>> GASP! ?...ARCH CHINA SKEPTIC?
Cheney to promote nuke reactors to China
By H. JOSEF HEBERT
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Vice President Dick Cheney, center, shakes hands with Anchorage, Alaska mayor Mark Begich at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Friday, April 9, 2004. Cheney is en route to Asia. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
WASHINGTON -- On a trip to China next week to talk about high-stakes issues like terrorism and North Korea, Vice President Dick Cheney will have another task - making a pitch for Westinghouse's U.S. nuclear power technology.
At stake could be billions of dollars in business in coming years and thousands of American jobs. The initial installment of four reactors, costing $1.5 billion apiece, would also help narrow the huge U.S. trade deficit with China.
China's latest economic plan anticipates more than doubling its electricity output by 2020 and the Chinese government, facing enormous air pollution problems, is looking to shift some of that away from coal-burning plants. Its plan calls for building as many as 32 large 1,000-megawatt reactors over the next 16 years.
No one has ordered a new nuclear power reactor in the United States in three decades and the next one, if it comes, is still years away. So, China is being viewed by the U.S. industry as a potential bonanza.
Cheney's three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai next week is part of a weeklong trip to Asia that will also include a stop in Tokyo. He departed Washington on Friday.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters about the trip, said Cheney will not "pitch individual commercial transactions." But he intends to make clear "we support the efforts of our American companies" and general access to China's markets, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some critics are concerned about such technology transfers.
"This pitch could not be more poorly timed," Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told a hearing of the House International Relations Committee recently.
Citing recent Chinese plans to help Pakistan build two large reactors that are capable of producing plutonium, he said it is not the time for China to be rewarded with new reactor technology. U.S. officials said the Chinese have given adequate assurances that such sales will not pose a proliferation risk.
Bid solicitations for four new reactors are expected to be issued by the Chinese within months.
The leading competitors are U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. and a French rival, Areva, which is peddling its next-generation reactor built by its Framatome subsidiary.
Westinghouse is putting its hopes on its 1,100 megawatt AP1000 reactor, an advanced design that is still waiting approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before it can be built in the United States. Westinghouse, owned by the British nuclear firm BNFL, is the only U.S.-based manufacturer of a pressurized water reactor, the type of design China has said it wants to pursue.
"Clearly the China market is very important to the industry and a supplier like Westinghouse," said Vaughn Gilbert, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based reactor vendor. "The Chinese market is one that we're pursuing."
Each of the AP1000 reactors are expected to cost about $1.5 billion. "We would assume there would be more than one order," Gilbert said, since China has indicated it wants a standardized design across its reactor program. A successful bid could mean 5,000 American jobs, Gilbert said in an interview.
For the nuclear industry, the potential windfall goes beyond building the power plants.
"The opportunity is not just in selling the Chinese a number of reactors, but engaging them for a longer term in a strategic partnership," says Ron Simard, who deals with future plant development at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group. That could mean future construction contracts as well as plant service business.
The reactor business has been nonexistent in the United States since the 1970s. No American utility has ordered a new reactor since the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
So, vendors like Westinghouse are relying on business elsewhere, especially Asia.
China currently has nine operating reactors, including French, Canadian, Russian, and Japanese designs as well as their own model, producing 6,450 megawatts of power, or about 1.4 percent total capacity. Chinese officials have estimated that by 2020 the country will need an additional 32,000 megawatts from its nuclear industry, or about 32 additional reactors.
Even with the surge in reactor construction, nuclear power will only account for 8 percent of China's future electricity needs. Chinese officials said at an energy conference in Washington last year their country must more than double its coal-fired generation and build more dams, erect windmills and tap natural gas to meet future electricity demands.
Cheney Reaching Out to Asia
Iraq, N. Korea's Nuclear Crisis Top Likely Agenda
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 9, 2004; Page A12
Vice President Cheney departs today on only his third foreign trip since taking office, a week-long tour of Japan, China and South Korea designed to cement ties and press for progress in the North Korea nuclear crisis. But the sudden flare-up of violence in Iraq -- including the seizure of Japanese and South Korean nationals -- could dominate Cheney's talks with key leaders.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters in advance of the trip, said the kidnappings will be "very much on their minds" in Tokyo and Seoul and thus will be a likely topic for discussion. Japan and South Korea each have more than 500 military personnel in Iraq assisting reconstruction, and the possible deployment of 3,000 South Korean troops has become an issue in next Thursday's parliamentary elections.
Seven South Korean missionaries were briefly kidnapped yesterday and later freed unharmed. But an Iraqi group said yesterday that it will burn alive three Japanese hostages -- two aid workers and a journalist -- unless Tokyo withdraws its troops from Iraq within three days. The deadline would be during Cheney's time in Tokyo, the first stop on his tour.
Cheney, who will travel only with his own foreign policy advisers rather than State Department officials or National Security Council staffers, will tell the Asian allies that the Bush administration believes "it is very important to stay on course" and that the United States will stay in Iraq "as long as necessary to get the job done," said the senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"It's a classic case, I think, of those who are opposed to what we're trying to do in Iraq, trying to change the behavior of governments through terror, intimidation, the threat of violence," he said. "It's important that those of us who are working on this overall effort not allow that to happen."
North Korea's nuclear ambitions had been expected to be at the center of the discussions with all three countries, though the official sought to play down expectations of any breakthrough. "We've got to keep working the problem; it's three yards and a cloud of dust," he said. "There is no touchdown pass here, so to speak."
Another administration official said that Beijing, after a meeting between the Chinese foreign minister and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, recently informed a U.S. envoy that the onus was on the United States to show more flexibility. But Cheney is expected to emphasize that the administration is determined to insist that North Korea resolve the impasse over its nuclear programs. The administration has insisted that North Korea irreversibly and verifiably dismantle them.
"It will be useful for the Chinese to hear him say plainly, as he does, that when we say no incentives, we mean no incentives," the official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The White House has not disclosed precise details of Cheney's trip, but Asian news services have reported that Cheney will arrive in Tokyo tomorrow. He will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the Japanese emperor. Before leaving for China, Cheney will give a speech celebrating 150 years of U.S.-Japan relations.
In China, Cheney will meet Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan, Premier Wen Jiabao, former president Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao in Beijing and give a speech at Fudan University in Shanghai. He will then fly to Seoul to meet with Prime Minister Goh Kun, also South Korea's acting president during the country's impeachment trial of Roh Moo Hyun, and address U.S. troops.
The timing of Cheney's trip -- originally scheduled for a year ago but later scrubbed by the White House -- was dictated by the Senate schedule, the senior official said. Cheney, who in his role as president of the Senate can cast the tie-breaking vote, does not like to leave the country when the Senate is in session.
But traveling next week leaves the vice president vulnerable to possible awkward moments. He is to arrive in Seoul on the day parliamentary elections are held. And he may be in China when the dispute over Taiwan's elections are resolved.
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
North Korea says standoff with US at "brink of nuclear war"
North Korea said Friday the standoff over its atomic ambitions was on the brink of nuclear war as US Vice President Dick Cheney headed to the region for talks with key Asian allies.
The Stalinist state's official news agency accused Washington of "driving the military situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war" with plans for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.
Cheney is expected in Tokyo on Saturday on the first leg of an Asian tour that also takes him to China and South Korea.
North Korea described six-party talks held in Beijing in February as "fruitless," their harshest assessment so far of the meeting that brought together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
"The US demand that the DPRK (North Korea) scrap its nuclear programme first is the main obstacle in the way of solving the nuclear issue between the DPRK and the US," the Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary.
"It is a well-known fact that the second round of the six-way talks held in Beijing last February proved fruitless due to the US demand that the DPRK dismantle its nuclear program first."
Washington is demanding the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear prorgammes, both plutonium and enriched uranium schemes, before it will offer concessions to the impoverished state.
Pyongyang denies having a uranium programme and has said it will freeze its plutonium weapons programme in return for simultaneous rewards from Washington.
A new round of six-party talks is expected before the end of June while working parties are supposed to be set up to resolve address contentious issues.
South Korea's foreign ministry said all participating countries were ready for working level talks apart from North korea, which has yet to give the go ahead.
