Tuesday, 07 August 2007

THE BAGHDAD LIARIST

Ken Berwitz

In late July (July 20th and 24th to be exact) I blogged about Scott Thomas, the so-called "Baghdad Diarist" who claimed to be a soldier in Iraq and whose reports, published gleefully by the New Republic, were challenged by military people.  They pointed out significant discrepancies which seemed to put his claims into serious question - even for a non-military guy like me. 

(As a matter of disclosure, I enlisted in the air force in 1963, but they did not take me because of a physical condition that, at the time - and even now - I consider a ridiculous basis for rejection).

One of the issues regarding the New Republic's reporting was whether there, in fact, was any such person.  It turned out that there was;  his full name is Scott Thomas Beauchamp.

His existence is the good news for The New Republic.  The bad news is that he apparently lied and exaggerated throughout his reports. 

Here are the particulars from American Spectator which, unlike mainstream media, considered them important enough to expose.  As usual, the bold print is mine:.

Beauchamp Recants

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned from a military source close to the investigation that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp--author of the much-disputed "Shock Troops" article in the New Republic's July 23 issue as well as two previous "Baghdad Diarist" columns--signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods--fabrications containing only "a smidgen of truth," in the words of our source.

Separately, we received this statement from Major Steven F. Lamb, the deputy Public Affairs Officer for Multi National Division-Baghdad:

An investigation has been completed and the allegations made by PVT Beauchamp were found to be false. His platoon and company were interviewed and no one could substantiate the claims.

According to the military source, Beauchamp's recantation was volunteered on the first day of the military's investigation. So as Beauchamp was in Iraq signing an affidavit denying the truth of his stories, the New Republic was publishing a statement from him on its website on July 26, in which Beauchamp said, "I'm willing to stand by the entirety of my articles for the New Republic using my real name."

The magazine's editors admitted on August 2 that one of the anecdotes Beauchamp stood by in its entirety--meant to illustrate the "morally and emotionally distorting effects of war"--took place (if at all) in Kuwait, before his tour of duty in Iraq began, and not, as he had claimed, in his mess hall in Iraq. That event was the public humiliation by Beauchamp and a comrade of a woman whose face had been "melted" by an IED.

Nothing public has been heard from Beauchamp since his statement standing by his stories, which was posted on the New Republic website at 6:30 a.m. on July 26. In their August 2 statement, the New Republic's editors complained that the military investigation was "short-circuiting" TNR's own fact-checking efforts. "Beauchamp," they said, "had his cell-phone and computer taken away and is currently unable to speak to even his family. His fellow soldiers no longer feel comfortable communicating with reporters. If further substantive information comes to light, TNR will, of course, share it with you."

Now that the military investigation has concluded, the great unanswered question in the affair is this: Did Scott Thomas Beauchamp lie under oath to U.S. Army investigators, or did he lie to his editors at the New Republic? Beauchamp has recanted under oath. Does the New Republic still stand by his stories?
  .

I wonder if The New Republic will retract and apologize for Scott Thomas Beauchamp's three BS reports from Iraq.  I suspect they may.

I don't wonder if mainstream media will bury this scandal.  I know better than to wonder about that.


MARIJUANA AND LUNG DAMAGE

Ken Berwitz

I've always wondered how come the people who want to legalize marijuana/pot/cannibas/a joint/a toke/a bunch of other synonyms, have gotten a free pass on the fact that the drug is smoked. Just like cigarettes, which have devolved into near-leper status.

Personally, I waver back and forth on legalization.  I would just as soon no one used the stuff, because, apart from the medicinal qualities (which really do exist) its only purpose is impairment.  But there are lots of other things we consume that are damaging to us and I don't want most of them banned either.

Sure it's true that someone smoking pot is a menace if he/she, for example, drives a car.  But, then again, so is a drunk.  That doesn't mean we outlaw liquor (though we tried - quite unsuccessfully - with the Volstead act).  It means we outlaw use of it under certain circumstances.  That, I suppose, is how we should handle pot.

However, as mentioned above, there is this problem about pollutants.

Forget that marijuana makes you high for just a minute and concentrate on the fact that it pollutes your lungs and sends second-hand smoke out to the people around you.  Isn't that the basis of banning cigarette smoking damn near everywhere?  How come marijuana isn't subject to it? 

Read this Reuters report and see what I mean (bold print is mine):

1 pot joint as bad as 5 cigarettes

Smoking marijuana damages lungs' airways, study finds
Reuters
Updated: 10:24 a.m. ET July 31, 2007

London - Smoking one cannabis joint is as harmful to a persons lungs as having up to five cigarettes, according to research published on Tuesday.

Those who smoked cannabis damaged both the lungs small fine airways, used for transporting oxygen, and the large airways, which blocked air flow, the researchers said.

It meant cannabis smokers complained of wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness, the study by experts at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand found.

The researchers tested 339 people those who smoked only cannabis, those who smoked tobacco, those who smoked both and non-smokers.

The study found only those who smoked tobacco suffered from the crippling lung disease emphysema, but cannabis use stopped the lungs working properly.

The extent of this damage was directly related to the number of joints smoked, with higher consumption linked to greater incapacity, said the authors of the report published in the medical journal Thorax.

The effect on the lungs of each joint was equivalent to smoking between 2.5 and five cigarettes in one go.

The British government is considering whether cannabis should be reclassified as a more serious drug because of the dangers associated with stronger strains.

The danger cannabis poses to respiratory health is consistently being overlooked, said Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation.

Smoking a joint is more harmful to the lungs than smoking a cigarette and we have just banned people from doing that in public places because of the health risks.

Last week British researchers said using marijuana increased the risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. .

Fascinating, wouldn't you say?

The logical conclusion is that smoking something which destroys your lungs and hurts the people around you, is bad.  But if it also impairs you, that makes it okay.

I wonder if USA media, which have largely been sympathetic to legalized marijuana, will be talking much about this.  Oh, wait, the dateline on this story is July 31;  that's a full week ago.

I guess we have our answer.  


ABOUT THOSE 190,000 WEAPONS...

Ken Berwitz

Do you know where these weapons are and who, if anyone, has them?  Me neither.

But in two fast posts, with absolutely no evidence of any kind whatsoever, we have just been told that they apparently are all in the hands of the insurgency:

  "Mr.  Bush has saber rattled about Iran because he claimed that country is supply weapons with which to kill American soldiers in Iraq.  What does he do about a nation that has apparently given 190,000 automatic weapons to the Iraqi insurgency?  That nation would bethe United States of America."
 
These are the words of someone who is rooting for failure....just as harry reid, nancy pelosi and a segment of other congressional Democrats  are....because there might be a short-term political gain in it.
 
Over recent months I have posted a lot of good news, along with the bad, about Iraq.  Because there IS a lot of good news along with the bad.  I am very happy when this can be done. 
 
Beware of people who gloss right over good news and gleefully jump on whatever bad news they can find.


THE BAGHDAD LIARIST

Ken Berwitz

In late July (July 20th and 24th to be exact) I blogged about Scott Thomas, the so-called "Baghdad Diarist" who claimed to be a soldier in Iraq and whose reports, published gleefully by the New Republic, were challenged by military people.  They pointed out significant discrepancies which seemed to put his claims into serious question - even for a non-military guy like me. 

(As a matter of disclosure, I enlisted in the air force in 1963, but they did not take me because of a physical condition that, at the time - and even now - I consider a ridiculous basis for rejection).

One of the issues regarding the New Republic's reporting was whether there, in fact, was any such person.  It turned out that there was;  his full name is Scott Thomas Beauchamp.

His existence is the good news for The New Republic.  The bad news is that he apparently lied and exaggerated throughout his reports. 

Here are the particulars from American Spectator which, unlike mainstream media, considered them important enough to expose.  As usual, the bold print is mine:.

Beauchamp Recants

THE WEEKLY STANDARD has learned from a military source close to the investigation that Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp--author of the much-disputed "Shock Troops" article in the New Republic's July 23 issue as well as two previous "Baghdad Diarist" columns--signed a sworn statement admitting that all three articles he published in the New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods--fabrications containing only "a smidgen of truth," in the words of our source.

Separately, we received this statement from Major Steven F. Lamb, the deputy Public Affairs Officer for Multi National Division-Baghdad:

An investigation has been completed and the allegations made by PVT Beauchamp were found to be false. His platoon and company were interviewed and no one could substantiate the claims.

