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Timing of frightening news releases re: Disks found in Iraq with U.S. schools info

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I have frequently suspected that presidential campaign strategists intentionally employ fear tactics to manipulate approval ratings.  In a recent research report in Current Research In Social Psychology, published Sept. 30, 2004, Robb Willer of Cornell University discusses his research.  "The Effects Of Government-Issued Terror Warnings On Presidential Approval Ratings".  He concludes, "I found consistent evidence supporting the hypothesis that government-issued terror warnings led to increases in President Bush’s approval levels. Further, I found evidence that the threat of terror may lead to more positive evaluations of the president . . ."

This week in particular has raised  my "hype-meter" level to "red".  Of course, our schools must be safe and kept well-advised by Dept. of Education, Dept. of Homeland Security and the F.B.I.  I am most concerned with manipulative timing.  If the disk was discovered several months ago, why is its existence only now being released to the public?  I suspect that the release of this startling information was withheld to influence voters at election time.

Here is the interesting timeline of events related to U.S. school safety:

Thursday, October 7, 2004

CNN reports, "The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security sent a bulletin to local law enforcement and homeland security officials Wednesday advising schools how to stop a terrorist takeover similar to that of a Russian school in North Ossetia last month. . . The bulletin cautions that, 'There is no imminent threat to U.S. schools and the group that conducted the operation has never attacked or threatened to attack U.S. interests.'  It adds that the FBI and DHS are 'currently unaware of any specific, credible information indicating a terrorist threat to public and private schools, universities or colleges in the United States.'"

I have read the bulletin -- actually a letter from Eugene W. Hickok, Deputy Secretary, Dept. of Education -- noting the assertion, "The analysis was done proactively; it was not sent out due to any specific information indicating that there is a terrorist threat to any schools or universities in the United States."

Friday, October 8, 2004

Nationally, almost all news outlets reported this startling story early morning:

Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times reports, "Iraq Disk Mentions U.S. Schools".  A computer disk (some outlets mentioned a "CD") found in Iraq "with diagrams and photographs of some American schools has prompted the F.B.I. to contact several districts around the country . . . American military officials in Iraq discovered the computer disk several months ago. It had photos of schools in about a half-dozen states, including New Jersey, Florida and California, as well as diagrams and emergency information for the school districts that had apparently been downloaded from government Web sites, officials said."

Saturday, October 9, 2004

However, when most newsrooms had slowed down for the weekend and the news hole had become crowded with post-presidential-debate spin, the following appeared:

"Iraq Disk Prompted Warning to Schools -- No Attack Plans Found, Officials Say" (Washington Post)  This report appears on page A6, in contrast to Friday's frightening report that was played on most front pages. "Intelligence officials theorize that the Iraqi man who owned the computer was a Baathist official now working as a civic planner, according to a government representative. The Department of Homeland Security's intelligence division decided the appearance of the school information on the disk was not an indication of a threat, but the FBI decided to notify the school districts after the Beslan massacre, he said."

". . . some parents were keeping their children home yesterday after increased local and national media attention regarding the disk. . . The unfortunate thing is that parents are very concerned."

My questions:

If the disk was found several months ago, why was this discovery not released until this week?

Was it simply a coincidence that this report was released the day after Dept. of Education, Dept. of Homeland Security and F.B.I had sent a bulletin advising schools on how to deflect attacks of terrorism?

Why was the dilution of the fearful "disk" and its threat not immediately corrected rather than being released many hours later -- Friday evening? 

When such a media report is so frightening to so many, why does the neutralizing correction -- that there appears to be no threat from disk discovery -- appear buried behind the front page of newspapers who had played the initial, fearful report on the front page?  Even NPR reported the alarming disk story prominently in Friday newscasts.  Yet, on Saturday no follow-on mention detailing "no indication of threat" had been aired on NPR news.

A new generation of political strategists are watching the success of Karl Rove and Karen Hughes in manipulating public fear to raise approval ratings.  I expect to see more of this tactic from both camps.

Mary Wright



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  • Nice piece Mary! I'd have missed this without you. I think you are right on targ...more
    - [Jeb]

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The impact of failing to treat education as a strategic national priority

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Reuters' planned tripling of its number of Indian employees strikes me less as another marker of job transfer under outsourcing than it is a signal that we here in the US and Europe need to redouble our efforts at producing trained candidates for the industrial positions on offer.

I have long been of the opinion that we have neglected our educational system, allowing it to lie fallow, while we have failed to properly price the potential output of that system, thereby depriving the nation of the necessary strategic core to underwrite generations to come.

I found the comment of Reuters' CEO, Tom Glocer, to be revealing:

The amazing thing - and this is the dirty little secret about outsourcing that people need to talk about publicly a bit more - not only is the cost conflation amazing at four, five or even six to one, but the quality and productivity is better too. We are flooded. We have 100 qualified applications for every data input person and these people have qualified accounting degrees.

