SF Chronicle : War industry regains command

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

War industry regains command

Robert Scheer, Creators Syndicate, Inc. | October 31, 2007

Not to stoke any of the inane conspiracy theories running wild on the Internet, but if Osama bin Laden weren't on the payroll of Lockheed-Martin or some other large defense contractor, then he deserves to have been. What a boondoggle 9/11 has been for the merchants of war, who this week announced yet another quarter of whopping profits made possible by George W. Bush's pretending to fight terrorism by throwing money at outdated Cold War-style weapons systems.

Lockheed-Martin, the nation's top weapons manufacturer, reaped a 22 percent increase in profits, while rivals for the defense buck, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, increased profits by 62 percent and 22 percent respectively. Boeing's profits jumped 61 percent, spiked this quarter by its commercial division, but Boeing's military division, like the others, has been doing very well indeed since the terrorist attacks. As Newsweek International put it in August: "Since 9/11 and the U.S.-led wars that followed, shares in American defense companies have outperformed both the Nasdaq and Standard & Poor's stock indices by some 40 percent. Prior to the recent cascade of stock prices worldwide, Boeing's share prices had tripled over the past five years while Raytheon's had doubled."

Not bad for an industry in serious difficulty with the sudden collapse of the Cold War at the beginning of the 1990s, when the first President Bush and his Defense Secretary Dick Cheney were severely cutting the military budget for high ticket planes and ships designed to fight the no-longer existent Soviet military. Sure they had Iraq to kick around, but the elder Bush never thought to turn the then very real aggression of Saddam Hussein into an enormously expensive quagmire. He both defeated Hussein and cut the military budget.

Not so Bush the younger, who exploited the trauma of 9/11 as an occasion to depose the defanged dictator of Iraq and thus provide a "shock and awe" showcase for the arms industry, which continues to benefit obscenely from the failed occupation. The second Iraq war, irrationally conflated with the 9/11 attack that had nothing to do with Hussein, provided the perfect threat package to justify the most outrageous military boondoggle in the nation's history. The bin Laden boys only had an arsenal of $3 box knives, but Bush claimed Hussein had WMD. Sadly for the military-industrial complex, Hussein's army collapsed all too suddenly. But the insurgency, much of it fueled by the Shiites, who were ostensibly on our side, provided the occasion for pretending that we are in a war against a conventionally armed and imposing military enemy.

Of course, we are in nothing of the sort with this so called "war on terror," a propaganda farce that draws resources away from serious efforts to counter terrorism to reward the corporations that profit from hi-tech weaponry that has little if anything to do with the problem at hand. As Columbia University professor Richard K. Betts points out in Foreign Affairs magazine: "With rare exceptions, the war against terrorists cannot be fought with army tank battalions, air force wings, or naval fleets - the large conventional forces that drive the defense budget. The main challenge is not killing the terrorists but finding them, and the capabilities most applicable to this task are intelligence and special operations forces ... It does not require half-a-trillion dollars worth of conventional and nuclear forces."

That half a trillion only covers the Pentagon budget for expenses beyond the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars or the Department of Homeland Security. Those last three items total more than $240 billion in Bush's 2008 budget requests. Add to that the $50 billion spent on intelligence agencies and an equal amount of State Department-directed efforts and you can understand how we manage to spend more fighting a gang of Mujahedeen terrorists, once our "freedom fighters" in that earlier Afghanistan war against the Soviets, than we did at the height of the Cold War.

"The Pentagon currently absorbs more than half of the federal government's discretionary budget," writes Lawrence J. Korb, "surpassing the heights reached when I was President Reagan's assistant secretary of defense .... And much like the 1980s, we are spending billions of dollars on weapons systems designed to fight the Soviet superpower."

Thanks to bin Laden and Bush's exploitation of "war on terror" hysteria, the taxpayers have been hoodwinked into paying for a sophisticated military arsenal to fight a Soviet enemy that no longer exists. The Institute for Policy Studies calculated last year that the top 34 CEOs of the defense industry have earned a combined billion dollars since 9/11; they should give bin Laden his cut.

E-mail Robert Scheer at RSCHEER@truthdig.com

Pak Tribune : US meddling

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

US meddling

Kamran Kiani | Rawalpindi | October 30, 2007

Pakistan was never as unstable and vulnerable as it is today. The most important of the reasons for this is America`s interference in our internal matters. Condoleezza Rice and Richard Boucher and other US officials, as well as the American ambassador to Pakistan, exceed diplomatic prerogative when they issue statements on Pakistani affairs. This is extremely annoying to the people of Pakistan, which is why we have such intense anti-American sentiment today.

Then there is Benazir Bhutto, who hastily returned to the country following her deal with the government. May I ask why she went into self-imposed exile, in the first place? She pretends as if no one loves Pakistan as much as she does, which is why she has returned from her life of luxury abroad. As for the people of Pakistan, the Oct. 18 carnage would not have taken place if their memory were not so short.

Why did the multitude have to attend the homecoming rally of such a politician? She would surely have been grilled by the media about the deal and the National Reconciliation Ordinance if everything else had not been overshadowed by the tragedy of the bombings. People should not attend such rallies in the future because they only benefit opportunistic politicians and the participants end up being killed or maimed. The blood spilled in turn gives an opportunity to such politicians, who themselves escape unhurt, to gain sympathy.

Nawaz Sharif left the country under a deal and Benazir Bhutto came back as the result of one, in either case with the same military dictator. All these players have made this country a banana republic. Pakistan needs someone who can lead it to stability. Otherwise the increasing American interference, the threats from the neighbours and from within the country will ultimately lead to its destruction.

The News: Plot To Blow Up Planes

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


By Faisal Kamal Pasha | Rawalpindi | October 24, 2007

The Lahore High Court (LHC), Rawalpindi Bench, here on Tuesday admitted for hearing the bail application of Rashid Rauf, a British national of Pakistani origin, allegedly involved in conspiring to blow up Trans Atlantic flights in London in August 2006.

The bench, comprising Justice Muhammad Muzammal Khan and Justice Shabbar Raza Rizvi, admitted the bail application of Rashid Rauf for hearing in the second week of November.

Earlier, the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC), Rawalpindi, had rejected the bail application of Rashid Rauf. The Airport Police had arrested him on August 10, 2006, as a key suspect in a plot to blow up airliners going to the United States from London.

Citing lack of evidence, the Anti-Terrorism Court had dropped terrorism charges against Rashid Rauf on December 13, 2006, and referred the case to the civil court. Later, the Rawalpindi Bench of LHC had suspended the decision of the ATC after the Punjab government moved a petition challenging the verdict of the ATC in January 2007 and had referred the case back to the ATC.

According to reports, Rashid Rauf had left Britain for Pakistan in 2002 after murdering his uncle. The British government had sought extradition of Rashid Rauf in the murder case of his uncle, however, the Pakistan government had said that they would consider the matter.

Reuters : Judge finds two guilty of Madrid bombings

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Judge finds two guilty of Madrid bombings

By Jane Barrett | October 31, 2007

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish judge on Wednesday found Moroccan Jamal Zougam and Spaniard Emilio Trashorras guilty in his first rulings over the Islamist bombings of Madrid trains on March 11, 2004.

Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez was reading out the first verdicts on a list of 28 accused of involvement in the bombings which killed 191 people and injured more than 1,800.

He also ruled out the participation of Basque guerrillas in Europe's deadliest al Qaeda inspired attack, when 10 bombs packed into sports bags ripped through four commuter trains.

Reading out a summary which preceded the verdicts and sentencing, the judge said there was no evidence that ETA rebels had been involved in the attack.

The bombings reshaped Spanish politics as voters spurned a conservative government that at first blamed the Islamist attack on ETA.

Twenty-nine people, mostly Moroccans and Spaniards, were tried earlier this year for crimes ranging from masterminding the attack to stealing explosives from a mine and selling them on in exchange for drugs. One has since been acquitted.

The judge also announced compensation ranging from 30,000 euros ($43,340) to 1.5 million euros for victims.

Survivors and families who lost members gathered at the courthouse.

"We are really nervous, really worried -- but we'd like to think that the judges gathered enough evidence to deliver a sentence that comforts all of us," said Jesus Ramirez, whose legs were shattered in the attack.

Early on Wednesday, the suspects were driven to the court room on the outskirts of Madrid under high security as helicopters buzzed overhead and scores of policemen stood guard.

The eight main suspects face multiple sentences of up to 38,958 years each, although under Spanish law nobody can stay in prison for more than 40 years.

All the suspects have pleaded innocent and most are expected to appeal against any sentences.

The verdicts will close another chapter on the bombings but with a general election less than five months away, they could embarrass the opposition centre-right Popular Party, which initially blamed ETA for the attack.

The blasts hit three days before the last elections, which the then Popular Party government had looked set to win, despite having led the country into the highly unpopular war in Iraq.

But the conservative government's insistence that Basque separatists planted the bombs backfired when evidence piled up to show they were the work of radical Islamists.

Days later, voters turned out en masse and brought in the Socialists, who quickly pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq.