According to the military source, Beauchamp's recantation was volunteered on the first day of the military's investigation. So as Beauchamp was in Iraq signing an affidavit denying the truth of his stories, the New Republic was publishing a statement from him on its website on July 26, in which Beauchamp said, "I'm willing to stand by the entirety of my articles for the New Republic using my real name."

The magazine's editors admitted on August 2 that one of the anecdotes Beauchamp stood by in its entirety--meant to illustrate the "morally and emotionally distorting effects of war"--took place (if at all) in Kuwait, before his tour of duty in Iraq began, and not, as he had claimed, in his mess hall in Iraq. That event was the public humiliation by Beauchamp and a comrade of a woman whose face had been "melted" by an IED.

Nothing public has been heard from Beauchamp since his statement standing by his stories, which was posted on the New Republic website at 6:30 a.m. on July 26. In their August 2 statement, the New Republic's editors complained that the military investigation was "short-circuiting" TNR's own fact-checking efforts. "Beauchamp," they said, "had his cell-phone and computer taken away and is currently unable to speak to even his family. His fellow soldiers no longer feel comfortable communicating with reporters. If further substantive information comes to light, TNR will, of course, share it with you."

Now that the military investigation has concluded, the great unanswered question in the affair is this: Did Scott Thomas Beauchamp lie under oath to U.S. Army investigators, or did he lie to his editors at the New Republic? Beauchamp has recanted under oath. Does the New Republic still stand by his stories?
  .

I wonder if The New Republic will retract and apologize for Scott Thomas Beauchamp's three BS reports from Iraq.  I suspect they may.

I don't wonder if mainstream media will bury this scandal.  I know better than to wonder about that.


PETER HOEKSTRA TAKES APART THE NY TIMES

Ken Berwitz

I apologize for the length of this blog.  But what could I possibly leave out?

You are about to read a letter to the New York Times, from Congressman Peter Hoekstra.  It takes the so-called "paper of record" apart eight ways from Sunday -- which is not only richly deserved, but way, way overdue.

The New York Times has spent years doing its best to subvert the war in Iraq and give an ongoing feast of propaganda to our enemies. 

Please read every word of Mr. Hoekstra's letter, and see just how low the Times has sunk:.

Mr. Bill Keller
Executive Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

Dear Mr. Keller:

It has been my practice not to deal with the New York Times after its recklessness in repeatedly disclosing highly classified intelligence programs to enemies who seek to attack our nation and because of what I believe was a lack of honesty and integrity in its dealings with me as Chairman of the Committee at that time.

However, I believe that your editorial this morning "The Fear of Fear Itself", and an article that ran yesterday purporting to describe legislation to clarify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") I supported in the House of Representatives to address an urgent intelligence gap so mislead the American people as to require urgent correction.  The only real basis for "fear" here is the scare tactics being perpetuated by the Times, which has knowingly and willfully misrepresented the new law to scare the American people.

Before moving to a point-by-point rebuttal based on the actual text of the new law, extensive experience with FISA, and knowledge of the actual facts at issue not available to the Times, I would like to also address two broader points.  First, the legislation was intended to address significant and substantial intelligence gaps that have arisen at a time of enhanced threat of terrorist attack on the United States.  The need for the bill was urgent and obvious.  DNI McConnell repeatedly emphasized that "we are missing a significant portion of what we should be getting" to detect and prevent terrorist attacks.  Bipartisan recognition of the need for this bill is why it passed both the House and the Senate so quickly.

And the recently released key judgments of a National Intelligence Estimate clearly emphasized that the United States is in a time of enhanced threat from Al Qaeda, which still is planning "high-impact plots" "likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties."  Had we not passed this law and an attack not been prevented, Im sure that the New York Times would have been first in line to criticize the failure to "collect the dots", much less to "connect the dots".
 
Second, it is unfortunate that you so completely disregard the professional judgments of DNI McConnell, other Intelligence Community professionals, and even indications from judges of the FISA Court itself that this legislation was urgently needed to close intelligence gaps and better focus the FISA process on protecting the civil liberties of Americans instead of radical jihadists overseas.  Director McConnell who served as NSA Director under President Clinton deserves praise for repeatedly emphasizing that FISA reforms must balance intelligence speed with the civil liberties of Americans.  His personal involvement and guidance of this process at every step were critical to making it happen, and he deserves PRAISE for his effectiveness and professionalism instead of ugly personal attacks.  There is no evidence whatsoever that any alleged "agreement" was reached with congressional Democrats, and there is no cause to smear Admiral McConnell based on hearsay.

Below, I have corrected a number of specific misstatements and exaggerations in your August 6 article and in this mornings editorial.  Any of them should have been readily apparent from a cursory look at the text of the law itself, but unfortunately your newspaper chose fearmongering over what "might" be happening rather than the facts and what the law actually says.

Article

- Misstatement and Exaggeration: "impact went far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists."

o Facts: FISA is an extremely complex statute that is difficult enough to understand and apply even when it is not being deliberately distorted.  Unfortunately, instead of reading the law, the New York Times chose to make up new assertions wholly unsupported by the facts.  This did a disservice to our intelligence professionals who are attempting to keep America - especially prominent targets such as New York - safe.

o The new law plainly and expressly provides that surveillance must be "directed at" (targeted to) a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.  Under well-established FISA practice and precedent, this only permits surveillance of foreign targets on foreign soil, not Americans on American soil.  The Intelligence Community must develop procedures to ensure this is the case, and those procedures must be reviewed by the FISA Court.

o Any surveillance targeting Americans in the United States would still require an individual warrant from the FISA court, and any incidental collection of the communications of U.S. persons would still be subject to extensive minimization procedures.  The bill expressly requires such minimization procedures to be imposed on any surveillance conducted under the new law, and those procedures must also be reviewed by the FISA court,

o Congresswoman Wilson expressly clarified in the Congressional Record that so-called "reverse-targeting" of the communications of Americans is intended to be illegal under this bill.  Director McConnell also repeatedly has stated his intent in congressional briefings to seek an individualized order of the FISA Court to target any communication of an American.

o Judges of the FISA Court itself have also clearly expressed frustration with the fact that so much of their docket is consumed by applications that focus on foreign targets and involve minimal privacy interest of Americans.
  
- Misstatement and Exaggeration: "new law for the first time provided a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens."

o Facts: The Attorney General has publicly disclosed that the activities previously conducted under the Terrorist Surveillance Program described by the President were moved completely under FISA.  The new law applies only to surveillance targeted at foreign persons, and a FISA order would continue to be necessary for surveillance targeted at Americans.  The current FISA structure can handle these applications with speed and agility.

- Misstatement and Exaggeration: "[A] still-classified ruling earlier this year which said the government needed to seek court-approved warrants to monitor those international calls going through American switches."

o Facts: It's not necessary to address or discuss any alleged court opinion to demonstrate that this assertion is false.  The FISA modernization legislation passed by the House in the 109th Congress - well before the alleged opinion - attempted to address and close the FISA loophole for foreign terrorists.

-Misstatement and Exaggeration: "[T]he courts only role will be to review and approve the procedures used by the government in the surveillance after it has been conducted."

o Facts: This is a false and selective characterization of the plain provisions of the law.  Third parties who are asked to assist the intelligence community under the law may challenge the legality of any directive by filing a petition with the FISA Court.

Editorial

-Misstatement and Exaggeration: "[T]oo scared of Republican campaign ads to use it to protect the Constitution."

o Facts: Even without addressing the obvious fact that radical jihadists in foreign countries are not entitled to privacy rights under the Constitution relating to foreign intelligence collection, courts that have addressed the issue to date have made clear they believe that the type of surveillance contemplated by the bill is fully consistent with the Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment.

-Misstatement and Exaggeration: "They gave the Director of National Intelligence and the attorney general authority to intercept without warrant, court supervision or accountability any telephone call or e-mail message that moves in, out of or through the United States as long as there is a 'reasonable belief' that one party is not in the United States."

o Facts: This assertion is false under the express terms of the statute.  The law clearly requires that the surveillance be "directed at" (meaning targeted to) persons outside the United States, and that procedures be in place and reviewed by the FISA Court to ensure that surveillance concerns persons outside the United States.  In addition, the law requires minimization procedures reviewed by the FISA Court to be in place to deal with incidental collection of communications of Americans.

