Saturday, July 31, 2010

When Killers Sue: Mocking Justice and their Victims

The Death Penalty should have been brought back and shame on England for not doing so.

This man should have been dead long ago.

Ian Huntley sues for £100,000: Soham killer claims compensation for being attacked in prison... and final bill to taxpayer could be £1m

By Paul Sims
The Daily Mail
31st July 2010

Soham murderer Ian Huntley should drop his claim for £100,000 compensation after he had his throat slashed by another inmate and be grateful the death penalty was no longer in force, a leading victims' campaigner said today.

Huntley has launched legal proceedings against the prison service for failing in their duty of care towards him after the attack in March this year.

The double child-murderer is almost certain to receive legal aid to fight his case, which could cost the taxpayer over £1million.

He is believed to be seeking £20,000 for his injuries and a further £60,000 in punitive damages as he believes the authorities should have done more to protect him.

Separately to suing the prison, he is expected to claim compensation – thought to be up to £15,000 – through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

Norman Brennan, the founder of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: 'If Huntley had the slightest remorse for the terrible murder of these two girls he would drop the case immediately and get on with serving his sentence, and just be thankful it's not pre-1967 when he may well have been sentenced to the hangman's noose.'

Mr Brennan, 51 and now retired from the police, said inmates convicted of such heinous crimes should forfeit their right to sue.

'Yet again, the true victims in this - the parents of Holly and Jessica - are reminded of their tragic loss as a result of an offender attempting to seek compensation.'

The prison service said today it was ‘vigorously defending’ the claim.

But there is a growing belief that Huntley – serving life for the murders of ten-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in 2002 – will be paid off.

Under the previous government, the then Justice Secretary Jack Straw said he had ‘absolutely no intention of paying Huntley compensation.'

But legal sources estimate that any potential court case could be hugely embarrassing to the authorities.

A source told the Mail: ‘They will try to settle this out of court if they can. They won’t want to fight this out in a public arena with the interest there is in Huntley.

‘For starters it will be incredibly costly to the public purse and a logistical nightmare. Worse still, having endured a public hearing, what happens if they lose? It would be far cheaper to simply pay him off.’

If successful, Huntley could receive a total of £95,000 – nearly ten times the amount paid out to the parents of the former school caretaker’s victims after the murders in Soham, Cambridgeshire.

The families received just £11,000 each from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority because the financial impact of the death of a child is not considered as serious as an injury to an adult.

Huntley was left scarred for life after the attack at high-security Frankland prison in Durham.

He was apparently ambushed by convicted robber Damien Fowkes, who is alleged to have slashed his throat with a razor blade melted into a toothbrush.

The blade missed Huntley’s jugular by only an inch and is believed to have left significant scarring.

Fowkes, 34, a crack addict serving life for a knifepoint robbery, is believed to have pretended to be suicidal in order to get closer to the hospital kitchens – where Huntley was working – in a bid to kill the Soham murderer.

Prison officers smashed their way in to the barricaded room after hearing Huntley’s screams and discovered the killer lying on the floor in a pool of blood.

Fowkes is said to have shouted: ‘He had it coming. I want everybody to know me as the guy who killed Ian Huntley.’

Huntley was immediately taken to hospital and after three hours was released for further treatment in the jail’s medical wing. He has suffered a string of serious assaults from other inmates since his conviction in 2003, despite spending much of his sentence in solitary confinement.

In one incident he was left with serious burns after boiling water was tipped over him.

In another he narrowly escaped being stabbed and was badly beaten. He will claim that because of his high-profile status in prison and previous attacks on him by other inmates he should have been better protected.

Mark Leach, editor of the Prisons Handbook, explained: ‘The court can impose these damages on the basis that this has happened to Huntley before and for whatever reason the prison service hasn’t learnt from it. It becomes punitive, not compensatory.’

Mr Leach said it would be harder for Huntley to succeed in his claim for compensation through the CICA because of a clause that enables them to withhold any pay-out on the basis of the applicant’s character and past crimes.

If Huntley is awarded damages, it is likely he will ask for it to be paid into his prison bank account. From that he will be allowed to draw an extra £50 a month on top of his prison wages to spend as he sees fit.

Huntley arrived at Frankland from Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire in 2008 after a suicide attempt and was immediately assigned a two-man guard whenever he ventured out of his cell.

Just a week before Fowkes’s attack, three prison officers there were stabbed by an inmate wielding a shard of glass and last night, campaigners compared their likely treatment to Huntley’s.

Colin Moses, president of the Prison Officers Association, said: ‘It’s regrettable when anyone is attacked in prison but let’s remember what our soldiers are receiving when they are injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

‘The prison officers attacked in Frankland a week before will have to fight tooth and nail for any sort of compensation, yet it will almost certainly be served up on a plate for Ian Huntley.’

Juliet Lyon, of the Prison Reform Trust, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'The duty of care that prison staff have is a difficult one, but it is to hold people safely and securely, regardless of what they have done.

'The issue of compensation is a much more complicated one, but the issue of safety and security is a bedrock one... If a court sentences someone to custody, they are not sentencing them to be attacked.

'We have to expect that our prisons are going to be safe, secure places.

'If that breaks down, if the staff aren't able to hold that line, it is then up to the individual to pursue any means they are able to.'

Ms Lyon said that notorious inmates often had to be kept separate from other prisoners for their own safety.

'With very high-profile cases, quite often people are held separately,' she said. 'They require a lot of extra supervision, with high numbers of staff if there is any locking or unlocking to be done.

'Undoubtedly, it's a very difficult thing to manage for staff working in an overcrowded system who get eight weeks' basic training. It's a very tall order.

'We have to look to ministers to be absolutely clear with the staff that they expect nothing less than a safe, secure system.'

Last night, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘Ian Huntley is bringing a claim against the Ministry of Justice following an assault by another prisoner.

'The claim is currently being vigorously defended.’


Nanny State 101: Kids on Morning After Pill

I am shocked I tell you, shocked.  NOT.

This is where you go when nothing is off limits and parents play little role, but to pay taxes.  The government takes over, the government is the nanny, and the nanny runs the family.

Shock rise in schools providing morning-after pill

By Anthony Bond
Thursday, 22 July, 2010
East Anglia Daily Times

THE number of schools in Suffolk which can offer the controversial morning-after pill to schoolgirls has dramatically increased in just a year, the EADT has learned.

Of the 33 secondary schools in the NHS Suffolk area, there are now 25 which can provide the emergency contraception to girls - without having to get permission or inform the student’s parents.

This is an increase from just nine in January 2009.

A Freedom of Information request by the EADT to NHS Suffolk also found that in 2009/10, there were 26 occasions when the morning-after pill was dispensed to schoolgirls.

Last night the Suffolk division of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said it was concerned that the family planning message was not getting across to Suffolk’s schoolchildren.

Graham White, secretary of the Suffolk division NUT, said he believed the morning-after pill was needed in some schools. He added: “I am disappointed that the number of schools providing the morning-after pill is as high as that.

“I do not think that the family planning message is getting across in Suffolk because of the fact that there are so many schools now with the morning-after pill. I think it may be that the warning is seen as irrelevant to some pupils and they do not like being given advice. You can only advise and if they choose to ignore it then the morning-after pill needs to be there. If you did not have it then you may start to get into issues with abortion.”

Nurses at schools which allow morning-after pills to be dispensed to schoolgirls are not allowed by law to inform or get permission from the student’s parents - even if the child is under 16.

However, if they feel the student is at risk of harm or being abused then they can report it to the school and social services.

NHS Suffolk would not say which schools provided the morning-after pill or dispensed it on the 26 occasions in 2009/10.

