Saturday, January 07, 2006

Report Rebuts Bush on Spying

WaPo reported A report by Congress's research arm concluded yesterday that the administration's justification for the warrantless eavesdropping authorized by President Bush conflicts with existing law and hinges on weak legal arguments.

And a report from the executive branch (the Attorney General) says he does have the power. Congress is interested in increasing its power, and limiting the power of the executive branch, so what do we expect Congress's research arm to say.
The Congressional Research Service's report rebuts the central assertions made recently by Bush and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales about the president's authority to order secret intercepts of telephone and e-mail exchanges between people inside the United States and their contacts abroad. The findings, the first nonpartisan assessment of the program's legality to date, prompted Democratic lawmakers and civil liberties advocates to repeat calls yesterday for Congress to conduct hearings on the monitoring program and attempt to halt it.
Why would they want to halt it. Do they want to help the terrorists communicate with their cells in the US, to encourage another strike here? If Congress feels the President does not have the necessary authority, then they should give it to him. Like the original Patriot Act, which should be renewed, they can sunset the authority in four years, and thus have another chance to look at it, but the taps should be continued and even expanded now.
The 44-page report said that Bush probably cannot claim the broad presidential powers he has relied upon as authority to order the secret monitoring of calls made by U.S. citizens since the fall of 2001. Congress expressly intended for the government to seek warrants from a special Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before engaging in such surveillance when it passed legislation creating the court in 1978, the CRS report said.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Saddam's Terror Training Camps

Stephen F. Hayes wrote in Weekly Standard The former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq.

this is somewhat inconsistent with the Dems screaming that Saddam had no connection to Al Qaeda.
The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to THE WEEKLY STANDARD by eleven U.S. government officials. The secret training took place primarily at three camps--in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak--and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.

The photographs and documents on Iraqi training camps come from a collection of some 2 million "exploitable items" captured in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. They include handwritten notes, typed documents, audiotapes, videotapes, compact discs, floppy discs, and computer hard drives. Taken together, this collection could give U.S. intelligence officials and policymakers an inside look at the activities of the former Iraqi regime in the months and years before the Iraq war.


Murtha Fears a Withdrawal

Byron York wrote in National Review Online Representative John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who has come to national prominence since his call for a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, said Thursday night that he worries about "a slow withdrawal which makes it look like there's a victory." Appearing at a town meeting in Arlington, Virginia, with fellow Democratic Rep. James Moran, Murtha said, "A year ago, I said we can't win this militarily, and I got all kinds of criticism." Now, Murtha told the strongly antiwar audience, "I worry about a slow withdrawal which makes it look like there's a victory

What he fears is not the slow withdrawal; it is that it may be considered a victory.
when I think it should be a redeployment as quickly as possible and let the Iraqis handle the whole thing."
He wants us to withdraw immediately so that Iraq will break into a Civil War, which the Dems can then say shows we were wrong to go in.
The meeting, which attracted an overflow crowd, was promoted by the Internet activist group, which said that "Congressman Moran has extended a special invitation to MoveOn members in his district and nearby."
MoveOn is the extreme left wing group Soros supports. I am tempted to say that they got Murtha's name wrong, and that the y misspelled it, because it should be Congressman Moron, but there are two congressmen named Moran, one from Kansas and one from Virginia, and since it was held in Virginia I suspect they mean Jim Moran
It was also promoted on some antiwar websites like War supporters organized by the conservative demonstrated outside.


Ariel Sharon

WorldTribune claims that Ariel Sharon was declared dead by physicians at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital before 1 p.m. Israeli time [6 a.m. EST], but most other sources say he is still in a coma. Maybe the WorldTribune did not print anything about the "Miracle in the Mines" that just about every newspaper and tv station went with for three hours, before they learned the truth, and the WorldTribune wants to be first, whether accurate or not.

Pat Robertson suggested Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for "dividing God's land" of Israel. Apparently Pat is sad that his 15 minutes of fame expired, and the only way he can get in the spotlight is to stick his foot in his mouth, and make an absurd statement.

The Iranian President just hopes Sharon dies.

Charles Krauthammer sees Sharon's stroke as a calamity for Israel because he does not see anyone else being able to take a centrist role between the left that just wants to negotiate everything away, and the right that does not want to talk until they see that the Palestinians really want peace.

Haaretz reports a senior Kadima figure said Thursday the party would suffer a huge blow if Shimon Peres were to lead it. He believes Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert should take the lead.

I am praying for Ariel Sharon, but I doubt he will be able to resume his position as Prime Minister, and I dont know enough about Israeli politiecs to know whether Kadima can survive without him as its leader (I doubt it).


Thursday, January 05, 2006

$11 billion judgment awarded in spam case

MSNBC reported An Internet service provider was awarded an $11.2 billion judgment against a Florida man for sending millions of unsolicited e-mails advertising mortgage and debt consolidation services.

A few more of these and I suspect spammers in the US will disappear, but unfortunately they will probably just move to another country, at least for a server to send out the spam.
The lawsuit, filed in 2003 by CIS Internet Services owner Robert Kramer III, also prompted earlier judgments against companies in Florida and Arizona worth more than $1 billion. "This ruling sets a new standard," Kramer said in a statement. "Gross abusers of e-mail risk exposure to public ridicule as well as the economic death penalty."


Bush Appointments Avert Senate Battles

WaPo reports President Bush yesterday made a raft of controversial recess appointments, including Julie L. Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau at the Department of Homeland Security, in a maneuver circumventing the need for approval by the Senate.

Good for him. The Senate has plenty of important work to do, including passing the Patriot Act, consenting to the Alito nomination, etc and these people need to get to work now.


