by Catherine Komp
Dec. 11 — A US Department of Homeland Security program that compiles data on millions of travelers and determines how likely they are to be terrorists may be operating illegally, according to privacy advocates and some members of Congress.
The Automated Targeting System (ATS) gathers travelers’ data from foreign governments, from numerous Customs and Border Protection sources, and from the Passenger Name Record, a controversial system used by the United States and Europe to gather travelers’ information from airlines and travel agencies.
ATS has long been used to track imported and exported cargo. But recent revelations by the Department show ATS is also being used to scrutinize airline passengers and cars entering or leaving the United States. The system draws on the collected data to assign a risk factor to each person or vehicle in order to help border patrol agents decide whether travelers “should receive additional screening because the traveler may pose a greater risk for violation of US law.”
It is unclear how long ATS has been used to screen humans. The DHS announced it had expanded ATS to include monitoring people in a November 2 notice in the Federal Register. However, the Department did not say when the expansion took place and some DHS officials have said the program has been in place for years.
Calling the program “equitable,” the agency said it “uses the same risk assessment process” for all individuals.
The DHS has announced it will keep the personal data gathered by ATS for up to 40 years to “cover the potentially active lifespan of individuals associated with terrorism or other criminal activities.…Continue reading
by Kristen Lombardi
November 28th, 2006 5:22 PM
Believe 9-11 is causing cancer?
An open thread in Power Plays
It was October 6, 2004, three years after Ernie Vallebuona’s three-month stint as a rescue and recovery worker at ground zero in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and he was hunched over and trembling, racked by a pain like nothing he had experienced in his 40 years of sound health. He had just returned to his Rockland County home after finishing the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift in the NYPD vice unit, where he’d reported to work for the last six years. Vallebuona had bought some fish from a street vendor near his office, on the Lower East Side. And as he drove the 35 miles from Manhattan to New City, he chalked up a searing stomachache to food poisoning. Maybe the vendor had filleted that fish with a dirty machete?
Photo: To date, 75 recovery workers at ground zero have been diagnosed with blood cell cancers that a half-dozen top doctors and epidemiologists have confirmed as having been likely caused by that exposure. Ernie Vallabuona (left) is one of them. photo: Scott McDermott
By the time he pulled into his driveway, the pain had grown excruciating, too horrible for him to even lie in bed that day. The chills swept over his body; so did the shakes. He called his doctor, who suggested ulcer medication. His mother advised him to forget that diagnosis and consult a… Continue reading
November 22, 2006
Defeating the Bill of Rights
Bush’s Lone Victory
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
George Orwell warned us, but what American would have expected that in the
opening years of the 21st century the United States would become a country in
which lies and deception by the President and Vice President were the basis
for a foreign policy of war and aggression, and in which indefinite detention
without charges, torture, and spying on citizens without warrants have displaced
the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution?
If anyone had predicted that the election of George W. Bush to the presidency
would result in an American police state and illegal wars of aggression, he
would have been dismissed as a lunatic.
What American ever would have thought that any US president and attorney general
would defend torture or that a Republican Congress would pass a bill legalizing
torture by the executive branch and exempting the executive branch from the
What American ever would have expected the US Congress to accept the president’s
claim that he is above the law?
What American could have imagined that if such crimes and travesties occurred,
nothing would be done about them and that the media and opposition party would
be largely silent?
Except for a few columnists, who are denounced by “conservatives”
as traitors for defending the Bill of Rights, the defense of US civil liberty
has been limited to the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International,
and Human Rights Watch. The few federal judges who have refused to genuflect
before the Bush police state are denounced by attorney general Alberto Gonzales
as a “grave threat” to US security.…
Jenna Orkin, of WTC Environmental Organization www.wtceo.org, describes the envirotoxic disaster of 9/11, horrendous health effects on residents and rescuers, and lies of the administration that led to the situation.
