< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: June 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Supreme Court Rejects Guantanamo War Crimes Trials

From the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court today delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration over its plans to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, ruling that the commissions violate U.S. law and the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of war prisoners.

In a 5-3 decision, the court said the trials were not authorized by any act of Congress and that their structure and procedures violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Bush's Use of Authority Riles Senators on Judiciary Committee

From the New York Times:

Senators on the Judiciary Committee accused President Bush of an "unprecedented" and "astonishing" power grab on Tuesday for making use of a device that gave him the authority to revise or ignore more than 750 laws enacted since he became president.

By using what are known as signing statements, memorandums issued with legislation as he signs it, the president has reserved the right to not enforce any laws he thinks violate the Constitution or national security, or that impair foreign relations.

A lawyer for the White House said that Mr. Bush was only doing his duty to uphold the Constitution. But Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, characterized the president's actions as a declaration that he "will do as he pleases," without regard to the laws passed by Congress.

"There's a real issue here as to whether the president may, in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes and exclude the ones he doesn't like," Mr. Specter said at a hearing.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

New Rules Force States to Curb Welfare Rolls

From the New York Times:
The Bush administration plans to issue sweeping new rules on Wednesday that will require states to move much larger numbers of poor people from welfare to work.

The rules, drafted in response to a budget signed into law by President Bush in February, represent the biggest changes in welfare policy since 1996, when Congress abolished the federal guarantee of cash assistance for the nation's poorest children.

Since then, the number of welfare recipients has plunged more than 60 percent, to 4.4 million people, from 12.2 million. Most of the decline occurred in the first years, before the 2001 recession. Federal and state officials say they expect the new rules to speed the decline in welfare rolls, which has slowed in recent years.

The rules are far more than a bureaucratic application of the new law, passed after four years of partisan deadlock. For the first time, they set a uniform definition for permissible work activities and require states to verify and document the number of hours worked by welfare recipients.

Nationally, in 2004, the last year for which official figures are available, about 32 percent of adults on welfare were working. Under the new rules, 50 percent of adult welfare recipients must be engaged in work or training in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, or states will face financial penalties. The penalties can reduce a state's federal welfare grant by 5 percent in the first year and by two additional percentage points for each subsequent year of noncompliance, up to a maximum penalty of 21 percent.

Some state officials and antipoverty groups, including many who opposed the 1996 law, say the new work requirements are unrealistic.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

U.S. Emits Half of Car-Caused Greenhouse Gas, Study Says

From the Los Angeles Times via the Common Dreams NewsCenter:

American cars and pickup trucks are responsible for nearly half of the greenhouse gases emitted by automobiles globally, even though the nation's vehicles make up just 30% of the nearly 700 million cars in use, according to a new report by Environmental Defense.

Cars in the U.S. are driven more miles, face lower fuel economy standards and use fuel with more carbon than many of those driven in other countries, the authors found. According to the report by the environmental group, due out today, U.S. cars and light trucks were driven 2.6 trillion miles in 2004, equal to driving back and forth to Pluto more than 470 times.

The report's authors hope their findings will bolster efforts in Congress to require federal regulators to raise fuel economy standards for vehicles and set a mandatory cap on greenhouse gases from all sources. Numerous studies have linked carbon dioxide emissions from burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline to global warming.

Click here to read the full article.

Also check out http://www.climatecrisis.net/

--Tom Hayes

Monday, June 26, 2006

Israeli Counterterror Programs

Below is an op-ed that appeared in the New York Times last week. It is an important read, especially given the recent Israeli incursions into the Gaza Strip to combat Palestinian rocket attacks. These incursions have been criticized by many (including many in Israel) as excessive, as several innocent Palestinian civilians have perished because of Israeli military actions.


