Daily Archives: March 27, 2012

Candid Obama caught on microphone implying his re-election is an inevitable fait accompli


President Obama drew attention for a remark to Dmitri Medvedev. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

nytimes.com | Mar 26, 2012

By J. DAVID GOODMAN

President Obama found his private moment of political candor caught by a live microphone on Monday as he told President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia that he would have “more flexibility” to negotiate on the delicate issue of missile defense after the November election, which Mr. Obama apparently feels confident he will win.

Mr. Obama’s Republican adversaries seized on the comment, which followed a meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev in Seoul, South Korea, where both had struggled to find common ground amid strong objections in Russia to the American plans for a missile defense system based in Europe.

As a pool of television journalists gathered for a news conference on the leaders’ meeting, Mr. Obama leaned in to deliver private assurances to Mr. Medvedev. But speaking inadvertently into an open microphone, he offered a frank assessment of the difficulty of reaching a deal — on this or any other subject — in an election year.

“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this can be solved, but it’s important for him to give me space,” Mr. Obama could be heard saying to Mr. Medvedev, according a reporter from ABC News, who was traveling with the president.

“Yeah, I understand,” the departing Russian president said. “I understand your message about space. Space for you … .”

Mr. Obama then elaborated in a portion of the exchange picked up by the cameras: “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

“I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir,” Mr. Medvedev said, referring to Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin, who just won an election to succeed Mr. Medvedev.

The unscripted remarks, which were broadcast by the television networks and raced around the Internet, seemed to suggest that Mr. Obama was not worried about getting re-elected.

The White House scrambled to clarify what both leaders meant.

“Since 2012 is an election year in both countries, with an election and leadership transition in Russia and an election in the United States, it is clearly not a year in which we are going to achieve a breakthrough,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser.

Mitt Romney, the leading Republican challenger to Mr. Obama, told an audience in San Diego that the president’s remarks were “an alarming and troubling development.” Newt Gingrich, who is trailing in delegates, also seized on Mr. Obama’s unguarded quote, telling CNN, “I’m curious: how many other countries has the president promised that he’d have a lot more flexibility the morning he doesn’t have to answer to the American people?”

“Anders Breivik Is Not Crazy” – The Surprise Defense Of Norway’s Mass Killer


Geir Lippestad, Anders Breivik’s lawyer (AleWi)

Interview: Anders Breivik is unlike any client attorney Geir Lippestad has ever had – and not just because of the ghastly number of murders he’s accused of. As Lippestad tells Le Monde, Breivik admits to killing 77 mostly young Norwegians and expects to be held accountable.

LE MONDE/Worldcrunch | Mar 27, 2012

By Olivier Truc

OSLO – Geir Lippestad will definitely cause some controversy with the approach he plans to take in the upcoming trial of Anders Breivik, Norway’s infamous extreme-right terrorist. For starters, Lippestad, Breivik’s defense attorney, intends to place Mullah Krekar — an Islamist extremist from Kurdish Iraq who has been living in Norway since 1991– on the witness stand.

In an interview with Le Monde, Lippestad outlined his strategy for this exceptional trial, which is scheduled to begin April 16, less than eight months after the double attack on July 22, 2011, in which 77 people died. The majority of the victims were attending a summer camp hosted by the youth wing of the governing Social Democratic party.

This trial has seriously challenged Lippestad’s beliefs as both a support of the Social Democrats and a father of eight children. “I feel I have lost my soul in this case,” he said. “I hope to get it back once all this is over, and that it will be in the same state as before.”

Unlike all of Lippestad’s previous clients, Anders Breivik is not afraid of being found guilty. The possibility of receiving Norway’s maximum penalty (21 years in prison) doesn’t scare him – on the contrary, he wants it.

“This trial is unique, just like the dreadful acts that will be judged,” said Lippestad. “We have to think differently. In the majority of trials, you have a defendant who denies the facts or who says he didn’t intend to do what he did. Here you have someone who recognizes the facts, who takes responsibility for them, and who says he would do the same thing again if the opportunity arose.”

“He doesn’t intend to run away from his responsibilities,” the attorney added. “Quite the opposite, he wants to be found sane and accountable [for his actions].”

Not so paranoid after all

Lippestad initially based his defense on his client’s poor mental health. The first two psychiatrists who examined Breivik declared him insane. But in the end, the lawyer decided to follow his client’s wishes.

