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Archive for the ‘World’ Category

Law & Order: Golgotha

In Entertainment, Media, World on March 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm

“In the story of the killing of Jesus, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups – the Church, which has historically blamed the Jews for the killing – and the Church, which has persecuted them for it. These are their stories.”

(chung CHUNG!)

“Objection! Your honor. I mean, your Holiness! Mr. McCoy can’t be allowed to keep making statements that are totally irrelevant. Either he has the facts to back up his case or he doesn’t.”

“Irrelevant? Your honor. I mean, your Holiness. This is about motive. It goes straight to the heart of our case. Detective Torquemada is trying to explain why the Jews wanted Jesus dead.”

“Your honor. I mean, your Holiness. This is exactly what I’m saying. Detective Torquemada might be a member of The Church’s Finest but he wasn’t there. He wasn’t even born yet.”

(The Pope mutters something in German with a little bit of Latin thrown in)

“Thank you, your Honor. I mean, your Holiness.”

McCoy walks back to his desk and shuffles through some papers. He looks up at the witness stand. “Detective, thank you very much. You are dismissed. I would like to call the ghost of Lenny Bruce.”

The ghost of the stand-up comic takes the stand.

“Mr. Bruce, if you would kindly put the morphine and needle down. Thank you.”

The ghost does as told.

“Now, Mr. Bruce. When you were alive, you frequently take to the stage and talk about finding a note in your basement concerning the killing of Jesus. Is that right?”

“Well, um…”

“Yes or no, Mr. Bruce?”

“Yes.”

“And what did this note say?”

“We killed him.”

“And who was him?”
“Jesus.”

“And who was we?”

“The Jews.”

“And who signed the note?”

“My Uncle Morty.”

“A Jew. No further questions, your honor. I mean, your Holiness.”

Morty Moskowitz, the defense lawyer, leaps to his feet.

“Mr. Bruce. Thank you so much for being here. I know it must have been quite a journey from the afterlife.”

Bruce shrugs his shoulders.

“Mr. Bruce. Just a couple of quick questions. When you would talk about finding a note, what were you doing?”

“I was performing a stand-up comedy routine.”

“So, there was never really a note?”

“No. I made it up for comedic value.”

“Did you even have an Uncle Morty?”

“No.”

“Your honor, I mean, your Holiness. Mr. McCoy has thrown everything at the Jews but the kitchen sink, the kitchen sink and facts. Not once has he shown this court directly tying my client to the murder. An individual, maybe. But collective responsibility? Not even close.”

(The Pope again mutters something in German and Latin)

McCoy jumps up. “What about, His blood be—“

Moskowitz cuts him off. “Objection! Again, your honor, I mean, your Holiness, has already ruled that to be hearsay and even if it wasn’t. We have established that without a verb there is no way to determine the actual meaning of what Jesus was saying in that regard.”

(The Pope speaks in a combination of German and Latin before switching to English).

“Mr. McCoy. You just have not proved your case. I do not see how the whole people could have been present at this moment to clamor for Jesus’s death. Case dismissed.”

On their way out of the courtroom, Moskowitz goes up to McCoy.

“You know, Jack. No hard feelings. You did your best. I will tell you something, though.”

“What’s that!”

“It means the real killer is still out there.”

(chung CHUNG!)

Shopping for a New Democracy

In Media, Politics, Uncategorized, World on February 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm

“Welcome to Bed, Bath and Beyond Democracy,” says the impossibly cheery sales clerk. “What can I do for you today, Mr. President?”

“Well,” President Obama says, checking out the price tag on a set of flatware before moving on to a set of the collected writings of James Madison. “Egypt is getting a new government and Michelle and I thought it would be nice to get them a democracy-warming present.”

“I’m sure we can help you find something,” says the clerk. “Do you know if they’ve registered?”

“It all happened fairly suddenly,” President Obama says. “I don’t think they had a chance.”

“Not a problem. We have many great things for a fledgling democracy. If you would just follow me.”

The clerk leads the President over to a wall of rolled-up parchments.

“This is what we call Constitution Corner where we keep all sorts of founding documents to help a nation set up a government. We have everything from the U.S. Constitution to the Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown also known as the English Bill of Rights to the rules governing the Soviet Politboro to Robert’s Rules of Order.”

