Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ray McGovern....We Romans

December 23, 2005
Cheney the Bully; Rockefeller the Coward
Will a Republican Senate Save the Republic?

Former CIA analyst

I'll say this for Vice President Dick Cheney: he puts it right out there, whether it is trying to ensure legal protection for those torturing prisoners, or insisting-as he did on Tuesday-that a wartime president "needs to have his powers unimpaired."

Supporters of this view are dredging up quotes from former officials like George H.W. Bush's attorney general William Barr who, according to the Washington Post, contends:

"The Constitution's intent when we're under attack from outside is to place maximum power in the president, and the other branches-and especially the courts-don't act as a check on the president's authority against the enemy."

So there we have it: the Bush administration contention that the president's power as commander in chief during wartime puts him above the law. Bush may bristle, as he did Monday, at a question from the press about "unchecked power," but that is plan English for it. Whether authorizing torture or wiretaps, he reserves the right to act irrespective of domestic or international law.

The question is whether Congress and the courts will acquiese in this usurpation of their own powers, or whether there are still enough men and women in those branches of government determined to honor their oath to defend the Constitution of the United States "from all enemies, foreign and domestic."

Some hope can be seen in a recent remark by Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who told reporters:

"I took an oath of office to the Constitution. I didn't take an oath of office to my party or to my president."

Two and a half years ago, when former ambassador Joseph Wilson exposed the president's mis-statement about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa, all the president's men and the woman were in high dudgeon over Wilson's op-ed expose in the New York Times. What infuriated them the most, I am convinced, was Wilson's pointed remark to Washingon Post reporters that the Iraq-Africa-uranium canard "begs the question regarding what else they are lying about." Quite a lot, we are finding out.

Other Abuses?

We need to ask a similar question. What undermining of our Constitution may be going on below the surface elsewhere in the intelligence community besides un-warranted eavesdropping on U.S. citizens? Under last year's intelligence reform legislation, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte has under his aegis not only the entire CIA but also a major part of the FBI. Under existing law, the CIA has no police powers and its operatives are generally enjoined against collecting intelligence information on American citizens.

Since citizens' constitutional protections do not sit atop the list of CIA priorities and its focus is abroad, it pays those protections little heed. In contrast, FBI personnel, for judicial and other reasons, are trained to observe those protections scrupulously and to avoid going beyond what the law permits. That accounts, in part, for why FBI agents at the Guantanamo detention facility judged it necessary to report the abuses they witnessed. Would they have acted so responsibly had they been part of a wider, more disparate environment in which the strict guidelines reflecting the FBI's ethos were not universally observed?

It is an important question. In my view, the need to protect the civil liberties of American citizens must trump other exigencies when rights embedded in the Constitution are at risk. The reorganization dictated by the intelligence reform legislation cannot be permitted to blur or erode constitutional protections. That would be too high a price to pay for hoped-for efficiencies of integration and scale.

Rather, there is a continuing need for checks and balances and--especially in law enforcement--clear lines of demarcation within the executive branch as well as outside it. Unfortunately, the structure and functions of the "oversight board" created by the intelligence legislation make a mockery of the 9/11 commission's insistence that an independent body be established to prevent infringement on civil liberties. Sadly, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board created by the new law has been gutted to such a degree that it has become little more than a powerless creature of the president.

This concern over endangering civil liberties is fact-based. In discussing it we are not in the subjunctive mood. No one seemed to notice, but on June 16, 2004, when CIA director Porter Goss was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, he actually introduced legislation that would have given the president new authority to direct the CIA to conduct law-enforcement operations inside the United States--including arresting American citizens. This legislation would have reversed the strict prohibition in the National Security Act of 1947 against such CIA activities. Thankfully, Goss's initiative got swamped by other legislation in the wake of the 9/11 commission report.


I suspect that recent revelations about arguably illegal eavesdropping hardly scratch the surface. The point is that unless Congress receives a quick injection of courage and steps up to its oversight responsibility under the Constitution, many abuses are likely to continue undetected.

Will enough Republican senators honor their oath to defend the constitution? Our system of checks and balances hangs in the balance, so to speak. The president has thrown down the gauntlet by declaring he will continue to authorize unilaterally eavesdropping that, by law, requires a court order. Will senators pick up the gauntlet, or are they more likely to let it lie until early next year when this constitutional crisis, important as it is, may be eclipsed by fresh revelations of other abuses of power.

Is it fair to pin so much responsibility on Republican senators? No, it's not fair. But that is the way it is. One looks in vain to the other side of the aisle for the courage that the times require. But what about Democrat senators-the gutsy Russ Feingold and the eloquent Robert Byrd? However courageous, they are not well positioned to affect the outcome of this constitutional crisis.

Rather, the Democratic Party has slender reeds to lean on--take Sen. Jay Rockefeller, for example. Briefed on the illegal eavesdropping program, Rockefeller let Cheney intimidate him into silence. Sure, the congressman wrote a letter to Cheney (and kept a CYA copy, which he has now given the press). But when he got no answer, did it not occur to the ranking minority member of the Senate Intelligence Committee to ask to speak to Cheney's supervisor?

On Tuesday, Senate intelligence committee chair Pat Roberts ridiculed Rockefeller for "feigning helplessness." Roberts is certainly in position to know, since Rockefeller has made helplessness a career, and thus made Roberts' task easy. Sen. Rockefeller's obeisance to the chair is matched only by U.S. Marine Robert's "Semper Fi" to the party and the president. This is important, since the White House has already succeeded in ensuring that Roberts and Rockefeller will play leadership roles in any Senate investigation of the eavesdropping.

Initially, it appeared that since constitutional and legal considerations prevail on this issue, the hearings would be orchestrated and led by Senate judiciary committee chair Arlen Specter, who immediately expressed deep concern at the revelations about eavesdropping. That was as hopeful sign, even though the ranking Democrat on Judiciary, Patrick Leahy, fits the Rockefeller mold-as evidenced by Leahy's vote for arch-defender of unbridled presidential power Roberto Gonzales to be Attorney General.

From Republic to Empire

Let's hope history does not repeat itself. The constitution of ancient Rome was put in place in 510 BC, when the republicans overthrew the last of the Roman kings, Tarquin the Proud. As was the case 2300 years later in the newborn U.S.A., the introduction of constitutional order meant the rule of law and not of kings, providing liberty under law for every Roman citizen. That experiment lasted almost five centuries, until the Roman senators fell down on the job.

Although Cicero warned, with pointed eloquence, of the dangers to the Republic, in the end his warnings proved no match for strongmen like Julius Caesar and Gnaeus Pompey. They wrapped themselves in republican virtue when it suited them, but they lacked any serious belief in the fundamental principles that had formed republican Rome. They and their followers believed in themselves, and in their own vision of what Rome should be, and in little else. Plutarch tells us that the increasingly glaring unequal distribution of wealth served to make the situation exceedingly volatile. Sound familiar?

And so the Republic died, and Cicero died with it, his severed head and hands nailed to the "rostra," the platform in the forum from which he had warned the Roman people. The vision of the strongmen led first to civil war and then to empire.

Republican senators, don't let it happen here.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. He is a member of the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

A shorter version of this article has appeared on

Expose The Story, Or Expose Cowardice

December 29, 2005
Sitting on Stories
Journalists Should Expose Secrets, Not Keep Them


Journalists should be in the business of providing timely information to the public. But some -- notably at the top rungs of the profession -- have become players in the power games of the nation's capital. And more than a few seem glad to imitate the officeholders who want to decide what the public shouldn't know.

When the New York Times front page broke the story of the National Security Agency's domestic spying, the newspaper's editors had good reason to feel proud. Or so it seemed. But there was a troubling backstory: The Times had kept the scoop under wraps for a long time.

The White House did what it could -- including, as a last-ditch move, an early December presidential meeting that brought Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office -- in its efforts to persuade the Times not to report the story. The good news is that those efforts ultimately failed. The bad news is that they were successful for more than a year.

"The decision to hold the story last year was mine," Keller said, according to a Washington Post article that appeared 10 days after the Times' blockbuster Dec. 16 story. He added: "The decision to run the story last week was mine. I'm comfortable with both decisions. Beyond that, there's just no way to have a full discussion of the internal procedural twists that media writers find so fascinating without talking about what we knew, when, and how -- and that I can't do."

From all indications, the Times had the basic story in hand before the election in November 2004, when Bush defeated challenger John Kerry. In other words, if those running the New York Times had behaved like journalists instead of political players -- if they had exposed this momentous secret instead of keeping it -- there are good reasons to believe the outcome of the presidential election might have been different.

