Has the FBI Ever Foiled a Real Terrorist Plot?

Amine El Khalifi, the latest victim of an FBI sting

Yesterday, the FBI arrested another fake terrorist, just one in a long line of potential “terrorists” who have been given training and equipment by the government and then busted as they try to carry out their “plots”–plots that seem to have been designed by–or at least strongly encouraged by–FBI agents. From The Washington Post:

Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.

For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

The gun and vest were provided not by al-Qaeda, as Khalifi had been told, but by undercover FBI agents who rendered them inoperable, authorities said.

They said Khalifi had been the subject of a lengthy investigation and never posed a threat to the public….

Khalifi “allegedly believed he was working with al-Qaeda,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Khalifi “devised the plot, the targets and the methods on his own.”

The Washington Post must think Americans are stupid. Emptywheel, who has done a great deal of research on these FBI sting operations, doesn’t seem to think Khalifi planned the “attack” by himself.

As is usual with most of FBI’s terrorist arrests of late, the FBI provided the suspect with the weapons he would have used to attack the target–in this case, the Capitol. As is usual, this appears to be an instance where the FBI found someone talking about violence–usually online–and then cultivated that violent desire over time.

So it seems like this is a now-familiar story.

Later in the post, she writes:

The FBI says his own plan was to be dropped off at the Capitol building.

But what happened instead is he did a Deep Throat in a parking garage to get his empty suicide vest.

So whose plan was he implementing, again?

I’m mentioning this arrest yesterday, because we’ve seen this repeated again and again. The FBI announces a big arrest and then later we learn that the whole plan was hatched by FBI agents who sucked in some angry kid and convinced him to commit some “terrorist act.”

On Thursday, just one day before the latest big FBI “terrorism” bust in DC, the so-called Underwear Bomber was sentenced to life in prison. ABC News (which also seems to think we’re stupid):

Umar Farouk Abulmatallab

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was the same remorseless man who four months ago pleaded guilty to all charges related to Northwest Airlines Flight 253. He seemed to relish the mandatory sentence and defended his actions as rooted in the Muslim holy book, the Quran.

“Mujahideen are proud to kill in the name of God,” he said. “Today is a day of victory.”

Had the bomb not fizzled, nearly 300 people aboard the flight would probably have been killed.

The case stirred renewed fears that terrorists could still bring down an American jetliner more than eight years after 9/11, and it accelerated installation of body scanners at the nation’s airports.

Please note that Abdulmutallab “was subdued by fellow passengers,” not anyone from law enforcement. Before the sentencing, four passengers and a member of the crew from Flight 253 were allowed to give victim impact statements. One of those statements came from Detroit attorney Kurt Haskell, whom the ABC “news” story characterizes as follows:

Because he was a passenger, Detroit-area lawyer Kurt Haskell was allowed to publicly repeat his wild claim that the U.S. government outfitted Abdulmutallab with a defective bomb partly to force the rollout of body-imaging machines at airports.

Kurt and Lori Haskell, who were on Flight 253

Is Haskell really making a “wild claim?” Here is his statement to the court:

I wish to thank the Court for allowing me these 5 minutes to make my statement. My references to the government in this statement refer to the Federal Government excluding this Court and the prosecution. On Christmas Day 2009, my wife and I were returning from an African safari and had a connecting flight through Amsterdam. As we waited for our flight, we sat on the floor next to the boarding gate. What I witnessed while sitting there and subsequent events have changed my life forever. While I sat there, I witnessed Umar dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt, being escorted around security by a man in a tan suit who spoke perfect American English and who aided Umar in boarding without a passport. The airline gate worker initially refused Umar boarding until the man in the tan suit intervened. The event meant nothing to me at the time. Little did I know that Umar would try to kill me a few hours later as our flight approached Detroit. The final 10 minutes of our flight after the attack were the worst minutes of my life. During those 10 minutes I sat paralyzed in fear. Unfortunately, what happened next has had an even greater impact on my life and has saddened me further.

When we landed, I was shocked that our plane taxied up to the gate. I was further shocked that we were forced to sit on the plane for 20 minutes with powder from the so called bomb all over the cabin. The officers that boarded the plane did nothing to ensure our safety and did not check for accomplices or other explosive devices. Several passengers trampled through parts of the bomb as they exited the plane. We were then taken into the terminal with our unchecked carry on bags. Again, there was no concern for our safety even though Umar told the officers that there was another bomb on board as he exited the plane. I wondered why nobody was concerned about our safety, accomplices or other bombs and the lack of concern worried me greatly. I immediately told the FBI my story in order to help catch the accomplice I had seen in Amsterdam. It soon became obvious that the FBI wasn’t interested in what I had to say, which upset me further. For one month the government refused to admit the existence of the man in the tan suit before changing course and admitting his existence in an ABC News article on January 22, 2010. That was the last time the government talked about this man. The video that would prove the truth of my account has never been released. I continue to be emotional upset that the video has not been released. The Dutch police, meanwhile, in this article (show article), also confirmed that Umar did not show his passport in Amsterdam which also meant that he didn’t go through security as both are in the same line in Amsterdam. It upsets me that the government refuses to admit this fact.

