September 11th & Its' Aftermath
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September 11, 2001 marked a tragic day in human history as thousands died in a global war of terror. A war that spares no innocents. A war where no crime against humanity seems unthinkable.

However, let us temper our anger with wisdom, humility and a sense of justice.

Let us protect individual liberty and the right to privacy.

Let us abide by international law.

Let us not become further entrapped in an escalating cycle of fear and violence. "An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind."- Martin Luther King

Let us work together with all nations to heal the wounds that spawn hatred and intolerance- for from this hate arises untold horrors and great suffering.

Let our aim be peace: shalom~salam

Lowell Greenberg

 

Civil Liberties at Stake

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Patriotwatch

ACLU: Keep America Safe & Free
When Democracy Failed: The Warnings of History
It's a Free Country: Personal Freedom in America After September 11, Danny Goldberg (Editor), Victor Goldberg (Editor), Robert Greenwald (Editor), Foreword by Cornel West, Preface by Janeane Garofalo, Avalon Publishing Group, 10/2003


"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin

"As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness." Justice William O. Douglas



Paranoia runs deep
Into your heart it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step outta line, the Man come and take you away
We better stop, hey! What's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

-Steven Stills and Buffalo Springfield, 1967

"Acts of terror have never destroyed a liberal democracy- acts of parliament have closed down a few," Lt. Gen. William Odom (Ret.) U.S. Army & Hudson Institute Senior Fellow & Director of Nat’l Security Studies.

"In becoming continuous war has ceased to exist. The continuity of the war guarantees the permanence of the current order. In other words "War is Peace", George Orwell, "1984."

12/05-Current

Bill of Rights Defense Committee Current & Archive News
ACLU: Safe and Free


12/05

Bush Secretly Lifted Some Limits on Spying in U.S. After 9/11, Officials Say

"WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 ­- Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials."

FBI Papers Show Terror Inquiries Into PETA; Other Groups Tracked, Spencer S. Hsu, Washington Post, 12/20/2005

"FBI counterterrorism investigators are monitoring domestic U.S. advocacy groups engaged in antiwar, environmental, civil rights and other causes, the American Civil Liberties Union charged yesterday as it released new FBI records that it said detail the extent of the activity.

The documents, disclosed as part of a lawsuit that challenges FBI treatment of groups that planned demonstrations at last year's political conventions, show the bureau has opened a preliminary terrorism investigation into People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the well-known animal rights group based in Norfolk."

Bill Would Allow Arrests For No Reason In Public Place

CLEVELAND -- A bill on Gov. Bob Taft's desk right now is drawing a lot of criticism, NewsChannel5 reported.

One state representative said it resembles Gestapo-style tactics of government, and there could be changes coming on the streets of Ohio's small towns and big cities.

The Ohio Patriot Act has made it to the Taft's desk, and with the stroke of a pen, it would most likely become the toughest terrorism bill in the country. The lengthy piece of legislation would let police arrest people in public places who will not give their names, address and birth dates, even if they are not doing anything wrong.

 

11/05

ACLU Says White House Usurps Patriot Act Reauthorization Process, Negotiators Neglect Privacy and Civil Liberties Concerns but Add Poison Pills, 11/15/2005

"WASHINGTON - A conference committee tasked to reconcile differences between House and Senate Patriot Act bills ignored bipartisan calls to restore checks and balances on government power and protect privacy and civil liberties, the American Civil Liberties Union said today. The Republican-led conferees also attached several "poison pill" measures to the must-pass legislation, unrelated to the 2001 anti-terrorism law. The House and Senate are expected to vote on the bill this week.

The following can be attributed to Lisa Graves, ACLU Senior Counsel for Legislative Strategy:

"The Patriot Act was bad in 2001, and despite bipartisan calls for reform, it's still bad in 2005. Instead of addressing the real concerns that millions of Americans have about the Patriot Act, the Republican majority in Congress buckled to White House pressure, stripping the bill of modest yet meaningful reforms. Congress must reject this bill.

"Don't be fooled by some lawmakers spinning this bill as Patriot Act reform. It’s anything but. Lawmakers have let the administration take us from bad to worse. There's a reason why groups like the Chamber of Commerce, American Conservative Union and American Library Association have all come together for Patriot Act reform. The question is: Why haven’t lawmakers listened?""

3/05

Administration Rejects Ruling On PR Videos: GAO Called Tapes Illegal Propaganda

"The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.

That message, in memos sent Friday to federal agency heads and general counsels, contradicts a Feb. 17 memo from Comptroller General David M. Walker. Walker wrote that such stories -- designed to resemble independently reported broadcast news stories so that TV stations can run them without editing -- violate provisions in annual appropriations laws that ban covert propaganda." - Christopher Lee, Washington Post, 3/15/05

 

2/05

Judge Rules Terror Suspect Must Be Charged or Freed

WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday ordered the Bush administration to either charge or release an American suspected of plotting terrorist attacks with Al Qaeda, saying that his continued confinement after nearly three years would "only offend the rule of law."- Richard Serrano, LA Times, 3/1/05

Justice Dept. Opposes Bid to Revive Case Against F.B.I. Justice Dept.

