Domestic Spying, Plastic Chemical Risks,
Airlines' 9/11 Suits Against CIA and FBI
Revealing News Articles
August 14, 2007
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on the newly authorized expansion of domestic spying by the U.S. government, 9/11-related suits brought against the CIA and FBI by U.S. airlines, new scientific findings on the risks of chemicals from plastic, and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Same Agencies to Run, Oversee Surveillance Program
August 7, 2007, Washington Post
The Bush administration plans to leave oversight of its expanded foreign eavesdropping program to the same government officials who supervise the surveillance activities and to the intelligence personnel who carry them out, senior government officials said yesterday. The law, which permits intercepting Americans' calls and e-mails without a warrant if the communications involve overseas transmission, gives Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales responsibility for creating the broad procedures determining whose telephone calls and e-mails are collected. It also gives McConnell and Gonzales the role of assessing compliance with those procedures. The law ... does not contain provisions for outside oversight -- unlike an earlier House measure that called for audits every 60 days by the Justice Department's inspector general. The controversial changes to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act were approved by both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Congress despite privacy concerns raised by Democratic leaders and civil liberties advocacy groups. Central to the new program is the collection of foreign intelligence from "communication service providers," which the officials declined to identify, citing secrecy concerns. Under the new law, the attorney general is required to draw up the governing procedures for surveillance activity, for approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Once the procedures are established, the attorney general and director of national intelligence will formally certify that the collection of data is authorized. But the certification will be placed under seal "unless the certification is necessary to determine the legality of the acquisition," according to the law signed by Bush.
Bush administration defends spy law
August 7, 2007, Los Angeles Times
The Bush administration rushed to defend new espionage legislation Monday amid growing concern that the changes could lead to increased spying by U.S. intelligence agencies on American citizens. But officials declined to provide details about how the new capabilities might be used by the National Security Agency and other spy services. And in many cases, they could point only to internal monitoring mechanisms to prevent abuse of the new rules that appear to give the government greater authority to tap into the traffic flowing across U.S. telecommunications networks. Officials rejected assertions that the new capabilities would enable the government to cast electronic "drift nets" that might ensnare U.S. citizens [and] that the new legislation would amount to the expansion of a controversial – and critics contend unconstitutional – warrantless wiretapping program that President Bush authorized after the 9/11 attacks. Intelligence experts said there were an array of provisions in the new legislation that appeared to make it possible for the government to engage in intelligence-collection activities that the Bush administration officials were discounting. "They are trying to shift the terms of the debate to their intentions and away from the meaning of the new law," said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence policy analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. "The new law gives them authority to do far more than simply surveil foreign communications abroad," he said. "It expands the surveillance program beyond terrorism to encompass foreign intelligence. It permits the monitoring of communications of a U.S. person as long as he or she is not the primary target. And it effectively removes judicial supervision of the surveillance process."
Airlines Sue FBI, CIA Over Sept. 11
August 7, 2007, Associated Press
Airlines and aviation-related companies sued the CIA and the FBI on Tuesday to force terrorism investigators to tell whether the aviation industry was to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks. The two lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Manhattan sought court orders for depositions as the aviation entities build their defenses against lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages for injuries, fatalities, property damage and business losses related to Sept. 11, 2001. The aviation companies said the agencies in a series of boilerplate letters had refused to let them depose two secret agents, including the 2001 head of the CIA's special Osama bin Laden unit, and six FBI agents with key information about al-Qaida and bin Laden. The [plaintiffs] said they were entitled to present evidence to show the terrorist attacks did not depend upon negligence by any aviation defendants and that there were other causes of the attacks. In the CIA lawsuit, companies ... asked to interview the deputy chief of the CIA's bin Laden unit in 2001 and an FBI agent assigned to the unit at that time. The names of both are secret. In the FBI lawsuit, the companies asked to interview five former and current FBI employees who had participated in investigations of al-Qaida and al-Qaida operatives before and after Sept. 11. Those individuals included Coleen M. Rowley, the former top FBI lawyer in its Minneapolis office, who sent a scathing letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller in May 2002 complaining that a supervisor in Washington interfered with the Minnesota investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks. Requests to interview the agents were rejected as not sufficiently explained, burdensome or protected by investigative or attorney-client privilege, the lawsuits said.
Note: For a concise summary of reliable, verifiable information on the 9/11 coverup, click here.
