An Exclamation Point On The Plame Denouement

The Washington Post’s editorial board takes a shot at Joe Wilson, one of their anonymous sources three years ago, as the full impact of the discovery of Richard Armitage as the Valerie Plame leaker takes effect. The editors place the blame for Plame’s unmasking where it always belonged — on Wilson himself:

[I]t now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame’s CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming — falsely, as it turned out — that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush’s closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It’s unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.

It’s more than unfortunate — it was deliberate. Wilson and Plame set up this trip for the purpose of discrediting the elected officials of the American government in an attempt to keep them from exercising their policies on intelligence and foreign affairs. Wilson lied and deceived people, first by leaking his disinformation anonymously to the Post and the New York Times, and then in an editorial that relied on his diplomatic reputation to bolster the credibility of his false accusations.
This set off a political witch hunt the likes of which should embarrass the media and Democrats for years, but probably won’t. They demanded an investigation into the leak, especially the editorial board of the New York Times, then wailed as the prosecutor started jailing reporters for non-cooperation. The whole time the media and the mainstream Democratic leadership — including their presidential nominee John Kerry, who made Wilson a part of his campaign — insisted that Wilson spoke truth to power, even while Kerry’s own Senate intelligence panel reached a very different conclusion.
Now the Left and the media want to continue talking about Scooter Libby rather than the three-year travesty they have foisted on this nation during a time of war. At least the Washington Post knows when to stop.

FBI Investigates Terrorism Leads, Film At 11

The very next nine-day wonder of protest is about to break open, as King Banaian notes at SCSU Scholars. The Los Angeles Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education both report on a defunct FBI program that investigated suspected terrorists and accomplices by reviewing data on federal grants for higher education. Not surprisingly, the LA Times gets a significant fact incorrect almost immediately:

The Education Department acknowledged Thursday that at the request of the FBI, it had scoured millions of federal student loan records for information about suspected terrorists in the five years since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The data mining — known as “Project Strike Back” — was intended to determine whether terrorism suspects had illegally obtained college aid to finance their operations through identity theft or other means.

Project Strike Back did not involve data mining, no more than a check of a driver’s license during a traffic stop can be called data mining. Data mining refers to the practice of taking large databases and sifting through it for self-identifying patterns in an attempt to pinpoint data that otherwise might remain hidden. Put more simply, data mining finds order in chaos.
PSB instead relied on old-fashioned police work. The FBI took information about people suspected of involvement with or support of terrorists — no more than a thousand in a four-year period — and searched government databases for any additional information that might reveal more evidence. Student aid would at least identify the location of individuals on watch lists, as well as give investigators some idea of concentrations of the suspects. If two dozen terror suspects show up as receiving aid to attend chemistry courses at the University of Minnesota, that might provide a few dots for the FBI to connect.
In the end, though, PSB turned out to be a bust. Most of its operations took place in the first two years after 9/11, and it shut down for good this June. What rankles some people is that federal education grants and loans are only available to American citizens and legal residents, which leads some to question its efficacy as a counter-terrorist program:

Mr. Hartle called the Education Department’s project a “perfect illustration of the dangers of the unit-record system.” He pointed out that, to receive federal aid, students must either be U.S. citizens or have a green card. “This is about finding Timothy McVeigh,” he said. “This is not about finding Mohammed Atta. … It’s hard to be surprised when the government is mining every single database. In the war on terror, there are no safe harbors.”
“This case is another example of Big Brother gone wild,” said Michael D. Ostrolenk, national director of the Liberty Coalition, which consists of privacy-rights organizations across the political spectrum. “In the age of everything is a national-security issue, we are destroying the very liberties and privacy rights which make our country unique and great in the history of the world.”

As King notes, finding the next Timothy McVeigh might be a good idea, at least before an attack. And since when do we provide safe harbor for terrorists under any conditions? Hartle appears to believe that universities exist in some sort of temporal vacuum where terrorism does not exist. And Ostralenk is simply hysterical. The database for federal education assistance are explicitly not private, nor should they be. It consists of data used to apply for federal money voluntarily — more voluntarily than DMV information, for instance, and the DMV doesn’t disburse thousands of dollars for the completion of the form.
King worries about the effect on terror investigations by the revelation of this program, especially if negative publicity convinces colleges and universities to stop cooperating with law-enforcement agencies. It does not appear that PSB found much of interest and the program already had concluded before its existence became public knowledge, although the FBI noted that the program’s efforts were referenced in publicly-available briefings to Congress and the GAO. More likely PSB will become yet another urban myth of “trolling through massive databases”, as the Times puts it, and undermine support for the efforts to secure the nation against terrorism.
In this case, this program proved ineffective and eventually ended. However, nothing in either the Times or the Chronicle reports indicate that any laws were even bent, let alone broken, nor that the FBI did anything more unusual than it would for any other kind of criminal investigation. If we continually carp about innovative but perfectly legal methods of finding terrorists, we will once again find ourselves with a smoking hole or two in the middle of our cities and screeching about failures to connect dots. And the next time, we will have no one but ourselves to blame for it.