WASHINGTON - The government has told a federal appeals court that a suit by an F.B.I. translator who was fired after accusing the bureau of ineptitude should not be allowed to proceed because it would cause "significant damage to the national security and foreign policy of the United States."

"...The effect of the government's posture in this case will be to discourage national security whistle-blowers," said Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who is helping Ms. Edmonds. "She is fighting for the right to prove that she was wrongfully terminated."- John Files, New York Tines, 2/26/05


9/04

Ashcroft Continues to Seek New Powers

"Attorney General Ashcroft and his allies in Congress are taking advantage of the 9/11 Commission report to push an expansion of the powers of the Department of Justice and erode key checks and balances that prevent government abuse. Many of their earlier proposals met with defeat, but now they are pushing new legislation that would dramatically expand on the PATRIOT Act and even further restrict our freedom.

The latest proposed legislation -- "Tools to Fight Terrorism Act of 2004" (S. 2679) -- would increase the government’s powers to secretly obtain personal records without judicial review and limit judicial discretion over the use of secret evidence in criminal cases. It would also eliminate important foreign intelligence wiretapping safeguards and allow the use of secret intelligence wiretaps in immigration cases without notice or an opportunity to suppress illegally acquired evidence.

The legislation would also grant the Department of Justice expanded administrative subpoena power -- the authority to seize records and compel testimony in terrorism cases without prior review by a court or grand jury. This would erode already diminished judicial oversight, and would allow access to confidential records without individual suspicion of wrongdoing.

Furthermore, this legislation would expand the use of the death penalty -- a step that would hurt efforts to coordinate anti-terrorism activities and extraditions with those countries that oppose capital punishment."


11/03

F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies

"..The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we're going back to the days of Hoover."- Eric Lichtblau, NY Times, 11/22003


ACLU Says Latest Expansion of FBI Intelligence Guidelines Ignores Lessons of Watergate, Waco and Ruby Ridge

"...The new set of guidelines - a heavily redacted version of which was obtained and reported on by the Washington Post - are apparently designed to allow detailed monitoring of both citizens and non-citizens without any indication of ongoing or intended espionage. Previously, internal guidelines - put in place after the abuses of Watergate and the FBI’s McCarthy-era COINTELPRO political spying initiative - required the FBI to initiate a preliminary inquiry, using limited means, to satisfy itself that there existed sufficient grounds to begin an full-blown investigation using all the intrusive surveillance tools at its disposal."

"...Under the current administration, the relaxed guidelines could likely be used to target, for instance, anti-war protestors. However, the new set of guidelines should also concern conservatives, the ACLU said, given that under a future left-leaning presidency, it could also be used to target lawful militia groups or anti-abortion activists."
 


6/03

Report Lambastes Justice Department by Helen Thomas, 6/6/03

"Hats off to Justice Department inspector general Glenn Fine for nailing the department's abuse of illegal immigrants in the name of fighting terrorism.

Fine, an appointee of former President Clinton to the non-partisan post, issued a scathing 198-page report on the brutal handling of some of the 762 detainees rounded up in the early aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Most of them have now been deported or released.

Only one detainee, Zacarias Moussaoui, who was in custody before 9/11, has been charged with a terrorism-related crime." (Continued)

 

2/03

Justice Dept. Drafts Sweeping Expansion of Anti-Terrorism Act

"The Bush Administration is preparing a bold, comprehensive sequel to the USA Patriot Act passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, which will give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information.

 The Center for Public Integrity has obtained a draft, dated January 9, 2003, of this previously undisclosed legislation and is making it available in full text," Center for Public Integrity," 2/7/03; See also; Whitely Strieber's Journal, dated 2/10/03 on the so-called, "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003."

 

12/02

Snooping in All the Wrong Places:
Not only would the Administration's plan to centralize every American's records destroy privacy, the security payoff would be minimal


"The outrage over TIA (Total Information Awareness System) doesn't seem to have reached the President's ear, but it should. It's not too late for him to realize the folly of such a plan. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the project would combine every American's bank records, tax filings, driver's license information, credit-card purchases, medical data, and phone and e-mail records into one giant centralized database. This would then be combed through for evidence of suspicious activity.

