Sunday, March 27, 2005

ZNet |Repression | Railroading Moussaoui

ZNet |Repression | Railroading Moussaoui: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense. 6th Amendment "

World War Three Newsfeeds

World War Three Newsfeeds: "Honestly, I�ve had this particular message waiting to be sent for almost 4 months now. "

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: March 20, 2005 - March 26, 2005 Archives

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: March 20, 2005 - March 26, 2005 Archives

One of the many interesting things about writing a blog, and the rapid feedback it provides, is writing a post with a particular viewpoint and then having a reader write back, disagreeing, who then goes on to make the same point you thought you just made.

The New York Times > Washington > New Details on F.B.I. Aid for Saudis After 9/11

The New York Times > Washington > New Details on F.B.I. Aid for Saudis After 9/11: "New Details on F.B.I. Aid for Saudis After 9/11"


March 27, 2005
New Details on F.B.I. Aid for Saudis After 9/11

ASHINGTON, March 26 - The episode has been retold so many times in the last three and a half years that it has become the stuff of political legend: in the frenzied days after Sept. 11, 2001, when some flights were still grounded, dozens of well-connected Saudis, including relatives of Osama bin Laden, managed to leave the United States on specially chartered flights.

Now, newly released government records show previously undisclosed flights from Las Vegas and elsewhere and point to a more active role by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in aiding some of the Saudis in their departure.

The F.B.I. gave personal airport escorts to two prominent Saudi families who fled the United States, and several other Saudis were allowed to leave the country without first being interviewed, the documents show.

The Saudi families, in Los Angeles and Orlando, requested the F.B.I. escorts because they said they were concerned for their safety in the wake of the attacks, and the F.B.I. - which was then beginning the biggest criminal investigation in its history - arranged to have agents escort them to their local airports, the documents show.

But F.B.I. officials reacted angrily, both internally and publicly, to the suggestion that any Saudis had received preferential treatment in leaving the country.

"I say baloney to any inference we red-carpeted any of this entourage," an F.B.I. official said in a 2003 internal note. Another F.B.I. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this week regarding the airport escorts that "we'd do that for anybody if they felt they were threatened - we wouldn't characterize that as special treatment."

The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, which provided copies to The New York Times.

The material sheds new light on the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and it provides details about the F.B.I.'s interaction with at least 160 Saudis who were living in or visiting the United States and were allowed to leave the country. Some of the departing Saudis were related to Osama bin Laden.

The Saudis' chartered flights, arranged in the days after the attacks when many flights in the United States were still grounded, have proved frequent fodder for critics of the Bush administration who accuse it of coddling the Saudis. The debate was heightened by the filmmaker Michael Moore, who scrutinized the issue in "Fahrenheit 9/11," but White House officials have adamantly denied any special treatment for the Saudis, calling such charges irresponsible and politically motivated.

The Sept. 11 commission examined the Saudi flights in its final report last year, and it found that no Saudis had been allowed to leave before national airspace was reopened on Sept. 13, 2001; that there was no evidence of "political intervention" by the White House; and that the F.B.I. had done a "satisfactory screening" of the departing Saudis to ensure they did not have information relevant to the attacks.

The documents obtained by Judicial Watch, with major passages heavily deleted, do not appear to contradict directly any of those central findings, but they raise some new questions about the episode.

The F.B.I. records show, for instance, that prominent Saudi citizens left the United States on several flights that had not been previously disclosed in public accounts, including a chartered flight from Providence, R.I., on Sept. 14, 2001, that included at least one member of the Saudi royal family, and three flights from Las Vegas between Sept. 19 and Sept. 24, also carrying members of the Saudi royal family. The government began reopening airspace on Sept. 13, but many flights remained grounded for days afterward.

The three Las Vegas flights, with a total of more than 100 passengers, ferried members of the Saudi royal family and staff members who had been staying at Caesar's Palace and the Four Seasons hotels. The group had tried unsuccessfully to charter flights back to Saudi Arabia between Sept. 13 and Sept. 17 because they said they feared for their safety as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I. documents say.

Once the group managed to arrange chartered flights out of the country, an unidentified prince in the Las Vegas group "thanked the F.B.I. for their assistance," according to one internal report. The F.B.I. had interviewed many members of the group and searched their planes before allowing them to leave, but it nonetheless went back to the Las Vegas hotels with subpoenas five days after the initial flight had departed to collect further information on the Saudi royal guests, the documents show.

In several other cases, Saudi travelers were not interviewed before departing the country, and F.B.I. officials sought to determine how what seemed to be lapses had occurred, the documents show.

The F.B.I. documents left open the possibility that some departing Saudis had information relevant to the Sept. 11 investigation.

"Although the F.B.I. took all possible steps to prevent any individuals who were involved in or had knowledge of the 9/11/2001 attacks from leaving the U.S. before they could be interviewed," a 2003 memo said, "it is not possible to state conclusively that no such individuals left the U.S. without F.B.I. knowledge."