President Obama looks at a copy of the Magna Carta. “I think the constitution is something people there are going to have to come up with on their own. What else do you have?”

“Oh, plenty. Our free press starter kit is very popular with new democracies. It helps them transform a state-run media operation into privately run system and you can get attachments so they can have a public broadcasting component and social media network.”

“That could be interesting,” the president says. “Does it come in any other colors?”

“We also have — and this has proved very popular in Central America and Chicago — a rig your own election kit. Though it does tend to work better for more advanced democracies.”

The president looks at the box. “Recommended for countries 100 and older as well as military dictatorships pretending to be governments of the people,” he reads. “Yeah… I think this is what they’re trying to move away from. Let me look at the free press kit again. Does it come with freedom of information laws or are those sold separately?”

“They’re included.”

The president keeps walking through the store, finally stopping at a very large display case with people inside. “What’s this?” he asks.

“Oh, these are political consultants. We have all sorts of political persuasions and you can even get a sampler box that comes with one of each.”

The president looks at the price tags. “Kind of expensive, no?”

The clerk smiles. “Political campaigns aren’t cheap. But I guess I don’t have to tell you that.”

The president efforts a half-hearted smile. “No. You don’t.”

At that point, Michelle walks over and joins them.

“Did you find anything,” her husband asks her.

“All sorts of things. They have that internet kill switch I know you’ve been wanting.”

“We’re not here for me. Did you see anything for Egypt?”

“There were a couple of budget-balancing kits that I thought were nice but you know what I really liked?”

The president waits.

“Cuisinart has a really nice new mixer.”

“How much?”

She whispers in his ear.

The president smiles.

“We’ll take it,” he tells the clerk. “Do you ship?”

Operation Deathmatch

In Crime, Politics, World on January 27, 2011 at 3:59 am

Pat Durkin plans to be in the courtroom in Portland Federal Court on Thursday when Doitchen Krasev is sentenced for identity theft.

“He was the toughest defendant I ever encountered in my 25 years,” Durkin said by phone soon after arriving here from San Francisco where he is the Special Agent in a charge for the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security Services.

Krasev is a Bulgarian immigrant who arrived here legally but then fled his life in Washington DC and moved about the country before finally adopting the identity of Jason Evers who was a three-year-old boy murdered in Ohio several years ago.

In that capacity, Durkin oversees the bureau’s Operation Deathmatch.

“We started in 2005′” said Durkin. “We use a computer program to match passport applications with death records and find people who are living under stolen identities.”

Durkin, who is in charge of operations for the Bureau in ten states in the West – besides his main office in San Francisco, he has offices in Portland, Seattle and Denver – said the initial investigation found more than 200 people with stolen identities.

“We’ve had more than 100 convictions,” said Durkin who added most of the people fall into one of four main categories: fugitives, pedophiles, draft deserters and migrant workers here illegally.

“Mostly, they are people looking to leave behind some sort of criminal past,” said Durkin.

Krasev, on the other hand, doesn’t appear to fit neatly into one of those categories.

When he was discovered by Durkin and his agents, he was living in Bend working as an investigator for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

“I don’t know that we ever had someone steal someone’s identity and then become a law enforcement agent,” said Durkin.

Durkin, for his part, hadn’t planned on becoming a law enforcement agent – before joining the DSS he spent five years working as a counselor in a psychiatric hospital.

“I come from a large, Irish Catholic family,” he said. “Someone had to go into law enforcement and it was decided it would be me.”

Durkin, whose dad was an immigration agent at Ellis Island, applied to several different agencies.

“Diplomatic Security was the first to call me back,” he said. “I’ve been with them ever since.”

That was 25 years ago. Since then Durkin has worked all over, including stints in Colombia, Peru and Cuba.

“It’s been busy but fun,” said Durkin. “Not everyone knows about us and even those that do don’t realize the diversity of what the Bureau does. We protect the Secretary of State, we provide the protection for embassies around the world and we oversee protection of visiting dignitaries.”

And in all that time, Durkin had never met anyone quite like Doitchen Krasev.

“When we brought him in, he was very clear – ‘You’ll never find out who I really am,’ he told me,” Durkin said.

“And for a little while, it wasn’t clear that we would,” said Durkin. “Fortunately, good police work made sure he was wrong and we were unable to unravel his story. His real story.”

