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Wednesday, 28 April 2004


High Court Hears 'Enemy Combatant' Cases
from All Things Considered, Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Lawyers for Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla maintain the United States does not have the right to imprison American citizens indefinitely without holding a legal proceeding. Government lawyers argue that the Pentagon has determined the two men are being treated legitimately, saying the courts should not place impractical burdens on the military during a war. NPR's Nina Totenberg reports.

Can the President Imprison Anyone, Forever?
by Gene Healy
Gene Healy is senior editor at the Cato Institute.
Does the president have the power to order the military to seize an American citizen on American soil, declare him an outlaw to the Constitution, and lock him up for the duration of the war on terror -- in other words, forever? That's the stark question the Supreme Court will be examining today, April 28, when it hears oral argument in Padilla v. Rumsfeld.
Padilla, an American born in Chicago, was arrested by federal agents at O'Hare International Airport in May 2002, and held on a material witness warrant. Two days before a hearing in federal court on the validity of that warrant, the president declared Padilla an "enemy combatant" plotting a "dirty bomb" attack in the United States, and ordered him transferred to a naval brig in South Carolina, 700 miles away from his lawyer. Padilla has been held there for nearly two years without charges or meaningful access to counsel.
There's little in Padilla's background to suggest he's an innocent man wrongly accused -- he's a violent ex-con with apparent ties to Al Qaeda. But "the innocent have nothing to fear" is cold comfort and poor constitutional argument. The very principle that imprisons the guilty can be used to seize the innocent.
And the principle the government is advancing is broad indeed. It amounts to the assertion that the executive branch can serve as judge, jury, and jailer in cases involving terrorist suspects. Of all the powers claimed by the president since September 11, that power is the one most to be feared -- not least because, due to the nature of the war on terrorism, it's a power unlikely ever to be relinquished.
Moreover, it's a power that cannot be found in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights does not come with an asterisk reading "unenforceable during time of war." As the Supreme Court declared in Ex Parte Milligan (1866), rejecting the military trial of a civilian during the Civil War, "The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times."
Congress can suspend the writ of habeas corpus under very narrow circumstances "when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." But Congress has made no such attempt here -- instead the president has unilaterally stripped Padilla of his rights, holding him without even a semblance of due process.
The government justifies its confinement of Padilla by citing a five-and-a-half-page "Declaration" by Michael Mobbs, an obscure Pentagon bureaucrat who has never been cross-examined by Padilla's attorneys. A look at the Mobbs Declaration reveals just how far down the rabbit hole we've traveled. Of the confidential informants who fingered Padilla, the declaration notes: "Some information provided by the sources remains uncorroborated and may be part of an effort to mislead or confuse U.S. officials.... In addition, at the time of being interviewed by U.S. officials, one of the sources was being treated with various types of drugs to treat medical conditions." Again, that's not to suggest that Padilla is innocent. It's to highlight the starkly extra-constitutional nature of these proceedings -- in which Padilla is not permitted to test the government's evidence in open court.
The government's brief relies heavily on the president's constitutional powers as "Commander-in-Chief" of the U.S. military. But as Justice Jackson put it in a 1952 case delineating the president's wartime authority, "the Constitution did not contemplate that the title Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute him also Commander-in-Chief of the country, its industries and its inhabitants." The Bush administration has repudiated that theory of limited executive power in favor of one that is essentially limitless.
Thus far, President Bush has wielded this vast power sparingly. But he will not be the last president to wield it. The proponents of this sweeping claim of executive power have no answer to that, save to urge us to elect good men. Our entire constitutional structure is based on a repudiation of that fond notion.
Arguing before the Supreme Court in the Milligan case, James Garfield, who would later serve as 20th president of the United States, declared that a decision to uphold the constitutional limits on executive power would show the world "that a republic can wield the vast enginery of war without breaking down the safeguards of liberty." A decision that denies Padilla his day in court will have the opposite effect. It will declare that the articles in the Bill of Rights are mere peace provisions in an era of permanent war. That's a terrifying concept indeed.

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Hamdi and Habeas Corpus
by Timothy Lynch

Timothy Lynch, director of the Cato Institute's Project on Criminal Justice, filed an amicus brief on the behalf of Yaser Hamdi.
The Supreme Court is poised to consider the most important constitutional controversy that has arisen in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks: Can a U.S. citizen be deprived of all access to a lawyer and family and imprisoned for as long as a president insists? Can the president, in effect, override the ancient writ of habeas corpus?
Today, April 28, the Court will hear the appeal of Yaser Hamdi, a U.S. citizen who is being held in a military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. For almost two years, Hamdi has been held incommunicado -- no contact with visitors, including his lawyer. The Bush administration has maintained that legal counsel is unnecessary because Hamdi has not been charged with a crime; he is instead being held as an "enemy combatant."
On the surface, the Hamdi case appears to be a no-brainer. Hamdi was apparently one of the Taliban fighters captured in a combat zone in Afghanistan. And his claim of U.S. citizenship is about as thin as it gets -- his parents were Saudi citizens who happened to be in the United States on a temporary work visa at the time of Hamdi's birth. Furthermore, the U.S. military has always captured and held enemy fighters in all of our previous wars. Thus, Hamdi's legal appeal seems to be devoid of merit.
A close examination of the Hamdi case, however, shows that the constitutional stakes could not be higher. That's because the Bush administration has been using the Hamdi case to advance a sweeping theory of executive branch power. According to this theory, the president can deprive anyone in the world of his liberty and hold that person incommunicado indefinitely. The president need only be careful to issue an "enemy combatant" order to his secretary of defense, not the attorney general. The president's legal advisers have made it clear that it does not matter if the prisoner is seized on a battlefield overseas or in some sleepy town in the American heartland. And it does not matter if the prisoner is a foreign national or an American citizen. It is because the courts are being asked to approve this broad claim of executive power that Hamdi's case is considered pivotal. This is not just about the imprisonment of one man.
To fully understand the implications of the administration's "enemy combatant" theory, one must first consider the constitutional procedure of habeas corpus. The Constitution provides that "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." The writ of habeas corpus is a venerable legal procedure that allows a prisoner to get a hearing before an impartial judge. If the jailor is able to supply a valid legal basis for the arrest and imprisonment, the prisoner will simply be returned to his prison cell. But if the judge discovers that the imprisonment is illegal, he has the power to set the prisoner free. For that reason, Joseph Story once described the habeas writ as a "great security" for individual liberty.
Speed up to today: Hamdi's father filed a petition on his son's behalf. The Bush administration responded to that petition by urging the district court to summarily dismiss the petition because the courts may not "second-guess" the president's "enemy combatant" determination. That assertion strikes at the heart of habeas corpus. If the judiciary could not "second-guess" the executive's initial decision to imprison a citizen, the writ never would have acquired its longstanding reputation in the law as the "Great Writ."
Once the Justice Department admits, as it must, that the writ of habeas corpus has not been suspended, the law is clear. Habeas proceedings are habeas proceedings. And that means the prisoner has to be able to meet with his attorney to adequately prepare for their "day in court," where they will have an opportunity to persuade a judge that a mistake or abuse has occurred. It is outlandish to suggest that habeas petitions can be filed, so long as the courts throw the petitions out.
The lower court dismissed Hamdi's habeas petition too casually simply because Hamdi himself has not been heard from. Thus, the Supreme Court should remand the case to the district court for further proceedings. On remand, Hamdi must be allowed to consult with his attorney in private. An evidentiary hearing should then be held and the prisoner should have an opportunity to address the Court and his counsel must have an opportunity to rebut the government's allegations at the hearing. The government must also be given an opportunity to defend the legality of its actions. If it can persuade an Article III judge that this detention is lawful and proper, Hamdi should be returned to the military brig.
The al Qaeda terrorist network is an evil organization that must be vanquished. But as we go about that task, we must not lose sight of what we are defending. Free societies do not "just happen." Freedom in America rests upon a framework of checks and balances that was designed by men who were steeped in history and political philosophy. If that framework is neglected, constitutional guarantees will become nothing more than hollow promises on pieces of paper.

This article was published in The Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2004. Reprinted from The Wall Street Journal ? Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

ACLU Reveals Secret Suit Over FBI Powers
Wed Apr 28, 6:23 PM ET Add U.S. National - Reuters to My Yahoo!

By Gail Appleson
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) disclosed on Wednesday it had secretly sued the government over a provision of the Patriot Act that allows the FBI (news - web sites) to demand customer records from businesses without court approval.
The ACLU said it initially filed the civil lawsuit under seal on April 6 because it could have been prosecuted for violating a gag order contained within the Patriot Act. It said it chose to make the case public after the government agreed on Wednesday it would not seek a penalty against the ACLU.
But many details of the case, filed in Manhattan federal court, must remain secret.
The defendants include Attorney General John Ashcroft (news - web sites) and FBI Director Robert Mueller. A spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office had no comment.
At issue is the power the FBI has to execute what is known as a "National Security Letter," a form of administrative subpoena used to demand confidential financial records from companies as part of terrorism investigations.
Legislation signed by President Bush (news - web sites) in December expands the definition of companies from which information can be obtained and allows FBI agents to send out the letters without first obtaining a judge's approval.
"The National Security Letter provision allows the FBI to demand the sensitive records of innocent people in complete secrecy, without ever appearing before a federal judge," said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU staff attorney.
"Before the Patriot Act, the FBI could use this invasive authority only against suspected terrorists and spies," Jaffer said. "Now it can issue National Security Letters to obtain information about anyone at all. This should be disturbing to all of us."
The suit argues that the National Security Letter provision violates the constitution because it authorizes the FBI to force disclosure of sensitive information without adequate safeguards.
The FBI no longer has to show a judge there is a compelling need for the records and it does not have to specify any process that would allow a recipient to fight the demand for confidential information.
Prior to December, the letters could only be sent to certain financial institutions. However, the definition of "financial institution" in the new law is expanded to include such businesses as insurance companies, pawnbrokers, dealers in precious metals, the Postal Service, casinos, and travel agencies.
The law also bars subpoenaed businesses from revealing to anyone, including individuals who may be under investigation, that the FBI sought records of their transactions or that businesses have turned over their records. A company faces criminal penalties if it breaches the gag order.


Why Japan went ballistic
By Tomohiko Taniguchi

TOKYO - It has gone largely unnoticed that Japan now occupies a premier seat within a unique American defense club, a club of two - Washington and Tokyo.
The reason for this is not because Japan is the second largest economy still committed to having its armed forces deployed in Iraq, but rather because Japan has decided to do what few other allies of the United States could. That is to follow the US in its controversial missile defense program. At present, practically no other nation is in a position to follow suit. It is only the US and Japan that constitute an exclusive club of ballistic missile defense (BMD).
On March 26, top military brass as well as civilian officials at Japan's Defense Agency (JDA) rejoiced to see the Diet (Japan's parliament) pass the budget for the fiscal year 2004 that starts in April. They were happy as the government-proposed budget went into effect unscathed and uncut. And therein was the plan for Japan to deliver its first round of BMD programs.
In fiscal 2004, the JDA will spend a gross total of 4.9 trillion yen (US$45 billion), which is, as usual, about a hundredth of the nation's economy. Out of the defense budget, 2 percent or 106.8 billion yen ($981 million) will cover the cost for BMD. Divided into three parts, 34 billion yen ($312 million) will go to Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force to be used to equip one Aegis-type destroyer with the "Standard" missile system SM-3; 58.2 billion yen ($534 million) to the Air Defense Force to procure a ground-to-air missile system known as Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3); and 14.6 billion yen ($134 million) will be spent to upgrade the relevant BADGE (Base Air Defense Ground Environment) systems.
The Aegis system is a precious commodity for the US as it has kept its core technologies secret. It is also costly both in economic and political terms. True, Spain does have some Aegis capability, but it has only one Aegis-type destroyer, making it largely irrelevant, for in order to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, three is the minimum number required. Israel, South Korea and Taiwan all aspire to have at least one Aegis-type destroyer, but currently have none. Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force by contrast currently has four, and will soon have six such vessels, all home-built with loaned Aegis technologies, enabling Japan to make the first entry into the BMD club by equipping itself with a sea-based mid-course defense (SMD) capability. It aims at hitting enemy missiles mid-course.
The entry fee, as it were, goes in large part to the US defense industry: Raytheon (Waltham, Massachusetts) doubtless being the clearest winner as it manufactures both SM-3 and PAC-3. Lockheed Martin (Bethesda, Maryland) will also benefit as the sole provider of radar and missile systems that make up the core of the Aegis system. While this could be a boon to the Bush campaign to secure votes from the military-industry complex, that is not the only reason why Howard Baker Jr, US ambassador to Japan, on March 1 boasted about the nation's move, saying that Japan's decision to go BMD along with the US was simply great, a sign that Japan has now "matured".
More to the point, Japan's action is hardly an isolated one. Saying that it goes hand-in-hand with the US will not even suffice. It is closely embedded into, and makes part of, the overall BMD that the US has just started this year.
On the US side, a program called Block 04 is being implemented. Designed as the first increment, or the first "block", of layered missile defenses, "Block 04" calls on the US in the years 2004 and 05 (hence the name "Block 04") to build up the following: a) Ground-based mid-course defense; b) Sea-based mid-course defense; c) Patriot Advanced Capability-3. Already, the US Seventh Fleet has put one SMD-capable Aegis-type destroyer on patrol in the Sea of Japan, with the obvious purpose of deterring North Korea.
Indeed, Japan is about to commence the sea-based and the Patriot defense, and the key weapon systems Japan is procuring from Raytheon et al are exactly the same as those that the US will adopt. In short, Japan is co-building Block 04 with America.
"Block 06" and "Block 08" are scheduled to follow, as the US is taking an evolutionary "spiral" approach, thereby upgrading its BMD capabilities step-by-step. It is also projected that Japan will follow suit, at a substantial cost - rumored to amount more than $8 billion in five years - to the taxpayer.
BMD for Japan primarily means a missile-shield against North Korea. Pyongyang gave a wake-up call to the Japanese on August 31, 1998, by test-launching one of its long-haul missiles TaepoDong across the Japanese archipelago into the Pacific Ocean. Since then, even the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition party, has come to acknowledge that BMD should at some point be introduced. The Japanese are still outraged by the communist regime not releasing Japanese abductees and their family members, which may have also helped pass the defense budget more smoothly than the government anticipated.
Yet the US-Japan joint BMD has another tacit target. That is China, which is rapidly developing its missile-strike capabilities: both submarine-based and ground-based. This is the reason why Beijing is furious at Japan going BMD. Also for this reason, the pro-China camp among Diet members, regardless of their party affiliations, remained extremely cautious about missile defense. Concerns toward Pyongyang overwhelmed all that, resulting in a surprisingly early implementation of the defense program. Seen from the government perspective, the timing seemed so ripe that they had to capture it. And it worked.
That the budget went into force without any amendment is another testimony to how far Japan has come since Junichiro Koizumi became prime minister on April 26, three years ago this week.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Living with a nuclear North Korea
By Ehsan Ahrari
As evidence mounts that North Korea already possesses nuclear weapons, United States President George W Bush's entire machismo about disallowing the possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by radical regimes faces a serious challenge.
The source of a key nuclear weapons report on North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons is Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, the father of its nuclear weapon, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, who has admitted selling his nation's secret nuclear weapons technology. North Korea, Libya and Iran are the nations he reportedly named as having received nuclear technology. He is also reported to have told his Pakistani interrogators that he had seen three nuclear devices during one of his visits to North Korea.
Strangely enough, no serious question about the credibility of that assertion was raised at a time when Dr Khan's claim was publicized early this year, nor was it questioned while US Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting East Asia recently. Perhaps the silence was due to the fact that Khan's claims were exactly what the US wanted to hear.
Through Cheney's visit to Asia, the US sought to convey to the world that it is serious about negotiating with North Korea. However, in the Asia-Pacific region in general, no one can forget that Bush, after raising the level of rhetoric during the past two years about his resolve to disallow possession of WMD radical regimes, has done nothing to restart the negotiations, even after the inconclusive end of six-party talks with North Korea. Aside from Pyongyang and Washington, the other four parties are China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.
What is especially disconcerting about possible possession of nuclear weapons by North Korea is the potential that Pyongyang would sell those devices to a terrorist group like al-Qaeda. As preposterous as this suggestion sounds in principle, no US president can sit around cavalierly and do nothing regarding such a potential threat. More to the point, if Japan and South Korea were to become fully convinced that North Korea is armed with nuclear weapons, they might start insisting on developing their own respective minimum credible deterrence, thereby initiating a nuclear arms race in East Asia.
The present situation, though, says nothing about Bush's extant policy options regarding North Korea. The fact that he has already insisted on the possibility of invoking preemptive military actions against a nuclear-armed "rogue" state is on everyone's minds. The question is when would that option become a live one for the US. The answer: it depends on what happens next when the US approaches North Korea's main interlocutor, China, on the issue. Washington remains hopeful that the leaders in Beijing might be able to use their influence on North Korea to persuade the leadership to be reasonable and begin dismantling its nuclear weapons programs, in return for energy, economic and other compensation.
Exit Dick, enter Jong-il
Just after Cheney left China on April 18, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il came calling, and China must have received the latest policy positions by both sides. The next round of Beijing-sponsored six-party talks is expected to take place some time before July, but a date has not been set. The only sure thing is that talks will continue.
In all likelihood, diplomacy will be given a chance between now and next January, when a new US president assumes office. However, considering that North Korea remains highly suspicious of Bush, the chances of any diplomatic breakthroughs are minimal.
Ironically, Bush would want Kim to believe him when he tells the Pyongyang regime and the world that he wants to resolve the nuclear conflict peacefully. However, Kim also knows that if he were to give up his nuclear option, his regime would become highly vulnerable to the preemption option in the next four years, especially if Bush remains in office.
So, from North Korea's perspective, only a change of regime in Washington - from Bush to John Kerry - would provide Kim with adequate, though not necessarily sufficient, guarantees to give up the nuclear program.
The trouble with the nature of the relationship between the US and North Korea is that one can envision a Kerry administration taking a hard look at the preemption option, possibly during his first term, as did president Bill Clinton in 1994. Kim also remembers that Clinton reality quite vividly. While Kerry and Bush differ in some regards on the approach to North Korea, Kerry might appear preferable, but certainly would not be a dream candidate for Pyongyang.
If Kim, indeed, has developed nuclear weapons, the likelihood of his totally abandoning his nuclear program - a la South Africa - are slim-to-none. Thus, the world had better get ready to live with a nuclear North Korea, unless the US decides to give nuclear brinkmanship a chance. The international community also remembers, or should, that in the last military conflict involving the Korean Peninsula, China was not a neutral party. And this time as well, China is fully engaged in the six-party talks.
In the final analysis, the international community might have to determine whether nuclear brinkmanship is a feasible option, the alternative being living with a nuclear North Korea.
Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, is an Alexandria, Virginia, US-based independent strategic analyst.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)
Inside Bush's Indian Bureau
by Wayne Barrett with special reporting by Jennifer Suh
April 27th, 2004 12:20 PM

