Army Denies Doing What It Has Always Done

Angry Waters

The Army spokes-liar for William Caldwell says the facts reported by Michael Hastings are not true, and proves it by assertion. Or actually, doesn’t prove it at all, just denies the evidence, and the New York Times dutifully reports it. Were you surprised? I wasn’t. Notice also Michael Hastings’ article isn’t linked to in this story: you aren’t supposed to read it and make up your own mind.

The spokesman for a three-star general accused of instructing troops to carry out “psychological operations” to sway visiting members of Congress said Saturday that the general was innocent of any wrongdoing.

Lt. Col. Shawn Stroud, communications director for NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan, sent out a personal e-mail to friends and colleagues to “categorically deny the assertion” that the commander, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, or his officers “used an Information Operations cell to influence distinguished visitors.”

Rolling Stone magazine reported Thursday that General Caldwell or his senior aides improperly ordered a team of specialists to gather information about Congressional delegations to persuade them to endorse the allocation of more money and troops for the training effort.

“The evidence provided in the Rolling Stone article is misleading at best and outright false in many places,” Colonel Stroud wrote in the e-mail, which was labeled as a personal note and not an official news release. A copy of the e-mail was provided to The New York Times.

(click here to continue reading Officer Says General Didn’t Try to Sway Visiting Congress Members –

and the NYT legal department must have gotten a phone call:

Correction: February 26, 2011

An earlier version of this article included a headline that misstated the status of the investigation of Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV. It is still ongoing, and he has not been cleared.


Military to Investigate Whether Caldwell Ordered Improper Effort to PsyOp Lawmakers

Bring them Home

Looks like the Army has access to Rolling Stone magazine, on the web at least, and is going to issue a press release in a couple of weeks. If I was a betting person, I’d lay money on the “nothing happened”, “nothing to see” side of the investigation getting top billing.

The American commander in Afghanistan will order an investigation into accusations that military personnel deployed to win Afghan hearts and minds were instructed over their own objections to carry out “psychological operations” to help convince visiting members of Congress to increase support for the training mission there, military officials said Thursday.

A brief statement issued by the military headquarters in Kabul said Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander in Afghanistan, “is preparing to order an investigation to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the issue.”

The investigation was prompted by an article released Thursday by Rolling Stone magazine that described an “information operation” or “psychological operation” ordered by Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, who is in charge of training Afghan security forces.

The article said that General Caldwell and his senior aides ordered a team of specialists to gather information about distinguished visitors and create a campaign to sway, in particular, traveling American lawmakers to endorse more money and troops for the war. When the officer running the team resisted, saying that it would not be proper, he was ordered in writing to make this his priority.

Under pressure, the article said, quoting the officer and numerous documents, the team eventually gathered biographies and things like the guests’ voting records — a standard task for headquarters staff before visits by Congressional delegations. The article quotes a spokesman in Kabul denying that the command used an information operations cell to influence high-ranking visitors.

(click here to continue reading Military to Investigate Whether General Ordered Improper Effort to Sway U.S. Lawmakers –

Not Only Warriors Of the Air

and more stating of the obvious:

This is not the first time that military officers have developed information or persuasion campaigns viewed as improper by members of Congress.

The New York Times reported in late 2007 that Ellen O. Tauscher, during her tenure as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from California, visited Iraq and found that a biography compiled by military communications officers was distributed to Iraqi officials and American troops before her meetings.

The material highlighted her critical remarks about the Bush administration’s war strategy — but did not mention her sponsorship of legislation requiring more time at home for combat troops or support of financing for armored vehicles. Ms. Tauscher, now serving as under secretary of state, said the document left her “feeling slimed.”


Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators

Are We Really Free

Michael Hastings is not going to get a Christmas card from the Pentagon this year, methinks. And the cynic in me wonders how many years has this policy gone on. Probably since George Washington? Only the tools and techniques have become drastically more sophisticated as Army scientists figure out how to manipulate brains better.

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as “information operations” at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.”

The list of targeted visitors was long, according to interviews with members of the IO team and internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. Those singled out in the campaign included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts.

(click here to continue reading Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators | Rolling Stone Politics.)


Business government

Pink Light Over Boeing

Pink Light Over Boeing

Boeing, one of our corporate overlords.

