Saturday, February 18, 2006

RadioNation with Laura Flanders heads to Nevada: D Taylor, Sheila Leslie, Kristina Wilfore

Kat here. Yeah, it's Saturday which means RadioNation with Laura Flanders! But before we get to who the actual broadcast, if you're in Nevada, you can actually be present for the broadcasts:

On Feb 18 and 19th, RadioNation with Laura Flanders will broadcast from Nevada -- this month's stop on Laura's "America is Purple" tour. The broadcasts are live and open to the public.
Come on down!

4-7 PM local time.
Saturday, Feb. 18, 2006.
RadioNation with Laura Flanders will broadcast live from:
Culinary Institute Union Hall
1630 South Commerce Street
Las Vegas Nevada 89102
SUNDAY, Feb 19, 2006
RadioNation with Laura Flanders will broadcast live from:
the offices of PLAN
(the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada)

821 Riverside Drive
Reno, Nevada 89503

Not in Nevada? Well lose the frowns, we can still listen:

RadioNation with Laura Flanders
LIVE from Las Vegas and Reno
This Weekend, RadioNation comes to you live from the Culinary Hall in Las Vegas and the Progressive Leadership Alliance in Reno.
Saturdays & Sundays, 7-10pm ET on Air America Radio
Want to know how red state Nevadans came to vote for new taxes? How they used a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage? Find out how casino workers built one of the strongest unions in the country and how women could claim two Congressional seats for Democrats. With D Taylor, Secretary-Treasurer of the Culinary Workers Local 226, Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie and Kristina Wilfore of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.

We've got good news from Nevada, this weekend!
And as always, a one-hour version of last weekends's show is available for podcast at The Nation's website:
It's all on RadioNation with Laura Flanders this weekend on Air America Radio.

Let me talk about the podcast mentioned above because there's some confusion from two members who don't listen to podcasts. You can go to the website and you can listen. You don't have to podcast to listen to the one-hour version available at The Nation website. Or maybe you do. Dallas is checking links for me and he can't pull up RadioNation. It's there on the page, he clicks and waits and waits. So though no Blair on Facts of Life, I had a brilliant idea, Air America Place but . . . Dallas just checked and there last archived broadcast is from February 5th. Well, there's always the traditional ways to listen to the full broadcasts when they air on Saturdays and Sundays: via broadcast radio (if there's an AAR in your area), via XM Satellite Radio (channel 167) or listen online. And I actually do listen to Podcasts. It's not that hard. I'd recommend you download Juice on your computers. (That's my personal recommendation. Not C.I.'s or the recommendation of the community.) It's free software and you can listen on your computer to podcasts with it. You can also use it to listen on an iPod but you don't need one to listen to a podcast. But the point is, listen! Thanks to Dallas for hunting down links and if there are typos in Ruth's entry that just posted, they are my typos. To get that up, Ruth dictated it to me. Hold me accountable (like I'll care), not Ruth.

E-mail address (public) for this site is

Ruth's Public Radio Report

Ruth: The Pooper. Do you know the name? I did not. Kyle e-mailed something by The Pooper and I was honestly confused by it. I spoke to C.I. about the article by The Pooper this morning and was told, "It's your space. The only thing is we don't name him, we don't link to him." Then I remembered how C.I. had noted The Pooper last summer and compared him to Wolfman Jack without the personality.

Well The Pooper's lost his two jobs at Pacifica. So he slams Pacifica and Air America Radio. C.I. and Kat both explained the Air America slam. Pooper's job is now done, brilliantly, by Laura Flanders on RadioNation with Laura Flanders. This may hurt if The Pooper has the issues with women he appears to have and surely it does not help that Ms. Flanders is also a relation of a someone The Pooper has declared an enemy.

I will not pretend to know every detail of Pacifica. At the end of the 1990s and the early part of this century, there was an effort to take control from local stations. It was a strong effort and one that I am understating out of fear of mischaracterizing. But two camps lined up. On one side was The Pooper, another man we don't highlight and the board. In the other camp, the camp that emerged victorious, were the people who now produce the excellent Free Speech Radio News, Larry Bensky, Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzales, Verna Avery-Brown and other names we note and highlight.

The second camp's argument, which I agree with so if it I mischaracterize, I do so unintentionally, was that Pacifica should remain true the roots it was built upon. Their belief, which I agree with, was that privatization was coming to Pacifica. At the end of the 90s, The Pooper wrote an article for print that Mr. Bensky had a disagreement over. When Mr. Bensky wrote the publication, The Pooper responded in print that they were in agreement over what I will call "the big picture." The Pooper pulled comments he had written about the board that were critical and then tried to utilize those to dismiss Mr. Bensky's points. The Pooper's recently penned remarks from last month demonstrate, to me at least, that Mr. Bensky was right on in his comments.

The side of the voices we respect emerged victorious, Democracy Now! returned to the air, those opting for what was seen as privatization and authoritarian control lost out. Until recently, The Pooper had two programs airing on Pacifica's KPFK out of Los Angeles. On one, the host duties have been turned over to Laura Flanders and the program is now known as
and airs Saturdays and Sundays on Air America Radio as well as on other stations throughout the country. The other just went away. The Pooper, however, did not.

Among the many claims he makes about Pacifica is that they have lost listeners. He cites the ratings for a station carrying NPR programming in Los Angeles to make his argument. NPR is a nationally known name/brand. It receives large amounts of attention, though not always enough critical attention from the left. In addition, PBS stations promote the NPR stations on air. Pacifica owns five stations and its programming is carried on other stations.

If Pacifica has lost listeners, an argument The Pooper provides no hard facts on, that may very well go to the issue of media concentration and have nothing to do with quality. The Pooper feels it is a quality issue and slams people for the programming on Pacifica. He feels that there should be national programming that is syndicated. That is an argument I long ago opposed. Over the airwaves, each Pacifica station serves the community it reaches. The programming should reflect the tastes of the listeners.

As members know, I am a dedicated and loyal fan of Law and Disorder which airs on WBAI. It is one of my favorite programs. I would love it if everyone listened to the program and if every station carried it. But that is a decision that community radio should make for itself. The alternative is the canned programming that NPR provides. Months ago, a member asked my opinion on this topic and I still feel the same. As someone old enough to remember when NPR had life and spark in their programming, I strongly oppose top-down control of public broadcasting.

NPR today is a number of programs with different titles but the same voices. The same officials appear on the programming, the hosts speak in what is known as the NPR voice . . . The end result is bland programming heavy on bumper music and what someone must mistake for pithy observations while short on issues and anything resembling the public. When Daniel Schorr joined NPR that was a case of someone who had been fired from the mainstream media, CBS TV network, gaining an outlet on public radio. Back then it was still public radio and Nina Totenberg, among others, did real reporting. Today NPR is the refuge for big names. Today, some, like Cokie Roberts, continue their gasbag assaults on the public from the mainstream media as well as NPR. Ms. Roberts and Ted Koppel can move freely from coporate media to NPR because NPR does not reflect public broadcasting.

Until recently, I believed in fighting to save NPR. I have noted before that Rebecca was right about NPR and let me note that one more time. Every Congressional funding cycle, those on the left are stirred up to fight for NPR. NPR does not fight for us. NPR does not even give the left a voice. They are happy to hide behind us and let us do battle because NPR has no fighting spirit left in it.

