WantToKnow.infoIt's time to check the balance of powerThu Aug 2, 2007 14:43
It's time to check the balance of power
July 29, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
Since 9/11, President Bush's repeated assaults on the Constitution and celebration of international lawlessness ... have needlessly made Americans less safe. The president, for example, has flouted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in intercepting the conversations and e-mails of American citizens on American soil on his say-so alone. He has claimed authority to break into and enter our homes, open our mail and commit torture. He has insisted that the entire United States is a battlefield -- even pizza parlors -- where lethal military force may be employed to kill ... suspects with bombs or missiles. He has detained citizens and noncitizens alike as enemy combatants based on secret evidence. And he has insisted that he is constitutionally empowered to keep U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely. Congress should restore the Constitution's checks and balances and protections against government abuses. The most frightening of Bush's abuses travels under the banner of "extraordinary rendition." In its name, Bush has kidnapped, secretly imprisoned, and tortured. The practice is what would be expected of dictators such as the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin or Iraq's Saddam Hussein. The detainees are held incommunicado without accusation or trial. No judge reviews the allegedly incriminating evidence. No law restricts interrogation methods or the conditions of confinement. And the innocent are left without recourse as "collateral damage" in Bush's ... global [war on terrorism].
Note: The author, Bruce Fein, served as Associate Attorney General under President Reagan.
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Below are one-paragraph excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These news articles include revealing information on sweeping surveillance by the National Security Agency (N.S.A.), the politicization of government science, U.S. arms sales to the Middle East, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
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Tod Fletcher and Fred Burks for PEERS and the WantToKnow.info Team
NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort
August 1, 2007, Washington Post
The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described. The disclosure by Mike McConnell [is] the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005. McConnell [disclosed] that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more. This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged." News reports ... have detailed a range of activities linked to the program, including the use of data mining to identify surveillance targets and the participation of telecommunication companies in turning over millions of phone records. Kate Martin ... of the Center for National Security Studies, said the new disclosures show that ... administration officials have "repeatedly misled the Congress and the American public" about the extent of NSA surveillance efforts. "They have repeatedly tried to give the false impression that the surveillance was narrow and justified," Martin said. "Why did it take accusations of perjury before the DNI disclosed that there is indeed other, presumably broader and more questionable, surveillance?"
A Push to Rewrite Wiretap Law
August 1, 2007, Washington Post
The Bush administration is pressing Congress this week for the authority to intercept, without a court order, any international phone call or e-mail between a surveillance target outside the United States and any person in the United States. It would also give the attorney general sole authority to order the interception of communications for up to one year as long as he certifies that the surveillance is directed at a person outside the United States. Civil liberties and privacy groups have denounced the administration's proposal, which they say would effectively allow the National Security Agency to revive a warrantless surveillance program conducted in secret from 2001 until late 2005. They say it would also give the government authority to force carriers to turn over any international communications into and out of the United States without a court order. An unstated facet of the program is that anyone the foreigner is calling inside the United States, as long as that person is not the primary target, would also be wiretapped. Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office [said], "What the administration is really going after is the Americans. Even if the primary target is overseas, they want to be able to wiretap Americans without a warrant." The proposal would also allow the NSA to ... have access to the entire stream of communications without the phone company sorting, said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies. "It's a 'trust us' system," she said. "Give us access and trust us."
Politics reportedly stifled health report
July 29, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle/Washington Post
A surgeon general's report in 2006 that called on Americans to help tackle global health problems has been kept from the public by a Bush political appointee without any background or expertise in medicine or public health, chiefly because the report did not promote the administration's policy accomplishments. The report described the link between poverty and poor health, urged the U.S. government to help combat widespread diseases as a key aim of its foreign policy, and called on corporations to help improve health conditions in the countries where they operate. Its publication was blocked by William Steiger, a specialist in education and a scholar of Latin American history whose family has long ties to President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Since 2001, Steiger has run the Office of Global Health Affairs in the Department of Health and Human Services. Richard Carmona, who commissioned the "Call to Action on Global Health" while serving as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, recently cited its suppression as an example of the Bush administration's frequent efforts during his tenure to give scientific documents a political twist. Carmona told lawmakers that, as he fought to release the document, he was "called in and again admonished ... via a senior official who said, 'You don't get it. This will be a political document, or it will not be released.' " A few days before the end of his term as the nation's senior medical officer, he was abruptly told he would not be reappointed.
White House To Push Mideast Arms Sales
July 28, 2007, CBS News/Associated Press
The Bush administration will ask Congress to expand multibillion-dollar aid and weapons sales packages to friendly nations in the Middle East. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will announce proposed extensions and enlargements of foreign aid to Israel and Egypt, and a proposed arms sales package to Persian Gulf nations including Saudi Arabia. The Israeli and Egyptian proposals would lock in U.S. commitments for the next 10 years. The total for Israel would rise from $2.4 billion to about $3 billion a year, and Egypt would continue to receive $1.3 billion a year. The Bush administration also wants Congress to give their stamp of approval to an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia. Overall, the aid and arms packages would total $20 billion ... which is double what officials first estimated when details first became public this past spring. Terrorism expert Sajjan Gohel says the Saudi arms sale might not be a good idea. "It shows that the Bush administration isn't looking really at the long-term, but seems to be ... concerned about trying to secure oil reserves and deposits in Saudi Arabia," Gohel said.
