Dec 31, 2006

Fisk On Covert U.S. Support For Saddam

Robert Fisk:

We've shut him up. The moment Saddam's hooded executioner pulled the lever of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning, Washington's secrets were safe. The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States - and Britain - gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want the world to remember. And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support - given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War - is dead.

There is growing evidence across the Arab world that Saddam held a series of meetings with senior American officials prior to his invasion of Iran in 1980 - both he and the US administration believed that the Islamic Republic would collapse if Saddam sent his legions across the border - and the Pentagon was instructed to assist Iraq's military machine by providing intelligence on the Iranian order of battle. ...

Iran's official history of the eight-year war with Iraq states that Saddam first used chemical weapons against it on 13 January 1981. AP's correspondent in Baghdad, Mohamed Salaam, was taken to see the scene of an Iraqi military victory east of Basra. "We started counting - we walked miles and miles in this fucking desert, just counting," he said. "We got to 700 and got muddled and had to start counting again ... The Iraqis had used, for the first time, a combination - the nerve gas would paralyse their bodies ... the mustard gas would drown them in their own lungs. That's why they spat blood."

At the time, the Iranians claimed that this terrible cocktail had been given to Saddam by the US. Washington denied this. But the Iranians were right. The lengthy negotiations which led to America's complicity in this atrocity remain secret - Donald Rumsfeld was one of President Ronald Reagan's point-men at this period - although Saddam undoubtedly knew every detail. But a largely unreported document, "United States Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War", stated that prior to 1985 and afterwards, US companies had sent government-approved shipments of biological agents to Iraq. These included Bacillus anthracis, which produces anthrax, and Escherichia coli (E. coli). That Senate report concluded that: "The United States provided the Government of Iraq with 'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-systems programs, including ... chemical warfare agent production facility plant and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment." ...

The whole truth died with Saddam Hussein in the Baghdad execution chamber yesterday. Many in Washington and London must have sighed with relief that the old man had been silenced for ever.

Dec 30, 2006

New Defense White Paper From Beijing

The Bush administration has been complaining to the Chinese about the lack of explanation from Beijing about their ambitious military modernization program.

China has issued a defense white paper (in part) to sate Washington's curiosity.

The latest in China's series of biannual defense white papers reiterated threats against Taiwan, gave questionably low defense budget numbers, and accused the U.S. of aggravating tensions with Beijing by referring to a "China threat."

But the 91-page document, the fifth produced by China's State Council since 1998, offered plenty of new detail as well. ...

Among the primary policy concerns of the new white paper was "upholding national security and unity ... opposing and containing the separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence' and their activities, taking precautions against and cracking down on terrorism, separatism and extremism in all forms." ...

The report put China's 2006 defense budget at $35.3 billion, up 12.5 percent from $30 billion the previous year. That is far lower than estimates from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which earlier this year put Chinese military spending between $70 billion and $105 billion in 2006, up from $60 billion and $85 billion the previous year.

"The defense budget continues to grow, and the white paper attempts to minimize this with comparisons to Japan and the United States," said Larry Wortzel, commissioner of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. ...

The paper cited its new mantra of "zhixin xiquan," or "informatization," as one of the primary goals of the military.

"A clear stress is placed on informatization -- that is, preparing the PLA to fight and win in a more fast-paced, high-tech, digitized battlespace," (said Bates Gill of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)).

China has been upgrading its C4ISR capabilities and continues to pursue programs that will enhance its combat effectiveness. These include a recent agreement between China and the Pakistan to jointly develop an airborne early warning aircraft. China is also developing more advanced satellites to augment its current deployment of 20 satellites that perform positioning, navigation, reconnaissance, scientific and meteorology missions.

The white paper also points to growing concerns over U.S./Japan cooperation in initiatives such as missile defense and joint weapons systems.

Dec 29, 2006

Progress Marches On

It steam-engines when it comes steam-engine time.

A Swedish startup is combining software and humans to help make photos and other images more easily searchable online, raising privacy concerns as the technology eases the tracking of people across Web sites.

Traditionally, search engines analyze text surrounding an image on a Web site. So a search for "Bill Gates" might produce a photograph captioned with the name of the Microsoft Corp. chairman. But a search for a reporter's name might produce that same photograph if it had accompanied an article he had written.

Polar Rose AB is bringing facial-recognition technology to the mix. Its software scans everyday images for about 90 different attributes. If the software finds a match with images in a database, it concludes the two photos are of the same person.

The company, among many startups seeking to improve image search, believes its technology is noteworthy because it creates 3-D renditions of faces in images, allowing the computer to account for slight variations in angles and lighting.

Nikolaj Nyholm, the company's chief executive, said testing has shown up to 95 percent reliability with sets of 10,000 photos. But he said that as the collection grows -- there are millions, perhaps billions, of photographs on the Internet -- reliability diminishes because, well, many people simply look alike.

That's where humans come in. In early 2007, the company will distribute free plug-ins for Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox browsers. People who post or view photos could add information such as names; there might be the occasional error, but enough people filling in the correct answer would make that rise to the top.

The idea is to label every face, even ones in the background, whether posted on a Web journal, a photo-sharing site like Yahoo Inc.'s Flickr or a social-networking hangout like News Corp.'s MySpace. The service won't index images on personal computers or password-protected sites. ...

Imagine yourself minding your own business when a tourist at Times Square snaps a picture with you walking in the background and posts it on a public site. Using a search engine like Polar Rose, your boss could easily find out you were out and about on a day you had called in sick.

Police, stalkers and spouses also could use the technology to track where people have been -- for example, if someone has attended anti-war protests in multiple cities.

Dec 27, 2006

State Issues Ethiopia/Somali Talking Points

The United States wants to make sure that Americans understand Ethiopia's military incursion into Somalia was a necessary move.

On Tuesday, a day after an Ethiopian jet strafed the airport in Mogadishu, the capital, the State Department issued internal guidance to staff members, instructing officials to play down the invasion in public statements.

"Should the press focus on the role of Ethiopia inside Somalia," read a copy of the guidelines that was given to The New York Times by an American official here, "emphasize that this is a distraction from the issue of dialogue between the T.F.I.'s and Islamic courts and shift the focus back to the need for dialogue." T.F.I. is an abbreviation for the weak transitional government in Somalia.

"The press must not be allowed to make this about Ethiopia, or Ethiopia violating the territorial integrity of Somalia," the guidance said.

The Washington Post understood the instructions perfectly, as evidenced by today's lead editorial:

Troops from neighboring Ethiopia who were defending a U.N.-backed transitional government were attacked by forces of the Islamic Courts movement, which for the past six months has controlled much of the southern part of the country. ...

The Islamic Courts movement poses a potentially serious security threat to the United States: Its leadership includes a U.S.-designated terrorist, and it is known to be harboring al-Qaeda militants, including several who helped carry out the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In recent months it has been inviting radical Muslims to Somalia, and thousands have reportedly arrived from such countries as Syria, Yemen and Libya. In short, the Courts-controlled portion of Somalia has begun to look a lot like Afghanistan under the Taliban before Sept. 11, 2001.

Notice how the Post left (supposedly friendly) Pakistan off the list of nations that have seen their citizens travel to Somalia for jihad? Nope, only evil-doers made the list.

U.S. intelligence is playing down the foreign jihadis' contribution in any case. "Thousands" is a stretch. The Post doubtlessly knows this.

Presumably the Ethiopians are not conversant in Fourth Generation Warfare, and will be as surprised as the Americans were in Iraq and the Israelis were in Lebanon when the Somali Islamists initiate a guerrilla campaign to tie down the militarily superior force in a foreign land.

Dec 26, 2006

Iran Oil Revenue Woes

It looks like the Iranians actually need to develop their nuclear energy industry after all.

Iran is suffering a staggering decline in revenue from its oil exports, and if the trend continues, income could all but disappear by 2015, according to an analysis published yesterday in a journal of the National Academy of Sciences.

Iran's economic woes could make the country unstable and vulnerable, and its oil industry could be crippled, Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Johns Hopkins University, said in the report and in an interview.

Iran makes about $50 billion a year in oil exports. The decline is estimated at 10 to 12 percent annually. In less than five years exports could be halved and then disappear by 2015, Stern said. ...

Stern said there could be merit to Iran's assertion that it needs nuclear power for civilian purposes "as badly as it claims."

He said that oil production is declining, and that both gas and oil are being sold domestically at highly subsidized rates. At the same time, Iran is neglecting to reinvest in its oil production.

"With an explosive demand at home and poor management, the appeal of nuclear power, financed by Russia, could fill a real need for production of more electricity." ...

If the United States can "hold its breath" for a few years, it may find Iran to be a much more conciliatory country than at present, he said.

And that, Stern said, is good reason to rethink any instinct to take on Iran militarily.

"What they are doing to themselves is much worse than anything we could do," he said.

Dec 25, 2006

Anglican Leader Goes Off-Message

Who are you gonna believe?

