Today's News, Views And Outstanding Issues
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is suing the National Labor Relations Board over a new rule that will require employers to display an 11" by 17" poster that tells workers about their rights to unionize.
Lawyers for the Chamber and for its local state affiliate filed their request for an injunction in U.S. District Court in South Carolina on Monday. The lawsuit is the latest example of the business-backed organization turning to the courts to try to turn back what the Chamber's president, Thomas Donohue, has called a "tsunami" of regulation from the Obama administration.
The lawsuit says the labor board does not have the authority under the National Labor Relations Act to require employers to display the notices. It also calls the notices "compelled speech" that employers have a right to be free from under the First Amendment.
Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the group's legal arm, said in a statement that the rule is "nothing more than labor regulation run amok." Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, which specializes in labor and employment law, is representing the Chamber and its South Carolina affiliate.
The labor board has heard similar criticisms since before it issued the final rule on Aug. 30. In explaining its position then, the board's majority said it had sufficient authority under its rulemaking powers, and it disagreed with the idea that the rule violates the First Amendment.
"The government, not the employer, will produce and supply posters informing employees of their legal rights," the board's explanation reads. "The government has sole responsibility for the content of those posters, and the poster explicitly states that it is an 'official Government Notice'; nothing in the poster is attributed to the employer. In fact, an employer has no obligation beyond putting up this government poster."
Asked for comment on Tuesday, NLRB spokeswoman Nancy Cleeland wrote in an e-mail that the board stands by its authority. She added that "the posting of this notice, which is available at no charge on the NLRB website, is simply intended to inform employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, just as other workplace posters inform employees of their rights under other laws."
David Ingram can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Afghan Intelligence Operations Take On Significant Role
Long War Journal
In late August, NDS officials called for the Afghan judiciary to establish a special court for war criminals and those involved in terrorist activity. Citing bureaucratic delays and other government inefficiencies, NDS officials claimed there is a ...
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On Sept. 10, just a few days before the daring terror assault against the US embassy complex and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul, the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced the arrest of a "foreign spy" in Kabul, according to Bakhtar News Agency.
The spy, named Mohammad Farooq, was described by the NDS spokesman as a "resident of a neighboring country" who worked as an engineer for Afghan Omeed Construction, as well as for the wireless communication companies Roshan, Afghan IT, Etesalat, and Areeba Mobile for the past nine years. Alarmingly, Farooq had provided the intelligence networks of "two neighboring countries" with information regarding the location of radar systems and mobile phone towers, by mapping them through GPS in the provinces of Kunar, Kandahar, and Uruzgan. Farooq had also identified the location of various aerial defense systems used by US forces in Bagram, Khost, Ghazni, and Kandahar by taking photographs of the precise locations and providing them to his handlers, the NDS said.
It is not believed that Farooq had any information regarding the Kabul siege that took place three days after his arrest. NDS did not expressly speculate whether Farooq worked with the Pakistani or Iranian intelligence services, although both organizations are routinely linked to subversive attacks against security forces and government representatives across Afghanistan. NDS did, however, identify Farooq's intelligence handlers as "Akramullah" and "Dana Maqbool," who were "two neighboring countries' intelligence officers."
This summer has marked the deadliest month for US forces in Afghanistan since 2001, with 66 troops killed. Nearly half of those troops died when their helicopter crashed in Wardak province after coming under enemy fire on Aug. 6. Punctuated by a series of high-level assassinations, complex assaults, and urban terror attacks, the Taliban summer offensive could have exceeded expectations if it were not for a series of little-reported intelligence coups facilitated and executed by the NDS.
Over the past two weeks, NDS operations have led to the arrest of two Taliban district shadow governors. On Sept. 7, NDS forces arrested Mullah Amruddin, the designated Taliban district governor for Baharak district in Badakhshan province, along with Qari Muhibullah, a bomb-making expert. According to NDS, the pair confessed to planning a suicide attack against the Najm-ul-Madaris mosque in the Baharak district. The young boy used in the failed attack was seized by security personnel and disarmed before he could detonate the explosives-laden vest on Sept. 2.
On Aug. 25, NDS officers arrested three militants allegedly involved in the planning of the deadly attack against the Italian Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) base in the western province of Herat. The attack, which occurred on May 30, killed seven civilians and wounded 50 more, including 10 Italian soldiers. The NDS operation seized Abdullah, the purported cell leader of the group, after he and two other militants traveled from Kandahar to Herat to stage further attacks.
Separate NDS operations around the same time nabbed the Taliban's shadow police chief for Khuja Ghar district along with three of his associates in Takhar province. "Afghan security forces in an operation captured Mullah Hussian, a native resident of Khuja Ghar and a shadowy police chief for the district, along with his three associates named Taj Mohammad, Mohammad Rasool and Mohammad Ishaq, who are residents of Khuja Ghar district, were involved in terrorist acts in outskirts of the district," NDS spokesman Luftullah Mashal told reporters on Aug. 22.
