Monday, October 18, 2004
Reprinted from NewsMax.com
Social Security a Bush Topic Blunder
John LeBoutillierMonday, Oct. 18, 2004
In this week’s Sunday New York Times cover story on President Bush’s reliance on his religious faith, author Ron Suskind has unearthed a recent statement by the President that in a second term he is “going to privatize Social Security.”
Yesterday the Kerry Campaign seized upon this statement and by last night was already running TV commercials slamming Bush for wanting to “cut Social Security by 35-40%.” And Kerry himself has incorporated this into his basic stump speech.
From a strictly political point of view - not economic - the Bush desire to keep talking during a campaign about privatizing Social Security is totally suicidal.
Not for nothing is this sensitive issue called the ‘Third Rail of American politics.’
Four years ago Mr. Bush pulled the same tactic. At that time I wrote the same thing: the political costs of bringing this issue up in the final stages of a campaign far outweigh the negligible benefits. (Many readers objected to my column. But history showed that in areas with strong senior citizen populations - Florida and Pennsylvania - Mr. Bush lost a whopping 25% of his vote in the last week of the campaign.)
I am not arguing that Social Security doesn’t need to be fixed; I am saying that bringing it up in the final 2 weeks of a campaign simply hands tons of ammo to Kerry and the Democrats who are dying to have a new line of attack against President Bush.
Who exactly does Bush think he is going to get to vote for him who otherwise would not have voted for him? The ones most keen on Social Security Reform are members of the so-called ‘Investor Class’ - a group overwhelmingly pro-Bush already.
On the other end of the equation, seniors are apoplectic over anything that even hints of cutting their fixed Social Security income payments. And these voters vote in extraordinarily high percentages. Many are already wary of the new Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, and now this ‘privatizing’ Social Security just spooks them even more.
Seniors in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arizona could be the very voting bloc that decides this presidential election. And now Bush has handed Kerry a potent weapons for the final two weeks.
One other point today: for almost a year this column has focused on the Passion Differential - that gap between those voters who have a white-hot hatred for Bush versus the pro-Bush forces. This differential - not John Kerry or much that he says or does - will determine the winner on November 2.
We can already see signs that this differential may be happening: huge last-minute registration of new voters is occurring across the nation - especially in Democratic areas.
Election offices are so swamped that they have to hire temporary workers to process all the new applicants.
Funded by the DNC and George Soros, the Democrats have done politics the old fashioned way: they have gone out and identified Democrats who aren’t registered and did not vote in 2000. They are IDing each and every one of these potential Kerry voters, registering them and you can bet they’ll get them to the polls on November 2.
The GOP has always done a much, much better job of this grass-roots registration and get-out-the-vote program. So the upside for the GOP is much less; we already have these voters registered and voting.
If Kerry goes into Election Day tied, he will win based on this Passion Differential. And we will know it by noon or so when we see lines in Democratic areas - Cleveland, Philadelphia, Madison, Minneapolis and Miami - around the block.
Heinz Kerry Paid Lower Tax Rate Than Most Taxpayers
Mon Oct 18 2004 10:20:34 ET
The Kerry campaign finally released Teresa Heinz Kerry's 2003 tax return, or rather two pages of it, late last Friday, the WALL STREET JOURNAL details."We think she ought to release the rest of her return, since her wealth was crucial to salvaging her husband's struggling campaign during the Democratic primaries in 2003." "But even this minimal disclosure deserves more attention in light of John Kerry's pledge to raise tax rates. In 2003, Mrs. Kerry -- or Teresa Heinz, as she declared herself on her IRS 1040 form -- earned $5.07 million, hardly a surprising income for someone estimated to be worth nearly $1 billion."The news is that $2.78 million of that income came in the form of tax- exempt interest from what the Kerry campaign's press release attributed to investments in 'state, municipal and public entity bonds.' What the campaign didn't say is that these are the kind of investments that rich people can afford to hire lawyers and accountants to steer their money into." On her "remaining 'taxable' income of $2.29 million, Mrs. Kerry paid $627,150 in taxes, for an overall average federal tax rate of only 12.4% on her $5.07 million in total income." This "puts Mrs. Kerry's tax rate at well below that of other filers in her super-rich neighborhood. But it also means she is paying a lower average rate than nearly all middle- class taxpayers paid in 2001, the last year for which the IRS has published the data. The top 50% of all federal filers contributed 96.1% of all federal income taxes in 2001, and they paid an average income-tax rate of 15.9%. That's 3.5-percentage points more than Mrs. Kerry paid in 2003." At the "very least, Mrs. Kerry's tax returns are a screaming illustration of the need for reform to make the tax code simpler and fairer. But they also show that Senator Kerry's proposed tax increases are much more about a revenue grab than they are about tax justice."
Injured Soldiers Returning from Iraq Struggle for Medical Benefits, Financial Survival
By BRIAN ROSS, DAVID SCOTT and MADDY SAUER
Oct. 14, 2004 -- Oct. 14, 2004 - Following inquiries by ABC News, the Pentagon has dropped plans to force a severely wounded U.S. soldier to repay his enlistment bonus after injuries had forced him out of the service.
Army Spc. Tyson Johnson III of Mobile, Ala., who lost a kidney in a mortar attack last year in Iraq, was still recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center when he received notice from the Pentagon's own collection agency that he owed more than $2,700 because he could not fulfill his full 36-month tour of duty.