(Additional reporting by Anna Valderrama)

Guardian : The worst Islamist attack in European history

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The worst Islamist attack in European history

the social, political and legal aftermath of the 2004 Madrid bombings

Paul Hamilos | Guardian Unlimited | October 31, 2007

On the morning of March 11 2004, as thousands of commuters made their way to work, 10 bombs packed with nails and dynamite exploded on four trains heading into central Madrid. The blasts killed 191 people and injured nearly 1,800. It was the worst Islamist terrorist attack in European history.

Clara Escribano, who was travelling to work when her train was torn apart in one of the attacks, still lives with the memory. "I have a film of that day constantly playing in my head," she said. "I still haven't been able to get on a train. In fact, I cannot even walk on the same side of the road as the station where I got on the train."

The events of 11-M, as the attacks are known in Spain, initially divided the country along political lines. The bombings were carried out just three days before a general election, which saw the incumbent conservative Popular party (PP) of José María Aznar defeated by the Socialist PSOE led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

From the moment the attacks took place, the PP argued that they were the work of the Basque separatist group Eta; Mr Aznar went so far as to phone national newspaper editors, assuring them this was the case. Despite evidence soon emerging of a van containing detonators linked to the attacks and a recording of verses from the Qur'an, the PP stuck to its line.

The police investigation and subsequent trial uncovered no evidence of a link to Eta. The bombings were carried out by a group of young men, mostly from north Africa, who were, according to prosecutors, inspired by a tract on an al-Qaida-affiliated website that called for attacks on Spain. The tract called for "two or three attacks ... to exploit the coming general elections in Spain in March 2004", saying that they would ensure the "victory of the Socialist party and the withdrawal of Spanish forces [from Iraq]".

Shortly after the PSOE's electoral victory and the confirmation of the withdrawal of Spanish troops, explosives were found next to the high-speed train line between Madrid and Seville. This raised further questions about the bombers' motives. Was the aim to remove Spanish troops from Iraq, because if that was the case, why plant a second bomb? Or was the target Spain itself? For many Islamist fundamentalists, there is a need to recover the former Muslim lands of "al-Andalus" from Spain, which was taken by Christian armies in 1492.

The bomb plotters were assisted by a gang of mainly Spanish small-time criminals who provided the dynamite needed for the attacks. The two groups - one religious, one criminal - came together through a series of coincidences and loose connections. An associate of the plotters had spent time in prison with one of the members of the criminal gang, so when the terrorists were looking for dynamite to purchase, he was able to put the two sides in contact. It remains unclear to what extent, if at all, the Spaniards knew about the Madrid plot.

After a long manhunt, the Spanish police surrounded a flat in Madrid three weeks after the bomb attacks, where seven of the suspected ringleaders were hiding out. But the terrorists had been tipped off by an alleged co-conspirator and as the police moved in, they blew themselves up, taking vital evidence with them. Among those who died were Serhane Ben Abdelmajid, the alleged mastermind behind the plot and known as the Tunisian, and Jamal Ahmidan, a hashish trafficker turned fundamentalist nicknamed the Chinaman.

At least four other suspects, including two who may have been central to the attack, have disappeared. One is understood to have died in a subsequent suicide attack in Iraq.

The figure that drew most attention at the subsequent trial was Rabei Osman, said to be the link between the Madrid bombers and other Islamist terrorist groups. Also known as the Egyptian, Osman was arrested in Milan in June 2004 after allegedly saying in wiretapped conversations that he planned the train bombings. Osman denied this, claiming he had been mistranslated, and condemned the attacks during the trial.

For victims, the politicisation of 11-M and the trial only made their suffering worse. "The political and media manipulation of the trial has been shameful, they [the politicians] have used the trial and the victims for their political games," said Ms Escribano.

The attacks took place shortly before the 2004 election, and the verdict has come out as Spain builds up to spring elections. Ms Escribano said she feared that politicians would "play with the victims all over again".

Rogelio Alonso, a lecturer in politics and terrorism at King Juan Carlos University, said he believed the trial had been a successful one. It had shown that "it is possible to fight this type of [Islamist] terrorism through the courts", he said, and that the investigation had uncovered a link between the Madrid suspects and the wider world of al-Qaida.

However, Scott Atran, an American academic who has investigated the Hamburg cell connected to the September 11 2001 attacks in the US and numerous other terrorist attacks around the world, witnessed much of the trial and described it as "a complete farce".

There has been much speculation in the press that the al-Qaida leadership was involved in some form in the Madrid attacks, but Mr Atran dismissed this, and the investigation provided no evidence to support it.

"There isn't the slightest bit of evidence of any operational relationship with al-Qaida," said Mr Atran. "We're been looking at it closely for years and we've been briefed by everybody under the sun and ... nothing connects them.

"The overwhelming majority of [terrorist cells] in Europe have nothing to do with al-Qaida other than a vague relationship of ideology. And even that ideology is fairly superficial - it's basically a reaction to what they see as a war on Islam around the world," he said.

But, argued Mr Atran, people needed to believe that something bigger was involved - it was hard to accept that a small, loosely connected group of young men could carry out an attack on this scale without outside assistance. "These young men radicalised themselves," he said.

For some victims, the trial has nonetheless been a cathartic experience. "I respect the work of the judge and the trial. I hope to get some kind of closure from the verdicts, and to be able to relax," Ms Escribano said.

Others fear that today's verdicts will not bring them the closure they need. Angeles Pedraza lost her 25-year-old daughter on March 11, and said she believed there were still some "important holes in the investigation" that she would like to be investigated, even if it meant further trials in the future.

Ms Pedraza alleged that the heads of the police and intelligence services might be "guilty of negligence, and we would like to see that investigated". Some key suspects had been followed by anti-terrorism officers from the beginning of 2003, but the surveillance team was taken off the case in February 2004. Some of the officers were detailed to work on Prince Felipe's wedding.

Ms Pedraza said questions also remained about "who financed the plot, and what other groups were involved".

"This has not ended for me."

NYT : Taliban Fighters Move in Near Kandahar for First Time Since 2001

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Taliban Fighters Move in Near Kandahar for First Time Since 2001

By TAIMOOR SHAH | Published: October 31, 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Oct. 30 — Several hundred Taliban fighters have moved into a strategic area just outside the southern city of Kandahar in recent days and clashed with Afghan and NATO forces, according to Canadian and Afghan officials.

The fighting, which began Tuesday, is the first time large numbers of Taliban have been able to enter the area just north of the city since 2001. Control of the area, known as the Arghandab district, would allow the Taliban to directly threaten Kandahar, southern Afghanistan’s largest city.

Whether the Taliban were looking to establish permanent control over the area or were simply carrying out raids was unclear on Tuesday night. But Canadian military officials said Afghan and NATO forces had begun a “large operation” to drive out the Taliban.

Reports of casualties could not be immediately confirmed. The provincial police chief said 20 Taliban had been killed; the Taliban said they killed two foreign and three Afghan soldiers. Each side denied the other’s claims. “We’re conducting operations in and around Arghandab in response to increased Taliban fighter numbers,” said Lt. Commander Pierre Babinsky. “We dedicated a lot of resources to this.”

Residents said hundreds of people were fleeing the district because of fears of a major battle. Cars and trucks loaded with families from the area have streamed into Kandahar over the last two days, sparking fear among city residents.

“The people are leaving the village because they are afraid of fighting and bombardment,” said Agha Muhammad, a 43-year-old farmer who fled Arghandab on Tuesday. “Today, many families have left their houses.”

Sarah Chayes, an American journalist and aid worker who has lived in Kandahar since 2001, said a powerful pro-government leader in the district, Mullah Naqibullah, died of a heart attack two weeks ago. Over the last several years, Mullah Naqibullah survived multiple attempts by the Taliban to kill him, she said, and was “the bulwark” that blocked the hard-line Islamic group from entering Kandahar from the north.

But in a sign of the weakness of President Hamid Karzai’s government in the area, joyous Taliban fighters seized control of Mullah Naqibullah’s home village in Arghandab within two weeks of his death.

“That two weeks later they were in there on roofs dancing — and inside his house — is devastating psychologically,” Ms. Chayes said. “It’s like a psychological operation on the part of the Taliban, and I think it’s a very effective one.”

David Rohde contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.

Albany Times-Union : Afghanistan leader talks in Albany

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Afghanistan leader talks in Albany

Parliament president says his country still needs America's help

By DAN HIGGINS, Staff writer | October 30, 2007

ALBANY -- Afghanistan's democracy is in its infancy, and infants need to be protected -- not abandoned, one of the nation's legislative leaders said in Albany Monday.

That was the message of Yunus Qanooni, the president of Afghanistan's parliament, during a talk at the University at Albany's University Hall Monday afternoon.

He said U.S. should not withdraw troops from his country until Afghan security and defense forces can support themselves. He conceded he did not know how long this would take, but that leaving too early would doom a budding democracy.

Qanooni spoke to a packed room of about 150 people. He was the guest of Albany's Rockefeller College of Public Affairs.

"We need to create a culture of democracy," in Afghanistan, Qanooni said, through a translator. Right now, ethnicity and tribal affiliation still plays too large a role in determining someone's political success or failure.

