AP Chief: Press Freedoms Are Among Casualties of Terrorist Attacks
Mar 06, 2008
The shadow of the Sept. 11 terror attacks is eclipsing press freedom and other
constitutional safeguards in the United States, Associated Press President and
CEO Tom Curley said Thursday.
“What has become clear in the aftermath of 9/11 is how much expediency
trumps safeguards,” Curley said during the annual dinner of the Radio and
Television News Directors Foundation.
“Congress steps back from its constitutional role of executive oversight.
Civilian oversight of the military wanes. A Justice Department interprets laws
in ways that extend police powers. More drastically, prisons are established
in places where government or military operatives circumvent due process or
control trials,” Curley said in accepting the foundation’s First Amendment
“It’s at moments like these when a free press matters most,” he said.
Curley was selected for his role in pushing for more openness in government
and for emphasizing reporting on First Amendment issues. That includes efforts
by the AP to establish the Sunshine in Government Initiative, a news media coalition
that presses for strengthening Freedom of Information laws and for greater government
Also receiving First Amendment honors from the foundation Thursday were CBS
News correspondent Bob Schieffer and NBC Universal vice president Paula Madison.
A special award also recognized former Federal Communications Commission Chairman
March 6, 2008
By Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — U.S. postal authorities have approved more than 10,000 law enforcement requests to record names, addresses and other information from the outside of letters and packages of suspected criminals every year since 1998, according to U.S. Postal Inspection Service data.
In each of those years, officials approved more than 97% of requests to record the information during criminal inquiries. In 2004, 2005 and 2006, the most recent year provided, officials granted at least 99.5% of requests, according to partial responses to inquiries filed by USA TODAY under the Freedom of Information Act.
Postal officials have closely guarded the warrantless surveillance mail program, used for decades to track fugitives and to interrupt the delivery of illegal drugs or other controlled substances such as explosives. In other government surveillance, such as most wiretap programs, a judge approves requests. In this one, the USPIS’ chief inspector has authority to grant or deny a request.
The Postal Service handles 214 billion pieces of mail each year. Correspondence and packages transported by private carriers, such as FedEx and UPS, are not subject to the surveillance.
When the government’s warrantless surveillance of electronic communication has come under fire, civil liberties advocates say, the USPIS’ limited disclosure raises serious questions. “The idea of the government tracking that amount of mail is quite alarming,” says Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project. “When you realize that (the figure) does not include national security matters,… Continue reading
February 27, 2008
Justin Rood Reports
The FBI now keeps a list of over 900,000 names belonging to known or suspected
terrorists, the American Civil Liberties Union said today.
If that number is accurate, it would be an all-time high, exponentially more
than the 100,000 names on the list several years ago. But the number needs to
be taken with a grain of salt: after all, the ACLU doesn’t keep the list, the
FBI does, and the bureau doesn’t generally like to talk about it. (Indeed, the
FBI has not yet responded to a request for comment for this post.)
But if the ACLU’s figure isn’t accurate, it’s also unlikely to be off by that
much. Last September, the ACLU notes, the Department of Justice’s Inspector
General reported the FBI watch list was at 700,000 names, and growing at 20,000
names per month.
The ACLU says they "extrapolated" from those figures to determine
the list’s current size. ACLU’s Barry Steinhardt added that the group had spoken
privately with people familiar with the watch list, who told them the 900,000
figure was not outlandish.
In the past, The FBI has told ABC News that the size of its watch list is classified.
Despite that, both the bureau and the DoJ Inspector General have published the
total figure in unclassified reports.
There’s no doubt the FBI’s list is growing: just last June, ABC News reported
it was at 509,000 names, based on information in an unclassified FBI budget
But strangely,… Continue reading
By Sherman Yellen
It’s amazing. Just when you think there are no new depths of shamelessness and betrayal of trust to which the Bush administration can sink, they manage to sink deeper into unchartered infamy. Hold on now, I’m not even mad yet. I’m talking about the seventy seven percent cut in the medical assistance for 9/11 first responders in the current federal budget. Gravely ill firemen, police, and other workers who labored at that site, workers who have come down with life threatening cancers and respiratory illnesses linked to their heroic efforts at ground zero are being shafted once again.
