Blogging a Pale Horse
Cheney on YouTube
B24606 / Wed, 15 Aug 2007 23:52:38 / Iraq
By now you've probably heard of, or have seen the video of Dick Cheney's post-Gulf War interview from 1994 that's been posted on YouTube. I knew when I saw it on C-SPAN3 on the evening of August 9th that it was quite an important piece of footage that was pertinent to the state of the ongoing, yet seemingly never-ending, war in Iraq. Prophetic and ironic, it is. "An evening with Bizzaro Cheney," might have been a better title. The stinger of the entire interview is the word "quagmire." No, not as in "giggity, giggity," but as in the most often used descriptor of this Middle East debacle we've found our country in over the past several years. What's changed since then?
Yes, 9/11 has been the rallying cry for aggressive surveillance of our citizens, random searches, the elimination of Posse Comitatus and Habeas Corpus, the passing of the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and, most recently, the Warrantless Wiretapping law that Congress was held back from their vacation until they passed it. But what does 9/11 have to do with Iraq and invading it in 2003? Still, no matter what the pundits and politicians say, Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.
I'm glad the interview has gotten world-wide coverage, and I'm thrilled that it's sparked fierce discussion amongst those who actually care about our state of affairs. Since it posted on Friday, I've received nothing but kudos, thanks and appreciation from countless people who are truly passionate about our country's governing, its future, and its role in the Middle East.
CNN ran their segment on the video and its popularity on the following Monday. I was speechless when I saw it on the screen at the airport, and couldn't really believe it had gotten so much attention; I knew it would be popular, but not THAT popular. Before the piece on CNN ran, they contacted me wanting to know more about the site Grand Theft Country and the motivation behind posting it. Unfortunately, they went with their own spin.
In the email interview with CNN, I stated the following:
The site's purpose is to bring awareness to the underreported facts revolving around September 11th, and to basically "wake people up" to what's going on with our country and our government. As I mentioned earlier, 9/11 is the crux of all that we, as a country, are involved in right now. It's an excuse to spy on our citizens, do away with Habeas Corpus, Posse Comitatus, and even re-write the Constitution. 9/11 is used to keep us in fear constantly, to dissuade us from criticizing the administration, pending legislation and foreign policy, and has also become a sure-shot campaign slogan [see 2004 Republican National Convention].
What did CNN describe GTC as? An "anti-administration website."
Hmmmmm... Not quite what I had said at all. I'm not surprised that they watered it down, considering they referred to Andrew Lusterheir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune-turned-rapist, drugger and kidnapperas merely "a California man who skipped bail," without even mentioning his name in a segment about Duane 'Dog the bounty hunter' Chapman's support by Tom Tancredo. Pretty important facts that were left out, don't you think?
Well, the cat's out of the bag now, and the interview with Cheney will undoubtedly be paddled back into his own face. The people are pissed that he knew the risks, but went ahead and invaded anyway. He simply will say that "we're in a "post-9/11 world" and "9/11 is what changed everything." The usual suspect, so to speak.
What's sad is that 9/11 was a militating factor for many men and women in their decisions to join the military. Now they're either stuck in Iraq for 1-3 tours (recently extended to 15 months each), toughing it out in Afghanistan chasing an ever-elusive caveman, wounded both mentally and physically, or have paid the ultimate price and now reside in Arlington Cemetery.
Anyway... BIG THANKS to C-SPAN for not pulling the video. (I watch C-SPAN religiously!) Thanks to everyone who took the time to write.
Please: Get inspired! Get passionate! Get out there and help make a difference!
Thanks for your time and consideration,
Controlling the Press
B16328 / Tue, 27 Jun 2006 07:51:38 / "War on Terror"
The New York Times and other high-volume/high-profile newspapers have come under attack by President Bush and Vice President Cheney over their coverage of the latest assault on America the collection of information regarding the banking transactions of millions of citizens. Not surprisingly, the administration's stance concerning the publishing of articles detailing such a program is that it is unpatriotic, puts America at risk, defends the terrorists, and is detrimental to national security. Such rhetoric is all too common whenever injustices brought on by our government are exposed to the public in such forums as the Times.
In these trying times, it is pertinent that our press remain free to report on all issues, especially when they concern an attack on the rights and privacy of large chunks of the population. This banking issue is no exception. But the public "anti-American defamation" of a news source by our public officials embeds a distorted view of our right to freedom of the press within the minds of the uninformed, deeming any reporting of anything contrary to the official bulletin as a threat to the country's national security, thus un-American.
After being bombarded by letters and emails from average [and not-so-average] citizens, many of which were spurred by gov'-loving right wing pundits and talking heads, the executive director of the New York Times, Bill Keller, felt it urgent to personally reply to their concerns, and the public remarks by the president and vice president. His rebuttal is nothing short of genuine patriotism and concern for freedom of information.
