Thursday, January 26, 2006

Rad Librarians

While Not All librarians are "militant radicals" apparently we're not all your "stereotypical librarians" either. Incensed by the USA Patriot Act and irate over a memo between FBI agents, the American Library Association debuted a button at its annual midwinter meeting, which winds up in Texas today at the Convention Center. Boasting that its wearers are "Radical Militant Librarians," the button was one of the convention's biggest sellers. [from]

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

HRW: U.S. has deliberate policy of torture

The Bush administration has a deliberate strategy of abusing terror suspects during interrogations, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday in its annual report on the treatment of people in more than 70 countries.
The human rights group based its conclusions mostly on statements by senior administration officials in the past year, and said President Bush's reassurances that the United States does not torture suspects were deceptive and rang hollow.
"In 2005 it became disturbingly clear that the abuse of detainees had become a deliberate, central part of the Bush administration's strategy of interrogating terrorist suspects," the report said.

US releases Reuters journalists held without charges for up to 8 months

Samir Mohammed Noor was the third journalist working for Reuters to be freed from military custody after two others were released a week ago. At least two journalists for other international media organizations are still being held.
Noor, a 30-year-old freelance television cameraman, spent time in Baghdad‘s Abu Ghraib prison and lately at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq; he was arrested at his home in the violent northern city of Tal Afar in early June during a general search of his neighborhood by Iraqi and U.S. troops.

Thousands on Katrina missing list

More than 3,200 people remain listed as missing some five months after Hurricane Katrina struck the US' Gulf coast, officials have said.
Some may have been traced without being removed from the list, while others may have chosen to vanish.
But several hundred names are causing particular concern to the authorities.

U.S. accused of spying on those who disagree with Bush policies

While the White House defended domestic surveillance as a safeguard against terrorism, a Florida peace activist and several Democrats in Congress accused the Bush administration on Friday of spying on Americans who disagree with President Bush's policies.
Richard Hersh, of Boca Raton, Fla., director of Truth Project Inc. of Palm Beach County, told an ad hoc panel of House Democrats that his group and others in South Florida have been infiltrated and spied upon despite having no connections to terrorists.
"Agents rummaged through the trash, snooped into e-mails, packed Web sites and listened in on phone conversations," Hersh charged. "We know that address books and activist meeting lists have disappeared."
The Truth Project gained national attention when NBC News reported last month that it was described as a "credible threat" in a database of suspicious activity compiled by the Pentagon's Talon program. The listing cited the group's gathering a year ago at a Quaker meeting house in Lake Worth, Fla., to talk about ways to counter military recruitment at high schools.

Expert Skeptical of bin Laden Tape

A Duke professor says he is doubtful about Thursday's audiotape from Osama bin Laden.
Bruce Lawrence has just published "Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama Bin Laden," a book translating bin Laden's writing. He is skeptical of Thursday's message.
"It was like a voice from the grave," Lawrence said.
He thinks bin Laden is dead and has doubts about the tape. Lawrence recently analyzed more than 20 complete speeches and interviews of the al Qaida leader for his book. He says the new message is missing several key elements.
"There's nothing in this from the Koran. He's, by his own standards, a faithful Muslim," Lawrence said. "He quotes scripture in defense of his actions. There's no quotation from the Koran in the excerpts we got, no reference to specific events, no reference to past atrocities."

Halliburton cited in Iraq contamination

Water supplied to a U.S. base in Iraq was contaminated and the contractor in charge, Halliburton, failed to tell troops and civilians at the facility, according to internal documents from the company and interviews with former Halliburton officials.
Although the allegations came from Halliburton's own water quality experts, the company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney denied there was a contamination problem at Camp Junction City, in Ramadi.
"We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated," said a July 15, 2005, memo by William Granger, the official for Halliburton's KBR subsidiary who was in charge of water quality in Iraq and Kuwait.
"The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River," Granger wrote in one of several documents.

Wayward Christian Soldiers

IN the past several years, American evangelicals, and I am one of them, have amassed greater political power than at any time in our history. But at what cost to our witness and the integrity of our message?
Recently, I took a few days to reread the war sermons delivered by influential evangelical ministers during the lead up to the Iraq war. That period, from the fall of 2002 through the spring of 2003, is not one I will remember fondly. Many of the most respected voices in American evangelical circles blessed the president's war plans, even when doing so required them to recast Christian doctrine.
Charles Stanley, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, whose weekly sermons are seen by millions of television viewers, led the charge with particular fervor. "We should offer to serve the war effort in any way possible," said Mr. Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. "God battles with people who oppose him, who fight against him and his followers." In an article carried by the convention's Baptist Press news service, a missionary wrote that "American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."
As if working from a slate of evangelical talking points, both Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine and a former advisor to President Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims. Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the hugely popular "Left Behind" series, spoke of Iraq as "a focal point of end-time events," whose special role in the earth's final days will become clear after invasion, conquest and reconstruction. For his part, Jerry Falwell boasted that "God is pro-war" in the title of an essay he wrote in 2004.
The war sermons rallied the evangelical congregations behind the invasion of Iraq. An astonishing 87 percent of all white evangelical Christians in the United States supported the president's decision in April 2003. Recent polls indicate that 68 percent of white evangelicals continue to support the war. But what surprised me, looking at these sermons nearly three years later, was how little attention they paid to actual Christian moral doctrine. Some tried to square the American invasion with Christian "just war" theory, but such efforts could never quite reckon with the criterion that force must only be used as a last resort. As a result, many ministers dismissed the theory as no longer relevant. [more]

CRS Legal Analysis of PATRIOT ACT

The existing controversy over reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act -- portions of which will "sunset" if they are not renewed -- acquired a new dimension with the disclosure last month of an NSA domestic surveillance operation.

Some now argue that the Patriot Act should not be reauthorized before the Bush Administration's claims of inherent presidential authority to conduct domestic intelligence surveillance outside of the framework of law (FISA) are confronted and clarified. "The extensive new powers requested by the executive branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should under no circumstances be granted unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed," said former Vice President Al Gore in a January 16, 2006 speech. Much of the Patriot Act is unobjectionable to anyone, and some of it is positively sensible. But it also has controversial provisions on "national security letters" as well as several totally extraneous provisions inserted by House Republicans. A detailed assessment of the entire piece of legislation was prepared by the Congressional Research Service. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News. See "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 (H.R. 3199): A Legal Analysis of the Conference Bill," January 17, 2006:

E-voting systems hacker sees 'particularly bad' security issues

Can you tell us about some of your e-voting machine hacking activities? On Tuesday, Dec. 13, we conducted a hack of the Diebold AccuVote optical scan device. I wrote a five-line script in Visual Basic that would allow you to go into the central tabulator and change any vote total you wanted, leaving no logs. It requires physical access to a machine, which in many counties isn't very difficult to get -- you have elections offices full of volunteers. In Leon County, they have good policies and procedures in place. But in many counties, where such awareness doesn't exist, that brings up some serious concerns about someone being able to tamper with the results.

EU inquiry into CIA jails finds 100-plus examples of possible torture

"There is a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing' of torture," Marty said in a report presented to the Council of Europe, the human rights watchdog investigating the alleged secret prisons.
The report said more than 100 terror suspects may have been transferred to countries where they faced torture or ill treatment in recent years.
"It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware," Marty said in the report.

Defending Spy Program, General Reveals Shaky Grip on 4th Amendment

GEN. HAYDEN: No, actually -- the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure.
QUESTION: But the --
GEN. HAYDEN: That's what it says.
QUESTION: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.
GEN. HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.
QUESTION: But does it not say probable --
U.S. Constitution: Fourth Amendment
Fourth Amendment - Search and Seizure
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Academics question the official explanation for the WTC collapse

This paper, with internal links to assorted videos and stills, argues that WTC 7, the 45-story companion building to the towers, appears to have been demolished by planted explosives, not the fire from the twin towers. []

Village Voice: NSA whistle-blower wants to tell congress, but they don't have clearance to hear

The president, feeling the heat, has changed his mind and says he welcomes congressional investigations into his authorizing of the National Security Agency's warrantless gutting of the Fourth Amendment.
"There will be a lot of hearings and talk about that," Bush says, "but that's good for democracy," a form of government on which he has been insufficiently briefed. Also testifying will be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Since he orchestrated Bush's 2002 blank check to the NSA, Gonzales's testimony will essentially consist of him applauding himself.
At the open hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee (the Senate Intelligence Committee's hearing will be closed), Gonzales says he will not discuss "the operational aspects" of this "highly classified program."
There is, however, a former NSA officer who is eager to testify at an open hearing. Russ Tice, a former technical-intelligence specialist with NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, was also involved in the agency's SAPs (special access programs), which—Bill Gertz reported in the January 12 Washington Times—"are the most sensitive U.S. intelligence and weapons programs and are exempt from many oversight mechanisms used to check other intelligence agencies."
Russ Tice has been warned, however, by Renee Seymour, director of NSA's special access programs, not to testify about secret electronic intelligence programs because they are so super-secret; she emphasizes that "neither the staff nor the members [of the congressional committees] are cleared to receive the information covered by the special access programs."
Russ Tice, Bill Gertz also reports, was a source for the New York Times story that has created the continuing fervor over Bush's further extension of his unilateral powers as commander in chief to do whatever he wants to protect our otherwise democratic and constitutional values. [thanks, Tom P]