June 22, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Hiding Behind the Enemy
NINE months ago, Israel's Supreme Court forbade the Israeli Army to use civilians as human shields when it raided houses to arrest Palestinian combatants. Last week the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that the consequence of the ruling has actually been to place Palestinian civilians in greater danger. Instead of soldiers entering houses to find their targets, the army is using bulldozers to knock the houses down.
The army of a democracy fighting an insurgency — Israel in the West Bank, like the United States in Iraq — faces tough choices. Its government requires it to observe rules of war intended to protect the rights and lives of civilians. At the same time, commanders must protect their soldiers. The two imperatives often conflict.
When I served as an Israeli infantry reservist in the West Bank in the 1980's and 90's, sometimes my company would be sent to apprehend a terrorist. Under the direction of an agent from the Israeli counterterrorism agency, Shin Bet, we'd surround and then raid the house where the man was believed to be hiding.
We usually had a Palestinian to help us. He was called "the pointer," because his job was to enter the house with us and identify the man we were after. He was a collaborator — a Palestinian serving the Israeli cause. We soldiers were not permitted to talk to him, but we had heard enough stories to know that while he might have been helping our side of his own free will, he might also have been coerced.
Most of my friends hated going on these raids. They were both dangerous and unpleasant, because the house we were raiding was always a family's home. We'd surround the house and break in after midnight, waking everyone inside. Women would scream, children cry. As often as not, the man we were after had been tipped off and fled.
If he was there, it was worse, because he'd be armed and dangerous. And the last place a soldier wants to get into a shooting match is in a small, constricted space where he can't see well, can't take cover and can't know whether there are more enemies waiting in the next room.
The pointer made some of us feel safer. It seemed logical that the terrorist would hold his fire if he saw that he might hit a Palestinian.
We used Palestinian civilians for other tasks as well. If we discovered that the boys in the village we were patrolling had jury-rigged a roadblock out of boulders during the night, we'd grab some nearby civilians and order them to dismantle it. This was partly an act of collective punishment, but there was also a safety factor involved. If the roadblock was booby-trapped, they'd get hurt instead of us.
I always felt queasy about using civilians to protect us. It didn't seem to me that we had the right to put someone else's life in danger to protect our own. I voiced my reservations on occasion, but nothing changed.
Sometime during the years that followed, the pointer and roadblock clearers evolved into something even more questionable: the human shield. Soldiers who had to raid a house or patrol a dangerous stretch of road would grab a nearby civilian and place him in front of them. Unlike the pointer, this civilian had no function other than to protect Israeli soldiers.
According to Btselem, the Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, the practice was not a grassroots initiative. It was an army policy, handed down to soldiers by their superior officers. The routine became much more widespread in April 2002, when Israel reoccupied the West Bank in response to a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings and other acts of violence against Israeli civilians.
In August of that year, a Palestinian man, Nidal Abu Mohsen, was killed while serving as a human shield. Israeli human rights organizations filed suit to halt the practice, and last October, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling banning its use.
Many in the army were upset. They felt they had been robbed of a tool that made their jobs safer, and which helped the commanders protect the lives of their soldiers.
But morality in combat is not just an abstract principle. It is an element of an army's strength. It is also essential to the society that sends the army into battle. If the safety of soldiers becomes the standard according to which an army designs its missions, the army will not have the courage to take risks. An army that does not take risks will be easily beaten by an opponent that does.
So it's not unreasonable — in fact, it's essential — for a society to demand that its army observe moral standards, even if the price to be paid is that more soldiers will be killed.
But sometimes eliminating one morally questionable practice opens the door to others. Once the Israeli Army banned the use of human shields, it had to come up with another way of extracting the Palestinian guerrillas from their hideouts. Hence the bulldozer. Of course, this method is much more dangerous for the family inside.
Israel can't stop hunting down its enemies. As long as there is no peace agreement with the Palestinians, the Jewish state must protect itself and its civilians. Can it do so without bulldozing houses that harbor terrorists?
Certainly it can. Raiding a house is a dangerous operation, but good intelligence, proper planning and careful execution can, in most cases, reduce the risk to a reasonable level. Commanders must be prepared to adapt their tactics to a range of constraints: terrain, weather, the training and equipment of their troops, and the enemy's positions, to name a few.
In some cases, the risk may be too great and the operation may be canceled or postponed until the next opportunity comes around. Good commanders don't give the enemy quarter, but they also don't send the Light Brigade charging unprotected at the enemy's guns.
Laws and moral rules are another set of constraints. Soldiers sometimes chafe at them because, unlike hills and bullets, they seem like artificial and unnecessary barriers. In a purely military sense, armies could better do their jobs if they could ignore the civilians on the battlefield. But we don't allow them to ignore civilians. And truth be told, I've never met a soldier who thinks armies ought to be able to maim and kill civilians with impunity.
When the Supreme Court banned the use of human shields, army commanders looked for another way to succeed with minimum risk. They decided on the bulldozer. Getting rid of the bulldozer may well mean that some terrorists will get away, and sadly, that more soldiers will die.
But in the final analysis, Israel and its soldiers will not be less secure. They will occupy the high ground, and that is the most secure place to be.

Haim Watzman is the author of "Company C: An American's Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel."

Bank Data Searched in Secret by Bush Administration as Part of "War on Terror"

Here is a large article that appeared in the New York Times last week that documents a secret intelligence program, put in place by the Bush administration after 9-11, which allows counterterrorism officials to search a vast financial database with no judicial oversight. Like the NSA spying program, this program was set up without congressional approval. The program possibly violates the fourth amendment and statutory privacy laws, as the article notes.


June 23, 2006
Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror
WASHINGTON, June 22 — Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.

The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, "has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities," Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, said in an interview on Thursday.
The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers, Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records.

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.
That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

"The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you're sitting, troubling," said one former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, "the potential for abuse is enormous."

The program is separate from the National Security Agency's efforts to eavesdrop without warrants and collect domestic phone records, operations that have provoked fierce public debate and spurred lawsuits against the government and telecommunications companies.
But all the programs grew out of the Bush administration's desire to exploit technological tools to prevent another terrorist strike, and all reflect attempts to break down longstanding legal or institutional barriers to the government's access to private information about Americans and others inside the United States.

Officials described the Swift program as the biggest and most far-reaching of several secret efforts to trace terrorist financing. Much more limited agreements with other companies have provided access to A.T.M. transactions, credit card purchases and Western Union wire payments, the officials said.

Nearly 20 current and former government officials and industry executives discussed aspects of the Swift operation with The New York Times on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified. Some of those officials expressed reservations about the program, saying that what they viewed as an urgent, temporary measure had become permanent nearly five years later without specific Congressional approval or formal authorization.

Data from the Brussels-based banking consortium, formally known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has allowed officials from the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to examine "tens of thousands" of financial transactions, Mr. Levey said.

While many of those transactions have occurred entirely on foreign soil, officials have also been keenly interested in international transfers of money by individuals, businesses, charities and other groups under suspicion inside the United States, officials said. A small fraction of Swift's records involve transactions entirely within this country, but Treasury officials said they were uncertain whether any had been examined.

Swift executives have been uneasy at times about their secret role, the government and industry officials said. By 2003, the executives told American officials they were considering pulling out of the arrangement, which began as an emergency response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said. Worried about potential legal liability, the Swift executives agreed to continue providing the data only after top officials, including Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, intervened. At that time, new controls were introduced.

Among the safeguards, government officials said, is an outside auditing firm that verifies that the data searches are based on intelligence leads about suspected terrorists. "We are not on a fishing expedition," Mr. Levey said. "We're not just turning on a vacuum cleaner and sucking in all the information that we can."

Swift and Treasury officials said they were aware of no abuses. But Mr. Levey, the Treasury official, said one person had been removed from the operation for conducting a search considered inappropriate.

Treasury officials said Swift was exempt from American laws restricting government access to private financial records because the cooperative was considered a messaging service, not a bank or financial institution.

But at the outset of the operation, Treasury and Justice Department lawyers debated whether the program had to comply with such laws before concluding that it did not, people with knowledge of the debate said. Several outside banking experts, however, say that financial privacy laws are murky and sometimes contradictory and that the program raises difficult legal and public policy questions.