Behold, 2007’s expenditures, estimated. These numbers have gone up several percentage points since then:

Total Purchases: $306,521,269,483

Rank Parent Company Total Air Force Army Navy
1 Lockheed Martin Corp. $27,320,616,068 $13,134,039,297 $4,129,352,342 $9,368,161,063
2 Boeing Co. 20,861,418,122 9,066,016,130 4,571,754,905 5,047,577,486

(click here to continue reading Top 100 Defense Contractors (8/15/07) —

And for a little perspective:

Top Ten Miliitary Spending 2009

2009 defense budgets, by nation, showing just the top ten. Notice how much bigger the U.S.’s percentage is…

This is a list of countries by military expenditures. The list is based on the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) database which calculates military expenditures in 2009 (in constant 2008 US$)

Rank↓ ↓ Country↓ Military expenditure, 2009[2]↓ % of GDP, 2008↓
1 United States United States 663,255,000,000 4.3%
2 People's Republic of China China 98,800,000,000 2.0%
3 United Kingdom United Kingdom 69,271,000,000 2.5%
4 France France 67,316,000,000 2.3%
5 Russia Russian Federation 61,000,000,000 3.5%
6 Germany Germany 48,022,000,000 1.3%
7 Japan Japan 46,859,000,000 0.9%
8 Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia 39,257,000,000 8.2%
9 Italy Italy 37,427,000,000 1.7%
10 India India 36,600,000,000 2.6%


Even in these lean economic times, the right of Boeing, Lockheed Martin and similar companies to make obscene profits is sacrosanct, and Obama’s 2012 Budget gives Defense a 5% increase. Domestic programs must be sliced to balance the federal budget, but defense contractors remain fat.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates already has revealed the Pentagon will seek $553 billion in its 2012 Pentagon budget plan — the largest request ever — and slower growth than planned over the next four years. He also has revealed proposals to end several major weapons programs, including the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).

That means the spending plan “will be anti-climactic in the broad sense,” according to one senior House defense aide.

Indeed, while Gates promised to cut $78 billion over five years, most of that reduction would take place in 2014 and 2015. As Center for American Progress senior fellow and President Reagan’s former assistant secretary of defense Larry Korb points out, Obama’s request is “5% higher than what the Defense Department plans to spend this year. In inflation-adjusted dollars, this figure is higher than at any time during the Bush years or during the Cold War.” In fact, the total military budget this year “comes in at a thumping $750 billion — an annual tax of more than $7,000 on every household in the country.” And while there are clear ways to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget, it seems that many in the GOP have no intention of doing so.

(click here to continue reading ThinkProgress » Pentagon’s 2012 Spending Proposal Is ‘The Largest Request Ever’ Since World War II.)

These are only the budgeted amounts, the Pentagon manages to go over budget nearly every year since General Eisenhower was in office.

So are you willing to give $7,000 to the military this year? and more the year after? and more the year after that?

government politics

The Runaway General and the Runaway War in Afghanistan

General McChrystal ignited a bit of a shite-storm with intemperate remarks about various White House officials. Not so much about policy differences with Obama, but personality conflicts, and an eagerness to speak ill of his civilian bosses, on the record. He should be fired, or demoted, or chastised in some form.

However, the more important fact I gleaned from the article is that we are fighting a useless and futile war in Afghanistan, wasting blood,1 resources, and intellectual energy. Meanwhile our own country needs some infrastructure investments that are ignored: water pipes, public schools, mass transit, clean energy, yadda yadda. Al Qaeda isn’t even in Afghanistan anymore, as far as we know.

When it comes to Afghanistan, history is not on McChrystal’s side. The only foreign invader to have any success here was Genghis Khan – and he wasn’t hampered by things like human rights, economic development and press scrutiny. The COIN doctrine, bizarrely, draws inspiration from some of the biggest Western military embarrassments in recent memory: France’s nasty war in Algeria (lost in 1962) and the American misadventure in Vietnam (lost in 1975). McChrystal, like other advocates of COIN, readily acknowledges that counterinsurgency campaigns are inherently messy, expensive and easy to lose. “Even Afghans are confused by Afghanistan,” he says. But even if he somehow manages to succeed, after years of bloody fighting with Afghan kids who pose no threat to the U.S. homeland, the war will do little to shut down Al Qaeda, which has shifted its operations to Pakistan. Dispatching 150,000 troops to build new schools, roads, mosques and water-treatment facilities around Kandahar is like trying to stop the drug war in Mexico by occupying Arkansas and building Baptist churches in Little Rock. “It’s all very cynical, politically,” says Marc Sageman, a former CIA case officer who has extensive experience in the region. “Afghanistan is not in our vital interest – there’s nothing for us there.”