-Misstatement and Exaggeration: "It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States."

o Facts: If this were the case, the FISA Court would be virtually shut down.  We still expect the Court to be conducting a significant and appropriate volume of work to protect the privacy interests of Americans, as it has and as it should.

Protecting America at a time of increased threat continues to pose great challenges for our Intelligence Community and our professionals.  It is unfortunate that you choose to compound those difficulties with further politicization, fear-mongering, and the suggestion that we simply dismiss the increased threats to American citizens at home and abroad.

Sincerely,

Peter Hoekstra
Ranking Republican


ABOUT THOSE 190,000 WEAPONS...

Ken Berwitz

Do you know where these weapons are and who, if anyone, has them?  Me neither.

But in two fast posts, with absolutely no evidence of any kind whatsoever, we have just been told that they apparently are all in the hands of the insurgency:

  "Mr.  Bush has saber rattled about Iran because he claimed that country is supply weapons with which to kill American soldiers in Iraq.  What does he do about a nation that has apparently given 190,000 automatic weapons to the Iraqi insurgency?  That nation would bethe United States of America."
 
These are the words of someone who is rooting for failure....just as harry reid, nancy pelosi and a segment of other congressional Democrats  are....because there might be a short-term political gain in it.
 
Over recent months I have posted a lot of good news, along with the bad, about Iraq.  Because there IS a lot of good news along with the bad.  I am very happy when this can be done. 
 
Beware of people who gloss right over good news and gleefully jump on whatever bad news they can find.


190,000 US Weapons missing.....guess who General Petraeus was in charge!

barry sinrod
 
  Mr.  Bush has saber rattled about Iran because he claimed that country is supply weapons with which to kill American soldiers in Iraq.  What does he do about a nation that has apparently given 190,000 automatic weapons to the Iraqi insurgency?  That nation would bethe United States of America.




Get a sneak peek of the all-new AOL.com.


Republicans say "oh it is just a few guns that are missing" Now 190,000 barry sinrod

If todays report from the Government Accountability Office was merely that about 190,000 weapons provided by the U.S. to Iraq were missing, that would be good news. In our third story tonight, the bad news is who has found them, specifically, who did the U.S. military wind up giving them too? A report last year put the estimate at a mere 14,000 missing weapons. The GAO found today that the Pentagon cant account for more than 30 percent of the weapons supplied to Iraq after 2003. Included, 110,000 AK- 47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets. They were distributed by the man in charge of training at the time, General David Petraeus. The GAO concluding weapons distribution was rushed, haphazard and not by military procedure. In previous conflicts, the State Department handled such functions. A similar GAO report finding no problems with distributing weapons in the Bosnian conflict. An unnamed Pentagon official today told the Washington Post some of the missing weapons are probably now being used against U.S. troops, putting Washington, D.C. perhaps alongside Tehran as, intentionally or otherwise, suspected suppliers of Iraqi insurgents. Lets turn now to General Wesley Clark, analyst for MSNBC and, of course, former presidential candidate, and before that former supreme allied commander for NATO. Great thanks for joining us again, General Clark. GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), MSNBC ANALYST: Good to be with you, Keith. OLBERMANN: How serious is this report? Or will it all under the fog of war catch-all? CLARK: I think it is serious. I think it is one more source of supply for the insurgents. And it indicates that we did not have the right procedures in place for training, to account for the weapons. We probably did not have the right procedures in place to account for the people we trained, either. OLBERMANN: You commanded the operation allied force in Bosnia. You were responsible for peacekeeping operations there. why would the current administration veer from a previous, time tested procedure for training and supply distribution? CLARK: Because this administration did everything in haste and it learned no lessonsvirtually no lessons from the Clinton administration or anything that was done during that period. We went in to Haiti. We trained police in Haiti. We were in Bosnia. We have been in Kosovo. It does not seem to matter. When we went into Iraq, they started all over. They did not consult or listenthey didnt even listen to their own officers who had the experience.

OLBERMANN: The Bush administration claimed that Iranian weapons there in Iraq prove Tehrans intent to kill American soldiers. Does that ring a little hollow now, when apparently nobody in this administration provided for the possibility that the weapons we supplied to the Iraqi forces on our side of the equation would wind upor could wind up being used to kill American soldiers? CLARK: It is a terrible irony. It is just awful. But I do think that the Iranians are providing weapons. I think those weapons are used for a lot of purposes, consolidating power for the Iranian groups that are inside Iraq, but also for use against the Americans. And, of course, where we are headed now is we are giving a lot of weapons out now to the Sunni tribesmen and working with them, who are supporting us in Anbar and many other provinces. Again, when you arm people, especially in an unstable situation, you are betting on the future politically. But there is no future politically, at least not that the administration has been able to establish yet in Iraq. OLBERMANN: And to that point general, weapons are not the only thing missing there at the moment. The secular coalition, the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Christians today announcing its going to boycott cabinet meetings. The largest Sunni block pulled out of the government last week. Are these political disappearances in many ways more troubling than the story of some ammo? CLARK: Absolutely, much more troubling. This is the critical path for success, is to pull together a legitimate government of Iraq that has authority over the disparate factions and elements that are inside Iraq. Instead, the government of Iraq seems to be disintegrating. What it is going to take to


PETER HOEKSTRA TAKES APART THE NY TIMES

Ken Berwitz

I apologize for the length of this blog.  But what could I possibly leave out?

You are about to read a letter to the New York Times, from Congressman Peter Hoekstra.  It takes the so-called "paper of record" apart eight ways from Sunday -- which is not only richly deserved, but way, way overdue.

The New York Times has spent years doing its best to subvert the war in Iraq and give an ongoing feast of propaganda to our enemies. 

Please read every word of Mr. Hoekstra's letter, and see just how low the Times has sunk:.

Mr. Bill Keller
Executive Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

Dear Mr. Keller:

It has been my practice not to deal with the New York Times after its recklessness in repeatedly disclosing highly classified intelligence programs to enemies who seek to attack our nation and because of what I believe was a lack of honesty and integrity in its dealings with me as Chairman of the Committee at that time.

However, I believe that your editorial this morning "The Fear of Fear Itself", and an article that ran yesterday purporting to describe legislation to clarify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") I supported in the House of Representatives to address an urgent intelligence gap so mislead the American people as to require urgent correction.  The only real basis for "fear" here is the scare tactics being perpetuated by the Times, which has knowingly and willfully misrepresented the new law to scare the American people.

Before moving to a point-by-point rebuttal based on the actual text of the new law, extensive experience with FISA, and knowledge of the actual facts at issue not available to the Times, I would like to also address two broader points.  First, the legislation was intended to address significant and substantial intelligence gaps that have arisen at a time of enhanced threat of terrorist attack on the United States.  The need for the bill was urgent and obvious.  DNI McConnell repeatedly emphasized that "we are missing a significant portion of what we should be getting" to detect and prevent terrorist attacks.  Bipartisan recognition of the need for this bill is why it passed both the House and the Senate so quickly.

And the recently released key judgments of a National Intelligence Estimate clearly emphasized that the United States is in a time of enhanced threat from Al Qaeda, which still is planning "high-impact plots" "likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties."  Had we not passed this law and an attack not been prevented, Im sure that the New York Times would have been first in line to criticize the failure to "collect the dots", much less to "connect the dots".
 
Second, it is unfortunate that you so completely disregard the professional judgments of DNI McConnell, other Intelligence Community professionals, and even indications from judges of the FISA Court itself that this legislation was urgently needed to close intelligence gaps and better focus the FISA process on protecting the civil liberties of Americans instead of radical jihadists overseas.  Director McConnell who served as NSA Director under President Clinton deserves praise for repeatedly emphasizing that FISA reforms must balance intelligence speed with the civil liberties of Americans.  His personal involvement and guidance of this process at every step were critical to making it happen, and he deserves PRAISE for his effectiveness and professionalism instead of ugly personal attacks.  There is no evidence whatsoever that any alleged "agreement" was reached with congressional Democrats, and there is no cause to smear Admiral McConnell based on hearsay.

Below, I have corrected a number of specific misstatements and exaggerations in your August 6 article and in this mornings editorial.  Any of them should have been readily apparent from a cursory look at the text of the law itself, but unfortunately your newspaper chose fearmongering over what "might" be happening rather than the facts and what the law actually says.

