Reuters Canada : Al-Zawahri past visitor to Pakistani madrasa

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Al-Zawahri past visitor to Pakistani madrasa

By Anwarullah Khan | October 31, 2006

KHAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - Al Qaeda Number Two Ayman al-Zawahri was a past visitor to a madrasa destroyed by a Pakistan Army helicopter attack, but he was not there when the missiles struck on Monday, senior Pakistani security officials said.

Several other al Qaeda luminaries had passed through the religious school run by pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Liaqatullah, who was killed in the airstrike along with around 80 of his followers, the officials told reporters a day after the attack.

Among the other known militants to have frequented the madrasa at Chenagai village, near the Afghan border in the Bajaur tribal region of northwest Pakistan, was Abu Obaida al-Misri.

An Egyptian, like Zawahri, al-Misri was identified as the mastermind of a plot to blow up U.S.-bound airliners flying from London's Heathrow airport that was foiled earlier this year.

The officials say he was a mentor to Rashid Rauf, a British Muslim arrested in Pakistan in August, who was said to be a key figure in the conspiracy.

No major militant figure was believed to have been present when the army attacked, and orders for the assault were given in anticipation that the militants were about to be sent to fight -- possibly to launch suicide attacks on NATO and Afghan forces.

"The madrasa was under surveillance since July when the activity started picking up pace," said a senior official.

Last January, a CIA-operated Predator missile attack targeted Zawahri in Bajaur's Damadola village near the Afghan border.

Intelligence officials said a handful of al Qaeda operatives at a parley hosted by Liaqatullah were killed. But Zawahri was a no-show and reports that al-Misri was killed proved incorrect.

The Pakistan government had been trying to persuade militant tribesmen to agree peace terms along the lines of accords brokered earlier in the two most restive tribal regions -- North and South Waziristan.

But officials said Liaqatullah and his comrade Maulana Faqir Mohammad, who rallied fighters at the site of the destroyed madrasa immediately after the attack, ignored all warnings.

he officials showed reporters aerial footage shot through a night vision lens of rows of men exercising before daybreak, just an hour before the missiles struck the compound.


Tribesmen said the dead, mostly young men aged between 15 and 25, were merely students. But, President Pervez Musharraf, speaking at a seminar in Islamabad, said they were all militants.

"We know who they were. They were doing military training," Musharraf said.

More than 15,000 armed tribesmen protested against the attack in Khar, Bajaur's main town, and Islamist politicians stoked anti-Western and anti-Musharraf sentiment among ethnic Pashtuns in several towns around North West Frontier Province.

Nowhere is Musharraf's alliance with the United States more unpopular than in the Pashtun tribal belt straddling the Pakistan-Afghan border.

The tribesmen in Khar showed their loyalty with shouts of "Long Live Osama" and "Long Live Mullah Omar."

"Our jihad will continue and God willing, people will go to Afghanistan to oust American and British forces," Maulana Faqir Mohammad, a pro-Taliban cleric, told the crowd of turbaned tribals, many carrying Kalashnikovs and wearing bandoliers, and a few shouldering rocket launchers.

A mountainous region that is difficult to access, Bajaur lies across from the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, where U.S. troops are hunting al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

In contrast to Waziristan, the army has so far not put troops on the ground in Bajaur, though they man border posts there.

Islamist politicians said the attack on the school was really carried out by a U.S. Predator drone aircraft, but Pakistan's military spokesman and a U.S. spokesman in Kabul denied it.

"The entire operation was carried out by our forces. All resources including intelligence was our own," Major-General Shaukat Sultan said, though officials said the intelligence came from various sources.

Mail & Guardian Online : Official: Al-Qaeda frequented bombed Pakistan madrasa

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Official: Al-Qaeda frequented bombed Pakistan madrasa

Islamabad, Pakistan | October 31, 2006

A religious school targeted in Pakistan air strikes was frequented by top al-Qaeda militants, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and the alleged mastermind of the foiled London airlines attack, a senior security official said on Tuesday.

Neither al-Zawahiri -- Osama bin Laden's Egyptian deputy -- nor Abu Obaida al-Misri were in the school, or madrasa, at the time of the raid on Monday, the official said in a briefing to journalists.

"The madrasa that was targeted was frequently visited by al-Qaeda leaders, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Obaida al-Misri", the security official said.

He said al-Misri was al-Qaeda's operational commander in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province and was also the mastermind behind August's alleged conspiracy to blow up jets flying from London to the United States.

Al-Misri was responsible for guiding Rashid Rauf, a British national arrested by Pakistan in August in the alleged plot, the official said.

"Al-Misri has been a frequent visitor to the madrasa but he was not present at the time of the raid. al-Zawahiri was not there also," the official said.

He did not disclose when al-Zawahiri or al-Misri were last in the seminary in the Bajaur tribal area near the Afghan border, which army gunships destroyed early on Monday, killing about 80 people. -- AFP

Dawn: Govt admits Rashid Rauf under detention

Monday, October 30, 2006

Govt admits Rashid Rauf under detention

By Our Reporter | October 30, 2006

ISLAMABAD, Oct 30: The government for the first time on Monday admitted to having detained Rashid Rauf on suspicion of masterminding a plot to blow up US-bound trans-Atlantic airliners in London.

Out of hundreds of missing people, who have allegedly been detained by secret agencies, Rashid Rauf is the only one about whom the government confessed to having kept in its custody.

A spokesman of the ministry of interior said that Rashid Rauf was arrested on August 10, 2006 by law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) and booked under sections 419, 420, 468, 417 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). He was presented in the court of competent jurisdiction which granted his physical remand. On completion of his physical remand, he was remanded to judicial custody by the same court. Currently, Rashid Rauf is detained under the Security of Pakistan Act, the spokesman added.

The spokesman has defended the government position regarding the arrest and subsequent detention and brushed aside the impression that his keeping in custody had been illegal.

However, the ministry clarification falls far short of stating the facts as there has been no mention of the court before which Mr Rashid was presented. This response has come after his relatives moved the Lahore High Court against his disappearance for several months. The case is still pending in the Rawalpindi Bench of the superior court.

Justice Abdul Shakoor Paracha has issued notices to the director general, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB), secretary interior, foreign office, and the director general, National Crises Management Cell, to confirm whether Rashid had been in their custody and if so why.

Zahoor Akhtar, a relative of the detained, under Article 199 of the Constitution, in a petition pending in the Rawalpindi Bench of the superior court has argued that Rashid Rauf was picked up by agencies from Bahawalpur about three months back.

Since then he has been in the custody of these agencies but his family members had no knowledge about his whereabouts or the charges against him.

It has been further stated in the petition that Rashid was totally innocent and that he had nothing to do with the London terror plot. He should, therefore, be set free immediately after disclosing the outcome of the investigations against him, the petition says.

The petitioner, in his petition, has argued that Rashid Rauf had been in London but he came to Pakistan in April, 2002, about four years before the incident. Rashid has nothing to do with the London plot and his arrest and continuous detention is totally illegal and in contravention of basic human rights of citizens.

Lawyer Hashmat Ali Habib is representing the petitioner. The court will take up the case on November 6, 2006.

Online News : Sherpao rules out suicide bomb attack on Prince Charles during his visit to Pakistan

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sherpao rules out suicide bomb attack on Prince Charles during his visit to Pakistan

October 29, 2006

PESHAWAR: Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao has ruled out suicide bomb attack on prince Charles during his visit to Pakistan saying government has made stringent security arrangements as he is future king of Britain and it is key obligation of the government to provide security to the head of any state.

He said this while talking to the Online Saturday. He told that the British media has expressed fear about suicide bomb attack on Prince Charles during his visit to Pakistan.

There is no substance in such apprehension, he remarked. Government of Pakistan has taken stringent measures to provide him security as Prince Charles is future monarch of UK. The security will be provided to him the way it is provided to any head of state, he added. No lapse will be allowed to take place in this regard, he added.

He pointed out that strategy has been evolved in consultation with the chiefs of law enforcement agencies to ensure fool proof security arrangements during the visit of Prince Charles. All the security agencies will perform their respective duties in effective manner, he assured.

Replying to a question related to Rashid Rauf who is arrested in plane bombing plot case, he said Rashid Rauf is in the custody of secret agencies for the last three months. Government has neither expressed any clear stance on this count nor has Rashid Rauf been presented in any court. Had Rashid Rauf not been involved in plane bombing plot, he would have been released so far. The secret agencies of Pakistan, US and UK are investigating the matter jointly, he told.

Moreover the interior minister will leave for UK today on five day visit. He will hold meeting with the respective British officials with reference to Public safety commission.

Aftab Sherpao will meet with the home secretary there and discuss a host of issues including terrorism during his meeting.

A meeting will also take place between the interior minister and chief of London metropolitan police.

He will undertake visit of Birmingham and Manchester.

LAT : 2 alleged bomb plotters get bail

Saturday, October 28, 2006

2 alleged bomb plotters get bail

From Times Wire Reports | October 28, 2006

A judge in London granted bail to two people charged in connection with an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners with liquid explosives.

Nabeel Hussain, 22, and a 17-year-old male were granted bail. The judge denied bail to 24-year-old Cossor Ali, the only woman charged.