However, it was reported in January 2009 that nine schools in the county provided the emergency contraception. They were Great Cornard Upper School, Stowmarket High School, Orwell and Deben high schools in Felixstowe, East Bergholt High School, Leiston High School, Farlingaye High School in Woodbridge and Stoke Park and Chantry high schools in Ipswich.

Last night a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said schools provide sex and relationships education which teaches the importance of a loving and stable relationship, respect, love and care for family life.

The spokesman added: “Evidence from the National Teenage Pregnancy Strategy shows that the biggest impact on reducing teenage conception rates is the co-ordination of both good quality Sex and Relationship Education with access to good quality contraceptive and sexual health services for young people.”

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk added: “A school nursing service, provided by Suffolk Community Healthcare, the provider arm of NHS Suffolk, is available in all secondary schools within the NHS Suffolk area. School nurses may dispense Emergency Hormonal Contraceptives (EHC) where this is permitted by the school. Not all schools allow contraceptives to be dispensed on their premises; according to our information there are eight schools where EHC is not dispensed.”


Drain the Swamp

One of the major reasons why Democrats were given control of Congress in 2006 was because Nancy Pelosi and Barack H. Obama made a point of defining the Republicans as corrupt, out of control, and lacking a focus and direction.  They took congress and Pelosi and Barack H. Obama told the American people they would  drain the swamp and have the most ethical administration in memory (if not ever).

House panel charges Rangel with ethics misdeeds

July 22, 2010

WASHINGTON — A House investigative committee on Thursday charged New York Rep. Charles Rangel with multiple ethics violations, dealing a serious blow to the former Ways and Means chairman and complicating Democrats' election-year outlook.

The House ethics committee won't reveal the specific charges until next Thursday in a public meeting. However, sources familiar with the allegations, who were not authorized to discuss them publicly, said the charges against the 40-year Democrat were related to:

_Rangel's use of official stationery to raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.

_His use of four rent-subsidized apartment units in New York City. The city's rent stabilization program is supposed to apply to one's primary residence. One had been used as a campaign office, raising a separate question of whether the rent break was an improper gift.

_Rangel's failure to report income as required on his annual financial disclosure forms. The committee had investigated his failure to report income from the lawmaker's rental unit at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic. Rangel also belatedly disclosed hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment assets.

The charges by a four-member panel of the House ethics committee sends the case to a House trial. A separate panel of four Republicans and four Democrats will decide whether the violations can be proved by clear and convincing evidence.

Sanctions can range from a damaging committee report to censure by the House and even expulsion, a punishment reserved for only the most egregious violations.

The timing of the announcement ensures that a public airing of Rangel's ethical woes will stretch into the fall campaign, and Republicans are certain to make it an issue as they try to capture majority control of the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had once promised to "drain the swamp" of ethical misdeeds by lawmakers in arguing that Democrats should be in charge.

Rangel, who is tied for fourth in House seniority, told reporters that he believes the allegations have no substance and said, "I look forward to airing this thing."

"If you ask me how I feel about it, I feel extraordinarily good that my supporters over 40 years will be able to evaluate what they have come up with and I don't have any fear at all politically or personally what they come up with," he said.

In a written statement, Rangel said, "I am pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media."

Rangel was in negotiations to settle the case, said one person who was familiar with the talks but was not authorized to be quoted by name. The talks broke down when Rangel only agreed to accept some of the alleged violations, and that didn't satisfy the ethics committee, the person said.

His trial could begin around the time of his mid-September primary. While Rangel is a legend in New York's Harlem, elected 20 times, other Democrats are in close races and not looking forward to defending their party's ethical conduct.

Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said, "The action today would indicate that the independent, bipartisan ethics committee process is moving forward."

Republicans immediately seized on the case. House GOP leader John Boehner said the charges were "a sad reminder of Speaker Pelosi's most glaring broken promise: to drain the swamp in Washington."

Rangel led the tax-writing Ways and Means panel until he stepped aside last March after the ethics committee criticized him in a separate case — finding that he should have known corporate money was paying for his trips to two Caribbean conferences.

Officials said that in the current case, the committee and Rangel's attorney tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a settlement. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions. A settlement would have required Rangel to agree that he violated ethics rules.

Rangel had hoped to regain his chairmanship, but the allegations make that virtually impossible this year.

He recently announced a bid for a 21st term, days before his 80th birthday. One of his Sept. 14 primary opponents is Adam Clayton Powell IV, son of the congressman whom Rangel defeated in 1970.

While the case will generate unfavorable headlines for Rangel, it may have little effect in his congressional district, where he has been a Harlem political leader for decades and is known by older constituents as a Korean War hero.

"He keeps ethics on Page 1 and Democrats, going into a tough election cycle, aren't eager to carry any liabilities beyond what they have," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College poll.

"But I think it has less to do — barring any major undoing of his legislative career — with his seat," Miringoff said.


Currency Tax: You Can Help, Tell Your Representative NO.

What is more than a little scary is we oblige these people.  Do you believe that the Communist government of 1919 informed the Russian people it wanted to control every aspect of their lives and possess everything leaving them with nothing and no hope.  Do you believe when the Khmer Rouge were actively engaged in a struggle for control of Cambodia that they made it clear they were murderers and thugs who wanted to kill 2 million Cambodians and destroy everything they touched.  Do you believe that Mao promised to kill over 80 million people if given the chance, control the lives of all people, take away the freedom and liberty anyone had or thought they had, or ever would have?  No one starts off as a murdering psychopath.  No one starts off with the intention to destroy everything their culture / society hold sacred.  Even the French didn't intend on their revolution turning into the bloodbath it became for over three years.  It always starts off small, to cleanse, clean, eradicate the bad, fix the wrongs, solve the problems, save the masses, help the poor.

Pete Stark is using all the right code words - to help the poor, the homeless, global warming, AIDS,  child and medical care.   I was waiting for 'world peace' and an end to crime, but I suppose that would be even too much for Stark.  It would be a start though.

Currency tax: A way to invest in our future

By Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.)
The Hill

Each day, $4 trillion dollars of currency are traded. For international businesses and travelers, trading dollars for other currencies serve a legitimate purpose. However, nearly 80 percent of these transactions are undertaken by a handful of major banks. Experts agree that most of these transactions are made for purely speculative purposes.

Wealthy traders and big financial institutions make huge bets on the fluctuations in currency value, and they can make massive profits if their bets are correct. This type of speculation helped to worsen the recent financial crisis and serves no purpose other than to make a few people and institutions even richer.

Today, I introduced H.R. 5783, the Investing in Our Future Act. My legislation would simply impose a small tax — of 0.005 percent — on these currency transactions. The money raised would be put toward investments in children, global health and climate change mitigation.

For the average person or business, this small tax will hardly be noticed. But, due to the extreme speculation that takes place, it would raise significant funds. Studies estimate a worldwide 0.005 percent tax on dollar transactions would raise $28 billion a year and reduce currency speculation by 14 percent.

Here at home, the funds from this fee would be used to improve the quality and affordability of child care. This funding would provide more child care options, so working families can obtain the quality care their children need to begin school ready to learn.

Internationally, the bill would create a U.S. fund to assist developing countries with the impacts of global warming. At the United Nations Climate Change Conference in December, President Obama pledged to fund our country's commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change. This bill would make that promise real.

Finally, the legislation would create a Global Health Trust Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and other diseases that kill millions of people each year in developing nations. This money will fund treatments and prevention for these diseases, as well as research aimed at eradicating them altogether.

