Saturday, June 10, 2006
By Patrick Cockburn
The New Zealand Herald
Saturday 10 June 2006
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a little-known Jordanian petty criminal before
he became the Islamic fundamentalist fanatic denounced by the United States
in 2003 as an insurgent leader of great importance.
His status enabled him to recruit men and raise money to wage a cruel
war, mostly against Iraqi civilians.
In one macabre innovation, he staged beheadings of Westerners -
including Ken Bigley and Eugene Armstrong - which were then put on the
Zarqawi's death in an airstrike by American F-16s on a house north of
Baghdad is important in Iraq because he was the most sectarian of the Sunni
resistance leaders, butchering Shiites as heretics as worthy of death as
His chosen instrument was the suicide bomber. The targets were almost
invariably young Shiite men desperate for work and queuing for jobs as
policemen or soldiers.
President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair welcomed news of
his death but, paradoxically, among those most pleased by his elimination
may be the other insurgent leaders. "He was an embarrassment to the
resistance," said Iraqi commentator Ghassan al-Attiyah. "They never liked
him taking all the limelight and the Americans exaggerated his role."
Zarqawi's rise was attributable to the US in two ways. His name was
unknown when he was denounced in 2003, by Secretary of State Colin Powell
before the UN Security Council as the link between Saddam Hussein and al
There was no evidence for this connection and Zarqawi did not at that
time belong to al Qaeda. But to Muslims, Powell's denunciation made Zarqawi
a symbol of resistance to the US. It also fitted Washington's political
agenda that attacking Iraq was part of the war on terror.
The invasion gave Zarqawi a further boost. Within months of the
overthrow of Hussein, Iraq's Sunni Arab community of five million appeared
united in opposition to the occupation. Armed resistance was popular and for
the first time Sunni militants known as the Salafi had a bedrock of support
The next critical moment in Zarqawi's career was the capture of Saddam
Hussein in December 2003. Previously, US military and civilian spokesmen
blamed everything on the former Iraqi leader.
No sooner was Saddam captured than the US spokesmen began to mention
Zarqawi's name in every sentence. It emerged this year that the US emphasis
on Zarqawi as the prime leader of the Iraqi resistance was part of a
carefully calculated propaganda programme.
A dubious letter from Zarqawi was conveniently discovered. One internal
briefing document quoted by the Washington Post records Brigadier General
Kimmitt, then-chief US military spokesman: "The Zarqawi psy-op programme is
the most successful information campaign to date."
The US campaign was largely geared towards the American public, aiming
to establish that the invasion of Iraq was a reasonable response to the
September 11 attacks.
This meant it was necessary to show that al Qaeda was strong in Iraq and
play down the fact that this had happened only after the invasion.
In an increasingly anti-American Arab world, hostility from the US made
it easy for Zarqawi to develop his own organisation and finance it.
The siege of Fallujah in April 2004 and the storming of the city by US
Marines in November led to al-Tawhid wal-Jihad - whose name was later
changed to al Qaeda's Organisation in Iraq - becoming a powerful force. The
suicide bombing campaign had already begun in November 2003 and from the
beginning was directed against Shiites as much as foreign troops or
Zarqawi's war was devised to have the maximum political impact. Actions
such as the beheading of foreign captives made him an enemy to America's
Although US military officials admitted that few insurgents were
non-Iraqi, Zarqawi's Jordanian origins were useful in suggesting that the
insurrection was orchestrated outside Iraq.
There were always going to be sectarian and ethnic differences between
Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds after Saddam's overthrow. But he also did much to
deepen sectarian hatred by killing Iraqi Shiites whenever he could.
This destabilised the Iraqi Government.
It also made his anti-Shiite fanaticism increasingly acceptable.
His death may lessen Shiite-Sunni sectarianism but it probably comes too
late. In the savage civil war taking place in Diyala, the province where he
was killed, Iraq's communities hunt each other down and those in the
minority are forced to flee, fight or die.
Canada Terrorist Attacks: Sting Operation or Entrapment
CTV Transcript of Comments by Opposition MPs
June 6, 2006
QUESTION PERIOD 12:00:00 ET
June 4, 2006 Sunday
ANCHORS: CRAIG OLIVER AND JANE TABER
GUESTS: DEREK LEE, LIBERAL PUBLIC SAFETY CRITIC; JOE COMARTIN, NDP PUBLIC SAFETY CRITIC
CRAIG OLIVER: We are joined now in Toronto by Liberal Derek Lee, considered one of the parliamentary experts on the whole business of intelligence and defence. He's a member of the National Defence committee and others; and by Joe Comartin of the NDP, who is also the critic for public safety and himself a member of a number of committees of the commons including defence committee. Let me start with you, Mr. Lee. What does this sound like to you? Is this serious stuff in your estimation?
DEREK LEE (Liberal Public Safety Critic): Well, the round up at first showed me that the police agencies, security agencies, the new investments in infrastructure for them, the new laws were coming together, and they seemed to have a fairly good looking operation. But what I'm hearing now in the media, because I have heard nothing directly, is that there was a sting involved, and that causes me to want to wait a little bit just to find out some more of the facts. If there in fact was a sting and if we have underaged persons involved, I want to hear more before I can come to the conclusion that this was as lethal and risky as the first media reports made it out to be.
OLIVER: Mr. Comartin, I guess the word we're looking for here is entrapment.
JOE COMARTIN (NDP Public Safety Critic): Certainly with what has come out late yesterday afternoon and overnight, there's got to be some concern in particular with the number of youth that are involved in this, or at least alleged to be involved in this. I think, Craig, what we're looking at is it seems to have been a very sophisticated approach by our intelligence services and police services. I think Derek and I both appreciate that, because we've been critical of the silo effect where agencies haven't cooperated. On the other hand, you have to look at what we know up to this point, and begin to wonder is this a very unsophisticated copycat type of attempt with a number of inept people? That's beginning to be what it looks like.
OLIVER: Mr. Lee, many people now believe there will be a debate started over Afghanistan. The idea being that Muslims in Canada, and particularly Arab Canadians, may be deeply offended by what they see as a war on fellow Muslims, and Canada participating in that war on behalf of George Bush. What do you think of that concept?
LEE: This should be a big issue for us. There are thousands and thousands, in fact 99.9 percent of the broader Islamic community is out there very sensitive about this and waiting to hear some reassurance that they're Canadians just like everybody else. And a few bad apples, should there be some, inspired by what's happening abroad, shouldn't be allowed to taint the whole community. So I'm happy to engage in a debate like that, and I know the Islamic community, the broader community, will come forward. They're Canadians just like me and you, and we'll deal with these issues straight up. And I know that community, if you can silo it, is participating with the authorities and the intelligence services. They're as concerned about our Canadian safety as anyone else, and I'm very proud of what they've contributed so far, and they'll be engaged in a debate like that should it evolve indication
OLIVER: Can I hear you on that, Mr. Comartin?
COMARTIN: Well I want to echo the part about the engagement of the Muslim community across this country. They're the major victims when something like this happens because of the, what seems to be inevitable backlash. Canada has been very good, I think, overall about the limited nature of that backlash, but it certainly is there. There's the bigotry and the racism that comes to the surface at these points. With regards to Afghanistan specifically, I don't think it's just that. It will be Palestine, it'll be the war in Iraq, are we engaged in a war of two civilizations, which I don't believe we are. But the community here, the Muslim community here, has every right to expect that Canadians will respond with moderation, apply our values, apply our judicial and justice system to the facts that are here. We don't overreact and we don't panic. That's what we're expecting. In terms of the debate, threats like this, if in fact it's real, are ones that we have to cope with without sacrificing our values.
OLIVER: Now this is going to be something of a national security trial. Will it worry either of you if some of the trial might be held in camera? I mean none of us have any idea yet whether they may be trying to protect secrets. In other words that the trial may not be transparent enough. Will that be a worry to you?
LEE: It will be judicial, I mean it will be judicially supervised. It will be a judicial procedure. So to that extent I'm reassured. There may be components of it that won't have scrutiny. But as we speak, I think the House is about to reconsider Bill C 81 which would allow a parliamentary, a new parliamentary, a special parliamentary committee to look inside the envelope of these things and scrutinize it a lot more closely than we've been able to do up to now.
COMARTIN: I think, Craig, up to this point from what we can see of the charges that have been laid, there's been no indication that they're going to invoke that part of the anti-terrorism legIslation to conduct any part of these proceedings in camera.
OLIVER: Derek Lee, Joe Comartin, thank you, both of you, for giving us your time this Sunday afternoon.
LEE: You're welcome.
COMARTIN: You're welcome.
OLIVER: Still ahead, homeland insecurity.
Terrorism Is a Tactic
Terrorism is a tactic, not an entity, and it is a tactic used by people who have a political grievance. Therefore, if you want to eliminate terrorism, you have to address the political problems that gave it birth.