Scientists issue warning on chemical
August 3, 2007, Los Angeles Times
In an unusual effort targeting a single chemical, several dozen scientists on Thursday issued a strongly worded consensus statement warning that an estrogen-like compound in plastic is likely causing an array of serious reproductive disorders in people. The compound, bisphenol A or BPA, is one of the highest-volume chemicals in the world and has found its way into the bodies of most human beings. Used to make hard plastic, BPA can seep from beverage containers and other materials. It is used in all polycarbonate plastic baby bottles as well as ... large water cooler containers, sports bottles and microwave oven dishes, along with canned food liners and some dental sealants for children. The scientists – including four from federal health agencies – reviewed about 700 studies before concluding that people are exposed to levels of the chemical exceeding those that harm lab animals. Infants and fetuses are most vulnerable, they said. The statement, published online by the journal Reproductive Toxicology, was accompanied by a new study from researchers from the National Institutes of Health that found uterine damage in newborn animals exposed to BPA. That damage is a possible predictor of reproductive diseases in women, including fibroids, endometriosis, cystic ovaries and cancers. It is the first time BPA has been linked to disorders of the female reproductive tract, although earlier studies have found early-stage prostate and breast cancer and decreased sperm counts in animals exposed to low doses. The scientists' statement and the new study – accompanied by five scientific reviews summarizing the 700 studies – intensify a contentious debate over whether the plastic compound poses a public threat. So far no government agency here or abroad has restricted its use.
Some risk linked to plastic chemical
August 9, 2007, Los Angeles Times
A federal panel of scientists [has concluded] that an estrogen-like compound in plastic could be posing some risk to the brain development of babies and children. Bisphenol A, or BPA, [a component of polycarbonate plastic,] is found in low levels in virtually every human body. The decision by the 12 advisors of the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction ... is the first official, government action related to the chemical. The scientists ranked their concerns about BPA, concluding they had "some concern" about neurological and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children, but "minimal" or "negligible" concern about reproductive effects. The findings put the panel roughly in the middle -- between the chemical industry, which has long said there is no evidence of danger to humans, and the environmental activists and scientists who say it is probably harming people. Environmentalists lambasted the panel, saying it had minimized the risks and ignored important research. "Only the chemical industry agrees with the decision that BPA has little or no human health risks. That by itself should speak volumes about the corrupted process endorsed by the panel today," said Dr. Anila Jacob of the Environmental Working Group. The panel's preliminary report on BPA was drafted by a private consulting firm with financial ties to the chemical industry. The National Toxicology Program fired the company but ruled that the report was unbiased. The panel rejected several dozen animal studies that found reproductive effects. The decision to reject the studies has been controversial with toxicologists.
The Fear of Fear Itself
August 7, 2007, New York Times
It was appalling to watch over the last few days as Congress – now led by Democrats – caved in to yet another unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush's powers, this time to spy on Americans in violation of basic constitutional rights. Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security. What [do] the Democrats ... plan to do with their majority in Congress if they are too scared of Republican campaign ads to use it to protect the Constitution and restrain an out-of-control president[?] The White House and its allies on Capitol Hill railroaded Congress into voting a vast expansion of the president's powers. They gave the director of national intelligence and the attorney general authority to intercept – without warrant, court supervision or accountability – any telephone call or e-mail message that moves in, out of or through the United States as long as there is a "reasonable belief" that one party is not in the United States. While serving little purpose, the new law has real dangers. It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States. The Democratic majority has made strides on other issues like children's health insurance against White House opposition. As important as these measures are, they do not excuse the Democrats from remedying the damage Mr. Bush has done to civil liberties and the Bill of Rights. That is their most important duty.
In Bush we trust - or else
August 5, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
President Bush's latest affront to the U.S. Constitution [is] in plain view on the White House Web site: "Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq." This far-reaching order ... is a frontal assault on the Fifth Amendment, which decrees that the government cannot seize an individual's property without due process. [The order asserts] the authority to freeze the American assets of anyone who directly or indirectly assists someone who poses "a significant risk" [to] the "peace and stability" of [Iraq] or the reconstruction effort. "On its face, this is the greatest encroachment on civil liberties since the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II," said Bruce Fein, a constitutional lawyer who was a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration. Fein said the sanctions against suspected violators would amount to "a financial death penalty. King George III really would have been jealous of this power." The executive order not only calls for the freezing of assets of anyone who directly or indirectly [opposes US policy in Iraq,] it prohibits anyone else from providing "funds, goods or services" to a blacklisted individual. In other words, a friend or relative could have his or her assets seized for trying to help someone whose bank account is suddenly frozen. An attorney who offered legal help could risk losing everything he or she owned. Then again, there's not much need for lawyers in the world of this executive order. The blacklist would be drawn up by the "secretary of treasury, in consultation with the secretary of state and the secretary of defense." The Fifth Amendment was written for good reason: It's dangerous to give the government unchecked authority to seize private property without judicial review.
