Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Controversy over Curtailing Habeas Corpus Rights

Why It Is a Bad Day For The Constitution Whenever Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Testifies


Friday, Jan. 26, 2007

In the history of U.S. Attorney Generals, Alberto Gonzales is constantly reaching for new lows. So dubious is his testimony that he is not afforded the courtesy given most cabinet officers when appearing on Capitol Hill: Congress insists he testify under oath. Even under oath, Gonzales's purported understanding of the Constitution is historically and legally inaccurate, far beyond the bounds of partisan interpretation.

No wonder that with each appearance he makes on Capitol Hill, Gonzales increases his standing as one of the least respected Attorney Generals ever, in the eyes of both Congressional cognoscenti and the legal community. His most recent appearance bordered on the pathetic.

On January 18, Gonzales appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), now the committee's ranking minority member and former chairman, asked him a series of questions. With no wish to be snide, nor less than respectful of the post Gonzales holds, I must confess that watching his testimony makes me deeply uncomfortable. Gonzales does not seem to know when he is making a fool of himself, and I can't tell if he is suffering from empty-suit syndrome or an unhealthy case of hubris.

Whatever the explanation, one thing is clear: Gonzales's latest testimony provided a micro-moment of how the Bush/Cheney Administration does business, and how it plays fast and loose with Americans' fundamental rights.

How President Bush Made a Fool of His Attorney General

As readers will recall, in early 2006, Congress reauthorized the controversial USA Patriot Act. Previously, Specter, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had negotiated with Gonzales in good faith over reauthorization. They agreed that Specter would approve reauthorization - but only on condition that there would be more stringent oversight of the law's application by Congress. Yet on March 6, 2006, after Congress reauthorized the Act, Bush issued a signing statement that boldly betrayed that agreement.

So at the January 18th hearing, Senator Specter asked the Attorney General to explain the betrayal of their agreement. He pointed out that the agreement was that Congress would have "additional safeguards on oversight." And he noted that, nevertheless, the President's signing statement "reserved what he calls his right to disregard those oversight provisions." He then asked Gonzales, "In a context where the chairman of the committee and the attorney general negotiate an arrangement, is it appropriate for the president to put a signing statement which negates the oversight which had been bargained for, which has been bargained for?"

Gonzales simply cited the legal proposition that "a signing statement cannot give to the president any authority that he doesn't already have under the Constitution." But Specter responded adeptly that "if [the President] thinks those provisions inappropriately take away his constitutional authority and the Act's unconstitutional, then he ought to veto it. Or at least not to bargain it away." Gonzales had little to say in response, except to reiterate that the President wanted the Act reauthorized, and had the power not to honor the deal Gonzales had made.

This kind of practice might be common on used car lots, but should not be common in our government. Gonzales missed the bottom line: The President had rendered Gonzales's word worthless, and since a person is only as good as his or her word, he had thus dishonored Gonzales. Therefore, Gonzales ought to have resigned - as I believe many Attorneys General before him would have done.

Column continues below ↓

In sum, the President made a fool of his Attorney General. As a result, it is not likely Gonzales's word will soon be trusted by the Senate Judiciary Committee (even when it is given under oath). As a result, the President will not enjoy additional powers for, as Senator Specter pointed out, "He can't get the power unless Congress gives it to him."

Surely a stronger Attorney General would have urged the President to abide by his word - not just because it's the right thing to do, but because breaking an agreement with Congress can damage a presidency by destroying trust.

How Attorney General Gonzales Made a Fool of Himself: On Habeas Corpus

Remarkably, Gonzales did not know when to remain silent. So after he explained how the President had made him a fool, he went on to make a fool of himself - by reiterating a ridiculous Bush Administration position on the Constitution which was recently soundly rebuffed by the Supreme Court.

In questioning Gonzales, Specter moved on to the subject of "habeas corpus" - the judicial remedy that enables persons imprisoned within the jurisdiction of American law to challenge their confinement in court.

Some background is necessary to explain their exchange: The Constitution plainly says - in Article I, sec. 9 - that "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Court's opinion, written by Justice O'Connor, stated - citing the Constitution itself - that "[a]ll agree that absent suspension, the writ of habeas corpus remains available to every individual detained within the United States,'' and that all agreed habeas corpus had not, in fact, been suspended. (Emphasis added.) Hamdi was detained in the U.S. - more specifically, in a naval brig in South Carolina.

President Bush signed into law the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA). It purported to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions by Guantanamo detainees, but the Supreme Court thought not, thus leaving hundreds of cases pending. So the Administration added a blanket removal to another bill.

The Administration did not style what it was doing as a suspension of the Great Writ. However, the Senate was not fooled. After first trying to prevent removal of the right to habeas corpus, which failed, Senator Specter then introduced a bill to restore habeas corpus. He did this in the prior Congress; and again in the current Congress, when he joined with Senator Leahy in reintroducing such legislation.

This background prompted Senator Specter's colloquy with Attorney General Gonzales. It began with an exchange in which Gonzales admitted he had not recently read a crucial Supreme Court opinion, but agreed to re-read it. Next, Gonzales claimed that "[T]here is no expressed grant of habeas in the Constitution. There's a prohibition against taking it away." (Emphasis added.)

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute," a shocked Specter protested. "The Constitution says you can't take it away except in case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn't that mean you have the right of habeas corpus unless there's an invasion or rebellion?"

"I meant by that comment," Gonzales explained, "the Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas. Doesn't say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except...."

Cutting the Attorney General short, possibly to prevent the man from further embarrassing himself, Specter interjected, "You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General."

Chairman Leahy then ended the exchange by, in effect, making the point that he was going forward with habeas corpus restoration, notwithstanding any screwball interpretation of the Constitution by Gonzales - although he did not say it that bluntly.

Specter not only won this argument - it was resolved in his favor and against Gonzales, decisively, some 220 years ago: In 1787, the Anti-Federalists, too, argued that the Constitution makes no express grant of habeas corpus. They too were dead wrong. This isn't esoteric constitutional theory; it's American History 101.

A Brief History of The Suspension Clause, and A Decisive Rebuttal of Gonzales

The Framers of the Constitution believed that an essential check on tyranny was the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The writ had been part of the common law of the American colonies. Indeed, as Senator Specter mentioned, it was "a right which has existed in Anglo Saxon jurisprudence since King John in 1215 at Runnymede."

It was so well understood, that there was little debate on the matter at the Constitutional Convention. This is confirmed by the research of Hofstra Law Professor Eric Freedman, in his 2001 book Habeas Corpus: Rethinking the Great Writ of Liberty, who reports that the source material on the suspension clause is "sparse but clear." The writ of habeas corpus had been part of the common law, which was the law of the American colonies. Thus, the only question under discussion by the Framers of Constitution was whether, and under what conditions, the privilege could be suspended.

When the Constitution was submitted to the states for ratification, the Anti-Federalist opponents attacked it for lacking a bill of rights. (Bills of rights were common to many of the state constitutions.) The Federalist proponents explained that no bill of rights was needed, since powers that were not explicitly granted to the new federal government were withheld from it. For example, Freedman cites Alexander Hamilton's statement in Federalist No. 84, asserting that no bill of rights was needed since under the proposed constitution "the people surrender nothing; and as they retain everything they have no need of particular reservations."

Patrick Henry and other Anti-Federalists claimed that the suspension clause in Article I, Section 9 raised questions about the Federalist claim. While the writ of habeas corpus was not to be suspended except in certain cases, they argued, that meant it could be suspended in situations not addressed by the Constitution. Henry said that because the right to habeas corpus had to be implied, it destroyed the contention made by the Federalists.

Not so, responded the Federalists. Freedman reports that they argued that "despite its negative phraseology, the Clause was in fact a grant of power to the federal government." And "since the Suspension Clause was a grant of power to the federal government (albeit an appropriately circumscribed one), it did not represent a violation of the underlying principle that any power not explicitly granted to the federal government was withheld from it."

Of course, following ratification of the Constitution, a Bill of Rights was added - protecting freedom of the press and religion and other rights. Under Gonzales's reading of the Constitution, however, the fact that several of these amendments are stated in the negative means the Constitution failed to expressly grant these rights as well.

Consider, for example, the First Amendment's prohibitions that "Congress shall make no law respecting…" the free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press. Following Gonzales's view, these provisions only say what Congress cannot do - they are silent on whether any rights to free exercise, free speech, or a free press ever existed in the first place.

So, presumably, if Gonzales is correct, the President could do away with any or all of these rights; since they were not expressly granted by the Constitution, he is free to do so. After all, if Gonzales' view were correct, the right of habeas corpus has not been expressly granted, suggesting it does not really exist. Why would not the same result occur for other rights referred to, but not established in so many words, in the Constitution? Fortunately, the Attorney General's approach is wrong.

With all due respect, Attorney General Gonzales needs to read an American history book - to avoid relying on arguments rejected in the 18th Century when offered by those who opposed the adoption of our nation's founding charter. Every time Gonzales testifies, he leaves the Constitution a bit more battered by his right-wing gobbledygook and revisionist dogma. We are fortunate he seldom appears before Congress.