Wayne Smith: Acknowledging that it was a mistake to bring a friend to breakfast, he wound up becoming a feast for Stone.
(photo: Bill Burke/Page One)
When Wayne Smith began walking the huge corridors at the Department of Interior a few months after George Bush took office in 2001, he felt like he'd finally hit the big time. In the '90s, he'd been chief deputy to California's Republican attorney general. But now, at 52, he was assistant deputy secretary at Interior, managing the $3.5 billion budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and overseeing the hotly politicized Indian casino industry. What he didn't know was that, within nine months, he would be gone--vanquished by the insider culture consuming Bush's Washington.
Smith's mother was raised on a destitute Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota, where his grandfather was chief. Memories of the "appalling poverty" he saw on family visits to the reservation inspired him in his new job--which he got on the recommendation of a colleague from his AG days, Sue Wooldridge, top aide to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. Neal McCaleb, who was Smith's immediate boss and ran BIA, put him in charge of gaming, a business where government decisions, not markets, turn molehills into jackpots--recognizing tribes, taking land in trust for new casinos, manufacturing designated millionaires.
Smith was no babe in the woods. He'd started a California lobbying firm himself in 1999, but he was unprepared for the incestuous intrigue at BIA. In the Clinton era, the Democrats dunned tribes for unrestricted amounts of campaign wampum, and the departed BIA chief was found in the parking lot signing backdated documents three days after the Bush inaugural. The Bush team immediately tossed the tardy decisions. But, as this Smith saga will make clear, BIA remained a bureaucratic land where the only chiefs are buttoned-down lobbyists, raking in millions from tribes whose casinos are virtually franchises to print influence-peddling largesse.
Smith was troubled early on when Republican lobbyist Scott Reed told him that the Democrats had long had free reign at the agency and that now it was "our turn"--a charge a Reed associate denies though his firm has attracted a dozen gaming clients since 2001. Smith felt uneasy when his office was lobbied on behalf of two tribes by Diane Allbaugh, the wife of Joe Allbaugh, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the 2000 national campaign manager for Bush. Diane Allbaugh, who worked at a firm headed by former Republican National Committee chair Haley Barbour, appeared on behalf of a Louisiana casino developer under contract with the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians and the Paucatuck Eastern Pequots, a Connecticut tribe then tied to Donald Trump. McCaleb urged Smith to take her calls, explaining that he and Joe Allbaugh were old Oklahoma friends and that Allbaugh had "helped convince the White House" to install him at BIA.
The Washington Post would later do stories about the awesome influence of Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon, who combined to drain $45 million in reported lobbying fees from four tribes in the first three Bush years, prompting an ongoing investigation by Senator John McCain. Abramoff's top political allies were House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed.
But no one noticed that Bill Jarrell and Jennifer Calvert, two lobbyists who'd worked with Abramoff prior to 2001, left him within days of the election to form their own company, Washington Strategies, immediately attracting tribal clients. Jarrell, like Scanlon, was once a top DeLay staffer. Smith says Jennifer's husband, Chad Calvert, while he was Interior's deputy director of legislative affairs, introduced her to him, left documents from her in his office, and joined the two of them at lobbying lunches--recollections the Calverts only partially deny. When Chad Calvert was recently promoted, the Interior press release said he'd been "coordinating department legislative policy" for "the assistant secretary for Indian affairs" for three years. Jennifer Calvert's bio says her "lobbying expertise focuses on Native American issues," one of those marvelous coincidences of inside-the-beltway life.
The lobbyist who concerned Smith more than any other, however, was never even seen in Interior's crowded corridors. His was a name McCaleb whispered to Smith. Like Chad Calvert, he'd been on the transition working group for Interior, staffing the agency. The dark force of Indian gaming, retained as a hidden consultant by tribes and developers across the country, was Roger Stone, a veteran of eight Republican presidential campaigns and star of the Miami/Dade recount shutdown. Scott Reed is often his up-front lobbyist face.
So, too, are William Brack and Chris Changery, onetime lobbyists with Brownstein, Hyatt, the Denver-based firm that employed Norton. Changery had been a press spokesman for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the Colorado Republican who chairs the Indian Affairs committee. Brack is counsel to the Nighthorse Foundation, a recent invention of the retiring senator. Stone threw a fundraiser for the senator at his Miami estate. Though Brack and Changery left Brownstein in 2003, Stone still gets tribes to hire them "for the specific mission of inserting our language" in a Campbell bill, according to a Stone memo. Though the two recently orchestrated a Campbell-sponsored technical correction helpful to a Stone project, neither filed as lobbyists. The language, which deliberately omitted the tribe's name, was quietly withdrawn after Voice inquiries about it.
Smith did not realize, when he began to review the Sacramento-area office's decision in a factional fight involving the Buena Vista Rancheria of the Me-Wuks, that he was on a collision course with Stone and his usual coterie of sidekicks--Reed, Brack, and Changery. Remarkably, the Buena Vista faction that paid Stone a six-figure retainer and guaranteed him 7.5 percent of annual tribal revenue consisted entirely of DonnaMarie Potts and her two adult children. The opposing faction consisted of a single Me-Wuk. Deep-pocket developers on both sides were spending millions bankrolling a legal war that, in December 2001, suddenly turned against Potts.
The mostly Democratic insiders around Potts picked Stone as the Republican player who could, as Buena Vista attorney John Peebles put it, "reverse the area director's order" that dislodged Potts as tribal chair. The strategy was to try to get Smith to yank the Buena Vista issue out of the ordinary appeals track--where it faced delay and likely defeat--and resolve it himself.
So Reed began leaning on Smith in late January 2002. Smith even got a note supporting the Stone faction from the Republican leader of the California state senate, Jim Brulte. Stone had recommended the retention of a consulting firm owned by Brulte's former chief of staff, Tom Ross, and Ross wrote the memo summarizing the Buena Vista case that Brulte enclosed. Later in 2002, Stone would host a fundraiser for Brulte at his 40 Central Park South apartment and take Brulte to visit Stone's longtime client Donald Trump. The Brulte intervention sent a particularly strong message to Smith because he'd attended a 2001 Palm Springs meeting involving Karl Rove and a dozen tribes, where Brulte was introduced as "the administration's main man in California--especially for Indian matters."
Smith agreed to a February 19 breakfast in Sacramento with Reed partner John Fluharty, Potts, attorney Peebles, and Russ Pratt, president of the development company. Smith was staying at the home of his old friend and former business partner Phil Bersinger, who drove him to the restaurant and joined the breakfast. A memo Stone prepared at the time contends that Bersinger "participated fully in the discussion" of the tribe's "current policy issues"--a contention dismissed by Smith, Peebles, and Pratt, but key to the subsequent saga Stone spun.
While it's unclear who initiated the next contact, Bersinger wound up talking to both Peebles and Reed by phone. On March 23, Bersinger, Peebles, and Pratt had an "amiable" lunch and discussed retaining Bersinger as a Buena Vista consultant. Bersinger, who used Smith's name as his calling card, promised to call back with a price. Strangely enough, Smith's appointment diaries indicate he had a morning meeting with Reed on March 22, giving him a final no. Nonetheless, Bersinger came to Peebles's office on April 4 seeking a monthly retainer and percent of revenue, ostensibly to influence a decision Smith had already announced. Stone says he advised Peebles to ask Bersinger to put it in writing and Bersinger faxed a bland request without specifics.
Stone, who calls this "the most naked attempt at extortion I've ever seen," was already collecting other Bersinger solicitations. One was a February letter Bersinger had written another tribe celebrating his access to Smith and seeking a $1,000-a-month retainer. The other was sent after Stone advised a lawyer for the tribe, Phil Thompson, to ask Bersinger to turn his oral pitch into a written proposal. Stone had already put Thompson on the Buena Vista payroll. Then Stone, by his own account, assembled the letters in a press package for selected reporters, using an associate named Mike Copperthite as the pass-through to Time magazine.
By April 11, Time's reporter was on the phone with Smith citing, and then faxing, another ostensible Bersinger letter--one that demanded a $250,000 payment from a Louisiana tribe, the Coushattas. Everyone, including Stone, would eventually agree that the third letter was a fabrication, so instantly discredited that Time never mentioned it in the April 15 story. Not only does the addressee, Coushatta vice chair William Worfel, say it's a phony, but he says he met Stone for the first time two weeks before it was written. "We exchanged cards," Worfel recalls, adding that federal investigators who questioned him said they'd found his card in the offices of Buena Vista. Stone says he "has no memory of ever seeing the Louisiana letter." Copperthite, who was not involved in the Smith dispute, says "Stone handed me that package with that phony letter in it."
The other two letters raised damaging enough issues, as Stone points out, and within four days of Time's piece, New Jersey senator Bob Torricelli wrote Norton seeking a Smith investigation. Stone says he "probably" got his old friend Torricelli to do it. Several fake faxes about Smith started arriving at Interior--one from Brulte's office--and Stone allies at the Thompson tribe wrote letters deriding Smith. The Interior inspector general started an investigation, but the White House--where staff assistant Jennifer Farley had pressed Smith to side with Buena Vista--forced Smith out shortly after the probe began. The IG finished its report by August 2002, but has yet to release it though Smith, Peebles, and Pratt want it released.
While Stone believes Smith and Bersinger "were running a scam operation," McCaleb, Peebles, and Pratt say they are "unconvinced" that Smith knew what Bersinger was doing. Peebles says he thinks Smith is "a decent guy," adding that he doesn't believe Bersinger and Smith "had this grand, synchronized conspiracy" and that "a lot of things were spun that I don't think are accurate." Smith's successor, Aurene Martin, is a former aide to Senator Campbell recommended for BIA by Reed and Fluharty. On Smith's way out the door at BIA, he saw Buena Vista lobbyists Brack and Changery, the old Campbell duo, on their way in.


Research assistance: Catrinel Bartolomeu, Molly Bloom, Andrew Burtless, Adam Hutton, Catherine Shu, Jessie Singer, and Andrea Toochin


The Royal Treatment
Anti-Semitism, that is.

By Steven Stalinsky
The Saudi royal family has been on the forefront of espousing an extreme position of hatred toward Jews, influencing the kingdom's educational system, media, and mosques, as well as its foreign and domestic policy.
In its first attempt to attract tourists to the country, Saudi Arabia's tourist commission, under the control of Prince Sultan bin Abd Al-Aziz launched an official website in March 2004. The website listed those not allowed into the kingdom: "Israeli passport holders or those whose passport has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp; those who do not abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behavior; those under the influence [of alcohol]; and Jewish people."
The Saudi embassy's Washington, D.C. spokesman, Nail Al-Jubeir, said he was "stunned" when he saw the website; and the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, said he was "embarrassed." According to a press release by the Saudi embassy, "the information on the website was not correct and as a consequence the erroneous material was removed."
The ambassador's father, Prince Sultan, who serves as secretary general of the tourism commission, said in a statement that the controversy was "blown out of all proportions" by U.S. media seeking to portray the kingdom as anti-Semitic. He added, "...It is all part of a smear campaign meant to tarnish Saudi Arabia's image."
Prince Sultan -- who is also second deputy prime minister, defense and aviation minister, and inspector general of Saudi Arabia -- has been making statements against Jews for years. Following a ceremony at the Saudi Public Institution for Military Industries in June 2002, when asked about U.S. criticism of Saudi Arabia, Prince Sultan replied to the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, "It is enough to see a number of congressmen wearing Jewish yarmulkes to explain the allegations against us." More recently, the Saudi royal family website 'Ain-Al-Yaqeen, quoted Prince Sultan as saying that the U.S. media, which is "under the Jewish influence," is using the U.S. reform initiative to widen the gap between Arab countries and the U.S.
Saudi Minister of the Interior Prince Naif bin Abd Al-Aziz, Sultan's brother, has also made accusations against the Jews. In what has since become an infamous interview reported in Ain-Al-Yaqeen a year after 9/11, Naif explained that Arabs were not involved in the attacks: "We put big question marks and ask who committed the events of September 11 and who benefited from them. Who benefited from events of 9/11? I think they [the Jews] are behind these events."
Saudi kings have also been known for holding extreme anti-Semitic views. Saudi Princess Fahda bint Saud ibn Abd Al-Aziz -- who's been described as "the daughter of King Saud and the historian of her father's reign" and who appears occasionally in the Saudi media -- has written that her father's views on the Jews and Israel still serve as inspiration for the Arab and Muslim world. In one article, she explained that King Saud called the Jewish state a deadly disease that would never be accepted by Arabs. "...King Saud made the right diagnosis: 'The Zionist threat is like cancer -- in dealing with it neither medicine nor surgery will do any good.' This royal statement was meant to emphasize that the Arabs do not, and will not, accept an Israeli state amidst them." The article added that under the leadership of King Saud, the Saudi Representative to the U.N. called for the establishment of a U.N. agency "to help resettle Jews [now in Israel] in their former European homes."
The late King Faisal was also notorious for his anti-Semitic statements. In 1972, he told the Egyptian magazine al-Musawwar, "While I was in Paris on a visit, the police discovered five murdered children. Their blood had been drained, and it turned out that some Jews had murdered them in order to take their blood and mix it with the bread they eat on that day." The following year, in an interview with the Lebanese Al-Sayyad Faisal said that in order to comprehend the crimes of Zionism it's necessary to understand the Jewish religious obligation to obtain non-Jewish blood.
The Saudi royal family's hatred of the Jews is now influencing its next generation. Saudi Prince Amr Muhammad Al-Faisal writes often in the Saudi press to warn American Jews that their compatriots will eventually turn against them. In one article he declared: "Dear cousins, if you hear a snap in two or three years, it will probably be the sound of the trap shutting on your collective necks. You have been warned."
Given that the Saudi royal family controls its country's media, mosques, and textbooks, there's no doubt they're responsible for the kingdom's reputation as a breeding ground for anti-Semitism.

-- Steven Stalinsky is executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

OSCE conference urges unity against rising anti-semitism
Reuters in Berlin
Thursday April 29, 2004
The Guardian
Anti-Semitism is on the rise and to defeat it will take coordinated action by many countries, speakers told an international conference on the subject on Wednesday.
"It is not good that a conference on this theme has to take place in 2004, and that it should deal with current problems, not historical questions," President Johannes Rau of Germany told the anti-semitism conference in Berlin of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
"Nobody should close their eyes to racism, xenophobia and anti-semitism," he urged around 500 delegates.
The two-day meeting of representatives from north America, Europe and central Asia aims to agree measures to counter anti-Jewish violence and propaganda.
The US secretary of state, Colin Powell, and the Israeli president, Moshe Katsav, were the highest-profile guests.
"We share the burden of fighting anti-semitism in our states. That is the most important message of this conference," the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, said.
Jewish groups have complained that European governments have been late to respond to a revival in anti-semitism in the past few years, which has coincided with rising Middle East violence.
A recent EU report showed that attacks on Jews increased in several member states in 2002, compared with 2001. The biggest rise was in France, where they increased six-fold.
Mr Rau told the conference that racists had seized on the Middle East conflict and the policies of Israel's government.
"Everyone knows that massive anti-semitism is behind some of the criticism of the Israeli government's politics in the last decades," he said.
However, Brian Cowen, the foreign minister of Ireland, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, warned that criticism of Israeli government policy should not automatically be labelled anti-semitic.
"The exploitation of race for political purposes by any government or any politician, be it an offensive weapon or as a shield to fend off criticism, is quite simply unacceptable."
An Anti-Defamation League report on Monday said anti-semitic views were on the wane in most EU states, but distrust of Israel was rising.


