Friday, April 13, 2007
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 13, 2007; 4:30 PM
The Justice Department identified five Bush administration insiders as replacement U.S. attorneys almost a year before most of the prosecutors were fired, contrary to repeated claims that no such list had ever been drawn up, according to documents released today.
E-mails sent to the White House in January and May of 2006 by D. Kyle Sampson, then chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, list potential replacements for U.S. attorneys in San Diego, San Francisco, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Little Rock, Ark.
The replacements on the list were all high-level administration insiders, including two who have gone on to different U.S. attorney postings: Jeff Taylor, now chief prosecutor in the District, and Deborah Rhodes, now U.S. attorney in Alabama. The others were Rachel L. Brand, currently head of the Office of Legal Counsel, and Daniel Levin, a former senior Justice and White House official, the memos show.
Justice officials have previously said that only Tim Griffin, currently acting U.S. attorney in Little Rock, was specifically identified as a replacement candidate for one of the fired prosecutors.
Seven U.S. attorneys were fired Dec. 7, and another was dismissed earlier in 2006, as part of a plan that originated in the White House to replace some prosecutors based in part on their perceived disloyalty to President Bush and his policies. The uproar over the removals has grown amid allegations that Republican lawmakers had improper political contact with prosecutors and assertions by Democrats that the firings may have been an attempt to disrupt public corruption investigations.
Sampson resigned as Gonzalez's top aide last month ahead of revelations that White House political officials helped direct the dismissals.
Also last month Sampson submitted prepared testimony to the Senate saying that, with the exception of the prosecutor in Little Rock, "none of the U.S. attorneys was asked to resign in favor of a particular individual who had already been identified to take the vacant spot."
During the same March 29 hearing, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked Sampson whether he had specific replacements in mind for seven of the prosecutors before they were fired.
"I personally did not," Sampson replied. "On December 7th, I did not have in mind any replacements for any of the seven who were asked to resign."
Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said today that the list of candidates "in no way contradicts the department's prior statements" because it "reflects Kyle Sampson's initial thoughts," was compiled long before the firings and was never followed through.
"With the exception of Griffin, none of those individuals was named as an interim U.S. Attorney in any of the eight districts," Roehrkasse said.
Roehrkasse said that Brand had initially expressed interest the U.S. Attorney's job in western Michigan after being approached by Sampson. But he said Brand later decided against it "and never entered into a formal selection process for the position."
Sampson's attorney, Bradford A. Berenson, released a statement today saying that the "testimony regarding the consideration of replacements was entirely accurate."
"In December 2006, when the seven U.S. Attorneys were asked to step down, no specific candidate had been selected to replace any of them, and Kyle had none in mind," Berenson said. "Some names had been tentatively suggested for discussion much earlier in the process, but by the time the decision to ask for the resignations was made, none had been chosen to serve as a replacement. Most, if not all, had long since ceased even to be possibilities."
The potential replacements are the latest contradiction to emerge from thousands of pages of Justice Department documents that have been turned over to the House and Senate, including a new batch of more than 2,000 pages delivered to Capitol Hill this morning.
The documents also underscore the extent of efforts to place Bush administration insiders in U.S. attorney's jobs around the country. About a third of the Justice Department's four dozen prosecutor appointments during the past two years went to former Justice or White House officials, including 10 senior aides to Gonzales, government records show.
The disclosures come as Gonzales continues preparations for pivotal testimony next Tuesday at the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Democrats plan to focus on the department's numerous misstatements about the firings and Gonzales's shifting explanations about his role in carrying them out.
Among other documents released today was a chart of U.S. attorneys distributed in February that notes whether each sitting prosecutor is a member of the Federalist Society, a coalition of conservative lawyers and legal scholars with close ties to the Bush administration.
Another document -- internal Justice Department "talking points" about the fired prosecutors -- shows that Justice officials used identical language to describe alleged shortcomings in immigration enforcement by two U.S. attorneys.
About Carol S. Lam of San Diego, the memo said: "Regardless of what was done by the office in this area, she failed to tackle this responsibility as aggressively and as vigorously as we expected and needed her to do." The same sentence was used for David C. Iglesias of New Mexico, except that "her" was replaced with "him."
