Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gonzalez: A "Grave Threat" to Our Liberties?

From a USA Today article regarding Atty. General Alberto Gonzalez' comments on the President's "Domestic / Terrorist Surveillance Program" we find the following quote:

"The administration has maintained that its warrantless surveillance program focuses on international calls involving suspected terrorists, and dismisses charges that it is illegal because it bypasses federal law requiring a judge-issued warrant for such eavesdropping."

That's right. The Bush administration's position is that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), which allowed the President to use "all necessary and appropriate" actions to confront the horrors of 9-11, allows him to bypass a federal statute that requires a warrant for "such eavesdropping" as well as bypass the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.

In short, a general statement passed hastily in the wake of 9/11, trumps a federal statute and the the Constitution Bush swore to uphold!

But there's also a backup plan. If the AUMF doesn't grant the President this power, Gonzales believes, his status as the "Unitary Chief Executive" puts him above the law. Here's what Alberto said:

"We believe the president has the authority under the authorization of military force and inherent authority of the constitution to engage in this sort of program, but we want to supplement that authority."

Shorter version: The Constitution puts us above the law, the Congress' general grant of authority puts above the law, but we want more power, without any judicial oversight!

With this in mind, I found this scary comparison between what Alberto's comments and the constitution of the former Soviet Union. (h/t Unqualified Offerings)

Here's what Alberto said as quoted by USA Today:

"Gonzales told about 400 cadets from the Air Force Academy's political science and law classes that some see the program as on the verge of stifling freedom rather that protecting the country.

“But this view is shortsighted,” he said. “Its definition of freedom — one utterly divorced from civic responsibility — is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people.”"

Here is an excerpt from Article 39 of the Soviet constitution, as quoted by Richard Schifter in a 1987 address to the American Bar Association:

"Enjoyment by citizens of their rights and freedoms must not be to the detriment of the interest of society or the state. . . ."

Or, from Article 59...

"Citizens’ exercise of their rights and freedoms is inseparable from the performance of their duties and obligations."

So, to paraphrase Carl the Groundskeeper from Caddyshack, "We've got (similarities to the Soviet Union) goin' for us.. which is nice."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Ritter on War With Iran?: "We're at war with Iran."

Building on a suggestion from W on the listserve, here is a link to a video interview of Former U.N. Weapons Inspector and former intelligence officer Scott Ritter by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now.

You can read a transcript of the interview here, and here are a few snippets..

"Look, we’re already overflying Iran with unmanned aerial vehicles, pilotless drones. On the ground, the CIA is recruiting Mojahedin-e-Khalq, recruiting Kurds, recruiting Azeris, who are operating inside Iran on behalf of the United States of America. And there is reason to believe that we’ve actually put uniformed members of the United States Armed Forces and American citizens operating as CIA paramilitaries inside Iranian territory to gather intelligence.

"Now, when you violate the borders and the airspace of a sovereign nation with paramilitary and military forces, that’s an act of war. That’s an act of war. So, when Americans say, “Ah, there’s not going to be a war in Iran,” there's already a war in Iran. We’re at war with Iran. We’re just not in the declared conventional stage of the war. The Bush administration has a policy of regime change. They’re going to use the military, and the military is being used."


"Look, North Korea and Iran, you can’t compare; it’s apples and oranges.

North Korea is a declared nuclear power. They even declared their intent to have nuclear weapons. They haven’t hidden this from anybody. They withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty in total conformity with the rule of law. They put the world on notice... the Bush administration said, “Well, they’re just bluffing,” well, they’re not bluffing. They just popped one off...

Now, we take Iran. Iran is a nation that says, “We don’t have a nuclear weapons program. We have no intention.” In fact, when North Korea exploded their device, the Iranians condemned it. They said nuclear weapons cannot be part of a global equation. And yet, we continue to try and lump them together as if North Korea and Iran are part and parcel of the same policy. Well, maybe they are part and parcel of the same incoherent approach that the Bush administration has taken to dealing with nuclear proliferation."