Hussain is charged with conspiracy to murder and preparing acts of terrorism. Ali is accused of failing to disclose information about a possible terrorist attack. The 17-year-old was charged with possessing material that could be used to prepare a terrorist act.

WP : 2 Accused in Plot to Bomb Jet Get Bail

Friday, October 27, 2006

2 Accused in Plot to Bomb Jet Get Bail

By TARIQ PANJA | The Associated Press | October 27, 2006

LONDON -- A British judge granted bail Friday to two people accused in an alleged plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners with liquid explosives, and he urged lawyers to avoid any delays in a trial that is already more than a year away.

Nabeel Hussain, 22, and a 17-year-old male were granted bail by Judge David Calvert-Smith after a hearing at London's Central Criminal Court _ the only two of the accused to be granted bail so far. The judge denied bail Friday to 24-year-old Cossor Ali, the only woman charged in the case.

Police arrested 25 people in raids across Britain on Aug. 9-10 and charged 17 of them after uncovering a suspected plot to assemble and detonate improvised explosives on board as many as 10 U.S.-bound planes. The alleged plot was described by investigators as having the potential to be on a similar scale to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Hussain is one of 11 people charged with conspiracy to murder and preparing acts of terrorism. Ali is accused of failing to disclose information about a possible terrorist attack. The 17-year-old, who cannot be named because he is underage, was charged with possessing material that could be used to prepare a terrorist act.

Court restrictions prevent reporting of their bail conditions.

IHT : British judge urges no delay in trial for men accused of plotting to bomb airliners

Friday, October 27, 2006

British judge urges no delay in trial for men accused of plotting to bomb airliners

The Associated Press | October 27, 2006

LONDON A British judge hearing the cases of 13 men accused of plotting to blow up U.S.-bound airliners with liquid explosives urged lawyers Friday to avoid any delays in starting a trial that is already more than a year away.

Prosecutors said the process of collecting evidence was likely to take longer than first expected.

The trial is tentatively set to open early in 2008, but prosecuting attorney Colin Gibbs acknowledged that the "size, scale and nature" of the case made some delays inevitable, and that date could be pushed back.

"We must get this trial on," Judge David Calvert-Smith said at a hearing in Central Criminal Court.

"Large sections of the population would want to know if this was a storm in a teacup or a serious danger to hundreds of thousands of people."

Hugh Mullan, representing one of the men charged with conspiracy to murder, said little evidence had been received by defense lawyers. "Already things are slipping out of control," he said. The prosecution has been forced to push back dates agreed at a prior hearing for evidence to be passed to defense lawyers.

Gibbs said that more than 500 witness statements alone had been collected from surveillance operatives, while scientists detailed with analyzing materials seized or found near defendants' homes had yet to provide any firm time frame about when they would be finished.

Police arrested a total of 25 people in raids across Britain on Aug. 9-10, charging 17 of them after uncovering a suspected plot to assemble and detonate improvised explosives on board as many as 10 U.S.-bound planes.

A drastic crackdown on security which followed the arrests snarled air traffic across the Atlantic and caused frustrating delays for thousands of passengers.

The alleged plot was described by investigators as having the potential to be on a similar scale to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Eleven were charged Aug. 21 with conspiracy to murder and preparing acts of terrorism.

They are Umar Islam, 28; Waheed Zaman, 22; Abdullah Ali, 25; Tanvir Hussain, 25; Arafat Khan, 25; Ibrahim Savant, 25; Assad Sarwar, 26; Adam Khatib, 19; Nabeel Hussain, 22; Mohammed Gulzar, 25; and Mohammed Uddin, 35.

Two other men were charged with preparing terrorism: Usman Mohammed Saddique, 24, and Donald Stewart Whyte, 21, who is also charged with three firearms offenses.

Ahmed Ali, 24, was charged with failing to disclose information, and a 17-year-old male, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with possessing material that could be used to prepare a terrorist act.

Gibbs said the two could come to trial in May, but that would be discussed at a further hearing Dec. 8.

Boston Globe : Pentagon official sentenced in arms sale

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Pentagon official sentenced in arms sale

By Matt Apuzzo | Associated Press Writer | October 24, 2006

WASHINGTON --A former Defense Department official was sentenced to 18 months in prison and another pleaded guilty Tuesday to selling military equipment in the Middle East and pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Most of the equipment was unneeded and scheduled for auction, but prosecutors said the illegal deals also included the sale of Humvees that were still weaponized and were not supposed to have been sold.

Ronald W. Wiseman of New Boston, Texas, was sentenced for violating federal weapons laws. Wiseman worked for the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service, the Pentagon agency that sells excess military equipment.

The agency contracts with overseas auctioneers to sell the equipment and return the money to the government. Prosecutors said Wiseman and a Saudi Arabian auctioneer agreed to sell some equipment off the books and share in the profits.

Wiseman pleaded guilty in May and agreed to cooperate in a federal investigation. A second U.S. official, Gayden C. Woodson of North Ogden, Utah, pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to steal government property.

Woodson said that in January 2001, he joined Wiseman's conspiracy and continued it after Wiseman left the Middle East the following year. Woodson admitted in federal court that he made at least 19 illegal transactions and received about $350,000.

U.S. authorities have recovered some of the Humvees and traced others to Spain, the Czech Republic and other countries, according to court documents.

"By putting militarized vehicles into an unregulated stream of foreign commerce, in a part of the world in which United States military personnel are engaged in deadly conflict with insurgency forces, the defendant put those vehicles within reach of adversaries who could use them against our own," prosecutor Laura A. Ingersoll wrote.

Woodson is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 31.

© Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

NYT : Medical Views of 9/11’s Dust Show Big Gaps

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Medical Views of 9/11’s Dust Show Big Gaps

By ANTHONY DePALMA | October 24, 2006

In 2004, Kenneth R. Feinberg, special master of the federal Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, awarded $2.6 million to the family of a downtown office worker who died from a rare lung disease five months after fleeing from the dust cloud released when the twin towers fell. That decision made the worker, Felicia Dunn-Jones, a 42-year-old lawyer, the first official fatality of the dust, and one of only two deaths to be formally linked to the toxic air at ground zero.

The New York City medical examiner’s office, however, has refused to put her on its official list of 9/11 victims, saying that by its standards there was insufficient medical evidence to link her death to the dust.

Mrs. Dunn-Jones’s case shows how difficult it can be to prove a causal connection with any scientific certainty — and how even government agencies can disagree. With thousands of people now seeking compensation and treatment for dust exposure, the debate about the relationship between the toxic particles and disease will be a central issue in the flood of Sept. 11-related lawsuits. Health experts are starting to document the connections, but any firm conclusion is still years away.

Most of the suits involve workers who spent weeks and months on the pile at ground zero and say the city and other agencies failed to protect them from the toxic dust. Others involve residents who say they were made sick by dust that settled in their homes. Mrs. Dunn-Jones was among those downtown office workers caught in the initial fallout.

The question that arises in all these cases is straightforward: Can a link between the dust and disease be proved with scientific certainty? The answer is anything but simple.

“Certainty is a word we always dance around,” said Joseph Graziano, associate dean for research at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. For him, searching for the cause of disease is like developing film. “At first you see a faint image of what the real picture is,” Dr. Graziano said, “and then, over time, you see it with much more clarity. In these relatively early times, the image is still faint.”

It can take decades to approach any degree of certainty. For instance, only after years of observation did doctors agree that there was a strong link between asbestos and diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma.

In legal cases, “a reasonable degree of medical certainty” is considered the gold standard in making a causal connection. Last week, a federal judge cleared the way for thousands of workers’ lawsuits to go to trial. When the cases are heard, any proof that does not meet that legal standard is likely to be challenged.

But outside the courtroom, scientists say, even a less rigorous link could be sufficient to warrant expanding the range of illnesses covered by treatment programs, and to serve as the basis for issuing cautions to people in high-risk groups. When the health effects are too new or the evidence is too vague for a strong link, lesser indicators like the concurrence of different studies have to be relied on.

For example, nearly every ground zero study shows that workers and residents exposed to the dust in the hours after the collapse have suffered the worst health problems. The consistency in that data has helped doctors monitor and treat people since Sept. 11.

And it may also help explain why Mrs. Dunn-Jones, a dynamic civil rights lawyer with the United States Department of Education, became so sick so quickly. As she was swallowed by a whirling dust plume filled with asbestos, benzene, dioxin and other hazards when the first tower fell, all she could do was cover her nose and mouth as she fled from her office one block north of the World Trade Center.

It was night by the time she got home to Staten Island. “She was in a state of shock,” her husband, Joseph Jones, recalled. Her clothes were still dusty, but he didn’t pay much attention. “I was just so happy to see her,” he said.

For the next few months, life returned to normal, until Mrs. Dunn-Jones developed a cough. In January 2002, the cough grew worse. On Feb. 10, she suddenly stopped breathing and died.

Mr. Jones, 54, an assistant manager at a Brooklyn pharmacy, was stunned. Then, when he received the official death certificate months later, he was shocked to see an unfamiliar word — sarcoidosis.

