Wednesday, July 20, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Bush picks conservative judge for US Supreme Court
AFP
July 20, 2005

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush nominated conservative judge John Roberts to the US Supreme Court, a move that could shape the outcome of battles over volatile issues like abortion for decades.

Republicans welcomed the choice of a candidate with a reputation as a brilliant lawyer with right wing credentials. But senior Democrats expressed doubts, setting the scene for a Senate battle over Roberts' confirmation.

"The decisions of the Supreme Court affect the life of every American," the president said in a televised address from the White House, with the 50-year-old federal appeals court judge at his side.

"A nominee to that court must be a person of superb credentials and the highest integrity, a person who will faithfully apply the constitution and keep our founding promise of equal justice under law. I have found such a person in Judge John Roberts," said Bush.

Bush shrugged off pressure to pick a woman to replace Justice
Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate conservative who was the first woman to serve on the court and often cast the deciding vote in controversial decisions.

The president urged the Senate, where his Republican party has 55 of the 100 seats, to confirm Roberts by the first week of October, when the Supreme Court opens a new session.

"This confirmation can be done in a timely manner," said Bush. "So I have full confidence that the Senate will rise to the occasion and act promptly on this nomination."

But the nomination immediately opened a new partisan divide. "We know Judge Roberts is no Sandra Day O'Connor, and the White House has sent a clear signal," said John Kerry, the Democratic senator who fought Bush for the presidency last year.

"There are serious questions that must be answered involving Judge Roberts' judicial philosophy as demonstrated over his short time on the appellate court."

Other Democrats promised intense scrutiny of Roberts stand on issues such as abortion.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Harry Reid, set the stage for tough questioning by saying the nominee had "suitable legal credentials" but required more scrutiny.

Leading US dailies said Wednesday Bush's nomination should be carefully vetted by the Senate to determine exactly what if any ideological leaning he might have.

"If he is a mainstream conservative ... he should be confirmed. But if on closer inspection he turns out to be an extreme ideologue with an agenda of stripping away important rights, he should not be," said The New York Times.

While The Washington Post considers Roberts "a man of substance and seriousness" whose nomination "is not a provocation to Democrats," it cautions that "nobody really knows what (he) believes, because he has been unusually careful about not discussing his views."

"So sphinx-like has he been," added the Post editorial, "that some conservatives have suggested he might ... not be a real conservative at all."

Comment: Dream on... Bush nominated him.

Roberts "has a thin record on controversial subjects ... (that) gives the other side so little to work with," said the Times, while USA Today said that "while certainly conservative," Roberts' legal record "is largely opaque."

For this reason, the three newspapers agree that Roberts deserves a careful confirmation hearing by the Senate.

Of special concern, said the Post, are Roberts' views on abortion rights and "the balance of power between the federal government and the states."

"If extremists take control of the Supreme Court," warned the Times, "we will end up with an America in which the federal government is powerless to protect against air pollution, unsafe working conditions and child labor."

Comment: Well, golly! By all means, give the federal government whatever powers they want! The last thing America needs is a Supreme Court that dares to disagree with the fuhrer! Extremists will take over the Supreme Court, but not to prevent the Bush Reich from exercising their power... After all, Bush is the one who chose Roberts.

For this reason, said the Post, "such a substantial picture of a nominee will require a serious and dignified confirmation process."

"He should be asked in detail his views of how the Constitution should be interpreted," said USA Today.

The nomination was Bush's first chance to reshape the ideological balance of the court, which has immense influence over the lives of Americans as the final arbiter of the constitution and court of last resort.

Because justices serve for life or until they retire, they regularly decide critical and controversial political and legal issues long after the president who picked them is gone.

Roberts' last notable decision came only last week when his appeals court overturned a lower court decision that the special military tribunals for suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo detention camp in Cuba were illegal.

The decision was a victory for the Bush administration in its handling of the "war on terrorism" detainees. But a new appeal is now expected to go to the Supreme Court.

Comment: And here we have our answer as to where Roberts stands. No wonder Bush is pushing for a quick confirmation...

Roberts graduated from Harvard Law School in 1979, was a clerk to arch-conservative US Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, served in president Ronald Reagan's White House, and was a senior federal prosecutor under Bush's father, former president George Bush.

"He is regarded by many people as the best supreme court litigator of his generation," said James Lindgren, a professor of law at Northwestern University in Illinois, who added that Roberts conservative creed could lead to a "nasty fight" in the Senate.

O'Connor's retirement opened the first vacancy on the Supreme Court in 11 years. The last justice appointed was the liberal Justice
Stephen Breyer, who was named by president Bill Clinton.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now the sole woman on the nine justice Supreme Court bench.

Comment: First we read this:

Roberts "has a thin record on controversial subjects ... (that) gives the other side so little to work with," said the Times

And then this:

Roberts' last notable decision came only last week when his appeals court overturned a lower court decision that the special military tribunals for suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo detention camp in Cuba were illegal.

The editors at the Times obviously didn't bother to do their homework.

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Bush Nominates Roberts for Supreme Court
By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, July 20, 2005; 2:03 AM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush named federal appeals judge John G. Roberts Jr. to fill the first Supreme Court vacancy in a decade on Tuesday, delighting Republicans and unsettling Democrats by picking a young jurist of impeccably conservative credentials. [...]

In brief remarks, Roberts said he has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court in a career as a private attorney and government lawyer. "I always got a lump in my throat whenever I walked up those marble steps to argue a case before the court, and I don't think it was just from the nerves," he said. [...]

While he lacks national name recognition, the Harvard-educated Roberts is a Washington insider who has worked over the years at the White House, Justice Department and in private practice. [...]

"He has been a judge for only two years and authored about 40 opinions, only three of which have drawn any dissent," said Wendy Long, a lawyer representing the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, adding that his record appears to suit Bush's desire to nominate a judge who will apply the law, as written, and leave policy decisions to the elected branches of government. [...]

Bush did not ask Roberts any questions about abortion, gay marriage or other specific issues that might come before the Supreme Court, the official said.

Comment: Bush doesn't care about the "important issues" like abortion and gay marriage. As Bush himself has stated, what he wants is a judge who will not "legislate from the bench", but rather enforce the laws that King George makes. Add to this picture Roberts' recent ruling on Guantanamo, and it is quite clear that the Bush administration will have an iron grip on the Supreme Court soon enough. With the highest court in the nation in its back pocket, there will be nothing to stop the Neocon cabal from implementing whatever laws they see fit, just as Hitler did after securing Germany's court system. It seems old George really wasn't joking about being a dictator after all...

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Introducing Judge Dread: The Affable Accomplice of a Coup d'état
Chris Floyd

So now we know: it's John Roberts for the Supreme Court. The main focus of debate on the pick will undoubtedly be Roberts' statement on abortion, while serving as deputy solicitor general Bush I, declaring that Roe v. Wade was wrong. This is the only "controversial" angle cited by the NY Times' loving – not to say groveling – profile this morning, which then goes on to give Roberts an alibi, if he wants it: that he was only dutifully stating the government's position at the time.

But all of this is a smokescreen. The NY Times doesn't even mention Roberts' most dangerous decision, issued just last Friday, when, as part of a panel of appeals judges, he upheld Bush's outrageous claim of dictatorial powers: the right to dispose of anyone he arbitrarily designates an "enemy combatant" as he sees fit; in this case, sending them to the kangaroo court "military tribunals" he has concocted.

I'm writing more extensively on this case for the Moscow Times later this week, but here's the gist: Roberts' decision is part of an on-going process of elevating the president beyond the reach of law -- essentially a slow-rolling coup d'état, replacing the old American Republic (or what's left of it) with an authoritarian "Commander-in-Chief State." (Deep Blade has more examples of this process here.) How so? Here's a preview of the column:

"The principle of arbitrary rule by an autocratic leader is being openly established, through a series of unchallenged executive orders, perverse Justice Department rulings and court decisions by sycophantic judges who defer to power – not law – in their determinations. What we are witnessing is the creation of a "Commander-in-Chief State," where the form and pressure of law no longer apply to the president and his designated agents. The rights of individuals are no longer inalienable, nor are their persons inviolable; all depends on the good will of the Commander, the military autocrat.

"[Through a series of executive orders and presidential directives, beginning in October 2001] George W. Bush has granted himself the power to declare anyone on earth – including any American citizen – an 'enemy combatant,' for any reason he sees fit. He can render them up to torture, he can imprison them for life, he can even have them killed, all without charges, with no burden of proof, no standards of evidence, no legislative oversight, no appeal, no judicial process whatsoever except those that he himself deigns to construct, with whatever limitations he cares to impose. Nor can he ever be prosecuted for any order he issues, however criminal; in the new American system laid out by Bush's legal minions, the Commander is sacrosanct, beyond the reach of any law or constitution.

"[In last week's decision, Roberts and his fellow judges] ruled that the Commander's abitrarily designated "enemies" are non-persons: neither the Geneva Conventions nor American military and domestic law apply to such human garbage. Bush is now free to subject anyone he likes to the "military tribunal" system he has concocted – a brutal sham that some top retired military officials have denounced as a "kangaroo court" that will be used by tyrants around the world to "hide their oppression under U.S. precedent."

The column will explore the implications of this decision in more detail. But the fact is that Roberts -- this affable "insider," this "regular guy" from Indiana -- will now be implementing the anti-American principle of unlimited presidential authority on the highest court in the land. Too bad the NY Times doesn't think this is controversial.

Meanwhile, regarding the Roberts' nomination, let me cry out with Hamlet: "O my prophetic soul!" I'm not often this right when I peer into the crystal ball, but I do think that Bush's pick is pretty much along the lines I predicted here on July 4, when I wrote:

"For what it's worth, here's my prediction on Bush's Supreme Court nominee: it won't be any of the "hot-button" prospects (Gonzales, Pryor, etc.). It will be some Federalist Society apparatchik who has plugged along for years, quietly, unnoticed, issuing consistently right-wing rulings but with a minimum of overheated Borkian/Scalian rhetoric.

"It will be someone who will evoke this kind of reaction among the "conventional wisdom" clique (Richard Cohen or E.J. Dionne, say): 'At first glance, at least, President Bush has made a surprisingly solid pick for the Supreme Court: a conservative to be sure, but no ideologue, no firebrand. All the lefty bloggers and anti-Bush activists out there may yet dig up some skeletons, of course, but at the moment, we applaud what looks to be an act of genuine statesmanship by the president.'

"This first impression won't last, of course. Unsavoury facts about the nominee's hardcore ideology and slippery ethics will indeed emerge. But that first CW impression will have taken hold, and the subsequent opposition to the nominee will be increasingly portrayed as arcane nit-picking and partisan spin."

I think we'll see things play out along these lines, although given Roberts' impeccable "insider" credentials -- cited so approvingly by the Times today -- the "slippery ethics" angle might not come into play. Unlike some of the other candidates considered by Bush, Roberts never sought an elected judicial post, so we won't have the usual conflict-of-interest contributions that Bushist apparatchiks normally glory in.

