February 24, 2006

Blackwater: Welcome to the machine

In a move right out of 1984, Blackwater USA, the security company that has been a major provider of “private contractor” troops and security experts for missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and most recently New Orleans, announced a new phase in their operation.

Starting in December, they will be providing remote controlled drone airships (see blimps) that will be outfitted with state of the art surveillance and detection technology. The airship will be able to hover for days at a time and furnish command centers with real time information about all activities on the ground.

A second generation of airships will follow that will have the capacity to carry tons of payload.

So it appears that in addition to being one of the world’s premier providers of private armies, Blackwater will be moving into the role of becoming the eyes and ears for big brother. This new capacity will allow them to monitor ground activity, direct their mercenaries, and possibly deliver ordinance, all from a remote, secure station.

And who will be looking after those, who will be looking in on us.


January 10, 2006


Blackwater Airships, LLC Is The Newest Addition To The Firm's Security Portfolio

Moyock, NC - The national security of the United States depends upon innovative and flexible solutions in the global war on terror. Blackwater USA, the world's premier security, peace and stability operations firm recently unveiled its plans to create a new subsidiary; Blackwater Airships.

Blackwater Airship's initial focus will be the development and deployment of small remotely piloted airship vehicles (RPAVs) that can operate from 5,000 - 15,000 feet, move and hover, and stay aloft for up to four days. The airships will be equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance and detection equipment that can detect, record, and communicate in real time to friendly forces the movement and activities of terrorists.

Gary Jackson, president of Blackwater USA said, "This project is in keeping with Blackwater's support of peace and security throughout the world."

Follow-on phases of the project will include larger airships that will carry tons of payload in support of remote humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. Blackwater, who is already involved in stability operations throughout the world, continues to innovate in support of peace and security, and freedom and democracy everywhere.

The first Blackwater Airship will be available in December 2006.

Blackwater is committed to supporting national and international security policies that protect those who are defenseless and provide a free voice for all. Other Blackwater subsidiaries include: Blackwater Training Center, Blackwater Target Systems, Blackwater Security Consulting, Blackwater Canine, and Raven Development Group. For more information, please visit www.blackwaterusa.com.


cross posted from Manning the Barricades

more on Blackwater:

Blackwater IraqFact Profile

Blackwater in New Orleans part I

Balckwater in New Orleans part II

Blackwater takes over Iraqi training

February 01, 2006

When is a hostage not a hostage?

A recently released military memo, dated June 10, 2004 revealed that US occupation forces in Iraq had detained the wives of "suspected terrorists" in order to pressure the suspects into giving themselves up.

The memo released Friday, written by an officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, complained that on May 9, 2004, he witnessed a U.S. raid team detain a 28-year-old mother from Tamiya, northwest of Baghdad when U.S. forces raided her in-laws’ home. She had three young children, including one who was nursing.

According to the memo:

Her husband was the primary target of the raid, with other suspect personnel subject to detainment as well,"

"During the pre-operational brief, it was recommended by TF (task force) personnel that if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the primary target's surrender."

“During my initial screening of the occupants at the target house, I determined that the wife could provide no actionable intelligence leading to the arrest of her husband,” the author of the memo wrote. “Despite my protest, the raid team leader detained her anyway.”

In a separate incident, an officer from the Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division in northern Iraq discussed the detention of some Kurdish female prisoners in an e-mail exchange with his commanding officer. In it he mentioned that his commanding general "wants the husband."

The commanding officer reportedly replied back on June 17, 2004; "What are you guys doing to try to get the husband -- have you tacked a note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?"

The first officer responded two days later that he was getting more information from the women that could “result in getting husband."

1 a : a person held by one party in a conflict as a pledge that promises will be kept or terms met by the other party b : a person taken by force to secure the taker's demands
2 : one that is involuntarily controlled by an outside influence

What part of these two actions does not qualify as hostage taking?

When one's actions become indiscernible from those of his enemy, he is no better, and has become what he originally despised. We have become terrorist, and there is no way you could ever convince me to the contrary.

Kansas City Star
Islam Online (Qatar)

January 19, 2006

2002 State Department secret memo refuted Niger uranium claims

The New York Times reports that a recently declassified, secret high-level intelligence assessment concluded in early 2002 that it was "unlikely" that any sale of Uranium to Saddam Hussein's Iraq by the government of Niger ever took place. The State Department made the determination based upon economic, diplomatic and logistical obstacles that would have prevented the transaction.

One problem the State Departments analysis concluded that would have made the sale improbable was the fact that Niger would have been required to ship "25 hard-to-conceal 10 ton tractor trailers" filled with uranium over 1000 miles and across international borders.

The analysts' doubts were registered nearly a year before President Bush, in what became known as the infamous "16 words" in his 2003 State of the Union address, said that Saddam Hussein had sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

The White House later acknowledged that the charge, which played a part in the decision to invade Iraq in the belief that Baghdad was reconstituting its nuclear program, relied on faulty intelligence and should not have been included in the speech. Two months ago, Italian intelligence officials concluded that a set of documents at the center of the supposed Iraq-Niger link had been forged by an occasional Italian spy.

A handful of news reports, along with the Robb-Silberman report last year on intelligence failures in Iraq, have previously made reference to the early doubts expressed by the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research in 2002 concerning the reliability of the Iraq-Niger uranium link.

But the intelligence assessment itself - including the analysts' full arguments in raising wide-ranging doubts about the credence of the uranium claim - was only recently declassified as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that has sought access to government documents on terrorism and intelligence matters. The group, which received a copy of the 2002 memo among several hundred pages of other documents, provided a copy of the memo to The New York Times.

This newly released assessment was one of a number undertaken in early 2002. In February of 2002 the CIA sent former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson to Niger to investigate the claims. After investigating, Wilson came very much the same conclusion – there was no validity to the uranium yellowcake claim.

A four-star general, Carlton W. Fulford Jr., was also sent to Niger to investigate the claims of a uranium purchase. He, too, came away with doubts about the reliability of the report and believed Niger's yellowcake supply to be secure. But the State Department's review, which looked at the political, economic and logistical factors in such a purchase, seems to have produced wider-ranging doubts than other reviews about the likelihood that Niger would try to sell uranium to Baghdad.

The review concluded that Niger was "probably not planning to sell uranium to Iraq," in part because France controlled the uranium industry in the country and could block such a sale. It also cast doubt on an intelligence report indicating that Niger's president, Mamadou Tandja, might have negotiated a sales agreement with Iraq in 2000. Mr. Tandja and his government were reluctant to do anything to endanger their foreign aid from the United States and other allies, the review concluded. The State Department review also cast doubt on the logistics of Niger being able to deliver 500 tons of uranium even if the sale were attempted. "Moving such a quantity secretly over such a distance would be very difficult, particularly because the French would be indisposed to approve or cloak this arrangement," the review said.