"The idea and thought of accepting each other does not exist across the board," he said.

Qanooni, who has served as Afghanistan's education minister and interior minister since 2001, is now the speaker of the country's lower house and leader of the New Afghanistan political party.

In 2004, he entered Afghanistan's presidential race six weeks before voting and came in second to Hamid Karzai.

He told his audience in Albany that Afghans will always be grateful for the sacrifices Americans have made to oust the Taliban and to help rebuild the country after the 2001 American invasion.

He thanked Americans for sending soldiers "who gave the ultimate sacrifice, along with Afghan soldiers," in the name of democracy.

He also praised civilians whose tax dollars are being spent by the billions on military and humanitarian aid for his country.

"This will not be forgotten," he said.

Dan Higgins can be reached at 454-5523, or by e-mail at dhiggins@timesunion.com.

NYT : Chertoff Pushed Spitzer to Bend on License Idea

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Chertoff Pushed Spitzer to Bend on License Idea

By DANNY HAKIM | October 31, 2007

ALBANY, Oct. 30 — The phone call from a top aide to Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, came two weeks ago, and the message was clear: The department was concerned that Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to grant driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants would undermine a federal initiative to roll out a new highly secure, nationally recognized license.

The prospect of Mr. Chertoff coming out publicly against Mr. Spitzer’s plan caused deep anxiety among Spitzer administration officials, said Michael A. L. Balboni, the governor’s deputy secretary for public safety, who received the call.

The governor and his aides felt they had few options.

The license plan had already set off angry attacks from Republicans and unease among Democratic allies, and had made the governor a target of national groups rallying for tougher immigration policies.

Mr. Spitzer agreed with Mr. Chertoff to a compromise plan on Friday under which the state would offer three levels of driver’s licenses beginning next year, including a limited license that illegal immigrants could obtain but that could not be used to board airplanes or cross borders.

The announcement has done little to quiet the fury Mr. Spitzer set off on Sept. 21 when he declared, without consulting the Legislature, that New York would offer driver’s licenses to the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants living in the state, as a way of making the roads safer and bringing them “out of the shadows.”

An examination of five weeks of policy twists, during which Mr. Spitzer alienated allies and emboldened enemies, reveals a governor almost stubbornly certain of himself and disinclined to consult with those who could be helpful in politically selling or smoothing the way for a divisive initiative.

Most lawmakers first heard about the initial policy when the governor announced it, saying, “The D.M.V. is not the I.N.S.”

County clerks who would have to carry out the policy were not consulted. Nor was Mr. Chertoff’s department.

“There’s a very consistent pattern here of not consulting with his friends,” said Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat. “I must say, at this point, people don’t understand what the thinking and the planning was.”

Aides to the governor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they had not foreseen the intensity of opposition the license plan would touch off.

Mr. Spitzer saw it as simply keeping a promise he had made during his campaign last year.

And it was consistent with his desire, after battling the Legislature for a frustrating six months, to govern by exercising the powers of the executive agencies under his control, without legislative interference.

His policy advisers and David J. Swarts, the motor vehicles commissioner, worked quietly on the policy for several months. They presented it to the governor, and then he moved on it.

“We finished, got to a conclusion, said, ‘O.K., now let’s announce it,’” Mr. Spitzer recalled in a recent interview. “It was not a whole lot more than that.”

It did not take long for opponents to make themselves heard. Within a week, county clerks began to rebel. Even New York’s mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, typically a friendly voice, raised concerns.

Though they acknowledge that they failed to anticipate the reaction fully, Mr. Spitzer and his staff also argue that the issue is so visceral that laying more groundwork might not have made much difference.

“I don’t think it would matter if Lou Dobbs saw us standing next to some police chief,” said one aide to the governor, referring to the CNN anchor, who has been leading an almost nightly crusade against Mr. Spitzer’s policy.

The governor moved to shore up support, enlisting Latino lawmakers and other Democrats to appear with him at press conferences. He also tried to rally them in closed-door meetings before a special legislative session last week.

State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr., a conservative lawmaker from the Bronx, strongly defended the governor, arguing for the policy in emotional language on the Senate floor.

Mr. Diaz took aim at the governor’s chief political rival, Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, for first supporting the plan and then reversing himself.

But even as Mr. Diaz and others stood up for Mr. Spitzer, talks had begun with the Department of Homeland Security about revising the plan.

Mr. Balboni, a former Republican senator, said he was initially “not enthused about the idea” of having the state adopt the national Real ID card, which has been opposed by some civil liberties groups and immigration advocates. But he came to believe, he said, that it was a way of getting illegal immigrants into the system.

The Spitzer aides also felt they had gained key concessions on Real ID. They included getting the Department of Homeland Security to forgo forcing states to start using more expensive material for their licenses and to ease the timeline so the state did not need to immediately increase staffing levels at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which would have been costly.

But when the governor’s new plan was announced, he lost support from just about everyone. Those who stood by granting the licenses to illegal immigrants felt betrayed. Those Democrats uneasy with the initial plan wondered if this change would solve the problem.

And opponents of the initial plan either declared victory, or vowed to continue to block Mr. Spitzer from issuing any kind of license to illegal immigrants.

Again, many allies felt they were not given a heads up that the announcement was coming.

“I believed the governor, I trusted him,” said Mr. Diaz. “Bruno has been good to me, but I criticized him. Now I’m going to have to go back to the Senate floor and apologize because the governor decided to turn his back on us and make a deal with Washington.”

Assemblyman José R. Peralta, a Queens Democrat, said, “We went out there to defend undocumented immigrants and individuals who were being targeted as far as not being allowed to get licenses, and we were on the road to doing that until this agreement with the federal government.”

Even Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the Legislature’s top Democrat, and David A. Paterson, the lieutenant governor, were not told that there would be a shift in strategy until late Friday, the night before the governor announced the deal.

To try to smooth some of the anger, Mr. Spitzer invited Mr. Diaz and a half-dozen other lawmakers, most of them Hispanic and defenders of the original plan, to an Upper East Side diner on Sunday morning to explain his decision.

Feelings were frayed, and the meeting grew emotional. At one point, Mr. Spitzer asked Mr. Diaz to lower his voice because they were in a public place.

“You made me make a fool out of myself,” Mr. Diaz told the governor.

Mr. Spitzer and his aides told the lawmakers that they had been reluctant to send word of the new proposal before they completed negotiations with the Bush administration, which took until the end of the day Friday. And they were clearly worried about what Mr. Chertoff would do if they did not go along.

While Mr. Spitzer tries to repair ties with his old allies, his handling of the issue has only made his Republican foes more determined to keep after him. And, given that the new license system is a year off, and legislative approval will likely be necessary to finance part of it, Albany could see many more months of intense argument over the issue.

“I really don’t believe this is the end of the story,” said Senator Eric T. Schneiderman, a Manhattan Democrat.

Nicholas Confessore contributed reporting.

WaPo : Protest Leads Army to Reconsider Big Contract

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Protest Leads Army to Reconsider Big Contract

By Dana Hedgpeth | Washington Post Staff Writer | October 31, 2007

One of the biggest military contracts to house, feed and provide other services to U.S. military troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait may be canceled and renegotiated after the Government Accountability Office said yesterday that it upheld a protest from two teams that lost the bid.

The $150 billion contract, known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP IV, spans 10 years and was awarded in June to three companies -- Fluor Intercontinental of Greenville, S.C., DynCorp International of Fort Worth and KBR of Houston.

Two losing teams, Contingency Management Group and IAP Worldwide Services, filed protests in July questioning the award of the contract. Both teams alleged that the bids were evaluated improperly by the Army Sustainment Command and "argued that the agency's evaluation of proposals was unreasonable," according to a statement released by the GAO.

The GAO agreed, saying it found problems with how Fluor and KBR were evaluated in various areas.

"We found that the Army violated procurement law or regulations to the detriment of the protesting companies," said Dan Gordon, a lawyer for the GAO. "Those two companies might have had a chance of winning the LOGCAP contract if the Army had acted properly."

Gordon said the GAO has recommended that the bidding process not start over entirely with new bidders, but rather that the Army "go back to the stage of negotiations. . . . We're recommending they reopen discussions and then request revised proposals from all companies and evaluate those proposals and then make a new decision of who should get the contract. The question is whether it is going to be the same three winners."

The lucrative contract is considered one of the biggest deals in the contracting services industry. It has ballooned in value from $2 billion when it was first awarded in 1992 to $23 billion under the most recent LOGCAP III contract.

KBR, the former contracting arm of Halliburton, won the current logistics contract in 2001.

Since then the contract has come under scrutiny by members of Congress, who alleged that KBR won because Vice President Cheney had been Halliburton's chief executive.

Government auditors turned up more than $1 billion in questionable costs, pushing the Army to make a change in how it awarded the contract. Instead of going to one company, the Army awarded the contract to three. Each company's part of the contract is worth up to $5 billion a year and can be extended for up to nine more years.

In the LOGCAP IV contract, the bids were judged on past performance, management, technical capabilities and cost.

The GAO said the Army's evaluation of Fluor's technical proposal was "unreasonable and evidenced unequal treatment." In KBR's case, the GAO said, the Army "misunderstood" part of the company's technical proposal, and it accused the Army of failing to evaluate comments the Defense Contract Audit Agency had made concerning KBR's business systems. The two-page statement released by the GAO made no comment on DynCorp.

Contingency Management Group's team is made up of AECOM Government Services, the Shaw Group and PAE Government Services. IAP is the lead contractor on its team, which includes Blackwater Worldwide, CACI and Lockheed Martin.

Heather Browne, a spokeswoman for KBR, said the company was "disappointed with the GAO's decision" and believed it had provided "unmatched" service to U.S. troops. KBR has requested that the GAO reconsider its decision.

NYT : Why They Called It the Manhattan Project

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why They Called It the Manhattan Project

By WILLIAM J. BROAD | October 30, 2007

By nature, code names and cover stories are meant to give no indication of the secrets concealed. “Magic” was the name for intelligence gleaned from Japanese ciphers in World War II, and “Overlord” stood for the Allied plan to invade Europe.

Many people assume that the same holds true for the Manhattan Project, in which thousands of experts gathered in the mountains of New Mexico to make the world’s first atom bomb.

Robert S. Norris, a historian of the atomic age, wants to shatter that myth.

In “The Manhattan Project” (Black Dog & Leventhal), published last month, Dr. Norris writes about the Manhattan Project’s Manhattan locations. He says the borough had at least 10 sites, all but one still standing. They include warehouses that held uranium, laboratories that split the atom, and the project’s first headquarters — a skyscraper hidden in plain sight right across from City Hall.

“It was supersecret,” Dr. Norris said in an interview. “At least 5,000 people were coming and going to work, knowing only enough to get the job done.”

Manhattan was central, according to Dr. Norris, because it had everything: lots of military units, piers for the import of precious ores, top physicists who had fled Europe and ranks of workers eager to aid the war effort. It even had spies who managed to steal some of the project’s top secrets.

“The story is so rich,” Dr. Norris enthused. “There’s layer upon layer of good stuff, interesting characters.”

Still, more than six decades after the project’s start, the Manhattan side of the atom bomb story seems to be a well-preserved secret.

Dr. Norris recently visited Manhattan at the request of The New York Times for a daylong tour of the Manhattan Project’s roots. Only one site he visited displayed a public sign noting its role in the epochal events. And most people who encountered his entourage, which included a photographer and videographer, knew little or nothing of the atomic labors in Manhattan.

“That’s amazing,” Alexandra Ghitelman said after learning that the buildings she had just passed on inline skates once held tons of uranium destined for atomic weapons. “That’s unbelievable.”

While shock tended to be the main reaction, some people hinted at feelings of pride. More than one person said they knew someone who had worked on the secret project, which formally got under way in August 1942 and three years later culminated in the atomic bombing of Japan. In all, it employed more than 130,000 people.

Dr. Norris is also the author of “Racing for the Bomb” (Steerforth, 2002), a biography of Gen. Leslie R. Groves, the project’s military leader. As his protagonist had done during the war, Dr. Norris works in Washington. At the Natural Resources Defense Council, he studies and writes about the nation’s atomic facilities.

Dr. Norris began his day of exploration by taking the train to New York from Washington, coming into Pennsylvania Station just as General Groves had done dozens of times during the war to visit project sites.

“Groves didn’t want the job,” Dr. Norris remarked outside the station. “But his foot hit the accelerator and he didn’t let up for 1,000 days.”

For tour assistance, Dr. Norris brought along his own books as well as printouts from “The Traveler’s Guide to Nuclear Weapons,” a CD by James M. Maroncelli and Timothy L. Karpin that features little-known history of the nation’s atom endeavors.

We headed north to the childhood home of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the eccentric genius whom General Groves hired to run the project’s scientific side as well as its sprawling New Mexico laboratory. Last year, a biography of Oppenheimer, “American Prometheus” (Knopf, 2005), won the Pulitzer Prize.

“One of the most famous scientists of the 20th century,” Dr. Norris noted, got his start “walking these streets” and attending the nearby Ethical Culture School.

Oppenheimer and his parents lived at 155 Riverside Drive, an elegant apartment building at West 88th Street. The superintendent, Joe Gugulski, said the family lived on the 11th floor, overlooking the Hudson River.

“One of my tenants read the book,” Mr. Gugulski told us. “So I looked it up.” To his knowledge, Mr. Gugulski added, no other atomic tourists had visited the building.

The Oppenheimers decorated their apartment with original artwork by Picasso, Rembrandt, Renoir, Van Gogh and Cézanne, according to “American Prometheus.” His mother encouraged young Robert to paint.

By the late 1930s and early 1940s, blocks away at Columbia University, scientists were laboring to split the atom and release its titanic energies. We made our way across campus — with difficulty because of protests over the visit of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, which is widely suspected of harboring its own bomb program.

Dr. Norris noted that the Manhattan Project led to “many of our problems today.”

The Pupin Physics Laboratories housed the early atom experiments, Dr. Norris said. But the tall building, topped by observatory domes, has no plaque in its foyer describing its nuclear ties.

Passing students and pedestrians answered “no” and “kind of” when asked if they knew of the atom breakthroughs at Pupin Hall. Dr. Norris said the Manhattan Project, at its peak, employed 700 people at Columbia. At one point, the football team was recruited to move tons of uranium. That work, he said, eventually led to the world’s first nuclear reactor.

After lunch, we headed to West 20th Street just off the West Side Highway. The block, on the fringe of Chelsea, bristled with new galleries, and Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. On its north side, three tall buildings once made up the Baker and Williams Warehouses, which held tons of uranium.

Two women taking a cigarette break said they had no idea of their building’s atomic past. “It’s horrible,” said one.

Dr. Norris’s “Traveler’s Guide” fact sheet said the federal government in the late 1980s and early 1990s cleaned the buildings of residual uranium. Workers removed more than a dozen drums of radioactive waste, according to the Department of Energy in Washington. “Radiological surveys show that the site now meets applicable requirements for unrestricted use,” a federal document said in 1995.

We moved to Manhattan’s southern tip and worked our way up Broadway along the route known as the Canyon of Heroes, the scene of many ticker-tape parades amid the skyscrapers.

At 25 Broadway, we visited a minor but important site — the Cunard Building. Edgar Sengier, a Belgian with an office here, had his company mine about 1,200 tons of high-grade uranium ore and store it on Staten Island in the shadow of the Bayonne Bridge. Though a civilian, he knew of the atomic possibilities and feared the invading Germans might confiscate his mines.

Dr. Norris said General Groves, on his first day in charge, sent an assistant to buy all that uranium for a dollar a pound — or $2.5 million. “The Manhattan Project was off to a flying start,” he said, adding that the Belgian entrepreneur in time supplied two-thirds of all the project’s uranium.

We walked past St. Paul’s Chapel and proceeded to the soaring grandeur of the Woolworth Building, once the world’s tallest, at 233 Broadway.

A major site, it housed a front company that devised one of the project’s main ways of concentrating uranium’s rare isotope — a secret of bomb making. On the 11th, 12th and 14th floors, the company drew on the nation’s scientific best and brightest, including teams from Columbia.

Dr. Norris said the front company’s 3,700 employees included Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy. “He was a substantial physicist in his own right,” Dr. Norris said. “He contributed to the American atom bomb, the Soviet atom bomb and the British atom bomb.”

So how did the Manhattan Project get its name, and why was Manhattan chosen as its first headquarters?

Dr. Norris said the answer lay at our next stop, 270 Broadway. There, at Chambers Street, on the southwest corner, we found a nondescript building overlooking City Hall Park.

It was here, Dr. Norris said, that the Army Corps of Engineers had its North Atlantic Division, which built ports and airfields. When the Corps got the responsibility of making the atom bomb, it put the headquarters in the same building, on the 18th floor.

“That way he didn’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Dr. Norris said of General Groves. “He used what he had at his fingertips — the entire Corps of Engineers infrastructure.”

Dr. Norris added that the Corps at that time included “extraordinary people, the best and brightest of West Point.”

In time, the office at 270 Broadway ran not only atom research and materials acquisition but also the building of whole nuclear cities in Tennessee, New Mexico and Washington State.

The first proposed name for the project, Dr. Norris said, was the Laboratory for the Development of Substitute Materials. But General Groves feared that would draw undo attention.

Instead, General Groves called for the bureaucratically dull approach of adopting the standard Corps procedure for naming new regional organizations. That method simply noted the unit’s geographical area, as in the Pittsburgh Engineer District.

So the top-secret endeavor to build the atom bomb got the most boring of cover names: the Manhattan Engineer District, in time shortened to the Manhattan Project. Unlike other Corps districts, however, it had no territorial limits. “He was nuts about not attracting attention,” Dr. Norris said.

Manhattan’s role shrank as secretive outposts for the endeavor sprouted across the country and quickly grew into major enterprises. By the late summer of 1943, little more than a year after its establishment, the headquarters of the Manhattan Project moved to Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Despite this dispersal, Dr. Norris said, scientists and businesses in Manhattan, including The New York Times, continued to aid the atomic project.

In April 1945, General Groves traveled to the newspaper’s offices on West 43rd Street. He asked that a science writer, William L. Laurence, be allowed to go on leave to report on a major wartime story involving science.

As early as 1940, before wartime secrecy, Mr. Laurence had reported on the atomic breakthroughs at Pupin Hall.

Now, Dr. Norris said, Mr. Laurence went to work for the Manhattan Project and became the only reporter to witness the Trinity test in the New Mexican desert in July 1945, and, shortly thereafter, the nuclear bombing of Japan.

The atomic age, Mr. Laurence wrote in the first article of a series, began in the New Mexico desert before dawn in a burst of flame that illuminated “earth and sky for a brief span that seemed eternal.”

In Manhattan, the one location that has memorialized its atomic connection had nothing to do with making or witnessing the bomb, but rather with managing to survive its fury.

The spot is on Riverside Drive between 105th and 106th Streets. There, in a residential neighborhood, in front of the New York Buddhist Church, is a tall statue of a Japanese Buddhist monk, Shinran Shonin, who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries. In peasant hat and sandals, holding a wooden staff, the saint peers down on the sidewalk.

The statue survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, standing a little more than a mile from ground zero. It was brought to New York in 1955. The plaque calls the statue “a testimonial to the atomic bomb devastation and a symbol of lasting hope for world peace.”

The statue stands a few blocks from Columbia University, where much of the bomb program began.

“I wonder how many New Yorkers know about it,” Dr. Norris said of the statue, “and know the history.”

WaPo : Pakistan Court to Examine Bhutto Blast

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pakistan Court to Examine Bhutto Blast

By STEPHEN GRAHAM | The Associated Press | October 31, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan's top judge said Wednesday he would probe the bloody attack on ex-premier Benazir Bhutto's homecoming, wading further into the country's deepening political turmoil.

The suicide blast during Bhutto's homecoming parade in Karachi on Oct. 18 killed more than 140 people, the deadliest incident in a wave of violence that has raised fears for nuclear-armed Pakistan's stability.

The government has vowed to expose those responsible for an attack widely blamed on Islamic extremists fighting security forces near the Afghan frontier.

However, Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry expressed impatience with an investigation that is under intense international scrutiny as Pakistan moves toward crucial elections.

The Supreme Court will review the bombing to ensure the "perpetrators of this barbaric act are brought to book, which will result in restoring the confidence of the nation in the system of governance," a court statement said.

It scheduled a hearing in the case for Thursday.

The activist chief justice has emerged as a key player in Pakistan's power struggle since President Gen. Pervez Musharraf made a botched attempt to fire him in March.

After his reinstatement in July amid a clamor for an end to military rule, the court has taken up a string of high-profile issues, including whether its U.S.-allied military president can remain in power.

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup and made Pakistan a key ally of the United States in its war against terrorism, won a landslide victory in an Oct. 6 presidential election.

However, the court has ruled that the result is not final until it rules on opposition complaints that Musharraf was ineligible to contest the vote by lawmakers because he has retained his position as army chief.

Musharraf has pledged to quit the army before starting a new presidential term.

But he declined on election night to say whether he would accept a negative verdict from the court, fanning speculation that he could invoke emergency powers to stay in control. The court plans to rule on the case by Friday.

During a hearing on Wednesday, Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday parried arguments from government lawyers that the complaint should be referred to a lower court.

"It's a question of national interest," Ramday said. "The whole country is in a fix."

The Supreme Court is also considering whether Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister Musharraf ousted eight years ago, should be allowed to return from exile to make a political comeback.

Bhutto, a two-time premier, returned to Pakistan after more than eight years abroad after Musharraf signed an amnesty to drop corruption cases against her and other politicians and bureaucrats _ amid expectation she and Musharraf could form a pro-Western alliance to counter extremism.

However, she has accused hard-liners in the government and security forces of conspiring to kill her and criticized the police investigation into the Oct. 18 attack.

The court said it was looking into the attack on her partly because of the damage to Pakistan's image, business confidence and campaigning for January elections.

In remarks likely to irk authorities, it also noted that "more than a week has passed since these bloody explosions occurred, however, no clue has so far been found explaining the reasons and the persons involved."

"This incident has not only shaken the confidence of the entire nation, but it has also negatively affected the business environment in the country and resulted in a very poor projection of Pakistan in the world community," it added.

Bhutto's party has called for foreign experts to assist the investigation _ a demand rejected by the government, which insists it can solve the case on its own.

Police are also investigating a suicide attack near Musharraf's army office in the city of Rawalpindi that killed seven people Tuesday. Police said surgeons had reconstructed the severed head of the bomber.

Bhutto said Tuesday that she would visit Rawalpindi on Nov. 9, but that she would no longer hold processions like the one attacked in Karachi.

Her aides said Wednesday that she would first travel to Dubai to await the court verdict on Musharraf's re-election and its political fallout.

WaPo : Senior Democrats Want Blackwater Case Details

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Senior Democrats Want Blackwater Case Details

By Karen DeYoung | Washington Post Staff Writer | October 31, 2007

The State Department said yesterday that it had provided "limited protections" to Blackwater Worldwide security guards under investigation in the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians but insisted that its actions would not preclude successful prosecution of the contractors.

Signed statements the guards provided to State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 16 shooting deaths included what law enforcement officials said was a standard disclaimer used in "official administrative inquiries" involving government employees. It said that the statements were being offered with the understanding that nothing in them could be used "in a criminal proceeding."

New details about the "protections" given Blackwater contractors allegedly involved in the shootings sparked outrage from congressional Democrats yesterday, along with a flood of letters to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from committee chairmen demanding more information.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who heads the Judiciary Committee as well as the appropriations subcommittee overseeing State's budget, called the contractor issue the latest example of the Bush administration's refusal to hold anyone from "their team" accountable for misconduct or incompetence. "If you get caught," Leahy said in a statement, "they will get you immunity. If you get convicted, they will commute your sentence."

Most of the questions centered on who had authorized what many critics interpreted as a form of immunity from prosecution and why such protections -- designed for government employees -- were extended to private contractors.

Meanwhile, Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have reached agreement that the U.S. military command in Iraq will exert tighter controls over security contractors in Iraq, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said yesterday.

Preliminary guidelines established by a State-Defense working group include common training standards and rules for the use of force for contractors as well as coordination of all contractor "movements" with the U.S. military headquarters in Iraq. The new guidelines will be presented to the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker for review before Gates and Rice make a final decision in the matter, Morrell said.

Military officers have complained that contractors guarding U.S. diplomatic convoys interfere with military operations and that their aggressive behavior undermines efforts to win "hearts and minds" in Iraq.

One major concern for Gates involves keeping the military abreast of the movement of contractors through the combat zone, Morrell said. "If it is unsafe or deemed not advisable to go there, someone is going to have the control to say: 'No, not at this time.' It would be MNF-I [Multi-National Force-Iraq] that would have that authority. Ultimately, the military has to sign off, in the battle zone, of movements into particularly dangerous areas." The decision to offer Blackwater guards protection from any use of their statements was made by State Department personnel in Baghdad without approval from Washington, sources said. Department lawyers subsequently determined that decades-old federal court rulings required such guarantees against self-incrimination for all government employees during internal investigations; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that the protections also applied to federal contractors.

But the inability of State's own law enforcement branch to pursue a possible criminal case based on the Blackwater statements, as well growing controversy over the Sept. 16 shootings here and in Baghdad, led Rice early this month to ask the FBI to take over the investigation.

To avoid compromising their own investigation, a team of FBI agents sent to Baghdad was not allowed to speak to the original investigators about the case or see the statements. Some of the dozen or so Blackwater personnel involved, at least two of whom have returned to the United States, declined FBI interviews.

In a statement yesterday, the Justice Department confirmed that no broad immunity from prosecution had been granted. But in a reflection of law enforcement dismay over what are considered impediments to a criminal case, Justice added that it would proceed "knowing that this investigation involves a number of complex issues."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said yesterday that State has no power to immunize anyone from federal criminal prosecution. "We would not have asked the FBI and the Department of Justice to get involved in a case that we did not think that they could potentially prosecute."

But several law enforcement officials, none of whom would speak on the record about an ongoing investigation, said it remained uncertain -- even without the protections -- whether the contractors could be prosecuted under U.S. law.

Staff writers Ann Scott Tyson and Dan Eggen contributed to this report.

Philly Inquirer : Debate draws a vocal chorus

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Debate draws a vocal chorus

Nay-sayers and sign-wavers.

By Thomas Fitzgerald | Inquirer Staff Writer | October 31, 2007

Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel paced the stage last night at WXPN's World Café Live, staring up at a big screen showing the Democratic presidential debate.

As Hillary Rodham Clinton was talking, Gravel shook his head as if he couldn't take it anymore. He froze the screen with a TiVo device.

"Let's analyze what's going on," he said, as the audience of about 125 people hooted. "She's the queen of the military-industrial complex."

MSNBC had kicked Gravel out of the nationally televised debate of Democratic contenders a block away at Drexel University's Main Building, saying he had not drawn enough money or poll support to show he was a legitimate candidate. So he put on an anti-debate.

