Yoda's World


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Glenn Beck: The body on the side of the road
The House on "C" Street
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EFCA-Employee Free Choice Act
An Invention that Could Change the Internet for Ever

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.    Benjamin Franklin


Attorney General Pulls Immunity Trigger, Denies 'Dragnet' Surveillance
By David Kravets
September 20, 2008
U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Saturday denied that the Bush administration -- in conjunction with the nation's telecommunication companies -- devised a "dragnet" electronic surveillance program that funneled Americans' communications to the National Security Agency without court warrants.

But the attorney general also insisted that defending his claim in court would harm national security.

"Specific information demonstrating that the alleged dragnet has not occurred cannot be disclosed on the public record without causing exceptional harm to national security," Mukasey wrote in a federal court filing in San Francisco. "However, because there was no such alleged content-dragnet, no provider participated in that alleged activity."

It was the first time Mukasey, as the nation's top law enforcement official, provided an emphatic and wholesale written courthouse denial of allegations contained in lawsuits accusing the Bush administration of widescale domestic spying in the years following the 2001 terror attacks. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, issued a similar courthouse denial in a 2007 court document (.pdf).

Despite Mukasey's denial, contained in a court filing (.pdf) made public Saturday, Mukasey asked a federal judge to grant immunity to the nation's telecommunications companies accused of assisting with the alleged surveillance dragnet. It is the first time the government has invoked the immunity legislation (.pdf) Congress approved July 9,  which was signed by President Bush the next day.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama voted for the immunity bill and helped block a filibuster. Republican rival John McCain supported the measure, but did not vote.

 The lawsuit was brought in 2006 by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF's lawsuit includes documents from a former AT&T technician that the EFF claims describe a secret room in an AT&T building in San Francisco that is wired up to share raw internet traffic with the NSA.

The attorney general's statements were provided to U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker in addition to the government's motion (.pdf) to grant the telcos immunity. Walker, of San Francisco, is overseeing three dozen lawsuits accusing U.S. telecommunication companies of taking part in the government's alleged "dragnet" surveillance program.

According to the immunity bill, Congress authorized Mukasey to inform Judge Walker via classified and non-public documents about why the government is seeking immunity on behalf of the communication companies. According to the legislation, Walker has little power to deny Mukasey's request.

Still, Mukasey's filing did acknowledge the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The so-called TSP authorized the NSA to intercept, without warrants, international communications to or from the United States that the government reasonably believed involved a member or agent of al-Qaeda, or affiliated terrorist organization. Bush acknowledged the program after the New York Times disclosed its existence in 2005.

Mukasey, as part of his court filing, sought immunity for the telecoms that participated in the TSP program. The TSP has now been legalized by Congress.


Police Target Protesters at RNC Convention
'They will not crush our spirit,' one protester says of police raids
Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Republican National Convention protesters targeted in a series of police raids Friday night and Saturday say they won't back down from their plans to march on the event's opening day.

Organizers have said they hope to attract up to 50,000 people to the protest Monday.

Four people were arrested at two Minneapolis homes and booked on probable cause of conspiracy to commit a riot, said Gina Berglund, an attorney helping to represent protesters. There were no arrests at a third home targeted. Later, the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office said a fifth person was arrested at an undisclosed location.

"A lot of people in the activist community are really on pins and needles about who's next," Berglund said.

Protester Michelle Gross said a fourth home, this one in St. Paul, was being raided Saturday afternoon. Two people were outside the home in handcuffs while police awaited a search warrant, she said. St. Paul police spokesman Tom Walsh said a search warrant was being executed but could not confirm whether anyone had been arrested.

On Friday night, Ramsey County sheriff's deputies raided an organizing site of a group — the RNC Welcoming Committee — that has publicized plans to disrupt convention activities. No one was arrested.

"They will not crush our spirit," said protester Lisa Fithian from Austin, Texas, at a gathering of about 300 people in a Minneapolis park Saturday afternoon. "Our organization will continue. We will be on the streets."

The raids drew criticism from other than the targets.

Dave Thune, a St. Paul city councilman whose district includes the theater building used as a hub for the protesters, denounced the raid, saying people had a legal right to assemble there.

"We spent so much time trying to welcome people to the city and now this is the way we start out," he said. "It pretty much sucks."

Bush Unveils Spy Guidelines, Angering House Overseers
By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 1, 2008
The Bush administration unveiled new operating guidelines for the nation's intelligence community yesterday in a move that boosted the authority of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) while triggering protests from lawmakers who complained that they weren't properly consulted.
The changes affirmed the DNI's role as head of the 16 U.S. spy agencies and expanded its power to set priorities and coordinate the sharing of intelligence. The DNI also was given an expanded role in foreign intelligence collection and in the hiring and firing of senior intelligence officials.
The changes were part of a long-awaited overhaul of Executive Order 12333, a Reagan-era document that establishes the powers and responsibilities of U.S. intelligence services. Most of the revisions merely reflect changes already in place since the DNI was established by Congress three years ago, partly as a response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Although the revamped order had been in the works for a year, its formal unveiling prompted a rare revolt from congressional Republicans, some of whom walked out on Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell during a morning briefing. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, led several GOP colleagues to the exit after complaining that the administration had made the changes secretly without consulting with congressional overseers -- part of a pattern dating to the beginning of the Bush presidency, Hoekstra said.
"Given the impact that this order will have on America's intelligence community, and this committee's responsibility to oversee intelligence activities, this cannot be seen as anything other than an attempt to undercut congressional oversight," Hoekstra said in a statement afterward.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), the committee chairman, raised similar objections. "We were only shown the document after it was complete and on its way to the president for his signature," he said.
Administration officials denied that they had deliberately kept Congress in the dark.
"We've been in a conversation with Congress and the American people about the structure of the intelligence community since the fall of 2004," a senior administration official told reporters during a background briefing unveiling the changes.
The revamped order specifically places the DNI in charge of setting priorities for the 16 spy agencies as well as issuing guidelines on how intelligence is collected, analyzed and shared.
It calls on intelligence agencies to use "all reasonable and lawful means" to safeguard U.S. citizens and reaffirms the nation's "long-standing commitment to protecting civil liberties," the administration official said.
Left essentially unchanged is the prohibition of assassinating foreign leaders, as well as long-standing restrictions on human experimentation.
The document asserts that the intelligence agencies will "maintain or strengthen privacy and civil liberty protections."

Lawmakers Chide Mukasey On Press Freedom

Lawmakers chided Attorney General Michael Mukasey on Wednesday for claiming national security concerns in opposing legislation that would allow reporters to protect the identities of confidential sources.

"Ten angels swearing on Bibles that that bill is harmless would not change the provisions that are in it," Mukasey told the House Judiciary Committee.

A few minutes later, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., defended the bill he said was carefully written to discourage leaks of classified or other sensitive information that could risk security. Without it, he said, long-standing press freedoms would be threatened.

"If 10 angels swearing on Bibles wouldn't change your view of this bill, would 40 American journalists subpoenaed, questioned or held in contempt do it?" Pence asked.

He added: "This is a constitutional statutory response to a rising erosion of our First Amendment freedom of the press."

Mukasey, who once successfully represented the New York Daily News in a libel case, said he was open to considering compromises. But he said current laws limiting the government's ability to force reporters to reveal their sources are adequate.

"I'm not willing to take steps that will essentially do more to protect the leakers than it does to protect journalists," he said.

Mukasey testified for 4 1/2 hours, facing questions on everything from terror detainees and executive authority to immigration laws and upcoming Justice Department policies that critics fear will lead to racial and ethnic profiling. On the last issue, he denied that they would.

Several Democrats on the panel raised concerns about the Justice Department's efforts to ensure fair elections this year amid an expected higher voter turnout than usual.

Committee chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said the department hasn't agreed to cooperate with Congress on voting rights issues, and what work has been done is largely ineffective.

"As we sit here today, probably 100 days before the election, we don't know specifically how our government will respond to the problems that made the elections of 2000 and 2004 so problematic and so controversial," Conyers told Mukasey at the start of the hearing.

He said it's unclear whether voting machines will be fairly allocated and how federal election monitors will be deployed across the country.

Responding, Mukasey called making sure the Nov. 4 elections run smoothly one of his top priorities. The department will work with civil rights groups and state and local officials to solve any problems that might arise, and plans to dispatch hundreds of election observers to the polls, he said.

"We anticipate much higher turnout this year, and we're doing what we can," Mukasey told Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C.

The Justice Department has briefed lawmakers on voting rights issues twice this year and plans to again before the election. It recently held a training session for lawyers and agents who will be working on ballot access and other voting matters throughout the election season.


US Using Communist Torture Techniques At Guantanamo
New York Times   |  Scott Shane  

The military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of "coercive management techniques" for use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation," "prolonged constraint," and "exposure."

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Some methods were used against a small number of prisoners at Guantánamo before 2005, when Congress banned the use of coercion by the military. The C.I.A. is still authorized by President Bush to use a number of secret "alternative" interrogation methods.

Several Guantánamo documents, including the chart outlining coercive methods, were made public at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing June 17 that examined how such tactics came to be employed.

But committee investigators were not aware of the chart's source in the half-century-old journal article, a connection pointed out to The New York Times by an independent expert on interrogation who spoke on condition of anonymity.



Senate bows to Bush, approves surveillance bill
Associated Press Writer
July 9, 2008

Bowing to President Bush's demands, the Senate approved and sent the White House a bill Wednesday to overhaul bitterly disputed rules on secret government eavesdropping and shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits complaining they helped the U.S. spy on Americans.

The relatively one-sided vote, 69-28, came only after a lengthy and heated debate that pitted privacy and civil liberties concerns against the desire to prevent terrorist attacks. It ended almost a year of wrangling over surveillance rules and the president's warrantless wiretapping program that was initiated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The House passed the same bill last month, and Bush said he would sign it soon.

Opponents assailed the eavesdropping program, asserting that it imperiled citizens' rights of privacy from government intrusion. But Bush said the legislation protects those rights as well as Americans' security.

"This bill will help our intelligence professionals learn who the terrorists are talking to, what they're saying and what they're planning," he said in a brief White House appearance after the Senate vote.

The bill is very much a political compromise, brought about by a deadline: Wiretapping orders authorized last year will begin to expire in August. Without a new bill, the government would go back to old FISA rules, requiring multiple new orders and potential delays to continue those intercepts. That is something most of Congress did not want to see happen, particularly in an election year.

The long fight on Capitol Hill centered on one main question: whether to protect from civil lawsuits any telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on American phone and computer lines without the permission or knowledge of a secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The White House had threatened to veto the bill unless it immunized companies such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. against wiretapping lawsuits.

Forty-six lawsuits now stand to be dismissed because of the new law, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. All are pending before a single U.S. District Court in California. But the fight has not ended. Civil rights groups are already preparing lawsuits challenging the bill's constitutionality, and four suits, filed against government officials, will not be dismissed.

Numerous lawmakers had spoken out strongly against the no-warrants eavesdropping on Americans, but the Senate voted its approval after rejecting amendments that would have watered down, delayed or stripped away the immunity provision.

The lawsuits center on allegations that the White House circumvented U.S. law by going around the FISA court, which was created 30 years ago to prevent the government from abusing its surveillance powers for political purposes, as was done in the Vietnam War and Watergate eras. The court is meant to approve all wiretaps placed inside the U.S. for intelligence-gathering purposes. The law has been interpreted to include international e-mail records stored on servers inside the U.S.

"This president broke the law," declared Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis.

The Bush administration brought the wiretapping back under the FISA court's authority only after The New York Times revealed the existence of the secret program. A handful of members of Congress knew about the program from top secret briefings. Most members are still forbidden to know the details of the classified effort, and some objected that they were being asked to grant immunity to the telecoms without first knowing what they did.

Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Arlen Specter compared the Senate vote to buying a "pig in a poke."

But Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., one of the bill's most vocal champions, said, "This is the balance we need to protect our civil liberties without handcuffing our terror-fighters."

Just under a third of the Senate, including Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, supported an amendment that would have stripped immunity from the bill. They were defeated on a 66-32 vote. Republican rival John McCain did not attend the vote.

Obama ended up voting for the final bill, as did Specter. Feingold voted no.

The bill tries to address concerns about the legality of warrantless wiretapping by requiring inspectors general inside the government to conduct a yearlong investigation into the program.

Beyond immunity, the new surveillance bill also sets new rules for government eavesdropping. Some of them would tighten the reins on current government surveillance activities, but others would loosen them compared with a law passed 30 years ago.

For example, it would require the government to get FISA court approval before it eavesdrops on an American overseas. Currently, the attorney general approves that electronic surveillance on his own.

The bill also would allow the government to obtain broad, yearlong intercept orders from the FISA court that target foreign groups and people, raising the prospect that communications with innocent Americans would be swept in. The court would approve how the government chooses the targets and how the intercepted American communications would be protected.

The original FISA law required the government to get wiretapping warrants for each individual targeted from inside the United States, on the rationale that most communications inside the U.S. would involve Americans whose civil liberties must be protected. But technology has changed. Purely foreign communications increasingly pass through U.S. wires and sit on American computer servers, and the law has required court orders to be obtained to access those as well.

The bill would give the government a week to conduct a wiretap in an emergency before it must apply for a court order. The original law said three days.

The bill restates that the FISA law is the only means by which wiretapping for intelligence purposes can be conducted inside the United States. This is meant to prevent a repeat of warrantless wiretapping by future administrations.

The ACLU, which is party to some of the lawsuits that will now be dismissed, said the bill was "a blatant assault upon civil liberties and the right to privacy."


Supreme Court Shoots Down D.C. Gun Ban

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense and hunting, the justices' first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.

The court's 5-4 ruling struck down the District of Columbia's 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment. The decision went further than even the Bush administration wanted, but probably leaves most firearms laws intact.

The court had not conclusively interpreted the Second Amendment since its ratification in 1791. The amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

The basic issue for the justices was whether the amendment protects an individual's right to own guns no matter what, or whether that right is somehow tied to service in a state militia.

"Gun rights advocates now have a fully recognized individual right to bear arms. But gun control advocates now have a Supreme Court ruling that declares that this right, like other rights in the Constitution, is not absolute. So we finally get some clarity in an area of the law that was begging for it," writes CBS News chief legal analyst Andrew Cohen.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.

The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," Scalia said. The court also struck down Washington's requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled, but left intact the licensing of guns.

In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons."

He said such evidence "is nowhere to be found."

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent in which he said, "In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."

Joining Scalia were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. The other dissenters were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter.

Gun rights supporters hailed the decision. "I consider this the opening salvo in a step-by-step process of providing relief for law-abiding Americans everywhere that have been deprived of this freedom," said Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association.

Cohen cautions that the ruling will not "immediately end all gun control regulation around the country. Jurisdictions that want to control guns - especially outside the home - still will be able to do so in some fashion."


Supreme Court Ruling Restores Habeas Corpus

By David Phillips

June 23, 2008


A couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 vote that detainees held at Guantanamo Bay have the right to Habeas Corpus.


Habeas Corpus is a writ ordering a prisoner to be brought before a judge.


The Supreme Court ruling merely says that inmates held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay had a right to challenge their detentions in US courts.

Many of the 270 prisoners being held have been there for years without seeing any court or judge.


President Bush, Republicans, right wing talking heads, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have all said that this is a bad ruling that will make our country less safe.


Some of these same people have also said that because the detainees are not Americans they are not entitled to the same protection under the Constitution because it only applies to American citizens.


Well that’s just not true. There are many laws that have come from the Constitution that do apply to non-Americans, and one of those laws is Habeas Corpus.


Bush knows this because he is the one who pushed through the Military Commissions Act of 2006, part of which suspended the right of Habeas Corpus for the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.


The Supreme Court ruling said Bush was wrong and he could not suspend Habeas Corpus because the detainees were being held at a U.S. military base and for that reason they are covered by the Constitution.


Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) criticized the Supreme Court ruling and said it is "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country."


One of the four dissenting Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the decision "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."


Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has been attacked by Sen. McCain (R-AZ) and his spin machine because of what he said;


“Confidence that our system of justice and that our traditions of rule of law are strong enough to deal with terrorists. Senator McCain does not.  That is not the same as suggesting that we should give detainees the full privileges that afforded American citizens.  I never said that, the Supreme Court never said that and I would never do that as president of the United States.”


Sen. Obama (D-IL) went on to say: “So, either Senator McCain‘s campaign doesn‘t understand what the court decided or they are distorting my position, which is that we need not throw away 200 years of American jurisprudence while we fight terrorism.  We need not choose between our deeply held values and keeping this nation safe.”


So where does that leave us, what will happen to the detainees now that the Supreme Court ruling has granted them the right of Habeas Corpus?


United States attorney general Michael Mukasey said of the ruling, "I think it bears emphasis that the court's decision does not concern military commission trials, which will continue to proceed," regardless of the ruling by the US Supreme Court.


For almost eight years now, the Bush administration has whittled away at the Constitution, not only with the suspension of Habeas Corpus, but with other rights such as warrants being required for wiretaps on telephone calls, e-mails, financial records, education records, and search and seizures of both business and homes, etc.


Benjamin Franklin once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.  


But on this one day, the Supreme Court said no, and upheld our Constitution.



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 



During the White House press briefing last week, reporter Helen Thomas broke the press corps' 14-day silence on the ABC News story reporting that top White House officials -- including President Bush -- signed off on the use of torture on detainees.

Yet when Thomas pressured White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, Perino flatly denied it, insisting, "The United States has not, is not torturing any detainees in the global war on terror." Perino pointed to CIA Director Michael Hayden for support. But in a Feb. 5 Senate hearing, Hayden said outright that "waterboarding has been used" on at least three detainees.

Moreover, FBI Director Robert Mueller testified yesterday that the FBI "reached out to DoD (Department of Defense), in terms of activity that we were concerned might not be appropriate." Mueller said that "some of the FBI's concerns dated back to 2002, when top al Qaeda detainees were waterboarded by CIA interrogators."



Last week, Human Rights Watch and the Open Society Policy Center sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee declaring that the Senate should reject Steven Bradbury’s nomination as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) because of his "role in authorizing torture."

In 2005, as the interim head of OLC, Bradbury signed off on a secret Justice Department torture memo that endorsed "the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the CIA."

He also approved an executive order approving “enhanced” interrogation techniques. Though Democratic senators have called for President Bush to withdraw Bradbury's nomination, Bush re-nominated Bradbury in January.

Bush has played hardball in pushing for this nomination. In February, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-IL) said on the Senate floor that more than 84 nominations were held up because Bush had insisted to him that "it's Brabury, or nobody." "Steven Bradbury has proven unable" to "provide the president a reliable interpretation of what the law is -- rather than what the president wants the law to be," the groups write.



