Friday, August 31, 2007

AiG/CMI reach verbal settlement

Most of the material pertaining to the dispute between Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International has been removed from the web as the groups agreed to meet and work out a settlement arrangement in Hawaii. The meetings, which took place on August 14 and 15, reached a verbal settlement which CMI says they expect to culminate in a written agreement within the next 60 days:

STOP PRESS (1)—settlement meetings taking place

Posted: c. 1 August 07

There has at last been agreement for the Boards (and/or their designated representatives) of both ministries to meet face to face—this will be the first time that we have been permitted this with no restrictions on any of our director’s participation.

The meetings will be held in Hawaii on August 14 and 15, 2007, on a confidential basis. The meetings will attempt to:

  1. first see if a comprehensive settlement can be achieved or, failing that, to then
  2. attempt to reach agreement on the terms for binding Christian arbitration (given that two previous offers for this were ignored, this is an encouraging sign).

The meetings will be facilitated by Mr Peter Reynolds, of Grace Counselling and Conciliation Services in New Zealand, whose services were suggested by Peacemakers Ministries in the USA.


Posted c. 18 August 07

Hopeful breakthrough
Following two days of intensive meeting and discussion in Hawaii, the two ministries were able to reach verbal agreement on all the main points of a confidential basis of settlement. Although time ran out (planes were pre-booked) to turn this into a finalized written agreement, all parties present are extremely hopeful that this can take place within the next 60 days or so at the most.

As a gesture in accord with the spirit of mutual goodwill that prevailed at the end, CMI has for now removed access to the details previously on the web, whether chronologies, committee reports, or whatever.

We do this in the confident hope that this will never need to be reversed, trusting that ‘handshake’ agreements between those parties present in Hawaii will be reflected in a formal, signed document that will put these serious issues to rest in a God-honouring fashion. Thank you to all who have been praying.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Brief History of the CIA: 1953-1961 (Eisenhower)

Source and page references are to Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, 2007, Doubleday, pp. 71-167.

President: Dwight D. Eisenhower

February 18, 1953: The CIA's "Operation Ajax" (in conjunction with the British, who call it "Operation Boot") begins, with Kim "Kermit" Roosevelt, Jr. (Teddy Roosevelt's grandson) in charge--a plan to oust Iran's prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, because of his nationalization of the Iranian oil industry (p. 83).

March 5, 1953: Joseph Stalin dies. "We have no reliable inside intelligence on thinking inside the Kremlin. Our estimates of Soviet long-range plans and intentions are speculations drawn from inadequate evidence." (p. 73)

March 1953: The CIA and British back Fazlollah Zahedi to overthrow Mossadeq in Iran. April 1953: Zahedi goes into hiding after his supporters are suspected of kidnapping and murdering Iran's national police chief. (p. 85). May 1953: CIA propaganda portrays Mossadeq as an enemy of Islam being supported by the Soviet Union. (p. 86)

June 5, 1953: Allen Dulles tells the National Security Council that the CIA cannot give "any prior warning through intelligence channels of a Soviet sneak attack" (p. 75).

1953: The CIA guesses that the Soviets will not be able to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the United States until 1969 (p. 75).

June 16-17, 1953: "Nearly 370,000 East Germans took to the streets" to protest against the Soviet Union and East German Communist Party. The CIA does nothing, "the uprising was crushed." (p. 76)

July 7, 1953: Iran's Tudeh Party radio "warned Iranians that the American government, along with various 'spies and traitors,' including General Zahedi, were working 'to liquidate the Mossadeq government.'" (p. 87). In other words, the CIA and British intelligence plot was blown and made known to the Iranian public even before it began. July 11: President Eisenhower gives approval to the plot.

August 1953: Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb. The CIA "had no clue and gave no warning." (p. 75)

1953: Joint Chiefs of Staff tells Eisenhower, regarding defense against Soviet aggression, that (as reported by Eisenhower) "we should do what was necessary even if the result was to change the American way of life. We could lick the whole world ... if we were willing to adopt the system of Adolph Hitler." (p. 75)

1953: Allen Dulles builds CIA propaganda machinery by building ties with heads of magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Time (including Henry Luce), Newsweek, CBS News, and Axel Springer in West Germany (p. 77).

August 1953: General Norman Schwarzkopf is brought in by the CIA to try to get the Shah of Iran to support the coup against Mossadeq and appoint Zahedi as prime minister (p. 88). August 16: "Hundreds of paid agitators flooded the streets of Tehran, looting, burning, and smashing the symbols of government." (p. 89) August 19: Continued protesting occurs, and at least 100 people are killed on the streets of Tehran and 200 killed when the shah's Imperial Guard attacks Mossadeq's home. August 20: Mossadeq surrenders, spends 3 years in jail and a decade under house arrest before dying. Zahedia becomes prime minister, is paid $1 million by the CIA, and jails thousands of political prisoners. The shah sets up a secret police force, SAVAK, "trained and equipped by the CIA," imposes martial law, and exercises dictatorial control over Iran (p. 92). This is considered a great success of the CIA--at least until 1979. The CIA's internal history of the Iranian operation has been published online, authored by Donald Wilber, who was the main planner of the operation.

End of 1953: An internal poll of the CIA yields a report that describes "'a rapidly deteriorating situation': widespread frustration, confusion, and purposelessness. ... 'too many people in responsible positions apparently don't know what they're doing.' ... 'a shocking amount of money' going to waste on failed missions overseas." (p. 78) Allen Dulles suppresses the report (p. 79).

1953: The CIA provides millions of dollars to Japanese gangster Yoshio Kodama, a man who led a group that attempted to assassinate the prime minister in the 1930s, in order to smuggle tungsten from the Japanese military into U.S. hands.

December 1953: Colonel Al Haney sets up shop at an air base in Opa-Locka, Florida for "Operation Success," a plan to overthrow the government of Guatemala that has been discussed by the CIA for the previous three years. (p. 93) The plan is to put Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas of the Guatemala military in command, removing President Jacobo Arbenz. Haney draws out timelines and plans on a 40-foot roll of butcher paper pinned to the wall (p. 96).

1954: Frank Wisner has doubts about Haney, so sends Tracy Barnes and Richard Bissell to investigate his operation (p. 96). Henry Hecksher is sent to Guatemala City to spend up to $10,000/month on bribes of military officers, including Colonel Elfego Monzon, and CIA HQ sends Haney a list of 58 Guatemalans to be assassinated as part of the coup. The event that prompts the initiation of the coup is the discovery that a freighter named Alfhelm was transporting $4.86 million in Czech arms to Guatemala. The CIA lost the trail, and the arms--many of which were old WWII weapons with swastikas stamped on them--were successfully delivered (p. 98). May 1, 1954: Voice of Liberation radio, run by David Atlee Phillips, begins broadcasting propaganda to Guatemala. May 26, 1954: A CIA plane drops leaflets promoting rebellion over the presidential guard's headquarters. June 6, 1954: The propaganda prompts Arbenz to become the dictator he was described to be, as he suspends civil liberties and engages in mass arrests to try to find anyone plotting against him (p. 99). June 18, 1954: Armas launches his assault at Puerto Barrios, but most of his men are killed or captured (p. 100). June 19, 1954: The U.S. ambassador to Guatemala calls for the U.S. to drop bombs. June 22, 1954: A CIA plane drops a bomb that starts an oil tank fire that is put out within 20 minutes. Dulles and businessman William Pawley meet with Eisenhower, who asks if the rebellion will be successful without further assistance. Eisenhower gives approval for the CIA to provide three planes to Nicaragua, funded by Pawley with money transferred through Riggs Bank, which are used by CIA pilots to attack Guatemala City. Armas still fails to gain ground. (p. 102). June 25, 1954: The CIA bombs "the parade grounds of the largest military encampment in Guatemala City" (p. 103) which prompts officers to switch allegiance to support the coup. June 27, 1954: Arbenz cedes power to Colonel Carlos Enrique Diaz, who vows to fight Armas. Diaz is called a "Commie agent" by Haney and informed by a CIA officer that he is "not convenient for American foreign policy" (p. 103). There are quickly four successive military juntas, "each one increasingly pro-American," and two months later Castillo Armas becomes president and is welcomed at the White House. Weiner writes: "Guatemala was at the beginning of forty years of military rulers, death squads, and armed repression." (p. 103)

May 1954: WWII war criminal Nobusuke Kishi makes his political debut with CIA support. Kishi befriended former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew by letting him out of detention in Tokyo in 1942 to play a round of golf (p. 117). Grew became the first chairman of the CIA's National Committee for a Free Europe and was a powerful ally of Kishi.

1954: Joseph McCarthy begins accumulating claims of Communist agents working for the CIA, feeding it disinformation. The claim is true, but the CIA responds not by addressing its own problems but by bugging McCarthy's office and feeding him disinformation in order to discredit him (pp. 105-106).

May 1954: Eisenhower receives a six-page letter from Jim Kellis, blowing the whistle on serious problems in the CIA--the CIA unwittingly funding Communists, being duped in various operations, and Dulles lying to Congress (pp. 107-108). July 1954: Eisenhower asks General Jimmy Doolittle and William Pawley to report on the state of the CIA in response to Kellis' letter. October 19, 1954: Doolittle reports back to Eisenhower about serious problems within the CIA, with a written report titled "Report on the Covert Activities of the Central Intelligence Agency."

November 1954: The U2 spy plane project begins, under a bureaucracy run by Richard Bissell.

1955: Eisenhower creates the "Special Group" to oversee covert operations, consisting of representatives of the White House, the State Department, and the Department of Defense. Dulles, however, frequently did not bother reporting covert operations to the group or to the president (pp. 114-115).

February 1955: A joint U.S.-British project to dig a tunnel from West Berlin to East Berlin to tap Soviet cables is completed, with the taps put in place in March, and information flow beginning in May, hampered by a lack of sufficient Russian and even German linguists (p. 111). April 1956: The Soviets uncover the tunnel and the information flow stops as the Soviets loudly complain. It subsequently turned out that the Soviets knew about the plan in December 1953, when planning first began, having been informed by George Blake, a British intelligence officer who was a Soviet spy. Much of the intercepted information was likely deliberate misinformation, though the CIA did learn about Soviet and East German security systems (p. 112).

