Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bush's 'domestic spying' order saved New York from second attack

Buried in today's breathless Washington Post story about President Bush's "domestic spying" order is this factoid: the action stopped more terrorist attacks on American soil.

"Officials have privately credited the eavesdropping with the apprehension of Iyman Faris, a truck driver who pleaded guilty in 2003 to planning to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge" in New York, Post reporter Peter Baker mentions in the 13th paragraph of the 23-paragraph article.

"Bush said other plots have been disrupted as well," Baker continues casually. The reporter shows no interest in telling the readers what those plots might have been.

The Post editors obviously have decided to undermine such counterterrorism activity. Their hearts bleed through the inflammatory 1970s-style headline, "President Says He Ordered NSA Domestic Spying," and placement of the story on the top-right of the front page of the Sunday paper.

"Domestic spying" was a favored term of the Left in their successful 1970s crusades to gut the nation's security, intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities.

Beneath the front page article is an above-the-fold "analysis" by Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer titled "Pushing the Limits of Wartime Powers."

The lead paragraph in that "analysis" - Postspeak for a front-page editorial disguised as news - reads as follows:

"In his four-year campaign against al Qaeda, President Bush has turned the U.S. national security apparatus inward to collect information on Americans on a scale unmatched since the intelligence reforms of the 1970s."

Again, we see inflammatory language: "to collect information on Americans." Not to collect information on terrorists in America, or terrorist suspects in America, or terrorist infrastructure in America, but "on Americans."

If President Bush pushed the limits of wartime powers after 9/11, good for him. He should keep pushing.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Get real about the PATRIOT Act: Take a page from the Founding Fathers

Congress is still playing patty-cake as it pretends to keep the public safe from terrorism.

The Senate's defeat of the USA PATRIOT Act shows that the majority of senators believe that our nation's security and intelligence services are greater threats to public safety than are the terrorists.

For a serious concept of a PATRIOT Act, lawmakers should study what the Founding Fathers - the real patriots - did when they fought to create and protect our great democracy.

They cracked down on immigration to filter out those who would subvert the new nation.

They told enemies of the new republic - Tories - either to sign loyalty oaths or be expelled from their state.

Massachusetts passed a law that identified 300 Tories, disposessed them of their property, ordered them to leave the commonwealth immediately, and warned that if they ever returned, they would be hanged.

That's a serious way of ridding a democratic society of those who would subvert and abuse it. It's something for the public to consider today - and compare it to the embarrassingly tame half-measures the US has taken so far against terrorists and their supporters here.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Al-Zawahiri has Pentagon lawyer to thank for Afghanistan progress

Terrorist leader Ayman al-Zawahiri can thank a US Department of Defense attorney for the Taliban's continued operations in Afghanistan.

In a recently released video, al-Zawahiri credited Mullah Omar, leader of the ousted Taliban, with running a three-year effort "against the Crusaders and apostates in Afghanistan" and supposedly controlling "extensive parts of eastern and western Afghanistan."

Al-Zawahiri credits the resilence of the Taliban with enabling suicide bombings in Afghanistan.

He should thank a US military lawyer, who we won't name. For now.

That lawyer saved Mullah Omar from being killed by American forces.

Early in the Afghanistan campaign, the operator of a Predator drone spotted Mullah Omar escaping from a building and fleeing in an SUV. The Predator operator readied to eliminate Mullah Omar with a Hellfire missile - but the lawyer, whispering in the operator's earpiece, told him not to fire. The reason: Innocent people might be in Omar's vehicle.

Omar has eluded friendly forces ever since, while remaining alive to kill more of our own people in Afghanistan.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Take the trial back from Saddam Hussein

In a further sign that the lawyers have hijacked American national security strategy, two years of preparation for Saddam Hussein's trial have allowed the former dictator himself to turn it into a propaganda circus.

While the American team supervising the process has focused exclusively (again) on process, Saddam and his team - which includes Ramsey Clark, head of the International Action Center - have turned the trial from an indictment of his crimes to an indictment of the United States and the new Iraqi government.

The sight of a well-dressed, defiant, self-assured Saddam Hussein gives an image that the dictator will return, frightening the Iraqi people and emboldening his followers.