GAO Questions U.S. Nuclear Security
Posted April 28, 2004
By Thom J. Rose
The Department of Energy (DOE) acknowledges that defending U.S. nuclear facilities is a vastly different project than it was before Sept. 11, 2001, but some observers say the department is changing its methods much too slowly.
The threat of organized suicide attackers has turned nuclear security on its ear, Robin Nazzaro, a director at the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, told a Tuesday hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform.
"In the past we had determined that someone would have to get in and out [of a nuclear facility to do damage], and now we've determined that all they have to do is get in," Nazzaro said.
DOE weapons experts told a 2002 Senate hearing that if terrorists were able to breach a nuclear site containing the proper materials, they might be able to assemble and detonate a 1 kiloton bomb capable of killing thousands in several minutes.
That possibility has precipitated fundamental changes in the way nuclear sites are required to be protected.
A directive issued April 5 orders sites containing the most dangerous class of nuclear materials to assume a heightened "denial" level of defense designed not only to prevent terrorists from stealing material, but also to keep them from even entering the sites, Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight told the committee.
That directive comes in addition to a new "Design Basis Threat" nuclear-security standard that DOE created after Sept. 11 in response to changing security concerns. That new standard has attracted controversy, however, and is strongly criticized in a GAO report released last Thursday.
The report begins by questioning the two years DOE took to create the standard after Sept. 11. "During this extended period, [the department's] sites were only being defended against what was widely recognized as an obsolete terrorist threat level," the GAO report says.
"We certainly said that two years is a long time to do this," Nazzaro added.
The report goes on to question the content of the new Design Basis Threat standard, which House subcommittee Chairman Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) said some observers think "might be more accurately called the 'Dollar Based Threat,'" since some believe it compromises security to save money.
The GAO report also says the new standard does not pay enough attention to the improvised nuclear bombs the department's weapons experts said terrorists might be able to put together in minutes. It says the new standard should put more emphasis on the potential for radiological, chemical and biological sabotage as well.
"We're really concerned that [DOE] is not treating nuclear materials in the way they are treating nuclear weapons," Nazzaro said.
Linton Brooks, the administrator of DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration disagreed, saying, "We believe that the highest level of defense should be reserved for nuclear weapons."
The GAO report goes on to say that some U.S. nuclear sites will not be able to meet the new standards for up to several years and should be required to put in place additional provisional measures in the meantime.
Both the existence of sites that won't be able to meet the news standards and the implementation of provisional security measures have attracted controversy.
Brian said some nuclear sites were built when security concerns were completely different and will have to be completely rebuilt or abandoned in response to current threats. "It's simply impossible for these facilities, as they exist, to implement these requirements," Brian said.
Shays said, "Faced with the new security imperative to deny access, not just contain or catch intruders, it should have been immediately obvious [the department] has too many facilities housing nuclear materials, and those facilities are old, above ground, scattered and cluttered World War II-era plant configurations not buffered by adequate setback space."
Consolidating U.S. nuclear materials in more secure sites is a stated DOE goal, but Shays said the department has so far made little progress in that direction.
The department's latest plans to improve nuclear security include moving nuclear material out of one Nevada test site and possibly from other sites, but the efforts have met with continued resistance.
Brian said some of that resistance comes from site operators who fear their importance will diminish when their most dangerous material is gone. "The people in charge of implementing [the Nevada move] seem to have a different agenda than" Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, who ordered the move, Brian said.
While consolidation and fortification efforts remain incomplete, sites are increasing their use of guards. That practice, which was widespread after Sept. 11 and continues at sites that are more difficult to protect, worries some observers, who say the additional guarding capacity comes mainly in the form of overtime worked by current employees. Too many hours of overtime, especially for guards expected to remain vigilant, can lead to substandard performance, Brian and others say.
Brooks said his department does face a range of challenges in protecting nuclear sites, but added that he believes all nuclear material in the United States is adequately protected. "The people looking for soft spots would be ill-advised to come to the facilities for which I am responsible," Brooks said.
Thom J. Rose is a correspondent for UPI, a sister news organization of Insight magazine.

"Abort Bush"
The activists at the March for Women's Lives take partisan shots--and extol the joys of abortion.
by Erin Montgomery
04/27/2004 12:00:00 AM

"ABORT BUSH IN THE FIRST TERM." A group of women on the National Mall displayed a banner with these words during last Saturday's March for Women's Lives, while a throng of fellow abortion-rights demonstrators marched by, nodding their heads in approval. The banner's message couldn't have been more clear, or a more glaring example of sordid wordplay--unless you consider another sign displayed at the march: "KEEP BUSH OUT OF MY . . ."
Led by the ACLU, the Black Women's Health Imperative, the Feminist Majority, NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the National Organization for Women, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the march featured a lengthy list of speakers. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, Gloria Steinem, Whoopi Goldberg, and Ted Turner were just a few of the many proponents of abortion rights who urged the crowd to take back the country and elect John Kerry in November.
When actress Camryn Manheim took the stage during the afternoon portion of the rally, she joked, "CNN [is reporting that this] is the largest march in the history of the universe. Of course, Fox is saying there's no one here." News reports now say that the event drew about 500,000 people, making it one of the largest abortion-rights demonstrations ever held on the Mall. The March for Women's Lives website says the crowd numbered 1.15 million.
But unconfirmed numbers (the U.S. Park Police no longer provide estimates) don't tell the full story behind the marchers. In terms of age, race, and gender, the marchers were diverse, and some were scared. "I spend half my day in class, half doing activist work," Niva Kramek, a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the student group Penn for Choice, said. "I'm terrified of what's going to happen [if Bush is reelected]."
As I made my way through piles of hot pink Planned Parenthood signs and dodged the Texas Mamas for Choice, I stumbled into Brenda Beckett. A 52-year-old from Seattle, Beckett explained that in 1975 she had had an abortion as a 25-year-old married woman. "I haven't regretted it once," she said. What she does regret is the "eight hours of orientation"--doctor going over alternatives, such as adoption--she sat through beforehand. "I never had any children cause I never wanted any," she said. Her husband at the time supported her decision; they are no longer married.
"Even though Bush says he believes in non-intrusive government, he is being intrusive," protestor Priscilla Balch said. An abortion-rights activist since her teens, Balch, 60, is "very upset to see that we're going backwards." John McKenna, a senior at Ohio University, has been a part of other pro-choice marches, though this was his first in Washington. He was raised Catholic and attended an all-boys Catholic high school in Cleveland. He has been able to reconcile his religious upbringing with his pro-choice beliefs, stressing that the march is not just for women.
By and large, the marchers were gleeful and unapologetic, sometimes leading to contradictory acts of protest: parents placed pro-abortion stickers on their newborn babies' clothing, and women went topless as a way to get others to take the cause more seriously. Juxtapose them with the counter-protestors who marched in a dignified manner on Pennsylvania Avenue. Silent No More, a group of women who underwent abortions and regret their decision, almost didn't make it to the march when they were denied a permit to stand on the outer sidewalks of Madison and Jefferson streets, directly across the street from the rally on the Mall.
Leading a group of women carrying "I REGRET MY ABORTION" signs, Silent No More co-founder Georgette Forney said, "It's ironic that they are marching to protect women's right to choose and at the same time [are] working to deny us our right to talk about the pain abortion caused us. We are the faces of the choice they promote." After having their permit denied, the women gathered under a permit issued to the Christian Defense Coalition, 16 members of which were arrested when they moved out of their designated area on Pennsylvania Avenue and into the area intended for marchers at Fourth Street and Madison Drive.
Meanwhile, I listened to Forney, 43, tell me about the abortion she had at age 16. She went through a healing process in 1995 and shared her secret with her church in 1998. She also began to correspond with other suffering, post-abortive women over email. Forney says her healing process started with an epiphany. "I came across my old high school yearbook one day. I was holding my yearbook, and it felt like my baby. All of a sudden, I knew she [I just sensed she was a girl] was there. I could feel her spirit, and knew she was awesome."
Erin Montgomery is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.

? Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.


The Other JFK

Nina J. Easton Reporter for the Boston Globe, co-author, John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography: By the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best (Public Affairs, 2004)
Brian C. Mooney Reporter for the Boston Globe, co-author, John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography: By the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best (Public Affairs, 2004)
Michael Kranish Reporter for the Boston Globe, co-author, John F. Kerry: The Complete Biography: By the Boston Globe Reporters Who Know Him Best (Public Affairs, 2004) detail the life of John Kerry


Kerry Gets a Pass?
The Democratic candidate for president keeps profiting from Enron and Halliburton.
By Sam Dealey
In late January, the Washington Post reported that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry raised more money from special interests and lobbyists over the previous 15 years than any of his Senate colleagues. But of all money Kerry has raked in from these donors -- from oil and gas companies, HMOs, and the pharmaceutical industry, for example, and from his brother's Boston law firm and its related lobbying shop -- two of the most politically profitable have been Enron and Halliburton.
Of course, current and former executives at those companies might not see it that way. Both Enron and Halliburton have been reliable whipping boys for Kerry for much of his presidential campaign -- the former for obvious reasons, the latter for no apparent reason at all.
Last September, for example, Kerry told Iowans that "seniors have had their retirements stolen by Enron and WorldCom, by financial scandal and a marketplace where this president licenses a creed of greed."
Just before that state's caucuses in January, Kerry rallied the Des Moines faithful against Halliburton and its ties to Vice President Dick Cheney. "We need to end an administration that lets companies like Halliburton ship their old boss to the White House and get special treatment while they ship American jobs overseas." (Those off-shored jobs, incidentally, are Americans rebuilding Iraq.)
And he's often lumped them together. "George Bush and his crowd, they are the world champions in terms of special interest giveaways -- the drug companies, the oil companies, Halliburton, the Enron Scandal, the WorldCom scandal," Kerry claimed on CNN this February.
These kinds of lines play well with the liberal base, and Kerry gets considerable political mileage from them. But now it turns out that both Enron and Halliburton were financially profitable for Kerry, too.
Personal financial disclosure forms filed with the Senate show that on December 11, 1995, the marital trust held by Kerry and his wife purchased Enron stock valued anywhere from $250,001 to $500,000. (The Senate requires only rough valuations for assets and liabilities.) The stock returned between $5,000 and $15,000 in dividends in 1996, and another $5,001 to $15,000 in 1997. Capital gains realized from the sale of Enron stock that year totaled anywhere from $15,001 to $50,000. All in all, the Kerrys made between $25,003 and $80,000 off their Enron buy.
Likewise, financial forms on file with the Senate show the Kerrys made money off of Halliburton. On May 13, 1996, the marital trust purchased between $250,001 and $500,000 of stock in the company. Just seven weeks later, the stock was sold. The trust reported earning $1,001 and $2,500 in dividends and $5,001 and $15,000 in capital gains. Add it up and the gains were anywhere from $6,002 to $17,500.
Granted, these gains represent just a drop in the bucket relative to all of the Kerrys' assets. But like Barbra Streisand, who simultaneously bashed Halliburton while profiting from its success, Kerry seems to want to have it both ways.
Before Enron's corruption was exposed -- and of which there's no evidence that the Bush administration sought to mitigate the criminal responsibilities of its directors -- the senator and his wife, like many investors, turned a tidy profit from the company. Halliburton, meanwhile, receives the lion's share of reconstruction contracts in Iraq by dint of its expertise -- not Cheney's past stewardship. Indeed, it was both the company's and Cheney's expertise that Kerry and his wife banked on for seven weeks in 1996.

-- Sam Dealey is a writer in Washington, D.C.

Terrorists Cheer Kerry's Rhetoric
Posted April 28, 2004
By J. Michael Waller

Sen. John Kerry?s increasingly shrill challenge of President Bush is grinding down the image of the United States abroad and playing directly into the hands of anti-U.S. extremists.
Exploiting the liberties of free societies, terrorists are using the mass media to sow divisions among and within the democracies, terrorism experts report. The March bombing of the Madrid subway proved that low-budget terrorist attacks could be used to influence democratic elections and, by virtue of Spain's sudden military withdrawal from Iraq, to drive wedges between the staunchest allies in the international antiterrorism coalition. Senior Spanish and U.S. officials now believe al-Qaeda will plan more attacks in the United States to try to force President George W. Bush from office.
Playing directly into the terrorists' hands is Bush's increasingly shrill challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). Democracies long have been vulnerable to manipulation by hostile foreign powers. President George Washington foresaw this in his Farewell Address of 1796. Though the popular notion is that the main point of the address was to warn against entangling alliances, the most persistent theme of Washington's speech was to warn against foreign subversion of America's democratic process. In his words, "It is easy to foresee that from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken, many artifices employed," to undermine the national identity and sense of purpose. Specifically, Washington feared that foreign adversaries would use the new democratic system to turn Americans against themselves.
Even now, external enemies are attacking the political fortress of the United States and its democratic allies through propaganda by word and deed. In his taped statement aired on the Wahhabi satellite TV network Al-Jazeera on April 15, Osama bin Laden not only sought to divide Europe from the United States by offering a "truce" with European countries that pull out of the coalition in Iraq, the al-Qaeda leader also explicitly feasted on the feeding frenzy among bickering American politicians about whether President Bush was to blame for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Good propagandists will turn their enemies' words against them, and the best will sow suspicion and division among them. This is happening now in the United States, where the terrorist enemy and its allies are using the rhetoric of the current presidential campaign in their jihad against the nation. Previous cautions against rash campaign words that provide aid and comfort to the enemy were thrown out the window long ago. Kerry steadily has become more and more shrill in his denunciations of the president as a leader, a man and a politician. Straying from legitimate policy differences with Bush or a healthy national debate about how best to fight the terrorist enemy, the Democratic nominee in waiting has yanked off the safety and fired full auto at the president.
Al-Jazeera and other anti-U.S. propaganda outlets have been quick to magnify whatever Kerry says in an attempt to show what a failure the United States has become under the Bush presidency. Kerry's increasingly strident and careless statements on the campaign trail reverberate abroad. His foul-mouthed interview with Rolling Stone became part of an Al-Jazeera feature on March 16. Although Kerry voted to let the Iraq war go forward, the Wahhabi-owned TV network noted, "He has suggested Bush's handling of the campaign is 'f-ed up.'"
"Bush misled Americans on the degree Iraq posed a threat," Kerry said in the Al-Jazeera broadcast, and the president is not "working closely enough with the international community." Bush's exclusion of France and Germany from competition for U.S. taxpayer-funded contracts to rebuild Iraq, Kerry said, was "dumb and insulting." Al-Jazeera rebroadcast, in Arabic, Kerry's allegation that in combating terrorist structures inside the United States, Bush and the Department of Justice have smeared "innocent Muslims and Arabs who pose no danger."
Such words, one of Kerry's former Senate colleagues says, grind down the image of the United States abroad and damage Washington's efforts to maintain allies and supporters in the Arabic-speaking world. With near-daily doses of extreme and careless quotations from the anti-Bush camp, Arab audiences are led to believe the worst about U.S. intentions and policies in the war on terrorism. Rather than helping the war effort with positive alternatives to counterterrorist policies they consider flawed, Kerry and other politicians are fanning the flames of hostility in the Islamic world.
The government-controlled press in Syria generally ignored President Bush's State of the Union address in January, "but on its front pages highlighted criticism that came in its wake, particularly Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's calling Bush's [foreign] policy 'arrogant and inept,'" according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which monitors Middle Eastern news and propaganda organizations and publishes translations and analyses in English. Even in Jordan, an Arab kingdom that has been an ally in the war against the terrorists, the editor of the Al-Arab Al-Yaum newspaper commented, "When President Bush gave his address, to hearty applause by his party in Congress, the Democrats shook their heads in condemnation."
The Kerry campaign, meanwhile, is reported to have e-mailed messages to foreign media outlets, pledging to "repair the damage" that President Bush allegedly has inflicted on the world. The Tehran Times, an English-language newspaper in the Iranian capital, reported Feb. 8 that unnamed Kerry staffers sent an e-mail to the Tehran-based Mehr News Agency apologizing for the conduct of the United States in the war on terrorism and saying that Kerry is the man to make things new again. "Disappointment with current U.S. leadership is widespread, extending not just to the corridors of power and politics but to the man and woman on the street as well," the message said. "We also remain convinced that John Kerry has the best chance of beating the incumbent in November and putting America on a new course that will lead to a safer, more secure and more stable world."
The Kerry campaign has claimed that all of this was the work of overseas Democrats and cannot be laid at the door of its candidate.
But recent statements from Sheik Moqtada al-Sadr, the extremist Iran-backed Shiite cleric whose guerrilla army has been killing U.S. soldiers and Marines, appear to echo this and some of Bush's other Democratic critics. Within 48 hours of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's (D-Mass.) first major characterization of Iraq as "another Vietnam," al-Sadr picked up the theme.
Soon after Kerry denounced Halliburton, the oil company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, bin Laden singled out the firm. "I stopped briefly at a gas station," Kerry said on March 30. "If prices stay that high, Dick Cheney and President Bush are going to have to carpool to work. Those aren't Exxon prices, they are Halliburton prices." In his recording released two weeks later, according to a MEMRI translation, bin Laden denounced major corporations but named only Halliburton: "This war makes millions of dollars for big corporations, either weapons manufacturers or those working in the reconstruction [of Iraq], such as Halliburton and its sister companies."
Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) observed in a recent Washington Post commentary: "Instead of trying to chart a path of progress, many of the president's critics have devoted themselves to fomenting public despair over a war, which they keep repeating, should never have been fought. At the same time critics of the Bush administration insist it should have done more to combat al-Qaeda in Afghanistan before Sept 11." Thompson added, "They miss the more profound lesson that national tragedy should have instilled: that the only deterrent to terrorism is strength and that weakness - real and perceived - is an incitement to further attacks."
The steady, daily attacks on the war and the motivations behind it, Thompson warns, risk undermining the strong international position of the United States and turning it into one of weakness.
"Weakness is when America's leaders compare Iraq to Vietnam, announcing to the world a faltering resolve to see our mission through." This signal, Thompson argues, causes wartime allies to lose heart. "To our allies in the Middle East and beyond, these predictions of defeat send a clear and chilling message to hedge their bets, because the United States cannot be counted on. And to our enemies, they can send an equally clear message: You can win."

