Archive for the ‘Department of Homeland Security’ Category

Remembering the 3rd Wave  by Leslie Weinfield

Peninsula, September 1991

Although the specter of fascist resurgence seems largely forgotten in the euphoria of German reunification, it may not be far beneath the peaceful veneer of that nation, or any other, for that matter.  Even the most ostensibly free and open societies are not immune to fascism’s lure – including places like Palo Alto.

What came to be known as the “Third Wave” began at  Cubberly High School in Palo Alto as a game without any direct reference to Nazi Germany, says Ron Jones, who had just begun his first teaching job in the 1966-67 academic year.  When a social studies student asked about the German public’s responsibility for the rise of the Third Reich, Jones decided to try and simulate what happened in Germany by having his students “basically follow instructions” for a day.

But one day turned into five, and what happened by the end of the school week spawned several documentaries, studies and related social experiments illuminating a dark side of human nature – and a major weakness in public education.

Before students arrived for class on Monday, Jones vigorously cleaned his classroom and arranged the desks in unusually straight rows.  He dimmed the lights and played Wagnerian music as students drifted in for class.  Then Jones, a popular instructor who normally avoided even such regimentation as taking roll, told his students that he could give them the keys to power and success – “Strength Through Discipline.”

“It was thoroughly out of character for Ron Jones to say “Let’s help the class out with a little more discipline,” recalls a former student Philip Neel, now a television producer in Los Angeles.  But because Jones was an interesting teacher, the class went along.

Classmate Mark Hancock remembers Jones adding a political cast and a set of incentives soon thereafter.  “It was something like, if you’re a good party member and play the game well, you can get an A.  If you have a revolution and fail, you get an F.  For a successful revolution, you get an A,” recounts Hancock, currently a regional development director for a Los Angeles property company.

Jones next commanded the class to assume a new seating posture to strengthen student concentration and will:  feet flat on the floor, hands across the small of the back, spines straight.  And he added speed drills, after which the entire group could move from loitering outside the room to silent, seated attention in less than 30 seconds.

“Even when we started with Strength Through Discipline, it was easy for me to see the benefits of the posture,” remarks Steve Coniglio, who now helps run a Truckee retail store.  “Even on that very first day, I could notice that I was breathing better.  I was more attentive in class.”

Jones closed the first day’s session with a few rules.  Students had to be sitting at attention before the second bell, had to stand up to ask or answer questions and had to do it in three words or less, and were required to preface each remark with “Mr. Jones.”

“At the end of that day, I was grandly happy.  I mean, it seemed to work and everyone seemed to get into it,” Jones still marvels.  Grades were based on participation, and no one accepted the study hall alternative that Jones offered prior to commencing the exercise that day.  But neither did anyone make a connection to the German history lessons they’d just completed.  “Most of us were headed toward college,” says Hancock.  “It wasn’t Nazi German life that mattered, it was Palo Alto grades.”

Jones says he assumed the class would return to its usual format the next day.  “But when I came in, the class was all sitting…” His voice trails off as his body snaps to military attention.

Jones considered calling a halt, but then went to the blackboard and wrote “Strength Through Community” below the previous day’s slogan,  “Strength Through Discipline.”

“I began to lecture on community – something bigger than oneself, something enjoyable.  They really bought that argument,” Jones recalls.

A powerful sense of belonging had sprung up among lowly sophomores at the bottom of the rung of the three-year school, and Jones admits he soon became a part of the exercise as well as its leader.

“It was really a mistake, a terrible thing to do.  My curiosity pulled me in at first, and then I liked it.  They learned fast, didn’t ask questions.  It was easier as a teacher.”

As his Strength Through Community lecture ended, he created a class salute by bringing his right hand toward his right shoulder in an outwardly curled position, resembling a wave.  Jones named it the Third Wave, and – despite its similarity to Third Reich – claims he borrowed the term from beach folklore, which holds that the last wave in every series of three is the largest.

Students acknowledging each other this way in the halls attracted the attention of upper classmen, who clamored to know the salute’s significance, Coniglio says. Cubberley students began skipping their regular classes, asking to be part of the Third Wave.  In three days Jones’ class had expanded to 60 students.

After telling the enlarged class that “strength is fine, now you must act,”  Jones assigned everyone a task to be completed that day.  Some were to memorize the names and addresses of everyone in the group; others were to make Third Wave banners, armbands and membership cards.  And since that day’s theme was “Strength Through Action,” everyone was to proselytize.

By day’s end Coniglio says banners were all over the school, including a 20 footer in the library.  Members brought in some 200 converts from other classes to be “sworn in.”

“It just swept through the school,” recalls Jones, who is still teaching, now at the San Francisco Recreation Center for the Handicapped.  “It was like walking on slippery rock…by the third or fourth day, there was an obvious explosion of emotion that I couldn’t control.”

Several boys were assigned to “protect” Jones as he walked the school’s corridors, wearing Third Wave armbands to signify their responsibility.

“It was a black band.  When I went home, it got my parents worried,” says Steve Benson, now a Palo Alto mechanic. “They thought it was the equivalent of the SS.”  Although his mother called Jones to express her concern, the teacher reassured her it was merely a class exercise.

Everyone involved in the Third Wave received a membership card, three of which Jones randomly marked with an X.  Those holding the marked cards were told to note who transgressed class rules, which now dictated such matters as what campus paths members could walk and with whom they could associate.

“There were three or four stoolies,” Jones explains bluntly.  “I wanted to see how this was being taken outside of class.”

By the end of four days, approximately half the class had approached Jones with detailed information about the transgressions of others, ranging from improper salutes to coup plots against him.

“It was phenomenal.  There was a whole underground of activity.  People were assigning themselves as guards,” Jones says.  “I knew exactly what was going on in class because of this strange snitching that was going on.”

There was betrayal among teens who had been close friends since childhood.  A group of buddies could be sharing a cigarette in the bathroom, discussing a plan to “kidnap” Jones the next day and fulfill the exercise’s requirement for a top grade, but “it wouldn’t happen,” say Coniglio.  “Somebody – one of those two or three – would inform Ron Jones of the plot.”

This is exactly what happened to Hancock, who told several friends he had bought a cap pistol to school to earn an A with  mock assassination.  Jones gave him a stern look in class while reminding the group of the penalties for disloyalty; Hancock dropped the ideas and to this day cannot identify his betrayer.

“Jones was able to stop a lot of lines of communication between people.  That’s how he made his power.  He was keeping us under his thumb very effectively,” say Hancock.

Jones also selected an official but anonymous “secret police” group to help enforce Third Wave rules in and out of school.  These students enjoyed the assistance of a tough, leather-jacketed campus car club known as The Executors, who had been attracted to the Third Wave.  Both groups – along with regular Third Wave members – denounced their classmates for a raft of real and imagined transgressions.

“The paranoia was really strange,” Coniglio says.  “People were finking, and you had to make your own choice that way – whether you would tell.”

In addition to the names supplied by student enforcers, Jones would also pull “indictments” from his shirt pocket – slips of paper from which he would then read names and alleged offenses, Hancock says.

No matter who fingered them, the accused stood immediately.  A few were let off, but many were convicted by a class shouting, “Guilty!” and sent into library exile.  Mistrust blossomed even there.  Hancock recalls an acquaintance later telling him she thought he’d turned her in because she was “caught” a day after they had a brief, innocuous conversation.

Hancock subsequently asked Jones about  the indictments, only to learn the accusations were usually fabricated.  “Not only did he cause us to convict our peers, he’d just pick a name and get ’em convicted,” say Hancock.  “As long as that level of fear was there, the system was working.”

Adding to the ferment was the dawn of antiwar activism.  Third Wave meeting announcements and instructions on daily activity were read over the P.A. system, regularly followed by calls for revolution or radical social change.  The polar extremes only added to the confusion of the teens, from many of whom a Vietnam draft call was looming.

“You were either radical or you weren’t.  You couldn’t be in the middle.  Perhaps we were ready to be molded,” Coniglio shrugs.  “We were caught between extremes that were getting all the attention.”

Something of an underground existed within the Third Wave, but Hancock says it had as much effect as protesting against the Nazi regime in Germany.

One of the underground’s main problems was that Jones kept changing the rules established early in the experiment, and simply ignored several attempts at the revolution whose perpetrators had been promised an A. Hancock says some desperate conspirators even considered a mass “hit” with Mattel machine guns concealed in lunch bags, but Jones got wind of it and rescheduled the student assembly at which the assassination was to have taken place.

By the fifth day, the sheer volume of student migration to Jones’ class was disrupting normal school routines and raised his concern that matters had gotten out of control.

Besides reports about students who failed to salute properly, Jones received word that three of the exercise’s biggest skeptics were about to get beaten up.  All three had told their parents about the Third Wave; one family’s rabbi even called Jones at home with questions, but accepted Jones’ vague answers without delving too deeply.

“I was hoping he would come in with a tremendous amount of rage,” say Jones.  “I kept hoping someone would walk in and ask what was going on, so I could point to them and say, ‘That’s right, look what you’re doing, you’ve become just like fascists’ and end it.  But it didn’t  happen.”

Some parents did warn their children not to attend the class, which only reinforced student desires to participate, says Coniglio.

For his part, Jones easily disposed of the few polite parent inquiries by describing the Third Wave as a class exercise.  Even teachers at the school did not question it while it was going on, he notes.

Jones decided he had to end the experiment immediately, but without losing the point of the lesson.  He had the three skeptics escorted to the library for their own safety, and then told those remaining that the Third Wave was more than an exercise, that it was more than just a game.

In fact, Jones said, they were a local cell of a select youth movement recruiting students nationwide.  More than 1,000 such groups would rise up during a special noon rally that day to support a national presidential candidate, one who would announce a Third Wave Youth Program to bring the country “a new sense of order, community, pride and action.”

By noon, students were crammed into the lecture hall, backs ramrod straight, eyes riveted to a television set in the front of the room.  With the car club toughs guarding the door, Jones led the group in chants and salutes for the benefit of several friends he had posing as reporters and photographers.

Then Jones dimmed the lights, snapped the television set on and left the room.

Students waited with rapt attention for a vision of the future, but the screen stayed blank.

“Everybody’s eyes began to go like this,” Hancock says, darting his eyes frantically from side to side.  After looking around a few minutes, Hancock says he realized in a daze that “there weren’t any bodyguards, there wasn’t any Jones.  We were all just sitting at discipline.”

For Coniglio, the gray faces staring at the gray screen triggered his most potent image of World War II – the gas chambers.

“I thought, ‘My God, we’re all dead.” He yelled, “I’m getting out of here,” and ran for the back doors, which he thought would be locked like in the concentration camp ovens.  But the doors opened, and Coniglio was surprised to encounter a normal spring day at lunch hour.  “Music was coming from the quad, flowers were blooming and a warm breeze was blowing.”

Back inside, Jones returned to shut off the television and take a position at a microphone on stage, while a movie montage of World War II scenes flashed onto a large screen behind him.

“There is no Third Wave movement, no leader,” he told the stunned audience.  “You and I are no better or worse than the citizens of the Third Reich.  We would have worked in the defense plants.  We will watch our neighbors be taken away, and do nothing,” Jones said, referring to the three skeptics exiled to the library for the crime of disbelief.  “We’re just like those Germans.  We would give our freedom up for the chance of being special.”

Neel remembers that “everybody just sat there a long time.  Then everyone went their own way.  No one wanted to talk about it.  I think I remember a couple of people sitting there, not moving.”

Nazi is always a dirty word when you’re growing up, but when you get hit with it, that you’ve become one, it’s a very shocking statement.”

Several students were crying.  Barbara Miller Moore, a Third Wave member who did not attend the rally, recalls seeing several people walking away in shock. “Steve was pale,” she remembers of Coniglio.  “I was worried about him.  He as always exceptionally sensitive.  I didn’t know what would happen to him.”

The salutes ended with the rally; membership cards turned to litter and attention to Vietnam.  But memories of the one-week experiment remain strong 25 years later.

“It hurts so much when I realized I’d been so fooled, but then, that was the lesson,” remarks Coniglio.  Upon subsequent reflection, he says he realized “it was one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever had in my life.  How often are you – as a 16 year old- not only able to learn about history, but to participate in it?”

Although Neel remembers feeling frightened before the rally a the thought of linking up with a national movement, he says peer pressure overcame his doubts, along with his regard for Jones and the climate of the times.

“A big reason I went along with it was my trust for Jones,” Neel says.  Moveover, he “was just  beginning to feel bitter about Vietnam, and part of the experiment seemed like we could change the government responsible for hurting us.  There was a feeling something really remarkable was going to happen, going on throughout the country – that the movement was going to change politics, change the structure of school.  The combination of everything made it happen, and boy, did it happen.”

For student Alyssa Hess Reit, the conclusion of the Third Wave experiment led to some heartfelt compassion and empathy for the Germans.  “It seemed very clear that if a bunch of high school students from Palo Alto who had everything – nothing to lose – could be so easily pulled in, knowing it was just a game, it was clear what it must’ve been like for real people losing jobs and families,” she says.  “That’s not to say there weren’t ways to resist or that they couldn’t, but we didn’t even know how to go about it.”

Reit says she knows of no one who was damaged by the Third Wave.  Jones “helped wake us up, and I’ve always been grateful,” she comments.  “Good experiences aren’t necessarily pleasant.  I’ve often thought about it, and I’m glad I had it.  I would want my kids to have it.”

Many parents also supported Jones and the exercise, regardless of whether they had children involved.  They went to bat for him two years later, when he was denied tenure for reasons ostensibly unrelated to the Third Wave.

“Jones was an outstanding and creative teacher whose principal effort was to teach children to think for themselves,” says Joseph Pickering, an interested parent.  “Jones had excellent character and the highest motives.”

The experiment generated a great deal of debate among Jones’ fellow teachers, however, with several arguing it was not his place to expose students to such emotional wrenching.

“To a certain extent, they were right,” Jones agrees, although he considers any negative impacts to have been temporary and the risks worthwhile.

Bernard Oliver, president of the school board that denied Jones tenure, objected to Jones’ teaching style for different reasons.

“We were upset with his performance largely because the subject matter was not being taught.  If you weren’t concerned about basic values, his teaching was OK.  It’s easy to load up classes with excitement, things kids like.  While this impresses many parents, it can also be one-sided and far removed from traditional values,” Oliver adds.

Jones’ Third Wave also caught the attention of Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo, whose famous prison experiment several years later resulted in college students lapsing into sadism and eventual emotional breakdown after being assigned the role of guard in prison.

“Situations exert much more influence over human behavior than people acknowledge,” explains Zimbardo, who has invited Jones to speak to classes many times.

Although the tendency runs counter to Western ideas of individual responsibility, Zimbardo points to two real-life incidents to prove his point – the U.S. massacre of civilians at My Lai, and postwar tests conducted on concentration camp guards that revealed no subsequent propensity for violence.

“It’s an unpleasant message people don’t like to hear.  But unless you’re aware of the vulnerability, you don’t recognize how easy it is for simulation to become reality, for the uniform to dominate the person.”

Third Wave veterans agree.

“When he started rewarding people, I could see how that goes a long way toward influencing them,” Neel says.  “I could see how people would be susceptible to that kind of behavior and would go along with it.  You want to please your teachers, your peers and you don’t want to fail.”

Although Jones says he would never repeat the Third Wave, he insists it could easily happen today, anywhere in the United States, for a variety of reasons.

“Fascism is always a possibility because it’s so simple and people are frustrated.  They lose their jobs, their dignity, their sense of worth, and someone comes along and says, “I’ve got the answer.”

School systems prepare the ground, Jones says by using only standardized tests for success and failing to recognize alternative paths of learning, as well as a wider variety of individual achievements.

Educational institutions weed out troublemakers and those who are difficult to teach, he contends, rewarding placid students who want to succeed at any cost and will accept authority.

“That’s the sad thing.  Teachers can trigger it by telling students they’re special, they’re part of a community, that they can do special things.  All they have to give is their loyalty,” Jones concludes.  “It happens every day in school, only the paraphernalia isn’t there.  Kids aren’t learning to ask questions.  You create a population where freedom’s just a spelling word.”

Advertisements

*****UPDATE 8/28/08***** We learned late last night that Greg Quibell, star of SAVE THE BRAVE lost his heroic battle. Please see our post “First Responder Greg Quibell Dies of 9/11 Illness”.

RESPONDERS DOCUMENTARY SHOWS AFFECTS OF 9/11 SEVEN YEARS LATER


“SAVE THE BRAVE” TELLS STORY OF DIGNITY, COURAGE, SUFFERING


SON SALUTES SICK DAD WITH GRAND SLAM TO WIN BALLGAME

August 4, 2008, New York City- The Fealgood Foundation is producing SAVE THE BRAVE a documentary made and produced by 911 responders to inform the nation of the intense suffering 911 responders and their families are experiencing. The single focus of the documentary is passage of the 911 Health & Compensation Bill named for James Zadroga, the police officer who perished as the result of his illness contracted from service at Ground Zero. Hundreds of 911 Responders have died of illness contracted from Ground Zero.

John Feal, founder of the Fealgood Foundation comments, “If all of America understood what the men and women who rushed to save lives and retrieve remains for grieving family members are going through on a daily basis they would be shocked. As New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler says in SAVE THE BRAVE, “it’s a moral outrage”.

The Fealgood Foundation is reaching out to Americans urging them to see that the 911 Health & Compensation Bill is passed in Congress so that Responders have access to much needed medical care, medicines and disability compensation to allow their families to thrive.

The Fealgood Foundation assigned the production of SAVE THE BRAVE to another 911 Responder, Reverend Bill Minson. Minson served as a Red Cross and Salvation Army chaplain, he has continued to provide spiritual care through his TUDAY Ministries, his all voluntary service began  Sept. 13, 2001. Rev. Minson also narrates the documentary with noted artist and videographer Robert Agriopoulos directing.

John Feal continues, “With Responders across the country suffering we don’t want one to be without support. We’re praying that Jim Ritchie, John McNamara, Greg Quibell and Charlie Giles, the subjects of our documentary, will all be with us when our documentary debuts later this month. Please let me share a touching email with you from Greg Quibell’s family yesterday as he fights for his life at North Shore University hospital”.

“Today Theresa’s son Nick came up to the plate with 3 men on base in his little league game. With that his coach approached him and said Nick a hit brings home 2 runs, they were trailing by 1. Nick replied to the coach in front of everyone in the stands to hear, hey coach how about one hit brings home 4 runs. The coach laughed and then Nick said, ‘this one is for my dad in the hospital’. Well Nick hit a grand slam over the 220 ft. fence and cleared it by 30 feet. Everyone who heard him say that and then do it started to cry. Nick then went to the hospital and brought Greg the home run ball. You just cant make that up, and if it doesn’t make you cry or feel the love and pain this family is going through, then your not human. Theresa thank you for this story and for a good cry”, concludes 911 Responder, John Feal.

SAVE THE BRAVE http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=franniebird&p=r

For additional information please contact Anne Marie Baumen at the Fealgood Foundation

###

Anne Marie Baumen

516.551.0986 / 631.724.3320

www.fealgoodfoundation.org

This is from the Washington Times – we can’t even bring ourselves to comment on it.

By Jeffrey Denning

Just when you thought you’ve heard it all…

A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.

This bracelet would:

• take the place of an airline boarding pass

• contain personal information about the traveler

• be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage

• shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes

The Electronic ID Bracelet, as it’s referred to as, would be worn by every traveler “until they disembark the flight at their destination.”  Yes, you read that correctly. Every airline passenger would be tracked by a government-funded GPS, containing personal, private and confidential information, and that it would shock the customer worse than an electronic dog collar if he/she got out of line?

Clearly the Electronic ID Bracelet is an euphuism for the EMD Safety Bracelet, or at least it has a nefarious hidden ability, thus the term ID Bracelet is ambiguous at best. EMD stands for Electro-Musclar Disruption. Again, according to the promotional video the bracelet can completely immobilize the wearer for several minutes.

So is the government really that interested in this bracelet? Yes!

According to a letter from DHS official, Paul S. Ruwaldt of the Science and Technology Directorate, office of Research and Development, to the inventor whom he had previously met with, he wrote, “To make it clear, we [the federal government] are interested in…the immobilizing security bracelet, and look forward to receiving a written proposal.” The letterhead, in case you were wondering, came from the DHS office at the William J. Hughes Technical Center at the Atlantic City International Airport, or the Federal Aviation Administration headquarters.

In another part of the letter, Mr. Ruwaldt confirmed, “It is conceivable to envision a use to improve air security, on passenger planes.”

Would every paying airline passenger flying on a commercial airplane be mandated to wear one of these devices? I cringe at the thought. Not only could it be used as a physical restraining device, but also as a method of interrogation, according to the same aforementioned letter from Mr. Ruwaldt.

Would you let them put one of those on your wrist? Would you allow the airline employees, which would be mandated by the government, to place such a bracelet on any member of your family?

Why are tax dollars being spent on something like this? Is this a police state or is it America?

As we approach July 4th, Independence Day, I can’t help but think of the blessing we have of living in America and being free from hostile government forces. It calls to mind on of my favorite speeches given by an American Founding Forefather, Patrick Henry, who said,

“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Please take the time to watch these videos – it’s what’s necessary for all of this to change.

Spread The Word

Please take a few minutes out of your busy day to read the latest anti-terrorism bill – presented by a Democrat. It has passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. The link to the bill is here.

As a wise observer just said, “Coming soon…political prisoners just like in China.”

If you need a movie to watch tonight, try “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise.

From USAToday:

Original posting at 11:56 a.m. ET: Those weren’t reporters questioning the deputy chief of FEMA earlier this week, they were federal employees playing the role of journalists during a televised briefing on the wildfires in southern California.

An agency spokesman tells The Washington Post that they didn’t have time to wait for real reporters to come to their office near the U.S. Capitol. “We had been getting mobbed with phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last minute,”  Mike Widomski, FEMA’s deputy director of public affairs, tells the paper.

So, instead of waiting for outsiders to come to their offices, the P.R. people just turned on the cameras and tossed softballs to their boss. That may be why Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson found it so easy to answer the questions, according to the Post. (A philosophical question: If the press doesn’t come to your press conference did you really hold a press conference?)

Here’s a sampling of the questions:

QUESTION: Sir, there are a number of reports that people weren’t heeding evacuation orders and that was hindering emergency responders. Can you speak a little to that, please?

QUESTION: Can you address a little bit what it means to have the president issue an emergency declaration, as opposed to a major disaster declaration? What does that (inaudible) for FEMA?

QUESTION: Sir, we understand the secretary and the administrator of FEMA are on their way out there. What is their objective? And is there anyone else traveling with them?

STAFF: Last question.

QUESTION: What lessons learned from Katrina have been applied?

Update at 3:01 p.m. ET: FEMA just issued an apology. “FEMA’s goal is to get information out as soon as possible, and in trying to do so we made an error in judgment,” the agency says in a statement attributed to Johnson. “Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received. We are reviewing our press procedures and will make the changes necessary to ensure that all of our communications are straight forward and transparent.”

USA TODAY’s Mimi Hall reports that officials at the Homeland Security Department aren’t happy about FEMA’s follies. “This is inexcusable to the secretary,” spokeswoman Laura Keehner says.

She describes the incident as a lapse in judgment, but says “stunts such as this will not be tolerated” and notes that “the senior leadership of the department is taking this very seriously.”

“This is offensive, inexcusable,” she says.

Saying older surveillance laws were “dangerously out of date,” President Bush pressed anew Wednesday for Congress to pass permanent legislation that allows intelligence agencies to carry out warrantless surveillance on all communications of a foreign terror suspect.

Legislation passed by Congress last month “has helped close a critical intelligence gap, allowing us to collect important foreign intelligence and information about terrorist plots,” Bush said after he was briefed at the National Security Agency.

“The problem is the law expires on February 1 — that’s 135 days from today. The threat from al-Qaeda is not going to expire in 135 days,” Bush said.

Bush’s comments come one day after the nation’s intelligence chief told Congress that fewer than 100 Americans have become surveillance targets because they were initially overheard communicating with foreign terror suspects.

“How many Americans’ phones have been tapped without a court order? The answer is none,” Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell told the House Judiciary Committee.

The law that expires in February allows intelligence agencies to carry out warrantless surveillance on all communications of a foreign terror suspect, even if a U.S.-based person is on one end of the call.

Congressional Democrats say the new law’s wording could promote warrantless spying on Americans. The law is written “so broadly and loosely that it permits the government to intercept … anyone even thought to be abroad,” Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers of Michigan said at Tuesday’s hearing.

The House Intelligence Committee is expected to begin considering changes to the warrantless wiretapping law next month.

McConnell and the Bush administration also want the law expanded to include immunity from lawsuits for telecom companies that helped intelligence agencies carry out spying.

Democrats, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, want stricter rules covering surveillance of Americans.

“These restrictions would impede the flow of information that helps us protect our people,” Bush said Wednesday. “These restrictions would reopen gaps in our intelligence that we had just closed.”

At NSA, Bush received private briefings from intelligence officials and mingled with employees in the National Threat Operations Center. While cameras and reporters were in the room, the large video screens that lined the walls displayed unclassified information on computer crime and signal intelligence.

Along one wall at NSA is a sign that says, “We won’t back down. We never have. We never will.”

From USA Today

By Ryan Singel

International travelers concerned about being labeled a terrorist or drug runner by secret Homeland Security algorithms may want to be careful what books they read on the plane. Newly revealed records show the government is storing such information for years.

Privacy advocates obtained database records showing that the government routinely records the race of people pulled aside for extra screening as they enter the country, along with cursory answers given to U.S. border inspectors about their purpose in traveling. In one case, the records note Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Gilmore’s choice of reading material, and worry over the number of small flashlights he’d packed for the trip.

The breadth of the information obtained by the Gilmore-funded Identity Project (using a Privacy Act request) shows the government’s screening program at the border is actually a “surveillance dragnet,” according to the group’s spokesman Bill Scannell.

“There is so much sensitive information in the documents that it is clear that Homeland Security is not playing straight with the American people,” Scannell said.

The documents show a tiny slice of the massive airline-record collection stored by the government, as well as the screening records mined for the controversial Department of Homeland Security passenger-rating system that assigns terrorist scores to travelers entering and leaving the country, including U.S. citizens.

The so-called Automated Targeting System scrutinizes every airline passenger entering or leaving the country using classified rules that tell agents which passengers to give extra screening to and which to deny entry or exit from the country.

The system relies on data ranging from the government’s 700,000-name terrorism watchlist to data included in airline-travel database entries, known as Passenger Name Records, which airlines are required to submit to the government.

According to government descriptions, ATS mines data from intelligence, law enforcement and regulatory databases, looking for linkages in order to identify “high-risk” targets who may not already be on terrorist watchlists.

ATS was started in the late 1990s, but was little known until the government issued a notice about the system last fall. The government has subsequently modified the proposed rules for the system, shortening the length of time data is collected and allowing individuals to request some information used by the scoring system.

The government stores the PNRs for years and typically includes destinations, phone and e-mail contact information, meal requests, special health requests, payment information and frequent-flier numbers.

The Identity Project filed Privacy Act requests for five individuals to see the data stored on them by the government.

The requests revealed that the PNRs also included information on one requester’s race, the phone numbers of overseas family members given to the airlines as emergency contact information, and a record of a purely European flight that had been booked overseas separately from an international itinerary, according to snippets of the documents shown to Wired News.

The request also revealed the screening system includes inspection notes from earlier border inspections.

One report about Gilmore notes: “PAX (passenger) has many small flashlights with pot leaves on them. He had a book entitled ‘Drugs and Your Rights.'” Gilmore is an advocate for marijuana legalization.

Another inspection entry noted that Gilmore had “attended computer conference in Berlin and then traveled around Europe and Asia to visit friends. 100% baggage exam negative…. PAX is self employed ‘Entrepreneur’ in computer software business.”

“They are noting people’s race and they are writing down what people read,” Scannell said.

It doesn’t matter that Gilmore was reading a book about drugs, rather than Catcher in the Rye, according to Scannell. “A book is a book,” Scannell said. “This is just plain wrong.”

The documents have also turned Scannell against the Department of Homeland Security’s proposal for screening airline passengers inside the United States.

That project, known as Secure Flight, will take watchlist screening out of the hands of airlines, by having the airlines send PNR data to the government ahead of each flight. While earlier versions included plans to rate passenger’s threat level using data purchased from private companies, DHS now proposes only to compare data in the PNR against names on the watchlist, which largely disarmed civil libertarians’ opposition to the program.

That’s changed for Scannell now, who sees Secure Flight as just another version of ATS.

“They want people to get permission to travel,” Scannell said. “They already instituted it for leaving and entering the country and now they want to do it to visit your Aunt Patty in Cleveland.”

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

From Wired.com

Even the chair of the 9/11 Commission now admits that the official evidence they were given was ‘far from the truth’.

Peter Tatchell

12, 2007 10:30 AM

Comment is Free – the Guardian

Six years after 9/11, the American public have still not been provided with a full and truthful account of the single greatest terror attack in US history.

What they got was a turkey. The 9/11 Commission was hamstrung by official obstruction. It never managed to ascertain the whole truth of what happened on September 11 2001.

The chair and vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, respectively Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, assert in their book, Without Precedent, that they were “set up to fail” and were starved of funds to do a proper investigation. They also confirm that they were denied access to the truth and misled by senior officials in the Pentagon and the federal aviation authority;
and that this obstruction and deception led them to contemplate slapping officials with criminal charges.

Despite the many public statements by 9/11 commissioners and staff members acknowledging they were repeatedly lied to, not a single person has ever been charged, tried, or even reprimanded, for lying to the 9/11 Commission.

From the outset, the commission seemed to be hobbled. It did not start work until over a year after the attacks. Even then, its terms of reference were suspiciously narrow, its powers of investigation curiously limited and its time-frame for producing a report unhelpfully short – barely a year to sift through millions of pages of evidence and to interview hundreds of key witnesses.

The final report did not examine key evidence, and neglected serious anomalies in the various accounts of what happened. The commissioners admit their report was incomplete and flawed, and that many questions about the terror attacks remain unanswered. Nevertheless, the 9/11 Commission was swiftly closed down on August 21 2004.

I do not believe in conspiracy theories. I prefer rigorous, evidence-based analysis that sifts through the known facts and utilises expert opinion to draw conclusions that stand up to critical scrutiny. In other words, I believe in everything the 9/11 Commission was not.

The failings of the official investigation have fuelled too many half-baked conspiracy theories. Some of the 9/11 “truth” groups promote speculative hypotheses, ignore innocent explanations, cite non-expert sources and jump to conclusions that are not proven by the known facts. They convert mere coincidence and circumstantial evidence into cast-iron proof. This is no way to debunk the obfuscations and evasions of the 9/11 report.

But even amid the hype, some of these 9/11 groups raise valid and important questions that were never even considered, let alone answered, by the official investigation. The American public has not been told the complete truth about the events of that fateful autumn morning six years ago.

What happened on 9/11 is fundamentally important in its own right. But equally important is the way the 9/11 cover-up signifies an absence of democratic, transparent and accountable government. Establishing the truth is, in part, about restoring honesty, trust and confidence in American politics.

There are dozens of 9/11 “truth” websites and campaign groups. I cannot vouch for the veracity or credibility of any of them. But what I can say is that as well as making plenty of seemingly outrageous claims; a few of them raise legitimate questions that demand answers.

Four of these well known “tell the truth” 9/11 websites are:

1) Scholars for 9/11 Truth, which includes academics and intellectuals from many disciplines.

2) 250+ 9/11 ‘Smoking Guns’ a website that cites over 250 pieces of evidence that allegedly contradict, or were omitted from, the 9/11 Commission report.

3) The 911 Truth Campaign that, as well as offering its own evidence and theories, includes links to more than 20 similar websites.

4) Patriots Question 9/11, perhaps the most plausible array of distinguished US citizens who question the official account of 9/11, including General Wesley Clark, former Nato commander in Europe, and seven members and staffers of the official 9/11 Commission, including the chair and vice chair. In all, this website documents the doubts of 110+ senior military, intelligence service, law enforcement and government officials; 200+ engineers and architects; 50+ pilots and aviation professionals; 150+ professors; 90+ entertainment and media people; and 190+ 9/11 survivors and family members. Although this is an impressive roll call, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these expert professionals are right. Nevertheless, their scepticism of the official version of events is reason to pause and reflect.

More and more US citizens are critical of the official account. The respected Zogby polling organisation last week found that 51% of Americans want Congress to probe President Bush and Vice-President Cheney regarding the truth about the 9/11 attacks; 67% are also critical of the 9/11 Commission for not investigating the bizarre, unexplained collapse of the 47-storey World Trade Centre building 7 (WTC7). This building was not hit by any planes. Unlike WTC3, which was badly damaged by falling debris from the Twin Towers but which remained standing, WTC7 suffered minor damage but suddenly collapsed in a neat pile, as happens in a controlled demolition.

In a 2006 interview with anchorman Evan Soloman of CBC’s Sunday programme, the vice chair of the 9/11 Commission, Lee Hamilton, was reminded that the commission report failed to even mention the collapse of WTC7 or the suspicious hurried removal of the building debris from the site – before there could be a proper forensic investigation of what was a crime scene. Hamilton could only offer the lame excuse that the commissioners did not have “unlimited time” and could not be expected to answer “every question” the public asks.

There are many, many more strange unexplained facts concerning the events of 9/11. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to be puzzled and want an explanation, or to be sceptical concerning the official version of events.

Six years on from those terrible events, the survivors, and the friends and families of those who died, deserve to know the truth. Is honesty and transparency concerning 9/11 too much to ask of the president and Congress?

What is needed is a new and truly independent commission of inquiry to sort coincidence and conjecture from fact, and to provide answers to the unsolved anomalies in the evidence available concerning the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Unlike the often-stymied first investigation, this new commission should be granted wide-ranging subpoena powers and unfettered access to government files and officials. George Bush should be called to testify, without his minders at hand to brief and prompt him. America – and the world – has a right to know the truth.

Read this or George W. Bush will be president the rest of your life

September 11, 2007

by William Blum

www.killinghope.org

The world is very weary of all this and wants to laugh again

Okay, Bush ain’t gonna get out of Iraq no matter what anyone says or does short of a)impeachment, b)a lobotomy, or c)one of his daughters setting herself afire in the Oval Office as a war protest. A few days ago, upon arriving in Australia, “in a chipper mood”, he was asked by the Deputy Prime Minister about his stopover in Iraq. “We’re kicking ass,” replied the idiot king.[1] Another epigram for his tombstone.

And the Democrats ain’t gonna end the war. Ninety-nine percent of the American people protesting on the same day ain’t gonna do it either, in this democracy. (No, I’m sorry to say that I don’t think the Vietnam protesters ended the war. There were nine years of protest — 1964 to 1973 — before the US military left Vietnam. It’s a stretch to ascribe a cause and effect to that. The United States, after all, had to leave sometime.)

Only those fighting the war can end it. By laying down their arms and refusing to kill anymore, including themselves. Some American soldiers in Iraq have already refused to go on very dangerous combat missions. Iraq Veterans Against the War, last month at their annual meeting, in St. Louis, voted to launch a campaign encouraging American troops to refuse to fight. “Iraq Veterans Against the War decided to make support of war resisters a major part of what we do,” said Garrett Rappenhagen, a former U.S. Army sniper who served in Iraq from February 2004 to February 2005.

The veterans group has begun organizing among active duty soldiers on military bases. Veterans have toured the country in busses holding barbeques outside the base gates. They also plan to step up efforts to undermine military recruiting efforts.

Of course it’s a very long shot to get large numbers of soldiers into an angry, protesting frame of mind. But consider the period following the end of World War Two. Late 1945 and early 1946 saw what is likely the greatest troop revolt that has ever occurred in a victorious army. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of American soldiers protested all over the world because they were not being sent home even though the war was over. The GIs didn’t realize it at first, but many soon came to understand that the reason they were being transferred from Europe and elsewhere to various places in the Pacific area, instead of being sent back home, was that the United States was concerned about uprisings against colonialism, which, in the minds of Washington foreign-policy officials, was equated with communism and other nasty un-American things. The uprisings were occurring in British colonies, in Dutch colonies, in French colonies, as well as in the American colony of the Philippines. Yes, hard to believe, but the United States was acting like an imperialist power.

In the Philippines there were repeated mass demonstrations by GIs who were not eager to be used against the left-wing Huk guerrillas. The New York Times reported in January 1946 about one of these demonstrations: “‘The Philippines are capable of handling their own internal problems,’ was the slogan voiced by several speakers. Many extended the same point of view to China.”[2]

American marines were sent to China to support the Nationalist government of Chang Kai-shek against the Communists of Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai. They were sent to the Netherlands Indies (Indonesia) to be of service to the Dutch in their suppression of native nationalists. And American troop ships were used to transport the French military to France’s former colony in Vietnam. These and other actions of Washington led to numerous large GI protests in Japan, Guam, Saipan, Korea, India, Germany, England, France, and Andrews Field, Maryland, all concerned with the major slowdown in demobilization and the uses for which the soldiers were being employed. There were hunger strikes and mass mailings to Congress from the soldiers and their huge body of support in the States. In January 1946, Senator Edwin Johnson of Colorado declared “It is distressing and humiliating to all Americans to read in every newspaper in the land accounts of near mutiny in the Army.”[3]

On January 13, 1946, 500 GIs in Paris adopted a set of demands called “The Enlisted Man’s Magna Charta”, calling for radical reforms of the master-slave relationship between officers and enlisted men; also demanding the removal of Secretary of War Robert Patterson. In the Philippines, soldier sentiment against the reduced demobilization crystallized in a meeting of GIs that voted unanimously to ask Secretary Patterson and certain Senators: “What is the Army’s position in the Philippines, especially in relation to the reestablishment of the Eighty-sixth Infantry Division on a combat basis?”[4]

By the summer of 1946 there had been a huge demobilization of the armed forces, although there’s no way of knowing with any exactness how much of that was due to the GIs’ protests.[5]

If this is how American soldiers could be inspired and organized in the wake of “The Good War”, imagine what can be done today in the midst of “The God-awful War”.

Iraq Veterans Against the War could use your help. Go to: http://www.ivaw.org/

[1] Sydney Morning Herald, September 6, 2007
[2] New York Times, January 8, 1946, p.3
[3] New York Times, January 11, 1946, p.1
[4] Ibid., p.4
[5] For more information about the soldiers’ protests, see: Mary-Alice Waters, “G.I.’s and the Fight
Against War” (New York, 1967), a pamphlet published by “Young Socialist” magazine.William Blum is the author of:

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

From Thomas Paine’s Corner