Spring 1955: The CIA considers assassinating President Sukarno of Indonesia because of fears of communist influence, and because he had declared himself "a noncombatant in the cold war" (p. 143). Sukarno holds a conference of 29 Asian, African, and Arab chiefs of state in Bandung, Indonesia, to propose "a global movement of nations free to chart their own paths, aligned with neither Moscow nor Washington" (p. 143). The White House authorizes "all feasible covert means" to keep Indonesia from going communist. The CIA contributes $1 million to Sukarno's opponents, the Masjumi Party, but Sukarno wins the 1955 parliamentary elections.

November 1955: Nobusuke Kishi sets up the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan with the help of CIA funding; LDP candidates and officials are recruited and approved by (and bribed by) the CIA (p. 119).

1956: Sukarno visits Moscow and Beijing as well as D.C.

February 1956: Nikita Krushchev gives a speech denouncing Stalin. March 1956: The CIA hears rumors of the speech and attempts to obtain a copy. April 1956: Israeli spies deliver a copy of the speech to James Angleton. (p. 123)

Early 1956: CIA analysts conclude that no Eastern European nations are likely to rebel against the Soviets during the 1950s. June 28, 1956: Polish workers riot against wage reductions and destroy the equipment jamming Radio Free Europe. 53 Poles are killed and hundreds imprisoned (p. 125).

July 1956: Gamal Abdel Nasser, head of Egypt, nationalizes the Suez Canal Company, a British-French joint venture, to the surprise of the CIA. The CIA had supported Nasser with millions of dollars, but as the U.S. did not fulfill promises of military aid, Nasser traded cotton to the Soviet Union for weapons. The British proposed Nasser's assassination, but the U.S. opposed it. The British, French, and Israel plotted Nasser's overthrow and kept the U.S. in the dark; Dulles assured Eisenhower that rumors of such a plot were untrue, relying upon James Angleton who had contacts with Israeli intelligence (which were feeding him disinformation) (pp. 127-128). October 28, 1956: Israel invades the Sinai Peninsula as a pretext for the British and French to demand a cease-fire and move in to protect the Suez canal. The Soviet Union demands British and French withdrawal. The U.S., caught completely by surprise, applies pressure to force the British and French to leave. Israel was also forced to withdraw, though it destroyed infrastructure on the way. A UN Emergency Force occupied the peninsula until 1967. (More information on the 1956 war may be found here.)

October 1956: A CIA-British intelligence plot for a coup in Syria is put on hold due to the Suez fiasco, which pushes Syria closer to the Soviets (p. 138).

October 1956: A popular revolution begins in Hungary. The CIA had a single agent in Budapest, a low-level State Department clerk. The uprising was crushed within two weeks. A CIA history of the uprising says "At no time did we have anything that could or should have been mistaken for an intelligence operation." (p. 129) During the brief revolution, former Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy, who had been expelled from the Communist Party, went on state radio "to denounce the 'terrible mistakes and crimes of these past ten years.'" He stated that the Russians would leave and a new democratic government would be set up. Nagy formed a coalition government, abolished one-party rule, broke with Moscow, declared Hungary neutral, and appealed to the U.S. and UN for assistance. The CIA attacked Nagy on radio broadcasts as a traitor, liar, and murderer, and claimed that he had invited Russian troops into Budapest--all because he had once been a communist. November 4, 1956: The Soviets sent 200,000 troops and 2,500 tanks and armored vehicles into Hungary to crush the rebellion, killing tens of thousands and sending thousands to Siberian prison camps (pp. 130-131).

February 1957: Nobusuke Kishi becomes prime minister of Japan. The CIA-influenced Liberal Democratic Party runs the Japanese government to this day (pp. 119ff); Japanese refer to the CIA-supported political system as kozo oshoku or "structural corruption" (p. 121). (Current Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is Kishi's grandson.)

April 1957: Plans for a Syrian coup are revisited; the plan is for the CIA and British SIS to "manufacture 'national conspiracies and various strong-arm activities' in Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan, and blame them on Syria" (p. 138). The Syrians uncover the plot with a sting operation and arrest CIA operative Rocky Stone, publicly identify him as an American spy, and expel him from the country. In return, the U.S. expelled the Syrian ambassador from D.C. Stone's Syrian co-conspirators are sentenced to death, and "a purge of every military officer who had ever been associated with the American embassy followed" (p. 139). These events permanently poisoned U.S.-Syrian relations.

September 25, 1957: Eisenhower, convinced by the CIA that Sukarno was going communist, orders the CIA to overthrow his government (p. 147). September 28, 1957: The Indian newsweekly Blitz (controlled by Soviet intelligence) reports "AMERICAN PLOT TO OVERTHROW SUKARNO" (p. 147). January 8, 1958: The CIA provides weapons to Indonesian army rebels on Sumatra, without any attempt at secrecy. February 10, 1958: A CIA-financed radio station broadcasts demands for "a new government and the outlawing of communism within five days" (p. 148). February 21, 1958: The Indonesian air force bombs the CIA radio stations. The Indonesian army, led by anticommunists trained in the U.S. who referred to themselves as "the sons of Eisenhower," were at war with the CIA (p. 148). April 19, 1958: CIA pilots began bombing and strafing Indonesia's outer islands, killing hundreds of civilians, as well as sinking a British and Panamanian freighter (p. 151). The Indonesians claimed, correctly, that these planes were piloted by Americans, but the president and secretary of state of the United States denied it. May 18, 1958: CIA pilot Al Pope was shot down by the Indonesians. May 19, 1958: The U.S. decides that Sukarno is doing a good job of suppressing communism (p. 153). Sukarno frequently mentioned the U.S.'s failed attempts to overthrow his government in public speeches, and the actual communists in Indonesia gained in power and influence.

July 14, 1958: The CIA had been active in Iraq, offering money and weapons for support of anticommunism. On this date a military coup occurred, overthrowing Nuri Said. The General Abdel Karim Qasim regime found proof that the CIA had been paying off the previous government, and an American working for the CIA as a writer for American Friends of the Middle East (a CIA front group) was arrested and disappeared. CIA officials left the country and Qasim began ties with the Soviets. The Ba'ath Party attempted to assassinate Qasim, which led to CIA support. (The Ba'ath Party later gained control with the help of the CIA, which then led to Saddam Hussein coming to power.) (pp. 140-141)

January 1, 1959: Richard Bissell becomes chief of the clandestine service.

April-May 1959: Fidel Castro visits the U.S. and meets with the CIA, which was supportive.

December 11, 1959: Richard Bissell sends a memo to Allen Dulles asking that "thorough consideration be given to the elimination of Fidel Castro." Dulles replaced "elimination" with "removal from Cuba."

1960: The CIA projected that the Soviet Union would have 500 ICBMs aimed at the U.S. by 1961. In fact, it had four. (p. 158)

March 17, 1960: Dulles and Bissell present plans for an overthrow of Castro to Eisenhower and Nixon, which did not involve an invasion (p. 157).

April 9, 1960: The first U-2 flight over the Soviet Union occurs; the Soviets detect it and go on high alert (p. 159).

May 1, 1960: A U-2 is shot down by the Soviets over central Russia, and the CIA pilot, Francis Gary Powers, is captured. The CIA cover story was that it was a weather plane lost in Turkey, which the White House and State Department insisted was the case for a week before coming clean (pp. 159-160).

Summer 1960: Richard Bissell arranges with Guatemala's President Manual Ydigoras Fuentes to set up a training camp for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (pp. 160-161).

August 1960: Richard Bissell hires the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro, in hopes the Cuban invasion will be unnecessary. A second assassination plot is developed in-house by the CIA. August 16, 1960: Dulles and Bissell obtain approval from Eisenhower to spend $10.75 million on paramilitary training for five hundred Cubans in Guatemala, the invasion force. Eisenhower approves on the condition that "So long as the Joint Chiefs, Defense, State and CIA think we have a good chance of being successful" (p. 161).

Summer 1960: The Congo declares independence from Belgium; Patrice Lumumba is elected prime minister. Lumumba's request for U.S. assistance is ignored, so he seeks help from the Soviet Union. The CIA sends Larry Devlin to head the CIA post in the Congo, and CIA chemist Sidney Gottlieb delivers him vials of poison to inject into Lumumba's food, drink, or toothpaste. Devlin asks who the order came from, Gottlieb told him "the President." Devlin refused to follow through (pp. 162-163). October-November 1960: The CIA selected Joseph Mobutu to be the new leader of the Congo, and supplied him with $250,000 and weapons. Mobutu successfully captured Lumumba, who was then killed by a Belgian officer. It took five years for Mobutu to gain full control of the Congo, where "he ruled for three decades as one of the world's most brutal and corrupt dictators, stealing billions of dollars in revenues from the nation's enormous deposits of diamonds, minerals, and strategic minerals, slaughtering multitudes to preserve his power" (p. 163).

January 5, 1961: The President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities issues a report which states that "We are unable to conclude that, on balance, all of the covert action programs undertaken by CIA up to this time have been worth the risk of the great expenditure of manpower, money, and other resources involved." It urged "complete separation" of the director of central intelligence from the CIA. Dulles claimed that everything was fine and that he had "corrected deficiencies", and Eisenhower gave up in defeat, stating that he was leaving a "legacy of ashes" for his successor (p. 167).

Whistleblowers in Iraq fired, demoted, imprisoned

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars has a report on how individuals blowing the whistle on corruption in Iraq rebuilding efforts are being treated--they're being fired, demoted, and even imprisoned. Donald Vance reported that the company he was working for, Shield Group Security Co., was selling guns, land mines, and rocket launchers to insurgents, U.S. soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy employees for cash. He didn't know who to trust in Iraq, so he reported it to an FBI agent in Chicago. The result--he was thrown in to an American military prison outside of Baghdad for 97 days and subjected to harsh interrogations.

Brayton also reports on how two whistleblowers brought a civil suit regarding corruption by their former employer, Custer Battles, winning a $10 million jury award, only to have it overturned by the federal district judge on the grounds that the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq was not part of the U.S. government.

Ted Haggard's coming to Phoenix to live

Ted Haggard and his wife are moving to Phoenix, where they will be living and providing counseling at the Phoenix Dream Center, a faith-based halfway house. They will also both be full-time students in psychology and counseling.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars points out that they are asking for donations to be sent to them through a Colorado Springs 501(c)(3) called Families With A Mission that no longer exists and was run by a convicted sex offender who has failed to register as such in Colorado.

P.Z. Myers at Pharyngula points out that Haggard is far from destitute--his $138,000 annual pastor's salary is still being paid through the end of 2007, and he owns a home in Colorado Springs worth $715,000.

UPDATE (September 7, 2007): Now, apparently Haggard will not be moving into or working for the Phoenix Dream Center, which is associated with Tommy Barnett's Phoenix First Assembly of God (they don't go by their initials) church.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Early U.S. income tax

I'm in the process of reading Akhil Reed Amar's America's Constitution: A Biography, and just came to the portion about the 16th Amendment, which instituted a federal income tax. I had already known that the tax was a very low percentage, but I hadn't realized that only the top 1% of income earners paid any income tax. It would be a nice model to go back to, but not possible without dramatically reducing federal spending--the wealthiest Americans wouldn't tolerate an extortionate percentage of taxation that would be required on the current level of spending, and given the huge amounts of money that are now a part of political campaigning, nobody gets elected without the support of at least some of the wealthiest Americans. (And those levels of spending are tied together--there's huge money riding on political campaigns because there's huge money and power in the hands of the federal government. The only way to reduce the former is to reduce the latter.)

Here are the two paragraphs where Amar describes pre-Civil War and post-16th Amendment income taxes in the United States:
Prior to the Civil War, at least seven states had adopted income taxes. High exemptions and graduated rates--the basic features of a progressive tax structure--were commonplace in these states. Congress followed this pattern when introducing a federal income tax in the 1860s. For instance, the 1865 federal tax code exempted all persons who made less than $600, taxed income between $600 and $5,000 at 5 percent, and subjected all income above $5,000 to a steeper 10 percent rate. Later federal laws tweaked the specifics but preserved the basic structure, under which more than three-quarters of federal revenue came from the seven wealthiest states: New York (which itself generated more than 30 percent of the total national intake), Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Under the law struck down in Pollock, incomes over $4,000 were taxed at 2 percent, all others were exempt. According to Treasury Department estimates, less than 1 percent of the population had been subject to this levy.
In the first income-tax statute enacted after the new amendment was in place, Congress once again opted for a progressive tax structure that exempted a large swath of low- and middle-income persons and taxed the rest at a sloping rate, beginning at 1 percent for an individual making $3,000 and topping out at 7 percent for income over $500,000. The $3,000 minimum threshold effectively limited the tax to the top 1 percent of the economic order. In 1916 the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the new tax law, expressly rejecting the notion that the "progressive feature" of the tax somehow rendered it unconstitutional. The American People had spoken and--this time, at least--the Court listened.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ten years in prison for selling light bulbs

Steve Tucker ended a ten-year federal prison sentence last year. He served his time for selling light bulbs--specifically grow lights--that, while themselves legal, were sold to some customers that were using them to grow marijuana. Even though he and his brother asked any customers who so much as mentioned marijuana to leave and refused to sell any products which had any visible references to marijuana, they were successfully prosecuted on conspiracy charges because they had knowledge that some of their customers were using their products to grow marijuana.

His brother Gary, who was given a fifteen-year sentence that was reduced to ten after a successful petition to apply a change in policy from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, died of cancer at about the time his sentence was served.

History channel wipes the floor with 9/11 conspiracy theorists

Rightwing Nuthouse reports that the History Channel's documentary, "9/11 Conspiracies: Fact or Fiction" gives the conspiracy theorists a high-quality debunking. The format is to allow a 9/11 conspiracy theorist to make a claim, and then have experts in the appropriate fields respond to the claim. I've got the TiVo set up to record this weekend's showing.

UPDATE (August 26, 2007): I watched the show today, and I thought they did a very good job, though of necessity they were fairly brief in their rebuttals. I was pleased to see that, contrary to some conspiracy theorist claims, they did in fact address conspiracy theorist claims about the collapse of WTC Building 7. I was also quite amused to see that in Alex Jones' concluding remarks, he made the classic crackpot self-comparison to Galileo, and did so in such a way to demonstrate his own lack of awareness or concern for factual accuracy by stating that the dispute between Galileo and the Catholic Church was about whether the earth was round or flat.

Fox beats the drum for war with Iran

Robert Greenwald's "Fox Attacks: Iran" compares Fox News coverage leading up to the war in Iraq with what they're airing today about Iran.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Expensive intelligent design movie uses Borat tactics

[UPDATE (April 15, 2008): See the NCSE's "Expelled Exposed" website for a look at the deceptive tactics of the filmmakers and the real facts that they aren't showing you.]

In February, the movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," starring Ben Stein, will be released. [UPDATE: The release was delayed until April 18, possibly due to copyright infringement worries.] The film apparently argues that intelligent design is being wrongly excluded from public school classrooms, despite the fact that intelligent design is rebranded creationism and is a religious view without scientific support. There is no scientific theory of intelligent design to be taught in schools--it doesn't exist.

The advertising for the film says that P.Z. Myers appears in the film--but he was not interviewed for a film called "Expelled," but for an apparently fictional project called "Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion." Mark Mathis, a producer for Rampant Films, contacted Myers, and he agreed to appear in that film. Now, as it turns out, Mathis is an associate producer on "Expelled."

Myers writes:
Why were they so dishonest about it? If Mathis had said outright that he wants to interview an atheist and outspoken critic of Intelligent Design for a film he was making about how ID is unfairly excluded from academe, I would have said, "bring it on!" We would have had a good, pugnacious argument on tape that directly addresses the claims of his movie, and it would have been a better (at least, more honest and more relevant) sequence. He would have also been more likely to get that good ol' wild-haired, bulgy-eyed furious John Brown of the Godless vision than the usual mild-mannered professor that he did tape. And I probably would have been more aggressive with a plainly stated disagreement between us.

I mean, seriously, not telling one of the sides in a debate about what the subject might be and then leading him around randomly to various topics, with the intent of later editing it down to the parts that just make the points you want, is the video version of quote-mining and is fundamentally dishonest.
Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education reports a similar experience--she also was interviewed for "Crossroads."

The producers of this film are sleazeballs. This kind of technique is already at or beyond the ethical edge for a comedy film like Borat, but to do this for a film that purports to take on a serious issue--and pretends to be on the side of God--is well past any such boundary. If, as has been suggested, this film is going to argue that belief in God is necessary for moral behavior (a falsehood), the behavior of the producers proves that it is not sufficient.

The lesson for the future: Do not sign an agreement to be interviewed for a film if the agreement contains language that says they can use "…footage and materials in and in connection with the development, production, distribution and/or exploitation of the feature length documentary tentatively entitled Crossroads…and/or any other production…" That "and/or any other production" is a big loophole that will be exploited.

UPDATE (August 23, 2007): Ed Brayton observes that two of the alleged controversies that "Expelled" will cover are bogus claims of persecution--the denial of tenure for Guillermo Gonzalez and the alleged martyrdom of Richard Sternberg. Ed notes that he has an article coming out in Skeptic magazine in February 2008 which will debunk the Souder report about the travails of Sternberg at the Smithsonian (a subject he has already written extensively about on his blog--linked to from the articles at my blog under the "Richard Sternberg affair" category).

UPDATE (December 18, 2007): Ed Brayton points out that a new argument from the Discovery Institute for why Gonzalez shouldn't have been denied tenure actually undermines that claim.

UPDATE (February 10, 2008): John Lynch has a nice visual diagram of Gonzalez's publication record.

Mortgage lenders failing at a rate of one per day

Michael Donnelly's blog has a chart of mortgage lender failures since April 2006, which reports that we reached 21 lenders going under this month yesterday, on the 21st of the month.

(Via Distributed Republic.)

Chandler school suspends student for drawing picture of gun

Payne Junior High School in Chandler, Arizona has suspended the 13-year-old son of Ben and Paula Mosteller for three days (reduced from five) for drawing a picture of a gun, an action which they characterized as a threat which they compared to the Columbine High School massacre in a discussion with his parents.

The Arizona Republic reports that "The school did not contact police and did not provide counseling or an evaluate the boy to determine if he intended the drawing as a threat," which suggests to me that they did not really consider it to be a threat.

The boy's parents described the picture as a harmless doodle of a fake laser, which did not show blood, bullets, injuries, or target any human.

If the school really considered it a threat of an impending massacre, they should have treated it as one. Since they didn't, why is it even worth a suspension? Is there more to the context that we aren't being told, or are school administrators so irrational that they fear drawings of guns?

Are there any adult males who didn't draw guns along with cars, motorcycles, spaceships, monsters, aliens, and floor plans of secret hideouts when they were around 13?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time travel investment strategies

Long or Short Capital takes a look at a few investment strategies available to the time traveler, including "groundhog maximization," "terminator option protection," and "alien/squid technology asset allocation."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Libel lawsuit against Science Blogger P.Z. Myers

Stuart Pivar, an "eccentric collector and inventor," has filed a $15 million libel lawsuit in New York against P.Z. Myers of the Pharyngula blog and Seed Media Group, publisher of Seed magazine and owner of ScienceBlogs, for referring to him as "a classic crackpot" in reviews of his book Lifecode.