Durkin won’t be the only interested observer watching when Krasev is sentenced,

The family of Jason Evers, the boy who was kidnapped and murdered, whose identity was stolen by Krasev, will also be there. And when the sentencing is done, Krasev and the family will meet.

And soon after that, Durkin will be back on a plane to San Francisco. There are, after all, more cases to pursue.

Durkin said that what often happens is that someone will start by getting a birth certificate.

“Then they go after a drivers license and start to get overly confident,” said Durkin. “And then they decide ti go after the gold standard – a passport – and that’s when we catch them.”

Durkin said that one of the issues that make it easy for criminals is that some states allow you to get a birth certificate online.

“All you need is the date of birth and the names of the parents,” he said. “Krasev figured out how easy it was.”

Durkin said they need to close that loophole.

“In the meantime, we keep running checks,” said Durkin. “And we keep finding more people.”

Who is Doitchen Krasev?

In Crime, Strange, World on January 26, 2011 at 5:21 am

In the Spring of 2009, an inspector for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission named Jason Evers was arrested when it turned out that he had stolen the identity of a three-year-old boy who had been murdered in Ohio several years before.

For several weeks, the msn refused to give authorities any clues as to his real identity. When he did, it turned out to be quite a story.

On Thursday, he will be in Federal Court in Portland to be sentenced for identity fraud. The family of the real Jason Evers will be in attendance.

Here is a story I wrote about Evers for KGW.Com

***

In the Spring of 2009, an inspector for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission named Jason Evers was arrested. It turned out he was not Jason Evers who had been a three-year-old who had been murdered in Ohio several years before. After being arrested, the man refused for weeksnto give the authorities any clue as to his real identity. When he did,it was quite a story. Here’s the story I did fir KGW about the mystery.

Krasev will be sentenced in Federal Court in Portland on Thursday. The family of the real Jason Evers will be among those in attendance.

Jason Evers. Dutch Kiser. Danny Kaiser. Doitchin Krasev.

While it turns out that the former Bend-based investigator for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has been known by several names over the years, his real identity is Doitchin Krastev, an immigrant from Sofia, Bulgaria.

His grandfather, for whom he is named, was a leading Bulgarian general who was a hero in the partisan fight against

Adolph Hitler.

His father, Dr. Dincho Krastev, is a noted mathematician and the director of the Central Library of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. His mother, Baychinska, is one of the leading Jungian scholars in Eastern Europe.

“Doitchin is so smart, he had so much potential to become a leader in his country,” according to Michael Horowitz, a former Reagan Administration official who helped Doitchin come to the United States and acted as a surrogate father to him here. “It is such a sad tale.”

Horowitz is now the director of Hudson Institute’s Project for Civil Justice Reform and Project for International Religious Liberty in Washington D.C.

Horowitz said he was in Moscow in the early 1990s as part of a trip through Eastern Europe to look for marketing opportunities in the aftermath of the fall of Communism when he met the press secretary to Czech President Vaclav Havel.

“She told me to go to Sofia and meet a friend of hers from college,” Horowitz remembers. “That’s how I met Dincho, his wife and their son, Doitchin.”

At the time, according to Horowitz, many of Eastern Europe’s top scientists were in an unusual position. They had a certain amount of freedom from politics but often made little money and, thus, were limited in how much they could provide for their children.

“Doitchin’s parents, their friends, their families, these were people we were privileged to meet,” said Horowitz. “We wanted to do what we could to help them.”

Of course, at the time, he had no idea where the story would lead. How Doitchin would change names – change identities over the years – eventually reaching the point where he is now, a former OLCC investigator facing federal charges for allegedly stealing the identity of a three-year-old boy in Ohio who was murdered 28 years ago.

How Doitchin would only be caught when he tried applying for a passport under the assumed identity.

A U.S. EDUCATION

The more that Horowitz and his wife got to know Krastev’s parents, the closer they became.

That’s when they came up with the idea of offering up their home to Doitchin so he could live in the United States and get an education here. Everyone thought it was a great idea.

Horowitz says it didn’t take long for Doitchin to adjust though there were obstacles.

“He had been at Georgetown Day (a prestigious prep school) for about a month and he came home one day and was just amazed,” Horowitz recalled. “Not only did nobody cheat, they turned people in for cheating, he said. It was so different from Bulgaria.”