President Bush has made no effort to do this. He has aggravated the situation and made it worse. He's created a virtual factory for terrorists.
I am a firm believer that what you sow you reap, and it is a bad business to sow hatred, but unfortunately it seems that our president has been seduced by the great power he commands. He thinks the military and the intelligence community can solve the problem of terrorism.
He should note carefully the situation with Israel. Since 1947, the Israelis have been trying to use force instead of diplomacy to solve the Palestinian problem. And what is that problem? The Zionists, encouraged by the British, planted a colonialist country in Palestine with no regard for the rights or wishes of the Palestinian people.
Just as the Jews used terrorism to drive the British out of Palestine, the Palestinians have been forced to resort to it, and for 59 years the Israelis have been trying to kill their way out of it. It hasn't worked. The Palestinians are still there. They kill, too. And, 100 years from now, the Palestinians will still be there, but it's not at all certain Israel will be. I tend to agree with a former head of Israeli military intelligence who said that if the Palestinians are not given their own state, Israel will be committing national suicide.
I think he's right. The Israelis have become so paranoid, they are walling themselves in and, of course, stealing more Palestinian land in the process. But the wall won't help. There are Palestinians inside the wall who hold Israeli citizenship. There are Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza, in East Jerusalem. There are also Palestinians in refugee camps inside the West Bank and in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. So long as there is no justice for the Palestinians, there will be no peace in that region.
Thanks to a powerful Israeli lobby, our government, instead of pursuing our interests, has made itself an accessory to the crimes the Israelis commit against the Palestinians. Hence, we have become a target for terrorists, too. The president's statement that the terrorists "hate freedom" was just a cart full of cow pies. What they hate is our Middle East policy, and it is hardly a policy that has anything to do with freedom.
When the Palestinians held a free election and didn't elect the corrupt group of men we wanted, what did we do? We took our marbles and went home and pouted. We added to the misery of the Palestinians. We proved ourselves hypocrites, because a key element of democracy is to recognize the results of a free election. The president refuses to do that. For decades, we have denied the Palestinians the protection of international law by vetoing every United Nations resolution that sought to correct the wrongs committed by Israel. We have poured billions of dollars into Israel and made it a regional superpower complete with nuclear weapons.
In the meantime, we have invaded two Muslim nations, neither of which was at war or was a threat to us. It's taken the Taliban some time to get reorganized, but they've come back. We've lost 236 men in Afghanistan, and if we stay, we'll lose more. Anybody who thinks we can do what neither the British at the height of their power nor the Soviets could do is, I think, mistaken. Killing foreigners has been the national pastime in Afghanistan for centuries. The longer we stay, the more Afghans will turn against us.
We should pull out of the Middle East and adopt a fair and just attitude toward the Palestinians. Otherwise, we are risking disaster. All of America's allies in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Kuwait are one bullet away from a change of government. The tactical and strategic situation could change as quickly as an earthquake strikes. If Iran makes you nervous, how would you like to see an Islamist government in control of Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and missiles? Or commanding the 70 million people in Egypt? We should get out now while, as they say in the South, the "getting is good." That's the only way you can win the so-called war on terrorism.
Zarqawi: A Bogeyman Made by the US
So Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man, is dead. Maybe now we can finally kill off the myth too. The myth is that Zarqawi, a Jordanian jihadist who had moved his operations to Iraq in recent years, was one of the greatest threats to Western civilization, who had single-handedly been hampering progress in Iraq and spreading terror around the globe. In fact, Zarqawi was an isolated and fairly insignificant insurgent – or at least he had been, until American and British officials decided to transform him into an all-purpose bogeyman and brand him the most evil man in the world. In the process, they handed him fame and notoriety on a platter, and turned this nobody into a headline-grabbing terrorist. Make no mistake: Zarqawi was a creation of Western propagandists.
Zarqawi came a long way over the past three years. Until January 2003 he was a mysterious figure, described by the CIA as a "lone wolf." He was known as an Islamic fundamentalist from Jordan who had travelled to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet-backed regime at the tail-end of the Eighties. During the Nineties he was apparently fixated on toppling the "infidel" Jordanian monarchy, and was imprisoned in Jordan for seven years. He was reportedly injured in America’s war in Afghanistan in 2002, and later fled to northern Iraq to seek shelter with the radical Islamist outfit Ansar al-Islam. He is believed to have moved down to Iraq proper some time after the Coalition’s major combat operations came to an end – in mid-2003 perhaps – with an eye for taking on Coalition forces and stirring up some trouble. In short, he wasn’t that different from many other jihadists who travel around looking for opportunities to fight the infidels.
Yet now, a mere three years after moving into Coalition-occupied Iraq, Zarqawi has become the most infamous insurgent of all, with his death hailed as a great victory not only for Iraqis but for the entire world. Washington had described him as "the most wanted man in Iraq" and there was a $25 million bounty on his head – the same as that offered for info that leads to the capture of Osama bin Laden. Indeed, Zarqawi seemed to elbow bin Laden aside in recent years, to become, in the words of Newsweek in 2004, "the world’s most dangerous terrorist." Many governments around the world were "scared to death of him," reported Newsweek. He was even accused of wanting to "foment civil war in Iraq," as if one man could push an entire nation into sectarian strife and bloodshed. The photos of his corpse are beamed around the world, to prove that this great evil has finally been vanquished and that we can all sleep peacefully in our beds once again.
How do we explain Zarqawi’s meteoric rise between 2003 and 2006? How did he go from being a "lone wolf" hitching a ride from one war-torn hotspot to another to become an international household name? It was not any strength of numbers or vision on Zarqawi’s part that elevated him to this position – yes, he had proved himself willing to organize gruesome beheadings and bloody car bombings, but he remained a fairly minor figure in the Iraqi insurgency and he had little support on the ground. Rather, it was American and British officials who transformed him into evil incarnate, because they desperately needed a bogeyman to rail against as their venture in Iraq started to go horribly wrong. In short, Zarqawi played a role written for him by Western propagandists.
According to a report in the Washington Post on 3 October 2004, Zarqawi was "barely known outside Jordan until a year and a half ago" – or, to be more precise, until February 2003. It was then US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations on 5 February 2003, six weeks before the start of the Iraq war, which first brought Zarqawi to the world’s attention. In a speech which, as we now know, contained a lot of see-through nonsense about Iraq’s WMD, Powell cited Zarqawi’s presence in northern Iraq, where he was said to be training and advising Ansar al-Islam, and his alleged trip to Baghdad in May 2002 for medical treatment on his injured leg, as evidence of "a sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaeda network." This followed a televised address by President Bush four months earlier, on 7 October 2002, in which Bush referred to a "very senior al-Qaeda leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year."
Powell’s speech catapulted Zarqawi, that mysterious lone wolf, on to the international stage. He was indeed "barely known" before it. He rarely, if ever, featured in news reports in late 2001 or in 2002, a time when al-Qaeda was being written about on a daily basis. Take the Guardian newspaper: he was not mentioned in the Guardian at all in 2001 and only twice in 2002 – both times after Bush’s 7 October address. There is no mention of Zarqawi in the online archives of BBC News for 2001 or 2002. Yet after Powell’s speech Zarqawi started to become a talking point. He was mentioned in 23 articles in the Guardian in 2003, and in 50 articles published by BBC News in 2003. The turning point from being a "barely known" to becoming a notorious figure came courtesy of Bush and Powell.
From the very outset, Zarqawi’s power and influence were exaggerated by US officials. You would think, listening to Bush and Powell’s statements in 2002 and 2003, that Zarqawi was influential inside both al-Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq, so much so that he personified the "sinister nexus" between them. We now know that was nonsense. There was no nexus, sinister or otherwise, between al-Qaeda and the Ba’athists. At that time, Zarqawi’s links with al-Qaeda were tenuous at best, and there is no evidence that he had any links whatsoever with Saddam’s regime. According to Jason Burke, author of the 2003 book Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, Zarqawi may have had "some contact with bin Laden but [he] never took the bayat [oath of allegiance] and never made any formal alliance with the Saudi or his close associates. He was just one of thousands of activists committed to jihad living and working in Afghanistan in the 1990s." Burke says Zarqawi had "no real relationship with al-Qaeda."
Powell’s evidence that Zarqawi was associated with the Ba’athists was based on the fact that he had been present in northern Iraq since 2002 and had popped down to Baghdad for some kind of medical treatment. Yet northern Iraq is territory that had been wrested from Saddam’s control by the United Nations following the first Gulf War in 1991 and turned into a "safe haven" for Iraqi Kurds. And Ansar al-Islam, the group that Zarqawi joined, was vehemently opposed to Ba’athist socialism. If anything, Zarqawi, like bin Laden, would have been decidedly anti-Saddam rather than being in any way associated with him.