The Bush administration has made no secret of its campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, and President Bush, Treasury officials and others have spoken publicly about those efforts. Administration officials, however, asked The New York Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness. They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.
Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, said: "We have listened closely to the administration's arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

Mr. Levey agreed to discuss the classified operation after the Times editors told him of the newspaper's decision.
On Thursday evening, Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, said: "Since immediately following 9/11, the American government has taken every legal measure to prevent another attack on our country. One of the most important tools in the fight against terror is our ability to choke off funds for the terrorists."
She added: "We know the terrorists pay attention to our strategy to fight them, and now have another piece of the puzzle of how we are fighting them. We also know they adapt their methods, which increases the challenge to our intelligence and law enforcement officials."
Referring to the disclosure by The New York Times last December of the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program, she said, "The president is concerned that once again The New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is working to protect our citizens."
Swift declined to discuss details of the program but defended its role in written responses to questions. "Swift has fully complied with all applicable laws," the consortium said. The organization said it insisted that the data be used only for terrorism investigations and had narrowed the scope of the information provided to American officials over time.
A Crucial Gatekeeper
Swift's database provides a rich hunting ground for government investigators. Swift is a crucial gatekeeper, providing electronic instructions on how to transfer money among 7,800 financial institutions worldwide. The cooperative is owned by more than 2,200 organizations, and virtually every major commercial bank, as well as brokerage houses, fund managers and stock exchanges, uses its services. Swift routes more than 11 million transactions each day, most of them across borders.
The cooperative's message traffic allows investigators, for example, to track money from the Saudi bank account of a suspected terrorist to a mosque in New York. Starting with tips from intelligence reports about specific targets, agents search the database in what one official described as a "24-7" operation. Customers' names, bank account numbers and other identifying information can be retrieved, the officials said.
The data does not allow the government to track routine financial activity, like A.T.M. withdrawals, confined to this country, or to see bank balances, Treasury officials said. And the information is not provided in real time — Swift generally turns it over several weeks later. Because of privacy concerns and the potential for abuse, the government sought the data only for terrorism investigations and prohibited its use for tax fraud, drug trafficking or other inquiries, the officials said.
The Treasury Department was charged by President Bush, in a September 2001 executive order, with taking the lead role in efforts to disrupt terrorist financing. Mr. Bush has been briefed on the program and Vice President
Dick Cheney has attended C.I.A. demonstrations, the officials said. The National Security Agency has provided some technical assistance.
While the banking program is a closely held secret, administration officials have held classified briefings for some members of Congress and the Sept. 11 commission, the officials said. More lawmakers were briefed in recent weeks, after the administration learned The Times was making inquiries for this article.
Swift's 25-member board of directors, made up of representatives from financial institutions around the world, was previously told of the program. The Group of 10's central banks, in major industrialized countries, which oversee Swift, were also informed. It is not clear if other network participants know that American intelligence officials can examine their message traffic.
Because Swift is based overseas and has offices in the United States, it is governed by European and American laws. Several international regulations and policies impose privacy restrictions on companies that are generally regarded as more stringent than those in this country. United States law establishes some protections for the privacy of Americans' financial data, but they are not ironclad. A 1978 measure, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, has a limited scope and a number of exceptions, and its role in national security cases remains largely untested.
Several people familiar with the Swift program said they believed that they were exploiting a "gray area" in the law and that a case could be made for restricting the government's access to the records on Fourth Amendment and statutory grounds. They also worried about the impact on Swift if the program were disclosed.
"There was always concern about this program," a former official said.
One person involved in the Swift program estimated that analysts had reviewed international transfers involving "many thousands" of people or groups in the United States. Two other officials placed the figure in the thousands. Mr. Levey said he could not estimate the number.
The Swift data has provided clues to money trails and ties between possible terrorists and groups financing them, the officials said. In some instances, they said, the program has pointed them to new suspects, while in others it has buttressed cases already under investigation.
Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.
In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.
The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said. The man, Uzair Paracha, who worked at a New York import business, aided a Qaeda operative in Pakistan by agreeing to launder $200,000 through a Karachi bank, prosecutors said.
In terrorism prosecutions, intelligence officials have been careful to "sanitize," or hide the origins of evidence collected through the program to keep it secret, officials said.
The Bush administration has pursued steps that may provide some enhanced legal standing for the Swift program. In late 2004, Congress authorized the Treasury Department to develop regulations requiring American banks to turn over records of international wire transfers. Officials say a preliminary version of those rules may be ready soon. One official described the regulations as an attempt to "formalize" access to the kind of information secretly provided by Swift, though other officials said the initiative was unrelated to the program.
The Scramble for New Tools
Like other counterterrorism measures carried out by the Bush administration, the Swift program began in the hectic days after the Sept. 11 attacks, as officials scrambled to identify new tools to head off further strikes.
One priority was to cut off the flow of money to Al Qaeda. The 9/11 hijackers had helped finance their plot by moving money through banks. Nine of the hijackers, for instance, funneled money from Europe and the Middle East to SunTrust bank accounts in Florida. Some of the $130,000 they received was wired by people overseas with known links to Al Qaeda.
Financial company executives, many of whom had lost friends at the World Trade Center, were eager to help federal officials trace terrorist money. "They saw 9/11 not just as an attack on the United States, but on the financial industry as a whole," said one former government official.
Quietly, counterterrorism officials sought to expand the information they were getting from financial institutions. Treasury officials, for instance, spoke with credit card companies about devising an alert if someone tried to buy fertilizer and timing devices that could be used for a bomb, but they were told the idea was not logistically possible, a lawyer in the discussions said.
