29 September 2007

Terrorism: the good, the bad and the ugly

I do enjoy Mr. Robison's posts on the state of al Qaeda! And his latest at American Thinker, A Quiet Triumph May be Brewing, is no exception, and I deeply thank him for sharing his knowledge and background with us, so that we can gain some insight into what the media and punditry is, in general, missing.

Mr. Robison's articles are some of the most informative analysis I have seen on the topic of the coherency of al Qaeda as an organization and address much in the way of the smaller, support organizations that are necessary to make al Qaeda effective. That is part of the 'affiliate network' that many saw al Qaeda bringing closer to centralized operations just prior to and after 9/11. Clearly that network of affiliates has shifted emphasis away from the central portion of al Qaeda, and that portion has lost nearly all of its old mujahideen based knowledge. As we see younger and younger operatives appearing in higher positions of authority after older operatives are removed (either via arrest or direct attack) the actual knowledge basis for controlling and coordinating high level attacks is disintegrating. In my review of Mr. Robison's previous article I looked at that and the cost of actually having a trained terrorist operation, even on the 'shoe-string' basis that al Qaeda works on.

While Mr. Robison concentrates on the higher level phenomena, I also tend to see the local conditions as guiding to actions and activity: multiple operations from separate sources of activity can coalesce into a direction without higher level guidance. This differences in viewpoint do offer different spectra that can often be recombined to come to a larger understanding of the events in question. I will say that no matter what the actual movement of the events are, the results have been highly encouraging in regards to al Qaeda for the past year. As an organization al Qaeda has had severe problems mustering operational knowledge for large-scale attacks and appears to be playing to its weakness: combat.

The 'flypaper' strategy of Iraq, that many pointed to in 2003-04 as a rationale for going into Iraq only works if al Qaeda actually feels that such an operation would give long term threat to it and its goals. By 2005-06 that this was the case is unquestionable, as al Qaeda had Zarqawi, one of their more brutal but effective terrorist operators, in Iraq. The arms, supplies, personnel and logistical support that was provided to al Qaeda via Syria and, to a lesser degree, Saudi Arabia and Iran, demonstrated a high-level commitment by al Qaeda to operations there.

Conversely, by deemphasizing Afghanistan, and standing up a locally backed government via the traditional pre-Soviet overthrow means, and then training and operating with the Afghan forces, the COIN (Counter-Insurgency) work there has gained a local face and support base, even when it is foreigners doing some of the advanced fighting. Even though this has had its critics, saying that 'Afghanistan is where the actual fight is', al Qaeda demonstrated that the 'Front' was wherever they wanted to deliver fighters, arms and equipment. That was *not* Afghanistan, but Iraq. To keep that 'Front' effective, al Qaeda utilized Zarqawi's existing network from his previous work, Jund al-Sham and Tawhid and Jihad, to augment and integrate into the existing al Qaeda system of the Ansar al-Islam organization established in the late 1990's. In Afghanistan while al Qaeda did stage operations, most of the combat work was left up to the Taliban and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's operations Hezbi-e-Islami and the al-Badr organization. Hekmatyar, himself, has played a key role as financial backer and supporter of the Talibe and al Qaeda, of which the latter does not like his narcotics trafficking all that much (and yes they do it too, the leadership is, apparently, schizophrenic or willing to sacrifice drug purity for cash).

That sets the stage for Mr. Robison's information from Internet Anthropologist, that the US told Pakistan that we had the coordinates for the training camps in Pakistan run by al Qaeda (and a couple by the Taliban) and were going to do something about it. And I do agree that those individuals moved over to the old Tora Bora complex, which is now finding itself semi-sealed off. A perfect training opportunity to see how the exfiltration skills for mountain terrain are! For those being trained, however, a failure on the report card does tend to mean a loss of life...

One obvious thing that does need to be pointed out, however, is the COINTEL (Counter-INTEL) work done by releasing the information to Pakistan, originally. That is: to find the leakers. If Mr. Robison and IA are correct, and I have no reason to think otherwise, the US has purposely released information to see how long and what Pakistani groups know about it and when so as to start the COINTEL process of finding and removing the leaks in the Pakistani government structure, mainly in the intelligence service (ISI). Coalition forces have proven very effective along the southern tier of Afghanistan from Khandihar and environs, so the routes to Iran may not have been ones that semi-trained terrorists would want to hazard. That left only the northern routes to Afghanistan, Tajikistan (via northern Afghanistan, unlikely, yes...), China and Kasmir as likely routes.

This is one of those lovely chances to combine COIN with COINTEL and get a twofer: find the leaks in the ISI by monitoring likely leakers via SIGINT and ELINT, and monitor the camps (if I remember two did not depopulate completely, but a training cadre remained in them) and the movement of personnel who would believe they were under emergency evacuation. That the US actually had the coordinates of the bases I do not doubt and they are now, most likely, under semi-automated watch for changes before winter hits. I do doubt that major attacks on these bases were intended, because the INTEL that can be gathered for both COIN and COINTEL is without price. The US had previously established UAV dominance in the area (as seen by the numerous complaints from Pakistan of same), but no one wanted to do anything about them or they were replaced with higher elevation or 'stealth' models, or replaced with actual Special Ops forces and very low level tactical UAVs although that is doubted due to the number of places to be monitored.

Such INTEL should have identified the major and minor traffic routes (moving personnel from 29 camps nearly overnight would tax any transport system), and would also serve to get clear identification of group size and affiliation. This will not only aid future surveillance (automated/semi-automated) but will allow for better connections to be made both backwards and forwards as more individuals are known. The forward individual sets would be those necessary to prep/supply Tora Bora for this influx, and finding who those people are in Afghanistan will allow for logistics supplies to be found and cut off at their sources and to start putting local pressure on the tribes involved. The backwards component, however, is interesting, as all of these individuals that are foreigners had to get to the camps *somehow*: the teleporter has yet to be invented, therefore air/sea/land movement of these individuals will leave an identifiable trail especially from air/seaports.

To take a temporary break from the in-country analysis for a bit, there is one thing that has bothered me since 2001: the shipping component of al Qaeda. One of the things that al Qaeda purchased during the 1990's was transport aircraft for movement of personnel and equipment from Afghanistan to Africa. Sayed Waqar Hasib from Tufts University puts together the entire al Qaeda organization for finances (the paper as a master's thesis is quite thorough) and uses the al Shamal money transfers for aircraft purchases as an example. Given the state of the aircraft industry and the number of older airframes on the market, especially in Africa, the ability of al Qaeda to purchase one or more aircraft is certain. At least two of the Boeing 707 class of aircraft (used for sizing and age, actually purchased airframes may vary) were acknowledged just after 9/11, as al Qaeda transported not only personnel and weapons, but also their gold reserves via such. Also reported at the time were 6 or more cargo vessels, most likely in the Indian Ocean basin, that al Qaeda either owned or leased via front companies. As far as my knowledge goes, no one has actually tracked these vessels down, and it would seem that they would be a high priority to find, given the penchant of al Qaeda for utilizing such for destructive purposes. That is why the backtracking of personnel movements is important: finding those vessels would be a top priority for the US Armed Forces and FBI.

Ok, back to the topic at hand: the breaking up of al Qaeda.

One thing not addressed so easily is the move of al Qaeda in the last few years to start supporting terrorists in Kashmir and taking a rhetorical 'hard line' against China. This is an interesting shift as, heretofore, the West was seen as the main evil by al Qaeda. Thus shifts, even after their big releases of interest by bin Laden and Zawahiri against the West, are happening. Rhetoric against the West, however, is proving difficult to sustain because the investment of men, equipment and cash into Iraq is degrading the al Qaeda command and training ability not only in Iraq but globally. The 'best and brightest' have been sent to Iraq and, regularly, killed/captured along with large chunks of their personal organization. Anbar province turning was a major strategic and tactical loss for al Qaeda. Worse is the self-declared capitol of the 'Islamic Republic of Iraq' (or whatever they are calling it today) and its province shifting hard against it. Diyala province and Baqubah 'flipped' as the 1920 brigades, the motley group of locals that hated the US until al Qaeda started killing their families, started serving as scouts and gaining HUMINT for not only the MNF but for IA and ISF. The Iraq Awakening based movement of tribes in Anbar taking control of things by utilizing tribe/clan/familial ties is now at work in the mixed sectarian province of Diyala.