In the name of full disclosure, I am not writing this from some disinterested “good citizen” viewpoint. I have a young nephew, John McNamarra, a heroic fireman who worked as a first responder at that site and who later volunteered for rescue work after Katrina in New Orleans. For the past few years he has been suffering from various cancers resulting from that work for which he is currently under treatment at Sloan Kettering. Last weekend he called me to talk about the government’s new betrayal. As the father of a one year old son, Jack, John is fighting the battle of his life, and there is no godly reason why men such as John have to fight the government as well for proper medical care and compensation. One pill — yes one small pill that reduces the agonizing nausea of his chemotherapy costs as much as a thousand… Continue reading
February 25, 2008
Asbestos and Mesothelioma Center
More than six years later, tragic realities resulting from the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks continue to reveal themselves. With many individuals developing similar health conditions, criticism has yet again resurfaced regarding the government’s assurance that the dust created from the fallen World Trade Center (WTC) towers was safe and posed no threat to human health. The first documented death caused by exposure to WTC dust was confirmed in May 2007 with New York City’s chief medical examiner directly linking the death of Felicia Dunn-Jones (a lawyer who fled her office a block away from the WTC) with her exposure to the toxic dust.
The dust cloud contained more than 2,500 contaminants and infiltrated the city. Stretching as far as New Jersey, the caustic dust was composed of harmful elements such as glass, construction debris, and poisonous compounds such as lead, mercury, and asbestos. Those who helped with the cleanup and individuals living and working near the WTC have been greatly affected by this contaminated dust. Countless individuals who came in contact with the dust are reporting distressing respiratory issues, ranging from a severe cough to various forms of cancer, the most common being lung cancer.
A shirt saved by a WTC volunteer illuminated a plausible leading cause to the rampant lung ailments. Stored in a plastic bag for nearly five years, the volunteer’s shirt was tested and revealed extremely toxic levels of chrysotile asbestos, otherwise known as white asbestos.…Continue reading
February 18, 2008
Those clouds of dust that enveloped thousands of New Yorkers who were near the World Trade Center’s destruction and who participated in the rescue efforts may be another large group of victims exposed to the cancerous effects of asbestos. Mesothelioma is a deadly form of lung cancer that is caused by exposure to asbestos, usually in the form of dust or tiny fibers that get into the respiratory system.
There was an enormous amount of asbestos in the debris left by the 9/11 disaster; moreover, it has become evident that the dust raised on 9/11 and during subsequent rescue and cleanup efforts was contaminated with asbestos. One citizen who participated in rescue efforts for 48 hours after the towers fell saved the shirt that he was wearing throughout that period. In April of 2006 the New York Post reported that when the shirt’s fabric was tested, it was found to contain 93,000 times the amount of asbestos normally found in American cities.
In April of 2007, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 62% of those caught in the dust cloud created on 9/11 are now incurring respiratory problems. 46% of those merely living in the area are showing similar symptoms. It is clear that the airborne debris created by the destruction on 9/11 has had health impacts on thousands of people. It is also clear that asbestos was a component of that dust.
Mesothelioma often takes decades to develop after the victim’s… Continue reading
EU officials furious as Washington says it wants extra data on all air passengers
by Ian Traynor in Brussels
Monday February 11 2008
This article appeared in the Guardian on Monday February 11 2008 on p1 of the
Top stories section.
The US administration is pressing the 27 governments of the European Union
to sign up for a range of new security measures for transatlantic travel, including
allowing armed guards on all flights from Europe to America by US airlines.
The demand to put armed air marshals on to the flights is part of a travel
clampdown by the Bush administration that officials in Brussels described as
“blackmail” and “troublesome”, and could see west Europeans
and Britons required to have US visas if their governments balk at Washington’s
According to a US document being circulated for signature in European capitals,
EU states would also need to supply personal data on all air passengers overflying
but not landing in the US in order to gain or retain visa-free travel to America,
senior EU officials said.
And within months the US department of homeland security is to impose a new
permit system for Europeans flying to the US, compelling all travellers to apply
online for permission to enter the country before booking or buying a ticket,
a procedure that will take several days.
