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Letter: GOP Whip Roy Blunt Assails House Democrats Over FISA
02/16/2008
Filed by RAW STORY
 

Today, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) has released the following letter in regards to the sunset of the Protect America Act:
 
####
 
At midnight tonight, a critical national security law will expire. It is set to expire, because House Democratic leaders blatantly refused to take up bipartisan, Senate legislation that would have closed a dangerous terrorist loophole. The consequence is that our intelligence community will lose its ability to affectively and quickly listen to terrorist communications.
 
This is no exaggeration. The Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General of the United States, in a letter to the Senate Majority Leader earlier this year, wrote that if the Congress failed to act our ability to obtain intelligence information would be weakened. This same message was sent by the Democratic Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who said on the Senate floor Thursday 'that the quality of the intelligence we are going to be receiving is going to be degraded.'
 
The issue at hand is over legal protection for telecommunications companies that helped our government in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks intercept foreign terrorist communications. This lack of protection has already hurt our ability to gather intelligence – and it will only get worse. As companies fear being dragged into the court room, they will stop their activities in support of tracking terrorists.
 
I am angry that the House did not consider this bill. And House Democrats should be angry as well. The Democratic leadership allowed our intelligence gathering to be compromised, because they failed to pass a bill by a deadline that they themselves set.
Some allege that there is no urgency. I wholeheartedly disagree. With each passing day, our intelligence capacity grows dimmer and dimmer and the less able we are to track a call or intercept an email into the United States from someone like Osama Bin Laden.
 
Our nation should not be in this situation. The House’s failure to act is a gross dereliction of our constitutional duty to stand for the nation’s defense.
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Should The Telecom’s Get Immunity For Laws They Broke?

By: David Phillips

February 11, 2007

 

In Congress there is a bill titled “The Protect America Act” which is mostly about wiretapping phone calls and e-mail intercepts of every American citizen and weakening the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts powers to insist on a Warrant.

 

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 is a federal law that set procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of "foreign intelligence information" between or among "foreign powers" on territory under United States control. In short, the act created a court which meets in secret, and approves or denies requests for search warrants.

 

In 2007 Bush overhauled the FISA act with the Protect America Act, because he said he didn’t have time to get a warrant from the FISA court, even though FISA allows wiretapping without a warrant for the first 72 hours so our agencies could react immediately, and in the 30 years of the FISA courts they have only denied five warrants.

 

So, after 911 Bush asked the telephone companies to turn over their customer lists as well as copies of all phone calls and e-mails, which they did. But they capitulated to Bush without any Warrants. The Only telecom not to bend to Bush’s force was Quest Communications.

 

The CEO of Quest Communications has since been brought up on charges of insider trading, which was really Bush’s way of saying to all the other telecom’s to play ball, or else.

 

Oh, and the CEO of Quest said in his court hearing that Bush and the NSA asked for his customer calls and e-mails seven months prior to 911. But that’s another story.

 

The Protect America Act, which should be renamed, The Wiretapping of America Act was set to expire on February 1, 2008, but two days before the expiration date the Senate passed a 15 day extension.

 

Inside the Protect America Act, is a provision that would give all the telecoms immunity against all the current lawsuits that are pending, because they turned over millions and millions of calls and e-mails without any Warrants.

 

Bush wants the renewal of the Protect America Act to include the immunity retroactive back to the time they all handed over the information on you, me and every other American. Bush has said that the telecoms did nothing wrong and were only doing the patriotic thing when they were asked.

 

But, Bush still continues to lie and mislead the American public on who he wiretaps. The day Bush signed the 15 day extension he said, "If these terrorists and extremists are making phone calls into our country, we need to know why they're calling, what they're thinking and what they're planning." He has been saying these exact words from the beginning, which is a true statement, but omits everything else.

 

All Americans agree that terrorist’s phone calls coming into the United States should be monitored, but Bush has gone way beyond all the legal programs and is monitoring every American phone call and e-mail inside the United States, without any warrants or legal foothold. This is why he wants to weaken the FISA courts with the telecom immunity tucked into the Protect America Act.

