Saturday, June 03, 2006

On Condi, on Dubya, and Laura (continued)

WMR can report that a Mayflower Hotel staffer has confirmed that First Lady Laura Bush spent at least one night this past week at the hotel, which is four blocks north of the White House. Mrs. Bush reportedly moved out of the White House after a confrontation with President Bush over his on-going affair with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The Mayflower's official position on the story is that they can "neither confirm nor deny" the identities of their guests. Because it's penchant for security and secrecy is well known to the Secret Service, the Mayflower has become a reliable hotel for U.S. and international VIPs.

Some Washington observers believe that the recent flare up between Laura Bush and the president stems from the fact that her poll numbers are twice as favorable as her husband's (60 percent to 29 percent). Laura Bush's recent solo missions to New Orleans, Colorado, and an AIDS conference at the United Nations represent a virtual declaration of independence from the most unpopular president in U.S. history. "She's [Laura's] taking a page right out of Hillary's book," said one Washington pundit. Rice, on the other hand, has been very close and loyal to Bush since she signed on as his chief foreign policy adviser in 2000. WMR has been told of intimate encounters between Mr. Bush and Rice on trips to New York City (multiple occasions) and New Orleans following Katrina.

Mayflower officially mum on recent VIP guest and her Secret Service detail.

WMR has received numerous email from the typical right-wing political direct marketing operations with the same talking point: how dare we violate the privacy of the President and First Lady in time of war. To refresh the memory of the right, we offer this one peek into recent history:

Feb. 18, 1998 (CNN) -- . . . Clinton also faces a divided public. In the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 54 percent of people surveyed said they would prefer to see the Iraqi crisis resolved by diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions. Maybe more importantly, though, the poll indicated a significant drop since early February in support for military strikes against Iraq, from 50 percent to 41 percent. At the same time, by about a 2-1 margin, people say if the U.S. does attack, its goal should be remove Hussein, not just to reduce Iraq's capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and threaten its neighbors.

And Clinton has another problem, and her name is Monica Lewinsky. In this public test of wills with Hussein, Clinton has tried to stake out the moral high ground. He has talked about "the chance to do the right thing for our children and grandchildren." But some of his political opponents think Clinton cannot claim the moral high ground, not now, not after the past month's lurid tales. As restrained as Republicans have been in discussing the Lewinsky controversy, there are signs that approach is ending.
In the GOP view of morality, Republican Presidents are entitled to more privacy than Democratic Presidents.

In another bit of GOP hypocrisy, on Monday, President Bush will hold a VIP ceremony at the White House to back a bill enshrining a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. The name of the legislation: The Sanctity of Marriage Act. WMR hopes the mainstream TV media will focus on Laura Bush's facial reaction when Mr. Bush proclaims his support for The Sanctity of Marriage Act, i.e., if Mrs. Bush is even present for the event.

Postscript: We want to thank radio hosts Randi Rhodes and Stephanie Miller for not being cowered by the right-wing spin machine and reporting this story on their programs.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Venezuela spending billions on defense (...half as much as its neighbors on defense)

Chavez is buying guns ...
Check out this complete non-story by the Associated Press:
Venezuela spending billions on defense
Venezuela is buying helicopters, boats and military transport planes in defense deals worth about $2.7 billion, modernizing its military as tensions grow between leftist President Hugo Chavez and the United States.

Flush with oil profits but blocked from buying U.S. arms, Chavez is increasingly looking to countries like Russia and Spain as suppliers.

A cargo ship carrying 30,000 Russian-made Kalashnikov assault rifles is headed to Venezuela with the first shipment of an order totaling 100,000 guns to arrive by year's end. The military is looking to buy more submarines, and Chavez is planning an even bigger deal for Russian fighter jets.

Venezuela's defense budget is up 31 percent this year, to $2 billion, and that doesn't include roughly $2.2 billion it plans to spend for 10 transport planes and eight patrol boats on what will be Spain's largest-ever defense deal.

Got that? Venezuela is spending billions -- not millions, not hundreds of thousands -- on its military, newsworthy according to the AP.

For perspective, let's forget the U.S. and its half trillion-dollar "defense" budget, and just look around the neighborhood, shall we?

Argentina: $4.3 billion

Mexico:$6.1 billion

Colombia:$3.3 billion

Brazil:$9.4 billion

Chile$3.9 billion

What have we learned? That all the big countries of Latin America are "spending billions on defense." But I guess a headline like, "Venezuela spending half as much as its neighbors on defense" just doesn't advance the preferred storyline.

Later, the story quotes Mark Stoker of the International Institute for Strategic Studies saying: "My interpretation is that Venezuela had a certain amount of aging military equipment and needed to replace some of that." That alone should have tipped off an editor to the fact that this isn't a story at all.

Some AP readers are going to come away from the story with the disquieting feeling that Venezuela's going through a major military build-up, and I guess that's the point.

Joshua Holland is a staff writer at Alternet and a regular contributor to The Gadflyer.


Scholars for 9/11 Truth call for verification and publication by an international consortium.

Duluth, MN (PRWEB) January 30, 2006 -- A group of distinguished experts and scholars, including Robert M. Bowman, James H. Fetzer, Wayne Madsen, John McMurtry, Morgan Reynolds, and Andreas von Buelow, have concluded that senior government officials have covered up crucial facts about what really happened on 9/11.

They have joined with others in common cause as members of "Scholars for 9/11 Truth" (S9/11T), because they are convinced, based on their own research, that the administration has been deceiving the nation about critical events in New York and Washington, D.C.

These experts suggest these events may have been orchestrated by elements within the administration to manipulate Americans into supporting policies at home and abroad they would never have condoned absent "another Pearl Harbor."

They believe that this White House is incapable of investigating itself and hope the possibility that Congress might hold an unaccountable administration accountable is not merely naive or wishful thinking.

They are encouraging news services around the world to secure scientific advice by taking advantage of university resources to verify or to falsify their discoveries. Extraordinary situations, they believe, require extraordinary measures.

If this were done, they contend, one of the great hoaxes of history would stand naked before the eyes of the world and its perpetrators would be clearly exposed, which may be the only hope for saving this nation from ever greater abuse.

They hope this might include The New York Times, which, in their opinion, has repeatedly failed to exercise the leadership expected from our nation's newspaper of record by a series of inexplicable lapses. It has failed to vigorously investigate tainted elections, lies leading to the war in Iraq, or illegal NSA spying on the American people, major unconstitutional events. In their view, The Times might compensate for its loss of stature by helping to reveal the truth about one of the great turning-point events of modern history.

Stunning as it may be to acknowledge, they observe, the government has brought but one indictment against anyone and, to the best of their knowledge, has not even reprimanded anyone for incompetence or dereliction of duty. The official conspiracy theory--that nineteen Arab hijackers under control of one man in the wilds of Afghanistan brought this about--is unsupportable by the evidential data, which they have studied. They even believe there are good reasons for suspecting that video tapes officially attributed to Osama bin Laden are not genuine.

They have found the government's own investigation to be severely flawed. The 9/11 Commission, designated to investigate the attack, was directed by Philip Zelikow, part of the Bush transition team in the NSA sector and the co-author of a book with Condoleezza Rice. A Bush supporter and director of national security affairs, he could hardly be expected to conduct an objective and impartial investigation.

They have discovered that The 9/11 Commission Report is replete with omissions, distortions, and factual errors, which David Ray Griffin has documented in his book, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. The official report, for example, entirely ignores the collapse of WTC7, a 47-story building, which was hit by no airplanes, was only damaged by a few small fires, and fell seven hours after the attack.

Here are some of the kinds of considerations that these experts and scholars find profoundly troubling:

  • In the history of structural engineering, steel-frame high-rise buildings have never been brought down due to fires either before or since 9/11, so how can fires have brought down three in one day? How is this possible?
  • The BBC has reported that at least five of the nineteen alleged "hijackers" have turned up alive and well living in Saudi Arabia, yet according to the FBI, they were among those killed in the attacks. How is this possible?
  • Frank DeMartini, a project manager for the WTC, said the buildings were designed with load redistribution capabilities to withstand the impact of airliners, whose effects would be like "puncturing mosquito netting with a pencil." Yet they completely collapsed. How is this possible?
  • Since the melting point of steel is about 2,700°F, the temperature of jet fuel fires does not exceed 1,800°F under optimal conditions, and UL certified the steel used to 2,000°F for six hours, the buildings cannot have collapsed due to heat from the fires. How is this possible?
  • Flight 77, which allegedly hit the building, left the radar screen in the vicinity of the Ohio/Kentucky border, only to "reappear" in very close proximity to the Pentagon shortly before impact. How is this possible?
  • Foreign "terrorists" who were clever enough to coordinate hijacking four commercial airliners seemingly did not know that the least damage to the Pentagon would be done by hitting its west wing. How is this possible?
  • Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, in an underground bunker at the White House, watched Vice President Cheney castigate a young officer for asking, as the plane drew closer and closer to the Pentagon, "Do the orders still stand?" The order cannot have been to shoot it down, but must have been the opposite. How is this possible?
  • A former Inspector General for the Air Force has observed that Flight 93, which allegedly crashed in Pennsylvania, should have left debris scattered over an area less than the size of a city block; but it is scattered over an area of about eight square miles. How is this possible?
  • A tape recording of interviews with air traffic controllers on duty on 9/11 was deliberately crushed, cut into very small pieces, and distributed in assorted places to insure its total destruction. How is this possible?
  • The Pentagon conducted a training exercise called "MASCAL" simulating the crash of a Boeing 757 into the building on 24 October 2000, and yet Condoleezza Rice, among others, has repeatedly asserted that "no one ever imagined" a domestic airplane could be used as a weapon. How is this possible?