In the last few months, we have seen what passes for news on NPR and what does not. The Downing Street Memos did not pass for news. Opposition to the war in Iraq early on became a nonstory for NPR. The only program to feature the voice of veteran opposed to the war pre-Cindy Sheehan and the summer of protest was The Tavis Smiley Show. NPR no longer syndicates that program to their affiliates. I noted in September that a report on what were expected to be the massive protests in D.C. shared time in a segment with what was expected to be a small counter protest in support of the war and that man in charge of the counter protest received more air time than did Ms. Sheehan. With the country opposed to the war in large and vocal numbers, the peace movement could finally get air time on NPR but not as much air time as "I love George Bush!" I will assume everyone knows that hundreds of thousands turned out to speak against the war in Iraq and that a couple of hundred turned out for the counter protest. That was not a surprise. It was expected to go that way. But to NPR, "balance" meant giving more time to the counter protest. A couple of hundred people carried more weight with NPR than did hundreds of thousands.

When the regular assualts come down on NPR, we are told we have to fight. "What are we fighting for?" is the question I found myself asking after the last battle. I fought that battle. I was strongly supportive of NPR. Looking back, I wish I had taken Rebecca's stance of "They don't try to serve me so they are on their own" or C.I.'s stance of "Here's what's happening, make your own decision." I did not do that. I advocated for members to stand up for NPR.

Seeing what we "won" after that was shocking. Katrina vanden Heuvel is a smart woman and a strong voice for the left. But I do not see the fact that she can now be a guest on NPR as a "win."
She should be a guest. She should always be a guest. She is the editor of the nation's best selling political weekly, The Nation. Not just the best selling weekly on the left, the best selling politcal weekly period.

I did not notice any other "wins." I noticed that they went back to doing what they always do, business as usual. Fisherman stories remain a staple on NPR but any serious issue that paints the administration in a bad light are downplayed and live coverage of hearings, something NPR used to provide, remains absent. When Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, it was Pacifica that carried that. NPR was quite comfortable to do their canned programming. Is the public really served by Renee Montaigne and Steve Roberts patter? By the seemless editing of Fresh Air? I hear nothing on NPR that reflects the mandate under which they were created.

The Pooper appears to be one of the ones screaming "identity politics!" and bothered by stories that cover women, gays, lesbians, transgendered, people of color, people living in poverty . . . In short, he appears bothered by the fact that Pacifica will not get with the mainstream program and greet serious issues with silence. The Pooper appears to think it is more important to, as my grandson Jayson put it, "run with the big dogs" then try to serve the public.

I do not want regular national programming from Pacifica. The aftermath of Hurricane Wilma which is something a number of members in this community had to deal with. Wally covered the aftermath at his website The Daily Jot. Gina and Krista covered it in the round-robin. I heard no interest on NPR and the only program I am aware that explored it on Pacifica was KPFA. The Morning Show. I read Wally's posts, I knew things were not "back to normal" in Florida. But hearing Andrea Lewis interview a woman fighting for the rights and the victims of Hurricane Wilma added a new dimension to my understanding.

Were Pacifica to switch to national programming, would The Morning Show be included? Would it still be The Morning Show with new people involved making the calls on how to serve the public? Or would it be a watered down version that had no interest in issues that the national media was not already covering?

What I have heard over the years as NPR has become more "professional" does not lead me to believe that Pacifica would be as inclusive as it is today if it attempted to follow the model of NPR in creating national programming.

What of show like Margaret Prescod's Sojourner Truth? Would it be a national program? How would they determine that? I fear they would look at the various hosts and then try to decide whether there were "too many" women or people of color hosting the national line up. What Ms. Prescod offers is her own unique perspective which cannot be reduced to gender or race. But when a decision is made at the national level, I am not so certain that race and gender would not be the basis for the final decision. If someone like The Pooper was in charge of the decision making and granted the final say, I am quite sure he would reduce Ms. Presod's fine work to nothing more than Census data.

There are shows that are not my taste. That has nothing to do with the quality of the programming, just the simple fact that no program can serve anyone. Nor should a program serve everyone, especially not on public radio. Pacifica predates NPR by many years so it came into creation before the LBJ administration created their mandate for public broadcasting. However, Pacifica, without such a mandate for decades, reflects the core principles. It provides time to views that may not get coverage in the mainstream. It informs.

First Voices Indigenous Radio is another favorite program of mine. I am an elderly, Jewish woman. I have no Native American blood that I am aware of. But I get excited as the time nears for that program to broadcast on WBAI. My grandson Elijah loves the theme music to that show and to The Morning Show and will stand up and shake his little body. I feel the same sense of enthusiasm to the program. It provides me with information I do not hear elsewhere, with issues I would not be aware of otherwise. Considering NPR's lack of interest in Native American issues, I cannot imagine that a national model for Pacifica would broadcast such a program. The argument would probably be that "those issues" can be covered in news reports. That really is not the case. The issues rasied on First Voices need to be discussed, not noted.

To any statement in this I could add "my opinion." That is what community radio is about, the opinions of the local communities. When Verna Avery Brown quit the national news service, she was quite clear as to why she was quitting. That she and her producer found their news judgements questioned was only one of the problems. After years of doing what she had done quite well, suddenly she was no longer qualified to make that determination. Did Ms. Avery-Brown's judgement take a nosedive or was it the case of certain stories making certain individuals uncomfortable? I believe it was the latter.

Back then The Pooper's position was at odds with the camp Ms. Avery Brown was in. That was the camp that pulled Democracy Now! off the airwaves. As I wrote some months ago, that is a national program. It is carried on over four hundred radio and television stations. All the Pacifica stations carry it. But the camp The Pooper represents was not interested in the appraoch that Ms. Goodman and company take to the news. There was concern over the Kosovo coverage, the East Timor coverage. Ms. Goodman and company fought for the right for Democracy Now! to be indpendent. Had they followed a national model, or let control of the show be determined by the then board members, it would not be the huge success that it is today.

I found the jabs The Pooper took offensive. Beyond that, we are odds as to what public broadcasting should offer. He favors a top-down model where communities will lost their say and be given national programming. I favor allowing the community to determine their choices. Thanks to podcasting and online streaming, Pacifica programs can be heard throughout the country, all over the world. Olive has e-mailed to say how much she enjoys various shows. As most members know, Olive lives in Australia. If Pacifica has lost some broadcast listeners, it has also gained many worldwide listeners.

"If." This report was renamed "Ruth's Public Radio Report." No one expressed concern over the name change; however, a few did wonder why I did not pick one program as I had before when it was known as "Ruth's Morning Edition Report." That is because I enjoy CounterSpin but calling it "Ruth's CounterSpin Report" would mean over looking other favorite programs. I considered calling it "Ruth's Pacifica Radio Report" but I wanted to leave it open in case one of my friends heard another sexist report on NPR. I am aware that NPR's "Too many women are being born!" panic reports were ignored by many. I am glad that we were able to address them here. Should I hear of another similar report, I wanted the title to allow me to include a critique of it. I also thought, "What is my point in renaming it?" One of it was to reflect the change in emphasis from fact checking to NPR to providing a resource to strong public radio. If I titled it "Ruth's Pacifica Report" readers from outside the community might see the title and think, "Great! I listen to Pacifica!" and read or they might see the title and think I was covering the Pacific Ocean or radio broadcasts from the west coast.

But the change in emphasis was necessary because I have found so many programs I enjoy and there are so many that members that enjoy as well. Who, outside of Pacifica, was making a point to get the word out on Pacifica? I am not speaking of providing a link on a list of permalinks or a blogroll. I am speaking of the issue of saying, "Here are some programs that are out there." NPR airs a program and it may make newspapers or various websites, but is there a place that regularly notes the programming on Pacifica?

