Friday, August 26, 2005

GOP Hopefuls for '08 Breaking from Bush

Republican senators with White House ambitions have begun to break with President Bush on a variety of issues to prove their independence from the second-term president.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee staked out his own ground on the issue of stem-cell research. Sen. George Allen of Virginia publicly disagreed with Mr. Bush's refusal to meet a second time with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska compared the war in Iraq to the Vietnam War, an analogy that is anathema to Mr. Bush. Sen. John McCain of Arizona has long disagreed with the president's tax cuts and confidence in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"As the incumbent president gets into his second term, a lot of people who lust after his job are trying to differentiate themselves -- not so much from him as from each other," said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

"They're trying to define themselves in the public mind in a way that will give them a leg up in the next election," he said. "George Bush doesn't have to run again, so there's less fear of disagreeing with him."

Yet none of these senators has positioned himself as more conservative than the president, a move that might appeal to disaffected sectors of the Republican base.

"It's a real dilemma for these Republican senators," said Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh. "They're trying to differentiate themselves from Bush on certain issues. And yet the Republican activists who dominate the nominating process are sticking with Bush on those issues."

Analysts from both parties said Republicans would do well to tap into the biggest sources of discontent among conservative Republicans -- lax immigration laws and excessive federal spending. Although no candidate has taken a prominent stance against the expansion of government under Mr. Bush, a dark horse is strongly challenging the administration on immigration.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, adamantly opposes Mr. Bush's plan to grant legal status to millions of Mexicans who illegally entered the U.S. Although Mr. Tancredo's White House prospects are considered remote, his candidacy could pull the Republican field rightward in the way former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean pulled the Democratic field leftward in last year's primaries.

"Given how far out front he is on immigration, Tancredo could force the entire field to take a tougher stance," Mrs. Marsh said.

Mr. Keene said: "I don't think he's a serious candidate for the nomination, but he may be more serious in his ability to affect the outcome of things than some of the others."

After criticizing the president's immigration policy in 2002, Mr. Tancredo said he was told by Bush adviser Karl Rove "never to darken the doorstep of the White House."

By contrast, the Republican senators who are considered White House contenders have been careful to preserve their overall working relationships with Mr. Bush, even as they disagree with him on individual issues.

The possible exception is Mr. Hagel, who in recent weeks significantly has sharpened his criticism of Mr. Bush's Iraq policy.

"Hagel's mistake is that he's attempting to stake out his ground on foreign and defense policy, whereas most people are going to agree with Bush on these issues," Mr. Keene said. "It may be a political tin ear. Or it may be a desire to get on the tube and get press, because he certainly does that."


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Who? What?

Report: Bin Laden Injured in Afghanistan Attack

Kabul, 24 August (AKI) - Osama bin Laden has been wounded in Afghanistan, according to two different reports carried by various Islamic websites. Referring to the al-Qaeda leader as Abu Abdullah, the second message, which appeared on Wednesday, said: "Mullah Ahmadi, military leader of the Badr brigades, which form part of the al-Qaeda organisation in Afghanistan, has confirmed that Sheikh Abu Abdullah has been injured in his left leg."

It follows a previous message on several Islamic websites saying the fugitive terrorist leader was injured while taking part in an attack on a Spanish military base in Afghanistan.

The second message relaying the news is titled "Confirmation of the injury of Sheikh Abu Abdullah in the Al-Khulud expedition" and adds other details, specifying that the injury was to the left leg and claiming it was sustained "when the Sheikh went out onto the battlefield to lead the expedition during which the Spanish base was attacked and which was named the Al-Khulud expedition."

"The source has promised to broadcast soon a video of the expedition, which lasted four hours," the message continues, before concluding: "Therefore we ask Allah to heal the Sheikh and make him well again. Don't be miserly in praying for him."

Last week a Spanish helicopter crashed in Afghanistan, killing all 17 military personnel on board. Another helicopter taking part in the same training exercise made an emergency landing following the crash, injuring several other Spanish soldiers. Spain has dispatched additional troops to replace those killed and injured, but there has been no report of a subsequent attack on a Spanish base in Afghanistan.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Robertson: Let's Kill Chavez

Pat Robertson Calls for Assassination of Chavez

Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club host Pat Robertson ... founder of the Christian Coalition of America has called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias.

In a transcript of his August 22 The 700 Club broadcast Robertson says:

"There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.

It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... this is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen.

We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly.

We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.

We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."


Border 'Security'?

Security Fears Grow at Southwest Border
With no detention space, crossers released

HARLINGEN, Texas -- In a storefront courthouse in the baking-hot Rio Grande Valley, next to a ''beauty academy" and across from a sleepy coffee shop, US Immigration Judge David Ayala is a study in effortless efficiency. He pulls blue files one by one from a tall stack, announces the name of an undocumented immigrant caught slipping across the US border, and orders the defendant deported.

There are no cries of protest. The defendants are nowhere to be found. Other than the thwack of a stamp and the judge's voice, the only other sound in the tiny courtroom is the quiet hum of an air conditioner, as Ayala goes through the motions before a Department of Homeland Security prosecutor and a reporter.

Unlike undocumented Mexicans, most of whom are quickly returned to their country after they are arrested, almost all non-Mexicans are charged and released in the United States if they do not have a criminal record and are not deemed a security threat. But like this day, few of the immigrants show up to face charges that they entered the country illegally.

When their names are called, 98 percent of all undocumented aliens ordered to appear at Harlingen Immigration Court do not answer. They are weeks into their new lives in all corners of the United States.

The no-show rate, the highest of those for all 53 immigration courts in the country, has deteriorated as undocumented, non-Mexican immigrants have been crossing the border in exponentially increasing numbers, many from known terrorist breeding grounds such as Pakistan.

High-ranking federal officials, including retired Admiral James Loy of the Coast Guard, who served as deputy secretary of Homeland Security until March, have warned Congress that terrorists might exploit the porous border with Mexico to enter the United States, where they can take their chances with immigration officials who often have no choice but to release non-Mexicans.

Such infiltration ''is a concern for us," said Roy Cervantes, the US Border Patrol spokesman in Harlingen.

Nationwide, the number of non-Mexicans who are entering the country illegally is skyrocketing, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Through Aug. 9, for the first 10 months of fiscal 2005, a total of 135,097 non-Mexicans had been apprehended out of 1.02 million undocumented immigrants arrested overall. In all of fiscal 2004, the number of non-Mexicans apprehended was 75,392; in fiscal 2003, the figure was 49,545.

The arrivals are coming from all over the globe, using smugglers in Mexico and the United States to ferry them to river crossings and to guide them along dangerous desert trails in their quest for a better life. The inability of the Border Patrol to stem the tide has provoked a fierce debate about immigration policy and security priorities. The governors of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, and of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, both Democrats, declared states of emergency along their southern borders this month.

Big-business interests are concerned that an aggressive federal crackdown on immigration could affect the estimated 10 million undocumented workers in the United States, and who provide a steady source of low-cost labor.

But many lawmakers from border states and others, such as the Minutemen volunteers who monitor the borders, are sounding an alarm.

''The borders are worse today than they have ever been," said US Representative John Culberson, a Houston Republican who has filed a bill to create an armed volunteer militia that would be supervised by border-state governors. ''There's an absolute invasion going on."

Other observers, such as the executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Brent Wilkes, suggest that the outcry against the growing influx of non-Mexican immigrants, many of them from Central and South America, is rooted in racial bias.

''We get concerned when we feel like the security issue is used as a ruse to crack down on Hispanic immigrants who are economic refugees," Wilkes said. ''There's a lot of people playing up the threat of terrorists coming across the Mexican border."

Immigration officials say they are doing the best they can with what they have. But if they do not release most non-Mexican immigrants, federal officials say, the alternative is to detain tens of thousands of them in a time-consuming deportation process whose difficulties are compounded by a shortage of detention space. With 19,500 beds nationwide all filled, the result ''forces us to make some very difficult decisions," said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the Department of Homeland Security.

Nowhere are those decisions more evident than in Harlingen. In the first nine months of fiscal 2005, which ends on Sept. 30, 16,376 undocumented immigrants failed to appear at court. Only 214 of them were Mexican. In fiscal 2004, 9,166 immigrants did not appear, or 88 percent. In fiscal 2003, the no-show number was 4,868, again a national high at 88 percent.

In the sprawling Rio Grande sector, which includes Harlingen and covers 320 miles of the river, 68,438 non-Mexican immigrants from 65 countries have been arrested this fiscal year, Cervantes said. That number amounts to much more than double the 26,437 non-Mexican immigrants who had crossed illegally into this sector for all of fiscal 2004.

