Saturday, April 30, 2005


William Fisher

Recent polling data shows that most Americans think their press is the freest in the world – indeed, some believe it is too free. But according to a new report by Freedom House, a highly respected civil liberties advocacy group, the US is among countries that have experienced “notable setbacks” in press freedom.

"Freedom of the Press 2005: A Global Survey of Media Independence," revealed that the US ranked 17th among a group of 194 countries, behind Costa Rica.

The report said the US score declined due to “a number of legal cases in which prosecutors sought to compel journalists to reveal sources or turn over notes or other material they had gathered in the course of investigations.”

It declared, “Doubts concerning official influence over media content emerged with the disclosures that several political commentators received grants from federal agencies, and that the Bush administration had significantly increased the practice of distributing government-produced news segments.”

The survey was produced by asking journalists, researchers and legal experts to answer 50 questions covering a wide range of press freedom violations.

Of the 194 countries and territories examined, 75 (39 percent) were rated ‘Free’, 50 (26 percent) were rated ‘Partly Free’ and 69 (35 percent) were rated ‘Not Free’. The freest nations in 2004 were Finland, Iceland, and Sweden. At the very bottom of the list was North Korea, followed by Burma (Myanmar), Cuba, and Turkmenistan.

The second reason for the poorer showing by the US, the Freedom House report claims, is the government’s practice of paying journalists to espouse Administration positions without identifying their government sponsors.

In one case, the administration -- seeking to build support among black families for its education reform plans -- paid a prominent African American pundit, Armstrong Williams, 240,000 dollars to promote the ”No Child Left Behind” law on his nationally syndicated television show and through his newspaper column, and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

Other nationally known journalists have also admitted accepting thousands of dollars to endorse government programs.

In addition, the government has been producing Video News Releases (VNRs) – pre-packaged to look like independent news – and distributing them to local television stations across the US. The stations frequently fail to identify the government as the source, thus encouraging viewers to believe they are watching genuine news. More than 20 different federal agencies have used taxpayer funds to produce television news segments promoting Bush administration policies.

Pres. Bush has defended the government's sending such ”pre-packaged news stories” to local television stations and says he plans to continue the practice. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Congressional watchdog agency, has called them a form of “covert propaganda”.

”Paying journalists to write positive stories is part of a pattern of secrecy and manipulating the public that undermines our safety and our democracy”, Steven Aftergood, who runs the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, told IPS.

Rick Blum of, another pro-transparency advocacy group, told IPS, ”The public expects journalists are credible and independent, free of government money and conflicts of interest.”

Norman Solomon, a syndicated columnist on media and politics and founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy, said in an interview with IPS, ”The 'video news releases' put out by the US government are pernicious because the TV broadcasts often do not tell the viewers that the government is funding and controlling those supposed 'news' reports.”

And Martin Kaplan, head of the Lear Center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, told IPS. ”The consequence of their injecting fake news into the media mainstream may be even worse than poisoning public debate on specific issues. It corrodes the ability of real journalism to do its job.”

But, media critics say, there are many other factors at play in the diminution of press freedom in the US. A major threat, they say, is the Bush Administration’s excessive secrecy.

Bill Moyers, who recently retired as one of America’s most respected broadcast journalists and who was press secretary to President Lyndon B. Johnson when Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act, charges that President Bush) “has clamped a lid on public access.”

Since Bush entered office, there has been a more than 75 percent increase in the amount of government information classified as secret each year. There has been a corresponding explosion in the number of requests for information under Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

FOIA was signed into law by President Johnson in 1966 to increase public access to federal government records.

Dr. Charles N. Davis, Associate Professor and Executive Director of the Freedom of Information Center at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, told IPS, “Press freedom in the US is experiencing some dark days, as government at all levels seems content to turn its back on cherished freedoms in favor of administrative expediency, executive privilege and propaganda. Its embrace of secrecy to the point of caricature is but a symptom of the broader disease: this is a government with absolutely no respect for the role of the press in a democracy.”

Another critic, Dr. Jack N. Behrman, a former assistant secretary of commerce, told IPS, “The present Administration has cowed the American media to the point where many dare not oppose public policies or particularly those proposed. Our government avowedly promotes freedom abroad but has sought successfully to limit it in the US through secrecy and manipulation of the media."

Journalists complain that Administration secrecy has greatly increased the difficulty of accurately reporting the Bush White House. According to US News and World Report, the Administration has “quietly but efficiently dropped a shroud of secrecy across many critical operations of the federal government --cloaking its own affairs from scrutiny and removing from the public domain important information on health, safety, and environmental matters. The result has been a reversal of a decades-long trend of openness in government…”

White House spokespersons have said repeatedly that the administration policy toward the media is honest and transparent.

But there are many other factors at play in the erosion of press freedom – and the difficulties faced by journalists trying to report the facts -- in the US. For example:

Recent polls suggest the public has little confidence in the integrity of the media.

The growth of cable TV’s 24-hour news cycle has often blurred the line between news, commentary and entertainment. It has also become increasingly ideological.

Demographic changes have cut audiences for newspapers and ‘the nightly news’ broadcasts, and increased the use of cable and the Internet as primary sources for news.

Increasing concentration of media ownership is also playing a role in reducing news sources for Americans. There are only a few cities left in the US with more than one newspaper. And ‘local’ television stations often get their news from a centralized source far from the location of the viewer.