In What Universe?

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad assured him that Syria would enforce the arms embargo on Hezbollah, and that the Syrian army would patrol the border to ensure that arms traffic ceased:

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday that Syria would step up border patrols and work with the Lebanese army to stop the flow of weapons to Hizbullah.
Syria will increase its own patrols along the Lebanon-Syria border, and establish joint patrols with the Lebanese army “when possible,” Annan said after meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus. …
Annan said Assad informed him that Syria would “take all necessary measures” to implement paragraph 15 of UN resolution 1701, which calls on countries to prevent the sale or supply of weapons to entities in Lebanon without the consent of the Lebanese government or UN peacekeepers.

It would be a lovely development if it were true. However, one has to be incredibly naive to think that Syria would give up its proxy in Lebanon just because Annan asked them to do so. For one thing, Assad needs Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon not just to keep Israelis on the defensive but to keep the government of Beirut hostage to Syrian demands. Hezbollah’s status as the only civil-war militia still bearing arms is no accident.
Annan’s first clue should have come when Assad declined to make a public statement after their meeting. Annan rushed to the microphones like Neville Chamberlain without the umbrella to announce Syria’s commitment to peace, but Syria couldn’t be bothered. That clear signal that states “You’re on your own” apparently didn’t dissuade the UN chief from casting Syria as a peacemaker despite their long involvement with terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.
Annan’s job is to talk to world leaders and try to find common ground for peace, and no one begrudges efforts made in that capacity. However, Annan fails to understand the difference between talk and action, like most die-hard utopians. His credulousness in the face of one of the worst terrorist-support regimes in the world demonstrates his fecklessness and that of the organization he fronts.

Henke & Allen

Last week, I suggested that Jon Henke would make an excellent ambassador to the blogosphere for the George Allen re-election campaign. Perhaps someone in Senator Allen’s office noticed the post, but they certainly made the right decision whatever the reason. The Allen campaign has hired Jon to be its Netroots Coordinator:

I’m very happy to announce that I’ve accepted a job as Netroots Coordinator with the George Allen Senate Campaign.
Obviously, this will change my focus quite a bit, but I will continue to blog at QandO whenever possible, generally on the issues and stories in this very important Virginia Senate race.
Naturally, as a Netroots Coordinator, I’ll be working directly with bloggers and readers who support George Allen. If I can help any of you, don’t hesitate to contact me.

I want to make a couple of observations about this decision, which delights me for personal reasons; Jon and I started blogging about the same time and have occupied each other’s blogrolls since the start. He’s also a terrific guy and a great blogger, and I’m excited about his success.
First, Jon isn’t a doctrinaire conservative by any means. Jon calls himself a neo-libertarian, which I interpret as a Libertarian with common sense. His blog, QandO, has espoused positions that do not match easily with mainstream Republican thought, but show Jon’s individualistic and non-dogmatic approach to politics. The fact that Allen and his campaign see Jon as a fit tells me that Allen does not dictate ideological purity but instead aims for competency and intelligence in his staff decisions — a quality I had not expected, and one I appreciate.
Second, while I think the realization came a little late, Allen now knows how important the blogosphere will be in elections from now on. This epiphany seems slow to arrive with some politicians. Hillary Clinton hired the well-respected Peter Daou for her campaign. Not too many others have done anything similar. Both Clinton and Allen face re-election in the midterms, but one suspects that Jon and Peter will continue to stay on staff if their new bosses win their elections to prepare for the presidential campaign.
Lastly, one should note Jon’s commitment to full disclosure. He will not give up blogging at QandO, but plans on putting a disclaimer on every post he writes, reminding readers of his status with the Allen campaign. It’s no surprise for those of us who know Jon, but it should serve as a standard for all other bloggers to follow.
Congratulations to Jon on his new job, and congratulations to the Allen campaign for their smart and open-minded selection of the best candidate for the position.
UPDATE: Danny Glover at Beltway Blogroll claims some credit for this development, too. Ah, what the heck … we can share!
Jon got off to a good start on his new job with this post about George Allen’s efforts to assist black colleges to upgrade their telecommunications infrastructure. In fact, his legislative efforts were so successful that the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund planned to give him their Thurgood Marshall Award for his efforts. Those plans got hijacked by Allen’s political opponents:

This wasn’t just any bill for Senator Allen. He introduced the bill and spent multiple years getting it through Congress. This was a project for which Senator Allen worked hard. The Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund obviously recognized that contribution and so they decided to give Senator Allen the Thurgood Marshall Award.
That is how things are supposed to work: cooperation, results. Unfortunately, it’s campaign season, and the Democrats don’t see it that way. (see Shaun Kenney for details on that)
When confronted with the prospect of Senator Allen getting an award for the actual work he’s done in “support of public Historically Black Colleges and Universities”, Democrats took political hostages. A quick pressure campaign was mounted culminating in threats to withhold donations. Not to withhold donations to Senator Allen…to withhold donations to the schools.
Rather than allow the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund to recognize Senator Allen’s support for historically black colleges, critics used school funding to play blackmail. And rather than let the students be held hostage in order to score Democratic political points, Senator Allen has decided to decline the award.

Allen spent several years championing this legislation and rather than acknowledge the bipartisan efforts Allen made on behalf of African-American students, the Democrats attacked the schools to perpetuate a myth of Allen as some sort of racist. Read all of Jon’s post.

‘An Absolutely Hostile Attitude Towards Jews’ In Germany

Charlotte Knobloch survived Nazi Germany’s genocide on Jews to rise to the head of the German Jewish Council. In a disturbing interview with Der Spiegel, Knobloch — whose personal history gives her the requisite perspective — states that anti-Semitic attitudes have hit levels not seen in years:

SPIEGEL ONLINE: When you took office you said one of the main focuses of your work would be the struggle against right-wing extremism. Has the conflict in the Middle East worsened anti-Semitic attitudes in Germany?
Knobloch: It has, unfortunately. I see an absolutely hostile attitude towards Jews and Israel. Signs that read “Israel — Child Murderers” are being carried through the streets at demonstrations here, for example. The police don’t confiscate these placards. Persons that deal with the issue only marginally, or not at all, are influenced negatively. That’s the basis of this hostile attitude. You can find it everywhere. We’re currently organizing a fundraising concert, for example, and even there we get negative, anti-Semitic mail. No distinctions are made. We’re sucked into the current Middle East conflict one hundred percent, as Jewish citizens in Germany. And those politicians who latch onto this hostile mood with carefully prepared statements are of course doing better than ever.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who do you mean?
Knobloch: Oskar Lafontaine, the leader of the Left Party, for example. Left Party parliamentarians aren’t particularly objective in their evaluation of the catastrophe in the Middle East. I’m also thinking of Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, the Minister of Economic Aid and Development and member of the Social Democrat Party (SPD). These people encourage the hostile mood against Jews. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this. It’s on a new level. This hostile mood is now more noticeable in the German public than it used to be. It’s infiltrated every group and every level of society. I hope this development can be reversed by a joint effort on the part of all democratic forces. Otherwise all the positive images I have about Germany would be put into question. I unpacked my suitcase in this country. And I don’t want to have to repack it.

Knobloch’s observations underscore one of the truths of the last century or more: the Jews are the canary in the coal mine. Europeans dealing with burgeoning Muslim populations find themselves stuck between the Jews and those who hate them — and Knobloch sees the Jews losing that battle. The Israeli-Hezbollah conflict provides a sort of cover for anti-Semites to express their hatred to the Jews even though Hezbollah started the conflict. Logic has never entered into the calculations of anti-Semitism, of course, but in this case it at least seems calculated. Europeans see Muslims as an existential threat, and therefore have attempted to appease it by unleashing bigotry against the Jews.
Not all Germans indulge this, of course, and Angela Merkel surprised Knobloch by agreeing to a deployment of German troops to protect the Israelis from Hezbollah by joining UNIFIL. She notes that the agreement represents a watershed for Germans and Jews, a new way of thinking about the relationship between the two after six decades of the legacy of the Holocaust. Only six years ago, Knesset members walked out on a speech by Germany’s then-president Johannes Rau when he visited the assembly.Now fully armed German soldiers will be at Israel’s borders, but to protect them from Hezbollah nihilists.
Knobloch also warns Der Spiegel readers about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his rhetoric about Jews and Israel. She understands better than most how appeasement policies backfire, and she warns against dismissing his fiery calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jews. History, she says, repeats itself over and over, and people still do not learn. The rising levels of anti-Semitism demonstrates that Germans and perhaps Europeans in general still have not learned that it always starts with the Jews, but it never ends with the Jews. The last time this lesson got taught, six million Jews died among over 50 million worldwide over a six-year period. If Iran gets nuclear weapons, that total could be achieved in weeks instead of years.

