Why now 6 years after the attacks?
Teams of police officers armed with submachine guns and bomb-sniffing dogs will soon be patrolling the busiest parts of New York City subways as part of a major increase in regional security funding.
The subway initiative is one use of the $151.2 million in new grant money from the Department of Homeland Security to transit systems in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Last year, they received $98 million.
Explaining the increase, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said law enforcement officials in the three states “have to deal with vulnerabilities and threats in this region that are really second to none.”
New York’s subways have long been considered a potential terror target; police already randomly check riders’ bags, and the tunnels and ventilation systems are searched for explosives. Hidden cameras register any suspicious action.
WASHINGTON – The State Department’s acerbic top auditor wasn’t happy when Justice Department officials told one of his aides to leave the room so they could discuss a criminal investigation of Blackwater Worldwide, the contractor protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq.The episode reveals the badly strained relationship between Bush administration officials over the probe into whether Blackwater smuggled weapons into Iraq that could have gotten into insurgents’ hands.
As a result of the bureaucratic crosscurrents between State’s top auditor and Justice, the investigation has been bogged down for months.
A key date was July 11, when Howard Krongard, State’s inspector general, sent an e-mail to one of his assistant inspector generals, telling him to “IMMEDIATELY” stop work on the Blackwater investigation. That lead to criticisms by Democrats that Krongard has tried to protect Blackwater and block investigations into contractor-related wrongdoing in Iraq.
A Blackwater employee shows off a silencer-equipped rifle in Iraq in a photo obtained by NBC News. The picture has been digitally altered to protect the identity of the subject.
WASHINGTON – Federal agents are investigating allegations that the Blackwater USA security firm illegally exported dozens of firearms sound suppressors — commonly known as silencers — to Iraq and other countries for use by company operatives, sources close to the investigation tell NBC News.
Investigators from various federal agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the State Department and the Commerce Department, are digging into the allegations that the company exported the silencers without getting necessary export approval, according to law enforcement sources, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity. The sources said the investigation is part of a broader examination of potential firearms and export violations.
In the beginning, 9/11 was a local story — it was the intimate grief and shock and incomprehension that so profoundly shook us those first days and weeks. Over time it morphed into something political, and we came to see the tragedy through the wide-angle lenses of foreign policy and law and the other spasms of governance it inspired.
But even as the specific event blurred into unspecific politics and symbolism over the years, it continued to affect individuals in concrete ways — ways that Fremont resident Hamid Sayadi claims he paid a price for.
The US is finally facing up to its failures to supervise the private armies operating on its behalf in Iraq. But the problem may be worse than it admits. Kim Sengupta reports on a booming industry
Published: 26 October 2007
The killings by Blackwater’s private security guards on Baghdad’s Bloody Sunday were brutal and unprovoked. Terrified men, women and children were mowed down as they tried to flee from the ferocious gunfire, cars were set on fire incinerating those inside.
I was in Nisour Square, in Mansour district, on the afternoon of 17 September when the massacre took place, and saw the outpouring of anger that followed from Iraqis vociferously demanding that Western, private armies acting violently, but immune from scrutiny or prosecution, should face justice.
But there was always the underlying feeling that this was, after all, Iraq, where violent deaths are hardly unusual. The scapegoat for America’s dependence on private armies appears to be a mid-ranking official who yesterday resigned as the State Department overseer of security contractors.
Richard Griffin made no mention of the Mansour killings or their aftermath in his resignation letter but it came just one day after a study commissioned by Condoleezza Rice found serious lapses in the department’s oversight of private guards. At the same time Congress is moving to put under military control all armed contractors operating in combat zones, an effort the State Department is strongly resisting.
WASHINGTON — The government’s terrorist watch list has swelled to more than 755,000 names, according to a new government report that has raised worries about the list’s effectiveness.
The size of the list, typically used to check people entering the country through land border crossings, airports and sea ports, has been growing by 200,000 names a year since 2004. Some lawmakers, security experts and civil rights advocates warn that it will become useless if it includes too many people.