“Jenna…details how the Bush administration Environmental Protection Agency told the public that the air in Lower Manhattan after the attacks of 9/11 was safe to breathe even while knowing is was not. This raises the question: if the Bush administration was willing to sacrifice the health and the lives of United States citizens, what else would they be willing to do?”
There has been a great deal of discussion about the Military Commissions Act
of 2006 [.pdf], recently passed by both houses of Congress, and most of it has
to do with the provisions allowing torture of alien detainees, that is, of non-citizens
apprehended in, say, Afghanistan or Iraq, and their treatment at the hands of their American captors. Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Warner,
all Republicans, grandstanded for weeks over the torture provisions, then capitulated.
Another “Republican maverick,” Arlen Specter, zeroed in on the real
issue, however, when he said the bill would set us back 800 years by repealing
the habeas corpus protections against arbitrary arrest and jailings — and then went ahead and voted for it, anyway.
Liberal opposition mainly centered around the morality
— or, rather, immorality — of torture, but the debate largely ignored the ticking time-bomb at the heart of this legislation, scheduled to go off, perhaps, in tandem with some future crisis, e.g., another terrorist attack on American soil: the redefinition of the “unlawful combatant” concept that lays the foundations for this administration’s reconstruction of the gulag. Here is the new, broadened definition, as enunciated in the legislation recently passed by the House:
“The term ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ means Ã± (i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or associated forces); or (ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the president or the secretary of defense.”
September 29, 2006
Listen to Segment ||
The Senate has agreed to give President Bush extraordinary power to detain and try prisoners in the so-called war on terror. The legislation strips detainees of the right to challenge their own detention and gives the President the power to detain them indefinitely. The bill also immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for torturing detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year. We get reaction from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has agreed to give President Bush extraordinary power to detain and try prisoners in the so-called war on terror. The editors of the New York Times described the law as tyrannical. They said its passage marks a low point in American democracy and that it is our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts. The legislation strips detainees of the right to file habeas corpus petitions to challenge their own detention or treatment. It gives the president the power to indefinitely detain anyone it deems to have provided material support to anti-U.S. hostilities. Secret and coerced evidence could be used to try detainees held in U.S. military prisons. The bill also immunizes U.S. officials from prosecution for torturing detainees who the military and the CIA captured before the end of last year.
The Senate passed the measure sixty five to thirty four. Twelve Democrats joined the Republican majority.…Continue reading
By Anthony DePalma
The New York Times
September 6, 2006
The largest health study yet of the thousands of workers who labored at ground zero shows that the impact of the rescue and recovery effort on their health has been more widespread and persistent than previously thought, and is likely to linger far into the future.
The study, released yesterday by doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center, is expected to erase any lingering doubts about the connection between dust from the trade center and numerous diseases that the workers have reported suffering. It is also expected to increase pressure on the federal government to provide health care for sick workers who do not have health insurance.
Roughly 70 percent of nearly 10,000 workers tested at Mount Sinai from 2002 to 2004 reported that they had new or substantially worsened respiratory problems while or after working at ground zero.
The rate is similar to that found among a smaller sample of 1,100 such workers released by Mount Sinai in 2004, but the scale of the current study gives it far more weight; it also indicates significant problems not reflected in the original study.
For example, one-third of the patients in the new study showed diminished lung capacity in tests designed to measure the amount of air a person can exhale. Among nonsmokers, 28 percent were found to have some breathing impairment, more than double the rate for nonsmokers in the general population.
The study is among the first to show that many of the respiratory ailments – like sinusitis and asthma, and gastrointestinal problems related to them – initially reported by ground zero workers persisted or grew worse in the years after 9/11.…Continue reading
By Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor The Crisis Papers
August 29, 2006
The imminent fifth anniversary of 9/11 provides the proper moment for a good, ol’-fashioned sum-up of the past half-decade under CheneyBush, especially because so much has happened in the past 12-months:
The Bush Administration’s Katrina debacle, Iraq being sucked deeper into the civil-war vortex, Afghanistan turning once again into a major war theater, more and more military leaders speaking out about the disaster that is CheneyBush foreign policy, the defection of so many moderate conservatives from their GOP home, the plummeting of Bush’s popularity to not much more than his fundamentalist base, the revelation that Bush&Co. have been spying on citizens’ phone calls and emails without court warrants, the indictment of CheneyBush’s chief aide Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice in the case of the White House’s outing of a covert CIA agent, the “rendering” of detainees abroad for extreme torturing, etc. etc.
