Saturday, August 12, 2006
We're living in a totalitarian state. Sound like an exaggeration? Think again.
The thought crossed my mind after the Treasury Department stopped by and browsed my blog repeatedly a couple days ago.
Maybe these government bureaucrats didn't have anything better to do. With a holiday weekend on tap, I know they won't be dropping by this afternoon -- because it's Friday.
I know this from working as a reporter. It's impossible to reach anybody on Friday afternoon. They're in a meeting or out to lunch. Weekends in office-world start at noon on Friday.
This theory of mine has since been confirmed by the site meter on my blog. For marketing purposes, the site meter gauges the high and low tides in my little backwater of cyberspace. Surf is up at Media Mayhem on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after lunch. I'm presuming that's when more desk jockeys take a little break from the rigors of whatever pointless task they're forced to carry out to pay the rent.
Our dedicated civil servants, at the various Treasury Department agencies, IRS, ATF, and Secret Service, aren't any different. They, too, need a little down time, a bit of stress relief from fighting terror and tedium.
Nonetheless, in the Kafkaesque world of post-constitutional America, these bureaucrats could potentially be carrying out orders to monitor me as a "belligerent."
Fancy that. I don't mind being labeled a belligerent, mind you, but I am a bit apprehensive about the ramifications of such a designation.
I heard the word used by a right-wing law professor from Pepperdine University (Malibu U) the other night, when he was being interviewed on the PBS News Hour.
According to the Malibu U law prof's interpretation of recent Supreme Court rulings, the president has the absolute power to deem anybody an "enemy combatant" or "belligerent." Thus, acting at his discretion, the president can order the indefinite imprisonment of any citizen of the United States without cause.
Hmm. bye-golly, that sounds un-American or something. Or is it just me?
Looking on the bright side, more liberal legal scholars have opined that the rulings favor the accused because they allow their legal counsels to belatedly petition the court for some kind of due process. Never mind that the people being thrown in jail haven't been legally accused of anything. Also, forget the fact that they can languish in cages for years before they see a court room.
In a sense, this isn't a whole lot different than the way things operate already. Believe me, there are plenty of people in St. Louis jail, at this very moment, who haven't been charged with anything. And they've been there for weeks or months. If traffic offenders can be incarcerated for months without receiving due process, what's so wrong with putting away a belligerent for years without a trial?
In a recently released memo, we've learned that the president also believes he has the right to torture people at his discretion in violation of U.S. and international laws. Technically, this means the president claims to have the legitimate power to sodomize prisoners, but, in his infinite wisdom, he has chosen not to invoke his authority -- yet.
The rest of us are just supposed to trust the judgment of the president, who executed more prisoners as governor of Texas than any other person in United States history. Sure, there are those nasty little rumors that the president has been invoking divine right and telling subordinates to get fucked in the same breath. But he was probably just having a bad day. That's what Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said, after Vice President Dick Cheney told him to "go fuck yourself" last week.
I like to think of the Bush administration's more shining moments. Earlier this week, during a speech in Istanbul, the president commended Turkey for showing the world that democracy and Islamic beliefs were compatible. He then advised the rest of the Muslim world that the cheap, tawdry images of the U.S. projected by Madison Avenue and Hollywood should not be mixed up with America's own democratic values.
All of which reminds me that Bob Dylan is now doing Victoria's Secret lingerie ads. Yes, the times they-are-a-changing. I remember, in the surreal days following 9/11, a Victoria's Secret televised gala that invoked God, country and women's underwear in one fell swoop. At the crescendo of the performance, a scantily-clad model spread her wings and flew up to the ceiling and started doing somersaults in mid air. While not exactly a religious revelation, I have to admit that the stunt was a riveting spectacle and damn-fine entertainment.
Bush didn't point out this specific example of America's dysfunctional identity in Turkey this week. Nor, in his Istanbul speech, did the president mention that his re-election campaign has just put out a video comparing his political opponents to Adolph Hitler.
Meanwhile in Iraq, the Pentagon is molding that nation's fledgling media in the image of the U.S. version of a free press, awarding Harris Corp., a defense contractor, a nearly $100 million contract to oversee the "rebuilding" of the Iraqi media infrastructure. Whether the Iraqi government will create a propaganda organization such as the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence remains uncertain. But there are signs the Iraqis are starting to understand how to control the news.
At yesterday's hearing for ousted dictator Saddam Hussein, the only Iraqi reporter was ejected from the court room before the proceedings started. The reporter bitterly complained that the interim Iraqi government was already denying him and the Iraqi people their rights.
