Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Why al-Maliki attacked Basra

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By Juan Cole

The three reasons the Iraqi prime minister launched his ill-fated assault on the Sadrists of southern Iraq.

Why did Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attack the Mahdi army in Basra last week?

Despite the cease-fire called Sunday by Shiite leader Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the millions-strong Sadr Movement, last week’s battles between the Mahdi army and the Iraqi army revealed the continued weakness and instability of al-Maliki’s government. Al-Maliki went to Basra on Monday, March 24, to oversee the attack on city neighborhoods loyal to al-Sadr. By Friday, the Iraqi minister of defense, Abdul Qadir Jasim, had to admit in a news conference in Basra that the Mahdi army had caught Iraqi security forces off guard. Most Sadrist neighborhoods fought off the government troops with rocket-propelled grenades and mortar fire. At the same time, the Mahdi army asserted itself in several important cities in the Shiite south, as well as in parts of Baghdad, raising questions of how much of the country the government really controls. Only on Sunday, after the U.S. Air Force bombed some key Mahdi army positions, was the Iraqi army able to move into one of the Sadrist districts of Basra.

By the time the cease-fire was called, al-Maliki had been bloodied after days of ineffective fighting and welcomed a way back from the precipice. Both Iran, which brokered the agreement, and al-Sadr, whose forces acquitted themselves well against the government, were strengthened. As of press time Tuesday morning in Iraq, the truce was holding in Basra, and a curfew had been lifted in Baghdad, though sporadic fighting continued in the capital. Estimates of casualties for the week were 350.

The campaign was a predictable fiasco, another in a long line of strategic failures for the sickly and divided Iraqi government, which survives largely because it is propped up by the United States. So why did al-Maliki do it? With no obvious immediate crisis in Basra that called for such desperate measures, what could have motivated the decision to attack?

Three main motivations present themselves: control of petroleum smuggling, staying in power (including keeping U.S. troops around to ensure it), and the achievement of a Shiite super-province in the south. A southern super-province would spell a soft partition of the country, benefiting Shiites in the long term while cutting Sunnis out of substantial oil revenues, both licit and illicit. But all of the motivations have to do with something President Bush established as a benchmark in January 2007: upcoming provincial elections.

The Sadr Movement leaders themselves are convinced that the recent setting of a date for provincial elections, on Oct. 1, 2008, and al-Maliki’s desire to improve the government’s position in advance of the elections, precipitated the prime minister’s attack. It is widely thought that the Sadrists might sweep to power in the provinces in free and fair elections, since the electorate is deeply dissatisfied with the performance of the major incumbent party in the southern provinces, the Islamic Supreme Council of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim.

Provincial elections could radically change the political landscape in Iraq. Both the Sunni Arabs and the Sadr Movement sat out the last round, in late January 2005. Thus, governments in the Sunni Arab areas are unrepresentative and in one case a Sunni-majority province, Diyala, is actually ruled by the Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), which Sunnis tend to see as a puppet of Iran.

Likewise in the Shiite south, the ISCI, led by Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, is largely in power, even though probably a majority of the population favors Sadr. To have a minority in power and the majority feeling disenfranchised is especially dangerous in a violent society such as Iraq. The disjuncture has contributed to endemic fighting in the capital of Qadisiya Province, Diwaniya, for instance, between Sadr’s Mahdi army and the paramilitary of the Islamic Supreme Council, or Badr Corps. In many provinces, ISCI has infiltrated members of its Badr paramilitary into the police and security forces, thus giving them the presumption of legitimacy and allowing the branding of the Mahdi army as violent militiamen with no popular mandate, won at the polls.

That the week’s fighting was intended to bolster pro-government forces in preparation for the October provincial elections is at least plausible. During the fighting, the Iraqi army was allied with the Badr Corps paramilitary of the ISCI, which was trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. ISCI, the leading Shiite political party in parliament, is now al-Maliki’s main backer in the government, along with his own smaller Da’wa (Islamic Call) Party. And U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner told a news conference on Wednesday that the Iraqi army’s military operation, which U.S. forces aided, was aimed at improving "security" in the city ahead of provincial elections.

And then there is the super-province. On the same day that Bergner spoke, a Sadrist leader told the Times of Baghdad, "The objective of the operations in Basra is to impose a provincial confederacy on the south, which the Sadr Movement opposes." The reference to a provincial confederacy, confusingly called "federalism" in Iraq, is to the plan of ISCI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim to establish an eight-province regional government for the Shiite south. Were the Sadrists to win the southern provinces in October’s provincial elections, they would halt any move toward such a confederacy, since they favor strong central government on the French model and view al-Hakim’s plan for a Shiite super-province as the first stage in a soft partition of Iraq.

The issue of whether to create a Shiite super-province and risk a soft partition of Iraq is not the only source of conflict between the Sadrists and the Iraqi government. The Sadr Movement demands the setting of a timetable for the departure of U.S. troops, a demand supported by a majority of the members of parliament but which is not shared by most ministers in the Iraqi cabinet.

Indeed, the Sadr Movement, which helped bring al-Maliki to power in spring of 2006, broke with him precisely over his refusal to demand that the U.S. set a timetable for troop withdrawal from Iraq. The Sadrists also objected to al-Maliki’s direct meetings with Bush, which they saw as a humiliating capitulation to colonialism. In summer of 2007, the Sadrists withdrew their ministers from al-Maliki’s cabinet.

The Bush administration wants its current partners to stay in power in the Shiite areas, since ISCI and al-Maliki’s Da’wa party support a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq. Washington would probably therefore have preferred that the provincial elections in the Shiite south be postponed. Yet the administration knows that there is little hope of mollifying the Sunni Arabs unless they have an opportunity to vote for their own provincial leadership. The very step that might help calm down the Sunni Arab provinces, however, may inflame tensions in the Shiite south, if the Sadrists toss ISCI out on its collective ear.

The upcoming provincial elections are a potential public relations nightmare for both the Iraqi government and its allies in the Bush administration. What if fighting breaks out in September between the Badr Corps and the Mahdi army? They are the paramilitaries of the two major parties that will be heatedly contesting the south. A campaign now might weaken the Mahdi army, suggesting to the electorate in the south that the Sadrists cannot protect them. Iraqi Shiites appear mainly to vote for parties that they hope can protect them and establish security.

Other issues, such as petroleum smuggling, are also bound up with the power struggle. The various political parties in Basra are using their paramilitaries to capture and smuggle Iraqi government gasoline and kerosene, worth billions, which allows them to build up big war chests for fighting the elections and doing charitable work in rundown neighborhoods. A decisive defeat of the Mahdi army in Basra now would possibly have deprived the Sadrists of the funding they need to win the October elections.

If the Sadr Movement rules most Shiite-majority provinces, including Baghdad, that will make it difficult for the U.S. military to remain in the country. It will stop any move toward a soft partition of the country of the sort endorsed by the U.S. Senate. It will ensure that the Sadr Movement can continue to siphon off billions in petroleum revenue through smuggling, strengthening it for the future.

The survival of the current Iraqi government, based on rivals to the Sadrists such as ISCI and the Da’wa Party of al-Maliki, hangs in the balance. Clearly, al-Maliki felt that the operation had to be launched, and may well have thought that it is better to do it now, so that it will not be fresh in the minds of the Iraqi or American electorate when they go to the polls in the fall. Now that al-Maliki’s campaign has gone so badly, it raises the question of whether there will be a sympathy vote for al-Sadr in October. The Iraqis, a majority of whom say they want a short timetable for U.S. withdrawal, may well have an opportunity to elect provincial governments that, practically speaking, want the same thing, in October. If that happens, it is hard to see how the U.S. presence can last, since the U.S. needs bases in Shiite provinces like Baghdad so as to function.

US Truckers Disrupt Traffic to Protest Fuel Prices

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By Janet McGurty

New York - U.S. truckers caused minor traffic snags in parts of the country on Tuesday to protest soaring costs for diesel, according to members of a major trucking association and law enforcement officials.

The mild disruptions from New Jersey to Chicago came in the midst of a week-long effort by independent truckers to get federal help easing the strain of high fuel prices through public protests or work stoppages.

"Our fuel costs have doubled over the past five years and the cost of doing business has doubled," said one Florida-based driver. "Our industry is in ruins and the rest of the economy is going into a huge tailspin."

On the New Jersey Turnpike, one of the most heavily traveled highways in the United States, hundreds of people took part in a protest at a service area and truckers reportedly were driving at slow speeds to back up traffic.

"There are some localized minor disruptions. We have taken enforcement actions which resulted in issuing summonses," said Lt. Gerald Lewis, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Police.

Police also handed out tickets to a few truckers driving below the legal minimum speed on a three-lane interstate near Chicago, while other small protests were reported in several other states.

The protests, however, did not appear widespread. A spokesman for the California Highway Patrol said there was no evidence of any disruptions in the state, which has some of the nation's worst highways and biggest ports.

In Florida, four dozen truckers gathered near the Port of Tampa to rail against high fuel prices but no attempts to block traffic were reported.

"We haven't experienced any traffic delays or any protests," said Lt. Ron Castleberry, at the Florida Highway Patrol headquarters in Tallahassee.

Diesel Squeeze

The protests by independent truckers - who make up 90 percent of the U.S. trucking industry - came amid a 50 percent spike in diesel prices since last year that has brought the cost of a gallon to nearly $4 on average nationwide, according to the latest U.S. government survey.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents many of the truckers taking part in the protests, said it wants Congress to mandate a 100 percent pass-through of fuel surcharges to drivers as well as full transparency from trucking brokers to match loads and drivers.

The OOIDA has about 161,000 members, slightly less than half of the 350,000 independent truckers in the United States. The group said it does not call for strikes and gave no estimates of now many of its members might participate in protests or work stoppages this week.

The protests are loosely organized over Internet chat boards, members said, with truckers opting for the level of participation that suits their needs - including just putting up protest signs on their trucks.

"If you have an obligation to a customer and can't stop driving, you can put up a sign even if you can't come off the road," said an independent trucker.

One South Carolina-based independent trucker, who said he pays thousands of dollars up front for fuel, said he has not worked for three weeks.

"There is not enough money to take my truck on the road," he said.

Mike Schermoly, a spokesman for OOIDA, warned that without help easing the strain of high fuel costs on the trucking industry, prices of groceries and other goods could rise.