The Madrid Model

Al-Qaeda may be planning to influence the American presidential elections this November, replicating the "Madrid model" of staging bloody terrorist attacks to intimidate voters into ousting leaders who aggressively fight terrorism. Some observers believe that its March 11 subway bombings in Madrid, which created an electoral backlash against Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar three days later, validated a model by which the terrorists could influence democratic societies to get rid of their tough-on-terrorism leaders.
Among the United States' staunchest European allies, Aznar was one of the original European supporters of ousting Saddam Hussein. All pre-electoral polls showed his party winning re-election against Socialist Party candidate Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. But the subway bombings, which killed nearly 200 and injured more than 1,800, shook the confidence of the Spanish people and was the single largest factor in Zapatero's surprise victory.
"The terrorists won," according to Bob Brinker, a financial analyst and host of the syndicated radio program MoneyTalk. Watching how political events shape the markets, Brinker coined the term "Madrid model" in expectation of future attacks designed to manipulate the outcome of elections. In Brinker's view, under the Madrid model the terrorists attack a democratic society, change the government and gain a military victory in Iraq by helping democratic antiwar politicians come to power. Brinker calls Zapatero an "al-Qaeda-installed prime minister."
"Can you imagine the empowerment that al-Qaeda feels today?" Brinker said on his April 18 program. He predicted a repeat performance for the U.S. presidential election in November: "This is the last thing in the world you want to see happen."
Neither Kerry nor his ally Kennedy seems to have learned from his own Vietnam experiences, say critics, when both used extremist rhetoric to sow defeatism at home even though U.S. and South Vietnamese forces were destroying the communist enemy on the ground.
As in Vietnam, the Kerry camp seems not to care. The very day bin Laden's tape was broadcast, Kerry stood in East Rutherford, N.J., accusing the president of manipulating the war for personal political gain. "Everything he did in Iraq, he's going to try to persuade people it has to do with terror even though everybody here knows that it has nothing whatsoever to do with al-Qaeda and everything to do with an agenda that they had preset, determined," Kerry said.
Islamist forces are not alone in using Kerry's words against the United States. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, whose regime is on the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism, also favors a new American president. The regime's mouthpieces, including the Communist Party daily Rodong Sinmun, have been using Kerry's statements as propaganda to discredit the U.S. government.
"North Korea has been paying keen attention to the U.S. presidential election in recent weeks, reporting Democratic presidential primaries and various opinion polls through its state media," the English-language Korea Times, published in Seoul, reported in February. "Most of the reports are focusing on the criticism against Bush and Sen. John Kerry's surge as viable presidential candidate." Rebecca MacKinnon, former Beijing bureau chief for CNN and now a media fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, says that North Korea's state-controlled media have been portraying Kerry "in a positive light."
As the Financial Times reported in February, "In the past few weeks, speeches by the Massachusetts senator have been broadcast on Radio Pyongyang and reported in glowing terms by the Korea Central News Agency [KCNA], the official mouthpiece of Mr. Kim's communist regime. ... 'Senator Kerry, who is seeking the presidential candidacy of the Democratic Party, sharply criticized President Bush, saying it was an ill-considered act to deny direct dialogue with North Korea,' said the news agency. ... Pyongyang's friendly attitude toward Mr. Kerry contrasts with its strong anti-Bush rhetoric."
Like other wartime enemies of the United States, al-Qaeda is relying on presumably unwitting allies in the international peace movements. In his April 15 tape, bin Laden called the antiwar demonstrations a "positive interaction" and cited "opinion polls which indicate that most European people want peace." He appeared to view the Spanish public's ouster of conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar in favor of an anti-U.S. socialist, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, as a sign of weakness in the West.
That component of strategy is nothing new. The North Vietnamese regime relied heavily on American antiwar protesters to undermine the national will and defeat the U.S. military through political means, in ways that Hanoi could not win on the battlefield. The present North Korean regime is following suit, propaganda specialists say. Providing the ideological inspiration for a strong section of the antiwar movement through its loyal political allies in the United States and elsewhere, the regime of Kim Jong-il continues to use the old Soviet active-measures model of international political warfare. The Workers World Party (WWP), a small, numerically insignificant but organizationally superior group based in New York City, slavishly supports the policies of the North Korean government, and its leaders frequently visit Pyongyang. One of its front groups, International ANSWER, coordinates the largest peace protests in the United States [see "Marching for Saddam," March 4-17, 2003].
Pyongyang continually exhorts the peace movement around the world. On Feb. 4 the official North Korean Communist Party paper Rodong Sinmun said, "The antiwar struggle is the main form of the struggle for world peace at present and its principal target is the United States."
The paper continued, "It is impossible to avert a war and achieve the world peace without a struggle against the U.S. imperialists. ... The people of all countries of the world should lift their antiwar, anti-U.S. voices and bind Yankees hand and foot to keep them from starting a war." Later in February, in a more subdued tone, Rodong Sinmun cited Kerry as a more preferable leader than Bush. U.S. national-security leaders have long recognized how the terrorists exploit our democratic system, but have been slow to counter it effectively. Insight obtained a copy of a U.S. Army intelligence briefing titled Al-Qaeda's Use of the Mass Media in Infowar/Netwar. Referring to information warfare (IW) - the use of information and information systems as instruments of conflict - and the social or societal IW medium called netwar, the Army report is based on two years of assessments of more than 200 documents.
Little secret intelligence is needed to understand al-Qaeda's strategy. Open-source information can meet up to 85 percent of the terrorists' intelligence-information needs, according to the report. Public information "provides understanding of strategic plans and intentions [and is] especially useful in forecasting cultural turmoil and societal upheavals, and in planning/conducting IW operations," according to the Army briefing. "AQ [al-Qaeda] is familiar with the art of war, but U.S. military has ignored past lessons in favor of technology, and is ignorant of its current foe," the report says.
Part of al-Qaeda's "counterpropaganda strategy," according to the Army report, is to "turn people's eyes toward their leaders to put enemy [U.S. and coalition partners] on defensive, and take the initiative to affect public opinion."
That is nothing new to students of history and statecraft. George Washington devoted much of his Farewell Address to the need to defend the country against foreign subversion designed to corrupt the national identity. He recognized the difficult situation that "real patriots" who resist foreign intrigues "are liable to become suspected and odious," while those espousing "pretended patriotism" - what he called "tools and dupes" of foreign interests - "usurp[ed] the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests."

J. Michael Waller is a senior writer for Insight.

Mystery surrounds timing of rail blast in N. Korea and Kim visit

Special to World
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
[Click here to zoom.] A satellite photo of the North Korean city of Ryongchon taken May 13, 2003 shows the train line running from the top left of the image to the bottom center.
SEOUL - The devastating explosion involving railroad cars carrying chemical and fuel products has raised questions about the timing of the blast and that of the passage along the same tracks by the North Korean leader.
The explosion occurred in the rail junction town of Ryongchon, 12 miles south of the North's Yalu River border with China. Pyongyang's Korea Central News Agency attributed the blast to "carelessness during the shunting of wagons loaded with ammonium nitrate fertilizer and tank wagons." Electrical contact from overhead wires had triggered the blast, causing damage that KCNA acknowledged was "very serious."
Was the ammonium nitrate was for fertilizer, as claimed by North Korea, or for rockets and other weaponry manufactured in and around Ryongchon, an industrial community of more than 300,000, many of them in the armed forces or military industries or both.
Another question was whether Kim Jong-Il had passed through the town nine hours earlier, as had widely been reported by Western news agencies, or had been there closer to the blast.
Ruined houses in Ryongchon, North Korea, on April 26, following a huge train blast on April 22 in this photo released by the Korean Central News Agency.
Because at least 76 of the 161 people killed were children, speculation has arisen that they had been marshaled to wave at Kim and his 40-man entourage as they sped by in a special train enroute to Pyongyang. Kim's train had crossed the bridge over the Yalu River early that morning, taking him on the final homeward leg of a journey to Beijing that had begun the previous weekend.
"That's part of the mystery of the whole situation," said Norbert Vollertsen, the German physician who spent more than a year ministering to North Koreans until he was expelled three years ago for crusading for human rights. "Many military and government people were there as well as students."
The immediate explanation was that the schoolchildren were just pouring out of a nearby school, flattened in the blast along with an agricultural college and the railroad.
They were at the epicenter of an explosion that aid workers said destroyed almost everything within 500 meters, creating a number of craters, destroying 129 public buildings and nearly 2,000 homes and tearing down buildings as far away as 4 kilometers.
While the government said there was no sign of sabotage, the South Korean gossip mill was rife with rumors about an attempted plot against Kim. Many here found it difficult to believe the blast was not a botched attempt on the "Dear Leader's" life by discontented military officers.
The rumors intensified as the hours and days passed after the blast with Kim Jong Il failing to make any public appearances. "North Korean Leader Not Seen in Public Since Train Blast," said the headline over one report by Yonhap News Agency.

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Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.
U.S. to set up new Iraqi chain of command by June
Tuesday, April 27, 2004
BAGHDAD - The U.S. military plans to establish an Iraqi military and security force chain of command over the next two months.
U.S. officials said the military and security chain of command will be the priority of the Iraqi Defense Ministry. They said such a command would ensure discipline within the new U.S.-trained Iraqi forces.
"In the coming months, we will steadily strengthen our security partnership, placing increasing responsibility in the hands of Iraqis," CPA administrator Paul Bremer said. "By June 30, Iraqi soldiers in the ranks will report up through an Iraqi chain of command to Iraqi generals."
Officials said the U.S.-led coaltion continues to train members of the Iraqi security forces despite the flight of about half of the Iraqi military security forces during the Shi'ite and Sunni revolt in early April. They said the forces would now include former members of the Ba'ath Party, the ruling party under the Saddam Hussein regime, after screening to ensure that they did not participate in atrocities.
Over the next few months, the United States plans to accelerate the training and equipping of the Iraqi police, the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the Border Police, the Infrastructure Protection Service and the new Iraqi army. Officials said the training would be integrated into a chain of command for Iraqi forces. They said the Iraqi units that fought best against Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents in April were those with what officials termed a good, clear Iraqi leadership.
On April 18, Defense Minister Ali Alawi announced his appointment of the top Iraqi generals in the new Iraqi army. They included a chief of staff and his deputy as well as the senior military adviser to the ministry.
Officials said that 70 percent of senior Iraqi military and security officers would come from the army under Saddam. They said this would include the return of senior officers under the Saddam regime who did not serve in the top three layers of the Ba'ath Party or the top four layers of any ministry.
"You cannot pull generals out of thin air; you cannot recruit and train generals in a matter of weeks or a couple of years," CPA senior adviser Dan Senor said. "These are people who have to have tremendous experience."

Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.

SPIEGEL ONLINE - 28. April 2004, 17:43
Todesfahrt nach Bagdad

Union will Fischer vernehmen
Von Matthias Gebauer
Im Fall der beiden auf der Fahrt nach Bagdad get?teten GSG-9-Beamten w?chst die Kritik am Au?enminister. Die Opposition will wissen, warum die Sicherheitsm?nner nicht auf dem Luftweg reisen konnten. Nach SPIEGEL-ONLINE-Informationen waren erst drei Tage vor der Todesfahrt zwei andere GSG-9-Beamte per Flugzeug in die irakische Hauptstadt gelangt.

Get?tete GSG-9-Beamte: Leichen noch immer verschwunden
Berlin - Im Innenausschuss des Bundestags nahm am Mittwoch Minister Otto Schily zu der Todesfahrt der beiden deutschen Elitepolizisten Stellung. In einem ausf?hrlichen Vortrag schilderte der Politiker nach Angaben von Sitzungsteilnehmern die bisherigen Erkenntnisse. Demnach ist sich die Bundesregierung sicher, dass die beiden Beamten, die am 7. April auf der Strecke von Amman in Jordanien nach Bagdad unter Beschuss von Aufst?ndischen gekommen waren, nicht mehr am Leben sind.
Die Suche nach den beiden Leichen der Beamten blieb bisher erfolglos, berichtete der Minister. Die Botschaft in Bagdad habe sowohl den Roten Halbmond, die amerikanische Armee, die Zivilverwaltung und auch mehrere unabh?ngige Organisationen um Hilfe gebeten. Bisher aber sei die Lage rund um den Anschlagsort n?rdlich der Rebellenhochburg Falludscha zu unsicher f?r die Bergung der Leichen. Trotzdem will die Bundesregierung alles tun, um die Leichen zur?ck nach Deutschland zu holen.
Schily sprach erstmals ?ber Details des Anschlags. Demnach h?tten die drei GSG-9-Beamten, die Bagdad heil erreichten, von bis zu 70 Angreifern mit Feuerwaffen und Raketenwerfern berichtet. Die jordanischen Fahrer sprachen gar von bis zu 400 Heckensch?tzen, die ?ber eine Strecke von fast zwei Kilometern auf der Umleitung um den Ort Falludscha das Feuer auf den Konvoi aus mehreren gepanzerten Fahrzeugen und einigen jordanischen Lasttaxis er?ffnet h?tten.

T?dliche Verwechslung
Sicherheitsexperten gehen mittlerweile davon aus, dass der Angriff eigentlich einem amerikanischen Truppentransport galt. Der deutsche Konvoi sei von einem Sperrfeuer ins n?chste gekommen, sagte Schily. Wie allerdings der "Toyota Cruiser" der beiden get?teten Beamten getroffen worden sei, konnte bisher nicht genau gekl?rt werden. Ein britischer Reporter hatte nach dem ?berfall Fotos von einer Leiche und einem ausgebrannten Toyota ver?ffentlicht. Ob diese Bilder jedoch tats?chlich einen der beiden GSG-9-Leute oder deren Fahrzeug zeigen, ist bisher unklar.

Innenminister Schily: Dienstaufsicht beim Ausw?rtigen Amt
In ersten Berichten ?ber den Anschlag war von einem Bus die Rede, der quer auf der Fahrbahn stand. Beim Passieren dieser Sperre sollte der Wagen der beiden Beamten besch?digt worden sein. Nach den neuesten Erkenntnissen allerdings haben alle Wagen die Sperre erfolgreich durchbrochen. Wo der Jeep der beiden am Konvoi-Ende fahrenden Beamten schlie?lich h?ngen geblieben sei, ist noch unklar. Laut dem Bericht des Ministers sei ein Fahrer des Botschafters kurz nach dem ?berfall die Strecke noch einmal abgefahren, habe aber den wei?en Toyota nicht gesehen.
Trotz des ausf?hrlichen Berichts blieben im Ausschuss viele Fragen zu der T?tung der beiden Staatsdiener offen. Minister Schily soll den Mitgliedern des Gremiums erkl?rt haben, er untersuche zwar den Angriff des Transports, aber nicht die vorausgegangene Planung. Mehrmals verwies der Minister auf die Zust?ndigkeit des Ausw?rtigen Amts (AA), welches die GSG-9-Leute als Schutz angefordert habe. Der Vorlauf des Transports falle deshalb in die Verantwortlichkeit des Au?enamts. Trotz der dringlichen Bitte der Opposition war am Mittwoch kein Verantwortlicher des Ministeriums von Joschka Fischer erschienen.

Fragen an den Au?enminister

F?r die Opposition stellt das Schweigen des AA "einen Skandal" dar, sagte der Innenpolitiker Hartmut Koschyk nach der Sitzung am Mittwoch. Die Union forderte Joschka Fischer deshalb pers?nlich auf, in der kommenden Woche im Ausschuss zu erscheinen. "Wir haben noch viele Fragen zum Vorlauf des Transports", sagte Koschyk. Vor allem will die Union wissen, warum die GSG-9-Leute bei der bekannterma?en gef?hrlichen Lage rund um Falludscha nicht nach Bagdad fliegen konnten - entweder mit einer privaten Maschine oder der jordanischen Airline Royal Jordanian oder gleich direkt aus Deutschland mit der US-Armee.
Mittlerweile mehren sich die Zweifel an den Darstellungen des AA. So hatten Sprecher erkl?rt, bei den privaten Airlines h?tten die Elitepolizisten ihre Waffen nicht mitnehmen k?nnen. Diese Tatsache wurde allerdings von den Airlines dementiert. So transportiert Royal Jordanian immer wieder Sicherheitspersonal, das seine Waffen dann als Ladung aufgibt. Am Mittwoch wurde auch bekannt, dass am 4. April - drei Tage vor dem t?dlichen Landtransport - zwei GSG-9-Beamte zur Verst?rkung der f?nf regelm??ig in Bagdad stationierten Polizisten auf dem Luftweg nach Bagdad reisten.

Bagdad-Botschafter Ellner: Gefahr untersch?tzt?
Das AA hatte auf Nachfrage stets betont, ein Transport der Elitepolizisten samt Waffen und Ausr?stung mit Maschinen der US-Luftwaffe von Deutschland aus in den Irak sei von den Amerikanern abgelehnt worden. Selbst Minister Schily ?u?erte am Mittwoch im Ausschuss daran Zweifel. So vermutete er vor den Abgeordneten, dass sich die Amerikaner bei einer Anfrage "vermutlich positiv" ge?u?ert h?tten. Ob es aber ?berhaupt eine solche gegeben habe, konnte Schily nicht sagen.
AA hatte nie bei den USA angefragt
Recherchen der ARD belegen nun, dass eine dementsprechende Anfrage vom Au?enamt an die Amerikaner nie stattfand. Ein Sprecher der US-Botschaft in Berlin best?tigte laut Angaben des Senders vom Mittwoch, dass die Deutschen niemals um einen Transport der Polizisten gebeten hatte. ?ber die Gr?nde f?r die nicht erfolgte Anfrage konnte die Opposition nur spekulieren. "Vielleicht hielt es Fischer f?r nicht opportun, bei den Amerikanern anzufragen und sich einen Korb zu holen", sagte Hartmut Koschyk, "doch f?r die Sicherheit der deutschen Beamten h?tte es tun m?ssen."
Auch zur Sicherheitslage bleiben f?r die Union einige Fragen offen. Schily best?tigte Recherchen des SPIEGEL, nach denen der Transport zuerst wegen einer Panne, dann wegen eines Sandsturms und dann erneut wegen einer Grenzsperrung um vier Tage verz?gert aufbrach. Zur Absch?tzung der Sicherheitslage berichtete er lediglich, das O.k. zur Fahrt sei zwischen dem deutschen Botschafter, dem get?teten GSG-9-Mann Thomas H. und seinem Vorgesetzten abgesprochen worden.

