Archive for April 2009
Mission to Get Beauty Shots of Presidential Jet at Statue of Liberty Panics 9/11-Wary New York
As secret missions go, this one was a flop.
On Monday morning, one of the 747s used to ferry around the U.S. president was dispatched to the Statue of Liberty, escorted by a fighter jet. Assignment: Get some fresh glamour shots of the plane.
The Air Force said the flight needed to remain confidential. So while New York police knew about it, as did at least one person in the mayor’s office, regular New Yorkers remained in the dark.
As a result, to onlookers Monday all across downtown Manhattan — where the World Trade Center once stood — the photo shoot looked like a terrorist attack. People watched in horror as a massive aircraft, trailed closely by an F-16 fighter jet, banked and roared low near the city, in a frightening echo of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Fearing the worst, thousands of people streamed out of the skyscrapers and into the streets. Some buildings ordered evacuations. “Oh God, it was mayhem in here, just mayhem,” says Rubin Shimon, manager of Styling Haircutters, a barbershop near Ground Zero. Many people took shelter in the shop to call loved ones on their cellphones.
It was all over in a half-hour or so. Then the finger-pointing began. “I’m annoyed — furious is a better word — that I wasn’t told,” said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a news conference. He’d been scheduled to talk about a swine-flu outbreak at a Queens school, but also sounded off at the federal government for its “badly conceived” flyover plan.
He chastised his own office for its role in keeping the flyover secret. On Thursday night, city officials say, a junior mayoral aide had been alerted to the flyover by the Federal Aviation Administration, which requested that it be kept secret. Someone in City Hall alerted the New York Police Department, but no public announcement was made.
Marc Mugnos was reprimanded for not apprising the mayor, and a disciplinary letter was placed in his file, a spokesman said. Mr. Mugnos couldn’t be reached for comment.
The email sent to City Hall describes a “flying photo op” — government-speak for a publicity photo — to include two or possibly three passes over the area. The email, sent by an FAA official and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, lists flight patterns and specifies a photo-op altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 feet.
The email specifies that the information “only be shared with persons with a need to know” and “shall not be released to the public.” It also says that, “Due to the possibility of public concern regarding [Department of Defense] aircraft flying at low levels, coordination with Federal, State and Local law enforcement agencies…has been accomplished.”
The email’s author, James J. Johnston, of FAA air traffic, declined to comment.
An Obama administration official said the mission was “classified” by the military and that the FAA, which controls much of the airspace over Manhattan, did what the military asked. “The mission was to send [the aircraft] up to get a picture of it flying around the Statue of Liberty,” this person said. “They said they needed to update their photo files.” President Obama wasn’t aboard.
The New York photo shoot wasn’t the only one planned. The White House had scheduled a follow-up session on May 5 or May 6 in Washington, D.C., according to two government officials. The D.C. flyover has now been canceled, a government official said.
Louis Caldera, a former Secretary of the Army who runs the White House Military Office, took the blame. “While federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey, it’s clear that the mission created confusion and disruption,” he said. “I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.”
Mr. Caldera met Monday afternoon with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina “to hear the president’s displeasure,” an official said.
It was a beautiful spring day in the Big Apple — perfect for picture taking. The aircraft, painted in White House livery, was trailed by one F-16 fighter jet. The aircraft had flown from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, across New Jersey, down the Hudson River and then circled the Statue of Liberty before heading off.
For many who witnessed the maneuver, it stirred dark memories. Andrew Wybolt, who works for Barclays PLC in a skyscraper that borders the Hudson, said people rushed for the windows when they heard the planes. “They just started sprinting and freaking out,” he said.
Thousands of workers from Merrill Lynch, American Express and other companies in the buildings that ring the former World Trade Center site hustled for the exits. Many stood outside their offices, nervously looking up into the sky, while hundreds of others walked north, along the West Side Highway, as thousands of people had done the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
“To do something like this to all these people who have already been through 9-11 is just wrong,” said Greg Forman, a broker at the New York Mercantile Exchange, which is located in a building along the Hudson river, across the street from the World Trade Center site.
One block north, construction workers on the 43-story Goldman Sachs Group Inc. tower said they had a close-up view of the low-flying plane. “I saw that thing coming and ran down the stairs,” said Eddie Navedo, who was clearing construction debris on the 23rd floor of the new building when he spotted the plane flying low over the river, then banking sharply to the west. “Everybody was saying, it’s a terrorist attack.”
Not everyone lost his cool. Mr. Shimon, the manager of the barbershop where people fled on Monday, was present for the attacks in 2001, and in fact at that time worked in a shop even closer to the World Trade Center than his current one. He watched the towers fall that day.