In the commentary the North Korean news agency said Pyongyang had no choice but to boost its nuclear weapons drive in the face of US intransigence and its "moves to put the strategy of pre-emptive nuclear attack into practice."
Cheney's trip to Asia has been overshadowed by the deteriorating security situation in Iraq where insurgents are threatening to kill three Japanese hostages unless Tokyo pulls out troops from the war-torn region.
Seven South Koreans were released earlier Friday after also falling into the hands of insurgents.
Muslim charity asks U.S. for frozen funds
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- A Muslim charity is seeking permission to have some of its money, which was frozen by the government, released for legitimate aid purposes.
The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development filed a request Friday to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to unfreeze $50,000 to be sent to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, which seeks to provide free medical care for Palestinian children in the Middle East.
The Bush administration in 2001 accused Holy Land, a Texas-based group, of financing the militant Islamic group Hamas and ordered U.S. banks to freeze its assets. Holy Land says it has never donated money or provided services to Hamas, a group the government says is a foreign terrorist organization.
The Treasury Department had no immediate comment on Holy Land's request. Last year, a Treasury official said the general notion of taking frozen charitable assets and releasing them for legitimate aid purposes was a complex matter worth exploring.
Saudis dismiss U.S. oil diversification efforts
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, April 9, 2004
Saudi Arabia appears unimpressed with U.S. efforts to diversify its energy suppliers.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Nueimi predicted that alternatives to Persian Gulf crude oil would diminish over the next decade, Middle East Newsline reported. Al Nueimi said there were no proven oil or natural gas reserves that could compete with those in the Gulf region -- including those in Africa, the North Sea, Caspian Sea or Russia.
"And so eventually it's going to come down, in the next 10 years or so, to the [Persian] Gulf area," Al Nuemi said in an interview with the Oil & Gas Journal. "I know people today are clamoring for diversification of sources of supply and stability in the gulf area. Believe me, in the final analysis, the world will be better off to depend on the Gulf. That's where God has put those reserves."
The Saudi minister dismissed claims by U.S. experts that Saudi oil reserves were depleting. He said the kingdom has proven reserves of 260.4 billion barrels of which half has been developed.
Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.
Pentagon: Tanker plan needs major changes
By MATTHEW DALY
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon should not move forward on a $23.5 billion plan to acquire 100 midair refueling tankers from Boeing Co. until significant changes are made to the deal, the Pentagon's inspector general said Friday.
In a highly critical report, Inspector General Joseph Schmitz said procedural and financial problems with the deal could cause the government to spend up to $4.5 billion more than necessary.
Once the changes are made, however, there is no compelling reason not to complete the deal, the report said.
The long-anticipated report said the Air Force's decision to acquire the tankers as a commercial item put the Pentagon at "high risk for paying excessive prices and profits and precludes good fiduciary responsibility" for Defense Department funds.
It also said senior Air Force officials failed to comply with military contracting laws; accepted insufficient or inaccurate Boeing data during negotiations; and wrongly waived any right to audit the program once it gets started.
The Air Force, in a response included in the report, said it followed procedures outlined by Congress "and reviewed and improved within the (Defense) Department using approved acquisition processes."
The Air Force and Boeing also disputed the report's claim that the Air Force "cannot ensure to the war fighter" that the tankers will meet the military's operational requirements.
In a detailed statement, Boeing said it met 26 key performance standards set out in a November 2001 Air Force document and modified the following March. The company created "a totally compliant design" that meets all Air Force requirements, as well as standards set by senior Pentagon officials, Boeing said.
The Air Force said in its response that the new KC-767s "will be the world's newest and most advanced tanker" and are "critical to the defense of our country."
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a leading supporter of the deal, said the report "confirmed what I have been saying for nearly three years: We need these airplanes, and there is no reason to stop the tanker lease from moving forward."
The planes will be made at Boeing's Everett, Wash., plant, and modified for military use in Wichita, Kan. In the unusual deal, the Defense Department would lease 20 767 tankers and buy another 80 planes.
"The bottom line is that the IG found no reason not to proceed with the tanker deal - and that's good," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman, said the report demonstrates "fundamental differences in interpretation" between the audit team's experts and Air Force acquisition and legal experts.
"Although this was an admittedly complex and novel proposal to lease commercial aircraft modified to serve as tanker aircraft, the audit team found no compelling reason to not proceed with the leasing arrangement," Cassidy said.
The Air Force believes that language enacted by Congress in late 2001 supports the lease program, and that its terms provide sufficient protection for taxpayers, Cassidy said.
The inspector general has been looking into the deal since last year, after questions arose about ethical issues surrounding the way Boeing pursued the multibillion-dollar contract.
A grand jury in Virginia is investigating potentially illegal actions by Darleen Druyun, a top Air Force official involved in the contract talks who was later hired by Boeing. Druyun was fired last year, after an internal review found improprieties in her hiring.
Boeing also fired its chief financial officer over what it depicted as an attempted cover-up of the hiring procedures. The Pentagon later suspended the contract pending completion of the inspector general's report and separate studies by the Pentagon's general counsel, the Defense Science Board and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
The report released Friday outlines three options for the Pentagon, including delaying the entire project until an analysis of alternatives is completed - which could force officials to reopen the project to new bids.
In the best option for Boeing, the report advises the Pentagon to alter more than a dozen aspects of the deal before moving forward with the existing plan.
Another option calls for the Pentagon to make changes and acquire 100 tankers, and then initiate an analysis of alternatives for any remaining planes.
On the Net:
Boeing Co.: http://www.boeing.com
>> 9/11 UH...
DAY OF INFAMY 2001
Osama brief 'old intel'
senator stated in 2002
Bob Graham said Aug. 6 memo to president had details his panel had known for 3 years
Posted: April 9, 2004
5:00 p.m. Eastern
? 2004 WorldNetDaily.com
The Presidential Daily Brief at the heart of contentious exchanges in Condoleezza Rice's 9-11 Commission testimony yesterday contained old information about Osama bin Laden's threat to the United States, according to comments made two years ago by Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.
The May 21, 2002, interview with Human Events magazine backs up Rice's insistence that an Aug. 6, 2001, memo to President Bush did not warn of specific attacks inside the United States, but rather was "historical information based on old reporting."
In the 2002 interview, Graham said the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he chaired, saw all the information given to the president.
The senator said the threats of hijacking in the Aug. 6 memo were based on very old intelligence the committee had seen earlier.
"The particular report that was in the President's Daily Briefing that day was about three years old," Graham said. "It was not a contemporary piece of information."
Yesterday, however, commission member and Democratic lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste pressed Rice on the memo.
Ben-Veniste: Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB [Presidential Daily Briefing] warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB?
Rice: I believe the title was, Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.
Now, the . . .
Ben-Veniste: Thank you.
Rice: No, Mr. Ben-Veniste . . .
Ben-Veniste: I will get into the . . .
Rice: I would like to finish my point here.
Ben-Veniste: I didn't know there was a point.
Rice: Given that - you asked me whether or not it warned of attacks.
Ben-Veniste: I asked you what the title was.
Rice: You said, did it not warn of attacks. It did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.
Presidential Daily Briefs are a compilation of information from law enforcement and intelligence agencies which normally are seen only by top presidential officials.
The commission already has had access to the Aug. 6, 2001, brief, but chairman Thomas Kean said he wants it released to the public "because we feel it's important that the American people get a chance to see it."
National Security Council spokesman, Sean McCormack said yesterday, "We have every intention to declassify it."
>> SLATE NOTES...
Rice is tasked to fall on her sword.
Compiled by Kevin Arnovitz
Updated Friday, April 9, 2004, at 1:59 PM PT
Subject: "Rice is Tasked to Fall on Her Sword"
Re: "Condi Lousy: Why Rice is a bad national security adviser."
Date: Fri Apr 9 1229h
One clear inference can be drawn from Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission this morning: She has been a bad national security adviser--passive, sluggish, and either unable or unwilling to tie the loose strands of the bureaucracy into a sensible vision or policy. In short, she has not done what national security advisers are supposed to do.
Actually, what is clear to me now--after watching Rice's testimony and then reading some of the more astonishing quotes from it last evening in various news reports--is that Rice isn't a national security adviser at all. That is, her job--unlike that of all the others, such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Poindexter, Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger--was, and is, not to give the president national security advice but instead to carry out orders given by those who actually were devising national security policy: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith.