The same document also includes criticism of Iglesias, a Naval Reserve officer, for allegedly traveling too much: "We expect our U.S. Attorneys, particularly those in critical districts, to be hands-on managers working hard to advance the work of the Department."
Six other U.S. attorneys are currently serving double duty as senior Justice officials in Washington. They include acting Associate Attorney General William W. Mercer, who is also the U.S. attorney in Montana, where the chief federal judge has demanded Mercer's removal.
The dollar's slide against most of the world's currencies gained pace today as dealers worried over the outlook for the US economy.
Sterling and the euro are leading the charge against the embattled dollar, as interest rates are still expected to head higher in both Europe and the UK.
After a string of rate increases in the US in the past two years, the Federal Reserve has recently indicated it may pause or even cut borrowing costs. The Bank of England and the European Central Bank, on the other hand, are still widely expected to raise interest rates.
Many analysts reckon that global currencies are set for a major realignment as Europe takes over as the engine of world growth and the US starts to trip, prompting investors to sell dollar-denominated assets.
Ian Stannard, a currency analyst at BNP Paribas, said: "Dollar weakness has been building over the last few days.
"There is a growing recognition among policymakers that things are starting to slowdown in the US." Mr Stannard expects sterling to breach the $2 mark.
Sterling soared almost a cent against the dollar to $1.9864, the euro strengthened to $1.3543 and the Japanese yen was also higher, at 118.26.
With many believing the dollar has to weaken further to ease its trade and current account deficits, free-floating currencies such as sterling, the euro, the Australian dollar and the Canadian dollar are taking the brunt of the currency's slide.
Asia's major currencies, including the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan, are either managed or fixed against the dollar.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
For some further commentary on this subject from my blog entry from March 10, 2005, which includes embedded link back to my blog of August 24, 2005, www.karlmarxwasright.blogspot.com/2006/03/what-really-happened-to-shah-of-iran.html
Extending from the previous material and other entries, a translation (a thank you note for the effort of translating) which HELPS to shed some light on the current situation, "Entrapped," www.uruknet.de/?p=m32023&hd=&size=1&l=e
and, from an Arab source, this time, basically, recapitulating the information on some of my previous blogs, www.arablinks.blogspot.com/2007/04/advice-for-iraqi-resistance-on-us.html
In addition, the Arab Baath Socialist Party's own statement on the matters, above, www.uruknet.de/?p=m32064&hd=&size=1&l=e
By the way, a personal note as to the question surfacing regarding the American use of a neutron bomb in Iraq. I am definitely NOT a military specialist. As a matter of fact, I don't even know the names and differences between one gun and another and what they do. HOWEVER, I happen to recall a talk I heard awhile back regarding a "new" weapon PRIOR to the FIRST Gulf War that was to be possibly tested at that time. I cannot presently recall it's name for sure, but, I believe it is/was a "fuel air explosive???" However, I remember it functioned SIMILAR to a neutron bomb but was NOT a neutron bomb. Apparently, as I recall, it killed EVERYTHING that moved, breathed, crawled and was alive underneath it, but, left the structural edifices standing. The way it worked had something to do with creating an enormous explosion/fire in the atmosphere that sucked oxygen from the ground, thus suffocating and incinerating everything alive underneath but left structures standing. Could this be the weapon instead of a neutron bomb to which everyone is referring?? I can also tell everyone who is/was the person who gave the talk to which I referred, above. His name is David F. Noble and the last time I heard he is/was a Professor of History, I believe, at York University in Canada. (He was then living and working near here, instead, which is why I heard him). For those who might be interested in his works or contacting him, here's a wikipedia reference ( I do NOT recommend wikipedia, however, this is a SNAPSHOT link), www.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_F._Noble
Or, do a search for yourself under his name.
Regarding my above heading a "Tale of Two Realities," I am, of course, referring to the ongoing, economic "internationalization and privatization of Iraq" moving ahead as if oblivious to the direction of the military realities exploding on the ground with more explosions, dislocations and destablization in the offing vis-a-vis Turkey and Kurdistan, as well as Ukraine and elsewhere. In case the reader STILL doesn't get it after voluminous information on my blogs, I can hit you/her/him/them over the head with a blunt instrument, "Iraq PM Calls for International Help to Rebuild," www.petroleumworld.com/story07041202.htm
Developments are fluid, ongoing, dynamic, so, I can only highlight a few points.