TAINTED LEADER. If that's not scary enough, consider who's overseeing the project: Former Reagan National Security Adviser and Bush loyalist John Poindexter, a man who was convicted (though later acquitted on appeal) of five felonies, including lying to Congress, after the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

The DARPA plan shocked the media and individual citizens across the country. The program wouldn't catch terrorists, but it would terrorize ordinary citizens by logging their every movement in a federal government database. Why, many asked, would the Bush Administration stand behind such an intrusive plan? My question: Why ask why? " Jane Black, Business Week, 12/18/2002; See also: Electronic Privacy Information Center, Total Information Awareness (TIA)


U.S. defends al-Qaeda interrogations: ‘Stress and duress’ tactics used on terrorism suspects

"In the multifaceted global war on terrorism waged by the Bush administration, one of the most opaque — yet vital — fronts is the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects. ...Interviews with several former intelligence officials and 10 current U.S. national security officials — including several people who witnessed the handling of prisoners — provide insight into how the U.S. government is prosecuting this part of the war.
       The picture that emerges is of a brass-knuckled quest for information, often in concert with allies of dubious human rights reputation, in which the traditional lines between right and wrong, legal and inhumane, are evolving and blurred.
       While the U.S. government publicly denounces the use of torture, each of the current national security officials interviewed for this article defended the use of violence against captives as just and necessary. They expressed confidence that the American public would back their view.
       “If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job,” said one official who has supervised the capture and transfer of accused terrorists. “I don’t think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this. That was the whole problem for a long time with the CIA.” Dana Priest & Barton Gellman, Washington Post, 12/26/02


11/02

Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death, 11/02

"Afghan Massacre tells of the horrific forced journey undertaken by thousands of prisoners who surrendered to America’s Afghan allies after the siege of Kunduz."

"Bundled into containers, the lucky ones were shot within minutes. The rest suffered an appalling road trip lasting up to four days, clawing at the skin of their fellow prisoners as they licked perspiration and even drank blood from open wounds."

"Up to 3,000 now lie buried in a mass grave, but this was not a simple matter of Afghans killing Afghans."

"Afghan Massacre tells of how American Special Forces took control of the operation, re-directed the containers carrying the living and dead into the desert and stood by as survivors were shot and buried."

"And it details how the Pentagon lied to the world in order to cover up its role in the greatest atrocity of the entire Afghan War. This is the documentary they did not want you to see."


In Terror War, 2nd Track for Suspects:
Those Designated 'Combatants' Lose Legal Protections


"The Bush administration is developing a parallel legal system in which terrorism suspects -- U.S. citizens and non-citizens alike -- may be investigated, jailed, interrogated, tried and punished without legal protections guaranteed by the ordinary system, lawyers inside and outside the government say." Charles Lane, Washington Post, 12/1/02.


"ACLU Calls on President Bush to Disavow New Cyber-Spying Scheme That Seeks to Put Every American Under Scrutiny

November 14, 2002

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union today called on President Bush to disavow a new system being developed at the Pentagon that would be able to track every American’s activities.

"Smile, you’re on virtual candid camera," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington National Office. "If the Pentagon has its way, every American - from the Nebraskan farmer to the Wall Street banker - will find themselves under the accusatory cyber-stare of an all-powerful national security apparatus."


8/02

"Secret Court Rebuffs Ashcroft Justice Dept. Chided On Misinformation," Washington Post, 8/23/02 article by Dan Eggen &  Susan Schmidt.

According to the article, "the court that oversees the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has alleged that Justice Department and FBI officials supplied erroneous information to the court in more than 75 applications for search warrants and wiretaps."

"...Authorities also improperly shared intelligence information with agents and prosecutors handling criminal cases in New York on at least four occasions, the judges said."

"Given such problems, the court found that new procedures proposed by Attorney General John D. Ashcroft in March would have given prosecutors too much control over counterintelligence investigations and would have effectively allowed the government to misuse intelligence information for criminal cases, according to the ruling."


6/02

"Security bill bars blowing whistle,"  6/22/02 Washington Times article by Audrey Hudson. According to this article:

"A provision in the bill seeking to create a Homeland Security Department will exempt its employees from whistleblower protection, the very law that helped expose intelligence-gathering missteps before September 11." 

That the Bush Administration would even consider such a provision demonstrates a clear lack of commitment to the democratic principles of free speech and protection under the law.


"'Combatants' Lack Rights, U.S. Argues Brief Defends Detainees' Treatment," 6/20/02 Washington Post article by Tom Jackman and Dan Eggen. The article is about a Justice Department filing in the case of Esam Hamdi, a US born man captured with Taliban forces. The filing asserts that those declared enemy combatants in the war on terrorism have no right to counsel and can be held indefinitely. Quoting from the article:

Some legal scholars yesterday compared the filing to arguments used by the government during World War II to intern thousands of Japanese Americans as alleged security threats, and they warned that President Bush is seeking unfettered authority to lock up U.S. citizens with no external review.