The NDS has also conducted a number of other successful operations this summer:
· A 19-year-old suicide bomber known as "Yaseen" was arrested along with his handler, Hizbullkah, by NDS officers during an operation in Kapisa province in mid-August.
· An NDS operation in Parwan province nabbed Mawlavi Noorullah and Hasibullah (both residents of Parwan) for their part in planning and executing the complex assault against the Parwan governor's compound on Aug. 14. Both commanders were also implicated in other suicide attacks that were conducted in Parwan province.
· NDS arrested six individuals who helped plan an attack against the Defense Ministry in Kabul.
· NDS operatives broke up a suicide attack cell in northern Takhar province, arresting two would-be bombers in the Namak Ab district. The pair were detained along with two suicide vests, a pistol, an AK-47 Kalashnikov, a Kalakov, four hand grenades and a Corolla car, according to the Provincial Police Chief, Brigadier General Khair Mohammad. Initial interrogations suggest the detainees intended to launch attacks on the governor's compound. (Source: Pajhwok Afghan News.)
· NDS arrested an insurgent in Takhar province who was linked to the poisoning and mass murder of an Afghan Border Police (ABP) unit. The insurgent, a relative of Mawalawi Emamuddin, the Taliban district governor for the Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province, poisoned 12 members of the ABP at a Kunduz security post with 500 grams of an unknown powder. Once groggy and incapacitated, the Taliban gunman executed each of the men in cold blood. It is unclear if the man arrested had facilitated the July 10, 2010 poison execution or the similar attack on August 25, 2010, both of which occurred in Kunduz. (Source: Afghan Paper-Dari.)
· Three insurgents linked to the Taliban were arrested in Kabul and Kunduz in separate operations but were part of the same terror cell tasked with assassinating the Kunduz governor and the Kunduz provincial security commander. According to NDS, the trio provided intelligence that helped thwart additional suicide attacks in the Dasht-e-Archi, Goortipah, and Imam Sahib districts of Kunduz province. (Source: Afghan Paper-Dari.)
The Pakistan connection
NDS has recently added to the body of evidence it has presented linking militants in Pakistan to attacks in Afghanistan by revealing a series of further details that connect militants in Peshawar and Mohmand with attacks inside Afghanistan. According to Badahkshan NDS chief Ali Ahmad Mubarez, the young boy intending to detonate himself at the Najm-ul-Madaris mosque in Badakhshan on Sept. 2 had confessed during preliminary interrogation that his training for the attack took place at the Haqqani Madrasa in Peshawar City. Of the four-man terror cell arrested on Aug. 22 that was plotting to attack the District 2 Police Headquarters in Kabul City, three were Afghans residing in Peshawar, according to the NDS.
In mid-August, NDS officers broke up a suicide bomb cell in Kapisa province and nabbed the 19-year-old would-be bomber, Yaseen, a resident of Deh Sabz of Kabul who had lived in Akorra Khatak of Peshawar before being sent on his mission by the Taliban.
Similarly, Atiqullah, the suicide bomber who detonated inside the Defense Ministry on April 18, had lived in Hayat Abaad, Peshawar and received his military training from the Haqqani Network in Pakistan's Mohmand tribal agency, according to his brother, Shaifqullah, a Taliban militant nabbed by the NDS in late June. Atiqullah came to Kabul to commit the suicide attack and stayed for a couple of days in the Ghazniwaal market area. Both Atiqullah and his brother Shaifqullah, who is still held in detention by the NDS, originally came from Paktia province (Sayed Karam district) and were aligned with the Haqqani Network. [For more details on the connection between Afghan insurgents and Pakistan, LWJ reports Haqqani Network directed Kabul hotel assault by phone from Pakistan and 'They come from ISI' - Afghan colonel on insurgent threat.]
Senior Afghan officials have also accused foreign governments of conducting an assassination campaign against political and security leaders. Jawedan, quoting Tolonews this past Sunday, reported that Borhanuddin Rabbani, the head of the peace council (Shuraya-e-Solh), said that the spate of recent terror attacks against senior Afghan officials had been planned by the "foreign intelligence organizations."
Several high-profile assassinations have rocked Afghanistan since the launch of the Taliban's summer offensive earlier this year. The victims include the President's half-brother and major powerbroker of southern Afghanistan, Ahmad Wali Karzai; the Provincial Police Chief for Kunduz; the Provincial Police Chief for Takhar; the Provincial Police Chief for Kandahar; the Mayor of Kandahar City; and the Afghan National Police General for RC-North, General Daud Daud.
It should also be noted, however, that the NDS has confirmed the arrests of numerous individuals in the past few weeks who were plotting to assassinate various officials including the Interior Minister, Besmillah Mohammadi; Balkh Governor Attah Mohammad Noor; and Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf, the former jihadi leader and current Member of Parliament.