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Pentagon names new chief Guantanamo defense lawyer
By Will Dunham
Reuters
July 20, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon named a new chief defense lawyer on Tuesday for the Guantanamo Bay war crimes trials, called the death penalty unlikely in the first 12 cases and defended as fair a process critics deride as a "kangaroo court."

The trials of foreign terrorism suspects conducted by special panels of military officers at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had been frozen for eight months until a federal appeals panel on Friday reversed a lower-court ruling that these "military commission" proceedings were unlawful.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, legal advisor in the trial process, told reporters once the court lifts a formal stay on the proceedings, "I think we would be in active hearings in 30 to 45 days."

Of the roughly 520 Guantanamo detainees, 12 have been deemed eligible for trial and four have been charged, with eight more due to be charged soon, the Pentagon said.

Comment: Great. So, at the moment, a whopping 2.3% of the prisoners have actually been charged with a crime. But don't worry - soon that figure will be up to an astounding 3.8%. The other 96.2% of prisoners will be kept in jail in blatant violation of international law until... well, forever! God bless American democracy - coming soon to your country!

Many of the detainees, most of them captured in Afghanistan, have been held for more than three years without charges.

Comment: "Many of the detainees"?? Try almost all of the detainees...

The United States classified them as "enemy combatants" and denied them rights accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dwight Sullivan, a reservist who worked for the American Civil Liberties Union's Maryland branch for six years, will replace Air Force Col. Will Gunn as chief defense counsel, Hemingway said. The ACLU has criticized the Pentagon's commission trial process.

Sullivan, a University of Virginia law school graduate who works as a lawyer in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, will oversee military lawyers assigned by the Pentagon to defend detainees. Like Gunn, who is retiring from the military, Sullivan will neither directly represent nor argue on behalf of any defendant at trial.

Hemingway said the Pentagon will name a new chief prosecutor later this week to replace Army Col. Robert Swann, also retiring from the military, and will expand from 40 to 65 the number of people in its office handling the trials.

DEATH PENALTY

The Pentagon previously said it will not seek the death penalty against the four men already charged: Yemenis Salim Ahmed Hamdan and Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul, Australian David Hicks and Sudanese Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi.

Hemingway said he had not seen any evidence that would lead him to recommend the death penalty against any of the 12 men deemed eligible for trial. Hemingway makes recommendations on charges and capital punishment to John Altenburg, the Pentagon official who runs the trial process. Hemingway did not rule out seeking the death penalty in a future case.

Responding to critics, Hemingway said, "Commissions, from our point of view, provide for a full and fair hearing that takes into account our national security interests."

Amnesty International official Jumana Musa noted the Pentagon created a new legal system from scratch rather than using the respected military justice system. The new system allows evidence obtained through torture or hearsay, keeps defendants ignorant of certain evidence against them, and permits no independent judicial review, she added.

"You can call it a kangaroo court. You can call it a star chamber," Musa said. "The idea that somehow you absolutely can't try these people unless you have this completely substandard system of justice that's basically set up to convict on little to no evidence is ludicrous."

Hemingway said, "If you make a fair comparison with our rules and procedures, they compare favorably to the rules and procedures of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and, from my point of view, also the International Criminal Court."

The Pentagon has said the Hamdan and Hicks cases, suspended by the lower-court ruling, will proceed first.

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Padilla Lawyer: Charge Him or Release Him
By LARRY O'DELL
The Associated Press
Tuesday, July 19, 2005; 5:20 PM

RICHMOND, Va. -- A lawyer for Jose Padilla, an American accused of plotting to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb," went before a federal appeals court Tuesday and demanded the U.S. government either charge his client with a crime or set him free.

But a Bush administration lawyer told the court that the president must have authority to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists who come to the United States intent on killing civilians.

Padilla, a former Chicago gang member and Muslim convert suspected of being an al-Qaida operative, was seized in 2002 after flying from Pakistan to Chicago on what authorities said was a scouting mission for a plot to set off a conventional bomb laced with radioactive material. Padilla also is suspected of planning to blow up apartment buildings in several cities by filling them with natural gas.

President Bush declared Padilla an "enemy combatant," a designation that allows the military to hold someone indefinitely without charges. Padilla is in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C., and has been held for the past three years.

At issue before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is whether Padilla - an American seized on U.S. soil - should have been designated an enemy combatant.

"I may be the first lawyer to stand here and say I'm asking for my client to be indicted by a federal grand jury," Padilla's lawyer, Andrew Patel, told a three-judge panel of the court, widely regarded as the most conservative in the nation.

Patel later told reporters that the government should "put up or shut up - it's that simple."

In a packed courtroom under tight security, Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig pressed Bush administration lawyer Paul Clement on whether the government was suggesting that the battlefield in the war on terror now includes U.S. soil.

"I can say that. I can say it boldly," Clement said. [...]

Comment: The war on terror and the resulting draconian legislation don't just apply to "foreigners" in a far away land; the fascist laws apply to every American. Bush has already exercised his dictatorial powers in declaring Padilla an enemy combatant. With the seizure of the Supreme Court in progress, there will be no checks on the president's power, and nothing to stop the Neocons from crushing any vestiges of freedom in the US.

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Memo Gets Attention in Probe of CIA Leak
By BARRY SCHWEID
AP Diplomatic Writer
Tue Jul 19,10:59 PM ET

WASHINGTON - A State Department memo that has caught the attention of prosecutors describes a CIA officer's role in sending her husband to Africa and disputes administration claims that Iraq was shopping for uranium, a retired department official said Tuesday.

The classified memo was sent to Air Force One just after former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson went public with his assertions that the Bush administration overstated the evidence that Iraq was interested in obtaining uranium from Niger for nuclear weapons.

The memo has become a key piece of evidence in the CIA leak investigation because it could have been the way someone in the White House learned - and then leaked - the information that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and played a role in sending him on the mission.

The document was prepared in June 2003 at the direction of Carl W. Ford Jr., then head of the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research, for Marc Grossman, the retired official said. Grossman was the Undersecretary of State who was in charge of the department while Secretary Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, were traveling. Grossman needed the memo because he was dealing with other issues and was not familiar with the subject, the former official said.

"It wasn't a Wilson-Wilson wife memo," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. "It was a memo on uranium in Niger and focused principally on our disagreement" with the White House.

Armitage called Ford after Wilson's op-ed piece in The New York Times and his TV appearance on July 6, 2003 in which he challenged the White House's claim that Iraq had purchased uranium yellowcake from Niger.

Armitage asked that Powell, who was traveling to Africa with Bush, be given an account of the Wilson trip, said the former official.

The original June 2003 memo was readdressed to Powell and included a short summary prepared by an analyst who was at a 2002 CIA meeting where Wilson's trip was arranged and was sent in one piece to Powell on Air Force One the next day.

The memo said Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and suggested her husband go to Niger because he had contacts there and had served as an American diplomat in Africa. However, the official said the memo did not say she worked undercover for the spy agency nor did it identify her as Valerie Plame, which was her maiden name and cover name at the CIA.

Her identity as Plame was disclosed first by columnist Robert Novak and then by Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper. The leak investigation by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is looking into who in the Bush administration leaked Plame's identity to reporters and whether any laws were broken. [...]

The past two weeks have brought revelations that top presidential aide Karl Rove was involved in leaking the identity of Plame to Novak and to Cooper.

The former State Department official stressed the memo focused on Wilson's trip and the State Department intelligence bureau's disagreement with the White House's claim about Iraq trying to get nuclear material. He said the fact that the CIA officer and Wilson were husband and wife was largely an incidental reference.

The June 2003 memo had not gone higher than Grossman until Wilson's op-ed column for The New York Times headlined "What I Didn't Find In Africa" and his TV appearance to dispute the administration. Wilson's article asked the question: "Did the Bush administration manipulate intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs to justify an invasion?"

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Eliminationism from the top
David Neiwert
Friday, July 15, 2005
The Plame affair, it seems, really has Republicans snarling, their usual response when backed into a corner.

You can tell that because now the eliminationist talk is coming from the Bush White House's own mouthpiece -- namely, Rep. Peter King, who's been selected as the House point man for defending Karl Rove.

King was on MSNBC's Joe Scarborough show the other night and, according to the MSNBC transcript, had this to say:

And Joe Wilson has no right to complain. And I think people like Tim Russert and the others, who gave this guy such a free ride and all the media, they're the ones to be shot, not Karl Rove.

I haven't seen the tape of the show, but the quote is enjoying an odd half-life on the radio, thanks to Rush Limbaugh, who alters it slightly to "ought to be shot", and then chimes in inimitably: "That's Peter King, who's right on the money."

Lovely.

Just wondering: Have any Democrats in Congress -- or Joe Wilson, for that matter -- suggested that Karl Rove be shot?

Ah, I didn't think so.

Comment: Neiwert has been following the use of eliminationist talk from the right wing pundits in the US. He has also just written a book on the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII to fight the idiocies of people Michelle Malkin who think it was a good idea and who are a bomb away of suggesting that American Muslims be locked away until the war on terror is over.

THe use of expressions such as "they ought to be shot" is revealing of the mind set of the speaker, even if, as they claim, they are using it only rhetorically. This is the soft sell stage of the demonisation of opponents to the Bush Reich. After the next bombs go off inside the continental USA, the violence of the rhetoric will increase and we may see the first wave of dissidents rounded up.

The lists are already being drawn up.

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FBI Keeping Lengthy Files on Groups Opposed to Bush's Policies
Abid Aslam, OneWorld US Tue Jul 19,11:40 AM ET

WASHINGTON, D.C., Jul 19 (OneWorld) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has amassed at least 3,500 pages of internal documents from political protest groups in what the targets say amounts to political surveillance of some of President George W. Bush's leading critics.

The FBI has obtained 1,173 pages of internal documents on the
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) since 2001, the rights watchdog and prominent administration critic said Monday. Federal agents also have collected some 2,383 pages from environmental group Greenpeace, a leading voice of anti-Bush protest, the ACLU added.

The figures have emerged as part of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) brought by the ACLU and other groups alleging that the FBI is engaging in politically motivated spying against law-biding organizations.

''We now know that the government is keeping documents about the ACLU and other peaceful groups,'' said Anthony Romero, the ACLU's executive director. ''The question is why.''

The ACLU, in court documents, has contended that joint terrorism task forces set up across the country and led by the FBI are structured and funded in ways that facilitate violations of groups' and individuals' rights to assemble and speak freely.

The organization said it filed its FOIA requests in response to widespread complaints from students and political activists who said FBI agents were questioning them in the months leading up to the 2004 political conventions.

The FBI and Justice Department have said that any such intelligence-gathering was aimed at preventing criminal activity, not silencing speech.

Documents obtained through lawsuits also showed the FBI was monitoring groups' Web sites and had prepared an internal report on at least one anti-war protest organization, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), and its efforts to organize a demonstration in the run up to the 2004 Republican National Convention, the ACLU said.

''The UFPJ report underscores our concern that the FBI is violating Americans' right to peacefully assemble and oppose government policies without being branded as terrorist threats,'' said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director. ''There is no need to open a counterterrorism file when people are simply exercising their First Amendment rights.''

The ACLU is seeking FBI surveillance files on itself, Greenpeace, UFPJ, Code Pink, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and Muslim Public Affairs Council.

