Friday, April 08, 2005

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Iraq's economic catastrophe :: from :: news from occupied Iraq - ch

Iraq's economic catastrophe :: from :: news from occupied Iraq - ch

ChevronTexaco to invest over US$5 billion in heavy crude project in Venezuela | CP

ChevronTexaco to invest over US$5 billion in heavy crude project in Venezuela | CP

Daily Howler: The Catholicization of NBC News was on full display last evening

Daily Howler: The Catholicization of NBC News was on full display last evening

The origin of the 9/11 mysterious 'melt down'? - CMAQ

The origin of the 9/11 mysterious 'melt down'? - CMAQ: "


village voice > news > Liberty Beat by Nat Hentoff

village voice > news > Liberty Beat by Nat Hentoff

Liberty Beat
Whitewashing Rumsfeld
Circling the wagons around the defense secretary and his commander in chief

by Nat Hentoff
April 4th, 2005 3:56 PM alert me by e-mail
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I'm perfectly comfortable in telling you [that] our country is one that safeguards human rights and human dignity. George W. Bush to a Russian reporter in Slovakia, February 24


Mehboob Ahmad, a 35-year-old Afghan, was left hanging upside down by a chain, sexually assaulted, probed anally, threatened with a snarling dog at close range. Los Angeles Times, March 2, on Ali et al. v. Rumsfeld, a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First detailing Rumsfeld's responsibility for the torture and other abuses of U.S. detainees


Then [the guard] brought a box of food and he made me stand on it, and he started punishing me. Then a tall black soldier came and put electrical wires on my fingers and toes and on my penis, and I had a bag over my head. Then he was saying, "which switch is on for electricity?" "United States of America: Human Dignity Denied: Torture and Accountability in the 'War on Terror,' " Amnesty International, 200-page report


On March 10, Vice Admiral Albert T. Church III, former navy inspector general, presented the "Church report" to the Armed Services Committee—purporting to be the most comprehensive of all the official investigations into alleged abuse of American detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq and at Guantánamo.

Church had been appointed by the secretary of defense to conduct the investigation. At a press conference on March 10, he said he had not interviewed chief policy maker Rumsfeld for this definitive investigation because he didn't think it was necessary.

Not surprisingly, the vice admiral concluded in his report that the Department of Defense "did not promulgate interrogation policies . . . that directed, sanctioned or encouraged the torture or abuse of detainees."

He added, "[The] vast majority of detainees held by U.S. forces have been treated humanely." Lest he appear clueless as to actual reports from the prisons by troubled FBI and counterintelligence agents there, Church slipped in the comment, "There was a failure to react to early warning signs of abuse."

In my recent column "Defendant Rumsfeld" (March 23-29), I had space for only a small part of the extensive, documented cases of torture and other abuses in the ACLU and Human Rights First lawsuit filed on March 1 against the ever self-confident Rumsfeld.

Shamefully, most of the media, in their continually expanding forms, gave minimal attention—often none at all—to this historic legal action demanding accountability from a secretary of defense during wartime.

The media gave much more space and time to Vice Admiral Church's genuflection to his superior in the chain of command. The Washington Post, however, characteristically refused to be cozened by Albert T. Church III. In a March 13 editorial, "More Excuses," that sharply vigilant newspaper called the Church report "a blatant example of . . . whitewashing," and continued, reinforcing the ACLU/Human Rights First lawsuit:

"[D]ecisions by Mr. Rumsfeld and the Justice Department to permit coercive interrogation techniques previously considered unacceptable for U.S. personnel influenced practices at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and later spread to Afghanistan and Iraq. Methods such as hooding, enforced nudity, sensory deprivation and the use of dogs to terrorize—all originally approved by the defense secretary—were widely employed, even though they violate the Geneva Conventions.

"But," The Washington Post then cut to the core of this whitewashing not only of Donald Rumsfeld but also of Commander in Chief George W. Bush: "But no genuinely independent investigator has been empowered to connect these decisions and events and conclude where accountability truly should lie. Congress could put a stop to this bureaucratic cover-up, but despite loud public protestations, its Republican leadership appears not to have the stomach to do so." (Emphasis added.)

I especially admired the stinging indictment in the last sentence of this editorial: "Willingly or not, congressional Republicans are identifying themselves as a party ready to accept systematic American violations of human rights." (Emphasis added.) TSA Slated for Dismantling TSA Slated for
TSA Slated for Dismantling

By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 8, 2005; Page A01

The Transportation Security Administration, once the flagship agency in the nation's $20 billion effort to protect air travelers, is now slated for dismantling.