This past weekend, Rabbani spoke to the media while visiting Kandahar province, in the wake of the resignation of two senior officials tasked with reconciliation efforts in Kandahar, where a string of bloody and bold assassinations has politically paralyzed the local administration. Rabbani said that killing people under the name of Taliban is "one of the tricks that foreign intelligence agencies have benefited from," and that such activities tarnish the religion of Islam. Rabbani stressed the seriousness of the situation, calling it "critical," and described the deaths in the Taliban assassination campaign against Afghan officials as a great loss for the country.
Amrullah Saleh, the former head of NDS, has voiced strong concerns about Pakistan. According to a report in Jawedan that quoted Tolonews, Saleh warned that for any progress against terrorism to be made, Pakistan must be pressed more by the international community. If that is not done, he said, the West cannot possibly win. Similarly, Dr. Abdullah, the Afghan Foreign Minister during Karzai's first term, has also criticized Pakistan, saying that the country is not an honest ally because of the different treatment it gives to the Afghan Taliban as opposed to the Pakistani Taliban. He observed that although the Pakistani army and its police are in a real fight with the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban are freely moving around in Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban even "receives support and help and they have no problem at all being in Pakistan."
NDS and the long road to transition
Although the NDS has had success in dismantling a number of dangerous militant networks this summer, insurgents have increased their targeted killing of Afghan NDS operatives across the country. Three NDS officers were killed when their vehicle struck an IED in Helmand on Sept. 10, and another NDS officer and three Afghan soldiers were killed on Sept. 7 in an IED attack in Logar province. On Aug. 20, one NDS officer was killed and four others wounded when a remote-controlled IED destroyed their vehicle in the Joy Haft area of Jalalabad City.
Top NDS leaders as well as senior Afghan government officials continue to view Pakistan as a leading source of internal stability. NDS operations in the last week of August nabbed 15 insurgents, including two Pakistani citizens tasked with carrying out terrorists attacks and trained by ISI, according to the NDS. The pair of Pakistanis was responsible for assisting in some of the deadliest attacks in Kabul this summer. "They have confessed during the investigations that they were attracted by a person named Hossain Ali, working at the level of a manager in ISI, and they were assigned to destroy Afghanistan's big establishments, including long bridges and power dams and government institutions," NDS spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told journalists at a press conference.
In late August, NDS officials called for the Afghan judiciary to establish a special court for war criminals and those involved in terrorist activity. Citing bureaucratic delays and other government inefficiencies, NDS officials claimed there is a major problem with both the premature release of insurgent suspects and the prevalent long delays in the trials of those suspects. Mashal said that criminal cases involving evidence provided by NDS should not be delayed. "If a special court is set up in this regard, the issue will be resolved and criminals will receive punishment quickly," he added.
The challenges facing the NDS come not only from the insurgents. International critics including the UN recently issued a confidential report to the Afghan government on the NDS, accusing the intelligence agency of facilitating grievous human rights violations including torture at its prison compounds. The prison under the greatest scrutiny is the counterterrorism prison department 124 (located in Kabul), run by NDS, along with other NDS prisons in Herat, Khost, Lagman, Kapisa, and Takhar. Two Afghan police-run prisons, in Kunduz and Tarin Kowt, are also under investigation. Because of the claims, NATO has since stopped sending detainees to some NDS prisons in Afghanistan. The Afghan Interior Minister blasted the UN report, saying, "We consider these unfounded excuses for not transferring the prisoners and prisons to the Afghans, and it will damage the process [of transition]."
Despite widespread concerns over the transition of security from NATO to the fledgling Afghan National Security Forces, including criticisms of the country's police and intelligence agencies, the NDS remains the most capable and effective security organization operating at the national level.
For additional coverage of recent NDS operations, see the following Threat Matrix reports:
· NDS smashes Haqqani Network plots in Kabul, July 31, 2011
· Elite Afghan force destroys insurgent explosives cache, Aug. 22, 2011
· NDS dismantles Kabul Attack Network cell, Aug. 28, 2011
· Haqqani Network directed Kabul hotel assault by phone from Pakistan, Sept. 3, 2011.
· Afghan NDS continues crackdown on counterfeit uniforms, Sept. 5, 2011
ISLAMISTS SEEKING TO ISOLATE ISRAEL
It is surprising how quickly Israel’s relations with Turkey have gone south. They had been slowly deteriorating since Prime Minister Erdogan’s Islamist party took over the government in 2003. But the Mavi Marmara incident last year, where Turkish radicals tried to run the Gaza blockade by sea and 9 activists were killed, has accelerated the decline dramatically. A UN report released last week blamed Israel for actions that were “excessive and unreasonable,” while also blaming Turkey and organizers of the blockade runners for the deaths. The report also called the blockade “legitimate,” while criticizing Ankara for not warning activists of the consequences of trying to run the blockade.
On the heels of the report’s release, Prime Minister Erdogan demanded that Israel apologize. Prime Minister Netanyahu, while offering his regrets at the loss of life, refused, saying that Israel would never apologize for defending itself.