The memo which was distributed by Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Defense Intelligence Agency was dated March 4, 2002. Despite this memo and subsequent warnings from the CIA the Niger Yellowcake claims still found their way into the Presidents Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union Address and various other administration comments during the period leading up to the war.

January 16, 2006

Al Gore Speech

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Text of Gore speech, January 16, 2006

Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens-Democrats and Republicans alike-to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.

As we begin this new year, the Executive Branch of our government has been caught eavesdropping on huge numbers of American citizens and has brazenly declared that it has the unilateral right to continue without regard to the established law enacted by Congress to prevent such abuses.

It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal." The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder. The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance. I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States." The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false. Moreover, as soon as this massive domestic spying program was uncovered by the press, the President not only confirmed that the story was true, but also declared that he has no intention of bringing these wholesale invasions of privacy to an end.

At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and persistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America's alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes. Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information. America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.

The President and I agree on one thing. The threat from terrorism is all too real. There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attack on September 11th and that we must be ever-vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government to protect Americans from terrorism. In fact, doing so makes us weaker and more vulnerable.

Once violated, the rule of law is in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

The President's men have minced words about America's laws. The Attorney General openly conceded that the "kind of surveillance" we now know they have been conducting requires a court order unless authorized by statute. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act self-evidently does not authorize what the NSA has been doing, and no one inside or outside the Administration claims that it does. Incredibly, the Administration claims instead that the surveillance was implicitly authorized when Congress voted to use force against those who attacked us on September 11th.

This argument just does not hold any water. Without getting into the legal intricacies, it faces a number of embarrassing facts. First, another admission by the Attorney General: he concedes that the Administration knew that the NSA project was prohibited by existing law and that they consulted with some members of Congress about changing the statute. Gonzalez says that they were told this probably would not be possible. So how can they now argue that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force somehow implicitly authorized it all along? Second, when the Authorization was being debated, the Administration did in fact seek to have language inserted in it that would have authorized them to use military force domestically - and the Congress did not agree. Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Jim McGovern, among others, made statements during the Authorization debate clearly restating that that Authorization did not operate domestically.

When President Bush failed to convince Congress to give him all the power he wanted when they passed the AUMF, he secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother. But as Justice Frankfurter once wrote: "To find authority so explicitly withheld is not merely to disregard in a particular instance the clear will of Congress. It is to disrespect the whole legislative process and the constitutional division of authority between President and Congress."

This is precisely the "disrespect" for the law that the Supreme Court struck down in the steel seizure case.

It is this same disrespect for America's Constitution which has now brought our republic to the brink of a dangerous breach in the fabric of the Constitution. And the disrespect embodied in these apparent mass violations of the law is part of a larger pattern of seeming indifference to the Constitution that is deeply troubling to millions of Americans in both political parties.

For example, the President has also declared that he has a heretofore unrecognized inherent power to seize and imprison any American citizen that he alone determines to be a threat to our nation, and that, notwithstanding his American citizenship, the person imprisoned has no right to talk with a lawyer-even to argue that the President or his appointees have made a mistake and imprisoned the wrong person.

The President claims that he can imprison American citizens indefinitely for the rest of their lives without an arrest warrant, without notifying them about what charges have been filed against them, and without informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

At the same time, the Executive Branch has claimed a previously unrecognized authority to mistreat prisoners in its custody in ways that plainly constitute torture in a pattern that has now been documented in U.S. facilities located in several countries around the world.

Over 100 of these captives have reportedly died while being tortured by Executive Branch interrogators and many more have been broken and humiliated. In the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, investigators who documented the pattern of torture estimated that more than 90 percent of the victims were innocent of any charges.

This shameful exercise of power overturns a set of principles that our nation has observed since General Washington first enunciated them during our Revolutionary War and has been observed by every president since then - until now. These practices violate the Geneva Conventions and the International Convention Against Torture, not to mention our own laws against torture.

The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.

Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."

The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.

For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.

Similarly, the Executive Branch claimed that it could unilaterally imprison American citizens without giving them access to review by any tribunal. The Supreme Court disagreed, but the President engaged in legal maneuvers designed to prevent the Court from providing meaningful content to the rights of its citizens.

A conservative jurist on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the Executive Branch's handling of one such case seemed to involve the sudden abandonment of principle "at substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts."

As a result of its unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the Executive Branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's representative democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.

These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power restored to our Republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.

For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.

On more than a few occasions, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled "constitutional crises." These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our Republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live under the rule of law.

The principle alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.

It was in revolt against just such a regime, after all, that America was founded. When Lincoln declared at the time of our greatest crisis that the ultimate question being decided in the Civil War was "whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure," he was not only saving our union but also was recognizing the fact that democracies are rare in history. And when they fail, as did Athens and the Roman Republic upon whose designs our founders drew heavily, what emerges in their place is another strongman regime.

There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.

When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

Our greatest President, Abraham Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. Some of the worst abuses prior to those of the current administration were committed by President Wilson during and after WWI with the notorious Red Scare and Palmer Raids. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII marked a low point for the respect of individual rights at the hands of the executive. And, during the Vietnam War, the notorious COINTELPRO program was part and parcel of the abuses experienced by Dr. King and thousands of others.

But in each of these cases, when the conflict and turmoil subsided, the country recovered its equilibrium and absorbed the lessons learned in a recurring cycle of excess and regret.

There are reasons for concern this time around that conditions may be changing and that the cycle may not repeat itself. For one thing, we have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."

A second reason to believe we may be experiencing something new is that we are told by the Administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to "last for the rest of our lives." So we are told that the conditions of national threat that have been used by other Presidents to justify arrogations of power will persist in near perpetuity.

Third, we need to be aware of the advances in eavesdropping and surveillance technologies with their capacity to sweep up and analyze enormous quantities of information and to mine it for intelligence. This adds significant vulnerability to the privacy and freedom of enormous numbers of innocent people at the same time as the potential power of those technologies. These techologies have the potential for shifting the balance of power between the apparatus of the state and the freedom of the individual in ways both subtle and profound.

Don't misunderstand me: the threat of additional terror strikes is all too real and their concerted efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction does create a real imperative to exercise the powers of the Executive Branch with swiftness and agility. Moreover, there is in fact an inherent power that is conferred by the Constitution to the President to take unilateral action to protect the nation from a sudden and immediate threat, but it is simply not possible to precisely define in legalistic terms exactly when that power is appropriate and when it is not.

But the existence of that inherent power cannot be used to justify a gross and excessive power grab lasting for years that produces a serious imbalance in the relationship between the executive and the other two branches of government.