John W. Dean, a FindLaw columnist, is a former counsel to the president.

Pardon Scandal Still Looms for Sen. Clinton's Brother

January 25, 2007 1:04 PM

Maddy Sauer Reports:

Rodham_tony_hillary_nr A court-appointed bankruptcy trustee asked a federal judge this week to schedule a new court date in a case against Tony Rodham, the brother of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., accused of failing to repay $109,000 in loans from a carnival company whose owners received controversial pardons issued by President Bill Clinton in the last hours of his presidency.

According to documents filed in the case, Rodham received the loans, before and after the pardons were granted, from United Shows of America, Inc., owned by Edgar Gregory and his wife, who had been convicted of defrauding several banks.

See the loans paid to Tony Rodham and the actual checks to Tony Rodham.

A congressional report by the Republican-controlled House Reform Committee concluded Rodham "had tried to sell his access to the White House" and that "but for Tony Rodham's lobbying efforts, the Gregory pardons would not have been granted."

With the company now in bankruptcy and Gregory dead, the court-appointed federal trustee for United Shows, Michael Collins, has spent two years trying to get Rodham to repay the outstanding loans.

Collins first had Rodham's accounts frozen in 2005 after Rodham failed to respond to an initial complaint filed by Collins.

The judge issued a default judgment against Rodham.

Rodham appealed, asking for more time to respond, and the judge unfroze the accounts.

"Now, of course, that's money we're going to have to find all over again," said Collins, the trustee. "I guess he wouldn't leave the money in there."

Rodham has not returned a request seeking comment from ABC News, and a woman answering his home phone in Vienna, Va., said, "He probably won't call you back."

During the investigation of the Clinton pardons, Rodham publicly maintained that he worked as a consultant for the Gregorys to help obtain contracts for the carnival business. He refused to be interviewed by congressional investigators but told Larry King on CNN in March 2001, "The Gregorys are the kind of people that the pardon system is made for."

At the time, the Gregorys said they saw nothing wrong with seeking Rodham's help to get their pardons, which were issued over objections from the Department of Justice.

According to the congressional report, Rodham was paid over $240,000 in consultant fees by United Shows in addition to the loans.

The bankruptcy trustee only seeks the return of the loan money which, with interest, he calculates at over $150,000.

At the urging of President and Mrs. Clinton in February 2001, her other brother, Hugh, promised to return some of the $400,000 he received from individuals who also were granted pardons by President Clinton in other cases.

Click here for Brian Ross & Investigative Team's Homepage

January 25, 2007 | Permalink | User Comments (87)

Not easy prey

In Focus:

US-Iranian tensions could escalate fast and bring catastrophe to the region, writes Galal Nassar

The Middle East is becoming a vast disaster zone. The Americans, who are still bogged down in Iraq, are turning their sights on Iran, bullying it to placate Israel. This policy, which has been designed by the neo-cons, may end up wreaking havoc on the whole region. The region has every right to regard Iran with suspicion, mind you. Under the mullahs, Tehran has committed massacres in Iraq, especially in the south, and is currently bent on acquiring nuclear weapons. But a conflict between the US and Iran is the last thing the region needs.

The Middle East is teetering on the brink of disaster with little to look forward to. And the prospect of an alliance between Arab "moderates" and the Americans is hardly reassuring. The region is caught between a rock and a hard place. Iran has its own ambitions, and Israel is not letting up.

The recent tour of the US secretary of state was clearly aimed at getting moderate Arabs on the side of the Americans and the Israelis. The secretary used all her power of persuasion to tempt Arab leaders to join an anti- Iranian alliance. The US and Israel want to bring Iran to its knees, but they cannot accomplish that in the absence of at least a semblance of Arab support.

The Americans, by the admission of the chief of the CIA, think that Iran is 10 years away from the bomb, and yet they're contemplating pre-emptive action. A strike against Iran is not simply a theoretical possibility. The maps and plans have been drawn, as US officials keep reminding us. The US president recently told the world that US failure in Iraq would "strengthen" Iran and threaten world security. And Dick Cheney claimed that Iran was "destabilising" Iraq and must be stopped. The US national security adviser has refused to rule out the possibility of US forces entering Iranian territories to capture "hostile" individuals.

In the speech delineating his new strategy in Iraq, President Bush portrayed Iran as the number one enemy. He promised that Washington would work with other countries to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms and "controlling" the Gulf region. A second US nuclear aircraft carrier is on its way to the Gulf. USS John C Stennis and USS Dwight D Eisenhower are going to stay in the Gulf for a few months, the first such deployment since 2003.

According to Robert Gates, the new US defense secretary, the US build-up in Iraq is a message to Iran. There are people in Iraq who try to kill Americans and who transport weapons used to kill Americans, and confronting those people is a matter of military "necessity", he said.

When Admiral William Fallon was appointed chief of Central Command for the Middle East, analysts were quick to see the implications. The appointment of a naval pilot to supervise military operations in the Gulf can only mean one thing: that the US is getting ready to strike at Iranian nuclear facilities. Iran would most likely retaliate by striking oilrigs and tankers and closing the Hormuz Straights. The US would call upon the navy to respond, hence Fallon's appointment.

Tehran and Washington are already locking horns in Iraq. US forces in Iraq in two separate raids have arrested Iranian individuals. And the US president is said to have ordered US troops to take action against Iranians in Iraq.

Israel, everyone knows, wants the Americans to get involved in Iran. In a recent statement, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the international community should put a stop to Iran's "nuclear ambitions". She claimed that Iran was a threat to all countries in the Middle East, not just Israel. Iran's aim, Livni said, was "not just to remove Israel from the map, but to reshape the region". The Sunday Times reported that Israel has made plans to destroy Iranian uranium enrichment facilities. The Israelis, however, are unlikely to attack Iran unless the Americans give them a green light. And once the conflict escalates, the Iranians are likely to retaliate, which means the Americans will have to get involved sooner or later.

For now, moderate Arab leaders are trying to stay on the good side of the Americans and the Israelis. They seem in general more eager to placate Washington than worried about Iran's role in fomenting sectarian strife in the region. Gulf countries and Jordan are not in a position to contradict US wishes. And yet, the policies currently implemented by the Americans are likely to boost Shia power in the region. Jordanian King Abdullah has already warned of a "Shia crescent" extending from Iran through Syria and Iraq all the way to Lebanon. The emergence of such crescent would have dangerous political implications, he pointed out.

Before meeting Condoleezza Rice in Cairo a few days ago, President Hosni Mubarak warned of Iran's link to sectarianism in the region. Speaking to Al-Osbou, the Egyptian president warned of Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms. "Egypt cannot stay silent while another regional power acquires nuclear weapons. The Arabs cannot live under a potential threat... This is something I cannot tolerate. I have a certain responsibility towards my people, and we cannot allow our security to be jeopardised... Egypt will not stand idly by. We will not remain inactive."

Repeated visits by US officials to Saudi Arabia suggest that the Bush administration is trying to extract a promise of support from the Saudis. According to a Pentagon official, Defense Secretary Robert Gates assured King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz that Iraq would act as a buffer against Iranian expansion. The Pentagon is convinced that the Saudis are beginning to agree with its assessment of the situation in Iraq and the threat Iran is posing to the region. However, Riyadh may still be undecided. Prince Turki Al-Faysal, former Saudi ambassador to Washington and former head of the Saudi intelligence services, has warned Washington of intervention in Iran. Prince Turki said Riyadh was facing two possibilities, both bleak. One is for Iran to obtain the bomb, and the other is for the US to attack Iran. "In both cases... Saudi Arabia sees the consequences as being tragic to say the least," he said.

Iran remains defiant. In an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo during his visit to Nicaragua, President Ahmadinejad said that Israel and the US wouldn't dare attack his country. "They are aware of Iran's strength. I believe they will not do such a stupid thing." Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov confirmed that his country delivered short-range Tor-M1 missiles to Iran, adding that Moscow was willing to give Tehran any defensive weapons if asked. Russian military officials say the missiles would help defend Iran against air attacks. According to media reports, the Iranians tried and failed to acquire spare parts for US military systems through middlemen.

Should the Americans and the Israelis, with the help of Arab moderates, succeed in bringing Iran to its knees, the consequences would be dire for the entire region. Kenneth Pollack, director of research at the Saban Centre of The Brookings Institution, has said that a US campaign against Tehran may backfire, for it would widen the scope of US operations and drag the Americans into an international armed conflict. The Iranians, he added, will try to prove that they're not easy prey.

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Al-Ahram Weekly Online

Bush Is About to Attack Iran

Why Can't Americans See it?

Resolved: The Surge Is Already On

William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security

A number of people have asked me whether the vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to oppose the deployment of an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq will stop the surge.

Hello people, the resolution is non-binding. And besides, the Foreign Relations Committee doesn't even hold the purse strings.