Rice was simply a glorified supervisory bureaucrat. Her job was to take and carry out orders--or, as she repeatedly put it, to be "tasked"--to carry out this or that bureaucratic aspect of the national security policy set by Cheney and Rumsfeld with the input of Wolfowitz and Feith. Rice was almost as much out of the loop as was Richard Clarke; she was present at these "principles' meetings, but only to receive her marching orders.
Rice didn't get Clarke a meeting with the principles because Rice couldn't get Clarke a meeting with the principles. Rice didn't order the FBI director to "shake the trees" of that agency--nor even to notify the field offices of the stunningly clear indications from al Qaeda intercepts about a very, very, very, very big and imminent terrorist attack possibly within this country, or even inquire whether the field offices that were tracking al Qaeda cells within this country had any information that, viewed in light of the intercepted messages, might help pinpoint any such plot within the U.S.--because Rice lacked the authority to do so on her own.
Nor, apparently, did she even have the authority to decide on her own to demand that the FBI director (and later the acting FBI director) do so. Apparently, she lacked the authority even to notify the FBI director of the threats--excuse me, of the non-threats--about some "unbelievable news in coming weeks," about a "big event" that will cause "a very, very, very, very big uproar," about the announcement that "there will be attacks in the near future".
And she didn't have the authority--or maybe the proper word here is clout--to persuade Bush meet not just with the CIA director but also with the FBI director. In that dramatic exchange between her and Ben-Veniste in which Ben-Veniste demanded a yes-or-no answer to his question whether Rice had told Bush "at any time prior to August 6th, of the existence of al-Qaida cells in the United States" although Rice herself had been told of this in early 2001, she answered, finally, that she didn't recall whether or not she had done so.
Rice wasn't tasked to tell the president of the existence of al Qaeda cells in the United States, and so she didn't. Rice was tasked with furthering Cheney's and Rumsfeld's goals of pushing the missile defense system's funding and development and of toppling Saddam Hussein.
The threat posed by Al Qaeda cells in the U.S. didn't further either of these two goals, and in fact hindered the first of them; a big argument against the obscenely expensive and scientifically unperfected missile system was precisely that with the end of the Cold War, the biggest security threat to the U.S. was the potential for terrorists to wreak havoc simply by infiltrating the country. So Rice, untasked to tell the president of the presence of al Qaeda cells within the U.S., didn't tell the president of the presence of al Qaeda cells within the U.S.
Bizarre though it was, her weirdest statement was not the one in which she that the intercepts about "a very, very, very, very big uproar" that will be caused by "unbelievable news in coming weeks" about "attacks in the near future" were "[t]roubling, yes," but because "they don't tell us when; they don't tell us where; they don't tell us who; and they don't tell us how" they were not quite troubling enough for her to task herself to notify the FBI director and the field offices about them.
No, of all the many bizarre comments Rice made yesterday, the loopiest, in my opinion-- and anyway the most starkly factually inaccurate--was her incessant claim that because of "structural" and legal prohibitions, the CIA director couldn't tell the FBI director that there were certain known al Qaeda operatives who had entered the country.
Is she claiming that at the "battle stations" shake-the-trees meetings that Clarke and others say occurred in late 1999 among the various national security "principles" including the CIA director and the FBI director didn't really occur because of structural problems? Or that those meetings occurred but that the CIA director didn't tell the FBI director any valuable information he had because it would have been illegal to do so? Or that the CIA director did pass along to the FBI director the information he had, and that his doing so violated the law?
Good heavens. What law, pray tell, is she talking about? What law would have prevented George Tenet from giving to the FBI director the pertinent information he had--about the contents of the al Qaeda intercepts and about the few al Qaeda operatives the CIA knew already had entered the country?
"Every day now in the Oval Office in the morning," Rice said in answer to a question about whether the structural problems that hampered communications between the CIA and the FBI had been resolved, "the FBI director and the CIA director sit with the president, sharing information in ways that they would have been prohibited to share that information before." Indeed. And that's precisely what Clarke said transpired during the Clinton administration in the weeks before the millennium, in order to try to thwart any planned terrorist attacks then. And it's exactly what Clarke says he tried to communicate with Bush, via Rice, that he, Bush should do.
Perhaps the most revealing answer Rice gave yesterday was in answer to a question inquiring about the steps, if any, Bush took in response to the information in the Aug. 6 security briefing that said [according to Bob Kerrey and Ben-Veniste] "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking." Rice said Bush met every day with the CIA director.
Not with the CIA director and the FBI director. Just with the CIA director. The structural problem that kept the FBI director and the CIA director from communicating the most critical information to each other during the months preceding 9/11 was, in other words, a structural problem of the Bush administration's own making.
That structural problem was, in turn, created by a truly profound one, a thoroughly stunning one--even to me. It's a structural problem revealed most starkly by Bush's failure, upon being told on Aug 6, 2001 that "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking" especially in light of George Tenet's warnings to him throughout that summer that al Qaeda intercepts were speaking of a very, very, very big event.
The structural problem is simply this: Bush was the president in name only, a genuine figurehead, with no intellectual decisionmaking capability whatsoever, and that Cheney was the actual president at least with respect to national security matters. The information in the Aug. 6 "PDB"--the presidential daily briefing--wasn't given to the actual president. Nor were Tenet's daily oral and written reports. They were given only to the figurehead president, and not transmitted to the real one, who already had determined the administration's national security agenda and therefore wasn't interested in them.
Thus Rice's constant references to policy rather than to responding to--acting in light of--information being received. Rice wasn't tasked to attempt to learn of the nature and locale of the impending very, very, very big event al Qaeda was planning because the policy regarding invading Afghanistan, and what they thought was the requisite of getting Pakistan on board, wasn't yet in place.
Among the more annoying euphemisms in currently in vogue among the punditry is the one they use to acknowledge that Bush is very seriously lacking in intellectual capacity: they say he is "incurious". But stupid as I recognize him to be, even I wouldn't have suspected that, handed information that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking, and handed information that al Qaeda was planning an attack it thought would cause a huge uproar, George W. Bush would be so incurious as to not phone the FBI director and ask what exactly were those patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.
But now, thanks to Rice's testimony yesterday, I and all the world know that that wasn't tasked to Bush. It was tasked to Cheney--or rather it would have been, had Cheney rather than Bush been the one to receive the Aug. 6 PDB, and had he been the one to meet daily with Tenet.
I had thought throughout the Clarke controversy, until yesterday, that the real political damage to Bush from would come from the recognition by a majority of the public, finally, that it makes us less rather than more safe--both physically and economically--to have a strong-'n-decisive leader whose strength-'n-decisive leadership amounts to determining policy based purely on ideology and patronage rather than on the actual needs of the county and on facts, and who forces through these polices irrespective of circumstances and evidence about their actual effects on the country.
But I think now that that, even more than that, the political damage Bush will suffer will come from the ultimate epiphany that the most damning caricature of this president is true: He's jaw-droppingly stupid, and so Dick Cheney is the actual president. Cheney isn't obsessively secretive for nothing.
Troubling, yes. Very.
Condi Rice was asked to fall on her sword in order to try to keep this secret from escaping. She obliged and destroyed herself, but didn't succeed in her mission.
>> SLATE 2...
Decoding Rice's self-serving testimony.
By William Saletan
Updated Thursday, April 8, 2004, at 4:16 PM PT
Condi: in her own words
Four years ago, when the Justice Department deposed Al Gore in the Clinton fund-raising scandal, I poked fun at Gore's self-serving, hypocritical redefinitions of everyday words. Today, National Security Adviser Condi Rice resorted to similar tactics in her testimony before the 9/11 commission. Here's a glossary of her terms.
Gathering threats: Unclear perils that previous administrations irresponsibly failed to confront quickly. Example: For more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered, and America's response across several administrations of both parties was insufficient. Historically, democratic societies have been slow to react to gathering threats, tending instead to wait to confront threats until they are too dangerous to ignore or until it is too late.
Vague threats: Unclear perils that the Bush administration understandably failed to confront quickly. Example: The threat reporting that we received in the spring and summer of 2001 was not specific as to time, nor place, nor manner of attack. ... The threat reporting was frustratingly vague.