“Even though I was in the medical field, I had never heard of it,” he said.

After reading several medical reports on sarcoidosis — including one by Dr. David J. Prezant, deputy chief medical officer of the New York Fire Department — Mr. Jones and his lawyer, Richard H. Bennett, wondered if Mrs. Dunn-Jones’s mysterious death could be linked to 9/11 dust because sarcoidosis, which produces microscopic lumps called granulomas, on vital organs, is often associated with exposure to environmental hazards.

They took the case to Mr. Feinberg and the victim compensation fund, which gave $7 billion to the families of those killed or injured on 9/11.

Mr. Feinberg initially expressed doubts about the claim and demanded to see definitive medical evidence linking Mrs. Dunn-Jones’s sarcoidosis to the dust.

Dr. Prezant, who declined to be interviewed for this article, was one of two experts who testified at a hearing conducted by Mr. Feinberg. In the first four years after 9/11, he found 20 cases of sarcoidosis in the Fire Department, a rate of 80 per 100,000 in the first year (with treatment, all are now stable), compared with a national rate of fewer than 6 per 100,000, according to the American Thoracic Society.

The other expert was Dr. Alan M. Fein, a clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine. He, too, was skeptical at first, but he said he changed his mind after reviewing Mrs. Dunn-Jones’s medical record, including the autopsy report. “I’m comfortable saying her death was caused by exposure to the dust,” Dr. Fein said in an interview.

In March 2004, Mr. Feinberg agreed, making Mrs. Dunn-Jones’s death the only dust-related fatality recognized by the fund. Only one other death has been formally linked to the dust: In April, a New Jersey coroner determined that James Zadroga, 34, a New York City police detective, had died of a disease similar to sarcoidosis, also caused by his exposure to ground zero dust.

Mr. Jones welcomed the settlement from the victim compensation fund, and believes that his wife was a 9/11 victim as surely as if she had died in the towers. He sent Mr. Feinberg’s decision to the city’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, and asked that his wife be put on the official list so that her name could be read on Sept. 11. Dr. Hirsch refused, a spokeswoman said, because the available evidence did not prove the connection “with a reasonable degree of medical certainty”— the highest medical standard generally used in legal cases.

Mr. Feinberg’s decision had been based on a different standard: a preponderance of medical evidence.

That was proof enough for the Staten Island Memorial Commission, which has engraved Mrs. Dunn-Jones’s name on the bone-white memorial on the island’s north shore.

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, who has fought to get medical care for 9/11 victims, said the contradictory conclusions about Mrs. Dunn-Jones’s death underscored the importance of deciding who has the final say on causal links. “They should be medical decisions, not political ones,” she said, suggesting that city officials may have a conflict of interest in making such determinations since the city is a defendant in the ground zero workers’ lawsuits.

She has introduced a bill to reopen the federal compensation fund to people whose illnesses became known after the original eligibility period ended in 2003.

In the effort to collect definitive data, Dr. John Howard, the federal government’s 9/11 health coordinator, recently circulated a draft set of autopsy protocols that directs pathologists to use a standard of proof that establishes both biological plausibility and unequivocal evidence of a causal connection to the dust. But doctors and elected officials have said those standards are so restrictive that almost no death could be linked to the dust for years to come. A spokesman for Dr. Howard said the guidelines were being refined.

In another effort, the Mount Sinai Medical Center, which has screened thousands of ground zero workers, has begun a long-term study of the incidence of diseases to identify any rates that exceed national averages.

“Right now we’re in the process of confirming every case of interstitial lung disease, every cancer, every sarcoidosis that has been reported to us by responders in their visits,” said Dr. Jeanne M. Stellman, director of the public health program at Columbia University, is leading the data collection project.

“We are actively trying to determine whether Detective Zadroga and Mrs. Dunn-Jones are alone,” she said. “And we are trying to find a way to do this that is scientifically correct while also being responsive to the needs and fears of the communities involved.”

Global Research : Alleged Toronto terror plot included two police agents

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Alleged Toronto terror plot included two police agents

by David Adelaide | October 22, 2006 | World Socialist Web Site - 2006-10-19

According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Fifth Estate and the Globe & Mail, the “Toronto terror cell” arrested in June for allegedly plotting massive acts of terrorism against Canadian targets included not just one, but two Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) moles. This second Muslim man in the pay of Canada’s security forces is said to have been involved in the accused terrorists’ alleged efforts to construct powerful explosives.

Following the early June arrest of 18 young Toronto-area men on terrorism charges, government and media sources repeated ad nauseam that only prompt action by the security and intelligence services prevented a major terrorist atrocity.

The authorities’ contention that those arrested posed a real and imminent threat rested on two claims—both of which have proven threadbare. On the one hand, they pointed to a “terrorist training camp” held in rural Ontario during December 2005. On the other hand, the Toronto men’s intention to put into action their terrorist schemes was said to be proven by their alleged attempt to buy large quantities of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer, from which bombs can been be made.

In the days immediately following the arrests, the World Socialist Web Site urged that “all of the claims of the government and the police concerning the alleged terrorist conspiracy, and the further revelations and speculations given out by the media, be treated with the utmost caution and a large degree of skepticism. None of the alleged facts presented by the authorities can be accepted uncritically as true.”

This warning was quickly vindicated when, in July, the identity of a first CSIS mole was made public. One Mubin Shaikh admitted to the media that he had been working for CSIS for two years, befriending members of the Toronto group and ultimately going on to lead the two-week “terrorist training camp.” This camp, which largely consisted of paint-ball games, was under blanket surveillance by CSIS and RCMP personnel, while a crack-Canadian Armed Forces special operations unit waited a short helicopter ride away for orders to intervene.

With last week’s news that a second mole was at the heart of the “bomb-making” part of the plot, the question is raised anew of the extent to which the alleged Toronto terror plot was—if not a complete fabrication of the security and intelligence apparatus—at the very least carried out with significant encouragement and “facilitation” from them.

Clearly, Canada’s security agencies were in a position to manipulate the alleged plotters—a group comprised almost entirely of young men. And manipulate them it did: The arrest of the 18 individuals followed shortly on the heels of an attempted purchase of fertilizer in which the seller turned out to be an undercover RCMP agent.

Moreover, it is incontestable that the national-security establishment and the government manipulated the public. Given the fact that the alleged terrorists had been under heavy surveillance for at least six months before their arrest and given the presence of two moles at the heart of the alleged plot it is preposterous to claim that only quick action by CSIS and the RCMP prevented a terrorist atrocity. On the contrary, everything points to the “smashing of the plot” having taken place at a time and under circumstances of the national-security establishment’s and government’s choosing.

The exact role that the second mole, whose identity remains secret, played in the fertilizer entrapment operation remains murky and the Conservative government—which has held up the Toronto “terror plot” as justification for the growing Canadian military intervention in southern Afghanistan—and Canada’s security agencies have no reason to want to clarify it.

Both the CBC and the Globe & Mail carefully worded their reports in such a way as to exclude any suggestion that the second mole may have played a role beyond simply “facilitating” the purchase of explosive ingredients.

According to the CBC, the second mole’s role was to provide “evidence to authorities that the conspirators had material they thought could be used to make bombs.” Given reports that the second mole had a background in agricultural engineering and chemistry—and especially given what has been reported about the role the first mole played in organizing and leading the “terrorist training camp”—it is reasonable to ask whether this “evidence” was gathered after the mole had provided them with instruction in using ammonium nitrate to fashion bombs and/or had proposed that they procure the fertilizer for bombmaking.

Rather than raise these obvious questions, the CBC report suggests the mole’s role was peripheral to the plot; that his role may have been limited to giving the alleged conspirators access to greater quantities of explosive material: “Sources have told CBC that the young mole’s degree in agricultural engineering could have given the alleged conspirators access to much larger quantities of ammonium nitrate than they could have purchased at ordinary retail outlets.”

The Globe & Mail, meanwhile, offers the following tortuous construction: “It’s believed that he [the mole] put key suspects in touch with a police agent—possibly himself—who claimed to be able to purchase tonnes of ammonium nitrate.”

Since the June arrests, the corporate- and state-owned media have not only failed to critically assess the claims of the government and security agencies. They have played a major role in the Canadian establishment’s attempt to use the alleged Toronto terror conspiracy to press for a sharp shift to the right. The media have amplified lurid police claims of possible terrorist scenarios, including the macabre spectacle of the beheading of parliamentary deputies. They have editorialized in support of greater powers and funding for Canada’s security-intelligence agencies and promoted Prime Minister Harper’s claims that Canada, no less than the US, is implicated in a open-ended “war on terror” that necessitates foreign military interventions.

As was the case with the first mole, the media has diligently regurgitated the national-security apparatus’ line that its agent’s actions were motivated by the desire to “prevent a civilian calamity,” to “give back to Canada,” etc, even as they simultaneously report facts that suggest a very different story.

The first mole claimed to have been paid $77,000 by CSIS for his services in infiltrating the Toronto “cell” and leading their terrorist training camp, and to be owed a further $300,000. These figures by themselves call into question not only the mole’s motives but also the reliability of the information he may have passed on to his paymasters. He clearly had a strong material interest in giving the security services what they wanted.