More important though, the surge is already on.

I understand that Washington is so interesting to those inside the Beltway that one would think the Iraq war is actually being fought there.

I also that the media tends to report about the war on the ground by covering yet another indecipherable battle that tells us nothing of the progress of the overall conflict. But it does continue to baffle me why the mainstream media is by and large not reporting the actual "surge" as a front page story.

The surge deserves front page play in my view because it puts more Americans into harm's way against the will of the American people, and because it remains such a smoke screen and a fraud.

I've already written about the curious silence of most of the mainstream media when the first troopers of the 82nd Airborne Division arrived by helicopter from Kuwait more than 10 days ago landing at the gigantic American base at Taji, north of the capital, and then settling in at Forward Operating Bases Loyalty and Rustumiyah on the periphery of Sadr city, the Shi'a slums in northeast Baghdad.

Now SS writes me that the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina left for Iraq last Thursday. They arrived in Habbaniyah west of Baghdad for duty in Al Anbar province. Word is they may be moving elsewhere before the end of the month.

SS, who has a nephew in the battalion, comments that there was no real news coverage of either the unit's departure from North Carolina or their arrival in Iraq. There was only one tiny item in the Charlotte Observer and the local ABC affiliate aired a report on Monday.

The Defense Department has divulged that troops of the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment are being extended in Anbar province for 60 to 90 days as part of the surge. The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, an additional augmented battalion with air support, is also being extended in Anbar for 45 days.

And ever so quietly, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit also left Lejeune in early January aboard ships to go to Iraq as part of the surge -- at least according to reports by the Associated Press and picked up hardly anywhere in the big media.

When the "surge" is all over next month, the Marines will have a total of eight battalions in Anbar province instead of the current six. Once the 60 to 90 day periods are over, another two battalions will be sent in early from the U.S. to relieve the two extended units.

Why no coverage of all of this in the big news media?

For one thing, it's not being trumpeted by the military. My guess is that the Army and Marine Corps are caught between announcing the deployments for the sake of families and as a matter of habit and being modest because they themselves have low expectations that the meager reinforcement will, by itself, turn the tide.

And, clearly, the big media have other things on their minds -- the Washington talk show circuit and the far future of the 2008 elections.

Meanwhile, this small news item in the Fayetteville Observer caught my attention:

The commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, visited with paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade at FOB Loyalty on Monday. Rodriguez, the Army announced, presented 28 medals, including a Bronze Star, to soldiers in a ceremony.

Just for getting there. Some guy got a Bronze Star just for deploying from Fort Bragg to Kuwait and onward to Baghdad. How meritorious and brave; no wonder the military is so modest, and so screwed up.

By William M. Arkin | January 25, 2007; 7:52 AM E| Category: Iraq



Tehran, 25 Jan. (AKI) - One of Iran's top nuclear scientists, Ardeshir Hassanpour, a professor at the university of Shiraz, has died under mysterious circumstances. Hassanpour's death was announced by Iranian state television, a week late, on Thursday. No reason was given for his death. The scientist was proclaimed the best scientist in the military field in the Islamic Republic in 2003. Hassanpour directed the centre for nuclear electromagnetic studies he had founded in 2005.

He had also co-founded the center for atomic research in Isfahan, the most important in the country, Iranian state television reported.

Last year, Ardeshir Hassanpour was awarded Iran's most prestigious scientific award, the Kharazmi prize.


Jan-25-07 18:14

Expanding the War to Iran: Another “Urban Legend?”

Leon Hadar | January 26, 2007

IRC Right Web

Rejecting the notion that the United States was planning to attack Iran and Syria, White House Spokesman Tony Snow called it a myth or an “urban legend.” “I want to address [a] kind of a rumor, an urban legend that's going around,” Snow told reporters at a White House briefing two days after President George W. Bush vowed to go after Iranian terrorist networks involved in Iraq violence. “What the president talked about in his speech on Iraq strategy is defending American forces within Iraq,” Snow insisted.

In his January 11 televised speech on U.S. policy in Iraq, Bush had accused Tehran and Damascus of fueling the insurgency in Iraq and expressed disagreement with proposals, including from the Iraq Study Group (ISG), to negotiate with both countries as part of an effort to reach peace and stability in Iraq. He said: “We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.” Bush also announced that he would dispatch another aircraft carrier battle group and deploy Patriot antimissile batteries in the Persian Gulf.

Generally speaking, an urban legend is a widely circulated, folklorish story—often based on exaggerated or distorted fact—that is believed to be true by many who repeat it.

So, let's see. Many reports circulated in Washington and elsewhere in 2002 and early 2003 that, notwithstanding Bush's stated commitment to deal with Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) through diplomatic means, the White House was already considering plans to militarily oust Saddam Hussein. It seems that Bush et al. would characterize such “pre-invasion preparation” speculation as urban legend. After all, Bush and his advisers denied the reports—much in the same way they are challenging the current reports on the possibility of U.S. preparations to attack Iran.

I suppose that when it comes to Washington, DC, something that is urban legend-esque ceases to be a legend only after we read one of Bob Woodward's post-mortems in which we end up discovering that those who had been accused of “spreading rumors” were actually telling the truth. We might then learn that the press secretary who had dismissed these facts as nothing more than “rumors” was probably just out of the loop. (“Out of the loop” is what “insiders” call a government official who doesn't have access to information about what the Decider and his Vice are really planning.)

As a journalist who covered Washington in the months leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, I recall the many “urban legends” that were circulating at that time. These included rumors about how Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were pushing for a war with Iraq; about how their aides were pressuring the intelligence agencies to come up with “estimates” to help exaggerate the Iraqi WMD threat and Baghdad's alleged ties to al-Qaida; about how the Americans and the British were secretly drawing up a strategy for a military confrontation with Iraq while pledging to continue to pursue diplomacy; and about how some of the leading Iraqi exiles lobbying for the “liberation” of Iraq, like Ahmed Chalabi, were untrustworthy characters.

I read some of these reports in the press; others reached me through the grapevine. They were all immediately denied by the White House press officer. Yet after the war had been raging, most of these “rumors” proved to be based on fact. In a way, any political analyst familiar with the way Washington works and the way decisions are made here—who could read between the lines of media reports and official statements, and who would deconstruct the modus operandi and body language of Bush and his aides—had no choice but to conclude that war with Iraq was inevitable. In that case, the conventional wisdom got it right.

So it's not surprising that journalists and pundits who continue to follow their professional instincts are experiencing a certain sense of déjà vu all over again as they begin to wonder these days whether Bush and his aides are planning to expand the current war in Iraq to Iran (and Syria). The initial source of this “urban legend” was Bush's infamous “Axis of Evil” speech, in which he lumped Iran together with Iraq and North Korea as deserving U.S. punishment. The speech was followed by various pledges, including public statements, press leaks, and even the commitment of U.S. financial resources to “export” democracy to Iran. And in the aftermath of ousting Saddam from power in Baghdad, there were even a few hints here and there about “regime change” in Tehran. Interestingly, the administration denied press reports about Iranian attempts to negotiate a diplomatic deal with Washington over Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine.

Finally, at the center of the U.S. anti-Iran campaign was the effort to end Iranian plans to develop nuclear weapons—allegations based on questionable intelligence estimates from Washington and Jerusalem—either through diplomatic means or, the efforts implied, otherwise.

For a while, the conventional wisdom in Washington was that against the backdrop of the ensuing mess in Iraq, the neocons were losing influence, the “realists” were gaining power, and that the Bush administration was going to move toward some sort of diplomatic “engagement” with the Iranians along the lines proposed by the ISG, other respected foreign policy experts, and leading Democrats.

But after Bush and Cheney politely rejected the ISG recommendations, and after signs that Bush and Cheney were getting ready to “do something” about Iran, the conventional wisdom concluded that the White House has now embraced further military escalation in the Persian Gulf.

The Israelis, led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, have been playing to the hands of U.S. warriors by suggesting that an Iranian nuclear bomb would pose an “existential” threat akin to the European Holocaust and that if U.S. diplomatic and/or military power failed, Israel would have no choice but to “take care of the problem.” The warnings were buttressed through a series of public statements, including a visit by Olmert to Washington, and leaks to the press, including a recent British newspaper report that Israel could use tactical nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's nuclear military sites.

At the same time, the Saudis have been warning that a nuclear Iran would help transform Tehran into a hegemonic power in the Persian Gulf and provide it with an opportunity to lead an alliance of Shiite Mideast factions, from Iran to Israel/Palestine through Lebanon, in a way that would threaten Saudi Arabia and other pro-U.S. Arab-Sunni regimes. The sense of alarm perpetuated by the Saudis was reinforced through press leaks suggesting that the members of the hawkish wing of the Saudi royal family, led by former Saudi Ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar bin Sultan, were gaining strength, and that the Israelis and the Saudis, backed by Washington, have been conducting secret talks to coordinate the anti-Iran strategy.