 

A recent poll by the Melman Group shows that 57 percent of likely voters opposed immunity for the telecommunications carriers who participated in the government's warrantless surveillance program, while only a third supported letting the telecoms off the hook.

 

In December of last year, the Protect America Act was being debated in the Senate, and one true American, Senator Chris Dodd left the campaign trail where he was running for President and returned to Washington to Filibuster the Act and to keep it from being voted on.

 

This Bill will be back in the Senate floor soon and the Democrats or at least most of them will not back the Bill unless the Telecom Immunity is removed, and of course Bush has threatened to veto the bill if he doesn’t get his way.

 

 

 

 

David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and David is also the Publisher and Editor of the online political magazine YodasWorld.org

 E-Mail Questions or Comments: oneyoda@aol.com

 

 

 

You can also read David’s weekly column in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal or you can go to their web site: www.Syvjournal.com

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Bush: Inaction on FISA endangers U.S.

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: President Bush says U.S. in "more danger of attack" due to House inaction
  • Democrats: Law gives administration all the authority it needs to spy on suspects
  • Temporary revision to wiretapping laws set to expire at midnight Saturday
  • Officials still able to get permission to conduct eavesdropping through FISA court
From Adam Levine
CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush warned Friday the United States is in "more danger of attack" because Congress failed to extend legislation on domestic wiretapping laws allowing the government without a warrant to listen in on phone calls and intercept e-mails by foreign terrorist suspects that are transmitted through this country.

Bush's remarks came at the end of a meeting with Republican congressional leaders and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"American citizens must understand, clearly understand, that there still is a threat on the homeland," Bush said.

"There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm, and that we've got to give our professionals the tools they need to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so we can stop it."

Temporary revisions to the 1978 law that regulates wiretapping are set to expire this weekend.

Democrats said the law as existed before a temporary revision in August will remain in effect and gives the administration all the authority it needs to spy on suspected terrorists.

"He knows that the underlying 'intelligence' law and the power given to him in the Protect America Act give him sufficient authority to do all of the surveillance and collecting that he needs to do in order to protect the American people," House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

The House of Representatives and Senate are split over whether to include retroactive legal protection for telecommunications companies in a permanent overhaul. VideoWatch Bush's comments on the FISA controversy

After Friday's meeting, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended Republicans' desire to give the telecommunication companies immunity.

"This issue of the carriers that work with our government are increasingly concerned about their liability and increasingly concerned about whether they are going to continue to work with our intelligence officials," Boehner said.

Congress is in recess for a week starting Friday.

Bush had offered to put off the start of his planned trip to Africa "if it will help them complete their work on this critical bill," but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino later said the president would leave as scheduled Friday.

"The Democrats have made a decision that their higher priority -- over national security -- is taking another recess," Perino said.

The current laws are set to expire at midnight Saturday. The nation's intelligence agencies then will have to go to court for warrants to listen in on conversations between suspected terrorists overseas.

Intelligence officials said that it will cause unnecessary delays, but the government will be able to get permission to conduct eavesdropping through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Even without court permission, agents also can listen in on a suspect's calls without a warrant as long as an application is submitted within three days.

Additionally, any warrants already approved are good for a year from when the initial warrant was issued.

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4 Charged With Terror Plot At JFK Airport

Story Highlights
• FBI ties terror plot to South American, Caribbean extremists
• Suspect's wife denies he was part of any plot
• Suspect compares plot with 9/11 in wiretapped remarks, transcript shows
•Former cargo worker arraigned in federal court in New York


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Four men have been charged with conspiring to blow up jet fuel supply tanks and pipelines at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Homeland Security sources said there is no current threat at the airport and the attack as planned was "not technically feasible."

The alleged plot did not target airplane flights, officials said.