Last week, the House held its sixth "secret session" in U.S. history. According to The Hill, conservatives pushed for the secret session to "delay a vote on a new Democratic FISA overhaul," raising the possibility that a wiretapping bill won't be passed until after break.

This move comes one month after House Republicans staged a walkout, accusing Democrats of delaying a vote on a version of the Protect America Act that included immunity for telecommunications companies. When Democrats proposed a closed session in late February to "discuss the legal underpinnings" of Bush's spy program, Republicans rejected the idea.

Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) office said, "This nonsense is nothing more than another stalling tactic from a bunch of liberals who don't want to give our intelligence officials all the tools they need to keep America safe." Boehner's flip-flop underscores how the conservatives' "secret session" was not about a "candid debate" or improving intelligence gathering, but about delaying a vote on FISA.



National Security Letters (NSLs) were created in the 1970s for espionage and counterterrorism investigations, enabling the FBI to secretly review customer records of suspected foreign powers in the United States without judicial approval.

Earlier this month, however, FBI director Robert Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee that an internal Justice Department report found "improper use" of NSLs "by FBI agents seeking personal data on Americans," rather than foreigners, "during terror and spy investigations."

The Justice Department released the actual reports yesterday, confirming Mueller's statement and adding that "at least once" the FBI used NSLs "to obtain records that a special intelligence-gathering court had deemed protected by the First Amendment."

The abuses outlined in the latest report occurred despite changes put in place to prevent such activity after a Justice Department report last year disclosed NSL misuse from 2003 through 2005.


Bush Vetoes Waterboarding Bill

Democrats and human rights advocates criticized President Bush's veto Saturday of a bill that would have banned the CIA from using simulated drowning and other coercive interrogation methods to gain information from suspected terrorists.

Bush said such tactics have helped foil terrorist plots. His critics likened some methods to torture and said they sullied America's reputation around the world.

"This president had the chance to end the torture debate for good, yet he chose instead to leave the door open to use torture in the future," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

She said Bush ignored the advice of 43 retired generals and admirals and 18 national security experts, including former secretaries of state and national security advisers, who supported the bill.

"Torture is a black mark against the United States," she said.

The bill would have limited the CIA to 19 interrogation techniques that are used by the military and spelled out in the Army Field Manual. Bush said he vetoed the measure because it is important for the CIA to have a separate and classified interrogation program for suspected terrorists who possess critical information about possible plots against the United States.

Bush, who used his weekly radio address to announce the veto, said the program had helped stop plots against a Marine camp in Djibouti and the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, and plans to fly passenger planes into a Los Angeles tower or London's Heathrow Airport and city buildings.

"Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland," the president said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the nation's ability to lead the world depends on its morality, not military might. "We will begin to reassert that moral authority by attempting to override the president's veto next week," said Pelosi, D-Calif.

Based on the margin of passage in each chamber, it may prove difficult for the Democratic-controlled Congress to turn back Bush's veto. It takes a two-thirds majority, and the vote was 222-199 in the House and 51-45 in the Senate.


Democrats Criticize Bush's CIA-Bill Veto

Democrats and human rights advocates criticized President Bush's veto Saturday of a bill that would have banned the CIA from using simulated drowning and other coercive interrogation methods to gain information from suspected terrorists.

Bush said such tactics have helped foil terrorist plots. His critics likened some methods to torture and said they sullied America's reputation around the world.

"This president had the chance to end the torture debate for good, yet he chose instead to leave the door open to use torture in the future," said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

She said Bush ignored the advice of 43 retired generals and admirals and 18 national security experts, including former secretaries of state and national security advisers, who supported the bill.

"Torture is a black mark against the United States," she said.

The bill would have limited the CIA to 19 interrogation techniques that are used by the military and spelled out in the Army Field Manual. Bush said he vetoed the measure because it is important for the CIA to have a separate and classified interrogation program for suspected terrorists who possess critical information about possible plots against the United States.

Bush, who used his weekly radio address to announce the veto, said the program had helped stop plots against a Marine camp in Djibouti and the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, and plans to fly passenger planes into a Los Angeles tower or London's Heathrow Airport and city buildings.

"Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaida and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland," the president said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the nation's ability to lead the world depends on its morality, not military might. "We will begin to reassert that moral authority by attempting to override the president's veto next week," said Pelosi, D-Calif.

Based on the margin of passage in each chamber, it may prove difficult for the Democratic-controlled Congress to turn back Bush's veto. It takes a two-thirds majority, and the vote was 222-199 in the House and 51-45 in the Senate.



Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, has agreed to testify on behalf of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver and a detainee facing trial.

Davis explained that, though he will not argue for Hamdan's innocence, he is concerned about "a potential for rigged outcomes" in Guantanamo's military commissions, and that he had "significant doubts about whether it will deliver full, fair and open hearings."

Davis resigned his prosecutorial post in October, protesting his placement under the command of torture advocate Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes. Last week Davis noted Haynes had specifically said that the military commissions at Guantanamo could not result in acquittals. "We've got to have convictions," Haynes apparently told Davis.

Davis has also objected to the political timing of the prosecution of Australian native David Hicks, the first Guantanamo detainee sentenced by a military commission. Davis said "he felt pressure to pursue" high-profile convictions" ahead of the 2008 elections.


Senate Passes Ban On Waterboarding, Bush Vows To Veto



The Senate voted last week to ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics used by the CIA, matching a previous House vote and putting Congress on a collision course with the White House over a pivotal national security issue.


In a 51 to 45 vote, the Senate approved an intelligence bill that limits the CIA to using 19 less-aggressive interrogation tactics outlined in a U.S. Army Field Manual. The measure would effectively ban the use of simulated drowning, temperature extremes and other harsh tactics that the CIA used on al-Qaeda prisoners after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.


President Bush has vowed to veto the legislation, which the House approved in December, and Congress does not appear to have enough votes to override a veto.


House lawmakers, meanwhile, bickered yesterday over a Senate bill approved Tuesday that would permanently expand the government's ability to eavesdrop on terrorism suspects without warrants and would protect telecommunication firms from lawsuits for helping conduct such wiretaps. A temporary law that does not include the immunity provision is due to expire Saturday.


House Democrats had sought to extend the temporary law for 21 days to allow more time for debate, but the full chamber overwhelmingly rejected that idea by a vote of 229 to 191. Thirty-four Democrats joined Republicans in defeating the measure.

Democrats In The House To Follow The Senate With NO BALLS

Democrats in the House and Senate continue to prove they are both Ball less and Lack Any Spine

The House Intelligence Committee chairman expects a compromise soon on renewal of an eavesdropping law that could provide legal protections for telecommunications companies as President Bush has insisted.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, in a television interview broadcast Sunday, did not specifically say whether the House proposal would mirror the Senate's version. The Senate measure provides retroactive legal immunity to the companies that helped the government wiretap U.S. computer and phone lines after the Sept. 11 attacks without clearance from a secret court.

Bush wants the House to agree to the Senate bill.

Reyes, D-Texas, said he was open to that possibility after receiving documents from the Bush administration and speaking to the companies about the industry's role in the government spy program.

"We are talking to the representatives from the communications companies because if we're going to give them blanket immunity, we want to know and we want to understand what it is that we're giving immunity for," he said. "I have an open mind about that."

Regarding a compromise deal, Reyes said: "We think we're very close, probably within the next week we'll be able to hopefully bring it to a vote."

Rep. Roy Blunt, the second-ranking Republican in the House, said Sunday he was not "quite that optimistic yet."

"I am committed to the idea that we have to work this out," said Blunt, R-Mo. "It's easy to solve this problem if the Democrats decide they want to solve it. The Senate proved it was easy and enough Democrats in the House believe it's easy that it's just up to the leaders to do this."

The eavesdropping law makes it easier for the government to spy on foreign phone calls and e-mails that pass through the United States. The law expired Feb. 16 after Congress did not quickly renew it. Bush opposed a temporary extension and has warned that failure to renew the law would put the nation at greater risk.

But House Democrats worried the legal protections would erode civil liberties protections and accused Bush of fear-mongering. A quirk in the temporary eavesdropping law adopted by Congress last August allows the government to initiate wiretaps for up to one year against a wide range of targets.

Reyes, whose interview was taped Friday, appeared on CNN's "Late Edition," as did Blunt.



Last week, Congress held a bipartisan meeting to broker a compromise on surveillance legislation. Conservative lawmakers, however, prevented their staffs from attending.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) responded that it shows conservatives want "to have a political issue rather than a strong new FISA bill in place as quickly as possible."

Republicans are calling for an immediate vote on the Senate version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) bill, which grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. The House version of the bill does not include retroactive immunity and Democrats have been holding bicameral meetings to find a compromise.

President Bush also indicated his unwillingness to budge, stating, "I would just tell you there's no compromise on whether these phone companies get liability protection."


Scalia Says Courts Shouldn't Prohibit Iorture
Filed by Nick Juliano

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia rejected the notion that US courts have any control over the actions of American troops at Guantanamo Bay, argued that torture of terror detainees is not banned under the US Constitution and insisted that the high court has no obligation to act as a moral beacon for other nations.

"We don't pretend to be some Western Mullahs who decide what is right and wrong for the whole world," Scalia told a BBC interviewer Tuesday, defending narrow interpretation of the reach the US Constitution gives the nine justices on the country's high court.

Scalia said it was "extraordinary" to suggest that the 8th Amendment, which prohibits the government from engaging in "cruel and unusual punishment," could be applied to the actions of US interrogators questioning foreign subjects detained overseas. In his view, Scalia said that while the 8th Amendment would prohibit locking up someone indefinitely as punishment for a crime, for example, the CIA or military would be perfectly justified keeping a suspected insurgent or member of al Qaeda imprisoned forever if the detainee refused to answer questions.

"Is it obvious that what can't be done for punishment can't be done to extract information that is crucial to the society?" Scalia asked.

In the BBC interview, which aired on Radio 4's Law in Action, Scalia suggested that it would be inappropriate for the court to deliberately outlaw certain tactics, such as waterboarding. (The Bush administration recently acknowledged using the simulated drowning procedure at least three times on terror detainees.) Scalia said tactics critics have described as torture could be usable in so-called "ticking time bomb" scenarios or even when such a pressing deadline does not exist.

"It may not be a bomb in LA," he said. "But it may be, where is this group believed to be plotting an attack on the US?"


Oops: White House Spokesman Admits Telecoms Spied
Filed by John Byrne

Oops. On the eve of last weeks vote to give telephone companies immunity for their alleged participation in the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretap program, White House spokesperson Dana Perino admitted that the companies actually spied.

Because they were patriotic.

"The telephone companies that were alleged to have helped their country after 9/11 did so because they are patriotic and they certainly helped us and they helped us save lives," Perino told reporters at Tuesday's press briefing.

The admission, while possibly a verbal slip-up, was first noticed by Ryan Singer, of Wired.

The Senate gave the phone companies immunity by a 69-29 vote. It passed wiretapping bill in its entirety just before 6pm ET, 68-29.

Earlier this afternoon, the immunity measure's staunchest opponent, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), announced he would abandon his effort to block the bill with a filibuster, arguing that the House, which has passed an immunity-free bill, would be a better place to try to strip immunity from Congress's final piece of legislation.

"We lost every single battle we had on this bill," Dodd said on a conference call Tuesday with reporters and bloggers. "And the question is now, Can we do better with the House carrying the ball on this bill?"

The bill to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including a provision granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated government spying, passed the Senate on a 68-29 vote Tuesday evening.


Cheney: 'Damn Right' I Back Bush's Use Of Waterboarding
Filed by David Edwards and Mike Sheehan

The controversial interrogation technique of waterboarding was a hot topic in a House Judiciary Committee hearing today, at which Attorney General Michael Mukasey said the Justice Department would not investigate the legality of the actions of U.S. interrogators on terror detainees.

CNN's Situation Room reports that Vice President Dick Cheney, an ardent defender of U.S. tactics in the war on terror, was "defiant" about the use of waterboarding on suspects in an appearance today at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C.

Cheney said that he supported President Bush's national security decisions, which included the approval of waterboarding along with other harsh interrogation tactics. "I've been proud to stand by [Bush], by the decisions he's made," said Cheney, who then asked aloud, "Would I support those decisions today?"

"You're damn right I would," he answered himself, to loud cheers.



New York Times reporter James Risen has been issued a subpoena in an attempt to force him to reveal confidential sources for State of War, Risen's 2006 book about the CIA.

The chapter at issue asserted that "the C.I.A. had unsuccessfully tried, beginning in the Clinton administration, to infiltrate Iran's nuclear program" by employing a former Russian nuclear scientist to leak faulty blueprints.

According to the book, "the initiative went awry when the scientist noticed the flaws and told the Iranians." Risen's publisher, Free Press, issued a statement condemning the subpoena, stating that "the ability to publish confidentially sourced information about our government's practices and policies is one of the bedrock principles of a free and open society."

Risen and co-writer Eric Lichtblau received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting for exposing the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, a disclosure which the CIA claimed was "an unfathomable and sad disregard for U.S. national security and those who take life-threatening risks to ensure it."


Firefighters Asked To Report People Who Have Books That Have Dissenting Views Of The Government In Their Homes
By David Edwards and Muriel Kane

It was revealed last week that firefighters are being trained to not only keep an eye out for illegal materials in the course of their duties, but even to report back any expression of discontent with the government.

A year ago, Homeland Security gave security clearances to nine New York City fire chiefs and began sharing intelligence with them. Even before that, fire department personnel were being taught "to identify material or behavior that may indicate terrorist activities" and were also "told to be alert for a person who is hostile, uncooperative or expressing hate or discontent with the United States."

Unlike law enforcement officials, firemen can go onto private property without a warrant, not only while fighting fires but also for inspections. "It's the evolution of the fire service," said a Phoenix, AZ fire chief of his information-sharing arrangement with law enforcement.

Keith Olbermann raised the alarm about the program on his show Wednesday, noting that "if the information-sharing program works in New York, the department says it will extend it to other major metropolitan areas, unless we stop them." He then asked Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now with the ACLU, "This program seems to be turning [firefighters], essentially, into legally protected domestic spies, does it not?"

"That's the entire intent," German replied, noting the serious legal issues involved. "There is actually still a fourth amendment," he pointed out, "and what makes a firefighter's search reasonable is that it's done to prevent a fire. If now firefighters are going in with this secondary purpose, that end run around the fourth amendment won't work, and it's likely that they will find themselves in legal trouble."

Olbermann, however, was most strongly concerned about the implications for civil liberties. "Is what disturbs you and the ACLU the same thing that just jumped off the page for me?" he asked. "That one phrase, 'look for people who are expressing hatred of or discontent with the United States?' Discontent?"

German agreed that there are serious first amendment issues raised by the focus of the program on constitutionally-protected literature, such as books that might be considered "terrorist propaganda."

Olbermann asked in conclusion whether firefighters could be used under this program to plant evidence. German agreed that the way it is defined "really plays to people's prejudices and gives them the opportunity to do damage to someone."


Group Hopes To 'Flood The Oval Office' With 25,000 Copies Of The Constitution
Filed by Katie Baker

Even though a human rights group believes the Commander in Chief has been naughty, they plan to play Santa Claus this year and make a political statement at the same time.

The Center for Constitutional Rights plans to "flood the Oval Office with copies of the Constitution this holiday season ... as a seasonal reminder that the Constitution needs to be upheld; not destroyed."

Those interested can also sign an accompanying letter addressed to President Bush, which poses a multitude of questions reminding the president "that he swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States."

"I would have hoped that you'd be pretty familiar with [the Constitution] already," writes the anonymous author, "because you have at least three times in your life taken a solemn oath to uphold, protect and defend it, but all the signs indicate that you either don't know what's in it, or you don't care."

The diatribe covers controversial topics such as habeus corpus and torture, and beseeches the President to "uphold, protect and defend [the Constitution], like you swore you would."

Interested parties can donate money to help cover costs if they wish, but the offer itself is completely free. The CCR hopes to send the President more than 25,000 copies of the Constitution by January 2008.


15,000 Want Off The U.S. Terror Watch List
By Mimi Hall

WASHINGTON — More than 15,000 people have appealed to the government since February to have their names removed from the terrorist watch list that delayed their travel at U.S. airports and border crossings, the Homeland Security Department says.

TERROR WATCH: List swells to more than 755,000
The complaints have created such a backlog that members of Congress are calling for a speedier appeal system that would help innocent people clear their names so they won't fall under future suspicion. Among those who have been flagged at checkpoints: toddlers and senior citizens with the same names as suspected terrorists on the watch list.

"To leave individuals in this purgatory is un-American," says Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., who says she'll introduce legislation to try to streamline the process.

The Homeland Security Department says it gets about 2,000 requests a month from people who want to have their names cleared. That number is so high that the department has been unable to meet its goal of resolving cases in 30 days, says Christopher White, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, which handles the appeals. He says the TSA takes about 44 days to process a complaint.

In February, the TSA launched the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, a one-stop shop for people to appeal links to the watch list, which flags anyone with potential ties to terrorism. The list has more than 750,000 names.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., says he will grill officials at a hearing on Thursday. "Given the widespread use of the terrorist watch list, the redress process is of paramount importance," he says.

John Anderson of Minneapolis, who turned 6 on July 4, is among those who have been inconvenienced.

He was first stopped at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in 2004, when his family took him for his first airplane ride to Disney World. "We checked in at the ticket counter, and the woman said in a stern voice, 'Who is John Anderson?' " says his mother, Christine Anderson. "I pointed to my stroller."

Her son is allowed to fly. But because his name is flagged, his family cannot print out a boarding pass for him online and he must check in at the ticket counter so an airline official can see that he's a child.

Christine Anderson says she has tried repeatedly to get her child's name cleared, but she can't find the right forms on the TSA website and none have come in the mail after officials promised to send them. "No one can give any answers to why my son is on the list or really how to get him off," she says.

White says many names will be cleared when the government begins requiring air travelers to provide their birth date. The government won't start collecting that information until next year, he says.



Testifying to the House Judiciary subcommittee last week, Malcom Wrightson Nance, a former Navy instructor of prisoner of war and terrorist hostage survival programs, unequivocally stated, "Waterboarding is torture, period."

Nance called the technique a "terrifying, painful, and humiliating tool" and said that it often results in subjects lying to interrogators to make the torture stop. "Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a simulation of drowning. It is drowning," he said.

The subcommittee had also called on Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a former Guantanamo Bay prosecutor, to testify about his observations of interrogations at the prison camp, but Pentagon counsel WIlliam Haynes blocked his testimony at the last minute.