The Justice Department has said it will take up to a year to review the material the ACLU seeks. The civil rights group has accused the government of stalling and has asked a judge to order federal agents to turn over the documents sooner.

The FBI's ability to monitor political protest groups had been curtailed since the 1970s amid outrage over a decade's worth of abuses under then-agency director J. Edgar Hoover.

Many of the restrictions were lifted or relaxed after the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, however, despite some lawmakers' stated concerns that the expanded police powers granted under the USA Patriot Act, in particular, could prompt civil rights violations and result in the targeting of legitimate and legal dissent.

Key Patriot Act provisions are scheduled to expire on Dec. 31. Bush was scheduled to speak about the law in Baltimore, Maryland, Wednesday, as part of a sustained White House campaign to make permanent the law's expanded powers.

Critics have said the powers infringe on citizens' civil liberties but Bush has described the Patriot Act as ''one of the important tools federal agents have used to protect America.''

New provisions would allow federal authorities to subpoena records from businesses, hospitals, and libraries.

A novel coalition of conservatives and liberals normally at each other's throats over the nature of government and free speech have made common cause to oppose key parts of the antiterrorism law.

The ACLU, long vilified by conservatives, has joined forces with right-wing groups the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Free Congress Foundation to spearhead the ''Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances'' coalition.

The coalition, formed in March, has lobbied Congress to roll back provisions allowing law enforcement agents to look at library users' records and to conduct unannounced searches of homes and private offices.

Short for the ''Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001,'' the USA Patriot Act originally passed by 357-66 in the House of Representatives and 98-1 in the Senate.

The Bush administration proposed the law, shepherded it through Congress, and enacted it in the immediate aftermath of the Sep. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the U.S. Senate's evacuation because of anthrax.

The measure passed with neither chamber issuing the usual reviews of proposed legislation. ''As a result, it lacks background legislative history that often retrospectively provides necessary statutory interpretation,'' according to a detailed analysis of the law prepared by the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Grassroots opposition to the law has grown, according to the ACLU. Some 375 local and state governments representing more than 56 million Americans have passed resolutions opposing the measure or some of its provisions.

While many of these resolutions have no practical effect, proponents have said the measures serve to notify federal policymakers and agencies of public disapproval. Most of the resolutions called upon Congress to bring the Patriot Act back in line with the U.S. constitution.

Comment: The mainstream press is not discussing the most recent ruling by the man selected to be the next member of the US Supreme Court, the recent overturning of a lower court decision on the legality of holding prisoners taken in the "war on terror". Chris Floyd has an excellent summary of this elsewhere on the page today.

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Republicans Must Choose: Bush Or America?
By Ted Rall
07/19/05 - - NEW YORK

"Karl Rove is loyal to President Bush," a correspondent wrote as Treasongate broke. "Isn't that a form of patriotism?" Not in a representative democracy, I replied. Only in a dictatorship is fealty to the Leader equal to loyalty to the nation. We're Bush's boss. He works for us. Unless that changed on 9/11 (or 12/20/00). Rove had no right to give away state secrets, even to protect Bush.

Newly loquacious Time reporter Matt Cooper has deflated half a dozen Rove-defending talking points since we last visited. Republicans, for instance, have argued that Rove had merely confirmed what Cooper already knew: that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent. That claim evaporated in Cooper's piece in the magazine's July 25 issue: "This was the first time I had heard anything about Wilson's wife."

"I've already said too much," Cooper quotes Rove as he ended their 2003 conversation.

Rove may avoid prosecution under the Intelligence Identities and Protection Act, says John Dean, counsel at the Nixon White House. "There is, however, evidence suggesting that other laws were violated," he says, alluding to Title 18, Section 641 of the U.S. Code. The "leak of sensitive [government] information" for personal purposes--say, outting the CIA wife of your boss' enemy--is "a very serious crime," according to the judge presiding over a similar recent case. If convicted under the anti-leak statute, Rove would face ten years in a federal prison.

Even if Rove originally learned about Plame's status from jailed New York Times journalist Judith Miller, Dean continues, "it could make for some interesting pairing under the federal conspiracy statute (which was the statute most commonly employed during Watergate)." Conspiracy will get you five years at Hotel Graybar.

Rove's betrayal of a CIA WMD expert--while the U.S. was using WMDs as a reason to invade Iraq--is virtually indistinguishable from Robert Hanssen's selling out of American spies. Both allowed America's enemies to learn the identities of covert operatives. Both are traitors. Both are eligible for the death penalty.

And he's not the only high-ranking Bush Administration traitor.

In last week's column I speculated that Treasongate would almost certainly implicate Dick Cheney. Now, according to Time, Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby is being probed as a second source of leaks to reporters about Plame.

We already know that Rove is a traitor. So, probably, is Cheney. Since George W. Bush has protected traitors for at least two years; he is therefore an accomplice to the Rove-Libby cell. We are long past the point where, during the summer of 1974, GOP senators led by Barry Goldwater told Richard Nixon that he had to resign. So why aren't Turd Blossom and his compadres out of office and awaiting trial?

Democrats are out of power. And, sadly, Republicans have become so obsessed with personal loyalty that they've forgotten that their first duty is to country, not party or friend. Unless they wake up soon and dump Bush, Republicans could be permanently discredited.

Bush sets the mafia-like tone: "I'm the kind of person, when a friend gets attacked, I don't like it." His lieutenants blur treason with hardball politics--"[Democrats] just aren't coming forward with any policy positions that would change the country, so they want to pick up whatever the target of the week is and make the most out of that," says GOP House Whip Roy Blunt--and blame the victim--Rove, absurdly argues Congresswoman Deborah Pryce, was innocently trying to expose Wilson's "lies."

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds Bush's credibility at 41 percent, down from 50 in January. Given events past and present, that's still a lot higher than it ought to be.

We don't need a law to tell us that unmasking a CIA agent, particularly during wartime, is treasonous. Every patriotic American--liberal, conservative, or otherwise--knows that.

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Canadian teen faces sentencing in U.S. on bomb charges; family fears prison
06:13 AM EDT Jul 20

WASHINGTON (CP) - Canadian teen Travis Biehn faces sentencing Wednesday on two bomb-related charges in a case that sparked emotional debate about whether he's a dangerous kid who hates Americans or the victim of a tough anti-terror climate.

Biehn, 17, was convicted last month in a Pennsylvania juvenile court of threatening to blow up his school and gathering the material to do it.

He faces a range of penalties from probation, community service or counselling to jail until he's 21 years old. Prosecutors say Biehn is clearly a threat to public safety.

But defence lawyer Bill Goldman said he's confident two doctors who performed psychiatric evaluations on Biehn will recommend probation at the sentencing hearing in Doylestown.

Goldman filed a motion with the judge last week to have the convictions overturned and the teen's record cleared, arguing prosecutors didn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

If that doesn't work, he said, the family will appeal to a higher court on the incendiary devices conviction, a felony that will dog Biehn for life.

"The facts just weren't there to support what's happened to him," said Goldman, who accuses District Attorney Diane Gibbons of publicly trying the youth before his trial and stirring nationalistic sentiment in a bid to get re-elected.

Biehn has been in custody in affluent Bucks County near Philadelphia since his arrest June 2, days after he reported a bomb threat had been scrawled on a school bathroom.

Police raided his home, finding several kilograms of potassium nitrate, tubing, fuses, lighter fluid and other items.

His family, originally from Newfoundland, says he and father Brant often used the materials to make harmless smoke bombs and fireworks for neighbourhood gatherings and burned a tree stump in the backyard to make way for a fish pond.

The arguments were discounted by Judge Kenneth Biehn, who is no relation, at a one-day trial where supporters were stunned when the boy was led away in shackles.

Others in the community said Biehn should get a hefty jail term and then be deported.

Gibbons, who noted that Biehn wore an "I am Canadian" T-shirt to his first court appearance, told reporters he was an angry kid who would rather be living in Canada.

"He's a pretty dangerous kid," Gibbons said after Biehn's conviction last month.

"He's obviously an unhappy kid and he's obviously an angry kid. What made him angry enough to do this, I don't know."

Sentencing, she said, would be up to the judge. Gibbons did not return phone calls this week.

"I'm nervous about the hearing," said the teen's mother, Annette. "The ball is still in the judge's court and he can sentence him to prison. It would just be horrific. The child is innocent."

She said she's furious that her son has waited more than a month for sentencing instead of the 20 days stipulated for incarcerated juveniles convicted of offences.

At Biehn's trial, prosecutors admitted no one saw him write the bomb threat. But when a search of his bedroom in suburban Buckingham yielded boxes of material, they said no other conclusion was plausible than the boy's intent to make a bomb.

Police witnesses and bomb experts said the teenager had most of the elements except a large quantity of something to ignite it.

But the magnetite thermite used to burn the stump in the Biehn's backyard couldn't have done the trick, said Goldman, who has marshalled chemistry professors to back him up.

Some family supporters blamed "hysteria" generated by the Columbine school killings and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for such strong public reaction in the case.

The Biehns moved to the United States in 1997, where Brant works as a marketing director for the giant pharmaceutical company Merck.

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N. Korea defector seeks help from Bush
By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
July 19, 2005

A North Korean defector who survived 10 years in a prison labor camp said he told President Bush last month that the United States should do more to help those who flee the communist regime.

"The people who are at the camps, the [North Korean] government wants to kill them all," Kang Chol-hwan said in an interview with The Washington Times. "Instead of executing them, they kill them slowly, making them work in forced labor. That was the hardest part."

Mr. Kang, 37, said prisoners are fed very small portions of corn and salt that make it "impossible to survive" without additional food. As a result, prisoners survive by eating cooked rats and snakes, and live lizards, he said.

Nongovernmental groups estimate that as many 300,000 North Koreans are in China after fleeing across the border. About 10,000 have fled to South Korea.

Totalitarian repression and the collapse of the food production and distribution system in the late 1990s resulted in widespread starvation and forced many of North Korea's 23 million people to risk being shot as they crossed the border into China.

Mr. Kang said that when he crossed in 1992, it was easier than it was today, when triple fences and more guards have been deployed to block the defections.

Mr. Kang said North Korea is becoming more unstable as food and energy shortages are growing. At least 1 million people are thought to have starved in North Korea as the result of famine and government mismanagement since the late 1990s.

Foreign aid -- primarily from China, South Korea and Japan -- is helping to keep the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from collapsing completely, he said.

Mr. Kang said about 200,000 North Koreans are in the prison labor camp system throughout the country. All in the camps are malnourished, and unless their will is strong, they eventually die, he said.

Mr. Kang said he agreed to meet the president after a White House National Security Council official told him that Mr. Bush had read his book and became interested in the human rights problem there.

The book, "The Aquariums of Pyongyang," is an account of Mr. Kang's 10-year prison work camp experience from age 10 to 20. He disclosed in detail the systematic torture, beatings, public executions and starvation in his camp.

Mr. Kang said he never expected to meet Mr. Bush, but on June 13, he spent 40 minutes in the Oval Office discussing North Korea and human rights and other issues.

