Archive for C.I.A.

Exporting Hate & Terror In The Name Of God

Posted in Politics, Religion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2010 by halmasonberg

Sounds like something one might accuse Al Qaeda of. But what if it were suggested the United States of America were on a religious crusade all its own? Last year, former French President Jacques Chirac told the world that, while the White House was assembling its “coalition of the willing” to invade Iraq, then president George W. Bush appealed to their common faith in Christianity during a private chat. According to Chirac, Bush stated:

“Gog and Magog are at work in the Middle East…. The biblical prophecies are being fulfilled…. This confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies before a New Age begins.”

While this is old news by now and a quote I’ve referenced before, it seems to have been one-upped by a recent report that weapons maker Trijicon has been supplying high-powered rifle sights to the U.S. Army and Marines with coded references to specific Bible passages. One such reference on the gun sights is 2COR4:6, also known as Second Corinthian 4:6 of the New testament:

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

These “Jesus-encoded” sights are being used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. Oddly enough, U.S. Military rule prohibits proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan. The whole notion behind this rule was to prevent any country or individual from claiming the United States was on a religious “Crusade.” Well… it seems some, including but obviously not restricted to the president who led us into those very wars, were, indeed, on a religious crusade. So where does that leave us now?

The American people were lied to about WMDs, our own CIA directly misled Congress, we defied the United Nations, we angered and alienated much of the world with that defiance, we resorted to torture tactics we swore we would never use, we engaged in a preemptive strike against another country for the first time in our nation’s history, and over 100,000 human lives have been lost that would not have been otherwise… At what point do Americans realize that the Bush Administration turned the United States of America into a rogue nation and desecrated almost everything we have claimed to stand for? And still I see people finding reasons to support that same administration, all the while professing that President Obama is attempting to destroy our nation, trying to make us a socialist country, a totalitarian country, even a fascist country.

So while the largest corporations in the States get fat on the blood of Iraq, including Trijicon who have a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corp and even more to the U.S. Army, America’s own citizens have been tossed into a deep recession. And the president who has managed to prevent that recession from becoming a full-on depression, all the while trying to repair a deeply damaged health care system that doesn’t care for its own, has come under attack as a man who is trying to destroy this country and everything it stands for.

At what point do we heed the lessons and shame of Joseph McCarthy and the fear that drove that man and his many, many followers? At what point do we face up to the fact that our country and its citizens were lied to, led astray? At what point do we, as a nation, choose to enter into adulthood and face our own demons? When do we, as Dick Cheney would call it, “Man-up”?

A recent hearing in the U.K. on that country’s involvement in the war in Iraq revealed that the U.S. was already discussing plans to invade Iraq less than a month after George W. Bush took office. This was, if you haven’t already figured it out, long before the 9/11 attacks. These plans are well-documented in the Downing Street Memo transcribing the minutes of a meeting between Tony Blair’s senior ministers on July 23, 2002.

That same recent U.K. hearing also reportedly revealed that Blair lied to the public when he claimed that Britain’s objective in the invasion of Iraq was ‘disarmament’ and not ‘regime change.’

Too bad we haven’t yet had hearings of our own on this side of the Atlantic. Maybe it would open some of those tightly shut eyes still mourning the loss of the good Christian president who so valiantly protected our nation through what is known as the Bush Doctrine which includes a policy of “preventive” war which held that:

The security environment confronting the United States today is radically different from what we have faced before. Yet the first duty of the United States Government remains what it always has been: to protect the American people and American interests. It is an enduring American principle that this duty obligates the government to anticipate and counter threats, using all elements of national power, before the threats can do grave damage. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. There are few greater threats than a terrorist attack with WMD.

To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense. The United States will not resort to force in all cases to preempt emerging threats. Our preference is that nonmilitary actions succeed. And no country should ever use preemption as a pretext for aggression.