I became further saddened from this case, when Patrick Kennedy of the State Department during Congressional hearings, admitted that Umar was a known terrorist, was being followed, and the U.S. allowed him into the U.S. so that it could catch Umar’s accomplices. I was once again shocked and saddened when Michael Leiter of the National Counter terrorism Center admitted during these same hearings that intentionally letting terrorists into the U.S. was a frequent practice of the U.S. Government. I cannot fully explain my sadness, disappointment and fear when I realized that my government allowed an attack on me intentionally.

During this time, I questioned if my country intentionally put a known terrorist onto my flight with a live bomb. I had many sleepless nights over this issue. My answer came shortly thereafter. In late 2010, the FBI admitted to giving out intentionally defective bombs to the Portland Christmas Tree Bomber,the Wrigley Field Bomber and several others. Further, Mr. Chambers was quoted in the Free Press on January 11, 2011 when he indicated that the government’s own explosives experts had indicated that Umar’s bomb was impossibly defective. I wondered how that could be. Certainly, I thought, Al Qaeda wouldn’t go through all of the trouble to plan such an attack only to provide the terrorist with an impossibly defective bomb.

I attended nearly all of the pretrial hearings. At the hearing on January 28, 2011, I was greatly disappointed by the prosecution’s request to block evidence from Mr. Chambers “as it could then be able to be obtained by third parties, who could use it in a civil suit against the government”. It really bothered me that the government apparently was admitting to wrongdoing of some kind as it admitted that it was concerned it would be sued. It further upset me to know that the government was putting its own interests ahead of those of the passengers.

When I attended the jury selection hearings, I questioned why versions of the same two questions kept coming up, those being:

1. Do you think whether you’ll be able to tell whether something is actually a bomb? and
2. Do you realize that sometimes the media doesn’t always tell the truth?

I continued to be greatly saddened at this point as I felt the truth continued to be hidden.

When Umar listed me as his only witness, I was happy to testify, not on his behalf, but on behalf of the truth. I never expected to testify, as my eyewitness account would have been too damaging to the myth that the government and media are putting forward. A mere 5 days after I was announced as a witness, there was an inexplicable guilty plea which exasperated me as I no longer would be testifying.

In closing I will just say that regardless of how the media and government try to shape the public perception of this case, I am convinced that Umar was given an intentionally defective bomb by a U.S. Government agent and placed on our flight without showing a passport or going through security, to stage a false terrorist attack to be used to implement various government policies.

The effect this matter has had on my life has been astounding and due to this case, I will never trust the government in any matter, ever.

In regards to sentencing, nothing I’ve said excuses the fact that Umar tried to kill me. He has waived his valid claim to the entrapment defense. Umar, you are not a great Muslim martyr, you are merely a “Patsy”. I ask the court to impose the mandatory sentence.

Haskell’s wife Lori says that she was treated pretty badly by the judge in the case. No one really wanted her or her husband to tell about what they saw and experienced on Christmas Day 2009.

I imagine Joseph Cannon and/or Emptywheel will write about this case again soon. They are both much better at this kind of thing than I am, so I thought I would just lay the facts out for you as I see them. If you are interested in more information, you can read Cannon’s previous posts on the underwear bomber here and Emptywheel’s here.

What do you think? (Keeping in mind that former DHS head Michael Chertoff made big bucks from the naked body scanners now being used by the TSA.)


A Follow-up to Dakinikat’s Latest Post on the TSA Controversy

This morning, Hillary Clinton weighed in on the enhanced searches being used by the TSA during her appearances on the morning political shows.

CBS’ Bob Schieffer asked Clinton Sunday if she would submit to a pat-down by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent.

“Not if I could avoid it,” she replied. “No. I mean who would?”

On Meet the Press, she told David Gregory:

“I think everyone, including our security experts, are looking for ways to diminish the impact on the traveling public,” Clinton told NBC’s David Gregory.

“I mean obviously the vast, vast majority of people getting on these planes are law abiding citizens who are just trying to get from one place to another. But let’s not kid ourselves. The terrorists are adaptable,” she continued.

“Striking the right balance is what this is about. And I am absolutely confident that our security experts are gonna keep trying to get it better and less intrusive and more precise,” Clinton said.