St?hler?cken um die Verantwortung

Au?enminister Fischer: Vorladung in den Ausschuss
Unklar blieb aber, ob auch Expertisen der deutschen Sicherheitsbeh?rden, des Geheimdienstes und auch der US-Truppen vor der Abfahrt eingeholt wurden. Die beteiligten jordanischen Fahrer hatten Tage nach dem ?berfall gegen?ber SPIEGEL TV gesagt, sie h?tten die Botschaft mehrmals vor und auch w?hrend der Fahrt ?ber die Gef?hrlichkeit der Route gewarnt. Trotzdem sei die Kolonne aber am 7. April gestartet.
In der kommenden Woche soll nun erneut ?ber den Vorgang beraten werden. Eins aber wurde aber bei der Sitzung am Mittwoch klar: Zwischen dem Innen- und dem Au?enministerium hat bei der Verantwortlichkeit f?r die beiden Todesf?lle ein heikles St?hler?cken begonnen. Keiner der beiden Ministerien will am Ende als Schuldiger dastehen. Das AA wird nun zusehen m?ssen, wie es die Widerspr?che bei den eigenen Darstellungen erkl?ren kann. Die Union jedenfalls wird nicht m?de werden, den Fall aufzukl?ren.

Alle Rechte vorbehalten
Vervielf?ltigung nur mit Genehmigung der SPIEGELnet GmbH


Chief of Staff: Syria may have hidden Iraqi WMD

Tuesday, April 27, 2004
TEL AVIV - Israel's military leader has for the first time publicly asserted that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction might have been sent to neighboring Syria.
Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon explained the failure of the U.S.-led coalition to find WMD in Iraq by saying Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons might have been transferred to Syria.
"Perhaps they were transferred to a neighboring country, such as Syria," Ya'alon told the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot on Monday. "We very clearly saw that something crossed into Syria."
Ya'alon said another possibility was that Iraq buried its WMD arsenal, Middle East Newsline reported. He said he would have conducted the search for Iraqi WMD differently, but did not elaborate.
It was the first time a high-level Israeli military official asserted that Iraqi WMD could have been transferred to Syria. Last year, a similar assertion was issued by the head of the U.S. National System for Geospatial-Intelligence, Lt. Gen. James Clapper.
The Israeli chief of staff said the Saddam regime modified Iraqi aircraft for CW attacks against Israeli targets in 2002. He said the aircraft included Soviet-origin fighters as well as unmanned air vehicles.
"We identified them: UAVs, Tupolev-16s and Sukhoi," Ya'alon said. "They were specially fitted for these kinds of missions - dispersing chemical weapons. We are talking about dozens or no more than hundreds of kilograms of material."
Ya'alon said the U.S. military located the Iraqi modified aircraft by the second day of the war in March 2003. The chief of staff said Israel had relayed information critical to that mission.
Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Terrorists killed in Syria attack
By Albert Aji

DAMASCUS, Syria -- Gunmen attacked a former United Nations office in a diplomatic quarter of Damascus yesterday, setting off a battle with police that pelted nearby buildings with bullets and grenades.
The fighting killed two attackers, a policeman and a civilian, the government said. But witnesses said three attackers were killed and a fourth was captured.

The gunbattle follows closely on stepped-up terrorist activity in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, both U.S. allies, but comes as a surprise because of frosty U.S. relations toward Syria, which is suspected of allowing radical Islamists to enter Iraq to fight American forces.
Syria has not seen such violence since the 1980s, when the government put down an insurgency by Islamic militants.
The vacant building formerly was occupied by the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, which oversees an agreement between Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights. It was extensively damaged by fire during the gunbattle.
"Unidentified terrorists attacked a U.N. office building in Damascus, and this office is surrounded by many embassies as well," Syria's ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, said.
Mr. Moustapha said it was too early to know the motivation of the attackers or whether they were Islamist.
"There was a random exchange of fire, and probably every building in that area was hit by a grenade or a bullet" before security forces surrounded the area and returned fire, he said.
Syria's official news agency, SANA, quoting a security source, called the attackers "a terrorist band."
The Al Arabiya television network said there were four attackers. It said three were killed and one wounded. The report could not be confirmed.
After the gunbattle, large crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of the damaged building. Youths drove by honking car horns, waving pictures of Syrian President Bashar Assad and chanting pro-Syrian and pro-Assad slogans.
In New York, Marie Okabe, a U.N. spokeswoman, said all U.N. staff and facilities were safe and accounted for.
The U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, the capital of neighboring Iraq, was bombed twice after the U.S.-led war last year. The first, on Aug. 19, killed 22 persons, including top U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Witnesses, who said the violence started at about 7:20 p.m. and lasted 70 minutes, gave different reports.
One witness said four gunmen came out of a white van on the main Mazza Boulevard in front of the Canadian Embassy and started shooting indiscriminately. A police car on patrol in the area rushed to the scene and came under fire. The police shot back, and other police and plainclothes security forces arrived, the witness said.
Three gunmen were killed and a fourth was taken into custody, the witness reported. Five cars were gutted, and there was a fire at the building where the United Nations used to have offices. Police explosives experts were brought to the scene to examine the bodies of the dead gunmen to make sure they were not booby-trapped.
Another witness said the attackers were riding in two cars. Two explosions were first heard, and a heavy exchange of fire ensued. More than 15 explosions followed, the witness said.
Syrian political analyst Imad Shuaibi said two men "attacked with hand grenades and gunfire near the Iranian and Canadian embassies."
Mazza, on the western edge of Damascus, is home to the British ambassador's home, offices of the Iranian state news agency, the Iranian Embassy and the Canadian Embassy.
British and Iranian diplomatic officials said their embassies were not targeted in the attack, which might fit into a wider pattern of violence in the region.
Jordanian state television on Monday aired a videotape of four men admitting they were part of an al Qaeda plot to attack the U.S. Embassy and other targets in Amman using a combination of conventional and chemical weapons.
A commentator on the tape said the suspects had prepared enough explosives to kill 80,000 people.
Jordan disclosed the plot earlier this month and said it had arrested several suspects. Four other terror suspects thought to be linked to the conspiracy died in a shootout with police in Amman last week.
In Saudi Arabia, a suicide car bomber destroyed a security-forces building in the capital, Riyadh, six days ago, killing four persons and wounding 148.
A Saudi official said authorities had foiled five other terrorist attacks within the previous week. Suspected Islamic militants also killed at least five Saudi policemen this month, and a manhunt is under way for gunmen who have fought police.
Syria has been on the U.S. State Department's list of terror-sponsoring nations for its support of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah that attack Israel. Syria, though, says the anti-Israeli groups are not terrorist and that it has an interest in fighting Islamic extremist groups such as al Qaeda.

EU vs. Hamas
Israel's doing what so many other nations signed on to do.

By Joshua Muravchik

Israel's assassination earlier this month of Hamas chief Abdel Aziz Rantisi stirred gusts of indignation from European governments. As in previous cases, the critics largely rested their case on international law, a refrain also heard often from the continent's critics of American counterterror measures and of the war in Iraq.
British Foreign Minister Jack Straw asserted that "targeted killings of this kind are unlawful [and] unjustified." The French foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Israel's right to self-defense "should not be exercised against international law." The foreign minister of Ireland, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, declared that "extrajudicial killings are contrary to international laws." Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson called Israel's action "illegal and disgusting." Spokesmen for the governments of Germany, Italy, Austria, Portugal, and Russia made similar comments.
If the law is what these Europeans say it is, then, as Dickens's Mr. Bumble put it, "the law is a ass" because the moral case for Israel's counterattacks on Hamas is overwhelming. But even in strictly legal terms, Israel's actions have sound justification. Ironically and shamefully, it is not Israel but these very critics of Israel who are in flagrant dereliction of their legal obligations.
Each of these European states is a party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Unlike, say, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the genocide convention is a treaty, with the force of law. It is one of the oldest, and perhaps the most widely subscribed piece of international human-rights legislation, and arguably the one with the soundest legal foundation, codifying what the Nuremberg tribunal and the U.N. General Assembly in its very first session found to be existing customary law.
Article One of the convention obligates every party "to prevent and punish" genocide as "a crime under international law." The convention goes on to define genocide as, inter alia, "killing" intended "to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group."
By this definition, it is clear that Hamas is an organization devoted to genocide and has been working busily at this mission for years. Hamas's goal is the complete destruction of the Jewish state. As the late Rantisi himself affirmed: "By God, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine." Nor did Rantisi leave doubt about what would become of these Jews. Asked by an interviewer "what do you see ultimately happening to the people [of] Israel?" Rantisi replied: "They killed thousands of Palestinians.... so I think it is just to do with them as they did with us."
Nor are Hamas's intended targets limited to Israeli Jews. Hamas's covenant boasts: "HAMAS regards itself the spearhead and the vanguard of the circle of struggle against World Zionism [and] the fight against the warmongering Jews." It makes clear that there is to be no end of killing: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: 'O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.'"
In short, Hamas's and Rantisi's platform is as clearly formulated a project of genocide as we have had since Mein Kampf. And indeed, Hamas has expressed a solicitousness for Hitler's project. As Rantisi put it, to compare Zionism to Nazism is "an insult to Nazism."
Nor can this all be dismissed as mere rhetoric. Hamas sends a constant stream of bombers to blow up buses, restaurants, markets, any place, in short, where Jews can be slaughtered. For every one whose murderous deed is achieved, handfuls of others are stopped along the way by Israeli security.
What this means is that France, Sweden, and the rest are under a legal obligation to do what they can to destroy or cripple Hamas and to assist in the arrest and prosecution of its leaders and members. What have they done to fulfill this responsibility?
Until six months ago, the EU allowed Hamas to work freely in Europe, as if it were just another NGO. The rationale was a specious distinction between the organization's "political" and "military" wings, much like the distinction between Hitler's Nazi party and his storm troopers. (Indeed, this distinction was drawn, leading the Times of London to applaud the "night of long knives" on the grounds that Hitler was bringing the "radicals" in his movement to heel.)
Only late last year were French objections overcome in the face of a particularly deadly bombing, and Hamas was banned in the EU, its financial assets frozen. But under the genocide convention, Europe's legal obligations (and those of all the other parties to the treaty) go well beyond belatedly closing its own territory to Hamas operations. They include doing what can be done to bring a halt to the genocide and punish the perpetrators. By killing the likes of Rantisi and Yassin, Israel is doing what all the other nations ought by law to be doing, too. Since they are blithely indifferent to their own solemn undertakings, Israel is left alone to defend the law and itself.

-- Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is author of Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism and, most recently of, The Intifada and the Media.

Russia gold-digging in Japan
By Sergei Blagov

MOSCOW - For decades, Russia and Japan have been divided by their territorial dispute over the Kuril Islands, and the still unsigned post-World War II peace treaty. Now, yet another contentious issue has been raised that could further complicate bilateral ties: a dispute over gold worth billions of dollars that belonged to Russia's last tsar.
Russia plans to initiate discussions with Japan on the return of the tsarist gold that allegedly ended up in Tokyo almost a century ago, the Foreign Ministry says. Russia has made "certain inquiries to the Japanese side" on the issue, ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko announced. The issue of the gold "is not a matter of diplomatic negotiations between our countries for now. But this does not mean the Russian Foreign Ministry is ignoring the issue," Yakovenko said.
The gold was shipped to Japan by anti-Bolshevik leader Admiral Alexander Kolchak in 1920. Russian researcher Vladlen Sirotkin, in his four books, argues that the gold was given to Japan in exchange for weapons, but Kolchak never received any military hardware. Sirotkin estimates that, coupled with interest for the time the gold has been in Japan, it would now be worth US$80 billion. He claims that the gold is now held at Japan's Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi.
Sirotkin claims that Japan seized 200 tons of Kolchak's gold, as well as "stole" 5.5 tons from the private coffers of the last tsar, Nikolas II, while it was in transit to Britain in March 1917. Sirotkin now argues that a "package solution" is needed for both territorial claims and the gold dispute between the countries. Tokyo acquired the islands in dispute - the 10,360 square kilometers of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan and the Habomai islets (Kurils) - in a treaty with Russia in 1875. The Soviet Union took them back in the closing days of World War II, a move that Japan has protested ever since as illegal.
Further, Moscow and Tokyo never signed a peace treaty at the end of World War II in 1945 because of Japan's claim over the four Kuril Islands. Russia has suggested the signing of a treaty before solving the territorial dispute, but Japan objects.
In 1994, Russia unearthed documents testifying that Kolchak, who was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1920, had sent at least 22 boxes filled with gold ingots to Japan. However, a lack of solid evidence has prevented Russia from turning the matter into a big diplomatic row. Japan has not officially commented on the gold issue, although Russian media reports claim that Tokyo had allegedly acknowledged that $2.7 billion worth of the tsar's gold remained in Japan.
In April, Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, traveled to Tokyo to discuss bilateral economic ties, where Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told him that bilateral relations would skyrocket in the event of a resolution of the territorial dispute. Luzhkov reportedly conceded that bilateral trade remained negligible, even after growing 30 percent year-on-year in 2003 to $6 billion.
Russian analysts and media outlets have speculated that the issue of the gold, also raised during Luzhkov's trip to Tokyo, could be intended as Moscow's new response to Japan's territorial claims.
Moscow previously hoped that despite the continuing territorial dispute, Japan could still play a role in tapping the vast natural resources of Russia's Far East. But Tokyo has been reluctant to develop economic ties with Moscow because of the territorial dispute.
However, in a dramatic policy change, Ryutaro Hashimoto in July 1997 proposed a plan to improve bilateral relations. At the Krasnoyarsk summit in Siberia in November 1997, both nations decided to conclude a peace treaty by 2000, effectively separating the treaty from the territorial issue.
Until Hashimoto's policy turnaround, successive Japanese governments had said that there would be no expansion of large-scale investment in Russia without a solution to the territorial dispute. However, hopes to solve differences and sign a peace treaty before the end of the century failed to materialize - and now look even less promising than in 1997.
One of the recent Russo-Japanese summit meetings, between President Vladimir Putin and former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, took place in March 2001, in the Siberian city of Irkutsk. They signed a joint statement confirming a 1956 bilateral declaration as a "basis-setting legal document". In the 1956 declaration, in Article 9, Moscow pledged to return two islands - Habomai and Shikotan - once a peace treaty was signed.
In early February 2002, Tokyo claimed that the foreign ministers of both nations had agreed to conduct "two-track" or "dual" talks by separating talks on conditions for the return to Japan of the Shikotan and Habomai group of islets from those of the Kunashiri and Etorofu islands.
The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected using the so-called "two-track" approach. Some Russian officials have described Japan's hardline stance on the territorial dispute over the four islands as detached from reality. Russian officials have lashed out at Koizumi's "radical position" and aggressive style.
Nonetheless, Russia has been trying to rebuild relations with Japan based on economic ties and cooperation in international issues, such as North Korea. The Russian stratagem arguably involved diluting the importance of the territorial issue in the overall framework of relations with Japan.
In January 2003, a summit meeting in Moscow between Putin and Koizumi was supposed to work out ways to increase their economic and international cooperation, along with the talks for a peace treaty.
The bilateral action plan involved further diplomatic cooperation, presumably including North Korean issues. Both Russia and Japan are part of the six-party forum comprising the two Koreas, Japan, Russia, China and the United States, to discuss North Korea.
But a possible official dispute over the gold in Japan would do little in encouraging cooperation between Russia and Japan on North Korea. Now Moscow and Tokyo may face more difficulties in addressing North Korean issues of mutual concern unless they first make some headway in tackling their own bilateral problems.
Meanwhile, after recent strong Russian economic growth, Moscow has become less interested in Japanese economic assistance. Therefore, Moscow seems not to be interested in any of Japan's would-be economic incentives. By referring to the fate of the tsarist gold, Moscow might want to indicate that Russia is not likely to offer Tokyo any major concessions.

