Homeland Security

  'Peace Mom' Becomes Bush'S NeighborJuly 28, 2006 09:35 War protesters will have a new and bigger gathering place when they return in August to President Bush's adopted hometown: a 5-acre lot bought with insurance money Cindy Sheehan received after her son was killed in Iraq.

Gerry Fonseca, a fellow war protester who acted as Sheehan's agent, said he recently bought the vacant lot about a mile from downtown Crawford -- and about 7 miles from Bush's ranch -- for $52,500. About half the land is pasture, and the other half is woods, he said.

"If Cindy Sheehan came to town, I don't think anybody would have sold her any property," Fonseca, of Eagle Rock, Missouri, said Thursday.

Sheehan, of Berkeley, California, reinvigorated the anti-war movement last summer with her peace vigil, which started in ditches off the road to Bush's ranch. As it grew, the group also set up its protests on a private, 1-acre lot closer to the ranch.
  Police Spies Chosen To Lead War ProtestJuly 28, 2006 09:31 Two Oakland police officers working undercover at an anti-war protest in May 2003 got themselves elected to leadership positions in an effort to influence the demonstration, documents released Thursday show.

The department assigned the officers to join activists protesting the U.S. war in Iraq and the tactics that police had used at a demonstration a month earlier, a police official said last year in a sworn deposition.

At the first demonstration, police fired nonlethal bullets and bean bags at demonstrators who blocked the Port of Oakland's entrance in a protest against two shipping companies they said were helping the war effort. Dozens of activists and longshoremen on their way to work suffered injuries ranging from welts to broken bones and have won nearly $2 million in legal settlements from the city.

The extent of the officers' involvement in the subsequent march May 12, 2003, led by Direct Action to Stop the War and others, is unclear. But in a deposition related to a lawsuit filed by protesters, Deputy Police Chief Howard Jordan said activists had elected the undercover officers to "plan the route of the march and decide, I guess, where it would end up and some of the places that it would go."
  Bush Administration Pushes Updated Law On Foreign WiretapsJuly 26, 2006 14:22 As debate continues over the legality of President Bush's domestic spying program, the administration pressed Congress Wednesday to ease Internet age surveillance restrictions.
Technological advances and a shift in adversaries from Cold War rivals to terrorists mean the 1978 law covering such monitoring — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — is now behind the times, CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As part of a deal with Bush to submit his warrantless wiretapping program for court review, the Republican-controlled committee is considering updating the FISA law. The administration monitors international calls and e-mails of Americans if terrorism is suspected.

For starters, the existing law covers telephone and e-mail traffic that are routed through the United States, but which begin and end overseas.

"Congress did not anticipate the technological revolution that would bring us global high-speed fiber-optic networks, the Internet, e-mail and disposable cellphones," said Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury.

But tinkering with the law brings into play the larger question of whether the administration is violating constitutional protections against illegal searches by permitting electronic spying in the United States without a judge-approved search warrant.

  Sales Of Us Military Gear 'Pose Terror Risk'July 26, 2006 11:39 Investigators using false identities were able to obtain more than $1m of sensitive military equipment from the US department of defence, according to a government report released on Tuesday.

The equipment included body armour, launcher mounts for shoulder-fired guided missiles, components for F-14 fighter aircraft, biochemical weapons protection suits, guided missile radar test sets and various sensitive surveillance technologies. Many of those items have applications that could be "useful to terrorists", the report from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) says.

  Dod Not Tracking Terror War Costs: GAOJuly 25, 2006 09:07 The Pentagon has not reported the real costs of America`s Global War on Terror, a new GAO report said.

As a result, the U.S. Congress can not reliably know the current or future cost of the Global War on Terror, or GWOT, due to concerns over the Department of Defense`s expense reporting, the Government Accountability Office study concluded.

The GAO report was part of the testimony at a July 18 hearing in the Government Reform subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on the accuracy and reliability of cost estimates for the Global War on Terrorism.

Prior GAO studies have found problems with DOD recording and reporting of GWOT costs, including inadequate supporting documentation for expenses and deficiencies and gaps in cost reporting.