In mid-May, two weeks after visiting the troops in Kandahar, McChrystal travels to the White House for a high-level visit by Hamid Karzai. It is a triumphant moment for the general, one that demonstrates he is very much in command – both in Kabul and in Washington. In the East Room, which is packed with journalists and dignitaries, President Obama sings the praises of Karzai. The two leaders talk about how great their relationship is, about the pain they feel over civilian casualties. They mention the word “progress” 16 times in under an hour. But there is no mention of victory. Still, the session represents the most forceful commitment that Obama has made to McChrystal’s strategy in months. “There is no denying the progress that the Afghan people have made in recent years – in education, in health care and economic development,” the president says. “As I saw in the lights across Kabul when I landed – lights that would not have been visible just a few years earlier.”

It is a disconcerting observation for Obama to make. During the worst years in Iraq, when the Bush administration had no real progress to point to, officials used to offer up the exact same evidence of success. “It was one of our first impressions,” one GOP official said in 2006, after landing in Baghdad at the height of the sectarian violence. “So many lights shining brightly.” So it is to the language of the Iraq War that the Obama administration has turned – talk of progress, of city lights, of metrics like health care and education. Rhetoric that just a few years ago they would have mocked. “They are trying to manipulate perceptions because there is no definition of victory – because victory is not even defined or recognizable,” says Celeste Ward, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation who served as a political adviser to U.S. commanders in Iraq in 2006. “That’s the game we’re in right now. What we need, for strategic purposes, is to create the perception that we didn’t get run off. The facts on the ground are not great, and are not going to become great in the near future.”

But facts on the ground, as history has proven, offer little deterrent to a military determined to stay the course. Even those closest to McChrystal know that the rising anti-war sentiment at home doesn’t begin to reflect how deeply fucked up things are in Afghanistan. “If Americans pulled back and started paying attention to this war, it would become even less popular,” a senior adviser to McChrystal says. Such realism, however, doesn’t prevent advocates of counterinsurgency from dreaming big: Instead of beginning to withdraw troops next year, as Obama promised, the military hopes to ramp up its counterinsurgency campaign even further. “There’s a possibility we could ask for another surge of U.S. forces next summer if we see success here,” a senior military official in Kabul tells me.

(click to continue reading The Runaway General | Rolling Stone Politics.)

Urban Melancholy

McChrystal should certainly get fired for insubordination – President Truman fired war hero General MacArthur, remember? And McChrystal is no war hero, he’s long been a loose cannon, responsible for the Tillman fiasco, detainee abuse and torture in Iraq, and other questionable judgements. On that front, the NYT reports:

An angry President Obama summoned his top commander in Afghanistan to Washington on Tuesday after a magazine article portrayed the general and his staff as openly contemptuous of some senior members of the Obama administration.

The military’s senior leaders joined in sharp criticism of the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and an administration official said he would meet with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House on Wednesday “to explain to the Pentagon and the commander in chief his quotes in the piece,” which appears in the July 8-22 edition of Rolling Stone.

General McChrystal was scheduled to attend a monthly meeting on Afghanistan by teleconference, the official said, but was directed to return to Washington in light of the article. The general apologized for his remarks, saying the article was “a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened.”

The article shows General McChrystal or his aides talking in sharply derisive terms about Mr. Biden; Ambassador Karl Eikenberry; Richard C. Holbrooke, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan; and an unnamed minister in the French government. One of General McChrystal’s aides is quoted as referring to the national security adviser, James L. Jones, as a “clown.”

A senior administration official said Mr. Obama was furious about the article, particularly with the suggestion that he was uninterested and unprepared to discuss the Afghanistan war after he took office.

(click to continue reading McChrystal Is Summoned to Washington Over Remarks –

  1. our own, and Afghani blood too []

Chemical Weapons R US

Nice – weapons of mass destruction are fine to stockpile if your military is by far the biggest in the world.

Hold on, cowboy

Under the gun to destroy the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile — and now all but certain to miss their deadline — Army officials have a plan to hasten the process: Blow some of them up.

The Army would use explosives to destroy some of the Cold War-era weapons, which contain some of the nastiest compounds ever made, in two communities in Kentucky and Colorado that fought down another combustion-based plan years ago.

Some who live near the two installations worry it’s a face-saving measure, driven by pressure from U.S. adversaries, that puts the safety of citizens below the politics of diplomacy and won’t help the U.S. meet an already-blown deadline.

[Click to continue reading US to blow up its chemical stockpiles Army struggles to meet deadline for weapons disposal-]


and the US Army is really taking its sweet time to comply with various treaties calling for destruction of these stockpiles

Richmond has far fewer chemical weapons than Pueblo but a wider variety, including the deadly nerve gases sarin and VX. Of the 15,500 mustard rounds housed at the Kentucky depot, as many as 9,300 could be corroded and therefore considered a risk to workers if they leaked and required emergency repairs.

Chemical weapons have horrified the world since they blinded and crippled thousands of soldiers in World War I. Mustard gas can disable an opposing army by causing severe, painful but nonfatal blistering. It can also cause cancer, and even low levels of exposure may threaten workers and the public.

Scientists developed even deadlier chemical bombs during and after World War II. All of them were supposed to have been destroyed in the U.S. by 1994 under a directive from Congress. In 1997, the Chemical Weapons Convention enacted an international deadline of 2012. The U.S. now acknowledges it will certainly miss that too.

Advertising Links

Reading Around on December 8th through December 9th

A few interesting links collected December 8th through December 9th:

  • News America Paid $29.5M in Mysterious Floorgraphics Acquisition | BNET Advertising Blog | BNET – The suit has a certain chutzpah to it. A source tells BNET that FGI had sales of less than $1 million. Many outside observers believed that at the time of the deal, FGI existed mostly to resolve its litigation against NAM, not as a functioning business. It’s hard to believe NAM thought it was buying a genuine business and not settling a lawsuit, which is essentially what NAM is arguing in its suit.
  • Stooper supports a family by cashing in erroneously discarded betting slips Boing Boing – (Image: OTB and me, a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike image from swanksalot’s photostream)
  • The Spending Wars | The American Prospect – How did military spending become sacrosanct? – Excellent question: How did military spending become sacrosanct?”When Rep. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, recently proposed a surtax that would pay for the Afghanistan War, the collective response from most of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle was, “Are you nuts?” Nancy Pelosi quickly put the kibosh on Obey’s “Share the Sacrifice Act,” and all talk of funding the war has been banished. Meanwhile, Democrats have spent untold hours debating how to finance health-care reform, all while Republicans carp about how doing so is just too darn expensive, what with our ever-climbing deficit.”

One Million Dollars Per Soldier Per Year

Reducing human bodies to a sum of financial calculations is perhaps part of a cynical equation to end the war, but our society values debating costs for items as mundane as Hollywood films, so why not? How much is a 19 year old from Yazoo City, Mississippi or Rantoul, Illinois worth anyway?


The budget implications of President Obama’s decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan are adding pressure to limit the commitment, officials say.

The latest internal government estimates place the cost of adding 40,000 American troops and sharply expanding the Afghan security forces, as favored by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and allied commander in Afghanistan, at $40 billion to $54 billion a year, the officials said.

Even if fewer troops are sent, or their mission is modified, the rough formula used by the White House, of about $1 million per soldier a year, appears almost constant. [Click to continue reading High Costs Weigh on Troop Debate for Afghan War]

The thing is, the soldiers themselves are not earning but a fraction of that – so where is the rest of the $1,000,000 going? To KBR? To Boeing? Seems outrageously expensive, doesn’t it? For a legacy war?

And this tidbit is horrifying:

And the overall military budget could rise to as much as $734 billion, or 10 percent more than the peak of $667 billion under the Bush administration.

Ten percent higher of a Pentagon budget than the budget created by war-monger Republicans? Scary. Obama had better not listen to his military advisors then, if he wants a second term in office. Aren’t there more important items we could spend money on besides the Pentagon?

Seven Memories

Business government

Anti-ACORN Bill Ropes In Defense Contractors Charged With Fraud

For the fun news of the day – in all the GOP haste to smear ACORN based on the actions of a couple of rogue employees, the language of the bill does the one thing I had suggested in jest as an answer to an unrelated topic. Namely, be more harsh on corporations that break laws. Except in the actual bill as written and voted on, any crime charged to a corporation would bar it from feeding at the public trough. Ooopsie!

Early Morning Meditation

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to “any organization” that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops.

Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) picked up on the legislative overreach and asked the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) to sift through its database to find which contractors might be caught in the ACORN net.

Lockheed Martin and Northrop Gumman both popped up quickly, with 20 fraud cases between them, and the longer list is a Who’s Who of weapons manufacturers and defense contractors.

The language was written by the GOP and filed as a “motion to recommit” in the House, where it passed 345-75. It carried the Senate by an 83-7 margin.