"Some drive home, some find another job, some go fishing," he said. "Whatever they do the effect is to take the more trucks out of the market and there will be a shortage of trucks. Price of milk, lettuce will continue to rise." (additional reporting Nick Zieminski in New York, Andy Stern in Chicago, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, and Jane Sutton in Miami; Editing by David Gregorio)

ACLU: Military Skirting Law to Spy

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By Larry Neumeister

New York - The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans’ Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, the ACLU said Tuesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union based its conclusion on a review of more than 1,000 documents turned over by the Defense Department after it sued the agency last year for documents related to national security letters, or NSLs, investigative tools used to compel businesses to turn over customer information without a judge’s order or grand jury subpoena.

"Newly unredacted documents released today reveal that the Department of Defense is using the FBI to circumvent legal limits on its own NSL power," said the ACLU, whose lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court.

ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman said the documents the civil rights group studied "make us incredibly concerned." She said it would be understandable if the military relied on help from the FBI on joint investigations, but not when the FBI was not involved in a probe.

The FBI referred requests for comment Tuesday to the Defense Department. A department spokesman, Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder, said in an e-mail that the department had made "focused, limited and judicious" use of the letters since Congress extended the capability to investigatory entities other than the FBI in 2001.

He said the department had acted legally in using a necessary investigatory tool and noted that "unusual financial activity of people affiliated with DoD can be an indication of potential espionage or terrorist-related activity."

Ryder said the information in the ACLU claims came in part from an internal review of DoD’s use of the letters.

"We have since developed training and provided it to the services for their use," he said.

He said that there was no law requiring it to track use of the letters but that the department had decided it was in its best interest to do so.

Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said the military is allowed to demand financial and credit records in certain instances but does not have the authority to get e-mail and phone records or lists of Web sites that people have visited. That is the kind of information that the FBI can get by using a national security letter, she said.

"That’s why we’re particularly concerned. The DoD may be accessing the kinds of records they are not allowed to get," she said.

Goodman also noted that legal limits are placed on the Defense Department "because the military doing domestic investigations tends to make us leery."

In other allegations, the ACLU said:

  • The Navy’s use of the letters to demand domestic records has increased significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks.

  • The military wrongly claimed its use of the letters was limited to investigating only Defense Department employees.

  • The Defense Department has not kept track of how many national security letters the military issues or what information it obtained through the orders.

  • The military provided misleading information to Congress and silenced letter recipients from speaking out about the records requests.

Goodman said Congress should provide stricter guidelines and meaningful oversight of how the military and FBI make national security letter requests.

"Any government agency’s ability to demand these kinds of personal, financial or Internet records in the United States is an intrusive surveillance power," she said.

Dance of the Oil Fairies

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By Kelpie Wilson

On April Fools’ Day, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming invited executives from the five biggest US oil companies to answer questions about high gas prices, oil company profits and the future of oil. Executives from Exxon, Shell, BP America, Chevron and ConocoPhillips responded to a battery of questions from committee members who ranged from strongly skeptical to downright sycophantic (all the sycophants were Republicans).

Even the most hard-hitting questioners, however, failed to pin the execs down on the real issue, which is how to convince an oil industry that is running up against absolute supply limits to switch gears and invest resources in what Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Washington) called the "clean energy revolution." With practiced facility, the oil execs danced around the question and reconfirmed their commitment to the relentless pursuit of hydrocarbons in any form, no matter how dirty or expensive to extract.

Committee Chair Ed Markey opened with the observation that today the poorest 20 percent of Americans are spending 10 percent of their income on gasoline, while oil company profits have quadrupled in the past six years. Markey said that much of this profit was wasted last year and alleged that the five companies spent $50 billion on what he called "financial engineering" to prop up the price of their stock.

Markey called on the companies to consider the plight of the poorest Americans and pledge 10 percent of their profits to renewable energy investments. He also asked them to stop opposing the renewable energy legislation passed by the House (but not yet by the Senate) that would shift $18 billion in tax breaks for oil over to support renewable energy.

J. Stephen Simon, senior vice president for Exxon, responded that the oil industry needs the profits it makes in good years to carry it through the bad years. He stressed the cyclical nature of the oil business, citing the oil price spike in 1980 that reached over $100 a barrel in today’s dollars. He said the prediction at that time was for oil to go to over $250 a barrel in today’s dollars, but it never did. By the mid 1980s, prices had fallen dramatically and the industry was "in dire straights." That could happen again, he implied.

John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil Company, seemed more connected to the reality of oil today. He called the energy supply and demand outlook "sobering," acknowledging that "demand is increasing unrelentingly." He said that he agreed with Chairman Markey that the country needs a Manhattan Project or Apollo-style project to develop new energy sources. Shell supports a cap and trade system to reduce carbon emissions, and Hofmeister said, "We must work now to address CO2 emissions as we make the transition from fossil fuels to new energy sources." But while giving lip service to climate issues, Shell is also making major investments in the most carbon-intensive energy sources: Canadian tar sands, US oil shale and coal gasification technologies.

Peter Robertson of Chevron acknowledged that "the system is straining" to provide oil for increasing consumption. He called for "urgent action" and increased efficiency to moderate demand. Between 2007 and 2008, Chevron plans to spend $2.5 billion on renewables and energy efficiency services. One example is a partnership with Weyerhauser Corporation to develop an advanced biofuels project. But Robertson cautioned on the scale of the challenge to replace fossil fuels. He said, "a large biofuels plant in the US produces in a year what one of our refineries produces in a week."

John Lowe of ConocoPhillips said renewables were not part of their core business and he would "disavow the concept that alternatives can be quickly deployed." He said the US is in a global race with other countries to increase supplies and warned that "punitive taxes" would "undermine our capabilities."

Bob Malone of BP America said, "we support renewable incentives, but taxing one form of energy to support another will mean less energy overall." BP is nearly doubling the capacity of its Maryland solar photovoltaic plant and investing in next-generation biofuels that do not use a fuel crop, he said.

During the two-and-a-half-hour hearing, the oil executives repeatedly referred to a study by the National Petroleum Council released last July called "Facing the Hard Truths about Energy." This study maintains that oil, gas and coal will continue to dominate the energy mix in 2030, with renewables playing only a small part. The execs used this conclusion to dance around the need for rapid deployment of renewables, saying their study shows you can’t get there from here.

Energy analyst Tom Whipple has disparaged the petroleum industry’s study, saying: "The NPC artfully camouflaged the enormous near-term challenges in producing sufficient oil and gas to fuel the global economy. Hard truths are hinted at but never clearly identified. Troubling trends are referenced, but their ramifications are dodged."

In the course of the hearing, only one Congressional representative actually uttered the words "peak oil." Jerry McNerney (the Democratic wind energy consultant who defeated arch anti-green California Congressman Richard Pombo in 2006) asked the oil executives if they thought opening up Alaska and offshore areas to oil development would make much difference in the timing of peak oil.

Shell Oil’s Hofmeister quickly responded that he did "not subscribe to peak oil" and that Shell believes that world oil production will rise from the current 85 million barrels a day to the 110 to 115 million barrels needed to meet future demand. He said peak oil theory is "based on very narrow assumptions" that do not include unconventional oil sources like the Canadian tar sands.

Chairman Markey continued to sharpen his sword for Exxon, the oil company that has made the most profits and invested the least in renewable energy. He extracted from J. Stephen Simon the information that Exxon’s investments in renewable energy amount to only about one-half of one percent of its revenue.

Jay Inslee of Washington pursued the matter of Exxon’s investments further. He pointed to the global warming challenge that will require reducing emissions 80 percent below present levels by 2050 and said to Simon, "If your company continues on its present course, it will fall several hundred orders of magnitude short of what we must to do to prevent cataclysmic global climate changeÉif you don’t put research dollars into it, where are these new technologies going to come from? The oil fairies?"

Inslee asked Simon to consider a study done at Stanford called "A Renewable Energy Solution to Global Warming" by Mark Jacobson. The study concluded that the US could replace all of its vehicles with battery electric vehicles powered by 71,000 to 122,000 five megawatt wind turbines. Building those turbines would be the industrial equivalent of building all the aircraft used in World War II. It could be done.

"Wouldn’t you agree," he asked Simon, "that this vision from Stanford is one the US really needs? With your pathetically small research budget, we are not going to get there."

Inslee said that Simon’s testimony had made him even more determined to act. Addressing Simon again, he said: "I don’t see things changing, and obviously we’ve got to change you by changing this tax policy."

While Big Oil fights any reduction in its subsidized tax breaks, the struggling renewable energy industry is facing a catastrophe as its small but vital production and investment tax credits expire at the end of 2008. Already the lack of certainty is constraining investment.

Renewable energy lobbyist Scott Sklar of the Stella Group said that the industry is seeing job losses and market moves into Europe and out of the US. He expects that even if Congress manages to pass a temporary one-year extension of the subsidies, the industry will still lose 20,000 jobs and utility-scale renewable projects will stop.

Jens Søby, president of Vestas Americas, a wind turbine manufacturer, said, "An extension of the federal Production Tax Credit is crucial, as it will enable investments in facilities and jobs in our industry to be fully realized and allow us to develop our long-term strategies. There is a need for market stability; for example, when the PTC expired and was not extended at the end of 2003, the wind industry saw a 77 percent drop in the annual installation of new wind generating capacity according to the American Wind Energy Association."

On March 5, 2008, Vestas opened its first North American manufacturing facility, producing turbine blades in Windsor, Colorado. The factory will employ 650 people. This kind of news could be repeated in towns all over the country, but not as long as Bush Republicans and Big Oil stand in the way.


April 02, 2008 CNN Wolf Blitzer

Mosaic News - 4/1/08: World News from the Middle East

Inside Story - Turkey's division

Country's top court is set to hear a case that could close down the ruling AK party.

Gas, Oil Futures Jump As Demand Rises

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Gasoline and oil futures rose sharply Wednesday after the Energy Department reported an unexpected jump in gasoline demand and a big drop in supplies. Prices at the pump returned to record levels, and appeared poised to extend their march higher.

In its weekly inventory report, the Energy Information Administration said gasoline supplies fell by 4.5 million barrels last week, twice the decline forecast by analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires. The EIA data also showed that demand for gas rose by nearly 1 percent when compared to the same week last year. That reverses a pattern in which demand had been falling.

Falling gasoline inventories and rising demand suggest supplies are tightening as the peak summer driving season approaches. That could boost gas prices further, and keep oil prices elevated.

"There's just an incredible seasonal tug for gasoline to move higher in April," said Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J. "We'll see another record-breaking retail price (soon)."

