Homeland Security

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  50 State Wire Tap Poll ResultsFebruary 28, 2006 17:35 Survey USA, an apparently non-partisan survey company, conducted this amazing poll of Americans in all 50 states to assess support for the president's illegal wiretap authorization. Amazingly poor results for him.
  U.S. Will Pay $300,000 In 9/11 Detainee's LawsuitFebruary 28, 2006 15:38 The U.S. government has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by an Egyptian who was among dozens of Muslim men swept up in the New York area after Sept. 11, held for months in a detention center in Brooklyn, and deported after being cleared of links to terrorism.

The settlement, filed in federal court late on Monday, is the first the government has made in a number of lawsuits charging that noncitizens were abused and their constitutional rights violated in detentions after the terror attacks
  Dock Workers Slam Ports DealFebruary 28, 2006 15:36 Amid chants of "U-S-A," dockworkers, truck drivers and politicians made clear Monday that they don't want Port Newark run by a company controlled by the Arab emirate of Dubai.

"We wouldn't transfer the title to the devil, and we're not going to transfer it to Dubai!" U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg thundered to the crowd of longshoremen and Teamsters gathered at the port.

The rally came as the U.S. Senate released a Coast Guard report that said the agency couldn't tell whether Dubai Ports World was a security risk.

  Congress Pushes Ahead with Anti-UAE Ports LegislationFebruary 27, 2006 22:57 U.S. lawmakers pressed ahead with legislation on Monday to possibly block a state-owned Arab company from taking over key U.S. port operations, despite the the White House agreeing to a broader security review of the contested deal.

Bush, who earlier said no additional review was necessary, backs the acquisition and threatened last week to use his veto power if members of Congress sought to derail it. Lawmakers have expressed concerns that the takeover could make the United States more vulnerable to attack because militant Islamists could penetrate the Middle Eastern company and learn of U.S. port security measures.

  Maine Catholic Diocese Criticized For Allowing Pro-Abortion Pols To Lead EventFebruary 27, 2006 17:56 The Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine is coming under fire for allowing two pro-abortion politicians to sponsor a charity event at one of its churches. The diocese is defending the decision to permit to state representatives to organize the fundraiser.
Reps. Timothy Driscoll and Bob Duplessie helped put on a spaghetti dinner fundraiser Saturday night at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Westbrook. The dinner benefited Keep ME Warm, a program that helps provide funds for low-income families to have heat during the winter months.

Maine activist Paul Madore, director of the Maine Grassroots Coalition, and about a dozen supporters rallied Saturday at the diocesan offices in Portland.

  Govs. Press Bush On Nat'l Guard StrengthFebruary 27, 2006 17:54 President Bush thanked the nation's governors Monday for their support of National Guard troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as state leaders are warning Bush's budget plans will cut Guard strength and leave states less able to respond to homegrown emergencies.

The governors, attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, hoped for answers during a private meeting with Bush and a private lunch later with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"I can't thank you enough for not only supporting the troops in harm's way, but providing great comfort to the families as well," Bush told the governors before going into a private meeting to answer a few of their questions.

Governors are united in their stance that the administration shouldn't reduce spending for the Guard. Their meeting with Rumsfeld was sought to address those concerns.

  Coast Guard Warned Of Port Deal Intel GapsFebruary 27, 2006 00:00 Citing broad gaps in U.S. intelligence, the Coast Guard raised concerns weeks ago that it could not determine whether a United Arab Emirates-based company seeking a stake in some U.S. port operations might support terrorist operations.

The disclosure came during a hearing Monday on Dubai-owned DP World's plans to assume significant operations at six leading U.S. ports. It also clouded whether the Bush administration's agreement to conduct an unusual investigation into the pending takeover's security risks would allay lawmakers' concerns.

  U.S. Cedes To Halliburton On CostsFebruary 26, 2006 00:00 The U.S. Army has decided to reimburse a Halliburton subsidiary for nearly all of its costs on a disputed $2.41 billion no-bid contract to deliver fuel and repair oil equipment in Iraq, even though the Pentagon's own auditors had identified more than $250 million in charges as potentially excessive or unjustified.

The army said in response to questions on Friday that the subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, had used questionable business practices in some instances and fallen short in its performance in others. But in the haste and peril of war, the army said, the company had largely done as well as could be expected. Aside from a few penalties, it said, the costs and additional fees would be paid in full.