A wiretap transcript given to CNN by the FBI indicates the alleged plotters targeted the airport because of the popularity its namesake, John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963.

"Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow ... they love JFK -- he's like the man," former JFK airport cargo worker Russell Defreitas allegedly said in a telephone conversation monitored by the FBI.

"If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice," Defreitas allegedly added.

At a Justice Department news conference Saturday afternoon, the plotters were described as "a determined group" whose signature was persistence.

A law enforcement source told CNN Saturday evening that the idea for the plot allegedly came from Defreitas, who also apparently recruited the other men. Those three supposedly directed the effort.

Defreitas, 63, a native of Guyana who has been a U.S. citizen since the 1960s, was arrested in Brooklyn, New York, according to the Justice Department. He was arraigned Saturday in federal court in New York.

Abdul Kadir of Guyana, a former member of the Guyana parliament, and Kareem Ibrahim of Trinidad, are in custody in Trinidad. The United States will seek their extradition.

The fourth suspect, Abdel Nur of Guyana, is being sought.

Defreitas was once a contractor for the aviation company Evergreen Eagle, a law enforcement official told CNN. James Nelson, a company spokesman, said the firm is cooperating with authorities, but declined to provide further information.

Defreitas identified targets and escape routes and assessed airport security, the complaint alleges. Officials said the "defendants obtained satellite photographs of JFK airport and its facilities from the Internet and traveled frequently among the United States, Guyana and Trinidad to discuss their plans and solicit the financial and technical assistance of others."

Group tied to extremists in South America, Caribbean

The Justice statement said the men began planning the assault on January 6. A complaint alleges that the plot tapped into an international network of Muslim extremists from the United States, Guyana and Trinidad.

"The defendants had the connections to present their terrorist plot to radical groups in South America and the Caribbean, including senior leadership of Jamaat Al Muslimeen ('JAM'), which was responsible for a deadly coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990," said Mark J. Mershon, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's New York field office. "Had the plot been carried out, it could have resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths and destruction."

"As the complaint alleges, defendants Kadir and Nur were longtime associates of JAM leaders. Defendant Kareem [Ibrahim] was also preparing to send an emissary overseas to present the plan to extremist networks there when law enforcement stepped in to disrupt it," Mershon said.

An official described the suspects as "al Qaeda wannabes."

In one conversation taped by the FBI, Defreitas allegedly discusses an incident he says motivated him to strike JFK. He claimed he saw military parts being shipped to Israel, including missiles, that he felt would be used to kill Muslims.

He allegedly says he "wanted to do something to get those bastards."

In another recorded conversation with his alleged conspirators in May 2007, Defreitas compared the plot to attack JFK airport with the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, saying, "Even the Twin Towers can't touch it. This can destroy the economy of America for some time," according to Justice officials.

The alleged plot was revealed when the planners tried to recruit a person who was a law enforcement informant, sources said.

Fuel line covers large, populated area

The fuel supply for the airport is linked primarily to the Buckeye Pipeline, which distributes fuel and other petroleum products to sites in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York.

"We were concerned, not only about an attack on the fuel tank farms at JFK but along the 40-mile aviation fuel pipeline that courses its way from Linden, New Jersey, through Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens," said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"The fuel line is the feeding tube that nourishes national and international commerce through LaGuardia and JFK airports."

Kelly said the NYPD's counterterrorism unit conducted a mile-by-mile survey of the pipeline after hearing about the alleged plot.

Suspect's wife denies his involvement

JFK handles on average more than 1,000 flights daily, about half of which are international flights. Each year, the airport processes about 45 million passengers and more than 1.5 million tons of cargo with an estimated value of $120 billion.

Kadir's wife, Isha, told CNN by telephone from Linden, Guyana, that she is shocked by the allegations.

"You know, my husband -- we are Muslims for 33 years," she said. "And no way, at no time we were ever involved in anything of plots of bombing or any plots against America. We are not a part of that. We have family -- both of us -- in America."

