Keith Is Back :Future Wars Seen As Longer, Deadlier, Plans For Internet Censorship, Cyber Attacks To Become Just Cause For War But War Is Not About Truth, Justice And The American Way
Lawrence Wilkerson on Collin Powell and the end of the empire
Lawrence Wilkerson Pt.2: I learned that war was about power, politics and commercial advantage
Lawrence Wilkerson, Collin Powell's former Chief of Staff, reflects on his life journey from "cold warrior" to harsh critic of US foreign policy
Wider Range Of Weapons, Foes Calls For Different Preparation, Official Says
The wars of the future will be longer, deadlier and waged against a more diverse variety of enemies than ever before, and U.S. armed forces must be ready, Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III said Wednesday.
Speaking to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Mr. Lynn identified what he called “three strategic trends” that are shaping “our future national security environment: lethality, duration and asymmetry.”
In a 21st-century world transformed by the information technology revolution, a greater range of adversaries - from criminal gangs to terror groups and rogue states - have access to the deadliest of weapons, Mr. Lynn said.
“For centuries, the most economically developed nations wielded the most lethal military power,” he said, but not anymore.
Terrorists and insurgents can strike civilian and military targets with improvised weapons and deadly effect, he said. “Rogue states seek nuclear weapons. [And] some criminal organizations even possess world-class cyber capabilities.”
The growing diversity of potential enemies able to strike with deadly effect at the United States or U.S. forces “means we cannot prepare exclusively for either a high-end conflict with a potential near-peer [nation-state] competitor or a lower-end conflict with a counterinsurgency focus,” he said.
Instead, the U.S. military “must be able to confront both high-end and low-end threats … we will need both fifth-generation [jet] fighters and counter-IED technology,” he said, referring to the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by militants in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition, traditional military thinking about wars, which saw them as intense but short conflicts like the first Gulf War, is outmoded.
“This construct does not fit our current reality. … Our deployments toIraq and Afghanistan have now lasted longer than the U.S. participation in World War I and World War II combined,” he said. “The stress this places on our force turns out to be far more challenging to manage” than traditional conflicts.
“We must plan to sustain long-term commitments for a range of plausible conflicts,” which means changing the way “we size, structure and utilize” the National Guard and reserves, he said.
“We need the ability to scale-up force structure for longer conflicts,” he said, meaning the military needs to be able to mobilize larger numbers of troops for longer periods of time.
The third trend Mr. Lynn identified is the growth of asymmetry in warfare.
No longer are battles fought between similar forces - “cavalry on cavalry, [or] armor on armor.” Today, he said, “the American military is dominant by almost every measure … adversaries can defeat us only if they sidestep our construct for the use of force” and “target our weaknesses and undercut our advantages.”
Thus, insurgent groups avoided direct combat with U.S. forces but sought to destroy expensive weapons systems and kill troops with roadside bombs that can be built for a few dollars.
“Traditional powers also seek asymmetric capabilities,” he said in an apparent reference to potential nation-state adversaries like China. He cited the quest for cyberwarfare capabilities as the best example.
In contrast to state-of-the-art conventional weapons systems, cutting-edge cybercapabilities are easy and cheap to acquire. “A small number of highly trained programmers, using off-the-shelf equipment, can develop toxic tools and deploy them to great effect,” Mr. Lynn said.
Moreover, cyber capabilities are spreading, he said. Other countries could be deterred from attacking, even with deniable cyberweapons, by U.S. military power.
“So even though nation-states are the most capable actors, they are the least likely to initiate a destructive [cyber]-attack,” he said. “Terrorist groups, however, have no such hesitation.”
“So in cyber, we have a window of opportunity to act before the most malicious actors acquire the most destructive technologies,” he said.
A candid interview with the host of 'Countdown'
Keith Olbermann hobbles into an expensive seafood restaurant in Manhattan on a recent afternoon with the assistance of a long, retractable cane. Maneuvering past startled diners, the former Countdown host mutters over his shoulder, "The joke is, it's apparently not as easy to leave NBC as it looks."
Wincing, Olbermann lowers himself into a round booth. He explains that he injured one of his feet exercising: a stress fracture, brought on by his use of special five-toed running shoes. Olbermann being Olbermann, he'd decided to use his lameness as a teachable moment—not for himself, of course, but for rude New Yorkers. He had taken to planting himself in front of subway passengers who fail to vacate seats meant for the disabled and just glowering. Recounting the tale, Olbermann's delight grows, as if he can't believe the luck of having been given permission to yell at people in public and not seem insane.
That said, by any number of conventional indicators, the past six months have not been stellar ones for Olbermann, whose cane might well have been a prop assigned by a scriptwriter fond of heavy-handed symbolism. In January, the anchor abruptly parted ways with MSNBC, the cable network he spent eight years rebranding as a progressive alternative to Fox News. The previous November, he'd been suspended for donating money to three Democratic candidates for Congress. Despite an official statement describing a joint parting of the ways, no one ever really buys a breakup's depiction as "mutual," and many speculated that Olbermann had been fired.
This article appears in the June 23, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue will be available on newsstands and in the digital archive on June 3.
Whatever happened—both sides signed a nondisclosure agreement as part of the severance—the fact that a major corporation allowed such a marquee name to walk away from a contract only fed long-standing rumors of Olbermann's difficulty as both an employee and boss. These rumors gained further credence with the recent release of an oral history of ESPN, another network Olbermann played a crucial role in giving a unique identity, through his hosting of SportsCenter. In the book, many of Olbermann's former colleagues describe him as brilliant but insufferable. Admits one anchor, "We felt not so much relief when Keith left as unrestrained fucking joy."
Olbermann has had to keep his foot elevated for several hours every day, and he's used part of the time to read the ESPN book. His review? "I wish them well with it," he says, "but it's a bad sign when someone who worked at the network falls asleep while reading the part about himself."