“In my country, everyone cheats,” Horowitz remembered the young man saying, “Here people are so lucky because even when they lose, they win because they live in a country of rules.”

“More and more,” Horowitz said, “he was identifying with being an American and less with his native country.”

One day, Horowitz noticed that Krastev had dropped the ‘t’ from his last name, making it sound, the young man thought, less Bulgarian.

“I asked him about that,” he said. “We would talk about the missing ‘t’ and I would say to him, Doitchin, we are so happy to have you here, you have added so much to our lives. But what do you want from life? You could find a place in nice American city and have a life with a white picket fence or you could home and with your skills be a leader in industry, a leader in your country.”

Krastev rejected the idea of returning.

Horowitz said he told him “I’m not Bulgarian.’ Apparently, the thought of being here was what really appealed to him. He rejected being a Bulgarian with such an intensity.”

DROPPING OUT

After Krastev dropped out of college and disappeared, Horowitz and his wife hired a private investigator to try and find him.

“We didn’t know if he was alive, if he had died, it was so horrible, the not-knowing,” said Horowitz who now realizes that, in trying to find Krastev, they were probably driving him farther away.

“It really is a horrible irony,” he said. “We really think that he knew we were trying to find him and he didn’t want to be found. And that’s what drove him to take new identities. The fact is he also had to have known that he was here as an illegal alien and that he ran the risk of being deported.”

That, Horowitz said, may actually be the greatest irony, the greatest sadness from his point of view.

“He wanted to be an American. He knew that he had to live a careful life, a good life because if he didn’t, there was the possibility, the likelihood that he would have to leave. And, from all indications, he did live a good life. I spoke with his lawyer who told me about all the people he had touched, all the people who were offering testimony on his behalf. He built a real life for himself.”

“The problem, the irony,” Horowitz said, “is that by leading such a good life, he has put himself in a real dilemma. He faces charges of aggravated identity theft, which is an anti terrorism law that gives prosecutors very little leeway when it comes to granting leniency. And by leading such a good life, he’s got absolutely nothing to offer prosecutors and faces the very real likelihood that he will have to go to prison and then be thrown out of the country.”

“A TERRIBLE SADNESS”

Horowitz said that’s what makes the situation so hard for him, his wife and Krastev’s parents.

“On one hand, we are so very glad he is alive. We are so glad that he was able to build such a good life. On the other hand, there is such a terrible sadness as to how it is going to end up.”

Horowitz also makes it very clear that he understands that in assuming the identities of others, Krastev committed crimes. And while he understand that the family of Jason Evers, the murdered boy from Ohio whose identity Krastev assumed, feels violated, he thinks there is another way to look at it.

“I know this might be hard but I think that, if for a second, they could look at it not as Doitchin stole their son’s identity but that the boy’s tragic death allowed Doitchin to live life as American, maybe they won’t feel quite so violated.”

Horowitz knows that might be a long shot.

“Right now we’re still trying to figure it all out and figure out what the next steps are going to be and when we can see him. There are so many emotions at play.”

Gooooaaaalll!!!!! The AP's World Cup App Scores for the News Business

In Entertainment, Technology, Uncategorized, World on June 10, 2010 at 10:55 am
2010 FIFA World Cup logo

Image via Wikipedia

Okay… maybe there was an O or A too many in the headline but the Associated Press seems to be on to something with their just released app that’s focused on World Cup coverage.

With the international soccer/football (depending on where you’re reading this) about to get underway, the news collective — or as they put it: “the world’s leading source for news and information” — has put together a pretty impressive though fairly straight forward app allowing fans to follow along.

Available for Apple’s devices as well those from Nokia, Blackberry and, of course, those on the Android platform (notable: the Android version supports Flash; no word on the Superman or The Green Lantern. Sorry.) the App allows you to get your information in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese.

Of course, the AP’s not the only organization with a World Cup App. There’s ESPN, Univision, The Telegraph and more.

And the World Cup App isn’t AP’s only app.

They have a general news one for the iPad (which, strangely, I don’t find to be quite as good as their one for the iPhone) and they have even made their venerable stylebook available as an app. Though at $28.99, it’s $3.99 more expensive than a subscription to the online version of the stylebook and I’m not sure what that’s about.