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North Korea has nuclear bomb, would-be defector claims
AFP
Wednesday July 20, 5:12 PM

A defector claiming to have been in the North Korean parliament says the communist state has produced a nuclear bomb and attempted to sell missiles to Taiwan, a South Korean magazine reports.

South Korean intelligence authorities declined to comment on the report in the Monthly Chosun, which said that the defector, a man believed to be in his 70s using the alias Kim Il-Do, defected to the South in May.

"North Korea has built a one-tonne nuclear bomb by using four kilogrammes of plutonium," he was quoted as telling the National Intelligence Service (NIS), South Korea's spy agency.

The North was now seeking to miniaturize the bomb to make it more reliable as a weapon, he reportedly said. The man claimed he had been in the North's parliament and had worked for the Marine Industrial Institute. [...]

Comment: It seems to be a big news day for North Korean defectors...

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Iraq's top Shia cleric warns of 'genocidal war'
By Patrick Cockburn in Baghdad
19 July 2005

The slaughter of hundreds of civilians by suicide bombers shows that a "genocidal war" is threatening Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most influential Shia cleric, warned yesterday.

So far he has persuaded most of his followers not to respond in kind against the Sunni, from whom the bombers are drawn, despite repeated massacres of Shia. But sectarian divisions between Shia and Sunni are deepening across Iraq after the killing of 18 children in the district of New Baghdad last week and the death of 98 people caught by the explosion of a gas tanker in the market town of Musayyib. Many who died were visiting a Shia mosque.

There are also calls for the formation of militias to protect Baghdad neighbourhoods. Khudayr al-Khuzai, a Shia member of parliament, said the time had come to "bring back popular militias". He added: "The plans of the interior and the defence ministries to impose security in Iraq have failed to stop the terrorists."

Against the wishes of the Grand Ayatollah, who has counselled restraint, some Shia have started retaliatory killings of members of the former regime, most of whom but not all are Sunni. Some carrying out the attacks appear to belong to the 12,000-strong paramilitary police commandos. Mystery surrounds many killings. A former general in Saddam Hussein's army called Akram Ahmed Rasul al-Bayati and his two sons, Ali, a policeman, and Omar were arrested by police commandos 10 days ago. Omar was released and one of his uncles paid $7,000 for the release of the other two. But when he went to get them he saw them taken out of a car and shot dead.

Fear of Shia death squads, perhaps secretly controlled by the Badr Brigade, the leading Shia militia, frightens the Sunni. The patience of the Shia is wearing very thin. But their leaders want them to consolidate their strength within the government after their election victory in January.

The radical Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia twice fought US troops, has called for restraint. "The occupation itself is the problem," he said. "Iraq not being independent is the problem. And the other problems stem from that - from sectarianism to civil war. The entire American presence causes this."

The suicide bombings show increasing sophistication. The casualty figures from Musayyib were so horrific because the bomber blew himself up beside a fuel tanker which had been stolen two days earlier and pre-positioned in the centre of the town.

Comment: There are other forces at work that wish to see Iraq descend into civil war so that Muslim be set upon Muslim. We are referring, of course, to the black minds in power in Israel, those responsible for much of the "faulty intelligence" that led to the invasion.

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25,000 civilians killed since Iraq invasion, says report
Simon Jeffery
Tuesday July 19, 2005

The number of Iraqi civilians who met violent deaths in the two years after the US-led invasion was today put at 24,865 by an independent research team.

The figures, compiled from Iraqi and international media reports, found US and coalition military forces were responsible for 37% of the deaths, with anti-occupation forces and insurgents responsible for 9%. A further 36% were blamed on criminal violence.

Civilian deaths attributed to US and coalition military forces peaked in the invasion period from March to May 2003 - which accounts for 30% of all civilian deaths in the two-year period - but the longer-term trend has been for increasing numbers to die at the hands of insurgents.

Figures obtained last week from the Iraqi interior ministry put the average civilian and police officer death toll in insurgent attacks from August 2004 to March 2005 at 800 a month. [...]

Comment: We think the figures compiled by the Lancet last year suggesting 100,000 Iraqis had died is probably closer to the actual figure. As Juan Cole points out, more deaths are reported in Arab language newspapers than in the Western papers. Iraq Body Count only counts totals from Western papers, rather myopic, to put it politely, in our view.

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Baghdad hospital doctors on strike against soldiers
Reuters
07/19/2005 09:29

BAGHDAD - More than two dozen doctors walked out of one of Baghdad's busiest hospitals on Tuesday to protest what they said was abuse by Iraqi soldiers, leaving about 100 patients to fend for themselves in chaotic wards.

Physicians said the troubles started when soldiers barged into a woman's wing at Yarmouk hospital, opened curtains and conducted searches as patients lay in their beds on Monday.

A 27-year-old internal medicine specialist said a soldier began intimidating and abusing him.

"Before he left he said, 'Why are you looking in disapproval?' Then he came and punched me lightly on my arm before sticking his rifle into my stomach and cocking it," the doctor, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, told Reuters.

"I stayed quiet but relatives of the patients told him to calm down before pulling him out of the room. Just then, four more soldiers came in and pointed a rifle at my head. At that point I became scared and begged them to leave me alone."

Ministry of Defense officials were not available for comment on the incident despite repeated requests.

GOVERNMENT PROMISES

Iraq's mayhem has spread even to hospitals, which are overwhelmed by victims of suicide bombings and shootings whose blood is mopped up off the floor after every attack.

The new Shi'ite-led government has promised Iraqis that security forces will be built up to protect them from guerrillas, who have killed thousands of people with suicide and car bombings.

Iraqis had hoped that January elections would deliver a new era of democracy, free of the abuses committed by Saddam Hussein's security forces.

But some say the country's new security forces are too aggressive, randomly rounding up suspects and abusing them during detentions. The government says security forces are under strict orders to respect human rights.

About 30 doctors staged the strike, leaving around 100 bewildered patients behind, including a young boy of about 10.

Suffering from a gunshot wound to his leg, Muhammad Hashim lay quietly in the back of an ambulance which rushed him to Yarmouk from a town 30 kilometers southwest of Baghdad. But the strike forced his angry father to take him to another hospital.

Yarmouk, a run-down, sparsely equipped building, has treated many of Baghdad's worst cases. Overcrowded with patients and staff, it's emergency room hosts a frenzy of activity every day.

Nevertheless, doctors said they would press on with a strike to draw attention to army and security forces, whose wounded comrades are often treated at Yarmouk and other hospitals.

"We know the citizens may be a little upset but we have our rights too and we can't operate and provide a service to people if we feel under threat," said Asaad Hindi, standing outside the hospital with other physicians.

"One doctor was humiliated and sworn at. Other doctors who were afraid hid in a room. The last time this happened we complained to officials at the defense and interior ministries."

Relatives of some patients grew frustrated.

Khalid al-Girtani said he was angry because his 57-year-old father Mahmoud had been ignored all day.

"My father has a stroke and no doctor is here to see him, just look at him! This is ridiculous," he said as his father lay in bed with breathing tubes in his nostrils.

Some patients sympathized with the doctors, despite their medical needs.

"I'm ill and I haven't seen the doctor all day. All I need is a signature from him so I can get an X-ray that I need to see what's wrong with my neck. I think they have every right to strike though, our doctors shouldn't be abused," said Salman Thahir, a frail old man sitting on his bed.

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Pakistan detains 200 in post-London crackdown on Islamic militants
AFP
July 20, 2005

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has detained more than 200 suspected Islamic militants in a crackdown launched in response to the London bombings, twice the number given earlier, interior ministry officials said.

"A little more than 200 people have been rounded up in the raids nationwide on suspected madrassas (Islamic schools), offices of the militant outfits, shops and houses," an interior ministry official told AFP in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Pakistan has been under pressure to act since it emerged that three suicide bombers involved in the July 7 London attacks were Britons of Pakistani origin who had recently visited the South Asian country.

Most of the arrests were made in the country's most populous Punjab province and in the second-largest province, Sindh, in the south, the official said. Security sources had earlier said more than 100 had been detained.

Comment: Any bets on how many of those arrested are actually "terrorists"?

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Stay-behind
London goes back to the strategy of tension
THIERRY MEYSSAN
Voltaire Network

The leaders of the Coalition took advantage of the terrorist attacks in London to denounce, once more, the existence of an Islamic conspiracy and make a call to fight terrorism. However, facts speak for themselves: the operation was organized in the guise of an anti-terrorist exercise in which British public order forces were supposed to participate. Like in the 1980s, when the Anglo-Saxon secret services would organize bloody attacks in Europe to instil fear for Communism in the population, an Anglo-Saxon military group activates the strategy of tension to cause the “clash of civilizations”.

Understanding an event depends on its context, although the latter is defined according to our previous understanding. Sometimes, actually often, what we see only confirms what we thought we knew. That’s the way it is regarding the bomb attacks in London on July 7th, 2005: they confirm our prejudices to the same extent that their violence stun us. For some people, the attacks in London show, once again, that the Islamists want to destroy the civilization and that, since the attacks in Madrid, they are attacking Europe. For others, on the contrary, they are - along with the attacks in Madrid - a punishment for the Coalition’s colonialism. For other people, including me, they are just another operation in the tension strategy conducted by the Anglo-Saxon industrial-military complex.

With amazing perseverance, since September 11, each analyst follows his own reasoning without analyzing the facts. However, it is not reasonable to believe that time does not allow us to disregard certain hypotheses, that it does not deny some of them.

Let us examine the inner logic of the three positions mentioned above.

For the leaders of the Coalition, along with the ruling class in the world, the attacks of New York (February 26, 1993), Riyadh (November 13, 1995), Khobar (June 25, 1996), Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam (August 7, 1998), Aden (October 12, 2000), New York and Washington (September 11, 2001), Djerba (April 11, 2002), Karachi (May 8 and June 14, 2002), Yemen (October 6, 2002), Bali (October 12, 2002), Mombasa (November 28, 2002), Riyadh (May 12, 2003), Casablanca (May 16, 2003), Jakarta (August 5, 2003), Baghdad (August 19, 2003), Riyadh (November 8, 2003), Istanbul (November 15 and 20, 2003), Irbil (February 1, 2004), Madrid (March 11, 2004), Khobar (May 29-30, 2004), Mosul and Ramadi (June 24, 2004), Jakarta (September 9, 2004), Sinai (October 8, 2004), Yeddah (December 6, 2004), Mosul (December 21, 2004), Manila (February 14, 2005), Hilla (February 28, 2005) and London (July 7, 2005) are the work of a sole actor: Al-Qaida.

This belief is based on a series of communiqués to claim responsibility, none of which has been verified.

In the absence of material elements to prove the existence of Al-Qaida, certain leaders of the Coalition have decided to define it, not as a well structured organization but as an ideology around which dispersed groups move. If that were the case, we would have to admit the lack of a formal relation among the 29 operations above mentioned and also that there is not any other tie among their respective perpetrators than an ideological one.

Unfortunately, this reasoning has a circular nature: this hypothesis can not be confirmed as in most of the cases it has been impossible to identify the authors of the attacks and nothing is known about them at all.

