Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Impeachment

It's clear as to why John Boehner gave an unequivocal "no" on the impeachment question--rank politics.  Let's face it, he's not a principled conservative, he's a political playa who understands the game.  And the game continues to be using pushback (proposed or actual) against the president as an example of racism and hate.  Democrats know the Tea Party exists on principle.  Game playing isn't something they do well.  So they can be gamed. 

That's why we get stuff like this:



The prez is a playa, too.  He's such a playa he's managed to make some believe he's not a playa. He needs enthusiasm, anger and spirit from those who typically don't come out to vote in a mid-term election.  So he uses canards and race cards to stoke the flame, hoping for the best. It also helps him to divide the opposition, something else Boehner knows.  Let's face it, Democrats don't care about means, it's the ends that count.  Winning keeps the hope and change train rolling, American institutions be damned if they get in the way. 

Impeachment?  No Speaker should ever remove it from the table.  An actual constitutional scholar, Jonathan Turley, has outlined the abuses of power he claims have brought our system of government close to a tipping point.  So yes, some non-racist individuals have been talking about the executive abuses and others have discussed the constitutional remedy. This is racist?   Whether the abuse has reached a level of 'high crimes and misdemeanors' yet is debatable, probably not--but Boehner knows he can't do much more than offer a lawsuit against the first black president or risk losing it all.  It's ugly, but shrewd.   

Speaking of rank politics, it's funny how the president was painted as a constitutional scholar during the 2008 campaign.  They were clearly using it to contrast him with the evil Bush, who everyone accused of having an "imperial presidency" with a "unitary executive".  Now that Obama has said that abusing his power is just "doing my job" and that his opponents are 'hatin' for actually doing the job they were elected to do, nobody is mentioning those C-V credentials anymore.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back to OKC

The Trentadue case is in court this week.  For those not following, a judge has allowed the brother (and attorney) of a man who mysteriously died in jail to grill FBI witnesses about whether they might have a video showing two men exit the Ryder truck on that fateful day.  Jesse Trentadue is trying to clear the name of his brother Kenney, who he believes was mistaken for John Doe Number 2 and beaten to death in a jail cell some months later.  The Feds claim he committed suicide.

They also claim they can't find anymore videos; should a video exist showing two men exiting the truck it would prove that "John Doe Number 2" was real, despite the FBI more or less erasing him some months after the attack.  By the way, this is not the only mystery video some associate with the FBI. 

Lots of theories on this, both right and left.  From a lefty perspective this one is about as good as any--basically the FBI wanted to cover up a far right wing conspiracy so if John Doe 2 exists he was probably someone from the militia movement.

But really, would that be Earth-shattering?  Most people probably got the sense that McVeigh and Nichols were right wing extremists and likely hung around with like-minded persons.  A few more or even some small cells hosteled in the mountains wouldn't be a big shock to most people. 


The far right also suspects the FBI, but some of them believe the FBI pulled off the attack.  Very much like 9/11 truthers, they reason that the government blew up their own building as part of the plot to take away our freedom and liberty through reactions like the Patriot Act.

This would indeed be Earth-shattering, but it's about as likely as Elvis being found alive and working at a Burger King.  Conspiracies become less and less likely as the circle of knowledge increases--some wold talk.  Besides, attributing evil to every person in the government, or at least career bureaucrats, is delusional.

Other right-leaning conspiracies involve a foreign aspect, specially a Muslim connection.   Some have speculated that AQ terrorists were perhaps assisting Terry Nichols make his massive truck bomb, since they had the expertise and had already attacked America.  Nichols was in the Philippines when AQ bomb expert Ramzi Yousef was there and wrote out a will before he left, as if he was expecting some danger.  This view has been mentioned by such noted figures as McVeigh's attorney Stephen Jones and former Clinton administration counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke in his book "Against all Enemies".