The complaint identifies Pivar as "an industrialist, inventor, and scientist," the founder and chairman of the board of Chem-tainer Industries, and co-founder (with Andy Warhol) and original funder of the New York Academy of Art, "a classical graduate school for painting and sculpture, whose current patron is H.R.H. Charles, Prince of Wales." It claims that Pivar regularly discussed his book with Stephen Jay Gould, who "was working on a refutation of the fundamentalist Darwinian theory of evolution."

The complaint claims that Myers' remarks led to Neil de Grasse Tyson withdrawing a review of the book and causing "considerable mental and emotional distress," tortious interference with the plaintiff's business relationships as a "scientist and scientific editor," and "loss of book sales and diminished returns on ten years of funded scientific research in special damages" exceeding $5 million.

The three claims of the complaint are, first, for declaratory relief in removing defamatory statements from the web and an injunction to prevent further such statements; second, for $5 million in special damages from the "tortious interference with business relations"; and third, for $10 million in damages for defamation, emotional distress, and loss of reputation.

Seed Media Group may be able to have itself dismissed as a defendant on the libel claim via the safe harbor on online publication of defamatory statements by a user of a site, which has been successfully used as a defense by America Online (in Zeran v. AOL and Blumenthal v. Drudge and AOL) and ElectriCiti (in Aquino v. ElectriCiti).

I suspect that Pivar will have a difficult time proving the claimed damages, as well as overcoming the truth defense to a defamation claim, but I'm curious to see if any lawyers (Timothy Sandefur?) have an opinion. The complaint looks a little odd and sloppy to me--it initially refers to "tortuous" interference rather than "tortious," includes the odd paragraph about the Art Academy, and generally doesn't appear to me to be a well-crafted case--but I am not a lawyer.

The text of the complaint may be found here (PDF).

P.Z. Myers' reviews of Pivar's book may be found here and here.

Another review of Pivar's book, authored by his friend Richard Gordon, may be found here.

Pivar's claim that Stephen Jay Gould would not have signed the NCSE's "Project Steve" statement is discussed at CSI's website.

Christopher Mims has commented on the lawsuit at Scientific American's blog, and Brandon Keim at Wired Science has a good summary of the dispute.

UPDATE: I've just read through both of P.Z. Myers' blog post reviews again, and I note that the alleged defamatory reference, "a classic crackpot," appears in neither of them. In the earlier post, Myers says of Pivar's book: "It seems no expense was spared getting it published, which is in contrast to the content, and is unusual for such flagrant crackpottery." The later post does not contain the word "crackpot." The post that Pivar is complaining about is another Myers post, titled "Pseudoscience by press release", where Pivar himself commented several times, including to write, "I will ignore your insulting and intemperate language and concentrate on the substantive issues." Apparently he changed his mind on that point.

UPDATE (August 21, 2007): Blake Stacey has put together a nice chronological summary of who said what when, along with links to commentators. He points out that the "review" by Neil de Grasse Tyson which was on Pivar's website was a quote created by taking one piece out of context and fabricating another--it's no wonder that Tyson asked for Pivar to remove it.

Andrea Bottaro summarizes the case with links to more sources about Pivar's Stephen J. Gould claims at The Panda's Thumb, and Timothy Sandefur weighs in with an evaluation of the legal issues at Positive Liberty, where he calls Pivar's suit a case of "abus[ing] the legal process to try to intimidate and bully people for no good reason" and concludes that "Myers unquestionably has the right to call Pivar a crackpot, and we have the right to consider this lawsuit as proof of the fact."

UPDATE (August 22, 2007): Ed Darrell at Millard Fillmore's Bathtub has a nice article about how we determine what a "crackpot" is. Pivar seems to fit quite well.

A commenter at Pharyngula has observed that Pivar's attorney was just admitted to the New York Bar in 2005 and went to law school in the UK.

UPDATE (August 24, 2007): Retired UCSD law professor Peter Irons (well versed in the law as it pertains to intelligent design) has written an excellent letter to Stuart Pivar which strongly recommends that Pivar withdraw his suit rather than quickly lose and become subject to monetary sanctions. Irons also says that he knew Gould from the 1950s until his death, and was his neighbor for many years, and that if Gould were alive today he'd probably have a viable defamation action against Pivar.

UPDATE (August 29, 2007): Pivar has withdrawn his libel suit (see Dispatches from the Culture Wars and Pharyngula). But now his attorney, Michael Little, thinks he has a case against Peter Irons! Kudos to Pivar for doing the right thing.

UPDATE (September 5, 2007): More entertainment regarding Michael Little may be found at Dispatches from the Culture Wars.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Karl Rove's adoptive father and genital piercing

Apparently Karl Rove's adoptive father, Louis Rove, an oil geologist, was a gay man who was an avid fan of genital piercing, whose piercings were frequently pictured in Piercing Fans International Quarterly.

(Via Stan Schwarz on the SKEPTIC list, who also reports that he personally met Louie Rove.)

Bush says FISA law change is just advisory

The Bush administration, commenting on Congress' expansion of the Executive branch's warrantless wiretapping powers without needing approval of the FISA Court, says that the legislation is "just advisory. The president can still do whatever he wants to do."

Constitution? What Constitution?

(Via Talking Points Memo.)

The consensus for anthropogenic global warming

This is from back in February of 2006, but A Few Things Ill Considered has a nice list of statements from scientific organizations endorsing anthropogenic global warming that includes NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Physics, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and, perhaps most interestingly, British Petroleum, the Shell Group, and, in the comments, ExxonMobil. A number of the links are broken at this point, but I was able to find numerous statements about the reality of anthropogenic global warming on the Shell web pages with a Google search for "global warming".

Science isn't a matter of popular vote, but when a scientific consensus is established it certainly puts the burden of proof on the challenger.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Melanie Morgan vs. Naomi Wolf

Crooks and Liars has a video clip of Melanie Morgan and Naomi Wolf appearing on Chris Matthews' Hardball to discuss Cheney's position of 1994 about why invading and occupying Iraq was a bad idea. Morgan immediately descends into dissembling, claiming that 9/11 changed everything, when in fact it changed nothing about Iraq. Naomi Wolf calls her on it, and correctly describes how the Bush administration has engaged in deception and lies to get us into the war and to seize unconstitutional powers for the Executive branch. Morgan's response to Wolf: "You're going to look super in a burqa."

Morgan seems to think that radical Islamic fundamentalists are about to take control of the United States, and that invading Iraq (one of the few countries in the Middle East which actually had a secular government) and turning it into a breeding ground for radical Islamic insurgents is an essential step to prevent it from happening. That's wildly insane.

The Cheney of 1994 was exactly right in his predictions of what would happen if we invaded Iraq, and no one has yet explained what changed his mind. September 11 is not an answer to that question. I think part of the answer can be found in James Mann's Rise of the Vulcans--groupthink from the Project for a New American Century crowd infected him, and he thought he could be at the center of power of a new American empire controlling the Middle East. But they were completely wrong about what would happen.

(Via Talking Points Memo.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lying at the Weekly Standard

Julian Sanchez points out the staggering misrepresentation by those arguing that the recent increase in wiretapping power amounts to nothing more than an update of FISA procedures to reflect current technology.

(Hat tip to Tim Lee at the Technology Liberation Front.)

The top six lies of Alberto Gonzales

At Talking Points Memo.

Answers in Genesis Wikipedia edits

Thanks to Wikiscanner, here are a few of the anonymous Wikipedia edits made by people at Answers in Genesis:

November 18, 2005: Changed a sentence in the entry on "Answers in Genesis" from "...according to Biblical myth, there was no death in the Garden of Eden" to "...according to the Biblical record, there was no death in the Garden of Eden."

December 5, 2006: Vandalized the entry on "Football" to add the words "Football sucks".

December 28, 2006: Added an entry for to the entry on "Free content." Does an AiG employee have another business on the side?

May 24, 2007: Modifies a sentence in the entry on "Creation Museum" from "This museum portrays the Earth's history interpreting the genesis literally" (ick!) to "The museum presents the account of man's origins and early history according to the Book of Genesis."

There are several other edits of "Creation Museum" and I didn't review them all, but most were reasonable improvements to the article, with the occasional biased statement that propounded creationism as true.

Jeffrey Dahmer and Answers in Genesis

(I've had this in draft since June 21, but forgot about it--I was making an effort to verify that Dahmer was actually raised as a creationist or Christian, but didn't find anything to indicate when Lionel Dahmer became either one. I raised the question in comments at Ed Brayton's blog, and one commenter, Kristine, replied that Lionel Dahmer says he only became a creationist after his son was arrested. That undermines the specifics of the case below. There have certainly been serial killers raised as Christians (such as Ted Bundy), but I've not heard of any that have been specifically raised as creationists. I don't think police departments look at Christianity or creationism as a relevant factor in a serial killer profile, the way they look at, say, possession of a copy of the Satanic Bible, except in extreme cases, which is probably as it should be.)

Ken Ham likes to argue that evolution is the cause of a variety of social ills--teen pregnancy, pornography, drugs, abortion, racism, the Holocaust, etc. His book The Lie: Evolution argues that evolution is responsible for all of these things.

I just learned (thanks to Ed Brayton's blog) that Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal serial killer, was raised as a creationist, and his father, Dr. Lionel Dahmer, is listed on the Answers in Genesis website as an analytical chemist who accepts the biblical account of creation.

If evolutionists used Ken Ham's technique, they would argue that being raised as a creationist causes cannibalism. Answers in Genesis specifically suggests that it was belief in evolution, rather than issues from his upbringing, that caused Jeffrey Dahmer to kill, quoting a 1994 statement from him that "If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behaviour to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing…"

The Wikipedia entry on Dahmer observes that he "dissected already dead animals as a child" (he collected and sexually interacted with roadkill), began abusing alcohol at 14, had extremely low self-esteem, and his parents divorced after "constant fighting" when he was 18. His father "forced him to enlist" in the Army for six years, but he was discharged after two due to excessive drinking. He built an altar of candles and human skulls in the closet of his apartment that was found when he was arrested. In prison, he declared himself a born-again Christian (which he was when he made the above statement), and was beaten to death in prison in 1994.

Psychiatrist George Palermo testified at Dahmer's trial that he killed his victims because he hated his own homosexuality.

UPDATE (September 6, 2013): It has been pointed out to me that if Lionel Dahmer claimed to have become a creationist after his son's arrest, this is false--Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in 1991, but Lionel Dahmer co-authored a paper in the Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Creationism, a conference which was held in 1990.

UPDATE (December 15, 2023): Glenn Branch brought to my attention that Lionel Dahmer died on December 5, 2023, and received an obituary in the New York Times (December 12th) that is as much about his son as him, but makes no mention of the creationism. He also noted that Lionel Dahmer's memoir says that he was inspired to return to Christianity in 1989 via the influence of young-earth creationist Bert Thompson of Apologetics Press.  Bert Thompson was subsequently fired from Apologetics Press after allegations of grooming and sexual abuse of teen boys.

God Hates Roman Catholics?

...Or is it Peruvians? Or perhaps Peruvian Roman Catholics?

From Yahoo News:

Hundreds had gathered in the pews of the San Clemente church on Wednesday — the day Roman Catholics celebrate the Virgin Mary's rise into heaven — for a special Mass marking one month since the death of a Pisco man.

With minutes left in the Mass, the church's ceiling began to break apart. The shaking lasted for an agonizing two minutes, burying 200 people, according to the town's mayor. On Thursday, only two stone columns and the church's dome rose from a giant pile of stone, bricks, wood and dust.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Mr. Conservative

Tonight I attended the Goldwater Institute's screening of the HBO documentary "Mr. Conservative," a biography of Barry Goldwater produced by his granddaughter, CC Goldwater, who was in attendance along with Barry Goldwater Jr. The audience was a mix of people who still call themselves conservative, libertarians, and even a few liberals. (Gary Peter Klahr sat directly behind me, and his question in the Q&A session was what Goldwater would have thought of the Bush administration's power grab and war in Iraq. Barry Goldwater Jr.'s answer was that his father disliked foreign entanglements and supported the Constitution.)

The film features footage and photographs taken by Barry Goldwater himself--the film notes that he always had a camera in his hand, and at least three books of his photographs have been published. He was born in Arizona prior to its statehood, to a Jewish father and an Episcopalian mother--which led to one quip from Goldwater reported by Robert MacNeil in the movie: "He would say things like, 'I went to a golf club where they wouldn't let Jews play, and I said, "I'm only half Jewish. Can I play nine holes?'"

The movie features interviews with people ranging from George Will, Barry Goldwater, Jr., and Sandra Day O'Connor to Ben Bradlee, Sally Quinn, Al Franken, Julian Bond, and Hillary Clinton. Also featured is the exceedingly evil Jack Valenti.

The film covers Goldwater's life in Arizona, including his mother teaching him to shoot guns, his coming home from the University of Arizona to run the family store in Phoenix so his smarter older brother could stay at Stanford, his love of ham radio and flying airplanes (he would hear on the radio of medical emergencies among the Hopi Indians and personally deliver medicine from Phoenix--and this during his political career). He was a very early runner of the Colorado River (in 1940 using wooden dories--when fewer than 100 people had run the river; Goldwater was #73). He ran the river with camera equipment, making a film which he traveled about Arizona to show, which made him well-known before running for office. He won his first election to the Phoenix City Council, and went straight from the City Council to the U.S. Senate.

In his later life, he was outspoken in his support for a woman's right to abortion, for gays to serve in the military, and for the religious right to stop pushing their religious views into politics. The film reveals that he supported his daughter obtaining an abortion before Roe v. Wade, and that he has a gay grandson. Several of the more liberal interviewees say that they thought Goldwater became liberal later in life (and some in the audience seemed to have a similar view), but Goldwater himself is shown making a statement that preempts this claim, back in 1963--that he is a conservative, but that at some time in the future people will call his views liberal.

He was a supporter of individual liberty who wanted the government's role in private life minimized across the board, on both economic and social issues--it wasn't he who changed, but the political environment that changed.

I recommend the movie--it is well done, it fairly points out his foibles and flaws as well as his strengths. It is sad that there are virtually no politicians today who are as forthright, honest, and outspoken about their views--who are as genuine as he was. We need more people in the public sphere who speak out with integrity and honesty, rather than with dissembling and spin.

UPDATE (August 17, 2007): I glossed over Goldwater's negatives in my last paragraph, but the film doesn't. It reports on how he lost the 1964 election in the biggest landslide in history, and why--including his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (though he supported the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, supported the Arizona NAACP, and helped desegregate the Arizona National Guard), his remarks about the use of atomic weapons for defoliation in Vietnam, and his remark about sawing off the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and letting it float away. LBJ's political ad graphically depicting the latter remark and his famous "Daisy" mushroom cloud ad are shown in the film. Goldwater's reaction to the latter is reported as saying that if he thought that accurately depicted what he would do, "I wouldn't vote for me either."

A few other points of interest in the film: Goldwater was a friend of John F. Kennedy, and they were looking forward to running against each other in the 1964 election, flying from city to city on the same plane together to campaign against each other face to face. That would have been an interesting match up. (I should note that my opinion of JFK is not as positive as the general public's view, after having read how he made use of the CIA. He was one of the worst abusers of the CIA for interventions in attempt to overthrow the governments of other countries who ever sat in the White House.)

Barry Goldwater Jr. was a long-time friend of Nixon White House counsel John Dean, and Dean consulted with Goldwater Sr. before testifying in front of the Senate about Watergate. Goldwater told him to go ahead and nail Nixon, because Nixon was a liar.

During Watergate, Goldwater, whose wife had decided to remain in Arizona, spent much of his time in D.C. at the home of Lt. Gen. William W. Quinn and his wife Bette. The Quinn's daughter Sally was a journalist engaged to Ben Bradlee, publisher of the Washington Post. Bradlee reports that Goldwater told him that he thought Nixon was going to resign, but not to publish a story about it because if he did, Nixon was so stubborn that he'd then refuse to do it.

The Wikipedia page on Goldwater is quite comprehensive.

UPDATE (August 18, 2007): Apparently the golf story is apocryphal. The discussion page on Goldwater's Wikipedia entry says "In his autobiography, 'Goldwater,' BG attributes this joke to his brother Bob, speaking about HIS brother Barry at 'a golf pro tournament near Los Angeles.' B. Goldwater adds, 'The story got a big laugh, but the incident never occurred.'"

Bruce Schneier interviews Kip Hawley

Bruce Schneier has posted all five parts of his interview with Transportation Security Administration head Kip Hawley: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Virgil Griffith has put together a fascinating data-mining tool that compares anonymous Wikipedia edits to WHOIS records for IP addresses, to allow users to examine edits made by people at particular organizations. The tool can be used to examine edits by people at the NSA (Ft. Meade), the CIA, the Church of Scientology, Bob Jones University, the Environmental Protection Agency, Diebold, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wal-Mart, Pfizer, Raytheon, The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, the WorldNetDaily, Fox News, the Republican and Democratic Party, the Vatican, among many others. The organizations listed here are all listed on the side of the tool's main search page, but there are many more in the drop-down list of user-submitted organizations, and you can specify organization names and locations.

Wired magazine has assembled a list of some of the more interesting edits, such as someone at Diebold deleting references to security flaws in electronic voting machines and someone at the CIA editing song lyrics from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Griffith, who built Wikiscanner while working at the Santa Fe Institute, begins graduate work in September at Caltech on theoretical neurobiology and artificial life under Christoph Koch and Chris Adami.

It's wonderful when data mining can be used for good purposes.

(Hat tip to Scott Peterson on the SKEPTIC list.)

Religious right threatens judges

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars reports on last week's meeting of the American Bar Association, at which there was a panel of judges who have been recipients of threats after controversial unions. In every case, the threats came when decisions were made that upset the religious right.

The CIA in Venezuela in 2002

A major gap in Tim Weiner's A Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007, Doubleday) is that it contains not a word about the 2002 coup in Venezuela against Hugo Chavez, which lasted 47 hours. The U.S. has denied any involvement, and an Office of the Inspector General investigation started at the request of Sen. Christopher Dodd came to the same conclusion. Press reports published in the U.S. about Hugo Chavez's recent referral to the coup as "attacks" by the U.S. put the word in quotes and gave it no credence. But the foreign press, on the other hand, documents facts which make it sound just like many other events described in Weiner's book where the CIA gave support to coup attempts in Central and South America, and the CIA's own reports in advance of and during the coup are remarkably detailed predictions of what was going to happen.

The incidents prior to the coup were growing protests against Chavez's heavy-handed approach to politics (which he has unfortunately continued since regaining power), which culminated in violence and gunfire between pro-Chavez and anti-Chavez protestors on April 11, 2002. There are conflicting reports about who was responsible (the pro-Chavez protesters say they were shooting back at snipers who were shooting at them, the anti-Chavez protesters say they were fired upon unprovoked), but the result was that military leaders seized Chavez, threw him in jail, and asked for his resignation on the condition that he would be exiled, otherwise he would be tried for the deaths of the protesters. Chavez said that he would resign only under the condition that his vice president would succeed him and the government would continue. The military leaders publicly proclaimed that Chavez had resigned, and put businessman Pedro Carmona, not Chavez's vice president, in charge. Carmona and other coup leaders had visited the White House on multiple occasions in months and weeks prior to the coup to visit Special Envoy to Latin America Otto Reich, and the U.S. was the only foreign government to immediately recognize the authority of the new leader.

But Carmona began his short term of office by abolishing the Venezuelan constitution, dissolving the National Assembly and the Supreme Court, and even changing the name of the country. This did not make the Venezuelan public or the military happy, and Carmona was quickly forced to resign in favor of power being briefly turned over to vice president Diosdado Cabello until Chavez was returned to office a few hours later. The total duration of the alternative government was about 47 hours. Carmona and his team went into exile.