In the border city of Brownsville, 25 miles downriver from Harlingen, the Border Patrol chief, Ernesto Castillo, said the 202 agents in his busy station are insufficient to do the job. The agents from Brownsville are averaging about 60 arrests a day, Castillo said, including three whom he watched being detained recently on a patrol of the levee along the Rio Grande.

Two of the immigrants, a married Mexican couple who spoke no English, clutched each other as agents tended to a deep, bloody wound that the 24-year-old woman had suffered by falling in a drainage ditch. The two were returned to Mexico later that day.

Nationwide, the failure-to-appear rate for fiscal 2005 stood at 36 percent on June 30, or 68,634 of the undocumented immigrants who had been arrested.

In fiscal 2004, the 54,261 suspects who did not appear in court included 530 from Pakistan, 206 from Iran, 164 from Jordan, 93 from Iraq, 80 from Yemen, and 29 from Afghanistan, according to Justice Department figures.

Boyd said that undocumented aliens from a ''special-interest" country, a term the government uses to describe a potential base for terrorists, undergo careful screening and are not released until investigators are confident they do not pose a security threat. ''Because someone comes from Pakistan, that doesn't necessarily mean anything," Boyd said. ''It could be a family with children."

However, the numbers of illegal immigrants from such countries are raising questions about the adequacy and consistency of US border protection. ''I think there's a lack of urgency about this in the White House and Congress," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington. ''This has the potential to be a really big deal, and there's going to be political hell to pay."

Culberson, the Houston Republican, went further. ''Any day now, we will confront massive truck-bomb explosions in our major cities and catastrophic loss of life inflicted by Middle Eastern terrorists who will laugh at us that they had simply walked across our border and we let them do it," he said.

Under Culberson's plan, which has 50 cosponsors in the House, volunteers from anywhere in the country could join a state's Border Protection Corps and ''use any means and any force authorized by state law to prevent" illegal immigration. Corps members would be subject to background checks for criminal history and mental illness, he said.

Wilkes, of United Latin American Citizens, bitterly criticized the proposal. ''If you give these people any means necessary to make arrests, when the crime the immigrants is committing is a misdemeanor, it's outrageous; it's sick," Wilkes said.

Border Patrol officials, meanwhile, pointed to a recently implemented program, called ''expedited removal," as a success story. Begun in 2004 in Tucson and in Laredo, Texas, the program was expanded in July to target a huge increase in undocumented Brazilians crossing the lower Rio Grande Valley. As a result, Cervantes said, the flow of Brazilians, who had become the largest non-Mexican group entering the area, has been dramatically curbed.

To qualify for ''expedited removal," an undocumented immigrant must not have a criminal past, must not be a juvenile, must not be an asylum seeker, and must have been arrested within 100 miles of the border and 14 days since crossing the boundary, according to Salvador Zamora of US Customs and Border Protection, an arm of the Homeland Security Department.

Since July, 757 Brazilians have been flown back to their country at US expense, the Border Patrol said. Zamora added that the hope is eventually to extend ''expedited removal" along the entire southwestern border.

Meanwhile, the ebb and flow of the immigration battle is evident at the Border Patrol station here, where most of the undocumented, non-Mexican aliens are released to the street after being questioned and given a court notice.

Once outside the station's chain-link fence, many of the immigrants board a shuttle sent from the Harlingen bus station, where they depart for destinations throughout the country, Cervantes said.

''They've been constantly here," said Jose Degollado, who works at the bus depot.

In Brownsville, Castillo shook his head when asked if he had become frustrated by the no-show rate at court. ''Our job," he said, ''is to apply the law."


Sunday, August 21, 2005

If It Walks Like a Duck...

GOP Senator Hagel Says Iraq War Looking Like Vietnam

WASHINGTON - A leading Republican senator said Sunday the war in Iraq is looking more like the Vietnam conflict from a generation ago.

Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, who received two Purple Hearts and other military honors for his service in Vietnam, reaffirmed his position that the United States needs to develop a strategy to leave Iraq.

"Stay the course is not a policy," said Hagel, a possible White House contender in 2008. "By any standard, when you analyze 2 1/2 years in Iraq ... we're not winning."

Sen. George Allen, R-Va., another possible candidate for the GOP nomination for president in 2008, said the formation of a constitution guaranteeing basic freedoms would provide a rallying point for Iraqis.

Political leaders in Baghdad were working to complete the draft of the new constitution in time for the Monday night deadline for parliamentary approval.

"The terrorists don't have anything to win the hearts and minds of the people of Iraq. All they care to do is disrupt," said Allen, who appeared with Hagel on ABC's "This Week."

Hagel said more U.S. troops is not the solution.

"We're past that stage now because now we are locked into a bogged-down problem not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam," Hagel said. "The longer we stay, the more problems we're going to have."

Allen said that unlike the communist-guided North Vietnamese that the U.S. fought, the insurgents in Iraq have no guiding political philosophy or organization. Still, Hagel argued, the similarities are growing.

"What I think the White House does not yet understand — and some of my colleagues — the dam has broke on this policy," Hagel said. "The longer we stay there, the more similarities (to Vietnam) are going to come together."


Cruising with a Cult

Cruise Tries to Recruit Oprah to Scientology

YOU could argue that she is the most influential woman in America, not least because her daily television program reaches into the living room of almost every home in the US.

Television insiders insist she can single-handedly turn books into bestsellers and mere celebrities into megastars. But now, glamorous talk show host Oprah Winfrey has become the target of the controversial Church of Scientology.

The campaign is being led by its most famous disciple, 43-year-old Tom Cruise, who is doing everything in his considerable power to convert her to the cultish faith. Cruise recently bought a house two doors away from Oprah in the glamorous suburb of Santa Barbara, California. The two are close friends. Winfrey regularly sings Cruise's praises on her show, and it was there that he chose to make his first public declaration of love for his new fiancee, 26-year-old Katie Holmes, in a toe-curling spectacle.

But the wooing of Oprah Winfrey to the Scientology cause has not been left to Cruise alone.

Fellow Scientologist and Pulp Fiction star John Travolta, 51, whom she also repeatedly favours on her television program, recently presented her with a $700,000 Bentley car for her birthday.

Oprah would be a huge catch for the Scientologists, one internet site announced this week, and you can almost see Cruise's eyes gleaming at the prospect. Another adds: "If Oprah falls into the hands of Scientology, who can tell what influence she might have on the population? The prospect is terrifying."

The Church of Scientology has a controversial reputation. One American judge described its founder, science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, as a pathological liar.

Scientology may not be quite as hip in Hollywood at the moment as Kabbalah, the ultra-fashionable Jewish mystical group beloved of Madonna, but it is regarded by many as being more powerful - and it is clearly on a recruitment drive for another star disciple.

Scientology already counts among its celebrity followers Travolta's actress wife Kelly Preston, former Cheers star Kirstie Alley, Lisa Marie Presley, and Nancy Cartwright - the voice of cartoon character Bart Simpson.

Travolta, who also has a house in Santa Barbara near Winfrey, vehemently denies claims followers of Scientology are brainwashed into blind adherence to its principles.

"That is garbage," Travolta says. "Do you really believe that I would stand for something like that? The courses help me solve my problems. I also attend religious counselling where, with a spiritual guide, I tackle personal problems."

But most of the focus is on the cult's biggest star, Cruise, who now uses his considerable power and influence in Hollywood - not to mention his estimated $US400m fortune - to bring notable new recruits into the Scientology fold.

Founded by the late L. Ron Hubbard in 1955, Scientology is defined by a belief in the power of a person's spirit to clear itself of past painful experiences through self-knowledge and spiritual fulfilment.

This is achieved through intensive counselling. Scientologists believe humans are an exiled race from outer space called Thetans and claim to have eight million followers worldwide (though some critics would argue its true membership is only about 50,000).

Scientology is extremely sensitive to criticism. It uses the vast funds it accrues from members to defend itself vigorously. The church's appetite for rich and influential supporters knows few bounds - Winfrey aside. The TV host is not Cruise's only prey when it comes to wooing the rich, powerful and famous.

Just two years ago, Cruise is believed to have made a determined effort to convince James Packer of the benefits of Scientology, just as he did with his second wife, actress Nicole Kidman, and his subsequent girlfriend, Penelope Cruz. None of those attempts worked, however, which accounts for his current fascination with Oprah.

Cruise is now so in thrall to the Scientologists that he insists his children - and anyone who wants to be close to him - also embrace its bizarre teachings. These include a claim that Scientology can free individuals of the negative views implanted in humans by aliens centuries ago. Indeed, some movie insiders say that Cruise's passion for the cult has grown to such extraordinary proportions in the past year that it now pervades every single part of his life.

On the set of his latest film, War Of The Worlds, Cruise demanded that a Scientology tent - complete with volunteer ministers - should be available at all times to help any sick and injured among the movie's cast and crew.