Reporter defends release of NSA spy program

MSNBC reported James Risen says his sources are ‘patriots,’ CIA calls them ‘unreliable’

If you think they are patriots, reveal their names, so they can be honored for their patriotism. And if it turns out they have violated the law, well patriotism sometimes has a price.
.... Mitchell: Did you have any concerns about revealing this secret program?

Risen: No, I thought that the American people really needed to know about this. I think it had to be debated publicly.
So if a reporter thinks that a classified program should be debated publicly, does he have a right to expose anything he wants. Eisenhower is certainly lucky that some reported did not think the Normandy Invasion should be debated publicly.
.... Mitchell: What changed to permit The Times to publish this story after holding it for a year?

Risen: Well, I think that you know we got more information as the paper has said, but I have agreed not to discuss in any detail what happened. But I just think that it was a great decision to go forward.
After all, I have a book coming out this month, and the publicity will cause me to sell many more copies.
Mitchell: The Justice Department is now investigating the leak. Are you concerned about being forced to reveal your sources?

Risen: Well, I would rather not, obviously. I hope that doesn't happen, but I can't really talk about that until the time comes. Hopefully, we won't have to face that.
Call a Grand Jury and let us see what happens.
Mitchell: Will you resist revealing sources?

Risen: Well, I don't want to get into what I'll plan to do, because it's not something I have to think about right now.
I hope I don't have to go to jail. It will interfere with the tour to sell my book.
Mitchell: Couldn't some people call your sources traitors?

Risen: People can call them anything they want. It's a free country. You can call something anything and people today call people all kinds of things. I know what they are and I know what they did and I believe they're patriots.
Then reveal their names.


Democrat Says Spy Briefings Violated Law

NYT reported The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said on Wednesday that the limited Congressional briefings the Bush administration has provided on a National Security Agency eavesdropping program violated the law.

Note she is not saying the eavesdropping violated the law, she is saying that the briefings violated the law, because she was not included in the briefings.
In a letter to President Bush, the representative, Jane Harman of California, said the briefings did not comply with the National Security Act of 1947. That law requires the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to be "kept fully and currently informed" about the spy agencies' activities.
And the gang of 8 was briefed. As Michelle Malkin points out, the paragraph before that reads
To the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters, the Director of Central Intelligence and the heads of all departments, agencies, and other entities of the United States Government involved in intelligence activities shall
Also under 50 USC 413b(c)(2)
If the President determines that it is essential to limit access to the finding to meet extraordinary circumstances affecting vital interests of the United States, the finding may be reported to the chairmen and ranking minority members of the congressional intelligence committees, the Speaker and minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and such other member or members of the congressional leadership as may be included by the President.
And apparently the President determined that Jane Harman did not need to be informed.
The briefings on the program under which Americans and other people in the United States are selected for eavesdropping without court warrants were limited to the so-called Gang of Eight. That consists of the Republican and Democratic leaders of each house and of the Intelligence Committees. Because of turnover in those positions, 14 members of Congress attended one or more briefings. Ms. Harman wrote in her letter that the law allowed briefings to be limited to the eight leaders only in cases of covert action.
The eavesdroping was covert, until the New York Times exposed it to try to affect the reneewal of the Patriot Act and to get some publicity for a reporter who had a book coming out this month.
The National Security Agency program does not qualify as a covert action, which the law says does not include activities whose "primary purpose is to acquire intelligence," she wrote.
That is what NSA's purpose is. We use the CIA to go in and shoot someone, or blow something up.
Asked about the letter, a spokesman for the National Security Council, Frederick Jones, said, "We believe Congress was briefed appropriately on this matter."
I agree.
Representative Peter Hoekstra, the Intelligence Committee chairman, defended the limited briefings in a letter to Ms. Harman that was released today. He said the law's requirements were met by the briefings given to him and Ms. Harman. "The committee has been informed, in good faith by the president of the United States," Mr. Hoekstra wrote.


NSA whistleblower asks to testify

Washington Times reports Russ Tice, a whistleblower who was dismissed from the NSA last year,

The Whistleblower Protection act prevents one from being fired for blowing the whistle, so if he was dismissed it must have been for something he did or did not do, and not for blowing the whistle, so if he is now seeking to testify that something is illegal, then he should be called a disgruntled former employee out to get revenge.
stated in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he is prepared to testify about highly classified Special Access Programs, or SAPs, that were improperly carried out by both the NSA and the DIA. "I intend to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while I was an intelligence officer with the National Security Agency and with the Defense Intelligence Agency," Mr. Tice stated in the Dec. 16 letters, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Times. The letters were sent the same day that the New York Times revealed that the NSA was engaged in a clandestine eavesdropping program that bypassed the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.
Does this mean Tice is the source that betrayed classified information a year ago when the NYT first wanted to run the story, and is the the source for the classified information in the book the NYT reporter has written, or is he just a disgruntled fired employee seeking to pile on and get revenge.
The FISA court issues orders for targeted electronic and other surveillance by the government. President Bush said Sunday that the NSA spying is "a necessary program" aimed at finding international terrorists by tracking phone numbers linked to al Qaeda. Mr. Bush said during a visit to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio that al Qaeda is "making phone calls, [and] it makes sense to find out why." Critics of the eavesdropping program, which gathered and sifted through large amounts of telephone and e-mail to search for clues to terrorists'
It absolutely makes sens to find out why, and if FISA is not adequate to do the job, then I am happy Bush found another way.
communications, say the activities might have been illegal because they were carried out without obtaining a FISA court order. The Justice Department has said the program is legal under presidential powers authorized by Congress in 2001. Mr. Tice said yesterday that he was not part of the intercept program.
If he was not a part of the intercept program, then what makes him an expert on what was being done?
In his Dec. 16 letter, Mr. Tice wrote that his testimony would be given under the provisions of the 1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, which makes it legal for intelligence officials to disclose wrongdoing without being punished.
But if he is the traitor that leaked the information a year ago he should be tried for that crime.
The activities involved the NSA director, the NSA deputies chief of staff for air and space operations and the secretary of defense, he stated. "These ... acts were conducted via very highly sensitive intelligence programs and operations known as Special Access Programs," Mr. Tice said. The letters were sent to Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, and Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican. Mr. Roberts is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mr. Hoekstra is chairman of the House counterpart. Spokesmen for the NSA and the Senate intelligence committee declined to comment. Spokesmen for the House intelligence committee and the DIA said they were aware of Mr. Tice's letters, but had not seen formal copies of them.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Agency Initiated Growth of Spying Effort