The Pentagon's Defense Contract Audit Agency had questioned $263 million in costs for fuel deliveries, pipeline repairs and other tasks that auditors said had been potentially inflated or unsupported by documentation. But the army decided to pay all but $10.1 million of those contested costs, which were mostly for trucking fuel from Kuwait and Turkey.
  Senate Democrat Chastises Bush On Al Qaeda SpeechFebruary 24, 2006 17:49 President George W. Bush's disclosure of detailed intelligence about a thwarted al Qaeda plot to attack Los Angeles could prove damaging for U.S. national security, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said in a letter released on Thursday.

In a Feb. 17 letter to U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte, Sen. John Rockefeller of West Virginia echoed a warning from CIA Director Porter Goss that revelations about intelligence successes or failures against al Qaeda can aid America's militant enemies.

"Why then did the president and the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism describe in great detail the information about this plot contained in a highly classified October 2004 CIA document?" Rockefeller wrote.

  FBI Objected To Aggressive Methods At GuantanamoFebruary 24, 2006 17:34 FBI officials who were interrogating terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2002 and 2003 strenuously objected to aggressive techniques the military was using and believed they could be illegal, according to newly released FBI memos.

The agents wrote in memos and emails that they were at odds with interrogators working for a Defence Intelligence Agency human intelligence (Humint) group and with guidance from senior Pentagon officials.

  Conservative Misinformation AboundsFebruary 24, 2006 17:27 This article is another example of the Conservative and Republican misinformation on the issue of illegal wiretapping. No one on either side says that the US can't monitor calls coming into the country from outside the country. What the White House has done is to say that anyone who receives calls from outside the US is elligible to have wiretaps placed on their phones to montor calls WITHIN the US. In these cases the FISA court would be glad to grant warrants in a heartbeat... as it should! What we protest is the authorization of these wiretaps without court or legislative oversight. If the 'terrorists' have us so scared that we're willing to abandon the balance of powers to protect our civil liberties, then they have won already.

Sadly, I think the Bush team knows this.

  98 Prisoners Have Died In US Custody In Terror WarFebruary 22, 2006 20:39 NEARLY 100 prisoners have died in United States' custody in the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, it was reported last night.

The BBC2 Newsnight programme said the figures were obtained from the Pentagon by an organisation called Human Rights First.

The programme said the figures show there have been 98 deaths in US custody. At least 34 of them are "suspected or confirmed homicides" - "that means caused by intentional or reckless behaviour", the report said.

The report claims that 11 more are deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12 prisoners were tortured to death.

  When The Trust Is GoneFebruary 22, 2006 20:38 With President Bush's credibility damaged and his political clout eroded, maybe it was just a matter of time before "trust me" didn't hack it anymore -- even with his most loyal supporters in Congress.

Today, Bush faces a significant political test ever over a sleeper issue -- the long-proposed turning over of operations at several U.S. ports to a company owned by an Arab country.

Suddenly, it's Bush who is on the receiving end of scathing critiques that he is weak on terror and oblivious to post-9/11 realities.

  Bush Veto Threat Keeps Port Controversy BubblingFebruary 22, 2006 15:57 Lawmakers determined to capsize the pending sale of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports to a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates said President Bush's surprise veto threat won't deter them.

Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House that the $6.8 billion sale could raise risks of terrorism at American ports. In a forceful defense of his administration's earlier approval of the deal, he pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.

The sale's harshest critics were not appeased.

'I will fight harder than ever for this legislation, and if it is vetoed I will fight as hard as I can to override it,' said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. King and Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said they will introduce emergency legislation to suspend the ports deal.

  White House Working To Avoid Wiretap ProbeFebruary 20, 2006 05:35 At two key moments in recent days, White House officials contacted congressional leaders just ahead of intelligence committee meetings that could have stirred demands for a deeper review of the administration's warrantless-surveillance program, according to House and Senate sources.

In both cases, the administration was spared the outcome it most feared, and it won praise in some circles for showing more openness to congressional oversight.

But the actions have angered some lawmakers who think the administration's purported concessions mean little.

  US Port Takeover Plan By Arab Company has Inadequate SecurityFebruary 19, 2006 17:22 U.S. terms for approving an Arab company's takeover of operations at six major American ports are insufficient to guard against terrorist infiltration, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Sunday.
"I'm aware of the conditions and they relate entirely to how the company carries out its procedures, but it doesn't go to who they hire, or how they hire people," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told The Associated Press.
"They're better than nothing, but to me they don't address the underlying conditions, which is how are they going to guard against things like infiltration by al-Qaida or someone else, how are they going to guard against corruption?" King said.
  Senator Wants Court To Oversee Spy ProgramFebruary 18, 2006 17:27 The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, breaking ranks with the president on domestic eavesdropping, says he wants a special court to oversee the program.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he is concerned that the secret court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could not issue warrants as quickly as the monitoring program requires. But he is optimistic that the problem could be worked out

  Patriot Act Moves Ahead Despite OppositionFebruary 17, 2006 19:47 The USA Patriot Act is headed toward renewal with broad Senate support for a White House-brokered compromise that adds modest new civil liberties protections to the terror-fighting law.