There are suggestions Scientology lies behind his sudden engagement to the beautiful Katie Holmes.

There's no doubt Holmes has fallen under the spell of the church since meeting Cruise. The young former Dawson's Creek TV star has already announced her conversion to Scientology.

She is also seldom to be seen without her Scientology minder, a shadowy 29-year-old woman called Jessica Feshbach Rodriguez, whose family is one of the church's largest financial donors. Holmes now calls Rodriguez her best friend, even though they have known each other for only a matter of weeks.

Bizarrely, a series of red blotches on Katie Holmes's face, which suddenly appeared after she met Cruise, were alleged by some critics to be the result of a niacin-based detoxification process performed by the Church of Scientology - although this process was officially denied by the organisation.

Holmes says it is ludicrous to suggest that she has been press-ganged into adopting Scientology by her new fiance.

She says: "Tom doesn't put pressure on people. He is the kindest, smartest, most adoring man."

Not everyone is convinced. One US commentator said this week: "Holmes, who was previously a sweet, thoughtful, articulate young woman, now comes across as a zombie." He adds: "It can only be more worrisome for her parents as they see the steady hold Tom Cruise and Scientology have taken of their beloved daughter."

So pervasive is Scientology's influence in Cruise's life that he is believed to have placed the education of his adopted children with Nicole Kidman - Isabella, 12, and Conor, 10 - in the hands of Cass and Marian Cruise, two of his three sisters, who both converted to the religion over a decade ago. They are reported to be placing heavy emphasis on the teachings of Scientology.

Bella Cruise, as his daughter is known, has recently been listed in the Scientology bulletin for completing what it calls the basic course. Like Kidman, Holmes, too, comes from a Catholic family, but Holmes agreed to convert to Scientology - something that Kidman, however, always refused to do.

Actress Penelope Cruz, whom Cruise dated after his separation from Kidman, also took Scientology courses during their three-year relationship, but she, too, declined to convert - which many Hollywood insiders believe was one cause of their break-up.

You can hardly get to speak to Cruise these days without going through a Scientologist, one industry professional claims.

Cruise's third sister, Lee Anne De Vette, another convert to Scientology, has taken charge of his public relations this year, replacing the respected movie industry figure, Pat Kingsley.

A convert to Scientology in 1987 in the wake of his first marriage to actress Mimi Rogers, Cruise claims that its teaching helped him to overcome his dyslexia.

According to members of the group, Cruise has reached the sixth of eight "Operating Thetan" levels and is trusted enough to know almost all the secret truth of the universe. Oprah Winfrey beware.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

Just Between Friends

Border Tension Rises Between US and Mexico

Political tension over illegal immigration and crime along the US-Mexico border worsened this week, as Vicente Fox, Mexico's president, complained of a lack of co-operation from US officials after two US states declared emergencies along their borders with Mexico.

"My call to the US . . . is that instead of signals we make proposals, instead of working each on their own side we work together," Mr Fox said in Mexico's Sonora state, which borders Arizona.

Citing drugs-related violence on the US side of the border, Mr Fox asked: "If all the drugs that cross there arrive in the markets for consumption, what's being done on that side?"

Tony Garza, the US ambassador to Mexico and a friend of President George W. Bush, responded on Tuesday night that violence "from Matamoros to Tijuana" was "destroying the social and economic fabric of our border communities".

"The longer that violence continues, the tougher it becomes for many Americans to talk about Mexicans as our trusted partners with mutual interests," he said in a speech in Denver.

Tension over illegal immigration and border-area violence reached high levels of both governments last week, when Bill Richardson, New Mexico's governor, declared a state of emergency along his state's international border, prompting criticism from Mexico's foreign ministry. Janet Napolitano, Arizona's governor, did the same this week.

Ms Napolitano said that the "flood of unauthorised immigration" had led to hundreds of deaths - which have risen sharply this year - an increase in violent crime, and trespassing that had "damaged vegetation, wildlife and livestock".

Ms Napolitano, a Democrat, also said the US federal government had "failed in its responsibility" to secure the international border, and that Arizona would put $1.5m (€1.2m, £831,000) of its emergency fund towards fighting the problem. She also said the move was part of "close work" on sharing resources and intelligence with Sonora.

An outbreak of severe violence between drug gangs in Nuevo Laredo, on the border with Texas, recently led the US to close its consulate there.

The consulate re-opened last week, despite the assas sination of a city councillor. Mr Garza said he closed the Nuevo Laredo consulate partially to punish Mexico "for its failure to control violence in the region". Mexican politicians described it as an "over-reaction".

Gerónimo Gutiérrez, Mexico's minister for US relations, said: "It's important to differentiate between the specific public security problem in Nuevo Laredo, which is important, and the broader concept of security on the border.

"We should avoid the perception that the border is out of control along all its length."

He told the Financial Times that Mexican and US governments would announce new measures for clamping down on "coyotes", who smuggle migrants across the border, within the next few months.


Our Neighbor's Cooperation (Complicity)

Mexico Funds Staging Areas for Illegals

The Mexican staging area for illegal aliens that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson demanded this week be bulldozed is among hundreds of similar sites along the border sponsored and maintained by the Mexican government.

Many of the sites are marked with blue flags and pennants to signal that water is available. Others, such as the Las Chepas site that Mr. Richardson denounced, are a collection of old, mostly abandoned buildings or ranch houses where illegals gather for water and other supplies -- sometimes bartering with smugglers, or "coyotes," for passage north.

Las Chepas, law-enforcement authorities said, also is a center for drug smugglers looking to move marijuana and cocaine into the United States.

Rafael Laveaga, spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, yesterday said his government "has a duty and obligation by law to protect Mexican citizens at home and abroad."

He said record high temperatures in the desert areas south of New Mexico and Arizona this year had resulted in the death of many illegal aliens.

"We try to spread the word on the dangerous conditions these people will face in the desert, along with reports of historically high temperatures," he said. "What we are doing is part of an effort to prevent those deaths."

Many of the Mexican aid stations are maintained by Grupo Beta, a Mexican governmentfunded humanitarian organization founded in the early 1990s. Driving through the desert regions south of the border in brightly painted orange trucks, Grupo Beta's job is to protect migrants along the border, not arrest them.

In April, Grupo Beta worked with the Mexican military and the Sonora State Preventive Police to move would-be illegal aliens out of the desert areas just south of the U.S. border to locations east and west of Naco, Ariz., to avoid the Minuteman Project volunteers holding a vigil on the border.

A branch of Mexico's National Migration Institute, Grupo Beta also helped pass out fliers warning migrants that the Minuteman volunteers, whom they described as "armed vigilantes," were waiting across the border to hurt them.

In addition to the aid stations, the Mexican government has distributed more than a million copies of a 32-page handbook advising migrants how to cross into the United States. The book, known as "Guia del Migrante Mexicano," or "Guide for the Mexican Migrant," contains tips on avoiding apprehension by U.S. authorities.

Aid stations for illegal aliens also exist in the United States, many of them established and supplied by various humanitarian organizations such as Humane Borders, a Tucson faith-based group that targets illegal aliens who the organization said might otherwise die in the desert.

Humane Borders, established in 2001, has 70 water stations along the U.S. side of the border, each with two 50-gallon tanks next to a 30-foot-mast with a blue flag.

Many are on well-traveled migrant routes. Others have been placed, with permission, on property owned by Pima County, Ariz.; the National Park Service; the Bureau of Land Management; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Another U.S. group, known as No More Deaths, set up an aid camp last month near Arivaca, Ariz., helping stranded border-crossers with food, water and medical assistance. The Ark of the Covenant camp will remain in operation through September.

The group has received much of its support from Presbyterian churches in Arizona and elsewhere. Last year, 500 volunteers -- including doctors and nurses -- took part in a similar camp. A second camp has been established on the Mexican side of the border, across from Douglas, Ariz., also sponsored by No More Deaths and a Mexican group that operates drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation centers.

More than 110 illegal aliens have died in Arizona's desert this year.

Mr. Richardson, in declaring a state of emergency in four New Mexico counties because of rising immigration, border violence and drug smuggling, called on the Mexican government to bulldoze Las Chepas, across the border from Columbus, N.M.

The state of Chihuahua responded by calling for increased dialogue to improve security in the region, saying it would "offer all the support we can to continue our good relationship with our northern neighbor."

The Mexican Foreign Relations Secretariat said Mr. Richardson's declaration did not "jibe with the spirit of cooperation and understanding" and called for a meeting to promote "appropriate actions."


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

'Able Danger'/Brick Wall

Officer: 'Able Danger' Stopped from Informing FBI

WASHINGTON - An Army intelligence officer said Wednesday he does not believe the 9/11 commission pressed hard enough for documentation of claims that military intelligence found a U.S.-based terrorist cell that included Mohamed Atta, who turned out to be the leader of the Sept. 11 attacks, prior to the terrorist strikes.

