KOFI ANNAN'S CORRUPT ENTERPRISE
April 2, 2004 -- Is the clock ticking on Secretary General Kofi Annan's merry pranks at the United Nations?
The rank corruption of the body's Iraqi Oil-for-Food program is bubbling slowly to the surface - promising to ensnare scores of European politicians and businessmen, as well as a gaggle of Annan's Turtle Bay colleagues.
An upcoming audit being prepared by a firm that successfully traced stolen Holocaust-era assets is expected to confirm the names of some 200 people and companies around the world who allegedly were bribed by Saddam's regime.
The list, found in Iraq's Oil Ministry, was first cited by an Iraqi newspaper, al Mada, at the end of January.
Meanwhile, the General Accounting Office estimates that Saddam Hussein skimmed as much as $10.1 billion from the $47 billion program - originally established in 1996 to buy humanitarian supplies for ordinary Iraqis.
Among those expected to be named are the head of the U.N. program, the Russian Communist Party, the PLO and "a French businessman close to President Jacques Chirac."
This, of course, may help explain Chirac's implacable opposition to the dispossession of Saddam a year ago.
And Kofi Annan's longtime pro-Saddam bent, as well.
As Andrew Apostolou notes on the preceeding page, Annan's immortal words - "I think I can do business" with Saddam - take on an entirely new meaning.
This much is clear: Saddam was able to turn the program into a mystery- shrouded tool for sanctions-busting, bribery and international influence-peddling.
The fog began to clear in February after the name of Benon Sevan - the U.N.-appointed executive director of the Oil-for-Food program - appeared on the al Mada list.
According to al Mada, individuals, corporations and political parties on the list received cash-convertible oil vouchers from Saddam.
Sevan apparently was given vouchers for at least 11 million barrels of oil, worth some $3.5 billion. No wonder the program he ran:
* Knowingly collaborated with Saddam's massive violations of the U.N.'s own sanctions.
* Said and did nothing about the Saddam regime's use of Oil-for-Food income to build presidential palaces.
* Ignored huge kickbacks, thereby making itself complicit in Saddam's bribery of foreign leaders, opinion-makers and companies.
* Permitted the regime to cheat Kurds in northern Iraq of billions - money, by the way, that is still unaccounted for.
This much, too, is clear: The vast profits for foreign companies made possible by abuses of the Oil-for-Food program helped buy foreign support for the Baghdad regime.
Saddam made a point of throwing Oil-for-Food business and oil-voucher bribes at contractors from key countries, especially those with vetoes on the Security Council, like France and Russia:
* Forty-six recipients of illegal allocations of oil were Russian companies or individuals - many with links to President Vladimir Putin.
* French interests were so deeply involved in corrupt Oil-for-Food dealings that France opposed the ending of sanctions even after Saddam had fallen.
And the scheme seems to have worked: France, Russia and Germany were all hostile to military action to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Is it any wonder that Russia and France now oppose independent inquiries into the scam, although Secretary General Kofi Annan - under extreme pressure - has nominally agreed to the idea?
The Iraqi Governing Council has been probing the scam since al Mada first revealed it. The audit, prepared for the council by KPMG and the law firm Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer, is due in May.
Complicating the effort, however, is the refusal of the BNP Paribas Bank of France to make available critical Oil-for-Food program records.
And U.N. officials in New York have declined to send necessary statements for months.
Yes, the U.N. says an "internal inquiry" is under way.
But, given that Kofi Annan's son Kojo is linked to the scandal, it's not hard to imagine how hard that effort will be pressed.
And though the elder Annan has admitted to the need for an outside inquiry, there's no reason to believe that he - or anyone else at the U.N. - will be even slightly helpful when it counts.
Remember, folks as high-ranking as the president of Indonesia, former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and pro-Saddam British politician George Galloway are implicated.
These are, after all, people with substantial influence at Turtle Bay.
And there are others - many others - who are similarly situated.
Plus, it has now become undeniable that the folks Kofi Annan had running the program were fully aware of the graft they were enabling.
Indeed, for Kofi Annan to say - as he did last week - that he was agreeing to an investigation "because I don't think we need to have our reputation impugned" is simply laughable.
His own son is part of it.
Here's the bottom line:
A U.N. program that was supposed to help the Iraqi people instead stole from them - and, worse, collaborated with their oppressor.
Those responsible for this colossal theft are international criminals - and the same goes for those who covered for them at the U.N. Secretariat.
The United Nations itself stands bereft of moral authority when it comes to Iraq, and to America's heroic effort to reclaim that tortured nation for its people.
Kofi Annan needs to disappear, and to take his son with him.
Neither Jacques Chirac nor Vladimir Putin possess a shred of decency, so nothing can be expected from them.
But none of them - not Annan, not Chirac, not Putin - has any standing in the debate over Iraq's future.
The same goes for the entire United Nations, as well.
OIL FOR PALACES
By ANDREW APOSTOLOU
April 2, 2004 -- ALMOST a year after the fall of Baghdad, everybody knows that Saddam Hussein stole billions from the Iraqi people. What is now emerging is that the United Nations was his partner in crime - aiding and abetting him during the eight-year Oil-for-Food program.
Initially an attempt to alleviate the hardship of U.N. sanctions on Iraqis, Oil-for-Food raises troubling questions not only about the United Nations' competence, but its role in propping up Saddam's tyrannical regime.
The program was theoretically designed to take Iraq's oil revenues out of Saddam's hands and use them for the benefit of the Iraqi people. The United Nations was to supervise the sale of Iraqi oil and then ensure that the oil money went for food and medicine, not tanks and mustard gas.
But Saddam - with U.N. compliance, if not connivance - subverted all of those aims. His grip on Iraq was tightened, not loosened, while his monstrous sons rolled in U.N.-provided riches.
Uday, the older son, even got U.N. funds for his Iraqi National Olympic Committee. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed on June 13, 2002 to hand over $20 million to build an Iraqi Olympic arena, part of Uday's absurd bid for the 2012 Olympics. A renowned rapist, Uday used to torture Iraqi athletes if they failed to win international competitions.
His father? Saddam built new palaces throughout the eight years of the program. Gen. Tommy Franks got it right when he reached Baghdad in April 2003: The Iraqi dictator's rule was an "Oil for Palace" program.
Although the United Nations supposedly kept an eye on the price at which Saddam sold Iraqi oil, in reality the Iraqi strongman set the prices and forced his customers to pay him kickbacks. The Iraqi regime then used this money to bribe and buy influence abroad.
One recipient of that largesse was Shakir al-Khafaji, a Detroit businessman who stumped up $400,000 for former U.N. arms inspector Scott Ritter to make "In Shifting Sands," an anti-sanctions film. Meanwhile, back in Iraq, Saddam's secret police punished hundreds of thousands of Shi'a Iraqis by taking away their U.N. ration cards, forcing them into the very poverty from which the U.N. program was supposed to protect them.
Another group of Iraqis that never received their fair share of oil revenues, thanks to U.N. collaboration, was the Kurds. The oil revenues were supposed to be divided up in such a way as to protect Iraq's Kurds, whose regions Saddam had devastated with a genocidal campaign of village destruction and executions in the late '80s. Oil-for-Food theoretically guaranteed the Kurds their fair share of Iraq's national wealth - 13 percent of all Iraqi oil revenues - for the first time in their history.
Difficulties arose almost from the first day because of the way that Annan organized the program. Rejecting advice from experienced U.N. staff, he decided against having one U.N. agency oversee the whole scheme. Instead, Annan created an Oil-for-Food program office in New York to oversee the work of nine U.N. agencies which in turn dealt with the Iraqis, introducing a pointless and costly layer of bureaucracy.
Many of these U.N. agencies used their Middle East offices to implement Oil-for-Food. Staffed mostly with Sunni Arabs, they proved sympathetic to Saddam's Arab nationalism and uninterested in the welfare of Iraqis - especially Iraqi Kurds.
The Iraqi government was quick to exploit this bias for its own political ends. The Cairo office of the U.N.'s World Health Organization managed to stall the building of a new general hospital for the Kurdish city of Sulaimani, even though the funds were available in 1998.
Over the life of Oil-for-Food, the Kurds barely got half of the $8.4 billion allocated to them - they are still owed some $4 billion. Who owes it to them? Well, the United Nations was supposed to pay them, out of accounts entrusted to it. But the status of any funds remaining in those accounts is in dispute - and the U.N. is balking at efforts to clarify things. It won't even let anyone else examine its books.
Saddam didn't just use Oil-for-Food to give preferential treatment to Iraqis: He rewarded foreign friends, too. He favored Russian and French contractors, even insisting that all Iraqi oil earnings be paid into just one bank, BNP Paribas in Paris.
One of the largest shareholders in the bank as of 2000 was Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi Sunni who was involved in Saddam's 1959 assassination attempt on Iraq's then head of state, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Qassem.
Auchi was the sort of business partner that Saddam liked. Auchi was convicted in a French court in November 2003 of accepting illegal payments in a major corruption scandal at a French state-owned oil company. (He got a 15-month suspended prison sentence and a $2.4 million fine.)
After Saddam and his cronies, the main beneficiary of Oil-for-Food was the U.N. payroll. To make the program self-financing, the United Nations took its cut off the top - 2.2 percent of Iraqi oil sales for its administrative costs, plus 0.8 percent to pay for weapons inspections (in four of Oil-for-Food's eight years), allowing the United Nations to walk away with $1.9 billion of Iraqi oil money. U.N. staff employed by the Oil-for-Food program ballooned to 3,000, the largest single U.N. program in the world.
No wonder that when Kofi Annan met Saddam Hussein in February 1998, he said that the Iraqi dictator was a man that "I can do business with."
Andrew Apostolou is director of research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He has just returned from Iraq.
Chicago, L.A. towers were next targets
By Paul Martin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
LONDON -- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's purported operations chief, has told U.S. interrogators that the group had been planning attacks on the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terror strikes.
Those plans were aborted mainly because of the decisive U.S. response to the New York and Washington attacks, which disrupted the terrorist organization's plans so thoroughly that it could not proceed, according to transcripts of his conversations with interrogators.
Mohammed told interrogators that he and Ramzi Yousuf, his nephew who was behind an earlier attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, had leafed through almanacs of American skyscrapers when planning the first operation.
"We were looking for symbols of economic might," he told his captors.
He specifically mentioned as potential targets the Library Tower in Los Angeles, which was "blown up" in the film "Independence Day," and the Sears Tower in Chicago.
A British newspaper over the weekend published a detailed account that it said was taken from transcripts of the interrogation of Mohammed, who was captured last year in Pakistan.
The transcripts are prefaced with a warning that Mohammed, the most senior al Qaeda member yet to be caught, "has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead."
According to the transcript, Mohammed has maintained that Zacarias Moussaoui, the French-Moroccan facing trial in the United States as the "20th hijacker," had been sent to a flight school in Minnesota to train for a West Coast attack.
That would buttress Moussaoui's contention that he is improperly charged with participation in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, because he was preparing for a different al Qaeda operation.
The new transcripts confirm an earlier report by the Associated Press that al Qaeda originally had planned to crash hijacked airliners into targets on both coasts.
The London Sunday Times said the transcripts covered interrogations conducted during a period of four months after a bleary-eyed Mohammed was captured in a pre-dawn raid a little more than a year ago.
The confessions reveal that planning for the September 11 attacks started much earlier and was more elaborate than previously thought.
"The original plan was for a two-pronged attack with five targets on the East Coast of America and five on the West Coast," he told interrogators, according to the transcript.
"We talked about hitting California as it was America's richest state, and [al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden had talked about economic targets."
He is reported to have said that bin Laden, who like Mohammed had studied engineering, vetoed simultaneous coast-to-coast attacks, arguing that "it would be too difficult to synchronize."
Mohammed then decided to conduct two waves of attacks, hitting the East Coast first and following up with a second series of attacks.
"Osama had said the second wave should focus on the West Coast," he reportedly said.
But the terrorists seem to have been surprised by the strength of the American reaction to the September 11 attacks.
"Afterwards, we never got time to catch our breath, we were immediately on the run," Mohammed is quoted as saying.
Al Qaeda's communications network was severely disrupted, he said. Operatives could no longer use satellite phones and had to rely on couriers, although they continued to use Internet chat rooms.
"Before September 11, we could dispatch operatives with the expectation of follow-up contact, but after October 7 [when U.S. bombing started in Afghanistan], that changed 180 degrees. There was no longer a war room ... and operatives had more autonomy."
Mohammed told interrogators that he remained in Pakistan for 10 days after September 11, 2001, then went to Afghanistan to find bin Laden.
When he was captured in March last year in the home of a microbiologist in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, the 37-year-old was unshaven and wearing a baggy vest.
The interrogation reports also indicate that Mohammed had introduced bin Laden to Hambali, the Indonesian militant accused in the terror attack that killed more than 200 people in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002.
Mohammed was running a hostel filtering al Qaeda recruits in Peshawar, Pakistan, when he scouted Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Ismuddin and who ran the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah in Asia.
Later, Mohammed moved to Karachi, Pakistan. There, posing as a businessman importing holy water from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, he acted as a fund-raiser and intermediary between militants and sponsors in the Gulf.
His first planned anti-American attack was Operation Bojinka (Serbo-Croatian for "big bang") -- a plot to blow up 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific.
Yousuf and Hambali were involved in the scheme, which failed when the conspirators' Manila bomb factory caught fire. The men fled to Pakistan, where Yousuf was arrested.
Chalabi's road to victory?
By Arnaud de Borchgrave
With only three months to go before L. Paul Bremer trades in his Iraqi proconsul baton for beach ware and a hard-earned vacation, the country's most controversial politician is already well positioned to become prime minister.
Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon's heartthrob and the State Department's and CIA's heartbreak, has taken the lead in a yearlong political marathon. Temporary constitutional arrangements are structured to give the prime minister more power than the president. The role of the president will be limited because his decisions will have to be ratified by two deputy presidents, or vice presidents. Key ministries, such as Defense and Interior, will take orders from the PM.
Mr. Chalabi holds the ultimate weapons -- several dozen tons of documents and individual files seized by his Iraqi National Congress (INC) from Saddam Hussein's secret security apparatus. Coupled with his position as head of the de-Ba'athification commission, Mr. Chalabi, barely a year since he returned to his homeland after 45 years of exile, has emerged as the power behind a vacant throne.
He also appears to have impressive amounts of cash at his disposal and a say in which companies get the nod for some of the $18.4 billion earmarked for reconstruction.
One company executive who asked that both his and the company's name be withheld said, "The commission was steep even by Middle Eastern standards."
Mr. Chalabi is still on the Defense Intelligence Agency's budget for a secret $340,000 monthly stipend. The $40 million the INC received since 1994 from the U.S. also covered the expenses of Iraqi military defectors' stories about weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's links with al Qaeda -- which provided President Bush a casus belli for the war on Iraq.