Similarly, the Globe & Mail has reported that before signing on as a police agent the second mole had been experiencing severe money problems, after several business ventures, in which he had involved his family, had gone sour. The paper pointed to a 2003 bankruptcy claim, filed by the mole’s parents, showing $26,000 in debts and only $4,000 in assets. Yet, following his disappearance shortly after the sensational June arrests, cheques began mysteriously arriving in the mailboxes of his creditors. Apparently the settling of debts was no longer a problem, suggesting that the second mole was handsomely rewarded for, and had a major pecuniary incentive in, assisting CSIS and the RCMP in securing “evidence” against the alleged Toronto terrorists.

It is curious that in the case of both moles their service to security forces was roughly coincident with a reputed turn towards increased religious orthodoxy. During the same period that Shaikh was on CSIS’s payroll, he was also publicly prominent as a vocal proponent of a failed attempt to convince the Ontario government to give Sharia law legal status in the settling of some family disputes. According to the Globe & Mail the second mole also evolved in a fundamentalist direction starting in 2002. The paper cited a business partner of the mole who “almost thought he was Wahabbi.”

The CBC and the Globe have refused to name the second mole, who they suggest may be in a witness-protection program, citing legislation that makes it illegal to name such national-security operatives. But the mole’s identity is undoubtedly known to some if not all the 18 accused in the alleged Toronto terror plot.

The determination of CSIS and the RCMP to keep the mole’s identity secret suggest they may be planning to take advantage of provisions of Canada’s new security laws to prevent public scrutiny of their actions. Under these provisions, in the “interests of national-security,” the public, the accused and defence counsel can be denied access to parts of the prosecution’s “proof” in terrorist cases.

NYT : With Guarded Cheer, Democrats Dare to Believe This Is Their Time

Sunday, October 22, 2006

With Guarded Cheer, Democrats Dare to Believe This Is Their Time

By ADAM NAGOURNEY and ROBIN TONER | October 22, 2006

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 — There is something unusual bubbling in Democratic political waters these days: optimism.

With each new delivery of bad news for Republicans — another Republican congressman under investigation, another Republican district conceded, another poll showing support for the Republican-controlled Congress collapsing — a party that has become so used to losing is considering, disbelievingly and with the requisite worry, the possibility that it could win in November.

“I’ve moved from optimistic to giddy,” said Gordon R. Fischer, a former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. “I really have.”

Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is in line to become chairman of the Financial Services Committee in a Democratic House, offered wry evidence of the changing perception of the race. His office, Mr. Frank said, has been contacted by a portrait-painting firm offering to talk about possibilities for the traditional committee chairman’s painting, one of those perks of power long absent from the lives of House Democrats.

“I’ve acquired a lot of new friends this year,” Mr. Frank said. “And I haven’t gotten any nicer.”

For Democrats these days, life is one measure glee, one measure dread and one measure hubris. If they are as confident as they have been in a decade about regaining at least one house of Congress — and they are — it is a confidence tempered by the searing memories of being outmaneuvered, for three elections straight, by superior Republican organizing and financial strength, and by continued wariness about the political skills of President Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove.

Mr. Rove has made it clear that he considers Democratic optimism unjustified, predicting that his party’s cash advantage and get-out-the-vote expertise will dash Democratic dreams yet again. And Democrats say they welcome every passing dawn with relief, fearful that the next one will bring a development that could fundamentally alter the nature of the race, like the re-emergence of Osama bin Laden on election eve, which is what happened in 2004.

“I know a lot of people are in somersault land,” Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois and chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said reproachfully of fellow Democrats. “I just don’t have the liberty and freedom to do that.”

Still, Democratic ebullience could be found in all corners of Washington over the past few days. It was palpable at social and work gatherings, where Democrats traded gossip about how big a Democratic majority in the House could be; in Capitol Hill conference rooms, where Democrats were preparing transition plans (under orders to keep them quiet); and in offices of Democratic strategists and pollsters, who were drawing up growing lists of Republicans who might be vulnerable.

“I feel better than I ever have,” said Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a Democrat from upstate New York. “I think we have the best chance to take over simply because of the pileup of disasters.”

Stanley B. Greenberg, who was the White House pollster for President Bill Clinton in 1994 when Republicans shocked Democrats by capturing the House, commissioned a poll recently and e-mailed it around town with a single-word headline: “Meltdown.” In an interview, Mr. Greenberg said, “I don’t see how we can lose the House; I don’t think it’s even close.”

Ellen R. Malcolm, president of Emily’s List, a Democratic women’s network, and a longtime Democratic fund-raiser, said Democratic trepidations were beginning to melt away with each passing news cycle. “People are getting more encouraged by the day,” Ms. Malcolm said. “Every poll that comes in seems to be better than the one before.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, who is in line to become speaker if her party wins the House, has put out the word that no one should be talking with too much confidence or detail about the days after Nov. 7. But even Ms. Pelosi has slipped on occasion. In a recent interview with The Associated Press, when asked which suite of offices she would use as speaker, she said with a laugh, “I’ll have any suite I want.”

The change in mood, and evidence of Democratic strength in the polls and in fund-raising, is feeding some crucial deliberations by Democratic leaders as the discussion in some quarters goes from whether Democrats can win to how large a margin the party can gain.

Democratic candidates in districts that had been considered long shots are now pleading with Mr. Emanuel’s committee to send money their way. And some leading Democrats, among them Mr. Greenberg, are urging Mr. Emanuel to seize the moment by expanding the field in which Democrats are competing, saying the party has a chance to cement a big lead in the House in November.

This argument has worried some Democratic strategists, who warn that an excess of exuberance could press party leaders into making decisions that may siphon resources from closely fought races and risk the Democrats’ advantage. “On the House side, it makes sense to be focusing on 25 seats to win 14, not 50,” said Steve Rosenthal, a political and labor consultant with close ties to the party, who described many Democrats as “overenthused.”

“If we had unlimited resources it would be different,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “But we have to be careful.”

This argument has worried some Democratic strategists, who warn that an excess of exuberance could press party leaders into making decisions that may siphon resources from closely fought races and risk the Democrats’ advantage. “On the House side, it makes sense to be focusing on 25 seats to win 14, not 50,” said Steve Rosenthal, a political and labor consultant with close ties to the party, who described many Democrats as “overenthused.”

“If we had unlimited resources it would be different,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “But we have to be careful.”

Mr. Emanuel said he was polling to see where the party might move next. But he said that barring some last-minute infusion of money, he was considering a relatively limited increase in the number of seats where Democrats would spend. In the past week, Democrats have expanded their field to just over 40 races from about 35, running advertisements against Republicans they consider newly vulnerable in Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, upstate New York and Washington State.

Some Democrats have expressed apprehension that this confidence may be irrational, or at least premature, and are counseling restraint. Part of that is tactical: Democrats are trying not to help the Republican Party as it works to turn out its conservative base by presenting apocalyptic visions of a Congress led by liberals like Mr. Frank, Ms. Pelosi and Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York.

Part of the Democrats’ queasiness stems from painful familiarity with Mr. Rove’s record of success, and from their own recognition that they hold only slim leads in many races and could yet fall victim to an assertive and sophisticated Republican turnout operation.

“I’m a little concerned that we are spending all our time talking about what our agenda will be in January rather than how we are going to get our votes out in early November,” said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.

Some of that concern is about the long-term psychic damage the party’s rank-and-file may suffer if Democrats collapse at the finish line again. “We’ve all had these disappointments that contain our enthusiasm as we look to the last few weeks of this race,” said Tom Daschle, the Senate Democratic leader defeated in 2004.

Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist who advised the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, said: “We all sat around in 2004 and looked at exit polls that said John Kerry was going to be president. And that was wrong. We’ve been up this hill before.”

To win the House, Democrats must capture 15 seats. Of the 40 or so they see in play, at most 5 are held by Democrats, strategists for both sides say.

The prospects for a Democratic takeover in the Senate, where the party needs six seats, are tougher. Republicans say four of their incumbents are in serious danger of losing — in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — and are trying to build a firewall by pouring most of their resources into Senate races in Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia, where polls show the contests even.

Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said his committee, which has consistently out-raised its Republican counterpart this year, had more than enough money to compete with the Republicans in those states. Mr. Schumer said he was holding back some resources in case Republicans made an unexpected move in the final days of the campaign.

“They keep trying to pull rabbits out of the hat, but none of them come out,” he said. “But we are holding some money in abeyance for some kind of October surprise.”

While there may be a price to overconfidence, in a sense of complacency at some campaign headquarters, there are advantages at the grass-roots level, where it can fuel the excitement that Democrats hope will result in significant gains on Nov. 7. Republicans face the flip side of this problem, with the prospect that their voters, discouraged by the party’s travails, will stay home.

All this has put Democrats in an unfamiliar place, but one they seem to be enjoying. “I’m a congenital pessimist,” said Howard Wolfson, a consultant advising Democrats in several competitive contests in upstate New York. “But I’m as bullish on our chances as I have been at any time over the last 12 years.