Western officials also claimed that Zarqawi was developing weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Powell said in February 2003 that "one of the specialities of [Zarqawi’s camp in northern Iraq] is poisons…. He is teaching operatives how to produce ricin and other poisons." When Coalition forces destroyed the Ansar al-Islam camps in northern Iraq on 30 March 2003, the front page of the British tabloid newspaper The Sun said "PROOF: an Iraqi terror camp making ricin poison has been smashed by a huge Allied blitz." Again the claims were unfounded. Reporters visiting the camps in the days after the attacks said there was "no evidence of chemical weapons having been used or stored here." One US official later admitted that he was "unaware that any WMD have been found."
What we can see is that Coalition officials desperate to find some justification for their war constantly turned to Zarqawi. First, they labelled him "the link" between al-Qaeda and Saddam, in a bid to depict their war in Iraq as some kind of payback for the events of 9/11. In fact, Zarqawi had nothing to do with Saddam and was only vaguely linked to al-Qaeda at that time. Second, they spread rumors that Zarqawi was making chemical weapons in northern Iraq in an attempt to justify their decision to invade on the basis of the threat posed by WMD. In truth, there is no evidence that Zarqawi was developing chemicals or any other substances of mass destruction during his time in northern Iraq. By constantly talking up the role of Zarqawi, US officials elevated this loner hiding out in northern Iraq into something he wasn’t: an international player, a terrorist with unprecedented reach, the embodiment of evil. It is perhaps not surprising that Zarqawi decided to venture into central Iraq in 2003 to exercise these new powers granted to him by the Coalition.
Even when Zarqawi did start fighting in Iraq from 2003 onwards, during which time he did some very grisly things indeed, the Coalition exaggerated his role. Where US and UK officials described him as the main "barrier to peace" in Iraq, one study by Sami Ramadani, a refugee from Saddam’s Iraq and a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University, found that out of thousands of attacks launched by Iraqi insurgents only a small minority were carried out in the name of Zarqawi. Ramadani also found that "the vast majority of Iraqis reject Zarqawi and his ilk."
Now both Bush and Blair make grand statements to the world’s press about finally ridding the world of the wicked Zarqawi, yet a year and a half ago, at the end of 2004, US agents in Iraq admitted that they may have helped to promote Zarqawi by blowing his campaign out of proportion and falsely claiming that he was the top dog of the insurgency. One told the Australian newspaper The Age: "We were basically paying up to $10,000 a time to opportunists, criminals and chances who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq." The agent went on to say: "We have to conclude that Zarqawi is more myth than man."
It was the Coalition that created this myth. In talking up Zarqawi’s threat they not only distorted the facts but also inflamed and encouraged his violent campaign. They created a role for Zarqawi as Evil Terrorist Mastermind and he was more than happy to play along. As Loretta Napoleoni, author of Insurgent Iraq: al-Zarqawi and the New Generation, has argued, Zarqawi turned America’s myth into a reality: "From a small-town bully, to a small-fry jihadist, to the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, he fully exploited the legend woven around his person. While back in February 2003 he was an insignificant jihadist, [by 2005 he had become] the undisputed most-wanted terror leader."
Zarqawi’s terror campaign was a self-fulfilling prophecy. In 2003, US politicians handpicked this insignificant jihadist and labelled him a terror leader – and sure enough, he later became a terror leader. Also in 2003 they said he was a leading figure in al-Qaeda – no he wasn’t, though he later became one when bin Laden appointed him leader of "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" in 2004. Throughout 2004 and 2005, Western officials and journalists exaggerated his role in the Iraqi insurgency and hinted that he was behind every attack – that no doubt flattered Zarqawi’s sense of power and encouraged him to continue his campaign. Coalition leaders described Zarqawi as evil – and he played up to that by releasing videos of himself beheading American hostage Nick Berg. At every stage, Zarqawi was acting out the perverse propaganda fantasies of the Coalition itself. As Napoleoni put it: "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fulfilled the prophecy expressed years earlier by the Jordanian authorities, the Kurdish secret service, and the US government: he turned the myth into a chilling reality."
The final stage in the Zarqawi drama is his death. It has been hailed by Coalition officials as a great day for democracy and a great step forward for Iraq. Not many people will shed a tear for the bloody murderer Zarqawi – but just as we should put his jihadist antics while he was alive in to perspective, so we should view his death in perspective too. He was not the cause of instability and anti-democracy in Iraq, and his death will not make a great deal of difference. Zarqawi was a bogeyman of the Coalition’s making. Now that he’s gone, can we please have a proper debate about the impact of the war and occupation on Iraqi society?
Is anyone else outraged at all the attention that Ann Coulter is getting for attacking the Jersey Girls? How is it possible that everyone is talking about what Ann Coulter wrote, and no one is talking about what the Jersey Girls have to say? John Kerry wrote for Huffington post about how horrible it is that Ann is attacking them with the provocative headline “Shameless, but the Real Shame Is If We Don’t Act” No folks, he is not talking about acting on the very important issue of demanding answers to what the hell happened on to our air defenses on 9/11…he wants us to act by calling the media and telling them we don’t like Ann Coulter.
Instead of jumping in to defend them from this insignificant hateful warmonger, I bet the Jersey Girls would rather have people pay attention to what actually happened on 9/11 and
start answering their questions!
There are many more questions and I think if we are going to defend the Jersey Girls we should start by demanding John Kerry and others look at the facts and start answering some questions about why they are ignoring the blatantly obvious and letting the Bush Administration get away with murder.
1. Was NORAD aware of the four hijacked planes veering off course even before being reported by the FAA? If not, please explain why NORAD, which monitors 7000 flights a day, was unable to track the four aberrant flights.
2. At precisely what time was NORAD notified of each plane being hijacked? What was their response?
3. Who determined from which bases the F-16s should be scrambled? Why were fighter jets scrambled from such distant bases such as Langley Base in Va. instead of Andrews Air Force Base, a mere 10 miles from the Pentagon? Who were the pilots of these F-16s?
4. Why weren’t the jets able to intercept the hijacked planes if they were airborne within eight minutes of notification? What was their airspeed?
5. It is reported that there were two F-15s off the coast of Long Island while Flights 11 and 175 were in the air. If there were indeed fighters off Long Island, why weren’t they diverted to investigate Flights 11 and 175? Were any other military planes flying routine missions on the morning of September 11th which could have responded?
6. Why did NORAD wait until after the second plane hit the WTC to try and prevent possible further attacks? Why weren’t the fighter jets that tailed flights 11 and 175 as they crashed into New York’s WTC, immediately rerouted to intercept flights 77 or 93, before they crashed into the Pentagon and Pennsylvania?
7. Why wasn’t the Pentagon defended?
8. Were surveillance satellites orbiting North American airspace on 9/11?
• What exactly does the satellite imaging reveal?
• What companies own these satellites?
• Where are the records and logs for these orbits?
9. Why were these four planes able to evade all radar? Even when the transponders are disconnected, a plane is still able to be located by its “skin” on radar screens.
10. In June 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld modified NMCC response procedure in the event of a hijacking. Could this procedural change have slowed NORAD’s response time?
11. Who was directing the defense of our country that morning?
12. What defensive actions were ordered to protect our nation during the crisis?
DOE computers hacked; Info on 1,500 taken
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press WriterFri Jun 9, 2:37 PM ET
**does this smell to anyone else?EG:) **
A hacker stole a file containing the names and Social Security numbers of 1,500 people working for the Energy Department's nuclear weapons agency.
But in the incident last September, somewhat similar to recent problems at the Veterans Affairs Department, senior department officials were told only two days ago, officials told a congressional hearing Friday. None of the victims was notified, they said.
The data theft occurred in a computer system at a service center belonging to the National Nuclear Security Administration in Albuquerque, N.M. The file contained information about contract workers throughout the agency's nuclear weapons complex, a department spokesman said.
NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks told a House hearing that he learned of the security break late last September, but did not inform Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman about it. It had occurred earlier that month.
Bodman first learned of the theft two days ago, according to his spokesman.
"He's deeply disturbed by the way this was handled," said Craig Stevens, a spokesman for Bodman.
Rep. Joe Barton (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, called for Brooks' resignation because of his failure to inform Bodman and other senior DOE officials of the security failure.
The House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee learned of the security lapse Thursday evening on the eve of its hearing on DOE cyber security, said Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., chairman of the panel.
The issue dominated lawmakers questioning of DOE officials at the hearing. After an open session, the subcommittee continued questioning Brooks and other officials about it at a closed session because of the security implications.
Although the compromised data file was in the NNSA's unclassified computer system — and not part of a more secure classified network that contains nuclear weapons data — the DOE officials would provide only scant information about the incident during the public hearing.
Brooks said the file contained names, Social Security numbers, date-of-birth information, a code where the employees worked and codes showing their security clearances. A majority of the individuals worked for contractors and the list was compiled as part of their security clearance processing, he said.