Johnson said the Pentagon listed the bonus on his credit report as an unpaid government loan, making it impossible for him to rent an apartment or obtain credit cards.
"Oh man, I felt betrayed," Johnson said. "I felt, like, oh, my heart dropped."
Pentagon officials said they were unaware of the case until it was brought to their attention by ABC News. "Some faceless bureaucrat" was responsible for Johnson's predicament, said Gen. Franklin "Buster" Hagenbeck, a three-star general and the Army's deputy chief of staff for personnel.
"It's absolutely unacceptable. It's intolerable," said Hagenbeck. "I mean, I'm incredulous when I hear those kinds of things. I just can't believe that we allow that to happen. And we're not going to let it happen."
The Department of Defense and the Army intervened to have the collection action against Johnson stopped, said Hagenbeck.
"I was told today he's not going to have a nickel taken from him," he said. "And I will tell you that we'll keep a microscope on this one to see the outcome."
'Not So Good'Hagenbeck also pledged to look into the cases of the other soldiers ABC News brought to the military's attention, including men who lost limbs and their former livelihoods after serving in Iraq.
"When you're in the military, they take good care of you," said the 23-year-old Johnson. "But now that I'm a vet, and, you know, I'm out of the military -- not so good. Not so good."
Johnson had been flying high last September, after being promoted from Army private first class to specialist in a field ceremony in Iraq. Inspired by his father's naval background to join the military after high school, Tyson planned a career in the military and the promotion was just the first step. But only a week after the ceremony took place, a mortar round exploding outside his tent brought him quickly back to Earth.
"It was like warm water running down my arms," he said. "But it was warm blood."
In addition to the lost kidney, shrapnel damaged Johnson's lung and heart, and entered the back of his head. Field medical reports said he was not expected to live more than 72 hours.
With the help of exceptional Army surgeons, Johnson survived. As he recuperated, however, Johnson faced perhaps an even greater obstacle than physical pain or injuries -- the military bureaucracy.
Part of the warrior ethos, the soldier's creed of the U.S. Army, is to "never leave a fallen comrade."
"And it doesn't just pertain to the battlefield," Hagenbeck said. "It means, when we get them home they're a part of the Army family forever."
But Johnson now lives in his car. It is where he spends most of his days, all of his nights, in constant pain from his injuries and unwilling to burden his family.
Better Off Dead?
Stories like Tyson Johnson's are not unique.
Many of the severely wounded soldiers returning from Iraq face the prospect of poverty and what they describe as official indifference and incompetence.
"Guys I've met, talking to people, they'd be better off financially for their families if they had died as opposed to coming back maimed," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Kelly, who served as a civil affairs specialist for the Army while in Iraq.
On July 14, 2003, the Abilene, Texas, native had been on his way to a meeting about rebuilding schools in Iraq when his unarmored Humvee was blown up. A piece of shrapnel the size of a TV remote took his right leg off, below the knee, almost completely, Kelly said.
Kelly attests to receiving excellent medical care at Ward 57, the amputee section of Walter Reed, but said he quickly realized that the military had no real plan for the injured soldiers. Many had to borrow money or depend on charities just to have relatives visit at Walter Reed, Kelly said.
"It's not what I expected to see when I got here," he said. "These guys having to, you know, basically panhandle for money to afford things."
Perhaps as a sign of the grim outlook facing many of these wounded soldiers, Staff Sgt. Peter Damon, a National Guardsman from Brockton, Mass., said he is grateful for being a double amputee.
"Well, in a way, I'm kind of lucky losing both arms because I've been told I'll probably get 100 percent disability," he said.
Damon, a mechanic and electrician, lost both arms in an explosion as he was repairing a helicopter in Iraq. He initially woke up in the hospital worried and anxious to learn that both forms of livelihood were taken away from him.
"Now what am I doing to do?" Damon said, faced with the prospect of supporting his wife, Jennifer, and two children. "I can't do either, none of those, with no hands."
The military fails to provide a lump sum payment for such catastrophic injuries. And Damon still has not heard from the military about what they plan to give in terms of monthly disability payments.
The last time Damon asked about the payments, he was told by the military that his paperwork had been lost.
"And then when I went to go back to inquire about it again, just to ask a question, I just wanted to see if they had found my paperwork, I was told I had to make an appointment and to come back five days later," he said.
A thick book of federal regulations specifies the disability rate based on how many limbs were amputated and precisely where.
The percentage rates were set during World War II.
Jennifer Damon said the shock of her husband returning with no arms has been replaced by the fear of destitution, as well as a frustration over her husband's final discharge. Like his disability benefits, Peter's release is being held up by the lost paperwork and unanswered phone calls.
"It's hard to understand," she said. "I mean, I need him more than they need him right now. It's been a long time. You've had him for a long time. I want him back."
A Failing System?
Staff Sgt. Larry Gill, a National Guardsman from Semmes, Ala., wonders whether his 20 dutiful years of military service have been adequately rewarded.
Last October, Gill injured his left leg when on patrol during a protest outside a mosque in Baghdad. A protester threw a hand grenade which left Gill, a former policeman, with leg intact, though useless. He received a Purple Heart from the military, but no program, plan or proposal of how to make a living in civilian life.
"It's not fair, and I'm not complaining," Gill said. "I'm not whining about it. You know, I just, I just don't think people really understand what we're being faced with.
Gill expects he will have to sell his home, the dream house he and his wife, Leah, designed and built, where they raised their children.