Abu Ghraib whistleblower's ordeal
August 5, 2007, BBC
When Joe Darby saw the horrific photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison he was stunned. So stunned that he walked out into the hot Baghdad night and smoked half a dozen cigarettes and agonised over what he should do. Darby was a ... soldier with US forces at Abu Ghraib prison when he stumbled across those images which would eventually shock the world in 2004. They were photographs of his colleagues, some of them men and women he had known since high school -- torturing and abusing Iraqi prisoners. His decision to hand them over rather than keep quiet changed his life forever. He fears for the safety of his family. Joe Darby knew what he saw was wrong, but it took him three weeks to decide to hand those photographs in. When he finally did, he was promised anonymity and hoped he would hear no more about it. But he was scared of the repercussions. And then he was sitting in a crowded Iraqi canteen with hundreds of soldiers and Donald Rumsfeld came on the television to thank Joe Darby by name for handing in the photographs. "I don't think it was an accident because those things are pretty much scripted," Mr Darby says. "I really find it hard to believe that the secretary of defence of the United States has no idea about the star witness for a criminal case being anonymous." Rather than turn on him for betraying colleagues, most of the soldiers in his unit shook his hand. It was at home where the real trouble started. His wife ...had to flee to her sister's house which was then vandalised with graffiti. Many in his home town called him a traitor. But he does not see himself as a hero, or a traitor. Just "a soldier who did his job - no more, no less. I've never regretted for one second what I did when I was in Iraq, to turn those pictures in," he says.
Author investigates Roswell
August 5, 2007, Philadephia Enquirer (Philadelphia's leading newspaper)
Tom Carey has dedicated the last 16 years of his life to uncovering what exactly happened on July 4, 1947, outside Roswell, N.M. Now, along with coauthor Don Schmitt, [he] has published Witness to Roswell: Unmasking the 60-year Cover-Up, documenting his findings concerning the alleged extraterrestrial event. "The goal was to write a book for those not already initiated in the Roswell case," said Carey, 66. "We wanted to do something that would interest the general public." Though originally rejected by 11 of 12 publishers contacted, the book is in its fourth printing of 10,000 copies. And curiosity continues to grow. After a recent interview on Art Bell's Coast to Coast AM show, Carey said Amazon.com logged 2,000 sales the next day. What has made the book so explosive, Carey said, are two previously unreleased "smoking-gun documents." The new testimony includes the heretofore sealed affidavit of recently deceased First Lieutenant Walter G. Haut attesting to the bizarre debris and bodies recovered from the crash site. The second, a note scribbled by former Roswell Army Air Field base adjutant Patrick Saunders ... appears to confirm the Air Force's coverup of the incident. Carey acknowledges that there are some "kooks" involved in the field of UFOlogy, but his mission has been to use science to take the fiction out of science fiction. "This is a historical mystery that just happens to involve UFOs," he said. A former anthropology student at the University of Toronto, Carey said he has always been more interested in the empirical evidence as opposed to intangibles such as alien abductions and crop circles.
Note: For a succinct summary of powerful testimony on UFOs by military personnel and pilots, click here.
Who's Minding the Mind?
July 31, 2007, New York Times
Improbable [findings] have poured forth in psychological research over the last few years. New studies have found that people tidy up more thoroughly when there's a faint tang of cleaning liquid in the air; they become more competitive if there's a briefcase in sight, or more cooperative if they glimpse words like "dependable" and "support" – all without being aware of the change, or what prompted it. Psychologists say that "priming" people in this way is not some form of hypnotism, or even subliminal seduction; rather, it's a demonstration of how everyday sights, smells and sounds can selectively activate goals or motives that people already have. More fundamentally, the new studies reveal a subconscious brain that is far more active, purposeful and independent than previously known. Goals, whether to eat, mate or devour an iced latte, are like neural software programs that can only be run one at a time, and the unconscious is perfectly capable of running the program it chooses. The give and take between these unconscious choices and our rational, conscious aims can help explain some of the more mystifying realities of behavior, like how we can be generous one moment and petty the next, or act rudely at a dinner party when convinced we are emanating charm. John A. Bargh, a professor of psychology at Yale, [said] "We're finding that we have these unconscious behavioral guidance systems that are continually furnishing suggestions through the day about what to do next, and the brain is considering and often acting on those, all before conscious awareness. Sometimes those goals are in line with our conscious intentions and purposes, and sometimes they're not." Scientists have spent years trying to pinpoint the exact neural regions that support conscious awareness, so far in vain.