Letter From Bill Keller on The Times's Banking Records Report
The following is a letter Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, has sent to readers who have written to him about The Times's publication of information about the government's examination of international banking records:
I don't always have time to answer my mail as fully as etiquette demands, but our story about the government's surveillance of international banking records has generated some questions and concerns that I take very seriously. As the editor responsible for the difficult decision to publish that story, I'd like to offer a personal response.
Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.) Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise. And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror.
It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.
The power that has been given us is not something to be taken lightly. The responsibility of it weighs most heavily on us when an issue involves national security, and especially national security in times of war. I've only participated in a few such cases, but they are among the most agonizing decisions I've faced as an editor.
The press and the government generally start out from opposite corners in such cases. The government would like us to publish only the official line, and some of our elected leaders tend to view anything else as harmful to the national interest. For example, some members of the Administration have argued over the past three years that when our reporters describe sectarian violence and insurgency in Iraq, we risk demoralizing the nation and giving comfort to the enemy. Editors start from the premise that citizens can be entrusted with unpleasant and complicated news, and that the more they know the better they will be able to make their views known to their elected officials. Our default position our job is to publish information if we are convinced it is fair and accurate, and our biggest failures have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. After The Times played down its advance knowledge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy reportedly said he wished we had published what we knew and perhaps prevented a fiasco. Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat. The question we start with as journalists is not "why publish?" but "why would we withhold information of significance?" We have sometimes done so, holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so.
Forgive me, I know this is pretty elementary stuff but it's the kind of elementary context that sometimes gets lost in the heat of strong disagreements.
Since September 11, 2001, our government has launched broad and secret anti-terror monitoring programs without seeking authorizing legislation and without fully briefing the Congress. Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to the Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight. We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the public can have an informed view of them.
Our decision to publish the story of the Administration's penetration of the international banking system followed weeks of discussion between Administration officials and The Times, not only the reporters who wrote the story but senior editors, including me. We listened patiently and attentively. We discussed the matter extensively within the paper. We spoke to others national security experts not serving in the Administration for their counsel. It's worth mentioning that the reporters and editors responsible for this story live in two places New York and the Washington area that are tragically established targets for terrorist violence. The question of preventing terror is not abstract to us.
The Administration case for holding the story had two parts, roughly speaking: first that the program is good that it is legal, that there are safeguards against abuse of privacy, and that it has been valuable in deterring and prosecuting terrorists. And, second, that exposing this program would put its usefulness at risk.
It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it.
We weighed most heavily the Administration's concern that describing this program would endanger it. The central argument we heard from officials at senior levels was that international bankers would stop cooperating, would resist, if this program saw the light of day. We don't know what the banking consortium will do, but we found this argument puzzling. First, the bankers provide this information under the authority of a subpoena, which imposes a legal obligation. Second, if, as the Administration says, the program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it. The Bush Administration and America itself may be unpopular in Europe these days, but policing the byways of international terror seems to have pretty strong support everywhere. And while it is too early to tell, the initial signs are that our article is not generating a banker backlash against the program.
By the way, we heard similar arguments against publishing last year's reporting on the NSA eavesdropping program. We were told then that our article would mean the death of that program. We were told that telecommunications companies would if the public knew what they were doing withdraw their cooperation. To the best of my knowledge, that has not happened. While our coverage has led to much public debate and new congressional oversight, to the best of our knowledge the eavesdropping program continues to operate much as it did before. Members of Congress have proposed to amend the law to put the eavesdropping program on a firm legal footing. And the man who presided over it and defended it was handily confirmed for promotion as the head of the CIA.
A secondary argument against publishing the banking story was that publication would lead terrorists to change tactics. But that argument was made in a half-hearted way. It has been widely reported indeed, trumpeted by the Treasury Department that the U.S. makes every effort to track international financing of terror. Terror financiers know this, which is why they have already moved as much as they can to cruder methods. But they also continue to use the international banking system, because it is immeasurably more efficient than toting suitcases of cash.
I can appreciate that other conscientious people could have gone through the process I've outlined above and come to a different conclusion. But nobody should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current Administration, or without fully weighing the issues.
Thanks for writing.
Did Bush's grandpa help steal Geronimo's skull?
B15243 / Thu, 11 May 2006 08:12:16 / Government
May 10, 2006
by Stephen Singer
HARTFORD, Conn. A Yale University historian has uncovered a 1918 letter that seems to lend validity to the lore that Yale University's ultra-secret Skull and Bones society swiped the skull of American Indian leader Geronimo.
The letter, written by one member of Skull and Bones to another, purports that the skull and some of the Indian leader's remains were spirited from his burial plot in Fort Sill, Okla., to a stone tomb in New Haven that serves as the club's headquarters.
Researcher is skeptical
According to Skull and Bones legend, members including President Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush dug up Geronimo's grave when a group of Army volunteers from Yale were stationed at the fort during World War I. Geronimo died in 1909.
"The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club . . . is now safe inside the [tomb] together with his well worn femurs, bit & saddle horn," according to the letter, written by Winter Mead.
But Mead was not at Fort Sill, and researcher Marc Wortman, who found the letter last fall, said Monday he is skeptical the bones are actually those of the famed Indian fighter.
"What I think we could probably say is they removed some skull and bones and other materials from a grave at Fort Sill," he said. "Historically, it may be impossible to prove it's Geronimo's. They believe it's from Geronimo."
Harlyn Geronimo, the great-grandson of Geronimo, said he has been looking for a lawyer to sue the U.S. Army, which runs Fort Sill. Discovery of the letter could help, he said.
"It's keeping it alive, and now it makes me really want to confront the issue with my attorneys," said Geronimo, of Mescalero, N.M. "If we get the remains back . . . and find that, for instance, that bones are missing, you know who to blame."
Secret society, strange rituals
Only 15 Yale seniors are asked to join Skull and Bones each year. Alumni include presidents, numerous members of Congress, media leaders, Wall Street financiers, the scions of wealthy families and agents in the CIA.
Members swear an oath of secrecy about the group and its strange rituals, which are said to include an initiation rite in which would-be members kiss a skull.
Famous members of Yale's Skull and Bones club:
President William Howard Taft
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts
W. Averell Harriman, statesman
John Hersey, author
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart
Henry R. Luce, father of Time magazine
Henry Stimson, President Hoover's secretary of state
William F. Buckley Jr., conservative intellectual
McGeorge Bundy, President John F. Kennedy's assistant for national security affairs
Archibald MacLeish, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and playwright
The Blood of Moussaoui
B14243 / Tue, 4 Apr 2006 11:56:53 / "War on Terror"
20th hijacker? No.
Hijacked a 5th plane on 9/11? No.
Did he even know how to fly? No.
But Zacarias Moussaoui is the No. 1 prosecutee of the 9/11 attacks, allegedly because of what he didn't tell investigators in the month before the attacks when he had been detained. The jury has ruled that his "lies" and lack of cooperation with the FBI caused at least one death of the some 2967 that had perished the morning of September 11th. Now everyone is screaming for his blood to replace the loss of nearly 3000 people, when he virtually had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
If everyone really wants to spill some blood for consciously allowing 9/11 to happen the way it did, then there are far more guiltier characters that we see everyday on the news who had more to do with the attacks than this unwitting patsy.
Attorney General John Ashcroft
In June of 2001 3 months before the attacks Attorney General John Ashcroft was warned not to fly commercially by his security detail due to an impending security threat. After receiving this warning, Ashcroft started chartering private jets at roughly $1,600/hour for all of his travel needs. No details were given about the threat, but from the actions of the Attorney General we can gather that it had everything to do with the use of commercial aircraft.
Not only did Ashcroft get a personal warning about the impending attacks, but he was also hounded by the FBI and Special Prosecutor David Schippers to investigate the "chatter" they were picking up regarding the where and when of the coming attacks. Not only this, but the FBI whisteblowers stated that they've been blocked from investigations into suspects, and even came forth with the revelation of terrorist training camps in the US. Ashcroft didn't want to hear about it and his office never responded to the threat.
Vice President Dick Cheney
Months before 9/11, the man who took the reigns on 9/11 as the President hid in the wind, Vice President Dick Cheney, took the shoot-down order authorization away from all military generals and NORAD, and restricted the ability to the discretion of either himself or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
As everyone knows, Washington, DC is one of the most securely guarded cities in the United States, and the Pentagon is probably the most surveilled and protected properties in the world. Equipped with missile batteries set up around the Pentagon for this specific purpose, there should have been no possibility that a full-sized 757 could get within the airspace that it did and inflict such damage. According to testimony from the 9/11 Commission Hearings, with the Vice President in control, a staff member, whose task was to announce how far out the Pentagon aircraft was, would announce "the plane is 30 miles out... 20 miles..." And as the plane reached the 10 mile mark, the staffer announced, "The plane is 10 miles out. Does the order still stand?" With this, the Vice President turned to the staffer, and irritably responded, "Of course it still stands; have you heard anything to the contrary?"
The $20,000 question here is: Was it a "stand down" or "shoot down" order that still stood?
If it was a "shoot down" order, then obviously it never happened. 30 miles at 500 mph is only under 4 minutes. Would that have been enough time to ready the missile batteries for action? Could the US military not protect the Pentagon with a warning of at least 4 minutes? And if it was a "stand down" order, well that's just treasonous.
President George W. Bush
The wartime presidential powers that have been drawn up to give President Bush carte blanche to do whatever he wants to whomever he wants wouldn't be in place right now if the Pentagon hadn't been hit. Many wonder why Bush sat in the schoolhouse for over a half hour after the 2nd tower was hit, and this could very well be the reason. If the President had jumped into action at 9:07 when he got the infamous "America is under attack" message, then the Pentagon would've probably never been hit, and Flight 93 might very well have been landed safely.
Now that we've established motive for the President, we can guess why the "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Within the U.S." memo wasn't 'taken seriously'. This memo wasn't the only warning that was given to the government about the impending 9/11 attacks, but it was handed directly to the President and he very well could have done something about it within the 36 day head start that he had to act on the information.
Two months before 9/11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had banned pilots from arming themselves with handguns in their cockpits a rule that broke a 40 year law allowing them the right to protect themselves against what? Hijackers. This is even after the FAA had received warnings about impending possible hijackings of commercial aircraft.
One would think that taking away protection from such a sensitive job detail as a commercial pilot, with the advance knowledge that a terrorist act was coming would be considered "inside information" which actually helped the terrorists do what they wanted to do without the kind of resistance that armed pilots would pose. To the untrained eye, it would appear as merely a misstep, oversight, or error on the part of the FAA. To the rest of us it signals something more sinister.
So is Moussaoui as guilty as these guys are? Would authorities even have stopped the attacks if this man came forward with the attack scenario? Or would the officials have done exactly what they did with their own intel which is absolutely nothing? Putting one man to death to quell a nation's heartbreak is simply a superficial Band Aid that does nothing to heal the wound.
If anyone is the guiltiest about 9/11, they would be the people and agencies listed above, which with the wealth of information they possessed consciously failed to act to stop these acts from taking place. Drinking the blood of one patsy to make up for the lives of nearly 3,000 innocents, but then ignoring the deliberate "mistakes" and "oversights" of our own officials is an injustice to everyone who perished on 9/11, and everyone else that continues to suffer and die in its aftermath.
'Monica's Law': Another Chapter in Legislative Ambulance Chasing
B13824 / Sun, 19 Mar 2006 11:55:52 / Government
The events of another high-profile case have been taken hostage once again by politicians seeking to further their "bigger picture" agendas.
The Monica Crowley stalker case has spurred Assemblyman David Townsend and Assembly GOP leader Jim Tedisco to pen "Monica's Law" legislation that would put in place "heightened penalties for stalkers who misuse technology to terrorize their victims." All this because one of their favorite talking heads an attractive, blonde, former Fox News consultant-turned radio show host and current MSNBC correspondent, was allegedly stalked by a homeless man who is said to have a "cybershrine" and nearly 500 emails dedicated to the woman. 473 actually, but mysteriously, all but 3 had "disappeared" from the D.A.'s desk the day they were to be presented to the jury as evidence.
The funny thing about this case is that every time you'd see Monica Crowley on her way to and from the court, she had the biggest shit-eating grin on her face as if she's basking in the newfound media attention that this stalking case has brought her. And the alleged stalker, Ronald Martin, is a 41-year old homeless artist who apparently would stash his laptop under some floorboards in between using it to harass this chick. The prosecution even added the fact that the man had visited 9,000 sites that contained Crowley's name. All this info was seized when they gained access to the man's computer.
Now think about that; a homeless guy with a hidden laptop allegedly used to create a cybershrine, send nearly 500 emails to a right-wing pundit, and visit over 9,000 sites that contained her name. Hmmm...
Tedisco stated, "This woman has a right to live her life free from fear," he said. "She has every right to be left alone. She had every right to tell this creep to scram, and when he didn't comply, the law needs to come down hard."
From The New York Daily News:
New York's stalking law was updated in 1999, but hasn't kept pace with advances in technology that allow weirdos to track their targets with global positioning devices and the Internet, Tedisco said.
Tracking their targets with GPS and the Internet?? I guess if you're super crafty and resourceful you can get in and plant a tracking device on anyone you want and track them on the Internet, right? That's news to me. I know that GPS can be installed on a car, but that means you have to bring the car into the shop. I know that cell phones can be tracked in GPS-style, but only law enforcement agencies can really do that. So what's with the new law?
It does go hand in hand with Donald Rumsfeld's recent statements that call for tighter restrictions on the Internet. And this slew of exposé's being aired on shows like Dateline and 48 Hours that paint the Internet as a growing playground for predators and pedophiles have been helping to urge this type of legislation along.
I guess the reason I'm thrown off by this sudden push is because every day there are countless paparazzi arses that camp outside of restaurants, hotels, apartments, clothing stores, and coffee shops that follow celebrities through their entire daily routines essentially stalking them. This proposed law would increase the current "up to 1 year in jail" clause to 4 years, and would include language specific to the use of the Internet.
So does this now mean that if I send a letter to Bill O'Reilly, or call his talk show more than once, and say some things that he doesn't like or agree with, that I too can be charged with Monica's Law and face 4 years in prison? What if I look online to see when an event featuring a certain speaker is going on and decide to go down there to protest it? Could that be considered stalking under this proposed law?
The new wave of legislative ambulance chasing seems to be on the rise, with politicians and "do-gooders" using every incident and tragedy to further their agendas along needs to be fingered and exposed. If we don't call them on it now, it's going to continue to run rampant as precedents are set, and technology is restricted and used against us.
Killer Tracked With Inactive Cell Phone
B13712 / Wed, 15 Mar 2006 08:36:26 / Civil Liberties
The Imette St. Guillen case is setting the precedent for common technology to be used for gathering evidence by law enforcement.
The accused killer of John Jay College student Imette St. Guillen was placed at the scene where the girl's body was dumped not by witnesses but by his cell phone. The scary thing is that the suspect, Darryl Littlejohn, didn't even have to use his phone to get picked up by the surrounding towers.
From the New York Daily News:
The NYPD traced Littlejohn to that lonely corner of East New York, off the Belt Parkway, by tracing the invisible "pings" that his T-Mobile cell phone sent to the antenna-studded tower, sources said.
The big, blue tower apparently took notice that Littlejohn's cell phone was nearby, even though he wasn't making a call and it stored that information, which was later retrieved from T-Mobile by cops.
"It's a way to track people that is stronger than relying on witnesses," a police source said.
The Daily News found the tower, about four blocks from where St. Guillen was discovered, and at least a dozen more along the 5.7-mile stretch between the site and Littlejohn's Queens home.
On Sunday, as he revealed blood evidence allegedly tying Littlejohn to the slaying, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said cell phone records helped nail down the suspect's whereabouts.
But he was careful not to say they were records of actual calls.
"There is telephone evidence, telephone records, that put the telephone that Mr. Littlejohn had in his possession in the vicinity, the immediate vicinity, of where the body was located and also the route to that location," Kelly said.
Cell phone companies and industry groups either told The News they didn't save location data or didn't respond.
But experts say few rules govern that information.
"The phone company can have records of where you are whenever your phone is turned on. It's up to the phone company how long they store those records," said privacy expert Peter Swire, a law professor at Ohio State University.
"Most people don't realize this. And criminals don't think to turn their phone off when they're about to commit a crime."
That's right. Most people don't realize this, and this information, which is help for an indefinite amount of time, can be used against you in different ways.
One use is for divorce court.
A gentleman who was served with divorce papers in New York City was surprised by the sudden change of heart that overcame his wife. When being told the "why" of what was happening, he was confronted with "evidence" which concluded that he was unfaithful because his cell phone tracking records indicated he was in New Jersey for a good chunk of time throughout the workweek. Of course, his trips to Jersey were legitimate business trips, but the secretive tabs put on his whereabouts and travel routes nearly cost him his marriage.
Now, let's say, for example, you have a black Acura TL and you're driving down 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, between 22nd and 23rd, and there's a murder or bank robbery in that location. The getaway car matches your make & model, so does the suspect's general description. Cops don't get their man right away, but a search of cell phone records indicates shows that you were there at the time the incident took place, and you own a black Acura TL, so it must be you.
Scenario 3: Your mother lives in an area that's bordering a "bad" neighborhood. You go visit her every week on the same day, at the same time. Let's say you have a previous record for misdemeanor drug possession, which really shouldn't mean ish, but to cops it's probable cause. Since your phone records show that you drive that same route every week to see your mother, a route that happens to run by a suspected crack house, drug den, or factory, your freedom could be in jeopardy. If there's ever a raid, random traffic stop, or especially if you are on probation, parole, or court supervision, you could be fingered as a participant in a crime just because your phone records put you in the vicinity of a suspected crime scene.
I'm sure that the phrase "wrong place at the wrong time" will be uttered quite a bit from here on out regarding cases which involve cell phone tracking as evidence. The worst thing about all of this is the fact that even without your phone being active, your routes are kept on record and anything can be done with that information. The cell phones that we've all become dependent upon serve as virtual microchip implants, except right now, it's in the form of a SIM card and rests in your pocket.
With the way that prosecutors around the world try and nail down whichever suspect they'd like to see charges stick to whether they know is innocent or not even if the glove didn't fit, it sure does now. After all... the picture that technology paints doesn't lie, does it?
Coaching Witnesses at the Moussaoui TrialNot Smart
B13649 / Mon, 13 Mar 2006 07:58:57 / Civil Liberties
The eagerness to get this trial wrapped up in a perfect bow just may cost the Feds exactly what they needthe death penalty for the man once believed to be the "20th hijacker." Coaching witnesses is nothing new to prosecutors around the World, but in this case, they were instructed not to. But of course, they did anyway.
They'll need this execution to take placenot only because America's thirsty for blood on any conviction whatsoever that can be made regarding 9/11but because, if you'll remember, Zacarias Moussaoui had used the computer of the later-beheaded Nick Berg to "check his Hotmail account." A small fact that probably never got brought up throughout the trial.
Just another coincidence caught up in Masterpiece Theatre.
Angry Judge Halts Moussaoui Trial
Written by Michael J. Sniffen, The Associated Press
Full article here
An angry federal judge in Alexandria unexpectedly recessed the death penalty trial of confessed al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui today.
The judge halted the trial to consider whether government violations of her rules against coaching witnesses should remove the death penalty as an option.
The stunning development came as the fifth day of the trial was getting under way. The government told the judge and the defense over the weekend that a lawyer for the Federal Aviation Administration had coached four government FAA witnesses.
The coaching violated the rule set by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema. The rule was that no witness should hear trial testimony in advance.
"This is the second significant error by the government affecting the constitutional rights of the defendant and the criminal justice system in this country in the context of a death case," Brinkema told lawyers in the case outside the presence of the jury.
Full article here
Imette's Law: A Camera For Every Bar
B13589 / Thu, 9 Mar 2006 23:08:50 / Civil Liberties
Today a New York City councilman announced that he, along with the family of a brutally murdered John Jay College student, will lobby New York State government to create and implement Imette's Lawnew legislation which will force all bars in New York State to install security cameras at their front doors. The cameras would be positioned to record everyone's face that walks in and out, and of course, everything in that field of vision.
The proposed legislation is eerily close to a program that Mayor Richard Daley has been pushing in Chicago for over a month now, which calls for every business open longer than 12 hours a day, including convenience stores, to install security cameras at their counters and at the front door. Daley even took it a step further by adding that all bars open past 4 A.M. have the cameras installed to identify anyone who enters or leaves the building.
If you're not familiar with the Imette St. Guillen murder case, here's a quick rundown: A 24 year-old New York City college student was abducted from outside a bar in Manhattan, then raped & murdered, and her body left on the side of an access road in Brooklyn on Feb 25th. She was found with her head wrapped in packing tape, which gave the local papers enough snuff to run with that they dubbed it the "Mummy Murderer" case; a nice sensational touch to grab your attention and sell more papers.
With this new law that's being offered up, it appears that the media aren't the only ones that are consistantly taking advantage of tragic stories like this. The seemingly pre-packaged legislation rides on the heels of this poor girl's death, utilizing it as a soapbox to peddle a nationwide agenda.
The same thing happened with the Amber Act of 2003 and the R.A.V.E. Act. A little 9 year old was kidnapped and murdered. So in the aftermath of the tragedy, legislation is penned that no one in the House or Senate would dare oppose, because, of course, it's "for the children." But inside this act was another act which established that any venue owner, landlord, or promoter part of a musical event can be fined up to $250,000 and/or do jail time if someone gets busted at their show using or selling drugs.
The R.A.V.E. Act stuffed inside of the Amber Act was merely a federalization of "crack house laws" that had already existed in many states. The new Patriot Act that was just signed into law does this same exact thing. While being touted on the outside as a tool to fight terrorism, the authors added a provision that establishes limits on an ingredient found in common allergy and cold medications which is also used in methamphetamine production. What this does is federalize another law that previously only existed in certain states.
The legislative ambulance chasing will probably never end. At least not as long as there are politicians roaming the Earth waving bloody shirts in the air. Let's just hope that our lawmaking processes don't become extinct first.
We Don't Break Laws, We Just Tailor Them To Fit
B13495 / Mon, 6 Mar 2006 12:22:35 / Civil Liberties
If it's illegal, just have your buddies pen a new law saying it's not.
That seems to be the best course of action, and most typical, for the current administration. To hell with civil liberties, right to privacy, and all that nonsense; this 200-something year old relic called the Constitution is mad outdated and can easily be circumvented by creating fresh new laws which abide by post-9-11/New World standards, especially if the "winning" team is making up all the rules as they go along.
To explain futher, here's a republished New York Times editorial from today's paper:
Imagine being stopped for speeding and having the local legislature raise the limit so you won't have to pay the fine. It sounds absurd, but it's just what is happening to the 28-year-old law that prohibits the president from spying on Americans without getting a warrant from a judge.
It's a familiar pattern. President Bush ignores the Constitution and the laws of the land, and the cowardly, rigidly partisan majority in Congress helps him out by rewriting the laws he's broken.
In 2004, to take one particularly disturbing example, Congress learned that American troops were abusing, torturing and killing prisoners, and that the administration was illegally detaining hundreds of people at camps around the world. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John Warner, huffed and puffed about the abuse, but did nothing. And when the courts said the detention camps do fall under the laws of the land, compliant lawmakers simply changed them.
Now the response of Congress to Mr. Bush's domestic wiretapping scheme is following the same pattern, only worse.
At first, lawmakers expressed outrage at the warrantless domestic spying, and some Democrats and a few Republicans still want a full investigation. But the Republican leadership has already reverted to form. Senator Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has held one investigative hearing, notable primarily for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's refusal to answer questions.
Mr. Specter then loyally produced a bill that actually grants legal cover, retroactively, to the one spying program Mr. Bush has acknowledged. It also covers any other illegal wiretapping we don't know about including, it appears, entire "programs" that could cover hundreds, thousands or millions of unknowing people.
Mr. Specter's bill at least offers the veneer of judicial oversight from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A far more noxious proposal being floated by Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, would entirely remove intelligence gathering related to terrorism from the law on spying, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Let's call this what it is: a shell game. The question is whether the Bush administration broke the law by allowing the National Security Agency to spy on Americans and others in the United States without obtaining the required warrant. The White House wants Americans to believe that the spying is restricted only to conversations between agents of Al Qaeda and people in the United States. But even if that were true, which it evidently is not, the administration has not offered the slightest evidence that it could not have efficiently monitored those Qaeda-related phone calls and e-mail messages while following the existing rules.
In other words, there is not a shred of proof that the illegal program produced information that could not have been obtained legally, had the administration wanted to bother to stay within the law.
The administration has assured the nation it had plenty of good reason, but there's no way for Congress to know, since it has been denied information on the details of the wiretap program. And Senator Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, seems bent on making sure it stays that way. He has refused to permit a vote on whether to investigate the spying scandal.
There were glimmers of hope on the House side. Representative Heather Wilson, the New Mexico Republican who heads one of the subcommittees supervising intelligence, called for a "painstaking" review of the necessity and legality of the spying operation. But the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Peter Hoekstra, is turning that into a pro forma review that would end with Congress rewriting the foreign-intelligence law the way Mr. Bush wants.
Ms. Wilson still says that the House needs to get the facts before it rewrites the law, and we hope she sticks to it. But she's facing a tough race this fall, and her staff has already started saying that, well, she never called for "an investigation," just "an oversight review."
Putting on face paint and pretending that illusion is reality is fine for Kabuki theater. Congress should have higher standards.
Very well said, once again, NYT.
Wiretapping is a big fukken deal to those of us who value both freedom and privacy. To make laws allowing the practice to be used without reason or provacation, and in secret no less, is clearly an abomination which needs to be dealt with in the harshest manner possible with extreme prejudice.
So when do they become "outlaws" and "traitors?" Once their term expires? 5 years from then? Never?
Maybe 20 years later when they kick the bucket there will be documentaries, books, and tell-all autobiographies that paint a more transparent picture one that's not so easy to look at. But for now there has to be something done to hold these people accountable to the American citizenry, and not the wolves appointed to guard the jackals.
I shudder to think what the laws of the land will be like by 2012. Maybe the best thing to do is just start over. I think Bob Marley said it best: "Total destruction; the only solution. There ain't no use... Nobody can stop them now."
NJ Officer Back From Iraq Dies of Mystery Illness
B13369 / Tue, 28 Feb 2006 19:23:07 / Iraq
A New Jersey police officer was found dead in his apartment on Tuesday, February 28th from an as of yet unknown or undisclosed illness.
The officer, whose name hasn't been released, just got back from a stint in Iraq. Neighbors and friends said that the officer had been sick for 4 or 5 days and hadn't been seen or heard from in a few.
Police knocked on the man's door and entered his apartment after failing to get an answer. The clincher is that after finding his body, HAZMAT teams were called to go in first with full NBC gear to "secure the scene."
The secrecy revolving around this case is thick. Although a spokesperson for the New Jersey Police Department, Sgt. Edgar Martinez, has stated that the public is not at risk, he would not comment on why HAZMAT teams were called in, or what it is they suspect the man died from.
More details as this story develops.
The New York Times ran a miniscule article referring to it, and it reads as follows:
JERSEY CITY: OFFICER'S DEATH BRINGS POLICE RESPONSE The mysterious death of a 42-year-old police officer in his Jersey City apartment led the police to send a hazardous materials team to inspect the home last night. The officer, who lived on the third floor of 60 Glenwood Avenue, had returned from military service in Iraq in November, said Edgar Martinez, a spokesman for the department. The officer, whose name was not immediately released, had been sick for four or five days, and his girlfriend had called the police asking for officers to check his apartment. The officer's body was found in the apartment shortly after 7 p.m. Mr. Martinez said that the hazmat teams had been sent in as a precaution and that the building had not been evacuated. An autopsy is planned. JENNIFER 8. LEE (NYT)
It's pretty much what the police statement was last night, still without mention of suspected cause of death, or reasons as to why the HAZMAT team was needed.
Update: 03.01.06 pt2
Okay, the Post ran an article that I missed which adds that the "officers who found the body were put through a decontamination process," according to Sgt. Martinez of the NJPD. But insisted that this was only "precautionary," and there was no danger to the public. They apparently feared that the man had been ill with a "viral infection" that he may have caught while in Iraq.
Autopsy [and/or cover story/spin] pending.
Media blackout on the death of a 42-year old New Jersey cop back from tour in Iraq continues.
That's right. There's virtually nothing regarding this story that can be found either online or in print except a couple short articles which basically relay the same information that NJ Police Sgt. Edgar Martinez produced the night they discovered the vet's body, which warranted a HAZMAT team along with decontamination of the officers who had first responded.
Although all the reports are pretty much the same, I did find this small article and video clip on wnbc.com from the night of the discovery.
NJ.com posted a short article on 3/02 which reported that Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio believes the man, Kevin Jones, whose name has now been released, died from a "heart ailment." This is his opinon based upon preliminary autopsy reports.
The article states:
"We know it was not foul play," said DeFazio. "Although the cause and manner of death have not been established, I think it will come back to some sort of pulmonary issue."
Jersey City police sent a hazardous materials team to sweep Jones' apartment after they found the body because of concerns he may have brought some kind of illness back with him from Iraq, police officials have said. DeFazio dismissed that possibility yesterday.
"There is nothing indicating any strange disease or defect or anything related to the war," he said.
Still no official declaration of autopsy findings which would establish a clear cause of death, and still no real coverage of the story. You would think that evacuating a building full of residents and calling in a HAZMAT team to recover a dead vet's body would garner a little more attention, but this is how it's been across the board regarding this story.
Texans: You Owe Us, New Orleans!
B13361 / Tue, 28 Feb 2006 11:53:44 / Miscellaneous
"Now gimme yer goddamn beads!!"
It's truly unfortunate and somewhat sickening that self-serving Mardi-goers from Texas would pull the Katrina card for some measly beads. Maybe these two in the AP photo above didn't want to earn their ornaments the old fashioned wayyou know"SHOW YOUR TITS!!"
Yeah, that sounded a bit chauvinistic, but I don't necessarily mean at all that ya gotta "bare your breasts or there's no other right way to get beads." What I think is pretty fuct here is that, not even a year later, there are visitors from what would be considered the 8th largest economy in the world if it were a nation, sporting signs that tell the still devastated people of New Orleans that they "owe" them.
I wonder if these two women actually went out and started a drive or some other type of fund raiser for the people that they now guilt trip for simple beads? Did they take anyone into their homes, or relocate any of the evacuees? Or did they put up their guard once the stream of refugees flooded their town and refuse to lend a helping hand?
Whichever the case may be, throwing it in someone's face that your state took in their refugees, and for party favors no less, is like telling the Cubans who fled to Florida that they owe them some pimp cigars for taking them in.
Hopefully, these two got spun by some zombie dust before they left and were put to work at the Katrina Relief Funds center, stumbling around the Big Easy collecting donations.
B13172 / Tue, 21 Feb 2006 17:10:44 / Civil Liberties
Today the New York Post reported statistics pertaining to the numbers of arrests made yearly by the officers at Bridge and Tunnel entrances going into Manhattan from 2000-2005. According to the department's own figures, arrests have increased 700% since 9/11 with the largest gain from 2003-2004, when the number of arrests more than doubled from 627 to 1,373.
Last year there was an increase of over 400 arrests bringing 2005 to a total of 1,803784 of which were charged with DUI. The next largest group of offenders had been busted for driving either without a license or while suspended. The average fine for these three violations, although dependent upon multiple offenses, is roughly $500 per arrest plus possible court costs. It comes out to a hefty amount of change at the end of the year, but not nearly enough to cover what it's costing the city to perform. The Post's report stated that there are 800 cops stationed on or at the city's bridges and tunnels. At an average starting salary of $34,782/year, that's a bare minimum of $27.8 million per year to catch mostly intoxicated and/or non-licensed drivers.
Although the ends aren't justifying the means as of yet, arrests are becoming an increasingly lucrative business for the city. So much so that instead of having to take those arrested to the local precinct for booking, the city is constructing "arrest-processing centers" complete with high-tech computers fitted with finger-scanners that can run criminal background checks in the blink of an eye. The first of these centers will be on both Randalls Island, and Staten Island at the Verrazano Bridge. If you're familiar with the geography of New York City, you'll know that neither one of these entrances is the most convenient point of entry into Manhattan. The Verrazano doesn't even go into Manhattan, it goes directly into Brooklynabout 8 miles southeast of the nearest city-bound bridge.
So where exactly does 'thwarting terrorism' come into play? How many of these thousands of arrests were terrorists?
But then the argument comes up that "their mere presence thwarts the terrorists because it deters them from attempting anything bad." Well, when the only terroristic atrocities that have occurred on U.S. soil were done with heavy Fed presence and complicity, you can guarantee that no checkpoint is going to be effective against an agency with carte blanche to do whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want to do it.
As the checkpoints were erected at the city's entrances, and even the bag searches started on the subway, they told us that it was to 'help catch terrorists'to make New York safer. Those of us who knew better were sure that it was simply a convenient excuse for the police and other agencies to justify bypassing the Constitution to get into our personal property, and eventually our lives.
Looks like we were right... again.