I’ll get to the annual list in a moment. But first let’s step back and take a deeper overview. Buckle your seat belts, here we go.
WHAT 9/11 PERMITTED BUSH TO DO
Whatever you may think of 9/11, and the extent of involvement of Bush&Co., it’s crystal-clear that the events of that tragic day were and continue to be used as an excuse for a wide variety of immoral and illegal actions by the CheneyBush Administration. The radical agenda that was barely on the public’s horizon five years ago has since become all too evident, both domestically and in terms of foreign/military policy, which is why so many traditional conservatives are abandoning the extremism of the Republican Party.…Continue reading
President Bush is at the Helm of an Administration that Won’t Stop Lying
Paul Craig Roberts
The Bush Regime has killed tens of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, mainly women and children. The deaths are excused as unintended “collateral damage” of the ongoing war, but the deaths are nonetheless important to the tens of thousands of relatives and friends. An equally important casualty of the Bush Regime is truth. The American public has been trained to obediently accept their government’s lies fed to them by their government’s handmaiden, the US Media. No statement or claim by a Bush Regime Official is too outlandish to be received with acceptance. Consider the claim by Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary for War and Aggression, made to the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee on May 17, that Iran was to blame for the instability in Iraq.
Did the senators laugh Rumsfeld out of the room? No.
Did the media remind the “informed public” that it was actually the US invasion and unsuccessful occupation, together with mass detentions, torture, slaughter of citizens and invasions of their homes, destruction of infrastructure and entire cities, such as Fallujah, and removal of Saddam Hussein’s government, which kept the three Iraqi factions from each other’s throats, that destabilized Iraq?…Continue reading
July 27, 2006
Toiling deep in the bowels of Ground Zero, Firefighter Kevin Delano suspected he was breathing in poison but continued hunting for bodies anyway.
Now there’s more proof the asthma that has made it impossible for the 52-year-old to cross his lawn without wheezing was caused by the deadly dust he inhaled.
A soon-to-be-published study co-authored by David Prezant, the Fire Department’s deputy chief medical officer, has found that FDNY rescuers lost the equivalent of 12 years of lung function because of exposure to toxic dust.
“We knew it was bad, we knew it was bad from the first day,” said Delano, who had to retire from the FDNY after 9/11 and also has been battling leukemia. “This just proves it.”
Prodded by a series of hard-hitting Daily News editorials that described the plight of 12,000 ailing Ground Zero workers, Mayor Bloomberg has promised to look into whether the city has stiffed its 9/11 heroes.
But Bloomberg has refused, thus far, to acknowledge that the deaths of at least four first responders – and the illnesses of thousands more – were directly related to their toiling in The Pit.
The analysis of fire and Emergency Medical Technician workers conducted by the FDNY and Montefiore Medical Center-Albert Einstein College of Medicine could make Bloomberg reconsider his position. It found that firefighters in The Pit suffered a loss of lung power “equal to that of 12 years of age-related decline.”
“Those who had more exposure, those who arrived earlier, had a more severe loss,” said Montefiore’s Dr.…Continue reading
by Jeff Wells
They say I shot a man named Gray and took his wife to Italy.
She inherited a million bucks and when she died it came to me.
I can’t help it if I’m lucky. – Bob Dylan
This may be old news to you, but just a quick note here of something I’d missed about Flight 77, thanks to “Bismillah” and the RI forum, that I hope you won’t miss, too.