In the US, two journalists, Judith Miller of the New York Times, and Matthew Cooper of TIME Magazine, are facing prison sentences for refusing to reveal their sources in a high-profile case in which the name of a covert CIA agent was publicly revealed. Neither Miller nor Cooper ever wrote articles about the case – a Chicago Sun Times syndicated columnist, Robert Novak, named the agent in print. But the government is demanding that Miller and Cooper turn over any information they have. The journalists have lost their appeals in lower courts, and will now take their case to the Supreme Court.

A number of recent surveys suggest Americans take their first amendment freedoms for granted. For example, more than a third of US high school students think the First Amendment – which protects freedom of speech -- goes too far in the rights it guarantees, according to a survey carried out last year by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


By William Fisher

It’s truly comforting to know that, even in the grip of post-9/11 paranoia, the G-men of the FBI are still using their resources efficiently.

If you have any doubts, just ask Steve Kurtz. He is living proof that your tax dollars are hard at work.

A year ago this month, Steve’s wife, Hope, died of a heart attack in Buffalo, New York. Steve called 911. Police and emergency medical services responded.

What the police saw when they got to the Kurtz home, aside from Mrs. Kurtz’s body and a distraught husband, were vials, bacterial cultures, and an assortment of laboratory equipment, including a mobile DNA extracting machine used for testing food products for genetic contamination.

Kurtz, an art professor at the University of Buffalo, explained to the police that these were some of the materials for an art exhibit he and his wife had been preparing on genetic modification. The Kurtzes were founders of an avant garde group called “The Critical Art Ensemble”, a collective of "tactical media" protest and performance artists.

Kurtz told the cops his art has focused on the problems of the emergence of biotechnology, such as genetically modified food. He and the art ensemble have published several books including "Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media" and "Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas."

The police didn’t buy his story. They called the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Before long, a team arrived from Quantico, Virginia, in full HAZMAT gear, and began searching and testing. Erie County health officials declared the Kurtz home a potential health risk and sealed it for two days while a state lab examined the bacterial cultures found inside. They confiscated Mrs. Kurtz’s body, and Steve's computer, notebooks, art supplies and cat. They cordoned off the street, quarantined the Kurtz home, and took Steve to a hotel, where the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force questioned him for two days.

Meanwhile, the special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office gave interviews to the press.

Officials declined to disclose what was examined and what was found. But the New York State Commissioner of Public Health tested samples from the home and announced there was no public safety threat.

Steve was released and allowed to go home.

But your tax-dollars-at-work didn’t stop there. Federal authorities obviously thought there must be something illegal in the Kurtz home, because prosecutors subsequently convened a grand jury, with Kurtz as its target. But instead of charging him with bioterrorism, he was indicted for mail and wire fraud, charges normally used against those defrauding others of money or property, as in telemarketing schemes.

Also indicted was Robert Ferrell, head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health, who helped Kurtz obtain the $256 worth of harmless bacteria for one of his art projects.

Now, the FBI is once again seeking charges under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, as expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act - charges which a previous grand jury appeared to reject last summer when they handed down indictments for mail and wire fraud. There has been no decision from the grand jury as yet.

Kurtz’s lawyer has moved to have all charges dismissed, and no trial date has yet been set.

But, while Kurtz and Ferrell await trial – and try to raise money for their legal defense fund -- FBI agents have been using your tax dollars to talk with everyone ever connected with Kurtz -- museum curators in Massachusetts and the state of Washington, colleagues in New York and California, current students at Buffalo – maybe even the cat.

The Justice Department will not comment on the case. Supporters say the government is trying “to make their own initial overreaction to the confused call for help from the first responders seem anything but foolish overkill.”

Now, I’ve never seen any of the Kurtz art. I might hate it. But it’s a stretch to think I would end up being poisoned by it.

Feel better now?


William Fisher

A year ago next month, Hope Kurtz died of a heart attack in Buffalo, New York. Her husband, Steve, an art professor at the University of Buffalo, called 911. Police and emergency medical services responded. What has happened to Steve Kurtz since then may be symbolic of the paranoia that has gripped the United States since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

What the police saw when they got to the Kurtz home, aside from Mrs. Kurtz’s body and a distraught husband, were vials, bacterial cultures, and an assortment of laboratory equipment, including a mobile DNA extracting machine used for testing food products for genetic contamination.

Kurtz explained to the police that these were some of the materials for an art exhibit he and his wife had been preparing on genetic modification. The Kurtzes were founders of a group called “The Critical Art Ensemble”, a collective of "tactical media" protest and performance artists.

Kurtz told the cops he has focused on the problems of the emergence of
biotechnology, such as genetically modified food. He and the art ensemble have published several books including "Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media" and "Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas."

The police didn’t buy his story. They called the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Before long, a team arrived from Quantico, Virginia, in full HAZMAT gear, and began searching and testing. Erie County health officials declared the Kurtz home a potential health risk and sealed it for two days while a state lab examined the bacterial cultures found inside. They confiscated Mrs. Kurtz’s body, and Steve's computer, notebooks, art supplies and cat. They cordoned off the street, quarantined the Kurtz home, and took Steve Kurtz to a hotel, where the FBI questioned him for two days. Meanwhile, the special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office gave interviews to the press.

Officials declined to disclose what was examined and what was found, but eventually made it known that there was no danger to public health, and Kurtz was allowed to move back to his home.

But federal authorities obviously thought something in the Kurtz home was
Illegal, because prosecutors subsequently convened a grand jury, with Kurtz as its target. But instead of charging him with bioterrorism, he was indicted for mail and wire fraud, charges normally used against those defrauding others of money or property, as in telemarketing schemes.