Some scholars, whose investigations are vastly financed by the States of the Coalition, that there is an international Jihadist movement in which it is possible to recruit the perpetrators of the attacks. However, it has not been possible to prove the existence of clear links between that movement and all the attacks. The main difficulty is that the attacks have nothing in common, except for the unverified communiqués claiming responsibility. It is not even definite that all of them can be described as “terrorist” attacks. In effect, far from attempting to sow panic among the population, the attack against the Cole destroyer was against a military target, and the attack that took the live of Sergio Vieira de Mello was a classical political assassination. Some of the attacks included in the list are settling of scores among rival states, like the attack in Karachi against French engineers that sought to exclude France from the sale of weapons to Pakistan, or the one carried out against French oil tanker Limburg off the coast of Yemen, which sought to dissuade France from modifying the final destination of oil shipments.

In sum, the theory according to which these attacks would have had only one financier is not based on any verifiable element. It allows the Coalition to justify its military deployment but it explains it in completely confused terms. The rhetoric of the “war on terror” is effective with regard to communication to the same extent that it is senseless. Terrorism is not an enemy but a combat technique. Therefore, it is impossible to defeat terrorism but it is possible to indefinitely use this rhetoric to justify the continuation of military operations in all fronts.

Developing a speech about terrorism based on cases that have not been clarified, with Al-Quaida claiming responsibility, leads to defining terrorism exclusively according to these operations. Therefore, all the other attacks are excluded, perpetrated in Colombia or China, to get to the equation “terrorism=Muslim” and to generate the paranoia of the world Islamic conspiracy.

The theory according to which the attacks in London were perpetrated by Islamists linked to Al-Qaida is then relegated to the propaganda tricks. As an example, I can not resist the temptation to reproduce, as an illustration of this article, the front page of the Le Monde news daily of July 9th, 2005. The main headline contradicts the article lower in the same page.

To its left, there is a headline of the English version (supplement) of Le Monde, by the New York Times and, to its right, there is an ad about a DVD glorifying the Mossad (Israeli Intelligence).

The two other interpretations of the London attacks do not mix the latter with the series of violent actions above mentioned. The fact that we do not understand all these events does not mean that are necessarily linked.

For those who oppose the war, the attacks are a punishment for the invasion. The Spanish and the British took the war to Baghdad and the Iraqis responded in Madrid and London. Or, as there is no evidence of any Iraqi involvement in those attacks, those attacking the capitals of the countries of the Coalition are Muslims in solidarity with the Iraqis rather.

It is possible, but, it is precisely in that case that the hypothesis of manipulation becomes more valid.

In effect, rather than the litany of deeds of Al-Qaida, the attacks in Madrid and London remind us of those in Bologna. [1], in 1980. Then, the stay-behind networks of the Atlantic Alliance, jointly headed by the United States and Great Britain, organized an attack in a train station to create political tensions that would favor a toughening of the Italian government. Of course, the stay-behind network acted behind the back of Italian authorities, using agents within the Italian secret services and recruiting perpetrators among extremist political movements.

The attacks in London coincided, in time and place, with the carrying out of an anti-terrorist exercise organized by the firm Visor Consultants. According to the testimony of the director of the firm, Peter Powell, recorded by ITV and which is available in our website, those heading the exercise from the headquarters realized that the script they had planned was “truly” taking place in front of their eyes. The deployment of firemen as part of the exercise, before the explosions, explains the speed and effectiveness of the aid actions.

In other words, if the surveillance cameras did not “see” those who planted the bombs it was because they were wearing uniforms. And NATO’s stay-behind network [2] is the only one that has agents within the public order forces.

The tension strategy seeks to impose the “clash of civilizations” so that Europeans support the wars of the Coalition in the Muslim world. [3]. This strategy also favors toughening democracies (hence the opening of files on the people that has been so difficult for Tony Blair to impose in his own country and in the European Union).

In addition, the synchronization of the attacks in London with the beginning of the G-8 meeting in Scotland should alter the agendas of the summit, thus relegating issues like global warming or assistance to the development of Africa and giving priority to others topics relating to security, as it effectively happened.

However, by twisting the arms of the G-8 leaders, the financers of the attacks perhaps went too far. Some heads of state and government could be considering that, in the future, adopting the rhetoric of the war on terror could have more disadvantages than advantages.

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Special Branch to track Muslims across UK
Vikram Dodd
Wednesday July 20, 2005
The Guardian

Special intelligence units are being planned across Britain to monitor Muslims so the authorities can collect "community by community" knowledge of where extremism is building up.

The Guardian has learned that the special squads, to be known as Muslim Contact Units and staffed by Special Branch officers, will be established in areas including Yorkshire, north-west England and parts of the Midlands.

After the London bombings police admit their intelligence of what goes on in Muslim communities is "low", and urgently needs to be boosted.

The police and Home Office say that a Muslim Contact Unit operating in London has already helped thwart extremist attempts to recruit young British Muslims to violent jihad, by working with Islamic communities.

The establishment of the special units is one of the first concrete counter-terrorist measure to emerge after the London bombings.

Yesterday Tony Blair met moderate British Muslim leaders and agreed on a taskforce to produce measures to tackle extremism.

The Special Branch units will have language skills and seek detailed knowledge of the dynamic of Islamic communities in their areas. They will fulfil two roles, helping protect Muslim communities from Islamophobic abuse and attacks, while also gathering intelligence on extremist activity.

Any leads on extremists can be passed to the security services or acted upon by police.

A senior police officer with knowledge of the scheme told the Guardian: "Deep knowledge of Muslim communities is rare in the service. If you are going to understand who is extreme and who is dangerous, which are different [concepts], you have to understand the community.

"Unless you know the subject well and what they are saying, often in Arabic or Urdu, and what the context is, you are not going to get a feel for it." The source stressed that the squads would be open about their work. "It is not about spying."

The paucity of knowledge the intelligence community has about the precise extremist threat is shown by the fact that the four men behind the London bombings have been described as "cleanskins" - people not identified as posing a severe danger.

Comment: While the hysteria surrounding the bombings would have us draw the conclusion that "those Muslims can't be trusted, they can strike anywhere, anytime", it might have a simpler explanation: the four people who the British security forces tell us were involved may have been patsies who had knowledge of what they were carrying in the backpacks, if the bombs were even in the backpacks at all.

Plans to expand the Muslim Contact Units are expected to get final approval and funding soon from ministers. The scheme applies principles of community policing, learned by forces since the 1980s, to the field of counter terrorism.

The senior police source said: "It's about policing, it's not just about being nice to communities. You protect them against Islamophobia, and work with Muslims to protect them against extremists.

"Ultimately all communities want positive relations with the police. Around many Muslim communities the cultural gulf with the police has been wide. You need dedicated staff."

A Home Office memorandum, lodged with the House of Commons home affairs select committee, explained more about the dedicated Special Branch squad operating in London, which was set up after the September 11 attacks on the United States. "The unit works in partnership with the managers of mosques that are under threat from extremism," it says.

"By supporting the valuable work that these mosque leaders are already undertaking, and by providing a confidential avenue for the disclosure of information about individuals of concern, the unit has been influential in protecting young Muslims from recruitment attempts."

Far from fearing the units, one Muslim critic of the police welcomed their expansion.

Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, has campaigned against alleged police harassment and brutality against Muslims. But Mr Shadjareh praised the way the London unit had worked so far.

"Out of all the Metropolitan police, this is the only one that deals with the issue of Muslims on facts rather than on Islamophobic perceptions," he said. "There's always a fear they could be collecting intelligence, that any section of the police could have a dual purpose."

Azad Ali, chairman of the Muslim Safety Forum, where Islamic representatives and senior officers discuss policing issues, said: "They've done a lot of good work in reassuring communities."

In another effort to boost intelligence gathering capabilities about Islamic communities in Britain, police are to intensify their attempts to recruit more Muslim officers.

Britain's top police officer, Sir Ian Blair, will meet Muslim leaders to discuss the issue next Monday. The Metropolitan police has just 300 officers from a Muslim background.

Peter Fahey, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on diversity, said: "We need officers who can go out and make contact with communities and build trust, so that as a result people give us information. Intelligence is the life blood of policing."

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The London Explosions, the Rogue Network, Bush and Iran
By Webster G. Tarpley

Washington DC, July 11 - Last week's London explosions carry the characteristic features of a state-sponsored, false flag, synthetic terror provocation by networks within the British intelligence services MI-5, MI-6, the Home Office, and the Metropolitan Police Special Branch who are favorable to a wider Anglo-American aggressive war in the Middle East, featuring especially an early pre-emptive attack on Iran, with a separate option on North Korea also included. With the London attacks, the Anglo-American invisible government adds another horrendous crime to its own dossier. But this time, their operations appear imperfect, especially in regard to the lack (so far) of a credible patsy group which, by virtue of its ethnicity, could direct popular anger against one of the invisible government's targets. So far, the entire attribution of the London crimes depends on what amounts to an anonymous posting in an obscure, hitherto unknown, secular Arabic-language chatrooms in the state of Maryland, USA. But, based on this wretched shred of pseudo-evidence, British Prime Minister Tony Blair - who has surely heard of a group called the Irish Republican Army, which bombed London for more than a decade - has not hesitated to ascribe the murders to "Islam," and seems to be flirting with total martial law under the Civil Contingencies Act. We are reminded once again of how he earned his nickname of Tony Bliar.

SCOTLAND YARD KNEW IN ADVANCE

That the British Government knew in advance that blasts would occur is not open to rational doubt. Within hours of the explosions, Israeli Army Radio was reporting that "Scotland Yard [London police headquarters] had intelligence warnings of the attacks a short time before they occurred." This report, repeated by IsraelNN.com, added that "the Israeli Embassy in London was notified in advance, resulting in Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remaining in his hotel room rather than make his way to the hotel adjacent to the site of the first explosion, a Liverpool Street train station, where he was to address an economic summit." This report is attributed to "unconfirmed reliable sources." At around the same time, the Associated Press issued a wire asserting that "British police told the Israeli Embassy in London minutes before Thursday's explosions that they had received warnings of possible terror attacks in the city," according to "a senior Israeli official." This wire specifies that "just before the blasts, Scotland Yard called the security officer at the Israeli Embassy to say that they had received warnings of possible attacks...."

According to eyewitness reports from London, BBC claimed between 8:45 and some minutes after 10 AM that the incidents in the Underground were the result of an electrical power surge, or alternatively of a collision. Foreign bigwigs, presumably not just Netanyahu, were warned, while London working people continued to stream into the subway. These reports have been denied, repudiated, sanitized, and expunged from news media websites by the modern Orwellian Thought Police, but they have been archived by analysts who learned on 9/11 and other occasions that key evidence in state-sponsored terror crimes tends to filter out during the first minutes and hours, during the critical interval when the controlled media are assimilating the cover story peddled by complicit moles within the ministries. These reports are not at all damaging to Israel, but are devastating for British domestic security organs. An alternative version peddled by Stratfor.com, namely that the Israelis warned Scotland Yard, is most probably spurious but still leaves the British authorities on the hook. Which Scotland Yard official made the calls? Identify that official, and you have bagged a real live rogue network mole.