"I've never questioned my orders," he said. "I've slept with rats and stood in the rain and wondered why I was standing in the rain, and, you know, for my children to have to do without based on a lack of income from me, it's frustrating."
Leah Gill agreed. "I just don't feel we should have to uproot because of an injury that he received while he was serving the country," she said. "It shouldn't come down to that."
Gill and the others in Ward 57 have had their pictures taken frequently with visiting politicians.
"Where are the politicians? Where are the generals?" he asked. "Where are the people that are supposed to take care of me?"
Help and care will be forthcoming, promised Hagenbeck.
"There in fact was a plan," he said. "But again, it was not integrated in a seamless fashion that it needed to be. And that was not even, really, to be honest with you, recognized probably until sometime about a year ago. And these soldiers actually brought it to our attention about the transition problems."
The military would do a better job of taking care of their own, Hagenbeck said, though the system in place was often unwieldy, outdated and inadequate.
"Oh, there absolutely has been problems in the past," Hagenbeck said. "And they're in -- even with some of our soldiers today. Some missteps have been made. And they have not been taken care of the way they should have been taken care of."
To help these neglected soldiers, Hagenbeck said, the military created an advocacy program this past April called Disabled Soldier Support System, or DS3. The network is set up to fight for a soldier's benefits and entitlements, ease transition to civilian life, and deal with any other problems facing a disabled soldier, according to Hagenbeck.
But still there are soldiers like Johnson who fall through the cracks.
His mother, Willie Jean Johnson, worries her son may hurt himself.
"He's not going to say anything bad about the Army," she said. "I have never heard him say anything bad about it. But you can see the hurt in his eyes. You can see the hurt from his heart in his eyes."
Johnson said he usually keeps to himself, preferring to protect his son from seeing him in his current state. "I'd rather be to myself than to flare at somebody else and, you know, and hurt someone that I know I really love," he said.
One year after nearly being killed in combat, the Pentagon has yet to send Johnson his Purple Heart medal.
The Pentagon collection notices, however, arrive without fail.
As to Kelly's discovery that he and his wounded comrades had to beg and borrow to pay for their loved ones to visit while they recuperate, Hagenbeck said a new policy went into effect this weekend to alleviate part of the problem.
"There was no system in place to support them in their needs. And I'll be honest with you, until it came to our attention, to people that were paying attention, and then those that wanted to help, that obstacle was there," Hagenbeck said.
Incredibly, these soldiers remain dedicated to the military despite all they have endured.
"Even though the way I'm being treated, you know, as a vet, I'd still go back in," Johnson said. "I would."
"I love being a soldier," Kelly said. "I don't regret what happened. If I had to go back to Iraq knowing that there was that chance of losing my leg, I'd do it. Because that's what the nation asked me to do."
Jessica Wang contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2004 ABC News Internet Ventures
October 18, 2004OP-ED COLUMNIST
A War Without ReasonBy BOB HERBERT
"Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."- President Bush, Oct. 7, 2002
There should no longer be any doubt that the war in Iraq is an exercise in lunacy. It was launched with a spurious rationale, the weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be a fantasy relentlessly stoked by obsessively hawkish middle-aged men who ran and hid when they were of fighting age and the nation was at war.
Now we find that we can't win this war we started. Soldiers and civilians alike are trapped in the proverbial briar patch, unable to move around safely in a country that the warmongers thought would be easy to conquer and then rebuild.
There is no way to overstate how profoundly wrong they were.
Our troops continue to die but we can't even identify the enemy, which is why so many innocent Iraqi civilians - including women and children - are being blown away. The civilians are being killed by the thousands, even as the dreaded Saddam Hussein is receiving first-class health care (most recently a successful hernia operation) from his captors.
Last week, in a story that read like a chapter from an antiwar novel, we learned that members of an Army Reserve platoon were taken into custody and held for two days after they refused to deliver a shipment of fuel to Taji, a town 15 miles north of Baghdad. They complained that the trip was too dangerous to make without an escort of armored vehicles. Several of the reservists described the trip as a "suicide mission."
The military said that was an isolated incident, but there is evidence of growing dissatisfaction among the troops, many of whom feel they are targets surrounded by hostile Iraqis -insurgents and ordinary civilians alike - in a war that lacks a clearly defined mission.
Even the heavily fortified Green Zone, which contains the U.S. embassy and the headquarters of the interim Iraqi government, was penetrated by suicide bombers last Thursday. At least five people, including three Americans who had been providing security for diplomats, were killed in the attack.
As the pointlessness of this war grows ever clearer, the president's grand alliance, like some of the soldiers on the ground, is losing its resolve. When John Kerry, in the first presidential debate, mentioned only Britain and Australia as he mocked Mr. Bush's "coalition" in Iraq, the president famously replied, "You forgot Poland."
Poland has 2,400 troops in Iraq. But on Friday the prime minister, Marek Belka, announced that he will cut that number early next year, and then "will engage in talks on a further reduction."
Mr. Belka has a political problem. He can't explain the war to his constituents. And that's because there is no rational explanation.
As for the rebuilding of Iraq, forget about it. Hundreds of schools were damaged by U.S. bombing and thousands were looted by Iraqis. It's hard to believe that an administration that won't rebuild schools here in America will really go to bat for schoolkids in Iraq. Millions of Iraqi kids now attend schools that are decrepit and, in many cases, all but falling down-lacking such essentials as desks, chairs and even toilets, according to the United Nations Children's Fund.
