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Saturday, February 19, 2005

Greg Palast on the Media Freedoms in the US

NOTE: This article was originally published here on 24 September 2004. Republished for the purpose of newsfeed distribution.

Greg Palast has given an interview to Hustler magazine. Most of the interview is dedicated to the issues of press freedoms in the US,- or, rather, how the mainstream media outlets choose to exercise those freedoms.

It is rather curious that this sort of interview was published in Hustler and not, for instance, The New York Times. While I have little interest in pornography, I certainly need to acknowledge Hustler's achievements in presenting controversial opinions which still need to be voiced,- especially in the times when the journalistic mainstream shies away from such opinions.

Greg Palast speaks about potentially scandalous issues which most Americans likely never heard about. The interview is centered around Mr Palast's explosive book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
HUSTLER: What kind of material do you have in the book?
PALAST: How about this for an example: After Daddy Bush left the White House, he went to work for a company called Barrick Gold Corporation in Canada, something you haven't read in the United States. The first thing he does is pick up a big, fat check and stock options from Barrick Gold Corporation for, essentially, selling them the presidential seal and the presidential Rolodex. And he writes letters to dictators like [former president of Indonesia] Suharto, saying, "Give these nice guys gold-mining concessions."
HUSTLER: What is Barrick Gold?
PALAST: It was founded with money from Adnan Khashoggi, the arms dealer. You may remember that Adnan was the bagman in the guns-for-hostages, Iran-Contra scandal. The sheikh got out, then Bush got in. You have to ask yourself a question: What would a Canadian gold-mining company do with a used president? Well, it turns out that before he left office, Daddy Bush put in motion an expedited process for laying claims to gold in the United States. It allowed Barrick Gold Corporation and a couple of other operators to lay claim to the largest gold mines in America. To stake a claim on $10 billion worth of gold ore, Barrick paid the U.S. Treasury less than $10,000.
HUSTLER: I would have gone for that myself. I could have scraped together $10,000.
PALAST: All I can say is that Barrick was very, very grateful for the gold mine. But the public got the shaft, and Daddy Bush got the job. And George W. got the donations. That's the other thing that has been unreported here: People don't realize how much easy squeezy [campaign money] is flowing in. That includes things like parallel spending and soft money and hard money, which, by the way, hasn't ended. You know that our Congress has passed campaign-finance reform, so-called. What they did was eliminate soft money, but they doubled the amount of hard money. It's just Viagra for campaign donations. Our big problem is that we held something closer to an auction than an election in America. A lot of the reason [George W.] Bush raised all that cash-that easy squeezy-is because of his father's business connections. You're never quite sure where the Bush family's bank account ends, and the campaigns and our American policy begin.
While there is a natural connection between political and business activities, one would think that it is a media's natural responsibility to explore and report on such connections. And it Mr Palast's account is correct, then it would appear that the US media is not doing a terribly good job of such reporting. And, given that there are no official attempts to deny his account, it is likely correct.