When Mr. Chalabi established the Petra Bank in Amman, Jordan, in the 1980s, he favored small loans to military officers, noncommissioned officers, royal guards and intelligence officers. He developed a close rapport with then Crown Price Hassan who borrowed a total of $20 million.
After Petra went belly up with a loss of $300 million at the decade's end, Mr. Chalabi escaped to Syria in a car supplied by Hassan -- minutes ahead of the officers who had come to arrest him for embezzling his own bank. The Petra fiasco debacle left him sufficient funds to launch INC a few days later.
Today, the mathematician, trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he has the documents that will prove he was framed by two Husseins -- Saddam and the late king of Jordan -- who wanted to end his anti-Iraqi activities. Jordan used to get most of its oil needs from Iraq free or heavily discounted, which explains why King Hussein declined to join the anti-Iraq coalition in the first Gulf war.
Sentenced in Jordan, in absentia, to 22 years hard labor for massive bank fraud, Mr. Chalabi hints he also has incriminating evidence of a close "subsidiary" relationship between Jordan's King Abdullah and Saddam's depraved, sadistic elder son Uday, killed last year in a shootout with U.S. troops.
Potentially embarrassing for prominent U.S. citizens, Mr. Chalabi's aides hint his treasure trove of Mukhabarat documents includes names of American "agents of influence" on Saddam's payroll, as well as a number of Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV news reporters who worked for Iraqi intelligence.
The final selection for prime minister will need the assent of the president and his two deputies -- representing the country's three principal ethnic and religious groupings. Standard bearer for Iraq's 60 percent Shi'ite majority and free Iraq's first president will be Abdulaziz Hakim. He is the brother of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, killed last year with 90 worshippers when a car bomb rocked the country's holiest Shiite shrine in Najaf. With an Islamic green light from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Ayatollah Hakim will almost certainly opt for fellow Shi'ite Mr. Chalabi as prime minister.
Slated for one of the two vice presidencies is Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni octogenarian with a secular liberal outlook. He was foreign minister and ambassador to the U.N. before the Ba'athists seized power in a 1968 military coup. Mr. Pachachi's nod may also go to Mr. Chalabi.
For the third leg of the troika, rival Kurdish parties have agreed to unite behind Jalal Talibani, chief of the Kurdistani National Federation, His vote, now believed favorable, would make it 3 out of 3 for Mr. Chalabi.
Referring to Mr. Chalabi, a former U.S. ambassador recently back from an extended trip to Iraq, said: "Anyone who can get the U.S. to invade Iraq must be a very clever politician. As for the people his INC coached in London to disinform the U.S. intelligence community about Saddam's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, you've got to hand it to the guy. Don't blame him. Blame the Pentagon for not seeing through him."
If Mr. Chalabi's fast track to power is not derailed and he becomes prime minister in July, the president won't be able to fire him unless his two deputies agree.
The provisional constitution seems tailor-made for Mr. Chalabi to call the shots into 2005. As head of the Governing Council's economic and finance committee, Mr. Chalabi already has maneuvered loyalists into key Cabinet positions in the provisional authority -- finance, oil and trade. The Central Bank governor, the head of the trade bank and the managing director of the largest commercial bank also owe their positions to Mr. Chalabi's influence.
While in London exile, he cultivated close contacts with Israeli officials. He has also visited Iran a number of times to confer with leading ayatollahs in a bid for their support. He was given permission to open an INC office in Tehran. His strongest backers in the U.S. are Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and neo-conservative theoretician ("An End to Evil") Richard Perle.
All the bases are loaded for a home run by MVP Chalabi. If successful, it will be an additional campaign issue President Bush could have done without.
Good riddance to sick sadist Saddam. But was Mr. Chalabi a worthy democratic trade? And how will voters react when they become convinced the U.S. taxpayers funded Mr. Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to train defectors on how best to convince the Bush administration that Iraq was a clear and present danger? Two hundred billion dollars later, the mind reels.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.
Untested Islamic Militants Emerging, U.S. Official Says
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A20
A new cadre of untested Islamic militants is emerging to take the place of leaders in Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which is now under "catastrophic stress" as a result of international operations over the past 30 months, the senior State Department counterterrorism official told a House International Relations subcommittee yesterday.
At least 70 percent of al Qaeda's senior leadership has been detained or killed since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks triggered a worldwide offensive against the network, and the remaining 30 percent is largely on the run, State Department counterterrorism coordinator J. Cofer Black testified. The movement has been "deeply wounded" by the elimination or arrest of more than 3,400 lower-level members and allies, forcing it "to evolve in ways not entirely by its own choosing," he said.
As a result, several newer and smaller groups, made up predominantly of Sunni Muslims, are moving in to take the lead in the jihadist holy war agenda against the United States and its allies, which has complicated the task of stamping out the threat from Islamic militants, said Black, a former CIA counterterrorism official.
"As al Qaeda's known senior leadership, planners, facilitators and operators are brought to justice, a new cadre of leaders is being forced to step up. These individuals are increasingly no longer drawn from the old guard, no longer the seasoned veteran al Qaeda trainers from Afghanistan's camps or close associates of al Qaeda's founding members," Black told the House subcommittee. "These relatively untested terrorists are assuming far greater responsibilities."
In another ominous sign, Black said, al Qaeda's ideology and its virulent anti-U.S. rhetoric are also spreading well beyond traditional strongholds, inspiring scores of Muslim groups. They include Ansar al-Islam in Iraq, the network of cells created by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi; the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; the Salafist Group for Call and Combat in North Africa; and the Salifia Jihadia in Morocco, which claimed credit for the 2003 bombings in Casablanca.
"Identifying and acting against the leadership, capabilities and operational plans of these groups poses a serious challenge now and for years to come," Black said.
Beyond the groups is the further problem represented by thousands of militants -- from conflicts such as Chechnya, Kashmir and Kosovo -- who migrate to other conflicts, Black told the subcommittee. The jihadists are a "ready source of recruits" for al Qaeda and its affiliates. And Iraq is a "focal point" for jihadists who are linking up with Sunnis opposed to the occupation.
But crackdowns by the United States and others have had an extensive impact on the al Qaeda network, disrupting the leadership, hampering coordination, isolating cells and eliminating potential sanctuaries or training bases, including facilities in Afghanistan where members were working on chemical and biological weapons programs, he said.
As a result, he said, al Qaeda and its allies have been forced to delay operations and have made mistakes, such as the 2003 attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at a housing complex for foreigners who turned out to be mainly Muslims. "The decisionmaking process, the ability to process operational activity is increasingly difficult for them," Black said. "It is a challenge for them to conduct this type of [major] attack."
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
Group Linked to Al Qaeda Suspected in Uzbek Unrest
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A17
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, April 1 -- The explosions and gunfire that have shaken this Central Asian nation this week appear to signal the return of a once crippled radical group closely affiliated with al Qaeda that is devoted to toppling the secular government, Uzbek security officials and foreign diplomats said Thursday.
Although President Islam Karimov initially attributed the unrest to Hizb ut-Tahrir, or Party of Liberation, an extreme but avowedly nonviolent Islamic organization, investigators have backed away from that theory. Instead, they increasingly are focusing on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or IMU, a paramilitary force that fought alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001 only to be devastated by a U.S. bombing campaign that killed its military commander, Juma Namangani.
If the IMU did orchestrate this week's attacks, it would indicate the group has managed to reconstitute itself into a dangerous force, despite initial claims by Karimov and U.S. officials that it had been destroyed. A non-American diplomat in Tashkent estimated Thursday that the IMU has 800 active members in Uzbekistan enlisted from the ranks of Muslims bristling at the repression of Karimov's authoritarian government. About 7,000 Muslims in the country have been jailed for their religious or political beliefs, according to human rights groups, and many have been subjected to torture.
"I'm almost certain it's the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan," said the diplomat, who declined to be identified to avoid offending the government. "They're regrouping and restrengthening. They have a lot of young male recruits who weren't part of the organization at the time of Afghanistan. And the recruiting ground is the people who have been tortured and abused."
The wave of violence that has left at least 44 people dead extended to a fifth day Thursday when a female bomber killed one person in the ancient city of Bukhara. Attackers, many of them women, have largely concentrated on police rather than civilian or foreign targets.
Uzbek security officials said they believe the militants had been preparing for the assaults for six months or longer, but their plan was put in motion prematurely when they accidentally set off a bomb in a hide-out in Bukhara on Sunday, killing at least eight members of their cell and an infant.
The government has arrested about 30 people on terrorism charges for supporting the insurgents and has identified several of the bodies of the dead, all of them Uzbek, according to the security officials. Authorities also found aluminum powder, fertilizer and detonators that resembled the materials allegedly used by the IMU in a series of bombings in Tashkent in 1999, leading them to suspect the group now.
"They used the same explosives they used in '99," said one security official who declined to be named out of concern for his safety. "They haven't invented anything new."
What is new is the use of suicide bombings. "It's the first time this has happened in Central Asia," said a terrorism investigator at Uzbekistan's National Security Service who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Such tactics, he noted, were previously restricted to such places as Israel and Russia. "Now we face it."
And never in modern times has this former Soviet republic and newly minted U.S. ally experienced a week quite like this one. No sooner was the blood washed away from one scene of carnage than ambulances were rushing to another.
"Absolutely innocent people died there," Narmat Karayev,58, a retired aviation police officer, said outside the Children's World store in Tashkent, where a suicide bomber killed herself and two police officers Monday. "What they've done here, I consider it fascism."
The IMU was formed in the early 1990s with the aim of ousting Karimov and setting up an Islamic state, but it eventually moved to Afghanistan and became a wing of Osama bin Laden's forces. Namangani, the IMU's military commander, took over as head of a legion of al Qaeda's foreign allies, but he was killed during a U.S. airstrike. His fighters were crushed, and those who survived scattered.
Remnants of the IMU turned up last month in the tribal areas of Pakistan as government troops there battled militants. The group's political leader, Tahir Yuldash, was reported to have been wounded during the fighting, although that remains unconfirmed. Uzbek officials said they saw no direct link between the events in Pakistan and the violence here this week, adding that the regenerating IMU retains its base either in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
The diplomat said it appeared the IMU might be trying to kindle a revolution. Asked if Tashkent were akin to Iran's capital just before the 1979 Islamic revolution, he said, "No, but we might be in Tehran 1977."
Unlike in Iran, Islam in Uzbekistan after seven decades of Communist rule has largely been a moderate force. Few women in cities wear head scarves, mosques do not broadcast the call to prayer, beards are rare and alcohol is plentiful. But discontent has spread in this land of 25 million people along with economic hardship. Some specialists estimate that urban unemployment exceeds 40 percent, and possibly 60 percent among city dwellers under 30.
The Chorsu bazaar near Children's World offers a tableau of the hardscrabble life endured by many Uzbeks. Every day women spread sheets and sit on the asphalt trying to sell disparate goods -- toothpaste, shoes, bras, razors, eggs, pens and a laundry detergent called Barf. "You need to study our economy to understand the place," grumbled one trader who would not give her name. "See how people live?"
The adversity has muted public anger at the terrorist acts, with some Uzbeks suggesting the government had it coming. "Karimov himself is guilty of the whole thing," said Vladimir, 28, who makes $70 a month working in two factories. "He led the country to this point." Uzbeks, Vladimir added, regard the police "with disgust" because "for a little thing they can put you in jail."
The suicide bomber outside Children's World on Monday morning apparently targeted patrolling police officers during a shift change. Nilufar Yusumetova and other store clerks were sweeping the sidewalk when the blast occurred a couple of yards away. The sight left her shocked a few days later. "The leg was right there," she said, pointing. "Her head was over there. Her body was here."
Nasiba Djamalova was inside fixing a window display when the glass shattered and something hit her leg. She thought it was a brick. Only later, she said, did she learn that she had been struck by the charred and decapitated head of the suicide bomber. "If I'd known," Djamalova said, "I would have fainted."
Across town, at an apartment complex in Yalangacha few miles from Karimov's residence on the city's outskirts, residents said militants who battled police on Tuesday made a point of trying not to target civilians.
One resident said a female militant followed her into the apartment building but did not try to chase her into her flat, choosing instead to blow herself up. "She didn't mean harm to the people," said the woman, who like other tenants declined to give her name after police told them to stop speaking to visiting journalists. "She didn't try to open the doors. She didn't do anything to us."
But the militants did kill one resident, possibly by accident, a death that the government has not acknowledged. Shakir Muslimov, 34, wearing a new suit, emerged from his door at the wrong moment and was shot to death by a pistol-wielding militant who might have mistaken him for a police officer, according to his brother Shavkat. "He ran right into them," Shavkat said. "He just came out by accident."
Several other women blew themselves up over the course of the next seven or eight hours, neighbors said, while male militants were shot by police. By day's end, 20 suspected militants and three police officers had been killed, the Uzbek Interior Ministry said.
"They were shooting back at the military," said a 30-year-old woman wearing a frayed blue robe and worn pink plastic sandals. "This was a real war."
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
Slain Contractors Were in Iraq Working Security Detail
By Dana Priest and Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A16
The four men brutally slain Wednesday in Fallujah were among the most elite commandos working in Iraq to guard employees of U.S. corporations and were hired by the U.S. government to protect bureaucrats, soldiers and intelligence officers.
The men, all employees of Blackwater Security Consulting, were in the dangerous Sunni Triangle area operating under more hazardous conditions -- unarmored cars with no apparent backup -- than the U.S. military or the CIA permit.
U.S. government officials said yesterday that they suspect that the men were not victims of a random ambush but were set up as targets, which one defense official said suggested "a higher degree of organization and sophistication" among insurgents. "This is certainly cause for concern."
A Blackwater spokesman said the men were guarding a convoy on its way to deliver food to troops under a subcontract to a company named Regency Hotel and Hospitality. Three of those killed were identified by their families or a family spokesman yesterday as Jerry Zovko, 32, an Army veteran from Willoughby, Ohio; Michael Teague, 38, from Clarksville, Tenn.; and Scott Helvenston, 38. The other Blackwater employee was a former SEAL, the Navy's elite counterterrorism force.
The bodies of the four men were dragged through the streets by jubilant crowds.
Blackwater issued a statement saying it did not intend to release the victims' names. "Coalition forces and civilian contractors and administrators work side by side every day with the Iraqi people," the statement said. "Our tasks are dangerous and while we feel sadness for our fallen colleagues, we also feel pride and satisfaction that we are making a difference for the people of Iraq."
The Fallujah killings this week resonated heavily among the dozens of companies providing security services in Iraq.
"No one is retreating," said Mike Baker, chief executive of Diligence LLC, a Washington security firm with hundreds of employees in Iraq. "No one is calling saying we ought to pull our guys out. I don't think it's stopping anyone from going in. They are fully aware of the security situation."