Up-to-date intelligence: The precise, useful information the administration responsibly demanded and got. Example: President Bush revived the practice of meeting with the director of Central Intelligence almost every day. ... At these meetings, the president received up-to-date intelligence. ... From Jan. 20 through Sept. 10, the president received at these daily meetings more than 40 briefing items on al-Qaida.
Specific threat information: The precise, useful information the administration didn't get, thereby absolving it of responsibility. Example: On Aug. 6, 2001, the president's intelligence briefing ... referred to uncorroborated reporting, from 1998, that a terrorist might attempt to hijack a U.S. aircraft in an attempt to blackmail the government into releasing U.S.-held terrorists. ... This briefing item was not prompted by any specific threat information.
Specific warnings: The precise, useful alerts the administration issued based on the information it got. Example: I asked Dick [Clarke] to make sure that domestic agencies were aware of the heightened threat period and were taking appropriate steps to respond. ... The FAA issued at least five civil aviation security information circulars to all U.S. airlines and airport security personnel, including specific warnings about the possibility of hijacking.
Briefing: Addition to a warning, without which the warning is insufficient. Example: To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chairman, this kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us.
Recommendation: Addition to a briefing, without which the briefing is insufficient. Example: In the memorandum that Dick Clarke sent me on Jan. 25, he mentions sleeper cells. There is no mention or recommendation of anything that needs to be done about them.
Historical: Communications that mentioned the past and were therefore irrelevant to the future. Example: The Aug. 6 PDB [president's daily briefing] ...was not a particular threat report. And there was historical information in there about various aspects of al-Qaida's operations. ... This was not a warning. This was a historic memo.
Analytical: Documents given to the administration that were general and therefore useless. Example: On the Aug. 6 memorandum to the president, this was not threat reporting about what was about to happen. This was an analytic piece. ... Threat reporting is, "We believe that something is going to happen here and at this time, under these circumstances." This was not threat reporting. ... The PDB does not say the United States is going to be attacked. It says Bin Laden would like to attack the United States."
Broad: Documents issued by the administration that were general and therefore effective. Example: Our counterterrorism strategy was a part of a broader package of strategies that addressed the complexities of the region.
Structural: Factors that the administration couldn't influence because they were systematic. Example: The absence of light, so to speak, on what was going on inside the country, the inability to connect the dots, was really structural.
Chance: Factors that the administration couldn't influence because they were non-systematic. Example (answering charges that the administration might have disrupted the 9/11 plot by holding regular Cabinet "principals" meetings on terrorism): You cannot depend on the chance that some principal might find out something in order to prevent an attack. That's why the structural changes that are being talked about here are so important. Synonym: Lucky. Example: I do not believe that it is a good analysis to go back and assume that somehow maybe we would have gotten lucky by "shaking the trees." ... We had a structural problem.
Bureaucratic impediments: Factors that the administration couldn't influence because they involved the administration. Example: We did have a systemic problem, a structural problem. ... It was there because there were legal impediments, as well as bureaucratic impediments.
Set of ideas: Richard Clarke's proposals for fighting al-Qaida, prior to being adopted by Bush. Antonym: Plan. Example: We were not presented with a plan. ... What we were presented on Jan. 25 was a set of ideas.
Strategy: Clarke's proposals for fighting al-Qaida, as adopted by Bush. Example: We decided to take a different track. We decided to put together a strategic approach to this that would get the regional powers. ... But by no means did [Clarke] ask me to act on a plan. He gave us a series of ideas.
Swatting flies: Bill Clinton's weak, partial counterterrorist measures. Example: [Bush] made clear to us that he did not want to respond to al-Qaida one attack at a time. He told me he was tired of swatting flies. ... He felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that's what he meant by swatting flies.
Disrupting: Bush's strong, partial counterterrorist measures. Example: [Bush] directed the director of Central Intelligence to prepare an aggressive program of covert activities to disrupt al-Qaida.
Law enforcement: Clinton's weak policy of targeting individual terrorists. Example: That's actually where we've had the biggest change. The president doesn't think of this as law enforcement. He thinks of this as war.
Hunting down terrorists one by one: Bush's strong policy of targeting individual terrorists. Example: Under his leadership, the United States and our allies are disrupting terrorist operations, cutting off their funding and hunting down terrorists one by one.
Diplomacy: Clinton's impotent pleas to foreign governments. Example: We were continuing the diplomatic efforts. But we did want to take the time to get in place a policy that was more strategic toward al-Qaida, more robust.
Strong messages: Bush's potent pleas to foreign governments. Example: Within a month of taking office, President Bush sent a strong private message to President Musharraf, urging him to use his influence with the Taliban to bring Bin Laden to justice and to close down al-Qaida training camps.
Deferral: Clinton's irresponsible postponement of counterterrorism ideas. Example: We also made decisions on a number of specific anti-al-Qaida initiatives that had been proposed by Dick Clarke to me in an early memorandum after we had taken office. Many of these ideas had been deferred by the last administration.
Taking time: Bush's prudent postponement of counterterrorism ideas. Example: We did want to take the time to get in place a policy that was more strategic toward al-Qaida, more robust. It takes some time to think about how to reorient your policy toward Pakistan. It takes some time to think about how to have a more effective policy toward Afghanistan.
William Saletan is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.
>> HEIMAT GASP...
Seattle an al-Qaida target? Local security officials left out of loop
By PAUL SHUKOVSKY
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told the nation yesterday -- and apparently for the first time law enforcement in Seattle -- that the CIA warned President Bush that al-Qaida terrorists might try to hijack an airplane and free would-be terrorist bomber Ahmed Ressam.
Ressam, who has become an important government witness in terrorism cases, has spent most of the time since his December 1999 arrest in the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac.
In testimony before the Sept. 11 commission, Rice added that checks had been made on whether a courthouse involving the Ressam case in 2001 was under surveillance and that "the FBI had full field investigations under way."
But the special agent in charge of the FBI's Seattle office at the time said yesterday that he never heard of any such investigations. And retired agent Charles Mandigo added that no one ever informed him of threats to the prison or the courthouse.
Mandigo is not alone:
The chief district judge who presided over Ressam's case said that his courthouse said no one told him his courthouse was under threat.
A deputy U.S. marshal charged with courthouse security said no one informed the Marshal's Service about the danger.
An assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Ressam said he never heard a thing about it.
A federal anti-terrorism agent said if there was an investigation into threats against the courthouse and the prison, no one told the local joint terrorism task force.
But a White House spokesman defended Rice's testimony as accurate.
"These statements represent what was in the PDB (president's daily brief from the CIA) -- the information presented to the president," said spokesman Frederick Jones.
Asked why information about the threats appears not to have been passed on to federal and local law enforcement in Seattle, Jones said:
"I cannot take at prima facie value that you've contacted the correct FBI agents. I don't know what the ground truth is."
And Jones added that "whether the information (in the CIA briefing) is correct or not" is a matter for the intelligence agencies to address.
Jones urged that publication of a story wait until the White House declassifies the Aug. 6, 2001, briefing. He said it is highly likely that it will be made public today.
Rice's comments came in response to aggressive questioning from Sept. 11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste about the content of the intelligence briefing.
Rice responded by saying that:
"The fact is that this August 6th PDB was in response to the president's questions about whether or not something might happen or something might be planned by al-Qaida inside the United States. He asked because all of the threat reporting or the threat reporting that was actionable was about the threats abroad, not about the United States.
"This particular PDB had a long section on what bin Laden had wanted to do -- speculative, much of it -- in '97, '98; that he had, in fact, liked the results of the 1993 bombing.
"It had a number of discussions of -- it had a discussion of whether or not they might use hijacking to try and free a prisoner who was being held in the United States -- Ressam. It reported that the FBI had full field investigations under way.
"And we checked on the issue of whether or not there was something going on with surveillance of buildings, and we were told, I believe, that the issue was the courthouse in which this might take place."
Rice's mention of the 1993 bombing apparently refers to the attack in February of that year on the World Trade Center in New York.
Customs agents arrested Ressam in December 1999 after he arrived in Port Angeles on a ferry from Victoria, B.C. He had explosives in his trunk and had plans to use them at Los Angeles International Airport.
