Homeland Security

  Andre's Pooh Bear Casualty In War On TerrorOctober 30, 2006 11:46 With the vast amount of waste, from penknives to toothpaste to teddy bears, I'm beginning to believe that this fear-restricted airline carry-on system is a way of increasing consumer purchases, thereby stimulating the economy. How cynical of me...

A Surbiton boy has to grin and bear it after increased security checks at Gatwick Airport meant he lost his beloved Winnie the Pooh toy.

André Stanbridge-Bevan, eight, from Portsmouth Road in south-west London, was flying to Italy on Friday, August 11, a day after severe security measures were introduced following an attempted terrorist attack on Heathrow Airport.

André, left, was told at check-in that he could take the bear with him on the plane. But security officers insisted the toy be put in the hold, even though it was too late to intercept their luggage.

André's mother Nicole Stanbridge said: "In desperation we turned to an easyJet employee who promised to deliver the bear to the lost property office so that he could be picked up after the holiday."

The bear was placed in an envelope and marked with André's name and address, but when the family returned from Italy the lost property office said it did not have it. Mrs Stanbridge was told last week, after repeated calls, emails and visits to Gatwick Airport, that the bear was no longer there.

 
  The War On Terror Said To Undermine Free PressOctober 23, 2006 14:13 Restrictions on civil liberties related to the "war on terrorism" have undermined media freedom in the United States and Russia over the past year, journalists' rights group Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, said.

RSF's 2006 Worldwide Press Freedom Index, a survey of censorship, intimidation and violence against journalists released Tuesday, found Finland, Iceland, Ireland and the Netherlands the most media-friendly. North Korea was last again.

Russia fell nine places, to 147th, in a year marked by the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was fiercely critical of government policy, particularly of Moscow's campaign against the insurgents in Chechnya whom it calls terrorists.

"Russia, which suffers from a basic lack of democracy, continues slowly but steadily to dismantle the free media, with industrial groups close to President Vladimir Putin buying up nearly all independent media outlets and with the passage of a law discouraging NGO activity," RSF said.

The law requires foreign nongovernmental organizations to submit a long list of paperwork, including passport numbers and home addresses of the parent group's founding members, to an agency that decides whether to approve them.

 
  Republican Terrorism Ad Sparks Democratic FurorOctober 22, 2006 10:26 Republicans took a page from President Johnson's Cold War-era presidential campaign with an advertisement set to air this weekend called "The Stakes," which prominently features al Qaeda leaders threatening to kill Americans.

"Just like in the Cold War, the reality is that our nation is at war with an ideology and not a country," said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

Democrats, however, have called the commercial, which is reminiscent of Johnson's 1964 "Daisy" ad, a "desperate ploy to once again try to scare voters."

The advertisement, which is available on the Republican National Committee Web site, is scheduled to run on national news networks Sunday. Republicans are emphasizing national security and terrorism issues in their bid to maintain control of Congress with about two weeks before the November midterms.

The ad features al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, speaking, but the only sound is a ticking clock in the background. The terror leaders' quotes are posted on the screen and key phrases in the quotes stand alone as the rest of the quote fades out.

In one instance, bin Laden is quoted as saying, "With God's permission we call on everyone who believes in God ... to comply with His will to kill the Americans." As the text of the quote fades out, "kill the Americans" remains on the screen.
  Man Once Tortured By Al Qaeda Fights Enemy Combatant Status In U.S.October 21, 2006 11:18 Abdul Rahim insists he's an apolitical student who fled a strict father. But he's fallen into a black hole in the war on terror in which first the Taliban and then the United States imprisoned him as an enemy of the state.

Arrested by the Taliban in Afghanistan in January 2000, Rahim says Al Qaeda leaders burned him with cigarettes, smashed his right hand, deprived him of sleep, nearly drowned him and hanged him from the ceiling until he "confessed" to spying for the United States.

U.S. forces took the young Kurd from Syria into custody in January 2002 after the Taliban fled his prison. Accusing him of being an Al Qaeda terrorist, U.S. interrogators deprived him of sleep, threatened him with police dogs and kept him in stress positions for hours, he says. He's been held ever since as an enemy combatant.

Rahim's story is one of several emerging from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay as defense lawyers make bids to free their clients while the Bush administration tries to use a new law to lock them out of federal courts.
  US CENTCOM Email To Liberal BloggersOctober 21, 2006 11:13 An email sent by United States Central Command (CENTCOM) to bloggers about the "global war on terror" (GWOT) has been obtained by RAW STORY.

CENTCOM announced earlier this year that a team of employees would be "[engaging] bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information."

The email was not addressed to RAW STORY.