A serious row between church and state broke out last night after the Foreign Office rebuked the Archbishop of Canterbury for accusing the government of putting Christians across the Middle East at risk because of its 'shortsighted' and 'ignorant' policy in Iraq.

Writing in a newspaper yesterday, Dr Rowan Williams said the consequences of Anglo-American foreign policy have been the erosion of good relations between Muslim and Christian communities.

"One warning often made and systematically ignored in the hectic days before the Iraq War was that Western military action ... would put Christians in the whole Middle East at risk," wrote Williams. "The results are now painfully adding to what was already a difficult situation for Christian communities across the region." Williams, who is currently visiting Israel with Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said that thousands of Christians were fleeing Iraq every few months, while some priests had been murdered.

The Foreign Office, however, said that while the church leaders were entitled to their views, they were wrong to blame British foreign policy. "It's not the policies of the UK which are causing suffering for Christians in Iraq or the Middle East," said a Foreign Office spokesman. "It's the fact that there are intolerant extremists inflicting pain and suffering on people. These extremists are indiscriminately killing Christians, moderate Muslims, Sunnis and peoples of all faiths."

Dec 23, 2006

ABC Named "Misinformer of the Year"

Media Matters For America gives the ABC television network a well-deserved honor:

In October 24 appearances on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes, ABC News political director Mark Halperin claimed that the "old media" -- broadcast news outlets and major newspapers -- were "biased against conservatives; there's no doubt about it." He stated, "I think we've got a chance in these last two weeks [before the then-upcoming midterm elections] to prove to conservatives that we understand their grievances. We're going to try to do better." But if "try[ing] to do better" to not appear "biased against conservatives" meant offering viewers conservative misinformation, Halperin shouldn't have worried; a review of dozens of items by Media Matters for America identifying and correcting conservative misinformation from ABC suggests that Halperin's network was "try[ing] to do better" throughout 2006.

This year saw ABC air The Path to 9/11, a two-part miniseries that placed the blame for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Clinton administration and whitewashed some of the Bush administration's failures leading up to the attacks. Additionally, the network's news coverage frequently reported Republican spin as fact, passed on falsehoods propagated by conservatives, and missed numerous opportunities to challenge or question the administration's actions during solo interviews with Bush and key members of his administration.

These examples, and many more, earned ABC the distinction of being named Media Matters' Misinformer of the Year for 2006. The selection of an entire network for the honor represents a change from previous years, when individual media figures -- Fox News' Bill O'Reilly in 2004 and MSNBC's Chris Matthews in 2005 -- received the award. But a look at some of its most flagrant examples of conservative misinformation confirms that ABC won the Misinformer of the Year the old-fashioned way: The network earned it.

Some examples of the work that cinched ABC's selection for this year's award can be found at the Media Matters link above.

Dec 22, 2006

Nice One, Condi

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told The Associated Press on Thursday that Iraq is "worth the investment" in American lives and dollars.

The top U.S. diplomat said the United States can win in Iraq, although the war so far has been longer and more difficult than she had expected. She made the remarks at a time when President Bush is under pressure from the public and members of Congress to find a fresh course in the long-running and costly war, which has shown no signs of nearing an end and cost the lives of 2953 American troops.

Asked whether an additional $100 billion the Pentagon wants for the Iraq and Afghan wars might amount to throwing good money after bad in Iraq. The U.S. has already spent more than $350 billion on the conflict.

"I don't think it's a matter of money," Rice said. "Along the way there have been plenty of markers that show that this is a country that is worth the investment, because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor you will have a very different kind of Middle East."

Dec 21, 2006

"Election Monitoring" Sounds So Legit

There are times when covert action can be useful.

Then there is the rest of the time, when undertaking covert action risks harming U.S. interests.

Guess which category this falls into.

CIA election skullduggery is the bread and butter of U.S. covert actions. This proposal comes with a twist. Here the USG is not planning -- as would ordinarily be the case -- to support a candidate or party which has any chance of winning. A clusterfuck seems to be in the offing.

The Bush Administration has been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad. Parts of the scheme are outlined in a classified, two-page document that says that the U.S. already is "supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists" in Europe. The document bluntly expresses the hope that "these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists."

The document says that Syria's legislative elections, scheduled for March 2007, "provide a potentially galvanizing issue for... critics of the Assad regime." To capitalize on that opportunity, the document proposes a secret "election monitoring" scheme, in which "internet accessible materials will be available for printing and dissemination by activists inside the country [Syria] and neighboring countries." The proposal also calls for surreptitiously giving money to at least one Syrian politician who, according to the document, intends to run in the election. The effort would also include "voter education campaigns" and public opinion polling, with the first poll "tentatively scheduled in early 2007."

American officials say the U.S. government has had extensive contacts with a range of anti-Assad groups in Washington, Europe and inside Syria. To give momentum to that opposition, the U.S. is giving serious consideration to the election-monitoring scheme proposed in the document, according to several officials. The proposal has not yet been approved, in part because of questions over whether the Syrian elections will be delayed or even cancelled. ...

The entire proposal could also be a waste of effort; Edward P. Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria who worked on the Iraq Study Group report, says that Syria's opposition is so fractured and weak that there is little to be gained by such a venture. "To fund opposition parties on the margins is a distraction at best," he told TIME. "It will only impede the better option of engaging Syria on much more important, fundamental issues like Iraq, peace with Israel, and the dangerous situation in Lebanon."

Dec 20, 2006

"Self-Assigned Missions"

The expansion of the Pentagon's presence in American embassies is creating frictions and overlapping missions that could undermine efforts to combat Islamic radicalism, a report by Congressional Republicans has found.

As the Pentagon takes on new roles collecting intelligence, initiating information operations and conducting other "self-assigned missions," the report found that some embassies have effectively become command posts, with military personnel in those countries all but supplanting the role of ambassadors in conducting American foreign policy. ...

The report's findings were based on interviews in roughly 20 embassies around the world. While the report found that most of the ambassadors had an adequate grasp of the American military activities in their country, three ambassadors "appeared overwhelmed by the growing presence of military personnel" and said they were ill informed of the operations that the Pentagon was conducting there. "In several cases, embassy staff saw their role as limited to a review of choices already made by 'the military side of the house,' " the report said.

The report did not identify the three ambassadors, nor the ambassador heading "a small embassy in Africa" who told Senate staffers that within a year American military personnel might outnumber civilians at the embassy. ...

One area where the Pentagon has expanded significantly since Sept. 11 is information operations, which are intended to build support for American policies and to marginalize radical factions in Muslim nations.

Since the 2001 attacks, the Pentagon has ratcheted up its information campaigns to fill the vacuum left by the gutting of the State Department's "public diplomacy" budget at the end of the cold war.

The report details the Pentagon's efforts to dispatch small teams of three to four people to American embassies to conduct information operations in local populations. Those Military Information Support Teams are currently working in 18 countries, the report says, with Pentagon plans calling for an increase in deployments to 30 countries.

The presence of the teams occasionally creates friction within embassies, according to the report. In Mali, military officials wanted to feature a moderate Muslim cleric in a video produced by the embassy, yet the embassy's civilian staff argued that showcasing the cleric's support for the United States would only taint him among the local population.

Dec 19, 2006

New ICG Report On Iraq

The International Crisis Group today issued a report on Iraq -- After Baker-Hamilton: What to Do in Iraq -- that claims that the Iraq Study Group not only didn't go nearly far enough in it's recommendations for a new approach, but also misdiagnosed the political situation we are facing.

(C)ontrary to the Baker-Hamilton report's suggestion, the Iraqi government and security forces cannot be treated as privileged allies to be bolstered; they are simply one among many parties to the conflict. The report characterises the government as a "government of national unity" that is "broadly representative of the Iraqi people": it is nothing of the sort. It also calls for expanding forces that are complicit in the current dirty war and for speeding up the transfer of responsibility to a government that has done nothing to stop it. The only logical conclusion from the report's own lucid analysis is that the government is not a partner in an effort to stem the violence, nor will strengthening it contribute to Iraq's stability. This is not a military challenge in which one side needs to be strengthened and another defeated. It is a political challenge in which new consensual understandings need to be reached. The solution is not to change the prime minister or cabinet composition, as some in Washington appear to be contemplating, but to address the entire power structure that was established since the 2003 invasion, and to alter the political environment that determines the cabinet's actions. ...

In short, success in Iraq, if it still can be achieved at this late date, will require three ambitious and interrelated steps:

A new forceful multilateral approach that puts real pressure on all Iraqi parties: The Baker-Hamilton report is right to advocate creation of a broad International Support Group; it should comprise the five permanent Security Council members and Iraq's six neighbours. But its purpose cannot be to support the Iraqi government. It must support Iraq, which means pressing the government, along with all other Iraqi constituents, to make the necessary compromises. It also means agreeing on rules of conduct and red-lines regarding third party involvement in Iraq. This does not entail a one-off conference, but sustained multilateral diplomacy.