Their own physics research has established that only controlled demolitions are consistent with the near-gravity speed of fall and virtually symmetrical collapse of all three of the WTC buildings. While turning concrete into very fine dust, they fell straight-down into their own footprints.

These experts and scholars have found themselves obliged to conclude that the 9/11 atrocity represents an instance of the approach--which has been identified by Karl Rove, the President's closest adviser--of "creating our own reality."

Osama Tape Appears Fake, Experts Conclude

Duluth, MN (PRWEB) May 30, 2006 -- The latest audio tape attributed to Osama bin Laden appears to be one more installment in a succession of evidence fabricated by the US government to deceive the American people, according to Scholars for 9/11 Truth. "This tape is only the latest in a series of fabrications intended to mislead the American people," said James H. Fetzer, the society's founder. "The closer we get to revealing the truth about 9/11, the more furiously the government fights to conceal it!" He said members of Scholars and other experts had detected evidence of fakery.

In this new recording, a voice attributed to Osama bin Laden asserts that Zacarias Moussaoui was not involved in 9/11, which he knew to be the case because he had personally assigned the 19 hijackers involved in those events. The Osama of this tape thereby implicitly confesses his responsibility for orchestrating the attacks. However, in a tape released on December 27, 2001, the authenticity of which is not in doubt, Osama denied having had anything to do with 9/11. "Moreover," Fetzer added, "some of the 19 hijackers he 'personally assigned' have turned up alive and well."

To be sure, this new tape is not the first one in which bin Laden appears to take responsibility for the attacks. As David Ray Griffin, a prominent member of Scholars, points out, "The Osama on the video tape that appeared on December 13, 2001, confessed to planning the 9/11 attacks. But he is far darker and much heavier than the real Osama bin Laden. People can see the difference by looking up 'The Fake bin Laden Video Tape' on Google."

Griffin's point is supported by a work-in-progress by members of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, which appears on its web site under the heading, "9/11: Have we been lied to?" It offers evidence of fakery in some of the videos based upon various physical properties of the figures that are presumed to be Osama, pointing out that there are differences in the ears, cheeks, eyebrows, length of the nose and shape of the nostrils. "The use of computer analysis can 'fine tune' these questions of facial characteristics," Fetzer said, "but the gross differences already show they are not the same."

Content Inconsistencies

"Another problem with the video of December 13, 2001," Griffin pointed out, "was that its stocky bin Laden praised two of the alleged hijackers, Wail M. Al-Shehri and Salem al-Hazmi, by name, and yet both the London Telegraph and the Saudi embassy reported several days after 9/11 that al-Hazmi was still alive and working in Saudi Arabia. Given the fact that the earlier video in which Osama confessed was clearly a fake, we should be suspicious of this latest apparent confession."

A professor at Duke, Bruce Lawrence, who has published Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden, expressed profound skepticism about a tape that was released January 17, 2006, in a report that appeared two days later. "There's nothing in this from the Koran," Lawrence said. "He's, by his own standards, a faithful Muslim who quotes scripture in defense of his actions. There's no quotation from the Koran in the excerpts we got, no reference to specific events, no reference to past atrocities." Lawrence also observed the tape ran only 10 minutes, whereas the shortest previous tape, at 18 minutes, was nearly twice as long.

Fetzer noted that many of the same anomalous properties are found in the latest tape. "Compared to Osama's past performances," he observed, "this message is too short, too direct, and full of falsehoods. It was even described on CBS News by Bob Schieffer as 'almost American'." A translation of the text of the tape has also been released by IntelCenter, a private company that does contract work for the US government. "I suppose I would be accused of being a 'conspiracy theorist' to suggest there is any connection," Fetzer added.

Authentic Voice/Fake Content

Informed that Reuters news agency has reported confirmation that the voice on the tape is indeed that of Osama bin Laden, Fetzer replied, "The fact that the voice is his does not prove that the tape is authentic. We have had phony tapes before using voices that were authentic. Mark Bingham, a passenger on Flight 93, is supposed to have called his mother and said, 'Hi, Mom, this is Mark Bingham!' His mother confirmed it was his voice, but does anyone seriously believe that Mark Bingham would have used his last name in identifying himself to his mother?"

Griffin agreed, adding, "Back in 1999, William Arkin published an article entitled, 'When Seeing and Hearing isn't Believing' (which can also be accessed on Google). Describing the new technology of 'voice morphing' (or 'voice synthesizing'), Arkin explained that, if audio technicians have a recording of your voice, then they can create a tape in which your voice‹your authentic voice!‹says anything they wish."

In a press release on April 22, 2006, the Scholars observed that a tape played at the trail of Zacarias Moussaoui included discussion among the passengers about using a drink cart to break down the cabin door alleged to have been picked up on a cockpit voice recorder, which does not record conversations in the passenger cabin. "This is not the first and certainly will not be the last time that the American government plays the American people for suckers," Fetzer said.

"We have just acquired new evidence that the Pentagon video tapes were processed and manipulated in an apparent effort to distort or conceal what happened there on 9/11," Fetzer observed. "Apparently, whenever the government feels the need to bolster the official myth about 9/11, it simply fabricates a new tape! Anybody who wants to keep score
should visit our web site."

Scholars for 9/11 Truth is a non-partisan society of experts and scholars dedicated to exposing falsehoods and establishing truths about the events of 9/11. It maintains a web site at, where it archives its studies, documents, records and evidence.


Scholars for 9/11 Truth
James Fetzer

'Marines are good at killing. Nothing else. They like it' By Oliver Poole

In January, shortly before the first published reports emerged about US marines methodically gunning down men, women and children in the Iraqi town of Haditha, The Daily Telegraph spent time at the main camp of the battalion under investigation.

Rumours had spread that what happened on Nov 19 diverged from the official line that locals were killed by a roadside bomb.

None of the troops wanted to talk, but even a short stay with the men of the 3rd Bn 1st Marine Division in their camp located in Haditha Dam on the town's outskirts, made clear it was a place where institutional discipline had frayed and was even approaching breakdown.

Normally, American camps in Iraq are almost suburban, with their coffee shops and polite soldiers who idle away their rest hours playing computer games and discussing girls back home.

Haditha was shockingly different - a feral place where the marines hardly washed; a number had abandoned the official living quarters to set up separate encampments with signs ordering outsiders to keep out; and a daily routine punctured by the emergency alarm of the dam itself with its antiquated and crumbling machinery.

The dam is one of Iraq's largest hydroelectric stations. A US special operations unit had secured it during the invasion and American troops had been there ever since. Now they were spread across the dozen or so levels where Iraqi engineers once lived.

The lifts were smashed, the lighting provided only a half gloom. Inside, the grinding of the dam machinery made talking difficult. The place routinely stank of rotten eggs, a by-product apparently of the grease to keep the turbines running.

The day before my arrival one soldier had shot himself in the head with his M16. No one would discuss why.

The washing facilities were at the top and the main lavatories at the base. With about 800 steps between them, many did not bother to use the official facilities.

Instead, a number had moved into small encampments around the dam's entrances that resembled something from Lord of the Flies. Entering one, a marine was pulling apart planks of wood with his dirt-encrusted hands to feed a fire.

A skull and crossbones symbol had been etched on the entrance to the shack.

I was never allowed to interview a senior officer properly, unlike during every other stint with American forces. The only soldiers willing to speak at length were those from the small Azerbaijani contingent whose role was to marshal the band of Iraqi engineers who kept the machinery going into and out of the facility.

The US troops liked them. "They have looser rules of engagement," one said admiringly in a rare, snatched conversation.

It is not yet known where exactly the men responsible for the killing of the 24 civilians in Haditha were based. There was a handful of small, forward-operating bases in the town and surrounding area, with two dozen or so in each. If they were in these, it is highly unlikely their conditions were any better.

They would certainly also have shared the recent history of the battalion. It had undergone three tours in Iraq in two and a half years.

More than 30 of its members had died in the previous one, the majority when the unit led the major attack on Fallujah, then at the heart of the insurgency. Now they were in Haditha, one of the most dangerous settlements in Iraq, after only seven months away.

It is a place where six marines died in three days during the previous August and where in nearby Parwana 14 died shortly afterwards in the most deadly roadside bomb attack of the war.

At the dam there was one American civilian, an engineer sent out by the US government with instructions to keep the facility operational.

It was a difficult task. Each time there was a power cut the turbines stopped working, the water against the dam would start to build up and everybody knew that if the local engineers could not get the generators started in time it would collapse.

The American's job was not helped by the marines viewing his Iraqi workers as potential saboteurs. The troops he was quartered with terrified him, so much so that he would not let his name be quoted for fear of reprisal.

He was keeping a secret dossier of breaches he said he had witnessed, or learned of. He planned to present it to the authorities when he returned to the US.

"Marines are good at killing," he said. "Nothing else. They like it.

Confident U.S. generals commit war crimes Uranium as a force multiplier by Bob Nichols

It always pays to listen, and to listen exactly, to what the senior U.S. military officials say about fighting wars. In 1991, Gen. Colin Powell sent 500,000 men with Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, lots of 70-ton Abrams Tanks and other soldier equipment for a 100-hour war against a weak third world country -- Iraq. It was called the Powell Doctrine and required a quick enemy defeat by "overwhelming force," "defined goals" and an "exit strategy."

Another George Bush, George Bush the second, sent only 145,000 troopers for the much more ambitious conquering and occupation of Iraq 12 years later. What changed?

Why send 355,000 fewer troopers for a much larger, tougher, sure to get you killed job? The American war policies did not change. The answer is that the Americans had millions of pounds of a deadly microscopic "helper" called depleted uranium as a "force multiplier" deployed in Iraq.

A force multiplier is a technological method to multiply the aggressiveness and lethality of an armed force. Dr. Katsuma Yagasaki of Ryukyus University in Okinawa, a physicist, stated publicly that the atomicity equivalent of the weaponized uranium gas deployed in Iraq by U.S. military forces is hundreds of thousands of times the radioactivity of the Nagasaki atomic bomb.

