A Cautious Man
April 26, 2004
 
They're Ringin' the Flag Down
Does this make any sense at all?
Iraq’s U.S.-picked leaders approved a new flag for the country, making a dramatic change that dumps the Saddam Hussein-era colors and slogan “God is great” and introduces symbols of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, a spokesman said Monday. … But the dramatic change in a national symbol could raise some complaints — particularly since it came from U.S.-picked leaders seen by many Iraqis as American puppets. U.S. administrators have tried quietly in the past to change the flag by dropping the words “Allahu akbar,” but Iraqis have refused to abide by the change.
One council member said the Iraqi leadership should wait for an elected government before altering such a major national symbol.
The linked story shows the "new" flag. By the way, the old flag's colors are not "Saddam-era", they're from the Iraqi flag adopted in 1963. Saddam Hussein added the Arabic words “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” to the flag, during the Iran-Iraq War.

Now, just to be clear, as of this date there is no plan, for turning over non-sovereignty to a government of as-yet unknown individuals. Also as of this date, our forces are engaged in putting down several uprisings, holding together an ever-dwindling "coalition" of allies, and trying to prevent a general Islamic front of opposition to our continued occupation of Iraq. Given all this, does it make any sense to have Chalabi and his gang run a new, WHITE national flag up the flagpole?

Oh, yeah, and it has blue stripes. Extra credit if you guess which other country in the area has a flag with blue stripes on a white background. Really bright idea, guys …

0 comments
April 20, 2004
 
If Your Mind's Confused
In his speech yesterday, endorsing the renewal of the Patriot Act, President Bush keeps reading from the John Ashcroft script that misrepresents and cravenly shifts blame for their failures, to the "wall":
First, before September the 11th, law enforcement, intelligence, and national security officials were prevented by legal and bureaucratic restrictions from sharing critical information with each other, and with state and local police departments.

We had -- one group of the FBI knows something, but they couldn't talk to the other group in the FBI -- because of law and bureaucratic interpretation. You cannot fight the war on terror unless all bodies of your government at the federal, state, and local level are capable of sharing intelligence on a real-time basis. We could not get a complete picture of terrorist threats, therefore. People had -- different people had a piece of the puzzle, but because of law, they couldn't get all the pieces in the same place. And so we removed those barriers, removed the walls. You hear the talk about the walls that separate certain aspects of government; they have been removed by the Patriot Act. And now, law enforcement and intelligence communities are working together to share information to better prevent an attack on America.
Look, whether you are for or against the election of President Bush, why should we let him run using falsehoods?

0 comments
April 19, 2004
 
Close Inspection of Who's Telling Who Lies
Apologies in advance, for the long post which follows. I get a little carried away with some long quotes from source documents. But, I really do think that John Ashcroft should be called to account, and asked to explain how his sworn testimony differs from the facts contained in a General Accounting Office (GAO) report from the summer of 2001.

The consequences of Attorney General Ashcroft's reckless disregard for the truth, took a serious turn in the past few days. As noted in a post below, from las Thursday, after Mr. Ashcroft sought (falsely) to assign blame to 9-11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick for "erecting" a "wall" in 1995, which prevented intelligence officials from communicating with law enforcement personnel, there were a lot of shrill attacks directed at Ms. Gorelick. The latest reports now indicate: "Jamie Gorelick, a member of the commission investigating the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, said Saturday that she received death threats this week after a number of conservatives alleged that her former work in the Justice Department may have contributed to failures leading to the attacks." So, with your indulgence, we will briefly review how Ms. Gorelick responded to Mr. Ashcroft's accusations. Then, we will look at a GAO report from 2001, which shows that Mr. Ashcroft's claims are false. Finally, we will revisit Mr. Ashcroft's sworn testimony, which loses all credibility in light of the facts, and can be seen as a craven attempt to deflect blame, resulting in threats against a 9-11 Commission member.