But what is it we’ve actually done? According to the above-mentioned U.K. hearing:

In the public record, there is a large amount of evidence that vividly illustrates Bush’s long-standing intent to invade Iraq, Bush’s willingness to provoke Saddam Hussein into providing a pretext for war, the fact that the Iraq war began with an air campaign almost a year before the March 2003 invasion and months before Congress approved the war, Bush’s widespread attempt to crush dissent and manipulate information to justify the lies he used to start the Iraq war and the lack of planning for the aftermath of the Iraq war as well as the lack of a fundamental understanding of the Iraqi society.

To further illustrate then President Bush’s “mission” as he saw it, I quote a passage from his 2003 State of the Union address:

“Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.”

Unfortunately, men like George W. Bush never seem to understand that what they see as the “right” way for America is not the only way. I’m not saying all nations shouldn’t be free, I’m saying that we, America, do not have all the answers and it is beyond arrogant to assume we do. It is downright criminal to take that misguided belief and stake human lives on it. Especially when that belief is weighed down by religious conviction; by a man and an administration with little understanding of the culture, people and religions of the countries they are invading. Many great nations before ours have fallen in pursuit of the very same fallacious ideologies that drove Mr. Bush and his followers.

But how do you get a country and its people to follow along on such a path? Author Naomi Klein wrote in her book The Shock Doctrine that the Bush Administration exploited  a “window of opportunity that opens in a state of shock, subsequently followed with a comforting rationale for the public, as a form of social control.”

For any country to grow, it must take a cold, hard look at itself. It must ask the difficult questions. We have an opportunity now to start fixing the deep damage that was incurred during the Bush Administration and the 9/11 attacks on our country. Both victimized the American people. Neither wound is anywhere close to being healed. But in taking that deep look, we might find that we–as abhorrent a notion as it is–may have temporarily become our own worst enemy and the exporters of the very thing we claim to be fighting against.

Torture Probe Offends The Hell Out Of Cheney. Bummer.

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2009 by halmasonberg

s-CHENEY-largeThe actions and reactions of Dick Cheney will be spoken about for decades, maybe centuries. And hopefully they will be a continued reminder–a signpost, if you will–to how America can be co-opted by someone so out of touch, so completely in his own world, as to turn America into many of the things we’ve worked so hard to change in other parts of the world.

Rule number one: America doesn’t torture. Period. This is not a negotiable area. But Cheney and his team of cronies felt–nay, knew–what needed to be done. And the rule of law was irrelevant. Now it’s altogether possible that Cheney truly believed this was what was best for the country. Perhaps his actions, all of them, are based in his deep love for this country and its citizens. I have my doubts about this, but even if it were true, you cannot take the law into your own hands or try to bend, stretch or alter the law to suit your needs.

Now that Attorney General Eric Holder has opened an investigation into the illegal torture practices used by the CIA in interrogating terrorist suspects, Cheney is livid, claiming the investigation “offends the hell out of me.”

Does he not get how his actions and the actions of the Bush Administration offended the hell out of many Americans and other citizens of the world? Clearly not. Cheney and company were rogue leaders. They ignored the rule of law and made a mockery of the constitution of the United States. That’s my opinion. Both now and then.

Cheney claims the use of torture was instrumental in preventing further terrorist attacks on the U.S. That may or may not be true. The newly released CIA documents claim, in fact, that it is difficult to make that assessment. Cheney claims this was the only way to defend the nation. American law suggests there are other ways. More humane ways. And regardless of whether or not these torture practices were effective, the bottom line is Cheney and the CIA may have taken the law into their own hands, regardless of intent. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Even Republican Senator John McCain who, himself, underwent torture as a POW, stated unequivocally:

“I think the interrogations were in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the convention against torture that we ratified under President Reagan. I think these interrogations, once publicized, helped al Qaeda recruit. I got that from an al Qaeda operative in a prison camp in Iraq… I think that the ability of us to work with our allies was harmed. And I believe that information, according go the FBI and others, could have been gained through other members.”