At the moment, he's mostly consumed with his return to cable television on June 20th, on Al Gore's Current TV. Once again, a struggling network is pinning its hopes at reinvention on Olbermann. Will the third time be yet another charm? If the title of Olbermann's new show,Countdown With Keith Olbermann, is any indication, it won't be a radical departure from his old show. So far, he's announced contributors ranging from the expected (Michael Moore, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi) to the surprising (comedian Richard Lewis, PBS documentarian Ken Burns). Still, Olbermann will have his work cut out for him at Current. The channel averages only 23,000 viewers in prime time, and he'll be programmed alongside reality shows like What Did I Do Last Night? ("A party girl is horrified by footage of her drunken antics from the night before... from table-dancing to flashing her breasts.")
Long-term, though, Olbermann has big plans for the place. His mandate is nothing less than to build an entire network around his show, one populated with righteous liberal voices like his own and perhaps, once contracts expire, former colleagues like Rachel Maddow—a network, in fact, that sounds remarkably like MSNBC. "They thought I was going to go away for so long that nobody would bring me back," Olbermann says, sounding surprised by the stupidity of his enemies.
Let's start with the new show. Are you going to be able to do things you've always been dying to do but couldn't?
I interviewed everybody who's going to work for the show. I selected the interns. I'm not saying I interviewed 350 people, but I got the finalists for every position. Everybody on this staff is equally invested in the risks involved. I don't know that there's going to be anything hugely different that's visible to the viewer. It's not going to be like, "I'm going to do the last half of the show topless." But the freedom from the wear and tear of having to get past a bunch of people mumbling, "Oh, I don't know..." It's the key to the operation, it really is.
To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here
Amid the allegations of rape and butchery – where is the supporting documentation?
It's pitiful, but scarcely surprising. After all the endless disclosures of Nato's lies concerning its onslaughts on the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990s, and the hundreds of postmortems and official inquiries into the propaganda blitz before the attack on Iraq in 2003, the Western press is more gullible regarding Libya, less inclined to question official claims than in those earlier failures.
The bar was already low, but now that those supposed lessons have been acknowledged and ignored, it has been lowered even further.
Who can argue with a straight face that UN Resolution 1973, passed on March 17, permits efforts to assassinate Gaddafi by bombs and missiles or escalations in the arsenal of regime change, such as the deployment of British Apache helicopters or the intense bombing of Tripoli on Tuesday?
A hundred years from now this UN/Nato intervention will be seen as a shameless imperial enterprise in the old style, with the increasingly ridiculous rationale of a mission "to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas", as hollow as the self-righteous British claims that the conquest of India was primarily about saving widows from suttee.
In the past few weeks we have had amply documented records of ferocious repression across the Middle East. There are body counts and vivid reports out of Syria. The violence that finally prompted President Saleh's flight from Yemen to Saudi Arabia was relayed in graphic reportage.
Admittedly, the US press has been less energetic in relaying the savageries being inflicted on erstwhile democracy-seekers in Bahrain, thus reflecting the desire of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton that the topic not be mentioned. Whereas 'Libya' appears at least 14 times in the three major declarations issued at the recent G8 summit in Deauville, and 'Syria' 12 times, 'Bahrain' appears not at all.
Contrast these detailed reports with the amazing vagueness of news stories coming out of Libya. Here, remember, we have a regime accused in Resolution 1973 of "widespread and systematic attacks... against the civilian population [that] may amount to crimes against humanity." We have a press corps and insurgents ready and eager to report anything discreditable to the Gaddafi regime.
Yet since mid-February the reporting out of Libya has had a striking lack of persuasive documentation of butcheries or abuses commensurate with the language lavished on the regime's presumptive conduct.
Though human rights groups have furnished some detailed accounts of specific repressions, time and again one reads vague phrases like "thousands reportedly killed by Gaddafi's mercenaries" or Gaddafi "massacring his own people," delivered without the slightest effort to furnish supporting evidence.
This is not said out of any singular respect for Gaddafi. But it was the second-hand allegation of fearsome massacres that drove both news coverage and UN activities - particularly in the early stage, when UN Resolution 1970 was adopted, calling for sanctions and the referral of Gaddafi's closest circle to the International Criminal Court, for an investigation, which Louis Moreno-Ocampo almost immediately agreed to do on March 3.
News reports in mid-March, such as those by McClatchy reporters Jonathan Landay, Warren Strobel and Shashank Bengali, contain no claims of anything approaching a "crime against humanity," the allegation in Resolution 1973. Yet by February 23 the propaganda blitz was in full spate, with Clinton denouncing Gaddafi and Reagan's "mad dog of the Middle East" phrase from 1986 exhumed as the preferred way of describing the Libyan leader.
The UN commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, started denouncing the Libyan government as early as February 18; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon joined Pillay on February 21. The UN News Center reported that Ban was "outraged at press reports that the Libyan authorities have been firing at demonstrators from war planes and helicopters" (my italics).
On this kind of basis, the Security Council's February 22 session, devoted to 'Peace and Security in Africa', became instead devoted to denouncing Libya. In these early days, no one who represented the Libyan government was permitted to address the council. Only defectors speaking on behalf of Libya were given the floor.
Now remember that on March 10, French President Sarkozy, a major player in Nato's coalition of the willing against Libya, declared the Libyan National Transition Council the only legitimate representative of the Libyan people.
So Gaddafi was facing a formal armed insurrection - not a protest movement demanding "democracy" - led by a shadowy entity based in Benghazi, one of whose more diligent enterprises appears to have been the establishment of a 'central bank'. Seven days later, Resolution 1973 made clear that attempts to suppress this insurrection would elicit armed intervention by Nato.