Marion Fulk, who started working on nuclear weapons more than 60 years ago during the Manhattan Project, says, "I would say that it is the perfect weapon for killing lots of people." A leading scientist, Leuren Moret, speaking out on the use of depleted uranium today, says flatly, "Iraq is uninhabitable," due to widespread radiation poisoning.

Uranium weapons are criminal violations of international and U.S. federal law in at least four ways. That is exactly what the U.S. military and politicians demanded be used in Iraq and Central Asia. Noted humanitarian and war crimes lawyer Karen Parker gives a simple four point test to determine that DU is illegal and a war crime and a crime against humanity. However, using the four point test as a weapons spec gives the Pentagon the super weapon they wanted. War crimes lawyers, in many ways, wrote the spec for Washington's latest genocidal wonder weapon.

A weapon that:
  • strays off the field of battle.
  • lasts after the battle is over.
  • causes cancer and other major devastating diseases.
  • causes lethal harm to people and the environment, is an illegal weapon as determined by a U.N. body. In short, its use is a war crime.
DU, or so-called depleted uranium, fits the profile perfectly. The senior American military and political leadership had their super weapon. They then determined that the Iraqi people and others in Central Asia's resource rich lands were in the way, had no right to live and had to go. They would be nuked by uranium munitions.

The American war planners knew and assumed that the U.S. soldiers were expendable commodities, like bullets. They would be nuked, too. As the famous American secretary of state, His Excellency Henry Kissinger, said, "Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy."

The American expeditionary forces purposefully used a long lasting genocidal weapon, uranium gas, in Iraq to decimate the Iraqi civilization. The Americans are still using this genocidal weapon more than 15 years later. It’s estimated that more than a million Iraqis died during the past 15 years from wars and sanctions. There were only about 24.4 million Iraqis to start with in 1991. The extermination minded American senior politicians and military leaders are nothing if not determined, ruthless and relentless.

As the brutal American Marines say, "Kill their ass and steal their gas." The American privates and corporals, the so-called grunts, do not know they are included in the soon to be dead or maimed, because poison gas weapons are not controllable. The poison flies everywhere with the changing wind. Poison gas is very unpredictable. The grunts are "throw away soldiers."

The Pentagon reported 320 tons of deadly, radiation-dispersing weaponized ceramic uranium oxide gas weapons were deployed on the nearly defenseless Iraqis in 1991. Cancers and other diseases soared. Ever since the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945, radiation dispersing uranium weapons have been war crimes and illegal.

Since the Americans are the world’s only "super power," the world is in a quandary, wondering what to do to stop the Americans? The American generals and senior politicians are addicted to the incredible lethality and force multiplier properties of depleted uranium.

Uranium weapons deliver death and illness in a big way, forever. That makes non-nuclear countries fear the United States. The American politicians love it because they know fear is a great motivator.

Thousands of nuclear missiles remain on hair trigger alert, even today. The lethal nuke birds can fly in 15 minutes. All world leaders know it. Just like that, they could die in a global thermonuclear war in which everybody dies or wishes they were dead.

After the U.S. nuked Japan in 1945 with large depleted uranium bombs wrapped around a tiny core of A-Bomb and H-Bomb devices, it did not take long for the U.S. monopoly on global thermonuclear weapons to evaporate into thin air and for nukes to proliferate like fleas on a dog. As the famed scientist Albert Einstein said, "There are no secrets." Sure enough, soon Russia, China, France, England, Israel, Pakistan, India and probably others also possessed thermonuclear weapons.

A country has to have a nuclear reactor to start a nuclear weapons program. Big American companies were very anxious to peddle the multibillion dollar Goliaths or little baby "research" reactors all over the world. The only difference in them is how much atomic bomb making material each can produce in a year when set up right.

The big megawatt reactors can make the stuff for about 40 atom bombs a year. Indeed, that is their primary purpose. The highly subsidized, very expensive, very dirty "electrical power" the reactors heat water to make its effective political cover. The couch potato -- dumbed down American public -- does not see the reactors' true purpose: atom bomb production.

More than 40 countries now have 430 reactors around the world. That means more than 40 countries can produce, or already have produced, global thermonuclear weapons.

The Pentagon wanted to be able to use radioactive uranium to kill and cause deadly cancers without the very noticeable boom of an actual atom bomb. The entire world was really down on the big atom bomb blasts on human populations. Still, the Americans exploded 1,200 atom bombs before Dr. Ernest Sternglass and others convinced the United States Senate to approve the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1962.

The amount of radiation released by the atomic bombs pales in comparison to the huge amount of permanent killing radiation released in Iraq. The total radioactive life span of uranium weapons is a majestically creepazoid 45 billion years. The Iraqis have a right to ask, “Why do the Americans hate us so? Why do the Americans want to exterminate us?”

Ordinary use of the big atom bomb was out. What were the U.S. political and military leaders to do? Answer: Go directly to the major radiation dispersing element in the atomic bombs and use it for radioactive munitions: dirty bullets, dirty shells and dirty bombs -- depleted uranium. Problem solved. The military-industrial-congressional complex had their force multiplier back.

But, with budgetary battles and contending with those within the military who opposed Radiation Dispersing Weapons, it took decades to craft and develop the uranium munitions. Keep in mind that these are not "uranium covered" or "uranium tipped" or "weakly radioactive" weapons as Pentagon apologists, propagandists and other war promoters say they are. They lie. Uranium weapons in use today are machined from solid uranium.

The most plentiful metal in the atom bombs used to devastate Japan and warn the world about the trigger happy senior American leadership was so-called "depleted uranium." It was five feet thick and only fractionally less radioactive than the feedstock uranium it came from.

DU would be ideal as a killer weaponized radioactive uranium gas fired in conventional weapons. A vanishing small percentage of the radioactive uranium in a hundred pounds of uranium is deadly enough to make atomic bombs; but it is all radioactive. Take one half of the tiny amount of bomb making stuff out and it is called "depleted uranium." What a con, and hundreds of millions of Americans fell for it!

Thus, depleted uranium rounds, including bombs, were born. They were tested in various wars – field tests for new weapons – and configurations before the new genocidal munitions were ready for prime time in the 1991 Iraq "war" turkey shoot.

The Pentagon admitted to using 320 tons of DU – of weaponized uranium gas, aerosols and fragments – that left Iraq a cancer ridden radioactive wasteland. The genocide embracing American forces were not through with Iraq yet, though. They would be back.

The Americans have spent billions of dollars to set up and maintain a huge industrial operation to produce nuclear weapons of all kinds. This ranges from the publicly understood atomic bombs like those used on two Japanese cities' civilian populations to the nuclear radiation dispersing bullets, shells, land mines, missiles and bombs. The uranium weapon as a force multiplier is alive and well.

Today, this vast industrial strength nuclear weapons establishment maintains four ammunition storage dumps in the U.S. and an unknown number around the world. Each of the U.S. ammo dumps in the U.S. is licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to have 22,000,000 pounds of actual uranium on hand in uranium munitions. When these huge war material centers move into high gear, they are a wonder of lethal industrial killing efficiency.

To maintain "Class 1" status, the ammo dumps must be able to ship 3.2 million pounds of weapons a day for 30 days. That can total 384,000,000 pounds of radioactive weaponized ceramic uranium oxide poison gas dispersing weapons per month.

George Bush the Second launched the "shock and awe" uranium bombing campaign against Baghdad and the remainder of Iraq in March of 2003. Within nine days, microscopic radioactive uranium oxide particles were detected in special high volume air filters in Aldermaston, England, some 2,700 miles away. Millions of pounds of uranium gas contaminated Baghdad yet again.

Government and university scientists estimated the five week uranium bombing campaign exposed hundreds of millions of people in Europe and Britain to tiny radioactive particles at the adult male lung dose rate of 23 million particles.

Cancers and other illnesses will follow, of course. For the first time in 41 years, the infant neonatal death rate is inching up. The tiniest babies die first. Tony Blair, the English prime minister, tried to ride the tiger too many times to no effect. The berserker Americans were uncontrollable. This is Bush's true legacy.

Now, we really must listen to the war criminals in the senior American political and military leadership. The purpose of the illegal uranium weapons is to multiply the effectiveness of a smaller force by killing or maiming the enemy continuously, after the initial battle is over. The millions of pounds of radioactive ceramic uranium oxide gas and dust all over Iraq are a deadly virtual army – killing and maiming civilian Iraqi men, women and children continuously.

People have always thought wars against children are particularly gross. That is not a problem for the American war machine planners at the Pentagon. Just look at what they do.

The radioactive virtual army secures the Iraqi homeland. The American war criminals are free to "redeploy" or ship the now radioactive, dying, constantly replaced American Army veterans to whatever little country is next – Iran, Syria or North Korea.

"Only" about 2,300 American troopers were sacrificed in the past three years in Iraq. Those deaths are acceptable to the American leadership. So were those of 250,000 Iraqis. They will move on and turn yet another country into radioactive rubble. The only real question is: "Who's next?"

Some Americans think that all this just could not happen in America. Foolish American intellectuals think that mere words without acts will deter the in-control American fascists. They simply do not understand that the old American Republic is dead and gone.

Now, in 2006, the United States is the most successful fascist empire, with the most lethal military, in the history of the world. The fascist government of war criminals and crooks must be put out as soon as possible, certainly before they invade Iran and use global thermonuclear weapons as promised and nuclear munitions again to do so. Words do not count in this arena, though, only actions.

Because, ultimately, these senior American generals and politicians must be cast out of office, tried and appropriately punished for committing these war crimes. It is the right thing to do. What America is doing to the world is wrong and criminal. All Americans are war criminals. We all bear responsibility – all 300 million of us.

