Archive for January 31st, 2007|Daily archive page

Busted – um – Warranted (Updated)

Speigel-Online (International version) is reporting that German prosecutors have issued warrants for 13 people in connection with the “rendition” of Khaled el-Masri at the end of 2003.

German prosecutors have issued 13 arrest warrants in connection with the alleged CIA abduction of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, Munich-based Bavarian senior state public prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld said in a statement Wednesday.

Schmidt-Sommerfeld said the warrants had been issued in the last few days. He refused to give more details, saying a statement would be made later Wednesday.

Munich prosecutors investigating the case have said in the past that they received the names of several United States intelligence agents believed to be involved in the abduction from Spanish investigators. However it is not clear whether they are the people named in the arrest warrants.

The LA Times is also running the story. Here the information get’s a little weirder. According to the Times the agents involved in the operation were under major pressure to get a break in a terrorism case…

Legal documents, credit card receipts and hotel records show that those allegedly involved in the Masri abduction stayed at a luxury resort on the Spanish island of Majorca before flying to Skopje, Macedonia, on Jan. 23, 2004. When checking into the hotel, some of the operatives gave aliases, such as Kirk James Bird and James Fairing. The covert team’s charges in Majorca included a food bill of $1,625 and an $81 charge for a massage.

Well, they were getting a break of some kind at least.

For those who haven’t been following the el-Masri case, I would recommend the recommend the online film “Outlawed” and the press release on Breakthrough.tv.

I’ve also written about this case a couple of times. Once commenting on the video and once talking about the most important factor of all – that CIA agents are finding mal – um – rendition insurance a little difficult to get. Almost like getting flood insurance in New Orleans.

Update
In other rendition news, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, the coolest Supreme Court watcher ever, has two stories in one. One is about the case of Maher Arar the other about Wesam al-Delaema.

Arar is a household name around the world. The Canadian software engineer was grabbed during a stopover at JFK Airport in 2002 and subjected to 10 months of “extraordinary rendition” in the care of our good friends in Syria. He was tortured until he falsely confessed, then sent home without explanation. A two-year inquiry by a prestigious Canadian commission determined that it had all been an awful mistake. The Bush administration refused to cooperate with that commission and still refuses to remove Arar from the American security watch list, claiming to have secret information that he’s still dangerous although the Canadian authorities dispute that.

Last Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered Arar a public apology and $8.9 million in compensation while the Bush administration has blocked his lawsuit, citing the executive branch’s “state secrets privilege.” The conclusions of the Canadians, admitting his arrest was a mistake, are disregarded. No concessions, no apology, no transparency, and no regard for our Canadian allies. Arar wins a permanent entry under A in the world’s Dictionary of Reasons To Hate Us.

But the case of Wesam al-Delaema is different. This is a bad guy. This is the kind of terrorist watchlists and prosecutors dream about. The only problem? You never hear about them. In it’s rush to never ever say anything substantial about the GWOT, the administration also manages to keep quiet when they actually do hit the jackpot. Lithwick’s article is well worth the read.

But, since el-Masri’s civil case was thrown out of US courts due to national security problems “state secrets privilege,” I find this step by the German prosecutors at least warranted.

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The Science Debate is Heating Up

The intertubes are on fire this morning about the report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) about the governments manipulation of global warming data in reports from at least seven different federal agencies.

This story was carried yesterday in the Washington Post and the New York Times and, with a minor delay, today in the Christian Science Monitor and even Spiegel Online (German). Today the blogging world will start talking. Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice got started and used the CSM article to highlight the issue; I’ll quote the Washington Post.

U.S. scientists were pressured to tailor their writings on global warming to fit the Bush administration’s skepticism, in some cases at the behest of a former oil-industry lobbyist, a congressional committee heard on Tuesday.

“Our investigations found high-quality science struggling to get out,” Francesca Grifo of the watchdog group Union of Concerned Scientists told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

A survey by the group found that 150 climate scientists personally experienced political interference in the past five years, for a total of at least 435 incidents.

To policy watchers interested in science, this is nothing new. Science and the Bush administration are about as friendly as Saddam and the Bush administration. (I just hope we won’t see any more hangings.) But the anti-science history is rather long.

There was the smackdown report from the UCS in 2004 (article, executive summary) about the administration’s anti-science meddling. That report got so much attention that the White House felt compelled to attempt an official rebuttal. The UCS responded with an update.

Then there was the brouhaha about George Deutsch, the twenty something NASA press hack, telling one of the worlds top climate researchers not to use global warming in press releases. This caused Michael D. Griffin, NASA chief administrator to issue a rather stern e-mail warning: “It is not the job of public-affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific material produced by NASA’s technical staff.” Of course Mr Deutsch only got fired resigned when it was discovered that he had lied about his degree from Texas A&M . (He dropped out to – um – help the Bush campaign. Imagine that?)

The list goes on and on. For those really interested in ‘science,’ one only has to read The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney. While I find the book slightly fairly slanted and would have probably called it The Politician’s and Lobbyist’s War on Science, it outlines most of the recent misdeeds.

But that’s not the end of the story.

While Michael Bachmann hasn’t gotten the memo yet and Senator James Inhofe would be spinning in his grave if someone would just get around to killing him, Bush has finally backed down from the alternate reality where there is no climate change.

He included the science surrender monkey statement in the SOTU address while talking about alternate energy sources, “These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.” Pushed during the NPR interview by Juan Williams, he went the final two yards and uttered the death blow to Republican polar bear haters…

MR. WILLIAMS: Now, also in the State of the Union, you talked about the – quote here – “the serious challenge of global climate change.” Were you talking about global warming there?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Absolutely, and it’s a serious challenge. And one of the things that I am proud of is this administration has done a lot on advancing new technologies that will enable us to do two things – strengthen our economy, and at the same time, be better stewards of the environment. In 2002, I talked about an energy efficiency standard, which says new technologies will enable us to grow our economy, and at the same time, improve the environment, and we’re meeting certain standards that I set for the country. [my emphasis]

…before drifting off into another scientific never-never land and babbling on about renewable nuclear power. Whatever.

So all better? The UCS is working with ‘old’ and ‘out-of-date’ data? Democrats are putting on the superhero tights – um – skirts to solve the problem? Not so fast BATMAN!

Just yesterday the New York Times also pointed out that Bush signed a new directive.

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats. [my emphasis]

Oh. I feel better.And of course the Washington Post talked about those conflict ridden Democrats.

Several [Democrats] with mixed feelings about drastic carbon regulations — including Rep. Rick Boucher, who represents a coal-heavy Virginia district and chairs the subcommittee on energy and air quality — discussed working with Republicans to defeat the new committee on the House floor.

The strict emissions cuts that Pelosi supports had no chance in the GOP Congress, but they still face an uphill climb. Carbon-reliant industries including coal, oil, agriculture and manufacturing will resist any strong legislation, a position that will pose serious dilemmas for Democrats in districts where those industries and their unions hold sway. Some representatives of low-income minority districts are also concerned that a climate bill would slap heavy energy costs on their constituents.

Even if Pelosi manages to finagle a bill through the House, there is the problem of the Senate, where global-warming skeptic James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) has lost his chairmanship to climate-conscious Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) but has threatened a filibuster. And President Bush seems unlikely to sign anything too far-reaching

So, where are we?

There was something about warming? Or was it heating? Oh yeah! Frying pans! We are soooo cooked!