There is a final reason to worry that we may be experiencing something more than just another cycle of overreach and regret. This Administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential authority is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which is more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the constitution that the Framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition. Under this theory, the President's authority when acting as Commander-in-Chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary or checked by Congress. President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief, invoking it has frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, domestic and foreign. When added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.

The common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control.

This same pattern has characterized the effort to silence dissenting views within the Executive Branch, to censor information that may be inconsistent with its stated ideological goals, and to demand conformity from all Executive Branch employees.

For example, CIA analysts who strongly disagreed with the White House assertion that Osama bin Laden was linked to Saddam Hussein found themselves under pressure at work and became fearful of losing promotions and salary increases.

Ironically, that is exactly what happened to FBI officials in the 1960s who disagreed with J. Edgar Hoover's view that Dr. King was closely connected to Communists. The head of the FBI's domestic intelligence division said that his effort to tell the truth about King's innocence of the charge resulted in he and his colleagues becoming isolated and pressured. "It was evident that we had to change our ways or we would all be out on the street.... The men and I discussed how to get out of trouble. To be in trouble with Mr. Hoover was a serious matter. These men were trying to buy homes, mortgages on homes, children in school. They lived in fear of getting transferred, losing money on their homes, as they usually did. ... so they wanted another memorandum written to get us out of the trouble that we were in."

The Constitution's framers understood this dilemma as well, as Alexander Hamilton put it, "a power over a man's support is a power over his will." (Federalist No. 73)

Soon, there was no more difference of opinion within the FBI. The false accusation became the unanimous view. In exactly the same way, George Tenet's CIA eventually joined in endorsing a manifestly false view that there was a linkage between al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.

In the words of George Orwell: "We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Whenever power is unchecked and unaccountable it almost inevitably leads to mistakes and abuses. In the absence of rigorous accountability, incompetence flourishes. Dishonesty is encouraged and rewarded.

Last week, for example, Vice President Cheney attempted to defend the Administration's eavesdropping on American citizens by saying that if it had conducted this program prior to 9/11, they would have found out the names of some of the hijackers.

Tragically, he apparently still doesn't know that the Administration did in fact have the names of at least 2 of the hijackers well before 9/11 and had available to them information that could have easily led to the identification of most of the other hijackers. And yet, because of incompetence in the handling of this information, it was never used to protect the American people.

It is often the case that an Executive Branch beguiled by the pursuit of unchecked power responds to its own mistakes by reflexively proposing that it be given still more power. Often, the request itself it used to mask accountability for mistakes in the use of power it already has.

Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.

The same instinct to expand its power and to establish dominance characterizes the relationship between this Administration and the courts and the Congress.

In a properly functioning system, the Judicial Branch would serve as the constitutional umpire to ensure that the branches of government observed their proper spheres of authority, observed civil liberties and adhered to the rule of law. Unfortunately, the unilateral executive has tried hard to thwart the ability of the judiciary to call balls and strikes by keeping controversies out of its hands - notably those challenging its ability to detain individuals without legal process -- by appointing judges who will be deferential to its exercise of power and by its support of assaults on the independence of the third branch.

The President's decision to ignore FISA was a direct assault on the power of the judges who sit on that court. Congress established the FISA court precisely to be a check on executive power to wiretap. Yet, to ensure that the court could not function as a check on executive power, the President simply did not take matters to it and did not let the court know that it was being bypassed.

The President's judicial appointments are clearly designed to ensure that the courts will not serve as an effective check on executive power. As we have all learned, Judge Alito is a longtime supporter of a powerful executive - a supporter of the so-called unitary executive, which is more properly called the unilateral executive. Whether you support his confirmation or not - and I do not - we must all agree that he will not vote as an effective check on the expansion of executive power. Likewise, Chief Justice Roberts has made plain his deference to the expansion of executive power through his support of judicial deference to executive agency rulemaking.

And the Administration has supported the assault on judicial independence that has been conducted largely in Congress. That assault includes a threat by the Republican majority in the Senate to permanently change the rules to eliminate the right of the minority to engage in extended debate of the President's judicial nominees. The assault has extended to legislative efforts to curtail the jurisdiction of courts in matters ranging from habeas corpus to the pledge of allegiance. In short, the Administration has demonstrated its contempt for the judicial role and sought to evade judicial review of its actions at every turn.

But the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

I was elected to Congress in 1976 and served eight years in the house, 8 years in the Senate and presided over the Senate for 8 years as Vice President. As a young man, I saw the Congress first hand as the son of a Senator. My father was elected to Congress in 1938, 10 years before I was born, and left the Senate in 1971.

The Congress we have today is unrecognizable compared to the one in which my father served. There are many distinguished Senators and Congressmen serving today. I am honored that some of them are here in this hall. But the legislative branch of government under its current leadership now operates as if it is entirely subservient to the Executive Branch.

Moreover, too many Members of the House and Senate now feel compelled to spend a majority of their time not in thoughtful debate of the issues, but raising money to purchase 30 second TV commercials.

There have now been two or three generations of congressmen who don't really know what an oversight hearing is. In the 70's and 80's, the oversight hearings in which my colleagues and I participated held the feet of the Executive Branch to the fire - no matter which party was in power. Yet oversight is almost unknown in the Congress today.

The role of authorization committees has declined into insignificance. The 13 annual appropriation bills are hardly ever actually passed anymore. Everything is lumped into a single giant measure that is not even available for Members of Congress to read before they vote on it.

Members of the minority party are now routinely excluded from conference committees, and amendments are routinely not allowed during floor consideration of legislation.

In the United States Senate, which used to pride itself on being the "greatest deliberative body in the world," meaningful debate is now a rarity. Even on the eve of the fateful vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd famously asked: "Why is this chamber empty?"

In the House of Representatives, the number who face a genuinely competitive election contest every two years is typically less than a dozen out of 435.

And too many incumbents have come to believe that the key to continued access to the money for re-election is to stay on the good side of those who have the money to give; and, in the case of the majority party, the whole process is largely controlled by the incumbent president and his political organization.

So the willingness of Congress to challenge the Administration is further limited when the same party controls both Congress and the Executive Branch.

The Executive Branch, time and again, has co-opted Congress' role, and often Congress has been a willing accomplice in the surrender of its own power.

Look for example at the Congressional role in "overseeing" this massive four year eavesdropping campaign that on its face seemed so clearly to violate the Bill of Rights. The President says he informed Congress, but what he really means is that he talked with the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate intelligence committees and the top leaders of the House and Senate. This small group, in turn, claimed that they were not given the full facts, though at least one of the intelligence committee leaders handwrote a letter of concern to VP Cheney and placed a copy in his own safe.