For too long, the needs of the financial industry have trumped initiatives that will help lift people out of poverty and give children a healthy start. The Investing in Our Future Act will aid in getting our priorities back in order, and reduce financial speculation by Wall Street.

You can help — please call your Member of Congress and tell them to sign on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 5783. Find your member at

liberals and your freedom

Global Warming: Maybe Cooler Warming

Of course, one summer does not a change make, nor does it indicate anything by itself.  Yet that is what Global Warming Alarmists do - they begin their inspection of the worlds temperatures at a given time, with little understanding that before X, there were millions of years of temperatures and potentially hundreds of periods of warming and cooling.  Yet they choose the years they do because, well, that is all they can do, and then they graph.

Statistics can prove both sides.  Obama can show numbers to prove how bad things were under Reagan, while supporters of Reagan can show statistics that prove he cuts costs, lowered the deficits and debts, and made government smaller.  So who is right?  Both sides have a point, but based upon the fact both sides have a point and neither is conclusively correct - why spend trillions of dollars and rearrange our entire Western Civilization because YOU FEEL something.

[I did write up 3 paragraphs about world temps and the changes from summer winter and the averages, but google decided not to save it and I do not have the time to re-write.]

Cool summer: L.A. sets more low-temperature records

July 29, 2010

The unusually cool summer continued in Southern California, where several new record-low temperatures were recorded on Wednesday.

The 68-degree low at Los Angeles International Airport broke the old record low for the day, which was 70 degrees in 1991. Santa Barbara (68) and San Luis Obispo (69) broke records as well.

The temperature at USC, 75, tied the record low set in 1999. UCLA also set a record, 56 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

While the region saw a heat wave a few weeks ago, temperatures have been gradually going down again as July comes to an end.

June was also marked by gloomy conditions and lower-than-normal temperatures.


A Second American Revolution?

IBD Editorials

Will Washington's Failures Lead To Second American Revolution?


The Internet is a large-scale version of the "Committees of Correspondence" that led to the first American Revolution — and with Washington's failings now so obvious and awful, it may lead to another.

People are asking, "Is the government doing us more harm than good? Should we change what it does and the way it does it?"

Pruning the power of government begins with the imperial presidency.

Too many overreaching laws give the president too much discretion to make too many open-ended rules controlling too many aspects of our lives. There's no end to the harm an out-of-control president can do.

Bill Clinton lowered the culture, moral tone and strength of the nation — and left America vulnerable to attack. When it came, George W. Bush stood up for America, albeit sometimes clumsily.

Barack Obama, however, has pulled off the ultimate switcheroo: He's diminishing America from within — so far, successfully.

He may soon bankrupt us and replace our big merit-based capitalist economy with a small government-directed one of his own design.

He is undermining our constitutional traditions: The rule of law and our Anglo-Saxon concepts of private property hang in the balance. Obama may be the most "consequential" president ever.

The Wall Street Journal's steadfast Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote that Barack Obama is "an alien in the White House."

His bullying and offenses against the economy and job creation are so outrageous that CEOs in the Business Roundtable finally mustered the courage to call him "anti-business." Veteran Democrat Sen. Max Baucus blurted out that Obama is engineering the biggest government-forced "redistribution of income" in history.

Fear and uncertainty stalk the land. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says America's financial future is "unusually uncertain."

A Wall Street "fear gauge" based on predicted market volatility is flashing long-term panic. New data on the federal budget confirm that record-setting deficits in the $1.4 trillion range are now endemic.

Obama is building an imperium of public debt and crushing taxes, contrary to George Washington's wise farewell admonition: "cherish public credit ... use it as sparingly as possible ... avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt ... bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue, that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not ... inconvenient and unpleasant ... ."

Opinion polls suggest that in the November mid-term elections, voters will replace the present Democratic majority in Congress with opposition Republicans — but that will not necessarily stop Obama.

A President Obama intent on achieving his transformative goals despite the disagreement of the American people has powerful weapons within reach. In one hand, he will have a veto pen to stop a new Republican Congress from repealing ObamaCare and the Dodd-Frank takeover of banks.

In the other, he will have a fistful of executive orders, regulations and Obama-made fiats that have the force of law.

Under ObamaCare, he can issue new rules and regulations so insidiously powerful in their effect that higher-priced, lower-quality and rationed health care will quickly become ingrained, leaving a permanent stain.

Under Dodd-Frank, he and his agents will control all credit and financial transactions, rewarding friends and punishing opponents, discriminating on the basis of race, gender and political affiliation. Credit and liquidity may be choked by bureaucracy and politics — and the economy will suffer.

He and the EPA may try to impose by "regulatory" fiats many parts of the cap-and-trade and other climate legislation that failed in the Congress.

And by executive orders and the in terrorem effect of an industrywide "boot on the neck" policy, he can continue to diminish energy production in the United States.

By the trick of letting current-law tax rates "expire," he can impose a $3.5 trillion 10-year tax increase that damages job-creating capital investment in an economy struggling to recover. And by failing to enforce the law and leaving America's borders open, he can continue to repopulate America with unfortunate illegals whose skill and education levels are low and whose political attitudes are often not congenial to American-style democracy.

A wounded rampaging president can do much damage — and, like Caesar, the evil he does will live long after he leaves office, whenever that may be.

The overgrown, un-pruned power of the presidency to reward, punish and intimidate may now be so overwhelming that his re-election in 2012 is already assured — Chicago-style.

obama to the hilt

Gaza: Under Seige, Prison Camp, Suffering the Indignity of .......

July 28, 2010 Special Dispatch No.3126 
Other sources:

Egyptian Journalist: In Actual Terms, Gaza Is Not Under Siege

Resort in Gaza., July 21, 2010

In an article in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram on the economic situation in the Gaza Strip, journalist Ashraf Abu Al-Houl wrote about the burgeoning recreation industry and of the low merchandise prices.

Also as part of the interest in the economic situation in Gaza, the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida published articles describing the expensive resorts that have been established for Gaza's newly rich, and a Palestinian website reported on the new mall recently opened in the city.

The following are excerpts from the articles:

Stores Overflow with Goods

Journalist Ashraf Abu Al-Houl wrote in Al-Ahram: "I was last in Gaza in mid-February. Returning three weeks ago, I found it almost unrecognizable... and the greatest surprise was the nature of that change. I would have expected a change for the worse, considering the blockade – but the opposite was the case; it seemed as if it had emerged from the blockade.

"A sense of absolute prosperity prevails, as manifested by the grand resorts along and near Gaza's coast. Further, the sight of the merchandise and luxuries filling the Gaza shops amazed me. Merchandise is sold more cheaply than in Egypt, although most of it is from the Egyptian market, and there are added shipping costs and costs for smuggling it via the tunnels – so that it could be expected to be more expensive.

"Before I judge by appearances, which can be misleading... [I would like to point out that] I toured the new resorts, most of which are quite grand, as well as the commercial markets, to verify my hypothesis. The resorts and markets have come to symbolize prosperity, and prove that the siege is formal or political, not economic. The reality [in Gaza] proves that the siege was broken even before Israel's crime against the ships of the Freedom Flotilla in late May; everything already was coming into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. If this weren't the case, businessmen would not have been able to build so many resorts in under four months."

Significantly Lower Prices

"[I] began my search for the truth regarding the siege in Rafah, at the Saturday market, which was loaded with large quantities of merchandise and products of various kinds – at prices mostly lower than in Egypt, particularly for food products. Nevertheless, there weren't many customers, and this for two reasons: One, supply is much greater than demand, and two, the workers were all waiting to get paid their wages.