Beyond the loss of the asserted capitol, al Qaeda was doing 'ethnic cleansing' against Shias. That was a major tripping point as the tribes cross sectarian boundaries. This is also seen in the areas south of Baghdad in the 'Triangle of Death', which is a major mixing point of tribes and sects. There sect matters more than tribes, but only to a degree: the tribes, themselves do not affiliate exclusively by sect and do need to work together and have done so in the past. What this points out is a major weakness both in the al Qaeda and Iranian backed JaM, 'Secret Cells' and Hezbollah. These organizations do not understand the nature of Iraq's society at its lowest level and, lacking that understanding, coercion has limited utility over time unless nothing opposes it. With the MNF and IA/ISF/IP now standing up and hard to oppose the terrorists and killers, that societal basis is gaining strength. Even in the cities, where tribe ties are weak but still present, this is happening and Baghdad, itself, is undergoing this transformation as local leaders stand up to represent neighborhoods and districts.

al Qaeda, strangely, has proven just as myopic in its view of Iraq as the Western Left has: both see tribalism as something that is inherently violent and only amenable to force. That is not the case, however, as the history of the US and Europe should point out. The family and clan affiliations in the Southern US are extremely strong, along with parts of Appalachia all the way up to Maine. You are not a 'local' in Maine until your family has lived there for three or four generations and then you are 'newbies' for another two or three generations. What, you thought that everything was nice and cozy metropolitan views in the US, all civilized? In the Western reaches of the US, from the desert South West through the Basin and Range all the way up to the Eastern parts of Cascadia, a similar set of views somewhat less family based, and more small town oriented yields similar results. People do, indeed, turn out in huge numbers for local High School games and enjoy such matches as it gives community affiliation and good natured rivalry, while rarely resulting in bloodshed. In Iraq things are, perhaps, closer to Ireland and Scotland prior to the 17th century, but it is those roots that show up time and again in the US. Likewise the various Eastern European Nations have seen similar and the Balkans remains one of the most ethnically, religiously and socially divided places on the planet. The West still *has* these roots and utilizes them, often negatively, but they are a positive force for social coherency and localized understanding.

Between the ancient Highland Clans of Scotland and the High School football games of Texas lies the societal underpinnings of Iraq. It is in a different language or set of languages, has different religions, and is in a far different part of the world, yet the tribal based system is one that is more than amenable to governing, government and being held accountable to actions. It is this last that a large swath of terrorists have ignored and are now paying the price for ignoring. In trying to see the world as all one thing, be it 'Global Ummah' or 'World Proletariat' those that try to enforce top down and dictatorial forms of government need to have a bloody hand when dealing with tribes. Work with tribes, build social cohesion and accountability into the government and utilize democracy to strengthen that system, while not excluding any from being a part of it, and any top down structure will fail in the face of that. Iraq is becoming the killing fields *of* terrorists: they are going there and dying at a rapid rate and local recruitment is slowing with the turning of Iraqis against these organizations. This is not the 'Ummah' coming together in Jihad or the 'Workers' uniting against the Imperialist... this is the families and tribes saying 'We have had enough of the killers'.

This is patently *not* the 'flypaper' that so many envisioned going in: with the US doing an inestimable job of figuring out the terrorism support mechanisms and getting rid of them before they could do much of anything. No, that world in which the US actually knew what Iraq was like did fail to materialize even if the 'flypaper' itself would work, but from this far different angle. You see that idea going in did not address the fly generators inside Iraq: the pre-existing organizations, like the Badr organization and Ansar al-Islam, although it was probably thought those could be easily handled. Almost immediately we got the Sadr folks, and problems from the get-go in Umm Qasr and Basra, then things only on a slow boil until al Qaeda could get roots down faster than they could be uprooted. Today the areas that host al Qaeda are addressed by Iraqis who are now putting in tips and information on whereabouts at a phenomenal rate. In the southern areas this is also leading the Shia tribes to start looking for the 'Awakening' concept there and they have knowledge of those tribes making it work. This is not 'flypaper', but the first hard breaks in Islam against the terrorist elements not only on the Sunni/Salafist/Wahabbi side, but also on the Shia side as well.

I will go back to my older analogy of the Faultlines of the Middle East as, being a geologist, I understand that a little bit better. With the view coming in from Western culture that the Sunni/Shia faultine predominated in Iraq, the concept was that this was going to be a 'civil war' that might see a 'three Nations' as an outcome. When first looking at the area, this faultline concept pressed by the MSM and punditry proved to be false, and as time wore on the depth of Iraqi tribal society must change that view. While external actors have attempted to shift this Middle Eastern sectarian faultline to cleave Iraq, the forces being Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and the Wahhabis from Saudi Arabia, instead that faultline has petered out in size and strength and the other faultines, the tribal ones, are starting to end the main sectarian one's movement. Short of a few nuclear devices removing a number of Holy Sites in Iraq, there is now a final shifting of those faultlines there and due to culture. That culture is now pushing back and the ramifications in Islam, over time, will not be small. The next decade in Iraq are critical on a global scale for Islam as there are finally coming to the forefront large numbers of Moslems saying *no* to those wishing divisiveness and death.

It is something that happens on both sides of the sectarian faultline and the changes in alignment due to the tribal and cultural nature of Iraq will be profound. Iraq, along its Ancient Culture faultline, holds one pre-eminent position amongst all other regions in the Middle East: that of the center of learning for the Arab and Islamic cultures. If al Qaeda, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, JaM and the rest of those terror organizations are held and stopped and pushed back in Iraq by Iraqis, there will be a hard shift from the monetary support centers provided by Riyadh and Tehran. The Wahhabi support of the Muslim Brotherhood goes back decades, and that has been a harshly radicalizing force in Egypt and the Middle East. The Shia side in Tehran has also been radicalizing, but along a more organized and centered front called Hezbollah. For at least five decades for the Wahhabi side and nearly three decades for the Shia, the funds to promote killing, torture and Islamic radicalism has gone unchecked in the Middle East. There was only a freezing counter of stalemate with a dictator in Iraq who used religion as a front, but not pressing it in any great way. With the removal of that and the people in Iraq seeing the results of decades of Islamic radicalism visited on them after decades of Ba'athist tyranny, one cannot help to wonder *why* it seems strange there would be a backlash against this concept of 'killing one's way to power'.

In Afghanistan the existing tribal structure there has not undergone similar stress, as it has in Iraq. That said, Afghan tribes are, if anything, stronger than their Iraqi counter-parts and have a fierce warrior streak as do the Kurds in Iraq. The ancient enmities between tribes and ethnic groups in Afghanistan are also far stronger than in the rest of the Middle East (say, who are you calling an 'Uzbeck'?), so in that way it is far closer to ancestral forms of clan and tribe in the West. Afghanis have proven to have resolution, however, against opponents and those attacking them, and that dates back centuries: they are one of the great peoples of high mountain warfare, and they know how to defeat Empires. That cultural view has limited the Taliban and al Qaeda, however, as it is not manly to attack as a suicide bomber against civilians. The majority of such attacks are done by outsiders, while the Afghan bombers stalwartly go after 'hard targets' and get a very low body count. The entire US operational view has utilized this and continues to for some very good reasons:

1) Mountain warfare is damned hard to learn, and requires months if not longer of stamina building at altitude.

2) Afghan tribes respect small groups of fighters and the US, coming in with a small operational footprint, won quick support because we were not coming in as an invading Army, but small organizational groups of operatives willing to show our weight-class punch.

3) By utilizing the Northern Alliance and using that to oust the Taliban, cultural animosities could be limited to those already existing because of (2) above.

4) Allies of the US had small organizational units trained for high mountain warfare and they all punch above weight-class (light infantry in small amounts can stop fully supported armored columns).

These things moved the fight into a 'traditional warfare' arena with the added bonus of aerial capability. Plus one key US Ally, the Canadians, see the idea of a 'winter campaign' as a good way to demoralize an enemy... clearly the Afghanis thought they were nuts. Just as clearly the decoherence of the Taliban and al Qaeda this spring and summer are due, in large part, to small force Canadian operations during the winter. Even with a very low body count, being forced to fight when tradition says it is suicide to do so, is dispiriting. Even worse when you can't even *find* your ground based enemy: they are better at it than you are. If you want to know who found and scouted the camps, ID'd individuals and such, look to the Canadians there and a hearty thanks to them! From that follows the COINTEL and COIN synthesis where we are today with al Qaeda/Taliban forces stuck in Tora Bora which, apparently, we spent some time mapping out after 2001-02.

This relatively small fight in and around Tora Bora is, just like the changing of tribal views in Iraq, a major tactical and strategic turning point against al Qaeda. If this breaks morale and support lines and removes a goodly portion of the fighters out of the mix, Pakistan is put in a nasty place where the entire network is placed down in front of President Musharraf and he is told: 'do this with us or against us, either way it will get done'. That will be a long list of individuals in the ISI, Pakistani government, tribal governments, military organization and some number of civilian organizations as well. While al Qaeda was going after the Red Mosque, the Coalition forces were figuring out how to finally pin down the major al Qaeda and Taliban networks. If President Musharraf steps down to be head of the Army, and vacates the civilian Presidency, then it is because he has decided to move and he wants someone *else* to take the fall of going against the tribes. The contrary is, however, not the case, in dropping Army head and remaining President, he just may want to blame the dirty work on someone else. Either way he is facing a nasty shock in the next month or two as al Qaeda and Taliban are tracked and targeted in 'hot pursuit'.

I discount, completely, that either al Qaeda or the Taliban having enough strength, contacts and logistics to fight and win a late fall campaign. They have not trained for a winter campaign and that will be the death of them. If the US fails to get a green light from Pakistan, I expect that small operational high mountain warfare groups will do as the Canadians did and prosecute a winter campaign privately. Perhaps some justification via the 'hot pursuit' or declaring, by the Coalition or Afghani government that the Waziristan provinces are lawless territories without official government.

This is a very good sea change against al Qaeda, to say the least. It is also promising that if the US and Coalition in Afghanistan and Iraq can keep the ball rolling, that a major change in the tide of Islamic terrorism will be halted in its upward rise for a few years....

A few years? Not permanently?

Yes, that is correct. Iraq can change the course of Islam by becoming a stable Nation that respects Sunni and Shia Islam, and that will then add it in as a third power force in Islam outside of Riyadh and Tehran. That is a three-sided war in which only one side will win.

al Qaeda, as 'the base' is still a centralizing concept in Islamic terrorism on the Sunni/Wahabbi/Salafist side. It has a major predecessor, that of Turabi in Sudan, who likewise served as one of the first catalysts for Muslim Brotherhood cross-connected terrorism. Even with his power in the wane and isolated in Darfur and the Islamic Courts Union losing their recent struggle in Somalia, he served as the incubator for al Qaeda while it was in Africa. Turabi, getting on in years, hasn't really kept a good hand in things, but his organization continues on his tradition, even with most of Turabi's glamor gone. That leaves the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been a main organization for ideology and training of terrorists, and serving as the centralizing connection between terrorist organizations.

While HAMAS is their direct outgrowth, that organization has spread tendrils into: Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Bosnia and the Tri-Border Area of South America. al Qaeda's 'affiliate structure' of multiple, localized groups, all have other ties back to the Muslim Brotherhood. Ayman al- Zawahiri got his start with MB as a separate teacher/thinker that would influence a wide sphere of individuals. Even with the end of al Qaeda as a group of individuals, al Qaeda as a concept structure is already utilized by MB and its associate structure. That associate structure is not one of direct command and organizations, but centralizing of training and logistics contacts along with multiple 'spiritual leaders'. If al Qaeda as a structural entity 'dies' it will be 'reborn' in MB, not by the al Qaeda name, but it will have a recognizable component structure to al Qaeda.

This is one of the reasons that bin Laden having been reported to 'hand off' the head of al Qaeda to Iran seems improbable: not sectarian differences, but organizational and structural differences. Hezbollah operates along a better controlled line of authority and has created an interlocking structure of External Security Organizations under Imad Mugniyah for Hezbollah. These are not 'affiliates' or 'associates': they have direct ties and control lines to the Hezbollah superstructure. What has happened, however, is the slow shift over the last decade of command authority and monetary gathering outwards to create more independence in the affiliates. Although best seen in the South American structure, with ownership of malls and working in pirated software, similar structures exist in Bosnia and Algeria. The affiliates of al Qaeda are almost all independent operators willing to work together for common cause, but only via sectarian outlook. Hezbollah has a command and control structure like a Foreign Legion, that has multiple, internal, fall-backs and ability to distribute and localize organizations while still having centralized control. These are not simpatico operational perspectives: shoe-string operations love their independence and ideological purity while commanded structures prefer uniformity across the organization to work as an organization. Free lancers vs. Staff.

Does what we are seeing signal a major sea change in Islamic Terrorism?

Yes, but only if it is worked at and *hard* for a few decades. There are other, orthagonal, forces in science and technology that will change this equation, but the basis of it is being set today and those changes will need to be viewed taking those into account. Something like cheap space access in the next decade would change this equation in huge ways as would something very simple like a cure for AIDS. While both outside the realm of the ideological struggle as perceived *today* they would be incorporated and quickly into it. The slow disintegration and move towards government centralization in the US is marking a long-term threat to Western democratic principles at their base, and continued shifts in that direction will also have massive and unknown consequences, but not for the better. We write history as we go and without firmly fixing goals to head towards, we risk losing the gains made to the dissolution of our society.

Even more deadly is that the West has not paid any attention, at all, to the increasing destructiveness and lethality of non-religious based terrorism, which now, on a per-act basis, is where the Islamic sort started out. This blindness will hit hard when that ratchets up to gain the headlines that only Islamic terrorists used to get, due to body count. It does us no good to finally bring the religious terrorism under some sort of wraps and then have the non-religious sort blossom in lethality as it accounts for far more terrorist acts than the religious sort. And if its lethality goes up as it has over the last 30 years, then that will see a body count the religious sort could not get in pure, raw numbers.

It is very well and good that al Qaeda is facing hardships and problems, possibly even breaking up. al Qaeda is not all Islamic terrorism and not all Islamic terrorism is due to al Qaeda. And al Qaeda is only one of many very, very bad organizations on this planet and the non-Islamic sort have had to take the lead of al Qaeda and Hezbollah on body counts to get any attention at all. And there are far more of those sorts of terrorists around today than there are Islamic ones. This is not a point-specific problem, but systemic.

We will have plugged one hole!

The damned thing that is leaking IS a sieve. One hole just doesn't do it.

Break the law - get rewarded!

I am sure that most everyone has heard of Sen. Clinton's baby-bonus payment plan!


The one where every baby born in America gets a $5,000 bonus, just for being born an American? It was done at the debate hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus, so I am sure that it was a pretty straight bit of pandering... but consider the position of an illegal alien.

If you break the law to get to the US, and your baby is born here, you get $5,000 account for that baby FREE! That's right, you get PAID to break the law!

Isn't that splendiferous?

Say, I thought that Congress was supposed to be addressing the 'magnets' attracting illegals here, like undocumented jobs, free health care, refusing folks work because they don't speak Spanish...

Here in Northern Virginia, my neighbor (herself an immigrant from asia) is currently out of work and went to the county employment office to apply for work. She spent long years in line, getting paperwork processed, learning English and very proud to be an American. So, when she gets there, applies, they ask her ONE question: Do you speak Spanish?

No? Sorry there are no jobs available... that in a county with solid economic growth, decent business climate and expanding population.

Tell you what: remove the magnets and encouragement for folks to come here so that those that come here legally can get jobs. And as for State, Municipal and County Governments... drop the damned Spanish on jobs programs and encourage folks to 'speaka da english'.

And on the Federal side: do your damned jobs and enforce the law and end the MAGNETS to encourage illegal entry to the Nation. Maybe even toughen up the employer sanctions bit by, you know, ending the businesses doing this and tossing their management into the Federal Pen for a decade or three. A fence makes for good neighbors, too... a wall makes a fantastic neighbor, ask the Israelis.

28 September 2007

Legislation without Law: What hath FISA wrought?

Our present condition, is, Legislation without law;
wisdom without a plan;
a constitution without a name;
and, what is strangely astonishing,
perfect Independance contending for dependance.

The instance is without a precedent;
the case never existed before;
and who can tell what may be the event?

The property of no man is secure in the present unbraced system of things.

The mind of the multitude is left at random, and seeing no fixed object before them, they pursue such as fancy or opinion starts.

Nothing is criminal;
there is no such thing as treason;
wherefore, every one thinks himself at liberty to act as he pleases.

-Thomas Paine, Common Sense.

(courtesy the Gutenberg Project)
I have done some reformatting to let things stand out a bit in the above, as a minor artistic liberty. I do not think that Paine would object, overmuch.

The following is from ABC Political Radar of 27 SEP 2007:
Iraqi Insurgent FISA timeline: Probable Cause and the AG

ABC News' Jason Ryan Reports: The Acting Deputy Director of National Intelligence has sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee revealing details on the gap in obtaining a FISA after 3 US soldiers were captured in Iraq on May 12.

The incident where the military was required to get a FISA warrant is a real world example in the FISA reform legislation being examined by Congress. The FISA legislation passed by Congress in August, the Protect Act, provided a fix to the government's ability to intercept foreign to foreign communications.

The letter from the acting Deputy Ron Burgess notes, "On May 14, 2007 as soon as the specific leads had been identified analysts began to compile all the necessary information to establish a factual basis for the issuance of a FISA court order as required by the emergency authorization provision of the statute."

"This case presented novel and complicated issues…This was the focus of the internal Executive Branch deliberations between 12:53pm and 5:15pm and the reason behind the decision to contact the Attorney General for emergency authority rather than the Solicitor General." Burgess wrote.

The letter to Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes also notes, "The Director used this example to illustrate the point that, due to changes in technology, the FISA statute extends privacy protections to foreign terrorists located outside of the United States merely because FISA makes a geographic distinction based on the location of the collection."