Nevertheless, following the hearing, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the subcommittee chairman, and Rep. William Delahunt (D-MA) introduced a bill mandating that all U.S. interrogations -- including those run by the CIA -- conform to the Army Field Manual on Interrogation, which explicitly bans waterboarding and other forms of torture.


Rice Concedes U.S. Mishandled Torture Case
Canadian was seized by American officials, then allegedly abused in Syria

WASHINGTON (AP)- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged on Wednesday that the United States mishandled the case of a Canadian engineer seized by U.S. officials and taken to Syria, where he and the Canadian government say he was tortured.

Rice, speaking at a U.S. congressional hearing, said the United States has told Canada "that we will try to do better in the future."

"We do not think that this case was handled as it should have been. We do absolutely not wish to transfer anyone to any place in which they might be tortured," she said.

When asked whether the United States relied on diplomatic assurances from Syria that the engineer, Maher Arar, would not be tortured, Rice said she would respond later because her memory of certain details "has faded a bit."

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained by U.S. immigration agents on Sept. 26, 2002, as he stopped in New York en route home from a vacation. Days later, he was sent by private jet to Syria where, according to Canadian officials, he was tortured.

After nearly a year in a Syrian prison, he was released without charges and returned to Canada.

The Canadian government has apologized to Arar and agreed to pay him almost $10 million in compensation.

The Bush administration has not apologized. Arar's name remains on watch lists that forbid his entry into the United States.

Terror Watch List Swells To More Than 755,000
By Mimi Hall

WASHINGTON — The government's terrorist watch list has swelled to more than 755,000 names, according to a new government report that has raised worries about the list's effectiveness.
The size of the list, typically used to check people entering the country through land border crossings, airports and sea ports, has been growing by 200,000 names a year since 2004. Some lawmakers, security experts and civil rights advocates warn that it will become useless if it includes too many people.

"It undermines the authority of the list," says Lisa Graves of the Center for National Security Studies. "There's just no rational, reasonable estimate that there's anywhere close to that many suspected terrorists."

The exact number of people on the list, compiled after 9/11 to help government agents keep terrorists out of the country, is unclear, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Some people may be on the list more than once because they are listed under multiple spellings.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who plans a hearing on the report today, says "serious hurdles remain if (the list) is to be as effective as we need it to be. Some of the concerns stem from its rapid growth, which could call into question the quality of the list itself."

About 53,000 people on the list were questioned since 2004, according to the GAO, which says the Homeland Security Department doesn't keep records on how many were denied entry or allowed into the country after questioning. Most were apparently released and allowed to enter, the GAO says.

Leonard Boyle, director of the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, which maintains the list, says in testimony to be given today that 269 foreigners were denied entry in fiscal 2006.

The GAO report also says:

•The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) could not specify how many people on its no-fly list, which is a small subset of the watch list, might have slipped through screening and been allowed on domestic flights.

•TSA data show "a number of individuals" on the no-fly list passed undetected through screening and boarded international flights bound for the United States. Several planes have been diverted once officials realized that people named on the watch lists were on board.

•Homeland Security has not done enough to use the list more broadly in the private sector, where workers applying for jobs in sensitive places such as chemical factories could do harm.

Boyle also urges that the list be used by for screening at businesses where workers could "carry out attacks on our critical infrastructure that could harm large numbers of persons or cause immense economic damage."

But the sheer size of the watch list raised the most alarms.

"They are quickly galloping towards the million mark — a mark of real distinction because the list is already cumbersome and is approaching absolutely useless," said Tim Sparapani of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, says "creating and maintaining a comprehensive terrorist watch list is an enormous endeavor fraught with technical and tactical challenges."

The report, she says, "underscores the need to make the watch lists more accurate, to improve screening procedures at airports and the ports of entry, and to provide individuals with the ability to seek redress if they believe they have been wrongfully targeted."



Throughout his confirmation hearings, Attorney General nominee Mike Mukasey has consistently denounced the use of torture. Torture is "antithetical to what this country stands for," he said last week.

But under questioning from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mukasey refused to classify the practice of waterboarding -- in which a suspect has water poured over his face to simulate drowning -- as unconstitutional, repeatedly claiming it depends on how one defines "torture." "If it amounts to torture, it is not constitutional," he claimed.

As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has pointed out, there's no question that waterboarding is torture: "To make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture."

Mukasey's position also puts him at odds with CIA director Michael Hayden, who has reportedly banned waterboarding from CIA terror interrogations. Human Rights First observes that Mukasey's statements imply "that forms of coercive interrogation which violate Common Article 3 may be practiced by government agencies, including the C.I.A."



Last week, the Senate reached an agreement with the Bush administration on a government surveillance bill that includes immunity for telecommunications companies who may have broken the law in the past by making client data available to the National Security Agency.

President Bush has declared immunity to be a precondition to his signing the bill. But providing immunity "would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants."

Cindy Cohn of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the lead counsel in one such lawsuit against AT&T, said that these lawsuits are not the work of "typical trial lawyers trying to find a way to get into the pockets of American companies," as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) claimed. 

"It's certainly the goal of the administration and the phone companies to ensure that there's never a decision about whether what's been going on is legal or not. The telecom cases are the last, best hope," Cohn said.

The House Democratic leadership had to pull its version of the bill, which does not contain telecom immunity, after Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) introduced an amendment that would have "substantially delayed" the legislation.


Dems Demand Secret Torture Memos

A new showdown is brewing on Capitol Hill over the disclosure the Justice Department secretly issued memos granting expansive approval for harsh interrogation techniques.

Democrats want the White House to turn over classified memos that reportedly authorized methods including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

The existence of the memos was disclosed by the New York Times.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair John Rockefeller of West Virginia said: “I find it unfathomable that the committee tasked with oversight of the C.I.A.”s detention and interrogation program would be provided more information by The New York Times than by the Department of Justice.”

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino confirmed the memos were issued but refused to discuss their contents.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino:

“I am not going to comment on any specific alleged techniques. It is not appropriate for me to do so. And to do so would provide the enemy with more information for how to train against these techniques.

And so I am going to decline to comment on those, but I will reiterate to you once again that we do not torture. We want to make sure that we keep this country safe.”

Bush Defends US Interrogation Methods

President Bush defended his administration's methods of detaining and questioning terrorism suspects on Friday, saying both are successful and lawful.

"When we find somebody who may have information regarding a potential attack on America, you bet we're going to detain them, and you bet we're going to question them," he said during a hastily called Oval Office appearance. "The American people expect us to find out information, actionable intelligence so we can help protect them. That's our job."

Bush volunteered his thoughts on a report on two secret 2005 memos that authorized extreme interrogation tactics against terror suspects. "This government does not torture people," the president said.

Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., demanded a copy of a third Justice Department memo justifying military interrogations of terror suspects held outside the United States.

In a letter to Attorney General-nominee Michael Mukasey, Levin wrote that two years ago he requested — and was denied — the March 14, 2003, legal opinion. Levin asked if Mukasey would agree to release the opinion if the Senate confirms him as attorney general, and cited what he described as a history of the Justice Department stonewalling Congress.

"Such failures and the repeated refusal of DoJ to provide Congress with such documents has prevented the Congress from fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to conduct oversight," Levin wrote.


FCC won't probe disclosure of phone records

Oct 5, 2007

By Peter Kaplan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission declined to investigate reports that phone companies turned over customer records to the National Security Agency, citing national security concerns, according to documents released on Friday.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin turned down a congressional request for an investigation as a top intelligence official concluded it would "pose an unnecessary risk of damage to the national security," according to a letter National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell sent to Martin on Tuesday.

Intelligence officials "support your determination not to initiate an investigation," McConnell wrote to Martin.

At issue are reports last year that some big telephone companies allowed the U.S. government access to millions of telephone records for an anti-terrorism program.

The reports have prompted scrutiny by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Democratic Rep. Edward Markey, the chairman of a key Energy and Commerce subcommittee, asked Martin to investigate.

In his response, Martin included Tuesday's letter from McConnell. A spokesman for the FCC declined further comment.

Markey, of Massachusetts, said McConnell's stance was "unsurprising given that this administration has continually thwarted efforts by Congress to shed more light on the surveillance program."

"I believe the agency could conduct its own examination of such reports in a way that safeguards national security," Markey said in a statement.

The Energy and Commerce Committee also asked AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and Qwest Communications International Inc on Tuesday to describe how U.S. government agencies sought to obtain information about customer telephone and Internet use.


Bush Growls; Dems Kowtow
By Madeleine Begun Kane

The Dems disappoint us again,
Backing Bush in his eavesdropping yen.
We need Dems to defend us
From Bush bills horrendous.
When will Dems turn from mice into men?


Protestors Meet Outside White House Demanding End To Iraq War

Thousands of protestors gathered in a park outside the White House Saturday demanding an end to the war in Iraq, the return of US troops, and the impeachment of President George W. Bush.

The crowd of protesters, numbering between 4,000 and 6,000, then marched under a clear sky toward the US Capitol building. Many waved placards that read "Support our troops, stop the war," and "Impeach Bush."

Phil Aliff, 21, marched wearing his camouflage uniform jacket as part of a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War. Aliff first arrived in Iraq in July 2006.

"I stayed there for a year, in Abu Ghraib and outside Fallujah. When we arrived, we were told we were here to bring stabilization to the country," said Aliff.

"But we were not rebuilding anything. The Iraqis had only two hours of electricity. And I saw the atrocities committed by the Americans there."

Aliff spoke days after the top US general in Iraq, David Petraeus, testified before Congress, giving an optimistic report on conditions in Iraq and the effectiveness of the US president's "surge" strategy of adding more US troops to the fight.

"General Petraeus's report is incredibly far from the reality on the ground," said Aliff.

Another marcher, Diane Santoriello, held a photograph of her 25-year-old son Neil, lost in Iraq on August 13, 2004. "I am here to get Congress to defund the war," she said.

"The vast majority of Iraqi people want the US and other foreign forces out of the country," said Brian Becker with the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War End Racism) coalition, the group organizing the march.

"The vast majority of the people in the US want the war ended and the troops brought home now," he added.


CIA Bans Water-Boarding in Terror Interrogations

By Brian Ross, Richard Esposito & Martha Raddatz

The controversial interrogation technique known as water-boarding, in which a suspect has water poured over his mouth and nose to stimulate a drowning reflex, has been banned by CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, current and former CIA officials tell ABCNews.com.

The officials say Hayden made the decision at the recommendation of his deputy, Steve Kappes, and received approval from the White House to remove water-boarding from the list of approved interrogation techniques first authorized by a presidential finding in 2002.

The officials say the decision was made sometime last year but has never been publicly disclosed.

One U.S. intelligence official said, "It would be wrong to assume that the program of the past moved into the future unchanged."

A CIA spokesman said, as a matter of policy, he would decline to comment on interrogation techniques, "which have been and continue to be lawful," he said.

Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.

The practice of water-boarding has been branded as "torture" by human rights groups and a number of leading U.S. officials, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., because it amounted to a "mock execution."

Today, in New Hampshire, Sen. McCain told ABC News, "I have sought that result for years. Water-boarding is a form of torture. And I'm convinced that this will not only help us in our interrogation techniques, but it will also be helpful for our image in the world."

While new legislation reportedly gave the CIA the leeway to use water-boarding, current and former CIA officials said Gen. Hayden decided to take it off the list of about six "enhanced interrogation techniques."

While welcoming the move, some critics say the CIA did not go far enough.

"I can say it's a good thing, but the fact remains that the entire program is illegal," John Sifton of Human Rights Watch told ABCNews.com.

As a result of the decision, officials say, the most extreme techniques left available to CIA interrogators would be what is termed "longtime standing," which includes exhaustion and sleep deprivation with prisoners forced to stand, handcuffed with their feet shackled to the floor.

"It is a very severe form of torture which causes tremendous psychic toll to people," said Sifton.

It is believed that water-boarding was used on fewer than five "high-value" terrorist subjects, and had not been used for three to four years.

Its most effective use, say current and former CIA officials, was in breaking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as KSM, who subsequently confessed to a number of ongoing plots against the United States.

A senior CIA official said KSM later admitted it was only because of the water-boarding that he talked.

Ultimately, KSM took responsibility for the 9/ll attacks and virtually all other al Qaeda terror strikes, including the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

"KSM lasted the longest under water-boarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again," said a former CIA official familiar with KSM's case.

Kappes' role at the CIA puts him in charge of day-to-day CIA operations.

A career intelligence officer, he left the CIA in disagreement with the leadership of Porter Goss, the former Republican congressman, who George Bush chose to replace George Tenet in 2004.

When Goss in turn was replaced in May 2006 by Gen. Hayden as director of Central Intelligence, he moved quickly to get Kappes to return.



A federal judge struck down a piece of the controversial Patriot Act on Thursday, ruling that the government must obtain a court's approval before it can order Internet providers to turn over records without informing customers.

Rebuking White House policy, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero declared that when "the judiciary lowers its guard on the Constitution, it opens the door to far-reaching invasions of liberty."

The law not only allowed the FBI to issue so-called national security letters (NSLs) to communications providers demanding the release of information without a court order, but it also forbade the companies from warning their customers.

 A report released last March by the Justice Department Inspector General showed that the FBI had issued over 143,000 NSLs between 2003 and 2005. These warrantless, secretive searches, Marrero declared, amount to little more than "the legislative equivalent of breaking and entering, with an ominous free pass to the hijacking of constitutional values."

The ACLU, which brought the suit, had another success this week, when a federal judge rejected the administration's secrecy claims in its refusal to make public information about its secret warrantless wiretapping program.


Former Top DOJ Lawyer Speaks Out On Fight Against Bush Spying

Filed by David Edwards and Jason Rhyne

Former Department of Justice lawyer Jack Goldsmith, who frequently countered White House legal justifications for expanded executive power during his time as director of the Office of Legal Counsel, spoke publicly for the first time on the Thursday edition of ABC's Nightline.

A new book by Goldsmith, The Terror Presidency, will be released later this month.

"I discovered in my first weeks on the job that some of our most important counterterrorism policies were based on legal opinions that I viewed as flawed, "

Goldsmith told Nightline. "Not necessarily what was being done, but what might be done in the name of these opinions that I didn't know about."

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which Goldsmith headed spanning from 2003-2004, is dedicated to advising the president as to the legal scope of executive power.

Goldsmith said his first reaction to the job was that he should quit, recalling thinking that "If I go down this path it's going to cause enormous disruption to the administration's most important counterterror policies."

After making the decision to stay on, Goldsmith insisted that he did his best to accommodate the administration's initiatives-- which included secret surveillance programs and detention protocols for enemy combatants--but didn't always find proper legal justifications.

"In these critical national security areas, I bent over backwards to try to find ways to allow the president to do what he wanted to do, " Goldsmith said. "But I couldn't always do so."

"Some people saw me as a pain," he told Nightline.

Goldsmith's most frequent sparring partner was David Addington, then legal counsel for Vice President Cheney and currently the vice president's chief of staff.

"He was always pushing other people to go out on a limb to do things and take responsibility for things that they weren't always in agreement about," said Goldsmith. "One never saw him doing the same thing."

As related in his book, Goldsmith says that an infuriated Addington once told him that because of one administration-bucking decision, the blood of 100,000 people who died in the next attack would be on Goldsmith's hands.

"I did all of this very, very, very reluctantly," Goldsmith says of his challenges to the Bush administration. "Only because I thought the opinions were deeply flawed and over-broad. "

Calling his conflict with the White House "unprecedented," he left the Justice Department after only nine months. "I could have kept going, but I really didn't want to...I really didn't want to stay in the government."


Police Break Up Anti-War Meeting In Washington

Mounted police charged in to break up an outdoor press conference and demonstration against the Iraq war in Washington on Thursday, arresting three people, organizers and an AFP reporter said.

"The police suppressed the press conference. In the middle of the speeches, they grabbed the podium" erected in a park in front of the White House for the small gathering, Brian Becker, national organizer of the ANSWER anti-war coalition, told AFP.

"Then, mounted police charged the media present to disperse them," Becker said.

The charge caused a peaceful crowd of some 20 journalists and four or five protestors to scatter in terror, an AFP correspondent at the event in Lafayette Square said. No one appeared to have been hurt.

Three people -- Tina Richards, the mother of a marine who did two tours of duty in Iraq; Adam Kokesh, a leader of the Iraq Veterans Against the War group; and lawyer Ian Thompson, who is an organizer for ANSWER in Los Angeles -- were arrested, Becker said.

The ANSWER coalition is trying to rally support for an anti-war demonstration in Washington that is due to take place on September 15.

Last month, the movement was threatened with a fine of at least 10,000 dollars unless it removed posters in the city announcing the September 15 march.

Washington city authorities have said the posters had to come down because they were stuck on with adhesive that did not meet city regulations.

"At our demonstration today we were showing the media that the paste we use conforms to the rules," Becker said.

"One of our activists was making a speech when the police barged in and grabbed the podium. At that point, Tina Richards started to put up a poster, so they arrested her and two others."

"This strategy of suppression has not worked. We expect many tens of thousands of people" in Washington for the September 15 anti-war demonstration, he said.

The march has been timed to coincide with the release of a report by the US military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and will be part of a week of protests led by veterans of the Iraq war.

A petition calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, allegedly carrying one million signatures and endorsed by former US attorney general Ramsey Clark, will also be submitted to officials during the week's activities, ANSWER has told AFP.


CIA Chief Defends Rendition And Detention Policies

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Central Intelligence Agency director defended U.S. policies on interrogation and rendition of terrorist suspects to other countries on Friday, saying the program was blown out of proportion by critics.

Speaking in New York four days before the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks, CIA Director Michael Hayden said al Qaeda had regained strength and its leadership continued to plot a "high-impact" attack on the United States.

"Al Qaeda is focusing on targets that would produce mass casualties, dramatic destruction and significant economic aftershocks," Hayden said, quoting from an intelligence summary released in July. He spoke before the release of a new Osama bin Laden video on Friday.

U.S. President George W. Bush, who insists the United States does not use torture, has faced pressure over interrogation techniques used on suspected militants held at secret CIA prisons and other locations.

Critics have complained the CIA has mistreated prisoners and operated clandestine flights under a secret "rendition" program in which suspects were handed over to countries like Egypt and Syria, where critics say they could be tortured.

"In this fight, we've leveraged every inch of the space we've been given to operate," Hayden told an audience that included academics, lawyers and human rights activists at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But, he said, the programs were "carefully controlled and lawfully conducted" and far more limited than widely believed.

"Since it began ... in the spring of 2002, fewer than 100 people have been detained at CIA's facilities," Hayden said, adding that the number of renditions was even smaller, in the "mid-range two figures."