It certainly looks like the CIA was involved. Otto Reich founded the Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean at the State Department, which engaged in covert propaganda activities before being declared illegal by the U.S. Comptroller General in 1987 for engaging in "prohibited, covert propaganda activities, beyond the range of acceptable agency public information activities." Reich was also involved with Col. Oliver North during the Iran-contra scandal. Both of these appear to indicate Reich being directly involved with the CIA.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Congressional earmark reform is a sham

From Robert Novak (ick, but it doesn't change the facts here) via Distributed Republic:

With the midnight hour approaching on Saturday, Aug. 4, near the end of a marathon session, Democratic and Republican leaders alike wanted to pass the defense appropriations bill quickly and start their summer recess. But Republican Rep. Jeff Flake's stubborn adherence to principle forced an hour-long delay that revealed unpleasant realities about Congress.

Flake insisted on debating the most egregious of the 1,300 earmarks placed in the defense money bill by individual House members that authorize spending in their districts. Defending every such earmark was the chairman of the Appropriations defense subcommittee: Democratic Rep. John Murtha, unsmiling and unresponsive to questions posed on the House floor by Flake. Murtha is called "King Corruption" by Republican reformers, but what happened after midnight on Aug. 5 is not a party matter. Democrats and Republicans, as always, locked arms to support every earmark. It makes no difference that at least seven House members are under investigation by the Justice Department. A bipartisan majority insists on sending taxpayers' money to companies in their districts without competitive bidding or public review.

Claims of newly established transparency were undermined by the late-night follies. Flake, who ran a Phoenix think tank, the Goldwater Institute, before coming to Congress in 2001, is immensely unpopular on both sides of the aisle for forcing votes on his colleagues' pork. He burnished that reputation by prolonging the marathon Saturday session and challenging selected earmarks.

What ensued showed the sham of earmark "reform." With debate on each earmark limited to five minutes per pro and con, and roll calls also pressed into five minutes, the House was mainly interested in finishing up and defeating Flake with huge bipartisan majorities. The mood of annoyance with Flake was personified by the 17-term Murtha, who as subcommittee chairman defended and retained every earmark (including notorious infusions of cash to his Johnstown, Pa., district).

Murtha is on CREW's list of the most corrupt Congressmen (as "one to watch") and has a history of working with Republicans in order to block fraud investigations and prevent lobbying reform. I observed last November that it looked like the Democrats were off to a poor start on reforming Congress.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dick Cheney on why not to invade Iraq

The Dick Cheney of 1994 is pretty persuasive, and his reasons clearly applied just as well in 2003 and today. Too bad he changed his mind and put us into that quagmire.

(Hat tip: The Agitator.)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why is there something rather than nothing?

The latest issue of Skeptic magazine (vol. 13, no. 2, 2007, pp. 28-39) has an article by Robert Lawrence Kuhn which supplies a nice list of possible explanations for the answer to the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" The article, titled "Why This Universe? Toward a Taxonomy of Possible Explanations" (PDF), briefly sets out descriptions of each explanation, but the meat of the article is found in the footnotes, which provide extensive references for each offered explanation.

Here's the list, minus the footnotes and descriptions:

1. One Universe Models
1.1 Meaningless Question
1.2 Brute Fact
1.3 Necessary/Only Way
1.4 Almost Necessary/Limited Ways
1.5 Temporal Selection
1.6 Self Explaining

2. Multiple Universes
2.1 Multiverse by Disconnected Regions (Spatial)
2.2 Multiverse by Cycles (Temporal)
2.3 Multiverse by Sequential Selection (Temporal)
2.4 Multiverse by String Theory (with Minuscule Extra Dimensions)
2.5 Multiverse by Large Extra Dimensions
2.6 Multiverse by Quantum Branching or Selection
2.7 Multiverse by Mathematics
2.8 Multiverse by All Possibilities

3. Nonphysical Causes
3.1 Theistic Person
3.2 Ultimate Mind
3.3 Deistic First Cause
3.4 Pantheistic Substance
3.5 Spirit Realms
3.6 Consciousness as Cause
3.7 Being and Non-Being as Cause
3.8 Abstract Objects / Platonic Forms as Cause
3.9 Principle or Feature of Sufficient Power

4. Illusions
4.1 Idealism
4.2 Simulation in Actual Reality
4.3 Simulation in Virtual Reality
4.4 Solipsism

One of the most entertaining philosophical books I've ever read was David Lewis' On the plurality of worlds (pretty much everything Lewis wrote was entertaining as well as brilliant), which falls in category 2.8 (Multiverse by All Possibilities), cited by Kahn in note 43. The same category includes another very entertaining philosophy book, Robert Nozick's Philosophical Explanations, which is cited in note 44.

This taxonomy shows that there are a lot more possibilities than "God did it."

UPDATE: Thanks to John Lynch at stranger fruit, who pointed out that the article is available online.

Institute for Creation Research relocates to Dallas

The August 2007 issue of Acts & Facts (PDF, p. 5) reports that the Institute for Creation Research is relocating from Santee, California to Dallas, Texas. Their new location is the Henry M. Morris Center, a four-acre campus with three buildings fifteen minutes' drive from DFW Airport.

The ICR Graduate School, which now offers most of its courses online, will also relocate. The ICR Creation Museum will remain in Santee "for the foreseeable future."

The ICR cites the "rising costs of living and working in southern California" as a key reason for the relocation. In Texas, its employees will have no state income tax to pay, and the cultural climate will no doubt also be much more receptive to the ICR.

Texas is a state with a governor who has just appointed a creationist to head the Texas State Board of Education. It's also a state that has introduced a bill to require the blatantly unconstitutional and proselytizing NCBCPS Bible curriculum in public schools, which the ACLU has already filed a lawsuit over in Odessa.

UPDATE (April 24, 2008): The ICR Graduate School has been denied the right to issue Master of Science degrees in Texas by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The full board will vote on the measure today, which is also expected to deny them the right to issue degrees.

UPDATE: The full board agreed. ICR is not permitted to issue Master of Science degrees in Texas.

UPDATE (May 12, 2008): The school board members in Odessa who voted for the unconstitutional NCBCPS Bible curriculum have all been voted out of office, in a repeat of the Dover, PA intelligent design disclaimer.

A Brief History of the CIA: 1945-1953 (Truman)

Source and page references are to Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, 2007, Doubleday, pp. 1-70.

President: Harry S Truman

September 20, 1945: Office of Strategic Services ordered to disband; General William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan fired. OSS Intelligence analysts moved to the State Department.

January 24, 1946: Truman appoints Rear Admiral Sidney W. Souers as chief of the "Cloak and Dagger Group of Snoopers" and "Director of Centralized Snooping," the Central Intelligence Group. Brigadier General John Magruder interprets this as meaning the group should operate a clandestine service, though Truman has said nothing of this and no legal authority has been given.

June 10, 1946: General Hoyt Vandenburg appointed director of central intelligence. He creates an Office of Special Operations and obtains $15 million in Congressional funding. The group uses the money to buy intelligence information in Europe about the Soviets, most of which turns out to be fraudulent.

July 17, 1946: Vandenburg obtains an additional $10 million in funding from the Secretary of War and Secretary of State.

September-October 1946: The OSO attempts to organize Romania's National Peasant Party into a resistance force. Soviet intelligence and the Romanian secret police detect the plot and imprison the Peasant Party's leaders. The OSO gets the former foreign minister of Romania and "five other members of the would-be liberation army into Austria" and out to safety on October 5. "A brutal dictatorship took control of Romania, its rise to power hastened by the failure of American covert action." (pp. 18-19)

May 1, 1947: Rear Admiral Roscoe Hillenkoetter becomes head of central intelligence.

June 27, 1947: A Congressional committee holds secret hearings that lead to formal creation of the CIA on September 18. Dean Acheson writes "I had the gravest forebodings about this organization, and warned the President that as set up neither he, the National Security Council, nor anyone else would be in a position to know what it was doing or to control it." (p. 25) James Forrestal wrote that "This office will probably be the greatest cemetery for dead cats in history." (p. 24) The National Security Act says nothing about clandestine operations overseas, only the correlation, evaluation, and dissemination of intelligence information.

September 1947: CIA counsel Lawrence Houston warns Hillenkoetter that the agency has no legal authority to conduct covert action without Congressional approval.

December 14, 1947: The National Security Council instructs the CIA to engage in "covert psychological operations designed to counter Soviet and Soviet-inspired activities." (p. 26) The CIA's first plan of action is to defeat the communists in the April 1948 Italian elections. The CIA gains access to the Exchange Stabilization Fund, which held $200 million for the reconstruction of Europe. $10 million is distributed to wealthy Americans, many of whom are Italian-Americans, who pass it on to CIA political front groups as "charitable donations," and on to Italian politicians in suitcases filled with cash. Italy's Christian Democrats win the election, and the CIA repeats this process in Italy and many other nations for the next 25 years (p. 27).

March 5, 1945: After Communists seize power in Czechoslovakia, General Lucius D. Clay, head of occupation forces in Berlin, cables the Pentagon that he fears Soviet attack. The CIA's Berlin office assures the president that there is no sign of a Soviet attack. Truman warns Congress of an imminent Soviet attack, gaining approval of the Marshall Plan. 5% of Marshall Plan funds are allocated to the CIA ($685 million), used to create front organizations throughout Europe and to create underground political groups that would become a fighting force if needed. This operation was carried out under the Office of Policy Coordination inside the CIA, reporting to the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State.

September 1, 1948: Frank Wisner becomes head of covert operations at the CIA; his organization quickly becomes larger than the rest of the CIA. Wisner recruits spies from Ivy League institutions, obtains a quarter of a billion dollars worth of military equipment in Europe and Asia, and builds a huge organization.

November 1948: Wisner attempts to break communist influence over trade organizations in France and Italy using U.S. labor leaders Jay Lovestone (former head of the American Communist Party) and Irving Brown to deliver cash to "labor groups backed by Christian Democrats and the Catholic Church" (p. 36). The CIA creates the Congress for Cultural Freedom and Radio Free Europe.