May gasoline futures rose 13.44 cents to settle at a record $2.7736 a gallon on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude oil futures for May delivery followed gasoline higher, jumping $3.85 to settle at $104.83 a barrel on the Nymex.

Surging gas and oil futures prices are likely to contribute to the upward trend at the pump. Retail gas prices rose 0.1 cent overnight to a national average of $3.287 a gallon, matching Monday's record, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. The Energy Department expects gas prices to peak near $3.50 a gallon this spring as suppliers stock up in advance of peak summer driving season, but many analysts believe prices could rise much higher than that.

It is possible that last week's jump in gasoline demand could be an aberration. Indeed, demand over the last four weeks remains off 0.5 percent compared to the same four-week period last year. Kloza called the weekly demand figure a "rogue" number, and said his conversations with gasoline supplies suggest demand is weaker than government data suggests. The trend won't become clearer until another set of figures is released, next week.

Gasoline supplies are falling in part because refinery activity is low. Refinery activity increased by only 0.2 percentage point last week to 82.4 percent of capacity.

Crude oil's rise to record levels in recent weeks has also helped send gas higher. Crude's jump Wednesday came as investors shrugged off EIA data showing oil inventories grew by 7.4 million barrels last week, more than three times the increase analysts had expected.

Although theoretically rising oil supplies could undermine crude prices, futures have been driven higher recently by weakness in the dollar and speculative buying by investors who believe rising demand overseas will keep sending crude skyward. The dollar supported oil prices Wednesday by falling after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress the economy may be headed for a recession. Many investors see commodities such as oil as a hedge against inflation and a falling dollar.

In other Nymex trading Wednesday, May heating oil futures rose 7.13 cents to settle at $2.951 a gallon. Inventories of distillates, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 1.6 million barrels last week, in line with analyst estimates.

May natural gas futures rose 10.8 cents to settle at $9.832 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, May Brent crude futures rose $3.58 to settle at $103.75 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

Diesel prices rose 0.3 cent at the pump Wednesday to a national average of $4.025 a gallon. That's a bit more than a cent shy of a record set late last month.

The Reflecting Pool

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By Joel S. Hirschhorn

Whether you see yourself as a truth seeker, patriotic American, independent thinker or voter, or just someone with bad memories of 9/11, you should make an effort to view The Reflecting Pool, a new independent movie. It is not about 9/11. It is about the credibility of the official government story about 9/11. Though a drama, it is based on meticulously researched facts about 9/11 as revealed in the bonus material on the DVD.

The story is about the search for truth and the unsettling implications of discovering 9/11 truth that conflicts with what has become the folklore about the historic event.

The plot follows the efforts of independent journalist Alex Prokop and Paul Cooper, a researcher and father of a 9/11 victim, to piece together fact-fragments into a picture that ultimately implicates the US government in the attacks. The horror of this revelation rivals the horror of the 9/11 events themselves, especially when we realize that far more people, especially American soldiers, have died because of 9/11 in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than on 9/11. Yet to close our eyes to this truth makes us co-conspirators in one of the world’s most devilish and despicable events.

And that is the dilemma that viewers face after they watch this disturbing docudrama: What if this fictional story actually and accurately describes how our government played a role in causing 9/11?

Writer/Director Jarek Kupsc plays Alex Prokop who examines a mysterious 9/11 videotape revealing new information on the attack. Joseph Culp appears as Paul Cooper, the man who sent the tape and whose daughter died on 9/11. Though skeptical of conspiracy theories and fearful that it will jeopardize his career, Prokop agrees to take on the story with encouragement from his magazine editor and a former Gulf War correspondent, McGuire, played by Lisa Black.

The film follows Prokop and Cooper, especially as they investigate one of the great mysteries of 9/11: the inexplicable collapse of the 47-story World Trade Center Building 7, not hit by any airplane. They uncover the illegal destruction of physical evidence from Ground Zero, and discover information that the White House knew an attack was imminent. The team spends two weeks in New York and Washington D.C., interviewing people and discovering damning information never mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report. The FBI becomes involved, the magazine’s corporate investors threaten to kill the entire story, and Prokop is attacked by a lawsuit and the media in an effort to discredit his story. Why?

Because the official version as presented in the 9/11 Commission Report purposely ignored or omitted vital evidence and testimonies to protect people in the Bush administration. Prokop, plagued by the ghosts of his childhood in Russia and trying to uphold the independence of American journalism, struggles to come to grips with this awful truth. The film illustrates that, as so often is the case, the truth does not set you free; it ties your stomach and conscience into knots. It will remind you of All the President’s Men and JFK, films that also used drama to pursue political truths.

The DVD is available for only $15 on and you will want to loan it to friends and family or give as a gift, which is made especially attractive with even lower prices for packs of five or ten DVDs. An extended trailer is available at Details about the film and its actors are at

Video rental outlets like Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Netflix and Redbox should make this DVD available. Otherwise, it is further evidence that status quo thinking is subverting 9/11 truth to the detriment of American democracy. Public libraries should also stock this important educational film. Once you watch it you too will feel strongly about it reaching a wide audience.

Warning: No matter what you know or think you know about 9/11, this movie will rattle your brain, make you think, and perhaps keep you up at night.

A Nuclear Free Fire Zone Strangelove's Wet Dream

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By Peter Chamberlin

"You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.

You are a slave..., like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind." – Morpheus - The Matrix

Never before have so few invested so much, for such long a time, to confuse so many people, about so many things. Never before have so many free people willingly betrayed their own country, their own religion, even their own family, in order to gamble for the opportunity to serve the interests of the powerful few, who are known to reward loyalty so extravagantly. This is typical behavior for a country that gambles enough to support its public school system with proceeds from lottery ticket sales.

Our government, with the help of the psychos and sycophants who worship at its feet, has created a police state, which the people allow to masquerade as a democracy. The various wars against this or that problem in America, but more specifically, the "war on drugs," have been used successfully by our overlords as an excuse to create a police state apparatus, and with it, new omnipresent agencies which made illegal searches and the invasion of privacy in America commonplace, long before the Patriot Act applied it to every facet of our lives.

The American government, in bed with the magnates of big business (the dictionary definition of "fascism"), have been at war with the American people for a very long time. Fat cat Republicans, who regularly bankroll both parties, have long plotted to replace democracy with a fascist dictatorship. (SEE: THE PLOT TO SEIZE THE WHITE HOUSE) Corporations have invested billions in foundations to study the people, in order to make more efficient war upon their minds.

America has the largest prison population in the world, not by accident, but by design. Many years ago it became apparent to the masters of our government that the American people would never submit to the involuntary slavery that awaited them. One day, when the people realized what was being done to them, circumstances would devolve into a military confrontation between Washington and the people. When that day comes, it would be better for government mercenary forces if most young men of fighting age were either overseas, or in jail.

Like the revolutionary movie "Matrix," every totalitarian state will eventually produce an underground resistance, which will find its own charismatic leaders, who can convince enough fellow slaves to rise-up into an irresistible critical mass. It will be the same way here in America, once Internet researchers finally manage to blow the lid off the 911 cover-up, or one of the other pressure cooker political cover-ups that are now being brought to a boil on the stove. When the people can finally get a clear glimpse of the totalitarian state rising around them, they will throw off all pretense of self-serving self-restraint.

The nature of the overthrow will depend upon the length of time required to alert the masses to the dangerous truth. If the people can be aroused to perform their patriotic duty to restrain their government from destroying the world, before it crosses the nuclear threshold, then peaceful change is still possible. The lunatic-in-chief and his supporters in both the political parties are prepared to use nuclear weapons against vast civilian populations, if We the People are unwilling to stop them. This new phase in the war that is allegedly being fought in America’s defense will represent the final transmutation of that war into a totally new war, fought to prevent alleged nuclear weapons construction, by unleashing actual nuclear destruction. Strangelove’s "wet dream," a nuclear free fire zone.

The disaster unfolding in Washington is like nothing the earth has ever seen. The highest form of government ever produced by man is putting the final stages of planning on freedom’s demise, and yet the freest people in the history of the world believe that they are powerless to change anything, as they watch excitedly from the sidelines, screaming patriotic hymns to Clinton and McCain. The planners and their stooges ultimately believe in their own ability to carry forward the grand "success" stories of Iraq and Afghanistan into the rest of the Muslim world. The illusion that they can destroy select areas of the rest of the world without destroying us, helps to calm the delirious worry-free psyches of an immoral society, ready to kill the world to save their own sorry asses.

The war on terrorism uses our beliefs against us. It has been exposed as a holy war between Christianity and Islam, at least that is evidently what the Jewish neocon authors of the war want it to be. It is only a matter of time before it becomes obvious to everyone that the war of the new world order is a war against all religion. Religious belief and basic human morality must be allowed to serve as the basis for the fight against this war, because it is a war on life itself. The inherent evil of the whole operation must become the rallying point for the people to oppose the war. It is nothing less than an egotistical human attempt to overthrow the moral basis of international law, replacing it with the inhumane law of parasitic capitalist Darwinism. Kill everyone who refuses to be made into a slave!

Religious extremists are primary tools for manipulating religious populations into embracing false violent beliefs, in direct contradictions to the peaceful books they were taught from. In both politics and religion, it is the extremists who stand-out, commanding attention, if not respect. It is through the various targeted extremists that the false religious and political beliefs are introduced into the mainstream of ideas. It is within this flow of ideas that we must wade, to fight the false ideas of a war of civilizations and its counterpart a "holy war" between Christianity and Islam.

It is time that extremists in the cause of religious truth and freedom took the fight to our corporate government. We do not have to bow before a form of Zionist-sanctioned political correctness, which leaves no room for truth in an entertainment/indoctrination bureau which masquerades as a free press. Our "free press" has allowed itself to become the greatest threat to freedom our nation has ever faced. It is impossible for a free people to defend itself against an administration of deadly lies when the truth is so easily buried. The American people must become their own press, in order to get around the main obstacle to freedom.

The revolution must be a national rejection of a political system based on lies and cover-ups. Our national resistance movement must take the form of a fight for truth, and it must take place in the national arena. The truth we have learned from the rest of the world, through the alternative media, must become common knowledge. You would think that the way Americans love ironic, sarcastic humor, the majority would eagerly join us over here in the alternative media, to share our fascination with the hypocritical stage theater now being performed for our national amusement, which masquerades as politics and foreign policy.