On June 6 the independent International Crisis Group issued a report 'Making Sense of Libya', which stated forthrightly that Nato was in the business of "regime change" and was strongly critical of Nato's refusal to respond to calls for ceasefire and negotiation, a stance which the International Crisis Group says is guaranteed to prolong the conflict, and the tribulations of all Libyans.
On the issue of Gaddafi's alleged war crimes, the ICG noted reports of mass rapes by government militias, but declared that at the same time, "much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime's security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no real security challenge.
"This version would appear to ignore evidence that the protest movement exhibited a violent aspect from very early on... There is also evidence that, as the regime claimed, the demonstrations were infiltrated by violent elements. Likewise, there are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging in anything remotely warranting use of the term 'genocide'."
In this context, since the International Criminal Court's record of subservience to Nato's requirements is one of near 100 per cent compliance, one can view with reasonable cynicism its timing in issuing accusations of mass rape against Gaddafi's militia immediately in the wake of this week's Nato bombing onslaught on Tripoli.
Nato says it has flown more than 3,000 missions, and it is clear that despite the Benghazi rebels' pretensions and effusive coverage in the Nato powers' homelands, the rebels have been unable to make any effective military showing.
In other words, the only serious challenge to Gaddafi is a pirate coalition of Nato forces operating without the slightest mandate in international law, currently engaged in bombing a major city - Tripoli - filled with civilians.
The indifference of the Western press, not to mention the liberal/left in the United States, to these obvious facts has emboldened the coalition to ever more brazen affronts to law, with bluff calls from British generals amid the embarrassing stalemate to cut the cackle and send in the troops.
America's clients in Bahrain and Riyadh can watch the undignified pantomime with a tranquil heart, welcoming this splendid demonstration that they have nothing to fear from Obama's fine speeches or Clinton's references to democratic aspirations, well aware that Nato's warplanes and helicopters are operating under the usual double standard - with the Western press furnishing all appropriate services.
Qaddafi Could Face War Crimes Charges For Rapes
Lez Get Real
The International Criminal Court's Chief Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he has received sufficient evidence of Colonel Qaddafi ordering these rapes to justify requesting a criminal warrant against Col. Qaddafi for war crimes include this charge. ...See all stories on this topic »
Continued support from Pakistan's military and intelligence agency for a major Islamic terrorist network is hamstringing the Obama administration’s efforts to withdraw U.S. troops from neighboring Afghanistan, according to Western officials and analysts.
Pakistani officials have resisted U.S. pressure to crack down on the so-called Haqqani Network, which shelters Taliban and al Qaeda militants who travel unimpeded between their safe havens in Pakistan and the battlefields in Afghanistan.
In what a Western diplomat described as a quid pro quo arrangement, the network, in return for safe passage across the border, refrains from attacking Pakistani interests and encourages the Taliban to fight in Afghanistan.
“The Haqqani Network has become a significant source of tension between Washington and Islamabad,” said the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, a report from Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned that the United States must overhaul its aid to Afghanistan to avert a possible economic collapse when U.S. troops leave in 2014.
“Afghanistan could suffer a severe economic depression when foreign troops leave in 2014 unless proper planning begins now,” the report said.
The Haqqani Network, led by the father-son duo Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani, operates in North Waziristan, which abutsAfghanistan. The group has headquarters in and around Miram Shah, the region’s capital.
“Ties between Pakistani military and intelligence and the Haqqanis remain strong in some cases, and that’s extremely problematic,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing the sensitive nature of the subject.
“We’ve asked the Pakistanis for assistance to pressure the Haqqanis, and they should frankly do more to thwart the actions of a group that stages attacks against U.S. forces on the other side of the border in Afghanistan,” the U.S. official added.
Proxy for Pakistanis
Jeffrey Dressler, a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of Warwho has investigated the Haqqani Network, said Pakistan’s security establishment views the group as its proxy to extend Pakistani influence inside Afghanistan.
The Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency also use the Haqqanis as a tool to check India’s influence in Afghanistanby attacking diplomatic missions and other interests of its regional archenemy, he added.
The Haqqanis are thought to have orchestrated many high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, including an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and suicide attacks on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008 and October 2009.
The network’s ability to persuade many Pakistani Taliban to fight in Afghanistan rather than attack the Pakistani state is significant, Mr. Dressler said.
Elements in Pakistan’s security services in the past have warned the Haqqanis of impending U.S. Predator drone strikes and even taken them into custody to protect them from those attacks.
Pakistan denies supporting the Haqqani Network. Pakistani officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Imtiaz Gul, who heads the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad, said Pakistan's military and the ISI are making “conscious efforts to redefine their relationship with the Haqqani Network” since the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2. The al Qaeda leader was killed in a Navy SEALs raid on his hide-out in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, about 60 miles from the capital, Islamabad.
“Pakistan itself has refrained from direct attacks on the network, but has never objected to raids on the Haqqani clan,” Mr. Gul said.
Western officials are counting on an improvement in the security situation to justify the start of a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan next month. President Obama is expected to announce the pace of that withdrawal in coming days.
Talking to the Taliban
The Obama administration has stepped up its efforts to contact the Taliban’s senior leadership, including the group’s one-eyed leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, in a bid to secure peace inAfghanistan.
In 2001, the United States toppled the Taliban, which once imposed brutal methods to ruleAfghanistan, because it continued to shelter bin Laden after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Paul Pillar, a CIA veteran who served as national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia, said the Haqqani Network is “one of the toughest problems there is with regard to reconciliation with anyone in Afghanistan.”
“It is hard to see how the Haqqanis would become part of any reconciliation process in Afghanistanunless they were strongly pushed by the Pakistanis and the nature of that relationship changed substantially,” he added.
“A major Pakistani role will be necessary if there is going to be any set of deals in Afghanistan that will not be upset by the Haqqanis.”