On the Turkish elections and Kurdistan, for example, "US-Kurdish Rift Emerges on Kirkuk Referendum Timing," www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=70448
Then, "Turks [that is, private Turkish companies] Are Reconstructing Northern Iraq" www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=70442 and, lastly, exemplifying THE fundamental contradiction represented by the above and the following, "Top [Turkish] General Talks Today," www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=70504
As an aside, there's an English translation from a Turkish language source, Hurriyet, suggesting the following, "Barzani Bribed Former Iraq Justice Minister," regarding the deportation of Arabs from Kirkuk, www.uruknet.de/?p=m32053&hd=&size=1&l=e
However, there's no question on which side in Turkey stands the US Fascist state. With private business, naturally. The economic state of Turkey be damned! And, likewise, the economic state of Iraq! Both of which have been and are being privatized, destroyed, sold out, sold off and deconstructed as I write. "For whom the State tolls/toils, NOT for thee my fellow working class."
As an aside about privatization, in consideration of my previous blogs documenting US labor/union pension fund investment in this process, there was an interesting article, ironically, in the Turkish press gleaned from the Independent, about pension fund and privatization in Canada. Here's the link, "Pension Fund Set to Lead World's Largest Leverage Buyout," regarding Bell Canada, www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=70443
As for the "battle for Ukraine," well, that's being reported ad nauseum. Try some international and Russian websites. For starters, www.rian.ru (English).
Meanwhile, in the ongoing saga of Dana Gas and Crescent Oil of the UAE which I've been following since its emergence, Dana has recently expanded into Egypt, with the distinct possibilities of supplying gas to Israel and well beyond, www.ameinfo.com/111787.html (If you happen to be unfamiliar with the Dana Gas, Crescent Oil saga, go to my blog of March 27, 2007 and work backwards, www.karlmarxwasright.blogspot.com/2007/03/crescent-dana-gas-internationalizing.html Previous links contained in that blog entry).
ALL of this, of course, merely being the extension, continuation, realization of economic plans after the dissolution of the Soviet Union to transform this highly nationalized, energy rich and strategic region into a center, pivotal point of a privatized, commodified and capitalized "Middle East Free Trade Zone," a critical component of the larger, greater global economic transformation.
So, along these lines, let me end on two opposite notes. First, the Pakistanis militant trade unionists, "Meeting in Solidarity with Airbus Workers in Multan," www.ptudc.org/content/view/120/36 A refreshing antidote to the American AFL-CIA.
And, lastly, an HYPOTHESIS on the "Eagle Group of Iraq." Since I have so far been unable to ascertain from any public sources available on the internet WHO precisely constitutes (private individuals and/or corporations) the "Eagle Group of Iraq" in what can only be described as a potential EXTRAORDINARILY lucrative oil bonanza, agreement between Canada's Heritage Oil Company, Mr. 5% Gulbenkian, and the KRG, Kurdistan Regional Govt, then, let's suppose, for example, it turns out that the Eagle Group of Iraq is none other than either Talabani and/or Barzani himself/themselves??!!! I challenge anyone reading this to disprove my HYPOTHESIS by publicly PROVIDING me (or others) the exact names of the investors and/or individuals who compromise the "Eagle Group of Iraq."
posted by karlmarx at 5:00 PM
The million-man Shi'ite march in Najaf coupled with the spectacular bombing of the Iraqi Parliament in the Green Zone truly spells the end of the US in Iraq. The only thing left is to turn Baghdad into a cluster of self-contained gated communities - a gulag - where a few can feel safe from the chaos around them. But isn't the Green Zone a gated community?
Apr 14, 2007
THE ROVING EYE
By Pepe Escobar
DAMASCUS - There are three overlapping wars in Iraq: the Sunni Arab guerrilla struggle against the US; strands of Sunni Arab guerrillas against assorted Shi'ite militias/death squads; and al-Qaeda in Iraq against the puppet, US-backed Iraqi government in the Green Zone. Make it four wars: the Sunni Arab guerrilla war against the government inside the Green Zone. Better yet, make it five wars: the Sadrists, from Sadr City to Kufa and Najaf, against the Americans.