Mr Palast also asserts that corporate interest stood in the way of preventing 9/11 before it happened, and investigating it afterwards.
HUSTLER: Your book also mentions Bush and intelligence failures prior to September 11, right?
PALAST: CIA and FBI agents told BBC Television, for which I was reporting, that they were ordered not to investigate Saudi Arabian financing of terror networks such as al Qaeda. The FBI agents "accidentally" left a file about the Bin Laden family on the desk of one of my researchers. They called up and said, "Oops, we left our file on your desk by accident. You haven't read it, have you? Well, we'll be back to pick it up in 30 minutes-unless you need 45." The FBI agents handed us material dated September 13, 2001, two days after the attack. It was on that date that the FBI was finally released to go after two members of the Bin Laden family, who they had already identified as being involved with a suspected terrorist organization. But by September 11, they were flown birds.
HUSTLER: What happened to other members of the Bin Laden family living in the U.S. after 9/11?
PALAST: Just after the no-fly restriction was lifted, a private Saudi Arabian jet airlifted the Bin Laden family members out of the country before the FBI could talk to them. Everyone thinks there's just one black sheep in that family, but the FBI agents were telling us at BBC that they think there's a couple of gray sheep, and they had some questions for the family members. There were a lot of people
dead under the rubble at that moment when those people left.
HUSTLER: What had American policy been regarding the Bin Laden family prior to the Bush Administration?
PALAST: Bill Clinton had already put a go-slow on investigations of Saudi Arabian financing of terror networks. Clinton had always taken the position that we can't annoy our dear friends, the Saudis, even if our dear friends happen to be funding terrorists like the al Qaeda network; however, he never actually stood in the way of investigating them, whereas George W., according to FBI and intelligence agents, said, "You can't go there. You may not look. You may not investigate the American Bin Ladens."
HUSTLER: So the FBI and CIA agents were pissed at George W.?
PALAST: They are furious. He blindsided our intelligence agencies. How could a trillion-dollar intelligence operation like the CIA not foresee the most deadly attack on America since Pearl Harbor? The answer is not because Bush knew about September 11 in advance. Rather, they were told not to look because of connections that are political, personal and financial between the Bushes and the Saudis. When these agencies were told not to look, there was a lot not to look at. There was a 1996 meeting between the al Qaeda financial arm, Saudi billionaires and key international arms dealers. There was a discussion about which Saudis would pay how much to al Qaeda. Now if I can find out about it, and the French intelligence had a mole in the meeting, you can bet that our trillion-dollar CIA could find out about it; so why wasn't there follow-up? Why wasn't there action? How about a note to the Saudis saying, "Do us a favor: Stop giving money to people who are killing us."
HUSTLER: What about the Bin Laden and Bush connections to the Carlyle Group?
PALAST: The Bin Ladens were investors in a very private and a very exclusive operation called Carlyle, which is an investment group. Carlyle is one of the biggest private corporations on the planet; so they report to no one, and they're responsible to no one, except their little coterie of owners, which is made up of an ex-president and dictators. Daddy Bush worked for, and still continues to be on a retainer for, the Carlyle Group, representing the company in Saudi Arabia and in Asia. His son, our President, was also put on the board of one of the companies owned by Carlyle, Caterair, and he was paid on the order of $50,000 for them to access his great business acumen. Caterair went under, but they never asked for their money back.
HUSTLER: What about George W.'s oil ventures?
PALAST: He had several oil ventures and could never find oil in Texas, which is almost impossible, as you know. On the other hand, he had a company, Spectrum Seven, which was bought out by another company, Harken Oil. Before that, he had Arbusto, which means shrub. He could never find oil, this guy. But he did find Saudi Arabians who put money into Harken and got him on the board where he was paid consulting fees. Then, despite the fact that the company seems to be going south, a miracle occurred. That is, the Bahraini government insisted on giving Harken Oil a contract to drill in the Persian Gulf. This is a dry-land Texas company suddenly being given an offshore oil lease by a country that had previously been doing business with Amoco. They picked this little, teeny company out of nowhere, which of course has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the guy was the son of the President of the United States.
While there is nothing wrong with being in the oil business, it appears that George W Bush has a strong conflict of interest when it comes to conducting policy in oil-rich regions. And Middle East happens to be just such a region. And it also happens to be where the most crucial world events happen today. The logical summation of these observations must be that due to a conflict of interest, George W Bush ought to be disqualified from formulating the US foreign policy, especially in the capacity of President.