NYT reported The National Security Agency acted on its own authority, without a formal directive from President Bush, to expand its domestic surveillance operations in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to declassified documents released Tuesday.

Good for them
The N.S.A. operation prompted questions from a leading Democrat, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who said in an Oct. 11, 2001, letter to a top intelligence official that she was concerned about the agency's legal authority to expand its domestic operations, the documents showed. Ms. Pelosi's letter, which was declassified at her request,
Because she now thinks it might be able to hurt the administration, while if she had gone public in 2001 she knew everyone would turn against her.
showed much earlier concerns among lawmakers about the agency's domestic surveillance operations than had been previously known. Similar objections were expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, in a secret letter to Vice President Dick Cheney nearly two years later.
It takes Senators a little longer to write CYA letters.
The letter from Ms. Pelosi, the House minority leader, also suggested that the security agency, whose mission is to eavesdrop on foreign communications, moved immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks to identify terror suspects at home by loosening restrictions on domestic eavesdropping.
I hope they did. The foolishness of the Clinton administration, of establishing a wall between the intelligence agencies and the FBI, and not wanting to do anything unless they were sure they could win in court, had just resulted in the loss of two buildings and nearly 3,000 lives.
The congresswoman wrote to Lt. Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then head of the N.S.A., to express her concerns after she and other members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees received a classified briefing from General Hayden on Oct. 1, 2001, about the agency's operations. Ms. Pelosi, then the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said, "I am concerned whether, and to what extent, the National Security Agency has received specific presidential authorization for the operations you are conducting."

The answer, General Hayden suggested in his response to Ms. Pelosi a week later, was that it had not. "In my briefing," he wrote, "I was attempting to emphasize that I used my authorities to adjust N.S.A.'s collection and reporting." It is not clear whether General Hayden referred at the briefing to the idea of warrantless eavesdropping. Parts of the letters from Ms. Pelosi and General Hayden concerning other specific aspects of the spy agency's domestic operation were blacked out because they remain classified.
She only asked to declassify the stuff she though would hurt the administration.
But officials familiar with the uncensored letters said they referred to other aspects of the domestic eavesdropping program.

Bush administration officials said on Tuesday that General Hayden, now the country's No. 2 intelligence official, had acted on the authority previously granted to the N.S.A., relying on an intelligence directive known as Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981. That order set guidelines for the collection of intelligence, including by the N.S.A.

"He had authority under E.O. 12333 that had been given to him, and he briefed Congress on what he did under those authorities," said Judith A. Emmel, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. "Beyond that, we can't get into details of what was done."

In 2002, President Bush signed an executive order specifically authorizing the security agency to eavesdrop without warrants on the international communications of Americans inside the United States who the agency believed were connected to Al Qaeda. The disclosure of the domestic spying program last month provoked an outcry in Washington, where Congressional hearings are planned.

General Hayden's October 2001 briefing was one of the first glimpses into the expanded but largely hidden role that the N.S.A. would assume in combating terrorism over the last four years.

In the briefing, Ms. Pelosi wrote to General Hayden, "you indicated that you had been operating since the Sept. 11 attacks with an expansive view of your authorities" with respect to electronic surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations.

"You seemed to be inviting expressions of concern from us, if there were any," Ms. Pelosi wrote, but she said that the lack of specific information about the agency's operations made her concerned about the legal rationale used to justify it.

One step that the agency took immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, Ms. Pelosi wrote in her letter, was to begin forwarding information from foreign intelligence intercepts to the F.B.I. for investigation without first receiving a specific request from the bureau for "identifying information."
Good for them.
In the past, under so-called minimization procedures intended to guard Americans' privacy, the agency's standard practice had been to require a written request from a government official who wanted to know the name of an American citizen or a person in the United States who was mentioned or overheard in a wiretap.
A totally stupid procedure established under the Clinto administration.
In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency began monitoring telephone calls and e-mail messages between the United States and Afghanistan to track possible terror suspects. That program led to the broader eavesdropping operation on other international communications, officials have said.

The agency has also tapped into some of the nation's main telecommunications arteries to trace and analyze large volumes of phone and e-mail traffic to look for patterns of possible terrorist activity.

Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the new documents, along with previous reports of objections to the program from Senator Rockefeller and James B. Comey, the former deputy attorney general, underscored the need for a comprehensive investigation.
Just make it a secret investigation, and if any of it appears in the New York Times, prosecute the leakers with charges of treason.
"There's an increasing picture of concern, if not outright opposition, within the government," Mr. Rotenberg said. "But we can't second-guess anyone's actions on a document-by-document basis," particularly if the documents are released only in part, he added.

