Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Christopher Hitchens: Obama's Latest Craven Deal with Israel

Israel's Shabbos Goy

Why America will come to regret the craven deal Obama is offering Netanyahu.

By Christopher Hitchens

November 17, 2010 "
Slate" - - Those of us who keep an eye on the parties of God are avid students of the weekly Sabbath sermons ofRabbi Ovadia Yosef. In these and other venues, usually broadcast, this elderly Sephardic ayatollah provides an action-packed diet that seldom disappoints. A few months ago, he favored his devout audience with a classic rant in which he called down curses on the Palestinian Arabs and their leaders, wishing that a plague would come and sweep them all away. Last month, he announced that the sole reason for the existence of gentiles was to perform menial services for Jews: After that, he opined, their usefulness was at an end. A huge hubbub led to hiswithdrawal of the first of these diatribes. (I would be interested to know if this was on partly theological grounds. After all, the local Palestinians may still have some labor to perform before the divine plan is through with them.) The second sermon, so far as I know, still stands without apology. Why on earth should anybody care about the ravings of this scrofulous medieval figure, who peppers his talk of non-Jews in Palestine with comparisons to snakes, monkeys, and other lesser creations, rather as Hamas and Hezbollah refer to the Jews? Well, one reason is that he is the spiritual leader of the Shas Party, an important member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition. Indeed, two key portfolios, of the Interior and of Construction and Housing, are held by Shas members named Eli Yishai and Ariel Atias.
Yishai recently delighted the Diaspora by saying that only those Jews who converted via the Orthodox route could carry "the Jewish gene." Atias has expressed alarm about the tendency of Israeli Arab citizens to try to live where they please—or "spread," as he phrases it—and has advocated a policy of segregation in housing within Israel proper. He also advocates the segregation by neighborhood of secular from Orthodox Jews, adding that he does not wish his own children to mix with their nonreligious peers. It is Yishai's ministry that is famous for making announcements about new "housing" developments outside Israel itself and in legally disputed territory. Very often, Netanyahu himself has claimed to be taken by surprise at these announcements, which usually involve tense areas of Jerusalem. Thus the huge embarrassment inflicted on Vice President Joe Biden earlier this year, when fresh settlement construction was proclaimed in the middle of his high-level visit. And thus the undisguised irritation of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week, when yet another round of such housing was scheduled while Obama was in Asia and Netanyahu was in the United States. Apparently, the latest high-level round of the peace process has included the modest and tentative suggestion to Israel that such disclosures be timed with greater tact and coordination in the future.
It's not only the doings of his Interior and Housing ministries of which Netanyahu has to remain resolutely uninformed. His foreign minister is not a part of Israel's most important external negotiation. This is perhaps just as well, since the holder of the post, Avigdor Lieberman, regards the whole "process" as a waste of time. He said as much at the United Nations last September. It was patiently explained at that time that Netanyahu had not been favored with advance notice of the contents of the speech.
Lieberman has another distinction that I believe is unique. He does not live in the country whose foreign ministry he heads. He chooses, rather, to make his home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim, a tenaciously held outcrop with a population of fewer than 1,000 people. The party which he heads—Yisrael Beytenu—is a nationalist rather than religious faction, but in a competition with Rabbi Yosef for vicious anti-Arab rhetoric, it's not immediately clear which one would emerge the winner.
Now we read that, in return for just 90 days of Israeli lenience on new settlement-building (this brief pause or "freeze" not to include the crucial precincts of East Jerusalem), Netanyahu is being enticed with "a package of security incentives and fighter jets worth $3 billion" and a promise that the United States government would veto any Palestinian counterproposal at the United Nations. Netanyahu, while graciously considering this offer, was initially reported as being unsure whether he "could win approval for the United States deal from his Cabinet." In other words, we must wait on the pleasure of Rabbi Yosef and Ministers Atias, Yishai, and Lieberman, who have the unusual ability to threaten Netanyahu from his right wing.
This is a national humiliation. Regardless of whether that bunch of clowns and thugs and racists "approve" of the Obama/Clinton grovel offer, there should be a unanimous demand that it be withdrawn.
The mathematics of the situation must be evident even to the meanest intelligence. In order for any talk of a two-state outcome to be even slightly realistic, there needs to be territory on which the second state can be built, or on which the other nation living in Palestine can govern itself. The aim of the extreme Israeli theocratic and chauvinist parties is plain and undisguised: Annex enough land to make this solution impossible, and either expel or repress the unwanted people. The policy of Netanyahu is likewise easy to read: Run out the clock by demanding concessions for something he has already agreed to in principle, appease the ultras he has appointed to his own government, and wait for a chance to blame Palestinian reaction for the inevitable failure.
The only mystery is this: Why does the United States acquiesce so wretchedly in its own disgrace at the hands of a virtual client state? A soft version of Rabbi Yosef's contemptuous view of the gentiles is the old concept of the shabbos goy: the non-Jew who is paid a trifling fee to turn out the lights or turn on the stove, or whatever else is needful to get around the more annoying regulations of the Sabbath. How the old buzzard must cackle when he sees the gentiles actually volunteering a bribe to do the lowly work! And lowly it is, involving the tearing-up of international law and U.N. resolutions and election promises, and the further dispossession and eviction of a people to whom we gave our word. This craven impotence will be noticed elsewhere, and by some very undesirable persons, and we will most certainly be made to regret it. For now, though, the shame.
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Monday, August 16, 2010

CP: Esam Al-Amin: Who Killed Hariri?

August 16, 2010
Israel's Hidden Hands in Lebanon
Who Killed Hariri?


On Valentine’s Day in 2005, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri left in his motorcade along the seaside highway, cruising towards his mansion. As the motorcade slowed down in front of the St. George Hotel in downtown Beirut, a huge explosion of a parked Mitsubishi pick-up truck detonated at 12:56 PM, killing him along with 22 others including his entourage, bodyguards and some passers-by.

Ever since that day the polarization in Lebanon has deepened between the pro-Western forces led by Hariri’s son Saad, his Sunni-led coalition with Druze and pro-American Christian allies, and the pro-Syrian block of the Shiite parties led by Hezbollah and their Christian allies of the Free Patriotic Front. Soon after, the pro-Western parties accused Syria of being behind the crime and immediately embarked on massive demonstrations and pursued the intervention of international powers in order to dislodge Syria from Lebanon after a twenty-nine year military presence.

Less than one month into George W. Bush’s second term, the U.S. president took advantage of the incident by applying immense pressure on the Syrian regime, which eventually culminated in a U.N. Security Council resolution on April 7, 2005 appointing an international tribunal to investigate Hariri’s assassination. From day one the tribunal, led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, accused Syria of being behind the assassination. The enormous political and public pressures resulted in Syria’s withdrawal by the end of April.

The politicization of the UN investigation was in full swing when the tribunal issued several reports accusing the Syrian regime, based on non-credible witnesses. It took four years for the tribunal to admit that much of “the evidence” used against Syria was fabricated by false witnesses, some of them even tied to Israeli intelligence (Abdelbasit Bani Odeh) or the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies (Ahmad Mari‘e and Zuhair Siddiq).

By the end of 2009, the whole case against Syria collapsed and the four senior security officers held for over four years were consequently released. In the mean time, the false witnesses were relocated outside Lebanon and given protection and new identities in different European countries.