If, again "if," Pacifica's listenership is down that may be due to the fact that it is not noted as often as NPR when people discuss public radio. My granddaughter Tracey just read Backlash by Susan Faludi. She saw a copy of it on my bookcase and finished it one day. She loves the book. Now if you are a longterm member, you are aware that C.I.'s noted that book quite often here. Beth wrote in a recent ombudsperson column that it was the most cited book here in 2005 and predicted it would be the most cited book here in 2006. Tracey is the one who got the word out to me about this site. She is a member who reads this site all the time. C.I. mentions the book once and Tracey may or may not have noticed. C.I. mentions it repeatedly and it makes Tracey curious.

That is how it is. A friend tells you that you should see a certain film and you think, "Maybe." A friend or a group of friends talk about it constantly and you start to think, "I may be missing out." Though an amateur web surfer at best, I do not see many links to Pacifica. I do not see any coverage of it outside of this community. I am very glad that The Third Estate Sunday Review is noting it as well as the fact that special programming has been noted by all the sites in this community. But if Pacifica has lost some listeners that may be due to the fact that there has not been as strong an effort to get the word out on it as exists, from outside this community, to get the word out on NPR.

When I listen to Pacifica do I ever have suggestions? Sure. As any listener does. They are not the jabs and slams that The Pooper offers. One thing I always wonder is if Pacifica did an additional fundraising drive, how would that go? Not one for the stations they currently have, but a war chest drive to raise money to purchase another station? I thought about that again last Saturday when C.I. noted a story on how an area in Texas was just getting their first NPR.

I have no idea how that idea would go over. But in my dream Pacifica, there are not fewer voices calling the shots and calling them from on high, the way The Pooper fantasizes, instead there are many more voices as Pacifica stations are added throughout the nation.

I think about that when I listen and I think about members who have e-mailed that their local NPR will not air Democracy Now! Billie, Eddie, Dallas and three other members have stopped contibuting to their local NPR due to that decision. They have no use for twice daily airings of Fresh Air and Morning Edition or for the lack of community coverage in their area since other than one show, they receive nothing but national programs. As Eddie pointed out a few weeks ago, "Community coverage appears to be an announcer giving the traffic report in the middle of Morning Edition."

The Pooper has his own problems. He favors top-down solutions, he is against the war but against the opposition to the war movements, and, of course, he has lost two programs including one to the relative of a long term foe. That may or may not be among the reasons he is now lashing out at Pacifica and others.

But there are too many programs at risk in his "solution." Too many programs that provide strong voices and worthy points of views. I have named a few in this report, but here are a few more: Connect the Dots, KPFA Evening News, Guns & Butter (which had a strong program Wednesday on genitically modified foods), Out-FM, Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky, Radio Chronicles, Christmas Coup Comedy Players(CCCP), KPFT's After Hours, WBAI's Nonfiction, and KPFT's Open Journal and The Monitor.

Upcoming programming notes:

1) KPFA's Sunday Salon with Larry Bensky (9:00 am Pacific time, noon Eastern time):
This week on Sunday Salon... In our first hour... The Congressional Inquiry into Hurricane Katrina: What happened and could it happen in the Bay Area?
In our second hour... Michael Morales is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection next Tuesday -- now that the Attorney General has gotten 2 doctors to be present. A look at the case, medical ethics, and race & the death penalty.

2) KPFA's Radio Chronicles (Sunday, 6:30 pm Pacific time)
See all Drama and Literature Programming
The Life of Nina Simone - Young, Gifted and Black

Possibly The Pooper might want to utilize the "See all Drama and Literature Programming" link above since he feels the arts coverage at Pacifica is lacking? On Friday's The Morning Show, besides interviewing Matthew Rotschild of The Progressive on the topic of Vice President Dick Cheney's shooting his friend, Andrea Lewis also interviewed Carolyn Burke author of
Lee Miller : A Life which led to a discussion on Miller's work as a photojournalist during WWII, Man Ray and quite a bit more.

NYT in full on Harvey Keitel mode this morning

This morning the New York Times is in full on Harvey Keitel mode. No they're not attempting to recreate the nude scene in The Piano -- and the nation breathes a sigh of relief over that. But they are attempting to recreate the role Keitel has twice placed: The Cleaner. He played it first in Bridget Fonda's Point of No Return and then again in Pulp Fiction.

For those who may have missed the films, Keitel's Cleaner shows up to . . . clean up. Not clean up in the, "Shane, Aisle six! Get the big mop!" way. No, Scott Shane's not been called in to fix the bad reporting by others all week and restore a few facts to the paper's "reporting." This Cleaning is where the paper carries the administration's water for them. They tidy up the crime scene and they're gone before most realize what has had occurred.

Take Sheryl Gay Stolberg's front pager "Senate Chairman Splits With Bush On Spy Program." The article continues inside the paper on A9 which is where Stolberg presents as fact the claims of the administration. Is she gearing up to take William Safire's place on the op-ed pages? (Tierney's never really filled those shoes. He comes off like Davey Brooks' little brother.) She's not reporting. The paper's played Hot Potato with the Bully Boy's warrentless spying program since they found themselves out in the cold. Today, Stolberg (or "Stolberg" indicating the participation of others) pens the following:

The eavesdropping authorized in secret by President Bush soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 has allowed the National Security Agency to monitor the international telephone and e-mail communications of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people within the United States -- without warrants -- when the authorities suspect they have links to terrorism.

"When the authorities suspect they have links to terrorism" is a Bully Boy talking point; however, it's not established fact, just a talking point. Stolberg presents it as fact. If she or the paper has information to back up that claim, they should certainly come forward with it. (They don't.) She also minimizes the number of people involved. ". . . hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people within the United States . . ."? The paper's gone with that low ball since the original reporting. As James Bamford noted on Democracy Now!:

The New York Times indicated that there was somewhere between several hundred and maybe several thousand people that were affected by this. But apparently, it's been going on at least since 2001, so there's probably quite a few people out there that have been surveilled, and have no knowledge about it, and again, without any court order.

The story the paper never wanted to run but was forced to as a result of Risen's then pending book has been down played since. Today Stolberg (or "Stolberg") presents the administration's talking points as fact and not as claims.

Let's go back to that Democracy Now! report:

MARTIN GARBUS: I think that one of the things that we should be aware of is the way the argument by the Bush administration has shifted. First, when they admitted to this wiretapping, they were saying it was wiretaps for surveillance between domestics and people overseas. Now, they’ve admitted it's the wiretapping and investigation of people within the United States, domestic calls to domestic calls. Secondly, the way the argument has shifted: The argument originally had been that the mandate, given as a result of September 11, gave the President the power to do this, as it gave him the power to do torture, as it gave him the power to restrict detainees, as it gave him the power to stop habeas corpus. The argument has now shifted. They're no longer claiming that it's that particular enactment which gives him this authority. This is a straight constitutional argument, saying that under the Constitution, he has the power to protect the United States, and he can do anything under the Constitution to protect the United States, and therefore, he now has a constitutional power, not a statutory power, and that was, again, the argument in the Nixon case.