Tom Pyke, DOE's official charged with cyber security, said that he learned of the incident only a few days ago. He said the hacker, who obtained the data file, penetrated a number of security safeguards in obtaining access to the system.
Stevens said that Bodman, upon learning of the incident, directed that the individuals be immediately told their information had been compromised.
Brooks acknowledged that no attempt was made to notify the individuals until now. He declined to elaborate because of security concerns, but indicated he could tell the lawmakers more in the closed session.
"If somebody got that information from your file, wouldn't you be a little concerned if nobody told you?" Rep. Diane DeGette, D-Colo., asked Brooks.
"Of course I would," he replied.
Iraq war bill deletes US military base prohibition
Fri Jun 9, 2006 4:59 PM ET
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country, a lawmaker and congressional aides said on Friday.
The $94.5 billion emergency spending bill, which includes $65.8 billion to continue waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is expected to be approved by Congress next week and sent to President George W. Bush for signing into law.
As originally passed by the House of Representatives, the Pentagon would have been prohibited from spending any of the funds for entering into a military basing rights agreement with Iraq.
A similar amendment passed by the Senate said the Pentagon could not use the next round of war funding to "establish permanent United States military bases in Iraq, or to exercise United States control over the oil infrastructure or oil resources of Iraq."
The Bush administration has said it does not want to place any artificial timelines on a U.S. presence in Iraq and that it wants to begin withdrawing troops when Iraqi security forces are better able to protect the country. But it has not ruled out permanent bases in Iraq.
While the Pentagon does not necessarily plan to use any of the emergency funds to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq, congressional Democrats wanted Congress to be on record against such a long-term military arrangement.
Doing so, they argued, could help overcome Middle East fears that the United States intended to control the region militarily, at least in part to oversee foreign oil reserves.
"The perception that the U.S. intends to occupy Iraq indefinitely is fueling the insurgency and making our troops more vulnerable," said Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who won House approval of her amendment on permanent bases.
"The House and Senate went on record opposing permanent bases, but now the Republicans are trying to sneak them back in the middle of the night," Lee said.
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, authored the Senate language.
Senate aides said Republican staffers removed the provisions from the bills before House and Senate negotiators convened this week in a late-night work session to write a compromise spending bill.
Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, tried to reinsert the language, but it was opposed by Rep. Jim Kolbe, the Arizona Republican responsible for foreign affairs portions of the spending bill.
Next week, the House is scheduled to have a wide-ranging debate about the Iraq war at which time Democrats are likely to raise this issue again.
Laws passed in wake of Nuremberg trials now being pressed in Europe against Israeli generals.
Liel Leibovitz - Staff Writer
On Sept. 10, 2005, Doron Almog, the former commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command, was on board an El Al flight to London to raise money for brain-damaged children. But as the plane landed at Heathrow and other passengers began to disembark, a flight attendant approached Almog with a cryptic message.
“The pilot asked that I disembark last,” Almog later told Israeli Radio, repeating the flight attendant’s message. “After some time, the chief steward said that the Israeli military attache was on his way and wanted to speak to me. I phoned him, and he told me not to get off the plane.”
The reason, he soon learned, was an arrest warrant, issued that day by a senior London magistrate charging Almog, as the army’s top commander in the Gaza Strip, with overseeing the bulldozing of 59 Palestinian homes in the Rafah refugee camp in January of 2002 — acts that violate the Geneva Conventions.
Under British law, ordinary citizens are free to file criminal complaints against individuals suspected of war crimes, even if the accused are not British citizens and the alleged crimes were not committed on British soil. The threshold such complaints must meet to justify an arrest warrant are substantial. But in this case, Senior District Judge Timothy Workman ruled that the plaintiff — a resident of one the bulldozed homes — had met the bar.
Almog never got off the plane. He returned to Israel the same day. And with Almog’s departure from his jurisdiction, Workman withdrew his arrest warrant, as per the requirements of British law.
The problem, however, was far from solved: A few months later, Israel’s military advocate general advised the current Gaza commander, Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, to decline an official British invitation to spend the summer at the Royal College of Defense Studies, fearing that he, too, would be greeted at the airport by police officers.
Neither is the problem confined to Britain. Other European nations, such as France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark, have similar laws, all guided by the principle known as universal justice. These statutes allow lawsuits against alleged perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to be prosecuted even if neither the complainant nor the defendant are citizens of the country in which they are filed, and even if the alleged crime took place somewhere else.
With cases similar to Almog’s already brought against Israeli officials in Belgium, Israeli diplomats and legal experts fear that the procedures in England might herald an onslaught of lawsuits against Israeli officers in courts the world over. Ironically, the laws in question were first put into place in the wake of the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals to ensure such crimes could not be perpetrated without prosecution.
Chandra Sriram, professor of human rights at the University of East London and one of the leading experts in the field, cautioned that universal justice cases face tough tests.
“The threshold is relatively high,” she said. As a practical matter, courts “are not willing to assert jurisdiction unless they think there is a reasonable case and a reasonable chance of managing it.”
Usually, there must be strong evidence that the individual or individuals in question were personally responsible for specific gross violations of international law, such as genocide or torture, explained Sriram. And the evidence must support clear intent to commit the violations, she said, not just that they occurred as byproducts of other actions.
Still, on a strictly legal level in Great Britain, a judge technically need only find that the facts alleged, if proven, would constitute a violation of international law under the principle of universal justice, said Sriram.
It is hard to know Workman’s exact legal reasoning for issuing Almog’s arrest warrant. Alongside the warrant, Workman issued a still-sealed document explaining his decision.
Kate Maynard, the solicitor who brought the charges against Almog, said the magistrate stated there was sufficient evidence to open up a case against Almog, as his responsibility for the house demolitions was in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, a violation criminalized in the UK.
Sriram noted that another common yardstick in such cases was whether the country whose citizens were being charged had a functioning judicial system capable of pursuing its own challenges. “You can,” she added, “characterize the Israeli legal system as such.”
Yet, Israel’s judicial system has been reluctant to address most accusations concerning the behavior of army officers in the West Bank and Gaza. According to a 2005 Human Rights Watch report, more than 1,600 Palestinians — including at least 500 children — were killed by Israeli security forces between Sept. 29, 2000 and Nov. 30, 2004. Thousands more were seriously injured.
The Israel Defense Forces informed Human Rights Watch that as of May 10, 2004, it had launched criminal investigations of just 74 alleged cases of unlawful use of lethal force — less than 5 percent of the civilian deaths in nearly four years of the second intifada.
Maynard, the British solicitor who filed the suit against Almog, stressed it was the evidence, not the Israeli judicial system’s failure to deal with that case, that most influenced the magistrate’s decision to issue an arrest warrant. Documenting such a failure was not, in any event, a formal requirement of the British statute in question, she said.
But Maynard added, “In all cases we’ve put together, we’ve always sought to show a chain of impunity in Israel. In all of the cases we’ve been able to show that local lawyers have petitioned the courts to try and obtain justice in Israel, and couldn’t.”
For all the efforts by some to use the principle of universal justice against Israeli actions in the occupied territories, Sriram stressed that the concept remained problematic in legal terms.
“It’s murky,” she said. “If anyone can assert it anywhere in the world, how could you resolve competing claims? And how do you establish who has a legitimate claim?”
As a result of such issues, she said, courts the world over think carefully before translating principle into action. Courts, she stressed, “are only going to entertain a case where a case has been made of a clear international crime. They exercise a pretty significant degree of caution.”
Israel Fights Back
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s minister of foreign affairs, has denounced the cases filed against Israel as politically motivated.
“England is turning into an address for lawsuits that do not deal with its own citizens,” she said in a recent statement. “This may undermine its war on terrorism.”
Working behind the scenes, Israeli diplomats are trying to convince other European countries to amend their legislation. Its negotiators conduct their talks, for the most part, without publicity.
Belgium is a case in point: In 1993, the country passed an unprecedented law that allowed citizens to press criminal charges against anyone suspected of crimes against humanity, with few restrictions. Unlike Britain, for example, Belgium allowed for arrest warrants to be issued against accused individuals even if they were outside the country and had never entered into its jurisdiction.
Using this law, 23 survivors of the 1982 massacre in the Lebanese Sabra and Shatila refugee camps filed a complaint in 2001 accusing Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials, of war crimes and crimes against humanity. A tense debate ensued, with Israeli and American diplomats arguing the law’s flaws. In 2003, the law was changed, stating that Belgian courts will only have jurisdiction over international crimes if the accused or the victim is Belgian or a Belgian resident, or if Belgium is required by treaty to exercise jurisdiction over the case.
More recently, Livni met last month with British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells to discuss the problems British law posed for IDF officers. Howells acknowledged that the problem burdened both countries, and pledged to try and resolve the situation rapidly.