According to one intelligence official, US officials were attempting to intercept and review email and Internet communications of the insurgents. A career Justice Department official said tonight that the Attorney General needed to get to a secure phone and secure location before he could be briefed on the situation. A copy of the letter has been sent to the DC Assignment desk.

The key times attached to the letter:

May 12, 2007: :Three US solider were reported missing and believed to have been captured by Iraqi insurgents…SIGINT [signal intelligence] assets responded by dedicating all available resources to obtaining intelligence concerning the attack."

13& 14th: Intelligence community began to develop leads.

May 15: 10:00am "key US agencies met to discuss options for colleting additional intelligence."

10:52am: "NSA notified..DOJ of its desire to collect communications that require a FISA order…it was determined some FISA coverage already existed."

12:53pm to 5:15pm :"Administration lawyers and intelligence officials discussed various legal and operational issues associated with the surveillance."

5:15pm: DOJ's FISA Office the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) received a call formally requesting emergency authority to conduct surveillance."

5:30pm: "The OIPR attorney on duty attempted to reach the Solicitor General who was the Acting Attorney General while Attorney General Gonzales was addressing a United States Attorney's Conference in Texas. However the Solicitor General had left for the day and the decision was made to attempt to reach Attorney General in Texas."

OIPR contacted DOJ command center and requested to locate the Attorney General. "After Several telephone calls with the staff accompanying the Attorney General, the OIPR lawyers were able to speak directly with the Attorney General and brief him on the fact of the emergency request."

" At 7:18pm, the Attorney General authorized the requested surveillance, the Justice Department attorney's immediately notified the FBI."

"At 7:28pm, the FBI notified the key intelligence agencies and personnel of the approval."

"At 7:38pm, surveillance began."
Yes, you have read that correctly.

The lovely FISA concept covers terrorists in foreign lands communicating to each other and prevents the gathering of INTEL when US soldier's lives are at risk. This is covered in 50 USC Chapter 36, Section 1801 (and associated), text courtesy Cornell University Law School. In Section 1802 we get the procedures to do this:

    (1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that

      (A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at—

        (i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or

        (ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;

      (B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party; and

      (C) the proposed minimization procedures with respect to such surveillance meet the definition of minimization procedures under section 1801 (h) of this title; and

    if the Attorney General reports such minimization procedures and any changes thereto to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence at least thirty days prior to their effective date, unless the Attorney General determines immediate action is required and notifies the committees immediately of such minimization procedures and the reason for their becoming effective immediately.
Got that? So if you are in Iraq and need the assets of the greater INTEL Community to bear on a kidnap situation involving those illegally at war with the United States, and you are the Commander in the Field you first need to:

1) Contact your Command, either the overall commander for your operation, or the actual Command itself, in this instance CENTCOM.

2) That chain of command then, at sufficiently high level to review the assets available and finding that, indeed, in-Theater assets are not enough to meet this need, are to go to the Head of the Dept. of Justice, as US assets are being used for Foreign Intelligence gathering, or the President.

3) Dept. of Justice, getting a request for Emergency Authorization, which is the NSA contacting DoJ above.

4) To comply with FISA multiple lawyers from different Agencies (most likely FBI but also CIA, NSA, DIA, possibly DISA) need to discuss if this request can be done via an Emergency Authorization or needs to go through the normal 30 day waiting period....

At this point the decision of actually needing this to be done has already been determined by the Combatant Command (CENTCOM). This is a force-protection issue against those illegally at war with the US and that is the ONLY determination that should matter. As the Combatant Commands do not have enough manpower, equipment or infrastructure to perform National Intelligence, they need to rely upon the National Intelligence assets. By inserting FISA into this, the actual determination of need is taken out of the hands of the Field Commander and Commander of CENTCOM and has been delegated to civilian legal staff in Washington, DC.

I have a problem with this.

This is a clear crossing of the separation of powers mandated by the US Constitution so that the Commander of the Armies and the Navies, namely the President, can conduct war-time operations to protect the Armed Forces of the United States. Emergency tasking needs during Congressionally Authorized Use of Force situations should *not* have *any* legal overhead outside the UCMJ, and that should afford minimal protection to US Citizens in a warzone or area of high combat as those comms can be captured and used by *any* enemy to coordinate activities against the US Armed Forces.

An operation to task National Intelligence assets in the US can have an *automatic* compartmentation in the security structure, so that any Agencies or individuals needed can be tasked under military authorization for that need. By having separate tasking, utility and, indeed, information security overhead during that, all data is secured and recorded with full trail of why such information is needed, when it is gathered, what its sources are and what the resulting INTEL is. It is rare, indeed save for a very few individuals who have shifted allegiance to these illegal, predatory warfare organizations we call 'terrorist' that ANY US Citizen information should be picked up and those that are in that war zone or conducted as part of such an operation is SAFEGUARDED via the compartmentalization system. Any operation that does take more than a few days can be reported to the House and Senate Committees, probably both Intelligence and Defense, and that all information gathered is being done as necessary and will undergo legal review AFTER the operation is over, but done with the full knowledge of the Committees involved that it is going on.

By doing any other thing on the legal side, and by requiring that an operation taking place wholly overseas in a war zone needs to go through legal decisions by a group of legal counsel is *nuts*. These are the Armed Forces of the United States fighting to not only carry out the direct authorization of Congress but *also* looking to protect their own force structure and find their own people illegally captured and held by a predatory warfare organization.

So, by the time things finally get decided, over 6 hours have wandered by as *lawyers* discuss the legal niceties of protecting troops during wartime. The sweetness does not end *there* however.

5) With the actual concept that this NEEDED TO BE DONE, the folks at DoJ then try to find someone to sign off on it, which would be the Attorney General, as specified under law. But the Acting-AG was out for the day, by then and the AG, himself, was at a conference and had to be contacted.

Ever try to contact someone at a convention or conference these days? Most turn off their cellular phones and pagers, so as to not interrupt the conference. Otherwise you are caught like Rudy Giuliani actually trying to take a phone call while addressing large group of people or interrupting a speaker, or.... you get the picture. So the Acting-AG off, most likely on personal business after work and hard to get and the AG, himself, also hard to get....

6) One hour and forty eight minutes later they are able to TALK TO the AG! This is heading almost to 8 hours after the initial request was made.

7) The AG makes an Emergency Authorization and 20 minutes later the FBI can start helping out.

After that the AG and DoJ can take some time filling out the paperwork in 1804 and 1805, which looks to be a butt-load of paperwork to fill out with justification, needs and so on. Really the entire amount that needs to get generated and re-generated is awe inspiring. Plus in 1805, the AG has 72 hours to generate up this mound of documentation which, remember, he is given 30 DAYS to do as part of normal surveillance. That's right, you don't even get to put in an overview or summary, but the whole kit 'n caboodle... 30 DAYS of work in 72 hours. Or the surveillance STOPS.

Thomas Paine would call this 'legislating without law': Congress has no right to step in on the needs of the US Armed Forces for force protection and any US Citizen wandering around in a war zone or high combat area previously designated by the US has ZERO expectation of 'privacy' on personal communications. That is how war zones operate, in case folks have missed this in history class. When in one combatant forces will utilize any means they can to gain advantage, and when one side operates under NO Geneva Conventions or Hague Conventions and contravenes the Treaty of Paris 1856, it has gone a long way to indicate that it will stop at NOTHING to attack those that oppose them. Which includes NO respect for the rights of civilians, in case folks deploring IEDS/VBIEDS, chemical weapons attacks, sniping at just about anyone, and holding folks hostage for show and cutting their heads off for video cameras, (say, you folks trying to uphold the GC *have* noticed that, haven't you?) have forgotten what this enemy can do and will do to a mere civilian and that to try and have civilized forces *protect* you, your rights for private communications can be expected to be NIL.

Any law that is vague enough to not CLEARLY demarcate such activities in a war zone or area of military operations and *waive* normal procedures at the START of such law, is clearly intruding 'civil rights' into an arena where there are damned few and that respecting peace-time civil rights of those operating in, aiding or abetting illegal predatory war groups can expect to have themselves found out as doing so. Under *military law* as such individuals are taking part in war time operations. And such individuals who are *outside* the combat zone assisting such illegal organizations can *then* expect that information to be handed over to the Dept. of Justice that will then go through the FISA procedures, with the full acknowledgment and citation of military INTEL being the source of such surveillance needs.

Why is this important?

Because in JUN 2007, al Qaeda announced that two of the three captured soldiers had been killed and the third was also found dead at their hands.

When the US Congress can no longer write legislation to recognize the difference between war and peace-time INTEL gathering in support of field operations and force protection, it has failed its duties to protect the United States. Especially as this is put into the US Code Title 5o - WAR AND NATIONAL DEFENSE.

You would think the name of that Title section would hand them a HUGE clue as to what this is about. Apparently, that is not the case.