"Well, when we say “Supreme Leader,” first of all, most Americans are going to scratch their head and say, “Who?” because, you see, we have a poster boy for demonization out there. His name is Ahmadinejad. He’s the idiot that comes out and says really stupid vile things, such as, “It is the goal of Iran to wipe Israel off the face of the world,” and he makes ridiculous statements about the United States and etc. And, of course, man, he -- it’s a field day for the American media, for the Western media, because you get all the little sound bites out there, Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad, president of Iran. But what people don't understand is, while he can vocalize, his finger is not on any button of power. If you read the Iranian constitution, you’ll see that the president of Iran is almost a figurehead.

The true power in Iran rests with the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader is the Ayatollah Khamenei. He is supported by an organization called the Guardian Council. Then there’s another group called the Expediency Council. These are the people that control the military, the police, the nuclear program, all the instruments of power. And not only has the Supreme Leader issued a fatwa that says that nuclear weapons are not compatible with Islamic law, with the Shia belief system that he is responsible, in 2003 he actually reached out to the Bush administration via the Swiss embassy and said, “Look, we would like to normalize relations with the United States. We’d like to initiate a process that leads to a peace treaty between Israel and Iran.” Get this, Israel and Iran. He’s not saying, “We want to wipe Israel off the face of the earth.” He is saying, “We want peace with Israel.” And they were willing to put their nuclear program on the table.

Why didn’t the Bush administration embrace this? Because that leads to a process of normalization, where the United States recognizes the legitimacy of the theocracy and is willing to peacefully coexist with the theocracy. That’s not the Bush administration's position. They want the theocracy gone. They will do nothing that legitimizes that, nothing that sustains peace. They rejected peace. So, it’s not Ahmadinejad that represents the threat to international peace and security when it comes to American-Iranian relations. It’s the Bush administration."

NY Sun Shows Padilla's Face, Calls Him Al-Muhajir

In a stunning example of the mainstream media as propaganda tool, Glenn Greenwald correctly observed that the photo of "Al Queda's New Leader in Iraq" as featured in today's New York Sun, is actually a photo of American citizen Jose Padilla. The Sun, either indifferently or mistakenly, assures its "readers" that the photo represents "Al-Muhajir's Evil Presence" when Padilla is safely held in a South Carolina military brig where he's been since 2003, when Ashcroft declared him a "Dirty Bomber."

The photo on top is from today's Sun and below is the obviously darkened mug shot of Jose Padilla. Stunning, but Murdoch owned no doubt.

The German magazine Spiegel features an interview with Ron Suskind and asks the author of "The One Percent Doctrine" and "The Price of Loyalty" to describe what he knows about the CIA's "interrogation" of Al Queda operative Kalid Shiek Mohamed. According to Suskind,

"The thing they did with Mohammed is that we had captured his children, a boy and a girl, age 7 and 9. And at the darkest moment we threatened grievous injury to his children if he did not cooperate. His response was quite clear: "That's fine. You can do what you want to my children, and they will find a better place with Allah."

Later, Suskind describes his opinion of what Bush knew and when he knew it:

"The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators."

Read the whole article, as well as Suskind's books. "The One Percent Doctrine" is an amazing description of Bush's War on Terror, as carried out by Cheney. One revealing anecdote: The CIA's nickname for Cheney is "Edgar", as in Edgar Bergan. In other words, they think of Bush as the Dummy and Dick as the ventriloquist.

Finally, here is a quote from the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin with interesting implications:

"What will life be like with oversight? We've just gone through not only six years of congressional obedience, but six years of ignorance. Congressional oversight has historically put enormous amounts of important, otherwise secret information into the public domain -- about the government and the private sector alike. If you think bloggers have been a potent political force thus far -- just wait until oversight gives them better material to work with."


Friday, November 17, 2006

Justice Dept. Argues No Habeas Rights for Non-Citizen "Enemy Combatants"

In one of the first cases to test the limits of the "Military Commissions Act", which was passed last month, the Justice Department is arguing that Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, a legal U.S. resident and citizen of Qatar, who has been in a South Carolina military brig since 2003 accused of being an Al Queda sleeper agent, no longer possesses the right to contest his detention through a writ of habeas corpus.