Chiseled into the stone facades of some courthouses is the credo "Justice delayed is justice denied." The same might be said of journalism, which derives much of its power from timeliness. When egregiously delayed, journalism is denied -- or at least severely diminished.

Yet quite a few prominent journalists have expressed a strange kind of media solidarity with the Times delay of the NSA story for so long.

Consider how the Washington Post intelligence reporter Dana Priest, for instance, responded to a request for "your opinion on the NY Times holding the domestic spying story for a year," during a Dec. 22 online chat. "Well, first: I don't have a clue why they did so," Priest replied. "But I would give them the benefit of the doubt that it was for a good reason and, as their story said, they do more reporting within that year to satisfy themselves about certain things. Having read the story and the follow-ups, it's unclear why this would damage a valuable capability. Again, if the government doesn't think the bad guys believe their phones are tapped, they underestimate the enemy!"

Also opting to "give them the benefit of the doubt," some usually insightful media critics have gone out of their way to voice support for the Times news management.

Deferring to the judgment of the executive editor of the New York Times may be akin to deferring to the judgment of the chief executive of the United States government. And as it happens, in this case, the avowed foreign policy goals of each do not appear to be in fundamental conflict -- on the meaning of the Iraq war or the wisdom of enshrining a warfare state. Pretenses aside, the operative judgments from the New York Times executive editor go way beyond the purely journalistic.

"So far, the passion to investigate the integrity of American intelligence-gathering belongs mostly to the doves, whose motives are subject to suspicion and who, in any case, do not set the agenda," Bill Keller wrote in an essay that appeared in the Times on June 14, 2003, shortly before he became executive editor. And Keller concluded: "The truth is that the information-gathering machine designed to guide our leaders in matters of war and peace shows signs of being corrupted. To my mind, this is a worrisome problem, but not because it invalidates the war we won. It is a problem because it weakens us for the wars we still face."

(By the way, Keller's phrase "the war we won" referred to the Iraq war.)

The story of the NSA's illicit domestic spying is not over. More holes are appearing in the Bush administration's damage-control claims. Media critics who affirm how important the story is -- but make excuses for the long delay in breaking it -- are part of a rationalizing process that has no end.

"The domestic spying controversy is a story of immense importance," Sydney Schanberg writes in the current Village Voice. The long delay before the Times published this "story of immense importance" does not seem to bother him much. "The paper had held the story for a year at the administration's pleading but decided, after second thoughts and more reporting, that its importance required publication." Such wording should look at least a bit weird to journalistic eyes, but Schanberg doesn't muster any criticism, merely commenting: "From where I stand (I'm a Times alumnus), the paper should get credit for digging it out and publishing it."

Professional loyalties can't explain the extent of such uncritical media criticism from journalists. Many, like Schanberg, want to concentrate on the villainy of the Bush administration -- as if it hasn't been aided and abetted by the New York Times' delay. Leading off his Dec. 24 column with a blast at George W. Bush for "asserting the divine right of presidents," the Los Angeles Times media critic Tim Rutten proceeded with an essay that came close to asserting the divine right of executive editors to hold back vital stories for a very long time. Dismissing substantive criticism as the work of "paranoids," Rutten gave only laurels to the sovereign: "The New York Times deserves thanks and admiration for the service it has done the nation."

A cogent rebuttal to such testimonials came on Dec. 26 from Miami Herald columnist Edward Wasserman, who wrote: "One of the more durable fallacies of ethical thought in journalism is the notion that doing right means holding back, that wrong is averted by leaving things out, reporting less or reporting nothing. When in doubt, kill the quote, hold the story -- that's the ethical choice. But silence isn't innocent. It has consequences. In this case, it protected those within the government who believe that the law is a nuisance, that they don't have to play by the rules, by any rules, even their own."

While many journalists seem eager to downplay the importance of the Times' refusal to publish what it knew without long delay, Wasserman offers clarity: "Didn't the delay do harm? We know that thousands of people were subject to governmental intrusion that officials thought couldn't be justified even under a highly permissive set of laws. We also know that because knowledge of this illegality was kept confined to a small circle of initiates, the political system's response was postponed more than a year, and its ability to correct a serious abuse of power was thwarted. I don't know what the Times' brass was thinking. Maybe they just lost their nerve. Maybe they didn't want to tangle with a fiercely combative White House right before an election. But I do believe that withholding accurate information of great public importance is the most serious action any news organization can take. The reproach -- You knew and you didn't tell us?' -- reflects a fundamental professional betrayal."

Perhaps in 2007 we will learn that the New York Times had an explosive story about other ongoing government violations of civil liberties or some other crucial issue, but held it until after the November 2006 congressional elections. In that case, quite a few media critics and other journalists could recycle their pieces about giving the Times the benefit of the doubt and appreciating the quality of the crucial story that finally appeared.

Norman Solomon is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

Our Next Neo-Con War

It's More Important Than Slowing Nuclear Proliferation
Let's Stop a US / Israeli War on Iran

Former CIA analysts

The peace movements of the entire world should be in crisis mode right now, working non-stop to prevent the U.S. and Israel from starting a war against Iran. (See the James Petras article in CounterPunch on December 24, 2005 titled Iran in the Crosshairs for the best summary of the present situation.) The reckless and unnecessary dangers arising from such a war are so obvious that one wonders why normal political forces in the two aggressor countries -- both of whom love to glorify themselves as democracies -- would not prevent such a war from happening.

But the "normal political forces" in both the U.S. and Israel have become badly distorted. Democracy has been seriously undermined in both. The cowboy-like personalities and aggressive tendencies of both countries' leaders tend to feed on each other. Domestic political difficulties and coming elections in both countries probably add to the macho inclination of the ruling elites to use force to remove any problems facing them. The glue binding these tendencies together is the ever-strengthening institutional link between defense establishments and military-industrial complexes in both countries, as well as, in the U.S, the growing power and influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) over both major political parties. The entire mix increases the probability, against all common sense, that this absurd war will actually happen.

Nothing else more dangerous to the world, to the Middle East, to the oppressed Palestinians, or to the true interests of the United States is happening today -- anywhere. Americans who do not want an eruption of a new world war, started by our own government, ought to be strongly lobbying the Bush administration and all members of Congress against supporting any military action by the U.S. and Israel against Iran. Globally, people who oppose such a war should be lobbying their own governments in similar fashion.


It is worthwhile to discuss briefly the broader context of why a war with Iran today seems a real possibility. During his all-out public relations effort in late 2005 to regain support for his policies in the Middle East, Bush has made it clear that he plans to continue his drive for complete victory in the "War on Terrorism," without making significant changes in his own, very aggressive, foreign policies. Those policies will make this planet a less safe, more unjust place to live for most people around the world, as well as for most of us living in the U.S. The special relationship between the U.S. and Israel has long played an important role in these aggressive policies.

Outside the United States, it is widely understood that one of the true motives -- not the exclusive motive but a real and significant one -- behind the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq was the desire of the neocons in Washington to conquer Iraq in order to benefit Israel. Although a few of the big-name neocons (Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Lewis "Scooter" Libby) have left high-visibility positions for various reasons, many remain, and it is clear that Bush himself, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice have taken as their own the main tenets of neocon beliefs.

Inside the U.S., on the other hand, the pressure of the neocons for war on Israel's behalf, or any hint that Bush himself participates in that pressure, is hardly ever mentioned. This taboo on discussing the Israeli link to the war in Iraq, enforced by the threat of being labeled anti-Semitic, introduces major distortions into practically every effort to examine and change policies that are causing massive hatred of the U.S. around the world.

But right now, three of the long-existing "problems" in the Middle East (i.e., situations that have been made problems largely by our own actions) have reached critical stages that may, if Washington's policies do not change quite quickly, result in our losing even the remnants of stability and peace that remain in that region today. The world could face instead nuclear warfare or, at a minimum, a practically unending "clash of civilizations" and conventional warfare at a much higher level than exists now. The first, and the most important right now, of the three problems is the main subject of this article: the problem that arises from the determined U.S. and Israeli policy of preventing Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons. The second and third problems, also situations brought on by the U.S. itself, have to do with Syria and the Palestinians. In the long run, they are also very important, but they are less urgent for now. These other problems will be considered briefly at the end of this article.

As was the case with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, one of the underlying causes of all these "problems" in the Middle East has been the success of the neocons in persuading the Bush administration to support aggressively the goals of the Israeli government throughout the area. And here again, the fear of being charged with anti-Semitism causes many Americans quietly to accept the taboo on discussing the Israeli link to the Bush administration's foreign policies. This is an absurd situation. Criticizing Israeli (or U.S.) policies and urging specific changes in those policies is not anti-Semitic (or anti-American). The arrogance of anyone who suggests the contrary is appalling. The following paragraphs contain suggestions on how we should work to remedy those aspects of this absurdity that bear on Iran and nuclear weapons.

