TSA and America’s Zero Risk Culture
November 16, 2010
By Richard Forno
The lede on the DRUDGEREPORT most of Monday showed a Catholic nun being patted down at an airport security checkpoint, with the caption starkly declaring that
“THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON.”
Ten years after 9/11, Americans who fly are facing a Faustian choice between subjecting themselves to a virtual (and potentially medically damaging) strip search conducted in questionable machines run by federal employees or a psychologically damaging pat-down of their bodies. Osama bin Ladin must be giggling himself silly this week.
But what should we expect in a society that requires adults to wear bicycle helmets while pedaling in the park, provides disclaimers of liability on TV advertisements, or prints warnings on fast-food coffee cups? The name of the game is zero risk. Not risk mitigation, or accepting responsibility for one’s actions, but risk aversion. It’s a failure to acknowledge that we can’t protect against everything bad that can happen to us, so we must protect against everything we think might — might — be harmful at some point.
It’s living in fear.
TSA has established itself as the lead federal agency charged with perpetuating this risk-averse culture at airports around the country. The proof is evident over the past ten years: Because of the Shoebomber, we have to remove our shoes. Thanks to the Christmas Crotchbomber, we are subjected to invasive scanning or government-mandated molestation. Because there’s a potential for explosives in liquid or gel… Continue reading
October 1, 2010
By Michael Calderone
Publishers know that controversy fuels book sales. Apparently, so does burning them.
The Pentagon has only helped build buzz around “Operation Dark Heart,” a firsthand account of special operations in Afghanistan, by burning 9,500 copies — nearly all the first run. (Some review copies, released before publication, have filtered out and sold for more than $2,000 on eBay, according to Time magazine.)
Destroying books isn’t an everyday occurrence. In fact, the Pentagon says it has never destroyed copies of a book before. But in this case, the Pentagon contends that Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer’s work includes classified information that shouldn’t have been published and therefore it was the only option.
On Sept. 24, four days after the burning, publisher St. Martin’s Press printed 50,000 copies of the book with supposedly classified information now blacked out. Even with redactions, the second run — five times larger than the first — is selling well. Time magazine noted that “Operation Dark Heart” hit No. 1 on Amazon’s biography list and No. 2 on Barnes & Noble’s political list.
The Pentagon may have succeeded in keeping thousands of unredacted copies from hitting the shelves, but it cannot be certain that the book’s contents won’t ever reach readers. In the digital age, it’s nearly impossible to completely destroy anything. WikiLeaks, the secretive whistleblower site, called the Pentagon “Nazi punks” for burning the books and has already threatened to post an unredacted copy on the Internet.… Continue reading
August 06, 2010
RT filmed this emotional footage of 9/11 first responders pouring their hearts out at a speech just blocks away from where the twin towers fell. The rally was in response to Congress defeating a federal bill that would have provided billions of dollars in health care for those sickened by toxins released by the collapse of the World Trade Center towers Sept. 11, 2001.
by Elaine Brower
The government had alleged that Lynne had facilitated communication between a man she was defending in court, fundamentalist Islamic cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, and people in Egypt. The judge in Lynne’s trial sentenced her to 28 months in prison. An appeal to the conviction and sentencing resulted in a different judge upholding the conviction, while ordering a re-sentencing that was not “trivial”, since Lynne had “indicated a lack of remorse”. After her sentencing, her prosecutor praised the work of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force for its role in the persecution of Lynne Stewart, and thanked U.S. Bureau of Prisons for its assistance.
On July 15, radical lawyer and War Criminals Watch Advisory Board member Lynne Stewart was sentenced to 10 years in prison. In February 2005, Lynne had been convicted on 7 counts of “conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and defrauding the U.S. government”.
