Monday, January 30, 2006

Time to deny prestige to terrorists

When is the White House going to stop commenting on the weird threats of al Qaeda sociopaths and leave the opining to others down the government food chain?

President Bush and other senior US officials, like President Clinton before, have inflated the authority and prestige of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists by commenting on them publicly and repeatedly naming them by name.

It's a silly and counterproductive policy that has not aided the war on terror, and arguably has undermined it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Google won't help US enforce anti-porn law, but gladly helps Chinese censors

After refusing to help the US government protect children from online pornographers, search engine Google agreed to collaborate with Chinese government censors to filter out anything the regime finds objectionable.

Money motivates both actions. Google claims to be protecting the rights of its users but in reality is making a fortune from pornography, much of which is tied to organized criminal syndicates.

"To obtain the Chinese license, Google agreed to omit Web content that the country's government finds objectionable," AP reports. "Google will base its censorship decisons on guidance provided by Chinese government officials."

"Google officials characterized the censorship concessions in China as an excruciating decision for a company that adopted 'don't be evil' as a motto," according to AP. "But management believes it's a worthwhile sacrifice."

Monday, January 16, 2006

Walter Cronkite's second Tet Offensive

Former CBS anchorman is re-living his Vietnam War glories, making headlines by calling for the United States to pull out of Iraq.

Way back when the TV triopoly controlled information enough to make Cronkite "the most trusted man in America," the CBS anchorman arguably had more of an influence on American public opinion than any media figure since.

That was before the New Media, of course, which drove a stake through Cronkite's successor, Dan Rather, forcing Rather to retire in shame.

Cronkite has never owned up to falling for a huge North Vietnamese propaganda operation, the Tet Offensive of 1968, which made it look as though the Viet Cong insurgency had overrun South Vietnam and its capital, Saigon.

In reality, the US, South Vietnamese and other allies smashed the Viet Cong during Tet, and effectively destroyed the insurgency.

But that wasn't the image that Cronkite and others showed on TV, which made it look as though Saigon was about to fall. Cronkite told viewers that the Vietnam War was unwinnable.

He claims he made the comment after his boss urged him to put his "objectivity" aside.

President Lyndon Johnson, who obsessed over the ABC/CBS/NBC triopoly's TV coverage, reportedly said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." Johnson announced he was quitting politics, and gave Hanoi and its Soviet allies proof that their military propaganda operations, if stretched out long enough on American TV, could grind down the United States' will to fight.

Now, at age 89, Cronkite proves he hasn't learned his lesson. His says Tet comment - putting his objectivity aside - remains one of his proudest moments.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Keeping history straight: Who wiretapped Martin Luther King

This Martin Luther King holiday, we hear the predictable voices slamming the FBI for having wiretapped the civil rights leader.

Perhaps Senator Ted Kennedy of others of his ilk will use that reminder as a reason for not renewing the USA PATRIOT Act.

How good is your history: Who ordered the FBI to spy on Martin Luther King?

J. Edgar Hoover? Richard Nixon? Hatemongers in an out-of-control domestic spying network?

Answer: The Attorney General of the United States ordered the FBI to do so. The Justice Department's main building in Washington is named after him. It was Ted's sainted brother, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy.

Follow-up: Al Gore used Martin Luther King Day to denounce President Bush's tough policies against terrorist networks operating here at home, among us.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Jim Moran: Dissing veterans, picking on women and kids, and flip-flopping on Iraq

Congressman Jim Moran is a boxer and he likes to talk real tough.

It's all an act. This is a guy who nearly assaulted an 8 year-old black kid and did something that made his bruise-covered wife call 911 and divorce him the next day. Now he's dissing American troops who just returned from fighting al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

He can beat up women and little black children, but he can't face someone his own size.

At one of Moran's recent town meetings in Alexandria, Virginia, a young sergeant told the congressman he'd returned from Afghanistan and would have volunteered for Iraq had he not been injured. He noted that Moran never attended the welcoming events for the troops in his district, and never wrote them letters as congressman generally do for returning troops.

Moran answered, "that wasn't a question," turned away from the sergeant to look for someone on the other side of the room, and changed the subject.

FLASHBACK: Jim Moran likes to run away from uncomfortable truths. When he was a newly-elected congressman in 1991, his first speech on the floor of the House of Representatives included a call for bipartisanship in support of the previous President Bush, to oust Saddam Hussein's military from Kuwait. He pledged to vote to support Operation Desert Storm.

His party leaders quickly told him what the deal would be if he wanted to get ahead in Congress.

So when the time came to vote, Jim Moran flip-flopped. He sold his vote to the House Democrat leadership and voted against Operation Desert Storm.

This blogger (in those pre-blog days) passed Moran in the street as Moran left the Longworth House Office Building and called, "Nice flip-flop, Congressman!"

Moran, who was with a female companion, said nothing, then turned around red-faced and shouted from across the street, "Well I sure hope you're satisfied!"

I went through the revolving doors into the Longworth building and continued about my business. Halfway down the block-long hall, someone yanked me by the shoulder and swung me around. It was a livid Jim Moran, with furious gray eyes and a drop of spittle on his blond mustache. Having ambushed me from behind, he raised his fist as if he was about to smash my face in.

I was in the company of a Marine and Navy SEAL, and the congressman dropped his fist.

But he talked tough. He demanded to know my name, and when I refused to tell him, he interrogated me about what right I had to be in a congressional office building. (He needed to re-read the Constitution.) He grilled one of my colleagues. Then he grunted and turned away.

Soon afterward, when the Washington Times reported the incident, Moran got on the radio to spin the story. "It was just a couple of punks," he told WRC Radio.