Meanwhile, a new tribunal was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in March 2009. The new team was led by Italian judge Antonio Cassesse and Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare. On May 23, 2009, the German publication Der Spiegel published a report detailing the new direction of the second investigative team.

Basing their conclusions on leaks from the international tribunal, the German article, as well as many other subsequent Israeli media accounts, reported that members of Hezbollah were behind the assassination. In the spring of 2010, Prime Minister Saad Hariri told Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah that an indictment against members of his group was expected before the end of the year.

This development prompted Nasrallah to charge the reconstituted international tribunal of being a political instrument in the hands of the United States and Israel. This self-serving statement would have been easily dismissed except that the first tribunal was indeed used against Syria for political ends.

Moreover, the efforts since 2005 to disarm Hezbollah, including the summer war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006, have not only failed, but the militant group has become even stronger and better armed. Hence, the attempt to neutralize it through international pressure has accelerated within the last year.

On August 9, Nasrallah, gave a masterful multimedia performance pointing a finger towards Israel and accusing it of involvement in the assassination. He admitted that he did not have direct evidence but over the span of two hours he presented a case of circumstantial evidence that showed means, motive, and opportunity for Israel.

He displayed video testimony of several agents of Israel in Lebanon, demonstrating that at least since September, 1993, the Israeli Mossad had been tracking Hariri. The agent Ahmad Nasrallah (no relation), confessed that he had been planting with his security detail false stories that Hariri was a target of assassination by Hezbollah. Although the agent had been detained since 1996, he escaped from a Lebanese prison several years later and fled to Israel.

Furthermore, most of the 100 Israeli agents caught by the Lebanese internal security apparatus in the past few years have confessed to a fifteen-year spying operation by Israel, spanning from the surveillance of major Lebanese figures, including the Lebanese president, the head of the army, and heads of pro-Western political parties to surveilling and assassinating major figures in the Lebanese resistance camp.

But perhaps the major revelation in Nasrallah’s press conference was the ability of his group to intercept all reconnaissance images sent from the Israeli drones over Lebanese skies back to Israel. This technical feat achieved by Hezbollah since 1997 allowed them to analyze Israel’s major targets in Lebanon. For example he showed that in September, 1997, because of such interceptions, his troops were able to ambush an Israeli commando unit after entering Beirut by sea, and even videotaped the helicopter evacuation of fifteen dead and wounded soldiers following the botched raid.

In his speech, Nasrallah matched the intercepted images with several assassinations carried out in Lebanon in the past decade evidenced by confessions of the captured Israeli agents in Beirut, Sidon, and Tyre. He then showed extensive images taken by the Israeli drones for over a five-year period of Rafik Hariri’s land routes across Lebanon- to and from his offices and residences in Beirut, his summer home in the mountains, and the coastal route to his brother’s residence in Sidon.

In all these routes there were no Hezbollah targets, offices or bases, leaving no doubt that Hariri was the target of the drones that were taking images from all angles, especially those close to the coastal areas, while pausing and zooming at the points of intersections.

The Hezbollah leader pointed out that just this past year the Lebanese authorities arrested several Israeli agents who confessed to penetrating the mobile communications network across Lebanon. In essence, the Israeli Mossad has had the capacity to intercept and plant any communications in Lebanon. He also exposed the most dangerous Israeli agent in Lebanon in the past two decades as being retired Army Brig. Ghassan Jirjis Al-Jidd.

He not only assisted missions logistically by picking up and driving Israeli assassination teams throughout Lebanon since 2004, but he was also an operational agent, carrying out several missions on behalf of the Israelis including carrying and planting bombs, as confessed by other captured agents. Al-Jidd was also placed at the scene of the crime on February 13, 2005 one day before Harriri was killed. But after he was exposed by Hezbollah in 2009, Al-Jidd was able to flee to France, then to Israel hours before he was to be apprehended by the Lebanese authorities.

Nasrallah finally disclosed that an Israeli reconnaissance plane and an Israeli AWACS were flying over Beirut on the day of the assassination for four hours from 10:30 am until 2:30 pm encompassing the 1 pm time of the assassination. He questioned whether it was a coincidence that an operational plane would be flying so close to the location at the time when the crime was committed.

The Israeli government immediately dismissed these accusations as baseless although many Israeli experts admitted that Hezbollah had been able to intercept Israeli drone images for many years, but they argued that the transmission of pictures have since been encrypted, making it very difficult to intercept.

Israel has a long and bloody history of successful assassinations in Lebanon since the 1970’s, including the killing of the former leader of Hezbollah in 1992, and the assassination of dozens of Palestinian leaders in the occupied territories, Europe and other Arab states including many leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PLO.

Many of these assassinations were carried out secretly but some were exposed when agents were caught red handed as in the 1997 attempt to kill Hamas’ leader Khaled Meshal in Amman, or after leaving behind many clues as in the assassination of another Hamas leader in Dubai in January of this year. Often times Israel would conduct such assassinations in public and in cold blood without any fear of international condemnation or scrutiny, especially when carried out in the occupied territories.

Since its forced withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, Israel has had two primary objectives in Lebanon: forcing a withdrawal of Syria and hence reducing its influence, and secondly, disarming Hezbollah and other resistance groups. The first goal was achieved shortly after the Hariri assassination but the second has been difficult to accomplish despite employing a vicious military attack in 2006 as well as mobilizing all levers of local, regional and international political powers.

But pinning the assassination of Hariri on Hezbollah could be the trigger to a bloody sectarian civil war by exploiting the Sunni-Shi’a divide. At minimum Israel and its allies hope that under indictment Hezbollah and its friends would be on the defensive, thus forcing the disarmament of its militia or at least curbing their influence.

If anything, Nasrallah’s presentation succeeded in forcing the international tribunal to consider Israel as a possible suspect. Two days after the press conference a spokesperson for Bellemare asked the Lebanese government to submit all the evidence in the hands of Hezbollah. For his part Nasrallah promised that if a serious investigation were initiated he would present much more evidence and secrets that would take the investigation to a completely different route, in the direction of Tel Aviv.

Whether Israel had a hand in the Hariri assassination remains to be seen. But what is clear is that Israel has found its match in the grand chess game in Lebanon.

Esam Al-Amin can be reached at

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Uri Avnery attacked by rightest thugs: 10,000 march vs Israeli brutality


“The Government Is Drowning Us All”

Uri Avnery attacked by rightist thugs



A disaster was averted yesterday (June 5)  at Tel-Aviv’s Museum Square, when rightists threw a smoke grenade into the middle of the protest rally, obviously hoping for a panic to break out and cause the protesters to trample on each other. But the demonstrators remained calm, nobody started to run and just a small space in the middle of the crowd remained empty. The speaker did not stop talking even when the cloud of smoke reached the stage. The audience included many children.


Half an hour later, a dozen rightist thugs attacked Gush Shalom’s 86 year old Uri Avnery, when he was on his way from the rally in the company of his wife, Rachel, Adam Keller and his wife Beate Siversmidt. Avnery had just entered a taxi, when a dozen rightist thugs attacked him and tried to drag him out of the car. At the critical moment, the police arrived and made it possible for the car to leave. Gush spokesman Adam Keller said: “These cowards did not dare to attack us when we were many, but they were heroes when they caught Avnery alone.”