"I don't believe they ever got all the documents, but then again I don't think that they pressed properly to get all of the documents," Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer said on CBS' "The Early Show."

He says he was associated with a small intelligence unit, called "Able Danger," that had identified Atta and three of the other future Sept. 11 hijackers as al-Qaida members by mid-2000.

He said military lawyers stopped the unit from sharing the information with the FBI out of concerns about gathering and sharing information on people in the United States legally.

"What we were trying to do as good soldiers is we saw a threat, we recognized the fact that they were here in the United States and we felt we should do something even when the lawyers said we couldn't," Shaffer said.

"The problem was at the time the Special Operations Command is very secretive, quiet warriors," he said. "They like doing things quietly. I had to respect their wishes, to respect the sanctity of that information. What I tried to do was bring them together with the FBI so they could discuss this and take the appropriate action."

The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks left the Able Danger claims out of its official report and has since said it did not obtain enough information on the operation to consider it historically significant.

In an interview with Fox News Channel and The New York Times distributed Tuesday evening, Shaffer said the panel was not given all the information his team had gathered.

"I'm told confidently by the person who did move the material over that the 9/11 commission received two briefcase-size containers of documents," Shaffer said in the Fox News report. "I can tell you for a fact that would not be ... one-20th of the information that Able Danger consisted of during the time we spent."

Rep. Curt Weldon (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., vice chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, has said the Sept. 11 commission did not adequately investigate the claim that four of the hijackers had been identified more than a year before the attacks.

Former commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton said last week that the military official who made the claim had no documentation to back it up.

Shaffer rejected that remark. "Leaving a project targeting al-Qaida as a global threat a year before we were attacked by al-Qaida is equivalent to having an investigation of Pearl Harbor and leaving somehow out the Japanese," he said in the Fox interview.

In the Times account of the interview, Shaffer said he was "at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued" in describing his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the FBI in 2000 and early 2001.


Terror Plot Probe Grows

California terror plot goes deeper to prison system

Two men accused of robbery and also suspected of planning a terrorist attack alledgedly wanted to go after an Army event, according to KFI News sources.

Now, a third man has been arrested in the case of the uncovered Muslim terror cell in California.

Law enforcement sources say target lists describe the US Army Association's annual ball at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach. Other targets included synagogues, military facilities and recruiting offices in West Los Angeles and the South Bay.

A high-ranking law enforcement source says Gregory Patterson and Lavar Washington planned to shoot up the recruitment center on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and kill as many officers and civilians as possible. A military recruiting center on Santa Monica Blvd. was supposed to be the target of the attack.

Sources say one of the two men charged in the robberies, Levar Washington, bragged to investigators that a number of men were involved in the gun attack plots.

A Pakistani national, Hamad Samana, was arrested last week in connection with the case. Samana is a Liberal Arts major and member of the Cricket Club in Inglewood, California. His connection to the terror attack plots and his affiliations outside of the country or connections to established terror groups, such as Al Qaeda, are not yet known.

The case has opened a new and troubling front for counter-terrorism officials because of a possible connection to a radical form of Islam practiced by a group called Jamiyyat Ul Islam Is Saheeh, an official said. The group's name translates as The Assembly of Authentic Islam.

While little is known publicly about the JIS, as intelligence officials call it, the group has been around for several years and has a presence at Folsom State Prison, where one of the three men in custody, Levar Haney Washington, 25, served time for assault and robbery, according to law enforcement sources.

Washington and another man, Gregory Vernon Patterson, became suspects in the wider terror investigation after Jihadi literature was discovered in Washington's apartment. The literature outlined efforts to recruit young Muslim African-American men for the "Holy War."

Patterson, who has no criminal record, worked at a duty free gift shop at LAX until early this year.

No one has suggested he was surveying the airport as a possible target, but the fact that he worked at the Tom Bradley International Terminal has raised concerns for counter-terrorism officials because LAX is viewed as one of the state's most likely potential targets.

The two men were originally arrested as suspects in a series of gas station robberies.

KFI News is reporting that the plot may involve up to 13 individuals who are followers of a Muslim inmate inside the prison system in California.

The story is still developing and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is now in charge of the investigation.

KFI News is reporting that the investigation is expanding and the plot "goes much deeper."

Over 100 FBI agents are participating in the investigation.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Arizona Declares Border Emergency

Gov. Janet Napolitano has followed the lead of her New Mexico counterpart

PHOENIX - Gov. Janet Napolitano on Monday declared a state of emergency along Arizona's border with Mexico, freeing up $1.5 million in disaster funds to help border counties combat booming illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

Napolitano criticized the federal government for "moving too slow" on border security, evolving into a hot-button, election-year issue in Arizona and across the country.

"This is a federal responsibility, and they're not meeting it," Napolitano said. "I've just come to the conclusion (that) we've got to do what we can at the state level until the federal government picks up the pace."

Napolitano's announcement came three days after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson issued a similar declaration, complaining that the federal government has failed to stem growing smuggling-related violence to the east of Arizona, an increasingly popular illegal immigration corridor. Both governors are Democrats.

The money in Arizona is designated for the state's four border counties - Yuma, Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise - and will be distributed by the Arizona Division of Emergency Management. The $1.5 million is part of $4 million set aside annually for disasters, such as fires or floods.

Politicians and law enforcement officials in those counties said the money is sorely needed. The state is the busiest illegal crossing spot along the entire Southwestern border.

The declaration is the first time Napolitano has tapped the funds for border issues.

And it comes at a time when federal lawmakers, including some from Arizona, and the Bush administration are pushing a series of immigration reform bills and proposals.

Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl have introduced starkly different bills. Kyl's bill would authorize 10,000 new Border Patrol agents and require millions of undocumented immigrants to return to their home countries after five years. The McCain bill would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States if they pay a fine and participate in a guest-worker program.

The long-running battle over securing the U.S.-Mexican border is expected to be a key issue in next year's midterm elections, both nationally and at the state level.

Arizona border counties will be eligible to apply for state money for a wide range of costs, from repairing border fences to paying for overtime for local law enforcement agencies dealing with smuggling-related crime.

State Rep. Russell Pearce, a Republican, accused Napolitano of bowing to public and political pressure.

"This governor clearly is very good at reading polls," Pearce said. "It's a start, but much more has to be done.... This nation is under siege."

Since Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year, U.S. Border Patrol in the Yuma and Tucson sectors reported more than 510,000 arrests, an average of about 1,616 a day, roughly on par with last year. The Border Patrol has reported a steep increase in assaults on agents patrolling in southern Arizona, including a June 30 shooting by masked gunmen with assault rifles that wounded two agents near Nogales, Ariz.

"For years, we've been dealing with international, federal issues at the border with little or no support from the government. We need resources down here," Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said. "We're the guys in the trenches, on the roads, out in the sticks. For too long, we've been raising little red flags, saying we need help, and nobody's paid attention."

His Sheriff's Department, which patrols about 50 miles of border outside Nogales, has a 31-year-old jail designed for 52 inmates but routinely holds 120. On Monday morning, 52 percent of the inmates were Mexican nationals accused of state or local crimes.

Rancher Larry Vance, 49, has lived in Cochise County in southeastern Arizona for more than 31 years. Illegal-immigration arrests peaked along the Southwestern border and in Arizona during 2000, and Vance reported his property was overrun to the point that he slept only two to three hours a night.

Things quieted down recently, Vance said, particularly since March, when the Border Patrol extended its steel fence farther west, past the boundary of his 20-acre property just north of the border.

"She's 10 years too late," Vance said of Napolitano's declaration. "Politicians don't get it. They still don't get it."

Robert Damon, chairman of the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors, said more is needed to offset the estimated $3 million that illegal immigration costs the county each year, but "any little bit helps."

Kevin Tunell, Yuma County director of public and legislative affairs, estimated illegal immigration costs the county $5 million to $6 million a year, much on jailing undocumented immigrants. "Illegal immigration has had a phenomenal impact on our yearly budget, so any money that comes to us is always welcomed to help plug the hole in the dike," he said

Yuma County Sheriff Ralph Ogden said he hopes to use some of the money to pay for extra police patrols along the Colorado River that borders Mexico, which has become a haven for thieves who prey on undocumented immigrants.


Monday, August 15, 2005


Arizona May Declare Border 'Disaster Area'

PHOENIX - Gov. Janet Napolitano may declare border counties a disaster area, following the lead of her New Mexico counterpart.

Napolitano press aide Jeanine L'Ecuyer said Monday the governor's staff is exploring whether an emergency could be declared based not on a natural disaster but because of the problems of crime, human smuggling and property destruction caused by people crossing the international border.

