Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Haiti Disaster Relief Scenario Was Envisaged by the US Military One Day Before the Earthquake

A Haiti Disaster Relief Scenario Was Envisaged by the US Military One Day Before the Earthquake

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A Haiti disaster relief scenario had been envisaged at the headquarters of US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami one day prior to the earthquake.

The holding of pre-disaster simulations pertained to the impacts of a hurricane in Haiti. They were held on January 11. (Bob Brewin, Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts (1/15/10) -- GovExec.com, complete text of article is contained in Annex)

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense (DoD), was involved in organizing these scenarios on behalf of US Southern Command.(SOUTHCOM).

Defined as a "Combat Support Agency", DISA has a mandate to provide IT and telecommunications, systems, logistics services in support of the US military. (See DISA website: Defense Information Systems Agency).

On the day prior to the earthquake, "on Monday [January 11, 2010], Jean Demay, DISA's technical manager for the agency's Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, happened to be at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami preparing for a test of the system in a scenario that involved providing relief to Haiti in the wake of a hurricane." (Bob Brewin, op cit, emphasis added)

The Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project (TISC) is a communications-information tool which "links non-government organizations with the United States [government and military] and other nations for tracking, coordinating and organizing relief efforts".(Government IT Scrambles To Help Haiti, TECHWEB January 15, 2010).

The TISC is an essential component of the militarization of emergency relief. The US military through DISA oversees the information - communications system used by participating aid agencies. Essentially, it is a communications sharing system controlled by the US military, which is made available to approved non-governmental partner organizations. The Defense Information Systems Agency also "provides bandwidth to aid organizations involved in Haiti relief efforts."

There are no details on the nature of the tests conducted on January 11 at SOUTHCOM headquarters.

DISA's Jean Demay was in charge of coordinating the tests. There are no reports on the participants involved in the disaster relief scenarios.

One would expect, given DISA's mandate, that the tests pertained to simulating communications. logistics and information systems in the case of a major emergency relief program in Haiti.

The fundamental concept underlying DISA's Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project (TISC) is to "Achieve Interoperability With Warfighters, Coalition Partners And NGOs" (Defense Daily, December 19, 2008)

Upon completing the tests and disaster scenarios on January 11, TISC was considered to be, in relation to Haiti, in "an advanced stage of readiness". On January 13, the day following the earthquake, SOUTHCOM took the decision to implement the TISC system, which had been rehearsed in Miami two days earlier:

"After the earthquake hit on Tuesday [January 12, 2010], Demay said SOUTHCOM decided to go live with the system. On [the following day] Wednesday [January 13, 2010], DISA opened up its All Partners Access Network, supported by the Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, to any organization supporting Haiti relief efforts.

The information sharing project, developed with backing from both SOUTHCOM and the Defense Department's European Command, has been in development for three years. It is designed to facilitate multilateral collaboration between federal and nongovernmental agencies.

Demay said that since DISA set up a Haiti Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Community of Interest on APAN on Wednesday [the day following the earthquake], almost 500 organizations and individuals have joined, including a range of Defense units and various nongovernmental organizations and relief groups. (Bob Brewin, Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts (1/15/10) -- GovExec.com emphasis added)

DISA has a Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Field Office in Miami. Under the Haiti Disaster Emergency Program initiated on January 12, DISA's mandate is described as part of a carefully planned military operation:

"DISA is providing US Southern Command with information capabilities which will support our nation in quickly responding to the critical situation in Haiti," said Larry K. Huffman, DISA's Principal Director of Global Information Grid Operations. "Our experience in providing support to contingency operations around the world postures us to be responsive in meeting USSOUTHCOM's requirements."

DISA, a Combat Support Agency, engineers and [sic] provides command and control capabilities and enterprise infrastructure to continuously operate and assure a global net-centric enterprise in direct support to joint warfighters, National level leaders, and other mission and coalition partners across the full spectrum of operations. As DoD's satellite communications leader, DISA is using the Defense Satellite Communications System to provide frequency and bandwidth support to all organizations in the Haitian relief effort. This includes Super High Frequency missions that are providing bandwidth for US Navy ships and one Marine Expeditionary Unit that will arrive shortly on station to provide medical help, security, and helicopters among other support. This also includes all satellite communications for the US Air Force handling round-the-clock air traffic control and air freight operations at the extremely busy Port-Au-Prince Airport. DISA is also providing military Ultra High Frequency channels and contracting for additional commercial SATCOM missions that greatly increase this capability for relief efforts. (DISA -Press Release, January 2010, undated, emphasis added)

In the immediate wake of the earthquake, DISA played a key supportive role to SOUTHCOM, which was designated by the Obama administration as the de facto "lead agency" in the US Haitian relief program. The underlying system consists in integrating civilian aid agencies into the orbit of an advanced communications information system controlled by the US military.

"DISA is also leveraging a new technology in Haiti that is already linking NGOs, other nations and US forces together to track, coordinate and better organize relief efforts" (Ibid)


ANNEX

Defense launches online system to coordinate Haiti relief efforts

As personnel representing hundreds of government and nongovernmental agencies from around the world rush to the aid of earthquake-devastated Haiti, the Defense Information Systems Agency has launched a Web portal with multiple social networking tools to aid in coordinating their efforts.

On Monday [January 11, 2010, a day before the earthquake], Jean Demay, DISA's technical manager for the agency's Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, happened to be at the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami preparing for a test of the system in a scenario that involved providing relief to Haiti in the wake of a hurricane. After the earthquake hit on Tuesday [January 12, 2010], Demay said SOUTHCOM decided to go live with the system. On Wednesday [January 13, 2010], DISA opened up its All Partners Access Network, supported by the Transnational Information Sharing Cooperation project, to any organization supporting Haiti relief efforts.

The information sharing project, developed with backing from both SOUTHCOM and the Defense Department's European Command, has been in development for three years. It is designed to facilitate multilateral collaboration between federal and nongovernmental agencies.

Demay said that since DISA set up a Haiti Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Community of Interest on APAN on Wednesday, almost 500 organizations and individuals have joined, including a range of Defense units and various nongovernmental organizations and relief groups.

APAN provides a series of collaboration tools, including geographical information systems, wikis, YouTube and MySpace-like pages and multilingual chat rooms.

Meanwhile, other organizations are tackling different technological challenges. Gianluca Bruni, the Dubai-based information technology chief for emergency preparedness and response for the World Food Programme, is setting up networks and systems to support United Nations and nongovernmental organizations in Haiti. WFP already has dispatched two communications kits to Haiti, with satellite systems that operate at 1 megabit per second and can support up to 100 users. It also has sent laptop computers, Wi-Fi access points and long-range point-to-point wireless systems to connect remote users to the satellite terminals. Bruni said eventually WFP plans to set up cyber cafés in Haiti for use all relief workers in the country.

Jon Anderson, a DISA spokesman, said the agency is supplying 10 megabits of satellite capacity to Navy, Marine and Air Force units engaged in the Haiti relief operation.

Many of the relief organizations and agencies in Haiti are bringing their own radio systems to the country. DISA has deployed a three-person team from its Joint Spectrum Management Element to help manage radio frequency spectrum.

The Joint Forces Command's Joint Communications Support Element deployed two teams equipped with satellite systems and VoIP phones to support SOUTCOM in Port-au-Prince late Wednesday. Those systems were operational "in a matter of hours," said JCSE Chief of Staff Chris Wilson. The organization will send another team to Haiti in the next few days.

Wilson said JCSE was able to get its gear into Haiti quickly because the systems already were loaded on pallets in Miami in preparation for an exercise that has been canceled.

So many governments and agencies from around the world have responded to the crisis in Haiti that they have overwhelmed the ability of the Port-au-Prince airport to handle incoming relief flights. The Federal Aviation Administration has had a ground-stop on aircraft headed for Haiti for much of the past two days.

FAA warned in an advisory Friday that "due to limited ramp space at Port-au-Prince airport," with the exception of international cargo flights, "the Haitians are not accepting any aircraft into their airspace."

The advisory added that domestic U.S. military and civilian flights to Haiti must be first be cleared by its command center. Exemptions will be based solely on the basis of ramp space. The agency also starkly warned "there is no available fuel" at the Port-au-Prince airport.

Haitians dying by the thousands as US escalates military intervention

Haitians dying by the thousands as US escalates military intervention

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Thousands of Haitians are dying every day for lack of medical care and supplies, according to a leading humanitarian aid group. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced that it is expanding the US military presence in the country, maintaining Washington’s priority of troops over humanitarian aid.

The US-based medical aid group Partners in Health has warned that as many as 20,000 Haitians may be dying daily due to infections such as gangrene and sepsis that have set in, as the majority of the injured receive no medical care or are treated in facilities that lack the most basic supplies.

“Tens of thousands of earthquake victims need emergency surgical care now!!!,” the organization said in a statement posted on its web site. “The death toll and the incidence of gangrene and other deadly infections will continue to rise unless a massive effort is made to open and staff more operating rooms and to deliver essential equipment and supplies.”