Also indicted was Robert Ferrell, head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health. The charges concern technicalities of how Ferrell helped Kurtz obtain $256 worth of harmless bacteria for one of Kurtz's art projects.

Kurtz’s supporters – most of whom refused to testify to the Grand Jury -- believe the attempt to cast the $256 technicality as a public health and safety issue is a face-saving measure by the government, which has already spent a considerable amount of time and money in their pursuit of this case.

No trial date has yet been set, and Kurtz’s lawyer has moved to have all charges dismissed. Meanwhile, FBI agents have been talking with people connected with Kurtz. They have reportedly interviewed museum curators in Massachusetts and the state of Washington, colleagues in New York and California, and current students at Buffalo.

The Justice Department will not comment on the case. Supporters say the government is inflating the case “to make their own initial overreaction to the confused call for help from the first responders seem anything but foolish overkill.”

If that’s true, it would not be the first time it’s happened since 9/11.

David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an internationally recognized legal authority on civil liberties, told IPS, “Not one person of the more than 5,000 locked up as a foreign national in preventive detention by John Ashcroft was ever convicted of a terrorist crime. The only convictions have been of U.S. citizens. (Former Attorney General) John Ashcroft labeled them as suspected terrorists, but it turned out they had nothing to do with terrorism whatsoever.“

Cole recalls that on September 2, 2004, “a federal judge in Detroit threw out the only jury conviction the Justice Department has obtained on a terrorism charge since 9/11.”

In October 2001, he adds, “shortly after the men were initially arrested, Ashcroft heralded the case in a national press conference as evidence of the success of his anti-terror campaign. The indictment alleged that the defendants were associated with Al Qaeda and planning terrorist attacks”.

But Ashcroft, he recalls, “held no news conference in September when the case was dismissed, nor did he offer any apologies to the defendants who had spent nearly three years in jail.”

The Detroit case was dismissed at the request of the DOJ because the prosecution failed to disclose to the defense evidence that other government experts did not consider the sketches and videotape to be terrorist casing materials at all and that the government's key witness had admitted to lying.

“When the Attorney General was locking these men up in the immediate wake of the (9/11) attacks”, Cole says, “he held almost daily press conferences to announce how many ‘suspected terrorists’ had been detained. No press conference has been forthcoming to announce that exactly none of them have turned out to be actual terrorists.”

The DOJ has brought several other high-profile prosecutions. Among them is the case of “The Lackawanna Six”. Arrested in the Yemeni community of this old steel town in upstate New York, the six young men were charged under the federal anti-terrorism statute with providing material support to al-Quaida, which, prior to September 11, 2001, had been designated by the Secretary of State as a “foreign terrorist organization.”

Specifically, the men were charged with providing “material support” in the form of training. The training consisted of paying for a uniform, attending the training camp where they learned to use weapons, and standing guard duty. The charges against them also specified viewing videotapes of the bombing of the USS Cole and speeches by Osama Bin-Laden.

None of the defendants engaged in acts that were, at the time, obviously criminal in nature. It was not until several months after their return from Afghanistan that planes crashed into the World Trade Center. The six young men agree to plead guilty to providing "material support" to al Qaeda. Prosecutors said the defendants belonged to a terrorist "sleeper cell." The defendants claim they pled guilty because the FBI threatened to send them to Guantanamo Bay.

Take the Red Pill

By Jason Miller

Why are we here? An eternal philosophical question that has no simple or universal answer, and can be asked collectively or individually. Perhaps equally important, yet more individual in nature is the mystery of who we are. Many people spend virtually entire lives with few answers to either fundamental human question, either collectively or individually. Why don't they pursue a deeper understanding of the foundations of their humanity? Why do they shun or avoid a path that would lead to deeper spiritual and intellectual fulfillment, and at the same time enhance our world? Are they apathetic and lazy? Is there a fundamental lack of desire for self actualization and individual freedom in these people? Once could make that argument, but I doubt it. Just as the Matrix offered a pleasant fiction to humans in exchange for their subordination to the machine world, American society offers such an "opiate to the masses" in a variety of forms through a variety of channels.

From a young age, American society bludgeons the individuality out of us. The natural human instinct to self actualize through finding a deep-seated sense of self and sense of purpose is shunted by Madison Avenue, think tanks, political propaganda, government-manipulated mainstream media, churches that manipulate through fear, and a patriarchal system that continues to ensure the dominance of white males.

Corporations like Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and Microsoft have staked their claim on the economic landscape, and continue to steamroll the competition in their insatiable quest to expand. They have created a sterile, mundane uniformity in how people shop, eat and use their computers. A person can save $20.00 per week by shopping at Wal-Mart, buying goods imported from China and stocked by Wal-Mart employees making sub-standard wages, and receiving sub-standard benefits. Meanwhile the locally owned vendors go under, further guaranteeing Wal-Mart's dominance in the marketplace, and further enhancing the role of the big yellow smiley face as a cultural icon. As the economy slips into a depression, the overwhelming monotony of shopping, the only store in town, becomes nauseating. Where do 99% of children under the age of ten want to go when it is time to go out to eat? The allure of toys and play places has kept McDonald's thriving in spite of the fact that their food is unhealthy and its taste is marginal. With 90% of the desk-top operating system locked up, Microsoft does not have much competition. Most Americans would not have an inkling how to change operating systems, or even if there was a better system than Windows Realistically, what choice do they have? How can one seek individuality, freedom, and a sense of purpose in a sterile landscape dominated by monopolistic corporations which often reap outrageous profits as they bulldoze small, entrepreneurial competitors who could offer choice, innovation, and healthy competition?