L'Ecuyer said the basic question involves reviewing the legal grounds for making such a declaration. State law permits the governor to declare an emergency in various instances, including cases of "invasions, hostile attacks, riots or insurrections.''

On Friday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson used similar authorization to declare a disaster in four border counties. That move freed up $750,000 from that state's emergency fund to help pay overtime for state police and sheriff's deputies, with Richardson also promising to provide another $1 million in discretionary dollars.

Cam Hunter, spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Homeland Security, said this state has $4 million in the fund.

L'Ecuyer said there are a variety of differences between Arizona and New Mexico that might make a disaster declaration here inappropriate. She also said part of the question is whether such a declaration by Napolitano would free up any federal funds.

Pahl Shipley, press aide to Richardson, said his boss is hoping for some federal aid. But Tim Manning, that state's Mexico's homeland security chief, said that would require the state to meet some very specific requirements in federal law.

"It essentially comes down to all available resources at the local and state level have been used,'' he said. Manning said there also is a formula to determine the relative burden of an emergency on the state, computed on a per capita basis.

But Shipley said there also is a political component behind the governor's declaration.

"He is frustrating by the inaction on the federal level and felt like he needed to take action to protect New Mexicans and their property,'' Shipley said. He said Richardson wanted to "send a clear message the governor thought it was an urgent situation.''

The move has had at least some impact: U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said Richardson's declaration is more evidence that Congress needs to act soon to enact a comprehensive temporary worker program along with increased sanctions against employers who hired undocumented workers.

"As Arizonans well know, the federal government's inability to control the border has been a crisis for some time,'' Flake said in a prepared statement. "We cannot afford to wait any longer.''

Flake is a co-sponsor of legislation being pushed by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to set up a new temporary worker program for jobs that require few or no skills. It also seeks unspecified increases in funding for border security.

Manning acknowledged there always has been crime along the border, it appears to have become more frequent - and more violent recently. He said some of that may be due to increased Border Patrol activity in Arizona which is moving some of the problem to the east.

"It's about criminal activity and it's about potential terrorism,'' Manning said. "Our concern right now is for the people down there.''


Diminished Expectations

US Lowers Sights on What Can Be Achieved in Iraq

The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

Administration officials still emphasize how much they have achieved despite the chaos that followed the invasion and the escalating insurgency. "Iraqis are taking control of their country, building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. And we're helping Iraqis succeed," President Bush said yesterday in his radio address.

Iraqi officials yesterday struggled to agree on a draft constitution by a deadline of tomorrow so the document can be submitted to a vote in October. The political transition would be completed in December by elections for a permanent government.

But the realities of daily life are a constant reminder of how the initial U.S. ambitions have not been fulfilled in ways that Americans and Iraqis once anticipated. Many of Baghdad's 6 million people go without electricity for days in 120-degree heat. Parents fearful of kidnapping are keeping children indoors.

Barbers post signs saying they do not shave men, after months of barbers being killed by religious extremists. Ethnic or religious-based militias police the northern and southern portions of Iraq. Analysts estimate that in the whole of Iraq, unemployment is 50 percent to 65 percent.

U.S. officials say no turning point forced a reassessment. "It happened rather gradually," said the senior official, triggered by everything from the insurgency to shifting budgets to U.S. personnel changes in Baghdad.

The ferocious debate over a new constitution has particularly driven home the gap between the original U.S. goals and the realities after almost 28 months. The U.S. decision to invade Iraq was justified in part by the goal of establishing a secular and modern Iraq that honors human rights and unites disparate ethnic and religious communities.

But whatever the outcome on specific disputes, the document on which Iraq's future is to be built will require laws to be compliant with Islam. Kurds and Shiites are expecting de facto long-term political privileges. And women's rights will not be as firmly entrenched as Washington has tried to insist, U.S. officials and Iraq analysts say.

"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. "That process is being repeated all over."

U.S. officials now acknowledge that they misread the strength of the sentiment among Kurds and Shiites to create a special status. The Shiites' request this month for autonomy to be guaranteed in the constitution stunned the Bush administration, even after more than two years of intense intervention in Iraq's political process, they said.

"We didn't calculate the depths of feeling in both the Kurdish and Shiite communities for a winner-take-all attitude," said Judith S. Yaphe, a former CIA Iraq analyst at the National Defense University.

In the race to meet a sequence of fall deadlines, the process of forging national unity behind the constitution is largely being scrapped, current and former officials involved in the transition said.

"We are definitely cutting corners and lowering our ambitions in democracy building," said Larry Diamond, a Stanford University democracy expert who worked with the U.S. occupation government and wrote the book "Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq."

"Under pressure to get a constitution done, they've lowered their own ambitions in terms of getting a document that is going to be very far-reaching and democratic. We also don't have the time to go through the process we envisioned when we wrote the interim constitution -- to build a democratic culture and consensus through debate over a permanent constitution," he said.

The goal now is to ensure a constitution that can be easily amended later so Iraq can grow into a democracy, U.S. officials say.

On security, the administration originally expected the U.S.-led coalition to be welcomed with rice and rosewater, traditional Arab greetings, with only a limited reaction from loyalists of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The surprising scope of the insurgency and influx of foreign fighters has forced Washington to repeatedly lower expectations -- about the time-frame for quelling the insurgency and creating an effective and cohesive Iraqi force capable of stepping in, U.S. officials said.

Killings of members of the Iraqi security force have tripled since January. Iraq's ministry of health estimates that bombings and other attacks have killed 4,000 civilians in Baghdad since Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari's interim government took office April 28.

Last week was the fourth-worst week of the whole war for U.S. military deaths in combat, and August already is the worst month for deaths of members of the National Guard and Reserve.

Attacks on U.S. convoys by insurgents using roadside bombs have doubled over the past year, Army Brig. Gen. Yves Fontaine said Friday. Convoys ferrying food, fuel, water, arms and equipment from Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey are attacked about 30 times a week, Fontaine said.

"There has been a realistic reassessment of what it is possible to achieve in the short term and fashion a partial exit strategy," Yaphe said. "This change is dictated not just by events on the ground but by unrealistic expectations at the start."

Washington now does not expect to fully defeat the insurgency before departing, but instead to diminish it, officials and analysts said. There is also growing talk of turning over security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces even if they are not fully up to original U.S. expectations, in part because they have local legitimacy that U.S. troops often do not.

"We've said we won't leave a day before it's necessary. But necessary is the key word -- necessary for them or for us? When we finally depart, it will probably be for us," a U.S. official said.

Pressed by the cost of fighting an escalating insurgency, U.S. expectations for rebuilding Iraq -- and its $20 billion investment -- have fallen the farthest, current and former officials say.

Pentagon officials originally envisioned Iraq's oil revenue paying many post-invasion expenses. But Iraq, ranked among world leaders behind Saudi Arabia in proven oil reserves, is incapable of producing enough refined fuel amid a car-buying boom that has put an estimated 1 million more vehicles on the road after the invasion. Lines for subsidized cheap gas stretch for miles every day in Baghdad.

Oil production is estimated at 2.22 million barrels a day, short of the goal of 2.5 million. Iraq's pre-war high was 2.67 million barrels a day.

The United States had high hopes of quick, big-budget fixes for the electrical power system that would show Iraqis tangible benefits from the ouster of Hussein. But inadequate training for Iraqi staff, regional rivalries restricting the power flow to Baghdad, inadequate fuel for electrical generators and attacks on the infrastructure have contributed to the worst summer of electrical shortages in the capital.

Water is also a "tough, tough" situation in a desert country, said a U.S. official in Baghdad familiar with reconstruction issues. Pumping stations depend on electricity, and engineers now say the system has hundreds of thousands of leaks.

"The most thoroughly dashed expectation was the ability to build a robust self-sustaining economy. We're nowhere near that. State industries, electricity are all below what they were before we got there," said Wayne White, former head of the State Department's Iraq intelligence team who is now at the Middle East Institute. "The administration says Saddam ran down the country. But most damage was from looting [after the invasion], which took down state industries, large private manufacturing, the national electric" system.

Ironically, White said, the initial ambitions may have complicated the U.S. mission: "In order to get out earlier, expectations are going to have to be lower, even much lower. The higher your expectation, the longer you have to stay. Getting out is going to be a more important consideration than the original goals were. They were unrealistic."


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Covering Up the Coverup Coverup

9/11 Panel Claims Atta Tip Wasn't 'Sufficiently Credible'

The 9/11 commission yesterday defended its decision to ignore a Navy officer's report that military spies targeted lead hijacker Mohamed Atta more than a year before the attacks — and claimed the Navy man wasn't "sufficiently credible."

The statement from commission chiefs Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton came after a flip-flop, in which the panel's staff first denied and then admitted it was told Pentagon spies had linked Atta to an al Qaeda cell in New York in 2000.