"Business owner Abu Yousuf stood at his shop surrounded by hundreds of cans of food. Their price had dropped significantly in the past two months; in some cases by as much as 50%. Clothing vendor Abu Muhammad Al-Masri noted that there was an unprecedented glut on the clothing market in the Gaza Strip. Clothing comes into Gaza from two sources: the tunnels, which provide large quantities, and the border crossings to Israel, via which even more goods arrive, most of which piled up at Ashdod port [and are now coming into the Strip]. He clarified that the merchants wanted to sell [lots of] goods to get back some of their money... and so had increased the supply in the markets, leading to lower prices.

"During my tour of the Rafah and Khan Younis markets, I noticed that the merchants were drastically marking down their merchandise, so as to get rid of goods smuggled in through the tunnels, and to prevent heavy losses... after Israel has decided to allow in Israeli and imported goods, as part of Israeli government measures to ease the blockade following the Freedom Flotilla massacre.

"Despite the drop in price due to the plethora of goods in the Gaza markets, the residents sense that even lower prices are on the way, due to the easing of the Israeli blockade. The consumers are carefully watching prices, [particularly for] smuggled electrical appliances and cars, and refrain from buying, expecting that merchandise will arrive via the border crossings [leading to a further drop in prices].

"A Gaza car showroom salesman said that he hoped to sell off his inventory and that he was not bringing in any new vehicles for fear of heavy losses, because Israel had decided to allow vehicles into Gaza for the first time since 2006. Anyone walking in the Gaza streets will see hundreds, if not thousands, of cars that entered Gaza from Egypt via the tunnels, and some of them are stolen. At the home and kitchen appliance dealers, there is a tempting array of all kinds of smuggled goods that sellers want to get rid of, due to the ongoing information about new products that Israel has decided to allow into to the city... "

Resorts for the Nouveau Riche

"The Gaza resorts paint a picture of prosperity enjoyed by only a few groups, most of which have become rich from the blockade, because they either own tunnels or else work for the many international organizations in Gaza, headed by UNRWA.

"The Gaza resorts are divided into several [categories], each of which has its own price range. This is not like it used to be, when all the tables on the beach were for the use of all the residents... I noticed that most of the resorts set a certain price for the tables near the sea, and a different price for tables farther away. This is in addition to high fees to enter the resort – no less than NIS 20 – and each activity within the [grounds] has its own fee. In short, a family visit, with a sandwich for each child, can cost up to NIS 500.

"Several months ago, Gaza had only one luxury resort, Zahrat Al-Madain. Today, another one opens up every day, such as Crazy Water, Aqua Park, and Al-Bustan. Most of them are owned by members, or associates, of Hamas. In addition, the Hamas municipalities [also] charge high fees, in Gaza terms, for the use of public beaches."

"'Aed Yaghi, senior official of the Al-Mubadara Al-Wataniyya party, which is headed by Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Al-Barghouti, said, 'These resorts make you wonder. It is logical to invest when times are good – but when Gaza is suffering under siege and there is a possibility of renewed aggression [by Israel], no one knows what profitability there is in building resorts.'

"Walid Al-'Awwad, a member of the Palestinian People's Party political bureau, said, 'In the past two years, money-laundering has flourished in Gaza, as reflected by the construction of numerous resorts – all of which belong to influential individuals who participate in trafficking via the tunnels. Compared to the tunnel owners' increasing wealth, the [status] of the [established] wealthy families has waned... The spread of the grand resorts reflects the emergence of a bourgeoisie. Some of the fluidity in the Gaza market stems from the activity of clandestine elements – distributors of drugs, arms, and tunnel merchandise.'

"Human rights activist and political correspondent Mustafa Ibrahim said, 'Building resorts in the north [of the Strip] is contrary to the most fundamental principles of investment, because they are in regions exposed to shelling and destruction, due to the unceasing Israeli threats. Thus, veteran investors don't dare invest in this area. The elements behind the investment [in the north], who are sometimes hasty, rely on profits from trafficking via the tunnels for funding... This huge investment in the leisure industry is taking place today in Gaza at a time when 80% of the residents depend on aid from UNRWA and other organizations, and unemployment is at 45%. This creates a distorted picture, particularly when merchandise is piling up in the shops in a way that does not reflect the economic situation. Perhaps the current government created this distorted situation in order to show that it had succeeded in breaking the siege..." [1]

The Al-Bustan Resort and Bisan Tourism City

The PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida stated: "The Al-Bustan resort, on the coast, belongs to an Islamic association linked to Hamas. It offers a cafeteria, a restaurant, and fish ponds; it gets 1,000 visitors a day, and about 2,000 during the weekend, says manager Ahmad Qadoura. A Gaza resident whose home was destroyed in the Gaza war, Abu Kamal Al-Awajeh, expressed his resentment over the resorts' high entry fee of NIS 35... He says, 'priority should be given to rehabilitating Gaza and building housing for those whose homes were destroyed by the occupation in the war.' Nearby, the Wa'ed prisoners' association, which is close to Hamas, has built the Al-Hurriya ["Freedom"] Resort.

"In May, Bisan Tourism City was established in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip. Previously a garbage dump, the 270-dunam [site], which belongs to the Hamas government, provides a leisure and vacation [destination] for Gaza residents... It cost $1.5 million, under the oversight of Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad. The city includes an 86-dunam park and a small zoo, and two Olympic-size swimming pools for children and adults. According to its administration, on weekends it hosts some 6,000 visitors... The administration bans hookah smoking and card games, and three religious conventions are held there every week."[2]

Mall Opens in Gaza

The Palestinian website Firas Press reported: "This week, Gaza's first mall opened. The inaugural ceremony was attended by Hamas ministers and officials, along with merchants and investors. Hamas Welfare Minister Ahmad Al-Kurd said, "The mall will participate in meeting the basic needs of the population, against the backdrop of the siege, with merchants bringing in [goods] via the border crossings and the tunnels."[3]


[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), July 18, 2010

[2] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), July 22, 2010

[3], July 21, 2010


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Secrets, Secrets, Secrets: Who Guards the Secrets

A hidden world, growing beyond control

Monday, July 19, 2010
Washington Post

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

The investigation's other findings include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space.

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year - a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

These are not academic issues; lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead, as well as the Christmas Day bomb attempt thwarted not by the thousands of analysts employed to find lone terrorists but by an alert airline passenger who saw smoke coming from his seatmate.

They are also issues that greatly concern some of the people in charge of the nation's security.

"There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that - not just for the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defense - is a challenge," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview with The Post last week.

In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials - called Super Users - have the ability to even know about all the department's activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation's most sensitive work.

"I'm not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything" was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn't take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ''Stop!" in frustration.

"I wasn't remembering any of it," he said.

Underscoring the seriousness of these issues are the conclusions of retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who was asked last year to review the method for tracking the Defense Department's most sensitive programs. Vines, who once commanded 145,000 troops in Iraq and is familiar with complex problems, was stunned by what he discovered.

"I'm not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities," he said in an interview. "The complexity of this system defies description."

The result, he added, is that it's impossible to tell whether the country is safer because of all this spending and all these activities. "Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste," Vines said. "We consequently can't effectively assess whether it is making us more safe."

The Post's investigation is based on government documents and contracts, job descriptions, property records, corporate and social networking Web sites, additional records, and hundreds of interviews with intelligence, military and corporate officials and former officials. Most requested anonymity either because they are prohibited from speaking publicly or because, they said, they feared retaliation at work for describing their concerns.

The Post's online database of government organizations and private companies was built entirely on public records. The investigation focused on top-secret work because the amount classified at the secret level is too large to accurately track.

