Saturday, July 30, 2005


Military computers vulnerable to hackers

I came upon this little blurb of a story in the Denver Post
A self-described male model and member of the notorious computer hacker group World of Hell pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to charges he broke into U.S. Air Force computer servers in Denver.

Rafael Nunez-Aponte, of Venezuela, bragged in online postings and messages about bringing down a Web-based server

I was thinking, "Gee, if a male model can get it in, it can't be all that hard."

And apparently it isn't. Military computers seem to have an open-door policy to hackers. John Innes of the Scotsman reports on a British hacker who is fighting extradition to the U.S.—

A BRITON accused of hacking into the US military computer system left a note on an army computer saying that the foreign policy of the United States "is akin to government-sponsored terrorism", a court heard yesterday.

Glasgow-born Gary McKinnon, 39, faces extradition to the US over claims that he accessed 97 government computers over a one-year period causing $700,000 (£370,000) worth of damage.

His note continued: "It was not a mistake that there was a huge security stand down on September 11th last year ... I am SOLO. I will continue to disrupt at the highest levels," the court was told.

One of the allegations relates to McKinnon deleting operating system files and logs from computers at US Naval Weapons Station Earle at a critical time following the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001, rendering the base's network of more than 300 computers inoperable. His ultimate goal was to gain access to the US military classified information network, the court heard.

Mark Summers, for the US government, told the court: "During a period from February 2001 to March 2002, the defendant gained unauthorised access to 97 government computers. He was acting from his own computer in London.

"Via the internet, the defendant identified US government network computers with an open Microsoft Windows connection."

Mr Summers said McKinnon, having gained access to administrative accounts, installed unauthorised remote access and administration software named "remotely anywhere" that enabled him to remotely control and alter data on the US computers without detection.

McKinnon accessed 53 US army computers, 26 US navy computers, 16 NASA computers, one US defence department computer and one US air force computer. He is also accused of deleting files which shut down the entire US army's military district of Washington's network of more than 2,000 computers for 24 hours "significantly disrupting governmental function".

Interesting that the military was so unaware of or so unconcerned about the vulnerabilities of the Windows operating systems. It makes you wonder.

Friday, July 29, 2005


And now an internationally sanctioned death squad

Andrew Buncombe of the Independent reports on recent actions of the U.N. peacekeepers in Haiti—
Evidence is mounting that United Nations peacekeepers shot and killed unarmed civilians, including children, during a recent raid in Haiti. The UN said it was ready to investigate the alleged "use of unnecessary force" .

Independent witnesses say up to 23 people were killed during the raid and that many were shot in the head. Video footage seen by The Independent shows the bodies of many killed in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and contains testimony from witnesses claiming the victims were killed by "blue helmets" ­ common parlance for UN peacekeepers.

The footage of the aftermath of the 6 July raid in the Cité Soleil slum was taken by a team led by Haitian-based journalist Kevin Pina. Pina said: "Numerous witnesses said the victims were killed by UN forces. ­[T]he Haitian National Police (HNP) were not even there. I think the fact the UN did not bring a single doctor or ambulance with them on this mission is extraordinary ­ surely you would do that whether you were targeting criminal gangs or civilians? It is interesting that so many victims were shot in the head. I think the reason they did not bring ambulances is that they were not shooting to wound, they were shooting to kill."

Well, maybe they were wearing heavy coats.

Minustah [the U.N. mission in Haiti] said its dawn raid, involving more than 400 troops, targeted the gang leader known as "Dread Wilme", who is accused of murder and kidnapping. He and four alleged associates were killed.

But other independent witnesses support Pina's evidence that civilians werealso killed. David Welsh, of the US Labour/Human Rights Delegation to Haiti, was at a conference in Port-au-Prince that weekend. Delegation members interviewed witnesses and filmed the bodies of victims. He described the shooting as a "massacre": "Based on witnesses' testimony and the number of bodies we were able to confirm, we believe that at least 23 people were killed," he said.

Among the dead were four-year-old Stanley Romelus, who was shot in the head; his mother, Sonia, and his one-year-old brother, Nelson. The boy's father said they were killed in their house after UN forces threw smoke grenades. His testimony is to be included in a documentary Pina is producing based on the footage.

Christophe Fournier, Médecins Sans Frontières, which has a clinic close to Cité Soleil, said: "On that day we treated 27 people for gunshot wounds. Of them, around 20 were women under the age of 18."


Blair contradicted by MI5

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been at pains to deny any linkage between the recent London bombings and the British invasion of Iraq. Geri Peev of the Scotsman reports Blair as saying—
We are not having any of this nonsense about it is to do with what the British are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, or support for Israel, or support for America, or any of the rest of it. It is nonsense, and we have got to confront it as that.

But Peev noted that MI5, Britain's "homeland security" agency, took a different view just a few weeks ago. According to the MI5 website,

Though they have a range of aspirations and "causes", Iraq is a dominant issue for a range of extremist groups and individuals in the UK and Europe. Some individuals who support the insurgency are known to have travelled to Iraq in order to fight against coalition forces. In the longer term, it is possible that they may later return to the UK and consider mounting attacks here.

MI5 implies a tie between attacks on British interests and 9/11. But unless they're withholding information on other attacks, all the dates appear to be post-invasion—

The bombings in London on 7 July were the first successful attacks in the UK by individuals thought to be associated with international terrorism since the US attacks of 11 September 2001. UK interests have, however, specifically been attacked overseas since then. Al Qaida's car bomb attack on the British Consulate and HSBC in Istanbul in November 2003 killed five people. Al Qaida also claimed responsibility for the shooting of a British national in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in September 2004, Kenneth Bigley was murdered in October 2004 in Iraq by a group that has been linked to Al Qaida and a British national was killed by a suicide bomb outside the Doha Players' Theatre in the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar in March 2005.