Nevertheless, credit should be given to the Iraqi government for moving swiftly to arraign Saddam. The right to a speedy trial is one of the pillars of the U.S. Constitution that has been undermined lately. Maybe the U.S. should follow Iraq's example and allow hundreds of "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo to be given their day in court.
As we all are aware, although never elected, President Bush likes to extol the virtues of freedom and democracy. In that sense, he's similar to Iyad Allawi, Iraq's new interim prime minister.
The Iraqi Governing Council, a body of elitists, granted Allawi power; and another body of elitists, the U.S. Supreme Court, bestowed authority on Bush. Perhaps the U.S. media should make it a practice to call Bush "interim president," from now until the November elections.
Under the current interpretations of the law, an enemy combatant or belligerent is anybody who poses a threat to the imperial power of the interim president. If Bush is re-elected, look for a boom in new prison construction.
Canada.com, Aug. 12:
The Bush administration is under fire for trying to make political gains from the foiled London terror plot after Vice-President Dick Cheney, one day before and in full knowledge of the impending arrests, warned that the electoral defeat of a pro-Iraq war Democrat would only encourage "al-Qaida types."
Cheney's comments about the defeat of Senator Joseph Leiberman, a Democrat from Connecticut, are being viewed as a crass political effort to rehabilitate President George W. Bush and his Republican party in the eyes of the American public in the lead-up to the country's mid-term elections this November.
The above Shroud of Turin-like image is the only known photograph of Internet surfer and al-Qaeda mastermind, Rashid "Mr. Big" Rauf.
Sunday Telegram, Aug. 13:
Alleged al-Qaeda member Rashid Rauf, 26, is being held over accusations he organised a scheme to commit mass murder by blowing up passenger jets using liquid chemical bombs hidden in hand luggage.
Pakistani officials revealed yesterday British-born radical Muslim Rauf was seized near the Afghanistan border on Wednesday.
He was arrested outside an Internet cafe after security officials monitoring his movements noticed he was sending unusually high number of text messages to Britain, London's Daily Telegraph reported.
Rauf's Pakistani captors named him as a "key person" in the bomb plan and said there were strong indications of an al-Qaeda connection.
Accused "Mr Big" Rauf is understood to have lived in Pakistan since leaving Britain after the murder of his uncle Mohammed Saeed, 54, in 2002. ...
Among yesterday's revelations:
* The Brits froze the accounts of 19 of the 24 wanna-be martyrs' bank accounts with the Bank of England. Whatya bet that their collective banks accounts could of bankrolled a round Guinness for the lot of them?
* Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the most notoriously corrupt and terror-ridden secret police on the planet, indicated that one of the suspects it has arrested is linked to al-Qaida. ....
Still there are more questions than answers surrounding the media circus.
One sign that the release by British authorities of details of the alleged plot was orchestrated with the White House is th fact that hundreds of FBI agents were dispatched to England weeks ago to investigate.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Cheney: Lieberman Loss ‘Disturbing’ Because al Qaeda Is ‘Betting They Can Break The Will of The American People’
As the Mideast sits on the brink of regional war, Vice President Dick Cheney spent his time yesterday holding a teleconference to discuss the outcome of the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut.
Cheney said that to “purge a man like Joe Lieberman” was “of concern, especially over the issue of Joe’s support with respect to national efforts in the global war on terror.” He explained:
The thing that’s partly disturbing about it is the fact that, the standpoint of our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the al Qaeda types, they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task. ...
New York Times, Aug. 12:
One day after Britain said it had thwarted a major plot to attack America-bound airliners, officials in Pakistan said today that police there had arrested a British-born terror suspect linked to Al Qaeda cells in Afghanistan. ...
...Call me a wretched cynic, but when I heard about the foiled UK "terrorist plot" this morning, my first thought was, oh, Bush worked with Blair (everyone knows they are in each other's pants anyway) to manufacture a scare. ...
by Craig Crawford
Pardon my skepticism at the breathless warnings on Thursday of yet another “specific threat” to our safety – in this case, the danger to New York City subway riders. This one could be quite real, and I don’t necessarily quarrel with that.
But I worry at how the news media seems to feel forced to take these dire warnings at face value despite the pattern of politicians provoking these episodes at suspiciously opportune moments. Most memorable was the time last summer when we heard warnings of terror attacks on the East Coast – announced just as the Democrats wrapped up their national convention in Boston and sent presidential nominee John Kerry on the road for what they hoped would be a high-profile launch of his general election campaign. ...