NYT : Iran’s President Warns Israel’s Allies

Friday, October 20, 2006

Iran’s President Warns Israel’s Allies

By NAZILA FATHI | October 20, 2006

TEHRAN, Oct. 20 — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned today that Western countries, particularly in Europe, will be hurt by popular fury caused by their support of Israel.

Referring to European nations, Mr. Ahmadinejad said, “People in the region blame you for any crime or invasion against any country, and will take revenge on you.”

“You should know that the rage of people is boiling and is like an ocean that is welling up,” he said in a speech broadcast nationally on radio. “Once its storm begins blowing, it will go beyond the borders of Lebanon and Palestine, and it will hurt European countries.”

The occasion for the speech was Qods (Jerusalem) Day, which Iran marks on the last Friday of the fasting month of Ramadan each year in support of Palestinian resistance against Israel.

Mr. Ahmadinejad told tens of thousands of demonstrators in Tehran that Israel could not last long after its experience in fighting Hezbollah in southern Lebanon over the summer.

“Hezbollah shattered the myth that Israel is undefeatable,” he said. “Now Israel has no reason to exist.”

State-run television showed images of thousands of demonstrators around the country, chanting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” People carried pictures of Sheik Hassan Nassrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and set fire to American and Israeli flags.

In his Qods Day speech last year, Mr. Ahmadinejad provoked international outrage when he said that the Holocaust was a myth, and repeated a slogan from the leader of the 1979 revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, saying “Israel should be wiped off the map.”

He repeated his allegations about the Holocaust today, and said of the West, “Even if we assume that 6 million Jews were killed in World War II, how come you don’t sympathize for the other 54 million who were killed as well? It is not even clear who counted those you sympathize for.”

He went on to say that Israel had held European countries hostage over what happened in the 1940’s.

Television news programs today also showed images of demonstrators chanting in support of Iran’s nuclear program.

Mr. Ahmadinejad repeated his position that Iran will not give in to international demands that it suspend its uranium enrichment program, and dismissed efforts by the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iran. “They want to use the Security Council as an instrument to put pressure on our people,” he said. “But thank God, they will never succeed.”

“Such decisions are illegitimate,” he added.

A former president of Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, also warned Western countries today that sanctions against Iran would have serious consequences for Europeans as well as Iranians. “I advise them not to implement the harmful decision they have made over Iran’s nuclear program,” he said at a rally in the capital. “The decision will have harmful consequences for the region, for them, as well as our country.”

Mr. Rafsanjani is the first prominent official here to acknowledge publicly that sanctions would harm Iran. Though he has backed Iran’s nuclear program in public speeches, he is seen as a moderate who is thought to favor policies that would lessen the chance of a confrontation with the West.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, by contrast, said last week that Iran would welcome sanctions because they would give local industries a chance to grow without competition from imported goods.

Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, Emyr Jones Parry, said European countries hoped to circulate a draft resolution calling for sanctions against Iran early next week, Reuters reported. The proposed sanctions are expected to be limited in scope, aimed mainly at curbing Iran’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

Iran’s foreign ministry responded said in a statement today that Iran will not “remain idle if sanctions are imposed.”

“It is big miscalculation to think the policy of carrot and stick can be pursued at the same time,” the statement said, according to the ISNA student news agency.

IHT : Rumsfeld warns against ignoring history in war on terror

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Rumsfeld warns against ignoring history in war on terror

The Associated Press | October 18, 2006

WASHINGTON == Americans must take a lesson from history and not believe the terrorist threat has been exaggerated or will go away, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Wednesday.

He described a new, more ruthless and lethal terrorist enemy, "with no territory to defend, no treaties to honor, that measures progress in terms of decades, not days."

"With this sort of enemy, we cannot afford — and indeed could not survive — another holiday from history," Rumsfeld said.

Contending there are those who say terrorism is "somebody else's problem, or it will go away," Rumsfeld countered that United States has no choice but to go on the offensive. And he urged patience with the Iraqi and Afghan governments as they struggle to build their democracies.

Rumsfeld's call for perseverance comes three weeks before the Nov.7 elections, as members of Congress face a public growing increasingly unhappy and impatient with the war in Iraq. The ruling Republicans face the prospect of losing control of both the Senate and the House of Representatives to opposition Democrats.

In remarks to students at the Air Force's war college, Rumsfeld also acknowledged that the Iraq war, like other battles, "has not been a steady, smooth glide path."

And he offered no firm prediction on when U.S. troops levels will be substantially reduced there.

"There's going to be violence in that country, I suspect, for some time," he said. "But if we do our job well, and if we are doing a good job in training and equipping the Iraqi forces, we ought to be able to reduce down our forces in the months ahead, as we pass off more and more responsibility."

He said the enemy is unpredictable and frequently adapts to changing conditions, such as when insurgents began to use roadside bombs and other explosive devices after convoys became better protected against traditional attacks. He has made similar concessions before.

In Iraq, meanwhile, sectarian violence continues to rage in Balad, north of Baghdad, prompting the U.S. military to send troops there to back up the Iraqi Army.

The ongoing attacks in and around the capitol city have pushed the death toll of American troops to nearly 70 this month, putting October on track to be the deadliest month for coalition forces since January 2005. Hundreds of Iraqis have also died.

Rumsfeld's speech echoed statements he made in August, when he warned an American Legion convention that the U.S. must not repeat the World War II-era mistake of trying to appease the enemy, even as fascism took hold.

While Rumsfeld did not specifically cite Bush critics in the speech, irate Democrats took issue with any suggestion that opponents of the Iraq war could be likened to those who wanted to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II.

Time : Why a Christian in the White House Felt Betrayed

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why a Christian in the White House Felt Betrayed

For Republicans who fear that the Foley scandal might keep Evangelicals away from the polls in November, here comes another challenge--in hardcover format. A new memoir by David Kuo, former second-in-command of President Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, has the White House on the defensive with its account of an Administration that mocked Evangelicals in private while using them at election time to bolster its support. In this exclusive adaptation from the book, Kuo writes about how his White House experiences left him disillusioned about the role religion can play in politics.

by David Kuo | 16 October, 2006

I stepped into the Oval Office to find President George W. Bush prowling behind his desk looking for something. "Kuo!" he said without looking up. "Tell me about this meeting."

It was June 2003, and I was deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The office had opened in the West Wing in 2001 to support the President's campaign promise of $8 billion a year in new funding for both religious and secular charities that helped the poor. That money never materialized, however, and I was increasingly stuck with the task of explaining to religious groups why the White House was so bad at helping them do good. This meeting, with a group of prominent African-American pastors who had supported Bush's plan, promised to be no different.

I began to brief the President on the pastors, recommending that he talk about the administrative reforms we had implemented, and the tax credits we were still fighting for ...

He interrupted. "Forget about all that. Money. All these guys care about is money. They want money. How much money have we given them?"

I never doubted the President's own faith or desire to help those who, like him, had once been lost in a world of alcohol or, unlike him, had struggled with poverty or drugs. Because I shared his faith and his vision of compassionate conservatism, I had been a very good soldier. When members of his senior staff mocked the plan as the "f___ing faith-based initiative," I didn't say a word. When his legislative-affairs team summarily dismissed our attempts to shoehorn our funding into the budget, I smiled and continued trying to work neatly within the system. When I heard staff privately deriding evangelical Christians because they were so easily seduced by White House power, I raised an eyebrow but not a ruckus. Like everyone else in the small faith-based office, I didn't speak too loudly or thunder too much. We were the nice guys.

Today, however, I decided to choose honesty over niceness. Two months earlier, I had been diagnosed with a brain tumor that required intensive surgery and rehabilitation. This was my first meeting with the President and Karl Rove since my return. Something about undergoing brain surgery had made me reflect about whether I had really been doing a public service by pretending that our office had been living up to its commitments.

I glanced over at Karl and turned to look the President in the eye. "Sir, we've given them virtually nothing," I said, "because we have had virtually nothing new to give."

The President had been looking down at some papers about the event, but his head jerked up. "Nothing? What do you mean we've given them nothing?" He glared. "Don't we have new money in programs like the Compassion Fund thing?"

I looked again at Karl. He seemed stunned at what I was saying. "No, sir," I told the President. "In the past two years we've gotten less than $80 million in new grant dollars." The number fell shockingly short of the $8 billion he had vowed to deliver in the first year alone.

The President's staff didn't just bad-mouth the faith-based office behind closed doors. Their political indifference also kept us from getting the funding we needed so badly. No episode captured that more clearly than the 2001 negotiations over the President's $1.7 trillion tax cut. In those final negotiations with the Senate and House, the White House voluntarily dropped a centerpiece of the President's compassion promise: a provision to allow 80% of Americans to get credit for their charitable contributions.

Now the President seemed shocked at the news that the Compassion Fund was a pittance. "What?! What do you mean?" he asked. Karl, still caught off guard, protested. "But what about the other money? You know, the money we've opened up to new charities."

I hated any clash with Karl. Especially now. The morning after my tumor diagnosis, Karl was among the first people to call. "I know what you are going through," he said. "I've spent more days and nights of my life than I can count in a cancer ward." He explained that his wife was a double breast-cancer survivor, encouraged me for the fight ahead, and offered any assistance I needed. Now, less than two months later, I was standing in front of the President exposing an ugly truth that Karl would rather not have discussed: after two years in office, we had actually spent less than 1% of what Bush had promised.