First, Ms. Gorelick has provided a detailed refutation of Ashcroft's allegations. In a piece published this weekend, "The Truth About 'the Wall'", she touches on the fact that it was Ashcroft's Justice Department, in 2001, which took steps to increase implementation of the "wall" (and which, quite possibly, misunderstood the whole point of it) :
[T]he memo I wrote in March 1995 -- which concerns information-sharing in two particular cases, including the original World Trade Center bombing -- permits freer coordination between intelligence and criminal investigators than was subsequently permitted by the 1995 guidelines or the 2001 Thompson memo. The purpose of my memo was to resolve a problem presented to me: facilitating investigations on both the intelligence side and criminal side at the same time. My memo directed agents on both sides to share information -- and, in particular, directed one agent to work on both the criminal and intelligence investigations -- to ensure the flow of information "over the wall." We set up special procedures because of the extraordinary circumstances and the necessity to prevent a court from throwing out any conviction in those cases. Had my memo been in place in August 2001 -- when, as Ashcroft said, FBI officials rejected a criminal warrant of Moussaoui because they feared "breaching the wall" -- it would have allowed those agents to obtain a criminal warrant without fear of jeopardizing an intelligence investigation.

[N]othing in the 1995 guidelines prevented the sharing of information between criminal and intelligence investigators. Indeed, the guidelines require that FBI foreign intelligence agents share information with criminal investigators and prosecutors whenever they uncover facts suggesting that a crime has been or may be committed. The guidelines did set forth procedures, but those procedures implemented court decisions and, as noted, were reaffirmed by the Ashcroft Justice Department.
Now, should you just rely on Ms. Gorelick? Well, you don't have to, since you can also read a 2001 GAO report (link is a .PDF) on the effectiveness of the "wall". It turns out, the reason for the report and investigation was a concern that the FBI was not following the 1995 procedures. As recounted in the GAO report, there was a "core group" of officials who monitored how the FBI managed the flow of information, and which could give guidance on specific cases. There apparently was concern that procedures designed to protect criminal investigations were not being followed. But, not to worry, the Ashcroft people had taken over the job. As explained in the 2001 GAO report:
In April 2001, the acting Deputy Attorney General decided to reconstitute the core group and to give it a broader role for overseeing coordination issues. The core group, similar to the prior core group, is comprised of several officials from the Office of Deputy Attorney General, an official representing the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, and the Assistant Directors of the FBI's National Security and Counterterrorism Divisions. Whereas the previous core group's role was to decide which of the FBI's most critical cases met the requirements of the Attorney General's coordination procedures and needed to be coordinated with the Criminal Division, the new core group's role is broader.

According to an Associate Deputy Attorney General and core group member, the new group is to be responsible for deciding whether particular FBI investigations meet the requirements of the coordination procedures and to identify for the Attorney General's attention any cases involving extraordinary situations where compliance with the guidelines requires the Attorney General's consideration. According to the Associate Deputy Attorney General, the FBI is to bring to the core group's attention any investigation in which it is not clear that the Attorney General's procedures have been triggered. For example, during an FBI investigation should it not be clear whether a criminal violation should be considered a significant federal crime, as indicated in the procedures, the FBI is to bring the matter to the core group for resolution. Thus, this is a much broader scope of responsibility than the prior core group's which only considered the need for coordination in those critical cases that were judgmentally selected by the FBI. Furthermore, the core group also is to be responsible for identifying for the Attorney General's attention those extraordinary situations where the FBI believes there may be good reason not to notify the Criminal Division. For extraordinary situations, the Associate Deputy Attorney General opined that it was expected that the number of such questions brought to the core group would be extremely few.
...