A conference of all Iraqi and international stakeholders to forge a new political compact: A new, more equitable and inclusive national compact needs to be agreed upon by all relevant actors, including militias and insurgent groups, on issues such as federalism, resource allocation, de-Baathification, the scope of the amnesty, and the timetable for a U.S. withdrawal. This can only be done if the International Support Group brings all of them to the negotiating table, and if its members steer their deliberations, deploying a mixture of carrots and sticks to influence those on whom they have particular leverage.

A new U.S. regional strategy, including engagement with Syria and Iran, an end to efforts at regime change, revitalisation of the Arab-Israeli peace process, and altered strategic goals: Polite engagement of Iraq's neighbours will not do; rather, a clear redefinition of Washington's objectives in the region will be required to enlist regional, but especially Iranian and Syrian help. The goal is not to bargain with them, but to seek agreement on an end-state for Iraq and the region that is no one's first choice, but with which everyone can live.

Dec 18, 2006

The "Black Market Uniform" Story

These ongoing attacks are not being portrayed as U.S. officials strongly suspect them to be.

Not "gunmen wearing Iraqi police uniforms", but real members of the Shiite-militia infiltrated Iraqi Interior Ministry.

In other instances, members of the Iraqi army have been working for the insurgents. On December 21, 2004, one of the infiltrators blew up a U.S. Army mess tent in Mosul -- killing 15 Americans.

But always it is bad guys "dressed in Iraqi military uniforms", and idle speculation of how available these Iraqi BDUs must be on the black market.

Reporting the unvarnished truth would advertise the impossibility of the U.S. ever standing up Iraqi security forces that will eventually represent (or at least not be actively hostile towards) our interests in that beleaguered country.

The occasion this time was yesterday's abduction of 25 Red Crescent employees in Baghdad.

Outside the compound, a cluster of police vehicles and four U.S. military Humvees were parked. They had arrived too late to stop the gunmen, who had worn police uniforms and carried police-issued guns, witnesses said. ...

It has become a familiar story in Baghdad. Gangs of gunmen, dressed in camouflage uniforms and driving official police vehicles, abduct dozens of employees in broad daylight, motivated by sectarian tensions, a bid for ransom or merely a desire to undermine a weak government unable to provide security for its citizens. They leave the women but take the men, then calmly drive off without firing a shot.

Almost the only difference Sunday was the target: a humanitarian organization, linked to the International Committee of the Red Cross, that has helped Iraqis cope in a nation that offers little comfort. The kidnappers took about 25 employees and a few visitors, employees said. The assault began at 11:30 a.m. and ended 15 minutes later.

The office is located in a part of the capital that is surrounded by checkpoints and concrete barriers largely because the Dutch Embassy is nearby. The gunmen also seized three embassy guards as they left. ...

The mass abduction Sunday was the third in Baghdad in just over a month. On Thursday, gunmen rounded up about 25 shopkeepers in a busy commercial district. And on Nov. 15, 150 employees were seized from a Ministry of Higher Education agency in Karrada. In both cases, the gunmen wore police or military uniforms, witnesses said.

The willful misrepresentation of the Iraqi element that is behind many of the kidnappings and massacres is as unacceptable as would be the media reporting American dead and wounded as "gunmen wearing U.S. military uniforms."

Dec 16, 2006

New Army Counterinsurgency Manual

The U.S. Army yesterday issued the new counterinsurgency (COIN) manual (282 page PDF).

From the foreword:

This manual is designed to fill a doctrinal gap. It has been 20 years since the Army published a field manual devoted exclusively to counterinsurgency operations. For the Marine Corps it has been 25 years. With our Soldiers and Marines fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is essential that we give them a manual that provides principles and guidelines for counterinsurgency operations. Such guidance must be grounded in historical studies. However, it also must be informed by contemporary experiences.

This manual takes a general approach to counterinsurgency operations. The Army and Marine Corps recognize that every insurgency is contextual and presents its own set of challenges. You cannot fight former Saddamists and Islamic extremists the same way you would have fought the Viet Cong, Moros, or Tupamaros; the application of principles and fundamentals to deal with each varies considerably. Nonetheless, all insurgencies, even today’s highly adaptable strains, remain wars amongst the people. They use variations of standard themes and adhere to elements of a recognizable revolutionary campaign plan. This manual therefore addresses the common characteristics of insurgencies. It strives to provide those conducting counterinsurgency campaigns with a solid foundation for understanding and addressing specific insurgencies.

From the "Intelligence in Counterinsurgency" chapter:

3-7. Intelligence preparation of the battlefield is the systematic, continuous process of analyzing the threat and environment in a specific geographic area. Intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) is designed to support the staff estimate and military decision-making process. Most intelligence requirements are generated as a result of the IPB process and its interrelation with the decision-making process (FM 34-130). Planning for deployment begins with a thorough mission analysis, including IPB. IPB is accomplished in four steps:
  • Define the operational environment.
  • Describe the effects of the operational environment.
  • Evaluate the threat.
  • Determine threat courses of action.

3-8. The purpose of planning and IPB before deployment is to develop an understanding of the operational environment. This understanding drives planning and predeployment training. Predeployment intelligence must be as detailed as possible. It should focus on the host nation, its people, and insurgents in the area of operations (AO). Commanders and staffs use predeployment intelligence to establish a plan for addressing the underlying causes of the insurgency and to prepare their units to interact with the populace appropriately. The goal of planning and preparation is for commanders and their subordinates not to be surprised by what they encounter in theater.

3-9. IPB in COIN operations follows the methodology described in FM 34-130/FMFRP 3-23-2. However, it places greater emphasis on civil considerations, especially people and leaders in the AO, than does IPB for conventional operations. IPB is continuous and its products are revised throughout the mission.

Nonetheless, predeployment products are of particular importance for the reasons explained above. Whenever possible, planning and preparation for deployment includes a thorough and detailed IPB. IPB in COIN requires personnel to work in areas like economics, anthropology, and governance that may be outside their expertise. Therefore, integrating staffs and drawing on the knowledge of nonintelligence personnel and external experts with local and regional knowledge are critical to effective preparation.

3-10. Deployed units are the best sources of intelligence. Deploying units should make an effort to reach forward to deployed units. The Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) allows deploying units to immerse themselves virtually in the situation in theater. Government agencies, such as the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and intelligence agencies, can often provide country studies and other background information as well.

3-11. Open-source intelligence is information of potential intelligence value that is available to the general public (JP 1-02). It is important to predeployment IPB. In many cases, background information on the populations, cultures, languages, history, and governments of states in an AO is in open sources. Open sources include books, magazines, encyclopedias, Web sites, tourist maps, and atlases. Academic sources, such as journal articles and university professors, can also be of great benefit.

Dec 14, 2006

Effective Counterterrorism and the Limited Role of Predictive Data Mining

From Effective Counterterrorism and the Limited Role of Predictive Data Mining, by Jeff Jonas [engineer and chief scientist with IBM's Entity Analytic Solutions Group] and Jim Harper [director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute]:

"Though data mining has many valuable uses, it is not well suited to the terrorist discovery problem. It would be unfortunate if data mining for terrorism discovery had currency within national security, law enforcement, and technology circles because pursuing this use of data mining would waste taxpayer dollars, needlessly infringe on privacy and civil liberties, and misdirect the valuable time and energy of the men and women in the national security community." ...

One of the fundamental underpinnings of predictive data mining in the commercial sector is the use of training patterns. Corporations that study consumer behavior have millions of patterns that they can draw upon to profile their typical or ideal consumer. Even when data mining is used to seek out instances of identity and credit card fraud, this relies on models constructed using many thousands of known examples of fraud per year.

Terrorism has no similar indicia. With a relatively small number of attempts every year and only one or two major terrorist incidents every few years -- each one distinct in terms of planning and execution -- there are no meaningful patterns that show what behavior indicates planning or preparation for terrorism.

Unlike consumers' shopping habits and financial fraud, terrorism does not occur with enough frequency to enable the creation of valid predictive models. Predictive data mining for the purpose of turning up terrorist planning using all available demographic and transactional data points will produce no better results than the highly sophisticated commercial data mining done today. The one thing predictable about predictive data mining for terrorism is that it would be consistently wrong.

Without patterns to use, one fallback for terrorism data mining is the idea that any anomaly may provide the basis for investigation of terrorism planning. Given a "typical" American pattern of Internet use, phone calling, doctor visits, purchases, travel, reading, and so on, perhaps all outliers merit some level of investigation. This theory is offensive to traditional American freedom, because in the United States everyone can and should be an "outlier" in some sense. More concretely, though, using data mining in this way could be worse than searching at random; terrorists could defeat it by acting as normally as possible.

Treating "anomalous" behavior as suspicious may appear scientific, but, without patterns to look for, the design of a search algorithm based on anomaly is no more likely to turn up terrorists than twisting the end of a kaleidoscope is likely to draw an image of the Mona Lisa.

Dec 13, 2006

Nuclear Slip of the Lip?

For decades, military censors have struggled to defend Israel's worst-kept secret -- that the country possesses atomic weapons.

Even as its nuclear history has leaked into declassified documents, articles and books, an official policy of "ambiguity" has endured: By refusing to confirm or deny that it has the bomb, and refraining from testing one, Israel has lived up to a quiet understanding with the United States to avoid fueling a Middle East arms race.

