Daily Archives: April 12, 2007

Spy chief pushes to expand surveillance powers

El Paso Times | Apr 10, 2007

The surveillance could include planting listening devices and hidden cameras, searching luggage and breaking into homes to make copies of computer hard drives.

McConnell said current law prevents the government from fully using its capabilities to protect the United States and said he wants the government to have a more vigorous debate over laws and regulations for intelligence surveillance and similar activities.

President Bush’s spy chief is pushing to expand the government’s surveillance authority at the same time the administration is under attack for stretching its domestic eavesdropping powers.

National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell has circulated a draft bill that would expand the government’s powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, liberalizing how that law can be used.

Known as ”FISA,” the 1978 law was passed to allow surveillance in espionage and other foreign intelligence investigations, but still allow federal judges on a secretive panel to ensure protections for U.S. citizens _ at home or abroad _ and other permanent U.S. residents.

The changes McConnell is seeking mostly affect a cloak-and-dagger category of warrants used to investigate suspected spies, terrorists and other national security threats. The surveillance could include planting listening devices and hidden cameras, searching luggage and breaking into homes to make copies of computer hard drives.

McConnell, who took over the 16 U.S. spy agencies and their 100,000 employees less than three months ago, is signaling a more aggressive posture for his office and will lay out his broad priorities on Wednesday as part of a 100-day plan.

The retired Navy vice admiral recently met with leaders at the National Security Agency, Justice Department and other agencies to learn more about the rules they operate under and what ties their hands, according to officials familiar with the discussions and McConnell’s proposals. The officials described them on condition that they not be identified because the plans are still being developed.

According to officials familiar with the draft changes to FISA, McConnell wants to:

Give the NSA the power to monitor foreigners without seeking FISA court approval, even if the surveillance is conducted by tapping phones and e-mail accounts in the United States.

”Determinations about whether a court order is required should be based on considerations about the target of the surveillance, rather than the particular means of communication or the location from which the surveillance is being conducted,” NSA Director Keith Alexander told the Senate last year.

Clarify the standards the FBI and NSA must use to get court orders for basic information about calls and e-mails _ such as the number dialed, e-mail address, or time and date of the communications. Civil liberties advocates contend the change will make it too easy for the government to access this information.

Triple the life span of a FISA warrant for a non-U.S. citizen from 120 days to one year, allowing the government to monitor much longer without checking back in with a judge.

Give telecommunications companies immunity from civil liability for their cooperation with Bush’s terrorist surveillance program. Pending lawsuits against companies including Verizon and AT&T allege they violated privacy laws by giving phone records to the NSA for the program.

Extend from 72 hours to one week the amount of time the government can conduct surveillance without a court order in emergencies.

McConnell, Alexander and a senior Justice Department official will appear at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on April 17 to discuss whether to amend the FISA law. Chad Kolton, McConnell’s spokesman, declined to comment on the director’s proposals.

Government officials have been publicly and privately discussing changes to FISA since last year. A senior intelligence official said the goal is to update the law to ensure Americans’ constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure, while improving use of government resources to pursue threats against U.S. interests.

Critics question whether the changes are needed and worry about what the Bush administration has in store, given a rash of allegations about domestic surveillance and abuse of power. ”Congress should certainly be very skeptical about proposals to give this government greater powers to spy on its own citizens,” said Caroline Fredrickson, the Washington legislative office director for the American Civil Liberties Union.

The proposed changes to domestic surveillance would be so broad that ”you have basically done away with the protections of the FISA,” said Kate Martin, head of the Center for National Security Studies.

Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who unsuccessfully sponsored legislation last year to update FISA, said Congress must act because current court orders bolstering the president’s terrorist surveillance program are legally shaky. She wants the law to be rewritten to ensure the NSA can continue the program.

Bush has faced months of criticism for his 2001 decision to order the NSA to monitor the international calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens when terrorism is suspected. More recently, the Justice Department and FBI have been sharply rebuked for bad bookkeeping and other mistakes involving their powers under the USA Patriot Act to secretly demand Americans’ e-mail, financial and other personal records through so-called national security letters. Top government officials have tried to dampen the outrage by promising accountability and have argued that the letters are essential tools to protect against terror threats.

McConnell hinted at his discomfort with current laws last week during a speech before an audience of government executives, saying he worries that current laws and regulations prevent intelligence agencies from using all of their capabilities to protect the nation.

”That’s the big challenge going forward,” he said, acknowledging changes would require significant congressional debate.

House panel to probe ‘misinformation’ on Tillman, Lynch

Boston Globe | Apr 11, 2007

A US House committee announced yesterday that it would hold hearings on misleading military statements that followed the friendly fire death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the rescue of Private First Class Jessica Lynch in Iraq.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said an April 24 hearing, titled “Misleading Information from the Battlefield,” would be part of its investigation into whether there was a strategy to mislead the public.