Partners in Health has worked in Haiti for more than 20 years. Its co-founder, Dr. Paul Farmer, is the deputy United Nations envoy to Haiti and a senior professor of public health at Harvard University.

While Haitian officials and other organizations have claimed the Partners in Health figure is too high, it is indisputable that Haiti confronts a disaster that could equal or even eclipse that of the quake itself because of the delays in the provision of health care to hundreds of thousands of sick and injured people.

The New York Times Thursday quoted Dr. Eduardo de Marchena, a University of Miami cardiologist overseeing one field hospital in Haiti, who provided a similarly grim prognosis. “There are still thousands of patients with major fractures, major wounds, that have not been treated yet,” he said. “There are people, many people, who are going to die unless they’re treated.”

As the Times reported, “In the squatter camps now scattered across this capital, there are still people writhing in pain, their injuries bound up by relatives but not yet seen by a doctor eight days after the quake struck. On top of that, the many bodies still in the wreckage increase the risk of diseases spreading, especially, experts say, if there is rain.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Port-au-Prince General Hospital is continuously besieged by more than 1,000 patients waiting for surgery. “Armed guards in tanks kept out mobs,” the newspaper reported. It added, “At any given moment, thousands of injured, some grievously, wait outside virtually any hospital or clinic, pleading for treatment.”

CNN’s Karl Penhaul reported from Port-au-Prince General Hospital, where US paratroopers have taken up positions. He said that Haitians questioned why so many US troops were pouring into the country. “They say they need more food and water and fewer guys with guns,” he reported.

He also indicated that American doctors at the hospital seemed mystified by the military presence. “They say there has never been a security problem here at the hospital, but there is a problem of getting supplies in.” He added, “They can get nine helicopters of troops in, but some of the doctors here say if they can do that, then why can’t they also bring with them IV fluids and other much needed supplies.”

The Spanish daily El País quoted one of these American doctors, Jim Warsinguer: “We lack a lot of things, too many for so much time having passed since the earthquake: betadine, bandages, gloves. And, above all, morphine. We have to do amputations without anesthesia. You see them suffer, and it is terrible. The Haitians are very brave, but they are suffering a lot.”

The desperate conditions and lack of sanitation for the estimated 2 million Haitians left homeless by the earthquake threaten to trigger a public health disaster. “The next health risk could include outbreaks of diarrhea, respiratory tract infections and other diseases among hundreds of thousands of Haitians living in overcrowded camps with poor or non-existent sanitation,” said Doctors Without Borders deputy operations manager Greg Elder.

While media reports claim that ever-growing amounts of material aid are coming into the country, reporters on the ground have said that there is still no sign that it is getting into the hands of the overwhelming majority of those who need it.

The British Broadcasting Corporation reported Thursday, “Correspondents say the aid that has thus far arrived at the port is being driven for 45 minutes across the city to the airport, where it is piling up and not being distributed to those who need it.”

The BBC continued, “The US and UN World Food Programme insist the distribution of food and water is well under way, but the BBC’s Adam Mynott in Port-au-Prince says many people have still seen no international relief at all.”

Aid organizations have charged that since establishing its unilateral control over the Port-au-Prince airport and the city’s port facilities, and assuming essential governmental powers in Haiti, the US military has given the beefing up of its presence in the country priority over the provision of aid. Doctors Without Borders, for example, has protested that military air traffic controllers have since January 14 refused permission to land to five of its planes carrying 85 tons of medical supplies.

With the Haitian catastrophe now in its 10th day, it is becoming increasingly clear that the response of the Obama administration and the Pentagon, which have made military occupation of the Caribbean nation its first objective, has deepened the immense suffering of millions of injured, homeless and hungry people.

The Pentagon has announced that it is sending 4,000 more troops to Haiti, which will boost the US military occupation force to 16,000. For the first time, a unit that had been slated for deployment by the US Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being diverted to the Caribbean nation.

Meanwhile, a naval encirclement of Haiti’s coastline is growing. The Miami Herald reported Thursday that the US military has also prepared a detention camp at the Guantánamo Bay Navy Base in Cuba—site of the infamous prison where detainees were tortured—to hold up to 1,000 Haitians should they manage to elude the US warships.

By using Guantánamo as a holding pen for refugees fleeing the horrific conditions of Haiti, the US government will insist that they have no legal rights and cannot appeal their deportation back to their homeland. This same procedure was used in 1991, when thousands of Haitians fled the country following a violent military coup.

The claim that this military “surge” into Haiti is an indispensable prerequisite for delivering aid to the Haitian people is a lie. Relief agencies operating in the country insist that they have not been threatened by the Haitian people, but rather hindered by the attempt to impose war zone-style security over their efforts.

The US media never so much as hints that there could be anything but the sincerest humanitarian motives behind Washington’s assertion of control over Haiti. It makes no reference to the country’s history, which includes a two-decade US occupation at the beginning of the twentieth century, the deployment of US troops twice in the last 20 years, and Washington’s orchestration of a 2004 coup that ousted and exiled Haiti’s elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

In publications reflecting the views of the military-intelligence apparatus, however, there are franker assessments of Washington’s objectives and the real mission. The American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Defense Studies issued a “crisis update” on Haiti, warning: “Conducting a ‘humanitarian relief’ mission in a poor country stricken by a natural disaster can quickly embroil the United States in local politics. And desperate people can easily become violent people.”

The statement continued by affirming, “Beyond delivering relief, US soldiers and Marines will inevitably find themselves securing the peace.” Part of this mission, it added, would be “to ensure that Haiti’s gangs—particularly those loyal to ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide—are suppressed.”

Similarly, William Kristol and Thomas Donnelly, writing in the Weekly Standard, argued that beyond the humanitarian pretext for intervening in Haiti, “the strategic case is also compelling.”

“With a transition looming in Cuba and challenges in Central America among others, there is a political reason to be—and to be seen to be—a good and strong neighbor.”

In other words, Washington is exploiting the tragedy that has been inflicted upon the people of Haiti to assert colonial-style control over the country. Its aim is to reaffirm US imperialist hegemony in the broader region and to suppress any social revolt by the Haitian masses.

It is only a matter of time before the horrendous death toll caused by the January 12 earthquake will be augmented by victims shot to death by US occupation forces.

42 Arrested at Capitol Protest Against Torture

42 Arrested at U.S. Capitol in Day of Action to Denounce Obama’s Broken Promises on Guantanamo

Witness Against Torture at WhiteHouse Jan 22, 2010

WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE

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Press Release: For Immediate Release

January 21, 2010

Contact: Frida Berrigan, 347-683-4928, frida.berrigan@gmail.com
Matt Daloisio, 201-264-4424, daloisio@earthlink.net

42 Arrested at U.S. Capitol in Day of Action to Denounce Obama’s Broken Promises on Guantanamo, America’s Broken Laws, and the Breaking of Lives by Torture

Washington, DC: In a dramatic protest, 42 activists with Witness Against Torture were arrested this afternoon at the U.S. Capitol. Most of the arrestees had been fasting since January 11th.

The protest, which comes on the eve of the since-voided deadline President Obama had set for closing the prison camp at Guantanamo, was part of nationwide set of actions today that included dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans lobbying Congress; a campaign by human rights organizations - with the support of the rock superband, Coldplay - to flood Twitter with the "CloseGitmo" message; and, a press conference held by retired Generals at the National Press Club.

Those arrested on the Capitol steps held banners reading “Broken Promises, Broken Laws, Broken Lives.” Inside the Capitol, 14 activists performed a “memorial service” for the three men whose deaths at Guantanamo in 2006 were initially reported as suicides and callously described as “acts of asymmetrical warfare” by military officials. New reports provide strong evidence that the men may have been tortured to death at a CIA secret prison in Guantanamo.

The ceremony brought the names of the men-- Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani-- into the Capitol Rotunda, where deceased presidents have lay in state. “We perform this ceremony to recognize the humanity of those whose lives have been broken by our government’s policies of torture and indefinite detention,” says Jerica Arents of Chicago, Illinois, one of those arrested in the Capitol.

Witness Against Torture has called for an immediate, independent investigation of the deaths, as it has called for the criminal investigation of all those who allegedly designed, executed, and carried out torture policies.

Most of the 42 arrested at the Capitol did not carry identification, taking instead the names of men at Guantanamo through arrest and processing. “Taking the name of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif is a necessary and real way of bringing his story to Congress,” says Joshua Brollier, a co-coordinator with Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago, Illinois. “Adnan was tortured and continues to be held after eight years without charge or trial. It boggles the mind and breaks the heart. It’s time for Congress and the Obama administration to make and fulfill a plan for his release.” Brollier and others from Voices will continue in Washington through February 2, participating in the Peaceable Assembly Campaign to pressure Obama administration and Congress to explore alternatives to U.S. militarism.