So why does it appear that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert finally spilled the beans?

In an interview on German television late Monday, the Israeli leader seemed to list Israel among the world's nuclear club, raising an outcry across the political spectrum here and questions about whether the long-standing policy had been abandoned.

Asked by the interviewer about Iran's calls for the destruction of Israel, Olmert replied that Israel had never threatened to annihilate anyone.

"Iran openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map," Olmert said. "Can you say that this is the same level, when you are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"

Israel's newspapers reported the remark Tuesday under front-page headlines, one calling it a "nuclear slip of the lip."

Olmert's office said the quote was taken out of context and that he had been listing "responsible nations," not nuclear states. Aides also noted that the prime minister had refused several times during the interview to confirm that Israel has nuclear weapons and that he had spoken in English, not his native language.

Dec 12, 2006

Saudi Ambassador To U.S. Skedaddles

Saudi Ambassador Abruptly Resigns, Leaves Washington.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, flew out of Washington yesterday after informing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and his staff that he would be leaving the post after only 15 months on the job, according to U.S. officials and foreign envoys. There has been no formal announcement from the kingdom.

The abrupt departure is particularly striking because his predecessor, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, spent 22 years on the job. The Saudi ambassador is one of the most influential diplomatic positions in Washington and is arguably the most important overseas post for the oil-rich desert kingdom.

Turki, a long-serving former intelligence chief, told his staff yesterday afternoon that he wanted to spend more time with his family, according to Arab diplomats. Colleagues said they were shocked at the decision. ...

Turki has been the subject of both high praise and controversy. In the 1980s, while he was intelligence chief, he reportedly met al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden several times during the U.S.- and Saudi-backed support of mujaheddin fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He subsequently denounced bin Laden. ...

Saudi Arabia, the guardian of Islam's holiest sites and a predominantly Sunni country, has been deeply concerned about the change in the balance of power in Iraq, with which it shares a 500-mile border. Riyadh has been alarmed by the rise of the Shiite majority in Iraq and the marginalization of the traditional Sunni elite. Young Saudi men have joined the Sunni insurgency as foreign fighters, while there have been persistent reports that Saudi citizens have provided financial aid to the Sunni insurgency.

Dec 11, 2006

Details of High-Level U.S. Talks With Iraqi Insurgent Groups Revealed

This story reports details of one of the worst kept secrets in Washington. Especially after Gen. Casey stepped on his dick (see comments) back on March 19 on Meet The Press.

Secret talks in which senior American officials came face-to-face with some of their most bitter enemies in the Iraqi insurgency broke down after two months of meetings, rebel commanders have disclosed.

The meetings, hosted by Iyad Allawi, Iraq's former prime minister, brought insurgent commanders and Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, together for the first time.

After months of delicate negotiations Allawi, a former Ba'athist and a secular Shi'ite, persuaded three rebel leaders to travel to his villa in Amman, the Jordanian capital, to see Khalilzad in January. ...

Feelers had been put out to Iraqi insurgents before but not at such a high level. "The Americans had been flirting with such meetings for a while, but they needed to sit down with people who carried more weight in the insurgency," said one leader of the National Islamic Resistance, an umbrella organisation representing some of the main insurgent groups.

The trio of Iraqi negotiators claimed to represent three-quarters of the "resistance". It included Ansar al- Sunnah, the group responsible for a suicide bombing that killed 22 in a US army canteen in Mosul in December 2004, and also the 1920 Revolution Brigade, which has carried out many kidnappings and claimed to have shot down a British Hercules aircraft near Tikrit in January 2005, in which 10 people died. ...

The talks continued in Baghdad for about eight weeks, sometimes on consecutive days at Allawi's home. ...

The atmosphere eventually soured at a meeting said to have been attended by Khalilzad and six US generals as well as tribal leaders from Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala and other hotspots. Each side apparently accused the other of stepping up attacks during the supposed period of grace and the insurgents refused to have lunch with the generals on the grounds that they were military occupiers. ...

The final blow to the negotiations came in mid-March when Khalilzad said that he would be willing to talk to Iran about resolving the conflict in Iraq. The news came as a bombshell to the Sunni insurgents, who complained to the ambassador at their final meeting.

Shortly afterwards the government of Nouri al-Maliki was formed with the support of pro-Iranian elements. The Sunni insurgents responded by sending a memo to Khalilzad — now tipped to become US ambassador to the United Nations — suspending all meetings and accusing the Americans of "dishonesty".

Kinda Makes Us Sorry We Asked

From yesterday's big Shiite-led demonstration in Beirut:

Sheik Naim Kassem, Hezbollah's deputy leader, said the opposition was willing to stay on the streets for months to achieve its goal.

"Does Bush want popular expression in Lebanon? Do the West and the Arabs want to hear the voice of the people in Lebanon? Tell them 'Death to America!' Tell them 'Death to Israel!' " the crowd repeated behind him.

Dec 9, 2006

Lipitor Levitra Scotch

The extra-legal NSA CATCH-ALL program yields the following extremely sensitive executive branch intel:

Dick Cheney's Google Searches

HDL "good cholesterol"
HDL fried onion rings
HDL freedom fries
osama bin laden pakistan
osama panama
osama yucatan
Google Maps: tora bora
Google Maps: cheney house
Google Maps: cheney maryland
birdshot pellet removal
quail hunting "involuntary manslaughter"
hunting accident manslaughter
hunting accident manslaughter pleas
firearms disposal
smoking gun
smoking gun mushroom cloud
hot lesbos vinyl black boots
bunker dungeon black boots
bunker decor
bunker refurbish HDTV
osama peshawar
osama cabo
saddam "al qaeda"
saddam "al qaeda" bulgaria
saddam "al qaeda" yellowcake niger
iran "north korea"
lawrence welk
margaret whiting
jeanette macdonald
jeanette macdonald nude
kate smith whalebone corset photos
brit hume stilettos photos
osama lahore
osama la jolla
WMD tikrit
WMD basra
WMD triglyceride HDL
HDL viagra
HDL levitra
lipitor levitra scotch
lipitor levitra single malt scotch cheeseburger dizziness
deferred compensation
deferments selective service
ahmadinejad bullseye target mail order
ahmadinejad members only beige jacket
brooks brothers menswear beige blazer
lynne cheney MySpace
mary cheney MySpace
mullah omar MySpace
maureen dowd naked
cokie roberts naked
katherine harris naked
iraq exit strategy
iraq exit strategies
iraq exit stratagem
iran exit strategy
robert gates "IRS audit"
osama wyoming

Dec 8, 2006

Bush Spurns ISG Lifeline

President Bush's public response to the proposals in the Iraq Study Group's report is typical.

When he said yesterday "I don't think that Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton expect us to accept every recommendation", he showed that he hadn't read the ISG report. Or even the report's executive summary, where it plainly said that the ideas were intended to be a comprehensive approach to the failing U.S. endeavor in Iraq.

Baker and Hamilton re-iterated yesterday that the report was not designed to be "cherry-picked." For good reason:

"Cherry-picking ideas and sending them into the bowels of the stovepiped bureaucracy to execute will result in more of the same uncoordinated, differing priorities, mess," said retired Marine Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a former Middle East mediator for the Bush administration.

Bush keeps perverse counsel as a matter of course, and will likely disregard the findings of the Baker-Hamilton commission in any case.

At the risk of whatever legacy he can salvage for himself at this point.

Bush is sabotaging the establishment plan to rescue him as painlessly as possible from his disastrous Iraq blunder. Self-destruction is clearly still his guiding principle.

Dec 7, 2006

ISG Takes A Field Trip

Adventures in Mesopotamia with the Iraq Study Group (Baker-Hamilton commission):

The turning point came in September, when seven of the 10 members traveled to Baghdad aboard a C-130 military transport, decked out in bulletproof vests and helmets as the plane corkscrewed to a landing to avoid enemy rockets. They then flew aboard Black Hawk helicopters to the Green Zone as other choppers fired flares to draw off any heat-seeking missiles.

The four days there made a powerful impression on the panel members, most of whom knew nothing more about Iraq than what they had seen on television and read in the newspapers. "I'll never forget the helicopters coming in at night delivering wounded to the hospital in the Green Zone," recalled member Leon E. Panetta, who was Clinton's White House chief of staff. "We've all seen 'MASH,' and yet it was happening right there."

Explosions outside the Green Zone rattled the guesthouse and trailers where they slept. "You knew somewhere either a car bomb has gone off or something has happened," Panetta said. "And then in the morning, you could sometimes see the smoke."

Only one member, former senator Charles S. Robb (D-Va.), a retired Marine, left the Green Zone, venturing out to look at the impact of the operation intended to secure Baghdad. By the time they returned home, many of the commissioners had concluded that the war was going worse than they had realized. ...

Robb was especially interested in sending more U.S. forces, according to one participant, and the panel considered proposals to deploy 100,000 to 200,000 additional troops. Ultimately, though, the panel discovered that there might be only 20,000 available, prompting vigorous discussion that led members to conclude that a substantial surge was unworkable.