Military commanders are warning that delays in the overall reconstruction are increasing the danger for American troops. A senior American military officer told The Times, "We can either put Iraqis back to work, or we can have them shoot [rocket-propelled grenades] at us."
The president and his apologists never understood what they were getting into in Iraq. What is unmistakable now is that Americans will never be willing to commit the overwhelming numbers of troops and spend the hundreds of billions of additional dollars necessary to have even a hope of bringing long-term stability to Iraq.
This is a war that never made sense and now we are seeing - from the troops on the ground, from our allies overseas and increasingly from the population here at home - the inevitable reluctance to forge ahead with the madness.
The president likes to say he made exactly the right decision on Iraq. Each new death of a soldier or a civilian, each child who loses a parent to the carnage, each healthy body that is broken or burned in this war that didn't have to happen, is a reminder of how horribly wrong he was.
October 18, 2004EDITORIAL OBSERVER
Imagining America if George Bush Chose the Supreme CourtBy ADAM COHEN
Abortion might be a crime in most states. Gay people could be thrown in prison for having sex in their homes. States might be free to become mini-theocracies, endorsing Christianity and using tax money to help spread the gospel. The Constitution might no longer protect inmates from being brutalized by prison guards. Family and medical leave and environmental protections could disappear.
It hardly sounds like a winning platform, and of course President Bush isn't openly espousing these positions. But he did say in his last campaign that his favorite Supreme Court justices were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and the nominations he has made to the lower courts bear that out. Justices Scalia and Thomas are often called "conservative," but that does not begin to capture their philosophies. Both vehemently reject many of the core tenets of modern constitutional law.
For years, Justices Scalia and Thomas have been lobbing their judicial Molotov cocktails from the sidelines, while the court proceeded on its moderate-conservative path. But given the ages and inclinations of the current justices, it is quite possible that if Mr. Bush is re-elected, he will get three appointments, enough to forge a new majority that would turn the extreme Scalia-Thomas worldview into the law of the land.
There is every reason to believe Roe v. Wade would quickly be overturned. Mr. Bush ducked a question about his views on Roe in the third debate. But he sent his base a coded message in the second debate, with an odd reference to the Dred Scott case. Dred Scott, an 1857 decision upholding slavery, is rarely mentioned today, except in right-wing legal circles, where it is often likened to Roe. (Anti-abortion theorists say that the court refused to see blacks as human in Dred Scott and that the same thing happened to fetuses in Roe.) For more than a decade, Justices Scalia and Thomas have urged their colleagues to reverse Roe and "get out of this area, where we have no right to be."
If Roe is lost, the Center for Reproductive Rights warns, there's a good chance that 30 states, home to more than 70 million women, will outlaw abortions within a year; some states may take only weeks. Criminalization will sweep well beyond the Bible Belt: Ohio could be among the first to drive young women to back-alley abortions and prosecute doctors.
If Justices Scalia and Thomas become the Constitution's final arbiters, the rights of racial minorities, gay people and the poor will be rolled back considerably. Both men dissented from the Supreme Court's narrow ruling upholding the University of Michigan's affirmative-action program, and appear eager to dismantle a wide array of diversity programs. When the court struck down Texas' "Homosexual Conduct" law last year, holding that the police violated John Lawrence's right to liberty when they raided his home and arrested him for having sex there, Justices Scalia and Thomas sided with the police.
They were just as indifferent to the plight of "M.L.B.," a poor mother of two from Mississippi. When her parental rights were terminated, she wanted to appeal, but Mississippi would not let her because she could not afford a court fee of $2,352.36. The Supreme Court held that she had a constitutional right to appeal. But Justices Scalia and Thomas dissented, arguing that if M.L.B. didn't have the money, her children would have to be put up for adoption.
That sort of cruelty is a theme running through many Scalia-Thomas opinions. A Louisiana inmate sued after he was shackled and then punched and kicked by two prison guards while a supervisor looked on. The court ruled that the beating, which left the inmate with a swollen face, loosened teeth and a cracked dental plate, violated the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. But Justices Scalia and Thomas insisted that the Eighth Amendment was not violated by the "insignificant" harm the inmate suffered.
This year, the court heard the case of a man with a court appearance in rural Tennessee who was forced to either crawl out of his wheelchair and up to the second floor or be carried up by court officers he worried would drop him. The man crawled up once, but when he refused to do it again, he was arrested. The court ruled that Tennessee violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by not providing an accessible courtroom, but Justices Scalia and Thomas said it didn't have to.
A Scalia-Thomas court would dismantle the wall between church and state. Justice Thomas gave an indication of just how much in his opinion in a case upholding Ohio's school voucher program. He suggested, despite many Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, that the First Amendment prohibition on establishing a religion may not apply to the states. If it doesn't, the states could adopt particular religions, and use tax money to proselytize for them. Justices Scalia and Thomas have also argued against basic rights of criminal suspects, like the Miranda warning about the right to remain silent.
President Bush claims to want judges who will apply law, not make it. But Justices Scalia and Thomas are judicial activists, eager to use the fast-expanding federalism doctrine to strike down laws that protect people's rights. Last year, they dissented from a decision upholding the Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees most workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a loved one. They said Congress did not have that power. They have expressed a desire to strike down air pollution and campaign finance laws for similar reasons.
