MLK and Terror

On this Martin Luther King Jr Day I am reminded of his philosophy, some of it borrowed from the immortal Ghandi, that terror should never be met with terror.  That violence should not be matched by more violence.  Their beliefs in non violent action was successful in overcoming horrible repression. Meeting the terror of the KKK, for example, with sit-ins, prayer and song saved countless lives which would have been cut down by powerful majority forces.  Enough lives were lost practicing non-violence for crying out loud.  

It wasn’t just a strategic tactic however.  It was deeply held belief that violence simply begets more violence and the only way to break the cycle is with love.  I’m reminded of this while reading Jeremy Scahill’s shocking book Dirty Wars:  The World Is A Battlefield.  As I read about American death squads running around Asia, the Middle East and East Africa assassinating Muslims for no reason other than a suspicion that they might know someone else suspected of being a terrorist I’m shocked at what our JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) forces do in our name I can’t help but wonder how many new terrorists are radicalized through our stupid, short term tactics.

We will pay for this dearly down the road.  If only George W. Bush and Barack Obama had used those hundreds of billions of our dollars instead on humanitarian efforts…  Instead of creating blood enemies after blowing up entire villages filled with women and children (and, perhaps one terrorist) maybe we could have created something positive:  a school, a well, a hospital.  What if we’d made friends instead of enemies?

In the spirit of MLK ask yourself if our lust for war has really made us safer and if that was the smart course?

News & Notes February 8, 2012

A bit of reality and wisdom from The Old Fart:

The State Senate approved a proposed Marcellus shale bill yesterday.  It would take local zoning away from municipalities and enact a low tax on gas companies to pay for damage done locally.  Corporate Democrat John Wozniak spoke in support of this bill.  It’s a bad bill written by the gas industry.

Did you see the anti-union ad during the Super Bowl?  Right to work laws would mean fewer jobs at lower wages.  They’re really “right to work for less” jobs designed to gut labor unions and further oppress workers.  Anyone who votes for this agenda gets what they deserve:  unemployment.  They couldn’t even find real workers to act in the commercial.  Lobbyist Rick Berman played one of the roles.  He’s the consultant for the legislation.  I hope he wasn’t paid Actors Guild minimum for his role since that would be getting paid properly for his services, a union benefit.

Who killed Che?  Democracy Now! spoke with the authors of a new book which accuses the CIA.  I had a friend who claimed he was part of the CIA team which assassinated the socialist leader.  He told me they worked out of Panama and captured and killed Che.  The stuff in this interview supports everything he told me.

Gun trafficking is rampant in part because Pennsylvania has no requirement that lost or stolen firearms be reported.  This enables straw buyers to purchase unlimited numbers of guns which they sell on the street, fueling crime.  Several cities across the Commonwealth have enacted ordinances requiring reporting to stave off some of the violence.  The House Judiciary Committee, led by Democrat Thomas Caltagirone (who also killed legislation protecting victims of child predators) is voting on a bill which would make these lcoal laws invalid.  Caltagirone supports the bill which would, inevitably, lead to increased crime in his city of Reading.

The Hotel Sterling in Wilkes-Barre may be demolished.  The decrepit facility was the source of millions of dollars of public funds sunk into redevelopment in a real estate scam perpetrated by local and federal officials who had personal stakes in the failed project.  I wrote about this several years ago and seeing all those tax dollars being razed along with the building is disappointing.  There are people in W-B who should go to jail over this.

A dairy in Chambersburg has the OK to resume distributing raw milk.  The Family Cow somehow got e coli into its milk.  Of course milk coming from a cow doesn’t have e coli.  The germ is in excrement and intestines.  The fact it got into the milk reinforces the need to pasturize all such products.  People who insist on consuming shitty milk get what they deserve.

Neighbors in State College are upset that Jerry Sandusky can sit on his porch and see children.  His home is next to a school and the former coach, under house arrest (I’ll assume you what for) is now under attack for sitting on his porch.  People are going to court to prevent him from looking at children.  Get real folks, you’re saying he can’t look out his windows too?  Let’s remember, first of all, that he is presumed innocent until proven guilty and that he still retains some rights.  Bail is simply a way to be sure an accused person reports to court for trial.  It isn’t meant to punish someone.  As much as I am disgusted by the man I’m not going to toss the rule of law out the window.

Libya: Sinking Deeper Into the Quagmire

Libya is quickly becoming a quagmire.  First the mission was to create a no fly zone so Col. Ghaddafi couldn’t slaughter his own people.  That quickly became an air assault campaign against his ground forces.  The we bombarded his seaport to prevent his naval forces from coming after ours.  Then we had to protect aid coming into the country in support of the rebel forces.