There are at least six individuals, probably hundreds more, affiliated with the DOD, the CIA and the DOE who aggressively argue for the God given right of the American Expeditionary Forces to use deadly uranium weapons. These public relations masters work hand in glove with their programming counterparts in the big media to maintain the lie.

Since this article will only be seen in the SF Bay View newspaper, which goes all over the U.S. and the world, and on the Internet, it is fairly easy for these despised characters to publish continuous "feel-good" articles about these nuclear munitions. Already this series of anti-nuclear munition articles is sent by you, the readers, all over the country and the world. You must do more – always more.

Feel outraged? Helpless? Upset? Powerless? I do!

Do you want to stop these Americans from committing these war crimes? Then you must "be the media." Do the only thing you can control. Tell your friends and neighbors about this. Just say, “"he U.S. is using radioactive weapons and is destroying the world. What can we do to mess with them? Let's do it."

Working together, you will be able to figure out all manner of wildly inventive and cool things to do to stop this worldwide menace. The generals and politicians don’t stand a chance against a righteously angry American public. Just go ahead and do it. Don't wait for permission. You are right! Don’t be timid! The whole world is watching.

Thank you for your time.

Bob Nichols is a Project Censored Award Winner. He is a correspondent for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper and a frequent contributor to various online publications. Nichols is completing a book based on 15 years of nuclear war in Central Asia. He is a former employee of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. You are encouraged to write him at or

The logic of war crimes in a criminal war

An email just arrived from ANSWER, bearing the title of this post, written by ANSWER leaders Mara Verheyden-Hilliard and Brian Becker. It's an excellent piece, and I'll update this post with a link as soon as I see it online. Some of it, of course, will be familiar to readers of Left I on the News -- the fact that the Haditha massacre and other ongoing scandals are hardly isolated incidents, but completely typical, for example. But let me share a few excerpts. First this, on the subject of Fallujah:
On the eve of the assault on Fallujah, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition sent out an email to anti-war activists (November 7, 2004) under the headline: “Top U.S. Marine in Iraq Calls for Massacre in Fallujah.” It reported that Sgt. Major Carlton W. Kent gave an emotional pep-talk to 2,500 Marines who were poised to attack the city. The marines had just notified the people of Fallujah that any male between the age of 15-55 who dared go outside would be automatically killed. “You’re all in the process of making history,” the Sgt. Major exhorted his soldiers. “This is another Hue City in the making. I, have no doubt, if we do get the word, that each and every one of you is going to do what you have always done kick some butt.” (AP, November 7, 2004)

Evoking the events in Hue by U.S. officers, as a motivation for today’s troops, shows the macabre criminality inherent in imperialism’s war for conquest.

Hue was a city in South Vietnam that was a scene of horrific war crimes by military personnel when it was captured by U.S.-led forces in March 1968. U.S. Under-Secretary of the Air Force, Townsend Hoopes, admitted that Hue was left a “devastated and prostrate city. Eighty percent of the buildings had been reduced to rubble, and in the smashed ruins lay 2,000 dead civilians …” (Noam Chomsky’s forward to the papers of the 1967 International War Crimes in Vietnam Tribunal.)
A subject I didn't blog about, because I didn't think I had any unique insights, was the recent revelation that the U.S. murder of Korean civilians at No Gun Ri and elsewhere during the Korean War was not an isolated incident or the act of "bad apples," but official U.S. policy. Here's an important point about that made by Verheyden-Hilliard and Becker:
The Geneva Conventions expressly prohibit the targeting of civilians under any circumstances. But the Pentagon had a bigger political concern than adhering to international law. The fundamental fear of the Pentagon and the White House in Korea, as it was in Vietnam and during the first and current war against Iraq, was that public opinion at home would turn against the imperialist adventure and tie the hands of the warmakers. The logic of their political calculus was that U.S. public opinion would turn against the war directly as a result of a large number of U.S. casualties. This thought took them to the next murderous conclusion: if civilians pose even a remote risk to U.S. soldiers it is better to shoot the civilians first and ask questions later. Dead Korean or Vietnamese or Iraqi civilians will not be as politically damaging back home as dead American soldiers.

Mass Murder as PR Problem - The Haditha Massacre was Inevitable By MICKEY Z.

The Haditha Massacre was more than horrific; it was predictable. More than predictable, it was inevitable. Equally horrific, predictable, and inevitable is the devious reporting by the supposedly liberal media. The "alleged" war crimes at Haditha might be the work of a "handful" of Marines who "snapped" and, for those reading between the lines, those Marines are guilty of something far worse than mass murder: They've soiled the pristine, courageous image of the American military in Iraq. As Stan Goff sez: "The bad apple defense is back."

Someone turn down the lights and start the My Lai slide show, please...

The date was March 16, 1968. "Under the command of Lieutenant William L. Calley, Charlie Company of the Americal Division's Eleventh Infantry had 'nebulous orders' from its company commander, Captain Ernest Medina, to 'clean the village out'," explains historian Kenneth C. Davis.

All they found at My Lai were women, children, and old weapons, no signs of enemy soldiers. Calley ordered villagers to be killed and their huts destroyed. Women and girls were raped before they were machine-gunned. By the end of the massacre, hundreds of villagers were dead.

"This was not the only crime against civilians in Vietnam," Davis adds. "It was not uncommon to see GIs use their Zippo lighters to torch an entire village." Indeed, My Lai was not an aberration. On the very same day that Lt. Calley entered into infamy, another U.S. Army company entered My Khe (a sister subhamlet of My Lai) and killed a reported 90 peasants.

One of the My Khe veterans later said, "What we were doing was being done all over."

Of course it was. It had to be. To expect otherwise is to ignore the reality we've all played a role in creating. "This culture has killed a lot of people, and will continue to do so until it collapses, and probably long after," writes Derrick Jensen in his new book, "Endgame."

* * *
"The My Lai massacre had its predecessor in the Philippines in 1906," says Howard Zinn. "The American army attacked a group of 600 Moros in southern Philippines-men, women, and children living in very primitive conditions, who had no modern weapons. The American army attacked them with modern weapons, wiped out every last one of these 600 men, women, and children." The commanding officer responsible for this war crime received a telegram of congratulations from Theodore Roosevelt.

* * *
"Jane and Joe Sixpack are shocked," writes Ted Rall of the Haditha Massacre. "Congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation and, for once, will probably get one. Political analysts worry that the Haditha massacre could hurt U.S. propaganda efforts even more than the infamous photos of torture at its Abu Ghraib concentration camp."

The Haditha Massacre™ is a PR problem. The Haditha Massacre is an opportunity for the Democrats to posture. The Haditha Massacre is yet another chance for "Jane and Joe Sixpack" to be reminded that when Iraqi rebels kill a civilian, it's further proof of their inhuman status but when an American soldier commits premeditated murder, it's an anomaly. It takes a whole lotta propaganda to condition a populace to buy into this formula...but as Goff reminds us: "They were not rogues. They were us."

* * *
The most infamous "aberration" during the Korean War was the No Gun Ri massacre. Veterans of the U.S. Army First Cavalry Division told the Associated Press in 1999 that Captain Melbourne C. Chandler, "after speaking to superior officers by radio, ordered machine-gunners from his heavy weapons company to set up near the bridge tunnel openings and open fire. U.S. commanders had claimed there were 'infiltrators' among the villagers." Chandler told his men: "The hell with all those people. Let's get rid of all of them."

* * *
"Those who make the political decisions that guide this culture are more interested in increasing their own personal power and the power of the state than they are in human and nonhuman well-being," writes Jensen. "They need the resources, and will get them, come the hell of depleted-uranium-induced malformations or the high water of melted ice caps."

"Those who make the political decisions," of course, should be investigated, charged, tried, and sentenced. But those who don't make the political decisions must start recognizing that even if a miracle should occur and the criminals responsible for the The Haditha Massacre face justice, it would be a hollow victory if it ended there.

Jensen continues: "Movements for peace are damned before they start because unless they're willing to unmake the roots of this culture, and thus the roots of the violence, they can at best address superficial cause, and thus, at best, provide palliation."

* * *
How about to Good (sic) War? Any "aberrations" there? Edgar L. Jones, a former war correspondent in the Pacific, put it best when he asked in the February 1946 Atlantic Monthly, "What kind of war do civilians suppose we fought anyway? We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers."

* * *
As things stand now, the long list of American military interventions will grow and the subsequent aberrations (sic) will never cease. We can-and must-fight to expose the criminals and we should take pride in every life saved, every transgression averted. But until the system is challenged (overhauled? rejected?), all we can realistically hope for is the occasional reform or indictment.

Colonel Oran Henderson, charged with covering-up the My Lai killings, explained: "Every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden someplace." I'll see Henderson and raise him this: Every human has her or his My Lai hidden someplace.

Each time we chalk up atrocities to the policies of one or another political party, we commit an intellectual My Lai. Whenever we demand "stop the war," but not "stop war," we commit an intellectual My Lai. If we bring our grievances to the guardians of the very system that creates those grievances, we commit an intellectual My Lai.

Albert Einstein once said: "No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it." We currently dwell in a My Lai consciousness. Even those who struggle for peace and justice exist in the Haditha state of mind. Unless we step away from a mentality that inspires us to boil the flesh off enemy skulls, our solutions are like band-aids and will only serve to validate and strengthen a cultural structure that values profits over life itself.

Where do we start? I'll quote, once again, from Derrick Jensen's "Endgame": "One of the good things about everything being so fucked up-about the culture being so ubiquitously destructive-is that no matter where you look-no matter what your gifts, no matter where your heart lies-there's good and desperately important work to be done."