"This is really an astounding assertion of authority," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. "It's not just that you have no right to a lawyer, it's that you have no right to even have a hearing. . . . If that is true, then there is really no limit to the president's power to label U.S. citizens as bad people and then have them held in military custody indefinitely."


ACLU Says Rewriting of Domestic Spying Restrictions Gives FBI New Powers Despite Growing Evidence of Analytical Failures, 5/30/02; See also: "Brief Analysis of Proposed Changes to Attorney General Guidelines," 5/30/02 and "The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Law Enforcement: A Case Study of Surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King," 1/02.
 

5/02

Before Sept. 11, Unshared Clues and Unshaped Policy

Recent news reports suggest that serious warnings of terrorist threats were provided by groups and officials of the FBI and CIA months before 9/11. Yet due to executive and inter/intra agency incompetence and/or negligence these warnings were never relayed to and/or taken seriously enough by FBI/CIA headquarters and the Executive Branch, including the President. See Washington Post 5/17/02 article by Barton Gellman, "Before September 11, Unshared Clues and Unshaped Policy."  See also the 5/27/02 Time Magazine report, "When America Slept, What did Bush know before 9/11? Why was so little done? How broken is the system?"  and 5/25/02 Washington Post article by Bill Miller and Dan Eggen, "FBI Culture Blamed for Missteps on Moussaoui." Zacarias Moussaoui was the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11 attacks. Also: 6/4/02, Washington Post article by Walter Pincus: "CIA Failed To Share Intelligence On Hijacker [Khalid Almihdhar, who was on Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon]: Data Could Have Been Used to Deny Visa."

The FBI headquarters' obstruction of the Minneapolis field office's Moussaoui investigation, combined with headquarters failure to piece together the investigative work of that office with Kenneth Williams's "Phoenix Memo," have undermined FBI leadership's credibility and integrity. Further it has called into question whether the 20/20 hindsight excuse for the U.S. government's inability to prevent the 9-11 attacks is justified. However, none of these disclosures have undermined belief in the dedication and hard work of FBI operatives who work daily to counter threats domestic and foreign.

Quoting from a May 2002 memo written by Coleen Rowley, the FBI's Chief Counsel in the Minneapolis field Office, to FBI Director Robert Mueller and also disseminated to two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee:

"It is obvious, from my firsthand knowledge of the events and the detailed documentation that exists, that the agents in Minneapolis who were closest to the action and in the best position to gauge the situation locally, did fully appreciate the terrorist risk/danger posed by Moussaoui and his possible co-conspirators even prior to September 11th. Even without knowledge of the Phoenix communication (and any number of other additional intelligence communications that FBIHQ [FBI Headquarters] personnel were privy to in their central coordination roles), the Minneapolis agents appreciated the risk. So I think it's very hard for the FBI to offer the "20-20 hindsight" justification for its failure to act! Also intertwined with my reluctance in this case to accept the "20-20 hindsight" rationale is first-hand knowledge that I have of statements made on September 11th, after the first attacks on the World Trade Center had already occurred, made telephonically by the FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) who was the one most involved in the Moussaoui matter and who, up to that point, seemed to have been consistently, almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents' efforts (see number 5). Even after the attacks had begun, the SSA in question was still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the World Trade Center attacks as a mere coincidence with Misseapolis' prior suspicions about Moussaoui."

"...Nor did FBIHQ personnel do much to disseminate the information about Moussaoui to other appropriate intelligence/law enforcement authorities. When, in a desperate 11th hour measure to bypass the FBIHQ roadblock, the Minneapolis Division undertook to directly notify the CIA's Counter Terrorist Center (CTC), FBIHQ personnel actually chastised the Minneapolis agents for making the direct notification without their approval!"

"..Although the last thing the FBI or the country needs now is a witch hunt, I do find it odd that (to my knowledge) no inquiry whatsoever was launched of the relevant FBIHQ personnel's actions a long time ago. Despite FBI leaders' full knowledge of all the items mentioned herein (and probably more that I'm unaware of), the SSA, his unit chief, and other involved HQ personnel were allowed to stay in their positions and, what's worse, occupy critical positions in the FBI's SIOC Command Center post September 11th. (The SSA in question actually received a promotion some months afterward!)"