You don't find that in the Times today. They're in full retreat mode on this story. Which may be why the only "official voices" they present are Republican elected officials? Stolberg apparently doesn't have Russ Feingold or Charles Schumer on her speed dial. She also, apparently, has never read the Congressional Research Service's "Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information" (click here for PDF format, click here for HTML format for those whose computers freeze up when they attempt to view PDF documents). Which puts her in with a large number at the paper since the often referenced report by the paper has never been utilized by the paper. That might lead to articles that include statements such as "The administration claims . . .; however, the Congressional Research Service dismisses that claim . . ."

It's not surprising that the New York Timid continues to disown the story that they never wanted to break, it's not surprising that the Timid continues to low ball the figures for the multi-year program, it is surprising (shocking) that a "reporter" presents claims as "fact." The article, such as it is, fails to tell you any whys of their headline so let's translate the headline here: Pat Roberts is under pressure from other elected officials and his own constituents to take seriously a matter he'd prefer to dismiss.

The paper also can't grab facts on John Bolton and the UN. What's the story there? According to Warren Hoge (remember he partnered with Judith Miller) . . . Well according to Hoge's "U.S. Criticized For Actions In U.N. Council" it's not clear what happened. He's caught in the freak sideshow that is John Bolton. When Bolton screams and blusters (aided by a letter from Henry Hyde or not), that's never the magician's trick, just the distraction. Hoge refers to "two volatile issues" that caused Bolton to erupt. Hoge refers to two in his second paragraph. Then he goes on to jerk off for four paragraphs of his short article (no fast shooter jokes, please) until name checking (that's all it is -- a name check) what he sees the "two volatile issues" as in the second to last paragraph. The last paragraph? Bolton's views and a quote by Bolton of course -- it's "balance" in someone's mind.

Here's what the paper's not wanting to tell you this morning. Bolton's trying to rewrite the way in which the head of the UN is selected. He seems especially concerned that the next head might come from an Asiatic region and probably most concerned that he or she might come from China. Edith M. Lederer's "Bolton Launches Talks on Replacing Annan" (Associated Press):

So far, the announced candidates are all Asian men. They include South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who is backed by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and former U.N. disarmament chief Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka who recently represented the government in peace talks with the Tamil Tigers.
Equality Now, an advocacy organization which campaigns for women's rights, came up with a sampling of 18 qualified women from all over the world. Its list of candidates includes the presidents of Latvia, Finland and Chile, several current and former senior U.N. officials, and Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who remains under house arrest by the country's military rulers.

Now what's the concern with China? Well the Timid never told you but, thanks to Olive, this community is aware that the "US sees China as Biggest military threat" (Kim Landers, Australia's ABC):

The United States has labelled China as its greatest military threat in a new report issued by the Pentagon.
The Pentagon has released its strategic blueprint for dealing with anticipated security threats over the next 20 years.
It says China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and "field disruptive military technologies".

Hoge didn't write about that yesterday and doesn't today. It somehow missed his keen observation skills. Instead, he's focused on the smoke and mirrors of Bolton. The flash, not the substance. He can't even do more than name check the "two volatile issues." (Non-issues, distractions, but if he wants to claim they're issues, he should certainly have something to write about them.) He plays The Cleaner today as well.

The e-mail address for this site is

Friday, February 17, 2006

Democracy Now: Olivia Roussert, Mark Benjamin, Alfred McCoy; Center for Constitutional Rights

U.S. Judge Dismisses Maher Arar Lawsuit
A U.S. federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Canadian citizen against the U.S. government for detaining him and sending him to Syria where he was jailed and tortured. Maher Arar was the first person to mount a civil suit challenging the U.S. government policy known as extraordinary rendition. In October 2002, he was detained at JFK airport while on a stopover in New York. He was then jailed and secretly deported to Syria. He was held for almost a year without charge in an underground cell not much larger than a grave. Charges were never filed against him. The federal judge, David Trager, said he could not interfere in the case because it involves crucial national security and foreign relations issues. In Canada, Arar called the decision "very disappointing [and] emotionally very hard to digest." Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights said the law group would still try to proceed with the case. She said "How can this Administration argue before a Federal Court Judge that its practice of outsourcing for interrogation under torture constitutes a state secret? This is a dark day indeed."
Senate Votes 96-3 to Reject Sen. Feingold's Effort to Stall Patriot Act Renewal
In other news from Capitol Hill, the Senate is moving closer to renewing the Patriot Act. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin is leading the effort to block renewal but he is receiving little support even from fellow Democrats. Feingold wants to set a four-year expiration date on provisions within the Act that allows government agents to force banks, libraries, Internet providers and others to hand over private records without a warrant. On Thursday, the Senate voted 96 to 3 to reject Feingold's efforts to stall the legislation. Only independent Senator Jim Jeffords and Democrat Robert Byrd backed Feingold.
FBI Raids Homes of Pro-Independence Activists in Puerto Rico
In Washington, several members of Congress are calling for an investigation into recent raids conducted by the FBI targeting pro-independence activists in Puerto Rico. Last week hundreds of members of the FBI's counterterrorism unit conducted six simultaneous raids targeting members of the pro-independence group known as the Macheteros. The FBI claimed it was attempting to thwart a possible domestic terrorism attack. At one of the raids, FBI agents beat and pepper sprayed journalists who attempted to conduct interviews. The raids come less than six months after the FBI shot dead Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios.
Scientists: Greenland's Glaciers Are Melting Twice As Fast As in 1996
Scientists announced Thursday that Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed. The shocking discovery has rendered obsolete predictions about how quickly the Earth's oceans will rise over the next century. The researchers found that in 2005, the glaciers discharged more than twice as much ice as they did in 1996.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Wendy, Jonah, West and LilyDemocracy Now! ("always worth watching," as Marcia says):
Headlines for February 17, 2006

- U.S. Judge Dismisses Maher Arar Lawsuit
- Kofi Annan Calls for U.S. To Close Guantanamo
- Senate Republicans Block Investigation Into NSA Spying
- Judge Orders Justice Dept To Release NSA Documents
- Scientists: Greenland's Glaciers Melting Twice as Fast as in 1996
- Rice: Iran is the "Central Banker" of Global Terrorism
- FBI Raids Homes of Pro-Independence Activists in Puerto Rico
- Bush Says He Supports Cheney's Handling of Shooting Accident
Australian Report Reveals More Abu Ghraib Torture Photos, Drawing Public Outrage

The Australian news program Dateline aired a report on SBS public broadcasting earlier this week that broke the story of more photographs and videos of Iraqi detainees being tortured inside Abu Ghraib. We air an excerpt of the original Australian report and speak with reporter Olivia Rousset of SBS in Sydney. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: And your response to U.S. authorities who said that the release of these images endangers U.S. soldiers around the world?
OLIVIA ROUSSERT: I think the abuses themselves endanger U.S. soldiers around the world. My experience from talking to Iraqis has been that they all know this happened, they all knew this was going on way before any of us did. It's nothing new to them. It's a long time -- the truth and the full story is a long time coming for everyone else, but these are people who have been living with it and who aren't surprised by it. They're possibly more surprised by the reaction of the rest the world, or lack of reaction, at different times. Runs Abu Ghraib Torture Photos Leaked from Internal Army Source published even more torture photographs from Abu Ghraib a day after the Australian report aired on SBS public broadcasting. The online publication obtained photos, video and other electronic documents from an internal Army investigation. We speak with reporter Mark Benjamin, who obtained the files and other electronic documents. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: As we talk to Olivia Roussert of SBS Dateline in Australia and Mark Benjamin, a reporter who has been covering soldiers in Iraq and back from Iraq, especially many of the wounded, the tens of thousands. Mark Benjamin works for I want to ask you the same question I asked Olivia, Mark, and that is, your response to the U.S. government, the State Department condemning the release of these photographs.
MARK BENJAMIN: I would just add that that argument has already been rejected by a federal judge who said, you know, release the photographs doesn’t -- if it -- essentially, terrorists need no pretext to carry out their terrorist acts, so I think that argument has been rejected. And I agree that, you know, if the Army is so concerned about images of torture or abuse inciting violence, one thing to do is to try to prevent it in the first place.
I would also note that this -- one of the reasons why we're conducting this investigation at Salon is because there are some indications that would suggest that the responsibility for this abuse may go relatively high in the chain of command. For example, the military intelligence folks who are the professional interrogators are heavily involved in directing operations at Abu Ghraib, according to the materials that we have. The materials also show heavy involvement by O.G.A., Other Government Agency, which is a code word for C.I.A. folks. The involvement of those people at the prison suggests the possibility that this was a more organized abuse situation, and until we've gotten to the bottom of that, we’re going to continue to investigate, and if in the process of that we come across photos that we believe should be part of the public record, we are going to publish them.
Professor McCoy Exposes the History of CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror

We now take a look at what lies behind the shocking images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison by turning to the history of the CIA and torture techniques. Professor Alfred McCoy talks about his book “A Question of Torture”, a startling expose of the CIA development of psychological torture from the Cold War to Abu Ghraib. CIA mercenaries attempted to assassinate McCoy more than 30 years ago. [includes rush transcript - partial]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, you have not stopped looking at the C.I.A., and now you've written this new book. It's called A Question of Torture: C.I.A. Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Give us a history lesson.
ALFRED McCOY: Well, if you look at the most famous of photographs from Abu Ghraib, of the Iraqi standing on the box, arms extended with a hood over his head and the fake electrical wires from his arms, okay? In that photograph you can see the entire 50-year history of C.I.A. torture. It's very simple. He's hooded for sensory disorientation, and his arms are extended for self-inflicted pain. And those are the two very simple fundamental C.I.A. techniques, developed at enormous cost.
From 1950 to 1962, the C.I.A. ran a massive research project, a veritable Manhattan Project of the mind, spending over $1 billion a year to crack the code of human consciousness, from both mass persuasion and the use of coercion in individual interrogation. And what they discovered -- they tried LSD, they tried mescaline, they tried all kinds of drugs, they tried electroshock, truth serum, sodium pentathol. None of it worked. What worked was very simple behavioral findings, outsourced to our leading universities -- Harvard, Princeton, Yale and McGill -- and the first breakthrough came at McGill. And it's in the book. And here, you can see the -- this is the -- if you want show it, you can. That graphic really shows -- that's the seminal C.I.A. experiment done in Canada and McGill University --
AMY GOODMAN: Describe it.
First highlight finds Liang noting the same topic Wendy did (see top of entry), "Attorneys for Canadian Rendition Victim Vow to Keep Fighting Despite Ruling in Case" (Center for Constitutional Rights):
On February 16, 2006,in  New York,attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) voiced disappointment after Federal Court Judge David Trager dismissed the federal lawsuit brought on behalf of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was "rendered" to Syria by U.S. authorities where he was tortured and held in prison for nearly a year.  In his ruling, Judge Trager determined that he could not review the decision by U.S. officials to send Mr. Arar to Syria to be tortured, because it was a question of national security and foreign relations.
On February 16, 2006,in  New York,attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) voiced disappointment after Federal Court Judge David Trager dismissed the federal lawsuit brought on behalf of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was "rendered" to Syria by U.S. authorities where he was tortured and held in prison for nearly a year.  In his ruling, Judge Trager determined that he could not review the decision by U.S. officials to send Mr. Arar to Syria to be tortured, because it was a question of national security and foreign relations.     
"This ruling sets frightening precedent. U.S. officials sent Maher Arar to Syria to be detained and interrogated through torture.  To allow the Bush Administration to continue to evade accountability and continue to hide behind the smokescreen of 'national security' is to do grave and irreparable damage to the Constitution and the guarantee of human rights that people in this country could once be proud of," said Mr. Arar's Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Maria LaHood.
Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained at J.F.K. Airport in September 2002 on his way home to his family in Canada.  He was held in solitary confinement and interrogated without the benefit of legal counsel. The Administration labeled him a member of Al Qaeda, and rendered him, not to Canada, his home and country of citizenship, but to Syrian intelligence authorities renowned for torture.  Mr. Arar spent ten months detained in Syria, where he was brutally interrogated and tortured, without charge.  After nearly a year of confinement, Syrian authorities released Mr. Arar, publicly stating that they had found no connection to any criminal or terrorist organization or activity.  Upon his return to Canada, Mr. Arar was never charged with any crime; nor has he been charged with any crime by the United States.  The Canadian Parliament has convened a Public Inquiry to investigate the details and reasoning behind Mr. Arar's rendition. The United States has categorically refused to cooperate with the Inquiry.
On January 22, 2004, the Center filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Homeland Security Tom Ridge, as well as numerous U.S. immigration officials.  The claims in the lawsuit include violations of Mr. Arar's right to due process under the U.S. Constitution and his right not to be tortured under color of foreign law as guaranteed by the Torture Victim Protection Act.
In January of 2005, the U.S. government asserted the "state secrets" privilege, arguing that the law suit must be dismissed because allowing it to proceed would necessarily involve the disclosure of sensitive information that would threaten national security or diplomatic relations if made public.  Arar arguments were heard on Defendants' motions to dismiss on August 9, 2005.
"There can be little doubt that every official of the United States government knew that sending Mr. Arar to Syria was a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and international law.  How can this Administration argue before a Federal Court Judge that its practice of outsourcing for interrogation under torture constitutes a state secret? This is a dark day indeed.  We will not accept this decision and are committed to continuing our campaign to obtain the truth about what happened to Maher and demand accountability on behalf of the Administration," said Barbara Olshansky, Deputy Legal Director with the Center for Constitutional Rights.
CCR Cooperating Attorney and Georgetown Law School Professor David Cole said, "We don't think whether government officials can send a human being to another country to be tortured is a political question.  It's a legal question, appropriate for resolution by the courts.  Torture is absolutely prohibited by international law and by our law, and if courts are not willing to protect individuals like Arar, who will?" 
Attorneys working on the case include Robert Fink, Joshua Sohn, Zazy Lopez, and Sarah Sterken from Piper, Rudnick, and, from the Center for Constitutional Rights, Barbara Olshansky and Maria LaHood, and cooperating attorneys David Cole, Jules Lobel, and Paul Hoffman.
What do you think?  Members consider that rhetorical.  But there are people who will think "Hey, no big deal."  Rebecca had a strong entry about the prisoners in Guantanamo yesterday and I'll swipe from it to a section we can apply to the above:
this is something you'll have to answer for. children in a generation or 2 will ask you, 'how were you able to just stay silent and look the other way?' so if that's your plan to keep on ignoring this, you might use that looking away time to come up with a good excuse. this is a sad thing, this is a tragedy.
being scared senseless immediately after 9-11 might have been understandable for some, goodness knows the bully boy was working overtime - the only time he ever works - to scare the nation. and you may have been grieving and felt like 'who cares?'
well it's past time to care.
From there, we'll move to Billie's highlight, Maureen Farrell's "Detention Camp Jitters" (BuzzFlash):
It should be noted that the government has traditionally tried to curb dissent during wartime and much of what we're seeing today existed in the Vietnam era, too. In 1967, with the assistance of an Army task force, President Lyndon Johnson established the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, which called for the use of military force to squelch civil disturbances. A year after four unarmed Kent State University students were gunned down by members of the Ohio National Guard, Sen. Sam Ervin's Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights uncovered information regarding Operation Garden Plot and discovered a massive military surveillance program used against citizens. The FBI's domestic counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO also came to light when the Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI lifted documents and leaked them to the press. And, as we later learned, from 1967 to 1971 the FBI also kept an "agitator index" or ADEX file, which was a list of individuals to be rounded up as subversives.
Operation Cable Splicer, a subplot of Operation Garden Plot which included plans to control civilian populations and take over state and local governments, also appeared to be in play during Hurricane Katrina, when President Bush announced that the Pentagon was developing plans to give the military a larger role in responding to catastrophic events and suggested that the federal government should override state and local authorities. "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces," Bush said in a speech. (The president also announced that the U.S. military could enforce quarantines should there be a bird flu outbreak, which Irwin Redlener, associate Dean of Columbia University's School of Public Health for Disaster Preparedness, deemed an "extraordinarily draconian measure," which translates to "martial law in the United States.").