Palast gives a powerful account of the state of journalism in the US today. We must note that the blame lies on all of us, not just the corporate powers, for in a situation where there is no direct state oppression it is still our choice whom to support and finance in the media.
HUSTLER: What has happened to the news media in this country?
PALAST: I vomit every time I see Tom Brokaw.
HUSTLER: And Dan Rather-
PALAST: I feel sick at heart when I see Rather, because he's actually a journalist. He came on my program, Newsnight [in England] and said, "I can't report the news. I'm not allowed to ask questions. We're gonna send our children and our husbands into the desert now, and I can't ask a question, because I will be lynched." This is what Rather said in London. He looked defeated and awful, and I was thinking, Why am I feeling sorry for this guy who is worth millions? He should turn to the camera and say, "Well, now for the truth. Over to you, Greg, in London." The problem is that he can't report the story of the intelligence agents who are told not to look at the Bin Laden family, not to look at Saudi funding of terror.
The journalists themselves are also to blame, says Palast. And I think he's got an excellent point there.
HUSTLER: What makes Rather afraid to do his job?
PALAST: It's not just that there are brutal shepherds like Rupert Murdoch out there to beat the dickens out of any reporter that asks the wrong questions; it's all about making news on the cheap. You know, for some of these editors, cheap and easy is a philosophy of life. To do a heavy-duty story on Bush, his oil and Bush and his gold-mining company is beyond them. A little bit of the Harken stock scandal came out, but that story was already seven years old. To some extent they know that there are certain things you cannot say. Rather says he would be necklaced for telling the truth.
HUSTLER: He said that? What did he mean?
PALAST: In South Africa, under apartheid, if someone didn't like you, they put a burning tire around your neck. That was called "necklacing." On my show, Rather said, "If I ask any questions, I'll be necklaced." And I'm thinking, Oh, that's a good image. It's sad, but if Dan Rather doesn't have the cojones to ask a question, then you name a reporter who's gonna step out and ask about what's going on. It's not that the corporate guys say, "Don't run that story," although that has happened to me many times in North American media, but also the shepherds pick the lambs who won't ask the questions. For example, there was a reporter, some poor producer, who wanted to run a story about how Jack Welch had lied about polluting the Hudson River. The story didn't run. Shockeroo. That was for Dateline NBC, owned by General Electric, of which Jack Welch was the chairman of the board. Or as in the case of Venezuela, I was stunned to come back from Caracas to find a picture on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle of 100,000 people marching against the president of Venezuela. Sounds like he's a terrible guy and people hate him. What they didn't say was that half a million people were marching for him. At least the Soviet Russians knew that the stuff in Pravda was coming out the wrong end of a toilet, whereas, we live under the pretense that the New York Times prints all the news that's fit to print.
HUSTLER: I won't read the New York Times. That publication has no credibility with me.
PALAST: The New York Times ran a story, front page, the first week of September 2001, talking about gold-mining companies in Nevada and how they seem to be getting let off the hook by the Bush Administration on environmental rules. They didn't mention two things in that front-page article: They didn't mention the owner of the big gold mine-Barrick-and they didn't mention who had been on their board-the President's daddy. I brought that up to an editor of the Times. They said, "How dare you? No one has ever accused the New York Times of cowardice," and [former Times writer] Seymour Hersch leaned over to me and said, "That's the guy who had me pushed out of the Times."
HUSTLER: They haven't really told the truth about Bush and the 2000 election, either.
PALAST: I've got brand-new, deeply evil stuff about that in the new book. What happened was that, five months before the election, Katherine Harris, acting under orders from Jeb Bush, knocked 57,000 voters off the rolls. They were suspected of being evildoers and felons and, therefore, not allowed to vote in Florida. Here's the news: Of the 57,000 people, 97% were innocent of crimes, but they were guilty of being black. Half of them were African-American or Hispanic-in other words, Democratic voters. Was the state guessing who the people of color were? In Florida, it's like South Africa; they list your race right on your registration. There was no guessing. These people not only lost their vote, but lost their president. BBC figures Gore lost 22,000 votes this way, but you didn't read that in the U.S. press. You didn't read in the U.S. press that they say they're going to allow the voters back on in 2003. That means that they were screwed for the election of 2002 as well. I ran the story of the theft of the election on the BBC. Then a hotshot with CBS News calls me and says, "Oh, that's a great story, can we have a piece of it? We want something new." I said, "Yeah, I got something for you: Jeb Bush's office, the governor of Florida, is involved in knocking off the voters too, not just Katherine Harris, and there's a letter dated September 18, 2000, which directs county-elections officials to deliberately violate the law and not register a bunch of people who are Democrats. These are people who committed crimes in other states. Jeb can't legally stop them from voting, but he did anyway. And he knows that these people are Democrats, because there's something about going to jail that turns people [into] Democrats, about 93% [of ex-cons vote Democrat]."
HUSTLER: So, people who were either black or who had previously gone to jail were just automatically eliminated?
PALAST: Right. Jeb sent out the letter anyway, September 18, 2000, despite two court orders saying he couldn't do that. I had an insider in his office, some poor woman, shaking, saying, "I gotta read you this letter." She knew about the court orders. Okay, so I said to CBS, "That's a story." CBS News didn't run the story-one night, two nights. I said, "What happened?" They said, "It didn't stand up." I said, "How do you know the story didn't stand up?" "Well, we called Jeb Bush's office, and they said, 'We didn't do it.'" Oh. Hotshot Dan Rather investigative news team. They said, "The letter doesn't exist. It's not in the computer files; it's in no one's files, not in the governor's files. It's nowhere to be found." Then Katherine Harris writes a hysterical, screeching letter to Harper's magazine, calling me twisted and maniacal, but she didn't say I was wrong. She said, "Yeah, we knocked off these people, but it's not my fault; I got a letter from the governor." I called up her office-I didn't say, "This is Mr. Twisted and Maniacal"-I said, "Um, excuse me, I got a letter from your Secretary of State saying that she had a letter from the governor, before the election, regarding removing people from the voter rolls. Could you fax that to me?" Suddenly, the letter that CBS says doesn't exist is faxed to me. I've got it in my hot little hands, the letter that was in Katherine Harris's desk; so CBS just took an official denial, because they're not gonna say, "The President's brother, the governor of the state of Florida, fixed the election"-that we had a coup d'├ętat by computer.
So, in essence it took Mr Palast one phone call to find a confirmation for a story that CBS News was unable to obtain. That may, of course, have been a case of laziness on the part of the CBS News, however, I find it quite reasonable to ask whether that was laziness or lack of willingness to learn the truth.