Mickey Z. is the author of several books, most recently 50 American Revolutions You're Not Supposed to Know (Disinformation Books). He can be found on the Web at

Michelle Bachelet is off to a good start

Looks like Chile has indeed turned a decisive corner since the evil Augusto Pinochet was finally ousted from power. See for yourself:

Chilean riot police used water cannon and tear gas for a second day running to scatter secondary school students protesting over education reform.

Officials and student leaders have been talking but the government has rejected a demand to respond by Friday or face a national school strike.

Mass demonstrations on Wednesday saw more than 700 people arrested.

President Michelle Bachelet condemned the police's handling of the unrest and sacked the head of special forces.


Demonstrators are demanding educational reforms including a new curriculum, free bus fares and no exam fees.


The dispute is being seen as a big test for President Bachelet who took office in March.

Television footage and pictures splashed across newspapers of police beating young protesters provoked a barrage of criticism on Wednesday provoked a barrage of criticism from parents.

President Bachelet criticised the police for "unacceptable excesses" in their treatment of the demonstrators, most of whom are secondary school students, and sacked the head of special forces, Osvaldo Jara.

"We will not accept detestable acts like we saw (Tuesday)," she told a news conference.

She said her government would look at which of the students' demands were viable.

Protests began several weeks ago when students took over several schools in Santiago, and the strike has now spread nationwide with many pupils staying in school but refusing to attend lessons.

Tuesday's protests were the biggest student demonstrations in Chile in several decades.

It should come as no surprise that Michelle Bachelet would take the part of the students, and, even as president, denounce the police cracking their heads; she's been there too. It was during the coup of 1973 that she, herself a student (of medicine) at the time, was imprisoned and tortured, as were her parents. Her father, an air force general loyal to Salvador Allende, died of the torture. She and her mother survived, but went into exile when they were released.

Looks like she's back in earnest now, and doing what she vowed she would do: seeking truth and justice, rather than furthering the repression that scarred her own life.

Brava, Michelle, and keep up the good work.

Laura and Dubya and Condi, Oh My!

A White House source, speaking on background, vehemently denied to WMR that there are marital problems between President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush over a reported extramarital affair between Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. However, two mainstream media sources have confirmed that their sources also have reported an ongoing affair between Mr. Bush and Rice.

The mainstream media is hamstrung in reporting stories about Bush's personal life. For example, in 2001, the media highlighted Bush's comments about his passing out from choking on a pretzel while watching a football game in the White House. In reality, Bush, who claims he gave up drinking years ago, passed out from being inebriated. Washington's movers and shakers knew the story about Bush's drinking but the media studiously avoided it.

Laura Bush and Condoleezza Rice were uncomfortable travel mates at the Jan. 16, 2006 inauguration of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia.

Further widely confirmed reports of U.S. war crimes committed against innocent Iraqi civilians.

As reported by WMR on May 30, there are now further widely confirmed reports of U.S. war crimes committed against innocent Iraqi civilians. In addition to the Nov. 2005 Haditha massacre of civilians, including women and children, there is now a report that U.S. troops massacred civilians in the town of Ishaqi in March of this year. Ishaqi is 10 miles north of Balad. The Bush White House and Pentagon have responded to these war crimes by ordering specialized training for U.S. troops before they deploy to Iraq.

In addition to U.S. political and military leaders, international law provides for the indictment of propagandists who stoke the flames of hate by supporting war crimes and the unlawful actions of governments during wartime. William Joyce (nicknamed Lord Haw Haw), an Irish-American broadcaster for Nazi Germany, was hanged for treason on 1946. Mildred Sisk (nicknamed Axis Sally), an American who broadcasted messages to Allied troops on Radio Berlin, was convicted of one count of treason following the war. U.S. citizen Iva Toguri D'Aquino ("Tokyo Rose"), a broadcaster for Japanese radio during World War II, was convicted of treason. She was pardoned by President Gerald Ford in a deal that Ford's Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, was involved. Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, broadcasters for Rwanda's Radio Milles Collines, were indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda for airing anti-Tutsi messages in 1994. Broadcasters like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and other venal broadcasters who are acting on behalf of the Bush administration in defending war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Iraq, may find themselves subject to future International Criminal Court investigations.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dumb Dubya AND Kinda Skeeza Rice - Hmmmm?

June 1, 2006 -- Rocky shoals for Bush marriage? Informed sources Inside the Beltway report that First Lady Laura Bush has established temporary residence in the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC as a result of a tiff with President Bush over an extramarital relationship involving her husband. Mr. Bush's tryst is said to involve Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It is not known how long Mrs. Bush plans to remain at the Mayflower, however, her security detail has been present at the hotel during hours when the First Lady would normally be residing in the White House. While she was National Security Adviser, Rice, who has never been married, referred to George W. Bush as "my husband" before she corrected herself and said, "the president." Rice was speaking at a dinner when she made her "husband" remarks.

WMR is tracking the Laura Bush story.

Top general in Iraq orders 'values' training

Top general in Iraq orders 'values' training --Focus comes as military probes claims Marines intentionally killed civilians 01 Jun 2006 The top U.S. general in Iraq on Thursday ordered American commanders to conduct ethical training on battlefield conduct following reports that Marines massacred unarmed civilians in the town of Haditha. [This is just unbelievably ironic. The only really valuable 'values training' worth pursuing (although far too late for any good effect) has to have taken place at the 'top' of the Bush regime (and the moral bottom of the universe). Bush and his rabid neocon mass murderers need to learn the 'values' of not invading foreign nations without provocation; not murdering tens of thousands of innocent people; not torturing people by raping, starving, hooding, making-stand, terrorizing with dogs and shoving foreign objects up their anuses; not destroying a country to hand out government contracts to hired killers and war profiteers; not take kickbacks; not loot cultural reserves; not steal oil and kill people for fun. That's the only worthwhile 'values training' that should have been conducted. But that values training would have failed, because the people who needed it are the most morally depraved people on the face of the earth and really are beyond rehabilitation. We know what kind of treatment they deserve, but we cannot say it, because they will do to us what they have done to others--the mass murdering thieves, whores, butchers and criminals that they are. --MDR 10:05 DST 01 Jun 2006]

CIA rendition flights and drug running

Another shady airline company with possible links to CIA discovered. For a company that only began operations in July 2005, Security Aviation, Inc. of Anchorage, Alaska, soon found itself in the news, the subject of a federal indictment for illegally possessing operational 16-tube rocket launchers and Czech-made L-39 Albatros military jets that could have been a hazard to aircraft. The air charter company's principals, Rob "Commander" Kane and Mark Avery, were recently acquitted of federal weapons charges. Kane told a Federal court that the Czech aircraft were for a multi-million dollar project in the Philippines. After several pilots with former ties to the military and CIA testified on behalf of Security Aviation, a jury acquitted the firm of any wrongdoing. Initially, the jury was split but later came around to acquittal. Jury tampering in cases involving covert intelligence operations has been on an increase with the Bush administration. U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki said Security Aviation was involved in an "elaborate deception." After the small firm was purchased by Avery, the small charter company was transferred into a multi-million dollar firm with a fleet of expensive executive jets, helicopters, Czech military jets, and employees with shadowy CIA and private military contractor (PMC) experience.

Security Aviation claimed their rocket launchers were not operational, however that claim was disputed by John Berens, a former chief mechanic for Aviation Security who serviced the L-39 jets. Even with the weapons acquittal, the government's probe of Security Aviation continues. Avery admitted that he and Kane spoke about his firm's secret missions, off-shore trusts, and other shadowy operations. Kane claims he is a former Navy SEAL, bounty hunter, a commander in the Philippines Coast Guard Auxiliary, rodeo cowboy, CIA agent, and counter-terrorism operative. Kane's name came up in a 1993 murder trial involving a slain security guard. Federal agents recovered phony identification documents, cash, and bank records from Kane's home. Avery, who is an attorney, is a former state and municipal prosecutor who also owns Regional Property Services, LLC. Security Aviation and an affiliate firm, Regional Protective Services LLC, intimidated two companies involved in the sale of the Czech planes -- Air USA and Red Air of Illinois, for their cooperation with the government in the weapons case. Air USA worked with the government to recover the Czech planes. Air USA flew two of the recovered Czech planes out of Anchorage in January but one crashed on approach to Ketchikan airport, killing the pilot, Stephen Freeman of San Diego. Six Czech jet fighters were returned by the government to Security Aviation in early May. Other companies connected to Kane are High Security Aviation and Regional Phone Solutions. FBI agents, on a search of Kane's office, discovered Bahamas residency papers, Bank of the Middle East documents, and business cards from Ukraine, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates -- all major locations for Russian-Israeli Mafia weapons smuggler and aircraft owner Viktor Bout, a man wanted by several countries but protected by the Bush administration.

Firm connected to shadowy CIA operations has its own fleet of Czech military jets. Possible connection to Viktor Bout network discovered by Feds.

The Anchorage Daily News has been on this story from the start
. The story has been ignored by the media in the Lower 48.

It now appears that although it uses Anchorage as its base, Security Aviation has been involved in secretive operations in the Caribbean. Florida and the Caribbean have been major areas for the operations of CIA rendition flights and renewed major drug smuggling operations. Interestingly, Kane has been connected to Bob Coffin of the FBI's Clearwater, Florida office. Kane's wife said Coffin was her husband's case agent. It remains unclear what official relationship Coffin has with Kane but Clearwater was a major hub of activities for the 911 hijackers and was most recently connected to an aircraft stopped in Mexico hauling 5.5 tons of cocaine.

U.S. state terrorism and war crimes in Iraq.

U.S. state terrorism in Iraq. With more details emerging of the massacre of civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha, it is apparent that the United States is committing acts of state terrorism. Senior Bush administration officials are building themselves a dossier of human rights abuses and war crimes that rival those of other international war criminals. If international charges are ever brought against Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Generals Pace, Myers, Abazaid, and lesser ranking military officers and enlisted men, people everywhere should ensure these criminals are brought to justice. The International Criminal Court (ICC), fortunately for these rogues and miscreants, does not impose the death penalty for war crimes.