"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big."
That was what an unnamed White House official told Agence France Presse after the plot to blow up planes over the Atlantic Ocean was exposed.
And in the two days since that potential horror was stopped, the White House, various Bush administration officials, the head of the RNC, and pretty much the entire right side of the blogosphere has been partying hard in their exuberant, headlong stampede to portray what almost happened as a glorious vindication of their policies and an indictment of Democrats. ...
President George W. Bush seized on a foiled London airline bomb plot to hammer unnamed critics he accused of having all but forgotten the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Weighed down by the unpopular war in Iraq, Bush and his aides have tried to shift the national political debate from that conflict to the broader and more popular global war on terrorism ahead of November 7 congressional elections. ...
Sigh. They're like robots. Little metal-skulled, hive-minded robots. From Think Progress:
Today on CNN Headline News, anchor Chuck Roberts discussed the impact of the foiled British terror plot with Hotline senior editor John Mercurio. Roberts asked Mercurio, "How does this factor into the Lieberman/Lamont contest? And might some argue, as some have already argued, that Lamont is the al Qaeda candidate?"
"And might some argue that Lamont is the al Qaeda candidate?" Seriously, it's like the rainbow of terror has now crawled entirely up inside the Anus of Collective Punditry. (Actually, I think I've read Star Trek fan fiction like that, although it might have just been an exceptionally bad Ann Coulter column. And come to think of it, I've never read Star Trek fan fiction.)
Having pressed the panic button, Tony Blair and John Reid (left) will have to produce concrete proof that the terrorists were - or are - about to attack. Failures to back up claims in the past have backfired: remember the tanks at Heathrow and the infamous claim that Algerian terrorists were about to attack with the deadly ricin agent, though none was found in lethal doses.
Blair and Reid can no longer rely on suspicions and innuendo to back their claim that the UK is now in the grip of a global terrorist threat from "the arc of extremism" from Algeria to Afghanistan. If they want to save their reputations and their country, they must take the nation into their confidence and show what they really know - and what they don't. ...
Pakistan & Terrorism
Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai
Reprinted with permission from South Asia Analysis Group
In the history of the Indian civil aviation, there have been 13 hijackings (including the latest to Kandahar), all involving the Indian Airlines (IA) aircraft. Seven of these were carried out by groups with known links to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the other six by groups or individuals with no such links.
Of the seven ISI-linked groups, six were indigenous (Sikh and Kashmiri terrorists) and the seventh (the latest) is a Pakistan-based Islamic Jihadi terrorist group, which has been active in the Philippines, Myanmar, India, the Central Asian Republics, the Xinjiang province of China and Chechnya and Dagestan in Russia, and which claims to have trained a small group of Afro-American citizens of the US in the past.
The fact that ISI-linked groups generally hijack only IA and not Air India flights is due to the fact that during their training in Pakistan, they are instructed by the ISI to avoid Air India flights, which are likely to contain a large number of foreigners. This could create problems for Pakistan with Western Governments and their intelligence agencies might focus their investigation on the Pakistani involvement.
The truth is that Pakistan's notorious secret police have closer ties to al-Qaida and they have been credited with cooperating with the British in making the bust.
BBC, July 12:
A body found in north-east London has been identified as that of a banker who was questioned by the FBI about the Enron fraud case.
Police said they were treating the death in Chingford of Neil Coulbeck, who worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland until 2004, as "unexplained".
He had been interviewed by the FBI as a potential witness.
Financial Sanctions: Terrorist Financing
11 August 2006
This news release is issued in respect of the financial measures taken against terrorism.
The Bank of England, as agent for Her Majesty’s Treasury, has today directed that any funds held for or on behalf of the individuals named in the Annex to this News Release must be frozen (see Key Resources below for Annex), and that no funds should be made available, directly or indirectly to any person, except under the authority of a licence.
Financial institutions and other persons are requested to check whether they maintain any accounts or otherwise hold any funds, other financial assets, economic benefits and economic resources for the individuals named in the Annex and, if so, they should freeze the accounts or other funds and report their findings to the Bank of England.
The names in the Annex are in addition to those listed in previous Bank Notices containing directions under Article 4 of the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2001 (S.I. 2001/3365) and under Article 8 of the Al-Qa’ida and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2002 (S.I. 2002/111, as amended).
