failed chain of hamburger
joints, known as "Nixonburgers." Then, there was Billy
Carter who took $200,000 from Muammar Gadhafi to lobby
Jimmy Carter to release embargoed C-130 airplanes to
Libya. Also, Roger Clinton, who spent a year in prison
for dealing cocaine, surfaced in "Pardongate" by
arguing as Clinton left the White House to get pardons
for a rogue's gallery of his clients, including
Rosario Gambino, a jailed New Jersey restaurant owner
with ties to organized crime.

As investigative reporters start digging to "follow
the money" in what is becoming known as the "Dubai
Debacle," Neil Bush is certain to find center stage
once again in what well could be also dubbed the
coming "Neil-gate" controversy.

Chicago Tribune | U.S. studies Lebanon's military

Chicago Tribune | U.S. studies Lebanon's military

U.S. studies Lebanon's military
Assessment is part of process to help nation's democratic forces

By Christine Spolar
Tribune foreign correspondent
Published March 2, 2006

CAIRO -- U.S. military officials have been quietly assessing Lebanon's military capability, making a general inventory of its army, air and naval forces, and suggesting reforms following a request last year from top Lebanese government officials.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, a top military planner, confirmed the review this week but would not elaborate on recommended reforms. The review was initiated after a request was made directly through the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, military and political sources said, and is part of a continuing process to help democratic forces in Lebanon.

"We're looking for stability," said Kimmitt, deputy director for strategy and plans at U.S. Central Command. "An unstable Lebanon is a danger to itself, to its immediate neighbors and the region. This is part of our overall strategy."

About a dozen U.S. military officers traveled to Beirut in November and December for the review, military sources said, and visited bases to produce three reports. The inventory was described as a comprehensive assessment of the condition of U.S.-made equipment in the Lebanon armed forces.

The U.S. inventory was a separate but coordinated effort with other Western embassies contacted by the Lebanese. Britain and France were asked to assess policy and policing needs. Arab countries, including Egypt and Jordan, also were contacted and are engaged, sources said.

The Bush administration has been intent on shoring up democratic efforts in the region, and the military assessment was described as part of a drive to bolster Lebanon, coping in the past year with political assassinations, car and truck bombings, and popular demonstrations in support of a Lebanon free of Syrian involvement.

Neighboring Syria, which has long dominated Lebanese politics, was suspected in much of the violence, including a bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. That assassination touched off huge protests in Beirut. As international outrage spiraled, Syria withdrew thousands of troops from Lebanon after 30 years of occupation.

A United Nations investigation last year implicated senior Syrian security officials in the Hariri killing. Syria has denied the findings, but an inquiry continues.

A subsequent UN report last year further fueled concern over Lebanon's security. That report concluded that Lebanon was facing an "increasing influx of weaponry and personnel from Syria" for Palestinian military groups operating within its border. The situation remains volatile, according to the report, and illegal border traffic of arms and people, as well as terrorist acts, were "worrying developments affecting the stability of Lebanon."

Lebanon's integrity has been elevated as a priority for the Bush administration, as demonstrated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's surprise visit to Beirut last week. Rice snubbed Lebanon's pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud, while finding time to meet with some leading political opponents.

Military help to Lebanon advances two U.S. national security aims: the spread of democracy in the Middle East and the application of pressure on Syria, which has long been considered a state sponsor of terror.

Syria's role

Three decades ago, as Lebanon fell into messy and deadly civil war, Syria was seen as one of the provocateurs in the regional conflict. Efforts by the Reagan administration to calm the situation effectively withered after 1983 when truck bombs hit the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and a U.S. Marine barracks, leaving more than 300 people dead.

Syria later emerged as a guarantor to an Arab-crafted peace deal that gave it broad influence over Lebanese affairs. Syria has allowed groups to operate inside Lebanon that are labeled terrorist by the U.S.--most notably Hezbollah, an Islamist organization that now has representatives in Lebanon's parliament.

The recent military assessment in Lebanon began after elections were held last year and Lebanese officials sought guidance on the readiness of the country's armed forces. The U.S. review found inadequacies in equipment and personnel, but some involved in the process said the equipment was in better shape than expected, sources said.

Sources described the assessment as a significant overall study because about 85 percent of the existing Lebanese inventory is of U.S. origin. Equipment surveys by the U.S. military, when requested, are not unusual, and the sizes of the teams sent were typical.

But the timing and the speed of the effort in Lebanon indicated sensitivity, sources said.

U.S. teams were detailed to suggest whether equipment should be repaired, upgraded or thrown out. Three U.S. teams were involved: teams assessing aviation and naval equipment spent a week, and the team assessing army equipment took two weeks.

U.S. defense officials are now considering whether to suggest additional foreign aid for modernization. British experts made a preliminary trip to Lebanon to pursue discussions on Lebanon's strategic policy. French experts were asked to assess police and security forces. It is unclear how far either of those reviews progressed.

The United States has had military assistance programs in Lebanon since the 1950s, but a coordinated effort with other Western embassies could give momentum to improving and refashioning the small but strategically significant military.
According to, the Lebanese armed forces were long crippled by infighting and internal upheaval. After Israel invaded in 1982, the Lebanese government sought a military overhaul. The U.S. responded then with a modernization plan designed to span several years. Jordan quickly donated equipment for a tank battalion; the U.S. transferred about 1,000 vehicles, including armored personnel carriers, within the first year, reports.