This was not good enough for Erdogan, who expelled the Israeli ambassador and cut military ties with the Jewish state. And in an interview with Al Jazeera television, Erdogan stated that the Gaza flotilla raid was “a cause for war” and that future Gaza-bound aid ships would be accompanied by Turkish war ships. He has since walked back from that last statement, saying that Turkey would not deploy its ships as long as Israel did not intercept the aid vessels in international waters. But the threat is there, and a clash between the Israeli and Turkish navies is a possibility if Erdogan carries through on his threat.
Erdogan’s government has now completely turned away from the West and is facing toward Iran and the Middle East. Some observers believe Erdogan wishes to supplant President Ahmadinejad of Iran as the number one champion of the Palestinians in the region. To that end, Erdogan has embarked on a tour of Arab nations, including Egypt, where he arrived to cheering throngs who chanted “Egypt-Turkey: one fist” and “brave Erdogan welcome to your second home.” His goal is to isolate Israel even further by developing a strategic partnership with Egypt, Tunisia, and other Arab countries. Given his anti-Israeli stance, he has become very popular on the Arab street and especially in Egypt, where the Israeli embassy was overrun by a mob of protesters over the weekend, forcing a harrowing evacuation of embassy personnel, including the ambassador.
The attack on the embassy was the second in less than a month. The first incident occurred following a terrorist attack in Israel that killed seven civilians and two soldiers. The attackers infiltrated into Israel from the Egyptian side of the Sinai border crossing, and in hot pursuit of the terrorists - who were reportedly dressed in Egyptian police uniforms - three members of Egyptian security were accidentally killed by the IDF. The incident resulted in a crowd of several thousand besieging the Israeli embassy, with one man ascending to the roof of the building and tearing down the Israeli flag and replacing it with the Egyptian standard, while police and military members stood by and watched.
The second incident occurred on Friday, when thousands of Egyptians broke through the wall surrounding the embassy, trapping the ambassador and other personnel inside the building while the mob vandalized several rooms. Repeated calls to the Egyptian head of state, Field Marshal Tantawi, by US defense secretary Leon Panetta went for naught when the authorities claimed the field marshal couldn’t be found. Panetta wanted to urge the Egyptians to launch an immediate rescue operation, but Tantawi’s mysterious disappearance intensified speculation that Egypt’s generals had deliberately failed to protect the embassy for political gain.
Eventually, Egyptian commandos rescued the Israelis, but only after Panetta warned the Egyptian government of “serious consequences” if any Israelis were killed.
There are some analysts who believe that a general Middle East war is becoming more possible as a result of Israel’s growing isolation and her enemies becoming emboldened because of it. There is also the question of instability in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen that is throwing up leaders who are not only hostile to the Jewish state, but lead populations that wish to destroy her. Many of those leaders are going to be Islamists or beholden to the radicals for their election victories. This spells nothing but trouble for Israel.
This is going to put Israel on a hair trigger defense posture. It is not inconceivable that conflict could break out in any number of areas as new leadership in the Arab world is driven to war by populations that desire Israel’s destruction.
A dangerous couple of years are ahead for Israel and its Arab neighbors.
As the United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood approaches, Israel has been forced to face security and diplomatic crises that challenge the peace and stability of the entire Middle East, as well as undermine the carefully wrought network of alliances that has kept the Jewish state from becoming
diplomatically isolated for decades.
From with its once strong ally Turkey, to new dangers , to the growing and the sweeping across the Arab world, Israel is increasingly finding itself nearly alone, and along its borders, and the entire region.
It is surprising how quickly Israel’s relations with Turkey have gone south. They had been slowly deteriorating since Prime Minister Erdogan’s Islamist party took over the government in 2003. But the incident last year, where Turkish radicals tried to run the Gaza blockade by sea and 9 activists were killed, has accelerated the decline dramatically.
A released last week blamed Israel for actions that were “excessive and unreasonable,” while also blaming Turkey and organizers of the blockade runners for the deaths. The report the blockade “legitimate,” while criticizing Ankara for not warning activists of the consequences of trying to run the blockade.
On the heels of the report’s release, Prime Minister Erdogan demanded that Israel apologize. Prime Minister Netanyahu, while at the loss of life, refused, saying that Israel would never apologize for defending itself.
This was not good enough for Erdogan, who and cut military ties with the Jewish state. And in an interview with television, that the Gaza flotilla raid was “a cause for war” and that future Gaza-bound aid ships would be accompanied by Turkish war ships. He has since from that last statement, saying that Turkey would not deploy its ships as long as Israel did not intercept the aid vessels in international waters. But the threat is there, and a clash between the Israeli and Turkish navies is a possibility if Erdogan carries through on his threat.
Erdogan’s government has now completely turned away from the West and is facing toward Iran and the Middle East. Some observers believe Erdogan President Ahmadinejad of Iran as the number one champion of the Palestinians in the region. To that end, Erdogan has embarked on a , including Egypt, where he arrived to cheering throngs who chanted “Egypt-Turkey: one fist” and “brave Erdogan welcome to your second home.” His goal is to isolate Israel even further by developing a strategic partnership with Egypt, Tunisia, and other Arab countries. Given his anti-Israeli stance, he has become very popular on the Arab street and especially in Egypt, where the Israeli embassy was overrun by a mob of protesters over the weekend, forcing a harrowing evacuation of embassy personnel, including the ambassador.
The attack on the embassy was the second in less than a month. The first incident occurred following a in Israel that killed seven civilians and two soldiers. The attackers infiltrated into Israel from the Egyptian side of the Sinai border crossing, and in hot pursuit of the terrorists – who were reportedly dressed in Egyptian police uniforms – three members of Egyptian security were accidentally killed by the IDF.
The incident resulted in a crowd of several thousand besieging the Israeli embassy, with to the roof of the building and tearing down the Israeli flag and replacing it with the Egyptian standard, while police and military members stood by and watched.
The second incident when thousands of Egyptians broke through the wall surrounding the embassy, trapping the ambassador and other personnel inside the building while the mob vandalized several rooms. Repeated calls to the Egyptian head of state, Field Marshal Tantawi, by US defense secretary went for naught when the authorities claimed the field marshal couldn’t be found. Panetta wanted to urge the Egyptians to launch an immediate rescue operation, but Tantawi’s mysterious disappearance intensified speculation that Egypt’s generals had deliberately failed to protect the embassy for political gain.
Eventually, Egyptian commandos , but only after Panetta warned the Egyptian government of “serious consequences” if any Israelis were killed.
In fact, the military government may be trying to give the masses a scapegoat to take their minds off the of political reform. And even though the military finally acted to restore order, the ambassador and most embassy staff members were whisked to the airport and flown home in an Israeli military aircraft. Clashes with police and the army continued throughout the weekend, and the governmentit will revive the hated Mubarak-era emergency decree in order to tamp down the unrest.
But the political maneuvering of the military government is the least of Israel’s worries when it comes to Egypt. The embassy attack has made it clear that no Israeli diplomat is safe in Egypt, and that the government’s control of the country is slipping. With the Muslim Brotherhood poised to take de facto control following elections later this year, Israel must also deal with a deteriorating security situation in the Sinai, as well as the probability that, for all intents and purposes, the peace treaty with Egypt is inoperative.
Recognizing the threat, Israel has begun to reassess its security posture along the border with Egypt. They are building a fence to deal with smuggling and infiltration, but is reporting that Netanyahu is concerned that the Egyptian side of the Sinai is so lawless that it might “turn into a larger version of the Gaza Strip, full of weapons and launching pads aimed at Israeli territory.” If the Muslim Brotherhood takes control, one could almost be assured that such would be the case.
The current military government may find that it is to its advantage to scapegoat the Israelis, and perhaps, as some , even tolerate some riots and unrest to convince people that only the army can maintain order. But the bottom line is that if it cedes control of the country to the Islamists, the peace treaty with Israel will be honored in the breach. Given the temper of the Egyptian street, it is perilously unlikely that any popularly elected government will be able to maintain friendly relations with Israel and honor their commitments spelled out in the treaty.
Coupled with the break with Ankara, this has Israel The Israelis have approached Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, seeking partnership, and has also been in talks with Greece and some of the Balkan states trying to offset the loss of Turkey’s friendship. It is unclear how much help the Wahabbists in Saudi Arabia can be to the Jewish state, and Greece is a weak substitute for Turkey. But at the moment, it’s all Israel has on the table, and they have to play the hand that has been dealt them.
Perhaps the greatest challenge facing Israel is the likelihood that the instability in Syria, Libya, Egypt and other “Arab Spring” countries, means that tensions in the region have been ratcheted up and that it wouldn’t take much to spark a conflict that might engulf the entire Middle East. Another terrorist attack from Sinai, or a confrontation on the high seas with a Turkish warship, or an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, might light the fuse that could explode into a general war.
The problem is that Israel simply cannot afford to remain passive in the face of border infiltrations, threats from Egypt’s Islamists, and a dangerously emboldened Hamas, who would see provoking a war with Israel following its recognition as a nation as a means to forcing the international community to intervene on its side — perhaps even militarily.
Surrounded by unfriendly states ( has been cooling relations recently), only the United States remains as a friend. And not only is that friendship questionable considering that the Obama administration has done all it can to bully the Israelis into making peace with Hamas, but the influence of the United States itself is at low ebb in the region. And what little pull we have with Arab countries is bound to be undermined by our expected veto of the Palestinian resolution in the Security Council later this month.
Israel has faced threats to its existence before. It was born of war, surrounded, outnumbered , but survived and flourished through the sheer willpower of a people who refuse to be defeated. But nearly 35 years of patient, painstaking diplomacy has unraveled in a matter of months thanks to Israel’s Islamist enemies who continue to make strides toward dominating the region. The uncertainty now facing the Jewish state will have the Israelis – and the world – on edge for the foreseeable future.
US, (Pal Telegraph) - But first, a simple rule for killers: If you are going to murder someone in the United States, don’t try to get the job done in Texas. Keep your captive alive in the car till New Mexico, which recently banned the death penalty, or press on to California, which retains the death penalty but makes available very large sums of state money – potentially, hundreds of thousands of dollars — for a capable death penalty defense.
That’s enough to hire good investigators, lawyers and expert witnesses who can spend many years on the case — first the trial and then the penalty phase and then the appeals process, which can go on for decades. California currently has 648 prisoners on death row in San Quentin, and since 1976, it has managed to execute only 13, just enough to keep people on their toes.
An indigent person charged with murder in the state of Texas, however, can count on maybe $500 for a court-appointed attorney to pay for special expenses. Yet the cost of importing an expert witness, who will be charging transportation, hotel and a fat fee, easily can exceed $10,000.
Business is correspondingly brisk in the lethal injection chamber in Huntsville, Texas. There are currently 413 on death row, and at the time of writing, 475 have been executed since 1976, 235 of them during Rick Perry’s decade-long stint as governor.
It turned out Thursday we won’t have to adjust the numbers yet. On Sept. 15, the scheduled execution day for Duane Edward Buck, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of execution for Buck, (who on Sept. 12 had his clemency request turned down by the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,) while it reviews the case.
No one claims that Buck, 48, didn’t shoot to death his former girlfriend and her male companion and wound a third in Houston in 1995. He himself admits his crimes. At issue is what an expert witness told the court during the sentencing hearing, where the jury decides whether the convicted murderer should go to prison for a life term or get lodgings on death row.
To get Buck lined up for the lethal needle, his prosecutors needed to prove “future dangerousness.” How might Buck behave in the event he ever got out of prison?
Dr. Walter Quijano, a psychologist practicing in Conroe, a town just south of Huntsville (and no doubt filled with employees for the big prison in Huntsville, some of whom may well have resort to Quijano’s ministrations), had actually been called by the defense, who hoped that he would testify that Buck’s killing spree was an act of rage unlikely to be repeated.
Under cross-examination, however, the prosecutors asked Quijano: “The race factor, black, increases the future dangerousness for various complicated reasons; is that correct?”
“Yes,” Quijano answered, probably out of sheer force of habit, because usually he was the prosecution’s expert, and he had testified in similar fashion for the prosecution in six other cases, racially profiling the defendants into the Huntsville death house.
His “yes” was enough for the jury, which cut smartly through all uncertainty about Buck’s future decisions by saying he should die, thus rendering speculation unnecessary.
In 2000, then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn (now a Republican U.S. senator), recognizing the constitutional abuse for what it was, called for Buck and the other six to receive a retrial. Buck is the only condemned man who hasn’t gotten one. On Sept. 13, Linda Geffin, one of Buck’s prosecutors in 1995, joined the chorus of voices calling on Gov. Perry to stay his execution.
What mostly has people marveling is Quijano’s career stint in the 1990s as an “expert witness.” Buck’s was the only case for which he was called by the defense. Expert witnessing is a trade — often a very profitable one — in which by far the most desirable characteristic is predictability. A truly expert witness for the defense would have regarded it as his first duty to reassure the jury of Buck’s lamblike character, utterly inconsistent with possibly lethal recidivism.
Juries like a well-spoken expert witness, gravely deploying forensic data. The popularity of shows like “CSI” has enhanced the reputation of forensic “experts,” even though much forensic testimony, up to and including fingerprints, is disfigured by inherently faulty science, mishandled materials and unending mendacity.
CounterPunch’s view is that taken as a whole, forensic evidence as used by prosecutors is inherently untrustworthy. For example, for years many people went to prison on the basis of the claims of a North Carolina anthropologist, Louise Robbins. She helped send people to prison or to Death Row with her self-proclaimed power to identify criminals through shoe prints. As an excellent Chicago Tribune series a decade ago on forensic humbug recalled, on occasion she even said she could use the method to determine a person’s height, sex and race, just like Sherlock Holmes. Robbins died in 1987, her memory compromised by the conclusion of many Appeals Courts that her methodology was bosh. There have been similarly hollow claims for lip prints and ear prints, all of them invoked by their supporters as “100 per cent reliable” and believed by juries too easily impressed by passionate invocations to 100 per cent reliable scientific data.
Of course the apex forensic hero of prosecutors, long promoted as the bottom line in reliability–at least until the arrival of DNA matching–has been the fingerprint, whose career was once the subject of a fine, derisive piece here by your two editors.
Of course, it doesn’t help anyone on Death Row, headed for the injection chamber and amid last-ditch appeals, that we’re in campaign mode and right after Perry issued a fervent endorsement of the death penalty, earning him hearty cheers in the auditorium of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library when he stressed that imposing it has never lost him a moment’s sleep.
The most notorious example of presidential ambition trumping any humane considerations came on Jan. 24, 1992, when Bill Clinton — beset by the Gennifer Flowers sex scandal amid his vital primary race in New Hampshire — hastened back to Little Rock, Ark., to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a black man who had managed to botch a suicide bid after his murders and had no idea why they were strapping him down.
As they hunted for 45 minutes for a vein into which to shoot the sodium thiopental, Bill was having dinner with Mary Steenburgen. But that was Bill. Maybe Perry has been on his knees asking for guidance from the Lord or — the functioning modern equivalent — seeking reassurance from his pollsters.
Here’s an item we ran in February, 2004, in our CounterPunch newsletter, under the headline
“’The Gay Adulterer?’ Bush’s Successor as Defender of Straight Marriage in Texas In Eye of Storm”.
“At the very moment, late February, that President George W. Bush let the world be known that if he were governor of Texas, he would insist that the sacred vows of holy matrimony could be exchanged only by a man and a woman, that he would press for a constitutional amendment insisting on this, at that very moment Austin, the state capital of Texas, was convulsed with charges that the current Republican governor’s wife Anita Perry has been on the verge of suing her husband Rick Perry for divorce on the grounds of infidelity, said infidelity possibly being with someone of the same sex as Rick. On one account Anita Perry has engaged the services of Becky Beaver, ‘the most notorious ballbreaker divorce attorney in Austin.’
“On Tuesday, February 24, so we learn from our friend Michael King, city editor of the weekly Austin Chronicle, a small group of protesters (almost outnumbered by reporters and photographers) gathered at the Governor’s Mansion for what was disingenuously billed as a“support rally” under the theme, ‘It’s OK to Be Gay.’
“In a tolerant and forgiving world what Rick might or might not have done behind Anita’s back, would be for him and Anita and maybe the other party to discuss, but our world is neither tolerant nor forgiving and there may be a hypocrisy issue here.
“Last spring Perry endorsed and signed the Defense of Marriage Act,a statement by the Texas legislature that it believes gay and lesbian Texans deserve fewer rights than other citizens. The Texas GOP’s platform declares that ‘The party opposes the decriminalization of sodomy.’ Further diminishing the possibility of any ambiguity on this issue, the platform also declares that ‘The Party believes that the practice of sodomy tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.’ Perry approved the statement, and all candidates who run as Republicans in Texas have to sign it, or forfeit financial support by the party.”
Not long after Rick Perry became Governor of Texas, according to an Associated Press release on May 12, 2001 he signed the James Byrd Hate Crimes Act (HB 587) named for a black man in Jasper, Texas, who was dragged to death behind a pickup in 1998. James’ mother Stella, who died last year, was present for the signing.
In the bill-signing ceremony on May 11, 2001 Perry said:
“As the Governor of our diverse state, in all matters it is my desire to seek common ground for the common good. In the end, we are all Texans and we must be united as we walk together into the future. That’s why today I have signed House Bill 587 into law. Texas has always been a tough-on-crime state. With my signature today, Texas now has stronger criminal penalties against crime motivated by hate.”
President Obama signed a similar law, and the Texas statute signed by Perry does effectively establish a special “protected class” status including enhanced sentencing for crimes allegedly motivated by bias against it. I’ve always agreed with the libertarians that hate crimes laws are profoundly misguided. I agree with Steve Baldwin, a conservative author, who wrote in World Net Daily (WND) on August 14, 2011:
“Such a law gives harsher sentences to certain crimes based upon a person’s perceived bias to some class or group. But juries really can’t determine what’s in a person’s heart and, besides, all crime should be punished equally, regard[less] of the race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. of the victim. In other words, under hate-crimes law, if someone beats up a white person and then beats up a gay person, they receive a heavier sentence for the latter crime. This makes a travesty of the concept of equal application of the law and is likely unconstitutional.
“Indeed, the idea of hate crime requires that the prosecutors know the thoughts and motivation of a perpetrator, therefore effectively making such designated crimes into thought crimes. And among many conservative Republicans, that concept is at odds with the constitutional precept that all Americans are equal under the law.”
I should add that our 2004 story concluded thus: “Michael King spends much of his story prudently insisting that he couldn’t find a shred of evidence to substantiate the rumors about Perry.”
At last! The Fascist Threat
“Instead of the Sermon on the Mount, we are now confronted by well-funded conservative evangelicals promoting a sinister vision of America as a corporate autocracy, with Dominionists as Gauleiters of a totalitarian state religion.”
So Lawrence Swaim, Executive Director of the Interfaith Freedom Foundation wrote on this site last week. Swaim concluded with a familiar quote: “This recalls the prescient words of novelist Sinclair Lewis: ‘When fascism comes to America,’ he wrote in 1935, ‘it will come wrapped in the flag, and carrying a cross.’”
Not in my opinion. As a rule, the field of battle between secularism and our Christian ultras ends up stained with the blood of the latter, as Satan counter-attacks. Just glance at the the career of the original Know-Nothings or the history of prohibition. Indeed, looking across the American landscape, I’d say the Dark One has scant cause for lament amid quavering pieces about the Dominionist threat which so delight fundraisers for nonprofits touting the menace of Christian evangelism. Back in the god-sodden Fifties who could presage that a half century later tots could go online to view fornication in every guise and combination.
In my view fascism mostly crosses the threshold these days wrapped in Green clothing, with a thousand summary edicts, which people gloomily strain to read by the pallid glimmer of the new, mercury-filled light bulbs promoted by greens, the General Electric Corp., and signed into law by George Bush Jr. whose own timid effort to promote the fusion of church and state – allowing religious non-profits to run some government programs — didn’t fare too well.
The main purpose of invoking the fascist threat is to scare people into voting Democrat, as Frank Bardacke has often remarked to me. In 1964 it was the Goldwater threat, in 2011 – for now – the Perry threat. Obama will save us from fascism. Alas, fascism is currently wrapped in the decorous clothing of this self-same former constitutional professor.
Back on September 13, 2001, I wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed that “The lust for retaliation traditionally outstrips precision in identifying the actual assailant. The targets abroad will be all the usual suspects — the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, who started off as creatures of U.S. intelligence. The target at home will be the Bill of Rights.”
It was maybe an hour after the north tower of the World Trade Center collapsed that I heard the first of a thousand pundits that day saying that America might soon have to sacrifice “some of those freedoms we have taken for granted.” They said this with grave relish, as though the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution – was somehow responsible for the onslaught, and should join the rubble of the towers, carted off to New Jersey and exported to China for recycling into abutments for the Three Gorges Dam, with a special packet of “nano-thermite” (aka paint dust) reserved for Paul Craig Roberts to sprinkle on his porridge.
Of course it didn’t take 9/11 to give the Bill of Rights a battering. It is always under duress and erosion. Where there’s emergency, there’s opportunity for the enemies of freedom. The Patriot Act, passed in October 2001 (the bits that Bill Clinton’s DOJ forgot to put into the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act) and periodically renewed in most of its essentials in the Bush and Obama years, kicked new holes in at least six of our Bill of Rights protections.
The government can search and seize citizens’ papers and effects without probable cause, spy on their electronic communications, and has, amid ongoing court battles on the issue, eavesdropped on their conversations without a warrant.
Goodbye to the right to a speedy public trial with assistance of counsel. Welcome indefinite incarceration without charges, denial of the assistance of legal counsel and of the right to confront witnesses or even have a trial. Until beaten back by the courts, the Patriot Act gave a sound whack at the 1st Amendment, too, since the government could now prosecute librarians or keepers of any records if they told anyone the government had subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.
Let’s not forget that a suspect may be in no position to do any confronting or waiting for trial since American citizens deemed a threat to their country can be extrajudicially and summarily executed by order of the president, with the reasons for the order shielded from the light of day as “state secrets”. That takes us back to the bills of attainder the Framers expressly banned in Article One of the U.S. Constitution, about as far from the Bill of Rights as you can get.
There’s a difference between fascism and a efficiently functioning modern police state. America well into to the latter, instrumented by laws shoved through on a federal bipartisan basis and through state legislatures. Check out the DUI laws and penalties, state by state. A friend here in California was just telling me about a friend up on his second DUI, among whose penalties for his offense has been 45 days house arrest, with a camera installed to observe every move. No visitors allowed. He can go out for two hours a day to do his shopping. The supervising officer in semi-SWAT rig enters his house without knocking or permission at any time. Let’s not even talk about the treatment of sex offenders.
Praying for Rain
Progressives touting the Perry threat howl with merriment at the three-day prayer session pleading with the Almighty to send rain to Texas , which he’s so far failed to do, having his work cut out dispensing fire and brimstone. When I was at my Episcopalian school in Scotland we prayed for good weather a fair amount in our twice-daily sessions in chapel. (As I often say, a childish soul not inoculated with compulsory religion is open to any infection.) Our Book of Common Prayer included under “Prayers and Thanksgivings upon several occasions” prayers for Rain, (“Send we beseech thee, in this our necessity, such moderate rains and showers that we may received the fruits of the earth to our comfort”), for fair weather (“although we for our iniquities have worthily deserved a plague of rain and waters”), and in the time of dearth and famine for “cheapness and plenty”. Praying for seasonable weather is a lot less baneful in practical terms, infinitely cheaper and far less deleterious to landscape and natural life than lobbying the earthly powers – successfully alas – for wind power.
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This is one you really won’t want to miss. As we head into Campaign 2012 we’re launching a series on the real Obama record. This issue kicks off with Mike Whitney on Obama and the Economic Crisis; Andrew Cockburn on banks and home-owners, Andy Worthington on the Guantánamo betrayal. Subscribe now to be sure to have the real story of Obama’s presidency, chapter by chapter. ALSO in this issue, Paul Imison on the future of Mexico’s left.
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