Today's article describes the government's role in this expanding enterprise. Tuesday's article describes the government's dependence on private contractors. Wednesday's is a portrait of one Top Secret America community. On the Web, an extensive, searchable database built by The Post about Top Secret America is available at

Defense Secretary Gates, in his interview with The Post, said that he does not believe the system has become too big to manage but that getting precise data is sometimes difficult. Singling out the growth of intelligence units in the Defense Department, he said he intends to review those programs for waste. "Nine years after 9/11, it makes a lot of sense to sort of take a look at this and say, 'Okay, we've built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we need?' " he said.

CIA Director Leon Panetta, who was also interviewed by The Post last week, said he's begun mapping out a five-year plan for his agency because the levels of spending since 9/11 are not sustainable. "Particularly with these deficits, we're going to hit the wall. I want to be prepared for that," he said. "Frankly, I think everyone in intelligence ought to be doing that."

In an interview before he resigned as the director of national intelligence in May, retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair said he did not believe there was overlap and redundancy in the intelligence world. "Much of what appears to be redundancy is, in fact, providing tailored intelligence for many different customers," he said.

Blair also expressed confidence that subordinates told him what he needed to know. "I have visibility on all the important intelligence programs across the community, and there are processes in place to ensure the different intelligence capabilities are working together where they need to," he said.

Weeks later, as he sat in the corner of a ballroom at the Willard Hotel waiting to give a speech, he mused about The Post's findings. "After 9/11, when we decided to attack violent extremism, we did as we so often do in this country," he said. "The attitude was, if it's worth doing, it's probably worth overdoing."

Outside a gated subdivision of mansions in McLean, a line of cars idles every weekday morning as a new day in Top Secret America gets underway. The drivers wait patiently to turn left, then crawl up a hill and around a bend to a destination that is not on any public map and not announced by any street sign.

Liberty Crossing tries hard to hide from view. But in the winter, leafless trees can't conceal a mountain of cement and windows the size of five Wal-Mart stores stacked on top of one another rising behind a grassy berm. One step too close without the right badge, and men in black jump out of nowhere, guns at the ready.

Past the armed guards and the hydraulic steel barriers, at least 1,700 federal employees and 1,200 private contractors work at Liberty Crossing, the nickname for the two headquarters of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its National Counterterrorism Center. The two share a police force, a canine unit and thousands of parking spaces.

Liberty Crossing is at the center of the collection of U.S. government agencies and corporate contractors that mushroomed after the 2001 attacks. But it is not nearly the biggest, the most costly or even the most secretive part of the 9/11 enterprise.

In an Arlington County office building, the lobby directory doesn't include the Air Force's mysteriously named XOIWS unit, but there's a big "Welcome!" sign in the hallway greeting visitors who know to step off the elevator on the third floor. In Elkridge, Md., a clandestine program hides in a tall concrete structure fitted with false windows to look like a normal office building. In Arnold, Mo., the location is across the street from a Target and a Home Depot. In St. Petersburg, Fla., it's in a modest brick bungalow in a run-down business park.

Each day at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, workers review at least 5,000 pieces of terrorist-related data from intelligence agencies and keep an eye on world events.

Every day across the United States, 854,000 civil servants, military personnel and private contractors with top-secret security clearances are scanned into offices protected by electromagnetic locks, retinal cameras and fortified walls that eavesdropping equipment cannot penetrate.

This is not exactly President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex," which emerged with the Cold War and centered on building nuclear weapons to deter the Soviet Union. This is a national security enterprise with a more amorphous mission: defeating transnational violent extremists.

Much of the information about this mission is classified. That is the reason it is so difficult to gauge the success and identify the problems of Top Secret America, including whether money is being spent wisely. The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 21/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn't include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs.

At least 20 percent of the government organizations that exist to fend off terrorist threats were established or refashioned in the wake of 9/11. Many that existed before the attacks grew to historic proportions as the Bush administration and Congress gave agencies more money than they were capable of responsibly spending.

The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, for example, has gone from 7,500 employees in 2002 to 16,500 today. The budget of the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, doubled. Thirty-five FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces became 106. It was phenomenal growth that began almost as soon as the Sept. 11 attacks ended.

Nine days after the attacks, Congress committed $40 billion beyond what was in the federal budget to fortify domestic defenses and to launch a global offensive against al-Qaeda. It followed that up with an additional $36.5 billion in 2002 and $44 billion in 2003. That was only a beginning.

With the quick infusion of money, military and intelligence agencies multiplied. Twenty-four organizations were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11. Each has required more people, and those people have required more administrative and logistic support: phone operators, secretaries, librarians, architects, carpenters, construction workers, air-conditioning mechanics and, because of where they work, even janitors with top-secret clearances.

With so many more employees, units and organizations, the lines of responsibility began to blur. To remedy this, at the recommendation of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, the George W. Bush administration and Congress decided to create an agency in 2004 with overarching responsibilities called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to bring the colossal effort under control.

While that was the idea, Washington has its own ways.

The first problem was that the law passed by Congress did not give the director clear legal or budgetary authority over intelligence matters, which meant he wouldn't have power over the individual agencies he was supposed to control.

The second problem: Even before the first director, Ambassador John D. Negroponte, was on the job, the turf battles began. The Defense Department shifted billions of dollars out of one budget and into another so that the ODNI could not touch it, according to two senior officials who watched the process. The CIA reclassified some of its most sensitive information at a higher level so the National Counterterrorism Center staff, part of the ODNI, would not be allowed to see it, said former intelligence officers involved.

And then came a problem that continues to this day, which has to do with the ODNI's rapid expansion.

When it opened in the spring of 2005, Negroponte's office was all of 11 people stuffed into a secure vault with closet-size rooms a block from the White House. A year later, the budding agency moved to two floors of another building. In April 2008, it moved into its huge permanent home, Liberty Crossing.

Today, many officials who work in the intelligence agencies say they remain unclear about what the ODNI is in charge of. To be sure, the ODNI has made some progress, especially in intelligence-sharing, information technology and budget reform. The DNI and his managers hold interagency meetings every day to promote collaboration. The last director, Blair, doggedly pursued such nitty-gritty issues as procurement reform, compatible computer networks, tradecraft standards and collegiality.

But improvements have been overtaken by volume at the ODNI, as the increased flow of intelligence data overwhelms the system's ability to analyze and use it. Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases. The same problem bedevils every other intelligence agency, none of which have enough analysts and translators for all this work.

The practical effect of this unwieldiness is visible, on a much smaller scale, in the office of Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Leiter spends much of his day flipping among four computer monitors lined up on his desk. Six hard drives sit at his feet. The data flow is enormous, with dozens of databases feeding separate computer networks that cannot interact with one another.

There is a long explanation for why these databases are still not connected, and it amounts to this: It's too hard, and some agency heads don't really want to give up the systems they have. But there's some progress: "All my e-mail on one computer now," Leiter says. "That's a big deal."

To get another view of how sprawling Top Secret America has become, just head west on the toll road toward Dulles International Airport.

As a Michaels craft store and a Books-A-Million give way to the military intelligence giants Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, find the off-ramp and turn left. Those two shimmering-blue five-story ice cubes belong to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which analyzes images and mapping data of the Earth's geography. A small sign obscured by a boxwood hedge says so.

Across the street, in the chocolate-brown blocks, is Carahsoft, an intelligence agency contractor specializing in mapping, speech analysis and data harvesting. Nearby is the government's Underground Facility Analysis Center. It identifies overseas underground command centers associated with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups, and advises the military on how to destroy them.

Clusters of top-secret work exist throughout the country, but the Washington region is the capital of Top Secret America.

About half of the post-9/11 enterprise is anchored in an arc stretching from Leesburg south to Quantico, back north through Washington and curving northeast to Linthicum, just north of the Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport. Many buildings sit within off-limits government compounds or military bases.

Others occupy business parks or are intermingled with neighborhoods, schools and shopping centers and go unnoticed by most people who live or play nearby.

Many of the newest buildings are not just utilitarian offices but also edifices "on the order of the pyramids," in the words of one senior military intelligence officer.

Not far from the Dulles Toll Road, the CIA has expanded into two buildings that will increase the agency's office space by one-third. To the south, Springfield is becoming home to the new $1.8 billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters, which will be the fourth-largest federal building in the area and home to 8,500 employees. Economic stimulus money is paying hundreds of millions of dollars for this kind of federal construction across the region.

It's not only the number of buildings that suggests the size and cost of this expansion, it's also what is inside: banks of television monitors. "Escort-required" badges. X-ray machines and lockers to store cellphones and pagers. Keypad door locks that open special rooms encased in metal or permanent dry wall, impenetrable to eavesdropping tools and protected by alarms and a security force capable of responding within 15 minutes. Every one of these buildings has at least one of these rooms, known as a SCIF, for sensitive compartmented information facility. Some are as small as a closet; others are four times the size of a football field.

SCIF size has become a measure of status in Top Secret America, or at least in the Washington region of it. "In D.C., everyone talks SCIF, SCIF, SCIF," said Bruce Paquin, who moved to Florida from the Washington region several years ago to start a SCIF construction business. "They've got the penis envy thing going. You can't be a big boy unless you're a three-letter agency and you have a big SCIF."

SCIFs are not the only must-have items people pay attention to. Command centers, internal television networks, video walls, armored SUVs and personal security guards have also become the bling of national security.

"You can't find a four-star general without a security detail," said one three-star general now posted in Washington after years abroad. "Fear has caused everyone to have stuff. Then comes, 'If he has one, then I have to have one.' It's become a status symbol."

Among the most important people inside the SCIFs are the low-paid employees carrying their lunches to work to save money. They are the analysts, the 20- and 30-year-olds making $41,000 to $65,000 a year, whose job is at the core of everything Top Secret America tries to do.

At its best, analysis melds cultural understanding with snippets of conversations, coded dialogue, anonymous tips, even scraps of trash, turning them into clues that lead to individuals and groups trying to harm the United States.

Their work is greatly enhanced by computers that sort through and categorize data. But in the end, analysis requires human judgment, and half the analysts are relatively inexperienced, having been hired in the past several years, said a senior ODNI official. Contract analysts are often straight out of college and trained at corporate headquarters.

When hired, a typical analyst knows very little about the priority countries - Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - and is not fluent in their languages. Still, the number of intelligence reports they produce on these key countries is overwhelming, say current and former intelligence officials who try to cull them every day. The ODNI doesn't know exactly how many reports are issued each year, but in the process of trying to find out, the chief of analysis discovered 60 classified analytic Web sites still in operation that were supposed to have been closed down for lack of usefulness. "Like a zombie, it keeps on living" is how one official describes the sites.

The problem with many intelligence reports, say officers who read them, is that they simply re-slice the same facts already in circulation. "It's the soccer ball syndrome. Something happens, and they want to rush to cover it," said Richard H. Immerman, who was the ODNI's assistant deputy director of national intelligence for analytic integrity and standards until early 2009. "I saw tremendous overlap."

Even the analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is supposed to be where the most sensitive, most difficult-to-obtain nuggets of information are fused together, get low marks from intelligence officials for not producing reports that are original, or at least better than the reports already written by the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency or Defense Intelligence Agency.

When Maj. Gen. John M. Custer was the director of intelligence at U.S. Central Command, he grew angry at how little helpful information came out of the NCTC. In 2007, he visited its director at the time, retired Vice Adm. John Scott Redd, to tell him so. "I told him that after 41/2 years, this organization had never produced one shred of information that helped me prosecute three wars!" he said loudly, leaning over the table during an interview.

Two years later, Custer, now head of the Army's intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., still gets red-faced recalling that day, which reminds him of his frustration with Washington's bureaucracy. "Who has the mission of reducing redundancy and ensuring everybody doesn't gravitate to the lowest-hanging fruit?" he said. "Who orchestrates what is produced so that everybody doesn't produce the same thing?"

He's hardly the only one irritated. In a secure office in Washington, a senior intelligence officer was dealing with his own frustration. Seated at his computer, he began scrolling through some of the classified information he is expected to read every day: CIA World Intelligence Review, WIRe-CIA, Spot Intelligence Report, Daily Intelligence Summary, Weekly Intelligence Forecast, Weekly Warning Forecast, IC Terrorist Threat Assessments, NCTC Terrorism Dispatch, NCTC Spotlight . . .

It's too much, he complained. The inbox on his desk was full, too. He threw up his arms, picked up a thick, glossy intelligence report and waved it around, yelling.

"Jesus! Why does it take so long to produce?"

"Why does it have to be so bulky?"

"Why isn't it online?"

The overload of hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annual reports is actually counterproductive, say people who receive them. Some policymakers and senior officials don't dare delve into the backup clogging their computers. They rely instead on personal briefers, and those briefers usually rely on their own agency's analysis, re-creating the very problem identified as a main cause of the failure to thwart the attacks: a lack of information-sharing.

A new Defense Department office complex goes up in Alexandria. (Photo by: Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post)

The ODNI's analysis office knows this is a problem. Yet its solution was another publication, this one a daily online newspaper, Intelligence Today. Every day, a staff of 22 culls more than two dozen agencies' reports and 63 Web sites, selects the best information and packages it by originality, topic and region.

Analysis is not the only area where serious overlap appears to be gumming up the national security machinery and blurring the lines of responsibility.

Within the Defense Department alone, 18 commands and agencies conduct information operations, which aspire to manage foreign audiences’ perceptions of U.S. policy and military activities overseas.

And all the major intelligence agencies and at least two major military commands claim a major role in cyber-warfare, the newest and least-defined frontier.

"Frankly, it hasn't been brought together in a unified approach," CIA Director Panetta said of the many agencies now involved in cyber-warfare.

"Cyber is tremendously difficult" to coordinate, said Benjamin A. Powell, who served as general counsel for three directors of national intelligence until he left the government last year. "Sometimes there was an unfortunate attitude of bring your knives, your guns, your fists and be fully prepared to defend your turf." Why? "Because it's funded, it's hot and it's sexy."

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Last fall, U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly opened fire at Fort Hood, Tex., killing 13 people and wounding 30. In the days after the shootings, information emerged about Hasan's increasingly strange behavior at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he had trained as a psychiatrist and warned commanders that they should allow Muslims to leave the Army or risk "adverse events." He had also exchanged e-mails with a well-known radical cleric in Yemen being monitored by U.S. intelligence.

But none of this reached the one organization charged with handling counterintelligence investigations within the Army. Just 25 miles up the road from Walter Reed, the Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group had been doing little to search the ranks for potential threats. Instead, the 902's commander had decided to turn the unit's attention to assessing general terrorist affiliations in the United States, even though the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI's 106 Joint Terrorism Task Forces were already doing this work in great depth.

The 902nd, working on a program the commander named RITA, for Radical Islamic Threat to the Army, had quietly been gathering information on Hezbollah, Iranian Republican Guard and al-Qaeda student organizations in the United States. The assessment "didn't tell us anything we didn't know already," said the Army's senior counterintelligence officer at the Pentagon.