"...The official statement is now to the effect that even if the FBI had followed up on the Phoenix lead to conduct checks of flight schools and the Minneapolis request to search Moussaoui's personal effects and laptop, nothing would have changed and such actions certainly could not have prevented the terrorist attacks and resulting loss of life. With all due respect, this statement is as bad as the first! It is also quite at odds with the earlier statement (which I'm surprised has not already been pointed out by those in the media!) I don't know how you or anyone at FBI Headquarters, no matter how much genius or prescience you may possess, could so blithely make this affirmation without anything to back the opinion up than your stature as FBI Director. The truth is, as with most predictions into the future, no one will ever know what impact, if any, the FBI's following up on those requests, would have had. Although I agree that it's very doubtful that the full scope of the tragedy could have been prevented, it's at least possible we could have gotten lucky and uncovered one or two more of the terrorists in flight training prior to September 11th, just as Moussaoui was discovered, after making contact with his flight instructors. If is certainly not beyond the realm of imagination to hypothesize that Moussaoui's fortuitous arrest alone, even if he merely was the 20th hijacker, allowed the hero passengers of Flight 93 to overcome their terrorist hijackers and thus spare more lives on the ground. And even greater casualties, possibly of our Nation's highest government officials, may have been prevented if Al Qaeda intended for Moussaoui to pilot an entirely different aircraft. There is, therefore at least some chance that discovery of other terrorist pilots prior to September 11th may have limited the September 11th attacks and resulting loss of life. Although your conclusion otherwise has to be very reassuring for some in the FBI to hear being repeated so often (as if saying it's so may make it so), I think your statements demonstrate a rush to judgment to protect the FBI at all costs. I think the only fair response to this type of question would be that no one can pretend to know one way or another."

 

USA Patriot Act powers prompt second look:

According to a 5/1/02 article appearing in the weekly newspaper, The Hill, by Noelle Straub, entitled, "USA Patriot Act powers prompt second look,"  there are growing concerns in the Senate on the application of the powers in the USA Patriot Act of 10/01. Quoting from the article:

"Particularly troubling to Feingold [Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.)] is a business records provision that gives the FBI new powers to subpoena records in its investigations of international terrorism.

“The subpoenas are obtained from a secret court, and the records sought don’t even have to be records directly connected to a suspect in such an investigation,” Feingold noted.

“We now know that bookstores and libraries have received such subpoenas asking for the purchase or lending records of their patrons. It is a truly frightening day in America when bookstores are considering destroying their records so when the government comes knocking at the door to find out what their customers have been reading they will have nothing to turn over,” he said.""

The article goes on to summarize concerns from Democratic Senators John Edwards (D-N.C.), Maria Cantewell (D-Wash.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt. and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.).


Jailing of Material Witnesses Challenged


Quoting from a 5/1/02 Washington Post Article by Steve Fainaru and Amy Goldstein entitled, "Judge Rejects Jailing Of Material Witnesses Ruling: Imperils Tool in Sept. 11 Probe:"

"US District Judge, Shira A. Scheindlin, ruled that the Justice Department has overreached in imprisoning as "material witnesses" men the authorities believe might have information for grand juries investigating terrorism. She dismissed perjury charges against a Jordanian student, Osama Awadallah, 21, concluding that the information the government collected in its investigation must be suppressed because the suspect had been "unlawfully detained.""

"Imprisoning a material witness for a grand jury investigation raises a serious constitutional question under the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits 'unreasonable . . . seizures,' " Scheindlin wrote."

See also: Repeal the Patriot Act Immediately! Completely!


4/02

A Sandia Laboratories press release, "Playing With Fire: Tools To Fight Terrorism," describes new technologies involving the development of "sensor systems that identify and track large objects such as missile launchers in a desert environment." According to the press release, The ultimate intent over the next few years is to link hundreds of sensors that will identify and track people in urban environments."

Whatever the merits of DICTUM, Talon and other approaches to fighting terrorism outlined in the press release, the fundamental question of the impact of this and other monitoring technologies on civil liberties must not be ignored.


2/02

Are there human rights abuses against al Qaeda and/or Taliban detainees in Afghanistan and/or Naval Base Guantanamo Bay? Is the U.S. a perpetrator of these violations and/or is it failing to use its' influence to prevent them? While conditions and treatment at Guantanamo Bay are unclear, conditions in Afghanistan are inhumane and there are reports of mistreatment of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.

According to an Amnesty International Press Release dated 1/2/02: 
Afghanistan: Urgent action needed on prison conditions:

"The lives of thousands of prisoners in Afghanistan are at risk because of the conditions in which they are detained, Amnesty International warned today. Visitors to detention facilities are reporting that prisons are dangerously overcrowded and that prisoners lack adequate food and medicine and are not sheltered from severe winter conditions.

Under the Bonn agreement, the Afghan Interim Authority is formally responsible for detention facilities. However, under international law, the USA has continuing responsibilities for the welfare of prisoners who were in US custody before being handed over to another party. Other governments, including Canada and Pakistan, whose forces have detained and handed over prisoners share these responsibilities."

Regarding treatment of suspected Qaeda and/or Taliban, according to a 2/11/02 Washington Post article by Molly Moore:

"Afghan villagers who were misidentified by U.S. military forces as al Qaeda and Taliban fighters said they were beaten and kicked by their captors and imprisoned in what they described as a wooden-barred "cage" at a U.S. base in Kandahar.