In 2002, a New York Times editorial stated that the FBI now has "nearly unbridled power to poke into the affairs of anyone in the United States, even when there is no evidence of illegal activity" and one year later, FBI Intelligence Bulletin no. 89 was sent to police departments, revealing that the federal government was advocating that local authorities spy on U.S. citizens. When the Atlanta Police Department acknowledged that it routinely places antiwar protesters under surveillance, Georgia Rep. Nan Orrock told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "This harkens back to some very dark times in our nation's history."
How dark?
NSA wiretapping aside, it's now clear that the Pentagon has been monitoring dangerous militants such as the Quakers while the FBI has been spying on the Catholic Worker's Group, Greenpeace and PETA. As Silencing Political Dissent author Nancy Chang pointed out, "With the advent of electronic record-keeping, the FBI is likely to maintain far more dossiers on law-abiding individuals and to disseminate the dossiers far more widely than during the COINTELPRO era."
Where will all this data mining lead? Who knows? From Sedition Acts, to the suspension of habeas corpus to the internment of fellow Americans, we've been down rocky roads before. And in the aftermath of Sept. 11, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner spelled it out: "We're likely to experience more restrictions on our personal freedom than has ever been the case in our country," she said. Now that writing letters to the editor can be investigated as acts of "sedition" and US citizens can be held without charges for years on end, another terror attack could send us over the edge.
Is a theme coming through in the highlights?  It appears on this end (and I'm going by things that are noted here and many more things that there wasn't room for) that the theme is fed up.  (Our own "f.u." edition.  See The Third Estate Sunday Review's "A note to our readers.")  Fed up with the blatant abuse, with the lack of accountablilty and with just about everyone who has a voice but can't use it.  You'll see that in the next two highlights as well.  First, Rachel notes David Cole's "Are We Safer?" (The New York Review of Books):
According to the Bush administration's Web site, we are "winning the war on terrorism with unrelenting focus and unprecedented cooperation." The US government has captured or killed some three thousand al-Qaeda "operatives," including two thirds of its leadership. Among those captured is the alleged mastermind of September 11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, from whom the government reportedly obtained substantial intelligence, if only after the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture. The Bush administration says it has disrupted terrorist plots throughout the world--the Web site claims 150, although President Bush in a speech in October 2005 claimed only ten. The government has increased security at the borders and airports. The Justice Department has prosecuted more than four hundred people in "terrorism-related investigations" since September 11, and it has, according to the Web site, obtained convictions or guilty pleas in more than two hundred of these cases. It claims to have broken up terrorist cells in Buffalo, Detroit, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and northern Virginia. And over 515 foreign nationals linked to the investigation of September 11 have been deported. Most important for Americans, there has not been another terrorist attack on US soil in the more than four years since September 11.
Of course, President Bush also famously proclaimed victory in Iraq, aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003. (Shortly thereafter, he announced that "we found the weapons of mass destruction.") Since then, more than two thousand Americans and probably ten times as many Iraqis have died in Iraq, and we still haven't found any weapons of mass destruction. So victory proclamations from this administration deserve a strong dose of skepticism.
How does one measure victory in the "global war on terrorism"? In April 2004, the State Department reported that terrorist incidents throughout the world had dropped in the previous year, a fact Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage promptly cited as "clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight" against terrorism. Two months later, a chagrined Colin Powell acknowledged that the department had miscounted, and that in fact terrorism worldwide had increased--where the initial report stated that the number of injuries resulting from international terrorist incidents had fallen from 2,013 in 2002 to 1,593 in 2003, the corrected report stated that in fact terrorist-related injuries had risen to 3,646. In 2005, the State Department eliminated numbers from its annual terrorism report, saying they were too difficult to track accurately, but soon thereafter a leak suggested another reason for the omission--government analysts had found that terrorist incidents worldwide had jumped threefold from 2003 levels, with 651 attacks in 2004 resulting in 1,907 deaths. So much for progress in the global war on terror.
And for the last fed up highlight, Lewis notes Bruce Dixon's upcoming plans to 'honor' those in Congress who dishonor their constituents.  From Dixon's "Bruce's Beat" (The Black Commentator):
Early 20th Century America had its minstrel shows and other depictions of grinning, red-lipped watermelon-eating pickaninnies; its Topsy and Sambo figures in print, advertising and elsewhere. They lent comforting affirmation to white supremacist fantasies of black degradation. At the dawn of the 21st century, we have another cohort of black public figures eager to please the powers that be by debasing themselves and demeaning their black audiences. No, not the ignorant studio gangsters on BET. Well, yes, maybe them too. But today we refer to the clownish cohort of black political figures in Congress and elsewhere, determined to embarrass themselves and frustrate the principle of representative democracy by representing interests other than those of the Black Consensus which elected them. 
To hold these characters up to the scorn and ridicule they deserve, it was announced in last week's column, that some of us at BC and CBC Monitor were thinking about holding a DC awards dinner this summer to hand out what we call the Lawn Jockey Awards, in the tradition of the eminent George Curry, whose 1996 Emerge magazine cover depicted the loathsome Clarence Thomas as "Uncle Thomas: Lawn Jockey For the Far Right." After shopping the idea around and checking our reader email, we can now confirm that the first annual Lawn Jockey Awards will indeed be handed out early this coming summer at a date and location to be announced soon.
Reader J. Dahl Murphy wrote to us about the upcoming awards:
Just finished reading your column about having a lawn jockey awards ceremony in the D. C. area sometime this year. I'm writing to let you know I agree wholeheartedly with the idea. The Jesse Petersons, Niger Innises, Star Parkers, Larry Elders and the likes must be called out. Having the awards ceremony expose these folk out for exactly who they are and what they are trying to do. They must not continue at our expense. We have to start putting them on notice.
Would love TV and Radio One to carry this ceremony live…it will be a yearly tradition.
The Lawn Jockey Award, provided we can make the first one happen, is sure to become an annual event. Failed entertainers and rancid talk show figures like those just mentioned will not be considered. Not that they aren't embarrassing caricatures in their own right, but like the fool DC talk show host Don Imus hired to do on-air N-word jokes, such people are actually doing what they were hired to do. Black elected officials, on the other hand, are generally chosen by large black constituencies, and so have little or no excuse to ignore the Black Consensus. Lawn Jockey awards will therefore be limited to public officials, most likely members of Congress. 
Dictated entry, by the way.  Tonight?  If we have a highlight by a member, we'll note it.
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Even as the Bush administration presses an aggressive campaign against leaks, some Congressional Republicans are joining Democrats in supporting government employees who say they have been punished for disclosing sensitive information on reported abuses.
Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut, is leading the defense of whistle-blowers who have spoken out about abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, illicit federal wiretapping and other matters. "It's absolutely essential that we have a system that allows people to speak out about abuses, especially in the national security realm," Mr. Shays said in an interview.
He said his conviction that current protections were inadequate was strengthened by testimony on Tuesday at a hearing of his House subcommittee on national security by five self-described whistle-blowers who described retaliation for their disclosures. Mr. Shays's concerns are shared by numerous Democrats and some other Republicans, including Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, who has denounced what he calls the mistreatment of a military intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who disclosed the Pentagon's Able Danger data-mining program. Mr. Weldon says he believes that the program identified Mohammed Atta before he became the lead hijacker in the 2001 terrorist attacks, though a Pentagon review found no evidence to support that conclusion.