Rupert Murdoch's right-wing machine involved in demonizing to overthrow East Timor government.

Murdoch right-wing machine demonizes East Timor government. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation-owned and influenced media enterprises in Australia, most notably The Australian and television networks carried by Foxtel, are ratcheting up propaganda pressure on East Timor's embattled government led by Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and President Xanana Gusmao. Murdoch's propagandists, who wrongly identify themselves as journalists, are accusing Alkatii of not acting to prevent the outbreak of rioting and violence in East Timor. Attorney General Longuinhos Monteiro said his offices have been looted by rebels on several occasions and that a portion of his department's criminal archives have been stolen. Murdoch's propagandizing against Alkatiri coincides with demands from East Timor rebel leader Major Alfredo Reinado that Alkatiri step down. In fact, there is more evidence that right-wing elements in Australia tied to Murdoch, John Howard, multinational oil companies, and the CIA were behind Reinado's attempted coup against the government in an attempt to impose a pro-Australian government that would be willing to negotiate away East Timor's rights to Timor Sea oil blocks. The coup against East Timor's government bears a resemblance to the Bush abortive coup against Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez in April 2002. Unlike Venezuela, East Timor's government is too reliant on the West for economic and military aid and its army was too infiltrated by U.S. and Australian agents to be effective in fending off the rebellion.

Haditha May Become U.S. Military Disgrace

Some words are synonymous with military disgrace. Abu Ghraib. My Lai. And now, perhaps Haditha - the Iraqi town where two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians allegedly were murdered by U.S. Marines. Still under investigation, the episode could firm rising American opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq, just as the 1968 My Lai killings helped turn the tide of public opinion against the Vietnam War.

VFP Statement about Jesse Macbeth

VFP Statement about Jesse Macbeth

VFP Members, family, friends and supporters,

(Please Distribute Widely)

Recently a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Jesse MacBeth, has been accused of falsifying his military service and lying about participating in atrocities by US soldiers while serving in Iraq. Jesse is also a member of Veterans For Peace. These are serious charges that could undermine the efforts of VFP and IVAW to end the war in Iraq. IVAW is taking decisive
steps to verify Jesse's service and story. There has been a video interview by Jesse posted on the internet. The organization that posted the video has been asked to take down the interview.

This is a complicated situation and must be handled in a thoughtful manner.
There are two important issues here.

VFP has an obligation to uphold truth as we pursue the end to this immoral war in Iraq and resist war as a means to solve conflicts. We must never use false information to move forward our cause. We must never align ourselves with those who would use the pain, suffering and deaths of service members and war victims for gain. (We must protect ourselves from
infiltrators, as well as those who may simply be unstable and need help.)

2. Yet VFP has an equal responsibility to stand in solidarity with returning service members as they speak out against war and expose themselves to the possibility of attack and persecution. We must protect the brave men and women as best we can as they pursue the road less traveled of truth, peace and justice.

As we move forward with the Jesse MacBeth concern, let us keep in mind the above principles. We must hope that all who come to us for support, guidance and love are truthful and trust worthy. We must act decisively, with vigor, compassion and understanding if we find they are not.

If you have not sent the national office your DD-214 or other verification of your veterans status, please do so. It is important for VFP as an organization to ensure we can state with full confidence the status of our membership.

Below is a statement posted on IVAW's website,
concerning this matter.

Michael T. McPhearson
Veterans For Peace
Executive Director
314 725-6005

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Not A Difficult Choice At All - Chávez and Venezuela deserve the support of all who believe in social justice and democracy by Ken Livingstone

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela will today become the second head of state - after the Queen - to be welcomed to London's City Hall. When it comes to the social transformation taking place in Venezuela, the political qualifications often necessary in our imperfect world can be set aside. It is crystal clear on which side right and justice lies. For many years people have demanded that social progress and democracy go hand in hand, and that is exactly what is now taking place in Venezuela.

It therefore deserves the unequivocal support of not only every supporter of social progress but every genuine believer in democracy in the world. Venezuela is a state of huge oil wealth that was hitherto scarcely used to benefit the population. Now, for the first time in a country of over 25 million people, a functioning health service is being built. Seventeen million people have been given access to free healthcare for the first time in their lives. Illiteracy has been eliminated. Fifteen million people have been given access to food, medicines and other essential products at affordable prices. A quarter of a million eye operations have been financed to rescue people from blindness. These are extraordinary practical achievements.

Little wonder, then, that Chávez and his supporters have won 10 elections in eight years. These victories were achieved despite a private media largely controlled by opponents of the government. Yet Chávez's visit has been met with absurd claims from rightwing activists that he is some kind of dictator.

The opponents of democracy are those who orchestrated a coup against Chávez, captured on film in the extraordinary documentary The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It is a film that literally changes lives. By chance, a TV crew was in the presidential palace when the military coup of April 2002 against Chávez took place. It captured minute by minute the events that unfolded.

Anti-Chávez gunmen, in league with the coup organisers, opened fire on a pro-Chávez demonstration. As guns are commonplace in Venezuela, some in the crowd returned fire. US television stations manipulated these images by editing out the gunfire aimed at the pro- Chávez crowd to claim that anti-Chavez demonstrators had been attacked.

A million people took to the streets of Caracas to demand Chávez's release. The moment when the army deserted the coup leaders and went over to support the demonstrators is shown on film.

It is a sign of how little David Cameron's Conservative party has changed that London Tories are boycotting today's meeting with Chávez. This contrasts, of course, with the Tories' longstanding feting of the murdering torturer General Augusto Pinochet. To justify their position they ludicrously compare Chávez to Stalin. Sometimes it is necessary to choose the lesser of two evils. Britain fought with Stalin against Hitler. But with Chávez the choice is not difficult at all. He is both carrying out a progressive programme and doing so through the mandate of the ballot box.

George Bush's refusal to respect the choices of the Venezuelan people shows that his administration has no real interest in promoting democracy at all.

Not since the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power have people faced a clearer or more important international choice. In Venezuela millions are struggling to take their country out of poverty. They are doing so by means that are among the most democratic in the world. Both are inspiring.

Today Venezuela is being opposed largely on the basis of lies. We have to make sure Venezuelans have to face nothing worse. It is the duty of all people who support progress, justice and democracy to stand with Venezuela.

Ken Livingstone is the mayor of London

Is It Possible to Have a Civilized Discussion About the Role of Israel in American Foreign Policy? The Storm over "the Israel Lobby" By JOHN MEARSHEIM

Is It Possible to Have a Civilized Discussion About the Role of Israel in American Foreign Policy?

The Storm over "the Israel Lobby"


We wrote 'The Israel Lobby' in order to begin a discussion of a subject that had become difficult to address openly in the United States (London Review of Books, 23 March). We knew it was likely to generate a strong reaction, and we are not surprised that some of our critics have chosen to attack our characters or misrepresent our arguments. We have also been gratified by the many positive responses we have received, and by the thoughtful commentary that has begun to emerge in the media and the blogosphere. It is clear that many people--including Jews and Israelis--believe that it is time to have a candid discussion of the US relationship with Israel. It is in that spirit that we engage with the letters responding to our article. We confine ourselves here to the most salient points of dispute.

One of the most prominent charges against us is that we see the lobby as a well-organised Jewish conspiracy. Jeffrey Herf and Andrei Markovits, for example, begin by noting that 'accusations of powerful Jews behind the scenes are part of the most dangerous traditions of modern anti-semitism' (Letters, 6 April ). It is a tradition we deplore and that we explicitly rejected in our article. Instead, we described the lobby as a loose coalition of individuals and organisations without a central headquarters. It includes gentiles as well as Jews, and many Jewish-Americans do not endorse its positions on some or all issues. Most important, the Israel lobby is not a secret, clandestine cabal; on the contrary, it is openly engaged in interest-group politics and there is nothing conspiratorial or illicit about its behaviour. Thus, we can easily believe that Daniel Pipes has never 'taken orders' from the lobby, because the Leninist caricature of the lobby depicted in his letter is one that we clearly dismissed. Readers will also note that Pipes does not deny that his organisation, Campus Watch, was created in order to monitor what academics say, write and teach, so as to discourage them from engaging in open discourse about the Middle East.

Several writers chide us for making mono-causal arguments, accusing us of saying that Israel alone is responsible for anti-Americanism in the Arab and Islamic world (as one letter puts it, anti-Americanism 'would exist if Israel was not there') or suggesting that the lobby bears sole responsibility for the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. But that is not what we said. We emphasised that US support for Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories is a powerful source of anti-Americanism, the conclusion reached in several scholarly studies and US government commissions (including the 9/11 Commission). But we also pointed out that support for Israel is hardly the only reason America's standing in the Middle East is so low. Similarly, we clearly stated that Osama bin Laden had other grievances against the United States besides the Palestinian issue, but as the 9/11 Commission documents, this matter was a major concern for him. We also explicitly stated that the lobby, by itself, could not convince either the Clinton or the Bush administration to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, there is abundant evidence that the neo-conservatives and other groups within the lobby played a central role in making the case for war.

At least two of the letters complain that we 'catalogue Israel's moral flaws', while paying little attention to the shortcomings of other states. We focused on Israeli behaviour, not because we have any animus towards Israel, but because the United States gives it such high levels of material and diplomatic support. Our aim was to determine whether Israel merits this special treatment either because it is a unique strategic asset or because it behaves better than other countries do. We argued that neither argument is convincing: Israel's strategic value has declined since the end of the Cold War and Israel does not behave significantly better than most other states.

Herf and Markovits interpret us to be saying that Israel's 'continued survival' should be of little concern to the United States. We made no such argument. In fact, we emphasised that there is a powerful moral case for Israel's existence, and we firmly believe that the United States should take action to ensure its survival if it were in danger. Our criticism was directed at Israeli policy and America's special relationship with Israel, not Israel's existence.