He is awaiting sentencing after striking a deal with the government to testify in other terrorism cases.
Proceedings in the Ressam case took place in two federal courthouses, Seattle and Los Angeles. The case began in Seattle before Chief District Judge John Coughenour, who moved the trial to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity. Coughenour presided over the case in both cities. Asked yesterday whether he was told about a terrorist surveillance on the courthouse, he said: "No sir. No, I never heard anything about it." Coughenour has a top-secret security clearance.
The U.S. Marshals Service, an agency of the Department of Justice, is responsible for courthouse security. One deputy marshal present during the Ressam proceedings said yesterday: "I never heard it. If I knew they were doing surveillance of our building, we would have done countersurveillance."
A chief deputy marshal at the Los Angeles federal courthouse yesterday refused to comment.
But former Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Gonzalez, a member of the team who prosecuted Ressam, said yesterday that he was not told of any FBI investigations or threats to the courthouse. "I knew nothing of it," said Gonzalez, now a state court judge.
And a member of Ressam's defense team, federal public defender Tom Hillier, said yesterday that no one informed him of such a threat. Hillier said yesterday that security arrangements surrounding Ressam did not hurt the defense team's ability to do its job.
Hillier said Ressam has spent most of his time since he was arrested at the federal detention center in SeaTac.
P-I reporter Paul Shukovsky can be reached at 206-448-8072 or email@example.com
Bush pursued continuity; who knows what the 9/11 Commission is pursuing.
Give Condoleezza Rice credit for candor. Testifying before the 9/11 Commission today, President Bush's national-security adviser acknowledged that the United States "simply was not on a war footing" at the time the terrorist atrocities of 9/11 were committed.
When should the U.S. government have taken the threat of radical, ideological Islamism seriously? Perhaps as far back as 1979, when our embassy in Tehran was seized by Iranian theocrats; perhaps as far back as 1983 when Hezbollah suicide terrorists slaughtered hundreds of U.S. Marines and diplomats in Beirut; certainly as far back as the attacks over Lockerbie, at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the USS Cole.
But that's not what happened. Instead, one American administration after another, Democratic and Republican alike, made gestures, sent signals, and mobilized lawyers armed with subpoenas. The terrorists and their masters could only have been amused. Yes, it would have been brilliant had President Bush entered the Oval Office, looked at this pattern and quickly concluded: "From this moment on, defeating terrorism and the ideologies driving terrorism should be seen as America's top priority. I want these networks rolled up ASAP. Use whatever means necessary."
Actually, President Bush came close to saying that. He asked for a policy review and a comprehensive strategy. But even had Dr. Rice -- or counterterrorism "czar" Richard Clarke -- come up with such a plan within 24 hours, President Bush could not have implemented it during his first eight months in office. The U.S. government simply did not have the means at its disposal. Consider:
The FBI's mission and culture stressed solving crimes, not preventing them.
The intelligence community didn't have good enough intelligence -- which led, for example, to Clinton bombing a Sudanese aspirin factory a few years earlier, thinking it was a WMD factory.
The Pentagon didn't know much about terrorists -- the Defense Department's manual on fighting "small wars" was written in 1940.
The Foreign Service hadn't prepared the ground -- Pakistan was still cozy with the Taliban and would not have permitted the U.S. to mount acts of war from their territory. Key foreign-service officers were still supporting what they called "moderate" Taliban elements.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service was too hopeless a muddle to distinguish between tourists eager to see the Statue of Liberty and terrorists eager to mass murder infidels.
And Congress -- Democrats, for sure, but also such Republican mandarins as Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar -- would have been apoplectic had President Bush attempted to take any of the measures necessary to root out the long-established weeds of terrorism. Imagine the uproar had Bush begun assassinating terrorist leaders around the world or preemptively invaded Afghanistan.
Instead, of course, as Condoleezza Rice made clear today, the new Bush administration did the reasonable thing, the responsible thing, the bipartisan thing: It maintained continuity. It sailed the course set by President Clinton, and it even used key members of the Clinton crew.
George Tenet was retained as director of Central Intelligence. Dick Clarke kept his job as White House terrorism adviser. Others who might have expected to receive pink slips were instead given a pat on the back and told to keep up the good work. A Democrat -- Norman Mineta -- was named secretary of transportation, the Cabinet position most responsible for airline safety.
President Roosevelt waited until after World War II to put in place a commission to investigate what mistakes led to Pearl Harbor. That was a wise move, but then Roosevelt did not face the kind of hyper-partisanship that plagues America these days. (Washington Post columnist David Broder recently pointed out that when FDR ran for reelection during World War II, he emphasized his record as a war leader. Broder might have added that FDR's Republican opponent, Thomas Dewey, declined to criticize the president in regard to foreign policy during a time of war. It's almost hard to believe that there was a time when Americans knew the difference between their foreign enemies and their political adversaries.)
Increasingly, it seems the 9/11 Commission is losing its way. Its mission is to learn lessons -- not to lay blame. Its mission is to come up with recommendations for a more effective antiterrorism strategy.
Its mission is not to stage a reality-TV show, not to hold an inquisition, not to promote books (and, no doubt, movie deals), not to scold Rice as though she were a student who claimed her dog had eaten her homework.
But that's what the public is seeing out here in TV-land.
-- Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.
9/11 documents show hijacking warnings
By CURT ANDERSON
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste questions National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice during testimoney to the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks Thursday, April 8, 2004, in Washington Commission chairman Thomas Kean watches at left. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
WASHINGTON -- U.S. government agencies issued repeated warnings in the summer of 2001 about potential terrorist plots against the United States masterminded by Osama bin Laden, including a possible plan to hijack commercial aircraft, documents show.
While there were no specific targets mentioned in the United States, there was intelligence indicating al-Qaida might attempt to crash a plane into the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. And other reports said Islamic extremists might try to hijack a plane to gain release of comrades.
The escalating seriousness was reflected in a series of warnings issued by the State Department, Federal Aviation Administration, Defense Department and others detailing a heightened risk of terror attacks targeting Americans.
Whether the Bush administration had enough information to take more aggressive action is at the heart of the dispute over the contents of an Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence briefing the White House was working to declassify at the urging of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. White House officials said the document would not come out Friday and probably would not be ready for release until early next week.
Several Democrats on the commission claim the memo, called a presidential daily brief, or PDB, included current intelligence indicating a high threat of hijackings. It was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
"Something was going to happen very soon and be potentially catastrophic," said one of the Democrats, former Indiana Rep. Timothy Roemer. "I don't understand, given the big threat, why the big principals don't get together."
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice repeatedly told the panel Thursday that the document was a history of al-Qaida threats and contained no new imminent threat information requiring different government action. The possibility of hijackings was being investigated by the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration, she said, adding that most of the summer 2001 threats concerned U.S. interests abroad.
"The country had taken the steps that it could given that there was no threat reporting about what might happen within the United States," Rice said.
Congress already has conducted an investigation into the attacks and its final report includes a detailed timeline of the increasing threats U.S. officials picked up during the summer of 2001. It also includes some of the material from the PDB.
The memo mentioned intelligence that bin Laden wanted to hijack aircraft to gain release of prisoners in the United States. The PDB also contains FBI information about "patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other attacks," according to congressional investigators.
A key event occurred on June 21, 2001, when a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., returned a 46-count indictment charging 13 Saudis and one Lebanese with the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service personnel.
Rumors of the coming indictment had been circulating for weeks before that, according to officials familiar with the intelligence, leading to increased worries that terrorists might take some action in connection with the case.
The next day, June 22, the FAA issued a nationwide circular "referring to a possible hijacking plot by Islamic terrorists to secure release of 14 persons incarcerated in the United States" in the Khobar Towers case. In fact, the 14 were still at large, although the circular did not mention that. They remain fugitives to this day.
More terrorism warnings quickly followed, including:
- A worldwide caution issued June 22 by the State Department warning Americans abroad of increased risk of terror attacks.
- Four Defense Department alerts between June 22 and July 20 alerting U.S. military personnel that "bin Laden's network was planning a near-term, anti-U.S. terrorist operation."
