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Pakistan Shuts Down U.S. 'Intelligence Fusion' Cells
Pakistan also tells the U.S. to cut back its troops in the country, in a move amid deepening mistrust after the U.S. raid to kill Osama bin Laden and a CIA contractor's shooting of two Pakistani men. Joints Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen heads to Pakistan for talks.
Reporting from Washington—
In a clear sign of Pakistan's deepening mistrust of the United States, Islamabad has told the Obama administration to reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country and has moved to close three military intelligence liaison centers, setting back American efforts to eliminate insurgent sanctuaries in largely lawless areas bordering Afghanistan, U.S. officials said.
The liaison centers, also known as intelligence fusion cells, in Quetta and Peshawar are the main conduits for the United States to share satellite imagery, target data and other intelligence with Pakistani ground forces conducting operations against militants, including Taliban fighters who slip into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and allied forces.
U.S. special operations units have relied on the three facilities, two in Peshawar and one in Quetta, to help coordinate operations on both sides of the border, senior U.S. officials said. The U.S. units are now being withdrawn from all three sites, the officials said, and the centers are being shut down.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the steps are permanent. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew Thursday to Pakistan for a hastily arranged meeting with Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the head of the Pakistani army. A Pentagon official said the two will probably discuss Pakistan's demands for a smaller U.S. military presence.
The closures, which have not been publicly announced, remove U.S. advisors from the front lines of the war against militant groups in Pakistan. U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeusspearheaded the effort to increase the U.S. presence in the border areas two years ago out of frustration with Pakistan's failure to control the militants.
The collapse of the effort will probably hinder the Obama administration's efforts to gradually push Pakistan toward conducting ground operations against insurgent strongholds in North Waziristan and elsewhere, U.S. officials said.
The Pakistani decision has not affected the CIA's ability to launch missiles from drone aircraft in northwest Pakistan. Those flights, which the CIA has never publicly acknowledged, receive assistance from Pakistan through intelligence channels separate from the fusion centers, current and former officials said.
The move to close the three facilities, plus a recent written demand by Pakistan to reduce the number of U.S. military personnel in the country from approximately 200, signals mounting anger in Pakistan over a series of incidents.
In January, Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, shot dead two men in Lahore who he said were attempting to rob him. He was arrested on charges of murder but was released and left the country in mid-March, prompting violent protests in several cities.
Soon after, Pakistan ordered several dozen U.S. special operations trainers to leave the country in what U.S. officials believe was retaliation for the Davis case, according to a senior U.S. military officer.
Then, on May 2, five U.S. helicopters secretly entered Pakistani airspace and a team of U.S. Navy SEALs killedOsama bin Laden and four others at a compound inAbbottabad, a military garrison city near the capital, Islamabad. The raid deeply embarrassed Pakistan's military and inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment across the country.
Javed Hussain, a retired Pakistani brigadier, blamed the decision to close the three intelligence centers on the mistrust that has plagued U.S.-Pakistani relations in recent months. Washington's decision to carry out the raid against Bin Laden without informing Pakistan's security establishment brought that mistrust to a new low, he said.
"There is lot of discontent within Pakistan's armed forces with regard to the fact they've done so much in the war on terror, and yet they are not trusted," Hussain said. "Particularly after the Abbottabad raid … the image of the armed forces in the eyes of the people has gone down. And they hold the U.S. responsible."
The two intelligence centers in Peshawar were set up in 2009, one with the Pakistani army's 11th Corps and the other with the paramilitary Frontier Corps, which are both headquartered in the city, capital of the troubled Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
The third fusion cell was opened last year at the Pakistani army's 12th Corps headquarters in Quetta, a city long used by Taliban fighters to mount attacks in Afghanistan's southern provinces. U.S. troops have staffed the Quetta facility only intermittently, U.S. officials said.
The closures have effectively stopped the U.S. training of the Frontier Corps, a force that American officials had hoped could help halt infiltration of Taliban and other militants into Afghanistan, a senior U.S. military officer said.