There's time to fix that. With Saddam boycotting his trial in protest, here's what the US can help its Iraqi allies do, as Charles Krauthammer recommends in today's Washington Post:

1. Bring Saddam into the courtroom wearing prison garb and shackled.

2. Isolate Saddam in a glass booth. Silence his interruptions and histrionics.

Otherwise, "our only hope, as always with Hussein, is that he destroys himself with his arrogance and stupidity. He has stupidly walked out of his own trial. This is our opportunity."

War Footing: Book calls for US political warfare offensive

A new book by one of Washington's most prolific defense experts calls for the United States to employ political warfare as a strategic weapon against its rivals, adversaries and enemies abroad.

Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney makes the recommendation as Step 8 in War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World.

War Footing is a brand-new release by the Naval Institute Press.

Contributors include Victor Davis Hanson, former CIA Director Jim Woolsey, Daniel Goure, Bruce Herschensohn, Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, USAF (Ret.), Claudia Rosett, Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely, USA (Ret.), Rep. Curt Weldon, and yours truly.

Some of the policy prescriptions in Step 8:

The United States needs to take a number of steps, urgently, to inaugurate a program of political warfare.

1. Stop evading the issue. No government strategy to date for the so-called "War on Terror" has included political warfare as an element of the American arsenal.

2. Devise, staff up and begin executing a political warfare strategy. Countering the [enemy's] ideology must be its principal focus.

3. De-legitimize Islamist extremism in the eyes of Muslims, and especially its potential supporters. We need to show that, while violent Islamism is certainly a problem for us in the West, it is a vastly greater problem for the Muslim community.

4. Use our strengths. The good news is that Americans are among the world's experts at political warfare. The bad news is that we mainly use it against each other: after all, the strategies and tactics of any hard-fought election campaign are precisely the stuff of applied political warfare. The talent, creativity, ingenuity and, yes, ruthlessness of top-flight political campaign strategists of both parties should be mustered for the purpose of fighting our enemies and helping our friends - rather than fighting each other.

5. Invest in the instruments of political warfare, including public diplomacy . . . [which] must be viewed as a form of political warfare.

6. Use the Internet as a tool of political warfare. In particular, the power of creative web sites, webcasting and blogging should be aggressively exploited.

7. Strengthen the CIA clandestine services, and authorize and fund them for long-term strategic political warfare.

8. Grant the Department of Defense the primary responsibility for political warfare. Just as the State Department leads in public diplomacy, the "warfare" side of communications is legitimately a Pentagon function and must not be assigned to our diplomats.

9. Don't forget political warfare in non-Islamist areas. The US must combat adversarial political warfare wherever it arises, even in countries traditionally considered friendly.

10. Reinforce and strengthen our friends. By demonstrating that there are not only consequences for opposing us, but also real and tangible benefits from supporting us, we can maximize the chances of our success.

Winning a political war is, in the end, a question of credibility. When nations stand firm for what they claim to believe in, they are perceived as credible. When they appear unwilling to stand firm - regardless of their rhetoric - they are vulnerable to their enemies' more decisive use of political warfare. With the fate of the Free World hanging in the balance, we cannot be (or be perceived to be) weak and irresolute. Toward this end, we must wage political warfare effectively, convincingly, and decisively.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Three scandals behind the Iraq propaganda flap: FourthWorldWar's view in USA Today

USA Today ran an editorial that criticizes the US military for planting propaganda in the Iraqi press. The editors invited this blogger to provide an opposing view after the Pentagon refused. The editorial and counterpoint appeared together on December 7. For the USA Today editorial, click here. The counterpoint is reprinted below.

"Information a Vital Weapon" USA Today, December 7, 2005

by J. Michael Waller

Three scandals hide behind the U.S.-propaganda-in-Iraq controversy.

The first scandal is that the United States hadn't been planting favorable, truthful stories in the Arab media all along.

Americans will lose the war in Iraq — and the global "battle for hearts and minds" — if their military, diplomatic and intelligence services don't become more creative than the enemy is about influencing how people think in the Arab world.

That's why the Pentagon's foreign influence activity is so vital to winning in Iraq. It's a fundamental part of supporting the troops.

Until this year, the U.S. government was probably the only force that did not regularly plant stories in the Iraqi media. It left that game to extremists from Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda itself. With predictable and possibly fatal results.