There was also an Iraqi connection theory pushed by reporter Jayna Davis, which has been shared by Bob McCarty.  Such a revelation certainly would change the view of the Iraq War but Davis' book isn't entirely convincing since the loose ends cannot be tied up.  Her main suspect seems more like a drifter loser than terrorist.  And McCarty's links are mostly dead now.  So not sure where that's going anymore.    

The AQ contact theory sounds more plausible and would be a little more Earth-shattering to the average Joe since it would suggest a widespread coverup of Islamic terror against America in the 90s, which would not look very good with 9/11 in the background.   It might make some question why those captured in the 90s weren't questioned more.       

There has been speculation the administration didn't want a foreign connection, attributed to former CIA official Vincent Canistraro. Considering who was running Justice and the WH at the time it certainly makes sense to believe they wanted domestic lone wolves, not a large network, assuming they were craven enough to try to steer the truth instead of letting it come out.  It's not hard to see Dick Morris advising on this.

As to what actually happened to Kenneth Trentadue, the facts may never come out.  Maybe he was beaten up and killed in his cell by overzealous guards or interrogators who mistook him for John Doe Number 2, then they tried to cover it up, but that's as far as it goes.  Or maybe he got tired of the rough treatment and killed himself as they said, and they were trying to cover up the previous beatings.  Maybe they told the truth in their report, as far-fetched as it might seem.  But finding out whether there were two suspects in the truck doesn't really solve it one way or the other unless the video conclusively shows Trentadue.  

And if the FBI was trying to cover up a foreign connection it doesn't necessarily say anything conclusive about Trentadue unless he was involved in the plot but wasn't John Doe Number 2.   As in the Nichols-AQ theory, it's not out of the question to speculate that far right wing domestic terrorists/neo Nazis might work with Jew/black-hating Islamic terrorists.  Trentadue could have also been in the wrong place at the wrong time, with no connections to anything, and there could still be a John Doe 2 cover-up. 

As to the question of a foreign connection, here's part of the final conclusion of the Rohrabacher investigation into the matter from 2006:
We have found no conclusive evidence of a foreign connection, but there remain questions that need to be answered before this final chapter can justifiably be closed. This investigation determined that many pieces of so-called evidence backing various theories of a foreign involvement were not based in fact. In some instances, our own research is inconclusive. Specifically, Hussaini and Strassmeir, as well as the Yousef phone calls, needed more investigatory attention. The Subcommittee investigators are dismayed that there remains a lack of willingness by the Department of Justice and others to examine certain legitimate issues. The overall assessment is inconclusive on the varied theories.
But there are a few people who could clear most of this up if we could dump some magic truth dust on them--Ramzi Yousef and Terry Nichols.  They reside together at the SUPERMAX prison in Colorado and neither seems to have been vigorously interrogated, at least such info is not in the public domain.  They both know whether they met each other in Cebu, Philippines in 1994.  Peter Lance has some theories on all of this but don't expect to see them on the big screen anytime soon, or at least not until a certain political faction has finally exited stage left.

COMPELLING   7/30/14

This story popped up some months ago then disappeared, now it's back:
Congressman Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) is one of a number of lawmakers urging the government to declassify 28 redacted pages of a report investigating the attacks of September 11, 2001. Massie said at a press conference earlier this month that when he read the redacted pages of the report, titled “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001,” he had to stop “every couple pages” to try to rearrange his “understanding of history.” “It challenges you to rethink everything,” he said
The speculation last time was that Saudi Arabia was involved somehow, but the congressman simply said it was 'embarrassing'. Since the description was both 'before and after' the 9/11 attacks, one has to wonder if some of this stuff has already come out in various blogs, books and websites over the years but has been ignored by the graniteheads in Washington--so it's news to them.  Or... maybe it's really something new that would change the way everyone thinks.

The bigger question is why these politicians keep teasing this story, as if the 28 pages may actually be declassified sometime soon. They say 'embarrassing', well, if it was embarrassing to Bush it would have come out long ago.  Think of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" movie being backed up by an official report from DC--nice fodder to leak before the 2004 election.  But nothing happened.