As the Washington Post puts it, "Critics of U.S. detention policies warned yesterday that a brief legal document filed by the Justice Department this week raises the possibility that any of the millions of immigrants living in the United States could be subject to indefinite detention if they are accused of ties to terrorist groups."

As the article states:

"In a six-page motion filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Justice Department lawyers argue that an anti-terrorism law approved by Congress last month allows the government to detain any foreign national declared to be an enemy combatant, even if he is arrested and imprisoned inside the United States."

This isn't really news, but the interesting aspect of Al-Marri's case is that, unlike most of those currently held in Gitmo, he was not captured on foreign soil, but was apprehended in the U.S., which according to Robert Chesney, a specialist in national security law at Wake Forest University gives him a "much stronger constitutional argument."

As the article concludes,

"Douglas Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor who was a Justice Department official during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, said the Justice brief signals that this administration believes Congress has given it clear authority to declare foreign nationals as enemy combatants, wherever they are captured.

"It not only opens up the universe of people who may be subjected to these specialized procedures, but it does it emphatically with Congress's approval," Kmiec said. "It remains to be seen whether that changes the judicial dynamic."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Unfair and Imbalanced: Memo Shows Fox News is Faux News

The Huffington Post has obtained a leaked, internal memo from Fox News Vice President of News, which instructs its affiliates how to "spin" the election and its aftermath. Among the highlights....

- "Let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled with the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress."

- "The question of the day... is What's the Dem plan for Iraq?"

- "We'll continue to work the Hamas threat to the US that came hours after the election... Just because the Dems won the war on terror isn't over."

So much for fair and balanced. It's a good thing "Fox Broadcasting has nothing to do with the Fox News Channel," as Bill O'Reilly said today.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Operation Northwoods: Can You Handle the Truth?

Take a look at this article from May, 2001 and ask yourself why the release of information that confirms "Operation Northwoods" wasn't widely discussed? After all, this article isn't on some small-time, little-known, conspiracy-driven website - it's on ABCNEWS.com and the documents that prove the existence of this program are available online even today.

Operation Northwoods was revealed in James Bamford's book Body of Secrets in 2001 but I wonder if the events that happened just four months later prevented us from properly discussing and considering the implications of such an operation?

As Bamford summarized it:

"Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war."

You can see the documents, via the National Security Archive online here.

More on this and the PNAC later...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Yet Another Image to Remember the Election By

Here is how the British Paper, the Guardian, sees the recent GOP "Bounce."

Racist Desperation Tactics

Here is an ad sent by the New York Republican Party. Yes, that's a darker skinned hand over a wide-eyed white girl's mouth.

Sick. Let's hope it's a sign of desperation that backfires.

Saddam to Hang for 1982 Killings

But isn't Uncle Donnie shaking hands with the evil despot in 1983? Who was the VP then, by the way?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Corporate Oligarchy Demonstrated

Either we have some really generous corporations out there that think enough of the electoral process that they give pretty much equally to both parties, or we a little diversification going on.

Check out this list of top ten corporate donors for both parties. (h/t billmon from crawfordslist) See any similarities? Wonder why that is? As exciting as it is to witness the party who brought us the "K Street Project" to crumble under scandals that all point to hypocracy and greed, it's naive to assume that things will be completely different with a Democratically-controlled congress.

I push for the Democrats to win because I believe they are, at least at the moment, less beholden to corporations than the GOP, but I also fear that "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" might be lyrics to best describe any new revolution. Deepthroat's advice to "Follow the money," also seems like a throwback expression that still fits today.

Still, the shitstorm we've been caught in recently makes me want to seek any port, even if Spence's observation that both arms lead to the same corporate heart still ring true. At this point, I'll take less beholden over completely beholden. Some influence, in between election cycles, has got to be better than none at all?