Well, maybe it was just coincidence.


Ohio Republican Attorney General Petro has coins in his pocket

Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro—who wants to be governor, by the way—has boxes and boxes of records relating to the Ohio Coingate scandal that he has not released despite an Ohio Supreme Court order to do so.

Yesterday, the Toledo Blade returned to the Ohio Supreme Court to ask for enforcement of its order of July 13 and got it. According to the Blade

The court gave the state until 5 p.m. on Monday to show "why they should not be held in contempt for failure to comply, for sanctions, for the appointment of a receiver, and for other ancillary relief."

Frankly though, I'm a little put off by what the Blade requested—

The Blade asked the court to impose monetary sanctions against the attorney general's office and "coercive monetary sanctions" until the court's order is complied with.

Surely Petro, the highest law enforcement officer of the State of Ohio, would be better off in a jail cell if he refuses to comply with an order from the State's highest court.

Could the delay have anything to do with Tuesday's Hackett-Schmidt Congressional election? There are an estimated 120 boxes of material. If Petro releases them by 5 pm Monday, there just might be time for reporters to dig through enough to get some headlines out by election day the following morning, but it will be tough. If they're willing to go for it, I'll buy the coffee.

Meanwhile two of Ohio Governor Taft's former top aides have been indicted on ethics violations charges. According to reporters Christopher D. Kirkpatrick and Joshua Boak—

Living the high life off coin dealer Tom Noe brought state ethics violation charges yesterday against Gov. Bob Taft’s former top aides — Brian Hicks and Cherie Carroll.

The two are expected in Franklin County Municipal Court at 11 a.m. today to answer the charges. Prosecutors were trying to meet a two-year statute of limitations deadline to bring the charges by today.

Mr. Hicks and Ms. Carroll worked out a deal this week to plead guilty to first-degree misdemeanors, a source close to the investigation told The Blade.

Prosecutors are not recommending a sentence, but are leaving that to the discretion of Columbus Municipal Court Judge Scott Vanderkarr. The maximum sentence for a first-degree misdemeanor is a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail.

What's interesting about these cases, trivial in themselves, is that Tom Noe, the Godfather of Coingate, is cooperating with the investigation—

The complaints filed yesterday evening were brought with the help of Mr. Noe and his wife, Bernadette, who met with investigators last Friday and provided information.

And the Noes should be able to offer a lot of help—

He regularly treated groups of lobbyists and government aides to free meals at Morton’s steakhouse in downtown Columbus as part of what became unofficially known as the “Noe Supper Club.”

The connected coin dealer was a frequent and generous political contributor to Republican candidates and is the former chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party.

Mr. Noe lobbied in e-mails to the governor’s office to be invited to the White House with the 2002 Ohio State University football championship team. He played golf with Mr. [Governor] Taft, who himself is under investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission for not disclosing free rounds, and had the ear of lobbyists and governor’s aides, whom he wined and dined and offered his vacation property to, according to sources and records.

It's a great time to be a defense attorney in Ohio.

Related posts
Ohio special election: Now's your chance (7/27/05)
Dean of Corn: Experienced Dom seeking a sub ... (7/29/05)


Dean of Corn: Experienced Dom seeking a sub ...

I am shocked! Shocked!

Can it be that "family values" Ohio Republican Jean Schmidt's campaign manager has been straying from the straight and narrow—or at least from the narrow?

Here are the vitals of one "Dean of Corn":
User Name:deanofcorn
Description:Dominant Male
Height:5'10" (178 cm)
Weight:195 lbs.
Last Online:07/28/04

The Dean of Corn is offering—

He also has Special Skills in

Can this person be Schmidt Campaign Manager Joe Braun? Braun says no, but he didn't include a photo.

Steve Gilliard of the News Blog explains it all.

This could adversely affect Democrat Paul Hackett's chances in the Tuesday election. Once Ohioans learn that Hackett is just an old stick-in-the-mud with a wife and children, they may not find him to their tastes.

Will Ohioans heed the call and submit themselves to two more years of bondage and slavery?

You may not want to watch this one from the sideline. Hackett needs volunteers and is offering housing. Email the campaign here.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Just move along: No right-wing conspiracy here, sir

Tim Talley of AP has an interesting report on some newly released documents connected to the Oklahoma City bombing that the FBI claims was solely the work of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols. There's also some speculation about what may happen to prisoners in federal custody—
The FBI has turned over 17 internal reports to a Utah lawyer who is trying to prove his brother was killed in a federal holding cell in Oklahoma City during a botched interrogation by federal authorities.

The records were handed over last week under a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue, who is seeking evidence for his theory that his brother, Kenneth Trentadue, was murdered in an isolation cell at the Federal Transfer Center in Oklahoma City in August 1995.

Jesse Trentadue believes authorities mistakenly suspected that his brother - a convicted bank robber - was part of a gang that robbed banks to finance attacks on the government, possibly including the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

Now this next part just shocks my credulity—

Among other things, the documents reveal that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were investigating evidence of a wider conspiracy in the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building months after claiming the conspiracy was limited to Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

Maybe they were just double-checking.

The documents ... also indicate that investigators looked into McVeigh's attempts to contact a resident of Elohim City, a heavily fortified compound in eastern Oklahoma, in the days prior to the bombing.