I fear that we have utterly failed to make a weapon of education, to treat it as a strategic national priority as another form of national defense. Yes, Reuters has made a "sacrosanct" pledge to "cut costs by £440 million ($782 million) by the end of 2006, and is fully aware that "costs in Bangalore were about 40 percent lower than in New York or London," but the key is the overwhelming number of qualified applicants for each position.

What I don't know when Glocer says that Reuters has "100 qualified applications [have qualified accounting degrees] for every data input person", is what is the total number of qualified candidates, how many of those are under or unemployed and thereby gravitate to outsourcing firms, how many positions are available to accountants (here being hired as data entry staff), and how much is Reuters paying to attract those candidates versus other employers.

It is one thing to have a smaller net population than, say, India or China, but it is another when your percentage of qualified candidates is lower so that your net pool of candidates is smaller, thus placing us at a net disadvantage. A nation such as China can select out the top ten percent of it population, and still field an industrial nation equal to the total US population.  The outcome is further lopsided in that the percentage of engineering and science graduates is greater in China and India than it is in the US.

IN 2002, Intel's Chairman, Craig Barrett said:

Currently, U.S. universities and colleges conduct about 48 percent of all basic research in the country, and the federal government funds nearly half of that. In the past 10 years, the majority of increases in federal and state support for basic research have been in medicine and the life sciences. For the physical sciences and for computer science and engineering -- drivers of the primary technologies for the past 20 years -- basic research funding has gone down, in some fields by more than 20 percent over the decade.

Increasingly, some of the best technical talent comes from outside the U.S. In our graduate schools, foreign nationals earn about half of engineering Ph.D.s, and almost as many math and computer science doctorates.

Even as we graduate fewer, we have lowered the level of standards in too many of our institutions in order, I think, to offer more candidates the opportunity to secure a baccalaureate. I like to say, "Eyes two, torso one, BA one" in today's expectations of an American job candidate having a degree. Universities are complicit, given that their costs continue to escalate, in attempting to offer more candidates a paid chair in a classroom. (They have certainly decreased the number of 'needs-blind' scholarships available to those of talent but lacking funds.)

I have nothing against elites per se, and certainly not those based on merit, and my gut feel is that our educational elite, and certainly our engineering and scientific elite, is far too small.

It may not be glamorous in the eyes of voters and legislators, and its deficiencies may not be immediately evident, but we will pay a great price for failing to attend to our strategic needs in education. I maintain that one of the greatest threats from terrorists like al Qaeda is its distraction of our attention from long term needs such as education and infrastructure.

Reuters Plans to Triple Jobs at Site in India
By HEATHER TIMMONS
New York Times
October 8, 2004

Bangalore may be gaining on Silicon Valley
Andy McCue, Ed Frauenhei, Cnet News.com
July 29, 2004
San Francisco Chronicle

America needs research funding now
by Craig R. Barrett
The Chief Executive, March, 2002

Gordon Housworth



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Repeal the Scottish Enlightenment; fund the Tammany Hall Institute of Graft and Corruption

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The US once had a citadel dedicated to graft and corruption, the Tammany Society, a social organization that morphed into a political, then governmental interloper, that rose to its zenith under Boss Tweed in the 19th century. When the New York Times joined with the expose led by Thomas Nast and Harper's Weekly in 1871 to publish the contents of the New York County ledger books, it was found that thermometers cost $7,500 and brooms $41,190 each. A carpenter colleague of Tweed was paid $360,747 for a month's work.

And what did we do with that asset? We suppressed it (or tried to with varying degrees of success). As I watch what passes for governmental due-process and intergovernmental relations in much of Africa, the Middle East, Southwest Asia, East Asia, and South America -- and now the Iraqi Regime Finance and Procurement analysis, I have begun to wonder if that was a strategic error.

As I wade through the Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD (see volumes below), I find myself reading on multiple levels, e.g., what happened to the known chem-bio assets and why, what was the nature of the threat when, what could Iraqi infrastructure achieve, but my compelling issue has become what the text tells me about the nexus of individual greed in public politics (as recipient and complicit partner) and with the achievement of state aims (as giver and orchestrator):

Throughout sanctions, Saddam continually directed his advisors to formulate and implement strategies, policies, and methods to terminate the UN's sanctions regime established by UNSCR 661. The Regime devised an effective diplomatic and economic strategy of generating revenue and procuring illicit goods utilizing the Iraqi intelligence, banking, industrial, and military apparatus that eroded United Nations' member states and other international players' resolve to enforce compliance, while capitalizing politically on its humanitarian crisis.

An essential Iraqi tool for achieving its aims while evading sanctions was an oil voucher program designed to influence "individuals, companies or entities" in the UN administration, UN member states and the UN Security Council itself:

The Ministry of Oil (MoO) controlled the oil voucher distribution program that used oil to influence UN members to support Iraq's goals. Saddam personally approved and removed all names of voucher recipients.