Indeed, according to Israeli press reports, Olmert and Prince Sultan have met to discuss Iran and related issues. The meeting and other signs of coordination on Iran between Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh have raised the possibility that the Bush administration was trying to draw the outlines of a new strategic consensus involving it, Israel, and the pro-U.S. Arab-Sunni regimes (Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states, and Egypt and Jordan). These reports recalled a similar “strategic consensus” that evolved in the 1980s during the Reagan administration, when the Americans, Israelis, and Saudis—and, yes, then-U.S. partner, Saddam Hussein's Iraq—were cooperating in dealing with both the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and with the challenge from revolutionary Iran. And anyone who knows how to assess the balance of power in Washington will tell you that when the Americans are joined by the Saudis and the Israelis and their powerful supporters in Washington in a coordinated effort to harm you, run fast for cover. Both the Soviets fighting against Osama bin Laden and his mujahideen allies (assisted by Washington) in Afghanistan and the Iranians attacked by Saddam's Iraqi military (assisted by Washington) learned that lesson in the 1980s.

In addition to the pressure exerted by the Saudis and Israelis on Washington, President Bush in his January 11 speech blamed the Iranians for targeting U.S. troops in Iraq and threatened to use U.S. military power to disrupt such actions. The next day Bush announced that he was sending an aircraft carrier to visit Iran's neighborhood, and the military ordered U.S. troops to raid an Iranian consulate in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Irbil. Such actions could lead even a low -level intelligence analyst to see “signals” coming out of the White House aimed at Iran.

Moreover, the decision by the Bush administration to appoint Adm. William Fallon to oversee U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has raised many red flags among observers in Washington. Why choose a navy admiral to lead two ground wars in the Middle East and South Asia, unless you regard that as a preparatory step for a strike on Iran's nuclear military sites ? If that happened, Iran would retaliate by attacking oil platforms and tankers, closing the S trait of Hormuz, and perhaps hitting oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia; the U.S. Navy would probably play a key role in protecting the oil flowing from the Persian Gulf.

Many members of Congress have also been reading the signals, and they are worried that the Bush administration may be making the conditions for another war in the Middle East. During testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted that the administration had no plans to cross Iraq's borders into Iran to attack supporters of the Iraqi insurgency and militias. But Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) compared Bush's strategy to former President Richard Nixon's escalation of the Vietnam War. “You cannot sit here today, not because you are dishonest or don't understand—once you get to hot pursuit, no one can say we won't engage across border,” he said. “Some of us remember 1970 and Cambodia, and our government lied to us and said we didn't cross the border. When you set in motion the kind of policy the president is talking about here, it is very, very dangerous.”

Other Democratic and Republican lawmakers expressed similar concerns that the rising tensions with Iran could ignite a full-blown war and demanded that the White House consult Congress before going to war with Iran. But Bush-Cheney and their neocon advisers may have found a way to overcome the threat of congressional and Democratic opposition, and it has to do with the potential Israeli role in a crisis with Iran. If Israel decides to attack Iran's nuclear sites, many of the same lawmakers would probably applaud the move, a reflection of their pro-Israeli disposition. After all, can anyone imagine presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) bashing the Israelis on the eve of the primaries or the general election? But any retaliation from an Israeli attack on Iran would probably necessitate a U.S. response, which Congress would have no choice to support. It is quite likely that if Iran also decided to unleash its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon and encouraged them to attack Israel, the Israelis would respond by invading Syria and forcing out Bashar al Assad—another “regime change” that might benefit the interests of U.S. allies in Lebanon. And of course, the Bush administration would then dismiss the notion that the strike by a client state received a green (or at least a yellow) light from the White House as another “urban legend.” (We'd probably have to wait for Bob Woodward's next volume to learn that while U.S. lawmakers were whining, the green light was flashing as the Americans, Israelis, and Saudis were readying for a war with Iran.)

But it's also possible that such a book would not conclude with a neoconservative-scripted, happy ending in which the Bush administration celebrates the triumph of Pax Americana. Bush, Cheney, and their neoconservative aides have already tried to use Israel's strategic services, when they gave Olmert a green light to attack Hezbollah infrastructure in Lebanon in summer 2006, hoping that devastating the partner of Iran and Syria would serve as a blow to Tehran.

But the best-laid plans of mice and neocons often go awry. Hezbollah resisted the Israeli invasion of South Lebanon and emerged with a political victory in the aftermath of war, providing Iran and Syria with a win. Similarly, an Israeli strike against Iran could fail and/or result in thousands of civilian casualties. The Shiite-led government in Iraq could be forced to ally with the Iranians and demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country, while anti-U.S. sentiments in the Middle East and the Muslim world would skyrocket. Other possible consequences could include a dramatic increase in energy prices, especially if Venezuela decides to join an oil embargo; demonstrations by outraged citizens in major European (not to mention U.S.) cities; and most importantly, growing pressure from the European Union, Russia, and China on Washington to convene an international conference on the Middle East.

While the United States and Israel could emerge victorious from the military campaign (not unlike the British, French, and Israelis after the 1956 Suez Campaign against Egypt), they could also find themselves totally isolated in the international community, facing enormous diplomatic and economic pressure to reverse their policies. That is what happens when history transforms an urban legend into a tragedy.

Leon Hadar, a Washington-based journalist and contributor to Right Web (, is author most recently of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (2006). He blogs at

Not apartheid?

Israelis and their government refer to the wall as a "separation barrier."

In Afrikaans, "apartheid" means separation (literally "apartness").

However in Israel, apartheid and separation are not really apartheid and separation. That is, separation exists, but it doesn't really exist. Or rather, separation does exist, but it doesn't really REALLY exist.

It all depends on what one's definition of "is" is. Clearly someone who claims that an item that exists actually exists is anti-Semitic. That is, if you claim that something that does not exist does indeed exist, then you are guilty of non-existence denial, which is the same as holocaust denial. Therefore to say there is apartheid in Israel is to engage in holocaust denial.

If you selfishly believe your own eyes, rather than the righteous testimony of Jewish victims, then you are guilty of a hate crime, and should be prosecuted accordingly.

Hopefully that clears up the entire controversy.

against zionism | Sat, 2007-01-27 12:53

Federal court rules against EPA

By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer Fri Jan 26, 6:31 PM ET

The Environmental Protection Agency must force power plants to protect fish and other aquatic life even if it's expensive, a federal appeals court said in a ruling favoring states and environmental groups.

The decision late Thursday by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that it was improper for the EPA to let power plants circumvent environmental laws — for instance, restocking polluted water with new fish instead of paying to upgrade their technology.

It said the EPA's decisions must "be driven by technology, not cost," unless two technologies produce essentially the same benefits but have much different costs.

"EPA's goal is to protect fish and the ecosystem while meeting the nation's need for reliable energy sources," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, the agency's assistant administrator for water. The agency was reviewing the decision, he said.

The ruling drew praise from environmental groups and six states that had sued.

"This decision is a strong and stinging rebuke of the Bush administration's underhanded practice of issuing rule changes to undercut environmental laws," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a statement Friday.

The other states involved are Rhode Island, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

They sued after the EPA published regulations in July 2004 describing how power plants must protect aquatic life when they use water from bays, rivers, lakes, oceans and other waterways for cooling.

Scientists say fish, larvae and eggs are killed in the water-cooling process, which is used heavily in states with many older, mostly fossil-fuel plants.

The appeals court previously rejected arguments that some species are nuisances and require eradication. The court had also dismissed the claim that other species respond to population losses by increasing their reproduction.

Col. Sam Gardiner has a critical update on Iran here

Saturday :: Jan 27, 2007

Outrage: Yet Another Surge

by Sam Gardiner

The President said he's not going to attack Iran. If that’s true, I am left wondering why the outrage effort. Why has the White House created an interagency working group whose mission is to build outrage in the world about Iran? The whole effort is so much in the pattern of message preparation for Gulf II that I am left concerned.

In other words, not only does it look as if there are military preparations for striking Iran, it looks as if the White House is doing public opinion preparations for a strike on Iran. Three items stand out this week.

The British Daily Telegraph quotes a senior European defense official: “North Korea had invited a team of Iranian nuclear scientists to study the results of last October’s underground test to assist Tehran’s preparations to conduct its own possibly by the end of this year."

I don’t know a single serious student of the Iranian nuclear program who would give the report any credibility. I talked to a Newsweek reporter about the story. He said the same about the Telegraph guy wrote the article. The story, however, is extremely important.

Using the playbook on strategic communications, when you want to plant a false story, you first find a reporter or a newspaper that will accept what you give them. With just one plant, you can achieve an echo that will support your cause.

It has not been usual for stories to be planted in UK newspapers. There is a great deal of message cooperation between the US and the UK.

In the early part of the fighting in Afghanistan, Cherie Blair and Laura Bush were both telling the press, using exactly the same words to argue why we had initiated the attack. They both said if you wear polish on you nails you could have your nail pulled out. The obvious conclusion was that we should be enraged.