The incident took place when the more than 10 thousand demonstrators were dispersing, after marching through the streets of Tel Aviv in protest against the attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla.


Not only was this one of the largest peace demonstrations for a long time, but also the first time that all parts of the Israeli peace camp - from Gush Shalom and Hadash to Peace Now and Meretz – did unite for common action


The main slogan was “The Government Is Drowning All of Us” and “We must Row towards Peace!” - alluding to the attack on the flotilla. The protesters called in unison “Jews and Arabs Refuse to be Enemies!”


The demonstrators assembled at Rabin Square and marched to Museum Square, where the protest rally was held. Originally, this was planned as a demonstration against the occupation on its 43th anniversary, and for peace based on “Two States for Two Peoples” and “Jerusalem – Capital of the Two States”, but recent events turned it mainly into a protest against the attack on the flotilla.


One of the new sights was the great number of national flags, which were flown alongside the red flags of Hadash, the green flags of Meretz and the two-flag emblems of Gush Shalom. Many peace activists have decided that the national flag should no longer be left to the rightists.


“The violence of the rightists is a direct result of the brainwashing, which has been going on throughout the last week,” Avnery commented. “A huge propaganda machine has incited the public in order to cover up the terrible mistakes made by our political and military leadership, mistakes which are becoming worse from day to day.”



Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rahm Emanuel: I'm more hawkish than most Israelis

From Xymphora's Blog

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Xymphora quotes US billionaire and pro Israeli Haim Saban quoting Rahm Emanuel describing his Zionism.

Saban: I had the chance to talk to Hillary about a lot of things including this and I also talked to Rahm Emanuel and Rahm Emanuel for instance told me ‘I am more hawkish than 50 percent of the people in Israel.’"

Jeffrey Blankfort: Winograd's Competitive Despite her progressive Middle East Stance

May 10, 2010
Harman vs. Winograd

The Last Democratic Primary Worth Watching

Counterpunch Website


What may be the last Democratic primary race worth paying attention to is taking place in the 36th Congressional District along the Southern California coastline where incumbent Jane Harman is facing a serious challenge from Los Angeles school teacher, Marcy Winograd, with the candidates’ widely separated positions on the Israel-Palestine conflict dominating a critical section of the political landscape.

Harman is the second richest member of the House of Representatives with estimated assets between $112 and $377 million dollars. Whether it was her money or her Israeli connections that kept the Southern California Democrat from being indicted as a foreign agent five years ago or a combination of both is something the public is never likely to know.

What is clear is that the Bush administration’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzales neither investigated nor indicted the eight-term congresswoman after she was recorded on a National Security Agency wiretap in 2005 speaking to someone identified as an Israeli agent in which she reportedly agreed to intervene with the Justice Dept. on behalf of two top AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, who were then under indictment for passing classified information to Israel in an FBI-initiated “sting.”

Whether or not that phone call will come back to haunt her and be a factor in Harman’s heated race against Winograd, a strong critic of Israel and outspoken advocate for the Palestinians, won’t be known until June 8th, the date of the California primaries, but Harman is clearly running scared.

According to an expose of the wiretapping incident in Congressional Quarterly, in April, 2009, she signed off the conversation with the Israeli agent saying, "This conversation doesn't exist." The government investigators who had been wiretapping the Israeli were so concerned about Harman’s comments, wrote CQ, that they sought a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant —reserved for sensitive intelligence cases — to tune in on her conversations, as well. In a touch of irony, Gonzales, however, supposedly halted the investigation because it was believed that he would need Harman’s continuing support, as a Democrat, for the Bush administration’s warrantless wire-tapping program that was about to be exposed by the New York Times.

In exchange for Harman’s interceding on behalf of Rosen and Weissman, said CQ, the Israeli agent pledged to use his influence with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire and donor of millions to the Democratic Party (and to AIPAC) to persuade House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman chair of the House Select Intelligence Committee. Pelosi reportedly was made aware of the wire tap and Harman did not get the appointment. Not surprisingly, all the parties named denied that any such deal was offered.

Immediately after the story broke, Harman left a voicemail message that any allegation of improper conduct on her part would be "irresponsible, laughable and scurrilous." She also quickly retained top GOP lawyer, Ted Olson, who may be remembered as representing Paula Jones in her sexual harassment case against President Clinton and appearing for George W Bush before the Supreme Court as it was deciding the outcome of the 2000 presidential election. It was a curious choice for a Democrat, even a Blue Dog varietal, but it apparently represented no problems for the party leadership. But then again, neither did her earlier bragging that she was “the Best Republican in the Democratic Party” in her unsuccessful run for the California governorship in 1998.

Harman continued to deny that she had contacted the White House or any other agency about the investigation, and last spring sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that he "release all transcripts and other investigative material involving me in an unredacted form,” adding that it was her “ intention to make this material available to the public."

Less than three weeks after the CQ exposure Harman spoke on a panel at AIPAC’s annual policy conference in Washington where she “explore[d] the myriad foreign policy challenges facing the United States, Israel and the world.”

If she received the NSA transcript it has never been acknowledged. Certainly its contents have not been made public and Holder, like Gonzales, not only chose not to pursue a case against Harman but, shortly after his appointment by Obama, he dropped the indictment against the two Israeli officials, much to the disgust of the Justice Dept. officials who had been pursuing the case.

In April 2009, the congressman who got the job as House Select Intelligence Chair, Silvestre Reyes, from Texas, told his staff to begin investigating the incident but a year later there has been nothing reported and calls to the committee office have not been returned. The last word on the subject was apparently an article in the Washington Post last October which noted that Harman was among 30 House members and several aides being investigated by the House Ethics Committee on issues that included defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling. As of the first week in May, no report had been issued on that investigation by the Ethics Committee.

Harman was not left out entirely, being appointed by Pelosi to chair the House Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment. With whom and what intelligence information she has been sharing, however, is a question that begs to be asked.

This is of note at the moment because Winograd, Harman’s challenger in California’s 36th Congressional District won 38% of the primary vote in 2006 and may be primed to pull a major upset come June 8, one that would sound the alarm in the Israeli Knesset as much as it would on the Washington beltway..

Like Harman, Winograd, is Jewish but apart from sharing religion and gender, that’s where the similarities end. Harman is not only a hawk when it comes to Israel, she is also an enthusiastic backer of the military budget, the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, and the Wall Street and banking bailouts .

In 2007 she introduced, HR 1955, “The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act” whose stated purpose was to deal with "homegrown terrorism and violent radicalization." Fortunately, the draconian act was too much for even the pliant US Congress and the bill went nowhere.

Last May, Harman weighed in on Iran, suggesting that that nation, whose history goes back thousands of years, be broken up into a confessional state, following the formula for the region once advanced by a senior Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry official, Oded Yinon. "The Persian population in Iran is not a majority,” said Harman, “it is a plurality. There are many different, diverse, and disagreeing populations inside Iran and an obvious strategy, which I believe is a good strategy, is to separate those populations.”

When it comes to her donors Harman is clearly cherished by the Military Industrial Complex but she is not averse to playing the field. While the top two suitors are Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, the entire list of her contributors reads like a Who’s Who of corporate America. At the same time, a review of the 765 companies listed in the vast investment portfolio held by Harman and her businessman husband, Sidney, founder of audio/infotainment equipment manufacturer, Harman International Industries, may explain her devotion to the Bush and Obama bailouts, with a marked preference shown for investment houses, banks, pharmaceutical industries, arms manufacturers, and real estate interests across the globe. At the head of the Harman list is UBS in which the couple have invested between $12 and $47 million. Not surprisingly, Goldman Sachs is there with between $1 and $2 million with somewhat smaller, six figure amounts invested in JP Morgan Chase, City National Bank and Wells Fargo.

As a sign that Harman and the AIPAC crowd have been taking Winograd’s challenge seriously, her campaign put out a call for help to the poster boy of Southern California liberals, Henry Waxman (D-30). Waxman has a history of moonlighting as an Israel Lobby enforcer and he took after Winograd with a vengeance, assuming that Jewish voters in the 36th District are more concerned with the welfare of Israel than what happens in their district, not to mention the United States:

“Recently, “wrote Waxman in an undated letter to Harman’s Jewish constituents in November, “I came across an astounding speech by Marcy Winograd, who is running against our friend Jane Harman in her primary re-election to Congress. Ms. Winograd’s views on Israel I find repugnant in the extreme. And that is why I wanted to write you.

“What has prompted my urgent concern is a speech Ms. Winograd gave, entitled, “Call For One State,”… last year. The complete text is attached, but in it she says:

‘I think it is too late for a two-state solution. Israel has made it all but impossible for two states to exist. Not only do I think a two-state solution is unrealistic, but also fundamentally wrong…’

‘As a citizen of the United States, I do not want my tax dollars to support institutionalized racism. As a Jew, I do not want my name associated with occupation or extermination. Let us declare a one-state solution.’

To me,” Waxman fulminated, “the notion that a Member of Congress could hold these views is alarming. Ms. Winograd is far, far outside the bipartisan mainstream of views that has long insisted that US policy be based upon rock-solid support for our only democratic ally in the Middle East.

“In Marcy Winograd’s foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist. In Marcy Winograd’s vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights. These are not trivial issues; they cannot be ignored or overlooked. Jane’s victory will represent a clear repudiation of these views.

“I ask you to join me in showing maximum support for Jane…

In a response to Waxman, Winograd, co-founder of LA Jews for Peace, wrote, in part:

“ Like you, I am intimately aware of our Jewish history. On my mother’s side, my great-grandparents escaped the Russian Pogroms to make a better life for themselves in Europe. On my father’s side, my great-grandparents were killed in the Jewish Holocaust of Nazi Germany. Because of our collective experience with persecution, it behooves us to stand in opposition to persecution anywhere and everywhere, rather than sanctify reductionist state policies that cast all Jews as victims who can only thrive in a segregated society.

Furthermore, we must stand in explicit opposition to the Israeli persecution of the Palestinians; the brutal blockade of Gaza, an act of war by international standards, denying children clean water, food, and medicine…

“In your letter, you include what you term an “alarming’ quote of mine – ‘As a Jew, I do not want my name associated with occupation or extermination.’ Frankly, I am mystified as to why you would find my words objectionable. Surely, you are not saying the converse is true – that you want Jewish people associated with occupation and extermination. Such a legacy would dishonor our people.”

It is unlikely, however, that either Harman or Winograd’s stand on Israel will be the determining factor in the election.

“Unlike the substantial Jewish population in Waxman’s affluent 30th Congressional District whom he relies on for financial support, the Jewish population in Harman’s 36th Congressional District is significantly smaller, “wrote the LA Progressive’s Linda Malazzo who has been covering the race to represent what is historically a strongly Democratic district that runs from Marina del Rey to Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and on to San Pedro.

“Issues concerning Israel don’t regularly affect the day to day lives of the majority of its residents who care mostly about jobs, healthcare and housing,” notes Malazzo. “18.3% of the under 65 population of the 36th CD have no health insurance. Over 7,500 home foreclosures took place in 2009 and another 25,000 foreclosures are anticipated over the next four years.”

“Some Harman supporters fear that Winograd’s progressive stands on social issues and her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may appeal to many Jewish voters,” wrote Tom Tugend, in the LA Jewish Journal, “especially those not familiar with the challenger’s views on Israel.”

The competition for trade union support has been intense. While Harman bagged the backing of ILWU Local 13th on April 15, two days earlier Winograd scored a major coup when the ILWU Southern California District Council, representing 14 locals, including Local 13, broke precedence and ranks with Democratic Party officials and gave Winograd its unqualified endorsement.

ILWU District Council President, Rich Dines, praised Winograd’s commitment to organized labor. “Marcy Winograd’s commitment to protecting and enhancing workers’ rights, funding federal job creation, and tackling unfair trade agreements is why we support her candidacy for Congress. As leaders in the labor movement, we proudly and enthusiastically endorse Marcy and look forward to working with her to keep more Americans on the job, in their homes, and inspired to organize.”

Among Winograd’s name endorsements are Daniel Ellsberg, Ed Asner, Gore Vidal, Jim Hightower, Vietnam Veteran Ron Kovic, author of Born on the Fourth of July, Jodie Evans, co-founder of Code Pink, former California Assembly Member Jackie Goldberg, and Norman Solomon, of Progressive Democrats of America.

At a hectic California state Democratic Convention, the chair, former congressman John Burton, rammed the endorsement process through as quickly as he could with Harman winning 599 votes to 417 for Winograd which was an extraordinary showing for a primary challenger.

In May of last year, Harman told POLITICO that she doesn’t mind a primary challenge. “It’s a democracy,” said Harman, “and anyone is entitled to run. I’m in a strong position politically in my district and working on key issues that affect my constituents and the country, including homeland security, climate change and health care reform.”

By this March, Harman did not appear so dedicated to democracy. When incumbent and challenger were invited by the LA Jewish Journal’s Rob Eshman to debate, “Winograd, the challenger, quickly accepted,” wrote Eshman. “It’s taken a while to get a response from Harman, but yesterday her chief of staff e-mailed me a firm but polite no.

‘Hi Rob—thank you for your message and your invitation. However, Congresswoman Harman declines the kind offer and believes her views on Israel are very clear. John H.’

“Too bad, we even had a venue: Rabbi Dan Shevitz of Temple Mishkon Tephilo had offered his 800-seat sanctuary gratis.

“I understand why Harman, who beat Winograd in the last race has little to gain from exposing herself to her opponent. But my reason for holding the debate had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the state of The State of Israel and the American Left. Both Harman and Winograd are Democrats. Harman represents a broad consensus view for a two state solution to the Israeli Palestinian issue, and strong American political and financial support for Israel. Winograd made clear in a speech that she supports a one-state solution and a deep reconsideration of America’s stand vis a vis Israel. This divide is a crucial one among Democrats on the Left, Far Left and Center, and the more open and intelligent debate on it, the better. That’s my point of view. Clearly, it’s not Harman’s.

“Too bad,” concluded Eshman.

A complete list of endorsers on Marcy Winograd and her stand on the issues can be found on

Information on Jane Harman’s assets and the names of her contributors can be found on

Where Harman stands on some issues can be found on her website:

Curiously, there is no mention there of her support for Israel.

Jeffrey Blankfort can be contacted at

Thursday, April 15, 2010

John Spritzler: Why Do they Single Out Israel?