The documents also show that F.B.I. officials were clearly riled by public speculation stirred by news media accounts of the Saudi flights. They were particularly bothered by a lengthy article in the October 2003 issue of Vanity Fair, which included charges that the bureau considered unfair and led to an internal F.B.I. investigation that the agency named "Vanitybom." Internal F.B.I. correspondence during the review was addressed to "fellow Vanitybom victims."

Critics said the newly released documents left them with more questions than answers.

"From these documents, these look like they were courtesy chats, without the time that would have been needed for thorough debriefings," said Christopher J. Farrell, who is director of investigations for Judicial Watch and a former counterintelligence interrogator for the Army. "It seems as if the F.B.I. was more interested in achieving diplomatic success than investigative success."

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, called for further investigation.

"This lends credence to the theory that the administration was not coming fully clean about their involvement with the Saudis," he said, "and we still haven't gotten to the bottom of this whole affair."

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BlondeSense: Science was just a bunch of theory anyway. Right?

BlondeSense: Science was just a bunch of theory anyway. Right?

The New York Times > Washington > Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths

The New York Times > Washington > Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths

Better in the Long Run

Better in the Long Run: "Social scientists suspect that a sense of meaning fosters health and longevity. Yet, as sociologist Linda George tells us, not all of our sources of meaning do us good. "

Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country

Whitley Strieber's Unknown Country

The First Fake? Bin Laden Video News Article 11/11/2001

Rice slams Israeli plan for expansion / She warns against steps that could damage peace talks

(condy) Rice slams Israeli plan for expansion / She warns against steps that could damage peace talks

Protesters call for end to death penalty North County Times - North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County News

Protesters call for end to death penalty North County Times - North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County News: "Protesters call for end to death penalty"

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Morality and Reality

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: Morality and Reality

Mr. Brooks gets it wrong again.
Morality and Reality

Published: March 26, 2005

The core belief that social conservatives bring to cases like Terri Schiavo's is that the value of each individual life is intrinsic. The value of a life doesn't depend upon what a person can physically do, experience or achieve. The life of a comatose person or a fetus has the same dignity and worth as the life of a fully functioning adult.

Social conservatives go on to say that if we make distinctions about the value of different lives, if we downgrade those who are physically alive but mentally incapacitated, if we say that some people can be more easily moved toward death than others, then the strong will prey upon the helpless, and the dignity of all our lives will be diminished.

The true bright line is not between lives, they say, but between life and death. The proper rule, as Robert P. George of Princeton puts it, should be, "Always to care, never to kill."

The weakness of the social conservative case is that for most of us, especially in these days of advanced medical technology, it is hard to ignore distinctions between different modes of living. In some hospital rooms, there are people living forms of existence that upon direct contact do seem even worse than death.

Moreover, most of us believe in transcendence, in life beyond this one. Therefore why is it so necessary to cling ferociously to this life? Why not allow the soul to ascend to whatever is in store for it?

The core belief that social liberals bring to cases like Ms. Schiavo's is that the quality of life is a fundamental human value. They don't emphasize the bright line between life and death; they describe a continuum between a fully lived life and a life that, by the sort of incapacity Terri Schiavo has suffered, is mere existence.

On one end of that continuum are those fortunate enough to be able to live fully - to decide and act, to experience the world and be free. On the other end are those who, tragically, can do none of these things, and who are merely existing.

Social liberals warn against vitalism, the elevation of physical existence over other values. They say it is up to each individual or family to draw their own line to define when life passes to mere existence.

The central weakness of the liberal case is that it is morally thin. Once you say that it is up to individuals or families to draw their own lines separating life from existence, and reasonable people will differ, then you are taking a fundamental issue out of the realm of morality and into the realm of relativism and mere taste.

You are saying, as liberals do say, that society should be neutral and allow people to make their own choices. You are saying, as liberals do say, that we should be tolerant and nonjudgmental toward people who make different choices.

What begins as an appealing notion - that life and death are joined by a continuum - becomes vapid mush, because we are all invited to punt when it comes time to do the hard job of standing up for common principles, arguing right and wrong, and judging those who make bad decisions.

You end up exactly where many liberals ended up this week, trying to shift arguments away from morality and on to process.

If you surveyed the avalanche of TV and print commentary that descended upon us this week, you found social conservatives would start the discussion with a moral argument about the sanctity of life, and then social liberals would immediately start talking about jurisdictions, legalisms, politics and procedures. They were more comfortable talking about at what level the decision should be taken than what the decision should be.

Then, if social conservatives tried to push their moral claims, you'd find liberals accusing them of turning this country into a theocracy - which is an effort to cast all moral arguments beyond the realm of polite conversation.

Once moral argument is abandoned, there are no ethical checks, no universal standards, and everything is left to the convenience and sentiments of the individual survivors.

What I'm describing here is the clash of two serious but flawed arguments. The socially conservative argument has tremendous moral force, but doesn't accord with the reality we see when we walk through a hospice. The socially liberal argument is pragmatic, but lacks moral force.

No wonder many of us feel agonized this week, betwixt and between, as that poor woman slowly dehydrates.

E-mail: dabrooks@nytimes