- A July 2 bulletin from the FBI to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies describing "increased threat reporting" about bin Laden or groups allied with al-Qaida. The bulletin suggested the greatest risk of an attack was overseas "although the possibility could not be discounted" of an attack inside the United States.
- Intelligence received by U.S. agencies in August about the plot to either bomb the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi from an airplane or crash an aircraft into the building. The report cited two unidentified people who met in October 2000 to discuss this plot on instructions from bin Laden.
A senior law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FBI issued at least two other bulletins in 2001 about the terror threat intelligence but did not include directives for field offices to take specific actions because there was no imminent threat to the homeland.
There had been numerous earlier reports of bin Laden's interest in using aircraft for terror attacks, including a 1998 plot to fly an explosives-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center and an April 2000 plot to hijack a Boeing 747 and either fly it to Afghanistan or blow up.
But in December 2000, the FBI and FAA issued a classified threat assessment that played down the possibility of a threat to domestic aviation from terror operatives known to be in the United States.
"Terrorist activity within the U.S. has focused primarily on fund-raising, recruiting new members and disseminating propaganda," that report says. "While international terrorists have conducted attacks on U.S. soil, these acts represent anomalies in their traditional targeting which focuses on U.S. interests overseas."
The congressional intelligence inquiry's report suggests that this mind-set, less than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, may have contributed to an overall U.S. view that there was a low probability of attacks on American soil, particularly using aircraft as weapons.
On the Net:
Joint intelligence report: http://news.findlaw.com/wp/docs/911rpt
9/11 Commission: http://www.9-11commission.gov
>> HEIMAT GASP...
Possible local tie to Al Qaeda probed
Alleged operative and Saudi had same apartment
By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff, 4/9/2004
Newsweek reported yesterday that US investigators tracing wire transfers from the Saudi Arabian government found a possible connection to Al Qaeda in Boston.
According to the magazine, a Pakistani graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is alleged to have been an Al Qaeda operative had the same address as a Saudi national who received $20,000 from the Saudi government in July 2001.
Citing documents it had obtained, the magazine said that a unit at Fleet Bank that traces suspicious wire transfers had tracked $20,000 in transfers from a Saudi Arabian armed forces bank account to the Saudi national, Abdullah Al Reshood, in Boston. Al Reshood listed the same apartment number at the high-rise building at 75 St. Alphonsus Street as Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani MIT graduate who was wanted for questioning by the FBI last year and is alleged to be an Al Qaeda operative, Newsweek reported.
The transfer aroused suspicion, the magazine said, because as soon as Al Reshood received the money, he wrote a check for $20,000 to another Saudi named Hatem Al Dhahri, with whom he lived while he was in Boston. Al Dhahri then wired $17,193 to Saudi Arabia 10 days later to Al Reshood's bank account in Saudi Arabia.
An individual who works for the Saudi government in Washington told the Globe yesterday that there was nothing sinister about the wire transfers from the Saudi government, which routinely supports Saudi citizens seeking degrees and medical treatment in the United States. The money was sent by the Saudi government to pay for liver treatment for Al Reshood's wife, who arrived at Brigham and Women's Hospital, arriving on April 24, 2001, and stayed in Boston for about 10 weeks, according to the person, who asked not to be identified. When Al Reshood returned to Saudia Arabia with his wife, he wrote the check to Al Dhahri because he wanted his friend to settle his bills, according to the person. Al Dhahri did, and sent him the balance. The building where Al Reshood and Al Dhahri stayed is near Brigham and Women's Hospital. The fact that Siddiqui, a microbiologist, had also lived in that building in the same apartment was "a coincidence," the person said, asserting "there is no connection."
Calls from the Globe to Fleet Bank and the FBI were not immediately returned.
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
>> OUR FRIENDS THE SAUDIS...
Law-enforcement officials follow the money trail among suspected terrorists straight to the doors of the Saudi Embassy NewsweekApril 7 - Within weeks of the September 11 terror attacks, security officers at the Fleet National Bank in Boston had identified "suspicious" wire transfers from the Saudi Embassy in Washington that eventually led to the discovery of an active Al Qaeda "sleeper cell" that may have been planning follow-up attacks inside the United States, according to documents obtained by NEWSWEEK.
U.S. law-enforcement officials familiar with the matter say there is no evidence that officials at the Saudi Embassy were knowingly financing Al Qaeda activity inside the country. But documents show that while trying to trace a tangled money trail beginning with the Saudi Embassy, investigators soon drew startling connections between a group of Saudi nationals receiving financial support from the embassy and a 34-year-old microbiologist and MIT graduate who officials have since concluded was a U.S. operative for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
The microbiologist, Aafia Siddiqui, a mother of three young children, has since fled the country--most likely to her native Pakistan-and is now wanted for questioning by the FBI. But "suspicious-activity reports" (SARS) filed by Fleet Bank with the U.S. Treasury Department, suggest that Siddiqui and her estranged husband, Dr. Mohammed Amjad Khan, an anesthesiologist, may have been active terror plotters inside the country until as late as the summer of 2002.
The reports show that Fleet Bank investigators discovered that one account used by the Boston-area couple showed repeated debit-card purchases from stores that "specialize in high-tech military equipment and apparel," including Black Hawk Industries in Chesapeake, Va., and Brigade Quartermasters in Georgia. (Black Hawk's Web site, advertises grips, mounts and parts for AK-47s and other military-assault rifles as well as highly specialized combat clothing, including vests designed for bomb disposal.)
Fleet accounts associated with the couple also showed "major purchases" from U.S. airlines and hotels in Pittsburgh and North Carolina as well as an $8,000 international wire transfer on Dec. 21, 2001, to Habib Bank Ltd., a big Pakistani financial institution that has long been scrutinized by U.S. intelligence officials monitoring terrorist money flows.
NEWSWEEK first reported, in a June 23, 2003, cover story, that the FBI had identified Siddiqui and Khan as suspected Al Qaeda agents. Internal FBI documents showed that, after his capture in March 2003, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told U.S. interrogators that Siddiqui was supposed to support "other AQ operatives as they entered the United States." Agents also found evidence that she had rented a post-office box to help another Baltimore-based Al Qaeda contact who had been assigned by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to blow up underground gasoline-storage tanks. Bureau documents also stated that Khan, Siddiqui's husband, had purchased body armor, night-vision goggles and a variety of military manuals that were supposed to be sent to Pakistan.
The newly obtained SARS documents filed by Fleet shed additional light on the federal government's effort to track Siddiqui and Khan's activities--and raise questions about possible links to other Saudis in the United States. As early as October 2001, long before Khalid Shaik Mohammed's capture, FBI and Treasury Department investigators were alerted to the couple's possible terror links in a series of SARS filed by Fleet. At the time, Fleet's Financial Intelligence Unit was trying to trace $70,000 in wire transfers on the same day, July 10, 2001, to two Saudis in the United States. One, for $50,000 from the Saudi Armed Forces Account at the Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., went to a Saudi student at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Two others, totaling $20,000 from the same Saudi military account, went to a Saudi national named Abdullah Al Reshood in Boston.
NEWSWEEK has been unable to locate either Saudi. But a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said both wire transfers were consistent with the Saudi government's longstanding practice of providing educational and medical assistance to fellow countrymen living in the United States. The spokesman said the embassy has no reason to believe either Saudi has any connection to terrorist activity.
But Fleet security officers were concerned about the transactions from the start. Immediately after receiving the $20,000 wire from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, Al Reshood wrote a $20,000 check to another Saudi, Hatem Al Dhahri, who five days later wired $17,193 back to an account controlled by Al Reshood at the Al Rahji Bank in Saudi Arabia. "There appears to be no commercial reason nor reasonable explanation for the series of transactions," wrote one Fleet security officer in an Oct. 24, 2001, SARS report. Both Saudis lived at the same address, a high-rise apartment building in Boston's Mission Hill neighborhood that was frequented by Arab nationals. If the purpose of the expenditures was to provide medical expenses for either Al Reshood or Al Dhahri and their families in the United States, as the Saudis claimed, the security officials wanted to know why the money was being wired back to Saudi Arabia. Al Dhahri also listed as his address the same apartment number, 2008, as another Fleet Bank customer--Aafia Siddiqui.
