Exempt Media Blows Cover On Another Key Counterterrorism Program

In another attempt to find something sinister to hang onto the Bush administration, another secret program constituting a major part of the war on terror has been exposed by another member of the Exempt Media. This time, the Washington Post uses its contacts in the CIA to expose an umbrella program called GST, the code for a loose affiliation of dozens of programs designed to locate and fight terrorists abroad rather than wait for them to show up here. Nothing about the article stands out as a smoking gun, it never alleges anything specifically illegal, but Dana Priest writes the front-pager as a warning that the President has gone out of control in defending the US from attack:

Over the past two years, as aspects of this umbrella effort have burst into public view, the revelations have prompted protests and official investigations in countries that work with the United States, as well as condemnation by international human rights activists and criticism by members of Congress.
Still, virtually all the programs continue to operate largely as they were set up, according to current and former officials. These sources say Bush’s personal commitment to maintaining the GST program and his belief in its legality have been key to resisting any pressure to change course.
“In the past, presidents set up buffers to distance themselves from covert action,” said A. John Radsan, assistant general counsel at the CIA from 2002 to 2004. “But this president, who is breaking down the boundaries between covert action and conventional war, seems to relish the secret findings and the dirty details of operations.”
The administration’s decisions to rely on a small circle of lawyers for legal interpretations that justify the CIA’s covert programs and not to consult widely with Congress on them have also helped insulate the efforts from the growing furor, said several sources who have been involved.

This effort by Priest mirrors the slop served up by the NY Times on the NSA surveillance of international communications, except in one regard — the activities described by Priest clearly fall under the category of the President’s war powers. One cannot even claim the limited ambiguity of the NSA position on that point. When Bush took on the war after Congress’ authorization, he made it clear that he would use all tools at his disposal, explicitly naming the CIA and other intelligence services to serve as front-line assets in this new kind of war. As an example, Priest spends time reporting on qualms over CIA “assassinations” of al-Qaeda leaders. Once AQ declared war on the US, those stopped being assassinations at all but attacks on command and control assets of our enemy. It no more constituted an “assassination” as would dropping a bomb on Hitler’s bunker in 1945 would have been.
Reading the lengthy article, it becomes clear that the sources feeding this to the Post come from the CIA. Not only does the article expose Langley programs exclusively, the entire end of the article is dedicated to the whining of CIA personnel over their public image:

Some former CIA officers now worry that the agency alone will be held responsible for actions authorized by Bush and approved by the White House’s lawyers.
Attacking the CIA is common when covert programs are exposed and controversial, said Gerald Haines, a former CIA historian who is a scholar in residence at the University of Virginia. “It seems to me the agency is taking the brunt of all the recent criticism.” …
But a former CIA officer said the agency “lost its way” after Sept. 11, rarely refusing or questioning an administration request. The unorthodox measures “have got to be flushed out of the system,” the former officer said. “That’s how it works in this country.”

In other words, Priest’s sources want to use the Post to fight the housecleaning that Porter Goss has initiated and to play a little CYA along with their years-long pushback against the Bush administration. They hijacked the front page of the newspaper to file complaints about having to engage the enemy in the war on terror, and when confronted about those rogue elements that have spent their efforts fighting the Bush administration rather than Islamofascists, they sob to Post reporters about their “image”.
One day, these leaks will end, but the question will then be whether we have any effective defense left against the terrorists, or if we have tipped our hand so badly that our enemies will adapt and find ways around our efforts to launch another attack. If that happens, these same media outlets will be screaming about the administration’s failure to keep us safe. However, we won’t be fooled; the responsibility will be on those who took it upon themselves to cripple the very programs that have kept us safe for the past four years.