During Gulf II preparations, we saw leaks from officials to UK newspapers with wonderful pieces of information such as the fact that Saddam Hussein was given a passport by France so he could leave Iraq. We read that the reason Saddam Hussein was not found was because the Russian Embassy had allowed him sanctuary. Stay enraged with Iraq, the French and the Russians.

US reporters maintain their integrity by writing that it was “reported in the Telegraph” and don’t have to violate any standards of journalism. With this story, the echo appeared in over 300 outlets over the course of the week. It was immediately reported on Fox News.

There are now many in the world who are outraged that Iran is less than a year from a nuclear weapon.

The other significant item has been some short ads that have appeared on television stations in the Washington area. These ads say things like, “Iran sent thousands of children marching to their deaths to clear minefields, armed with only plastic keys to unlock the gates of heaven.” Obviously, we are to be enraged.

As with the planted story, I can’t prove this is coming from the Media Outreach Working Group, but the pattern makes me very suspicious. Tracing individual and group connections to the ads, the DNA is Republican. During the preparation for Gulf II, we saw the same kind of ads. We also know the RNC has spent money for ads supporting White House policy positions in other cases.

Finally, the Holocaust surfaced in a major way this week. Certainly, the President of Iran whose mouth exceeds his authority in the country created the opening. I fear the strategic communications teams will exaggerate to build outrage.

` To see how this is unfolding, we need to start in Israel. Just as with the UK, the US does message coordination with Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition party there and a friend of Vice President Cheney, is embracing the Holocaust strongly. He says Iran is on its way to doing a second Holocaust. Just like Hitler, Iran wants to kill all the Jews. That’s why Iran needs to be confronted. Newt Gingrich has picked up on the theme.

This week the United States went to the UN to get a resolution condemning those who denied the Holocaust.

The President of Iran crossed the line with his rhetoric. I worry, however, this could be the main theme for generating support in the United States for the eventual attack on Iran. If you are interested in marketing a war, the beauty of this theme is that there are not many Democrats who would be able to object if that case is made. It also appeals to the religious right. It is a wonderful path to outrage.

I’ve written quite a bit on how the messaging was done for Gulf II. You can find the stuff in numerous places on the web. The title is “Truth from These Podia.”

The real origins of sectarianism

The region is dancing to the tune of destructive ideas whose prime beneficiaries are the United States and Israel, writes Hassan Nafaa

Iran is mistaken to think that it can handle alone the current US-Israeli escalation, which may be a prelude to a military strike. Watching Iran's management of the current crisis, one comes to the conclusion that Tehran is confident of its ability to respond to any military strike against it.

Iran has several means of retaliation: it can close the Strait of Hormuz and thus obstruct the passage of oil, an action that would double oil prices worldwide; it can send thousands of fighters to harass US forces in Iraq, complicating further Washington's debacle; it can inflict extensive damage on US bases and troops in Gulf countries, either through sabotage operations or direct strikes; it can open a new front by waging guerrilla war against the multinational forces in South Lebanon and getting Hizbullah resume shelling northern Israel; and it can strike oil facilities in the Gulf -- including Saudi Arabia -- although this would be a last resort.

Iran is acting as if the above options are enough not only to deter the US, but also to dissuade neighbouring Arab countries from collaborating with the Americans. But Tehran seems to forget two things: one having to do with the nature of the US administration, and the other having to do with its own regime.

As for the US administration, Tehran seems to think that due to the Democratic win in Congress, Washington may not be in a position to strike against it. What Tehran should keep in mind is that President Bush and Vice President Cheney, now in their second term, feel liberated from the pressures of the 2008 presidential campaign. Also, the ideological characteristics of the current US administration and the tendency of President Bush to take unusual risks must be taken into consideration. However insane an attack on Iran may seem, one cannot underestimate President Bush's ability to take insane chances.

As for the Iranian regime, it tends to think in doctrinal and religious terms rather than in political and practical terms, which makes it often unable to assess the dangers ahead or predict the behaviour of its allies.

For their part, Arab countries would be wrong to think that cooperation with the US in a strike against Tehran can get them anywhere. They would also be wrong to assume that the US wants to help them contain Iran's regional ambition out of friendly concern. The Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt, and Jordan appear to have no voice of their own when Condoleezza Rice summoned them for a meeting in Kuwait recently.

Arab countries are reacting to Iran on the basis of the following assumptions. First, that Iran has a plan to dominate the region and create a "crescent" in those countries with a significant Shia presence. Second, that Iran's plan is based on sectarian considerations and is aimed against Sunnis. Third, that Iran's opposition to the Zionist scheme is mere posturing and that its true aim is to dominate the region. And fourth, that Iran's nuclear programme is unjustified and poses a threat to the region.

No one can claim that the above assumptions are utterly wrong. Iran has indeed boosted its influence in the region despite all attempts to isolate it. Iranian influence is evident in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, and Tehran has made friends among various groups around the Arab world. This situation worries both the regimes and people of the region. When Saddam was executed in the most inappropriate fashion, Iran and its Arab allies seemed to gloat. Hizbullah's television channel was uncharacteristically vengeful in its coverage of that event.

But one cannot conclude that Iran is determined to dominate the region. Iran's influence may have increased, but only as a result of the mistakes the Arabs and the Americans have made. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the Americans smashed two regimes that were among Iran's most determined foes. In Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, Tehran benefited from the errors of Arab policy. No one can deny that numerous Arab countries have helped the US -- much more than Iran did -- wreck Iraq.

Arab countries have failed to help the Iraqis overcome their crisis after Saddam's fall. Many Arab countries pressured Arafat to make concessions to Israel, but failed to provide him with the means to achieve an acceptable peace settlement. When the peace process collapsed, Arab countries declined to support the Palestinian resistance, and even colluded in the blockade against the Palestinian people.

So now we blame the Iranians for giving the Palestinian resistance money and weapons. We blame Iran for trying to break the siege on the Palestinian people. Let's assume for the sake of argument that Tehran is helping Hizbullah for sectarian reasons. This doesn't explain why it supports the Palestinian people and their resistance. Had Arab Sunni countries helped out the Palestinians, the latter wouldn't have turned to Tehran.

For sometime now, Arab countries have been reacting as if the sectarian factor were the main -- if not the only -- catalyst in the region. Many in this region are under the impression that the Israeli threat to the region is diminishing while the Iranian threat is mounting. Oddly enough, this mood is evolving only a few months after Israel waged a barbaric and unjustified a war on Lebanon, a war during which Arab countries showed tremendous support to the resistance and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah. And yet, it is Nasrallah, the last man who would support sectarianism by word or deed, who stands today accused of sectarianism.

Many in the Arab world believe that sectarianism is an integral part of the Arab mindset or culture. I disagree. The Arab mindset and culture, I would argue, are among the most tolerant in the world and the most accepting of others. Sectarianism must be blamed on despotism. It must be blamed on politics, not culture. Politics is what motivates the Palestinians or the Kurds to fight each other. Politics is what turns a Shia against a Sunni, or a Muslim against a Christian. Because our countries are ruled by regimes that are just as despotic as they are susceptible to foreign influence, that are as backward as they are ignorant, various political elites are tempted to use sectarianism for personal gain.

Let's not forget that the US relied on sectarianism to invade and then rule Iraq. The US did so because it wanted not just to bring down the regime, but also to wreck the country's political system. The US and its local friends have encouraged sectarianism from day one. And the more the Americans got bogged down in Iraq, the more they fomented sectarianism to hide their failures. When the US discovered belatedly that Iran was the biggest beneficiary of the sectarian game, it went ahead and told Arab "moderates" that Iran was to blame.

Because we lack democratic regimes that respect citizenry, and because the US and Israel are dictating things around the region, sectarianism is becoming rife and more dangerous than ever. Unless Iran and the Arab world understand this fact, they will be torn to pieces. And Israel would climb high on their tattered remains, cheered by the world's sole superpower.

* The writer is a professor of political science at Cairo University.

© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Al-Ahram Weekly Online

National Security Whistle Blowers: The ‘Undead’?

Jan. 26, 2007 – 7:29 p.m.

By Jeff Stein, CQ National Security Editor

You’d think a guy who helped bring down a corrupt congressman would get the thanks of a grateful government.

But you, of course, would be wrong.

Like so many other disillusioned ex-CIA, FBI and other erstwhile spooks, Haig Melkessetian’s career was derailed for telling the truth.

Today, he’s another casualty of Iraq, one of the growing number of national security “undead” in Washington’s intelligence demimonde, “entities that are deceased yet behave as if alive,” according to Wikipedia’s take on the horror flick creatures—“animated corpses,” bureaucratically speaking.

Melkessetian, a former security aide and Arabic translator to Jerry Bremer, the first American proconsul in Iraq, now works in a far lesser job for a U.S. government contractor in the Virginia suburbs.

His first sin: Telling Pentagon officials how screwed up things were in Iraq.

A Beirut-raised former Special Forces operative, Melkessetian told Pentagon officials early in the war that the contractor he worked for had sent unqualified personnel to Baghdad. It was typical of the war’s mismanagement, he said.