The actions at the Capitol followed a march of “Guantanamo prisoners” dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods that began at the White House and stopped at the Supreme Court before going to Capitol grounds, home to the U.S. Congress. “Congress has played a horrible role in refusing to check the power of the president and in supporting torture,” commented Matt Daloisio of New York City, a Witness Against Torture organizer. “But it was important to pass by all of the government institutions that have failed to uphold justice and protect the rule of law.”

Members of Witness Against Torture began a Fast for Justice on Monday, January 11-- the date in 2002 when the first men were brought to Guantanamo under the Bush administration’s “war on terror.” One-hundred fifty people from around the country joined the 12 day fast, which will end on Friday, January 22, the promised day for Guantanamo’s closure.

“We were so hopeful last year,” says Christine Gaunt, a grandmother and third generation farmer from Grinnell, Iowa, who was arrested at the Capitol. “But Obama has broken his promise to close Guantanamo. I am acting today because I am horrified and ashamed that this illegal prison continues to exist, and that those responsible for torture have not been held to account. I am using my body to demand that my government stop the insanity of torture and illegal detention.”

Witness Against Torture is a grassroots movement that came into being in December 2005 when 24 activists walked through Cuba to the Guantanamo base to condemn the prison camp and torture policies. Since then, it has engaged in public education, community outreach, and non-violent direct action.

To learn more visit, www.witnesstorture.org

US employment situation worsens

US employment situation worsens

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New claims for unemployment benefits in the US jumped unexpectedly last week, showing that, despite record bank profits, economic conditions for ordinary people continue to worsen.

The Labor Department announced Thursday that first-time requests for unemployment insurance increased by 36,000, instead of falling by 4,000 as expected. The number of new claims hit 482,000. The four-week moving average of unemployment claims also rose by 7,000 to 448,250.

While the Labor Department attributed the jump in new claims to the clearing of requests backed up over the holidays, it is clear that the US economy continues to hemorrhage jobs, with no improvement in sight. The United States needs to create over 150,000 jobs every month to keep up with new entrants into the labor market.

The number of people continuing to collect state unemployment benefits after their initial filing fell by 18,000, but most of this change consisted of people exhausting their traditional state unemployment benefits. The number of people collecting extended unemployment payments from the federal government jumped to 5.6 million from 5 million the month before. These federal extended unemployment benefits were available in 38 states.

The scale of the jobs crisis has further strained state budgets. After 20 million US residents collected unemployment benefits last year, 25 states have run out of money for their unemployment insurance funds and have been forced to borrow money from the federal government or raise taxes.

Thursday's statistics were compounded by regional unemployment figures released Friday by the Labor Department, which showed unemployment rate increases in 43 states. Nearly half of the states showed significant jumps in unemployment, while only one had a significant decline.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Tennessee each saw their unemployment rate rise by 0.7 percent last month. Louisiana and Mississippi each registered a 0.8 percent jump. Payrolls in California fell the most, by 38,800, followed by Texas, which lost 23,900 jobs, and Ohio, which lost 16,700.

Michigan continued to have the highest unemployment rate in the country at 14.6 percent, up 4.4 percent from a year earlier.

The regional figures show the immense job losses that have taken place throughout the country over the past year, with all 50 states and the District of Columbia registering job losses. California lost 579,400 jobs over the past year, followed by 276,000 job losses in Texas, 237,300 in Illinois, 232,400 in Florida, and 207,100 in Michigan.

The number of states with unemployment rates higher than 10 percent reached 16 in December, as the jobless rates of Mississippi and New Jersey reached 10.6 percent and 10.1 percent respectively.

Mass firings continued this week. Smithfield Foods said it would close a meat plant in Iowa, laying off or displacing 1,450 workers. Chevron, the second-largest US oil company, said Tuesday that it would restructure to become “a leaner operation with fewer positions and fewer employees.”

Other indicators point to further economic weakness. The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank’s business activity index fell to 15.2 after hitting a nearly five-year high of 22.5 in December. The index, which tracks manufacturing activity in the Atlantic region, is often cited as a leading indicator pointing to future economic conditions.

The latest data is in line with the bleak conditions shown in the December jobs report released January 9. The Labor Department reported that the US lost 85,000 jobs in December, swamping November’s payroll increase of 4,000 jobs, the first payroll rise in nearly two years.

But the December job losses did not produce a rise in the official unemployment rate, which remained unchanged at 10 percent, because 661,000 people gave up looking for work.

In the two years since the recession began, the US has lost 7.6 million jobs, more than any downturn since the Great Depression. The average time it took to find a job rose to 29.1 weeks in December, the highest figure in records dating back to 1948.

Economists do not expect the job situation to improve any time this year. They project, on average, that the jobless rate will stay at its current level of 10 percent throughout 2010.

Economists are predicting that any recovery to pre-recession levels will take years. David Rosenberg, formerly of Merrill Lynch, said that the United States is entering “the mother of all jobless recoveries,” and that, by a “conservative estimate,” it will take 5 years to recover the 7.6 million jobs lost in the recession.

Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University is even more pessimistic. He recently told BusinessWeek, “The US would need to add a good 11 million jobs to bring the unemployment rate back to where it was at the start of the crisis, and over 9 million jobs just to get unemployment back to 6 percent.” As for levels of unemployment seen before the recession, he said, “We might not see that for a decade.”

US plans to harness Internet to its hegemonic goals

US plans to harness Internet to its hegemonic goals

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's January 21 speech on internet freedom marks a major escalation of Sino-American tensions. Amid a censorship dispute between China and the search engine firm Google, Clinton unveiled a global policy of Internet-driven regime-change, under the guise of freedom of speech.

On January 12, Google posted a statement, "A New Approach to China," on its blog. It charged that a series of cyber security attacks originating from a computer in Taiwan were being controlled from China. These attacks targeted dozens of US defense and communications firms—including Northrop Grumman, Adobe Systems and Juniper Systems—and the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

Google said it was taking the "unusual step" of reporting the attacks because they went "to the heart of a much bigger global debate about freedom of speech." The company threatened to undo internet censorship programs it had installed at Beijing's request on its Chinese Google.cn search engine. It noted this might "well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China."

The US government did not immediately comment, and international media were initially skeptical of Google's position. A Financial Times video asked for the motives behind Google's threat to leave China, noting that Google had not shut its operations in Pakistan after that country blocked all access to Youtube, a Google subsidiary, amid allegations of vote fraud in its February 2008 election. A Wall Street Journal article called Google's decision "provocative."

In a January 15 piece, "After Google's Stand on China, US Treads Lightly," the New York Times cited James A. Lewis of the US Center for Strategic and International Studies: "Everything we are learning is that in this case the Chinese government got caught with its hand in the cookie jar. Would it hold up in court? No."

The Times added that the event laid bare “the degree to which China and the United States are engaged in daily cyberbattles, a covert war of offense and defense on which America is already spending billions of dollars a year."

This comment underlines the real state of US relations with China, which the US views as a rising strategic competitor. Washington is occupying Afghanistan, a country bordering China's troubled western region of Tibet, and is launching attacks into Pakistan, China's main ally in the Indian subcontinent. The US is expected to soon resume large-scale weapons sales to the Taiwanese regime, China's historical rival, and US alliances with India, Australia and Japan implicitly aim to block China.

Sino-American economic interdependence—the US is China's biggest export market, and China is the single largest holder of US government debt—is also destabilizing global politics. The US has repeatedly demanded that Beijing increase the value of its currency, undermining China's export competitiveness and costing millions of jobs in China. In the aftermath of Obama's trip to Asia last year, US officials have increasingly pushed for punitive tariffs on Chinese exports.

It was in this context that Clinton delivered her speech. Though the US press focused its attention on her remarks on the China-Google dispute, Clinton's comments were part of a far broader agenda. She delivered the hour-long speech to a high-level gathering, including several senators and foreign ambassadors. Clinton said "representatives of our International Visitor Leadership Program on internet freedom from China, Colombia, Iran, Lebanon and Moldova"—all countries hosting or targeted by US intelligence efforts—were also present.

Clinton attacked Chinese Internet censorship, saying, "Even as networks spread to nations around the globe, virtual walls are cropping up in place of visible walls. Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world's networks. They've expunged words, names and phrases from search engine results. They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech."

This was, however, only a cover for the assertion of a global mandate for Washington to destabilize or overthrow governments worldwide. Clinton praised the Twitter and Internet organizing behind US-backed "color revolutions," including most recently the June 2009 Green Revolution that unsuccessfully tried to overturn the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She noted, "In Iran and Moldova and other countries, online organizing has been a critical tool for advancing democracy and enabling citizens to protest suspicious election results."

Other US-backed "color revolutions" include the 2003 Rose Revolution that installed President Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia, the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine that placed President Viktor Yushchenko in power, and the failed 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan and 2006 Denim Revolution in Belarus.