Article

- Misstatement and Exaggeration: "impact went far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists."

o Facts: FISA is an extremely complex statute that is difficult enough to understand and apply even when it is not being deliberately distorted.  Unfortunately, instead of reading the law, the New York Times chose to make up new assertions wholly unsupported by the facts.  This did a disservice to our intelligence professionals who are attempting to keep America - especially prominent targets such as New York - safe.

o The new law plainly and expressly provides that surveillance must be "directed at" (targeted to) a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.  Under well-established FISA practice and precedent, this only permits surveillance of foreign targets on foreign soil, not Americans on American soil.  The Intelligence Community must develop procedures to ensure this is the case, and those procedures must be reviewed by the FISA Court.

o Any surveillance targeting Americans in the United States would still require an individual warrant from the FISA court, and any incidental collection of the communications of U.S. persons would still be subject to extensive minimization procedures.  The bill expressly requires such minimization procedures to be imposed on any surveillance conducted under the new law, and those procedures must also be reviewed by the FISA court,

o Congresswoman Wilson expressly clarified in the Congressional Record that so-called "reverse-targeting" of the communications of Americans is intended to be illegal under this bill.  Director McConnell also repeatedly has stated his intent in congressional briefings to seek an individualized order of the FISA Court to target any communication of an American.

o Judges of the FISA Court itself have also clearly expressed frustration with the fact that so much of their docket is consumed by applications that focus on foreign targets and involve minimal privacy interest of Americans.
  
- Misstatement and Exaggeration: "new law for the first time provided a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens."

o Facts: The Attorney General has publicly disclosed that the activities previously conducted under the Terrorist Surveillance Program described by the President were moved completely under FISA.  The new law applies only to surveillance targeted at foreign persons, and a FISA order would continue to be necessary for surveillance targeted at Americans.  The current FISA structure can handle these applications with speed and agility.

- Misstatement and Exaggeration: "[A] still-classified ruling earlier this year which said the government needed to seek court-approved warrants to monitor those international calls going through American switches."

o Facts: It's not necessary to address or discuss any alleged court opinion to demonstrate that this assertion is false.  The FISA modernization legislation passed by the House in the 109th Congress - well before the alleged opinion - attempted to address and close the FISA loophole for foreign terrorists.

-Misstatement and Exaggeration: "[T]he courts only role will be to review and approve the procedures used by the government in the surveillance after it has been conducted."

o Facts: This is a false and selective characterization of the plain provisions of the law.  Third parties who are asked to assist the intelligence community under the law may challenge the legality of any directive by filing a petition with the FISA Court.

Editorial

-Misstatement and Exaggeration: "[T]oo scared of Republican campaign ads to use it to protect the Constitution."

o Facts: Even without addressing the obvious fact that radical jihadists in foreign countries are not entitled to privacy rights under the Constitution relating to foreign intelligence collection, courts that have addressed the issue to date have made clear they believe that the type of surveillance contemplated by the bill is fully consistent with the Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment.

-Misstatement and Exaggeration: "They gave the Director of National Intelligence and the attorney general authority to intercept without warrant, court supervision or accountability any telephone call or e-mail message that moves in, out of or through the United States as long as there is a 'reasonable belief' that one party is not in the United States."

o Facts: This assertion is false under the express terms of the statute.  The law clearly requires that the surveillance be "directed at" (meaning targeted to) persons outside the United States, and that procedures be in place and reviewed by the FISA Court to ensure that surveillance concerns persons outside the United States.  In addition, the law requires minimization procedures reviewed by the FISA Court to be in place to deal with incidental collection of communications of Americans.

-Misstatement and Exaggeration: "It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States."

o Facts: If this were the case, the FISA Court would be virtually shut down.  We still expect the Court to be conducting a significant and appropriate volume of work to protect the privacy interests of Americans, as it has and as it should.

Protecting America at a time of increased threat continues to pose great challenges for our Intelligence Community and our professionals.  It is unfortunate that you choose to compound those difficulties with further politicization, fear-mongering, and the suggestion that we simply dismiss the increased threats to American citizens at home and abroad.

Sincerely,

Peter Hoekstra
Ranking Republican


MARIJUANA AND LUNG DAMAGE

Ken Berwitz

I've always wondered how come the people who want to legalize marijuana/pot/cannibas/a joint/a toke/a bunch of other synonyms, have gotten a free pass on the fact that the drug is smoked. Just like cigarettes, which have devolved into near-leper status.

Personally, I waver back and forth on legalization.  I would just as soon no one used the stuff, because, apart from the medicinal qualities (which really do exist) its only purpose is impairment.  But there are lots of other things we consume that are damaging to us and I don't want most of them banned either.

Sure it's true that someone smoking pot is a menace if he/she, for example, drives a car.  But, then again, so is a drunk.  That doesn't mean we outlaw liquor (though we tried - quite unsuccessfully - with the Volstead act).  It means we outlaw use of it under certain circumstances.  That, I suppose, is how we should handle pot.

However, as mentioned above, there is this problem about pollutants.

Forget that marijuana makes you high for just a minute and concentrate on the fact that it pollutes your lungs and sends second-hand smoke out to the people around you.  Isn't that the basis of banning cigarette smoking damn near everywhere?  How come marijuana isn't subject to it? 

Read this Reuters report and see what I mean (bold print is mine):

1 pot joint as bad as 5 cigarettes

Smoking marijuana damages lungs' airways, study finds
Reuters
Updated: 10:24 a.m. ET July 31, 2007

London - Smoking one cannabis joint is as harmful to a persons lungs as having up to five cigarettes, according to research published on Tuesday.

Those who smoked cannabis damaged both the lungs small fine airways, used for transporting oxygen, and the large airways, which blocked air flow, the researchers said.

It meant cannabis smokers complained of wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness, the study by experts at the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand found.

The researchers tested 339 people those who smoked only cannabis, those who smoked tobacco, those who smoked both and non-smokers.

The study found only those who smoked tobacco suffered from the crippling lung disease emphysema, but cannabis use stopped the lungs working properly.

The extent of this damage was directly related to the number of joints smoked, with higher consumption linked to greater incapacity, said the authors of the report published in the medical journal Thorax.

The effect on the lungs of each joint was equivalent to smoking between 2.5 and five cigarettes in one go.

The British government is considering whether cannabis should be reclassified as a more serious drug because of the dangers associated with stronger strains.

The danger cannabis poses to respiratory health is consistently being overlooked, said Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation.

Smoking a joint is more harmful to the lungs than smoking a cigarette and we have just banned people from doing that in public places because of the health risks.

Last week British researchers said using marijuana increased the risk of developing a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia. .

Fascinating, wouldn't you say?

The logical conclusion is that smoking something which destroys your lungs and hurts the people around you, is bad.  But if it also impairs you, that makes it okay.

I wonder if USA media, which have largely been sympathetic to legalized marijuana, will be talking much about this.  Oh, wait, the dateline on this story is July 31;  that's a full week ago.

I guess we have our answer.  


GLOBAL TERRORISM UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

Have john edwards and the other Democratic presidential candidates retracted the comment that global terrorism is nothing more than a "bumper sticker slogan" 

Not yet, huh?

Well, here's another update on what they were so happy to dismiss as a fantasy -- and media were so happy to give them a free pass on.

You are about to read an ABC News report on two foiled terror attempts.  As usual, the bold print is mine:.

'Plot Would Have Killed Thousands'

EXCLUSIVE: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff Offers Chilling Details About 2006 Airplane Plot and Current Terror Threats

Aug. 6, 2007

Terrorists who had planned to detonate gel-based explosives on U.S.-bound flights from London last August would have achieved mass devastation, according to new information from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in an exclusive interview with ABC News.

"I think that the plot, in terms of its intent, was looking at devastation on a scale that would have rivaled 9/11," Chertoff told ABC's Pierre Thomas. "If they had succeeded in bringing liquid explosives on seven or eight aircraft, there could have been thousands of lives lost and an enormous economic impact with devastating consequences for international air travel."

Sources tell ABC News that after studying the plot, government officials have concluded that without the tip to British authorities, the suspects could have likely smuggled the bomb components onboard using sports drinks.