The latest sign came yesterday when the Bush administration asked David M. Stone, the TSA's director, to step down in June, according to aviation and government sources. Stone is the third top administrator to leave the three-year-old agency, which was swiftly created in the chaos and patriotism following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The TSA absorbed divisions of other agencies such as Federal Aviation Administration only to find itself now the victim of a massive reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security.

The TSA has been plagued by operational missteps, public relations blunders and criticism of its performance from both the public and legislators. Its "No Fly" list has mistakenly snared senators. Its security screeners have been arrested for stealing from luggage, and its passenger pat-downs have set off an outcry from women.

Under provisions of President Bush's 2006 budget proposal favored by Congress, the TSA will lose its signature programs in the reorganization of Homeland Security. The agency will likely become just manager of airport security screeners -- a responsibility that itself could diminish as private screening companies increasingly seek a comeback at U.S. airports. The agency's very existence, in fact, remains an open question, given that the legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security contains a clause permitting the elimination of TSA as "distinct entity" after November 2004."TSA, at the end of the day, is going to look more like the Postal Service," said Paul C. Light, a public service professor at New York University and a Brookings Institution scholar who has tracked the agency since its birth in February 2002. Light calls the TSA "one of the federal government's greatest successes of the past half century," and likens it to the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the late 1950s, which was also born amid great public excitement to serve an urgent national need.

But TSA's time in the spotlight is over and it should now step back to serve a more narrow role, Light said. "It's a labor-intensive delivery organization that is not going to be making many public policy decisions. Its basic job is to train and deploy screeners," he said.

Bush administration officials say they don't expect the demise of TSA, adding they will know little about the future of the agency until new Homeland Security Sec. Michael Chertoff completes his review of the department, which will likely prompt a major overhaul.

"TSA has taken significant steps to enhance the nation's transportation and aviation security over the course of the past two years and TSA continues to have the confidence, not only of nation's air travelers, but of departmental leadership, to continue in this important mission," said Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse. "Secretary Chertoff is open to adjustments in the way that DHS does business but will not advocate for or against any change until a thorough review of the changes are complete." The review is expected to be completed in May or June.The government has pumped more money into airline security than any other Homeland Security effort. Much of it goes toward salaries for more than 45,000 security screeners at over 400 airports.Travelers know TSA mostly by its operations at the airport security checkpoint, a highly public role that magnifies agency's smallest blunders and often forces it to have to defend itself.

"Republicans didn't want to create this [bureaucracy] in the first place. Democrats see security as an easy target. So you don't have anyone to defend it," said C. Stewart Verdery, Jr., former assistant secretary for policy and planning at Homeland Security's Border and Transportation Security directorate, which includes TSA. "If someone sneaks a knife through an airport, it makes the news. If the Coast Guard misses a drug boat, no one hears about it."The TSA won early plaudits for swiftly building the first new federal agency in decades and restoring confidence in the nation's aviation system. It achieved 51 goals demanded by Congress under tight deadlines and took over many responsibilities from the Federal Aviation Administration, including the expansion and operation of undercover air marshals. At its peak, it had 66,000 federal employees and met deadlines that were unthinkable by the federal government, installing luggage scanning technology and hiring a new workforce of airport security screeners within a year.

Bit by bit, however, the agency's responsibilities have steadily dwindled amid a succession of directors. Many of its operations have been folded into the Department of Homeland Security, which it joined in 2003. TSA scrapped early plans to create a broad law-enforcement division. The air marshals, who lobbied to leave the agency, were transferred to the department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement division -- to the dismay of TSA leaders. Next, the explosives unit left. Now, the agency's high-tech research labs in Atlantic City are also going to another division of the department.Last week, momentum accelerated in the push to replace federal screeners with private contractors at the nation's airports. FirstLine Transportation Security, a Cleveland private security firm, became the first company to win approval for liability coverage under the SAFETY Act, which means that if the firm takes over checkpoints, claims will be capped in the event of a terrorist attack.The move clears a major hurdle in the return of private screening companies. The law creating TSA allowed for federal screeners to be replaced by private ones after two years.

"We need to step back and look at the billions of dollars we spent on the system, which doesn't provide much more protection than we had before 9/11," said Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), referring to tests conducted by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General that gave a "poor" rating to TSA screeners for their ability to catch weapons at the checkpoint. Mica, a key lawmaker who helped write the law that created the agency and chairs the House aviation subcommittee, would like to see private contractors take over screening jobs at airports. "TSA was something we put in place in an emergency, but it needs to evolve. You could whittle TSA down to a very small organization and do a much better job."