However, Senator McCain, oddly enough, does not feel there should be an investigation:

“I believe the president was right when he said we ought to go forward and not back. I worry about the morale and effectiveness of the CIA. I worry about this thing getting out of control and us harming our ability to carry out the struggle we are in with radical Islamic extremism.”

It is here that I will differ in opinion with the senator. Law is, in part, a deterrent. It is not simply a punishment for specific behavior. It is in place to create responsibility. If you perform an illegal action, you will be subject to this specific consequence. Individuals or groups who break the law, do so with the knowledge that, if caught, they will face a court of law. If the school of thought with presidents and their administrations is that if you break the law and are caught, there is a good chance you may still walk away unscathed and not have to take responsibility for your actions, then we are opening the door to more presidents and administrations breaking the law with the knowledge that the consequences to them will be little if any. This goes against everything this country stands for, in my opinion. It goes against the very rule of law itself.

There are a lot of people out there, both here and abroad, who want many who worked within and under the Bush Administration to face a court of law to defend their actions. We MUST hold our highest officials to that rule, otherwise we have lost those qualities that make America a shining example of a better, freer way of life. A more civilized way. A way that respects all humankind.

I, personally, think we have a long way to go. But I’d like to see us take some further steps in that direction. Perhaps this investigation is one of those steps.

Obama Birth Certificate History Lesson 101

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2009 by halmasonberg

obama2
According to the right-leaning World Net Daily:

If Lolo Soetoro [Obama's step-father] adopted Obama at age five or younger, then Obama would automatically have become an Indonesian citizen according to the country’s laws in the 1960′s, which stipulated any child aged five or younger adopted by an Indonesian father is immediately granted Indonesian citizenship upon completion of the adoption process.

Lolo Soetoro could have adopted Obama in Hawaii, although such an adoption would not have necessarily been recognized by Indonesia.

Indonesian law at the time also did not recognize dual citizenship, meaning if Obama became Indonesian, then as far as that country was concerned, his U.S. citizenship was no longer recognized by Indonesia. But U.S. law would still recognize Obama as an American citizen.

If Obama indeed possessed Indonesian citizenship as a child, it is unlikely he retains such citizenship. The country’s bylaws require any Indonesian citizen living abroad for more than five years to formally declare his intention to return, otherwise risk losing his citizenship status.

Indonesian school registration for "Barry Soetoro" (AP photo)

Indonesian school registration for “Barry Soetoro” (AP photo)

According to CNN:

Obama lived in Indonesia as a child, from 1967 to 1971.

According to MSNBC:

Obama, who was born in Hawaii, moved to Indonesia at age 6 to live with his mother and stepfather, attending schools in the country until age 10, when he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents.

According to WikiAnswers:

Starting at age 6, Obama attended a Catholic school in Indonesia. At age 8, he attended a public school in Indonesia, nominally a Muslim school, which is where the “Muslim” tempest in a teapot comes form.

According to the Washington Post:

Birthers who commented on our Thursday posting generally continued to claim that Obama has not produced a true birth certificate, and that the document he produced last year is a fake.

They’re also fixated on the type of birth document issued by the Hawaiian government, which is called a “certification of live birth.” They refuse for some reason to believe that a certification is the same as a birth certificate.

By all rational accounts, the two documents are most certainly one and the same, only with different titles…

A certification of live birth is the “official birth certificate” of Hawaii, according to the state’s Department of Health spokeswoman, Janice Okubo. And the nonpartisan, nonprofit Factcheck.org, which examined Obama’s original birth certificate last year at the president’s campaign headquarters in Chicago, concluded, “It meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship.”

To those who continue to speculate Obama’s birth certificate was destroyed, Hawaiian health department officials answered that point of hysteria as well this week.

We don’t destroy vital records,” Okubo said. “That’s our whole job, to maintain and retain vital records.” State health officials said the original birth certificate, the same one reviewed by Factcheck.org, is back in storage in Hawaii.

But still, the birthers ask, why won’t President Obama release his original birth certificate and possibly bury the issue once and for all?