The national debate has been strangled because of the news blackout over American/Israeli relations and American duplication of Israeli tactics in the war. Criticism of Israel or its tactics which are used by American forces will not be found anywhere in the "legitimate" American press. This news "dead zone," which is geographically centered on Israel, is certain to be where the planned conflict against Iran and everyone associated with Iran will break-out. We have to overcome this news blackout over the selected zone of conflict.

The Zionist censorship of American debate relies upon the accusation of "anti-Semitism" as their primary weapon, to silence fair-minded Americans, who would normally refuse to remain silent in the face of such massive cold-blooded murder on this scale. This instantly has the effect of elevating whatever position they are defending from debate to an (so far) unassailable position beyond debate from the "racist" rabble, otherwise known as "anti-Zionists." By openly making Israel’s war America’s war, the magical talisman of "anti-Semitism" insulates the Israeli roots of the war on Islam from criticism. Israel must be exposed as the progenitor of this war and the even bigger battle about to be let loose upon the innocent Muslims of the world.

The real racists are the Zionists. It is impossible to fight the racist basis of the war, without exposing this cold hard fact. Ideas of Jewish superiority based on Biblical accounts of ancient Israel are embraced by "Christian" leaders, who ignore the obvious ethnic cleansing and state policies of today’s "Israel" that easily match the accepted international definition of "genocide." The ongoing "Shoah" (holocaust) being inflicted upon the Palestians is ignored by the loyal press, while the most cynical Zionists seek to derail true debate by mislabeling feeble homemade rockets as genocidal weapons. Once again, the Zionists turn truth on its head, with its genocidal weapons claim, while denying that the truly horrific thermobaric, phosphorus and uranium-based weapons it has used in Gaza and Lebanon were used in contravention of international law.

If the indigenous people of Palestine are not made to seem inferior, as somewhat less human than the citizens of the "Jewish state," then it becomes much harder to rationalize a "Shoah" upon them, or to "broom them" from their land, like an infestation of vermin. The war against Islam is based on this false position of superiority over all the Muslim people, just as it has been in previous American wars against other non-white populations, who had land or lives available for the taking. The would-be tyrants of the world have always looked at the American genocide of Native Americans as the ultimate example to follow.

For those of you still on the sidelines, who have never been baptized by the fires of vitriol and accusations of "anti-Semitism" that always come from criticizing our government for fighting catastrophic wars to enshrine Israel’s security above our own, I invite you to wade into the political waters and be baptized in organized hatred, for daring to speak-out. For I guarantee that the first comments you will hear for breaking the taboo and telling the truth will be very abusive in a special mad dog sort of way. The Jewish extremists (who call themselves Zionists) have manipulated Christians, (who also call themselves Zionists) into fighting a genocidal war against Muslims (whom the Zionists call Islamists), so that the Jewish extremists in Israel could safely, openly, remove all Muslims from "Greater Israel," the land coveted by "the chosen people."

It is wrong to allow a new holocaust of one people to fulfill the territorial ambitions of the descendents of the survivors of the last holocaust.

Is The “Israel Lobby” Losing Its Grip?

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By Alan Hart

In an perceptive piece for The American Conservative under the headline OBAMA’S ISRAEL TEST, Scott McConnell asked, “Is the lobby losing its grip?” It seems so, but I think it’s important to understand the choice that will exist for the Jews of the world, and Jewish Americans especially, if American politicians (many if not all) and the mainstream media do stop being frightened of offending the lobby.

But first things first. The lobby in question is not what McConnell and others including Mearsheimer and Walt state it to be. It’s not “the Israel lobby”. It could only be called that if it represented the views of all Israeli Jews. It does not do so any more than AIPAC represents the views of all Jewish Americans. (According to recent polls, AIPAC probably speaks for not more than one-third of all Jewish Americans and possibly considerably less).

A more accurate (but not completely accurate) description of the particular phenomenon is “Likud lobby”, terminology which conveys the correct impression that the lobby is rightwing and very hardline, even extreme, and opposed to peace on any terms the vast majority of Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept.

Way back in February 1980, I had a private conversation with Shimon Peres. He was then the leader of Israel’s Labour Party, the main opposition to Menachem Begin’s Likud dominated ruling coalition, which was speeding up the colonisation of the occupied West Bank. In the course of this conversation, I used the term “Israel lobby”. In a voice laced with despair and a hint of anger, Peres said: “It’s not an Israel lobby. It’s a Likud lobby. And that’s my problem.” (At the time Peres and almost the whole world including President Carter was hoping that he would win Israel’s next election and deny Begin a second term in office as prime minister. He didn’t).

In due course, after Ariel Sharon broke with Likud to form the Kadima Party, the lobby became the Likud-Kadima lobby, but it remained Likud in its core essence. The only major difference between Likud and Kadima is that the latter understands, as Prime Minister Olmert recently admitted, that the Zionist state of Israel would be finished, destroyed by the demographic time-bomb of occupation, if it did not withdraw from some of the West Bank. (Sharon did not withdraw from Gaza for peace but as a first step to defusing the demographic time-bomb; and, if he could do it without provoking a Jewish civil war, he was intending at some point to withdraw from about half, more or less, of the West Bank. He was not at all concerned that the 40 to 60 percent of it he was intending to withdraw from would not and could not constitute a viable Palestinian mini-state).

All things considered, including Israel’s on-going colonisation of those parts of the occupied West Bank its leaders intend to keep for ever, I think (and have long thought) that the best way to serve the cause of understanding is to give the particular phenomenon its proper name. It is not the Israel lobby, or even the Likud or Likud-Kadima lobby. It is the Zionist lobby.

For those who are unaware of what Zionism actually is - I mean political Zionism as opposed to spiritual Zionism - and why it is the complete opposite of Judaism, I offer the following brief explanation.

Judaism is the religion of Jews, not the Jews because not all Jews are religious. And, like Christianity and Islam, Judaism has at its core a set of moral values and ethical principles. All the religious Jews of the world look to Jerusalem as the centre of their religion and spiritual capital, and in that sense they could be said to be, and many do regard themselves as being, spiritual Zionists.

Political Zionism is the nationalism of some Jews, actually a tiny minority of the world’s Jews at the time of Zionism’s first public and dishonest mission statement in 1897, which colonised land, Palestine, to create a state for some Jews; an enterprise which required the incoming, alien Zionist colonisers - most if not all of whom had no biological connection to the ancient Hebrews, the first Israelites - to ethnically cleanse the land of most of its indigenous Arab inhabitants, the majority population at the time of the colonisation. A Zionist today is one, not necessarily a Jew, who (to quote Balfour) supports the Zionist state of Israel “right or wrong”, and who cannot or will not admit that a wrong was done to the Palestinians by Zionism, a wrong that must be righted on terms acceptable to the Palestinians for justice and peace.

The whole point of Zionism’s colonial enterprise was, as it still is, to take for keeping the maximum amount of Arab land with the minimum number of Arabs on it; an enterprise that was assisted by the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust, which gave Zionism a blackmail card to silence criticism of Israel throughout the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian world and suppress informed and honest debate about who must do what and why for justice and peace.

In summary it can be said that Zionism makes a mockery of, and has contempt for, the moral values and ethical principles of Judaism. That being so, it’s all the more amazing that Zionist spin doctors succeeded in making the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian world believe that Judaism and Zionism are one and the same thing. They are emphatically not. Zionism, as the title of my latest book asserts and its substance demonstrates, is the real enemy of the Jews, as well as being the biggest single threat to the peace of the region and arguably the world.

Knowledge of the difference between Judaism and Zionism is the key to understanding. It’s the explanation of why it is perfectly possible to be passionately anti-Zionist (opposed to Zionism’s colonial enterprise) without being in any way, shape or form anti-Semitic (anti-Jew). It’s also the explanation of why it it is wrong to blame all Jews for the crimes of the relative few. (As a matter of fact, almost all Arabs have always known the difference between Judaism and Zionism; and that’s why they call for the de-Zionization of Palestine, and not, repeat not, the destruction of the Jews now living in it).

McConnell noted that President Kennedy buckled under Zionst lobby pressure. He did indeed, and he was very angry about having to do so and become what he himself described as a “political whore”. As I document in Volume Two of my book, Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, presidential candidate Kennedy said the following to an old and trusted friend, newspaper columnist Charles Bartlett, after he, Kennedy, had been summoned to a fund raising meeting:

“As an American citizen I am outraged to have a Zionist group come to me and say - ‘We know your campaign is in trouble. We’re willing to pay your bills if you let us have control of your Middle East policy.” (In further remarks to Bartlett, a furious JFK emphasised “they wanted control!” My guess is that they didn’t put it that way, but that what they said left no room for JFK to doubt that control was what they wanted).

As I also document in my book, there is good evidence for believing that, if he had been allowed to live, a second term President Kennedy would have addressed the root cause of the conflict in and over Palestine, even at the cost of, Eisenhower-like, confronting the Zionist lobby. (I think - see McConnell’s obeservations below - that it’s not unreasonable to speculate that a second term President Obama, if he is allowed to live, could be the White House occupant who calls and holds Zionism to account).

McConnell wrote that several wars and many billions of dollars later (after JFK), the politics of Israel-Palestine are not exactly the same as 50 years ago but not that different either. “Israel is more powerful and more dependent on American largesse. Americans are far more deeply engaged in the Middle East and for the most part they are not happy about it.”

And this about the man most likely to be America’s next President: “On the surface, the tie between Barack Obama and Israel’s establishment supporters is warm and comfortable… Nonetheless, there’s a sense among the Jewish establishment (I imagine McConnell probably means the Zionist establishment) that all is not as it seems - and if the view has not yet crystallized that Obama has a less Israelocentric perception of he Middle East than any other major party nominee since Eisenhower, there is foreboding that times are a changin’. (My emphasis added).

And this is how McConnell sees change manifesting itself:

“For the first time in a presidential race, the Israel-Palestine issue will consist of something other than two men squabbling over who will more rapidly overrule the State Department and absolutely positively move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (I note that although he is sticking pretty much to Zionism’s script as all candidates must when running for office - all offices not just the highest - Obama has already indicated that he does not accept that Likud and Israel are synonymous).

“A welcome corollary will be realization that there are different ways for Americans to be “pro-Israel” and push back against the view that being pro-Israel means supporting the right of the Jewsh state to lord it over 5 million Palestinians in conditions increasingly seen as resembling South Africa apartheid. The alternative view won’t sweep the country, but it will migrate from its present home on university campuses and liberal Protestant churches into the wider body politic.”