POGO is reaching out to its members to identify other companies who have engaged in the type of misconduct that would make them ineligible for federal funds.

Grayson then intends to file that list in the legislative history that goes along with the bill so that judges can reference it when determining whether a company should be denied federal funds.

[Click to continue reading Whoops: Anti-ACORN Bill Ropes In Defense Contractors, Others Charged With Fraud]

Too funny.

Should We Be Concerned?
[Buzzards circling in a park probably built by Brown and Root, LBJ’s favorite defense contractor, now owned by Halliburton and/or KBR]

The Project On Government Oversight gives a little perspective:

Bear in mind that, since 1994, ACORN has reportedly received a total of $53 million in federal funds, or an average of roughly $3.5 million per year. In contrast, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman respectively received over $35 billion and $18 billion in federal contracts last year. (Their totals since 2000 are $266 billion for Lockheed and $125 billion for Northrop.)

Congress should clamp down on contractor fraud and waste, but it needs to keep a sense of proportion. If ACORN broke the law it, should be punished; however, Congress also needs to crack down just as rigorously on the contractors who take an even larger share of taxpayers’ money and have committed far more, or far more egregious, acts of misconduc

[Click to continue reading The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) Blog]

late update: one of the ACORN employees caught on tape, Juan Carlos Vera, actually reported the incident to the police. The police said they would need more information.

Police say he contacted law enforcement two days later. The detective consulted another police official who served on a federal human smuggling task force, who said he needed more details.

The ACORN employee responded several days later and explained that the information he received was not true and he had been duped.

[Click to continue reading Police: ACORN worker in video reported couple – Yahoo! News]

Still was fired, and made the butt of a thousand jokes on Fox News…


Peace Movement Invisible

Bring them Home

Dan Froomkin asks a good question:

A healthy majority of the American public now opposes the war in Afghanistan. More and more Democrats, some leading Republicans, and even members of the military are calling for, if not outright withdrawal, at least an exit strategy.

So where’s the peace movement?

Where are, if not the massive peace marches, at least the quiet peace vigils? Where are the letters to the editor, and the sermons, and the city council resolutions?

[Click to continue reading Watchdog Blog » Blog Archive » Where’s the Peace Movement?]

I don’t know if there are peace demonstrations being held, and not being reported, or if there just isn’t enough public engagement on the issue, yet.

Tunnel Vision is Underrated

Mr. Froomkin wants journalists1 to dig a little deeper:

Nevertheless, it’s astonishing how little public expression there is of such a dominant public sentiment.

Or is it that the media just aren’t paying attention?

So here are my questions to my fellow journalists: Where is the peace movement? Where is the coverage of the peace movement? And is the absence of the latter actually contributing to the absence of the former?

  1. and readers too, presumedly []

John Yoo Says It Is Ok

If I ever had plans to do anything illegal, like break a law that has been on the books since at least 18781, I’ll just get John Yoo to write a memo saying it is ok. Law, hunh, what is good for, absolutely nothing. I’ll say it again.2

Torture, Posse Comitatus, does anything else have your bloody fingerprints on it, Mr. Yoo?

The Fourth Amendment bans “unreasonable” searches and seizures without probable cause. And the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 generally prohibits the military from acting in a law enforcement capacity.

In the discussions, Mr. Cheney and others cited an Oct. 23, 2001, memorandum from the Justice Department that, using a broad interpretation of presidential authority, argued that the domestic use of the military against Al Qaeda would be legal because it served a national security, rather than a law enforcement, purpose.

“The president has ample constitutional and statutory authority to deploy the military against international or foreign terrorists operating within the United States,” the memorandum said.

The memorandum — written by the lawyers John C. Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty — was directed to Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel, who had asked the department about a president’s authority to use the military to combat terrorist activities in the United States.

[Click to continue reading Bush Weighed Using Military in Arrests –]

and then cite the memo right before doing the illegal act:

Those who advocated using the military to arrest the Lackawanna group had legal ammunition: the memorandum by Mr. Yoo and Mr. Delahunty.

The lawyers, in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, wrote that the Constitution, the courts and Congress had recognized a president’s authority “to take military actions, domestic as well as foreign, if he determines such actions to be necessary to respond to the terrorist attacks upon the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and before.”

The document added that the neither the Posse Comitatus Act nor the Fourth Amendment tied a president’s hands.

I certainly do not understand why Berkley employs this Yoo character, he is such a stain on the legal profession.

The Wikipedia entry for Posse Comitatus Act:

The Posse Comitatus Act is a United States federal law (18 U.S.C. § 1385) passed on June 18, 1878, after the end of Reconstruction, with the intention (in concert with the Insurrection Act of 1807) of substantially limiting the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement. The Act prohibits most members of the federal uniformed services (today the Army, Air Force, and State National Guard forces when such are called into federal service) from exercising nominally state law enforcement, police, or peace officer powers that maintain “law and order” on non-federal property (states and their counties and municipal divisions) within the United States.
The statute generally prohibits federal military personnel and units of the National Guard under federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. The Coast Guard is exempt from the Act during peacetime.

[Click to continue reading Posse Comitatus Act – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Seems clear enough. Except for John Yoo.

John Yoo and the so-called Torture memos, if you had forgotten the details:

You have to give John Yoo credit for chutzpah. The disgraced author of the so-called torture memo was back in the news last week, when the Obama administration released seven more secret opinions, all but one written in whole or in part by Yoo and fellow Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) lawyer Jay Bybee, arguing that the Bush administration had the right to override the Constitution as long as it claimed to be fighting a “war on terror.” Professor Yoo, who I am embarrassed to say holds a tenured position at the law school of my alma mater, the University of California at Berkeley, was already known as the official who provided a legal fig leaf behind which the Bush administration tortured inmates at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. His legal misdeeds are widely known, but now they have been exposed chapter and verse. Among the new memos is one written in 2001 [8.3 Meg PDF], in which Yoo and co-author Robert J. Delahunty advised the U.S. that the Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the Army to be used for law enforcement, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, do not apply to domestic military operations undertaken during a “war on terror.”

In other words, bye-bye, Bill of Rights. This is a prescription for a police state, where not just the police but the Army can kick your door down without a warrant or probable cause, as long as the president says he’s fighting “terror.” If Barack Obama had solicited such an opinion from an obliging Justice Department lawyer because he wanted to sic the U.S. Army on a group of domestic terrorists, the right would be screaming about jackbooted federal thugs descending from black helicopters to haul off American citizens. Strangely, no conservatives have taken to the streets to warn us of the Big Government danger posed by this radical doctrine.

[Click to continue reading John Yoo Torture Memo | Salon ]

  1. and arguably one of the reasons the United States broke away from Britain way back in 1776 []
  2. sung in one’s best Edwin Starr voice []
Advertising humor Links

Reading Around on July 7th through July 8th

A few interesting links collected July 7th through July 8th:

  • Fox report suggests Pentagon policy nixing religious flyover is a sign Obama is anti-Christian | Crooks and Liars – The military was regularly providing flyovers at countless evangelical Christian events all over the country, not only violating the regulations prohibiting military participation in religious events, but spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money in the process.

    MRFF began exposing these events, which included flyovers on the five holidays when flyovers at civilian events are permitted, and even a few at National Day of Prayer events, and began to see some decline in their frequency, but we weren’t sure if the number of flyovers at these events was really decreasing, or if the military and organizers of these events were just being more careful not to make the nature of the events so obvious.

    Well, needless to say, the following letter denying, for the first time in 42 years, the request for a flyover at one Christian rally…was the best 4th of July present MRFF could have asked for.

  • Branding blunder gives Russia-Nigeria energy linkup a bad name – Russia’s attempt to create a joint gas venture with Nigeria is set to become one of the classic branding disasters of all time ‑ after the new company was named Nigaz.

    …the name has “rather different connotations” for English-speakers.

    It recalled other international branding mishaps including the Ford Pinto ‑ which in Brazil means small penis ‑ and the Pepsi slogan “come alive with the Pepsi generation”. In Taiwan this rousing motto translated as “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”.

  • Living the “art” Life – … there is more, so much more to art…

KBR Sleazy Until the End

KBR, the Halliburton company who specializes in cutting corners to increase profits, found an easy way to steal more taxpayer money: do a half-assed job and kiss-up to the Pentagon.

Navy Exchange

Far from suffering for its shoddy military contracting in Iraq, Congressional investigators have found that KBR Inc. was awarded $83 million in performance bonuses. Even worse, more than half came after Pentagon investigators linked faulty KBR wiring to the electrocution of four soldiers intent on relaxation. One soldier died taking a shower and another in a swimming pool.

How such settings became part of harm’s way for the military was the question put to an electrical engineer hired by the Army who reported finding that 90 percent of KBR’s wiring work in Iraq was not done safely. Some 70,000 buildings where troops lived and worked were not up to code, according to the engineer, who told a Congressional hearing of “some of the most hazardous, worst-quality work I have ever inspected.”