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent answer to this question: “Why should he? The demand has no basis in principle and would have no practical benefit.”

James Taranto writes in his “Best of the Web” column, “Obama has already provided a legal birth certificate demonstrating that he was born in Hawaii. No one has produced any serious evidence to the contrary. Absent such evidence, it is unreasonable to deny that Obama has met the burden of proof. We know that he was born in Honolulu as surely as we know that Bill Clinton was born in Hope, Ark., or George W. Bush in New Haven, Conn.

“The release of the obsolete birth certificate would not ‘resolve the issue’ to those for whom it is not already resolved. They claim without basis that today’s birth certificate is a fake; there is nothing to stop them from claiming without basis that yesterday’s is as well.”

According to the Los Angeles Times:

CNN/U.S. President Jon Klein told staffers of “Lou Dobbs Tonight”… that CNN researchers had determined that Hawaiian officials discarded paper documents in 2001. Because of that, Obama’s long-form birth certificate no longer exists and a shorter certificate of live birth that has been made public is the official record, they reported.

“It seems to definitively answer the question,” Klein wrote in the e-mail, first reported by the website TVNewser. “Since the show’s mission is for Lou to be the explainer and enlightener, he should be sure to cite this during your segment tonite. And then it seems this story is dead — because anyone who still is not convinced doesn’t really have a legitimate beef.”

According to World Net Daily:

Directly contradicting CNN chief Jon Klein – who ordered host Lou Dobbs to quit discussing President Obama’s birth certificate – the Hawaii Department of Health affirmed that no paper birth certificates were destroyed when the department moved to electronic record-keeping.

“I am not aware of any birth certificate records that have been destroyed by the department,” Janice Okubo, public information officer for the Hawaii DOH, told WND. “When the department went electronic in 2001, vital records, whether in paper form or any other form, [were] maintained. We don’t destroy records.”

Okubo affirmed that beginning in 2001, all vital records, including birth records, moved to electronic formats.

“Any records that we had in paper or any other form before 2001 are still in file within the department,” she insisted. “We have not destroyed any vital statistics records that we have.”

According to USA Today:

Hawaii‘s health director reiterated Monday afternoon that she has personally seen Obama’s birth certificate in the Health Department’s archives:

“I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawaii State Department of Health verifying Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen. I have nothing further to add to this statement or my original statement issued in October 2008 over eight months ago….”

According to Leonard Pitts Jr. in the Miami Herald:

My daughter was born in Los Angeles County on Sept. 4, 1990. I know this because I was there. Should that not be proof enough, I also have her birth certificate.

We requested it years ago and received a document that looks nothing like the ones I have for my folks, with names and parentage typed in tiny boxes. By contrast, this was a computer-generated abstract with my daughter’s data neatly printed on it. We asked why we couldn’t get a “real” birth certificate and were told this one “is” real; this is how they do it now. Indeed, the inscription on the certificate proclaims: “This certified document is a true abstract of the official record filed with the Registrar-Recorder.”

We used that document to get my daughter’s Social Security card, so I figure a “true abstract” is good enough for the federal government. But evidently, it’s not good enough for Stefan Cook, Orly Taitz, Rush Limbaugh, Philip Berg and Lou Dobbs.

Barack Obama, you see, has a birth certificate much like my daughter’s, documenting his birth in Hawaii on Aug. 4, 1961. He’s made it available online, just a Google search away.

According to the right-leaning National Review:

The mission of National Review has always included keeping the Right honest, which includes debunking crackpot conspiracy theories. The theory that Obama was born in Kenya, that he was smuggled into the U.S., and that his parents somehow hoodwinked Hawaiian authorities into falsely certifying his birth in Oahu, is crazy stuff. Even Obama’s dual Kenyan citizenship is of dubious materiality: It is a function of foreign law, involving no action on his part (to think otherwise, you’d have to conclude that if Yemen passed a law tomorrow saying, “All Americans except, of course, Jews are hereby awarded Yemeni citizenship,” only Jewish Americans could henceforth run for president).

