Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Other Items

The company's rise, though, has been built in part by exaggerated claims about its abilities and connections, according to interviews with more than a dozen current and former Lincoln Group employees and associates, and a review of company documents.
[. . .]
The Pentagon's inspector general last month opened an audit of Lincoln Group's contracts there, according to two Defense Department officials. A separate inquiry ordered by Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top American commander in Iraq, after disclosures late last year that Lincoln Group paid Iraqi publications to run one-sided stories by American soldiers, has been completed but not made public, military officials said.
[. . .]
Eventually, Lincoln began working with the American military, which was spending millions on contractors for a broad range of services. The firm rented a one-story house inside the Green Zone, the heavily fortified government compound in central Baghdad. Furnished with two sofas and a sheet of plywood that served as a desk, the house had a single telephone and an overloaded electrical outlet.
Lincoln formed a partnership with The Rendon Group, a Washington company with close ties to the Bush administration, and won a $5 million Pentagon contract to help inform Iraqis about the American-led effort to defeat the insurgency and form a new government. One contract requirement was to get Iraqi publications to run articles written by the military, according to several ex-Lincoln employees.
Rendon soon dropped out and Lincoln handled the contract alone. But the company had fewer than two dozen workers and little experience with public relations, according to several ex-employees.
Problems arose from the start. In a 2004 briefing to the military, Lincoln conceded that it was "not yet fully staffed" and that "media monitoring software" required by the contract was "not ready."

The above is from David S. Cloud's "Quick Rise for Purveyors of Propaganda in Iraq" in this morning's New York Times. As Aimee Mann sings, "You could make a killing." And let's stay on the topic of monies to be made off the war by moving to highlights from outside the paper. Tracey (yes, Ruth's granddaughter) notes Katrina vanden Heuvel's "Why We Need an Independent War Profiteering Commission" (Editor's Cut, The Nation):

On Sunday night, 60 Minutes aired an important story exposing Iraqi war profiteering that has stolen billions, crippled reconstruction and put the lives of troops at fatal risk.
As Steve Kroft reported, "The United States has spent over one-quarter trillion dollars in three years in Iraq, and more than 50 billion of it has gone to private contractors, hired to guard bases, drive trucks and shelter the troops and rebuild the country." This money, more than the annual budget of the Department of Homeland Security, "has been handed out to companies in Iraq with little or no oversight. Millions of dollars are unaccounted for. And there are widespread allegations of waste, fraud and war profiteering." The segment focused on a company called Custer Battles, which is the subject of a civil lawsuit that
goes to trial today.
The $2 million given to Custer Battles was only the first installment--of $100 million--on a contract to provide security at Baghdad International Airport. What's significant is that the company was started by two guys with absolutely no security experience. What one of them had was (a claim of) ties to the Republican Party and connections at the White House. In a memo obtained by 60 Minutes, the Baghdad airport's director of security wrote to the Coalition Authority, "Custer Battles have shown themselves to be unresponsive, uncooperative, incompetent, deceitful, manipulative and war profiteers. Other than that, they're swell fellows."

The business/profit of war. We'll note Mia's highlight (which leaves out the war profitteering of the senator's husband), Don Santina's "The Curious Withdrawal of Cindy Sheehan" (CounterPunch):

Last week, that noble antiwarrior, Cindy Sheehan, declined to challenge Senator Diane Feinstein in the upcoming Democratic primary. Ms Sheehan reiterated that Party officials had not pressured her against running. It reminded me of how the Party had so thoroughly squashed the stridently anti-war candidacy of Howard Dean in 2004, that every time the good doctor surfaces now to speak, he’s looking over his shoulder.Feinstein should be challenged. Feinstein is one of the "Royal Democrats," those Democrats like Clinton, Lieberman, Biden and a host of others who live in privilege and serve the privileged.
Historically, the Democratic Party has been composed of two camps, the "People Democrats" and the "Royal Democrats." The present day Royal Democrats are not that much far removed from the old Jim Crow Democrats who became Republicans when the Democratic Party embraced civil rights legislation. They like Business; they like War; they like military/industrial dollars in their states. They’re lukewarm on social legislation.The war on Iraq--like Vietnam--is unconstitutional, illegal and immoral. Thousands upon thousands of civilians have been maimed and killed on the basis of lies told by the Bush administration. Torture of prisoners is widespread; extra judicial kidnapping and secret prisons are the order of the day, and the Bill of Rights has been suspended. Geneva Convention? Fahgeddaboutit! Constitution? Fahgeddaboutit! Phosphorous, napalm, cluster bombs and depleted uranium projectiles? Fahgeddaboutit!
From the beginning, the Royal Democrats have been foursquare supporters of the preemptive war on Iraq, a country that was not threatening us. Even now, facing growing popular opposition to the war and an increasingly sociopathic White House, they continue to brownnose the president, dragging their feet about withdrawing our troops from their ghastly mission.