Anyway, the point is that the AP is definitely on to something with developing targeted apps that may not reach the top of the charts but will (hopefully) attract audiences.

And the AP’s not alone.

The New York Times has done it with apps for crosswords and real estate and has just released an iPad-specific guide to New York called The Scoop.

Entertainment Weekly turned their Must List into an app. Men’s Health developed one for working out. Lucky Magazine has a concierge app.

Even Highlights for Children has turned their Hidden Puzzles feature into an app.

It seems to be part of a growing trend of online consumption.

As I (and many, many others) have pointed out, when the iPad was released there was a lot of talk about whether or not it would save the magazine industry, the publishing industry, the Mets from self-destructing, world peace and so on.

And when there wasn’t immediate signs that all was once again right with the world (like it had ever really been that way), there was a bit of doom and gloom in the press.

“iPad still not proven as magazine industry’s savior as Apple announces two-millionth sale” was the headline on a Yahoo story on June 1.

That’s right. June 1. A whole two months after the device debuts and it has not yet saved the magazine, risen the dead or cured cancer.

It’s kind of like the old joke about the politician who walked on water and, afterward, people complained about how he couldn’t swim.

Think of it this way. Miracles — even small technological changes — don’t always happen overnight. I mean, television was a black and white medium for some 20 years before color programming came around.

A report earlier this week indicated that, in some cases, people are spending more time with the online versions of magazines than they had with the print versions.

Another report said that Wired Magazine may sell more digital copies this month than printed copies.

Change is coming. A bit here, a bit there, a whole lot over there. People are still finding their way, figuring out what works and what doesn’t; whether they can roll with the punches.

And we need to, somehow, be patient, understanding. Look for things that are good and encourage them, point out things that maybe don’t work so well and see if there’s room for improvement.

The AP had a good idea by making World Cup coverage an app.

Let’s see what’s next.

TSA & Company Explain That Queasy Feeling

In Crime, Politics, World on March 24, 2010 at 3:24 pm

The occasion was yet another Congressional hearing on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound airliner — the House Judiciary Committee meeting on the topic of “Sharing and Analyzing Information to Prevent Terrorism.”

Testifying were:

Timothy Healy, the director of the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center;

Patrick Kennedy, Undersecretary for Management at the State Department;

Patricia Cogswell, the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary (kind of sounds like the title they give someone from the temp agency) in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Policy;

And, the person with one of my favorite titles — Russell Travers, the Deputy Director for Information Sharing and Knowledge Development at the National Counterterrorism Center.

Why do I like his title? Because it implies there is actually someone in charge of learning (knowledge development, no?) and sharing that information when clearly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In the case of each person’s testimony they basically thank the committee for “inviting” them, describe all the great security measures that have been put in place since 9/11, tell the committee why nothing really worked — to some degree why it wasn’t their fault — and then tell the committee how committed their agency/department is to keeping America safe.

For instance, Travers told the committee that “the incident does not raise major information sharing issues” but the government “needs to look at overall standards — those required to get on watchlists in general, and the No Fly and Selectee List in particular” and “The US Government needs to prove its overall ability to piece together partial, fragmentary information from multiple collectors.”

He finished by saying:

“The men and women of the National Counterterrorism Center and the Intelligence Community are committed to fighting terrorism at home and abroad, and will seek every opportunity to better our analytical tradecraft, more aggressively pursue those that plan and perpetrate acts of terrorism, and effectively enhance the criteria used to keep known or suspected terrorists out of the United States.”

Of course.

Healy, of the FBI, told the committee that the people who work at Terrorist Screening Center are “committed to protecting the American public from terrorist threats while simultaneously protecting privacy and safeguarding civil liberties” as they manage the terrorist watch list but that they rely on their partners in law enforcement and intelligence to nominate people for the lists.

He finished by repeating what was his real theme:

“We have a standing commitment to improve our operational processes, to enhance our human capital and technological capabilities, and to continue to protect Americans from terrorist threats while protecting privacy and safeguarding their civil liberties.”

Then there’s the testimony of Cogswell who, as expected, begins by talking about how her Department and its partners are: determined to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat terrorist networks by employing multiple layers of defense that work in concert with one another to secure our country.”