"These programs are targeted and selective. They were designed for only the most dangerous terrorists and those believed to have the most valuable information, such as knowledge of planned attacks," he said. "But they also have been the subject of wild speculation, both here and overseas."

Hayden said there was a strict policy of only handing over suspects under credible assurances that they would be treated according to international law. "We do not do it to circumvent any restrictions that we have on ourselves," he said.

Hayden said he was worried that politics appeared to be limiting the CIA's ability to do its work, and he criticized the media for publishing stories revealing details of CIA operating methods.


President Bush Opposes Release Of Court Rulings On Wiretaps
By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration opposed in U.S. court on Friday an effort to peel back a secrecy lid over its domestic counterterrorism wiretapping program, which critics say infringes on privacy and rights.

In a filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is itself secret and oversees the program, the U.S. Justice Department said the court should reject a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to disclose its legal rulings at the center of debate over the program.

It said the court had no authority to order such material declassified, the ACLU had no basis for filing its request with the court, and that granting it would jeopardize the surveillance program.

"The public disclosure of the documents the ACLU requests would seriously compromise sensitive sources and methods relating to the collection of intelligence necessary for the Government to conduct counterterrorism activities," the department said in its filing.

The ACLU said keeping the rulings secret would hamper political debate over the government's surveillance authority.

"This debate should not take place in a vacuum. The public has a right to know, at least in general terms, what kinds of surveillance the court authorized and what kinds of surveillance it disallowed," Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU's National Security Project, said in a statement.

Following an order by the court in January, the administration placed under its supervision the program begun earlier by U.S. President George W. Bush of wiretapping conversations between foreign terrorism suspects and Americans.

The Democrat-led Congress in August passed legislation that authorized the program for six months, but Democrats who say the law went too far have vowed to revise it at the earliest opportunity.

The ACLU filed its request to declassify court findings on the program as part of multiple efforts to contest it. The organization wants released the court's January order as well as the administration's original request to the court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena to the White House and other agencies for records on the program's justification, but it has been rebuffed. The committee's Democratic chairman, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, has said he considers the administration in contempt, but Congress has taken no action.

The ACLU is due to file its response to the government briefing on September 14.


Concerns Raised on Wider Spying Under New Law

WASHINGTON - Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Administration officials acknowledged that they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and that there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language. But they said the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation.

They also emphasized that there would be strict rules in place to minimize the extent to which Americans would be caught up in the surveillance.

The dispute illustrates how lawmakers, in a frenetic, end-of-session scramble, passed legislation they may not have fully understood and may have given the administration more surveillance powers than it sought.

It also offers a case study in how changing a few words in a complex piece of legislation has the potential to fundamentally alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a landmark national security law. The new legislation is set to expire in less than six months; two weeks after it was signed into law, there is still heated debate over how much power Congress gave to the president.

“This may give the administration even more authority than people thought,” said David Kris, a former senior Justice Department lawyer in the Bush and Clinton administrations and a co-author of “National Security Investigation and Prosecutions,” a new book on surveillance law.

Several legal experts said that by redefining the meaning of “electronic surveillance,” the new law narrows the types of communications covered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, by indirectly giving the government the power to use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States.

These new powers include the collection of business records, physical searches and so-called “trap and trace” operations, analyzing specific calling patterns.



Stevens: Smoking Pot Akin To Drinking During Prohibition
Filed by Nick Juliano

In his dissent on a recent free-speech case, Justice John Paul Stevens wades into the war-on-drugs debate, comparing modern-day pot smokers with "otherwise law-abiding patrons of bootleggers and speakeasies," during the prohibition era.

Stevens, who the Washington Post notes turned 87 on April 20, said the current climate surrounding the war on drugs "is reminiscent of the opinion that supported the nationwide ban on alcohol consumption when I was a student."

The Supreme Court this week ruled against an Alaska student who displayed a "BONG HiTS 4 JESUS" sign at an event outside his high school, and Stevens wrote the dissent for the four justices who believed the student's free-speech rights should be protected.

"Today the actions of literally millions of otherwise law-abiding users of marijuana, and of the majority of voters in each of the several States that tolerate medicinal uses of the product, lead me to wonder whether the fear of disapproval by those in the majority in silencing opponents of the war on drugs," Stevens wrote.

Most debate over the efficacy of the war on drugs focuses on government crackdowns on users of medical marijuana, for whom the drug eases chronic pain. But in comparing pot smoking to social drinking, Stevens suggests that the drug could be legalized in all cases.

In his opinion, Stevens insists "no one seriously maintains that drug advocacy ... can be prohibited because of its feared consequences." Later, Stevens observes the shift in Americans' views on alcohol since the 1920s and 30s.

"While alcoholic beverages are now regarded as ordinary articles of commerce, their use was then condemned with the same moral fervor that now supports the war on drugs," Stevens writes.

In a 2005 case, Stevens wrote for the court's 6-3 majority that upheld the federal government's right to prosecute medical marijuana patients in states that have legalized medical use of the drug.

But his opinion was based strictly on Congress's ability to regulate interstate commerce, and that opinion included mention that credible research showing marijuana could be medically effective would "cast serious doubt" on the government's classification of the drug as a Schedule I narcotic. And he all but encouraged the advocates to take their argument directly to Congress.


Bush Calls For Easier Wiretap Rules

US President George W. Bush on Saturday called for Congress to revise a US security law in order to ease restrictions on the government's secret communications surveillance of terror suspects.

Amid furor over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's handling of the government's secret warrantless wiretap program, Bush urged legislators to pass the update of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) proposed in April.

The changes would ease intelligence collection aimed at people plotting attacks on the United States, Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"Today we face sophisticated terrorists who use disposable cell phones and the Internet to communicate with each other, recruit operatives, and plan attacks on our country," he said.

"Technologies like these were not available when FISA was passed nearly 30 years ago, and FISA has not kept up with new technological developments.

"As a result, our nation is hampered in its ability to gain the vital intelligence we need to keep the American people safe."

Bushed urged lawmakers to work in a bipartisan manner to pass the legislation before leaving for August recess, saying: "Our national security depends on it."

Bush made the plea as Gonzales became more mired this week in accusations that the government abused the law to monitor suspect electronic communications to and from the United States without first obtaining warrants from a special secret FISA court.

On Thursday members of Congress called for a perjury investigation of Gonzales for testimony he gave days earlier on the warrantless wiretaps, which were launched when Gonzales was White House Counsel.

The FISA reform proposed by the White House in April would loosen restrictions on tapping into emails, phone calls and other communications inside the country and possibly allow the US to freely tap into international communications routed through the United States.

It will also protect telecommunications companies who cooperate in the effort. Several major companies have been sued for helping with the wiretaps.

But Congress has resisted the reform while demanding more information on the government's electronic spying efforts since 2001, which the White House and Gonzales have insisted were legal, but others say broke the law.

This week Gonzales and FBI director Robert Mueller offered apparently contradictory testimony on a 2004 Justice Department dispute over the program's legality, sparking accusations that Gonzales lied to the legislators about the controversy.

Bush did not address the Gonzales controversy in his address, but on Friday White House spokesman Tony Snow said: "The president supports him and the president supports his performance."


Old-Line Republican Warns 'Something's In The Works' To Trigger A Police State

By Muriel Kane

Thom Hartmann began his program on Thursday by reading from a new Executive Order which allows the government to seize the assets of anyone who interferes with its Iraq policies.

He then introduced old-line conservative Paul Craig Roberts -- a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Reagan who has recently become known for his strong opposition to the Bush administration and the Iraq War -- by quoting the "strong words" which open Roberts' latest column: "Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran."

"I don't actually think they're very strong," said Roberts of his words. "I get a lot of flak that they're understated and the situation is worse than I say. ... When Bush exercises this authority [under the new Executive Order] ... there's no check to it. It doesn't have to be ratified by Congress. The people who bear the brunt of these dictatorial police state actions have no recourse to the judiciary. So it really is a form of total, absolute, one-man rule. ... The American people don't really understand the danger that they face."

Roberts said that because of Bush's unpopularity, the Republicans face a total wipeout in 2008, and this may be why "the Democrats have not brought a halt to Bush's follies or the war, because they expect his unpopular policies to provide them with a landslide victory in next year's election."

However, Roberts emphasized, "the problem with this reasoning is that it assumes that Cheney and Rove and the Republicans are ignorant of these facts, or it assumes that they are content for the Republican Party to be destroyed after Bush has his fling." Roberts believes instead that Cheney and Rove intend to use a renewal of the War on Terror to rally the American people around the Republican Party. "Something's in the works," he said, adding that the Executive Orders need to create a police state are already in place.

"The administration figures themselves and prominent Republican propagandists ... are preparing us for another 9/11 event or series of events," Roberts continued. "Chertoff has predicted them. ... The National Intelligence Estimate is saying that al Qaeda has regrouped. ... You have to count on the fact that if al Qaeda's not going to do it, it's going to be orchestrated. ... The Republicans are praying for another 9/11."

Hartmann asked what we as the people can do if impeachment isn't about to happen. "If enough people were suspicious and alert, it would be harder for the administration to get away with it," Roberts replied. However, he added, "I don't think these wake-up calls are likely to be effective," pointing out the dominance of the mainstream media.

"Americans think their danger is terrorists," said Roberts. "They don't understand the terrorists cannot take away habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. ... The terrorists are not anything like the threat that we face to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution from our own government in the name of fighting terrorism. Americans just aren't able to perceive that."

Roberts pointed out that it's old-line Republicans like himself, former Reagan associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein, and Pat Buchanan who are the diehards in warning of the danger. "It's so obvious to people like us who have long been associated in the corridors of power," he said. "There's no belief in the people or anything like that. They have agendas. The people are in the way. The Constitution is in the way. ... Americans need to comprehend and look at how ruthless Cheney is. ... A person like that would do anything."

Roberts final suggestion was that, in the absence of a massive popular outcry, "the only constraints on what's going to happen will come from the federal bureaucracy and perhaps the military. They may have had enough. They may not go along with it."


Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq



White House News

Message to the Congress of the United States Regarding International Emergency Economic Powers Act


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as amended (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)(IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)(NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004. I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,

(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or

(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;

(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section include, but are not limited to, (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order, and (ii) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 2. (a) Any transaction by a United States person or within the United States that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 3. For purposes of this order:

(a) the term "person" means an individual or entity;

(b) the term "entity" means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and

(c) the term "United States person" means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

Sec. 4. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

Sec. 5. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order.

Sec. 6. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government, consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order and, where appropriate, to advise the Secretary of the Treasury in a timely manner of the measures taken.

Sec. 7. Nothing in this order is intended to affect the continued effectiveness of any rules, regulations, orders, licenses, or other forms of administrative action issued, taken, or continued in effect heretofore or hereafter under 31 C.F.R. chapter V, except as expressly terminated, modified, or suspended by or pursuant to this order.

Sec. 8. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right, benefit, or privilege, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, instrumentalities, or entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.



July 17, 2007.

# # #



Return to this article at:



Data On Americans Mined For Terror Risk


Associated Press


The FBI is gathering and sorting information about Americans to help search for potential terrorists, insurance cheats and crooked pharmacists, according to a government report obtained Tuesday.

Records about identity thefts, real estate transactions, motor vehicle accidents and complaints about Internet drug companies are being searched for common threads to aid law enforcement officials, the Justice Department said in a report to Congress on the agency's data-mining practices.

In addition, the report disclosed government plans to build a new database to assess the risk posed by people identified as potential or suspected terrorists.

The chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the Justice Department said the database was "ripe for abuse." The American Civil Liberties Union immediately derided the quality of the information that could be used to score someone as a terror threat.

The report, sent to Congress this week, marked the department's first public detailing of six of its data-mining tools, which look for patterns to catch criminals. The disclosure was required by lawmakers when they renewed the USA Patriot Act in 2005. It comes as the Justice Department faces sharp criticism from Congress and civil liberties advocates for violating peoples' privacy rights in terror and spy investigations.

Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said the databases are strictly regulated to protect privacy rights and civil liberties.

"Each of these initiatives is extremely valuable for investigators, allowing them to analyze and process lawfully acquired information more effectively in order to detect potential criminal activity and focus resources appropriately," Boyd said in a statement.

All but one of the databases — the one to track terrorists — have been up and running for several years, the report showed. The lone exception is the System to Assess Risk, or STAR, program to rate the threat posed by people already identified as suspected terrorists or named on terror watch lists.

The system, still under construction, is designed to help counter terror investigators save time by narrowing the field of people who pose the greatest potential threat and will not label anyone a terrorist, Boyd said.

But it could be based, in part at least, on commercial or public information that might not be accurate  potentially ranking an innocent person as a terror threat. Watch lists, for example, have mistakenly identified people as suspects based on their similar names or birthdates to terrorists.

The Justice report also leaves open the possibility that the STAR program might draw up lists of terror suspects based on information from other sources, including from Data Mart. The reports described Data Mart as a collector of government information, but also travel data from the Airlines Reporting Corp. and other information from private data-aggregators like Choicepoint. Private data aggregators often sell commercial credit records as well as other databases, like voter and vehicle registration.

"When you put bad information into a system and you don't have any mechanism of ensuring the information is of high quality, you're certain to get bad information spit out on the back end," said ACLU senior legislative counsel Tim Sparapani. "And that has profoundly negative consequences for the individuals who are wrongly identified as potential terrorists."

The five other databases detailed in the report include:

·         An identity theft intelligence program, used since 2003, to examine and analyze consumer complaints to identify major identity theft rings in a given geographic area.

·         A health care fraud system that looks at billing records in government and private insurance claims databases to identify fraud or over-billing by health care providers. It also has been running since 2003.

·         A database created in 2005 that looks at consumer complaints to the Food and Drug Administration to identify larger trends about fraud by Internet pharmacies.

·         A housing fraud program that analyzes public data on real estate transactions to identify fraudulent housing purchases, including so-called property flipping. The database was built in 1999.

·         A system that compares National Insurance Crime Bureau information against other data to crack down on fake car accident insurance claims and identify major offenders.

The 38-page report was four months late in being sent to Congress for required oversight. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said it "raises more questions than it answers."

"Unfortunately, the Congress and the American public know very little about these and other data mining programs, making them ripe for abuse," said Leahy, D-Vt.


Data On Americans Mined For Terror Risk


Associated Press


The FBI is gathering and sorting information about Americans to help search for potential terrorists, insurance cheats and crooked pharmacists, according to a government report obtained Tuesday.

Records about identity thefts, real estate transactions, motor vehicle accidents and complaints about Internet drug companies are being searched for common threads to aid law enforcement officials, the Justice Department said in a report to Congress on the agency's data-mining practices.

In addition, the report disclosed government plans to build a new database to assess the risk posed by people identified as potential or suspected terrorists.

The chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the Justice Department said the database was "ripe for abuse." The American Civil Liberties Union immediately derided the quality of the information that could be used to score someone as a terror threat.

The report, sent to Congress this week, marked the department's first public detailing of six of its data-mining tools, which look for patterns to catch criminals. The disclosure was required by lawmakers when they renewed the USA Patriot Act in 2005. It comes as the Justice Department faces sharp criticism from Congress and civil liberties advocates for violating peoples' privacy rights in terror and spy investigations.

Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said the databases are strictly regulated to protect privacy rights and civil liberties.

"Each of these initiatives is extremely valuable for investigators, allowing them to analyze and process lawfully acquired information more effectively in order to detect potential criminal activity and focus resources appropriately," Boyd said in a statement.

All but one of the databases — the one to track terrorists — have been up and running for several years, the report showed. The lone exception is the System to Assess Risk, or STAR, program to rate the threat posed by people already identified as suspected terrorists or named on terror watch lists.

The system, still under construction, is designed to help counter terror investigators save time by narrowing the field of people who pose the greatest potential threat and will not label anyone a terrorist, Boyd said.

But it could be based, in part at least, on commercial or public information that might not be accurate  potentially ranking an innocent person as a terror threat. Watch lists, for example, have mistakenly identified people as suspects based on their similar names or birthdates to terrorists.

The Justice report also leaves open the possibility that the STAR program might draw up lists of terror suspects based on information from other sources, including from Data Mart. The reports described Data Mart as a collector of government information, but also travel data from the Airlines Reporting Corp. and other information from private data-aggregators like Choicepoint. Private data aggregators often sell commercial credit records as well as other databases, like voter and vehicle registration.

"When you put bad information into a system and you don't have any mechanism of ensuring the information is of high quality, you're certain to get bad information spit out on the back end," said ACLU senior legislative counsel Tim Sparapani. "And that has profoundly negative consequences for the individuals who are wrongly identified as potential terrorists."

The five other databases detailed in the report include:

·         An identity theft intelligence program, used since 2003, to examine and analyze consumer complaints to identify major identity theft rings in a given geographic area.

·         A health care fraud system that looks at billing records in government and private insurance claims databases to identify fraud or over-billing by health care providers. It also has been running since 2003.

·         A database created in 2005 that looks at consumer complaints to the Food and Drug Administration to identify larger trends about fraud by Internet pharmacies.

·         A housing fraud program that analyzes public data on real estate transactions to identify fraudulent housing purchases, including so-called property flipping. The database was built in 1999.

·         A system that compares National Insurance Crime Bureau information against other data to crack down on fake car accident insurance claims and identify major offenders.

The 38-page report was four months late in being sent to Congress for required oversight. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said it "raises more questions than it answers."

"Unfortunately, the Congress and the American public know very little about these and other data mining programs, making them ripe for abuse," said Leahy, D-Vt.



By: David Phillips

July 2, 2007


Since 911, Bush has covertly put into action; programs that he says are meant to help identify terrorists or Evil Doers as he likes to call them. But in his eagerness to track down these Evil Doers, he has made a mockery of our Constitution and trampled on dozens of our Civil Liberties.


Some of these programs even have names meant to instill a sense of nationalism like the Patriot Act, or the Military Commissions Act. Other programs were never meant to become publicly known, but whistleblowers have leaked many other programs to the Newspapers such as the NY Times.


Programs such as the Patriot Act that allow the FBI to search your home or business without a search warrant, and it even allows them to do this when you are not there. And if they do find something, they can then get a search warrant wait for your return then do another search and then arrest you. This has appropriately been named Sneak and Peek.


There are dozens of other programs neatly tucked away in the Patriot Act that allows the FBI and other agencies to gather information. The Patriot Act also gives the government some very freighting powers, including the ability to make secret arrests, issue secret subpoenas, create a vast new DNA database and even strip Americans of their citizenship and deport them.


We have since learned that only six people in congress said that they had read the entire Patriot Act prior to voting in favor of it.