In any event, even if you were of a mind to indulge the Kenyan-birth fantasy, stop, count to ten, and think: Hillary Clinton. Is there any chance on God’s green earth that, if Obama were not qualified to be president, the Clinton machine would have failed to get that information out?…

The fundamental fiction is that Obama has refused to release his “real” birth certificate. This is untrue. The document that Obama has made available is the document that Hawaiian authorities issue when they are asked for a birth certificate. There is no secondary document cloaked in darkness, only the state records that are used to generate birth certificates when they are requested…

What Obama has made available is a Hawaiian “certification of live birth” (emphasis added), not a birth certificate (or what the state calls a “certificate of live birth”). The certification form provides a short, very general attestation of a few facts about the person’s birth: name and sex of the newborn; date and time of birth; city or town of birth, along with the name of the Hawaiian island and the county; the mother’s maiden name and race; the father’s name and race; and the date the certification was filed. This certification is not the same thing as the certificate, which is what I believe we were referring to in the editorial as “the state records that are used to generate birth certificates [sic] when they are requested.”

To the contrary, “the state records” are the certificate. They are used to generate the more limited birth certifications on request. …these state records are far more detailed. They include, for example, the name of the hospital, institution, or street address where the birth occurred; the full name, age, birthplace, race, and occupation of each parent; the mother’s residential address (and whether that address is within the city or town of birth); the signature of at least one parent (or “informant”) attesting to the accuracy of the information provided; the identity and signature of an attending physician (or other “attendant”) who certifies the occurrence of a live birth at the time and place specified; and the identity and signature of the local registrar who filed the birth record…

There’s speculation out there from the former CIA officer Larry Johnson who is no right-winger and is convinced the president was born in Hawaii that the full state records would probably show Obama was adopted by the Indonesian Muslim Lolo Soetoro and became formally known as “Barry Soetoro.” Obama may have wanted that suppressed for a host of reasons: issues about his citizenship, questions about his name (it’s been claimed that Obama represented in his application to the Illinois bar that he had never been known by any name other than Barack Obama).

According to Politifact:

On Oct. 31, 2008, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawaii Department of Health, issued this statement: “There have been numerous requests for Sen. Barack Hussein Obama’s official birth certificate. State law prohibits the release of a certified birth certificate to persons who do not have a tangible interest in the vital record.

“Therefore I, as director of health for the state of Hawaii, along with the registrar of Vital Statistics who has statutory authority to oversee and maintain these type of vital records, have personally seen and verified that the Hawaii State Department of Health has Sen. Obama’s original birth certificate on record in accordance with state policies and procedures.

“No state official, including Gov. Linda Lingle, has ever instructed that this vital record be handled in a manner different from any other vital record in the possession of the state of Hawaii.”

Even the governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, a Republican who at the time was stumping for John McCain, said it was on the up-and-up…
The new argument goes like this: Obama never published his “Birth Certificate” (a “Certificate of Live Birth”) on the Internet; what he posted was a “Certification of Live Birth,” what WorldNetDaily describes as “a ‘short-form’ document that is generated on-the-spot and based on what is contained in a computer database at the time it was printed out.”

Some on the Internet speculate that the original “long form” — which might include the hospital where he was born as well as the attending physician — might show Obama was foreign-born and ineligible to be president, but that that wouldn’t show up on the “short form.”

Moreover, WorldNetDaily claims even the state of Hawaii doesn’t accept “Certification of Live Birth” as proof that an individual was physically born in Hawaii.

They point to a policy from the Hawaii Department of Home Lands, which stated on its Web site:

“In order to process your application, DHHL utilizes information that is found only on the original Certificate of Live Birth, which is either black or green. This is a more complete record of your birth than the Certification of Live Birth (a computer-generated printout). Submitting the original Certificate of Live Birth will save you time and money since the computer-generated Certification requires additional verification by DHHL.”