Early 1948: James Forrestal asks Allen Dulles to investigate the weaknesses of the CIA. The report's main conclusions are (in Weiner's words) that "the CIA was churning out reams of paper containing few if any facts on the communist threat," "the agency had no spies among the Soviets and their satellites," and "Roscoe Hillenkoetter was a failure as director." (p. 37)

May 27, 1949: Congress passes the Central Intelligence Act of 1949, giving the CIA power to do pretty much whatever it wanted, except for acting as a secret police force inside the United States. One clause of the act permits the CIA to admit 100 foreigners per year into the U.S., giving them "permanent residence without regard to their inadmissibility under the immigration or any other laws." The CIA brings Ukrainian Mikola Lebed into the U.S. under this law, despite the fact that the CIA's files describe Lebed's organization as "a terrorist organization." Lebed went to prison for his murder of the Polish interior minister in 1936, escaping when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. The Justice Department considered Lebed a war criminal responsible for the slaughter of Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews, but he was defended by Allen Dulles for his assistance in operations against the Soviets.

December 1948: CIA officer Steve Tanner assesses a band of Ukrainians in Munich, the Supreme Council for the Liberation of the Ukraine, as a group deserving CIA backing. July 26, 1949: CIA special operations chief General Willard G. Wyman approves an operation to drop two Ukrainians from the group into their homeland. Tanner hires "a daredevil Hungarian air crew who had hijacked a Hungarian commercial airliner and flown it to Munich a few months earlier" (p. 44). The men were dropped on September 5, 1949; a CIA history declassified in 2005 says that "The Soviets quickly eliminated the agents."

July 1949: The CIA took over the Munich-based group run by General Reinhard Gehlen, former leader of Hitler's military intelligence service, the Abwehr. This group turned out to be penetrated by Soviet and East German moles at the highest levels, including Gehlen's chief of counterintelligence.

September 5, 1949: An air force crew flying out of Alaska detected traces of radioactivity in the atmosphere. September 20, 1949: While those radioactive traces were being analyzed, "the CIA confidently declared that the Soviet Union would not produce an atomic weapon for at least another four years." (p. 48) September 23, 1949: Truman informs the world that Stalin has the atomic bomb.

October 1949: Frank Wisner and the British send nine Albanian rebels from Malta into Albania. Three are killed immediately, the rest are captured by secret police. Wisner sends additional recruits via Athens with Polish pilots after training in Munich, each time all are captured or killed. It turns out that the German training camps were infiltrated by Soviet spies, and CIA counterintelligence head James Angleton was sharing information with Kim Philby at MI6, who was also working for the KGB. "Angleton gave Philby the precise coordinates for the drop zone for every agent the CIA parachuted into Albania." (p. 46)

1950s: "hundreds of the CIA's foreign agents were sent to their deaths in Russia, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and the Baltic States during the 1950s." (p. 47)

1945-1949: U.S. signals intelligence intercepts and decrypts messages between the Soviet Union and the Far East. This ends when William Wolf Weisband, a Russian translator and Soviet spy recruited in the 1930s, gives information about broken codes to the Soviets. The loss of intelligence information leads to the creation of the National Security Agency.

July 25, 1950: The Korean War begins with a surprise attack from North Korea.

October 1950: General Walter Bedell Smith becomes head of the CIA.

October 11, 1950: Truman leaves for Wake Island. The CIA assures him that "no convincing indications of an actual Chinese Communist intention to resort to full-scale intervention in Korea .. barring a Soviet decision for global war." CIA Tokyo station chief George Aurell, however, "reported that a Chinese Nationalist officer in Manchuria was warning that Mao had amassed 300,000 troops near the Korean border." October 18: The CIA "reported that 'the Soviet Korean venture has ended in failure.'" October 20: "The CIA said that Chinese forces detected at the Yalu were there to protect hydroelectric power plants." October 28: "those Chinese troops were scattered volunteers." October 30: "after American troops had been attacked, taking heavy casualties, the CIA reaffirmed that a major Chinese intervention was unlikely." November 1: "300,000 Chinese troops struck with an attack so brutal that it nearly pushed the Americans into the sea." (All quotes from p. 52.)

1950-1960s: Classified CIA histories of the Korean War "say the agency's paramilitary operations were 'not only ineffective but probably morally reprehensible in the number of lives lost.'" (p. 54) "Bedell Smith repeatedly warned Wisner to watch out for false intelligence fabricated by the enemy. But some of Wisner's officers were fabricators themselves--including the station chief [Albert R. Haney] and the chief of operations [Hans Tofte] he sent to Korea." (pp. 55-56) Haney's 1952 replacement, John Limond Hart, found that "nearly every Korean agent he had inherited had either invented his reports or worked in secret for the communists. Every dispatch the station had sent to CIA headquarters from the front for the past eighteen months was a calculated deception." (p. 57) Similar operations in Taiwan to recruit spies and drop them into mainland China failed. Over $100 million is spent on weapons for a "third force" of 200,000 guerillas between April 1951 to the end of 1952, but the agency was unable to recruit them.

January 4, 1951: Allen Dulles appointed CIA deputy director of plans (a cover for his actual position, chief of covert operations) despite not getting along with Bedell Smith. Shortly thereafter, deputy director Bill Jackson resigns, and Dulles is appointed to deputy director and Frank Wisner to chief of covert operations.

Early 1951: 1,500 followers of Chinese Nationalist General Li Mi were stranded in northern Burma; the CIA supplied guns, gold, and additional Chinese Nationalist soldiers. Those who crossed into China were killed; Li Mi's radioman in Bangkok was a Chinese communist agent.

July 1952: A four-man Chinese guerilla team is dropped into Manchuria and radios for help four months later, which turns out to be a trap that leads to the death or capture of the rescuers--with two young CIA agents spending the next 19-20 years in Chinese prisons. "Beijing later broadcast a scorecard for Manchuria: the CIA had dropped 212 foreign agents in; 101 were killed and 111 captured." (p. 60) The CIA supplies more guns and ammunition, but Li Mi's men choose not to fight, but instead to settle into the Golden Triangle, harvest opium poppies, and marry local women. Li Mi becomes a heroin kingpin. [Note added 23 November 2014: The CIA film "Extraordinary Fidelity" tells the story of John T. Downey and Richard G. Fecteau, the two young CIA agents imprisoned in China mentioned here.]

July 1953: After the armistice, the CIA nearly kills South Korean President Syngman Rhee when a yacht he is on sails past Yong-do, an island where the agency trained Korean commandos. The CIA's paramilitary group is given 72 hours to leave the country.

1950s: Wisner's men are active in Europe, spending Marshall Plan money to prepare for a future war against the Soviets, including "dropping gold ingots into lakes and burying caches of weapons for the coming battle" (p. 64).

1948-1950s: Secret prisons set up to interrogate suspected double agents--in Germany, in Japan, and in the Panama Canal Zone (the largest such prison).

May 15, 1952: Dulles and Wisner receive a report on Project Artichoke, a "four-year effort to test heroin, amphetamines, sleeping pills, the newly discovered LSD, and other 'special techniques in CIA interrogations.'" (p. 65) Dulles approves Ultra, under which "seven prisoners at a federal penitentiary in Kentucky were kept high on LSD for seventy-seven consecutive days" and Army civilian employee Frank Olsen is dosed and leaps to his death out the window of a New York hotel. Project Artichoke continues until 1956, but most records of these activities were destroyed.

1952: The "Young Germans" (many of which were aging Hitler Youth) are supported by the CIA. The "Free Jurists' Committee," an underground group in East Germany, was taken over by Frank Wisner, whose men selected one of Gehlen's officers to train them as a fighting force. "After Soviet soldiers kidnapped and tortured one of their leaders on the eve of the international conference, every one of the CIA's Free Jurists was arrested." (p. 67)

1952: Wisner supported a Polish liberation group, the Freedom and Independent Movement (known as WIN). They had contacts with "WIN outside," emigres in Germany and London, and believed they were supporting thousands of sympathizers of "WIN inside" in Poland. They dropped $5 million in gold and weapons for "WIN inside," but the Polish secret police and the Soviets had wiped out WIN in 1947 and it was all a trap. (p. 67)

October 27, 1952: Gen. Bedell Smith convened a "Murder Board" to kill off the worst of the CIA's covert operations, but his efforts came to naught when Eisenhower appointed Allen Dulles as head of the CIA.

November 26, 1952: "British spy Monty Woodhouse flew to Washington to meet with Walter Bedell Smith and Frank Wisner" about how to get rid of Mossadeq in Iran (p. 83).

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dirty Politician: Don Young

How corrupt is our Congress? They're not even pretending to follow the Constitution.

Talking Points Memo reports on how Rep. Don Young (R-AK) inserted an earmark to spend $10 million on a highway interchange in Florida ("Coconut Road") to benefit real estate developer Daniel Aranoff, a few days after Aranoff raised $40,000 for Young.

The really interesting part is not an Alaskan legislator doing political favors for contributions from a Florida developer, but the fact that the earmark was not in the version of the bill that passed the House or Senate--it was added to the bill during the enrollment process, after its passage but before being signed by President Bush. This is a process which is only supposed to allow correction of typographical and technical but non-substantive errors.