Why Do They Single Out Israel?

by John Spritzler

"How come you single out Israel for its faults, but never criticize other governments for doing things just as bad?" This is what apologists for the Israeli government say to those, like myself, who criticize it. Their not-so-subtle implication is that critics of the Israeli government are really just motivated by antisemitism and therefore their views should not be given credence.

Since I do indeed focus more on Israel's faults than the faults of other countries, it is only fitting and proper that I should explain why. Here is why.

To start with, I admit that the Israeli government is certainly not the only government that does terrible things to innocent people, using lies to justify the unjustifiable. Nor do I claim that Israel's government is worse than others in this respect. Virtually all governments oppress their own people so that inordinate power and privileges are enjoyed by a ruling elite. The Chinese government is no exception. Neither is the Iranian government. Additionally the Russian government oppresses the Chechen people; the Saudi government is particularly oppressive of Saudi women; and the U.S. government kills innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq, not to mention millions whom it killed earlier in Vietnam and elsewhere. Lots of governments commit terrible crimes. Who can quantify the wrongness of these crimes and say "this one is the worst" and "this one is not as bad"?

Before I explain why I focus on it so much, let us at least agree about what the Israeli government is doing, whether or not it is the worst crime being committed by any government in the world today. The Israeli government is carrying out brutal and violent ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, which is a terrible thing. Millions of Palestinians are refugees--living in refugee camps in places like the Gaza Strip section of Palestine, and in other countries such as Lebanon. They lost all of the property they once owned and are refugees from their own country of Palestine--the place where they were born, or would have been born had not the Zionist military forces (that became the Israeli military in 1948) violently driven their parents, or grandparents in some cases now, out of their villages throughout the 78% of Palestine that is now called "Israel" in 1947 and 1948 and again later in1967. Israel continues this ethnic cleansing today by denying the refugees their right of return and by making life as unpleasant as possible for Palestinians (for example massacring civilians in Gaza last December/January) in an effort to make them depart from all of Palestine "voluntarily." Israel does not let these refugees return to their country for only one reason--they are not Jewish.

But why focus on Israel? Why focus on this crime above all others?

I do it for three reasons.

#1. As an American I have a duty to focus on my own government's mis-deeds more than on other government's mis-deeds ("the log in my own eye, as opposed to the mote in my neighbor's eye," as a wise man once put it), and my focus on Israel is actually a focus on the wrongness of my own government's over-the-top and virtually unconditional support for the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing. It is my government, not I, who has singled out Israel from all other countries to receive military, diplomatic (all those UN vetos!) and economic (no-strings-attached loans!) aid far surpassing that given to any other nation.

#2. Also as an American, I want to expose the Big Lie that the American ruling class uses to control ordinary Americans. The Big Lie is a) that there are lots of evil people who commit terrorist violence against us and against Israelis simply out of an irrational hatred of freedom and an antisemitic hatred of Jews and of anybody who defends Jews from such hateful violence, b) that our government is waging a War on Terror to defend good people against these evil people, and c) that we must obey our leaders during this war and surrender basic freedoms we once held dear in order to win it.

Exposing this Big Lie requires focusing on Israel because one of the main reasons Americans believe the Big Lie is that they see so many news reports about Palestinians violently attacking Israel and they do not understand the true reason why Palestinians do this. Our corporate-controlled mass media never explain that Israel, as a Jewish state that uses ethnic cleansing to ensure it has at least an 80% Jewish population, oppresses Palestinians because they are not Jewish. Nor does the media explain that Israel defines itself as a state of the Jewish people and not a state of all its citizens, that it enacts laws that discriminate against non-Jews, and that Palestinian anger at this is not hateful antisemitism but simply anger at being ethnically cleansed from their own country. By portraying the justified anger of Palestinians (and of all the Arabs and Muslims who share it) as unjustified irrational antisemitic and "anti-freedom" hatred, our rulers try to persuade us that the War on Terror is a real war against a real enemy when in fact it is an Orwellian war of social control. To expose this lie one must "focus on Israel" to explain the truth about Palestinian (and Arab and Muslim) anger at the U.S. and Israeli governments.

#3. Even were I not an American, however, and even if the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing were not being used by the American ruling class to force Palestinians into a conflict with the Israeli government that enables our mass media to portray them as a "bogeyman" hateful terrorist enemy, there would remain one more reason to focus on Israel, which is this.

The Israeli government's crime of ethnic cleansing is, in one important respect, worse than the crimes that other governments commit. When other governments oppress people they of course lie about their reasons, but they almost never equate opposition to such oppression with bigotry and in the rare cases when they do so this assertion is not taken seriously by most people in the world. When Americans opposed our government's invasion and bombing of Vietnam, nobody ever accused them of being bigots for it. When people oppose the Saudi government's oppression of women, nobody ever accuses them of being bigots for it. When people oppose the Chinese government's oppression of workers and peasants, nobody ever accuses them of being bigots for it.

But when people oppose the Israeli government's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the entire spectrum of political and corporate and academic leaders in the United States equate that righteous stand against oppression with antisemitism! People are labeled antisemites and thereby have their reputations smeared just for defending the 13th article of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says that "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." (It doesn't say "except Palestinians.") The Israeli government is the only one that commits its particular crime in the name of righteousness, in the name of fighting racism and bigotry. It carries out ethnic cleansing of non-Jews in the name of fighting antisemitism. And it uses organizations with righteous names like "Anti-Defamation League" to accuse anybody who opposes this crime of being an antisemite.
Think about it. When many crimes are being committed, but only one of those crimes is done under the cover of "fighting bigotry" and only one of the criminals dares to equate opposition to their crime with bigotry, then is it not reasonable to focus on that crime, even if it is in other respects not the worst one? The victims of the other crimes will get support from the many good people of the world who oppose injustice and oppression. But the victims of a crime carried out by a criminal who persuades the world of the lie that the crime is actually a battle against antisemitism will not receive the support they deserve. Good people of the world, to their great credit, detest antisemitism and will support the side they believe is fighting against it. This is precisely why it is so important that those who do understand what is actually happening, who do understand that the crime is a crime and not a righteous defense against antisemitism, focus on exposing the lie. This means focusing on the crimes of the Israeli government.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Noor Elashi: My Father's Unjust Incarceration

March 23, 2010
My Father's Unjust Incarceration
The Case of the Holy Land Five


A decade before my father received a 65-year prison sentence, he handed me an unusual book, one that ultimately shifted the way I perceive the world. It was titled Magic Eye, and it contained pages of what seemed like simple multicolored patterns. But each page had a hidden gift, a sensational truth. By diverging your eyes, my father told me, you’ll see an unexpected image. It seemed to challenge everything I’d ever known. I stared at the flat, distorted artwork until it transformed into a faded silhouette and then a three-dimensional shape like a group of dolphins or a rose-filled heart. Years later, as I flip through the pages of my family’s narrative, I see images that are far less whimsical, and indeed, painful.

Last week, U.S. attorney Jim Jacks filed a motion asking the federal judge of the Holy Land Foundation case to transfer my father—Ghassan Elashi, the charity’s co-founder—and his colleagues to a prison that closely monitors its inmates. If transferred to either of these so-called “Communication Management Units” in Terre Haute, Indiana or Marion, Illinois, my father’s phone calls would be more limited than they are now, in Seagoville, Texas. His letters would be monitored, his visitation time would be reduced to four hours a month and his conversations would be restricted to English, which is his second language.