What should be done to change U.S. policy on Iran's nuclear program?

First of all, don't fall into the trap of accepting Iran's public claims that it is not attempting to acquire nuclear weapons. Many of the nations that now have such weapons made similar claims while they were developing the weapons. Israel did so throughout the first half of the 1960s, engaging in elaborate subterfuges even when dealing with U.S. inspectors who occasionally came looking for weapons work. The Israeli claims were so much garbage (see Israeli author Avner Cohen's book, Israel and the Bomb). Then, after it acquired its first nuclear explosive device almost 40 years ago now, Israel simply adopted a well publicized policy of ambiguity and stopped talking publicly about whether it had any weapons. India and Pakistan also both claimed not to be working on weapons when in fact they were. Their claims were garbage too, which they quickly threw away once they joined the nuclear club and possessed their own deterrent. Iran almost certainly intends to do the same, and its public claims to the contrary are also almost certainly worthless.

The principal point to start with is that, unless the U.S. and Israel (and other nations as well) all agree to work seriously toward eliminating their own nuclear weapons, any Iranian government will consider that it has as much right as the rest of us to such weapons. Essentially, even if Iran, under pressure, were to sign new agreements, now or in the future, to forgo nuclear weapons, the new agreements would be meaningless unless the U.S., Israel, and other nuclear nations ended their own monumental hypocrisy of insisting that they can keep and expand their nuclear arsenals, while non-nuclear nations may not acquire such arsenals. In the eyes of most Muslims around the world and many other people too, Iran, with a population of close to 70 million, has at least as much right as Israel, with a population less than one-tenth as large, to have nuclear weapons

Most supporters of the global peace movements by definition oppose the solving of international problems through warfare, and they also oppose the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. Most are also aware that the critical bargain reached in the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) -- the bargain that made the treaty possible -- was a trade-off: the acceptance of continued non-nuclear-weapons status by states without those weapons, in return for the simultaneous agreement by states possessing nuclear weapons to pursue good-faith negotiations on nuclear, and complete and general, disarmament. This latter provision had no teeth, and certainly many "realists" in the U.S. foreign policy establishment expected that it would not and could not be enforced. Nevertheless, the existence of this provision was necessary to the NPT's ratification by numerous countries, and it gives any state dissatisfied with progress toward nuclear disarmament an excuse to abrogate or ignore the treaty.

Most people will not bother to make the niceties of international law an issue in this matter, but the question of which is more important, stopping the further proliferation of nuclear weapons to Iran or stopping our own side from instigating a war against Iran, is vital. The answer should be clear: The single most urgent objective we should have right now is to prevent a war, possibly nuclear, from being started by the U.S. and/or Israel against Iran. To repeat, such a war would be disastrous, and we should be doing whatever we can, with the highest possible priority, to prevent it from ever happening.

Every peace activist on the globe ought to be in the streets and elsewhere lobbying in support of something very simple: do not attack Iran, even if this means allowing Iran to develop its own nuclear weapons. We should put out the message that it is simply not worth a war, with consequences impossible to foresee, to prevent Iran from obtaining such weapons. From 1945 until we invaded Iraq in 2003, we never once took military action to prevent other nations from developing nuclear weapons. We relied instead on deterrence and containment (to prevent other nations from using such weapons after they had been developed). These may not be perfect policies, but they have a successful track record and can probably be applied more successfully than other policies to subnational groups as well as nation-states. The point is that these are still better policies than the recklessness of preemption, and we should use these policies in lobbying against U.S involvement of any kind in military actions or coup attempts against Iran. We should also very definitely support an effort to tie future U.S. aid to Israel to Israel's not engaging in military action against Iran.

We are talking here about supporting (by our silence), or opposing (by vociferous lobbying), what could become major, serious warfare -- warfare that could easily become global, and also could easily cause greater difficulties for the peoples of the Middle East than any they have yet faced from U.S. policies. With an election campaign intensifying the political volatilities of Israeli politics, with possibly fast-moving new uncertainties and vulnerabilities arising among both Republicans and Democrats jousting for advantage in a U.S. election year, and with a new, inexperienced president in Iran who, so far at least, believes aggressive speech strengthens his political position, the dangers in the situation are evident. As each week passes and no movement occurs anywhere -- particularly in Washington -- to reduce tensions by changing policies, the risk grows of a mistake that will lead to new hostilities, and possibly nuclear warfare. How many Iranians might we and the Israelis kill? How many Israelis might die? How many Americans?

How should the U.S. change its policies with respect to Syria?

The issues of Syria and Palestine are related to U.S. policy toward Iran. Policy on Syria today is to put constant pressure on that country's ruler, Bashar al-Assad, with the ultimate objective of ousting and replacing him with someone (not yet named by the Americans) who would be even more subservient to U.S. and Israeli desires. Assad himself has moved a considerable way toward subservience, giving the U.S. considerable help on intelligence matters and accepting certain U.S. prisoners "rendered" to his regime for purposes of torture, but the U.S., unsatisfied, keeps intensifying the pressure. The U.S. and Israel have succeeded in making it more difficult for Syria to provide support for the Palestinian resistance against Israel's occupation, but Damascus still provides some refuge for Hezbollah personnel.

The recent assassinations of anti-Syrian leaders in Lebanon have provided new opportunities for the Bush administration to ratchet up its criticism of Syria still further, although the evidence of Syrian involvement in the assassinations is weak. It is at least possible that other groups, such as the Israel's Mossad or the CIA, are responsible.

Whatever the truth behind events in Lebanon, the events themselves could offer a U.S. president who is in some trouble at home the possibility of a low-cost, low-risk foreign policy victory if he could pull off, perhaps with the help of Mossad, a quick covert action that ousted Assad. Act II of a grand show might then proceed -- another U.S. occupation installed, another nation in the Middle East "democratized," elections held a year or two later and a puppet government set up, step-by-step takeovers of the economy implemented by U.S. and Israeli interests, further isolation of the Palestinians from other Arabs -- all in all, another great victory for the U.S-Israeli partnership.

Or so Bush, at least, might believe. In reality, the situation might turn into another morass like Iraq. But months might pass and the U.S. congressional election of November 2006 might be history before we knew that for sure. Might not a man like Bush who revels in chance-taking consider this a pretty good gamble? Meanwhile, how many Syrians would we kill? How many badly wounded Americans would come home to a questionable quality of life because bulletproof vests saved their lives? If Israeli military units moved into Syria (to help us, of course), how many Israelis would die?

We should all be lobbying members of Congress not to cast any votes in favor of aggressive U.S. policies toward Syria. Such votes cannot help, and will only take resources from, a majority of the world's peoples and a majority of Americans. Syria (and Lebanon) are not places where the United States benefits in any way from being a global policeman. While the neocons and probably some present top Israeli officials do see benefits to be gained from U.S. intervention in Syria, other senior and many ordinary Israelis do not. We also should urge members of Congress to tie further aid to Israel to Israel's not becoming involved in any military actions against Syria.

How should the U.S. change its policies with respect to the Palestinians?

We should make it as clear as we possibly can to members of Congress that the Palestine-Israel problem is the most central long-term issue to the peoples of the Middle East. Most Arab leaders have been so co-opted by the U.S. that they no longer object to our support for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, but the peoples of the area are a different story. They do care about and object strenuously to that oppression.

Regardless of what happens anywhere in the Middle East, we will never end the "War on Terrorism" without, first, a solution to the Palestine-Israel issue that provides as much justice to the Palestinians as to the Israelis. Although many supporters of Israel try to compare the several-centuries-long U.S. conquest of American Indians to the Israeli attempt to conquer the Palestinians, there is no valid comparison. Quite apart from the immorality of any attempt to emulate the U.S. atrocity against its indigenous population, there are practical reasons why the comparison cannot be made. The population balances, for instance, are entirely different; there are proportionately far more Palestinians than there were American Indians.

Nevertheless, Israeli and U.S. policy in the West Bank, semi-hidden by a bogus withdrawal from Gaza, continues to seek permanent conquest of more and more territory. The daily injustices and cruelties imposed by Israel and the U.S. on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank are today worse than they have been in the previous 38 years of occupation. This is not only a major human rights issue facing the United States. It is also a very large cause of the hatred against the U.S. throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds.