Previous Notices and news releases related to Terrorism, Al-Qa’ida and the Taliban and a consolidated list of individuals and entities subject to these and other UK financial sanctions regimes are available from the Financial Sanctions pages.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
.. On Sunday, Pakistan announced that paramilitary police had killed Amjad Farooqi, a suspected top al-Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl two years ago, as well as for two assassination attempts against Musharraf last December.
Asia Times Online contacts, however, are adamant that Farooqi was in fact arrested some months ago, and that the "incident" resulting in his death in the southern Pakistani city of Nawabshah was in fact stage-managed by Pakistani security forces. ...
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH(LONDON)
September 26, 2001, Wednesday
The Assassins and Drug Dealers Now Helping U.S. Intelligence
By Rahul Bedi in New Delhi
Pakistan's shadowy intelligence service, one of the main sources of information for the US-led alliance against the Taliban regime, is widely associated with political assassinations, narcotics and the smuggling of nuclear and missile components - and backing fundamentalist Islamic movements.
Locally referred to as Pakistan's "secret army" and the "invisiblegovernment", the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was founded soon after independence in 1948. Today it dominates the country's domestic and foreign policies. It is also responsible for manipulating the volatile religious elements, ethnic groups and political parties that are disliked by the army.
Modelled on Savak, the Iranian security agency and, like it, trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the SDECE, France's external intelligence service, the ISI "ran" the mujahideen in their decade-long fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. According to Brig Mohammad Yousaf, who headed the ISI's Afghan Bureau for four years until 1987, the counter-intelligence agency funnelled US money and weapons to the mujahideen to minister the "time-honoured guerrilla tactic of death by a thousand cuts" on the Soviet "Bear" that collapsed soon after it was driven from Afghanistan in 1989. The brigadier said: "It was the only way to defeat a superpower on the battlefield with ill-disciplined, ill-trained tribesmen whose only asset was an unconquerable fighting spirit welded to a warrior tradition." ...
Washington Post, May 13, 1990
U.S. Declines to Probe Afghan Drug Trade; Rebels, Pakistani Officers Implicated
The U.S. government has for several years received, but declined to investigate, reports of heroin trafficking by some Afghan guerrillas and Pakistani military officers with whom it cooperates in the war against Soviet influence in Afghanistan, according to U.S. officials and Afghans. ...
... Rep. Porter Goss, the CIA agent turned lawmaker who Bush has tapped to head the agency, had breakfast with General Mahmoud Ahmed, the then head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, on Sept. 11, 2001. Ahmed allegedly ordered an accomplice to wire $100,000 before the attacks to terrorist ringleader Mahammed Atta. Will Goss be asked about this meeting at his Senate confirmation hearings next month? ...
deja vu all over, again:
... During the 1980s, the C.I.A.'s two main covert action opeations became interwoven with the global narcotics trade. The agncy's support for Afghan guerrillas through Pakistan coincided wit the emergence of southern Asia as the major heroin supplier for the Eu- ropean and American markes. Although the United States maintained a substantial force of D.E.A. agents in Islamabad dring the 1980s, the unit was restrained by U.S. national security imperatives and did almost nothing to slow Pakistan's booming heroin exports to America. ...
... Pakistani intelligence helped British security agencies crack a terror plot to blow up US-bound aircraft from Britain, and has arrested some suspects, its government said.
"Pakistan played a very important role in uncovering and breaking this international terrorist network," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tasnim Aslam.
"Co-operation in this particular case was spread over a period of time. There were some arrests in Pakistan which were co-ordinated with arrests in the UK," she said.
She declined to give details about the arrests, including the number of suspects, their identities or when they were arrested. ...
... The arrests were carried out with the help of the Pakistani intelligence service, which had been working closely with MI5 and Scotland Yard to foil the alleged plot. Many of those detained were said to hold dual British and Pakistani nationality and are believed to have travelled to Pakistan frequently.
British authorities had sought cooperation from Pakistani officials a few months ago and the information provided was crucial in thwarting the attacks, according to a highly placed Pakistani security source. ...
Toronto Star, Aug. 10
... Pakistan intelligence helped British security agencies to crack the plot to blow up the U.S.-bound aircraft, an intelligence official said today.
The intelligence official said an Islamic militant arrested near the Afghan-Pakistan border several weeks ago provided a lead that played a role in “unearthing the plot,” that helped authorities arrest suspects in Britain.
A senior Pakistani government official also said that Pakistan had helped thwart the plot and added that the British government was fully aware of Islamabad’s role.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. ...