We do not even know who these rebels are or what they would create in a post Ghaddafi Libya.  Let’s review for a moment where things were before the advent of the Arab Awakening.  The World’s Ugliest Man was cornered in his desert kingdom, ostracized from the world, pumping oil and enjoying having his best terrorist buddy beside him after snookering Great Britain into releasing him.  No more nuclear program, no longer a threat to anyone else, Ghaddafi had been defanged.

President Obama promised there wouldn’t be any “boots on the ground” in Libya.  I suppose that meant we wouldn’t invade.  Invade with what?  George W. Bush broke our Army in Iraq and they’re too busy killing Afghan civilians and posing with the bodies.  Now we hear CIA operatives are in Libya.  This was inevitable.  How would we learn who the rebels are and their intentions, how would we discover where those million dollar babies fired from the Med need to go without boots on the ground?  I’d be willing to bet there are also Special Forces in Libya.  How do we drop laser guided bombs without laser sights projected on the targets?

The inevitable escalation will arrive sooner rather than later.  This war escalated from the first day the UN resolution passed.  Meanwhile we sink deeper and deeper into a desert quagmire entirely of Obama’s choosing.  At some point an American will be killed or captured and the nation will demand retribution.  There is no thirstier appetite for blood than here in America.

Underwear Bomber: Failure of Analysis

President Obama did something rare yesterday accepting responsibility for the Christmas Day attack on a Northwest Airlines plane.  George W. Bush and Dick Cheney never took responsibility for either 9/11 or the anthrax terrorist attacks.  it appears the failure to keep this terrorist off a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit was primarily a lack of analysis.  The raw intelligence was present.  Of course anyone buying one way tickets with cash is supposed to be suspect on any flight.  People who fly regularly will tell you how they are separated and questioned when flying in such a manner.

It is fitting and proper that this man be charged in a court of law.  He committed crimes and as has been charged with them.  He will not be able to use a court of law as a soapbox for his radical ideology.  There are strict rules and procedures in legal proceedings which preclude such behavior.  Defendants who refuse to accord respect or show proper demeanor can and will be removed from courtrooms when they voluntarily abdicate their rights to confront evidence and witnesses against them through abusive behavior in court.  The myths being perpetuated by radicals among us are simple fear mongering.  We sacrifice our freedoms at our peril.  Interestingly the same morons who are protesting imagined violations of our constitution are the same ones demanding we shred it to torture this man.  Where were they when President Bush shredded the Bill of Rights?

The President’s remarks yesterday:

In our ever-changing world, America’s first line of defense is timely, accurate intelligence that is shared, integrated, analyzed, and acted upon quickly and effectively.  That’s what the intelligence reforms after the 9/11 attacks largely achieved. That’s what our intelligence community does every day.  But, unfortunately, that’s not what happened in the lead-up to Christmas Day.  It’s now clear that shortcomings occurred in three broad and compounding ways.

First, although our intelligence community had learned a great deal about the al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen — called al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — that we knew that they sought to strike the United States and that they were recruiting operatives to do so — the intelligence community did not aggressively follow up on and prioritize particular streams of intelligence related to a possible attack against the homeland.

Second, this contributed to a larger failure of analysis — a failure to connect the dots of intelligence that existed across our intelligence community and which, together, could have revealed that Abdulmutallab was planning an attack.

Third, this, in turn, fed into shortcomings in the watch-listing system which resulted in this person not being placed on the “no fly” list, thereby allowing him to board that plane in Amsterdam for Detroit.  

In sum, the U.S. government had the information — scattered throughout the system — to potentially uncover this plot and disrupt the attack.  Rather than a failure to collect or share intelligence, this was a failure to connect and understand the intelligence that we already had.

That’s why we took swift action in the immediate days following Christmas, including reviewing and updating the terrorist watchlist system and adding more individuals to the “no fly” list, and directing our embassies and consulates to include current visa information in their warnings of individuals with terrorist or suspected terrorist ties.

More of his remarks:

Today, I’m directing a series of additional corrective steps across multiple agencies.  Broadly speaking, they fall into four areas.

First, I’m directing that our intelligence community immediately begin assigning specific responsibility for investigating all leads on high-priority threats so that these leads are pursued and acted upon aggressively — not just most of the time, but all of the time.  We must follow the leads that we get.  And we must pursue them until plots are disrupted.  And that mean assigning clear lines of responsibility.

Second, I’m directing that intelligence reports, especially those involving potential threats to the United States, be distributed more rapidly and more widely.  We can’t sit on information that could protect the American people.