Separate documents state that telephone records and confidential informants indicate McVeigh called the Elohim City compound at least twice - on April 5, 1995, and around April 17, 1995. "McVeigh may have been trying to recruit other individuals to assist him," states a document dated Jan. 26, 1996.

But what to make of this? The bumbling hangsman theory:

Local and federal investigations ruled Kenneth Trentadue's death a suicide, although bruises and other marks on his body raised questions among some officials about whether he was murdered or committed suicide.

Kenneth Trentadue, 44, was being held on an alleged parole violation when guards found him dead on Aug. 21, 1995, hanging from a noose made of torn bed sheets.

Prison officials told the family he suffered several injuries when his first hanging attempt failed, before succeeding on a second hanging attempt.

His family insists he was killed and contend correctional officials destroyed evidence. Authorities have denied the allegations. Several investigations also ruled the death a suicide.

They say it; I believe it. Life's just prettier that way.

Related post
A word on conspiracies (7/14/05)


Quote of the Day

It is increasingly clear that this war will not be won in any way that can be discerned as victory, and, in the meantime, it is draining America's blood away, in the lives of our soldiers and in resources that could be used to meet other needs.
—Editorial in yesterday's Toledo Blade

CAFTA passes in the night

The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) squeaked by in a 217-215 vote last night in the House of Representatives, abetted by 15 Democrats. The vote recalled the passage in 2003 of the Medicare prescription drug bill for which Tom Delay was rebuked by the House Ethics Committee—and you really have to be bad to get their attention.

As with the Medicare bill—the vote for which was held open an unprecedented 3 hours to allow time to bribe and threaten the various "wavering" Congressmen—last night's session only required an extra hour for the felonies.

According to Peter Rothberg,

The White House's victory on CAFTA was achieved through a combination of intense pressure and outright bribery to secure support for the measure, which fostered strong opposition from Democrats and Republicans. As Republican Representative C.L. "Butch" Otter, Republican of Idaho, told the Boston Globe today, GOP leaders promised pork-barrel spending and future legislation to undecided members, with a massive highway spending bill scheduled to be completed this week as a prime location for pet projects. "They're pulling out all the stops," Otter said. "They're either promising or threatening. They've done everything they could." (The Idaho rep. said he opposed CAFTA, despite personal lobbying from Bush at the White House.)

At least the GOP legislators were able to wrest unrelated bribes for their districts in return for their votes. That much cannot be said for the 15 so-called Democrats who voted for the pact and made passage possible.

Working Life tells us who those Democrats are—

Melissa Bean, Illinois (8th District): 202-225-3711
Jim Cooper, Tennessee (5th District): 202-225-4311
Norm Dicks, Washington (6th District): 202-225-5916
Henry Cuellar, Texas (28th District): 202-225-1640
Ruben Hinojosa, Texas (15th District): (202) 225-2531
William Jefferson, Louisiana (2nd District): (202) 225-6636
Jim Matheson, Utah (2nd District): (202) 225-3011
Gregory Meeks, New York (6th District): (202) 225-3011
Dennis Moore, Kansas (3rd District): (202) 225-2865
Jim Moran, Virginia (8th District): (202) 225-4376
Solomon Ortiz, Texas (27th District): 202-225-7742
Ike Skelton, Missouri (4th District): 202-225-2876
Vic Snyder, Arkansas (2nd District): 202-225-2506
John Tanner, Tennessee (8th District): (202) 225-4714
Edolphus Towns, New York (10th District: (202) 225-5936

and also offers some excellent suggestions on what to do about them.

Previous posts
Lie of the Day (6/20/05)
CAFTA will proceed; the workers be damned (6/30/05)


Paul Hackett revisited

My post yesterday on the Ohio special election for Congress that pits Democrat Paul Hackett against Jean Schmidt ended on this note: "... a win for Hackett will throw the Republican Party into convulsions."

Judging from a comment left on that post, it appears that mere support for Hackett can have the same effect. Please read the remarks of Zee from Ohio, then give, give, give.

Previous post
Ohio special election: Now's your chance (7/27/05)


Is Guckert/Gannon back at the White House?

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan faced a lot of questions yesterday as to whether the White House itself had ever reviewed the papers on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts that it is refusing to give to the Senate. Just when things couldn't get worse, along came this mystery reporter whose questions recall those of the now-famous White House "reporter" Jeff Gannon/James Guckert—
Q Many pundits and news organizations are focusing attention on John Roberts' links to the Federalist Society. Do you remember any such focus or concerns expressed about Ruth Bader Ginsburg's overt activism on behalf of one of the most controversial groups in America, the ACLU? And do you see a double standard here in the media? And I have a follow-up.

MR. McCLELLAN: I wasn't following her confirmation process that closely at the time. I was back in Texas. But you're welcome to point those things out if you so choose.

Q Good. Since the Senate -- (laughter.) I thank you very much. Since the Senate yesterday voted 98 to nothing to make sure that the Boy Scouts will be able to continue holding camping events on U.S. military bases, the President in his speech to the National Boy Scout Jamboree tonight will also support Senate Majority Leader Frist's Support Our Scouts Act of 2005, won't he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, of course --

Q Or does he intend to ignore Senator Frist and say nothing about the ACLU's --

MR. McCLELLAN: Of course --

Q -- suing the Boy Scouts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Of course, the President strongly supports our scouts. And the President looks forward to going to Fort A.P. Hill this evening and speaking to the parents and the Boy Scouts that are present. It's also a moment to keep in our thoughts and prayers the families of those four parents who tragically lost their life earlier this week. These parents were role models to those Boy Scouts, and I think the President will -- I expect the President will touch on that. But this is --

Q Will he support Senator Frist's --

MR. McCLELLAN: For these remarks, the President is going there to highlight all the positive things that the Boy Scouts do, and all the positive contributions that troop leaders make to instill in them a sense of leadership and responsibility. And that's what the President will be talking about.