Now let’s compare that with President Obama’s statement about the naked scanning machines and abusive TSA procedures, beginning with one of his patented self-referential remarks. Because everything is always about him, of course.

Responding to a request for his opinion on the matter from NBC’s Chuck Todd, President Obama opened with a confession: “I don’t go through security checks to get on planes these days, so I haven’t personally experienced some of the procedures put in place by TSA.” He then proceeded to defend this measure which he will never experience– one which everyone from Geraldo Rivera to Anderson Cooper seem taken aback by:

“I will also say that in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, our TSA personnel are properly under enormous pressure to make sure that you don’t have somebody slipping on a plane with some sort of explosive device on their persons. And since the explosive device that was on Mr. Abdulmutallab was not detected by ordinary metal detectors, it has meant that the TSA has tried to adapt to make sure that passengers on planes on safe. Now, that’s a tough situation. One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us.”

Which statement is the least obnoxious? Perhaps Obama should just defer all questions to Clinton from now on.

Here’s an interesting reaction to Obama’s remarks from Huffpo:

“What I don’t like about Obama’s statement is the sense that there’s nothing to be done about the violation of civil liberties. It is as if the TSA is not accountable to anyone, which can’t be accurate. Who oversees TSA and who is responsible for setting these policies? Who are these people accountable to–Dick Cheney?”

I totally agree with that commenter!

Now check this out: Body scanner CEO accompanied Obama to India

The CEO of one of the two companies licensed to sell full body scanners to the TSA accompanied President Barack Obama to India earlier this month, a clear sign of the deep ties between Washington politicians and the companies pushing to have body scanners installed at all US airports.

Deepak Chopra, chairman and CEO of OSI Systems and no relation to the New Age spiritualist, was one of a number of CEOs who traveled with the president on his three-day trip to India, which focused primarily on expanding business ties between the US and the emerging Asian power….

That a manufacturer of body scanners accompanied the US president on a foreign trip shows the extent of the ties between the industry and the US government. With anger growing at the intrusive news screening procedures, many observers have focused attention on Michael Chertoff, the former Homeland Security secretary whose consultancy, the Chertoff Group, counts OSI as a client….

“Mr. Chertoff should not be allowed to abuse the trust the public has placed in him as a former public servant to privately gain from the sale of full-body scanners under the pretense that the scanners would have detected ‘[the alleged Christmas Day bomber’s] explosive,” Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, told the Washington Post.

If that doesn’t make your blood boil over the way innocent Americans are being treated in U.S. airports, what would? This is all about money for corporations, not about protecting Americans from terrorism.

We are now experiencing exactly what James Ridgeway predicted earlier this year:

…airport security has always been compromised by corporate interests.When it comes to high-tech screening methods, the TSA has a dismal record of enriching private corporations with failed technologies, and there are signs that the latest miracle device may just bring more of the same.

Ridgeway calls the naked body scanners a “scam.”

Known by their opponents as “digital strip search” machines, the full-body scanners use one of two technologies—millimeter wave sensors or backscatter x-rays—to see through clothing, producing ghostly images of naked passengers. Yet critics say that these, too, are highly fallible, and are incapable of revealing explosives hidden in body cavities—an age-old method for smuggling contraband. If that’s the case, a terrorist could hide the entire bomb works within his or her body, and breeze through the virtual strip search undetected. Yesterday, the London Independent reported on “authoritative claims that officials at the [UK] Department for Transport and the Home Office have already tested the scanners and were not persuaded that they would work comprehensively against terrorist threats to aviation.” A British defense-research firm reportedly found the machines unreliable in detecting “low-density” materials like plastics, chemicals, and liquids—precisely what the underwear bomber had stuffed in his briefs.

Ridgeway lists a number of powerful Washington insiders who are profiting from the Naked body imaging scam. So what if a terrorist gets through the scan with explosives hidden in a body orifice? There are even more invasive machines available.

there’s always the next generation of security equipment: the Body Orifice Security Scanner, or BOSS chair. This contraption, which has an uncomfortable resemblance to an electric chair, is used in prisons, mostly in the UK, for tracing cell phones, shivs, and other dangerous contraband that’s been swallowed or inserted into body cavities by inmates. So far, it only detects metal, but you never know.

And of course there is always the humiliating “enhanced pat-down” process for anyone who doesn’t want to appear naked to a bunch of TSA thugs.

If you are still unconvinced that the government isn’t really protecting us with their police-state tactics, consider this:

The recent public ire toward the TSA’s new pat-down and body imaging screening methods is likely to cause more people to drive automobiles and forego airline travel, say two transportation economists who have studied the issue.

As the nation readies for one of the busiest traveling holidays, Steven Horwitz, a professor of economics at St. Lawrence University, told The Hill that the probable spike in road travel, caused by adverse feelings towards the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new screening procedures, could also lead to more car-related deaths.