IAEA Finds Highly-Enriched Uranium In Iran

The IAEA report states that inspectors found traces of highly-enriched uranium a year ago in an Iranian nuclear facility. This time, the IAEA analysis states that it did not come from contaminated Pakistani equipment:

The global nuclear monitoring agency deepened suspicions on Thursday about Iran’s nuclear program, reporting that inspectors had discovered new traces of highly enriched uranium at an Iranian facility. Inspectors have found such uranium, which at extreme enrichment levels can fuel bombs, twice in the past. The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that at least some of those samples came from contaminated equipment that Iran had obtained from Pakistan.
But in this case, the nuclear fingerprint of the particles did not match the other samples, an official familiar with the inspections said, raising questions about their origin.
In a six-page report to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, the agency withheld judgment about where the material came from and whether it could be linked to a secret nuclear program.

The excuse from the previous find was that the Pakistanis had not thoroughly cleaned the machinery Iran bought through the AQ Khan network. Analysts told the IAEA after months of study that the new sample came from a completely different source, which indicates that the Iranians produced it themselves. Not only that, but the level of enrichment significantly exceeds anything required for civilian energy production.
Of course, this could only surprise people who have either slept for the past ten years or are pathological optimists. Ahmadinejad has rejected an incentive package that would have all but given Iran peaceful nuclear energy, instead opting to pursue enrichment themselves, apparently with a lot of success.
That success led them to start barring IAEA inspectors from key sites. The agency states in its report that it has declining confidence in its ability to provide a complete picture on Iranian nuclear efforts as a result. That means that the information on Iran’s program will become increasingly less reliable, a big danger considering the stakes of the decisions that have to be made on increasingly incomplete information, but it begs the question: if Iran only wants peaceful, civilian nuclear energy, then why all the secrecy?
None of this has apparently moved the Russians and the Chinese. According to Robert Einhorn, former State Department head on nonproliferation under the Clinton administration, only a “smoking gun” will convince them to support sanctions. Unfortnately, the only smoking object that would qualify for Russian and Chinese firmness would be the radioactive remains of Tel Aviv.

Kean Overtakes Menendez

Thomas Kean Jr has overtaken Democratic incumbent Robert Menendez in the New Jersey Senate race, according to Rasmussen’s latest poll. Kean created a 12-point shift in the past month, going from six points down in July to six points up at the end of August.
This puts a serious crimp in the Democrat’s plans to take over the Senate in these midterms. They need to hold all of their current seats before they can possibly hope to gain enough to take control of the upper chamber. Losing New Jersey makes that all but impossible. Expect the Democrats to start spending a lot of money to rescue Menendez in the coming days.

A Look Inside Insanity

Last night on the way to a meeting, I listened to a caller on the Hugh Hewitt show absolutely wrong-foot the normally unflappable Hugh when the caller suggested that he could prove that Republicans support Satanic control of world events, as long as we had an “open mind”. Hugh asked how he could prove that, and the caller said that a website could prove that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan conspired to murder John Lennon … and that Stephen King had carried out the hit.
Yes, I mean that Stephen King.
Intrigued, I looked up the website and started knocking around it. If one ever wanted to peek inside the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic, this website — which is completely earnest — gives one the best possible potential. In its way, it illustrates all the faulty logic, leaps of conjecture, and paranoid thinking that creates conspiracy theories from Right to Left and in certain parts of the world where such thinking is mainstream. This is Mena airfields and one-world-government on steroids.
The most pathetic part of this website comes from a handwritten letter from Stephen King himself, who apparently tried to take pity on the nutcase (also named Steve) who obsesses about this theory:

Dear Steve,
I didn’t kill John Lennon and I think you know that as well as I do, inside the wall of denial that you’ve put up. Your interest in me is a way of allowing you to avoid dealing with your own mental and spiritual problems. Let it go, why don’t you, and find more constructive outlets for your considerable talents? Meantime, here is a fascinating book about the man who really did kill John.
Best, Stephen King

I’m impressed that King actually tried to talk the man down from his mental ledge, and King even sent him a copy of Let Me Take You Down, a book about Mark David Chapman. Unfortunately, the conspiracy nut believed that the book was a coded message that King used to threaten his life. I’d say that King might want to review his security situation.
It’s a sad and extreme example of what happens when people stop looking for rational answers and instead adopt the lazy but satisfying belief that massive conspiracies exist just out of sight which explain everything wrong in the world. It’s an impulse we see all too often, and the end result brings us to imagine that politically liberal novelists conspire with conservative politicians to murder entertainers, among other impossibilities.