"By September, you did not hear anyone supporting the idea of victory or more troops very much," said Marina S. Ottaway, a working-group member from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "There had been a lot of pretending for a while, but that ended in the fall."

Dec 6, 2006

The Fog of War

Spain's supreme court has ordered a fresh investigation into the killing of a TV cameraman by US troops during the Iraq war more than three years ago.

Jose Couso, 37, died in April 2003 after a US tank fired on a hotel used by foreign journalists in Baghdad.

An attempt by his family to press charges was dismissed last year by a lower court in Spain.

But the Supreme Court accepted the family's appeal, potentially paving the way for an extradition request.

The family accept however that it will be difficult to bring the soldiers in question - Sergeant Thomas Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant-Colonel Philip De Camp - to Spain.

The US has acknowledged one of their tanks fired on the Palestine Hotel, the base for almost all the foreign media crews in Baghdad, but insisted the soldiers believed they were being shot at when they opened fire.

Reuters cameraman Taras Portsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed in the blast.

TV footage of the incident, which did not record any incoming fire, was witnessed on TV around the world on the day before the fall of the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Earlier on the same day, a correspondent for the Arabic TV broadcaster al-Jazeera was killed when US missiles hit the network's office in Baghdad.

Dec 5, 2006

The Business of America is Business

There are about 100,000 government contractors operating in Iraq, not counting subcontractors, a total that is approaching the size of the U.S. military force there, according to the military's first census of the growing population of civilians operating in the battlefield.

The survey finding, which includes Americans, Iraqis and third-party nationals hired by companies operating under U.S. government contracts, is significantly higher and wider in scope than the Pentagon's only previous estimate, which said there were 25,000 security contractors in the country.

It is also 10 times the estimated number of contractors that deployed during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, reflecting the Pentagon's growing post-Cold War reliance on contractors for such jobs as providing security, interrogating prisoners, cooking meals, fixing equipment and constructing bases that were once reserved for soldiers. ...

"It takes a great deal of vigilance on the part of the military commander to ensure contractor compliance," said William L. Nash, a retired Army general and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "If you're trying to win hearts and minds and the contractor is driving 90 miles per hour through the streets and running over kids, that's not helping the image of the American army. The Iraqis aren't going to distinguish between a contractor and a soldier."

Dec 4, 2006

Outgoing U.N. Chief On Iraq and Iran

The current situation in Iraq has become "much worse" than civil war, with life for ordinary Iraqis worse than under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, Kofi Annan has said.

In a damning assessment of present circumstances, the outgoing UN Secretary General said he had no doubt about the gravity of Iraq's position, "given the level of the violence, the level of killing and the way the forces are ranged against each other".

"A few years ago, when we had the strife in Lebanon and other places, we called that a civil war. This is much worse," he told the BBC. ...

Asked in the BBC interview about claims that the country's citizens had been better off under the regime of the ousted dictator, Mr Annan said he understood the analogy. "If I was an average Iraqi, I would make the same comparison," he said.

"They had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets: they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back without a mother or father worrying 'Am I going to see my child again?'". ...

Commenting on speculation that Iran's insistence on proceeding with its nuclear ambitions could lead to further military action, Mr Annan warned that the Middle East would not be able to handle another crisis.

"It's in a very precarious and delicate state at this moment and I have indicated quite clearly that on the Iranian issue we need to do whatever we can to get a negotiated solution and that, in my mind, is the only one."

Dec 3, 2006

Spying 2.0: The Open Source Paradigm

If analysts and agents were encouraged to post personal blogs and wikis on Intelink -- linking to their favorite analyst reports or the news bulletins they considered important -- then mob intelligence would take over. In the traditional cold-war spy bureaucracy, an analyst's report lived or died by the whims of the hierarchy. If he was in the right place on the totem pole, his report on Soviet missiles could be pushed up higher; if a supervisor chose to ignore it, the report essentially vanished. Blogs and wikis, in contrast, work democratically. Pieces of intel would receive attention merely because other analysts found them interesting. This grass-roots process, (Calvin Andrus, chief technology officer of the Center for Mission Innovation at the C.I.A.) argued, suited the modern intelligence challenge of sifting through thousands of disparate clues: if a fact or observation struck a chord with enough analysts, it would snowball into popularity, no matter what their supervisors thought. ...

(T)he best Internet search engines, including Google, all use "link analysis" to measure the authority of documents. When you type the search "Afghanistan" into Google, it finds every page that includes that word. Then it ranks the pages in part by how many links point to the page -- based on the idea that if many bloggers and sites have linked to a page, it must be more useful than others.

This, Burton (former D.I.A. analyst) pointed out, is precisely the problem with Intelink. It has no links, no social information to help sort out which intel is significant and which isn't. When an analyst's report is posted online, it does not include links to other reports, even ones it cites. There's no easy way for agents to link to a report or post a comment about it. Searching Intelink thus resembles searching the Internet before blogs and Google came along -- a lot of disconnected information, hard to sort through. If spies were encouraged to blog on Intelink, Burton reasoned, their profuse linking could mend that situation.

"Imagine having tools that could spot emerging patterns for you and guide you to documents that might be the missing pieces of evidence you're looking for," Burton wrote in his Galileo paper. ...

(T)op-secret information is becoming less useful than it used to be. "The intelligence business was initially, if not inherently, about secrets -- running risks and expending a lot of money to acquire secrets," (Thomas Fingar, the head of analysis for the D.N.I.) said, with the idea that "if you limit how many people see it, it will be more secure, and you will be able to get more of it. But that's now appropriate for a small and shrinking percentage of information." The time is past for analysts to act like "monastic scholars in a cave someplace," he added, laboring for weeks or months in isolation to produce a report.

Fingar says that more value can be generated by analysts sharing bits of "open source" information -- the nonclassified material in the broad world, like foreign newspapers, newsletters and blogs.

Dec 1, 2006

Unrestrained Denial

Robert Fisk on President Bush's trip to Amman:

More than half a million deaths, an army trapped in the largest military debacle since Vietnam, a Middle East policy already buried in the sands of Mesopotamia - and still George W Bush is in denial. How does he do it? How does he persuade himself - as he apparently did in Amman yesterday - that the United States will stay in Iraq "until the job is complete"? The "job" - Washington's project to reshape the Middle East in its own and Israel's image - is long dead, its very neoconservative originators disavowing their hopeless political aims and blaming Bush, along with the Iraqis of course, for their disaster.

History's "deniers" are many - and all subject to the same folly: faced with overwhelming evidence of catastrophe, they take refuge in fantasy, dismissing evidence of collapse as a symptom of some short-term setback, clinging to the idea that as long as their generals promise victory - or because they have themselves so often promised victory - that fate will be kind. George W Bush - or Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara for that matter - need not feel alone. The Middle East has produced these fantasists by the bucketful over past decades. ...

About the only truthful statement uttered in Amman yesterday was Bush's remark that "there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq [but] this business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all." Indeed, it has not. There can be no graceful exit from Iraq, only a terrifying, bloody collapse of military power. The withdrawal of Shia ministers from Maliki's cabinet mirror the withdrawal of Shia ministers from another American-supported administration in Beirut - where the Lebanese fear an equally appalling conflict over which Washington has, in reality, no military or political control.

Bush even appeared oblivious of the current sectarian map of Iraq. "The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his country into parts, as some have suggested, is not what the Iraqi people want, and that any partition of Iraq would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence," he said. "I agree." But Iraq is already "split into parts". The fracture of Iraq is virtually complete, its chasms sucking in corpses at the rate of up to a thousand a day.

Even Hitler must chuckle at this bloodbath, he who claimed in April 1945 that Germany would still win the Second World War, boasting that his enemy, Roosevelt, had died - much as Bush boasted of Zarqawi's killing - while demanding to know when General Wenck's mythical army would rescue the people of Berlin. How many "Wencks" are going to be summoned from the 82nd Airborne or the Marine Corps to save Bush from Iraq in the coming weeks? No, Bush is not Hitler. Like Blair, he once thought he was Winston Churchill, a man who never - ever - lied to his people about Britain's defeats in war. But fantasy knows no bounds.

Nov 30, 2006

A More Realistic View of the Iraq Quagmire

The civil war in Iraq is likely to deteriorate significantly over the next few months regardless of which combination of options the Bush administration chooses to exercise, according to a report released by a leading Washington think-tank on Wednesday.

The report, Options for Iraq, dismisses as "dishonest" the Bush administration's claims to have readied more than 100 Iraqi military units for combat, pointing out that the true number is probably less than a third of the Pentagon's estimate.

It also takes strong issue with the notion that Washington can simply put pressure on Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to push harder for conciliation between Iraq's clashing sectarian groups. It disputes the growing consensus in Washington that the US should press the Maliki government to close down the sectarian militias and forge a reconciliation with the Sunni Arab groups by threatening to withdraw US forces.

