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Signs of the Times for Fri, 03 Feb 2006

Houston Chronicle
MANHATTAN, KAN. - Ahead of congressional hearings on the formerly secret domestic wiretapping program, President Bush on Monday opened a weeklong White House public relations push with a renewed claim that Congress essentially granted him the power to order the eavesdropping.

Before an appreciative audience of 9,000 students, local Republicans and troops just back from Iraq, Bush said a vote by Congress, approving military force shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, gave him the right to authorize wiretapping inside the United States, without warrants from a court, as part of the war on terror.

"I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means," Bush said, trying a folksy approach as part of a question-and-answer format he has been experimenting with lately. "It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't proscribe the tactics."

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Monday, January 23, 2006; Page A14
The Washington Post
THE MOST detailed legal justification to date for the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance has emerged from the Bush administration, but the 42-page version isn't any more convincing than its shorter predecessors. In some ways -- particularly in its broad conception of presidential power in wartime -- it is more disturbing.

As it had implied previously but never flatly stated, the administration asserted that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would be unconstitutional if it were read to prevent the president from engaging in the kind of warrantless surveillance that the administration has been conducting.

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Insight Mag
Issue January 23-29, 2006,
The Bush administration is bracing for impeachment hearings in Congress.

"A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said.

Sources said a prelude to the impeachment process could begin with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. They said the hearings would focus on the secret electronic surveillance program and whether Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Administration sources said the charges are expected to include false reports to Congress as well as Mr. Bush's authorization of the National Security Agency to engage in electronic surveillance inside the United States without a court warrant. This included the monitoring of overseas telephone calls and e-mail traffic to and from people living in the United States without requisite permission from a secret court.

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by Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers
If I'm correct here, the reason the Bushies are fighting so hard to keep anyone, including the FISA judges, from learning more about the real reason for their massive domestic surveillance is that outsiders might discover that it has less to do with foreign terrorists and more to do with collecting info on their political enemies and thus creating conditions for more firm control of the American populace in general.

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By Robert Parry
January 24, 2006
Every American school child is taught that in the United States, people have “unalienable rights,” heralded by the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Supposedly, these liberties can’t be taken away, but they are now gone.

Today, Americans have rights only at George W. Bush’s forbearance. Under new legal theories – propounded by Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and other right-wing jurists – Bush effectively holds all power over all Americans.

He can spy on anyone he wants without a court order; he can throw anyone into jail without due process; he can order torture or other degrading treatment regardless of a new law enacted a month ago; he can launch wars without congressional approval; he can assassinate people whom he deems to be the enemy even if he knows that innocent people, including children, will die, too.

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By Fred Barbash
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
By a 10-8 party line vote with sometimes bitter partisan debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee today recommended that Samuel A. Alito Jr. be confirmed by the full Senate as associate justice of the Supreme Court.

The nomination will move to the full Senate Wednesday with a vote expected by the end of the week, according to the committee chairman, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).

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24 Jan 06
Those chronically timid and cautious Democratic Senators who find comfort in passivity and enabling the dismantling of our Democracy should take note that times have changed.

The revolution to restore the gift of the American Revolution -- our Constitution -- is moving from a simmer to a boil, by the power of one exponentially multiplied into an army of patriots.

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Paul Rogat Loeb
January 24, 2006
One decision doesn't make a career, but an alarm should have sounded when Chief Justice Roberts joined Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in overriding the will of Oregon voters and attempting to overrule Oregon's Death With Dignity law. Although the Court's current majority sustained the law, this was the first major split decision of the Roberts court. And by contradicting all his fine-sounding phrases about Federalist principles (much as the five justices did in Bush v. Gore) Roberts made clear that his political beliefs will guide his interpretations. If there are doubts about his agenda, and where his loyalties lie, I'd suggest that this should bury them.

Many of us believed this would happen when we urged a no vote on Roberts. But he was well-spoken and pedigreed, praised moderation at every turn, and evaded the hard questions. The Democrats never mounted a serious challenge.