The idea that Breivik could be declared not criminally responsible and therefore escape a prison sentence had distressed a large part of the Norwegian population. A second team of psychiatrists has been appointed to evaluate him. They are expected to present their conclusions on April 10. Even if these psychiatrists confirm the first team’s findings, Breivik’s lawyer won’t change anything about his client’s defense.

“It is about showing that his beliefs and way of thinking are common,” said Lippestad. “He is not as unique, as paranoid or schizophrenic as the experts say.”

Lippestad is counting on exposing discrepancies in the expert opinions. “What we see is that there is a gap between what the human sciences say on extremism, and what doctors and psychiatrists know.” In Lippestad’s opinion, many of those who share Breivik’s ideas are classified as extremists, not psychotic. Why, therefore, should he be considered insane?

“We will place people from extremist backgrounds on the witness stand to explain their thought process in order to establish that there are others who, without going as far as to commit the crime, share the same ideology and way of thinking,” said Lippestad. “What we want to show is that we are dealing with an ideology and that he is not the only person to stand behind [those beliefs]; that he is not a psychotic living in a separate world.”

A controversial star witness

By summoning Mullah Krekar to testify –potentially alongside other Islamists– Lippestad wants to show that “Islamists also believe that Europe is the setting for a war of religion and that it is not just a delusion that Breivik has imagined.”

Krekar, real name Faraj Ahmad Najmuddin and often called the “most controversial refugee in Norway,” used to be the leader of Ansar Al-Islam, a small Islamist group from Iraqi Kurdistan that carried out several attacks there. In a book published in Norway in 2004, Krekar admitted to having met Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in about 1990 in the hope of receiving some financial help for his guerrilla group. He left the meeting empty handed.

The lawyer intends to place the Norwegian blogger “Fjordman,” believed to be Breivik’s main inspiration, on the witness stand as well. Breivik cites Fjordman in his 1,500-page manifesto, which he distributed on the Internet just before the attacks.

It is Breivik himself who is orchestrating the strategy defended by Lippestad. While waiting for his trial, he is doing lots of exercise. He also has access to a work cell equipped with a computer. “He doesn’t have Internet access, but he can write, and he is preparing a speech that he intends to read during the trial,” said Lippestad.

The defendant receives letters, watches television and reads the newspapers. “He writes letters to five or six people whom he considers to be his ideological brothers and sisters, in Norway and abroad,” the attorney explained.

“His motivation for carrying out these monstrosities was to distribute his manifesto,” Lippestad added. “Breivik believes that the revolution will start in France or England because, according to him, multiculturalism is very conflicting there.”

Police: Knights Templar organization “doesn’t exist”

Foreigner | Mar 27, 2012

Anders Breivik Behring may have invented the Knights Templar, Norwegian police believe.

“According to intelligence information shared by British authorities and other countries’ authorities, there is no indication that there must have been such an organization,” police prosecutor Pål-Fredrik Hjort Kraby told NRK.

Breivik had claimed that he is a member, both during his interrogations and in his written manifesto. Moreover, he alleged it was formed during a secret meeting in 2002. Nonetheless, officers have found no evidence showing that “Knights Templar” exists.

A few days following the July 22nd attacks, British Right-Wing extremist Paul Ray had told the Associated Press that there is such a group, though he claimed it had no formal structure. Mr Ray refused to disclose the number of members of the group.

Police also say they doubt Breivik’s claims another two cells are ready to conduct more terrorist attacks, believing it was purely a fright-creating ploy.

“Based on the fact that we have not found any information that supports what he says about this organization, or the other cells, our theory is that he must have wanted to create a picture of fear in society. He wants us to believe this is part of the threat scenario he wishes to impart,” concludes Pål-Fredrik Hjort Kraby.

33-year-old Anders Breivik has admitted carrying out both attacks in Oslo and on Utøya, but has not acknowledged guilt. He has been charged with committing acts of terror.

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Afghan massacre “not what it appears to be”


Kari Bales, the wife of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier who stands accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians, talks exclusively to TODAY’s Matt Lauer about the “devastating” accusations against her husband, saying “this is not him.”