Another recurring theme in the letters is that the lobby ultimately matters little because Israel's 'values command genuine support among the American public'. Thus, Herf and Markovits maintain that there is substantial support for Israel in military and diplomatic circles within the United States. We agree that there is strong public support for Israel in America, in part because it is seen as compatible with America's Judaeo-Christian culture. But we believe this popularity is substantially due to the lobby's success at portraying Israel in a favourable light and effectively limiting public awareness and discussion of Israel's less savoury actions. Diplomats and military officers are also affected by this distorted public discourse, but many of them can see through the rhetoric. They keep silent, however, because they fear that groups like AIPAC will damage their careers if they speak out. The fact is that if there were no AIPAC, Americans would have a more critical view of Israel and US policy in the Middle East would look different.

On a related point, Michael Szanto contrasts the US-Israeli relationship with the American military commitments to Western Europe, Japan and South Korea, to show that the United States has given substantial support to other states besides Israel (6 April). He does not mention, however, that these other relationships did not depend on strong domestic lobbies. The reason is simple: these countries did not need a lobby because close ties with each of them were in America's strategic interest. By contrast, as Israel has become a strategic burden for the US, its American backers have had to work even harder to preserve the 'special relationship'.

Other critics contend that we overstate the lobby's power because we overlook countervailing forces, such as 'paleo-conservatives, Arab and Islamic advocacy groups . . . and the diplomatic establishment'. Such countervailing forces do exist, but they are no match--either alone or in combination--for the lobby. There are Arab-American political groups, for example, but they are weak, divided, and wield far less influence than AIPAC and other organisations that present a strong, consistent message from the lobby.

Probably the most popular argument made about a countervailing force is Herf and Markovits's claim that the centrepiece of US Middle East policy is oil, not Israel. There is no question that access to that region's oil is a vital US strategic interest. Washington is also deeply committed to supporting Israel. Thus, the relevant question is, how does each of those interests affect US policy? We maintain that US policy in the Middle East is driven primarily by the commitment to Israel, not oil interests. If the oil companies or the oil-producing countries were driving policy, Washington would be tempted to favour the Palestinians instead of Israel. Moreover, the United States would almost certainly not have gone to war against Iraq in March 2003, and the Bush administration would not be threatening to use military force against Iran. Although many claim that the Iraq war was all about oil, there is hardly any evidence to support that supposition, and much evidence of the lobby's influence. Oil is clearly an important concern for US policymakers, but with the exception of episodes like the 1973 Opec oil embargo, the US commitment to Israel has yet to threaten access to oil. It does, however, contribute to America's terrorism problem, complicates its efforts to halt nuclear proliferation, and helped get the United States involved in wars like Iraq.

Regrettably, some of our critics have tried to smear us by linking us with overt racists, thereby suggesting that we are racists or anti-semites ourselves. Michael Taylor, for example, notes that our article has been 'hailed' by Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke (6 April). Alan Dershowitz implies that some of our material was taken from neo-Nazi websites and other hate literature (20 April). We have no control over who likes or dislikes our article, but we regret that Duke used it to promote his racist agenda, which we utterly reject. Furthermore, nothing in our piece is drawn from racist sources of any kind, and Dershowitz offers no evidence to support this false claim. We provided a fully documented version of the paper so that readers could see for themselves that we used reputable sources.

Finally, a few critics claim that some of our facts, references or quotations are mistaken. For example, Dershowitz challenges our claim that Israel was 'explicitly founded as a Jewish state and citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship'. Israel was founded as a Jewish state (a fact Dershowitz does not challenge), and our reference to citizenship was obviously to Israel's Jewish citizens, whose identity is ordinarily based on ancestry. We stated that Israel has a sizeable number of non-Jewish citizens (primarily Arabs), and our main point was that many of them are relegated to a second-class status in a predominantly Jewish society.

We also referred to Golda Meir's famous statement that 'there is no such thin g as a Palestinian,' and Jeremy Schreiber reads us as saying that Meir was denying the existence of those people rather than simply denying Palestinian nationhood (20 April). There is no disagreement here; we agree with Schreiber's interpretation and we quoted Meir in a discussion of Israel's prolonged effort 'to deny the Palestinians' national ambitions'.

Dershowitz challenges our claim that the Israelis did not offer the Palestinians a contiguous state at Camp David in July 2000. As support, he cites a s tatement by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and the memoirs of former US negotiator Dennis Ross. There are a number of competing accounts of what happened at Camp David, however, and many of them agree with our claim. Moreover, Barak himself acknowledges that 'the Palestinians were promised a continuous piece of sovereign territory except for a razor-thin Israeli wedge running from Jerusalem . . . to the Jordan River.' This wedge, which would bisect the West Bank, was essential to Israel's plan to retain control of the Jordan River Valley for another six to twenty years. Finally, and contrary to Dershowitz's claim, there was no 'second map' or map of a 'final proposal at Camp David'. Indeed, it is explicitly stated in a note beside the map published in Ross's memoirs that 'no map was presented during the final rounds at Camp David.' Given all this, it is not surprising that Barak's foreign minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, who was a key participant at Camp David, later admitted: 'If I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David as well.'

Dershowitz also claims that we quote David Ben-Gurion 'out of context' and thus misrepresented his views on the need to use force to build a Jewish state in all of Palestine. Dershowitz is wrong. As a number of Israeli historians have shown, Ben-Gurion made numerous statements about the need to use force (or the threat of overwhelming force) to create a Jewish state in all of Palestine. In October 1937, for example, he wrote to his son Amos that the future Jewish state would have an 'outstanding army . . . so I am certain that we won't be constrained from settling in the rest of the country, either by mutual agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbours, or by some other way' (emphasis added). Furthermore, common sense says that there was no other way to achieve that goal, because the Palestinians were hardly likely to give up their homeland voluntarily. Ben-Gurion was a consummate strategist and he understood that it would be unwise for the Zionists to talk openly about the need for 'brutal compulsion'. We quote a memorandum Ben-Gurion wrote prior to the Extraordinary Zionist Conference at the Biltmore Hotel in New York in May 1942. He wrote that 'it is impossible to imagine general evacuation' of the Arab population of Palestine 'without compulsion, and brutal compulsion'. Dershowitz claims that Ben-Gurion's subsequent statement--'we should in no way make it part of our programme'--shows that he opposed the transfer of the Arab population and the 'brutal compulsion' it would entail. But Ben-Gurion was not rejecting this policy: he was simply noting that the Zionists should not openly proclaim it. Indeed, he said that they should not 'discourage other people, British or American, who favour transfer from advocating this course, but we should in no way make it part of our programme'.

We close with a final comment about the controversy surrounding our article. Although we are not surprised by the hostility directed at us, we are still disappointed that more attention has not been paid to the substance of the piece. The fact remains that the United States is in deep trouble in the Middle East, and it will not be able to develop effective policies if it is impossible to have a civilised discussion about the role of Israel in American foreign policy.

John Mearsheimer & Stephen Walt University of Chicago & Harvard University.

This letter originally appeared in the London Review of Books.

Diebold voting systems critically flawed

Diebold voting systems critically flawed
Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus 2006-05-12
Michael Shamos remembers that the call came late at night, during the last week of April.

The call--from election watchdog a critical vulnerability in Diebold Election Systems' touchscreen voting systems that could allow any person with access to a voting terminal the ability to completely change the system code or ballot file on the system. As a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and adviser to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on electronic voting, Shamos realized that, at the very least, a workaround for the flaw needed to be in place by Pennsylvania's next election--at the time, less than three weeks away.

"This one is so bad, that we can't do just nothing," Shamos told the state's election officials at the time. "Any losing candidate could challenge the election by saying, 'How do I know that the software on the machine is the software certified by the state?'"

Late Thursday, BlackBoxVoting published a redacted version of a paper describing the design flaw in Diebold AccuVote TSX and TS6 touchscreen election systems. Because of the seriousness of the flaw, the full report detailing the issue has only been distributed to a limited group of computer scientists, state and federal election officials, and security groups.

"We have elections every single week this month, and there is no way to do meaningful remediation at this point," said Bev Harris, founder of BlackBoxVoting.

Three states have already issued alerts on the flaws to election officials. The Pennsylvania Department of State told county clerks to reinstall the software on election devices and then lock them up in a secure location until the May 16 general primary.

"The Department of State will furnish the authorized software to the counties on a PCMCIA card along with instructions for its installation," a copy of the memo seen by SecurityFocus stated.

Both Iowa and California have also issued alerts, according to the Associated Press.

The incident represents the most major failure of the federal process to create secure election technology to date. While researchers and civil rights groups have voiced strong criticism of electronic voting technology--and in particular the systems' security--the national elections held in November 2004 saw only small problems that would likely not have impacted the outcome of the election.

However, trust remains a significant issue. Voting machine makers and the certification labs that have tested election systems have been secretive about the technology. And, while older machines and the method for counting votes tallied by the older technology were easily understood by the average voter, electronic voting systems have become more impenetrable and have not undergone significant and public testing, according to computer scientists that have called for more rigorous security testing.

Diebold has had a more turbulent relationship with states and security experts over e-voting. The company's CEO stepped down in December, a day before a law firm filed a shareholder suit against the company, claiming--among other issues--that the company misled investors about the state of its e-voting technology. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced this week that it has opened an inquiry into how Diebold reports revenue, following the company's admission in SEC filings that its election business overstated revenue and understated deferred revenue.

A representative of Diebold Election Systems could not immediately be reached for comment on the SEC inquiry or the design flaw, but Pennsylvania's memo to election officials stated that the company had confirmed the vulnerability and acknowledged that the issue could be used to load malicious software on an election system.