He got more out of McClellan than any of the other reporters. At last we know the truth—Bush is for the Boy Scouts.


Joke of the Day

We've also been working to achieve peace and security abroad by advancing freedom -- I should say, achieving peace and security at home and abroad by advancing freedom abroad.
—Scott McClellan at yesterday's White House press briefing

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Update on "Ohio special election: Now's your chance"


How was Blair lying? Let me count the ways

Delilah Boyd of A Scrivener's Lament has a great post on Tony Blair's effort today to distinguish Irish terrorism from al-Qaeda terrorism. Delilah remembers.

New Republican idea: A bounty on politicians

The Cook County (Chicago) Republican Party (CCRP) has just announced a $10,000 reward "for information that leads to the indictment and conviction of Mayor Richard Daley." Some people are sniffing at the idea. As John Chase of the Chicago Tribune tells it—
The bounty on Daley's head immediately drew disdain from the mayor's office and even some Republicans, who described it as a "stunt."

Daley has not been accused of wrongdoing in connection with the federal investigation of City Hall.

But Cook County GOP Chairman Gary Skoien defended the reward, which would go to any whistle-blower who provides information leading to the indictment and conviction of Daley for fraud related to patronage hiring or corruption.

Liberals and Democrats need to stop whining "unfair" every time the Republicans come up with a new political tactic and instead use it to their maximum advantage.

This is a wonderful idea, especially considering that—

As Skoien made the announcement, state election records showed the county Republican Party, a vastly smaller operation than its dominant Democratic counterpart, has only $3,854 in its bank account. Skoien promised the party would acquire the $10,000 if it needed to pay the reward.

I'm hereby announcing a $1,000,000 reward for information leading to the impeachment or indictment of Bush, Cheney, Rice or any other administration Republican above the level of pool typist. (No bounty on Karl Rove. He's going down anyway.)

I've only raised $100 so far, but I promise that upon a successful impeachment or indictment, raising the other $999,900 will be a piece of cake.

No. Make that $10,000,000. This is no time to cut corners.


Ohio special election: Now's your chance

On August 2 (that's next Tuesday) Ohio is holding a special election for Congressional Representative for the 2nd District, which runs along the Ohio River into downtown Cincinnati. The district is heavily Republican, but the revulsion to all things Republican that is growing in post-Coingate Ohio may be just what the Democrat in this race—Paul Hackett—needs to win—that and your money.

Here's a profile from Bill Frogameni writing in Salon—

On the issues, the candidates both describe themselves as fiscal conservatives, but on the Iraq war and the so-called moral values questions, they stand in stark relief. Hackett is a critic of Bush's Iraq war policy and believes America was led to war unnecessarily. Schmidt [the Republican candidate] is a strong backer of Bush's handling of the war. Hackett is pro-choice. Schmidt is president of Cincinnati Right to Life. Schmidt voted against gay marriage in the Ohio House of Representatives, while Hackett's take is: "Gay marriage -- who the hell cares?"

Hackett, who is married, says he doesn't feel the need to defend his marriage through the national Defense of Marriage Act, or any other anti-gay marriage legislation. "If you're gay you're gay -- more power to you," he said. "What you want is to be treated fairly by the law and any American who doesn't think that should be the case is, frankly, un-American."

Hackett's left-of-center views on social issues may not go over well with conservative Ohioans, and Schmidt is so far beating him financially, but last week Hackett got a profile boost when former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland campaigned with him. By bringing in Cleland and highlighting his military service, Hackett hopes to neutralize any criticism Schmidt could levy concerning his stance on the war.

Schmidt commends Hackett for his service, but believes Hackett should "stand with the president" by "supporting the Iraqi war effort and our troops that are over there," her campaign manager Joe Braun said. (Through Braun, Schmidt declined to speak with Salon.) When asked to answer that charge, Hackett is blunt: "The only way I know how to support the troops is by going over there." He doesn't hesitate to criticize Schmidt's support of the war: "All the chicken hawks back here who said, 'Oh, Iraq is talking bad about us. They're going to threaten us' -- look, if you really believe that, you leave your wife and three kids and go sign up for the Army or Marines and go over there and fight. Otherwise, shut your mouth."

You may contribute directly to Hackett's campaign through his website:

The Republican, Jean Schmidt, was already involved in scandals before the race got off the ground and has accepted $10,000 dollars from Tom Delay's PAC, so you've seen this type of candidate before. Naturally she's blessed with more money.

No one knows how the race is going. Hackett doesn't have enough money to commission a poll, and Schmidt is not releasing the data she's collected (which is rather encouraging when you think about it).

Apparently the Democratic National Committee is being less than forthcoming in its support for Hackett, so internet contributors may make a big difference.

Please help if you can.

(Oh, just let me add here—a win for Hackett will throw the Republican Party into convulsions.)

9:05 pm

Loved James Dao's description of candidate Schmidt in the NY Times

Ms. Schmidt is the daughter of a well-known local banker who owned Indianapolis race car teams on the side. Small, wiry and intense, she exudes seriousness and is given to long pauses before answering questions. She is married to an investment counselor, Peter, and they have a 27-year-old daughter.