Afghan massacre suspect’s wife: ‘He did not do this’

Kari Bales said accusations are ‘devastating,’ insists Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was ready for deployment

TODAY.com | Mar 26, 2012

By Scott Stump

The wife of a U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians believes her husband could not have carried out the crime.

“I don’t think anything will really change my mind in believing that he did not do this,’’ Kari Bales told TODAY’s Matt Lauer in an exclusive interview that aired Monday. “This is not what it appears to be.’’

On March 23, Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder for killing 17 civilians in two southern Afghanistan villages earlier in March. He allegedly left his base early in the morning and shot the Afghan civilians — including nine children and four women — while they slept in their beds. Bales is also alleged to have carried out the killings in two waves, returning to his base before leaving again to murder more civilians in what is the worst alleged Afghan civilian killing by an American in the decade-long war.

“I just don’t think he was involved,’’ his wife said. “I don’t know enough information. This is not him. It’s not him.”

“He’s kind of in shock about the whole thing,’’ Bales’ attorney, John Henry Browne, told NBC News. “He’s very emotional. He’s kind of like a deer in the highlights.’’

The 38-year-old soldier and father of two from Bellevue, Wash., was also charged with six counts of attempted murder and six counts of assaults carried out in two villages, one north of the base and one to the south. If convicted on any of the premeditated murder charges, he could be sentenced to death. Bales is being held in solitary confinement at a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and his attorney has told reporters that his client’s mental state will be an issue in the trial. Bales has a spotty memory of the incident and can only really remember the events prior to and after the alleged killings, according to his lawyer.

Kari Bales insists that the man she calls her best friend and a “big kid himself’’ who loves his own children, and could not have killed someone else’s.

“It’s unbelievable to me,’’ she said. “He loves children and would not do that. It’s heartbreaking. I can’t imagine losing my children, so my heart definitely goes out to them for losing all of their children.”

She has not discussed the allegations with her husband, saying she knew the phone conversation she had with him was monitored. She said Bales seemed confused on the phone about where he was and why he was there. “I don’t think I’ll have to ask him,’’ she said. “I think he’ll tell me what happened from his point of view.”

The timeline for the alleged killings remains unclear. One Afghan guard working from midnight to 2 a.m. saw a U.S. soldier return at 1:30 a.m., and the guard’s replacement saw a U.S. soldier leaving the base at 2:30 a.m., but it is unclear whether it was the same soldier.

There are reports that there is surveillance video, and that Bales walked back to the base and turned himself in.

“I used to believe that everything I read was true,’’ Kari said. “And now as I’m reading a little bit of these, some things are true and some things aren’t true.’’

She described the moment officials arrived at her door to discuss the charges. “I know they held my hand and they just said that perhaps they thought that he had left the base and gone out and perhaps killed the Afghan civilians,’’ Kari said. “That was really the only sentence, and I just started crying.’’

Bales had done three tours of duty in Iraq before being sent to Afghanistan in December. Kari is confident that he was fit for a fourth deployment and said that she was not aware of any obvious signs of post-traumatic stress disorder or the traumatic brain injury that Bales allegedly suffered on one of his tours.

“He shielded me from a lot of what he went through,’’ she said. “He’s a very tough guy. I don’t know a lot about the symptoms of PTSD, so I wouldn’t know. He doesn’t have nightmares.’’

She acknowledged that the effects of war are far-reaching, and that Bales’ tour in Afghanistan was “more intense” than his Iraq deployments.

“I would say that a lot of people that have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have seen a lot of things that affected them,’’ she said. “It can’t not affect you.’’

She said his deployment to Afghanistan upset their family dynamic.

“To be honest with you, he didn’t want to miss out on any more of his kids’ lives,’’ Kari said. “When he had joined, he had wanted to go to Afghanistan, so going to Afghanistan didn’t worry him. It was more about being just away from the family more time.

“I was upset,’’ she added tearfully. “I was planning my next phases with my family and being able to share it with him.

Kari Bales and her children are currently sequestered at a military base in Washington State for their own protection. The trial, which is not expected to begin for several months, will be held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, nine miles southwest of Tacoma, in order for the family to be closer together.

The family has set up a defense fund for Bales. Raising money for a soldier accused of these crimes may be a difficult task, but Kari feels that her husband deserves a chance to defend himself.