Now the Senate faces Alito, who has left a far more unambiguous trail supporting centralization of executive power, incursions of government into private life, and the right of corporations to avoid oversight and regulation. After hearings that illuminated nothing except his ability to play dodge ball, he's likely to receive considerably more negative votes.

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Republicans called Supreme Court hopeful Samuel Alito "one of the most qualified nominees ever" as the conservative judge's nomination moved toward a preordained Senate Judiciary Committee victory today. All 10 Republican senators on the panel have announced support for Alito, leaving the eight Democrats with no way to stop the committee from giving him a positive recommendation.

January 23, 2006American Research Group, Inc.
George W. Bush's overall job approval rating has returned to its lowest point in Bush's presidency as Americans again turn less optimistic about the national economy according to the latest survey from the American Research Group. Among all Americans, 36% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 34% approve and 60% disapprove.

Among Americans registered to vote, 37% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 58% disapprove. When it comes to the way Bush is handling the economy, 35% of registered voters approve of the way Bush is handling the economy and 60% disapprove.

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NY Times
January 24, 2006
WASHINGTON - These pictures may be worth more than a thousand words.

On Monday, White House officials acknowledged that, yes, photographs did exist of President Bush in a classic grip-and-grin with Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist at the center of a bribery and corruption scandal in the capital. But that did not mean, they said, that Mr. Bush had a personal relationship with him.

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White House press briefing
Jan 4 2006
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I said it's possible that they would have met at a holiday reception or some other widely attended gathering. The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him.

By Zachary Goldfarb
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, January 22, 2006; A06
In Controlled Test, Results Are Manipulated in Florida System

As the Leon County supervisor of elections, Ion Sancho's job is to make sure voting is free of fraud. But the most brazen effort lately to manipulate election results in this Florida locality was carried out by Sancho himself.

Four times over the past year Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. To Sancho, the results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.

Sancho's most recent demonstration was last month. Harri Hursti, a computer security expert from Finland, manipulated the "memory card" that records the votes of ballots run through an optical scanning machine.

Then, in a warehouse a few blocks from his office in downtown Tallahassee, Sancho and seven other people held a referendum. The question on the ballot:

"Can the votes of this Diebold system be hacked using the memory card?"

Two people marked yes on their ballots, and six no. The optical scan machine read the ballots, and the data were transmitted to a final tabulator. The result? Seven yes, one no.

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Comment: It is somewhat comical to see everyone dancing around the issue. Computer technology is highly reliable, unless someone interferes with it. A paper trail is necessary, but only because without it the deliberately compromised electronic voting machines will be used to deceive the American people once more.

The head of Diebold was a top fundraiser for President Bush's election in 2004. In a fund-raising letter at the time, Diebold's chief executive Walden O'Dell said he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

January 23, 2006By SUSAN PYNCHON
I was one of ten people present at the "hack" of the Leon County, Florida voting system, which took place on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 around 4:30 in the afternoon at the county elections warehouse. Leon County's voting system is the Diebold Accu-Vote OS 1.94w (optical scan).

The Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Ion Sancho, authorized a "test" of his Diebold voting system to see if election results could be altered using only a memory card. Harri Hursti, a computer programmer from Finland facilitated the test and it has come to be known as the "Harri Hursti Hack."

What follows is my description of that hack and its significance for our nation, which I hope will correct much of the misinformation circulating regarding this event.

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Portland Indymedia
August 28, 2003
COLUMBUS -- Democratic leaders want a major Republican fund-raiser blocked from becoming the state's new voting machines supplier, saying his presence puts in doubt the fairness of all Ohio elections.

Wally O'Dell, CEO of Diebold Inc., this week sent out letters to central Ohio Republicans asking them to raise $10,000 in donations in time for a Sept. 26 Ohio Republican Party event at his home.

His company, which specializes in security and election machinery, is one of three under consideration to supply new, electronic voting machines to replace punch card machines still in use in 71 Ohio counties.

House Minority Leader Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, and Senate Minority Leader Greg DiDonato, D-New Philadelphia, on Tuesday petitioned Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to drop O'Dell's company from the list of potential suppliers, saying his presence could undermine Ohio's entire election system.