Three Council permanent members, Russia, France, and the PRC were the leading recipients of negotiable vouchers that could be resold at substantial profit to oil firms or other buyers. Iraq exploited the Oil For Food program "to give individuals and countries an economic stake in ending sanctions" to the degree that the volume of activity was seen as "grossly obvious" to the point that distortions extended beyond Iraq to international markets and organizations. Iraq rounded out its effort with oil smuggling, dual-use equipment smuggling, and illicit government-to-government trade agreements.

I wager that many states will use the report as either a primmer for their own efforts or a report card on their progress of illicit procurement or influence.  Consider how states such as France, Russia, and China influence political actions in certain states and how funds flow to any level of those recipient state(s) that is deemed essential to achievement of the initiating state aims. Readers should look at The G-24 and the IMF; foxes vie for control of the henhouse for a view of how much of the world works.

The US, along with a modest number of states, must look especially tedious in many areas of the world, Africa and the Stans to name two, where plundering the public purse for private gain is considered a right of office, when it attempts to restrict the actions of its nationals by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and must resort to threats of public disclosure to the offending state in order to affect any kind of legitimate order. Having worked under FCPA I and II, where II stated that plausible denial was no longer a defense, I can attest to the difficulties in competing against certain states.

I am concerned that we will be increasingly outflanked by competing states, originator and recipient, able to play the grey area while proclaiming rectitude. It should be remembered that where democracies and their institutions have stuck to date has been those rising from the Scottish Enlightenment and adjacent Anglo-European states and we are now outnumbered. It would be sad if it is we who are obsolescent. Do we now need Boss Tweed?

Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD
30 September 2004
Key Findings
Volume 1, Regime Strategic Intent & Finance and Procurement
Volume 2, Delivery Systems, Nuclear
Volume 3, Chemical & Biological Warfare

Hussein Beat Sanctions With Bribes
By Robin Wright and Colum Lynch
Washington Post
October 7, 2004

Many Helped Iraq Evade U.N. Sanctions On Weapons
By Craig Whitlock and Glenn Frankel
Washington Post
October 8, 2004

Gordon Housworth



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Will it take a second pandemic to move flu vaccines from private enterprise to national defense?

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I predict that flu vaccines in the developed world will follow the trajectory of AIDS drugs in the third world: similar lethargy, death toll, threats to bypass patents to produce generic substitutes, and finally various forms of production and/or resale agreements that allow wider local ministration to the disease. The step that bothers me is the death toll part.

With the avian influenza strain A(H5N1) on our doorstep, we seem to have forgotten the 20+ million dead of the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu pandemic in an era that predated today's global transportation systems as well as the 2002-2003 near miss of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which itself is still not contained yet has lulled many into a sense of complacence as WHO notes that "SARS has entered a time of great danger" as "people tend to become overconfident and lower their guard when outbreaks wane."

The breeding grounds of Asia in which cages of chicken and birds are stacked atop monkeys and small mammals, in turn stacked atop pigs remain as do the humans who slaughter them on the same tables. A(H5N1) "continues to kill the majority of people it infects. Health officials are expressing worry that the longer the H5N1 strain remains active, the greater its chance to acquire genetic material from more common types of influenza, creating a virus that is highly lethal and readily passed among humans. That could occur if a person caught avian and human strains of flu simultaneously." China recently disclosed that "scientists had detected two strains of bird flu, including H5N1, in pigs. Since pigs can contract human influenza, they could also serve as the source of a hybrid strain that could cause a pandemic."

Think when, not if, and you have a grasp of the looming problem. Think death toll of startling proportions with consequent economic interruption. (During the SARS epidemic, we created a hierarchy of symptom to impact to interruption for clients in order to predict when and where global supply chains would fail. The list started with restaurants closing and ended with regional economic collapse.)

We have utterly failed to solve the "chronic mismatch of public health needs and private control of production of vaccines and drugs" for a variety of reasons:

  • Expensive investment and production costs not recovered unless there is a pandemic
  • Unsettled intellectual property rights over new vaccine manufacturing techniques
  • Financial liability of fielding new vaccines without lengthy safety tests
  • Profit margins for vaccines is less than prescription drugs
  • A(H5N1) negates the normal method for making flu vaccines
  • Only two vaccine manufacturers, Aventis Pasteur and Chiron Corporation, wiling to proceed

The non-solution is to stockpile an expensive, limited production antiviral, Tamiflu, that may only work if "given in the first two days after the onset of symptoms," too late for most. The discovery that A(H5N1) "is more active at cooler temperatures" suggests that the summer slowdown will ebb into winter. And should the disease strike, distributing limited stocks of vaccine and antivirals will become a madhouse of strife and blackmarketeering.

So back to AIDS as an example. When do we leap past the death toll step and involve governments in the directed production of vaccines and antivirals as a matter of national security, at lease national economic continuance?

