Daily Archives: September 14, 2006

Criminalizing speech to protect secrets

The impact of an official secrets act would be particularly acute for the press.

There has been a startling expansion of secrecy in the past five years. It has become very difficult to find out about, let alone challenge, important actions and policies concerning our security. Executive-branch officials have thrown up a daunting array of obstacles for citizens and lawmakers: overclassification, misclassification, reclassification and pseudo-classification. Even congressional committees and independent commissions with a lot of clout find it difficult to get over the administration’s stone walls. Meanwhile, alternative sources of information — whistleblowers and journalists — are hounded, harassed and threatened with jail. Equally important, this law would chill the speech of a host of other important speakers in public discourse: elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, scholars, lobbyists and public-interest groups. Even former government officials, never sure what is classified or reclassified, would be vulnerable to prosecution for their writing, teaching or other public activities. The impact of an official secrets act would be particularly acute for the press. Though the sponsors of the act insist that the press is not targeted, the potential harm is great. The law would authorize grand jury subpoenas for journalists and search warrants for their records and notes. It could make them witnesses to and possible co-conspirators in a criminal act.


Pentagon Spends Billions to Outsource Torture

Bush administration hawks are getting profit-hungry companies like CACI to do their dirty work in the war zones of the New American Empire.

And we’re footing the bill. Plus: links to related articles, including AlterNet’s recent war profiteering coverage. The thousands of mercenary security contractors employed in the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” are billed to American taxpayers, but they’ve handed Osama Bin Laden his greatest victories — public relations coups that have transformed him from just another face in a crowd of radical clerics to a hero of millions in the global South (posters of Bin Laden have been spotted in largely Catholic Latin America during protests against George W. Bush). The internet hums with viral videos of British contractors opening fire on civilian vehicles in Iraq as part of a bloody game, stories about CIA contractors killing prisoners in Afghanistan, veterans of Apartheid-era South African and Latin American death squads discovered among contractors’ staffs and notoriously shady Russian arms dealers working for occupation authorities. One Special Forces operator told Amnesty International that some contractors are in it just because they “really want to kill somebody and they can do it easier there … [not] everybody is like that, but a dangerously high element.”


This war is just beginning, Bush insists

DECLARING the world in the “early hours” of a struggle between tyranny and freedom, US President George W. Bush used a prime-time Oval Office address on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks to try to bolster flagging public support for the war in Iraq.

Closing a day of mourning in the US on the September 11 attacks, Mr Bush told Americans and the world yesterday: “Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. “They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.” He added that the war on terrorism was “the calling of our generation”.


‘Pharm Parties’ Growing Trend For Teens

Featured in an episode of “Boston Legal” earlier this year, pharm parties are get-togethers where prescription drugs are exchanged. Anti-anxiety pills (Xanax and Valium), painkillers (OxyContin and Vicodin), and attention deficit disorder drugs (Ritalin and Adderall) are common drugs of choice. The parties are an outgrowth of a recent trend in teen drug use.
Nearly one in five teens reported trying prescription medications to get high, according to a 2005 survey of more than 7,300 junior high and high school students by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. That makes prescription drugs more popular than street drugs like ecstasy and even marijuana, according to the partnership.


Afghanistan ready to flood Europe with first-grade heroin

For the umpteenth time now, Afghanistan is breaking all records in opium production, and is ready to flood Europe with first-grade heroine. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the area sown to opium poppy has increased this year by 59 percent, while the gross opium harvest will amount to 6,100 tons. Afghan experts maintain that this year opium will be exceedingly rich in morphine. A mere seven kilograms of raw opium will produce one kilogram of heroin.
This ratio is very rare. Usually it takes from 10 to 15 kilograms of opium to make this amount. According to UNOCD, last year’s harvest – 4,000 tons of raw opium – produced 400 tons of heroin. The current concentration of morphine in 6,100 tons of raw opium will make it possible to get more than 870 tons of heroin. This is a fantastic scale. It is easy to imagine what amounts of first-grade heavy drug Afghanistan will supply to the European and Russian markets, especially considering that the time-tested system of opium harvesting, its procession into morphine and heroin, and the transportation of ready opiates to consumer countries by reliable routes, is as fail-safe as a Swiss watch.


NATO Says No To Opium Destruction In Afghanistan

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has rejected a call from the head of the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime that alliance forces in Afghanistan be ordered to destroy the country’s opium industry. De Hoop Scheffer said on September 12 that it was not in the alliance’s mandate to lead the fight against drugs.
UN official Antonio Maria Costa made the call for robust NATO action on September 12 in Brussels while presenting details of the UNODC’s latest report on opium cultivation in Afghanistan.


Secretary of the Air Force wants to test high-power microwave weapons on American citizens


Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.
The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne. “If we’re not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation,” said Wynne. “(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press.” The Air Force has paid for research into nonlethal weapons, but he said the service is unlikely to spend more money on development until injury problems are reviewed by medical experts and resolved. Nonlethal weapons generally can weaken people if they are hit with the beam.