Greg Palast is certainly a very energetic and dedicated journalist. I think he is setting an example that the media in the US critically needs to follow. For now, however, alternative media appears to be where those interested in the truth as it is ought to go to.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Not a Bad Heist Indeed

NOTE: This article was originally published here on 26 August 2004. Republished for the purpose of newsfeed distribution.


I like heist movies. In films like "Heat" you see some really tough, intelligent guys take well-defended scores, effectively prosecuting a difficult war against both the police and their rivals in the mean streets. They may be immoral,- but they are definitely good.

The real life, I guess, is a bit more prosaic. The heists one sees happening are less risky, done mostly through shuffling the right papers the right way, bribing the right officials, writing vague enough rules and regulations. The work may be mundane, but the results are nonetheless impressive.

In his report Col David Hackworth details the $8.8 billion dollars alleged to have "gone South" in Iraq. This reads like a detective novel, though is a little bit dull for a novel, I'd agree.

For example, the CPA paid 74,000 guards even though the actual number of guards couldn't be validated. On one site alone, 8,206 guards were on the payroll, but only 603 warm bodies could be counted. Elsewhere, more than $17 million was allocated to guards and the Iraqi army without one piece of backup paper. Pals in Iraq say this has been standard drill since the birth of "very dysfunctional" CPA.

The report cites, "An improper $120 million disbursement was made in May 2004 because of miscommunication between CPA/OMB and Comptroller's office." In other words, $120 million went south but was blithely rationalized as some clerks getting their wires crossed!
However, it appears that the GIs whose arms made this little party possible in the first place are not quite invited to it.
Meanwhile, the armed forces' PX system (AAFES) is into charging our GIs in $9 for a 12-inch pizza. A similar pizza is $8.99 at a pizzeria near Greenwich, Conn., where prices compete with Beverly Hills. The manager told me that about half of this price was gross profit. Lt. Col. Debra Pressley of the AAFES insists the $9 price is "fair and competitive with commercial outlets, including locations in Greenwich".