The U.S. has ratcheted up its efforts against the Haqqanis, with increased Predator drone strikes and financial sanctions.
“David Petraeus has made no secret of his campaign against the Haqqanis,” said the Western diplomat. Army Gen. Petraeus is the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Jalaluddin Haqqani gained notoriety as a fearsome commander of the mujahedeen that fought the Soviet army in Afghanistan in the 1980s. During that period, he received funds and weapons from U.S. and Pakistani intelligence services.
Charlie Wilson, the late Texas Democrat who helped send millions of dollars to the Afghan resistance while serving in Congress, once described Jalaluddin Haqqani as “goodness personified.”
Mr. Haqqani and Osama bin Laden forged a friendship during the fight against the Soviets. When U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan in October 2001, Mr. Haqqani allowed the al Qaeda leader to use his group’s safe havens in Pakistan.
The Haqqanis are ethnic Pashtuns and belong to the Zadran tribe in Paktia province in southeastern Afghanistan. The network is active across much of the region and seeks to regain control over its traditional bases in Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces.
A senior Afghan official, however, claimed the network has no support among Afghans.
“I don’t think Haqqani has any support among the Zadran in Paktia and Khost provinces,” saidGhulam Farooq Wardak, Afghanistan’s education minister and a member of the peace council charged with leading reconciliation efforts with the Taliban.
“If he has any support that could be from non-Afghan networks of terrorism,” he added.
Mr. Wardak is reluctant to include the Haqqanis in any reconciliation effort.
“Those who are getting resourced, equipped and trained by international terrorists, I don’t think they fall in the category of whom we should talk to and who should be reconciled,” he said.
Western officials and analysts think the Haqqani Network’s core, particularly Sirajuddin Haqqani and those around him, will be unwilling to make peace regardless of what Pakistan or Afghanistan do.
Sirajuddin grew up in North Waziristan in the company of foreign Islamic jihadists and is viewed as an ideological extremist who has ambitions that extend beyond southeastern Afghanistan.
Jalaluddin Haqqani has been relegated to the role of ideological figurehead.
The Western diplomat said it is unlikely there will ever be a concrete peace in Afghanistan.
“We won’t get a Dayton-style peace agreement in Afghanistan,” he said, referring to the peace accord that ended the war in Bosnia in 1995.
Federal Retirees Often Enjoy Generous Pensions, But Some Manage To Keep Getting Paid Even After They’re Dead And Buried.
Each year, investigators uncover dozens of cases of federal retirees or their spouses continuing to collect retirement checks after death, records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show>
Usually, relatives, friends or caretakers take the checks and cash them, hoping the government won’t notice. Many of the thieves face criminal charges once caught, but not all of them end up before a judge. And in some cases, years pass before the fraud comes to light.
But some suspects manage to avoid criminal prosecution because the statute of limitations runs out or because prosecutors simply decline to press charges.
In one recent example, the wife of a deceased U.S. Postal Serviceemployee entitled to collect retirement pay died in 1997, but the benefits continued for another nine years, resulting in more than $170,000 in overpayments. The woman, a resident of a nursing home in Texas, had a man handling her finances who had signed paperwork agreeing to “promptly notify the Office of Personnel Management” of her death. But that didn’t happen.
Instead, the case fell through the cracks. After the investigator for OPM’s Inspector General left the office, the case “had not been investigated further since February 2009 due to a lack of resources and higher priority agency cases,” a May 11 memo closing the case states. The statute of limitations, which gives officials five years to bring a case after learning about a possible fraud, eventually ran out.
In another case, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida declined to prosecute a man who collected more than $40,000 in retirement benefits paid to the spouse of a federal employee after her 2003 death, records show. The man, whose name was redacted in documents provided to The Washington Times, told an investigator he knew he was supposed to tell the government about beneficiary’s death, but he didn’t bother.
“Due to lack of … employment, he didn’t really care to make any notification because he needed the money,” investigators wrote in an internal memo summing up the case.
Under the federal retirement system, only federal employees or their spouses are eligible for payments, though in some special cases a child who is a minor or enrolled in college can be eligible. Family members and legal guardians are supposed to notify OPM when the retiree dies.
“The family members should not expect OPM to find out on its own (that a beneficiary has died),” said Michelle Schmitz, assistant OPM inspector general for investigations. “Fraud against the federal benefit programs has real consequences and financial costs not only for federal employees and annuitants who participate in the program, but for American taxpayers as well because it is the federal government that pays the price.”
Ms. Schmitz said the inspector general's office routinely gets referrals of suspected retirement fraud from OPM. She said OPM and the inspector general in recent years have been working together to catch fraud and improper payments at an earlier stage. She also said officials try to prevent the statute of limitations from affecting pending cases.
“There are many reasons why the statute of limitations may run out on a case,” she said. “One must remember that multiple agencies and offices are involved in these retirement fraud cases.”
She said OPM administers the retirement program and refers suspicious cases to the inspector general for investigation, then both agencies coordinate with the Treasury Department to stop fraudulent payments and recoup money. The Justice Department ultimately decides whether to file criminal charges.
“A backlog or unexpected problem in any of these offices can affect a case’s overall timeline,” she said.
Bill Zielinski, associate director for retirement services at OPM, said even if prosecutors turn down a case, officials can still pursue administrative action to recoup debts owed to the government, including having Treasury withhold future tax returns.
Mr. Zielinski said OPM conducts weekly and annual “death match” reports, comparing its files with those at the Social Security Administration to learn about any unreported deaths. He said reports from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011 resulted in more than $37 million in savings to the federal retirement fund.
“Anyone that learns of the death of an individual that receives an annuity or other payment from OPMshould report the death as soon as possible,” he said. “In our experience, the more timely that OPMreceives the report of death, the less likely that fraud will be committed,” he said.