"It is not meaningful to blame Iraq for the problems that exist. These are mistakes that we made in nation-building," said Tony Cordesman, author of the report and one of the most influential analysts of the Iraq civil war, at the Centre for Strategic International Studies. "When you send a bull in to liberate a china shop, to blame the china shop for the broken china seems disingenuous, if not misleading."

The report says that the only way the US can hope to stabilise Iraq is by coming clean with the American public about the long-term costs, risks and patience that would be entailed in achieving that goal. It urges the Bush administration to listen to the Iraqi government and America's allies in the Middle East and Europe, rather than continue to treat "26m Iraqis as white rats" in an experiment of transplanting democracy.

But Mr Cordesman was also skeptical about alternative plans in circulation. These included options for a time-linked "phased" withdrawal of US troops; putting up to 30,000 more troops into Iraq to re-attempt a stabilisation of Baghdad despite earlier failures; and a more controversial one to partition Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni and Shia entities.

He said there were no "silver bullets" to unravel the increasingly dangerous situation in Iraq but the US could at least try to prevent the Iraq war from spiralling into a broader regional war.

"Threats to withdraw, the failure to provide economic incentives [to the Iraq government], the failure to work with or listen to our allies and flooding Iraq with yet more unqualified advisers will not achieve our strategic objectives," he said.

Mr Cordesman also criticised the quality of economic aid to Iraq, describing it as "one of the most expensive exercises of waste in modern American history".

Nov 29, 2006

Vote Of Confidence

A classified memorandum by President Bush's national security adviser expressed serious doubts about whether Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had the capacity to control the sectarian violence in Iraq and recommended that the United States take new steps to strengthen the Iraqi leader's position. ...

"His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change," the memo said of the Iraqi leader. "But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action." ...

Two senior administration officials, who insisted on anonymity in exchange for talking about a classified memo, said it was unclear whether Mr. Maliki has seen the memo, but suggested its contents would be no surprise to the Iraqi prime minister, who has been in regular consultation with Mr. Bush.

One official said a "key aspect" of the upcoming meetings in Jordan would be for the two leaders to determine "where we can accelerate and expand Prime Minister Maliki's capacity" to deal with the issues outlined in the memo. "That will be a dominant subject," the official said.

Even so, the memo will undoubtedly color the meeting between the two leaders when they see one another in Jordan Wednesday night. Despite the memo's suggestion that the prime minister may be ignorant of what is going on, or misrepresenting his intentions, the officials insisted the president has concluded Mr. Maliki's intentions are good. "The judgment is that it's a capability issue," one official said.

Nov 28, 2006

Odd That The Media Had It Backward

Your compliant media was on the job, as usual:

Saudi Arabia is so concerned about the damage that the conflict in Iraq is doing across the region that it basically summoned Vice President Cheney for talks over the weekend, according to U.S. officials and foreign diplomats. The visit was originally portrayed as U.S. outreach to its oil-rich Arab ally.

Nov 27, 2006

SWIFT Violated Data Transfer Laws, EU Panel Says

A report by an EU panel released Thursday said the bank data transfer agency SWIFT broke European privacy laws by handing over personal data to U.S. authorities for use in anti-terror investigations.

The Belgian-based company, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, "committed violations of data protection laws" by secretly transferring data to the United States, without properly informing Belgian authorities, the EU's data protection panel said.

The panel's report calls on SWIFT, financial institutions and EU authorities to "take the necessary measures" to end the transfer, which it said contradicts Belgian and EU data protection rules. SWIFT is still transferring data under U.S. subpoenas.

EU spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said the report was adopted unanimously by the 25-member panel which also chided the role of the European Central Bank in the affair. It demanded clarification from the ECB over its role in the affair. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has acknowledged his bank knew of the transfers but could not prevent them.

"SWIFT is expected as well as financial institutions to take the necessary steps immediately to remedy the present illegal infringement," Ahrenkilde Hansen said, adding the group will monitor the implementation of the recommendation by SWIFT and the ECB and other national banks which sit on SWIFT's oversight board. ...

SWIFT officials have argued that it had no choice but to abide by U.S. subpoenas for bank data, saying that if it refused to hand over the information, it would have faced fines and possible criminal penalties like jail time.

"It is disturbing that none of the involved parties is willing to take responsibility for the failure to protect the rights of EU citizens," said Kathalijne Buitenweg, a Dutch Green member of the European Parliament. She called for a clarification of ECB and national bank rules in ensuring they report all violations of EU privacy laws.

Nov 26, 2006

A Telling Encounter in Baghdad

From Boris Johnson in the London Daily Telegraph

It was the moment I should have twigged. It was the moment I should have realised that I had voted for the biggest British military fiasco since the Second World War. I was wandering around Baghdad, about 10 days after Iraq had been "liberated", and it seemed to me that the place was not entirely without hope.

OK, so the gunfire popped round every corner like popcorn on a stove, and civil society had broken down so badly that the looters were taking the very copper from the electricity cables in the streets. But I was able to stroll without a flak jacket and eat shoarma and chips in the restaurants.

With no protection except for Isaac, my interpreter, I went to the Iraqi foreign ministry, and found the place deserted. The windows were broken, and every piece of computer equipment had been looted. As I was staring at the fire-blackened walls a Humvee came through the gates. A pair of large GIs got out and asked me my business. I explained that I was representing the people of South Oxfordshire and Her Majesty's Daily Telegraph.

That didn't cut much ice. Then I noticed a figure begin to unpack his giraffe-like limbs from the shady interior of the Humvee. He was one of those quiet Americans that you sometimes meet in odd places.

He was grizzled and in his mid-50s and with a lantern jaw, and unlike every other US soldier I'd met he had neither his name nor his blood group stitched on his person. I grasped at once that this quiet American was no soldier. He had that Brahmin air, a bit Ivy League, a touch of JK Galbraith. Yes, folks, he was some kind of spook.

I remember how he walked slowly towards the shattered foreign ministry building, stroking his chin. Then he walked back towards us, and posed a remarkable question. "Have you, uh, seen anyone here?" he asked.

Nope, we said. All quiet here, we said. Quiet as the grave.

"Uhuh," he said, and started to get back in the Humvee. And then I blurted my own question: "But who are you?" I asked. "Oh, let's just say I work for the US government," he sighed. "I was just wondering if anyone was going to show up for work," he said. "That's all."

And that, of course, was the beginning of the disaster. Nobody came to work that day, or the next, or the one after that, because we failed to understand what our intervention would do to Iraqi society. We failed to anticipate that in taking out Saddam, we would also remove government and order and authority from Iraq.

We destroyed the Baathist state, without realising that nothing would supplant it. The result was that salaries went unpaid, electricity was not generated, sanitation was not provided, and all the disorder was gradually and expertly fomented until it was quite beyond our control.

Boris Johnson is MP for Henley

Nov 25, 2006

Info Op Part Of Bahrain Effort Against Shiites

Friction between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in this strategic Persian Gulf kingdom, which is holding its second parliamentary elections in three decades, has clouded the voting set here for Saturday.

The campaign for the National Assembly's 40-member lower house has been marred by an alleged plot by a senior government official to rig the elections in favor of the ruling Sunni minority.

A 214-page report disclosed in September accused a senior official of secretly plotting to sideline the country's majority Shiites. The report, released by a former government adviser, is the latest in a series of events that have exacerbated Sunni-Shiite discord in this nation of 700,000, home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet. ...

The report included copies of checks, bank statements showing large sums transferred to anti-Shiite figures and a memo calling for Shiites to be "cleansed" from Bahrain.

According to the report, more than $2.5 million was spent on the scheme, which also included plans to manipulate electronic voting to rig the upcoming elections in favor of Sunnis.

The report named people it said were hired to cause friction between the two sects by writing inflammatory articles, posting offensive comments on popular online forums, denigrating Shiite beliefs and casting suspicion on Shiites' patriotism.

Over the past couple of years, Bahraini Shiites have been accused by Sunnis and some in the government of allegiance to Shiite Iran, with which they have historic religious ties, and of ambitions to dominate the country, emboldened by the empowerment of Iraq's majority Shiites.

Nov 24, 2006

File Shows UK & US Backed Russia's Baltic Occupation

In a move likely to inflame tensions ahead of next week's Nato summit in Latvia, Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, yesterday declassified documents claiming that Britain and the US had approved of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states a year before Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union.

Received wisdom has it that the British prime minister, Winston Churchill, was deeply ambivalent about Moscow taking control of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1940. But the editor of the 400-page dossier, Major General Lev Sotskov, told the Guardian it demonstrated that the UK and US "perfectly understood" that the region was needed as a buffer zone for the inevitable moment when Nazi Germany would break its non-aggression pact with Moscow and attack the Soviet Union.

Gen Sotskov said the documents proved that American and British leaders were often divided over their position on Soviet troop movements and their "public declarations clashed with internal assessments". But Soviet intelligence showed that Churchill decided it was a pragmatic move not to confront Moscow's occupation of neighbouring territory, which ended with the Nazi invasion of the Baltics in 1941. "Churchill realised this was the only way," he said. "He saw it as a not very pleasant but necessary step to prevent Germany from further intrigues and advance."