But Baker, a former CIA case officer, added that how the military is "responding is going to be very important. If there's not a harsh, well-thought-out response, they will take that as a complete sign of weakness and they will become emboldened."
Blackwater has about 400 employees in Iraq, said one government official briefed by the company. Its armed commandos earn an average of about $1,000 a day.
Although most of their work is to act as bodyguards for corporate, humanitarian or government employees, they sometimes perform more precarious jobs that are inherently riskier -- escorting VIPs, doing reconnaissance for visits by government officials to particular locations.
Employees of security companies such as Blackwater frequently come under fire from insurgents. When they do, they fire back.
"Nobody wants to be seen as a cowboy, but the truth is that if someone pops a weapon up, you respond," Baker said. ". . . This is a very difficult environment. There is always a potential for a problem."
Blackwater, security experts said, is among the most professional of the dozens of multinational security firms in Iraq, most of them there to protect U.S. government employees, private firms, Iraqi facilities and oil pipelines.
The firm also protects officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority, including the U.S. governor in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. It has contracts as well with the departments of Defense, State and Transportation.
The company also did work in Afghanistan during the war there, said people who have worked with company employees.
Blackwater is in Moyock, N.C., just across the Virginia border, and U.S. law enforcement and military personnel frequently use its 6,000-acre site for weapons training.
Government contracting records show Blackwater Training was paid $13 million between April 2002 and June 2003 for security training of Navy personnel.
The firm's president and training director, and Blackwater Security Consulting's director, are veteran Navy SEALs. The name Blackwater alludes to covert missions undertaken by elite divers at night.
Government officials who have been briefed by the company said Blackwater carefully vets its employees, the vast majority of whom are former military personnel, and puts them through rigorous training requiring the same skill levels as those possessed by U.S. Special Operations troops.
Blackwater Security Consulting was formed a year ago and is one of five private companies within Blackwater USA. The training center was started in 1996, and according to the company's promotional material was formed in response to "the anticipated demand for government outsourcing" of firearms and security training. In January, it reported sales of nearly $14 million.
Staff writer Jackie Spinner contributed to this report.
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
Energy Task Force Data Not Private
Agencies Ordered to Release Papers
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A23
A federal judge yesterday ordered several federal government agencies to release documents concerning their work on Vice President Cheney's energy task force or provide a legal reason for withholding them.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman rejected arguments by Bush administration lawyers that employees from the Department of the Interior and Department of Energy can claim special confidentiality privileges for the period when they worked for the task force, which held private meetings with energy industry representatives as it crafted a national energy policy.
Ruling that those employees were not engaged in a deliberative process and were not temporary employees of the White House, Friedman said the agencies must search for and produce records of their employees' task force assignments.
The judge's order, which requires release of documents by June 1, could potentially open a new window into the workings of Cheney's task force. In a related 2001 case, the Justice Department has four times appealed federal court rulings that the vice president release task force records. That case, in which Cheney claims his office has executive privilege, is now pending before the Supreme Court.
In this case, however, Friedman's decision means that the records of even the task force's director, Energy Department employee Andrew Lundquist, should generally be made public.
The National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, and Judicial Watch, a government watchdog organization, have been trying for three years to obtain the records. The organizations claim the documents will show the extent to which the task force staff met secretly with industry executives to craft the Bush administration's energy policies, such as drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and weakening power plant pollution regulations.
Justice Department officials did not respond yesterday to inquiries about whether they will appeal Friedman's orders.
"The court's ruling is a wake-up call to the Bush administration: It's time to come clean about how it is doing the public's business," said NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino. "Once Congress and the American people finally get the details about what happened at the task force's closed-door meetings, the administration's energy plan will be revealed for what it is -- a payback to corporate polluters."
Friedman held a six-hour hearing on Jan. 26 on the issue of whether agency documents could be withheld after consolidating three lawsuits filed by NRDC and Judicial Watch that sought task force records.
After an order from the same federal court in 2002, the administration turned over tens of thousands of records. However, the administration had cited several privileges to avoid releasing the records of Lundquist and other federal agency employees who worked at the task force under him.
Buccino said the White House opposition is based on political considerations. "These records are going to show the top of the food chain -- who had direct access to the task force and what different industry representatives were asking the Bush administration for."
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called the judge's order "a brushback to the government. . . . I read it to mean we will finally get documents from the heart of the energy task force."
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
L'administration Bush souhaite "bon vent" ? M. de Villepin
LE MONDE | 01.04.04 | 13h10 * MIS A JOUR LE 01.04.04 | 13h49
Dominique de Villepin quitte le Quai d'Orsay, ? la faveur du remaniement du gouvernement annonc? mercredi 31 mars. Nomm? ministre de l'int?rieur, il est remplac? par Michel Barnier, jusqu'alors commissaire europ?en. M. de Villepin avait incarn? jusqu'? l'extr?me la nouvelle politique ?trang?re de la France. Ses plaidoyers pour un "monde multipolaire" exasp?raient ? Washington. Le secr?taire d'Etat am?ricain, Colin Powell, a d?clar? "regretter de ne plus travailler avec lui". Les deux hommes s'?taient oppos?s, en particulier au Conseil de s?curit? de l'ONU, sur l'Irak. D'un temp?rament diff?rent, son successeur Michel Barnier devrait entretenir une relation plus calme avec l'administration Bush. Depuis quelques mois, Paris et Washington s'efforcent d'expliquer que les d?saccords appartiennent au pass?.
Washington de notre correspondant
La diplomatie am?ricaine a r?agi avec un soin particulier, mercredi 31 mars, au d?part de Dominique de Villepin du minist?re des affaires ?trang?res et ? son remplacement par Michel Barnier. Le d?partement d'Etat a indiqu? au Monde que Colin Powell, qui participait, ? Berlin, ? la conf?rence sur l'aide ? l'Afghanistan, avait t?l?phon? ? M. de Villepin, pour lui dire qu'il allait "regretter de ne plus travailler avec lui", pour le f?liciter de sa nomination au minist?re de l'int?rieur et pour lui souhaiter plein succ?s.
Le secr?taire d'Etat a aussi adress? ses f?licitations ? M. Barnier et lui a dit qu'il esp?rait le rencontrer bient?t. Selon un responsable du d?partement d'Etat, M. Powell a ?t? le premier ministre ?tranger qui ait appel? le nouvel occupant du Quai d'Orsay. Il est probable que le secr?taire d'Etat et M. Barnier auront l'occasion de faire connaissance lors de la r?union des ministres des affaires ?trang?res de l'OTAN, vendredi, ? Bruxelles, mais aucun entretien particulier n'est pr?vu ? cette occasion.
L'attention mise par Washington ? d?montrer sa consid?ration pour la France confine au formalisme. Les gestes accomplis le sont de fa?on si appuy?e qu'ils en viennent presque ? signifier le contraire de ce qu'ils semblent dire. "Les relations avec la France sont excellentes", a d?clar? Adam Ereli, porte-parole adjoint du d?partement d'Etat, au cours de son point de presse, avant que la composition du nouveau gouvernement ait ?t? rendue officielle ? Paris. Cette phrase est devenue une sorte de paravent, destin? ? cacher des d?saccords dont, de part et d'autre, on pr?f?re ne pas parler pour le moment.
Les rapports entre les Etats-Unis et l'Allemagne, sortis de ce que les responsables allemands appellent "l'?re glaciaire" de la p?riode 2002-2003, sont maintenant plus d?tendus. Le chancelier Gerhard Schr?der a ?t? re?u par George Bush, ? la Maison Blanche, fin f?vrier, et M. Powell ?tait ? Berlin mercredi. Certes, le pr?sident am?ricain a fini par accepter l'invitation de Jacques Chirac ? venir ? Paris, le 5 juin, puis en Normandie, le lendemain, pour c?l?brer le 60e anniversaire du d?barquement, mais la crispation reste perceptible.
Dans ce contexte, le changement d'affectation de M. de Villepin est consid?r? avec circonspection ? Washington. Sur le ministre lui-m?me et sur son r?le dans la crise des relations franco-am?ricaines, le commentaire de la Maison Blanche ?tait, mercredi, minimaliste. "C'?tait un avocat vigoureux de la France et de ses vues. Nous lui souhaitons bon vent", a d?clar? au Monde un responsable de la pr?sidence, qui a refus? d'en dire davantage. Le propos ?tait poli, voire sportif, mais d'une bri?vet? ?loquente. On se montrait plus chaleureux au d?partement d'Etat, o? M. de Villepin ?tait qualifi? de "coll?gue estim? et respect?".
D?FENSE DE L'ONU
Sur le fond, les Am?ricains maintiennent qu'au sujet de l'Irak la France n'a pas respect? son alliance avec les Etats-Unis, mais ils ajoutent que cet ?pisode appartient au pass? et que la coop?ration entre les deux pays est active. "Il n'y a pas lieu de parler de rapprochement, dit un responsable du d?partement d'Etat. Le gouvernement fran?ais agit dans l'int?r?t de la France. Il estime, aujourd'hui, que le partenariat et l'alliance avec les Etats-Unis sont conformes ? cet int?r?t." De son c?t?, M. Bush, pour des raisons ?lectorales, a besoin d'une "tr?ve" avec les Europ?ens qui se sont oppos?s ? sa politique, analyse Simon Serfaty, qui dirige le programme europ?en du Centre de recherches strat?giques et internationales (CRSI), un des grands instituts politiques de Washington.
La pr?paration des rencontres internationales de juin - sommet du G8 aux Etats-Unis, sommet de l'OTAN ? Istanbul, sommet Etats-Unis/Union europ?enne en Irlande - n'a pas donn? lieu, jusqu'? maintenant, ? des oppositions sp?cifiques entre Paris et Washington. Il n'y a pas de sujet ? propos duquel seraient apparues, avec M. de Villepin, des difficult?s que le changement de ministre pourrait aider ? aplanir. Sur le plan bilat?ral, les deux pays agissent en concertation en C?te d'Ivoire et ont fait cause commune en Ha?ti. Le fait que la France ait ?t? la premi?re ? prendre position pour le d?part de Jean-Bertrand Aristide est apparu, ? Washington, comme une bonne mani?re, qui a aid? M. Bush et M. Powell ? faire accepter cette politique, malgr? les critiques des d?mocrates.
Pris pour cible par la droite r?publicaine et, particuli?rement, par les n?oconservateurs, M. de Villepin, bizarrement qualifi? d'"ol?agineux", a ?t? parfois d?crit, dans la presse, comme le type m?me du dirigeant fran?ais arrogant et p?dant, auquel on ne peut pas se fier. Il a ?t? populaire, ? l'inverse, dans une partie du mouvement antiguerre, sensible ? sa d?fense de l'ONU. Pour l'essentiel, il ?tait consid?r? comme l'interpr?te - enthousiaste - des d?cisions de M. Chirac, plut?t que comme leur inspirateur.
Jacques Chirac : des Fran?ais en Irak ?
Jacques Chirac serait favorable ? un engagement de l'OTAN en Irak avec un mandat de l'ONU, et ne serait pas oppos? ? une participation de forces militaires fran?aises, a indiqu?, mercredi 31 mars, le s?nateur d?mocrate am?ricain Joseph Biden. "Chirac soutiendrait un engagement de l'OTAN en Irak et serait pr?t ? envoyer des militaires fran?ais", a affirm? M. Biden en citant "une conversation de deux heures" avec le pr?sident fran?ais sans pr?ciser quand et o? cet entretien a eu lieu. M. Biden, num?ro deux de la commission des affaires ?trang?res du S?nat, a aussi indiqu? que M. Chirac lui a dit que le feu vert des cinq membres du Conseil de s?curit? pour un engagement de l'OTAN "serait suffisant". Il a fait ces d?clarations lors d'une audition de la sous-commission des affaires ?trang?res du S?nat sur l'Europe consacr?e ? l'impact des attentats de Madrid. - (AFP.)
* ARTICLE PARU DANS L'EDITION DU 02.04.04
SPIEGEL ONLINE - 02. April 2004, 17:41
Masterplan f?r Terroranschl?ge in ganz Europa
Das Terrornetzwerk al-Qaida plant nach neuen Erkenntnissen Bombenanschl?ge quer durch Europa. In einem neuen Strategiepapier werden die Anh?nger der Organisation aufgefordert "unter Vernachl?ssigung aller geographischen Grenzen, die L?nder der Gottesl?steter in Kriegszonen zu verwandeln".
Mainz - In dem 50-seitigen Schriftst?ck, das dem ZDF vorliegt, wird eine "milit?rische Diplomatie" skizziert - "geschrieben mit Blut und dekoriert mit K?rperteilen".
Als Ziele k?nftiger Anschl?ge in Europa werden an erster Stelle "Juden" genannt, zitierte das ZDF aus der Schrift. An zweiter Stelle folgen "Christen", bei denen zun?chst Amerikaner, dann Briten, Spanier, Australier, Kanadier, Italiener und weitere Nationalit?ten aufgez?hlt werden. Der Autor nimmt au?erdem Bezug auf die Terroranschl?ge von Madrid und fordert ?hnliche Attacken gegen wirtschaftliche Ziele im Westen.
"Als Ergebnis der gesegneten Schl?ge von Madrid hat die gesamte europ?ische Wirtschaft gelitten. Das war ein Doppelschlag gegen die Wirtschaft und die Regierungen der Kreuzfahrer, Juden und Gottlosen", hei?t es laut ZDF in dem Papier weiter.
Als weitere Ziele werden Anschl?ge auf "Gesch?ftsleute, Diplomaten, Politiker, Intellektuelle, Wissenschaftler, Rabbiner, Missionare und Touristen" propagiert. Unterzeichnet ist das Papier, das im Internet verbreitet wird, von Abdulaziz al-Mukrin, dem neuen Anf?hrer der al-Qaida im arabischen Raum. Amerikanische und deutsche Sicherheitsbeh?rden halten nach den ZDF-Angaben die Erkl?rung f?r authentisch. Derzeit werde das Papier von europ?ischen Sicherheitsbeh?rden analysiert.
? SPIEGEL ONLINE 2004
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SPIEGEL ONLINE - 02. April 2004, 15:27
Motassadeq-Anwalt rechnet mit Einstellung des Verfahrens
Der Anwalt von Mounir al-Motassadeq erwartet, dass das Hamburger Oberlandesgericht das Verfahren gegen den Marokkaner einstellen wird. Das Gericht habe der Bundesanwaltschaft vorgeschlagen, die Einstellung des Verfahrens zu erw?gen, weil wichtige Beweismittel in den USA zur?ckgehalten w?rden.