But not all countries are revising their laws. Spain’s Supreme Court, for example, last year overturned a 2003 decision that blocked the country from prosecuting the perpetrators of human rights violations in Guatemala, affirming the need to bring international criminals to justice, regardless of their citizenship or where they committed their crimes.
Israeli legal experts agree that the lawsuits are harmful in the long term. But, in an apparent indication of the issue’s sensitivity, no official could be found in the Foreign Ministry or the army who was willing to comment on the record.
“While no immediate threat is evident,” said an Israeli official who would speak only on condition of anonymity, “the damage, in the long run, accumulates. Such lawsuits deeply embarrass us, and they create a false impression that Israel is a singularly unlawful state.”
The irony of this wave of legal challenges, said Israeli officials, is that they rely on aspects of international law originally devised, in part, as a response to the Holocaust. During the Nuremberg trials, a concept of International Jurisdiction began to take shape, according to which states may claim criminal jurisdiction over persons suspected of crimes against humanity regardless of the perpetrator’s nationality or the location of the crime itself. One of the most famous international cases invoking this principle was Israel’s prosecution, in 1961, of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann.
The United States does not allow citizens to file such criminal complaints. But U.S. law does allow for civil suits. A class-action suit was brought last December in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by a group of Lebanese nationals charging Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli army’s former chief of staff, and Avi Dichter, the former head of the Shin Bet, with war crimes for their roles in the 1996 bombing of the Lebanese village Kafar Qana, an incident that caused the death of more than 100 civilians. Ya’alon is currently serving as a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The plaintiffs sued under the Alien Torts Claims Act of 1789, which grants jurisdiction to U.S. federal courts over “any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”
The act has been invoked many times, albeit with scant success, in cases involving everything from a Holocaust survivor suing the National French Railroad Company for the deportation of Jews to Nazi death camps to a suit filed against Texaco for disposing of waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon.
The complaint against Ya’alon, filed on November 4, 2005, accuses the former head of army intelligence of having “command responsibility” in the 1996 attack.
The case, said Judith Chomsky of the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organization that helped bring the lawsuit against Ya’alon, stands a good chance.
“A recent Supreme Court decision has recognized that the statute provides that an alien can bring a claim if the claim is based on violations of the law of nations, or customary law, which is universal, obligatory and specific,” she said. “For example, you can’t torture people, and no nation has the right to say, ‘I’m staying out of this rule; I’m going to torture people anyway.’” The complaint, she said, with its meticulous description of the attack’s damage to lives and property, falls within that realm.
Israeli officials declined to comment on the Ya’alon case. n
But Which Books Are 'Suspicious'?
Finally freed to speak – months after a judge ordered their gag order lifted – a group of four Connecticut librarians are hopping mad about the infringement of their customers’ First Amendment rights, and a government that wouldn’t even let them participate in the debate about it.
U.S. District Judge Janet Hall ruled last year that the gag order must be lifted, saying it unfairly prevented the librarians from participating in the debate over how the Patriot Act should be rewritten. (No one in government seems willing to pronounce the word "repealed.") But it wasn’t until April that prosecutors dropped an appeal of that order.
The librarians, at a March 30 press conference organized by the American Civil Liberties Union which represents them – did little to hide their displeasure at being told by the government to keep quiet about the FBI demanding their patrons’ book-borrowing records.
"I am incensed that the government uses provisions of the Patriot Act to justify unrestrained and secret access to the records of libraries," said George Christian of Windsor, Conn., executive director of the Library Connection, Inc., a consortium of libraries in the central part of the state.
Mr. Christian noted that the gag order was lifted only after Congress voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act.
"The fact that I can speak now is a little like being permitted to call the fire department only after a building has burned to the ground," he said.
Peter Chase, the vice president of Library Connection and director of the Plainville Public Library, said as a librarian he has a duty "to speak out about any infringement to the intellectual freedom of library patrons. But until today, my own government prevented me from fulfilling that duty."
The librarians, although now "allowed" to speak, are continuing to fight the FBI’s request for information about their patrons, said Ann Beeson, the ACLU’s associate legal director.
The Patriot Act, passed in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, allows expanded warrantless surveillance of terror suspects, increased use of material witness warrants to hold suspects incommunicado, and secret proceedings in immigration cases. It also removed a requirement that any records sought in a terrorism investigation must be those of someone under suspicion. Now, anyone’s records can be obtained if the FBI considers them relevant to a terrorism or spy investigation.
Prosecutors argue that secrecy about demands for records is necessary to avoid alerting suspects and jeopardizing investigations. They contend the gag order prevented only the release of librarians’ identities, not their ability to speak about the Patriot Act.
Oh, please. Is this just a test to see how much guff we’ll swallow? Are reading habits about to be given evidentiary weight in court?
To say this all has a chilling effect on the freedom of Americans to write and read what we please is like saying the Titanic is overdue.
What is the recommended procedure now, if Americans want to buy or read a book which our own government might consider "suspicious" or "terrorist-related"? Whether the would-be reader is a college kid preparing a report, a journalist on assignment, or a novelist researching his or her next story line, dare we head to the library and borrow books on demolitions, hijackings, power plants and nuclear fission? Is it OK if your name is Thomson or Jones but not if it’s Faisal or Bashir?
Is there any procedure we can use to get these readings "cleared" in advance with the FBI, the HSD, the CIA, the NSA, the DIA and the TSA before we inadvertently cause our local librarian to receive a call from two officious guys in black suits and shiny shoes who insist on seeing all our records – followed up with a nice, crisp "national security letter" informing her that if she even tells us they’ve been snooping around, SHE could be sent to prison?
We are past the point of warning that if we don’t watch out an American police state "might happen." This is precisely what it looks like. They’re taking it around the block for a test drive, and we’re supposed to believe we can trust them – we have nothing to fear so long as we haven’t done anything wrong.
Yes, but which books? Which book or magazines or newspapers are the ones that, if we borrow and read them, will lead the G-men to suspect we’ve "done something wrong"?
They don’t have to tell you. You don’t need to know.
Friday, June 09, 2006
FBI Crime Lab to Test Al-Zarqawi's DNA
By KASIE HUNT , 06.08.2006, 11:53 PM
**gee, that sounds trustworthy, doesn't it? And who would have the DNA to test it against? WHY would they have the DNA to test it against? Does this stink to anyone else?...EG:) **
Biological samples from the bodies of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates were delivered Thursday night to the FBI crime laboratory in Quantico, Va.
"Biological materials listed as being from three different individuals, including al-Zarqawi, were received at the FBI laboratory," said special agent Ann Todd, the lab's spokeswoman. "FBI laboratory scientists will be working around the clock to conduct genetic testing."
The biological samples, which the FBI would not describe, were flown to the United States by the military after al-Zarqawi and the others were killed in a U.S. airstrike on a safe house north of Baghdad.
DNA tests will compare the sample from al-Zarqawi with evidence taken from other terrorist safe houses, said John Miller, the FBI's assistant director in charge of public affairs.
** which means, if anything, that it will/may match whoever was in those houses, but doesn't mean that it's Al Z's...**
"It will give us a window to establish where he's been and may help us learn who's been with him," Miller said.
The results are expected in three days.
U.S. authorities have already fingerprinted the body to confirm it is that of the terrorist leader.
**Again, based on what evidence?**
Friday, June 09 2006 @ 10:53 AM PDT
Contributed by: arch_stanton
"I AM continually shocked and appalled at the details people voluntarily post online about themselves." So says Jon Callas, chief security officer at PGP, a Silicon Valley-based maker of encryption software. He is far from alone in noticing that fast-growing social networking websites such as MySpace and Friendster are a snoop's dream.
New Scientist has discovered that Pentagon's National Security Agency, which specialises in eavesdropping and code-breaking, is funding research into the mass harvesting of the information that people post about themselves on social networks. And it could harness advances in internet technology - specifically the forthcoming "semantic web" championed by the web standards organisation W3C - to combine data from social networking websites with details such as banking, retail and property records, allowing the NSA to build extensive, all-embracing personal profiles of individuals.
Americans are still reeling from last month's revelations that the NSA has been logging phone calls since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The Congressional Research Service, which advises the US legislature, says phone companies that surrendered call records may have acted illegally. However, the White House insists that the terrorist threat makes existing wire-tapping legislation out of date and is urging Congress not to investigate the NSA's action.
Meanwhile, the NSA is pursuing its plans to tap the web, since phone logs have limited scope. They can only be used to build a very basic picture of someone's contact network, a process sometimes called "connecting the dots". Clusters of people in highly connected groups become apparent, as do people with few connections who appear to be the intermediaries between such groups. The idea is to see by how many links or "degrees" separate people from, say, a member of a blacklisted organisation.
