Sunday, November 06, 2005

Weather Men

Yahoo! News
U.S. Military Wants to Own the Weather

Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
SPACE.comMon Oct 31,10:00 AM ET

The one-two hurricane punch from Katrina and Wilma along with predictions of more severe weather in the future has scientists pondering ways to save lives, protect property and possibly even control the weather.

While efforts to tame storms have so far been clouded by failure, some researchers aren’t willing to give up the fight. And even if changing the weather proves overly challenging, residents and disaster officials can do a better job planning and reacting.

In fact, military officials and weather modification experts could be on the verge of joining forces to better gauge, react to, and possibly nullify future hostile forces churned out by Mother Nature.

While some consider the idea farfetched, some military tacticians have already pondered ways to turn weather into a weapon.

Harbinger of things to come?

The U.S. military reaction in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that slammed the U.S. Gulf coast might be viewed as a harbinger of things to come. While in this case it was joint air and space operations to deal with after-the-fact problems, perhaps the foundation for how to fend off disastrous weather may also be forming.

Numbers of spaceborne assets were tapped, among them:
Navigation and timing signals from the Global Positioning System (GPS) of satellites; The Global Broadcast Service, a one-way, space-based, high-capacity broadcast communication system; The Army’s Spectral Operations Resource Center to exploit commercial remote sensing satellite imagery and prepare high-resolution images to civilian and military responders to permit a better understanding of the devastated terrain; U.S. Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites that compared "lights at night" images before and after the disaster to provide data on human activity.

Is it far-fetched to see in this response the embryonic stages of an integrated military/civilian weather reaction and control system?

Mandate to continually improve

The use of space-based equipment to assist in clean-up operations -- with a look toward future prospects -- was recently noted by General Lance Lord, Commander, Air Force Space Command at an October 20th Pacific Space Leadership Forum in Hawaii.

"We saw first hand the common need for space after the December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean," Lord said. "Natural disasters don’t respect international boundaries. Space capabilities were leveraged immediately after the tsunami to help in the search and rescue effort…but what about before the disaster?"

Lord said that an even better situation is to have predicted the coming disaster and warned those in harm’s way. "No matter what your flag or where you waive it from...the possibility of saving hundreds of thousands of people is a mandate to continually improve," he advised.

The U.S. Air Force is also looking at ways to make satellites and satellite launches cheaper and also reduce the amount of time it takes to launch into space from months to weeks to days and hours, Lord said. Having that capability will increase responsiveness to international needs, he said, such as the ability to send up a satellite to help collect information and enhance communications when dealing with international disasters.

Thunderbolts on demand

What would a military strategist gain in having an "on-switch" to the weather?

Clearly, it offers the ability to degrade the effectiveness of enemy forces. That could come from flooding an opponent’s encampment or airfield to generating downright downpours that disrupt enemy troop comfort levels. On the flipside, sparking a drought that cuts off fresh water can stir up morale problems for warfighting foes.

Even fooling around with fog and clouds can deny or create concealment – whichever weather manipulation does the needed job.

In this regard, nanotechnology could be utilized to create clouds of tiny smart particles. Atmospherically buoyant, these ultra-small computer particles could navigate themselves to block optical sensors. Alternatively, they might be used to provide an atmospheric electrical potential difference -- a way to precisely aim and time lightning strikes over the enemy’s head – thereby concoct thunderbolts on demand.

Perhaps that’s too far out for some. But some blue sky thinkers have already looked into these and other scenarios in "Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025" – a research paper written by a seven person team of military officers and presented in 1996 as part of a larger study dubbed Air Force 2025.

Global stresses

That report came with requisite disclaimers, such as the views expressed were those of the authors and didn’t reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the United States government. Furthermore, the report was flagged as containing fictional representations of future situations and scenarios.

On the other hand, Air Force 2025 was a study that complied with a directive from the chief of staff of the Air Force "to examine the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States will require to remain the dominant air and space force in the future."

"Current technologies that will mature over the next 30 years will offer anyone who has the necessary resources the ability to modify weather patterns and their corresponding effects, at least on the local scale," the authors of the report explained. "Current demographic, economic, and environmental trends will create global stresses that provide the impetus necessary for many countries or groups to turn this weather-modification ability into a capability."

Pulling it all together

The report on weather-altering ideas underscored the capacity to harness such power in the not too distant future.

"Assuming that in 2025 our national security strategy includes weather-modification, its use in our national military strategy will naturally follow. Besides the significant benefits an operational capability would provide, another motivation to pursue weather-modification is to deter and counter potential adversaries," the report stated. "The technology is there, waiting for us to pull it all together," the authors noted.

In 2025, the report summarized, U.S. aerospace forces can "own the weather" by capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies to war-fighting applications.

"Such a capability offers the war fighter tools to shape the battlespace in ways never before possible. It provides opportunities to impact operations across the full spectrum of conflict and is pertinent to all possible futures," the report concluded.

But if whipping up weather can be part of a warfighter’s tool kit, couldn’t those talents be utilized to retarget or neutralize life, limb and property-destroying storms?

All-weather worries

"It is time to provide funds for application of the scientific method to weather modification and control," said Bernard Eastlund, chief technical officer and founder of Eastlund Scientific Enterprises Corporation in San Diego, California.