The F.B.I. began acquiring financial records from Western Union and its parent company, the First Data Corporation. The programs were alluded to in Congressional testimony by the F.B.I. in 2003 and described in more detail in a book released this week, "The One Percent Doctrine," by Ron Suskind. Using what officials described as individual, narrowly framed subpoenas and warrants, the F.B.I. has obtained records from First Data, which processes credit and debit card transactions, to track financial activity and try to locate suspects.
Similar subpoenas for the Western Union data allowed the F.B.I. to trace wire transfers, mainly outside the United States, and to help Israel disrupt about a half-dozen possible terrorist plots there by unraveling the financing, an official said.
The idea for the Swift program, several officials recalled, grew out of a suggestion by a Wall Street executive, who told a senior Bush administration official about Swift's database. Few government officials knew much about the consortium, which is led by a Brooklyn native, Leonard H. Schrank, but they quickly discovered it offered unparalleled access to international transactions. Swift, a former government official said, was "the mother lode, the Rosetta stone" for financial data.
Intelligence officials were so eager to use the Swift data that they discussed having the C.I.A. covertly gain access to the system, several officials involved in the talks said. But Treasury officials resisted, the officials said, and favored going to Swift directly.
At the same time, lawyers in the Treasury Department and the Justice Department were considering possible legal obstacles to the arrangement, the officials said.
In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans had no constitutional right to privacy for their records held by banks or other financial institutions. In response, Congress passed the Right to Financial Privacy Act two years later, restricting government access to Americans' banking records. In considering the Swift program, some government lawyers were particularly concerned about whether the law prohibited officials from gaining access to records without a warrant or subpoena based on some level of suspicion about each target.
For many years, law enforcement officials have relied on grand-jury subpoenas or court-approved warrants for such financial data. Since 9/11, the F.B.I. has turned more frequently to an administrative subpoena, known as a national security letter, to demand such records.
After an initial debate, Treasury Department lawyers, consulting with the Justice Department, concluded that the privacy laws applied to banks, not to a banking cooperative like Swift. They also said the law protected individual customers and small companies, not the major institutions that route money through Swift on behalf of their customers.
Other state, federal and international regulations place different and sometimes conflicting restrictions on the government's access to financial records. Some put greater burdens on the company disclosing the information than on the government officials demanding it.
Among their considerations, American officials saw Swift as a willing partner in the operation. But Swift said its participation was never voluntary. "Swift has made clear that it could provide data only in response to a valid subpoena," according to its written statement.
Indeed, the cooperative's executives voiced early concerns about legal and corporate liability, officials said, and the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control began issuing broad subpoenas for the cooperative's records related to terrorism. One official said the subpoenas were intended to give Swift some legal protection.
Underlying the government's legal analysis was the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which Mr. Bush invoked after the 9/11 attacks. The law gives the president what legal experts say is broad authority to "investigate, regulate or prohibit" foreign transactions in responding to "an unusual and extraordinary threat."
But L. Richard Fischer, a Washington lawyer who wrote a book on banking privacy and is regarded as a leading expert in the field, said he was troubled that the Treasury Department would use broad subpoenas to demand large volumes of financial records for analysis. Such a program, he said, appears to do an end run around bank-privacy laws that generally require the government to show that the records of a particular person or group are relevant to an investigation.
"There has to be some due process," Mr. Fischer said. "At an absolute minimum, it strikes me as inappropriate."
Several former officials said they had lingering concerns about the legal underpinnings of the Swift operation. The program "arguably complies with the letter of the law, if not the spirit," one official said.
Another official said: "This was creative stuff. Nothing was clear cut, because we had never gone after information this way before."
Treasury officials said they considered the government's authority to subpoena the Swift records to be clear. "People do not have a privacy interest in their international wire transactions," Mr. Levey, the Treasury under secretary, said.
Tighter Controls Sought
Within weeks of 9/11, Swift began turning over records that allowed American analysts to look for evidence of terrorist financing. Initially, there appear to have been few formal limits on the searches.
"At first, they got everything — the entire Swift database," one person close to the operation said.
Intelligence officials paid particular attention to transfers to or from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because most of the 9/11 hijackers were from those countries.
The volume of data, particularly at the outset, was often overwhelming, officials said. "We were turning on every spigot we could find and seeing what water would come out," one former administration official said. "Sometimes there were hits, but a lot of times there weren't."
Officials realized the potential for abuse, and narrowed the program's targets and put in more safeguards. Among them were the auditing firm, an electronic record of every search and a requirement that analysts involved in the operation document the intelligence that justified each data search. Mr. Levey said the program was used only to examine records of individuals or entities, not for broader data searches.
Despite the controls, Swift executives became increasingly worried about their secret involvement with the American government, the officials said. By 2003, the cooperative's officials were discussing pulling out because of their concerns about legal and financial risks if the program were revealed, one government official said.
"How long can this go on?" a Swift executive asked, according to the official.
Even some American officials began to question the open-ended arrangement. "I thought there was a limited shelf life and that this was going to go away," the former senior official said.
In 2003, administration officials asked Swift executives and some board members to come to Washington. They met with Mr. Greenspan,
Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, and Treasury officials, among others, in what one official described as "a full-court press." Aides to Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Mueller declined to comment on the meetings.
The executives agreed to continue supplying records after the Americans pledged to impose tighter controls. Swift representatives would be stationed alongside intelligence officials and could block any searches considered inappropriate, several officials said.
The procedural change provoked some opposition at the C.I.A. because "the agency was chomping at the bit to have unfettered access to the information," a senior counterterrorism official said. But the Treasury Department saw it as a necessary compromise, the official said, to "save the program."
Barclay Walsh contributed reporting for this article.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Study Says