Clinton reserved the right to engineer such “revolutions” anywhere in the world: "The United States is committed to devoting the diplomatic, economic and technological resources necessary to advance [Internet] freedoms. We are a nation made up of immigrants from every country and every interest that spans the globe… We will work with partners in industry, academia and nongovernmental organizations to establish a standing effort that will harness the power of connection technologies and apply them to our diplomatic goals."

She cited as an example the possibility of extending State Department funding to create mobile phone applications to "allow people to rate government ministries," and "also to ferret out and report corruption."

Clinton singled out China for criticism: "There are so many people in China now online. But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of Internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century." She said the US would raise its differing views with China "candidly and consistently" in the coming period.

Immediately after this public rebuke of Beijing, she issued the following remarkable warning: "Information freedom supports the peace and security that provides a foundation for global progress. Historically, asymmetrical access to information is one of the leading causes of interstate conflict. When we face serious disputes or dangerous incidents, it's critical that people on both sides of the problem have access to the same sets of facts and opinions."

Taken at face value, such comments suggest that US-China relations have become so tense that Washington foresees the risk of war unless the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) does an about-face and allows pro-US political tendencies to freely express their views. This would include religious and pro-democracy activists, as well as Tibetan or Xinjiang separatist groups.

Stripped of its cynical rhetoric, Clinton's speech is a US challenge to the CCP's monopoly of political power in China, and a threat to use "color revolution" methods against Beijing, or any other state, should it refuse to bow to Washington's strategic interests.

In the lead-up to Clinton's speech, Chinese officials had played down the importance of the dispute with Google. Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei told China's state wire service Xinhua that the Google dispute should not be "over-interpreted" or linked to US-China relations.

After Clinton's speech, however, Chinese media took a harsher tone. Yesterday, the Chinese People's Daily ran an editorial calling US Internet plans a "shot in the arm for US hegemony." It charged Washington with having a stranglehold on Internet infrastructure, and with using Twitter and other communications resources to destabilize regimes in Iran and Libya.

The Global Times, another state-run Chinese newspaper, wrote: "The hard fact that Clinton has failed to highlight in her speech is that the bulk of the information flowing from the US and other Western countries is loaded with aggressive rhetoric against those countries that do not follow their lead." It added, "Countries disadvantaged by the unequal and undemocratic information flow have to protect their national interest, and take steps towards this. This is essential for their political stability as well as normal conduct of economic and social life."

Though it carefully censors news of popular protest, the Chinese state press is well aware of massive discontent in China, and fears that it could come under the control of political forces hostile to the CCP. The number of “mass incidents” —that is, protests, strikes or riots, typically repressed by mass police or paramilitary actions—reached 120,000 in 2008, up from 90,000 in 2006 and 74,000 in 2004.

According to some estimates, the figure for 2009 could be 230,000. A Chinese Academy of Social Sciences study in December found that of the 77 major “mass incidents” in 2009, 30 percent were spread by the Internet and mobile phones.

In this context, Clinton's speech amounts to a threat that the State Department might try to seize upon and direct protests to undermine the Chinese government—as it already has done in Eastern Europe, the ex-USSR and the Middle East.

One does not have to be a supporter of the Beijing Stalinist regime to realize the reactionary character of such plans. The "color revolution" regimes have all proven to be unpopular and anti-democratic pawns of Washington, with Yushchenko being voted out in the recent Ukrainian election. In China—an enormous state, riven by internal ethnic, regional and class divisions—such a policy by the US would pose the risk of unleashing large-scale violence and civil war.

Israel threatens Hezbollah and Lebanon

Israel threatens Hezbollah and Lebanon

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Israel has stepped up its warmongering against Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, worsening tensions throughout the Middle East.

Last week, Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, warned Hezbollah to "avoid entering in conflict with us.” He said, “We need to constantly prepare for a change in the status quo, though we don't know when it will occur. We don't want for it to happen, and it might not, but we will not be afraid to react if we have to fight back."

Barak said that the calm enjoyed in recent years could be broken without warning, declaring, "We are here on the northern border, facing Hezbollah positions. I see that the IDF is very well prepared.”

In a significant escalation, Israel has said that it will hold the Lebanese responsible for any violations by Hezbollah of United Nations Security Council resolution 1701. Barak reiterated that should Hezbollah mount any attacks, Israel would retaliate against not just Hezbollah, but Lebanon and anyone else who helps Hezbollah.

With its almost daily low-altitude flights over Lebanon, it is Israel that is in reality in breach of UN Security Council resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war. Last June, the tenth report by the UN secretary general on the implantation of the resolution listed 388 Israeli airspace violations, 48 territorial violations and 77 Sea violations. Michael Williams, the UN special envoy for Lebanon, said, “To the best of my knowledge, there is probably no other country in the world which is subject to such an intrusive regime of aerial surveillance.”

Israel’s increasingly bellicose tone follows some border flare ups, with Hezbollah rockets fired into Israel and the discovery by UN forces in southern Lebanon of arms caches one kilometre from the border with Israel. Last week, Lebanon’s anti-aircraft artillery fired at four Israeli fighter jets violating its airspace.

Israel claims that Hezbollah now has an arsenal three times the level of 2006, with more than 42,000 rockets capable of reaching towns and cities in southern Israel. Last November, Israel’s navy intercepted a ship in the Mediterranean carrying 500 tons of rockets, mortars, and other ammunition, claiming it was an Iranian arms shipment intended for Hezbollah via Syria.

Washington too has upped the pressure on Lebanon. At a White House meeting last month, President Barack Obama asked Lebanese President Michel Sleiman to stop the flow of weapons being smuggled into south Lebanon “that potentially serve as a threat to Israel”.

He warned that a failure to do so would lead to another invasion by Israel. Vice President Joe Biden went further, telling Sleiman that Israel would invade Lebanon and go all the way to Beirut to destroy Hezbollah’s weapons if the government failed to rein in Hezbollah.

Tel Aviv’s war of words with Lebanon has already served to destabilise relations in the region, and any military attack could lead to Israel fighting a war on several fronts.

Lebanon’s new government, which includes two Hezbollah ministers, has agreed that Hezbollah can maintain its arms to resist Israel. Ali Al-Shami, the foreign minister, has stressed that Lebanon will not relinquish its right to liberate its occupied territory and will defend its territory against any aggression. He also called for strong ties with Syria. Sleiman has warned that Israel is a “permanent threat” to Lebanon.

Lebanon has resumed relations with Syria, frozen for five years since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Both the prime minister and the president have visited Damascus recently. Sleiman also met with Iran’s visiting deputy, Mohammad-Reza Mir-Tajeddini, in Beirut and discussed the coordination of Iran and Lebanon’s positions at the UN Security Council, where Lebanon has begun a two-year term (from 2010 to 2011) at the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member.

Israel has warned Syria that it would not allow Hezbollah to obtain SA2 missiles.

According to a report in Ha’aretz, a senior US official has warned that if Syria provides Hezbollah with SA2 anti-aircraft missiles, which are controlled from a remote command centre, Israel will bomb Damascus, and a war would likely follow.

The Jerusalem Centre for Research and Documentation has published a report warning of rising tensions in the Golan Heights, despite the long-standing calm in the area, and recommended that Israel keep its troops there on high alert.

Syria has said it would respond if Lebanon were attacked, adding that Damascus considered any threat to Lebanon's security and stability as a threat to Syria's security. Damascus has pointed to the Israeli deployment and manoeuvres along Israel’s northern border, in preparation for a military operation in Lebanon in May.

A Hamas official in Beirut, Ali Baraka, pledged that Hamas would fight alongside Hezbollah in the event of another Israeli war on Lebanon.

In the last few weeks, Israel has complained that its security is being threatened by rockets from Gaza and launched provocative raids killing dozens of Palestinians, despite the almost complete cessation of rocket attacks on Israeli towns from Gaza since Israel’s 22-day assault last year. Mahmoud Abbas, the nominal president of the Palestinian Authority, said that this was aimed at drawing a violent response, while Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were ruining security and stability in the West Bank.

The raids have prompted numerous reports about Israeli preparations for another military assault on Gaza, with Ha’aretz saying that the count-down has already begun. Israeli television reported that “Operation Cast Lead 2” would involve an armed invasion and the use of “advanced warfare technologies” in densely populated areas to intercept Hamas’ short range missiles targeted on Israel.

The ultimate target of Tel Aviv’s verbal assaults on Hezbollah, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians is Iran, the largest country in the region, which it sees as an existential threat.

While there are reports that Israel might launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear power installations before June 2010, there is not unanimous support within the political and military establishment for such unilateral action. Barak told legislators that Iran’s new installation at Qom “cannot be destroyed through a conventional attack” and has called for severe economic sanctions on Iran.

Tel Aviv is also working with the CIA to finance and train opposition groups in order to hold up Iran’s nuclear programme and stoke up internal dissent to achieve a regime change from within.