Though I sympathize with the awkward position in which these men and women were placed, I cannot disagree with the Liberty Coalition when it says that Democrats as well as Republicans in the Congress must share the blame for not taking action to protest and seek to prevent what they consider a grossly unconstitutional program.

Moreover, in the Congress as a whole-both House and Senate-the enhanced role of money in the re-election process, coupled with the sharply diminished role for reasoned deliberation and debate, has produced an atmosphere conducive to pervasive institutionalized corruption.

The Abramoff scandal is but the tip of a giant iceberg that threatens the integrity of the entire legislative branch of government.

It is the pitiful state of our legislative branch which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by our Executive Branch which now threatens a radical transformation of the American system.

I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.

But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.

Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."

The revolutionary departure on which the idea of America was based was the audacious belief that people can govern themselves and responsibly exercise the ultimate authority in self-government. This insight proceeded inevitably from the bedrock principle articulated by the Enlightenment philosopher John Locke: "All just power is derived from the consent of the governed."

The intricate and carefully balanced constitutional system that is now in such danger was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. The Federalist Papers were, back in the day, widely-read newspaper essays, and they represented only one of twenty-four series of essays that crowded the vibrant marketplace of ideas in which farmers and shopkeepers recapitulated the debates that played out so fruitfully in Philadelphia.

Indeed, when the Convention had done its best, it was the people - in their various States - that refused to confirm the result until, at their insistence, the Bill of Rights was made integral to the document sent forward for ratification.

And it is "We the people" who must now find once again the ability we once had to play an integral role in saving our Constitution.

And here there is cause for both concern and great hope. The age of printed pamphlets and political essays has long since been replaced by television - a distracting and absorbing medium which sees determined to entertain and sell more than it informs and educates.

Lincoln's memorable call during the Civil War is applicable in a new way to our dilemma today: "We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."

Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements.

And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages.

The constricted role of ideas in the American political system today has encouraged efforts by the Executive Branch to control the flow of information as a means of controlling the outcome of important decisions that still lie in the hands of the people.

The Administration vigorously asserts its power to maintain the secrecy of its operations. After all, the other branches can't check an abuse of power if they don't know it is happening.

For example, when the Administration was attempting to persuade Congress to enact the Medicare prescription drug benefit, many in the House and Senate raised concerns about the cost and design of the program. But, rather than engaging in open debate on the basis of factual data, the Administration withheld facts and prevented the Congress from hearing testimony that it sought from the principal administration expert who had compiled information showing in advance of the vote that indeed the true cost estimates were far higher than the numbers given to Congress by the President.

Deprived of that information, and believing the false numbers given to it instead, the Congress approved the program. Tragically, the entire initiative is now collapsing- all over the country- with the Administration making an appeal just this weekend to major insurance companies to volunteer to bail it out.

To take another example, scientific warnings about the catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming were censored by a political appointee in the White House who had no scientific training. And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming.

One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest. As President Eisenhower said, "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

We have a duty as Americans to defend our citizens' right not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the Executive Branch and the President's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr, when he said, "The President has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will."

A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President. We have had a fresh demonstration of how an independent investigation by a special counsel with integrity can rebuild confidence in our system of justice. Patrick Fitzgerald has, by all accounts, shown neither fear nor favor in pursuing allegations that the Executive Branch has violated other laws.

Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress should support the bipartisan call of the Liberty Coalition for the appointment of a special counsel to pursue the criminal issues raised by warrantless wiretapping of Americans by the President.

Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security.

Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.

Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed.

Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens.

Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy.

It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.

I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."

November 26, 2005

The few, the proud, the Blackwater

Facing mounting opposition to the War at home and Iraqi requests for a timetable for a draw-down of US forces, Pentagon and Administration officials have begun to float the idea that it might be time to start turning the debacle over to the Iraqis. Lately reports of both US and British troop reductions have appeared in the press. Iraqi President Talabani recently stated that British troops could leave by the end of 2006 and that the Iraqis should be ready to take over in the southern provinces around Basra by that time. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi has echoed the same sentiment in regards to US troops.

It would appear from these reports that the training of Iraqi forces has been far more successful then we had previously believed.

Perhaps, as has been par for the course with this administration, there's something they have neglected to tell us.

What could possibly have changed the situation on the ground so drastically? In one word: Blackwater.

With talk of possibly cutting our forces by 50,000 to 60,000 by the end of next year, it's interesting to note that Blackwater Security is in the mist of a massive recruiting campaign for what they call "a multi-phase, multi-year contract in Iraq"

In its October 2005 e-mail newsletter "Blackwater Tactical Weekly" (archived here), Blackwater listed job opportunities in Iraq for a number of positions ranging from trainers and Coordination Officers who would "serve as the primary liaison between Iraqi officials, Coalition Forces, and US Government officials." to Project Managers with "15-20 years supervisory operational experience."

A careful reading of the job descriptions and requirements reveals just how large this program might turn out to be. Blackwater is looking for:

"highly qualified, subject matter experts for several overseas opportunities. Applicants for the following positions:

  • Must be US Citizens

  • Have a current security clearance

  • Must have extensive experience in high-threat environments in such countries as Iraq and Afghanistan"

VIP Protection Trainers

Blackwater USA is looking for highly qualified, subject matter advisors and trainers to assist in the training of Iraqi security personnel. Individuals will be expected to liaison between Iraqi, Coalition, and US government officials. General Requirements:

  • Must have a valid U. S. Passport

  • Must be in good health and able to travel overseas

  • Former/retired US Department of State diplomatic Security Services; or

  • Former/retired US Secret Service or equivalent

  • Must have a minimum of three (3) years of working high level, high threat, and overseas protection detail assignments

Training Department Head

Blackwater USA is seeking a highly qualified manager to oversee training being conducted in Iraq. This manager will be responsible for a wide spectrum of financial and logistic reporting as well ensure that the training is being conducted as required by the contract. This position will support a multi-phase, multi-year contract in Iraq. General Requirements:

  • Must have a valid U. S. Passport

  • Must be in good health and able to travel overseas

  • Must have a minimum of three (3) years of working high level, high threat, and overseas protection detail assignments

  • Must have experience in leading and managing a training cadre of highly specialized trainers and advisors

Coordination Officer

 The Coordination Officer will serve as the primary liaison between Iraqi officials, Coalition Forces, and US Government officials.  This individual will fill a key position that will be critical to the transition of management of training and camp programs to the Iraqi government. General Requirements:

  • Must have a valid U. S. Passport

  • Must be in good health and able to travel overseas

  • Must have served in a leadership position for five (5) years as member of a military or police special operations · Must have excellent command of the Arabic Language

  • Must have at least three years experience of working with both Military and Department of State in special police and protective service operations

Program Manager

An experienced Program Manager to oversee a complex and intensive training contract in Iraq. The Program Manager will be responsible for a large cadre of instructors, Iraqi students, and base support operations.