The Lebanese aspired to a force of 60,000 but could recruit only 22,000 by late 1982. Conscripts were then called up and accounted for two-thirds of troop strength. U.S. military advisers provided support and training in the first couple of years; hundreds of millions of dollars were spent until Lebanon's army was routed by militias as civil war spiraled in 1983 and 1984.

In 1988, Syrian troops moved into Beirut, and the military foundered. Only after 1991, as peace held, could the Lebanese rebuild the army again to 60,000 standing troops, according to The U.S. was supportive of the peace accord and provided equipment in the rebuilding.

Lebanon still faced challenges. Israel maintained troops in southern Lebanon until 2000. As late as 2003, Syria had 20,000 troops in Lebanon. Hezbollah continues to have thousands of troops near the southern border with Israel.

Strategy and aid

Questions about Lebanon's military strategy were central to the effort recently completed by the U.S. assessment teams, said Kimmitt, the U.S. military planner.

"The larger question is: Who is their enemy? Are they looking at Israel? Al Qaeda? Syria? . . . In our minds, this is the army that sooner or later will have to stand up to the armed branch of Hezbollah. . . . And right now, it's a military [whose equipment] may be too large and too heavily armored for the threats around them," Kimmitt said.

Military aid to the Middle East plays a key role in U.S. foreign policy, and additional aid to Lebanon would fit into a familiar pattern. Egypt and Israel have received billions of dollars of military aid in the past decade; Beirut in fiscal 2006 received less than $1 million in military aid. Under the Bush administration's request for 2007, Lebanon would receive nearly $5 million in military aid.

---------- | Venezuela Rejects U.S. Criticism on Drugs | Venezuela Rejects U.S. Criticism on Drugs

Venezuela Rejects U.S. Criticism on Drugs

By NATALIE OBIKO PEARSON Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's vice president said Thursday that the United States was the world's biggest consumer of illegal drugs and had no "moral authority" to criticize Venezuela for failing to control narcotics.

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday in its annual report on drug trafficking that it no longer considers Venezuela an ally in the war on drugs, worsening already tense relations between Caracas and Washington.

In a speech to Venezuela's Congress, Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel responded that: "The country with the highest consumption of drugs is precisely the United States. Narcotrafficking and narcotraffickers are in the United States, not in Venezuela."

The U.S. report said that rampant corruption at high levels of law enforcement and a weak judicial system in Venezuela allowed hundreds of tons of Colombian cocaine to cross into the country each year.

Rangel claimed Thursday that high-ranking members of President Bush's administration were involved in drug trafficking and that the U.S. financial system was "clearly infiltrated" by the drug trade.

He accused U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte of links to drug trafficking in Central America to obtain funds to buy arms in Nicaragua during the Iran-Contra scandal _ allegations denied by U.S. officials in the past.

Negroponte was U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85 at a time when the U.S.-backed Contra rebels were secretly using that country as a base to attack the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

Rangel did not provide further details.

President Hugo Chavez suspended cooperation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in August, accusing its members of spying. The following month, the U.S. government said Venezuela had failed to effectively fight drug trafficking and removed Venezuela from a list of cooperating nations, though it did not impose formal sanctions.

Venezuela plans to sign a new anti-drug agreement with Washington that will strictly limit the local activities of U.S. drug agents, putting them under control of local authorities and barring joint operations.

U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield tried to defuse the dispute Thursday.

"The question is not what we have done in the past," he told reporters. "The question is what we are going to do in the future."

Iran president says IAEA politically motivated�|�

Iran president says IAEA politically motivated�|�

Iran president says IAEA politically motivated
Thu Mar 2, 2006 11:57 PM ET

By Jalil Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The U.N. nuclear watchdog's treatment of Iran is politically motivated, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Friday, the day set for his country's last-ditch nuclear talks with European nations.

Ahmadinejad, who is visiting Malaysia, accused international bodies of bias, in remarks seen by at least one regional diplomat as aimed at his audience at home.

"Regrettably most international organizations have turned into political organizations and the influence of great powers prevents them from taking fair and legally sound decisions," Ahmadinejad said in a speech.

"The IAEA's (International Atomic Energy Agency's) treatment of the Islamic Republic of Iran is politically motivated."

Top EU powers will meet Iran's chief nuclear negotiator for a last stab at dialogue before an IAEA meeting that could bring Security Council steps against Tehran over fears it secretly seeks atom bombs.

Ahmadinejad, who is known for adopting a hawkish rhetorical stance, seemed to be using the strong public statements to try and smooth his negotiator's way in the talks.

Iran wanted the talks but would not accept anything that was forced upon it, the Iranian president said.

"We never seek a fight, we believe in dialogue," said Ahmadinejad, accompanied on his trip by a large Iranian press contingent. "If some parties want to ... impose something on my nation, experience tells me and them that the Iranian nation will make them sorry.

"We are ready to talk and cooperate with everyone, with one exception, which is the Zionist regime," he said.

The West, led by the United States, suspects Iran is covertly seeking to build an atomic weapon. Iran denies this, saying it is pursuing nuclear programs purely for civilian use.

Thursday's word of the talks in Vienna was a surprise, given Iran's defiance of international calls to rein in nuclear work.

But Iran seems keen to brake momentum toward Security Council action, and the European Union appears keen to show it will listen, if not bend, to Tehran before weighing sanctions.

But no breakthrough seems on the cards, given that Tehran is speeding up uranium enrichment work geared to fuelling nuclear power plants or, potentially, weapons while going slow in talks on a Russian compromise proposal to defuse the crisis.

(Additional reporting by Clarence Fernandez)