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Monday, 29 March 2004

Clarke Is Right
Below the grandstanding is some solid expertise.

It has been widely remarked by now that Richard Clarke was the most aggressive counterterrorism official in the Clinton administration, privately frustrated by his inability to get the Clinton team to take up his most important ideas. The fact that Clarke is quite sound on terrorism issues -- at least those not touching on the Iraq war -- has now been obscured by his star turn as an anti-Bush partisan. But if you focus on what Clarke said in his testimony before the 9/11 commission when he wasn't beating up on Condi Rice et al, you hear a quite reasonable analysis of the U.S. response to terrorism.

First, Clarke agrees with the assessment of the Bush team that his proposals for action in Afghanistan -- aiding the Northern Alliance, flying the Predator, etc. -- would not have prevented 9/11. Asked of his proposals at the commission hearing, "assuming that [they] had all been adopted, say, on January 26, year 2001, is there the remotest chance that it would have prevented 9/11?" Clarke's answer: "No."

Clarke agrees with the argument -- made repeatedly by conservatives over the years -- that the CIA had been beaten into a defensive crouch by its critics. As Clarke explained to the 9/11 commission, "our HUMINT program, our spy capability, had been eviscerated in the mid-1980s and early-1990s, and there was no such capability either to know that al-Qaeda existed, let alone to destroy it. And there's something else that I think we have to understand about the CIA's covert action capabilities. For many years they were roundly criticized by the Congress and the media for various covert actions that they carried out at the request of people like me in the White House -- not me, but people like me. And many CIA senor managers were dragged up into this room and others and berated for failed covert action activities. And they became great political footballs."

Clarke seems to agree with a point often made by Clinton critics: that it was foolish in the 1990s to make the FBI the lead agency in the fight against terrorism since, as an after-the-fact domestic law enforcement agency, it was manifestly not up to the task. He explained to the commission, "the fact that we didn't have intelligence that we could point to that said [an attack] would take place in the United States wasn't significant in my view because, frankly, sir -- I know how this is going to sound, but I have to say it -- I didn't think the FBI would know whether or not there was anything going on in the United States by al-Qaeda." A commissioner asked, "Well, the FBI was the principal agency upon which you had to rely -- is that not the case?" Clarke replied, pregnantly, "It is."

Clarke emphasizes the need for preemption. He explained, "One of the things I would hope comes out of your commission report is a change -- a recommendation for a change in the attitude of government about threats; that we be able to act on threats that we foresee, even if acting requires boldness and requires money and requires changing the way we do business, that we act on threats in the future before they happen. The problem is that when you make that recommendation before they happen, when you recommend an air defense system for Washington before there's been a 9/11, people tend to think you're nuts."

Clarke apparently sees the need for more domestic surveillance in the U.S., advocating doing the Patriot Act one better and creating a domestic intelligence agency. Just imagine the howls from the ACLU. Clarke acknowledged this, but said it was worth it, "I am very fearful that such an agency would have potential to infringe on our civil liberties, and therefore I think we would have to take extraordinary steps to have active oversight of such an agency. And we'd have to explain to the American people in a very compelling way why they needed a domestic intelligence service, because I think most Americans would be fearful of a secret police in the United States. But frankly, the FBI culture, the FBI organization, the FBI personnel are not the best we could do in this country for a domestic intelligence service."

Clarke apparently agrees that law enforcement is an inappropriate paradigm for fighting. He noted the problem with accepting the rules of evidence that apply to criminal cases when it comes to terrorism. He was, for instance, frustrated when the Clinton administration called in the FBI to confirm Iraqi involvement in the attempted assassination of the first President Bush in early 1993, creating an unnecessary delay. He explained, "And that took from February of '93 through the end of May. And it was done in a way that was reminiscent of a criminal process. At least the FBI case was. The CIA case was an intelligence case and had different sources of information, different standards for what was admissible, and a more lenient standard for making a determination. But I think beginning then, I was frustrated by that kind of evidentiary process."

Clarke defends the idea of acting even when the intelligence is uncertain, especially when WMDs are potentially involved. He defended the Clinton administration's controversial 1998 attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant, which many observers think was based on flimsy intelligence at best. Clarke said, "To this day, there are a lot of people who believe that it was not related to a terrorist group, not related to chemical weapons. They're wrong, by the way. But the president [Clinton] had decided in PDD-39 that there should be a low threshold of evidence when it comes to the possibility of terrorists getting their access -- getting their hands on chemical weapons."

-- Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years.
Loose Canons
Mr. Clarke and Mullah Brezhnev
By Jed Babbin
Published 3/29/2004 12:06:21 AM

First we had It Takes a Village. Then there was Living History. Now we have Against All Enemies. Like the first, it was not written by Hillary Clinton and, like the second, it is revisionist history at its worst.

Mr. Clarke -- former White House terrorism "czar" during the era of al-Qaeda's first round of attacks on America -- is doing his best to sink President Bush. If you listened to Clarke's testimony to the 9-11 Commission this week, you would have heard that Mr. Bush came into office and -- with the Wolfowitz snarling at the White House door -- ignored al-Qaeda and everything the smartest people (meaning Clarke) were saying. According to Clarke, by deposing Saddam Mr. Bush only made the world a more dangerous place. Clarke wants us to believe that if only Mr. Bush had chosen him instead of Condi Rice for National Security Advisor, if only Mr. Bush had done what Clarke had said instantly, and every time, maybe -- just maybe -- we would have been spared the 9-11 attacks. Nonsense.

Clarke was in the White House for eight years, all through the Clinton administration's failures and now wants the world to ignore that track record. His major accomplishment was a completely useless strategy on cyber-terrorism.

All you need to know about Clarke is that the release of his new Bush-bashing book Against All Enemies happened the day before his melodramatic testimony. I'm sure it was a coincidence that the book release was accelerated by a month -- as Tim Russert noted on Meet the Press -- to appear in bookstores in time for his testimony.

Clarke began by apologizing to the families of 9-11 victims for his failure to stop the attacks. All he lacked was the trembling lower lip. He grandstanded, putting himself in the place of the government of the United States, of which he wants the world to believe he should have been in charge. His arguments are not only partisan but dishonest. He famously briefed reporters in August 2002 about the efforts of the Bush administration to fight terrorism and said, at length, that the Bush administration was working hard to change and improve anti-terrorist actions, including quintupling the covert action budget for the CIA. Now he says that he disagreed with what he said then. On Meet the Press, he said that he had to do that or resign, and chose to spin because -- he implied -- he, Clarke the omniscient, was just too important to the anti-terror effort to leave it in the hands of others. Read the soon-to-be unclassified Clarke testimony of two years ago -- and the already-available 9-11 Commission staff report for the details.

Clarke will sell a lot of books as a result of this publicity exercise. He will be hired by some network as a terrorism "expert" and be in our faces through the election. That alone makes it important to understand what he is saying, and why it is so terribly wrong.

THE MOST IMPORTANT CHARGE Clarke makes -- and the one that is blatantly partisan -- is that by deciding to topple Saddam, Mr. Bush made the world a more dangerous place. He said on Meet the Press that America is more hated now in the Arab world than it was before, and that by removing Saddam, we have made it harder to gain the trust of the Arab world. He also said that the war in Iraq weakened the war against terrorism by angering the Arab world and by taking needed resources away from the war against al-Qaeda. That's his principal position, and it is the most demonstrably wrong one he took, which is saying quite a lot.

If Clarke is to be believed, why would 9-11 have happened? If our diplomacy and foreign aid were successful, why would terrorists have killed thousands of American that day? Had we stayed out of Iraq, and left the job of persuading the Arab nations to help fight terrorism to the diplomats, our Clinton-era posture in the Middle East would have remained unchanged and unsuccessful. The principal development in the Middle East in the Iraq campaign is the demonstration to the despots and religious thugocracies there that we will act decisively to stop their involvement in terrorism. Though most of those nations -- particularly Iran -- still don't believe we will do to them what we did to Saddam, there is a signal of a change in their thinking. Does anyone seriously believe that Muammar Qaddafi would have surrendered his nuclear weapons program if he was unconcerned about being next on Uncle Sam's list?

Clarke still doesn't understand that we cannot give a rat's behind about what the average man on the street in Damascus or Teheran thinks of us if we want to end the terrorism those nations produce. We cannot say it often enough: terrorism doesn't result from poverty, it isn't aimed at us because we don't sing "Kumbaya" in Arabic often enough. Terrorism is driven by ideology and fueled by a poisonous interpretation of religion. It's much more important to recognize that radical Islam -- terrorist Islam -- is being spread by a propaganda line we should well remember.

Those who preach it -- whether it's the Saudi Wahabbism, the Iranian edition, or one of the others -- insist that terrorist Islam will succeed inevitably, and its seizure of power in any nation is irreversible. It is, they say, the will of God. More than thirty years ago, a guy named Leonid Brezhnev said the same thing about communism, and the Clarkes of that era bought it. At least until Lech Walesa and some very brave Poles proved the Brezhnev Doctrine, as it became known, to be utterly false. By overthrowing communism and establishing democracy, Walesa and his people drove a stake through the heart of communism. If there is a central strategy in our war against terror, it must be this: those who propagandize the inevitability and irreversibility of radical Islam must be proven wrong just as the Brezhnevites of the 1970s were, and in the same way.

If we are to succeed in the long-term war against Islamic terror, we must succeed in the same way, and to the same degree that the Poles did. We have so far toppled two regimes. But in neither in Afghanistan nor in Iraq did we topple a radical Islamist regime in an Arab country. The first time we do this, and manage to get the people of that nation to establish basic freedoms, we will have created a new Poland in the Arab world. By doing so, and only by doing so, can we finally defeat the Brezhnevite Islamists and bring the era of global terrorism to an end.

TAS Contributing editor Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and now often appears as a talking warhead on radio and television.

Those who predicted Islamist terrorism ran against the wind
By Barbara Amiel
(Filed: 29/03/2004)

'I hate terrorists!" "I hate them more!" There's a catfight in Washington at the Senate hearings on 9/11. Richard Clarke, the former terrorism tsar, is apologising to all Americans for not being a step ahead of the World Trade Centre horror. Book sales are soaring for Clarke's dump on President Bush and his inside story of the war on terrorism (including that practised by Washington bureaucrats). CNN is rapturous and appears to have Clarke on a half-hourly loop. White House television correspondents are interviewing those who lost "loved ones" and are at the hearings to learn "what really happened on September 11, 2001".

They won't learn much. Clarke's apology to the families of those killed and his dramatic "I failed you" is probably heartfelt, since he was in four successive administrations and is one of a dozen or two top officials charged with the task of tackling terrorism. But I can't see how any American government or individual, of either party, could have prevented the development of international terrorism. The question is not whether Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush actually knew about the murderous intentions of radical Islam or whether they took what they knew seriously, but what the public mood would have let them do about it before 9/11.

Not much, I wager. What administration could, before 9/11, have sent in American boys to fight a regime in Afghanistan because it was implementing the ideas of an old man with a long white beard, sitting crossed-legged in the mountains talking about Satan America? Had I been in Congress before 9/11, knowing everything that was knowable about the Islamists, I still doubt if I would have voted to send troops to the Hindu Kush to topple the Taliban. Eardrums would have exploded all over Capital Hill from outcries of racism and imperialism if there had been serious efforts, pre-9/11, to round up suspected Muslim militants in the United States and tighten security on Muslims entering the country. As it is, the post-9/11 sensitivity to racial profiling makes travel hazardous for white grannies who dislike body-searches.

What is possible in politics depends to a great extent on what is blowing in the wind. There are times when even a Churchill can't trudge against it, no matter how accurate his sense of direction. The notion of terrorism as a lethal threat to America had no force, even after the assassination of the radical Rabbi Kahane (New York, 1990), the first bombing of the World Trade Centre (1993) and the deadly attacks on America embassies, citizens and military abroad - all carried out by Islamists. The American eagle was in ostrich mode.

Some people do try to run against the wind. Steve Emerson worked for CNN until one day, being a nosy reporter, he walked into a meeting where a Hamas leader was speaking about the need to kill Jews and carry out jihad - in Oklahoma City. He left CNN and made domestic terrorism his field of research. By 1994 he had assembled a film, Jihad in America, that no mainstream network would run. The film showed footage of Islamic terror-mongers in cities as varied as Dallas, Detroit, New York and Atlanta, recruiting for both domestic and world-wide jihad. "Jihad means fighting only, fighting with the sword," said Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, speaking at a conference in Brooklyn in 1989. His cousin went further. In Atlanta in 1990, Fayiz Azzam harangued: "Allah's religion - be he praised - must offer skulls, must offer martyrs. Blood must flow. There must be widows, there must be orphans. Hands and limbs must be cut..."

The film was an astonishing piece of work for its time. Looked at now, it is eerie in its prescience. Emerson finally wangled a one-time, limited showing on PBS, on November 21, 1994. In spite of the routine caveats in the documentary, reiterating the distinction between radical Islamists and the religious beliefs of the vast majority of moderate Muslims, only Muslim extremists spoke out about the film, organising letters of protest. The moderate Muslims remained, as ever, so moderate as to be invisible.

Emerson became an encyclopaedia on Islamic terrorism and its adherents in America. His knowledge was no help to his journalism career. "You're radioactive," one Washington Post reporter told him, after having been instructed by his editor never to use any material or research from Emerson. He met the common fate of those who run against the zeitgeist. Until 9/11, he was marginalised in the mainstream press and smeared by much of the Left as a fanatic. Like many single-issue people, he occasionally lacked caution in his work, unwise when working in a minefield, but probably necessary in the first place.

Yigal Carmon, a friend of Emerson's, had his last day at work as counter-terrorist adviser to Israeli prime minister Rabin on February 26, 1993. That morning he went to the Pentagon to brief the Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict Group on Islamic fundamentalism. Carmon quoted excerpts from radical Islamists he had translated. The nuances of Arabic were particularly significant to him and he explained them carefully. "Islamic fundamentalism," he concluded, "is an imminent threat to America." The Americans listened carefully. Carmon, a rare combination of street-smart and intellectual heft, knew he hadn't a chance in hell of making them understand. Two and a half hours later he was in New York. He arrived just as a mini-van filled with 500 kilogrammes of high explosives went off in the basement of the World Trade Centre.

Out of government, Carmon set up the Middle East Monitoring and Research Institute and continued translating the broadcasts and meetings of the Arab world. The chilling remarks of Arab leaders appeared in stark contrast to their anodyne sentiments in English.

Still, people rarely welcome Cassandras. As Tolstoy pointed out, Napoleon mesmerised his followers, but if his commands had run against the spirit of the times, even Napoleon wouldn't have been obeyed. Running against the wind, every hour each day, takes an obsessive personality which plays out well in terms of Carmon's unfailing accuracy in his translations and information. But Israelis are more instinctively Peace Now than Fight Now and didn't enjoy Carmon's truths any more than Americans wanted Emerson's film. Not wanting to believe uncomfortable things until it is too late is a universal tendency.

Which is perhaps why Clarke's accusations are so happily greeted. Not just in terms of partisanship but for their simplicity. If 9/11 can be reduced to being Washington's fault, the irrational hate and destruction becomes almost manageable. Change administrations, and the Islamists will go away. Such a seductive, comforting thought echoes in most political battles and elections today. The wind from the east blows gritty grains of fear and delusion into the West's eyes. One wonders apprehensively, which way the zeitgeist of this new millennium will turn. Worse, one fears the calamity that will really turn it hasn't happened yet.

The (Out)Source of All Confusion
Fear + slow jobs growth + an election year = bad policy.

On Friday, April 2, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the employment report for March. Most economists are expecting a solid increase in jobs. But they have expected significant increases for months, only to be proven wrong when the official data were released. Another weak jobs number undoubtedly will raise pressure on Congress and the Bush administration to take action on the issue of outsourcing, which many unemployed workers, especially in information technology (IT), blame for their misfortune.

One reason why the outsourcing issue has gotten so much attention is that it plays to deeply held fears about foreigners, fears that have been part of the American political landscape since the Know-Nothing movement of the 1840s. As Holman Jenkins of the Wall Street Journal recently put it, "The current griping over 'outsourcing' seems almost a species of psychological dysfunction, one that blames foreigners over any explanation that doesn't."

The Bush administration has been very slow to recognize the political threat from the outsourcing issue. Indeed, it played right into it with an ill-timed proposal to allow illegal Mexican workers in the U.S. to have "guest worker" status allowing them to remain here legally. While I think this is a defensible policy, it suffers from appearing to be motivated more by politics than a serious concern for illegal immigration. It looks as if its sole purpose is to win Hispanic votes.

President Bush also shot himself in the foot when he promised to create a high-level post to promote manufacturing, the area where the greatest job losses have occurred. It turned out that this "manufacturing czar" position involved nothing more than renaming an existing assistant-secretary position at the Commerce Department. And the vetting process for the position was bungled: Tony Raimondo, who has outsourced jobs to China from his own business, was named to the post. The appointment was quickly rescinded when John Kerry's campaign brought this fact to the media's attention.

The Bush administration has done little to address the outsourcing issue other than muzzle Greg Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, for daring to suggest that it is an inevitable process. But others are starting to pick up the slack. A new study by the American Electronics Association offers a balanced perspective.

While acknowledging that outsourcing has hurt some Americans, the AEA study places most of the blame for job loss on slow growth and rising productivity. It also notes that other countries have caught up with the U.S. in terms of education and technology, making them stronger competitors for IT business. They are competing not just on the basis of wages, but quality as well.

The AEA study says that today's concern for outsourcing echoes warnings in the 1980s that Japan was going to take over the world. A recent Forbes article points to parallels with the automation scare of the 1960s. As a presidential candidate in 1960, John F. Kennedy warned that automation "carries the dark menace of industrial dislocation, increased unemployment and deepens poverty."

Robots, Japan, NAFTA, and other threats to our prosperity have never sustained themselves, and the doom-and-gloom crowd has always slunk away without ever explaining why they were so wrong. Ross Perot, for example, has never told us why NAFTA didn't cause the "giant sucking sound of jobs being pulled out of this country" that he predicted in 1992.

Writing in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs, political scientist Daniel Drezner explains that fears of permanent job loss from trade and technology always arise when unemployment is high for cyclical reasons. But eventually the slowdowns end and employment strengthens again. "Once the economy improves, the political hysteria over outsourcing will also disappear," Drezner writes.

This is exactly what President Kennedy's Council of Economic Advisers told him would happen when fears that automation would cause all jobs to disappear were at a peak forty years ago. CEA chairman Walter Heller explained that the best thing he could do was cut taxes to stimulate investment and consumption, which would raise economic growth and employment regardless of how much automation was going on. When this proved to be correct, the automation hysteria faded away.

Thus, most economists believe that policies aimed specifically at outsourcing are misdirected and potentially counterproductive. For example, a new study by the National Foundation for American Policy argues that anti-outsourcing legislation recently passed by the Senate, by inviting foreign retaliation, reducing competition, and raising costs to governments, will likely destroy more jobs than it saves. The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Conn.), would prohibit federal contractors or states from contracting-out with foreign businesses.

Outsourcing is an issue only because employment growth is slow. But it is not the cause. Hence, policies directed at restricting outsourcing are unlikely to create any jobs and actually run the risk of making the situation worse.

-- Bruce Bartlett is senior fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis. Write to him here.

Kerry in fine shape (except for his ailments)

By Jim VandeHei
The Washington Post
Sen. John Kerry, lower right, snowboards ahead of his instructor, Jim Grossman, at Sun Valley, Idaho, last week.

ST. LOUIS -- Sen. John Kerry, by most measures an unusually fit 60-year-old, has spent key parts of his presidential campaign battling ailments ranging from prostate cancer to a stubborn cough and cold.
Kerry frequently complains to reporters of a stiff right shoulder or allergies that leave his voice raspy and throat sore. For much of this year, Kerry has curtailed speaking and sipped lemon tea to nurse a voice strained by hacking and yakking. In mid-February, he described the ailment to reporters as a "chest thing" and griped about its persistence.
On Wednesday, Kerry will undergo elective shoulder surgery for a slight tear, marking the second time the Democratic candidate has missed time on the hustings for an operation. Shortly after announcing his campaign in 2003, Kerry had his prostate removed to cure early-stage cancer.
In some instances, the aches and illness have come at inopportune times, slowing his campaign at critical junctures. But mostly, they have simply frustrated an athletic candidate who plays hockey and bicycles, snowboards and windsurfs. His biggest complaint: Aches and pains are precluding more frequent workouts.
"Kerry is the most athletic, most vigorous guy in the race," said David Wade, his spokesman. "He bounced back from surgery last year way faster than most, he windsurfs, mountain climbs, skis and snowboards; in great shape -- not exactly the kind of guy whose health is a question mark."
Shortly after announcing Wednesday's surgery, a local TV reporter's first question to Kerry was whether the candidate had a "Cheney problem," a reference to health questions that have dogged the vice president as a result of his heart condition.
Kerry brushed off the inquiry with a simple "no," and declared "I'm healthy." Indeed, based on Kerry's partial medical records, which were released last year, the Massachusetts senator appears in fine and fit condition.
Yesterday morning at Chris's Pancakes and Dining, three different patrons commented about how Kerry looks better in person than he does on television. Yet one man commented, "You need a little flesh on." Kerry agreed and said, "I know, I'm working on it."
Today, Kerry's general physician, Dr. Gerald Doyle, will release an updated summary of the candidate's health record. And Dr. Bertram Zarins, from Massachusetts General, will brief reporters on Kerry's upcoming surgery.
Because Americans generally have chosen presidents whom they view as strong -- from Theodore Roosevelt to John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, the candidates routinely portray themselves as vibrant and virile.
In the 1992 campaign, Paul Tsongas, who suffered from lymphoma, showed himself swimming in a television commercial to prove his good health. In 1996, Bob Dole, who had been treated for prostate cancer and had minimal use of his right arm from a World War II injury, frequently battled to prove himself fit to unseat a much-younger Bill Clinton.
And Bill Bradley did not disclose his three years of heart problems until he was forced to do so during the last presidential campaign.
In earlier years, politicians and presidents hid their ailments, underscoring how essential the image of strength is to leadership and how open, by historical standards, Kerry and other modern politicians are today about their health.
Grover Cleveland underwent two operations for cancer of the jaw in 1889, but told America he had a tooth removed. Most famously, Franklin Roosevelt hid his disability from Americans in an era when the president's every move was not captured on camera. Now, candidates publicize hospital visits and quickly release medical records to the public.
This year's election features two men who revel in their athleticism. Bush runs a subseven-minute mile and bench presses more than 200 pounds. For relaxation, the president chops wood and clears brush at his ranch.
Bush did have four noncancerous skin lesions removed in December 2001 and recently stopped running as result of a knee injury.
Not to be outdone, Kerry has played hockey with the Boston Bruins and, last week, was photographed snowboarding and hiking up snow-covered mountains. At airports, he often tosses a football or baseball with a top aide before the cameras. He sometimes brings a bike along for working out.
But, several aides said, Kerry's bout with prostate cancer was to blame for the candidate's slow and uneven start to the presidential campaign. After surgery in February 2003, Kerry missed several weeks of campaigning and was sore and tired for many more.
Kerry lied to the Boston Globe when asked if he was sick. He later explained that he wanted to tell his family first. At a news conference to announce his surgery, Kerry's staff distributed a quote from the candidate's doctor describing him as "strong as an ox."
This week's surgery comes at the beginning of a fast and furious general-election campaign -- and only days after Kerry vacationed in Idaho. Some Democrats complained last week that Kerry's absence from the trail was ill-advised.
Wade said Kerry wants to get it over early so it doesn't bother him later in the campaign.

Copyright ? 2004 The Seattle Times Company


Nuclear Security Decisions Are Shrouded in Secrecy
Agency Withholds Unclassified Information
By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 29, 2004; Page A21
Nineteen men in four squads. That's the size of the terrorist threat that some nuclear critics say armed guards at U.S. nuclear power plants and weapons facilities should be able to rebuff.
The figure is pegged to the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda assaults on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The Bush administration has updated a much weaker 1980s-era standard, but government and congressional officials say the presumed attack still involves considerably fewer than 19 terrorists -- and that means requiring a smaller guard force than critics say is necessary.
A legal dispute related to this standard has now arisen, but -- as in other recent discussions of the administration's response to terrorism threats -- the squabbling is occurring almost entirely outside public view. The immediate issue is an unclassified request by a nuclear power plant operator for an exemption from certain parts of the new security requirements.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has deemed the operator's request sensitive, and declared that its release would bring criminal prosecution. Critics who allege the standards are already too lax have filed a challenge to the exemption request, which the commission has also declared is too sensitive to be released.
It is but one example of the manner in which post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism controls -- even those concerning unclassified information -- have altered the landscape of public debate about security matters. Civil defense arrangements that were once the subject of mostly open rulemaking or debate are now often decided under a cloak of secrecy covering all but industry and government participants.
The result has been to complicate efforts to hold officials accountable for their decisions, especially in the counterterrorism field, say advocates of open policymaking. "There has been a proliferation of new controls on unclassified information," said Steven Aftergood, director of the Government Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists. "This is where the public is at a disadvantage," because few mechanisms are available to challenge these controls or to ensure that public representatives have access comparable to what industry routinely gains.
In the nuclear site security case, Duke Power asked the NRC to waive certain security precautions, normally required wherever more than a bomb's worth of special nuclear materials are present. The request involves the planned shipment next spring of French-made nuclear fuel rods containing plutonium to its plants in North and South Carolina, where they will be stored and then burned in reactors.
The challenge has been filed by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, with technical advice from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Although UCS scientist Edwin Lyman, who has a security clearance, read the exemption request after signing a non-disclosure statement, neither he nor the environmental group has been able to learn exactly what the NRC's security standards are.
Lyman says he is willing to keep whatever he learns confidential, but that without knowing more, he cannot fully assess the proposal or effectively express concerns about the underlying standard. But the NRC, ruling in a Feb. 18 decision, said that although Duke Power has a "need to know," the environmental group does not.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a longtime critic of nuclear power, has complained that the NRC barred the groups from learning the same information it shared not only with Duke Power but also with the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group that has lobbied against stiffer guard force requirements.
In a March 18 letter to the NRC, institute President Joe Colvin said the group was meeting "almost daily" with the commission staff to discuss the security standard, now undergoing a final government review. A senior NRC official, speaking on condition that he not be named, asserted that "the public does not have a need to know [the postulated terrorist threat] and doesn't, for the most part, have security clearances. . . . There is no way you can bring the public into that discussion." He said the critics "are unlikely to have anything but disdain for anything that we do, so I don't know what we can gain from that." Duke Power maintains that its power plants are well protected, and that its security exemption request is reasonable, given the difficulty of diverting plutonium contained in the bulky fuel rods. Nuclear Energy Institute Vice President Steve Floyd is skeptical of the critics' demands for even controlled access to threat information. "You have to realize what their agenda is -- to drive costs up to the point where nuclear [power] is no longer feasible," Floyd said.
But Aftergood of the Government Secrecy Project said that "it is the public that has to deal with the consequences" of a nuclear site security breach, and so it is entitled to participate more fully in the debate. "Fundamentally, the NRC policy views members of the public as a threat," Aftergood said.
The NRC is not alone in imposing its own, new controls on unclassified information. The Department of Homeland Security has promised not to disclose security data furnished by companies on their "critical infrastructure or protected systems," a potentially broad category of data.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has adopted a slightly different policy to shield what it calls critical "energy infrastructure" data: It will release the data to recipients who sign a non-disclosure pledge. These and other government offices are essentially taking their cues from a White House directive in March 2002, which encouraged government officials to treat all unclassified security-related information as sensitive data not subject to public release.
But the NRC policy is one of the most expansive. The commission recently threatened staff members at a watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), with criminal prosecution because they published their own detailed critique of security at Entergy Nuclear's two reactors at Indian Point in New York.
"The Commission is concerned that a public discussion of some of those issues would not be in the best interests of the United States," NRC Secretary Annette L. Vietti-Cook wrote to the group in the fall, noting problems related to discussion in the critique of the number of attackers a plant might have to fend off and particular security weaknesses.
Roy P. Zimmerman, director of the NRC's office of nuclear security, subsequently wrote that POGO's critique -- which the group says was based solely on interviews it conducted with people who participated in or observed Indian Point security drills -- had been deemed "safeguards information" protected by federal law. Such laws, he noted, apply to "any person . . . who produces, receives, or acquires" such data, no matter how they got it.
In an apparent Catch-22, Zimmerman said the commission could not, however, specify what information it wanted deleted from the critique. That prompted POGO's lawyer, David C. Vladeck, to allege that the NRC was trying to "silence" the group. Eventually, the NRC, which denied the accusation, agreed to describe the offending information in general terms, and POGO released a new critique containing passages it had rephrased.
But, in an illustration of the challenges the government faces in trying to quash public discussion of sensitive but unclassified information, the original POGO critique remains posted on an independent Web site devoted to disseminating whatever officials seek to censor (
Since Sept. 11, 2001, many bureaucrats have been using heightened security concerns to "hide their inadequacies," said Danielle Brian, POGO's executive director. "It has gone far, far beyond what is reasonable."
Aftergood similarly warns that the government has "cast too broad a net and . . . failed to provide an internal self-check." The sole office for policing the government's disclosure of security-related information was created in an era when data were either classified or subject to public release, and has no jurisdiction over the burgeoning realm of sensitive but unclassified information, he said.
J. William Leonard, who heads that office -- the Information Security Oversight Office, an arm of the National Archives -- confirms Aftergood's account. Although making no comment on specific disputes, he said that in many instances, "sensitive but unclassified" is a label without meaning that is misused by officials who lack the proper "training, background or understanding" to decide what to withhold. Leonard said that strictly applying a "need to know" test can sometimes exclude important players whose valuable insight is not foreseen.
Leonard gave a speech last year that he says is still relevant, in which he noted that the government needs to create "a seamless process" for sharing or withholding information, yet "we are . . . quite possibly adding new seams every day" by not enforcing a reasonable, government-wide policy.

? 2004 The Washington Post Company

Full text
List of nuclear weapon accidents released by the MoD: part 1
List of nuclear weapon accidents released by the MoD: part 2
List of nuclear weapon accidents released by the MoD: part 3
List of nuclear weapon accidents released by the MoD: part 4
See the ombudsman's report (pdf),9061,1061755,00.html

MoD catalogues its nuclear blunders

Ombudsman forces disclosure of list of mishaps from 1960 to 1991 in which weapons were dropped or their carriers had road accidents
Rob Evans
Monday October 13, 2003
The Guardian
British nuclear weapons have been repeatedly dropped, struck by other weapons, and on one occasion carried on a truck that slid down a hill and toppled over, the Ministry of Defence has admitted after decades of secrecy.
The department has been forced to publish a list of 20 accidents and mishaps with nuclear weapons between 1960 and 1991, following a critical verdict from the parliamentary ombudsman.
No incidents have been reported since then. The list shows that trucks carrying nuclear weapons on British roads overturned on two occasions, and cars crashed into two convoys.
Nuclear weapons were dropped or fell on four occasions, and other munitions struck the atomic weapons four times. Four of the incidents happened abroad, in Germany, Malta and near Hong Kong.
Sir Kevin Tebbit, the MoD's permanent secretary, has had to disclose the list following a six-year "open government" campaign by the Guardian. The MoD initially blocked the request submitted in 1997, prompting the newspaper to lodge a complaint with the ombudsman, Ann Abraham.
Finding the MoD guilty of maladministration, the ombudsman dismissed its objections and ruled that disclosing the information would not endanger the security of the nation. She also criticised the ministry for the "inordinate delay" in releasing the list.
One accident hushed up by the MoD was in 1960 in Lincolnshire. According to the MoD, "an RAF nuclear weapon load carrier, forming part of a convoy, experienced a brake failure on an incline and overturned". The MoD gives no other details, but insists "there was no damage to any nuclear weapon".
Three years later, on the border of Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire, there was another "brake failure on a nuclear weapon load carrier". The MoD does not give further details, but again says no weapons were damaged. Another brake failure happened in June 1985 near Glasgow.
Since Britain started making nuclear weapons in the early 1950s, convoys have regularly transported missiles hundreds of miles on motorways and other roads from bases to the atomic weapons factories at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire.
These convoys continue today, as the warheads have a very short shelf-life and constantly have to be refurbished and rebuilt to keep them safe.
Frank Barnaby, a nuclear physicist who worked at Aldermaston in the 1950s, said: "To have three brake failures frankly surprises me. A well-maintained convoy should not have brake failures." He said that the designs of Britain's early nuclear weapons, from the 1950s and 1960s, were unsafe and primitive, and that the MoD was "lucky" to have got away with not having more serious accidents, including nuclear explosions.
He added: "The fact is that the early bombs were not safe until the safety features in the more modern weapons were installed. They were not safe [enough] to be subjected to severe shock."
The MoD insists the accidents never caused radiation leaks. "There has never been an occurrence involving a British nuclear weapon which represented a threat to public safety or to the safety of service personnel."
Shaun Gregory, a Bradford University academic who has studied the dangers of nuclear accidents, said that the MoD's descriptions of the incidents had the "appearance of being a sanitised version" of events and did not ring true. "Any type of complex system is bound to run into trouble," he said.
He believed that there was little chance of a nuclear detonation, but an accident could have caused a fire or explosion which could have showered radioactive debris around the immediate area. He pointed out that the US had released the documents and reports of accidents with their nuclear weapons under the country's freedom of information act. These reports had shown how military staff had panicked during those events.
There have been at least two accidents with US nuclear weapons on British soil, both at Lakenheath in Suffolk. In 1956, a bomber careered out of control and ploughed into a bomb dump housing three nuclear weapons, tearing it apart. The bomber exploded and threw burning fuel over all three nuclear weapons. One official US cable reported that it was a "miracle" that one bomb with "exposed detonators" did not explode.
In 1961, a warplane loaded with a nuclear bomb caught fire, leaving the weapon "scorched and blistered".
For decades, the MoD refused to disclose any information on nuclear accidents, as it did not want to confirm or deny presence of weapons at any particular time or place. But the ombudsman decided that national security could not be compromised, as the weapons in the accidents had been taken out of service.
She wrote : "It is therefore difficult to envisage the release of information about events that happened some time ago to weapons that no longer exist could cause harm if made more widely available."
Mr Barnaby said: "The intense secrecy was an absurdity. It does not affect national security. It is just an embarrassment which would make people more hostile to nuclear weapons."
The MoD's list is based on incomplete records. From military sources, the Guardian has learnt of three other mishaps. In 1988, a WE177 nuclear bomb was dented after it was dropped at RAF Marham, Norfolk. Another WE177 fell off a workstand in 1976 at RAF Honington, Suffolk, while being loaded on to a plane. In 1967, a Vulcan bomber carrying a nuclear weapon was struck by lightning at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.
Only seconds away from disaster
Wiltshire 1987 Truck with two 950lb WE177 n-weapons skidded and rolled on to side; second truck also slid off road. According to MoD, minor damage only. Armed police sealed off site from protestors
Malta 1974 Two torpedoes fell on to WE177 on board HMS Tiger. 'Superficial scratching' said MoD, but torpedo blast could have detonated explosive in n-weapon, scattering radioactivity
Lincolnshire 1960 N-weapon truck had 'brake failure and overturned'; similar failure in 1963
Germany 1974 and 1984 WE177 dropped while loading on plane at RAF Laarbruch in 1974; another WE177 dropped at RAF Bruggen in 1984 - reportedly caused base to shut for period
At sea 1974 and 1981 Parts of Polaris casing 'compressed' onto missiles on board subs. Design modified
Firth of Clyde 1973- 87 Coulport arms depot: in 1973, Land Rover reversed into RAF convoy of Polaris warheads, 'minor damage' to truck; in 1977 Polaris missile dropped while lifted; MoD said it fell 'a few inches'; in 1987, missile hit trailer because of 'human error onpart of crane driver' and defective crane, according to MoD. After inquiry, 'substantial changes in management responsibilities, training and command and control'. On M8 near Glasgow in 1983, Polaris warheads convoy collided with car; in 1985 there was 'brake failure on carrier', according to MoD, and it bumped into one in front
M25 1991 RAF convoy had 'mechanical failure'; motorway was closed several hours while, it is thought, n-bomb was shifted from one truck to another

'Takfiris a new breed of 'Jihadis' emerging'
PTI[ MONDAY, MARCH 29, 2004 10:42:40 PM ]
WASHINGTON: A new breed of 'Jihadis', schooled in the North African Islamic doctrine known as Takfir wal Hijra, is posing acute threat to Europe, a media report said.
The Takfiris, suspected to have carried out the March 17 Madrid blasts killing 190 and injuring over 1900, are unfettered by many of the religious and ideological constraints that defined Islamic terrorism in the past, The Wall Street Journal reported.
These warriors, trained by Afghan veterans of al-Qaeda, think, recruit and operate differently from traditional Islamic networks.
For Europe, that makes the threat particularly acute. Unlike previous generations of radical Islamists, who put on long beards with orthodox postures, the newer generation of holy warrior blends in better. They are encouraged to lead a double life for the ultimate pursuit of Jihad, the report said.
"Outwardly, they pretend to lead a modern lifestyle," terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp was quoted as saying in the report. "But deep inside they adhere to a pure medieval strain of Islam," he said.
Many Takfiris shave their beards and avoid mosques for security reasons. "Recruits conceal their true beliefs until the time is right," says Ranstorp.

Cops missing out on IP benefits

By Ben Charny
Staff Writer, CNET
Story last modified March 29, 2004, 8:57 AM PST
SANTA CLARA, Calif.--With the growing use of Internet Protocol inside telephone networks, 911 operators could have life-saving information at their fingertips.
But those gathered here for the Spring 2004 Voice on the Net Conference & Expo warn that the nation's 2,300 emergency call centers are missing out on a technological breakthrough touted as on par with the invention of police car radios.
By upgrading to IP equipment, 911 calls could be accompanied by much more information, such as callers' medical records or maps of the inside of their homes. But tight state budgets and technological inertia will delay, likely for years, upgrades that 911 call centers need to make to the century-old radio technology they now use, industry executives and officials say.
It's a "case where the communications link is outstripping the ability of the network and the funding ability of the local agencies," said Robert Pepper, the Federal Communications Commission's chief of policy development. "It turns out to be a huge problem."
The concerns only add to the problems that the broadband phone industry has created for law enforcement. More immediate problems are meeting soon-to-be drafted mandates to wiretap Internet-based calls or to provide the location of someone dialing 911 via a broadband connection.
A representative of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International had no immediate comment.
Broadband phone service, otherwise known as voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is the latest telephone technology to outpace the nation's law enforcers. The most recent was cell phones.
Police in only a small number of cities are now able to determine the location of someone calling 911 via a cell phone, even though the U.S. cell phone industry made the necessary technology available in 100 markets last year. In May, when carriers will have to offer so-called enhanced 911 everywhere, at least one-third of all rural police agencies won't be able to use the information, according to sources familiar with the situation.
VoIP is a technology for making phones calls using the most popular method for sending data from one computer to another. Internet telephony services typically promise consumers a smaller phone bill, largely because VoIP providers operate free of regulation.
Carriers are already embracing VoIP as a way to cut traffic costs on international and long-distance calls. VoIP eventually is expected to replace the public switched telephone network as big phone companies convert to IP-based fiber-optic networks.

Police 'let Madrid bomb suspects go'
By Isambard Wilkinson in Madrid
(Filed: 29/03/2004)
Spanish police were agonisingly close to foiling the Madrid train bombings, it was disclosed yesterday.
A car carrying the explosives used in the March 11 massacre was stopped by police but its Arab driver was fined only for a minor traffic offence, it was reported.
The boot of the Volkswagen was packed with 220 lb of industrial dynamite being transported to Madrid after it had been stolen from a coal mine at Aviles in northern Spain during the last week of February, the El Pais newspaper said.
The car, which had been stolen, was stopped by two Civil Guard patrolmen near Benavente, in the province of Leon, north of Madrid.
But their suspicions were not aroused when they checked the car's registration as the owner had not yet reported it missing. They failed to recognise that the driver was not the registered owner.
The driver was fined for a minor infringement and allowed to drive on. Three of the four bombing suspects are thought to have been in the car.
The car has now been found and traces of the dynamite used to bomb four packed commuter trains during the morning rush hour, killing 190 people and injuring more than 1,500 were found by forensic scientists in the boot.
The explosives were packed into haversacks and hold-alls at a house in the countryside 20 miles from Madrid the day before the bombing.
Police, who found the terrorists' safe house by tracing calls they had made on mobile phones, were yesterday still searching the building near the small, picturesque town of Chinchon. Officers claim that they found the fingerprints of two of the 12 people - nine Moroccans, two Indians and a Spaniard - facing provisional murder and terrorism-related charges following the attacks.
The fingerprints allegedly were those of Jalam Zougam, the owner of a mobile phone shop. and Abderrahim Zbakh, a chemistry graduate.
Zougam is said by investigators to have been one of the ringleaders of the Moroccan terrorist cell blamed for the attack and Zbakh, dubbed "Chemical Ali" by investigators, is believed to have made the luggage bombs.
Police found detonators and explosives similar to those used in the attacks at the house, Spanish newspapers quoted sources close to the investigation as saying.
A total of 20 suspects have been arrested and six are due in court today.


NATO chief says "some nuts to crack" in Russia relations
WASHINGTON : NATO's secretary general there were still "nuts to crack" in relations with Russia as the alliance expands eastward with the addition of seven new members, including three former Soviet Baltic republics.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said he did not believe the expansion would cause new tension with Russia but acknowledged there were problems over the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treat which limits troop numbers in eastern Europe.
"There are some nuts to crack, of course," he said.
"When I say we have some nuts to crack it's, of course, Russian worries about the effectiveness of the CFE treaty. NATO worries about the Russians still having their forces in Moldova-Transdniestra and Georgia," he said.
Nevertheless, he said, "NATO needs a partnership with the Russians. It's in NATO's interest and at the same time it is in Russia's interest that we have a strong partnership."
De Hoop Scheffer said it was good sign that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov plans to attend a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels Friday, the same day NATO will formally welcome in its new members.
The NATO chief said he planned to visit Moscow in early April, and would see Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov Monday at a Russia-NATO meeting on terrorism in Norfolk, Virginia.
De Hoop Scheffer spoke shortly before the seven new members deposited instruments of accession to NATO at a ceremony here, effectively expanding the alliance to 26 members.
The new members include four from the former East bloc -- Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia -- and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
Admission of the Baltic countries has been the bitterest pill for Moscow to swallow.
Russian officials last week warned that Moscow might build up its nuclear forces in response to the expansion, and expressed concern over NATO air patrols over the Baltics, which de Hoop Scheffer said were set to begin Monday.
"Without doubt, NATO's expansion touches Russia's political, military and, to a certain extent, economic interests," Russia's top foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko reaffirmed Monday in an official statement released in Moscow.
The statement underlined that the three states and Slovenia have not signed up to the CFE as they did not exist as independent nations when the treaty was signed. The limbo status could leave open the possibility of NATO stationing unlimited number of troops at Russia's western front.
Moscow also fears NATO air patrols over the Baltics will be used to spy on its territory.
De Hoop Scheffer said the decision to use NATO fighters to patrol the Baltics was fully explained to Lavrov when it was taken two weeks ago by the alliance's decision-make North Atlantic Council.
"At this very moment fighters are in the air to land at Lithuania airport very shortly," he said.
"It's NATO airspace and NATO airspace has always been patrolled and covered, which will always be the case when later today the alliance will be formally enlarged by seven new member states," he said.


A Testing Time
Says The Economist:
Mr Badawi's choice of ministers next week, and his selection of office-holders within UMNO at the party's conference in June, will provide the first unambiguous test of his sincerity as a reformer. [via The Economist -- subscription required]
Abdullah needs to pass with flying colours. We'll see the results of the first part of the test tomorrow when he announces the new Cabinet lineup.
And Datuk Seri, how about proving The Economist wrong on this one:
There is one item on the opposition's agenda, however, that Mr Badawi seems likely to neglect.
So far, he has barely mentioned, let alone dismantled, the various repressive measures that Dr Mahathir employed to dampen dissent.
The government still controls the airwaves, potential critics have difficulty obtaining newspaper licences, opposition politicians are jailed without trial, protest rallies are banned.
As one activist points out, when the government's critics are cowed, the corruption and inefficiency Mr Badawi says he is battling are sure to thrive.
A report card with straight As definitely looks better than one tarnished with a stray F or two.

Bravo Badawi >>...?

Mar 25th 2004 | KUALA LUMPUR
From The Economist print edition
Dr Mahathir's old party has done better without him
Get article background
THE National Front coalition may have won every election since Malaysia's independence, but it has not won by such a crushing margin in decades. On March 21st, voters awarded it 90% of the seats in the national parliament, up from 77% in 1999. It also won control of 11 of the 12 state governments at stake, while its share of the popular vote rose from 57% to 64%. Meanwhile, the biggest opposition party, the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS), retained only seven of the 27 national seats it held in 1999, was practically obliterated in one of the two states it had controlled, and held on to the other by the thinnest of margins. So were the voters endorsing the status quo, and rejecting criticism of the government? Not exactly: the result was a victory for the opposition's ideas, though not for its parties.
Dumbfounded opposition leaders are denouncing the conduct of the election and calling for a new one. They point to a study of the electoral roll conducted before the poll which found a worryingly high proportion of false or incomplete addresses, and untraceable or suspicious names--including 156 people registered at the same address. They also complain about the short campaign period, media bias, gerrymandering and lack of funds. Yet the opposition faced similar obstacles in 1999, and did much better.
Another explanation holds that voters from the country's Malay Muslim majority spurned PAS's dogmatic vision of an Islamic state in favour of the Front's more progressive approach. It is certainly true that Malay voters deserted PAS in droves in Kelantan and Terengganu, the two states it had won decisively in 1999. Many of them, especially women and the young, doubtless chafed at PAS's edicts banning rock concerts, encouraging modest dress, and separating the sexes in supermarkets and on beaches.
But the National Front, despite condemning PAS as reactionary zealots, itself takes quite a doctrinaire approach to Islam, especially in areas with lots of conservative Muslim voters. It matched PAS's call for an Islamic state with a declaration that Malaysia already was one. Just before the election, it tried to defuse PAS's campaign in favour of private Islamic education with an announcement that Malay students would have to study Arabic and the Koran in state schools. One National Front state government even encourages polygamy. A big selling point of Abdullah Badawi, the prime minister and National Front leader, is his degree in Islamic studies.
Mr Badawi was indeed an important factor in the election, but probably as much for his unsullied and gentlemanly reputation as for his Islamic credentials. He came to power only last October, upon the retirement of Mahathir Mohamad, the prime minister of 22 years. At the previous election, voters seem to have blamed Dr Mahathir both for the struggling economy and for the high-handed and corrupt ways of Malaysian officialdom. They also associated him with the unjust treatment of Anwar Ibrahim, finance minister and deputy to Dr Mahathir, who was sacked, jailed and beaten in 1998. By retiring before this election, Dr Mahathir deprived his critics of their most emotive issue.
By contrast, Mr Badawi, or "Pak Lah" as Malaysians affectionately call him, is a breath of fresh air. In his five months in office, he has launched a counter-corruption drive, called for an inquiry into the police force and scrapped an extravagant construction scheme. In the election campaign, too, he stole the opposition's thunder by promising humbler, cleaner and more responsive government.
PAS and Keadilan, a party founded by disgruntled supporters of Mr Anwar, dismiss Mr Badawi's soft spot for good governance as a campaign ploy. Dr Mahathir, too, they argue, sold himself as a reformer at first. What is more, the senior echelons of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main component of the National Front, are still packed with the sort of politicians that the electorate turned against in 1999.
Before this election, Mr Badawi's supporters argued that he did not yet have enough authority to overhaul UMNO or the government wholesale. He had, after all, been appointed deputy prime minister by Dr Mahathir and then inherited the premiership without an election. His thumping victory at the polls, however, should put such concerns to rest. So Mr Badawi's choice of ministers next week, and his selection of office-holders within UMNO at the party's conference in June, will provide the first unambiguous test of his sincerity as a reformer.
There is one item on the opposition's agenda, however, that Mr Badawi seems likely to neglect. So far, he has barely mentioned, let alone dismantled, the various repressive measures that Dr Mahathir employed to dampen dissent. The government still controls the airwaves, potential critics have difficulty obtaining newspaper licences, opposition politicians are jailed without trial, protest rallies are banned. As one activist points out, when the government's critics are cowed, the corruption and inefficiency Mr Badawi says he is battling are sure to thrive.

Copyright ? 2004 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Posted by maximpost at 2:44 PM EST

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