I was also contradicting our office's own spin. In an effort to divert attention from all the money that wasn't being given to faith-based groups, we had come up with the idea of highlighting the amount of money now "available" to faith-based organizations because of particular administrative reforms announced six months earlier. It was one of those wonderful Washington assertions that is simultaneously accurate and deceptive and just confusing enough to defy opposition. On the one hand, we had eliminated some ancient and patently absurd regulations, many of them promulgated under seemingly faith-phobic Democratic Administrations, that discriminated against faith-based groups simply because they might have a religious-sounding name. The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, for instance, was once denied the chance to apply for a federal grant even though it was an entirely secular organization.

On the other hand, faith-based groups had actually been getting chunks of that money for decades, and the regulations we put in place really didn't tackle the biggest problem facing secular and religious nonprofits. That problem was the general bureaucratic unfriendliness of the Federal Government to small, local organizations--precisely the kind that compassionate conservatives like Bush (and I) thought could do the best job tackling ingrained poverty and hopelessness on the community level. We were supposed to give these small groups their first shot, but without any money, our office was resigned to making mostly symbolic changes.

None of that had stopped the White House from trumpeting the changes as hugely significant and leading religious conservatives to believe they were highly consequential. Christian conservatives trusted President Bush. After two years in the White House, I had come to realize that regardless of where the President's heart lay on the matter, the back-office Republican political machine was able to take Evangelicals for granted--indeed, often viewed them with undisguised contempt--and still get their votes. G.O.P. operatives trusted that Christian conservatives would see the President more as their Pastor in Chief than anything else. Bush had long used the podium as a pulpit, telling voters that above all he was an evangelical Christian who had been saved from his drinking by Jesus and rebuilt his life around his faith. That inspirational story was carried throughout the country by a network of prominent evangelical pastors who had been quietly working since 1998 to recruit thousands of other pastors to join the Bush team. After the election, however, those same pastors became accomplices in their own deception by not demanding that the President's actions in office match their electoral fervor.

This White House is certainly not the first Administration to milk religious groups for votes and then boot them unceremoniously back out to pasture. In his days as a notorious "hatchet man" for President Richard M. Nixon, before he had allowed Jesus to transform his life, Chuck Colson used to oversee outreach to the religious community. "I arranged special briefings in the Roosevelt Room for religious leaders, ushered wide-eyed denominational leaders into the Oval Office for private sessions with the President," Colson later wrote. "Of all the groups I dealt with, I found religious leaders the most naive about politics. Maybe that is because so many come from sheltered backgrounds, or perhaps it is the result of a mistaken perception of the demands of Christian charity ... Or, most worrisome of all, they may simply like to be around power."

I finished the briefing. Yes, I told the President, because of new regulations there was technically about $8 billion in existing funding that was now more accessible to faith-based groups. But, I assured him, those organizations had been getting money from those programs for years and it wasn't that big a deal.

"Eight billion in new dollars?" he asked.

"No, sir. Eight billion in existing dollars where groups will find it technically easier to apply for grants. But faith-based groups have been getting that money for years."

"Eight billion," he said. "That's what we'll tell them. Eight billion in new funds for faith-based groups. O.K., let's go."

We headed out of the Oval Office, down a flight of stairs and over to the Old Executive Office Building, where the pastors awaited us. The President walked into the room, traded a few jokes and told the group that because of the faith-based initiative, billions of dollars in new funds were now available to faith-based groups like theirs. The pastors listened respectfully. Before the President left, they prayed for him.

Karl stayed behind to share some thoughts and answer questions. "Before I get started, I want to say something. This initiative isn't political," he told them. "If I walked into the Oval Office and said it was going to be political, the President would bash my head in."

Then the questions began. "Since the President brought up money, where, exactly is that money?" asked one pastor. "We've talked to the Cabinet Secretaries, and they say there isn't any new money." They peppered him with questions for several minutes. Finally he smiled at them and said, "Tell you what, I'm going to get those guys in a room and bash some heads together and get to the bottom of this. I'll be back in touch with you." He left confidently.

At the meeting's end, several of the pastors said they wanted to pray for my healing. They placed their hands on my shoulder and called on God to hear their prayers on my behalf. I listened and loved it and said a prayer of my own: that I would have the courage to tell them what was really going on at the White House.

That was more than three years ago. Their prayers have worked on my body. I am still here and very much alive. Now I am finding the courage to speak out about God and politics and their dangerous dance. George W. Bush, the man, is a person of profound faith and deep compassion for those who suffer. But President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works. Millions of Evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves--and their interests--better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them.

BBC : Menezes family start legal battle

Monday, October 16, 2006

Menezes family start legal battle

BBC News | October 16, 2006

The decision not to charge individual police officers over the fatal shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes is to be challenged in the High Court.

The Menezes family want a judicial review of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decision that there was not enough evidence for a murder trial.

The 27-year-old was shot after police mistook him for a suicide bomber on a London Tube train on 22 July last year.

The Metropolitan Police Service faces a trial under health and safety laws.

The force is accused of failing to provide for the health, safety and welfare of Mr Menezes on the day he was shot seven times in the head at Stockwell Tube station.

Menezes family lawyers said the handling of the Menezes case by the authorities had amounted to a breach of his family's human rights.

Harriet Wistrich, one of their lawyers, accused the CPS of "usurping the role of the jury in its assessment of the evidence" in its decision not to prosecute any individuals.

The lawyers will also challenge the adjournment of the inquest into Mr Menezes's death and the failure of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to publish its report on the shooting.

Ms Wistrich said all of the factors combined to give "the appearance of a stitch-up".

Mr Menezes's cousin, Alex Pereira accused the CPS and IPCC of "the ultimate cover-up".

"It is clear they want to hide the truth from everybody," he said.

"This judicial review is about making sure that someone is held responsible."

Mr Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder at Stockwell station in south London, a day after the failed 21 July 2005 bomb attacks on the Underground.

NYT : Peacekeeper Commander Mired in Afghan Combat

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Peacekeeper Commander Mired in Afghan Combat

By CARLOTTA GALL | October 15, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 14 — Leaning against the red webbing that passes for upholstery in a military aircraft, Gen. David Richards, the British commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, scanned a press clip as he flew back to the capital from Kandahar, the center of combat operations in the south.

The article was by a well-known British columnist who had written in The Guardian that he was “baffled by Richards’s naïveté about the Taliban.” The author, Simon Jenkins, contended that NATO could not possibly win against an enemy that could “count on the tacit support of tens of thousands of fighters from tribal militias.”

“I am not naïve; he’s naïve,” General Richards shouted over the roar of the plane engines. He dismissed as “nonsense” the idea that the surge by the Taliban across southern Afghanistan this year was driven by ideology or Pashtun tribal grievances.

“This is not a huge popular uprising,” he added, bristling. “And to distort the truth is so unjust for the people here who want us. And it is unhelpful since it undermines the fabric of what we are doing.”

“People do not want a return to the Taliban,” he said, “but we need time to allow that aspiration to win.”

Already half through his one-year command in Afghanistan, General Richards, 54, does not have much time.

He now commands the 31,000 troops of the International Security Assistance Force, including 12,000 American troops, spread across the whole country.

The British general, who has led NATO’s most elite fighting force, the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, since 2001, served three tours in Northern Ireland, and was commander of British peacekeeping forces three times — in East Timor in 1999 and twice in Sierra Leone in 2000.

When he arrived in Afghanistan in February, he talked like a peacekeeper, too, emphasizing the need to improve security so reconstruction and development projects could take root, to extend the government’s reach, and to win hearts and minds.

He vowed to do things differently than the Americans. He said that NATO soldiers would treat detainees in a transparent way, respect Islam and Afghan culture, and raid houses only if necessary.

But the general was quickly forced to put many of those plans aside and engage in hard fighting, not least to show the insurgents, and the wavering local population, that his troops were a force to be reckoned with.

Even before he took command of the turbulent south, Taliban insurgents were swarming in numbers not seen since 2001. General Richards estimates that his troops now face 4,000 to 5,000 Taliban fighters.

The summer months were consumed by heavy fighting. The general’s forces came under repeated attacks, both on patrol and at their bases, forcing NATO to call in air and artillery strikes that inevitably killed scores of the very civilians he was trying to win over. It was not exactly the hearts-and-minds strategy he had planned. Still, the general insists his forces were fully ready: they had spent nine months preparing for the mission, because the NATO deployment was delayed by several months.

“We knew there was a lot of opposition,” he said, this time in an interview in his headquarters in Kabul, set between the United States Embassy and the presidential palace. “We had been watching it, and the Americans were very forthcoming with their intelligence.”

“There were doubts about NATO and our ability to conduct demanding security operations,” he said. “There are no questions about our ability now.”

The fighting was regrettable, but necessary, he added. “We’ve killed, sadly — because in many respects some of them are just unemployed young Afghan men who need employment and are paid cynically by the Taliban to do their dirty stuff for them.