She said her husband was arrested Friday while flying to Caracas, Venezuela, to collect an Iranian visa in order to attend an Islamic conference there. In addition to being a former member of the Guyana parliament, she said, he is a former mayor of Linden.

"We are a mother and a father of nine children and 18 grandchildren," she said. "No way will we get into anything like that."

Asked why she thought her husband was arrested, Isha Kadir said it could be related to his connection to Iran. The family is Shiite, she said, and two of her children studied Islamic culture in Iran. But "we have no problem with the United States," she said.

She said Defreitas, whom she knew as Mohammed, visited Guyana for a week at some point, and that she knew the other suspects but hadn't seen Nur in years and did not know Ibrahim well.

She said she has not spoken to her husband since his arrest, but "the truth will stand out clearly. And I believe in God, and I know that God knows our intention, and he knows, and he will, you know, he will play a part in this."

A written statement from the White House said, "The president has been briefed and updated regularly on the progress of the investigation, and this case is a good example of international counterterrorism cooperation."

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Fort Dix Plot Tipster: 'I Don't Feel Like a Hero'

MOUNT LAUREL, N.J —
An electronics store clerk credited with making the tip that broke up an alleged plot to kill soldiers at Fort Dix went public Tuesday, saying he spent a day pondering his suspicions before going to authorities.
Speaking in a cable news interview, Brian Morganstern described how two men brought him a videotape to transfer to DVD in late January 2006.
 
He said he went home from his Circuit City store that night and told his family what he had seen on the video: Ten men at a firing range with handguns, rifles and what he thought were fully automatic rifles. Authorities later said they were chanting in Arabic "God is Great."
He said he did not know if he should breach the privacy of the customers, who seemed like ordinary guys.
 
"It was more of a moral dilemma at that point," Morganstern told CNN.
 
The next day, he said, he talked to his managers at the Mount Laurel store. He then called police, sparking a 15-month investigation that led to the arrests on May 7 of six men, one from Philadelphia and another who drove a cab in Philadelphia, who are accused of plotting the attack on the Army installation being used largely to train reservists bound for Iraq.
 
First, Mount Laurel police visited the Circuit City to see the video. They asked Morganstern to make a copy, which was passed on to state Homeland Security investigators, then the FBI.
 
In about a month, an FBI informant had infiltrated the alleged plot.
Authorities said they made the arrests just as the suspects were trying to buy fully automatic weapons in a buy facilitated by an FBI informant.
 
The suspects are all foreign-born men in their 20s who had spent many years living in Philadelphia's southern New Jersey suburbs. Five are charged with conspiring to kill military personnel and could face life in prison if convicted. The sixth faces up to 10 years in prison if he is convicted of weapons charges.
 
After the arrests three weeks ago, authorities praised the electronics clerk who had given them the initial tip. But, citing safety concerns and the integrity of the investigation, neither they nor store officials would reveal the employee's identity.
 
A Circuit City spokeswoman, Jackie Foreman, confirmed Tuesday that Morganstern was the tipster. Law enforcement authorities did not immediately return telephone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.
 
Circuit City has said there were actually two employees who made the tip. The other has not been named publicly, and officials haven't detailed what role that person played.
 
Morganstern said in the cable news interview that the U.S. Attorney's Office had asked him not to divulge certain details of from the video.
The clerk, who remained anonymous until his interview Tuesday, was celebrated as a hero by officials and in the media across the country. He received a proclamation of thanks from the Mount Laurel Police Department.
 
But that's not how Morganstern sees his action:
 
"I don't feel like a hero," he said. "I feel like I did the right thing. I feel like I did the right thing, but I think the real heroes are the men and women overseas and the people in our law enforcement who handled the situation."
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Tall stories: The plot to topple Chicago's Sears Tower was not all that it seemed The plan uncovered by the FBI last week proved little more than wishful thinking. But could it be a sign of worse to come?