TSA's three leaders each have had distinct management styles and approaches to security, creating a culture of perpetual change. Its first leader, John W. Magaw, was a former head of the U.S. Secret Service who wanted to make TSA into a broad law enforcement agency with cops at every checkpoint and agents directing investigations at airports. After six months of protest from Congress and the airline industry, Magaw was replaced by a popular, industry-friendly former Coast Guard Commandant, James M. Loy. Loy spent much of his first year getting rid of what he called Magaw's "stupid rules" such as the secondary screening at the gates. Loy was so well liked that he was promoted to the No. 2 job at Homeland Security, from which he resigned along with former Sec. Tom Ridge earlier this year.

Stone, TSA's current leader, is new to Washington and has been known for his cautious -- some say near paranoid -- approach to security. He presides over a much slimmer TSA, with 52,000 employees, and said he supports the president's proposed changes and is happy to give up programs -- even large ones. "I'm a big optimist," Stone said in a recent interview in is office, which looks out on the side of the Pentagon hit by a United Airlines jet on Sept. 11, 2001. "I'm not really concerned about turf if that's what is best for the American people. I want to look back 10 years from now and say we did it right at TSA."

TSA and Homeland Security spokesmen declined to comment on Stone's departure. "We don't discuss personnel issues," said Roehrkasse.

Every morning, Stone begins a daily two- to four-hour intelligence meeting, in which he and 40 of his top managers review incident reports from the country's 429 major airports and from train, bus and trucking systems. They comb reports of evacuated terminals, unruly passengers and unattended bags, looking for the next big threat.

Travelers, airport workers and flight crew members involved in incidents are nominated to the government's secret "watch lists," meaning they will be singled out for extra screening the next time they arrive at an airport. So-called "selectees" wind up on the agency's secret list because they disrupted a flight -- not necessarily because they are viewed as terrorists. For at least six months, the selectees will be pulled aside for extra scrutiny every time they fly. Several thousand names are believed to be on the list.

Stone, 52, believes the exercise shows that TSA still serves a critical role in the nation's intelligence network. He has told new Homeland Security Sec. Michael Chertoff that he hopes the agency will keep this role. Airlines have complained that hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent passengers, and even pilots, have been added to TSA's "selectee" list or that some names are confused with those on the "No Fly" list, subjecting travelers to delays and hassles at the airport.

At a February meeting between TSA and 18 major carriers, airline representatives were asked who had crew members on the list and "they all raised their hands," said one airline source who was present. Airline officials said crew members on the list must be stripped of their badges and cannot perform their duties, according to TSA rules.

Stone said "one or two" pilots who are approved to carry guns in the cockpit have been put on the selectee list in the past year. He said he recalls a "handful" of other pilots who have been added to the selectee list because they were involved in "outrageous" incidents. He cited an incident last year in which an intoxicated pilot punched a patron at a restaurant and threatened him.

"We take all of these incidents seriously and we work to resolve them quickly because we know that people's livelihoods are at stake," said TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield.

Going forward, Stone faces the challenge of keeping TSA's workforce motivated. Many screeners took their jobs expecting that the new agency would provide a path to a federal career. At a recent hearing, Stone acknowledged that screeners suffer from low morale. According to an internal survey last year, 35 percent of employees are satisfied with their job.

Stone said security directors around the country sympathize with him, saying: "You've got the toughest job in federal government. You're under the gun for every little thing. You're constantly under the microscope."

Iraqi Resistance Report for events of Wednesday, 6 April 2005. :: from :: news from occupied Iraq - ch

Iraqi Resistance Report for events of Wednesday, 6 April 2005. :: from :: news from occupied Iraq - ch

Un-Embed the Media :: from :: news from occupied Iraq - ch

Un-Embed the Media :: from :: news from occupied Iraq - chUn-Embed the Media
Amy Goodman and David Goodman, Baltimore Sun

Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.The next morning I was visited at my home by two Secret Service special agents. "Do you know why we're here?" "No, I haven't a clue." "Do you mind if we speak to you?"

Hoffmania!: Slowing Down to See the Train Wreck

Hoffmania!: Slowing Down to See the Train Wreck

Pic for Fun

Wonkette - Schiavo Memo Case Takes Sinister Twist

Wonkette - Schiavo Memo Case Takes Sinister Twist

Big Brass Blog

Big Brass Blog
The Catholic League's mostly unhinged mouthpiece William Donohue and the Freepi actually peg Bill "Loofah" O'Reilly for the pathological liar that he is. It's beautiful seeing them eat their own. First Donohue: