Friday, August 18, 2006

Bush bashes wiretap ruling

Bush described the ruling today in sharp terms, and played the fear card again: "If al-Qaida is calling in to the United States, we want to know why they're calling,".

Bush administration tried to cut explosive detection funds

In the midst of the furor over the UK airplane terror plot, the Bush administration approved a plan that would have cut $6 million from explosive detection technology funding. Congress ended up rejecting the plan. Was the UK liquid explosive plot really that serious if the Bush administration would cut explosive detection funding as the plot unfolded? Or is this yet another example of BA ignorance concerning the real threats to "homeland security"? Not good either way...


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bush administration response to NSA wiretap ruling

In the wake of a federal judge's ruling striking down the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program, the Bush administration has finally come out with a response. Once again, that response is based on putting Americans into a state of panic by implying that the big UK "terror plot" was uncovered last week due to this program, even though the case is in the UK.
From Tony Snow's press briefing:

"Last week America and the world received a stark reminder that terrorists are still plotting to attack our country and kill innocent people. Today a federal judge in Michigan has ruled that the Terrorist Surveillance Program ordered by the President to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the American people is unconstitutional and otherwise illegal.

"We couldn't disagree more with this ruling..."

The BA will most likely appeal this ruling in the coming days. No surprise there. Instead, why don't they start complying with the law already in place that covers secret wiretaps, and stop this relentless fear-mongering.

Here's the judge's opinion in the wiretap case.


Bogus terror plots

The Christian Science Monitor has a good listing of the many recent "terror scares" that local and federal officials tried to make into deadly "plots". It seems some folks are taking the Bush administration talking points on terror a bit too seriously. What will be today's "foiled plot"?


"Bush is crap"

Well, at least British politician John Prescott thinks so. Prescott apparently blurted out the insult (or is it the truth?) at a private meeting of members of the Labour party. That's the party of Tony Blair...Can our Democrats ever stand up and do something as bold as this? That would be refreshing.


Ken Lay could be cleared?

Yes, just because he's dead.

From the Post article:

Lawyers for Enron Corp. founder Kenneth L. Lay yesterday asked a judge to erase his conviction on fraud and conspiracy charges, citing his death last month before he could appeal a jury verdict.
The request signals that Lay's record soon could be wiped clean, seriously complicating the government's attempts to seize his remaining assets. Legal experts explain that the system hesitates to label people guilty if they have not had a chance to appeal and that it is loath to punish dead people or their estates.
Isn't this the ultimate reason for Lay to have killed himself? No doubt his good friend George W will applaud this move, as it frees him from the awkward position of pardoning the biggest corporate crook in decades.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Nice questions on the 8/10 terror plot

On The Nation, James Galbraith asks some very pertinent questions about the exact circumstances surrounding the UK plane bomb terror plot. The article is for subscribers only, so here's part of the text.

Well, then. Here is a checklist of some things we should shortly be hearing about. Bombs. Chemicals. Detonators. Labs. A testing ground. Airline tickets. Passports. Witnesses. Suspicious neighbors. Suspicious parents. Suspicious friends. Threats. Confessions. Let me spell this out: By definition, you cannot bomb an aircraft unless you have a bomb. In this case, we are told that there were no bombs; rather, the conspirators planned to bring on board the makings of a bomb: chemicals and a detonator. These would be mixed on board.

Exactly what the chemicals were remains unclear. Nitroglycerin has been suggested, but it's too likely to go off on the way to the airport. TATP, made of acetone and peroxide, has been suggested, but there are two problems. One is that the peroxide required is highly concentrated--it's not the 3 percent solution from the drugstore. The other is that acetone is highly volatile. As anyone who flies knows, you can't open a bottle of nail polish remover on an airplane without everyone within twenty feet knowing at once. It's possible to imagine one truly dedicated and competent bomber pulling this off. But it is impossible to imagine twenty-four untrained people between the ages of 17 and 35 all getting away with the same trick at once.
So, there must have been training. That means there must be a lab, or labs. There must have been trial bombs. There must be various bits and pieces of equipment used to mix the chemicals and set them off. There must be a manual. There must be a testing ground. And each one of the young men under arrest must have been to these places. Interestingly, it must have all happened, too, without a serious accident, injury or death among the conspirators. If so, they are a lot more competent than the Weather Underground ever was, in my day.

Arrests were made at night, catching the culprits at home. Houses have been raided, and are being searched. So far as we know at this point, no bombs have been found. No chemicals. No equipment. No labs. No testing ground. Maybe this will come out later, but it hasn't so far, even though the authorities seem anxious to tell just about everything they know.

Another terror plot implodes

Prosecutors in Michigan have asked that the terrorism case against three Palestinian-Americans be dropped. The three Texas Muslims were arrested and held for several days immediately after the UK plane bomb scare. The reason they were held? They had dozens of prepaid cell phones and they had taken a photo of Michigan's Mackinac Bridge. Oh my God! Where are their martyrdom tapes!!??

This development comes after another terror case in Ohio, also involving oodles of pre-paid cell's, was dismissed. Are we seeing a Republican effort to spread fear of "Islamic fascists" throughout America? Both of these cases are similar to the previously debunked "master plots" in Miami and New York that were - as these were - originally billed as textbook Al Qaida mega-attacks that could have killed hundreds of people.

Media reports viewed the two cases as a "wave of terror", with terror experts pointing out how pre-paid phones can be used for "terror" and calling for bridge security to be upped. If not for the Mideast cease-fire taking over the news, mass paranoia surely would have spread throughout the nation.
Take a look at this piece from the Detroit Free-Press on Monday:

If the hundreds of prepaid cellular telephones found in the minivan seemed odd, the pictures of the Mackinac Bridge were downright troubling to Tuscola County law enforcement officials who have charged three Texas men with terrorism-related crimes.

The phones plus photographs and videos of the 5-mile-long bridge led authorities to believe that the men -- two brothers and a cousin, all of Middle Eastern heritage -- were targeting the iconic structure linking the Upper and Lower peninsulas, according to a law enforcement official familiar with details of the case.
While the bridge pictures might have been vacation images taken by any tourists, they took on potentially sinister significance because of the men's bulk purchase at a Caro Wal-Mart of 80 talk-and-toss cell phones that have been used by terrorists to detonate bombs, the official said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

Considering these folks were from Texas, why not take a photo of an iconic bridge? Is not that what tourists do? What is the threat from dozens of cell phones anyhow? I thought you only needed one to blow up a bomb. The fact that they had a large amount of them shouldn't have raised suspicions.
What did, obviously, was the fact that they were Muslim. It's abundantly clear that religious profiling is now the norm in terror cases, as all of the recent "uncovered plots" attest to. What is not clear is how useful this ridiculous practice even is. Were any of these guys in Michigan or Ohio the "real deal"? Were they actually trying to blow up a bridge? No, they weren't. All these arrest did was to once again spread fear across the country. Wait...I guess that's the point.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Welcome to Harmonious Dissent, the new blog of The Sun State Activist. Check back very soon for insight and analysis on breaking news, politics, and all things progressive.