She then lays out all the security measures put in place since September 11 — none of which really made a difference on Christmas — and then claimed how on Christmas “the attack on board the flight failed in no small part due to the brave actions of the crew and passengers aboard the plane.”

Actually, it was ENTIRELY because of the passengers and crew.

Anyway, I’m flying tomorrow and again on Tuesday and would feel a lot better about the whole thing if these guys could actually appear before Congress and say something positive that doesn’t stink of spin.

The Shame of the United States in Seven Paragraphs

In Crime, Politics, World on February 11, 2010 at 10:59 am

“Cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”

Those are the words ending the seventh of seven paragraphs declassified yesterday by a judge in the United Kingdom describing the treatment of Binyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian national and British resident who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002.

He was held in secret prisons in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan before being moved to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004 where he stayed until February of last year when he was released without ever being charged.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Mohammed in a lawsuit looking to hold people accountable for his rendition, while in custody, Mohammed:

“was fed meals of raw rice, beans and bread sparingly and irregularly. He was kept in almost complete darkness for 23 hours a day and made to stay awake for days at a time by loud music and other frightening and irritating recordings, including the sounds of “ghost laughter,” thunder, aircraft taking off and the screams of women and children.”

After being released, Mohammed sought whatever information the British had about his treatment. It boiled down to a battle over a seven paragraph summary of his treatment.

Even after British courts ruled the paragraphs must be released, the United States warned Britain not to do it, saying they would curb the exchange of information between the two countries if the information was released.

What’s sort of — but I guess shouldn’t be — astounding is that the United States tried to keep the seven paragraphs suppressed even after much about Mohammed’s treatment was detailed in court papers.

As the British court wrote in paragraph 55 of their decision:

“There is no secret about the treatment to which Mr. Mohammed was subjected while in the control of the US. Authorities. We are no longer dealing with the allegations of torture and ill-treatment; they have been established in the judgment of the court, publicly revealed by the judicial process within the USA itself.

So, now that the details of Mr. Mohammed’s treatment were detailed in the US Courts and reaffirmed by the British Courts, what was the reaction of the United States to the release of the seven paragraphs?

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair released a statement saying the British decision was “not helpful” and “creates additional challenges” but the two countries will persevere.

Not a word about Mohammed and how he was treated but at least our priorities are in order.

As for the seven paragraphs, here they are:

“It was reported that a new series of interviews was conducted by the United States authorities prior to 17 May 2002 as part of a new strategy designed by an expert interviewer.

v) It was reported that at some stage during that further interview process by the United States authorities, BM had been intentionally subjected to continuous sleep deprivation. The effects of the sleep deprivation were carefully observed.

vi) It was reported that combined with the sleep deprivation, threats and inducements were made to him. His fears of being removed from United States custody and “disappearing” were played upon.

vii) It was reported that the stress brought about by these deliberate tactics was increased by him being shackled in his interviews

viii) It was clear not only from the reports of the content of the interviews but also from the report that he was being kept under self-harm observation, that the interviews were having a marked effect upon him and causing him significant mental stress and suffering.

ix) We regret to have to conclude that the reports provide to the SyS [security services] made clear to anyone reading them that BM was being subjected to the treatment that we have described and the effect upon him of that intentional treatment.

x) The treatment reported, if had been administered on behalf of the United Kingdom, would clearly have been in breach of the undertakings given by the United Kingdom in 1972. Although it is not necessary for us to categorise the treatment reported, it could readily be contended to be at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”

Watch out! No! Over there! Or there! There!

In Crime, World on January 30, 2010 at 9:55 am

Ever feel like everybody’s trying to kill you?

Well, according to the National Counterterrorism Center, your concern may be justified.

Speaking before the House Committee on Homeland Security earlier this week, the center’s director, Michael Leiter (no apparent relation to Al Leiter), told the committee that 350 people a day are added to the terrorist watch list.

That’s 127,750 people a year.

And even though some 27,000 people have been removed from the list over time, there were still about 500,000 on the list as of January 2009.

So, maybe not everyone’s trying to kill you but, according to the government, it certainly seems a lot of people are.

I think I’ll stay indoors today.

Not Exactly Bedtime Reading

In Crime, Politics, World on January 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Maybe it wouldn’t be so disturbing if it wasn’t bipartisan, if it was just the usual, well you’re from a different political party so the hell with you.