Here's the dilemma: Individual Iraqi journalists sympathetic to the democratic mission are constantly vulnerable to terrorist death squads. Iraqi editors are more likely to publish articles to advance freedom if doing so won't expose their reporters to retaliation. Yet the Iraqi public is more likely to believe local newspapers than our overt editorials or paid advertisements with our disclaimers and foreign-sounding names. The Pentagon found a way around the problem by paying Iraqi journalists to run Arabic translations of truthful, military-authored articles and stories.

Which brings us to the second scandal: Disgruntled Pentagon officials who disagree with policy continue to leak secrets with impunity. Their sabotage of strategic information campaigns after 9/11 ensured that the military had no propaganda strategy against al-Qaeda and none when it went into Iraq.

Paired with it is the third scandal: the hubris and recklessness of some news organizations that pontificate about democratic media principles as they place their struggling Iraqi colleagues in mortal danger.

They may as well tell moderate Arab journalists, "If you cooperate with our troops, we will expose you to the death squads."

All the more reason for our military to keep up the good work. The Iraqi people — and our troops — depend on it.

J. Michael Waller teaches public diplomacy and political warfare at the Institute of World Politics. (The Defense Department and Lincoln Group declined to provide an opposing view.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Senator Kerry says US troops are 'terrorizing kids and children' in Iraq

Reminiscent of his Vietnam War-era allegations, Senator John Kerry now accuses American troops in Iraq of "terrorizing kids and children."

Kerry's intemperate comments on CBS "Face the Nation" follow Democrat National Committee Chairman Howard Dean's pronouncement that the United States is doomed to lose the war in Iraq, and Senator Ted Kennedy's denunciation of the Pentagon for plotting "a devious scheme to place favorable propaganda in Iraqi newspapers."

Kerry told CBS host Bob Schieffer on December 4,

"And there is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the – of – the historical customs, religious customs. . . . Whether you like it or not ... Iraqis should be doing that."

A transcript is available in pdf format.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

CNN throws rocks in its glass house

Among the news organizations putting a negative spin on the story that the military secretly sponsored positive news stories in Iraqi papers, CNN sounded especially scandalized.

The Pentagon, correspondent Barbara Starr reported, may be deeply involved in influencing the Iraqi press.

Starr then played out what looks like a reprise of the Department of Defense public affairs bureaucrats' sabotage of the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI) in 2002, where disloyal civilian officials and uniformed officers anonymously exposed the effort against the terrorists.

Starr cited "two military officials" as anonymous sources, then quoted a talking head who lectured that Iraq cannot have a democracy without a free press, followed by another anonymous official, apparently from the Pentagon, calling the influence effort a "dumb idea." That was the last word of the story.

Not a peep about CNN's own track record of secretly skewing its own Iraq coverage in hopes of winning government favors. But unlike the Iraqi journalists of today, CNN wasn't collaborating with the United States. For details, see below.

Flashback: How CNN collaborated with Saddam Hussein

For more than a decade, CNN executives consciously failed to tell their viewers that they were letting their channel be used as a tool of censorship and propaganda for Saddam Hussein.

After US-led forces destroyed the Saddam regime, CNN Chief News Executive Eason Jordan admitted the self-censorship in a pained New York Times op-ed on April 11, 2003. He claimed he played the game to save lives of Iraqis who worked with his organization.

"I felt awful having these stories bottled up inside me," Jordan wrote.

Everybody saw through it. NBC icon Tom Brokaw criticized Jordan for his piece, saying: "you do wonder, what is the deal that they've made to stay where they are when they get there?”

The Washington Post ran an editorial unusual in its harshness toward another news organization:

If CNN did not fully disclose what it knew about the Baathist regime, and if CNN deliberately kept its coverage bland and inoffensive, that would help explain why the regime was not perceived to be as ruthless as it in fact was, in the Arab world and elsewhere.

In fact, over the past few days, Baathist atrocities have been revealed ad hoc, as U.S. and British troops discover them. When the systematic investigation of Saddam Hussein's Iraq begins, the stories may grow worse. It is difficult to make judgments in retrospect, but some CNN reporting did seem deliberately unprovocative, given the true nature of the regime. An election last autumn, which Saddam Hussein won with 100 percent of the votes, was interpreted as a "message of defiance to U.S. President George Bush," for example.