“You know, I think all soldiers, all people, deserve the best defense that they can get,’’ she said. “I believe he deserves the best defense to know what happened.”

No service member has been executed under the death penalty since 1961, when an Army ammunition handler was hanged for raping an 11-year-old girl in Austria. Most legal experts believe Bales would receive the mandatory minimum of life in prison with the chance of parole if convicted on a premeditated murder charge. There are currently six men on death row at Fort Leavenworth, but none of them were convicted for crimes against foreign civilians. It would take a unanimous conviction from a 12-member jury to sentence Bales to death.

U.S. Quickly Pays Off Afghan Families of Victims in Massacre


A graveside vigil Saturday for a shooting victim. A provincial official said he was grateful for “help with the grieved families.” Allauddin Khan/Associated Press

Mr. Lalai described the payments as “assistance” to the wounded and the families of the dead, but not as the kind of traditional compensation that would absolve the accused of responsibility for the crimes.

nytimes.com | Mar 25, 2012

By MATTHEW ROSENBERG and SANGAR RAHIMI

KABUL, Afghanistan — The families of 16 Afghan villagers who were killed this month by a rampaging American soldier were given $50,000 by the United States for each of their relatives who died, Afghan and American officials said.

The payments were made on Saturday by American military officers at the office of the governor of Kandahar Province, where the killings took place. The people wounded in the attacks were each given $11,000, said Hajji Agha Lalai, a member of the Kandahar provincial council.

Hajji Jan Agha, who lost cousins in the killings, said he and other relatives were invited to the governor’s office by foreign and Afghan officials, according to Reuters. “They said this money is an assistance from Obama,” Mr. Agha was quoted as saying.

Mr. Lalai described the payments as “assistance” to the wounded and the families of the dead, but not as the kind of traditional compensation that would absolve the accused of responsibility for the crimes.

Related

US makes payments to families of Afghan shooting victims

“We are grateful to the United States government for its help with the grieved families. But this cannot be counted as compensation for the deaths,” he said.

In discussions before the payments were made, American officials were also careful to draw a similar distinction, saying that any eventual payments would be out of compassion for the victims, and that Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing the villagers, would still face trial.

An American official confirmed on Sunday that payments had been made to victims but refused to discuss specifics. Compensation payments are kept private as a matter of American policy, the official said, adding that it was up to the recipients to decide whether to talk about what they were given.

Sergeant Bales, who was flown out of Afghanistan soon after the killings, was formally charged on Friday with 17 counts of murder and 6 counts of assault and attempted murder. He is being held at a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

According to Afghan and American officials, Sergeant Bales walked off his small combat outpost in a rural area of Kandahar Province in the early hours of March 11 and shot and stabbed at least 16 people, including 9 children and 4 women.

American military officials in Afghanistan said that Sergeant Bales, who is 38 and was serving his fourth combat tour overseas, would have been issued a 9-millimeter pistol and an M-4 rifle with a grenade-launcher attachment, though they could not confirm that he was carrying those weapons at the time of the killings.

Neither Afghan nor American officials have explained the discrepancy between the official Afghan government death toll of 16 and the 17 counts of murder that Sergeant Bales is facing.

Afghan government compensation payments of $2,000 for each death and $1,000 for each person wounded were made in the days after the attack.

Meanwhile, seven Afghan police officers, an American soldier and an Afghan interpreter were killed on Saturday when their foot patrol was struck by a hidden bomb in a district north of the city of Kandahar, Zalmai Ayoubi, a spokesman for the provincial government, said on Sunday.

Mr. Ayoubi said the victims were part of a joint patrol of Afghan police officers and American soldiers that was headed to a village in the Arghandab district, where, according to a tip that had been received that morning, a cache of land mines and bombs had been hidden.

The American-led coalition said in a statement on Saturday that one of its service members had been killed in southern Afghanistan but did not provide details.

Arghandab was one of the areas near Kandahar that was the focus of the 2010 surge of American forces. Although the Taliban have been pushed back, insurgents remain active in the area.

Afghan massacre: wife not convinced her husband was involved


Karilyn Bales tells NBC’s Matt Lauer that her husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, “loves children” and wouldn’t kill them. Kevin Casey / Associated Press

Associated Press   | Mar 27, 2012

Seatac, Wash. — The wife of a U.S. soldier accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians says her husband showed no signs of post-traumatic stress disorder before he deployed, and she doesn’t feel like she’ll ever believe he was involved in the killings.