Half the linguists he worked with did not speak fluent Arabic, he reported. One was a Russian linguist who spoke no Arabic at all.

That contractor he was working for was the now-notorious MZM, whose president, Mitchell Wade, had an unusually close relationship with then-Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and other high-level politicians with national security connections.

When Wade tried to involve Melkessetian in an MZM scheme to put together a congressional delegation to Saudi Arabia, led by Cunningham, to brush up the kingdom’s post-9/11 image, the former soldier balked: There were too many Saudi connections to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Eventually, of course, Cunningham went to jail for steering contracts to MZM in exchange for $2.4 million.

Wade, too, will almost certainly go to jail, after he finishes telling federal investigators about every palm he greased on Capitol Hill, the Pentagon, and perhaps the CIA, as part of his plea agreement.

Meanwhile, a federal prosecutor in San Diego has given the House Appropriations, Armed Services and Intelligence committees a Jan. 31 deadline for turning over records related to Cunningham and contractor earmarks.

Sibel Edmonds
Melkessetian’s story is all too typical.

Take John M. Cole, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent whose 18-year career took a nosedive when he came to the rescue of Sibel Edmonds.

Edmonds is the former FBI language specialist who surfaced in June 2002 with a strange tale of how she had been fired by the Bureau after telling supervisors that a foreign intelligence ring had penetrated the translators’ unit where she worked, among other sensitive issues.

Now why would they do that?

You can’t find out much, because then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft invoked a “state secrets privilege” to stop her suit against the FBI for wrongful dismissal.

A gag order prevents her from adding details to another of her sensational charges, that government eavesdroppers had intercepted the Sept. 11 hijackers plans.

Edmonds, born in Iran of Turkish origins, also claims she discovered unsavory links between U.S. defense and intelligence officials, weapons makers, Israel, and Ankara.

“I wanted to meet her because I wanted to help her,” says Cole, who resigned from the FBI after years of writing unanswered reports about lax security and mismanagement of the translations unit, which handles electronic intercepts of foreign spies, among other materials.

“I thought that I could be of some assistance to her,” Cole says in “Kill the Messenger,” a new documentary film about her case, “because I knew she was doing the right thing. I knew because she was right.”

Cole tells how he had “talked to people who had read her file, who had read the investigative report, and they were telling me a totally different story” than FBI officials, who had only perfunctorily investigated her allegations.

“They were telling me that Sibel Edmonds was a 100 percent accurate, that management knew that she was correct.”

But they buried it.

In 2004, after months of harassment by superiors for his defense of Edmonds, Cole resigned.

A year later, the Justice Department’s Inspector General concluded: “the evidence clearly corroborated Edmonds’ allegations.”

In response, the FBI said it was taking another look at the Edmonds case.

“That investigation is continuing,” it said on Jan. 14, 2005.

In response to a query on Friday afternoon, the FBI produced a 2005 press release on improvements in the translation unit. It was not able to provide further clarification by the end of the day.

Many More
Edmonds, meanwhile, had gone on to create something uniquely Washingtonian: a home for the national security undead.

Launched in 2004, her National Security Whistle Blowers Coalition now has over 60 members, disillusioned former CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, Pentagon, Homeland Security and State Department officials.

People like ex-FBI agents John Vincent and Robert Wright, who saw their careers go south after they blew the whistle on problems in the Bureau’s counterterrorism cases.

And Kevin Cleary, a U.S. Customs investigator whose nearly three decades in law enforcement went off the rails after he “uncovered and reported drug-related public corruption,” including “the compromise of a federal drug interdiction program,” according to his biography on the whistle blower Web site.

There’s Shawn Carpenter, the Sandia National Laboratory employee who was fired after telling the FBI that “hundreds of computer networks at major US defense contractors, military installations and government agencies were being systematically compromised, and sensitive information was being stolen by hackers.”

Edmonds is not the easiest person to get along with, say some whistleblowers who have resigned from or declined to join her organization.

So a number of important whistle blowers remain outside the organization.

People like Mike German, whose forthcoming book, “Thinking Like a Terrorist” covers some of his 16 years as an undercover FBI agent, which ended when he blew the whistle on the corrupt management of a counterterrorism case.

And John Roberts, a 13-year FBI veteran whose career ended after he described alleged favoritism and cover-ups within the bureau on “60 Minutes.”

Roberts told the program he witnessed things “just disappear,” “vaporize” or be “glossed over” in internal investigations that ended without anyone being disciplined.

And then there’s the whistleblowers who suffer in silence, especially at the CIA, where going public is often impossible because of security restrictions.

Occasionally, one busts out, like Gary Berntsen, who led the agency’s first paramilitary team into Afghanistan after 9/11.

In 2005, Berntsen filed suit against the CIA for holding up and over-classifying his book, “Jawbreaker,” which refuted the claims of U.S. officials that Osama bin Laden was able to escape from Tora Bora in 2001 because they didn’t know he was holed up there.

“He was there,” Berntsen says, “and could have been caught.”

With the help of Pakistani agents, it is believed, bin Laden escaped.

Kill the Messenger
During the Vietnam war, a single national security whistle blower, like Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon official who leaked a classified, sordid history of U.S. machinations in Vietnam, could cause an uproar, even play a role in bringing down an administration.

Today, with so many of them walking around Washington, they’re almost ho-hum.

And nothing seems to happen despite their airing their hair-raising tales.

None have had Ellsberg’s impact or notoriety. Most Americans have never heard of any of them.

“Once you start hearing these names, it’s going to become more real to you, the concept of national security whistleblowers,” Edmonds said at the 2004 press conference announcing the formation of her group.

The idea, she said, “was to have a strong group, and go at it collectively and together, not one, not two, not three, but together.”

Army of the Undead.

In the 2005 movie, terrified residents of a small town in Australia only belatedly realize that “you have to shoot a zombie through the head to stop it,” Washington Post film critic Desson Thomson said in his review.

In 1973, Nixon administration operatives proposed to “‘incapacitate” Ellsberg “ totally” to prevent him from giving an antiwar speech, murder the investigative columnist Jack Anderson, and fire-bomb the liberal Brookings Institution.

War can really make people do crazy things.

CIA spokesmanPaul Gimigliano took strong exception to last week’s SpyTalk column , in which several anonymous CIA and other intelligence sources described the Agency’s Baghdad operations as virtually paralyzed by sectarian violence in the capital’s streets.

We also quoted outgoing National Intelligence Office chief John D. Negroponte telling the House Intelligence Committee that “not everybody’s bottled up in the Green Zone.”

But here’s Gimigliano’s e-mail in full:

With his recent piece, “Spying in Baghdad,” Jeff Stein did a great disservice to his readers and the men and women of CIA. While there is much about our operations overseas that we cannot discuss publicly, Agency officers throughout Iraq take risks each day to gather intelligence that makes a critical difference to our country. Some of that information is tactical, helping save the lives of American and Iraqi soldiers, and some is strategic, helping our government understand trends in the region.

We know better than anyone the gaps in our knowledge about Iraq. But we also know that CIA’s achievements there are rooted not in the Green Zone, but in the “Red Zone” beyond. Many of our officers in Iraq operate outside the Green Zone every day. To say that violence has “kept the CIA indoors” is simply wrong. And the anonymous source, cited as claiming CIA officers “spend their days playing cards and watching DVDs,” is badly misinformed. Had Mr. Stein contacted the Agency before running his story, CIA would have tried to correct his misimpressions.

Jeff Stein can be reached at

Robert D. Novak: McCain TV performance dings candidacy


The myth of McCain
Jan 27, 2006


Democratic strategists who had feared Sen. John McCain as the potentially unbeatable Republican candidate for President in 2008 were surprised and delighted by his dour appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last Sunday.

One Democratic leader referred to McCain’s performance, in suggesting President Bush’s additional 21,000 troops may be inadequate, as “comatose.” A Republican adviser to McCain said it was one of the worst performances ever on “Meet the Press.” The senator’s defender said he could not be expected to be cheerful about a plan to send additional U.S. troops in harm’s way.

A footnote: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is picking up support for President among House Republicans, headed by former Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Whither Rahm?

Sources close to Sen. Barack Obama are sure that Rep. Rahm Emanuel will not support his fellow Illinois Democrat for the Presidential nomination but will back Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

If so, Emanuel would be the only prominent Democratic officeholder in Illinois not for Obama. As a senior White House aide, Emanuel was one of President Bill Clinton’s favorites. Emanuel has been close to both of the Clintons.

Emanuel refuses to talk about his 2008 Presidential choice. He says he was deeply engaged in politics for two years as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and in his new role, as House Democratic Caucus chairman, he is committed to legislation.

Undermining Hillary

Jerome Corsi, co-author of the 2004 campaign book “Unfit for Command” attacking Sen. John Kerry’s war record, joined up Tuesday with the organization intended to similarly undermine Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the 2008 campaign. is intended to be a right-wing version of the leftist MoveOn.Org. It was founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including Gil Amelio, former CEO of Apple and National Semiconductor.