The components of that explosives mixture can be bought at any drugstore or supermarket; however, there is some question whether the potential terrorists would have had the skill to properly mix and detonate their explosive cocktails in-flight.

But they can work scientists at Sandia National Laboratory conducted a test using the formula, and when a small amount of liquid in a container was hit with a tiny burst of electrical current, a large explosion followed.

The test results were reviewed today by ABC terrorism consultant Richard Clarke, who said that while frequent travelers are upset by the current limits on liquids in carry-on baggage, "when they see this film, they ought to know it's worth going through those problems."

One official who briefed ABC News said explosives and security experts who examined the plot were "stunned at the extent that the suspects had gamed the system to exploit its weaknesses."

"There's no question that they had given a lot of thought to how they might smuggle containers with liquid explosives onto airplanes," Chertoff said. "Without getting into things that are still classified, they obviously paid attention to the ways in which they thought they might be able to disguise these explosives as very innocent types of everyday articles."

Tense Hours as Officials Learned of Plot

Chertoff speaks candidly about those moments when Homeland Security learned about the potential attack, and the terrorists had not yet been captured.

"This was very, very tightly held, because the British were concerned about any possibility of a leak getting out. Obviously, the intelligence folks knew, the senior intelligence folks, the president, senior leaders in the White House," he said. "Within my own department, only the deputy and I were initially told about this."

"I got a call telling me that it looked as if the focus had turned on an attack on the United States, specifically an attack on airliners leaving from Britain, traveling to American cities," Chertoff said. "It also became evident, within 24 hours, that the time frame within which the attack was going to take place, would not be a matter of months but & a matter of weeks or even days."

Airports in the United States and the United Kingdom were put on red alert meaning a potential attack could be imminent and liquids were banned from carry-on luggage as suspects were picked up, including 24 British-born Muslims and seven Pakistanis.

"We had to start about 9, 10 o'clock in the evening, when the arrests began to go down in Pakistan, and when we were first given the ability to tell other people about the plot," Chertoff said. "And we had to turn the entire process around by 6 a.m. the following morning, before people started to board airplanes.

"You had to change literally thousands of people's behavior in the course of about 12 hours. We had to train them. We had to get everybody to understand what the new rules were going to be. And you had to communicate to the public in a very short period of time.

"And so, we spent literally the entire night bringing in not only the TSA senior leadership, but also talking on the phone to the airline leadership, so that everybody would understand what needed to happen at 6 a.m. the following day," he said.

For Chertoff, the concern remained that an attack would have been carried out if they'd missed a critical detail. "There's an enormous sense of working against time, giving the analysts as much time as you possibly can, but always recognizing at the end that the benefit of the doubt has to be in favor of saving lives."

Assessing Current Risks

Since last August, the failed plot has had an enormous impact on U.S. airports, which have remained on orange or high alert, for nearly a year.

After authorities tested the explosive liquids, the government determined what quantity of liquid explosives could pose a risk if smuggled onboard flights, leading to the 3-ounce limit for carry-on bags.

Passengers are still restricted when bringing liquids onboard, and those rules may remain in place forever.

At the moment, Chertoff believes there is a "heightened risk" of an attack.

"We have seen that in some areas of Pakistan, the enemy has been able to reconstitute itself and get a breathing space, so to speak, where they can plan and do some recruiting and some training. We've seen increased effort to develop terrorist operatives in Europe.

"And, of course, the concern we have, because of the visa waiver program, has been Europeans either carrying out attacks against Americans on the European continent, or even coming to the United States," Chertoff said.

"When you add these things together, they don't move into a mathematical certainty we're going to have an attack, but they do suggest that there is a heightened threat, a bit more capability than there was, and, therefore, all the more reason for us to continue to raise the level of our security and our defenses," he said.

That progress was aided after the arrests last year that provided Homeland Security with information about terrorist capabilities.

"Clearly, the effort to put explosives in sports bottles was a reaction to what we had done with respect to other kinds of explosives, and & we're going to be back and forth with terrorists on this kind of cat-and-mouse process for years to come," Chertoff said.

And while he is confronted by pieces of data daily as Homeland Security tries to assess credible threats and piece together information, Chertoff said he remains continually struck by the nature of the enemy.

"You know, we go about our business during the summer, other times of the year. People are going to ballgames or watching their children graduate from high school," he said, "and it chills me sometimes to think there are people a half a world away who are spending the same period of time in a cave, trying to figure out how to kill us."  .

In my opinion, anyone who classifies this as a "bumper sticker slogan" is either a dupe, an idiot, someone who is rooting for terrorism to succeed ------ or a politician more interested in winning an election than in the safety and well being of the citizens of this country.

 


190,000 US Weapons missing.....guess who General Petraeus was in charge!

barry sinrod
 
  Mr.  Bush has saber rattled about Iran because he claimed that country is supply weapons with which to kill American soldiers in Iraq.  What does he do about a nation that has apparently given 190,000 automatic weapons to the Iraqi insurgency?  That nation would bethe United States of America.




Get a sneak peek of the all-new AOL.com.


IBD ON PASSAGE OF THE "PROTECT AMERICA ACT"

Ken Berwitz

I just read the Investor's Business Daily editorial which analyzes how President Bush's "Protect America Act" sailed through a Democratic-majority congress.

It is very interesting, very newsworthy and has a definitively positive angle for President Bush - which explains why, dollars to donuts, you know little or nothing about it if you rely on mainstream media.

Here it is - bold print is mine, as usual:

.

Bush's Big Victory

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Monday, August 06, 2007 4:20 PM PT

National Security: President Bush got help from 16 Democratic senators and 41 Democratic congressmen in expanding warrantless surveillance of terrorist communications to the U.S. Still think he's ineffective?

We don't, though the media constantly tell us there is no more wind left in the sails of this presidency. But if that's the case, why are dozens of Democrats in Congress more scared of George W. Bush's bully pulpit than any threats from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

Last Friday, the Senate voted 60 to 28 to pass the Protect America Act, a modernization of the 1978 Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), with 16 Democratic senators defecting from their party's leadership to vote with 43 Republicans and independent Democrat Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

The House of Representatives followed the next day by approving the bill 227-to-183, with 41 Democrats in favor and only two Republicans opposed. Democrats provided the margin of victory.

The president swiftly signed it into law on Sunday, making a point of thanking Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for her work "on an effective bipartisan solution."

In the days preceding the vote, the president was relentless in insisting that FISA was "badly out of date and Congress must act to modernize it . . . our national security depends on it."

He was obviously heard loud and clear by some of his own harsh critics: Democratic senators like Evan Bayh of Indiana, freshman Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and Jim Webb of Virginia, along with congressmen like Henry Cuellar, a senior whip in the House Democratic Caucus who has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and Brian Higgins, who represents urban Buffalo, N.Y.

What was passed into law did not end up being the narrow alterations that were expected, but a broad legal framework that should squash the left's claims that the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance program violates the law.

The U.S. government may now once again sift through millions of phone calls and e-mails between U.S. and foreign sources, a great many of which pass through telecommunications switches located here but only when a foreigner is the target.

The bad news is that, in a concession from the White House, the Protect America Act remains in effect for only six months. And how sad that well over 200 Democrats in Congress including their leaders voted against what ought to be utterly uncontroversial: letting the executive branch do its duty under the Constitution and protect Americans from our most dangerous foes.

No wonder only 14% approve of the job this Congress is doing. Not long after House passage, Speaker Pelosi issued a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, calling on them to prepare "corrective action" legislation after the August recess.

And Sen. Reid promised: "Over the course of the fall, I expect the Senate to work diligently on more permanent legislation . . ."

But it won't be easy to get those same 57 Democrats to weaken the anti-terrorist weapons now finally in place especially when a supposed lame duck, ineffectual president once again grabs hold of the mike and strikes fear into them.

Congratulations to President Bush for navigating through a hostile Democratic leadership and persuading enough members of the opposition party that we have to protect ourselves against terrorists.  You would think that could not possibly be an issue, wouldn't you?  But in today's Democratic party it is, and then some.

I've asked this rhetorical question of Reid and Pelosi in the past and. based on their opposition to this legislation, I'm asking it again:

Which side are they rooting for?