Words Lynne Stewart spoke after her original conviction still ring true: “I see myself as being a symbol of what the people rail against when they say our civil liberties are eroded. This case could be, I hope it will be, a wakeup call to all of the citizens of this country and all of the people who live here that you can’t lock up the lawyers. You can’t tell the lawyers how to do their job. You’ve got to let them operate. And I will fight on. I am not giving up. I… Continue reading
By Philip Giraldi
July 19, 2010
Campaign For Liberty
The Ministry of Truth
The Ministry of Truth was how George Orwell described the mechanism used by government to control information in his seminal novel 1984. A recent trip to Europe has convinced me that the governments of the world have been rocked by the power of the internet and are seeking to gain control of it so that they will have a virtual monopoly on information that the public is able to access. In Italy, Germany, and Britain the anonymous internet that most Americans are still familiar with is slowly being modified. If one goes into an internet café it is now legally required in most countries in the European Union to present a government issued form of identification. When I used an internet connection at a Venice hotel, my passport was demanded as a precondition and the inner page, containing all my personal information, was scanned and a copy made for the Ministry of the Interior — which controls the police force. The copy is retained and linked to the transaction. For home computers, the IP address of the service used is similarly recorded for identification purposes. All records of each and every internet usage, to include credit information and keystrokes that register everything that is written or sent, is accessible to the government authorities on demand, not through the action of a court or an independent authority. That means that there is de facto no right to privacy and a government bureaucrat decides what can and cannot be “reviewed” by the authorities.…Continue reading
By The Associated Press
July 19th, 2010
Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, top-secret intelligence gathering by
the government has grown so unwieldy and expensive that no one really knows
what it cost and how many people are involved, The Washington Post reported
A two-year investigation by the newspaper uncovered what it termed a "Top
Secret America" that’s mostly hidden from public view and largely lacking
In its first installment of a series of reports, the Post said there are now
more than 1,200 government organizations and more than 1,900 private companies
working on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in some 10,000
locations across the U.S.
Some 854,000 people — or nearly 1 1/2 times the number of people who
live in Washington — have top-secret security clearance, the paper said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Post that he doesn’t believe the massive
bureaucracy of government and private intelligence has grown too large to manage,
but it is sometimes hard to get precise information.
"Nine years after 9/11, it makes sense to sort of take a look at this
and say, ‘OK, we’ve built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we
need?" he said.
The head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said he knows that with the growing budget
deficits the level of spending on intelligence will likely be reduced and he’s
at work on a five-year plan for the agency.
The White House had been anticipating the Post report and said… Continue reading
David Ray Griffin
There are many questions to ask about the war in Afghanistan. One that has been widely asked is whether it will turn out to be “Obama’s Vietnam.”1 This question implies another: Is this war winnable, or is it destined to be a quagmire, like Vietnam? These questions are motivated in part by the widespread agreement that the Afghan government, under Hamid Karzai, is at least as corrupt and incompetent as the government the United States tried to prop up in South Vietnam for 20 years.
Although there are many similarities between these two wars, there is also a big difference: This time, there is no draft. If there were a draft, so that college students and their friends back home were being sent to Afghanistan, there would be huge demonstrations against this war on campuses all across this country. If the sons and daughters of wealthy and middle-class parents were coming home in boxes, or with permanent injuries or post-traumatic stress syndrome, this war would have surely been stopped long ago. People have often asked: Did we learn any of the “lessons of Vietnam”? The US government learned one: If you’re going to fight unpopular wars, don’t have a draft — hire mercenaries!
There are many other questions that have been, and should be, asked about this war, but in this essay, I focus on only one: Did the 9/11 attacks justify the war in Afghanistan?… Continue reading
By Daniel Tencer
June 19th, 2010
The Pentagon’s spy unit has quietly begun to rebuild a database for tracking potential terrorist threats that was shut down after it emerged that it had been collecting information on American anti-war activists.
The Defense Intelligence Agency filed notice this week that it plans to create a new section called Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records, whose purpose will be to “document intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counternarcotic operations relating to the protection of national security.”
But while the unit’s name refers to “foreign intelligence,” civil liberties advocates and the Pentagon’s own description of the program suggest that Americans will likely be included in the new database.