Tehran has claimed that it had information that Israeli and US intelligence intended to carry out terrorist attacks in the capital. It blamed last week’s assassination of the Iranian physicist Massoud Ali Mohammadi on an exiled opposition group known as the People’s Mujahideen, accusing it of acting on behalf of Israel and the US. While the opposition group and Washington have denied involvement, Tel Aviv has refused to comment on the allegation.

Al Ahram, which is part-owned and controlled by the Egyptian government, no friend of Iran, claimed that the head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, was “Israel’s superman” and the “brains” behind the assassination. According to Ashraf Abu al-Haul, head of the paper’s Gaza bureau, Dagan was responsible for Israel’s bombing of Deir el-Zur in Syria, the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh and covert operations in Iran that have hindered the Iranian nuclear programme for the last seven years.

While pushing an aggressive foreign policy, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is also whipping up a climate of fear and anxiety within Israel itself.

Last week, the National Emergency Authority (NEA) held the largest ever exercise to train security forces to respond to a city-wide biological attack. It involved Israel Defence Force (IDF) Home Front, the Israel Police and Magen David Adom, the ambulance service. The hospitals had to treat dozens of people feigning a variety of symptoms and identify those suffering from a biological attack.

The government also announced that it is to distribute gas masks to every man, woman and child in the country over the next three years, at an estimated cost of between $125-200 million.

No justification for these measures was given, with defence experts acknowledging that Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s new longer range missiles would probably only carry conventional warheads. But Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer offered an explanation. He said, “Any armed conflict between Israel and its enemies, including an airstrike on Iran’s nuclear installations, will include an intense bombardment of Israeli cities.”

This indicates that Israel is preparing a strike on Iran that it knows will prompt a swift retaliation.

According to the US weekly, Defense News, the US will double the amount of emergency equipment it keeps in Israel, and Israel will be allowed to use US ordnance in the event of a military emergency. Israel has recently completed the renovation of all its 5,000 public bomb shelters and is developing a new missile defence system, Iron Dome, to fend off missile attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah.

It is also significant that Netanyahu, without success, invited Tzipi Livni, the leader of the opposition Kadima party that has the largest number of seats in the Knesset, to join his weak and fractious coalition and form a government of national unity. Bringing Kadima into his tent would help preclude any opposition to his war plans.

US to hold 50 Guantanamo prisoners indefinitely

US to hold 50 Guantanamo prisoners indefinitely

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The US Justice Department has determined that nearly 50 of the remaining 196 detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are to be held indefinitely, without charges or trial, according to a front-page article published Friday by the Washington Post.

The Post reports that the decision is the result of a case-by-case review of the remaining Guantanamo prisoners by a Justice Department-led task force set up by President Obama last year. The detainees have been held under barbaric conditions and subjected to torture, most of them languishing in the prison camp for eight years. The Post report cites unnamed administration officials, who spoke of the task force’s conclusions in advance of the public release of its report.

News of the decision came on the one-year anniversary of Obama’s signing of an executive order to close the infamous prison at Guantanamo. That pledge was announced with great fanfare on the second full day of the new administration as evidence that Obama would reverse the Bush administration’s legacy of criminality and contempt for democratic rights. It has not been carried out.

Instead, Obama is keeping Guantanamo going while he works to open a military prison on US soil, rightly called “Guantanamo North” by its critics, to which those detainees not repatriated to their home countries or to other countries are to be kept, either to be jailed indefinitely or tried before military tribunals. Others, newly captured in the so-called war against Al Qaeda, and other “extremists” are to be thrown into the new military prison, which the administration plans to set up in Thomson, Illinois.

These moves expose Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo as an empty gesture, designed to refurbish the image of the United States around the world while his administration continues the police-state methods of Bush.

In holding prisoners indefinitely without trial, Obama is using the same legal pretext that was used by the Bush administration--the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress one week after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The administration maintains this position even in the face of a 2006 US Supreme Court ruling (Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) that there was nothing in the congressional authorization allowing the president to abrogate the constitutional right of due process.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which has defended a number of the Guantanamo detainees, released a statement Thursday condemning the decision to hold prisoners under indefinite detention. "Today was supposed to be the deadline by which President Obama would close Guantánamo,” the Center declared. “Now it will be the anniversary of the president’s decision to abandon our most fundamental constitutional principles. Our nation was built on the idea that no president or king should have the power to imprison people solely at will… and that it is up to the courts to determine whether individuals have engaged in acts that justify depriving them of their liberty.

"Guantánamo remains open, and remains a symbol of lawlessness and abuse. Now the president has committed to holding approximately 50 men without any trial not as a result of anything the men have done in the past but because of a fear of what the men may do in the future and because they have been deemed too difficult to prosecute but too dangerous to release. This is… an assault on the rule of law, our principles and our system of justice.”

Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said, “There is no statutory regime in America that allows us to hold people without charge or trial indefinitely.”

The government argues that it cannot try some of the Guantanamo detainees, even in military tribunals that deny defendants basic due process protections, because its “evidence” against them, either hearsay evidence extracted from other prisoners or direct admissions obtained through interrogation, is tainted by prisoner abuse. This is tantamount to an admission that they have been tortured. The additional reason given is that trying the detainees could compromise intelligence-gathering and national security.

There are other reasons. The government fears the political repercussions of testimony from defendants in open court about the torture to which they have been subjected, as well as the danger of defendants revealing information exposing connections between alleged terrorists and US intelligence and police agencies.

The task force that reviewed the Guantanamo cases is comprised of officials from the Pentagon, the State Department, the Homeland Security Department and the Justice Department, as well agencies such as the CIA and FBI. According to the Post, it recommended that the detainees be divided into three main groups: about 35 to be prosecuted in federal or military courts, at least 110 who can be released at some point, and the nearly 50 who are to be detained indefinitely without trial.

Of the 110 who are deemed eligible for release, 60 are Yemenis. Since Obama indefinitely suspended the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to Yemen after the attempted Christmas Day airliner attack, these detainees have no prospect of release for the foreseeable future. That leaves only fifty whom the government is preparing to repatriate over the next few months.

Even their release is contingent on “variables,” an administration official told the Post, including “a changed security situation in a proposed transfer state.”

The administration claims that all of the detainees have the right to challenge their incarceration in habeas corpus proceedings in federal court. However, the US appeals court which has jurisdiction over all such cases, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, earlier this month issued a sweeping ruling making it all but impossible for detainees being held as “alien unprivileged enemy belligerents” to prevail in such suits.

The appeals court upheld the Obama administration in opposing the release of Ghaleb Nassar al-Bihani, a Yemeni citizen who has been imprisoned at Guantanamo since early 2002. In its ruling, the court declared that presidential power to jail alleged terrorists is not limited by international law, and that Guantanamo detainees who seek to contest the legality of their incarceration are not entitled to the constitutional guarantees and legal norms afforded to defendants in criminal cases.

The focus of the government and the media on the remaining Guantanamo detainees obscures the fact that a far larger group of alleged “enemy belligerents” are being held without charge or trial, under, if anything, even more brutal conditions at the US military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Last week, the Pentagon, in compliance with a Freedom of Information request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, released a redacted list of 645 people being held at the prison.

A McClatchy newspapers investigative report revealed that many of the Bagram prisoners were civilians who were arrested based on false information.

As US prepares long-term occupation, Haiti’s quake victims still without aid

As US prepares long-term occupation, Haiti’s quake victims still without aid

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With the US military “surge” into Haiti expected to include some 20,000 troops on land and on ships parked offshore by this weekend, a US official indicated that Washington is preparing for a protracted occupation of the impoverished and earthquake-devastated Caribbean nation.

“We are there for the long term, this is not something that will be resolved quickly and easily,” said Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, the US deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, on Haiti following a meeting on aid to the battered country.

In addition to the US, representatives from Brazil, Canada, France, Haiti and Uruguay participated in the discussions. Canada and France are major donors to Haiti, while Brazil and Uruguay each have over 1,000 troops participating in the United Nations peace-keeping mission, which constituted the main occupying force before the earthquake.

Speaking earlier in the UN, Wolff denounced the governments of Nicaragua, Bolivia and Venezuela for accusing Washington of exploiting the tragedy in Haiti to impose a military occupation of the country.

He charged the three Latin American governments with attempting “to politicize the matter with ill informed tendentious statements” and having “ridiculously alleged conspiracy and occupation.”

In Haiti itself, however, anger and protests are building over the US militarization of the response to a disaster that has claimed an estimated 200,000 lives, while leaving another quarter of a million injured and millions homeless.

Humanitarian aid and medical teams have accused the US military—which has asserted unilateral control over the country’s airport and port facilities—of making the deployment of troops and the evacuation of US citizens from Haiti its first priorities. The delivery of desperately needed medical supplies and equipment were relegated to second place. Medical relief agencies have warned that tens of thousands more are dying from injuries sustained in the earthquake because of the lack of basic supplies and medicines.

While aid has now reportedly begun flowing into the country, fully 11 days after the earthquake, it is reportedly still not reaching those who desperately need it.