CTV: ‘Well-Connected Liberals’ Tipped Traders On Goodale Announcement

CTV has broadcast new evidence showing that the run on income trusts at the Toronto Stock Exchange in the hours prior to Finance Minister Ralph Goodale’s favorable policy announcement was not a lucky guess by the investment community. In their broadcast last night, reported by blogger MK Braaten, three investors acknowledged either to CTV or in e-mails to their associates that they had insider tips from “well-connected Liberals”:

* Don Drummond, VP/Chief Economist: CTV said that Drummond told them he first heard about the announcement via email, 4 hours in advance of announcement. Also, stated that Liberal strategists in Ottawa were the source of email. CTV quoted Drummond as saying “Alot of people seemed to know there was an announcement coming and a few people seemed to know what it was.”
* Jim Leech, Teachers pension fund – CTV said that Leech received emails at about 2 pm stating that the announcement was guaranteed. CTV Quoted Leech “I got a bunch of emails around 2pm saying for sure Goodale was making an announcement after the close.”
* Sandy Mcintyre, Sentry Select Capital: CTV reported he sent the following email: “There is a strong rumour out of Ottawa that Goodale is going to pronounce after the close today his trust solution…hope my sources are right!” Mcintyre said his sources were quoting ‘well connected Liberals’.
* Richard Nesbitt, CEO TSX Group: According to CTV, Nesbitt purchased $759,000 worth of stocks hours before the announcement and made $100,000 in profit the next day. However, he could not be reached for comment, yet his spokesman said that he was only filling up his core holdings before the calendar year end.

The last person shows a particularly egregious conflict of interest. The TSX Group is a private company that runs the Toronto Stock Exchange, and so functions in a quasi-regulatory capacity. If the CEO of TSX Group took part in this insider trading conspiracy, it could destroy all confidence in the fairness and legitimacy of Canadian trading altogether. The Liberals may have succeeded in completely corrupting the environment where many ordinary Canadians have trusted their retirement money for investments.
No wonder the RCMP has decided to conduct a criminal investigation. And the leak may not have come from Goodale or his office, either, although it had to come from someone within the government with knowledge of Goodale’s policy decision ahead of time. That could have also included the Prime Minister’s office as well as Goodale’s. Perhaps the Finance Minister’s refusal to resign means something quite different than first thought.
Will voters continue to support the Liberals through another financial scandal, with the latest one developing into a far more personal threat to their own finances? It seems doubtful that Paul Martin can rely on scandal fatigue now.

Milking Cookies

In the denouement of the fizzling meme of NSA as Big Brother, the New York Times features an AP report on the intelligence agencies inadvertent use of persistent cookies in its new web system. The software came with persistent cookies as the default for any new installation, and the NSA forgot to disable it when it upgraded its website. Predictably, the AP and the Times (and CNN and the Guardian in the UK) treat this as yet another example of NSA abuse:

The National Security Agency’s Internet site has been placing files on visitors’ computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most files of that type.
The files, known as cookies, disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week. Agency officials acknowledged yesterday that they had made a mistake.
Nonetheless, the issue raised questions about privacy at the agency, which is on the defensive over reports of an eavesdropping program.