“But we have killed many hundreds of Taliban in the last month, chiefly in Kandahar and Helmand, and it has put paid to any doubt in anyone’s mind that NATO can do what we were sent here to do.”

Recently, there have, indeed, been some successes. Not least, his forces regained control of Panjwai, a district just 15 miles west of Kandahar, the main southern city, where the Taliban had gathered in large numbers. The victory was vital for its strategic and psychological impact, the general said.

“The Taliban were very cocky about Panjwai,” he said on his visit to Kandahar during the operation. “They think they can face us down. We will prove to them that they are defeatable. It’s very important for people to see that happening, and the rather worried atmospherics will change overnight.”

The general says that about 10 percent of the population in the south may support the Taliban, that 20 percent are opposed to them, and that the rest are stuck in the middle.

“They are straightforward, simple folk who above all want security for their family, and they will go with whichever side can convince them they are going to win,” he said. “And that 70 percent must not be allowed to slip into the hands of the Taliban this autumn.”

That will mean rolling out tangible benefits — in the form of assistance — as soon as security allows, he said.

“It’s a very important psychological, physical, military and wider campaign that we are conducting, and I think this autumn is a critical period,” he said. “And that’s my main focus at the moment, getting those visible improvements, in security, governance and reconstruction and development to start happening in the south so that we can persuade that 70 percent that we will win.”

Yet in his time in Afghanistan, General Richards has seen up close just how weak and ill equipped the Afghan government is to handle a crisis, like the riots that broke out in Kabul after an American military truck plowed into civilian cars, killing at least four people, in May.

He also found a startling lack of coordination among the government, the military and foreign donors, which he described as “anarchy” in his first weeks on the job.

He set to work to help President Hamid Karzai form a kind of privy council to convene crucial ministers and security officials, as well as United States and NATO commanders and ambassadors of leading donor countries, the United Nations and European Union. Called the Policy Action Group, it meets weekly and is designed to bring badly needed coordination to security and aid efforts.

“It’s a pretty powerful structure,” said one NATO official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity and who credited General Richards with the idea. “This is his war cabinet; this is the bit he never had.”

There is still a long way to go. He talks of the need to combat corruption, replace bad government officials and persuade international donors to drop their lengthy procedures and tendering rules to help reconstruction aid flow.

“I am not giving the rosy picture,” he said on the military flight. “I’ll be honest. There’s a lot to do.”

Correction: December 20, 2006

An article on Oct. 10 about fighting in Afghanistan misstated the rank of David Richards, the British military officer who commands NATO troops in Afghanistan. (The error was repeated in articles on Oct. 15, Nov. 14, Nov. 17 and last Wednesday.) He is a full general, not a lieutenant general. A NATO spokesman, Lt. Col. Nick Grant-Thorold, pointed out the error in an e-mail message on Sunday, saying that General Richards had been promoted on Oct. 7, a day after NATO took over command of eastern Afghanistan from American forces.

NYT : Citing Heavenly Injunctions to Fight Earthly Warming

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Citing Heavenly Injunctions to Fight Earthly Warming

By NEELA BANERJEE | October 15, 2006

WYANDOTTE, Mich. — To find St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic Church in this working class suburb south of Detroit, look toward the roofline, for the windmill. Not a big windmill, it is a spare steel structure maybe nine feet high, perched atop the rectory of the church and facing northeast into the winds that come off Lake Erie.

Yet the windmill, two solar panels on the roof, another atop the front porch and a solar water heating system above the garage are the pride of the Rev. Charles Morris, St. Elizabeth’s priest.

Over the last five years, Father Morris has sharply reduced his small parish’s energy use and emissions of carbon dioxide, the compound most scientists believe has led to global warming, and he has organized other congregations across Michigan to do the same.

“We’re all part of God’s creation,” Father Morris said. “If someone like me doesn’t speak about its care, who will? The changes we’ve made here, that’s a form of preaching.”

Over the last year, religious activism on global warming has won much attention. Last February, 86 evangelical Christian leaders backed an initiative to combat global warming, a move that broke the evangelical movement’s broad silence on the issue but exposed stark divisions.

In October, 4,000 congregations of various faiths will show films on global warming, including “An Inconvenient Truth.” [On Oct. 8, Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist leaders met in Philadelphia to discuss global warming.]

At ground level, clergy members and lay people have been working to increase awareness of global warming and to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. Many, like Father Morris, were active for years before the issue attracted wider concern. Encounters in their own lives awakened them to global warming, they said. But their faith and the imperatives they see in their Scriptures compelled them to act, they said.

“If you do worship the Creator, you take care of his creation,” said Greg Wickersham, a high school teacher and a member of the environmental ministry at Intown Community Church in Atlanta, which is affiliated with the theologically conservative Presbyterian Church in America.

“If we are made in his image, we should mirror his image in our dominion over the Earth,” Mr. Wickersham said. “He is creative and sustaining, not destructive.”

Father Morris is the executive director of the 124-member Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, the state affiliate of Interfaith Power and Light, the religious association that organized the screenings of the global warming films.

The Michigan organization’s representatives speak to local congregations about global warming and ways to counteract it. They arrange for “energy audits,” so people can learn how to reduce consumption without sacrificing comfort. Changes include replacing regular light bulbs with long-life fluorescent ones and more ambitious projects like installing solar panels.

In 2005 and the first three quarters of 2006 combined, energy-saving efforts by the group’s members have prevented the release into the atmosphere of 14,130 tons of carbon dioxide, according to Enerficiency, an energy consulting firm. Investments in new technology are projected to save the group’s congregations nearly $2 million “over the life of the new products,” Enerficiency said.

St. Elizabeth itself has reduced its peak energy demand by 60 percent over the last five years and has reduced its annual energy bills by $20,000, Father Morris said.

Father Morris’s interest in the environment was nurtured as he roamed farmland next to his childhood home in southern Ohio, times, he said, when he had “an experience of the divine.”

His readings and his degree in urban planning sharpened his awareness of global warming. And his faith buttresses his activism, he said. He notes that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has urged greater care of the environment. He cites Biblical passages, like Genesis 2:15, that call upon humans to care for God’s creation.

Father Morris has found allies in poor urban churches and well-to-do mosques and synagogues in the suburbs. Rabbi Daniel Nevins of Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, a northwest suburb of Detroit, draws inspiration from many of the Bible passages Father Morris cites. Rabbi Nevins focuses much of his efforts on bringing environmental concerns into some of the worship at Adat Shalom.

At Yom Kippur, as part of a ritual when Jews admit their sins before God, Rabbi Nevins added a passage he wrote about the “sin of destroying God’s creation.” As Jews celebrate the Sukkot holiday and sleep in temporary structures meant to evoke those that Jews lived in during their 40 years in the desert, they are also meant to see the beauty of nature and the fragility of their own existence, Rabbi Nevins said.

Still, it is slow going, he said. The sprawling Conservative synagogue has replaced many of its windows and lights and instituted a large recycling program, but Rabbi Nevins wants to do more. “There’s not an active resistance, but people give lip service to environmental ideas and don’t change their lifestyle,” he said.

Many clergy members run into resistance stemming from theology, economics or politics. The Rev. Gerald Durley of Providence Baptist Church in Atlanta, a largely African-American congregation, said that parishioners often thought of global warming as a distant issue, while problems like crime or the spread of AIDS must be tackled now.

Mr. Durley said he reminded them that in the early 1980’s, many blacks dismissed AIDS as a remote issue, too, one that affected only gay white men.

Despite the February statement by prominent evangelicals about global warming, many in the pews remain unconvinced, often because they see it as an issue of the political left.

“When I give talks on environmental stewardship at Christian colleges, I have students look me in the eye and ask, ‘Is global warming real?’ ” said Dave Mahan, associate director of the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies, a Christian environmental education organization headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich. “I answer that God wants us to lead a stewardly life whether or not there is global warming.”

The Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic religious order for women, used an opportunity to renovate their 73-year-old mother house in Monroe, Mich., to create a model of sustainable energy and water use.

The 376,000-square-foot building is heated and cooled by geothermal power, provided by some 240 wells dug on the order’s property. Water from sinks and showers, or “gray water,” is fed into a natural filtration and treatment system in a series of ponds and then recycled for use in toilets. Some lawns have been given over to natural meadows to reduce watering and mowing. Insulation is made of recycled materials. The building now saves $200,000 annually in energy costs.

Some neighbors find the shaggy meadows unsightly. The city had to be persuaded to allow the gray water scheme. But the order, the average age of whose members at the mother house is 86, is also asked regularly to advise other groups, religious and secular, on building energy efficient facilities.

“We are recreating the monastery of old, where people come to learn how to live into the next century,” said Sister Janet Ryan, a member of the order’s leadership council. “Our dream is that the mother house serves as something of an ecological lab. For a bunch of elderly women, we have a huge agenda.”

City News : Mole Reportedly Helped Police Thwart Alleged Ont. Terror Plot

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Mole Reportedly Helped Police Thwart Alleged Ont. Terror Plot

October 14, 2006

New details about the alleged Ontario terror plot uncovered by police this summer have emerged.