But a new report from the bipartisan Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism carries the headline, “Government Failing to Protect America from Grave Threats of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism.”

Great.

“Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, one year after our original report, and one month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, the United States is failing to address several urgent threats, especially bioterrorism,” said Senator Bob Graham, co-chairman of the commission. “Each of the last three Administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the biothreat. But we no longer have the luxury of a slow learning curve, when we know al Qaeda is interested in bioweapons.”

According to the report, the Commission found several areas where the risks to the United States are increasing: the crossroads of terrorism and proliferation in the poorly governed regions of Pakistan, the proliferation of biological and nuclear materials, and technology, and the potential erosion of international nuclear security, treaties and norms as we enter a nuclear energy renaissance.”

The report assessed United States efforts in 17 areas including tightening government oversight of high-containment labs to strengthening domestic and global disease surveillance networks to designating a White House principal advisor for WMD proliferation and terrorism.

While the commission gave several As and Bs, there were also three Fs including one for efforts to implement education and training programs to recruit and retain the next generation of national security experts.

The report warns:

There is direct evidence that terrorists are trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction and acquiring WMD fits the tactical profile of terrorists. Terrorists also have global reach and the organizational sophistication to obtain and use WMD. Finally, the opportunity to acquire and use such weapons is growing exponentially because of the global proliferation of nuclear material and biological technologies.”

Meanwhile, the CIA official who headed up the agency’s efforts to find weapons of mass destruction, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, has written a report for the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government stating that Al Qaeda has not abandoned its efforts to attack the United States with such a weapon.

“Al Qaeda is the only group known to be pursuing a long-term, persistent and systematic approach to developing weapons to be used in mass casualty attacks,” Mowatt-Larssen writes, adding that threats by Osama bin Laden to escalate attacks “should not be interpreted as empty rhetoric and idle threats.”

Mowatt-Larssen acknowledges that “there is widespread suspicion in America and abroad that WMD terrorism is another phony threat being hyped for political purposes, and to stoke fears among the public” and that “it is difficult to debunk this allegation, given the US government’s lack of credibility in the case of Iraqi WMD.”

But, he adds, “that said, WMD terrorism is not Iraqi WMD…There is no indication that the fundamental objectives that lie behind their WMD intent have changed over time.”

Admiral Blair: 'Duh! You Know, We Didn't…But We Will Now'

In Crime, Politics, World on January 21, 2010 at 2:08 am
Admiral Dennis C.

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Those were the words Wednesday from Admiral Dennis Blair, the United States Director of National Intelligence.

He was testifying before the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. Click on the link, which will take you to the hearing page. Toward the upper left corner is a link, “view archive webcast.” Click on that, go about 69 minutes into the hearing and you will see Blair — I’m sorry, Admiral Blair — pretend to slap himself on the forehead when he says it.

He was responding to a question from Senator Collins from Maine who wanted to know whether he, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano or Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, had been consulted before the decision was made to read Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab his rights and treat him like a criminal.

As it turns out, while none of the three — who were testifying as part of the first of two hearings by the committee on “the lessons and implications of the Christmas Day attack” — were consulted by the Justice Department, they probably all should have been.

That’s why, last August, President Obama created the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group or HIG.

“That unit was created exactly for this purpose, to make a decision on whether a certain person who’s detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means,” Blair told the committee. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have.”

Blair’s comment in the headline — “Duh! You know…” — was made as he explained the HIG program was created with the thought of people being detained overseas, not within the United States and, as a result, no one really thought to invoke it.

Over at the Senate Judiciary Committee during a similarly themed hearing — this one was “Securing America’s Safety: Improving the Effectiveness of Anti-Terrorism Tools and Inter-Agency Communication — FBI Director Robert Mueller, pretty much backed up what Blair had to say, testifying that “It happened so fast there was no time really at that point” to figure out if they should bring in other interrogators.

While they appeared to be on the same page while visiting the Senate, Mueller and Blair — or at least their aides — must have had words later in the day because Blair later released a statement, saying:

“My remarks today before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs have been misconstrued. The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody. They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI’s expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational.”

So, here we are two weeks after the President released the review of the intelligence failures leading up to the attempted attack on Christmas Day and calling for more cooperation, it seems the children are still having a hard time playing together.