“I just don’t think he was involved,” Karilyn Bales said in an interview with Matt Lauer that aired during Monday’s “NBC Nightly News” broadcast. “I don’t know enough information. This is not him. It’s not him.”

Earlier, she said on NBC’s “Today” show that she didn’t know much about PTSD symptoms.

“He doesn’t have nightmares, you know, things like that. No dreams,” Bales said.

She defended her husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, in the weekend interview. Officials say Robert Bales left his base March 11 in southern Afghanistan and killed eight Afghan adults and nine children.

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Accused sergeant’s wife not convinced her husband was involved

The wife of the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier said the accusations are “unbelievable to me.”

“He loves children, he’s like a big kid himself,” she said. “I have no idea what happened, but he would not … he loves children, and he would not do that.”

He was formally charged Friday with 17 counts of premeditated murder and other crimes, and is being held at a U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Karilyn Bales was in a grocery store when she first heard of the rampage in a phone call from her parents.

“They said, well it looks like a U.S. soldier, some Afghan civilians were killed by a soldier,” she said.

She learned more when she got home.

“I saw 38-year-old staff sergeant, and I don’t think there are very many of those, and I probably prayed and prayed that my husband wasn’t involved,” she said. “And then, I received a phone call from the Army saying that they would like to come out and talk to me. And I was relieved, because when you get a phone call, you know that your soldier is not deceased.”

She was told about the shootings.

“They held my hand, and they just said that perhaps, you know, they thought that he had left the base, and gone out and perhaps killed the Afghan civilians, and that was really the only sentence, and I just started crying,” she said.

The deaths of the nine Afghan children are especially difficult, she said.

“It’s heartbreaking. I can’t imagine losing my children, so my heart definitely goes out to them for losing all of their children.”

Robert Bales was on his fourth tour of duty in a war zone, having served three tours in Iraq, where he suffered a head injury and a foot injury. Karilyn Bales said his last deployment was more “secretive” and “more intense.”

More than two-thirds of Americans say US should get out of Afghanistan


Afghan National Army officers and generals exchanged ideas on Monday during a new round of training at Camp Shaheen. Qais Usyan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Support in U.S. for Afghan War Drops Sharply, Poll Finds

nytimes.com | Mar 26, 2012

By ELISABETH BUMILLER and ALLISON KOPICKI

WASHINGTON — After a series of violent episodes and setbacks, support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped sharply among both Republicans and Democrats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The survey found that more than two-thirds of those polled — 69 percent — thought that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan. Just four months ago, 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict, more than a decade old.

The increased disillusionment was even more pronounced when respondents were asked their impressions of how the war was going. The poll found that 68 percent thought the fighting was going “somewhat badly” or “very badly,” compared with 42 percent who had those impressions in November.

The latest poll was conducted by telephone from March 21 to 25 with 986 adults nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The Times/CBS News poll was consistent with other surveys this month that showed a drop in support for the war. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60 percent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan had not been worth the fighting, while 57 percent in a Pew Research Center poll said that the United States should bring home American troops as soon as possible. In a Gallup/USA Today poll, 50 percent of respondents said the United States should speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Negative impressions of the war have grown among Republicans as well as Democrats, according to the Times/CBS News poll. Among Republicans, 60 percent said the war was going somewhat or very badly, compared with 40 percent in November. Among Democrats, 68 percent said the war was going somewhat or very badly, compared with 38 percent in November. But the poll found that Republicans were more likely to want to stay in Afghanistan for as long as it would take to stabilize the situation: 3 in 10 said the United States should stay, compared with 2 in 10 independents and 1 in 10 Democrats.

Republicans themselves are divided, however, over when to leave, with a plurality, 40 percent, saying the United States should withdraw earlier than the end of 2014, when under an agreement with the Afghan government all American troops are to be out of the country.

The poll comes as the White House is weighing options for speeding up troop withdrawals and in the wake of bad news from the battlefield, including accusations that a United States Army staff sergeant killed 17 Afghan civilians and violence set off by the burning last month of Korans by American troops.

The poll also follows a number of high-profile killings of American troops by their Afghan partners — a trend that the top American commander in Afghanistan suggested on Monday was likely to continue.