Gravel's was far from the only voice straining to be heard yesterday as the center ring of presidential politics came to Philadelphia, giving the city and the state a momentary relevance that Pennsylvania's late primary in April probably will not grant it in the Democratic nomination process.

Hundreds of protesters of various stripes, as well as candidates' supporters, swarmed over the campus throughout the afternoon and into the evening, whooping it up and waving signs. Cameras captured much of it, and 12 satellite trucks parked along Chestnut Street up-linked the images and sent them to the world.

On Drexel's quadrangle, crowds thickened in front of MSNBC's outdoor stage as Chris Matthews taped Hardball, everybody jostling to get into a background shot as some phoned home to tell family and friends to tune in to see them.

The crowd sprouted signs for Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, not to mention GOP candidate Ron Paul. Others hoisted "No Casino Here" placards, taking national their fight against slot parlors slated along the Delaware River.

Supporters of Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. used 8-foot stakes plastered with signs to catch the camera's eye. "I just want to get his name out there, even if it's only for a second," said Tara Rhoads, 19, a University of Delaware sophomore.

Gov. Rendell, interviewed on Hardball, laughed off Matthews' suggestion that he would be a good vice presidential candidate, then said he hoped having the debate in Philadelphia might bring new issues into the mix.

"I'd love the presidential debates to focus on urban issues," he said. "We haven't heard Word One on crime, or education or housing."

As Rendell spoke to reporters, anti-casino protesters shouted at him: "Shame on you for betraying the city! Tell him about the corrupt casino process, Ed!"

Also taking advantage of the stage were ACTUP Philadelphia and Health GAP, which marched 250 strong – several dressed as skeletons and carrying cardboard headstones - down Chestnut Street to the beat of a bass drum, chanting "Health Care Now!"

The Democratic National Committee, which sanctioned the debate, held a fund-raising event beforehand at the Cira Centre. Mark Aronchick, a Philadelphia fund-raiser who helped organize it, said the DNC would exceed its $500,000 goal.

"We had a strong turnout," Aronchick said later. "But this is what it's about, the grassroots," he said, gesturing across from the debate hall, where supporters of various candidates packed the official "visibility area" along the sidewalk.

Anita Hahn, a paralegal from Berlin, N.J., was there, taking up one of the humblest jobs in politics: holding a Clinton sign because "she is best prepared" to be president.

"I don't know if I'll get to see her," Hahn said. "I just want to be here to help, so that the news reports can say Hillary had the biggest crowd."

Later, Gravel was on a roll.

"I like his attitude," said Bob McGrath, a television producer from suburban Morton who attended Gravel's event. "I'm impressed that he's out there challenging the mainstream," said his wife, Peg McGrath.

Earlier in the day, another back-of-the-pack Democratic candidate, Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, told The Inquirer's editorial board that President Bush's recent statement that a nuclear Iran could start "World War III" was a sign of insanity.

"I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about his mental health," Kucinich said. "There's something wrong."

Dan Ronayne, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, dismissed the comments: "Maybe the UFOs he's claimed to have seen are communicating to him that preposterous quotes like this are the way he can get his failed campaign off the ground."

Contact staff writer Thomas Fitzgerald at 215-854-2718 or tfitzgerald@phillynews.com.

BBC : CIA chief backs rendition flights

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

CIA chief backs rendition flights

October 31, 2007

The director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael Hayden, has defended the methods it uses to interrogate terror suspects.

Gen Hayden said programmes such as extraordinary rendition produced what he said was irreplaceable intelligence.

Under the programme, terror suspects are transported to secret prisons in countries with less stringent interrogation rules.

Mr Hayden, speaking in Chicago, said the leads gained justified rendition.

"The irreplaceable nature of that intelligence is the sole reason why we have what I admit freely is a very controversial programme."

The CIA had produced thousands of intelligence reports from the "fewer than 100 hardened terrorists" detained since 2002, Mr Hayden told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

'Water-boarding' controversy

His comments came as President George Bush's nominee for US attorney general came under fire for his position on interrogation techniques.

Nominee Michael Mukasey condemned one technique, water-boarding, as "repugnant" and possibly "over the line," but declined to explicitly rule it out as torture, saying he could not speculate on classified procedures.

Water-boarding simulates drowning by immobilizing a prisoner with his head lower than his feet and pouring water over his face.

Leading Democrats in the Senate have threatened to block Mr Mukasey's confirmation if he does not explicitly rule out water-boarding as illegal.

When asked to comment about Mr Mukasey's statement, Mr Hayden avoided a clear answer.

"Judge Mukasey cannot nor can I answer your question in the abstract. I need to understand the totality of the circumstances in which this question is being posed before I can give you an answer," he said.

LAT : Iraqi witnesses discuss Blackwater shooting

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Iraqi witnesses discuss Blackwater shooting

Some of those interviewed in an FBI inquiry reveal details of the incident and say the agents are focused on whether the security guards were fired upon first.

By Christian Berthelsen and Raheem Salman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers | October 31, 2007

BAGHDAD -- FBI agents investigating the September shooting incident involving security contractor Blackwater USA in which 17 people died appear focused on whether anyone fired first on the American convoy and have been aggressively gathering ballistic evidence, according to witnesses interviewed by the agents.

In Washington, State and Justice Department officials said the investigation would not be derailed by a reported offer of immunity to the guards. But it remained unclear whether they could be prosecuted under U.S. law for the shooting.

And as anger continued to simmer in Iraq, the government introduced legislation Tuesday stripping American contractors of the immunity from Iraqi law they were granted in 2004 by the U.S.-led authority set up to govern Iraq shortly after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

The FBI team dispatched from Washington this month specializes in investigations outside the United Statessuch as the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, which targeted U.S. military housing in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American servicemen and one Saudi.

When its investigation is complete, the FBI will submit evidence to Justice Department officials, who will determine whether to prosecute, said a U.S. official familiar with the investigation.

Whether the convoy was fired upon or threatened in some way before the guards hired to protect it began shooting in west Baghdad's Nisoor Square on Sept. 16 is likely to be key to that decision, said Scott Silliman, a former military lawyer who is executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University.

"I think what they're trying to do is build a case showing the use of force by Blackwater was not justified, and they can do that through witness statements to show that Blackwater and the convoy were not fired upon," Silliman said.

A U.S. source said the FBI team left Baghdad on Sunday after conducting dozens of interviews with witnesses. The FBI declined to comment on the case, as did a spokeswoman for Blackwater. The North Carolina-based security company has said previously that the guards were responding to what they believed to be enemy fire.

The shooting has prompted an intense debate about the role that foreign private armed security contractors have played in the Iraq war and the ambiguous legal environment in which they operate.

If the Justice Department decides to prosecute, experts say it would face serious legal hurdles. The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act permits contractors to be prosecuted for actions in foreign lands if they are working in support of a Defense Department mission.

But prosecutors would have to convince a judge that the act also applies to contractors working for the civilian-led State Department.

Since the shooting, Congress has passed legislation that would clearly make all security contractors accountable in American courts, and the State Department has issued new restrictions that will subject their operations to more oversight.

The FBI investigation, undertaken at the request of the State Department, is one of four underway into the shooting, which also wounded 24 people.

Iraqi police, the Pentagon and a joint panel of the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government have also undertaken inquiries. In a preliminary report, the Iraqi government concluded that the Blackwater guardsbegan firing when a vehicle they believed to be attempting a suicide bombing advanced on the convoy.

Three witnesses who spoke with The Times after their debriefings with the FBI said the investigators emphasized the importance of whether the security team was fired upon first.

Witnesses said the interviews lasted about two hours. Agents referred them to a large aerial image of Nisoor Square, and asked them to explain how they arrived at the scene, what their vantage point was when the shooting occurred, their detailed recollection of events, and what the shooters looked like.

"They were focusing mainly on one thing," said Mohammed Hafidh Abdul-Razzaq, 37, whose 10-year-old son, Ali, was shot and killed as he sat in the back seat of their car. "They asked me several times in each interview whether [the guards] were shot at or not."

Baraa Sadoon Ismail, 29, who still has two bullets and 60 bullet fragments in his abdomen from the shooting, agreed that the agents focused on whether the Blackwater guards shot first.

All the witnesses interviewed by The Times said they told investigators they did not see anyone fire on the security guards.

"They asked me whether they were exposed to fire," said Hassan Jabbar Salman, a lawyer who said he was about 20 yards from the guards and was shot four times. "I replied to them that they were never exposed to any kind of fire."

Investigators have taken possession of at least three cars to gather ammunition rounds, the witnesses said. Ismail said investigators also took three bullet fragments that had been removed from his body.

Collection of the ballistic evidence, legal experts said, was another way to determine whether Blackwater guards were responding to a threat.

"If the only shell casings found anywhere in the square were those of weapons used by Blackwater, that would tend to support the finding that there was no use of force against the convoy before Blackwater opened fire," Silliman said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that although State Department investigators could offer witnesses limited protection, they "cannot immunize an individual from federal criminal prosecution."

"We would not have asked the FBI and the Department of Justice to get involved in a case that we did not think that they could potentially prosecute," he said.