General Requirements:

  • Must have 15-20 years supervisory operational experience and training in Military and/or Police special operations

  • Must be in good physical health

  • Availability to work overseas for extended periods of time

With extensive backgrounds in both the military and State Dept. required by some of these jobs it appears that Blackwater will be taking on a much more expanded roll in the "transition period".  To my eye it appears that they will be setting up a quasi, shadow diplomatic corps, along with having a larger military presence in Iraq.

The outsourcing and privatization of military functions has long been a cornerstone of the Cheney/Rumsfeld doctrine. It now appears that they will be taking it one step further. As US troops are marched out the front door of Iraq to quell discontent at home and abroad, our new privately owned army will be sneaking through backdoor.

November 21, 2005

Operation Yellow Feather

BostonJoe, a regular diarist over at Booman Tribune, has quickly organized a grassroots protest that will target a couple of the Chickenhawk Republicans who slandered Rep. Murtha's military service last week.

Operation Yellow Feather is in full swing!

Click this link for more information, including downloads for faxes or mailings you can send to Rep. Jean Schmidt and State Rep. Danny Bubp of Ohio.

It is time to stop this new era of McCarthyism where the Chickenhawks in power question the patriotism of any American who disagrees with the lies and horrendous leadership provided by the Bush War Council.

Excerpts from BostonJoe's diary below :

In a effort to blunt the effect of Murtha's serious call for a withdrawal of the troops, Republicans hurriedly offered a sham Bill on the issue that had almost no support. During debate on the issue, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio), a freshman Rep., called Murtha a coward:
A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.

Schmidt's comments were heckled on the floor of our Congress, and she was forced to withdraw them from the record. But she and state Rep. Bubp deserve to know that we were watching, and that we won't stand for neo-McCarthyism, where heroic opponents of this flawed war are discredited as cowards and traitors.

You can help. Please print off one of the protest forms below and send them to the offices of Rep. Schmidt and Rep. Bubp. Take the time to write a personalized note on your form, explaining that the "chicken hawk" tactics of the Republican party will not be tolerated.
Let's bury their offices with "chicken hawk" feathers, so that the next time they feel like squawking in public, they will remember
that we are watching them.

Let's create a firestorm and support Operation Yellow Feather!

Here's a list of the downloads
You can use for fax or snail-mail.

This has officially become a Cross-Blog Protest!

Lost your Chicken Hawk feather?

The Chicken Hawk Unit Patch

The Classic Yellow Feather (Make sure to explain)

The Ugly Chicken Hawk (Fill in the voice bubble)

Send your forms to:

Rep. Jean Schmidt
8044 Montgomery Rd. Suite 540
Cincinnati, OH 45236

Rep. Danny Bubp
77 S. High St
11th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215-6111

Oh. And I'm sure they would love a rushed fax copy, if you have the time.

Jean says fax her for news about coffee at this number (513) 791-1696 (I am quite sure she would like "chicken hawk" news at this number as well).

Danny can be faxed at his office: (614) 644-9494. Let him know that he could still volunteer for war duty -- Rep. Murtha did.

November 17, 2005

NBC: Massive bid-rigging scam alleged in Iraq

U.S. says businessman bribed coalition officials to land rebuilding contracts

WASHINGTON - A criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Washington on Wednesday alleges a web of corruption and bid rigging in Iraq by officials who worked with the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S.-led agency that ran Iraq for more than a year after the 2003 invasion.

The complaint accuses an American-Romanian businessman, Philip H. Bloom, of paying officials from the coalition’s south-central region "bribes, kickbacks and gratuities, amounting to at least $200,000 per month," in order to obtain reconstruction contracts through a bid-rigging scam.

According to the complaint, Bloom "conspired with United States government contract employees and military officials to obtain fraudulently government contracts."

A government affidavit alleges that in one instance, the officials rigged bids for contracts in Hillah and Karbala, two cities 50 to 60 miles south of Baghdad. In some cases, Bloom’s companies performed no work, Patrick McKenna Jr., an investigator for the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq, said in the affidavit.

Efforts to reach representatives for Bloom were unsuccessful.

Bloom or companies he controls made bank deposits of $353,000 on behalf of at least two CPA officials and bought them real estate in North Carolina as well as vehicles and jewelry worth more than $280,000 in 2004 and 2005, McKenna said.
The complaint says one of the U.S. officials was the comptroller for the region in Iraq based in Hillah and controlled $82 million in cash.


I guess we can start to figure out where those hundreds of millions of dollars of missing cash in Iraq went to. Is this what they meant when they chaulked up the shortfall to the bad accounting practices of those backward Iraqis.

"How were we to know that if you walked around a warzone with trunks full of cash to hand out for "reconstruction", we might lose.....I don't know....like millions of dollars of it."

And this is from the people who were going to run government efficiently like a business.... yeah right.

It gets better:

One official said to admit involvement

Another coalition official, who worked with the first, has been cooperating with investigators and has admitted he "unlawfully received cash and goods" from Bloom, according to the complaint.

Bloom, according to the complaint, ran several companies in Iraq and Romania, including one called GBG Logistics.

According to a biography of Philip Bloom on the Web site of one of his companies, he is an "expatriate America with a war chest of experiences” operating a variety of firms overseas since the 1970s, including Haitian and Puerto Rican airlines. The biography says that "Bloom is possessed off an uncanny knack for finding business, almost psychic in nature."

GBG Logistics says on its Web site that it has worked on a variety of Iraq reconstruction projects. "As one of the first private firms to enter the Iraqi market in April 2003, GBG Logistics is primarily devoted to identifying and developing new business opportunities in the reconstruction effort," it says.

There have been allegations and suspicions of corruption under the coalition government, which ran Iraq from just after the invasion in March 2003 until June 2004 and was headed by former Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, and during the Iraq reconstruction process, but this is the first criminal case to be brought in U.S. courts alleging wrongdoing by coalition officials.

Previously, the Hillah region came under scrutiny after the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction reported in an audit that $100 million in seized Iraqi funds could not be accounted for.

This is only the tip of the iceberg....It will only get worse from here, as more of the truth comes out.

November 16, 2005

I guess this comes as no surprise

Document Says Oil Chiefs Met With Cheney Task Force

By Dana Milbank and Justin Blum
Washington Post Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force. In addition, Cheney had a separate meeting with John Browne, BP's chief executive, according to a person familiar with the task force's work; that meeting is not noted in the document.

The task force's activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants. The task force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to obtain the records.

Now we know why Cheney fought tooth and nail to keep the records of these meetings secret. Not to mention the huge omelet on the faces of the oil execs after last weeks Senate hearings where they claimed they never met with Cheney back in 2001. Oh what a tangled web and all that....just a little more of the great unraveling I guess. But we've known that all along anyway.