That’s actually a misnomer, said Lloyd Yonenaka, a spokesman for DHLL. In order to be eligible for their program, you must prove that your ancestry is at least 50 percent native Hawaiian. And when he says native, he means indigenous. They don’t even care if you were born in Hawaii. They use birth certificates as a starting point to look into a person’s ancestry. Very different.

Here’s what the DHLL site says now: “The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands accepts both Certificates of Live Birth (original birth certificate) and Certifications of Live Birth because they are official government records documenting an individual’s birth. The Certificate of Live Birth generally has more information which is useful for genealogical purposes as compared to the Certification of Live Birth which is a computer-generated printout that provides specific details of a person’s birth. Although original birth certificates (Certificates of Live Birth) are preferred for their greater detail, the State Department of Health (DOH) no longer issues Certificates of Live Birth. When a request is made for a copy of a birth certificate, the DOH issues a Certification of Live Birth.”
When we spoke to a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Health, she said too much was being made of the difference between the so-called “long” and “short” forms.

“They’re just words,” said spokeswoman Janice Okubo. “That (what was posted on the Internet) is considered a birth certificate from the state of Hawaii.”

“There’s only one form of birth certificate,” she said, and it’s been the same since the 1980s. Birth certificates evolve over the decades, she said, and there are no doubt differences between the way birth certificates looked when Obama was born and now.

“When you request a birth certificate, the one you get looks exactly like the one posted on his site,” she said. “That’s the birth certificate.”

As for the theory that Obama’s original birth certificate might show he was foreign-born, Okubo said the “Certification of Live Birth” would say so. Obama’s does not. Again, it says he was born in Honolulu.

We have one more thing. We talked to reporter Will Hoover, who wrote a well-researched story for theHonolulu Advertiser on Nov. 9, 2008, about Obama’s childhood years in the the Aloha State. It ran under the headline “Obama Slept Here.”

In researching the story, he went to the microfilm archives and found the birth announcement for Obama. Actually, he found two of them, one in his Honululu Advertiser on Aug. 13 , 1961, and in theHonolulu Star-Bulletin the next day . They both said the same thing: “Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Highway, son, Aug. 4.”

But here’s the thing. Newspaper officials he checked with confirmed those notices came from the state Department of Health.

“That’s not the kind of stuff a family member calls in and says, ‘Hey, can you put this in?’” Hoover explained.

Take a second and think about that. In order to phony those notices up, it would have required the complicity of the state Health Department and two independent newspapers — on the off chance this unnamed child might want to one day be president of the United States.

According to U.S. News And World Report:

Dixie may once have been the so-called land of cotton, but it has become the cradle of creeping Birtherism. According to a new poll from Research 2000 (commissioned by Daily Kos), a majority of Southerners either believe that Barack Obama was not born in the United States (23 percent) or are not sure (30 percent). Only 47 percent of Southern respondents believe Obama was born in the USA. By contrast, 93 percent of Northeasterns said yes, he was born here, 90 percent of Midwesterners did and 87 percent of Westerners.

Wow.

And while 93 percent of Democrats say he was born in the country and 83 percent of Independents, the figure is only 42 percent for Republicans. A majority of Republicans either believe he was born abroad (28 percent) or don’t know (30 percent).

According to Politico:

In short, the problem faced by today’s conservatives is that there is no one of sufficient stature, and no group of serious political operatives, to tell the “birthers” to cut it out — to disown them as they deserve to be disowned. It’s a sad state of affairs. The entire political process suffers as a result.

According to Bill Maher:

For the last couple of weeks, we’ve all been laughing heartily at the wacky antics of the “birthers” — the far-right goofballs who claim Barack Obama wasn’t really born in Hawaii and therefore the job of president goes to the runner-up, former Miss California Carrie Prejean.

Also, when Obama was sworn in as president, he forgot to give his answer in the form of a question.