What is new in the last few months is Israeli intensification of settlement activity in the West Bank, particularly in East Jerusalem; intensification of land-confiscation (with no recompense to Palestinians); a speed-up in construction of the separation wall and of new "Israeli-citizens-only" roads, both of which also require more land-confiscation; more demolitions of Palestinian houses; and new, harsh Israeli measures of other types aimed specifically at forcing Palestinians out of areas, in which they have lived for generations, in and near Jerusalem.

All of this takes place with little Western media attention; the media devoted considerably more attention to the carefully televised "suffering" of the relatively few Israeli settlers forced to move from their luxurious homes in Gaza. The Israelis, with heavy U.S. financing, are busily establishing more "facts on the ground" that will make any peaceful solution providing equal justice to both sides less possible. That does not mean that Israel will "win." Given the determination and inexhaustibility (and large numbers) of Palestinians, it just means more terrorism, killing, and cruelty on both sides. It is a shocking waste of lives, and the U.S. is prolonging it by its one-sided support of Israel. Let's put it baldly. U.S. policy on Israel and Palestine is simply immoral in its one-sidedness. It should take no one who investigates what is actually happening to Palestinians in the West Bank more than 30 seconds to decide that the oppression and cruelties that can be seen there daily should be stopped. Here too, further U.S. aid to Israel should be directly tied to Israel's stopping the oppression and cruelties to Palestinians.

The position we should take in lobbying members of Congress is simple and obvious: Stop the one-sidedness. It is a blot that will stain all our other activities and policies in the Middle East, and probably elsewhere, for years to come. The longer we avoid changing this situation, the larger the blot will become.


All of these issues -- Iran, Syria, and Palestine-Israel -- are interrelated, and each issue enhances the perception around the world that the U.S. is hypocritical, oppressive, and interested only in advancing Israel's interests. All grow out of the one-sided U.S. support for Israel, and none will be resolved without a change in the U.S.-Israeli relationship. To put it baldly again, the widespread perception of the U.S. as immoral and unjust interferes in a quite serious way with the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. Neither we nor Israel "wins" if U.S. policy continues on the same path.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

They both can be reached at


For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 16, 2005

Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

SUBJECT: Guidelines and Requirements in Support of the Information Sharing Environment

Ensuring the appropriate access to, and the sharing, integration, and use of, information by Federal, State, local, and tribal agencies with counterterrorism responsibilities, and, as appropriate, private sector entities, while protecting the information privacy and other legal rights of Americans, remains a high priority for the United States and a necessity for winning the war on terror. Consistent with section 1016 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (Public Law 108 458) (IRTPA), my Administration is working to create an Information Sharing Environment (ISE) to facilitate the sharing of terrorism information (as defined in Executive Order 13388 of October 25, 2005).

Section 1016 of IRTPA supplements section 892 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (Public Law 107 296), Executive Order 13311 of July 29, 2003, and other Presidential guidance, which address various aspects of information access. On April 15, 2005, consistent with section 1016(f) of IRTPA, I designated the program manager (PM) responsible for information sharing across the Federal Government. On June 2, 2005, my memorandum entitled "Strengthening Information Sharing, Access, and Integration - Organizational, Management, and Policy Development Structures for Creating the Terrorism Information Sharing Environment" directed that the PM and his office be part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and that the DNI exercise authority, direction, and control over the PM and ensure that the PM carries out his responsibilities under IRTPA. On October 25, 2005, I issued Executive Order 13388 to facilitate the work of the PM and the expeditious establishment of the ISE and restructure the Information Sharing Council (ISC), which provides advice concerning and assists in the establishment, implementation, and maintenance of the ISE.

On June 2, 2005, I also established the Information Sharing Policy Coordination Committee (ISPCC), which is chaired jointly by the Homeland Security Council (HSC) and the National Security Council (NSC), and which has the responsibilities set forth in section D of Homeland Security Presidential Directive 1 and other relevant presidential guidance with respect to information sharing. The ISPCC is the main day-to-day forum for interagency coordination of information sharing policy, including the resolution of issues raised by the PM, and provides policy analysis and recommendations for consideration by the more senior committees of the HSC and NSC systems and ensures timely responses.

Section 1016(d) of IRTPA calls for leveraging all ongoing efforts consistent with establishing the ISE, the issuance of guidelines for acquiring, accessing, sharing, and using information in support of the ISE and for protecting privacy and civil liberties in the development of the ISE, and the promotion of a culture of information sharing. Consistent with the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 103 of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, and sections 1016 and 1018 of IRTPA, I hereby direct as follows:

1. Leveraging Ongoing Information Sharing Efforts in the Development of the ISE. The ISE shall build upon existing Federal Government policies, standards, procedures, programs, systems, and architectures (collectively "resources") used for the sharing and integration of and access to terrorism information, and shall leverage those resources to the maximum extent practicable, with the objective of establishing a decentralized, comprehensive, and coordinated environment for the sharing and integration of such information.

a. The DNI shall direct the PM to conduct and complete, within 90 days after the date of this memorandum, in consultation with the ISC, a comprehensive evaluation of existing resources pertaining to terrorism information sharing employed by individual or multiple executive departments and agencies. Such evaluation shall assess such resources for their utility and integrative potential in furtherance of the establishment of the ISE and shall identify any unnecessary redundancies.

b. To ensure that the ISE supports the needs of executive departments and agencies with counterterrorism responsibilities, and consistent with section 1021 of IRTPA, the DNI shall direct the PM, jointly with the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), and in coordination with the heads of relevant executive departments and agencies, to review and identify the respective missions, roles, and responsibilities of such executive departments and agencies, both as producers and users of terrorism information, relating to the acquisition, access, retention, production, use, management, and sharing of terrorism information. The findings shall be reviewed through the interagency policy coordination process, and any recommendations for the further definition, reconciliation, or alteration of such missions, roles, and responsibilities shall be submitted, within 180 days after the date of this memorandum, by the DNI to the President for approval through the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism (APHS-CT) and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (APNSA). This effort shall be coordinated as appropriate with the tasks assigned under the Guidelines set forth in section 2 of this memorandum.

c. Upon the submission of findings as directed in the preceding paragraph (1(b)), the DNI shall direct the PM, in consultation with the ISC, to develop, in a manner consistent with applicable law, the policies, procedures, and architectures needed to create the ISE, which shall support the counterterrorism missions, roles, and responsibilities of executive departments and agencies. These policies, procedures, and architectures shall be reviewed through the interagency policy coordination process, and shall be submitted, within 180 days after the submission of findings as directed in the preceding paragraph (1(b)), by the DNI to the President for approval through the APHS-CT and the APNSA.

2. Information Sharing Guidelines. Consistent with section 1016(d) of IRTPA, I hereby issue the following guidelines and related requirements, the implementation of which shall be conducted in consultation with, and with support from, the PM as directed by the DNI:

a. Guideline 1 - Define Common Standards for How Information is Acquired, Accessed, Shared, and Used Within the ISE

The ISE must, to the extent possible, be supported by common standards that maximize the acquisition, access, retention, production, use, management, and sharing of terrorism information within the ISE consistent with the protection of intelligence, law enforcement, protective, and military sources, methods, and activities.

Consistent with Executive Order 13388 and IRTPA, the DNI, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, and the Attorney General, shall develop and issue, within 90 days after the date of this memorandum, common standards (i) for preparing terrorism information for maximum distribution and access, (ii) to enable the acquisition, access, retention, production, use, management, and sharing of terrorism information within the ISE while safeguarding such information and protecting sources and methods from unauthorized use or disclosure, (iii) for implementing legal requirements relating to the handling of specific types of information, and (iv) that include the appropriate method for the Government-wide adoption and implementation of such standards. Such standards shall accommodate and reflect the sharing of terrorism information, as appropriate, with State, local, and tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, and the private sector. Within 90 days after the issuance of such standards, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General shall jointly disseminate such standards for use by State, local, and tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, and the private sector, on a mandatory basis where possible and a voluntary basis where not. The DNI may amend the common standards from time to time as appropriate through the same process by which the DNI issued them.

b. Guideline 2 - Develop a Common Framework for the Sharing of Information Between and Among Executive Departments and Agencies and State, Local, and Tribal Governments, Law Enforcement Agencies, and the Private Sector

Recognizing that the war on terror must be a national effort, State, local, and tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, and the private sector must have the opportunity to participate as full partners in the ISE, to the extent consistent with applicable laws and executive orders and directives, the protection of national security, and the protection of the information privacy rights and other legal rights of Americans.