Secrecy and lack of coordination have allowed organizations, such as the 902nd in this case, to work on issues others were already tackling rather than take on the much more challenging job of trying to identify potential jihadist sympathizers within the Army itself.

Beyond redundancy, secrecy within the intelligence world hampers effectiveness in other ways, say defense and intelligence officers. For the Defense Department, the root of this problem goes back to an ultra-secret group of programs for which access is extremely limited and monitored by specially trained security officers.

These are called Special Access Programs - or SAPs - and the Pentagon's list of code names for them runs 300 pages. The intelligence community has hundreds more of its own, and those hundreds have thousands of sub-programs with their own limits on the number of people authorized to know anything about them. All this means that very few people have a complete sense of what's going on.

"There's only one entity in the entire universe that has visibility on all SAPs - that's God," said James R. Clapper, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and the Obama administration's nominee to be the next director of national intelligence.

Such secrecy can undermine the normal chain of command when senior officials use it to cut out rivals or when subordinates are ordered to keep secrets from their commanders.

One military officer involved in one such program said he was ordered to sign a document prohibiting him from disclosing it to his four-star commander, with whom he worked closely every day, because the commander was not authorized to know about it. Another senior defense official recalls the day he tried to find out about a program in his budget, only to be rebuffed by a peer. "What do you mean you can't tell me? I pay for the program," he recalled saying in a heated exchange.

Another senior intelligence official with wide access to many programs said that secrecy is sometimes used to protect ineffective projects. "I think the secretary of defense ought to direct a look at every single thing to see if it still has value," he said. "The DNI ought to do something similar."

The ODNI hasn't done that yet. The best it can do at the moment is maintain a database of the names of the most sensitive programs in the intelligence community. But the database does not include many important and relevant Pentagon projects.

Because so much is classified, illustrations of what goes on every day in Top Secret America can be hard to ferret out. But every so often, examples emerge. A recent one shows the post-9/11 system at its best and its worst.

Last fall, after eight years of growth and hirings, the enterprise was at full throttle when word emerged that something was seriously amiss inside Yemen. In response, President Obama signed an order sending dozens of secret commandos to that country to target and kill the leaders of an al-Qaeda affiliate.

In Yemen, the commandos set up a joint operations center packed with hard drives, forensic kits and communications gear. They exchanged thousands of intercepts, agent reports, photographic evidence and real-time video surveillance with dozens of top-secret organizations in the United States.

That was the system as it was intended. But when the information reached the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington for analysis, it arrived buried within the 5,000 pieces of general terrorist-related data that are reviewed each day. Analysts had to switch from database to database, from hard drive to hard drive, from screen to screen, just to locate what might be interesting to study further.

As military operations in Yemen intensified and the chatter about a possible terrorist strike increased, the intelligence agencies ramped up their effort. The flood of information into the NCTC became a torrent.

Somewhere in that deluge was even more vital data. Partial names of someone in Yemen. A reference to a Nigerian radical who had gone to Yemen. A report of a father in Nigeria worried about a son who had become interested in radical teachings and had disappeared inside Yemen.

These were all clues to what would happen when a Nigerian named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab left Yemen and eventually boarded a plane in Amsterdam bound for Detroit. But nobody put them together because, as officials would testify later, the system had gotten so big that the lines of responsibility had become hopelessly blurred.

"There are so many people involved here," NCTC Director Leiter told Congress.

"Everyone had the dots to connect," DNI Blair explained to the lawmakers. "But I hadn't made it clear exactly who had primary responsibility."

And so Abdulmutallab was able to step aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253. As it descended toward Detroit, he allegedly tried to ignite explosives hidden in his underwear. It wasn't the very expensive, very large 9/11 enterprise that prevented disaster. It was a passenger who saw what he was doing and tackled him. "We didn't follow up and prioritize the stream of intelligence," White House counterterrorism adviser John O. Brennan explained afterward. "Because no one intelligence entity, or team or task force was assigned responsibility for doing that follow-up investigation."

Blair acknowledged the problem. His solution: Create yet another team to run down every important lead. But he also told Congress he needed more money and more analysts to prevent another mistake.

More is often the solution proposed by the leaders of the 9/11 enterprise. After the Christmas Day bombing attempt, Leiter also pleaded for more - more analysts to join the 300 or so he already had.

The Department of Homeland Security asked for more air marshals, more body scanners and more analysts, too, even though it can't find nearly enough qualified people to fill its intelligence unit now. Obama has said he will not freeze spending on national security, making it likely that those requests will be funded.

More building, more expansion of offices continues across the country. A $1.7 billion NSA data-processing center will be under construction soon near Salt Lake City. In Tampa, the U.S. Central Command’s new 270,000-square-foot intelligence office will be matched next year by an equally large headquarters building, and then, the year after that, by a 51,000-square-foot office just for its special operations section.

Just north of Charlottesville, the new Joint-Use Intelligence Analysis Facility will consolidate 1,000 defense intelligence analysts on a secure campus.

Meanwhile, five miles southeast of the White House, the DHS has broken ground for its new headquarters, to be shared with the Coast Guard. DHS, in existence for only seven years, already has its own Special Access Programs, its own research arm, its own command center, its own fleet of armored cars and its own 230,000-person workforce, the third-largest after the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Soon, on the grounds of the former St. Elizabeths mental hospital in Anacostia, a $3.4 billion showcase of security will rise from the crumbling brick wards. The new headquarters will be the largest government complex built since the Pentagon, a major landmark in the alternative geography of Top Secret America and four times as big as Liberty Crossing.


Get in line - first Europe will falter, stumble, and fall ...

Britain no longer has the cash to defend itself from every threat, says Liam Fox

Britain cannot afford to protect itself against all potential threats to its security, Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, has warned.

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
22 Jul 2010
The Telegraph

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dr Fox said the dire state of the public finances meant the Armed Forces could no longer be equipped to cover every conceivable danger.

Since the Second World War, the nation has maintained a force that can conduct all-out warfare, counter-insurgencies such as in Afghanistan or medium scale campaigns like the Falklands or Sierra Leone.

But Dr Fox has given the strongest signal yet that it will have to give up one or more of these capabilities, which have been maintained at the same time as contributing to collective security pacts such as Nato. “We don’t have the money as a country to protect ourselves against every potential future threat,” he said. “We just don’t have it.”

The military had to be configured only for “realistic potential future threats”, he said, hinting at a substantial cut to conventional forces such as tanks and fighter aircraft.

“We have to look at where we think the real risks will come from, where the real threats will come from and we need to deal with that accordingly. The Russians are not going to come over the European plain any day soon,” he added.

Dr Fox’s frank admission also casts doubt on the future of the 25,000 troops currently stationed in Germany. The Defence Secretary has previously said that he hoped to withdraw them at some point, leaving Britain without a presence in the country for the first time since 1945.

“I would say, what do Challenger tanks in Germany and the costs of maintaining them and the personnel required to train for them, what does that contribute to what’s happening in Afghanistan?” he asked.

The Ministry of Defence is facing a substantial squeeze on resources, with indications that 30,000 servicemen may be sacrificed to meet the Government’s stringent review of departmental budgets.

Dr Fox signalled in a speech at Farnborough air show this week that Britain’s fleets of warships, fighters and armoured vehicles would be reduced because the MoD’s equipment programme was “entirely unaffordable”.

A National Audit Office report on Tuesday also found that the MoD was already £500 million over budget for the current financial year with “insufficient funds to meet planned expenditure”.

There has been growing speculation that the Army could be reduced by a quarter of its strength to 75,000 under the defence review.

But Dr Fox insisted that no troops would be made redundant until the fighting in Afghanistan was over.