Republicans say "oh it is just a few guns that are missing" Now 190,000 barry sinrod

If todays report from the Government Accountability Office was merely that about 190,000 weapons provided by the U.S. to Iraq were missing, that would be good news. In our third story tonight, the bad news is who has found them, specifically, who did the U.S. military wind up giving them too? A report last year put the estimate at a mere 14,000 missing weapons. The GAO found today that the Pentagon cant account for more than 30 percent of the weapons supplied to Iraq after 2003. Included, 110,000 AK- 47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets. They were distributed by the man in charge of training at the time, General David Petraeus. The GAO concluding weapons distribution was rushed, haphazard and not by military procedure. In previous conflicts, the State Department handled such functions. A similar GAO report finding no problems with distributing weapons in the Bosnian conflict. An unnamed Pentagon official today told the Washington Post some of the missing weapons are probably now being used against U.S. troops, putting Washington, D.C. perhaps alongside Tehran as, intentionally or otherwise, suspected suppliers of Iraqi insurgents. Lets turn now to General Wesley Clark, analyst for MSNBC and, of course, former presidential candidate, and before that former supreme allied commander for NATO. Great thanks for joining us again, General Clark. GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET), MSNBC ANALYST: Good to be with you, Keith. OLBERMANN: How serious is this report? Or will it all under the fog of war catch-all? CLARK: I think it is serious. I think it is one more source of supply for the insurgents. And it indicates that we did not have the right procedures in place for training, to account for the weapons. We probably did not have the right procedures in place to account for the people we trained, either. OLBERMANN: You commanded the operation allied force in Bosnia. You were responsible for peacekeeping operations there. why would the current administration veer from a previous, time tested procedure for training and supply distribution? CLARK: Because this administration did everything in haste and it learned no lessonsvirtually no lessons from the Clinton administration or anything that was done during that period. We went in to Haiti. We trained police in Haiti. We were in Bosnia. We have been in Kosovo. It does not seem to matter. When we went into Iraq, they started all over. They did not consult or listenthey didnt even listen to their own officers who had the experience.

OLBERMANN: The Bush administration claimed that Iranian weapons there in Iraq prove Tehrans intent to kill American soldiers. Does that ring a little hollow now, when apparently nobody in this administration provided for the possibility that the weapons we supplied to the Iraqi forces on our side of the equation would wind upor could wind up being used to kill American soldiers? CLARK: It is a terrible irony. It is just awful. But I do think that the Iranians are providing weapons. I think those weapons are used for a lot of purposes, consolidating power for the Iranian groups that are inside Iraq, but also for use against the Americans. And, of course, where we are headed now is we are giving a lot of weapons out now to the Sunni tribesmen and working with them, who are supporting us in Anbar and many other provinces. Again, when you arm people, especially in an unstable situation, you are betting on the future politically. But there is no future politically, at least not that the administration has been able to establish yet in Iraq. OLBERMANN: And to that point general, weapons are not the only thing missing there at the moment. The secular coalition, the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Christians today announcing its going to boycott cabinet meetings. The largest Sunni block pulled out of the government last week. Are these political disappearances in many ways more troubling than the story of some ammo? CLARK: Absolutely, much more troubling. This is the critical path for success, is to pull together a legitimate government of Iraq that has authority over the disparate factions and elements that are inside Iraq. Instead, the government of Iraq seems to be disintegrating. What it is going to take to


GLOBAL TERRORISM UPDATE

Ken Berwitz

Have john edwards and the other Democratic presidential candidates retracted the comment that global terrorism is nothing more than a "bumper sticker slogan" 

Not yet, huh?

Well, here's another update on what they were so happy to dismiss as a fantasy -- and media were so happy to give them a free pass on.

You are about to read an ABC News report on two foiled terror attempts.  As usual, the bold print is mine:.

'Plot Would Have Killed Thousands'

EXCLUSIVE: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff Offers Chilling Details About 2006 Airplane Plot and Current Terror Threats

Aug. 6, 2007

Terrorists who had planned to detonate gel-based explosives on U.S.-bound flights from London last August would have achieved mass devastation, according to new information from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in an exclusive interview with ABC News.

"I think that the plot, in terms of its intent, was looking at devastation on a scale that would have rivaled 9/11," Chertoff told ABC's Pierre Thomas. "If they had succeeded in bringing liquid explosives on seven or eight aircraft, there could have been thousands of lives lost and an enormous economic impact with devastating consequences for international air travel."

Sources tell ABC News that after studying the plot, government officials have concluded that without the tip to British authorities, the suspects could have likely smuggled the bomb components onboard using sports drinks.

The components of that explosives mixture can be bought at any drugstore or supermarket; however, there is some question whether the potential terrorists would have had the skill to properly mix and detonate their explosive cocktails in-flight.

But they can work scientists at Sandia National Laboratory conducted a test using the formula, and when a small amount of liquid in a container was hit with a tiny burst of electrical current, a large explosion followed.

The test results were reviewed today by ABC terrorism consultant Richard Clarke, who said that while frequent travelers are upset by the current limits on liquids in carry-on baggage, "when they see this film, they ought to know it's worth going through those problems."

One official who briefed ABC News said explosives and security experts who examined the plot were "stunned at the extent that the suspects had gamed the system to exploit its weaknesses."

"There's no question that they had given a lot of thought to how they might smuggle containers with liquid explosives onto airplanes," Chertoff said. "Without getting into things that are still classified, they obviously paid attention to the ways in which they thought they might be able to disguise these explosives as very innocent types of everyday articles."

Tense Hours as Officials Learned of Plot

Chertoff speaks candidly about those moments when Homeland Security learned about the potential attack, and the terrorists had not yet been captured.

"This was very, very tightly held, because the British were concerned about any possibility of a leak getting out. Obviously, the intelligence folks knew, the senior intelligence folks, the president, senior leaders in the White House," he said. "Within my own department, only the deputy and I were initially told about this."

"I got a call telling me that it looked as if the focus had turned on an attack on the United States, specifically an attack on airliners leaving from Britain, traveling to American cities," Chertoff said. "It also became evident, within 24 hours, that the time frame within which the attack was going to take place, would not be a matter of months but & a matter of weeks or even days."

Airports in the United States and the United Kingdom were put on red alert meaning a potential attack could be imminent and liquids were banned from carry-on luggage as suspects were picked up, including 24 British-born Muslims and seven Pakistanis.

"We had to start about 9, 10 o'clock in the evening, when the arrests began to go down in Pakistan, and when we were first given the ability to tell other people about the plot," Chertoff said. "And we had to turn the entire process around by 6 a.m. the following morning, before people started to board airplanes.

"You had to change literally thousands of people's behavior in the course of about 12 hours. We had to train them. We had to get everybody to understand what the new rules were going to be. And you had to communicate to the public in a very short period of time.

"And so, we spent literally the entire night bringing in not only the TSA senior leadership, but also talking on the phone to the airline leadership, so that everybody would understand what needed to happen at 6 a.m. the following day," he said.

For Chertoff, the concern remained that an attack would have been carried out if they'd missed a critical detail. "There's an enormous sense of working against time, giving the analysts as much time as you possibly can, but always recognizing at the end that the benefit of the doubt has to be in favor of saving lives."

Assessing Current Risks

Since last August, the failed plot has had an enormous impact on U.S. airports, which have remained on orange or high alert, for nearly a year.

After authorities tested the explosive liquids, the government determined what quantity of liquid explosives could pose a risk if smuggled onboard flights, leading to the 3-ounce limit for carry-on bags.

Passengers are still restricted when bringing liquids onboard, and those rules may remain in place forever.

At the moment, Chertoff believes there is a "heightened risk" of an attack.

"We have seen that in some areas of Pakistan, the enemy has been able to reconstitute itself and get a breathing space, so to speak, where they can plan and do some recruiting and some training. We've seen increased effort to develop terrorist operatives in Europe.

"And, of course, the concern we have, because of the visa waiver program, has been Europeans either carrying out attacks against Americans on the European continent, or even coming to the United States," Chertoff said.

"When you add these things together, they don't move into a mathematical certainty we're going to have an attack, but they do suggest that there is a heightened threat, a bit more capability than there was, and, therefore, all the more reason for us to continue to raise the level of our security and our defenses," he said.

That progress was aided after the arrests last year that provided Homeland Security with information about terrorist capabilities.

"Clearly, the effort to put explosives in sports bottles was a reaction to what we had done with respect to other kinds of explosives, and & we're going to be back and forth with terrorists on this kind of cat-and-mouse process for years to come," Chertoff said.