Eastlund’s background is in plasma physics and commercial applications of microwave plasmas. At a lecture early this month at Penn State Lehigh Campus in Fogelsville, Pennsylvania, he outlined new concepts for electromagnetic wave interactions with the atmosphere that, among a range of jobs, could be applied to weather modification research.

"The technology of artificial ionospheric heating could be as important for weather modification research as accelerators have been for particle physics," Eastlund explained.

In September, Eastland filed a patent on a way to create artificial ionized plasma patterns with megawatts of power using inexpensive microwave power sources. This all-weather technique, he noted, can be used to heat specific regions of the atmosphere.

Eastlund’s research is tuned to artificial generation of acoustic and gravitational waves in the atmosphere. The heating of steering winds to help shove around mesocyclones and hurricanes, as well as controlling electrical conductivity of the atmosphere is also on his investigative agenda.

Carefully tailored program plan

Eastlund said that the reduction in severity or impact of severe weather could be demonstrated as part of a carefully tailored program plan.

"In my opinion, the new technology for use of artificial plasma layers in the atmosphere: as heater elements to modify steering winds, as a modifier of electrostatic potential to influence lightning distribution, and for generation of acoustic and gravitational waves, could ultimately provide a core technology for a science of severe weather modification," Eastlund told

The first experiments of a program, Eastlund emphasized, would be very small, and designed for safety. For example, a sample of air in a jet stream could be heated with a pilot experimental installation. Such experiments would utilize relatively small amounts of power, between one and ten megawatts, he pointed out.

Both ground-based and space weather diagnostic instruments could measure the effect. Computer simulations could compare these results with predicted effects. This process can be iterated until reliable information is obtained on the effects of modifying the wind.

Computer simulations of hurricanes, Eastlund continued, are designed to determine the most important wind fields in hurricane formation. Computer simulations of mesocyclones use steering wind input data to predict severe storm development.

After about 5 years of such research, and further development of weather codes, a pilot experiment to modify the steering winds of a mesocylone might be safely attempted. Such an experiment would probably require 50 to 100 megawatts, Eastlund speculated.

"I estimate this new science of weather modification will take 10 to 20 years to mature to the point where it is useful for controlling the severity and impact of severe weather systems as large as hurricanes," Eastlund explained.

Inadvertent effects?

Another reason for embarking on this new science could be to make sure inadvertent effects of existing projects, such as the heating of the ionosphere and modifications of the polar electrojet, are not having effects on weather, Eastlund stated.

As example, Eastlund pointed to the High frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP). This is a major Arctic facility for upper atmospheric and solar-terrestrial research, being built on a Department of Defense-owned site near Gakona, Alaska.

Eastlund wonders if HAARP does, in fact, generate gravity waves. If so, can those waves in turn influence severe weather systems?

Started in 1990, the unclassified HAARP program is jointly managed by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research. Researchers at the site make use of a high-power ionospheric research instrument to temporarily excite a limited area of the ionosphere for scientific study, observing and measuring the excited region using a suite of devices.

The fundamental goal of research conducted at the facility is to study and understand natural phenomena occurring in the Earth’s ionosphere and near-space environment. According to the HAARP website, those scientific investigations will have major value in the design of future communication and navigation systems for both military and civilian use.

Messing with Mother Nature

Who best to have their hands on the weather control switches?

The last large hurricane modification experiments -- under Project Stormfury -- were carried out by the U.S. Air Force, Eastlund said. "It is likely the Department of Defense would be the lead agency in any new efforts in severe storm modification."

Additionally, federal laboratories with their extensive computational modeling skills would also play a lead role in the development of a science of weather modification. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would find their respective niches too. The satellite diagnostic capabilities in those agencies would play a strong role, Eastlund suggested.

It appears that only modest amounts of government dollars have been spent on weather modification over the last five years.

"Hurricane Katrina could cost $300 billion by itself," Eastlund said. "In my opinion, it is time for a serious scientific effort in weather modification."

"Global warming appears to be a reality, and records could continue to fall in the hurricane severity sweepstakes," Eastlund said. "When I first suggested the use of space-based assets for the prevention of tornadoes, many people expressed their displeasure with ‘messing with Mother Nature’. I still remember hiding in the closet of our house in Houston as a tornado passed overhead. It is time for serious, controlled research, with the emphasis on safety, for the good of mankind," he concluded.

This article is part of's weekly Mystery Monday series.
Natural Disasters: Top 10 U.S. Threats Taking the Twist Out of a Twister Zap! Rockets Trigger Lightning, Scientists Discover X-rays Billion Dollar Weather Disasters

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Copyright © 2005

I'm Under Your Thumb, Mr. G-MAN

Sunday :: November 06, 2005
The FBI Is Spying on You and Me

The Washington Post reports that the FBI has been obtaining and reviewing records of ordinary Americans in the name of the war on terror through the use of national security letters that gag the recipients.

"The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms. The letters -- one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people -- are extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans. "

What's a national security letter?

Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. The Bush administration defeated legislation and a lawsuit to require a public accounting, and has offered no example in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.

