Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Justice Dept on FISA....

From Secrecy News...


The Justice Department has released its responses to questions (pdf) originally posed by the House Judiciary Committee in 2007 about the Department's views on the legal framework governing electronic surveillance under the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

In questions for the record from a September 18, 2007 hearing, House Committee members probed the potential use of electronic surveillance against U.S. persons, the exclusivity of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the claimed scope of independent presidential authority, and the basis for mandating telecommunication carrier immunity.

"If the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) was perfectly legal as has been claimed, why would companies who cooperated in it need immunity?" the Committee asked. (To protect classified information, among other reasons, the Department responded.) "Is the President free to disregard any provisions of FISA with which he disagrees?" (No, not exactly.) "If an individual in the United States is suspected of working in collusion with persons outside the United States--such that an investigation of one is in effect the investigation of the other--under what circumstances, generally, would you use criminal or other FISA wiretaps?" (Targeting of persons in the United States can only be done under FISA procedures.)

The Committee hearing volume (pdf) was published in June 2008 without the Justice Department's answers to these questions, because they were provided to Congress too late to be included in the published record. A copy of the answers was released last week under the Freedom of Information Act.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Selection of Books On the Way....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly...



Gayle Trent's KILLER SWEET TOOTH, the next novel in her Kindle bestselling cozy mystery series, moving to Lauren McKenna at Gallery, in a two-book deal, by Robert Gottlieb at Trident Media Group.


Filmmaker David Goyer and author and TV writer Michael Cassutt's sci-fi adventure trilogy, HEAVEN'S SHADOW, HEAVEN'S WAR, and HEAVEN'S FALL, about teams of astronauts sent to intercept an object hurtling toward Earth -- which is filled with alien forces, to Ginjer Buchanan at Ace, for publication beginning in July 2011, by Simon Lipskar at Writers House.


Francine Pascal's SWEET VALLEY CONFIDENTIAL, following her iconic identical blonde twins and full cast of characters into adulthood, now in their late twenties and early thirties, "where the real world intrudes," to Dan Weiss at St. Martin's (who created the original series with Pascal when he was a book packager), with Hilary Rubin Teeman editing, for publication in early 2011.


Amor Towles's debut RULES OF CIVILITY, set in New York in 1938 and telling the story of a young woman of extraordinary ability and ignominious beginnings who, armed with little more than formidable intellect, bracing wit, and uncommonly good legs, embarks on a journey through the upper echelons of a city on the brink of dramatic change in search of a future far brighter than she's been told she has the right to expect, to Jocasta Hamilton at Hodder Sceptre and to Neri Pozza, in a major deal, in a pre-empt, by Cathryn Summerhayes and Laura Bonner on behalf of Dorian Karchmar at William Morris Endeavor, who will be auctioning North American rights next week.


Professor at Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, and former corporate chair in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency at the RAND Corporation, Bruce Hoffman's ANONYMOUS SOLDIERS: The Jewish Underground, the British Army, and the Rise of Israel about the militant factions that drove the Jewish revolt against British rule in Palestine between 1944-1948, to Andrew Miller at Knopf, on exclusive submission, by Eric Lupfer at William Morris Endeavor (NA).

Washington D.C. editor for The Nation, New America fellow, and regular MSNBC commentator Christopher Hayes's SYSTEM FAIL: The Crisis of Authority, the Decline of the Meritocracy, and the Reformation to Come, revealing the origins, effects, and scope of the crisis of authority that is crippling American politics and society, exploring the poor performance of key institutions from Wall Street to Major League Baseball to the Big Three automakers and Congress, and offering a way forward to remedy what ails us, to Vanessa Mobley at Broadway, for publication in 2012, at auction, by Will Lippincott at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (NA).


MacArthur scholar and Georgetown physics and public policy professor Dr. Francis Slakey's TO THE LAST BREATH, pitched as Into Thin Air meets Three Cups of Tea, a memoir of the distinguished scientist's quest to summit the highest mountain on every continent and surf every ocean -- and how this pursuit challenged his fiercely ingrained scientific beliefs, inspired a new understanding of human interdependence, and deepened his humanity, to David Rosenthal and Priscilla Painton at Simon & Schuster, by Rob Weisbach at Rob Weisbach Creative Management (NA).

Anna Goldsworthy's PIANO LESSONS, a memoir of the extraordinary teacher who brought a respect for life, a generous spirit, and a love of music into a nine-year-old's world, and gave her the courage to embrace the musical life as she discovers passion and ambition, confronts doubt and disappointment, and learns about much more than tone and technique -- a story for anyone who has ever loved a teacher, to Nichole Argyres at St. Martin's, by Sophy Williams at Black Inc. (NA; UK).

The Tennessee couple who adopted Michael Oher (subject of Michael Lewis's The Blind Side), Sean Tuohy and Leigh Anne Tuohy's book about the power of giving, to Steve Rubin at Holt, for publication in summer 2010.


Author of KLUGE and Director of the NYU Center for Child Language, Gary Marcus's GUITAR ZERO, pitched as in the tradition of THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC, Marcus becomes his own subject in the quest to create and map the neuromuscular aspects of musicianship, to Ginny Smith at the Penguin Press, for publication in 2011, by Daniel Greenberg of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency.

Forbes senior reporter David Randall's DREAMLAND: Adventures in the Strange World of Sleep, an entertaining exploration into the rich, complex realm of sleep science, to Jill Bialosky at Norton, by Larry Weissman at Larry Weissman Literary (World English)


Tennis Magazine executive editor Stephen Tignor's THE END OF THE EARTH: Borg, McEnroe, Connors, and the Final Days of Tennis' Golden Age, a chronicle of how a bunch of free-spirited but ferocious rivals took the sport farther from its gentlemanly roots than anyone thought possible and gave it a mystique that has never been equaled since, to David Hirshey at Harper, in a pre-empt, by Amy Rennert of the Amy Rennert Agency (World).


Thursday, February 18, 2010


From Keith Taylor...

Me and the Admiral


Keith Taylor

Admiral Mike Mullen and I have something in common. We are both Navy men of long standing. I enlisted in 1947, and made the leap from enlisted to officer in 1964. Mike became an ensign in 1968. Hey, I outranked him by half a stripe, but that was temporary. I stayed a JagGee. Mike ended up with so much gold on his sleeve I wonder how he is able to raise his arm to return a salute, and that’s a lot. He’s now the top dog in our armed forces.

But me and the Admiral have more in common than being veterans for a long time. Both of us bought the idea that homosexuality and military life were incompatible. I don’t know what they taught the plebes at Annapolis in the 60s, but the boot pushers at Great Lakes in 1947 told us those guys weren’t to be trusted or tolerated, and they were to be discharged as soon as they were caught, simple as that.

With “everybody” believing the same thing it was easy to go along. But doubt crept in. In 1964 shortly after the Navy “promoted” me from being the senior enlisted man on a ship to being the junior officer in the universe, an ensign. I was assigned to a small island far away when my skipper suddenly disappeared.

Mister Smith (not his real name) was, like me, a mustang. He was also a grouchy old goat, but he sported a chest full of ribbons gained from a long and honorable 26-years in the Navy. Ironically Smitty’s request for retirement was turned down because he was too valuable and the Navy would have to find a qualified relief. Then he made a trip to Washington to discuss a problem and we never saw him again.

Word about him filtered down the scuttlebutt pipeline slowly. Only two things are known for sure. He was caught in some sort of homosexual act and was given a choice of a general court martial or a general discharge. Some said he was so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing. If so, that didn’t matter. The rules of the Uniform Code of Military Justice were immutable. Any penetration no matter how slight was forbidden. Whether Greg penetrated or was penetrated didn’t matter. He was a goner. Twenty-six years of faithful, sometimes, cantankerous, service was wiped out by those archaic rules.

But that was a long time ago. The term “homosexual” disappeared and was replaced by the ironic term “gay.” In 1993 a new president promised to change the rules and allow gay men and women to serve in the armed forces. But it was thwarted by congress with the strong backing of the leaders of the armed forces. We ended up with don’t ask, don’t tell rule. It was a great invitation to sweep a problem, if it was a problem, under the desk.

In essence it said, our fighting men and women could be as gay as they wished as long as they didn’t tell anybody, and as long as they didn’t have sex with folks of the same sex. All sorts of sex is against the law but, some laws are more vigorously prosecuted. None more than when the word “gay” pops up.

As with so many compromises it was a complete flop. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group devoted to defending gays who are being discriminated against by the military, discharges increased 72% in the first ten years of Don’t Ask.

Now a new president is again trying to carry out a campaign policy by doing away with roadblocks to their serving. And again we hear the objections. Our local congressman, Duncan Hunter, just raised the horrible specter that rescinding the ban altogether would open the military “to transgenders, to hermaphrodites, to gays and lesbians." Not that it was a huge problem. I never took a shower with a hermaphrodite during my 22 years, nine months, and 11 days active service. Nor did I take one with a lesbian. Gays, I’m just not sure.

But the congressman seems to be on the losing side of this. A poll just out by Military Times indicates only half of its readers don’t ask compared to 63% a few years ago.

I doubt that he was polled, but my old running mate (for a short while) changed course as well. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, testified before the Senate Armed Forces Committee, “No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens,”

Welcome aboard the ship of common sense admiral, even if it took you a while.

Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer living in Chula Vista. He can be reached at KRTaylorxyz@aol.com


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CIA Hit List...

From Secrecy News...


It is useful to be reminded from time to time that not every allegation or published report concerning Central Intelligence Agency operations is necessarily true.

A front-page story in the Washington Post on January 27 included the remarkable statement that "Both the CIA and the JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command of the Department of Defense] maintain lists of individuals... whom they seek to kill or capture. The JSOC list includes three Americans, including [Islamist cleric Anwar al-] Aulaqi, whose name was added late last year. As of several months ago, the CIA list included three U.S. citizens, and an intelligence official said that Aulaqi's name has now been added."

But at least the part about the CIA list turns out to be unfounded.

"The article referred incorrectly to the presence of U.S. citizens on a CIA list of people the agency seeks to kill or capture," the Washington Post said in a correction published in the February 12 edition. "After The Post's report was published, a source said that a statement the source made about the CIA list was misunderstood. Additional reporting produced no independent confirmation of the original report, and a CIA spokesman said that The Post's account of the list was incorrect. The military's Joint Special Operations Command maintains a target list that includes several Americans. In recent weeks, U.S. officials have said that the government is prepared to kill U.S. citizens who are believed to be involved in terrorist activities that threaten Americans."

The correction has been appended to the online version of the article.

On February 3, Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair testified to his view that U.S. government agencies may use lethal force against U.S. citizens who are involved in terrorist activities. "We don't target people for free speech," he said. "We target them for taking action that threatens Americans."

"I'm actually a little bit surprised you went this far in open session," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) at the hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.

"The reason I went this far in open session," replied DNI Blair, "is I just don't want other Americans who are watching to think that we are careless about endangering -- in fact, we're not careless about endangering lives at all, but we especially are not careless about endangering American lives as we try to carry out the policies to protect most of the country. And I think we ought to go into details in closed session."

Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

The Secrecy News Blog is at:


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

And Still More Books....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Kieran Shields' debut novel, THE TRUTH OF ALL THINGS, in which a police inspector in Portland, Maine finds a murdered prostitute pinned to the earth with a pitchfork, and learns that death by "sticking" is a traditional method of killing a witch, and enlists a brilliant Abenaki Indian criminalist to help, as each detective overcomes his skepticism of the other's methods as they follow a trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England, and the Salem witch trials' profound connection to the local Native American tribes, until it reveals the story of the accused witches we almost never hear about: the men, to Sean Desmond at Crown, at auction, for publication in fall 2011, by Erin Malone and Suzanne Gluck at William Morris Endeavor (NA).

Stacia Brown's ACCIDENTS OF PROVIDENCE, the story of a young glove-maker in London who falls in love with a member of the radical Levelers, and falls victim to a law targeting unwed mothers during the Puritan Revolution, to Jenna Johnson at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in a pre-empt, in a two-book deal, by Henry Dunow.


International bestselling author Jeff Abbott's ADRENALINE, the start of a series featuring Sam Capra -- a brilliant CIA agent, loving husband, and expectant father, who loses everything that matters to him a horrifying moment in London and escapes from the CIA to go on a desperate hunt to save his kidnapped wife and child, reuniting with Mitch Hoffman at Grand Central, for publication in summer 2011, in a two-book deal, by Curtis Brown (NA).


Edna O'Brien's OLD WOUNDS, a story collection and her memoir, COUNTRY GIRL, to Pat Strachan at Little, Brown, and to Lee Brackstone at Faber & Faber, at auction, by Ed Victor of Ed Victor Ltd..

Bookforum editor Chris Lehmann's RICH PEOPLE THINGS, an adaptation of the author's witty columns for The Awl about the trials and tribulations of society's most fortunate members and institutions, to Colin Robinson at Or Books, by Melissa Flashman at Trident Media Group (World).


General George S. Patton's youngest grandson, Benjamin Patton's WITH ALL THY MIGHT: Life Lessons From My Father, His Father & Our Personal Heroes, based on an article in Smithsonian, with previously unpublished material on Patton and interviews with everyone the author has known, from Rommel's son and Major General James Dozier to an American nun living undercover in occupied France and his mother, reading like a compendium of heroes who share their "life lessons"; pitched as Profiles in Courage meets Tuesdays with Morrie, to Natalee Rosenstein at Caliber, in a very nice deal, for publication in Fall 2011, by Harvey Klinger at Harvey Klinger (NA).


Louis Hyman's BORROW: A Brief History of Debt in Modern America, the story of how the United States became a nation fueled by credit, focusing on the micro-level, individual decisions of Americans over the course of the last century - from buying a Model T, to speculating on houses in the roaring 20s, to charging freely at Bloomies in the 40s and 50s, to getting that first credit card or home equity line - a journey through American history following a single character that has shaped a significant portion of it, to Jeff Alexander at Pantheon, by Eric Lupfer at William Morris Endeavor.


FT columnist 'The Undercover Economist' Tim Harford's ADAPT: How to Save the World One Failure at a Time, which looks at how we can solve both global problems - climate change, the threat of terrorism, the impact of the financial crisis, etc. - and issues in our personal and business lives through accepting failure as part of progress and using the same, under-rated method: trial and error, to Eric Chinski at Farrar, Straus, at auction, by Zoe Pagnamenta at the Zoe Pagnamenta Agency on behalf of Sally Holloway at Felicity Bryan (US).


Erica Heller's YOSSARIAN SLEPT HERE, a humorous, moving memoir of her childhood and her parents, Shirley and Joseph Heller, set against the backdrop of the Apthorp apartment building where the Heller family has lived for decades, to Sarah Hochman at Simon & Schuster, by Henry Dunow at Dunow, Carlson & Lerner, for publication in Fall 2011 (the 50th Anniversary of the publication of CATCH-22) (world).

The Daily Beast correspondent and former WSJ reporter Rebecca Dana's JUJITSU RABBI AND THE GODLESS BLONDE, pitched as Candace Bushnell meets The Odd Couple meets Shalom Auslander, to Amy Einhorn at Amy Einhorn Books, in a two-book deal, at auction, by Jason Anthony and Rachel Vogel at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (world).


Thursday, February 04, 2010

Some Unusual Books Coming...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Susan Juby's THE REPUBLIC OF DIRT, about a well-intentioned but inept woman leading a cast of misfits as she tries to save her inheritance, to Jeanette Perez at Harper, for publication in March 2011, by Hilary McMahon at Westwood Creative Artists (US).


Dennis Lehane's untitled Patrick & Angie mystery, the 6th and final Patrick & Angie novel, a sequel to "Gone Baby Gone", to Claire Wachtel for William Morrow, for publication in 2011, by Ann Rittenberg at Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency (NA).


Doug Magee's NEVER WAVE GOODBYE, minutes after a couple put their only child on a van for sleepaway camp, a second van arrives to pick the girl up -- and no one at the camp has any knowledge of the first van or its driver, to Sulay Hernandez at Touchstone Fireside, in a two-book deal, for publication in June 2010, by Ann Rittenberg at Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency (NA).
German rights to Aufbau, by Sabine Pfannensteil-Wright at Andrew Nurnberg Associates; Portuguese rights to Sextante, by Daniela Petracco at Andrew Nurnberg Associates.


Jojo Moyes's THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER, searching her newspaper's archives for a story, a woman is surprised to discover a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband; despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man, she can't help but investigate; in 1960 a different woman wakes up in hospital after a car accident; she can't remember anything - her husband, her friends, who she used to be; and then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for, to Pamela Dorman of Pamela Dorman Books, for publication in summer 2011, by Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown UK (NA).



Chris Brogan's SOCIAL MEDIA 101, the follow-up to Trust Agents and a quick-to-market guide to the tools, techniques, and strategies behind using social media for your business, your organization, or your own personal interests, to Shannon Vargo at Wiley, for publication in March 2010 (World).

Founder of Digg.com Kevin Rose's ONE TO ONE MILLION, to Harper Studio.


High-school-principal-turned-media-phenomenon Steve Perry's PUSH HAS COME TO SHOVE, in which the educator and CNN commentator reveals the "whatever it takes" secrets of the inner-city high school he founded and runs, now being seen as a template for how America can reinvent its schools, to Rick Horgan at Crown, by Bonnie Solow at Solow Literary Enterprises (world).

Investigative reporter and author of The Sellout Charlie Gasparino's BOUGHT AND PAID FOR, exploring the unholy alliance among Big Business, Big Banking, and Big Government, to Adrian Zackheim at Sentinel, at auction, by Ethan Friedman and Stephen Hanselman at LevelFiveMedia (world).


Actor and activist Ashley Judd's highly personal memoir about change and hope and human transformation "along with those [stories] of the beautiful and resilient people I've met in the most desperate places," drawing on 500 pages of journal entries compiled while serving as global ambassador for the public health non-profits PSI (Population Services International)/Youth AIDS, to Pamela Cannon at Ballantine, for publication in spring 2011, with a foreword by Nicholas Kristof, by Trena Keating at Keating Literary (world English).

Gidget the Taco Bell Dog's trainer Sue Chipperton's A (FAMOUS) DOG'S LIFE, with People Magazine staffer Rennie Dyball, celebrating the unusual life of this celebrated celebrity dog, and exploring the life of a Hollywood animal trainer who has worked on everything from LEGALLY BLONDE and the Aflac commercials to TITANIC and GRAN TORINO, to Danielle Perez at NAL, by Mollie Glick at Foundry Literary + Media (NA).


THE MORAL ANIMAL and THE EVOLUTION OF GOD Robert Wright's untitled book on what evolution tells us about finding a happiness worth having, to Priscilla Painton at Simon & Schuster, by Rafe Sagalyn at The Sagalyn Agency.


Monday, February 01, 2010

Health Care Brouhaha....

From Keith Taylor:



Keith Taylor

Well, it’s over, or so it would seem. Even a compromise will leave us far behind virtually all other developed nations, each with a working national health care program. And, by every means of measure, all are much better off for having one.

Despite the claims, few of the objections started with the rank and file They were the result of a coordinated effort by powerful interests who have had a world of experience of swaying the opinion of a our nation.

Hence: “IT’S SOCIALISM” cried a teabagger, obviously elated to be on TV. He was so upset at the idea of having a national health care system in the land of the free he wanted to go back to the way America was in the beginning. I waited in vain for the reporter to ask if he wanted to explain to his wife why she wouldn’t be able to vote or own property? Or did he just want to buy a slave as people had in the beginning.

And so it went. The brouhaha over health care was filled with lies, exaggerations, half truths, urban legends, misunderstandings and, now and then, enough truth to keep the more strident talk show hosts from looking like utter fools – a formidable task by itself.

As a guy heading into his ninth decade, and after a eclectic background as a sailor, cryptographer, writer, political activist, and insurance salesman; I’ve picked up a stray idea or so. To start with, socialism doesn’t cause me to tremble as it does for those who claim it will be the end of all that’s good about the greatest nation on earth.

It’s been around since Daniel Boone bellyached about not having enough elbow room even after he’d traversed the Cumberland Gap. Early on someone noticed that a bit of control of people and business would be necessary if our thirteen disparate states were to comprise a nation. Adam Smith was tempered by John Maynard Keynes.

But the haves in our nation fought any sort of control tooth and nail. It was part of the cause for the greatest war in our history. But what is considered socialism has prevailed. And except for those who want to own other people, enslave women, or otherwise abuse the have-nots, it has been a pretty good deal.

But, the naysayers are claiming, health care is the most pernicious form of socialism. As always, there is enough truth in the claims to scare the bejabbers out of those who are afraid to look around the next corner.

It would ration care, but not as much as the insurance industry does today. Those folks with the red umbrellas, outstretched open hands and blue crosses not only ration health care with policy limits and exclusions, they get to decide who can get it in the first place.

But how does our current hodgepodge compare with the government provided health care of the other developed countries? It stinks! Their plan costs far less per person than in the U.S.A. By most measurable standards, the results are better too. Citizens of those countries live longer. Their babies have a much greater chance of surviving one year.

And ten percent of us are one illness away from bankruptcy. Our “health program,” is nothing more than a mélange of Medicare, individual policies, group policies, and one sparkling program – the program available for U.S. government employees, including military retirees, and their families. It does wonders for my wife and me.

The cost alone of this mess is reason enough to abolish the present system. When the deficits of one huge segment of our economy outstrips the rest, we are headed towards disaster. The math is so simple and so stark it can be seen through a tea bag.

And so it goes. We’ve had this much vaunted competition for decades now and it works – for the companies. They are not evil. They are simply doing what they have to do to make a profit and attract stockholders. They cut costs by eliminating the problem, those who get sick, or who are apt to.

It is time to recognize that it doesn’t work. Our congressional representatives need to stop imitating the teabaggers and shouting meaningless phrases. The health of our citizens and our nation is at stake. If we don’t put the country’s needs first, the problem will consume us.

//Keith Taylor is a retired Naval officer living in Chula Vista, Ca. He is also retired as an insurance broker. He can be reached at KRTaylorxyz@aol.com