The way the N.S.A.'s role has expanded has prompted concern even from some of its former leaders, like Bobby R. Inman, a retired admiral who was N.S.A. director from 1977 to 1981. Admiral Inman said that while he supported the decision to step up eavesdropping against potential terrorists immediately after the 2001 attacks, the Bush administration should have tried to change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to provide explicit legal authorization for what N.S.A. was doing. "What I don't understand is why when you're proposing the Patriot Act, you don't set up an oversight mechanism for this?" Admiral Inman said in an interview.
Because they felt they already had the legal right to do it, and they did not want the terrorists to know they were going to do it.
"I would have preferred an approach to try to gain legislation to try to operate with new technology and with an audit of how this technology was used."


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

For Bush, a Test in the Midterms

E. J. Dionne Jr. wrote in WaPo Elections at midterm can be low-interest affairs or immensely important. This fall's congressional elections will be a big show with large consequences, because 2006 is looking a lot like the political years 1958, 1966 and 1978, all of which heralded major political transformations.

Or at least the Democrats, and their lap dogs in the MSM, are certainly hoping it will.
The Democratic sweep in 1958 presaged the party's strength in the Kennedy-Johnson years. Democratic dominance peaked in LBJ's 1964 landslide. But just two years later, big Republican gains signaled problems in the Democratic coalition that the party struggles with to this day.
Like not having a plan.
The 1978 elections during Jimmy Carter's presidency marked the emergence of a powerful New Right that swept Ronald Reagan into office in 1980 and continues to be the dominant force in the Republican Party.

The 2006 elections will be a test of the audacious Karl Rove-George W. Bush plan to launch a long-term Republican Era. They foresee an alliance of corporate interests and religious conservatives, with the South as its home base. Business provides the money. Middle-class traditionalists furnish the troops.

But the alliance always threatens to disintegrate because its wings have very different priorities and competing values.
Just as the Democratic party finds its extreme left wing very much at odds with the moderates that have stayed in that party.
Moreover, conservatives can't win elections on their own. They need moderate votes,
Just as liberals can't win without moderate votes as well.
and significant support outside the old Confederacy. Bush's carefully cultivated image as a strong, trustworthy leader in the war on terrorism brought around enough middle-of-the road voters to create the Republican monolith that is now our national government.
And with the loudest voices in the Democratic party pushing to defeat the Patriot Act and stop the NSA Wiretaps, that have prevented another attack in this country since 9/11, how many of those moderate voters are going to trust the Democrats to keep them safe?


Murtha says he wouldn't join military now

Reuters reported Rep. John Murtha, a key Democratic voice who favors pulling U.S. troops from Iraq, said in remarks airing on Monday that he would not join the U.S. military today.

According to his bio on Wikipedia, he is 73 years old. I don't think the military would want him, even if he wanted to join.
A decorated Vietnam combat veteran who retired as a colonel after 37 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Murtha told ABC News' "Nightline" program that Iraq "absolutely" was a wrong war for President George W. Bush to have launched.
Murtha is absolutely wrong in saying that, and most of 26 million Iraqis that are free from Saddam's oppressive government would probably agree.
"Would you join (the military) today?," he was asked in an interview taped on Friday. "No," replied Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of his party's leading spokesmen on military issues.
Murtha is a coward
"And I think you're saying the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying 'I don't want to serve'," the interviewer continued.
Fortunately recruitment numbers are not suffering that badly, and re-enlistment numbers, from people who have actually been in Iraq or Afganistan, are extremely high.
"Exactly right," said Murtha, who drew White House ire in November after becoming the first ranking Democrat to push for a pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as it could be done safely. At the time, White House spokesman Scott McClellan equated Murtha's position with surrendering to terrorists.


Saddam prefers death by shooting

Washington Times reported Saddam maintains that he is still commander in chief of Iraq's armed forces -- and that a firing squad is "the right way" to execute a military leader.

Actually the right way would probably be to torture him to death as he had so many others tortured to death, but if Iraqi law provides that the condemned man gets a choice, then go ahead and shoot him.
"I'm not afraid of death," he told two of his lawyers in an astonishingly candid five-hour meeting, as he sat in a comfortable chair at the head of the table.
Then why don't you change your plea to guilty.
"Of course I'm not guilty, but I know they want me dead."
That is because you are guilty as sin.


Sunni Group Near Deal With Kurds on Iraqi Government

NYT reported The largest Sunni Arab political group in Iraq unexpectedly moved toward agreement with Kurdish leaders Monday on a broad framework for a coalition government. The group, the Iraqi Consensus Front, said it would abandon claims that national elections last month had been rigged once international election monitors finish their review of the allegations. The move drew a rebuke from other Sunni Arab political leaders who accused the Sunni consensus party of violating an agreement to press ahead with claims of Sunni disenfranchisement during the vote on Dec. 15 and to not bargain on their own for a role in the new government.

That would be absolutely stupid for them to ignore an opportunity to get a role in the government and just end up with something to complain about.
"They violated an agreement with us that they will not go alone to talk about the government," Saleh Mutlak, a leader of the Iraqi National Trend, another leading Sunni Arab political group, said Monday night.
They probably should have brought the other Sunni groups along with them, unless it was obvious that the other groups just wanted to bitch, and not participate in the government.
The Sunni consensus party and the Kurds remain far apart on several crucial issues, including one they highlighted at a news conference on Monday: the Kurds support introducing federal states throughout Iraq, while the Sunnis, who fear the loss of revenue from large oil fields in the Shiite-dominated south, want only the Kurds in the north to have a semi-autonomous state.


New Rules Set for Giving Out Antiterror Aid

NYT reported Facing cuts in antiterrorism financing, the Department of Homeland Security plans to announce today that it will evaluate new requests for money from an $800 million aid program for cities based less on politics and more on assessments of where terrorists are likely to strike and potentially cause the greatest damage, department officials say.

