Friday, December 31, 2004

Republicans to Weaken House Ethics Rules

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republican leaders are considering a change in House ethics rules that could make it harder to discipline lawmakers.

The proposal being circulated among House Republicans would end a general rule against any behavior that might bring "discredit" on the chamber, according to House Republican and Democratic leadership aides.

House members would be held to a narrower standard of behavior in keeping with the law, the House's rules and its ethics guidelines.

Other proposed changes to the ethics committee's rules being circulated in a "Dear Colleague" letter from House Rules Chairman David Dreier, R-California, would let House members respond to any admonishment before a letter goes out from the committee, and would end an investigation if there is a tie vote.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, plans to bring the proposal before a meeting of all House Republicans next week "and see what they think," said Hastert spokesman John Feehery.

The broader ethics rule in question was used this year to admonish Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, though the committee said he did not break House rules.

Democrats and government watchdog groups denounced the proposed change.

"It would lower the standard of official conduct, and if that's the case, it would be the first time that it has been done since 1968, and it would be done on a completely partisan basis," said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, on Friday.

Pelosi, D-California, also plans to huddle with Democrats next week to discuss a strategy for defeating the proposal.

"Members of the House should be kept to the highest ethical standard, not the lowest," Crider said. "Now, the code is higher than the law. This would say you've only violated the code of ethics if you've violated the law."

The committee has a long history, dating to the first recorded disciplinary action in 1798, when a Vermont lawmaker spat on a Connecticut colleague during a vote. Despite an apology letter, the committee nearly expelled the Vermonter, but fell two votes shy.

In the DeLay case, the committee said he had created the appearance of linking political donations to a legislative favor and improperly gained intervention of the Federal Aviation Administration in a Texas political dispute. It also said DeLay had improperly offered support for the House candidacy of Michigan Republican Rep. Nick Smith's son in return for the lawmaker's vote for a Medicare prescription drug benefit. Smith voted against it.

After helping craft that admonishment, the committee's chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colorado, may be replaced with another chairman by Hastert.

Feehery said that is being considered because Hastert believes rules limit Hefley's tenure on the commission, not because of his leadership on the DeLay case.

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a watchdog group, said the House Republican leaders' proposal "would fundamentally undermine and damage the House ethics rules, and would constitute the biggest backtracking we have ever seen on ethics standards in the House."

"If House Republican leaders are allowed to prevail, they will have gutted the single most important ethics standard in the House and turned House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's multiple ethics transgressions into acceptable conduct for all House members," Wertheimer said.

--CNN, Dec31

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Army National Guardsman Sue Defense Dept Over Stop-Loss Policy

Army National Guard Specialist David Qualls and seven of his comrades filed suit against the Defense Department over what they charge is the unfair extension of their active duty obligation beyond the term they agreed to. Qualls signed up with the Arkansas National Guard under the "Try-One" enlistment option which, according to the recruiting pitch, "lets you try the Guard for one year without additional commitment." His year was up in June but his commitment was extended into next year under the Pentagon's stop-loss program, which allows the extension of enlistments during war or national emergencies as a way to promote continuity and cohesiveness. This policy, invoked in June, will keep tens of thousands of personnel in the military beyond their expected departure. The case raises questions of legality, military effectiveness, and basic fairness.

Qualls is not the first to sue over this issue, but no one has won yet. The Defense Department has won round one of this, with U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruling that, whatever their recruiters might have told them, their enlistment contract allows the government to do this. The dirty little secret of military recruiters is that, regardless of the length of the initial active duty contract, everyone who joins the military incurs an eight-year obligation under Section 10145 of 10 USC. This fact is buried in the long enlistment contract and certainly not emphasized by recruiters, who are under heavy pressure to meet monthly quotas.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Olbermann: Patriotic Duty to Question OH Vote Tally

NEW YORK - For all the testimony, for all the verification provided that the names on the internet(s) belong to real people with real hairstyles, the key moment in Wednesday’s voting irregularities forum on Capitol Hill probably came during a colloquy between two of the Congressmen.

Jesse Jackson, Jr., of Illinois, turned to the chair of the ad hoc committee, John Conyers, of Michigan, and said “if the votes are not tallied in the state of Ohio by the appropriate time, is there any thought being given that the committee might consider an objection to the proceeding of the Ohio Electors until such time (as they are tallied)?”

Conyers replied, extending each word to about eleven syllables: “We are now.”
These were deep waters, and in an interview with Countdown’s Monica Novotny right after the forum closed, Conyers backed quite a bit away from the river’s edge. He said “We will wait for someone else,” in preference to drawing congress into a legal battle.
And a battle it would be, because the congressionalese Jackson and Conyers were using, translates roughly as this:

Jackson (translated): The Constitution says the states have to tally the votes of their citizens before they can send their electors to the Electoral College. If Ohio doesn’t finish its recount before the College votes, or before the vote is unsealed before Congress on January 6th, shouldn’t one of us raise a formal objection to those Ohio electors’ votes?

Conyers (translated): After what I heard today, we ought to talk about it.

You may recall that on the November 9th Countdown, law professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University, a constitutional expert, told us that though the Electoral College votes next Monday, there is a subsequent window, and a process, for challenging whether voters from a state, pledged to one candidate and not the other, should be allowed to vote.

“If there are controversies,” Professor Turley reminded me, “such as some disclosure that a state actually went for Kerry (instead of Bush), there is the ability of members of Congress to challenge. It requires a written objection from one House member and one senator.”

Once that objection is raised, the joint meeting of the two houses, convened to formally count the Electoral College votes and certify the winner of the presidential election, would be immediately discontinued. “Then both Houses separate again and they vote by majority vote as to whether to accept the slate of electoral votes from that state.”

What Jackson was asking Conyers was whether or not the Congressmen who were at the voting forum should consider invoking that challenge. The threat was raised in 2000, but Al Gore insisted no Democratic representative or senator should wield the cudgel. It last came up in the 1876 mess and it is not a pleasant thing - the wackier of the politically active of the day started to wonder aloud about rebellion.

But despite Conyers’ back-pedaling in the subsequent interview, Congressman Jackson’s question raises an essential point. If the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who convened the forum seriously believe something went astray in Ohio - even something entirely attributable to static cling in the computers - they should put some of their political capital where their mouths are.

These minority members, who now say they are headed to Ohio to conduct field hearings to listen directly to the grievances of voters there, have provided an invaluable service in forcing at least part of the mainstream to provide a platform for the 20% or more of the citizenry who suspect error or subterfuge.

But to stop there is to subject themselves to accusations of political cowardice and grandstanding. If, in Ohio, or in the calculations of the academics, or in subsequent developments, they conclude there is reasonable evidence that the vote there was rotten - merely accidentally so - one of them in the House and one of them in the Senate should stand up and produce that written challenge to the Ohio electors’ credibility.

As Jonathan Turley suggested - and logic confirms - for the formal challenge to get anything but token
support in the Senate and the House, there would have to be overpowering, dramatic, conclusive, evidence to suggest not merely a sour vote but one so screwed up that it could produce a different outcome. And the likelihood of such evidence turning up in the next month is infinitesimally small.

But the challenge itself, even if it garnered exactly one vote each from the Senate and House, would be a powerful protest, and an earnest signal that a full investigation of what happened in Ohio should take place, even after the inauguration. It could even be relevant, legally, in terms of the impounding of voting machines and records, to serve as the basis for some later examination to determine what, if anything, failed - and how it could be prevented from failing again.

There is no question it would be a short-term political liability - even a fatality - to the Representative and Senator who signed it. But, especially with that realization, it would not be an act of partisanship, but of patriotism.

--Keith Olbermann, MSNBC, Dec 9

Monday, December 06, 2004

Pentagon Releases Report Extremely Critical of Bush's Leadership Ability

the full file is available at

this is p. 22 of the PDF file:

Opinion surveys conducted by Zogby International, the Pew Research Center, Gallup (CNN/USA Today), and the Department of State (INR) reveal widespread animosity toward the United States and its policies. A year and a half after going to war in Iraq, Arab/Muslim anger has intensified. Data from Zogby International in July 2004, for example, show that the U.S. is viewed unfavorably by overwhelming majorities in Egypt (98 percent), Saudi Arabia (94 percent), Morocco (88 percent), and  Jordan (78 percent). The war has increased mistrust of America in Europe, weakened  support for the war on terrorism, and undermined U.S. credibility worldwide. Media commentary is consistent with polling data. In a State Department (INR) survey of editorials and op-eds in 72 countries, 82.5% of commentaries were negative, 17.5%  positive.

Negative attitudes and the conditions that create them are the underlying sources of threats to America's national security and reduced ability to leverage diplomatic  opportunities. Terrorism, thin coalitions, harmful effects on business, restrictions on travel, declines in cross border tourism and education flows, and damaging consequences for other elements of U.S. soft power are tactical manifestations of a pervasive atmosphere of hostility.

Although many observers correlate anti-Americanism with deficiencies in U.S. public diplomacy (its content, tone, and competence), the effectiveness of the means used to influence public opinion is only one metric. Policies, conflicts of interest, cultural  differences, memories, time, dependence on mediated information, and other factors shape perceptions and limit the effectiveness of strategic communication [...]

There is consensus in these reports that U.S. public diplomacy is in crisis. Missing are strong leadership, strategic direction, adequate coordination, sufficient resources, and a culture of measurement and evaluation. America's image problem, many suggest, is linked to perceptions of the United States as arrogant, hypocritical, and self-indulgent. There is agreement too that public diplomacy could be a powerful asset with stronger Presidential leadership, Congressional support, inter-agency coordination, partnership with the private sector, and resources (people, tools, structures, programs, funding). Solutions lie not in short term, manipulative public relations. Results will depend on fundamental transformation of strategic communication instruments and a sustained long term, approach at the level of ideas, cultures, and values.

The number and depth of these reports indicate widespread concern among influential observers that something must be done about public diplomacy. But so far these concerns have produced no real change. The White House has paid little attention.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Quick Reality-Based Points to Use when Forced to Speak with Bush Supporters, Repeat as Necessary

--The claim that any opposition to Bush’s policies is somehow anti-American is a viewpoint that is in itself anti-American. As citizens of a nation that elects its leaders, questioning the motives of our elected leaders is the definitive American act.

--To blindly follow the leadership of our nation, when that leadership consistently commits grave errors that jeopardize our security and freedom is not only unpatriotic but also extremely dangerous.

--Because of the United States’ two-party system, Republicans and Democrats have routinely worked together to pass bipartisan legislation. Therefore, the success and failures of American foreign policy falls of the shoulders of both parties, because neither party has been consistently more "correct" or moral. Opposition to this idea demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of the political processes of the United States.

--In relation to the Iraq war, no weapons of mass destruction have yet been found. This was the sole motive given as the reason for the US military presence in Iraq.

--It is not without logic to make the comparison between the Iraq war and America’s involvement in the Vietnam war. Both conflicts involve the use of traditional military force against a guerrilla-style insurgency of indigenous peoples.

Falluja Chemicals Story Meaningless

CNN's recent regurgitation of a story that weapons labs were found in Falluja is evidence that the US will try anything to justify their attack on this rebel stronghold. What happened in Falluja? Why is the US military now so intent on repeating a story about a table full of chemicals in a basement of someone's house? Are we supposed to believe that these chemicals are the WMDs that justified that invasion of a sovereign nation?

Is CNN, along with Fox News, merely a mouthpiece for the Bush Administration?

When Colin Powell went before the UN to drum up support for the Iraq war he held up small vials and explained that certain small quantities of toxic agents if distributed properly could be responsible for thousands of deaths in a major city. Are we to believe that a table full of chemicals (cyanide mainly) could be manipulated to inflict thousands of deaths? This is not only impossible scientifically but there also was no evidence of any of the safeguards that would have to exist for handlers to manipulate these toxins without themselves being contaminated. No HazMat hooded jumpsuits, etc.

Whoever worked in that basement with those chemicals was not a chemist or a professional and therefore this is not any sign of an Iraqi weapons program. This suggests that these terrorists probably obtained these chemicals on the black market....a black market that probably barely existed until after the fall of Hussein.

Hans Blix, former UN chief weapons inspector said that he will be "surprised" if a chemical laboratory found in Iraq was capable of creating weapons.

"Let's see what the chemicals are," Mr. Blix said, after an Iraqi minister claimed on Thursday that a chemical bomb factory was found in Fallujah.

"Many of these stories evaporate when they are looked at more closely," he said.

"If there were to be found something, we would all be surprised."

--Daily Kos, Dec 4

Friday, December 03, 2004

Is This the Death of Rule of Law?

There is a sense that the political atmosphere in America has become so partisan and charged, that the policies of the government have become so widely opposed and of questionable legitimacy, that the rule of law itself has broken down.  What appears to matter now is not whether an action or policy is legal or ethical, but that it is simply permissible by virtue of the fact that no force exists to effectively counter it.  What matters is simply raw power; the power to block investigation, oversight, scrutiny and above all accountability.

This breakdown extends not only to massive crimes like Abu Ghraib, the war in Iraq, the overthrow of the Haitian government and the theft of the Presidential election(s) in 2000 (and quite possibly in 2004), but also to pending legislation seemingly designed to facilitate and legitimize anticipated future governmental criminal activity.

In this sense, the United States' fanatical obsession with being exempted from provisions of the International Criminal Court serves as strong evidence that a culture of lawlessness has been institutionalized at the highest levels of the American government.

If in fact the United States government no longer respects the rule of law, yet ordinary American citizens remain bound by its restrictions (and in fact can be subject to strategic enforcement or disenfranchisement depending upon our level of resistance to official criminal conduct), how should we respond?

--Daily Kos, Dec 3

Bush, Please Check a Dictionary

LONDON -- U.S. President George W. Bush's favorite accusation in the election campaign is reported to have been that Sen. John Kerry was a "liberal." The president seems to have used the label as a term of abuse meaning a "leftwing" radical and a supporter of the appeasement of terrorists.

There is nothing in the dictionary to justify this interpretation of the word "liberal." According to the definition in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, "liberal" in the political sense means someone who is "favorable to democratic reform and individual liberty" and "(moderately) progressive."

Bush is in favor of democratic reform in the Middle East even if his government continues to give backing to autocratic regimes in, for instance, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. The president frequently affirms his belief in democracy.

It is less clear how far the president favors "individual liberty." Through the USA Patriot Act and the establishment of a prison camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, his government has placed limits on the freedom of individuals who may be deemed a threat to U.S. security.

The basic problem lies in determining who is a potential threat and ensuring not only that justice is done but is seen to be done. Those imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for three years have been denied their basic human rights including the right to a fair trial as set out in the U.S. Constitution. The treatment of prisoners there and at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad is a serious illiberal blot on the U.S.' international reputation.

The president's "compassionate conservatism" could be considered as moderately progressive, although Kerry argued that many of the policies of the Republican Party favored the rich at the expense of poorer Americans.

To understand the political meaning of "liberal," we need to understand a little about the history of the term in British politics. In Britain, the Liberal Party was the successor to the Whigs, whose history goes back to the "glorious revolution" of 1688, when King James II was forced to flee and the important role of Parliament was reaffirmed.

Whigs were the main proponents of parliamentary reform that was opposed by the Tories (later the Conservative Party). The Whigs also led the movement to ban the slave trade, which was supported by the Tories and King George III until 1807. The Whigs who called themselves Liberals initiated efforts in the 19th century to improve conditions of the poor, who had suffered greatly as result of the industrial revolution. They pushed for more progressive taxation and opposed privilege.

The Liberals were the main advocates in Britain of free trade. They regarded Adam Smith as a pioneer and promoted free markets. They opposed Marxism and socialism. They sought small government and opposed unnecessary regulation.

Liberals advocate tolerance both on religious and political issues, and uphold the right to freedom of expression. Liberals believe that individuals should have freedom to do what they want or think right, except where those freedoms impinge on the freedoms of others or are a threat to the well being of others and to society in general. Liberals do not think that other people have an unimpeded right to impose their own ethical code on others, and they consider that laws should be framed so that restrictions on individual liberty are kept to a minimum.

The problem lies in the interpretation of what is meant by "minimum." The liberal upholds the criminal law and believes strongly in the importance of human rights. He accepts that there have to be rules against behavior that can damage others. Thus murder, theft and other clearly antisocial behavior must be stopped and punished in accordance with established law.

Society must also be protected against selfish and destructive behavior by individuals and groups, such as vandalism, driving under the influence of alcohol or speeding and driving carelessly or selfishly. But the liberal believes that prisons must be humanely run and cruel and inhuman punishments banned. The liberal is accordingly opposed to capital punishment and deplores the treatment of offenders in some American penal institutions.

The liberal is also opposed to restrictions on behavior that does not harm others, such as homosexual acts conducted in private, and, while accepting the sanctity of life, is against intrusive laws such as ones aimed at making stem-cell research illegal.

The British Liberal Democratic Party is an amalgam of the old Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, which split away from the Labour Party. On most issues its policies follow liberal principles, but on social issues it sometimes veers too far toward socialist interference in the market economy. The British Labour Party and the Conservative Party contain elements that are authoritarian and illiberal.

The Japanese Liberal Democratic Party seems to many observers neither liberal in its principles nor democratic in its organization. So its name is misleading. It has favored the spread of regulatory systems and opposed deregulation. In penal issues its stance is generally illiberal.

On trade issues its policies have at least in the past favored protectionism and doubts remain about its commitment to free trade. The Democratic Party of Japan may be more liberal than the LDP, but it is hard to tell, if the party achieved power, whether it would support liberal policies in the area of penal reform or would push for free trade.

Before damning some opponent as a liberal and using the word liberal as a term of abuse, politicians would be wise to think before they speak and study not only the proper meaning of the term but also its history. Bush, if he reflected a little on history, would surely agree that many liberal policies as outlined above accord with his own views as he has expressed them to the American public.

In accusing Kerry of being a "liberal," he was either deliberately misusing the word (a not unknown phenomenon in what has been called "Bush-speak") or did not know what he was talking about.

--Hugh Cortazzi, Japan Times, Dec 2

Latino Vote: NBC Adjusts Its Numbers [Down]

In a stunning admission, an elections manager for NBC News said national news organizations overestimated President George W. Bush's support among Latino voters, downwardly revising its estimated support for President Bush to 40 percent from 44 percent among Hispanics, and increasing challenger John Kerry's support among Hispanics to 58 percent from 53 percent. The revision doubles Kerry's margin of victory among Hispanic voters from 9 to 18 percent. Ana Maria Arumi, the NBC elections manager also revised NBC's estimate for Hispanic support for Bush in Texas, revising a reported 18-point lead for Bush to a 2-point win for Kerry among Hispanics, a remarkable 20-point turnaround from figures reported on election night.

The NBC announcement came during a forum with the William C. Velasquez Institute's president, Antonio Gonzalez, and other Hispanic analysts at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Hispanic Link Newsletter and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

"Latino presidential partisan preferences did not changed significantly from four years ago," said WCVI's president, Antonio Gonzalez, in his presentation before the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. "While there are still differences in the numbers between what the Velasquez Institute found and the news organizations reported on Election Day, NBC is doing the right thing by revising its estimates to reflect a more accurate percentage of support the President received from the Hispanic community."

Since the Election Day numbers came out, a controversy has existed between WCVI and exit poll officials. Competing exit polls showed a significant gap in support among Latinos for President Bush and Senator Kerry. During his presentation, Gonzalez reviewed the Institute's exit polling data, which found that President Bush received 33 percent support among Hispanic voters, roughly the same percentage he received in the 2000 presidential contest against Al Gore (35% to 64%, respectively). Two network exit surveys reported 44 and 45 percent support for Bush.

"There is no doubt that some churning of numbers has occurred, meaning Republicans appear to have made significant gains in Texas and Arizona while Democrats appear to have made significant gains in Colorado and Florida," added Gonzalez. "But the net effect among these respective gains is a canceling out of one another. Latino voter partisanship has remained consistent with roughly a 30 point democratic advantage in 2000 and 2004's presidential elections."

"But I repeat, NBC has set an example for network poll integrity by taking a giant step away from the Edison International/Mitofsky election results, and toward WCVI's findings. For example, today NBC stated that 70% of its respondents came from non-urban areas and 30% from urban areas, while acknowledging that 50% of Latino voters come from urban areas. This admission could explain the difference in their results and WCVI's. They under-represented Latino urban voters (who are more likely to vote democratic) and over-represented Latino non-urban votes (who are more likely to vote republican). We hope the other networks follow suit with more adjustments in their findings," Gonzalez concluded.

According to its exit poll survey, the Institute found that Latino voters supported democratic presidential candidate John Kerry over President George W. Bush by a margin of 65.4% to 33%. In determining the results for the presidential race, the WCVI exit survey interviewed 943 respondents in 41 precincts across 11 states on Election Day. The exit surveys were conducted in the states of Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, California, Texas, Illinois, and Connecticut. These states represent over 80 percent of the national Latino vote.

--Yahoo News, Dec 3

Discovery Will Proceed

SECAUCUS - The complaint about the voting irregularities story has been that has been a little austere, a little impersonal. Part of its lack of appeal to the mainstream media has been its lack of “name players” — the aloofness of John Kerry, as an example. You wouldn’t think you’d have to sex up something as important as the integrity of the democratic process, but it turns out that in these early years of the 21st Century, you have to sex up everything — ask Monday Night Football.

But, not to worry, two players have taken to the stage, big-time. If Ohio actually gets the notice it deserves, the credit will go to Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell.

You will recall that in his syndicated Op-Ed column (appearing principally in The Chicago Sun-Times)  earlier this week, Jackson wrote the Ohio vote count was "marred by intolerable, often partisan, irregularities and discrepancies,” and added that "U.S. citizens have as much reason as those in Kiev to be concerned that the fix was in."
During the day Thursday, Secretary Blackwell's media secretary was firing back... calling the column blatantly inaccurate: "We expect someone writing an Op-Ed and a syndicate distributing that Op-Ed would fact-check information and have a responsibility to the facts."

Proving two can play at this game,  Blackwell has wrote his own Op-Ed piece in response, and it was made available to newspapers today. Jesse in turn, actually turned up on CNN this evening on Paula Zahn's news hour, talking about the same stuff he talked about on Countdown on Tuesday, and that we've been talking about here since the week after the election.  Somehow I'm thinking it was a good idea that Blackwell and Jackson appeared on consecutive nights on Countdown, and not the same one.

Blackwell, incidentally, got sued again, by the Greens and Libs again. The Badnarik and Cobb parties are already due back in court tomorrow to try to get a Federal Judge to vacate the temporary restraining order against the re-count inside Delaware County, Ohio. Today, they filed another federal action, naming Blackwell directly, accusing him of stalling the re-count and abusing his authority. The suit asks that the recount begin immediately... since the electoral college is scheduled to meet just eleven days from now — although its vote won’t be opened by congress until January 6.

Blackwell gets to wait until Monday to certify the state’s vote, even though all 88 counties in the Buckeye State have finished their own confirmations. Data is still sketchy, but it turns out election officials accepted about 77% of the provisional ballots — about 121,000 of them.  No statewide count of the provisionals yet, though results reported by one county — Franklin (that's Columbus), indicated that Senator Kerry had gotten nearly 7,700 of the more-than 12,000 provisional votes counted.

But of all the developments out of Ohio, the most provocative, clearly, is still stalled under the weight of its own paperwork. The Alliance for Democracy is not quite ready with its challenge to the vote yet. Lawyer Cliff Arnebeck, with who else but Reverend Jackson by his side today on the steps of the Ohio Supreme Court, said that the group hopes to file its election challenge tomorrow — if not, Monday — but it’s not guaranteeing anything.
If and when it gets around to it, the Alliance will be asking one high court justice to set the election results aside, pending a full investigation and hearing. Arnebeck said today  he believes that if all ballots were counted in what he calls a "traditional context,” the outcome would not just swing from President Bush’s 130,000 vote election night lead — it would swing all the way in the opposite direction, and give Kerry a 130,000 vote lead.

“Once we file the litigation.” Arnebeck added, “aggressive discovery will proceed, and we'll get to the truth.  I want to reemphasize once again as we did at the previous press conference that the purpose here is not partisan, the purpose here is not destructive toward anyone and we invite all candidates, we invite the Bush campaign and the Kerry campaign to join and cooperate in a non-partisan effort to find the truth, gather the facts, and assure the public, and assure both candidates, that this is an honest election."

Arnebeck sounded a little like a protestor in Kiev: "Our presidential election affects not just this country but all the citizens of the world.  And therefore it's absolutely essential that the person who assumes the mantle of that office has the full confidence of our public and the world community that it was an honest election.”



Wednesday, December 01, 2004

CNN: Military Credibility at Stake

On the evening of Oct. 14, a young Marine spokesman near Fallouja appeared on CNN and made a dramatic announcement.

"Troops crossed the line of departure," 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert declared, using a common military expression signaling the start of a major campaign. "It's going to be a long night." CNN, which had been alerted to expect a major news development, reported that the long-awaited offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Fallouja had begun.

In fact, the Fallouja offensive would not kick off for another three weeks. Gilbert's carefully worded announcement was an elaborate psychological operation — or "psy-op" — intended to dupe insurgents in Fallouja and allow U.S. commanders to see how guerrillas would react if they believed U.S. troops were entering the city, according to several Pentagon officials.

In the hours after the initial report, CNN's Pentagon reporters were able to determine that the Fallouja operation had not, in fact, begun.

"As the story developed, we quickly made it clear to our viewers exactly what was going on in and around Fallouja," CNN spokesman Matthew Furman said.

Officials at the Pentagon and other U.S. national security agencies said the CNN incident was not an isolated feint — the type used throughout history by armies to deceive their enemies — but part of a broad effort underway within the Bush administration to use information to its advantage in the war on terrorism.

The Pentagon in 2002 was forced to shutter its controversial Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which was opened shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, after reports that the office intended to plant false news stories in the international media. But officials say that much of OSI's mission — using information as a tool of war — has been assumed by other offices throughout the U.S. government.

Although most of the work remains classified, officials say that some of the ongoing efforts include having U.S. military spokesmen play a greater role in psychological operations in Iraq (news - web sites), as well as planting information with sources used by Arabic TV channels such as Al Jazeera to help influence the portrayal of the United States.

Other specific examples were not known, although U.S. national security officials said an emphasis had been placed on influencing how foreign media depict the United States.

These efforts have set off a fight inside the Pentagon over the proper use of information in wartime. Several top officials see a danger of blurring what are supposed to be well-defined lines between the stated mission of military public affairs — disseminating truthful, accurate information to the media and the American public — and psychological and information operations, the use of often-misleading information and propaganda to influence the outcome of a campaign or battle.

Several of those officials who oppose the use of misleading information spoke out against the practice on the condition of anonymity.

"The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the psychological operations world," one senior defense official said. "What's at stake is the credibility of people in uniform."

--Dec 1