From the age we learn to speak, our gender roles are assigned to us with a rigid delineation. Boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls. Boys are taught not to cry. Girls learn to act fragile and sweet. America inculcates boys with its twisted compulsion to compete. Losing is cause for shame, and winning is the only thing that matters. The drive to be "number one" is the only goal worth pursuing. Many boys are seduced by the alluring myth that they are valued solely based upon their performance, and when they perform well, they feel high as a kite. Unfortunately, when they do not "perform well", whether it be in school, at work, in the bedroom, or on the football field, their feelings plunge to extreme lows as their sense of worth dissipates. Girls learn that they derive their self worth from their beauty and ability to attract men. America's obsession with the "ideal woman", created with silicone, personal trainers, tanning salons, and air brushes has driven many females to engage in the horrors of eating disorders. How can one know one's true self or one's true purpose on this earth when one is compulsively striving to "be number one" or to be the next Pamela Anderson?

Madison Avenue bears much of the responsibility for manufacturing the alluring lies that Americans swallow so readily. The illusions and pleasant fictions that they project to us through television, magazines, the Internet, and on radio border on the obscene in their disconnect from truth and reality. These propagandistic wizards use intricate forms of manipulation to entice us to buy what we do not need, use products that are unsafe or of low quality, and to our greatest detriment, to waste our precious drive and energy attempting to be someone we are not. Sprite's slogan is to "obey your thirst". If I were to truly obey my thirst, which is a physical drive to maintain the water volume that comprises much of my physical self, I would drink of water, not Sprite. Wearing the "right cologne" or driving the "right car" are not going to get me the "right girl", or at least not one with whom I will enjoy a fulfilling relationship. Drinking Coors at an NFL game is not going to morph me into Kid Rock and surround me with scantily clad women. Madison Avenue projects a steady stream of garbage into the minds of the willing. Unfortunately, most people engage in the mediums used by advertisers to hock their wares, and are readily seduced by the images, sounds, and enticing lies evoked by commercials and ads.

Government plays their role in the oppression of the individual's quest for self and purpose. One need look no further than the Bush administration to find numerous examples. They have sold 150,000 military personnel a bill of goods in convincing them that they are performing a patriotic act by going to war in Iraq, and are continuing to recruit new "patriots" each day with false claims that the war was, and is, justified. The Bush administration brands those who do not support their imperialist endeavors as "unpatriotic" despite mounting evidence that they lied to the American people to garner their initial support of the invasion. From a very early age, we are taught to "pledge allegiance to the flag, one nation, under God". What young elementary school child has the cognitive development to truly understand the meaning of those words as they put their hand over their heart and swear a loyalty oath to the symbol of a concept as abstract as that of a nation? Our psyche is pummeled with the message that a significant portion of our self worth rests on our willingness to support our nation, and even die for it, if necessary, by going to war. But what if our nation's decision- makers are corrupt, and the real cause they are asking us to die for is to enhance corporate and elitist financial interests? Are we still unpatriotic if we refuse to sacrifice ourselves to fatten the wealthy, or are we just using our innate moral sense and intellect? I say it is the latter. If they knock on my door and ask me to participate in their imperialistic crusades, they will get a resounding no, regardless of the consequences they impose upon me.

The oppression of minorities, including racial minorities, religious minorities, women, the disabled, the mentally ill, and gays, is woven into the fabric of American society. Immigrants built the America that we know. The only true Americans are Native Americans, and they were shamefully relegated to a subordinate role long ago by the original immigrants from Western Europe. Blacks are called separatists when they express their cultural heritage and individuality. Middle and Near Easterners are eyed with suspicion and mistrust when they wear their traditional garb. Women who act in masculine ways and achieve "masculine goals" by attaining positions of power are shunned by men and women alike. Hispanic immigrants are vilified for not learning English quickly enough. Disabled individuals are still denied equal access to buildings, facilities, and employment. Mentally ill individuals are shunned and treated as pariahs as governors (like Matt Blunt of Missouri) slash funding for treatment facilities. Therapists and medication can enable the mentally ill to lead productive, fulfilling lives. The Religious Right, a movement of conservative Christians, are giving moderate and progressive Christianity a black eye by attacking the judicial system and attempting to impose their narrow beliefs, including homophobia, on the rest of America through legislation like the Constitution Reformation Act Homosexuals are mocked, beaten, murdered, and perhaps in some ways worst of all, are denied basic human rights by their own government. How can a person be who they truly are, and act for the purpose for which they were intended, if they are oppressed because of an innate aspect of their being?

9/11 enabled Evangelists, like George Bush, to use fear inspired by the event to create false dichotomies of good versus evil. USA good. Middle East bad. Christianity good. Islam bad. Karl Rove and his fellow conspirators preyed upon this fear to propel Bush back into office in 2004, despite the corrupt nature of his administration and his personal incompetence. The Religious Right also seized the opportunity as they moved in to fill the spiritual vacuum felt by many Americans laid vulnerable by fear of more terrorist attacks. What a tremendous relief and comfort they offered by providing all the answers one needs in one book. The clincher was their guarantee that all one needs to do to assure one's ascendancy into heaven is to accept Jesus as your personal savior. Let me see if I understand this offer. The Bible is my instruction book to resolve any problem, I am guaranteed to go to heaven, and I get the smug satisfaction of knowing that I am indisputably right AND that those who believe differently than me are going to burn in Hell? My intellectual freedom and further spiritual growth would be a pittance to pay for such "treasures"!

Wandering in this barren spiritual desert, it is small wonder that many fall prey to the "quick fixes" and easy answers. Instead of continuing on their spiritual journey through the sometimes barren land-scape of ongoing self discovery, and continuing on the challenging quest toward fulfilling one's higher purpose, some get side-tracked by oases offered by the media or government. They focus their attention and energy on attempting to attain society's definition of "success" by becoming the next Michael Jordan, pursuing wealth for the sake of accumulation in an effort to emulate Donald Trump, embodying the patriotic ideal projected by Big Brother, or accepting Christ as one's personal savior and embarking on a crusade to stamp out homosexuality.

I am not saying that people who engage in these institutionalized, inculcated practices are the problem. I have visited several oases at various points in my life, and probably will visit others. The problem arises when a person sells oneself out for the false security these snake oil salesman are peddling, and remains at the oasis. Each human being has the potential to be so much more than we are told we can be. We have the capacity to do so much more than we are told we can do. The tragedy occurs when one swallows the lies and dons the shackles provided by the media, Madison Avenue, the government, and some religions. Once one sells out, the elite and the ruling class have a new pawn with which to further their interests, and they take no prisoners. Human cost, meaning loss of life or limb, only matters to the elite when it translates into financial liability or diminished power over the masses.

The world has entered a dark age. America represents a significant blight on humanity's well-being. The current administration's insatiable desire to spend money it does not have, and incur massive debt, has placed the world economy on a precipice. America is becoming a debtor nation, beholden to its lenders, not unlike the so-called "Third World", developing countries, which the United States views with such condescension. Despite its scandals, the United Nations represents a unifying body that could potentially offer solutions to many of the world's problems involving poverty, war, and natural disasters, if it was properly managed. Yet if this administration has its way, the UN will be little more than a puppet to further American imperialistic interests. America is involved in an illegal, imperialistic war in Iraq, and a potentially "never-ending" war which Bush has launched against terrorists, a nameless, faceless enemy with whom we can engage as long as it fills the military-industrial complexes coffers. For them, the beauty of it is that it does not matter whether any more terrorists exist or not because there it will be virtually impossible to prove that they have been extinguished. Bush and his followers have created the real judicial crisis in America as they are attempting to railroad several unfit candidates onto the federal bench, are attempting to do away with the filibuster in the Senate, and have created and endorsed attacks and threats on the judiciary. Bush and the Religious Right both have an irrational resolve to severely cripple the judiciary because it is the only remaining significant check on their power. Since stocking the judiciary with "their people" was not effective, their new plan is to render it impotent. America's Religious Right mirrors the dogmatic followers of Islam in the Middle East, and is garnering the political power to convert our republic into a theocracy. Many of these events have unfolded because people have been beguiled by the propaganda of Karl Rove and the Religious Right, or because their obsession with attaining the "American dream" of "success" has kept them too occupied to be aware of what these schemers have been doing.

It is not too late for a change of course. The Morpheus of my life offered me the red and the blue pill in 1993, and I chose red, which in the Matrix, opened the door to reality while blue enabled one to keep one's distorted version of reality intact. I chose red, because at that time, my version of reality was not something I would want to wake up to the next morning. Reality unfolded before my eyes as I learned to emphasize reason, logic, critical thinking, acting assertively, and gathering evidence over faith, fantasy, self delusion, deflection of responsibility, and waiting for someone to show me the way. My worldview changed. Human dignity, human rights, parenting my children, educating myself, respecting myself and others, empathy, honesty, taking responsibility for my actions,and love as an act of will (as defined by Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled) became my core values. Certainly, I have my limitations, make mistakes, backslide, and above all, do not claim to have THE answer, or even a complete answer. However, when I took that red pill from the Morpheus who came into my life, my eyes were opened to a world of hope, love, and possibilities for spiritual growth and development without harming others. They were also opened to the many lies, manipulations, and abuses of trust. I work each day to discover more about who I am and what my purpose is, and to apply my energy and time toward fulfilling that purpose. THE answer does not exist. I know that some people do not feel comfortable with that concept, but it is true. Each human being has the capacity, and bears the responsibility, for finding THEIR answer. My advice? When Morpheus visits you, take the red pill......

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Holy War Sunday

The Lousiville Courier-Journal | Editorial, Sunday 24 April 2005

At the rate things are going in American politics, next week will bring ads by the Noah's Ark Veterans for Truth claiming that the two Democrats on board were actually stowaways, whom God had intended for drowning but who snuck on cross-dressed as gayals.

That wouldn't be much more bizarre than what's planned for today: Bill Frist, the majority leader of the United States Senate, is going to Sunday meeting to preach that some deeply flawed and highly ideological judicial nominees are actually bloodied victims of religious persecution.

"Justice Sunday: Stop the filibuster against people of faith," the revival's being called.

It should be called, "Injustice Sunday: Demean the holy and foment schism for partisan gain."

Whatever you think of these nominees and the Democrats' filibuster of them, it is not the religious faith they possess, but the judicial qualities they lack -- restraint, balance, experience, respect for law -- that have brought the nation to this sorry point.

Otherwise, they would have fared just as well as the more than 200 other conservative nominees that President Bush has successfully appointed to the bench.

As you hear the Christian soldiers' trumpets of holy war and hymns of righteous rage today, keep in mind exactly who some of these nominees are.

There's Priscilla Owen, the token white woman and Texas judge whose eagerness to substitute her own values for the rule of law was too much for even Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who rebuked her for it when both served on the same court.

There's Janice Rogers Brown, the token black woman and California judge who believes that our vibrant nation of free-market capitalism -- this economy of Wal-Marts, Pfizers and Enrons and of Googles, Yahoos and Apples; this home of a pitiful $5.15 minimum wage and of a staggering 44 million people without health insurance; this land of soaring CEO pay and declining real wages for workers -- has actually been crushed by the boot of collectivism ever since what she calls the 1937 "triumph of our own socialist revolution."

There's Brett Kavanaugh, who has never tried a case, but rose from Ken Starr's impeachment crusade to become a White House operative.

There's William G. Meyers III, who also lacks trial experience but who has put in plenty of time rabidly fighting against environmental laws and in favor of mining interests.

And there's William Haynes II, whose meager courtroom work is offset by his considerable contribution, as the Defense Department's counsel, to the shameful abandonment of America's deepest legal principles regarding the treatment and rights of prisoners of war and detainees.

It's no wonder their advocates are so intent on diverting attention from their legal limitations, ideological excesses and partisan activism with claims of anti-Christian discrimination.

But religious martyrs, they're not -- nor jurists worthy of the damage their nominations are doing to both politics and religion.


William Fisher

Earlier this month, Eric Rudolph was sentenced to four life sentences without parole for the deadly 1996 Olympic park bombing in Atlanta and attacks at two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub. In May 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. His accomplice, Terry Nichols, is currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.

But while there is general joy that these miscreants are off the streets, human rights groups and government agencies believe that ‘home grown terrorism’ remains a clear and present danger to post 9/11 America.

For example, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an advocacy organization, says that extremist groups in the US are planning events and heightened activity through the month of April, especially during the period of April 15 through April 24, at a time when they traditionally commemorate the birthday of Adolf Hitler. The ADL says national groups such as the neo-Nazi National Alliance and local chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.

One reason for the growth of ‘home grown terrorism’ appears to be that fanatic extremists have now added Islam to their list of ‘targets’. Since 9/11, the Department of Justice reports a dramatic increase in hate crimes directed against people perceived to be Arabs, though Sikhs and Hindus are frequently attacked because they ‘look like’ those of Middle Eastern descent.

A second reason is the rise of religious fundamentalism in the U.S., making homosexuals, same-sex couples, abortion clinics and those who work in them – even ‘activist’ judges and their families -- likely targets. White supremacist Matthew Hale faces 40 years in a federal prison after a judge gave him the maximum sentence for plotting to assassinate a federal judge.

Another reason is that, while known individual membership in militias and other organized ‘paramilitary’ hate groups is believed to have fallen since 9/11, remaining members appear even more intensely committed to acts of violence.

Still another factor is that the Internet has made bomb-making knowledge accessible to everyone.

The bottom line is that ‘Lone Wolf’ domestic terrorists – like McVeigh, Nichols and Rudolph – are now seen as the primary domestic threats. But the US militant militia movement has been overshadowed by the threat of Al-Qaeda.

Since the 9/11 attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department Homeland Security (DHS) have devoted massive resources to Islamic terrorism. But the agencies deny that there has been any slackening in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, whether directed against Muslims or anyone else.

For example, the FBI, which is responsible for investigating hate crimes, reports that nearly 7,500 incidents were classified as hate crimes in the United States in 2003, the last year for which complete data is available. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), however, points out that FBI and DOJ data are based on reports voluntarily submitted by local law enforcement authorities, who do not always track or report hate crime statistics. SPLC estimates that there are probably 50,000 more hate crimes than the FBI is reporting.

More than half these crimes are motivated by racial prejudice. Intimidation and vandalism were the most frequently reported hate crimes, though there were 14 murders. Six of those murders were among more than 1,200 incidents based on sexual orientation.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it received reports of 1,019 anti-Muslim incidents during 2003 — a nearly 70 percent increase from the previous year and the highest number of civil-rights complaints from those of the Islamic faith in the nine years the group has been tracking them.

In their report, "Unpatriotic Acts," hate crimes against Muslims (Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South-Asian Americans perceived to be members of these groups) jumped 121 percent that same year.

While the DOJ and FBI claim to be applying increasing resources to combating hate crime, Arab-American and Muslim-American civil rights groups have accused the agencies of racial profiling, harassment of ‘Middle Eastern-looking’ people at airports and in other public settings, and widespread abuses in the round-ups and detention of Arabs and Muslims after the 9/11 attacks.

Law-enforcement observers agree that the membership of militant right-wing groups has decreased since the Oklahoma City bombing – from some 20,000 to perhaps a few thousand now -- but many believe that has made them all the more dangerous.
Nonetheless, the contrasting treatment given to two cases illustrate the priority given to foreign terrorism.

In 2002, federal agents arrested Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, claiming he was an Al-Qaeda operative planning to explode a ‘dirty bomb’ in the US. He was officially declared an ‘enemy combatant’, and was held virtually incommunicado in a naval brig –though the Supreme Court ruled he should be charged or released.

A few months later, federal agents in Texas arrested William Krar, who was found to have a bomb like the one used in Oklahoma City, as well as a half-million rounds of ammunition. Krar is now serving an 11-year prison term.

Padilla had no record of militant activity and had no weapon when he was arrested. Krar was known as a right-wing zealot and was heavily armed. The disparity in their treatment indicates a double standard, according to Daniel Levitas, the author of "The Terrorist Next Door," which describes indigenous American terrorist movements. He attributes this double standard simply to the government saving face.

"I think it's embarrassing to the United States to present frightening evidence that there are people in this country who are just as fanatical and murderous as Islamic terrorists halfway around the world," he said. As a result, Levitas said, the Justice Department made little of Krar's arrest, but took pains to publicize Padilla's.