The data from the US’s new electronic transport authorisation system is to
be combined with extensive personal passenger details already being provided
by EU countries to… Continue reading
U.S. Agents Seize Travelers’ Devices
By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 7, 2008; Page A01
Nabila Mango, a therapist and a U.S. citizen who has lived in the country since
1965, had just flown in from Jordan last December when, she said, she was detained
at customs and her cellphone was taken from her purse. Her daughter, waiting
outside San Francisco International Airport, tried repeatedly to call her during
the hour and a half she was questioned. But after her phone was returned, Mango
saw that records of her daughter’s calls had been erased.
A few months earlier in the same airport, a tech engineer returning from a
business trip to London objected when a federal agent asked him to type his
password into his laptop computer. "This laptop doesn’t belong to me,"
he remembers protesting. "It belongs to my company." Eventually, he
agreed to log on and stood by as the officer copied the Web sites he had visited,
said the engineer, a U.S. citizen who spoke on the condition of anonymity for
fear of calling attention to himself.
Maria Udy, a marketing executive with a global travel management firm in Bethesda,
said her company laptop was seized by a federal agent as she was flying from
Dulles International Airport to London in December 2006. Udy, a British citizen,
said the agent told her he had "a security concern" with her. "I
was basically given the option of handing over my laptop or not getting on… Continue reading
by MICHAEL GOULD-WARTOFSKY
[from the January 28, 2008 issue of The Nation]
Free-speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security
curriculum. Private security contractors. Welcome to the homeland security campus.
From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest watchtower
in Fortress America. The terror warriors, having turned their attention to "violent
radicalization and homegrown terrorism prevention"–as it was recently
dubbed in a House of Representatives bill of the same name–have set out to
reconquer that traditional hotbed of radicalization, the university.
Building a homeland security campus and bringing the university to heel is
a seven-step mission:
1. Target dissidents. As the warfare state has triggered dissent,
the campus has attracted increasing scrutiny–with student protesters in the
cross hairs. The government’s number-one target? Peace and justice organizations.
From 2003 to 2007 an unknown number of them made it into the Pentagon’s Threat
and Local Observation Notice system (TALON), a secretive domestic spying program
ostensibly designed to track direct "potential terrorist threats"
to the Defense Department itself. In 2006 the ACLU uncovered, via Freedom of
Information Act requests, at least 186 specific TALON reports on "anti-military
protests" in the United States–some listed as "credible threats"–from
student groups at the University of California, Santa Cruz; State University
of New York, Albany; Georgia State University; and New Mexico State University,
among other campuses.
At more than a dozen universities and colleges, police officers now double
as full-time FBI agents, and according to the Campus Law… Continue reading
by Lewis Seiler, Dan Hamburg
Monday, February 4, 2008
"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating
any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of
his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian
government whether Nazi or Communist." – Winston Churchill, Nov.
Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal
government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide
swath of dissidents (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people without
legal or constitutional recourse in the event of "an emergency influx of
immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."
Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts
with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention
camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has
also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some
reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.
According to diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part
of a Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal
of "all removable aliens" and "potential terrorists."
Fraud-busters such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, have complained about
these contracts, saying that more taxpayer dollars should not go to taxpayer-gouging
Halliburton. But the real question is: What kind of "new programs"
require the construction and refurbishment of… Continue reading
By Matthew Rothschild
February 7, 2008
Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does–and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law.
InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.
InfraGard started in Cleveland back in 1996, when the private sector there cooperated with the FBI to investigate cyber threats.
“Then the FBI cloned it,” says Phyllis Schneck, chairman of the board of directors of the InfraGard National Members Alliance, and the prime mover behind the growth of InfraGard over the last several years.
InfraGard itself is still an FBI operation, with FBI agents in each state overseeing the local InfraGard chapters. (There are now eighty-six of them.) The alliance is a nonprofit organization of private sector InfraGard members.
[Remainder of article at The Progressive.]…Continue reading
BY JOHN TOSCANO
February 6, 2008
New York lawmakers in Washington who have been persistently pressing the White
House for increased funding for healthcare programs for ailing 9/11 World Trade
Center workers were jolted last week when President George W. Bush’s proposed
budget slashed those programs by 77 percent.