And finally will come recognition, McConnell wrote, that “the Israel lobby’s power to dominate the American debate is beginning to weaken.”

The reason why I agree with McConnell can be simply stated. In the last few years, and for the first time ever, Zionism’s version of the history of the making and sustaining of conflict in and over Palestine has started to be exposed for the propaganda nonsense it is. And that is thanks in large part to the work and courage of Israel’s “new” or “revisionist” historians. (The terms “new” and “revisionist” in this context are euphemisms. The more accurate or proper adjective to describe Israel’s truth-telling professors of history - Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe are the giants in their field - is honest. Am I suggesting that before them Israel’s historians were dishonest by default if not design? Yes, I most certainly am). The task of telling the truth of history is also being assisted by a bottom-up media revolution made possible by the internet.

Zionism’s narrative, upon which the first and still existing draft of Judeo-Christian history is constructed, is rooted in denial of ethnic cleansing. (The most comprehensive and fully documented work on this subject is Ilan Pappe’s latest book, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine).

There are people who’ll say that what’s done is done. Israel, no matter how it was created, exists. But that’s not the point. There is not a snowball’s chance in hell of a real peace process unless and until the Jews, and Israelis especially, are prepared to acknowledge the wrong done to the Arabs of Palestine by Zionism.

Zionism’s denial of ethnic cleansing is underpined by two great propaganda lies.

The first is that poor little Israel has lived in constant danger of annihilation - the “driving into the sea” of its Jews. The truth of history is that Israel’s existence has never, ever, been in danger from any combination of Arab force. Not in 1948/49. Not in 1967. And not even in 1973. Zionism’s assertion to the contrary was the cover which allowed Israel to get away where it mattered most, America and Western Europe, with presenting its aggression as self-defence and itself as the victim when, actually, it was and is the oppressor.

The second great lie of Zionism’s version of history was that Israel had “no partners” for peace. On this account the truth of history includes the fact, for example, that Arafat the pragmatist opened the door to a genuine and viable two-state solution as far back as 1979, more than a quarter of a century ago. And long before that, another example, Eygpt’s President Nasser, who never had any intention of fighting Israel to liberate Palestine, authorised, and himself took part in, secret, exploratory exchanges with Israel in the hope of making an accomodation with it. (Avi Shlaim’s magnificent book, THE IRON WALL, Israel and the Arab World, which is informed in part by Avi’s access to de-classified Israeli state papers, leaves no room to doubt that it was Israel’s leaders, not Arab leaders, who never missed an opportunity to close the door to peace).

Professors Mearsheimer and Walt (the distinguished authors of The Israel Lobby) have declared that the best way of dealing with the lobby is “to encourage a more open debate… in order to correct existing myths about the Middle East and to force groups in the lobby to defend their positions in the face of well informed opposition.” (My emphasis added).

The problem for Zionism (as I’m sure Mearsheimer and Walt know) is that its positions are indefensible when they are challenged by those who are armed with the documented facts and truth of history. And that’s why the Zionist lobby is beginning to lose its grip.

My very dear friend Ilan Pappe told me that Zionism was more worried by my book than any other because of its title, which, he agreed, represents a great and profound truth in seven words. The more the citizens of the mainly Gentile Judeo-Christian or Western world become aware that Judaism and Zionism are opposites, the less Zionism’s propaganda maestros will be able to suppress informed and honest debate with the charge, almost always false and malicious, that criticism of Israel is a manifesation of anti-Semitism.

Ilan also offered me this observation:

“Zionism’s main defense is not money and military might but a wall of propaganda lies. If one or two of the main bricks in this wall can be dislodged, the whole thing might collapse faster than any of us would dare to imagine.”

At the time of writing, as in the past, the mainstream media, almost all publishing houses and virtually all politicians are still too frightened of offending Zionism to come to grips with the truth of history as it relates to the making and sustaining of conflict in and over Palestine; but despite this complicity in Zionism’s suppression of the truth of history, one or two of the main bricks in Zionism’s wall of propaganda lies are in the process of being dislodged.

So what are the implications if the Zionist lobby really is beginning to lose its grip?

The short answer is that the next American president will be more free than any of his predecessors to use the leverage he has to require Israel to behave in accordance with international law, and to be serious about peace in accordance with the will of the organised international community as expressed in the spirit as well as the letter of UN resolutions. (If I was writing a speech for the next president, I’d having him saying something like the following to Israel. Until now there have been two sets of rules for the behaviour of nations - one for all the nations of the world excluding only Israel, and one exclusively for Israel. This double-standard is no longer acceptable to the peoples and governments of the world).

If the next American president (or possibly his successor) was prepared to require Israel to be serious about peace on terms which the vast majority of Palestinians and almost all other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept, I think that what would actually happen would be determined by how the Jews of the world, and Jewish Amercans especially, responded.

Because the Zionist lobby is beginning to lose its grip, and does not anyway represent the majority of Jewish Americans, it’s my guess that most of them would say, perhaps not out loud: “We are Americans first, and if our president deems it to be in our national interest that leverage be used to require Israel to be serious about peace, so be it.”

But that would be mere acquiescence and it would not necessarily be enough. The hardest core Zionist leadership in Israel, political and military, is quite capable of telling the whole world, including the president of America, to go to hell. Why do I say that?

Many years ago, in private conversation, I asked General Moshe Dayan, Israel’s one-eyed warlord, why Israel had nuclear weapons. I said we both knew Israel didn’t need them vis-à-vis the Arabs. Dayan replied as follows. “Ben-Gurion was not stupid. I’m not stupid. We know how international politics work. We know that a day could come when even our best friends will want us to do something that we would not consider to be in Israel’s best interests.” Dayan meant, and obviously did not want to be more explicit, that if ever a day came when an American president said to Israel, “You must do this,” Israel could say, “Mr.President, don’t push us further than we are prepared to go because, if you do, we will be prepared to use all the weapons at our disposal.” (I am sometimes asked if I think that Bush and Blair would have invaded Iraq if Saddam Hussein had had nuclear weapons. My answer is always “No”)

My main point in summary is this. Even if the Zionist lobby really is losing its grip, and even if, as a consequence, an Amercan president feels himself free enough to use the leverage he has to require Israel to be serious about peace on terms almost all Palestinians, most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept, a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict may still not be possible unless the Jews of the world, and Jewish Americans especially, end their silence on the matter of Zionism’s crimes and use all of the influence with the Jews of Israel.

Footnote: The day that Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews can be published in America, and reviewed by the mainstream media, is that day that I will say, without fear of contradiction, that the power of the Zionist lobby has been broken.

Distressed Owners Are Frustrated by Aid Group

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By Lynnley Browning

Every day more than 4,500 people call Hope Now, the White House-backed group formed to help struggling homeowners.

But few of them appear to be getting the relief they are hoping for. One reason is that the financial powers behind Hope Now - mortgage lenders, loan servicers and big investors - are reluctant to change loan terms substantially if doing so hurts them.

Almost six months after Hope Now was created, the group is largely resisting calls for broad relief for homeowners. In Washington, a furious debate is under way over whether to help homeowners on the brink of default, and several possible plans are starting to coalesce.

But Hope Now, which President Bush has held up as a crucial tool to fight foreclosures, is coming under fire from within and without, accused of putting the interests of lenders over those of borrowers.

Hope Now says it is succeeding. The group, which also includes nonprofit organizations that advise people on managing their debts, says it has helped more than a million people avoid foreclosure.

But Hope Now does not disclose details about how the loan modifications and payment plans it ostensibly helps to broker actually help homeowners. Many people merely get the chance to catch up on late payments.

Even Hope Now says it is unsure how effective it is. The group does not break out the number of loan workouts that occur as a result of its efforts and those that might have happened anyway. Some people who work with Hope Now say it has done little to keep the housing crisis from deepening.

"Hope Now is a failure," said Michael Shea, the executive director of the Acorn Housing Corporation, a large counseling agency that is part of the Hope Now alliance. "It's industry-dominated."

Hope Now is run out of the Housing Policy Council, which in turn is part of the Financial Services Roundtable, the influential financial services lobby.

William A. Longbrake, the vice chairman of Washington Mutual, the big savings and loan, is a senior policy adviser to the roundtable. He said he has "indirect, inferential evidence" that Hope Now is helping.

But the group itself employs just three people. Most of its work is done through committees staffed by senior bank and mortgage executives who are part of the Financial Services Roundtable. Hope Now's executive director, Faith Schwartz, is an executive at the subprime lender Option One Mortgage.

People who dial Hope Now's toll-free number, 1-888-995-HOPE, typically are routed to call centers in Phoenix and Spokane, Wash. Three out of four eventually are connected to credit counselors for a free, informal consultation.

But only a fraction of all callers - about 4 percent - ends up talking in person with a housing counselor, according to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation, a nonprofit group at the center of Hope Now that also has ties to the mortgage industry.

Ms. Schwartz defended the group's work. She said Hope Now is "leveraging existing infrastructure" to help homeowners.

Kenneth Goodman, a homeowner in Fontana, Calif,. said he did not have a good experience trying to get help through Hope Now.

Mr. Goodman, 53, said he had called Hope Now three times in recent months because he was struggling to pay the mortgage on his two-story tract home. The first time he was referred to a mortgage escrow company. The second time, "I got someone oblivious to everything," he said. The third time the counselor told Mr. Goodman that he had a choice: Sell his home for less than the value of his mortgage, or face immediate foreclosure.

"It was all unhelpful," Mr. Goodman said. He worries that he will lose his home.

There are Hope Now success stories, but the group declined to point to any.

During a tour of a Hope Now counseling agency last Friday, President Bush cited the case of Danny Cerchiaro, a movie producer. Through Hope Now and a counselor that he called "the magic lady," Mr. Bush said, Mr. Cerchiaro was able to refinance the adjustable-rate mortgage on his home in Iselin, N.J., at a more affordable rate.

But the Financial Services Roundtable and another big industry group behind Hope Now, the American Securitization Forum, oppose any government housing effort that would require them to take losses on bad mortgage loans.

"We support the broad objectives of the alliance," said George Miller, the executive director of the American Securitization Forum, which represents financial companies involved in bundling mortgages into securities for sale to investors. "But we represent the interests of investors, and we want to minimize losses on bad mortgages and maximize recovery."