And so it seems to be. But why? Don't our soldiers deserve a better deal? Or is our government reduced to trying to make up the AWOL bucks on our soldiers' backs?

The powers that be sure planned to make a profit by charging $3 per head for watching movies in Iraq at least until we blew the whistle. But once we broke the story, I got e-mails and phone calls from generals and colonels denying that the $3 charge had been scheduled, even though on July 3, 2004, the deputy commander in Balad, Iraq, put out this communication: "CG (Commanding General) has directed that we begin charging movie fees beginning on 7 July 2004 in the amount of $3.00 per show."

The local general now says it wasn't ever going to happen. Ditto the AAFES general and her spinner minions. Like the 9/11 report and the missing money in Iraq, no one will ever be held responsible.
War is good business, I suppose.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Free Speech Zones

NOTE: This article was originally published here on 12 August 2004. Republished for the purpose of newsfeed distribution.


In modern Russian the prison jargon has become a significant part of many people's vocabulary. Those who use it are not necessarily criminals or ex-inmates,- this linguistic infusion penetrates all layers of the society, from the streets of industrial towns to the corridors of power. And that is an inevitable consequence of mass imprisonment which reached its peak during the years of Stalin's purges and has remained part of Russia's reality to this day. In his world renowned book GULAG Archipelago Alexander Solzhenitsyn provides a masterful description of how the world of prisons affects the world on the other side of the fence,- linguistically, culturally, mentally and in many other ways.

In Russian prison jargon "zona" (Russian for "zone") means "prison camp". Thus to a Russian speaker this modern term, "free speech zone", sounds somewhat ironic. I have recently seen the one in Boston next to the Fleet Center, the site of the Democratic National Convention. To a large extent I believe the description of it Dahlia Lithwick provides in her New York Times column to be correct.

The largely ignored "free-speech zone" at the Democratic convention in Boston last month was an affront to the spirit of the Constitution.
You may want to take a look at these pictures and see for yourself. Personally, I think these pictures show it in a bit too grim a light,- but not by much. I think Lithwick is also correct in her comments on some sections of the Patriot Act.
One section invented a broad new crime called "domestic terrorism" - punishing activities that "involve acts dangerous to human life" if a person's intent is to "influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion." If that sounds as if it's directed more toward effigy-burning, or Greenpeace activity, than international terror, it's because it is. International terror was already illegal.
My only comment to her above statement would be that all terrorism, whether originating overseas or within the US, had been illegal long before Ashcroft came up with an idea to write the Patriot Act. Furthermore, so has been murder, assault and destruction of property, as well as conspiracy to commit the above-mentioned crimes,- the crimes that pretty much inevitably follow every terror attack.

Specifically regarding the "free speech zones", I must admit to a complete mental failure to comprehend what security objective they accomplish. I tend to think wearing a button or a t-shirt with a certain verbiage on it has not yet stopped anybody from engaging in any sort of violence (unless you believe in amulets, that is). So it is beyond me why, given their prior knowledge of the practice of "free speech zones", an individual or a group planning an act of sabotage would not pose as supporters to get as close as they can to the group or person they seek to harm. And unless those who have instituted the practice come forth with a sensible explanation as to what security benefits it yields, I will continue to view that practice exclusively as that of intimidation, oppression and censorship.

"We don't have a strategy. We can't even decide what the problem is."

NOTE: This article was originally published here on 22 September 2004. Republished for the purpose of newsfeed distribution.


This is what Daniel Goure, an adviser to the Department of Homeland Security, is quoted as saying. This may sound like an out-of-context remark of a man who feels frustrated as he is coming out of an unproductive meeting,- but to anyone who has read this article by Mick Youther it will likely sound like anything but.