And yet, every week, the chorus of conservatives demanding to see his birth certificate grows. It’s like they’re the Cambridge police, Obama’s in his house — the White House — and they need to see some ID.

And there’s nothing anyone can do to convince these folks. You could hand them, in person, the original birth certificate and have a video of Obama emerging from the womb with Don Ho singing in the background … and they still wouldn’t believe it.

This isn’t a case of Democrats versus Republicans. It’s sentient beings versus the lizard people, and it is to them I offer this deal: I’ll show you Obama’s birth certificate when you show me Sarah Palin’s high school diploma.

Sorry, couldn’t resist that last one.

Draw your own conclusions.

Cheney Behind CIA Concealment Of Secret Counterterrorism Program

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2009 by halmasonberg

12intel_190No surprise here. And the odds are that little-to-nothing will come of it, but according to CIA agency director Leon P. Panetta, former VP Dick Cheney gave the direct order for the CIA to withhold information from Congress for 8 years regarding a secret counterterrorism program.

The program in question is still unidentified and never became fully operational. Panetta himself only learned of the program on June 23rd and quickly put an end to it and briefed two Congressional intelligence committees in separate closed sessions.

This is not the first time Congress has discovered that critical information was being withheld by Cheney and the Bush Administration. The recent waterboarding “scandal” was one of the more publicly discussed.

According to the New York Times:

The law requires the president to make sure the intelligence committees “are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity.” But the language of the statute, the amended National Security Act of 1947, leaves some leeway for judgment, saying such briefings should be done “to the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters.”

In addition, for covert action programs, a particularly secret category in which the role of the United States is hidden, the law says that briefings can be limited to the so-called Gang of Eight, consisting of the Republican and Democratic leaders of both houses of Congress and of their intelligence committees.

All this comes one day after the inspector general’s report that Cheney restricted knowledge of the National Security Agency’s program of eavesdropping without warrants, “a degree of secrecy that the report concluded had hurt the effectiveness of the counterterrorism surveillance effort,” according to the Times.

While Mr. Cheney will most likely be found to have been within the limits of the law or, at worst, skirting the edges of it, it’s important info to know. And while some may agree that Cheney’s decision to keep this information concealed was the right one, Panetta’s decision to end the program and inform Congress right away suggests a different school of thought.

The effectiveness of our entire system is compromised if information that is meant to be shared with Congress is not. There must be some measure of oversight if the government is to remain “for the people.” Otherwise, we find ourselves in danger of living in the type of society the Republican’s keep warning us that those “liberal Democrats” are trying to create wherein the government has far too much control.

The pot calling the kettle black, I’d say.

Obama, McCain & Afghanistan’s Downward Spiral

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2008 by halmasonberg

Barack Obama said in the last two debates that we dropped the ball in Afghansitan; that we took our eye off the prize, let Osama Bin Laden get away, have allowed the Taliban to regroup and regain its strength, and all because the Bush Administration decided–for reasons that turned out not to be true–to place the bulk of our military in Iraq, a war which has gone horribly awry and continues to consume the attention of most of our troops. Obama’s words from the first debate:

“Now six years ago, I stood up and opposed this war at a time when it was politically risky to do so because I said that not only did we not know how much it was going to cost, what our exit strategy might be, how it would affect our relationships around the world, and whether our intelligence was sound, but also because we hadn’t finished the job in Afghanistan.

“We hadn’t caught bin Laden. We hadn’t put al Qaeda to rest, and as a consequence, I thought that it was going to be a distraction. Now Senator McCain and President Bush had a very different judgment.

“And I wish I had been wrong for the sake of the country and they had been right, but that’s not the case. We’ve spent over $600 billion so far, soon to be $1 trillion. We have lost over 4,000 lives. We have seen 30,000 wounded, and most importantly, from a strategic national security perspective, al Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than at any time since 2001.

“We took our eye off the ball. And not to mention that we are still spending $10 billion a month, when they have a $79 billion surplus, at a time when we are in great distress here at home, and we just talked about the fact that our budget is way overstretched and we are borrowing money from overseas to try to finance just some of the basic functions of our government.