Attack of the mutant rice
July 2, 2007, Fortune magazine
In the spring of 2001, a ... rice farmer named Jacko Garrett watched a fleet of 18-wheelers haul away truckloads of rice that he had grown with great care. "It just bothers me so bad," Garrett said. "I'm sitting here trying to find food to feed people, and I've got to bury five million pounds of rice." Garrett's rice was genetically modified, part of an experiment that was brought to an abrupt halt by its sponsor, a ... biotechnology company called Aventis Crop Science. The company had contracted with a handful of farmers to grow the rice, which was known as Liberty Link because its genes had been altered to resist a weed killer called Liberty, also made by Aventis. In January 2006, small amounts of genetically engineered rice turned up in a shipment that was tested ... by a French customer of Riceland Foods. Because no transgenic rice is grown commercially in the U.S., the people at Riceland were stunned. Then came another shock. Testing revealed that the genetically modified rice contained a strain of Liberty Link that had not been approved for human consumption. What's more, trace amounts of the Liberty Link had mysteriously made their way into the commercial rice supply in all five of the Southern states where long-grain rice is grown. The tainted rice was everywhere. If in the past year or so you or your family ate Uncle Ben's, Rice Krispies, or Gerber's, or drank a Budweiser ... you probably ingested a little bit of Liberty Link, with the unapproved gene. Last November, over the howls of anti-GMO activists, the USDA retroactively approved the Liberty Link rice, known as LL601. The department said the genes that it approved are similar to those inserted for years into canola and corn, with no apparent ill effects.
Have you driven a Fjord lately?
July 31, 2007, Business 2.0 magazine
Three pinstriped London investors stand outside an electric car factory in the green fields of the Norwegian countryside, waiting their turns to test-drive a stylish two-seater called the Think City. But first, Think CEO Jan-Olaf Willums takes the wheel. [He] turns the ignition, and the stub-nosed coupe silently rolls toward an open stretch of pavement. Suddenly he punches the pedal, and the car takes off like a shot, the AC motor instantaneously transferring power to the wheels. The only sound is the squealing of tires as Willums throws the little car into a tight turn and barrels back toward his startled guests. Did someone kill the electric car? You wouldn't know it on this bright May morning in Scandinavia, where the idea of a mass-produced battery-powered vehicle is being resurrected and actual cars are scheduled to begin rolling off the production line by year's end. Shuttling between Oslo and California, Willums has raised $78 million from Silicon Valley and European investors captivated by [his] vision of a carbon-neutral urban car. Willums's pitch is this: He's not just selling an electric car; he's upending a century-old automotive paradigm, aiming to change the way cars are made, sold, owned, and driven. Taking a cue from Dell, the company will sell cars online, built to order. It will forgo showrooms and seed the market through car-sharing services like Zipcar. Every car will be Internet-and Wi-Fi-enabled, becoming, according to Willums, a rolling computer that can communicate wirelessly with its driver, other Think owners, and the power grid. "The timing is right. We are on a path now toward electric cars, and there is no going back." says Ed Kjaer, an electric vehicle veteran who runs the EV program for Southern California Edison.
Note: To read about the mysterious disappearing Toyota Eco Spirit, a proven car design capable of achieving 100 mpg, click here.
Key Articles From Years Past
The Meaning of Freedom
May 5, 1961, Time magazine
"I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger," President Kennedy told the American Newspaper Publishers Association. [He] asked his audience to reconsider the meaning of freedom of the press. "The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings.* We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it ... This I do not intend to permit." Perhaps the time had come, the President concluded, to re-examine the responsibilities of a free society's free press: "This nation's foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire agents to acquire . . . The newspapers which printed these stories were loyal, patriotic, responsible and well-meaning . . . But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of national security . .. Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: 'Is it news?' All I suggest is that you add the question: 'Is it in the interest of national security?' " *[note in original] To more than 20 million Americans, the word "secrecy" is not as repugnant as all that. They are the members of U.S. secret and fraternal societies, which include, besides student fraternities ... the Masonic orders, the Elks, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Loyal Order of the Moose. Of the U.S.'s 34 Presidents, 13 have been Masons. President Kennedy himself is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic counterpart of masonry.
Note: This article from early in his administration makes clear that President Kennedy was actually arguing for more secrecy at the same time that he rhetorically championed the importance of an open society.
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Domestic Spying, Plastic Chemical Risks, Airlines' 9/11 Suits Against CIA and FBI