So did the events of Monday scare him? “To tell you the truth, not really,” Mr. Shimon said. “I didn’t think it was such a big deal. I’m a New Yorker.”
—Jonathan Weisman, Alex Frangos and Michael Corkery contributed to this article.God Bless, The Truth Tracker Jason R. Bootie
As national security adviser in the Bush White House, Condoleezza Rice verbally OK’d the CIA’s request to subject top Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah to waterboarding in July 2002.
WASHINGTON — As national security adviser to former President George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice verbally approved the CIA’s request to subject high-ranking Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah to waterboarding in July 2002, the earliest known decision by a Bush administration official to OK use of the simulated drowning technique.
Rice’s role was detailed in a narrative released Wednesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It provides the most detailed timeline yet for how the CIA’s harsh interrogation program was conceived and approved at the highest levels in the Bush White House.
The new timeline shows that Rice played a greater role than she admitted last fall in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The narrative also shows that dissenting legal views about the severe interrogation methods were brushed aside repeatedly.
The Intelligence Committee’s timeline comes a day after the Senate Armed Services Committee released an exhaustive report detailing direct links between the CIA’s harsh interrogation program and abuses of prisoners at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Afghanistan and at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
Both revelations follow President Barack Obama’s release of internal Bush administration legal memos that justified the use of severe methods by the CIA, a move that kicked up a firestorm from opposing sides of the ideological spectrum.
According to the new narrative, which compiles legal advice provided by the Bush administration to the CIA, Rice personally conveyed the administration’s approval for waterboarding of Zubaydah, a so-called high-value detainee, to then-CIA Director George Tenet in July 2002.
Last fall, Rice acknowledged to the Senate Armed Services Committee only that she had attended meetings where the CIA interrogation request was discussed and asked for the attorney general to conduct a legal review. She said she did not recall details. Rice omitted her direct role in approving the program in her written statement to the committee.
A spokesman for Rice declined comment when reached Wednesday.
Days after Rice gave Tenet the nod, the Justice Department approved the use of waterboarding in a top secret Aug. 1 memo. Zubaydah underwent waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002.
In the years that followed, according to the narrative issued Wednesday, there were numerous internal legal reviews of the program, suggesting government attorneys raised concerns that the harsh methods, particularly waterboarding, might violate federal laws against torture and the U.S. Constitution.
But Bush administration lawyers continued to validate the program. The CIA voluntarily dropped the use of waterboarding, which has a long history as a torture tactic, from its arsenal of techniques after 2005.
According to the two Senate reports, CIA lawyers first presented the plan to waterboard Zubaydah to White House lawyers in April 2002, a few weeks after he was taken into custody in 2002 in a Pakistani safe house.
Tenet wrote in his memoir that CIA officers themselves originated the idea.
In May 2002, Rice, along with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales met at the White House with the CIA to discuss the use of waterboarding.
The Armed Services Committee report says that six months earlier, in December 2001, the Pentagon’s legal office already had made inquiries about the use of mock interrogation and detention tactics to a U.S. military training unit that schools armed forces personnel in how to endure harsh treatment. A former intelligence official said Wednesday the CIA officers also based their proposed harsh interrogations on the mock interrogation methods used by the unit.
He declined to be identified because the CIA had not authorized the disclosure of the information.
In July 2002, responding to a follow-up from the Pentagon general counsel’s office, officials at the training unit, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, detailed their methods for the Pentagon. The list included waterboarding.
But the training unit warned that harsh physical techniques could backfire by making prisoners more resistant. They also cautioned about the reliability of information gleaned from the severe methods and warned that the public and political backlash could be “intolerable.”
“A subject in extreme pain may provide an answer, any answer or many answers in order to get the pain to stop,” the training officials said in their memo.
Less than a week later, the Justice Department issued two legal opinions that sanctioned the CIA’s harsh interrogation program. The memos appeared to draw deeply on the survival school data provided to the Pentagon to show that the CIA’s methods would not cross the line into torture.
The opinion concluded that the harsh interrogation methods would be acceptable for use on terror detainees because the same techniques did not cause severe physical or mental pain to U.S. military students who were tested in the government’s carefully controlled training program.
Several people from the survival program objected to the use of their mock interrogations in battlefield settings. In an October 2002 e-mail, a senior Army psychologist told personnel at Guantanamo Bay that the methods were inherently dangerous and students were sometimes injured, even in a controlled setting.
“The risk with real detainees is increased exponentially,” he said.
Nevertheless, for the next two years, the CIA and military officials received interrogation training and direct interrogation support from JPRA trainers.