From the Washington Post:

Americans are far more socially isolated today than they were two decades ago, and a sharply growing number of people say they have no one in whom they can confide, according to a comprehensive new evaluation of the decline of social ties in the United States.
A quarter of Americans say they have no one with whom they can discuss personal troubles, more than double the number who were similarly isolated in 1985. Overall, the number of people Americans have in their closest circle of confidants has dropped from around three to about two. The comprehensive new study paints a sobering picture of an increasingly fragmented America, where intimate social ties -- once seen as an integral part of daily life and associated with a host of psychological and civic benefits -- are shrinking or nonexistent. In bad times, far more people appear to suffer alone.

Click here to read the article.

Click here to read the full study.

--Tom Hayes

Thursday, June 22, 2006

GOP Rebellion Stops Voting Rights Act

From the Washington Post:

House leaders abruptly canceled a vote to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act yesterday after rank-and-file Republicans revolted over provisions that require bilingual ballots in many places and continued federal oversight of voting practices in Southern states.
The intensity of the complaints, raised in a closed meeting of GOP lawmakers, surprised Speaker J.
Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his lieutenants, who thought the path was clear to renew the act's key provisions for 25 years. The act is widely considered a civil rights landmark that helped thousands of African Americans gain access to the ballot box. Its renewal seemed assured when House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders embraced it in a May 2 kickoff on the Capitol steps. But many Southerners feel the law has achieved its purpose and become more nuisance than necessity in several respects. They have aired those arguments for years, but yesterday they got a boost from Republicans scattered throughout the nation who are increasingly raising a different concern: They insist that immigrants learn and use English.

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

Lawmakers' Profits Are Scrutinized

From the Washington Post:

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) made a $2 million profit last year on the sale of land 5 1/2 miles from a highway project that he helped to finance with targeted federal funds.
A Republican House member from California, meanwhile, received nearly double what he paid for a four-acre parcel near an Air Force base after securing $8 million for a planned freeway interchange 16 miles away. And another California GOP congressman obtained funding in last year's highway bill for street improvements near a planned residential and commercial development that he co-owns.

In all three cases, Hastert and Reps. Ken Calvert and Gary Miller say that they were securing funds their home districts wanted badly, and that in no way did the earmarks have any impact on the land values of their investments. But for watchdog groups, the cases have opened a fresh avenue for investigation and a new wrinkle in the ongoing controversy over earmarks -- home-district projects funded through narrowly written legislative language.
For more than a year, the congressional corruption scandal triggered by former lobbyist Jack Abramoff has focused attention on earmarks secured by lawmakers on lobbyists' and government contractors' behalf. Now watchdog groups are combing through lawmakers' land holdings and legislative activities, searching for earmarks that may have boosted the value of those investments.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Iraq War May Add Stress for Past Vets

From the Washington Post:

More than 30 years after their war ended, thousands of Vietnam veterans are seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, and experts say one reason appears to be harrowing images of combat in Iraq.

Figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that PTSD disability-compensation cases have nearly doubled since 2000, to an all-time high of more than 260,000. The biggest bulge has come since 2003, when war started in Iraq.

Experts say that, although several factors may be at work in the burgeoning caseload, many veterans of past wars reexperience their own trauma as they watch televised images of U.S. troops in combat and read each new accounting of the dead.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Landlords Bullied L.A. Tenants Out to Gentrify Apartments, Suit Says

From the LA Times:

The Los Angeles city attorney's office said Wednesday that it had filed suit against a group of property owners, including the Chans' landlord, accusing them of pushing out rent-control tenants so they could upgrade the units and rent them back out at much higher rates.

The owners allegedly picked apartment buildings with care, looking in swiftly gentrifying neighborhoods that included Hollywood, downtown, Westlake and Los Feliz. They sought rent-controlled buildings, which yielded low revenue and therefore cost less to buy, authorities said. The firms purchased more than 25 properties in all, then used a variety of intimidation tactics to force the residents out, according to allegations contained in court papers.

The charges come as city officials are grappling with the fallout from the gentrification that is sweeping neighborhoods across the region.

As once-downtrodden districts become hip and desirable, rising rents leave longtime residents at risk of being squeezed out, say city officials and housing advocates.

The City Council is considering rules to slow a recent explosion in apartments being converted into condominiums, particularly in parts of the Westside and San Fernando Valley.

Since the beginning of 2001, more than 11,000 rent-controlled apartments have been taken off the rental market, according to the Los Angeles Housing Department. About 7,000 of those have disappeared in the last 18 months.

Thousands of those units were converted to condos, a perfectly legal process that has prompted protests from some longtime apartment dwellers who are being told they must buy their units or find other housing. Gentrification has also led to significantly higher rents in some newly desirable neighborhoods. In downtown, for example, lofts that five years ago went for $800 a month rent at $1,800 or more now.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Nation's Emergency Care System in Trouble, Study Finds

From the Washington Post:

Emergency medical care in the United States is on the verge of collapse, with the nation's declining number of emergency rooms dangerously overcrowded and often unable to provide the expertise needed to treat seriously ill people in a safe and efficient manner.

That's the grim conclusion of three reports released yesterday by the Institute of Medicine, the product of an extensive two-year look at emergency care.

Long waits for treatment are epidemic, the reports said, with ambulances sometimes idling for hours to unload patients. Once in the ER, patients sometimes wait up to two days to be admitted to a hospital bed.

As a system, U.S. emergency care lacks stability and the capacity to respond to large disasters or epidemics, according to the 25 experts who conducted the study. It provides care of variable and often unknown quality and depends on the willingness of doctors and hospitals to lose large amounts of money.

Fixing the problems is likely to cost billions of dollars and will require the leadership of a new federal agency, which Congress should create in the next two years, they wrote.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Bush to Designate National Park in Pacific Waters

From the Washington Post:

President Bush plans to designate an island chain spanning nearly 1,400 miles of the Pacific northwest of Hawaii as a national monument today, creating the largest protected marine reserve in the world, according to sources familiar with the plan.

Establishing the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a strictly protected marine reserve, which Bush is slated to announce this afternoon, could prove to be the administration's most enduring environmental legacy. The roughly 100-mile-wide area encompasses a string of uninhabited islands that support more than 7,000 marine species, at least a fourth of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

The islands include almost 70 percent of the nation's tropical, shallow-water coral reefs, a rookery for 14 million seabirds, and the last refuge for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the threatened green sea turtle. The area also has an abundance of large predatory fish at a time when 90 percent of such species have disappeared from the world's oceans.

Encompassing nearly 140,000 square miles, an area nearly the size of Montana and larger than all the national parks combined, the reserve will just surpass Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as the largest protected marine area in the world.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Federal Judge Hears Arguments on Spy Program

From the New York Times:

A National Security Agency program that listens in on international communications involving people in the United States is both vital to national security and permitted by the Constitution, a government lawyer told a judge here on Monday in the first major court argument on the program.

But, the lawyer went on, "the evidence we need to demonstrate to you that it is lawful cannot be disclosed without that process itself causing grave harm to United States national security."