Motassadeq: Angeblich entlastende Beweise aufgetaucht
Hamburg - "Das Gericht hat vorgeschlagen, dass das Verfahren eingestellt wird, weil der Fairness-Grundsatz nicht mehr gewahrt wird. Ich denke, es sieht gut aus f?r Herrn Motassadeq", sagte der Anwalt Josef Gr??le-M?nscher heute im Anschluss an zweist?ndige Beratungen des Oberlandesgerichts. "Wir kriegen eine schriftliche Entscheidung des Gerichts am Montag."
Der Vierte Strafsenat des Oberlandesgerichts hatte heute auf Antrag der Verteidigung ?ber die Aufhebung des Haftbefehls gegen Motassadeq beraten. Angaben zum Stand machte die Gerichtspressestelle zun?chst nicht.
Motassadeq war im Februar 2003 von dem gleichen Gericht wegen Beihilfe zum Mord in 3066 F?llen und Mitgliedschaft in einer terroristischen Vereinigung zu 15 Jahren Haftstrafe verurteilt worden. Der Bundesgerichtshof hob jedoch das Urteil auf und wies den Fall zur Neuverhandlung an das Hanseatische Oberlandesgericht zur?ck.
Bahaji-Fahndungsfotos mit und ohne Bart: Den Freund per Brief entlastet
Gleichzeitig legte die Bundesanwaltschaft nach Angaben der Verteidiger heute neue Beweise vor. Es handelt sich demnach um einen abgefangenen Brief und ein mitgeschnittenes Telefonat des seit 2001 fl?chtigen Terrorverd?chtigen Said Bahaji. Darin finden sich laut Gr??le-M?nscher jeweils ?u?erungen, die Motassadeq nach seiner Einsch?tzung vom Vorwurf entlasten, der Hamburger Terrorzelle angeh?rt zu haben. "In beiden Dokumenten sind entlastende Angaben", sagte der Anwalt. "In dem Brief ist Motassadeq w?rtlich erw?hnt. 'Mounir wusste nichts', hei?t es da", sagte Gr??le-M?nscher.
Das Telefonat wurde im vergangenen Jahr abgeh?rt. Damals hatte sich Bahaji bei seinen Eltern im marokkanischen Meknes gemeldet. Der Vater Bahajis erkl?rte sp?ter, sein Sohn habe nur kurz gesagt, dass es ihm gut gehe. Es werde sich bald alles aufkl?ren, er sei in guten H?nden.
? SPIEGEL ONLINE 2004
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German Judge: Sept. 11 Retrial May Not Fly
22 minutes ago
By DAVID RISING, Associated Press Writer
HAMBURG, Germany - A German judge said Friday the case against the only Sept. 11 suspect ever convicted may collapse if it goes to a retrial, adding that he will decide next week whether to free Mounir el Motassadeq. At a hearing to rule on the Moroccan's request to be released from jail, Judge Ernst-Rainer Schudt pointed to a March appeals court ruling that the suspect failed to get a fair trial the first time.
Slideshow: September 11
Consequently, Schudt said that "in the further course of the proceedings it may have to be considered that ... the question of closing the case will arise," the Hamburg state court said.
It was the first time the court has publicly raised such doubts about the government's case.
Prosecutor Walter Hemberger said the government has no intention of dropping the charges.
El Motassadeq, 29, won a retrial after appeals judges ruled he was unfairly denied testimony from Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni in secret U.S. custody who is believed to have been the Hamburg cell's key contact with al-Qaida.
The Hamburg court heard el Motassadeq's plea for freedom in a closed hearing Friday. It said it would deliberate and issue a ruling next week.
New evidence emerged at the hearing that bolstered the Moroccan's argument that he knew nothing about the plot, the lawyer said.
Graessle-Muenscher said prosecutors on Friday introduced an intercepted letter that suspected cell member Said Bahaji wrote to his mother in 2002.
"In the letter, Bahaji says Mounir didn't know anything," the lawyer said.
German authorities say Bahaji, left Germany shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks and remains on the run.
Hemberger refused to comment on the evidence introduced Friday.
"We made our arguments, they made theirs and now it's up to the court to decide," he said.
El Motassadeq's retrial is scheduled to start June 16.
He was convicted in February 2003 of more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization, and sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors allege he handled financial transactions for cell members to help keep up appearances of a normal student life as they plotted the attacks.
El Motassadeq has acknowledged knowing the cell members but denies any knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot.
U.S. authorities refused to allow Binalshibh to testify at el Motassadeq's trial or to allow German intelligence services to turn over copies of interrogation reports the United States had provided them.
The absence of Binalshibh's testimony also helped bring about the acquittal of el Motassadeq's friend and fellow Moroccan, Abdelghani Mzoudi, on the same charges in February.
Mzoudi's case took a turn toward acquittal when the Hamburg court heard a statement from an unnamed source that only Binalshibh and the suicide hijackers knew of the Sept. 11 plot -- an assertion that could exonerate el Motassadeq. The court said it believed the source was Binalshibh himself.
US officials knew Al-Qaeda planned plane attacks: whistle-blower
Fri Apr 2, 3:50 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - US officials knew months before September 11, 2001 that Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s Al-Qaeda network was planning to use aircraft to carry out a terrorist attack, a former FBI (news - web sites) translator has alleged.
Slideshow: September 11
Sibel Edmonds told the Independent newspaper, in an interview published Friday, that a claim by US President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s national security advisor Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) that there had been no such warnings was "an outrageous lie".
The former translator with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation said that she had discussed her claims during a three-hour closed-door session with a US commission looking into the September 11 attacks.
"There was general information about the time frame, about methods to be used -- but not specifically about how they would be used -- and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks," Edmonds said.
"There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities -- with skyscrapers."
The 33-year-old Turkish-American translator said that, based on documents she had seen during her time with the FBI, after September 11, it was "impossible" that US intelligence officials had no forewarning of the attacks.
In a significant about-face, Bush agreed Tuesday to let Rice testify before the independent bipartisan commission looking into September 11 attacks, in which three airliners were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon (news - web sites) in Washington.
A fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
The Independent reported that the White House had sought to silence Edmonds and had obtained a gagging order from a court.
Edmonds emerged as a whistle-blower in July last year when, on the CBS television network, she alleged that FBI officials deliberately slowed down the translation of September 11-related documents to make it appear that the department was sorely understaffed.
Edmonds was among many language experts who had responded to appeals for translators in the days following September 11. She was tasked with translating documents and recordings from FBI wire taps.
From the documents she saw, she told The Independent, it was clear that there was sufficient information in spring and summer of 2001 to indicate that an attack was being planned.
"President Bush said they had no specific information about September 11 and that is accurate but only because he said September 11," Edmonds told the Independent.
There was, however, general information about the use of airplanes and that an attack was just months away.
The most damning criticism of the Bush administration has come from former White House anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, who has alleged that it failed to give the Al-Qaeda threat enough priority.
Clarke, who left the White House last year, testified before the September 11 commission, shortly after the publication of his memoirs which were highly critical of the Bush administration's counter-terrorist efforts.
Bush Aides Block Clinton's Papers From 9/11 Panel
By PHILIP SHENON and DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON, April 1 -- The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said on Thursday that it was pressing the White House to explain why the Bush administration had blocked thousands of pages of classified foreign policy and counterterrorism documents from former President Bill Clinton's White House files from being turned over to the panel's investigators.
The White House confirmed on Thursday that it had withheld a variety of classified documents from Mr. Clinton's files that had been gathered by the National Archives over the last two years in response to requests from the commission, which is investigating intelligence and law enforcement failures before the attacks.
Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said some Clinton administration documents had been withheld because they were "duplicative or unrelated," while others were withheld because they were "highly sensitive" and the information in them could be relayed to the commission in other ways. "We are providing the commission with access to all the information they need to do their job," Mr. McClellan said.
The commission and the White House were reacting to public complaints from former aides to Mr. Clinton, who said they had been surprised to learn in recent months that three-quarters of the nearly 11,000 pages of files the former president was ready to offer the commission had been withheld by the Bush administration. The former aides said the files contained highly classified documents about the Clinton administration's efforts against Al Qaeda.
The commission said it was awaiting a full answer from the White House on why any documents were withheld.
"We need to be satisfied that we have everything we have asked to see," Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for the bipartisan 10-member commission, said. "We have voiced the concern to the White House that not all of the material the Clinton library has made available to us has made its way to the commission."
The general counsel of Mr. Clinton's presidential foundation, Bruce Lindsey, who was his deputy White House counsel, said in an interview that he was concerned that the Bush administration had applied a "very legalistic approach to the documents" and might have blocked the release of material that would be valuable to the commission.
Mr. Lindsey said he first complained to the commission in February after learning from the archives that the Bush administration had withheld so many documents.
"I voiced a concern that the commission was making a judgment on an incomplete record," he said. "I want to know why there is a 75 percent difference between what we were ready to produce and what was being produced to the commission."
The debate over the Clinton files was disclosed as the commission announced that it had reached agreement with the White House to schedule a public hearing for next Thursday at which Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, will testify under oath for two and a half hours.
It also came as the White House, in an effort to bolster Ms. Rice's credibility before the hearing, released some of the language of a presidential directive awaiting Mr. Bush's signature on Sept. 11, 2001. It instructed the Pentagon to plan action against Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan, "including leadership, command-control-communication, training and logistics facilities."
White House officials said the language showed that the Bush administration had a tougher, more comprehensive plan than the Clinton administration had for dealing with Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and the Taliban. Ms. Rice has cited the directive in recent interviews in trying to undermine the credibility of Richard A. Clarke, Mr. Bush's former counterterrorism director, who has accused the Bush administration of largely ignoring terrorist threats before Sept. 11.
The disclosure that many Clinton administration files had been withheld took several of the members of the panel by surprise on Thursday.
"If it did happen, it's an unintentional mistake or it's another intentional act of the White House that will backfire," said Bob Kerrey, a former senator from Nebraska who is a Democratic member of the commission.
Another Democrat on the panel, Timothy J. Roemer, a former House member from Indiana, said he learned only on Thursday that so many documents had been withheld. "There could be some innocent explanation for it," he said. "I am assured that our staff will be looking into it."
Mr. Lindsey said that President Clinton and his foundation, which is based in Little Rock, Ark., had given authorization to the National Archives to gather evidence from Mr. Clinton's files that was sought by the independent commission, which was created by Congress in late 2002. But the Bush administration, he said, had final authority to decide what would be turned over.
Mr. Lindsey, who is Mr. Clinton's liaison to the National Archives, said he was surprised to discover from the archives in later months that the Bush administration, after reviewing the Clinton documents gathered by researchers there, had decided not to turn over most of the material.
He said he had read through many of the 10,800 pages that were collected and believed them to be valuable to the work of the panel.
"They involved all of the issues -- Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, terrorism, all of the areas with the commission's jurisdiction," he said. He made his first public complaints about the handling of the documents in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
In February, Mr. Lindsey said, he complained to the commission's staff director, Philip D. Zelikow. He said he renewed his complaint in a meeting with Mr. Zelikow last month.
Mr. Felzenberg, the commission's spokesman, said that after the meeting, Mr. Zelikow and other staff members began pressing the White House for an explanation of what had happened. "The commission has voiced Mr. Lindsey's concern to the White House," he said. "We made the concerns known and we are awaiting a definitive answer."
The White House decision to release some of the wording of the classified September 2001 presidential directive on Al Qaeda and the Taliban was an opening volley in what is expected to be an aggressive public relations campaign on behalf of Ms. Rice in the days before her testimony next Thursday.
Mr. Bush bowed to political pressure this week and agreed to allow Ms. Rice to testify to the commission after insisting for weeks that public testimony by such an important White House aide would erode his constitutional authority.
The so-called National Security Presidential Directive envisioned the military action as the last step of a three-to-five year plan. It called for two earlier steps -- a diplomatic mission to the Taliban and covert action -- and envisioned military strikes only as a last resort.
The actual language in the directive could be interpreted in two very different ways when Ms. Rice testifies. On the one hand, she will undoubtedly use it to build her case that the administration took the Qaeda threat seriously.
But because the policy was supposed to unfold over three to five years, it suggests that the threat posed by Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan was not considered an urgent one by the White House, bolstering Mr. Clarke's accusations.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
More Bomb-Grade Uranium Found in Iran-Diplomats
Fri Apr 2, 8:26 AM ET
By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. atomic watchdog has found traces of bomb-grade uranium in Iran at sites other than the two already named, but diplomats said on Friday it was unclear if this boosted U.S. claims that Tehran wants an atom bomb.
"They found highly-enriched uranium at more sites than Kalaye and Natanz," a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The diplomat did not specify how many sites, where they were or when the traces were found.
Last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported finding traces of uranium that had been enriched to a point where it contained about 90 percent of the fissile uranium atom U-235 at the Natanz enrichment plant and a workshop at the Kalaye Electric Company.
Uranium with such a high concentration of U-235 has few civilian uses but is the ideal purity level for a nuclear bomb.
Vienna-based sources who follow the IAEA's work confirmed the U.N. watchdog had discovered traces at other sites, but the agency would not comment.
Tehran has said the traces at Natanz and Kalaye came from contaminated centrifuge components purchased abroad. The new traces could still support this explanation.
"One would expect to find traces of uranium everywhere these components were moved or stored," a second diplomat said.
But several diplomats said the further discoveries raised the question of whether Tehran has been engaging in more undeclared nuclear activities at sites it has been hiding from the IAEA.
Under fire over U.S. allegations that its atomic energy program is a front to build nuclear weapons, Tehran promised France, Germany and Britain last October it would suspend uranium enrichment and accept tougher inspections by the U.N. watchdog in exchange for peaceful nuclear technology.
Iran says its atomic ambitions are limited to the generation of electricity.
Last month, the IAEA passed a resolution deploring Iran's failure to declare potentially arms-related nuclear activities to the agency.
Tehran told the U.N. body the contaminated centrifuge components originally came from Pakistan. The IAEA has asked Pakistan to let it take samples of Pakistani HEU in order to verify Tehran's explanation.
But Pakistan's government, which recently pardoned its top nuclear scientist for leaking secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea (news - web sites), has refused.
Iran's nuclear facility erodes diplomatic victory
Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor
Thursday April 1, 2004
The British government made a tacit admission for the first time yesterday that its much-trumpeted diplomatic initiative to try to prevent Iran securing a nuclear weapon may be in trouble.
The Foreign Office expressed unhappiness with an Iranian government announcement on Saturday that it had inaugurated at Isfahan a uranium conversion facility, a necessary first step in the creation of a nuclear bomb.
In October last year the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and his German and French counterparts, Joschka Fischer and Dominique de Villepin, flew to Tehran to persuade the Iranian government to avoid confrontation with the US by agreeing to spot checks of its nuclear facilities. The resultant agreement was hailed as a triumph for European diplomacy.