Last week, the Obama administration’s top intelligence official, Dennis Blair, privately told intelligence employees that “high value information” was obtained through the harsh interrogation techniques. However, on Tuesday, in a written statement, Blair said, “The information gained from these techniques was valuable in some instances, but there is no way of knowing whether the same information could have been obtained through other means.”God Bless, The Truth Tracker Jason R. Bootie
Great leaders aren’t defined by consensus.
By KARL ROVE
President Barack Obama has finished the second leg of his international confession tour. In less than 100 days, he has apologized on three continents for what he views as the sins of America and his predecessors.
Mr. Obama told the French (the French!) that America “has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive” toward Europe. In Prague, he said America has “a moral responsibility to act” on arms control because only the U.S. had “used a nuclear weapon.” In London, he said that decisions about the world financial system were no longer made by “just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room with a brandy” — as if that were a bad thing. And in Latin America, he said the U.S. had not “pursued and sustained engagement with our neighbors” because we “failed to see that our own progress is tied directly to progress throughout the Americas.”
By confessing our nation’s sins, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Mr. Obama has “changed the image of America around the world” and made the U.S. “safer and stronger.” As evidence, Mr. Gibbs pointed to the absence of protesters during the Summit of the Americas this past weekend.
That’s now the test of success? Anti-American protesters are a remarkably unreliable indicator of a president’s wisdom. Ronald Reagan drew hundreds of thousands of protesters by deploying Pershing and cruise missiles in Europe. Those missiles helped win the Cold War.
There is something ungracious in Mr. Obama criticizing his predecessors, including most recently John F. Kennedy. (“I’m grateful that President [Daniel] Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old,” Mr. Obama said after the Nicaraguan delivered a 52-minute anti-American tirade that touched on the Bay of Pigs.) Mr. Obama acts as if no past president — except maybe Abraham Lincoln — possesses his wisdom.
Mr. Obama was asked in Europe if he believes in American exceptionalism. He said he did — in the same way that “the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism.” That’s another way of saying, “No.”
Mr. Obama makes it seem as though there is moral equivalence between America and its adversaries and assumes that if he confesses America’s sins, other nations will confess theirs and change. But he won no confessions (let alone change) from the leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua or Russia. He apologized for America and our adversaries rejoiced. Fidel Castro isn’t easing up on Cuban repression, but he is preparing to take advantage of Mr. Obama’s policy shifts.
When a president desires personal popularity, he can lose focus on vital American interests. It’s early, but with little to show for the confessions, David Axelrod of Team Obama was compelled to say this week that the president planted, cultivated and will harvest “very, very valuable” returns later. Like what?
Meanwhile, the desire for popularity has led Mr. Obama to embrace bad policies. Blaming America for the world financial crisis led him to give into European demands for crackdowns on tax havens and hedge funds. Neither had much to do with the credit crisis. Saying that America’s relationship with Russia “has been allowed to drift” led the president to push for arms negotiations. But that draws attention away from America’s real problems with Russia: its invasion of Georgia last summer, its bullying of Ukraine, its refusal to join in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions, and its threats of retaliation against the Poles, Balts and Czechs for standing with the U.S. on missile defense.
Mr. Obama is downplaying the threats we face. He takes comfort in thinking that Venezuela has a defense budget that “is probably 1/600th” of America’s — it’s actually 1/215th — but that hasn’t kept Mr. Chávez from supporting narcoterrorists waging war on Colombia (a key U.S. ally) or giving petrodollars to anti-American regimes. Venezuela isn’t likely to attack the U.S., but it is capable of harming American interests.
Henry Kissinger wrote in his memoir “Years of Renewal”: “The great statesmen of the past saw themselves as heroes who took on the burden of their societies’ painful journey from the familiar to the as yet unknown. The modern politician is less interested in being a hero than a superstar. Heroes walk alone; stars derive their status from approbation. Heroes are defined by inner values; stars by consensus. When a candidate’s views are forged in focus groups and ratified by television anchorpersons, insecurity and superficiality become congenital.”
A superstar, not a statesman, today leads our country. That may win short-term applause from foreign audiences, but do little for what should be the chief foreign policy preoccupation of any U.S. president: advancing America’s long-term interests.
Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.God Bless, The Truth Tracker Jason R. Bootie
FBI’s Most Wanted Lists 1st Domestic Terror Suspect
The FBI on Tuesday will for the first time add the name of a domestic-terrorism suspect to its list of Most Wanted Terrorists, a post-Sept. 11 creation that until now has included only suspected Islamist terrorists, a law enforcement official told The Washington Times.
Daniel Andreas San Diego, a 31-year-old animal rights activist, is wanted in connection with the 2003 bombings of two companies in the San Francisco Bay Area linked to an animal-testing laboratory.
San Diego will take his place on a list that has included notorious international terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri and Adam Gadahn, the American-born al Qaeda spokesman, said the law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the official announcement.
The announcement is being made nearly a week after The Times reported on a Homeland Security Department assessment warning that war veterans could be susceptible to recruitment into “right-wing extremism.” The report unleashed a firestorm of controversy and led to an apology to veterans from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Authorities say San Diego planted bombs at the corporate offices of two biotechnology companies, Chiron Life Sciences Center in Emeryville, Calif., and Shaklee Corp. in Pleasanton, Calif.The Truth Tracker Jason R. Bootie
Via(The Boston Globe)
Public schools to send home weight reports
State board targets childhood obesity
Starting in the fall, public schools across Massachusetts will send reports home to parents alerting them if their child weighs too much or too little – the centerpiece of a campaign to shrink bulging waistlines and halt obesity-related diseases once rare in children.
The childhood screenings, modeled after initiatives in Arkansas and New York City, won unanimous approval yesterday from the state’s Public Health Council, an appointed board of doctors, academics, and service providers.
Students in the first, fourth, seventh, and 10th grades will be measured and weighed so school health officials can calculate their body mass index score, a standard measurement used to gauge the appropriateness of someone’s weight.
The initiative will be phased in during the next two school years, with more than 286,000 students expected to undergo evaluation before the end of the 2010-2011 academic year. The letters issued to parents won’t just be a scorecard, state authorities promised; they will provide suggestions on where to turn for help.
Nearly one-third of adolescents weigh too much, and the toll of that crisis is evident in school nursing offices, where nurses encounter children with high blood pressure and a form of diabetes that in previous generations struck adults almost exclusively.
“We don’t want 12-year-olds having heart attacks, and that’s exactly where we’re headed as a society if we don’t deal with the health and wellness of children and, especially, obesity,” said Kathy Hassey, president of the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization.
Still, in the hours after health regulators embraced the screenings, the message board of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees lighted up with concerns.
Will this further fray school budgets already sorely stretched, some writers wondered. Is this another example of schools assuming responsibilities that are truly the province of parents, another asked.
“Our list-serve has been going off the hook here about this,” said Glenn Koocher, executive director of the school committee group, who counted 22 messages in two hours. “Everyone is concerned about obese children, obviously. But the general concern on the list-serve is around cost, around another unfunded mandate.”
Earlier, when the state Department of Public Health sought comments about the childhood weight screening, the responses from medical associations and physicians were almost entirely supportive. But a representative of an eating-disorders group expressed grave doubts.
Rebecca Manley, founder of the Multiservice Eating Disorders Association in Newton, questioned the reliability of body mass index screenings, known commonly as BMI. And she also challenged the wisdom of sending those reports to parents.
“Mandatory BMI reporting laws force parents to walk the fine line between encouraging healthy eating and promoting unhealthy weight loss strategies,” Manley wrote in a letter to the agency.
State health authorities said yesterday that they are familiar with those concerns – and with the worries of school committees – and have attempted to address them.
Parents, for example, will not be forced to have their children evaluated. Still, if the experience in Arkansas holds true, virtually all Massachusetts students will wind up being screened, and when they are, it will be conducted in private, with no mention of the resulting BMI reading made at that time.
“Nobody wanted to create an environment in which we are going to induce more unhealthy behaviors rather than healthful behaviors,” said Dr. Jewel Mullen, director of the Bureau of Community Health Access and Promotion at the state health agency.
The state’s public health commissioner, John Auerbach, said he believes the financial cost to school districts will be nominal, in part because many were already weighing and measuring students annually.
“Right now, in many situations, the data from height and weight measurements sit in a file, and even if it’s concerning, the parent may not find out,” Auerbach said.
“This helps us make sure the most important person in that child’s life finds out.”God Bless, The Truth Tracker Jason R. Bootie
Well even on a rainy day I went to a Tax Day Tea Party in Harrisburg, PA. There were an estimated 2,000 plus folks who attended. The Tea Party was put together by The CommonWealth Foundation. Below are a few pictures I took.
Well even being cold and rainy. I had a good time and met some realnice folks who were there for the same reason as I. Tired of the taxation from BOTH parties and tired of the GROWING GOVERNMENT!!
Let’s keep it up folks. “We the People”, can make a difference, but we must believe in ourselves and put our Gov. to the test.God Bless, The Truth Tracker Jason R. Bootie