“It undermines the authority of the list,” says Lisa Graves of the Center for National Security Studies. “There’s just no rational, reasonable estimate that there’s anywhere close to that many suspected terrorists.”
The exact number of people on the list, compiled after 9/11 to help government agents keep terrorists out of the country, is unclear, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Some people may be on the list more than once because they are listed under multiple spellings.
Bill Maher has been the white shining knight for the anti-war movement for years now, when he was canned from network TV, and eventually found a place on HBO. He’s weekly insulted viciously those on the right who disagreed with him. I personally actually was a fan of Bill’s standup long before, back when he was the fashion photographer on an episode of Roseanne.
About a year ago, a right wing pundit was on Real Time, and made a statement that actually resonated with me. I remember it so well, because I rarely agree with right wing pundits. He made the point that when Bill Maher caustically insults those who have a spiritual faith, and makes fun of all people living in the heartland of America . . . he drives people away from opening their minds to the issues he purports to care about.
The Defense secretary says guards who protect clients at any cost are working ‘at cross-purposes’ with soldiers trying to gain Iraqis’ trust.
WASHINGTON — The behavior of private security contractors in Iraq is in direct conflict with the goals of the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday in an unusually frank critique, adding that the guards’ mistreatment of Iraqis is hindering Pentagon efforts at winning hearts and minds.
Gates said at a Pentagon news conference that he planned to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in coming days to iron out new regulations governing the conduct of the estimated 8,500 armed guards working for the Pentagon and State Department in Iraq.
Last month, the Defense secretary sent a five-man team to Iraq to investigate contractor oversight after the high-profile killing of 17 Iraqis in a Baghdad shooting involving Blackwater USA, the private security contractor hired to protect U.S. diplomats.
Although Blackwater works for the State Department, the Pentagon employs the vast majority of such hired guns in Iraq — about 7,300 — and Gates within days ordered commanders in the country to be more aggressive in using military law to discipline contractors in their areas of responsibility.
I quess the Dalai Lama did not get through to Bush
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 — President Bush warned today that Iran would be raising the risk of a “World War III” if it came to possess nuclear weapons.
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
“We have little to show for all the time that has gone by,” President Bush said of the current Congress.
And he said he believed that Russia still wanted to stop Iran from developing such weapons.
Those comments, made during a far-ranging 45-minute news conference, came as reporters sought the president’s reaction to a warning on Tuesday by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia against any military strikes on Iran to halt the nuclear work that it has continued in defiance of much of the world. Iran contends that its nuclear program is purely peaceful.
“If Iran had a nuclear weapon, it’d be a dangerous threat to world peace,” Mr. Bush said. “So I told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has been warned of a plot to assassinate him during a visit to Iran this week, Kremlin officials have said. The Interfax news agency cited sources in the Russian special services saying a gang of suicide bombers would attempt to kill Mr Putin in Tehran.
Mr Putin will fly to Tehran on Monday after meetings in Germany.
By Rod Nordland and Mark Hosenball
Oct. 15, 2007 issue – The colonel was furious. “Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers.” He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV. His account was confirmed by the head of another private security company.
Last September, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne indicated the military would use “nonlethal weapons” against “fellow citizens” before they use them in “a wartime situation.” In other words, the American people are considered little more than guinea pigs, especially dissenting Americans in need of “crowd control.”
Before zapping antiwar demonstrators with an ADS beam—that’s short for “Active Denial System”—the military or police may request they remove glasses, contact lenses, and take coins and keys out of their pockets. “Precautions used to test U.S. military’s microwave weapon ADS for crowd control have raised questions about its safety, says a report,” explains United Press International. “These precautions raise concerns about the ADS in real crowd-control situations, the New Scientist reported… The ADS fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam, which is supposed to heat skin and to cause pain but no physical damage, the report said. Until now little information about its effects had been released.”
Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month.
“I heard someone say, ‘Oh my god, look at those,’ ” the college senior from New York recalled. “I look up and I’m like, ‘What the hell is that?’ They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects.”
Robotic fliers have been used by the military since World War II, but in the past decade their numbers and level of sophistication have increased enormously.
Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too.
“I’d never seen anything like it in my life,” the Washington lawyer said. “They were large for dragonflies. I thought, ‘Is that mechanical, or is that alive?’ “
That is just one of the questions hovering over a handful of similar sightings at political events in Washington and New York. Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security.
When the Iraqi government last month demanded the expulsion of Blackwater USA, the private security firm, I had one reaction: It’s about time.
As a U.S. official in Baghdad for nearly two years, I was frequently the “beneficiary” of Blackwater’s over-the-top zeal. “Just pretend it’s a roller coaster,” I used to tell myself during trips through downtown Baghdad.
We would careen around corners, jump road dividers, reach speeds in excess of 100 mph and often cross over to the wrong side of the street, oncoming traffic be damned.
But much more appalling than the ride was the deleterious effect each movement through town had on the already beleaguered people of Iraq. I began to wonder whether my meetings, intended to further U.S. policy goals and improve the lives of Iraqis, were doing more harm than good. With our drivers honking at, cutting off, pelting with water bottles (a favorite tactic) and menacing with weapons anyone in their way, how many enemies were we creating?
Seven House Republicans have urged Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) to postpone a hearing about Blackwater USA until the State Department and a separate commission report on the most recent incident involving the North Carolina-based security firm in which Iraqi civilians were killed.
The Republicans sent Waxman a letter Friday, urging him to reschedule a Tuesday hearing into Blackwater’s role protecting U.S. government officials in Iraq.
Sunday September 30, 2007
John Bolton: ‘I think we have to look at a limited strike against their nuclear facilities.’ Photograph Win McNamee/Getty Images.
John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, told Tory delegates today that efforts by the UK and the EU to negotiate with Iran had failed and that he saw no alternative to a pre-emptive strike on suspected nuclear facilities in the country.Mr Bolton, who was addressing a fringe meeting organised by Lord (Michael) Ancram, said that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was “pushing out” and “is not receiving adequate push-back” from the west.
Just an interesting bit of information.
Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad was born in 1956 in the village of Aradan in the city of Garmsar. He moved and stayed in Tehran together with his family while he was still one-year old and completed his primary as well as his low and high secondary education there. In 1975, he successfully passed the university entrance exam with high marks and started his academic studies on the subject of civil engineering in the Science and Technology University in Tehranp>
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US House of Representatives aimed a sharp jab at Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday, slapping new energy sanctions on Tehran, and branding its Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group.A measure targeting the elite military corps and the lucrative Iranian energy sector sailed through the House by 397 votes to 16, hours before Ahmadinejad’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
The legislation is aimed at depriving Iran of proceeds from energy sales which could be diverted into funding its nuclear program, which the West says is intended to produce atomic weapons, a charge Tehran denies.
KUWAIT, Sept 25 (Reuters) – Kuwait said on Tuesday it would not allow its territory to be used for any attack on Iran.”Iran is a friendly, neighbouring country and it is not possible that we would agree to see it in a difficult position,” Sheikh Jaber al-Hamad al-Sabah, Kuwait’s defence and interior minister, said at a Ramadan meal.
Natorei Karta spokesman Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss on Tuesday called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “an advocate of peace,” prior to the group’s meeting with the controversial leader in New York.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, shakes hands with anti-Zionism Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, at the start of his meeting with participants of a conference on the Holocaust.
Photo: AP [file]
Weiss said in a statement that “this will be the third time we’re meeting with [Ahmadinejad]. … Every time, we stressed to the Iranian leadership that despite … the declarations by Jews who don’t understand the essence of the matter, we have found the Iranian people and their leaders friendly and respectful.”
He added that Natorei Karta members believed Ahmadinejad was a very religious man who was dedicated to world peace based on mutual respect and dialogue.