But the Foreign Office statement yesterday registered the disappointment of the three countries. By diplomatic standards, the language was strong and unequivocal.
It said the announcement sent "the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities".
Parallel statements were issued in Berlin and Paris.
The British, German and French governments are to make another joint approach to the Iranian government.
The US, which expressed scepticism at the time the agreement was secured, has called on Iran to suspend all uranium-related activity.
Iran has repeatedly claimed it is merely interested in using nuclear technology for civilian purposes, and insists that it is sticking to the October agreement.
But a Foreign Office source said the steps being taken by Iran at Isfahan were incompatible with the promise to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.
Gholam-Reza Aghazadeh, the head of the Iranian nuclear programme, said the Isfahan facility would continue the process of turning uranium ore into gas.
He said it would produce uranium hexofloride, metallic uranium and uranium oxide. Hexofloride is used for uranium enrichment.
Europeans Criticize Iran's Plan to Start Up Enrichment Plant
By RICHARD BERNSTEIN
BERLIN, March 31 - The foreign ministries of Germany, France and Britain Wednesday criticized Iran's decision, announced last week, to start up a uranium conversion plant in Isfahan.
"This announcement sends the wrong signal regarding Iran's readiness to implement a suspension of its activities relating to uranium enrichment," the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "It will make it more difficult for Iran to restore international confidence in its activities. Iran must explain its announcement and its intentions."
The German Foreign Ministry said identical statements were issued Wednesday in Britain and France.
The move comes after a much-heralded diplomatic initiative by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain that resulted last October in a promise by Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and to allow more intrusive international inspections of its nuclear program.
The agreement was widely viewed as an Iranian response to intense pressure by the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency to curtail activities aimed at making nuclear weapons. It was also welcomed by many people in Europe as a result of a successful European-American synergy in dealing with international crises.
Diplomats here referred to it as a good-cop, bad-cop approach, in which the Americans applied pressure on Iran and the Europeans offered a diplomatic way out.
But after the agreement in October and a round of international inspections, Iran admitted that it had concealed aspects of its nuclear development program for some 18 years. At one point earlier this year, after the international agency criticized Iran for failing to disclose aspects of its nuclear program, Iran banned further inspections.
The statements Wednesday by the foreign ministers of Europe's three major countries seemed an unmistakable sign of annoyance at Iran for its failure to cooperate fully with inspections or to stop its enrichment program definitively.
Reuters reported Wednesday on an internal report obtained by the news agency in Vienna concluding that Iran had "managed'' some of the agency's inspections. Reuters also cited unnamed Western diplomats as saying that Tehran had not stopped enriching uranium but had moved enrichment activities away from a known plant at Natanz to smaller sites that are part of a parallel program as yet undiscovered by inspectors.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |
Britain, France, Germany condemn Iran's work on nuclear fuel cycle
Wed Mar 31, 1:17 PM ET
LONDON (AFP) - Britain, France and Germany united to condemn Iran's decision to resume work on a key nuclear programme in apparent breach of a deal with the United Nation's nuclear watchdog.
Their criticism came after Iran's atomic energy chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said Sunday that work had resumed at the Isfahan installation in the centre of the country.
"This announcement sends the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities," said a Foreign Office spokesman in London.
"It will make it more difficult for Iran to re-establish international confidence in her undertakings," he said, in a statement identical to ones issued in Paris and Berlin.
In a deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) brokered by Britain, France and Germany last year, Tehran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and related activities while UN inspectors delved into suspicions Iran was using atomic energy as a cover for developing nuclear weapons.
Iran, under massive international pressure to maintain the suspension, has consistently emphasised its right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to produce nuclear fuel for what it insists are strictly peaceful purposes.
"The uranium processing plant in Isfahan will produce all raw materials for the fuel cycle," Aghazadeh said on Sunday.
Britain, France and Germany have for the past seven months been working together in an effort to resolve international concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.
Foreign ministers from the three countries visited Tehran last October.
"Iran must explain her statement and her intentions," the Foreign Office statement said. "We reaffirm our firm support for the IAEA's ongoing work on this matter."
IAEA inspectors arrived in Iran on Saturday for a visit which Tehran had delayed earlier this month after the body condemned Iran for failing to report that it had designs for sophisticated P2 centrifuges for enriching uranium to levels that could be weapon-grade.
The IAEA has been investigating since February 2003 whether Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful, or devoted to secretly developing atomic weapons, as the United States alleges.
The body is to report its findings at a meeting in Vienna in June.
An IAEA ruling that Iran is in non-compliance with the NPT would send the issue to the UN Security Council, which could then impose sanctions on the Islamic republic.
More lies from Tehran
As it has for the past nine months, the radical Islamic regime in Iran continues to cheat the U.N.-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the world when confronted about its nuclear weapons programs. Since March 13, when the United States joined with France, Germany and Great Britain to pass a tough resolution at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting criticizing Iran's nuclear proliferation, Tehran has continued to respond in an erratic, defiant manner.
On March 13, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, denounced the IAEA resolution as "unfair and deceitful," and declared that his government was canceling IAEA inspections indefinitely -- a move that would effectively freeze continued inspections of the country's nuclear facilities. Three days later, Iran agreed that the IAEA could resume inspections on March 27. The inspections have resumed for the time being, and Iran asserted Monday that it had suspended the production of components and technology for uranium enrichment.
But a careful look at Iran's pattern of behavior suggests that it is only a matter of time until it tosses aside even the pretext of cooperation. In June, the IAEA issued a report confirming longstanding U.S. charges that Iran was secretly attempting to develop nuclear weapons. For the next few months, the agency lobbied unsuccessfully to persuade Iran to permit the agency's inspectors to make surprise visits to the country's nuclear facilities. By early September, even IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (who had been resisting pressure from Washington to declare Tehran in noncompliance with regulations governing the handling of nuclear materials) had finally lost patience. Mr. ElBaradei noted that, along with Iraq and North Korea, Iran "has been giving the international community the runaround." On Sept. 12, the IAEA gave Iran an Oct. 31 deadline to disprove the mounting body of evidence that it is developing nuclear weapons. Then, just days before the deadline, Tehran reached agreement with Britain, France and Germany to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for promises from European countries to help it obtain nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In November, the IAEA issued a 30-page report documenting Iran's deceptions about its nuclear program going back to the mid-1980s. Washington insisted that Iran's behavior be condemned and that the matter be referred to the U.N. Security Council. But Iran declared that it would not cooperate with the IAEA if this took place, and the IAEA backed down.
In January, Iran brazenly announced it was building centrifuges in violation of its commitments to the Europeans. Then last month, IAEA inspectors announced that they had found traces of polonium, a radioactive substance that can help trigger a nuclear chain reaction. It was yet another item that Iran had failed to declare. Inspectors also discovered high-tech enrichment equipment on an Iranian military base -- the first known link between the nuclear program and the Iranian military. More ominously, there have been reports that Tehran has been helping North Korea with its atomic weapons development efforts.
In sum, when it comes to nuclear weapons, Iran's current behavior seems to be little more than a continuation of its policy over the last two decades: sustained cheating, occasionally interrupted by tactical retreats. These calculated cycles are inducing international inaction -- as the day of decisive action grows closer.
Iran's leading reformist intellectual tries to reconcile religious duties and human rights
By Laura Secor, 3/14/2004
IF IRAN'S DEMOCRATIC REFORM movement has a house intellectual, it's Abdolkarim Soroush. A small, soft-spoken philosopher with fiercely expressive eyebrows, Soroush specializes in mysticism, Sufi poetry, Islamic theology, chemistry, pharmacology, and the philosophy of science. Although he once worked for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolutionary government, he now advances a powerful argument for democracy and human rights -- and he does so drawing not only on John Stuart Mill and John Rawls, but also on the deepest intellectual traditions of Shi'ite Islam. Religion must remain aloof from governance, he is fond of saying, not because religion is false and would corrupt politics, but because religion is true and politics corrupts it.
Soroush's work is heady, abstract stuff. And yet, its hold on throngs of young Iranians -- hundreds of students show up to the typical Soroush lecture -- is so strong that Iran's ruling mullahs consider him a threat, and pro-clerical militias regularly harass and beat him when he speaks in his native land. That's why these days, he makes his home at Princeton University, where he teaches a seminar of fewer than 10 graduate students and passes all but unnoticed through the halls of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy.
That is where I met Soroush on Feb. 23, the day the dismal results of the latest Iranian parliamentary election began trickling out. The Guardian Council, a body of clerics with far-reaching powers, had disqualified some 2,000 candidates, mostly reformists, from so much as running for parliament. Unsurprisingly, though the level of voter turnout and hence the strength of the new parliament's mandate is disputed, the election results were clear: Pro-clerical conservatives packed 156 of the parliament's 290 seats, with 50 still left to be decided.
But the success of the reform movement, says Soroush, will be measured not in parliamentary seats but in attitudinal shifts, as Iran's educated youth embrace such notions as "freedom, justice, political participation, and the rights of man."
"The reform movement actually had two dimensions, if you like, two sides," he explains as we sit in his bare visiting professor's office. "One side was the political. Some of the reformists were part of the establishment, of the government. Now they've lost their power. But on the other hand, the most important part of the reform movement was intellectual, theoretical, educational."
That intellectual reform movement finds expression in Soroush's own work, which attempts to reconcile revelation and reason, religious duties and human rights. Whether or not such a reconciliation is possible is the subject of much debate and experimentation in the Muslim world today. But perhaps no one has attempted to develop so ambitious and unique a philosophical framework for that project as Abdolkarim Soroush.
ran's 1979 Islamic revolution seemed to herald a new era for the Muslim world. In place of the secular, corrupt, repressive government of the American-backed Shah, Iranians imagined they would create something entirely new: a regime that would promote social justice and spiritual fulfillment, and one that would draw on indigenous cultural traditions and the theory of the state embedded in the country's overwhelmingly dominant faith, Islam.
The charismatic Ayatollah Khomeini, who had suffered prison and exile under the Shah, would replace a crass, alien capitalism with a dignified, indigenous spiritualism that rejected worldly motives. As Khomeini admonished the people, the purpose of the revolution was not "to have less expensive melons" but to lead a more elevated life.
In the end, however, Khomeini saddled Iran with something not all his supporters bargained for: the doctrine of velayat-i-faqi, or the rule of the jurist. This doctrine effectively delivered autocratic executive powers to Iran's clerics, and particularly to the ayatollah deemed wisest by his peers -- in the first instance, Khomeini himself.
Initially, Soroush believed in the democratic and spiritual promise of the revolution. Born Husayn Haj Farajullah Dabbagh to a lower-middle-class, religious family in Tehran in 1945, Soroush studied religion and science side by side. He went to Britain in 1973 to pursue an advanced degree in analytical chemistry, followed by a course of study on the history and philosophy of science. During this time, he began publishing philosophical papers in Iran under the pen name Abdolkarim Soroush.
In 1980, scant months after revolutionary forces had closed Iran's universities, Khomeini invited Soroush to return to Iran as a member of a committee of seven scholars who would revise the country's higher education curriculum. At first Soroush was enthusiastic, working with his colleagues to develop courses that would educate students about their Islamic heritage and traditions. But as the revolutionary government exerted increasingly dogmatic control over the committee's work, Soroush soured on the project. He didn't approve of separating men and women in the classroom, forcing rituals on students, restricting the subjects professors could teach, or marginalizing the sciences or social sciences.
"I was a little bit more liberal-minded than some of the others," Soroush tells me. Feeling isolated -- "There were no ears to listen to me," he says -- he resigned in 1983, never again to work for the government. Instead, he would become its critic. "Undemocratic things were growing in the whole country," Soroush says of the post-revolutionary period.
In `92, Soroush established the Faculty of History and Philosophy of Science. It was Iran's first program of its kind. At the same time, his philosophical writings on Islam and democracy began to circulate through an eclectic intellectual journal called Kiyan. In these writings, Soroush directly challenged the political power of the clerics, even advocating that they cease working for pay so that they would no longer be corrupted by worldly interests. "They must remain lovers rather than dealers of religion," he explains in an e-mail. With these and other writings, Soroush became a professor with a following.
As Soroush's influence grew, so too did the influence of the defining figure of the reform movement's political wing: Mohammad Khatami, minister of Islamic Guidance for 10 years after the Revolution. Advocating constitutional law over strict religious law and parliamentary rule over clerical rule, Khatami won the presidency in a landslide in `97.
Soroush, who considers Khatami a friend, believes the president squandered the hopes reformists had vested in him. "I think he lost some of the best opportunities for reform in our society," Soroush says. "He was a very, very powerful man because he had more than 20 million votes." But Khatami was a cautious ruler, refraining even from criticizing such obvious abuses as the beating of students and closing down of newspapers, Soroush laments.
In July 2003, Soroush issued an open letter to Khatami in which he pulled no punches. "The present generation as well as generations to come must never forget this ominous message of religious despotism," he wrote. "That in Iran today, the best newspaper is the one that is closed, the best pen is the one that is broken and the best thinker is the one that is nonexistent."
The slide toward despotism had advanced past the point where Khatami could stop it, though he might have done so earlier, in Soroush's view. Nevertheless, when clerics manipulated the recent elections and Khatami again failed to take a resolute stand, many of the president's supporters came to think that he "betrayed the whole cause of reform," says Soroush.
But the intellectual reform movement, of which Soroush is an integral part, lives on. "If people think that even in theory the reformists have failed," he observes, "that will be the real death of this movement. But I think that will not happen, because I think the reform movement in theory is much more advanced and much richer than its rival."
he day I attend Soroush's Princeton seminar, the class is discussing a group of eighth-century rationalist Islamic philosophers called the Mu'tazilites, whom Soroush sees as among the precursors of the Iranian reform movement.
The Mu'tazilites, who drew on ancient Greek philosophical sources, believed that the Qu'ran was a created text, rather than an eternal one -- meaning that it was situated in the moment of its historical creation and could conceivably have been different, had external circumstances been different. Most intriguingly, the Mu'tazilites believed justice did not derive from God but guided God's actions. Therefore an action was not good or bad because God commanded or forbade it; God commanded or forbade it because it was good or bad. What this meant was that morality stood independent of God and in fact inhered in the actions themselves. It could be apprehended with reason, even by someone ignorant of God's injunctions. Soroush calls this vision of justice "moral secularism."
Though the Mu'tazilites produced the official doctrine of the Baghdad caliphate from 765 through 848, they were unpopular elitists who resorted to violent repression. When they were displaced by the orthodox Ash'arites, who held reason to be subservient to revelation, the Mu'tazilites went into near-permanent eclipse. Sunni Muslims embraced the Ash'arite view and came to see Mu'tazilite ideas as heretical. But the often subterranean Mu'tazilate influence became woven into the theology of the Persian Shi'ites and the Yemeni Zaydis.