In written comments on a draft of this report, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for Administration responding for Justice responded that on two of our recommendations, the Department has taken full or partial action. Concerning our recommendation to institutionalize OIPR's [the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review in the Justice Department] role and responsibilities for ensuring compliance with the Attorney General's coordination procedures, the Acting Counsel for Intelligence Policy on June 12, 2001, issued a memorandum to all OIPR staff. That memorandum formally articulated OIPR's policy of notifying the FBI and the Criminal Division whenever OIPR attorneys identify foreign counterintelligence investigations that meet the requirements established by the Attorney General for coordination. We believe this policy should help perpetuate OIPR's mechanism for ensuring compliance with the 1995 coordination procedures beyond any changes in OIPR management.
Basically, the Ashcroft Justice Department took steps to monitor and enforce a policy, which was partly based on the 1995 memo, but also based on prior court decisions, and later modifications of the policy. In light of these facts, Mr. Ashcroft's testimony (link is a .PDF), in which he claims that Ms. Gorelick's memo is the sole source of the policy, appears desparate, craven and false. Ignoring the facts about his own actions, he testified as follows:
But the simple fact of September 11 is this: we did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade our government had blinded itself to its enemies. Our agents were isolated by government-imposed walls, handcuffed by government-imposed restrictions, and starved for basic information technology. The old national intelligence system in place on September 11 was destined to fail. This Commission can serve a noble purpose. Your responsibility is to examine the root causes of September 11 and to help the United States prevent another terrorist attack. Your duty is solemn and sobering. But I, too, have a duty today. I have sworn to tell the whole truth, and I intend to fulfill this obligation.
That last sentence may come back to haunt him. But, to continue -
The single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents. Government erected this wall. Government buttressed this wall. And before September 11, government was blinded by this wall. In 1995, the Justice Department embraced flawed legal reasoning, imposing a series of restrictions on the FBI that went beyond what the law required. The 1995 Guidelines and the procedures developed around them imposed draconian barriers to communications between the law enforcement and intelligence communities. The wall "effectively excluded" prosecutors from intelligence investigations. The wall left intelligence agents afraid to talk with criminal prosecutors or agents. In 1995, the Justice Department designed a system destined to fail.
Now, as noted above, not only does Ms. Gorelick point out that she did not "erect" the wall (and in fact, she was trying to implement procedures to make sure that any "wall" did not inhibit investigations), but the GAO report demonstrates that Mr. Ashcroft is the one who strengthened it. Nevertheless, Mr. Ashcroft stated in his sworn testimony:
But somebody did make these rules. Someone built this wall. The basic architecture for the wall in the 1995 Guidelines was contained in a classified memorandum entitled "Instructions on Separation of Certain Foreign Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations." The memorandum ordered FBI Director Louis Freeh and others, quote: "We believe that it is prudent to establish a set of instructions that will more clearly separate the counterintelligence investigation from the more limited, but continued, criminal investigations. These procedures, which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that FISA is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation." This memorandum established a wall separating the criminal and intelligence investigations following the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the largest international terrorism attack on American soil prior to September 11. Although you understand the debilitating impact of the wall, I cannot imagine that the Commission knew about this memorandum, so I have declassified it for you and the public to review. Full disclosure compels me to inform you that its author is a member of this Commission.
So, Attorney General Ashcroft, solely in the interest of full disclosure, declassifies a 1995 document, while neglecting to tell the Commission about refinements to the policy in 2000, or his own strengthening of the wall in April of 2001. And, in so doing, unleashed the attack dogs on Ms. Gorelick.

I don't think it's inappropriate to suggest that Mr. Ashcroft's veracity in this matter should be more closely examined.

0 comments
April 15, 2004
 
You Let Your Walls Get in the Way of These Facts
No More Mister Nice Blog has a comprehensive wrap-up (and refutation) of the attacks which are being heaped upon Jamie Gorelick of the 9-11 Commission, as a result of John Ashcroft's move to pin the blame on her for the "wall" that, it is claimed, prevented the FBI from being able to pursue leads which could have resulted in the capture of the terrorists who perpetrated 9-11. What's especially galling is the fact that Ashcroft's claims are clearly deceptive, especially when considered in light of a July, 2001 GAO report on the "wall" (Note: link is to a .PDF). Entitled "FBI Intelligence Investigations: Coordination Within Justice on Counterintelligence Criminal Matters Is Limited", the report includes the position of Ashcroft's Justice Department, as to whether the 1995 memo and procedures were being followed. That report also details the years of subsequent review of procedures to ensure that criminal investigations would not be compromised. The report appears to indicate that the "wall", instead of hindering intelligence gathering, was something which affected the criminal investigation side of the FBI (if at all).