If it did raise questions about privacy at the NSA, then it also answered them. The AP report explains later that the new installation created the problem and that it corrected it as soon as the AP and the one complainant made them aware of the issue. In the great spectrum of Internet privacy dangers, “persistent cookies” sits on the weakest end. Spyware from free downloads cause more security problems than cookies, and even the ones used by the NSA can be blocked by any browser on the market. The AP uses the mistake to make cookies sound vaguely sinister when they’re almost as ubiquitous on the Internet as pop-up ads, if not more so. The Guardian gets even more hysterical, in all senses of the word, when it says that the “[e]xposure adds to pressure over White House powers”.
The silliest part of the story is that no one can understand why the cookies would present any danger to visitors to the NSA website. Both versions of the story call the risk to surfers “uncertain”, but a more accurate description would be “irrelevant”. Even if the NSA used it to track where casual visitors to its site surfed afterwards, it would discover nothing that any casual surfer wouldn’t already be able to access on their own with Google or a quick check on Free Republic. Now imagine who stops to check on the NSA website and try very hard to come up with any good reason to spend precious resources on scouring the web preferences of bloggers and privacy groups instead of focusing on real signal intelligence, which already comes in such volume that the agency has trouble keeping up with their primary task.
The only story on the NSA cookies is that the Exempt Media intends on milking every last ounce of public outrage it can manufacture out of sugary nothings.
ADDENDUM: Just for grins, here’s a partial list of cookies that the Exempt Media has placed on my computer:
Cookie ………………………………………………….. Expires
ads.guardian.co.uk ………………………………… 12/30/2037
ads.telegraph.co.uk ……………………………….. 12/30/2037
adserver.tribuneinteractive.com ………………. 12/30/2037
adsremote.scripps.com ………………………….. 12/30/2037
ap.org ………………………………………………….. 09/23/2021
bbc.co.uk ……………………………………………… 11/21/2009
cnn.com ……………………………………………….. 05/27/2010
foxnews.com ……………………………………….. 12/31/2010
gannettnetwork.com ……………………………… 12/31/2010
latimes.com ………………………………………….. 12/15/2010
msnbc.msn.com ……………………………………. 11/04/2021
nytimes.com ………………………………… 10/06/2021
usatoday.com ………………………………………. 12/31/2025
washingtontimes.com ……………………………. 01/17/2038
It’s a damned good thing that the Exempt Media — especially the AP, the New York Times, and the Guardian — have so much concern about my privacy.
UPDATE: The DNC web site generated persistent cookies that expired in 2033, according to Wizbang — until this Tuesday. Why do you suppose they suddenly changed their programming? Do you suppose that the AP may have tipped them off?

The Latest On Trackbacks

I’m starting to see trackbacks working again on the blog, but Movable Type does make it more difficult to use in version 3.2, it appears. If others who have tried TBs did so with the autofind feature, that probably will no longer work. The URL for the trackback ping will probably have to be entered “manually” in order for the system to pick it up; the codes are on the individual post screens. MT 3.2 has a way to minimize the junk TBs that I hope will not prove too difficult for valid TBs to match.
If it doesn’t work, feel free to include the link in the comments section of the post.

Sixth Circuit Says No Wall Between Church And State

I missed this story last week, although I believe other bloggers have already reported it. The 6th Federal Appellate Circuit ruled against the ACLU in a Ten Commandments case on December 21st, ruling specifically that the Constitution did not require a wall between church and state, revalidating the display of the Ten Commandments on government property:

A federal appeals court has upheld a display of the Ten Commandments alongside other historical documents in the Mercer County, Ky., courthouse.
The judge who wrote the opinion blasted the American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the display, in language that echoed the type of criticism often directed at the organization.
Judge Richard Suhrheinrich’s ruling said the ACLU brought “tiresome” arguments about the “wall of separation” between church and state, and it said the organization does not represent a “reasonable person.”
The decision was issued by a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Cincinnati. It upheld a lower-court decision that allowed Mercer County to continue displaying the Ten Commandments along with the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and other documents.
All of the items were posted at the same time in 2001.

The ACLJ, which often squares off against the ACLU in appellate court, also notes the decision on its web site. This makes for an interesting showdown in the new Supreme Court, especially with Sandra Day O’Connor retiring and her “know it when I see it” approach to religion disappearing soon. Nowhere is her case law more muddy than on this point, and the 6th Circuit has now provided an excellent test case for the new SC to elucidate a clear and resounding standard. Does the Establishment Clause guarantee a public square scrubbed of any religious mention whatsoever, or will the newly constituted court actually rule from the text itself and discover that it just prohibits the government establishment of a single official religion?
When Alito joins the court, I’m betting that the Supremes start consistently voting for the latter.