Zach notes Ivan Eland's "Restoring Constitutional Government" (Consortium News):

It took only minor concessions by the Bush administration to convince enough Democrats to support the renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act and end a Senate filibuster blocking the bill's passage. In fact on both the renewal of the PATRIOT Act and warrantless domestic spying by the National Security Agency (NSA), the Democrats have recently caved in or are signaling that they soon will.
In contrast, only a more militant approach--the repeal of the PATRIOT Act, the ending of warrantless domestic spying, and the opening of the process by which national security warrants are approved--will adequately preserve the liberties that the nation’s founders enshrined in the Constitution's Bill of Rights.
The concessions the Democrats agreed to include a change in the National Security Letters, a form of secret subpoena, which could not now be used on libraries (but still can be used everywhere else). Also, recipients of "Section 215" subpoenas, issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, could now eventually challenge the prohibition on telling anyone they received one.
But the vast majority of the PATRIOT Act's draconian provisions increasing the authority of federal authorities to tap phones, obtain personal records, and search homes will probably be renewed.
The PATRIOT Act is unlikely to prevent another terrorist attack. Even before 9/11, law enforcement authorities had enough investigative powers to battle terrorism without it. In 1996, the Clinton administration handed law enforcement agencies increased authority via the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, but this did not prevent 9/11.
The failure to detect and prevent the 9/11 attacks was due to lack of coordination within and among federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, not because of a lack of snooping authority. Congress should ask whether rewarding such failure with increased authority and funding is the best way to fight terrorism. But it is an election year and politicians--especially some Democrats--need to show that they are taking tough actions to "protect" American citizens from the terrorist menace.

And from the Patriot Act, let's chart the money-ed path of its biggest cheerleader, J-Ass. Cindy notes Bill Berkowitz's "John Ashcroft Spreads His Wings" (Common Dreams):

As the major pitchman for the Patriot Act and Operation Tips, he was no friend of civil libertarians. The Patriot Act (now being reconsidered as the Patriot Act II) allowed police and intelligence agencies greater latitude to conduct secret surveillance and gather information on people even if they were not alleged to be terrorists.
Ashcroft's short-lived project, dubbed Operation Tips, was designed to get workers and government employees to inform the government of any suspicious activities they encountered while performing their duties. His Justice Department was also responsible for the "torture memos" which, Lance Morrow wrote in a recent review of two new collections of essays on torture in the New York Times Book Review, gave "legal cover for getting rough, for 'taking the gloves off' in America's war on terror".
In early January, the former attorney-general reappeared in several news stories related to his new lobbying outfit, The Ashcroft Group, LLC. According to the Chicago Tribune, "Less than three months after registering as a lobbyist ... Ashcroft has banked at least 269,000 dollars from just four clients and appears to be developing a practice centred on firms that want to capitalise on a government demand for homeland security technology that boomed under sometimes controversial policies he promoted while in office."
Ashcroft's firm received over 200,000 dollars from the San Francisco, California-based Oracle Corp., one of the world's largest software companies, which the Tribune reported, "won justice department approval of a multibillion acquisition less than a month after hiring Ashcroft in October".
The Ashcroft Group is also working with ChoicePoint, "a data broker that sells credit reports and other personal information to the FBI and other federal agencies". Another client, LTU Technologies Inc., is a Washington and Paris-based "maker of software for analysing large batches of video and other visual images".
According to The Hill's Jonathan E. Kaplan, in late December, Ashcroft's company was hired by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), a major Israeli aerospace company, to help secure Washington's approval to sell a weapons system to the South Korean Air Force.

Again, as Aimee Mann sings, "You could make a killing." Don't forget to listen, watch or read Democracy Now! today.

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