“It is a characteristic of this kind of warfare,” Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. He said that in a counterinsurgency conflict like the one in Afghanistan, where American forces are fighting insurgents while training Afghan security forces, “the enemy’s going to do all that they can to disrupt both the counterinsurgency operation, but also disrupt the integrity of the indigenous forces.” American commanders say that the Taliban have in some cases infiltrated Afghan security forces to attack Americans, but that most cases are a result of personal disputes between Afghans and their American trainers.

In follow-up interviews, a number of poll respondents said they were weary after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan, and impatient with the slow progress of Afghan security forces. “I think we should speed up when we’re bringing our troops home,” said Melisa Clemmons, 52, a Republican and a coordinator for a wireless carrier system from Summerville, S.C. “If we’ve been there as many years as we’ve been there, what’s another two years going to get us?” she asked, adding, “These Afghanistan people are turning around and shooting our people. Why is it taking this long for the Afghan troops to be policing themselves?”

Paul Fisher, 53, a Republican from Grapevine, Tex., who works in the pharmaceutical business, said the United States should no longer be involved in the war, although he opposed setting a specific timetable. “After a while enough is enough, and we need to get out and move on and let Afghanistan stand on its own merits,” he said.

Peter Feaver of Duke University, who has long studied public opinion about war and worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, said that in his view there would be more support for the war if President Obama talked more about it. “He has not expended much political capital in defense of his policy,” Mr. Feaver said. “He doesn’t talk about winning in 2014; he talks about leaving in 2014. In a sense that protects him from an attack from the left, but I would think it has the pernicious effect of softening political support for the existing policy.”

The drop in support for the war among Republican poll respondents mirrors reassessments of the war among the party’s presidential candidates, traditionally more hawkish than Democrats. Newt Gingrich declared this month that it was time to leave Afghanistan, while Rick Santorum said that one option would be to withdraw even earlier than the Obama administration’s timeline. Mitt Romney has been more equivocal, although he said last summer that it was “time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can, as soon as our generals think it’s O.K.”

Michael E. O’Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution who is close to American commanders in Afghanistan, said that the opinion polls reflected a lack of awareness of the current policy, which calls for slowly turning over portions of the country to Afghan security forces, like the southern provinces, where American troops have tamped down the violence.

“I honestly believe if more people understood that there is a strategy and intended sequence of events with an end in sight, they would be tolerant,” Mr. O’Hanlon said. “The overall image of this war is of U.S. troops mired in quicksand and getting blown up and arbitrarily waiting until 2014 to come home. Of course you’d be against it.”

Among poll respondents, 44 percent said that the United States should withdraw sooner than 2014, while 33 percent said the administration should stick to the current timetable, 17 percent said the United States should stay as long as it would take to stabilize the current situation and 3 percent said the United States should withdraw now.

Trial could lay bare ‘decades of child sex abuse coverup’ in the Catholic archdiocese of Philadelphia

Associated Press | Mar 26, 2012


Charged: Monsignor William Lynn is accused of child endangerment for allegedly covering up priest sex abuse

The trial of a priest accused of covering up sex abuse for the Roman Catholic archdiocese in Philadelphia could expose decades of secrets the church has kept about child molestation by teachers and clergy.

Monsignor William Lynn is the first US church official ever charged with endangering children for allegedly failing to oust accused predators from the priesthood. But he may not be the last.

Philadelphia prosecutors say he helped carry out ‘an archdiocesan-wide policy’ that hid abuse allegations and transferred suspected priests to new parishes — all without alerting police.

Civil lawyers believe the trial will help them refile priest-abuse lawsuits that were thrown out in Pennsylvania because of legal time limits, or persuade the state legislature to open a window for filing child sex-abuse claims.

‘The evidence that has come out about the conspiracy and the cover-up and the level of officialdom involved in it is going to help us,’ said lawyer Jay Abramowitch, whose priest-abuse lawsuit involving 18 accusers was thrown out by the state Supreme Court in 2005.

Also on trial is the Rev James Brennan who, like Lynn, pleaded not guilty. Last week, a third man, defrocked priest Edward Avery, 69, pleaded guilty to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 to five years in prison and ordered to surrender within 10 days.

Lynn remains the focal point of the trial because the 61-year-old was the secretary for clergy at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia from 1992 to 2004.