UN: Iraq Vote Valid

The American-led effort to conduct the election in Iraq has produced a valid, democratic result according to UN election monitors, dealing the Sunnis a blow in their efforts to extort more seats than they won at the ballot box from nervous Shi’ite and Kurds. The New York Times reports that the UN has declared that there exists no justification for any re-run:

Craig Jenness, a Canadian who led the United Nations’ election coordination effort in Iraq, said his agency believed that the elections “were transparent and credible.” He added that although all complaints must be weighed thoroughly, “we at the U.N. see no justification in calls for a rerun of the elections.”
The assertion, made at a news conference in Baghdad, brought bitter denunciations from some Sunni Arab political leaders, who swore to continue pressing their claims that ballot box stuffing and other fraud had distorted the election results. …
Several Sunni parties, as well as some secular groups, have called for the authorities to hold a new election, but that demand now seems unlikely to be met. Abdul Hussein al-Hindawi, an electoral commission board member, read a statement at the news conference saying that the commission planned on canceling some ballots in some areas, but that it had all but ruled out holding a new vote because it had not found evidence of widespread forgery.

Individual ballots with evidence of fraud or forgery will not count in the totals and will instead be destroyed, the commission stated yesterday. That just represents common sense in any election, and even in the most advanced democracies forged and fraudulent ballots will appear. All we have to do is look at the shenanigans in Wisconsin to see that, as thousands of bogus registrations in Milwaukee allowed Democrats to squeak out a win. In a tighter race, that could have created a constitutional crisis here. (The Democrats tried to force one over Ohio, but Congress didn’t bite.)
The Iraqis have found out that democracy isn’t perfect, and that having a vote means that one has a voice in how the government gets constituted — not that one always gets what one wants. The UN has played an important part in emphasizing this lesson. Once the dust settles and the official results get announced, I predict that the National Assembly will, generally speaking, reflect the ethnic/religious demographics of the country, and that the Iraqis start consolidating the 300+ political parties down to a half-dozen or so for the next election in order to fine-tune their electoral power. That will be the lesson that Iraqis will learn most of all — that collective voting with a larger national parties will create more leverage than a multitude of single-issue parties provide.

So Much For Alito As Racist And Fascist

Papers released yesterday show a young Samuel Alito as a cautious attorney and advisor to the Reagan administration, offering a conservative strategy in terms of the use of the courts for political purposes, as evidenced by two memos reported by the Washington Post and the New York Sun. The main issue involved a Black Panther lawsuit that had won a technical ruling on standing for its lawsuit against a number of government officials, including Bush’s father, that Alito advised should not get challenged. As the Sun reports, Alito underestimated the government argument in the Black Panther case:

As a young lawyer in the Department of Justice, Samuel Alito argued against asking the Supreme Court to review a Black Panther lawsuit, documents released yesterday show. It was the third time in less than a month that papers from the Supreme Court nominee’s early career in the Reagan administration show him pressing for a more restrained approach to legal challenges than his colleagues at the time.
The Black Panther case involved a $100 million lawsuit the group had filed against government officials alleging a government plot to shut them down. Judge Alito, who was an advocate in the office of the Solicitor General at the time, said the case should be left to a lower court. The solicitor general, Charles Fried, ignored the advice and petitioned the high court to hear the case.
Mr. Fried won the case before the Supreme Court with the help of a legal brief written, in part, by Judge Alito. But, Mr. Fried said Judge Alito’s initial advice in the 1982 case was consistent with his generally cautious method. Three former attorneys general, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Central Intelligence Agency had urged Mr. Fried to take the case to the Supreme Court.

The Post notes, however, that Alito had confidence in the government case on the merits and thought the appeal would merely prove distracting:

Alito acknowledged in his memo to Lee that “a decision to the contrary has something to recommend it,” but noted that acquiescing in the D.C. Circuit’s ruling would still leave the government with ample opportunity to win the case in the district court “after a few additional steps are completed.”
As his memo pointed out, the then-31-year-old Alito’s recommendation ran counter to the wishes of the FBI, CIA, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and a long list of former high-ranking officials named in the suit.