Arizona home sales way down

Despite new home builders offering unprecedented incentives, new home sales in Arizona are dismal. 2007 year-to-date sales (through July) were 33,510, compared to 41,835 for the same time period in 2006 and 68,235 for the same period in 2005. And this is while inventories and foreclosures are climbing.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Inside the CIA's secret prisons

Jane Mayer has a story in the August 13, 2007 issue of The New Yorker which describes practices in the CIA's secret prisons, whose existence was recently admitted by the president. Some excerpts:
[Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed’s interrogation was part of a secret C.I.A. program, initiated after September 11th, in which terrorist suspects such as Mohammed were detained in “black sites”—secret prisons outside the United States—and subjected to unusually harsh treatment. The program was effectively suspended last fall, when President Bush announced that he was emptying the C.I.A.’s prisons and transferring the detainees to military custody in Guantánamo. This move followed a Supreme Court ruling, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which found that all detainees—including those held by the C.I.A.—had to be treated in a manner consistent with the Geneva Conventions. These treaties, adopted in 1949, bar cruel treatment, degradation, and torture. In late July, the White House issued an executive order promising that the C.I.A. would adjust its methods in order to meet the Geneva standards. At the same time, Bush’s order pointedly did not disavow the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would likely be found illegal if used by officials inside the United States. The executive order means that the agency can once again hold foreign terror suspects indefinitely, and without charges, in black sites, without notifying their families or local authorities, or offering access to legal counsel.
The Bush Administration has gone to great lengths to keep secret the treatment of the hundred or so “high-value detainees” whom the C.I.A. has confined, at one point or another, since September 11th. The program has been extraordinarily “compartmentalized,” in the nomenclature of the intelligence world. By design, there has been virtually no access for outsiders to the C.I.A.’s prisoners. The utter isolation of these detainees has been described as essential to America’s national security. The Justice Department argued this point explicitly last November, in the case of a Baltimore-area resident named Majid Khan, who was held for more than three years by the C.I.A. Khan, the government said, had to be prohibited from access to a lawyer specifically because he might describe the “alternative interrogation methods” that the agency had used when questioning him. These methods amounted to a state secret, the government argued, and disclosure of them could “reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave damage.” (The case has not yet been decided.)
Finally, last year, Red Cross officials were allowed to interview fifteen detainees, after they had been transferred to Guantánamo. One of the prisoners was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. What the Red Cross learned has been kept from the public. The committee believes that its continued access to prisoners worldwide is contingent upon confidentiality, and therefore it addresses violations privately with the authorities directly responsible for prisoner treatment and detention. For this reason, Simon Schorno, a Red Cross spokesman in Washington, said, “The I.C.R.C. does not comment on its findings publicly. Its work is confidential.”

The public-affairs office at the C.I.A. and officials at the congressional intelligence-oversight committees would not even acknowledge the existence of the report. Among the few people who are believed to have seen it are Condoleezza Rice, now the Secretary of State; Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; John Bellinger III, the Secretary of State’s legal adviser; Hayden; and John Rizzo, the agency’s acting general counsel. Some members of the Senate and House intelligence-oversight committees are also believed to have had limited access to the report.

Confidentiality may be particularly stringent in this case. Congressional and other Washington sources familiar with the report said that it harshly criticized the C.I.A.’s practices. One of the sources said that the Red Cross described the agency’s detention and interrogation methods as tantamount to torture, and declared that American officials responsible for the abusive treatment could have committed serious crimes. The source said the report warned that these officials may have committed “grave breaches” of the Geneva Conventions, and may have violated the U.S. Torture Act, which Congress passed in 1994. The conclusions of the Red Cross, which is known for its credibility and caution, could have potentially devastating legal ramifications.


A former C.I.A. officer, who supports the agency’s detention and interrogation policies, said he worried that, if the full story of the C.I.A. program ever surfaced, agency personnel could face criminal prosecution. Within the agency, he said, there is a “high level of anxiety about political retribution” for the interrogation program. If congressional hearings begin, he said, “several guys expect to be thrown under the bus.” He noted that a number of C.I.A. officers have taken out professional liability insurance, to help with potential legal fees.


The experts were retired military psychologists, and their backgrounds were in training Special Forces soldiers how to survive torture, should they ever be captured by enemy states. The program, known as SERE—an acronym for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape—was created at the end of the Korean War. It subjected trainees to simulated torture, including waterboarding (simulated drowning), sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to temperature extremes, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds, and religious and sexual humiliation. The SERE program was designed strictly for defense against torture regimes, but the C.I.A.’s new team used its expertise to help interrogators inflict abuse. “They were very arrogant, and pro-torture,” a European official knowledgeable about the program said. “They sought to render the detainees vulnerable—to break down all of their senses. It takes a psychologist trained in this to understand these rupturing experiences.”


According to an eyewitness, one psychologist advising on the treatment of Zubaydah, James Mitchell, argued that he needed to be reduced to a state of “learned helplessness.” (Mitchell disputes this characterization.)

Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experienced interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years, said that “learned helplessness was his whole paradigm.” Mitchell, he said, “draws a diagram showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoners’ ability to forecast the future—when their next meal is, when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the K.G.B. model. But the K.G.B. used it to get people who had turned against the state to confess falsely. The K.G.B. wasn’t after intelligence.”

A former member of a C.I.A. transport team has described the “takeout” of prisoners as a carefully choreographed twenty-minute routine, during which a suspect was hog-tied, stripped naked, photographed, hooded, sedated with anal suppositories, placed in diapers, and transported by plane to a secret location.

A person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry, referring to cavity searches and the frequent use of suppositories during the takeout of detainees, likened the treatment to “sodomy.” He said, “It was used to absolutely strip the detainee of any dignity. It breaks down someone’s sense of impenetrability. The interrogation became a process not just of getting information but of utterly subordinating the detainee through humiliation.” The former C.I.A. officer confirmed that the agency frequently photographed the prisoners naked, “because it’s demoralizing.” The person involved in the Council of Europe inquiry said that photos were also part of the C.I.A.’s quality-control process. They were passed back to case officers for review.


Ramzi Kassem, who teaches at Yale Law School, said that a Yemeni client of his, Sanad al-Kazimi, who is now in Guantánamo, alleged that he had received similar treatment in the Dark Prison, the facility near Kabul. Kazimi claimed to have been suspended by his arms for long periods, causing his legs to swell painfully. “It’s so traumatic, he can barely speak of it,” Kassem said. “He breaks down in tears.” Kazimi also claimed that, while hanging, he was beaten with electric cables.

According to sources familiar with interrogation techniques, the hanging position is designed, in part, to prevent detainees from being able to sleep. The former C.I.A. officer, who is knowledgeable about the interrogation program, explained that “sleep deprivation works. Your electrolyte balance changes. You lose all balance and ability to think rationally. Stuff comes out.” Sleep deprivation has been recognized as an effective form of coercion since the Middle Ages, when it was called tormentum insomniae. It was also recognized for decades in the United States as an illegal form of torture. An American Bar Association report, published in 1930, which was cited in a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, said, “It has been known since 1500 at least that deprivation of sleep is the most effective torture and certain to produce any confession desired.”

Under President Bush’s new executive order, C.I.A. detainees must receive the “basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care.” Sleep, according to the order, is not among the basic necessities.

In addition to keeping a prisoner awake, the simple act of remaining upright can over time cause significant pain. McCoy, the historian, noted that “longtime standing” was a common K.G.B. interrogation technique. In his 2006 book, “A Question of Torture,” he writes that the Soviets found that making a victim stand for eighteen to twenty-four hours can produce “excruciating pain, as ankles double in size, skin becomes tense and intensely painful, blisters erupt oozing watery serum, heart rates soar, kidneys shut down, and delusions deepen.”


Some detainees held by the C.I.A. claimed that their cells were bombarded with deafening sound twenty-fours hours a day for weeks, and even months. One detainee, Binyam Mohamed, who is now in Guantánamo, told his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that speakers blared music into his cell while he was handcuffed. Detainees recalled the sound as ranging from ghoulish laughter, “like the soundtrack from a horror film,” to ear-splitting rap anthems. Stafford Smith said that his client found the psychological torture more intolerable than the physical abuse that he said he had been previously subjected to in Morocco, where, he said, local intelligence agents had sliced him with a razor blade. “The C.I.A. worked people day and night for months,” Stafford Smith quoted Binyam Mohamed as saying. “Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and doors, screaming their heads off.”


The inquiry source said that most of the Poland detainees were waterboarded, including Mohammed. According to the sources familiar with the Red Cross report, Mohammed claimed to have been waterboarded five times. Two former C.I.A. officers who are friends with one of Mohammed’s interrogators called this bravado, insisting that he was waterboarded only once. According to one of the officers, Mohammed needed only to be shown the drowning equipment again before he “broke.”

“Waterboarding works,” the former officer said. “Drowning is a baseline fear. So is falling. People dream about it. It’s human nature. Suffocation is a very scary thing. When you’re waterboarded, you’re inverted, so it exacerbates the fear. It’s not painful, but it scares the shit out of you.” (The former officer was waterboarded himself in a training course.) Mohammed, he claimed, “didn’t resist. He sang right away. He cracked real quick.” He said, “A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable. K.S.M. was just a little doughboy. He couldn’t stand toe to toe and fight it out.”

The former officer said that the C.I.A. kept a doctor standing by during interrogations. He insisted that the method was safe and effective, but said that it could cause lasting psychic damage to the interrogators. During interrogations, the former agency official said, officers worked in teams, watching each other behind two-way mirrors. Even with this group support, the friend said, Mohammed’s interrogator “has horrible nightmares.” He went on, “When you cross over that line of darkness, it’s hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but it’s well outside the norm. You can’t go to that dark a place without it changing you.” He said of his friend, “He’s a good guy. It really haunts him. You are inflicting something really evil and horrible on somebody.”


Waterboarding, in particular, troubled many officials, from both a moral and a legal perspective. Until 2002, when Bush Administration lawyers asserted that waterboarding was a permissible interrogation technique for “enemy combatants,” it was classified as a form of torture, and treated as a serious criminal offense. American soldiers were court-martialled for waterboarding captives as recently as the Vietnam War.


Ultimately, however, Mohammed claimed responsibility for so many crimes that his testimony became to seem inherently dubious. In addition to confessing to the Pearl murder, he said that he had hatched plans to assassinate President Clinton, President Carter, and Pope John Paul II. Bruce Riedel, who was a C.I.A. analyst for twenty-nine years, and who now works at the Brookings Institution, said, “It’s difficult to give credence to any particular area of this large a charge sheet that he confessed to, considering the situation he found himself in. K.S.M. has no prospect of ever seeing freedom again, so his only gratification in life is to portray himself as the James Bond of jihadism.”

I recommend reading the whole article.