Only last Wednesday, they pointed out, a White House spokesman had issued a
statement that the president’s 2009 budget would "reflect his continued
commitment" to WTC workers. In reality, the budget issued appropriated
a paltry $25 million, down from $108 million in the present spending plan.
"This dramatic and unwarranted cut flies in the face of common sense,
compassion and just plain fairness," Senator Charles Schumer declared as
he promised to "fight these cuts tooth and nail to ensure these heroes
receive the health care they need and clearly deserve".
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton stated she was "disappointed and saddened
to see that the president chose not to acknowledge the clear healthcare needs
of these heroes", and Congressmember Carolyn Maloney said it was "shocking
that the president would use his final budget to take an axe to the 9/11 healthcare
Maloney (D- Queens/Manhattan) noted: "Just a few weeks ago, the administration
canceled a program for 9/11 responders from around the country because they
said it lacked funding, and now they release a budget that doesn’t even ask
for the money they said they needed.
"The administration has failed in every single one of its budget proposals
to deliver adequate help… Continue reading
by Glenn Greenwald
Published on Sunday, February 3, 2008 by Salon.com
Ever since the President’s illegal warrantless eavesdropping program was revealed by the New York Times’ Jim Risen and Eric Lichtblau back in December, 2005, there has been a faction of neoconservatives and other extremists on the Right calling for the NYT reporters and editors to be criminally prosecuted — led by the likes of Bill Kristol (now of the NYT), Bill Bennett (of CNN), Commentary Magazine and many others. In May, 2006, Alberto Gonzales went on ABC News and revealed that the DOJ had commenced a criminal investigation into the leak, and then “raised the possibility  that New York Times journalists could be prosecuted for publishing classified information.”
That was one of the more revealing steps ever taken by Bush’s DOJ under Gonzales: the administration violated multiple federal laws for years in spying on Americans, blocked all efforts to investigate what they did or subject it to the rule of law, but then decided that the only real criminals were those who alerted the nation to their lawbreaking — whistleblowers and journalists alike. Even Gonzales’ public musing about criminal prosecutions could have had a devastating effect — if you’re a whistleblower or journalist who uncovers secret government lawbreaking, you’re obviously going to think twice (at least) before bringing it to light, given the public threats by the Attorney General to criminally prosecute those who do.
Eighteen months have passed since Gonzales’ threats, and while there have been… Continue reading
Rudy Giuliani and Air Quality After 9/11
by Andrea Bernstein
NEW YORK, NY January 23, 2008 —In his run for President, Mayor Rudy
Giuliani has showcased his leadership on 9/11 and in the days, weeks, and months
that followed. His actions in those days have been widely hailed. But far less
understood is how he responded to early concerns about the air quality in Lower
Manhattan. WNYC’s Andrea Bernstein has the first of two reports.
REPORTER: After the initial shock of the attacks, it took less than 24 hours
for reporters to start raising questions.
REPORTER: How about asbestos, because the buildings had a lot of asbestos?
GIULIANI: There are concerns about asbestos and at this point it does not appear
as if there is an undue amount of asbestos in the atmosphere but those are very
REPORTER: Very early on, both the city and the federal environmental protection
agency had data that showed spikes in the levels of asbestos in Lower Manhattan.
The official interpretation was that those levels were anomalies. All information
was coming through daily briefings held by Mayor Giuliani.
That week, the pressure to reopen Wall Street was immense. Kathryn Wylde, head
of the New York City partnership, was in on early meetings.
WYLDE:… Continue reading
A city councilman and the cops don’t want you to have that Geiger counter without their permission
by Chris Thompson
Damn you, Osama bin Laden! Here’s another rotten thing you’ve done to us: After 9/11, untold thousands of New Yorkers bought machines that detect traces of biological, chemical, and radiological weapons. But a lot of these machines didn’t work right, and when they registered false alarms, the police had to spend millions of dollars chasing bad leads and throwing the public into a state of raw panic.