"The main interest is to drive their readers to our site," Maj. Richard J. McNorton, chief of CENTCOM "engagement operations" said in a March release.
  Government Targets American Bloggers As Enemy PropagandistsOctober 21, 2006 11:13 Recent scientific polls that show around 84% don't believe the government's explanation behind 9/11 and others confirming the fact that support for the war in Iraq is at an all time low have led the Bush administration to sharpen their knives against the new breed of perceived "enemy propagandists," bloggers, journalists and online activists who dissent against the "war on terror."

As Raw Story reports, CENTCOM announced earlier this year that a team of employees would be "[engaging] bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information."

So when you're wasting your time arguing the finer points of the collapse of Building 7 or the quagmire in Iraq with someone who seems unable to grasp basic principles, your foe could well be sat behind a plush U.S. government desk in a uniform.

CENTCOM is infiltrating blogs and message boards to ensure people, "have the opportunity to read positive stories,"presumably about how Iraq is a wonderful liberated democracy and the war on terror really is about protecting Americans.
  U.S. Confidence In War On Terror Falls To 31%October 18, 2006 09:23 Fewer Americans believe the global effort to fight terrorism is proceeding adequately, according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports. 31 per cent of respondents think the United States and its allies are winning the war on terror, down 13 points since July.

Conversely, 36 per cent of respondents believe the terrorists are winning the war on terror—up 10 points in three months—and 22 per cent believe neither side is ahead.

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 on Jun. 8.

Yesterday, Bush signed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 into law. The legislation prevents the United States from resorting to torture in order to get information from terrorist suspects, allows these suspects to be held indefinitely without being charged with a crime, and forbids them from challenging their confinement in U.S. courts.

Bush explained his rationale for the law, saying, "When I proposed this legislation, I explained that I would have one test for the bill Congress produced: Will it allow the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) program to continue? This bill meets that test. It allows for the clarity our intelligence professionals need to continue questioning terrorists and saving lives. This bill provides legal protections that ensure our military and intelligence personnel will not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists simply for doing their jobs."
  Bush Signs Terror Interrogation LawOctober 17, 2006 09:19 President Bush signed legislation Tuesday authorizing tough interrogation of terror suspects and smoothing the way for trials before military commissions, calling it a "vital tool" in the war against terrorism.

Bush's plan for treatment of the terror suspects became law just six weeks after he acknowledged that the CIA had been secretly interrogating suspected terrorists overseas and pressed Congress to quickly give authority to try them in military commissions.

"With the bill I'm about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice," Bush said.

A coalition of religious groups staged a protest against the bill outside the White House, shouting "Bush is the terrorist" and "Torture is a crime." About 15 of the protesters, standing in a light rain, refused orders to move. Police arrested them one by one.

 
  Bush Signing Terror Bill Into Law In Major Victory For White HouseOctober 17, 2006 08:49 The rappid passage and signing of this law is one of the greatest travesties of the modern era.

President George W. Bush is signing into law new standards expediting interrogation and prosecution of terror suspects, a bill the White House says strengthens his hand in a time of war.

Bush's plan becomes law just six weeks after he acknowledged that the CIA had been secretly interrogating suspected terrorists overseas and pressed Congress to quickly give authority to try them in military commissions.

The bill ready for signing would protect detainees from blatant abuses during questioning - such as rape, torture and "cruel and inhuman" treatment - but does not require that any of them be granted legal counsel. Also, it specifically bars detainees from filing habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions in federal courts.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said that after Bush signs the legislation Tuesday, the government will immediately begin moving toward the goal of prosecuting some of the high-value suspects being held at the U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He expected it would take a month or two to get "things moving toward a trial phase."

The swift implementation of the law is a rare bit of good news for Bush as casualties mount in Iraq in daily violence. Legislators are increasingly calling for a change of strategy and political anxieties are jeopardizing Republicans' chances of hanging onto control of Congress.
  Lawyer Faces Sentencing For Helping TerroristOctober 16, 2006 12:19 While Right-wing bloggers have already labeled Steward a traitor, something just doesn't feel right here...

Civil rights lawyer Lynn Stewart could find out today if she will serve up to 30 years in prison for enabling a former client and convicted terrorist to communicate with his followers, according to an AP report.

Stewart, 67, was convicted in 2005 of providing material support to terrorists after she passed along a 2000 press release in which her former client, Omar Abdel-Rahman expressed an opinion about a cease fire by Islamic militants in Egypt.

Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl to give Stewart get the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, calling the lawyer's conduct an "egregious, flagrant abuse of her profession, abuse that amounted to material support to a terrorist group..."

Stewart, who has pleaded for leniency, claimed that Abdel-Rahman had a constitutionally protected right to express his opinion, despite an order barring any contact between the blind, Egyptian sheik, and his followers.

In a letter to Koeltl, Stewart repudiated the prosecutors' claims, saying "The government's characterization of me and what occurred is inaccurate and untrue. It takes unfair advantage of the climate of urgency and hysteria that followed 9/11 and that was re-lived during the trial. I did not intentionally enter into any plot or conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization."
  US Military Shows FatigueOctober 05, 2006 23:42 Five years of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan have left signs of wear and tear on the U.S. military, raising questions about its ability to sustain its current level of operations and confront potential new crises.

