Saturday, January 10, 2009, 11:40am
A federal judge ruled Monday that a lawsuit filed by an Islamic charity alleging that it was illegally wiretapped by the National Security Agency may proceed, and issued a stinging rebuke to government lawyers who have repeatedly sought to invoke the state secrets privilege to block litigation.
The case, Al Haramain v. Bush, is unusual in that--unlike the Electronic Frontier Foundation's more publicized suits against the NSA and complicit telecoms--the plaintiffs in this case know that the directors of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation were specifically subject to warrantless surveillance, thanks to a government blunder that put a classified memo in the hands of the charity's lawyers. An appellate court ruled last year that the secret document had to be turned over to the government, and so could not be used to establish standing to sue. But in an opinion issued this summer, Judge Vaughn Walker, who has been handling a spate of suits concerning the NSA's super-secret "Stellar Wind" program, decided that the foundation could still seek to show they'd been spied upon using public evidence.
Sunday, January 4, 2009, 4:49pm
So here, too, George W. Bush has let us down. Even the banality of evil is too grandiose a concept for 43. He is not a memorable villain so much as a sometimes affable second banana whom Josh Brolin and Will Ferrell can nail without breaking a sweat. He's the reckless Yalie Tom Buchanan, not Gatsby. He is smaller than life.
Bush's first and last photo-ops in Iraq could serve as bookends to his entire tenure. On Thanksgiving weekend 2003, even as the Iraqi insurgency was spiraling, his secret trip to the war zone was a P.R. slam-dunk. The photo of the beaming commander in chief bearing a supersized decorative turkey for the troops was designed to make every front page and newscast in the country, and it did. Five years later, in what was intended as a farewell victory lap to show off Iraq's improved post-surge security, Bush was reduced to ducking shoes.
The joke was on us. Iraq burned, New Orleans flooded, and Bush remained oblivious to each and every pratfall on his watch. Americans essentially stopped listening to him after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, but he still doesn't grasp the finality of their defection. Lately he's promised not to steal the spotlight from Barack Obama once he's in retirement -- as if he could do so by any act short of running naked through downtown Dallas. The latest CNN poll finds that only one-third of his fellow citizens want him to play a post-presidency role in public life.
Bush kept America safe (provided his presidency began Sept. 12, 2001). He gave America record economic growth (provided his presidency ended December 2007). He vanquished all the leading Qaeda terrorists (if you don't count the leaders bin Laden and al-Zawahri). He gave Afghanistan a thriving "market economy" (if you count its skyrocketing opium trade) and a "democratically elected president" (presiding over one of the world's most corrupt governments). He supported elections in Pakistan (after propping up Pervez Musharraf past the point of no return). He "led the world in providing food aid and natural disaster relief" (if you leave out Brownie and Katrina).
Sunday, January 4, 2009, 11:59am
In authorizing an invasion in 2002, Congress did not give President Bush a blank check. It explicitly limited the use of force to two purposes: to "defend the national security of the US from the threat posed by Iraq" and "enforce all relevant UN Security Council resolutions."
Five years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the government of Iraq no longer poses a threat. Our continuing intervention has been based on the second clause of Congress' grant of war-making power. Coalition troops have been acting under a series of Security Council resolutions authorizing the continuing occupation of Iraq. But this year, Bush allowed the UN mandate to expire on December 31 without requesting a renewal. At precisely one second after midnight, Congress' authorization of the war expired along with this mandate.
Bush is trying to fill the legal vacuum with the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) he signed with the Iraqis. But the president's agreement is unconstitutional, since it lacks the approval of Congress
Sunday, December 21, 2008, 10:40pm
On Fox News Sunday today, host Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, "if the President, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?" "I think as a general proposition, I'd say yes," replied Cheney.
Cheney went on to defend the administration's actions over the past eight years:
CHENEY: There are bound to be debates and arguments from time to time and wrestling back and forth about what kinds of authority is appropriate in any specific circumstances, but I think that what we've done has been totally consistent with what the Constitution provides for.
¶ FBI Focusing Less On The War On Terror And More On Domestic White Collar Crime Like Fraud And Subprime Mortgages
Sunday, December 21, 2008, 4:12pm
The FBI has been forced to shift agents from terror and other crime work to Wall Street investigations including the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scandal, said David Cardona, head of the New York office's criminal division.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has had to engage in "triage" in responding to successive frauds involving subprime mortgages, auction-rate securities and Madoff, who prosecutors said confessed this month to bilking investors out of $50 billion, Cardona said in an interview yesterday.
"We have to work those cases which we think pose the greatest threat," he said. "In this case, it's a threat to the financial system and Wall Street. It's the same with mortgage fraud. I'm ramping these squads up."
Special Agent Rachel Rojas, who once worked on tracing terrorist financing and al-Qaeda, now oversees 15 agents investigating mortgage fraud, said Cardona, a career agent with 23 years at the bureau who once worked as a New York state accountant. He declined to say how many other agents he has reassigned from anti-terror work to financial crimes.