A couple of months ago we found out that the FBI has been abusing the Patriot Act to gather hundreds of thousands of illegal wiretaps on American citizens. FBI Director Robert Muller was called to testify before congress to explain the abuse, Muller did admit that some of his field agents exceeded the authorization that the Patriot Act provides and Muller said that he would make sure that it does not happen again.


Another program called the Military Commissions Act allows the CIA to literally kidnap someone anywhere in the world, usher them off to a secret prison and conduct various act of torture, which Vice President Dick Cheney calls “Intense Interrogation.”


The Military Commissions Act has also suspended the right of Habeas Corpus for detainees, which is the constitutional right to have your case seen by a court of law, and to determine whether the detention is lawful.


Two weeks ago we learned that the FBI is seeking to create a data base consisting of more than six billion records on all Americans. That works out to more than 20 individual records for every man, women and child in the United States. The data mining program will cost the FBI around $12 million dollars.


House Science and Technology Committee members Brad Miller (D-NC) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) requested last week that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the proposal.

A story in The Washington Post last Thursday found "that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years."  "Two dozen of the newly-discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have."

Another program called The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program is designed to track financial transactions from more than 200 countries through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Belgium-based, bank-owned entity, which is run by the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The National Security Agency (NSA) with authorization from Bush, have been wiretapping phones and data mining e-mails of American citizens, hundreds of thousands of them at a time, without a warrant for Bush’s so called War on Terror.

Bush has said that the Powers of the President, give him the authority to wiretap anyone he wants in his fight against the Evil Doers. Last August a Federal Judge in Detroit ruled that the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional. The Bush Whitehouse is appealing this ruling, so in the mean time, the warrantless wiretapping program continues.

A couple of months ago we learned that Bush had given the approval for our Mail to be intercepted, opened, read, confiscated or done with whatever he or they want. Bush said that a Signing Statement gives him the power to intercept all mail.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) said it's "simply not true" that the president has the authority to open someone's mail. The congressman went on to say, that Bush's action is "contrary to the Constitution." Hinchey said the president's use of signing statements to gain more power has "corrupted the legislative process."

Bush has enacted programs that; wiretapped your phones without warrants, data mined your e-mails without warrants, read your mail without warrants, read your financial transactions without warrants, read your health and education records without warrants, arrest and torture people without warrants, and he has suspended Habeas Corpus.

CIA Kidnappings and Torture or extraordinary rendition by the United States, with regard to the transfer of suspected terrorists to countries known to employ harsh interrogation techniques (torture by proxy) that may rise to the level of torture.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently suing Boeing for providing transportation for the rendition of three terror suspects. The Italian courts have indicted 26 CIA agents, including the Rome station chief and head of CIA for kidnappings in Italy. There are dozens of extraordinary rendition on record, many stories have appeared in all the major papers in the country, and all of these kidnappings and torture have been approved by our government.

President Bush has signed more than 800 Signing Statements; these signing statements according to Bush, allow him to enact these programs without the approval of Congress or the Courts.

A signing statement is a written pronouncement issued by the President of the United States upon the signing of a bill into law.

Last year the American Bar Association described President Bush’s use of signing statements to modify the meaning of duly enacted laws as "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.

Bush has signed more Signing Statements then all the other presidents added together. Signing Statements are not new, but Bush has used these signing statements in order to skirt constitutional laws. He has misused and abused this privilege; Bush has used this power to Decree Law, and for the first six years as President, and with a Republican controlled congress, his abuse went unchecked.

The Government is building mammoth data bases that will have records on every man, women and child. The Government uses the backdrop of security and tells us that they are gathering all these records on American citizens so they can protect us from the Terrorists or Evil Doers.

We the people have allowed our government to trample on our Constitution and trample on our Civil Liberties, all in the name of little Security.

Benjamin Franklin said: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Sounds like Franklin knew what he was talking about.

 If you are not outraged by what you just read, then you have not been paying attention.



David Phillips is a Vietnam Era Veteran, a Democratic Party Activist, and he 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 Political Opinion’s in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal


Supreme Court Hands Business Groups Victory
Against wishes of 37 states, consumer groups, justices rule that some minimum prices set by manufacturers are no longer illegal.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a nearly 100-year-old precedent that some price-setting agreements between manufacturers and retailers are automatically illegal under federal antitrust law.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices overturned a 1911 Supreme Court ruling that minimum prices set by manufacturers on what dealers can charge customers for their products are unquestionably illegal.

The decision was a victory for U.S. business groups that had argued the agreements are often pro-competitive. The groups had urged the high court to adopt a less exacting standard that examines each agreement on a case-by-case basis.

Antitrust authorities at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission also had urged the top court to overturn the precedent, while 37 states and a leading consumer group had urged that the precedent be preserved.

The ruling stemmed from an appeal to the Supreme Court by a company called Leegin Creative Leather Products Inc., the manufacturer of the Brighton brand of women's accessories.

In 1997, it adopted a policy stating it would do business only with retailers that followed its suggested retail prices and would not sell to retailers that discounted its products.

PSKS Inc., operators of a retail store known as "Kay's Kloset" in Lewisville, Texas, placed the entire line of Brighton products on sale below the suggested price in 2002. Leegin then stopped all shipments of its products to the store.

PSKS sued under the antitrust law, alleging illegal price fixing. A jury awarded PSKS $3.6 million in damages and $375,000 in attorney fees, an award upheld by a federal appeals court.

The Supreme Court's majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, reversed the appeals court's ruling.

Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer dissented.

Large retailers impacted by the decision include Wal-Mart, Target and Lowe's. 


Number of U.S. Prisoners Has Biggest Rise In 6 Years
By James Vicini

The United States, which has the most prisoners of any country in the world, last year recorded the largest increase in the number of people in prisons and jails since 2000, the Justice Department reported on Wednesday.

It said the nation's prison and jail populations increased by more than 62,000 inmates, or 2.8 percent, to about 2,245,000 inmates in the 12-month period that ended on June 30, 2006. It was the biggest jump in numbers and percentage change in six years.

Criminal justice experts have attributed the record U.S. prison population to tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crimes rates.

State or federal prisons held two-thirds of the nation's incarcerated population while local jails held the rest, according to the report by the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The number of inmates in state prisons rose by 3 percent, the report said. That growth mainly reflected rising prison admissions, which have been going up faster than the number of released prisoners. Also, more parole violators have returned to prison, the report said.

Forty-two states and the federal system all had more inmates in June last year than the previous year. The number of jail inmates increased by 2.5 percent during the same 12-month period, the report said.

The report on U.S. prison numbers is issued every six months.

Jason Ziedenberg of the Justice Policy Institute, a group that seeks alternatives to incarceration, said the new numbers showed an "alarming growth" in an already overburdened prison system.

"Billions of public safety dollars are absorbed by prison expansion and limits the nation's ability to focus on more effective strategies to promote public safety," he said.

Officials at the Drug Policy Alliance, another group opposed to long prison sentences for drug offenders, said the drug policies of the past 30 years have been a major contributor to the U.S. prison population explosion.

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College in London, the United States has long had the world's largest prison population, followed by China at 1.5 million and Russia at 885,670.



In the name of fighting terrorism, the FBI is seeking to create a new $12-million data-mining program that "bears a striking resemblance" to the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program.

Documents predict that this new program "will include six billion records by FY2012. This amounts to 20 separate 'records' for each man, woman and child in the United States."

Citing the FBI's "track record of improperly -- even illegally -- gathering personal information on Americans," House Science and Technology Committee members Brad Miller (D-NC) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) requested last week that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the proposal.

In 2005, the GAO found that the FBI's Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force did not comply with all privacy and security laws. Earlier this year, an Inspector General's report found that the FBI had repeatedly violated regulations while using National Security Letters to "obtain the personal records of U.S. residents or visitors."

In addition, an internal FBI audit published today by the Washington Post found "that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years."

"Two dozen of the newly-discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have." These repeated violations of federal law are made worse in light of the fact that such data mining techniques have yet to be proven effective in counter-terrorism operations. A recent Cato Institute study found that programs similar to this new FBI program are likely do little but "flood the national security system with false positives -- suspects who are truly innocent."


On Wednesday, June 13, the Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing to confirm four nominees for six-year terms on the Federal Election Commission (FEC). One of those nominees, Hans A. von Spakovsky, is drawing resistance from voting rights activists, campaign finance watchdogs, and former officials in the Justice Department's voting rights section.

Spakovsky, whom President Bush temporarily placed on the FEC using a recess appointment, is said to have "used every opportunity he had over four years in the Justice Department to make it difficult for voters -- poor, minority and Democratic -- to go to the polls."

"He has devoted much of his legal career to suppressing minority voting rights, and he should NOT be rewarded with a six-year appointment to the Federal Election Commission," said J. Gerald Herbet, a former chief of the Justice Department's voting section who now serves as the executive director of the Campaign Legal Center.

"I think that Hans von Spakovsky's record demonstrates that he will use his office to elevate partisan concerns among legitimate law enforcement concerns," he added.

During his tenure as a political appointee in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Spakovsky overruled the recommendations of career attorneys and approved a controversial voter ID law in Georgia, which a federal judge later likened to a "modern-day poll tax."

Upon his initial nomination, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said he was "extremely troubled" because von Spakovsky "may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws."


Study: 25 Countries Block Web Sites

NEW YORK (AP) -- At least 25 countries around the world block Web sites for political, social or other reasons as governments seek to assert authority over a network meant to be borderless, according to a study out Friday.

The actual number may be higher, but the OpenNet Initiative had the time and capabilities to study only 40 countries and the Palestinian territories. Even so, researchers said they found more censorship than they had initially expected, a sign that the Internet has matured to the point that governments are taking notice.

"This is very much the revenge of geography," said Rafal Rohozinski, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge in England.

China, Iran, Myanmar, Syria, Tunisia and Vietnam had the most extensive filters for political sites. Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen had the strictest social-filtering practices, blocking pornography, gambling and gay and lesbian sites.

In some countries, censorship was narrow. South Korea, for instance, tends to block only information about its neighboring rival, North Korea.

Yet researchers found no filtering at all in Russia, Israel or the Palestinian territories despite political conflicts there.

Governments generally had no mechanism for citizens to complain about any erroneous blocking, with Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates being among the exceptions.

The OpenNet Initiative, a collaboration between researchers at Cambridge, the University of Oxford, Harvard University and the University of Toronto, has previously published reports detailing censorship in specific countries. The latest study was its attempt to compare filtering worldwide.

The study did not attempt to chronicle the effectiveness of the efforts. Some technical approaches are better than others in blocking sites, but all can be bypassed with enough technical know-how to use "proxy" techniques or special software.

The organization said the regions chosen for review should not be considered comprehensive. It didn't include any countries in North America or Western Europe on grounds that filtering practices there have been better known than elsewhere. It also excluded North Korea and Cuba for fear of risks to collaborators it would need in those countries.

The group supplied software to volunteers in each of the countries tested. Web sites checked include those for gambling, pornography and human-rights abuses.

Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford, said filtering appeared to occur most widely in countries where Internet penetration is higher, possibly explaining the lack of any censorship efforts in Russia and Egypt.


'Wash Post' Editorial Revives Famous Watergate Question In Hitting Bush On Ashcroft Hospital Visit
By E&P Staff

NEW YORK Since the congressional testimony earlier this week by former Justice Dept. number two, James Comey, about a mysterious latenight rush to the bedside of a hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft, much speculation about President Bush's role in it has swirled.

At a press conference on Thursday, the president was asked directly about this, and refused to explain. In an editorial on Friday, The Washington Post (the newspapers of Woodward and Bernstein) revised the famous Watergate era question in its headline: "What Did Bush Know, and When?"

It charged that "Bush wants to short-circuit that discussion by invoking the continuing danger of al-Qaeda.... The administration, it appears from Mr. Comey's testimony, was willing to go forward, against legal advice, with a program that the Justice Department had concluded did not 'honor the civil liberties of our people.' Nor is it clear that Congress was adequately informed. The president would like to make this unpleasant controversy disappear behind the national security curtain. That cannot be allowed to happen."

Here is the exchange from the Thursday press conference.

Q. There’s been some very dramatic testimony before the Senate this week from one of your former top Justice Department officials who describes a scene that some Senators called stunning, about a time when the warrantless wiretap program was being reviewed. Sir, did you send your then chief of staff and White House counsel to the bedside of John Ashcroft while he was ill to get him to approve that program, and do you believe that kind of conduct from White House officials is appropriate?

BUSH: Kelly, there’s a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn’t happen. I’m not going to talk about it. It’s a very sensitive program. I will tell you that one, the program was necessary to protect the American people and it’s still necessary, because there’s still an enemy that wants to do us harm, and therefore I have an obligation to put in place programs that honor the civil liberties of the American people — a program that was, in this case, constantly reviewed, and briefed to the United States Congress. And the program, as I say, is an essential part of protecting this country, and so there will be all kinds of talk about it. As i say, I’m not going to move the issue forward by talking about something as highly classified subject. I will tell you, however, that the program was necessary.

Q: Was it on your order, sir?

BUSH: As I said, the program is a necessary program that was constantly reviewed and constantly briefed to the Congress. It’s an important part of protecting the United States, and it’s still an important part of our protection, because there’s still an enemy that would like to attack us, no matter how calm it may seem in America, an enemy lurks and they would like to strike. They would like to do harm to the American people, because they have an agenda. They want to impose an ideology. They want us to retreat from the world. They want to find safe haven, and these just aren’t empty words. These are the words of al Qaeda themselves, and so we will put in place programs to protect the American people that honor the civil liberties of our people and programs that we constantly brief to Congress.




Last October, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, which retained language stripping detainees of habeas corpus rights. Without habeas corpus rights, detainees at Guantanamo have no ability to question their detention.


"It's one of the core rights that makes the United States different from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran and Kim Jong Il's North Korea," notes USA Today.  Both the Washington Post and New York Times also published strongly worded editorials advocating the restoration of habeas rights this week.


Furthermore, habeas restoration is favored by families of 9/11 victims, former diplomats, and many military and religious leaders. But Bush has pledged to veto any bill from Congress that restores habeas corpus rights to detainees.


Congress recently passed up an opportunity to include provisions to restore habeas corpus to detainees in a new Defense Department authorization bill. "My judgment is that the House is best able to undertake this effort and to be successful by acting on this issue as a separate bill," said Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO).


Bills to restore habeas corpus rights have been proposed in both the House and Senate. But the administration has made clear it is not a priority. Gonzales said, "I haven't really thought about" whether U.S. citizens were being held without habeas corpus.


Homeland Security wants Master Key for the Internet

THE US Department of Homeland Security is insisting that Verisign hand over the master keys of the Internet.

If it succeeds, the US will be able to track DNS Security Extensions (DNSSec) all the way back to the servers that represent the name system's root zone on the Internet.

Effectively it would mean that US spooks could snoop on anyone in the Worldwide wibble and place control of the Interweb tubes firmly in the paws of the US government.

The information that Homeland security is after the "key-signing key", currently held by Verisign, was revealed to the the meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Lisbon.

Not surprisingly other countries in the world are a little concerned about this. According to the German magazine Heise Online, a representative of the EU Commission said that the matter is being discussed with EU member states.

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which handles route management within the ICANN, could be entrusted with the task of keeping the keys. But the US authorities claims the right to oversee ICANN/IANA.



A new report by the Justice Department's Inspector General (IG) "has found pervasive errors in the FBI's use of its power to secretly demand telephone, e-mail and financial records in national security cases."

"The inspector general's audit found 22 possible breaches of internal FBI and Justice Department regulations -- some of which were potential violations of law -- in a sampling of 293 'national security letters (NSLs).'" (The Patriot Act gave FBI agents the right to "demand telephone, bank, credit card and library records by issuing" NSLs, "bypassing the need to seek a warrant from a federal judge.")

"In nearly a quarter of the case files" IG Glenn Fine reviewed, "he found previously unreported potential violations." The report also found that in 2005, the FBI issued over 19,000 NSLs, "amounting to 47,000 separate requests for information."

Some agents issued these letters "without citing an authorized investigation, claimed 'exigent' circumstances that did not exist in demanding information and did not have adequate documentation to justify the issuance of letters."

"In an unknown number of other cases, third parties such as telephone companies, banks and Internet providers responded to national security letters with detailed personal information about customers that the letters do not permit to be released."

"Expect a weekend firestorm," one Justice Department official said of the report. Ironically, on the same day of the report's release, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will "deliver keynote remarks before the International Association of Privacy Professionals



At least seven U.S. Attorneys have been asked -- "without explanation" -- to resign by the Bush administration. Several of these prosecutors were working on high-profile corruption cases, such as Carol Lam, who successfully investigated the corruption of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA).


In their places, U.S. Attorney Alberto Gonzales has appointed partisan administration allies with few, if any, ties to the communities they will be serving.


For example, U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins was pushed out by the Bush administration in December, and replaced with a "37-year-old protege of White House political adviser Karl Rove."


Earlier in the week, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty admitted to a Senate panel that Cummins was forced to resign to make way for the Rove aide.


 McNulty claimed that at least six other U.S. attorneys were fired for "performance-related" issues. But last Thursday, John McKay, the recently fired U.S. attorney based in Seattle, called McNulty's comments "unfair" and inaccurate.


He said that "his Seattle office received glowing reviews as recently as last fall, when an intensive Justice Department audit heaped praise on McKay and his staff," and "was told of no performance problems when he was asked to resign."


A little-noticed provision in the Patriot Act allows Gonzales to appoint replacement U.S. attorneys for an indefinite period of time. A bipartisan group of lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Panel last Thursday approved a measure that would take away the executive branch's unchecked power on U.S. attorney appointments, allowing the attorney general to appoint a replacement for 120 days, with the district court then stepping in and appointing a new interim U.S. attorney if the Senate has not approved a permanent one.



"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has failed to tell Congress how it is spending billions of dollars on major programs ranging from aviation security to Gulf Coast rebuilding, House appropriators said last Thursday."


After three days of hearings, members of both parties accused the agency of negligence in responding to congressional oversight and mismanagement of programs and employees. Rep. David Price (D-NC) faulted the department for still owing twelve expenditure plans to Congress.


Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) expressed concern about the lack of accountability and oversight of two initiatives: the Secure Border Initiative to build a border fence and a $25 billion Coast Guard shipbuilding program called Deepwater.


Furthermore, government officials identified "systemic" problems within the Department -- specifically in the office of General Counsel Philip Perry, Dick Cheney's son-in-law. Mismanagement at the top has negatively affected the work culture of thousands of DHS employees.


Called "the most persistently  miserable people in the federal government," DHS workers are the least satisfied employees in the Bush administration.