Third, I’m directing that we strengthen the analytical process, how our analysis — how our analysts process and integrate the intelligence that they receive.  My Director of National Intelligence, Denny Blair, will take the lead in improving our day-to-day efforts.  My Intelligence Advisory Board will examine the longer-term challenge of sifting through vast universes of intelligence and data in our Information Age.  

And finally, I’m ordering an immediate effort to strengthen the criteria used to add individuals to our terrorist watchlists, especially the “no fly” list.  We must do better in keeping dangerous people off airplanes, while still facilitating air travel.

So taken together, these reforms will improve the intelligence community’s ability to collect, share, integrate, analyze, and act on intelligence swiftly and effectively.  In short, they will help our intelligence community do its job even better and protect American lives.

But even the best intelligence can’t identify in advance every individual who would do us harm.  So we need the security  — at our airports, ports, and borders, and through our partnerships with other nations — to prevent terrorists from entering America.

At the Amsterdam airport, Abdulmutallab was subjected to the same screening as other passengers.  He was required to show his documents — including a valid U.S. visa.  His carry-on bag was X-rayed.  He passed through a metal detector.  But a metal detector can’t detect the kind of explosives that were sewn into his clothes.

As Secretary Napolitano will explain, the screening technologies that might have detected these explosives are in use at the Amsterdam airport, but not at the specific checkpoints that he passed through.  Indeed, most airports in the world — and in the United States — do not yet have these technologies.  Now, there’s no silver bullet to securing the thousands of flights into America each day, domestic and international.  It will require significant investments in many areas.  And that’s why, even before the Christmas attack, we increased investments in homeland security and aviation security.  This includes an additional $1 billion in new systems and technologies that we need to protect our airports — more baggage screening, more passenger screening and more advanced explosive detection capabilities, including those that can improve our ability to detect the kind of explosive used on Christmas.  These are major investments and they’ll make our skies safer and more secure.

As I announced this week, we’ve taken a whole range of steps to improve aviation screening and security since Christmas, including new rules for how we handle visas within the government and enhanced screening for passengers flying from, or through, certain countries.

And today, I’m directing that the Department of Homeland Security take additional steps, including:  strengthening our international partnerships to improve aviation screening and security around the world; greater use of the advanced explosive detection technologies that we already have, including imaging technology; and working aggressively, in cooperation with the Department of Energy and our National Labs, to develop and deploy the next generation of screening technologies.

Now, there is, of course, no foolproof solution.  As we develop new screening technologies and procedures, our adversaries will seek new ways to evade them, as was shown by the Christmas attack.  In the never-ending race to protect our country, we have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary.  That’s what these steps are designed to do.  And we will continue to work with Congress to ensure that our intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement communities have the resources they need to keep the American people safe.

I ordered these two immediate reviews so that we could take immediate action to secure our country.  But in the weeks and months ahead, we will continue a sustained and intensive effort of analysis and assessment, so that we leave no stone unturned in seeking better ways to protect the American people.

I have repeatedly made it clear — in public with the American people, and in private with my national security team — that I will hold my staff, our agencies and the people in them accountable when they fail to perform their responsibilities at the highest levels.

Now, at this stage in the review process it appears that this incident was not the fault of a single individual or organization, but rather a systemic failure across organizations and agencies.  That’s why, in addition to the corrective efforts that I’ve ordered, I’ve directed agency heads to establish internal accountability reviews, and directed my national security staff to monitor their efforts.  We will measure progress.  And John Brennan will report back to me within 30 days and on a regular basis after that.  All of these agencies — and their leaders — are responsible for implementing these reforms. And all will be held accountable if they don’t.

Moreover, I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer.  For ultimately, the buck stops with me.  As President, I have a solemn responsibility to protect our nation and our people.  And when the system fails, it is my responsibility.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been reminded again of the challenge we face in protecting our country against a foe that is bent on our destruction.  And while passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let’s be clear about what this moment demands.  We are at war.  We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again.  And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.

And we’ve made progress.  Al Qaeda’s leadership is hunkered down.  We have worked closely with partners, including Yemen, to inflict major blows against al Qaeda leaders.  And we have disrupted plots at home and abroad, and saved American lives.

And we know that the vast majority of Muslims reject al Qaeda.  But it is clear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations not just in the Middle East, but in Africa and other places, to do their bidding.  That’s why I’ve directed my national security team to develop a strategy that addresses the unique challenges posed by lone recruits.  And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death — including the murder of fellow Muslims — while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress.

To advance that progress, we’ve sought new beginnings with Muslim communities around the world, one in which we engage on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect, and work together to fulfill the aspirations that all people share — to get an education, to work with dignity, to live in peace and security.  That’s what America believes in.  That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.

Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don’t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust.  That is exactly what our adversaries want, and so long as I am President, we will never hand them that victory.  We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children.

And in this cause, every one of us — every American, every elected official — can do our part.  Instead of giving into cynicism and division, let’s move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that defines us as a people.  For now is not a time for partisanship, it’s a time for citizenship — a time to come together and work together with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.

That’s what it means to be strong in the face of violent extremism.  That’s how we will prevail in this fight.  And that’s how we will protect our country and pass it — safer and stronger — to the next generation.

Steps are being taken to correct the failures still existing in the national security system.  Unfortunately building our supply of intelligence analysts isn’t easy.  Expertise in these areas takes decades.  Combined with an overwhelming supply of intelligence pouring into our agencies makes one wonder why a catastrophe hasn’t occurred.  The domestic wiretapping is producing amounts of intelligence through which only massive computer bases can sift.  Have we overwhelmed ourselves and our resources by spying on everyone?

 

CIA Lies to Pelosi Being Investigated

The National Journal reports that a House Committee is investigating charges the CIA lied to Speaker Nancy Pelosi about waterboarding and other torture.  The law requires that the intelligence agency brief Congressional leaders.  Following disclosures that the Bush team was torturing prisoners Republicans attacked Pelosi for knowing about the procedures and doing nothing.  Now we are discovering she didn’t know and, indeed, was lied to about the law breaking by BushCo.

The House Intelligence Committee says five cases are being investigated to determine if CIA officials broke the law.  I realize it is shocking to think the CIA broke the law.  After all they broke it in torturing prisoners, in rendering them to countries for the sole purpose of torture, and again when wiretapping Americans.  Shock of shocks they’d also lie to cover their asses!!!  I say I’m shocked and appalled to discover there is gambling going in here in Rick’s Cafe!

“We Will Kill Your Children”

I predicted that revelations of what was done under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would shock us when it finally was revealed.  In the past week we’ve had numerous shocks.  Today the ACLU obtained documents detailing how international laws and treaties were shattered and the America we knew and loved became a barbaric civilization.

Threats of murder, the use of power drills, firing a gun in an adjacent room to simulate the murder of another detainee, repeated tortures, all sorts of unspeakable atrocities were conducted in our names.  Blackwater was used by the CIA to assemble assassination squads so even the illegalities of war were privatized.

Kit Bond is criticizing the new policy of putting the responsibility for interrogation into the hands of the professionals to whom it should have been entrusted in the beginning:  the FBI.  Their skilled experts know how to extract valuable information without the use of torture and atrocities but Bush and Cheney refused to allow the rule of law to take control.  What else is new:  the subverted the rule of law everywhere.  Congressman Bond is afraid the new policy will politicize the effort when the exact opposite is happening.  Obama is depoliticizing what Bush politicized.  Bond was AWOL when it really mattered.  

Finally the Obama Administration is taking action to officially investigate war crimes.  Make no doubt about it, threatening to kill someone’s children because they won’t cooperate is a war crime.  Who knows, maybe we even did that too.  Attorney General Eric Holder appointed John Durham to investigate.

The Bush officials are not solely to blame.  The Fox Network dramatized war crimes through their popular “24” series about a rogue agent who favored torture.  Millions of Americans loved the cowboy mentality.  Unfortunately this attitude is that of barbaric civilizations not advanced ones dedicated to human rights.

America will never again be that shining beacon of light in a troubled world.  We have now descended into the nether regions of rogue nations.  How proud all those Republicans must be of how they destroyed 200 years of bright, shining democratic leadership.  We must all hang our heads in shame because we are all Americans.  We all must share the blame.

Indict Cheney

Information that other covert spying programs were being conducted by the CIA and kept from Congress is not new or shocking.  Alberto Gonzales slipped during Congressional testimony and inadvertantly revealed that other programs existed.  We simply knew nothing about them until now. The fact Dick Cheney was running all these extralegal operations from his office is shocking.  How many rogue spying programs did Darth Vader perform?  Because his office even controlled who was informed within a very tight circle he even, conceivably, could have kept them from the President.

We do not give Vice President this kind of power.  We don’t give it, legally, even to Presidents.  The CIA has a long, inglorious history of going off the deep end when no oversight is provided to their rogue operations.  This is why the Frank Church commission was needed and the reforms emanating from those revelations are important.  Frankly the CIA cannot be trusted.  The sissy fit performed recently when Nancy Pelosi protested that the Agency lies to Congress has now been exposed as a serious attempt to cover up more wrongdoing.