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Captores Reciben 500 Millones de D?lares al A?o

Latinoamericanos no denuncian los secuestros
Am?rica Latina es la regi?n del mundo donde m?s secuestros se producen al a?o. S?lo en el 2003 se produjeron alrededor de 7.000. Dado que muchos secuestros no son reportados a las autoridades, la cifra se queda bastante corta. El pa?s que registra el mayor n?mero de secuestros es Colombia, que desde finales de la d?cada pasada experimenta un aumento considerable, con un promedio anual de 3.000 retenciones.
Juan Carlos Becerra
Especial para Tiempos del Mundo
"En el negocio en el que la mercader?a es el secuestrado y los plagiadores cuidan de ?l hasta concretar el intercambio, pocas son las v?ctimas que pueden contarlo. La mayor parte prefiere el herm?tico silencio antes que ocupar las primeras planas de los diarios", reflexionaba Samuel Doria Medina, pr?spero empresario boliviano del cemento y de las hamburguesas, secuestrado durante 45 d?as por miembros del Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru de Per? (Mrta), en 1995.
"No s? d?nde he estado. No s? si era en un primer piso, un segundo piso o un s?tano. Solo s? que era un cuartucho ac?sticamente protegido, donde me sent? enterrado vivo", dec?a una vez liberado por sus captores despu?s de haber pasado varios d?as en cautiverio. "Lo peor era no saber lo que me iba a pasar: si me iban a matar o se trataba de un secuestro. Durante ese tiempo reflexion? que lo importante era la libertad, descubr? el valor de la libertad, de la comunicaci?n y del calor de estar con la familia".
Jam?s imagin? que despu?s de celebrar el quinto cumplea?os de su tercer hijo, Fabi?n, el 1? de noviembre de 1995, vivir?a las horas m?s dram?ticas y desesperantes de su vida. Aquel d?a hab?a asistido a la licitaci?n de una f?brica de cemento en Per?, donde la oferta de su empresa, la Sociedad Boliviana de Cemento (Soboce) hab?a sido de 28 millones de d?lares. Eran las 11:30 horas de la noche cuando a dos kil?metros de su oficina, ubicada casi en pleno centro de la ciudad de La Paz, seis hombres con uniforme militar y armas de fuego de grueso calibre interceptaron su veh?culo y lo detuvieron, no sin antes emplear la violencia. De all? lo llevaron a la ciudad de El Alto, a unos 12 kil?metros de La Paz, donde fue introducido en un cuartucho completamente cerrado que no superaba un metro por dos, donde lo ?nico que hab?a era un catre con una frazada y una bacinilla.
A partir de ese momento, tendr?a que subsistir con apenas una raci?n diaria de arroz, unas veces con carne, otras con huevo o sardina enlatada. "Fueron instantes de tensi?n insoportable. Sent? un escalofr?o desde la cabeza hasta la punta de los pies, como si fuera condenado a muerte. Hab?a momentos en que quer?a dormir d?a y noche, para escapar de aquella realidad pat?tica que viv? durante 45 d?as", dice. Militantes del Mrta peruano, al adjudicarse el plagio, exigieron una recompensa de seis millones de d?lares por su libertad, a tiempo de prevenir a sus familiares a no involucrar a la Polic?a. Las gestiones entonces fueron encargadas a un grupo negociador. Entre los estira y afloje, los extremistas, dirigidos por Mart?n Serna Ponce, lograron alzarse la friolera de $ 1.600.000, pagados por familiares del industrial.
El dinero, seg?n confes? el guerrillero posteriormente, sirvi? para financiar la toma de la embajada del Jap?n en Lima, Per?, el 17 de diciembre de 1996. Hace poco sali? en libertad, despu?s de m?s de cinco a?os de reclusi?n en Chonchocoro, una de las prisiones de m?xima seguridad del pa?s.
"Despu?s de mi retiro de monje (que quiso ser), ahora acepto que hay cosas que no tienen explicaci?n l?gica. Pero que existen, existen. Hoy doy menos importancia al dinero, a pesar de que resuelve problemas, pero es menos importante que la libertad", comenta Doria Medina, asegurando que dedica m?s tiempo a su familia y tiene el compromiso de devolver, con su trabajo, la solidaridad que recibi? de la ciudadan?a, en esos momentos dif?ciles.
Una industria en crecimiento
El secuestro es unas de las actividades delictivas m?s frecuentes en Am?rica Latina en la actualidad. En algunos pa?ses, se cuentan por millares los secuestrados. Seg?n expone el libro El negocio del secuestro, publicado por el Centro de Pol?tica Exterior (CPE), con sede en Londres, Inglaterra, Am?rica Latina es la regi?n del mundo m?s afectada por esta industria, que depara a los captores alrededor de $ 500 millones al a?o.
El pa?s que registra el mayor n?mero de secuestros es Colombia, que desde finales de la d?cada pasada experimenta un aumento considerable, con un promedio anual de 3.000 retenciones. En ese sentido, el a?o pasado result? especialmente turbulento en relaci?n al secuestro de extranjeros en este pa?s.
Los casos m?s destacados por la prensa tuvieron que ver con ocho turistas secuestrados el 12 de septiembre por el Ej?rcito de Liberaci?n Nacional (ELN) y el de tres estadounidenses que fueron retenidos el 13 de febrero, luego de que su avi?n cayera a tierra en una zona de influencia de las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc). Los primeros fueron liberados poco despu?s, pero los norteamericanos continuaban retenidos al cierre de esta edici?n.
El miembro de la Fundaci?n Pa?s Libre, Juan Francisco Meza, aseguraba hace unos meses que en Colombia no se pod?a deslindar el secuestro del crecimiento del conflicto. "El n?mero de secuestros ha crecido tanto porque las Farc y el ELN, lo han definido como estrategia para su financiaci?n, validando as? una actividad que a todas luces es deleznable y condenable.
Entonces, en la medida en que ellos han crecido, los secuestros han aumentado y han logrado un enriquecimiento paulatino y sistem?tico". Mafias de narcotraficantes, guerrilleros y delincuentes comunes utilizan el plagio para conseguir recursos. El m?vil econ?mico ha reemplazado a la reivindicaci?n pol?tica de otros tiempos. Las sumas de dinero que se piden por un rescate van desde 1.000 hasta varios millones de d?lares.
En M?xico, el secuestro afecta en particular a las clases medias y altas, pero no existen cifras confiables. Existen datos de la Procuradur?a General de la Rep?blica, pero se quedan cortos ante la proliferaci?n del `secuestro express', que consiste en retener a la persona unas cuantas horas y pedir cantidades f?cilmente accesibles para los familiares o el tiempo que sea necesario para sacar todo el dinero posible de las tarjetas y cuentas bancarias de la v?ctima. Estos plagios rara vez son reportados por temor a represalias o desconfianza hacia las autoridades.
En Am?rica Central este fen?meno se intensific? durante los tres ?ltimos a?os, especialmente en Honduras, Guatemala y El Salvador. Son muchos los casos reportados, aunque se estima que ciertas familias prefieren tratar directamente con los captores en lugar de avisar a la polic?a.
Temor en el norte
El pasado 3 de marzo, la Oficina de Asuntos Consulares del Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos public? una `Advertencia de Viaje' (`Travel Warn-ing'), para'recordarles' a los ciudadanos estadounidenses que tienen intenci?n de viajar a Colombia el "evitar" hacerlo, debido a la situaci?n de inseguridad y violencia que se vive en el pa?s suramericano, especialmente en lo relacionado a los altos ?ndices de secuestros.
"La violencia del narcoterrorismo y otros elementos criminales contin?a afectando todas la partes del pa?s, urbanas y rurales", advierten en su escrito las autoridades.
Una de las principales inquietudes del gobierno de Washington --como dice textualmente el documento-- es que "los ciudadanos de Estados Unidos y de otros pa?ses contin?an siendo v?ctimas de amenazas, secuestros y otros tipos de violencia".
El Departamento de Estado asegura que desde el a?o 2000, unos 28 ciudadanos estadounidenses fueron reportados como secuestrados en varias partes de ese pa?s. Entre las v?ctimas destacan periodistas, cient?ficos, misionarios, trabajadores de los derechos humanos, personas de negocios, empleados del gobierno, turistas y ni?os peque?os. En muchos casos, los raptados fueron liberados tras haberse pagado cuantiosas sumas de dinero por su rescate.
"Los secuestros por recompensas ocurren m?s frecuentemente en Colombia que en cualquier otra parte del mundo y afectan a todas las ?reas del pa?s, especialmente las zonas rurales", se?ala la Oficina de Asuntos Consulares.
El documento oficial especifica que la mayor?a de los secuestros de estadounidenses en Colombia han sido cometidos por las Farc, el ELN y las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), que han sido designadas como "Organizaciones Terroristas Extranjeras" por la secretaria de Estado. Tambi?n se advierte que "al ser pol?tica de Estados Unidos el no hacer concesiones o tratos con terroristas, la capacidad del gobierno estadounidense para asistir a sus ciudadanos secuestrados es limitada".
Se han dado casos en que los rehenes de los grupos subversivos terminan siendo v?ctimas de homicidios, como el de los tres estadounidenses secuestrados por las Farc que fueron asesinados en marzo de 1999.
Colombia es la ?nica naci?n latinoamericana que integra la lista de 26 pa?ses en torno a los cuales el gobierno estadounidense ha emitido un `Travel Warning' y "no recomienda" a sus ciudadanos viajar. La mayor?a de los pa?ses incluidos en dicha lista est?n ubicados en ?frica y Oriente Medio.
Pero este temor por los "peligros que conlleva Am?rica Latina" trasciende a las autoridades de Estados Unidos. No son pocas las empresas norteamericanas y europeas que dejan entrever una fuerte preocupaci?n cada vez que tienen que enviar personal a esta parte del mundo, en particular cuando se habla de Bogot?, S?o Paulo, Ciudad de M?xico y Caracas.
A veces la estrategia que utilizan estas empresas es emplear a profesionales locales y realizar las reuniones en lugares m?s seguros, caso de Miami, por ejemplo.
Expertos en seguridad sostienen que los trabajadores que est?n en una ciudad extranjera deben aprenderse sus rutas hacia y desde su trabajo, clubes, centros comerciales y otras paradas rutinarias, pero siempre evit?ndolas para evitar ser controlados. Tambi?n es importante conocer la ubicaci?n de las estaciones de polic?a, hospitales, edificios gubernamentales y otras instalaciones a lo largo de las rutas comunes que puedan brindarles un refugio seguro o ayuda en caso de una emergencia.
?Pagar o no pagar?
La forma m?s radical para combatir el secuestro es no pagando el rescate. Hay pa?ses que lo han puesto en pr?ctica y ciertamente el n?mero ha disminuido radicalmente. En unos lugares, aparte de congelar las cuentas bancarias de los familiares, incluso se contempla como delito pagar el rescate.
En Colombia, la industria del secuestro genera el 22 por ciento de los ingresos de la guerrilla --alrededor de $ 100 millones anuales-- gracias a los secuestros. Esto ha generado movimientos en otras partes del orbe que tienden a ver el no pago como una forma de frenar este problema.
El Banco Mundial asegura que las multinacionales han pagado alrededor de $ 1.000 millones por extorsiones y seguros contra secuestro. Esto, sin embargo, no ha garantizado de ninguna manera la liberaci?n de la v?ctima ni la seguridad de una empresa, pues persona y bienes quedan supeditados al capricho del victimario.
Es f?cil discutir el dilema entre pagar o no en un art?culo period?stico o en el calor del hogar, pero no suele resultar tan f?cil para aquellas personas a las que un plagiador amenaza con matar a uno de sus seres queridos. Algunos estudios sostienen que la solidaridad que se tiene con un secuestrado al pagar por su libertad, se convierte en falta de solidaridad con los dem?s miembros de la sociedad, pues lo ?nico que hace es aumentar la rentabilidad del negocio y, por consiguiente, el riesgo de secuestro para m?s gente.
El caso es que el secuestro no s?lo afecta a la v?ctima sino a la familia en general; ya que ?stos son sometidos a lo que los psic?logos, que trabajan el duelo, conocen como el proceso de la `muerte suspendida', que es la angustia que caracteriza al secuestro y que se suma a lo que los juristas llaman la `p?rdida de libertad'. Desorienta y tiende a provocar inacci?n y un sentimiento de impotencia en los afectados.
Lo que corresponde es conseguir un buen negociador que logre detectar qu? elemento traer? al reh?n a casa en la forma m?s r?pida y segura. Esto no significa que haya que pagar lo que piden. De hecho, si se paga r?pido hay una gran posibilidad de que la persona no regrese, porque dejar? una sensaci?n de que se tiene m?s dinero. Lo mejor es no entregar el dinero y trabajar con un verdadero experto en negociaciones que sepa cu?ndo hacer un movimiento de dinero, para evitar tragedias mayores.
En Paraguay, por ejemplo, los delincuentes ya est?n eliminando a la v?ctimas, tal como ocurri? en octubre del a?o pasado con Rodolfo Alliana Rodr?guez, de 24 a?os, quien fue ultimado de tres balazos.
Alliana era hijo de un conocido y acaudalado ganadero de la ciudad de Pilar, capital del departamento de ?eembuc?.
La ciudadan?a a?n est? incr?dula. La violencia se ha apoderado de las calles y la inseguridad va en r?pido aumento. Desde el primer secuestro que se hizo p?blico en este nuevo milenio, a fines del 2001, situaci?n de la que fue v?ctima Mar?a Edith Bord?n de Debernardi, se sucedieron muchos otros como los de Mari?ngela Mart?nez Houstin, Katia Mar?a Riquelme, Graciela D?valos viuda de Pereira, Mar?a Mercedes Elizeche, Oscar Arturo Barboza (asesinado) y el de Gilda Mar?a Estela Vargas, secuestrada el 22 de agosto del 2003 y a?n con paradero desconocido. Se estima que los actos delictivos en el pa?s aumentan en un promedio de 12 por ciento cada a?o. En el 2003 se registraron 11.252 hechos punibles, pero las autoridades se muestran especialmente preocupadas por el aumento de los secuestros.
El resurgimiento de esta industria comenz? con el sonado caso de Mar?a Edith Bord?n de Debernardi, quien estuvo secuestrada m?s de 60 d?as y fue liberada previo pago de un mill?n de d?lares. El hecho ocurri? en noviembre del 2001. De ah? en m?s siguieron los secuestros, incluso a gente conocida, como la ex modelo Mar??ngela Mart?nez, secuestrada en marzo del 2003 y liberada previo pago de $ 300.000; o Mar?a Mercedes Elizeche, en agosto del a?o pasado, quien pudo huir de sus captores.
En este momento, el caso de secuestro m?s importante para la administraci?n de Nicanor Duarte Frutos, presidente de la Rep?blica, es el de Gilda Mar?a Estela Vargas (59).
Por ella sus familiares pagaron m?s de $ 60.000, en dos entregas, pero los secuestradores no liberaron a la v?ctima.u
Colaboraron en esta investigaci?n Mart?n Brakenridge (Paraguay), Alexandra Farf?n (Colombia), Carlos Becerril (M?xico) y Pedro Frisneda (Estados Unidos).


No hay pa?ses en calma
Isidro L?pez
Tiempos del Mundo

MANAGUA. Nicaragua podr?a considerarse como uno de los pa?ses del continente americano menos peligroso, donde cualquier ciudadano nacional o extranjero puede transitar por las calles y carreteras, inclusivas las m?s alejadas, sin riesgo de ser secuestrado por motivaciones econ?micas o de otra ?ndole.
Son espor?dicos los casos de secuestros que se han registrado en los ?ltimos a?os en el pa?s, seg?n los informes suministrados por las autoridades policiales.
Los pocos casos que reporta la polic?a y que ha divulgado la prensa local se han producido en zonas alejadas, principalmente de la parte norte de Nicaragua, y sus v?ctimas son peque?os finqueros dedicados al cultivo del caf?, la actividad ganadera o la producci?n de granos b?sicos.
Durante el a?o 2003 se registraron un total de 18 secuestros. La mayor?a de las v?ctimas fueron plagiadas cuando se encontraban en sus casas de habitaci?n. Solo cuatro casos ocurrieron cuando transitaban en la v?a p?blica, seg?n el informe policial del a?o pasado. La industria del secuestro tuvo su auge en Nicaragua entre 1990 y 1995 cuando en el pa?s, pese al proceso de pacificaci?n, surgieron grupos integrados por antiguos "contras" antisandinistas y por ex militares sandinistas.
Esas bandas de rearmados adem?s de combatir al ej?rcito, por diferencias de car?cter pol?tico tambi?n se dedicaron a asaltar y a asesinar a campesinos opuestos a su lucha, as? como a secuestrar a grandes y medianos productores agr?colas, a fin de exigir rescates para financiar sus actividades irregulares.
Las bandas de secuestradores operaron principalmente en zonas monta?osas de los departamentos de Jinotega y Matagalpa (norte del pa?s), Juigalpa y Boaco (centro) y en el tri?ngulo minero de Siuna, Bonanza y Rosita, en la Regi?n Aut?noma del Atl?ntico Norte (Raas).
"Pr?cticamente el auge de la industria del secuestro ya es asunto del pasado", afirm? un alto oficial de la polic?a en declaraciones a Tiempos del Mundo. Los secuestros por motivaciones pol?ticas de mayor relevancia o que recuerde la poblaci?n, ocurrieron a mediados de la d?cada de los noventa, cuando en Managua, un grupo de ex militares sandinistas alzados en armas, retuvo por varios d?as a una veintena de l?deres pol?ticos nicarag?enses, incluido el entonces vicepresidente de la rep?blica, Virgilio Godoy.
La acci?n de los ex militares sandinistas fue en respuesta al secuestro que d?as antes hab?an perpetrado ex "contras" rearmados contra una delegaci?n de diputados y funcionarios que visitaba la zona de Quilal? (norte de Nicaragua) para indagar la situaci?n b?lica que se viv?a entonces en esa regi?n.
Ambos secuestros masivos culminaron sin derramamiento de sangre despu?s de la oportuna mediaci?n del cardenal Miguel Obando y Bravo, principal jerarca de la iglesia cat?lica en Nicaragua.
Pese a que en Nicaragua los casos de secuestros son espor?dicos, las autoridades policiales y militares del pa?s unen esfuerzos con sus pares del resto de Centroam?rica para combatir a las bandas que se dedican a esa actividad il?cita.
La industria del secuestro no es tan alta como en Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras. Seg?n datos de la polic?a, los secuestros en Nicaragua son pr?cticamente rurales.
El m?s reciente secuestro en una ciudad del pa?s se registr? el a?o pasado, cuando una banda internacional liderada por el guatemalteco Jorge Eli?cer Hern?ndez Gonz?lez, recientemente capturado en Managua con m?s de medio mill?n de d?lares, plagi? durante varios d?as a un ni?o, hijo de un ciudadano guatemalteco, cuando sal?a del colegio donde estudiaba.
Adem?s, la polic?a revel? que en Nicaragua ya comenz? tambi?n a practicarse la modalidad del `secuestro express'.
Otro tipo que tambi?n se ha registrado, aunque no con mucha frecuencia, es el autosecuestro, sobre todo entre empleados de empresas que comercializan productos en veh?culos, con el fin de quedarse con el dinero de la venta del d?a.