"The outcome here is absolutely predetermined," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said late Wednesday. "It's going to pass with overwhelming support."

With even senior Democrats lining up behind the measure, its lone opponent, Sen. Russell Feingold, was preparing amendments he said would strengthen its curbs on government power. Congress is racing to renew 16 provisions of the law that are set to expire March 10.

  Senate Panel Won'T Investigate NSAFebruary 17, 2006 15:53 The Bush administration Thursday won two apparent victories and suffered one setback on key parts of its national security policy: a warrantless-eavesdropping program and extending the Patriot Act.

Aides to President Bush appeared to have derailed a bid by Senate Democrats for an investigation of a controversial program in which the National Security Agency (NSA) has monitored perhaps thousands of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents and foreign parties without obtaining warrants from a secret court that handles such matters.

But there was one setback to the administration's efforts to keep tight wraps on the NSA operation. A federal judge ordered the Justice Department to turn over its internal documents and legal opinions about the program within 20 days, or explain its reasons for refusing.

  American Chronicle: Judge Orders Spying Documents ReleasedFebruary 17, 2006 00:00 A federal judge ordered the Bush administration on Thursday to release documents about its warrantless surveillance program or spell out what it is withholding, a setback to efforts to keep the program under wraps.

At the same time, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he had worked out an agreement with the White House to consider legislation and provide more information to Congress on the eavesdropping program. The panel's top Democrat, who has requested a full-scale investigation, immediately objected to what he called an abdication of the committee's responsibilities.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy ruled that a private group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, will suffer irreparable harm if the documents it has been seeking since December are not processed promptly under the Freedom of Information Act. He gave the Justice Department 20 days to respond to the group's request.

  Feingold Filibusters, Delaying Passage Of Patriot ActFebruary 16, 2006 16:44 We applaud Senator Russ Feingold for attempting to fillibuster the Patriot Act.

Saying "too many Democrats have folded" on the issue, Sen. Russ Feingold launched a filibuster Wednesday against a plan to renew the USA Patriot Act, pushing its final approval off to early March.

"What we are seeing is quite simply a capitulation to the intransigent and misleading rhetoric of a White House that sees any effort to protect civil liberties as a sign of weakness," Feingold, D-Wis., said on the Senate floor.
Feingold was the only senator to vote against the act in 2001. But other lawmakers later joined him in criticizing the law and calling for curbs on the government's new police powers. Late last year, four Republicans joined Feingold and every other Democrat in the Senate in blocking renewal of the bill, saying it didn't do enough to protect civil liberties.

  "The New" Budget Of George BushFebruary 16, 2006 16:24 This Bolivian-American columnist claims that 51% of the $2.7 trillion dollar Bush budget is allocated for security and defence. It does beg the question... how is it possible that 51% of our tax dollars are being spent on defense when we're not really even at war??? It's scary if this % is truly greater than the % of the budget spent on defense during WWII or VietNam.
  Billions Wasted In Iraq?February 16, 2006 16:22 The United States has spent more than a quarter of a trillion dollars during its three years in Iraq, and more than $50 billion of it has gone to private contractors hired to guard bases, drive trucks, feed and shelter the troops and rebuild the country.

It is dangerous work, but much of the $50 billion, which is more than the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security, has been handed out to companies in Iraq with little or no oversight.

Billions of dollars are unaccounted for, and there are widespread allegations of waste, fraud and war profiteering. So far only one case, the subject of a civil lawsuit that goes to trial this week, has been unsealed. It involves a company called Custer Battles, and as 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft reports, the lawsuit provides a window into the chaos of those early days in Iraq.

  Civil Liberties Fear As Us Terror Suspect List Rises To 325,000February 16, 2006 16:17 Civil liberties organisations expressed outrage yesterday after it was reported that the database of terrorist suspects kept by the US authorities now holds 325,000 names, a fourfold increase in two and a half years.
The list, maintained by the National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC), includes different spellings of the same person's names as well as aliases, but the Washington Post quoted NCTC officials as saying that at least 200,000 individuals are on it. They said that "only a very, very small fraction" of that number were US citizens, but that insistence did little to defuse the reaction.
  Special Ops Getting More Authority In USFebruary 15, 2006 16:48 Convinced that the Joint Special Operations Command needs more authority and responsibility to fight the war on terrorism, the Pentagon has decided to give the commander of the secretive and expanded organization a third star -- a tangible step toward increasing the role of special operations as called for in the Quadrennial Defense Review and other Defense Department plans.