All strands of these five overlapping wars will never allow the United States - or Anglo-American Big Oil - to control Iraq's oil wealth. Even if the new oil law is ratified by Parliament before June, implementation will be a certified nightmare, and security for billions of dollars of necessary investment non-existent.
Strands of these five overlapping wars also will never accept the long-term imposition of vast US military bases under a Status of Forces Agreement negotiated with dodgy politicians who spend more time in London than in Baghdad.
Setting a precise date for a total US withdrawal - the crystal-clear demand insistently formulated by Muqtada al-Sadr - would be the only way for the Bush administration to salvage a modicum of not totally humiliating defeat. Instead, the world had better be ready for the imminent arrival of the Baghdad gulag.
Can I leave my condo, please?
US corporate media/think-tanks may think they fool strands of US public opinion (or themselves), but they don't fool Iraqis on the (dangerous) ground. No realist in his right mind could possibly ignore the 14-kilometer-long throngs compacted all along the Kufa-Najaf road this past Monday, on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.
There were hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million Iraqi nationalists, waving Iraqi flags - with no room for a religious divide - responding to Muqtada's call for "Occupation out!" The Shi'ite million-man march proved once again Sadrists rule the Shi'ite street - and are the most powerful political force among Iraqi Shi'ites.
Yet for the administration of US President George W Bush, Muqtada al-Sadr - like every nationalist with immense popular appeal - is nothing but an evildoer who must be squashed by all counterinsurgency means necessary.
Imperial and neo-colonial systems are incapable of thinking laterally. The French failed to do so in Algeria. The Americans failed in Vietnam. The Israelis failed in Palestine. The Americans will fail to do so again in Iraq. Call it counterinsurgency run amok. Thirty of Baghdad's 89 districts will become gated communities from hell - cellophane-wrapped compounds where only Iraqis with a new, theoretically safe ID will be allowed in and out of this "secure environment", in Pentagon newspeak. Yes, it will be Orwellian. Better yet, it will be a post-mod, Arab condo version of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon, where the eye of the system is ubiquitous.
In the last chapter of my book Globalistan - titled "Condofornia vs Slumistan" - I argue that the future now revolves around the tension between gated communities and unruly slums, "secure environments" and black waves of anger. Wherever both meet - from Baghdad to Sao Paulo - we may see endless replays of Black Hawk Down.
The Baghdad gulag is a Pentagon-enforced Condofornia imposed over an Arab Slumistan. Let no one be fooled: it's being conducted as a technical experiment, with live Iraqis as guinea pigs, and is bound to be replicated in other areas of the Pentagon-created "arc of instability" from the Andes to the Horn of Africa to Arabia to Central Asia.
Let no one be fooled (again): guerrillas will IED the system from their underground cells, and many a Black Hawk will go down. But as everyone watches the destined-to-failure experiment, really serious matters - such as three new, crucial US mechanized brigades deploying east of Baghdad on the way to be strategically positioned at the Iraqi-Iranian border - will be taking place under the cover of night.
Pass the explosive coffee, please
The Sunni Arab muqawama (resistance) has already celebrated the arrival of the Baghdad gulag - by attacking the heart of the system itself, the Green Zone. The bomb that exploded on Thursday in the cafeteria of the Baghdad Convention Center - which houses the Iraqi Parliament, inside the Green Zone - was yet another crystal-clear message: we can strike you as we please, and where we please.
It has been an open secret in Baghdad for months now that strands of the muqawama boast they can sweep over the Green Zone and decimate the innocuous government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki whenever they choose to.
Then what must have been al-Qaeda in Iraq complemented the new Green Zone bombing with a kamikaze suicide truck bombing of Al-Surafiya Bridge, one of the oldest of the 10 bridges over the Tigris. This bridge used to separate still predominantly Sunni Adhamiya from still mixed Bab al-Muazzam, with which it is literally at war. The logic here would be to protect Adhamiya from Shi'ite militia-conducted ethnic cleansing.
The Green Zone bomb at the Parliament cafeteria is metaphorical in more ways than one. This is already a bombed-out Parliament. Sadrists, holding 32 seats, are threatening a boycott. Unlike throngs of SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq), Da'wa Party and Kurdish parlamentarians who prefer to watch Chelsea soccer matches in London drinking vintage scotch, Sadrists actually go to work every day in the Green Zone. If the Sadrists and the Islamic Virtue Party representatives actually decided to boycott it, along with the hardcore Sunni members of the Iraqi Accord Front, this Parliament would be no more.