Taxpayer watchdogs say the post-death payouts highlight a broader problem of improper payments by the federal government that involve Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, retirement and other programs costing taxpayers billions of dollars. A 2009 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), noted that federal agencies reported about $72 billion in improper payments during fiscal 2008, with Medicaid accounting for nearly $19 billion alone.
“We know improper payments are rampant,” said Leslie Paige, spokeswoman for the D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste. “Now that we’ve got this gigantic debt and unprecedented deficits, you would hope that this would be a big issue for people. We’re bleeding money.”
Dave Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said even in seemingly small dollar cases, it sends a bad message to taxpayers when a criminal case is dropped because the statute of limitations runs out.
“Whether a person is alive or dead is pretty clear cut,” he said. “It shouldn’t take five years.
From January 2009 through March 2011, the inspector general for OPM uncovered fraud in more than 160 cases involving retirement payments for federal workers or their spouses who were dead. More than one-fourth of those cases were declined for prosecution, according to records reviewed by The Times. In a few cases, the statute of limitations ran out, while in others a suspect died before the investigation ended.
But most of the suspects end up in court, where prison sentences are common. One of the bigger cases in recent years involved the son of two deceased federal employees who continued receiving federal retirements checks he was not supposed to get for eight years. By the time the government took notice and halted the payments, $427,754 had been paid out.
The name of the man who collected all that cash is redacted in the inspector general’s case documents provided to The Times, but his identity can be confirmed through federal court records, which are public.
Russell B. Miller, Jr. received one year and one day in prison when he appeared in Alexandria federal court after pleading guilty to theft. His defense lawyer noted that Miller had moved in with his ailing father to care for him and that he had told the Social Security Administration about his father’s death in 1998. But he didn’t say anything to OPM, and the money didn’t stop coming.
While Miller didn’t forge any paperwork to get the money, he didn’t take any action to stop the payments, either. His attorney said in court papers that Miller, “a smart, college-educated, hardworking man,” was “very remorseful” and intended to return the money.
Though ordered to pay restitution, prosecutors acknowledged in a sentencing memo the chances of the government getting its money back were slim.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Nathanson wrote in a court pleading that after over eight years of overpayments, “the funds are spent, and it highly unlikely taxpayers will ever see their losses recouped.
“In these times of federal fiscal austerity, frozen salaries and extraordinary federal deficits, the importance of protecting taxpayer funds has never been greater.”
Judges Weigh Limits of Health Law's Powers
New York Times
By KEVIN SACK ATLANTA — In perhaps the weightiest of the dozens of challenges to the Obama health care law, a panel of appellate judges grappled Wednesday with the essential quandary of the case: if the federal government can require Americans to buy...See all stories on this topic »
State Health Dept. To Cut Low-Cost Vaccines
Another option could be found at the Shalom Health Care Center where they offer a free vaccine program that receives federal money. Marc Hackett works at the center and said he planned on being busy. "We are going to have to add more to our order. ...See all stories on this topic »
White House Pushes Back Against McKinsey Health Care Report
ABC News (blog)
CBO also estimated that the new health care law would reduce the number of uninsured to 23 million by 2019, and the share of non-elderly Americans who are insured would rise to about 94 percent from 83 percent currently. About 24 million people would ...See all stories on this topic »
WikiLeaks Bulgaria: Josef Ackermann, CEO of Deutsche Bank and member of the Bilderberg steering committee, is named as one of the important figures with plans to censor the ... - More »
Interview with Swiss banker reveals Bilderberg 2011 plans for ... - http://bilderberg2011.com/
In March, formers Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain burst onto the presidential scene when he told ThinkProgress that he “will not” appoint Muslims in his administration.
Under intense pressure, Cain’s campaign walked back the candidate’s words, saying that he would appoint “any person for a position based on merit.” However, the next week, Cain hedged his retraction, telling the Orlando Sun Sentinel that he would only appoint a Muslim who disavowed Sharia law, but that “he’s unaware of any Muslim who’d be willing to make such a disavowal.”
On the Glenn Beck Show today, the host asked the Georgia Republican about his refusal to appoint Muslims. Cain told Beck that he would be willing to appoint a Muslim only “if they can prove to me that they’re putting the Constitution of the United States first.” Beck followed up by asking if he was calling for “some loyalty proof” for Muslims. Cain said, “Yes, to the Constitution of the United States of America.” When Beck then asked “Would you do that to a Catholic or would you do that to a Mormon?” Cain told the host, “Nope, I wouldn’t.”:
BECK: You said you would not appoint a Muslim to anybody in your administration.
CAIN: The exact language was when I was asked, “would you be comfortable with a Muslim in your cabinet?” And I said, “no, I would not be comfortable.” I didn’t say I wouldn’t appoint one because if they can prove to me that they’re putting the Constitution of the United States first then they would be a candidate just like everybody else. My entire career, I’ve hired good people, great people, regardless of their religious orientation.
BECK: So wait a minute.
CAIN: Because there is a greater dangerous part of the Muslim faith than there is in these other religions. I know that there are some Muslims who talk about, “but we are a peaceful religion.” And I’m sure that there are some peace-loving Muslims.
Cain’s call for a loyalty oath targeted at a specific segment of the population is a historical relic that ought to be confined to the past. Forcing a subset of Americans to prove their loyalty to the United States was as wrong during the era of McCarthyism as it is today.
Cain’s requirement that Muslim nominees take a loyalty oath while Catholics and Mormons would be exempted is not only bigoted, it’s also ironic considering that the same suspicion was once levied at Catholics. During the 1960 presidential election, anti-Catholic sentiment held that if then-Sen. John F. Kennedy were elected president, his Catholic faith would make him beholden to the Pope rather than the United States. Such views were abhorrent when directed at Catholics 50 years ago, and they are abhorrent when directed at Muslims today.