The fact that Germany's strike at the Soviet Union ran out of steam later in the war was partly because it had to cross the Baltics, thus justifying Churchill's reasoning, Gen Sotskov said.

(T)he NKVD documents - (were) almost certainly compiled with material uncovered by spies such as Donald MacLean and Kim Philby.

Nov 22, 2006

Gemayel Assassination -- A False Flag Op?

On November 2, we ran a piece entitled White House Lebanon Coup Plot Bullshittery.

The gist of the story was that the White House was saying that Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran, or some combination thereof, were plotting a coup against Lebanon's democratically elected government.

At the time, Hezbollah was considering launching street protests to pressure the Lebanese parliament to grant veto power over government decisions to the Shiite coalition.

It seemed that the White House didn't know the difference between a coup d'etat and organized political demonstrations aimed at bringing down a government or forcing a change in policy.

Typical administration incompetence, one would have thought.

Syria and Hezbollah are being blamed for yesterday's assassination of Pierre Gemayel, of course. This fits perfectly into the anti-Syria and anti-Iran information operations we have seen over the last year.

Syria, prior to Gemayel's assassination, was in a rather strong position in the region -- being the newfound diplomatic interlocutor of choice in Iraq.

This development must have really galled Israel.

Yesterday's assassination is a really sinister development in light of the White House "coup" statement early this month.

Given that neither Syria nor Hezbollah nor Iran would have shared with the U.S. any plot they may have entertained to kill Gemayel as part of a coup (if that's what it is), a cynical international type might wonder who gave the White House the heads up.

Or if there is a false-flag operation being conducted.

Nov 21, 2006

It Depends On The Definition Of "Steal"

An Israeli advocacy group, using maps and figures leaked from inside the government, says that 39 percent of the land held by Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is privately owned by Palestinians.

Israel has long asserted that it fully respects Palestinian private property in the West Bank and only takes land there legally or, for security reasons, temporarily.

If big sections of those settlements are indeed privately held Palestinian land, that is bound to create embarrassment for Israel and further complicate the already distant prospect of a negotiated peace. The data indicate that 40 percent of the land that Israel plans to keep in any future deal with the Palestinians is private.

The new claims regarding Palestinian property are said to come from the 2004 database of the Civil Administration, which controls the civilian aspects of Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Peace Now, an Israeli group that advocates Palestinian self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, plans to publish the information on Tuesday. An advance copy was made available to The New York Times. ...

The report does not include Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed and does not consider part of the West Bank, although much of the world regards East Jerusalem as occupied. Much of the world also considers Israeli settlements on occupied land to be illegal under international law. International law requires an occupying power to protect private property, and Israel has always asserted that it does not take land without legal justification.

Nov 20, 2006

Bush: "I Would Understand If Israel Chose To Attack Iran"

From Haaretz:

The United States lacks sufficient intelligence on Iran's nuclear facilities at this time, which prevents it from initiating a military strike against them, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told European politicians and diplomats with whom she has recently met.

Rice mentioned three reasons why the United States is currently unable to carry out a military operation against Iran: the wish to solve the crisis through peaceful means; concern that a military strike will be ineffective - that it would fail to completely destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities; and the lack of precise intelligence on the targets' locations.

U.S. President George W. Bush and President Jacques Chirac of France met several weeks ago. Bush told his French counterpart that the possibility that Israel would carry out a strike against Iran's nuclear installations should not be ruled out.

Bush also said that if such an attack were to take place, he would understand it. According to European diplomats who later met with Rice, the secretary of state did not express the same willingness to show understanding for a possible Israeli strike against Iran.

Nonetheless, Rice did not discount the possibility that such an operation may take place.

In recent talks with their Israeli counterparts, French government officials estimated that Iran would reach the "point of no return" in its nuclear program by spring 2007, in approximately five months.

Nov 19, 2006

CIA Finds No Evidence Of Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program

A classified draft CIA assessment has found no firm evidence of a secret drive by Iran to develop nuclear weapons, as alleged by the White House, a top US investigative reporter is reporting.

Seymour Hersh, in an article in the New Yorker to be posted tomorrow on the magazine's website, examines the White House desire -- regardless of Iranian capabilities -- to attack Iran before George W. Bush leaves office.

The Administration's planning for a military attack on Iran was made far more complicated earlier this fall by a highly classified draft assessment by the C.I.A. challenging the White House's assumptions about how close Iran might be to building a nuclear bomb. The C.I.A. found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear-weapons program running parallel to the civilian operations that Iran has declared to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (The C.I.A. declined to comment on this story.)

The C.I.A.'s analysis, which has been circulated to other agencies for comment, was based on technical intelligence collected by overhead satellites, and on other empirical evidence, such as measurements of the radioactivity of water samples and smoke plumes from factories and power plants. Additional data have been gathered, intelligence sources told me, by high-tech (and highly classified) radioactivity-detection devices that clandestine American and Israeli agents placed near suspected nuclear-weapons facilities inside Iran in the past year or so. No significant amounts of radioactivity were found.

A current senior intelligence official confirmed the existence of the C.I.A. analysis, and told me that the White House had been hostile to it. The White House's dismissal of the C.I.A. findings on Iran is widely known in the intelligence community. Cheney and his aides discounted the assessment, the former senior intelligence official said. "They're not looking for a smoking gun," the official added, referring to specific intelligence about Iranian nuclear planning. "They're looking for the degree of comfort level they think they need to accomplish the mission." The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency also challenged the C.I.A.'s analysis. "The D.I.A. is fighting the agency's conclusions, and disputing its approach," the former senior intelligence official said. Bush and Cheney, he added, can try to prevent the C.I.A. assessment from being incorporated into a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate on Iranian nuclear capabilities, "but they can't stop the agency from putting it out for comment inside the intelligence community." The C.I.A. assessment warned the White House that it would be a mistake to conclude that the failure to find a secret nuclear-weapons program in Iran merely meant that the Iranians had done a good job of hiding it. The former senior intelligence official noted that at the height of the Cold War the Soviets were equally skilled at deception and misdirection, yet the American intelligence community was readily able to unravel the details of their long-range-missile and nuclear-weapons programs. But some in the White House, including in Cheney's office, had made just such an assumption -- that "the lack of evidence means they must have it," the former official said.

Nov 17, 2006

"Hearts and Minds" Not An Objective Here

A man who worked in Iraq for a Herndon (Virginia)-based security company is accused in a lawsuit of firing twice into Iraqi civilian vehicles last summer without provocation, possibly killing at least one person.

Two co-workers who witnessed the shootings say in the suit that there has been no investigation, even though they reported the incidents.

All three men worked for Triple Canopy, a corporation formed in 2003 by former military men to provide security in the Middle East for the United States government and private companies. Triple Canopy was the ninth-largest contractor for the U.S. State Department in fiscal 2005, with payments totaling more than $90 million, government records show.

That sum does not include what Triple Canopy is paid by private firms such as KBR, formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. that is involved in rebuilding in Iraq. Former Army Ranger Shane Schmidt, former Marine Charles L. Sheppard III and their shift leader were all working on an assignment for KBR when the shootings occurred near Baghdad on July 8, alleges the suit, filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court.

Schmidt and Sheppard say they reported the shootings to Triple Canopy. Instead of investigating, the men allege, Triple Canopy fired them and prevented their being hired by other companies in the Middle East. The lawsuit alleges wrongful termination and wrongful interference with their professional future. ...

Schmidt and Sheppard allege that Triple Canopy did not report the shootings to KBR or the government. They say that no one has ever contacted them about the shootings.

In court papers, Triple Canopy has not denied that the incidents occurred. The company has tried to have the case dismissed on the grounds that no violation of Virginia law occurred and that Schmidt and Sheppard were "at-will" employees and could be fired for any reason.

At a hearing last month, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge M. Langhorne Keith said the state's "at-will" legal doctrine has exceptions, including "when people allege that they reported a murder, two murders or maybe more than two murders, conducted by a fellow employee, and were fired for making that report." ...

On July 8, according to their lawsuit, Schmidt and Sheppard were riding with their shift leader in a convoy to pick up a KBR employee at the Baghdad airport.

As their vehicle approached the airport, their shift leader declared that he was "going to kill someone today," the lawsuit states. The man then stepped out of the vehicle and fired several shots from his M4 rifle into the windshield of a stopped truck.

Schmidt and Sheppard were horrified, Smith said. According to the lawsuit, the shift leader told them, "That didn't happen, understand?"

After their convoy picked up the KBR employee, the crew headed to its next destination. At this point, Schmidt and Sheppard allege, their shift leader declared, "I've never shot anyone with my pistol before." The man then opened his door and fired seven or eight rounds into the windshield of a nearby taxi. Schmidt and Sheppard later heard that a cabdriver was found shot to death in the area, according to the suit.