Perhaps this may seem like an illustration of an effective justice system at work. But if one diverges his or her eyes, the camouflaged truth will slowly unfold, until it comes into focus. I, for one, see a hazel-eyed girl with pale skin and soft dark curls losing her home uponIsrael’s creation in 1948. The young woman, now my paternal grandmother, often tells me about her banishment from Jaffa, a once vibrant Palestinian city known for its orange groves and turquoise beach. I also see a man who was expelled from his native Gaza City in 1967 and was not allowed to return. I grew up hearing stories from this man, my father, about the plight of Palestinians, whom he called “a voiceless population” suffering from occupation, starvation, demolished homes, uprooted trees, constrained movement and a devastated economy.

As I look deeper, I see the Holy Land Foundation rise to stardom in the eyes of human rights activists worldwide who had witnessed this charitable organization alleviate poverty in Occupied Palestine through bags of rice, boxes of medicine, conventional humanitarian aid. I see my family scrutinized throughout the 1990s due to agenda-driven reports linking my father to terrorism—reports written by individuals who saw the HLF’s strength as a threat, for they wanted Palestinians to remain weak and desolate. I see President Bush shutting down the Holy Land Foundation three months after Sept. 11, 2001, calling the action “another important step in the financial fight against terror.”

I see my father and his colleagues tried in 2007 and almost vindicated. I see him tried a second time and convicted in 2008, thereby receiving a life-long sentence. In both trials, prosecutors argued that the HLF gave money to Palestinian zakat (charity) committees that they claimed were controlled by Hamas, which the U.S. designated a terrorist organization in 1995. To prove this, prosecutors called to the stand an Israeli intelligence agent testifying under the pseudonym of Avi who claimed he could “smell Hamas.” The prosecutors intimidated the jury by showing them scenes of suicide bombings completely unaffiliated with the HLF, and they used guilt by association by linking my father and the other defendants to relatives who are members of Hamas. The defense attorneys’ argument was simple: The Holy Land Five gave charity to the same zakat committees to which the American government agency USAID (United States Agency for International Development) gave money. Furthermore, none of the zakat committees included in the HLF indictment were named on any of the U.S. Treasury Department’s lists of designated terrorist organizations.

Nationally respected human rights law professors such as David Cole have associated the Holy Land case with McCarthyism, and other experts have called it a miscarriage of justice. The book that my father gave me had this subtitle: A New Way of Looking at the World. If one looks at our world with a fresh pair of eyes, he or she will see that Jim Jacks’ request for harsher prison conditions is unnecessarily cruel, and that supporting the appeal process is the only way to achieve justice. He or she will also see that the Holy Land Five arepolitical prisoners, and that we live in a twisted time, a time when humanitarians are pursued relentlessly for political purposes.

Noor Elashi is a Palestinian-American and writer based in New York City.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Emptywheel:bmaz: OPR Report Altered to Exculpate Bybee and Yoo

OPR Report Altered To Cover Bush DOJ Malfeasance
By: bmaz Friday January 29, 2010  

Mike Isikoff and Dan Klaidman put up a post about an hour ago letting the first blood for the Obama Administration’s intentional tanking of the OPR (Office of Professional Responsibility) Report. In light of Obama’s focused determination to sweep the acts of the Bush Administration, no matter how malevolent, under the rug and “move forward” the report is not unexpected. However, digesting the first leak in what would appear to be a staged rollout is painful:

…an upcoming Justice Department report from its ethics-watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the “torture” memos of professional-misconduct allegations.

While the probe is sharply critical of the legal reasoning used to justify waterboarding and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques, NEWSWEEK has learned that a senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action—which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

The news broken in the Newsweek Declassified post is huge, assuming it is accurate, and the sense is that it is. In spite of the weight of the report, the report tucks the substantive content behind the deceptively benign title “Holder Under Fire”. The subject matter is far too significant though for it to have been casually thrown out. Consider this description of the OPR finding on the nature and quality of the critical August 1, 2002 Torture Memo:

The report, which is still going through declassification, will provide many new details about how waterboarding was adopted and the role that top White House officials played in the process, say two sources who have read the report but asked for anonymity to describe a sensitive document. Two of the most controversial sections of the 2002 memo—including one contending that the president, as commander in chief, can override a federal law banning torture—were not in the original draft of the memo, say the sources. But when Michael Chertoff, then-chief of Justice’s criminal division, refused the CIA’s request for a blanket pledge not to prosecute its officers for torture, Yoo met at the White House with David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief counsel, and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. After that, Yoo inserted a section about the commander in chief’s wartime powers and another saying that agency officers accused of torturing Qaeda suspects could claim they were acting in “self-defense” to prevent future terror attacks, the sources say. Both legal claims have long since been rejected by Justice officials as overly broad and unsupported by legal precedent.

Hard to figure how this finding and conclusion could be determined by David Margolis to warrant the “softening” of the original finding of direct misconduct. Margolis is nearly 70 years old and has a long career at DOJ and is fairly well though of. Margolis was tasked by Jim Comey to shepherd Pat Fitzgerald’s Libby investigation. In short, the man has some bona fides.

Margolis is, however, also tied to the DOJ and its culture for over forty years, not to mention his service in upper management as Associate Attorney General during the Bush Administration when the overt acts of torture and justification by Margolis’ contemporaries and friends were committed. For one such filter to redraw the findings and conclusions of such a critical investigation in order to exculpate his colleagues is unimaginable.

One thing is for sure, with a leak like this being floated out on a late Friday night, the release of the full OPR Report, at least that which the Obama Administration will deem fit for the common public to see, is at hand. Mike Isikoff and Dan Klaidman have made sure the torturers and their enablers can have a comfortable weekend though. So we got that going for us.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tom Burghardt: Global Research: Smoking Gun Disclosures of the Coverup of the Underwear Bomber Affair (Flight 253)

The interesting question that Burghardt raises is whether right wing Cheney embeds especially in the security apparat are in a conspiracy to embarrass and/or bring down the Obama administration. From where I sit, it's too early to say whether the Obama administration, i.e, Obama and Rahm Emanuel, knew in advance about the underwear bomber shenanigans. Obama first made statements to the effect that he'd punish the people responsible for not connecting the dots; statements he reversed within a week. Also notable was his 76 hour silence, consistent with his lack of foreknowledge. So we'll have to wait and see.

That being said, the article below leans too heavily for my taste on the side  of Obama as essentially a humane democrat, unwilling but forced into the ruthlessness that we have become accustomed to after 9/11. After all, the drone attacks started 3 days after he was in office. He deliberately fired the previous general in favor of McChrystal as top general in Afghanistan. And more. 


The Obama Administration's Cover-up of the Flight 253 Affair

"New Smoking Gun" Disclosures

by Tom Burghardt

Relevant questions begging for answers include: Who made the decision not to "connect the dots"? Are right-wing elements and holdovers from the previous administration actively conspiring to destabilize the Obama government? Was the attempted bombing a planned provocation meant to incite new conflicts in the Middle East and restrict democratic rights at home? 