Another memo given a bare mention by the Post notes that Alito also advised the Reagan administration not to argue against divestment by state governments in the apartheid nation of South Africa as unconstitutional. At the time, the US had wanted to play a balancing act with South Africa, seeing the issue in the binary Cold War vision and wanted to ensure that the federal government controlled all foreign-policy approaches towards the controversial nation. Alito’s advice not only ran counter to what the Reagan administration wanted to hear, but it also allowed state governments to continue their economic protest of apartheid and discrimination against black South Africans. This runs counter to the attempt to paint Alito as a closet racist.
Even the AP has a nice piece on Alito today, reporting on recollections his students have of a favorite teacher who encouraged them to think for themselves:

Each week for two hours, under the tutelage of a distinguished federal appellate judge by the name of Samuel Alito, the students would hash out issues they knew were or soon would be a big deal as far as jurisprudence goes.
Typical of the class, just working out a definition of “terrorism” took the students weeks, and only then remained a work in progress, they said. Alito would simply shrug when asked if the latest version was right or wrong, as if to remind them how undefined the issue remained in the immediate post-Sept. 11 years, they said.
“This was one of those wide-open debates, on something so prevalent in our lives, that was going to define our time in history. And to discuss this with someone who would be involved in the issue was incredible,” said former student Obadiah English, a Boston attorney who had watched from the law library several stories above downtown Newark, N.J., as the second World Trade Center tower collapsed. ….
Alito encouraged students to take risks and rewarded those who did. Former student Robert Marasco argued in his final paper that torture should never be allowed. Alito gave him an “A” on the paper and for the class, Marasco said.

And the AP report also shows Alito as a jurist who declared a concern over the erosion of civil rights during wartime:

For Alito, the topic of terrorism and civil liberties came up in other encounters with students during the period as well. In a brief visit to Pepperdine University School of Law in March 2003, he taught three hourlong seminars on the subject to first-year students, according to documents and school officials.
Robert Cochran, a professor at the Malibu, Calif., law school who suggested the visit, said Alito came across as dispassionate, deliberate and objective. Yet, Cochran said, he betrayed a concern with the topic.
“He didn’t take a particular stance on the issues but the way that he raised the questions indicated that he was aware that there was a danger that, in times of national crisis, we take unreasonable steps to curb civil liberties,” Cochran said.

Has the national media decided to play fair with Judge Alito? I suspect that they expect Alito to do well in his upcoming hearings and want to prepare their readers for the balanced, thoughtful, and thoroughly professional jurist they will see on television. The smears will have to come from PFAW and AFJ directly from now until then. Right now, it looks like the Exempt Media may be covering its bets, similar to how it acted when they failed to derail the Roberts nomination prior to the hearing.

Goodale Refuses To Resign; Scam Netted Millions

The CBC now reports that even with an RCMP investigation pending, Liberal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale refuses to resign his position. The RCMP announced earlier today that after reviewing the trading activity immediately before Goodale’s announcement on the Martin government’s policy on income trusts, they would start a criminal investigation into insider trading based on activity around the FMO:

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said Wednesday night in an interview on CBC’s The National that he is not going to bow to political pressure and step aside while the RCMP conducts a criminal investigation into a possible leak of information from his department.
“The RCMP said in their statement of this afternoon that there is no evidence of any wrongdoing on my part- or on the part of anyone else for that matter,” Goodale said in an interview with the CBC’s chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge. …
Questioned repeatedly about why he won’t step aside until the investigation is complete, Goodale said it is not the RCMP that has made allegations about him personally, “the opposition have made those allegations.”
The RCMP, said Goodale, “have said they are looking into this matter because of the seriousness of the allegation. They have, at the same time, said they have no information, no evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of anyone – most particularly on my part – and quite frankly if I were to resign under those circumstances I believe I would only feed allegations that are out there in the context of a very political situation.”