The Frontier Corps' facility in Peshawar, staffed by a handful of U.S. special operations personnel, was located at Bala Hissar, an old fort, according to a classified U.S. Embassy cable from 2009 that was recently made public by WikiLeaks.
The cable, which was first disclosed by Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, hinted at U.S. hopes that special operations teams would be allowed to join the paramilitary units and the Special Services Group, a Pakistani army commando unit, in operations against militants.
"We have created Intelligence Fusion cells with embedded U.S. Special Forces with both the SSG and Frontier Corps" at Bala Hissar, Peshawar, the 2009 cable says. "But we have not been given Pakistani military permission to accompany the Pakistani forces on deployments as yet. Through these embeds, we are assisting the Pakistanis [to] collect and coordinate existing intelligence assets."
Another U.S. Embassy cable said that a "U.S. Special Operations Command Force" was providing the Frontier Corps with "imagery, target packages and operational planning" in a campaign against Taliban insurgents in Lower Dir, an area of northwest Pakistan considered an insurgent stronghold.
In September 2009, then U.S. ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, wrote in another classified messagethat the fusion cells provided "enhanced capacity to share real-time intelligence with units engaged in counter-insurgency operations" and were "a significant step forward for the Pakistan military."
The intelligence fusion cell in Quetta was not nearly as active as the facilities in Peshawar, current and former U.S. officials said. Pakistan has long resisted pressure to intensify operations against Taliban militants in Quetta. The city, capital of Baluchistan, is outside the tribal area, which explains Pakistan's reluctance to permit a permanent U.S. military presence, a U.S. official said.
Despite the ongoing tensions, Pakistani authorities have agreed to allow a CIA team to inspect the compound where Bin Laden was killed, according to a U.S. official. The Pakistanis have signaled they will allow U.S. intelligence analysts to examine documents and other material that Pakistani authorities found at the site.
A U.S. official briefed on intelligence matters said the reams of documents and electronic data that the SEALs seized at the compound have sparked "dozens" of intelligence investigations and have produced new insights into schisms among Al Qaeda leaders.
Times staff writers Alex Rodriguez in Islamabad and Ken Dilanian in Washington contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON -- A Wisconsin judge struck down the state's controversial anti-collective bargaining law on Thursday, but Democratic state senators say that doesn't mean the measure won't still go into effect.
Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi that Republican legislators violated Wisconsin's open meeting law when passing the measure, which strips most public employees in the state of collective bargaining rights. A March 9 committee meeting on the measure, concluded Sumi, was "held on less than two hours notice in a location that was not open and accessible to citizens."
"Judge Sumi's ruling today speaks for itself, the Republicans' actions violated the law," said state Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) in a statement. "Today we see the price of the Republicans refusing to negotiate and putting their partisan political advantage ahead of the best interests of the people of Wisconsin."
Senate Republicans rushed to pass the anti-union bill on March 9, . Democrats had left the state to deny their Republican colleagues the quorum needed to pass budget-related measures. But in an unexpected move, Walker and the Republican lawmakers split their bill into two, allowing the non-budget collective bargaining measure to fly through with no Democrats in the room.
The state Supreme Court has to determine whether it will take the case. If it decides to do so, both Republicans and Democrats widely believe that based on the court's ideological make-up, the law will be upheld
"If [Republicans] can get a Supreme Court appeal, I know we'll lose on that," said state Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee).
But it may not even make it that far; Republicans may not be able to appeal to higher courts in this instance. That's because, as a Democratic state Senate aide explained, Republicans asserted legislative immunity so they would not be party to the case when it was initially considered. Democrats, instead, took up the defense, so as to allow a legal challenge to come forward.
So without a member of the defense interested in an appeal (the Democrats certainly won't petition for one), it's not entirely clear how the case moves forward.
"They have problems, as I understand it," said the aide.
This doesn't mean that the anti-collective bargaining provision is now dead in the water. Democrats widely expect Republicans in the state legislature to simply attempt to re-pass the measure as law, and this time, the Democratic state senators won't be leaving the state to slow down the process.
"There's nothing that we can do," said state Sen. Jim Holperin (D-Conover). "Republicans have the votes to do this, and if they choose to do it, they can and they will."