As with the 9/11 attacks, these questions go unasked by corporate media. Indeed, such lines of inquiry are entirely off the table and are further signs that a cover-up is in full-swing, not a hard-hitting investigation. 

Nearly one month after passengers foiled an attempted suicide bomb attack aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as it approached Detroit on Christmas Day, new information reveals that the White House and U.S. security agencies had specific intelligence on accused terrorist, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, far earlier than previously acknowledged. 

Along with new reports, evidence suggests that the administration's cover-up of the affair has very little to do with a failure by the intelligence apparatus to "connect the dots" and may have far more serious political implications for the Obama administration, and what little remains of a functioning democracy in the United States, than a botched bombing. 

What the White House and security officials have previously described only as "vague" intercepts regarding "a Nigerian" has now morphed into a clear picture of the suspect--and the plot.

The New York Times revealed January 18 that the National Security Agency "learned from a communications intercept of Qaeda followers in Yemen that a man named "Umar Farouk"--the first two names of the jetliner suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab--had volunteered for a coming operation."

According to Times' journalists Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti, "the American intelligence network was clearly listening in Yemen and sharing that information." Indeed, additional NSA intercepts in December "mentioned the date of Dec. 25, and suggested that they were 'looking for ways to get somebody out' or 'for ways to move people to the West,' one senior administration official said."

Clearly, the administration was "worried about possible terrorist attacks over the Christmas holiday." These concerns led President Obama to meet December 22 "with top officials of the C.I.A., F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security, who ticked off a list of possible plots against the United States and how their agencies were working to disrupt them," the Times reports.

"In a separate White House meeting that day" the Times disclosed, "Mr. Obama's homeland security adviser, John O. Brennan, led talks on Yemen, where a stream of disturbing intelligence had suggested that Qaeda operatives were preparing for some action, perhaps a strike on an American target, on Christmas Day."

In mid-January, Newsweek reported that the "White House report on the foiled Christmas Day attempted airliner bombing provided only the sketchiest of details about what may have been the most politically sensitive of its findings: how the White House itself was repeatedly warned about the prospect of an attack on the U.S.," Mark Hosenball and Michael Isikoff disclosed.

According to the newsmagazine, "intelligence analysts had 'highlighted' an evolving 'strategic threat,'" and that "'some of the improvised explosive device tactics AQAP might use against U.S. interests were highlighted' in other 'finished intelligence products'." 

However, the real bombshell came last Wednesday during hearings before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee when Bushist embed, and current Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Michael E. Leiter, made a startling admission. 

CongressDaily reported on January 22 that intelligence officials "have acknowledged the government knowingly allows foreigners whose names are on terrorist watch lists to enter the country in order to track their movement and activities." 

Leiter told the Committee: "I will tell you, that when people come to the country and they are on the watch list, it is because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another."

CongressDaily reporter Chris Strohm, citing an unnamed "intelligence official" confirmed that Leiter's statement reflected government policy and told the publication, "in certain situations it's to our advantage to be able to track individuals who might be on a terrorist watch list because you can learn something from their activities and their contacts."

An alternative explanation fully in line with well-documented inaction, or worse, by U.S. security agencies prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and now, Christmas Day's aborted airline bombing, offer clear evidence that a ruthless "choice" which facilitates the murder of American citizens are cynical pretexts in a wider game: advancing imperialism's geostrategic goals abroad and attacks on democratic rights at home.

Leiter's revelation in an of itself should demolish continued government claims that the accused terror suspect succeeded in boarding NW Flight 253 due to a failure to "connect the dots."

However, as far as Antifascist Calling can determine, no other media outlet has either reported or followed-up CongressDaily's disclosure; a clear sign that its explosive nature, and where a further investigation might lead, are strictly off-limits. 

Taking into account testimony by a high-level national security official that terrorists are allowed to enter the country for intelligence purposes, one can only conclude that the alleged "failure" to stop Abdulmutallab was neither a casual omission nor the result of bureaucratic incompetence but rather, a highly-charged political calculation. 

Bushist Embeds: Destabilizing the Obama Administration? 

One subject barely explored by corporate media throughout the Flight 253 affair, is the unsettling notion that the aborted Christmas day bombing may have been a move by rightist elements within the security apparatus to destabilize the Obama administration, a course of action facilitated by the Obama government itself as we will explore below. 

This is not as implausible as it might appear at first blush. When one takes into account the meteoric rise to power by the 40-year-old former Navy pilot and federal prosecutor, Michael Leiter's ascent tracks closely with his previous service as a cover-up specialist for the Bush-Cheney regime.

"In 2004, while working as a federal prosecutor," a New York Times puff piece informs us, "Mr. Leiter joined the staff of a commission, appointed by President George W. Bush, to examine intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq. That led to a series of jobs in the intelligence

world, and in 2008, Mr. Bush appointed him director of the counterterrorism center." 

A rather curious appointment, if Leiter were simply an ingénue with no prior experience in the murky world of intelligence and covert operations. However the former Navy pilot, who participated in the U.S. wars of aggression against the former Yugoslavia and Iraq seemed to have the requisite qualifications for work as an intelligence "specialist."

While attending Harvard Law School, Leiter served as a "human rights fellow" with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, the U.S.-sponsored kangaroo court that has prosecuted America's official enemies in the Balkans whilst covering-up the crimes of their partners.

Amongst America's more dubious "allies" in the decade-long campaign to destabilize socialist Yugoslavia were al-Qaeda's Islamist brigade, responsible for carrying-out hideous massacres in Bosnia and Kosovo, with NATO approval and logistical support, as Global Research analyst Michel Chossudovsky, and others, have thoroughly documented.

As Deputy General Counsel and Assistant Director of the President's Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States, the so-called "Robb-Silberman" cover-up commission, Leiter focused on what are euphemistically described in the media as "reforms" with the U.S. "Intelligence Community," including the stand-up of the FBI's repressive National Security Branch.

Prior to joining NCTC, Leiter was the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence under former NSA Director and ten-year senior vice president of the spooky Booz Allen Hamilton security firm, John "Mike" McConnell.

From his perch in ODNI, Leiter coordinated all internal and external operations for the Office, including relations with the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA.

Leiter's résumé, and his role in concealing Bush administration war crimes, predicated on ginned-up "intelligence" invented by Dick Cheney's minions in the Defense Department and the CIA, should have sent alarm bells ringing inside the incoming Obama administration.

As we have seen since Obama's inauguration however, rather than cleaning house--and settling accounts--with the crimes, and criminals, of the previous regime, the "change" administration chose to retain senior- and mid-level bureaucrats in the security apparatus; employing officials who share the antidemocratic ideology, penchant for secrecy and ruthlessness of the Bush administration.

While the Times claims his "unblemished résumé" has taken a hit over the Flight 253 plot, an interview with National Public Radio shortly before the Abdulmutallab affair, provides chilling insight into Leiter's agenda, particularly in light of his January 20 statement to the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Presciently perhaps, the NCTC chief told NPR: "We're not going to stop every attack. Americans have to very much understand that it is impossible to stop every terrorist event. But we have to do our best, and we have to adjust, based on, again, how the enemy changes their tactics."

It becomes a painfully simple matter for "the enemy" to gain advantage and "change their tactics" when those charged with protecting the public actually facilitate their entrée into the country "for some reason or another"!