By Rupert Cornwell

Published: 25 June 2006

The alarming news flashed across America's TV screens on Thursday evening: government agents had thwarted an al-Qa'ida plot, using home-grown American terrorists, to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago in a ghastly repeat of 9/11.

When the dust had settled barely 24 hours later, a rather more modest version of events had emerged. The seven young black men arrested at a warehouse in Miami and Atlanta had never been in touch with al-Qa'ida, and had no explosives. Their "plan" to destroy America's tallest building was little more than wishful thinking, expressed by one of them to an FBI informant purporting to be a member of Osama bin Laden's terrorist organisation.

Even the FBI admitted as much. John Pistole, the bureau's deputy director, described the plan on Friday as "aspirational rather than operational" and admitted that none of the seven (five US citizens and two Haitian immigrants) had ever featured on a terrorist watch list.

In essence, the entire case rests upon conversations between Narseal Baptiste, the apparent ringleader of the group, with the informant, who was posing as a member of al-Qa'ida but in fact belonged to the South Florida Terrorist Task Force.

At a meeting "on or about 16 December" according to the indictment made public as the men made their first court appearance in Miami, Mr Baptiste asked his contact to supply equipment including uniforms, machine guns, explosives, cars and $50,000 in cash for an "Islamic Army" that would carry out a mission "just as good or greater than 9/11".

In fact, the conspiracy seems to have extended little further than those words. By last month, it had all but fizzled out, amid squabbling among Mr Baptiste's followers. Even their religious leanings are in dispute. Neighbours say they were part of a group, called Seas of David, that mixes Christian and Islamic elements.

That did not deter the US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, from summoning a press conference in which he denounced an attempt to "wage war against America". But the threat, even he admitted, was not immediate - and those who posed it were in fact merely a few semi-unemployed men, most of them petty criminals, from Liberty City, a poor black neighbourhood close to the centre of Miami.

If the case has any significance in America's "war on terror", it is not as a present danger, but as a harbinger of possible future risks. Despite countless scare stories in the media, colour-coded alerts from the Department of Homeland Security and grim official warnings of al-Qa'ida sleeper cells in the country waiting to do their worst, the US has not suffered a single terrorist attack since 9/11.

Nor have the authorities unearthed much of a terror threat. The Justice Department claims that 401 people have been charged with "terrorism-related offences" since the 2001 attacks, and that 212 have been convicted. In fact only a tiny number of these were true terrorists.

The tendency - duly followed last week by Mr Gonzales - has been to hype. The precedent was famously set by his predecessor, John Ashcroft, who called a press conference during a visit to Moscow in 2002 to announce the arrest of Jose Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomber" said to be preparing an attack on Washington with a radioactive device.

Mr Padilla languished incommunicado in a navy brig without charge for over three years. He has been transferred to a civilian prison, and faces trial in Miami later this year on different, much vaguer, terrorist charges. An alleged sleeper cell was unearthed in Detroit, but those convictions were quashed in 2004 when it emerged that prosecutors had manipulated evidence. In December 2005, the trial of Sami al-Arian, accused of links with Islamic Jihad terrorists, ended in embarrassment for the government when the Florida university professor was acquitted.

The biggest successes have had little to do with US law enforcement. Richard Reid, who tried to blow up an American Airlines plane with a shoe bomb in December 2001, was stopped by alert flight attendants, while Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the Virginia student serving a 30-year sentence for threatening to kill President George Bush, was caught by police in Saudi Arabia.

But US experts say last week's dismantling of the Miami plot could be a pointer to things to come, when home-grown terrorists, not foreign-born Islamic radicals, pose the threat. The July 2005 attacks in London in particular are frequently cited as a model for what might happen here, when disgruntled young citizens turn against their own country. The arrest in Canada this month of 17 people allegedly planning major attacks against targets in Ontario also came as a shock south of the border.