In any event, the existence of that report, and the contents, shows the level of deception engaged in by Attorney General Ashcroft in trying to fix blame on Ms. Gorelick for an intelligence failure.

0 comments
 
Like Some Soldier Undaunted
A belated hello to my visitor earlier today from Army.mil, who found me with a "Google" search for "James Yee 'Article 15' dropped April 16 2004". While the Army has, finally, dropped all penalties imposed against Chaplain Yee, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the decision to bring the case against him in the first place.

There is also one piece of unfinished business, as Captain Yee's attorney noted: "We hope that higher authority will agree that an apology is overdue."

[Update] On whether the military owes Captain Yee an apology, even the Instant Pundit now says: "I'm not that familiar with the ins and outs of the case, but it appears that they do." Although, for someone "not that familiar with the ins and outs", the IP was willing to join the initial smear campaign, when he wrote about the start of the case: "Sounds almost as if he were planted. Sadly, this will only produce more suspicion toward loyal Muslims." Maybe the IP could start the apology ball rolling?

0 comments
 
The Words That You Used to Say
Some excerpts from the President's statements, with no comment. June 24, 2002:
As we make progress towards security, Israel forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000. And consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop. ... Ultimately, Israelis and Palestinians must address the core issues that divide them if there is to be a real peace, resolving all claims and ending the conflict between them. This means that the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 will be ended through a settlement negotiated between the parties, based on U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, with Israeli withdrawal to secure and recognize borders.
June 4, 2003:
As I said yesterday, the issue of settlements must be addressed for peace to be achieved. In addition, Prime Minister Sharon has stated that no unilateral actions by either side can or should prejudge the outcome of future negotiations.
December 4, 2003:
I also talked about the need for the Israelis to keep in mind that if they support a Palestinian state, which they have told me they do, that the conditions on the ground must be such for a Palestinian state to be able to emerge. And that's why we're continuing to talk to them about the illegal settlements and outposts -- illegal outposts and settlements, as well as the fence.
And finally, yesterday:
In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.
This is the fellow who said, at the end of his press conference on Tuesday, "One thing is for certain, though, about me -- and the world has learned this -- when I say something, I mean it. And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom. "

0 comments
 
He Rides Head First into a Hurricane and Disappears
Please take a moment to salute NPR's Don Gonyea, who finally got the chance to ask a question, at the end of the President's press conference on Tuesday, and took the opportunity to say what everyone in the room was thinking:
THE PRESIDENT: Let's see, last question here. Hold on for a second. Those who yell will not be asked. I'll tell you a guy who I've never heard from -- Don.

Q: I appreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT: It's a well-received -- (laughter.)

Q: Following on both Judy's and John's questions, and it comes out of what you just said in some ways, with public support for your policies in Iraq falling off the way they have -- quite significantly over the past couple of months -- I guess I'd like to know if you feel in any way that you've failed as a communicator on this topic? Because --

THE PRESIDENT: Gosh, I don't know. I mean --

Q: Well, you deliver a lot of speeches and a lot of them contain similar phrases, and they vary very little from one to the next. And they often include a pretty upbeat assessment of how things are going -- with the exception of tonight's pretty somber assessment, this evening.

THE PRESIDENT: It's a pretty somber assessment today, Don, yes.

Q: I guess I just wonder if you feel that you have failed in any way? You don't have many of these press conferences, where you engage in this kind of exchange. Have you failed in any way to really make the case to the American public?
Well, if we never see him called on again, it still may have been worth it.

0 comments
April 14, 2004
 
Bombed 'em (Part II)
I heard on the news today that a Google search for the word "Jew", results in a hate site as the number one result. Google has an explanation of this at this link.

Seems that a little constructive counter-Google-bombing may be needed ("Google bombing", if you haven't heard the term before, is defined as: "A technique through which a group of bloggers working together can make a webpage come up when someone searches Google for certain keywords."). Since the number one result is now a hate site, maybe folks could change that to something completely different - what if the word "Jew" was used to link to the Anti-Defamation League?