The bright spot seems to be more on early detection than upon containment and cure. In an approach that I think essential in searching for a "disease without a name," i.e., a bioagent or disease variant not yet identified with a protocol for treatment, or the presence of multiple agents -- natural and manmade, I applaud the research into syndromic systems such as ESSENCE (Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics) for the National Capitol Region (NCR), composed of the District of Columbia and 12 local jurisdictions, and BioSense for larger regions, eventually the entire nation. Departing from traditional disease reporting systems that focus on a specific, already known disease such as "tuberculosis, chicken pox or measles, they look for unusual clusters of general symptoms such as high fevers and respiratory distress, which could be warnings of emerging diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome."

I am aware that "Syndromic surveillance only sets off alarms [and no] matter how well a syndromic surveillance system performs, its benefits ultimately depend on how effectively it is integrated into the broader public health system." That is not cause for rejection but for more research and embedding as the most frequently used detection algorithms can detect both fast-spreading and slow-moving agents.

The lessons learned from Nevada's 2003-2004 influenza season showed that syndromic surveillance identified the influenza season earlier, allowed better tracking as the season progressed, and was good as the people evaluating the data.

Now we need the vaccines.

Experts Confront Hurdles in Containing Bird Flu
By KEITH BRADSHER and LAWRENCE K. ALTMAN
New York Times
September 30, 2004

Lethal Bird Flu Reemerges In Four East Asian Countries
By Alan Sipress
Washington Post Foreign Service
September 15, 2004

Investigation of Disease Outbreaks Detected by "Syndromic" Surveillance Systems
Julie A. Pavlin
Journal of Urban Health, New York Academy of Medicine Vol. 80, No. 2, Supplement 1 2003

Gordon Housworth



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US boots on the ground and before Congress are vindicated

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Had I but waited another day before writing Yugos become Cadillacs, I could have added the comments of Ambassador Paul Bremer, former head of the US provisional government in Iraq, to what appears to be a drumbeat of intentional and unintentional revelations as to 'how our intel estimates are prepared and by whom, how they're analyzed and by whom,' and how choices are made among those preparers and interpreters in support of US foreign policy.

The press release from what Bremer and the administration assumed was an off-the-record keynote address to the 91st annual Insurance Leadership Forum. In what was a largely supportive speech of the administration, Bremer noted that when "he arrived in Baghdad on May 6, 2003, there was ""horrid" looting going on" and, "We paid a big price for not stopping it because it established an atmosphere of lawlessness," Bremer said. "We never had enough troops on the ground."

It is a stretch for me to assume that he or anyone else would assume a Greenbriar address was not for public consumption, but it certainly was public notice that Bremer would, on 16 September, "deliver The Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture, "Iraq and the War on Terrorism" to open "DePauw Discourse 2004: Issues for America," and that, "Like all Ubben Lectures, it is free and open to the public." I do not know how one can make the leap to off-the-record from that.

While the Post reported that Bremer made his comments in the DePauw speech, the Banner-Graphic's comments were actually:

Earlier, at a student forum Thursday afternoon in Meharry Hall, the ambassador admitted, "The single most important change - the one thing that would have improved the situation - would have been having more troops in Iraq at the beginning and throughout... Although I raised this issue a number of times with our government, I should have been even more insistent."

Back to Greenbriar, Bremer "disputed those who say the administration had no plans," noting.

"There was planning, but planning for a situation that didn't arise," he said, including a large-scale humanitarian or refugee crisis or the possibility that Saddam might blow up Iraq's oil fields and refineries... Could it have been done better? Frankly, I didn't spend a lot of time looking back."

The early predictions from the administration, presumably the 'situation that didn't arise,' was that the Iraqis would welcome the US when the Baathists collapsed, that no organized resistance would ensue, that the state infrastructure would be taken over intact in running condition to be managed by Chalabi's organization. That assumption would seem to be borne out by Bremer's comment that the US postwar planning focused "on preparing for humanitarian relief and widespread refugee problems rather than a bloody insurgency now being waged by at least four well-armed factions."

It was certainly borne out by the testimony of Paul Wolfowitz refuting previous Congressional testimony of Gen. Eric Shinseki that "I would say that what's been mobilized to this point — something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers — are probably, you know, a figure that would be required" when Wolfowitz said that "there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo… Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that "stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible," but would oppose a long-term occupation force… [and] that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it." Wolfowitz was more specific about European cooperation: "I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction."

If this was the collective plan, then I respectfully think it should have merited a second look as the alternatives already noted in Yugos become Cadillacs were widely at variance.

I am also bothered by the comments of a Bremer aide to the point that Bremer's "speeches were intended for private audiences and were supposed to have been off the record."  Is there still not the requirement to speak consistently and honestly, perhaps even more so in an environment in which one can claim freedom from the public record?

The Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF), a collaborative project of the Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), recently issued a tally of the human, security, economic, and social cost to the US, its allies, and Iraq. It does not make for uplifting reading.