Hope Now counselors are urged to follow the securitization group's guidelines on loan modifications, which advise lenders to modify loans case by case rather than across the board. Both the forum and the roundtable oppose calls to open up bankruptcy courts for struggling homeowners, a move that could lead to further losses for their members.

The Homeownership Preservation Foundation, for its part, says little about that part of the mortgage market where all the trouble began: subprime loans. According to a fact sheet from the foundation, which was established in 2003, with a $20 million grant from GMAC-RFC, a lender, foreclosures typically result from "medical issues or abrupt changes in income and expenses."

The sheet does not mention subprime mortgages. The foundation's seven-member board includes Sandor E. Samuels, the chief legal officer of Countrywide Financial, the mortgage giant that has come to symbolize many of the excesses of subprime lending.

Colleen Hernandez, the executive director of Homeownership Preservation Foundation, called her organization "a hybrid of corporate and nonprofit cultures." She said the foundation's 10 affiliated credit counselors working with Hope Now have special training in default counseling. But such counselors typically provide only generic financial planning advice. Housing counselors, by contrast, negotiate with lenders to reduce a borrower's mortgage.

The credit counselors "don't say, here's my recommendation, let's call the servicer and insist on that option," Ms. Hernandez said.

In some cases, she said, servicers and banks listen in on the calls between homeowners and the counselors with the knowledge of the homeowners.

Under a deal set to expire in June, the foundation bills the mortgage servicers $100 for each session, then transfers that money to the appropriate credit counseling agency.

Ms. Hernandez said the foundation also hoped to get paid for the calls that do not go beyond the initial call centers. "It has value to the servicers and banks," she said.

The American Securitization Forum, for its part, has said that "in some instances" its members will pay for the counseling fees.

Ms. Hernandez said that callers typically wait less than 30 seconds to be connected to a call-center operator. But on Monday evening, a reporter who called Hope Now was kept on hold for 50 minutes before hanging up. During that time, a recorded message urged the caller to "start an online counseling session" at

In recent weeks, Hope Now has had trouble explaining its mission on that Web site. In mid-March, a link on the site inadvertently directed people to a Florida company that sells foreclosed properties.

The Home Preservation Foundation is considering venturing into foreclosed property itself, a move that might strike hard-pressed homeowners as odd given its name and its role in Hope Now.

Rapists in the Ranks

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By Jane Harman

Sexual assaults are frequent, and frequently ignored, in the armed services.

The stories are shocking in their simplicity and brutality: A female military recruit is pinned down at knifepoint and raped repeatedly in her own barracks. Her attackers hid their faces but she identified them by their uniforms; they were her fellow soldiers. During a routine gynecological exam, a female soldier is attacked and raped by her military physician. Yet another young soldier, still adapting to life in a war zone, is raped by her commanding officer. Afraid for her standing in her unit, she feels she has nowhere to turn.

These are true stories, and, sadly, not isolated incidents. Women serving in the U.S. military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.

The scope of the problem was brought into acute focus for me during a visit to the West Los Angeles VA Healthcare Center, where I met with female veterans and their doctors. My jaw dropped when the doctors told me that 41% of female veterans seen at the clinic say they were victims of sexual assault while in the military, and 29% report being raped during their military service. They spoke of their continued terror, feelings of helplessness and the downward spirals many of their lives have since taken.

Numbers reported by the Department of Defense show a sickening pattern. In 2006, 2,947 sexual assaults were reported - 73% more than in 2004. The DOD's newest report, released this month, indicates that 2,688 reports were made in 2007, but a recent shift from calendar-year reporting to fiscal-year reporting makes comparisons with data from previous years much more difficult.

The Defense Department has made some efforts to manage this epidemic - most notably in 2005, after the media received anonymous e-mail messages about sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy. The media scrutiny and congressional attention that followed led the DOD to create the Sexual Assault and Response Office. Since its inception, the office has initiated education and training programs, which have improved the reporting of cases of rapes and other sexual assaults. But more must be done to prevent attacks and to increase accountability.

At the heart of this crisis is an apparent inability or unwillingness to prosecute rapists in the ranks. According to DOD statistics, only 181 out of 2,212 subjects investigated for sexual assault in 2007, including 1,259 reports of rape, were referred to courts-martial, the equivalent of a criminal prosecution in the military. Another 218 were handled via nonpunitive administrative action or discharge, and 201 subjects were disciplined through "nonjudicial punishment," which means they may have been confined to quarters, assigned extra duty or received a similar slap on the wrist. In nearly half of the cases investigated, the chain of command took no action; more than a third of the time, that was because of "insufficient evidence."

This is in stark contrast to the civilian trend of prosecuting sexual assault. In California, for example, 44% of reported rapes result in arrests, and 64% of those who are arrested are prosecuted, according to the California Department of Justice.

The DOD must close this gap and remove the obstacles to effective investigation and prosecution. Failure to do so produces two harmful consequences: It deters victims from reporting, and it fails to deter offenders. The absence of rigorous prosecution perpetuates a culture tolerant of sexual assault - an attitude that says "boys will be boys."

I have raised the issue with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Although I believe that he is concerned, thus far, the military's response has been underwhelming - and the apparent lack of urgency is inexcusable.

Congress is not doing much better. Although these sexual assault statistics are readily available, our oversight has failed to come to grips with the magnitude of the crisis. The abhorrent and graphic nature of the reports may make people uncomfortable, but that is no excuse for inaction. Congressional hearings are urgently needed to highlight the failure of existing policies. Most of our servicewomen and men are patriotic, courageous and hardworking people who embody the best of what it means to be an American. The failure to address military sexual assault runs counter to those ideals and shames us all.

Memo: Laws Didn't Apply to Interrogators

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By Dan Eggen and Josh White

Justice Dept. official in 2003 said president's wartime authority trumped many statutes.

The Justice Department sent a legal memorandum to the Pentagon in 2003 asserting that federal laws prohibiting assault, maiming and other crimes did not apply to military interrogators who questioned al-Qaeda captives because the president's ultimate authority as commander in chief overrode such statutes.

The 81-page memo, which was declassified and released publicly yesterday, argues that poking, slapping or shoving detainees would not give rise to criminal liability. The document also appears to defend the use of mind-altering drugs that do not produce "an extreme effect" calculated to "cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality."

Although the existence of the memo has long been known, its contents had not been previously disclosed.

Nine months after it was issued, Justice Department officials told the Defense Department to stop relying on it. But its reasoning provided the legal foundation for the Defense Department's use of aggressive interrogation practices at a crucial time, as captives poured into military jails from Afghanistan and U.S. forces prepared to invade Iraq.

Sent to the Pentagon's general counsel on March 14, 2003, by John C. Yoo, then a deputy in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, the memo provides an expansive argument for nearly unfettered presidential power in a time of war. It contends that numerous laws and treaties forbidding torture or cruel treatment should not apply to U.S. interrogations in foreign lands because of the president's inherent wartime powers.

"If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al Qaeda terrorist network," Yoo wrote. "In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch's constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions."

Interrogators who harmed a prisoner would be protected by a "national and international version of the right to self-defense," Yoo wrote. He also articulated a definition of illegal conduct in interrogations - that it must "shock the conscience" - that the Bush administration advocated for years.

"Whether conduct is conscience-shocking turns in part on whether it is without any justification," Yoo wrote, explaining, for example, that it would have to be inspired by malice or sadism before it could be prosecuted.

The declassified memo was sent by the Defense and Justice departments late yesterday to Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), who had seen the document in classified form and pushed for its release.

The document is similar, although much broader, than a notorious memo primarily written by Yoo in August 2002 that narrowly defined what constitutes illegal torture. That document was also later withdrawn.

In his 2007 book, "The Terror Presidency," Jack Goldsmith, who took over the Office of Legal Counsel after Yoo departed, writes that the two memos "stood out" for "the unusual lack of care and sobriety in their legal analysis."

The documents are among the Justice Department legal memoranda that undergirded some of the highly coercive interrogation techniques employed by the Bush administration, including extreme temperatures, head-slapping and a type of simulated drowning called waterboarding.

In 2005, amid public controversy over such methods, Congress limited Defense Department officials to interrogation methods listed in the Army's field manual, which was rewritten to forbid many of the aggressive methods. The CIA was exempted, however, and President Bush vetoed recent legislation that would have applied the same requirements to that agency.

Yoo, now a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, defended the memo in an e-mail yesterday, saying the Justice Department altered its opinions "for appearances' sake." He said his successors "ignored the Department's long tradition in defending the President's authority in wartime."

"Far from inventing some novel interpretation of the Constitution," Yoo wrote, "our legal advice to the President, in fact, was near boilerplate."

Yoo's 2003 memo arrived amid strong Pentagon debate about which interrogation techniques should be allowed and which might lead to legal action in domestic and international courts.

After a rebellion by military lawyers, then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2002 suspended a list of aggressive techniques he had approved, the most extreme of which were used on a single detainee at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The prisoner, military investigators later would determine, was subjected to stress positions, nudity, hooding, exposure to dogs and other aggressive techniques.

Largely because of Yoo's memo, however, a Pentagon working group in April 2003 endorsed the continued use of extremely aggressive tactics. The top lawyers for each military service, who were largely excluded from the group, did not receive a final copy of Yoo's March memo and did not know about the group's final report for more than a year, officials said.

Thomas J. Romig, who was then the Army's judge advocate general, said yesterday after reading the memo that it appears to argue there are no rules in a time of war, a concept Romig found "downright offensive."

Martin S. Lederman, a former lawyer with the Office of Legal Counsel who now teaches law at Georgetown University, said the Yoo memo helped create a legal environment that allowed prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

"What else could have been the source of belief in Iraq that the gloves were off and all laws could be disregarded with impunity?" Lederman asked. "It created a world in which everyone on the ground believed the laws did not apply. It was a law-free zone."

In a 2004 memo for the Navy inspector general's office, then-General Counsel Alberto J. Mora objected to the ideas that cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment could be allowed at Guantanamo and that the president's authority is virtually unlimited.

Mora wrote that he spoke with Yoo at the Pentagon on Feb. 6, 2003, and that Yoo "glibly" defended his own memo. "Asked whether the President could order the application of torture, Mr. Yoo responded, 'Yes,'" Mora wrote. Yoo denies saying that.