It is about time. Just using the program as a mechanism to send federal pork all over the country, where it was used to buy air conditioned garbage trucks and other such foolishness was sheer stupidity.
The changes to the program, the Urban Area Security Initiative, are being driven in part by a reduction in the overall pool of money for antiterrorism efforts.
If it takes a cutback in funds to cause money to be spent the right way we need more cutback in funds for other programs. In fact we need more cutbacks in funds for other programs in any event, but having the reduced funds spent wisely is an additional benefit.
For 2006, Congress has appropriated $120 million less in these urban grants than for 2005. Domestic security grants in general, including the urban area ones, have been criticized because they have sent more antiterrorism money per capita to sparsely populated states like Wyoming and Alaska than to states like New York and California.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Blanco orders remodeling just after storms

2theadvocate reports Some members of the governor's staff will return from the three-day holiday on Tuesday to newly renovated offices at the State Capitol. Shortly after the two hurricanes, Gov. Kathleen Blanco decided to renovate some of her staff's offices. At the time of her decision, Blanco also was hinting at deep budget cuts to state programs and the possibility of laying off 20 percent of the state workforce. The project cost $564,838.

The newly refurbished office space on the sixth floor of the State Capitol includes hookups and mounts for two flat screen televisions,

So the next time New Orleans floods, the governor will be able to watch it in comfort. And if she is going to waste over 1/2 Million on her own comfort, while they are still working on New Orleans recovery, she better not ask for more federal funds to be spent in Louisiana.
Swedish granite countertops, walnut paneling and frosted laminated glass. The floor, which will not be accessible to the public
We certainly dont want te public to see the Swedish granite countertops, walnut paneling, and the other luxuries the Governor's staff got.
, was redesigned to add three new offices, a conference room and file storage areas.

Michelle Malkin blogged She's earning her crown as one of America's Worst Governors.


Big Imam on Campus

Deborah Solomon interviewed Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal in NYT Q: You just gave $20 million to Harvard and another $20 million to Georgetown to advance the study of Islam, and some are concerned that you are trying to increase the on-campus influence of the Saudi royal family, of which you are reportedly the single wealthiest member.

I don't have control, and I don't want control. Period. They approached us with a proposal. Harvard, Georgetown, University of Chicago, University of Michigan and several of the Ivy Leagues.

But your investment company, Kingdom Holding, invited the schools to submit the proposal, didn't it? Whom else did you approach?

Please. Keep the other universities out. I'd rather not embarrass them. The two winners were Georgetown and Harvard.

Then why did you just name University of Chicago, University of Michigan, and refer to several of the Ivy Leagues?
Since you're said to be worth more than $20 billion, with major holdings in Four Seasons Hotels, Saks Fifth Avenue and Murdoch's News Corporation, why not give an unrestricted gift instead of such a narrowly focused one?

The gift is unrestricted!

No, it's not. It has to be spent on Islamic studies. Georgetown is renaming a center after you, and Harvard is naming a program after you.

Well, sure! The studies that concern me and fit my overall global vision - they're Islamic studies. As you know, ever since 9/11, we have been trying to bridge the gap between West and East.
Then why support Islamic Studies. Why not fund a study to bridge the gap between West and East, and focus it on how to stop Saudia Arabia from exporting its Extreme Wahabi version of Islam?
Which has backfired at least once. You became notorious in New York when Mayor Giuliani declined to accept a $10 million donation from you to victims' families after you suggested that the U.S. was too friendly with Israel.

By the way, my check was taken to the bank and cashed. The problem was with my statement. I accepted that. Subject closed.

Subject reopened. The money was returned to you. Have you told Harvard, as you told the City of New York, that the U.S. needs to "adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause"?

Let me tell you my position. We need to have good relations between the Arab world and Israel. When I sold my Plaza Hotel in New York, it was sold to Elad, which is an Israeli company.

Doing business with the citizens of a country is not the same thing as believing in that country's right to exist.

We are doing so many things to bridge the gap between Christianity and Islam and Judaism. For example, at my hotel in Paris, George V, you are going to find the Christian Bible, the Jewish Bible and the Islamic Koran in each single room.
That is nice for France. How about making sure that every hotel in Saudi Arabia also has all three holy books?
That's a wonderful idea, but a luxury hotel in Paris is a long way from Saudi Arabia, where you could surely spend more money on Judeo-Christian studies.

Look. You have to understand that the population of Saudi Arabia has zero Christians.
That is because your religion police beat anyone caught with a bible, and they burn the bibles.
That's the point. Why shouldn't you should spend your millions educating your own students before you educate kids at Harvard?

Obviously, it could be something we are contemplating.
Are you going to teach them to respect other religions. Remember We are all "People of the Book" (or ahl al Kitâb) Surat Al 'Imran, 64 (Qur'an 3:64) says "O People of the Book! Let us rally to a common formula to be binding on both us and you: That we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than God."
Are you spending any money in Iraq?
So far, I am investing nothing. Zero.Very simple. I have investments in 150 nations, but I will not invest in Iraq until they have political tranquillity and a functioning government.

But where will they get money to rebuild?

Uncle Sam. The United States is spending like hell over there.

Why don't you help us?

If I go there right now and say, "I want to build a hotel," they will laugh at me. You need schools and hospitals and the airport, and then after, you can talk about the hotels.
Then build schools and hospitals.
You find the situation very volatile still?

You have not done a very good job there. After 9/11, the U.S. needed to have a big revenge, and Saddam Hussein was a sitting duck. The U.S., with its huge ego, needed to have something big and dramatic.

That's not what I would call a bridge-building sentiment.