By William Fisher

Rejecting the conclusions of previous investigations, a major civil rights organization is calling for appointment of a special counsel and creation of an independent commission to investigate all issues of prisoner abuse by the US.

Human Rights Watch, a Washington-based advocacy group, said in a new report, “a wall of impunity surrounds the architects of the policies responsible for the larger pattern of abuses.”

“Evidence is mounting that high-ranking US civilian and military leaders — including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former CIA Director George Tenet, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, formerly the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Major General Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — made decisions and issued policies that facilitated serious and widespread violations of the law.”

The group recommended that the US Attorney General, Alberto onzazales, “appoint a special counsel to investigate any US officials — no matter their rank or position — who participated in, ordered, or had command responsibility for war crimes or torture, or other prohibited ill-treatment against detainees in U.S. custody.”

HRW said the special counsel “is necessary because the prospect for accountability through ordinary avenues is severely compromised.” The Attorney General, “who, as head of the Department of Justice, sits atop the prosecutorial machinery, was himself deeply involved in the policies leading to these alleged crimes, and thus may not only have a conflict of interest but also he, himself, may have a degree of complicity in those abuses.”

Similarly, the group charged, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “sits atop the military justice system, thus all but ruling out accountability though that channel for policies he set in motion.”

HRW also recommended that Congress create a special commission, along the lines of the 9/11 Commission, to investigate prisoner abuse. “Such a commission would hold hearings, have full subpoena power, and be empowered to recommend the creation of a special prosecutor to investigate possible criminal offenses, if the Attorney General had not yet named one”, HRW said.

It said a special commission “could also compel evidence that the government has continued to conceal, including President Bush’s reported authorization for the CIA to set up secret detention facilities and to ‘render suspects to other countries, and details on Secretary Rumsfeld’s role in the chain of events leading to the worst period of abuses at Abu Ghraib.”

U.S. Department of Justice regulations call for the appointment of a “special counsel” when a conflict exists and the public interest warrants a prosecutor from outside the government.

In its report, HRW said, “Circumstances strongly suggest that (senior military and administration officials) either knew or should have known that such violations took place as a result of their actions. There is also mounting data that, when presented with evidence that abuse was in fact taking place, they failed to act to stem the abuse.

“The coercive methods approved by senior U.S. officials and widely employed over the last three years include tactics that the United States has repeatedly condemned as barbarity and torture when practiced by others. Even the U.S. Army field manual condemns some of these methods as torture.

“Although much relevant evidence remains secret, a series of revelations over the past twelve months, brought together here, already makes a compelling case for a thorough, genuinely independent investigation of what top officials did, what they knew, and how they responded when they became aware of the widespread nature of the abuses.”

The group charged that “coercive interrogation methods were approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for use on prisoners at Guantánamo — including the use of guard dogs to induce fear in prisoners, “stress” techniques such as forced standing and shackling in painful positions, and removing their clothes — “migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq, where they were neither limited nor safeguarded,” and contributed to the widespread and systematic torture and abuse at U.S. detention centers there.

It added, “We know that some detainees…have even been ‘disappeared after entering U.S. custody: the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) continues to hold al-Qaeda suspects in prolonged incommunicado detention in “secret locations,” reportedly outside the US, with no notification to their families, no access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or oversight of any sort of their treatment, and in some cases no acknowledgement that they are even being held.”

HRW’s report is also critical of the practice of ‘rendition’. It says, “100-150 detainees have been ‘rendered’ by the US for detention and interrogation by governments in the Middle East such as Syria and Egypt, which, according to the U.S. State Department, practice torture routinely.” It called this practice “a violation of U.S. and international law. In an increasing number of cases”, adding that “there is now credible evidence that rendered detainees have in fact been tortured.”

“Despite these revelations and findings, the United States has not engaged in a serious process of accountability. Officials have denounced the most egregious abuses, rhetorically reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to uphold the law and respect human rights, and belatedly opened a number of prosecutions for crimes committed against detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq. To date, however, with the exception of one major personally implicated in abuse, only low-ranking soldiers — privates and sergeants — have been called to account.”

HRW said that, “While it is true that the Pentagon established no fewer than seven investigations in the wake of Abu Ghraib, not one has had the independence or the breadth to get to the bottom of the prisoner-abuse issue.

“All but one involved the military investigating itself, and was focused on only one aspect or another of the treatment of detainees. None took on the task of examining the role of civilian leaders who might have had ultimate authority over detainee treatment policy. None looked at the issue of renditions. The CIA has reportedly also initiated a number of self-investigations, but no details have been made public.

“What is more, these investigations effectively defined detainee abuse as any treatment not approved by higher authorities. To the Pentagon’s investigators, treatment that followed approved policies and techniques could not, by definition, have been torture. With this logical sleight of hand, they thus rendered themselves incapable of finding any connections between policies approved by senior officials and acts of abuse in the field. But that does not mean such connections did not exist,” HRW’s report said.


By William Fisher

A major U.S. civil liberties group is calling on President George W. Bush to demand release of dissidents, appointment of women to municipal councils, and an end to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia when that country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Abdullah, meets with the president today (April 25).

In a letter to Bush, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the president to call on the Crown Prince to immediately release three dissidents imprisoned for more than a year for petitioning for a constitutional monarchy.
HRW wrote that “Charges against the three Saudi dissidents should be dropped”, and said that their lead lawyer, who was arrested in early November, should also be released and charges against him dropped”

It also called on the president to use the occasion of Crown Prince Abdullah’s visit to “urge Saudi authorities to appoint women to the recently formed municipal councils, and to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.”