How the US Military-Industrial Complex Seeks to Contain and Control the Earth & it’s Eco-System

Go to Original
By Dr. Kingsley Dennis

The Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges once famously wrote of a great Empire that created a map that was so detailed it was as large as the Empire itself. The actual map itself grew and decayed as the Empire itself conquered or lost territory. When the Empire finally crumbled, all that remained was the map. In some sense we can say that it is the map in which we live; we occupy a location within a simulation of reality. Although semanticists say that ‘the map is not the territory’, within this digitised age the territory is increasingly becoming the map and the separation between the physical and the digitised rendition is blurring. In this context, to ‘know the map’ gives priority to intervene upon the physical. In recent years many of us have been scrambling to get ‘on the Net’ and thus be ‘mapped’; within a few years we may find that living ‘off the Net’ will no longer be an option.

It is my argument that the future direction of present technological emergence is one that seeks to go beyond networks; rather it is towards ubiquitous technologies that offer a complete immersive (or rather ‘sub-mersive’) experience of a digitised environment. With networks there is always the possibility of moving into the grey and illusive areas in-between. These are the areas where the networks do not, or cannot, cover; neglected zones of poverty and risk, and insecure zones of warlord regions, and smuggling zones. With immersive technological mapping there may one day be no ‘spaces in-between’; the distinction between ‘in’ and ‘out’ dissolved; boundaries melted away under the digital gaze. In this article I argue that the US military-industrial complex is attempting to gain full dominance over the complete information spectrum, including dominating the electro-magnetic spectrum and the Internet, in order to gain full total coverage for purposes of containment and control.

Moving Towards Full Spectrum Dominance

As is now well-known, in 2002 the US Pentagon’s DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) responded to the alleged lack of intelligence data after the September 11th attacks by establishing the ‘Total Information Awareness’ office, commandeered by John Poindexter1. According to Poindexter’s own words,

"We must be able to detect, classify, identify, and track…This is a high level, visionary, functional view of the world-wide system…The mission here is to take the competing hypotheses from the analytical environment and estimate a range of plausible futures. The objective is to identify common nodes, representing situations that could occur, and to explore the probable impact of various actions or interventions that authorities might make in response to these situations." (Poindexter, 2002)

The latest program in this surveillance project is the Space Based Infrared System (called SBIRS High) that aims to track all global infra-red signatures as well as, what is termed, ‘counterspace situational awareness’ (Dinerman, 2004). The 80s ‘Star Wars’ missile defence project of Reaganite US security policy has been craftily converted into intercepting today’s ‘enemy’: not necessarily rogue missiles, but information and domestic ‘earth-bound’ security. The US military also has in operation the IKONOS remote sensing satellite, which travels at 17, 000 mph 423 miles into space, circumnavigating the globe every 98 minutes, with a 3-foot resolution capacity. Such satellites belong to the private company Space Imaging Inc, who work for the military due to US law that restricts the US government operating upon their own soil (Brzezinski, 2004). Also, the US military RADARSAT satellite uses radar to see through clouds, smoke and dust. The US National Security Agency (NSA) utilizes top of the range KEYHOLE-11 satellites that have a 10-inch resolution, which means headlines can be read from someone sitting on a bench in Iran, although this resolution remains officially unacknowledged (Brzezinski, 2004).

As an example of more distributed and networked ‘industrial/civil surveillance’, many bridges within North America have acoustic sensors and underwater sonar devices anchored to the base of the bridges to check for the presence of divers, to prevent anyone from placing explosives on the riverbed. These devices are then linked to a central hub for monitoring information feedback. Such post 9-11 fears have led to the setting up of USHomeGuard, a private company established by Jay Walker (founder of, which utilises over a million webcams to watch over 47,000 pieces of critical infrastructure across the US, eg; pipelines, chemical plants, bridges, dams. These webcams are monitored continuously by observers working from home (Brzezinski, 2004). Crandall sees this as a part of the emerging ‘contemporary regime of spectacle…machine-aided process of disciplinary attentiveness, embodied in practice, that is bound up within the demands of a new production and security regime’ (Crandall, 2005). This operational practice, as Crandall sees it, confirms a ‘codification of movement’ and ‘manoeuvres of strategic possibility’, and leading to a ‘resurgence in temporal and locational specificity’ (Crandall, 2005). This is directly related with the US military construction towards an agenda of complete coverage: in their terms, ‘full spectrum dominance’2. In 1997 the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force predicted that within three years ‘we shall be capable of finding, tracking, and targeting virtually in real time any significant element moving on the face of the earth’ (cited in Crandall, 2005).

Perhaps a little premature yet it appears that the US military-industrial machine is attempting to enclose the global open system; to transform it and enmesh it within a closed system of total information awareness; to cover, track, and gaze omnisciently over all flows, mobilities, and transactions. It is a move towards a total system, an attempt to gain some degree of mastery over the unpredictability of global flows through the core component of dominating informational flows. As part of this project the US military are currently establishing a linkage of satellites into what has been dubbed the military ‘Internet in the sky’, which will form part of their secure informational network named as the Global Information Grid, or GIG (Weiner, 2004). First conceived in 1998, and now in construction, $200 billion has already been estimated as a cost for both the hardware and software (Weiner, 2004). This war-net, as the military also term it, forms the core of the US military’s move towards appropriating network-centric warfare (Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 2001a; Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 2001b; Dickey, 2004; Weiner, 2004). The chief information officer at the US Defense Department was noted for saying that ‘net-centric principles were becoming “the centre of gravity” for war planners’ (Weiner, 2004). Some of the names of the military contractors involved in this project include Boeing; Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard; IBM; Lockheed Martin; Microsoft; Raytheon; and Sun Microsystems (Weiner, 2004). As part of this complete coverage – or ‘full spectrum dominance’ – the US military hopes to be able to communicate and control an increasing arsenal of unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), integrated into what they are calling the ‘Multimedia Intelligent Network of Unattended Mobile Agents’ (Minuteman). This in turn is part of a larger military project on Intelligent Autonomous Agent Systems (Science-Daily, 2002).

Recently, a document entitled Information Operation Roadmap was declassified by the Pentagon and made public by the National Security Archive on January 26, 2006. According to this document the term ‘information operations’ includes

The integrated employment of the core capabilities of Electronic Warfare, Computer Network Operations, Psychological Operations, Military Deception and Operations Security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt or usurp adversarial human and automated decisions-making while protecting our own. (DoD, 2003: 22)

The document continues by outlining how the US military needs to secure a future electromagnetic capability ‘sufficient to provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, denying, degrading, disrupting, or destroying the full spectrum of globally emerging communication systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependant on the electromagnetic spectrum’ (DoD, 2003: 61). Clearly, the recommendation here is for developing, and extending, current capabilities in order to have full and complete dominance over all globally emerging telecommunications and their hardware.

This shift in military affairs involves re-strategizing informational systems toward what the military see as a ‘transformational communications architecture’ to ‘help create a nimbler, more lethal military force to which information is as vital as water and ammunition’ (Dickey, 2004). Brig. Gen. Robert Lennox, deputy chief of the Army Space and Missile Defense Command, describes the military vision as ‘one seamless battlefield, which is linked without the bounds of time or space, to knowledge centres, and deployment bases throughout the world’ (Dickey, 2004). Beginning in 2008 the US Navy plans to replace its Ultra High Frequency Follow-On satellite network with a Mobile User Objective System which will provide voice and data communications through wireless hand-held receivers as part of the Global Information Grid (GIG). The ‘Internet in the Sky’ that will form part of the GIG will consist of both AEHF and TSAT satellite programs (Dickey, 2004). Each AEHF satellite has the capacity to serve as many as 4,000 networks and 6,000 users at once; and the proposed TSAT satellites are claimed to be ten times more powerful than the AEHF. These proposals are currently underway as part of the US’s ‘revolution in military affairs’ to develop not only a superior battlefield information network but also to ‘extend the information grid to deploy mobile users around the globe, creating a new capability for combat communications on the move’ (Dickey, 2004). As for the new generation of surveillance satellites launched since 2005, when these systems are fully operational the elite military complex will be able to gain precise information not only upon alleged ‘enemies’ but also upon the movements of almost any individual upon the planet, at almost any time, anywhere. The complexity of security communications and sensitive information is being targeted within military strategy in an effort to enclose all; to survey the full spectrum of an open system in a bid to collect and contain. In short, to transform the unknown into a known closed system: the containment of the complex global system. This also can be seen within the security of complexity, circulation, and contingency.

Dillon considers that this ‘global security problematic’ is concerned with the circulation of everything as in ‘a systemically interdependent world everything is connected or, in principle, is able to be connected, to everything else’ (Dillon, 2005). For Dillon, circulation shifts the new global security problematic ‘from a “geo-strategic” into an “ecological” problem characterised by the escalatory dynamics of complex interdependencies’ (Dillon, 2005). The challenge of global security in this context lies in the contingency between calculability and doubt. Dillon further sees this as being behind the trend in US military affairs towards the complexity sciences: ‘the fascination of military-strategic science in the United States especially with complexity, chaos, nonlinearity and the new science of life introduced by the digital and molecular revolutions has proclaimed as much since the early 1990s’ (Dillon, 2003).

Security and power relations now clearly transcend traditional geo-political boundaries. Security is both socio-technical and biometric, with the security problematic becoming increasingly virtual and codified, ordered with attempted control of disorder (Dillon, 2003). The militarization of complex global open systems has serious implications for issues of civil liberty, and notions of the surveillance state.

Such domains of complex interdependencies are radicalising, in a militaristic sense, information, communication, command, control, and surveillance. The internal/external circulation and flows characteristic of open systems (whether informational or physical) are under interrogation from Western hegemonic, specifically US, military strategies in an attempt to close them down, plug-up the pores of flows and to blanket-coverage all potential contingencies. These are the operations of clandestine strategies that seek to contain the unpredictable and to map all physical-digital movements and traces.