The only solution to this impasse, the lawyer, Anthony J. Coppolino, said, was for the judge to dismiss the suit before her, an American Civil Liberties Union challenge to the eavesdropping program, under the state secrets privilege. The privilege can short-circuit cases that would reveal national security information, and it is fast becoming one of the Justice Department's favorite tools in defending court challenges to its efforts to combat terrorism.

The Detroit case was filed in January on behalf of journalists, scholars, lawyers and nonprofit organizations who argued that the possibility of government eavesdropping interfered with their work. In remarks to reporters after the 90-minute argument, Anthony D. Romero, the A.C.L.U.'s executive director, called the government's invocation of the state secrets privilege "Orwellian doublespeak."

"They argued essentially that the N.S.A. program was off limits to judicial review," Mr. Romero said.

The small courtroom was jammed for the argument, with a dozen people standing in the aisles and journalists sitting in the jury box.

In her presentation, Ann Beeson, the A.C.L.U.'s associate legal director, asked the judge, Anna Diggs Taylor of Federal District Court, to shut down the surveillance program based on publicly available information.

The case boiled down to two legal questions, Ms. Beeson said. The first is whether the plaintiffs have suffered the sort of direct injury necessary to establish that they have standing to bring suit. The second is whether President Bush was authorized by Congress or by the Constitution to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a 1978 law that forbids surveillance of people inside the United States without a warrant.

The administration has acknowledged that it has not complied with the law but has said that a 2001 authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda and the president's inherent constitutional powers allowed him to violate it.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pollution from Chinese Coal

From the New York Times, a disturbing article about pollution from China's coal mines. As the article reports:

One of China's lesser-known exports is a dangerous brew of soot, toxic chemicals and climate-changing gases from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants. In early April, a dense cloud of pollutants over Northern China sailed to nearby Seoul, sweeping along dust and desert sand before wafting across the Pacific. An American satellite spotted the cloud as it crossed the West Coast.Unless China finds a way to clean up its coal plants and the thousands of factories that burn coal, pollution will soar both at home and abroad. The increase in global-warming gases from China's coal use will probably exceed that for all industrialized countries combined over the next 25 years, surpassing by five times the reduction in such emissions that the Kyoto Protocol seeks.
The sulfur dioxide produced in coal combustion poses an immediate threat to the health of China's citizens, contributing to about 400,000 premature deaths a year. It also causes acid rain that poisons lakes, rivers, forests and crops...Already, China uses more coal than the United States, the
European Union and Japan combined. And it has increased coal consumption 14 percent in each of the past two years in the broadest industrialization ever. Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Friday, June 09, 2006

Weapons of Mass Destruction Worldwide

From the International Herald Tribune via the Common Dreams NewsCenter an interesting article by Hans Blix, the former chief UN weapons inspector.

During the Cold War, it proved possible to reach many significant agreements on disarmament. Why does it seem so impossible now, when the great powers no longer feel threatened by one another?

Almost all the talk these days is about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to states like Iran and North Korea, or to terrorists. Foreign ministers meet again and again, concerned that Iran has enriched a few milligrams of uranium to a 4 percent level.

Some want to start waving the stick immediately. They are convinced that Iran will eventually violate its commitment under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to forego nuclear weapons.

While it's desirable that the foreign ministers talk about Iran, they don't seem to devote any thought to the fact that there are still some 27,000 real nuclear weapons in the United States, Russia and other states, and that many of these are on hair-trigger alert.

Nor do the ministers seem to realize that the determination they express to reduce the nuclear threat is diminished by their failure to take seriously their commitment, made within the framework of the NPT, to move toward the reduction and elimination of their own nuclear arsenals.

The stagnation in global disarmament is only part of the picture. In the United States, military authorities want new types of nuclear weapons; in Britain, the government is considering the replacement, at tremendous cost, of one generation of nuclear weapons by another - as defense against whom?

Last year a UN summit of heads of states and governments failed to adopt a single recommendation on how to attain further disarmament or prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For nearly a decade, work at the disarmament conference in Geneva has stood still. It is time for a revival.

One can well understand that policymakers in the United States, as elsewhere, feel disappointment and concern that the global instruments against nuclear proliferation - the NPT and international inspection - have proved to be insufficient to stop Iraq, North Korea, Libya and possibly Iran on their way to nuclear weapons.

This may help explain their inclination to use the enormous military potential of the U.S. as either a threat or a direct means of preventing proliferation.

However, after three years of a costly and criticized war in Iraq to destroy weapons that did not exist, doubts are beginning to arise about the military method, and a greater readiness may emerge to try global cooperation once again to reduce and eventually eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

A report with 60 concrete recommendations to the states of the world on what they could do to free themselves from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, worked out by an independent international commission of which I was the chairman, is now available at www.wmdcommission.org.

Apart from proposals for measures to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to more states and terrorists, the report points to two measures that could turn current concerns about renewed arms races into new hopes for common security. In both cases, success would depend on the United States.

A U.S. ratification of the comprehensive test-ban treaty would, in all likelihood, lead other states to ratify and bring all such tests to an end, making the development of nuclear weapons more difficult. Leaving the treaty in limbo, as has been done since 1996, is to risk new weapons testing.

The second measure would be to conclude an internationally verified agreement to cut off the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes.

This would close the tap everywhere for more weapons material and would be of special importance if an agreement on nuclear cooperation with the United States were to give India access to more uranium than it has at the moment.

It is positive that the U.S. has recently presented a draft cutoff agreement, but hard to understand why this agreement does not include international inspection. Do the drafters think that the recent record of national intelligence indicates that international verification is superfluous?

--Tom Hayes

More on U.S. Involvement in Somalia

From the New York Times:

A covert effort by the Central Intelligence Agency to finance Somali warlords has drawn sharp criticism from American government officials who say the campaign has thwarted counterterrorism efforts inside Somalia and empowered the same Islamic groups it was intended to marginalize.

The criticism was expressed privately by United States government officials with direct knowledge of the debate. And the comments flared even before the apparent victory this week by Islamist militias in the country dealt a sharp setback to American policy in the region and broke the warlords' hold on the capital, Mogadishu.