Soroush's philosophical views owe much to the Mu'tazilite insights he explains to his graduate seminar, in particular the notion that reason can allow us to distinguish between good and evil, quite apart from divine revelation. From this notion of moral secularism follows Soroush's belief that "you can have a democratic debate about good and bad in politics" -- something implicitly denied by those who advocate rule by clerics or by the letter of the scriptures.
But while Soroush makes a business of separating the rational from the divine, he is everywhere clear that his aim is not to diminish the divine but to protect it. In his seminal Kiyan essay, "The Expansion and Contraction of Religious Knowledge," Soroush argued that the essence of religion, which is immutable, eternal, and sacred, can be separated from religious knowledge, which is mutable, relative, and historical. The implications of this simple theory were far-reaching. The interpretive work of the clergy, therefore, was not itself divine; rather, the pursuit of religious knowledge was human and historically situated. Religious ideology, like religious knowledge, also stood apart from religion itself as something ephemeral and, in Soroush's view, dispensable.
As Daniel Brumberg writes in "Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran," it is precisely in separating religious knowledge from the core of religion that Soroush makes it possible to engage with Western ideas without invoking the Muslim bugbears of "cultural surrender, cultural superiority, or mechanistic `borrowing.' " Rather, one can apprehend justice, say, through reason, and reason can wield tools of worldly -- even of Western -- provenance. In any case, Soroush argues, contemporary Iran draws on three cultural wellsprings: Persian, Islamic, and Western.
Soroush believes that religious institutions and political ones should be kept separate. Doing so will allow religious life to truly flourish, because it will be chosen rather than imposed. But if this sounds like Western-style liberal secularism, it isn't. Rather, Soroush envisions what he calls a democratic religious society. Its goal is the freedom of believers to practice and live by their faith without compulsion -- but also without the "profanity" that pervades Western secular life.
Shari'ah law provides the Islamic framework for moral living, and Soroush does not seem prepared to do away with it, although he is clear that scripture should never form the sole basis of legislation. Indeed, Soroush sees Shari'ah as a form of religious knowledge rather than an article of religious faith. And so, in his view, it should be subject to rational discussion and adjustment.
It is here that my discussion with Soroush becomes most tangled and most intriguing. Shari'ah law is flexible, he tells me. It can be reinterpreted by religious scholars who may not feel that its actual provisions -- the stoning of adulterers, say -- still perform the functions God intended.
But is this not antidemocratic? Unelected, unaccountable jurists are left to make political decisions based on their interpretation of the divine intent, and the social expediency, of Qu'ranic injunctions. And what about human rights? I ask Soroush. The idea of human rights is still alien to Iranian jurists, he tells me, but when they are better educated that will change: "I am 100 percent sure that if our clerics become familiar with the ideas of human rights, not superficially but deeply, philosophically, that definitely this will influence their interpretation of Shari'ah."
What Soroush would like, then, is for Islamic thought to engage and adapt secular notions of rights. What he doesn't want, however, is for rights claims to take precedence over traditional religious morality. He certainly doesn't wish to see Iranian society become as permissive as American society, where he believes that human rights claims have unduly silenced religious believers. He says, "Like even the omnipotent god whose actions are conditioned by the concept of justice, human rights, though they are universal, must be conditioned by the idea of morality. I think human rights nowadays has been carried away." While those who advocate human rights may favor gay rights, for instance, Soroush believes homosexuality is simply immoral.
It is hard to discern exactly what Soroush means here by morality, but it certainly doesn't sound like moral secularism. For if, as the Mu'tazilites claimed, morality is rational, why shouldn't rights be a component of morality, subject to negotiation but not to unexplained moral censure of certain groups of rights-seekers? The idea of universality, I come away thinking, is an uncompromising one, whether it's the secular world's universal human rights or the religious world's universal power of God. Can there really be an independent idea of justice that conditions them both, and isn't ultimately founded on the conviction of one's supremacy over the other?
Certainly, it's a tension that runs through our own society, even if in the end we resolve it in a manner exactly opposite to Iran. That tension is not lost on Soroush, an Iranian liberal who laments the lack of power of American religious conservatives: "I don't have the statistic, but roughly 70 percent of American people are religious -- they go to church, they are regular churchgoers and things like that as far as I know. But they do not have the power in order to say something about homosexuality in this society. Their voice is virtually unheeded."
Laura Secor, a writer living in New York, is the former staff writer for Ideas.
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
China Releases Kin of Tiananmen Victims
2 hours, 37 minutes ago
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer
SHANGHAI, China - China said Friday it has released a woman who lost her husband and two who lost their sons in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests after detaining them over "illegal activities sponsored by overseas forces."
Retired professor Ding Zilin, a leading spokeswoman for the Tiananmen Mothers group, Zhang Xianling and Huang Jinping were "released by police after being admonished and showing repentance," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
It said Ding confessed to having "conspired with overseas forces" to evade Chinese customs and state security laws.
Ding's and Zhang's sons were killed when Chinese soldiers attacked the pro-democracy protesters. Huang lost her husband.
Ding's release could not be independently confirmed. However, earlier Friday, a veteran political activist said Zhang and Huang had been allowed to return to their Beijing homes after being detained at an undisclosed location for five days.
The women were taken from their homes in Beijing by police on Sunday. Ding was taken from her home in the eastern city of Wuxi.
"Ding Zilin and others have been detained based on evidence that they have participated in illegal activities sponsored by overseas forces," Xinhua said. It didn't say what the women had been accused of trying to import, or with whom they had allegedly colluded.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the bloody June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, prompting stepped-up measures to prevent commemorations.
The detentions came as Beijing faced renewed criticism from the United States over its human rights record. The U.S. State Department complained Wednesday that the detentions undermined China's claims that its human rights record is improving.
Last week, China suspended a human rights meeting with Washington after U.S. officials said they planned to seek a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution criticizing China. The United States says China has failed to keep promises made during talks in 2002.
New York-based Human Rights in China said agents who detained the women also seized from their homes letters and T-shirts marking the anniversary of the crackdown, in which hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of people were killed.
Communist authorities labeled the nonviolent protests an anti-government riot and have never offered a full accounting of casualties. The party suppresses all efforts to commemorate the deaths or gather information about the protests.
The Tiananmen Mothers group has called on the Chinese government to exonerate victims and reverse its verdict on the protests.
U.N.: Angola's Decision May Disrupt Aid
Mon Mar 29,11:32 PM ET
By ALEXANDRA ZAVIS, Associated Press Writer
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - A surprise decision by Angola to reject genetically modified food aid threatens to disrupt distributions to hundreds of thousands of people -- many of them newly returned after the country's two-decade civil war -- the U.N. food agency said Monday.
The decision, announced by Angola's Council of Ministers on March 17, comes at a time when the World Food Program is already battling funding shortfalls for its program in the oil-rich southern African country.
U.N. officials are currently in discussions with Angolan authorities to determine the implications for a 19,000-ton shipment of U.S. corn that had been earmarked for the country. If there is no clarity by Wednesday, the United States could redirect the corn to another country, officials said.
Angola, a nation of about 14 million people, was ruined by the war pitting the government against UNITA rebels. Up to a half-million Angolans fled their country before it ended in 2002. The fighting also drove some 4 million people from their homes.
Some 3.8 million have now returned to their rural homes, but about 1.5 million remain dependent on food aid, according to WFP figures.
Despite pressing needs, Angola is struggling to compete for funds with other aid-dependent countries.
Donors have privately questioned the government's commitment to resolving humanitarian problems in a country where one in every four dollars in oil earnings is unaccounted for, according to anti-corruption activists.
So far, WFP has only been able to raise 24 percent of the $143 million it needs for the year beginning April 1, the agency's regional director, Mike Sackett, said in Johannesburg.
Next month, it will be forced to reduce its cereal rations by 30 percent, he said. If no new donors are found by June, they will be cut again to 50 percent.
Details of the ban, which does not apply to milled grain, remain unclear, and the decision has not yet been officially implemented.
But it could have major implications for Angola, which receives up to 77 percent of its food aid from the United States. American biotech companies have been at the forefront of promoting genetically modified food, or GMOs, which can be made to resist insects or disease.
African countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe have also rejected biotech food aid.
Human Rights Group Blasts Sudan Gov't
Fri Apr 2, 7:01 AM ET
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, Associated Press Writer
NAIROBI, Kenya - Sudanese forces are killing, raping and forcing civilians from their homes in an effort to suppress an insurgency in western Sudan, an international human rights group said Friday, accusing the government of "crimes against humanity."
While government troops have participated in the fighting in the western Darfur region, allied Arab militia have carried out the bulk of the attacks against the region's inhabitants, Muslims of African descent, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
The insurgents draw most of their fighters from Darfur's African tribes and the government is "seeking to destroy any potential support base for the rebels," the New York-based group said.
Rebel and Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment. But the Sudanese government has repeatedly denied its forces are intentionally attacking civilians.
The report, titled "Darfur in Flames: Atrocities in Western Sudan," also noted the rebels have at times attacked civilians and are reportedly using children for fighters.
But "the government of Sudan and allied Arab militia ... are implementing a strategy of ethnic-based murder, rape and forcible displacement of civilians," said the report, based on interviews with Sudanese refugees who have fled to neighboring Chad.
"The Sudanese government is complicit in these abuses and holds the highest degree of responsibility for pursuing a military policy that has resulted in the commission of crimes against humanity," the report said.
As fighting in Darfur has intensified in recent months, so have accusations that the government is targeting civilians.
On March 19, the U.N. resident coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, said that attacks against civilians in Darfur by the Arab militia were "close to the definition of ethnic cleansing."
The United States, United Nations (news - web sites) and international aid groups have said the fighting has created a humanitarian catastrophe, and aid agencies, which have had only limited access to the region, estimate that more than 800,000 civilians have been displaced.
"The militias are not only killing individuals, they are decimating the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families," Georgette Gagnon, deputy director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said Friday. "The people being targeted are the farmers of the region, and unless these abuses are stopped and people receive humanitarian relief, we could see famine in a few months' time."
Peace talks between the government and rebels faltered last year, and the latest round of indirect negotiations got off to a rocky start this week with the rebels and government disagreeing over the agenda.
The conflict began in February 2003, when two rebel groups -- the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement -- took up arms, saying they were fighting for a share of the power and wealth in Africa's largest country.
The insurgency in Darfur has intensified as peace talks between the government and southern rebels fighting a 21-year-long civil war have inched toward their conclusion. Those talks are being held in Kenya.
On the Net: http://hrw.org/reports/2004/sudan0404/
Trafficking on rise in prescription drugs
By Christopher Rowland, Globe Staff, 4/2/2004
FORT LEE, N.J. -- Police staked out a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot, secretly watched an illicit rendezvous, then trailed suspects to a nearby condominium. But when they swooped in, parallels to a routine drug raid vanished.
In the back of a green Jeep Cherokee, investigators found not heroin or cocaine but Zocor, 30 cases of the popular prescription anticholesterol drug manufactured by Merck & Co. Inside the condominium they discovered a cardboard box containing $500,000, the alleged payment for the stolen medicine.
Last month's seizures and arrests capped a six-month investigation, a counterattack on what authorities said is a growing underground market for pilfered pharmaceuticals that threatens to undermine consumer confidence in the safety of prescription medicine. By the time they were done, Bergen County and federal investigators working over two days had arrested 11 members of an alleged ring that they said stole millions of dollars worth of cholesterol medicine, blood-pressure pills, and Viagra from large US manufacturers.
Authorities also seized $1.2 million in cash, 29 guns, luxury cars, and a plasma TV. Without offering specifics, the local authorities said they have identified both traditional Mafia and Russian organized crime connections involved in the flourishing trade.
The reasons for a growing illicit prescription-drug trade are simple, say local law enforcement officials: the lure of easy money, a lack of serious criminal penalties for trafficking, and reluctance among manufacturers to report missing drugs to the police.
"These are very desirable commodities to steal," said Michael P. Peskoe, a former pharmaceutical industry executive and lawyer for the Food and Drug Administration who now practices in Boston. "They are light; they are quite expensive; and there's an opportunity to make large sums of money."
Last year the FDA identified "diversion" and "illegal redirection" of prescription drugs as a major problem because there is no easy way to distinguish legitimate drugs from ones that have been illegally sold into a so-called gray market in which unauthorized dealers peddle pills. Once drugs enter the gray market, they are difficult to track.
As a result, gray market drugs can end up on pharmacy shelves. That means consumers could be buying medicines that have been improperly stored, adulterated, or distributed after their expiration dates.
Sometimes, stolen drugs are peddled to consumers over the Internet.
Drug companies that were allegedly victimized by the thieves would not discuss details of the case. But collectively, New Jersey's drug manufacturers are worried about the problem, said Hollie Gilroy, spokeswoman for the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey, the state's trade group for pharmaceutical companies. "Our concern is the safety of patients," she said. "When you've got these other actors in the marketplace, it makes it a lot more difficult to ensure patient safety, and that's the overwhelming concern."
The 11 defendants, including five truck drivers, have made initial court appearances and been released on bail, but they have not yet entered pleas in court. Each has been charged with racketeering, theft, and conspiracy. A key figure in the case, David Pinski, 65, whose Fort Lee condominium was the scene of the March 18 police raid, has been charged with an additional count of money laundering.
Pinski's lawyer, Samuel R. DeLuca Jr., of Jersey City, said his client plans to plead not guilty. He said Pinski is a legitimate businessman, the owner of a retail T-shirt shop in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.
Authorities say the ring's leaders had been honing their methods for several years, enlisting freight truck drivers who traversed New Jersey's industrial parks and interstate highways while stealing select boxes of drugs from their trailers.
Besides Zocor, Bergen County officials said, the ring stole Diovan and Lotrel, two drugs made by Novartis AG to treat high blood pressure. Novartis lost at least $2 million through the thefts, authorities said. The ring also allegedly stole the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, manufactured by Pfizer Inc. Stolen Viagra was shipped to Florida to be sold at nightclubs in tandem with doses of the illegal narcotic Ecstasy, police said.
Truck drivers involved in the racket rolled into deserted sections of industrial parks and opened up the backs of their trailers for middlemen, who would help them select particular drugs to steal, said Chief Michael Mordaga, the lead investigator for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.
As they trace the ring's activities, he said, detectives are following a trail through self-storage units throughout New Jersey. Authorities expect to eventually disrupt one or more of New Jersey's 900 licensed wholesalers, he said.
"We have been able to track down $3 million in thefts to these individuals, and we know there are millions more," he said. "A case of Viagra is the size of a telephone book, and the price on that is about $14,000."
Bergen County investigators last year disrupted illegal traffic in Serostim, a hormone manufactured by Rockland-based Serono Inc. that is used to prevent wasting syndrome in AIDS patients. It is a drug that also happens to be popular with bodybuilders.
Black marketeers were buying the drug from AIDS patients in New York and New Jersey and shipping it via overnight express to gyms in California. Express packages full of cash were sent back in return. Florida state investigators arrested 19 people last year after targeting a counterfeiting ring that shipped phony and diluted cancer drugs.
Pfizer disagreed with the characterization that it does not take action. "If appropriate, we report it to law enforcement," said Pfizer spokesman Bryant Haskins. "We don't ignore it. We try to find out how the theft occurred and by whom."
Christopher Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
GOP Rails at Kerry's 'Unprecedented Criminal Enterprise'
Republicans are usually too wimpy to speak up when Democrats commit massive vote fraud and other crimes, but not this time. The charges filed against Sen. John Kerry's campaign condemn his "unprecedented criminal enterprise."
The New York Post reported today that the papers filed by top Republicans with the Federal Election Commission also charge the Kerry camp and allied organizations with an "illegal conspiracy."
"Simply put, the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party have been unable to fund-raise to a level of hard dollars that they think is necessary for their campaign efforts," the GOP complaint says.
"Instead, they have chosen to rely on an illegal conspiracy of donors and shadowy groups to defeat President Bush."
The complaint says the supposedly "independent" groups, which include MoveOn.org and Media Fund, headed by former Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan, amount to an illegal "slush fund for John Kerry's campaign."
"Taken together, they constitute an unprecedented criminal enterprise designed to impermissibly affect a presidential election," the complaint says.
So much for campaign finance "reform."
Kerry, Candidate and Catholic, Creates Uneasiness for Church
Published April 02. 2004 8:30AM
New York Times
Senator John Kerry's support for abortion rights and stem cell research has prompted discussions among Roman Catholic bishops and Vatican officials over how to respond to a presidential candidate who professes Catholicism while taking stands contrary to church teaching.
The issue has been a topic in the Vatican this week as bishops from Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina hold long-scheduled meetings with the pope and Vatican officials on a variety of issues.
"They are basically struggling with this, as we are," said one visiting American, Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, the chairman of a task force expected to produce guidelines for American bishops on relations with Catholic politicians.
Most recently, Bishop Ricard said, the bishops were troubled by Mr. Kerry's vote against a bill that makes it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. President Bush signed the legislation on Thursday, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops immediately issued a news release applauding him.
Bishop Ricard said in Rome: "Of course we were disappointed with Kerry's voting against it. We were disappointed with others who voted against it, but as Catholic lawmakers we hold them to a higher standard."
The task force Bishop Ricard heads was formed last year after the Vatican released a forceful "doctrinal note" on Catholics in public life, which said, "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."
The bishops are unlikely to make overt endorsements, and consistently say that they favor neither Democrats nor Republicans. But if some influential prelates choose to publicly embrace Mr. Kerry or to snub him by refusing to offer him communion, withholding an honorary degree or canceling an event at a Catholic institution it could have an impact on some Catholic voters.
In February, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis admonished Mr. Kerry not to take communion if he attended Mass there. Archbishop Burke, until recently the bishop of the diocese of LaCrosse, Wis., caused a furor when he issued the same threat to politicians there last year. Few of his fellow bishops followed suit.
Catholics make up 27 percent of the electorate and belong to the largest church in the country, with about 65 million members. Many live in states with large blocs of electoral votes. Exit polls in states that have already held their Democratic primaries showed that Mr. Kerry did very well among Catholics.
The Democrats began losing their lock on the Catholic vote about 30 years ago, and now it is very much up for grabs. No presidential candidate since at least 1980 has won the Catholic vote and lost the White House, with the exception of Al Gore in 2000.
Mr. Kerry is the first Roman Catholic to run for president on a major party ticket in 44 years, but the obstacles for Catholic politicians have turned inside out since 1960, when John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to win the White House.
President Kennedy had to overcome accusations from non-Catholics that he would follow the bidding of the pope. Now, Mr. Kerry faces accusations from some within his own church that he is not following the pope's bidding closely enough.
"Kennedy settled the problem that a Catholic couldn't become president," said the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, a Catholic priest and former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts.
"That's not an issue now," said Father Drinan, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, who described Mr. Kerry as a friend and a strong Catholic. "The issue with Kerry will be, is he good enough as a Catholic."
Like many American Catholics, Mr. Kerry does not adhere to some church positions yet describes himself as, in his words, "a believing and practicing Catholic." He is a former altar boy who says he learned only last year that his paternal grandfather was a Czech Jew named Fritz Kohn, who changed his name and converted to Catholicism before emigrating to Boston.
Mr. Kerry sought an annulment from the church when he was divorced from his first wife. He later married Teresa Heinz, who is Catholic, and together they regularly attend Sunday Mass and take communion, a sacrament reserved for those in the church's good graces.
The senator is aligned with his church on many social justice issues, including immigration, poverty, health care and the death penalty. But he diverges on the litmus issues, like abortion and stem cell research, that animate church conservatives and many in the hierarchy.
Mr. Kerry has responded to questions about his adherence to church teachings by proclaiming his belief in the separation of church and state, just as President Kennedy did in a speech that largely laid to rest suspicions about his allegiances, said David Wade, a Kerry spokesman.
"Senator Kerry is a person of faith, he's a practicing Catholic, and his religion is an important part of his life and of Teresa Heinz Kerry's life," Mr. Wade said. "And they've always recognized that separation between the public and the private."
Mr. Wade said the senator had no concerns about being confronted or snubbed by Catholic leaders.
"It's not once been an issue the campaign has run into in almost two years on the campaign trail," he said. "He's given speeches at Georgetown, he's given speeches at Boston College, he's a graduate of Boston College Law School, and he has a long history speaking in Catholic institutions."
Some conservative Catholic groups have been urging bishops to penalize Catholic politicians who do not vote with the church.
The Rev. John McCloskey, the director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington and a member of the conservative organization Opus Dei, said, "Senator Kerry considers himself a Catholic, but on issues that are fundamental in terms of Catholic morality, he appears to be off the reservation."
However, Father McCloskey said, American bishops are "in a quandary" over just what to do about Catholic politicians who fail to uphold church doctrine on issues like abortion. Punitive measures like denying Mr. Kerry communion could backfire, he said.
Few bishops followed the example of Archbishop Burke in St. Louis, and two who did were far less direct. A Catholic official familiar with the bishops' thinking, who did not want to be identified, said after Archbishop Burke's sanction: "Notice the resounding silence. I think many people would not consider that a pastoral way to approach somebody."
Bishop Joseph A. Galante of the diocese of Camden, N.J. who served briefly on the task force on Catholics in politics, said that bishops must, in their roles as teachers, assert church doctrine and continue to call Catholic politicians to account to prevent them from leading other Catholics astray.
"When someone who is public and identifies as a Catholic takes public positions opposed to church teaching," Bishop Galante said, "if it's just ignored, then the question arises among other Catholic people, who say, `Well, I guess it's all right to hold these positions.' "
Kerry blasts Treasury analysis of tax plans
By Paul Farhi, Washington Post, 4/2/2004
WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department seemed to weigh in on the ongoing fight between President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry over taxes when it issued a news release detailing how much the Massachusetts senator's proposals might cost.
The release did not name Kerry, but it described in detail how much his programs would cost "hard-working individuals and married couples." Its estimates ranged from $201 billion to $476 billion, depending on what would be changed.
The Kerry campaign blasted the release, calling it a violation of the Hatch Act, which bars most government employees from participating in partisan politics while on the job.
"Whether it's using Treasury officials to analyze John Kerry's plan to create 10 million jobs or CIA officials to help smear Richard Clarke, this White House is the most political White House the nation has ever seen," spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said in a statement.
"They will say and do anything to get reelected."
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the agency, defended the analysis, saying that it was requested by House majority leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, and that the department often scores legislative proposals. "This is so that policy makers, as they engage in a debate on changes in the tax code, will have facts at their disposal," he said.
Nevertheless, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, asked the Treasury's inspector general yesterday to look into the matter.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said she had another idea. She wants the Treasury Department to do an analysis of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which that Democrats have been requesting for months.
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
Choose to Lose
By Shawn Macomber
Published 4/2/2004 12:08:54 AM
Even after watching John Kerry stumble through the Democratic debates last fall, I still expected him to be able to hold his own with Generation X. Alas, the would be leader of the free world proved in his recent sit-down with MTV's Gideon Yago that, as Ma the sheep once told a young pig in the film Babe, "we shouldn't hope for too much."
Even the simplest questions provoked agonized hedging by Kerry. Consider the following answer to one student's query as to whether Kerry was "cool."
"Well, if I were cool and told you I was cool, I wouldn't be cool," he replied, adjusting his horrendous pink and blue polka-dotted tie. "It's up to you and other people to judge if anything I do today is cool. My daughter would probably tell you I'm a freak at times."
Luckily, the crack team at MTV News tracked down Vanessa Kerry to clarify her father's actual level of coolness. Kerry, his daughter said, is "the guy who comes out in a full-piece wetsuit and Hawaiian shorts in the summer and thinks he's cool," which she initially blanched at. However, the odd ensemble eventually grew on her and overwhelmed any residual fashion sense.
The 26-year-old told Yago she went to work for her father's campaign because she was "pissed off" at George W. Bush and wanted to "go kick some ass." Perhaps she was the adviser who suggested he drop the F-bomb in the now infamous Rolling Stone interview a few months back.
IT ONLY GOT WORSE. Kerry confided to Yago that he was "never into heavy metal" but was "fascinated" by the "poetry," "anger," and "social energy" of rap and hip hop. As with everything else, Kerry then took the other side of the issue, leaving people with the impression that you should and should not listen to violent gangster rap.
"I think when you start talking about killing cops or something like that, it bothers me," Kerry said. "But understand, I'm still listening, because I know it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life."
Occasionally a real issue came up. Kerry defended his vote on the Iraq resolution, saying the Bush Administration had tricked him with intelligence that was "not real." After considering for a moment whether he had admitted he could be tricked by a Texas cowboy, Kerry added, "You are not duped when somebody misleads you and in effect lies to you or doesn't tell you the truth."
MTV'S "CHOOSE OR LOSE" threatens to "mobilize more than 20 million young adults aged 18 to 30 to vote in the 2004 election." Ostensibly, this is a non-partisan effort, but a glance at the groups partnering with MTV to "educate" the youth vote suggests otherwise. The Hip-Hop Team Vote, the National Council of La Raza, the Black Youth Vote, the NAACP, and Harvard University's Institute of Politics are among the chief partners listed.
"Everyday our government makes all kinds of decisions that affect me," one young man says in a recent "Choose or Lose" commercial. "They decide if my older brother goes to war. They decide how much my grandmother gets in her Social Security check. They even decide who I'm allowed to marry."
Watching the "Choose or Lose" special, I wanted to feel like the network was giving kids the short shrift. The program, with sporadic exceptions, was devoid of any sort of substance. But then none of the potential voters interviewed for the program seemed to mind.
Over and over interviewees praised Kerry's charisma (???) and damned the national press for "distorting" the truth about him. And if the film crews were able to find a single college student with a positive view of Republicans, he was left on the cutting room floor. Yago thrice praised the junior senator from Massachusetts as a "war hero."
That Kerry came off as a meandering dud in this love fest shows just how much work he's going to have to do if he wants to win over the votes of the adult voters who make up the electorate. Kerry should ask his new pal Howie Dean how reliable the MTV generation is.
Shawn Macomber is a reporter for The American Spectator. He runs the website Return of the Primitive.
Jay Gatsby runs for president.
Naushon Island, off the Massachusetts coast, has been known as the home of pirates, who confiscated the hard-earned wealth of merchants and businessmen; sheep, obedient creatures who demonstrate no independence; ticks and flies, droning annoying pests; and is rumored to be haunted by frightening, ghostly pale, gaunt figures. It is also a family home of John Kerry; readers can decide for themselves whether he constitutes a redundant addition to that list.
Seven miles long and about 5,000 acres, Naushon is the largest and most unspoiled in the Elizabeth Islands chain, just northwest of Martha's Vineyard and Chappaquiddick. The only year-round settlement in the chain is the town of Gosnold, on the outermost and lone public island, Cuttyhunk.
In its history, Naushon has been owned by only three families; the family of the first governor of Massachusetts colony, the Winthrops, the Bowdoins, and the Forbeses for the most recent 148 years.
The Forbes family maintains about 30 homes on Naushon, and hundreds of Forbeses and their guests vacation there in the summer. The public can boat near it, but not land. Today, a mounted groundskeeper patrols the shores, and politely asks trespassers to leave -- though some trespassers are allowed to finish their walk and urged to get permission before landing again.
"In order to preserve the owners' privacy and maintain the islands in the face of campers, litterers, thieves, arsonists, hunters, and others, they are all strictly no trespassing," wrote Naushon Shareholder David Gregg in a letter to a kayaker in the mid-1990s. (Arsonists?)
Only caretakers and sheepherders live on the island year-round. Employment with the Forbes does not appear to be a road to wealth: According to 2001 state Division of Employment and Training figures, the entire 2001 total payroll for Gosnard was $782,801 at eight establishments with a total of 51 employees, for an average income of $15,349.
In a policy that would make Al Gore proud, no vehicles are allowed on Naushon, and residents and guests travel by foot or by horseback or via antique horse-drawn carriages.
Periodically, Kerry talks about his ties to the island, his memories of family gatherings during his childhood, more recent experiences windsurfing off its coasts, or asserting his brotherhood with sportsmen by recalling adventures with his cousins shooting deer there. Kerry took Joe Klein for a speedboat ride off the island during the summer of 2002, perhaps the perfect interview backdrop for the senator's glowing profile in The New Yorker.
One can picture the lanky teen Kerry, wandering the steep, grassy hills that observers compare to Scottish highlands, contemplating deep thoughts while standing atop a high cliff overlooking rocky beaches and crashing surf. Between the mansions of wealth and class behind him, and the stark landscape before him, the atmosphere must have felt like a Charlotte Bronte novel.
In Kerry's 1990 Senate campaign, his opponent Jim Rappaport charged that the senator's "family trust" was receiving a tax abatement because the island is used for agricultural purposes, allowing the trust to pay $300 in annual taxes instead of $12,000. Kerry's spokesman responded that the island was owned by a trust set up by distant relatives on the Forbes side of his family, and that the senator is not a beneficiary of that trust. Kerry insisted that the island was just a family vacation home, not a formally owned property.
The Forbes of Naushon made their fortune in transoceanic trade in the 19th-century, including exchanging opium from Turkey for Chinese tea and silk. (The late financier Malcolm Forbes and his son, former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, are not related to this Forbes family.)