Let's give it a try (hey, I already did).

0 comments
April 12, 2004
 
Bombed 'em with the Blues
Now there's Counter-Google-bombing?

"Waffles".

Mr. Willis explains it all.

0 comments
April 08, 2004
 
Strolled All Alone Through a Fallout Zone
In all the fussing about the testimony today of Ms. Rice, before the 9-11 Commission, it seems that former President Clinton also met with them today:
The federal panel reviewing the Sept. 11 attacks met with former President Clinton in a private session Thursday that commissioners described as frank and informative.
The 10-member panel interviewed Clinton for nearly four hours to discuss what his administration could have done to prevent the attacks. The former president was "forthcoming and responsive," said the commission.

The panel said it didn't plan to release specific details of the meeting, saying much of it involved classified information.

Commissioners said Clinton addressed "big-picture" policy issues, including his administration's response to the October 2000 al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole. Some commissioners have criticized the Clinton and Bush administrations for failing to mount a military response to the attack, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.

"He was adamant about trying to work in a bipartisan way to fix the problems," said Democratic commissioner Timothy Roemer, a former U.S. representative from Indiana. "He was quite honest and frank."

John Lehman, a former Navy secretary under President Reagan, agreed.

"He did very well," Lehman told CNN. "He gave us a lot of very helpful insights into things that happened, policy approaches."
In contrast, President Bush will be meeting with the 9-11 Commission under a time limit, and with Vice President Cheney at his side.

No comment, just observing, that's all.

0 comments
April 07, 2004
 
Men Without Women
In the Catholic faith, the Mass on Holy Thursday includes special elements to remind the faithful of the life and message of Jesus, especially with regard to the night before He died. As part of this, the priest re-enacts Jesus' washing of his disciples' feet. As noted by the U.S. Catholic Bishops: "Christ's disciples are to love one another. For this reason, the priest who presides at the Holy Thursday liturgy portrays the biblical scene of the gospel by washing the feet of some of the faithful." As the bishops also note:
Because the gospel … read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the "Teacher and Lord" who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service.
Unfortunately, it seems that the Archbishop of Atlanta has decided that he has a better idea:
Archbishop John Donoghue has limited Holy Thursday foot-washing services to men …The archbishop's position on the ancient foot-washing ritual came in a March 19 letter he sent to pastors telling them that 12 men were to be selected for the rite as the representation of "Christ's linkage of the institution of the Eucharist to the establishment of the ordained priesthood."
As reported in the local news media, "The overwhelming majority of American bishops allow women's feet to be washed in the ceremony, although the decision is left to individual bishops."

Is there some important religious or liturgical reason for the Archbishop's decision? Doesn't seem so, especially since his interpretation of the meaning of the ritual, appears to be at odds with what is taught. Even if the Archbishop could sit down, and with extensive reference to Church teachings and linguistic analysis of the relevant Church documents support his position, does it still make it the right one? No, I don't think so. In case the Archbishop has forgotten, the U.S. bishops are still trying to regain the trust of a lot of people, Catholics included. With all of the tension and division nowadays, in the Church as well as in the world, Catholics are ill-served when one of the "shepherds" promulgates a rule which will simply be seen as useless and petty. But don't just listen to me. As the Archbishop's brother bishops have already noted:
The liturgy is always an act of ecclesial unity and Christian charity, of which the Holy Thursday foot washing rite is an eminent sign. All should obey the Lord's new commandment to love one another with an abundance of love, especially at this most sacred time of the liturgical year when the Lord's passion, death, and resurrection are remembered and celebrated in the powerful rites of the Triduum.


0 comments
April 01, 2004
 
… and the poets just stand back and let it all be
In addition to the horrible news today, of new deaths of U.S. troops and the horrible deaths of four U.S. civilians yesterday, the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website informs us that U.S. troop deaths in the Iraq war now total 600, including 461 since the President proclaimed "Mission Accomplished!"

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


0 comments

Powered by Blogger