Crucially, this would mean no passing of the Holy of Holies, the new Iraqi oil law. It's also an open secret in Baghdad - as well as among Iraqi refugees in Damascus - that the Bush administration's now famous "June deadline" to the Maliki government is only about oil. If the oil law is not approved by then, "all options are on the table", and that means a white coup with the reinstallation of former Central Intelligence Agency asset, former interim prime minister, former "butcher of Fallujah" Iyad Allawi, whose main task would be ... to get the oil law approved.
A Sunni Arab refugee businessman in "Little Fallujah" in Damascus, now running a kebab joint and counting every Syrian pound, summed it all up: "The bomb could have killed them all, these politicians. We are not sorry. They are just adding more misery to the Iraqi people. Nothing will change if the Americans don't leave." He is Sunni. And he agrees with Muqtada al-Sadr.
So much for sectarian civil war. For the 1.2 million-plus Iraqi refugees in Syria, Sunnis in Little Fallujah or Shi'ites around Sayyida Zaynab, the verdict is unanimous: with a population descended to Fourth World status, infant mortality doubling, 60% unemployment, a refugee crisis and the ground zero of civil society, there's only one answer: Americans out. Muqtada knows it. Instead, soon on every screen, ready for the summer blockbuster season, we will have the latest Pentagon production: The Baghdad Gulag.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd
Nevada governor faces string of scandals
By KATHLEEN HENNESSEY, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 18 minutes ago
Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt, it has become customary to take stock of a politician's first 100 days in office. Here's what Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons' 100 days include: Four scandals or more. One criminal investigation. One $10,000 dress. And a possible $137 million budget shortfall.
No charges have been brought against the Republican governor. But the tumult has made the dawn of his administration a dreary one.
"He has very little political currency to work with" in dealing with Legislature, where the Republicans control the Senate and the Democrats the Assembly, said GOP operative Steve Wark.
In what may be the most serious threat yet, the FBI has opened a corruption investigation into the former five-term congressman's relationship with a defense contractor. A former partner at the company has alleged that Gibbons received money, travel, poker chips and other favors to help it win government contracts.
Also, recent disclosures that Gibbons' wife, a former state assemblywoman and wedding chapel owner, was a paid consultant for another defense contractor have raised more questions about her husband's time on the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees.
Despite the series of "Gibbons denies ... " headlines, the 62-year-old governor said he is unfazed.
"I think, first of all, the first 100 days have been, you know, terrific for me, I've been able to do a lot," he said, citing progress on bills dealing with schools, sex offenders and tax relief for homeowners. He vowed: "I will not let these claims knock me off course."
Gibbons has hired Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell, who represented disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to handle the federal investigation.
The troubles have given Gibbons no time to gain his footing from other scandals that broke during his campaign: a Las Vegas cocktail waitress' assertion that he assaulted her in a parking garage after she rebuffed his advances, and a Peruvian housekeeper's claim that she worked for Gibbons while in this country illegally.
In December, weeks after Gibbons was elected, police said they found insufficient evidence to support the waitress' claims. And the housekeeper issue has all but disappeared — mostly because of the governor's more recent troubles.
Gibbons, a former fighter pilot particularly popular in conservative rural Nevada, got elected with 48 percent of the vote in a state where none-of-the-above is an option. But his approval rating stood at a miserable 29 percent in March.
By his seventh week in office, boos echoed louder than cheers when Gibbons was introduced at a college basketball game in his hometown of Reno.
Some bloggers are talking recall. Republicans are tiptoeing.
"There are a lot of people out here who normally would come out and defend Jim Gibbons," said GOP consultant Chuck Muth. But he said "a lot of Republicans are hedging their bets" because of the parallels to former California Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who went to prison for taking bribes from military contractors.
The governor had largely stayed mum on the allegations until earlier this week. After The Wall Street Journal reported that he was under investigation for his ties to Warren Trepp, a longtime friend who owns a Reno military software company, the governor suggested he may be the subject of a conspiracy.
"I have heard that actually the Democrat Party paid to have these Wall Street Journal articles written," Gibbons told the Reno Gazette Journal.
The Journal and state Democrats denied any collusion. When pressed, Gibbons later said he didn't believe the rumors.
State Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, a Democrat who lost to Gibbons in November, suggested the governor was "losing touch with reality."
The administration also has been troubled by smaller dustups.
Gibbons got off to a bad start right away when he secretly called for a midnight swearing-in on Jan. 1. He cited homeland security concerns — the need to have someone in charge at all times, without interruption — but it was widely viewed as a maneuver to undo a key appointment made by his GOP predecessor.
The governor was mocked by Democrats when he acknowledged he had only a "peripheral knowledge" of a $60 million education program he had made a key part of his State of the State speech.
And a press release from the first lady's office describing a $10,000 velvet Giorgio Armani ensemble purchased for the inaugural balls elicited jeers for the fiscal conservative. (The dress was paid for with contributions, not tax dollars.)
Gibbons also angered conservatives when he submitted a budget raising fees, after pledging not to do so. He later removed the increases.
Last month, after a furor over the $194,000 defense fund that Gibbons set up to deal with the various allegations against him, the Nevada secretary of state concluded that the fund did not violate the state's campaign finance laws.
Muth, like Gibbons himself, is not writing the governor off yet.
"Politics for both parties is a roller coaster. We're down right now," Muth said, "but the good news is you only go up from here."
TEXAS A&M FAILED TO REPORT STUDENT STRICKEN WITH BRUCELLA DURING BIOWEAPONS EXPERIMENT
By Sherwood Ross
Texas A&M University failed to report in a timely manner to Federal authorities that a biology student was stricken with the dangerous brucella pathogen in its College Station laboratory for bioweapons agent research on February 9th of 2006. The university made its disclosure this April 10th, 14 months later, and only after insistent prodding by the Sunshine Project, an Austin, Tex.-based arms control watchdog organization.
Under Federal law, such incidents are supposed to be reported within seven days to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
The student was seriously ill for several months with brucellosis but recovered. The disease is believed to kill between two to three percent of those it infects. The student, whose name and gender has not been disclosed by Texas A&M to Sunshine, apparently came down with the disease, also known as undulant fever, attempting to clean what is called a Madison Aerosol Chamber(MAC) where mice had been exposed to aerosolized brucella particles.
The accident occurred under the supervision of Texas A&M professor David McMurray, inventor of the (MAC). According to Sunshine, the case of the stricken student is the third report of a serious illness in connection with the chamber’s use. On one occasion, a leaky aerosol chamber was responsible for three tuberculosis infections in a Seattle lab in 2004.
The MAC is used to infect animals with disease through their lungs. Cultures of the organisms causing tuberculosis, or the bioweapons agents brucella, anthrax, or Q fever, are placed in the MAC’s nebulizer, which mixes them with the air. The resulting aerosol is directed into a metal chamber in which animals placed on racks breathe in the agent.
The Texas A&M work is being funded by the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) and the National Institutes of Health(NIH).Texas A&M’s professor Thomas Ficht is the Principal Investigator.
E-mails that Texas A&M finally released to Sunshine late on Tuesday night (April 10) reveal the University broke federal law by not reporting the infection, Sunshine’s Edward Hammond said. The Select Agent Rule required A&M to report the infection immediately upon its discovery and for the school to file a formal report, called APHIS/CDC Form 3, within 7 days. Failure to do so means Texas A&M could face fines of up to $750,000 and lose Federal funding for its research.
Asked if the university had delayed reporting the accident, Ficht replied, “I’m not supposed to talk to anybody about that, not now,” and referred this reporter to a school public relations official. Ficht is well known in his field and holds both a 2000 Pfizer Research Award and a 2004 Sigma Xi Research Award.
In recent years, Texas A&M has received between $284,000 and $363,000 annually from the NIH just for brucella research, Hammond said, but the overall NIH funding is “much higher.” How much Texas A&M gets from DHS is not known.
“The evidence released to us indicates that Texas A&M officials discussed the federal requirement to report the incident, yet they did not do so,” Hammond said. “They chose to ignore the law, and that irresponsible decision to endanger public health and security should be swiftly and severely punished with maximum fines and loss of federal research funding.”
In refusing to provide information about the infection, Texas A&M officials also flouted the Texas Public Information Act, Hammond said. He said Sunshine is filing a complaint with Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott that may result in other fines and/or jail sentences if school officials are found guilty of hiding documents. Sunshine obtained its information from the school only after formally requesting records under the Texas Public Information Act.