By adding online social networking data to its phone analyses, the NSA could connect people at deeper levels, through shared activities, such as taking flying lessons. Typically, online social networking sites ask members to enter details of their immediate and extended circles of friends, whose blogs they might follow. People often list other facets of their personality including political, sexual, entertainment, media and sporting preferences too. Some go much further, and a few have lost their jobs by publicly describing drinking and drug-taking exploits. Young people have even been barred from the orthodox religious colleges that they are enrolled in for revealing online that they are gay.
"You should always assume anything you write online is stapled to your resumé. People don't realise you get Googled just to get a job interview these days," says Callas.
Other data the NSA could combine with social networking details includes information on purchases, where we go (available from cellphone records, which cite the base station a call came from) and what major financial transactions we make, such as buying a house.
"You should always assume anything you write online is stapled to your resumé"
Right now this is difficult to do because today's web is stuffed with data in incompatible formats. Enter the semantic web, which aims to iron out these incompatibilities over the next few years via a common data structure called the Resource Description Framework (RDF). W3C hopes that one day every website will use RDF to give each type of data a unique, predefined, unambiguous tag.
"RDF turns the web into a kind of universal spreadsheet that is readable by computers as well as people," says David de Roure at the University of Southampton in the UK, who is an adviser to W3C. "It means that you will be able to ask a website questions you couldn't ask before, or perform calculations on the data it contains." In a health record, for instance, a heart attack will have the same semantic tag as its more technical description, a myocardial infarction. Previously, they would have looked like separate medical conditions. Each piece of numerical data, such as the rate of inflation or the number of people killed on the roads, will also get a tag.
The advantages for scientists, for instance, could be huge: they will have unprecedented access to each other's experimental datasets and will be able to perform their own analyses on them. Searching for products such as holidays will become easier as price and availability dates will have smart tags, allowing powerful searches across hundreds of sites.
On the downside, this ease of use will also make prying into people's lives a breeze. No plan to mine social networks via the semantic web has been announced by the NSA, but its interest in the technology is evident in a funding footnote to a research paper delivered at the W3C's WWW2006 conference in Edinburgh, UK, in late May.
That paper, entitled Semantic Analytics on Social Networks, by a research team led by Amit Sheth of the University of Georgia in Athens and Anupam Joshi of the University of Maryland in Baltimore reveals how data from online social networks and other databases can be combined to uncover facts about people. The footnote said the work was part-funded by an organisation called ARDA.
What is ARDA? It stands for Advanced Research Development Activity. According to a report entitled Data Mining and Homeland Security, published by the Congressional Research Service in January, ARDA's role is to spend NSA money on research that can "solve some of the most critical problems facing the US intelligence community". Chief among ARDA's aims is to make sense of the massive amounts of data the NSA collects - some of its sources grow by around 4 million gigabytes a month.
The ever-growing online social networks are part of the flood of internet information that could be mined: some of the top sites like MySpace now have more than 80 million members (see Graph).
The research ARDA funded was designed to see if the semantic web could be easily used to connect people. The research team chose to address a subject close to their academic hearts: detecting conflicts of interest in scientific peer review. Friends cannot peer review each other's research papers, nor can people who have previously co-authored work together.
So the team developed software that combined data from the RDF tags of online social network Friend of a Friend (www.foaf-project.org), where people simply outline who is in their circle of friends, and a semantically tagged commercial bibliographic database called DBLP, which lists the authors of computer science papers.
Joshi says their system found conflicts between potential reviewers and authors pitching papers for an internet conference. "It certainly made relationship finding between people much easier," Joshi says. "It picked up softer [non-obvious] conflicts we would not have seen before."
The technology will work in exactly the same way for intelligence and national security agencies and for financial dealings, such as detecting insider trading, the authors say. Linking "who knows who" with purchasing or bank records could highlight groups of terrorists, money launderers or blacklisted groups, says Sheth.
The NSA recently changed ARDA's name to the Disruptive Technology Office. The DTO's interest in online social network analysis echoes the Pentagon's controversial post 9/11 Total Information Awareness (TIA) initiative. That programme, designed to collect, track and analyse online data trails, was suspended after a public furore over privacy in 2002. But elements of the TIA were incorporated into the Pentagon's classified programme in the September 2003 Defense Appropriations Act.
Privacy groups worry that "automated intelligence profiling" could sully people's reputations or even lead to miscarriages of justice - especially since the data from social networking sites may often be inaccurate, untrue or incomplete, De Roure warns.
But Tim Finin, a colleague of Joshi's, thinks the spread of such technology is unstoppable. "Information is getting easier to merge, fuse and draw inferences from. There is money to be made and control to be gained in doing so. And I don't see much that will stop it," he says.
Callas thinks people have to wise up to how much information about themselves they should divulge on public websites. It may sound obvious, he says, but being discreet is a big part of maintaining privacy. Time, perhaps, to hit the delete button.
Propaganda and Haditha
By Dahr Jamail and Jeff Pflueger
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 09 June 2006
In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.
- Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War II
Propaganda is when the Western corporate media tries to influence public opinion in favor of the Iraq War by consistently tampering with truth and distorting reality. It is to be expected. And it is to be recognized for what it is. On occasions when the media does its job responsibly and reports events like the November 19, 2005, Haditha Massacre, it must also be willing and able to anticipate and counter propaganda campaigns that will inevitably follow. It is to be expected that the responsible members of the media fraternity will stick to their guns and not join the propagandists.
This piece is a summary of five most commonly deployed crisis management propaganda tactics which the State and Media combine that we can expect to see in relation to the Haditha Massacre. Listed in a loose chronological order of their deployment, the tactics are: Delay, Distract, Discredit, Spotlight and Scapegoat. Each of the five public relations campaigns will here be discussed in the context of the Haditha Massacre.
Al-Jazeera channel, with over 40 million viewers in the Arab world, is the largest broadcaster of news in the Middle East. It has been bearing the brunt of an ongoing violent US propaganda campaign. Their station headquarters in both Afghanistan and Baghdad were destroyed by US forces during the US invasions of both countries. In Baghdad, the attack on their office by a US warplane killed their correspondent Tareq Ayoub. Additionally, al-Jazeera reporters throughout Iraq have been systematically detained and intimidated before the broadcaster was banned outright from the country. These are somewhat contradictory actions for an occupying force ostensibly attempting to promote democracy and freedom in Iraq.
On November 19, 2005, the day of the Haditha Massacre, al-Jazeera had long since been banned from operating in Iraq. The station forced to conduct its war reporting from a desk in Doha, Qatar, was doing so via telephone. Two Iraqis worked diligently to cover the US occupation of Iraq through a loose network of contacts within Iraq. Defying the US-imposed extreme challenges, al-Jazeera, by dint of its responsible reporting, had the entire Haditha scoop as soon as it occurred, which they shared with Western and other media outlets, while the latter were content to participate in delaying the story nearly four months by regurgitating unverified military releases.
Two days after the massacre, DahrJamailiraq.com was the only free place on the Internet that carried al-Jazeera's report translated into English (it could be viewed at MidEastWire.com for a fee).
The anchorperson for al-Jazeera in Doha, Qatar, interviewed journalist Walid Khalid in Bahgdad. Khalid's report, translated by MidEastWire.com, was as follows:
Yesterday evening, an explosive charge went off under a US Marines vehicle in the al-Subhani area, destroying it completely. Half an hour later, the US reaction was violent. US aircraft bombarded four houses near the scene of the incident, causing the immediate death of five Iraqis. Afterward, the US troops stormed three adjacent houses where three families were living near the scene of the explosion. Medical sources and eyewitnesses close to these families affirmed that the US troops, along with the Iraqi Army, executed 21 persons; that is, three families, including nine children and boys, seven women, and three elderly people.
Contrast this to the reportage of the slaughter by the New York Times, the "newspaper of note" in the United States. Unquestioningly parroting the military press release, their story of November 21, 2005, read: "The Marine Corps said Sunday that 15 Iraqi civilians and a Marine were killed Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded in Haditha, 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. The bombing on Saturday in Haditha, on the Euphrates in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, was aimed at a convoy of American Marines and Iraqi Army soldiers, said Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool, a Marine spokesman. After the explosion, gunmen opened fire on the convoy. At least eight insurgents were killed in the firefight, the captain said."
The organization Iraq Body Count (IBC) immediately endorsed this, clearly demonstrating how its tally of Iraqi civilian deaths due to the war is way below the actual numbers. Exclusively referencing samples from the Western media that willingly embrace the official propaganda, IBC can hardly constitute an unbiased or truthful source of information.
In April 2006, their database of media sources cited an AP story and a Reuters story from November 20, 2005, along with a March 21, 2006, London Times article. This is how IBC distilled the stories; "Haditha - fighting between US Marines and insurgents-gunfire" and the number of civilians killed was recorded as 15. It is difficult to understand why IBC has once again opted to cite US fabrications mindlessly repeated by the Western media rather than take into account the readily available English translation of al-Jazeera's Haditha report.