FICOR replaces a program called Talon, which the DIA created in 2002 under then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as part of the counterterrorism efforts following the 9/11 attacks. It was disbanded in 2007 after it emerged that Talon had retained information on anti-war protesters, including Quakers, even after it was determined they posed no threat to national security.
DIA spokesman Donald Black told Newsweek that the new database would not include the more controversial
elements of the old Talon program. But Jeff Stein at the Washington Post reports that the new program will evidently inherit the old Talon database.
“Why the new depository would want such records while its parent agency no longer has a law enforcement function could not be… Continue reading
June 10, 2010
By Michael Doyle
WASHINGTON — A federal judge has forcefully put Yemeni citizen Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini on the path to freedom after eight years of incarceration at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
In a 36-page opinion formally released Thursday, U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. called Odaini’s continued detention “unlawful” and said he’d “emphatically” grant Odaini’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
The ruling issued secretly last month but published Thursday sets the 26-year-old Odaini up for potential release, though when and where he’ll go remains unclear. The ruling also represents the latest defeat for U.S. officials in their efforts to keep Guantánamo detainees behind bars.
“(U.S.) officials kept a young man from Yemen in detention in Cuba from age eighteen to age twenty-six,” Kennedy wrote. “They have prevented him from seeing his family and denied him the opportunity to complete his studies and embark on a career.”
Pointedly, Kennedy added that “the evidence before the court shows that holding Odaini in custody at such great cost to him has done nothing to make the United States more secure.”
Kennedy’s ruling brings to 36 the number of Guantánamo Bay detainees who have successfully challenged their detentions through U.S. court proceedings. Over the Bush administration’s objections, a divided Supreme Court two years granted the Guantánamo detainees the right to file habeas corpus challenges.
In a decision striking both for its extensive redactions and its occasionally passionate language, Kennedy noted that Odaini’s story has remained consistent… Continue reading
by Philip Shenon
June 10, 2010
The Daily Beast – Blogs & Stories
Anxious that Wikileaks may be on the verge of publishing a batch of secret State Department cables, investigators are desperately searching for founder Julian Assange. Philip Shenon reports. Plus, Daniel Ellsberg tells The Daily Beast: “Assange is in Some Danger.”
(This story has been updated to reflect new developments on Assange’s whereabouts, including the cancelation of a scheduled appearance in Las Vegas.)
Pentagon investigators are trying to determine the whereabouts of the Australian-born founder of the secretive website Wikileaks for fear that he may be about to publish a huge cache of classified State Department cables that, if made public, could do serious damage to national security, government officials tell The Daily Beast.
The officials acknowledge that even if they found the website founder, Julian Assange, it is not clear what they could do to block publication of the cables on Wikileaks, which is nominally based on a server in Sweden and bills itself as a champion of whistleblowers.
“We’d like to know where he is; we’d like his cooperation in this,” one U.S. official said of Assange.
American officials said Pentagon investigators are convinced that Assange is in possession of at least some classified State Department cables leaked by a 22-year-old Army intelligence specialist, Bradley Manning of Potomac, Maryland, who is now in custody in Kuwait.
And given the contents of the cables, the feds have good reason to be concerned.
As The Daily… Continue reading
by Peter Dale Scott
The Asia-Pacific Journal , 21-2-10
In July 1987, during the Iran-Contra Hearings grilling of Oliver North, the American public got a glimpse of “highly sensitive” emergency planning North had been involved in. Ostensibly these were emergency plans to suspend the American constitution in the event of a nuclear attack (a legitimate concern). But press accounts alleged that the planning was for a more generalized suspension of the constitution.
As part of its routine Iran-contra coverage, the following exchange was printed in the New York Times , but without journalistic comment or follow-up:
[Congressman Jack] Brooks: Colonel North, in your work at the N.S.C. were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?