The above is from Scott Shane's "Bipartisan Support Emerges for Federal Whistle-Blowers" in this morning's New York Times. Bipartisan support? Congress stepping up? At least for today. Don't hold your breath on this. (See previous entry.)

And what else? Well the glacier melt is big news in the Washington Post and in the Los Angeles Times but it's a tiny item (nine paragraphs, check my math) on page A10 of the Times. Also not on the front page is the news that Christopher Joseph Cahill has pled guilty to "inflating" the invoices for flying cargo by 1.14 million dollars, flying cargo into Iraq, of course. And yes, where there are "cost overruns" in Iraq, there is Halliburton, this time via Kellogg, Brown & Root. That news (by James Glanz) lands on A6 because, certainly, nothing is bigger news than the fact that the Olympics aren't performing well in the Nielsen ratings. In the eyes of the Times, that is front page news. Not global warming, not war profittering (with a guilty plea) but TV ratings.
Other than that, David D. Kirkpatrick demonstrates that he can write clearly on a potential Congress scandal involving lobbying with "Specter Denies Funneling Money for Lobbyist" in this morning's New York Times.

Moving on to more worthy topics and journalism sources, Robin notes "Less Butter, More Guns" (The Nation):

The budget is an annual statement of national priorities and in even-numbered years also serves as a campaign platform for the party in power. This President's new spending priorities are grotesque--a cruel distortion of what matters to Americans--and riddled with deceptions. For the campaign, however, Bush's slogan is surprisingly frank: "Cut the butter, give us more guns." Terror is his theme, as usual. But instead of pretending, as he has in the past, that the war will be painless on the home front, Bush now asks people to choose between their fears and their hopes. That's a far riskier gamble, and one he just might lose.
Bush's budget is littered with phony claims and fanciful projections, but it does clearly frame a potentially decisive debate: Do Americans acquiesce to the "long war" envisioned by Pentagon planners? Or will Congress at last choke on the folly and open-ended costs of this new cold war? Bush is determined to convert America into a permanent war economy. If we reject his priorities we can perhaps turn back a national disaster before it's too late.

Martha notes an appearance by Danny Schechter this week:

I am in Boston this weekend speaking to the National Association of College Bookers.

If we get more details, we'll note them here.

Must read article for today? Joni says Athan G. Theoharis' "The FISA File" (The Nation):

With a debate now raging over George W. Bush's secret authorization of warrantless wiretaps by the National Security Agency in defiance of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, we must take another look at why Congress passed the act in the first place. The legislative history clearly shows that the intention was to deny the President the unchecked right to determine whether a proposed target met a legitimate "foreign intelligence" need. Instead, Congress ordained that all proposals to intercept such communications with foreigners must first be reviewed and approved by a special FISA court.
Prodding Congress into action in 1978 were recent revelations of abuses by the NSA. One was Operation Shamrock, instituted in 1947 to intercept telegraph messages; another was Operation Minaret, created in 1967 to intercept the electronic communications of militant civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists. NSA officials knew these programs were illegal and accordingly devised procedures to preclude discovery of their actions. Also important were revelations that President Nixon had co-opted the NSA and the FBI to advance his own political and policy agendas.
Nixon's abuses started after Congress passed the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act. This law included a section allowing wiretapping that had been banned by the 1934 Communications Act and authorizing its use if a warrant had been obtained. But it also stated that the warrant requirement would not "limit the constitutional power of the President to take such measures as he deems necessary to protect the Nation against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power, to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States, or to protect national security information against foreign intelligence activities." During the debate on this proposal, Senator Philip Hart asked Senators John McClellan and Spessard Holland, the floor leaders on the bill, whether this provision gave "the President a blank check to tap or bug without judicial supervision, when he finds, on his own motion, that an activity poses a 'clear and present danger to the Government of the United States.'" McClellan and Holland denied that it would. They contended that the language was neutral and did not "affirmatively" grant any such powers to the President but merely stated that the President's (undefined) constitutional powers were not restricted.

Rod gives us heads up to some scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now!:

* We will play an excerpt of the Australian news report that first broadcast the new Abu Ghraib torture photos and video.
* We will also talk to journalist Mark Benjamin who obtained the new Abu Ghraib torture photos for
* Alfred McCoy will discuss his new book, "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror."

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NYT: The paper, like the Congress, can't wait to wear the "Kick Me!" sign

Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said Thursday that they had agreed to open a Congressional inquiry prompted by the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program. But a dispute immediately broke out among committee Republicans over the scope of the inquiry.
Representative Heather A. Wilson, the New Mexico Republican and committee member who called last week for the investigation, said the review "will have multiple avenues, because we want to completely understand the program and move forward."
But an aide to Representative Peter Hoekstra, the Michigan Republican who leads the committee, said the inquiry would be much more limited in scope, focusing on whether federal surveillance laws needed to be changed and not on the eavesdropping program itself.
The agreement to conduct an inquiry came as the Senate Intelligence Committee put off a vote on conducting its own investigation after the White House, reversing course, agreed to open discussions about changing federal surveillance law. Senate Democrats accused Republicans of bowing to White House pressure.

The above is from Eric Lichtblau and Sheryl Gay Stolberg's "Accord in House to Hold Inquiry on Surveillance" in this morning's New York Times. And it's as though everyone in Congress has borrowed the "Kick Me!" sign that was thought to be permanently affixed to Joe Lieberman's back.

We've all seen this dance before. Bully Boy feigns interest in working together and then goes off and does what he wants. Congress is intent on stripping itself of power. Note this from the article:

Instead, the administration appears interested in a proposal by Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, that would explicitly authorize the wiretapping, without court warrants, but create small Congressional subcommittees to oversee it.

Constitutional scholars agree Bully Boy's broken the law, the president at the time FISA was enacted, Jimmy Carter, calls Bully Boy's actions illegal. But instead of addressing that, the cowardly Congress is willing to once again give up their power to the Bully Boy ("Do whatever you want! Just like with Iraq!"). "You're breaking the law!" they seem to scream before adding, "So let us fix the law so you won't be breaking it!"

Going back to the article, note this paragraph:

Elsewhere on Thursday, a federal judge ordered the administration to begin turning over internal documents on the surveillance program, the Justice Department balked at having John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, and other former department officials testify about it before Congress, and lawyers for a Kentucky man prepared to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit on Friday against President Bush to have the surveillance declared illegal and unconstitutional.