Keep reading the article. It gets scarier by the paragraph.

The records it gathers describe where a person makes and spends money, with whom he lives and lived before, how much he gambles, what he buys online, what he pawns and borrows, where he travels, how he invests, what he searches for and reads on the Web, and who telephones or e-mails him at home and at work.

There is no judicial oversight of national security letters. The Patriot Act lessened the standard the FBI is to use in issuing the letters.

Under the old legal test, the FBI had to have "specific and articulable" reasons to believe the records it gathered in secret belonged to a terrorist or a spy. Now the bureau needs only to certify that the records are "sought for" or "relevant to" an investigation "to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." That standard enables investigators to look for conspirators by sifting the records of nearly anyone who crosses a suspect's path.

The Justice Department makes an unconvincing argument that national security letters are similar to grand jury subpoenas.

Grand juries tend to have a narrower focus because they investigate past conduct, not the speculative threat of unknown future attacks. Recipients of grand jury subpoenas are generally free to discuss the subpoenas publicly. And there are strict limits on sharing grand jury information with government agencies.

Who in the FBI can issue them? The better question might be, "Who can't?"

Since the Patriot Act, the FBI has dispersed the authority to sign national security letters to more than five dozen supervisors -- the special agents in charge of field offices, the deputies in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, and a few senior headquarters officials.

When can they be issued?

FBI rules established after the Patriot Act allow the letters to be issued long before a case is judged substantial enough for a "full field investigation." Agents commonly use the letters now in "preliminary investigations" and in the "threat assessments" that precede a decision whether to launch an investigation.

The FBI thinks its new power is just fine and dandy.

"Congress has given us this tool to obtain basic telephone data, basic banking data, basic credit reports," said Caproni, who is among the officials with signature authority. "The fact that a national security letter is a routine tool used, that doesn't bother me."

The Justice Department is happy with national security letters, too:

To Jeffrey Breinholt, deputy chief of the Justice Department's counterterrorism section, the civil liberties objections "are eccentric." Data collection on the innocent, he said, does no harm unless "someone [decides] to act on the information, put you on a no-fly list or something." Only a serious error, he said, could lead the government, based on nothing more than someone's bank or phone records, "to freeze your assets or go after you criminally and you suffer consequences that are irreparable." He added: "It's a pretty small chance."

What happens to your information after the investigation is over and establishes that you have done nothing wrong? Does the FBI destroy its data file on you? No. It used to, but former Attorney General John Ashcroft changed the rules.

Two years ago, Ashcroft rescinded a 1995 guideline directing that information obtained through a national security letter about a U.S. citizen or resident "shall be destroyed by the FBI and not further disseminated" if it proves "not relevant to the purposes for which it was collected." Ashcroft's new order was that "the FBI shall retain" all records it collects and "may disseminate" them freely among federal agencies.

National security letters aren't the only means the government is using to spy on ordinary Americans. Ratchet national security letters up a few notches and you get to data mining.

[Ascroft's new] order directed the FBI to develop "data mining" technology to probe for hidden links among the people in its growing cache of electronic files. According to an FBI status report, the bureau's office of intelligence] began operating in January 2004 a new Investigative Data Warehouse, based on the same Oracle technology used by the CIA. The CIA is generally forbidden to keep such files on Americans. Data mining intensifies the impact of national security letters, because anyone's personal files can be scrutinized again and again without a fresh need to establish relevance.

Here’s where ChoicePoint and other commercial data services join the picture:

Ashcroft's new guidelines allowed the FBI for the first time to add to government files consumer data from commercial providers such as LexisNexis and ChoicePoint Inc. Previous attorneys general had decided that such a move would violate the Privacy Act. In many field offices, agents said, they now have access to ChoicePoint in their squad rooms.

So when you get stopped for a traffic ticket and are told to wait in your car while the officer radios in your driver’s license information, what he gets back from headquarters likely will include everything from a credit report to lawsuits you've been involved in to information about the time your neighbor called the police to complain your dog was barking too loud. Unless, of course, his squad car is equipped with its own terminal, and then he can access this information directly on the highway.

Still, you say, this is just too remote for you to worry about because you don't even know anyone who knows anyone who knows a terrorist. Do you stay at hotels? Do you ever rent a car? Have you ever spent New Year's, for example, in Las Vegas? Read on.

On December 21, 2003 Homeland Security issued a terror alert due to information about a possible New Year’s terror attack in Las Vegas. The FBI's Proactive Data Exploitation Unit and its chief, Gurvais Grigg, were called upon to serve.

An average of about 300,000 tourists a day stayed an average of four days each, presenting Grigg's team with close to a million potential suspects in the ensuing two weeks....Government and private sector sources who followed the operation described epic efforts to vacuum up information.....
An interagency task force began pulling together the records of every hotel guest, everyone who rented a car or truck, every lease on a storage space, and every airplane passenger who landed in the city. Grigg's unit filtered that population for leads. Any link to the known terrorist universe -- a shared address or utility account, a check deposited, a telephone call -- could give investigators a start.

When cooperation began drying up for voluntary release of records, the FBI turned to national security letters and grand jury subpoenas.