Both North’s attorney and Sen. Daniel Inouye, the Democratic Chair of the Committee, responded in a way that showed they were aware of the issue:
Brendan Sullivan [North's counsel, agitatedly]: Mr. Chairman?
[Senator Daniel] Inouye: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch upon that?
Brooks: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed, by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American… Continue reading
Napolitano stands by controversial report
Top Democrat says he’s ‘dumbfounded’
April 16, 2010
By Audrey Hudson and Eli Lake
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she was briefed before the release of a controversial intelligence assessment and that she stands by the report, which lists returning veterans among terrorist risks to the U.S.
But the top House Democrat with oversight of the Department of Homeland Security said in a letter to Ms. Napolitano that he was “dumbfounded” that such a report would be issued.
“This report appears to raise significant issues involving the privacy and civil liberties of many Americans – including war veterans,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, in his letter sent Tuesday night.
The letter was representative of a public furor over the nine-page document since its existence was reported in The Washington Times on Tuesday.
In her statement Wednesday, Ms. Napolitano defended the report, which says “rightwing extremism” may include groups opposed to abortion and immigration, as merely one among several threat assessments. But she agreed to meet with the head of the American Legion, who had expressed anger over the report, when she returns to Washington next week from a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The document on right-wing extremism sent last week by this department’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis is one in an ongoing series of assessments to provide situational awareness to state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies on the phenomenon and… Continue reading
by Michael Collins
There they are, the people who brought you every bit of the action in the WikiLeaks video and all of the other horrors flowing from invasion of Iraq. Madeleine Albright (far right, above), former Clinton Secretary of State, is a good place to start. From 60 Minutes:
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it. –60 Minutes (5/12/96)
An exhaustive study found that 227,000 children under five (table 13) died during the George H.W. Bush – Bill Clinton regime of total sanctions against Iraq from 1990 through 2000.
Albright is distinguished as the most direct spokesmodel for senseless death and suffering that’s characterized our engagement with that battered country.
But others carry much greater responsibility. The Bush administration had top secret plans to invade Iraq as early as February 2001. First hand witnesses in the prewar White House were unable to name a point when the decision to invade was made. It was a fait accompli.
Prior to the war authorization from Congress, the various intelligence agencies submitted a report that claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Many nations had WMD. The report had to find that Iraq was an imminent danger to the… Continue reading
By Carol Rosenberg
April 5, 2010
WASHINGTON — A federal judge has dismissed more than 100 habeas corpus
lawsuits filed by former Guantánamo captives, ruling that because the Bush and
Obama administrations had transferred them elsewhere, the courts need not decide
whether the Pentagon imprisoned them illegally.
The ruling dismayed attorneys for some of the detainees who’d hoped any favorable
U.S. court findings would help clear their clients of the stigma, travel restrictions
and, in some instances, perhaps more jail time that resulted from their stay
U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan wrote that he was "not unsympathetic"
to the former detainees’ plight. "Detention for any length of time can
be injurious. And certainly associations with Guantánamo tend to be negative,"
But the detainees’ transfer from Guantánamo made their cases moot. "The
court finds that petitioners no longer present a live case or controversy since
a federal court cannot remedy the alleged collateral consequences of their prior
detention at Guantánamo," he wrote.
Hogan’s ruling, issued last Thursday, but not widely publicized, closed the
files on 105 habeas corpus petitions, many of which had been pending for years
as the Bush administration resisted the right of civilian judges to intervene
in military detentions. The U.S. Supreme Court resolved that issue in 2008,
ruling in Boumediene v. Bush that the detainees could challenge their captivity
in civilian court. Since then, judges have ordered the release of 34 detainees
while upholding the detention of 12.
Attorneys for… Continue reading
By Scott Shane
April 6, 2010
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has taken the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of an American citizen, the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have shifted from encouraging attacks on the United States to directly participating in them, intelligence and counterterrorism officials said Tuesday.
Mr. Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico and spent years in the United States as an imam, is in hiding in Yemen. He has been the focus of intense scrutiny since he was linked to Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., in November, and then to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Dec. 25.