And while he is confronted by pieces of data daily as Homeland Security tries to assess credible threats and piece together information, Chertoff said he remains continually struck by the nature of the enemy.

"You know, we go about our business during the summer, other times of the year. People are going to ballgames or watching their children graduate from high school," he said, "and it chills me sometimes to think there are people a half a world away who are spending the same period of time in a cave, trying to figure out how to kill us."  .

In my opinion, anyone who classifies this as a "bumper sticker slogan" is either a dupe, an idiot, someone who is rooting for terrorism to succeed ------ or a politician more interested in winning an election than in the safety and well being of the citizens of this country.

 


The FISA court changes. Disgustingly avoided changed and manipulated by Bush

barry sinrod
 
 Under the system that we have just changed, you have to go to what is called a FISA Court, a secret court, with some evidence that there was some terrorist or criminal connection before you can get a warrantless wiretapping approval.  Now all you need is an indication that an American is talking to a foreigner, any foreigner, and you can go ahead, if youre the attorney

steve schneider do you have any evidence whatsoever that ordinary citizens speaking to a foreign country are being indiscriminantly wiretapped?i think not. i have no problem with the gov't spying on phone calls to known terrorist nations and neither should you. the fact is that there hasn't been a homeland attack since 9-11and the wiretapping program is part of the reason. when and if there is another attack on our country you and the rest of the left wingers will cry the loudest about how little the government did to prevent it. yet you have no issue with tieing their hands at every turn. (08/07/07)


MORE ON ELIOT SPITZER

Ken Berwitz

Eliot Spitzer is the new Governor of New York.  His reputation is that he has a short fuse, a foul mouth and a take-no-prisoners approach to running things -- which carries over to his staff.

This apparently worked very well for him as New York's Attorney General.  But as Governor it doesn't seem to be as smooth a ride.

Here, courtesy of Human Events, are exerpts from its excellent account of what happens when the Empire State has a governor who thinks he's the Emperor.  The bold print is mine:.

Steamroller Spitzer
Thanks to twelve years of Republican Governor George Patakis insouciant leadership, in November 2006 New Yorkers gave Democrat Eliot Spitzer 69% of their votes -- the largest majority in the states history.

Running as a centrist, Spitzer supported fiscal restraint, no new taxes, charter schools and pledged that day one everything changes.

In January, plenty changed but not for the best; Governor Spitzer discarded his cloak of moderation, relentlessly pursued a radical liberal agenda and proved to be a blustering bully.
 
The governors first budget proposal called for state spending to increase 7.8%, three times the inflation rate. Spitzer, who as New Yorks Attorney General was known as the scourge of Wall Street, now cowered to the state legislatures old guard and settled for a whopping 9% jump in expenditures to get a budget passed by the April 1st deadline.

Spitzer, the tough guy who promised to open the budget negotiating process, was mugged behind the capitals closed doors. His sham reform budget contained billions for special interests, pork for legislators, entitlements for unions and the health care cartel. The Division of Budget analysis of the spending plan projected out-year deficits of $3.3 billion in 2008, $5.5 billion 2009 and $7.3 billion in 2010
.

During his two terms as New Yorks Attorney General, Spitzers self-righteous bullying and uncontrollable temper were legendary. On one occasion he told former General Electric C.E.O. Jack Welch that hes going to put a spike through [New York Stock Exchange Director Kenneth Langones] heart. John Whitehead, former Goldman Sachs Chairman wrote in a December 2005 Wall Street Journal op-ed that Spitzer threatened him after he publicly defended insurance mogul Hank Greenburg. According to Whitehead, Spitzer said You will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter.

Since taking over as New Yorks chief executive, Spitzers name calling, swearing and temper tantrums have frequently made front page headlines. When Assemblyman Tedisco dared to question a Spitzer proposal, the governor described himself as a f---ing steamroller who would flatten anyone in his way. He told Orange County Senator, William Larkin hed cut [his] head off. And when Senate Republican Majority Leader, Joe Bruno, recommended a grand jury investigation into allegations that the state police was used to spy on him, Spitzer called the 78-year old Bruno an old senile piece of s--- who is under federal investigation.

Miffed because the state legislature doesnt bow to his commands, Spitzer recently proclaimed he just wont deal with them anymore. There is an unbelievable opportunity now, he said, to govern through the agencies, and thats frankly what Im really looking forward to.


Spitzers no-holds-barred approach to governing has been adopted by his staffers. These best and the brightest believe that bare-knuckle tactics are permissible against perceived Albany obstructionists who in their judgment are dumb, wrong or evil. This brazen attitude has given rise to abuse of power scandals that are wrecking the seven-month old administration.

In April, the Governors Deputy Secretary for Energy, Steven Mitnick, was accused of threatening a New York State Public Service Commissioner over a policy disagreement. With the expected release of a critical Inspector Generals report, Mitnick resigned his post on Friday, August 4, 2007.

In July, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a blockbuster report detailing the governors top aides misuse of the state police when attempting to destroy Senator Bruno with manufactured documents claiming he broke state law.

Although the governor denied any knowledge of the plot, claimed his office cooperated with investigators, punished the culprits, and in a New York Times op-ed apologized for violations of his pledge to maintain the highest ethical standards, Albany pundits do not believe Spitzer is in the clear.

Doubts of Spitzers innocence increased when it was revealed that the governors Chief of Staff Richard Baum and one of the conspirators, suspended Communications Director Darren Dopp, refused to be interviewed by the Attorney Generals office. (The A.G. does not have subpoena power, hence they could not be compelled to testify.)

For weeks Spitzer has been stonewalling the press, refusing to explain why he did not direct his aides to testify, and giving dubious legalistic rationales as to why special prosecutors and senate investigators should not be empanelled to subpoena the governor and his aides.

Few, however, are buying the Spitzer tap dance. The New York Posts Fred Dicker has described Troopergate as a ten in terms of Albany scandals and says it is the biggest political scandal in modern New York history involving the governor and his office.

New York Daily News liberal columnist, Michael Goodwin, called for a grand jury investigation and bluntly stated: I believe Eliot Spitzer not only knew about the scheme, I believe he approved it and maybe even ordered it.

Eliot Spitzers woes are far from over. On August 1, 2007, Albany County District Attorney David Soares ordered a criminal investigation into Troopergate. And his administration is expected to be paralyzed for months answering subpoenas from up to four separate inquiries into the misconduct charges.

In 2005, when discussing his soccer playing days, Spitzer made this revealing comment: You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you dont get caught. Governor Spitzer has certainly played hard and rough politics but like the best and the brightest of the 1960s, he too might be caught up in a quagmire from which there is no escape.
.
 
Can Mr. Spitzer extricate himself from this mess?  Maybe.  But I doubt it.  This is a man who, to say the least, does not work and play well with others. 
 
I don't deny that Spitzer's talents are considerable, and the corrupt mess in New York is ripe for overhauling.  But if he tries to do it through bullying and intimidation, he's the one who will be overhauled.  You can bet on it.


IBD ON PASSAGE OF THE "PROTECT AMERICA ACT"

Ken Berwitz

I just read the Investor's Business Daily editorial which analyzes how President Bush's "Protect America Act" sailed through a Democratic-majority congress.

It is very interesting, very newsworthy and has a definitively positive angle for President Bush - which explains why, dollars to donuts, you know little or nothing about it if you rely on mainstream media.

Here it is - bold print is mine, as usual:

.

Bush's Big Victory

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Monday, August 06, 2007 4:20 PM PT

National Security: President Bush got help from 16 Democratic senators and 41 Democratic congressmen in expanding warrantless surveillance of terrorist communications to the U.S. Still think he's ineffective?

We don't, though the media constantly tell us there is no more wind left in the sails of this presidency. But if that's the case, why are dozens of Democrats in Congress more scared of George W. Bush's bully pulpit than any threats from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid?

Last Friday, the Senate voted 60 to 28 to pass the Protect America Act, a modernization of the 1978 Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), with 16 Democratic senators defecting from their party's leadership to vote with 43 Republicans and independent Democrat Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut.

The House of Representatives followed the next day by approving the bill 227-to-183, with 41 Democrats in favor and only two Republicans opposed. Democrats provided the margin of victory.