Contra los secuestros masivos
BOGOT?. El presidente colombiano ?lvaro Uribe pidi? al Ej?rcito que capture a los guerrilleros de las Farc que viven en Neiva, en el sur del pa?s, y reiter? que el compromiso del Estado es derrotar al terrorismo.
As? lo asegur? Uribe a los periodistas durante un consejo de seguridad en dicha poblaci?n, capital del departamento del Huila, a 300 kil?metros de Bogot?. Seg?n el presidente colombiano, buena parte de los rebeldes de la columna m?vil `Te?filo Forero' de las Farc, "que tanto da?o hace en Colombia, residen aqu?, en Neiva." Uribe dijo que conf?a en que los organismos del Estado puedan "dar gratas noticias al Huila y al pa?s desarticulando esta organizaci?n", acusada de secuestros masivos. (EFE)


Los secuestradores sufren metamorfosis

Julio Medina Murillo
Tiempos del Mundo
TEGUCIGALPA. El combate abierto que ha desarrollado el gobierno en contra de las bandas de secuestradores ha obligado a estos delincuentes a emprender una metamorfosis en su actividad y dejar a un lado la b?squeda de v?ctimas `grandes' en la c?pula empresarial del pa?s, para apostar por el `volumen' de varios golpes contra miembros de la poblaci?n com?n. Los `secuestros express' son ahora el dolor de cabeza para las autoridades nacionales. Luego de una exitosa reducci?n del 72 por ciento en el n?mero de plagios cometidos en los ?ltimos 12 meses, en comparaci?n con las cifras que se ven?an dando desde el a?o 2000, los funcionarios de Seguridad P?blica enfrentan ahora una amenaza mucho m?s dif?cil de combatir.
En este tipo de casos los delincuentes secuestran a una persona por unas horas o un par de d?as y la liberaci?n se produce luego de la entrega de una cantidad relativamente baja. Generalmente los pagos de dinero que se mueven en estas operaciones son de 10 mil y hasta 50 mil lempiras (de $ 560 a $ 2.800). "Esta es una cifra oscura que todav?a no se conoce, no se tiene un n?mero determinado de personas afectadas", afirm? el vocero de la Polic?a Preventiva, Leonel Sauceda, ya que las v?ctimas prefieren sufrir la pena en el anonimato para no ser v?ctimas de la venganza de los malhechores. Las bandas que realizan estas operaciones est?n integradas por hondure?os y extranjeros, sobre todo salvadore?os y guatemaltecos que, a pesar de la seguridad, han mudado sus actividades a la clase media y media baja.
Su modus operandi es casi el mismo. Interceptan a una familia saliendo de un centro comercial y obligan al patriarca a retirar dinero de los cajeros autom?ticos a cambio de la libertad de sus dependientes.
En otros casos se da en supermercados, donde ante un descuido de los padres, los delincuentes sustraen a sus hijos y piden, a cambio de su liberaci?n, el uso de su tarjeta de cr?dito para comprar alimentos o para obtener efectivo en los cajeros autom?ticos.
Tambi?n atacan a peque?os empresarios realizando `mini secuestros' en contra de alg?n miembro de su familia y pidiendo a cambio de su libertad cantidades que no sobrepasan los $ 3.000 ? $ 4.000.
El ministro de Seguridad, Oscar ?lvarez, consider? que los ?ltimos plagios ocurridos en Honduras fueron cometidos con la asesor?a de secuestradores salvadore?os y guatemaltecos. Cuerpos de Inteligencia, como la Polic?a Internacional (Interpol), han alertado que el secuestro se ha convertido en una "industria", especialmente luego de la "guerra fr?a" cuando se desmovilizaron muchos grupos guerrilleros, sobre todo en la regi?n centroamericana, y hoy d?a mueve cantidades millonarias. Para el caso, en Honduras en el a?o 2000, cuando se registraron 47 plagios --el mayor n?mero ocurrido en lo que va del presente siglo--, se report? que las familias de los plagiados pagaron alrededor de 43 millones de lempiras ($ 2,4 millones), por el rescate de sus parientes.
De acuerdo con la Direcci?n General de Investigaci?n Criminal (Dgic), los plagiarios ?ltimamente no respetan posiciones econ?micas, ya que se han pagado rescates de hasta tres millones de lempiras ($ 170.000), pero en otros casos se cancelaron 60 mil lempiras ($ 3.300).

Aumentan sanciones
Dentro de las reformas penales que se aprobaron para combatir el secuestro destacan las agravantes cuando el delito se cometa contra una persona mayor de 60 a?os, contra un menor de edad o cuando ya tienen al secuestrado y utilizan drogas o violencia para reducirlo o maltratarlo. Aunque tambi?n contienen atenuantes, que van desde el arrepentimiento de un secuestrador y proporcionar informaci?n a la polic?a hasta el buen trato al secuestrado. En esas circunstancias, el juez considerar?a rebajarle la pena. Adem?s, el gobierno cre? el Grupo Especial Antisecuestros (Geas), conformado por 53 integrantes, que se han apuntado varios ?xitos al liberar a personas secuestradas y capturar a los delincuentes.
Por ejemplo, de los tres secuestros reportados en lo que va del a?o, dos de las v?ctimas han sido rescatadas con vida y sus captores guardan prisi?n sin haber podido cobrar ni un centavo a sus familiares. Durante el per?odo 1995-2002, se registraron 195 secuestros de personas por diversos motivos y la mayor incidencia se tuvo en el a?o 2001, cuando se registraron 36.
Tomando como referencia los ?ltimos ocho a?os, el promedio de secuestros fue de 24 por a?o, es decir, un promedio de dos secuestros mensuales. Si bien en el 2002 se experiment? una reducci?n de secuestros en comparaci?n con el 2001, se mantuvo el promedio de dos plagios mensuales.
En el 2001 comenz? una reducci?n marcada en el n?mero de plagios, que desemboc? en una ca?da del 72 por ciento el a?o pasado, y en los primeros cuatro meses del 2004 s?lo se han reportado tres secuestros, dos de los cuales terminaron con la libertad de la v?ctima y la captura de los criminales.



Social Security Time Bomb, and the Candidates Aren't Talking

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

By Michael Tanner
Washington recently went into one of its periodic spasms of shock and indignation because of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's (search) comments that Social Security cannot continue to pay its promised level of benefits with its currently projected levels of revenue.
Greenspan was not saying anything new. But politicians of every stripe reacted as if he had announced that the sun was about to stand still in the sky.
Now, the Social Security (search) system's trustees have released their latest report on the program's finances and once more reaffirmed the truth of Greenspan's statements. In doing so, the trustees offer us another opportunity for an honest debate about how to reform Social Security and ensure that our children and grandchildren will have the opportunity for a safe, secure retirement.
The Trustees confirm that Social Security will begin to run a deficit by 2018, just 14 years from now, and the same date as in last year's report. Thus, while politicians dithered and tried to pretend the issue would go away, we moved another year closer to disaster. But the truly frightening numbers are found further into the report, and make clear the magnitude of the fiscal train wreck awaiting us.
The figure most cited in the media is the "present value" of Social Security's unfounded liabilities, $3.7 trillion, which represents the amount needed to cover shortfalls after the Trust Fund is exhausted in 2042. An additional $1.5 trillion would be needed to redeem the bonds in the trust fund, for a total unfounded liability of $5.2 trillion, on a present value basis. Present value calculations are an important number for economists and actuaries--they show the amount the government would have to set aside today (assuming it earned standard interest rates) to pay all promised benefits in the future. But, of course, the government cannot set aside $5.2 trillion today. That would be nearly half of our Gross Domestic Product (search).
Therefore, a better measure of Social Security's financial crisis is its actual cash deficit: the total amount that its expenditures will exceed its revenue from 2018 on. Measured in constant 2004 dollars, that shortfall is an astounding $26 trillion--$26,000,000,000,000.00.
To put this in context, in 2018, the first year that Social Security will run a cash deficit, that shortfall will be approximately $16 billion, or roughly the equivalent of the current budgets for Head Start and the WIC nutritional program. In another two years, Social Security's shortfalls will nearly exceed those two programs, plus the Departments of Education, Commerce, Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency. By 2030 or so, you can throw in the Departments of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Veterans Affairs. And the biggest deficits would be still to come.
Or, if you would rather look at it in terms of taxes, in the first year after Social Security starts running a deficit, the government must acquire revenues equivalent to nearly $200 per worker. By 2042, the additional tax burden increases to almost $2,000 per worker, and by 2078 it reaches a crushing $4,200 per worker (in constant dollars). And it continues to rise thereafter. Functionally, that would translate into either a huge increase in the payroll tax, from the current 12.4 percent to as much as 18.9 percent by 2078, or an equivalent increase in income or other taxes.
And all of this doesn't even begin to consider Social Security's other problems: a poor and declining rate-of-return for younger workers; issues of fairness for minorities and working women; the impact on wealth creation; and the lack of legal ownership and control over one's benefits.
The American people would be right to hope, therefore, for an open and honest debate over how Social Security should be reformed. So far, however, they would be disappointed.
President Bush has been willing to discuss Social Security reform, at least conceptually. He would allow younger workers to privately invest a portion of their Social Security taxes through individual accounts. But, so far he has been unwilling to put any political capital behind such proposals. And, he has been maddeningly short of details on issues such as how big private accounts should be, or how he would finance short-term cash shortfalls during the transition to individual accounts.
Bush's Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, has so far defined his position primarily by what he is against. Campaigning in Florida, Kerry told a group of seniors, "I will never privatize Social Security. Never, never, never!" Kerry went on to say that he would never support any cuts in Social Security benefits either. "Not me. Not my party. Not ever." That's all very well--but then what is he for? As former President Bill Clinton pointed out, there are only three options for Social Security reform: raise taxes, cut benefits, or invest privately. Kerry seems to be taking benefit cuts and private investment off the table. Does that mean he supports tax increases? If so, he isn't saying.
At a time when politicians can expend so much time and energy on issues ranging from who gets married to the use of steroids in baseball, wouldn't it be nice for them to give us some straight forward answers about the ticking time bomb of Social Security?

Michael Tanner, director of the Project on Social Security Choice at the Cato Institute, is the editor of the new book, "Social Security and Its Discontents" (Cato Institute, 2004).

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Fixing the New Medicare Law #3: How to Build on the Drug Discount Card
by Grace-Marie Turner and Joseph R. Antos, Ph.D.
Backgrounder #1752

April 26, 2004 | |

Starting this June, America's senior citizens will begin to see the first tangible benefits of the new Medicare law. Medicare beneficiaries will be able to start using new Medicare-approved prescription drug discount cards that are expected to produce discounts of up to 25 percent. Additionally, subsidies of $600 a year will be available to low-income seniors to help with their drug purchases.
This Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card and Transitional Assistance Program already has sparked intense interest among companies seeking to participate. In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) received 104 applications from prospective card sponsors, and in March, it approved 71 of them. The CMS rejected 29 applications that did not meet its standards.
Medicare beneficiaries will be able to enroll beginning in May 2004 and can start using the cards and subsidies in June. The Administration expects more than 7 million seniors to participate.
This is a temporary program that is designed to provide interim help until the full drug benefit program begins in 2006. However, both the level of interest in this program and its rational structure suggest that it could provide the basis for a permanent program. Such an arrangement could feature privately negotiated drug discounts and fixed subsidies for the purchase of routine medications. It could also offer protection against catastrophic drug expenses.

Critics have raised four major concerns about the temporary drug card program:

A single drug card may not cover all the drugs a Medicare beneficiary uses.
After senior citizens have signed up for the card, card sponsors may drop particular drugs those seniors need.
Card plans can change drug prices weekly even though beneficiaries are locked into their plans for up to a year.
Rising drug prices may erode savings from the Medicare card.
To answer the first point, this is a discount program, not a drug benefit. By design, the cards cannot cover every drug and still provide meaningful savings. The card plans will obtain discounts from manufacturers by shifting consumer demand from one product in a particular drug class to another in order to concentrate purchasing power. If the drug cards were required to cover every drug in every category, discounts would be minimal, defeating the purpose of the program.

Second, the program offers beneficiaries protection against the loss of discounts on drugs they need. Drug card plans are required to cover at least one drug in all therapeutic categories to ensure that seniors will be able to get the drugs they need.

Third, price increases will be monitored and limited to ensure that any increases reflect prevailing market costs. Arbitrary price increases or formulary changes would be highly unpopular with beneficiaries and federal overseers alike, and there will be strong market pressures on the card plans both to keep prices as low as possible and to provide as many choices as feasible. Most sponsors are well-established firms with reputations to protect, and a majority of them plan to offer a Medicare Part D benefit. Consequently, those sponsors will try to make their cards as attractive as possible to seniors. While some card sponsors might find short-term gains from dropping drugs and/or raising prices, in the longer term, they would lose enrollment and could face expulsion from the program.
Finally, early reports indicate that pharmaceutical companies are offering very generous discounts on the drug card plans while still coupling their existing patient assistance programs with the cards. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson says card sponsors are vying with each other to negotiate the lowest prices on drugs in order to gain the largest numbers of enrollees. Seniors will be able to compare the individual drug prices offered by each card by visiting the new Web site at or by calling 1-800-Medicare.
A new study by researchers from Harvard University estimates that the drug discount cards will save seniors who do not have other drug coverage an average of 17.4 percent off current retail prices--for a total of as much as $1 billion a year in savings. The researchers predict that sicker beneficiaries will see slightly higher savings and poorer beneficiaries will save somewhat more than wealthier beneficiaries. They also say that low-income beneficiaries "will see the largest reductions in out-of-pocket drug spending relative to their income" and also will benefit from an annual $600 subsidy that is not included in the study's savings estimates.1

What the New Medicare Law Says
Title I of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA), enacted on December 8, 2003, creates the new prescription discount drug card and transitional assistance program.

Drug Discount Cards
The law requires the Department of Health and Human Services to implement a new program of Medicare-approved prescription drug discount cards. Senior citizens who participate in this voluntary program will receive access to discounts negotiated by the private card sponsor they select. HHS anticipates that those who use the drug discount cards will see savings of 10 percent to 25 percent on their prescription drug purchases,2 although some drug-card sponsors believe they can offer even larger discounts, especially for direct-mail purchases and generics.
Congress specified that the discount card program would take effect no later than six months after the date of enactment of the legislation. On December 10, 2003--two days after the legislation was signed--HHS published an "interim final rule" for the Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card Program to notify prospective sponsors about the rules of participation. Seniors will be able to start using the Medicare-endorsed drug discount cards on June 1, 2004.
The cards are intended primarily for beneficiaries, regardless of income, who currently do not have outpatient prescription drug insurance. Medicare beneficiaries are eligible for the drug discount card program if they are enrolled in Parts A or B and as long as they are not receiving outpatient drug benefits through Medicaid.

Transitional Cash Assistance
A key part of the program is a cash subsidy of $600 per year for eligible lower-income beneficiaries to use in purchasing prescription drugs. The funds will be provided through the particular drug discount card program selected by the beneficiary. The provision was designed to provide immediate help for certain seniors and disabled people on Medicare until the new Medicare drug benefit is implemented on January 1, 2006.
Individuals whose incomes are less than 135 percent of the poverty rate may qualify for the cash subsidy. For singles, this means those making less than $12,569 per year; for married couples, it means those making less than $16,862 per year.3 Medicare beneficiaries who are also eligible to receive assistance for prescription drugs through Medicaid, TRICARE for Life,4 or an employer group health plan may not receive the cash subsidy.
For those eligible for this transitional assistance, the federal government will pay the annual enrollment fee for the drug discount cards and also will provide a subsidy on the drug discount card of $600 each year in 2004 and 2005.
The new law establishes two categories of recipients for whom assistance will be offered:
Those with incomes below 100 percent of the poverty rate would be responsible for prescription drug co-payments of 5 percent.
Those with incomes of 100 percent to 135 percent of the poverty rate would have 10 percent co-payments.
Legislators decided that even low-income seniors should pay at least something for their drugs so that they would appreciate the value of the benefit. Therefore, after selecting the drug discount card program of their choice, seniors will pay 5 percent or 10 percent of the costs of their medicines, depending upon their income category. The balance, or the remaining 95 percent or 90 percent of the discounted drug costs, will be subtracted from their $600 allowance.
Medicare beneficiaries currently without prescription drug insurance would pay about $1,400, on average, to purchase their drugs in 2004, absent the prescription drug card program. HHS concludes that the $600 subsidy, coupled with the drug discounts, will be of substantial help to them.5
Those eligible for transitional assistance will receive the full $600 subsidy for 2004 even though the program does not begin until mid-year. Significantly, any balance left over from the $600 subsidy at the end of 2004 may be added to the 2005 allocation. However, the legislation stipulates that both the temporary discount card program and the $600 subsidies will end in 2006, to be replaced by the full Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit program. At that time, seniors can enroll either in one of the new subsidized Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans or in a Medicare Advantage plan to receive drug coverage.

Additional Assistance Through Private Programs
Most pharmaceutical companies plan to continue their existing discount programs, which provide drugs to low- and moderate-income seniors at lower prices, in conjunction with the transitional Medicare program. Many companies are working on initiatives that will enhance the value of the Medicare drug card to beneficiaries. For example:
Merck announced in February that it will provide its medicines free of charge for low-income Medicare beneficiaries who exhaust their $600 transitional assistance allowance (although there may be a fee to the pharmacist to dispense the drugs).6
Eli Lilly announced in January that it would make discounts available through its LillyAnswers program to lower- and moderate-income seniors using Medicare-endorsed drug cards. The Lilly program allows seniors with incomes below 200 percent of poverty without prescription drug coverage to pay a flat fee of $12 for a 30-day supply of any Lilly medication.7
Pfizer will continue its Share Card program, which charges $15 a month to fill any prescription for single Medicare beneficiaries who do not have drug insurance and who have incomes below $18,000, and for couples without drug insurance making less than $24,000. Pfizer will also partner with a Medicare drug card sponsor.
Other programs, such as the GlaxoSmithKline Orange Card and the Together Rx card offered by an affiliation of eight major drug companies, will continue to offer discounts of up to 40 percent on their medications to qualifying seniors.
Senior citizens may find that they can save money by enrolling in both the Medicare drug discount card program and one or more card programs offered by private vendors. While seniors can participate in only one Medicare-approved program at a time, there is no limit on their participation with other, non-Medicare-approved drug discount programs. Seniors who qualify for the $600 transitional assistance subsidy must sign up for a Medicare-approved drug discount card in order to receive this money.
Some of these private programs may provide savings superior to the Medicare-approved drug cards. For example, once their $600 subsidy is exhausted, seniors may decide to transfer back to those pharmaceutical company drug card programs that operate independently of the Medicare-approved drug cards. Getting a month's supply of Pfizer's Lipitor for $15, for example, is likely to be a better deal than the discounted price seniors would get through a Medicare-approved drug discount card. The $15 fee basically covers dispensing fees and program administration costs, with little or no payment for the drug itself. Therefore, charges from the private pharmaceutical company plans are likely to be lower than those from the Medicare discount card prices.