Lynn argues that he prepared a list of 37 accused priests in 1994, and sent it up the chain to Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua – only to have Bevilacqua have it shredded. The cardinal died this year, but his videotaped deposition could be played at trial.

The trial will be followed by concerned Catholics across the country, including some who say their lives were destroyed.

‘It gives me hope that it’s going to raise public awareness, and it’s going to expose the church – what they knew, when they knew it,’ said Art Baselice Jr. of Mantua, New Jersey, a retired Philadelphia homicide detective.

His son, Arthur III, overdosed in 2006, after his civil suit accusing a Philadelphia priest of abuse was thrown out.

Philadelphia prosecutors, too, blasted Bevilacqua, Lynn and other church officials for looking away as scores of accusers streamed into the archdiocese over several decades. Prosecutors detailed their findings in a 2005 grand jury report, but said they could not charge anyone because the statute of limitations had expired.

But last year, they filed a second grand jury report based on recent complaints filed within newly expanded time limits.

Lynn faces two counts each of conspiracy and child endangerment and up to 28 years in prison if convicted.

Four others — two priests, an ex-priest and a Catholic school teacher — were charged with rape. The report involves just two accusers.

One man says he was passed around by two priests, including Avery, and his Catholic school teacher in 1998 and 1999.

‘When Mass was ended, Fr (Edward) Avery took the fifth-grader into the sacristy, turned on the music, and ordered him to perform a `striptease’ for him… When they were both naked, the priest had the boy sit on his lap and kissed his neck and back, while saying to him that God loved him,’ the report alleges, followed by oral sex and penetration.

Avery was at the parish despite a credible 1992 complaint that led him to undergo psychological testing. He was pulled from his parish, put on a so-called health leave and then reassigned in 1993.

Defense lawyers plan to attack accusers’ motives, arguing that they are out for money or hope to explain away their troubled lives. Both accusers have criminal records and a history of drug addiction.

The trial is sure to be painful for priests across the archdiocese as well. Pastors will testify against church leaders, complaining they were never told when accused priests were assigned to their parishes.

The Rev Chris Walsh started the Association of Philadelphia Priests last year, so the 800 priests in the archdiocese can share support and information.

‘The priests want the same thing as the lay people,’ Walsh said Thursday.

‘We want to know what happened. And, if possible, why it happened. The gospel says the truth will set you free. Let’s find out what the truth is.’

Sovereign Military Order of Malta disassociates itself from dispute between “grandmasters”

independent.com.mt | March 26, 2012


The logo of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem. The double-headed eagle represents dual sovereignty over both East and West, and of Church and the State.

The Sovereign Military Order of Malta disassociates itself from a court case which was featured on the 22 March edition of this newspaper, and which involves a dispute between two would-be grandmasters of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.

The two individuals concerned both claimed to be the order’s grandmaster, but the case was thrown out by Judge Lino Farrugia Sacco who noted that Malta does not recognise titles of nobility and that the court could not thus recognise their claims.

It does, however, recognise the SMOM as a sovereign entity – the order has established diplomatic relations with over 100 countries. Its Malta embassy is St John’s Cavalier in Valletta.

A member of the Maltese Association of the Order of Malta told this newspaper that the association wanted to make clear that the SMOM is in no way associated with the court dispute, and that the SMOM did not recognise the SSOJJ as a legitimate successor of an order which ruled Malta from 1530 to 1798.

The SMOM is considered to be the direct continuation of the Knights Hospitaller, a chivalric order established in Jerusalem in 1099 during the crusades. The order subsequently moved to Cyprus, Rhodes and eventually Malta.

Following the loss of Malta, the order was dispersed but eventually established new headquarters in Rome in 1834. Its main activity once again became what they had been at its establishment: providing care for the poor and for the sick.

The SMOM currently operates in over 120 countries, relying on around 13,500 members, 25,000 employees and 80,000 volunteers. Its latest project in Malta involves providing €200,000 in assistance to the Malta Guide Dogs Foundation.

However, many orders claim to be a legitimate continuation of the Knights Hospitaller, including the SSOJJ.

The Roman Catholic SMOM actually recognises the claims of four Protestant orders – based in the UK, Germany the Netherlands and Sweden – but none of these orders recognises the claim of any other.