Do expect the US to treat wartime just like peace time in the near future, and we will send out the FBI to fight for us, since they will be the only ones able to figure out the law as the Armed Forces will be too hamstrung to actually operate in a meaningful and effective form.

Thomas Paine named this directly in Common Sense: 'wisdom without a plan'.

27 September 2007

When change is not progress

At the founding of the United States there was a clear and succinct voice that rang out beyond the great documents, beyond the Declaration of Independence. It was a voice of Revolution and yet a voice of warning, too. That voice with single clarity identifies, classifies and instructs on who we are, as a People, and how we view this world. It is a voice forgotten today, and many while noting the author, no longer note the words involved, as they were and are Revolutionary. Perhaps the best passage for our modern times comes from then, if we dare to read it:

Some writers have so confounded society with government,
as to leave little or no distinction between them
whereas they are not only different, but have different origins.
Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness;
the former promotes our POSITIVELY by uniting our affections,
the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one
encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.
The first a patron, the last a punisher.
That writers is, of course, Thomas Paine and the quote is from Common Sense (via the Gutenberg Project), bolding is mine, unless otherwise noted.

A problem on the Left and the Right is to try and use government to enforce society, and social norms, instead of having government shift to our changing views as a People. Our society is given voice by who we are, what we want and how we approach life as a People. The government is an artifact of that process, made to ensure that our passions do not destroy our society, but not to enforce a view on the world upon that society. The major 'debates' of the last century revolved around the role of government in society, and in each and every case, MORE government intervention was chosen over LESS.

I have written elsewhere about the 10 years that changed the course of America for the worse, within that century. Starting in 1909 the US Federal Government expanded its powers over medications, to begin regulating what individuals could and could not do with their own bodies. Government put that forward via those organizations that supported them, mainly church groups seeing the ills of the Far East opium trade, and sought to end the trade by eliminating the demand. To do that, Nations had to agree to end the importation of such things and outlaw them for their peoples. The Federal Government, before that, could only tell manufacterers to list all ingredients in foods and medications, via the food and drug purity laws. That is how the government *should* act, so that the People have a truthful accounting of what they take in the way of food and medication. In proscribing certain medications to enforce a treaty, the Federal Government changed its role from that of supporting society to that of dictating to the greater society based on a religious outlook of ending the opium trade.

Instead of just taxing the hell out of the imports to try and dissuade Americans from using such things, the Federal Government went a route of authoritarianism against its own People to tell the People what was good for them. That was via the Harrison Act of 1914, to require 'stamps' for the purchase of these medications, and no stamps were ever produced or distributed. If you want the start of the 'Nannystate' then this is, perhaps, the first milestone in that. Would that such markers were so few and far between that they could not even be sighted one to the next. Suddenly a thing that individuals did, which was guiding their own use of medications, had become criminal behavior. Society could no longer be the patron of its own needs, and look after them, and government took up its role to punish those that contradicted that.

Also in 1909 would come Amendment XVI to the US Constitution that would allow the first formulation of taxation of individuals by the Federal Government to happen that would NOT be set by per capita tax, but by income. This would, in addition, remove the need of the Federal Government to go to the States to get income to run the Nation and allow the Federal Government to act in a fiscally independent mode from State based oversight. The 'power of the purse' for funding Federal Government shifted from the People and the States to the Federal Government. Previously the US had existed on tariffs and then asking States to make up the remainder based on an equal apportionment on a per capita basis. The States were left to figure out how the best way to garner that money was. Income tax, sales tax, property tax... the variety of taxes that could be levied varied and each State could figure out the best way to share the National burden for itself. The States, in separate or concert, could also WITHHOLD payments when Federal Government no longer addressed the needs of the States. That is an accountability power that Amendment XVI removed from play. Suddenly local government had lost its ability to hold the Federal system accountable to it, and the evils of local government were replaced by the distant and less accountable and larger evil of Federal Government.

Starting in 1911 would be the move to have the People directly elect Senators, and that would be ratified into the Constitution as Amendment XVII. This shifted a second, State-based, accountability factor from keeping Federal Government limited. While the appointment of Senators had always caused problems from the States, those were problems of localized, State based corruption that allowed the Federal Government to actually criticize the States for not doing their job of appointing Senators. A major question for democracy is: what happens when a major institution in a Republic is no longer strongly backed and yet is vital to the running of the Nation? The answer is NOT to change the place where the decision power rests, but that is what exactly, was done. Again, prior to this the Federal Government actually had to have its tenancies ham-strung by the States in their power to send or NOT to send Senators. If things are not getting done, perhaps it is the Federal Government's fault for not running itself well enough to gain backing by the States? Instead the People chose to move the corruption directly to themselves, so that Senators could now emulate their House colleagues in the ways of pork barrel politics.

Also in 1911 came Public Law 62-5 which would allow the US Congress to set a size that would be permanent, and no longer 'float' with the size of the population. That would have long term consequences which would remove from the House the need to address the changing size of the Nation and, instead, start to permanently divide the States into districts that would have a long range impact due to the shifting industrial basis of the Nation. The US was shifting from an agrarian system that was still the majority employer in 1911, to one in which manufacturing would be the major employer in the US in 1925. While the districts would be re-drawn to a degree to demonstrate that, those rural areas that had once had representation and would have retained that due to size of population in a proportion-based system, would now lose out in a fixed seat system. By amalgamating populations to craft new districts, distinction in populations on a rural basis was lost, even as cities gained more representatives due to the concentration of population. In a fixed proportion system with growing population, older areas that could retain their population base would retain representation, while in a fixed seat system they would lose that and need to have dissimilar towns and villages amalgamated into a larger district. The effect of that was not the marginalization of rural outlook, as it would be under fixed proportion, but the loss of diverse outlook from rural areas in favor of more homogeneous outlook based on dense, urban populations.

In 1913 the Federal Reserve Banking System would be instated, reversing the post-Civil War need for a Nationalized banking system for war finance and also reversing the veto of President Jackson on such a National Bank. In the system devised the Nation, as a whole, via its Federal Government is liable for its currency: thus financial obligations were now those of the Federal Government. This took the onus off of banks to have such equities go directly to them, but moved that responsibility to an unelected part of the Federal Government in the way of the distributed Federal Reserve Board. While this is a compromise, of sorts, to get some distributed representation into the banking system, it is not one that is directly accountable to the People and, instead, only by those passing appointment in the Senate as government officers. That is how the Federal Government controls currency and interest rates to adjust to financial conditions. In the intervening years from Jackson to Wilson, the main criticism of a Federal Bank was that it would be a majority ownership of overseas monied interests, which was the case with the First and Second Banks. While this system has prevented some 'bank runs' and alleviated 'bank panics', the question of the actual scope of government to do this is one that has not been well addressed. This is a change-over from a distributed, State integrated (or unintegrated as the case may be) system, being replaced by one of centralized control with limited district input. The accountability and tenure of such individuals appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate is not one that has been or is well addressed. While it is, no doubt, a change that adds stability, the cost of that stability remains unaddressed by the concentration of that power to the Federal level and away from the States.

Amendment XVIII in 1919 would be the only part of this suite to be repealed, as the temperance movement and anti-alcohol movement attacked the very grain and fiber of the Nation and its history in alcoholic beverages. What is even more amazing is that the actual use of alcohol was already on the decline from its high point in the 1840's, along with a shift from hard liquor to beers and wines. The generations that built the railroads, built major industrial bases, built the first industrialized cities, built transcontinental railways, and united this Nation was a hard drinking rough bunch that accomplished great feats while, apparently, being sloshed to the gills. Somehow this was painted as a demonic or 'bad' thing, and the attempt to sever the Nation from its societal roots with intoxicating beverages went too far. The short term effect of that, however, was to empower the first of the international organized crime syndicates with the easily made and transported alcohol that had been outlawed. Those crime organizations had already started to grow based on opium, heroin and then cocaine, but the supercharging of those organizations by adding in alcohol made them the very first threat to civilization succumbing to well armed thugs since the age of piracy two centuries and more previous to that.