The plan comes two weeks after the Pentagon released the findings of its own investigations into Tillman’s death, and three years after he was killed.

The committee has been quietly investigating the case since then and decided to add Lynch to the scope of its probe. It will “examine why inaccurate accounts of these two incidents were disseminated, the sources and motivations for the accounts, and whether the appropriate administration officials have been held accountable,” the panel said on its website.

MI5 and MoD battle to keep Ulster secrets

Guardian | April 10, 2007

Pressure on Stevens to return papers

Lord Stevens arrived in Northern Ireland in 1989 to begin investigating allegations of collaboration between the security services and loyalist paramilitaries. He carried out three inquiries which highlighted collusion, a wilful failure to keep records, an absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence and at the most extreme cases of agents being involved in murder. The first of three investigations led to 97 prosecutions.

MI5 and the Ministry of Defence are among government agencies demanding the return of secret documents from the Stevens inquiry in advance of four key inquiries which are set to expose the full extent of security force collusion with loyalist paramilitary figures in Northern Ireland, the Guardian has learned. In some cases the organisations asking for the paperwork have successfully appealed for the return of the documents only to shred them, raising fears that vital evidence of collusion could disappear.

As a result, officers involved in the Stevens inquiry have begun making copies of all important secret documents to avoid crucial evidence being lost.

Sources within the inquiry, set up 18 years ago to investigate collusion by the security forces in Northern Ireland, say the pressure upon them to return confidential documents is growing as the May 30 date approaches for the opening of the full hearings with the inquiry into the murder of the loyalist terrorist Billy Wright. Stevens investigators will appear at the inquiry to present evidence of collusion in public for the first time.

“There are calls from certain agencies for their documents to be returned,” said a source. “In some cases we have handed them back and they have been shredded. The pressure on us is growing and it has got to the stage where we have told them what part of the word ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

$20B Africa-Europe tunnel a step closer

National Post | Apr 10, 2007

The world is being engineered by the Bilderberg globalists (against the will of any and all people) into a “Global Union” superstate through the regionalization of government into a trilateral system consisting mainly of the EU, AU (Asian-Pacific Union) and the PU (that’s the stinky Pan-American Union). The so-called “Chunnel” was engineered to help bring the UK into the EU. The NAFTA Super Highway (or NASCO Corridor) is being designed to unite the US, Canada and Mexico into the North American Union (NAU) and this tunnel is designed to pull Africa deeper into the sphere of the the EU which is appropriate since Europeans have continuously colonized, enslaved and controlled much of Africa for hundreds of years.

It isn’t that these kinds of projects are bad in their essence. It is that the motives behind them are slick, sinister and evil. Study the depraved and totalitarian New World Order system and you will see that what I am saying is true.

PW

An enginering consortium from Morocco, Spain, France and Switzerland has drawn up plans for a rail tunnel under the Strait of Gibraltar that will join Spain with Morocco and physically link Europe and Africa.

At the moment, however, it is little more than a rusting scaffold frame rigged with weights and pulleys on a cliff-top outside Tangier.

“That is a very important spot,” said Mohammed Ahrare, 16, a local fisherman. “From there they will build the tunnel that will link Morocco to Spain.”

He gazed wistfully across the choppy waters where the coast of Spain appears tantalizingly close.

“I hope they build it soon — I can’t wait to use it to travel to Spain,” he added.

Realistically Mr. Ahrare will be in his 20s before work on the tunnel progresses beyond the testing stages taking place in the exploration shaft beneath his feet. But since Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain’s Prime Minister, met King Mohammed VI of Morocco last month to pledge his country’s support, the project has edged one step closer to fruition.

The consortium is planning a twin-track rail tunnel to ferry vehicles and foot passengers between the southern tip of Spain and the North African coast. Feasibility studies are due to be completed this year.

If all goes to plan, by 2025 passengers could leave Europe somewhere under Punta Paloma, just outside Tarifa, in Spain, and cross the African coastline under Cape Malabata, to the east of Tangier, an underwater stretch of about 27 kilometres.

With gently sloping approaches on either side, the full length of the tunnel will be 40 km and is unofficially estimated to cost up to $20-billion.

The two nations say they are a long way from resolving financing details but hope to secure significant European Union funding. Mr. Zapatero believes the tunnel would “greatly speed growth, development and prosperity” on both sides of the Mediterranean.

Schwarzenegger wants to make global warming hip and sexy

BBC | Apr 11, 2007

The environmental movement must become “hip and sexy” if it is to succeed, California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said.

Speaking at a conference in Washington, he urged campaigners to focus on the positives of cutting carbon emissions rather than making people feel guilty.

The movement must change its image just as he helped transform the “sketchy” reputation of bodybuilding, he said.

California is seen as leading the way in tackling climate change in the US.

The state – the sixth largest economy in the world – signed a law last year which set a target of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020.

And while Mr Schwarzenegger cannot stand for president in 2008 because he is not US-born, he has made it clear he wants his views on climate change to play into the race.

Gov Schwarzenegger says he is optimistic attitudes are changing

‘Tree-huggers’

Addressing a largely student audience at Georgetown University, Mr Schwarzenegger said he was optimistic attitudes to the environment were changing.

But, he said, campaigners on climate change needed to shake off the image of being “tree-huggers” and “fanatics”.

“Environmentalists were no fun, they were like prohibitionists at a fraternity party,” he said to laughter.

The Republican governor – the former body-builder turned film-star turned politician – invoked images of pumping iron to make his point.

Weight-lifting was once considered a pursuit for weirdos, he said, carried out in dungeon-like gyms by people embarrassed to admit to doing it.

But with positive marketing “it became mainstream, it became sexy, attractive, and this is exactly what has to happen with the environmental movement”, he said.

The same thing happened when the John Travolta film Saturday Night Fever made disco-dancing hip and sexy, he added, reaching even his little village in Austria.

Blair accused of fuelling terrorism

Belfast Telegraph | Apr 11, 2007

Tony Blair is accused today of fuelling terrorism and undermining the campaign against world poverty with a series of foreign policy errors.

A report by the Oxford Research Group (ORG), a think-tank, warned that the ” war on terror” had made the world more dangerous.

A separate study by Oxfam warned that Britain’s ability to prevent human rights abuses had been undermined by the invasion of Iraq and a series of other foreign policy mistakes.

The charity said its workers worldwide had recorded a “disturbing trend towards anti-Britishism” fuelled by perceived double standards in UK foreign policy.

The ORG said levels of terrorism were rising, as was support for hardline Islamist ideology. It warned the chance of future outrages on the scale of 9/11 had increased in recent years.

Chris Abbott, the study’s lead author, said: “There is a clear and present danger in an increasingly marginalised majority living in an environmentally constrained world, where military force is more likely to be used to control the consequences of these divisions.”

“Add to this the disastrous effects of climate change, and we are looking at a highly unstable global system by the middle years of the century unless urgent action is taken now.”

Endorsing its conclusion, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “The real threat to global peace and stability lies in our failure to recognise our interdependence – that the well-being of the privileged depends on the well-being of the marginalised.”

Oxfam said it had to turn down British cash for its operations in Iraq and Lebanon in case it was seen as too closely aligned with government policy, and criticised the failure of ministers to call for a ceasefire in last year’s conflict in Lebanon. The report urged Britain to “rebalance” its relationship with Washington and help repair the damage that the Iraq invasion had inflicted on international relations.

Barbara Stocking, director of Oxfam, said: “Labour’s foreign policy has been at its best when it has been in tune with public opinion and international law.

“However, it is now clear that the invasion of Iraq, and the Government’s failure to stand up to all governments when they break international law and harm innocent people, have seriously damaged Britain’s capacity to be a force for good on the world stage.”

Iraq policy ‘spawned new terror’

BBC | Apr 11, 2007

The British and US policy towards Iraq has “spawned new terror in the region”, a think tank report has said.

The countries had tried to “keep the lid on” problems by military force and had failed to address the root causes, the Oxford Research Group warned.

It said Iran, Syria and North Korea had become “emboldened”, while the Taleban was on the rise in Afghanistan.

The UK government said the past decade of foreign policy had been effective and action in Iraq was “justified”.

Global instability

It comes as a separate report from Oxfam said the Iraq invasion had “seriously undermined” Britain’s reputation.

However, the charity warns Britain must not be reluctant to send in troops to deal with future humanitarian crises.

In a report a year ago, the Oxford Research Group (ORG) highlighted four areas that it said were contributing to world instability.

Climate change, competition for increasingly scarce resources, marginalisation of the majority of the world’s population as socio-economic divisions widen, and the increasing use of military force and the further spread of military technologies were all threats.

Its latest report said these issues were still the greatest threats, but added that the ongoing war on terror and the war in Iraq were increasing the risk of future terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11.

“Treating Iraq as part of the war on terror… created a combat training zone for jihadists,” it says.

Lead study author Chris Abbott said: “There is a clear and present danger – an increasingly marginalised majority living in an environmentally constrained world, where military force is more likely to be used to control the consequences of these dangerous divisions.

“Add to this the disastrous effects of climate change, and we are looking at a highly unstable global system by the middle years of the century unless urgent action is taken now.”