At least among those with a mind for such things, it’s fairly well-remembered that on September 10, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld made the shocking announcement that the Pentagon “couldn’t track” $2.3 trillion of its transactions. “Iroquois” observes, “What’s interesting to me is that he made his press release on a Monday. In DC, I always see bad news given on a Friday, usually late in the afternoon on Friday. The exception, of course, would be when someone happens to know that there is a far bigger story coming out.”
And we know that Flight 77, allegedly piloted by an incompetent, made an aerobatic, spiralling descent over Washington, effecting a 270-degree turn to strike the Pentagon from a western approach at ground level. The side struck was the only one with an exterior wall hardened against attack, and was relatively empty while renovation continued.
Relatively. The unfortunate construction workers perished outside, but who were the expendables within?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2006
National Security Whistleblowers Coalition,
Alexandria, VA — The following members of Congress, by their action or inaction, have stood against real investigations, hearings, and legislation dealing with government whistleblowers who have exposed fraud, waste, abuse, and/or criminal activities within government agencies. These representatives of the People are not only standing against whistleblowers, but against the public’s right to know, effective oversight, accountability, and ultimately against the democratic processes that underpin our society.
To see the Dirty Dozen list, Click Here
We, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, together with whistleblower members of our partner coalitions, consider it our duty to advise Americans of these representatives’ collusion with government and private interests to the detriment of the People. Our position is based on our concern for our nation’s security, for accountable government, and the People’s Right to Know what their representatives and government are doing in their name, all of which depend on vigorous congressional oversight.
Our stand is not based on any political ideology or party — our coalition members include Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents. We do not ask you to vote for or against these individuals; nor do we ask you to choose a particular candidate over another. All we ask is that before you decide, you consider the true positions of these representatives with regard to their lack of candor and courage on core issues that matter to our country’s well-being.
Over the years, time and again we have informed these representatives about illegal government actions, agency fraud, and lying to Congress by administrators and bureaucrats.…Continue reading
Homeland Security, the “Keystone Stasi,” Now Tracks and Enforces Local Police Warrants
June 20, 2006: For many years, those working to create a total surveillance state have employed the “salami tactic” of taking away our freedoms one slice at a time. Laws that directly challenge constitutional rights, like the USA PATRIOT Act, are the spectacular exception. Agencies like FEMA quietly prepare plans for martial law, and have built a “Shadow Government” for military rule without need of a written order. The Bush administration for its part has constantly tested the waters, establishing new realities by fiat (as in its creation of the “enemy combatant” category to justify unlimited detention without charges), or floating test balloons like the “Total Information Awareness” program (which was withdrawn officially, even as the NSA’s telephone surveillance proceeded to implement its spirit behind the scenes).
Now we must all realize that at some point, the salami runs out. It no longer makes sense to say that our government is creating a police state. The fact is, that state has arrived, complete with One Big Database and the establishment of universal jurisdictions. In an editorial published this week in New York Newsday, Ray LeMoine tells a memorable story of how he was detained by Homeland Security for several hours because of outstanding local police warrants relating to his sale of unlicensed T-shirts (“Yankees Suck,” among others). We dare not dismiss this as a minor matter; it shows that there is nothing about us in electronic form that… Continue reading
By Eric Lipton
New York Times
June 18, 2006
The pervasive public fear ignited by 9/11 and relentlessly fanned by government leaders and the mainstream media has proved an unfailing political profit center for the administration and unimaginably enriched its military-industrial handlers. It is now also enwealthening scores of officials personally as “War on Terror”-profiteering accelerates the fusion of our private and public spheres.
WASHINGTON – Dozens of members of the Bush administration’s domestic security team, assembled after the 2001 terrorist attacks, are now collecting bigger paychecks in different roles: working on behalf of companies that sell domestic security products, many directly to the federal agencies the officials once helped run.
At least 90 officials at the Department of Homeland Security or the White House Office of Homeland Security – including the department’s former secretary, Tom Ridge; the former deputy secretary, Adm. James M. Loy; and the former under secretary, Asa Hutchinson – are executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that collectively do billions of dollars’ worth of domestic security business.