Two wonderful articles this week -- one in the Tampa Tribune by Richard Lardner and the other in Air Force Times by Sean Naylor -- discuss the growth in special operations. They report that an outside review has confirmed the need to give more authority to special operations commands, giving senior special operations officers additional stars and the clout those stars confer.

  Katrina Report Criticizes Top OfficialsFebruary 13, 2006 15:36 The leading Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee says new details about the federal response to Hurricane Katrina should outrage President Bush and spur an immediate improvement in disaster response.

"Next time, God forbid, it could be a terrorist attack. And there's not going to be a warning from the Weather Service," Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Sunday on CNN's Late Edition.

An investigation by a special House panel, due for release Wednesday, accuses top Bush administration officials of ignoring warnings of the storm's severity, according to excerpts released from the report and a summary obtained by the Associated Press. The investigation found "fecklessness, flailing and organizational paralysis" throughout the government, from the White House down to the New Orleans mayor's office, according to the summary.

  Chertoff To Overhaul FemaFebruary 13, 2006 15:34 Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is announcing wide-ranging changes to the nation s embattled disaster-response agency on the heels of a House report blaming government-wide ineptitude for mishandling Hurricane Katrina relief.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency reforms that Chertoff was unveiling Monday range from a full-time response force of 1,500 new employees to establishing a more reliable system to report on disasters as they unfold. They are the first steps to overhauling FEMA, which was overwhelmed by the Aug. 29 Gulf Coast storm.

Ironically, Chertoff is the target of many of the panel's 90 criticisms of the government response to Katrina.

  Draft Dodger Bush Bronze Bust?February 10, 2006 00:00 The White House today stated that the president would be on the road again promoting his domestic spying and stealth governing programs. The tour will likely be a repeat of his previously successful venues. The president will be taking along a bronze bust for public display which he received yesterday as appreciation for his service in the Texas Air National Guard. The National Guard stated that if the president had actually completed his tour they may have seen fit to commission an entire statue, but the president was reportedly happy with the bust alone.
  White House Misused Iraq Intelligence -Ex-OfficialFebruary 10, 2006 00:00 A former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East during the Iraq invasion accused the White House of misusing prewar intelligence to justify its case for war.

Paul Pillar, who was national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, also said the Senate intelligence committee and a presidential commission overlooked evidence that the Bush administration politicized the intelligence process to support White House policymakers.

"Official intelligence on Iraqi weapons programs was flawed but even with its flaws, it was not what led to the war," Pillar said in an article written for the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs and posted on the magazine's Web site on Friday.

  Scope Of Los Angeles Terror Plot Remains MurkyFebruary 10, 2006 00:00 On Thursday, President Bush revealed some new details of what he described as a terrorist plot against a target in California. But, it is still not clear how far the plotters got, and how serious the plot was.

As outlined by President Bush, al-Qaida hatched a plan to follow up the attacks of September 11th, 2001 with a similar attack on Los Angeles. He said that in 2002 officials foiled a plan by terrorists to fly a hijacked plane into what was then called the Library Tower, now known as the U.S. Bank Tower.

"We now know that in October 2001, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11th attacks, had already set in motion a plan to have terrorist operatives hijack an airplane using shoe bombs to breach the cockpit door and fly the plane into the tallest building on the West Coast," he said.

  Guantanamo Strikers 'Restrained'February 09, 2006 19:53 Hunger striking Guantanamo Bay detainees are being strapped to chairs for hours to force-feed them through tubes, the New York Times has reported.
The tough treatment started after it was determined that the prisoners were trying to die, unnamed sources said.

Since December there has been a drop in the number of protesters from 84 to 4, spokesman Lt Col Jeremy M Martin said.

  White House Gives Details On SurveillanceFebruary 09, 2006 19:01 Reversing course, the White House has agreed to brief congressional intelligence committees on highly classified details of President Bush's controversial monitoring program as part of a newfound openness with lawmakers.

Senior Bush administration officials spent weeks insisting they would not provide the program's details to more than a select group of eight lawmakers. Briefing the full intelligence committees, Vice President Dick Cheney said in a recent PBS interview, is "not a good way to keep a secret."

But the administration changed direction, offering new operational details to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. A comparable Senate briefing was scheduled for Thursday.