Neither President Bush nor John Kerry has said much about Supreme Court nominations, wary of any issue whose impact on undecided voters cannot be readily predicted. But voters have to think about the Supreme Court. If President Bush gets the chance to name three young justices who share the views of Justices Scalia and Thomas, it could fundamentally change America for decades.
CIA admits foreknowledge of 9/11
by Larry Chin
Online Journal , 6 May 2002
Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), globalresearch.ca , 9 May 2002
CRG's Global Outlook, premiere issue on "Stop the War" provides detailed documentation on the war and September 11 Order/subscribe. Consult Table of Contents
On April 11, 2002, CIA Deputy Director James Pavitt delivered an address to the Duke University Law School Conference. This speech was covered by AgenceFrance-Presse (AFP) on Sunday April 28, 10:59 AM in an article titled "Top CIA official warns next terror attack unavoidable ." The CIA has released the transcript of Pavitt's speech, which is posted at the CIA web site .The following are excerpts taken directly from Pavitt's address.In this speech, Pavitt states clearly that the CIA had foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks. My emphasis and in bold and my comments are in italics, followed by the initials "LC."Jim Pavitt, CIA Deputy Director for OperationsExcerpts from Address to Duke University Law School ConferenceApril 11, 2002
We had very, very good intelligence of the general structure and strategies of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. We knew and we warned that al Qaeda was planning a major strike. There need be no question about that. [my emphasis LC]
[After seven months of CIA, the Bush administration and the mainstream corporate media aggressively pushing the idea of an "intelligence failure" and that the CIA was "caught unaware" by the September 11th attacks, the Deputy Director of the CIA is clearly admitting foreknowledge. LC]What didn't we know? We never found the tactical intelligence, never uncovered the specifics that could have stopped those tragic strikes that we all remember so well.[This is flatly contradicted by what Pavitt states in another part of this address, which is detailed below. It is also contradicted by credible and extensive reports of successful pre-9/11 penetration of the bin Laden operation by the US intelligence community, including CIA and National Security Agency, and the significant technical expertise possessed by the US government, including Echelon and Promis software. It is also contradicted by the fact that intelligence agencies throughout the world had specific information on the attacks, and that these agencies issued specific warnings. Certain segments of Wall Street and US financial community knew of the pending attacks. An extensive accounting of these reports can be accessed at From The Wildnerness publications (www.copvcia.com) and at http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/042202_bushk nows.html LC]And as a reality of that difficult and often frustrating fight against terror, the terror cells that we're going up against are typically small and all terrorist personnel in those cells, participating in those cells, perpetrating the acts of terror, all those personnel were carefully screened. The number of personnel who know vital information, targets, timing, the exact methods to be used had to be smaller still. Against that degree of control, that kind of compartmentation, that depth of discipline and fanaticism, I personally doubt, and I draw again upon my 30 years of experience in this business, that anything short of one of the knowledgeable inner circle personnel or hijackers turning himself in to us would have given us sufficient foreknowledge to have prevented the horrendous slaughter that took place on the 11th.[Pavitt is inflating the operational capabilities and fanaticism of Osama bin Laden and al Queda , which to a large degree are creations of CIA, while deflecting focus on the extensive penetration and capabilities of CIA and its terrorist surrogates (Pakistani ISI, etc.).â€”LC]Some of you out there may have heard bin Laden himself speak about this on that shocking videotape that we recovered in Afghanistan. On that tape when he was speaking to friends as he sat around in a little room, he talks about the fact that some of the hijackers, indeed, some of the most senior members of his inner circle had been kept in the dark about the full extent of that destruction operation that took place in New York and in Washington on the 11th of September.[The authenticity and relevance of the "notorious smoking bin Laden video" has not been confirmed. In fact, questions abound.â€”LC]While we did not stop the awful carnage that day our years of preparation and our experience allowed us to respond to the challenges of war quickly and effectively. From the moment the second tower was hit in New York, CIA began to shift resources to both collection and analysis. We knew from the start that our key contribution would come not in now numbers but in expertise.Teams of my paramilitary operations officers trained not just to observe conditions but if need be to change them, were among the first on the ground in Afghanistan. With a small logistical footprint they came with lightning speed. We were on the ground within days of that terrible attack.They came with knowledge of local languages, whatever you heard to the contrary notwithstanding, terrain, and politics.None of this came easy. You cannot learn Pushtan overnight, and you can't truly understand the complexities of tribalism, regionalism, and personalism in Afghanistan by reading the newspaper or a learned book. My people learned about this by years of study and years of practice often in difficult, hostile places and yes indeed, on the ground in Afghanistan itself.If you hear somebody say, and I have, the CIA abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviets left and that we never paid any attention to that place until September 11th, I would implore you to ask those people how we were able to accomplish all we did since the Soviets departed. How we knew who to approach on the ground, which operations, which warlord to support, what information to collect. Quite simply, we were there well before the 11th of September. [my emphasis LC][Pavitt is stating clearly that that, contrary to arguments by some current and former CIA operatives such as Reuel Marc Gerecht and Robert Baer (who have published articles and books about the CIA's lack of human intelligence in the Middle East and Central Asia), that CIA had never left Afghanistan in the wake in the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from the country.Pavitt is in fact lauding CIA capability, penetration and presence. He also confirms here that existing CIA penetration in the region was vital to the speed and success of Operation Enduring Freedom, an operation of a magnitude that requires monthsâ€”not weeksâ€”of planning. Contrary to Pavitt's assertion that CIA "responded within days" to the 9/11 attacks with "lighting speed," it is impossible to build an intelligence network of such scope in a short period of time. Bottom line: CIA was already there, and has been for decades.