"We left the state to slow the bill down and to give the state a chance to be aware of what's in it," explained state Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville). "I guess by any standard we accomplished that. ... That need no longer exists; everyone knows about it."
The only way the outcome could change, Carpenter believes, is if some of the Republican senators facing recall elections change their minds.
"Are these Republicans who voted wrong and being recalled, are they going to change? Are they going to adopt amendments? ... There's a lot of screwy things in that bill," Carpenter said. "Again, they could go back and not eliminate collective bargaining and just go ahead with the concessions that the public employee unions wanted, without going ahead and throwing out the baby."
Kelly Steele, spokesman for the pro-union coalition We Are Wisconsin, said Republican senators now "have one last chance to abandon Walker's rapidly-sinking ship or be held to account in the upcoming elections."
Cullen predicted that Republicans will try to insert the collective bargaining measure into the bi-annual budget bill that is currently making its way through the legislature and expected to pass by July 1.
"The Republicans have already had this option available, since it was first taken to court, because it was stopped not by the substance of the bill but by the way it was passed," said Cullen of a possible do-over by his Senate GOP colleagues. "So they've always had the option to pass again. They haven't wanted to do it that way; they prefer to have won in the courts. But what's clear to me is they intend to have this be the law of Wisconsin by July 1. So the only clear option they could get done for sure is put it in the budget bill."
Walker's office did not return a request for comment.
By The Huffington Post News Editors
The single-payer concept was omitted from the federal health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama, in part due to Republican criticism it meant excessive government control. Progressives in Vermont, including Shumlin and ...
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Historically, Vermont does two things best: maple syrup and progressive politics. The nation's leading producer of the popular waffle-topping today became the nation's only provider of single-payer health care for all. Earlier this afternoon, Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed into law a plan meant to transform the private-run health insurance industry into a the nation's first government-funded, government-run health care system that offers a uniform benefit package to every eligible resident.
The first phase of the law will extend coverage to all 620,000 Vermonters through the option to participate in the state health benefits exchange called Green Mountain Care, which Reuters reports, "will set reimbursement rates for health care providers and streamline administration into a single, unified system." Per a federal mandate (read: Obamacare) the exchange will offer coverage from private insurers as well as state-sponsored and multi-state plans. The plan also calls for tax credits to make coverage affordable for low-income residents.
Howard Dean is flipping out right now. But probably in a good way. After all, the last time Vermont garnered national attention for health care was 2004 during his presidential bid. Dean had made some assertive moves towards a single-payer system by expanding public insurance eligibility with measures that would alter be adopted by Obama's health care reform legislation. But as Dr. David Gratzer indicates in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Dean's attempt to level the playing field for policy pricing had little effect on the number of uninsured in the state.
Even worse, accelerating health care costs for the state actually accelerated even faster. Perhaps as a result Shumlin placed cost containment at center stage in his new, methodical and very drawn out plan. With the deadline for the first financing plan to be delivered to legislators by 2013, Green Mountain Care would likely not make an appearance until 2014.
Based on Amy Goodman's read of today's ground-breaking legislation, the fact that Vermonters will have to wait a little longer is hardly the point. After listing Vermont's historic firsts--the first to ban slavery in their 1777 constitution, the first state to shutter a nuclear power plant in the name of environmental policy, the first state to legalize same sex unions--she points out that precedent shows how the Green Mountain State's bold move will reverberate throughout the country:
Vermont has become an incubator for innovative public policy. Canada's single payer healthcare system started as an experiment in one province, Saskatchewan. It was pushed through in the early 1960s by Saskatchewan's premier, Tommy Douglas, considered by many to be the greatest Canadian. It was so successful, it was rapidly adopted by all of Canada. (Douglas is the grandfather of actor Kiefer Sutherland.) Perhaps Vermont's healthcare law will start a similar, national transformation.