"The probability for exploiting this vulnerability to install unauthorized software that could affect an election is considered low," the memo to election officials stated. "To exploit this risk, physical access is required to the Personal Computer Memory Card International Association (PCMCIA) slots on the machine during system startup."

Other computer scientists do not believe the threat to be theoretical.

"It is like the nuclear bomb for e-voting systems," said Avi Rubin, computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University. "It's the deal breaker. It really makes the security flaws that we found (in prior years) look trivial."

When Bruce Funk called in BlackBoxVoting to look at some strange memory issues with Diebold voting systems in Utah, finding the "nuclear bomb" of e-voting security was not on his agenda.

As the auditor and clerk for Emery County, a large rural bite out of the middle of Utah, Funk had noticed that the county's voting machines--provided by Diebold--were having various maintenance issues. Because Utah had adopted a requirement for a verified voter paper audit trail--essentially a printout of a person's vote--Funk needed the printers to work flawlessly. However, they frequently jammed. Moreover, electrical cords had pulled out from the machines with components attached. Those issues made Funk believe the machines may not have been new, but refurbished.

A Diebold technician told the county auditor early this year that any components with problems would have to be replaced. Funk decided to do a manual check of the systems to find any other issues and discovered that the machines had a variety of different file sizes on backup memory. Uncertain why that should be and wanting an independent opinion, he contacted the e-voting muckraking group BlackBoxVoting to come and look at one of the systems, he said.

In March, BlackBoxVoting flew in Harri Hursti, a Finnish voting-machine security expert with whom the group had frequently collaborated. Funk remembers that he was surprised by what Hursti could do with only poll-worker-level access to the machine.

"He was able to--from the keyboard that appears on the machine--create a macro that doesn't even show up that you created it, go and pickup a program through the modem, and run it," Funk said during an interview with SecurityFocus from his home in Clawson, Utah. "I was thinking that this was not right."

As Hursti got more familiar with the machine, he and members of BlackBoxVoting, who were videotaping the process, became more concerned, Funk said.

"It became so serious, that my concern about memory was minor," he said. "They told me that the information that they'd found had to go to certain federal agencies and certain things had to be done before the issues were made public."

Officials in Utah apparently were not concerned with the security of the systems, but with what they considered a breach in authorization. State officials and representatives of Diebold told Funk that he had cost the county more than $40,000 in damages because Diebold technicians would have to return to the county and recertify the systems, according to transcripts of the public parts of an April meeting in Emery County published by BlackBoxVoting.

"The reason that we’re here today is because Mr. Funk, on his own, has gone outside that system and compromised the integrity of not only Emery County’s elections, but also the State of Utah and any other jurisdiction of the United States that is using this equipment, simply because he wouldn’t call and ask these questions that these people and the Lieutenant Governor’s staff know the answers to," said Utah's State Elections Director Michael Cragun, according to the transcript. "It seems to me it’s inappropriate to be in this meeting now answering these questions he should have asked before he compromised the integrity of this system."

The officials asked for Funk's resignation, which he gave verbally at the meeting.

"They basically said that they have people that want to have you removed," Funk said. "This whole weight fell on me and I said, 'I'm so tired, just let me out.'"

By the next morning, he decided to fight the process, but he was informed that a verbal agreement to resign was enough, he said. Calls to both Diebold and the office of the governor of Utah by SecurityFocus were not returned.

Meanwhile, Funk maintains that he did what the county's voters elected him to do: Look out for their interests in a fair election process.

"Basically, (Utah officials) tried to portray BlackBoxVoting as some radical organization, and they portrayed me as a renegade villain," he said. "They don't want this to come out, but it needs to come out at a national level."

Members of BlackBoxVoting did not look to go national at first, but searched for a state that might take action on the issue. With that in mind, their first choice was not Pennsylvania, but California.

The selection was understandable. The Golden State had plenty of battles with election systems makers and even decertified Deibold's touch screen systems in April 2003. Yet, three years later, BlackBoxVoting did not make much headway with state officials, possibly because California's Secretary of State is elected, where Pennsylvania's is appointed, said BlackBoxVoting's Harris.

"There is a lot less politicking that can happen in Pennsylvania than in California," she said. "The very people that are responsible for remediation are running for election right now, and it adds more complexity to the issues."

With little interest from California, Harris turned to Carnegie Mellon's Shamos and Pennsylvania.

After hearing the details of the issue, Shamos knew that he needed to get Pennsylvania officials involved. Within a week, the state held a conference call with Diebold and, under threat of decertification, asked the company to come clean on the security issue. Diebold acknowledged the issue, but classified the threat as low, Shamos said.

The computer scientist's estimation of the flaw is less charitable.

"There are two types of security holes," he said. "The ones that are designed in and which you didn't think about the security implications beforehand or a bug--a mistake--in the program code. This is the first kind: It is not a bug; it's a horribly designed feature."

Other independent sources and the report released this week by BlackBoxVoting also called the security issue a design flaw. To ease system upgrades for Diebold technicians, the company allowed anyone with a memory card and knowledge of certain file names to upgrade any of three levels of system software: the boot loader, the operating system and the application itself.

"There seems to be several backdoors to the system which are unacceptable from a security point of view," stated BlackBoxVoting's report, penned by computer security expert Hursti. "These backdoors exist in each of these three layers and they allow the system to be modified in extremely flexible ways without even basic levels of security involved."

Shamos cautioned against overemphasizing the threat. Poll-worker-level access to the machines is needed for several minutes to accomplish the attack. More importantly, an insider's knowledge of the source code of the machines would be needed to actually attempt to impact an election, he said. With that said, the threat should be taken seriously, he stressed.

"It is a feasible exploit," Shamos said. "You don't have to dip into the realm of science fiction to figure out how someone could make use of this."

Shamos, as often a critic of BlackBoxVoting as not, said the organization did well to approach election officials quietly about the flaw rather than go public with the details.

Based on the findings in the report, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued an order last week to election officials to sequester any systems until a statewide election on May 16 and reload the machines with an authorized copy of election software to be provided by the Department of State for Pennsylvania.

Already, Iowa and California have warned their election officials of the flaw, according to the Associated Press, and Shamos expects more to come.

"Once Pennsylvania does something, then the other states have to follow," he said. "The dominoes have started falling. States cannot sit on this forever."

While state election officials are scrambling to ensure that this month's primaries go off without a hitch, the real deadline is the mid-term elections in November.

Tens of thousands of the AccuVote systems have been deployed by Diebold to various states. Almost 40 percent of voters will cast ballots on "digital recording-electronic" (DRE) systems--a class that included the AccuVote touchscreen terminals--in 2006, according to a report from Election Data Services. Only optical-scan voting systems, which account for about 41 percent of voters, exceed the popularity of touch screens, according to the report.

Many states will not be able to remediate the problem by elections this month, said BlackBoxVoting's Harris. Moreover, those that are doing some sort of workaround for the problem are not doing enough.

"None of the states are doing a mitigation that is going to address the bootloader issue," Harris said. "If the bootloader has been contaminated, you cannot clean it through software, and they are taking a software approach to fixing this."

Instead, the systems need to be opened up, the on-board system rewritten, and the machines need to be sealed up permanently, she said. Otherwise, the bootloader could again be compromised.

The move to electronic voting systems has largely been due to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, which requires that states who want federal funding to modernize their systems adopt certified voting machines, adhere to certain election standards and provide citizens with disabilities the power to vote without aid. Yet, the latest security incident could lead to greater scrutiny on systems that many election officials had given passing marks in the 2004 general elections. The insecure design of Diebold's touch screen systems is only the latest problem flagged this year.

In West Virginia, the Secretary of State filed a complaint this week against e-voting machine maker Election Systems & Software, citing numerous problems counting ballots that "place great hardship" on election officials during primaries on May 9, according to a statement (PDF). At the end of March, Florida's attorney general subpoenaed voting systems makers to testify as to why they refused to sell machines to one Florida county whose election supervisor is an outspoken critic of the reliability and security of the machines.

For Diebold, however, the incident is the latest blow to the image of its voting systems. The company faces shareholder lawsuits and the exit of its CEO. In 2003, a leak of Diebold's source code resulted in a highly critical independent security report. And, in a February letter to the Election Assistance Commission, the governor of Maryland--which has committed to move statewide to Diebold's AccuVote terminals--lambasted the company for the high costs of the deployment, which jumped 78 percent over initial estimates, and a staggering 1000 percent increase in maintenance costs.

"The cost of Maryland’s Diebold voting machines has skyrocketed as our confidence in the system has plummeted,” Maryland governor Robert Ehrlick Jr. stated in the letter (PDF).

Shamos also criticized Diebold's engineering of their product. While he believes that the severity of the flaw is offset by the ease with which he believes a workaround can be put in place, the computer scientist did not let Diebold off the hook. Between now and the November election, the company has to fix all the systems in the field.

His message? "Go back, and for the first time in your life, think about security," Shamos said. "It is clear that they might not be able to do that by themselves."

Already, the company has engineers in the field implementing fixes. This week, Diebold technicians were in Emery County, Utah, completely replacing the system software and recertifying the machines, according to news reports.

"Over the past few months we have been out in the counties in Utah, training and helping with machines--we are just doing it all here in Emery County at one time," Diebold technician Bryan Simpson told the Emery County Progress. "One of the big issues the former county clerk had was the amount of memory the machines have. We have been erasing the operating system software and reinstalling everything on these machines."

As for Emery County's former clerk, he still feels he made the right call.

"You do create a few enemies when you do your job correctly," Funk told SecurityFocus. "I feel what was done was the most important thing to do, and I have not regretted it."

And now, he is just happy to be away from the to-do of county politics.

"I'm trying to catch up on things that I haven't been able to do for years," he said.

Privacy Statement
Copyright 2005, SecurityFocus