Emerging technologies that ‘locate’ and ‘trace’ present a world where ‘every object and human is tagged with information specifications including history and position – a world of information overlays that is no longer virtual but wedded to objects, places, and positions’ (Crandall, 2005). Such meshing of the physical and the digital through the medium of sentient communicators is what is foreseen here as steering towards a digitally-rendered global system vulnerable to control via a technical-military elite. This scenario is exactly that as envisioned by ex-US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski. Brzezinski, in his ‘Between Two Ages : America’s Role in the Technetronic Era’ (1970), put forward the concept of a future ‘technotronic era’ whereby a more controlled society would gradually emerge, dominated by an elite unrestrained by traditional values. Brzezinski wrote that ‘Power will gravitate into the hands of those who control information’ (Brzezinski, 1970: 1), adding that surveillance and data mining will encourage ‘tendencies through the next several decades toward a technocratic era, a dictatorship leaving even less room for political procedures as we know them’ (Brzezinski, 1970: 12). By gaining control over informational technological communications Brzezinski outlined how this could help achieve control and order over the public:

"Unhindered by the restraints of traditional liberal values, this elite would not hesitate to achieve its political ends by the latest modern techniques for influencing public behavior and keeping society under close surveillance and control." (Brzezinski, 1970: 252)

Also important to consider is that many military technologies become appropriated and absorbed into civil technologies. For example, by 2003 a quarter of all rental vehicles at US agencies used some form of GPS tracking: not only for driver-location but also for the rental agency to know where the car has travelled, and its speed. Also, cars with speakerphones can be enabled from remote devices in order to listen in and eavesdrop on occupants in a car under surveillance, as has been utilized by police forces in the US (Brzezinski, 2004). This type of digitalised surveillance at-a-distance can have serious implications upon increasingly surveyed, tracked, and mapped social practices. It also suggests that technically-based northern ‘societies’ are being manoeuvred towards a surveyed and sensored, or synchronic society

Sensoring the Ecosphere: The Coming of a Synchronic Society?

The development of increasingly sentient ‘smart’ environments will go some way towards creating a more systemic relationship of interconnections and interdependencies between humans, objects/machines, and locality. This possibility has led some commentators to speak of an emerging cybernomadic landscape (Saveri, 2004). Here, the emphasis is on an embedded sensory world that will influence and fundamentally alter social practices. Such a cybernomadic landscape has been defined, in a recent IFTF report, by three primary forces of physical-digital fusion; the augmented self; and digitally catalysed masses (Saveri, 2004: 2). Similarly, De Rosnay sees this future as a form of symbiotic humanity: ‘each person functions as a node in this hypernetwork. Symbiotic humanity is both the totality of the network and one of its elements; it exists through the network and the network exists only through it’ (de Rosnay, 2000: 143). In all cases it involves networking with, utilizing, and interacting with objects, something which futurist and author Bruce Sterling refers to as a ‘synchronic society’:

A synchronic society generates trillions of catalogable, searchable, trackable trajectories…Embedded in a monitored space and time and wrapped in a haze of process, no object stands alone; it is not a static thing, but a shaping-thing. (Sterling, 2005: 50)

And a ‘shaped-thing’ may in the future rely upon more efficient and ubiquitous radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, now often euphemistically termed as arphids. These RFID tags can be networked into a global system of positioning and identification:

Your arphid monitors are hooked into the satellite based Global Positioning System. Then your network becomes a mobile system of interlinked objects that are traceable across the planet’s surface, from outer space, with one-meter accuracy, around the clock, from pole to pole. (Sterling, 2005: 92)

A physical-digital augmented environment interlinked with objects is, as Sterling states, based upon identification. Objects, as well as individuals, need to be identified, both in their object-self identity as well as in their positions. And yet this shift is not limited towards individuals or objects; it also extends into Nature and the ecosystem.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently announced that it considered today’s computer maps of the Earth to be inaccurate. Investment has been put into producing better computer generated terrain maps of the Earth using both radar and laser scanning (Piquepaille, 2005), with a future view for placing radio-towers on the moon or Mars3. These updated moves towards securing a military full spectrum dominance incorporate the latest known developments in smart sensors whereby complex computerised devices at the miniature, or even nano level, will be able to 24/7 monitor ecological, social, and/or biological environments and people:

These new computers would take the form of networks of sensors with data-processing and transmission facilities built in. Millions or billions of tiny computers — called ’motes’, ’nodes’ or ’pods’ — would be embedded into the fabric of the real world. They would act in concert, sharing the data that each of them gathers so as to process them into meaningful digital representations of the world. Researchers could tap into these ’sensor webs’ to ask new questions or test hypotheses. Even when the scientists were busy elsewhere, the webs would go on analysing events autonomously, modifying their behaviour to suit their changing experience of the world. (Butler, 2006a)

Such a scenario, if realised, would drastically alter the material and social fabric of the living world.

Deborah Estrin, director of the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing in Los Angeles, California, sees ‘the sensor-web revolution as an important thread in a grander tapestry of global monitoring, which involves billions of dollars being poured into projects to monitor the continents and oceans’ (Butler, 2006a). For example, upcoming projects include:

  • The $200 million EarthScope project from the NSF: 3,000 stations are to be erected that will ‘track faint tremors, measure crustal deformation and make three-dimensional maps of the earth’s interior from crust to core. Some 2,000 more instruments are to be mobile - wireless and sun- or wind-powered - and 400 devices are to move east in a wave from California across the nation over the course of a decade’ (Broad, 2005)

  • The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is to be established at an estimated cost of $500 million. The plan is for a coast-to-coast NEON to ‘involve perhaps 15 circular areas 250 miles in diameter, each including urban, suburban, agricultural, managed and wild lands. Each observatory would have radar for tracking birds and weather as well as many layers of motes and robots and sensors, including some on cranes in forest canopies’ (Broad, 2005)

  • The ‘Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations’, backed by the National Science & Technology Council within the Executive Office of the President, US, has recently published their Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System (IWGEO, 2005). Their vision is to discover, access, collect, manage, archive, process, and model earth geological data in order to better forecast such flows as weather, energy resources, natural resources, pre and post-disasters, as well as a host of other integrated processes. In their words: ‘The Earth is an integrated system. Therefore, all the processes that influence conditions on the Earth are linked and impact one another. A subtle change in one process can produce an important effect in another. A full understanding of these processes and the linkages between them require an integrated approach, including observation systems and their data streams’ (IWGEO, 2005: 47)

The report Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System (IWGEO, 2005) discusses a vast range of geological integrated monitoring systems. However, a caveat here is necessary, for the above projects towards environmental mapping contain shades of a western geographical imagination.

Cartography, as a pioneering navigational science and art, has long been used for validating colonial expansion, Imperial incursions, and for designating western territorial trophies. The geographical imagination is continually formed as residues of knowledge build one upon the other as images become re-appropriated for geo-political agendas. The western global imagination has participated in the de-centring of global geographies in past centuries, and may again be party to later digital formations of knowledge gathering and geo-strategies of dominance and power. As with the Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System which aims to monitor, track, catalogue, and forecast global processes and movements, geographical spaces will be subjected to a US-centric digital gaze. Denis Cosgrove views such a gaze as ‘implicitly imperial, encompassing a geometric surface to be explored and mapped, inscribed with content, knowledge and authority’ (2001: 15).

Emerging technologies in information-sensoring indicate an authoritarian, predominantly military, strategy for Earth monitoring. Increasingly, relationships between humans/devices/environments are being merged, or steered, towards a new construction of social life - one that embeds the individual, as a digitally-rendered identity, within a global informational ‘grid-lock’.

If such an irreversible shift is made towards digitally-rendered societies this would arguably ‘lock-in’ a form of monitored control society. With such predictions of an increasingly sensored and enmeshed global system it is difficult to see how living ‘off the Net’ will be a choice in the near future.


As this article has argued there are both overt and covert strategies within the US military-industrial complex towards securing full spectrum dominance over global information flows, which include dominating the electro-magnetic spectrum and the Internet. Increasingly western technological societies are moving towards developing sensored environments whereby information is processed on individuals as well as securing geographical data. This suggests a future whereby in order to move legitimately an individual will be subjected to a complex network of informational tracking and verification. This will undoubtedly see an increased militarisation of the civil sphere. Such a re-configuration of the social, through increased dependency upon physical-digital systems, will inevitably involve various structural relations of power. For example, individuals not deemed ‘worthy’ will be denied the right of movement through digitally-controlled spaces. This is not to imply that all acts of social passage will necessarily be uncomfortably noticed by the general legitimised user. It is likely that in-built strategies of marginalisation will be increasingly ‘normalised’ as part of shifting social practices: a regular state of affairs within a twenty-first century beset by manipulated terror in-securities.

Further, there are indications that these entwined and embedded information flows will seek to incorporate not only the physical and digital, but also the biological. In other words, each unit of information will be sought to be coded and therefore ‘secured’ under a full spectrum dominance agenda. Goonatilake (1999) sees this as moving towards a meta-communications environment that will merge human/genetic, cultural, machine as information codes and which will serve as information carriers:

The future will thus result in intense communications not only between machines and humans, but also with genetic systems so that information in the three realms of genes, culture and machines will result in one interacting whole. The three for all purposes would be interacting as one communicating system. (Goonatilake, 1999: 197)

We may soon be moving towards a momentous shift, perhaps the most important paradigmatic shift our current civilization has ever witnessed: a transformation into a digitally contained and controlled global environment.

This leaves the future vulnerable to extreme possibilities. Already there has been much Internet ‘chatter’ about the potential this offers for ‘exotic’ containment and control practices, including the possibility that a space-based, armed communications network is capable of beaming electromagnetic pulse technology upon virtually any chosen spot on the Earth. The potential here for mass mind control strategies is severely worrying and unnerving.

As we move towards the second decade of the twenty-first century we come increasingly close to a crossroads. One path indicates a move towards a deep and entrenched militarisation of the civil sphere where control and containment are the order of the day; the other path leads towards increased civil participation, engagement, and empowerment. It is perhaps a choice between global emancipation or complete global grid-lock.

Dr. Kingsley Dennis is a Research Associate in the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) based at the Sociology Department at Lancaster University, U.K. His research involves examining physical–digital convergences and how these might impact upon social processes. He is concerned with the digital rendition of identity and the implications of surveillance technologies.



E–mail: Kingsley [at] kingsleydennis [dot] co [dot] uk


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Piquepaille, R. (2005) ’Better terrain maps of Earth… and beyond’

Poindexter, J. (2002) ’Overview of the Information Awareness Office’

Saveri, A. (2004) The Cybernomadic Framework. Institute for the Future: March 2004

Science-Daily (2002) ’"Internet In The Sky" Will Guide Unmanned Vehicles Into Battle, Aid In Emergencies’

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Weiner, T. (2004) ’Pentagon Envisioning a Costly Internet for War’


Poindexter is an ex-retired Navy Admiral, and one-time National Security Advisor to President Reagan

2 ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’ is a key term used in the Joint Vision 2020 report – a document outlining future visions for the US Department of Defense. See

3 Even Google has attempted to get a slice of the action by releasing Google Mars. See: