Thursday, November 30, 2006

They're spies! Nobody will know. Oh, really....

From dpa German Press Agency via Raw Story:

Spymasters gather in New Zealand
dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday November 29, 2006

Wellington- The world's top spy chiefs - including the heads of the CIA and British, Australian and Canadian agencies - have been meeting in secret this week in New Zealand. The elite Anglo-Saxon group is known as Echelon. It intercepts and records telephone calls, e-mails and other forms of electronic communication.

The gathering was held in New Zealand because the country's spy agency, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS), is celebrating its 50th anniversary. A spokesman for New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said the gathering was part of ongoing cooperation between the New Zealand intelligence community and its international counterparts. Her government refused to give any details about the meeting, saying it does not comment on security matters.

Michael Hayden, the director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, left Wellington Wednesday after a three-day visit. Other guests included David Irvine of the Australian SIS, Paul O'Sullivan of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, Jim Judd of the Canadian SIS, John Scarlett of Britain's MI6 and Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller of MI5.

All member countries of Echelon have claimed they do not spy on their own citizens, but the European Union has charged its activities constitute and invasion of privacy and are used for industrial espionage.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency


The Special Forces are different than you think....

Just rec'd this email...

Studying War
Special forces: Home from the war -- and headed back
By Ralph Peters

When politicians get big things wrong, they still get re-elected. When academics get big things wrong, they get tenure. When Special Forces officers get even the smallest thing wrong, people die.

That gives SF leaders a seriousness you rarely encounter elsewhere - unless it's among others in uniform. Once a year, I have the privilege of speaking to the SF and other special operations students at the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Ft.Leavenworth, Kansas. The questions from those officers are by far the toughest -the most intelligent and earnest - I hear anywhere. Why? The rest of us just read. Those officers do the things we read about.

Fresh from combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan or in one of the world's dark crevices, they don't argue for any party line or popular prejudice in the classroom. Their fighting's deadly, not a game of political one upsmanship. With candor and moral courage, they struggle to understand the world in which they work.

According to the media, that world's black and white. But special operators deal with reality, not cant or spin. Their world has countless shades of gray. It isn't a universe of perishable headlines, but one in which you struggle to read between an infinite number of lines. The rest of us simplify things to get a grip on them. For these men (and women, too, in Psychological Operations and other special-ops fields), every minor complexity has to be faced.

They serve and fight in environments where each gesture has nuance, where life can depend upon tone of voice, and where physical stamina is ultimately less important than strength of will.

Many will never receive public credit for the risks they've taken and the victories they've achieved to keep the rest of us safe and free. You won't always know precisely what their awards for valor represent. Their personnel files have gaps that measure operations so secret that senior officers can't access the reports. Often, their families know only that their soldier's gone, with no idea where he is and when - or if - he'll return. Think about that.

In this Internet age of instant communications, when troops in Iraq jump on-line at the end of a mission to assure the folks back home that they're OK, special operators disappear into a black hole for months. On a military post, the other spouses might talk to their distant warrior regularly. The family of the special operator waits. And waits. Even the wives and kids have it tougher in special ops.

Each year, my feeling grows stronger that I should be listening to these soldiers, not lecturing to them. No matter how much experience we think we have of the world, it doesn't begin to rival that of special operators - or of regular soldiers and Marines, for that matter. They haven't just been to a war. They've been to wars. And each one knows he or she is going back.

The only thing you can do with officers like that is to try to help them gain a greater perspective on the ordeals they've recently left behind, to assemble their individual experiences into a coherent grasp of deeper issues, and to get at the purpose of their sacrifices in a way that goes beyond pablum generalities.

Last week, in a classroom in a wretched building slated for demolition, we talked about Islam and its relation to other religions, about the power of culture, the reassertion of local identities and unorthodox strategies. We discussed the tactical lessons of recent wars and the lifespans of civilizations.

One major spoke cogently of the lessons he drew from interacting with Arab officers. Another stressed the criticality of education for women in breaking the chain of societal failure... A Navy SEAL raised the lessons medieval Europe offers for analyzing the Middle East today. Not exactly The New Yorker's snitty view of military officers.

There was no bluster or swagger, no trace of close-mindedness (for that, you have to go to a liberal arts faculty). No matter how controversial the discussion became, no one raised his or her voice. The quality of their questions and observations was signally higher than those on any campus I've ever visited. It's the same story every year at Ft.Leavenworth.

If the readers of this paper only could meet these magnificent Americans, you'd be immeasurably proud of them. They have their concerns, of course. In off-line discussions, there was never a diminished sense of duty, but their optimism was more subdued than in previous years. Repeatedly, I encountered a sense that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's policies failed our military badly, undercutting our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The officers didn't complain. They just offered sober observations on what they'd been through, what they'd seen, and what we could do better. Each one was mentally prepared to go back into the fight. AND they will go back. Their time in Kansas is a brief respite, a chance to hold their families close for a few months, to study and think. They'll soon go out again to routinely do the impossible, to track down terrorists and train potential allies, to right at least a small portion of the world's wrongs and to redeem the damage done by unscrupulous foreign leaders, hate-mongering demagogues and, yes, irresponsible politicians here at home.

The bottom line? Some of the men and women I spoke to last week are going to die. For you.

Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of "Never Quit theFight."


Ohio dumping e-voting machines....

From Associated Press via :

Ohio County May Junk E-Voting Machines
The Associated Press
Wednesday 29 November 2006

Cleveland - Officials in the state's most populous county are considering scrapping touch-screen voting machines for the 2008 presidential election, saying the machines contributed to long lines at voting booths and are costly to operate.

Cuyahoga County, where Cleveland is situated, spent $14 million on the Nov. 7 election and cannot afford to spend that much on every vote, county commissioners Tim Hagan and Jimmy Dimora said. Much of the money was spent training poll workers how to operate new touch-screen machines.

With even greater turnout expected for the 2008 presidential election, commissioners are considering switching to optical-scan machines that read paper ballots. These machines, they say, are faster than the current touch screen machines because voters can fill out their ballots on paper before they are scanned and processed. They also say they are cheaper to train workers to operate.

Dimora said the elections board should have known when they bought the touch-screen machines that there weren't enough to handle a presidential election. The optical-scan machines are used in other counties, he said.

David Bear, a spokesman for Diebold Inc., which makes the touch-screen machines, predicted voters and poll workers would gain familiarity with the current system with additional use and that it would speed up voting.

The commission expects to vote on the issue by the end of the year.

Elsewhere, a Fairfield County elections official said the board made a mistake totaling the elections results Nov. 7 because of a software mix up with their Diebold machines, but that the results were corrected within hours.

Deborah Henderly, Fairfield County's elections director, said the corrected vote totals did not change any results initially reported.

The mix up occurred because the county hadn't reconfigured software in its voting machines after an initiative on the statewide ballot was removed, skewing the tallies, officials said.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006 case they've been missed...

From American Progress:

Think Fast

At a recent private reception, President Bush asked Sen.-elect Jim Webb (D-VA), "How's your boy?" referring to Webb's son Jimmy, who is serving in Iraq. Webb answered, "I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President," to which Bush responded, "That's not what I asked you." Webb "coldly" shot back, "That's between me and my boy, Mr. President." Webb later confessed that he was "tempted to slug" Bush.

"A December 7 summit at Riyadh may be the first venue for the Bush administration to negotiate directly with Iran and Syria in an effort to reduce the bloodshed in Iraq," the New York Sun speculates.

New York Times executive editor Bill Keller announced in a statement yesterday that "Times correspondents may describe the conflict in Iraq as a civil war when they and their editors believe it is appropriate." Keller added, "We expect to use the phrase sparingly and carefully, not to the exclusion of other formulations, not for dramatic effect."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said yesterday "that unless the Bush administration admits that the war in Iraq is a 'failure,' it will never develop a strategy to leave the country successfully."

"About $2 billion worth of Army and Marine Corps equipment -- from rifles to tanks -- is wearing out or being destroyed every month in Iraq and Afghanistan," USA Today reports. "The wear and tear may lead to future equipment shortages and cutbacks in more advanced weapons."

Iraq's parliament yesterday voted to keep the country under a state of emergency for 30 more days. A U.S. military spokesman told reporters that he expects to see "'elevated levels of violence' as a result of the car bombings that killed more than 200 people in Sadr City, a Shiite district in northeast Baghdad."

The world will "fall 5 million short" of their goal to provide universal access to AIDS medicines for 9.8 million AIDS/HIV patients by 2010, according to a report by the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition. "The rhetoric from public health officials is good, but the follow-through is abysmal," said one official.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) promised to do away with the Do-Nothing Congress by putting in "some hours here that haven't been put in in a long time." That means "being here more days in the week and we start off this year with seven weeks without a break. That hasn't been done in many, many years here."

And finally: iPod diplomacy. "The U.S. government's first-ever effort to use trade sanctions to personally aggravate a foreign president expressly targets items believed to be favored by" North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, including "iPods, plasma televisions and Segway electric scooters."


BushCo's Grand Jury...De la Vega prosecutes...

From :

Tomgram: Elizabeth de la Vega, Bringing Bush to Court

Keep in mind, I've run for only a few years, but I've been a book editor in mainstream publishing for over 30 years. Sometime last spring, I was on the phone with former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega talking about books she might someday write, when she suddenly said to me, "You know what I'd like to do?" When I asked what, she replied, "What I've done all my life."

"What's that," I wondered innocently enough.

"I'd like to draft an indictment of President Bush and his senior aides, and present the case for prewar intelligence fraud to a grand jury, just as if it were an actual case of mine, using the evidence we already have in the public record. That's the book I'd like to do."

With those three decades of publishing experience, I never doubted that this was an idea whose time should come -- and now it has. De la Vega has drawn up that indictment -- a "hypothetical" one, she hastens to add -- convened that grand jury, and held seven days of testimony. Yes, it's a grand jury directly out of her fertile brain and the federal agents who testify are fictional, but all the facts are true. She understands the case against the Bush administration down to the last detail; and she's produced, to my mind, the book of the post-election, investigative season: United States v. George W. Bush et al.

It's a book project, produced in conjunction with Seven Stories Press, a superb independent publisher, and officially published on December 1st. I think it's simply sensational. It makes a "slam dunk" case for the way we were defrauded into war; despite the grim subject matter, it's a beautifully designed little book, a pleasure to hold in your hand; and, because de la Vega is a natural as a writer, it's also thoroughly enjoyable reading. With genuine pride, I'll be turning the website over to excerpts from the book this week, beginning with the posting of De la Vega's introduction on the Enronization of American foreign policy today. The actual "indictment" will be posted on Wednesday; the first day of grand jury testimony on Thursday.

I assure you, this is must-read event; no less important, this is a must-buy book that must be given over the holiday season to friends, relatives, those who politically disagree with you, and even perhaps sent to Congressional representatives. Please get the investigative ball rolling by purchasing the book at or, if you want to give all involved a few extra cents, directly at the Seven Stories website.

Today, United States v. George W. Bush et al remains in the realm of fiction, but tomorrow, if you lend a hand… who knows? Tom

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


Trying to find and kill Al Qaeda...

From Strategic Forecasting, Inc:

A Second Strike: Homing in on Al Qaeda Prime?
By Kamran Bokhari

It has been almost a month since the Oct. 31 airstrike against a madrassa in the village of Chingai in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt. The objective of the U.S. operation was to eliminate a jihadist high-value target, presumably deputy al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. But there has been no videotaped message from the jihadist movement's No. 2 man, and this is unusual.

Seventeen days after the first strike in the area, which took place Jan. 13 in the village of Damadola (about a mile from the madrassa), al-Zawahiri appeared in a videotape and tauntingly remarked, "I will meet my death when God wishes. But if my time hasn't come, you and all the earth's forces can't change it, not even by a second. Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses enjoying their care with God's blessings and sharing with them their holy war against you until we defeat you, God willing."

It should also be noted that al-Zawahiri has maintained a steady flow of mostly video-taped communiqués for two years now, and the volume of such tapes has actually increased this year. Al Qaeda's top leaders have traditionally been so keen on keeping the world abreast of their status that when a major earthquake struck northern Pakistan in October 2005, killing as many as 100,000 people, al-Zawahiri issued a videotape 16 days after the quake to let everyone know the al-Qaeda leadership had not been affected by the temblor.

All of this raises the question: Why have we not heard from al Qaeda's principal theoretician since the Oct. 31 madrassa strike, which killed some 80 people? There are two primary possibilities:

1. Al-Zawahiri was killed in the airstrike, and it will be some time before we hear from either al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden himself or someone who has succeeded al-Zawahiri.

2. The strike on the madrassa hit very close to home and has sent shockwaves through al Qaeda's operational security system, which has forced al-Zawahiri to go deeper underground.

The first possibility seems unlikely for a number of reasons. First of all, had al-Zawahiri been killed, the jihadist communication network by now would have leaked the news of his death. We have seen this happen whenever a senior al Qaeda figure is killed. During the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001, when al Qaeda's first military chief, Mohammed Atef, was killed in a Hellfire missile strike by a CIA Predator drone in eastern Afghanistan, the jihadists acknowledged that Atef had been "martyred." More recently, in June 2003, al-Zawahiri himself issued a videotaped message mourning the killing of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi some 16 days after al-Zarqawi's death.

Furthermore, all al Qaeda leaders killed thus far have been military commanders, regional leaders and senior operatives, and none of them have had the same stature as that of al-Zawahiri or bin Laden. In fact, there is no one in the jihadist network who can be considered equal to these two top leaders. Therefore, it would be very hard to hide the death of either one, even if U.S. intelligence could not confirm the killing.

While there has not been any tape released by al Qaeda following the Oct. 31 strike, there have been jihadist attacks in response to the madrassa strike. More than 40 Pakistani soldiers were killed Nov. 8 in a rare suicide bombing at an army training base in Dargai, a town about 60 miles north of Peshawar. This followed a Nov. 7 attack in which tribal militants fired rockets during North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Gov. Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai's visit to the town of Wana, in the tribal belt. A little over a week later, on Nov. 17, two policemen survived a suicide bomb attack against a police van in Peshawar.

Radio Silence

It could be that the Oct. 31 missile strike has created technical obstacles to issuing video-tapes, which would explain why there has not been much output from As-Sahab, al Qaeda's media production arm, since the madrassa was hit. But given that As-Sahab's production facilities are unlikely to be located in the remote tribal badlands straddling the Afghan-Pakistani border, technical difficulties are not likely the case. The lack of a communiqué from al-Zawahiri is much more likely the result of a conscious decision to maintain radio silence because of a breach in al Qaeda's operational security net. In other words, al-Zawahiri has likely survived, and is trying to stay beneath the radar.

The strike in Chingai, while it did not eliminate al-Zawahiri, must have come very close to doing so. Al Qaeda views the location and timing of the madrassa strike as a penetration of the movements and schedules of al Qaeda prime. From al Qaeda's point of view (and probably in point of fact), U.S. and/or Pakistani intelligence has come very close to one of its inner concentric security perimeters. More significantly, al Qaeda at the time of the strike -- and this may still be the case -- did not know where this penetration had taken place. Therefore, it has brought its communications, especially its communication to the outside world, to a grinding halt. And it is going to maintain this posture until it identifies the security breach and seals it. This could be matter of weeks or of months. Once it is confident that it has re-established operational security, al Qaeda will resume releasing video communiqués.

Implications of the Madrassa Strike

Al Qaeda's move deeper underground shows that U.S. intelligence has come very close to triangulating the likely location of al Qaeda's global headquarters. Stratfor has said the districts of Dir, Malakand and Swat in Pakistan's NWFP are probably the areas in which al Qaeda's top leaders are hiding out. The Oct. 31 and Jan. 13 strikes were more or less in the same area, which borders both Dir and Malakand. This suggests that the Chingai-Damadola area is not just an al Qaeda rendezvous point but also a jihadist thoroughfare, especially since it is bordered to the east by Afghanistan's Kunar province, a hotbed of Taliban and al Qaeda activity.

Both strikes also indicate the problem U.S. forces face in conducting counterterrorism operations in Pakistan. While it is easy to engage in a land or air incursion a few miles into one of the seven agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, it is much more difficult to do so in NWFP because it requires a much deeper incursion into more settled areas. This is something that Islamabad has yet to allow, and Washington continues to oblige.

The two airstrikes have provided U.S. intelligence with a wealth of information, which the United States can use to pinpoint not just the places frequented by al-Zawahiri and his associates but also his actual hideout, as well as other key al Qaeda facilities that probably lie much deeper in the NWFP. This poses a dilemma for al Qaeda, which does not have the luxury to simply shift from one location to another, and this would again explain the decision to go offline.

Al-Zawahiri's statement in the videotape issued after the first airstrike is actually quite telling: "Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses enjoying their care…."

Al Qaeda's leaders are likely hiding very close to if not in a heavily populated area that is quite far from the Afghan-Pakistani border. This is actually the best defense the jihadists have in their arsenal; they believe it is unlikely that U.S. forces would conduct a strike so deep inside Pakistan and in an area so densely populated.

ltimately, finding and hitting al Qaeda's top leaders depends not only on human intelligence but also on the willingness of the United States to accept the risks of carrying out strikes that can actually eliminate al-Zawahiri and bin Laden. The biggest risk, at this point, is the destabilization of the government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Send questions or comments on this article to


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

US citizens the last to know BushCo's war plans...


The Melbourne Minutes: New Downing Street Memos From Down Under
By David Swanson
t r u t h o u t Guest Columnist
Tuesday 28 November 2006

More than a year before the United States launched an endless war on Iraq in what President George W. Bush told Congress was an urgently needed action to prevent an attack with non-existent weapons by non-Iraqi terrorists ...

Eleven months before Bush told British Prime Minister Tony Blair [] that a good way to start a war on Iraq would be to paint planes with UN colors, fly them low, and get them shot at ...

Five months before the Downing Street Minutes were taken at a meeting revealing the knowledge top British officials had of the secret war plans of the Bush administration ...

Just a week or two before several of the Downing Street Memos recorded US-British discussions of the coming war ...

On February 27, 2002 - just five months after 15 Saudis, 2 Lebanese, and 2 Yemenis flew airplanes into US buildings - Trevor Flugge, who was then chairman of AWB, the Australian Wheat Board, a private corporation, told AWB's board that John Dauth, who was then Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, had revealed to Flugge the plans of the US and Australian governments for war on Iraq. Tragically for war profiteers everywhere, somebody took minutes of the meeting.

You may not have heard about this from the US media. Maybe if we all scream really loudly for six weeks you will. That's how the Downing Street Minutes found their 15 minutes of fame in June 2005. But, as we stuff our faces with dead turkeys, the new Melbourne Minutes are the top news story in Australia. According to the Australian Associated Press:

Mr Dauth briefed Mr Flugge in New York in February 2002 - 13 months before the invasion - and the details appear in minutes of AWB's February 27 board meeting tendered to the inquiry.
"The ambassador stated that he believed that US military action to depose Saddam Hussein was inevitable and that at this time the Australian government would support and participate in such action," the minutes say. "The ambassador believed that the Iraqis grossly underestimated the US reaction to September 11 (with the consequent military response in Afghanistan) and that Iraq's request to renegotiate UN weapons inspectors was a direct result of their nervousness about US action. The ambassador believed that the latest olive branch from the Iraqis was likely to stave off US action [for] 12 to 18 months but that some military action was inevitable."

Mr Dauth - now high commissioner in New Zealand - predicted the Iraq war would be similar to the campaign in Afghanistan, with heavy use of air support followed by the deployment of ground troops.

"He undertook to ensure that AWB was given as much warning as would be possible under such circumstances, but noted that in these instances often the Australian government had little notification," the board minutes said.

Where have we heard that word "inevitable" before? Oh, yeah: the Downing Street Minutes: "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Why are we hearing about the minutes of this Australian meeting only now? Well, the minutes have been released by a government investigation into AWB's bribing of Saddam Hussein's government in order to win contracts to export Australian wheat to Iraq. That investigation may now be expanded in Australia. It's also one that the incoming Democratic chairs of the House and Senate agriculture committees in the US committed last week to investigating. What will they do now, with the wheat-bribe scandal having taken this interesting twist?

The past six years of near-zero Congressional oversight in Washington is one reason Americans' knowledge of the planning of the Iraq War comes largely from foreign sources. But, if members of the Australian government were passing word around, I shudder to think how many people in the right circles in Washington, DC, knew the score but kept their mouths shut and are keeping them shut to this very day. It's clear that members of the US corporate media elite were in the know. In fact, if you ask them to condescend to notice this Australian news, they'll almost certainly tell you it's "old news," that they knew it all four years ago. They did, but they didn't tell the rest of us.

Now here we are, years later, still killing and dying in Iraq, and proposing to attack Iran on the basis of lies almost identical to those used to justify the initial attack on Iraq.

We must demand that the new Congress block any new wars and cut off funding for the current one. We must also demand investigations immediately into the lies that launched the war and the conducting of the war. American citizens are the last to know what our government is doing. We're used to that, but there is no reason we need wait any longer. If the subpoenas don't start piling up in the White House mailbox on New Year's Day, we will have established two critical facts:

1. Future presidents are free to ignore all laws.
2. Democrats are just Republicans with manners.

David Swanson is creator of, co-founder of the coalition, a writer and activist, and the Washington Director of He is a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, and serves on the Executive Council of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, TNG-CWA. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign, Media Coordinator for the International Labor Communications Association, and three years as Communications Coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson obtained a Master's degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1997. His website is


Hands down the most hilarious thing I've ever read!!!

Just emailed to me...

Original true story, written by a Battalion Fire Chief in a Mississippi


I never dreamed that slowly cruising on my motorcycle through a
residential neighborhood could be so incredibly dangerous! Little did I
I was on Brice Street - a very nice neighborhood with perfect lawns and
slow traffic. As I passed an oncoming car, a brown furry missile shot
out from under it and tumbled to a stop immediately in front of me.
It was a squirrel, and must have been trying to run across the road when
it encountered the car. I really was not going very fast, but there was
no time to brake or avoid it -- it was that close. I hate to run over
animals, and I really hate it on a motorcycle, but a squirrel should
pose no danger to me. I barely had time to brace for the impact.

Animal lovers, never fear. Squirrels, I discovered, can take care of

Inches before impact, the squirrel flipped to his feet. He was standing
on his hind legs and facing my oncoming Valkyrie with steadfast resolve
in his beady little eyes. His mouth opened, and at the last possible
second, he screamed and leapt! I am pretty sure the scream was squirrel
for, "Banzai!" or maybe, "Die you gravy-sucking, heathen scum!" The leap
was nothing short of spectacular...

He shot straight up, flew over my windshield, and impacted me squarely
in the chest. Instantly, he set upon me. If I did not know better, I
would have sworn he brought 20 of his little buddies along for the

Snarling, hissing, and tearing at my clothes, he was a frenzy of
activity. As I was dressed only in a light T-shirt, summer riding
gloves, and jeans this was a bit of a cause for concern. This furry
little tornado was doing some damage!

Picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in
jeans, a T-shirt, and leather gloves, puttering at maybe 25 mph down a
quiet residential street, and in the fight of his life with a squirrel.

And losing...

I grabbed for him with my left hand. After a few misses, I finally
managed to snag his tail. With all my strength, I flung the evil rodent
off to the left of the bike, almost running into the right curb as I
recoiled from the throw.

That should have done it. The matter should have ended right there. It
really should have. The squirrel could have sailed into one of the
pristinely kept yards and gone on about his business, and I could have
headed home. No one would have been the wiser. But this was no ordinary

This was not even an ordinary angry squirrel.

This was an EVIL MUTANT ATTACK SQUIRREL OF DEATH! Somehow he caught my
gloved finger with one of his little hands and, with the force of the
throw, swung around and with a resounding thump and an amazing impact,
he landed squarely on my BACK and resumed his rather antisocial and
extremely distracting activities. He also managed to take my left glove
with him! The situation was not improved. Not improved at all.

His attacks were continuing, and now I could not reach him. I was
startled, to say the least. The combination of the force of the throw,
only having one hand (the throttle hand) on the handlebars, and my
jerking back unfortunately put a healthy twist through my right hand and
into the throttle. A healthy twist on the throttle of a Valkyrie can
only have one result.


This is what the Valkyrie is made for, and she is very, very good at it.
The engine roared and the front wheel left the pavement. The squirrel
screamed in anger. The Valkyrie screamed in ecstasy. I screamed in .
well .. I just plain screamed.

Now picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in
jeans, a slightly squirrel-torn t-shirt, wearing only one leather glove
and roaring at maybe 50 mph and rapidly accelerating down a quiet
residential street on one wheel, with a demonic squirrel of death on his

The man and the squirrel are both screaming bloody murder. With the
sudden acceleration I was forced to put my other hand back on the
handlebars and try to get control of the bike. This was leaving the
mutant squirrel to his own devices, but I really did not want to crash
into somebody's tree, house, or parked car.

Also, I had not yet figured out how to release the throttle... my brain
was just simply overloaded. I did manage to mash the back brake, but it
had little effect against the massive power of the big cruiser. About
this time the squirrel decided that I was not paying sufficient
attention to this very serious battle (maybe he was an evil mutant NAZI
attack squirrel of death), and he came around my neck and got INSIDE my
full-face helmet with me.

As the faceplate closed part way, he began hissing in my face. I am
quite sure my screaming changed intensity. It had little effect on the
squirrel, however. The RPMs on the Dragon maxed out (since I was not
bothering with shifting at the moment), so her front end started to

Now picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in
jeans, a very raggedly torn T-shirt, wearing only one leather glove,
roaring at probably 80 mph, still on one wheel, with a large puffy
squirrel's tail sticking out of the mostly closed full-face helmet.

By now, the screams are probably getting a little hoarse. Finally I got
the upper hand ... I managed to grab his tail again, pulled him out of
my helmet, and slung him to the left as hard as I could. This time it
worked... sort of.

Spectacularly sort of to speak.

Picture a new scene.

You are a cop.

You and your partner have pulled off on a quiet residential street and
parked with your windows down to do some paperwork. Suddenly a large man
on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a torn T-shirt
flapping in the breeze, and wearing only one leather glove, moving at
probably 80 mph on one wheel, and screaming bloody murder roars by, and
with all his strength throws a live squirrel grenade directly into your
police car.

I heard screams.

They weren't mine...I managed to get the big motorcycle under control
and dropped the front wheel to the ground. I then used maximum braking
and skidded to a stop in a cloud of tire smoke at the stop sign of a
busy cross street. I would have returned to 'fess up' (and to get my
glove back). I really would have.


Except for two things. First, the cops did not seem interested or the
slightest bit concerned about me at the moment. When I looked back, the
doors on both sides of the patrol car were flung wide open. The cop from
the passenger side was on his back, doing a crab walk into somebody's
front yard, quickly moving away from the car. The cop who had been in
the driver's seat was standing in the street, aiming a riot shotgun at
his own police car.

So, the cops were not interested in me. They often insist to "let the
professionals handle it" anyway.

That was one thing.

The other?

Well, I could clearly see shredded and flying pieces of foam and
upholstery from the back seat. But I could also swear I saw the squirrel
in the back window, shaking his little fist at me.

That is one dangerous squirrel.

And now he has a patrol car.

A somewhat shredded patrol car .. but it was all his. I took a deep
breath, turned on my turn signal, made a gentle right turn off of Brice
Street, and sedately left the neighborhood. I decided it was best to
just buy myself a new pair of gloves. And a whole lot of Band-Aids.


FYI: Email from Senator Barbara Boxer...