So it must be embarrassing to both Clinton and Bush, or perhaps mainly to Clinton, to some other protected entity.  Why would it come out now with Hillary teetering on announcing her campaign--unless that's part of the embarrassment.  Also, the Senate is close to releasing their tome on CIA torture, so perhaps this is the GOP somehow trying to push back.  Whatever it is, they've got a lot of people's curiosity up. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Side Tracks




That was then...

John Kerry at the Democratic National Convention in 2012..
Again and again, the other side has lied about where this president stands and what this president has done. But Prime Minister Netanyahu set the record straight—he said, our two countries have "exactly the same policy…"—"our security cooperation is unprecedented..." When it comes to Israel, I'll take the word of Israel's prime minister over Mitt Romney any day.
President Obama promised to work with Russia to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and signed an historic treaty that does just that. He promised to lock down nuclear materials around the world, and he has done just that. He refused to accept the false choice between force without diplomacy or diplomacy without force.
When a brutal dictator promised to kill his own people "like rats," President Obama enlisted our allies, built the coalition and shared the burden, so that today—without a single American casualty—Moammar Gadhafi is gone and the people of Libya are free.
So on one side of this campaign, we have a president who has made America lead like America again. What is there on the other side? An extreme and expedient candidate, who lacks the judgment and vision so vital in the Oval Office. The most inexperienced foreign policy twosome to run for president and vice president in decades
Emphasis added to point out his perceived successes.  But that was then, this is now:
  • Time Mag headline announcing a "Cold War II" after Russian complicity in the shoot-down of a passenger jet, with no significant consequences; 
  • Israel and HAMAS locked in battle after a failed secret 9 month peace effort was abandoned;
  • Iraq down the drain due to instability in Syria, where the administration failed to effectively intervene leaving over 200,000 dead civilians with a renewed precedent of allowing a dictator to remain in power after using WMDs;
  • part of Ukraine ceded to Putin, who remains one of the main interlocutors over the US-led Iranian nuke agreement talks (which the Iranians just violated without penalty);
  • and a teetering pause in Afghanistan after a contested election with the Taliban salivating as US troops prepare to bug out (after we traded 4 top terrorists for an Army deserter). 

Now this:
The U.S. Embassy in Libya evacuated its personnel on Saturday because of heavy militia violence raging in the capital, Tripoli, the State Department said. About 150 personnel, including 80 U.S. Marines were evacuated from the embassy in the early hours of Saturday morning and were driven across the border into Tunisia, U.S. officials confirm to CNN.
It's hard to imagine how things could be going much worse in all these hotspots.  Meanwhile, the US's fuzzy foreign policy has surely reduced the confidence and trust of our partners and allies around the world.  But this post isn't about reveling in failure to score points, as all these events are bad for America.  No, it's about confirming that blind arrogance sputtered by inept politicians trying to parlay past US failures (or media-fueled narratives of failure) into political victories does nothing to actually prevent bad things from happening once they get into power.  Photo-ops of politicians pushing reset buttons aren't magic. Words and deeds can and should come back to haunt those who use them just to get ahead or belittle opponents.

The president's current projection of nonchalance (going out fund-raising, drinking beer in pool halls, eating hamburgers and such) is no doubt a planned strategy, perhaps to show the world these terrible blow-ups are still beneath the level of alerting a US president.  However, the posturing has done nothing to solve the problems, while raising concern from the American people.  For any other leader it might be time to give a prime time address on foreign policy.   For this president it's not entirely clear whom he believes to be the main enemy.

KERRY TODAY...

Here's part of a statement from the guy who proclaimed that Obama had freed Libya:
He blamed the "freewheeling militia violence," caused by jihadist groups that have only grown in power since the ouster of former president Muammar Gaddafi, for creating an environment in which the diplomatic activities at the Libya embassy had to be suspended.
"A lot of the violence is around our embassy but not on the embassy, but nevertheless it presents a very real risk to our personnel," Kerry said.
Does the pottery barn analogy apply here?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Aviation Update

Re MH17, the whole black box transfer thing was bizarre, almost something one would see in a James Bond movie where thugs hand over the boxes to the third world government rep...