We needed those boots on the ground and I do not feel that an oblique apology in camera is sufficient.

Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers: Bremer Defends Action to Overthrow Saddam Hussein
10/4/2004 4:12:00 PM
U.S. Newswire

While I prefer to have original sources, it the press release scrolls off:
Bremer Criticizes Troop Levels
By Robin Wright and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
October 5, 2004

Bremer sees 'difficult struggle'
Banner-Graphic, 17 Sept, 2004
Greencastle, IN

Gordon Housworth



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Yugos become Cadillacs as DoD zig mates with DoE zag

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I am struggling to understand how our intel estimates are prepared and by whom, how they're analyzed and by whom, and how an administration picks and chooses among the preparers and interpreters to gain realistic guidance for its foreign policy.

The three estimates of the July 2004 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq, the first formal assessment since the October 2002 NIE, outlined in Realism and newsgames merge in the 'zone of dangerous' still downplayed as needlessly pessimistic, continue to hold the ring of truth:

  • Best case: tenuous stability
  • Middle case: "increased extremism and fragmentation in Iraqi society"
  • Worst-case: tripartite civil war between Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released a study asserting "that Iraq's reconstruction efforts were largely stagnating or regressing, in part because of the deteriorating security situation."

Recently, two previously classified assessments prepared by the National Intelligence Council in January, 2003, warned the administration about "potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion" sixty days before commencement of hostilities:

  • Prediction "that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict."
  • Warning "of a possible insurgency against the new Iraqi government or American-led forces, saying that rogue elements from Saddam Hussein's government could work with existing terrorist groups or act independently to wage guerrilla warfare."
  • Both assessments said "a war would increase sympathy across the Islamic world for some terrorist objectives, at least in the short run."

Given that the least harmful interpretation noted in Not the Neocon vision of Iraqi democracy and civil society is a Shia-dominated, centrist, statist, theocracy (or religiously-dominated government as you prefer), it is not unreasonable to understand the resistance that Sunnis would take at such an outcome. I find it difficult to agree with the administration position that the "virulency of the insurgency" against US occupation was an "outgrowth of the speed of the initial military victory in 2003." I lean much more to the opinion that while we put enough boots on the ground to win the initial hostilities, we had two to three times the amount of boots needed to secure the ground to the degree that 'winning' the peace was possible.

While the assessments said that an Iraqi disintegration was unlikely after a US invasion, they noted that there was a "significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent internal conflict with one another unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so."

Without debating the number of angels that can stand on the head of a pin, this sounds remarkably like the sectarian and religious civil war that is already underway in Iraq and which will get vastly worse. Rightly or wrongly, this outcome is very similar to the advice offered to the US by the House of Saud.

Now, we learn that the "irrefutable evidence" of aluminum tubes that were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs" had been denied a year earlier by the best of DoE investigators who said that they were for rockets. While the tubes were impractical for use in centrifuges, they were a perfect match for previously ordered artillery rocket tubes. Yet nuclear centrifuges held the day as public "sober certitude" masked private doubt while a "holy war" of argument raged as the tubes gained currency as they rose through government. The Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee (JAEIC) was never convened to resolve the issue.

DOE was overruled in favor of CIA.

Conversely, DoE elements became convinced that Iraqi nuclear reconstitution was underway, itself a matter of contention within DoE, largely in part of Iraq's attempts to purchase Niger yellowcake. CIA and State considered the stance and data bogus.

CIA was overruled in favor of DOE.

United in the belief that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program, CIA and DoE based their assessment "in large measure on evidence the other considered suspect." Administration members, aware of the disagreements, appear to have chosen the worst-case scenarios when in made a case for war and paid less attention to those that did not.

Our collective analysis and interpretation process is far worse than the investigations of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, or the 9/11 Committee could have imagined.

How the White House Embraced Disputed Arms Intelligence
By DAVID BARSTOW, WILLIAM J. BROAD and JEFF GERTH
New York Times
October 3, 2004

C.I.A.-White House Tensions Are Being Made Public to Rare Degree
By DOUGLAS JEHL
New York Times
October 2, 2004

Prewar Assessment on Iraq Saw Chance of Strong Divisions
By DOUGLAS JEHL and DAVID E. SANGER
New York Times
September 28, 2004

Gordon Housworth



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Contrast in torpor and agility: DHS-DoD-DoJ and Abu Maysara al Iraqi

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The redacted DHS Challenges in Consolidating Terrorist Watch List Information is damning enough in its conclusion that failed DHS oversight and poor interagency cooperation have failed to produce a single consolidated watch list, but a leaked FOUO copy makes it clear than more essential basics are not being covered. The redactions are as much example as specific blunder. Redaction examples in bold face:

A number of additional challenges, such as [such as identifying links between violent criminals and terrorism], privacy, [and duplicative federal activities related to watch list programs], could be pursued in the context of a centrally coordinated approach to watch list management.