This punk was a former Senate staffer wearing a three-piece suit. I called the radio station immediately, spoke to the producer and told him I was the guy Moran was talking about. The host announced on-air that one of the punks was on the line, and that he wanted Moran to talk to me.

But Jim Moran ran away. He hung up.

Just like he turned away from the Afghanistan veteran at his latest town meeting.

Jim Moran looks and sounds tough, but inside he's a weakling. He's insecure and he has childlike problems with his temper. If good people confront him honestly and insistently enough, he'll become unglued and finish his political self-destruction. Let's help him do it.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Eagleburger: Talk of Iraq withdrawal comforts terrorists

Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger is not known as a particularly partisan Republican, and he supported Senator John McCain against George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential primary campaign.

So he's not speaking as a neocon flack when he warns that those who demand a pullout form Iraq are inadvertently aiding the terrorists.

After a January 5 White House meeting with President Bush and 12 other former secretaries of state and defense, Eagleburger told reporters, "Every time we talk about withdrawal you can see the ears of Osama and his friends perking up."

Murtha: 'We've become the enemy'

Congressman John Murtha is sounding less like a member of the loyal opposition and more like Ramsey Clark.

Speaking at an event for Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), Murtha repeated his demand for an immediate, unilateral American pullout from Iraq. The Washington Post covered the event.

"We've become the enemy," Murtha said.

Joint Chiefs chairman says congressman damages troop morale

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says that the tone and wording of a leading anti-war congressman is damaging the morale of American troops in war zones.

General Peter Pace responded to an ABC TV appearance of Congressman John Murtha, the hawkish ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. A staunch supporter of the military, Murtha became one of the war's shrillest opponents several months ago after spending time with young American servicemen who had been wounded and mutilated in Iraq.

Murtha has demanded an immediate US pullout from Iraq, regardless of the strategic consequences, saying in effect that the troops are fighting a cause that cannot be won militarily. On ABC he went further, telling an interviewer that if he were a young man, he would not join the military today.

The congressman's statements are serious because the Pennsylvania Democrat is no liberal weenie: he fought in Korea and Vietnam during his 37 years in the US Marine Corps, and has been more solid on defense than many Republicans.

Commenting on Murtha's remarks, Pace told reporters,

"That's damaging to recruiting, it's damaging to the morale of the troops who are deployed, and it's damaging to the morale of their families who believe in what they're doing to serve the country.

"When a respected leader like Mr. Murtha, who has spent 37 extremely honorable years as a Marine, fought in two wars, has served the country extremely well in the Congress of the United States, when a respected individual like that says what he said, and 18- and 19-year-olds look to their leadership to determine how they are expected to act, they can get the wrong message."

A congressman's constitutional duty - and Murtha's especially, as a top Armed Services Committee member - is to question the commander-in-chief when necessary, and view US defense policy with a critical eye. But like his Senate colleagues and others criticized on this blog, he has unacceptably crossed the line. He should unilaterally withdraw his comments and become more constructive in his criticism.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Abramoff scandal and Russian military intelligence

Press reports about the malfeasance of former Washington insider Jack Abramoff have missed an important dimension of the disgraced lobbyist's career.

Abramoff may have been a counterintelligence problem for the United States and for the decision-makers he targeted and funded.

His lawyer, Julius "Jay" Kaplan (at left of photo), jumped all over this blogger several years ago when I was researching a piece on Russian influence-peddling for a New York financial magazine. I was tracking down a Russian money trail around then-Vice President Al Gore and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott when I discovered that Abramoff was involved with at least one Russian GRU military intelligence figure whose company was paying him to organize congressional delegations to Moscow.

In April 2005 and again December 31, the Washington Post ran a photograph of one of the GRU figures, Marina Nevskaya, standing with Kaplan and others. (Click here for the photo. Nevskaya is in the middle. Kaplan is wearing the red tie.)

Nevskaya's company, NaftaSib, paid Abramoff to represent it in Washington. In some documents filed with the Clerk of the House, Abramoff masked the connection through a Bahamian cutout company, registering as an agent of the Bahamas and not of Russia.

NaftaSib's official biography of Nevskaya says she speaks fluent French and Vietnamese in addition to English, and that she was an instructor at the Military Diplomatic Academy in Moscow. Her biography does not say that the academy is a principal training school for Russia's GRU military intelligence service.

The GRU's continued offensive espionage operations against the United States, which the FBI says continue at Cold War levels, make Nevskaya's service as a GRU instructor important to the Abramoff influence operation.

Was the GRU using Abramoff to compromise Congress and other Washington policymakers for Russian military intelligence?

While researching the story in the summer of 1997, I posed the question to a senior FBI counterintelligence agent. He was hard-nosed Cold Warrior with a reputation of strong skepticism against the Russians. To my surprise he shrugged off the question, saying there was probably nothing to it. Two-and-a-half years later, in early 2000, I understood his disinterest when he himself was arrested as a Russian spy.

I don't think that Robert Hanssen had any inside information, and I'm not trying to connect him with Abramoff or Nevskaya. (Nor, for that matter, am I accusing Nevskaya or her company of anything beyond running influence operations in Washington.)

The financial magazine never ran the story, so I mentioned the connection in the Russia Reform Monitor newsletter in August, 1997. I had a dim view of Abramoff then, and was concerned that his paid work for the Russians would damage Republican congressional figures to whose causes Abramoff had been donating money. (Disclosure: I worked for Abramoff at the College Republican National Committee in 1982 and 1983, and quit with two colleagues after we suspected him of financial improprieties.)

Few noted the Abramoff-NaftaSib issue until 2004, when major news organizations started going after Abramoff's contacts in the House of Representatives.

The Washington Post and NBC know about the GRU issue, because they have quoted of late from my 1997 report, yet no one has raised the possible Russian spy connection. It's about time someone did.