Beneficiaries will first select the discount card program of their choice when enrollment begins on May 3, 2004. Enrollment is voluntary. As mentioned earlier, the legislation specifies that beneficiaries may enroll in only one Medicare-approved drug discount card program at a time.
The legislation details the application processes for drug card programs, including a standard enrollment form for beneficiaries, and allows the sponsor to collect annual enrollment fees of up to $30. The beneficiary will fill out the enrollment form with basic information about his or her Medicare and Medicaid status.
If the beneficiary wants to participate in the $600 subsidy program, he or she will be required to submit information about income and other retirement and health benefits. HHS will verify information on beneficiary eligibility for the subsidy.
Medicare Administrator Mark McClellan says his agency is taking action to make it easier for low-income Americans to receive the $600 benefit. Some states will be able to automatically enroll low-income seniors in the Transitional Assistance Program, provided their laws allow state officials to sign enrollment forms on seniors' behalf. Medicare also will provide a standard enrollment form for the program on its Web site, eliminating the need for dozens of different low-income application forms for each drug plan.
Beneficiaries generally can switch to another approved plan only during the open enrollment period between November 15 and December 31, 2004.

Card Sponsors
Card sponsors can be pharmacy benefit management companies, wholesale and retail pharmacies, insurers, Medicare Advantage health plans, and partnerships of the above. In March, HHS approved 71 Medicare drug discount card applications. Of these, 28 were general card sponsors who will offer their discounts to beneficiaries enrolled in fee-for-service Medicare, either on a national or regional basis. Another 43 sponsors represent Medicare Advantage health plans that will offer the discount cards to their members.
The major pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), such as Advance PCS Health, LP, Caremark Advantage, Inc., Express Scripts, Inc., WellPoint Pharmacy Management, and Medco Health Solutions, Inc., will participate, along with major health plans such as Aetna Health Management, LLC, Humana Insurance Company, and United Healthcare Insurance Company.
CMS rejected 29 applications, demonstrating its prudence in protecting Medicare beneficiaries. The applications were rejected primarily because the companies seeking approval did not have adequate financial resources, because they did not offer drug discounts in all 209 therapeutic categories, or because their networks did not meet CMS's criteria for operating in a sufficient number of pharmacies.
Discount card sponsors must have sufficient participation by bricks-and-mortar pharmacies in the regions where they are offering the cards, in addition to offering mail-order services to enrollees. Express Scripts said in February that it already had signed up more than 40,000 pharmacies nationwide to participate in its card program. Seniors in a given area must have a choice of at least two discount card programs, offered by different sponsors. With at least 17 drug cards approved nationally, that legislative criterion was easily met.
Other service area specifications stipulate that 90 percent of Medicare beneficiaries living in urban areas must have a participating pharmacy within two miles of their homes (five miles in suburban areas) and that 70 percent of those living in rural areas must have a participating pharmacy within 15 miles of where they live.
Drug card plans are required to cover at least one drug in each of 209 therapeutic categories. At least 55 percent of these categories must have a generic available, and pharmacists are required to notify beneficiaries if a lower-priced generic is available for the prescription they are seeking to fill. Card sponsors will be able to add or drop drugs from their formularies, and sponsors will be able to change the discounts available on individual pharmaceuticals. Price increases will be limited, however, ensuring that beneficiaries will face only those price increases prevailing in the market or that result from increases in the card plan's cost of operation.
Critics have charged that there will be mass confusion for seniors trying to sort through the offers, claims, and prices of so many discount cards. Indeed, it will be a challenge for companies to market their cards to customers and to distinguish their plans from their competitors' in such a short time frame once enrollment begins in May.
The CMS is planning to help by establishing a hotline (1-800-MEDICARE) and a Web site with information about the cards, including comparative pricing information on each drug for each card. The Web site will be updated weekly.
Impact of the Drug Card Provisions
Controversy continues to swirl around the new Medicare law, particularly with regard to the structure of the permanent prescription drug benefit, including the "doughnut hole,"8 whether government should "negotiate" drug prices, and questions about potential participation in 2006 both by seniors and by stand-alone prescription drug plans. This contrasts with the early acceptance and interest in the transitional drug discount card and the $600 subsidy.
Many companies that have applied to participate see the $600 subsidy as an attractive lure to enroll Medicare beneficiaries in their programs. These sponsors plan to market their cards actively and, in the process, educate seniors about this new assistance program.
The temporary discount card program may well turn out to be so popular that Congress could decide to extend it beyond 2005. As both the government and private sector gain more experience with the program, it could serve as a model for a larger Medicare drug benefit program. The $600 subsidy is essentially a defined contribution that gives seniors an incentive to get the best value for their money. Further, by participating in the discount card program, the money will go further than it would if seniors were paying the full retail price--as many without drug coverage currently do.
Reducing Prices and Maintaining Broad Access to Pharmaceuticals
The drug discount card program and the broader Part D benefit that becomes available in 2006 are designed to promote competition among private drug-only plans and comprehensive health plans (such as HMOs and PPOs) that offer a drug benefit to their members. The private plans will have an incentive to negotiate low prices from pharmaceutical manufacturers, which would be passed on to beneficiaries in the form of lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs. In addition to making their benefits financially attractive to potential enrollees, card sponsors and drug plans will offer customer conveniences, including a broad retail network of pharmacies, mail order service, telephone consultations, and the like.
The size of the discounts available to seniors who enroll in the Medicare drug discount card program depends on the ability of the plan sponsors to shift consumer demand from one product in a drug class to another. Pharmacy benefit managers have been successful in negotiating low drug prices for private insurance plans by using multi-tiered formularies that require lower copayments for preferred drugs and generics. A similar kind of financial incentive is possible for the Medicare discount card program, with sponsors of the discount cards offering larger discounts where they have negotiated better prices.
Using Private Competition to Deliver the Medicare Drug Benefit
The role of private competition has been a major point of contention in Congress. Critics of a competitive system argue that it could place beneficiaries at a disadvantage if plans change their formularies or discounts after the open enrollment period. Critics also assert that the government should exploit its market power and negotiate drug prices directly with manufacturers, and that drugs should be imported from Canada to keep prices low for everyone.

Bait and Switch
First, let us consider the concern that plans might bait and switch--advertising prices that are too good to be true and then raising prices after seniors are locked into the plan. HHS anticipated this possibility and built safeguards into the regulations. It will monitor price changes and allow them only within a limited range that reflects increases in a drug's average wholesale price or changes in the card sponsor's cost of operation.
Another requirement is that discounts, rebates, or other price concessions from pharmaceutical manufacturers or pharmacies must be accounted for in any proposed price increase to beneficiaries. In addition, HHS must be notified if the sponsor proposes to drop a drug from its formulary. HHS will then post the prices and formulary changes on its Web site.
Card sponsors clearly recognize that arbitrary price increases or formulary changes would be highly unpopular with beneficiaries and federal overseers alike. Card plans that do not meet reasonable consumer expectations will lose enrollment and could face expulsion from the program.
The risk of bait-and-switch tactics would be greater if drug card sponsors had only a short-term interest in the Medicare program, so that the loss of market share after the first year would be of little consequence. But most, if not all, prospective sponsors of the Medicare discount card are well-established firms with reputations to protect, and the majority of them are considering continued involvement with Medicare through the Part D benefit. For such sponsors, bait-and-switch practices would be bad business, placing them at a competitive disadvantage.
The Impact of Private Negotiations on Drug Prices
There is heated controversy over whether the government should be allowed to "negotiate" prices with pharmaceutical companies since, the argument goes, the government would be able to obtain lower drug prices than private firms. But government doesn't negotiate.9 It is a monopsony purchaser that dictates prices because it controls such a large customer base: Seniors consume about half of all prescription drugs sold in the United States.
Government would surely dictate prices that would shrink payments to pharmaceutical companies--payments that fund their investment in research and development, estimated to be more than $800 million for every new drug that comes to the market.10 The result would be less money, a less hospitable business climate for research, and fewer new drugs.
Further, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin wrote a letter on January 23, 2004, to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) concerning the provision in the Medicare law that prohibits the government from negotiating prices with drug companies.11 The CBO concluded that:
striking that provision would have a negligible effect on federal spending ... because CBO estimates that substantial savings will be obtained by the private [drug] plans and that the [HHS] Secretary would not be able to negotiate prices that further reduced federal spending to a significant degree.
Drug Importation from Canada
Some critics of the new Medicare law argue that it would be better and cheaper simply to allow seniors to import drugs from Canada, where price controls prevail. The temporary drug card program provides a much safer and legal alternative for seniors than importing drugs from Canada or other countries. The Food and Drug Administration has found numerous safety problems involving prescription drugs sent to customers who order over the Internet from the United States.12
If wholesale importation were permitted, retail prices paid in the U.S. would decline only modestly because manufacturers would limit sales to Canadian wholesalers, and middlemen would eat up much of any price differences that arose. If importation occurred on a large scale, supply disruptions in other countries could threaten the worldwide distribution of pharmaceuticals. 13
Using the legal route of privately negotiated drug discounts from reputable, government-approved firms, with the added benefit of the $600 subsidy, is a much safer alternative for seniors.
How to Improve the Medicare Drug Card Provisions
Every Congress for years to come will be forced to address Medicare and, particularly, the prescription drug benefit. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and others already have introduced legislation that would significantly amend the MMA. For example, they want to permit U.S. residents to purchase medications from Canada; to allow the federal government to "negotiate" lower drug prices; to fill the "doughnut hole" in the new Medicare drug benefit; and to restrict or eliminate the pilot test in which private health plans would compete against traditional, fee-for-service Medicare in six areas of the country beginning in 2010. Such proposals would be ineffective, costly, and damaging to health care innovation, and would shorten the time frame within which Medicare's financial crisis can be solved.
Conservatives will continue to be on the defensive against these and other initiatives unless they have ideas of their own to propose. They should start by calling for the temporary drug card program to be made permanent. They should also consider improving the benefit available in a permanent drug card program and allowing Medicare Advantage plans greater flexibility in offering a drug benefit to enrollees.

Proposal #1: Make the Drug Card Permanent for Beneficiaries Who Want It
The drug discount card program, and particularly its $600 subsidy for lower-income seniors, should not expire at the end of 2005 but should be allowed to continue. The funded drug card provides an excellent model for delivery of the drug benefit.14 Providing part of the benefit through a cash subsidy creates a defined contribution that gives government certainty over at least some of its program costs and rewards seniors for making prudent drug purchasing decisions.
Early experience with consumer-directed health benefit programs has demonstrated that consumers are more careful in their spending on health care needs when they are purchasing medical goods and services from a dollar-denominated account, particularly if they are allowed to roll over any savings to subsequent years.15 The rollover provision for the temporary drug card could be a particularly good incentive if the card program were to continue: Instead of the use-it-or-lose-it benefit structure under current Medicare, seniors could roll over unspent balances in their $600 account, giving them the opportunity to conserve resources for the future.
However, because the program is temporary, there is little incentive for seniors to save and every incentive to make sure they drain every dollar from the account. This occurs every December when workers, who have put pre-tax wages into a Section 125 flexible spending account, purchase designer prescription sunglasses or whatever other items they don't really need in order to make sure they don't just lose the money. Congress could avoid repeating this mistake by making the funded drug card a permanent program and allowing rollover of the balance in a senior's account from year to year.
One reason such a large number of companies applied to participate in the drug discount and transitional assistance program is that they want to establish a customer base for the full drug benefit in 2006. They will have made a significant investment in creating their temporary drug card programs and, if they find that the funded drug card is appealing to consumers, should have the option of continuing to offer the permanent benefit based upon a similar structure.

Proposal #2: Improve the Permanent Drug Card Option
The Medicare drug discount card program offers a limited benefit from which low-income seniors derive the greatest benefit and that was intended to serve only as a temporary bridge to a more generous benefit in 2006. If the drug discount program were to be made permanent, it would not be attractive compared to the more generous Part D benefit. But improvements could be made that would make a permanent funded discount drug card program a realistic option for more beneficiaries.
It is reasonable to give seniors the choice of a subsidized discount card account. The added resources available in 2006 could allow the account to be funded more generously and to be coupled with private catastrophic insurance.
The subsidy could be increased above the current $600 limit and could be extended to middle-income seniors who are not currently eligible for any subsidy in the discount card program. Seniors at higher income levels also could be allowed to participate, possibly with more modest subsidies to their card accounts than would be provided to low- and moderate-income seniors, but with the provision that they could make their own tax-deductible contributions to the accounts.
The funded drug card also could be coupled with private catastrophic drug insurance to make sure that seniors are protected against large drug expenses--something the temporary program lacks. To avoid attracting only the healthiest seniors into the permanent drug card program, subsidies could be adjusted for risk, and high risks could be pooled across all private plans (including Part D plans).
Seniors should be given the opportunity to continue to participate in this funded discount card program if they prefer it to the permanent Medicare drug benefit program.

Proposal #3: Integrate the Drug Card Into the Medicare Advantage Program
Beginning in 2006, the new Medicare Advantage health plans can incorporate the permanent prescription drug benefit created by the legislation into their benefit structures. The legislation gives the new plans limited leeway, however, in how they structure the drug benefit. Although they may want to build a benefit on the model of the temporary drug discount and assistance program, the legislation as currently drafted does not provide the needed flexibility. Congress could fix this. Seniors who prefer a funded drug card should be able to have it as an integral part of their overall health plan.
It is important to bring drug and medical benefits into the same plan. When health plans and drug plans are separate, there can be an incentive to push costs onto the other payer, potentially compromising patient care. An integrated plan can weigh the full costs and benefits of different treatment strategies rather than focusing on only part of the treatment. That reduces the chances that treatment decisions will be biased by the way benefits are financed.
Congress has provided a good start on a properly structured drug benefit through its transitional drug card program with funding for certain low-income beneficiaries. Drug discounts will be privately negotiated by competing drug plans, and seniors will have a wide range of plans from which to choose, each offering different menus of drugs.
Establishing a fixed contribution on the drug discount card enables government to know its costs while the prices--and savings--on drugs are visible to seniors. Experience with consumer-directed health plans shows that participants are likely to be more cost conscious when they are purchasing drugs from a cash account. Consumers also are more likely to consult with their doctors about how they can get the best value from their drug spending.
If the transitional drug discount program were improved and made permanent, seniors would have the power to save for future drug needs and would have more control over spending to get the drugs they need--whether generic or brand-name.
Involving consumers in their own health care spending decisions will be the next revolution in health care reform in the United States. By structuring the drug benefit so that consumers direct their own spending, Congress could, for once, keep Medicare abreast of the times and give seniors the power and resources to shape the pharmaceutical marketplace around their needs, both today and in the future.

Grace-Marie Turner is President of the Galen Institute, and Joseph R. Antos, Ph.D., is Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.

1. Juliette Cubanski, Richard G. Frank, and Arnold M. Epstein, "Savings from Drug Discount Cards: Relief for Medicare Beneficiaries?" Health Affairs Web Exclusive, April 14, 2004.
2. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "Overview: Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card and Transitional Assistance Program," at
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "The Facts About Upcoming New Benefits in Medicare," at www.medicare. gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11054.pdf.
4. TRICARE for Life is the health insurance program for military retirees and dependents.
5. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "Overview: Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Card and Transitional Assistance Program."
6. Merck Corporate News, "Merck to Provide Free Medicines to Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries Who Exceed Discount Card Cap," February 12, 2004, at
7. Eli Lilly and Company, "Lilly Unveils Participation in Medicare Prescription Drug Discount Program," January 21, 2004, at www.prnewswire. com/cgi-bin/,+2004.
8. Beneficiaries would have 75 percent of their drug spending covered by Part D for the first $2,250 after satisfying a $250 deductible. Those spending more than $2,250 would receive no additional reimbursement until they have spent $3,600 out of pocket. The gap in coverage is called the "doughnut hole."
9. Gail Wilensky, "How to Curb Spending on Drugs," The Washington Post, February 15, 2004, p. B7.
10. Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, " Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development Pegs Cost of a New Prescription Medicine at $802 Million," November 2001.
11. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Director, Congressional Budget Office, letter to the Honorable William H. Frist, M.D., Majority Leader, United States Senate, regarding the CBO's estimate of "the effect of striking the `noninterference' added by P.L. 108-173, the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003," January 23, 2004, at
12. Letter from Mark B. McClellan, Commissioner of Food and Drugs, to Diane C. Gorman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada, February 12, 2004.
13. John E. Calfee, "The Grim Economics of Pharmaceutical Importation," American Enterprise Institute Health Policy Outlook, November 2003.
14. The funded drug discount card is part of an idea proposed by the authors in 2001, called the Prescription Drug Security Plan. For more information, see
15. "Consumer Choice Health Care: Reports from the Field," a congressional briefing sponsored by the Galen Institute's Center for Consumer Driven Health Care, February 11, 2004, at

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