Thursday, July 10, 2003

Well I must admit that there sure has been a lot of news the last couple days. From Chimpy-style lies to rigged voting machines it sure looks to me like the very fabric of our country is coming apart at the seams. In fact, there was so much going on that The Skeptic got a bad case of Information Overload and I just couldn’t get anything posted at all. I’d really like to put my posts into some kind of order where the info flows from one story to the next, but the last few days have been just too much.

So I’ll just bail them out there and hope they fall to earth in a semi-coherent fashion. A 52-pickup, blog style….

OK….the 9-11 story has been picking up considerable steam even if the Bush admin has been dragging it’s feet ponying up the documents needed for a full inquiry:
The federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 terror attacks said today that its work was being hampered by the failure of executive branch agencies, especially the Pentagon and the Justice Department, to respond quickly to requests for documents and testimony.

The panel also said the failure of the Bush administration to allow officials to be interviewed without the presence of government colleagues could impede its investigation, with the commission's chairman suggesting today that the situation amounted to "intimidation" of the witnesses.

In what they acknowledged was an effort to bring public pressure on the White House to meet the panel's demands for classified information, the commission's Republican chairman and Democratic vice chairman released a statement, declaring that they had received only a small part of the millions of sensitive government documents they have requested from the executive branch.

Another story on the footdragging over the 9-11 report:
"While I don't want to believe such a basic lack of cooperation was intentional, it nonetheless creates the appearance of bureaucratic stonewalling," said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, at a commission hearing in May. "Excessive administration secrecy on issues related to the Sept. 11 attacks feeds conspiracy theories and reduces the public's confidence in government," added Mr. McCain, a main sponsor of the bill that created the commission.

In spite of the attempts to delay or stonewall the report from coming out, it looks like the 800 page document will be released over the next couple weeks. It promises to be explosive:
WASHINGTON - A long-awaited final report on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks will be released in the next two weeks, containing new information about U.S. government mistakes and Saudi financing of terrorists.

Former Rep. Tim Roemer, who served on the House Intelligence Committee and who has read the report, said it will be ''highly explosive'' when it becomes public.

The staff director for the congressional investigation that produced the 800-page report, Eleanor Hill, said Wednesday that several lengthy battles with the Bush administration over how much secret data to declassify have been resolved.

She expects the document to go to the Government Printing Office late this week and then be made public about a week later.

''It's compelling and galvanizing and will refocus the public's attention on Sept. 11,'' predicted Roemer, an Indiana Democrat. ``Certain mistakes, errors and gaps in the system will be made clear.''


A source familiar with the investigation, speaking on condition of anonymity, cited two ''sensitive areas'' of the report that will command public attention:

- More information on ties between the Saudi royal family, government officials and terrorists. The FBI may have mishandled an investigation into how two of the Sept. 11 hijackers received aid from Saudi groups and individuals.
John Lehman, a member of the independent commission, said at a hearing Wednesday: ``There's little doubt that much of the funding of terrorist groups -- whether intentional or unintentional -- is coming from Saudi sources.''

- A coherent narrative of intelligence warnings, some of them ignored or not shared with other agencies, before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The report will show that top Bush administration officials were warned in the summer of 2001 that the al Qaeda terrorist network had plans to hijack aircraft and launch a ``spectacular attack.''

More on the stonewalling:
For its part the White House says it has nothing to hide.

"The president believes the commission should carefully investigate the evidence and follow all the facts wherever they should lead," White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett told the paper. "What the investigation would show is that we took terrorism very seriously."

Still, administration critics complain that access to key documents has to be routed through the Justice Department and that subpoena power will be restricted under rules required by the White House.

The Bush administration insisted that the 10-member panel be evenly spilt between Democrats and Republicans, requiring at least one Republican to go along before any witness is subpoenaed.

A controversy is also brewing over claims from former Clinton administration officials that their warnings about Osama bin Laden went unheeded by Bush officials.