OK, none of that has actually happened. But Richard Falkenrath, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for counterterrorism, knows that it’s just a matter of time. That’s why he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have asked the City Council to pass a law requiring anyone who wants to own such detectors to get a permit from the police first. And it’s not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you “will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety,” the first draft of the law states.
Last week, Falkenrath made his case for the new law before the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, where Councilman Peter Vallone introduced the bill and chaired the hearing. Dozens of university researchers, public-health professionals, and environmental lawyers sat… Continue reading
By Paul Craig Roberts
01/04/08 “ICH ” — — What was the greatest failure of 2007? President Bush’s “surge” in Iraq? The decline in the value of the US dollar? Subprime mortgages? No. The greatest failure of 2007 was the newly sworn in Democratic Congress.
The American people’s attempt in November 2006 to rein in a rogue government, which has committed the US to costly military adventures while running roughshod over the US Constitution, failed. Replacing Republicans with Democrats in the House and Senate has made no difference.
The assault on the US Constitution by the Democratic Party is as determined as the assault by the Republicans. On October 23, 2007, the House passed a bill sponsored by California Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman, chairwoman of a Homeland Security subcommittee, that overturns the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression, association, and assembly.
The bill passed the House on a vote of 404-6. In the Senate the bill is sponsored by Maine Republican Susan Collins and apparently faces no meaningful opposition.
Harman’s bill is called the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. When HR 1955 becomes law, it will create a commission tasked with identifying extremist people, groups, and ideas. The commission will hold hearings around the country, taking testimony and compiling a list of dangerous people and beliefs. The bill will, in short, create massive terrorism in the United States. But the perpetrators of terrorism will not be Muslim terrorists; they will be government agents and fellow citizens.
We are beginning to see who will be the inmates of the detention centers being built in the US by Halliburton under government contract.…Continue reading
By Ray McGovern
December 27, 2007
“There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theater. … Perhaps the only comparably odd thing is the way that now, years later….”
These are the words of Sebastian Haffner (pen name for Raimund Pretzel), who as a young lawyer in Berlin during the 1930s experienced the Nazi takeover and wrote a first-hand account. His children found the manuscript when he died in 1999 and published it the following year as “Geschichte eines Deutschen” (The Story of a German).
The book became an immediate bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages–in English as “Defying Hitler.”
I recently learned from his daughter Sarah, an artist in Berlin, that today is the 100th anniversary of Haffner’s birth. She had seen an earlier article in which I quoted her father and e-mailed to ask me to “write some more about the book and the comparison to Bush’s America. … This is almost unbelievable.”
More about Haffner below. Let’s set the stage first by recapping some of what has been going on that may have resonance for readers familiar with the Nazi ascendancy, noting how “odd” it is that the frontal attack on our Constitutional rights is met with such “calm, superior indifference.”
Goebbels Would be Proud
It has been two years since top New York Times officials decided to let the rest of us in on the fact that the George W.…Continue reading
December 27, 2007
By Paul Craig Roberts
"They’re locking them up today
They’re throwing away the key
I wonder who it’ll be tomorrow, you or me?"
The Red Telephone (LOVE, 1967)
At Christmas time it has been my habit to write a column in remembrance of
the many innocent people in prisons whose lives have been stolen by the US criminal
justice (sic) system that is as inhumane as it is indifferent to justice. Usually
I retell the cases of William Strong and Christophe Gaynor, two men framed in
the state of Virginia by prosecutors and judges as wicked and corrupt as any
who served Hitler or Stalin.
This year is different. All Americans are now imprisoned in a world of lies
and deception created by the Bush Regime and the two complicit parties of Congress,
by federal judges too timid or ignorant to recognize a rogue regime running
roughshod over the Constitution, by a bought and paid for media that serves
as propagandists for a regime of war criminals, and by a public who have forsaken
their Founding Fathers.
Americans are also imprisoned by fear, a false fear created by the hoax of
"terrorism." It has turned out that headline terrorist events since
9/11 have been orchestrated by the US government. For example, the alleged terrorist
plot to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower was the brainchild of a FBI agent who
searched out a few disaffected people to give lip service to the plot devised
by the FBI agent.… Continue reading