“Driving is much more dangerous than flying, as you are far more likely to be killed in an automobile accident mile-for-mile than you are in an airplane,” said Horwitz. “The result will be that the new TSA procedures will kill more Americans on the highway.”

Clifford Winston, a senior fellow of economic studies at the Brookings Institute, stopped short of saying that more people could die as a result of the TSA policies, but said that the airline industry will definitely see a decline in passengers if the public’s contempt for the pat-downs and advanced-imaging technology systems continues.

It’s time to get serious about stopping terrorist attacks by using a method that actually works, instead of just focusing on further lining the the pockets of rich corporations and their CEOs.

President Obama needs to understand that he works for us. We shouldn’t have to serve as experimental subjects for his rich friends’ latest police state technological projects. We should have the right as American citizens to travel freely in our own country.

If President Obama continues to insist that we be seen naked or be groped by his TSA thugs in order to fly, then he should have to go through one of the scanning machines himself followed by an “enhanced pat-down.” And the entire humiliating process should be shown on national TV for all of us to see.


Finally! Public Outrage Builds Against TSA Abuse of Power

John Tyner, 31, of Oceanside, CA

Thanks to John Tyner, an ordinary citizen from Oceanside, CA, who just wanted to enjoy a little pheasant hunting in South Dakota last weekend, the media spotlight is now on the TSA and its employees, some of whom are apparently power-mad and abusive to the travelers they are supposed to be protecting.

I’m sure you’ve heard about Tyner by now. He’s the man who refused a naked body scan at San Diego Airport, and then refused to be manhandled by TSA employees using their new security procedure, the “resolution pat-down,”

which requires TSA agents to grasp the body of the subject more firmly when running hands over limbs and also requires probing up to the genital areas of the body.

Tyner had the presence of mind to capture video of his encounter with the TSA, and he later posted the videos on you tube and on his blog, where he also described his experience in detail. Here’s an exerpt:

A male agent…directed me over to the far corner of the area for screening….he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a “standard” pat down. (I thought to myself, “great, not one of those gropings like I’ve been reading about”.) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, “if you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” He, a bit taken aback, informed me that he would have to involve his supervisor because of my comment.

We both stood there for no more than probably two minutes before a female TSA agent (apparently, the supervisor) arrived. She described to me that because I had opted out of the backscatter screening, I would now be patted down, and that involved running hands up the inside of my legs until they felt my groin. I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight. The supervisor informed me that it was a standard administrative security check and that they were authorized to do it. I repeated that I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal. I believe that I was then informed that if I did not submit to the inspection, I would not be getting on my flight. I again stated that I thought the search was illegal. I told her that I would be willing to submit to a walk through the metal detector as over 80% of the rest of the people were doing, but I would not be groped. The supervisor, then offered to go get her supervisor.

The upshot of all this was that Tyner was escorted out of the security area by a police officer and then after more consultations with supervisors, managed to get a refund on his ticket.

At this point, I thought it was all over. I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn’t know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties.

You get the idea. Tyner’s experience was Kafkaesque. The behavior of TSA and Airline employees was reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s descriptions of military red tape in Catch-22. Eventually Tyner did escape the airport without being groped, but the TSA isn’t through with him yet.

The TSA plans to “investigate” Tyner because he left the airport without being authorized by TSA to do so.

The Transportation Security Administration has opened an investigation targeting John Tyner, the Oceanside man who left Lindbergh Field under duress on Saturday morning after refusing to undertake a full body scan….

Michael J. Aguilar, chief of the TSA office in San Diego, called a news conference at the airport Monday afternoon to announce the probe. He said the investigation could lead to prosecution and civil penalties of up to $11,000.

TSA agents had told Tyner on Saturday that he could be fined up to $10,000.

“That’s the old fine,” Aguilar said. “It has been increased.”

So that’s it, folks. If you want to fly in the U.S. today, you either have to be photographed naked or you have to submit to a humiliating groping process that involves a stranger’s hands coming into contact with your genitals. That’s a Hobson’s choice if I’ve ever heard one. One way or another, you submit to an embarrassing situation in which you are vulnerable to the whims of strangers who may be drunk with power.

Naked body scan image

What’s the risk you take with the naked body scans? They expose you to radiation, and that may be dangerous for young children and elderly people. Many people would find the invasion of privacy and modesty embarrassing and humiliating. And how about the fact that some invisible total stranger may be examining your body and perhaps gawking at your body parts or ridiculing you? These scans show the body in detail and seem to highlight the genital area (see photo). Worst of all, although the government claims the naked images are immediately destroyed, that isn’t so clear.