From Senator Barbara Boxer:

I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday surrounded by family and friends. I'm sure at some point this weekend we all thought about those who couldn't be with their loved ones because they are in Iraq in harm's way. I also know that we can never be truly at peace with ourselves until this war is over -- and most Americans agree.

On Election Day three weeks ago, the American people spoke out loud and a clear: "It's time for a change!" Yet on the most pressing issue facing our country today -- the war in Iraq -- the Bush Administration has still failed to respond.

Tell President Bush that the status quo in Iraq is completely unacceptable -- and that America is demanding change. Sign my petition today!

As you know, I voted against this misguided war. And over the nearly four years since our invasion, I have watched with frustration as President Bush has stubbornly refused to change course, even as our disastrous policy has sent us on a downward spiral into chaos in Iraq.
Our brave men and women in uniform, and the American taxpayers, are paying the price for President Bush's stubbornness -- robbing our families of the investments we must make here at home to improve their lives.

I thought we might see a change in our Iraq policy the morning after Election Day when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced his resignation -- a move that was long overdue. Unfortunately, that's the only change we've seen, and it's not nearly enough.

When asked if there were lessons to be learned from Vietnam in his recent trip to that country, President Bush replied, "We'll succeed unless we quit. We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile."

Does President Bush really think we would have won the Vietnam War by staying the course? President Nixon took us out of Vietnam because he knew America could not win with our brave men and women sitting in the middle of a civil war. What's more, the American people have been more than patient with the war in Iraq. In fact, by the end of November, we will have been in Iraq longer than we were in World War II.

Tell President Bush that it's time to change course in Iraq. Sign my petition today!

Even one week after Election Day, President Bush's press secretary, Tony Snow, said that we are winning in Iraq. But just look at these numbers: We have already lost 47 US soldiers in November. And 1,368 Iraqis have been killed so far this month, the deadliest month in Iraq since the Associated Press began tracking the figure in April 2005.

It's time for a change in Iraq. That's what Congress said more than a year ago, when 79 Senators -- Democrats and Republicans -- voted for a resolution saying that 2006 should be a period of "significant transition in Iraq to full Iraqi sovereignty..." The American people think so too. According to a Pew Research Poll conducted earlier this month, 56 percent of the American people think the U.S. should set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

And the Iraqi people agree. A September poll conducted by the University of Maryland poll showed 71 percent of Iraqis want their government to ask us to leave within a year, and 78 percent believe that our presence is provoking more conflict than it is preventing.

In the absence of any policy change coming from the White House, Democrats are stepping forward to lead. I am co-sponsoring a bill authored by Senator Russ Feingold that calls for the redeployment of U.S. troops by July 1, 2007, leaving only a minimal number of personnel needed for training of Iraqi forces, targeted counterterrorism activities, and U.S. force protection.

Senator Carl Levin, the incoming Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has laid out a plan to begin redeployment in four to six months. And Senator Joe Biden, the incoming Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has proposed a political solution to create three semi-autonomous regions in Iraq and a central government to disburse oil revenues.
But we need your support to bring this desperately needed change about. I am planning to deliver this petition to the Bush Administration in the next two weeks, so please be sure to sign today!

Tell President Bush that the American people demand change in Iraq. Sign my petition now!

It's time for a change. Through their votes on November 7th, the American people made their feelings well known. Now it's time for President Bush to listen and work with the new Democratic Congress to bring about the change in Iraq that is so desperately needed. And we can't let up until he does.

In Friendship,
Barbara Boxer


Monday, November 27, 2006

Cheney: Remove him. He's much worse than Rove...

From the Boston Globe via :

Hail to the Chief
By Charlie Savage
The Boston Globe
Sunday 26 November 2006

Dick Cheney's mission to expand - or "restore" - the powers of the presidency.

Ann Arbor, Michigan - In July 1987, then-Representative Dick Cheney, the top Republican on the committee investigating the Iran-contra scandal, turned on his hearing room microphone and delivered, in his characteristically measured tone, a revolutionary claim.

President Reagan and his top aides, he asserted, were free to ignore a 1982 law at the center of the scandal. Known as the Boland Amendment, it banned US assistance to anti-Marxist militants in Nicaragua.

"I personally do not believe the Boland Amendment applied to the president, nor to his immediate staff," Cheney said.

Most of Cheney's colleagues did not share his vision of a presidency empowered to bypass US laws governing foreign policy. The committee issued a scathing, bipartisan report accusing White House officials of "disdain for the law."

Cheney refused to sign it. Instead, he commissioned his own report declaring that the real lawbreakers were his fellow lawmakers, because the Constitution "does not permit Congress to pass a law usurping Presidential power."

The Iran-contra scandal was not the first time the future vice president articulated a philosophy of unfettered executive power - nor would it be the last. The Constitution empowers Congress to pass laws regulating the executive branch, but over the course of his career, Cheney came to believe that the modern world is too dangerous and complex for a president's hands to be tied. He embraced a belief that presidents have vast "inherent" powers, not spelled out in the Constitution, that allow them to defy Congress.

Cheney bypassed acts of Congress as defense secretary in the first Bush administration. And his office has been the driving force behind the current administration's hoarding of secrets, its efforts to impose greater political control over career officials, and its defiance of a law requiring the government to obtain warrants when wiretapping Americans. Cheney's staff has also been behind President Bush's record number of signing statements asserting his right to disregard laws.

A close look at key moments in Cheney's career - from his political apprenticeship in the Nixon and Ford administrations to his decade in Congress and his tenure as secretary of defense under the first President Bush - suggests that the newly empowered Democrats in Congress should not expect the White House to cooperate when they demand classified information or attempt to exert oversight in areas such as domestic surveillance or the treatment of terrorism suspects.

Peter Shane, an Ohio State University law professor, predicted that Cheney's long career of consistently pushing against restrictions on presidential power is likely to culminate in a series of uncompromising battles with Congress.

"Cheney has made this a matter of principle," Shane said. "For that reason, you are likely to hear the words 'executive privilege' over and over again during the next two years."

Cheney declined to comment for this article. But he has repeatedly said his agenda includes restoring the presidency to its fullest powers by rolling back "unwise" limits imposed by Congress after the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.

"In 34 years, I have repeatedly seen an erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job," Cheney said on ABC in January 2002. "I feel an obligation ... to pass on our offices in better shape than we found them to our successors."

Cheney's ideal of presidential power is the level of power the office briefly achieved in the late 1960s, the era of what historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the "imperial presidency."

Early in the Cold War, presidents began invoking national security to seize greater power from Congress. This concentration of authority peaked under President Richard Nixon, who famously asserted that "when the president does it, that means it's not illegal." But Watergate reawakened Congress, which passed new laws to regulate presidential power.

Cheney was a close observer of that era. He landed his first job in the federal government in 1969, when Donald Rumsfeld hired him as an assistant at the Office of Economic Opportunity. The antipoverty agency, set up by Congress during the Johnson administration, was unpopular among conservatives, and Rumsfeld's and Cheney's job was to help Nixon impose greater political control over the office.

A chief target was the agency's legal aid program, headed by Terry Lenzner. Now a private investigator, Lenzner said in a recent interview that the White House pressured him to fire lawyers who filed class-action lawsuits on behalf of the poor. But Lenzner said he could not fire them because of the way Congress had written the agency's statute.

"I was being told, 'You have to put a stop to this, you have to control these lawyers,'" Lenzner recalled. "But I said that 'If I do what you want me to do, it will violate the law.'"

The orders to fire lawyers, Lenzner said, came from other White House aides, not Rumsfeld or Cheney personally. Still, in November 1970, Rumsfeld summoned Lenzner to his office, and, with Cheney at his side, fired Lenzner because he was unwilling to follow orders.

In August 1974, Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment by Congress. The new president, Gerald Ford, asked Rumsfeld to be his White House chief of staff, and Rumsfeld again made Cheney his deputy. A year later, Rumsfeld became secretary of defense, and Cheney replaced him as Ford's top aide.

In his new role, Cheney was exposed to national security issues from the perspective of a White House that wanted to preserve secrets in the face of congressional demands for more openness. Soon after Rumsfeld and Cheney took on their new posts, Congress passed a bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act. The bill allowed judges to review classified documents to determine if they were being shielded for political purposes.

In October 1974, Ford vetoed the legislation, telling Congress that the bill "would violate constitutional principles." Congress, however, overrode his veto, and lawmakers soon threatened to impose further limits on presidential power.

In December 1974, The New York Times reported that the CIA had engaged in an illegal domestic spying program for two decades, tapping phones, opening mail, and breaking into homes of antiwar protesters. The article, by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, prompted a congressional uproar.

In a memo to Ford, obtained at the Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor, Mich., Cheney urged the swift creation of a presidential commission to investigate the CIA. Cheney wrote that doing so was "the best prospect for heading off congressional efforts to further encroach on the executive branch."

Ford created the commission, but Congress moved in anyway. A Senate committee chaired by Idaho Democrat Frank Church began demanding access to secret documents. But Cheney soon saw a chance to convince the public that investigating intelligence operations was dangerous and unwise.

In May 1975, Hersh wrote an article discussing how US submarines eavesdropped on the Soviet Union's undersea cables. Fearing that the article had damaged national security, Cheney pushed the idea of indicting the reporter using the 1917 Espionage Act.