No government agency besides the DOD formally tracks GWOT costs, making accurate DOD expense data crucial to Congress` ability to efficiently deliver funding and decisions to combat terrorism.
  Tactics Of War On Terror To Occupy CongressJuly 24, 2006 10:24 After months of inaction, Congress is poised this week to move on two tough issues in the war on terror: warrantless surveillance of Americans and the treatment of detainees.
How these matters are resolved could rein in the power of a wartime president, reversing half a century of retreat on the part of Congress - or not.

Both cut across party lines and between House and Senate. But, for now, the most immediate battle is how open the resolution of these issues will be to the public.

More than seven months after the leak of a top-secret warrantless surveillance program, the House and Senate are both pressing to get the program right with the law.

A Senate plan - personally negotiated with Vice President Cheney and President Bush by Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania - would let a secret court rule on the program's constitutionality. Under the plan, the public would not learn more about the scope of the current surveillance or the court's reasons for supporting or revising it.

A House version - introduced last week by Rep. Heather Wilson (R) of New Mexico and supported by the chairman of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees - would rewrite the rules for domestic surveillance in public.

  Bush Blocks Domestic Spying ProbeJuly 21, 2006 08:57 US President George Bush has used his presidential powers to block a probe into the controversial domestic spying programs, drawing immediate rebuke from critics and lawmakers, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, July 19.

"The president decided that protecting the secrecy and security of the program requires that a strict limit be placed on the number of persons granted access to information about the program for non-operational reasons," Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal affairs office at Justice, was forced to abandon its investigation into the role Justice officials played in authorizing and monitoring National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program after being denied the necessary security clearance.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Bush secretly authorized the super-secret NSA to intercept communications without the court approval requited under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

He has defended the program, claiming it was limited only to monitoring international phone and e-mail communications linked to people with connections to Al-Qaeda.

But The New York Times later disclosed that the NSA has "directly" tapped the country’s main communications systems without court-approved warrants.

It further revealed that James Comey, a deputy to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, had concerns about the legality of the program.

  Bush Blocked NSA ProbeJuly 19, 2006 22:58 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said today that President Bush personally blocked Justice Department lawyers from pursuing an internal probe of the warrantless eavesdropping program that monitors Americans' international calls and e-mails when terrorism is suspected.

The department's Office of Professional Responsibility announced earlier this year it could not pursue an investigation into the role of Justice lawyers in crafting the program, under which the National Security Agency intercepts some telephone calls and e-mail without court approval.

At the time, the office said it could not obtain security clearance to examine the classified program.

Under sharp questioning from Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, Gonzales said that Bush would not grant the access needed to allow the probe to move forward.

"It was highly classified, very important and many other lawyers had access. Why not OPR?" asked Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican.

"The president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales told the committee hearing, during which he was strongly criticized on a range of national security issues by Specter and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the panel's senior Democrat.
  Bush Will Submit Spy Programme For ReviewJuly 14, 2006 12:38 President George W. Bush has agreed to subject to judicial review his controversial National Security Agency domestic spying programme, in the White House's second recent big policy reversal.

Arlen Specter, the Republican chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, on Thursday said he had reached a compromise with the White House to submit the NSA programme – which allows warrantless eavesdropping of the international communications of Americans with suspected links to terrorists – to scrutiny by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
  Former CIA Officer Sues Cheney Over LeakJuly 13, 2006 21:40 The CIA officer whose identity was leaked to reporters sued Vice President Dick Cheney, his former top aide and presidential adviser Karl Rove on Thursday, accusing them and other White House officials of conspiring to destroy her career.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Valerie Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, a former U.S. ambassador, accused Cheney, Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby of participating in a "whispering campaign" to reveal Plame's CIA identity and punish Wilson for criticizing the Bush administration's motives in Iraq.

Several news organizations wrote about Plame after syndicated columnist Robert Novak named her in a column on July 14, 2003. Novak's column appeared eight days after Wilson alleged in an opinion piece in The New York Times that the administration had twisted prewar intelligence on Iraq to justify going to war.

The CIA had sent Wilson to Niger in early 2002 to determine whether there was any truth to reports that Saddam Hussein's government had tried to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger to make a nuclear weapon. Wilson discounted the reports, but the allegation nevertheless wound up in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union address.
  U.S. Military Suffers Equipment & Base ShortfallsJuly 12, 2006 10:02 For the last quarter of 2006 United States Army bases stateside face a funding deficit of $530 million while troops active in Iraq and Afghanistan will not see the promised replacement levels of military equipment previously committed. Additionally, payroll for active-duty troops is short $1.4 billion while the Army Reserve and National Guard face a $500 million deficiency.