Gizmodo published multiple stories about this issue today. Here’s a very creepy one you might like to take a look at: The TSA’s Sense of Humor Makes Me Nervous The story includes a photograph of a TSA computer with a highly offensive wallpaper image that apparently reflects TSA “humor” (see below)

The technology site also posted a video of 100 leaked naked body scans.

Wait a minute. Those images aren’t supposed to be saved, are they? Riiiiiight.

At the heart of the controversy over “body scanners” is a promise: The images of our naked bodies will never be public. U.S. Marshals in a Florida Federal courthouse saved 35,000 images on their scanner. These are those images.

A Gizmodo investigation has revealed 100 of the photographs saved by the Gen 2 millimeter wave scanner from Brijot Imaging Systems, Inc., obtained by a FOIA request after it was recently revealed that U.S. Marshals operating the machine in the Orlando, Florida courthouse had improperly-perhaps illegally-saved images of the scans of public servants and private citizens.

We understand that it will be controversial to release these photographs. But identifying features have been eliminated. And fortunately for those who walked through the scanner in Florida last year, this mismanaged machine used the less embarrassing imaging technique.

Yet the leaking of these photographs demonstrates the security limitations of not just this particular machine, but millimeter wave and x-ray backscatter body scanners operated by federal employees in our courthouses and by TSA officers in airports across the country. That we can see these images today almost guarantees that others will be seeing similar images in the future. If you’re lucky, it might even be a picture of you or your family.

Finally Gizmodo asks whether the scanners are being put into airports our safety or for the further enrichment of three giant corporations and their lobbyists. The Gizmodo story refers to this story by Timothy P. Carney:

If you’ve seen one of these scanners at an airport, there’s a good chance it was made by L-3 Communications, a major contractor with the Department of Homeland Security. L-3 employs three different lobbying firms including Park Strategies, where former Sen. Al D’Amato, R-N.Y., plumps on the company’s behalf. Back in 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed D’Amato to the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism following the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Also on Park’s L-3 account is former Appropriations staffer Kraig Siracuse.

The scanner contract, issued four days after the Christmas Day bomb attempt last year, is worth $165 million to L-3.

Rapiscan got the other naked-scanner contract from the TSA, worth $173 million. Rapiscan’s lobbyists include Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee. When Defense Daily reported on Price’s appropriations bill last winter, the publication noted “Price likes the budget for its emphasis on filling gaps in aviation security, in particular the whole body imaging systems.”

An early TSA contractor for full-body scanners was the American Science and Engineering company. AS&E’s lobbying team is impressive, including Tom Blank, a former deputy administrator for the TSA. Fellow AS&E lobbyist Chad Wolf was an assistant administrator at TSA and an aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who sits on the Transportation and Defense subcommittees of Appropriations. Finally, Democratic former Rep. Bud Cramer is also an AS&E lobbyist — he sat on the Defense and Transportation subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee.

It always comes down to money, doesn’t it? Personally I haven’t flown since before 9/11, and I am determined never to fly again until this outrageous violation of our privacy and civil liberties ends.


Sunday Reads

Out of Town News, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Good Morning!!

Since it’s Sunday, I’ll begin with a religious item: Catholic bishops say more exorcists are needed

Citing a shortage of priests who can perform the rite, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops are holding a conference on how to conduct exorcisms.

The two-day training, which ends today in Baltimore, is to outline the scriptural basis of evil, instruct clergy on evaluating whether a person is truly possessed, and review the prayers and rituals that comprise an exorcism. Among the speakers will be Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, and a priest-assistant to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

Now there’s a serious issue for you. Never mind the disintegrating economy, the President’s Catfood Commission, our multiple wars of aggression in the Middle East, and the likelihood that very far right Republicans will likely control Congress and the White House for the next 30 years (if the country survives that long). No, the really important issue is the need for priests who can drive out demons.

On second thought, maybe some of those nuts DC could benefit from exorcisms…

Despite strong interest in the training, skepticism about the rite persists within the American church. Organizers of the event are keenly aware of the ridicule that can accompany discussion of the subject. Exorcists in U.S. dioceses keep a very low profile. In 1999, the church updated the Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that “all must be done to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition.”

So how do you know when an exorcism is needed?

Signs of demonic possession accepted by the church include violent reaction to holy water or anything holy, speaking in a language the possessed person doesn’t know and abnormal displays of strength.

The article does say that diseases and psychological disorders must be ruled out before someone is determined to be possessed.

Emptywheel has an interesting take on why George W. Bush plagiarized much of his memoir, Decision Points, from other authors: It’s Safer When You Don’t Let the President Reflect for Himself.

She suggests that Bush may have copied from published sources in order to keep his story straight. He presumably told so many lies over the eight years of his presidency that he might slip up if he tried to write anything from memory. She does note that:

Bush admitted to war crimes in his book, so he did exhibit a general lack of caution in his presentation of some of the touchy legal issues dealt with in the book. But unlike Cheney (who has explicitly said that the statute of limitations will have expired on some of the crimes he’ll describe in his upcoming memoir), Bush may well need to finesse…issues [such as his decision not to pardon Scooter Libby].

Speaking of war crimes, the Obama administration has taken the coward’s way out once again in regard to the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed. From the Washington Post: Opposition to U.S. trial likely to keep mastermind of 9/11 attacks in detention

Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, will probably remain in military detention without trial for the foreseeable future, according to Obama administration officials.

The administration has concluded that it cannot put Mohammed on trial in federal court because of the opposition of lawmakers in Congress and in New York. There is also little internal support for resurrecting a military prosecution at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The latter option would alienate liberal supporters.

The administration asserts that it can hold Mohammed and other al-Qaeda operatives under the laws of war, a principle that has been upheld by the courts when Guantanamo Bay detainees have challenged their detention.

Spencer Ackerman:

So can the Obama administration manage to reach a decision more craven than this one? According to the Washington Post, the months-long internal administration deadlock over trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 co-conspirators has resulted in a decision: apoplexy. No trying them in federal courts in New York; no trying them at Guantanamo Bay in a military commission. Just… nothing. [….]

And that’s the maddening thing. The Obama team talks about a “different political environment” as if it has nothing to do with creating one. Attorney General Holder talks about federal courts’ capability for handling terrorism trials — you see dangerous secrets leaking out of the Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani trial? Or al-Qaeda storming Manhattan, Cobra-style, to free their comrade? — and then undercuts his own arguments with a defense of military commissions and indefinite detention without trial.

Well, then make a case, and make it consistently. Build support and maintain it. Be willing to stake political capital on it. Or concede that you never meant what you said about justice.

You could say something similar about most of Obama’s campaign promises versus his real actions as President.

Rahm Emanuel has announced his candidacy for Mayor of Chicago.

The former North Side congressman and White House chief of staff laid out a broad agenda, declaring he’d work to help generate jobs, improve education and decrease crime at a juncture in the city’s history when all three need to be addressed.

And he plans to do all that–you guessed it–without raising taxes! That’s what all the Republicans say. Oh wait–he’s running as a Democrat. Good luck Chi-town, you’re going to need it.

The UK Guardian reports that McDonald’s, KFC, and PepsiCo will help write the UK’s new policies on “obesity and diet-related diseases.”

The Department of Health is putting the fast food companies McDonald’s and KFC and processed food and drink manufacturers such as PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Mars and Diageo at the heart of writing government policy on obesity, alcohol and diet-related disease, the Guardian has learned.

In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five “responsibility deal” networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month.

The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. Working alongside them are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal’s sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.

This sounds like something U.S. politicians would do. Is our insanity taking over the world? Or is it demon possession?

Scientists say that naked body scanners are bad for your health.

US scientists warned Friday that the full-body, graphic-image X-ray scanners that are being used to screen passengers and airline crews at airports around the country may be unsafe.

“They say the risk is minimal, but statistically someone is going to get skin cancer from these X-rays,” Dr Michael Love, who runs an X-ray lab at the department of biophysics and biophysical chemistry at Johns Hopkins University school of medicine, told AFP.

“No exposure to X-ray is considered beneficial. We know X-rays are hazardous but we have a situation at the airports where people are so eager to fly that they will risk their lives in this manner,” he said.

The possible health dangers posed by the scanners add to passengers and airline crews’ concerns about the devices, which have been dubbed “naked” scanners because of the graphic image they give of a person’s body, genitalia and all.

They could be bad for your mental health too. Here is one example of what can happen if you are selected for naked body scanning and choose to “opt out.”

Andrew Burmeister had been searched using an airport scanner before and didn’t like it at all. On a return trip from Charlotte, he was selected for another body scan screening and chose to opt out, as the sign said he was entitled to do. Burmeister said the screeners became rude and made him sit down, away from his belongings, which were now sitting unattended on the end of the conveyor belt. Eventually a team allowed him to collect his belongings and, after a turn through the metal detector, he was taken to a private area to be screened.

Mr. Burmeister says these screeners were much friendlier, but despite this, his story is still particularly unsettling. They patted him down and asked him lots of questions. They also swabbed his belongings, removing each one individually and scanning it for explosives. But that’s not the unsettling part. While they were busy going through his belongings, they were chatting to him. One mentioned that he was ‘lucky’ that this was all that was happening because after October 31, the screening for passengers who opt out of a body scan would become a lot more “intimate.”

Here’s another piece about this at The Chicago Tribune.

For the camera-shy, TSA will offer an alternative: “enhanced” pat-downs. This is not the gentle frisking you may have experienced at the airport in the past. It requires agents to probe aggressively in intimate zones — breasts, buttocks, crotches.

If you enjoyed your last mammography or prostate exam, you’ll love the enhanced pat-down. And you’ll get a chance to have an interesting conversation with your children about being touched by strangers.

Reviews of the procedure are coming in, and they are not raves. The Allied Pilots Association calls it a “demeaning experience,” and one pilot complained it amounted to “sexual molestation.” The head of a flight attendants’ union local said that for anyone who has been sexually assaulted, it will “drudge up some bad memories.”

Have I told you lately that I’ve decided I’m never going to fly again? If you do need to fly, and having your genitals stared at by beefy TSA morons is troubling to you, you might want to check into National Opt-Out Day, scheduled for Wednesday, November 24–the day before Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year.

“The goal of National Opt-Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change,” reads the call to action at OptOutDay.com, set up by Brian Sodegren. “No naked body scanners, no government-approved groping. We have a right to privacy, and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.”

This isn’t big news for most people, but The New York Times has a front page piece on “U.S. aid for ex-Nazis.”

A secret history of the United States government’s Nazi-hunting operation concludes that American intelligence officials created a “safe haven” in the United States for Nazis and their collaborators after World War II, and it details decades of clashes, often hidden, with other nations over war criminals here and abroad.

The 600-page report, which the Justice Department has tried to keep secret for four years, provides new evidence about more than two dozen of the most notorious Nazi cases of the last three decades. [….]

Perhaps the report’s most damning disclosures come in assessing the Central Intelligence Agency’s involvement with Nazi émigrés. Scholars and previous government reports had acknowledged the C.I.A.’s use of Nazis for postwar intelligence purposes. But this report goes further in documenting the level of American complicity and deception in such operations.

The Justice Department report, describing what it calls “the government’s collaboration with persecutors,” says that O.S.I investigators learned that some of the Nazis “were indeed knowingly granted entry” to the United States, even though government officials were aware of their pasts. “America, which prided itself on being a safe haven for the persecuted, became — in some small measure — a safe haven for persecutors as well,” it said.

And let’s not forget that George W. Bush’s family actively supported the Nazi regime before WWII, and he was elected President of the U.S.

I’ll finish with a bit of conspiracy news (my favorite kind). For years I’ve been following the investigation and cover-up of David Kelly’s death. From Raw Story:

Dr. David Kelly was found dead in a field near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he was revealed to be the source of a BBC leak that accused Tony Blair’s government of exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. His death prompted suspicions among many that he may have been killed in retaliation for the leak.

Kelly himself had predicted he would be “found dead in the woods” if the UK invaded Iraq.

Now the Daily Mail is reporting new evidence that Kelly was murdered.

Dr Andrew Watt, an experienced clinical pharmacologist, says he has told Thames Valley Police it is not possible Dr Kelly could have swallowed more than a ‘safe’ dose of two coproxamol tablets because there was so little in his system after death.

He said: ‘I reported to the Thames force that I believe that the death of Dr Kelly may have been murder. I have received an acknowledgement and they have given me an incident number.

‘I have been told that the inquiry is being conducted by a very senior officer.’
A second development also casts doubt on the suicide verdict of the Hutton inquiry – which took the place of a formal inquest.

The Mail has established that Dr Kelly left an upbeat answerphone message to his friend Nigel Cox just days before his body was found on July 18, 2003. Dr Kelly said he was looking forward to joining him for a game of cards on July 23.

An interesting sidelight to the Kelly case is that Kelly sent an e-mail to then NYT “reporter” Judith Miller shortly before his death. Emptywheel mentions this in a recent post about the work of the National Security Archive:

…as I was reading it, all I could think of was David Kelly’s last email to Judy Miller, warning of dark actors playing games, followed shortly by Tony Blair’s apparently unplanned trip to the US, just in time for him to be out of the country when Kelly was suicided (not to mention for him to be here in the aftermath of the Plame outing which Dick Cheney had ordered Judy to be included in). After all, its hard to look at the timeline the NSA lays out without also thinking of Judy Miller’s key pieces of propaganda–boosting claims about the aluminum tubes–on September 8 and 13, 2002 (indeed, those articles appeared at the same time as the Brits were strengthening these claims, which makes me wonder whether her work wasn’t a key part of pushing the UK to make its claims about the tubes stronger).

We knew the Brits and the US built their propaganda for war together. We knew that Judy Miller was an integral part to that. But when we see the emails going back and forth commenting on each others drafts, it raises once again the question of where the emails back and forth to the war effort’s chief propagandist got disappeared to.

It’s all connected. What is Obama’s role in the giant cover-up? Is he just in the WH to make sure none of the secrets get out, or does he have a more active role in future “dark actions?”

Taking my tinfoil hat off now.

[MABlue’s Sunday picks]

Cigarette companies are evil.
Cigarette Giants in a Global Fight on Tighter Rules

As sales to developing nations become ever more important to giant tobacco companies, they are stepping up efforts around the world to fight tough restrictions on the marketing of cigarettes.

Companies like Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco are contesting limits on ads in Britain, bigger health warnings in South America and higher cigarette taxes in the Philippines and Mexico. They are also spending billions on lobbying and marketing campaigns in Africa and Asia, and in one case provided undisclosed financing for TV commercials in Australia.

“A” Rating for Hamas? The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has been running a scam grading. What a disgrace!
Terror Group Gets ‘A’ Rating From Better Business Bureau?

The Better Business Bureau, one of the country’s best known consumer watchdog groups, is being accused by business owners of running a “pay for play” scheme in which A plus ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees, and F ratings used to punish those who don’t.

To prove the point, a group of Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A minus grade for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terror group.

Patrick Smith, who runs the blog Ask The Pilot has a thoughtful column about the panicky and incoherent reaction to something we’ve been living with forever, only with more composure.
News flash: Deadly terrorism existed before 9/11

With respect to airport security, it is remarkable how we have come to place Sept. 11, 2001, as the fulcrum upon which we balance almost all of our decisions. As if deadly terrorism didn’t exist prior to that day, when really we’ve been dealing with the same old threats for decades. What have we learned? What have we done?

Well, have a look at the debased state of airport security today. We continue enacting the wrong policies, wasting our security resources and manpower. We have implemented many important changes since Lockerbie, it’s true (actually, many of the new protocols are post-9/11), but much of our approach remains incoherent. Cargo and packages go uninspected while passengers are groped and harassed over umbrellas and harmless hobby knives. Uniformed pilots are forced to remove their belts and endure embarrassing pat-downs.

Frank Rich has been writing really good columns lately. I’m not going to stop him while he’s on a roll.
Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007 — up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.

It’s the very top earners, not your garden variety, entrepreneurial multimillionaires, who will be by far the biggest beneficiaries if there’s an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for income over $200,000 a year (for individuals) and $250,000 (for couples). The resurgent G.O.P. has vowed to fight to the end to award this bonanza, but that may hardly be necessary given the timid opposition of President Obama and the lame-duck Democratic Congress.

Is anyone even surprised by this?
Spanish priest arrested over ‘21,000 child porn images’

A Catholic priest in Spain has been arrested over the alleged possession of thousands of images of child sex abuse.

Who has the better argument?
Parties battle over bare breasts

The Danish People’s Party wants pictures of bare breasts in an introduction film to scare away fundamentalists.

But, Conservatives counter with a good point:

“Bare breasts are not a protection against fundamentalism,” [Conservative Integration Spokesman] Khader says on his Facebook page.

“Quite on the contrary. Fundamentalists as so sex crazy that bare breasts would make them flock to the country. Perhaps one should try naked pigs and pork – that’ll keep them away…”

I’ll score this one for the Conservatives.

What does your hair say about your health? Check it here:
8 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health

When it comes to our hair, most of us worry most about what to do with it: how short to cut it, how to style it, whether to color it once it begins to go gray. But experts say that our hair says a lot more about us than how closely we follow the latest styles. In fact, the health of our hair and scalp can be a major tip-off to a wide variety of health conditions.

Some interesting wonky stuff abou the devastatingly lasting effect of slavery.
The historical roots of inequality

US commentators regularly lament the country’s racial and ethnic inequality. This column presents data from 1870 and 1940-2000 to argue that the divide has its roots in the slave trade and that its legacy persists today through the racial inequality in education.

It’s Sunday. You can enjoy your gossip column. It looks like the life of the Hell’s Kitchen Chef is unraveling.
The cook, the grief, his wife & his (alleged) lover

For Gordon Ramsay, the past few weeks have been like living in his very own Kitchen Nightmare. Only it has extended beyond his kitchen and into every other room of his house. Like an unwatched pot, the TV chef’s personal and professional life has boiled over in spectacular fashion, leaving the mother of all cleaning-up jobs.

Not that anyone is rushing to pull on the Marigolds; quite the contrary. In typical fashion, Ramsay has heaped more coals this weekend on to a fire he lit three weeks ago when he sacked his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. Specifically, he claimed his wife Tana has much to learn about what her father gets up to when not running restaurants, lashing out after his wife’s parents wrote to their daughter, urging her to dump the man she married 14 years ago, aged 22.

So what news articles and blog posts do you recommend today?