The officials said the C.I.A. effort, run from the agency's station in Nairobi, Kenya, had channeled hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past year to secular warlords inside Somalia with the aim, among other things, of capturing or killing a handful of suspected members of Al Qaeda believed to be hiding there.

Officials say the decision to use warlords as proxies was born in part from fears of committing large numbers of American personnel to counterterrorism efforts in Somalia, a country that the United States hastily left in 1994 after attempts to capture the warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid and his aides ended in disaster and the death of 18 American troops.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Monday, June 05, 2006

Evidence Suggests the U.S. is Funding Somali Warlords

June 5, 2006
Experts Say US Funding Somali Warlords
Filed at 12:31 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has been funneling more than $100,000 a month to warlords battling Islamist militia in Somalia, according to a Somalia expert who has conferred with the groups in the country.
The U.S. operation, which former intelligence officials say is aimed at preventing emergence of rulers who could provide al Qaeda with a safe haven akin to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, appeared to be seriously set back on Monday when an Islamic coalition claimed control of Mogadishu.
U.S. government officials refused to discuss any possible secret U.S. involvement in the strategically placed Horn of Africa state, which has been wrecked by years of fighting.
But former U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said an operation to support the warlords' alliance appeared to involve both the CIA and U.S. military.
John Prendergast, who monitors Somalia for the think-tank International Crisis Group, said he learned during meetings with alliance members in Somalia that the CIA was financing the warlords with cash payments.
Prendergast estimated that CIA-operated flights into Somalia have been bringing in $100,000 to $150,000 per month for the warlords. The flights remain in Somalia for the day, he said, so that U.S. agents can confer with their allies.
The Bush administration has maintained a silence over allegations in recent months of a U.S. proxy war against Islamist radicalism in the country.
Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Commander Joe Carpenter reiterated the administration's position that the United States stands ready to ``disrupt the efforts of terrorists wherever they may be active.''
Claims of clandestine U.S. support for secular warlords who call themselves the ``Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism'' have been aired by Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf and independent analysts.
A United Nations team charged with monitoring a U.N. arms embargo against Somalia has also said it is investigating an unnamed country's clandestine support for the warlords alliance as a possible violation of the weapons ban.
The former intelligence officials said the operation was controlled by the Pentagon through U.S. Central Command's Combined Joint Task Force for the Horn of Africa, a counterterrorism mission based in neighboring Djibouti established after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
On Monday, after months of fighting that has killed around 350 people, the Islamic militia claimed control of Mogadishu and a warlord militiaman said his coalition's leaders were fleeing the capital.
U.S. intelligence has produced no conclusive evidence of an active al Qaeda presence in Somalia, experts said. But there have been reports of al Qaeda members in the country, including suspects in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa.
``The Pentagon, and now the U.S. government as a whole, is convinced these are elements for establishing a religious-based government like the Taliban, that could be exploited by al Qaeda,'' said a former intelligence official knowledgeable about U.S. courterterrorism activities.
The CIA has given its warlord allies surveillance equipment for tracking al Qaeda suspects and appeared to view the warlords as a counter to the influence of Afghanistan-trained Islamist militia leader Aden Hashi Aryo, Prendergast said.
``By circumventing the new government and going straight to individual warlords, the U.S. is perpetuating and even deepening Somalia's fundamental problems, and compromising long-term efforts to combat extremism,'' Prendergast said.
Somalia, a country of 10 million people, has had no effective central authority since 1991 when warlords overthrew military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The central government is based temporarily in the town of Baidoa and has been unable to control events in Mogadishu.
Americans have bad memories of U.S. involvement in Somalia in 1993, when 18 U.S. soldiers were killed and 79 injured in a battle with guerrillas loyal to warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid after entering the country to support a relief effort.


Strategic Victimhood in Sudan?

Below is an op-ed that appeared in the New York Times on May 31. It provides a unique analysis of the Save Darfur Movement. Below the op-ed are reader responses to the op-ed.

