Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bush Expands Intel Chief's Power Over FBI - Yahoo! News

Bush Expands Intel Chief's Power Over FBI - Yahoo! News: "Bush Expands Intel Chief's Power Over FBI By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 17 minutes ago

WASHINGTON - President Bush granted the new national intelligence chief expanded power over the FBI on Wednesday and ordered dozens of other spy agency changes as the White House heeded a presidential commission that condemned the intelligence community for failures in Iraq and elsewhere.

But almost as soon as the details were unveiled, the White House was defending itself against suggestions that the moves were simply adding more bureaucracy without making changes that could have prevented misjudgments like those made on Iraq.

"It's an unfair characterization to say it's simply a restructuring," said Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, who led the 90-day review of the recommendations from the president's commission on weapons of mass destruction. "It's a fundamental strengthening of our intelligence capabilities."

The White House said it endorsed 70 of the 74 recommendations from the commission, which was led by Republican Judge Laurence Silberman and former Democratic Sen. Charles Robb and conducted a yearlong review of the 15 intelligence agencies. Bush formed the commission under pressure after the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq resigned and started a firestorm of controversy over the accuracy of the prewar Iraq intelligence.

In its scathing 600-page report released in March, the commission called the spy community "dead wrong on almost all of its prewar judgments" about Iraq's weapons.

Robb called the White House's broad acceptance of the commission's proposals "truly extraordinary."

Among the most significant changes the White House offered Wednesday, the Justice Department will be directed — with congressional approval — to consolidate its counterterrorism, espionage and intelligence units under one new assistant attorney general for national security.

The White House ordered the creation of a National Security Service inside the FBI. And Bush sought to strengthen the hand of the new national intelligence director over the FBI, giving him expanded budget and management powers over the bureau.

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said the FBI's new security service would lead to an "erosion of constitutional protections against law enforcement actions."

But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said, "Every law enforcement official within the FBI is going to remain under the supervision of the FBI director and, ultimately, the attorney general."

The White House will also have the national intelligence director, John Negroponte, establish a National Counter-Proliferation Center that will coordinate the U.S. government's collection and analysis of intelligence on nuclear, biological and chemical weapons — a task now performed by many national security agencies.

Negroponte's top deputy, Gen. Michael Hayden, said the center would only have 50 to 100 employees, thereby avoiding some insiders' worries of "brain drain" as new offices tap into existing ones.

A number of Bush administration critics welcomed the reforms. President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, called the changes to Negroponte's authority over the Justice Department and the counterproliferation center "very positive."

"All of this is moving boxes to some degree," said Berger. "I do think that in this case organization is important. ... The real test is how it is implemented."

While the White House portrayed the changes as a near universal endorsement of the commission's recommendations, some suggestions were not completely followed.

For instance, the commission said Negroponte should not be part of the president's morning intelligence briefing. But Hayden said he or Negroponte still attend the secretive daily sessions.

In other moves, the White House also:

_Issued an executive order allowing the freezing of any financial assets in the United States of citizens, companies or organizations involved in the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The order designates eight organizations in Iran, North Korea and Syria.

_Created a new national coordinator for human intelligence, or classic spycraft, who would guide clandestine activities of the entire intelligence community.

_Asked Congress to reform its oversight of the intelligence community, a controversial proposal that could provoke turf wars and other difficulties on Capitol Hill.

Hayden acknowledged that some of the changes, such as those aimed at improving intelligence analysis, will take years to institute. However, he said others, including the human intelligence chief, could be implemented within two months.

House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., and the panel's top Democrat, California Rep. Jane Harman (news, bio, voting record), praised the White House's moves as steps that will help ensure policy-makers get "accurate, timely and actionable intelligence."

Yet, in an interview, Harman said the issues still require "sustained attention" to ensure that Negroponte isn't "forever fending off turf attacks."

The White House said three of the commission's recommendations require further study, including one that would have called for accountability reviews within three intelligence offices under fire for mistakes in the prewar Iraq intelligence. Hayden noted the recommendation focused on organizational accountability and said reviews were under way.

Another recommendation, regarding the management of covert action, was rejected and remains classified.

Following the advice of blue-ribbon panels, numerous changes have been made to the intelligence community since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many were contained in a sweeping intelligence reform law passed by Congress in December.

"I think we now know what the shape of the animal is going to be," Berger said, "and we have to make sure that the animal is ready to hunt.""