  Is CIA Leak Probe A 'Witch Hunt'?February 07, 2006 18:41 The director of the CIA has launched a major internal probe into media leaks about covert operations. In an agencywide e-mail, Porter Goss blamed "a very small number of people" for leaks about secret CIA operations that, in his words, "do damage to the credibility of the agency."

According to people familiar with the Goss e-mail, sent in late January and classified secret, the CIA director warned that any CIA officer deemed suspect by the agency's Office of Security and its Counter Intelligence Center (which handles internal affairs) could be subjected to an unscheduled lie detector test. CIA personnel are subjected to polygraphs at regular intervals in their careers, but one former intelligence officer called the new warning a "witch hunt." Others said Goss' e-mail was narrowly focused and did not suggest agencywide, random lie detector tests.

  20-Year Pentagon PlanFebruary 06, 2006 17:56 The Pentagon has laid out a new 20-year military strategy for US troops to be deployed, often clandestinely, in dozens of countries at once to fight terrorism and other non-traditional threats.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the initiative includes a 15 per cent boost in the number of Special Operations Forces, a near-doubling of the capacity of unmanned aerial drones to gather intelligence, a $US1.5 billion ($2 billion) investment in counter-biological warfare, and the creation of special teams to find, track and defuse nuclear bombs and other catastrophic weapons.

China was singled out as having "the greatest potential to compete militarily" with the US, and the strategy calls for a new US air force long-range strike force and the building of undersea warfare capabilities.

  Gonzales Faces Skeptical Questions About Spy ProgramFebruary 06, 2006 17:56 U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was defending President Bush's controversial domestic spying program Monday in testimony at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

"The terrorist surveillance program is necessary, it is lawful and it respects the civil liberties we all cherish," Gonzales said.

Gonzales, who likened the program to "a series of radar outposts designed to detect enemy movements" called the program "an early warning system designed for the 21st century."

  Bush Proposes Record $439.3 Billion US Defense BudgetFebruary 06, 2006 17:51 U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday proposed a record $439.3 billion U.S. defense budget for 2007 aimed at fighting both unconventional terrorism and major conflicts with other nations if necessary.

The Pentagon budget represented a 4.8 percent boost over current military spending as Bush seeks cuts in domestic programs. The budget does not include tens of billions of dollars in proposed new financing for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  The 'Freedom' My Son Died ForFebruary 06, 2006 00:00 I was arrested in the U.S. Capitol minutes before the State of the Union address last week for wearing a T-shirt that pointed out how many Americans, like my son, Casey, have been killed in Iraq. The T-shirt simply said: "2,245 Dead. How Many More?"

During the address, President Bush uttered the word "freedom" 17 times, saying that was what our troops were fighting in Iraq to defend. At a minimum, you'd think we would all have the freedom to express ourselves through slogans on a T-shirt. Is this what my son died for? Is this theft of our precious freedom of speech the "noble cause" that Bush told us our soldiers are fighting for?

Sure, I'm outspoken and don't shy away from protesting. But that wasn't my plan. Before the speech, I had been given a ticket by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., who has worked to press Congress to bring the troops home.

  Bush to Spend More on MilitaryFebruary 04, 2006 05:58 President George W. Bush's 2007 budget seeks a nearly 5 percent increase in Defense Department spending, to US$439.3 billion, with significantly more money for fighter jets, ships and Army weapons programs, according to senior Pentagon officials and documents obtained by AP.

The budget figures, to be unveiled next week, come as the Pentagon prepares to release a separate long-range strategy to reshape the military into a more agile fighting force better able to fight terrorism, while still preserving its ability to wage large conventional wars.

More than a year in the making and scheduled to be released yesterday, the strategy review represents the broader thinking that guides how the dollars are spent. It does not call for the elimination of any of the largest weapons programs, as some had expected.

Instead, it proposes cutting some smaller programs such as the E-10 surveillance plane, reducing the size of the Air Force, overhauling the Army National Guard and increasing the number of special operations forces like the Green Berets, whose role in the global war on terrorism is rapidly expanding.

  'Beyond Tasteless' Cartoon Upsets US MilitaryFebruary 02, 2006 19:32 It is a protest with high-level signatures: the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and of its five members have fired off a letter assailing The Washington Post for a cartoon branded "beyond tasteless".

The Tom Toles cartoon was published on Sunday, and depicts a heavily bandaged soldier in a hospital bed, having lost his arms and legs. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in the guise of a doctor, says: "I'm listing your condition as 'battle-hardened'."

Toles said he meant no offence to American soldiers.