Goodman also tempers fears about the cost laid out by Gratzer in his op-ed. Under the advice of Harvard economist William Hsiao, a single payer system like the one signed into law today "will produce savings of 24.3% of total health expenditure between 2015 and 2024." Shumlin pointed to the fiscal underpinnings of the state's health care reform but said firmly that it meant more than that. "We have a moral imperative to fix this problem, with 47,000 Vermonters uninsured and another 150,000 underinsured and worried about how to afford keeping their families healthy," he said.
Want to add to this story? Comments (11) below or send the author of this post, Adam Clark Estes, an email. Have a hot tip or story idea? Let us know on the Open Wire.
New bill puts Vermont on road to single-payer health care, Zach Howard, Reuters
Vermont Gives the 'Public Option' a Clinical Trial, David Gratzer, Wall Street Journal
Single payer healthcare: Vermont's gentle revolution, Amy Goodman, The Guardian
New Leak Suspected at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant
May 26, 2011 by
--Nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled26 May 2011 The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant says radioactive water may now be leaking from a wastewater storage facility on site. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, told reporters Thursday that nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled. The latest leak was discovered amid efforts to transfer highly contaminated water from the number 2 and number 3 reactors to an improvised storage facility. TEPCO says the water level in the facility had dropped nearly two inches in just 20 hours, suggesting a leak.
In what may be yet another setback, the operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant says radioactive water may now be leaking from a wastewater storage facility on site.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO, told reporters Thursday that nearly 60 tons of radioactive water may have spilled out, raising further concerns about the utility's ability to handle the worst nuclear crises since Chernobyl.
The latest leak was discovered amid efforts to transfer highly contaminated water from the number 2 and number 3 reactors to an improvised storage facility. TEPCO says the water level in the facility had dropped nearly two inches in just 20 hours, suggesting a leak.
The utility has been pumping massive amounts of water in an effort to cool three of Fukushima's reactors, a process TEPCO has said would be completed in three months. Large leaks have already been reported in reactors 1 and 2, and news of this latest leak is yet another setback in the effort to stabilize the reactors.
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More than two months after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunami killed about 240,000 people and crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi, TEPCO is struggling to bring the plant under control. Earlier this week, the company said all 3 reactors had gone into a state of "meltdown" within 3 days of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the tsunami that followed, confirming what nuclear experts have suspected.
The melted fuel remains covered in water, and temperatures inside the containment vessel are below dangerous levels, officials said. But failure to disclose such information sooner, has outraged critics who say the utility and the Japanese government have responded too slowly.
At a press conference Thursday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano denied accusations of a "cover-up," but admitted the government needed to take seriously "the criticism that we haven't done enough to provide and circulate information."
Environmental group Greenpeace says the radioactive leaks are taking a toll on marine life. New data released by the group shows high levels of contamination in fish, shellfish, and seaweed samples taken 12 miles off the coast of the Fukushima plant.
Analysis by laboratories in France and Belgium found high levels of radioactive iodine and radioactive cesium in seafood, according to Greenpeace. Contamination levels were highest in seaweed samples, which contained radiation 50 times higher than official limits.
"Our data shows that significant amounts of contamination continue to spread over great distances from the Fukushima nuclear plant," said Greenpeace Radiation Expert Jan Van Putte. "Radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life."
The International Atomic Energy has launched its own investigation into the nuclear crises. A team of 20 IAEA experts arrived in Tokyo Monday on a fact-finding mission, where they plan to visit the Fukushima plant.
What we're watching: Thursday, May 26, 2011 Medicare politics...Joplin ...
SERBIA MAY HAVE CAUGHT MLADIC - Police in Serbia have arrested former Serbian military commander Ratko Mladic, the highest-ranking war crimes suspect still at large from the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Serbia's president announced Thursday. ..See all stories on this topic »
Ratko Mladic arrest: timeline of the war criminal hunt
1995: Launches operation to capture UN-protected enclave of Srebrenica, allegedly orders massacre of some 8000 Muslim boys and men in Europe's largest massacre of civilians since Second World War. Indicted by UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, ...See all stories on this topic »
Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general held responsible for the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995, was arrested on Thursday, signaling Serbia’s intention of finally escaping the isolation it brought on itself during the Balkan wars, the bloodiest in Europe since World War II.