Each of these instances is an attempt to enforce a 'societal good' or an 'easement to government' that would, each in their own way, remove decisions from individuals and concentrate power into the hands of the corrupt and unelected on a National scale. These changes did not *stop* in that era, and, indeed, some were to come forward that would be even worse than the original problems in their long term corrosion of the society of the nation in favor of the government of the nation. I will look on that in a moment, but take time to look back to Thomas Paine, again, further on in Common Sense, where he proposes a new system for government, which is a striking outline for the House, Senate and Presidency we have today, and go further to look at what he saw as the basis for governance:
But where, says some, is the King of America? I'll tell you.
Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind
like the Royal Brute of Britain
. Yet that we may not appear
to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly
set apart for proclaiming the charter
; let it be brought forth
placed on the divine law, the word of God
; let a crown be placed thereon,
by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy,
that in America THE LAW IS KING. For as in absolute governments
the King is law, so in free countries the law OUGHT to be King;
and there ought to be no other
. But lest any ill use should
afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony,
be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is
Those words are one that became deeply embedded in America, and remain so to this day as a prime foundation of the Revolution and our own outlook on government and society. The law above all is that which holds us together as a Nation, even as we, as a People, see higher Divine inspiration above Nation, so that Divine Guide is not the guide of the Nation by mortal guise but is our personal guide to make good law for all People in the Nation. As Paine had pointed out earlier:
Not one third of the inhabitants, even of this province, are of English descent.
Wherefore I reprobate the phrase of parent or mother country applied
to England only, as being false, selfish, narrow and ungenerous.
The Colonies becoming States were already diverse in their populations, distributed amongst many sources and views on religion. That we had firm and steadfast belief in the Divine is not in question: that we each saw the Divine in a rigid way was in question. These States could ill-afford religious disputes here, and so the great Peace of Westphalia to allow each man his own view on the Divine was carried over. America has always had generosity in spirit towards all those who worship or not as they chose, but neither do we force religion nor irreligion on all. We pay homage to our roots in Divine Guidance, but then must get to the practical business of having a common Nation together with those acknowledged roots. We neither slather religion across those who do not wish it, nor do we remove it from those who gain offense to any homage to our forbearers. The Divine Inspiration for the Nation must lead to the hard work of making just law across society, and those that cannot understand that it was that Inspiration that made such things possible and pay no homage to it, break with the Nation as do those that seek to put in-place a singular view of religion for the Nation as a whole. Both are wrong and contrary to the Nation's history and discourse and corrode that common society that upholds the law, itself.

This Nation has suffered greatly over its time, but we also have a strength in society that is greater than the government itself. Even when things go horribly wrong, and many fall sick and die, this Nation had the resources without the Federal Government stepping in. Strange as it may seem, the Nation looked to itself for disasters, and saw government as the last and least competent to deal with same. The Spanish Flu outbreak did not cause a sudden need to have 'government mandated health insurance', and yet it killed hundreds of thousands in the US and nearly 25 million people globally in the first 25 weeks after its appearance. Those that tended to the sick were hospitals, church organizations, missions of various sorts, philanthropic organizations. Cities, counties and States responded faster than any 'National response' by the Federal Government could have done, as waiting to get those gears in motion would have killed more and caused more suffering than treating the ill immediately. America did, indeed, look to family, town, church, and charitable hospitals to seek aid and shelter from something that the Federal Government could do very little about either in prevention or direct aid.

After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the Federal Government did NOT step in to rebuild the city. State, city and local governments along with industrial and commercial concerns all played their part in removing debris, demolishing buildings, designing building codes and rebuilding the city, which would suffer again and again from that form of natural disaster. Nor did the Federal Government do much about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 or, indeed, a host of disasters both natural and man made, that would befall the Nation time and again. Apparently when a town or city or county or even the Nation is beset by ill or illness, the first place America looks, quited pointedly, is NOT the incompetent Federal Government. But those lessons were forgotten in the one 'ill' that had no source in Government and no remedy by Government. That would be the Great Depression.

I have looked at that era in a previous work, and will bring out some of the salient points of it here, to look at the appropriateness or lack thereof, of government intervention in such things as the economy. The most startling thing to realize is that the actual decline of the Great Depression was during the period of late-1929 to mid-1933, a bit under 4 years. Only one program put in place by President Hoover, would outlast his Presidency, and that was the Reconstruction Finance Corporation that would see its major spending in that period and then taper off drastically from 1933-41 until it was re-purposed for World War II. All of the 'New Deal' programs beyond that would actually come in the recovery upturn of the economy, without exception. None of them would be the actual cause of the turning point in the economy which was due to deep business restructuring and the start of re-utilization of industrial capacity. That did not, however, stop the adding on of new things to the Federal Government that had never been under its purview before.

The Securities Act of 1933 did not pass until the actual inflection point in the economy itself, and the follow-on Securities and Exchange Commission would not come until the recovery had actually progressed upwards from that inflection point. A raft of other works and jobs programs would face high hurdles and many fell due to SCOTUS rulings. That 'start-stop' concept that came about happened, apparently, in spite of industrial recovery and may not have been, in actuality, adding much, if anything to it. While many do argue that the work to make infrastructure, via things like the Tennessee Valley Authority, also in 1933, would add jobs and security to the infrastructure of the Nations' power supply and rural electrification programs, the utility and need of the Federal Government to do that have not been properly addressed. President Franklin Roosevelt, indeed, had a view that the Federal Government *owned* such electrical generation as water regulation as part of its make-up:
"Never shall the federal government part with its sovereignty or with its control of its power resources while I'm president of the United States."
The Federal Government, apparently, owns all oversight on all power generation in the United States, as seen by President Roosevelt. This is something of a 'power grab' by the Federal Government in both the power generation and direct accountability aspects to it. And as the TVA crosses many State lines, the Federal Government should have a part in regulation, but its role to actually build, run and maintain it are highly dubious at best. The sovereignty of the power resources of the Nation is for the People to utilize as they will, not for the Federal Government to take to itself. Control of the inter-State commerce part of that is up to Congress to decide, but those things that are entirely intra-State are outside of those powers, until Congress put forward that purely in-State dealings in things that have a National market allow it to use its inter-State commerce powers to regulate it. That was the basis of the Raich decision on 6 DEC 2005. Thusly if President Roosevelt was right, any Congress can put forward that all private means of power generation... say buying solar panels for your home... will have an impact on the National power market and thus should be regulated. Do not be surprised if one's own power production needs a meter on it to pay Federal taxes. That should make some individuals uncomfortable: that any means to address environmental concerns require obedience to Federal taxation for something that is free, like sunlight, being converted to electricity. Apparently sunlight can be put through a meter, and it isn't the power companies that can do it, but the Federal government.

One program that was never intended to live past the Depression era was enacted in 1935, again well past the point where the economy was recovering. That was the provision to provide of old-age, survivors and disability insurance (OASDI) better known as: Social Security. Here, again, is something that the Republic of the United States had survived without since 1776, and even with the easing of the Depression and the re-employment of individuals, there was little actual need to remove from the hands of individuals their own ability to provide for their future needs. While there were, indeed, many older workers that were suddenly out of work, that was also true of their younger counter-parts. The idea of OASDI was to remove the older workers from the workforce by a forced retirement system to get Social Security benefits. Unfortunately the first pay-out from the system was on 31 JAN 1940 not only well after the Great Depression had passed but also after the 1937 Recession which had marked the end of the Great Depression. Apparently older workers were *still* expected to undergo forced retirement and end their contribution to the workforce once the Nation was expanding economically before WWII. The post 1937 Recession recovery was robust and growing in its need for workers, with industrial expansion on the rise by the industrial sector.

The two premises of the OASDI system are deeply and highly flawed: 1) that the number of jobs in the marketplace is fixed, and, 2) that life expectancy is fixed. In the Depression these two things were forgotten, with the sudden decline of so many individuals having so little income to sustain themselves. Post-Depression, however, both of these proved false almost immediately with economic expansion going beyond pre-1929 levels of employment and life expectancy continuing to rise even during the Great Depression. Both of these had upward trends since 1900, with only the Influenza Epidemic having a number of years of decreased life expectancy. With those two concepts of Social Security sitting fixed, the economic problems that each would cause, cumulatively, now force this Nation to question the wisdom of having the concept of a 'retirement age'. Life expectancy increases, alone, mean a nearly 14% drop in the number of productive years one can expect to be working as part of one's life. Previous to OASDI, an average individual could expect to spend 45% of their lives in the workforce, and that does not include any time spent as children or teens working. Today the average individual can expect 31% of their life to be in the active workforce. That delta is paid for by transfer payments to the young, working class of individuals to the older workers who have retired. As life expectancy increases, although well below the absolute known limits for human old age, more of that time is spent not working and is subsidized by younger workers.

Strange as it may seem to say, most of the time America has existed was spent with people working to effective old age, and only retiring when they either could not work or their own plans for retiring had come about. The removal of letting an individual decide this and letting the Federal Government do so has been an increased dependence of older individuals on Federal payments and removing self-reliance from individuals to plan for their own old-age needs. Even worse is that the Social Security 'Trust Fund' is a revolving door account, in which no money is put into actual 'Trust' via securities and all payments depend on taxation upon workers. That is not 'Insurance' it is a direct income redistribution from struggling younger workers to older individuals who should be both older and wiser in their handling of their lives. Beyond that, the lack of investment due to the 'Trust' taxation means that income that would normally have either been spent or invested by younger individuals for such things as homes or old age security goes to those who are no longer working and should have prepared for this known eventuality in life: it is called 'getting old' and it is across-the-board and a well known phenomena.

It may have had some basis earlier on, when actually being able to invest widely was difficult for low income individuals, but that era passed with the entry of automated mutual funds for investing, and fractional stock ownership in such funds. While a relatively poor worker of the 1930's did not have such opportunities, that is not true of an entry level worker in 2007 and hasn't been true for a couple of decades. Today's workers no longer expect to *get* any payment via Social Security and plan accordingly with their remaining funds. This 'entitlement' was invented for a particular era and need and now has almost become a 'right' and the Federal Government had very little place or standing to do this when it did. In so doing, however, a real problem happened in the 1940's when numbers of individuals were ready to retire and they were needed for wartime production! As no good deed goes unpunished, this program was removing workers from the active workforce just as they were needed to replace younger men going off to war. To encourage those that would normally retire, a number of 'non-wage benefits' were put in place by businesses and one of them was given a tax write-off by the Federal Government: health insurance.

As John Stossel goes over in Bad Medecine (21 SEP 2007, NY Sun), insurance is the worst way to pay for medical care invented. Prior to the war-time subsidies via tax-code, Americans looked after their own health care directly. Most individuals went uninsured and some purchased forms of what today would be considered 'catastrophic care' plans, although most would fall under the 'accidental death and dismemberment' concept of insurance. Health insurance, itself, while not unknown was not widely used and the need for individuals to understand their own health limited the utilization of health practitioners and medications to chronic diseases or immediate ailments. It should be noted that even the Influenza Epidemic did not cause a rush to 'health insurance', even with the death toll that came with it. By requiring individuals to pay their own way, health care costs were minimized and, yes, often at the expense of long-term health. This did not prevent overall life expectancy to continue to rise even without 'health insurance'. Today the cost of overhead to the 'health insurance' system is entirely due to the 'insurance' part and not the health part. Actual costs to the individual for actual doctor treatment time and not paying for paperwork has changed very little in America. What has changed is the need to keep and manage health insurance records, fill out forms, undergo third party governance of what is and is not good for one's health and, generally, time and effort spent in trying to keep track of all of this. That overhead has now changed the system itself to a document management system that, as a minor function, also delivers a little health care.

When that tax subsidy did not end 'health insurance', previously a little used benefit for high wage workers, was retained and enrollment in it would swell. This causes a systemic distortion in two areas: 1) perceived cost when little payment is directly made for care causing spiraling cost as overhead increases out of proportion with delivered care due to fraud and over-utilization, and, 2) loss of control over one's own health. Both of these are hard to deal with, as 'let the insurance company handle it' has become the catch phrase, but one that indicates little understanding of the cost in 'letting the insurance company handle it'. Additionally the need to practice 'defensive medicine' and order many more tests than are needed to diagnose a condition, so that any malpractice suits will have little chance of standing adds burden into the system. Fraud not only by physicians but by patients that over utilize the system or who seek to cause an error to their benefit via lawsuit add into the expense of health care via 'insurance'. And as the number of procedures increase, the paperwork for each multiplies what has to be tracked by doctors and the insurance companies. To control over-prescribing of medications or fraudulent prescription of same, insurance companies now wield extra-ordinary power over an individual's health and will put down draconian limits on some medications that may be more expensive (due to their paperwork overhead, especially for 'controlled' substances). The result is that while many older medications may get under utilized, in preference to 'newer' and more expensive ones, individuals who need the benefits of the newer medications may not have access to them as insurance companies mandate more paperwork for justification for those newer medications.

Politicians who try to exploit these 'entitlements' or to try and create new 'entitlements' further distort the health care system towards their own ends, while not offering any improvement in cost, overhead or actual care delivery. By making such a system 'universal' and mandatory, the need for 'control' over the use and utilization increases, the overhead increases disproportionately to the amount of utilization and those that see no benefit in it (mostly the young and healthy) feel as if money is being extorted from them to no good nor useful end. We forget that for 'insurance' to be useful, the majority never get a real pay-out on it at any one time. Life insurance has a single-time payout and is a bet that you will die and the insurance company thinks otherwise. Similarly health insurance is your bet you will be sick in a given time period and the insurance company expecting otherwise. You purchase insurance to cover need and eventualities based on individual perception of those. Mandating same indicates that lack of trust in individuals to judge their own need and provide for it. That is government removing personal responsibility from the individual and putting it in the hands of a bureaucrat.

It is very strange to see such things, and yet, when reading Paine there is an eerie foreboding that one can get out of passages he wrote to describe the state of the Colonies just as the Revolution had begun:
The present state of America is truly alarming to every man who is
capable of reflexion. Without law, without government, without any
other mode of power than what is founded on, and granted by courtesy.
Held together by an unexampled concurrence of sentiment, which,
is nevertheless subject to change, and which, every secret enemy is
endeavouring to dissolve. Our present condition, is, Legislation
without law; wisdom without a plan; a constitution without a name;
and, what is strangely astonishing, perfect Independance contending
for dependance.
The instance is without a precedent; the case never
existed before; and who can tell what may be the event? The property
of no man is secure in the present unbraced system of things
. The mind
of the multitude is left at random, and seeing no fixed object before
them, they pursue such as fancy or opinion starts. Nothing is criminal;
there is no such thing as treason; wherefore, every one thinks himself
at liberty to act as he pleases
. The Tories dared not have assembled
offensively, had they known that their lives, by that act, were forfeited
to the laws of the state. A line of distinction should be drawn, between,
English soldiers taken in battle, and inhabitants of America taken in arms.
The first are prisoners, but the latter traitors.
The one forfeits his liberty, the other his head.
Legislation without law, a Constitution without a name, independence contending for dependence, the property of no man secured, nothing criminal and no such thing as treason... that is, unfortunately, an apt description of much of America today.

We have seen this before in America.

24 September 2007

What don't you know, and why won't they tell you?

The question that nobody cares about!

But for some general interest stuff, there has been the Israeli work in Syria, most likely at Deyr Zzor (your spelling may vary!). There is exactly *one* agricultural facility attached to a university there and someone was very helpful a long time back to put a placemark on it in Google Earth. The reason I never bothered to cover it? Blobography. You can see a clearing with buildings and thats about it, all fuzzy and pretty useless for analysis. Both FAS and GlobalSecurity have been hazy on it, although I expect the latter to catch up a bit in the next few days. But no pretty imagery available for overlay... well, there wasn't last year when I did my Syria run-through. Those links are on my current version of the sidebar, so one can have fun with all the OTHER Syrian WMD and long-range missile sites...

Hsu stepping! Mr. Hsu has been very busy, hasn't he? Evading the law, donating millions of dollars and even with those he did swindle, I'm coming up a few tens of millions short on his cash supply end. I have a notebook of Hsu, Chatwal, Jinnah, and Hsu's connections to Wo Hop To Triad, and all sorts of other fun things. Others are chasing the money angle which is damned important, as Mr. Hsu & Co. have spread their money around across the Nation. But still, where has Mr. Hsu been, where *does* he get the rest of his cash, and who else is he in contact with? Very strange that he only enters the scene as a 'small businessman' in San Francisco's Chinatown with, as the Shrimp Boy remembers, a 'latex glove' business. Uh-huh. 'Latex gloves' and Chinese Triads go so well together! For all of his being 'in the garment industry' and even getting interviewed a number of times as an 'expert' he really hasn't sold much in the way of garments as far as I can see. Perhaps the 'latex gloves' are keeping his fingerprints in check.

Color me: skeptical.

But that Triad connection is interesting, what with them trying to get control of all the North American Triads and such! That has been not-so-fun to try and trace down as the Asian community is not one to lay out the 'who does what' sort of deal as organized crime is part of 'doing business in the community'. Still the Wo Hop To as a division of the Hong Kong based Wo Shing Wo Triad is interesting and the latter has been busy across SE Asia and Australia. Not only heroin, opium, pharma, but also such fun things as human trafficking, sex shop slavery and your everyday black market goods dealing in asian knock-offs, really does point out a problem there. Not that any of the 'open borders' crowd will want to do anything about it. Bring in the organized crime groups from all over!

Now, digging up into organized crime, Hsu and a few other things, I did run across one interesting question:

What is the relationship between Hillary Clinton and a partially completed Soviet Aircraft Carrier?

