Makes You Wonder

Here are two headlines that really need to be seen together. mjh

FBI Finds It Frequently Overstepped in Collecting Data



In the name of fighting terrorism, the FBI is seeking to create a new $12-million data-mining program that “bears a striking resemblance” to the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program. Documents predict that this new program “will include six billion records by FY2012. This amounts to 20 separate ‘records’ for each man, woman and child in the United States.” Citing the FBI’s “track record of improperly — even illegally — gathering personal information on Americans,” House Science and Technology Committee members Brad Miller (D-NC) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) requested last week that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigate the proposal. In 2005, the GAO found that the FBI’s Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force did not comply with all privacy and security laws. Earlier this year, an Inspector General’s report found that the FBI had repeatedly violated regulations while using National Security Letters to “obtain the personal records of U.S. residents or visitors.” In addition, an internal FBI audit published today by the Washington Post found “that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years.” “[T]wo dozen of the newly-discovered violations involved agents’ requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have.” These repeated violations of federal law are made worse in light of the fact that such data mining techniques have yet to be proven effective in counter-terrorism operations. A recent Cato Institute study found that programs similar to this new FBI program are likely do little but “flood the national security system with false positives — suspects who are truly innocent.”
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FBI Finds It Frequently Overstepped in Collecting Data, By John Solomon, Washington Post Staff Writer

An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.

The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau’s national security investigations since 2002, and so the mistakes in the FBI’s domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials said in interviews. The earlier report found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling.

The Paragon of Animals

He was so very old, having outlived family and friends. How many miles he’d traveled, no one could know. He had seen so much change — for the worst. Whether or not it was really “his time to go,” he was slaughtered by a gang of heartless, mindless killers. In a world soaked in blood, blinded by a spectrum of cruelty and violence, choked with the nausea from limitless abuse and inhumanity, his death breaks my heart — again.

If there ever was a god, he killed himself or walked away in disgust. mjh

Whale found with 19th-century weapon in neck, By Erin Conroy, Associated Press

BOSTON — A 50-ton bowhead whale caught off the Alaskan coast last month had a weapon fragment embedded in its neck that showed it survived a similar hunt — more than a century ago. Embedded deep under its blubber was a 3 1/2-inch arrow-shaped projectile that has given researchers insight into the whale’s age, estimated between 115 and 130 years old. …

“It probably hurt the whale, or annoyed him, but it hit him in a non-lethal place,” he said. “He couldn’t have been that bothered if he lived for another 100 years.” …

The 49-foot male whale died when it was shot with a similar projectile last month, and the older device was found buried beneath its blubber as hunters carved it with a chain saw for harvesting. …

“We didn’t make anything of it at the time, and no one had any idea about their lifespan, or speculated that a bowhead could be that old,” [some idiot] said.

It is a measure of our indifference that the tone of this article is of amazement, not guilt. Look! We finally got him! Hey, he couldn’t have been hurt so bad — he lived another century. For all we know, he ached every day of that 100 plus years. Regardless, it’s over now. Someone got a museum piece, a moment in the news, a bowel movement. mjh

“What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!

Hamlet (II, ii, 115-117)

Remembering Duhbya (spit on the ground)

Eugene Robinson – Fleeting Glory in Albania

The report was done for the Council of Europe by Swiss legislator Dick Marty, and its opening paragraph is worth quoting at length:

“What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven: large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice. Others have been held in arbitrary detention, without any precise charges leveled against them and without any judicial oversight. . . . Still others have simply disappeared for indefinite periods and have been held in secret prisons, including in member states of the Council of Europe.”

This, I am convinced, is how future generations will remember George W. Bush: as the president who abandoned our traditional concepts of justice and human rights, choosing instead a program of state-sponsored kidnapping, arbitrary detention and abusive interrogation techniques such as “waterboarding.” …

We will remember this whole misguided administration for deciding to wage the fight against terrorism in a manner that not only mocks our nation’s values but also draws new recruits to the anti-American cause. We will remember this White House for unwittingly helping the terrorist cause perpetuate itself.

Judges Preserve the Constitution

Judges Rule Against U.S. On Detained ‘Combatant’ By Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post Staff Writer

The President cannot eliminate constitutional protections with the stroke of a pen by proclaiming a civilian, even a criminal civilian, an enemy combatant subject to indefinite military detention,” the panel found. …

The 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, is considered one of the most conservative in the country, but the three-judge panel that heard the case was not. Two judges known as moderates, both appointed by President Bill Clinton, made up the majority in the decision. … U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Bush appointee, dissented from the opinion. Hudson contended that Bush had the power to detain enemy combatants ….

The panel found that the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which prohibits enemy combatants from challenging the basis for their imprisonment in U.S. courts, does not apply to a person living legally in the United States. The judges also doubted the legality of classifying someone as an enemy combatant who was not caught on the battlefield or was not carrying arms.

Civil libertarians who championed Marri’s case had warned that if the administration prevailed in its argument, the military could next round up U.S. citizens and jail them without trial. The court appeared to agree.

“To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians . . . would have disastrous consequences for the constitution — and the country,” U.S. Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the majority.

The World is Dying to Congratulate the Groom

So, all our expensive, intrusive security efforts are for naught, not to mention the “greatest health care system in the world.” Truth be told, I understand. Human endeavors are inevitably fraught with human failings. No system is foolproof.

But what a fool Patient Zero — Mr. Speaker — is. Or thinks we are. Look at the steps he took to make sure he got his honeymoon no matter what. I can’t think of someone who zigzags like he did, even driving across the border, rather than fly, as a mere innocent. He’s a selfish fool who is now doing a great job of making himself sound like the victim in the process. He sincerely hopes procedures are improved thanks to this. Like arresting TB patients? Not that I’d wish TB on him for his selfishness. I just wish he’d say, “hey, I thought I deserved a last fling before treatment.” Selfishness is human; lying makes it worse.

I recommend you rent Twelve Monkeys, a brilliant movie with a very interesting intersection with this story. mjh

CDC: Staffer focused initially on public health, not jet, By ALISON YOUNG, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Speaker has said that he never would have left the United States for his long-planned wedding in Greece and honeymoon around Europe if he had been told he was a threat to anyone. He said Fulton County health officials, who had been overseeing his TB case since January, told him he was not contagious.
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TB Patient Denies Running From CDC

The globe-trotting tuberculosis patient now in quarantine insisted to Congress on Wednesday that doctors told him he wasn’t contagious and didn’t order him to stay in the United States for treatment — even as health officials painted a picture of a man on the run.

“I didn’t go running off or hide from people. It’s a complete fallacy, it’s a lie,” Andrew Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta lawyer, said by telephone from the Denver hospital room where he remains in government-ordered isolation.

But in testimony to a Senate subcommittee, federal and local health officials said Speaker took an international flight two days earlier than planned after he had been told he had a drug-resistant form of TB and should not travel.

Fulton County health officials told Speaker, “No you should not travel,” said Dr. Steven R. Katkowsky, the health department’s director. “Was he ordered not to travel? The answer to that was no. The local health department does not have the authority to prohibit or order somebody not to travel.”

the TB groom and brideSpeaker’s European wedding and honeymoon travel caused an international health scare. But Speaker told senators that in face-to-face meetings to discuss his treatment options days before he left, no doctors even wore masks.

“I was repeatedly told I was not contagious, that I was not a threat to anyone,” Speaker said.

His medical chart says he was told that “he was not highly contagious,” Katkowsky countered.”
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Letting Speaker back into the country wasn’t the only slip: He shouldn’t have been allowed out, either, said the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But after talking with local health officials on May 10, Speaker changed his flight reservations to leave the country two days earlier than originally planned, said CDC chief Dr. Julie Gerberding — a step ahead of doctors who, under Georgia law, couldn’t detain him until it was demonstrated that he was a danger.

“The whole issue of quarantine has been devoted to keeping people out. It is the first time have had to address keeping people in our country,” she said.

That was among a series of gaps Gerberding identified in the Senate subcommittee hearing in the nation’s public health security. Another: Once the CDC tracked Speaker down in Italy to tell him he had the worst TB form — a rare type resistant to most drugs — officials didn’t immediately ask Italian authorities to detain him, but asked him to voluntarily turn himself in.

“We gave the patient the benefit of the doubt, and in retrospect we made a mistake,” Gerberding said.

Instead, Speaker flew to Canada on May 24 — potentially exposing other passengers sitting near him on the plane — and then drove across the border into the U.S., despite a lookout alert issued to all border posts.

Paranoid, Trigger-happy Christian Cowboys

Haven’t we had enough bravado and “bring ’em on!”? Doesn’t a willingness to start a nuclear war disqualify someone from election? Why not? mjh

Nuking Iran: The Republican Agenda?, William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California was the starkest: “I would authorize the use of tactical nuclear weapons if there was no other way to preempt those particular centrifuges,” he said. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said he believed that the job “could be done with conventional weapons,” but he added that “you can’t rule out anything and you shouldn’t take any option off the table.” Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore also left “all options are on the table” with regard to Iranian nuclear weapons. Said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: “I wouldn’t take any options off the table.”

After the debate, former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee, who did not particpate, added his name to the list of candidates who would consider a preemptive attack against Iran.

Only Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the “Dennis the Menace” of his party, said he opposed a nuclear strike on moral grounds and because he believed Iran “has done no harm to us directly and is no threat to our national security.”

The Iraq war and the war against terrorism are the central battles of our time, these candidates say. They all profess their faith in God and the United States, and speak of a moral struggle between good and evil, between the United States and “radical Islam.” Yet they are not willing to say that nuclear weapons have no place in modern confrontations.

I am not arguing that Iran’s effort to develop nuclear weapons is justified. It isn’t. I am saying, however, that the U.S. should not use its nuclear weapons to threaten Iran. And not just from a moral standpoint, but from a practical one: When we brandish our own nuclear arsenal, we only play into the hands of supporters of Tehran’s plans to develop its own.

Oh, god, Not Another Actor in the White House

I think we all know who is going to win the Republican nomination: another goddamn actor. How much more evidence does the nation need that the GOP is out-of-touch? mjh

McCain Sets Self Apart in Debate By Dan Balz and Michael D. Shear, Washington Post Staff Writers

Actor and former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.), who is exploring a presidential bid, did not participate in the debate but used the moment to launch his campaign Web site.

Immediately after the debate, he appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes.” Thompson said he would support a preemptive strike against Iran to knock out its nuclear capability and accused Democratic candidates of speaking in decade-old “cliches” about the challenges facing the country.

Asked about his previous statements that he had never hungered to run for president, Thompson said, “More and more, I wish that I had the opportunity to do the things that only a president can do.” [mjh: yeah, like nuke any country you want. No actor has ever gotten to do that, though Raygun came close.]
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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) remains on top, but his support has slipped to 23%. That’s down two points from a week ago and is his lowest level of support all year. Earlier, Giuliani had consistently enjoyed support in the mid-30s. That was before Thompson’s name was added to the mix and before Giuliani stumbled on the abortion issue in the first GOP debate of the season.

Thompson, who just formed an exploratory committee and is the newest face in the race, immediately moved into second place. With 17% support, he is within six points of the frontrunner. That’s closer than anybody has been to Giuliani in 20 consecutive weekly polls. Thompson is also competitive in a variety of general election match-ups with potential Democratic nominees.

Among men, Thompson earns 21% support while Giuliani attracts 20%.