“Everything that we might want to do with the Army will be constrained by what’s happening in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Any changes will have to be phased in. But with the Army in particular the difficulties come with how stretched we currently are providing forces in Afghanistan.”

He added: “I did not come into politics to see reductions in the Armed Forces but I also did not come into politics to see the destruction of the economy.”

He described as “nonsense” the idea that the Ministry of Defence would sacrifice personnel before equipment to make savings to a budget shortfall estimated at £36 billion over the next decade.

“I am not planning for any particular size for the Army,” Dr Fox said. “This idea that we are coming at the review with a particular size for the Army or the Navy or the Air Force is nonsense.”

In the last week Dr Fox has been fighting the Treasury to ensure that cash for the replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent comes from outside the MoD’s core budget.

Asked if he would be prepared to resign if he did not get what he wanted, he said: “I am in the middle of complex negotiations and I am not in the business of megaphone diplomacy with the Treasury.

“The country is in an economic crisis, defence cannot be exempted from it.”

Despite the likelihood of a 20 per cent cut to the MoD’s £37 billion annual budget, he insisted that Britain would remain in the “first division” of armed forces alongside America.

“We have to keep sufficient land forces to hold territory if required, we have got to maintain enough maritime power and we have got to maintain air power to maintain air superiority.”

Dr Fox hopes that substantial savings can be found by renegotiating defence contracts. Companies supplying the MoD have been threatened with the loss of lucrative orders unless they lower prices.

“Either companies reduce the costs or we cancel whole projects,” he said. “Either we cut costs or cut programmes. The defence industry will understand that helping us over the short term will give them greater security over the longer term.”

It has been suggested that the Defence Secretary favours the Navy above the other two Services.

But Dr Fox criticised the fleet’s obsession with hi-tech ships such as the Type 45 destroyer, described by BAe Systems, its makers, as the most advanced warship of its kind, or Astute submarines.

“If I had a criticism of the Navy it is that it’s been too centred on a high specification end and not had sufficient platform numbers (ships) in a world that requires presence,” he explained.

He also questioned the number of different transport aircraft required by the RAF. It has a fleet of 36 Hercules, planes, seven C17 Globemasters and about 22 A400M transporters on order.

“Do we have to have all these different fleets or can we reduce them down?” Dr Fox asked.

“Fewer types means less training and fewer spare parts.” He admitted that for a political “hawk” the prospect of reducing the Forces was difficult.

“It is very difficult for someone like me who is a fiscal hawk and hawkish on defence policy to arrive here at a time when the previous government have bankrupted us,” Dr Fox said. “It is really difficult and we will have to make really hard choices.

“Labour have left us with such a car crash that next year the interest on the national debt will be nearly one and half times the defence budget. That is not sustainable.”


The Tax Tsunami

A tsunami is about to hit this country with a wallop we have never felt before.  I was thinking we should probably get a telethon going to raise funds to help us pay our new taxes. 

The Tax Tsunami On The Horizon


Fiscal Policy: Many voters are looking forward to 2011, hoping a new Congress will put the country back on the right track. But unless something's done soon, the new year will also come with a raft of tax hikes — including a return of the death tax — that will be real killers.

Through the end of this year, the federal estate tax rate is zero — thanks to the package of broad-based tax cuts that President Bush pushed through to get the economy going earlier in the decade.

But as of midnight Dec. 31, the death tax returns — at a rate of 55% on estates of $1 million or more. The effect this will have on hospital life-support systems is already a matter of conjecture.

Resurrection of the death tax, however, isn't the only tax problem that will be ushered in Jan. 1. Many other cuts from the Bush administration are set to disappear and a new set of taxes will materialize. And it's not just the rich who will pay.

The lowest bracket for the personal income tax, for instance, moves up 50% — to 15% from 10%. The next lowest bracket — 25% — will rise to 28%, and the old 28% bracket will be 31%. At the higher end, the 33% bracket is pushed to 36% and the 35% bracket becomes 39.6%.

But the damage doesn't stop there.

The marriage penalty also makes a comeback, and the capital gains tax will jump 33% — to 20% from 15%. The tax on dividends will go all the way from 15% to 39.6% — a 164% increase.

Both the cap-gains and dividend taxes will go up further in 2013 as the health care reform adds a 3.8% Medicare levy for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and joint filers making more than $250,000. Other tax hikes include: halving the child tax credit to $500 from $1,000 and fixing the standard deduction for couples at the same level as it is for single filers.

Letting the Bush cuts expire will cost taxpayers $115 billion next year alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and $2.6 trillion through 2020.

But even more tax headaches lie ahead. This "second wave" of hikes, as Americans for Tax Reform puts it, are designed to pay for ObamaCare and include:

The Medicine Cabinet Tax. Americans, says ATR, "will no longer be able to use health savings account, flexible spending account, or health reimbursement pretax dollars to purchase nonprescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin)."

The HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike. "This provision of ObamaCare," according to ATR, "increases the additional tax on nonmedical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10% to 20%, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10%."

Brand Name Drug Tax. Makers and importers of brand-name drugs will be liable for a tax of $2.5 billion in 2011. The tax goes to $3 billion a year from 2012 to 2016, then $3.5 billion in 2017 and $4.2 billion in 2018. Beginning in 2019 it falls to $2.8 billion and stays there. And who pays the new drug tax? Patients, in the form of higher prices.

Economic Substance Doctrine. ATR reports that "The IRS is now empowered to disallow perfectly legal tax deductions and maneuvers merely because it judges that the deduction or action lacks 'economic substance.'"

A third and final (for now) wave, says ATR, consists of the alternative minimum tax's widening net, tax hikes on employers and the loss of deductions for tuition:

• The Tax Policy Center, no right-wing group, says that the failure to index the AMT will subject 28.5 million families to the tax when they file next year, up from 4 million this year.

• "Small businesses can normally expense (rather than slowly deduct, or 'depreciate') equipment purchases up to $250,000," says ATR. "This will be cut all the way down to $25,000. Larger businesses can expense half of their purchases of equipment. In January of 2011, all of it will have to be 'depreciated.'"

• According to ATR, there are "literally scores of tax hikes on business that will take place," plus the loss of some tax credits. The research and experimentation tax credit will be the biggest loss, "but there are many, many others. Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief will cost jobs."

• The deduction for tuition and fees will no longer be available and there will be limits placed on education tax credits. Teachers won't be able to deduct their classroom expenses and employer-provided educational aid will be restricted. Thousands of families will no longer be allowed to deduct student loan interest.

Then there's the tax on Americans who decline to buy health care insurance (the tax the administration initially said wasn't a tax but now argues in court that it is) plus a 3.8% Medicare tax beginning in 2013 on profits made in real estate transactions by wealthier Americans.

Not all Americans may fully realize what's in store come Jan. 1. But they should have a pretty good idea by the mid-term elections, and members of Congress might take note of our latest IBD/TIPP Poll (summarized above).

Fifty-one percent of respondents favored making the Bush cuts permanent vs. 28% who didn't. Republicans were more than 4 to 1 and Independents more than 2 to 1 in favor. Only Democrats were opposed, but only by 40%-38%.

The cuts also proved popular among all income groups — despite the Democrats' oft-heard assertion that Bush merely provided "tax breaks for the wealthy." Fact is, Bush cut taxes for everyone who paid them, and the cuts helped the nation recover from a recession and the worst stock-market crash since 1929.

Maybe, just maybe, Americans remember that — and will not forget come Nov. 2.


Make Mine Freedom - 1948

American Form of Government

Who's on First? Certainly isn't the Euro.