At the same time, the RCMP must have determined that the trading patterns, as we’ve discussed before, show something worth investigating regardless of who made the complaint. As for the allegations not being evidence, that much is true of any complaint made of any crime. The difference is that when the RCMP makes an initial review and determines that they have cause to open a criminal investigation, they must have found some reason to take it to the next level.
In an exclusive look at what the RCMP may have found, an anonymous source familiar with Canadian markets has done more research into the alleged damage done by the insider trading. This person estimates that insider trading on November 23rd on the TSX (not the NYSE) netted at least Cdn $10 million of ill-gotten gains from the five income trusts and dividend paying common shares cited in media prior to the Minister Goodale announcement of no tax on income trusts and materially lower taxes on dividends. There would be other income trusts and dividend paying corporations not in this list where illegal insider trading likely also occurred. The investigation will need to do an analysis of unusual volume and price upticking in all income trusts and dividend paying corporations to discern where likely illegal insider trading occurred. Then, of course, there would need to be an investigation on who did it, what exactly they were told and by whom.
Methodology (1) : Took increase in volume on 11/23/05 from avg 10 previous days’ volume and prorated the increase in market value between purchases on 11/23/05 and valuation at the opening price on 11/24/05
ROYAL BANK…………..$2,275,098
YELLOW PAGES………… $616,155
SUPERIOR PLUS………..$1,034,452
TOTAL OF ABOVE……$10,905,712
We’re not talking peanuts here, people. Those who had access to that information prior to its release stood to make a lot of money — and would have a great deal of loyalty to the Liberal Party that allowed them to glean that cash off of the losers who traded without the prior knowledge of Liberal tax policy changes. Who might have comprised the loser’s contingent? A significant percentage of the ownership lives outside of Canada — 24%, to be exact. Any country whose investors lost money in the transactions could sue for damages, including the US. The countries could also launch their own investigations into the insider-trading scandal, a development that would undoutedly worry the Liberals much more than an RCMP investigation. After all, they can’t control the SEC the way they can control the OSC or even perhaps the RCMP.

Who Didn’t See This Coming?

After the release of hostage Susanne Osthoff — and her return to Iraq after the Germans negotiated for her freedom — the market has suddenly turned brisk for German hostages:

A former German ambassador to Washington and four members of his family were reported missing and apparently kidnapped Wednesday while vacationing in a remote part of Yemen. It was the latest in a string of tourist abductions in the Arabian desert.
Juergen Chrobog, ambassador from 1995 to 2001, his wife and three adult sons were declared missing by the German Foreign Ministry. In Yemen, government officials said the family had been taken hostage by tribesmen who regularly seize Western tourists as bargaining chips in dealings with the government, according to news service reports from Sanaa, the capital.

Great move, Germany. I think you’re about to learn a hard lesson in market economics as well as the folly in negotiating with terrorists.

The Ten Worst Americans: The Explanation

In response to Alexandra’s challenge at All Things Beautiful to name the Ten Worst Americans of All Time, I asked CQ readers to make their own suggestions as I considered the choices. Speaking from a historical perspective, it really is quite difficult to come up with a list of “worst Americans”. Most of our history is spent pursuing what we did well, and our failures tend to get shoved under the carpet. Some people simply rise to the occasion, however, and our history has its fair share of the scandalous and the downright evil.
For my consideration, I decided that the status of American had to be part of their “crimes”. In other words, simply picking someone like Ted Bundy or Charles Manson would be too easy. Their evil, though real and in most cases worse than what you’ll read on this list, doesn’t have to do with their innate American heritage. I went looking for the people who sinned against America itself, or the ideal of America. Otherwise, we’d just be looking at body counts.
I also tried to avoid picking contemporary political figures, as we do not have sufficient historical perspective to make that kind of determination. (I do have one exception to this.) Don’t expect to see Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi on this list, nor Teddy Kennedy or Bill Clinton.
A couple of people barely missed the list. Earl Warren came under strong consideration for his efforts to set up the Japanese internment camps, as did Chief Justice Taney for his concurrence in the cowardly and cruel Dred Scott decision. Someone suggested William Randolph Hearst, a yellow journalist of the first order, and that was very tempting.
In the end, I came up with ten that I think will be intriguing and provocative, and I wrote explanations for each. Below you will find posts in groups of three, except for #1 which will have its own spot. The essays make it too long to put into a single post. I’m going to really enjoy the commentary for each of these, and I think we will have a great debate over this — and I may just surprise a few people.