Thursday, December 29, 2005
It's fair to say that Bush had no intention of allowing public scrutiny of his act, since he personally summoned the top executives of The New York Times to a private meeting on December 6 and pressured them not to run the story about the domestic spying. The paper had held the story for a year at the administration's pleading but decided, after second thoughts and more reporting, that its importance required publication. It appeared on the Times' front page on Friday, December 16.
Some Bush supporters have attacked the Times for running the piece. On the other hand, some journalists have attacked theTimes for holding it for a year. From where I stand (I'm a Times alumnus), the paper should get credit for digging it out and publishing it. But whatever one's journalistic point of view, the Times' decision-making is not the central story here. The president's secret directive is.
These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.
"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government's very basic rules for web privacy."
A little-noticed holiday week executive order from President Bush moved the Pentagon's intelligence chief to the No. 3 spot in the succession hierarchy behind Rumsfeld. The second spot would be the deputy secretary of defense, but that position currently is vacant. The Army chief, which long held the No. 3 spot, was dropped to sixth.
The changes, announced last week, are the second in six months and mirror the administration's new emphasis on intelligence gathering versus combat in 21st century warfighting.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
The 22-year-old student tearfully admitted he made the story up to his history professor, Dr. Brian Glyn Williams, and his parents, after being confronted with the inconsistencies in his account.
Had the student stuck to his original story, it might never have been proved false.
Rice authorized National Security Agency to spy on UN Security Council in run-up to war, former officials say
Two former NSA officials familiar with the agency's campaign to spy on U.N. members say then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice authorized the plan at the request of President Bush, who wanted to know how delegates were going to vote. Rice did not immediately return a call for comment.
The former officials said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also participated in discussions about the plan, which involved "stepping up" efforts to eavesdrop on diplomats.
But notwithstanding the president's statement and the congressional edict, the Defense Department has yet to adopt a policy to bar human trafficking.
A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records.
The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War
The news comes just a month after Chalabi had conducted a tour of Washington in an effort to patch up his tattered image in America. Paperwork shows that in November Chalabi’s Washington representative hired a powerful D.C. lobbying firm.
The election results in Iraq may present Chalabi’s ardent U.S. supporters with a quandary: Chalabi, as well as other losing candidates, is alleging fraud in the election, even though the Bush administration hailed the vote as a historic step for democracy in Iraq.
Ten of 15 European Union signatories will miss the targets without urgent action, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found.
The countries include Ireland, Italy and Spain.
France, Greece and Germany are given an "amber warning" and will not reach targets unless they put planned policies into action, the IPPR said.
"To march is to speak," Woodcock wrote. "A parade, as speech, especially as political speech, invokes the First Amendment and commands this Court's protection."
Lawyers on both sides of the case declared Woodcock's decision a landmark ruling with potentially wide ramifications - particularly his conclusion that the city must waive parade fees for those who cannot afford them.
- Police can deny entry to "transportation infrastructure" to anyone not showing an ID;
- Police can demand the name, address, and date of birth of anyone suspected of having committed a crime or being about to commit a crime, or having witnessed a crime or a plan to commit a crime. Failure to provide this information is an arrestable offense -- so basically all demonstrators could be required to give their names, addresses and dates of birth or face arrest;
- Reminiscent of Joe McCarthy's famous question, many state licenses will begin with the question "Are you a member of an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?". Failure to answer means no license; answering affirmatively is self-incrimination.
- Perhaps worst of all, the original version of the bill simply prohibited state or local governemnts or government employees from objecting to the USA PATRIOT act. The current version allows criticism, but threatens local government with the loss of funds if they in any way "materially hinder" Federal anti-terrorism efforts.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has been handing millions of dollars to state governments for GPS-tracking pilot projects designed to track vehicles wherever they go. So far, Washington state and Oregon have received fat federal checks to figure out how to levy these "mileage-based road user fees."
Now electronic tracking and taxing may be coming to a DMV near you. The Office of Transportation Policy Studies, part of the Federal Highway Administration, is about to announce another round of grants totaling some $11 million. A spokeswoman on Friday said the office is "shooting for the end of the year" for the announcement, and more money is expected for GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking efforts.