“Large quantities of medications, baby formula and other relief supplies are sitting on the tarmac and in warehouses at the Port-au-Prince airport, but no one is moving it out,” CNN cable news reported Thursday.

The network’s medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta visited the warehouse and spoke with military officers in charge of operations there.

The military “gave Gupta a trash bag full of supplies to take back to a hospital he had visited earlier but couldn't explain why there seemed to be no organized system for distribution,” CNN reported.

Phillippe Bolopion, a correspondent for FRANCE24 television, reported from a makeshift camp of earthquake victims just outside the airport, where supplies are piling up.

“You’d think these people would be helped, but they are not,” he reported. “There are four toilets for 3,500 people; they were clogged, obviously. They had no food, very little water. The only international organization present was the Spanish Red Cross. People couldn’t understand why the generosity of the world isn’t getting to them. It’s really hard to comprehend.”

Similarly, Fran Sevilla, a correspondent for Radio Televisión Española (RTVE), reported, “There continues to be no distribution of humanitarian aid, of food and water. I ask myself how all of these human beings survive. I ask if anyone is helping them, if they are receiving anything, and the answer is always no. They survive thanks to the solidarity between them, sharing between families and groups of friends what little they have, what little they can get.”

Clearly displeased with the reporting by the foreign media, the US military expelled them from the airport on Thursday, leaving them to scramble to find somewhere to go in the demolished Haitian capital.

Meanwhile, the United Nations reported Thursday that up to 700,000 people in Port-au-Prince are homeless, many living in some 500 camps set up in parks and empty lots, with little more than sheets to protect people from the sun.

UN representatives together with humanitarian aid workers visited 350 of these camps by late Thursday, reporting that only six of them had access to drinking water. According to the UN, 45 percent of those affected by the earthquake are children under the age of 18, and 18 percent are younger than five. Conditions are expected to worsen, with health officials warning that infectious diseases could spread through these makeshift camps like wildfire. Rain is expected early next week, which would flood these camps, creating ideal conditions for the spread of dengue, typhus and malaria.

What little remains of a Haitian government—with Washington’s puppet President Réne Préval having ceded all real power to the Pentagon and practically disappeared—has responded to this crisis by proposing that 400,000 homeless people be removed from Port-au-Prince, with 100,000 of them relocated to camps near the city of Croix-des-Bouguets, north of the capital.

There are, however, no camps there, and thus far, the government has made only 34 buses available to transport this mass of people.

In another indication of the criminal inadequacy of the rescue operation, the UN and US authorities announced that attempts to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble of fallen buildings in Port-au-Prince was drawning to a close, on the grounds that there were no likely survivors. All but 10 of 43 international rescue teams that had come to Haiti have left.

This effort—which was woefully under-resourced and uncoordinated from the start—is being ended even as two more people were brought out alive from the ruins of buildings on Thursday. No doubt, many more will be left to die.

It can be predicted that with the end of these dramatic live-saving efforts, the corporate-controlled media will also begin their exodus from Haiti, reducing coverage of the continuing tragedy of the Haitian people and the many more deaths that are still to come.

It is also likely that little attention will be given to the activities of the US military and its auxiliaries in the UN peace-keeping force and the Haitian police as they undertake the repression of popular unrest.

There are indications that this has already begun. Haitian police shot to death a 20-year-old carpenter, Gentile Cherie, Wednesday, after he was seen carrying sacks of rice. Another man with him was seriously wounded. Both were shot in the back.

The police claimed the men had stolen the rice, but the wounded man said that a truck driver had given the sacks to them. Local residents and shopkeepers said that neither man was a thief. CNN reported that the Haitian police refused to say whether they have been given “shoot-on-sight” orders for dealing with alleged looters.

Meanwhile, a Cuban television team filmed scenes of UN troops firing rubber bullets and tear gas grenades at crowds of Haitians who had approached the US-occupied airport seeking food and work.

As anger over the criminal negligence that has characterized the US response to the Haitian disaster and resentment over yet another US military occupation of Haiti grow, American troops will inevitably be used to suppress protests and resistance.

Obama FDA Goons Worse Than Bush FDA Goons: Welcome to CODEX

Obama FDA Goons Worse Than Bush FDA Goons: Welcome to CODEX

download ~ Author and Hepatitis C survivor Lloyd Wright explains how the FDA is beginning to march down the fascist path of CODEX Alimentarius. In October 2009 the FDA blocked the import of Lloyd's Natcell Products from Canada and forced him to "destroy" 4 of his websites in order to comply with their wishes... so he could get the products into the country. He has been importing these products for about 10 years and they are not being made in the US.

Psychiatric disorders spiral among US troops

Psychiatric disorders spiral among US troops

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A new study indicates US troops who were withdrawn from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for medical reasons were increasingly evacuated for psychiatric reasons.

Psychiatric disorders rose from 2004 to 2007, despite an increased focus on treating mental health problems, the research study revealed on Friday.

Only 14 percent of troops taken out of combat operations on medical grounds during the four-year period were because of a combat injury, AFP reported.

The biggest single cause for a pullout was 'musculo-skeletal' and joint problems, which accounted for 24 percent of medical evacuations.

In contrast, psychiatric grounds accounted for five percent of evacuations in Iraq and six percent in Afghanistan in 2004; these figures rose to 14 and 11 percent respectively in 2007.

Researchers also said that repeat missions and declining public support for the Iraq war may partly account for the rise.

The study drew on data from more than 34,000 US personnel who had been evacuated to the main US military receiving hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.

Steven Cohen of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore led the research team.

Gates confirms Blackwater presence in Pakistan

Gates confirms Blackwater presence in Pakistan

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US Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirms that American security firms Xe Services LLC, formerly known as Blackwater, and DynCorp have been operating in Pakistan.

The two firms are operating in private capacities, Gates said on Thursday, adding that the companies were abiding by Pakistani laws.

However, he said that if the Pakistani parliament votes for a ban on the presence of the firms, the US government would comply with it.

Blackwater won notoriety for having gone on a shooting rampage in a heavily trafficked Baghdad intersection in September 2007 killing more than a dozen Iraqi civilians.

Blackwater Worldwide changed its name to Xe Services LLC in February 2009, after it came under international criticism for its disregard for civilian lives.

Two former Blackwater mercenaries have also been charged with the 2009 murder of two Afghan civilians in Kabul.

Asad Durani, former head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), had earlier told Press TV that the notorious firm, Blackwater, was involved in the deadly drone attacks on Pakistani territories, which usually result in civilian casualties.

"I learned somewhere that these people are employed certainly for…the logistic support at the drone bases. That is understandable," Durani said earlier in January.

Gates, meanwhile, said that Washington is considering sharing its Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology with Pakistan.

"These UAVs are useful and we have a budget for them," Gates said in an interview with a privately-run Pakistani television on Thursday.

He claimed that the drones had proved productive in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"We are working together with Pakistan army in this connection," Gates said, adding that discussions were underway with Pakistan military leadership on technical matters in this regard, a Press TV correspondent reported late Thursday.

Defense officials in his delegation later said that the US will provide 12 Shadow drones to Pakistan.

The Shadow drone is about 3.3 meters (11 feet) long and has a wing-span of 4.2 meters (14 feet), with sensors and cameras feeding video images back to operators on the ground.

Justice panel backs indefinite detention

Justice task force recommends about 50 Guantanamo detainees be held indefinitely

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A Justice Department-led task force has concluded that nearly 50 of the 196 detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be held indefinitely without trial under the laws of war, according to Obama administration officials.

The task force's findings represent the first time that the administration has clarified how many detainees it considers too dangerous to release but unprosecutable because officials fear trials could compromise intelligence-gathering and because detainees could challenge evidence obtained through coercion.

Human rights advocates have bemoaned the administration's failure to fulfill President Obama's promise last January to close the Guantanamo Bay facility within a year as well as its reliance on indefinite detention, a mechanism devised during George W. Bush's administration that they deem unconstitutional.

"There is no statutory regime in America that allows us to hold people without charge or trial indefinitely," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.

But the efforts of the task force, which this week completed its case-by-case review of the detainees still being held at Guantanamo Bay, allows the Obama administration to claim at least a small measure of progress toward closing the facility.

"We're still moving forward and in a much more deliberate and less haphazard manner than was the case before," said an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recommendations have not been made public. "All policies encounter reality, and it's painful, but this one holds up better than most."

The task force has recommended that Guantanamo Bay detainees be divided into three main groups: about 35 who should be prosecuted in federal or military courts; at least 110 who can be released, either immediately or eventually; and the nearly 50 who must be detained without trial.

Administration officials argue that detaining terrorism suspects under Congress's authorization of the use of force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban is legal and that each detainee has the right to challenge his incarceration in habeas corpus proceedings in federal court.

In a May speech, Obama said detention policies "cannot be unbounded" and promised to reshape standards. "We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified," he said.