A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, concurred. "Any suggestion that the Blackwater employees in question have been given immunity from federal criminal prosecution is inaccurate," he said.

The interviews have also produced some of the most detailed witness accounts to date.

Trapped on all sides by stopped cars, Abdul-Razzaq said he was helpless as gunfire peppered his car. When the security guards left the scene, he said, he ran to another car to check on a shooting victim, only to have his nephew, who had been riding in his car, run up and tell him Ali had been killed.

Abdul-Razzaq ran back. He said he had glimpsed his son earlier through the rear-view mirror, slumped against the door in the back seat, and assumed he must have fainted. But when he opened the door, blood and brain tissue poured from his son's head. He slammed the door shut in disbelief. Then he jumped into the car, feeling his 10-year-old son's chest to see whether his heart was still beating. The race to the hospital was futile.

Salman and Abdul-Razzaq said they told the FBI they saw victims shot as they tried to turn their cars around and drive away or even after they had jumped out and run.

The American investigators bore the brunt of Iraqi rage, and the Iraqis said the agents apologized for the shooting.

"My sister gave them a piece of advice," said Abdul-Razzaq, whose sister was in the car with him and also gave an interview to the FBI agents. "She said that it would be better for them to bomb Iraq with an atomic bomb rather than kill one or two people on a daily basis. 'Kill us all in a matter of seconds so that we may be free of this torment.' "

Witnesses said they found the agents professional and considerate, and that they seemed determined to get to the bottom of what happened.

"To tell you the truth, I felt they were truly sorry," Abdul-Razzaq said.

Still, he added: "I told them that if the investigation was not fair, this incident will . . . put a brand of shame on the forehead of Americans."

christian.berthelsen @latimes.com

Times staff writers Paul Richter and Peter Spiegel in Washington contributed to this report.

LAT : U.S. reluctantly reveals spy budget

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

U.S. reluctantly reveals spy budget

The report is required by law. Release of the $43.5-billion figure, though lacking detail, had been fought by the administration.

By Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer | October 31, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Forced by law to reveal how much the nation spends on its spy agencies, the Bush administration disclosed Tuesday that the country's intelligence budget was $43.5 billion last year, an increase of about 50% since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The disclosure marked the first time in nearly a decade that the federal government has offered even a partial glimpse of how much it spends on the CIA and the other 15 agencies that make up the intelligence community. Only the overall figure was provided.

The Bush administration had vehemently opposed releasing even that number, arguing that doing so would give the nation's enemies valuable insight into how much money the United States was spending on clandestine activities.

But the release fulfills one of the recommendations of the commission that investigated the intelligence failures surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks. The commission urged the government to disclose the figure in order to foster greater public scrutiny of the nation's spending priorities. The recommendation was in legislation passed by Congress earlier this year.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said releasing the figure is likely to demonstrate that basic information about the nation's spending on its spy programs can be shared without harming national security.

The information is probably of little use to adversaries trying to scrutinize U.S. intelligence activities, Aftergood said. His organization had unsuccessfully sued the government to force release of the figure.

"What it does tell you is how much we're spending on intelligence compared to other government functions such as defense and healthcare," Aftergood said. "Also, it makes it possible to openly debate the level of intelligence spending, something that has not been possible before in Congress."

But the Director of National Intelligence, J. Michael McConnell, declined to provide any further details on spy spending. He said that there "will be no other disclosures of currently classified budget information because such disclosures could harm national security."

The government must disclose the comparable budget amount in 2008. But the intelligence director can block disclosure in subsequent years if he makes the case to Congress that it is necessary to protect national security.

Some officials said that the director's office may take that step because many intelligence officials believe that releasing numbers over a period of years would allow adversaries to examine trends in U.S. intelligence spending.

"If they see a blip, they can direct collection [by their own intelligence agencies] on what that blip might be," said a congressional official involved in classified intelligence budgets, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing issues surrounding classified information.

The $43.5-billion figure is in line with independent estimates of the budget in recent years, and represents the total spent during the fiscal year that began October 2006 and ended Sept. 30.

The intelligence budget is typically about 10% of military spending. Last year, the defense budget was about $600 billion.

The figure represents spending on an array of intelligence activities, but the CIA and two other agencies account for the bulk of the budget. Those are the National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on phone calls and intercepts e-mails around the world, and the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds spy satellites.

Those agencies may each account for as much as $10 billion of the total, according to intelligence experts. The CIA's budget is believed to be between $5 billion and $8 billion.

The $43.5 billion does not include spending by the armed services on intelligence equipment and activities for military operations in the field, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

Total spending on the nation's spy programs was disclosed voluntarily in 1997 and 1998 by then-CIA Director George J. Tenet. The figure for 1997 was $26.6 billion, and for 1998 it was $26.7 billion. But the numbers were again kept classified in succeeding years, although experts estimate that they probably approached $30 billion annually leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.


Guardian : Wives claim husbands' service in Iraq and Afghanistan damaging family life

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wives claim husbands' service in Iraq and Afghanistan damaging family life

Richard Norton-Taylor | The Guardian | October 31, 2007

The disruption to family life caused by serving in Iraq and Afghanistan is illustrated in a survey of wives and husbands published by the Ministry of Defence yesterday - the first time such information has been released.

More than two fifths of soldiers' partners and more than a third of army officers' partners said their loved one's behaviour had changed as a result of their experiences.

The survey also found that more than half of the spouses of soldiers believe that operational tours are too long and that the length of time spent away from home has had a negative effect on their married life.

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The majority of those questioned said being married to or in a civil partnership with soldiers and officers has had a serious affect on their own career prospects, and that army life, with frequent house moves, had a negative effect on their children's education.

More than 70% of officers' spouses, and more than 60% of soldiers' spouses, also reported that the rank of their partner affects how they are treated.

But the response to questions about changes in their spouse's behaviour could have special significance in light of the Guardian's recent disclosure that the MoD has launched a major study into mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in soldiers returning from operations.

Combat Stress, the British Legion and other charities, have also reported an increase in psychological problems.

Over 40% of soldiers' spouses, and over 30% of officers', said the behaviour of their partner had changed as a result of their experiences on military operations over the past two years. Some 70% said it had had a negative, or very negative, impact on their family but the vast majority had not sought help.

Nearly 6,000 questionnaires were sent out last year and there were nearly 2,000 responses in the survey, which also says that a majority of spouses in all three services were satisfied with the standard of their family accommodation and, despite the length of operational tours, with the amount of service leave.

The defence minister, Derek Twigg, said yesterday that the MoD was was looking at ways to minimise the impact on a child's education and access to NHS services of military families moving.

Separately yesterday, the government published strict guidelines covering Iraqi interpreters and other locally employed staff who worked for British troops and officials whose circumstances had been "uniquely difficult". The measures, announced in a written Commons statement by David Miliband, the foreign secretary, follows pressure from British military commanders concerned about violence and intimidation meted out to Iraqis who have helped them.

Eligible staff - those who are working, or who have worked, for at least 12 months continuously for the British since 2005 - will be able to apply for a one-off lump sum payment of up to 12 months' salary or exceptional leave to enter the UK outside the immigration rules, or a refugee resettlement package in Britain for those who have been forced to flee Iraq.

Officials said the measures could cover about 1,000 people.

The announcement was condemned by the Liberal Democrats' international development spokeswoman, Lynne Featherstone, who said many staff would be unable to benefit.

She said: "To exclude those who worked for British authorities before 2005 and for less than a year is unforgivable. The basis for asylum should be one of assessed risk, not length of service."

WaPo : U.S. and Pakistan: A Frayed Alliance

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

U.S. and Pakistan: A Frayed Alliance

As Military Efforts Falter, Trust Suffers

By Joby Warrick | Washington Post Staff Writer | October 31, 2007

Five years ago, elite Pakistani troops stationed near the border with Afghanistan began receiving hundreds of pairs of U.S.-made night-vision goggles that would enable them to see and fight al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents in the dark. The sophisticated goggles, supplied by the Bush administration at a cost of up to $9,000 a pair, came with an implicit message: Step up the attacks.

But every three months, the troops had to turn in their goggles for two weeks to be inventoried, because the U.S. military wanted to make sure none were stolen or given away, U.S. and Pakistani officials said. Militants perceived a pattern and scurried into the open without fear during the two-week counts.

"They knew exactly when we didn't have the goggles, and they took full advantage," said a senior Pakistani government official who closely tracks military operations on the border.

The goggles are but a fragment of the huge military aid Washington sends to Pakistan, but the frustrations expressed by Pakistani officials are emblematic of a widening gulf between two military powers that express a common interest in defeating terrorism.

The Bush administration has provided nearly $11 billion in aid to Pakistan since 2001, most of it in military hardware and cash support for the country's operating budget. But frustrations are rising among military officers on both sides because the aid has produced neither battlefield success nor great trust, said government officials and independent experts who study relations between the two countries.

U.S. officials say part of the problem is that the Pakistani government has lacked sufficient commitment to engage the enemy, a task that may be further undermined by the country's growing political instability as its leadership is challenged by an invigorated opposition.