We know the CIA was run from Cheney’s office along with his own rogue outfit manufacturing “intelligence” justifying the invasion of Iraq.  Dick Cheney violated serious national security laws and he must be investigated, indicted and prosecuted.  We are a nation of laws above all else and accountability for extreme conduct is warranted.  Conservatives love to base their ideology partly on “personal responsibility.”  As such Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and George Tenet all must be held accountable personally.  What is to deter someone else in the future from doing similar or worse actions if there is no accountability now?

The Dick Cheney Magical Mystery Media Tour

by Walter Brasch

           Dick Cheney has apparently been on a magical mystery media tour.

           He has sought out and been interviewed by more TV journalists and talk show hosts during the past month than during the eight years he was vice president.

           The topic is always the same. Torture was done during the Bush-Cheney Administration, and it was effective. Persons held at Guantanamo Bay are evil and should never be released. President Obama’s actions are a threat to national security. Cheney claims that because of the actions he and George W. Bush took after 9/11, there were no more attacks upon the United States.

           Here’s what he doesn’t say.

           Prior to 9/11 his administration rejected pleas by the FBI to increase funding and manpower for counter-terrorism. He doesn’t say that CIA intelligence reports told the President that al-Qaeda was planning a major attack, probably by air. He doesn’t tell us that following 9/11, the Administration carried out a systematic shredding of six Constitutional amendments in the mistaken belief that somehow snipping away at America’s fabric would protect us from further harm. He doesn’t tell us that although torture was used, contrary to every international law, it did not, according to senior officials at both the FBI and CIA, produce valuable intelligence. He doesn’t tell us that it was probably his paranoia and fears that pushed the nation’s military and intelligence communities to use torture.

           He doesn’t tell us that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction or ties to al-Qaeda and 9/11. He doesn’t say that by diverting America’s military forces from Afghanistan to Iraq, his Administration probably allowed Osama bin Laden and a significant part of al-Qaeda to remain at large for almost eight years, while more than 4,000 Americans were killed and another 30,000 wounded, many with injuries that will never heal.

           Here’s another thing that Dick Cheney doesn’t say. According to major independent research polls, only 20 to 22 percent of Americans now identify themselves as Republicans. Does anyone wonder why four-fifths of Americans don’t want to be tainted by the actions done by the Bush-Cheney Administration and the direction the Republican Party has taken the past couple of years to eliminate any Republican who is not in lock-step with its extreme right-wing agenda?

           Dick Cheney can spin the truth all he wants. But the reality is that 9/11 occurred on his watch.

           [Walter M. Brasch is a university professor of journalism, social issues columnist, and the author of 17 books. His current book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available from amazon.com, bn.com, and other stores. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com]

 

Pelosi’s Tortured Response

How did the argument over torture evolve from what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the CIA did to an attack on Nancy Pelosi?  Republicans have succeeded in making her the culprit for the war crimes done by the Bushies.  She hasn’t helped by lying about her role.  Let’s be clear:  anyone who participated, was aware of (and did nothing about), or sanctioned war crimes needs to be prosecuted.

I don’t know exactly what the House Speaker’s involvement was.  She has made so many statements it isn’t clear.  She was prohibited by law from saying anything publicly however.  Had Pelosi violated national security law by going public she would have been prosecuted.  The Bush Administration threatened to sue the New York Times over reports of war crimes and after watching what they did to Valerie Plame Wilson their cut throat tendencies to anyone who challenged their war crimes would have been dangerous.

Nancy Pelosi, if she knew, could have done nothing other than write a letter to Bush protesting these criminal acts.  Od course the Bush White House told her they had been deemed legal by the DOJ.  We know now those weren’t actual legal findings.  Pelosi isn’t a lawyer and could not have consulted on without violating the secrecy laws.  She should have documented her objections to torture in a letter to the President however.  The fact she has not produced such a letter implicates her.  

I am shocked at the statement put our by Leon Panetta.  He said the CIA did not mislead the Speaker.  “It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress.  Our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of [terrorism suspect] Abu Zubaida, describing the ‘enhanced techniques that had been employed.'”

He claimed the CIA doesn’t break the law.  The tortured human beings in violation of the law and international treaties but we’re supposed to believe they didn’t violate the laws about lying to Congress?  Can you say double speak three times quickly as Panetta just did?

The CIA has no credibility in this.  CIA employees and contractors willfully waterboarded Khalid Sheik Muhammad 183 times in one month.  That averages more than six times per day.  Abu Zubadah was tortured this way 83 times.  Whether Nancy Pelosi was fully and truthfully informed isn’t the issue.  The Bush Administration and the CIA committed war crimes.  That is the issue and it is they, not Pelosi, on whom the spotlight should be shining.