I just emphasized that one sentence so you wouldn't think I was trying to point to the banking and investment connections. If there is one thing I won't abide it's discrimination against the rich.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Getting his name back

Mamdouh El-Hakem, represented by my favorite law firm Lawless & Lawless, has just won an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit of a workplace discrimination suit. His former employer, Gregg Young of BJY Inc., insisted on substituting "Manny" for "Mamdouh" and "Hank" for "El-Hakem."

Well, who would want to be called "Manny Hank"? Not Mamdouh. He brought a complaint of harrassment in the workplace and won.

Justin Scheck of The Recorder writes,

Employment defense lawyers agreed with Lawless -- and with the court -- that imposing a name change amounted to discrimination, even if racial or ethnic epithets were never used.

"It's a message to employers that these kinds of actions, which may seem insignificant or trivial to some people, will lead to liability," said Richard Curiale, a partner at Curiale Dellaverson Hirschfeld & Kraemer who represents employers.

He said the most surprising part of the case is that it went as far as the 9th Circuit. "I would have said, 'Let's settle the case, or we'll lose,'" he said, adding that in training courses his firm tells managers to avoid behavior that treats employees differently.

Jeffrey Wohl, ... who defends employers, also agreed with the court. He said that employers should understand that differential treatment for any reason can open a company up to litigation.

"Discrimination means treating people differently and adversely because of a particular characteristic," he said. But this broad definition, he added, isn't always clear to employers.

Related post
Turning tail on sexual harrassment (7/19/05)


Friends in high places

Attorney General Gonzales with the complicity of the Justice Department made sure the White House had time to clean up its files before the Justice Department could clamp down, though there was apparently so much evidence lying around that it was impossible to do a thorough cleaning. The question is—Who gave Gonzales permission to do this and why?

From the AP—

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said on Sunday that as White House counsel in 2003, he notified the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the leak of Ms. Wilson's identity, but waited 12 hours to tell anyone else in the Executive Mansion.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions Sunday about whether Mr. Card passed that information to Mr. Rove or anyone else, giving them advance notice to prepare for the investigation.

Mr. Gonzales, who got the first official word inside the White House, said that Justice Department lawyers had notified him of the inquiry about 8 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2003, and that he had received permission from them to wait until the next morning to direct the White House staff to preserve relevant materials.

He said he immediately notified Mr. Card and told Mr. Bush the next morning before notifying the staff.

Previous post
Plamegate (7/21/05)


Even the music you hear is manipulated

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has done it again, this time routing out payola in the music industry, which was a major scandal of the 50s and 60s.

Michael Gormley of the AP reports,

One of the biggest music companies, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, agreed Monday to pay $10 million and to stop paying radio station employees to feature its artists to settle an investigation by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

The agreement resulted from Spitzer's investigation of suspected "pay for play" practices in the music industry.

"Our investigation shows that, contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for air play based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees," Spitzer said. "This agreement is a model for breaking the pervasive influence of bribes in the industry."

Sony BMG Music is an umbrella organization for several prominent record labels, including Arista Records, Columbia Records, Sony Music International and So So Def Records.

Star artists signed with the Arista label alone include Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, OutKast, Pink and Sarah McLachlan.

The $10 million will be distributed to not-for-profit entities and earmarked for music education programs, Spitzer said.

Related post
My nominee for President in 2008 (11/9/04)


A law professor comments on the murder by London police

John Gardner, who is Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford and occasional Visiting Professor at Yale Law School, offers this—
Police state: Like many of my fellow-Londoners I am less alarmed by suicide bombers than I am by the police's Mossad-style execution of a 'suspect' (who turned out to be a completely innocent passer-by) on Friday 22 July. This is not because we are at greater risk of death at the hands of the police than at the hands of the bombers. (Both risks are pretty tiny, but of the two the risk posed by the police is clearly smaller). Rather, it is because, all else being equal, it is worse to be killed by one's friends than by one's enemies, and worse to be killed by people in authority than by people not in authority.

Here are some other important things to remember in thinking about the police actions of 22 July:

(1) There is no general legal duty to assist the police or to obey police instructions. Rice v Connolly [1966] 2 QB 414.

(2) There are special police powers to arrest and search. But there is no special police licence to injure or kill. If they injure or kill, the police need to rely on the same law as the rest of us.

(3) The law allows those who use force in prevention of crime to use only necessary and proportionate force. Jack Straw and Sir Ian Blair say that officers are under great pressure. But this is no excuse. In law, as in morality, being under extra pressure gives us no extra latitude for error in judging how much force is proportionate or necessary. R v Clegg [1995] 1 A.C. 482.

(4) Arguably, the police should be held to higher standards of calm under pressure than the rest of us. Certainly not lower!

(5) The necessity and proportionality of the police use of force is to be judged on the facts as they believed them to be: R v Williams 78 Cr. App R 276. This does create latitude for factual error. In my view it creates too much latitude. The test should be reasonable belief. The police may be prejudiced like the rest of us, and may treat the fact that someone is dark-skinned as one reason to believe that he is a suicide bomber. But in court this reason should not count.

(6) It is no defence in law that the killing was authorised by a superior officer. A superior officer who authorises an unlawful killing is an accomplice. R v Clegg [1995] 1 A.C. 482.

(7) The fact that those involved were police officers is irrelevant to the question of whether to prosecute them. It is a basic requirement of the Rule of Law that, when suspected of crimes, officials are subject to the same policies and procedures as the rest of us.