That's a lot of information to pack into one sentence. But, like the priest asking Cher in Moonstruck to go back to one detail, what's that thing about John Ashcroft? Readers of the Times will have no idea if they understood that correctly or not because the paper's done with that bit of news after that paragraph.

So we turn to the Washington Post's Charles Babington and Carol D. Leonnig's "Senate Rejects Wiretapping Probe:"

The Bush administration helped derail a Senate bid to investigate a warrantless eavesdropping program yesterday after signaling it would reject Congress's request to have former attorney general John D. Ashcroft and other officials testify about the program's legality. The actions underscored a dramatic and possibly permanent drop in momentum for a congressional inquiry, which had seemed likely two months ago.
Senate Democrats said the Republican-led Congress was abdicating its obligations to oversee a controversial program in which the National Security Agency has monitored perhaps thousands of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents and foreign parties without obtaining warrants from a secret court that handles such matters.

Those are the opening two paragraphs. What the Times wants to whisper as an aside and then drop is the opening in the Post. This is a major issue, though the Times isn't interested in covering it as such. (If they've written an editorial, visiters don't e-mail me and bore me with it. We focus on the reporting not the editorial posturing and it's harder and harder to see that as anything other than posturing when the reporters fail to note facts -- not opinions, facts -- that make it into the editorials but never make it into the reporting of the paper.) For anyone who's forgotten, this issue did come up at the hearings. At the hearings, Gonzales tried to weasel his way out but finally settled on that whether or not J-Ass was called before the Senate was the decision of "the chair" (Arlen Specter) and "the chair" was for calling Ashcroft at the time.

Long excerpt from Gonzales' testimony to the Senate:

SCHUMER: I understand. And you are doing your job.
And that's why I am requesting, as I have in the past, but renewing it here today, reaffirmed even more strongly by your testimony and everything else, that we invite these people, that we invite former Attorney General Ashcroft, Deputy Attorney General Comey, OLC Chair Goldsmith to this hearing and actually compel them to come if they won't on their own.
And as for privilege, I certainly...
SPECTER: If I may interrupt you for just one moment...
SCHUMER: Please.
SPECTER: ... you'll have extra time...
SCHUMER: Yes, thank you.
SPECTER: ... I think the record was in great shape where I left it at. If you bring in Attorney General Ashcroft, that's a critical step.
SPECTER: It wasn't that I hadn't thought of Mr. Comey and Mr. Goldsmith and other people, but I sought to leave the record with the agreement of the attorney general to bring in former Attorney General Ashcroft.
SCHUMER: Mr. Chairman, I respect that. I think others are important as well.
But I want to get to the issue of privilege here.
SPECTER: I'm not saying they aren't important. I'm just saying, what's the best way to get them here?
SCHUMER: OK. Well, whatever way we can, I'd be all for.
On privilege -- because that's going to be the issue, even if they come here, as I'm sure you will acknowledge, Mr. Chairman -- I take it you'd have no problem with them talking about their general views on the legality of this program, just as you are talking about those; not to go into the specific details of what happened back then, but their general views on the legality of these programs.
SCHUMER: Do you have any problem with that?
GONZALES: General views of the program that the president has confirmed, Senator, that's -- again, if we're talking about the general views of the...
SCHUMER: I just want them to be able to testify as freely as you've testified here, because it wouldn't be fair if you're an advocate of administration policies, you have one set of rules and if you're an opponent or a possible opponent of administration policies, you have another set of rules. That's not unfair, is it?
GONZALES: Sir, it's up to the chairman to...
SCHUMER: No, but would you or the administration -- you, as the chief legal officer -- have any problem with them testifying in the same way you did about general legal views of the program? GONZALES: I would defer to the chairman.
SCHUMER: I'm not asking you -- sir, in all due respect, I'm not asking you what the chairman thinks. He's doing a good job here, and I don't begrudge that one bit. GONZALES: Sir, my answer is...
SCHUMER: I'm asking you what the administration would think in terms of exercising any claim of privilege.
You're not going to have -- I'm sorry, here -- you're not going to have different rules for yourself, an administration advocate, then for these people who might be administration dissenters in one way or another, are you?
GONZALES: Sir, I don't know if you're asking what are they going to say...
SCHUMER: I'm not asking you that.
Would the rules be same? I think you answer that yes or no.
GONZALES: If they came to testify?
SCHUMER: Correct.
GONZALES: Well, sir, the client here is the president of the United States. I'm not sure it's in my place to offer...
SCHUMER: Or his chief...
GONZALES: ... up a position or my recommendation to you about what I might recommend to the president of the United States would not be appropriate here.
SCHUMER: What would be -- I just am asking you, as a very fine, well-educated lawyer, should or could the rules be any different for what you are allowed to say with privilege hovering over your head and what they are allowed to say with those same privileges hovering over their heads? Should the rules be any different?
If you can't say "yes" to that, then that's fundamentally unfair. It's saying that these hearings, or that -- it's saying really that the administration doesn't have the confidence to get out the whole truth.
GONZALES: Sir, my hesitation is, quite frankly, I haven't thought recently about the issue about former employees coming to testify about their legal analysis or their legal recommendations to their client, and that is the source of my hesitation.

For the record, the attorney general's "client" is not the Bully Boy. The attorney general's client is the United States of America. For those with short term memories or no memories at all, Janet Reno grasped the fact that not ready for the job now or ever Gonzales can't grasp: the "client" is the United States of America. That's whom the Justice Department and the Attorney General is supposed to serve. That's why Janet Reno didn't tell the idiotic Ken Starr, "Uh, sorry, my client is Bill Clinton! Go to hell you self-rightous prig!" (Though she may very well have wanted to tell him the latter statement.)

Also for the record, the chair, Arlen Specter (in his own troubles or mini-troubles, see next entry) agreed that J-Ass should be called. Back then Alberto Gonzales was trying his usual weasel manuever of not answering but did say it was the decision of the chair. These days? He's of the opinion that the Senate doesn't have the right or the power to call J-Ass. The Senate appears fine with that -- as a whole, some Democrats (such as Rockefeller) are objecting loudly and their objections are noted . . . just not in the New York Times that backed off this story a long time ago (and we pointed that out here). The Times, like the kick-me senators, thinks it can go light and easy and that some slack will be cut regarding the probe into how they came to break to the story (that they never wanted to break and that they were forced into breaking but a New Republican, who frequently writes for the Times as contract labor, has a fit if you bring that up and screams "tone!").

And for all the make nice efforts on the part of some senators, the White House reaction? From the Los Angeles Times, Greg Miller and "Spying Inquiry Blocked by GOP:"

"We maintain that the president does not need additional congressional authority," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said. But she said the administration was now willing to discuss a GOP proposal that contained "some good legislative concepts that would not undermine the president's ability to protect Americans."

Said as the "Kick Me!" sign is slapped on the back of the Congress. There was a time, believe or not, when regardless of who was in the oval office, Congress was determined not only to use their powers but to show that they had just as much say as any of the three branches. Those days are gone.

Rod gives us heads up to some scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now!:

* We will play an excerpt of the Australian news report that first broadcast
the new Abu Ghraib torture photos and video.
* We will also talk to journalist Mark Benjamin who obtained the new Abu
Ghraib torture photos for
* Alfred McCoy will discuss his new book, "A Question of Torture: CIA
Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror."

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