Coming on board Feb. 16 as TheVanguard’s full-time editorial and creative director will be Richard Poe, who has served as editor-in-chief of FrontPage Magazine. He has been described as the conservative movement’s leading expert on MoveOn.Org’s strategy in bringing together disparate elements with a common viewpoint.

Bush on Abortion

President Bush extended his stay at Camp David last weekend to arrive back at the White House Monday afternoon, missing the annual anti-abortion March for Life that morning in Washington to mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.

Bush was at the White House on Jan. 22, 2001, for the first March of his Presidency but sent a written statement rather than attend in person. For the next five years, he was out of town for the event: Charleston, W.Va. (2002), St. Louis (2003), Roswell, N.M. (2004), Camp David (2005) and Manhattan, Kan. (2006). His routine is to address the event by phone.

A footnote: Only two of the many Republican Presidential hopefuls attended this year’s March for Life: Rep. Duncan Hunter of California and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas. On Sunday, Brownback visited the Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill, mingling with marchers from Iowa (the first state in the Presidential nomination process).

Dollars for Rudy

Texas Republican contributors are being solicited to spend $30,000 for dinner with former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani at the Houstonian Hotel in Houston Feb. 1 to finance his “presidential exploratory committee.” The “private” dinner will follow a 6:30 to 8 p.m. cocktail reception, costing $2,100 a person and $4,200 for couples.

The best-known host of Giuliani’s Houston event is billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens Jr., chairman of the private equity firm BP Capital Management. Also on Giuliani’s Texas fund-raising team are Tom Hicks, whose company owns the Texas Rangers baseball team; oil industry executive Jim Lee; and lawyer Patrick C. Oxford.

A footnote: A Giuliani fund-raiser will be held Jan. 29 in Pacific Palisades, Calif., at the home of Bill Simon, the 2002 Republican candidate for governor of California, costing $2,300 a person and $4,600 per couple.

Robert D. Novak is a syndicated columnist and a commentator for the FOX network.

U.S. military reports seven troops killed in Iraq

7 U.S. troops killed in Iraq

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago

The U.S. military reported the deaths of seven more soldiers Saturday, while Sunni insurgent bombers struck yet another market in a predominantly Shiite district, killing at least 13 people in their bid to terrorize Baghdad days before a U.S.-Iraqi military crackdown.

The latest market attack capped a week in which more than 150 people, mostly Shiites, were slain in bomb attacks.

Death squads, believed to be primarily Shiite militiamen, continued their butchery on the other side of Iraq's deepening sectarian divide, with police reporting the discovery of 40 bodies dumped in Baghdad alone. Two of the victims were women and most of the bodies showed signs of torture, police said.

In all, at least 61 victims of Iraq's sectarian warfare were killed or found dead across the country.

Of the seven service members reported dead on Saturday, two died in Diyala province northeast of the capital on Friday, three in an unspecified location north of Baghad on Saturday and two in east Baghdad on Thursday.

The latest reported deaths raised to at least 3,079 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,471 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military.

U.S. airstrikes killed 14 insurgents and destroyed a safe house for foreign fighters during a raid south of Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad. Two suspects were captured, the military said.

The Americans said the raid had targeted a foreigner they believed responsible for a series of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces in the extremely violent Baqouba region. The military there has been caught in the midst of some of the bloodiest sectarian fighting of the war.

Saturday's bombings employed what has become a classic insurgent tactic. First a suicide car bomber drove into the crowded market stalls in the busy New Baghdad commercial area shortly after noon, then detonated his explosives among the stores and kiosks selling food, clothes, household appliances and birds.

As people rushed to help the victims, a parked car bomb exploded. The 13 killed included two policemen; four officers were among the 42 wounded, police said.

Burned-out hulks of cars and vans littered the market. A bag of fruit lay in the twisted metal on the bloody pavement.

Farooq Haitham, the 33-year-old owner of a watch repair shop, said the area had been targeted by bombers before but shopkeepers had no choice but to keep opening their doors.

"What can we do? We want to live. We need the money so we come to work," Haitham said.

It was the latest in a series of attacks against commercial targets, in which more than 150 people have died since last Sunday. The attack signals a tough battle ahead as U.S. and Iraqi forces prepare for the security operation, a third bid to pacify the capital since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took power on May 25.

The week's deadliest attack killed 88 people Monday when a suicide car bomber crashed into a market in the central neighborhood of Bab al-Sharqi.

Shortly before sunset Saturday, a rocket slammed into the Green Zone, wounding two people slightly. It was the second time in three days that rockets hit the area, home to the U.S. Embassy, the Iraqi government and thousands of American troops.

In central Baghdad, police said armed men in police commando uniforms and driving cars with license plates commonly used by the Interior Ministry raided a computer shop in a Christian section of the Sina'a neighborhood. They took away four employees and three customers.

"The group pointed their guns at the victims and the passers-by, then they forced the victims into the cars and they sped away," Younis Kadhim, 36, who owns a small restaurant nearby.

Two mortar shells also slammed into a residential district in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Hurriyah, police said, killing two people and wounding seven others.

A taxi driver was shot to death after he was caught in the crossfire during clashes in Mosul. A parked car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol later exploded in the northern city, killing one civilian and wounding another.

Voters are responsible for Bush's Iraq fiasco

Voters are responsible for Bush's Iraq fiasco
Albany Times Union, NY - 25 Jan 2007
George W. Bush was a profoundly ignorant man who was putty in the hands of the neocons who were the true architects of the Iraq fiasco.


What Would Jesus Do?

Quote of the Day

"It’s never stated explicitly, but clearly we can’t make the case about Iran’s intentions,” said a senior strategist for the Bush administration who joined it long after evidence surfaced that Iraq had none of the illicit weapons that the administration cited as a reason to go to war." -- DAVID E. SANGER, The New York Times, January 28, 2007

Bush Bamboozles Democrats Again

As Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates joins in baiting Iraq War critics for supposedly aiding the enemy, the Democrats have been taught once more the value of handing a bipartisan olive branch to George W. Bush.

In December 2006, ignoring warnings from former CIA officers who had worked with Gates, Senate Democrats embraced his nomination to replace Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They fawned over Gates at a one-day hearing, spared the former CIA director any tough questions, and then unanimously endorsed him.

Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and others hailed Gates’s “candor” when he acknowledged the obvious, that the United States wasn’t winning the war in Iraq, a position that even Bush subsequently embraced.

In December, the “conventional wisdom” was that Bush would bend to the troop-drawdown recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and that Gates – as a former member of the ISG – would guide the President toward disengagement from Iraq.

But in rushing Gates’s nomination through with only pro forma hearings, the Democrats sacrificed a rare opportunity to demand answers from the Bush administration about its war policy at a time when the White House wanted something from the Democrats, i.e. the quick confirmation of Gates.

At minimum, the Democrats could have used an extended confirmation hearing to explore, in detail, Gates’s views about the military challenges in the Middle East and ascertain what he knew about Bush’s future plans.

They also could have taken time to examine exactly who Gates is, whether he is the right man to oversee the complex conflicts in the Middle East, and what his real record was in handling regional issues in the past.

Gates allegedly played important but still-secret roles in controversial U.S. policies toward Iran and Iraq in the 1980s. In addition, former CIA officers have criticized Gates for “politicizing” the CIA’s intelligence analysis as a top CIA official in the 1980s.

Some of the CIA institutional and personnel changes that Gates implemented led to the CIA’s malleability in the face of White House pressure over Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction in 2002-03, former CIA officials said. [See's "The Secret World of Robert Gates."]

So, was Gates a closet neoconservative ideologue hiding behind Boy Scout looks and mild manners? Or was he more a yes man who would bend to the will of his superiors? His record could be interpreted either way. [See's "Robert Gates: Realist or Neo-con?"]

But the Democrats politely evaded these thorny questions.

Rumsfeld’s Lament

The Senate Armed Services Committee also could have called Rumsfeld to explain his Nov. 6 memo which contained recommendations for U.S. troop redeployments similar to those suggested by Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania. Two days after that memo was sent to Bush, the President fired Rumsfeld and replaced him with Gates.

The Democrats could have demanded that Rumsfeld explain what had led to his change in thinking and whether his “going wobbly” was the precipitating fact in his firing. [See's "Gates Hearing Has New Urgency."]

By extending the hearings a few days, they also could have asked Rumsfeld and Gates about the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations.

Under White House pressure, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner, R-Virginia, scheduled Gates’s one-day hearing the day before former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton released the ISG’s report listing 79 recommendations to address the "grave and deteriorating" situation in Iraq.

Though then still in the Senate minority, committee Democrats had the power to demand fuller hearings. But they were desperate to demonstrate their bipartisanship and their generosity in victory, extending Bush an olive branch and hoping that Bush would respond in kind.

Immediately after the perfunctory hearing, Gates got unanimous approval from the Armed Services Committee and the next day won confirmation from the full Senate. He was opposed by only two right-wing Republican senators.