Early in the operation, according to participants, the FBI gathered casino executives and asked for guest lists. The MGM Mirage company, followed by others, balked.

How did word get out?

The operation remained secret for about a week. Then casino sources told Rod Smith, gaming editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, that the FBI had served national security letters on them.

According to one account, the FBI had some pressure tactics up its sleeve.

Agents encouraged voluntary disclosures, he said, by raising the prospect that the FBI would use the letters to gather something more sensitive: the gambling profiles of casino guests.

So, does what happened in Vegas really stay in Vegas? Of course not.

What happened in Vegas stayed in federal data banks. Under Ashcroft's revised policy, none of the information has been purged. For every visitor, Breinholt said, "the record of the Las Vegas hotel room would still exist."

And what happened with the terror alert?

Grigg's operation found no suspect, and the orange alert ended on Jan. 10, 2004. "The whole thing washed out," one participant said.

If you are counting on the hotels, rental car agencies or internet companies to raise a challenge when served with national security letters for your information, you're likely to be out of luck.

Resistance to national security letters is rare. Most of them are served on large companies in highly regulated industries, with business interests that favor cooperation. The in-house lawyers who handle such cases, said Jim Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology, "are often former prosecutors -- instinctively pro-government but also instinctively by-the-books." National security letters give them a shield against liability to their customers.

Nor, in my opinion, is the proposed Patriot Act expansion bill currently in conference between the House and Senate likely to help ordinary Americans:

The House and Senate bills renewing the Patriot Act do not tighten privacy protections, but they offer a concession to business interests. In both bills, a judge may modify a national security letter if it imposes an "unreasonable" or "oppressive" burden on the company that is asked for information.

But you won't be told the request is made, so you won't know to ask the company holding your data to challenge the letter. Except perhaps for Las Vegas casinos that want to maintain customer privacy, this mostly seems to be a cosmetic reform.

How many of the national security letters have yielded information helpful to a terrorist inquiry? No one knows because there is no such reporting requirement.

In the executive branch, no FBI or Justice Department official audits the use of national security letters to assess whether they are appropriately targeted, lawfully applied or contribute important facts to an investigation.

Here's another joke of a reporting requirement. Inspector General Glenn Fine files reports on abuses twice a year. He hasn't found any. Ask yourself, how can someone report an abuse if he is never notified of the search in the first instance? As Fine himself told Congress:

We do rely upon complaints coming in," Fine said in House testimony in May. He added: "To the extent that people do not know of anything happening to them, there is an issue about whether they can complain. So, I think that's a legitimate question."

The ACLU has been actively litigating the legality of the National Security Letters. Their latest press release is here.

Also, the ACLU is less critical than I am of activity taking place in Congress now where conferees of the Senate and House are working out a compromise version of Patriot Act extension legislation that will resolve differences in versions passed by each in the last Congress. The ACLU reports that the Senate version contains some modest improvements respecting your privacy rights while the House version contains further intrusions. There is still time to contact the conferees. The ACLU provides more information and a sample letter here.

History shows that once new power is granted to the government, it rarely gives it back. Even if you wouldn’t recognize a terrorist if he were standing in front of you, let alone consort with one, now is the time to raise your voice
Posted Sunday :: November 06, 2005| Civil Liberties

Friends of Tommy Delay


Thursday, November 3, 2005 · Last updated 12:23 p.m. PT

AP: DeLay's staff tried to help Abramoff

Jack Abramoff, right, listens to his attorney Abbe Lowell on Capitol Hill in this Sept. 29, 2004 file photo, as Abramoff refused to answer questions before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, Files)

WASHINGTON -- Investigators have unearthed e-mails showing Rep. Tom DeLay's office tried to help lobbyist Jack Abramoff get a high-level Bush administration meeting for Indian clients, an effort that succeeded after the tribes began making a quarter-million dollars in donations.

Tribal money went both to a group founded by Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the Cabinet secretary Abramoff was trying to meet, as well as to DeLay's personal charity.

"Do you think you could call that friend and set up a meeting," then-DeLay staffer Tony Rudy wrote to fellow House aide Thomas Pyle in a Dec. 29, 2000, e-mail titled "Gale Norton-Interior Secretary." President Bush had nominated Norton to the post the day before.

Rudy wrote Abramoff that same day promising he had "good news" about securing a meeting with Norton, forwarding information about the environmental group Norton had founded, according to e-mails obtained by investigators and reviewed by The Associated Press. Rudy's message to Abramoff was sent from Congress' official e-mail system.

Within months, Abramoff clients donated heavily to the Norton-founded group and to DeLay's personal charity. The Coushatta Indian tribe, for instance, wrote checks in March 2001 for $50,000 to the Norton group and $10,000 to the DeLay Foundation, tribal records show.

The lobbyist and the Coushattas eventually won face-to-face time with the secretary during a Sept. 24, 2001, dinner sponsored by the group she had founded.

Abramoff's clients were trying to stop a rival Indian tribe from winning Interior Department approval to build a casino.

Federal and congressional investigators have obtained the DeLay staff e-mails from Abramoff's former lobbying firm as they try to determine whether officials in Congress or the Bush administration provided government assistance in exchange for the money Abramoff's clients donated to Republican causes.