Although TIPOFF data was being shared, the extent of sharing was inconsistent among other watch list systems. [Very little terrorist information was shared with state and local law enforcement.] Where information was shared, it was not supported by common architectures because individual agencies developed and implemented interfaces with other federal agency watch list systems on an ad hoc basis.

It is worth reading both versions split screen to see what was considered appropriate for exclusion. If we cannot shoot straight in this seemingly straightforward area, how can we presume to detect and preempt the genuinely dangerous?

Contrast our DHS-DoD-DoJ performance to the unified masterpiece of propaganda, public relations, and enlistment of Abu Maysara al Iraqi, or father of Maysara the Iraqi, a person or persons unknown to US authorities. Abu Maysara continuously evades US efforts to silence him/them while delivering the jihadist message, acting as a spokesman for Abu Musab Zarqawi, while building a cult following for Zarqawi. For Arabs, it is Abu Maysara that controls the propaganda war with the US by issuing frequent reports so that the jihadist message "does not become lost in the media blackout that America imposes in order to deceive its people and its allies."

Messages follow a rigid format, "always in Arabic [opening] with a standard greeting such as, "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful," [then] the heart of the message [of the event or the attack], written in flowery language [that favors] ellipses, half-sentences" and mixing incident details with religious invocations.

Adulatory responses go unanswered. "He doesn't respond to requests for information… never replied … never gets involved in the discussion [and] never explains himself."

Abu Maysara is the apogee of terrorist/jihadist use of the internet, going beyond clandestine target research, communication, planning, and fund raising to attaining "direct control over shaping their own image and that of their foes" outside the control of established (enemy) news feeds. Peter Bardazzi echoes my comments in Beheadings as ascendant psywar that jihadists are using items such as the beheading videos to show jihadist dominance and opposition humiliation while drawing adherents, specifically noting that "the videos were changing popular sentiment about the war in Iraq the same way the images of fighting during the Vietnam War affected public opinion."

First appearing in January 2004 in the password-protected Muntada Al-Ansar and Islah chat rooms, Abu Maysara has continually moved his/their website around the world, the US included, often to unsuspecting hosts so as to provide a continuous presence to a widening audience that has forced him/them to solve thorny technology issues such as the ability to widely disseminate relatively dense video images that evade suppression by the authorities.

The application of YouSendIt of Campbell, California (originally designed to help families and colleagues trade pictures, videos, and multimedia presentations) to jihadist video propagation is inspiring in its brilliance. By the time officials are aware that a video is in the wild, compressed versions have already been anonymously distributed to global chatrooms beyond the reach of recovery.

It also appears that Abu Maysara can learn and adapt when it hears a good suggestion. A reader's idea that the Englishman, Kenneth Bigley, be made to beg for his life may have been the first time that Abu Maysara reshaped his/their agenda as within days Bigley did not follow the Americans Armstrong and Hensley, but was begging on video, in the orange jumpsuit of execution, in chains, in a cage, for his life.

Talk about mastery of medium and message, defining dominance and impotence in a stroke. And we can't get out a single bad guy list.

From a Virtual Shadow, Messages of Terror
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post
October 2, 2004

DHS Challenges in Consolidating Terrorist Watch List Information
Leaked FOUO and Federal redacted
Office of Information Technology
OIG-04-31 August 2004

Effort to Create Terror Watch List Is Falling Behind, Report Finds
By ROBERT BLOCK and GARY FIELDS
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
October 1, 2004

Gordon Housworth



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The G-24 and the IMF; foxes vie for control of the henhouse

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The Group of 24 ministers (G-24) attacked an International Monetary Fund (IMF) surveillance proposal even before the IMF could issue a press release. The IMF's intent was to "issue public praise for countries that follow sound economic policies and don't want to borrow from the agency" for those countries who wished to volunteer for the rating. In what was a shield for continued corrupt practices, the G-24 said the proposal would minimize lending to low-income countries and while the "instrument has been presented as 'voluntary,' there is a high probability that it would in fact become a requirement for lending, grants, and debt relief."

It is the understatement of the quarter century for the IMF to note that it "has historically had problems with that requirement - blowing the whistle on a country with poor policies might help avert a financial crisis by spurring reforms. But it might also trigger a crisis by frightening investors." (The 1999 Contingent Credit Lines program offering states "with sound economic policies that were at risk of financial "contagion" from similar countries with poor policies" expired in 2003 with few takers due to fears of being seen as weak.)

It is most interesting to see who the G-24 are and how its member rank on Transparency International's 2003 Corruption Perceptions Index.

The G-24 or the Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four on International Monetary Affairs and Development was established in 1971 with the objective "to concert the position of developing countries on monetary and development finance issues." G-77 member state are welcome to attend G-24 meetings as observers while the People's Republic of China "enjoys the status of "Special Invitee" and addresses the plenary sessions of the G-24." G-24 member states are drawn from three regions: Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia.