On June 6, 2006, the Haditha Massacre is recorded by IBC as "family members in their houses and students in a passing car" and the declared number of victims is 24. One cannot help wonder how many uncorrected, unverified and unchallenged pieces of US military propaganda lurk in IBC's database. Haditha could be just the tip of the iceberg.
It wasn't until four months after the event that the Western corporate media started to straighten out the story. On March 19, 2006, it was Time Magazine that "broke" the Haditha story in a piece titled "Collateral Damage or Civilian Massacre in Haditha." The primary sources for this piece were a video shot by an Iraqi journalism student produced the day after the massacre and interviews conducted with witnesses. Another glaring evidence of how a few simple interviews with Iraqis and some readily available photographs and video can drastically correct the glaring errors in the Western media's representations of the occupation.
It is significant that this "exclusive" story came from the same publication that graced its cover with George W. Bush as the 2004 Person of the Year for "reframing reality to match his design." That brazen advertisement for the most unpopular re-elected US president in history more than establishes the fact that the magazine has an agenda that has less to do with responsible journalism than it does with influencing public opinion. That Time set its clocks back four months in regard to Haditha, when evidence was readily available the day after the event, only supports the charge that it willingly participates in US state propaganda. Journalists should aggressively expose the truth that Time, like its acclaimed 2004 person of the year, also reframes reality to match its design. If journalists do not look at Time's story with a skeptical eye as an exercise in PR before jumping on the Haditha bandwagon, they too risk shortchanging the public's trust with a meaningless opportunity to participate in a PR crisis anagement campaign.
But the Haditha Massacre is far from being the only story that the Western corporate media has delayed covering. On May 4, 2004, journalist Dahr Jamail, one of the authors of this piece, wrote "Telltale Signs of Torture Lead Family to Demand Answers." The story, published by the NewStandard, was about a 57-year-old Iraqi named Sadiq Zoman, who was detained at his residence in Kirkuk on July 21, 2003, when US troops raided the Zoman family home in search of weapons and, apparently, to arrest Zoman. Over a month later, on August 23, soldiers dropped Zoman off, comatose, at the main hospital in Tikrit. His body bore telltale signs of torture: point burns on his skin, bludgeon marks on the back of his head, a badly broken thumb, electrical burns on the soles of his feet and genitals and whip marks across his back.
Jamail originally wrote the story in January 2004 and shared the information with over 100 newspapers in the US for them to report on. The story was conveniently ignored by the US corporate media until it was forced to run other torture photos from Abu Ghraib after journalist Seymour Hersh threatened to scoop 60 Minutes II by running his piece about torture in the New Yorker, in late April 2004.
Another example of this delayed "reporting" involved the report on the use of white phosphorous by the US military against civilians in Fallujah during the November 2004 assault on the city. Jamail originally reported a story titled "Unusual Weapons Used in Fallujah" with Inter Press Service. US corporate media ignored the story until the Independent in the UK ran his reporting about the atrocity. Even after this, aside from a few token editorials that mentioned this war crime, most major news outlets continued in their silence. This despite the fact that the Pentagon admitted to the use of these weapons, and residents of Fallujah like Abu Sabah had long since told a reporter, "They used these weird bombs that put up smoke like a mushroom cloud, then small pieces fall from the air with long tails of soke behind them." He also described pieces of these bombs that exploded into large fires that burnt the skin when water was thrown on the burns.
There are countless other stories which the US corporate media has deliberately delayed from their reportage and which may never reach the wide US audience that they deserve. It is necessary to ask, when will the corporate media report on stories such as the following:
November 19, 2004: "As US Forces Raided a Mosque," Inter Press Service (At least four worshippers are killed and 20 wounded during Friday prayers when US and Iraqi forces raided Abu Hanifa Mosque in Baghdad.
April 19, 2004: "US Troops Raid Abu Hanifa Mosque, Destroy Fallujah Relief Goods," The NewStandard News (Tanks and Humvees are used to crash through the gates of a mosque in the middle of the night. Foodstuffs stockpiled for Fallujah relief are destroyed, worshippers are terrorized, shots fired, copies of the Holy Qu'ran are desecrated.)
December 13, 2004: "US Military Obstructing Medical Care," Inter Press Service (US military prevented delivery of medical care in several instances and regularly raided hospitals in Iraq.)
April 23, 2004: "Fallujah Residents Report US Forces Engaged in Collective Punishment," The NewStandard News (Despite what Marines called a "ceasefire" in Fallujah, refugees trapped outside and Fallujans still under siege continued to face measures of collective punishment.)
January 3, 2004: "US Military Terrorism and Collective Punishment in Iraq" (Mortars fired at a farmer's home and land in al-Dora, near Baghdad. As Jamail wrote in the aforementioned web log at that time, residents reported, "We don't know why they bomb our house and our fields. We have never resisted the Americans. There are foreign fighters who have passed through here, and I think this is who they want. But why are they bombing us?" When the farmer was asked what happened when he requested that US military remove the unexploded mortar rounds, he said, "We asked them the first time and they said 'OK, we'll come take care of it.' But they never came. We asked them the second time and they told us they would not remove them until we gave them a resistance fighter. They told us, 'If yo won't give us a resistance fighter, we are not coming to remove the bombs.'" He held his hands in the air and said, "But we don't know any resistance fighters!")
November 18, 2004: "Media Repression in 'Liberated' Land," Inter Press Service (Journalists increasingly detained and threatened by the US-installed interim government in Iraq. Media were stopped particularly from covering recent horrific events in Fallujah. The "100 Orders" penned by former US administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer included Order 65, passed March 20, 2004, to establish an Iraqi communications and media commission. This commission has powers to control the media because it has complete control over licensing and regulating telecommunications, broadcasting, information services and all other media establishments. Within days of the "handover" of power to an interim Iraqi government in June 2004, the Baghdad office of al-Jazeera was raided and closed by security forces from the interim government. The network was banned initially for one month from reorting out of Iraq, subsequently extended to "indefinitely." The media commission ordered all news organizations to "stick to the government line on the US-led offensive in Fallujah or face legal action.")
February 14, 2005: "Media Held Guilty of Deception," Inter Press Service (A people's tribunal held much of Western media guilty of inciting violence and deceiving people in its reporting of Iraq. The panel of judges in the Rome meeting of the World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), an international people's initiative seeking to unearth the truth about the war and occupation in Iraq, accused the United States and the British governments of impeding journalists in performing their task, and intentionally producing lies and misinformation.)
Once a damaging, and most likely delayed, story hits the Western corporate media consciousness, concurrent stories may be released that distract the audience or dilute the potency of the main story. The handling of the Haditha story by corporate Western media is being managed similarly.
For example, on June 1, 2006, the BBC released a story detailing an alleged "massacre" at Ishaqi on March 15, 2006. Dahr Jamail had reported on the incident and had photographs posted nearly two months before. The BBC's story was suspicious: not only was it delayed by two and a half months, but its timing was concurrent with a peak in media interest in the Haditha Massacre scandal. Meanwhile, the BBC's version of the Ishaqi story itself, while tragic, didn't seem to be much of a scandal at all. It was not surprising that the day after the BBC story "broke," ABC published a story entitled, "US Military Denies New Abuse Allegation at Ishaqi" reporting that the US Military had conductd an investigation and found that there was no basis for claims of a massacre at Ishaqi. The idea that the BBC could "break" a story and the military could respond, investigate and have a press release about it in time for ABC to report findings of innocence the next day is unbelievable if not outright ridiculous. This series of media events served primarily to distract people from the Haditha story and sow seeds of doubt in their minds about the Haditha Massacre. One would expect savvy journalists to recognize the set-up from a mile away.
On June 5, 2006, the New York Times provides us with two additional distractions - one involving paid Internet advertising and the other the front page of the paper.
If one did a Google search on "Haditha" on June 5th, one was presented with a story entitled "Disbelief Over Haditha": via Google's AdSense. The story is essentially a patriotic piece comprised of interviews with military individuals at Camp Pendelton on Memorial Day where the interviewees were granted a national audience in the Times and an opportunity to shower sympathy on the soldiers involved in the massacre and cast doubt on the event itself. The fact that the NYT is paying for this story to appear every time one types in "Haditha" in Google, and that this story unarguably serves to create doubts about the events that occurred in Haditha, is clearly a distraction from the horrendous fact of the massacre itself. A question to ask: why isn't the New York Times paying to promote a neutral piece about the Haditha Massacre rather than for a piece promoting blatant and exclusive American patriotism and denial?