You have to understand. I am a friend of the United States, and these days to be in the Arab world and to be a friend of the United States is a liability. But nevertheless I say it. I am a great friend.
With friends like you, who needs enemies?


Made America Any Safer

John in DC blogged It's one thing to give up our civil liberties in exchange for the safety of our children. It's quite another to give them up and get little in return. Let's examine just how much safer George Bush has made America since September 11.

  1. Osama is still free, and Bush never even talks about him anymore.
    Not much to say. Osama has not even released a tape in the last year.
  2. Our military is bogged down in a war that had nothing to do with Osama or Al Qaeda UNTIL WE INVADED AND MADE IRAQ AL QAEDA'S NEW HOME.
    We are not bogged down, and we still have military in Afganistan.
  3. We've turned Iraq into the biggest terrorist training camp in the world: "Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of 'professionalized' terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank....
    Our military is confronting the Islamoterrists in Baghdad and Basrah rather than Boston, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Bismarck, Boise, Buffalo, Broken Arrow, or Beaumont; in Mosul rather than Miami, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Mobile, Memphis, Muskogee, or Mesquite; in Karkuk and Karbala rather than Kansas City, Knoxville, Ketchum, or Kilgore; in Tall Afar and Tikrit rather than Tulsa, Tallahassee, Tampa Bay, Terre Haute, Toledo, Topeka, Tucson, Tahlequah, Texas City, or Texarkana. I don't know about you, but I would much rather have them confront the terrorists there, than on US soil.
  4. Far too many of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, recommendations to make us safer, have still not been implemented.
    And far too many of them have been implemented.
  5. The Homeland Security budget is being spent on frivolous pork: "The District of Columbia used part of its grant to buy leather jackets and to send sanitation workers to self-improvement seminars. Newark bought air-conditioned garbage trucks. Columbus, Ohio, bought body armor for fire department dogs. These are not the priorities of a nation under threat."
    That is terrible, but those purchasing decisions were not made by George Bush, or anyone else in the Bush administration. It is Congress that spread the money around, and allowed local government to decide what to spend it on.
  6. The 9/11 Commission gives Bush a grade of "D" under the category: "Maximum effort to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMD" - i.e., he gets a D for his efforts to stop terrorists from getting nuclear bombs.
    I am sure the commission is sad that its 15 minutes of fame have expired, but I do recall reading stories in the WaPo about testing for radiation near Mosques, homes, and businesses. Sounds to me like the administration was working on protecting us from nuclear bombs.
  7. Most of the world now hates us.
    They hate us because we are rich and powerful and they are not.
  8. And let me leave you with the words of the head of Republican head of the 9/11 commission, just a few weeks ago: "Four years after 9/11 it is scandalous that police and firefighters in large cities still cannot communicate reliably in a major crisis," said Thomas Kean, the Republican who was chairman of the commission.
    It is Congress that will not appropriate the frequencies needed, because they want the money paid by the broadcast industry that would have to give up those frequencies
    "It is scandalous that airline passengers are still not screened against all names on a terrorist watch list.
    As easy as it is to get fake ID information I would rather see them spending the effort to get unforgable ID cards.
    "It is scandalous that we still allocate scarce homeland security dollars on the basis of pork barrel spending, not risk...."
    As indicated above, it is Congress that appropriated the money, not the Bush Administration.
    "While the terrorists are learning and adapting, our government is still moving at a crawl."
    We are doing many things, like NSA intercepts, but newspapers are exposing those efforts rather than helping to keep the terrorists from knowing about them
Tell me again how Bush has made us safer?
How many planes have been flown into buildings since 9/11. How many terrorists attacks have occurred on US soil since 9/11. There have been attacks in Britain, Bali, Australia, Jordan, and many other countries, but not the US.


President's Assent to the McCain Amendment

Marty Lederman blogged The President signed the Defense Appropriations bill on Friday. In his signing statement he did at least two notable things.

First, with respect to several provisions of the bill, the President signaled his intention to reserve his authority, as Commander in Chief, to ignore statutory mandates.

Fantastic news. The Congress cannot change the constitutional powers of the president just by passing a law. It requires a Constitutional Ammendment passed by two thirds of both houses, and agreed to by three-fourths of the states.
These include provisions that require advance notice of congressional committees before the use of funds to initiate a special access program, a new overseas installation, or a new start program; and a "report and wait" provision that requires the President to wait 15 days after notifying six congressional committees before using certain appropriations to transfer defense articles or services to another nation or an international organization for international peacekeeping, peace enforcement, or humanitarian assistance operations.

Most importantly, as to the McCain Amendment, which would categorically prohibit cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees by all U.S. personnel, anywhere in the world, the President wrote:
The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.
Translation: I reserve the constitutional right to waterboard when it will "assist" in protecting the American people from terrorist attacks.
Good for Bush. I was afraid he had allowed McCain to force him to stop. But now it is obvious he just saw that McCain was not going to be willing to compromise, so he just pretended to go along with it.
You didn't think Cheney and Addington were going to go down quietly, did you? (And this even though they took their opponents to the cleaners by negotiating the Graham Amendments, which, by precluding substantial avenues of judicial review, are far more beneficial to their detention and interrogation policies than the McCain Amendment is detrimental.)

Questions of the hour: How, if at all, will McCain respond?
If he has any sense he will keep his mouth shut. But we all know he does not have any sense., so we will have to wait and see.
And will these questions of presidential authority to ignore statutory restrictions on the conduct of war -- implicated as well in the current NSA wiretapping scandal -- be front and center in the upcoming Alito hearings?