Within 180 days after the date of this memorandum, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Health and Human Services, and the DNI, and consistent with the findings of the counterterrorism missions, roles, and responsibilities review under section 1 of this memorandum, shall:

(i) perform a comprehensive review of the authorities and responsibilities of executive departments and agencies regarding information sharing with State, local, and tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, and the private sector; and

(ii) submit to the President for approval, through the APHS-CT and the APNSA, a recommended framework to govern the roles and responsibilities of executive departments and agencies pertaining to the acquisition, access, retention, production, use, management, and sharing of homeland security information, law enforcement information, and terrorism information between and among such departments and agencies and State, local, and tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, and private sector entities.

c. Guideline 3 - Standardize Procedures for Sensitive But Unclassified Information

To promote and enhance the effective and efficient acquisition, access, retention, production, use, management, and sharing of Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information, including homeland security information, law enforcement information, and terrorism information, procedures and standards for designating, marking, and handling SBU information (collectively "SBU procedures") must be standardized across the Federal Government. SBU procedures must promote appropriate and consistent safeguarding of the information and must be appropriately shared with, and accommodate and reflect the imperative for timely and accurate dissemination of terrorism information to, State, local, and tribal governments, law enforcement agencies, and private sector entities. This effort must be consistent with Executive Orders 13311 and 13388, section 892 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, section 1016 of IRTPA, section 102A of the National Security Act of 1947, the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act of 1974, and other applicable laws and executive orders and directives.

(i) Within 90 days after the date of this memorandum, each executive department and agency will conduct an inventory of its SBU procedures, determine the underlying authority for each entry in the inventory, and provide an assessment of the effectiveness of its existing SBU procedures. The results of each inventory shall be reported to the DNI, who shall provide the compiled results to the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General.

(ii) Within 90 days after receiving the compiled results of the inventories required under the preceding paragraph (i), the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Energy, and the DNI, shall submit to the President for approval recommendations for the standardization of SBU procedures for homeland security information, law enforcement information, and terrorism information in the manner described in paragraph (iv) below.

(iii) Within 1 year after the date of this memorandum, the DNI, in coordination with the Secretaries of State, the Treasury, Defense, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, and the Attorney General, and in consultation with all other heads of relevant executive departments and agencies, shall submit to the President for approval recommendations for the standardization of SBU procedures for all types of information not addressed by the preceding paragraph (ii) in the manner described in paragraph (iv) below.

(iv) All recommendations required to be submitted to the President under this Guideline shall be submitted through the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the APHS-CT, and the APNSA, as a report that contains the following:

(A) recommendations for government-wide policies and procedures to standardize SBU procedures;

(B) recommendations, as appropriate, for legislative, policy, regulatory, and administrative changes; and

(C) an assessment by each department and agency participating in the SBU procedures review process of the costs and budgetary considerations for all proposed changes to marking conventions, handling caveats, and other procedures pertaining to SBU information.

(v) Upon the approval by the President of the recommendations submitted under this Guideline, heads of executive departments and agencies shall ensure on an ongoing basis that such recommendations are fully implemented in such department or agency, as applicable. The DNI shall direct the PM to support executive departments and agencies in such implementation, as well as in the development of relevant guidance and training programs for the standardized SBU procedures.

d. Guideline 4 - Facilitate Information Sharing Between Executive Departments and Agencies and Foreign Partners

The ISE must support and facilitate appropriate terrorism information sharing between executive departments and agencies and foreign partners and allies. To that end, policies and procedures to facilitate such informational access and exchange, including those relating to the handling of information received from foreign governments, must be established consistent with applicable laws and executive orders and directives.

Within 180 days after the date of this memorandum, the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretaries of Defense, the Treasury, Commerce, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and the DNI, shall review existing authorities and submit to the President for approval, through the APHS-CT and the APNSA, recommendations for appropriate legislative, administrative, and policy changes to facilitate the sharing of terrorism information with foreign partners and allies, except for those activities conducted pursuant to sections 102A(k), 104A(f), and 119(f)(1)(E) of the National Security Act of 1947.

e. Guideline 5 - Protect the Information Privacy Rights and Other Legal Rights of Americans

As recognized in Executive Order 13353 of August 27, 2004, the Federal Government has a solemn obligation, and must continue fully, to protect the legal rights of all Americans in the effective performance of national security and homeland security functions. Accordingly, in the development and use of the ISE, the information privacy rights and other legal rights of Americans must be protected.

(i) Within 180 days after the date of this memorandum, the Attorney General and the DNI, in coordination with the heads of executive departments and agencies that possess or use intelligence or terrorism information, shall (A) conduct a review of current executive department and agency information sharing policies and procedures regarding the protection of information privacy and other legal rights of Americans, (B) develop guidelines designed to be implemented by executive departments and agencies to ensure that the information privacy and other legal rights of Americans are protected in the development and use of the ISE, including in the acquisition, access, use, and storage of personally identifiable information, and (C) submit such guidelines to the President for approval through the Director of OMB, the APHS-CT, and the APNSA. Such guidelines shall not be inconsistent with Executive Order 12333 and guidance issued pursuant to that order.

(ii) Each head of an executive department or agency that possesses or uses intelligence or terrorism information shall ensure on an ongoing basis that (A) appropriate personnel, structures, training, and technologies are in place to ensure that terrorism information is shared in a manner that protects the information privacy and other legal rights of Americans, and (B) upon approval by the President of the guidelines developed under the preceding subsection (i), such guidelines are fully implemented in such department or agency.

3. Promoting a Culture of Information Sharing. Heads of executive departments and agencies must actively work to create a culture of information sharing within their respective departments or agencies by assigning personnel and dedicating resources to terrorism information sharing, by reducing disincentives to such sharing, and by holding their senior managers and officials accountable for improved and increased sharing of such information.

Accordingly, each head of an executive department or agency that possesses or uses intelligence or terrorism information shall:

a. within 90 days after the date of this memorandum, designate a senior official who possesses knowledge of the operational and policy aspects of information sharing to (i) provide accountability and oversight for terrorism information sharing within such department and agency, (ii) work with the PM, in consultation with the ISC, to develop high level information sharing performance measures for the department or agency to be assessed no less than semiannually, and (iii) provide, through the department or agency head, an annual report to the DNI on best practices of and remaining barriers to optimal terrorism information sharing;

b. within 180 days after the date of this memorandum, develop and issue guidelines, provide training and incentives, and hold relevant personnel accountable for the improved and increased sharing of terrorism information. Such guidelines and training shall seek to reduce obstructions to sharing, consistent with applicable laws and regulations. Accountability efforts shall include the requirement to add a performance evaluation element on information sharing to employees' annual Performance Appraisal Review, as appropriate, and shall focus on the sharing of information that supports the mission of the recipient of the information; and

c. bring to the attention of the Attorney General and the DNI, on an ongoing basis, any restriction contained in a rule, regulation, executive order or directive that significantly impedes the sharing of terrorism information and that such department or agency head believes is not required by applicable laws or to protect the information privacy rights and other legal rights of Americans. The Attorney General and the DNI shall review such restriction and jointly submit any recommendations for changes to such restriction to the APHS-CT and the APNSA for further review.

4. Heads of executive departments and agencies shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, provide assistance and information to the DNI and the PM in the implementation of this memorandum.

5. This memorandum:

a. shall be implemented in a manner consistent with applicable laws, including Federal laws protecting the information privacy rights and other legal rights of Americans, and subject to the availability of appropriations;

b. shall be implemented in a manner consistent with the statutory authority of the principal officers of executive departments and agencies as heads of their respective departments or agencies;

c. shall not be construed to impair or otherwise affect the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, and legislative proposals; and

d. is intended only to improve the internal management of the Federal Government and is not intended to, and does not, create any rights or benefits, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agencies, or any other person.


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There's Something About The Holidays

Eat My Holiday Cheer
Screw joy and togetherness. It's all about retail, just like Jesus would have wanted
- By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, December 2, 2005

Does it not feel more manic and insane this year? Is there not more commercial pressure and consumerist mania and does it not seem increasingly surreal and obnoxious and silly? Or is it all relative and it just seems more utterly intolerable because we've had 10 months to try and forget the last holiday season's odious marketing-shopping miasma?

Christmas decorations were out long before Halloween. Retailers were preparing their attack months in advance. On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and the most gruesome shopping day of the year, stores from the hellbeast of Wal-Mart to tepid ol' JCPenney to upscale shopping centers across the nation were either open all night or opened their doors at 6, 5, even 4 a.m. to accommodate dazed and bleary-eyed hordes of frothing shoppers, most of whom wouldn't know the concept of patience if it smacked their butts with a PlayStation 2, and by the way if shivering in the dark outside a Best Buy at 3:30 a.m. in frigid November drizzle waiting for a half-price deal on a cheap-ass Chinese-made DVD player isn't the very definition of self-immolating karmic torture, I don't know what is.