In the seven weeks since then, it’s become clear that Bush bamboozled the Democrats again. The “conventional wisdom” of early December turned out to be all wrong.

Bush dashed the Democrats’ hopes for a bipartisan strategy on Iraq by unceremoniously junking the Baker-Hamilton recommendations.

Instead of moving to drawdown U.S. forces, he chose to escalate by adding more than 20,000 new troops. Instead of negotiating with Iran and Syria as the ISG wanted, Bush sent aircraft carrier strike groups to the region and authorized the killing of Iranian agents inside Iraq.

Instead of building on the bipartisan approach of the Iraq Study Group, Bush pronounced himself the “decision-maker” and signaled his surrogates to step up accusations that the Democrats were aiding and abetting the terrorists.

Gates’s Thanks

For his part, Gates has shown his thanks to the Democrats for his cakewalk confirmation by speeding up deployment of the new troops even as Democrats struggle to fashion a non-binding resolution opposing the escalation.

Gates also picked up Bush’s favorite cudgel to pound the Democrats for supposedly helping the enemy.

“Any indication of flagging will in the United States gives encouragement to those folks,” Gates told reporters at the Pentagon on Jan. 26. “I’m sure that that’s not the intent behind the resolutions, but I think it may be the effect.”

Now, as Bush rushes more troops to Iraq, the Democrats are left to debate whether the non-binding resolution on the “surge” should refer to it as an “escalation” or, as some Republicans would prefer, an “augmentation.”

Though vowing stronger action in the future, many Democrats already have ruled out blocking new funds for the war because that would open them to more accusations of disloyalty. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has taken impeachment “off the table,” too.

So, the Democrats are again learning a hard lesson they should have mastered years ago, that this breed of Republicans views Democrats as suckers who can be easily seduced with a few sweet but empty words like “bipartisanship” and “comity.”

In December, the Democrats voluntarily sacrificed a golden opportunity to use the Gates nomination to force an examination of Bush’s war strategy. At that moment, they held real leverage over the administration to get documents and other needed information.

Instead, they engaged in wishful thinking, opted to be nice and are now finding what their gestures of bipartisanship got them.

[To see's new archive on Gates-related articles, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

To comment at Consortiumblog, click here. To comment to us by e-mail, click here.

Pat Lang on Bush's Order Re Iranian Agents

Friday, 26 January 2007

Pat Lang was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN's The Situation Room today about Bush's authorization for U.S. military forces in Iraq to capture or kill Iranian agents. The transcript is below the fold. It's a must-read, and requires no superfluous commentary by me. It's devastating. But his message at the end is the right one. If only somebody is listening.


Let's get some more now on our top story, President Bush authorizing U.S. military forces in Iraq to capture or kill Iranian agents in that country if there's intelligence showing they're planning to attack U.S. or coalition forces.

Let's get a little bit of analysis now what this means. Joining us, retired U.S. Army colonel Pat Lang, former chief of Mideast intelligence over at the Pentagon.
Pat, you know this area well. You studied it your whole life. You speak the language.

If the U.S. goes ahead, soldiers or Marines, and kill Iranians on the spot in Iraq, what are the Iranians do in retaliation?

COL. PAT LANG, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I think Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the U.N. atomic agency, has it right. Everybody ought to calm down and take a step back and take a few deep breaths, because there's a kind of cycle of accelerated statements and heated developments that's going on now that tends to ratchet up the situation so much that it tends to push you in the direction of war. And something like that, in which we start to eliminate their people because we have information that we think might incriminate them is a very -- is a very dangerous escalating move.

BLITZER: Well, what would happen if the U.S. does kill these Iranians and the president has signed off on it?

LANG: Well, if he has signed off on it and intelligence is developed that indicates that what he says it's true, then they will in fact eliminate the people. The problem is, is that the Iranians will then have to make a decision as to how they're going to retaliate for that.

BLITZER: Well, how could they retaliate?

LANG: They could retaliate against U.S. forces in Iraq in a big way.

BLITZER: How could they do that?

LANG: They have hundreds of thousands of people from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guard corps already in Iraq.

BLITZER: Hundreds of thousands?

LANG: Oh, yes. That's a well-established figure that's though to be true across the community of people that look at this. And they're there as liaison personnel with the very Shia militias and things like that. And if they get sufficiently angry with us, they can start retaliating directly against our forces.

BLITZER: And in terms of in the past, Iranians, at least according to U.S. officials, have been accused of using terror organizations as sort of a cover for what they're plotting.

LANG: The Islamic Republic of Iraq (sic) has been the principal international sponsor of Islamic terrorism, both Sunni and Shia, ever since its foundation after the revolution against the Shah. They're very skilled at this. They've done it all over the world. And they would be -- they would be right in character with the way they do things to start using terrorism as an instrument of retaliation.

BLITZER: You're referring to Iran right now?

LANG: I'm referring to Iran, that's right. And they could do it anywhere in the world, not just in Iraq.

BLITZER: So, basically, there is potential here for what is a really bad situation getting increasingly worse?

LANG: Yes, there's a cycle of escalation going on right now between -- certainly on our side. The Iranians, on their side, have kind of hunkered down and are acting stubborn about things in the way that people in the third world sometimes do when their ambitions are interfered with.

But I don't see any tendency to a deescalation through negotiation on our part. Instead, we're just telling the Iranians, we want you to stop interfering in Iraq. And that's the end of the conversation.

BLITZER: There's been some suggestion that the president of Iran, Ahmadinejad, is in sort of shaky ground right now and that the supreme leader may be angry at what he's done and that others are clearly irritated.

What's your sense about his stability right now?

LANG: Well, the way the Iranian republic is set up, in fact, he is not the sole possessor of power in the same way the president of the United States is over the American armed forces. There are a lot of other actors in Iran, and a lot of them are very irritated with him, because he is, in fact, enabling a cycle of escalation against Iran which could be devastating if the United States decided to use its main strategic forces against the country.

BLITZER: I was told recently by a senior administration official that U.S. intelligence on actually what's happening inside of Iran right now, as far as his strength, Ahmadinejad is concerned, is not necessarily all that good.

LANG: No. I think probably if you go around the academic community and the think tank community in the United States, talk to people in New York and in California and here, academics who deal with Iran, you'll probably have a better, clearer idea of what is actually happening politically in Iran.

BLITZER: Is there, in your sense, bottom line, a desire on the part of the Iranians to engage directly with the United States in Iraq?

LANG: You mean in a combat sense?

BLITZER: Yes. In other words, to use -- the suggestion has been they're already supplying sophisticated improvised explosive devices, other military equipment, training to their friends in Iraq. But do you sense that the Iranians will get directly involved?

LANG: I don't think they'll do if they think that the ambitions for their Shia co-religions (ph) in Iraq are going to be fulfilled in the way that we have been going toward with a Shia government in Iraq and that kind of thing. On the other hand, if the situation of competition between the United States and Iran gets out of hand, then, in fat, it could get very hot very fast.

BLITZER: The deployment of another 21,000 or so U.S. troops to the Baghdad area, to the Al Anbar Province -- you've studied Iraq for a long time -- is it going to make a difference?

LANG: Well, in the overall situation?


LANG: I don't think it will because the force is too small in the Baghdad area and it relies too heavily on Iraqi efficiency in carrying this out. And we're going to have a lot of people scattered in little penny packets all over the city, packed with Iraqi forces. And I doubt if that's actually going to have the clearing effect in Baghdad that we expect it will have.

BLITZER: So what's going to happen over the next six months? LANG: Over the next six months I think the United States government will come to the realization that Prime Minister Maliki cannot deliver on the some of things that he has in fact told them he's going to be able to do. And we might well have change of government in Iraq.

BLITZER: A change -- would that be good?

LANG: It's probably another government which also cannot deliver on promises it might make the United States, because any government there that is Shia in character has to depend on the Shia parties and militias for its support. So they can't fight these people in the long run.

BLITZER: What the American public wants to know is, the vulnerability, what's going to happen to 160,000 or so American troops in Iraq over the next six months to a year?

LANG: Over the next year, I would say that we're going to have a situation which will not improve markedly. But we will still have approximately the same number of people in Iraq. And a year from now, say in the middle of '08, we will be facing a situation in which that things will not have greatly improved but we'll still be there.

BLITZER: It will basically the same as what's happening right now, is that what you're saying?

LANG: I'm afraid that's true.

BLITZER: If you were still at the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and you were briefing the president or the secretary of defense right now, what would be your recommendation?

LANG: Well, intelligence people don't usually make recommendations. But I will in this case.

I would say that what we need to have is a general, forceful, persistent round of negotiations throughout the region to settle as many interests as we can. Bring the temperature down enough so that we can all live with it without going to war some more. We don't need any more wars. Wars are really bad.

BLITZER: Colonel Pat Lang, retired U.S. Army intelligence.

Thanks very much more for coming in.

LANG: My pleasure