More than two-thirds of the department’s most senior executives in its first years have moved through the revolving door. That pattern raises questions for some former officials.
“People have a right to make a living,” said Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general of the department, who now works at the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan public policy research center. “But working virtually immediately for a company that is bidding for work in an area where you were… Continue reading
by Evelyn Pringle
June 7, 2006
According to US Census Bureau statistics, in 2002, there were over 21 million federal, state, and local government employees in the US. These employees are in the best position to expose misconduct and abuses of power that arise in government agencies. However, the recent US Supreme Court decision effectively muzzles the nation’s watchdogs.
Attorney Barry Turner, a Lecturer of Law at Leeds Law School in the UK, describes the Supreme Court’s decision absurd. “Transparency is essential in any democracy and is a bulwark against corruption, which,” he points out, “requires secrecy to survive.”
“Any society or administration that facilitates secret deals and hides from the truth can only court corruption,” he warns. “Gagging whistleblowers,” he contends, “can only assist the corrupt, the criminal and the fraudster.”
In a nutshell, the question before the Supreme Court was: Does a prosecutor who speaks on a matter of public concern by reporting police misconduct lose his First Amendment protection against retaliation solely because he communicated the message while performing his job?
The plaintiff in the case was Richard Ceballos, a Deputy District Attorney in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office who informed his supervisors that he believed a Deputy Sheriff had falsified an affidavit to obtain a search warrant in a criminal case.
After Ceballos relayed his findings, he followed up with a written memorandum recommending the dismissal of the case. At a hearing on a motion to challenge the search warrant, Ceballos was subpoenaed by the defense and testified about his findings regarding the affidavit.…Continue reading
“Already there is near-consensus as to the sequence of events that led
to the collapse of the World Trade Center.”–Shankar Nair, as quoted in the
Chicago Tribune, September 19, 2001
Turn on C-Span, or “Meet The Press,” or any other media program presenting federal
officials. Whatever the issue, it always comes back to the same thing. Our government
really has nothing else to offer us but protection from another 9/11. It uses
this painful story to cut public services, eliminate our basic rights, and plunder
the national coffers. But for many of us, it is not entirely clear from whom
we most need protection.1 As our debt explodes and our freedoms diminish, it
would be wise to maintain focus on the origins of our War on Terror. No matter
where this war leads us, we will need to keep the beginning in mind if we ever
hope to see an end.
The Point of Origin: The Collapse of the WTC
Many have found that the 9/11 Commission not only failed to help us understand
what happened; it also omitted or distorted most of the facts.2 But if we really
want to zero in on the exact turning point around which we plunged into chaos,
we need to focus in particular on the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings.
This is where our hearts were wrenched and our minds were made ready for never-ending
war, torture, and apparently the end of everything that was American.… Continue reading
By Paul Craig Roberts
03/15/06 “ICH’ — – If you were President George W. Bush with all available US troops tied down by the Iraqi resistance, and you were unable to control Iraq or political developments in the country, would you also start a war with Iran?
Yes, you would.
Bush’s determination to spread Middle East conflict by striking at Iran does not make sense.
First of all, Bush lacks the troops to do the job. If the US military cannot successfully occupy Iraq, there is no way that the US can occupy Iran, a country approximately three times the size in area and population.
Second, Iran can respond to a conventional air attack with missiles targeted on American ships and bases, and on oil facilities located throughout the Middle East.
Third, Iran has human assets, including the Shia majority population in Iraq, that it can activate to cause chaos throughout the Middle East.
Fourth, polls of US troops in Iraq indicate that a vast majority do not believe in their mission and wish to be withdrawn. Unlike the yellow ribbon folks at home, the troops are unlikely to be enthusiastic about being trapped in an Iranian quagmire in addition to the Iraqi quagmire.
Fifth, Bush’s polls are down to 34 percent, with a majority of Americans believing that Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a mistake.
If you were being whipped in one fight, would you start a second fight with a bigger and stronger person?
That’s what Bush is… Continue reading