Several of the 27 former prisoners, who were released Wednesday, said U.S. soldiers treated them so harshly that two men lost consciousness during the beatings while others suffered fractured ribs, loosened teeth and swollen noses."

It is unclear whether the above is an isolated incident or part of a consistent pattern of prisoner treatment.

According to a 2/11/02 press release by The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),

"International Humanitarian Law foresees that the members of armed forces as well as militias associated to them which are captured by the adversary in an international armed conflict are protected by the Third Geneva Convention. There are divergent views between the United States and the ICRC on the procedures which apply on how to determine that the persons detained are not entitled to prisoner of war status. The United States and the ICRC will pursue their dialogue on this issue."

"..The United States has demonstrated its respect and support for the ICRC's humanitarian mandate and activities in past and present conflict situations. ICRC delegates continue to be able to visit all persons detained by US forces both in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, in
accordance with the organization's mandate set forth in the Third Geneva Convention."

The comments of the ICRC suggest that while it disagrees with the U.S. determination of POW status, it supports the U.S. willingness to allow visitation of detainees in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.


12/01

"To those . . . who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve."

Excerpt from a prepared statement by Attorney General John Ashcroft delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 6, 2001. In effect, the Attorney General is questioning the patriotism of Chairman Leahy and other Committee members. If this also isn't a deliberate challenge to the Senate Judiciary Committee's oversight role- I can't (or don't) want to imagine what is.

The Committee focused on the need for a Congressional role in rules governing the use of military tribunals. The Attorney General indicated that it was the Defense Department's job to come up with rules and standards- not Congress or the Justice Department. However, for Ashcroft to imply that the Justice Department will not heavily influence those decisions is ludicrous. Further, there is apparently a strong constitutional case that Congress should also play a role.

Ashcroft's treatment of the Judiciary Committee appears to be part of a consistent pattern by the Bush Administration of challenging Congressional power and access to government documents. This stance has lead Representative Dan Burton, a Republican and Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, to threaten to take the administration to court. Burton quipped, "This is not a monarchy." See: Washington Post December 15, 2001 article by Dana Milbank, entitled, "Growing Conflict Over Presidential Powers."


11/01

In a November 16, 2001 syndicated column appearing in the Houston Chronicle entitled, "Bush Going to Far Curtailing Our Rights," highly respected journalist Helen Thomas wrote:

"The Bush administration is using the national trauma and state of emergency resulting from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to trample the Bill of Rights... Attorney General John Ashcroft, in particular, is riding roughshod over individual rights."

"...He is now using the war in Afghanistan and on the home front to push his own ideology. An egregious example is his approval of a rule that permits the Justice Department to eavesdrop on the confidential conversations between lawyers and some clients in federal custody. These clients include suspects who have been detained but not charged with a crime whenever the government says such steps are necessary to prevent acts of terrorism."

"...The new anti-terrorism law that Congress passed last month has given him a much freer hand to deal with such matters - and to curb basic rights. The law permits the government to detain or deport suspects, eavesdrop on Internet communications, monitor financial transactions and obtain electronic records on individuals.

Middle Easterners, especially students, are special targets - one more example of racial profiling, which apparently is in style again."

"...In another action, Ashcroft moved to inhibit press freedom, a First Amendment right, by encouraging federal agencies to use the pretense of national security to hide public records that the press is ordinarily entitled to receive under the Freedom of Information Act."

"...On Tuesday night, after declaring an "extraordinary emergency," President Bush announced he had issued a directive claiming the power to order military trials for suspected international terrorists and their collaborators. That directive, which applies to non-U.S. citizens arrested here or abroad, allows him to take the highly unusual step of bypassing the nation's criminal justice system with its rules of evidence and constitutional guarantees. I think that would be a mistake."

"...In his [Attorney General John Ashcroft's] headlong rush to ignore the Constitution, he should remember the words of Benjamin Franklin: "If we give up our essential rights for some security, we are in danger of losing both.""

See: American Civil Liberties Union Report: "Know Your Rights.";

A November 19, 2001 article in the Washington Post by Dana Milbank entitled, "Bush Team Consolidating Power in the Presidency," outlines the frightening degree to which the Bush presidency is shifting the balance of power to the Executive branch, accelerating a trend begun before the events of 9/11. According to the article, Tim Lynch, Director of Criminal Justice at the libertarian Cato Institute wrote:

"A single individual (George Bush) is going to decide whether the war is expanded to Iraq. A single individual is going to decide how much privacy American citizens are going to retain."