Three months ago, Think Progress wrote, “As the Republican presidential nomination process begins, one GOP candidate is making a name for himself as the Islamophobia candidate: Herman Cain.” Unfortunately, we are seeing just how true that prediction was.
LOWRY/OBAMA KILLS WAR POWERS ACT
Somewhere, Richard Nixon is smiling. In 1973, he vetoed the War Powers Act, insisting that it was unconstitutional. Congress overrode him, but almost every one of Nixon's successors has agreed with his assessment of the resolution.
It took President Barack Obama, though, to rip the War Powers Act into little pieces and sprinkle it over his Libyan intervention like a premature victory parade.
The thrust of the War Powers Act is clear enough: 60 days after reporting the start of a military intervention, the president must secure congressional authorization or a declaration of war, or remove our forces. Presidents have typically acted "consistent with," but not "pursuant to," the law's provisions - basically, humoring Congress while never conceding the law's constitutional legitimacy.
President Obama is dispensing with all pretenses. He's simply ignoring the law. This is the kind of highhandedness that Dick Cheney was always accused of, although the Bush administration was old-fashioned enough to get prior congressional approval of its wars.
Obama launched the Libya War on his say-so, and doesn't even want to bother to explain to Congress why the War Powers Act doesn't apply to a conflict begun some 80 days ago. On Libya, the Obama administration is making a gigantic rude gesture to Congress and all the liberal professors and national-security experts who have made such a fetish of the War Powers Act through the years.
Before tangling with Moammar Gadhafi, Obama counted himself among their number. As a senator, he maintained, "The president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."
President Obama joins a long list of presidents going back to Thomas Jefferson whose views of the limits of executive power didn't survive their first contact with the presidency.
President Obama isn't doing his reputation for consistency or the legal theories of his supporters any favors, but he is paying a backhanded compliment to the Constitution. The War Powers Act is an excrescence on the American constitutional order that deserves to be the dead letter that President Obama is making it. The president's inherent powers as commander in chief do not depend on affirmative acts of Congress.
What Congress can do is wield its own powers - most decisively, the appropriation of funds - to limit or end a military action. Of course, Congress usually refuses to do that, since it involves an action for which it could be held politically accountable. Predictably, the grand confrontation between the legislative and executive branches over Libya has been an instance of the cowardly fighting the disingenuous.
The Obama administration implausibly pretends that the president's posture hasn't changed on the War Powers Act. A spokesman argues that its briefings of members of Congress constitute compliance. But the resolution doesn't call for collegial chats after 60 days. The administration's other possible defenses - that Libya isn't really a war, that it's a piddling war, that we are "leading from behind" - don't help, either. The act doesn't make exceptions for small, euphemistic wars waged under NATO auspices by reluctant presidents.
If this were the Bush administration, Nancy Pelosi would be agitating for impeachment. Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman has written in despair that "Obama is breaking new ground, moving decisively beyond his predecessors." At this rate, he notes, "history will say that the War Powers Act was condemned to a quiet death by a president who had solemnly pledged, on the campaign trail, to put an end to indiscriminate war making."
History comes full circle. In the aftermath of Vietnam and the midst of Watergate, liberal Democrats passed the War Powers Act as part of a broad assault on presidential powers. The act reached the end of the line with a liberal Democrat in the White House, who wanted to avail himself of the full sweep of his powers. No doubt, Nixon wouldn't just relish the result, but appreciate the irony.
Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conservatives Must Choose: Ayn Rand or Jesus
Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 7:05 am
Section: EthicsDaily.com's Latest Articles--
Progressive people of faith and Democrats need to take some time studying Ayn Rand to fully understand the political significance of all the conservative leaders lining up to praise her.
The GOP has a huge problem if its conservative religious base finds out what Rand really believed and how influential she is within senior GOP circles.
Amy Sullivan published a piece inTime magazine highlighting this disconnect. There is a great piece in the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Jen Butler, executive director of Faith in Public Life (FPL), did a piece pointing out the problem U.S.Rep. Paul Ryan has trying to reconcile Catholic social teaching and Rand. Faithful America just put up a Rand vs. Bible website.
But perhaps the strongest statement put out was by conservative Christian icon Chuck Colson.
Colson is one of the lions of the Christian right and the founder of Prison Fellowship, which, all politics aside, is the best thing coming from the Christian right and a powerful ministry to a segment of society even progressives often ignore.
But Colson condemned the strong support of Rand in Republican and conservative circles and urged his followers not only to stay away from the new film of Rand's book, "Atlas Shrugged," but to "stay away from anyone who intends to watch the film."
Colson said Rand and her followers were precisely the types of "cranks" and "crypto-cultists" that his friend Bill Buckley had fought to purge from conservative ranks.
He said the "real problem with Rand is the world view her novels and other writings sought to inculcate in her readers … it's hard to imagine a world view more antithetical to Christianity."
So what is Colson talking about?
A week before his statement, American Values Network released a memo with a large number of Rand quotes where she says she is out to destroy the church and Judeo-Christian morality.
She argued that people had to choose between following her teachings or those of Christianity and other religious traditions. Rand said religion was "evil," called the message of John 3:16 "monstrous,"argued that the weak are beyond love and undeserving of it, that loving your neighbor was immoral and impossible, and that she was out to undermine the idea that charity was a moral duty and virtue.And that is just a sampling.
So what was the GOP response to this attack on Judeo-Christian and family values, not to mention on Christ himself?
"Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality o of capitalism, the morality of individualism… It's that kind of thinking, ttthat kind of writing that is sorely needed right now."
– U.S. Rep. Paul R Ryan (R-Wisc.)
"I am a fan of Ayn Rand, and I've read all her novels." – Sen. Rand Paul (R- Ky.)