According to a Kiev paper (if it can be believed), part of the deal was that Malaysian officials would give the boxes to an entity that Russia favored:
As part of the deal brokered by Borodai and a Malaysia delegation that included at least one member of the country's national security council, Malaysia must in turn hand over the black boxes to aviation experts favored by Russia to examine them.
Where is Steven Segal when ya need him? 

Meanwhile, the bodies are being sent somewhere in non-rebel Ukraine for identification.  No word on whether there will be autopsies to check for explosive residue and foreign objects common to missiles, which seems a necessary part of any investigation.  Then again, this isn't anything close to any usual investigation.

The US plans to release data supporting its missile theory sometime today, which will probably line up with summary views of some of the aircraft parts that seem consistent with missile damage.  The FDR/CVR probably won't show anything but a sudden loss of data anyway.  Everybody knows this was a missile. 

God be with those poor families having to go through this nightmare.

----

Further south in another war zone, word is out this morning that Delta has canceled all flights in and out of Tel Aviv Ben Gurion due a a HAMAS rocket that landed nearby.  US Airways also canceled today's flight.  And United as well.  Not surprising considering what happened in Ukraine, but also a huge victory for the terrorists.  Keeping commercial US flights--and the cargo they carry--out of Tel Aviv is both an economic and symbolic victory that can put pressure on Bibi's government.  No doubt they will try to land a few more rockets there if they can after such a swift retreat.    

BOTH WAYS   7/23/14

Is it just a simple public safety reason that compelled airlines and now FAA to ban commercial air carrier operations into Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv or something more?   Impossible to say.   Seems the decision as to whether to fly or not could have been made by the airlines.   Having it made by the government brings into play politics.

For instance, the interesting part of today's State Dept press conference was the spoxgirl's reaction to questions about it the ban.  She was pre-emptively defensive, lecturing reporters that there were no American tanks in Baghdad they were entitled to their opinions but not their own facts.   Her main talking point was that the ban would end should Israel agree to a cease-fire.

When pressed by Fox for a comment about Senator Cruz' allegation that it was 'economic blackmail' the spoxgirl mocked Cruz and urged him to check the facts, which are basically unknowable without access to internal inter-agency deliberations.

One could speculate that the administration saw and opening and took it, ie, they realized they could justify the ban due to the HAMAS rocket (despite Iron Dome), knowing it would hurt Israel in the pocketbook and possible given them leverage into forcing a cease fire.  They've been running cover on Operation Sharp Edge (or whatever its called) for weeks, puppeting the line about Israel's right to self defense while simultaneously trying to appease angry Palestinians with weasel talk in the process.  But John Kerry's alleged faux pax on Fox, where he complained about "a helluva pinpoint operation", ie, that's what was agreed to between the two, strongly suggests this ban is a retaliation.  At least one could speculate as much.    

GOOD GRIEF 7/24/14

Stories abound that the missing Algerian MD-83 has been found crashed, yet several observers are not convinced. The search resumes at first light.   There was weather in the area and reports are that the aircraft deviated, but without more info its pointless to speculate.  The area it supposedly crashed in is another war zone, this time with AQIM fighters.

As to the Israel-FAA flight ban, yet another brouhaha.  The president was asked about the safety of the area today by a CNBC reporter and proceeded to immediately defend himself over the political angle without even being attacked.   The State Dept admitted today that the decision was inter-agency, meaning it could have been political.  But it's impossible to prove.   Netanyahu was reportedly outraged, so Cruz has that going for him.   It seems to be one of those events where all parties can spin a political rationale and their opponents can't prove them wrong.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Clinton to Berger on bin Laden

Gotta watch the stuff trickling out of the Bubba R Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.  On a Friday doc dump the library released a handwritten note from the first black president to Sandy 'socks' Berger, his national security advisor at the time, expressing doubt about some intelligence on bin Laden.

The note was written several months after Clinton bombed some tents in Khost Afghanistan and an aspirin factory in the Sudan (1998), which prompted charges he was 'wagging the dog' to remove attention from Monicagate. 

For those who've forgotten, Clinton bombed the plant based on CIA evidence of traces of EMPTA in the ground outside the plant, a substance related to the processing of VX nerve gas.  What most of the mainstream press reports are conveniently ignoring is that the Clinton crew thought Saddam's WMD scientists were involved in helping bin Laden produce this chemical.

So here's the note:


What does it suggest?  And why were they unafraid to release it?  At the same time, they were afraid to release any part of the internal communications between Berger and colleagues Dan Benjamin and Richard Clarke in response--national security.

Well, since Clinton was referencing a NY Times article in 1999 it's useful to understand what Times writer Tim Weiner was saying:
The interviews also raise questions about key assertions that have been made by the Government about Mr. bin Laden. Senior intelligence officials concede that their knowledge of him is sketchy. ''We can't say for sure what was going on'' with him from 1991 to 1996 -- most of the years covered in the indictment -- one senior official said.
His Affluence Seems Overstated Present and former American officials and former business associates of Mr. bin Laden say he appears to control only a fraction of the $250 million fortune that the American Government says he possesses. ''Clearly, his money's running out,'' said Frank Anderson, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency official who maintains close Middle Eastern contacts.
Larry Johnson, the State Department deputy counterterrorism director from 1988 to 1993, said Administration officials had ''tended to make Osama bin Laden sort of a Superman in Muslim garb -- he's 10 feet tall, he's everywhere, he knows everything, he's got lots of money and he can't be challenged.''
Milton Bearden, a retired senior C.I.A. official who ran the agency's war in Afghanistan and retired in 1995, said the Government had ''created a North Star'' in Mr. bin Laden. ''He is public enemy No. 1,'' Mr. Bearden said. ''We've got a $5 million reward out for his head. And now we have, with I'm not sure what evidence, linked him to all of the terrorist acts of this year -- of this decade, perhaps.''
In other words, anonymous CIA and Justice people were telling the Times the legal case against UBL wasn't solid while former high profile intelligence people were downplaying his role.  At the same time Vince Cannistraro, another former intel guy, was telling ABC News that bin Laden might be teaming up with Saddam, while also allegedly telling lawyer Stephen Jones of Oklahoma City bombing fame that the government didn't want any foreign suspects in that case.  Richard Clarke, who was part of the communication with Berger on this event, once famously said UBL might 'boogie to Baghdad' if they missed getting him in Afghanistan.  No wonder Slick was confused.

The key phrase is obviously, "..the CIA sure overstated its case to me..".  So what 'case' does he suspect was being overstated?  This was after a PDB in December 1998 warning of al Qaeda hijacking an airplane to secure the release of members of the 1993 WTC attack and after the embassy attacks, so it's not like terrorism itself was being overstated, just the role of the players involved.

Reporters are assuming he meant CIA was overstating the importance of bin Laden but it's valid to wonder whether Clinton might have been asking a broader question--if UBL is not the 'north star' the CIA claims, who is?   It's hard to imagine how one New York Times article could prompt doubt about terrorism in general, Clinton seemed to be confused on the role of one guy in the nexus--bin Laden.

And that goes directly to the response, which was completely redacted. Keep in mind Clarke and Benjamin have never come off the intelligence that led them to recommend bombing al-Shifa and few if any in the press have grilled them about it.  Returning to Tom Joscelyn's link above..
"The consistent stream of intelligence at that time said it wasn't just al-Shifa. There were three different structures in the Sudan. There was the hiring of Iraqis. There was no question that the Iraqis were there. Some of the Clinton people seem to forget that they did make the Iraqi connection."
So Clinton was questioning the CIA's assessment of UBL, at least in private, while his own team was indicting UBL and making links between him and Saddam Hussein.  As late as 1999. 