The Installation Management Agency is responsible for overseeing the funding for 117 Army posts in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Garrisons of the posts administer the services the post receives such as mail delivery, garbage removal and firefighting while contracting services for dining halls and grounds maintenance. In order for many services to be provided, both temporary and term personnel are sub-contracted by the garrisons. However, in early June 2006, Installation Commander, Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy, mandated major cuts in services on all Army bases at least until September 30, 2006, when the 2006 fiscal year ends.

The reduction in services includes a 100% civilian hiring freeze; the release of temporary and term employees as quickly as possible unless vital for the support of life, health, safety and the Global War On Terrorism; development of spending plans by commanders for Fiscal Year 2007 based upon such reduced services; cancelling or reducing contracts until October 1, 2006. Garrisons have also reduced vehicle usage by as much as 20%, and cut cell phone and paging services.
  White House Hid 'Major' Intelligence Operation: Us LawmakerJuly 10, 2006 12:21 The Bush administration concealed at least one "major" intelligence operation from Congress in possible violation of the law and briefed lawmakers only after they learned about it from independent sources, a ranking member of Congress said.

The charge by Republican Representative Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, calls into question repeated assurances by President George W. Bush and his top aides that they strictly comply with requirements to keep the legislative branch informed.

The lawmaker's comments also follow allegations the administration may have acted illegally by authorizing wiretaps on American citizens in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks without requisite court warrants.

  Witch Hunt at the CIA?July 10, 2006 11:02 A high-ranking Republican lawmaker, in a public letter has exposed what he sees as a dissident faction within the CIA that he says "intentionally undermined" the policies of President George W. Bush.

Rumors about the existence of such a group have circulated in the US capital for a long time, but the comments by Representative Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, mark the first time they were confirmed by an official with intimate knowledge of the intelligence community.

"In fact, I have been long concerned that a strong and well-positioned group within the agency intentionally undermined the administration and its policies," Hoekstra wrote in a letter to Bush dated May 18.

The CIA declined to comment on the charge when queried by AFP.

The document has been obtained by The New York Times and posted on its website in its entirety. Hoekstra confirmed its authenticity in a television interview Sunday, but did not elaborate on his concerns.
  CIA Closes Unit Devoted To Tracking Bin LadenJuly 05, 2006 10:37 Media reports in the United States say the Central Intelligence Agency has
closed a unit that was devoted to tracking international terrorist leader
Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants.

The New York Times Tuesday published a report quoting officials who confirmed
that the unit was disbanded last year, and that its analysts were reassigned
within the agency's counterterrorism center.

Initial news of the unit's closure was reported on National Public Radio
  Spy Agency Sought U.S. Call Records Before 9/11July 03, 2006 09:33 The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

The allegation is part of a court filing adding AT&T, the nation's largest telephone company, as a defendant in a breach of privacy case filed earlier this month on behalf of Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. customers. The suit alleges that the three carriers, the NSA and President George W. Bush violated the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and the U.S. Constitution, and seeks money damages.

``The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11,'' plaintiff's lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. ``This undermines that assertion.''

The lawsuit is related to an alleged NSA program to record and store data on calls placed by subscribers. More than 30 suits have been filed over claims that the carriers, the three biggest U.S. telephone companies, violated the privacy rights of their customers by cooperating with the NSA in an effort to track alleged terrorists.
  A War On The Press Amid The War On TerrorJuly 01, 2006 05:32 The disclosure by The New York Times and other major papers that the Bush administration has been monitoring the financial transactions of suspected terrorists perhaps should have come as no surprise.

US President George W. Bush himself, speaking on September 24, 2001, had asserted that would happen: "We're putting banks and financial institutions around the world on notice, we will work with their governments and ask them to freeze or block terrorist ability to access funds in foreign accounts."

But in choosing to reveal specifics of the monitoring effort, called the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme, the Times in particular has come in for an unusual level of vitriol from top officials in the Bush White House, their allies in Congress and the corps of conservative commentators.