I shall not argue for the purity of the holidays, for some sort of utopian Christian notion that it used to be all simple and lovely and beatific and that it has now been horribly corrupted by ruthless commercial interests, because the whole damned holiday has been commercially controlled for the past hundred years and to suggest otherwise is to suck down one too many $5 Starbucks Eggnog Lattes and don the happy blinders.

And I shall certainly not argue for the sanctity of the idea that Christmas is meant to celebrate the holy and glorious birth of Christ (an iPod-free renegade mystic who was actually born somewhere around July), or the idea that we should all be taking some sort of solace in our national generosity of spirit (a generosity that only exists if you're not, you know, gay, or minority or Iraqi or Islamic or mentally ill), nor shall I even defend Christmas as a time of family togetherness, given how, for most people, getting together with family around the holidays is akin to having your fingernails yanked out by a chain saw in an ice storm, naked.

I shall not argue the benefits of buying less and using organic wrapping paper and purchasing gifts from local shops and shunning companies that support noxious right-wing agendas (that's another column). I shall not list funky alternative gift ideas to get you away from the commercial whoredom and more toward progressive sex-positive bliss and more toward helping infuriate the Christian right (ditto).

Nor it is all about some shining notion of love and the brotherhood of man, though it's certainly true that the holidays are a wonderful excuse to have friends over more frequently and have great dinner gatherings and attend suspect office parties wherein you get to see your co-workers get totally drunk and flirtatious and in wholly refreshing contexts that make them appear interesting and sexy and more fully flawed and fleshed and weirder than you'd imagined previously. And that's usually a very good and fascinating thing.

But the holidays are also the time of bitter separations, of divorces and breakups and brutal family tensions, of severe loneliness and heartbreak and a very large increase in the intake of behavioral medication. Questions of family and money and love all come to a brutish head at this time of year, relationships are tested to the extreme, amplified by the fact that winter means you're stuck inside small buildings for long periods with people you may or may not be entirely sick of.

But here's the kicker: Just because all these holiday clichés of joy and togetherness and hope don't really hold, just because they're a little more bogus than we might want to admit, must we give in so desperately, so fundamentally to the real engine of the holidays, the all-devouring retail sector? Truly, every holiday-related news story from now till January focuses almost exclusively on the holy grail that is holiday shopping, on the health of the nation as it relates to how many people are signing their paychecks over to Wal-Mart -- and doesn't that seem horribly wrong and sad?

Countless stories regurgitate sales data as if the only factor that mattered to the overall well-being of the human soul was how many Xboxes and iPods and cell phones and digital cameras and plasma TVs were moved this season, and whether you acted like a good American and added to your average of $8,500 of personal credit-card debt ($1.7 trillion total, nationally) from which most of you will never, ever recover.

Oh sure, there will be a handful of stories about charities and stories about how poorly poor people fare this time of year, all tainted and undermined by the story of how the increasingly porcine and spiritually repellent Jerry Falwell and his litter of Christian lawyers are prepared to sue (as a fundraising stunt) any media outlet or public institution that dares to dis Christmas, everyone's favorite consumer orgy, which was originally a big, meaty pagan solstice sun-god Saturnalia that the church swiped wholly from ancient fertility cults. Whoops, sorry Jer.

Given all this unholy consumerist-PR madness, you might think we are headed for some sort of breakthrough, some sort of crack or explosion or massive karmic breach, our ridiculous habits of overabundance and excess finally resulting in a terrible/wonderful sociocultural implosion that will lead us all to less gluttony and refined spiritual appreciation and better cookware. You might think.

Because here's the thing: Every year it seems as though we inch just that much closer to the edge, that much closer to the karmic realization that we long ago passed saturation, past the point where all our needs have been met and we now merely create endless mountains of new crap for needs we don't even really have, and you cannot help but feel we are caught in a mad downward spiral, spinning toward something that smells like apocalypse but tastes like chicken and feels very much like a revolution of spirit.

Maybe that's it. Maybe this idea, much like being grateful to BushCo for proving that lies and pseudo-Christianity and warmongering and fiscal irresponsibility cannot last as a national agenda, is something to be cherished. All the mad marketing and all the product gluttony, they're all merely further indicators that we are just about ready to burst, to grow up, to snap the hell out of it.

This is the nice way to think about it. This is the positive view. Let us choose it now, because the alternative is bleak and dank and dismal and to face it is to face the idea that we are all just a bunch of greedy self-serving monkeys ever lured by the shiny and the new and the spiritually empty.

And man alive, that perspective is just no fun at all. Better to ignore it completely and find your slivers and crumbs of hope and joy and relationship bliss where you may, amid the carnage and the wasted wrapping paper and the pile of credit-card receipts, and convince yourself, yet again, that they've gotta be in there somewhere. After all, isn't that what the holidays are all about?

Thoughts for the author? E-mail him.

Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column appears every Wednesday and Friday on SF Gate and in the Datebook section of the SF Chronicle. To get on the e-mail list for this column, please click here and remove one article of clothing. Mark's column also has an RSS feed and an archive of past columns, which includes a tiny photo of Mark probably insufficient for you to recognize him in the street and give him gifts.

As if that weren't enough, Mark also contributes to the hot, spankin' SF Gate Culture Blog.


Defying The World: George Bush & Dick Cheney

Bush-NSA Spying in Defiance of Congress, Court
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Investigative Report

Thursday 29 December 2005

The Bush administration was publicly admonished by a senate committee, and a special surveillance court, in two separate instances for repeatedly trying to skirt the law in obtaining top-secret warrants to spy on American citizens suspected of having ties to terrorists. Despite the public rebuke, President Bush circumvented the judicial process and secretly authorized the National Security Agency to spy on thousands of individuals in the United States in defiance of the very court that issued a legal opinion saying the administration was already infringing on civil liberties in other domestic spy cases.

Securing top-secret surveillance warrants from a special court after 9/11 was proving to be hugely problematic for the Justice Department, and led a senate committee to issue an extraordinary report more than two years ago criticizing federal law enforcement officials for failing to properly follow routine guidelines in their efforts to obtain warrants for eavesdropping on Americans suspected of having ties to terrorists.

The Senate Judiciary Committee report issued in February 2003 may help explain why President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without seeking prior approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which for more than two decades has handled domestic spying activities.

The report singled out the FBI, and said the bureau's agents, whose job it is to obtain the surveillance warrants from the special court to collect intelligence information in the fight against terrorism, were inadequately trained in important aspects of not only the procedures to obtain warrants to spy on Americans under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), "but also fundamental aspects of criminal law."

The recent discovery of the NSA surveillance program caused a backlash against the administration by the legal community and led a judge who sits on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to resign in protest two weeks ago. The surveillance court, established by Congress in 1978 to grant warrants in terrorism and espionage cases, said it wants the Bush administration to explain why it bypassed the court and ordered eavesdropping without warrants.

Details in the 2003 senate committee report may offer an explanation. The report cited numerous problems associated with the way some officials in the Bush administration interpreted the FISA law, found a "breakdown of communication among all those involved in the FISA application process," and noted that "most disturbing is the lack of accountability that has permeated the entire application procedure."

"In fact, the bureaucratic hurdles erected by Headquarters (and DOJ) not only hindered investigations but contributed to inaccurate information being presented to the FISA Court, eroding the trust in the FBI of the special court that is key to the government's enforcement efforts in national security investigations," the report states.

President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have said over the past few weeks that the court process was cumbersome. Still, since 9/11, the administration requested and received approval for more than 5,000 special warrants to monitor personal email accounts and conduct top-secret wiretaps of people believed to be al-Qaeda associates, according to public documents contradicting the president and attorney general's claims that the court moved too slowly in some cases.

Bush tried to explain the reasons the administration may seek approval from the special court to eavesdrop on a suspected terrorist and why, in some cases, the NSA conducts its own surveillance absent a warrant. At a December 19 press conference at the White House, he said the administration still seeks FISA warrants "for long-term monitoring," but needs the flexibility of the NSA program.

Bush said, "This is a different era, a different war.... People are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent ... it requires quick action."

But the surveillance court has rejected just five of the nearly 19,000 requests for warrants it has received since 1979 and the warrants can be applied retroactively, meaning that the administration can begin a domestic spy operation and take up to 15 days to file a warrant request with the court.

President Bush says he has the legal authority to authorize the National Security Agency to continue eavesdropping on citizens and monitoring emails without judicial oversight, but many Democratic and Republican lawmakers are questioning whether the president violated the law in doing so.