Another more general element of foreknowledge can be seen in the fact reported by Isikoff and Hosenball of Newsweek that, since about November 2004, the US FBI, but not other US agencies, has been refusing to use the London Underground.

Operations like these are generally conduited through the government bureaucracies under the cover of a drill or exercise which closely resembles the terror operation itself. So it was with Amalgam Virgo and the multiple exercises held on 9/11, as I show in my 9/11 Synthetic Terror - Made in USA (Joshua Tree CA: Progressive Press, 2005). So it was with the Hinckley attempt to assassinate Ronald Reagan, when a presidential succession exercise was scheduled for the next day, as I showed in my George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (1992; reprint by Progressive Press, 2004). An uncannily similar maneuver allows the necessary work to be done on official computers and on company time, while warding off the inquisitive glances and questions of curious co-workers at adjoining computer consoles.

THE COVER STORY TERROR DRILL

Such a parallel drill was not lacking in the London case. On the evening of July 7, BBC Five, a news and sports radio program, carried an interview with a certain former Scotland Yard official named Peter Power who related that his firm, Visor Consulting, had been doing an anti-terror-bombing drill in precisely the Underground stations and at the precise times when the real explosions went off. Peter Power and Visor had been subcontractors for the drill; Power declined to name the prime contractors. Small wonder that Blair, in his first official report to the Commons on July 11, went out of his way to rule out a board of inquiry to probe these tragic events.

Tony Blair may be eyeing the advantages of emergency rule for a discredited lame duck like himself, but the British people may have a different view. The alternative is clear: on the one hand is the American response after 9/11, marked by submissive and credulous gullibility in regard to the fantastic official story of what had happened. On the other hand is the militant and intelligent Spanish response after March 11, 2004, marked by powerful mass mobilization and righteous anger against politicians who sought to manipulate the people and sell a distorted account of events. Which way will the British people go? Straws in the wind suggest that the British response may be closer to the Spanish, although it may develop more slowly because of the lack of mass organization and related factors. If this is the case, Tony Blair, Jack Straw, and the rest of the malodorous "New Labor" crypto-Thatcherites will be out the window.

My thesis is that the London explosions represent a form of communication on the part of the transatlantic Anglo-American financier faction with Bush, Blair, and the heads of state and government assembled at Gleneagles, Scotland for the G-8 meeting on the day of the blast. The London deaths were designed to deliver an ultimatum in favor of early war with Iran. Here a word of clarification may be necessary. The demonization of Bush by his many enemies, while understandable, risks blurring the basic realities of power in the US and UK. Since the Bay of Pigs and the Kennedy assassination (to go back no further than that), we have been aware of a secret team. During the Iran-contra era, the same phenomenon was referred to as an invisible, secret or parallel government. This is still the matrix of most large-scale terrorism. The questions arises for some: do Bush and Cheney tell the invisible government what to do, or does the invisible government treat the visible office holders as puppets and expendable assets? To ask the question is to answer it: Bush, Cheney & Co. are the expendable puppets. The explanation of terror is not Bush MIHOP [Made It Happen On Purpose], as some seem to argue, but rather invisible government MIHOP, an altogether more dire proposition.

How then does the invisible faction communicate with the public mouthpieces? Given the violence of the power relations involved, we can be sure that it is not a matter of sending out engraved invitations announcing that the honor of Bush's presence is requested at the launching of an attack on Iran. Rather, the invisible and violent rogue network communicates with Bush, Blair, and others by means coherent with their aggressive nature - as they did on 9/11. Bush, of course, is a weak and passive tenant of the White House whose instinct is to do virtually nothing beyond the day-to-day routine.

We therefore need to note that the London blasts come after two months of vigorous and impatient prodding of Bush by the invisible government. On May 11, a small plane almost reached the White House before it was turned away, while the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House (but not the Pentagon, the Treasury, etc.) were evacuated amid scenes of panic. The White House went to red alert, but Bush was not informed until it was all over, and was riding his bicycle in the woods near Greenbelt, Maryland. Flares were dropped over the Brookland district and Takoma Park, MD. The resemblance of all this to a classic coup scenario was evident. On May 18, a live hand grenade, which turned out to be a dud, landed near Bush as he spoke at a rally in Tbilisi, Georgia.

On June 29, the approach of another small plane led to an evacuation of the Congress and the Capitol, again with scenes of panic. On the afternoon of July 2, no fewer than three small planes came close to Bush's Camp David retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland; this story was suspiciously relegated to the local news page of the Washington Post. The details of these incidents are of little interest; what counts is the objective reality of a pattern. These incidents also provide background for Bush's unbalanced behavior on July 5 at Gleneagles, when he crashed into a policeman while riding on his bicycle. Then came the London blasts on July 7.

What is it that the invisible government wants Bush and Blair to do? Scott Ritter announced last January that Bush had issued an order to prepare an attack on Iran for the month of June. According to a well-informed retired CIA analyst I spoke with on July 3, this order actually told US commanders to be ready to attack Iran by the end of June. This project of war with Iran is coherent with most of what we know about the intentions of the US-UK rogue faction, and thus provides the immediate background for the London explosions. The Bush administration and the Blair cabinet have failed to deliver decisive military action, and the invisible government is exceedingly impatient.

One way to increase the pressure on Iran would be to implicate a group of Iranian fanatic patsies in the London bombings. This would not be difficult; in fact, as I show in 9/11 Synthetic Terror, the British capital, referred to during the 1990s as Londonistan, is home to the largest concentration of Arab and Islamic patsy groups in the entire world in such infamous locations as Finsbury mosque and Brixton mosque; these groups are known to have enjoyed de facto recruiting privileges in Her Majesty's Prisons. But perhaps an Iranian patsy group would be too obvious at this time. More likely may be the sinking of a US warship in the Gulf by a third country, duly attributed to Iran.

In a recent speech, Dr. Ephraim Asculai of Tel Aviv University made two main points: first, that there is no military solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, and second, that there is no such thing as a point of no return in nuclear weapons development. Dr. Asculai showed that South Africa, Sweden, and other nations had turned away from deploying A-bombs well after having acquired the ability to produce them. Dr. Asculai is evidently arguing against widespread tendencies in the US-UK-Israeli strategic community who are whipping up hysteria around the notion that Iran is now indeed approaching exactly such a point of no return.

For her part, Miss Rice of the State Department has now declared that it will no longer be sufficient for Iran to turn away from nuclear weapons production; the entire Iranian program for nuclear energy production will also have to be dismantled, in her view. Such maximalism makes a negotiated solution impossible as long as the current Washington group holds power.

SCO: US GET OUT OF CENTRAL ASIA

The US, UK and Israel have been on the brink of war with Iran for at least a year, and the rogue network is generally aware that time is not on its side. There is also an important new development which threatens the ability of the Anglo-Americans to wage war. On July 5, the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which brings together China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Krygyzia, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan plus new members India, Pakistan, and Iran, issued a call for the United States to vacate the bases seized in the autumn of 2001 under the cover of the 9/11 emergency and the looming invasion of Afghanistan. The parties to this call represent about half of the world's population. This demand was immediately rejected by the State Department, but veteran Russian Eurasian expert Yevgeny Primakov crowed that for the first time a formula had been agreed to by which the US would be ejected from this region. The US presence goes back to the Bush-Putin emergency hotwire talks of September 11, 2001, when Putin, seeing that the madmen had seized control in Washington, dropped Russian objections to a US intrusion into the former Soviet republics of central Asia. The US-UK can attack Iran from Iraq in the west, from Afghanistan in the east, and from Qatar in the south, but without the Uzbek and Kyrgyz bases, the Anglo-American ability to attack from the north as well will be severely limited. The SCO states are also concerned about US-backed "color revolutions" on the recent Georgian and Ukrainian models, traditionally known as CIA "people power" revolutions, being used to destabilize their governments. To make matters worse for Washington and London, Kazakhstan is a few months away from opening an oil pipeline to China, which will diminish the US-UK ability to use their Gulf presence to blackmail Beijing. Washington and London are also dismayed by the pro-Iranian overtures in various fields being made by their Shiite puppets in Baghdad.

And what of the report in the Washington Post of July 11, which claims that US and UK planners are now contemplating a sharp reduction in the US forces in Iraq? The most plausible explanation is that this is pure disinformation, similar to news blips issued by both Hitler and Stalin in May and June of 1941. It should also be noted that the British plan explicitly provides for most of the forces now at Basra to go to Afghanistan, where they would be positioned for operations against Iran, or into central Asia.

Generally, the invisible government appears dismayed by its loss of momentum and the constant erosion of the political position of its asset, Bush. 110,000 US factory workers lost their jobs in June, the worst total in a year and a half: auto and textiles are collapsing. The housing bubble may also be nearing its end, with the bankruptcy of Fannie Mae on the near-term agenda. World derivatives have officially reached $300 trillion, with JP Morgan Chase holding the largest single portfolio. The one virtuoso performance of July 7 was that of the Federal Reserve, Bank of England, and European Central Bank, which flooded equity and capital markets with liquidity through such vehicles as the Plunge Protection Team (PPT), turning a big Wall Street loss into a small gain.

During the recent Reopen 9/11 tour of 8 European cities, Jimmy Walter repeatedly forecast that the general predicament of the Bush regime and the US financier faction would lead to another large-scale terror attack before the end of 2005; this has now occurred, and there is no end in sight. The tide of US public opinion has now definitively turned against the Iraq war and to some degree against Bush, as all major polls demonstrate. Notable is the 42% affirmative response to the Zogby International question as to whether, if it could be proved that Bush lied to launch the Iraq war, he should be impeached. Larry Franklin of the Wolfowitz-Feith neocon apparatus has been indicted for divulging US secrets, and the American-Israeli Public Affairs Council has been raided twice; further indictments are expected. Karl Rove has now been revealed as the source of the Valerie Plame leak, making Rove and perhaps other White House officials fair game for federal indictment. The Niger yellowcake forgeries and the Chalabi state secrets cases are still pending - to say nothing of two stolen elections and the 9/11 Septembergate itself. All these factors incline the rogue network to seek an improvement in their situation through a flight forward to a wider war in Iran. Those who stand to lose most by such an Iranian adventure must now mobilize to make Mr. Bush's second term as eventful as Nixon's second term turned out to be in 1974.

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Did the CIA undermine Italy's war on terror?
By Phil Stewart

ROME (Reuters) - For eavesdropping Italian investigators, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr was more than a dangerous terrorism suspect.

Monitored through wire taps and ambient listening devices, he was a walking, talking link to a larger threat in Europe and beyond -- who suddenly vanished on February 17, 2003. That's when prosecutors say CIA agents kidnapped Nasr and flew him to Egypt.

The cleric, also known as Abu Omar, says he was tortured in Egypt under questioning and refused to be an informant.

"The kidnapping of Abu Omar was not just illegal, having seriously violated Italian sovereignty, but it was also harmful and corrosive to the effectiveness of the overall fight against terrorism," said Milan Judge Guido Salvini, who has a standing arrest order for Nasr.

It is unclear what Egyptian authorities may have learned from the suspect. His lawyer in Egypt told Reuters that he has requested Nasr's release from custody.