The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, ordered following the Sept. 11 attacks, began on Oct. 7, 2001, thrusting the all-volunteer U.S. military into combat that has continued unabated there and, since March 2003, in Iraq.

Senior military officers, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, have warned of falling combat readiness of some units and mounting equipment shortfalls, with Abrams tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and other equipment battered from extended use on the battlefield.

Many troops are facing second and third long combat tours and less time between overseas deployments. At the same time, the U.S. death toll mounts, with more than 2,730 troops killed in Iraq and about 280 more in Afghanistan.

"We're in the early stages of some sort of crisis that, if not addressed, will result in breaking the force," said retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a military expert at Boston University. "You'd have to be remarkably naive to think that we're going to be able to continue to place this level of stress on the force for all that much longer."

 
  Border Fence Bill Weakened at Last Minute by GOPOctober 05, 2006 23:36 We don't agree with the fence, but this is just pure hypocrisy...

No sooner did Congress authorize construction of a 700-mile fence on the U.S.-Mexican border last week than lawmakers rushed to approve separate legislation that ensures it will never be built, at least not as advertised, according to Republican lawmakers and immigration experts.

GOP leaders have singled out the fence as one of the primary accomplishments of the recently completed session. Many lawmakers plan to highlight their $1.2 billion down payment on its construction as they campaign in the weeks before the midterm elections.

But shortly before recessing late Friday, the House and Senate gave the Bush administration leeway to distribute the money to a combination of projects – not just the physical barrier along the southern border. The funds may also be spent on roads, technology and "tactical infrastructure" to support the Homeland Security Department's preferred option of a "virtual fence."

What's more, in a late-night concession to win over wavering Republicans, GOP congressional leaders pledged in writing that Native American tribes, members of Congress, governors and local leaders would get a say in "the exact placement" of any structure, and that Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff would have the flexibility to use alternatives "when fencing is ineffective or impractical."

The loopholes leave the Bush administration with authority to decide where, when and how long a fence will be built, except for small stretches east of San Diego and in western Arizona. Homeland Security officials have proposed a fence half as long, lawmakers said.
  Rice Claims Didn't 'Brush Off' Terror WarningsOctober 03, 2006 22:59 In July 2001, then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice did have a meeting with CIA Director George Tenet about the threat posed by al Qaeda, but the information presented to her was not new, her spokesman said Monday.

A new book by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward says Tenet and Cofer Black, then the U.S. counterterrorism chief, demanded a snap meeting with Rice to warn her of a growing al Qaeda threat to U.S. interests and possibly the U.S. homeland. The meeting took place July 10, 2001, two months before al Qaeda suicide hijackers attacked New York and Washington, killing nearly 3,000 people.

According to Woodward's book, "State of Denial," Tenet and Black left the meeting with the sense that Rice had given them "the brush-off." And the meeting was never reported to the independent commission that investigated the attacks, Woodward writes.

Rice, now secretary of state, told reporters traveling with her Sunday that she did not remember any "so-called emergency meeting" and said any meeting records had been turned over to the 9/11 commission.

 
  Right-wing Media Twisted Clinton InterviewOctober 02, 2006 20:27 On Sept. 22, former President Bill Clinton appeared on “FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace.” During the show, Clinton was drawn into a debate with Wallace – the host of the show – over Clinton’s record on terrorism and his efforts to apprehend Osama bin Laden. The debate quickly turned heated as Clinton, who seemed upset and angry, attempted to defend his reputation and point out the truth about his campaign to fight al-Qaida and kill its leader.

News media and bloggers immediately focused in on Clinton’s outburst. Many were eager to point out it might have been planned as some sort of tactic to gain attention. Others jumped on the chance to criticize the former president, saying he had lost it or he might be unstable. There was also a focus on FOX’s response and how it would deal with the rash of unauthorized videos circulating the Internet.

There was one component of the interview most media failed to comment on: The actual content of the interview.

Few articles took into account the real issues: the focus of Clinton’s passionate debate with Wallace. Viewers of the interview saw the former president discuss his efforts to have bin Laden, whom Clinton knew was dangerous, killed. In the interview, he talked about his failed attempts to dismember the Taliban and how during those attempts many spoke out against him.

In the interview, Clinton said: “All of President Bush’s neo-cons thought I was too obsessed with bin Laden. They had no meetings on bin Laden for nine months after I left office. All the right-wingers who now say I didn’t do enough said I did too much.”

 
  Are You An 'Unlawful Combatant'?October 02, 2006 10:50 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 – (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."

It doesn't say "alien" or "terrorist," although it specifically includes members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It says "person" – any person, including American citizens.