â€”LC]In a run-up to the millennium celebrations the CIA warned the President of the United States of serious terrorism conspiracies around the world. We predicted, we told the President, that there would be between five and 15 serious attacks against on U.S. soil. But we did much much more than warn. With our allies and our partners around the world we launched immense efforts to counter those threats. Hundreds of terrorists were arrested, multiple cells of terrorism were destroyed. One terrorist cell planned to blow up a hotel, buses and holy cites in both Israel and Jordan. It had also planned to use chemical weapons.We knew then just as we know now that al Qaeda and those who would continue its mission of murder were nothing if they're not resilient. Remember, the World Trade Center was attacked once before.[Particularly in light of the years of information gathered in the investigations of the prior World Trade Center bombings by FBI and CIA, claims of a dearth of sufficient intelligence are implausible. LC]Because the networks of terror are fluid and dynamic, because they learn from their past and from oursâ€”from our past, from our action. I'm not at liberty tonight to describe to you every thing we've done against them. You would not want me to do that.Today, the year 2002, I have more spies stealing more secrets than at any time in the history of the CIA. [my emphasis LC][Which means what was already powerful is now super powerful, and nightmarishly so. In with all due respect, Mr. Pavitt, we do want you to come clean with the citizens you work for.â€”LC]Now for the hard truth. Despite the best efforts of so much of the world, the next terrorist attack it's not a question of if, it's a question of when. With so many possible targets and an enemy more than willing to die, the perfect defense isn't possible. [my emphasis LC][Without providing any specifics, Pavitt is announcing that new "terrorist attacks" are "unavoidable" and even "impossible" even before they have occurred as in "CIA can't and/or won't do anything about whatever happens." Why is he issuing this vague and very public warning? LC]If I knew any society that would mount such a perfect defense devoid as it would be of the liberties that makes us great, is not worth defending. [my emphasis LC][Pavitt is suggesting that mounting foolproof countermeasures against terrorism would require sacrificing civil liberties and, as a result, would produce a system that, in his view, "is not worth defending." This statement is disingenuous. It is an inarguable fact that civil liberties, and the Bill of Rights, have already been gutted post-9/11. America is already a virtual police state. Pavitt knows this. In order to get "foolproof" protection, Americans should and will relinquish what little is left of their civil liberties and accept a full dictatorship. In the wake of another major "terrorist atrocity," Americans would be frightened enough to do so LC]After the deep, debilitating cuts of the 1990s [my emphasisâ€”LC], when any thought that the end of the Cold War would bring us a safer, more predictable world, one in which intelligence was not important, a world in which intelligence officers were no longer as necessary, we now continue to rebuild, back to essential strength where we can continue to do what you and others ask me to do. In the Directorate of Operations alone, since just five or six years ago, we are training more than 10 times as many operations officers. [my emphasis LC]
[The CIA budget, which has been estimated at approximately $35 billion, has been increased post 9/11. That is not counting untold amounts funneled through budgets of other government agencies.–LC]
Larry Chin is a freelance journalist and an Online Journal Contributing Editor. .Copyright © Online Journal 2002. Reprinted for fair use only
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Former CIA spymaster fires backDateline exclusive: Intelligence insider weighs in on Iraq, war on terror, relationship with White House
By Chris Hansen
Updated: 9:05 p.m. ET Oct. 17, 2004
He was America's top spy in charge of covert operations at the CIA. Now, in a rare and revealing interview, he's speaking out about 9/11, the war in Iraq, the hunt for Osama bin Ladenand what some have described as the tense relationship between the CIA and the White House. Who's really to blame for America's intelligence failures? With the CIA under fire, this former spymaster is firing back.
James Pavitt: "We failed to stop the attacks of the 11th. And nobody carries that burden greater than those of us who were in the intelligence business."
Three years after 9/11, as he revisits Ground Zero, James Pavitt lives with regret about his inability to stop the attacks. He says the CIA believed something big was imminent, but didn't know exactly when or where.
Pavitt: "And that's the terrible tragedy. We knew they were coming."
For the past five years, until he retired in August, Pavitt ran the CIA's Directorate of Operations, which oversees secret missions around the world. This 31-year CIA veteran wants the public to know that he and others have been struggling to rebuild a spy force that in the years leading up to 9/11 was severely under funded and understaffed.
Pavitt: "In 1995, the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Operations trained a total of about 25 people."
Chris Hansen: "That sounds like a very low number."
Pavitt: "It's a disgraceful number. The country deserved better than that."
Once upon a time, he says, things were better.
Pavitt: "It was indeed a city of spies."
During a recent visit to the International Spy Museum in Washington, he recalled his early years as a covert officer in 1970s Berlin.
Pavitt: "It was a place where we could, if we did our work well, have great success."
That success, he says, helped win the Cold War. And he did his part, serving around Europe and in Asia, and later as an intelligence aide for the first President Bush. But by the time he moved to CIA headquarters in the 1990s, Pavitt says, funding for clandestine operations had plummeted.
Hansen: "How did it come to that? How did the CIA. get to such a point?"
Pavitt: "I think it's a reflection of the belief that the cold war was won. We did not need people doing the kind of things that CIA's Directorate of Operations, the clandestine service, did.
Pavitt says when he took over as spymaster in 1999, terrorism, like the attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa, had already become a major threat, and he did get more money, but nowhere near enough.