States Take Lead in Push to Raise Minimum Wages

NYT reported Despite Congressional refusal for almost a decade to raise the federal minimum wage, nearly half of the civilian labor force lives in states where the pay is higher than the rate set by the federal government. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have acted on their own to set minimum wages that exceed the $5.15 an hour rate set by the federal government, and this year lawmakers in dozens of the remaining states will debate raising the minimum wage. Some states that already have a higher minimum wage than the federal rate will be debating further increases and adjustments for inflation.

That is good. The states are where it should be done. If a state wants to run the risk of driving businesses to neighboring states where the wage levels are lower, they should have that right.
The last time the federal minimum wage was raised was in 1997 - when it was increased from $4.75 an hour. Since then, efforts in Congress to increase the amount have been stymied largely by Republican lawmakers and business groups who argued that a higher minimum wage would drive away jobs.
And it still may drive away jobs. But rather than driving them to Canada or Mexico, maybe this way they would drive them from New York to New Jersey, or California to Arizona, or from Blue States to Red States.


Muslim Scholars Were Paid to Aid U.S. Propaganda

NYT reported A Pentagon contractor that paid Iraqi newspapers to print positive articles written by American soldiers has also been compensating Sunni religious scholars in Iraq in return for assistance with its propaganda work, according to current and former employees.

So what. I am glad to hear that. But tell me this, durring World War II, did the NYT run stories about how the government was paying for propaganda efforts in against the Nazis in Europe? Or were you not trying to stir up anti-war feelings for that war?
The Lincoln Group, a Washington-based public relations company, was told early in 2005 by the Pentagon to identify religious leaders who could help produce messages that would persuade Sunnis in violence-ridden Anbar Province to participate in national elections and reject the insurgency, according to a former employee.
A VERY good idea.
Since then, the company has retained three or four Sunni religious scholars to offer advice and write reports for military commanders on the content of propaganda campaigns, the former employee said.
Why just three or four. Why not three or four hundred?
But documents and Lincoln executives say the company's ties to religious leaders and dozens of other prominent Iraqis is aimed also at enabling it to exercise influence in Iraqi communities on behalf of clients, including the military.


Answering Back to the News Media

NYT reported Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, or so goes the old saw. For decades, the famous and the infamous alike largely followed this advice. Even when subjects of news stories felt they had been misunderstood or badly treated, they were unlikely to take on reporters or publishers, believing that the power of the press gave the press the final word.

This is why the news media got the idea that they could say whatever they wanted, not to report the news, but to try to change public opinion to twist thing the way they wanted to see them, and no one could stop them.
The Internet, and especially the amplifying power of blogs, is changing that. Unhappy subjects discovered a decade ago that they could use their Web sites to correct the record or deconstruct articles to expose what they perceived as a journalist's bias or wrongheaded narration.
Like Dan Rather and the fabricated National Guard story he tried to push to affet the 2004 elections.
But now they are going a step further. Subjects of newspaper articles and news broadcasts now fight back with the same methods reporters use to generate articles and broadcasts - taping interviews, gathering e-mail exchanges, taking notes on phone conversations - and publish them on their own Web sites. This new weapon in the media wars is shifting the center of gravity in the way that news is gathered and presented, and it carries implications for the future of journalism.
Hopefully back to where they report the news, not just what they want people to think.
Just ask "Nightline," the ABC News program, which broadcast a segment in August about intelligent design that the Discovery Institute, a conservative clearinghouse for proponents of intelligent design, did not like very much. The next day, the institute published on its Web site the entire transcript of the nearly hourlong interview that "Nightline" had conducted a few days earlier with one of the institute's leaders, not just the brief quotes that had appeared on television.

The institute did not accuse "Nightline" of any errors. Rather, it urged readers to examine the unedited interview because, it said, the transcript would reveal "the predictable tone of some of the questions" by the staff of "Nightline."
Good for them.


Bush Defends Spy Program

NYT reports President Bush continued on Sunday to defend both the legality and the necessity of the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program,

And he emphisized the secret nature of the program, and how the NYT releasing the story to try to affect book sales of one of its reporters, or to try to stop renewal of the Patriot Act is despicable. I hope the next attack in New York is on the NYT building.
and he denied that he misled the public last year when he insisted that any government wiretap required a court order.
One does not reveal the details of a classified project just because someone asks a question.
"I think most Americans understand the need to find out what the enemy's thinking, and that's what we're doing," Mr. Bush told reporters in San Antonio as he visited wounded soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center.
He is right, and thank God we have a president that does as much as Bush does to try to protect us.
"They attacked us before, they'll attack us again if they can," he said. "And we're going to do everything we can to stop them."
He is absolutely right.
Mr. Bush's strong defense of the N.S.A. program, which he authorized in 2002 to allow some domestic eavesdropping without court warrants, came as a leading Democratic lawmaker called on the administration to make available current and former high-level officials to explain the evolution of the secret program.
Their questions will be answered, but in closed session, and if the NYT prints anything that is said in closed session, I hope they will arrest the reporters and editors, and press them to reveal which legislators leaked the information. The McCain amendment on torture applies to prisoners taken overseas? Does it apply to newspaper reporters printing classified information, and the legislators that leak that information.
Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has already pledged to make hearings into the program one of his highest priorities.
They better be closed session hearings, and they better come after the Supreme Court nominee hearings, or we may be looking for a new committee chairman.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Schumer Seeks Motive

Yahoo! News reported The investigation into leaks about a domestic spying program should determine whether the motivation was damaging security or revealing a potentially illegal activity, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said Sunday.

We first need to find out who the traitor was. Motivation may be a part of his defense
"There are differences between felons and whistleblowers, and we ought to wait 'til the investigation occurs to decide what happened," said Sen. Charles Schumer.
We first need to find out who betrayed his country by leaking classified information. He will then be given a trial. He will not be executed until after he has been found guilty in his trial.