Saturday, December 20, 2008, 1:33am
Earlier this year, the founder of White Military Men identified himself in his New Saxon account as "Lance Corporal Burton" of the 2nd Battalion Fox Company Pit 2097, from Florida, according to a master's thesis by graduate student Matthew Kennard. Under his "About Me" section, Burton writes: "Love to shoot my M16A2 service rifle effectively at the Hachies (Iraqis)," and, "Love to watch things blow up (Hachies House)."
Kennard, who was working on his thesis for Columbia University's Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, also monitored claims of active-duty military service earlier this year on the neo-Nazi online forum Blood & Honour, where "88Soldier88" posted this message on Feb. 18: "I am in the ARMY right now. I work in the Detainee Holding Area [in Iraq]. ... I am in this until 2013. I am in the infantry but want to go to SF [Special Forces]. Hopefully the training will prepare me for what I hope is to come."
One of the Blood & Honour members claiming to be an active-duty soldier taking part in combat operations in Iraq identified himself to Kennard as Jacob Berg. He did not disclose his rank or branch of service. "There are actually a lot more 'skinheads,' 'nazis,' white supremacists now [in the military] than there has been in a long time," Berg wrote in an E-mail exchange with Kennard. "Us racists are actually getting into the military a lot now because if we don't every one who already is [in the military] will take pity on killing sand niggers. Yes I have killed women, yes I have killed children and yes I have killed older people. But the biggest reason I'm so proud of my kills is because by killing a brown many white people will live to see a new dawn."
The July 2006 report by the SPLC found this infiltration occurring at an alarming rate. Neo-Nazis "stretch across all branches of service, they are linking up across the branches once they're inside, and they are hard-core," Department of Defense gang detective Scott Barfield told the SPLC. "We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," he added. "That's a problem.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 7:22am
The outgoing US vice-president, Dick Cheney, last night gave an unapologetic assessment of his eight years in office, defending the invasion of Iraq, the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, secret wiretapping and the extreme interrogation method known as waterboarding.
In his first television interview since the presidential election in November, Cheney displayed no regrets and gave no ground to his many critics within America and around the world. He summed up his record by saying: "I think, given the circumstances we've had to deal with, we've done pretty well."
He told ABC News he stood by the most controversial policies of the Bush administration, and urged president-elect Barack Obama to think hard before undoing them. Asked about the use of torture on terror suspects, he replied: "We don't do torture. We never have. It's not something this administration subscribes to."
Later in the same interview, Cheney was asked whether the use of waterboarding in the interrogation of the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, had been appropriate. He replied: "I do."
¶ Broken Laws, Broken Lives, A New Report Detailing The Torture And Sexual Abuse 11 Detainees Who Were Never Charged Suffered
Saturday, December 13, 2008, 3:27pm
The PHR report has since received widespread attention in the media, in Congress, and among policy--makers in U.S. Department of Defense and has humanized the national debate on detainee interrogation and treatment policies, and for that Hashemian, the report's lead author, is pleased. The experience of compiling the report, meanwhile, has left the 30--year--old alumna struggling to understand the darker side of human nature and has reinforced her commitment to prevent it from happening again.
"It was very intense work. You listen while a middle--aged man sobs uncontrollably describing the brutality that became normalized in Abu Ghraib. Others tell you that to this day they suffer from the pain and the shame of sexual humiliations. Their families have been broken and their lives have been shattered," said Hashemian. "You stare at this abyss of unimaginable human cruelty, you witness their agony, immerse yourself in their suffering, and their harrowing stories haunt you at night. We were asking people to go back to dark times. It is really, really hard to hear these stories, but it is grueling to have lived them."
The report, Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by US Personnel and Its Impact, provides a detailed and graphic account of how 11 former detainees of the United States (seven of whom were held in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison; the other four were arrested in Afghanistan and eventually ended up at Guantánamo Bay) were treated before they were summarily released without being charged.
Friday, December 12, 2008, 11:59pm
By choosing Joe Biden as their vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET's Technology Voters' Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP.
That's probably okay with Barack Obama: Biden likely got the nod because of his foreign policy knowledge. The Delaware politician is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee who voted for the war in Iraq, and is reasonably well-known nationally after his presidential campaigns in 1988 and 2008.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008, 11:47pm
During a military judicial hearing on Monday in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other detainees charged with coordinating the attacks of September 11th told Judge Col. Stephen Henley that they wished to stop filing legal motions and to confess in full. However, some of the detainees hedged their statement - suggesting they might change their minds if they could not be assured of execution. By January, some of the nearly 250 men at Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility will have been locked up for seven years. Collected here are photos of the multiple detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay - all photographs either reviewed by or released by the U.S. Military. (30 photos total)