"The brilliant writer and novelist, Ayn Rand." – Rush Limbaugh
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) said "Atlas Shrugged" is his "foundational book."
Despite Colson's warnings, Fox News spent weeks promoting Rand's new movie and encouraging viewers to go see it – advice most every member of the GOP leadership took to heart!
It's hard to reconcile leaders of "God's Own Party" praising someone who is about as anti-Christ as one can get.
Eric Sapp is executive director of The American Values Network. This column first appeared on his blog and is adapted with permission.
I have to admit that the recent revelation that the Pentagon, etal, is fashioning a policy position that would make a cyber attack on our government or “other national interest” grounds for conducting a war against the offenders or offending nation is loaded with ambiguity and not specifics. The consequences of incompetence, false flagging and trickle down application of any legislation in the arena are ABSOLUTLEY BONE CHILLING!
WASHINGTON—The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.
The Pentagon's first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country's military.
In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks," said a military official.
Recent attacks on the Pentagon's own systems—as well as the sabotaging of Iran's nuclear program via the Stuxnet computer worm—have given new urgency to U.S. efforts to develop a more formalized approach to cyber attacks. A key moment occurred in 2008, when at least one U.S. military computer system was penetrated. This weekend Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor, acknowledged that it had been the victim of an infiltration, while playing down its impact.
The report will also spark a debate over a range of sensitive issues the Pentagon left unaddressed, including whether the U.S. can ever be certain about an attack's origin, and how to define when computer sabotage is serious enough to constitute an act of war. These questions have already been a topic of dispute within the military.
One idea gaining momentum at the Pentagon is the notion of "equivalence." If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a "use of force" consideration, which could merit retaliation.
The War on Cyber Attacks
Attacks of varying severity have rattled nations in recent years.
June 2009: First version of Stuxnet virus starts spreading, eventually sabotaging Iran's nuclear program. Some experts suspect it was an Israeli attempt, possibly with American help.
November 2008: A computer virus believed to have originated in Russia succeeds in penetrating at least one classified U.S. military computer network.
August 2008: Online attack on websites of Georgian government agencies and financial institutions at start of brief war between Russia and Georgia.
May 2007: Attack on Estonian banking and government websites occurs that is similar to the later one in Georgia but has greater impact because Estonia is more dependent on online banking.
The Pentagon's document runs about 30 pages in its classified version and 12 pages in the unclassified one. It concludes that the Laws of Armed Conflict—derived from various treaties and customs that, over the years, have come to guide the conduct of war and proportionality of response—apply in cyberspace as in traditional warfare, according to three defense officials who have read the document. The document goes on to describe the Defense Department's dependence on information technology and why it must forge partnerships with other nations and private industry to protect infrastructure.
The strategy will also state the importance of synchronizing U.S. cyber-war doctrine with that of its allies, and will set out principles for new security policies. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization took an initial step last year when it decided that, in the event of a cyber attack on an ally, it would convene a group to "consult together" on the attacks, but they wouldn't be required to help each other respond. The group hasn't yet met to confer on a cyber incident.
Pentagon officials believe the most-sophisticated computer attacks require the resources of a government. For instance, the weapons used in a major technological assault, such as taking down a power grid, would likely have been developed with state support, Pentagon officials say.
The move to formalize the Pentagon's thinking was borne of the military's realization the U.S. has been slow to build up defenses against these kinds of attacks, even as civilian and military infrastructure has grown more dependent on the Internet. The military established a new command last year, headed by the director of the National Security Agency, to consolidate military network security and attack efforts.
The Pentagon itself was rattled by the 2008 attack, a breach significant enough that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs briefed then-President George W. Bush. At the time, Pentagon officials said they believed the attack originated in Russia, although didn't say whether they believed the attacks were connected to the government. Russia has denied involvement.
The Rules of Armed Conflict that guide traditional wars are derived from a series of international treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions, as well as practices that the U.S. and other nations consider customary international law. But cyber warfare isn't covered by existing treaties. So military officials say they want to seek a consensus among allies about how to proceed.
"Act of war" is a political phrase, not a legal term, said Charles Dunlap, a retired Air Force Major General and professor at Duke University law school. Gen. Dunlap argues cyber attacks that have a violent effect are the legal equivalent of armed attacks, or what the military calls a "use of force."
"A cyber attack is governed by basically the same rules as any other kind of attack if the effects of it are essentially the same," Gen. Dunlap said Monday. The U.S. would need to show that the cyber weapon used had an effect that was the equivalent of a conventional attack.
James Lewis, a computer-security specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who has advised the Obama administration, said Pentagon officials are currently figuring out what kind of cyber attack would constitute a use of force. Many military planners believe the trigger for retaliation should be the amount of damage—actual or attempted—caused by the attack.
For instance, if computer sabotage shut down as much commerce as would a naval blockade, it could be considered an act of war that justifies retaliation, Mr. Lewis said. Gauges would include "death, damage, destruction or a high level of disruption" he said.
Culpability, military planners argue in internal Pentagon debates, depends on the degree to which the attack, or the weapons themselves, can be linked to a foreign government. That's a tricky prospect at the best of times.
The brief 2008 war between Russia and Georgia included a cyber attack that disrupted the websites of Georgian government agencies and financial institutions. The damage wasn't permanent but did disrupt communication early in the war.
A subsequent NATO study said it was too hard to apply the laws of armed conflict to that cyber attack because both the perpetrator and impact were unclear. At the time, Georgia blamed its neighbor, Russia, which denied any involvement.
Much also remains unknown about one of the best-known cyber weapons, the Stuxnet computer virus that sabotaged some of Iran's nuclear centrifuges. While some experts suspect it was an Israeli attack, because of coding characteristics, possibly with American assistance, that hasn't been proven.
