Friday, June 27, 2008

The Subprime Trump Card: Standing up to the Banks

Go to Original
By Dr. Ellen Brown

"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs."

– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin (1802)

Jefferson had it right. More than 1.5 million homeowners are expected to enter foreclosure this year, and about half of them are expected to have their homes repossessed. If the dire consequences Jefferson warned of 200 years ago have been slow in coming, it is because they have been concealed by what Jerome a Paris calls the Anglo Disease – "the highly unequal economy whereby the rich and the financial sector . . . capture most of the income but hide it by providing cheap debt to the middle classes so that they can continue to spend." He calls "finance" the "cannibalistic" sector in today’s economy. Writing in The European Tribune this month, he states:

"[O]ne of the more attractive features of the financial world, for its promoters, is its ability to concentrate huge fortunes in a small number of hands, and promote this as a good thing (these people are said to be creating wealth, rather than capturing it). . . . [O]f course, the reality is that such wealth concentration is created by squeezing the rest, as is obvious in the stagnation of incomes for most in the middle and lower rungs of society. This is not so much wealth creation as wealth redistribution, from the many to the few. But what has made this unequality . . . tolerable is that the financial world itself was able to provide a convenient smokescreen, in the form of cheap debt, provided in abundance to all. The wealthy used it to grab real assets in funny money, and the rest were kindly allowed to keep on spending by tapping their future income rather than their insufficient current one; in a nutshell, the debt bubble hid the class warfare waged by the rich against everybody else . . . ."1

Now the debt bubble is bursting, with the anticipated real estate crash, banking crisis, foreclosures, and inevitable recession. "The income capture mechanisms set up during the bubble have not been reversed, so the pain is falling disproportionately on the poorest," writes Jerome a Paris. Meanwhile, finance is being bailed out. What’s to be done? "[T]he financiers . . . will say that more ‘reform’ and ‘deregulation’ and tax cuts are needed," he says, but "maybe it’s time to stop listening to what is highly self-interested drivel, and take back what they grabbed: it’s not theirs."

Good idea, but how? The financiers own the media, and their massively funded lobbies control Congress. How can we the people get enough clout to take on the giant financial and corporate giants? What can we do that will make politicians sit up and take notice?

How about swarming the courts? New case law indicates that a majority of the 750,000 homeowners expected to lose their homes this year could have a valid defense to foreclosure. As much as $2 trillion in real estate may be vulnerable to this defense, providing a very big stick for a lobby of motivated debtors. Mobilizing that group, in turn, could light a fire under the investors in mortgage-backed securities -- the pension funds, money market funds and insurance companies holding these "orphan" mortgages. These investors also wield a very big stick, in the form of major law firms on retainer. When the embattled banks demand a bailout because they are "too big to fail," the taxpayers can respond, "You have already failed. It is time to try something new."

The Legal Trump Card: Make Them Produce the Note

A basic principle of contract law is that a plaintiff suing on a written contract must produce the signed contract proving he is entitled to relief. If there is no signed mortgage note or recorded assignment, foreclosure is barred. The defendant must normally raise this defense, and most defaulting homeowners, unaware of legal procedure and concerned about the expense of hiring an attorney, just let their homes go uncontested. But when the plaintiffs bringing subprime foreclosure actions have been challenged, in most cases they haven’t been able to produce the notes.

Why not? It appears to be more than just sloppy paperwork. The banks that originally entered into these risky subprime arrangements generally did so because they had no intention of holding the loans on their books. The mortgages were immediately sliced and diced, bundled up as mortgage-backed securities (MBS), and sold off to investors. Loan originators sold the mortgages to financial institutions or other banks, which then sold the rights to the monthly mortgage payment income to investors, while transferring the responsibility to collect these payments to specialized mortgage servicing companies. The result has been to slice up the mortgage contract, with no party really having ownership of the original paperwork. When foreclosure has been initiated, the servicer or trustee acting as plaintiff now has trouble proving that it originated the mortgage or owned the loan. In order for a second bank or financial institution to have standing to bring a foreclosure lawsuit in court, it must have been assigned the mortgage; and with the collapse of the housing market, many of the subprime lenders have gone out of business, making it impossible to contact the originating mortgage company. Other paperwork has just been lost in the shuffle.2

Why weren’t the mortgage notes assigned to the MBS holders when they were first sold? Apparently because the investors aren’t even matched up with specific properties until after default. Here is how the MBS scheme works: when the mortgages are first bundled by the banks, all of the subprime mortgages go into the same pool. The bundled mortgages are chopped into "securities" that are sold to many investors -- banks, hedge funds, money market funds, pension funds -- with different "tranches" or levels of risk. The first mortgages to default are then assigned to the high-risk "BBB-" tranche of investors. As defaults increase, later defaulting mortgages are assigned down the chain of risk to the supposedly more secure tranches.3 That means the investors get the mortgages only after the defendants breached the agreement to pay.

It also means the investors weren’t a party to the agreement when it was breached, making it hard to prove they were injured by the breach.

The investors have another problem: the delay in assigning particular mortgages to particular investors means there was no "true sale" of the security (the home) at the time of securitization. A true sale of the collateral is a legal requirement for forming a valid security (a secured interest in the property as opposed to simply a debt obligation backed by collateral). As a result, the investors may have trouble proving they have any interest in the property, secured or unsecured.4

The Dog-Ate-My-Note Defense

When the securitizing banks acting as trustees for the investors are unable to present written proof of ownership at a time that would entitle them to foreclose, they typically file what’s called a lost-note affidavit. April Charney is a Florida legal aid attorney well versed in these issues, having gotten foreclosure proceedings dismissed or postponed for 300 clients in the past year. In a February 2008 Bloomberg article, she was quoted as saying that about 80 percent of these cases involved lost-note affidavits. "Lost-note affidavits are pattern and practice in the industry," she said. "They are not exceptions. They are the rule."3

In the past, judges have let these foreclosures proceed; but in October 2007, an intrepid federal judge in Cleveland put a halt to the practice. U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Boyko ruled that Deutsche Bank had not filed the proper paperwork to establish its right to foreclose on fourteen homes it was suing to repossess.4 That started the ball rolling, and by February 2008, judges in at least five states had followed suit. In Los Angeles in January, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Samuel L. Bufford issued a notice warning plaintiffs in foreclosure cases to bring the mortgage notes to court and not submit copies. In Ohio, where foreclosures were up by a reported 88 percent in 2007, Attorney General Marc Dann was reported to be challenging ownership of mortgage notes in forty foreclosure cases.5

Few defendants, however, are lucky enough to have advocates like Charney and Dann in their corner, and most defaulting debtors just let their homes go. A simple challenge can be filed to the complaint even without an attorney, and some subprime borrowers have successfully defended their own foreclosure actions; but retaining an attorney is strongly recommended. People representing themselves are often not taken seriously, and they are likely to miss local rule requirements. With that warning, here is some general information on challenging standing to foreclose:

Some states are judicial foreclosure states and some are non-judicial foreclosure states. In a judicial foreclosure state (meaning the matter is heard before a judge), if a promissory note or recorded assignment naming the plaintiff is not attached to the complaint, the defendant can file a response stating the plaintiff has failed to state a claim. This can be followed with a motion called a demurrer to the complaint. Different forms of demurrers can be found in legal form books in most law libraries. In essence the demurrer states that even if everything in the complaint were true, the complaint would lack substance because it fails to set out a copy of the note, and it should therefore be dismissed. Ordinarily there is no need to cite much in the way of statutes or case law other than the authority reciting the necessity of showing the note proving the plaintiff is entitled to relief.

In a non-judicial foreclosure state such as California, foreclosure is done by a trustee without a court hearing, so the procedure is a bit trickier; but standing to foreclose can still be challenged. If the homeowner has filed for bankruptcy, the proceedings are automatically stayed, requiring the lender to bring a motion for relief from stay before going forward. The debtor can then challenge the lender’s right to the security (the house) by demanding proof of a legal or equitable interest in it.6 A homeowner facing foreclosure can also get the matter before a court without filing for bankruptcy by filing a complaint and preliminary injunction staying the proceedings pending proof of standing to foreclose. A judge would then have to rule on the merits. A complaint for declaratory relief might also be brought against the trustee, seeking to have its rights declared invalid.7

An Equitable Settlement for Everyone

These defenses can help people who are about to lose their homes, but there is another class of victims in the sub-prime mortgage crisis: investors in MBS, including the pension funds and 401Ks on which many people depend for their retirement. If the trustees representing the investors cannot foreclose, the lucky debtors may be able to stay in their homes without paying. However, the hapless investors will be left holding the bag. If the investors manage to shift liability back to the banks, on the other hand, the banks could go down and take the economy with them. How can these tricky issues be resolved in a way that is equitable for all? That question will be addressed in a followup article. Stay tuned.


. Jerome a Paris, "Countdown to $200 Oil Meets Anglo Disease," European Tribune (June 7, 2008).

2 "Contesting a Foreclosure Lawsuit: Who Owns the Mortgage?", (April 22, 2008).

. CNBC, "Subprime Derivatives," (June 2007).

4 Vinod Kothari, "The True Sale Question,"

. Bob Ivry, "Banks Lose to Deadbeat Homeowners as Loans Sold in Bonds Vanish," (February 22, 2008).

. Judge Christopher A. Boyko, Opinion and Order, In re Foreclosure Cases, Case 1:07-cv-02282-CAB, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, filed 10/31/2007.

. B. Ivry, op. cit.; Jimmy Higgins, "Judge Boyko’s Snowball Starts Rolling Downhill," Fire on the Mountain (blogspot) (February 26, 2008); Wendy Davis, "Finding It Hard to Be a Loan," ABA Journal (March 2008).

. "More Trouble for Mortgage Securitizers?", (December 9, 2007

7. Aaron Krowne, et al., "True Sale, False Securitizations," (November)

State-Sponsored Terror: British and American Black Ops in Iraq

Go to Original
By Andrew G. Marshall

Shining Light on the "Black World"

In January of 2002, the Washington Post ran a story detailing a CIA plan put forward to President Bush shortly after 9/11 by CIA Director George Tenet titled, "Worldwide Attack Matrix," which was "outlining a clandestine anti-terror campaign in 80 countries around the world. What he was ready to propose represented a striking and risky departure for U.S. policy and would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history." The plan entailed CIA and Special Forces "covert operations across the globe," and at "the heart of the proposal was a recommendation that the president give the CIA what Tenet labeled "exceptional authorities" to attack and destroy al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the rest of the world." Tenet cited the need for such authority "to allow the agency to operate without restraint -- and he wanted encouragement from the president to take risks." Among the many authorities recommended was the use of "deadly force."

Further, "Another proposal was that the CIA increase liaison work with key foreign intelligence services," as "Using such intelligence services as surrogates could triple or quadruple the CIA’s effectiveness." The Worldwide Attack Matrix "described covert operations in 80 countries that were either underway or that he was now recommending. The actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks," as well as "In some countries, CIA teams would break into facilities to obtain information."[1]

P2OG: "Commit terror, to incite terror… in order to react to terror"

In 2002, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board (DSB) conducted a "Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism," portions of which were leaked to the Federation of American Scientists. According to the document, the "War on Terror" constitutes a "committed, resourceful and globally dispersed adversary with strategic reach," which will require the US to engage in a "long, at times violent, and borderless war." As the Asia Times described it, this document lays out a blueprint for the US to "fight fire with fire." Many of the "proposals appear to push the military into territory that traditionally has been the domain of the CIA, raising questions about whether such missions would be subject to the same legal restraints imposed on CIA activities." According to the Chairman of the DSB, "The CIA executes the plans but they use Department of Defense assets."

Specifically, the plan "recommends the creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it dubs the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence and cover and deception. For example, the Pentagon and CIA would work together to increase human intelligence (HUMINT) forward/operational presence and to deploy new clandestine technical capabilities." The purpose of P2OG would be in "‘stimulating reactions’ among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction, meaning it would prod terrorist cells into action, thus exposing them to ‘quick-response’ attacks by US forces."[2] In other words, commit terror to incite terror, in order to react to terror.

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2002 that, "The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised," and quoted then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as saying, "Prevention and preemption are ... the only defense against terrorism."[3] Chris Floyd bluntly described P2OG in CounterPunch, saying, "the United States government is planning to use "cover and deception" and secret military operations to provoke murderous terrorist attacks on innocent people. Let’s say it again: Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and the other members of the unelected regime in Washington plan to deliberately foment the murder of innocent people--your family, your friends, your lovers, you--in order to further their geopolitical ambitions."[4]

"The Troubles" with Iraq

On February 5, 2007, the Telegraph reported that, "Deep inside the heart of the "Green Zone" [in Iraq], the heavily fortified administrative compound in Baghdad, lies one of the most carefully guarded secrets of the war in Iraq. It is a cell from a small and anonymous British Army unit that goes by the deliberately meaningless name of the Joint Support Group (JSG)." The members of the JSG "are trained to turn hardened terrorists into coalition spies using methods developed on the mean streets of Ulster during the Troubles, when the Army managed to infiltrate the IRA at almost every level. Since war broke out in Iraq in 2003, they have been responsible for running dozens of Iraqi double agents." They have been "[w]orking alongside the Special Air Service [SAS] and the American Delta Force as part of the Baghdad-based counter-terrorist unit known as Task Force Black."

It was reported that, "During the Troubles [in Northern Ireland], the JSG operated under the cover name of the Force Research Unit (FRU), which between the early 1980s and the late 1990s managed to penetrate the very heart of the IRA. By targeting and then "turning" members of the paramilitary organisation with a variety of "inducements" ranging from blackmail to bribes, the FRU operators developed agents at virtually every command level within the IRA." Further, "The unit was renamed following the Stevens Inquiry into allegations of collusion between the security forces and protestant paramilitary groups, and, until relatively recently continued to work exclusively in Northern Ireland."[5]

Considering that this group had been renamed after revelations of collusion with terrorists, perhaps it is important to take a look at what exactly this "collusion" consisted of. The Stevens Inquiry’s report "contains devastating confirmation that intelligence officers of the British police and the military actively helped Protestant guerillas to identify and kill Catholic activists in Northern Ireland during the 1980s." It was, "a state policy sanctioned at the highest level." The Inquiry, "highlighted collusion, the willful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder," and acknowledged "that innocent people had died because of the collusion." These particular "charges relate to activities of a British Army intelligence outfit known as the Force Research Unit (FRU) and former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) police officers."[6]

In 2002, the Sunday Herald reported on the allegations made by a former British intelligence agent, Kevin Fulton, who stated that, "he was told by his military handlers that his collusion with paramilitaries was sanctioned by Margaret Thatcher herself." Fulton worked for the Force Research Unit (FRU), and had infiltrated the IRA, always while on the pay roll of the military. Fulton tells of how in 1992, he told his FRU and MI5 intelligence handlers that his IRA superior was planning to launch a mortar attack on the police, yet his handlers did nothing and the attack went forward, killing a policewoman. Fulton stated, "I broke the law seven days a week and my handlers knew that. They knew that I was making bombs and giving them to other members of the IRA and they did nothing about it. If everything I touched turned to shit then I would have been dead. The idea was that the only way to beat the enemy was to penetrate the enemy and be the enemy."[7]

In 1998, Northern Ireland experienced its "worst single terrorist atrocity," as described by the BBC, in which a car bomb went off, killing 29 people and injuring 300.[8] According to a Sunday Herald piece in 2001, "Security forces didn’t intercept the Real IRA’s Omagh bombing team because one of the terrorists was a British double-agent whose cover would have been blown as an informer if the operation was uncovered." Kevin Fulton had even "phoned a warning to his RUC handlers 48 hours before the Omagh bombing that the Real IRA was planning an attack and gave details of one of the bombing team and his car registration." Further, "The man thought to be the agent is a senior member of the [IRA] organization."[9]

In 2002, it was revealed that, "one of the most feared men inside the Provisional IRA," John Joe Magee, head of the IRA’s "internal security unit," commonly known as the IRA’s "torturer- in-chief," was actually "one of the UK’s most elite soldiers," who "was trained as a member of Britain’s special forces." The Sunday Herald stated that, "Magee led the IRA’s internal security unit for more than a decade up to the mid-90s - most of those he investigated were usually executed," and that, "Magee’s unit was tasked to hunt down, interrogate and execute suspected British agents within the IRA."[10]

In 2006, the Guardian reported that, "two British agents were central to the bombings of three army border installations in 1990." The claims included tactics known as the ‘human bomb’, which "involved forcing civilians to drive vehicles laden with explosives into army checkpoints." This tactic "was the brainchild of British intelligence."[11]

In 2006, it was also revealed that, "A former British Army mole in the IRA has claimed that MI5 arranged a weapons-buying trip to America in which he obtained detonators, later used by terrorists to murder soldiers and police officers," and "British intelligence co-operated with the FBI to ensure his trip to New York in the 1990s went ahead without incident so that his cover would not be blown." Further, "the technology he obtained has been used in Northern Ireland and copied by terrorists in Iraq in roadside bombs that have killed British troops."[12]

Considering all these revelations of British collusion with IRA terrorists and complicity in terrorist acts in Northern Ireland through the FRU, what evidence is there that these same tactics are not being deployed in Iraq under the renamed Joint Support Group (JSG)? The recruits to the JSG in Iraq are trained extensively and those "who eventually pass the course can expect to be posted to Baghdad, Basra and Afghanistan."[13]

P2OG in Action

In September of 2003, months after the initial invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Iraq’s most sacred Shiite mosque was blown up, killing between 80 and 120 people, including a popular Shiite cleric, and the event was blamed by Iraqis on the American forces.[14]

On April 20, 2004, American journalist in Iraq, Dahr Jamail, reported in the New Standard that, "The word on the street in Baghdad is that the cessation of suicide car bombings is proof that the CIA was behind them." Jamail interviewed a doctor who stated that, "The U.S. induces aggression. If you don’t attack me, I will never attack you. The U.S. is stimulating the aggression of the Iraqi people!" This description goes very much in line with the aims outlined in the Pentagon’s P2OG document about "inciting terror," or "preempting terror attacks."[15]

Weeks after the initial incident involving the British SAS soldiers in Basra, in October of 2005, it was reported that Americans were "captured in the act of setting off a car bomb in Baghdad," as, "A number of Iraqis apprehended two Americans disguised in Arab dress as they tried to blow up a booby-trapped car in the middle of a residential area in western Baghdad on Tuesday. … Residents of western Baghdad’s al-Ghazaliyah district [said] the people had apprehended the Americans as they left their Caprice car near a residential neighborhood in al-Ghazaliyah on Tuesday afternoon. Local people found they looked suspicious so they detained the men before they could get away. That was when they discovered that they were Americans and called the … police." However, "the Iraq police arrived at approximately the same time as allied military forces - and the two men were removed from Iraq custody and whisked away before any questioning could take place."[16]

It was reported that in May of 2005, an Iraqi man was arrested after witnessing a car bombing that took place in front of his home, as it was said he shot an Iraqi National Guardsman. However, "People from the area claim that the man was taken away not because he shot anyone, but because he knew too much about the bomb. Rumor has it that he saw an American patrol passing through the area and pausing at the bomb site minutes before the explosion. Soon after they drove away, the bomb went off and chaos ensued. He ran out of his house screaming to the neighbors and bystanders that the Americans had either planted the bomb or seen the bomb and done nothing about it. He was promptly taken away."

Further, another story was reported in the same month that took place in Baghdad when an Iraqi driver had his license and car confiscated at a checkpoint, after which he was instructed "to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogation and in order to retrieve his license." After being questioned for a short while, he was told to drive his car to an Iraqi police station, where his license had been forwarded, and that he should go quickly. "The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead, as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors. The only feasible explanation for this incident is that the car was indeed booby trapped by the Americans and intended for the al-Khadimiya Shiite district of Baghdad. The helicopter was monitoring his movement and witnessing the anticipated ‘hideous attack by foreign elements."[17]

On October 4, 2005, it was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald that, "The FBI’s counterterrorism unit has launched a broad investigation of US-based theft rings after discovering some vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States, according to senior US Government officials." Further, "The inquiry began after coalition troops raided a Falluja bomb factory last November and found a Texas-registered four-wheel-drive being prepared for a bombing mission. Investigators said there were several other cases where vehicles evidently stolen in the US wound up in Syria or other Middle Eastern countries and ultimately in the hands of Iraqi insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq."[18]

In 2006, the Al-Askariya mosque in the city of Samarra was bombed and destroyed. It was built in 944, was over 1,000 years old, and was one of the most important Shi’ite mosques in the world. The great golden dome that covered it, which was built in 1904, was destroyed in the 2006 bombing, which was set off by men dressed as Iraqi Special Forces.[19] Former 27-year CIA analyst who gave several presidents their daily CIA briefings, Ray McGovern, stated that he "does not rule out Western involvement in this week’s Askariya mosque bombing." He was quoted as saying, "The main question is Qui Bono? Who benefits from this kind of thing? You don’t have to be very conspiratorial or even paranoid to suggest that there are a whole bunch of likely suspects out there and not only the Sunnis. You know, the British officers were arrested, dressed up in Arab garb, riding around in a car, so this stuff goes on."[20]

Death Squads for "Freedom"

In January of 2005, Newsweek reported on a Pentagon program termed the "Salvador Option" being discussed to be deployed in Iraq. This strategy "dates back to a still-secret strategy in the Reagan administration’s battle against the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s. Then, faced with a losing war against Salvadoran rebels, the U.S. government funded or supported "nationalist" forces that allegedly included so-called death squads directed to hunt down and kill rebel leaders and sympathizers." Updating the strategy to Iraq, "one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions."[21]

The Times reported that, "the Pentagon is considering forming hit squads of Kurdish and Shia fighters to target leaders of the Iraqi insurgency in a strategic shift borrowed from the American struggle against left-wing guerrillas in Central America 20 years ago. Under the so-called ‘El Salvador option’, Iraqi and American forces would be sent to kill or kidnap insurgency leaders." It further stated, "Hit squads would be controversial and would probably be kept secret," as "The experience of the so-called "death squads" in Central America remains raw for many even now and helped to sully the image of the United States in the region." Further, "John Negroponte, the US Ambassador in Baghdad, had a front-row seat at the time as Ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85."[22]

By June of 2005, mass executions were taking place in Iraq in the six months since January, and, "What is particularly striking is that many of those killings have taken place since the Police Commandos became operationally active and often correspond with areas where they have been deployed."[23]

In May of 2007, an Iraqi who formerly collaborated with US forces in Iraq for two and a half years stated that, "I was a soldier in the Iraqi army in the war of 1991 and during the withdrawal from Kuwait I decided to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia along with dozens of others like me. That was how began the process whereby I was recruited into the American forces, for there were US military committees that chose a number of Iraqis who were willing to volunteer to join them and be transported to America. I was one of those." He spoke out about how after the 2003 invasion, he was returned to Iraq to "carry out specific tasks assigned him by the US agencies." Among those tasks, he was put "in charge of a group of a unit that carried out assassinations in the streets of Baghdad."

He was quoted as saying, "Our task was to carry out assassinations of individuals. The US occupation army would supply us with their names, pictures, and maps of their daily movements to and from their place of residence and we were supposed to kill the Shi’i, for example, in the al-A’zamiyah, and kill the Sunni in the of ’Madinat as-Sadr’, and so on." Further, "Anyone in the unit who made a mistake was killed. Three members of my team were killed by US occupation forces after they failed to assassinate Sunni political figures in Baghdad." He revealed that this "dirty jobs" unit of Iraqis, Americans and other foreigners, "doesn’t only carry out assassinations, but some of them specialize in planting bombs and car bombs in neighborhoods and markets."

He elaborated in saying that "operations of planting car bombs and blowing up explosives in markets are carried out in various ways, the best-known and most famous among the US troops is placing a bomb inside cars as they are being searched at checkpoints. Another way is to put bombs in the cars during interrogations. After the desired person is summoned to one of the US bases, a bomb is place in his car and he is asked to drive to a police station or a market for some purpose and there his car blows up."[24]

Divide and Conquer?

Craig Murray, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, wrote in October of 2006, that, "The evidence that the US directly contributed to the creation of the current civil war in Iraq by its own secretive security strategy is compelling. Historically of course this is nothing new - divide and rule is a strategy for colonial powers that has stood the test of time. Indeed, it was used in the previous British occupation of Iraq around 85 years ago. However, maybe in the current scenario the US just over did it a bit, creating an unstoppable momentum that, while stalling the insurgency, has actually led to new problems of control and sustainability for Washington and London."[25]

Andrew G. Marshall contributed to breaking the Climate Change consensus in a celebrated 2006 article entitled Global Warming A Convenient Lie, in which he challenged the findings underlying Al Gore’s documentary. According to Marshall, ’as soon as people start to state that “the debate is over”, beware, because the fundamental basis of all sciences is that debate is never over’. Andrew Marshall has also written on the militarization of Central Africa, national security issues and the process of integration of North America. He is also a contributor to He is currently a researcher at the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) in Montreal and is studying political science and history at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia.


[1] Bob Woodward and Dan Balz, At Camp David, Advise and Dissent. The Washington Post: January 31, 2002:

[2] David Isenberg, ‘P2OG’ Allows the Pentagon to Fight Dirty. Asia Times Online: November 5, 2002:

[3] William M. Arkin, The Secret War. The Los Angeles Times: October 27, 2002:,0,7355676.story

[4] Chris Floyd, Into the Dark: The Pentagon Plan to Provoke Terrorist Attacks. Counter Punch: November 1, 2002:

[5] Sean Rayment, Top Secret Army Cell Breaks Terrorists. The Telegraph: February 5, 2007:

[6] Michael S. Rose, Britain’s "Dirty War" with the IRA. Catholic World News: July 2003:

[7] Home Affairs, The army asked me to make bombs for the IRA, told me I had the Prime Minister’s Blessing. The Sunday Herald: June 23, 2002:

[8] BBC, UK: Northern Ireland Bravery awards for bomb helpers. BBC News: November 17, 1999:

[9] Neil Mackay, British double-agent was in Real IRA’s Omagh bomb team. The Sunday Herald: August 19, 2001:

[10] Neil Mackay, IRA torturer was in the Royal Marines; Top republican terrorist. The Sunday Herald: December 15, 2002:

[11] Henry McDonald, UK agents ’did have role in IRA bomb atrocities’. The Guardian: September 10, 2006:

[12] Enda Leahy, MI5 ’helped IRA buy bomb parts in US’. Sunday Times: March 19, 2006:

[13] Sean Rayment, Top Secret Army Cell Breaks Terrorists. The Telegraph: February 5, 2007:

[14] AP, U.S. Blamed For Mosque Attack. CBS News: September 2, 2003:

[15] Dahr Jamail, Dahr Jamail Blog From Baghdad. The New Standard: April 20, 2004:

[16] FMNN, UNITED STATES CAUGHT IN IRAQ CAR-BOMBING. Free Market News Network: October 14, 2005:

[17] Michael Keefer, Were British Special Forces Soldiers Planting Bombs in Basra? Global Research: September 25, 2005:

[18] Bryan Bender, Cars stolen in US used in suicide attacks. The Sydney Morning Herald: October 4, 2005:

[19] Sam Knight, Bombing of Shia shrine sparks wave of retaliation. The Times Online: February 22, 2006:

[20] Prison Planet, Former CIA Analyst: Western Intelligence May Be Behind Mosque Bombing. Prison Planet: February 26, 2006:

[21] Michael Hirsh and John Barry, "The Salvador Option". Newsweek: January 14, 2005:

[22] Roland Watson, El Salvador-style ’death squads’ to be deployed by US against Iraq militants. The Times Online: January 10, 2005:

[23] Max Fuller, For Iraq, "The Salvador Option" Becomes Reality. Global Research: June 2, 2005:

[24] AMSII, Ordered Assassinations, Sectarian Bomb Attacks Targeting Iraqi Civilians. Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq: May 12, 2007:

[25] Craig Murray, Civil War in Iraq: The Salvador Option and US/UK Policy. October 18, 2006:

Time for a Grand Inquest into Bush's High Crimes

Go to Original
By Robert Borosage

One of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s first acts upon taking the gavel was to rule impeachment off the table. She wanted Democrats to focus on challenging the president on the war and on kitchen table concerns — from energy to education to health care. With Democrats now enjoying an increasing margin in generic polls and looking towards gaining seats in both the House and the Senate, the strategy certainly hasn’t hurt politically.

But the constitutional implications are far more disturbing. This was dramatized as the Congress debated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reform legislation that will provide retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies for warrantless interception of the conversations of Americans — and by implication, retroactive acceptance of the president’s authority to order such wiretaps.

We have witnessed a staggering abuse of power by President Bush. Even former Bush Justice Department officials now charge him with trampling the Constitution. Bush has claimed the prerogative to declare an endless war without congressional approval, to designate someone an enemy without cause, to proceed to wiretap them without warrant, arrest or kidnap them at will, jail them without a hearing, hold them indefinitely, interrogate them intensively (read torture), bring them to trial outside the U.S. court system. He claims that executive privilege exempts his aides — even the aides of his aides and his vice president’s aides — from congressional investigation. He claims the right to amend or negate congressional laws with a statement upon signing them. And much more.

Even this Supreme Court, stacked with activist right-wing judges enamored of executive national security powers, has rebuked the president on some of these claims, particularly around the treatment of alleged enemy combatants. But many of Bush’s claims will escape judicial determination.

And there is the rub. According to the leading case on presidential powers, if Bush’s extreme assertions of power are not challenged by the Congress, they end up not simply creating new law, they could end up rewriting the Constitution itself. Inaction can alter the Constitutional division of powers by establishing the president’s claims as authority that the Congress or the courts may not infringe.

The Steel Seizure case — Youngstown Sheet and Tube v Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952), remains the leading case on presidential power. In Youngstown, a six-member majority of the Court joined in overturning President Truman’s executive order nationalizing the steel plants to end a strike during the Korean War. Justice Black wrote the opinion for the Court, but the historically influential opinions were penned by Justices Robert H. Jackson and Felix Frankfurter, both Democratic appointees. Frankfurter laid out the argument for a sort of common law of constitutional amendment:

Deeply embedded traditional ways of conducting government cannot supplant the Constitution or legislation, but they give meaning to the words of a text or supply them. It is an inadmissibly narrow conception of American constitutional law to confine it to the words of the Constitution and to disregard the gloss which life has written upon them. In short, a systematic, unbroken, executive practice, long pursued to the knowledge of the Congress and never before questioned, engaged in by Presidents who have also sworn to uphold the Constitution, making as it were such exercise of power part [343 U.S. 579, 611] of the structure of our government, may be treated as a gloss on "executive Power" vested in the President by 1 of Art. II.

In Youngstown, Jackson concurred, arguing that the president’s powers vary as to whether he acts with congressional authority (his greatest power), in the absence of it, or in opposition to it:

When the president acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain. Therefore, congressional inertia, indifference or quiescence may sometimes, at least as a practical matter, enable, if not invite, measures on independent presidential responsibility. In this area, any actual test of power is likely to depend on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.

When a president egregiously abuses his power — particularly in areas relating to the rights of American citizens — remedies are often difficult. The Supreme Court is reluctant to arbitrate a power struggle between two co-equal branches. That is why the Constitution prescribes the specific remedy of impeachment for crimes and abuses of power — "high crimes and misdemeanors" — and empowers the House and Senate to sit in judgment whether the actions are to be accepted or condemned.

What the Court said in Youngstown is that if presidents assert a prerogative, such the power to make war without a congressional declaration — systematically, with unbroken regularity, with the knowledge of the Congress and are never questioned — then that practice becomes a Constitutional power that cannot be infringed upon by the Congress or the Courts.

Thus, Congress must formally object to President Bush’s abuses or it risks by "indifference or quiescence" contributing to the powers of our imperial presidency.

When Pelosi took impeachment off the table, impeachment was reduced to being a rhetorical protest vehicle for progressives like Dennis Kucinich or Russ Feingold. But Congress need not convict President Bush to impeach him for high crimes and misdemeanors. And arguably, the House need not even impeach the president to hold a grand inquest into the powers that he has claimed, registering a formal objection to them. The Judiciary Committee in the House should formally convene that inquest, no matter what the decision is on impeachment. For if Pelosi’s sensible political judgment results, as it has to date, in a show of congressional "inertia, indifference or quiescence," the Democratic majority in Congress may have gained a dozen seats at the cost of relinquishing its own powers, and putting the rights of Americans at risk.

FISA Vote Tied to Telecom Donations

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By Mike Lillis

Supporters of the Spying Bill Received Twice the Contributions as Those Against It

When scores of House Democrats joined Republicans last week to reauthorize a controversial White House spying program, many critics attributed that support to election-year jitters. But as liberal voters continue to bash Democrats on the issue, some campaign finance reformers charge that political contributions from the telecom industry, which benefited handsomely under the bill, probably also swayed votes.

In an analysis released Tuesday,, a nonprofit campaign finance watchdog group, found that lawmakers voting Friday in support of the wiretap deal averaged roughly twice the donations from the nation's leading telecoms -- Verizon, Sprint and AT&T -- over the last three years as those voting against it.

The figures might not have raised eyebrows except that the proposal contained a gift for the industry, effectively granting retroactive legal immunity to the telecoms that enabled the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program. The immunity provision -- blasted by civil libertarians for putting industry concerns above Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure -- rescues the companies from the roughly 40 lawsuits pending against them. Some money-in-politics watchdogs say the connection between the contributions and votes is no accident.

The money-in-politics debate is hardly new to Washington, but it has taken on greater urgency as both political contributions and federal budgets grow larger with each passing year. Under the current system, lawmakers have become ever more reliant on campaign coffers to maintain their hold on power. Industry, meanwhile, is under constant pressure to be at the negotiation table when related legislation is being crafted on Capitol Hill. Money is often the quickest way to gain that seat. This combination of factors has created a near symbiotic relationship between Congress and industry, often lending a sense that business interests take priority over citizens' concerns.

"It's not a dollar given and a vote bought," said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit campaign finance reform advocate, "but it is a system where large industries can gain influence and direct how policy is decided."

The shame, McGehee said, is that the campaign-finance system leads to conflict-of-interest questions even when none exist. "That undermines confidence in the legislative process," she stated.

Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman with Common Cause, echoed the message. "We certainly know that contributions go a long way to gaining access and influence," she said. "The appearance is that money buys votes."

Maplight's analysis, crunched using contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics, found that the 293 House members voting last week in favor of the wiretapping compromise received, on average, more than double the amount of money as those who voted against it. They got $9,659 from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint between January 2005 and March 2008, while those voting against got $4,810.

But some campaign finance experts warned against linking campaign donations to votes. "It's way too simplistic just to look at money given to a candidate and claim it's affected a particular vote," said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles specializing in election law. "It's something that's often alleged, but much harder to prove."

"There does seem to be a correlation between telecom money and the way people voted," Massie Ritsch, spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, said in an email, "but as in all cases when you're following the money, causation is nearly impossible to establish."

Indeed, in the case of the spying proposal, 94 of the 105 Democrats voting for the bill had supported an earlier House proposal to renew the spying law without granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), one of those 94, made clear that she opposed telecom immunity, but was forced to accept a compromise for the sake of passing a bill. The immunity language was a concession to the White House, which threatened to veto any bill without it.

"I do not believe that Congress should be in the business of interfering with ongoing lawsuits and attempting to grant immunity to telecommunications companies that allegedly violated the law," Pelosi said on the chamber floor last week. "Those companies have not lived up to the standards expected by the American people … They come out of this with a taint."

In return, Democrats included language previously opposed by the administration, including a clarification that the president has no authority outside the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to collect foreign-to-domestic communications, even in times of war.

The Senate is expected to pass the bill on Wednesday.

Not all Democrats felt the compromise language was worth the sacrifice of civil liberties.

"I have consistently said that it is not appropriate for Congress to grant these companies immunity for their actions without having an understanding of what it is that they did," said Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "This is not only because it will hold the telecommunications companies accountable for their actions, but because it is the only way of finding out just how extensive the president's illegal wiretapping program really was."

Liberal voters have lit up the blogosphere in agreement, charging that Democrats caved to White House demands at the expense of constitutional rights. Some civil liberties advocates also placed blame on the congressional leaders.

"This is all part of the abuse of power that we've seen out of this White House, as well as Congress' refusal to stand up and perform its constitutional duty to check the executive branch," said Boyle of Common Cause. "Congress is complicit here."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Coming Catastrophe?

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By David DeBatto

The finishing touches on several contingency plans for attacking Iran

"Israel has said a strike on Iran will be "unavoidable" if the Islamic regime continues to press ahead with alleged plans for building an atom-bomb." (London Daily Telegraph, 6/11/2008)

"Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany joined President Bush on Wednesday in calling for further sanctions against Iran if it does not suspend its uranium enrichment program." Mr. Bush stressed again that "all options are on the table," which would include military force. (New York Times, 6/11/2008)

We are fast approaching the final six months of the Bush administration. The quagmire in Iraq is in its sixth painful year with no real end in sight and the forgotten war in Afghanistan is well into its seventh year. The "dead enders" and other armed factions are still alive and well in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan again controls most of that country. Gas prices have now reached an average of $4.00 a gallon nationally and several analysts predict the price will rise to $5.00-$6.00 dollars per gallon at the pump by Labor Day. This, despite assurances by some major supporters of the decision to invade Iraq that the Iraq war "will pay for itself" (Paul Wolfowitz) or that we will see "$20.00 per barrel" oil prices if we invade Iraq (Rupert Murdoch).

One thing the Pentagon routinely does (and does very well) is conduct war games. Top brass there are constantly developing strategies for conducting any number of theoretical missions based on real or perceived threats to our national security or vital interests. This was also done prior to the invasion of Iraq, but the Bush administration chose not to listen to the dire warnings about that mission given to him by Pentagon leaders, or for that matter, by his own senior intelligence officials. Nevertheless, war gaming is in full swing again right now with the bullseye just to the right of our current mess – Iran.

It’s no secret that the U.S. is currently putting the finishing touches on several contingency plans for attacking Iranian nuclear and military facilities. With our ground forces stretched to the breaking point in Iraq and Afghanistan, none of the most likely scenarios involve a ground invasion. Not that this administration wouldn’t prefer to march into the seat of Shiite Islam behind a solid, moving line of M1 Abrams tanks and proclaim the country for democracy. The fact is that even the President knows we can’t pull that off any more so he and the neo-cons will have to settle for Shock and Awe Lite.

If we invade Iran this year it will be done using hundreds of sorties by carrier based aircraft already stationed in the Persian Gulf and from land based aircraft located in Iraq and Qatar. They will strike the known nuclear facilities located in and around Tehran and the rest of the country as well as bases containing major units of the Iranian military, anti-aircraft installations and units of the Revolutionary Guard (a separate and potent Iranian para-military organization).

Will this military action stop Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons? Probably not. It will probably not even destroy all of their nuclear research facilities, the most sensitive of which are known to be underground, protected by tons of earth and reinforced concrete and steel designed to survive almost all attacks using conventional munitions. The Iranian military and Revolutionary Guard will most likely survive as well, although they will suffer significant casualties and major bases and command centers will undoubtedly be destroyed. However, since Iran has both a functioning Air Force, Navy (including submarines) and modern anti-aircraft capabilities, U.S. fighter-bombers will suffer casualties as well. This will not be a "Cake Walk" as with the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003 when the Iraqi Army simply melted away and the Iraqi Air Force never even launched a single aircraft.

Not even close.

If the United States attacks Iran either this summer or this fall, the American people had better be prepared for a shock that may perhaps be even greater to the national psyche (and economy) than 9/11. First of all, there will be significant U.S. casualties in the initial invasion. American jets will be shot down and the American pilots who are not killed will be taken prisoner - including female pilots. Iranian Yakhonts 26, Sunburn 22 and Exocet missiles will seek out and strike U.S. naval battle groups bottled up in the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf with very deadly results. American sailors will be killed and U.S. ships will be badly damaged and perhaps sunk. We may even witness the first attack on an American Aircraft carrier since World War II.

That’s just the opening act.

Israel (who had thus far stayed out of the fray by letting the U.S. military do the heavy lifting) is attacked by Hezbollah in a coordinated and large scale effort. Widespread and grisly casualties effectively paralyze the nation, a notion once thought impossible. Iran’s newest ally in the region, Syria, then unleashes a barrage of over 200 Scud B, C and D missiles at Israel, each armed with VX gas. Since all of Israel is within range of these Russian built weapons, Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and virtually all major civilian centers and several military bases are struck, often with a result of massive casualties.

The Israeli Air Force orders all three squadrons of their F-16I Sufa fighter/bombers into the air with orders to bomb Tehran and as many military and nuclear bases as they can before they are either shot down or run out of fuel. It is a one way trip for some of these pilots. Their ancient homeland lies in ruins. Many have family that is already dead or dying. They do not wait for permission from Washington, DC or U.S. regional military commanders. The Israeli aircraft are carrying the majority of their country’s nuclear arsenal under their wings.

Just after the first waves of U.S. bombers cross into Iranian airspace, the Iranian Navy, using shore based missiles and small, fast attack craft sinks several oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, sealing off the Persian Gulf and all its oil from the rest of the world. They then mine the area, making it difficult and even deadly for American minesweepers to clear the straits. Whatever is left of the Iranian Navy and Air Force harasses our Navy as it attempts minesweeping operations. More U.S casualties.

The day after the invasion Wall Street (and to a lesser extent, Tokyo, London and Frankfurt) acts as it always does in an international crisis – irrational speculative and spot buying reaches fever pitch and sends the cost of oil skyrocketing. In the immediate aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iran, the price of oil goes to $200.00 - $300.00 dollars a barrel on the open market. If the war is not resolved in a few weeks, that price could rise even higher. This will send the price of gasoline at the pump in this country to $8.00-$10.00 per gallon immediately and subsequently to even higher unthinkable levels.

If that happens, this country shuts down. Most Americans are not be able to afford gas to go to work. Truckers pull their big rigs to the side of the road and simply walk away. Food, medicine and other critical products are not be brought to stores. Gas and electricity (what is left of the short supply) are too expensive for most people to afford. Children, the sick and elderly die from lack of air-conditioned homes and hospitals in the summer. Children, the sick and elderly die in the winter for lack of heat. There are food riots across the country. A barter system takes the place of currency and credit as the economy dissolves and banks close or limit withdrawals. Civil unrest builds.

The police are unable to contain the violence and are themselves victims of the same crisis as the rest of the population. Civilian rule dissolves and Martial Law is declared under provisions approved under the Patriot Act. Regular U.S. Army and Marine troops patrol the streets. The federal government apparatus is moved to an unknown but secure location. The United States descends into chaos and becomes a third world country. Its time as the lone superpower is over.

It doesn’t get any worse than this.

Then the first Israeli bomber drops its nuclear payload on Tehran.

Billion-Dollar Babies

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By Nick Turse

Five Stealth Pentagon Contractors Reaping Billions of Tax Dollars

The top Pentagon contractors, like death and taxes, almost never change. In 2002, the massive arms dealers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman ranked one, two, and three among Department of Defense contractors, taking in $17 billion, $16.6 billion, and $8.7 billion. Lockheed, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman did it again in 2003 ($21.9, $17.3, and $11.1 billion); 2004 ($20.7, $17.1, and $11.9 billion); 2005 ($19.4, $18.3, and $13.5 billion); 2006 ($26.6, $20.3, and $16.6 billion); and, not surprisingly, 2007 as well ($27.8, $22.5, and $14.6 billion). Other regulars receiving mega-tax-funded payouts in a similarly clockwork-like manner include defense giants General Dynamics, Raytheon, the British weapons maker BAE Systems, and former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, as well as BP, Shell, and other power players from the military-petroleum complex.

With the basic Pentagon budget now clocking in at roughly $541 billion per year -- before "supplemental" war funding for Iraq, Afghanistan, and the President’s Global War on Terror, as well as national security spending by other agencies, are factored in -- even Lockheed’s hefty $28 billion take is a small percentage of the massive total. Obviously, significant sums of money are headed to other companies. However, most of them, including some of the largest, are all but unknown even to Pentagon-watchers and antiwar critics with a good grasp of the military industrial complex.

Last year, in a piece headlined "Washington’s $8 Billion Shadow," Vanity Fair published an exposé of one of the better known large stealth contractors, SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation). SAIC, however, is just one of tens of thousands of Pentagon contractors. Many of these firms receive only tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Pentagon every year. Some take home millions, tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

Then there’s a select group that are masters of the universe in the ever-expanding military-coroporate complex, regularly scoring more than a billion tax dollars a year from the Department of Defense. Unlike Lockheed, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman, however, most of these billion-dollar babies manage to fly beneath the radar of media (not to mention public) attention. If appearing at all, they generally do so innocuously in the business pages of newspapers. When it comes to their support for the Pentagon’s wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are, in media terms, missing in action.

So, who are some of these mystery defense contractors you’ve probably never heard of? Here are snapshot portraits, culled largely from their own corporate documents, of five of the Pentagon’s secret billion-dollar babies:

1. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc.

Total DoD dollars in 2007: $3,360,739,032

This is billionaire investor Ronald Perelman’s massive holding company. It has "interests in a diversified portfolio of public and private companies" that includes the cosmetics maker Revlon and Panavision (the folks who make the cameras that bring you TV shows like 24 and CSI). MacAndrews & Forbes might, at first blush, seem an unlikely defense contractor, but one of those privately owned companies it holds is AM General -- the folks who make the military Humvee. Today, says the company, nearly 200,000 Humvees have been "built and delivered to the U.S. Armed Forces and more than 50 friendly overseas nations." Humvees, however, are only part of the story.

AM General has also assisted Carnegie Mellon University researchers in developing robots for the Pentagon blue-skies outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s "Grand Challenge," an autonomous robot-vehicle competition. Last year, AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems, a subsidiary of mega-weapons maker General Dynamics, formed a joint venture "to compete for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program." AM General has even gone to war -- dispatching its "field service representatives" and "maintenance technical representatives" to Iraq where they were embedded with U.S. troops.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that, earlier this year, the company received one of the Defense Logistics Agency’s Outstanding Readiness Support Awards. Nor should anyone be surprised to discover that a top MacAndrews & Forbes corporate honcho, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Administrative Officer Barry F. Schwartz, contributed a total of at least $10,000 to Straight Talk America, the political action committee of presidential candidate John McCain, who famously said it would be "fine" with him if U.S. troops occupied Iraq for "maybe a hundred years" (if not "a thousand" or "a million").

Perhaps hedging their bets just a bit, MacAndrews & Forbes is diversifying into an emerging complex-within-the-Complex: homeland security. Recently, AM General sold the Department of Homeland Security’s Border Patrol "more than 100 HUMMER K-series trucks for use in border security operations."

2. DRS Technologies, Inc.

Total DoD dollars in 2007: $1,791,321,140

Incorporated during the Vietnam War, DRS Technologies has long been "a leading supplier of integrated products, services and support to military forces, intelligence agencies and prime contractors worldwide"; that is, they have been in the business of fielding products that enhance some of the DoD’s deadliest weaponry, including "DDG-51 Aegis destroyers, M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks, M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, AH-64 Apache helicopters, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters, F-15 Eagle tactical fighters… [and] Ohio, Los Angeles and Virginia class submarines." They even have "contracts that support future military platforms, such as the DDG-1000 destroyer, CVN-78 next-generation aircraft carrier, Littoral Combat Ship and Future Combat System."

In addition to 2007’s haul of Pentagon dollars, DRS Technologies has continued to clean up in 2008 for a range of projects, including: a $16.2 million Army contract for refrigeration units; $51 million in new orders from the Army for thermal weapon sights (part of a five-year, $2.3-billion deal inked in 2007); a $10.1 million contract to build more than 140 M989A1 Heavy Expanded Mobility Ammunition Trailers (to transport "numerous and extremely heavy Multiple Launch Rocket System pods, palletized or non-palletized conventional ammunition and fuel bladders"); and a $23 million deal "to provide engineering support, field service support and general depot repairs for the Mast Mounted Sights (MMS) on OH-58 Kiowa Warrior attack helicopters," among many other contracts.

Fitch Ratings, an international credit rating agency, recently made a smart, if perhaps understated, point -- one that actually fits all of these billion-dollar babies. DRS, it wrote, "has benefited from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan…"

3. Harris Corporation

Total DoD dollars in 2007: $1,501,163,834

Harris is "an international communications and information technology company serving government, defense and commercial markets in more than 150 countries." It has an annual revenue of more than $4 billion and an impressive roster of former military personnel and other military-corporate complex insiders on its payroll. Not only does Harris assist and do business with a number of the Pentagon’s largest contractors (like Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems), it is also an active participant in occupations abroad. On its website, the company boasts that "Harris technology has been used for a variety of commercial and defense applications, including the War in Iraq where the [Harris software] system provided detailed, 3-D representations of Baghdad and other key Iraqi cities."

Last year, Harris signed multiple deals with the military, including contracts to create a high-speed digital data link that transmits tactical video, radar, acoustic, and other sensor data from Navy MH-60R helicopters to their host ships. It also supplies the Navy with advanced computers that provide the "highly sophisticated moving maps and critical mission information via cockpit displays" used by flight crews.

In the first six months of this year, Harris has continued its hard work for the Complex. In January, the company was "selected by the U.S. Air Force for the Network and Space Operations and Maintenance (NSOM) program" for "a base contract and six options that bring the potential overall value to $410 million over six-and-a-half-years" to provide "operations and maintenance support to the 50th Space Wing’s Air Force Satellite Control Network at locations around the world."

In May, the company was "awarded a three-year, $20 million contract by [top 10 Pentagon contractor] L3 Communications to provide products and services for a next-generation Tactical Video Capture System (TVCS)" -- a system that integrates real time video streams to enhance tactical training exercises -- "that will support training at various U.S. Marine Corps locations across the U.S. and abroad." That same month, Harris was also "awarded a potential five-year, $85 million Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract from the U.S. Navy for multiband satellite communications terminals that will provide advanced communications for aircraft carriers and other large deck ships."

In addition, Harris is now hard at work in the Homeland. Not only did the company pick up more than $3 million from the Department of Homeland Security last year, but national security expert Tim Shorrock, in a 2007 CorpWatch article, "Domestic Spying, Inc.," specifically noted that Harris and fellow intelligence industry contractors "stand to profit from th[e] unprecedented expansion of America’s domestic intelligence system."

4. Navistar Defense

Total DoD dollars in 2007: $1,166,805,361

Still listed in Pentagon documents under its old name, International Military and Government, LLC, Navistar is the military subsidiary of Navistar International Corporation -- "a holding company whose individual units provide integrated and best-in-class transportation solutions." While the company has served the U.S. military since World War I, it’s known, if at all, by the public for making some of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles designed to thwart Iraqi roadside bombs. As of April 2008, the U.S. military had "ordered 5,214 total production MaxxPro MRAP vehicles" from Navistar and, that same month, the company was awarded "a contract valued at more than $261 million… for engineering upgrades to the armor used on International MaxxPro MRAP vehicles."

But Navistar makes more than MRAPs. Just last month, the company signed a "multi-year contract valued at nearly $1.3 billion" with the U.S. Army "to provide Medium Tactical Vehicles and spare parts to the Afghanistan National Police, Afghan National Army, and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense." This followed a 2005 multi-year Army contract, worth $430 million, "for more than 2,900 vehicles and spare parts."

Quite obviously, the company is significantly, profitably, and proudly involved in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Tom Feifar, the Global Defense and Export general manager for Navistar Parts, put it late last year, "It’s an honor to be a part of the effort to support our troops."

5. Evergreen International Airlines

Total DoD dollars in 2007: $1,105,610,723

A privately held global aviation services company, it has subsidiaries in related industries such as helicopter aviation (Evergreen Helicopters, Inc.), as well as a few unrelated efforts like producing "agricultural, nursery and wine products" (Evergreen Agricultural Enterprises, Inc.). Evergreen has been on the Pentagon’s payroll for a long time. Back in 2004, Ed Connolly, the executive vice president of Evergreen International Airlines, stated, "Evergreen has flown continuously for the [U.S. Air Force] Air Mobility Command since 1975 and is proud to continue its long standing history of supporting the U.S. Armed Forces global missions with quality and reliable services."

Not surprisingly, Evergreen has been intimately involved in the occupation of Iraq. In fact, in 2004, the company received "approximately 200 awards for its support of international airlift services during the Iraq war" from the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command. An Air Force general even handed out these medals and certificates of achievement to Evergreen’s employees.

In Amnesty International’s 2006 report, "Below the Radar: Secret Flights to Torture and ‘Disappearance,’" the human rights organization noted that Evergreen was one of only a handful of private companies with current permits to land at U.S. military bases worldwide. That same year, the company even airlifted FOX News personality Bill O’Reilly and his TV show crew to Kuwait and Iraq to meet and greet troops, sign books and pictures, and hand out trinkets. And just last year the company was part of a consortium, including such high profile commercial carriers as American, Delta, and United Airlines that the Pentagon awarded a "$1,031,154,403 firm fixed-price contract for international airlift services… [that] is expected to be completed September 2008."

Under the Radar

All told, these five stealth corporations from the military-corporate complex received more than $8.9 billion in taxpayer dollars in 2007. To put this into perspective, that sum is almost $2 billion more than the Bush administration’s proposed 2009 budget for the Environmental Protection Agency. Put another way, it’s about nine times what one-sixth of the world’s population spent on food last year.

Tens of thousands of defense contractors -- from well-known "civilian" corporations (like Coca-Cola, Kraft, and Dell) to tiny companies -- have fattened up on the Pentagon and its wars. Most of the time, large or small, they fly under the radar and are seldom identified as defense contractors at all. So it’s hardly surprising that firms like Harris and Evergreen, without name recognition outside their own worlds, can take in billions in taxpayer dollars without notice or comment in our increasingly militarized civilian economy.

When the history of the Iraq War is finally written, chances are that these five billion-dollar babies, and most of the other defense contractors involved in making the U.S. occupation possible, will be left out. Until we begin coming to grips with the role of such corporations in creating the material basis for an imperial foreign policy, we’ll never be able to grasp fully how the Pentagon works and why we so regularly make war in, and carry out occupations of, distant lands.

Feingold: ‘Farce’ wiretap deal could be hiding ‘impeachable offense’

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By Nick Juliano

The battle to protect Americans from warrantless wiretaps and hold telecommunications companies accountable is all but lost, Sen. Russ Feingold, a leading critic of President Bush’s likely illegal surveillance programs, said Monday.

The “farce” of a surveillance law deal heralded by House Democratic leaders last week could permanently hide evidence of an “impeachable offense” on the part of President Bush, the Wisconsin Democrat said.

Feingold spoke at the New America Foundation in Washington about the nation’s intelligence needs. He panned an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that quickly passed in the House last week. The Senate is expected to follow suit this year, officially putting the Democratic-controlled Congress’s seal of approval on an administration backed gambit to essentially legalize Bush’s warrantless surveillance program while at the same time letting off the hook phone companies that critics say facilitated the contravention of current law.

“I do think this is a total farce with regard to the immunity [for telecommunications companies]. It basically guarantees the immunity,” Feingold said. “It doesn’t simply have the impact of potentially allowing telephone companies to break the law. It may prevent us from ever getting to the core issue … which is the president ran an illegal program that could’ve been an impeachable offense.”

House Democratic leaders heralded the bill as a “bipartisan compromise” because instead of giving blanket retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that facilitated the president’s warrantless wiretapping program, it would route the grants of immunity through a district court. As long as the companies could demonstrate to a judge that they were instructed to spy on Americans by the Bush administration they would be spared the trouble of litigating more than 40 pending lawsuits , even though they initiated the surveillance without legally required warrants.

“This is an astonishing giveaway,” Feingold said.

The FISA update passed the House Friday, less than 24 hours after it was released. The bill was crafted after negotiations among moderate Democrats, Republicans, the White House and telecommunications lobbyists. The Senate is expected to pass the bill this week, and Feingold sounded pessimistic about the chances to improve it, although he said he would work with other skeptical senators to try.

Feingold and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday to urge him not to simply rush the new surveillance bill through the Senate. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also has been critical of the proposed FISA update.

“I’m very worried we’re not going to be able to prevail,” Feingold said in response to a question from RAW STORY. “Sen Dodd and I and Sen. Leahy are going to do everything that we can to stop this mistake, but I’m very concerned … that far too many Democrats will vote the wrong way.”

One of those Democrats could be Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), the party’s presidential candidate. In a statement released Friday, Obama indicated support for the FISA deal, although he said he would work to remove the immunity provision.

“I don’t know what Sen. Obama’s going to do,” Feingold said. “But Democrats should be voting against this.”

Later during a question and answer section, Feingold was asked specifically whether he or Dodd would filibuster the FISA update this week. He said the two met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday to request that the bill not just be “rammed through” the Senate.

“We’ll be requiring key procedural votes, and also taking some time on the floor this week, to indicate the problems of this legislation,” he said. “We’re not just going to let it quickly pass.”

This video is from UStream TV, broadcast June 23, 2008.

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Feingold’s prepared speech focused on confronting foreign intelligence and information gaps. His remarks are reprinted below:

Remarks of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold
Confronting Foreign Intelligence and Information Gaps
The New America Foundation
June 23, 2008
As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Steve Clemons, and thanks to all of you here at the New America Foundation for the opportunity to speak at an organization that has a reputation for innovative thinking, and for challenging the status quo when it comes to public policy. The New America Foundation reminds me a little of my home state of Wisconsin - a purple state that, like NAF, transcends the conventional political spectrum.

As some of you may know, I hold open meetings with my constituents every year in every one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, and I have been doing this since I arrived in the U.S. Senate in 1993. From these meetings – now over 1,100 of them – I have gained a pretty good sense of the interests and concerns of the very diverse group of Americans that I represent.

In the last six years of these listening sessions, foreign affairs generally, and the war in Iraq specifically, have been the number one issue raised. Like so many Americans, the anger and resolve Wisconsinites felt after 9-11 have given way to confusion and frustration at this administration’s disastrous mistake in Iraq.

I hear in my listening sessions how this administration’s focus on Iraq has drained our country’s energy and financial resources, undermined our military readiness, and stymied action on our country’s security and domestic needs. And yet I also sense people’s readiness – their impatience, even — to take on the challenges of our post-9/11 world.

The American people are ready to face these new challenges, but the federal government is not. Nearly seven years after 9/11 we still have not translated the significance of that horrific event – and the responsibility and opportunity it thrust upon us – into a coherent plan of action. Instead, we remain mired in and distracted, politically and financially, by Iraq. As a consequence, many of the same serious problems that made us vulnerable to al Qaeda’s attack — in strategic planning, institutional readiness and allocation of resources — still remain.

My comments today are directed at two fundamental and continuing post 9-11 gaps: a gap in our strategic thinking and a major deficit in our foreign information and intelligence efforts. Until we address these gaps, our country will remain vulnerable here at home.

A Mistaken and Myopic Focus on Iraq

Clearly, the biggest strategic mistake after 9-11 has been the failure to address the threat of al Qaeda head on. Instead, we have conflated al Qaeda with Iraq, and launched a war in Iraq that perpetuates our military, intelligence, diplomatic and fiscal deficits and leaves us exposed - in fact increases our exposure – to very real threats to our domestic safety.

Most Americans now agree that the decision to go to war in Iraq was the wrong response to the attacks of 9-11. Unfortunately, even some political leaders who acknowledge this profound mistake seem to think we have no alternative but to perpetuate it by maintaining a massive open-ended presence in Iraq. I totally reject this position. We cannot construct an effective national security strategy that leaves tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq indefinitely.

The greatest threat to our national security remains al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists, whose leaders have found safe haven in Pakistan along the Afghanistan border, and which has a growing number of increasingly dangerous global affiliates.

If there is a geographic base to al Qaeda, it is not in Iraq. As Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, testified before Congress earlier this year “the most likely near term attack on the United States will come from al Qaeda via [its] safe havens in the under-governed regions of Pakistan.” Likewise, the Director of National Intelligence stated in a 2008 intelligence assessment that al Qaeda is now using the Pakistan safe haven to put into place the last elements necessary to launch another attack against the U.S.

The Atlantic Council, chaired by General James Jones, recently concluded:

Afghanistan remains a dangerously neglected conflict. . . . Yet, what is happening in Afghanistan and beyond its borders can have even greater strategic long-term consequences than the struggle in Iraq. Failure would be disastrous for Europe, North America, and the region. Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are already breeding grounds for insurgency and terrorism, potentially worse than before September 11th. . . . And what happens in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan will most likely be influenced by conditions in Afghanistan.

The war in Iraq not only diverts the vast bulk of our military resources from the more immediate threats to our safety in places like Afghanistan, it also saps our nation’s financial strength and our ability to invest in our security. Osama bin Laden gave a speech in 2004 in which he stated that his goal was to bankrupt America. That’s al Qaeda’s strategic goal – to bankrupt America — and they have been successful beyond their dreams as we spend ourselves – our money, our people and our global goodwill — into bankruptcy with our misguided focus on Iraq.

If we are to win our struggle against those who seek to do us harm, we must regain global and strategic perspective; reverse this misdirected deployment of our military resources in Iraq; and realign our military, intelligence, diplomatic and other resources to address the threats to our nation’s safety and security that are posed by al Qaeda and its affiliates and sympathizers.

Deficit in Strategic Non-Military Resources

We also need to acknowledge that military resources alone aren’t enough to win this fight. The 2006 Annual Report of the U.S. Intelligence Community states that the predominant, immediate threats to our physical safety are terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These are asymmetrical threats. Terrorism, and to an important degree proliferation, arise from stateless groups that are not deterred by massive weaponry or large standing armies. So, to effectively confront these threats, we have to move beyond a Cold War security strategy that emphasizes traditional military force.

This is not a partisan issue. What I say here today echoes what’s been said by leaders in this and prior administrations and members of both parties. The 9-11 Commission called for an increase in diplomatic, development and humanitarian tools. My Nebraska colleague, Senator Chuck Hagel, who serves with me on both the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, recently said “You will never win anything in the long run with just military power. When you’re dealing with terrorism, extremism, poverty, despair, those are problems far bigger than the military.” Senators Biden and Lugar, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, have both emphasized the need for more effective civilian-led foreign policy efforts, as have Defense Secretary Gates, Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former deputy Secretary of Defense Joseph Nye.

The major strategic gap in our 21st century preparedness, then, is not a missile gap or a gap in military personnel and hardware measured against the armies and arsenals of another state. The major strategic gap is a deficit in the strength and variety of resources we must bring to bear on the asymmetric threats of today. An effective 21st century national security strategy must include improved resources to collect covert and public information, enhance multilateral diplomacy and prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons. Our strategy must also encourage participatory, transparent and fair government around the world, and promote accountability and the rule of law. That’s because these are key American principles, and because ineffective, repressive, corrupt and unresponsive governments can provide breeding grounds for extremism.

Our military increasingly has taken on the roles of our civilian-led institutions because we have massive deficits in those civilian agencies — in financial and human resources; in cultural and language capabilities; and in coherent, interagency strategies to anticipate and respond to threats to our national security.

We have to change our budgetary priorities to address these deficits. Even the greatest military arsenal in the world can’t ensure the safety of populations or resolve conflicts around the globe. And yet we continue to spend hundreds of billions of dollars – borrowed from China, Japan and oil-exporting countries — on weapons systems designed for Cold War conflicts between states with comparable weapon systems.

It is well past time to shift our strategic thinking – and our corresponding expenditures and actions – beyond outdated military tools and solutions. Let me quote Secretary Gates’ budgetary views from his Kansas State University speech: “We need,” he said, “a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development.” One way to increase this much-needed investment in the civilian instruments of national security is to cut wasteful spending on weapons programs that will not help us address our most pressing national security concerns. These include, for example, the F-22 Raptor, which Secretary Gates has specifically identified as a weapons system with limited relevance in counterterrorism operations. It has never flown in Iraq or Afghanistan yet the Air Force continues to ask for more.

I am pleased that the President’s fiscal year 2009 budget attempts to increase the number of Foreign Service officers. As Secretaries Gates and Rice have said, there are more personnel on a single aircraft carrier task force, and more lawyers doing work for the Pentagon, than there are Foreign Service Officers. But, assuming the President’s proposal goes forward, the net gains are unclear, after accounting for the increased demands of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Government Accountability Office reported at the end of last year that, though the Department of State hired over 1,000 Foreign Service officers above attrition levels between 2002 and 2004, that increase was essentially consumed by the staffing demands of Iraq and Afghanistan programs. Even our modest efforts to enhance our civilian capacity, then, are being undermined by Iraq. This is also true with respect to our foreign information and intelligence capacity, to which I will now turn.

Intelligence Gaps

9/11 exposed major gaps in how intelligence critical to our national security was gathered, analyzed and used. The 9/11 Commission reviewed those gaps and began a process of intelligence reform that prompted the creation of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The work is far from complete, but at least a framework for change has been put in place.

Another great challenge remains, however — one that is just as critical to fighting al Qaeda, as well as other threats to our national security. And, unlike the reform efforts pursued thus far, it is broader than just the Intelligence Community. The problem is our deficits in information collection, as well as reporting and analysis. By “information,” I mean not just intelligence gathered clandestinely, but also information obtained through diplomatic reporting and all the overt channels through which our government learns about the world. Inside and outside the Intelligence Community, our government has failed to coordinate information collection across different departments and agencies.

Our foreign information and intelligence will only be as good as the people we employ to gather it – and their ability to operate in the places to which we send them. Yet our intelligence deficit in human resources and collectors abroad is huge. The Office of the DNI estimates that between 1989 and 2001 – during the administrations of both political parties — there was a 40% loss in intelligence human resources. Making up for that loss will take time – after all, it takes five to seven years to develop an experienced employee. And we are short of experienced employees. Just consider what the DNI has acknowledged, that two-thirds of our intelligence-related human resources with responsibilities for sub-Saharan Africa – an area with ongoing al Qaeda activities — have less than five years of knowledge and experience.

The answer to these deficits in numbers and experience cannot be what the DNI has called its authority to “lift and shift” people to address the latest crisis. We need to develop the expertise that only years of study and experience can produce, and we need to pre-position expert collectors around the world – before crises arise.

The 2006 Intelligence Community Annual Report said that the intelligence agencies are “losing the ‘war for talent,’ finding it difficult to recruit, motivate, and retain the best candidates for its positions.” More specifically, the report noted: “[r]ecruiting and retaining high-level skills in critical languages and scientific and technical fields remains difficult.” Simply put, our national security depends on overcoming this particular challenge.

Human resources is part of a larger set of problems in how we collect and analyze information. As I will explain, these problems are entrenched and defy the ability of current institutions to correct them. For that reason, I recently introduced legislation with Senator Chuck Hagel to establish a Foreign Intelligence and Information Commission. Our bill will establish an independent commission to address long-standing, systematic problems in the collection, reporting, and analysis of foreign intelligence as well as diplomatic reporting and open source information.

First, as the Director of National Intelligence has testified, we continue to direct “disproportionate” resources toward current crises, rather than toward long-term strategic issues and emerging threats. Second, we don’t have the geographic distribution of resources we need to anticipate threats around the world. The lack of “global reach” has also been acknowledged by the Intelligence Community leadership. And third, we lack a comprehensive approach to information collection conducted by the U.S. government as a whole, including not only the Intelligence Community, but also State Department and other government officers who are based in our embassies.

This final point – that the problem, and the solution, are broader than the Intelligence Community — has also been acknowledged. Appearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Michael Leiter, Director of the United States National Counterterrorism Center, specifically noted that “much of the information about the instability that can lead to safe havens or ideological radicalization comes not from covert collection but from open collection, best done by Foreign Service officers.” The problem is that it is not in the power of Mr. Leiter, or anyone in the Intelligence Community, to make sure that there are enough Foreign Service officers, in the right places, with the right resources.

To put it simply – the government does not have a process for asking the following questions: What do we need to know, not only today but in the future? Who is best suited to get that information and where do they need to be? Is our analysis up to the task? And how do we allocate resources, across agencies, so that these requirements are met with adequate funding and are focused on prevention, not just reaction? These big strategic questions are critical to our national security, yet they don’t get asked, much less answered. These issues extend well beyond the authorities of the DNI and the jurisdiction of any one congressional committee. That is why we need an independent commission to finally address them comprehensively and to make recommendations for the executive branch and for Congress. I am pleased that the Senate Intelligence Committee has endorsed this approach by including the Feingold-Hagel bill in legislation the Committee approved authorizing intelligence activities for the upcoming fiscal year.

Talking about “information collection” can sound a little abstract, but the implications are very real. Take, for example, our ability to address terrorist safe havens. As recently as the end of January, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief, Lt. Gen. Dell L. Dailey, publicly expressed concerns about what our intelligence services know – and don’t know — about the threat in the Afghan-Pakistani tribal areas. He said: “We don’t have enough information about what’s going on there. Not on al Qaeda. Not on foreign fighters. Not on the Taliban.” The same could be said about other safe havens identified by the State Department, including Somalia, the Sahel, and areas of Southeast Asia.

Around the world, potential instability looms, and political, economic and social conditions that can contribute to terrorist safe havens persist. The question for our government is how do we address these challenges, before the crises arise? Do we need more clandestine collectors in these parts of the world? Or do we need more political officers in far-flung places so we can do more robust diplomatic reporting? What does a U.S. embassy in one of these countries look like, from an interagency collection and reporting perspective? Are more consulates and out-of-embassy posts part of the solution? And how do we connect the requirements of our embassies overseas to Washington, where budget requests and spending allocations should reflect a broad strategy for collecting information across different agencies?

An independent commission will be able to ask, and help to answer, these questions. It will be able to look at the Intelligence Community, the State Department, and other departments and agencies to ensure that strategic and budgetary planning is part of a larger, interagency process. The commission will consider the role of the National Security Council and the OMB in this process. And it will look at the problem from top to bottom, interviewing NSC officials in Washington and visiting country missions overseas. This would not be a confrontational or accusatory investigation. It’s an inquiry intended to produce concrete recommendations to fix long-standing problems. Those recommendations will be of enormous benefit to whoever the next president is. And it will help Congress as it conducts oversight and considers the role of the Intelligence Community, the DNI, the State Department, and other agencies in the context of a broader strategy.

Other Gaps

There are other significant gaps in our security post-9/11, from this administration’s inconsistent “freedom agenda,” to our convoluted foreign assistance strategies, to our domestic infrastructure needs, but I think I may need a separate invitation for another day to speak about these.

Ultimately, the gaps that left us exposed here at home to the catastrophic attack we experienced on 9-11 remain with us. They present us with very real risks that are being left unaddressed, in part, because of our military presence in Iraq. The longer we remain in Iraq, the longer we will be unable to devote the human and financial resources these challenges urgently need.

I appreciate the roles that this institution and this audience play in helping to bring these issues into focus. I am hopeful that our voices, in all their diversity, will help inform decisions in a new administration that are in our best and collective interests. Nothing less than America’s security and future is at stake.

Thank you.