The assistance to Abramoff from DeLay's staff occurred just a few months after DeLay received political donations, free use of a Washington arena skybox to reward donors and an all-expense-paid trip to play golf in Scotland arranged by Abramoff and mostly underwritten by his clients.

DeLay's lawyer said this week his client probably didn't know about the assistance his aides gave Abramoff five years ago and does not believe his office would ever provide government assistance in exchange for political donations.

"On its face it's not unusual for staffers to assist people trying to get a meeting with an executive branch agency and that would be something a member of Congress would not typically be involved with. That's staff work," attorney Richard Cullen said in an interview.

"Tom DeLay conducts himself consistent with the highest standards of conduct and he mandated the same for his staff," Cullen said.

Shortly after the e-mail exchanges, the two DeLay aides, Rudy and Pyle, left DeLay's office for private sector jobs. Rudy went to work for Abramoff while Pyle went to work for the Koch pipeline company, Neither returned calls to their offices this week seeking comment.

Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at the Washington University law school in St. Louis, said the e-mails suggest a conflict of interest and leave the public wondering whether DeLay staffers tried to help tribes outside his home state because of Abramoff's gifts to their boss.

"It certainly suggests a kind of corruption, not the kind of corruption that can be prosecuted under the bribery law but the kind that shows a manipulation of system," Clark said.

"We can't look inside DeLay's or his staffers' minds. But we can detect what happened on the outside, and assert that a reasonable person may feel gratitude and do a favor because of that gratitude," she said.

The December 2000 e-mails show DeLay's office identified - as an avenue for winning a meeting with the new interior secretary - Norton's former political fundraiser, Italia Federici, and a conservative environmental group called the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA).

Norton founded the group in 1999 with Federici and conservative activist Grover Norquist, a close ally of President Bush. When Norton was named interior secretary by Bush, Federici took over as president of CREA.

Pyle reported to Rudy that he was trying to reach a contact close to Norton and that Federici might be helpful. "Yes, I spoke to her yesterday and she is scrambling right now to get in touch with Gale. Italia helped co-found CREA with Gale and worked on her Senate campaign," Pyle wrote.

Rudy gave an update to Abramoff, forwarding Pyle's information to the lobbyist and suggesting Norquist might provide another avenue to help secure a meeting with the interior secretary.

"Good news. I think she (Norton) knows Grover," Rudy wrote in an e-mail from his official congressional account to Abramoff.

Federici helped Norton raise money for an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in Colorado and she, Norquist and Norton formed CREA in 1999 as a tax-exempt organization highlighting Republican ideas for the environment.

Within a few months of the e-mail exchange, Abramoff's Indian tribal clients began sending more than a quarter-million dollars in donations to CREA and Federici.

Abramoff sent an e-mail to one of the tribes, the Coushattas, suggesting Interior officials wanted the donations to go to Norton's group. "I met with the Interior guys today and they were ecstatic that the tribe was going to help. If you can get me a check via federal made out to `Council for Republican Environmental Advocacy' for $50K that would be great," Abramoff wrote in one e-mail.

The tribe obliged. And a short while later, Federici left a message with Norton's office seeking a meeting for the tribe's leaders, according to evidence gathered by investigators. The meeting in April 2001 was rejected by Norton's staff, Interior officials told AP.

Coushatta tribal counsel Jimmy Faircloth told AP that Abramoff instructed the tribe to give donations to CREA of $50,000 in March 2001 and $100,000 in March 2002 "for the purpose of building a lobbying presence in Washington."

The tribe eventually scored face-to-face time with Norton and her top deputy, Steven Griles, on Sept. 24, 2001, at a private fundraising dinner arranged by CREA. Tribal chairman Lovelin Poncho and Abramoff sat at Norton's table while tribal attorney Kathy Van Hoof sat with Griles, Faircloth said.

The Coushattas weren't alone in donating to CREA. Federal investigators have tracked more than a quarter-million dollars in tribal money to the group, including donations from the Saginaw Chippewa tribe of Michigan and the Tiguas of Texas.

Alito and VAnguard

Samuel Alito - Unethical Judge Who Broke Vow to Congress
Posted by Czolgosz
Added to homepage Fri Nov 04th 2005, 07:29 AM ET

Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. ruled in a 2002 case in favor of the Vanguard mutual fund company at a time when he owned more than $390,000 in Vanguard funds and later complained about an effort to remove him from the case, court records show -- despite an earlier promise to recuse himself from cases involving the company. . . . (L)awyer, John G. S. Flym, a retired Northeastern law professor, said in an interview yesterday that Alito's ''lack of integrity is so flagrant" in the case that he should be disqualified as a Supreme Court nominee.

Maharaj, 50, discovered Alito's ownership of Vanguard shares in 2002 when she requested his financial disclosure forms after he ruled against her appeal . . . ''I just started seeing Vanguard after Vanguard, and I almost fell to the floor," she said in an interview at the Jamaica Plain home she shares with a friend after losing her own home in the course of the prolonged litigation. ''I just couldn't believe that it could be so blatant."

In 1990, when Alito was seeking US Senate approval for his nomination to be a circuit judge, he said in written answers to a questionnaire that he would disqualify himself from ''any cases involving the Vanguard companies."