Sunday, June 19, 2005

ABC News: Rafsanjani faces run-off vote against hard-liner

ABC News: Rafsanjani faces run-off vote against hard-liner: "Rafsanjani faces run-off vote against hard-liner
Reuters

Jun 18, 2005 — By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Pragmatic cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani narrowly clinched top spot on Saturday in Iran's nail-biting presidential election, but now faces a run-off against his closest rival, hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The unexpected result left voters with a stark choice between the experienced Rafsanjani, who has pledged better ties with the West, and Tehran mayor Ahmadinejad, who appeals to the pious poor and is wary of re-opening talks with Washington.

Final Interior Ministry figures showed pre-election favorite Rafsanjani won 21.0 percent of the 29.32 million votes cast, a turnout of 63 percent. Ahmadinejad got 19.5 percent.

Ahmadinejad's performance surprised many as opinion polls had placed him well down the list of seven candidates.

But his reputation as a man of the people fiercely loyal to Iran's system of clerical rule appeared to have won him strong support in rural areas and among the urban poor, for whom unemployment and the cost of living are the main concerns.

Whoever wins, unelected Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will keep the last word on state affairs and hard-liners will retain key levers of power such as security and the courts.

Reformists, stunned by the poor showing of their favorite Mostafa Moin, a former education minister who finished fifth with 13.8 percent, debated whether to throw their weight behind Rafsanjani in Friday's second round.

"Rafsanjani won't crack down on the youth as Ahmadinejad may do. There's still a chance," said Maryam, 24, one of about 200 Moin campaign workers gathered at his HQ on Saturday afternoon.

But in an indication that the run-off too may be unpredictable, others said they would not back Rafsanjani, who is bidding to regain the post he held from 1989 to 1997.

"Those who voted for Ahmadinejad are the fruit of Rafsanjani's era of poverty and corruption," said Saeed, 18, who planned to boycott the run-off vote.

"THE PEOPLE'S CANDIDATE"

At a hastily arranged news conference Ahmadinejad criticized opponents for spending large sums on slick television adverts and organising rallies featuring pop music and girls wearing skimpy dress considered immoral by religious conservatives.

"I am the people's candidate because people helped my campaign centers and in my campaign centers we did not spend billions (of Iranian rials)," he said.

Reformist candidates Moin and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, who defied expectations by taking an early lead in preliminary vote counts, made vague allegations of electoral fraud.

"Despite the many warnings by the president and the Interior Ministry and also political parties, we see that an organized movement has targeted the health of this election," Moin said in a statement.

"With this action our new-born democracy is in danger," he added, without making specific allegations.

Ayatollah Khamenei congratulated Iranians on the respectable turnout, which he took as a repudiation of U.S. criticisms that the poll was unfair because the unelected Guardian Council had barred many candidates from standing. "With your wise participation in the elections, you have once again announced your strong will to be independent, defend Islamic values and have an Islamic democracy," he said.

Outgoing reformist President Mohammad Khatami described the poll as "totally healthy" and said the result would not derail the changes he initiated because "reforms belong to the people."

The election was the climax to a vibrant campaign that featured Western-style television clips and exuberant street rallies that flouted strict Islamic moral codes.

Even conservative candidates adopted the language of reform and dropped their usual open hostility to the West to appeal to young voters eager for an end to isolation. Half the population is under 25 and anyone over 15 can vote. (Additional reporting by Hossein Jasseb and Amir Paivar)

Copyright 2005 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed."

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bombs scare Iran voters, presidential race hots up

World News Article | Reuters.co.uk: "Bombs scare Iran voters, presidential race hots up
Mon Jun 13, 2005 9:58 AM BST
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By Alistair Lyon

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranians reacted with anger and fear on Monday to a rare string of bomb attacks that killed nine people and wounded more than 70 ahead of presidential elections.

Officials have blamed Sunday's attacks on exiled opposition groups seeking to deter Iranians from voting.

The death toll from an evening explosion in central Tehran rose to two overnight after one person died of his wounds, said Ali Aghamohammadi, Supreme National Security Council spokesman. He said two people remained on the critical list.

Workmen in the southwestern oil city of Ahvaz were repairing water pipes, power lines and buildings damaged in four blasts outside state offices that killed seven people and wounded 70.

Traffic swirled through the streets as normal, but the attacks clearly rattled many Iranians ahead of Friday's polls.

"I'm not going to vote. I'm afraid of another explosion. I think Friday will be a very dangerous day," said Ahmad Ali Yacoub, a 36-year-old government employee in Ahvaz.