Following this month's rush-hour transport bombings in London, Islamic militant groups are warning Italy may be next -- and the threats are being taken seriously in Rome.

Prosecutors say evidence from the Nasr investigation, and others like it, prove ongoing Islamic militant activity in Italy. That includes fundraising and recruiting suicide bombers to send abroad, as well as possible attacks inside the country.

Wiretap records suggest Nasr supported bombings like the one in London and knew plenty about militant groups in Europe, prosecutors say. Investigators can't help but wonder what they might have learned had Nasr been fully investigated in Italy.

DYING MARTYRS

Intelligence officials believe that Nasr, 42, fought in Afghanistan before arriving in Italy in 1997 and obtaining political refugee status. Investigators accuse him of ties to al Qaeda and recruiting combatants for Iraq.

Conversation intercepts, viewed by Reuters, show Nasr as more than a Muslim cleric in Milan. Prosecutors say he had contact with militants from Germany, Egypt and elsewhere. They point to computer files filled with jihad recruiting propaganda.

"The hope is that we all die martyrs," he told a Tunisian suspect, in an April 7, 2002 conversation inside a Milan mosque.

Another conversation on April 24, 2002, with an unidentified Egyptian man, also discussed militant attacks. Prosecutors believe that although the other man did most of the talking, it showed Nasr's awareness of such activity.

"So, are these attacks going to be carried out or not?" the man asks Nasr, who initially responds: "What?".

"Let me be clear, I want us to strike inside, outside ... in every country in the world," he said. Nasr responded, with a laugh, "Use your head!"

The conversation continues somewhat cryptically, and Nasr responds -- in a muddled context: "They'll do it. They'll do it.

Asked by whom, Nasr responds: "The brother in London."

The United States has declined to make any public comment about the Nasr case, even after a Milan judge ordered the June arrest of 13 Americans whom prosecutors say are tied to the CIA.

Rome denies authorising the kidnap and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on July 1 summoned the U.S. ambassador to Rome, Mel Sembler, to demand that Italy's sovereignty be respected.

Opposition politicians have cast doubt on the official line, questioning whether the CIA would have launched such a bold operation without at least informing their Italian counterparts.

INTELLIGENCE SHARING

The United States and Italy are close allies in foreign policy, and Berlusconi, who sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, has stressed the joint fight against terrorism remains strong.

But Italian officials complain that when it comes to intelligence sharing, Washington does not always return the favour. The Nasr case is one example. Prosecutors say that U.S. officials passed bad information to Italian police after the kidnap, saying Nasr had probably gone to fight overseas.

The issue of trust becomes increasingly important in the wake of the London bombings, with European nations seeking greater access to foreign intelligence information.

"The real problem is with the United States, there is a certain difficulty receiving information," former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato told local media. "The Americans take an exclusive attitude, without respecting the criteria of the maximum collaboration with Western countries."

The United States is facing questions from other European countries, including Germany, over its transfers of militant suspects abroad. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said in May the United States had sent it as many as 70 suspects.

From court documents, it looks like Italian prosecutors were easily able to identify the CIA agents allegedly involved in the daylight abduction of Nasr.

Agents filled out registration forms at hotels, many presented frequent-client cards, like "Hilton Honors" and prosecutors even have one agent's United Airlines frequent flyer number, the documents show.

The big question in Italy is why Washington thought it was necessary to kidnap Nasr. Was Italy too slow to arrest him or too hesitant to react to the intercepts? What information did the CIA have?

Nasr, according to one account, was so important he was offered a deal by Egypt's interior minister -- be an informant and return to Italy. Nasr refused and said he was tortured with electric shock, and exposure to extreme noise and temperatures.

"I was very near death," Nasr told his wife in a 2004 call, intercepted by police, after being released briefly for medical reasons in Egypt. He was rearrested for recounting the ordeal.

Italian officials concede they may never know the whole truth, even though Judge Salvini started a judicial process aimed eventually at extraditing, or at least questioning, Nasr.

"The fact that he was kidnapped obviously damaged our investigation. That can't be denied," said one Italian legal source. "Who knows what we would have learned."

Comment: While this article tends to believe that Nasr was connected with that great Satan of "International Terrorism", another report from a recent Signs pages suggests otherwise. Of course, it is difficult to know one way or the other, as information such as this could be spread to discredit Nasr.

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FLASHBACK!

Report: Egyptian Imam Was a CIA Informant
By Associated Press

07/02/05 - -CHICAGO (AP) - A radical Egyptian cleric allegedly kidnapped from Italy by the CIA once provided the American spy agency with valuable information about Islamic militants in Albania, according to a published report.

The Chicago Tribune, citing the former second-ranking official of the Albanian intelligence service, reported in its Sunday editions that Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was a valuable source of information in the mid-1990s to the CIA about the close-knit community of Islamic fundamentalists living in exile in Albania, a formerly communist country in the Balkans.

Astrit Nasufi, the former Albanian intelligence officer, told the newspaper that the imam had been considered a credible source of information.

Last month, an Italian judge ordered the arrests of 13 CIA officers on allegations they secretly transported the imam to Egypt from Italy as part of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts - a rare public admonition by a close American ally. The warrant said the cleric was sent to Egypt and tortured.

Italian officials have said they had no prior knowledge of the Feb. 17, 2003, kidnapping of the 39-year-old cleric from a Milan street.

According to the Italian prosecutor's application for the 13 warrants for the CIA agents, when Abu Omar reached Cairo on a CIA-chartered aircraft, he was taken to Egypt's interior minister, the newspaper reported.

The document said that if the imam agreed to provide information to Egypt's intelligence service, Abu Omar ``would have been set free and accompanied back to Italy,'' the Tribune reported.

The CIA has refused to comment on the case.

The newspaper said evidence gathered by Italian prosecutors ``indicates that the abduction was a bold attempt to turn him (Omar) back into the informer he once was.''

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Israel and Palestine: the end of the "calm"
By Gwynne Dyer

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called for a "period of calm" when he took over the late Yasser Arafat's job in January, and for a while some people allowed themselves to believe that peace was within reach. But that delusion depended on the belief that Arafat had been the main obstacle to a permanent peace settlement, and it is now melting in the summer sun.

"This calm is dissolving," said General Dan Halutz, the Israeli military's chief of staff, last Friday. Mushir al-Masri, a spokesman of the radical Hamas movement that rejects a permanent peace deal with Israel, sort of agreed: "The calm is blowing away in the wind, and the Zionist enemy is responsible for that." But the truth is that neither Halutz's political superiors nor al-Masri's expected the calm to last.

Last week began with a suicide bomber from Islamic Jihad (which never agreed to the ceasefire) killing five Israelis in the town of Netanya on Tuesday. Israeli troops killed two Palestinians in Tulkarem on Wednesday night, and on Thursday another Palestinian was shot dead as he tried to escape Israeli forces in Nablus. That night, a shower of homemade Qassem rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas militants killed one Israeli woman in Nativ Haasara.

In an attempt to reassert control over the Gaza Strip, Palestinian police under Mahmoud Abbas's orders opened fire on a Hamas vehicle late Thursday night, wounding five Hamas fighters. The response was an attack on a police post by dozens of Hamas gunmen who burned two police cruisers. Another clash in Gaza City early Friday morning left two civilian bystanders dead, a police station and more vehicles burned out, and Hamas fighters in control of the streets. Later Friday, Israel helicopters killed seven Hamas militants and wounded five civilians in two rocket attacks.

It was a pattern all too familiar from the intifada of 2001-2004, but with the added complication that the Palestinians themselves were now on the brink of a civil war. By the weekend, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had announced an unscheduled visit to the area in an attempt to save the ceasefire, but neither side has much incentive to help her out.

Israel would prefer the Palestinians to remain quiet, of course, but Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's strategy does not aim at serious negotiations with them. He is instead going for an imposed peace that leaves all the main Jewish settlement blocks in the West Bank under Israeli control, and last August he got official U.S. support for that policy.

Sharon is building a "security fence" that translates that policy into a de facto new border for Israel. He is expanding Jewish settlements around predominantly Arab East Jerusalem to cut it off from the West Bank and eliminate the possibility that it could ever serve as the capital of a Palestinian state. And Washington has promised to put no pressure on him for concessions to the Palestinians until he completes the unilateral withdrawal of some 8,500 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, due to begin next month.

The Gaza settlements never made economic or military sense, as they are surrounded by 1.3 million Palestinians. "Disengaging" from them cuts the burden on the Israeli army and saves money -- but it also gives Sharon a useful smoke-screen. It lets him claim that he is making a major gesture for peace, and that he cannot be expected to act on other issues when he is fully occupied with fighting off extreme right-wing Israelis who are resisting the "disengagement process."

In reality, as Sharon's chief of staff Dov Weisglas explained last October, the disengagement process is intended to supply "the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians....When you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda....all with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress."

Sharon spoke bluntly about his strategy to the Knesset in April: "I am doing everything I can to preserve as much (of the West Bank settlements) as I can." He is succeeding: by the time the Gaza withdrawal is complete, so should be the wall that cuts through the West Bank and defines the new de facto border between Israel and the occupied territories. But since Palestinians understand all this, they have concluded that Mahmoud Abbas's gamble that a "period of calm" would lead to genuine peace negotiations with Israel has failed.

Palestinians are turning more and more to Islamic movements that reject the whole notion of a permanent division of the land between Israel and a Palestinian state. Hamas's popular support has risen so fast that Abbas postponed the parliamentary elections scheduled for this summer, since a vote now might give Hamas and its allies a majority of seats. And there is no earthly reason to believe that a visit by Condoleezza Rice will change any of this. The Bush administration has given Sharon a green light, and she is not going to switch it to red.

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Univ. of Southern Calif. says database hacked
Reuters
July 20, 2005

LOS ANGELES - A University of Southern California database containing about 270,000 records of past applicants including their names and Social Security numbers was hacked last month, officials said on Tuesday.

The breach of the university's online application database exposed "dozens" of records to unauthorized individuals, said Katharine Harrington, USC dean of admissions and financial aid.

She could not be more specific about the number of people whose personal data may have been viewed by the hacker or hackers or what their motivation was for the computer break-in.

"There was not a sufficiently precise tracking capability," Harrington said, but added that the hackers had not been able to access multiple records at once. Records were also only able to be viewed at random, she said.

"We are quite confident that there was no massive downloading of data," Harrington said.

USC learned of the breach June 20 when it was tipped off by a journalist, Harrington said. It has since shut down the Web site and has notified people whose names and Social Security numbers were in the database of the security breach.

The university was not able to identify exactly which records may have been exposed.

The site will be back up once new security measures are taken, the university said in a written statement. [...]

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In Canada: Cache a page, go to jail?
By Elinor Mills
CNET News.com
Published: July 19, 2005, 4:00 AM PDT

A bill before Canada's Parliament could make it illegal for search engines to cache Web pages, critics say, opening the door to unwarranted lawsuits and potentially hindering public access to information.

The legislation in question, Bill C-60, is designed to amend Canada's Copyright Act by implementing parts of the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization treaty, the treaty that led to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S.