After Alito ruled in Vanguard's favor in the Maharaj case, he complained about her efforts to vacate his decision and remove him from the case, writing to the chief administrative judge of the federal appeals court on which he sat in 2003: ''I do not believe that I am required to disqualify myself based on my ownership of the mutual fund shares."

. . . .

In the 1990 questionnaire, Alito was asked how he would resolve potential conflicts of interest. He responded: I do not believe that conflicts of interest relating to my financial interests are likely to arise. I would, however, disqualify myself from any cases involving the Vanguard companies."

Pimp My WAR

Daily Howler logo
WHY IT PERSISTS! Even Clinton said there were WMD! The claim is irrelevant, but it persists—because of our liberal elites: // link // print // previous // next //

WHY IT PERSISTS: How inept is our current liberal elite? How hapless are modern liberals at handling even basic information—at framing even the most obvious message? To get an idea, let’s go back to John McCain’s statement on Thursday night’s Larry King Live:

KING (11/3/05): With Senator John McCain, author of Character is Destiny. Is the Senate going to have a full investigation of what led up to Iraq?

MCCAIN: Well, Larry, I think that we have investigations going on and we have had investigations. I was on a commission of weapons of mass destruction where we reached several conclusions, including the obvious one that there was a colossal intelligence failure but also that every intelligence agency in the world believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he did a pretty good job of convincing his own generals that he had them.

Other countries thought there were WMD! Why, even President Clinton said it! These ubiquitous talking-points drove David Brooks’ appalling New York Times column last Thursday. And yet, this talking-point—Even Clinton said there were weapons!—is completely irrelevant to the question of whether the Bush Admin lied us to war. The fact that this talking-point still exists—no, the fact that it’s seen and heard almost everywhere—helps us see how hopeless we have been at handling even basic info and framing even bone-simple messages. How inept are our liberal elites? The persistence of this irrelevant (but effective) talking-point surely lets us see.

Even Clinton said there were WMD! This claim, while accurate, is completely irrelevant to the question of whether Bush lied us to war. What follows are a few of the things Clinton and Democrats didn’t say in the run-up to war. Yet these are claims—starting in the fall of 02—which took us to war in Iraq:

1) President Clinton didn’t say: That Saddam could have a nuke within six months. That was the statement of Vice President Cheney—and it contradicted the state of the intelligence.

2) President Clinton didn’t say: That there was only one use for those aluminum tubes—that the tubes could only be used in nukes. That statement was made by Condoleezza Rice. It contradicted the state of the intelligence.

3) President Clinton didn’t say: That Iraq had unmanned aerial vehicles which it “could deliver biological weapons to its neighbors or, if transported, to other countries including the United States.” That clownish claim was made by Colin Powell in his presentation before the UN—the presentation which ended debate about the war. (In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward drew a devastating picture of the way Powell assembled this report. Liberal elites ignored it, though. Reading books is just too gosh-darn hard.)

4) President Clinton didn’t say: That Iraq could fire up its chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes. That was President Bush, in September 2002—making the statement which George Tenet derided as “the 45-minute shit.” President Clinton wasn’t talking this “shit;” it was Bush who was talking it. (In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward describes Tenet ridiculing Bush’s statement this way. Liberal elites ignored it.)

5) President Clinton didn’t say: That Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa. Whatever you’ve decided about this claim—we’d say it played an extremely small role in the run-up to war—it wasn’t Bill Clinton who made it.

6) And, of course, President Clinton didn’t say: That Iraq was involved in September 11. That was the Bush team, over and over. The claim was made to build the impression that Saddam was inclined to attack us. With those UAVs, for example. In as little as forty-five minutes.

The concept here isn’t all that tough. Yes, most people did believe that Iraq would have chemical or biological weapons. We’d assume that the Bush Admin actually thought this too.

But chemical and biological weapons weren’t a threat to the United States—so the Bush Admin began to pimp the idea that Saddam might also have nukes. The heavy pimping of the nukes began in August 2002—driven by blatant misstatements by Cheney, Rice and Bush, not by Clinton. At the same time, we heard that Saddam’s UAVs could deliver chem and bio to this country—and we heard that Saddam would surely do so if he could. (Just look at his role in September 11!) Bill Clinton didn’t say these things—these things were said by Bush/Cheney/Rice. And these were the claims, in the fall of 02, which actually took the nation to war. The claim that Saddam had WMD was not the claim which took us to war. It was the claims we’ve listed above—claims which were not made by Clinton.

The distinction here is unbelievably simple. A bright fourth-grader could probably make it. But Democratic and liberal elites have repeatedly failed to offer this point. In fact, Dems and libs have repeatedly gone on TV and gotten their brains beaten out on this topic. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/24/05. Prepare to avert your gaze in embarrassment.) Result? This utterly worthless, irrelevant point still helps drive the American discourse. Even the French thought Saddam had weapons! Even Clinton said there were WMD! These claims are irrelevant (if highly effective). But so what? Three years later, they persist—and drive our lives—because of our broken-down liberal elites. Empty, incapable, lazy, inept, stupid: These are just a few of the traits which have kept this worthless point in our lives, unrebutted on TV every dang night of the week..