The surveillance court has also questioned the legality of Bush's actions. The Justice Department's attempts to broaden the FBI's spying abilities after 9/11 became (such) a major concern for the surveillance court that in May 2002 it secretly ordered Attorney General John Ashcroft to scale back the plans to expand the FBI's powers because it infringed on civil liberties, according to a May 17, 2002 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court document.

After the Patriot Act was first approved in 2001 and a key 2002 court decision dismantled the legal wall separating the FBI's criminal and intelligence probes, the sharing of information became easier and the use of FISA warrants increased.

Ashcroft is credited with breaking down the wall that former Attorney General Janet Reno had erected in the mid-1990s that separated intelligence-gathering investigations and criminal probes to safeguard against unnecessary invasion of privacy. Federal investigators were incensed by Reno's plan, which said that intelligence agents cannot share information with criminal prosecutors, who have to meet higher legal standards to be granted warrants to conduct wiretaps and searches.

But in March 2002, Ashcroft presented a plan to the FISA court that would allow criminal prosecutors to participate in intelligence operations in the fight against terrorism. The May 17, 2002 surveillance court ruling reined Ashcroft in, and said that he overstepped his authority by loosening the rules governing intelligence gathering. Specifically, the court said Ashcroft's plans "are NOT reasonably designed" to safeguard privacy rights.

"The 2002 procedures appear to be designed to amend the law and substitute the FISA [i.e. the less demanding intelligence surveillance standards] for Title III electronic surveillances [i.e. the more demanding law enforcement standards]. This may be because the government is unable to meet the substantive requirements of these law enforcement tools, or because their administrative burdens are too onerous," the court document says.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also had concerns. The committee met privately with Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials after the Patriot Act was signed into law by President Bush on October 26, 2001. That's when Ashcroft had started to press Congress to make additional changes to FISA requirements, including changing the definition of "foreign power" to include "individual, non-U.S. persons engaged in international terrorism."

"DOJ explained that this proposal was to address the threat posed by a single foreign terrorist without an obvious tie to another person, group, or state overseas. Yet, when asked to 'provide this Committee with information about specific cases that support your claim to need such broad new powers,' DOJ was silent in its response and named no specific cases showing such a need, nor did it say that it could provide such specificity even in a classified setting," the Senate Judiciary Committee report states.

"In short, DOJ sought more power but was either unwilling or unable to provide an example as to why," the report added.

Part of the reason the FISA court refused to allow the Justice Department to expand its intelligence gathering operations goes back to the Clinton administration. In the court's May 17, 2002 opinion, it said there were more than 75 cases where "FISA applications related to major terrorist attacks directed against the United States" contained errors or false information.

Ashcroft appealed the decision. In November 2002, the court of review reversed the FISA court's decision and granted Ashcroft the broad powers he had originally sought. Still, even with the additional spying powers that now made it even easier to obtain surveillance warrants, President Bush continued to end-run the system and use the NSA to spy on Americans.

This past June, the Justice Department once again sought to broaden the scope of the Patriot Act by giving the FBI even more powers, specifically allowing the agency to bypass the FISA court if it uncovered an immediate threat to national security, which is exactly what President Bush said was the reason he had bypassed the FISA court and used the FBI to spy on Americans previously.

The FBI suggested under those extraordinary circumstances that Congress should amend the Patriot Act to provide the FBI with the authority to issue its own subpoenas without prior approval from a court. This would allow it to obtain documents, such as emails and phone records, from individuals who may have ties to terrorist groups. The FBI argued that requesting approval from a court such as the FISA court might result in an "unacceptable delay" and further threaten national security.

But in a June 17 report, the Senate Intelligence Committee said there was no reason to change the Patriot Act to grant the FBI more authority than it already possesses since the FBI could not produce any evidence where national security would be further threatened by a court taking too long to approve warrants or subpoenas.

"When testifying before the Committee, the FBI could not document significant past or current instances when national security investigations faltered or were hindered due to lack of an administrative subpoena authority," the report says. "The FBI argued that such a circumstance could exist in the future when immediacy might dictate moving quickly with a subpoena for records without prior judicial review. This may be true, but based on both demonstrated and anticipated need, the use of any such authority without prior review should be the exception, not the rule."

The committee report added that federal law enforcement officials should continue to seek approval for obtaining records from the FISA court because the court provides an "important check against potential abuse in the investigative process." Circumventing the court "effectively puts the court out of business," and "puts the current subpoena authority of the court in the hands of the investigators."

"This is not necessary, justified, or wise," the report states.

Jason Leopold spent two years covering California's electricity crisis as Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires. Jason has spent the last year cultivating sources close to the CIA leak investigation, and is a regular contributer to t r u t h o u t.

Lincoln Group...Oh My!

The Times December 24, 2005

Godalming geek made millions running the Pentagon's propaganda war in Iraq
By Patrick Foster and Tim Reid in Washington

IT WAS astounding enough for Washington’s political elite: last month they discovered that the man at the heart of a scandal over the planting of US propaganda in Iraqi newspapers was a dapper but unknown 30-year-old Oxford graduate who had somehow managed to land a $100 million Pentagon contract.

What is even more remarkable however, after an investigation by The Times, is that just ten years ago Christian Bailey, whose US company is under investigation for planting fake news stories in Iraqi newspapers, was a nerdy, socially awkward English school-leaver called Jozefowicz.

The transformation of the geeky but ambitious Christian Jozefowicz, who just a few years ago was growing up in a modest terraced house in Godalming, Surrey, to the charming, baby-faced multimillionaire Christian Bailey now rubbing shoulders with some of the most powerful figures in Washington — and who next year will probably face questions on Capitol Hill about his company — is one of the more extraordinary stories to have emerged from the Iraq war.

This month it was revealed that Mr Bailey’s US company, the Lincoln Group, was the recipient of a Pentagon contract to help to fight the information war in Iraq. It then emerged that the company was paying Iraqi journalists to plant optimistic news “stories” in Iraqi papers that had been written by the US military.

Interference with the press touches a raw nerve in America. The fake stories revelation provoked a furore among Republicans and Democrats. President Bush said he was “very troubled” by it. Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, has promised a Pentagon investigation. Congress plans hearings into the scandal.

The journey from the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, which Mr Bailey left in 1994, to the heart of K Street in Washington, the centre of money and influence in the US capital, has been remarkably rapid. Today he has a reputation in Washington for being a socialite with links to influential Republicans. He is a helicopter and aircraft pilot and his home is in a fashionable area.

Through a Lincoln Group spokesman, Mr Bailey answered questions from The Times to help to explain how, at just 30, he landed the Pentagon as an important client. He was born Christian Martin Jozefowicz on November 28, 1975, in Kingston upon Thames, to Jerzy and Anne Jozefowicz.

His father, a Polish architect, died in April 1998. His mother, who has since reverted to her maiden name of Seifert, was born in West Germany. The family lived in East Molesey, southwest London, before moving to Godalming, Surrey.

Mr Bailey’s Royal Grammar School contemporaries recall a business-obsessed, “geeky” individual with few friends. “He was a nerd at school,” one told The Times. Another described him as a “school joke” who told everyone he was going to be a millionaire. He was the first at school to have a mobile phone and was interested in early versions of the personal computer.

He founded a Young Enterprise company, Chameleon, which led to his selection as one of the top six Young Enterprise participants in Britain.

His school yearbook records Christian Jozefowicz as “Mr Business himself” and that he was elected vice-president of the International Student Forum, a business gathering in the US. In 1994 he won a place at Lincoln College, Oxford, where he read economics and management. He kept computers in his room, thought for monitoring the stock markets.

In his third year at Oxford he hired an assistant to help him to run his first proper company, Linck Ltd, which sold self-help tapes. In 1998, he changed his name to Bailey. “Following his father’s death, Bailey assumed the name for family reasons, something which children commonly do,” a Lincoln Group spokesman said. In the late 1990s he moved to San Francisco to try his hand as a dotcom entrepreneur, and then to New York, where he became treasurer of the Oxonion Society, a club for intellectual Anglophiles. He became co-chairman of a networking group for young Republicans. With his Republican contacts growing, Mr Bailey moved to Washington, where he spotted a golden business opportunity: the looming war in Iraq. He formed a partnership with Paige Craig, a former US Marine who served in Iraq.

In early 2003, just before the invasion, Mr Bailey formed a Lincoln subsidiary, the Lincoln Alliance Corp, offering “tailored intelligence services [for] government clients faced with intelligence challenges”. He also formed another subsidiary, Iraqex, which won a $6 million Pentagon contract to launch “an aggressive advertising and PR campaign that will accurately inform the Iraqi people of the c oalition’s goals and gain their support”.