"There is a morale crisis in this department that is only getting worse," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.



Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales offered few explanations about the administration's recent decision to submit the illegal National Security Agency (NSA) domestic spying program to judicial supervision, claiming that disclosing details of the program would expose sensitive security information.

In a letter addressed to Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly -- the presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) asked that she make public "copies of the orders and opinions" and the Court's decision concerning the domestic surveillance program. Kollar-Kotelly responded that she would have "no objection to this material being made avaialable," but she could not do so because the Department of Justice had deemed the documents classified information.

Leahy asked Gonzales, "Are you saying that you might object to the court giving us a decision that you publicly announced? Are we a little Alice in Wonderland here?"

The public does not yet have a good understanding of the compromise that has been reached on the NSA program.

President Bush denied there had been any change in the program, other than to receive a court's blessing of it. "Nothing has changed in the program except the court has said we've analyzed it and it's a legitimate way to protect the country," he said.

The New York Times reports that while details about the Bush administration’s shift on warrantless spying remain “sketchy,” critics believe “one goal of the new arrangements was to derail lawsuits challenging the program in conventional federal courts.”


Chertoff Urges Caution on Threat Reports
Associated Press Writer

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told newspaper editors Thursday they should use caution and context in reporting about threats or emergencies.

"We owe you information that's accurate," he said, "and you need to resist the temptation to just get something fast."

Chertoff said it's the core function of the media to convey to individuals the information they need to save their lives and their families' lives.

He invited the media to continue to participate in a series of dialogues and exercises his department has been conducting on how best to communicate information during a crisis.

Chertoff pointed out that the department receives "a lot of threat information, every single morning," but that it varies greatly in terms of specificity and credibility.

Even a threat of limited credibility still has to be run down and investigated, Chertoff said, but it shouldn't become public during that stage. If threat information is made public too soon, he warned, there is a danger the public will become either desensitized in a "cry wolf syndrome," or over-sensitized, in a "constant state of hyper-anxiety."

"And perhaps," he added, "we would be accused of deliberately fostering that for political purposes."

Sometimes, he said, when information is shared with state and local officials, department officials are aware that "very likely this information is going to get out." Then the issue is one of context, and he urged editors to use good judgment.

Chertoff mentioned several instances in the recent past in which information "got spiked up" and overplayed on cable TV networks. One was a report about six months ago that an Internet bulletin board had called for a so-called "denial of service" cyber attack on the U.S. banking and financial sector. Chertoff said it took a "fair amount of effort to put it back into perspective."

Another instance was a threat to NFL football stadiums posted on a message board last October. Chertoff said it had been treated by one cable network "as if it was a second September 11."

Much more is at stake, he warned, in reporting on actual emergencies, because people immediately want to know what they should do to protect themselves.

In this regard, Chertoff warned the editors against over-reliance on dubious experts.

"It's been my observation that you can get an expert to tell you anything you want to hear," he said, adding: "We owe you clarity about who's an authoritative source."

Asked about the lessons he learned from Hurricane Katrina, Chertoff said "we have to be very clear."

"I learned that the media if they get information wrong can have a real operational impact."


No-Fly List Checked for Accuracy, Cut
Associated Press Writer

The Bush administration is checking the accuracy of a watch list of suspected terrorists banned from traveling on airliners in the U.S. and will probably cut the list in half, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Wednesday.

Kip Hawley told Congress that the more accurate list, combined with a new passenger screening system, should take care of most incidents of people wrongly being prevented from boarding a flight or frequently being picked out for additional scrutiny.

A "no-fly" list of suspected terrorists and criminals considered too dangerous to travel on commercial airliners in this country has existed for decades. But since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the list expanded. Tightened security procedures have led to closer scrutiny of air travelers and resulted in many complaints.

The TSA has been working with intelligence agencies and the FBI to improve the watch list. Before the 9/11 attacks, almost every intelligence agency had its own list of undesirables and resisted sharing it with other agencies.

Even cutting the list in half is "nice but not all that meaningful," said Barry Steinhardt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. He noted that various estimates of the list's size, which is classified, have ranged from 50,000 to 350,000 names.

"Cutting a list of 350,000 names is not all that impressive," Steinhardt added.

At a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee, Hawley ran into inquiries from lawmakers with family members or friends who had encountered problems at airport checkpoints.

Among them was Sen. Ted Stevens (news, bio, voting record), R-Alaska, who complained that his wife, Catherine, was being identified as "Cat" Stevens and frequently stopped due to confusion with the former name of the folk singer now known as Yusuf Islam, whose name is on the list. In 2004 he was denied entry into the U.S., but officials declined to explain why.

Hawley explained that Secure Flight, the new passenger screening program, which he hopes will be running in 2008, would make such problems "a thing of the past."

Hawley said his agency sends correctives to the airlines.

"Unfortunately, it depends airline by airline how their individual systems work as to how effectively that's done," he said.

Hawley was questioned by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., about the lack of screening for passengers on private aircraft, which Rockefeller called "very disturbing."

Hawley said there are many security measures in place on the ground around general aviation terminals, but that the department is considering the longer-term issue of whether such private flight passengers should be subjected to individual screening.

Senators also asked Hawley about a provision recommended by the 9/11 Commission, and passed by the House last week, that would require 100 percent physical inspection of all air cargo loaded onto passenger planes. The Senate has yet to act on the measure.

"We prefer not to have a 100 percent requirement on anything," Hawley said. "Because you tend to be focused then on, how do we accomplish what is written in the law, as opposed to a smarter security that says, okay, we're in a risk-based business, how are we going to stop the bomb from being in here?"

Also Wednesday, the Homeland Security Department launched a new program for passengers who feel wronged to try correcting the list.

The program will give travelers "a clearly-defined process" to report problems, said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in a written statement.

Beginning Feb. 20, the program, dubbed Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, will serve as a central processing point for all inquiries about Homeland Security agencies' databases.


Bush Says That He Can Read Anyone's Mail
Says Signing Statement gives him the Authority

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. An upstate congressman last week strongly criticized President Bush's move to clear the way for the government to open mail without a warrant.

Maurice Hinchey -- an Ulster County Democrat -- said it's "simply not true" that the president has the authority to open someone's mail.

The congressman told a Binghamton radio station (W-N-B-F) that Bush's action is "contrary to the Constitution."

Hinchey said the president's use of so-called signing statements in an effort to grant himself more power has "corrupted the legislative process."

Hinchey said he hopes Congress will have the "strength and integrity" to counteract the president's effort to allow warrantless mail snooping.

He said if lawmakers don't intervene, there will be a continued undermining of constitutional rights of Americans.


Coulter: "Profiling Muslims is more like profiling the Klan"

In a November 30 syndicated column about the removal of six imams from an airplane in Minnesota after other passengers saw them praying prior to boarding, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter claimed that racially "profiling Muslims is more like profiling the Klan" than it is like profiling African-Americans, "because of the history of discrimination against blacks in this country." Coulter added: "What did we do to the Arabs? I believe Americans are the victims in that relationship."

In the same column, Coulter referred to the spokesman for the six Muslims as their "designated liar," claiming that is how "spokesman" is "phrased in their culture."

From Coulter's November 30 syndicated column:

The spokesman for the imams -- or as I believe it's phrased in their culture, "designated liar" -- Omar Shahin, staged a protest at Reagan Washington National Airport on Monday, after which, according to The Associated Press, "he and other religious leaders boarded a US Airways flight to demonstrate their determination to continue praying and flying."

Also strange was that the NAACP has piped in to complain about racial profiling of Muslims. The only reason Americans feel guilty about "racial profiling" against blacks is because of the history of discrimination against blacks in this country.

What did we do to the Arabs? I believe Americans are the victims in that relationship. After the attacks of 9/11, profiling Muslims is more like profiling the Klan.


Former GOP official charged with forging candidate's signatures

(FORT WAYNE, Ind.) -- Prosecutors have filed fraud charges against the former executive director of the Allen County Republican Party, who acknowledged that he forged the signatures of eleven township candidates on official forms.

Forty-one-year-old Douglas Foy of Fort Wayne is charged with eleven felony counts of falsely making a declaration of candidacy or part of a declaration of candidacy. A warrant was issued for his arrest on Monday.

If convicted, he faces six months to three years in prison on each charge.

In August, Foy presented a written statement to the Allen County Election Board, taking responsibility for the forgeries.

The board voted unanimously to remove the eleven candidates from the ballot. GOP officials also fired Foy.

The board to protect against civil liberties violations resulting from the government's anti-terror programs lacks the power to do its job, a bipartisan group of lawmakers charged Wednesday. 
“What we have now is a board that only gets late briefings on issues we read about in the press months ago -- and that’s only if the White House decides to throw it a bone,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
The board first received information on the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program last week, almost a year after it was revealed by the New York Times.
The bank monitoring program, which the board addressed this week, was reported in the press over six months ago. The Bush administration created the board based on a Sept. 11 Commission recommendation, but has since received a "D" for its implementation from the commission's members.
The board has neither subpoena power nor a separate line in the President's 2007 Budget request. “It’s clear the Privacy and Civil Liberties and Oversight Board still lacks the teeth it needs to provide effective oversight,” said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT).
“More executive power necessitates more oversight, and it’s time this board is given the powers to fulfill its responsibility.”
Right-wing radio host Dennis Prager wrote a column earlier this week claiming that Rep.-elect Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, had "announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran."
Prager claimed this "act undermines American civilization," and compared it to being sworn in with a copy of Hitler's "Mein Kampf."
Commentators on the left and right -- including Taylor Marsh, Steven Bennen, Eugene Volokh, Stephen Bainbridge -- have torn apart Prager's argument on constitutional grounds. But Prager's column is based on one other glaring error: the swearing-in ceremony for the House of Representatives never includes a religious book.
The Office of the House Clerk confirmed that the swearing-in ceremony consists only of the Members raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the Constitution.
The Clerk spokesperson said neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, had ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony. (Occassionally, Members pose for symbolic photo-ops with their hand on a Bible.)


Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation to amend the Military Commission Act of 2006, the law governing military tribunals of detainees.

Dodd's bill restores habeas corpus protections to detainees, narrows the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant" to individuals who directly participate in hostilities against the United States who are not lawful combatants, bars information gained through coercion from being introduced as evidence in trials, and empowers military judges to exclude hearsay evidence they deem to be unreliable.

"The bill goes back and undoes what was done," Dodd told The Hill.

Dodd will be the second ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and he hopes the legislation will be taken up when the 110th Congress begins.

"I take a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting this country from terrorists," Dodd said. "But there is a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this. It's clear the people who perpetrated these horrendous crimes against our country and our people have no moral compass and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But in taking away their legal rights, the rights first codified in our country’s Constitution, we’re taking away our own moral compass, as well."



The Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Task Force, which works to build legal cases against suspected terrorists, warned military intelligence interrogators that torture should not be used on Mohammed al-Qahtani, the suspected 20th hijacker of 9/11.

It warned that coercive tactics were not only illegal, but ineffective.

Nevertheless, according to the findings of a U.S. Army investigation, Qahtani was "forced to wear a bra. He had a thong placed on his head. He was massaged by a female interrogator who straddled him like a lap dancer. He was told that his mother and sisters were whores. ... He was prevented from praying. He was forced to watch as an interrogator squatted over his Koran."

Members of the Criminal task force note that after these techniques were revealed, "military prosecutors told them not to worry about making a criminal case against al-Qahtani...because what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial."

The Pentagon has touted the Qahtani interrogation plan as a success, saying that Qahtani "admitted he had been sent to the United States by Sept. 11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohamed, that he had met Osama bin Laden several times, that he had been trained at two al-Qaida camps, [and] that he knew the shoe bomber Richard Reid."

The law enforcement investigators, however, say the interrogation produced little new. "I will just say that most of what we knew, we knew before," Col. Brittain Mallow of the criminal task force said.

"A lot of the intelligence 'successes' that have been touted were a result of much earlier disclosures made by detainees to our agents."

Law legalizes shameful treatment


WASHINGTON -- President Bush has signed the law that legalizes the administration's shameful treatment of detainees suspected of terrorism.

The same measure also empowers the president to define torture. It's a sad legacy for the U.S. and its already-tarnished world image.

The new law -- the Military Commissions Act of 2006 -- establishes a system for trying suspects in military tribunals. It was enacted after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the administration plan for trials by military commissions violated U.S. and international law.

In effect, Bush got all he wanted from a submissive GOP-dominated Congress and a few spineless Democratic lawmakers. The president did not issue his customary signing statement interpreting implementation of the law. He didn't have to because lawmakers on Capitol Hill had handed him total victory.

The far-reaching legislation gives Bush the right to decide what constitutes torture. The president has often said "we do not torture," despite evidence to the contrary -- and photographs from Abu Ghraib prison.

The president also can set guidelines for interrogation of prisoners. White House spokesman Tony Snow declined to say whether "waterboarding" -- in which detainees are made to feel they are drowning -- would be permissible.

The law specifically bars blatant abuses including murder and rape and "cruel and inhuman" treatment. But it permits withholding evidence from defendants in certain cases. And it denies detainees the right to file habeas corpus petitions to challenge their detentions in federal courts. The tradition of habeas corpus dates back almost 800 years to the Magna Carta.

Under the new law, Bush also has powers to designate who is an illegal enemy combatant, which potentially subjects U.S. citizens and foreigners to indefinite detention with no power to appeal.

Bush is also allowed to interpret the Geneva Conventions on Humane Treatment of Prisoners of War.

Furthermore, the CIA apparently will be able to continue sending prisoners to secret prisons abroad and agents will have immunity from prosecution for their interrogation practices. Many Europeans who have lived under tyrannical regimes cannot believe the U.S. would submit to such treatment of detainees.

Bush was beaming when he signed the bill on a table with a sign in front that read: "Protecting America." Standing by his side was Vice President Dick Cheney, a prime mover in the administration's drive to enhance presidential power.

But right now those who voted for this law believe it will be help them in the November election. And Democrats who voted against it should watch out for a total GOP assault on their commitment to protecting America from terrorist attack.

Critics see the new law as authorizing creation of a veritable Gulag.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the new law "one of the worst civil liberties measures in American history."

Bush contended that his policies on terrorism suspects did not require congressional approval, manifesting his apparent belief that the president is above the law. The Supreme Court proved him wrong.

Bush's order for warrantless wiretapping of Americans is yet another example of a presidential power grab.

Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, said Bush has been accused of "criminal torture in a way that could hurt America and come back to haunt our troops."

The military commissions act is law. All Americans will be tainted by it.

Helen Thomas is a columnist for Hearst Newspapers. E-mail: helent@hearstdc.com


Man Sues Secret Service Agent Over Arrest After Approaching Cheney and Denouncing War

DENVER, — A Colorado man who was arrested in June on harassment charges after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney to denounce the war in Iraq filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday accusing a Secret Service agent of civil rights violations.

In his suit, filed in Federal District Court in Denver, the man, Steven Howards, an environmental consultant who lives in Golden, Colo., says he stepped up to the vice president to speak his mind in a public place and found himself in handcuffs — in violation, the suit says, of the Constitution’s language about free speech and illegal search and seizure.

The suit seeks no specific damages, and names only one agent, Virgil D. Reichle Jr., who is assigned to the Denver office of the Secret Service. But Mr. Howards’s lawyer, David A. Lane, said Mr. Cheney might be called as a witness, along with the district attorney in Eagle County who threw out the criminal case against Mr. Howards. If a chain of command within the Secret Service is found that suggests Mr. Reichle was acting on orders, Mr. Lane said, more defendants could be named.

A call to Agent Reichle was not returned. A spokeswoman for Mr. Cheney referred questions on the matter to the Secret Service. The agent in charge of the Denver office, Lon Garner, declined to comment.

Mr. Howards, 54, said at a news conference here that he was taking his 8-year-old son to a piano lesson on June 16 at the Beaver Creek Resort about two hours west of Denver when he saw Mr. Cheney at an outdoor mall. Mr. Howards said he approached within two feet of Mr. Cheney and said in a calm voice, “I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible,” or as the lawsuit itself describes the encounter, “words to that effect.”

Mr. Howards said he then went on his way. About 10 minutes later, he said, he was walking back through the area when Agent Reichle handcuffed him and said he would be charged with assaulting the vice president. Local police officers, acting on information from the Secret Service, according to the suit, ultimately filed misdemeanor harassment charges that could have resulted in up to a year in jail.

A June 16 article in The Vail Daily quoted a spokesman for the Secret Service, Eric Zahren, as saying that Mr. Howards “wasn’t acting like other folks in the area,” and that he became “argumentative and combative” when agents tried to question him. Mr. Howards said Tuesday that he was never threatening and did not become upset until his arrest.

“This was not about anything I did — this is about what I said,” he said.

Mr. Zahren declined to comment on the suit or on his original description of the event.

Mr. Howards said he was released on $500 bond after about three hours in jail. A state judge dismissed the charge about three weeks later at the request of the Eagle County district attorney, Mark Hurlbert.

“It was our understanding that the vice president did not want to prosecute,” Mr. Hurlbert said in a telephone interview. “The original indication was that he had pushed the vice president. Later it looked to be that he had just spoken to him.”

Mr. Hurlbert said the initial information on the incident came from the Secret Service agents at Beaver Creek. A later communication from Mr. Cheney’s office or the Secret Service — Mr. Hurlbert said he did not remember which — said the government wanted to drop the matter.

The suit joins two others — in West Virginia and another in Denver — charging that Secret Service agents or White House staff members violated the law in keeping people with opposing political views away from President Bush or Mr. Cheney.

In the other Colorado suit, two people said they were ejected from a taxpayer-financed appearance by Mr. Bush in Denver in March 2005 because of an antiwar bumper sticker. The case is awaiting a ruling from the judge on a motion by the government to dismiss the case.

In the West Virginia case, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jeff and Nicole Rank, who said they were arrested on July 4, 2004, at an appearance by Mr. Bush in Charleston. The Ranks had proper tickets but were wearing anti-Bush T-shirts, the suit says. The government has an Oct. 10 deadline to respond to the suit, said Chris Hansen, a senior staff counsel at the A.C.L.U. in New York.

Mr. Howards said that he had had no intent to test the limits of free speech when he approached Mr. Cheney, but that the government’s actions in the aftermath only deepened his convictions and opposition.

“This administration has a history of intimidating folks,” he said.



Rove visited the state to raise money for Republicans.

TOLEDO (AP) — Presidential adviser Karl Rove criticized a federal judge's order for an immediate end to the government's warrantless surveillance program, saying Wednesday such a program might have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Headlining a fundraiser for Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who is running for governor, Rove said the government should be free to listen if al-Qaida is calling someone within the U.S.