(8) Some people say: Blame the terrorists, not the police. But blame is not a zero-sum game. The fact that one is responding to faulty actions doesn't mean one is incapable of being at fault oneself. We may blame Tony Blair for helping to create the conditions in which bombing appeals to people, without subtracting any blame from the bombers. We may also blame the bombers for creating the conditions in which the police act under pressure, without subtracting blame from the police if they overreact. Everyone is responsible for their own faulty actions, never mind the contribution of others. This is the moral position as well as the position in criminal law.

Prof. Gardner has also commented on one feature of the proposed British antiterrorist legislation, specifically the proposal to criminalize 'condoning' or 'glorifying' or 'indirectly inciting' terrorism—
It is already an offence to incite another person to commit an act of terrorism (Terrorism Act 2000 s59). In which respects, we may wonder, is the scope of this offence to be extended? The word 'indirect' suggests that they mean to catch those who incite the s59 inciter. But under general doctrines of English criminal law it is already an offence to incite the s59 inciter. So one suspects some other extension of the existing offence is being cooked up. Is the plan to criminalise the mere defence or endorsement of a terrorist act? If so we are in for trouble. Terrorism in English law is defined to cover all modes of political violence, however trifling. Are academics and commentators no longer to be permitted to defend any political violence? Is Ted Honderich's Violence for Equality, or Peter Singer's Democracy and Disobedience, to be put on the banned books list? The only thing protecting these books at the moment is that, in the eyes of the law, an argued endorsement is not an incitement. The thought that the government may be thinking of changing this should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who still has a spine (damn few).

Gardner concludes that terrorism is not the principal threat to our society—

Lord Hoffman in A v Home Secretary [2005] 2 WLR 87: 'The real threat to the life of the nation ... comes not from terrorism but from laws like these.' Quite right. Some extra risk of being blown up by fanatics on the way to work is one of the prices we pay for living in a free society. Let's make sure we keep it that way.

Say it louder, brother!

Previous post
Why did the London police shoot a bomber suspect? (7/22/05)

Monday, July 25, 2005


Quote of the Day

There have been more suicide bombings in the two years since we invaded Iraq than in the 20 years before it. Yes, it has happened around the world. I don't think you can make a simple link between any one event and Iraq, but undoubtedly it has boosted terrorism.
—Robin Cook, former British Foreign Secretary as quoted in the Scotsman

Don't stop, get shot: Best to just stay home

It's not just Britain. All the great democracies seem to be running target practice on their citizens. Yesterday's killings were in Kashmir, the state being contested by the Indians and Pakistanis.

According to the Tribune of India,

Four boys were killed, three of them on the spot, when an ambush party of Rashtriya Rifles, who mistook them as militants, opened fire at Bagargund village in Kupwara district of north Kashmir last night.

The incident led to protest demonstrations today leading to damage to two government offices and blockade of main roads in the area against the troops, which had allegedly fired upon the youth despite having been informed about the movement of the villagers in connection with a marriage function. The police lobbed tear gas shells and fired in the air to quell the demonstrators ransacking the police station and a government office.

This recalls the killings of marriage-party celebrants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those killed by the Army included Manzoor Ahmad Shah (15), Bilal Ahmad Sheikh (18) and Waseem Ahmad Wani (12). They died on the spot, while another boy, Shabir Ahmad Shah (14), who was injured in the incident, succumbed to the injuries in the hospital later today. Manzoor Ahmad was the brother of the bridegroom, Mohammad Jamaal Shah, who was getting married today to a girl living in the same locality of Bagargund. The incident led to the postponement of the marriage function.

Meanwhile, a defence ministry spokesman regretting the firing incident appealed to people to respect the curfew timings prevalent in their area during night.

However, he said people could move out of their houses only after informing the nearest security force picket in case of any urgent need.

He said the Army had requested all persons to stop when challenged and not run away as it led to suspicion.

Giving details about the incident he said, on the night of July 23 four youths of Bagargund village had gone to attend a marriage ceremony.

The youths wanted to go outside the village at night despite being cautioned by the village elders not to stray too far.

He said the youths paid no heed to the advice of the elders and they seemingly went into the jungles and strayed too far.

However, while returning from the jungle, they inadvertently got caught in an ambush and on being challenged, they ran, which made the security forces suspicious and they opened fire on them.

NC [National Conference] President Omar Abdullah, while condemning the killings, demanded a thorough probe into it by impartial agencies.

He alleged that human rights violations in the PDP-led coalition government had touched new heights.

He expressed serious concern that there was no let-up in the killings, custodial deaths and enforced disappearances.

A spokesman of the Awami Action Committee (AAC), headed by Hurriyat Conference chairman Moulvi Omar Farooq, alleged that it had become a routine for the Indian security forces to kill innocent Kashmiris, especially youths.

He warned that the killing of innocent civilians would affect the positive efforts to seek a just and viable solution of the Kashmir issue.

You think?

"False flag" operations

I'm working on several posts that I seem unable to complete at the moment, so I thought you might like to mull over a post sent today to the Network of Activist Scholars of Politics and International Relations (NASPIR) concerning European and American false-flag operations.

"False flag" operations are operations carried out by a group or nation, either military or terrorist in nature, that are designed to falsely implicate another group or nation. Perhaps the most historically famous of these was "Operation Himmler," which Hitler used to justify the invasion of Poland.


So that Germany did not officially seem the aggressor (which it was), Hitler needed an excuse for entering/attacking Poland. It was Heinrich Himmler who came up with the idea; thus the plan was code named Operation Himmler.