That is one damned sort of question, isn't it? I mean it seems absolutely non-sensical... yet it does have an answer to it: Chen Kai-kit. And who, praytell, is Chen Kai-kit? Ah, Bertil Lintner can answer that in his paper on Crime, Business and Politics in Asia:

Chen Kai-kit, the Triad-connected legislator who had dined with the Clintons, published an autobiography in which boasted that many international figures had paid him tribute, including the American president, who presented him with “a signed photograph,” which he hung on the wall of the office of his “import-export” company, called Ang Du, in the Bank of China building in downtown Macau.40 Such displays may have benefitted Chen in his attempts to build up a network of business associates in the territory, and perhaps also in China. But there was one man on whom it was not necessary to make any special impression: Wong Sing-wa. They were already long-time friends and close partners in the management of a VIP room in Macau’s Mandarin Hotel. Wong, the head of the Talented Dragon investment firm, was in 1990 appointed Pyongyang’s honourary consul in Macau, and the travel arm of his company was authorised to issue visas for North Korea.41 As such, he worked closely with Zokwang Trading, North Korea’s main commercial arm in Macau. In early 1998, a Lisbon-based weekly newspaper, the Independent, protested Wong’s presence in a delegation from Macau that was being received by the Portuguese president. The paper cited a Macau official as saying that Wong had “no criminal record, but we have registered information that links him to organised crime and gambling in Macau.”42
Catch all that? Chinese businessman with Triad connections, working in Macau and having a friend who was the front-man for North Korea, who was also involved in organized crime? Ok, skipping ahead of other underworld contacts we get to this:
Chen Kai-kit also resurfaced soon after Donorgate. He landed in the middle of another controversy in early 1998, when it was reported that Ukraine would sell an unfinished aircraft carrier to a “leisure company” in the then still Portuguese territory. Ukraine had inherited the aircraft carrier after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and badly needed hard currency. The registered objective of the Macau company, Agencía Turistica e Diversões Chong Lot Limitada — which in English means “Tourism and Amusement Agency” — was to run “activities in the hotel and similar areas, tourism and amusement.”45

The 306-metre long ship was too big to pass through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles Straits, and for months the Turkish authorities forced it to remain at anchor in the Black Sea. In September 2001, however, the Turks finally allowed the aircraft carrier to be towed to China, where it remains. Although Cheng Zhen Shu, chairman of “Agencía Turistica e Diversões Chong Lot Limitada”, denied having bought it for the PLA to enable Chinese engineers to study the secrets of aircraft carrier design, that seemed to be exactly the case. And the Hong Kong media reported that the real boss of the so-called “tourism company” was Chen Kai-kit.47 In other words, a man deeply implicated in an American president’s fund-raising campaign might also have been simultaneously acting on behalf on the Chinese military. One can only wonder how Clinton’s voters might have reacted if the disclosures had come during the actual re-election campaign.

But then, in August 1999, Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption issued a warrant for the arrest of Chen and his wife Elsie Chan. They and six others, including Chen’s brother and the accountant of his main company, Ang-Du International, were accused of helping to siphon off millions of dollars from Guangnan Holdings, an insolvent mainland food conglomerate, and of a plan to defraud the Standard Chartered Bank of London of US$13.9 million in bogus loans.48 Eight accomplices were arrested, but Chen could not be apprehended as he was ‘receiving treatment for a heart condition in a military hospital on the mainland’.49
That's right, to be turned into some sort of floating casino/amusement theme park sort of deal! Really, who would pay $20 million for an old, incomplete, Soviet aircraft carrier? It sits, to this day, rusting in a port in China and will probably be scrapped as it is pretty much useless. Costs too much to renovate or retrofit and far cheaper to build a new one than retrofit the thing. You just have to love these folks the Clintons hob-nob around with! Of course Chen Kai-kit is also associated with the People's Liberation Army of Red China. Can't swing a dead cat around the Donorgate/Chinagate scandal without hitting the PLA.

And the incomplete CV Varyag even has its own web page! Who would have thought that a rusting hulk would have its own *fans*?

Speaking of Chinagate, beyond Norman Hsu and Hillary Clinton, what other Presidential Candidate had their name up in lights with that investigation?

Care to guess?


Here is a lovely bit from an article I ran across looking into Chinagate, from the Find Articles cache, Insight on the News, 01 DEC 1997, Why do so many questions yield so few answers? - Sen. Fred Thompson's investigation of '96 campaign funds - Fair Comment - Column, by Larry Klayman:
Fred Thompson, former movie actor and now chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, has taken a dive. Touted just one year ago as the next Ronald Reagan and charged by Senate Majority Leader Dent Lott to investigate and root out corruption in the White House and Democratic National Committee campaign-finance scandals, Thompson himself has succumbed to the insidious forces which have rendered the Clinton administration and most of official Washington ethically bankrupt.

In shutting down his hearings before calling key witnesses who could expose Democrat high crimes and misdemeanors, Thompson has hit the canvass much like Sonny Liston in his first fight against the young Cassius Clay. While Bill Clinton is no modern-day Muhammad Ali (notwithstanding similarities in their Vietnam War draft records) Thompson's well-known presidential ambitions may hold parallels with Liston's meteoric fall to the mat.
Say, just what *was* up with that, anyways? Really, if the man wants to be President, shouldn't he have taken a pretty large interest in Chinagate? Reading a bit further on we get to see some of the problems Sen. Thompson had with investigating President Clinton:
Thompson was appointed to lead the Senate's investigation, reportedly because of his experience as a Watergate prosecutor and his claimed public relations skills. However, from day one of the hearings, it became apparent that he and his colleagues were not up to the task. Making bold predictions that his committee would expose a plot by the Chinese to influence American elections in 1996, he initially and inexplicably called relatively low-level witnesses, such as DNC Finance Director Richard Sullivan, who Republicans initially praised for their integrity and "cooperation," only later to be shocked that they would lie and "forget" key facts. Given the sensitivity of Republicans to their "reputation for meanness," there was little if any challenge to this lack of honesty. Nor were most of Thompson's colleagues generally prepared thoroughly to question the witnesses -- instead relying on bluster and grandstanding, rather than serious interrogation, to make their point.

This was no wonder, since many of the Republican members of Thompson's committee had fund-raising peccadilloes of their own. One, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, was implicated in the scandal. The Washington Times reported on Oct. 3 that Specter may have helped get public financing for the recent Teamsters election (since thrown out for fraud) in apparent exchange for campaign contributions from union sources. (In a letter to the Times, Specter denied the implication of the Times story and notes that he voted against funding of the next Teamster election.) It thus became painfully obvious that Republicans lacked the will and courage to expose the full extent of the biggest Clinton scandal, as to do so could bring about "mutually assured destruction." As reported by columnist Arianna Huffington, Triad, a right-wing group that Thompson "graciously" had allowed to be dragged into the investigation, threatened to expose Republican fund-raising abuses if the committee proceeded against it.
Look, I have no problem with the Republican '11th Commandment', but that does NOT mean letting those on your own side go violate the election laws EITHER. Whatever *did* happen to 'Law and Order' Republicans? Beyond acting on a television program, that is...

From Iran/Contra, BCCI, Chinagate, and a few others like the BNL and S&L scandals, we now get the Hsunannegans and a pretty wide brush painted across most of the Presidential field. Don't any of them have the willpower to stand up against vested interests and big money? Just take a look at the Hsu side of the Force for a second, and we get his contributions to: Sen. John Kerry, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and, apparently, half the Democratic candidates for office over the last four years or so. His previous lawyer, Lawrence Barcella, was employed by BCCI then figured out a way to get a job investigating his activities in BCCI for the government. Great work if you can get it, this investigating yourself deal!

And let us not forget that BCCI and BNL also got in with the Keating Five and Sen. John McCain. And BCCI would also pick up billionaire Jackson Stephens and *his* employment of John Huang who was also in the Chinagate scandal, along with associations with the Riady family, also in the scandal. But heaven forbid if Sen. Thompson were to investigate *that*! Might start leading back to BCCI and the Reagan Administration's use of BNL to finance Saddam Hussein, and the Ollie North/Richard Secord/Albert Hakim work in Iran/Contra which would depend upon BCCI to move money around to, yes, Monzer al-Kassar for his work in supplying and shipping arms for one of the shipments. Of which Jackson Stephens also knew North/Secord/Hakim and helped them with the Iran/Contra affair.

So, which candidate for President *isn't* taking money from: crooks, underworld figures, Foreign Nations or terrorists?

And if the answer is, as I suspect, *none* of them being able to say that, then can they at least come clean on *which* convicts, gangsters, mafioso, underworld figures, terrorists and Foreign Nations ARE backing them?

Hey, we gots a right to know how dirty you are before we elect you for President!

Because no matter the nice words they say to please *you*, they are all looking to be on the take to the monied interests looking to sway: contracts, trade deals, crime enforcement or to just get their hands on US technology or weapons.

Or they can't even be bothered to investigate same because it just might *hurt* someone in their ever so precious political party.

The Two Party System now looks to be a 'rigged game' and the PROBLEM, not a strength of America.

But that's just me... seeing folks highly connected to such things and *not* doing a damned thing about it. And that is, exactly, what a President has to do: Chief Law Enforcement Officer? Head of the Armies and Navies? Head of the Nation? Chief of State? Head of Government?

Ask them no questions and they will tell you no lies.

Or, as given to us by the Village by Patrick McGoohan in the The Prisoner series:

Questions are a burden to others; answers are a prison for oneself.

Perhaps it is time to feel a bit burdened. Unless you already know the answers...