Officials of KBR, the offshoot of the Halliburton conglomerate once run so lucratively by former Vice President Dick Cheney, deny responsibility and say the work met the British code used in the war zone. Flat denial is an all-too-familiar refrain from this most favored and most questionable of military contractors. The electrical engineer found most wirers were not experienced in the British code and many were third-country nationals with no electrical training at all.

[Click to continue reading: Editorial – KBR Does It Again –]

Take away their corporate charter, throw the executives in Supermax prison, KBR will clean up their act.

government health

Uncle Sam’s Human Lab Rats

This isn’t a new allegation1 but still disquieting. Experimenting with mind altering drugs on your own initiative is one thing, but being dosed by your employers? Strange, and disturbing.

“The Project MKULTRA Compendium: The CIA’s Program of Research in Behavioral Modification” (Stephen Foster)

“Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond” (Martin A. Lee, Bruce Shlain)

Gordon Erspamer [a San Francisco lawyer]…has filed suit against the CIA and the US Army on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America and six former American soldiers who claim they are the real thing: survivors of classified government tests conducted at the Army’s Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland between 1950 and 1975. “I get a lot of calls,” he says. “There are a lot of crazy people out there who think that somebody from Mars is controlling their behavior via radio waves.” But when it comes to Edgewood, “I’m finding that more and more of those stories are true!”

That government scientists conducted human experiments at Edgewood is not in question. “The program involved testing of nerve agents, nerve agent antidotes, psychochemicals, and irritants,” according to a 1994 General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report (PDF). At least 7,800 US servicemen served “as laboratory rats or guinea pigs” at Edgewood, alleges Erspamer’s complaint, filed in January in a federal district court in California. The Department of Veterans Affairs has reported that military scientists tested hundreds of chemical and biological substances on them, including VX, tabun, soman, sarin, cyanide, LSD, PCP, and World War I-era blister agents like phosgene and mustard. The full scope of the tests, however, may never be known. As a CIA official explained to the GAO, referring to the agency’s infamous MKULTRA mind-control experiments, “The names of those involved in the tests are not available because names were not recorded or the records were subsequently destroyed.” Besides, said the official, some of the tests involving LSD and other psychochemical drugs “were administered to an undetermined number of people without their knowledge.”

Erspamer’s plaintiffs claim that, although they volunteered for the Edgewood program, they were never adequately informed of the potential risks and continue to suffer debilitating health effects as a result of the experiments. They hope to force the CIA and the Army to admit wrongdoing, inform them of the specific substances they were exposed to, and provide access to subsidized health care to treat their Edgewood-related ailments. Despite what they describe as decades of suffering resulting from their Edgewood experiences, the former soldiers are not seeking monetary damages; a 1950 Supreme Court decision, the Feres case, precludes military personnel from suing the federal government for personal injuries sustained in the line of duty. The CIA’s decision to use military personnel as test subjects followed the court’s decision and is an issue Erspamer plans to raise at trial. “Suddenly, they stopped using civilian subjects and said, ‘Oh, we can get these military guys for free,'” he says. “The government could do whatever it wanted to them without liability. We want to bring that to the attention of the public, because I don’t think most people understand that.” (Asked about Erspamer’s suit, CIA spokeswoman Marie Harf would say only that the agency’s human testing program has “been thoroughly investigated, and the CIA fully cooperated with each of the investigations.”)

[Click to continue reading Uncle Sam’s Human Lab Rats | Mother Jones]

The CIA lying to the American people? I’m sure that has only happened in the past, and not in the present day. Ahem…

From the Project MK-Ultra wikipedia page:

The Agency poured millions of dollars into studies probing dozens of methods of influencing and controlling the mind. One 1955 MK-ULTRA document gives an indication of the size and range of the effort; this document refers to the study of an assortment of mind-altering substances described as follows:[16]