G-24 member countries are as follows:

  • Region I (Africa): Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Region II (Latin America and the Caribbean): Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.
  • Region III (Asia and developing countries of Europe): India, Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Syrian Arab Republic.

It is instructive to track the G-24 member states on Transparency International's 2003 Corruption Perceptions Index.

TI's 2003 Corruption Perceptions Index measures perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people, academics and risk analysts, and ranges between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt). On 133 countries rated, the cleanest, Finland was 1, and the worst was Bangladesh at 133. "Seven out of ten countries score less than 5 out of a clean score of 10, while five out of ten developing countries score less than 3 out of 10… Nine out of ten developing countries urgently need practical support to fight corruption."

As the Corruption Perceptions Index has been, like the Economist's Big Mac index, a reliable comparative measure, it is interesting to see how the G-24 faired, or failed as the case may be. Note that certain countries tie, such as Columbia and Peru at 59.

By CPI rank, then country:

43 Trinidad and Tobago; 48 South Africa; 54 Brazil; 59 Colombia, Peru; 64 Mexico; 66 Sri Lanka, Syria, China (not a G-24 member, but as it is granted Observer status); 70 Egypt, Ghana; 78 Iran, Lebanon; 83 India; 88 Algeria; 92 Argentina, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Philippines; 100 Guatemala, Venezuela; 118 Cote d’Ivoire, 132 Nigeria.

Unrated by TI as there were only two reports, but this author would mark them towards the bottom, with the DRC below Nigeria, especially as the DRC is a major blood diamond exporter through al Qaeda channels:

Gabon; Democratic Republic of Congo

That said, and knowing China's efforts to build diplomatic favor among world's weaker but still instrumental regional states, China's Xinhua statements take new meaning when it urges the IMF "to develop effective lending facilities to assist countries in the prevention of financial crisis," i.e., not this one, and in the "absence of appropriate crisis prevention mechanisms, [the IMF] should play a much larger role in reserve accumulation," i.e., make more funds available for "shrinkage."

Think what fun it will be if Wolfensohn does not seek another five-year term at World Bank. The foxes will demand "greater clout within the IMF and the World Bank." It is not too difficult to imagine a structure in which funds of developed economies are eased into grey area coffers.

IMF Plan To Promote Good Economic Policy Gets Cool Reception
World Bank Development News
2 October 2004

Gordon Housworth



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China, the US, and the International Criminal Court

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A colleague asked in response to China reverses a half-century on diplomatic non-intervention, what is the statute of limitations before the court and what jurisdiction would the Hague court have over alleged human rights abuses within China?

I'll expand the reply to include the US. The 1998 Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) has a long reach as Article 29, Non-applicability of statute of limitations, states that "crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court shall not be subject to any statute of limitations." There is no wiggle room.

The ICC will initially have jurisdiction over "war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity" and will add "the crime of aggression" as agreement is reached on its definition. The ICC invokes the principle of complementarity which allows jurisdiction when the states that would normally have national jurisdiction are unable, or unwilling, to exercise it. It's principles of criminal law are drawn from different legal systems in an attempt to insure due process. While there is no retroactivity, i.e., no jurisdiction over acts committed prior to the statute’s entry into force, it does recognize the principle of "individual criminal responsibility" so as to prosecute individuals for serious violations of international law and hold them responsible for the actions of subordinates. The death penalty is excluded, leaving the ICC with term imprisonment, life imprisonment, and fines.

The US is attempting to sign bilateral agreements, using Article 98, Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs), with countries where US forces are serving to ensure that American personnel won’t be subject to ICC prosecution. Some accuse the US of using the Article 98 as a trapdoor out of the Rome Statute whereas the US insists that the article permits it to engage in agreements over the conditions of surrendering, more precisely the consent of the sending state -- the US in this instance -- is required before an individual is transferred to the court.

I'm not alone in reading an implied threat in US comments that, while it will 'not shy away' from its global responsibilities, failure to achieve US satisfaction will force it to 'reevaluate' all significant deployments of US personnel and thus deflate the UN's ability to respond as even when US forces are not the significant boots on the ground, they are often the primary transporter.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, said: "We believe that the court is a noble idea but it’s just flawed in it’s implementation. Therefore, we respect the rights of states to be a party to the court, we just ask that they respect our right NOT to be a party to the court and we decide to take this (inaudible) divorce and detach ourselves from the process so it’s not a source of tension or conflict between the United States and the Court and the United States and its allies who are parties to the court."

This kind of language is a source of tension and has branded the US as arrogant, above the law and open to acting with impunity, especially as the US wants blanket protection for all (present, former, and future) US officials and US personnel, but not all US citizens. The US takes issue with the ICC's ability to not only review a domestic prosecution but to disagree with it and reassert jurisdiction, even over what is a good faith prosecution in the US with which the ICC has made a subjective opinion that it wasn’t genuine. The ICC could also disagree with admissibility of evidence, pro or con.