It is still not clear what connection, if any, Al Dhahri had with Siddiqui or whether they shared the apartment at the same time. (The Fleet Bank records suggest that Al Dhahri and Siddiqui's accounts were both active and current in the fall of 2001 and do not indicate a change of address had been filed.) A Saudi Embassy spokesman said that the payments to Al Dhahri were to pay for liver treatments for one of his children in the United States. A Saudi Embassy spokesman said that Al Dhahri has been interrogated by the FBI and has denied any knowledge of the microbiologist.
But the common address prompted Fleet auditors to zero in on Siddiqui, resulting in more "links" that "shocked" the security officers, according to a source familiar with the matter. In addition to the expenditures for high-tech military equipment--items that seemed unusual for a microbiologist--the security officers found that Siddiqui was making regular debit-card payments to one Islamic charity, Benevolence International, that was under active investigation by federal agents for raising funds for terrorist causes. (The charity has since been shut down and its founder jailed.) In addition, Siddiqui was found to be active with the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, another Islamic charity that was ostensibly raising funds for Bosnian orphans but which also was under scrutiny by federal investigators.
A spokeswoman for Fleet, which last week was purchased by Bank of America, declined to comment on the bank's role, noting that it is a violation of federal law to even refer to the existence of a SARS. But investigators noted that Fleet Bank SARS stand in stark contrast to the lack of similar reports from Riggs Bank, where the Saudi Embassy kept its accounts and the wire transfers began. Riggs Bank's failure to alert investigators to a large number of unusual cash transactions by the Saudi Embassy and other foreign bank customers has led to a wide-ranging investigation by Treasury Department regulators that is likely to result in substantial civil fines imposed on the bank in the next few weeks, according to sources familiar with the matter. "Anytime, you have suspicious money movements, and it's not reported as needed, it hurts our overall efforts," a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said about Riggs' failure to file the SARS. Riggs recently terminated the Saudi Embassy as a client and, according to a story in today's Wall Street Journal, may be planning to drop its diplomatic business entirely.)
Riggs officials say they've initiated a program to more vigorously monitor financial accounts. And the bank late last year filed more than two-dozen reports involving Saudi Embassy transactions, including large overseas wire transfers and cash deposits made by Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan; his executive assistant, Ahmed A. Kattan; his chief military aide, Gen. Abdual Rahman Al-Noah, and other embassy officials.
Most of these transactions have no apparent links to terrorism and may simply reflect the Saudis' longstanding habit of mixing government and personal accounts. In one case, Kattan, who carries the rank of ambassador, deposited $6 million in embassy funds into his personal account at Riggs, wired $5.5 million to the agents of a school in Egypt and the remaining $500,000 to his own account in Saudi Arabia. Al-Noah, the military officer, made a total of $1.6 million in cash deposits--most in cash, one of them for $210,000--and then wired the money to pay for the purchase of furniture for a new palace in Saudi Arabia. Bandar himself wired $17 million last year to his construction manager for a new palace in Saudi Arabia. Just last December, one of Bandar's personal aides deposited $3 million in international drafts, converted them to dollars, and then wired substantial sums back overseas--including about $200,000 to a luxury-car dealer in Great Britain. (A Saudi spokesman said that Bandar has substantial business interests overseas, so it is not surprising that he would conduct such transactions.)
But other transactions raised eyebrows at the FBI. The Riggs accounts showed a number of checks to flight schools and flight-school students in the United States as well as 50 separate $1,000 American Express travelers checks issued by Bandar to Saudi employees between July 9, 2001 and Aug. 28, 2001--including seven that were deposited that summer at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Riggs also reported $19,200 in payments from the Saudi Embassy to Gulshair al-Shukrijumah, a Florida-based imam who once served as an interpreter for the "blind Sheik" Omar Abdul Rahman, who was convicted in 1996 of a plot to blow up New York City landmarks. Gulshair al-Shukrijumah's son, Adnan al-Shukrijumah, also known as "Jaffar the Pilot," is a suspected Al Qaeda operative who is the subject of a worldwide FBI manhunt. (In response to U.S. demands to impose tighter controls, the Saudis have since terminated the payments to Gulshair al-Shukrijumah, along with a number of other clerics who were being supported by the embassy.)
A Saudi Embassy spokesman stressed that the Saudis have been actively cooperating with U.S. officials on all aspects of the war on terrorism and that the embassy has recently been assured by top FBI officials that the bureau "has no concerns" about any of the embassy accounts. But senior law-enforcement officials told NEWSWEEK that Saudi Embassy accounts--including the wire transfers related to Siddiqui--remain under active investigation. Told that the Saudis have been assured the FBI "has no concerns," a law-enforcement official made additional checks and reported back to NEWSWEEK: "That is not the case."
? 2004 Newsweek, Inc.
>> SYRIAN UPDATE...
By Farid N. Ghadry and Nir T. Boms
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 9, 2004
Close to a hundred Kurds were killed during a series of riots that started in the soccer game in the city of Qamoshli last month. Over 1,200 Kurds were arrested for treason, espionage, incitement and the disruption of the public order. This is the story of one of them, a 14 year old boy we will call Ahmed, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We received this email from Syria yesterday. It was a private message but we felt compelled to have it translated and shared with the world. We are not in liberty to share the real names of the people who sent this email or who wrote the memory of that experience since they are very much afraid to be the next in line at the torture chamber. The irony in all of this is that Baschar al-Assad visited the Kurds in 2002 and promised them a better future. The ability of the Syrian government to bring about a better future to the Syrian people should be measured by the eyes of Ahmed and his friends. Democracy in Syria remains the only hope and the only answer.
"I saw with my own eyes what I used to see in horror and scary movies and I heard with my own ears what I used to hear in stories told to me about the various savaged ways of torture" Yes... Yes... Here in my own country, in my own nation Syria, the one that just entered the civilization of the 21st century.
He told me this crying. "oh uncle", --he calls me uncle since he is my nephew, and he is almost 14-years old--"when they took me from the car near a hall with stairs going down, I was met by one agent after the other, counting all five of them, beating me on my back, on my stomach, on my arm, and every inch of my body. They forced me into a basement, then into a dark room full of people with a stench smell of feet and sweat and another smell that reminded me of a butcher shop. I stretched my leg to enter the dark room but instead I hit a body lying on the floor. He emitted a crying sound, so I tried to step away from the body and then I hit another one who sounded even worse than the first and then I froze. I started crying and fear gripped my whole body. I felt like I was in hell, all I could hear were the different sounds of pain coming from the different corners of the dark room. In about half an hour, the door to the room opened and finally I could see a bit of light. Only then, I realized that the room was no bigger than our modest kitchen at home with about 30 to 40 people in it. They were of different ages but the majorities were young, like me. I even recognized two of them who lived in our quarter.
A person shouted my name and I said "Present" as if I was in school. The man said `you are a Kurd, right? Come with me you son of a whore'. Upon exiting the room, trying hard not to bump into any body lying on the ground, I was, once again, met with punches from all sides to all parts of my body and my face. They were swearing and punching at the same time. I lifted my arms to protect myself only to have them brought down followed by more punches and more insults. Two or three held me and asked if my name is so and so, and when I said yes, they started again beating me with their fists coming from all sides and angles. Along the way, I remember them saying my mother became a whore for having had me and that my father was a dog. That is all I remember because the punches were making me weaker and I felt my feet buckle from under me. Several strong arms held me up and the punching continued accompanied by a crescendo of swearing, especially against my mother. They used terms against my sister and mother that I cannot repeat"
"Then they covered my eyes with a black cloth and continued the beating. But this time, I could not see where the punches were coming from. Again, I felt myself weak. I remember screaming and crying for help.
They stopped and started an interrogation. `What is your name? Which quarter do you come from? Why did you burn and throw stones?' Why? Why? Why? A barrage of questions that I could not answer for lack of focus. Then they asked who else was there with me. `Give us names, names, names'. Why were you marching?' I told them that I was not marching. Then someone called to bring me downstairs. I started crying again, uncontrollably. While still blindfolded, one asked to strip me down. They did. Then cold water hit me and I started shivering. The beating restarted but I slipped because of the water and they continued beating me with their feet while still on the ground. Someone stepped on my stomach hard, which I did not expect. All I remember next is that someone saying, place it in his mouth. It was my own feces.