If the network had also told its viewers that Mr. Jordan dealt with an Iraqi official whose teeth had been pried out for upsetting his boss, Uday Hussein, then those watching the electoral story might have felt differently about that report, about the election result and about a regime that terrified its citizens into proclaiming their unanimous support.

Peter Collins, who served briefly as CNN Baghdad bureau chief in 1993, responded four days later in the Washington Times, saying the practice was much more than omission and self-censorship. He wrote that Jordan and CNN President Tom Johnson repeatedly traveled to Baghdad to negotiate with the regime, and that he personally saw Johnson and Jordan "groveling" before Iraqi officials to seek a favor from Saddam Hussein: a personal exclusive interview with CNN. According to Collins:

"The day after one such meeting, I was on the roof of the Ministry of Information, preparing for my first 'live shot' on CNN. A producer came up and handed me a sheet of paper with handwritten notes. 'Tom Johnson wants you to read this on camera,' he said. I glanced at the paper. It was an item-by-item summary of points made by Information Minister Latif Jassim in an interview that morning with Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jordan.

"The list was so long that there was no time during the live shot to provide context. I read the information minister's points verbatim. Moments later, I was downstairs in the newsroom on the first floor of the Information Ministry. Mr. Johnson approached, having seen my performance on a TV monitor. 'You were a bit flat there, Peter,' he said. Again, I was astonished. The president of CNN was telling me I seemed less-than-enthusiastic reading Saddam Hussein's propaganda."

Franklin Foer of The New Republic investigated CNN's bias in favor of Saddam. He wrote in the Wall Street Journal's online edition,

"For nearly a decade, the [CNN] network gave credulous treatment to orchestrated anti-U.S. protests. When Saddam won his most recent 'election,' CNN's Baghdad reporter Jane Arraf treated the event as meaningful: 'The point is that this really is a huge show of support' and 'a vote of defiance against the United States.' After Saddam granted amnesty to prisoners in October, she reported, this 'really does diffuse one of the strongest criticisms over the past decades of Iraq's human-rights records'."

Click here for more, including a response from Eason Jordan.

Kennedy rips Pentagon's 'devious scheme'

Senator Ted Kennedy is upset that the US military has been funding Iraqi newspapers to publish positive stories about American-led progress in Iraq.

He calles it "a devious scheme to place favorable propaganda in Iraqi newspapers."

The Senate Armed Services Committee member complained about the "devious scheme" in a letter to the Inspector General of the Department of Defense, demanding an investigation, according to the Washington Post.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ex-Powell aide, on BBC, mulls Cheney as war criminal

As if the Ramsey Clarks and other assorted oddballs aren't a big enough public diplomacy problem for the United States, former Secretary of State Colin Powell's former chief of staff trashes his own country's leadership on international airwaves.

In an interview on the BBC, Lawrence B. Wilkerson "tiptowed awfully close" to calling Vice President Dick Cheney a war criminal.

Al Kamen of the Washington Post reports today that "Wilkerson, interviewed by BBC radio on Tuesday [November 29], accused Cheney of ignoring a decision by President Bush on the treatment of prisoners held in the 'war on terror.'

"So could Cheney be accused of war crimes?

"'It's an interesting question,' Wilkerson mused. 'Certainly, it's a domestic crime to advocate terror. And I would suspect, for whatever it's worth, it's an international crime as well.'"

Doesn't Wilkerson see how such words, broadcast on a foreign global radio network, add another victory to the enemy's propaganda pile?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Associated Press in Warsaw sounds more like TASS

The Associated Press bureau in Warsaw sounds more like the old Soviet "news" agency TASS in its reporting of Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski's declassification of 1,700 volumes of secret Soviet-era military archives.

AP writer Ryan Lucas seems mad at Sikorski and the new post-nomenklatura government, carrying four references in the first five paragraphs of his November 29 story that revelation of Soviet plans to nuke Europe would damage relations with the Russian Federation.

That says more about the Russian government than that of Poland. It also says something about the AP Warsaw bureau.

See my Polish Collaborators blog for more.