Yet when Clinton gave Fox an interview in 2006 (where he wagged his finger at Chris Matthews), he seemed to be saying he did more than anyone to stop bin Laden:
CLINTON: All I'm saying is, you falsely accused me of giving aid and comfort to bin Laden because of what happened in Somalia. No one knew Al Qaeda existed then. And ...
WALLACE: But did they know in 1996 when he declared war on the U.S.? Did they know in 1998 ...
CLINTON: Absolutely, they did.
WALLACE: ... when he bombed the two embassies?
CLINTON: And who talked about ...
WALLACE: Did they know in 2000 when he hit the Cole?
CLINTON: What did I do? What did I do? I worked hard to try to kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still president, we'd have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him.
Now, I've never criticized President Bush, and I don't think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is only one-seventh as important as Iraq.
Pretty feisty, but he admits his counterterrorism team knew about the threat from bin Laden in 1996, three years prior to the note.  Evidently he was still wavering in 1999.

But in the same interview he also told Wallace that neither the CIA nor FBI would 'cerfify' that UBL was behind the attacks, which supports the wishy-washy narrative and provides him some cover despite the CIA setting up a special office in 1996 to track UBL headed by Michael Scheuer (who has been very critical of the Clinton team on apprehending or killing bin Laden in the late 90s).  

It also ignores the aforementioned indictment of UBL in 1998 (mentioning a tie to Iraq then updated to remove ties) and KSM.  Yet here's Slick still questioning the CIA's assessment of UBL's role in global terror in 1999.  Strange.

Could it impact Hillary! 2016?  Only if anyone asks.  Clintonistas might reply that it shows Bill was solidly focused on terrorism but wasn't sure about the intelligence on UBL due to some wishy-washyness at the CIA. Here's a comedic example of how an international news site handled it:
In one file referencing bin Laden, Clinton urgently asked his top national security aide whether the CIA overstated the involvement of the terrorist leader in the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Yes that's it, an 'urgent' Clinton was seeking 'extra' information in his quest for the terror leader. By the way, the indictment was in 1998 as indicated above in this post, not after April 1999 as in the story.  Now here's a biased domestic site:
...
Wait, there's very little coverage in the mainstream press other than a stock AP story.   Which by the way is the one quoted above in the international news site.  The Washington Post ran that stock AP story.  The New York Times, itself mentioned in the release, ran an in-house version of the story that said less than AP.  Did the AP intentionally report the indictment as after the note?   Moving it makes it appear Slick was more engaged or even indicted UBL based on the redacted reply from Berger.  Reality makes him look confused and less engaged.  Josh Gerstein explains as well.   

Aides, if anyone asks, may also argue the note explains his cruise missile flop in 1998, ie, it wasn't wagging the dog, it was the CIA overstating the case--or in other words, he was wondering if he was on the right target or whether someone else was running the terror show.   Those goofballs at CIA!   They could then claim that the response from Berger to Clinton, which nobody in public is allowed to see but they know, but can only summarize in general, was that no, the CIA did not overstate the status of UBL, he was still the top dog.  And Clinton, with his question answered, strapped on his cape and pressed forward in his relentless war against bin Laden, unlike Bush who "ignored" his own August 2001 PDB (heavily covered by the press for some reason) that led to 9/11.  They always have a ready answer that satisfies the baby bird press.

Perhaps more interesting than all the finger pointing and blame shifting is the reminder in the 1999 Times story of anniversaries.  The African embassy bombings of 1998 occurred exactly 8 years to the day after US forces entered Saudi Arabia to begin Operation Desert Shield to protect that country from Saddam's forces in Kuwait.  Add to that, in February 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed on the anniversary of the day celebrated in Kuwait as 'liberation day' (2/26/91) from Saddam's forces, and September 11, 1990 was the day when president George HW Bush first called for a "New World Order" in a speech declaring that Saddam's invasion of Kuwait would not stand.  Even this past week the shoot-down of MH17 occurred on the 18th anniversary of TWA800, although the CIA said there was "not a missile" involved in that one. Terrorists do love their anniversaries.   And yes, this post is too long. Nobody cares anymore.