The group of at least 110 detainees cleared for release includes two categories. The task force deemed approximately 80 detainees, including about 30 Yemenis, eligible for immediate repatriation or resettlement in a third country. About 30 other Yemenis were placed in a category of their own, with their release contingent upon dramatically stabilized conditions in their home country, where the government has been battling a branch of al-Qaeda and fighting a civil war.

Obama suspended the transfer of any Guantanamo Bay detainees to Yemen in the wake of an attempted Christmas Day airliner attack, a plot that officials said originated in Yemen. Effectively, all Yemenis now held at Guantanamo have little prospect of being released anytime soon.

"The task force recommendations are based on all of the known information about each detainee, but there are variables that could change a detainee's status, such as being ordered released by the courts or a changed security situation in a proposed transfer state," an administration official said.

Moving a significant number of detainees to the United States remains key to the administration's now-delayed plan to empty the military facility. The federal government plans to acquire a state prison in Thomson, Ill., to house Guantanamo Bay detainees, but the plan faces major hurdles.

Congress has barred the transfer of the detainees to the United States except for prosecution. And a coalition of Republicans opposed to any transfers and some Democrats critical of detention without trial could derail the possibility of using the Thomson facility for anything other than military commissions, according to congressional staffers.

The task force comprised officials from the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security and Justice, as well as agencies such as the CIA and the FBI. Officials said that the process of assessing the detainees was extremely challenging and occasionally contentious, but that consensus was reached on each case in the end.

Some European officials, who would like to see Guantanamo Bay closed without instituting indefinite detention, are advocating the creation of an internationally funded rehabilitation center for terrorism suspects in Yemen and possibly Afghanistan. They say such a facility would gradually allow the transfer of all detainees from those countries back to their homelands, according to two sources familiar with the plan.

A majority of the detainees slated for prolonged detention are either Yemeni or Afghan, and European officials think the others could eventually be resettled under close supervision.

European officials hope to raise the issue at an international conference in London next week that will address the situations in Yemen and Afghanistan.

"We are running out of options, and the administration needs to seriously consider this," said Sarah E. Mendelson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of a report on closing Guantanamo Bay. "There is lots of really good expertise on rehabilitation, and the administration needs to invest in it."

The Bush and Obama administrations considered helping Yemen formulate a rehabilitation program, but the idea foundered amid concerns about the Middle Eastern country's capacity to implement it, officials said.

Since Obama took office, 44 Guantanamo Bay detainees have been repatriated or resettled in third countries, including 11 in Europe.

The administration anticipates that about 20 detainees can be repatriated by this summer, and it has received firm commitments from countries willing to settle an additional 25 detainees who have been cleared for release, officials said.

Within a few days, sources said, four other detainees are slated to be transferred out.

Largest US health insurer's profits rise 30%

Largest US health insurer’s profits rise 30 percent

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As if to mock the Democrats' loss of Ted Kennedy's Senate seat and the subsequent and rapid unraveling of a healthcare bill that seemed determined to curb the excesses of the US health insurance industry, the largest US health insurer announced Thursday morning that its fourth quarter profits had climbed a whopping 30 percent.

UnitedHealth, the largest US health insurer by market capitalization, posted earnings of $944 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, up from $726 million in 2008.

The profit totals topped analyst estimates.

And, as if to add salt to the wound, an analyst for Goldman Sachs -- itself the target of post-bailout ire -- added that he thought the insurer's profits were "very solid" in a research note and said "they bode well for other managed care companies."

UnitedHealth Group's 4Q profit rises 30 percent

UnitedHealth Group's 4th-quarter profit climbs 30 percent on boost in premium revenue

TOM MURPHY
AP News

Jan 21, 2010 08:45 EST

Managed care company UnitedHealth Group said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit jumped 30 percent on higher premium revenue compared to the final quarter of 2008, when the insurer incurred a hefty legal settlement charge.

The Minnetonka, Minn., insurer earned $944 million, or 81 cents per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That's up from $726 million, or 60 cents per share, in the same period of 2008.

At the end of 2008, UnitedHealth incurred a charge of 18 cents per share to resolve a class-action lawsuit over out-of-network medical services. The insurer paid $350 million to settle litigation involving pricing databases operated by its Ingenix subsidiary.

For the final quarter of 2009, revenue rose 6.5 percent to $21.78 billion. A 6.2 percent jump in premium revenue to $19.7 billion accounted for most of that growth.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast a profit of 73 cents per share on $21.72 billion in revenue.

Goldman Sachs analyst Matthew Borsch called the insurer's results "very solid" in a research note and said they bode well for other managed care companies scheduled to report earnings. UnitedHealth is the largest commercial health insurer based on revenue and the first managed care company to report quarterly earnings. It is seen as a bellwether for the sector.

Leerink Swann analyst Jason Gurda called the performance a "modest positive."

"The company appears to have exceeded expectations based on a milder-than-originally-anticipated H1N1 flu season and continued strong growth in its Medicare and Medicaid business," Gurda said in a research note.

Enrollment in Medicare and Medicaid plans rose 12.5 percent to just under 7.4 million people.

But the company's higher-margin commercial business continued dropping during the quarter. It shed 6.5 percent to end at just over 24.6 million people. That segment consists mostly of employer-based and individual health plans.

UnitedHealth and other insurers have struggled with slumping commercial enrollment due to rising unemployment in the recession.

For the full year, profit rose to $3.82 billion, or $3.24 per share, from $2.98 billion, or $2.40 per share, in 2008. Revenue rose to $87.14 billion from $81.19 billion.

Looking ahead, the company reaffirmed its outlook for 2010 profit between $2.90 and $3.10. Analysts expect $3.06 in profit in 2010.

In premarket trading, shares of UnitedHealth changed hands at $34.94, up 39 cents from Wednesday's close.

Six Deadly Chemicals You're Carrying in Your Body

Six Deadly Chemicals You're Carrying in Your Body

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A recent biomonitoring study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, has revealed that out of 212 chemicals tested, all 212 were found to be in the blood and urine of most Americans. Six chemicals in particular, found in virtually every person, were identified by the CDC as probable health hazards.

Every two years the CDC conducts the chemical study which identifies human exposure to toxic chemicals. This year 75 new chemicals were added to the assay that had never before been studied in the U.S. population. Every chemical tested in the study, including the 75 new ones, was found to be present in most or all of the study participants.

The six most widespread chemicals identified, all of which are also highly dangerous, include polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDEs), bisphenol A (BPA), Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), acrylamide, mercury, and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE).

Flame retardant PDEs are chemicals added to all sorts consumer products that are meant to decrease fire risk. They are known to build up in human fat tissue, causing damage to the nervous system, liver and kidneys. Studies also implicate PDEs in causing sexual dysfunction, thyroid problems and brain disorders.

Bisphenol A, a chemical that has received much attention recently, is another toxin added primarily to plastic products and can linings that contributes to many of the same problems that PDEs do. More than 90 percent of those tested in the CDC study were found to have BPA in their bodies.

Perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical first developed by 3M and later used by DuPont, is used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant clothing, certain food packaging and other heat-resistant products. Studies verify that PFOA contributes to infertility and other reproductive problems. Liver and immune system dysfunction are also associated with the use of PFOAs.

Acrylamide is a chemical carcinogen that forms when carbohydrate foods are cooked at high temperatures. French fries, fried chicken, and even coffee are all examples of foods that have high acrylamide content. The chemical is also used in plastics, cosmetics and water treatment products. Perpetual exposure to acrylamides is responsible for causing cancer and neurological dysfunction.

Most people are aware of the dangers of mercury, another common toxin found in most Americans. Mercury can cause permanent brain damage.

Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is a gasoline additive that is not used today, however it has been detected in water supplies as well as in most Americans' bodies. Second-hand cigarette smoke also releases MTBE which caused neurological and reproductive problems.

The report indicates suggestions to help avoid these chemicals and the products that contain them. Cleansing and detoxification regimens are highly effective at continually ridding the body of toxic build-up.

Hiding War Horrors from Americans

Hiding War Horrors from Americans

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Editor’s Note: Propaganda is not just about lying, indeed outright falsehoods are a minor part. Effective propaganda is about highlighting favorable information and hiding the negative. And it’s especially effective if the work is done by a supposedly “free” media.

Legendary psy-warrior Edward Lansdale once said the trick of great propaganda was not to plant your information in what the public knew to be a controlled media – since their defenses would be up – but to use media that was perceived to be unbiased, so people’s skepticism would be low.

Never was that truer than when the United States went to war in Iraq in 2003 and the supposedly “objective” U.S. news media joined with the military in shielding the American people from the horrors of war, as this article notes:

U.S. television networks have given the public a sanitized, largely bloodless view of the war in Iraq, an academic authority on communications writes.