Making an example out of Hersh, Cheney wrote, would "create an environment" that might intimidate both the press and Congress. "Can we take advantage of it to bolster our position on the Church Committee investigation? To point out the need for limits on the scope of the investigations?" Cheney wrote. The idea, however, was scrapped to avoid attracting the Soviets' attention to Hersh's article.

The next spring, after revelations that the National Security Agency had monitored the phone calls of American civil rights and antiwar activists, Congress drafted legislation to require warrants for domestic surveillance. Cheney's allies, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and then-CIA director George H.W. Bush, opposed such a bill as a derogation of presidential power. But Ford decided not to fight it.

Congress passed the warrant requirement as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 - the same law that the Bush-Cheney administration later bypassed with its warrantless wiretapping program.

After Ford lost the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter, Cheney returned to Wyoming and in 1978 won a seat in Congress, where he specialized in intelligence matters. During the Iran-contra hearings, Cheney failed to convince a majority of his colleagues that the Reagan administration was justified in ignoring the Boland Amendment, but he moved quickly to block new congressional encroachments on what he saw as a president's exclusive turf.

When the Senate passed a bill forcing presidents to notify Congress of all covert operations within 48 hours, Cheney led a successful fight to defeat the bill in the House. He argued that Congress was prone to leaks and had no authority to force the commander-in-chief to share information about covert operations.

"The 48-hour bill would 'get back' at President Reagan by tying the hands of all future presidents," Cheney wrote in a May 1988 Wall Street Journal column. "That approach will achieve nothing useful."

The next year, Cheney became defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush. In his new position, Cheney again pushed for an expansive view of presidential power - most dramatically in late 1990, when Cheney urged Bush to launch the Gulf War without asking Congress for authorization.

For all major overseas wars from 1789 to 1950, presidents obeyed the constitutional provision giving Congress alone the power to declare war. But in Korea and Vietnam, Presidents Truman, Johnson, and Nixon defied this constraint. They asserted that the commander-in-chief had "inherent" power to take the country to war on his own.

Seeking to restore its constitutional role, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution in 1973, requiring presidents to consult Congress when sending troops into battle.

After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Bush sent 500,000 US troops to Saudi Arabia. As they prepared to attack the Iraqi forces, Cheney told Bush that it was unnecessary and too risky to seek a vote in Congress.

"I was not enthusiastic about going to Congress for an additional grant of authority," Cheney recalled in a 1996 PBS "Frontline" documentary. "I was concerned that they might well vote 'no' and that would make life more difficult for us."

But Bush rejected Cheney's advice and asked Congress for a vote in support of the war. The resolution passed - barely. Had Congress voted no, Cheney later said, he would have urged Bush to launch the Gulf War regardless.

"From a constitutional standpoint, we had all the authority we needed," Cheney said in the 1996 documentary. "If we'd lost the vote in Congress, I would certainly have recommended to the president that we go forward anyway."

As the Gulf War proceeded, Cheney fought with Congress on other fronts. After civilian Pentagon lawyers clashed with military attorneys over the handling of any bodies contaminated by biological weapons, Cheney asked Congress to change the law to place all military attorneys under the control of civilian political appointees. Congress rejected Cheney's proposal. But in March 1992, Cheney's deputy issued an administrative order defying the expressed will of Congress.

At the same time, Cheney was thwarting Congress by refusing to issue contracts for the V-22 Osprey, a plane that was plagued with technical problems. Cheney opposed the V-22 program, but Congress appropriated funds for it.

By refusing to issue contracts, Cheney revived a Nixon-era tactic of "impounding" funds - refusing to spend money for programs that he didn't like. Congress had passed a law in 1974 to ban impoundment. Cheney, who later said he believes the anti-impoundment law unconstitutionally infringes on executive power, ignored it.

But Congress forced Cheney to back down in July 1992, when his top assistant, David Addington, was nominated to be the Pentagon's general counsel and came before a Senate confirmation hearing.

"How many ways are there around evading the will of Congress? How many different legal theories do you have?" Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, thundered at Cheney's aide.

"I do not have any, senator," said Addington. He was confirmed only after promising that the Pentagon would restore the military lawyers' independence and issue V-22 contracts as quickly as possible.

Cheney left government after Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992, but he returned as a deeply influential vice president eight years later. His aide Addington became a dominant member of the administration's legal team, and together, Cheney and Addington made the assertion of sweeping executive powers a hallmark of George W. Bush's presidency.

One of Cheney's first acts as vice president was to convene an energy policy task force, inviting energy company lobbyists to suggest a package of tax breaks and other incentives for their companies.

When Congress and watchdog groups requested his task force's records, Cheney successfully fought a court battle to keep them secret, arguing that presidents needed greater power to solicit candid advice. The decision gutted the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a 1972 law in which Congress tried to require such policymaking to be subject to public scrutiny.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, military lawyers objected to the administration's assertion that a president has the power to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects outside the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions. In response, the administration renewed Cheney's attempt to put military lawyers under the control of civilian appointees.

Citing a need for secrecy, the administration also erected new roadblocks to Freedom of Information Act requests, restricted access to historic presidential records, and threatened to prosecute journalists who published classified information using the 1917 anti-spying law - the same idea Cheney toyed with in 1975.

In signing statements and legal memos, the administration, with Cheney and Addington as its driving force, has repeatedly used the war on terrorism to advance the idea that the president has vast "inherent" authority to bypass laws enacted by Congress. Even when Congress voted, a week after the 9/11 attacks, to authorize the use of military force against Al Qaeda, the administration quickly seized the moment to lay down its marker.

"[Congress cannot] place any limits on the president's determinations as to any terrorist threat, the amount of military force to be used in response, or the method, timing, and nature of the response," the Justice Department asserted in a September 2001 memo solicited by the White House. "These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the president alone to make."

The following year, the administration drew up secret legal opinions informing military and CIA interrogators that the president has the power to authorize them to violate laws banning torture.

"In order to respect the president's inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign against Al Qaeda and its allies, [the anti-torture law] must be construed as not applying to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in-chief authority," said an August 2002 memo, which was leaked to the media only after the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib came to light.

Then, in December 2005, The New York Times revealed that the administration was wiretapping Americans' international phone calls and e-mails without warrants, violating the 1978 surveillance law.

Three days later, Cheney sat down with reporters and laid out his belief "in a strong, robust executive authority." Bypassing the warrant law, he asserted, was "consistent with the constitutional authority of the president."

Cheney also indicated that he hopes to establish further precedents for the expansion of presidential authority. Listing other statutory constraints on presidential power, he said they "will be tested at some point." When Cheney was asked whether he believed that the pendulum of executive power had swung back far enough in the direction he desired, or whether it needed to swing back further, he demurred.

"I do think that to some extent now, we've been able to restore the legitimate authority of the presidency," he replied.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Class 11", TJ Waters' novel on CIA training reviewed!

From the Washington Post:

[Notice the reviewer never mentions the haunted house on the Farm!] :))

Get Smart
A rare glimpse inside the secret training program that produces America's spies.
Reviewed by John Lehman
Sunday, November 26, 2006; Page BW04

Inside the CIA's First Post-9/11 Spy Class
By T.J. Waters
Dutton. 299 pp. $24.95

The skills of lying, stealing, bribing and deceiving do not usually belong to brave, bright, patriotic young Americans. Nor does the practice of these arts exist happily in a law-based government and a bureaucracy increasingly dominated by lawyers, whistleblowers and anonymous hotlines. So, since the Revolutionary War, we have been out-spied by our enemies (and, often, by our allies).

We came closest to competence in gathering human intelligence (or HUMINT, as it's known in the trade) and catching enemy spies during the Cold War. While the CIA and the FBI had many dramatic successes in those decades, the recently opened archives of the KGB and the East German Stasi show that, overall, the Soviet bloc's spy agencies ran rings around us. Indeed, for the latter decades of the Cold War, America's spying capacities had been essentially shut down by the purges of the CIA instigated by the post-Watergate Congress. A convenient belief took hold that we had such good satellites and such neat gadgets that we no longer needed actual human spies. Throughout the 1980s and '90s, the gathering of human intelligence was limited mostly to having CIA operatives sit in U.S. embassies abroad under "official cover," waiting for "walk-in" sources to offer their services. This risked much less exposure to prowling lawyers, whistleblowers and congressional committees, but, unfortunately, it offered much less exposure to what was really going on.

This period of self-delusion coincided with the rise of al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorism. Washington was amply provided with satellite photos of camps in Syria, Lebanon, Sudan and Afghanistan, as well as the occasional electronic intercept of a communication, but we had few reliable human sources to tell us what was actually going on. We were caught flat-footed by attacks in Beirut, Mogadishu, New York, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Aden and elsewhere, teaching our enemies just how blind and unwilling to retaliate we were. The second attack on the World Trade Center (after the far less deadly 1993 plot masterminded by Ramzi Yousef) was the result.

After 9/11, the utter lack of useful human intelligence was suddenly seen as a huge hole in our defenses. A massive rebuilding of the CIA's clandestine service began.