"The whole point of this upgrade is to ensure fairness," Redfern said. "The inevitable appearance here is of a pay-to-play system."

In his invitation, O'Dell states his support for the Republican Party and notes he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year."

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By Mike Ferner
Veterans for Peace
JANUARY 24, 2006
On New Year's Day, I decided to start 2006 out with a public protest against the war. Little did I know how public it would become.

My younger brother and I (he was only the wheelman, led astray) tagged three highway overpasses near Toledo with "TROOPS OUT NOW!" (see photo above). Suburban cops with too much time on their hands and citizens with cell phones being what they were, we were soon pulled over by five (no kidding) patrol cars and arrested on no fewer than five felonies each. For those of you who haven't been paying attention to how state legislatures protect us from crime, in the late 90's in Ohio it became a felony to spray-paint a public building (called "getting tough on gangs") AND a felony to possess a can of spray-paint in the commission of that crime ("possession of criminal tools" says the Ohio Revised Code).

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Comment: It bears repeating:

“Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience... Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem.” Howard Zinn

Patrice de Beer
11 - 1 - 2006
Millions of children around the world probably got a new computer for Christmas, among other presents. Many will use them to play games dealing – sometimes in a gory way – with crime, war or espionage. But it is difficult to know how many might have hooked up to the Central Intelligence Agency’s website, where a specific “Homepage for Kids” – divided into two sections, for younger and older children – has been designed to appeal to them. Yes, the CIA, like many other United States government departments – including the White House and the FBI – has its own children’s corner to familiarise young American citizens with the intricacies of government and/or to cultivate potential future recruits.

It makes sense: we live in a consumer-driven society where institutions must groom future consumers almost from the cradle to prepare for any product available in the marketplace – including jobs which (since intelligence can be a risky trade) could lead them to their grave.

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Your tax dollars
Hi! My name is Ginger. That's short for Virginia, where my home is. All day long I sit on Marta's desk. Marta's my friend and she's an analyst at the CIA. This is a very important job because what she writes may be seen by the President and other important people in the government. What she does helps them make important decisions about our country. I'm very proud of her. I'm happy to keep her company while she does her important work. Sometimes, though, I wish I could see the rest of the Agency, all the places Marta talks about.

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Jack Cashill
24 Jan 06
More than five years ago, retired United Airline Capt. Ray Lahr began his FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) petition to discover why TWA Flight 800 blew up on the night of July 17, 1996, off the coast of Long Island.

The powers that be at the Central Intelligence Agency may have thought they could stall Lahr until he just gave up or died trying. If so, they didn't know the man. Capt. Lahr is as fixed on the truth as Capt. Ahab was fixed on his whale.

Last week, Lahr and his attorney, John Clarke of Washington, D.C., filed an amended complaint in a U.S. District Court in California against the CIA, the National Transportation Safety Board, and now the much-in-the-news National Security Agency. In so doing, Lahr has left his adversaries increasingly little room to maneuver, and Lahr's is but one of three, active TWA Flight 800 suits making its way through the federal courts.

From the beginning, Lahr has focused his attack on the most vulnerable point of the government defense – what he calls "the zoom-climb scenario." The FBI first publicly advanced this scenario in November 1997, 16 months after the crash. To negate the stubborn testimony of some 270 FBI eyewitnesses who had sworn they saw a flaming, smoke-trailing, zigzagging object ascend, arc over and destroy TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island, the FBI showed a video prepared by the CIA.

The video contended that what the witnesses saw was "a Boeing 747 in various stages of crippled flight." Its producers wanted the audience to come away with one understanding. And this was underlined, literally, on screen: "The Eyewitnesses Did Not See a Missile."

The video climaxed with an animation purporting to show what the eyewitnesses did see. As seen in the CIA video, the nose of the aircraft blew off from an internal explosion.

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Comment: Geez, where have we seen this before? You did NOT see a missle! You saw a Boeing 747! Repeat after me...

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