But on this same day, the New York Times goes further in obfuscating the Haditha Massacre with distraction and doubt by swallowing whole a media event sponsored by the US military. Two reporters were flown by the US government to an excavated mass grave site in a military helicopter. The mass grave site was ostensibly created when Saddam Hussein's secret police murdered people connected with the Shiite uprising in 1991. Coincidentally, the number of people found in this site is 28, nearly the same number allegedly killed in the Haditha Massacre. The reason that the US flew the reporters to the site is clear; this story of a similar massacre at Saddam Hussein's hands distracts the public from the Haditha Massacre with the faulty logic of, "Well, if he did it ..." The New York Times did not feel the need to delay the story and published "Uncovering Iraq's Horrors in Desert Graves" on the front page merely two days after the journalists received a government tour of the site. After the kind of directed criticism of the role that the New York Times, via US state and military propagandists like Judith Miller and Thomas Friedman, has played in orchestrating Iraq War propaganda, one would imagine that reputable journalists would know better than to accept a US-sponsored media outing in Iraq. Reputable journalists should additionally wonder why the New York Times continues to accept this type of propaganda as news, while ignoring events such as the ones where the people of Fallujah dug mass graves to bury the thousands killed during the US assault of the city in November 2004.
But the mother of all distractions came on June 8, 2006, in the media spasm over the alleged killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. We can be certain of this week's front page news. The ridiculous thing is that Zarqawi himself is perhaps more a US propaganda and media fabrication more than a real threat to the Iraqi people, let alone the security of the US. The story of Zarqawi served to simplify and put an al-Qaeda face on what is really a much more complicated situation regarding the resistance and rising sectarian tensions in Iraq. Now with Zarqawi's alleged death reported by the US Government, the media is swallowing the state's version of this story whole, despite all the fraud that we've seen in past US propaganda stunts, such as the Jessica Lynch "rescue," the Pat Tillman fabrication, the pulling down of Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdos Square in Baghdad, and even the capture of Hussein himself. Will the death of Zarqawi slow the violent resistance in Iraq? No. Will the death of Zarqawi bring improvement n the electricity, water and medical infrastructure in Iraq? No. Will the death of Zarqawi bring stability and security to the Iraqi people? No. But is the death of Zarqawi a perfect distraction from the Haditha Massacre, total failure of the US occupation of Iraq, and the ongoing US military assault on the city of Ramadi? Absolutely. And his death conveniently distracts the corporate media from reporting that while the Prime Minister of Iraq appointed most of his cabinet last weekend, the position of Vice President Abel Abdul Mahdi, which had been set over a month ago, was the re-appointment of one of the most aggressive supporters of the economic agenda of the Bush administration in Iraq. An agenda which includes the implementation of corporate globalization of Iraq's laws and far, far greater US corporate control of Iraq's oil supply.
Perhaps the most interesting propaganda campaign we have seen in connection with the Haditha Massacre was a massive and well-coordinated effort on the part of FOX news and the right wing bloggers to discredit any allegations of war crimes simultaneously running down the entire "left wing" Internet. This campaign came in the form of fraudulent video testimony from Jesse MacBeth. In this video "testimony" Jesse MacBeth claims to have been a soldier in Iraq and to have committed a variety of horrendous war crimes. The video barely made a stir on the web since people questioned its validity within hours of its release. Yet, on May 24, 2006, mere days after the video's first appearance on the web, FOX news spun fabrications about the video calling it an "anti-war video" and claiming "that thing posted on the Internet [was] the #2 most cicked-on blog on the Internet in the last few weeks." #2 most clicked-on blog? One should question where FOX news had been able to obtain data on the most popular blogs - unless Dick Cheney's news favorite is even closer with the NSA than some might suspect. The data comparing traffic to various web sites certainly is not available to FOX to make such a claim. But the claim was false anyway. Jesse MacBeth never had a blog. The video was posted on a small, low bandwidth web site that could never have handled anywhere near the kind of traffic required for the #2 blog. In fact, three days before FOX's show, the web site publicly registered just over 1,500 hits - total - and the video wasn't available because the site couldn't meet even that meager demand. At 5 pm pst, two days before FOX's wild promotion of the MacBeth video, a Google search on Jessie MacBeth revealed only two obscure references to the video at all. The video was in fact downright difficult to find anywhere on the web that day, let alone! the "last few weeks" before FOX's broadcast. FOX's deceptive promotion of this video and concurrent discrediting was deliberate propaganda to pre-empt any future or existing claims of war crimes, such as the Haditha Massacre, as well as an attempt to dismiss the entire left wing blogosphere and the "anti-war" movement. By far the greatest promoters of the MacBeth video were FOX news and the right-wing bloggers.
When an issue becomes too large and too damaging to control effectively, savvy PR professionals work to focus the public's attention on a single topic within the larger issue. The public thereby loses its view of the forest - the more damaging and larger issue - for the single tree of a selective topic or event related to the issue. This single topic needs to be controversial enough to capture a large audience, but sufficiently containable so that the particulars remain debatable and do not spiral out of control. We have seen this pattern of PR repeated over and over in the war. Examples include endless debates about the 500 prisoners illegally held in Guantanamo Bay, when the reality of the larger issue involves over 14,000 Iraqis detained without trail in both disclosed and undisclosed Iraqi prisons, as well as countless people held in secret US detention chambers in Eastern Europe. Another instance is the torture "scandal" at Abu Ghraib, where public attention was focused on sexual humiliation and inane ebates over the uses of dogs or water-boarding, when in fact there exists documentation of torture much more violent, systematic and widespread at US hands.
The Haditha Massacre is becoming the Spotlight event in the much broader and more volatile issue of US War crimes in Iraq. Haditha is by no stretch of the imagination an isolated incident. Journalists should work to broaden the reporting of Haditha to include a discussion of the much broader issue of International Law and War Crimes. This is, after all, a war where US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales described the Geneva conventions as "quaint," chemical weapons were used on a civilian population in Fallujah, violent torture continues at the hands of the US or its proxies, arbitrary detentions of Iraqis continue in violation of international law, hospitals have been intentionally destroyed and occupied, cluster bombs and flechettes have been deployed on dense civilian habitations, civilians are being killed daily, and journalists have been intentionally targeted by US troops. If we lose the forest for the trees on the issue of the Haditha Massacre, we risk participation in US propaganda.
Parallels are being drawn between what happened in Haditha on November 19, 2005, and the 1968 massacre in My Lai during the Vietnam War, in which US forces ruthlessly slaughtered 500 unarmed women, men and children in a small village. The most direct parallels will probably involve what happens legally to those chosen by the internal military investigation to take the blame for the event in Haditha. In the case of My Lai, a lengthy internal investigation was launched, and followed by a court-martial. Despite the massively brutal nature of the massacre, the cover-up, and the many people involved, in the end, one man, Lt. William Calley, spent roughly 3 years under house arrest.
As we see the media spotlight on the Haditha Massacre, we can expect to see damage control measures through inventing scapegoats as was done in My Lai and Abu Ghraib. As in the Abu Ghraib torture media blitz, the military will not concern itself with loyalty for the troops that put their lives on the line daily. The military will readily sacrifice its Charles Graners and Sabrina Harmans while its superiors dodge and evade responsibility and the incident is made to look isolated. Haditha will be erroneously presented as the crime of a few "bad apples." With the massive cover-up by military superiors, countless other war crimes occurring in Iraq, and a US media landscape that has assisted in the cover-up, journalists need to do more than produce propaganda of the various trials and legal minutiae of the scapegoats identified to pay for the Haditha massacre. There are much bigger stories that await telling if the offered PR bait can be rejected.
Conclusion: Is the US Corporate Media Complicit in War Crimes?
According to principles set during the Nuremburg Trials and the UNESCO Charter, the primary responsibility of journalists during a time of war is not to incite the public to violence. In the case of the Haditha Massacre cover-up, we need to ask: Is the US Corporate Media complicit in the cover-up of this War Crime? By helping to cover up countless events like the Haditha Massacre, is the US Corporate Media inciting the public to violence by distorting the truth about the war in Iraq?
Already, stories from the US Media and "journalists" like Judith Miller who promoted the war with fabrications have failed the test of journalistic responsibility set by the Nuremburg Trials and the UNESCO Charter. But the US corporate media seems extremely resistant to responsible reform. How can the New York Times be satisfied publishing an unverified official account of what happened in Haditha presented by a military that has been caught in countless lies, such as the Pat Tillman fabrication and the invented Jessica Lynch "rescue?" Is the US corporate media prepared to challenge these government propaganda deceptions? Or are they going to remain engaged in aiding and abetting the war crimes of the US military and its commander in chief?
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who spent over 8 months reporting from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US war crimes in Iraq at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York City in January 2006. He writes regularly for TruthOut, Inter Press Service, Asia Times and TomDispatch, and maintains his own web site, dahrjamailiraq.com.
Jeff Pflueger is Dahr Jamail's electronic publicist. He maintains a web site at jeffpflueger.com.