Set for debate and an initial vote in the House of Commons after Parliament's summer break, C-60 addresses things such as file-sharing, anticopying devices and the liability of Internet service providers and would tighten the Copyright Act in ways favorable to record labels and movie studios.

But according to Howard Knopf, a copyright attorney at the Ottawa firm of Macera & Jarzyna, a brief passage in the bill could mean trouble for search engines and other companies that archive or cache Web content.

"The way it reads, arguably what they're saying is that the very act of making a reproduction by way of caching is illegal," Knopf said.

Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law, agreed.

"Anyone with content on the Web could sue," and anyone caching content on the Internet could be sued, said Geist, who wrote about perils with C-60 when it was introduced. "Somebody with an ax to grind, or business competitors, could start using the system to try to get content removed." The bill provides no deterrent to making false copyright-infringement claims, he said. [...]

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Former Bush official to get RFID tag
By Michael Kanellos
CNET News.com
July 18, 2005, 4:43 PM PDT

Tommy Thompson, the Health and Human Services Secretary in President Bush's first term and a former Governor of Wisconsin, is going to get tagged.

Thompson has joined the board of Applied Digital, which owns VeriChip, the company that specializes in subcutaneous RFID tags for humans and pets.

To help promote the concepts behind the technology, Thompson himself will get an RFID tag implanted under his skin.

Human RFID tags have emerged as one of the more controversial technologies in years. Civil libertarians theorize that the chips will allow governments or corporations to track people's movement and behavior. Some Christians have said the chips are so evil they fulfill a biblical prophesy about satanic influences. [...]

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Fireball Streaks Across Oregon Skies Tuesday
Did you see it?
KOIN News

PORTLAND -- According to the Cascade Meteorite Lab at Portland State University a fireball streaked across the sky at 2:17 p.m.

The fireball was seen in Portland, Medford and most likely most places in between.

A fireball is a meteorite that has entered our atmosphere and is burning up. Most times it burns up totally before hitting the ground but once in a while we get a meteorite that lands on earth.

If you saw the fireball, the lab would like to hear from you. You can call them at (503) 287-6733.

Comment: Yes, readers "once in a while we get a meteorite that lands on earth". Of course, we are reassured that all the really big ones hit millions of years ago. And Saddam had WMD...

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Ice Shelf Collapse Reveals New Undersea World
By Bjorn Carey
LiveScience Staff Writer
18 July 2005 01:54 pm ET

The collapse of a giant ice shelf in Antarctica has revealed a thriving ecosystem half a mile below the sea.

Despite near freezing and sunless conditions, a community of clams and a thin layer of bacterial mats are flourishing in undersea sediments.

"Seeing these organisms on the ocean bottom -- it's like lifting the carpet off the floor and finding a layer that you never knew was there," said Eugene Domack of Hamilton College.

Domack is the lead author on the report of the finding in the July 19 issue of Eos, the weekly newspaper of the American Geophysical Union.

The discovery was accidental. U.S. Antarctic Program scientists were in the northwestern Weddell Sea investigating the sediment record in a deep glacial trough twice the size of Texas. The trough was unveiled in the 2002 Larsen B ice shelf collapse.

Toward the end of the expedition the crew recorded a video of the sea floor. Later analysis of the video showed the clams and bacteria growing around mud volcanoes.

Since light could not penetrate the ice or water, these organisms do not use photosynthesis to make energy. Instead, these extreme creatures get their energy from methane, Domack said today.

The methane is produced inside the Earth and is distributed to the sea floor by underwater vents.

This type of ecosystem is known as a "cold-seep" or a "cold-vent." The first of its kind was discovered in 1984 near Monterey, California. Since then, similar ecosystems have been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Sea of Japan.

This recent discovery is the first cold-seep to be described in the Antarctic. The nearly pristine conditions -- which have been undisturbed for nearly 10,000 years -- will serve as a baseline for researchers probing other parts of the ocean. They better hurry though -- debris from the iceberg calving has already begun to bury some of the area.

Domack hopes to find new species and that this discovery will open the door to future Antarctic expeditions, specifically into Lake Vostok, a freshwater lake that sits two miles below the surface.

Any knowledge gained from studies into Antarctic life could help researchers search for life in other subterranean water locations on Earth. And, experts say, this research could better prepare scientists to examine the hypothesized ocean on Jupiter's moon Europa or on Saturn's moon Titan.

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Con Edison reports record energy usage
by Catherine Tymkiw
Crain's NY Business News
July 19, 2005

Consolidated Edison said it provided a record 12,250 megawatts of electricity on Tuesday amid intense heat and humidity.

There were no significant power outages as temperatures in New York City topped 90, with a heat index in the 100s. Demand pushed the wholesale price of power deliverable on Wednesday to $182.25 a megawatt hour by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The earlier record of 12,207 megawatts was set on Aug. 9, 2001. A megawatt provides electricity to about 1,000 homes.

Separately, the New York Power Authority activated its peak load management program, which calls on participating government and business customers, including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Citibank, to conserve power. The six-year-old program aims to help NYPA meet 80% of the city's peak power load with in-city power plants.

Fourteen NYPA customers have committed to cut back on 61 megawatts of electricity use by turning off nonessential lighting and computers, adjusting air conditioners, running fewer elevators and shutting down decorative fountains. The customers receive $40 for each kilowatt of electricity they reduce under the program.

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Chicago Experiencing Driest Summer on Record
WGN Chicago
July 18, 2005

A weak cold front swept through Chicago during the lunch hour Monday, but once again, significant rain failed to materialize until the system was south and east of the city. O'Hare received no rain, while Midway collected only .08". Already the driest summer on record to date, a scant 0.2" of rain has fallen at O'Hare in the 7 weeks since June 10.

Meanwhile, heat statistics are adding up. O'Hare's 91° and Midway's 92° are the 13th and 19th days respectively of 90° days in Chicago this summer, more than the last two summers combined.

Monday's cold front provides one day of relief from the ongoing heat. Another brief cold frontal passage is likely again on Thursday, with oppressive heat to follow over the weekend and into next week. Rain with frontal passage is likely on Thursday, but the computer models have not distinguished themselves and have consistently under forecast temperature and over forecast rain all summer.

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Drought and locust plague leave Niger on the brink of famine
By Meera Selva, Africa Correspondent
Published: 20 July 2005

More than 3.5 million people in Niger are on the verge of starving to death, after a plague of locusts and a punishing drought destroyed last year's harvest.

Aid agencies have warned that one in 10 children in the worst affected areas will die as a result of the official reluctance to act sooner to prevent famine. The government of Niger, the second poorest country in the world, warned last November that it would need help feeding 3.6 million people, including 800,000 children under five.

But while aid flooded into high-profile conflict areas such as Darfur in Sudan, Niger's pleas for help for a quarter of its population went unheard.

Jan Egeland, the outspoken UN under-secretary general, said last month that Niger was "the number one forgotten and neglected emergency in the world" and criticised international donor countries for ignoring his appeal for $16.2m (£9.3m) in emergency food assistance. By mid-July, the UN had received only $3.8m, even though more than 150,000 children are said to be severely malnourished. Most of these will now die before they can be fed.

After a five-day visit to the region, Jean Ziegler, a UN representative, said last week: "The vulnerable groups are on the brink of being wiped out, the children, the sick, the elderly."

Last month, 2,000 protesters marched into the capital Niamey to demand that the state distribute food to the starving, but government officials said at the time that it would be "foolish" to deplete its emergency stocks. Instead, the government offered to lend the poorest families cereal stocks to be repaid at the next harvest.

The UN's World Food Programme said it has finally managed to secure some emergency food aid, but the rations may take several weeks to reach those most desperately in need. It is estimated that the country needs more than 200,000 tons of food to make up for its shortfall.

Niger suffers a "hungry season" every year, as there is little irrigation for the 80 per cent of the population that depend on subsistence farming. But last year, drought and locusts destroyed most of the harvest and almost 40 per cent of livestock fodder. Farmers have had to either watch their cattle starve to death or sell them for a tenth of their normal value. As the prices of staples such as millet and sorghum soar, the money they receive for their livestock is not enough to buy food for their families.

Aissa Maman, a farmer, told Oxfam: "Prices have multiplied too many times. While I used to be able to buy one bag of 100kg millet after selling one or two healthy goats I would now need to sell three to five goats for the same amount."

By November last year, thousands of families had left rural villages and headed for Niamey and neighbouring countries such as Nigeria, Benin and Togo to look for food and work. Aid workers tell of how hundreds of people are walking through a desert littered with cattle carcasses looking for feeding centres and Nigerian immigration officials say thousands of people are trying to cross the border each day.

Milron Tetonidis of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) told reporters: "There are children dying every day in our centres. We're completely overwhelmed, there'd better be other people coming quickly to help us out - I mean, the response has been desperately slow." MSF has also warned that the rains, which have finally arrived, are now making conditions worse by spreading malaria and diarrhoea in the camps.

Niger's neighbours, Mali and Mauritania, were also hit by the plague of locusts that swept through the southern Sahel last year and are also suffering from similar food shortages. Nigeria, which is the richest country in the area, has provided some food to its neighbours but has echoed the aid agencies' pleas for extra help to be provided.

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Locusts invade Cirebon regencies
Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Cirebon

At least 1,700 hectares of rice fields in four regencies in Cirebon have been severely damaged by locust swarms and farmers fear the insect menace left uncontrolled could threaten the region's entire harvest.

The four districts attacked by locusts were Weru, South Cirebon, Tengah Tani and Plumbon, Cirebon Agricultural Office chief Ali Effendi said.

To try and prevent the locusts from destroying more areas, Ali said the office had distributed free 260 liters of insecticide to farmers bordering on locust-hit areas.

That amount, however, is far less than farmers need to protect their crops and unlikely to make any difference to the situation.

"The insecticides have been distributed to farmers outside of the four districts where the rice plants were damaged by the locusts. Distributing the insecticide is a preventive measure in order to ensure locusts do not spread to other places," Ali said.

Despite the locusts, rice production in Cirebon this dry season is set to meet the production target of 270,000 tons, with 45,000 hectares in the region planted with rice.

Office head of pests and diseases Sunardi said the locusts often swarmed in the transition between the rainy season and the dry season.

Meanwhile, farmers whose fields were attacked by the locusts said they had put their fate in God's hands.

Rusli said he could not protect his crops with insecticides ahead of the locust attack because the spray at Rp 13,000 (US$1.35) a liter was too expensive.

He had lost half his year's work to the locusts, with one of his two hectares of paddies destroyed, and did not know how he would earn a living now, he said.

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Minor earthquake of 3.6 magnitude rattles south central Utah
Caspar Star-Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A minor earthquake rattled a remote area of south central Utah on Wednesday, according to the University of Utah Seismograph Stations.

The university reported the tremor of magnitude 3.6 struck at 1:06 a.m. MDT Wednesday, centered about 19 miles north of Beaver and about 200 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, according to the University of Utah seismograph stations.

''The area is sparsely populated and damage is unlikely,'' said Dr. Walter Arabasz, director of the Utah stations.

The Beaver County Sheriff's Department reported no damage or injuries.

Seven shocks in the magnitude 3 range have occurred in this area since February 2001.

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