According to the Times, the White House has kept Leiter at the helm and that it came as "no surprise to Bush officials" because, get this, "Michael wasn't political," if we're to believe the carefully-constructed legend of former Bushist Deputy National Security Adviser Juan Zarate.

If the Bush-Cheney years tell us anything it's that appointments by the previous regime were ruthlessly political. As The Washington Post reported shortly after Obama's election, these appointments were made permanent across a multitude of federal agencies and departments, including the security apparat, in a cynical maneuver designed to reward Bush loyalists.

"The transfer of political appointees into permanent federal positions" the Post disclosed, "called 'burrowing' by career officials, creates security for those employees, and at least initially will deprive the incoming Obama administration of the chance to install its preferred appointees in some key jobs."

The Times reports that the White House has publicly defended Leiter "and aides to the president said Mr. Obama called to convey his support." Perhaps not so curiously, the allegedly "nonpolitical" NCTC Director "has been mentioned as a possible future head of the Central Intelligence Agency, and how he performs might help determine whether he remains on the fast track."

One can only wonder, how many other counterterrorist officials have "burrowed" their way into, and hold key positions in the current administration, ticking political time-bombs inside America's permanent shadow government.

Senate Whitewash Fuel Attacks on Democratic Rights

During Wednesday's Senate hearings, Obama's Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis C. Blair, in keeping with the former Bush administration's assault on democratic rights, assailed the decision by the Justice Department to try the suspect in a court of law.

This is fully in line with the rhetoric of ultra-right Republicans and so-called "centrist Democrats" such as arch neocon Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Newsweek reports that new details "surrounding the Christmas Day interrogation of the bombing suspect aboard Northwest Flight 253 raise questions about the accuracy of testimony provided Wednesday by senior U.S. intelligence and Homeland Security officials."

Last week, the newsmagazine reported that "Obama administration officials were flabbergasted Wednesday when Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair testified that an alleged Qaeda operative who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day should have been questioned by a special interrogation unit that doesn't exist, rather than the FBI."

This theme was quickly picked-up by Senate Republicans.

The overarching sentiments expressed by this gaggle of war criminals and corporate toadies was not to demand accountability from the responsible parties, but to call for further attacks on Americans' democratic rights.

Republicans on the committee lambasted Obama's Justice Department for its decision to try Abdulmutallab in a civilian court. John McCain (R-AZ), the Republican party's failed candidate in the 2008 presidential election, said the decision was "a terrible, terrible mistake," while the execrable Jeff Sessions (R-AL) claimed that the hapless suspect should have been delivered to the U.S. military as an "enemy combatant."

Ranking Republicans on the committee, Susan Collins (R-ME) and John Ensign (R-NV) went so far as to imply that Abdulmutallab should have been tortured. Collins inquired: "how can we uncover plots" if accused criminal suspects are allowed to "lawyer up and stop answering questions?" Ensign, a staunch supporter of policies articulated by the Bush administration, particularly former Vice President and war criminal, Dick Cheney, argued that "limiting" CIA interrogators to the methods laid out in the Army Field Manual would allow terrorists to "train" in advance of interrogations.

But the harshest criticism of the administration came in the form of a stealth attack by Obama's own Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Blair.

The Wall Street Journal reported January 21 that "nation's intelligence chief said the man accused of trying to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day should have been questioned by a special interrogation team instead of being handled as an ordinary criminal suspect."

Rather than coming to terms and halting the Bush regime's practice of torturing so-called terrorist suspects, the Obama administration has compounded the crime by creating a secretive group of interrogators called the High-Value Interrogation Group or HIG.

Blair told the Senate that the administration had "botched" the handling of suspect Abdulmutallab, by, wait, not handing him over to a group that as of this writing, exists only on paper, a salient fact of which Blair was certainly knowledgeable!

In his testimony however, the DNI told the Homeland Security Committee that the HIG "was created exactly for this purpose--to make a decision on whether a certain person who's detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means."

Blair implicitly criticized the Justice Department's decision to uphold constitutional protections that guarantee a suspect a right to a trial in a court of law and not a one-way ticket to an American gulag. Blair said, "we did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have. Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people and, duh, you know, we didn't put it [in action] then."

Mendaciously, the DNI claimed "I was not consulted. The decision was made on the scene, [and] seemed logical to the people there, but it should have been taken using this HIG format, at a higher level."

Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff disclosed January 20 that "senior administration officials" told him that Blair was "misinformed on multiple levels" and that the DNI's assertions were "all the more damaging because they immediately fueled Republican criticism that the administration mishandled the Christmas Day incident in its treatment of the accused Qaeda operative as a criminal suspect rather than an enemy combatant."

Isikoff reported January 22 that Blair, Leiter and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano were asked about the decision to try Abdulmutallab and all gave the same answer when queried by right-wing Senator Susan Collins, the Committee's ranking Republican: "Were you consulted regarding the decision to file criminal charges against [suspect Umar Farouk] Abdulmutallab in civilian court?"

Leiter and Napolitano both replied: "I was not." According to Newsweek, Blair also said he was "not consulted" and claims that the government "should have" brought in the yet-to-be activated HIG "to conduct the questioning of the suspect."

As with every aspect of this strange affair, Newsweek reports, these statements are riddled with lies and mischaracterizations.

Isikoff writes that "all the relevant national-security agencies, including top aides to Blair and Napolitano, were fully informed about the plans to charge the suspect in federal court hours before he was read his Miranda rights and stopped cooperating."

Newsweek further reveals that a "key event" was a secure videoconference on Christmas Day "that included Leiter" and Jane Lute, DHS' No. 2 official and that "neither Leiter nor any of the other participants, including representatives from the FBI and the CIA, raised any questions about the Justice Department's plans to charge the suspect in federal court, the officials said."

"If you participate in a conference call and you don't raise any objections, that suggests you were consulted," said one senior law-enforcement official. Another added that "nobody at any point" raised any objections, either during the meeting or during a four-hour period afterward when Abdulmutallab was informed of his Miranda rights to be represented by a lawyer," according to Newsweek.

Ultra-right Senator Kit Bond (R-MO), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a witting accomplice to the previous regime's high crimes and misdemeanors against the American people said, "That this administration chose to shut out our top intelligence officials and forgo collecting potentially life-saving intelligence is a dangerous sign."

It's a "dangerous sign" to be sure, for America's battered democracy.

An On-Going Cover-Up

As events continue to unfold and new information shreds the official story, is Leiter's chilling testimony that suspected terrorists are allowed to enter the United States "because we have generally made the choice that we want them here in the country for some reason or another," merely a banal slip or something far more sinister that betrays the real order of things in post-democratic America?

Relevant questions begging for answers include: Who made the decision not to "connect the dots"? Are right-wing elements and holdovers from the previous administration actively conspiring to destabilize the Obama government? Was the attempted bombing a planned provocation meant to incite new conflicts in the Middle East and restrict democratic rights at home?

As with the 9/11 attacks, these questions go unasked by corporate media. Indeed, such lines of inquiry are entirely off the table and are further signs that a cover-up is in full-swing, not a hard-hitting investigation.

In truth, what we are dealing with here as we stagger into the second decade of the 21st century, is not a "conspiracy" per se but a modus operandi as the World Socialist Web Site has argued, rooted in a bankrupt system quickly reaching the end of the line.

Tom Burghardt is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Tom Burghardt