On the night of August 31, 1939, Nazis took an unknown prisoner from one of their concentration camps, dressed him in a Polish uniform, took him to the town of Gleiwitz (on the border of Poland and Germany), and then shot him. The staged scene with the dead prisoner dressed in a Polish uniform was supposed to appear as a Polish attack against a German radio station.

Hitler used the staged attack as the excuse to invade Poland.

Naturally, you don't hear very often about the many other instances of the technique. Israel appears to be the leading exponent and perpetrator at the moment. But as you may well imagine, in the world of geopolitics it is truly difficult to know who is doing what to whom.

Danielle Ganser's post, which is in reply to a previous post on NASPIR, speaks for itself—

In your last email you wrote:
But of course, the police want terrorism so they can impose a police state. That's why in Italy in the 1970s the police deliberately planted bombs so they could mass arrest leftists and dissidents and impose new repressive laws.

I am a NASPIR member and was born in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. I have for a long time been extremely interested in these "false flag strategy of tension operations" that you refer to in your above quote and therefore researched them for four years in the context of my PhD which I completed in 2001.

The data shows that you are right, despite that fact that not many people want to speak about it. It was not the Italian police who planted the bombs to be precise. It was the Italian military secret service SISMI1 which linked up with neofascists of Ordine Nuovo and Avanguardia Nazionale and the latter planted the bombs while SISMI covered up the traces and flew the terrorists to Franco's Spain where they were safe from prosecution.

SISMI during the same period was also running a secret army called "Gladio" - the sword - which had been set up and financed by the CIA. Gladio units trained with US Special Forces such as the Green Berets and the British Special Air Service SAS and the MI6. They were part of a stay-behind network which - as I found - covered all countries of Western Europe.

Gladio was the name for the Italian stay-behind. In other countries different code-names were used, such as SDRA8 in Belgium, ROC in Norway, Counter Guerrilla in Turkey and P26 in Switzerland. The networks controlled secret arms caches filled with explosives and guns and handgrenades. In case of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe they should have operated as a guerrilla behind enemy lines, that's why they were called stay-behind networks.

The data available suggests that the Italian military secret service SISMI used Gladio assets (men and explosives) when they carried out the strategy of tension with bombings in public places in Italy. Also, in Turkey and in Belgium and in Greece the secret networks seem to have been involved in domestic terror and coup d'etats to stop the political left. By manipulation of the traces the crimes were regularly blamed on the political enemy, at the time the communists and socialists.

NATO coordinated the stay-behind network through the so called Clandestine Planning Committee CPC and the Allied Clandestine Committee ACC, both formed in the 1950s. The last known meeting of the ACC was in October 1990, exactly at the time when Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti for the first time officially confirmed the existence of Gladio and other secret armies in countries all over Western Europe. CIA and MI6 refused to comment. NATO first denied, then said the denial of the previous day had been a mistake, and refused to comment due to national and military security. I have a FOIA pending with CIA on that matter.

If anybody wants to know more about this story: I collected all the data and in January 2005 published a book on the topic with Frank Cass in London: NATO's Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe. They printed some 1000 copies which are all gone I'm afraid, but they said they will go into reprint, it's available at Amazon. Also, the Guardian said they wanted to bring a piece on the story but have not done so far, I hope they will in the future, or some other paper in the UK, for the matter remains almost completely unknown. Here at ETH in Switzerland we set up a homepage on the topic with more information:

The book has just been translated and published by Fazi in Italy these days. Also, I wrote an article which is available for free online on the links between the NATO secret armies and terrorism in Western Europe: [PDF]

I hope that was of interest. I think you raised an important point that merits further investigation. I am very sorry for all the war and terror victims and their families. I do believe that we as academics and NASPIR members must be a voice for reconciliation, forgiveness, balanced and in-depth analysis and non-violent solutions.

with best wishes from Switzerland

Dr Daniele Ganser
Senior Researcher

Center for Security Studies (CSS)
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich)
[Edited for appearance and links]

Related post
Plamegate (7/21/05)


1You will recall the invaluable service provided by SISMI to the Bush (Cheney) administration by providing it with what amounted to no more than a rumor that Saddam Hussein was trying to procure uranium from Niger.

According to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker—

In the fall of 2001, soon after the September 11th attacks, the C.I.A. received an intelligence report from Italy’s Military Intelligence and Security Service, or sismi, about a public visit that Wissam al-Zahawie, then the Iraqi Ambassador to the Vatican, had made to Niger and three other African nations two and a half years earlier, in February, 1999. The visit had been covered at the time by the local press in Niger and by a French press agency. The American Ambassador, Charles O. Cecil, filed a routine report to Washington on the visit, as did British intelligence. There was nothing untoward about the Zahawie visit. “We reported it because his picture appeared in the paper with the President,” Cecil, who is now retired, told me. There was no article accompanying the photograph, only the caption, and nothing significant to report. At the time, Niger, which had sent hundreds of troops in support of the American-led Gulf War in 1991, was actively seeking economic assistance from the United States.

None of the contemporaneous reports, as far as is known, made any mention of uranium. But now, apparently as part of a larger search for any pertinent information about terrorism, sismi dug the Zahawie-trip report out of its files and passed it along, with a suggestion that Zahawie’s real mission was to arrange the purchase of a form of uranium ore known as “yellowcake.” (Yellowcake, which has been a major Niger export for decades, can be used to make fuel for nuclear reactors. It can also be converted, if processed differently, into weapons-grade uranium.)