Many Europeans and others are mystified over the huge expenditure of US political capital to address potential cases which many find hypothetical in the extreme. The US counters that it does not see this as remote or hypothetical, believing that there is the genuine possibility that someone will use the ICC "for political purposes, exploit the process, in order to use it as a weapon or a tool to attack the United States personnel and/or its policies" and that there are insufficient safeguards as yet in place to address that.

All that is very likely true but it is increasingly robbing us of allies and support on a wide spectrum of issues. The Chinese, on the other hand, will finesse the matter, agree to jurisdiction (of sorts) as they have in trade agreements, negotiate their way out of a future contretemps, and ultimately sacrifice individuals should it prove to politically expedient. I would imagine that the guilty would likely not reach the embarrassment of an ICC trial. We are talking about a nation that still executes some seven to nine thousand common criminals a year and harvests organs on-site for resale. I am not making a value judgment, but pointing to the firmness that China can exert when it feels it in its interests to do so.

The Chinese routinely take immediate umbrage at anything they interpret as intrusion into their internal affairs. Witness their actions in Tibet, Mongolia, Tiananmen, and the Falun Gong and their responses to foreign criticism. I do not see a condition in which the PRC would allow an internal reach whatever documents it signs. My original reference was to serving Chinese official and military engaged in a peace keeping operation.

The Rome Statute has been ratified by 97 states while 16 have ratified the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities (APIC) which extends "certain privileges and immunities" to officials and staff of the court. I do see the need to protect the court from reprisals, especially as members, staff, and investigators travel and transport evidence, but it is fodder for the conspiracy theorists that the ICC is protected while US and other officials are not.

COMPILATION OF CORE DOCUMENTS OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

Gordon Housworth



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China reverses a half-century on diplomatic non-intervention as it becomes a model UN citizen

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As China's Public Security Ministry assembles its specially trained People's Armed Police for a peace-keeping contingent in Haiti under UN auspices, we are on the eve of a Chinese renaissance that moves Beijing from a revolutionary agent attacking the global status quo to a cooperative world statesman that achieves a larger role in global affairs and which strengthens its regional rise in Asia. It must come with some relish to the Chinese that they embark on their initiative in the Caribbean just off the US coast.

I submit that this sea change should be viewed within the context of the notes 'Peaceful Rise' overcoming 'China Threat', Testing and strategic encirclement versus force on force, bluffing and risk-taking, and The fall of Peaceful Rise, or has it?. Remember that China's regional and global diplomatic initiative, "peaceful rise" (heping jueqi), since changed to "peaceful development" (heping fazhan), is a masterful endeavor that will free the PRC from the US defined "China threat" as it transforms Beijing to a patient, nuanced global diplomatic partner. The hallmarks of peaceful rise-peaceful development are:

  • Diplomatic drive for regional acceptance of PRC's expanding sphere of influence
  • Enshrining China as Asia's predominant economic force
  • Leveraging economic cooperation into political influence over Southeast Asia
  • Offsetting and eventually diminishing US influence
  • Regional and international acceptance of China as the Asian superpower with hegemony over the region

While this riot police unit is small, only 125 staff, it is the "first Chinese police officers to serve as full-blown U.N. peacekeepers and as an integrated unit, with their own commander, logistics and support."

Until now, China's soldiers and police have largely been sprinkled through other countries' battalions or limited to duties such as medical care and road building. Now China has taken the next step with its plans to send off an integrated riot control unit that will operate in Haiti as a Chinese entity under U.N. command to respond to security needs.

China will drop its historic postwar diplomatic stance of non-interference in other countries. I find the comment of Tan Jun, head of peacekeeping at the Public Security Ministry, that "I believe China will make even greater contributions in the future" to be masterly understatement. I also found Tan's comment that China's decision to send a force to Haiti had nothing to do with China's national diplomacy to be a diplomatic nicety.  Yes, China's formal reply came in response to a public UN appeal on Haiti's behalf, but such is the nature of public-private negotiation at the UN. It is a matter of record that China has consistently given financial aid and attention to all states that maintain a relationship with Taiwan and not China. Such specific attention meshes closely with Beijing's global policy agenda in the case of Haiti.

I should imagine that these troops were handpicked for operational skill, English and French language facility, and their ability to adapt and not embarrass China or Hu Jintao as he assumes the troika of chairman of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), president of China, and military commander-in-chief. I would expect members of this troop to rise to command their own units.

I submit that China will expand its UN peacekeeping role as rapidly as world demands permit, and that they will best the US by agreeing to be bound by The Hague international criminal court.  Without direct confrontation they will reflect a more attractive international face that the US has shown in recent years.

China Readies Riot Force For Peacekeeping in Haiti
By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, September 30, 2004; Page A21

Gordon Housworth



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