Iran was the location of only 60% of the infections, according to a study by the computer security firm Symantec. Other locations included Indonesia, India, Pakistan and the U.S.
Officials from Israel and the U.S. have declined to comment on the allegations.
Defense officials refuse to discuss potential cyber adversaries, although military and intelligence officials say they have identified previous attacks originating in Russia and China. A 2009 government-sponsored report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission said that China's People's Liberation Army has its own computer warriors, the equivalent of the American National Security Agency.
That's why military planners believe the best way to deter major attacks is to hold countries that build cyber weapons responsible for their use. A parallel, outside experts say, is the George W. Bush administration's policy of holding foreign governments accountable for harboring terrorist organizations, a policy that led to the U.S. military campaign to oust the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.
The War on Cyber Attacks
Attacks of varying severity have rattled nations in recent years.
June 2009: First version of Stuxnet virus starts spreading, eventually sabotaging Iran's nuclear program. Some experts suspect it was an Israeli attempt, possibly with American help.
November 2008: A computer virus believed to have originated in Russia succeeds in penetrating at least one classified U.S. military computer network.
August 2008: Online attack on websites of Georgian government agencies and financial institutions at start of brief war between Russia and Georgia.
May 2007: Attack on Estonian banking and government websites occurs that is similar to the later one in Georgia but has greater impact because Estonia is more dependent on online banking
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon, trying to create a formal strategy to deter cyberattacks on the United States, plans to issue a new strategy soon declaring that a computer attack from a foreign nation can be considered an act of war that may result in a military response.
Several administration officials, in comments over the past two years, have suggested publicly that any American president could consider a variety of responses — economic sanctions, retaliatory cyberattacks or a military strike — if critical American computer systems were ever attacked.
The new military strategy, which emerged from several years of debate modeled on the 1950s effort in Washington to come up with a plan for deterring nuclear attacks, makes explicit that a cyberattack could be considered equivalent to a more traditional act of war. The Pentagon is declaring that any computer attack that threatens widespread civilian casualties — for example, by cutting off power supplies or bringing down hospitals and emergency-responder networks — could be treated as an act of aggression.
In response to questions about the policy, first reported Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal, administration and military officials acknowledged that the new strategy was so deliberately ambiguous that it was not clear how much deterrent effect it might have. One administration official described it as “an element of a strategy,” and added, “It will only work if we have many more credible elements.”
The policy also says nothing about how the United States might respond to a cyberattack from a terrorist group or other nonstate actor. Nor does it establish a threshold for what level of cyberattack merits a military response, according to a military official.
In May 2009, four months after President Obama took office, the head of the United States Strategic Command, Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, told reporters that in the event of a cyberattack “the law of armed conflict will apply,” and warned that “I don’t think you take anything off the table” in considering a response. “Why would we constrain ourselves?” he asked, according to an article about his comments that appeared in Stars and Stripes.
During the cold war, deterrence worked because there was little doubt the Pentagon could quickly determine where an attack was coming from — and could counterattack a specific missile site or city. In the case of a cyberattack, the origin of the attack is almost always unclear, as it was in 2010 when a sophisticated attack was made on Google and its computer servers. Eventually Google concluded that the attack came from China. But American officials never publicly identified the country where it originated, much less whether it was state sanctioned or the action of a group of hackers.
“One of the questions we have to ask is, How do we know we’re at war?” one former Pentagon official said. “How do we know when it’s a hacker and when it’s the People’s Liberation Army?”
A participant in the debate over the administration’s broader cyberstrategy added, “Almost everything we learned about deterrence during the nuclear standoffs with the Soviets in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s doesn’t apply.”
White House officials, responding to the article that appeared in The Journal, argued that any consideration of using the military to respond to a cyberattack would constitute a “last resort,” after other efforts to deter an attack failed.
They pointed to a new international cyberstrategy, released by the White House two weeks ago, that called for international cooperation on halting potential attacks, improving computer security and, if necessary, neutralizing cyberattacks in the making. General Chilton and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James E. Cartwright, have long urged that the United States think broadly about other forms of deterrence, including threatening a country’s economic well-being, or its reputation.
The Pentagon strategy is coming out at a moment when billions of dollars are up for grabs among federal agencies working on cyber-related issues, including the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Each has been told by the White House to come up with approaches that fit the international cyberstrategy that the White House published in May.
Defining a Major Computer Attack
Naturally, a simple remote attack orchestrated by a single, independent hacker would not constitute a military response. However, a computer attack that could potentially result in widespread casualties would be treated as "acts of aggression."
These include attacks that serve to cut off power and supplies to US civilians and those targeted at hospitals and emergency-responder networks.
Other acts of aggression include cyber-attacks that result in one of the 4 D's -- death, damage, destruction, or a high level of disruption. (Source: wsj.com)
Cyber Attack Origin Often Unclear
The implementation of retaliatory efforts has become the basis for debate among administrators close to the situation. The problem rests in the fact that the origin of a cyber-attack is almost always unclear.
"One of the questions we have to ask is, How do we know we're at war?" posed one former Pentagon official who wished to remain anonymous. "How do we know when it's a hacker and when it's the People's Liberation Army?"
Such was the problem back in 2010, when a sophisticated attack compromised Google and its computer servers. Google concluded that the attack had originated in China, although American officials never did publicly identify its country of origin, let alone whether or not the attack was state sanctioned.
New Strategy Admittedly Ambiguous
Admittedly, administration and military officials have unanswered questions concerning retaliatory measures against foreign-led cyber-attacks, since the new strategy itself is overtly ambiguous. One administration official criticized the plan stating, "It will only work if we (The U.S.) have many more credible elements." (Source: nytimes.com)
While White House officials declined to comment extensively on the topic, more than a few contended that using the military in response to a cyber-attack would only constitute a "last resort," after all other efforts to deter an attack had failed.