Although Kerry and Teresa Heinz enjoy the island privileges, neither he nor many other of the Forbes of his generation inherited vast wealth from their forebears.
Kerry's mother, Rosemary, was one of those Forbes of moderate means; his father Richard was a foreign-service officer stationed in Paris, Oslo, and Berlin. The wealthier relatives helped pay for Kerry's boarding school in Switzerland and later helped the family pay for Kerry's tuition at St. Paul's in New Hampshire, a prestigious classic jacket-and-tie New England private school.
Kerry's ties to the Forbes side of his family make for fascinating speculation. His upbringing was far from impoverished, but he was constantly surrounded by old money and pureblood Brahmin aristocracy. His family had a 52-foot-sailboat; the other kids had yachts. He was a Democratic Catholic; the campus of St. Paul's was almost entirely Republican Episcopalians. Kerry's peers reportedly perceived him as being "too ambitious" for a Forbes.
One wonders how Kerry was affected by being identified as a mere half-Forbes in the part of the country that put the most emphasis on inane aristocratic concepts of 'good breeding.'
"It used to be said that, socially speaking, Philadelphia asked who a person is, New York how much is he worth, and Boston what does he know," wrote Cleveland Amory wrote in his 1947 book , The Proper Bostonians. "Nationally it has now become generally recognized that Boston Society has long cared even more than Philadelphia about the first point and has refined the asking of who a person is to the point of demanding to know who he was. Philadelphia asks about a man's parents; Boston wants to know about his grandparents."
At school, Kerry faced a reception more complicated than racism or snobbery, according to Douglas Brinkley in his gushing review of Kerry's time in Vietnam, Tour of Duty.
"His fate would have been simpler in fact, if he were born an African-American from Atlanta or an Okie from Tulsa," Brinkley wrote. "Such clear anomalies at St. Paul's would have been accepted as legitimate outsiders, intelligent flukes of nature trying against ungodly odds to join the Eastern Establishment."
Rather than living the simple life of a black Atlantan in 1958, Kerry soldiered on as the poor outsider among the Brahmins, eventually dating Jacqueline Kennedy's half-sister, Janet Auchincloss. Through her, he was invited to go boating with President and the First Lady in 1962.
"If you look at those pictures of him with JFK on the boat, he looks kind of uncomfortable," says Howie Carr, Boston radio-show host and the Godfather of Bay State Kerry-watchers. "It's not like Clinton shaking hands with Kennedy at the White House, looking like, 'Hey, baby, this is where I belong.'"
Perhaps the weekends spent at Hammersmith Farm in Rhode Island, which was serving as the summer White House, seemed too much like the family gatherings at Naushon -- Jay Gatsby, masquerading among the privileged classes.
Regardless, Kerry eventually made peace with the world of wealth and lineage. He hosted two visits by the Clintons to Naushon in 1993 and 1994, with the president contributing a White House baseball cap to the informal "Presidential Hat Museum" that the Forbes family maintains in the main mansion on the island. Local lore claims the mansion is haunted by "ghosts of former Massachusetts governors."
There is no word on whether any of the ghosts have been glimpsed driving a phantom tank in pre-production Kerry for President campaign commercials.
Putin says Russia does not fear NATO
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder shake hands during a meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Friday, April 2, 2004. Schroeder and Putin are expected to focus on economic and security issues in talks during Schroeder's one-day visit on Friday. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia does not fear the expansion of NATO or the European Union, but acknowledged that Moscow has disputes with the EU and warned that NATO's eastward march won't improve international security.
Speaking after a meeting with German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Putin said that because more than half of Russia's trade will be with the expanded EU, "We have spoken about how relations between the Russian Federation and the expanding European Union should be built."
"None of us wants modern Europe to be divided by new, and this case virtual, Berlin walls," Putin said. "The question of how to find the path to this cooperation is not simple. We really did have - and still have - certain concerns. But dialogue is developing quite constructively at the moment."
He said he had discussed the problems with Schroeder.
"We have never expressed concern about the expansion of the European Union. Never," he said.
Putin stressed that Russia's relations with NATO "are developing positively." While he said that Russia has "no concerns about the expansion of NATO in terms of the security of the Russian Federation," he warned that "today's threats are such that the expansion of NATO will not remove them."
Moscow is bracing for possible trade and travel obstacles as the EU expands to welcome 10 new members, including eight former Soviet republics or satellites, on May 1.
Schroeder's visit came on a day when soldiers from seven Eastern European countries raised their national flags outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, marking the Western alliance's expansion into the former Soviet Union.
Kharrazi to visit Moscow Monday
Friday, April 02, 2004 - ?2004 IranMania.com
Tehran, April 2 (IranMania) -- According to Iran's State News Agency (IRNA) Iran's Foreign Minister Dr Kamal Kharrazi is to arrive in Moscow on Monday to take part in a meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian Sea littoral states.
The meeting, to open Tuesday, will be attended by Foreign Ministers of the sea`s five littoral states--Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
According to the Russian president`s special envoy for Caspian Sea affairs, Viktor Kalyuzni, the foreign ministers will tackle issues such as the military activities of states in the sea, an equitable manner of dividing the sea and determination of fishing areas.
The meeting will also make preliminary arrangements for a meeting of heads of the sea`s littoral countries to be held in Tehran this year.
Ch?vez tapping nation's rainy-day funds
Venezuelan President Ch?vez, scrounging for cash to pay for social welfare programs, is looking to tap the country's central bank.
BY RICHARD BRAND
CARACAS - Trying to pay for a social spending spree in the face of a possible recall vote, President Hugo Ch?vez has been seeking and using billions of dollars from government accounts previously off-limits to the executive branch.
Most recently, Ch?vez has renewed his effort to withdraw at least $1 billion from the autonomous central bank, which holds $23 billion in foreign reserves, most collected from oil export revenue. Ch?vez says the bank has $8 billion more than it really needs.
``That money doesnt belong to the central bank, or even to the government, the leftist populist Ch?vez said in a national television address Sunday. ``It belongs to all the people of Venezuela.''
The president says he is trying to help Venezuelas impoverished majority benefit from the countrys vast oil wealth. But critics who allege he is trying to impose an authoritarian regime say he is using money from rainy-day funds and the state-run oil monopoly, known as PDVSA, for political gain.
In the past year, Ch?vezs government has been on a spending spree -- building low-cost housing, digging water wells, launching healthcare and educational initiatives, including the creation of two universities -- that has swelled the national budget.
The boom in social spending comes as the opposition presses to oust Ch?vez with a recall referendum. Elected in 1998 with about 80 percent of the vote, Ch?vezs support has dwindled to the mid-30s, according to some polls.
Venezuela is the third- or fourth-largest oil supplier to the United States and sits on the largest crude reserves outside the Middle East. But decades of public corruption and mismanagement have left most of its people poor, a problem aggravated by recent political upheavals.
To pay for many of the new programs, analysts say, Ch?vez has looked outside the government's $26 billion budget for extra money. Hes found some of it at PDVSA, which, in a break from its past, is directly financing some of his large-scale social projects instead of channeling its profits through the official government budget.
Economists say the oil companys direct contribution to the social programs has topped $1 billion since early 2003, when Ch?vez fired nearly half of PDVSA's workers who had led a crippling national strike designed to force him from power.
PDVSA would not confirm the $1 billion figure, but a spokesman said the company ''supports'' social programs, among them, medical and infrastructure projects, which the company calls ``missions.''
Since the strike, PDVSA has shared its downtown Caracas headquarters with the countrys Ministry of Energy and Mines, underscoring the blurring of the line between the government and the once relatively independent oil company.
Ch?vezs move on the central bank, which he launched late last year with a demand for $1 billion and had apparently put aside until last week, has also been derided by critics who say it is another example of his undermining of the countrys independent institutions.
``This is not just a money grab, this is a power grab, said Orlando Ochoa, a professor of economics at the Catholic University in Caracas. ``It gives you power if you can use money to help people who can vote for you. His main goal is to stay in power . . . This is short-term happiness to get votes and medium-term economic disaster.''
Ironically, the central banks autonomous status is protected by a 1999 constitution that Ch?vez backed strongly. In his speech Sunday, he used soccer language to describe that protection as a mistake, a ``self-goal.
One of the banks directors, Armando Le?n, reaffirmed the banks autonomy on Monday, and instead suggested that Ch?vez replenish a national rainy-day fund that his government has already depleted, from $7 billion to $700 million since 2001.
The government is supposed to deposit money into the fund when oil prices are high and withdraw when they are low, so swings in oil prices dont drastically affect Venezuelas national budget.
But although oil prices are now high, Ch?vezs government has suspended deposits into that fund, partly to make up for revenue lost because of last years strike at PDVSA.
Meanwhile, some of the presidents supporters in Congress, who hold a slim majority, this week said they will draft laws allowing Ch?vez access to the central banks reserves.
``The economy has suffered because of the way the opposition took immense amounts of dollars out of the country and destroyed capitalism during the strikes, said Juan Barreto, a Ch?vez ally in Congress. ``To recuperate, the economy needs investment, particularly in the agricultural sector. It will allow us to compete in other markets and compete in the world.''
Several economists say the presidents proposal regarding the central bank would be devastating for the economy, arguing that it will undermine foreign investor confidence and cause inflation to soar.
''Im convinced that several members of his Cabinet know this is very dangerous, that this is playing with fire,'' said Pedro Palma, a professor of economics at Venezuelas IESA business school.
Gov't Warns of Summer Bomb Plots in U.S.
Apr 2, 1:41 PM (ET)
By CURT ANDERSON
WASHINGTON (AP) - Terrorists might try to bomb buses and rail lines in major U.S. cities this summer, according to a government bulletin issued to law enforcement officials nationwide.
The FBI and Homeland Security Department sent a bulletin Thursday night saying terrorists could attempt to conceal explosives in luggage and carry-on bags, such as duffel bags and backpacks.
The bulletin cites uncorroborated intelligence as indicating that such bombs could be made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel, similar to what was used to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building in April 1995.
A senior federal law enforcement official, speaking Friday on condition of anonymity, said recent intelligence, coupled with the deadly March 11 commuter train bombings in Madrid, has increased the level of concern about a potential attack in the United States.
The bulletin did not specify a particular city that might be targeted.
Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups have "demonstrated the intent and capability" to attack public transportation with a variety of bombs, including suicide bombers, the bulletin says. Such attacks have occurred in Israel, Greece, Turkey, Spain and elsewhere.
In Spain on Friday, police found a bomb connected to a detonator with a 450-foot cable under the tracks of a high-speed train railway between Madrid and Seville. Bomb disposal exports disarmed the device and no train was in the vicinity when it was discovered, Spanish officials said.
The U.S. bulletin says that a "viable" explosive constructed of ammonium nitrate and diesel "could be concealed in standard luggage."
British authorities earlier this week arrested eight people on suspicion of being involved in a possible terrorist plot that included the discovery of 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate.
The warning follows by one day an FBI bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies raising concern that terrorists might try to use cultural, artistic or athletic visas to slip into the United States undetected.
The new bulletin lists a number of suggestions for city transportation systems to enhance security. These include close monitoring of parking lots, removal of trash receptacles, limiting access points, improving lighting and beefing up overall law enforcement presence.
Barriers should be deployed at key points to prevent terrorists from parking a bomb-laden vehicle, possibly disguised as a delivery truck, close to entrances and exits.
"Question drivers and direct them to move immediately," the bulletin says.
In addition, the bulletin recommends passenger screening steps such as random security sweeps, positive matches of bags and cargo to passengers, and reminding passengers to immediately report any unattended bags or suspicious behavior.
Malaysian Terrorists: Osama Inspired Us
By JASBANT SINGH
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Admitting they were part of an Islamic terrorist group, four jailed Malaysians said Friday that a string of attacks against churches and other targets in Southeast Asia - including bombings in Bali that killed 202 people - was inspired by Osama bin Laden.
The claims, made in televised interviews, supported assertions that the Jemaah Islamiyah group is tied into al-Qaida. But comments by the suspects were denied by the accused leader of Jemaah Islamiyah and drew fire from human rights groups that warned the confessions may have been coerced.
Jemaah Islamiyah is thought to have been behind Christmas Eve church bombings in nine Indonesian cities in 2000 that killed 19 people, the nightclub blasts on the resort island of Bali and an August 2003 car bomb at a Jakarta hotel that killed 12 people.
Mohamed Nasir Abbas, one of the four men interviewed by Malaysia's TV3, said the bombings were inspired by religious edicts, known as fatwas, attributed to bin Laden.
"People who believed in the fatwa carried out bombings," Nasir said. "Therefore they bombed churches. The bombing in Bali was based on a policy to take revenge against America."
According to the edict, Muslims were told to kill "Americans wherever they are, irrespective of whether they are armed or not, whether they are soldiers or civilians or women, elderly people or children," Nasir said.
Another detainee, Amran Mansor, identified himself as a Jemaah Islamiyah fund-raiser and said he had transported explosives to Pekan Baru, the site of one of the church bombings.
Nasir and the other three men interviewed said they received military training in Afghanistan. They now renounce Jemaah Islamiyah, they said, because it killed Muslims and other innocent people.
They are being held in Indonesia on terror-related suspicions but it remains unclear whether authorities will press charges and how long they will be held.
"The likelihood that they may have been tortured and coerced into making false statements or confessions under interrogation is high," said Syed Ibrahim, head of a Malaysian human rights group devoted to improving prisoner conditions.
In the interview, Nasir identified Abu Bakar Bashir, an Indonesian Muslim cleric, as Jemaah Islamiyah's spiritual leader and said that Bashir and a man known as Hambali passed along bin Laden's wishes.
Bashir, who is being held in a Jakarta jail but is set to be released at the end of the month, despite U.S. pressure to keep him in custody, denies being the group's leader.
In a telephone interview from jail, Bashir told The Associated Press he suspected the latest claims against him were coerced by Indonesian and Malaysian officials eager to please the United States.
"Both the Indonesian and Malaysian police are working for American interests," Bashir said. "Now the United States is trying to arrange for my arrest to be extended."
Indonesian police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said authorities were gathering evidence to determine whether charges could be filed against Bashir.
Nasir said he took orders from Bashir as head of Jemaah Islamiyah's cell covering the islands of Borneo, Mindanao and parts of Sulawesi.
He said he smuggled explosives to Indonesia for the 2000 church bombings and ran several Jemaah Islamiyah training camps in the southern Philippines.
The Jemaah Islamiyah leader known as Hambali, who is now in U.S. custody, was thought "to be in communication with Osama bin Laden," Nasir said. "Whether this meant there was an official link between Jemaah islamiyah and al-Qaida, or it was just a personal relationship, I did not understand."
Mansor said during the interview that Hambali had picked some of Jemaah Islamiyah's targets.
Posted by maximpost at 2:56 PM EST