Strategic Victimhood in Sudan
New York Times

By Alan J. Kuperman
Published: May 31, 2006
Austin, Tex.
THOUSANDS of Americans who wear green wristbands and demand military intervention to stop Sudan's Arab government from perpetrating genocide against black tribes in Darfur must be perplexed by recent developments.
Without such intervention, Sudan's government last month agreed to a peace accord pledging to disarm Arab janjaweed militias and resettle displaced civilians. By contrast, Darfur's black rebels, who are touted by the wristband crowd as freedom fighters, rejected the deal because it did not give them full regional control. Put simply, the rebels were willing to let genocide continue against their own people rather than compromise their demand for power.
International mediators were shamefaced. They had presented the plan as take it or leave it, to compel Khartoum's acceptance. But now the ostensible representatives of the victims were balking. Embarrassed American officials were forced to ask Sudan for further concessions beyond the ultimatum that it had already accepted.
Fortunately, Khartoum again acquiesced. But two of Darfur's three main rebel groups still rejected peace. Frustrated American negotiators accentuated the positive — the strongest rebel group did sign — and expressed hope that the dissenters would soon join.
But that hope was crushed last week when the rebels viciously turned on each other. As this newspaper reported, "The rebels have unleashed a tide of violence against the very civilians they once joined forces to protect."
Seemingly bizarre, this rejection of peace by factions claiming to seek it is actually revelatory. It helps explain why violence originally broke out in Darfur, how the Save Darfur movement unintentionally poured fuel on the fire, and what can be done to stanch genocidal violence in Sudan and elsewhere.
Darfur was never the simplistic morality tale purveyed by the news media and humanitarian organizations. The region's blacks, painted as long-suffering victims, actually were the oppressors less than two decades ago — denying Arab nomads access to grazing areas essential to their survival. Violence was initiated not by Arab militias but by the black rebels who in 2003 attacked police and military installations. The most extreme Islamists are not in the government but in a faction of the rebels sponsored by former Deputy Prime Minister Hassan al-Turabi, after he was expelled from the regime. Cease-fires often have been violated first by the rebels, not the government, which has pledged repeatedly to admit international peacekeepers if the rebels halt their attacks.
This reality has been obscured by Sudan's criminally irresponsible reaction to the rebellion: arming militias to carry out a scorched-earth counterinsurgency. These Arab forces, who already resented the black tribes over past land disputes and recent attacks, were only too happy to rape and pillage any village suspected of supporting the rebels.
In light of janjaweed atrocities, it is natural to romanticize the other side as freedom fighters. But Darfur's rebels do not deserve that title. They took up arms not to stop genocide — which erupted only after they rebelled — but to gain tribal domination.
The strongest faction, representing the minority Zaghawa tribe, signed the sweetened peace deal in hopes of legitimizing its claim to control Darfur. But that claim is vehemently opposed by rebels representing the larger Fur tribe. Such internecine disputes only recently hit the headlines, but the rebels have long wasted resources fighting each other rather than protecting their people.
Advocates of intervention play down rebel responsibility because it is easier to build support for stopping genocide than for becoming entangled in yet another messy civil war. But their persistent calls for intervention have actually worsened the violence.
The rebels, much weaker than the government, would logically have sued for peace long ago. Because of the Save Darfur movement, however, the rebels believe that the longer they provoke genocidal retaliation, the more the West will pressure Sudan to hand them control of the region. Sadly, this message was reinforced when the rebels' initial rejection of peace last month was rewarded by American officials' extracting further concessions from Khartoum.
The key to rescuing Darfur is to reverse these perverse incentives. Spoiler rebels should be told that the game is over, and that further resistance will no longer be rewarded but punished by the loss of posts reserved for them in the peace agreement.
Ultimately, if the rebels refuse, military force will be required to defeat them. But this is no job for United Nations peacekeepers. Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia show that even the United States military cannot stamp out Islamic rebels on their home turf; second-rate international troops would stand even less chance.
Rather, we should let Sudan's army handle any recalcitrant rebels, on condition that it eschew war crimes. This option will be distasteful to many, but Sudan has signed a peace treaty, so it deserves the right to defend its sovereignty against rebels who refuse to, so long as it observes the treaty and the laws of war.
Indeed, to avoid further catastrophes like Darfur, the United States should announce a policy of never intervening to help provocative rebels, diplomatically or militarily, so long as opposing armies avoid excessive retaliation. This would encourage restraint on both sides. Instead we should redirect intervention resources to support "people power" movements that pursue change peacefully, as they have done successfully over the past two decades in the Philippines, Indonesia, Serbia and elsewhere.
America, born in revolution, has a soft spot for rebels who claim to be freedom fighters, including those in Darfur. But to reduce genocidal violence, we must withhold support for the cynical provocations of militants who bear little resemblance to our founders.
Alan J. Kuperman, an assistant professor of public affairs at the University of Texas, is an editor of "Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention: Moral Hazard, Rebellion and Civil War."

To the Editor:
Re "Strategic Victimhood in Sudan" (Op-Ed, May 31):
Alan J. Kuperman's assertion that American activism has contributed to the Darfur genocide is as irresponsible as it is wrong.
According to Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick, who spearheaded United States efforts to foster the Darfur peace agreement, American advocacy in general and the Save Darfur rally in April contributed significantly to the signing of the agreement.
In addition, the Save Darfur Coalition has consistently called upon both the government and the rebels to adhere to previous cease-fires and to the new Darfur peace agreement.
The rebels have frequently violated their cease-fire obligations, just as the government has frequently provided air support and other military aid to the genocidal janjaweed proxy militias.
Neither can be trusted to carry out the peace agreement, which is why a United Nations peacekeeping force is necessary.
The "thousand of Americans who wear green wristbands" deserve applause, not insults.

(Rev.) Gloria White-HammondChwm., Million Voices for DarfurSave Darfur CoalitionWashington, June 1, 2006•

To the Editor:
I can't speak for my fellow green wristband wearers, but I wear mine not in support of the Darfur rebels, but of the principle that genocide and rape are not legitimate military tactics, whoever uses them, and of the innocent victims who have died and continue to die.
I do not advocate that an international force take the side of the rebels, but please forgive my skepticism that those who sent the janjaweed can be trusted to protect their victims.
I hope that the parties to this conflict resolve their issues, but until then, I think it is important that the international community take the necessary steps to safeguard the innocent lives that may yet be lost.

Martin J. LevineMaplewood, N.J., May 31, 2006•

To the Editor:
Alan J. Kuperman argues that intervention does not stop genocide and seeks to portray those of us who have been organizing on Darfur as ill informed and misguided.
His geopolitical arguments are of interest but miss the point.
Half a million people are dead and 3.5 million are displaced, the victims of a genocide that uses rape, murder, assault, displacement, hunger and illness to claim its victims.
We put into action the biblical maxim to not stand idly by when another's blood is being shed. We do not tout the rebels as freedom fighters, nor have our actions fueled the genocide. That has been done by the Sudanese government.
What we know is that the people of Darfur, whom I have visited in the camps, need humanitarian aid and combined government efforts to stop the killing.
We call on all armed actors to lay down their weapons, end the conflict and provide safe space for both civilians and humanitarian aid agencies that are saving lives.
Ruth MessingerExecutive DirectorAmerican Jewish World ServiceNew York, June 1, 2006•

To the Editor:
As a green wristband-wearing Darfur activist, I must defend the role of international intervention in Darfur.
Deploying the Sudanese Army to "handle any recalcitrant rebels" would intensify the feud between the Army and the rebels.
This would further destroy the possibility of peace.
Moreover, it is wrong to validate the Sudanese Army by ordering it to uphold Sudan's sovereignty when it has joined the janjaweed militia in terrorizing the Darfur civilians.
The violence is leaking into Chad, reinforcing the fact that this crisis is indeed international and deserving of an international response.
While it's true that nobody's hands are clean in this crisis, we must first stop the violence with the global force of the United Nations and only then analyze the motivations of the various players.
Sophie GlassLarchmont, N.Y., May 31, 2006



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