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National Security Agency (NSA)
Eavesdropping, HIV Vaccine, Big Brother

Cover-up News Summary
January 4, 2006

Dear friends,

Below are one-paragraph excerpts of important news stories you may have missed. These excerpts are taken verbatim from the major media website at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. I've noticed a curious trend in recent years to publish highly revealing stories around the Christmas holiday, when many spend much less time reading the news. Yet by choosing to educate ourselves now and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.

With best wishes,
Fred Burks for
Former language interpreter for Presidents Bush and Clinton

Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence
January 1, 2006, New York Times

The New York Times's explanation of its decision to report, after what it said was a one-year delay, that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping domestically without court-approved warrants was woefully inadequate. And I have had unusual difficulty getting a better explanation for readers, despite the paper's repeated pledges of greater transparency. For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making. My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States. I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor [of the New York Times], on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future. The top Times people involved in the final decisions [are] refusing to talk and urging everyone else to remain silent.

Dozens indicted in alleged Katrina scam
December 29, 2005, CNN

Forty-nine people have been indicted in a scam to pocket Red Cross hurricane relief funds and more indictments are expected. Authorities said 22 people working for a Red Cross contractor at a call center in Bakersfield, California, filed false claims, and by involving family members and friends, brought the number of people under indictment to 49. Officials said they planned to widen the investigation. "Our investigation is going to be expanded to include other parts of California and other states, and there are thousands of claims made in other states," FBI Special Agent Javier Colon said. The Red Cross had safeguards in place after Katrina, but "they were not fully adequate," spokesman Steve Cooper said.

'What's in that bill?' The risk of deadline votes
December 28, 2005, Christian Science Monitor

The first session of the 109th Congress is over, but lawmakers and interest groups are still sorting out what surprises may have been buried in its final bills. A clause added here or lifted there can shift the fortunes of whole industries and regions. The year ended in a crush of tough negotiations, late-night votes, and hastily printed bills so vast that few lawmakers had time to read them. Early in the morning on Dec. 19, lawmakers got their first glimpse of the 774-page final version of a nearly $40 billion spending cut bill. The time? 1:12 a.m. House members had to vote on the measure just four and a half hours later. While the rules say that a conference agreement can't include elements that haven't been voted in either the House or Senate...they are often violated. Senate negotiators were stunned to learn that GOP House leaders had added a whole campaign-finance bill to the final conference report on the Defense authorization bill they had already signed. The new language...was added to the bill after the conference had closed. Another provision, granting immunity from liability to manufacturers of flu vaccine, was added at the last minute to the FY 2006 Defense Appropriations bill.

Note: Few people are aware that in clear violation of Congressional rules, the Patriot Act was passed only hours after significant changes were made to what had been previously agreed upon. No members of Congress had the opportunity to read all of these changes, which eroded significantly more civil rights and liberties than had been previously agreed. For more on this, click here.

Bush Presses Editors on Security
December 26, 2005, Washington Post

President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security. The efforts have failed, but the rare White House sessions with the executive editors of The Washington Post and New York Times are an indication of how seriously the president takes the recent reporting that has raised questions about the administration's anti-terror tactics. Leonard Downie Jr., The Post's executive editor, would not confirm the meeting with Bush before publishing reporter Dana Priest's Nov. 2 article disclosing the existence of secret CIA prisons. Bill Keller, executive editor of the Times, would not confirm that he, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Washington bureau chief Philip Taubman had an Oval Office sit-down with the president on Dec. 5, 11 days before reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed that Bush had authorized eavesdropping on Americans and others within the United States without court orders. But the meetings were confirmed by sources who have been briefed on them but are not authorized to comment because both sides had agreed to keep the sessions off the record. After Bush's meeting with the Times executives...the president assailed the paper's piece on domestic spying, calling the leak of classified information "shameful." "The decision to hold the story last year was mine," [New York Times Executive Editor] Keller says. "The decision to run the story last week was mine. I'm comfortable with both decisions."

Note: This excellent article shows why the alternative media is becoming increasingly important for those who want to know what is happening behind the scenes. It goes on to describe numerous cases where reporters were paid significant sums to write favorable articles for clients and then takes on the topic of child prostitution rings. It easily could have been three separate, information-packed articles.

California Demands Repairs to Software for Voting Machines
December 26, 2005, New York Times/Associated Press

California election officials have told one of the country's largest makers of voting machines to repair its software after problems with vote counts and verification surfaced in the state's special election in November. Bradley J. Clark, the assistant secretary of state for elections, threatened to start the process of decertifying machines. "The California secretary of state is deeply concerned about problems experienced by counties utilizing ES&S voting equipment and software," Mr. Clark wrote in a letter addressed to the company president, Aldo Tesi, nine days after the Nov. 8 election. Software problems included incorrect counting of turnout figures, a malfunction that prevented voters from verifying that their choices were registered accurately and one machine recording the wrong vote in a test. Eleven California counties used the company's voting machines. Election Systems and Software equipment also is used in 45 other states. The problems in California are similar to ones the company has experienced elsewhere. In a 2004 primary election in Hawaii, glitches with the company's optical scanners led to a miscount of about 6,000 votes. It is the second time this week that questions have arisen about electronic voting systems in California. The secretary of state's office also warned 17 counties that machines made by Diebold Election Systems must pass more rigorous security tests to be available for use in 2006.

Note: For lots more on the vital issue of fair elections, see our Elections information center. For information suggesting the previous California Secretary of State was forced out for challenging this issue, click here.

AIDS chief doubts drug firms on HIV vaccine
December 26, 2005, MSNBC/Associated Press

In an unusually candid admission, the federal chief of AIDS research says he believes drug companies don't have an incentive to create a vaccine for the HIV and are likely to wait to profit from it after the government develops one. Tramont is head of the AIDS research division of the National Institutes of Health, and he predicted in his testimony that the government will eventually create a vaccine. He testified in July in the whistleblower case of Dr. Jonathan Fishbein. "If we look at the's not going to be made by a company," Tramont said. "They're dropping out like flies because there's no real incentive for them to do it. We have to do it." Tramont said the HIV vaccine mirrors the history of other vaccines. "It is not just a HIV vaccine – it's all vaccines – that is why there was/is a shortage of flu vaccines," Tramont wrote.

Note: For lots more on this topic, see our Health Information Center.

Fear destroys what bin Laden could not
December 26, 2005, Miami Herald

One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that...our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat...I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated. If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas—and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security—I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them. If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marine Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy...I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy. Never would I have expected this nation—which emerged stronger from a civil war and a civil rights movement, won two world wars, endured the Depression, recovered from a disastrous campaign in Southeast Asia and still managed to lead the world in the principles of liberty—would cower behind anyone just for promising to "protect us."

The Agency That Could Be Big Brother
December 25, 2005, New York Times

Deep in a remote, fog-layered hollow near Sugar Grove, W.Va., hidden by fortress-like mountains, sits the country's largest eavesdropping bug. The station's large parabolic dishes secretly and silently sweep in millions of private telephone calls and e-mail messages an hour. Run by the ultrasecret National Security Agency, the listening post intercepts all international communications entering the eastern United States. Another N.S.A. listening post, in Yakima,Wash., eavesdrops on the western half of the country. According to John E. McLaughlin, who as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the fall of 2001 was among the first briefed on the program, this eavesdropping was the most secret operation in the entire intelligence network, complete with its own code word - which itself is secret. Jokingly referred to as "No Such Agency," the N.S.A. was created in absolute secrecy in 1952 by President Harry S. Truman. But the agency is still struggling to adjust to the war on terror. At home, it increases pressure on the agency to bypass civil liberties and skirt formal legal channels of criminal investigation. Originally created to spy on foreign adversaries, the N.S.A. was never supposed to be turned inward.

Note: Don't miss the amazing article on Operation Northwoods by the author of this article, former ABC producer James Bamford. It details the 1962 plans of the Pentagon chiefs to foment terrorism in the US as a pretext for war with Cuba. See

Bird Flu Victims Die...After Becoming Resistant to Tamiflu
December 22, 2005, ABC/Associated Press

In a development health experts are calling alarming, two bird flu patients in Vietnam died after developing resistance to Tamiflu, the key drug that governments are stockpiling in case of a large-scale outbreak. The experts said the deaths were disturbing because the two girls had received early and aggressive treatment with Tamiflu and had gotten the recommended doses. Since 2003, avian flu has killed about 70 people, mostly in Vietnam and Thailand, and nearly all involved close contact with infected birds. Health experts fear the virus could morph into a form that spreads easily between people. The new report involved eight Vietnamese bird flu patients given Tamiflu upon being hospitalized in 2004 or 2005. Half of the patients died. Lab tests showed two of those who died...had developed resistance.

Christmas truce still stirs Europe 90 years later
November 24 , 2005, Yahoo/Reuters

Even 91 years after peace interrupted the war, French generals still can't fathom why their soldiers disobeyed orders and joined the German enemy in the silenced battlefields for a forbidden Christmas truce. But Christian Carion, director of a stirring new film about the spontaneous 1914 ceasefire in World War One, said he was moved all the more when the British military asked to send copies of his decidedly anti-war film to their troops overseas. French generals said: 'You go ahead and make your movie but without us, we don't want to be partners to this rebellion.' I said: 'Rebellion? It was 90 years ago? Is that still a 'rebellion'? They said 'Yes'. The heart-warming film of the real-life story about enemies who left the trenches in northern France, east of Paris, to sing carols together, swap chocolate, drink toasts and bury their dead for a few days in 1914 has nevertheless been seen by a lot of French people. "Joyeux Noel" ["Merry Christmas" in English] rose to the top of the French box office after its November 9 premiere at home with 600,000 tickets sold the first week. Carion said the box office count hit the 1 million mark on Thursday -- a record for a film with subtitles in France.

Note: It is most interesting that an Internet search reveals the Yahoo News was the only media outlet to pick up this engaging Reuters story. I,ve noticed a clear trend in the media to avoid stories that paint war in a negative light. For the full, inspiring Christmas truce story:

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Eavesdropping, NSA (National Security Agency), HIV Vaccine, Big Brother