American counterterrorism officials say Mr. Awlaki is an operative of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the affiliate of the terror network in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They say they believe that he has become a recruiter for the terrorist network, feeding prospects into plots aimed at the United States and at Americans abroad, the officials said.
It is extremely rare, if not unprecedented, for an American to be approved for targeted killing, officials said. A former senior legal official in the administration of George W. Bush said he did not know of any American who was approved for targeted killing under the former president.
But the director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, told a House hearing in… Continue reading
April 6, 2010
SECRECY NEWS from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2010, Issue No. 27
April 6, 2010
Secrecy News Blog: http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/
The U.S. Army is still struggling to come to grips with the unusually high rate of suicide within its ranks.
“The Army ratios are above the national average and in some months recently, there have been more suicides in the Army than combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan,” observed Nancy Youssef of McClatchy News last week. “There is no pattern to suicides. One third who commit suicide have never served in combat; another third commit suicide while in combat; and yet another third do it once they return, according to Army statistics.”
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh issued two directives on March 26 that are intended to further an understanding of the problem and to improve the availability of information to surviving family members.
Effectively immediately, all suspected suicides will be subject to an official (AR 15-6) investigation, the purpose of which is “to identify the circumstances, methods, and the contributing factors surrounding the event…. The completed investigation should provide clear, relevant, and practical recommendation(s) to prevent future suicides,” according to Army Directive 2010-01 (pdf).
A second Army directive (pdf) provided guidance for reporting (and redacting) information to be provided to family members, who are to be “kept fully informed while the investigation is underway.”
Although national security, third-person privacy and other FOIA-exempt information may be withheld, “the release authority cannot withhold information merely… Continue reading
April 5, 2010
The death of a whistleblower who said the UK government had “sexed up” a dossier on Saddam Hussein’s military capabilities in order to sell the Iraq war has been one of the most intriguing and confusing elements of the war’s history.
Now the UK’s Conservative Party is signaling that it plans to reopen the inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly if it wins the next election. The move could potentially harm the ruling Labour Party, which championed the Iraq war effort and is now trailing in the polls for this spring’s election.
On Sunday, Dominic Grieve, the Conservative Party’s “shadow” justice minister, said members of the public “have not been reassured” that Kelly’s death was a suicide, and if his government wins the election, he would want to reopen the case, reports the UK’s Daily Mail.
Kelly, a weapons expert with Britain’s Ministry of Defence, was found dead in a forest near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he gave an interview to the BBC in which he said that the British government was lying about its claim that Saddam Hussein could launch biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes of giving the order.
Kelly’s death sparked suspicions that he may have been killed for undermining the government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair as the British leader stood with US President George W. Bush in pushing for an invasion of Iraq.
A former British ambassador quoted Kelly as having… Continue reading
March 31, 2010
From the Huffington Post:
In anticipation of a final announcement as to the trial venue for the 9/11 plotters, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows is warning the president against “buckling to political pressure,” calling the use of military tribunals the “wrong thing to do.”
In a nearly four-minute long video, Donna Marsh O’Connor — a Peaceful Tomorrows member who lost her pregnant daughter when the Twin Towers collapsed — speaks both to the broad notion that America has a “historic commitment to justice” and, more narrowly, to the horse-trading politics that now surround terrorist trials. Reflecting disappointment with recent signals from the White House, O’Connor calls specifically for the president to reject a reported compromise proposal with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in which the administration would drop plans for civilian trials in exchange for Republican support for the closure of Gitmo.
“As 9/11 families, we have suffered greatly and waited almost nine years to see justice done with our own eyes,” O’Connor says. “We understand that you face political pressure to back down. We ask that you do not allow fear and prejudice to govern your decision as we are not afraid. We know our country is strong enough to hold on to our values in the face of terrorism.”
The video follows other efforts from Peaceful Tomorrows to advocate for civilian trials for the 9/11 suspects.