The president swiftly signed it into law on Sunday, making a point of thanking Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for her work "on an effective bipartisan solution."

In the days preceding the vote, the president was relentless in insisting that FISA was "badly out of date and Congress must act to modernize it . . . our national security depends on it."

He was obviously heard loud and clear by some of his own harsh critics: Democratic senators like Evan Bayh of Indiana, freshman Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and Jim Webb of Virginia, along with congressmen like Henry Cuellar, a senior whip in the House Democratic Caucus who has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, and Brian Higgins, who represents urban Buffalo, N.Y.

What was passed into law did not end up being the narrow alterations that were expected, but a broad legal framework that should squash the left's claims that the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance program violates the law.

The U.S. government may now once again sift through millions of phone calls and e-mails between U.S. and foreign sources, a great many of which pass through telecommunications switches located here but only when a foreigner is the target.

The bad news is that, in a concession from the White House, the Protect America Act remains in effect for only six months. And how sad that well over 200 Democrats in Congress including their leaders voted against what ought to be utterly uncontroversial: letting the executive branch do its duty under the Constitution and protect Americans from our most dangerous foes.

No wonder only 14% approve of the job this Congress is doing. Not long after House passage, Speaker Pelosi issued a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, calling on them to prepare "corrective action" legislation after the August recess.

And Sen. Reid promised: "Over the course of the fall, I expect the Senate to work diligently on more permanent legislation . . ."

But it won't be easy to get those same 57 Democrats to weaken the anti-terrorist weapons now finally in place especially when a supposed lame duck, ineffectual president once again grabs hold of the mike and strikes fear into them.

Congratulations to President Bush for navigating through a hostile Democratic leadership and persuading enough members of the opposition party that we have to protect ourselves against terrorists.  You would think that could not possibly be an issue, wouldn't you?  But in today's Democratic party it is, and then some.

I've asked this rhetorical question of Reid and Pelosi in the past and. based on their opposition to this legislation, I'm asking it again:

Which side are they rooting for?


MORE ON ELIOT SPITZER

Ken Berwitz

Eliot Spitzer is the new Governor of New York.  His reputation is that he has a short fuse, a foul mouth and a take-no-prisoners approach to running things -- which carries over to his staff.

This apparently worked very well for him as New York's Attorney General.  But as Governor it doesn't seem to be as smooth a ride.

Here, courtesy of Human Events, are exerpts from its excellent account of what happens when the Empire State has a governor who thinks he's the Emperor.  The bold print is mine:.

Steamroller Spitzer
Thanks to twelve years of Republican Governor George Patakis insouciant leadership, in November 2006 New Yorkers gave Democrat Eliot Spitzer 69% of their votes -- the largest majority in the states history.

Running as a centrist, Spitzer supported fiscal restraint, no new taxes, charter schools and pledged that day one everything changes.

In January, plenty changed but not for the best; Governor Spitzer discarded his cloak of moderation, relentlessly pursued a radical liberal agenda and proved to be a blustering bully.
 
The governors first budget proposal called for state spending to increase 7.8%, three times the inflation rate. Spitzer, who as New Yorks Attorney General was known as the scourge of Wall Street, now cowered to the state legislatures old guard and settled for a whopping 9% jump in expenditures to get a budget passed by the April 1st deadline.

Spitzer, the tough guy who promised to open the budget negotiating process, was mugged behind the capitals closed doors. His sham reform budget contained billions for special interests, pork for legislators, entitlements for unions and the health care cartel. The Division of Budget analysis of the spending plan projected out-year deficits of $3.3 billion in 2008, $5.5 billion 2009 and $7.3 billion in 2010
.

During his two terms as New Yorks Attorney General, Spitzers self-righteous bullying and uncontrollable temper were legendary. On one occasion he told former General Electric C.E.O. Jack Welch that hes going to put a spike through [New York Stock Exchange Director Kenneth Langones] heart. John Whitehead, former Goldman Sachs Chairman wrote in a December 2005 Wall Street Journal op-ed that Spitzer threatened him after he publicly defended insurance mogul Hank Greenburg. According to Whitehead, Spitzer said You will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter.

Since taking over as New Yorks chief executive, Spitzers name calling, swearing and temper tantrums have frequently made front page headlines. When Assemblyman Tedisco dared to question a Spitzer proposal, the governor described himself as a f---ing steamroller who would flatten anyone in his way. He told Orange County Senator, William Larkin hed cut [his] head off. And when Senate Republican Majority Leader, Joe Bruno, recommended a grand jury investigation into allegations that the state police was used to spy on him, Spitzer called the 78-year old Bruno an old senile piece of s--- who is under federal investigation.

Miffed because the state legislature doesnt bow to his commands, Spitzer recently proclaimed he just wont deal with them anymore. There is an unbelievable opportunity now, he said, to govern through the agencies, and thats frankly what Im really looking forward to.


Spitzers no-holds-barred approach to governing has been adopted by his staffers. These best and the brightest believe that bare-knuckle tactics are permissible against perceived Albany obstructionists who in their judgment are dumb, wrong or evil. This brazen attitude has given rise to abuse of power scandals that are wrecking the seven-month old administration.

In April, the Governors Deputy Secretary for Energy, Steven Mitnick, was accused of threatening a New York State Public Service Commissioner over a policy disagreement. With the expected release of a critical Inspector Generals report, Mitnick resigned his post on Friday, August 4, 2007.

In July, State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo released a blockbuster report detailing the governors top aides misuse of the state police when attempting to destroy Senator Bruno with manufactured documents claiming he broke state law.

Although the governor denied any knowledge of the plot, claimed his office cooperated with investigators, punished the culprits, and in a New York Times op-ed apologized for violations of his pledge to maintain the highest ethical standards, Albany pundits do not believe Spitzer is in the clear.

Doubts of Spitzers innocence increased when it was revealed that the governors Chief of Staff Richard Baum and one of the conspirators, suspended Communications Director Darren Dopp, refused to be interviewed by the Attorney Generals office. (The A.G. does not have subpoena power, hence they could not be compelled to testify.)

For weeks Spitzer has been stonewalling the press, refusing to explain why he did not direct his aides to testify, and giving dubious legalistic rationales as to why special prosecutors and senate investigators should not be empanelled to subpoena the governor and his aides.

Few, however, are buying the Spitzer tap dance. The New York Posts Fred Dicker has described Troopergate as a ten in terms of Albany scandals and says it is the biggest political scandal in modern New York history involving the governor and his office.

New York Daily News liberal columnist, Michael Goodwin, called for a grand jury investigation and bluntly stated: I believe Eliot Spitzer not only knew about the scheme, I believe he approved it and maybe even ordered it.

Eliot Spitzers woes are far from over. On August 1, 2007, Albany County District Attorney David Soares ordered a criminal investigation into Troopergate. And his administration is expected to be paralyzed for months answering subpoenas from up to four separate inquiries into the misconduct charges.

In 2005, when discussing his soccer playing days, Spitzer made this revealing comment: You play hard, you play rough, and hopefully you dont get caught. Governor Spitzer has certainly played hard and rough politics but like the best and the brightest of the 1960s, he too might be caught up in a quagmire from which there is no escape.
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Can Mr. Spitzer extricate himself from this mess?  Maybe.  But I doubt it.  This is a man who, to say the least, does not work and play well with others. 
 
I don't deny that Spitzer's talents are considerable, and the corrupt mess in New York is ripe for overhauling.  But if he tries to do it through bullying and intimidation, he's the one who will be overhauled.  You can bet on it.


The FISA court changes. Disgustingly avoided changed and manipulated by Bush

barry sinrod
 
 Under the system that we have just changed, you have to go to what is called a FISA Court, a secret court, with some evidence that there was some terrorist or criminal connection before you can get a warrantless wiretapping approval.  Now all you need is an indication that an American is talking to a foreigner, any foreigner, and you can go ahead, if youre the attorney

steve schneider do you have any evidence whatsoever that ordinary citizens speaking to a foreign country are being indiscriminantly wiretapped?i think not. i have no problem with the gov't spying on phone calls to known terrorist nations and neither should you. the fact is that there hasn't been a homeland attack since 9-11and the wiretapping program is part of the reason. when and if there is another attack on our country you and the rest of the left wingers will cry the loudest about how little the government did to prevent it. yet you have no issue with tieing their hands at every turn. (08/07/07)


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