Bush New Year’s Resolutions

<insert tongue in cheek>

ScrappleFace reports In response to repeated requests from White House correspondents, the Bush administration today released a list of the president’s 2006 New Year’s resolutions.

Like most Americans’ resolutions, Mr. Bush’s involve weight loss, health, money, relationships and career concerns. The following is the unedited list.

“I, George Walker Bush, do resolve to accomplish the following in the year of our Lord, 2006 …

  • Lose weight: Help the U.S. Senate replace about 1,800 pounds of excess fat with a similar amount of lean muscle.
    I believe there is more excess fat there than that, but it would certainly be a good start.

  • Exercise more: Specifically exercise my veto power over Congressional spending.
    Good idea.

  • Get Organized: Put liberal Republicans like Senators Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee and Arlen Specter in their proper places
    In the private sector
    and keep them there so I can quickly locate them if I ever need them.
  • Get Out of Debt: Cut non-essential expenses like the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Amtrak, Department of Education, United Nations, aid to countries that vote against us at the U.N., local projects funded with federal tax dollars, and any non-military federal activity that supplants the rights and responsibilities of states and individuals.
    I support all of those.

  • Quit Smoking: Stop burning ‘the base’ in an effort to satisfy the fringe.
  • Listen More: Reauthorize 2002 executive order on NSA surveillance of terrorist phone calls and emails.
    And file for a FISA warrent on every US number in any terrorist's cell phone or address book.

  • Recycle More: Dust off those Reagan-era ideals about smaller government and use them.
  • Learn New Languages: Specifically learn how to say “I accept your unconditional surrender” in Arabic, Korean, Farsi and Liberalese.
    What about French?

<remove tongue from cheek>


Netgear Support Problem

Jeremy Wright describes a terrible experience trying to get a Netgear Router to work. Read the whole thing but here are a few of the highlights:

  • Try and call Netgear with number on box, but it’s the wrong one.
  • Find number in documentation package.
  • Call Netgear to try and figure out what’s wrong, since all seems to be working properly.
  • Get a “you can’t talk to support until you register your product” (after 15 minutes on hold). Of course, the only way to register is to be online.
  • Disconnect everything, go to, the address they supplied. It’s a 404 error. Yay.


Baby Noor arrives in Atlanta

Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Baby Noor, the little Iraqi girl born with a severe spinal cord defect , arrived in Atlanta Saturday afternoon and moved a big step toward the medical care she needs to survive.... The doctor who will perform surgery on Baby Noor — born with spina bifida — praised American troops, members of the 48th Brigade BCT, who found her. “These are good guys and they went out of their way to make this happen,” said Dr. Roger Hudgins of Children’s Healthcare shortly before the plane arrived Saturday.

I agree wutg Dr Hudgins; the members of the 48th Brigade deserve our praise.
Members of the Gainesville-based Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment found the baby during a search of the family home in the slums of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad.
John Kerry recently accused our troops of terrorizing Iraqi civilians. Is this act of charity what he was talking about?
... Born three months ago with Spina Bifida, Noor has a large growth on her back where her spinal cord did not properly close. She requires immediate surgery to correct the problem. Iraqi doctors told the family they could do nothing for the baby and that she did not have long to survive. Charlie Company soldiers found the baby during a search of the family home in the slums of Abu Ghraib, just west of Baghdad. They were determined to help save the life of the frail child. “Just knowing she’s going to get a chance in life she will never get here gives you a warm feeling,” said Staff Sgt. David Squires, who works for a hearing aid company in Gainesville. “The children of Iraq are the country’s future.”


Blow up U.N. club in Gaza City

Yahoo! News reported Masked gunmen stormed into a club for United Nations workers in Gaza City on Sunday and blew up the drinking hall in a new sign of spiralling unrest ahead of a Palestinian election.

The UN is the biggest friend the Palestinians have; for them to turn on the UN just shows how these thugs do not deserve a country of their own; they deserve either jail or death.
It was the first such attack in Gaza on a U.N. target and came against a backdrop of growing unease among foreigners.


Justice Deputy Resisted Parts of Spy Program - New York Times

NYT reported A top Justice Department official objected in 2004 to aspects of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and refused to sign on to its continued use amid concerns about its legality and oversight, according to officials with knowledge of the tense internal debate. The concerns appear to have played a part in the temporary suspension of the secret program.

This story comes from the same two authors that exposed sources and methods of a program to track calls from Al Qaeda to cells in hte US which has proven very useful in preventing another 9/11 attack on this country. Did the same trator that betrayed the US when he revealed the secret NSA program also come up with this information that Eric Lichtblau and James Risen printed here, or did they find another trator, or perhaps did Risen make it up to help hype the book he has coming out this month?
The concerns prompted two of President Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then White House counsel and now attorney general - to make an emergency visit to a Washington hospital in March 2004 to discuss the program's future and try to win the needed approval from Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was hospitalized for gallbladder surgery, the officials said.

The unusual meeting was prompted because Mr. Ashcroft's top deputy, James B. Comey, who was acting as attorney general in his absence, had indicated he was unwilling to give his approval to certifying central aspects of the program, as required under the White House procedures set up to oversee it.
If an acting attorney general will not support something, what is unusual about talking to the real attorney general.
With Mr. Comey unwilling to sign off on the program, the White House went to Mr. Ashcroft - who had been in the intensive care unit at George Washington University Hospital with pancreatitis and was housed under unusually tight security - because "they needed him for certification," according to an official briefed on the episode. The official, like others who discussed the issue, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the program.
So you admit that you have found another source who will betray classified information about a secret intelligence program important to the defense of the US in the War on Terror.