Opinion polls show experienced pragmatist Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani leading in the race to replace outgoing reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who failed to overcome hardline resistance to reform during his eight years in office.

Despite widespread disenchantment among Iran's youthful population of 67 million, interest in the race has picked up with the reinstatement of reformer Mostafa Moin and the conservative vote split betweeen five contenders.

Iranian leaders have been urging a high turnout as a slap to domestic and foreign critics of restrictive electoral laws.

A survey by state broadcaster IRIB published on Monday reported that 73 percent of the electorate definitely planned to vote and another 6 percent would probably do so.

The turnout in last year's parliamentary election was 51 percent and around 67 percent in the 2001 presidential poll.

MAIN RIVALS

"Hardliners were so sure of victory, but it seems to me the main race will be between Rafsanjani and Moin," said Hamid Reza Jalaipour, political science lecturer at Tehran University.

"The reform movement has revived and people who were determined to ignore the elections have now started to think twice about voting, especially after Moin was qualified."

Angry hardliners hostile even to Rafsanjani might resort to violence "like yesterday's explosions", he told Reuters.

Others, however, blamed groups such as the exiled People's Mujahideen Organisation and foreign agents. "They have done this to create fear and uncertainty among people," Ghodratollah Alikhani, member of parliament's national security and foreign policy commission, told student news agency ISNA.

Rafsanjani, president from 1989 to 1997 and seen as the most moderate of the conservative candidates, remains well short of the 50 percent support he needs to avoid a run-off vote.

A poll published on Saturday showed that Moin, one of three reformists in the race, had edged ahead of former police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf to lie in second place.

The bombings in Ahvaz and Tehran jolted a country where such attacks have become a rarity in the past decade.

About 20 foreign journalists seized by Islamic vigilantes at the scene of the bombing in Tehran were released overnight after being held for about four hours, one of them said.

Two other devices exploded in central Tehran on Sunday evening, causing no casualties, and others were made harmless.

"So far we have defused four bombs in different neighbourhoods," Aghamohammadi said, without saying how they had been found. Some arrests had been made and more were expected.

He said security had been tightened on the border with Iraq, the suspected source of infiltrators, and Iranians should not be afraid to go to the polls.

Some in Ahvaz, like Ahmad Razi, 27, seemed receptive to such reassurances. "Those behind those blasts don't want us to vote. I'm scared, but I'll vote," he said.

Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan province, where five people died in ethnic unrest in April. Most of Iran's two million ethnic Arabs live in the Gulf province, which also sits on the bulk of the country's oil reserves.

Rahim Fazilatpour, deputy governor of Ahvaz, said three Arab groups had claimed responsibility for the bombings."

Khaleej Times Online - Rafsanjani denounces dirty tricks in Iran election campaign

Khaleej Times Online: "

Khaleej Times Online >> News >> MIDDLE EAST
Rafsanjani denounces dirty tricks in Iran election campaign
(AFP)

13 June 2005
TEHERAN - Iranian presidential election frontrunner Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Monday denounced the use of dirty tricks against him, saying his opponents appeared to be well-funded but refusing to name names.


“There is a fundamental problem in this campaign,” the powerful cleric said on state television. “Despite the instructions of the supreme leader, a number of immoral acts have been committed.”

Rafsanjani is a pragmatic conservative who has vowed to save Iran from “extremists” if he is elected on Friday in the contest to find a successor to reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Out of the other seven other candidates in the race, four are from the powerful hardline camp that Rafsanjani is seeking to marginalise.

“Personally I have been the victim of the worse kind of denigration,” Rafsanjani complained. “Millions of slanderous leaflets have been distributed across the country.”

“We know full well who is responsible and where their money comes from,” said the 70-year-old cleric, who already served as Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997.

Rafsanjani has already come under attack over alleged corruption and the moral conduct of his family.

Informal opinion polls carried by Iranian media have put Rafsanjani ahead. Trailing him are the main reformist candidate Mostafa Moin and the hardline former national police chief, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

But the figures suggest that none of the eight candidates will be able to secure the more than 50 percent of the vote needed to win. That means the top two would have to go into a run-off -- unprecedented in the 26-year history of the Islamic republic.

Qalibaf, also a veteran of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, has been running a particularly slick campaign that has raised some questions over financing.

The competition has also been marked by physical attacks against officials from the embattled reformist camp.