"I know that during the transition between the Clinton and Bush administrations that the outgoing administration told the incoming one that they would spend more time on terrorism and bin Laden than anything else," Sen. Hillary Clinton complained earlier this year, adding, "That wasn't their priority. Their priorities were different."

So while all this is coming out one of the top officials of Homeland has decided he’s had enough:
The resignation came less than a month after assistant secretary Paul Redmond angered many House members at a hearing when he testified that his newly established office has not hired enough analysts or set up enough secure communications lines to receive classified FBI and CIA data for analysis purposes.

A department spokesman said Redmond's resignation was "totally unrelated" to his June 5 testimony before the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, which congressional sources described as a major setback for the agency's relations with Congress.

Redmond is a legendary CIA counter-intelligence official who helped unmask some of America's most infamous spies before his 1998 retirement.

In a statement last night, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said, "The entire country will benefit from Paul's work establishing a new agency, and it will be one of his greatest legacies."

Speaking of stonewalling, federal appeals court dealt VP Dicky Cheney a defeat over Bushco’s attempt to keep the Energy Task Force Report from being released:
The White House, which says the task force was made up exclusively of government employees, has said that the deliberations can remain secret and that any court ruling to the contrary would exceed the judiciary's constitutional authority.

But critics of the energy task force have charged that leading energy industry figures, such as Kenneth Lay of Enron, were essentially members of the advisory group, and that its work was therefore subject to public scrutiny. Judicial Watch, a legal advocacy organization, sued in 2001, accusing the task force of breaking federal law and demanding the release of the records of the task force. A similar suit filed subsequently in California by the Sierra Club was joined with Judicial Watch's suit, and the consolidated action ended up before U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan.

After Sullivan denied the defendant's motion to dismiss the case and ordered the task force to begin turning over documents for the preliminary review process known as discovery, Justice Department lawyers went to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the country's most influential court after the Supreme Court, to stop the discovery order.

Ya know. Maybe we wouldn’t be having all these troubles with Chimpco if the press would just do its job:
The Bush administration has been taking heavy flak for its as yet unproved claims about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. In fixing blame for the way the public appears to have been sold a bill of goods, don't overlook the part played by the media. Instead of closely questioning the administration's case, the nation's newspaper editorialists basically nodded in agreement.

Take their immediate reaction to the administration's most comprehensive presentation about the Iraq threat -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's blow-by-blow report to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5. An examination of editorial comment on Powell's speech and slide show, in a mix of some 40 papers from all parts of the country, shows that while some were less convinced than others by Powell's attempt to link Hussein to terrorism, there was unanimity as to Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction: "a massive array of evidence," "a detailed and persuasive case," "a powerful case," "a sober, factual case," "an overwhelming case," "a compelling case," "the strong, credible and persuasive case," "a persuasive, detailed accumulation of information," "the core of his argument was unassailable," "a smoking fusillade . . . a persuasive case for anyone who is still persuadable," "an accumulation of painstakingly gathered and analyzed evidence," "only the most gullible and wishful thinking souls can now deny that Iraq is harboring and hiding weapons of mass destruction," "the skeptics asked for proof; they now have it," "a much more detailed and convincing argument than any that has previously been told," "Powell's evidence . . . was overwhelming," "an ironclad case . . . incontrovertible evidence," "succinct and damning evidence . . . the case is closed," "Colin Powell delivered the goods on Saddam Hussein," "masterful," "If there was any doubt that Hussein . . . needs to be . . . stripped of his chemical and biological capabilities, Powell put it to rest."

Journalists are supposed to be professional skeptics, but nowhere in the commentary was there a smidgen of skepticism about the quality of Powell's evidence. Powell cited almost no verifiable sources. Many of his assertions were unattributed. The speech had more than 40 vague references such as "human sources," "an eyewitness," "detainees," "an al-Qaeda source," "a senior defector," "intelligence sources," and the like.

One of the smarter guys out there, Calpundit.