Nov 16, 2006

Fox News Wants To Show Iraqi Insurgents "Thrilled" With Democratic-Led Congress

From The Progress Report:

The Huffington Post yesterday published a post-election internal memo written by Fox News Vice President John Moody directing employees to "be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled Congress." The memo was distributed on November 9, two days after the midterm elections, outlining Fox's response to the Democrats' victories in the House and Senate. Prior to the elections, Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly claimed that Iraqi insurgents were increasing their violence to try to influence the midterm elections. At an October campaign event, Cheney claimed "the terrorists are actually involved and want to involve themselves in our electoral process, which must mean they want a change." During a radio interview, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld agreed that Iraqi insurgents were saying, "We've got an election in two weeks in America, gang, and we want to change horses over there." However, President Bush has admitted that there isn't "any intelligence" that suggests terrorists were trying to influence U.S. elections. Also, military spokesman Maj. Douglas Powell told reporters there was no intelligence to back the claim. Indeed, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Ron Suskind's recent book, CIA analysts determined that a propaganda tape released by Osama bin Laden in the days before the 2004 presidential election "was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection."

Nov 15, 2006

DNI Slow To Provide India Nuke Study

Congressional leaders requested a secret intelligence assessment of India's nuclear program and its government's ties to Iran in January amid concerns about a White House effort to provide nuclear technology to New Delhi. Ten months later, as the Senate prepares to vote on nuclear trade with India, the intelligence assessment has yet to be seen on Capitol Hill, congressional and intelligence sources say.

The pending nuclear deal with India would reverse years of U.S. policies aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. U.S. law forbids selling civilian nuclear technology to countries such as India that have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Arms-control experts, concerned that the deal would have major ramifications for U.S. efforts to stop nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, said yesterday that the White House plan would allow India to rapidly increase its nuclear arsenal. ...

In a Jan. 23 letter to John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, the ranking chairmen of the House and Senate foreign relations panels asked for "an interagency assessment" of India's nuclear program, its record of proliferation and its ties to Iran. The letter was signed by Reps. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) and Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) and Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) -- all of whom have been generally supportive of the India deal but have raised concerns about the proliferation implications and about India's relations with Iran.

The four asked Negroponte to assess how India is implementing its nonproliferation commitments, the adequacy of its export controls and the movement into and out of India of materials to make weapons of mass destruction. ...

The letter asked the intelligence community to gauge the extent to which the deal "may enhance India's ability to produce fissile material for weapons." The senators also asked for a full assessment of India's positions on Iran. ...

Several congressional sources said that the National Intelligence Council provided two oral briefings, in March and April, that focused on the history of U.S.-India relations as well as the beginnings of India's nuclear program, but that the briefings did not address the specific information requested in the letter. "We expect a written intelligence product," one Republican said. Four other staff members -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- also said that they expected a complete intelligence assessment that responds point by point to the issues raised in the letter. All spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing that public comment would put their congressional jobs at risk.

The terms of a U.S.-India accord, worked out in secret in 2005, took Congress by surprise. Congress must approve any final deal before it can be implemented. While both parties support a strategic alliance with India, some have voiced concerns about its strong ties to Iran.

Tehran and New Delhi signed an extensive agreement in 2003 and their military, scientific, political and economic ties are growing.

Nov 14, 2006

An OPEC For Gas?

Nato advisers have warned the military alliance that it needs to guard against any attempt by Russia to set up an "Opec for gas" that would strengthen Moscow's leverage over Europe.

A confidential study by Nato economics experts, sent to the ambassadors of its 26 member states last week, warned that Russia may be seeking to build a gas cartel including Algeria, Qatar, Libya, the countries of Central Asia and perhaps Iran.

The study, by Nato's economics committee, said Russia was seeking to use energy policy to pursue political ends, particularly in dealings with neighbours such as Georgia and Ukraine. ...

Although there is disagreement over whether Russia could create any such cartel, the report highlights the deepening tensions between Western Europe and Moscow over energy security.

Energy company executives say the biggest threat to gas prices comes from Russia's own investment shortfalls and possible moves by Moscow to convince other producers, such as Algeria, to limit investment.

Russia supplies 24 per cent of Europe's natural gas, with Norway selling 13 per cent and Algeria, a major exporter to Spain and Italy, supplying 10 per cent.

Last week, the International Energy Agency warned of "the possibility of major gas-exporting countries co-ordinating their investment and production plans in order to avoid surplus capacity and to keep gas prices up."

But yesterday, EU foreign ministers failed to agree a line on Russian energy, with Poland continuing to seek a tougher stance in future talks with Moscow.

Last month, before an EU summit with Russia, Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief, highlighted a Russian deal with Algeria, which he said stopped Algeria selling majority stakes in gas projects to foreign investors.

"We are witnessing some form of mutual agreement as Russia and Algeria restrain investment," said one industry analyst.

"Moscow has tightened the grip using Gazprom and Algiers has just changed its hydrocarbons law giving [Algeria's] Sonatrach 51 per cent of every project instead of 30 per cent."

Big gas exporters such as Norway, Qatar and Nigeria appear reluctant to join any cartel. Gas is also traded very differently to oil, with long-term contracts -- often linked to oil prices -- still the norm. Analysts say Gazprom relies heavily on Europe, since domestic Russian prices are capped and there is no other market to enter at present.

Nov 13, 2006

No Lame Duck Approval Of "CATCH-ALL" Forthcoming

Bush still hopes to get ex post facto approval of his extra-legal NSA warrantless surveillance program.

His desire to retroactively legalize his actions in implementing the "CATCH-ALL" program will likely result in disappointment.

Legislation aimed at President Bush's once-secret program for wiretapping U.S.-foreign phone calls and computer traffic of suspected terrorists without warrants shows all the signs of not moving ahead, notwithstanding President Bush's request this week that a lame-duck Congress give it to him.

Senate Democrats, emboldened by Election Day wins that put them in control of Congress as of January, say they would rather wait until next year to look at the issue. "I can't say that we won't do it, but there's no guarantee that we're going spend a lot of time on controversial measures," Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois said Thursday.

In Senate parlance, that means no.

"We have been asked to make sweeping and fundamental changes in law for reasons that we do not know and in order to legalize secret, unlawful actions that the administration has refused to fully divulge," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record) of Vermont, the next Judiciary Committee chairman. ...

The Bush administration has a backup plan. In speeches over the next few weeks, the Justice Department will launch a new campaign for the legislation by casting the choice as one between supporting the program or dropping it altogether -- and appearing soft on al-Qaida.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will make the eavesdropping program the focus of a Nov. 18 speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for the national security, will make a similar pitch Wednesday to the American Bar Association.

Leahy said that monitoring communications of suspected terrorists is essential but that "it needs to be done lawfully and with adequate checks and balances to prevent abuses of Americans' rights and Americans' privacy."

Nov 11, 2006

Rumsfeld Target Of German Criminal Prosecution

Just days after his resignation, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TIME first reported in June 2005, Qahtani underwent a "special interrogation plan," personally approved by Rumsfeld, which the U.S. says produced valuable intelligence. But to obtain it, according to the log of his interrogation and government reports, Qahtani was subjected to forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, sleep deprivation and other controversial interrogation techniques. ...

Along with Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Tenet, the other defendants in the case are Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone; former assistant attorney general Jay Bybee; former deputy assisant attorney general John Yoo; General Counsel for the Department of Defense William James Haynes II; and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Senior military officers named in the filing are General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top Army official in Iraq; Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo; senior Iraq commander, Major General Walter Wojdakowski; and Col. Thomas Pappas, the one-time head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib.

Germany was chosen for the court filing because German law provides "universal jurisdiction" allowing for the prosecution of war crimes and related offenses that take place anywhere in the world. Indeed, a similar, but narrower, legal action was brought in Germany in 2004, which also sought the prosecution of Rumsfeld. The case provoked an angry response from Pentagon, and Rumsfeld himself was reportedly upset. Rumsfeld's spokesman at the time, Lawrence DiRita, called the case a "a big, big problem." U.S. officials made clear the case could adversely impact U.S.-Germany relations, and Rumsfeld indicated he would not attend a major security conference in Munich, where he was scheduled to be the keynote speaker, unless Germany disposed of the case. The day before the conference, a German prosecutor announced he would not pursue the matter, saying there was no indication that U.S. authorities and courts would not deal with allegations in the complaint.

In bringing the new case, however, the plaintiffs argue that circumstances have changed in two important ways. Rumsfeld's resignation, they say, means that the former Defense Secretary will lose the legal immunity usually accorded high government officials. Moreover, the plaintiffs argue that the German prosecutor's reasoning for rejecting the previous case -- that U.S. authorities were dealing with the issue -- has been proven wrong.

"The utter and complete failure of U.S. authorities to take any action to investigate high-level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a U.S.-based non-profit helping to bring the legal action in Germany. He also notes that the Military Commissions Act, a law passed by Congress earlier this year, effectively blocks prosecution in the U.S. of those involved in detention and interrogation abuses of foreigners held abroad in American custody going to back to Sept. 11, 2001. As a result, Ratner contends, the legal arguments underlying the German prosecutor's previous inaction no longer hold up.