T.J. Waters has given us a very readable account of the first wave of this rebuilding in Class 11. Waters, now an intelligence consultant, was a member of the first post-9/11 class of recruits for the CIA's spy wing, and his book describes how very different it was from those preceding it.
For one thing, this class was several times larger than normal, reflecting a surge of patriotic enlistment. It was also far more diverse, including more women, minorities, an airline pilot, a pro football player and Waters himself, who was a mid-career consultant. Before 9/11 and after Watergate, the CIA had recruited mainly "corn-fed Aryans" (as one veteran told me) who had never been out of the country. Rather than hiring well-traveled area specialists or native speakers of foreign languages, the CIA preferred to teach these uncomplicated people languages and lore from scratch. Class 11, which included Arab, Muslim and South Asian Americans, was different. The mission, however, remained the same: "Recruit foreign nationals who are willing to sell out their nation, leader, or religion for the benefit of the United States." Class 11 was about to join a dangerous and stressful profession -- made all the more so by the inability to share anything about what they did with friends or family, which helps explain why "the divorce rate in the Clandestine Service is greater than 50 percent." Waters offers a rare glimpse into what it is like to join this cadre and how its tradecraft is taught.

The reader accompanies Waters from his first day at the CIA's Langley, Va., headquarters to his graduation from "the Farm," the agency's legendary training camp in Virginia. But while Waters's publisher is trying to hype his book as something wrested from the clutches of outraged CIA censors, Class 11 is a PR coup for the agency. The book reveals much new detail about the 18-month training process, but nothing in it would remotely compromise security. Although it includes descriptions of nifty James Bond gear such as a lifelike flying dragonfly that's actually a listening device, all of this is old-generation stuff no longer in use.

Also absent is any description of some of the most valuable -- and least enjoyable -- experiences that tend to weed out many aspirants, such as survival training. Indeed, Class 11 contains nary a word critical of the CIA or its training, which, from Waters's description, is still focused on "official" cover (in U.S. posts abroad) rather than "deep" cover (in the dens of America's foes). The writer is genuinely motivated to do battle with the country's enemies -- so motivated that his writing sometimes verges on flag-waving ("Terrorists turned to new tactics . . . . Well, two can play at that game. It's our turn now").

Still, Waters has done an excellent job recounting his experiences, and he and the CIA deserve much credit for a book that can only enhance the public's understanding of the importance of a rejuvenated clandestine service. This book should prove a useful recruiting tool. ·

John Lehman was secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and a member of the 9/11 Commission.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Quiet on the homefront...

From Strategic Forecasting, Inc:

The Missing Voices in the Iraq War Debate
By Bart Mongoven

In its first symbolically significant act since the midterm elections, the Democratic Party selected Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) as House majority leader, dealing a blow to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), the face of the party's anti-war faction. The decision was made with an eye on the 2008 presidential elections, and is only the latest in a long series of events that suggest the Democratic Party's long-term strategy has no clear place for the party's anti-war faction or rhetorical space for its messages.

This points to an unusual dilemma in U.S. politics, and to an even more unusual atmosphere inside the Washington beltway. Though the war in Iraq continues -- omnipresent in the media, foreign policy discussions and the calculations of other powers -- it is curiously absent as a driving force in Beltway processes and political machinery. We do not mean this, by any stretch, to imply that politicians do not discuss or think about the war, but there is a striking contrast between the atmosphere in Washington and that in the rest of the country (or at least in the media) when it comes to Iraq.

There also is a striking contrast between Washington's attitude toward this war and past wars, in which numerous federal government agencies and the business lobby all had a clear stake. As retired Gen. William McCaffrey, now a professor at West Point, has stated, "Inter-agency support for our U.S. Iraq strategy is grossly inadequate. Only the armed forces and the CIA are at war."

There are numerous reasons for this state of affairs. Some are rooted in the Democratic Party, which is attempting to reinvent itself after its long wanderings in the political wilderness. Some are rooted in the personal and political dynamics of the Republican Party and the Bush White House -- and even more significantly, in the "business as usual" mantra the administration adopted following the 9/11 attacks. In both cases, there is a clear sense that the war, though a burning priority for voters, does not intersect with the major political battles now being waged to win the presidency in 2008.

The Democrats and the War

Given the percentage of voters who, while not anti-war, are heartily displeased with the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, it is noteworthy that the Democratic Party has not publicly adopted a position that places the war issue squarely at the center of its identity. This did not pose a tremendous obstacle, of course, to winning the Nov. 7 elections. The Democrats already had the support of anti-war voters and were able to make serious incursions into the GOP support base by attracting Republicans who were disgruntled with the administration. Taking a strong anti-war stand during the election campaign would have been damaging to the Democrats: It would have attracted few additional anti-war votes and inevitably would have alienated the rebellious Republican swing voters. Therefore, saying as little as possible about the war was the wisest political strategy.

That strategy having been successful, however, Democrats are now in power and are expected to take a stand on the war. In the Murtha-Hoyer decision, their first act was to punt. There is more to the equation than this, of course. There is enough ethical baggage in Murtha's past that it would have been awkward (to say the least) for the Democrats, under his majority leadership, to push the Republicans on ethical issues. Nevertheless, the anti-war faction of the Democratic Party is not represented in the new congressional leadership. So far, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has made more noise than any party leader about the war -- and his proposal to reinstate the draft is an interesting political tactic, but it is far from turning the war into a strategic issue for the party.

The deeper explanation for the party's position -- or lack of position -- on the war is complex. The civil rights, labor, environmental and other major sub-groupings that make up its traditional base are not focused on the war because the political strategies they are following do not have a place for the war or for anti-war activists. Consequently, the Democratic Party's long-term efforts to coalesce these groups around a set of core values does not center on the war -- which, again, is a polarizing issue. And that means the party has not pushed for the anti-war faction to be represented in the new congressional leadership.

The Atmospheric Backdrop

That the Republican Party and interest groups have given the Democrats a free pass on the issue is another remarkable element of the situation. For a variety of reasons, the GOP leadership is in no position to beat up Democrats as being wishy-washy -- and in so doing, exacerbate tensions over its own prosecution of the war.

The GOP's inability to capitalize on the Democrats' indecision is an immediate, tactical concern for the Republican leadership, but it also must be noted that Iraq has not been a driving feature in the larger picture either -- and that this affects the federal government at almost all levels. McCaffrey's contention -- that only the military and the CIA are at war -- speaks to an important point, and one that links up directly with the nation's "business as usual" response to the 9/11 attacks.

The president's "business as usual" strategy was a crucial psychological component to the war against jihadists. Fears of a major economic recession were prominent in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. On Sept. 10, 2001, increasing America's savings rate was a long-term goal for the administration, but at the time of the attacks, a downturn already was taking hold, and both policymakers and market-makers worried that a rapid, marked decline in personal spending would send the economy into a tailspin. From this, the administration's position on personal sacrifice -- make none -- was born.

However, it is a mindset that also has permeated the federal government and executive branch, with possibly unforeseen consequences that now have produced a political schism. Both the business and government communities were advised to go about their affairs, leaving the military and intelligence communities to worry about fighting terrorists, so as not to amplify the psychological effects of the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. However, because Iraq has been, from the start, a war of U.S. choosing, the "business as usual" attitude shifted from a purely financial one to a political one as well.

If Iraq brought with it economic hardship -- whether through higher taxes or decreased availability of goods and services -- it would have been a political disaster for the administration. The approach to Iraq, therefore, was the same as the war against al Qaeda: People, acting as civil servants, consumers or beneficiaries of government assistance, should do nothing differently in day-to-day life, and the military would do its job. The larger expense of the war would be borne by deficit spending, and -- by the GOP's logic -- the financial deficits that followed likely would anger only the (largely captive) libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

The GOP Blocs

Within the party itself, the "business as usual" mantra has played out differently among key segments of supporters, with varying implications. Again, the differences between the Beltway perspective and mainstream public's perspective on the war are striking.

The Business Lobby

The main topics of conversation among K Street lobbyists have remained regulatory affairs, tax policy and access to markets, rather than the war. This makes Iraq an unusual study in the history of U.S. war efforts. The business community long has taken an active interest in foreign policy issues. It was active throughout the Cold War in helping the U.S. government voice the need for open markets -- a direct challenge to the closed system of the Soviet Union -- and it helped successive administrations form priorities in terms of balancing military, trade and economic concerns.

During World War II, the business sector became an adjunct to the federal government, providing whatever the government ordered for the war effort. And during Vietnam and Korea, the business lobby played a critical role in communicating the long-term financial and political implications of the war. In each of these cases, business clearly articulated its interest in the war. But since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, business has followed the lead of the executive branch. It has neither taken a clear position on the war as a group, nor lobbied for anything outside of its own narrow self-interest. As industry focused on "business as usual" -- debates over regulatory systems and tax policy -- the administration lost an opportunity to hear the viewpoint of the business establishment.

This is something that presidents in past wars were able to use to their advantage. The Bush administration lost out on this opportunity both because it did not seek the input of the business community on war issues, and because business did not move to provide that to the administration. Why that should be the case is debatable. Some would say it is because President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, though businessmen themselves, and with linkages to the Fortune 500 elite, have included few business alumni in their inner circle. Not many White House insiders -- whether political, administrative or policymaking -- come from the business community or even have worked as business lawyers.

Others argue that the business community's continued reluctance to play an overt role is the result of anti-war claims that "big business" got the United States into the war in the first place. When charges of a "war for oil" seemed to draw popular attention, it is possible that the business community chose to keep its distance -- and thus preserve the goodwill of the administration and congressional heavyweights -- rather than risk its reputation and individual brand names.

Still others point to an increasingly professional Washington lobbying establishment dominated by career politicians and their staffs. These professionals are Washington creatures, whose views of issues are colored by location and, more importantly, by the insularity of the Washington community.

The Evangelicals

The evangelical Christian right also has been relatively quiet in the debate over Iraq. Rather than providing moral guidance, attempting to offer a staunch moral justification for the war or even attempting to oppose the war effort, conservative evangelicals generally have offered quiet support for the president and, otherwise, stood aside as the decisions have been made. This is clearly the safest course for the evangelical leadership, particularly those most closely tied to the Republican Party: The religious right's commitment to the party is beginning to fray, and the chief challenge facing Republican leaders over the next two years is finding ways to keep the bulk of evangelical Christians engaged in national-level politics.

Their followers know people who are in harm's way and have deep concerns about how the war is fought. Still, evangelical leadership has remained on the sidelines. Given the power and influence that the evangelicals have built up over the past decade, their silence on the war issue comes across almost as an abdication.

The Hawks

Of the major Republican blocs, only the foreign policy hawks (primarily military and retired military personnel) have been active on war issues. For the most part, this group has been divided by allegiance to the commander-in-chief -- a president they generally like and understand -- and growing recognition that the leadership has failed in its prosecution of the war. The growing currency of the idea that the Defense Department, particularly Donald Rumsfeld, failed American troops was toxic to the Republican Party, but this lobby did not have the clear will, leadership and access to drive this point home to the administration.

Some merely left the party in November, voting Democratic as a protest; many others sat the election out.

The Schism

The sum total of all of these trends has been to produce a crucial gap between the political machinery inside the Beltway and the American public. With business and evangelicals not discussing the war at all, and the war hawks divided in sentiment, there was no one from outside the administration who could convince the president and his closest advisers that the country needed to shift course in the war -- or at the very least, that retaining Rumsfeld as defense secretary eventually would cost the GOP control of Congress.

Influential outside lobbies usually provide these points of view; on Iraq, they have been muted -- and the few who have spoken out have been ignored. The problem, of course, is that almost every average American knows someone who has been sent to Iraq or has seen the disruption that the military deployments have on the lives of these individuals and their families.

Outside the Beltway, the war is very real. The November election made it clear that voters not only are interested in the war, but were prepared to cast their ballots with Iraq at the forefront of their minds. The distance between these voters and the political leadership is remarkable. Even more remarkable, however, is the fact that none of the intermediate players who typically would have influence -- the conservative evangelicals, labor, business or mainline Protestant denominations -- have been heavily involved in the conduct of this war, and none appear anxious to change that now.

The forthcoming report of the Iraq Study Group -- the bipartisan panel commissioned by Bush to study policy options on the war -- can be expected to reawaken Beltway factions and debate, at least briefly. And the group may indeed be capable of recommending improvements over current strategy in the war. However, the silence from the idea mill in Washington -- not just the official think tanks, but also the informal gatherings of intelligent, well-informed lobbyists and government officials -- already has had a lasting impact on the nation.

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A beaut of a Memoir among these books...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly Deluxe:


Actress Courtney Thorne-Smith's OUTSIDE IN, a comedic novel that captures the sparkling absurdities of life in LA and explores the less glamorous side of success in the entertainment world, to Ann Campbell at Broadway, for publication in September 2007, by Lydia Wills of Paradigm (world)

Former CNN journalist Margaret Lowrie Robertson's SEASON OF BETRAYAL, set in Beirut 1983, exploring betrayal in friendship, love, and war as the marriage of a foreign correspondant and his young wife implodes against the backgound of an exploding city, to Lindsey Smith and Tina Polman at Harcourt, by Bill Contardi at Brandt & Hochman (NA).


Linda Castillo's SWORN TO SILENCE, which centers around a series of shocking murders taking place in Amish country, the female cop (who is one of the tiny percentage of Amish who leave the faith) investigating them, and the contrast between the Amish and 'English' communities, to Charles Spicer at Minotaur, by Nancy Yost at Lowenstein-Yost (World English).

MWA Grandmaster Stuart Kaminsky's PEOPLE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS, marking the return of detective Porfiry Rostnikov, the story of a murder in a Siberian diamond mine that uncovers a trail of corruption and violence, to Claire Eddy at Tor, in a very nice deal, by Donald Maass of the Donald Maass Literary Agency (NA).


KILLER YEAR, an anthology from the group of debut mystery/thriller writers who are members of the Killer Year group, edited by Lee Child, to Mike Homler at Minotaur, in a nice deal, for publication in early 2008, by Scott Miller at Trident Media Group (NA).


Model Carol Alt and Nina Malkin's THIS YEAR'S MODEL, the first two novels in a series based on Alt's real-life journey from discovery by a random photographer in a restaurant to the cover of hundreds of fashion magazines, to Maureen O'Neal at Regan Books, by Laura Dail at Laura Dail Literary Agency (NA).Maureen.O'

Sigrid Nunez's SALVATION CITY, in which a viral epidemic has killed off large numbers of people, including the liberal, intellectual parents of the 13-year-old protagonist and his sister, who are then sent to live with a charismatic Christian fundamentalist pastor and his wife, preparing for the Rapture, to Sarah McGrath at Riverhead, by Joy Harris at the Joy Harris Agency.


Former features editor of New York Magazine and frequent contributor to Vogue, NYTimes, and Seventeen Amy Goldwasser's BLOODY RED HEART, a collection of personal essays written by teenage girls, which she recognizes as the first generation to communicate so extensively in writing -- blogging, IM'ing, emailing, and social networking, to Danielle Friedman at Hudson Street Press, by Lydia Wills at Paradigm (world).

Director of Iranian studies at Stanford University Abbas Milani's MAHMOUD AHMEDINIJAD: A Biography, a biography of Iranian President, to Colin Robinson at Scribner, for publication in fall 2008, by Wendy Strothman (World).


Christopher Flett's WHAT MEN DON'T TELL WOMEN ABOUT BUSINESS, sharing how men see business, how they see women in business, and what men would tell women if there were no consequences, to Emily Conway at Wiley, by Jane Dystel at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World).


Former visiting scholar at Riyadh's King Faisal Institute for Research and Islamic Studies Mark Weston's PROPHETS AND PRINCES, a history of Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the present, with an introduction by former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Wyche Fowler, to Stephen Power at Wiley, in a nice deal, by Bob Shuman at Peter Rubie Literary Agency (World).

John Lawrence Reynolds's SECRET SOCIETIES: Inside the World's Most Notorious Organizations, to James Jayo for his first acquisition at Arcade, in a nice deal, by Sandra Homer at Key Porter Books (US).

Guardian science writer and University College London lecturer Peter D. Smith's DOOMSDAY MEN: Dr. Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon, a cultural history of weapons of mass destruction, looking at the lives of the inventors as well as the cultural shadows cast by the science and the weaponry, which are at the root of many of our current fears and concerns about science, technology, and our future, to Michael Flamini at St. Martin's, by Zoe Pagnamenta at PFD New York, on behalf of James Gill at PFD.UK rights: Penguin PressTranslation:


Former president of Mercury Records and past CEO of Air America Radio Danny Goldberg's BUMPING INTO GENIUSES, a romp through the rock 'n' roll business from the inside out, to Lauren Marino and William Shinker at Gotham, by Steve Wasserman of Kneerim & Williams (NA).

Journalist David Giffels' memoir about his quest to rebuild a Gilded Age mansion in Akron -- where he finds an octogenarian living in one of the rooms and $40,000 in Depression-era cash in the floorboards in another -- to find a stable home for his growing family and to lose himself in an epic renovation, to David Highfill at William Morrow, at auction, by Daniel Greenberg at Levine Greenberg Literary Agency (world).


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Iraq Retreat?

From Information Clearing House:

U.S. Retreat from Iraq? The Secret Story
By Tom Hayden

According to credible Iraqi sources in London and Amman, a secret story of America's diplomatic exit strategy from Iraq is rapidly unfolding. The key events include:

[click link below to continue reading]


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

United they intend to stand...

From Strategic Forecasting, Inc :

Al Qaeda's Pan-Maghreb Gambit
By Fred Burton

Spanish newspaper El Periodico reported Nov. 20 that Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) -- which recently swore allegiance to al Qaeda -- has been instructed to form a unified command with Morocco's Islamic Combatant Group, Libya's Islamic Fighting Group and several Tunisian groups, most notably the Tunisian Combatant Group. The new organization reportedly will be called The Union of the Arab Maghreb.

The newspaper cited Spanish anti-terrorism intelligence sources, who said the information regarding the creation of the new unified network was derived from a plan Moroccan police discovered in one of several raids over the summer. The al Qaeda concept of creating a unified group of "Qaedat al-Jihad in the Arab Maghreb Countries" is not new.

Moroccan authorities discovered plans for such a union in late 2005, when raids targeting several suspected militants turned up messages sent by leaders in the region to Osama bin Laden. In those messages, leaders reportedly discussed a plan for the GSPC to officially join al Qaeda and then unite jihadists in the Maghreb countries -- in many ways conforming to the pattern established by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who united jihadists in Jordan and Iraq.

Significantly, the GSPC effort would also strive to unite North African militants living in Europe into a cohesive paramilitary entity. El Periodico's report would seem to confirm that plans for the pan-Maghreb merger have proceeded. Other signs of traction came from Ayman al-Zawahiri, who said in a Sept. 11, 2006, message that GSPC had joined forces with al Qaeda in a union he hoped would be "a thorn in the neck of the American and French Crusaders and their allies, and an arrow in the heart of the French traitors and apostates." Al-Zawahiri went on to say, "We ask Allah to help our brothers of the GSPC to hit the foundations of the Crusader alliance, primarily their old leader the infidel United States, praise be on Allah."

On Sept. 13, GSPC acknowledged the merger on its Web site with a message from its emir, Abu Musab Abd al-Wadoud, who wrote that, "We have full confidence in the faith, the doctrine, the method and the modes of action of [al Qaeda's] members, as well as their leaders and religious guides."

The fact that al Qaeda pressed on with plans for a Maghreb merger, despite the arrests of more than 50 suspects in Morocco and the fact that the plan was exposed, indicates that the group (and its new local subsidiaries) has some compelling reasons to do so. As Stratfor has noted, acting alone, the GSPC has been unable to derail the peace process between the Algerian government and the country's main Islamist movement, Front Islamique du Salut (FIS). Militant groups in Morocco, Tunisia and Libya are also struggling to gain traction in their respective countries. Linking with each other and al Qaeda will provide them with a boost -- and will provide al Qaeda an important new geographic base and operational arm.

The Motives for Mergers

The plan to unite the disparate militant groups operating in the Maghreb under al Qaeda's banner makes perfect sense from the jihadist perspective. (The name proposed for this new network should not be confused with the Arab Maghreb Union, a pan-Arab trade agreement aiming for economic and political unity in Northern Africa).

Since its foundation, al Qaeda has applied the principles of unity and strength in numbers. The declaration by the so-called "World Islamic Front" in 1998 of "jihad against Jews and Crusaders" was signed not only by bin Laden and al-Zawahiri (who represented what was then an independent group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad), but also by representatives of Egypt's Gamaah al-Islamiyah, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Pakistan and the Jihad Movement in Bangladesh. Al Qaeda leaders later forged close ties with groups such as Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia.

Within al Qaeda, there is a culture of inclusion, and -- though the existence of strong Saudi and Egyptian cadres has been noted -- commanders have been promoted for the most part on the basis of their faith and merit rather than ethnicity or national origin. Commanders from East Asia, Africa and South Asia also have been joined by the likes of Abu Yahya al-Libi and Ahmed Ressam from states in the Maghreb. Indeed, men from the Maghreb states, and Morocco in particular, occupy a considerable (and disproportionate) number of leadership positions in the central al Qaeda organization.

Moreover, Stratfor has received unconfirmed reports that more than 400 North Africans are being trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. In announcing the GSPC merger, al-Zawahiri issued a reminder to "all my brothers who act in the service of Islam, who help the Muslims to resist the Zionist-Crusader campaign, and myself, of the need for unity, which is the door to victory. This unity is a religious duty upon the Muslims while confronting their enemies."

Al Qaeda's doctrine of unity is rooted not only in theology but in very practical considerations as well. From experiences in Afghanistan during the 1980s, and now in Iraq, the jihadists have learned about the tactical and strategic value of joining forces. Al-Zarqawi was able to transform several smaller jihadist groups in Iraq into a unified, effective insurgent force -- not to mention a prodigious media entity. Indeed, many jihadists from the Maghreb have traveled to Iraq to fight.

In September 2005, the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that 600 Algerians were fighting as foreign jihadists in Iraq. At the time, this was believed to be 20 percent of the total strength of the foreign insurgents in Iraq -- the largest of any single group. Moroccan militant networks have also been instrumental in funneling jihadists from Europe to Iraq. This exposure to the jihad in Iraq and their experience with al-Zarqawi's organization reportedly helped to propel the unification scheme in their home region. By uniting, small organizations are better able to maximize resources -- sharing finance and logistics networks and important nodes, such as training camps. It also allows them to use the al Qaeda "brand name" for recruiting and propaganda purposes.

Implications of the Merger

Moroccan authorities also reportedly received information from their Pakistani counterparts that a key aide to al-Zawahiri recently traveled to Morocco using a Thai passport, masquerading as an Asian antiques merchant. His objective was to coordinate the activities of a number of fundamentalist groups in North Africa -- presumably a reference to the merger now being discussed by El Periodico.

This information complements reports from Stratfor sources in the region, who say the leaders of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia feel threatened by an Islamic fundamentalist "tsunami" they believe might strike within the next five years. Because of this threat, Moroccan King Muhammad VI, Algerian President Abdel Aziz Bouteflika and Tunisian President Zayn al-Abidin bin Ali reportedly are preparing (quietly) for a joint security summit.Of course, political leaders in the region are not alone in their concerns.

The United States recently announced that it wants to add Libya to the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP), a group of nine North and West African countries cooperating with Washington against Islamist militants. There are growing concerns about the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group -- and Washington is especially concerned that al Qaeda might be seeking sanctuary in TSCTP territories. Al Qaeda also seems to be gaining influence with Western Saraha's Polisario Movement, many of the leaders of which have let their beards grow in the fundamentalist tradition. They openly call for introducing the rule of the Caliphate in the Arab Maghreb -- the goal espoused by the groups now partnering with al Qaeda.

Tactically speaking, the Maghreb is not as strategically significant to the United States or other "crusader" powers as the Middle East, but it still features a number of economically important targets, including Western oil companies operating in Algeria and Libya and tourist sites in Tunisia and Morocco. Since the 2003 bombings in Casablanca, there have been few terrorist strikes in the region that bore al Qaeda's imprimatur -- though militant activity has been a low constant. The simultaneous truck bomb attacks against two Algerian police stations on Oct. 30 did bear some characteristics of an al Qaeda operation -- and perhaps a hint of al Qaeda influence -- but there were some stark differences as well. For instance, the attacks occurred at night, rather than at a time when casualties would be high.

That said, such tactical differences likely will begin to dissipate as the al Qaeda-Maghreb militant relationship deepens. Ultimately, al Qaeda's previously effective strategies and attack templates likely will become more prominent in the Maghreb. By this, we mean an increase in attacks against oil-related targets (like the uptick seen in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) and more strikes against soft tourist targets such as restaurants, resorts and hotels (like those seen in Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Kenya).

Additionally, the use of suicide bombers -- which are not generally part of the GSPC repertoire -- is likely to increase. The Moroccans certainly have already incorporated the suicide bomber tactic. The 2003 Casablanca attacks, in which 14 suicide operatives were dispatched, involved the largest number of suicide operatives seen in a single operation other than 9/11.North African militants also will benefit from the training in operational security and tradecraft they can receive from al Qaeda cadre. Those who are traveling to fronts like Iraq already are receiving some of this type of training, but under the new arrangement al Qaeda will be able to dispatch personnel to serve, in a sense, as adjunct professors at camps run by groups such as the GSPC in the region. This means more men from the Maghreb will have access to the training since they will no longer have to travel to Pakistan or Afghanistan to attend al Qaeda camps.

This also allows al Qaeda to diversify its training camps and provides continuity in case it loses a camp elsewhere. Strategically, a focus on the Maghreb makes sense for al Qaeda: The region has a long history of militant Islamism and of struggling against colonial and "apostate" rulers. Moreover, there is geographic proximity to Europe, and many North Africans have close ties to Europe and North America via their friends and family residing in large North African communities in places such as Paris, Amsterdam, Milan and Montreal.

That makes the region a great springboard not only for operatives looking to carry out strikes in Europe, but also for proselytizers seeking to unify and radicalize the large North African communities in the continent. Those communities can act as either support networks or as camouflage for jihadist operatives.

Though the focus of jihadist combat operations is Iraq and Afghanistan, Europe long has served as an important logistical and support base for jihadists. In recent years, however, it has become an operational theater as well -- as the 2004 and 2005 attacks in Madrid, Amsterdam and London demonstrated. Italian authorities have thwarted several attacks in the last five years -- as has France, which was singled out in al-Zawahiri's 9/11 anniversary message and could be the site of the next al Qaeda-linked attack. However, the Maghreb node faces a completely different operational environment than the chaos of Iraq. The Maghreb countries have central governments and military, law enforcement and intelligence units that have been fighting Islamist insurgents for decades. With the exception of Libya, these countries are also closely tied to Western military and intelligence agencies and have been cooperating with them for some time. The plan to add Libya to the TSCTP is intended to plug that gap.

In this hostile environment, operational security and terrorist tradecraft will be vital, as will the node's leadership.Since the organization is based on the model of al Qaeda in Iraq, GSPC will assume the central role in the organization like Jamaat al-Tawhid wal-Jihad did in Iraq. Furthermore, al-Wadoud, the emir of the GSPC, will take on the leadership role that was so skillfully played by al-Zarqawi in Iraq. As we have seen from Iraq (and from al Qaeda's organization in Saudi Arabia), the strength of the local leader has a significant impact on the performance of the al Qaeda regional branches. When the leader is strong and organized, the branch is efficient and deadly; when the leader is weak and incapable, the branch either loses its effectiveness or never congeals into an effective force in the first place. In this case, the proof will indeed be in the pudding, as it remains to be seen whether al-Wadoud possesses the leadership skills necessary to mold this new group into a cohesive and effective organization.

Should al-Wadoud prove to be a commander of the caliber of al-Zarqawi or Abdel Aziz al-Muqrin, a noticeable uptick in the number and quality of attacks in the region can be expected. From there, as seen with al-Zarqawi's organization, the new Maghreb branch could project its power and conduct attacks in neighboring countries -- in this case, in Europe.

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