As Alexis DeTocqueville wrote in 1831:

...It is therefore most especially in the present democratic times, that the true friends of the liberty and greatness of man ought constantly to be on the alert, to prevent the power of government from lightly sacrificing the private rights of individuals to the general execution of its designs. At such times, no citizen is so obscure that it is not very dangerous to allow him to be oppressed; no private rights are so unimportant that they can be surrendered with impunity to the caprices of a government....To violate a right at the present day is deeply to corrupt the manners of the nation, and to put the whole community in jeopardy, because the very notion of this kind of right constantly tends amongst us to be impaired and lost.

 The political world is metamorphosed: new remedies must henceforth be sought for new disorders. To lay down extensive but distinct and settled limits to the action of government; to confer certain rights on private persons, and to secure them the undisputed enjoyment of those rights; to enable individual man to maintain whatever independence, strength, and original power he still possesses; to raise him by the society at large, and uphold him in that position, these appear to me the main objects of legislators in the ages upon which we are entering.

See: Democracy In America- Not.

If national security is used as a pretext for the sacrificing of private rights, then ALL of our freedoms can be called into question at anytime. Citizenry will be enveloped in a state of perpetual paranoia and fear. Further, there is no established correlation between the sacrifice of private rights and increased national security. However the later is often used, mistakenly, as a pretext for the former.

The real cause of our inability to prevent the events of 9/11 is the weakness in our gathering and analysis of overseas human and electronic intelligence and the inability and/or unwillingness of our intelligence agencies/bureaucracies to coordinate their efforts.
Recent news reports suggest that warnings of related terrorist threats were provided by groups and officials of the FBI, NSA and CIA months or even years before 9/11. Yet due to executive and inter/intra agency incompetence and/or negligence these warnings were never relayed to and/or taken seriously enough by the NSA/FBI/CIA headquarters and the Executive Branch, including the President. See Washington Post 5/17/02 article by Barton Gellman, "Before September 11, Unshared Clues and Unshaped Policy."  See also the 5/27/02 Time Magazine report, "When America Slept, What did Bush know before 9/11? Why was so little done? How broken is the system?"  and 5/25/02 Washington Post article by Bill Miller and Dan Eggen, "FBI Culture Blamed for Missteps on Moussaoui." Zacarias Moussaoui was the alleged "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11 attacks. Also: 6/4/02, Washington Post article by Walter Pincus: "CIA Failed To Share Intelligence On Hijacker [Khalid Almihdhar, who was on Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon]: Data Could Have Been Used to Deny Visa."  See also, 7/16 NBC News article on the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security Report, "Report skewers spy agency failures." According to the article, the House report takes aim at, "...the failings of the National Security Agency, the government’s largest spy agency, which translates and analyzes global telecommunications and radio traffic." More recently, a 9/19/02 article in the Washington Post by Dana Priest and Dan Eggen entitled, "9/11 Probers Say Agencies Failed to Heed Attack Signs,"  indicates that according to a joint congressional intelligence panel report, there needs to be "...a more in-depth, independent inquiry and for answers about President Bush's actions regarding al Qaeda threats in the months and days leading up to the attacks." Senator Richard C. Shelby, ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also believes that, " ...There are a lot of other things that I believe we don't know... As a matter of fact I believe that there will be more more information coming out of this joint [Congressional] inquiry. Some, I know, will be very, very sensitive. Some should be brought to the attention of the American people...I think there are some more bombs out there...I know that." - Alison Mitchell, New York Times, 9/10/02.

However, none of the above assertions are intended to denigrate the work of dedicated intelligence field professionals who work hard every day to stave off threats both foreign and domestic. Further, there can be no long term solution to terrorism until its root political, economic and societal causes are fully understood and addressed.

A government that usurps and abuses power is a threat to the security and well being of its' citizens. Drawing an analogy to the suspension of rights during World War II is ludicrous- can anyone today justify the internment and relocation of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the 1940's? The WWII analogy is especially dangerous today given that the American people are told that the threats against them are perpetual- a war without end- hence a permanent suspension of rights.


10/01

The USA Patriot Act (USAPA) bill was signed into law on 10/26/01. It appears that the legislation has the same compromises to civil liberties that raised concerns when the bill was under consideration by Congress. These include:

bullet Allowing government to collect unspecified, undefined information about web browsing and email without meaningful judicial review.
bullet Allows ISPs, universities and network administrators to authorize surveillance on others without judicial order.
bullet Allows FBI to go from phone to phone, computer to computer, without assurance that the device is used by a suspected terrorist.
bullet Criminal wiretaps could be conducted using the lower standards for foreign intelligence, without showing probable cause for a crime.
bullet Allows intelligence agencies to receive, mainly with no judicial controls- information collected domestically in criminal cases.
bullet Allows law enforcement agencies to search homes and offices without notifying the owner right away ("sneak and peak" authority).
bullet There are other areas of concern, including disclosure of educational records, standards for FISA pen registers, definition of federal crime of terrorism, duration of FISA taps and searches, access to banking, credit and other consumer record, agent of foreign power standards, etc.
bullet Over breadth with lack of focus on terrorism, including dramatic increases to the scope and penalties of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

See Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy & Technology, Free Speech and EFF Analysis Of The Provisions Of The USA PATRIOT Act, That Relate To Online Activities (Oct 31, 2001).
 