“So I think the lesson to be drawn is that we should never hesitate to use military force, and I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely. And we did not use our military wisely in Iraq.”

Sen. Obama’s comments from second debate:

“So what happened was we got distracted, we diverted resources, and ultimately bin Laden escaped, set up base camps in the mountains of Pakistan in the northwest provinces there. They are now raiding our troops in Afghanistan, destabilizing the situation. They’re stronger now than at any time since 2001. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us to reverse course because that’s the central front on terrorism. They are plotting to kill Americans right now. As Secretary Gates, the Defense secretary, said, the war against terrorism began in that region, and that’s where it will end. So part of the reason I think it’s so important for us to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan, put more pressure on the Afghan government to do what it needs to do, eliminate some of the drug trafficking that’s funding terrorism.”

Sen. Obama also pointed out that Sen. McCain did and continues to support the decision to go into Iraq in the first place, and that Sen. McCain still believes that Iraq is the more important front in the battle against terrorism.

Mr. McCain’s comments from the second debate:

“So we are peacemakers and we’re peacekeepers. But the challenge is to know when the United States of American can beneficially effect the outcome of a crisis, when to go in and when not, when American military power is worth the expenditure of our most precious treasure.

“And that question can only be answered by someone with the knowledge and experience and the judgment, the judgment to know when our national security is not only at risk, but where the United States of America can make a difference in preventing genocide, in preventing the spread of terrorism, in doing the things that the United States has done, not always well, but we’ve done because we’re a nation of good.

“And I am convinced that my record, going back to my opposition from sending the Marines to Lebanon, to supporting our efforts in Kosovo and Bosnia and the first Gulf War, and my judgment, I think, is something that I’m — a record that I’m willing to stand on.

“Sen. Obama was wrong about Iraq and the surge. He was wrong about Russia when they committed aggression against Georgia. And in his short career, he does not understand our national security challenges.”

Given the above differences, I wanted to make everyone aware of an article in The New York Times today addressing the situation in Afghanistan:

Afghan policemen operating in Kandahar Province on Wednesday discovered cans of acid that could be used to make explosives.

A draft report by American intelligence agencies concludes that Afghanistan is in a “downward spiral” and casts serious doubt on the ability of the Afghan government to stem the rise in the Taliban’s influence there, according to American officials familiar with the document.

The classified report finds that the breakdown in central authority in Afghanistan has been accelerated by rampant corruption within the government of President Hamid Karzai and by an increase in violence by militants who have launched increasingly sophisticated attacks from havens in Pakistan.

The report, a nearly completed version of a National Intelligence Estimate, is set to be finished after the November elections and will be the most comprehensive American assessment in years on the situation in Afghanistan. Its conclusions represent a harsh verdict on decision-making in the Bush administration, which in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks made Afghanistan the central focus of a global campaign against terrorism…

…The downward slide in the security situation in Afghanistan has also become an issue in the presidential campaign, along with questions about whether the White House emphasis in recent years on the war in Iraq has been misplaced…

…Inside the government, reports issued by the Central Intelligence Agency for more than two years have chronicled the worsening violence and rampant corruption inside Afghanistan, and some in the agency say they believe that it has taken the White House too long to respond to the warnings.

Henry A. Crumpton, a career C.I.A. officer who last year stepped down as the State Department’s top counterterrorism official, attributed some of Afghanistan’s problems to a “lack of leadership” both at the White House and in European capitals where commitments to rebuild Afghanistan after 2001 have never been met… officials in Washington were just beginning to wake up to the problem.

“It’s taken them a long time to realize it, but now they know it’s pretty grim,” he said…

…Mr. Obama has accused the White House of paying too little attention to Afghanistan as it poured the vast bulk of American military resources into the war in Iraq, while Mr. McCain has defended the administration’s decision, saying that Iraq remains the more important front in the battle against terrorism.

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