Pavitt: "Two or three weeks before that first aircraft slammed in to the first tower in New York, there was a debate at CIA about the rebuilding of the clandestine service. And I passionately argued to stay the course, to invest the money. In one instance, I threatened to resign, if we did not get the resources."
But money wasn't the only problem, according to the 9/11 Commission:
John F. Lehman (9/11 Commission Member, July 22, 2004): "There is a deep fundamental dysfunction in the way we go about our intelligence gathering and analysis."
A key question: Why hadn't the CIA done more to infiltrate Al Qaida?
Hansen: "If a 20-year-old oddball kid named John Walker Lindh from Marin County, California can join up with al Qaida and ultimately get a face-to-face meeting with Osama bin Laden—"
Hansen: "Why couldn't you guys have an agent do that?"
Pavitt: "It's a fair question. Johnny Walker Lindh was a very, very low-level foot soldier."
Hansen: "But if you'd had an officer infiltrate even at John Walker Lindh's level. Maybe you could have gotten some intelligence?"
Pavitt: "Well, we but we did, Chris. We did. We did have people like that."
But he says the CIA recruits on the ground in Afghanistan never were able to provide specific information that would have prevented 9/11.
And while noting the difficulty in pursuing the thousands of terror leads coming into the CIA from around the world, Pavitt acknowledges mistakes. His spies were on the trail of two of the hijackers well over a year before 9/11.They'd been watching the men in Malaysia, but failed to follow them when they left. So no U.S. officials were on the lookout for the terrorists when they entered the United States.
Pavitt: "There was a cable that was lost that would have allowed, perhaps, that surveillance to continue."
Hansen: "That could have been a critical surveillance though."
Pavitt: "Well, it could have been a critical surveillance. But, I still do not believe that would have given us the data, the information, the capability to do something which would have thwarted the attack."
In the case of Iraq, Pavitt says the CIA provided the best intelligence available on what weapons Saddam actually had, but it turned out to be almost all wrong.
Hansen: "How could you have gotten it so wrong?"
Pavitt: "Saddam was an extraordinarily adept deceiver. And I did not have the kind of human agents in the inner circle that would have told us exactly what was going on."
The lack of inside information, Pavitt says, made the intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction less than certain. Though in the months before the war, President Bush apparently was told those weapons existed.
Hansen: "In Bob Woodward's book, he quotes your former boss, George Tenet, as telling President Bush of the case against Iraq. It is a quote, ‘slam dunk.’"
Pavitt: "Chris, I wasn't at the meeting, so I do not know-- what-- what transpired. I don't know what was said."
Hansen: "Would you have ever used those words to characterize the case against Iraq for going to war?"
Pavitt: "I would not have used those words for the case against Iraq on weapons of mass destruction. I in fact sat in a number of meetings and I said, you know, "There may be a number of reasons for going to war, but I do not see the intelligence that we have on weapons of mass destruction being one which carries the day."
Hansen: "A White House spokesman told Dateline that all President Bush's official pre-war statements on Iraq were vetted by the intelligence community and the U.S. government and its allies all believed they would find stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. For his part, former CIA Director George Tenet had no comment."
James Pavitt says that his teams did get it right when they went in ahead of U.S. troops in Iraq, providing intelligence that helped save American and Iraqi lives. He also says the CIA accurately predicted the bloody insurgency now taking place in Iraq.
Hansen: "There seems to be a bit of the blame game going on. People in the Bush administration are saying, well, go see the CIA, they gave us bad intelligence."
Pavitt: "Well, there has been some commentary that talks about the CIA attempting to undermine the sitting president. And my comment on that is that's absolute nonsense."
As Pavitt ponders his future, and indulges his passions like art, he says the CIA has come a long way since 9/11. But still has too few spies. He believes another major terrorist attack is highly likely, though he predicts Osama bin Laden's days are numbered.
Hansen: "How close are we now?"
Pavitt: "I can tell you that at the end of the day, we will get him. But we got a lot more work ahead of us."
© 2004 MSNBC Interactive
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 17, 2004; 6:30 PM
The top U.S. commander in Iraq complained to the Pentagon last winter that his supply situation was so poor that it threatened Army troops' ability to fight, according to an official document that has surfaced only now.
The lack of key spare parts for gear vital to combat operations, such as tanks and helicopters, was causing problems so severe, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez wrote in a letter to top Army officials, that "I cannot continue to support sustained combat operations with rates this low."
Senior Army officials said that most of Sanchez's concerns have been addressed in recent months, but that they continue to keep a close eye on the problems he identified. The situation is "substantially better" now, said Gary Motsek, deputy director of operations for the Army Materiel Command.
Sanchez, who was the senior commander on the ground in Iraq from the summer of 2003 until the summer of 2004, said in his letter that Army units in Iraq were "struggling just to maintain . . . relatively low readiness rates" on key combat systems, such as M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, anti-mortar radars and Black Hawk helicopters.
He also said units were waiting an average of 40 days for critical spare parts, which he noted was almost three times the Army's average. In some Army supply depots in Iraq, 40 percent of critical parts were at "zero balance," meaning they were absent from depot shelves, he said.
He also protested in his letter, sent Dec. 4 to the number two officer in the Army, with copies to other senior officials, that his soldiers still needed protective inserts to upgrade 36,000 sets of body armor, but that their delivery twice had been postponed in the month before he was writing. There were 131,000 U.S. troops in Iraq at the time.