According to a recent report, a young agricultural engineer was a key part of the investigation to foil the alleged plot to blow up targets around the GTA and the province, including the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) building downtown.

The man, reportedly from an affluent Toronto family of Egyptian background, became a mole for Canadian authorities because he wanted to prevent a tragedy involving civilians. He's now in a witness protection program and can't be named, according to the report.

The mole, said to be in his 20s, apparently provided evidence to police that the suspects had acquired material he thought could be used to make explosives.

Seventeen suspects - 12 men and five youths - were arrested in early June and charged with offences involving firearms, terrorist training and bombing plots. An 18th suspect was arrested two months later.

Authorities allege the group planned to use ammonium nitrate, a common fertilizer, to make bombs. The RCMP has accused the suspects of purchasing three tonnes of the substance - three times the amount used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

Many of the suspects have since been granted bail and others have been remanded in custody awaiting trial.

Another informant stepped forward in July claiming he was involved in the operation. Mubin Shaikh said he told police about the alleged terror group and claimed he later worked undercover in the police investigation.

NYT : Ney Pleads Guilty Over Abramoff Bribes

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ney Pleads Guilty Over Abramoff Bribes

By PHILIP SHENON and DAVID STOUT | October 13, 2006

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 — Representative Bob Ney of Ohio pleaded guilty to corruption charges today in connection with the scandal swirling around the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He said he was ready to take his punishment for selling his integrity and his office.

In a calm and clear voice, Mr. Ney admitted before Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in Federal District Court that he had indeed engaged in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy and made false statements about gifts he accepted while representing the people of Ohio’s 18th District.

“I accept responsibility for my actions, and I am prepared to face the consequences of what I have done,” Mr. Ney, a Republican, declared in a statement distributed to reporters after the court session.

The main consequence will be a term of up to 27 months in prison when Judge Huvelle pronounces sentence on Jan. 19, assuming that she follows the recommendation of federal prosecutors. The congressman’s crimes could have brought him a term of up to 10 years and up to $500,000 in fines if he had been convicted at trial.

Despite his disgrace, Mr. Ney is still a member of Congress, drawing his $165,000-a-year salary, although his lawyer, Mark Tuohey, told the judge that Mr. Ney will resign his seat “in the next few weeks.” Mr. Ney has said he wants to help his employees find new jobs before he quits.

No one would be surprised if House Republican leaders, who are trying to cope with another scandal involving former Representative Mark Foley’s interest in Congressional pages, try to push Mr. Ney out the door sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ney’s Web site features a sadly outdated, now poignant picture of the smiling congressman against a farm background. “It is an honor to represent you in the United States Congress,” Mr. Ney declares in his welcome message.

Mr. Ney’s formal admission that he betrayed that honor came in a courthouse not many blocks from the Capitol, where in his sixth term in office he had seemed poised to rise high in the House leadership.

Then came the Abramoff scandal and, eventually, Mr. Ney’s admission that he had accepted illegal gifts — including lavish overseas trips, thousands of dollars of gambling chips from London casinos and other enticements — in return for official actions on behalf of Mr. Abramoff and his clients.

Mr. Ney is the first member of Congress to acknowledge criminal acts so far in the investigation of Mr. Abramoff, once a leading Republican fund-raiser and a man of great wealth and power. Mr. Abramoff pleaded guilty last January to conspiring to corrupt public officials, including Mr. Ney.

The Abramoff affair is viewed on Capitol Hill as one reason that Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the former Republican majority leader who was once a good friend of Mr. Abramoff, decided to retire from politics this year.

The affair threatens to ensare other Republican lawmakers, and it has caused discomfort for the White House as well. Last June, a former White House aide, David H. Safavian, was convicted of lying to investigators about his ties to Mr. Abramoff. Mr. Safavian was on Mr. Abramoff’s staff before joining the Bush administration.

Mr. Ney, 52, has said that a dependence on alcohol was a factor in his loss of a moral compass. In response to Judge Huvelle’s questions on what problems he is being treated for, Mr. Ney replied, “Right now, alcohol, last 30 days.” He said he had not had a drink in that time.

CTV : Graphic TV ad against terrorism a mystery

Friday, October 13, 2006

Graphic TV ad against terrorism a mystery News Staff | October 13, 2006

A high-budget television advertisement designed to dissuade potential suicide bombers is airing across the Middle East, but its mysterious makers are troubling some critics.

"If it's an Arab initiative it's a positive step, but why aren't they coming forward?" asked Sohail Raza of the Canadian Muslim Congress.

Raza said he's convinced the United States government is behind the $1-million ad, which he argued could breed mistrust among its intended target of would-be terrorists.

His own narrowly escaped death at the hands of a suicide bomber. He winced when he watched the ad, which includes Matrix-style slow motion footage of flying glass and debris.

"It's out of a Hollywood movie or a videogame," he told CTV News.

The ad started airing this summer on several Middle Eastern broadcasters, including Al-Arabiya, Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. and a few Iraqi channels.

A Los Angeles production company called 900 Frames created the ad, but would only say it was "privately funded by business people and activists who want to remain anonymous."

The ad begins with a young boy playing soccer in a crowded market. As he stops to adjust his running shoe, he notices a man approaching with a fixed stare.

The man then opens his jacket to reveal a belt laden with explosives, which he then detonates. One of the final horrific images shows the boy's shoe landing on a nearby car, as a woman screams in the background.

The ad then fades to black, with Arabic words spelling "Terrorism has no religion" and a link to a website:

The website carries the ad and asks viewers to share the link with others. At the top, Quranic verses teaching against violence are superimposed over the faces of children.

The use of such verses has concerned some Middle East analysts, who said such a tactic may not be persuasive against fanatics.

"We should not be playing on the other guy's home field, which is to debate with them the right and wrong Quranic verses for the battle against terrorism," said Robert Satloff of the Near East Policy Institute.

The ad was filmed in Los Angeles with 200 cast members. Before its release, the company named the group behind the ad's funding as the Future Iraq Assembly.

That same group has backed several ads specific to Iraq, and describes itself on its website as "an independent, non-governmental organization, comprised of a number of scholars, businesspersons, and activists, who share a common and firm believe in freedom and progress for all the Iraqi people. It is simply the 'watchful eye' over Iraqi interests."

A publicist for 900 Frames would not comment to The Associated Press about the Future Iraq Assembly.

Meanwhile, officials for the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense said they had no evidence either department had backed the ad, although they would not deny the government was possibly involved.

In the past, the U.S. government has helped various public relations campaigns in the Middle East, according to AP, including the U.S.-financed Radio Sawa and the Al-Hurra TV station. It has also paid Iraqi newspapers for positive stories about coalition forces.

The U.S. Department of Defence has a massive budget dedicated to fighting fanaticism. Last year, the Pentagon's Joint Psychological Operations Support Element gave three companies several million dollars to create anti-extremist "multimedia products."

Two of those contractors have since been dropped -- Science Applications International Corp., based in California, and the Washington, D.C.-based Lincoln Group.

The remaining company -- Virginia-based SYColeman -- said it was neither connected to the ad nor the campaign website.

Whether or not the U.S. government is behind the ad, critics said its intended audience may never actually watch it.

"We are preaching to the converted, the people who follow the ideology of destruction, who don't watch television," said Raza. "It's against their faith."

Another critic of the ad, Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi-Palestinian who writes the blog Raed in the Middle, said the ad is ineffective because is makes no mention of the suicide bomber's motivation.

"Dealing with suicide bombers is way more complicated and is usually linked to fundamentalist religious beliefs that have political implications," Jarrar told AP.

"Portraying it as a looney tune who goes into a market to kill civilians -- I don't know if this will work."

But what could ultimately make the ad ineffective is the very thing that makes it stand out -- it's sleek Hollywood style.

"It just raises so many red flags," Lawrence Pintak, the director of the Adham Center for Electronic Journalism at the American University in Cairo, told AP. "The assumption is it has to be made by the Americans or the Saudis."

With a report by CTV's Lisa LaFlamme and files from The Associated Press

CBC : British army chief says Iraq pullout needed soon

Friday, October 13, 2006

British army chief says Iraq pullout needed soon

CBC News | October 12, 2006

The head of the British army has called Prime Minister Tony Blair's Iraq policies "naive" and said the country's troops must get out of the war soon, according to a published interview.

Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, chief of the general staff, said the British military presence is exacerbating the security problems in Iraq, according to an interview with the Daily Mail published on their website Thursday.

"The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in," said Gannett. "Whatever consent we may have had in the first place may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."

"I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning," he added.

The public criticism from a serving military official is certain to cause a stir.

Several British media outlets are reporting that Defence Secretary Des Browne has summoned Dannatt for a meeting on Friday.

Dannatt, who just took over the post in August, said he was concerned about the implications in Britain. He said a "moral and spiritual vacuum in this country" has been exploited by Muslim extremists.

Dannatt, 55, has been deployed in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Kosovo and Germany.

He was commissioned at Sandhurst military academy, where Prince William is an officer cadet and Prince Harry recently graduated.

According to the paper, Dannatt said he understands why William and Harry are eager to serve abroad but has not yet decided whether they will be allowed to fight in Afghanistan.