"Imagine if we could have done that before 9-11. It might have been a different outcome," he said.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit last week became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, ruling it unconstitutional.

It was the second time in the past month Rove has visited the state to raise money for Republicans.


About 50 protesters stood outside the country club where the fundraiser was held, some with signs that said "Impeach Bush."

The state GOP been reeling from an investment scandal that led to Gov. Bob Taft's no-contest plea last year to ethics charges of failing to report several golf outings. The scandal has given Democrats hope of breaking the Republican stranglehold on state offices.

The campaign of U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, the Democrat running against Blackwell, said Rove's visit showed Blackwell's close ties to the unpopular Bush.

"Karl and Ken offer more of the same, and how many times can we continue to go down the same road, with the same devastating results?" David Leland, Strickland's finance chair, wrote in a news release.

Rove told the group Blackwell would help the economy in Ohio by cutting taxes and keeping spending in control. "He understands government isn't where wealth is created," Rove said.

The event attended by about 50 people raised $165,000.


Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union released a compilation of covert government surveillance of war protesters and other political activists in California, decrying it as evidence of a "greater expansion of government power and the abuse of power" since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The ACLU's Northern California branch said the findings show oversight of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies is too weak and called for the state to create a new watchdog over their activities.

"We recognize that much of what we've learned, we've learned by chance, and what that tells us is that this report is just the tip of the iceberg," said Dorothy Ehrlich, the group's executive director.

The ACLU cataloged several incidents of surveillance in recent years. Among those involving police infiltration of anti-war groups:

_Two Oakland police officers posed as demonstrators ahead of a 2003 march and got themselves elected as organizers for the march. The march was meant to protest a clash the previous month in which Oakland police fired non-lethal projectiles at anti-war demonstrators. The infiltrators helped plan the march route, according to the ACLU.

_The Fresno County Sheriff's Department sent a deputy into an anti-war group, Peace Fresno, posing as a fellow activist. "Aaron Stokes," who was actually Deputy Aaron Kilner, had attended rallies with the group and taken minutes at meetings in 2003. Attorney General Bill Lockyer opened an investigation in 2004, and later said he had "serious concerns" about the sheriff's methods, but he has taken no action against the department nor issued a report about the inquiry, which remains open.

_In 2004, union members at a demonstration identified two Contra Costa Sheriff's Department Homeland Security Unit members in attendance. When California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski confronted the men, they claimed they were there to support the rally.

"Since the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, we have found an even greater expansion of government power and the abuse of power," Ehrlich said Thursday.

California law prohibits law enforcement officers from conducting undercover operations or engaging in surveillance of political activity in the absence of a reasonable suspicion of a crime, according to Lockyer.

The ACLU suggested the attorney general create "specific and direct" guidelines for local law enforcement agencies about the legal limits on collecting information and undercover monitoring of political activities. It also called for legislation to force local law enforcement to report their surveillance activities to the Legislature.

Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar said the attorney general had not yet read the report, released Thursday.

"While the AG believes law enforcement has made strides in better protecting civil liberties, he by no means has reached a comfort level," Dresslar said. "There is room for improvement, and we look forward to working with the ACLU and other interested parties to address legitimate issues raised in the report."


On the Net: http://aclunc.org/surveillance_report



Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) held hearings last week, on his proposed legislation that would submit the President's warrantless wiretapping program to review by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

While the bill has been reported as a "breakthrough" and a "concession" from the White House, James Dempsey, a civil liberties advocate, yesterday criticized the deal, which, he said, "would turn the clock back to an era of unchecked presidential power, warrantless domestic surveillance and constitutional uncertainty." 

Specter reacted angrily to the attack, asking Dempsey if he had "ever gotten a concession from a president."

Specter, however, did not really get a concession from the White House, either. His "compromise" is a sham because it makes optional what Bush is already required to do.

According to his legislation, the President would not be required to submit the wiretapping program to the court; it would merely gives the President the option to do so.

The White House also insisted that language be inserted into the bill that it shall not be construed to "limit the constitutional authority of the President" to collect foreign intelligence beyond the provisions of existing law.

Shayana Kadidal, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, criticized the language, saying, "This is not a compromise. It is a sellout."



Earlier this year, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) conceded an investigation of DOJ lawyers' involvement in the warrantless wiretapping program because security clearance was not granted.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had previously dodged an explanation as to why clearance was denied, citing that he did not want to "get into internal discussions."

At a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Tuesday, Gonzales testified that President Bush personally blocked a probe by the OPR, the agency responsible for investigating attorney misconduct.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the committee, was confused, being that this matter was "highly classified, very important, [and] many other lawyers in the Justice Department had clearance," and wondered "Why not OPR?

In response, Gonzalez said "the President of the United States makes the decision because this is such an important program," indicating that it was Bush's choice to obstruct the investigation.



In a speech at the second White House National Conference on Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, President Bush touted the results that federally-funded faith-based organizations had achieved.

"I am confident that the faith community is achieving unbelievable successes...throughout our country," Bush said. "I repeat to you, and I’m going to say this about five times, I’m sure: Our job in government is to set goals and to focus on results."

The Government Accountability Office, in response to a request from Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Pete Stark (D-CA), investigated the federal government’s ability to track the progress of faith-based groups.

They found Bush's confidence in how effectively these groups use taxpayer money appears to be faith-based as well.

The GAO report came to three key conclusions.

First, the government does not have established ways to evaluate these programs. “[L]ittle information is available to assess agencies’ progress toward the long-term goal of improving participant outcomes because outcome-based evaluations for most pilot programs have not yet been completed,” the report said.

Second, most federal agencies are not informing groups that they must provide services regardless of a person’s religion.

Finally, many federal agencies do not inform organizations that they cannot have discriminatory hiring practices.



Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced last Thursday that he had reached an agreement with the White House that would result in President Bush submitting the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program to the secretive FISA court for a judgment on its constitutionality.

But the "compromise" heralded by Specter merely gives Bush "the option of submitting the program to the intelligence court, rather than making the review a requirement."

There is also no assurance that any determination by the FISA court on the program will ever be made public.

Specter appears to have received assurances from the White House that, if his bill is passed without changes, Bush would agree to exercise the option and submit the warrantless wiretapping program to the court.

This compromise is a sham because it makes optional what Bush is already required to do

Under the FISA law, the administration can wiretap persons inside the U.S. But it is required to demonstrate that the targets are agents of a foreign power, like al Qaeda or their affiliates.

"The Specter bill is an end run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and provides the president a blank check to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans," said Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), ranking member on the House intelligence committee.


Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Steven (R-AK) Explaining the workings of the Internet during a debate on net neutrality

"The internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes. And if you don't understand, those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and it's going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material."

This Senator's committee will help decide on weather the Internet stays as is, or Net Neutral. And yet he knows absolutely nothing about the Internet.

Voting against 'Net Neutrality' would mean billions for the internet providers, and censorship for everyone else who uses the Internet.

I urge everyone to call their Senators, and tell them to Vote  yes on Net Neutrality.

Remember the Senator in-charge of the committee, thinks the internet is composed of TUBES...


Attorney: Bush heckler charges won't stand

By: Stephen Manning

Associated Press

The Falun Gong follower who heckled Chinese President Hu Jintao at a White House ceremony has reached a deal with prosecutors under which all charges against her will be dropped, her attorney announced Wednesday.

Wang Wenyi faced a misdemeanor charge of intimidating, coercing, threatening and harassing a foreign official for interrupting the April 20 event in which President Bush welcomed Hu to the White House. She could have faced six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Her attorney, David Bos, told U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge John Facciola at a hearing Wednesday that he and prosecutors had reached a deal to dismiss the charges.

Wang, 47, said she is prohibited from confronting any foreign officials over the next year. The case will be continued until then, and if she has not committed any felonies — including confronting foreign officials — the charges will be dropped, said Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office.

"Today is not the important thing," Wang said. "The important thing is all the Falun Gong practitioners who are losing their lives."

Wang, a New York pathologist and Falun Gong practitioner, received credentials to the White House event through the Falun Gong newspaper Epoch Times. Falun Gong, a spiritual organization that once had millions of followers, was banned by the Chinese government in 1999.

At the White House ceremony, Wang stood on a camera stand with reporters and shouted as Hu began his remarks. Speaking in Chinese and English, she said "President Bush, stop him from killing," and urged Bush to "stop him from persecuting the Falun Gong."

Hu paused briefly, but continued with his speech.

Wang shouted for several minutes and waved the red and yellow colors of Falun Gong before uniformed Secret Service officers hauled her off the stand.

Wang said after her arrest that she was protesting human rights abuse in China, including alleged harvesting of organs from Falun Gong members, an accusation that China denies. In July 2001, she confronted former Chinese President Jiang Zemin on the island of Malta.



Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) plans a vote this week on a proposed amendment to the Constitution that would give Congress the right to outlaw flag desecration.

"The House routinely has approved the flag amendment by broad majorities, but the Senate twice has fallen short of the necessary two-thirds vote needed to send the question to the states for ratification."

This year, the proposal might actually pass, having already obtained 66 of the 67 required Senate votes. Debate over the amendment "ignores more serious problems facing the nation" and is part of the right's "strategy this year to bring up 'values' issues -- such as the gay-marriage constitutional amendment that failed in the Senate this month -- to galvanize conservative voters for midterm elections."

There are at least three good reasons why a flag-burning amendment should not pass: 1) flag-burning is a non-problem because it occurs very infrequently; 2) flag burning has been declared by the Supreme Court to be protected speech; and, 3) the amendment's language is vaguely-worded, defining desecration in ways that might result in the censorship of works of act.

A number of prominent veterans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, have spoken out against the amendment.



The New York Times reported on Friday that the Bush administration has “examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States” allegedly linked to terrorist networks.

 Yesterday, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) argued that the Times reporters, editors, and publishers responsible for that story should be charged under the Espionage Act, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

"The New York Times is putting its own arrogant elitist left-wing agenda before the interests of the American people," King said on Fox News Sunday, "and I’m calling on the Attorney General to begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of the New York Times -- its reporters, the editors who worked on this, and the publisher.

We’re in a time of war...and what they’ve done has violated the Espionage Act, the COMINT act." (Watch the video.) King later told the Associated Press that the New York Times' actions were "treasonous." 

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) responded to King’s claims yesterday, calling them "premature," and paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”



Last week, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour sharply criticized some of the tactics being employed in the war on terror, reminding all nations -- including the United States -- that they are constrained by an "absolute ban on torture and the right to a fair trial."

She also said, "It is vital that at all times Governments anchor in law their response to terrorism.

" U.S. Ambassador John Bolton immediately slammed Arbour's "misplaced priorities": "For all the human rights problems in the world in places like North Korea and Iran and so on, to go after the United States and Israel -- it is business as usual from the U.N. human rights machinery."

But just one month earlier, Bolton's own deputy stated that the "U.N. human rights machinery" exists to inform all member states -- including the U.S. -- of their international duties and obligations and added, "The United States holds the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in high regard."

Bolton has once again shown he is willing to throw international cooperation by the wayside and employ double standards in order to defend flawed Bush administration policies.


KKK converges on Antietam battlefield
Authorities outnumber Klan, demonstrators by more than 3-to-1

SHARPSBURG, Maryland (AP) -- Members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups rallied Saturday at the Antietam National Battlefield, believed to be the first time a group was given permission to demonstrate at the site of the bloodiest day of the Civil War.

About 30 people, some in white robes and others in the military-style clothing and swastika armbands of the National Socialist Movement of America, stood next to a farmhouse on the battlefield. Some delivered speeches attacking immigrants, blacks and other minority groups.

About 200 federal, state and local officers watched to ensure peace and to act as a buffer between the Klan and about 30 counter-demonstrators.

Antietam carries powerful symbolism, said Gordon Young of the Ku Klux Klan.

"As the Klan, we are the ghosts of our Confederate brothers and sisters who died here," Young said.

The protest was the third by extremist groups at national parks in the past three years. Two years ago, the National Socialist Movement demonstrated at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, and the same group rallied last year at Colonial Park in Williamsburg, Virginia.

"The Supreme Court has ruled consistently that national parks in particular are places of freedom of expression," said park superintendent John Howard.

Said Jeffrey Margolies, a counter-demonstrator from the Jewish motorcycle group Semites on Bikes, said, "It's disgusting that they would come to sacred ground."

Union and Confederate forces clashed September 17, 1862, on farmland about 40 miles outside Washington during Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North.

More than 3,600 men on both sides died that day, and more than 19,000 were wounded or went missing, according to the park service.



Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) said yesterday she will sign a near-total ban on abortion that is nearing "final legislative passage" in the state legislature.

Like the recent abortion ban passed in South Dakota (which is expected to be challenged via ballot initiative this November), the Louisiana bill includes no exceptions for women who are raped or are victims of incest.

Blanco told the Associated Press that "she believes an exception for rape and incest victims to get an abortion...would have 'been reasonable,' but she said she wouldn't reject the bill for that reason."

The only exceptions in the bill protect women's health against "severe" problems or "permanent impairment"; a "more loosely written amendment to allow an abortion to protect the health of the woman" was voted down since it too "would mean abortion on demand," according to one state senator.

Also under the measure, which could only be made law if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, "doctors found guilty of performing abortions would face up to ten years in prison and fines of $100,000."


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A divided Supreme Court ruled last week that government workers who blow the whistle on alleged illegal conduct do not deserve First Amendment protection that would automatically shield them from discipline from their bosses.

By Bill Mears

The decision creates a higher legal hurdle for the 20 million public service employees nationwide who seek to expose official wrongdoing in the face of possible retaliation.

It was only the second 5-4 opinion issued by the high court since its newest member, Justice Samuel Alito, joined the bench in January. He cast the deciding vote in a case that was argued twice this term, the first time back in October.

At issue is what constitutional guarantees civil servants deserve in speech done as a routine part of their job.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted, "Exposing governmental inefficiency and misconduct is a matter of considerable significance."

But he rejected the idea "that the First Amendment shields from discipline the expressions employees make pursuant to their professional duties."

Kennedy said a "powerful network" of whistle-blower protection and labor laws exist to benefit workers who fear punishment for speaking out. He was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts and his fellow conservatives, Justice Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Alito.

The nine-member bench seemed to struggle balancing the need for preserving discretion in many aspects of the workplace with the need to ensure those who expose wrongdoing are not unfairly punished. The majority concluded not every aspect of government work deserves free-speech protection.

The case involves Richard Ceballos, a deputy Los Angeles County prosecutor who investigated allegations that a sheriff's deputy lied on an affidavit to obtain a search warrant in a criminal case.

After looking into a formal complaint by a defense attorney, Ceballos found evidence of misconduct and recommended to his bosses the criminal case be dismissed for that reason. He was asked by his supervisors to tone down the wording of his memo, but the revised letter still contained the conclusion that "grossly inaccurate" statements were made in the deputy's affidavit.

Despite that, prosecutors moved ahead with the case, which involved theft at an auto parts store. Ceballos said he was obliged to tell the defense of his conclusions. He testified about his investigation at the trial, which went in favor of the defendant.

Ceballos claimed his bosses later retaliated by demoting him, making threats, creating a "hostile" work environment, and denying a promotion. He sued and a federal appeals court eventually agreed with him. But the high court reversed the decision.

In dissent, Justice David Souter said civil servants, in some cases, deserve greater free speech protection.

"It stands to reason that a citizen may well place a very high value on the right to speak on the public issues he decides to make the subject of his work day after day," wrote Souter. "These citizen servants are the ones whose civic interest rises highest when they speak pursuant to their duties, and are exactly the ones government employers most want to attract."

Also in dissent were Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

The appeal was originally heard in October, when now-retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was still a member of the court. She stepped down before the opinion was completed, and under court rules her vote did not count. That left a 4-4 tie, and the justices decided to rehear the case.

Alito was an especially active questioner during the rearguments in March.

Senate confirms Hayden as CIA director

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, a career intelligence officer under whose watch the government expanded its ability to track private telecommunications, won easy Senate confirmation Friday to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Senate voted 78-15 in his favor, a strong bipartisan show of support despite lingering questions over the legality of the warrantless wiretaps carried out by the National Security Agency, which Hayden headed.

Hayden, 61, will become the first member of the military to run the CIA since Adm. Stansfield Turner 25 years ago. He replaces Porter Goss, a former Florida congressman who resigned his CIA post earlier this month after a stormy tenure and clashes with National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, the nation's top intelligence official.


Public Hearings Sought in Phone Record Scandal  

Anticipating that the U.S. federal government would invoke the so-called "state secrets" privilege to block any lawsuit calling for the disclosure of details about allegations that phone companies shared customer records with the government's biggest spy agency, a major civil rights group has embarked on an alternate course.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed complaints in more than 20 individual states demanding that their utility commissions and attorneys-general convene public hearings and call phone company executives to testify.

The ACLU action in Massachusetts is typical of the approach being taken by the civil rights group. Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU in Massachusetts, said four mayors had complained to the state's utility regulatory board. State law requires the board to conduct public hearings when a mayor complains.

Michael D. Bissonnette, mayor of Chicopee, Massachusetts, said he joined the requests because privacy was fast becoming the key civil rights issue.

"This is likely the greatest invasion of consumer privacy in our nation's history," he said.

The ACLU filed similar complaints in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Typically, state utilities commissions are mandated to regulate the activities of telephone and other electronic carriers operating in their respective states. 


Justice Dept. Seeks to Block Suits on Spying

The Bush administration has asked federal judges in New York and Michigan to dismiss two lawsuits filed over the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program, saying litigating them would jeopardize state secrets.

In papers filed late Friday, Justice Department lawyers said it would be impossible to defend the program's legality without disclosing classified information that could aid terrorists.

John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, invoked the state secrets privilege, writing that disclosure would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security. The administration laid out some of its supporting arguments in classified memos, filed under seal.

The motion, widely anticipated, involves two cases challenging an N.S.A. program that allows investigators to eavesdrop on Americans who communicate by phone or e-mail with people outside the country suspected of terrorist ties.

In New York, the Center for Constitutional Rights has asked a judge to stop the program, calling it an abuse of presidential power. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a similar suit in Detroit.


Putting Discrimination into the Constitution

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and would also likely prohibit civil unions and domestic partnerships as well. S.J. Res 1 — the so called "Marriage Protection Amendment" — passed the committee on a 10-8 party-line vote after Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA), who said he was "totally opposed" to the bill, voted to let it come out of committee. Instead of focusing on the issues most pressing to the American people — like Iraq, gas prices and stem cell research — the Senate instead is focusing on writing discrimination into the Constitution by pushing a divisive bill that growing numbers of Americans oppose.