"The contrast between what Americans saw on the news and what European and pan-Arab audiences saw is striking. Foreign news bureaus showed far more blood and gore than American stations showed. The foreign media were delivering audiences the true face of the war," writes Michelle Pulaski, an assistant professor at Pace University, New York.

"BBC Television (British Broadcasting Co.) and American stations often covered the same stories but with stark contrasts," Pulaski wrote, using the example of a "friendly fire" episode on an Iraq battlefield. "Immediately following the event, BBC television broadcast live from the scene with a detailed report of the horror including the blood-stained road, mangled vehicles, and the number of casualties.

Several hours later CNN had very little to report on the event and only mentioned that a friendly fire incident had occurred, and there was no word on U.S. casualties. This example represents a trend of sanitized, relatively gore-free broadcasting that was seen throughout U.S. war coverage."

"The American people did not see the bodies of dead American soldiers, and few Iraqi casualties were aired," Pulaski added.

In an article in "The Long Term View," a publication of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, Pulaski said that CNN dominated broadcast TV coverage of the First Persian Gulf War, and that the current war coverage has been led by FOX News.

FOX News was the top-rated news network prior to the war and maintained lead as its viewership rose by 239 percent to 3.3 million viewers, Pulaski wrote.

Pulaski wrote the networks engaged in frequent "personalization and individualization" "to gain a wide audience" during their Operation Iraqi Freedom coverage. "Similar to guests on a talk show, biographies of soldiers were detailed along with shots of family farewells and reunions all in an effort to identify with the audience and of course in turn boost ratings."

What Pulaski refers to as the networks' "infotainment style of coverage" is characterized by "lack of anti-war commentary, sanitization of news and lack of reporter objectivity." She points out that Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), a media watchdog organization, reported that in the critical three weeks following March 20th, 2003, opponents of the Iraq War were greatly underrepresented on TV.

After monitoring ABC World News Tonight, Fox's Special Report with Brit Hume, and PBS's News Hour With Jim Lehrer, among others, FAIR found that only 10 percent of news sources interviewed were opposed to the war and that criticism of military planning was rare, Pulaski wrote.

Pulaski goes on to note the U.S. government "heavily censored" some 600 "embedded" reporters traveling with the military and that the reporters "were not allowed to go far from their units, thus possibly missing out on many noteworthy causes."

She noted that Norman Solomon, director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, has said embedded reporters "may as well be getting a P.R. retainer from the Pentagon."

Loss of objectivity could also be seen in the wave of patriotism that swept through media coverage, Pulaski wrote, including reporters with flags on their lapels and stars and stripes waving in the background.

MSNBC, she noted, displayed a wall of heroes entitled "America's Bravest" which contained photos of loved ones overseas sent by viewers. "This wave of patriotism, apparent after the September 11th attacks, led to a sanitized and biased version of the war coverage."

Pulaski warned, "It is up to the individual media consumer to be critical in gathering news information on the war from a variety of sources – ideally entertainment free sources."

She concluded, "After Operation Iraqi Freedom, there will be no going back to the days of war correspondence without the embedded reporter and the subsequent movie deals conflicts bring. TV viewers should have no worries; we will continue to be entertained."

The Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a non-profit law school purposefully dedicated to the education of students from minority, immigrant and low-income households who would otherwise not have the opportunity to obtain a legal education.

US Senate begins whitewash hearings on Northwest Flight 253 bomb plot

US Senate begins whitewash hearings on Northwest Flight 253 bomb plot

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The US Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday held initial hearings with top Obama administration intelligence officials into the attempt of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year old alleged Al Qaeda member from Nigeria, to detonate explosives aboard Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam as it neared landing in Detroit on December 25.

Despite their declared intent of “getting to the bottom” of the massive security failure that very nearly cost 300 lives, the senators of the Homeland Security Committee did not challenge the intelligence heads—Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCC), and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security—regarding the official version of the event.

The entire hearing was based on the supposition that the US intelligence apparatus was honestly unable to “connect the dots” between various pieces of information at its disposal. This is particularly unbelievable, given that each piece of information was itself sufficient to alert the US government that Abdulmutallab posed a threat.

The intelligence chiefs acknowledged that they had learned in November through an intercept in Yemen that a man named Umar Farouk had volunteered to carry out an Al Qaeda mission. The information was revealed in a recent New York Times report, which also showed that the US intelligence had established a date—Christmas Day—when an attack was likely to happen. (See: “More ‘missed clues’ in the Northwest Flight 253 bomb plot”)

Leiter acknowledged that “we had a partial name, Umar Farouk, [but] didn’t put that together” with the fact that Farouk’s father had given his son’s full name to CIA and US embassy officials in Nigeria, together with a warning that his son might be involved in Islamist terrorism.

Nor did the spy agencies “put that together” with other information that they have previously admitted having: that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula intended to attack the United States, that it had recruited a Nigerian for that purpose, and that Abdulmutallab had recently gone from Nigeria to Yemen to join an extremist organization.

The Senators did not pursue this damning admission, accepting at face value, once again, the spy agencies’ supposed difficulty in “information management.” Nor did they ask why the Obama administration had not previously acknowledged that they had the alleged bomber’s name.

Leiter also acknowledged that, as a result of incriminating information, Abdulmutallab was considered a “known or suspected terrorist” and thus had been placed on the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) list, but, inexplicably, not on a narrower list, the Terrorist Screening Database. Not being placed on that list, Abdulmutallab’s name was not forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security for increased airport screening (the “selectee list”) and to be placed on the “no-fly” list. Nor was the name sent to the State Department, which might have revoked his visa.

This stunning series of events has led to mounting behind-the-scenes tensions among the military, intelligence agencies and the State Department. The NCC and the State Department have traded barbs over who was responsible for not revoking Abdulmutallab’s visa. The Department of Homeland Security has implied that blame for the failure to put Abdulmutallab on the no-fly list rests with the non-domestic spy agencies. All of the aforementioned agencies have tacitly supported the Republican attack on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for reading Abdulmutallab his Miranda rights and placing him in the domestic justice system.

In another bizarre lapse, the US State Department only declared Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the organization that allegedly sent Abdulmutallab onto Flight 253, to be a terrorist group on Tuesday. This is despite the fact that AQAP has operated for over a year, and was held responsible for terrorist attacks on South Korean tourists in Yemen in March 2009, high-ranking Saudi Prince Muhammad bin Nayif in August, and Flight 253 last month. One might also expect that the name of the organization itself would raise suspicions among anti-terrorism officials.

The implication of this announcement, however, was that until January 19, 2010, US officials were not legally required to “implement an asset freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo” against AQAP. This only raises more questions as to what connections US agencies might have had with the attackers.

The senators avoided dealing with these issues in Wednesday’s hearings, devoting much of their time instead to demanding further restrictions on democratic rights.

Republicans criticized the Obama administration over Abdulmutallab being read his rights and given civilian trial. Senator John McCain called the decision to try Abdulmutallab in civilian courts “a terrible, terrible mistake,” and said Americans are endangered as a result.

The ranking Republican on the committee, Susan Collins, and Republican Senator John Ensign strongly implied that Abdulmutallab should have been tortured. Collins asked, “how can we uncover plots” if suspects are allowed to “lawyer up and stop answering questions?” Ensign argued that the declared reversion of CIA interrogators to the methods laid out in the Army Field Manual allows terrorists to “train” in advance of interrogations.

None of the intelligence chiefs present defended the administration’s decision to proceed in civilian courts. Blair, Napolitano, and Leiter told the committee that they were not consulted over Abdulmutallab’s questioning. Blair went so far as to contradict the administration’s decision, saying he should have been interrogated by the new High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. “That unit was created exactly for this purpose,” Blair said. “We did not invoke the HIG in this case. We should have.”

Democrats were more effusive than Republicans in their praise of the intelligence agencies, and joined with Republicans in demanding that the intelligence apparatus be given more resources and greater powers.

In the course of his testimony, Blair twice asserted that the cause of the security failure was too much “pressure” from those concerned about democratic rights who had protested the no-fly list. Too many people felt “hassled” by screening processes at airports, he said, raising questions like “Why are you searching grandmothers?” Blair concluded, “I should not have given in to that pressure.” The no-fly list has been considerably expanded since December 25, Blair reassured the senators.

These comments were warmly praised by Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic Independent who chairs the committee. Lieberman said that it was a mistake to treat alleged terrorists with a “legalistic” approach. “We’re at war with these people,” he declared.

The meeting might have been called pro forma, except that even forms were not well observed. Some senators did not bother to show up; others came late and left early. A promised “closed door” meeting with the intelligence chiefs after the meeting was suddenly scrapped, Lieberman citing time constraints.

The only serious question came from McCain, who demanded from Blair and Leiter to know if anyone had been held accountable for the evident security failures that allowed Abdulmutallab to board the flight. “Who has been held accountable?” McCain asked. “Has anybody been fired? Has anybody been transferred?” Blair and Leiter could not describe a single disciplinary action or consequence for what is purported to be, in the most innocent scenario, a massive security failure.