As Mr Youther correctly observes,

Whenever pollsters ask, “Who is better on terrorism”, George W. Bush always gets high marks. Why? I don’t know, because the facts say something quite different.
This reflects precisely the impression I have had for a long time,- namely, that in all of this Administration's activities related to combating terrorism there is little to suggest that an outstanding job has been done. For some reason, however, the Bush detractors often fail to point this fact out, opting to give Bush credit for combating terrorism and criticize him for his performance in other areas. But there is reason to believe that even credit given him for his counter-terrorism efforts may be largely undeserved.

Mr Youther provides an excellent list of facts to believe that. Here are some.
• “Bush had been saying that he was proposing $3.5 billion in ‘new’ money for first responders. However, his budget tried to cut more than $1 billion out of existing grants to local police/fire departments to fund this. Then, in August of 2002, Bush rejected $150 million for grants to state and local first responders.” (There are fewer police and first responders on the streets today than on 9/11.-- The Progress Report, 9/9/04)

• “‘We're working hard to make sure your job is easier, that the port is safer.’--Bush, 6/24/02…The President’s 2003 and 2004 budget provides zero for port security grants. …Additionally, in August, the President vetoed all $39 million for the Container Security Initiative which he specifically touted.”

• “While Bush did hold a photo-op to sign legislation promising more INS/Border Patrol staff and facilities, his budget provided no additional money for this. Additionally, in August, Bush vetoed $6.25M for promised pay upgrades for Border Patrol agents…. His 2004 Budget slashes total total “Border and Transportation Security” by $284 million.”
It is about time for me to call it a night. As Mick Youther puts it,
So, sleep soundly tonight. George W. Bush will protect you (unless he’s on vacation).

Monday, February 14, 2005

On Classification Powers

As reported here,
WASHINGTON -- February 10 -- Today Rep. Waxman and Rep. Maloney ask for hearings on whether political considerations caused the Administration to delay release of findings by the 9/11 Commission about pre-attack warnings.

The gist of the letter authored by Rep. Waxman and Rep. Maloney is best relayed by the following paragraphs:
The Honorable Tom Davis Chairman
Committee on Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We are writing to request that our Committee hold hearings to investigate two extremely serious questions raised by an article that appeared in this morning's New York Times. The first question is whether the Administration misused the classification process to withhold, for political reasons, official 9/11 Commission staff findings detailing how federal aviation officials received multiple intelligence reports warning of airline hijackings and suicide attacks before September 11. The second question relates to the veracity of statements, briefings, and testimony by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice regarding this issue.

Background

This morning's New York Times reported that in "the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal aviation officials reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations."[1] The article explained that the Federal Aviation Administration "received 52 intelligence reports" that mentioned Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001, and that the FAA warned airports that if "the intent of the hijacker is not to exchange hostages for prisoners, but to commit suicide in a spectacular explosion, a domestic hijacking would probably be preferable."

This information was included in a staff report by the 9/11 Commission dated August 26, 2004. The 9/11 Commission report found that there was "intelligence that indicated a real and growing threat leading up to 9/11," but that this intelligence "did not stimulate significant increases in security procedures." Although the report did not find that the government had advance information about the specific September 11, 2001, attacks, it reported that the FAA took various measures to warn airport security officials about "the possibility of a suicide hijacking."

Declassification Process

The first question Committee hearings should address is whether the Bush Administration abused the classification process to improperly withhold the 9/11 Commission findings from Congress and the public until after the November elections and the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State. Although the 9/11 Commission staff completed its report on August 26, 2004, the Bush Administration refused to declassify the findings until January 28, 2005, less than 48 hours after Ms. Rice was confirmed as Secretary of State.[2] At that time, the Department of Justice delivered both a classified version and an unclassified version to the National Archives, the agency charged with collecting and retaining all 9/11 Commission documents.

To summarize the above in a rather primitive way, the allegations amount to the following: there were warnings prior to Septermber 11, 2001 that something was likely to happen much akin to what actually did take place. The Administration, however, classified the data contained in the above-mentioned warnings, and the 9/11 Commission report mentioned those warnings but in a way that downplayed their significance. Reps. Waxman and Maloney also suspect that the only reason for that classification was the Administration's view - probably quite correct - of those reports as politically damaging.

