Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A Vast Array of Online Problems - Total Information Oppression

I don't know anyone else that is having so many error and loading problems with their blogs at Blogspot. I am also having security violations with one of my main webmail accounts. Close friends of mine that I communicate with online are experiencing multiple virus and worm attacks. Readers should be aware that over the past four years I have personally had to deal with literally THOUSANDS of attempts at virus and worm insertion. Several times world and U.S. leaders were emailed from MY ACCOUNT BY SOMEONE OTHER THAN ME. I know this because I got auto-replies. I have no idea what was in those emails. For all I know, they contained language that could implicate the account owner (me) in, even, threats. In all of my saga (including death threats), neither the FCC nor the FBI has ever responded to my multiple attempts to solicit aid.

I will be closing down for at least a few days. I am referencing this link to folks that currently share my problems and that will wonder why I am AWOL online (I participate in a wide variety of digital forums).

Perhaps a little creative re-organizing will help these problems. Here is a little on applicable information regarding Uncle Sam's "Net Force" and the harrassment I have personally experienced in the past few years (as usual, I am on to something).

To anyone who feels that I have unnecessarily endangered them, I was only trying to get out THE truth.

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But first...these items SEEM to have increased my attention by angry right-wingers recently (oh yeah - that's the gubment). Several months ago I dropped my email accounts and regrouped at another geographical location and it would seem I dropped off the radar from online surveillance outfits until, again, recently. Continue to read on and you will see how my 'file' started:

Origins of the G.W. Bush-Carlyle-Nazi Axis

(February 16, 1997) Oklahoma City, Government-Paid Neo-Nazis, and the FCC

Operation Paperclip Casefile

Who Won WWII?

Leo Strauss and the Grand Inquisitor

Neo-Nazi Al Qaeda

A Tale of Two Brothers: Voting Fraud in the USA

THE GRAND CHESSBOARD - American Primacy And It's Geo-strategic Imperatives

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism

Beyond Left and Right - Escaping the Matrix

George W. Bush, The Neocons, & The Nazis


Recently, I have begun switching the posting of the really hard-hitting items to this blog and very soon thereafter, my blog problems began. Just visit some of my other posts of the last couple of weeks and you will see what I mean.

Of course, it was a couple of weeks ago that I published this one, whose relevance will be realized by reading it VERY closely:

If someone said your hero wasn't the man you thought he was, would you REALLY hear him out?

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These items have to do with the harrassment I have experienced revolving around my particular activism (inspired by first-hand knowledge of some of the issues):


Exposing a Goverment Disruptor and Infiltrator at Yahoo

I Have Lost My 40Th Or So Addy Due To NWO Net Force / Cointelpro Ops

DARPA's Information Awareness Office (IAO) to shut down (but TIA will march on) -

Who the hell is Booz, Allen, and Hamilton ?!?

Agent "Souljah" Smiley's Last Stand

PLEASE HELP - DEATH THREAT

Total Information Awareness Relies on Private Sector to Track Americans

Total Information Oppression: Now my mailing list has been killed!

Total Information Awareness, DARPA, and other Relevant STUFF

WHISTLEBLOWER UNDER HEAVY CYBERATTACK (25 Sep 2003)

IMPORTANT - BIG BROTHER ALIVE & WELL AT YAHOO?

SURVEILLANCE, CENSORSHIP, AND ESPIONAGE

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Consider this: the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which would later become the DEFENSE Advanced Research Projects Agency, developed the internet. It was a DOD project before it was a public forum, which would later be turned over to the private sector for "management." DARPA it is that houses the Information Awareness Office which, in turn spawned TIA, the Total Information Awareness effort, headed by one John Poindexter, an Iran-Contra Felon that, like so many others, escaped retribution and now sits high up on the pyramid, under George W. Bush.

Online activists have been thinking globally and acting globally. We need to act locally. Get off the internet and get involved in LOCAL politics. This is what 'grassroots' MEANS.

Blocking out your friends and family and local communities by isolating yourslef online and convincing yourself that you are, by such actions, involving yourself in community is the kind of self-deception that plays into the hands of the global fascist regime.

In the immortal words of the Cult of the Dead Cow, "Save yourself. Go outside. Do something!"


Thwarted lists of mine (lists that I, the owner, lost access to):

Whistleblowers

Arson-Salvage

Psy-Op


It all started here:

(taken from Long Overdue - a short auto-bio)

By 1999, I had been involved in a degree of online activism for about two years. I was just becoming aware of the level of online surveillance that occured, managed by the National Security Agency. The full extent of it would not be made plain to me until about three years later but what I had already found out necessitated resistance, I thought.

So we devised a plan to get millions of people, worldwide, to send out emails on October 21, 1999, that would contain a long list of known keywords in the NSA's Echelon dictionary. Echelon monitors phone calls and emails for known keywords and other 'suspect' patterns. If you mention the word 'bomb', for instance, a hundred times in a months, a human will be reading your emails and evaluating you as a potential threat. If you set up a Hotmail account and send an encrypted email, the same day, to Baghdad, a red flag most definitely will go up. I think you get the idea.

The alert we sent out globally managed to get translated into at least seven languages. Very soon, though I had conducted all of this via webmail, I was getting vaguely threatening emails in my home AOL account. I left family, house, and home in order not to endanger them and went underground for a while. I thought that I would be safe. What I would soon find out was that my interests had been recorded as a signature in some surveillance CPU. I was alright for about a week but when I got online on a public computer in Santa Cruz, California and began to merely catch up on news, suddenly a two-year period of intense harrassment would begin.

Jam Echelon Day had targetted the premier surveillance outfit in the world. What had I expected - that they wouldn't find me? We had brought awareness of Echelon from conspiranoia trash to the spotlight of Sixty Minutes. I had personally done an interview with the Village Voice. Yeah, they had figured out that Robert Kemp was Eric Stewart and I was on their shit list.

Today, according to the Patriot Act, such a fight to publicize a lack of American privacy is categorized as terrorism. We knew we would not jam up the computers but we knew that by getting people to participate we would raise awareness.

Over the next two years I would be harrassed and come to know the meaning of hell, at least my own personal one. When one is homeless, and one has few options, cornering such a person into certain situations becomes easy. Soon, I was experiencing sleep deprivation, constant inuendos by people I didn't recognize, attempts to hook me on methamphetamine, and on and on...

A woman who was a very close friend of mine for over a year, one day, told me she had been assigned to me. With the Aryan overtones that had managed to make their way into my life, I dropped her like a sack of potatoes and have not returned to California since. I went to Boulder, Colorado which turned out, as well, to be a mistake. While California is behavior modification central, Boulder is defense contractor central, where the harrassment is less subtle and more direct.

Here, near the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CU's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, near umpteen NRO, NGIA, CIA, NSA, and DOE contractors, I would happen upon a vein of research that would open a Pandora's box of revelations regarding 9-11 (Operation Two Towers) and...here is that "C" word...chemtrails.

It was at the Boulder RTD bus depot that I would receive the first in-person death threat that I had ever had. An Alabama boy (judging by his drawl) with war written all over him would say these words: "I am going to kill you."


Monday, December 06, 2004

Shopping protesters arrested for 'nothing'

By TERRI SANGINITI / The News Journal


For the past four years on Black Friday, three Newark sisters have been trekking to the Christiana Mall to celebrate a global anticonsumerism movement called "Buy Nothing Day."

This year, they got arrested after police asked the women to leave.

Anna White, 30, said she and her sisters Laura, 28, and Rachel, 25, and their friend Terri Carter went to the mall about 11:30 a.m. Friday on their annual junket to not shop.

They were dressed in Santa hats and white T-shirts printed with the words "NOTHING - What you've been looking for." The back of the shirts read: "Ask me about NOTHING."

Buy Nothing Day began 13 years ago a way for people to engage in symbolic protest against the "frantic consumer binge" by refusing to shop for 24 hours, according to Adbusters Media Foundation, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based organization that sponsors the event.

The foundation is "a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age," according to the group's Web site.

White said she doesn't work for Adbusters.

"I like doing quirky things like this," she said. "It seemed like a fun way to get people to think about alternative ideas."

The activists had fliers to hand out. But White said they would only do so if someone came up to them to ask what NOTHING is all about.

"We didn't want to violate the mall's soliciting rules," White said.

But one of the women was armed with a video camera, which violates mall policy.

A security guard told the women they would have to leave because they were, in effect, soliciting - a reaction.

White said she and her sisters then left the mall through the Lord & Taylor exit and headed to their car parked near J.C. Penney.

Outside, a state trooper told them that they were on private property and would have to leave.

En route to their car, White said they were surrounded by four or five state troopers who took them into custody and charged them with criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.

"They handcuffed us and took us to the [state police] satellite office," White said. "I guess they thought if we let three people dress up in Santa Claus hats, then what's next."

But state police spokesman Lt. Joseph Aviola's version of the story differed.

"These people were in the mall and were observed talking to patrons and also had a camera in their possession," Aviola said. "They were asked by management to leave the mall and they refused twice. They were told if they didn't leave that they would be arrested."

Aviola said a trooper walked the women to their vehicle.

White said that never happened. She maintains that they were walking to their car when troopers arrested them.

"We don't understand because we were following directions to leave," she said. "I don't know how you can get to your car if you can't walk to it through the mall parking lot."

Aviola said mall security told police 20 minutes after the women were told to leave that they were still milling around in the parking lot. He said they were congregating around cars "with a tripod set up with a cord running from it and appeared to be videotaping in the parking lot."

White denied that.

"They showed up last year and were told not to come back, and they came back this year," Aviola said. "It's private property, and they were told if they don't abide by the rules they would be arrested."

Now, it's up to a magistrate to decide their fate Jan. 15. If convicted, the women could be fined $25 plus court costs.

"I definitely am up for it again next year, but I don't want to get arrested," White said. "That was not our intention this year, either."


Source: Delaware Online

Surfing the Blogosphere

I have assembled what I considered to be the best recent posts from blogs (in English - I seem to get a lot of hits from Brazilian bloggers for some reason) that have linked to this one, including snips.

Enjoy!


...............................................................


"The Thai government has dropped an estimated one hundred million paper origami birds in an unusual peace bid ..... the birds were dropped by military planes over the country's Muslim south after a surge of violence in the area."

See Origami Peace Bombs

~~~

"Both Hannity and Coulter arrogantly insisted that we need no help fighting terrorism and Coulter added that Canada should be glad we let them share the same contintent."

See

I Love Canadians !

~~~

"...Jacklyn, a trained paediatric nurse, had taken the fatal step of taking the children off the drugs, which had resulted in an immediate boost to their health and happiness ..... As a result she was branded a child abuser in court."

See New York's Guinea Pigs

~~~

"Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional staff analysis has found."

See 59 MILLION BUSH FANS CAN'T BE WRONG

~~~

George Bush's new administration, and its supporters controlling Congress, are setting out to dismantle three decades of US environmental protection.

Bush Sets Out Plan to Dismantle 30 Years of Environmental Laws

~~~

"It's interesting and frightening to compare the struggle during Che's (Guevera) lifetime (1950's and 60's) and the struggle today, in which indigenous people around the world are still having to resist big money interests, sometimes in the form of death squads, coming in to steal their land and their rights."

See suicide rate among indigenous tribes struggling against corporate greed rising at an alarming rate

Sunday, December 05, 2004

U.S. admits torture used in interrogations

Results become evidence, though illegal in U.S court
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Evidence gained by torture can be used by the U.S. military in deciding whether to imprison a foreigner indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an enemy combatant, the government concedes.

Statements produced under torture have been inadmissible in U.S. courts for about 70 years. But the U.S. military panels reviewing the detention of 550 foreigners as enemy combatants at the U.S. naval base in Cuba are allowed to use such evidence, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Brian Boyle acknowledged at a U.S. District Court hearing yesterday.

Some of the prisoners have filed lawsuits challenging their detention without charges for up to three years so far. At the hearing, Boyle urged District Judge Richard J. Leon to throw their cases out.

Attorneys for the prisoners argued that some were held solely on evidence gained by torture, which they said violated fundamental fairness and U.S. due process standards. But Boyle argued in a similar hearing Wednesday that the detainees "have no constitutional rights enforceable in this court."

Leon asked whether a detention based solely on evidence gathered by torture would be illegal, because "torture is illegal. We all know that."

Boyle replied that if the military's combatant status review tribunals "determine that evidence of questionable provenance were reliable, nothing in the due process clause (of the Constitution) prohibits them from relying on it."

Leon asked whether there were any restrictions on using torture-induced evidence.

Boyle replied that the United States never would adopt a policy that would have barred it from acting on evidence that could have prevented the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks even if the data came from questionable practices like torture by a foreign power.


Source: York Dispatch

In Iraq, the US eliminates those who dare to count the dead

You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is

Naomi Klein

12/04/04 "The Guardian " --

David T Johnson,
Acting ambassador,
US Embassy, London

Dear Mr Johnson, On November 26, your press counsellor sent a letter to the Guardian taking strong exception to a sentence in my column of the same day. The sentence read: "In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone - doctors, clerics, journalists - who dares to count the bodies." Of particular concern was the word "eliminating".

The letter suggested that my charge was "baseless" and asked the Guardian either to withdraw it, or provide "evidence of this extremely grave accusation". It is quite rare for US embassy officials to openly involve themselves in the free press of a foreign country, so I took the letter extremely seriously. But while I agree that the accusation is grave, I have no intention of withdrawing it. Here, instead, is the evidence you requested.

In April, US forces laid siege to Falluja in retaliation for the gruesome killings of four Blackwater employees. The operation was a failure, with US troops eventually handing the city back to resistance forces. The reason for the withdrawal was that the siege had sparked uprisings across the country, triggered by reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed. This information came from three main sources: 1) Doctors. USA Today reported on April 11 that "Statistics and names of the dead were gathered from four main clinics around the city and from Falluja general hospital". 2) Arab TV journalists. While doctors reported the numbers of dead, it was al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya that put a human face on those statistics. With unembedded camera crews in Falluja, both networks beamed footage of mutilated women and children throughout Iraq and the Arab-speaking world. 3) Clerics. The reports of high civilian casualties coming from journalists and doctors were seized upon by prominent clerics in Iraq. Many delivered fiery sermons condemning the attack, turning their congregants against US forces and igniting the uprising that forced US troops to withdraw.

US authorities have denied that hundreds of civilians were killed during last April's siege, and have lashed out at the sources of these reports. For instance, an unnamed "senior American officer", speaking to the New York Times last month, labelled Falluja general hospital "a centre of propaganda". But the strongest words were reserved for Arab TV networks. When asked about al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya's reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed in Falluja, Donald Rumsfeld, the US secretary of defence, replied that "what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable ... " Last month, US troops once again laid siege to Falluja - but this time the attack included a new tactic: eliminating the doctors, journalists and clerics who focused public attention on civilian casualties last time around.


Eliminating doctors

The first major operation by US marines and Iraqi soldiers was to storm Falluja general hospital, arresting doctors and placing the facility under military control. The New York Times reported that "the hospital was selected as an early target because the American military believed that it was the source of rumours about heavy casual ties", noting that "this time around, the American military intends to fight its own information war, countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents' most potent weapons". The Los Angeles Times quoted a doctor as saying that the soldiers "stole the mobile phones" at the hospital - preventing doctors from communicating with the outside world.

But this was not the worst of the attacks on health workers. Two days earlier, a crucial emergency health clinic was bombed to rubble, as well as a medical supplies dispensary next door. Dr Sami al-Jumaili, who was working in the clinic, says the bombs took the lives of 15 medics, four nurses and 35 patients. The Los Angeles Times reported that the manager of Falluja general hospital "had told a US general the location of the downtown makeshift medical centre" before it was hit.

Whether the clinic was targeted or destroyed accidentally, the effect was the same: to eliminate many of Falluja's doctors from the war zone. As Dr Jumaili told the Independent on November 14: "There is not a single surgeon in Falluja." When fighting moved to Mosul, a similar tactic was used: on entering the city, US and Iraqi forces immediately seized control of the al-Zaharawi hospital.


Eliminating journalists

The images from last month's siege on Falluja came almost exclusively from reporters embedded with US troops. This is because Arab journalists who had covered April's siege from the civilian perspective had effectively been eliminated. Al-Jazeera had no cameras on the ground because it has been banned from reporting in Iraq indefinitely. Al-Arabiya did have an unembedded reporter, Abdel Kader Al-Saadi, in Falluja, but on November 11 US forces arrested him and held him for the length of the siege. Al-Saadi's detention has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists. "We cannot ignore the possibility that he is being intimidated for just trying to do his job," the IFJ stated.

It's not the first time journalists in Iraq have faced this kind of intimidation. When US forces invaded Baghdad in April 2003, US Central Command urged all unembedded journalists to leave the city. Some insisted on staying and at least three paid with their lives. On April 8, a US aircraft bombed al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub. Al-Jazeera has documentation proving it gave the coordinates of its location to US forces.

On the same day, a US tank fired on the Palestine hotel, killing José Couso, of the Spanish network Telecinco, and Taras Protsiuk, of Reuters. Three US soldiers are facing a criminal lawsuit from Couso's family, which alleges that US forces were well aware that journalists were in the Palestine hotel and that they committed a war crime.


Eliminating clerics

Just as doctors and journalists have been targeted, so too have many of the clerics who have spoken out forcefully against the killings in Falluja. On November 11, Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaei, the head of the Supreme Association for Guidance and Daawa, was arrested. According to Associated Press, "Al-Sumaidaei has called on the country's Sunni minority to launch a civil disobedience campaign if the Iraqi government does not halt the attack on Falluja". On November 19, AP reported that US and Iraqi forces stormed a prominent Sunni mosque, the Abu Hanifa, in Aadhamiya, killing three people and arresting 40, including the chief cleric - another opponent of the Falluja siege. On the same day, Fox News reported that "US troops also raided a Sunni mosque in Qaim, near the Syrian border". The report described the arrests as "retaliation for opposing the Falluja offensive". Two Shia clerics associated with Moqtada al-Sadr have also been arrested in recent weeks; according to AP, "both had spoken out against the Falluja attack".

"We don't do body counts," said General Tommy Franks of US Central Command. The question is: what happens to the people who insist on counting the bodies - the doctors who must pronounce their patients dead, the journalists who document these losses, the clerics who denounce them? In Iraq, evidence is mounting that these voices are being systematically silenced through a variety of means, from mass arrests, to raids on hospitals, media bans, and overt and unexplained physical attacks.

Mr Ambassador, I believe that your government and its Iraqi surrogates are waging two wars in Iraq. One war is against the Iraqi people, and it has claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. The other is a war on witnesses.


Source: Information Clearing House

Anthrax: Whistle-Blower Crackdown Spreads

A judge is ordering government workers to waive their confidentiality agreements with journalists. What impact will the controversial tactic have on the media's ability to report news?


Whistle-Blower Crackdown Spreads
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek
Updated: 5:49 p.m. ET Dec. 1, 2004


Dec. 1 - A hard-edged tactic used by a Justice Department special counsel to smoke out anonymous sources in a CIA leak case is about to be expanded to the 2001 anthrax investigation—despite profound misgivings within the department about the legitimacy of the practice.

As many as 100 FBI agents, federal prosecutors and other department employees are likely to be asked—possibly as early as the next few weeks—to sign broadly worded statements waiving any confidentiality agreements they had with journalists about the anthrax case, Justice officials tell NEWSWEEK. The waiver statement was recently ordered by a federal judge at the urging of lawyers for bioterrorism expert Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, who has filed a lawsuit alleging that government officials leaked damaging personal information about him in an effort to connect him with the anthrax attacks.

The language is to be patterned on a similar statement distributed last year to White House officials and others in the investigation headed by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, a U.S. attorney in Chicago, to determine who leaked the identify of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame to columnist Robert Novak. Like the upcoming Hatfill waiver, the so-called “Plame waiver” was designed to be an end run around journalists’ claims that they are protecting the confidentiality of sources when they refuse to testify in leak investigations. The statement asserts that a government official who talked to the news media waives “any promise of confidentiality, express or implied” that was offered to them by a reporter, according to a copy of the Plame waiver obtained by NEWSWEEK.

It further authorizes any reporter with whom the official talked to disclose to investigators “any communications that I may have had … regarding the subject matters under investigation, including any communications made ‘on background,’ ‘off the record,’ ‘not for attribution,’ or in any other form.”

The Plame case, including the validity of such “waiver” statements, is headed for a showdown next week when a federal appeals court hears arguments about whether two reporters, Judith Miller of The New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine, should be incarcerated for refusing to answer questions about their contacts with administration officials who signed the waivers. But largely overlooked is that the Plame waiver appears to be catching on as an accepted practice to pressure reporters to reveal their sources.

This is happening even though some top officials within the Justice Department have serious doubts about the waivers. Indeed, although it got little attention at the time, a Justice lawyer recently acknowledged to the judge overseeing the Hatfill suit that the theoretically voluntary waiver poses “significant issues” for the government, including the fact that they could well be construed as coercive by officials who are asked to sign them.

The lawyer, Elizabeth Shapiro, also questioned whether the waivers would even be effective in persuading a journalist to disclose confidential communications with a source. “I can’t imagine that the breadth of such a waiver would have significant meaning to a reporter,” she said, according to a transcript of an Oct. 7 hearing before U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, who is on the bench for the Hatfill case.

“It’s very disturbing that this is starting to become used as a way to out the relationship between reporters and sources,” said Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer who is representing both Miller and Cooper in the Plame case. “On the face of it, [the waivers] are coercive. How could they be anything but?”

In the Plame case, special counsel Fitzgerald has persuaded a federal judge to hold both Miller and Cooper in contempt of court for refusing to testify about conversations they had with White House officials about Plame’s identify. (Plame, a former CIA undercover officer, is the wife of former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had become a critic of the president’s Iraq policy.) In pressing his case that both Miller and Cooper should be jailed if they don’t testify, Fitzgerald has invoked the waiver statements signed by the White House officials as evidence that whatever “reporters’ privilege” the journalists are claiming no longer applies.

But Miller and Cooper have countered exactly how Shapiro, the Justice Department lawyer in the Hatfill case, suggested they would: the waivers are meaningless. One reason is that White House officials were effectively compelled to sign them—and risked even losing their jobs if they did not, according to the journalists. “Whatever may have been said publicly or privately within the government to any source of mine that may have cajoled him or her to sign the form prepared by the government—and I am aware of public statements of the president himself urging all officials to cooperate with the investigation—does not affect my promise of confidentiality to my sources in any way,” Miller said in an affidavit submitted in the case. “I do not feel at all confident that such a form presented to individuals by their employer … is not signed under extraordinary pressure.”

Just how much pressure the government has used can be gleaned from the experience of one former White House official who, after the leaving the government, was still pushed repeatedly by the FBI to sign the waiver form. The former official, who asked not to be identified, said he refused to do so because “I didn’t think it was fair to the reporters. It struck me as a backdoor way to use pressure.” An arrangement between a reporter and a source “has to be all or nothing. It can’t be changed after the fact.”

At that point, the FBI agents called up the former official’s lawyer and stepped up the pressure, saying that other witnesses at the White House had signed the statements. “If he’s got nothing to hide, why won’t he sign,” one of the agents asked, according to the former official’s lawyer.

The new use of the Plame waiver stems from claims by Hatfill’s lawyers that government officials violated his rights under the Privacy Act by allegedly leaking damaging information about him—to NEWSWEEK, among other publications. (The lawsuit is separate from, and unrelated to, a libel suit filed by Hatfill against New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff that was dismissed by a federal judge last week.)

Although he was once described by Attorney General John Ashcroft as a “person of interest” in the deadly anthrax attacks, and was widely reported to be a principal focus of the investigation, Hatfill has never been charged in the case. Still, Hatfill lost his job with a government contractor and remains both unemployed and “unemployable” as a result of the widespread publicity he received in the matter, according to a source close to him.

In the civil suit, Hatfill’s lawyers demanded that the Justice Department conduct a vigorous leak investigation into who provided the news media with incriminating information about Hatfill. As a prod to make them do so, they seized on the idea of pushing Justice to distribute “Plame waivers” to a list of between 50 and 100 federal prosecutors, FBI agents and others who were working on the anthrax case.

Justice Department public affairs chief Mark Corallo said that no pressure will be put upon agents, prosecutors and others asked to sign the waivers in the Hatfill case. “We are simply the facilitators,” Corallo said. “The individuals who will receive these waivers will be informed they are under no obligation to sign them. It is totally voluntary, and no matter what their decision, it will not reflect on their employment.”

But Hatfill’s lawyers clearly have their own ideas. They intend to depose a long list of the agents and prosecutors who have worked on the anthrax case and intend to, they have indicated, target first and foremost any that declined to sign the waivers.


Source: MSNBC

Saturday, December 04, 2004

[12/04/04] New in the News

Returning Iraq Vets Tell All

Administration Official Threatens Venezuela

Sandinistas take giant steps forward

Do Not Forget About Latin America

20 Years After Bhopal, Women Survivors Globalize Fight for Justice

Red Cross: Guantanamo Tactics 'Tantamount to Torture'

Activists Crawl Through Web to Untangle U.S. Secrecy

Internet Critic of Texas Politician Has Right to Anonymity, Public Citizen Tells Court

Humboldt: Anti-logging activists to stand trial in Eureka

Audit: Halliburton lost track of U.S. property in Iraq

Homeland Security's Request For Student Data Stirs Concern

Arafat's successor tells media to lay off Israel

POT AND FEDERAL POWER

Group Seeks Criminal Investigation in Germany into U.S. War Crimes in Iraq

Wal-Mart Loves Unions (In China)

Pesticides in Coca Cola

Emissions double heatwave risk

Russian Air Force Prepared to Strike Foreign Bases Pre-emptively

FBI spying allegations supported by records

Former Guantanamo Detainees Release Report

UK minister criticises US over Guantanamo

History of Marijuana as Medicine

Wolves' Genetic Diversity Worryingly Low

More On Vote Rigging With Saudi/Enron Funds

The Astounding Franklin Coverup Scandal

Jail the War Party for Treason

Florida: Work For State Jobs Agency Sent Overseas

$100M Clergy Abuse Deal Brings Some Relief

Reclusive millionaire tops Schwarzenegger donors

How Bush plans to circumvent congress to ramp up covert paramilitary operations



Friday, December 03, 2004

Wild Horses to be Slaughtered

WASHINGTON -- December 1 -- During the end of year appropriations frenzy, U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) inserted language into the Consolidated Appropriations bill to permit wild horses and burros to be killed and their meat sent abroad where it is eaten by people in upscale restaurants.

The measure, tucked in the massive omnibus bill, would undermine the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act by permitting so-called "excess" horses and burros to be sold at auction "without limitation." Killer buyers frequent these auctions to purchase animals for slaughter at one of the three remaining plants in the U.S. The equines are transported and killed under appalling conditions and their flesh, which cannot be sold for human consumption in the States, is sent overseas.

"The Burns amendment will open the floodgates for wild horses to be sold for slaughter," noted Marie Wheatley, CEO and president of the American Humane Association.

In 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFHBA) to ensure that wild horses and burros would be protected. The law was the result of public outrage at the discovery that hundreds of thousands of wild horses and burros were the victims of cruel extermination by ranchers who wanted the animals removed from public lands to make way for livestock. By the time the legislation passed, the population had decreased to only one percent of the estimated two million animals who roamed the West at the turn of the 20th century.

According to the federal government, the current population of wild horses is approximately 32,000, still far less than two percent of what the population had been, and the animals range across ten Western states, principally Nevada.

"Passage of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act (AHSPA), currently pending in Congress, would undo this terrible injustice about to be inflicted on wild horses," said Chris Heyde, Policy Analyst, Society for Animal Protective Legislation. "A majority of Congress has cosponsored the measure, but has failed to enact it yet. The bill would stop the butchery of all horses, both wild and domestic, for sale abroad for human consumption."

The Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL) was founded in 1955 when only two federal laws to protect animals existed. Since then, SAPL has worked for the successful enactment of over 15 additional federal laws. To learn more visit http://www.saplonline.org/.
Founded in 1877, the American Humane Association is the nation's only organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Visit http://www.americanhumane.org/ to learn more.

Source: Common Dreams News Center

Psy-Op: Military Uses Networks to Spread Misinformation

The U.S. military is reportedly distributing misinformation to the media as part of a campaign of psychological operations. The Los Angeles Times uncovered how the military sent spokespersons to major news networks to deliberately lie about military operations in Iraq in an effort to deceive the Iraqi resistance. We speak with retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner. [includes rush transcript]

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The U.S. military is reportedly distributing misinformation to the media as part of a campaign of psychological operations. This according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. The paper has uncovered incidents where the military has sent spokespersons to major news networks to deliberately lie about military operations in Iraq in an effort to deceive the Iraqi resistance.

In one case, on Oct. 14, a Marine spokesperson appeared on CNN from Fallujah and said "Troops crossed the line of departure." CNN was soon reporting the battle for Fallujah had begun. In fact it wouldn't begin for another three weeks.

A senior Pentagon official told CNN that Gilbert's remarks were "technically true but misleading." It was an attempt to get CNN "to report something not true," the official said. The military claimed it wanted to see how Iraqi fighters responded to the so-called news report.

Several top officials told the LA Times that they see a danger of blurring what are supposed to be well-defined lines between the stated mission of military public affairs and psychological and information operations. One senior defense official told the paper "The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the psychological operations world. What's at stake is the credibility of people in uniform."

............................................................

Col. Sam Gardiner, retired Air Force Colonel. He has taught strategy and military operations at the National War College, AirWar College and Naval War College.


RUSH TRANSCRIPT


AMY GOODMAN: We are joined on the phone by Colonel Sam Gardiner. He's a retired Air Force colonel. He's taught strategy and military operations at National Air War College and Naval War College. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

SAM GARDINER: Good morning, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to this latest report?

SAM GARDINER: Well it's actually more of the same. Interesting to me that people would pick up on this right now because it was so pervasive before and during Gulf 2. This is just a small incident compared to what we have seen before. The real distinction, however, is in the past, most of these falsehoods, psychological operations, strategic communications, themes came from civilians. This is one of the first times when a military officer has actually and visibly crossed the line. And that's a big deal because the military is the only profession I know where lying is a criminal offense. In the uniform code of military justice, it is a court martial offense for an officer to tell a lie. And frankly, this lieutenant who talked to CNN is subjected himself to potential court martial.

AMY GOODMAN: Last night, watching FOX, the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich basically said whatever it takes to protect our troops.

SAM GARDINER: But Amy, we are supposed to be protecting democracy. The troops have taken an oath to protect democracy. And if we destroy democracy to protect the troops, something's gone terribly wrong. I think--I couldn't disagree more with Newt Gingrich. The other part of that, Amy, is as a former officer, this just is sort of goes to my essence. And that's the notion that an officer's word is his bond. Whether he is speaking to the troops, to other officers, or in public. When we cross the line, when you begin to not be able to trust the word of an officer, we have begun to destroy the military from within.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain this idea of psy-ops, psychological operations, how it's used abroad and what's happening now at home?

SAM GARDINER: Well, Amy, this has a very long tradition in the U.S. Military and in militaries in the world which is the notion that you use bad information or distorted information to target the enemy. Up until probably about 15 years ago, that notion was meant that it would be done on the battlefield. It became a growing idea within the military of a thing called information warfare which was sort of the concept that you would bring it outside the battlefield. And what's happened, and this is what's so serious, is that it has now been taken into the public airways and we can't tell whether or not we are getting the truth from the military or psychological operations. And I have to say frankly, I think, and again I would very strongly disagree with Newt Gingrich, because you don't have to--let's say that this is a valid notion, we wanted the bad guys in Fallujah to think we were coming early. That doesn't have to permeate and distort the worldwide media for that message to get across. That's the kind of thing that you deliver locally. They aren't communicating with the world. If you want to do it by attacks, if you want to do it, by leaflets, that's fine. But don't put it on CNN for all of us to hear.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think should happen right now about this information? I mean, the military at least in this report, being quite clear about what they are doing. That psychological operations is their new approach here at home and abroad. Or not their new approach, as you have pointed out in your own report on the analysis of stories that came out of Iraq from the military that were simply psy-ops, not true, going right to Jessica Lynch.

SAM GARDINER: I think the U.S. military ought not to be allowed to tell other than the truth to the media. The military has no business being in the strategic communications deception business. Let me just give you an example of what ought not to happen. There is, from the special operations command in Florida, an ad on the web right now for P.R. Firms to come and bid a proposal, do government work, so that they can do media operations that have a psychological dimension that, and I will quote the document, to be broadcast worldwide. Amy, the military ought not to do that. You know, this is the kind of thing that politicians do and in fact that was the way the administration controlled the message in the war was to send politicians down to do it. But when the guys in uniform begin to tell untruths, we have problems.

AMY GOODMAN: Colonel Sam Gardiner, I want to thank you for being with us. Colonel Sam Gardiner is a retired Air Force colonel. Thank you very much.


Source: Democracy Now

Also see PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror

Illegal to be Homeless

Report targets escalating civil rights abuses against homeless people and identifies "meanest" cities


click here for the full report


WASHINGTON, DC- Today the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) releases Illegal to be Homeless: The Criminalization of Homelessness in the United States, the most comprehensive study of homeless civil rights violations. This study is also the most up-to-date survey of current laws that criminalize homeless people and ranks the top "meanest" cities and states in the country. This report examines legislated ordinances and statutes, as well as law enforcement and community practices since August of 2003.

The National Homeless Civil Rights Organizing Project (NHCROP) — an effort of NCH, comprised of local advocates in communities across the country — has compiled quantitative and qualitative data samplings from 179 communities in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. These cities and towns represent rural, urban and suburban areas of all geographic and demographic varieties across the United States.

This 2004 report finds Little Rock (AR), Atlanta (GA), Cincinnati (OH), Las Vegas (NV), and Gainesville (FL) to be the top five "meanest" cities in the United States for poor and homeless people. California is the "meanest" state, followed by Florida, Hawaii and Texas. Many of these communities have significant histories of violating the civil rights of homeless people and can be considered "repeat offenders."

Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing for the National Coalition for the Homeless, said, "There needs to be an end to the patterns of discrimination we have seen repeated in many of these cities, year after year."

In May 2004, Little Rock police implemented a 3-day notice warning in advance to clearing a camp. Police had targeted at least 27 homeless areas to force campers to clear out, and yet, only two months later in July of 2004, police raided a homeless camp during the day without notice, postings, or warrants and arbitrarily threw homeless people’s property into the nearby river. Conducting sweeps of areas where homeless people are living not only extensively opens the City up to potential lawsuits, but also actually does nothing to solve the underlying problems of homelessness. Soon, Little Rock public officials are threatening a massive sweep to remove homeless people as the Clinton Presidential Library opens on November 18.

The city of Fresno, California, authorized the construction of a barbed wire topped public "drunk tank," where people can be put on public display. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, a homeless person was arrested for "dancing in the street." Tampa, Florida, arrested individuals for serving food to homeless people. Atlanta’s Ambassador Force, assisted by police, operates a "Wake Up Atlanta" team to roust homeless people from any public or private space and arrest them if there is a delay. And in the past year, the state of Hawaii passed a law that bans homeless individuals from living on all public property.

This report documents laws specifically enacted to target homeless people including anti-camping, anti-panhandling, and loitering laws, but also looks at police abuse of existing laws in an overly broad fashion in order to move society's problems into jails or at least out of sight. In the summer of 2004, CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace was arrested by the New York City Transit Police for arguing and charged with "disorderly conduct," an abused criminal charge that ensnares thousands of homeless people throughout the country. Mike Wallace was caught in a "abuse of power" faced every day by homeless people who are arrested for disorderly conduct for sleeping, speaking, or using public facilities.

According to this report, fifty-one of the cities studied have legislated new ordinances targeting homeless people since August of 2003. Fifty-seven of the cities surveyed conducted large sweeps or destroyed the campsites of homeless individuals. In addition, homeless people face the continual enforcement of existing laws, as well as the selective scrutiny of violating other statutes. This pattern and practice of legislating, targeting and enforcing laws against homeless people constitutes an infrastructure of criminalization. There has been no documentation of any voluntary repeal of an anti-homeless law in the past fifteen months, although several cities have been forced to change their laws as a result of lawsuits, and some have actually had to make large payments to individuals who have been discriminated against.

With unemployment rates still at peak levels, more people have become homeless, and as the economy has tightened, shelters and service-providing agencies face budget cuts and even closures. Though nearly all cities still lack sufficient shelter beds and social services, many continue to pass laws prohibiting homeless people from sleeping outside. Cities are attempting to make it illegal to perform life-sustaining activities in public, while at the same time refusing to allocate sufficient funds for housing, to legislate living wages, or to provide necessary health care, thus hindering these individuals’ basic civil liberties.

This country is building jails instead of creating affordable housing. By enacting the Bringing America Home Act (H.R. 2897—108th Congress) Congress can begin the process of preventing and ending homelessness. Donald Whitehead, Executive Director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, who is himself formerly homeless, said, "The criminal justice system is not an answer to the problems that homeless people face. We need solutions that go to the root causes of the issue – affordable housing, livable income, treatment and health care, and civil rights protection."

For more (including a list of the twenty meanest cities from the National Coalition for the Homeless), click here.

Who Rules Afghanistan?

Who Rules Afghanistan
by Christian Parenti


It is noon in northern Afghanistan, Balkh province. The autumn sky is empty and bright. A tough 60-year-old farmer named Mamood sits for an interview in the shade of a tree. Surrounding us in all directions are fields of marijuana on the verge of harvest. The plants are tall, thick and fragrant, their dark green flowers glistening with potent oils.

Soon the crop will be cut, dried and beaten against linen in small rooms to extract the resin that makes hashish. It's dirty work that falls primarily to women and children. The rooms fill with dust; asthma is a common occupational hazard. In a month the farmers will sow these same fields with opium poppy. After each crop come the marauding gunmen who collect "taxes" of 20 percent on the harvest.

"In the past few weeks they've taken money, some vehicles and kidnapped a girl," says Mamood. "They work for the commanders. They take whatever they want and they will kill you if you try and stop them. When you hear 'commander' just think 'thief' or 'murderer.' That is all they are."

Mamood is not talking about the Taliban or Al Qaeda but rather about Afghanistan's mujahedeen warlords, or jangsalaran in Dari. These men are America's allies, central players in the international effort to rebuild a state in the world's third-poorest country.

These are the same men who killed 40,000-50,000 civilians during their factional fighting in Kabul between 1992 and 1994. Under their rule chaos reigned in much of the countryside: Militias raped, plundered and destroyed the economy. At times there were between ten and fourteen separate currencies circulating, each printed by a different commander. Whole villages fled; trade and agriculture broke down. As John Sifton of Human Rights Watch puts it, "What these guys did made Sarajevo look like kindergarten."

Now, instead of being treated as part of the problem and hunted down, the jangsalaran are being folded into government and given new power and legitimacy by the UN and the US-backed government of Hamid Karzai. The "commanders" now use titles like "security chief," "governor," "minister" or even "presidential candidate." International administrators justify the political inclusion of these mujahedeen commanders as "the price of peace."

Indeed, a return to the open factional warfare of the early 1990s is unlikely. But neither is Afghanistan headed toward real peace and prosperity. Instead, this country of 20-25 million inhabitants is an embryonic narco-mafia state, where politics rely on paramilitary networks engaged in everything from poppy farming, heroin processing and vote rigging to extortion and the commercial smuggling of commodities like electronics and auto parts. And while the Western pundit class applauds the recent Afghan elections, the people here suffer renewed exploitation at the hands of America's local partners.

Back under the tree in the marijuana fields, Mamood is joined by other farmers, who recount a litany of depredations.

"A few weeks ago I had two motorcycles stolen," says Saja Hudin, who also lives and farms in this rural community two hours from Mazar-i-Sharif. "I had a guest and we were going to work some of my land near Kudbarq. Two gunmen stopped us. I thought they were security or I would have tried to escape. They took both motorcycles and all my money. I was holding 12,000 afghani for a cousin. One of the men wanted to kill us, the other stopped him. Now I am in debt." Hudin says that one of the perpetrators was the nephew of a local commander, Shafi Dewana.

"Dewana means crazy," says another man in English.

Saja Hudin reported the theft to the authorities--but in Balkh province people like Crazy Shafi are the authorities. The new Karzai-appointed governor is Mohammed Atta, a powerful warlord and commander of the Seventh Corps of what UN disarmament experts politely refer to as "Afghan Military Forces." These are the private armies that now have government money and sometimes uniforms but are not part of the US-trained Afghan National Army. Crazy Shafi is one of Mohammed Atta's deputies.

"We had an audience with Governor Atta. I told him about the robbery," says Saja Hudin. "He said he'd tell Shafi to give back the motorcycles, but when I left, Crazy Shafi found me and threatened to kill me if I went back to the governor." The farmers explain that Shafi does not control this immediate area but holds sway along the road that leads to Mazar-i-Sharif.

"A month ago Crazy Shafi even took a girl who traveled through his area," says Saja Hudin. In a moment of naïveté I suggest to my driver and interpreter that we go find and interview Crazy Shafi.

"No," says the farmer Mamood. "He is really crazy."

"Yeah, go visit him and he will fuck all of you," says a farmer to peels of laughter from the visibly nervous crew of men under the tree. Unconvinced, I press the point.

"No! Are you crazy?" says my driver, Mobin, in English. "He will steal my car. Why do you think they call him crazy?" Then I realize it's a ridiculous proposal.

Back in Mazar, I track down a local translator with an NGO, who tells me more about the kidnapped girl. The young man, who recently returned from exile in Pakistan and has Western sensibilities, had a tryst with the woman. She was "modern" like him, a free spirit--"not a prostitute," he says, "but she had been with some men." He won't tell me her name.

Crazy Shafi saw the young woman as fair game. So he kidnapped her and raped and beat her for two days. Once released, she disappeared.

"Maybe she is in Uzbekistan or Pakistan," says the young translator. "Nobody knows." Later in the middle of a somewhat formal dinner with some of his colleagues, the young man leans over to me and flips open his cell phone. On the screen is the photo of the young woman, smiling, unveiled, looking over her shoulder. "That's the girl," he says in a depressed, almost drunken tone.

Commanders like Crazy Shafi do not restrict themselves to motorcycles, women and taxation. They also intimidate journalists, kidnap people for ransom and, according to rural Afghans whom I interviewed and to the Kabul-based Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, are engaged in widespread land seizures.

Some stolen plots belonged to refugees who had fled Afghanistan; others were traditional commons used by villages to pasture animals and gather firewood. The boom in drug crops, particularly opium poppy, has put a new premium on Afghanistan's limited arable land. "If you cannot defend your land, they will take it," explains Mamood.

Mazar-i-Sharif sits on a flat plain surrounded by distant mountains. It is an ugly, sprawling town, but it is filled with white doves, called kaftar. The doves congregate at the tomb of Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph of Islam, the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Mohammed. People here say that any pigeon of a different hue will turn white within forty days of being set free in Mazar-i-Sharif. And indeed, there are no gray or even speckled pigeons here.

Many of the people who move to Mazar are not so easily transformed. As a prelude to becoming governor here, the warlord Mohammed Atta had his men lay siege to the home and offices of a rival, the provincial security chief Gen. Mohammed Akram Khakrizwal, who is almost universally acknowledged to be an honest man committed to the rule of law. Police loyal to Khakrizwal were driven away, and an armed standoff ensued for the next twenty days.

During the siege, Khakrizwal was resupplied with food and water by the small garrison of British troops stationed here, but the foreign soldiers were unable or unwilling to intervene further. Eventually some accommodation was reached and Mohammed Atta was appointed governor of Balkh province.

Now back on the job, the barrel-chested, thickly bearded Pashtun General Khakrizwal--in charge of a largely Tajik and Uzbek area--describes the real and very imperfect nature of his work: "We have security here in Mazar, but in the districts we have only 10 percent control. There are many serious crimes--murder, drug trafficking--but even more important, there are ethnic tensions between Pashtuns, Tajiks and Uzbeks as well as land and water conflicts. We do our best to stop any violence between these groups and between the political parties." The parties he refers to are Abdul Rashid Dostum's Jumbish and Atta's wing of Jamiat, the party once led by the lionized but actually quite vicious Ahmed Shah Massoud.

"Only some of the police are loyal to me," continues the general. "We lack the equipment we need, but I am trying to rebuild my forces." As for the standoff with Atta, the chief is simultaneously blunt and diplomatic. "Atta wants power. Now he is my boss." The general's flat smile says: Welcome to Afghanistan.

Mohammed Atta's offices are considerably more lavish than General Khakrizwal's. The mood inside this walled compound is one of intimidating leisure. Among the men waiting to meet Atta is a bohemian-looking Afghan film director named Wakil Negbin. He claims to have made the only Afghan action flick in years.

Atta's inner offices are spacious, lined with fine red Persian carpets and furnished with long beige couches and several awkwardly futuristic overstuffed lounge chairs. The governor is tall and lean, with closely cropped hair and beard. He wears a superb black business suit and gold Rolex, but the clothes seem to make him uncomfortable: he's still getting used to his new persona. We are served tea and pistachio nuts. Armed men guard the doors.

I ask Governor Atta about the charges that his deputies, like Crazy Shafi, are pillaging the countryside, involved in the drug trade and refusing the UN's requests to disarm.

"I have no military forces anymore; I am just the governor," says Atta, staring at me blankly. "My concerns now are reconstruction and security, building schools and clinics." In fact, it's well-known that Atta is still in command of his troops and that he refuses to demobilize according to the UN-set schedule. And, like most governors, he keeps most of the taxes he collects.

As for his recent military clashes with his rival Dostum: "We have had our disagreements. Dostum is very aggressive, and when I was commander of Seventh Corps I had to defend my people when he attacked."

Was Atta's siege of Gen. Akram Khakrizwal's offices also a defensive move? "What happened there," says Atta in a tone of feigned apology, "was that some of Akram's men were caught smuggling narcotics. So we had to arrest them and fire some of the police. But that incident was really very minor."

As we talk, a dapper Afghan journalist enters and without a word starts shooting video on an ancient TV camera. The man has a finely sculpted goatee, wears a brown velvet Nehru jacket, creased black slacks and spotless designer shoes. After a few minutes he leaves. The interview goes on for another hour.

That night when Balkh state TV--the only channel available in Mazar--starts its three-hour nightly broadcast, the dandy journalist with the goatee and funky jacket appears behind a desk reading the news. Top item: Governor Atta's schedule. Prominently featured: Governor Atta's "cordial meeting" with a journalist from "an important American magazine." The newsreader explains, "The two discussed the progress of reconstruction in Balkh and the importance of Governor Atta's work." My translator is also named as being in attendance. The broadcast has the creepy, stilted feel of old-school dictatorship. We leave Mazar at dawn.

Back in Kabul, the presidential elections are approaching. At 1:30 am, the night before the vote, I am awakened by a huge and close blast. The photographer Teru Kuwayama and I run out to investigate. The dark streets are empty except for packs of feral dogs. A dust storm has risen from the rubble of the city's largely destroyed west side. Soon we find the source of the explosion: Two rockets have hit our immediate neighborhood, exploding above a UN media compound. There are no casualties, but the US troops guarding the area are jumpy. "Put the fucking camera down!" shouts a soldier from behind some floodlights. We go back to bed.

The next day more violence is expected, but none materializes. Instead of tragedy, the vote plays out as farce. By late afternoon, it is clear that there is massive vote fraud under way. Most of Karzai's fourteen opponents are calling for a boycott and suspension of elections. Journalists are running back and forth across town to find the most egregious technical errors and blatant fraud. The crisis is getting so bad that President Karzai calls a restricted, invitation-only press conference.

I am rolling with some scruffy American photographers. We are not on Karzai's list, which seems to include no more than a dozen news organizations. But soon we are joined by other journalists all demanding to get in. Finally the press officer relents and we are slowly passed through layer upon layer of DynCorp security guards and across the desolate gardens of the classy but run-down Afghan presidential palace, which looks like an old European hotel. In a small, wood-paneled conference room we meet Karzai.

"The commission will look into all of these problems, but I am sure the vote was free," says the cloaked and karakol-wearing Karzai after a few jokes and greetings.

Throughout the rather intimate press conference, Karzai invokes the image of "a poor, hungry, cold Afghan woman waiting to vote. She cannot be intimidated." Questions are sparse. Karzai seems like a nervous jollier, trying to play down the election debacle with jokes about Lise Doucet from the BBC. "Where is she with her sharp questions? I am ready." He repeatedly asks for questions from "my friend Ahmed Rashid." The distinguished Pakistani journalist has one query but declines to respond to the president's further cajoling.

Finally I am called on. Citing specific examples, I ask about allegations that Karzai's campaign has used fraud and intimidation--in short, warlord tactics. The president grows angry. "What report? Human Rights Watch? They do not understand Afghan culture. Tribal culture, it is very democratic. Tribal elders cannot be intimidated. They do not know what is really going on. The tribal elders from Khost were just here. They signed a document saying everything is OK."

The UN, which essentially ran the elections, likewise does its best to calm the situation with deft spin and dulcet tones from its smoothly effective spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva. "I am not just trying to be some happy guy. I admit there are problems. But there are also genuine efforts to sort this out. Let's give it some time," he says, stopping politely on the way out of the crisis meeting, his hand holding my shoulder as if we were old friends. Before long, the crisis is being beamed back at us by the international media as a matter of "a few glitches" or "questions about ink."

Karzai insists that democracy and freedom are winning in Afghanistan. He denies that he will buy off his opponents and the warlords with cabinet posts, governorships and ministries. Never mind that this is already his government's modus operandi.

Given current dynamics, Afghanistan will remain a weak and fragmented state, easily controlled by outside powers, its economy broken, its common people mercilessly exploited, suffering from a low-simmering but ineffective insurgency. One place to see this is unfolding is on the border with Pakistan.

The road from Kabul east to Jalalabad is an abysmally rutted dirt track that ascends and descends in switchbacks up high mountains, with thousand-foot drops at the road's edge, then passes down through some parched valleys into a desert strewn with huge boulders. The trip takes a full day. Roadside bombs are not uncommon here: Numerous NGO workers and journalists have been killed on this stretch of road in the past year.

This is Nangarhar province, which juts like a peninsula into Pakistan and contains the infamous Al Qaeda stronghold of the Tora Bora mountain range. Most of the province's districts are classified as no-go areas for internationals. All the NGOs have left. The place is crawling with US Special Forces, out hunting. When their convoys of Humvees and white Toyota trucks lurch past on the dusty back roads, they look like landlocked pirates, wearing costumes of mismatched camouflage, Afghan scarves, beards and assorted bush hats.

A security expert in Jalalabad tells me that there's been at least one IED attack every day for a month, and that the local US garrison, or Provincial Reconstruction Team, was recently besieged for five hours straight. Even so, US casualties around here have remained fairly light.

Officially the Taliban are a big problem, but in private, security experts acknowledge that the Taliban and their allies are isolated and under pressure from both US troops in Afghanistan and Pakistani forces across the border. Once backed by the Pakistani state, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are now said to rely only on a network of retired Pakistani intelligence officers.

Although villagers warn that Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters are around and looking for targets, the insurgency seems to have little support. "They are in Pakistan, but they come into Nangarhar to attack," says a local journalist. "The people here do not want them."

On our second day of driving we leave Jalalabad and head northeast into the district of Kuna. This is poppy country, occasionally traversed by Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters but thoroughly controlled by two warlords: Hazrat Ali, the security chief, and Haji Din Mohammed, provincial governor.

In Khakhi village, we meet with a group of four maliks, or village leaders. All of them farm opium poppy and were mujahedeen during the anti-Soviet jihad, but now all speak openly of their hatred for the commanders.

"They have big houses and the best land. They will take a man's daughter if they want. And what do we have? Nothing," says Askar Khan, who sits hunched over on a wood and rope cot beneath a grape arbor. "All of us were wounded fighting the Russians. We fought for America, and now we are jobless. That is not good."

Another man shows me some gruesome scars and says he was taken to Indiana for treatment back when he was fighting the Red Army. Once these mujahedeen liked the United States, but now they are growing resentful. "Why does America give these commanders positions in government?" asks Askar Khan, the chief malik, who is slumped on the cot.

The poppy crop has already been harvested, but some of the local farmers show me big brown blocks of opium and offer me hash. They say that drought and hunger forced them to grow poppy. "Hazrat Ali controls the smuggling," says one of them. The malik Askar Khan explains, "There are no schools and no clinics in our district. The NGOs just spend money on themselves. When people are hungry they commit sins. If we only grow wheat, we will starve."

The men allege that Mirwais Yasini, head of Afghanistan's Counter Narcotics Directorate, has a deal with Hazrat Ali. When the harvest is done, Hazrat Ali tells the farmers to burn their fields, then Mirwais Yasini can tell the British (who are officially charged with running a war on poppy) that progress is being made. Counternarcotics officials in Kabul vigorously deny these charges.

The trip back to Kabul is as slow and dusty as the trip out. After a few hours of driving we see an overloaded passenger bus with luggage stacked on the roof. The vehicle sways and bounces toward us. Then it sways just a bit too far and topples over the edge of the road into a gully below. A cloud of dust rises and momentarily obscures the wreck.

The bus sits on its roof. Three men are trapped beneath it. About a dozen other people lie around in various states of injury: a young man limps by, his crushed foot wrapped in a bloody scarf. An old man lies by the road moaning. The men underneath the bus are dying; the crowd is growing frantic.

"Help! Push the bus! My brother is trapped," begs a desperate man from down in the gully. The trapped men are migrant laborers, Afghan refugees whose families live in Pakistan. The crowd of men starts pushing the bus back and forth, hoping to tip it one more rotation. But chaos and panic reign, there is no coordination to the effort and the bus weighs too much. A flatbed truck tries to back into an edge of the bus to flip it over but it is no use. The trapped men are being crushed. Someone says one has just died.

The whole debacle is a pathetically fitting, if clichéd, microcosm of Afghanistan's current state: The bus and these people mean little to the great powers that have appointed themselves masters of this place. Out here in the desert and mountains there is no democracy, no nation building, no NGOs, no American patrols--only an appallingly bad road that once, long ago, was a paved link to the world and one of Afghanistan's few symbols of modernity and national progress. Now the only sign of something like state power is a local commander's young gunman with a bayonet on his AK-47. He commandeers a car and orders it to take one of the wounded back to Jalalabad.


Source: The Nation

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Name that Extremist



I'll give you one guess.