The big breakthrough came in June this year when the Pentagon awarded the Lincoln Group a contract worth up to $100 million over five years to support the US military’s “joint psychological operations”, known as “psyops”.

Lincoln group defended the planting of stories and the company has emphasised that none of them were factually incorrect. “By not speaking through the local media, the coalition would allow a vacuum for rumours and untruths perpetrated by the insurgents’ thuggery and threats,” a spokesman said.
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November 28, 1975: Born Christian Jozefowicz, Kingston upon Thames

1987-94: Attends the fee-paying Royal Grammar School, Guildford

1993-94: Listed on electoral roll as Christian Jozefowicz-Seifert

1994-97: Obtains a 2:1 in economics and management from Lincoln College, Oxford. While at university, runs Linck Ltd.

October 1998: Founds Linck Corporate Finance under the name of Christian Bailey. Fails to declare previous surname or other directorship

1999: Moves to America

2003: Co-founds Lincoln Group, now subject to investigation into planting of US military propaganda in Iraqi newspapers

Men On The Run

Presidents all the same when scandal strikes

Published on: 12/28/05
Two of the most powerful moments of political déjà vu I have ever experienced took place recently in the context of the Bush administration's defense of presidentially ordered electronic spying on American citizens.
First, in the best tradition of former President Bill Clinton's classic, "it-all-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is" defense, President Bush responded to a question at a White House news conference about what now appears to be a clear violation of federal electronic monitoring laws by trying to argue that he had not ordered the National Security Agency to "monitor" phone and e-mail communications of American citizens without court order; he had merely ordered them to "detect" improper communications.

This example of presidential phrase parsing was followed quickly by the president's press secretary, Scott McLellan, dead-panning to reporters that when Bush said a couple of years ago that he would never allow the NSA to monitor Americans without a court order, what he really meant was something different than what he actually said. If McLellan's last name had been McCurry, and the topic an illicit relationship with a White House intern rather than illegal spying on American citizens, I could have easily been listening to a White House news conference at the height of the Clinton impeachment scandal.
On foreign policy, domestic issues, relationships with Congress, and even their selection of White House Christmas cards and china patterns, presidents are as different as night and day. But when caught with a hand in the cookie jar and their survival called into question, administrations circle the wagons, fall back on time-worn but often effective defense mechanisms, and seamlessly morph into one another.
First, we get a president bobbing and weaving like Muhammad Ali. He knows he can't really tell the truth and he knows he can't rely only on lies. The resulting dilemma leads him to veer from unintelligible muttering to attempts to distract, and then to chest-beating bravado and attacks on his accusers.
Soon, he begins taking trips abroad and appearing at the White House podium with foreign leaders with minimal command of English, allowing him to duck for cover whenever scandal questions arise.
Of course, the president can't carry the entire stonewalling burden alone. The next actors to enter the stage typically are the president's press secretary and the White House counsel's office. Serious scandals tend to spawn congressional investigations and independent counsels. As Clinton quickly learned, and Richard Nixon before him, the best way to short-circuit such endeavors is to force the investigators and lawyers to fight like dogs for every inch of ground they get.
By using the White House counsel's office to bury investigators in a sea of motions, pleadings and memoranda, an administration can drag out an investigation to the point of exhaustion. By the time the investigation actually slogs through this legal maze to bring real charges or issue a report, the courts, public and media are so sick and tired of hearing about it that the final charges fall stillborn from the press.
A critical component of White House Scandal Defense 101 is rallying the partisan base. This keeps approval ratings in territory where the wheels don't start falling off. The way to achieve this goal is you go negative and you don't let up. If you're always attacking your accusers, the debate becomes one of Democrat vs. Republican, rather than right vs. wrong. Anyone who questions the legality of the decision to wiretap thousands of Americans unlawfully is attacked, as either an enabler of terrorists or a bitter partisan trying to distract a president at war.
Yet another tactic is to shore up your congressional base in order to avoid or at least control pesky oversight investigations. A president's job here is made far easier if his party maintains a majority in one or both houses. Even if your party doesn't enjoy control of either the House or the Senate, you can still achieve your desired goal, as did Clinton — America's master scandal handler. You've just got to work harder at it.
The signs are everywhere that the Bush White House is busily implementing all parts of this defense strategy. It would be refreshing if it decided to clear the air and actually be honest about its post-Sept. 11 surveillance. However, that's unlikely. The problem this president faces, as did his predecessors, is that full disclosure would lead to the remedy stage. No president wants to fight that end-game.
— Former U.S. attorney and congressman Bob Barr practices law in Atlanta. His Web site:

Bad Girls On The Loose: Iraq Harridans Set Free....

'Dr. Germ' and 'Mrs. Anthrax' on the loose
Robert Scheer - Creators Syndicate

12.28.05 - Why is it not bigger news that those infamous Iraqi female scientists once routinely referred to in the media as "Dr. Germ" and "Mrs. Anthrax" have been quietly released from imprisonment in Iraq without any charges being brought by their U.S. captors? Don't the newspapers and TV networks that all but pre-convicted them of crimes against humanity owe them -- and us -- the courtesy of an explanation for the sudden presumption of their innocence?

After all, it was to stop these mad leaders of Saddam Hussein's allegedly booming weapons-of-mass-destruction programs that the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003. We were told at the time by the White House that the U.N. inspectors scouring the country were being blocked by lying officials and scientists, themselves complicit in breaking U.N. sanctions, and so we wouldn't get the truth until we could interrogate them as prisoners.

Yet, when Rihab "Dr. Germ" Taha and Huda "Mrs. Anthrax" Ammash, both of whom were once on a Pentagon most-wanted list, were released after two-and-a-half years, their U.S. captors didn't even announce it.

When questioned afterward as to why no war crimes charges had been brought against the pair, U.S. commander Gen. George Casey said in a joint statement with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, that they "no longer posed a security threat to the people of Iraq and to the Coalition forces." U.S. forces "therefore, had no legal basis to hold them any longer."

Nor was the acknowledgement that the Iraqis were still presumed innocent deemed worthy of comment by the very news outlets that had previously reduced them to cartoon-character villains, with only slim wire reports generally announcing the news.

No editorials apologized for the publication in major American media outlets of wild and unattributed charges against them -- including the gruesome accusation that deadly weapons had been tested on Abu Ghraib prisoners under Hussein. NBC had bluntly called Taha typical of a "new breed of Third World weapons designers... willing to violate any international norms or scientific ethics," while Judith Miller in The New York Times referred to her as "Dr. Death," based on the testimony of a disgruntled former co-worker of hers then in the "protective custody" of known false-intelligence pusher Ahmed Chalabi.

The American-educated Ammash, a high-ranking Baath Party official conveniently labeled as the five of hearts in the media-friendly deck of "most wanted" playing cards produced by the Pentagon, also was given a variety of horror movie-style nicknames, such as "Chemical Sally." She was routinely described in news reports as being the primary force behind Hussein's campaign to rebuild his bioweapons arsenal -- an effort that seems to have produced little or no results, if it ever even happened.

The fact is, all of the top scientists in Iraq consistently told first U.N. and then U.S. inspectors before and after the invasion that Iraq, hobbled by inspections and sanctions, had no functioning WMD programs or usable WMDs in recent years. This squared with what the U.N. inspectors, as well as former U.N. inspector and U.S. Marine Scott Ritter and the most informed voices inside the U.S. intelligence community, were saying before the invasion.

In other words, while nobody doubted that Hussein, a regional bully, longed to have WMDs such as those developed and stockpiled by the United States, the best experts and inspectors believed he didn't possess them.

Unfortunately, the mass media, cowed by post-Sept. 11 jingoism, showed no stomach for fact-checking the White House's war propaganda, instead proving alarmingly pliant in simply passing along a distorted portrait that transformed a run-down and hamstrung autocracy into a world-threatening juggernaut. The media still struggle to make themselves accountable.

One notable exception this past week was an online report by Newsweek reporter Melinda Liu, who had interviewed Ammash when Hussein was still in power, and now is re-examining a widespread faith in U.S. government sources. "When Saddam was still in power, most of us journalists reporting in Iraq simply assumed it was impossible to get a straight story out of his officials," Liu wrote. "Now we know Saddam's aides weren't the only ones spinning the truth. It's hard to know what to believe anymore."

In the end, this disgracing of the model of a free media in a free society will turn out to be the greatest cost of the invasion. We regularly hector the world as to the virtues of a government held accountable by a free press and yet routinely mock that ideal with media that often act as nothing more than a conveyor belt for government propaganda.

(c) 2005 Creators Syndicate