U.S. equipment is not being used "in a sustained way," said Seth Jones, a Rand Corp. researcher who recently visited the region. "The army is not very effective, and there have been elements of the government that have worked with the Taliban in the tribal areas in the past," making them ambivalent about the current fight against those forces, he said.

Independent Western experts also wonder whether Pakistan is devoting too much of U.S. aid to large weapons systems, while shortchanging its own counterinsurgency forces; they say it also is not spending enough on social problems that might address the root causes of terrorism. Of $1.6 billion in U.S. aid dedicated to security assistance in Pakistan since 2002, for example, more than half went for purchases of major weapons systems sought by Pakistan's army, including F-16 fighters, according to U.S. officials.

The officials and experts also say U.S. aid has typically lacked sufficient oversight, or any means of measuring its effectiveness.

The aid spigot -- now pegged at more than $150 million a month -- has remained open even during periods when Pakistan's leadership ordered its counterterrorism forces confined to barracks under a cease-fire agreement with the insurgents, the officials note.

Pakistani officials, for their part, say that strict U.S. controls over equipment and a failure to provide other equipment, such as spare parts, have impeded their ability to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda sympathizers. In addition to complaining about the goggles, they cite U.S.-made attack helicopters that are grounded for weeks because of parts shortages.

Pakistani officials acknowledge slow progress in driving terrorists out of the frontier provinces, but they chafe at suggestions that U.S. military aid is being squandered. Pakistan needs still more help, including persistent access to night-vision goggles, helicopters and other gear that is particularly useful in fighting an insurgency, said Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.

"Is our military effort going as well as we hoped? No. But is Iraq going as well as hoped?" Durrani asked. "We will fight terrorism because it is for our own good. But it is a very big job."

By most measures, the country's security problems are worsening. Hundreds of government troops have died in clashes with militants since August, including at least 17 killed last Thursday in an attack on an army convoy. A total of seven people died in a suicide bombing yesterday near the president's army residence. U.S. intelligence officials said two months ago that al-Qaeda has managed to build an operating base inside autonomous tribal areas ostensibly controlled by Pakistan.

"The billions of American taxpayer dollars to Pakistan since September 11 have clearly failed to prevent our number one enemy from setting up shop in that country," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a frequent critic of Bush administration policies in Pakistan. "It's hard to argue that this aid has been an overall success when that's the bottom-line result."

Advanced night-vision equipment of the type provided to Pakistan -- which amplifies tiny amounts of infrared light to spot people, equipment and other heat sources -- has been used by American GIs for more than a decade. But when President Pervez Musharraf's government requested them in 2002 and 2003 for use against insurgents fleeing across the border from Afghanistan, U.S. officials initially voiced serious reservations.

Eventually, after the accounting procedures were put in place, Washington provided more than 1,600 to Pakistani forces, according to figures compiled by Alan Kronstadt, a South Asia specialist with the Congressional Research Service. Pakistan was allowed to purchase about 300 from a U.S. contractor, and the rest -- about 1,300 pairs of goggles valued at $6.4 million -- were provided without charge by the Defense and State departments, Kronstadt said. A small number were also provided to Pakistan by U.S. intelligence agencies, said U.S. officials and independent experts.

The Pentagon's monitoring is conducted under a special program -- EUM, or Enhanced End-Use Monitoring -- that allows U.S. officials in Pakistan to check all the serial numbers every three months.

To Pakistani soldiers, giving up the goggles meant that, for up to eight weeks each year, they had to fight blind against an adversary who quickly caught on to the troops' vulnerability and exploited it, said two Pakistani government officials familiar with the issue. The policy was also considered insulting.

"It says, 'We don't trust you,' " said Durrani, the Pakistani ambassador. "We need more night-vision equipment, but every three months you withdraw what we have. This is what happens when bureaucrats dictate policy."

A Pentagon official acknowledged the complaints and said the department plans to conduct less-frequent checks. "We are working closely with Pakistani authorities to ensure a proper balance of security and accountability requirements with their operational needs," said Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman.

But U.S.-Pakistan frictions extend to other parts of the U.S. aid program. No other country receives more assistance from Washington for military training, and since 2001, Pakistan has received more than $6 billion from the Coalition Support Fund, government documents show. That's 10 times as much as Poland, the No. 2 recipient, according to Pentagon documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington nonprofit group. The fund reimburses U.S. allies for costs incurred in fighting global terrorism.

The aid has not bought much goodwill: A poll in August conducted for the Washington-based nonprofit group Terror Free Tomorrow found that 19 percent of Pakistanis held a favorable view of the United States, down from 26 percent the previous year. Osama bin Laden had a far higher approval rating, at 46 percent, than either Musharraf (38 percent) or President Bush (9 percent).

Shuja Nawaz, a longtime Pakistani journalist in Washington who recently published a book on Pakistan's military, said the country's army leaders frequently complain about the type as well as amount of support they get from the United States.

"The United States asked Pakistan to move its troops into areas where they aren't supposed to be, and then it failed to provide them with what they need most: operational training and support for converting from conventional warfare to counterinsurgency," Nawaz said. "The United States was very efficient in giving out money quickly, but the concern is whether it was the right kind of help."

The large weapons systems Washington has funded have little relevance to terrorism and counterinsurgency, said Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani government official who is now a research fellow at Harvard University. "The money is mostly to make Musharraf happy and to engage the Pakistani army as an institution," he said. Meanwhile, civilian law enforcement agencies scramble for adequate training and weapons.

The U.S. government could do more to improve security by helping Pakistan address rampant poverty and shore up schools and health care -- attacking the root causes of militancy and terrorism, according to an August study of the U.S. aid program by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Less than a tenth of overall U.S. aid to Pakistan since 2001 has gone to support the country's economy and social infrastructure, including about $64 million for schools -- a sum smaller than the funding level for education in a typical small U.S. city, said the CSIS report, written by Craig Cohen and directed by Frederick Barton and Karin von Hippel.

"We just haven't put very much into securing hearts and minds," Barton said. "It is possible to generate goodwill. If the United States were the champion of teachers in Pakistan, we'd probably all be okay."

WaPo : Cease-Fire After 100 Die in Pakistan

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cease-Fire After 100 Die in Pakistan

October 29, 2007

SWAT, Pakistan, Oct 29, 2007 (AP Online via COMTEX) -- Hundreds of civilians used a cease-fire Monday between government forces and militant supporters of a pro-Taliban cleric to flee a scenic valley where violence has killed more than 100 people.

The conflict has turned the one-time tourist destination into a new front in Pakistan's battle against Islamic extremism.

Authorities sent some 2,500 extra police and troops into Swat district last week to take on supporters of Maulana Fazlullah, a militant preacher who has set up a virtual mini-state and sought to impose strict Islamic rule.

The toll from the resulting clashes about 90 miles northwest of the capital emerged only after the cease-fire took effect early Monday.

Security forces backed by helicopter gunships pounded militant hideouts in the mountains Sunday. More than 60 militants were killed, said Badshah Gul Wazir, home secretary of North West Frontier province, which includes Swat.

Wazir said a total of 20 security forces and civilians have been killed since Friday, but gave no breakdown. Eight other troops and four police officers were missing, he said. On Thursday, a suicide attack on a military truck killed 20 people.

Sirajuddin, a spokesman for Fazlullah, said the cleric's followers killed 30 troops near the village of Charbagh, and would hand over the bodies only after the army releases some prisoners. There was no official confirmation of his claim.

Arshad Majid, district coordination officer in Swat, said tribal elders and clerics were holding talks with Fazlullah's aides.

"The cease-fire was announced by militants after these talks, which are progressing well," Majid told The Associated Press. "We hope there will be peace here soon."

Ali Rahman, a local police official, said about 600 people fled the conflict zone Monday, many crammed into buses and others on foot. Some villagers waded across a river and others struggled across fields clutching bags of possessions.

Rahman said militants were using the break in the hostilities to bury slain comrades, but in Chargagh were still calling for holy war over loudspeakers mounted on mosques and vehicles.

Sirajuddin, the militant spokesman who uses only one name, said the cease-fire was holding. "But, if the security forces attack us, our people would also target them with weapons," he told AP Television News.

He said they would keep trying to enforce Islamic law.

The violence erupted with Thursday's suicide attack in Mingora, the main town in the district. Security forces then attacked Fazlullah's stronghold in the village of Imam Dehri, and the militants responded by kidnapping and killing several troops, police and civilians. Some of the beheaded corpses were displayed in public.

The fighting intensified Sunday. Mohammed Ijaj, a hospital official, said 11 injured civilians were treated. Local officials also said security forces and police had been taken to the hospital.

Fazlullah leads the banned pro-Taliban group Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammedi, or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Law. He has launched a Taliban-style campaign in the Swat region and has called for holy war against the government.

The growing instability in northwestern Pakistan, which borders Afghanistan, has shaken the authority of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S. war on terror.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan on Oct. 18 after eight years in exile, is in talks with Musharraf to form a political alliance to take on Islamic extremists. On Monday, Bhutto urged Musharraf to consult with the major parties before naming a caretaker government to govern until parliamentary elections due in January.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad in Islamabad, Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Ashraf Khan in Larkana contributed to this report.

Copyright (C) 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.