That revelation touched off a firestorm because the Navy officer reportedly said military spies in the top-secret Able Danger program were barred from telling the FBI of their finding — a move that might have caught Atta.

"The [Navy officer] had no documentary evidence and said he had only seen the document briefly some years earlier. He could not describe what information had led to this supposed Atta identification," the commission said.

"The commission's staff concluded that the officer's account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant revision of the report or further investigation."

A skeptical Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) said the statement does nothing to answer why the Able Danger warning wasn't passed on to the FBI.


Friday, August 12, 2005

Carlsbad Immigration Forum

Police Check Pro-Illegal Protesters at Immigration Forum

CARLSBAD ---- If not for some 300 local police officers and SWAT teams, Thursday night's town-hall meeting on illegal immigration at Carlsbad High School might have turned out differently than it did.

About 700 people showed up for the forum, titled "The Illegal Immigration Crisis." Only 400 or so were able to enter the building, which soon reached capacity, leaving several-hundred anti-illegal immigration protesters and 300 pro-illegal immigration protesters outside, separated by lines of police.

Protesters against the event included the violent group the "Brown Berets," Muslims protesting Congressman Tom Tancredo and even a contingent of anti-war protesters.

The general theme of Thursday night's speakers was that the government and citizens must do something to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

The more strident of the half-dozen or so speakers was author Madeleine Cosman, who listed a litany of problems caused by illegal immigrants, including everything from a spike in the number of sexual predators in California and an increased homicide rate to an increase in the spread of infectious diseases.

The night's featured speaker was U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado, who, like Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, received a standing ovation. Both have garnered nationwide support in their push for immigration reform.

The Minuteman Project fielded several hundred volunteers in April along the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona to observe illegal immigrants and report them to the U.S. Border Patrol. The operation drew worldwide media attention. They succeeded in reporting 300 illegal immigrants who were then apprehended by Border Patrol agents.

Tancredo has become one of the leading figures in the fight for stronger enforcement of U.S. immigration laws and protecting the nation's borders.

In his speech, Tancredo charmed the like-minded audience with his sense of humor. Talking about a piece of immigration legislation now working its way through Congress, and sponsored by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and John McCain, R-Arizona, Tancredo said: "I call it the McKennedy bill. I don't have to say anything else, but that it is sponsored by Kennedy and McCain."

The event had been banned at one point by Carlsbad, California, Unified School District Superintendent John Roach, who cited "an unreasonable risk of damage to the facility, equipment or furnishings" that "might jeopardize the security, health and well-being of an audience of the community."

However, facing the threat of legal action, Roach decided late Tuesday to allow the forum about illegal immigration to be held at the Carlsbad Cultural Arts Center because, "I believe the first amendment issue regarding free speech outweighs the concerns I had regarding crowd behavior."

Although Roach's attempt to insinuate that the anti-illegal immigration crowd was the one he had been concerned may instigate violence, it was evident to police, observers and the forum crowd that the group of pro-illegal immigration protesters was the one to watch as they hurled insults and threats at those in attendance. The large police presence obviously stopped that group from escalating incidents of violence as they have done on several occassions.


Terror Threat

FBI: Al Qaeda May Use Trucks to Attack LA, NYC, Chicago

The FBI has warned police that al-Qaida cells might use fuel trucks as weapons to attack Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, but officials stressed Thursday the warning was based on uncorroborated intelligence.

The warning was distributed Tuesday via a computer network by FBI officials in Los Angeles to law enforcement agencies primarily in California, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.

Though intelligence bulletins usually describe how reliable the information is, this one carried no such statement.

The bulletin warned police that terrorists could use fuel tankers in assaults on the three cities. The warning has not been substantiated, according to two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The intelligence originated from FBI headquarters in Washington.

It was not immediately clear why the bulletin was sent without details on its reliability.

Eimiller noted that FBI officials often notify police of possible threats, regardless of how accurate the information might be.

"Information at all levels is shared with law enforcement," she said.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

'Able Danger' Coverup

'Able Danger' Intel Could Rewrite 9/11 History

WASHINGTON — The federal commission that probed the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was told twice about "Able Danger," a military intelligence unit that had identified Mohamed Atta and other hijackers a year before the attacks, a congressman close to the investigation said Wednesday.

Rep. Curt Weldon R-Pa., a champion of integrated intelligence-sharing among U.S. agencies, wrote to the former chairman and vice-chairman of the Sept. 11 commission late Wednesday, telling them that their staff had received two briefings on the military intelligence unit — once in October 2003 and again in July 2004.

Weldon said he was upset by suggestions earlier Wednesday by 9/11 panel members that it had been not been given critical information on Able Danger's capabilities and findings.

"The impetus for this letter is my extreme disappointment in the recent, and false, claim of the 9/11 commission staff that the commission was never given access to any information on Able Danger," Weldon wrote to former Chairman Gov. Thomas Kean and Vice-Chairman Rep. Lee Hamilton "The 9/11 commission staff received not one but two briefings on Able Danger from former team members, yet did not pursue the matter.

"The commission's refusal to investigate Able Danger after being notified of its existence, and its recent efforts to feign ignorance of the project while blaming others for supposedly withholding information on it, brings shame on the commissioners, and is evocative of the worst tendencies in the federal government that the commission worked to expose," Weldon added.

On Wednesday, a source familiar with the Sept. 11 commission — formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States — told FOX News that aides who still had security clearances had gone back to the National Archives outside Washington, D.C., to review notes on Atta and any information the U.S. government had on him and his terror cell before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The source acknowledged that the aides were looking for a memo about a briefing given to four staff members by defense intelligence officials during an overseas trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the fall of 2003.

Staffers apparently did not recall being told of the Able Danger information at that meeting and wanted to double-check their records.

Former commission spokesman Al Felzenberg told The New York Times in Thursday editions that Atta was mentioned to panel investigators during at least one meeting with a military officer. That briefing came in July 2004, less than two weeks before the commission's final report was issued to the public.

Felzenberg said the information about Atta was considered suspect because it didn't jibe with many other findings. For example, the intelligence officer said Atta was in the United States in late 1999, but travel records confirmed that he did not enter the country until late 2000.

"He wasn't brushed off," Felzenberg told The Times about the military officer's briefing. "I'm not aware of anybody being brushed off. The information that he provided us did not mesh with other conclusions that we were drawing."

But Weldon said that argument was not good enough.

"The 9/11 commission took a very high-profile role in critiquing intelligence agencies that refused to listen to outside information. The commissioners very publicly expressed their disapproval of agencies and departments that would not entertain ideas that did not originate in-house," Weldon wrote in his letter Wednesday night.

"Therefore it is no small irony," Weldon pointed out, "that the commission would in the end prove to be guilty of the very same offense when information of potentially critical importance was brought to its attention."

On Thursday, Weldon told FOX News that the military official, who was under cover when he was in Afghanistan for the October 2003 briefing, is certain he told the staffers about Atta at that time.

The military intelligence officer who attended that meeting with staffers "kept notes of that meeting and will testify under oath that he not only told" the staffers about Able Danger's mission, but about Atta.

Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, told FOX News on Wednesday that if Atta's name had been mentioned in the October 2003 briefing, it would have jumped out at staffers.

He said that the commission did not include the claims by Able Danger in the definitive report of the events leading up to Sept. 11 because it had no "information that the United States government had under surveillance or had any knowledge of Mohamed Atta prior to the attacks.

"It could be a very crucial incident in terms of the lead-up to 9/11. It could reveal flaws in the intelligence sharing or the lack of intelligence that we have not yet focused on," Hamilton said of the military's tracking of Atta and its inability to get domestic intelligence agencies to follow up.

Hamilton told FOX News that the commission team would get to the bottom of the confusion over what the United States knew about Atta and whether it played into the commission's investigation.

"I think the 9/11 commission's obligation at this point is to review our records very, very carefully and make very soon — we hope within the next few days — a complete statement about what happened during our investigation," Hamilton said.

Weldon said that he personally knows five members of the commission and is not attacking the integrity of any of them. He said he discussed the matter with two commissioners who told him they were never briefed about Able Danger.

"I have to ask why. I would hope there was not a deliberate attempt by someone on the 9/11 commission staff to keep this information" from the commissioners, Weldon said, adding "I find no fault right now with the commissioners."

A commission spokesman told FOX News that the panel expected to issue a statement before the end of the week.

Among the most critical facts to be determined, if the information about Atta did exist in 2000, would be who then blocked the intelligence from going to the FBI, which could have tracked down the terror cell.

"Team members believed that the Atta cell in Brooklyn should be subject to closer scrutiny, but somewhere along the food chain of administration bureaucrats and lawyers, a decision was made in late 2000 against passing the information to the FBI," Weldon wrote.