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Aftermath of the terrorist events of September 11, 2001: How you can help:

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American Red Cross

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American Liberty Partnership

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Helping.org

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IAFF Online (International Association of Firefighters)

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New York State Fraternal Order of Police

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The United Way

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Washington Post: Funds to Help Victims

Also, contact your state Senators and local Congressional Representatives and voice your opinions and concerns. FBI reports relating to the September 11 incidents can be filed at: http://www.fbi.gov or called in: 1-866-483-5137.

Chemical and Biological threat information is available at MEDLINEPlus. The CDC has public health alert, advisory and emergency information. Kaisernetwork.org is a useful compendium of resources and analysis on challenges to the public health system.

The New York World Trade Center Memorial provides a forum to leave condolence messages for the family and friends of terrorist victims:
"In memory of all the precious lives lost in this tragic event."

Commentary: Our government must be guided by an understanding that the risks to world peace are great. Let us pray the United States does not unwittingly catalyze a chain of events leading to World War III.

Brute use of military power will fail and may trigger a third World War. A war where a terrorist nation can inflict millions of causalities with only a few- where the weak can slay the mighty. To deny this possibility or to not anticipate it, is reckless and irresponsible. Let us pray our leaders are not blinded by arrogance and/or an over estimation of our own strength. Let them exercise wisdom and judgment. While we must not be paralyzed by our fears, we must nonetheless acknowledge our fear and recognize its' basis. The world has much to fear now and in the future. However, the hope is that good men and women acting with wisdom and sound judgment will prevail and that the use of military force will only be to the extent necessary to reduce the threat. To exert military force beyond this and/or to not anticipate its consequences is dangerous beyond imagining. We must act in accordance with international law for to not do so is to give more excuse to our enemies to continue to violate the tenets of human existence. 

See: ZNet Magazine. Also, Michael Moore has some poignant perspectives on the events of 9/11. AlterNet.org has insightful articles related to news, analysis and history.

The government of the United Kingdom has recently published a summary of evidence linking Bin Laden and Al Qaida to the attacks on 9/11 and other terrorist activities.

Compelling evidence of Bin Laden and Al Qiada's guilt is provided in a video taped conversation that occurred in mid November in Afghanistan between Bin Laden and others. In December 2001, the U.S. Defense Department released the tape to the general public. Bin Laden is recorded as saying:

"(...Inaudible...) we calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all. (...Inaudible...) due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for."

"...He did not know about the operation. Not everybody knew (...inaudible...). Muhammad ((Atta)) from the Egyptian family (meaning the Al Qa'ida Egyptian group), was in charge of the group."

In late September 2001, The Spectator published an interesting article, "Ground Zero and the Saudi Connection," by Stephen Schwartz, outlining, in part, the support Islamic extremists have from the Saudis. Quoting from the article:

" [According to] Seyyed Vali Reza Nasr, professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, and author of an authoritative volume on Islamic extremism in Pakistan, ‘If the US wants to do something about radical Islam, it has to deal with Saudi Arabia. The “rogue states” [Iraq, Libya, etc.] are less important in the radicalisation of Islam than Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is the single most important cause and supporter of radicalisation, ideologisation, and the general fanaticisation of Islam.’ "

Reconsider? On July 26, 2001, the Bush Administration rejected a draft agreement designed to help enforce the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, to which the United States is a signatory. According to Donald Mahley, chief U.S. representative at the negotiations, the agreement on inspections and other enforcement mechanisms contained "serious, substantive" flaws that could lead to harassment of U.S. government laboratories and theft of industrial secrets. However, almost all of the 55 nations represented at the talks supported the protocol. Given the dangers of proliferation, made even more evident by recent events, perhaps the U.S. should change its' stance or at a minimum be forthcoming with alternative proposals that have enforcement teeth. See the Washington Post article, "U.S. Rejects Biological Arms Ban Protocol," 7/26/01 by Glenda Cooper and The Guardian, 10/29/02 article, "US Weapons Secrets Exposed," by Julian Borger. The Borger article states:

"Malcolm Dando, professor of international security at the University of Bradford, and Mark Wheelis, a lecturer in microbiology at the University of California, say that the US is encouraging a breakdown in arms control by its research into biological cluster bombs, anthrax and non-lethal weapons for use against hostile crowds, and by the secrecy under which these programmes are being conducted.

"There can be disagreement over whether what the United States is doing represents violations of treaties," Mr Wheelis told the Guardian. "But what is happening is at least so close to the borderline as to be destabilising.""
 


 

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