HUMANS CAN’T GET DUMBER: Over the course of the past few years, we’ve charted the bloodshed when liberal spokesmen have gone on TV and made the following claim: Bush lied when he said there were WMD. We’ve linked you above to a three-part discussion, but the sheer stupidity reached its heights when Howard Dean did Meet the Press last May. Believe it or not, this did happen:

DEAN (5/22/05): I hate what the Republicans are doing to this country, I really do...I hate the dishonesty, you know, the idea that you'd put a program through Congress without telling people what it costs, I think that's wrong. Some of the things that the president said on our way into Iraq, they just weren't true, and I don't think that's right. So—

RUSSERT: Such as?

DEAN: Such as weapons of mass destruction, which we have all known about, but the—

RUSSERT: Well, you said there were weapons of mass destruction!

DEAN: I said I wasn't sure, but I said I thought there probably were. But the thing that really bothered me the most, which the 9-11 Commission said also wasn't true, is the insinuation that the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden [sic] had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States...

Is there any earthly way to be dumber? Forget Clinton; Dean himself had said there were weapons. But then he criticized Bush’s “dishonesty” because the president had said the same thing! (Again, we’ll bet you dollars to donuts that Bush believed there would be chem and bio.) And when he was challenged on this obvious point, he simply changed the subject! In part, this is why the public has the low opinion of Dems we read about in today’s Post. (“One bright spot for the Republicans is the low regard in which many Americans hold the Democrats. The public sees the Democrats as disorganized, lacking in clear ideas or a positive alternative to the GOP agenda, and bereft of appealing leaders.” For once, the public is right.)

How can our spokesmen be so inept? That’s a question for the gods. But if you want to know why this talking-point persists, just look back at Howard Dean fumbling on Meet the Press just this May. He could have mentioned the aluminum tubes. He could have mentioned Cheney’s time-table. He could have laughed at the “45-minute shit.” Instead, he criticized Bush—for saying what he himself had said—and he looked like a hack in the process.

The distinction we have drawn above is the simplest f*cking distinction on earth. But for three years now, the distinction has proven much too hard for our liberal/Democrat spokesmen to handle. President Clinton said there were weapons! Even the French thought there were WMD! The irrelevant talking-point persists to this day because of our feckless tribe’s unending failures. On the other side, message machines churn out winning points. Our message machine? It lies silent.

IT NEVER STOPS: To hear Mark Shields bungle this point, just click here, then click on “RealAudio.” (We’ll post the transcript of this NewsHour exchange when it becomes available.) Even Clinton said there were WMD! This irrelevant point persists because our “spokesmen”—spokesmen like Shields—are lazy, inept, worthless, feckless.

VISIT OUR IRRELEVANT ARCHIVES: We’ve made these points many times in the past (see, for example, the link above). But then, nothing on earth is more pointless than trying to inform our liberal elites—a group of people who still won’t discuss how Bush got into the White House to begin with. (They know. They just don’t want to discuss it. After all, their social friends were involved.) And yes, that would be one of the reasons we’re moving on to other subjects. In the future, we’ll discuss the interests of low-income kids—safe in the knowledge that no elite “liberal” would waste his time on such a subject.

Frank Rich: What Makes This War So Different?

The Mysterious Death of Pat Tillman
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 06 November 2005

It would be a compelling story," Patrick Fitzgerald said of the narrative Scooter Libby used to allegedly mislead investigators in the Valerie Wilson leak case, "if only it were true."

"Compelling" is higher praise than any Mr. Libby received for his one work of published fiction, a 1996 novel of "murder, passion and heart-stopping chases through the snow" called "The Apprentice." If you read the indictment, you'll see why he merits the critical upgrade. The intricate tale he told the F.B.I. and the grand jury - with its endlessly clever contradictions of his White House colleagues' testimony - is compelling even without the sex and the snow.

The medium is the message. This administration just loves to beguile us with a rollicking good story, truth be damned. The propagandistic fable exposed by the leak case - the apocalyptic imminence of Saddam's mushroom clouds - was only the first of its genre. Given that potboiler's huge success at selling the war, its authors couldn't resist providing sequels once we were in Iraq. As the American casualty toll surges past 2,000 and Veterans Day approaches, we need to remember and unmask those scenarios as well. Our troops and their families have too often made the ultimate sacrifice for the official fictions that have corrupted every stage of this war.

If there's a tragic example that can serve as representative of the rest, it is surely that of Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back who famously volunteered for the Army in the spring after 9/11, giving up a $3.6 million N.F.L. contract extension. Tillman wanted to pay something back to his country by pursuing the enemy that actually attacked it, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Instead he was sent to fight a war in Iraq that he didn't see coming when he enlisted because the administration was still hatching it in secret. Only on a second tour of duty was he finally sent into Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, where, on April 22, 2004, he was killed. On April 30, an official Army press release announcing his Silver Star citation filled in vivid details of his last battle. Tillman, it said, was storming a hill to take out the enemy, even as he "personally provided suppressive fire with an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun."