In what appears to be a plea to top officials to spur the bureaucracy to respond more quickly, Sanchez concluded, "I cannot sustain readiness without Army-level intervention."
Sanchez, who since has moved back to his permanent base in Germany, did not respond to telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment.
His letter of concern has surfaced after repeated statements by President Bush that he is determined to ensure that U.S. troops fighting in Iraq have all that need to execute their missions. "I have pledged, as has the secretary of defense, to give our troops everything that is necessary to complete their mission with the utmost safety," he said in May. Earlier this month, he said in Manchester, N.H., that, "When America puts our troops in combat, I believe they deserve the best training, the best equipment, the full support of our government."
A copy of Sanchez's letter was given to The Washington Post by a person familiar with the situation who was dismayed that front-line troops had not been adequately supplied. That person also disagrees with the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, but said that was not part of the motivation in providing the document. The disclosure of Sanchez's concerns also follows recent comments by former ambassador L. Paul Bremer, Sanchez's civilian counterpart in running the U.S. occupation of Iraq, that he believed more troops were needed in Iraq and had asked the Bush administration to send them.
Lt. Gen. Claude V. Christianson, the senior logistics officer on the Army staff at the Pentagon, said the readiness problems in Iraq peaked last fall but largely have been addressed. He said they were caused by a combination of problems in the supply pipeline and an unexpectedly high pace of combat operations as the Iraqi insurgency flared last year.
"All of a sudden, at the end of July , the insurgency started to do that IED business all over Iraq," he noted, using the acronym for "improvised explosive device," the military's term for roadside bombs. In response, the pace, or "operating tempo," for U.S. troops jumped, causing them to use their tanks and other armored vehicles at much higher rates than had been expected.
"The tanks are operating at 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year," Christianson said, which he noted is about five times the rate they are driven while being used for training at their home bases. The readiness rate for M-1 Abrams tanks fell to 78 percent last October, he said, compared to an Army standard of 90 percent. Because of the intensity of recent operations, said Motsek of the Army's Materiel Command, the readiness rate for the tanks recently dropped from 95 percent to 83 percent.
Readiness rates also generally dipped last spring when insurgents destroyed seven bridges along the main supply route from Kuwait to Baghdad, Christianson said. In some cases, he said, supplies were cut off for "several days."
But he said the supply situation has improved since then, even as the pace of U.S. combat operations has remained intense. The waiting period for critical spare parts in Iraq is now about 24 days, about half of what it was when Sanchez wrote his letter, Christianson said.
The body armor problem -- which had become a hot button issue with Congress after some families bought protective armor privately and shipped it to their relatives in the Army in Iraq -- was solved sooner, Christianson noted, with all troops in Iraq equipped with updated gear by the end of January, about seven weeks after Sanchez wrote his letter.
Christianson said Sanchez sent only one such statement of concern from Iraq. "It's the only one we received from Rick that had anything to do with readiness," he said. He said he had not been shocked by the letter because Army logisticians were aware of the problems, agreed with Sanchez's assessment of them and already were taking steps to remedy them.
The Army Materiel Command's Motsek said the readiness of ground combat systems such as tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles remains a concern but no longer must be handled on an "emergency" basis, with tracks and other heavy parts being shipped by air. "We are now at the point where we can routinely ship tracks" by sea, which is far less expensive, he said. That is mainly because the manufacturing capacity to produce tracks has expanded to meet the unexpected surge in demand caused by fighting in Iraq, he said.
Sanchez's letter was sent after the most intense insurgent offensive the U.S.-led occupation force had seen up to that point. In a series of attacks that coincided with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan near the end of October last year, 87 U.S. service members were killed. Under Islam's lunar calendar, Ramadan this year began a few days ago.
ANI[ TUESDAY, OCTOBER 05, 2004 09:55:32 PM ]
WASHINGTON: An article published in the Current Research in Social Psychology journal has revealed that when the US government issues a terrorist warning, presidential approval ratings jump by leap and bounds.
Robb Willer, the assistant director of the Sociology and Small Groups Laboratory at Cornell, tracked 26 instances of federal agency report that showed an increased threat of terrorist activity in the United States between February 2001 and May 2004.
Simultaneously he also tracked the 131 Gallup Polls in the same period, and found presidential approval ratings quite positive in relation to the warnings on terror.
"Results showed that terror warnings increased presidential approval ratings consistently. They also increased support for Bush's handling of the economy. The findings, however, were inconclusive as to how long this halo effect lasts," said Willer.
Willer pointed to the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States as an example of the tendency. After 9/11, approval of Bush's job performance jumped from 51 per cent on Sept 10, 2001, to 86 per cent on Sept 15, 2001, in a Gallup Poll. Similarly, approval for Bush's handling of the economy jumped from 54 per cent on July 11, 2001, to 72 per cent on Oct 5, 2001.
Willer said that the findings are consistent with social identity theory, which postulates that individuals tend to identify with a specific group to the extent that they see themselves as more similar to the members of the group than to its most significant out-group.
"Once individuals identify with a group, they develop significant biases toward their group, which help them maintain high self-esteem as members of their group. From the perspective of social identity theory, threats of attacks from foreigners increase solidarity and in-group identification among Americans, including feelings of stronger solidarity with their leadership," explained Willer.
"This research suggests that individuals may respond to reminders of their mortality, like terror warnings, by supporting their current leaders," he concluded.