Homeland Security

  Gonzales Will Turn Over Secret Wiretapping DocumentsJanuary 31, 2007 11:46 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Wednesday he will turn over secret documents detailing the government's domestic spying program, ending a two-week standoff with the Senate Judiciary Committee over surveillance targeting terror suspects.

"It's never been the case where we said we would never provide access," Gonzales told reporters.

"We obviously would be concerned about the public disclosure that may jeopardize the national security of our country," he said. "But we're working with the Congress to provide the information that it needs."

The documents held by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- including investigators' applications for permission to spy and judges' orders -- will be given to some lawmakers as early as Wednesday.

Gonzales said the documents would not be released publicly. "We're talking about highly classified documents about highly classified activities of the United States government," the attorney general said.
  Libby Trial Shows Unsealed Lips In CIAJanuary 28, 2007 23:12 From their earliest days, U.S. intelligence agencies have made it an article of faith to protect the identity of their secret agents. And in 1982, following a rash of malicious exposures, the CIA prevailed on Congress to make it a crime to knowingly disclose the identity of such operatives.

So in 2003, when the name of a CIA arms proliferation specialist, Valerie Plame, surfaced in a newspaper column, the agency immediately demanded a Justice Department investigation.

But last week, as former White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby went on trial in connection with the leak, it appeared that neither the CIA nor some other intelligence community insiders were all that tight-lipped about such supposedly sensitive matters.

When it came to talking to outsiders, the agent's identity was often treated as not much more than water-cooler dishing or cocktail party chatter.

A high-level CIA official dropped Plame's agency connection into a conversation with a White House aide who did not know Plame existed. Another CIA official confessed that it was only after he had mentioned the agent's name to an official outside the agency that he felt a twinge of regret — a kind of belated "oops" — over what he had done.

And former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage, a possible witness in the Libby trial, has acknowledged discussing Plame with a reporter. Armitage, an old hand at dealing with sensitive intelligence matters, later told a friend that gabbing about Plame was "the dumbest thing he'd ever done in his life."
  Canada Compensates Man U.S. Deported To SyriaJanuary 26, 2007 22:55 Canada's prime minister apologized to Maher Arar on Friday and announced the government would compensate him C$10.5 million (US$8.9 million) for its role in his deportation from the U.S. to Syria, where he was tortured while held in prison for nearly a year.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper again called on the U.S. government to remove the Ottawa telecoms engineer from any of its no-fly or terrorist watchlists and reiterated that Ottawa would keep pressing Washington to clear Arar's name.

"We think the evidence is absolutely clear and that the United States should in good faith remove Mr. Arar from the list," Harper told a news conference in Ottawa. "We don't intend to either change or drop our position."

The U.S. government has repeatedly insisted it has reasons to leave the 37-year-old on its watchlists. The issue has grown into an unpleasant diplomatic row between the world's largest trading partners and closest allies.

The Syrian-born Arar, who moved to Canada with his family when he was 17, is the best-known case of rendition, a practice in which the U.S. government sends foreign terror suspects to third countries for interrogation.
  Gonzales Says The Constitution Doesn't Guarantee Habeas CorpusJanuary 24, 2007 11:40 One of the Bush administration's most far-reaching assertions of government power was revealed quietly last week when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified that habeas corpus -- the right to go to federal court and challenge one's imprisonment -- is not protected by the Constitution.

"The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas,'' Gonzales told Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Jan. 17.

Gonzales acknowledged that the Constitution declares "habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless ... in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.'' But he insisted that "there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution.''

Specter was incredulous, asking how the Constitution could bar the suspension of a right that didn't exist -- a right, he noted, that was first recognized in medieval England as a shield against the king's power to dispatch troublesome subjects to royal dungeons.

Later in the hearing, Gonzales described habeas corpus as "one of our most cherished rights'' and noted that Congress had protected that right in the 1789 law that established the federal court system. But he never budged from his position on the absence of constitutional protection -- a position that seemingly would leave Congress free to reduce habeas corpus rights or repeal them altogether.

  Gonzales Faces Sharp Criticism By SenatorsJanuary 21, 2007 13:10 Senate Democrats and one Republican pressed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Thursday to explain why it took the Bush administration five years to give a secret national security court control over government eavesdropping on suspected terrorists.

Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that such a change was highly complex - "not the kind of thing you pull off a shelf" - and that it took time to find a way to do it without compromising the nation's security.

Until now, the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program, launched in the months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, has monitored overseas phone calls and other electronic communications involving Americans without court warrants.

But Gonzales repeatedly rejected senators' assertions that it was illegal, saying the program was within President Bush's emergency war powers.

Testifying under oath in his first congressional appearance since Democrats took control of Capitol Hill this month, Gonzales was pummeled with allegations that the program and other administration anti-terrorism programs have trampled on federal civil rights laws and the Constitution. He also faced sharp questions about rising violent crime in some medium-sized cities, allegations of voting rights abuses against African-Americans in Maryland and his agency's recent dismissal of a half-dozen U.S. attorneys.

"I have never seen a time when our Constitution and fundamental rights as Americans were more threatened by their own government," said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the committee chairman.
  Chinese Test Missile Obliterates SatelliteJanuary 18, 2007 21:51 While Bush has been screwing around in the Middle East, the Chinese have been preparing to whip our butts. Incredible... wish I could say that I didn't see this coming.

China last week successfully used a missile to destroy an orbiting satellite, U.S. government officials told CNN on Thursday, in a test that could undermine relations with the West and pose a threat to satellites important to the U.S. military.