  • The Senate proceedings should have been conducted in public. Yesterday’s Judiciary Committee meeting was moved from its usual meeting place to a closed hearing room that “does not even have enough chairs for every senator on the committee to sit." Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) said in a statement after leaving the meeting, "Today's markup of the constitutional amendment concerning marriage, in a small room off the Senate floor with only a handful of people other than Senators and their staffs present, was an affront to the Constitution.” And although the bill passed yesterday's committee hearing in secrecy, it is unlikely to gather the necessary votes it needs (2/3 of the Senate, then 2/3 of the House and 3/4 of the 50 states) when it goes before the full Senate on June 5.

  • President Bush and conservatives in Congress are attempting to write discrimination into the Constitution to score political points with their base. In his 2004 campaign, President Bush used gay marriage as a political wedge issue to divide the nation and rally conservative supporters, and after his victory he pledged to drop the issue of gay marriage. However, with just six months until the 2006 mid-terms and with approval ratings hovering about 30%, the President and Karl Rove are once again "coordinating with Congress on social issues such as a ban on gay marriage.

  • Backers of the bill are flip-flopping on their “conservative” principles by pushing this legislation at the federal level. The language of the proposed amendment says that marriage "shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman" and bars the federal and state governments from allowing any other form of marriage. As religious bodies must be free to decide what constitutes religious marriage under the tenets of their faith, the states should be free to decide whether to recognize civil marriage for their gay and lesbian citizens. Some conservatives, such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), oppose the constitutional amendment, with McCain stating, "It usurps from the states a fundamental authority they have always possessed and imposes a federal remedy for a problem that most states do not believe confronts them."

Reach Out and Tap Someone

Just five months after the New York Times revealed that the Bush administration was conducting a domestic wiretapping program without court approval, USA Today reported an equally explosive story last Thursday stating that the administration's reach into the private lives of Americans is more expansive than previously believed.

Not only has President Bush's National Security Agency (NSA) been eavesdropping on domestic telephone conversations and e-mail messages, but it has "also induced telephone companies to turn over the records of billions — that's with a 'b' — of domestic calls."

The new revelations engendered immediate bipartisan criticism. House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) questioned "why it would be necessary to keep and have that kind of information." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told the Fox News Channel: "The idea of collecting millions or thousands of phone numbers -- how does that fit into following the enemy?"

More than 50 House Democrats signed a letter demanding an investigation by a special counsel.

Bush's response was to politically demagogue the issue, claiming that the effort was part of an effort to track al Qaeda.

"That turns out to be far from the whole truth. ...

[The] surveillance program [is] of enormous magnitude, involving not just al-Qaeda suspects but also the presumptively private data of almost all Americans."

Faced with legitimate concerns, Bush's response indicated he has a greater allegiance to Karl Rove's political playbook (which calls for politicizing the administration's domestic spying efforts) than to crafting and refining effective counterterrorism policies. 



Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) last week "complained that there hasn’t been enough outrage over President Bush’s domestic surveillance program and threatened to push legislation that would kill it."

Specter said he wants the White House to stop "walking all over Congress" and asked, "Where's the outrage?

There is none, except on a few editorial pages."

Yet, Specter made clear that "he will not seek a vote on it at this time." The tough talk without tough action is reminiscent of Specter's failure to swear in Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez before his Judiciary Committee testimony.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives voted down an amendment to require the administration to deliver a "classified report to Congress" detailing the program's activities.

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee voted against an intelligence spending bill for the first time in her career "to send the strong signal" that she opposes the "legal rationale offered by the Bush administration."

"I do not support violating the law or the Constitution," she said. "Enhanced security without respect for law gives away the very values we are fighting to defend, and I believe that the program...can and must fully comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and with our Constitution."



Dozens of advocacy groups have teamed up to oppose AOL's decision to "charge companies about 1/4 cent to send a message that will bypass spam filters."

E-mails from paying companies will go straight to a user's inbox, but e-mails from non-paying companies will go through the "gauntlet of spam filters that could divert them to a junk-mail folder or strip them of images and Web links," even if they're not spam.

A coalition of groups with about 15 million members -- DearAOL -- formed recently to campaign against AOL's scheme, arguing that it will not stop spam and will create a two-tiered Internet of the haves and have-nots, harming nonprofits and small businesses.

AOL's strategy to counter their critics: censorship.

According to the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), AOL yesterday began blocking delivery to AOL customers of all e-mails that include a link to the DearAOL coalition's website.

Twenty minutes after EFF distributed its release about the censorship, AOL ended the practice, but the fact that it occurred at all is very troubling.

"The fact is, ISPs like AOL commonly make these kinds of arbitrary decisions – silently banning huge swathes of legitimate mail on the flimsiest of reasons – every day, and no one hears about it," an EFF official said.



"We are witnessing the rumblings of an officers' revolt, and things could get ugly if it were to take hold and roar," Slate's Fred Kaplan writes.

In recent weeks, numerous high-ranking military officials -- including Generals Anthony Zinni, Paul D. Eaton, and Gregory Newbold -- have warned that senior Pentagon leadership has undermined U.S. national security interests and called on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

Officials continue to come forward. In last Thursdays Washington post, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, says, "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them.

And that leadership needs to understand teamwork." Another retired officer, Army Maj. Gen. John Riggs, shared his sense that "everyone" in his peer group "pretty much thinks Rumsfeld and the bunch around him should be cleared out," and that he "emphatically agrees."

"Batiste's comments resonate especially within the Army," the Post reports, since it is "widely known there that he was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld."



As senior counsel in the Justice Department's voting section, Hans von Spakovsky -- now Federal Elections Commission (FEC) Commissioner -- approved a controversial Georgia voter identification program in 2005, over the objections of staff lawyers.

In a letter last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Voting Rights Project objected to a 2005 article von Spakovsky wrote under the pseudonym "Publius" in the Texas Review of Law and Politics, making the case for photo ID at the polls, before the Georgia case had come before him:

"The objections are merely anecdotal and based on the unproven perception that minority groups such as African-Americans do not possess identification documents to the same degree as Caucasians."

The ACLU notes that "the article shows von Spakovsky had already made up his mind on the issue and that his attempt to hide his views may have violated Justice Department guidelines."

Spakovsky's article was available on the FEC website, but has suddenly disappeared this week. Jill Mochek, Spakovsky's aide at the FEC, said the link to the 2005 article was removed "because we wanted to focus on the recent accomplishments of the FEC."

But as the Washington Post notes, that excuse doesn't hold up because the "13 articles that remain were written by von Spakovsky from 1999 to 2005."



More than ten years ago, Elouise Cobell and 500,000 individual claimants sued the federal government for mishandling Indian trust records and bilking American Indians out of $27.5 billion.

The government has not settled the case, despite losing 17 prior decisions.

Observers of the case are saying that "after hearing years of arguments," U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth's "frustration with the Interior Department is showing through."

The Washington Post reports, "The government petitioned to remove Lamberth after a July decision, in which he ordered the department to tell Indians that its information on trust assets may not be credible.

The 34-page opinion is a scathing condemnation of the department." An attorney for the plaintiffs warned against removing Lamberth from the case, saying, "It will send a very clear message to the government that all their malfeasance is exonerated."



In February, the New York Times revealed that "thousands of declassified documents had been reclassified by executive branch agencies and removed from public access in questionable circumstances."

The Federation of American Scientists declared the reclassification "a threat to the integrity of the entire national security classification and declassification program," and warned that the efforts would reduce the National Archives to a "mere repository of officially-sanctioned history."

Most recently, the non-profit National Security Archive, located at George Washington University, exposed how the reclassification scheme came about.

According to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) obtained through a Freedom of Information request, "The National Archives and Records Administration secretly agreed to a covert effort, led by the Air Force, the CIA, and other still-hidden intelligence entities, to remove open-shelf archival records and reclassify them while disguising the results so that researchers would not complain." 

As part of the secret agreement, the National Archives "agreed that the existence of the program was to be kept secret as long as possible" and that "the withdrawal sheets indicating the removal of documents would conceal any reference to the program and 'any reason for the withholding of documents.'"



Almost a year after Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) threatened the judges who ruled on the Terri Schiavo case, the right-wing campaign against the judiciary continues.

"The newest front in the war on the courts is being fought in South Dakota," Slate reports, where a group called "J.A.I.L. 4 Judges" is promoting a measure that "would wipe out a basic doctrine called judicial immunity that dates back to the 13th century, protecting judges from personal liability for doing their job ruling on the cases before them."

According to Slate, "A special grand jury -- essentially a fourth branch of government -- would be created to indict judges for a string of bizarre offenses that include 'deliberate disregard of material facts,' 'judicial acts without jurisdiction,' and 'blocking of a lawful conclusion of a case,' along with judicial failure to impanel a jury for infractions as minor as a dog-license violation."

The proposal currently has more than 40,000 petition signatures, and "it will go to the state's voters as a constitutional amendment in November." (Fight back -- join the Justice at Stake campaign.)



Minnesota Public Radio last week reported that the state's Republican Party distributed a CD asking voters for their opinions on controversial subjects such as same-sex marriage, abortion, and gun control.

The CD collects the information and sends it back to headquarters. "So if you run the CD in your personal computer," the story found, "by the end of it, the Minnesota GOP will not only know what you think on particular issues, but also who you are."

Unlike surveys done by polling firms and commercial web sites, the CD does not come with a promise to secure the user's privacy.

This means the state party can use this data in any way it sees fit. "If you are collecting data and keeping it in identified form, then you should tell people, That goes for all political parties."




"This week I killed a story about the battle against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) after a senior military officer told me it contained information that would be helpful to the enemy,"

CBS Pentagon correspondent David Martin said this week on the network's weblog Public Eye. (Recent news reports have found that red tape at the Defense Department had slowed efforts to get the top anti-IED technology to soldiers in the field.)

Martin acknowledged that he "didn't find his argument about how it would help the enemy very persuasive," and admitted further, "I've done that a number of times over the years, and each time it’s turned out that going with the story wouldn’t have caused any harm."

Nevertheless, some conservatives applauded his decision. The National Review's media columnist wrote, "That couldn't have been easy, but good for him."



Russell Tice, the former National Security Agency (NSA) employee who spoke out against the agency's secret domestic wiretapping program, has revealed that "there is another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions of Americans' Constitutional rights."

In recent testimony to Congress, Tice characterized this "special access" electronic surveillance program as more wide-ranging than the warrantless wiretapping program revealed by the New York Times.

Earlier this month, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) asked Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte whether the federal government is concealing other intelligence collection programs.

 Negroponte refused to answer the senator's question, responding only, "Um... Senator, I... I don't know if I can comment on that in an open session."



Whistleblowers from the FBI, National Security Agency, Defense Department, and Energy Department yesterday told a House subcommittee that after they spoke out against alleged government misconduct or criminal activity, they "were retaliated against, in some cases by having their security clearances revoked or their careers ruined."

Spc. Samuel Provance said he was demoted and humiliated after telling a general investigating the Abu Ghraib scandal that senior officers had covered up detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib.

"Young soldiers were scapegoated while superiors misrepresented what had happened and tried to misdirect attention away from what was really going on," Provance said.

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) has called on Congress to pass legislation protecting government employees who speak out. "These agencies are out of control," said Weldon. "If we don't take action we're all in trouble."

A new poll commissioned by the American Bar Association (ABA) found 52 percent of the American public say the president cannot suspend constitutional freedoms in the fight against terrorism.
Seventy-seven percent of the respondents expressed deep reservations about Bush's secret domestic surveillance program.
"[O]ur poll shows that average Americans and legal scholars alike agree that the awesome power of the government to penetrate citizens' most private communications must not be held in one set of hands,"
ABA President Michael Greco said. The ABA has also issued a policy proposal that, among other clauses, calls "on the President to abide by our constitutional system of checks and balances and respect the roles of Congress and the judiciary in protecting national security consistent with the Constitution."


Disruptive San Diegan calls Gonzales 'lazy fascist'
By Jerry Kammer

WASHINGTON – A San Diego man briefly disrupted last weeks Senate hearing on domestic surveillance, calling Attorney General Alberto Gonzales “a lazy fascist” as a protest to the Bush administration's eavesdropping program.
As Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter banged his gavel, 27-year-old mechanical engineer Kevin Griffey was escorted from the room, content that he had fulfilled a patriotic duty to resist a practice that he believes undermines the Constitution.
“The reason I spoke out today is that I love my country so much, and I feel it's going down a very troubling path,” Griffey said afterward. “If the administration is going to do something like this, it needs to follow the law and obtain a warrant.”
Gonzales told the panel that the program is legal and an important part of the effort to prevent terrorist attacks.
Griffey, a native of Illinois who moved to Pacific Beach three years ago, said that until last week he had never been part of a political protest. But last Tuesday he spoke at a rally at Horton Plaza to protest President Bush's State of the Union speech.
A few days later, he flew to Washington, not only to attend yesterday's hearing, but also to participate in a rally Saturday demanding Bush's impeachment.
“I feel that some of the practices of this administration are jeopardizing our freedoms in a lot of ways,” Griffey said. “That's why I felt perfectly justified in doing what I did today.”


They Fought The Law and The Law Won

FBI's heavy-handedness pushes civil liberties aside

ID, I Don't: When should the government be able to demand our papers?

Bush Sold Dead Brother "A Bill Of Goods"

Bush's National Guard File Missing Records

A Guided Tour of the 'Ownership Society'

Nader Met With Smiles At GOP Convention

End of the rainbow: GOP shows its true colour - white

Grand old party of muggers

Whole lotta flippin' and a floppin'

A macho-bimbo connection at RNC

"Greatest Living Political Comic" Covers Convention







































Upstate New York Mall Drops Peace T-Shirt Charges (Follow Up)




Man Loses Job After Heckling Bush

Glenn Hiller is a graphic designer, and he wanted to convey a message to President Bush. The President was scheduled to speak on August 17 at Hedgesville High School, which is near Hiller's home in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

He says he asked his boss at Octavo Designs in Frederick, Maryland, whether he could take part of that afternoon off to go hear Bush and to try to ask him a question or two.

"I got a ticket through a woman we do work with in the advertising community," he says. "She and my boss both had full knowledge of my political position, and they had knowledge that I was going to ask a question when I was there." They knew, he says, that "I'm not a fan of Bush."

Hiller says his boss, Sue Hough, let him off early so he could go.

"I got there just in time to hear him speak," Hiller recalls. "And while I was listening to the speech, I didn't know if I was going to have the nerve to speak up. But then he started to talk about 9/11 and immediately rolled that into the war on Iraq, as though one had anything to do with the other. That aggravated me. And then he was defending his reasons for going to war, saying Saddam Hussein may not have had weapons of mass destruction but he did have the capability to make them. At that point, I shouted out, 'That's not the same thing!' "

As Bush continued to talk about the war, Hiller piped up again: "I shouted out a question, 'Would you be willing to sacrifice your children for the liberation of Iraq?' "

And when Bush moved on to boast about the economy, Hiller interrupted one final time. "I asked, 'Explain how the outsourcing of American jobs is good for the American economy.' "

Hiller believes he reached the President's ear.

"I know he heard me," says Hiller, "because he quipped at one point, 'Isn't it great that we live in a free country where people are free to voice their opinions?' And it was roughly then that I was escorted out by two campaign officials who threatened to have me arrested."

Hiller says he defended his right to free speech. "I told the campaign workers I had every right to be here," he says. "I told them I'm a citizen of this community. And I'm not doing anything wrong. I have a right and an obligation to get involved."

The Bush people told him he was being disruptive, he says, and that "this isn't the time or place."

But Hiller disagreed.

"My argument was," he says, "that there is no venue, there is no place for a regular person, particularly one who disagrees with the President, to ask him a genuine question. He only makes appearances at completely scripted events and only surrounds himself with people who completely agree with him."

Hiller paid an immediate price for his outspokenness.

"I showed up for work the next day, and my boss told me my actions were unacceptable and reflected bad on the company, and she said she had to let me go," he recalls.

"I said, 'What do you mean?'

"She said, basically, a client was offended. The Berkeley County School District was offended by my actions, and she couldn't have that."

(Hough and Octavo Design refused to return three calls from The Progressive over a three-day period.)

Manny Arvon is superintendent of the Berkeley County School District. He denies that the school district took offense.

"I didn't know the incident occurred until I read about it the next day," he says, of the firing. "It really bothers me that it was attached to the Berkeley Schools that this man was losing his job. Plus, I don't agree with it. I was shocked."

Arvon says that he hired Platinum PR to come up with a new district logo, and Sandy Sponaugle, the head of that company, then subcontracted the work out to Octavo Designs, where Hiller worked. Sponaugle is the person who gave Hiller his ticket.

Hiller is not fighting his dismissal. "I don't have any intention of suing or anything," he says.

What is he doing for work now?

He answers with one word: "Looking."

--Matthew Rothschild




President Bush is quickly removing our Civil Liberties in the name of homeland security, with what seems to be the blessings of the American People. Benjamin Franklin said: They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. 

Heres a small sample of whats already happened:

Their weapon: Patriot II, a piece of legislation that would give the government frightening new powers, including the ability to make secret arrests, issue secret subpoenas, create a vast new DNA database and even strip Americans of their citizenship and deport them.

Formally called The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 (DSEA), the legislation has been shrouded in secrecy, prompting civil liberties groups to fear the government has been waiting for an opportunity -- such as war or another terrorist attack -- to rush it through Congress. That's exactly what happened with the USA Patriot Act, which passed the House and Senate with lightning speed just six weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Patriot II was drafted in secret earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Justice. When rumors of its existence started swirling around Washington, Attorney General John Ashcroft denied it.


Patriot II would allow the government to arrest and detain people in secret, paving the way for the midnight knock on the door that terrorizes the population in police states.

Think such a thing could never happen in America? It already has. Dozens of individuals rounded up during the 9/11 investigations are still being held without charges and without the right to see an attorney.

Patriot II empowers the Justice Department to strip citizenship from Americans who associate with a group designated as a "terrorist organization," even if they've done nothing illegal.

Other provisions of this legislation are just as chilling. For example, the government could create a database of DNA collected not just from "suspected terrorists," but from non-citizens suspected of ordinary crimes, such as burglary and assault.

In direct violation of the Fourth Amendment, prosecutors could conduct a wiretap for 15 days without a judge's approval, and monitor an individual's Internet behavior for two days without a warrant.

The attorney general could deport any foreigner, even a permanent legal resident, by deeming their presence "inconsistent with national security."

Local police departments could resume spying on political protesters, because the legislation overturns court decrees prohibiting such surveillance.

Simply put, Patriot II would make America less of a free country -- and there's nothing patriotic about that.


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