Iran was struck by a wave of deadly bombings in the restive southwestern city of Ahvaz and the capital Sunday, with the Islamic regime accusing US-backed “terrorists” of seeking to destabilise the country just days ahead of the election.

At least eight people were killed and 75 wounded by a series of four blasts outside several public buildings in Ahvaz, an ethnic Arab majority city close to the Iraqi border that is capital of oil-rich Khuzestan province.

Later Sunday, another blast hit a busy square in Tehran, killing two people and seriously wounding at least two others, official media said.

Rafsanjani said the bombings show “that the enemies of the revolution are violent and without pity.”

“They want to stop people from voting, but these kind of acts will have the opposite effect,” he said."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Real Memogate -- In These Times

The Real Memogate -- In These Times: "The Real Memogate
By Solomon Hughes

At a 2002 G8 summit Bush and Blair demonstrate their “special relationship.”

President Bush gratefully received Tony Blair's support for the invasion of Iraq, but that relationship may now be turning sour. As antiwar feeling runs high in Britain, recently leaked secret official documents show both the U.S. and U.K. governments conspired to cook up a case for a pre-planned Iraq war.

Days before the British general election, the Sunday Times published a "Secret and Strictly Personal--UK Eyes Only" document written in July 2002 by one of Blair's aides revealing U.S. and U.K. war plans.

The memo details a meeting between Blair and his top officials, during which "C reported on his recent talks in Washington." "C" is the code name for the Chief of MI6, Britain's Intelligence service. "C", also known as Sir David Spedding, said, "There was a perceptible shift in attitude among America's political leaders. ... Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam thorough military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and the facts are being fixed around the policy."

The memo sparked front page news in the United Kingdom. The U.S. press was slow to pick up the story, but 88 members of Congress co-signed a letter to Bush written by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) demanding an inquiry into the document's revelations.

At the 2002 meeting, the memo reveals that British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said, "It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action." However, Straw was also not convinced by the WMD argument, saying, "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran." In public, Straw supported the official claim that Iraq's WMDs posed a threat that justified war.

The memo also shows that planning for postwar Iraq was woefully inadequate and the legal case for war was dubious. The British Intelligence chief reported, "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action." Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, the British Government's top legal officer warned meeting attendees, "The desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action." Subsequent leaks show Goldsmith turned around and gave a legal thumbs-up for war, but only after a gruelling February 2003 session with then-presidential legal adviser Alberto Gonzales.

This is the latest in a flood of leaks undermining the war's justification, including the 2003 revelations by British weapons inspector David Kelly that the Iraqi mobile bio-war labs highlighted by Colin Powell were really military weather balloon inflators, and by intelligence translator Katherine Gun, who revealed that GCHQ, Britain's surveillance center, was spying on delegations to the U.N. Security Council at the request of the U. S. National Security Agency in an attempt to win U.N. support for invasion.

In September 2004, other secret documents revealing shared war planning were passed to the Telegraph. A March 2002 memo to Blair from his top aide, Sir David Manning, reported that he dined with Condoleezza Rice, and told her that Blair "would not budge in [his] support for regime change" at a time when Blair was about to "visit the ranch" for talks with Bush.

In a March 2002 memo, U.K. ambassador to Washington Sir Christopher Meyer recounts to David Manning another dinner date--this time with Paul Wolfowitz. The after-dinner conversation shows that the plan for war was fixed and only the "selling" of the issue remained: "We backed regime change but the plan had to be clever [because] it would be a tough sell for us domestically and probably tougher elsewhere in Europe."

These leaks occured against a background of anti-war demonstrations throughout the United Kingdom, and Iraq and the lies about WMD were a major issue in Britain's recent general election. Labour lost votes as the Liberal Democrats promoted a left-tinged antiwar ticket. Nationally, Labour tried to avoid Iraq, a stance mocked as "don't mention the war." George Galloway, expelled from the Labour Party because of his position on Iraq, was re-elected to Parliament as a representative of the newly formed, antiwar Respect Coalition.

On May 17, Galloway testified before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. In response to a question from the chairman, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Galloway said:

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives. ... If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac, who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the antiwar movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today."

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Wrong on Iraq

The Real Memogate -- In These Times: "On May 17, Galloway testified before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. In response to a question from the chairman, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Galloway said:

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong and 100,000 people paid with their lives. ... If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded, if the world had listened to President Chirac, who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor, if the world had listened to me and the antiwar movement in Britain, we would not be in the disaster that we are in today."