What made the two-and-a-half-year-old report stand out in Washington was its relative freshness. A 1999 attempt by Iraq to buy uranium ore, if verified, would seem to prove that Saddam had been working to reconstitute his nuclear program—and give the lie to the I.A.E.A. and to intelligence reports inside the American government that claimed otherwise.

The sismi report, however, was unpersuasive. Inside the American intelligence community, it was dismissed as amateurish and unsubstantiated. One former senior C.I.A. official told me that the initial report from Italy contained no documents but only a written summary of allegations. “I can fully believe that sismi would put out a piece of intelligence like that,” a C.I.A. consultant told me, “but why anybody would put credibility in it is beyond me.” No credible documents have emerged since to corroborate it.

The intelligence report was quickly stovepiped to those officials who had an intense interest in building the case against Iraq, including Vice-President Dick Cheney. “The Vice-President saw a piece of intelligence reporting that Niger was attempting to buy uranium,” Cathie Martin, the spokeswoman for Cheney, told me. Sometime after he first saw it, Cheney brought it up at his regularly scheduled daily briefing from the C.I.A., Martin said. “He asked the briefer a question. The briefer came back a day or two later and said, ‘We do have a report, but there’s a lack of details.’ ” The Vice-President was further told that it was known that Iraq had acquired uranium ore from Niger in the early nineteen-eighties but that that material had been placed in secure storage by the I.A.E.A., which was monitoring it. “End of story,” Martin added. “That’s all we know.” According to a former high-level C.I.A. official, however, Cheney was dissatisfied with the initial response, and asked the agency to review the matter once again. It was the beginning of what turned out to be a year-long tug-of-war between the C.I.A. and the Vice-President’s office.

Which, of course, gets us back to Plamegate. [back]

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Quote of the Day

Police had plenty of time to stop him. If they were so afraid of a bomb why did they let him get on the bus?
—Alex Pereira, cousin of Charles de Menezes, slaughtered by British plainclothes police

My view of John Roberts

Until he does something dastardly after he's confirmed to the Supreme Court, I'll probably not write another word about John Roberts. For one thing, I don't like to get excited over the inevitable, be it welcome or unwelcome, and John Roberts' installation on the Supreme Court is just slightly less inevitable than the next appearance of Halley's comet. The only thing I can imagine that would sidetrack his nomination would be to moon the Senators during the hearings, and even then it would depend upon what the mooning revealed.

Another reason for not covering the topic is its ubiquity. I figured that sooner or later someone would get around to expressing my opinion anyway. And, sure enough, someone has. Froma Harrop of the Providence Journal has it about right when it comes to Roberts and Roe v. Wade

The Republicans' ideal Supreme Court nominee is someone who might overturn Roe v. Wade, but won't. That makes President Bush's [Karl Rove's] choice of John G. Roberts pure genius.

If defenders of abortion rights condemn the pick, so much the better. Social conservatives will think they won. And when a court ruling later proves they haven't, Republican leaders can comfort them. So far, all is according to plan.

Roe v. Wade is the 1973 Supreme Court decision enshrining a federal right to abortion. If Roe went down, two bad things would happen to Republicans.

One is that it would arouse America's pro-choice majority. Religious conservatives say they put Bush in the White House, but actually, so did a significant bloc of pro-choice women. We speak of the "security moms" who in 2004 cared more about terrorism than about abortion.

The other problem in overturning Roe is that it would send the abortion issue down to the state level. Republicans don't want angry pro-choice voters rushing to the polls in 50 states. They should recall their clever move last year to put a gay-marriage ban on the Ohio ballot. It was meaningless but did draw more conservatives to the polls, who also voted for Bush. The trick works for Democrats, too.

On abortion rights, Rove is playing realpolitik as usual.

What Harrop does not touch upon is the real reason Roberts was selected. For that we need to consult with Reagan economic advisor Lawrence Kudlow—

Might John G. Roberts Jr. be the first supply-sider to sit on the Supreme Court? Well, not exactly, but the thought is not as far fetched as some might initially think.

C. Boyden Gray, the key organizer of a business coalition that weighed in on the White House nominating process, told me Roberts believes that “government intrusion should be limited.” In other words, in the economic area, Roberts is “likely to take the view that government should get out of the way and not pick the winners and losers; that government should work to level the playing field and trust markets to get the job done.”

Gray, who is also a former lawyer for George H. W. Bush, created an infrastructure ... with a particular view toward representing business in judicial choices. “Judicial appointments are not all about social issues,” he says, “nor should they be.” He’s right. Believe it or not, roughly 40 percent of Supreme Court cases are now related to business and the economy.

Gray’s Committee for Justice includes Stan Anderson, the legal advisor to the Chamber of Commerce, John Engler, the president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Frank Keating, president of the American Council of Life Insurers, and Connie Mack, the former Senator and pro-growth advocate. This is the first time in anyone’s memory that business has entered the judicial fray, and Judge Roberts was their first choice.

And that, in a nutshell, is what this nomination is all about.

Roberts brings us a little closer to the robber-baron capitalism of the 19th century. But don't expect the Democrats to oppose him on those grounds. They're more in league with said plutocrats than ever. For the Democrats, the "threat" to Roe v. Wade is a great fund-raising tool on the one hand and a handy diversion from the real issues this nominee presents on the other.


Joke of the Day

Somebody else could be shot. But everything is done to make it right.
—Sir Ian Blair, (London) Metropolitan Police Commissioner as quoted in the Financial Times

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