Homeland Security

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  Too Bad: Bush Angered By Secret Bank Spying LeakJune 26, 2006 12:34 Bush said disclosure of the program "does great harm to the United States of America" and makes it harder to win the war on terror.

Bush said the program "was fully authorized under the law," and Congress had been briefed on it.

The program allows U.S. counter-terrorism analysts to obtain financial information from a huge database maintained by a company based in Belgium. It has been going on since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but was only disclosed last week by the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and New York Times.

New York Times editor Bill Keller responded to critics in an open letter last week. In part, the letter said:

"The press and the government generally start out from opposite corners in such cases. The government would like us to publish only the official line, and some of our elected leaders tend to view anything else as harmful to the national interest. For example, some members of the Administration have argued over the past three years that when our reporters describe sectarian violence and insurgency in Iraq, we risk demoralizing the nation and giving comfort to the enemy. Editors start from the premise that citizens can be entrusted with unpleasant and complicated news, and that the more they know the better they will be able to make their views known to their elected officials. Our default position — our job — is to publish information if we are convinced it is fair and accurate, and our biggest failures have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. After The Times played down its advance knowledge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy reportedly said he wished we had published what we knew and perhaps prevented a fiasco. Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat. The question we start with as journalists is not "why publish?" but "why would we withhold information of significance?" We have sometimes done so, holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so."

  Court Tells U.S. To Decide On Muslim Scholar VisaJune 23, 2006 21:46 A federal judge criticized the U.S. government on Friday for holding up a visa application from one of Europe's best-known Muslim intellectuals and ruled it must make a decision in the long-running case within three months.

U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty granted a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to force a decision on the visa request from renowned Swiss theologian Tariq Ramadan, who has been barred from U.S. entry since 2004 and has waited more than nine months for a response to his latest application.

"The government has failed to adjudicate Ramadan's pending B-visa application within a reasonable period of time," Crotty said.
  U.S. Mines Bank Data (Legally?) As Tool In Terror FightJune 23, 2006 21:44 WASHINGTON The White House on Friday vigorously defended a secret program of combing through a vast international database containing banking transactions involving thousands of Americans. Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials said the program, whose existence was revealed Friday in an article in The New York Times, was both legal and necessary to deter terrorism.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, in his first public remarks about the program, called it "government at its best." He told reporters that the operation was carefully controlled to trace only those transactions with an identifiable link to possible terrorist activity.

"There can't be any doubt about the fact that the program is an effective weapon, an effective weapon in the larger war on terror," he said. "It's for that reason that these disclosures of the particular sources and methods are so regrettable."
  U.S. Government Hams It Up While Terrorists PlotJune 21, 2006 10:34 So now the Kumbaya crowd is suspect. Here are some of the counterterrorism activities being watched by the U.S. government:
- An animal rights activist who protested in front of a Georgia store selling glazed hams.

- A Pittsburgh group operating a thrift store for low-income people as part of their social justice outreach.

-And a Washington-based group that has drawn thousands of praying nuns, priests, high school and college students to a U.S. Army base to criticize the military's influence in Latin countries.

Last year, this group - the School of the Americas Watch - held a Mass as part of their annual peaceful protest at Fort Benning, Ga.

Yeah, real subversive stuff here.

The records of the surveillance were released through Freedom of Information requests filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU has requested records of 150 groups and individuals in 20 states.

  Pure Rhetoric: Cheney Says America Is Winning War On TerrorJune 20, 2006 08:48 Vice President Cheney says America is winning the war on terror, and that a key sign of success is the fact that no terrorist attacks have been launched on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001.

Cheney says the success is due to two factors. First, the United States has acted aggressively to confront terrorists abroad - what he termed "taking the battle to the enemy overseas." But he also credited domestic efforts to make the United States less vulnerable to attack.

"The terrorist surveillance program has been very important," said Dick Cheney. "We have been engaged in a debate about the wisdom of the program and whether or not it is legal. It clearly is legal, we believe. The extraordinary measures we have taken to defend that nation at home are in no small part responsible for the fact that we have not been hit [attacked] again since 9/11."

Civil liberties groups and others have criticized the federal government's program to monitor domestic telephone calls for possible terrorist activity. The Bush administration has said such surveillance only occurs when at least one party in the phone conversation is believed to be a foreign terrorist operative.

  Iraq Death Toll Nears 2500June 15, 2006 12:33 The US military death toll in Iraq neared 2,500 Thursday, moving like a shadow behind President George W. Bush's efforts to gain momentum from last week's burst of good news from the war-torn country.

The Pentagon put the death toll as of Wednesday at 2,499 US service members, of whom 1,971 were killed in action.

"Each and every loss is felt hard by our nation, by the units from which those individuals come, and certainly mostly by their families," said Brigadier General Carter Ham, deputy director of the Joint Staff for regional operations.

"Rather than focus on an aggregate number, I think it is more important for us to remember that there are individuals in that aggregate number and those individuals are those to whom we should feel very, very grateful," he said.

  Privatizing The War On TerrorJune 15, 2006 04:24 The U.S. government has enlisted a large number of private companies to help soldiers, intelligence services, and police fight terrorism at home and around the world. Some experts say such contractors are crucial to the success of U.S. military operations, but critics argue some companies have made mistakes and need closer supervision.

The September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers killed about 3,000 people and sparked an emergency effort to find and deploy large numbers of people with the unique skills needed to find and fight terrorists.

The spokesman for a trade association of security contractors [the International Peace Operations Association] says it takes government bureaucracies a long time to hire people. Doug Brooks says that is why policy-makers turned to private companies to quickly handle a long list of urgent tasks.

"Any military, even the U.S. military, is limited in its resources and if you need a whole bunch of specialties in certain areas, you generally go to the private sector for that sort of thing," says Brooks.

  Pentagon To Disclose Interrogation TechniquesJune 14, 2006 12:55 In the face of growing criticism over the treatment of detainees, Pentagon officials have decided to make public all of the military's interrogation techniques.

The decision, which comes after months of internal debate and pressure from members of Congress, would reveal interrogation tactics in a long-awaited revision of the Army Field Manual, despite arguments that it could allow enemy prisoners to better resist questioning.

Defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision is not public yet, said Tuesday that the Pentagon had dropped plans to keep some interrogation techniques secret by putting them in a classified section of the military manual.

The two senior officials said there will not be a classified section in the manual. One of the officials said descriptions of interrogation techniques initially planned for the classified section are either being made public or are being eliminated as tactics that can be used against prisoners.

One human rights group hailed the decision as a welcome victory.

"I think this is huge - it's a very significant step toward creating the kind of clarity in the rules that military personnel have said that they lack, and that led to a lot of the abuses," said Elisa Massimino, Washington Director for Human Rights First.

Military leaders had argued that making all of the interrogation tactics public would allow enemy combatants to train and prepare for specific techniques.

  Data Theft Affected Most In MilitaryJune 07, 2006 05:34 In Ohio's 1st Congressional District, Republican incumbent Steve Chabot is running up against his toughest reelection challenge in years. But his Democratic opponent is running up against Chabot's computer.

In one of the lesser-known perks of power on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are using taxpayer-funded databases to cultivate constituents more attentively than ever. Chabot -- a six-term legislator from Cincinnati who finds himself imperiled this year after years of easy races -- has a list of e-mail addresses of people who are most interested in tax cuts. His office recently hit the send button on a personal message to alert them to the congressman's support for extending tax breaks on dividends and capital gains.