"Fear of tarnishing the commission's legacy cannot be allowed to override the truth. The American people are counting on you not to 'go native' by succumbing to the very temptations your commission was assembled to indict," he added.


Ya Think?

Illegal Alien Border Agent Remanded

A former Border Patrol agent who is accused of being an illegal immigrant and also is accused of helping to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States from Mexico has been deemed a flight risk and will be held without bail, a federal judge ruled today.

Magistrate Judge Anthony Battaglia ruled that Oscar Antonio Ortiz, 28, is an illegal immigrant himself, and no amount of bail could ensure his return to court, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Battaglia also said, "the temptation for Ortiz to flee to his Native Mexico is strong."


Wednesday, August 10, 2005

'Bonnie and Clyde'

Tennessee Cops Hunt for Fugitive Couple

KINGSTON, Tenn. — Authorities continued their search Wednesday for a convicted robber George Hyatte (search) and his wife, who officials say shot and killed a corrections officer outside a Tennessee courthouse the day before.

According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, people from 15 states have called to report possible sightings but so far, none of them have led to the elusive pair.

Police believe the suspects are driving a beige or gold 2000 Chevy Venture.

Hyatte, a maximum security prisoner, was headed back to prison from a court appearance Tuesday in handcuffs and shackles when his wife, Jennifer Hyatte drove up and fired at the two corrections officers escorting her husband, Kingston Police Chief Jim Washam told FOX News.

"Mr. Hyatte hollered 'Shoot him!' She opened up fire on the officers, hitting one in the abdomen," Washam said.

One guard, Wayne "Cotton" Morgan, was killed; the other was not identified.

George Hyatte, an eighth grade dropout, has a long criminal career and has escaped from law enforcement at least five times before this incident, FOX News has learned.

"It was just a 'Bonnie and Clyde'-style shootout," Mark Gywn, director of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday on ABC. "These people are very desperate and don't have anything to lose at this point."

The bloody escape set off an extensive search that Gywn said would continue until the couple is captured.

"We will be looking for them, running leads until we find them," he said.

George Hyatte, 34, was at the courthouse to plead guilty in a deal with prosecutors over an armed robbery charge, Washam said.

His wife is a 31-year-old nurse who had been fired from her job at a prison in Tiptonville after it was suspected she was having a relationship with Hyatte, Corrections Department spokeswoman Amanda Sluss said.

Immediately after the shootout, helicopters circled over this eastern Tennessee town and schools — open for student registration — were locked down.

The Ford Explorer driven by Jennifer Hyatte was later found abandoned with blood on the driver's side, and police think she may have been wounded by a shot fired by the other officer during the attack, Washam said. Authorities believe the pair later switched from the SUV to a van.

Gywn said medical facilities in the area had been contacted and told to notify the police if either of the Hyattes came seeking treatment.

Washam said authorities were preparing murder charges against the couple.

"We do have leads coming in on possible whereabouts, possibly some family members that may be hiding them out. We're trying our best to coordinate those," Washam said. "Right now, we can't say if they had any help."

George Hyatte, two years into a 35-year sentence on robbery and assault charges, "is extremely violent, and he has no care or concern on what he does to anyone," said Rhea County Sheriff's spokesman Jeff Knight.

Witness C. G. Gray said he and his wife were about 50 feet from the prisoners when they heard shots. He said Morgan, who was not wearing a protective vest, never got his gun out of his holster.

Morgan, 56, died at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, about 30 miles east, hospital spokeswoman Lisa McNeal said.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Internet Nitwit

'Satanist' Dances on Reagan's Grave

A self-proclaimed "Satanist" has visited a web site forum and posted photos of himself dancing on Ronald Reagan's grave and also urinating on Richard Nixon's grave marker draped in an American flag.

The poster, who appeared to be in his mid-20s and used the handle "TheFreakKingdom," claimed to be from San Diego. He claims to have hopped over the protective fence at Reagan's grave.

"Judging from my expression and body language, combined with what little I do remember, this appears to be about the time security guards noticed I had jumped the fence and started jigging over Reagan's rotting corpse (the original plan called for the Electric Slide, and then humping the ground, and then whatever else I could get away with, but security was stricter than we had anticipated)."

Continues the post: "We had to tear a-- out of there and lose security in the parking lot, but we appear to have gotten away scot-free."

The post is signed "Monte."

In discussion on the message board some posters applauded "TheFreakKingdom" for his accomplishment. One poster responded, "That is spectacular." Another poster responded with, "you've made San Diego proud."

Supporters of President Reagan, however, are infuriated.

TheFreakKingdom responded to several posters on the message board thread...

"I opened up my Friday by skipping class, and coerced one of my morally challenged friends in to joining me on a road trip (about 3 hours) to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Behind the library, on a hill overlooking Simi Valley, is the final resting place of Ronald Reagan's corpse. The pictures, apologies if they are huge."

Several people are attempting to learn if "Monte" can be tracked down and prosecuted. One person who has already contacted authorities has also discovered a website where "Monte" has posted more pictures of presidential grave desecration and even has orchestrated a national contest to see how many of these website members can desecrate the most presidential graves around the country.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Historically Significant Planning

US Military Develops Homeland War Plan

COLORADO SPRINGS -- The U.S. military has devised its first-ever war plans for guarding against and responding to terrorist attacks in the United States, envisioning 15 potential crisis scenarios and anticipating several simultaneous strikes around the country, according to officers who drafted the plans.

The classified plans, developed here at Northern Command headquarters, outline a variety of possible roles for quick-reaction forces estimated at as many as 3,000 ground troops per attack, a number that could easily grow depending on the extent of the damage and the abilities of civilian response teams.

The possible scenarios range from "low end," relatively modest crowd-control missions to "high-end," full-scale disaster management after catastrophic attacks such as the release of a deadly biological agent or the explosion of a radiological device, several officers said.

Some of the worst-case scenarios involve three attacks at the same time, in keeping with a Pentagon directive earlier this year ordering Northcom, as the command is called, to plan for multiple simultaneous attacks.

The war plans represent a historic shift for the Pentagon, which has been reluctant to become involved in domestic operations and is legally constrained from engaging in law enforcement. Indeed, defense officials continue to stress that they intend for the troops to play largely a supporting role in homeland emergencies, bolstering police, firefighters and other civilian response groups.

But the new plans provide for what several senior officers acknowledged is the likelihood that the military will have to take charge in some situations, especially when dealing with mass-casualty attacks that could quickly overwhelm civilian resources.

"In my estimation, [in the event of] a biological, a chemical or nuclear attack in any of the 50 states, the Department of Defense is best positioned -- of the various eight federal agencies that would be involved -- to take the lead," said Adm. Timothy J. Keating, the head of Northcom, which coordinates military involvement in homeland security operations.

The plans present the Pentagon with a clearer idea of the kinds and numbers of troops and the training that may be required to build a more credible homeland defense force. They come at a time when senior Pentagon officials are engaged in an internal, year-long review of force levels and weapons systems, attempting to balance the heightened requirements of homeland defense against the heavy demands of overseas deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Keating expressed confidence that existing military assets are sufficient to meet homeland security needs. Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, Northcom's chief operations officer, agreed, but he added that "stress points" in some military capabilities probably would result if troops were called on to deal with multiple homeland attacks.

Debate and Analysis

Several people on the staff here and at the Pentagon said in interviews that the debate and analysis within the U.S. government regarding the extent of the homeland threat and the resources necessary to guard against it remain far from resolved.

The command's plans consist of two main documents. One, designated CONPLAN 2002 and consisting of more than 1,000 pages, is said to be a sort of umbrella document that draws together previously issued orders for homeland missions and covers air, sea and land operations. It addresses not only post-attack responses but also prevention and deterrence actions aimed at intercepting threats before they reach the United States.

The other, identified as CONPLAN 0500, deals specifically with managing the consequences of attacks represented by the 15 scenarios.

CONPLAN 2002 has passed a review by the Pentagon's Joint Staff and is due to go soon to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and top aides for further study and approval, the officers said. CONPLAN 0500 is still undergoing final drafting here. (CONPLAN stands for "concept plan" and tends to be an abbreviated version of an OPLAN, or "operations plan," which specifies forces and timelines for movement into a combat zone.)

The plans, like much else about Northcom, mark a new venture by a U.S. military establishment still trying to find its comfort level with the idea of a greater homeland defense role after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Military officers and civilian Pentagon policymakers say they recognize, on one hand, that the armed forces have much to offer not only in numbers of troops but also in experience managing crises and responding to emergencies. On the other hand, they worry that too much involvement in homeland missions would diminish the military's ability to deal with threats abroad.

The Pentagon's new homeland defense strategy, issued in June, emphasized in boldface type that "domestic security is primarily a civilian law enforcement function." Still, it noted the possibility that ground troops might be sent into action on U.S. soil to counter security threats and deal with major emergencies.