Note: For decades Israel, with a population now of just over 7 million, has been receiving U.S. tax dollars to the tune of over $300 per year for every man, woman, and child? The new proposal will increase that to over $400. This is more than 10 times what any other nation receives per capita. And what results has all of this aid brought? Click here for a 2002 Christian Science Monitor article which starts off "Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today's population, that is more than $5,700 per person."
State Vote Machines Lose Test To Hackers
July 28, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper), Front Page
State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California's voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems' electronic functions, according to a University of California study. The researchers "were able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,'' said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the "top to bottom review" of every voting system certified by the state. Neither Bowen nor the investigators were willing to say exactly how vulnerable California elections are to computer hackers. The review included voting equipment from every company approved for use in the state. Bowen said ... that the report is only one piece of information she will use to decide which voting systems are secure enough to use in February's presidential primary election.
Note: For more reliable, verifiable information on the problems with new electronic voting machines, click here.
Bechtel meets goals on fewer than half of its Iraq rebuilding projects
July 26, 2007, International Herald Tribune
One of the largest American contractors working in Iraq, Bechtel National, met its original objectives on fewer than half of the projects it received as part of a $1.8 billion reconstruction contract, while most of the rest were canceled, reduced in scope or never completed as designed. But the report, by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent agency, places a large share of the blame for the failures on the government overseers at the United States Agency for International Development who administered the contract. [USAID] assigned just two people in Iraq to oversee the giant contract, which included some 24 major projects and 150 subcontractors and stipulated that all invoices be approved or denied in just 10 days. The report is the first of a planned series of audits of Western contractors that have received large slices of the roughly $40 billion in American taxpayer money that has been spent on the troubled program to rebuild Iraq. Stuart Bowen Jr., who heads the special inspector general's office, said the United States government clearly shared responsibility with the company for the project failures. "I would say there's fault on both sides," Bowen said in an interview Wednesday. He added that neither the aid agency nor the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which also oversaw aspects of the contract, ever came close to filling all their staff positions in Iraq. "This isn't so much an indictment of Bechtel as it is a criticism of the system," said Stephen Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense in Washington.
U.S. dropped Enron-like fraud probe
July 23, 2007, Sacramento Bee (Leading newspaper of California's capital city)
Two years into a fraud investigation, veteran federal prosecutor David Maguire told colleagues he'd uncovered one of the biggest cases of his career. Maguire described crimes "far worse" than those of Arthur Andersen, the accounting giant that collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal. Among those in his sights: executives from a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment empire overseen by billionaire Warren Buffett. In May 2006, he felt strongly enough about his case that he prepared a draft indictment accusing executives from a Virginia insurer, Reciprocal of America, of concocting a series of secret deals to hide its losses from regulators. Although he didn't name anyone from Berkshire Hathaway's subsidiary, he described the company as a participant in the scheme. But Maguire never brought those charges. Months after preparing the draft, he was removed as the lead prosecutor on the case and reassigned. His replacement, a prosecutor who hadn't been involved in the case until then, soon announced that the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, General Reinsurance, would not be indicted. By April of this year, the entire investigation ... had fizzled. Former employees and policyholders of the Richmond-based insurer were astounded. Why had the Justice Department spent upward of $2 million to investigate the case only to decline to prosecute? Maguire and his team of investigators had secured two related guilty pleas, interviewed dozens of witnesses and gathered 7,000 boxes of documents. Tom Gober, a certified fraud examiner who worked on the case ... concluded that the Justice Department had buckled under pressure from defense lawyers. "It just stinks," he said. "You don't come in out of nowhere and in no time kill three years of sophisticated effort."
Chips: High Tech Aids or Tracking Tools?
July 22, 2007, ABC News/Associated Press
CityWatcher.com, a provider of surveillance equipment, attracted little notice itself until a year ago, when two of its employees had glass-encapsulated microchips with miniature antennas embedded in their forearms. The "chipping" of two workers with RFIDs radio frequency identification tags ... was merely a way of restricting access to ... sensitive data and images ... the company said. Innocuous? Maybe. But the news that Americans had, for the first time, been injected with electronic identifiers to perform their jobs fired up a debate over the proliferation of ever-more-precise tracking technologies and their ability to erode privacy in the digital age. To some, the ... notion of tagging people was Orwellian. Chipping, these critics said, might start with Alzheimer's patients or Army Rangers, but would eventually be suggested for convicts, then parolees, then sex offenders, then illegal aliens until one day, a majority of Americans, falling into one category or another, would find themselves electronically tagged. "It was scary that a government contractor that specialized in putting surveillance cameras on city streets was the first to incorporate this technology in the workplace," says Liz McIntyre, co-author of Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move w
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