I tend to believe that the Representatives' suspicions here are not without merit. The Sibel Edmonds illustrates this point quite well. Edmonds, a former FBI translator, alleged improprieties within the FBI - and was consequently slapped with a gag order by none other than Attorney General John Ashcroft who happened to lead the Justice Department of which thee FBI was a unit. And, although we are not allowed to know the truth, it certainly does appear that the FBI - and, by extension, the Bush Administration, had something to hide here. As James Ridgeway reports in this Village Voice article of his,
Edmonds is the translator hired by the FBI after 9-11 to help its woefully inadequate staff translate documents and wiretaps pertaining to the attacks in languages such as Farsi and Turkish. As she has told the Voice in past and recent interviews, she was given a top secret security clearance. She soon discovered that there were what she describes as two enemy moles with possible connections to 9-11 working both in the FBI and with the Air Force in weapons procurement for Central Asia, at one point. These were the Dickersons: Douglas with the Air Force and his Turkish-born wife, Melek Can Dickerson, with the FBI as a translator monitor. After they were subpoenaed for a court hearing, they left for Belgium in September 2002 and have not been heard from since.

Among other things Edmonds told her FBI superiors, she had discovered that Melek Can Dickerson affixed Edmonds's name to a printout of inaccurate translations. Properly translated, she says, these wiretaps revealed a Turkish intelligence operative in communication with his spies in both the Pentagon and the State Department.

When Edmonds tried to tell her FBI superiors what was going on, the bureau seized her home computer, gave her a lie detector test (which she later found she passed), and then fired her, warning her not to talk�backing that up by following her around in an open and intimidating surveillance. That didn't stop her. She went to the Senate Judiciary Committee and told her story. The committee's then chair, Vermont's Patrick Leahy, and ranking minority member Charles Grassley of Iowa wrote a letter to Justice demanding to know what was going on. Subsequently the FBI confirmed some of Edmonds's claims.

It is worth mentioning that although many Americans probably never heard of Sibel Edmonds, her allegations, if proven correct, could become a major overlooked issue in the analysis of the events of 9/11. As I have said before concerning the issues raised by Sibel Edmonds,
The letter above summarizes the experiences of just one woman, working in a fairly low-level position for the FBI for a short period of a mere several months. Let us take it with a grain of salt, as she may be bitter or highly subjective for other reasons, and, for the sake of argument, discount half of what she is saying. We still get a very grim picture of glaring omissions in the relevant portions of the 9/11 report.

Let us also for the sake of argument assume that everything stated in the report is 100% true,- which may be the case,- but let us merely assume that the "omission ratio", so to speak, in parts of the reports other than the ones Sibel Edmonds' experience is relevant to, is comparable to that in the sections she is discussing in her letter. That leaves us with a report so incomplete as to be almost irrelevant. It is akin to a building which is made of quality materials,- but in which entire floors are missing.

Let us now leave the particulars of both the recently declassified pre-9/11 FAA warnings and Sibel Edmonds' allegations alone and address the overall issues of who and how decides what is to be classified and what gets to stay in the public domain. Whenever the government has power over what the citizens learn, it has the power to manipulate them. Totalitarian regimes take this power a long way continually strengthening their control over the society by manipulating the citizens' perception. In a democratic society, however, all information is available to the public - save for what could harm the security of the society lest it be released into the public domain.

However, it is to be expected that government officials are liable to abuse power whenever they are allowed to and use their authority not only to declare what is truly sensitive classified, but also to avoid the disclosure of information that could be of a potentially damaging nature to them. One must also remember that the security of the society and political security of those in power seldom run together - in fact, quite possibly the disclosure of some information deemed secret by the government officials can damage or even bring down a government, yet improve the national security of the country.

It is my opinion that the classification mechanism currently in use in the US is deeply flawed and needs to be revised. One idea would be to have an independent body - maybe a committee of some sort outside of the government - that would decide what gets classified and for how long. The system we have now is broken and a threat to our security and liberties.

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