"For the Pentagon to acknowledge that it would have to respond to catastrophic attack and needs a plan was a big step," said James Carafano, who follows homeland security issues for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

William M. Arkin, a defense specialist who has reported on Northcom's war planning, said the evolution of the Pentagon's thinking reflects the recognition of an obvious gap in civilian resources.

Since Northcom's inception in October 2002, its headquarters staff has grown to about 640 members, making it larger than the Southern Command, which oversees operations in Latin America, but smaller than the regional commands for Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific. A brief tour late last month of Northcom's operations center at Peterson Air Force Base found officers monitoring not only aircraft and ship traffic around the United States but also the Discovery space shuttle mission, the National Scout Jamboree in Virginia, several border surveillance operations and a few forest firefighting efforts.

'Dual-Use' Approach

Pentagon authorities have rejected the idea of creating large standing units dedicated to homeland missions. Instead, they favor a "dual-use" approach, drawing on a common pool of troops trained both for homeland and overseas assignments.

Particular reliance is being placed on the National Guard, which is expanding a network of 22-member civil support teams to all states and forming about a dozen 120-member regional response units. Congress last year also gave the Guard expanded authority under Title 32 of the U.S. Code to perform such homeland missions as securing power plants and other critical facilities.

But the Northcom commander can quickly call on active-duty forces as well. On top of previous powers to send fighter jets into the air, Keating earlier this year gained the authority to dispatch Navy and Coast Guard ships to deal with suspected threats off U.S. coasts. He also has immediate access to four active-duty Army battalions based around the country, officers here said.

Nonetheless, when it comes to ground forces possibly taking a lead role in homeland operations, senior Northcom officers remain reluctant to discuss specifics. Keating said such situations, if they arise, probably would be temporary, with lead responsibility passing back to civilian authorities.

Military exercises code-named Vital Archer, which involve troops in lead roles, are shrouded in secrecy. By contrast, other homeland exercises featuring troops in supporting roles are widely publicized.

Legal Questions

Civil liberties groups have warned that the military's expanded involvement in homeland defense could bump up against the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which restricts the use of troops in domestic law enforcement. But Pentagon authorities have told Congress they see no need to change the law.

According to military lawyers here, the dispatch of ground troops would most likely be justified on the basis of the president's authority under Article 2 of the

"That would be the place we would start from" in making the legal case, said Col. John Gereski, a senior Northcom lawyer.

But Gereski also said he knew of no court test of this legal argument, and Keating left the door open to seeking an amendment of the Posse Comitatus Act.

One potentially tricky area, the admiral said, involves National Guard officers who are put in command of task forces that include active-duty as well as Guard units -- an approach first used last year at the Group of Eight summit in Georgia. Guard troops, acting under state control, are exempt from Posse Comitatus prohibitions.

"It could be a challenge for the commander who's a Guardsman, if we end up in a fairly complex, dynamic scenario," Keating said. He cited a potential situation in which Guard units might begin rounding up people while regular forces could not.

The command's sensitivity to legal issues, Gereski said, is reflected in the unusually large number of lawyers on staff here -- 14 compared with 10 or fewer at other commands. One lawyer serves full time at the command's Combined Intelligence and Fusion Center, which joins military analysts with law enforcement and counterintelligence specialists from such civilian agencies as the FBI, the CIA and the Secret Service.

A senior supervisor at the facility said the staff there does no intelligence collection, only analysis.

He also said the military operates under long-standing rules intended to protect civilian liberties. The rules, for instance, block military access to intelligence information on political dissent or purely criminal activity.

Even so, the center's lawyer is called on periodically to rule on the appropriateness of some kinds of information-sharing. Asked how frequently such cases arise, the supervisor recalled two in the previous 10 days, but he declined to provide specifics.


Sunday, August 07, 2005

ABC Anchor Jennings Dies

News Anchor Peter Jennings loses battle with Lung Cancer

Aug. 8 — ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings died today at his home in New York City. He was 67. On April 5, Jennings announced he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

He is survived by his wife, Kayce Freed, his two children, Elizabeth, 25, and Christopher, 23, and his sister, Sarah Jennings.

In announcing Jennings' death to his ABC colleagues, News President David Westin wrote:

"For four decades, Peter has been our colleague, our friend, and our leader in so many ways. None of us will be the same without him.

"As you all know, Peter learned only this spring that the health problem he'd been struggling with was lung cancer. With Kayce, he moved straight into an aggressive chemotherapy treatment. He knew that it was an uphill struggle. But he faced it with realism, courage, and a firm hope that he would be one of the fortunate ones. In the end, he was not.

"We will have many opportunities in the coming hours and days to remember Peter for all that he meant to us all. It cannot be overstated or captured in words alone. But for the moment, the finest tribute we can give is to continue to do the work he loved so much and inspired us to do."

Reported World-Shaping Events

As one of America's most distinguished journalists, Jennings reported many of the pivotal events that have shaped our world. He was in Berlin in the 1960s when the Berlin Wall was going up, and there in the '90s when it came down. He covered the civil rights movement in the southern United States during the 1960s, and the struggle for equality in South Africa during the 1970s and '80s. He was there when the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965, and on the other side of the world when South Africans voted for the first time. He has worked in every European nation that once was behind the Iron Curtain. He was there when the independent political movement Solidarity was born in a Polish shipyard, and again when Poland's communist leaders were forced from power. And he was in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania and throughout the Soviet Union to record first the repression of communism and then its demise. He was one of the first reporters to go to Vietnam in the 1960s, and went back to the killing fields of Cambodia in the 1980s to remind Americans that, unless they did something, the terror would return.

On Dec. 31, 1999, Jennings anchored ABC's Peabody-award winning coverage of Millennium Eve, "ABC 2000." Some 175 million Americans watched the telecast, making it the biggest live global television event ever. "The day belonged to ABC News," wrote The Washington Post, "&with Peter Jennings doing a nearly superhuman job of anchoring." Jennings was the only anchor to appear live for 25 consecutive hours.

Jennings also led ABC's coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks and America's subsequent war on terrorism. He anchored more than 60 hours that week during the network's longest continuous period of news coverage, and was widely praised for providing a reassuring voice during the time of crisis. TV Guide called him "the center of gravity," while the Washington Post wrote, "Jennings, in his shirt sleeves, did a Herculean job of coverage." The coverage earned ABC News Peabody and duPont awards.

Overseas, and at Home

Jennings joined ABC News on Aug. 3, 1964. He served as the anchor of "Peter Jennings with the News" from 1965 to 1967.

He established the first American television news bureau in the Arab world in 1968 when he served as ABC News' bureau chief for Beirut, Lebanon, a position he held for seven years. He helped put ABC News on the map in 1972 with his coverage of the Summer Olympics in Munich, when Arab terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage.

In 1975, Jennings moved to Washington to become the news anchor of ABC's morning program "A.M. America". After a short stint in the mornings, Jennings returned overseas to Rome where he stayed before moving to London to become ABC's Chief Foreign Correspondent. In 1978 he was named the foreign desk anchor for "World News Tonight." He co-anchored the program with Frank Reynolds in Washington, D.C., and Max Robinson in Chicago until 1983.

Jennings was named anchor and senior editor of "World News Tonight" in 1983. In his more than 20 years in the position he was honored with almost every major award given to television journalists.

His extensive domestic and overseas reporting experience was evident in "World News Tonight's" coverage of major crises. He reported from all 50 states and locations around the globe. During the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 War in Iraq, his knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs brought invaluable perspective to ABC News war in Iraq and the drug trade in Central and South America. The series also tackled important domestic issues such as gun control policy, the politics of abortion, the crisis in funding for the arts and a highly praised chronicle of the accused bombers of Oklahoma City. "Peter Jennings Reporting" earned numerous awards, including the 2004 Edward R. Morrow award for best documentary for "The Kennedy Assassination — Beyond Conspiracy."

Jennings also had a particular interest in broadcasting for the next generation. He did numerous live news specials for children on subjects ranging from growing up in the age of AIDS, to prejudice and its effects on our society. After the events of September 11, and again on the anniversary, he anchored a town hall meeting for children and parents entitled, "Answering Children's Questions."

Jennings was honored with many awards for news reporting, including 16 Emmys, two George Foster Peabody Awards, several Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards and several Overseas Press Club Awards. Most recently, "World News Tonight" was recognized with two consecutive Edward R. Murrow awards for best newscast, based on field reporting done by Jennings on the California wildfires and the transfer of power in Iraq.

Jennings was the author, with Todd Brewster, of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller, "The Century." It featured first-person accounts of the great events of the century. In 1999, he anchored the 12-hour ABC series, "The Century," and ABC's series for The History Channel, "America's Time." He and Brewster also published "In Search of America," a companion book for the 6-part ABC News series.