For more on Big Oil and the Iraq War by IraqFact

November 11, 2005

Of all the Kings Horses

What follows are some of the writings of Daniel Goetz, a stop-loss soldier who is currently serving in Samarra, Iraq. He has been writing about his experiences for the past eight months on his blog "All the Kings Horses". His words speak for themselves:
Mesopotomac (Daniel Goetz)
I joined the army soon after I finished college; the decision was an amalgamation of desire to serve, to belong, and to repay student loans. I wanted the challenge to see if I really could be all I could be. Our country was a vastly different place then; one in which policemen, firemen, and servicemembers were no different than any other American. I had almost completed my two years of training to become an Arabic linguist when September Eleventh dramatically changed the nation's climate. I knew my own role would be pivotal, and was eager to see our country avenged on the battlefield...

Seven months ago, my service in the army was to have terminated. Instead, I am in Iraq for the second time. I sit next to a DOD contractor whose job is identical to mine. Except he makes $120,000 more, works four hours less, and visits home four times more often than I do.
I am not alone in my anger and humiliation. When we were here in 2003, there was anger, but there is a difference between anger and bitter hatred. The atmosphere of discontent is thick and contagious. Even soldiers not stop-lossed feel The Betrayal. They know it might be them next time. Dissent will not change anything for us now because our voices are muted. Still, there is hope. It is that in twenty years, it will be these men and women in office. Perhaps, that alone should make me feel better. I don't think it is enough, though, for our wounded and fallen. I can't speak for them, of course. Not yet, at least.

Operation Truth

Daniel wrote about his story being published by Operation Truth on his own blog:

Censor Senseless?
Operation Truth has published my story as their Veteran of the Week profile. I am excited and nervous for the extra attention this will attract. Excited because the army is trying very hard to muffle the cries of battered soldiers, abused by the system they are sworn to protect. Each time our story is heard by someone new, the country comes that much closer to understanding what is happening to us in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm also nervous, though. Every time I add a new writing to my site, I ask myself if I've gone too far. I have a pretty good grasp on what constitutes a violation of the laws I am bound to; in specific, I am very familiar with the sections of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that strips every servicemember of his or her First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, the laws are purposely vague; designed to muzzle even those of us who tread with caution.

From: All the Kings Horses (Daniel Goetz blog)

One week later this appeared on Daniels blog:

Double Plus Ungood
I thank all of you who have been so supportive recently. I have never before received so much positive feedback, and it was very heart-warming to know that so many people out there care. Having said that, it breaks my heart to say that this will be my last post on this blog. I wish I could just stop there, but I can not. The following also needs to be said:

For the record, I am officially a supporter of the administration and of her policies. I am a proponent for the war against terror and I believe in the mission in Iraq. I understand my role in that mission, and I accept it. I understand that I signed the contract which makes stop loss legal, and I retract any statements I made in the past that contradict this one. Furthermore, I have the utmost confidence in the leadership of my chain of command, including (but not limited to) the president George Bush and the honorable secretary of defense Rumsfeld. If I have ever written anything on this site or on others that lead the reader to believe otherwise, please consider this a full and complete retraction.

I apologize for any misunderstandings that might understandably arise from this. Should you continue to have questions, please feel free to contact me through e-mail. I promise to respond personally to each, but it may take some time; my internet access has become restricted.


"All the Kings Horses" was gone by Monday morning, deleted, only a "file not found" at Blogger remained. Luckily his fiancee was kind enough to copy and post his words on her own blog... to leave us a record of his courage....not only his courage to serve his country or his courage to speak up, but rather the courage of spirit, the courage of free thought. I say this because even in his last post...a post of seeming contrition. Daniel left us with a message...a message his muzzlers were apparently unaware of...

Double Plus Ungood
(another NewSpeak term from 1984). In NewSpeak, there is no word for bad or evil, there is only ungood. Modifiers are also ambiguous. One uses the modifier plus for emphasis, so plus ungood means especially ungood. The most emphatic modifier is double-plus, so double-plus ungood is the worst thing you can say about something.

I can only pray for Daniels safe return and thank him. I thank him for demonstrating the power of the human spirit. He embodied in his simple act of defiance, everything that truly makes this nation great. Its greatness is not measured in it's power to wage war and project power across the globe, but rather in the power of one man to speak the truth.

October 29, 2005

Blackwater Mercenaries in Louisiana: First Hand Account

By NyDem25

Originally Posted on Mon Sep 12, 2005. (We're republishing it at this time as background for an anticipated exclusive story on Blackwater that we will be publishing shortly)

I just read this in today's Blackwater Tactical Weekly a weekly newsletter distributed by Blackwater In it there is a first hand account written by Frank Borelli from Gretna, Louisiana.

Borelli begins by telling us what equipment is issued prior to arrival in Louisiana.

OK: First thing off the bat - for the first time EVER, I'm on contract to Blackwater as a working contractor. The following is a brief description of the current working conditions I've observed first hand in Louisiana as Blackwater supports the Humanitarian and other Operational Efforts here.
I reported to Blackwater's HQ in Moyock, NC EARLY Monday morning (about 0315). That morning I was issued a bag of gear that included: body armor w/ plates, clothing (pants and L/S-sleeve t-shirts), boots, socks, a holster, belt, radio pouch, ASP Baton, baton holster, SureFire G2 Nitrolon flashlight, Leatherman Multi-tool, CamelBak Hydration system, hydration system filter, BlackHawk gear bag, gloves, Wiley-X Protective eyewear, ID holder, a three-day pack (BlackHawk Force 5 w/out hydration bladder) and ID card... I think that's it. I was told I could bring my own gunbelt if I wanted, and weapons too for that matter. I chose to leave the weapons at home but brought my gunbelt. The info I had received was that Blackwater was issuing, on site, Glock pistols (17 or 19 9mm), shotguns and/or M4s. I brought my extra mags for a Glock 17 as they are usually what I use in my G19 at home. Having extra mags is never a bad thing.What equipment I left on my belt was limited. I saw no need for bringing handcuffs. OC Spray wasn't a good idea because I knew I'd be flying. Normally I have a Leatherman on my belt, but I didn't need it because I had a SOG Power-Plier multi-tool in the utility pouch of my sheathed knife - an MOD Nightwing. What I have on my gunbelt as I type this, starting at the buckle and working my way clockwise (to the right): double magazine pouch w/ two magsfolding knife pouch w/ knifeDeSantis 096 SRT holster with Glock 17 9mm pistol (w/ night sights)MOD Nightwing on left side, w/ SOG Power Plier in utility pouchThat's it sports fans.On my body armor I have the 12g ammo that won't fit in the magazine of the weapon.