According to a spokesman for the National Security Council, the ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile knocked an old Chinese weather satellite from its orbit about 537 miles above Earth. The missile carried a "kill vehicle" and destroyed the satellite by ramming it.
  Military expands spy role in U.S.January 14, 2007 22:31 The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.

The CIA also has been issuing what are known as national security letters to gain access to financial records from American companies, though it has done so only rarely, intelligence officials say.

Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions receiving the letters usually have turned over documents voluntarily, allowing investigators to examine the financial assets and transactions of U.S. military personnel and civilians, officials say.

The FBI, the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and espionage, has issued thousands of national security letters since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provoking criticism and court challenges from civil liberties advocates who see them as unjustified intrusions into Americans' private lives.

But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the CIA have been using their own ''noncompulsory'' versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.
  Pentagon Won't Back Official Who Blasted Gitmo LawyersJanuary 13, 2007 21:14 The Pentagon on Saturday disavowed a senior official's remarks suggesting companies boycott law firms that represent detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Charles "Cully" Stimson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said in a radio interview last week that companies might want to consider taking their business to firms that do not represent suspected terrorists.

Stimson's remarks were viewed by legal experts and advocacy groups as an attempt to intimidate law firms that provide legal help to all people, even unpopular defendants.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Brian Maka, said Stimson was not speaking for the Bush administration.

Stimson's comments "do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the thinking of its leadership," Maka told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Stimson's "shameful and irresponsible" remarks deserve condemnation, said Neal Sonnett, a Miami lawyer and president of the American Judicature Society, a nonpartisan group of judges, lawyers and others.
  Dismal Views On Global War On Terror In U.S.January 12, 2007 21:52 Adults in the United States appear concerned about the global effort to fight terrorism, according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports. 36 per cent of respondents say the terrorists are winning, while 33 per cent think the U.S. and its allies are ahead. In addition, 26 per cent of respondents think neither side is winning, and five per cent are undecided.

Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked and crashed four airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. The war on terrorism was initiated in October 2001 after Afghanistan’s Taliban regime refused to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—regarded as the network’s top commander in Iraq—was killed in an air strike in June 2006.

On Jan. 11, U.S. national intelligence director John Negroponte discussed the way al-Qaeda is operating, saying, "They are cultivating stronger operational connections and relationships that radiate outward from their leaders’ secure hide-out in Pakistan to affiliates throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Europe."

Yesterday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office issued a rebuttal, which read: "Pakistan has done more than any other country in the world. (...) It is also a fact that there are al-Qaeda elements active in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, as Mr. Negroponte has said. But it would be incorrect to link them to any remnants of al-Qaeda in Pakistan."

  'Antiterror' Fund Carries A Small StickJanuary 08, 2007 14:18 In the years after Pearl Harbor, patriotic Americans lined up to invest billions of their hard-earned savings in government "war bonds" to help pay for the war against Germany and Japan.

In the years since 9/11? Not so much. In fact, if you wanted to invest your savings in a way that supported the war against al Qaeda, you'd be hard pressed to know where to go or what to do.

Enter Adam Sheer, at New York-based Roosevelt Investment Management. Last week his small firm, which has $1.1 billion under management and family ties to President Theodore Roosevelt's heirs, relaunched its tiny $14 million Bull Moose mutual fund as the "Roosevelt Anti-Terror Multi-Cap Fund."

The new name highlights a strategy the fund has been pursuing since April 2005. The impetus came from an investor. "About two years ago," Sheer explains, "one of our shareholders came and said they were upset that people really didn't care if they invested in public companies that did business with countries that sponsor terrorism."
  Bush Shuffles Spies And Diplomats Ahead Of Iraq 'Surge'January 05, 2007 10:37 President George Bush reshuffled his diplomatic and intelligence teams today in the first of a series of new appointments expected as he maps out the next stage of his Iraq strategy.

John Negroponte, who was appointed America's first overall intelligence chief in early 2005, was nominated to become Condoleezza Rice's deputy in the State Department. To take his place, Mr Bush nominated Vice Admiral Mike McConnell, a former National Security Adviser.

Making the announcement at the White House this morning, Mr Bush urged Congress, which came under Democratic control yesterday for the first time since 1994, to approve the appointments "as quickly as possible". Today's nominations are expected to be first of a series of reshuffles that will replace America's top two generals in Iraq and Ambassador to the UN.
  Bush To Name Retired Admiral As Top SpyJanuary 04, 2007 12:53 Retired Vice Adm. Mike McConnell, a veteran of more than 25 years in the intelligence field, will be named by President Bush to succeed John Negroponte as national intelligence director, a senior administration official said Thursday.

Negroponte will move to the State Department to become the No. 2 to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The nominations of McConnell and Negroponte are expected to be announced by Bush on Friday.

The administration sought to dispel any suggestion that Negroponte's shift was a demotion. Bush personally reached out to Negroponte, an experienced diplomat, to take over the long-vacant job as deputy secretary of state, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because Bush has not announced the nomination.

  Number 3,000: The Soccer-Mad Dropout Who Dreamt Of Going Back To CollegeJanuary 02, 2007 12:02 A soccer-loving college dropout from Texas with a weakness for trance music and ham-and-pineapple pizza has become the 3,000th American soldier killed in Iraq.

Dustin Donica, 22, an army specialist from the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was killed by small-arms fire on Thursday during a counter-insurgency operations in Karmah in the Sunni stronghold of al-Anbar province.

His father, David, learnt that his son’s death was the 3,000th by logging on to the internet after reporters began calling at his home.

“We had no idea why we were getting, within an hour, almost eight or nine people at the door,” he said. “That was a surprise to us because none of them mentioned why they were there. Perhaps they were embarrassed. One guy was standing there shaking like a leaf.”