In recent years, several Texas universities, including Texas A&M, have attempted to conceal their biological laboratory work from public scrutiny. According to Sunshine, the universities of Texas at Arlington and San Antonio and the University of Texas Southwestern at Dallas are obligated under NIH guidelines to have their internal oversight committees report on their biological lab work to NIH but declined to do so. And Texas A&M’s oversight committee did not report the brucella episode, Hammond said.
The work of the Texas universities, like that of approximately 400 other Federally-funded labs across the nation, may involve pathogens that could possibly be used for offensive germ warfare, banned by the 1972 Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention(BTWC), which the U.S. signed. It prohibits “development, production, stockpiling, and use of microbes or their poisonous byproducts except in amounts necessary for protective and peaceful research.”
According to Professor Francis A. Boyle, an international legal expert at the University of Illinois at Champaign, “Aerosolization and an aerosol chamber are a classic tip-off for the prohibited research, development and testing of an offensive biological weapon in violation of the (BTWC) and its U.S. domestic implementing legislation, the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which provides for life in prison.” Boyle wrote the 1989 Act, passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress. He is also author of “Biowarfare and Terrorism,” published by Clarity Press.
Since 9/11, the Bush Administration has spent tens of billions of dollars on bioweapons research. The sum may be $40-billion or higher, but an accurate figure is not available as much of the work is being conducted in secret.
Some universities have leaped at the opportunity for
Federal funding for such research from NIH and DHS. Hammond claims, “Government and academic labs are responding less to bona fide needs than the urge to build power and revenue centers for what they hope is a perpetual biodefense boom. This will result in a dangerous proliferation of bioweapons agents and the knowledge to use them.”
He noted the U.S. is facing a virulent new strain of drug-resistant gonorrhea. Unfortunately, he added, “the NIH has been extravagantly funding research into ‘threat’ diseases like glanders, which has not been seen in humans in the U.S. since the 1940s except, of course, lab-acquired infections in biodefense facilities. What a shame.”
The lack of transparency in U.S. federally-funded biological laboratories has been a growing cause for concern. Jackie Cabasso, of the Western States Legal Foundation of Oakland, Calif., said, “the U.S. is now massively expanding its biodefense program, mostly in secretive facilities. Other countries are going to be suspicious. This bodes badly for the future of biological weapons control.”
According to Jonathan King, professor of molecular biology at MIT, “the Bush administration launched a major (biological weapons) program which threatens to put the health of our people at far greater risk than the hazard to which they claimed to have been responding.” Bush’s policies, he continued, “do not increase the security of the American people. They bring new risk to our population of the most appalling kind.”
Sherwood Ross is a reporter who has worked for major dailies and wire services. Reach him at email@example.com
In preparation for tomorrow's hearing where six of the dismissed US Attorneys will be testifying, we have drafted some talking points that we were going to insert into Will Moschella's testimony (the DOJ witness) that get out the message that although we stand by the decision to remove these folks the process by which they were informed was not optimal. Right now the coverage will be dominated by how qualified these folks were and their theories for their dismissals. We are trying to muddy the coverage up a bit by trying to put the focus on the process in which they were told - I suspect we are going to get to the point where DOJ has to say this anyway. First, it is true. Second, we are having morale problems with our other US Attorneys who understand the decision but think that these folks were not treated well in the process. I think from an internal management perspective it needs to be said.
We are also discussing internally if we can/should release more information about why these folks were let go if we can address the privacy act aspects. I think it cuts both ways - it does prolong the story in a sense because I suspect that the US Attorneys will just go away at some point when they feel they have vindicated their reputations. On the other hand, I don't know if the Senate Dems will let this go until it is all out in the open. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.
(Interesting tidbit: Scolinos worked for Judge Lance Ito during the O.J. Simpson murder trial.)
Update at 2:34 p.m. ET: Right before another official testified about the firings on Capitol Hill, Scolinos wrote in a March 6 e-mail that she was "concerned that the format of this dribbling out in questions may muddy things a bit. The DAG said that they are actively working with the members to tee the right questions up but I am a bit concerned on this same point and am pushing Will to be aware of this when he is up there."