Are you kidding me sounds to me like Mr. Borelli was being sent off to war. Last time I checked our troops fighting over in Iraq weren't afforded the option of using this quality of arms let alone a simple kevlar vest. Borelli then goes on to explain conditions at Saber Camp.
I came into Baton Rouge on Tuesday afternoon, and was picked up at the Baton Rouge Airport for transportation to "Saber Camp". Once there I checked in with the headshed and found a cot. I was lucky in that I knew several guys on site and therefore had friends in the tent I slept in. Before racking out I got a briefing that included info on Wednesday morning, an intel dump on the situation (to include health concerns) and tentative assignments for Weds morning. I was told to be up, dressed and "packed for three" (days) in front of the headshed at 0700. I was issued a Glock 17 and a Mossberg M590A shotgun. I was also issued a shotshell pouch with ten rounds of slug and ten rounds of 00 Buck. There was (at that time) no 9mm ammo available, but I was blessed to be in a camp full of trigger-pullers. Before I racked out I had 51 rounds of 9mm ammo loaded into three magazines for the G17. Thanks, Vince! The lack of ammo IS NOT a negative comment on Blackwater. The logistics effort to support the operation is awesome and I KNOW ammo was just flown in on Monday. More came in on Wednesday. It is a comment on the spirit of the American cop / warrior that Blackwater can put SO MANY men on the ground SO FAST. Supporting them is a daunting challenge.
Before I go further, let me give you a brief rundown about the camp. It's simply amazing what people can do when a disaster strikes. Tents were in abundance. Some are circus-size tents. Others are camping tents. I slept in a six-man cabin tent. Dining tent, storage tent, first-aid station, "City Hall", post office, barber shop, laundry - all were set up and operational. Trailored in were latrines (heads for you Navy guys) and showers. Hot water was available on site. HUNDREDS of cases of bottled water, sodas, hydration drinks, etc were on hand. Food was also available. For the Blackwater guys we could have meals in the Dining tent while in camp, but on assignment we were to take prepackaged food, or MREs.
As a comment on food and cots, Chief Steven c. Bronson, owner of Tactical Waterborne Operations, was on site with two trailers full of supplies. He was acting as the quartermaster and knows how to take care of the troops. He hooked me up with THE LAST cot he had and provided me "food for three" before I went to bed Tuesday night. He's all about business but still has a smile on his face.

I think he a like this a little too much. Who wouldn't right? Borelli then goes on to explain his first day.
Wednesday morning saw us going out on assignments. I was ready and standing by at 0700. The assignment I received - and where I sit as I type this - is essentially a static guard site. Restoring public service is a HUGE necessity and some of the facilities are in NOT so good neighborhoods. The site I'm at is a relatively secure 1-acre (give or take) compound surrounded by a six-to-eight foot fence with concertina wire around the top. Access is one controlled gate. Two buildings. To one side of us is the "low rent" district - low income housing where there are still some folks living even though they have no safe water and little food. On the other side is welfare apartment complexes otherwise known to cops as "the projects". It seems that no matter what city you're in there is always The Projects. More people still living in there.
Driving out from base camp was about an hour-and-a-half tour. Gas prices are about $2.50 per gallon IF the stations have it. Lines are LONG at those that do. The devastation was obvious as we drove. I had a clear view of the SuperDome and it looked like 2/3 of the roof was just gone. One of the oddest things I saw was a McDonald's with no glass and no sign, but the Golden Arches still standing at the top. Less than fifty feet from the Mickie Dee's was what used to be a billboard sign. The I-Beams that held it up were twisted and bent so that, starting about three feet off the ground, they were horizontal. Ten feet away from that was a glass telephone booth - apparently completely unharmed.
The smell isn't terrible but it isn't great. Where I am is about 1/2 mile (as the crow flies) out of New Orleans. When the wind blows right (or wrong?) it smells like the dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant in the middle of July while the trashmen are on strike. Joy.
The people I've seen don't look happy or sad. Either emotion would take too much energy and they're just plain whipped. The man whose computer I'm typing on doesn't have a house anymore. It's completely underwater. If anyone knows Louisiana or wants to look at a map, find Port Sulphur and then look south. Most of it isn't there - it's been reclaimed by the Gulf. There are large chunks of the area that AREN'T underwater, but that were laid waste by the winds. Perfectly dry land with bare foundations and no other sign of the houses that used to be there.
The biggest obvious threat I've seen thus far is (previously) domesticated animals. I saw a Rottweiler walk by outside the compound fence where I am early this morning (it's Thursday as I type this), and we carefully eyed each other through the fence. He looked at me like I might be food and I looked at him like he might die. I took great faith in the fact that, unless he was packing, he was overmatched. I saw no signs of disease or odd behavior, but he's obviously fending for himself and that might not bode well for whoever he runs across.

He then ends with a call to arms
I can say this now because I'm one of the guys wearing a Blackwater shirt down here: If you're a cop or prior serviceman and you have decent skill sets, consider working for Blackwater. I've seen no indication of anything less than 100% professionalism out of their personnel here. That ain't ass-kissing. You who have read my reviews for long enough know that ain't me. It's just how it is. Show up. Be prepared. Work hard. Don't be lazy. Be straight about your skill sets. Don't try to claim you're a SWAT cop if you're not. Don't ask for an M4 if you don't know anything about it. If you don't know how to serve high-risk warrants, don't expect to be given door-kicking jobs. Blackwater will work you to match your skill sets - and don't care if they hurt your feelings when they give you the assignment. It isn't about you. It's about the job and client and doing the best thing. You don't have to like it. You just have to do it.

October 27, 2005

Niger Uranium Documents: Update

Just a reminder

We've posted up a complete analysis of the Niger yellowcake forgeries on our website IraqFact .com. It contians images of all the documents, translations from the French and analysis of the obvious flaws. You can view them here.

[Update] we've added links to copies of the three new articles from La Repubblica that were published this week. With additional English translations

Check them out..if you can add any new analysis please leave a comment.

IraqFact Working Group

The British Conundrum

British accused of bombings in Iran to push Blair agenda
By NYdem25

The tension between both the Bush and Blair administrations and Tehran has been a constant underlying theme of the war in Iraq from the moment Bush uttered the now legendary phrase “the axis of evil”. The Iranian cooperation in the pre war build up, both allowing the Iraqi National Congress to establish a legitimate presence in the Iraqi arena, as well as allowing American elements to operate within its borders has benefited both the hegemonic interests of Iran in the Middle Eastern region as well as the American and British coalition. However, even though the Iranian’s did cooperate in the pre-war build up, the tension created by Bush’s speech was bound to escalate at some time. This seems to currently be the case in the latest exchange between 10 Downing Street and Tehran.

First a bit of background on the flare up.