THE SUSPECTS

Patrick Abraham aka 'Brother Pat', arrested along with:

Burson Augustin known as 'Brother B'

Rothschild Augustine or 'Brother Rot'

Narseal Batiste alleged ringleader, aka Prince Manna

Lyglenson Lemorin or Brother Levi

Naudimar Herrera aka Brother Naudy

Stanley Grant Phanor or Brother Sunni

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All Missing Egyptian Students Found

Pierre Thomas Reports:

Airport_nr_1Last Sunday night, ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agents arrested Egyptian citizens Mohamed Saleh Ahmed Maray, age 20, and Mohamed Ibrahim Fouaad El Shenawy, age 17, at an apartment building in Richmond, Va., apprehending the final two of 11 Egyptian students who had gone missing from JFK International Airport in New York last week. 

Sources tell ABC News the men were "sitting on a stoop" when the federal agents, who had received critical assistance from the Virginia State Police and the Richmond Police, showed up. They had rented an apartment and apparently were planning to stick around for a while. 

On Friday night, ICE agents in Des Moines, Iowa arrested Ahmed Refaat Saad El Moghazi El Laket, age 19,  Mohamed Ibrahim El Sayed El Moghazy, age 20, and Moustafa Wagdy Moustafa El Gafary, age 18. ICE agents tracked these students' travels from New York to San Francisco to Des Moines. 

The day before, ICE agents had arrested El Sayed Ahmed Elsayed Ibrahim, age 20, and Alaa Abd El Fattah Ali El Bahnasawi, age 20, in Dundalk, Md. Sources tell ABC News the men had gotten jobs working in a pizza joint. 

Also on Thursday, the Chicago Police Department had detained Ahmed Mohamed Mohamed Abou El Ela, age 22, at O'Hare International Airport as he attempted to book a flight to Montana. He was turned over to ICE.  Apparently, El Ela had heard federal agents were looking for him and thought it might a good time to show up to campus in Montana.

On Wednesday, the Manville, N.J. Police Department had detained Mohamed Ragab Mohamed Abd Alla, age 22, and Ebrahim Mabrouk Moustafa Abdou, age 22, after they turned themselves, having spent the time with family. Both were turned over to ICE.

The same day, FBI and ICE agents had arrested Eslam Ibrahim Mohamed El-Dessouki, age 21, in Minneapolis.

Preliminary investigation by both ICE and FBI agents has not identified any credible or imminent threat posed by any of the 11 Egyptian students.

As of last week, there were 1,300 cases involving possible student visa violations in the U.S.   

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Authorities Warning Women Not to Wear Gel Bras As Worries of Possible Female Bombers Increase

 

Richard Esposito and Anna Schecter Report:

Ap_airport_060816_nrU.S. authorities are advising women not to wear gel bras on airplanes as information developed in the foiled London plot points to an expanding role for women in smuggling explosives on to an aircraft.

Authorities at Scotland Yard are questioning a husband and wife, suspects in the London terror plot, about allegations that they were planning to use their baby's bottle to hide a liquid bomb.

Police in the U.K. have recovered baby bottles containing peroxide, including some with false bottoms, from a recycling center close to the homes of some of the arrested suspects.

The use of female suicide bombers has been successful in previous airplane attacks.

When two airplanes went down within minutes of each other in Russia in 2004, officials immediately suspected a terrorist connection. It was later learned that the two suicide bombers were Chechen women. They had both been detained in the airport before boarding their flights but managed to convince airline officials using a little cash and charm to let them on board. Ninety people were killed.

"Black Widows," as they are called by the Russian media, are Chechen women who kill themselves to avenge the deaths of their husbands or other male family members.

There are numerous other examples of the use of female operatives in terrorist operations. Two women with explosive belts were among the hostage takers during the siege of a middle school in Beslan, Russia. Over 300 people were killed; half of them were children.

A woman had planned to blow herself up with her husband in an attack at a wedding in a hotel in Amman, Jordan last year that killed over 50 people. His explosive belt worked, while hers did not.

Maddy Sauer contributed to this report.

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