  1. Substances which will promote illogical thinking and impulsiveness to the point where the recipient would be discredited in public.
  2. Substances which increase the efficiency of mentation and perception.
  3. Materials which will prevent or counteract the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
  4. Materials which will promote the intoxicating effect of alcohol.
  5. Materials which will produce the signs and symptoms of recognized diseases in a reversible way so that they may be used for malingering, etc.
  6. Materials which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness.
  7. Substances which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so-called “brain-washing”.
  8. Materials and physical methods which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use.
  9. Physical methods of producing shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use.
  10. Substances which produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
  11. Substances which will produce “pure” euphoria with no subsequent let-down.
  12. Substances which alter personality structure in such a way that the tendency of the recipient to become dependent upon another person is enhanced.
  13. A material which will cause mental confusion of such a type that the individual under its influence will find it difficult to maintain a fabrication under questioning.
  14. Substances which will lower the ambition and general working efficiency of men when administered in undetectable amounts.
  15. Substances which promote weakness or distortion of the eyesight or hearing faculties, preferably without permanent effects.
  16. A knockout pill which can surreptitiously be administered in drinks, food, cigarettes, as an aerosol, etc., which will be safe to use, provide a maximum of amnesia, and be suitable for use by agent types on an ad hoc basis.
  17. A material which can be surreptitiously administered by the above routes and which in very small amounts will make it impossible for a man to perform any physical activity whatsoever.

Historians have learned that creating a “Manchurian Candidate” subject through “mind control” techniques was undoubtedly a goal of MK-ULTRA and related CIA project

I would not be surprised to learn that the CIA has continued their experiments up until the present. They just probably outsourced the location to Gitmo and Syria and Abu Ghraib.I had not ever heard this allegation:

A considerable amount of credible circumstantial evidence suggests that Theodore Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, participated in CIA-sponsored MK-ULTRA experiments conducted at Harvard University from the fall of 1959 through the spring of 1962. During World War II, Henry Murray, the lead researcher in the Harvard experiments, served with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was a forerunner of the CIA. Murray applied for a grant funded by the United States Navy, and his Harvard stress experiments strongly resembled those run by the OSS.[42] [Alexander Cockburn article at Counter-Punch]

Beginning at the age of sixteen, Kaczynski participated along with twenty-one other undergraduate students in the Harvard experiments, which have been described as “disturbing” and “ethically indefensible.

nor this one:

Jonestown, the Guyana location of the Jim Jones cult and Peoples Temple mass suicide, was thought to be a test site for MKULTRA medical and mind control experiments after the official end of the program. Congressman Leo Ryan, a known critic of the CIA, was assassinated after he personally visited Jonestown to investigate various reported irregularities [M Meier]

though I have heard this conspiracy theory, and dismissed it2

Lawrence Teeter, attorney for convicted assassin Sirhan Sirhan, believed Sirhan was under the influence of hypnosis when he fired his weapon at Robert F. Kennedy in 1968. Teeter linked the CIA’s MKULTRA program to mind control techniques that he claimed were used to control Sirhan.[47] Teeter’s assertions are generally dismissed due to lack of supporting evidence

  1. I’ve read several books on the subject in the early 1990s []
  2. well, to the extent that any Kennedy assassination theory can be dismissed []

Rumsfeld the Manipulator

Donald Rumsfeld was never a pious man, but, evil as he is, Rummy realized the easy way to manipulate George Bush was simply to cite biblical verse. So Rummy did. Bush considered himself some sort of medieval Crusador, so slurped up the rhetoric, and asked for more.

Two Sides to Every Midnight Tale

This Sunday, GQ magazine is posting on its Web site an article adding new details to the ample dossier on how Donald Rumsfeld’s corrupt and incompetent Defense Department cost American lives and compromised national security. The piece is not the work of a partisan but the Texan journalist Robert Draper, author of “Dead Certain,” the 2007 Bush biography that had the blessing (and cooperation) of the former president and his top brass. It draws on interviews with more than a dozen high-level Bush loyalists.

Draper reports that Rumsfeld’s monomaniacal determination to protect his Pentagon turf led him to hobble and antagonize America’s most willing allies in Iraq, Britain and Australia, and even to undermine his own soldiers. But Draper’s biggest find is a collection of daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself. These cover sheets greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations. GQ is posting 11 of them, and they are seriously creepy.

[Click to read more Frank Rich – Obama Can’t Turn the Page on Bush –]

Getchyer Kitschhere

Like this one:

dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)

What’s up with that? As Draper writes, Rumsfeld is not known for ostentatious displays of piety. He was cynically playing the religious angle to seduce and manipulate a president who frequently quoted the Bible. But the secretary’s actions were not just oily; he was also taking a risk with national security. If these official daily collages of Crusade-like messaging and war imagery had been leaked, they would have reinforced the Muslim world’s apocalyptic fear that America was waging a religious war. As one alarmed Pentagon hand told Draper, the fallout “would be as bad as Abu Ghraib.”

Cynical, and evil.