Then they took me to another room, still naked, blindfolded and shivering. I felt them kneeling and attaching something to my toes, then to my fingers. Then, without any warning, I felt being electrocuted, yes uncle, electrocuted and I started crying again, not knowing what else to do. I was electrocuted twice while there for seven days. And each time, I cried like a baby, oh uncle, like a baby.
Each time, they asked do you confess. And each time I said I will confess. To what, I do not know. But I said yes, oh uncle, because I felt these were not humans, these people were not from our planet. While still blindfolded, they lifted my arm and placed my finger on a paper and told me that this was my confession.
They returned me to the room and took away the blindfold. I realized then all the people in that room were naked like me, naked, naked, and all crying and in pain. There were those with broken ribs; I could tell because when you bump into them, their scream is the loudest and it lifts them off the ground. Then, there were those whose blood has turned black and their bruises covered more areas of their body than their normal flesh. Some had salt sprinkled on their opened wounds and we were whispering to each other the pain they felt. One cried that they electrocuted him through his penis and testicles. He felt ashamed and could not stop crying. All young like me, oh uncle, all young like me.
Some had their finger nails removed. Another said that he was beaten with cables aimed at his penis as if it were a target. There was a young man, oh uncle, who stood all the time because he could not sit down or rest against the wall. We took turns, during these seven days, holding his head in our arms and body so that he could get some sleep. What I saw from these killers, I will never forget all my life, oh uncle; and I will never forgive them, never, ever forgive them. Never, oh uncle, Never".
Farid Ghadry is the President of the Syrian Reform Party. Nir Boms is a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Council for Democracy and Tolerance.
>> BRING IT ON?
Crime, Politics and Kerry's Missing FBI Files
By Marc Morano
CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
April 09, 2004
(CNSNews.com) - The author who alleges that three boxes of FBI files dealing with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's anti-war group were stolen from his home last month, did not allow police officers the opportunity to process the crime scene.
The police report of the incident also neglects to mention that the Kerry campaign dispatched a messenger to the home of author Gerald Nicosia to pick up copies of the FBI files a week before the alleged theft of the documents.
CNSNews.com has obtained a copy of the police report related to the alleged theft of three of the 14 boxes containing FBI files that Nicosia was keeping in his home. Nicosia is the author of the book Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement and is a Kerry supporter. In addition to the three boxes, Nicosia alleges that "several file folders have been removed from the remaining 11 boxes," according to the police report.
The March 26, 2004 report from the Twin Cities Police Department in Larkspur, Calif., noted that "there were no signs of forced entry into the residence" and the department confirmed Thursday that there were still no leads or suspects in the case.
Absent from the police report was any mention of the fact that the Kerry campaign had sent an aide to Nicosia's house in Corte Madera, Calif., to review the documents. Kerry's campaign dispatched the aide on the same day CNSNews.com reported that the FBI files showed Kerry was in attendance at a controversial 1971 meeting in Kansas City of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW).
That meeting allegedly involved the discussion of possibly trying to assassinate several U.S. senators still committed to the American war effort in Vietnam. Prior to the publication of the CNSNews.com article on March 18, Kerry had repeatedly denied being in attendance at the meeting.
Nicosia said he reached out to Kerry's campaign a week before the documents were allegedly stolen.
"Senator Kerry was obviously [at the Kansas City Meeting in 1971]. I called the Kerry office and said, 'You know, I think you folks really should look at these documents before you make any further statements,' Nicosia told Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's Scarborough Country on April 2.
"And ... they immediately sent a messenger to my house, got copies of the documents and that evening Senator Kerry did issue a retraction and said based on the documents, he now believed that he was at that meeting," Nicosia added.
The police report noted that journalists, including those from the Los Angeles Times and CNN had had access to Nicosia's home. The report also indicated that a sliding glass door repairman had been granted access to the home. But there is no mention of the Kerry campaign having sent a representative there.
In a statement Nicosia submitted to the Twin Cities Police Department, which was included in the report on the alleged theft, he stated that, "the [FBI] documents have significant political value in the upcoming Presidential election, as they cast John Kerry in various lights, both good and bad."
Nicosia also did not want the alleged crime "scene processed," according to the police report.
The narrative of the police report filed by officer Theo Mainaris reads: "I checked the residence and I did not locate any signs of forced entry. After talking about that situation with Nicosia, he informed me he did not want the scene processed."
Detective Patrick Eddinger of the Twin Cities Police Department told CNSNews.com that Nicosia's refusal to have the scene processed was not "normal."
"It's not usually normal. Normally, we come in and we actually process the scene to see if we can find any fingerprints or anything else," Eddinger explained. "There was no force to anything in the residence -- what we could find -- in order to gain entry," he added.
Nicosia declined to be interviewed for this article.
Despite the lack of any evidence or leads, Nicosia is now publicly speculating that Republican Party operatives may have stolen the FBI documents from his home.
"I would say that the Republicans had the largest motivation," Nicosia told Scarborough last week. Scarborough said the case "almost sounds like a "West Coast version of Watergate, 2004."
When pressed on the issue, Nicosia went further in his accusations. "Oh, I would think it would be the Republicans, not John Kerry. I was cooperating with John Kerry. I'm a Kerry supporter," Nicosia said.
But Eddinger said he has no suspects at the moment. "It's an ongoing investigation. I am still trying to gather information," he said.
The Twin Cities Police department may seek some of that information from the Kerry campaign itself. "There is a couple of other people I need to talk to, including possibly the Kerry campaign," Eddinger said.
According to the police report, Nicosia alleged that the crime occurred on Thursday, March 25 while the house was empty from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.
>> BRING IT ON?
Treasury news releases on taxes attacked
By JEANNINE AVERSA
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department issued a batch of tax-related press releases Friday that each carried a message saying America has a choice between growing the economy and raising taxes that could hurt the recovery.
Democrats immediately denounced the action as an improper use of government resources to subsidize political propaganda.
While the sentiment is a long held position of the Bush administration, it was the first time the department included this message in dark type at the bottom of some its news releases, said Treasury Department spokesman Rob Nichols.
"America has a choice: It can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the president's policies are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation," the message on the releases said.
The message, on four of five different releases issued by the department, doesn't mention presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a critic of President Bush's tax policies, or anyone else by name.
Asked whether the message was referring to Kerry, Nichols said: "No, it is a reference to anyone who suggests that raising taxes is the right thing to do. There have been many who suggest that taxes should be raised. We don't share that view."
Kerry spokesman David Wade said the language appears to be an improper use of official government resources for political purposes.
"Once again, there are questions to be asked about American taxpayers subsidizing political propaganda to distort the debate in our country and to whitewash President Bush's failed economic policies," Wade said.
"Those are questions that should be answered by the government itself, but they certainly don't refer to John Kerry's plan to provide middle-class tax relief and create incentives for American businesses which create good jobs here at home," Wade added.
Nichols said there was nothing improper with including the message on the tax releases. "That is nonsense, baseless and groundless," he said.
Treasury's decision to include the message on the bottom of several "April 15th Tax Day Reminder" releases follows the department's in-house analysis of Kerry's tax proposal last month. The analysis, requested by House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, was posted on the department's Web site March 22.
That ignited criticism from Kerry and other Democrats and prompted the department's inspector general to launch a preliminary inquiry into the matter.
"First the Bush Treasury Department did campaign research on the Kerry tax plan and now they are blatantly putting out Bush campaign statements that masquerade as a news release," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. "This release has nothing to do with April 15 and everything to do with Nov. 2."
Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Debra DeShong said there should be an investigation to determine whether the language represents a violation of the Hatch Act, which restricts the political activities of government employees.
"For them to say it's not political, you know, it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it's not a goose," DeShong said.
Democrats protested in 2001 when the Bush administration printed "Tax Relief for America's Workers" on tax refund checks sent to 92 million people. The checks refunded some $38 billion to taxpayers as part of the $1.35 trillion tax cut passed that year.
At the time, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe called the wording a "Republican campaign slogan." The Treasury Department said the line informed taxpayers about the purpose of the check, distinguishing it from other federal payments like Social Security and veterans' benefits.
Associated Press writer Sam Hananel in Washington contributed to this report.
Posted by maximpost at 8:49 PM EDT