The British have recently claimed that the Iranians have backed a network of insurgents operating in southern in Iraq led by “Abu Mustafa al-Sheibani.

According to U.S. military-intelligence

al-Sheibani heads a network of insurgents created by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps with the express purpose of committing violence against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. Over the past eight months, his group has introduced a new breed of roadside bomb more lethal than any seen before; based on a design from the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the weapon employs "shaped" explosive charges that can punch through a battle tank's armor like a fist through the wall. According to the document, the U.S. believes al-Sheibani's team consists of 280 members, divided into 17 bomb making teams and death squads. The U.S. believes they train in Lebanon, in Baghdad's predominantly Shi'ite Sadr City district and "in another country" and have detonated at least 37 bombs against U.S. forces this year in Baghdad alone.
Besides supporting al-Sheibani the British have also claimed that the Iranians have been supporting camps within in Iran and Lebanon, and that there was "some evidence" that there are camps in Syria.

The source said that the technology had been "proliferating", leading to a sharp rise in attacks on British troops which are running at three a week. Several large arms caches, believed to be for attacks during the impending referendum, have been found in southern Iraq. In the past eight days British, US and Iraqi forces have found more than 50 rockets, 10 mortars and 64 landmines, as well as the infra-red devices. The devices were found on Route Tampa, the main feeder route for British and American troops to Meysan, a province where coalition forces have faced periodic bouts of intense attacks.
The Iranians counter acted Britain’s recent accusations by blaming the British for a bombing in the town of Ahvaz, located in the oil rich province of Khuzestan in the southwest part of Iran populated predominately by the Arab minority.

The Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, told state television that, that Britain was involved in a double bomb attack last week that killed six people and injured more than 100 in the restive southwestern city of Ahvaz saying that,
"Information shows that Britain is seeking to create insecurity in our country by interfering in our internal affairs," he added, warning that the consequences "could be worrying for the British."
Are the Iranian accusations directed at the British because of what they see as the British bullying them over their involvement in developing technology to create nuclear arms? The British seem to think so. However, Blair’s proof of Iran’s involvement in Southern Iraq is smeared in lies and was obviously disseminated under the auspicious that the general public doesn’t know how to use an internet search engine. Well Mr. Blair I’m sorry some of us do.

Mahan Abedin, in the Asia times methodically took apart Blair’s case fabulously.

First, Abedin claimed that the way that Blair announced the accusations to the world were a bit odd.

They were first disclosed by an "anonymous" senior official to a group of correspondents in London on October 5. The "anonymous" official claimed, in no uncertain terms, that Iran was helping to kill British troops by providing bomb technology to Shi'ite insurgents, possibly through the Lebanese Hezbollah. But the very next day, Prime Minister Tony Blair was more diplomatic about Iranian complicity, claiming that the evidence led either to Iran or its Lebanese militant allies Hezbollah, but adding, "We can't be sure of this." There was also disquiet in the British military establishment, with the Guardian reporting on October 6, "Defense sources suggested that blaming the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps for supplying the explosives technology was going too far."

Second, Abedin claims that bringing the Lebanese Hezbollah into the equation simply makes no sense.

Iran has direct access to southern Iraq and, moreover, has many official representatives (not to mention hundreds of covert operatives) in the Basra area alone. Given this impressive presence, it is difficult to see why the Iranians would want to involve a Lebanese political party/militia in their dealings with Shi'ite forces in the south of Iraq. The British, it seems, have unwisely copied Israeli disinformation methodology. Indeed, whenever Israel levels an extraordinary allegation against Iran, it almost invariably involves the Lebanese Hezbollah.

Third, Abedin claimed that the accusation that "rogue" elements in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are behind the transfer of technology seriously undermines the British government's position.

Either the British know very little about Iranian security policy or they are deliberately employing a deceptive argument. The fact is that there are no "rogue" elements in the IRGC. The IRGC is, first and foremost, an ideological military organization with its own independent command, comprised of ground, naval and air forces. This makes Iran the only country in the world to operate two completely independent military structures (ie, the regular military and the IRGC). Moreover, aside from being a military organization, the IRGC has security/intelligence capabilities and other civilian infrastructure. For instance, the best specialized medical clinics in Iran (particularly those pertaining to dentistry and laser eye surgery) are owned and operated by the IRGC. Overall, the IRGC directly employs up to 350,000 personnel, 120,000 of whom serve in its ground, naval and air forces. The IRGC is a vast organization, and as such it is subject to intense discipline. The idea that "rogue" elements within this organization are actively engaged in undermining Iranian foreign policy is simply a non-starter. These deceptive arguments are usually deployed to buttress unsubstantiated accusations against the Islamic republic.

Last, Abedin claimed the transfer of bomb technology makes no sense from a technical perspective.

The technology in question (which involves specially shaped charges capable of penetrating armor) is up to 50 years old and there is nothing particularly "Iranian" about it. It has been used in a variety of conflicts, notably in Sri Lanka, where it has been deployed by the Tamil Tigers. While it is true that the Lebanese Hezbollah deployed these types of devices against the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in southern Lebanon in the 1990s, it is equally true that the technology was widely known to the Istikhbarat, the former Iraqi military intelligence service. In fact, the Istikhbarat closely tracked Iran's military relationship with Hezbollah, and had even sent a specialized team to Lebanon in 1995 to study Hezbollah tactics against the IDF. This expertise is being widely used by Iraqi Arab Sunni insurgents (who are mostly led by former Istikhbarat and Mukhabarat officers) against US forces in the western, central, north-central and northern regions of Iraq. Given that this technology is widely available to and exploited by the Arab Sunni guerrilla movement, there is no reason why it should not travel further south to benefit the emerging Shi'ite insurgency against the British presence. In any case, the circuitous route through which this old and well-known technology is supposed to have been transferred (ie from Iran to Hezbollah and then to the Iraqi Shi'ites) is implausible, if not downright spurious.

It’s obvious now that the British have intentionally tried to deceive the world and the Iranians responded by placing the blame on them for the Ahvan bombings, leaving us asking why? Why did the British lie? The answer is obvious. They are faced with a conundrum. The British have miscalculated the outcome of the war in Iraq, thus severely undermining their power within the European Union. In order to save face within the E.U. the British have been trying to take on a prominate role in confronting the Iranians over their role in producing nuclear weapons. While trying to save face within the E.U. the British are also forced with trying to appease the Bush administrations foreign policy agenda. Because of this conundrum the British have reverted back to what seems to be the modus operandi of 10 Downing St., when trying to legitimize their agenda, relaying on poorly constructed lies. I wonder when Blair will finally wake up and realize that no matter how much he lies or kisses up to his buddies across the Atlantic the Bush administrations views Britain as an easily sacrificed pawn in their ongoing game of pax-American.