It would be a compelling story, if only it were true. Five weeks after Tillman's death, the Army acknowledged abruptly, without providing details, that he had "probably" died from friendly fire. Many months after that, investigative journalists at The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times reported that the Army's initial portrayal of his death had been not only bogus but also possibly a cover-up of something darker. "The records show that Tillman fought bravely and honorably until his last breath," Steve Coll wrote in The Post in December 2004. "They also show that his superiors exaggerated his actions and invented details as they burnished his legend in public, at the same time suppressing details that might tarnish Tillman's commanders."

This fall The San Francisco Chronicle uncovered still more details with the help of Tillman's divorced parents, who have each reluctantly gone public after receiving conflicting and heavily censored official reports on three Army investigations that only added to the mysteries surrounding their son's death. (Yet another inquiry is under way.) "The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons," said Patrick Tillman, Pat Tillman's father, who discovered that crucial evidence in the case, including his son's uniform and gear, had been destroyed almost immediately. "This cover-up started within minutes of Pat's death, and it started at high levels."

His accusations are far from wild. The Chronicle found that Gen. John Abizaid, the top American officer in Iraq, and others in his command had learned by April 29, 2004, that friendly fire had killed their star recruit. That was the day before the Army released its fictitious press release of Tillman's hillside firefight and four days before a nationally televised memorial service back home enshrined the fake account of his death. Yet Tillman's parents, his widow, his brother (who served in the same platoon) and politicians like John McCain (who spoke at Tillman's memorial) were not told the truth for another month.

Why? It's here where we find a repeat of the same pattern that drove the Valerie Wilson leak a year earlier. Faced with unwelcome news - from the front, from whistle-blowers, from scandal - this administration will always push back with change-the-subject stunts (like specious terror alerts), fake news or, as with Joseph Wilson, smear campaigns. Much as the White House was out to bring down Mr. Wilson because he threatened to expose its prewar hype of Saddam's supposed nuclear prowess, so the Pentagon might have been out to delay or rewrite a story that could be trouble when public opinion on the war itself was just starting to plummet.

It was an election year besides. Tillman's death came after a month of solid bad news for America and the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign alike: the publication of Richard Clarke's book about pre-9/11 administration counterterrorism fecklessness, the savage stringing up of the remains of American contractors in Falluja, the eruption of Sunni and Shiite insurgencies in six Iraqi cities, the first publication of illicit photos of flag-draped coffins. In the days just after Tillman's death, "60 Minutes II" first broadcast the Abu Ghraib photos, Ted Koppel read the names of the war's fallen on "Nightline," and the Pentagon's No. 2, the Iraqi war architect Paul Wolfowitz, understated by more than 200 the number of American casualties to date (722) in an embarrassing televised appearance before Congress.

Against this backdrop, it would not do to have it known that the most famous volunteer of the war might have been a victim of gross negligence or fratricide. Though Tillman himself was so idealistic that he refused publicity of any kind when in the Army, he was exploited by the war's cheerleaders as a recruitment lure and was needed to continue in that role after his death. (Even though he was adamantly against the Iraq war, according to friends and relatives interviewed by The Chronicle.)

"They blew up their poster boy," Patrick Tillman told The Post; he is convinced that "all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script" the fake narrative (or, as he puts it, "outright lies") that followed. Pat Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, was offended to discover that even President Bush wanted a cameo role in this screenplay: she told The Post that he had offered to tape a memorial to her son for a Cardinals game that would be televised shortly before Election Day. (She said no.)

In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Mary Tillman added: "They could have told us upfront that they were suspicious that it was a fratricide but they didn't. They wanted to use him for their purposes. It was good for the administration. It was before the elections. It was during the prison scandal. They needed something that looked good, and it was appalling that they would use him like that."

Appalling but consistent. The Pentagon has often failed to give the troops what they need to fight the war in Iraq, from proper support in manpower and planning at the invasion's outset to effective armor for battle to adequately financed health care for those who make it home. But when it comes to using troops in the duplicitous manner that Mary Tillman describes, the sky's the limit.

Pat Tillman's case is itself a replay of the fake "Rambo" escapades ascribed to Pfc. Jessica Lynch a year earlier, just when Operation Iraqi Freedom showed the first tentative signs of trouble and the Pentagon needed a feel-good distraction. As if to echo Mary Tillman, Ms. Lynch told Time magazine this year, "I was used as a symbol." But the troops aren't just used as symbols for the commander in chief's political purposes. They are also drafted to serve as photo-op props and extras, whether in an extravaganza like "Mission Accomplished" or a throwaway dog-and-pony show like the recent teleconference in which the president held a "conversation" with soldiers who sounded as spontaneous as the brainwashed G.I.'s in "The Manchurian Candidate."

As Mr. Bush's approval rating crashes into the 30's, he and the vice president are so desperate to wrap themselves in khaki that on the day of the Libby indictment, they took separate day trips to mouth the usual stay-the-course platitudes before military audiences. If this was a ploy to split the focus of cable news networks and the public, it failed. Perhaps Scooter Libby is hoping that a so-called faulty-memory defense will save him from jail, but too many other Americans are now refreshing their memories of what went down in the plotting and execution of the war in Iraq. What they find are harsh truths and buried secrets that even the most compelling administration scenarios can no longer disguise.