"Without freedom of expression and association, there can't be political
reform worthy of the name," said Joe Stork, Washington director of Human
Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa division. "The Bush administration's response to the dissidents' arrest has been completely inadequate. For the sake of its own credibility, it needs to speak clearly and publicly now."

HRW said that in March 2004, Saudi authorities arrested 13 people in several cities for circulating a petition calling for a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliament, and signaling their intent to form an independent human rights organization. The government released 10 of them after compelling them to sign an agreement that they would cease their public petitioning.

Three of the men -- Matruk al-Falih, Ali al-Domaini, and Abdullah al-Hamid --
refused to sign the agreement, and remain in prison facing charges of "issuing statements" and "using Western terminology" in calling for reform, the organization said.

It added: “Their lead lawyer, 'Abd al-Rahman al-Lahim, one of the 10 released in March, has been detained since early November for statements he made to the press about the case.”

"President Bush should raise the cases of these dissidents by name when he
meets with Crown Prince Abdullah," Stork said. "He needs to point out that
vague proclamations of reform will be judged by what happens to people who
peacefully petition their government for change."

HRW also called on the president to raise the issue of “severe discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia. While there have been some positive developments, such as the recent denunciation of forced marriages by the country’s highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Shaikh `Abd al-`Aziz bin Al Shaikh, these statements need to be followed up with action. We urge you to ask the Crown Prince what legal measures the government plans to stop this practice.”

HRW said that official promises that women would be allowed to vote when municipal elections are held again were not reassuring, and asked President Bush to urge the Saudi leader to take "concrete, feasible steps towards ending gender discrimination" by appointing women to unelected seats on the municipal councils as well as to the national level Consultative (Shura) Council, which is wholly appointed.

“The exclusion of women as voters and candidates in the recent nationwide municipal elections for ‘logistical’ reasons raises doubts about whether the government is serious about granting women decision-making power in public life. Official remarks that women would be allowed to participate when such elections occur again are hardly reassuring, given the government’s past failure to fulfill various promises of reform.”

“If the government wishes to demonstrate good faith in this area, it should appoint a representative number of women to the unelected seats of these municipal councils, and to the national-level Consultative (Shura) Council.”

Islamists won in the municipal elections in the capital, Riyadh, and in the main eastern city of Dammam in earlier stages of the municipal elections that began in February. Conservatives were also poised to win most of the seats in Jeddah, the nation’s commercial capital. Abdul Rahman Yamani, one of the projected winners from a field of around 500 hopefuls there, said, “We are a religious people by nature, and secular people are not accepted (by society).”

HRW also urged Bush to address “the recent proliferation of judicial executions of Saudi Arabian citizens and, in greater numbers, non-Saudi residents of the country.”

It noted that Saudi Arabia “had publicly beheaded at least 40 persons since the beginning of the year, two-thirds of them from south and Southeast Asia. A number of those executed had been convicted of robbery and drug-related offenses.”

The letter asked President Bush, “in light of the absence of basic due process protections in the Saudi judicial system, to urge the Crown Prince to declare a moratorium on all judicial executions.”

Noting that “Saudi Arabia has taken some political reform initiatives, such as the partial elections to municipal councils held over the past few months”, the organization said, “improvements in human rights, where they have occurred at all, have been halting and inadequate.”

“Government proclamations regarding adherence to human rights principles have not led to changes in practices or to public access to information about violations of human rights,” HRW said.

The group urged the president “to make clear, in a public manner as well as in private talks, that the US expects to see concrete improvements in those areas that the Saudi authorities can address directly and immediately. The credibility of your administration’s emphasis on the need for political reform in the region rests in part on your readiness to address the Saudi Arabian government openly on some core issues.”

HRW said that the March 2004 arrests of dissidents occurred during then-Secretary of State Powell’s visit to the kingdom, “timing that may have been intended to signal opposition to U.S. calls for reform.” The administration’s response “has, in our view, been inadequate: Secretary Powell mildly criticized the arrest of the thirteen in public at the time, but neither the State Department nor the White House have since mentioned the continued imprisonment of these four individuals on completely specious charges.”

HRW aid it hoped that Bush “will make clear that you consider the treatment of these individuals to be emblematic of Saudi Arabia’s response to its human rights crisis, and that their continued incarceration and prosecution makes improvements in US-Saudi relations extremely difficult.”

The HRW letter was signed by Joe Stork, Washington Director for the Middle East and North Africa Division, and Tom Malinowski, the organization’s Washington Advocacy Director.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


William Fisher

Eric Rudolph has been sentenced to four life sentences without parole for the deadly 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta and attacks at two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub.

But the chances are that by the time most of us heard the news of Rudolph’s sentence, we had long since forgotten another name that was prominent in the Olympic Park case.

That name is Richard Jewell.

And some see what happened to him as part of a disturbing pattern of behavior by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and other law enforcement agencies.

Richard Jewell was working as a security guard at Olympic Park, where the bomb exploded. He spotted a suspicious object and reported it. He thus helped save lives that might otherwise have been lost.

Richard Jewell was hailed as a hero. TV networks and newspapers interviewed him. He seemed to have a bright future in law enforcement.

But only three days after the explosion, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story saying police were investigating the possibility that Jewell had planted the bomb. FBI agents interviewed Jewell and searched his apartment. Their aggressive questioning led him to ask for an attorney. A large crowd of journalists and TV crews watched as the security guard’s property was hauled away as evidence.

Jewell told reporters he was innocent. Two bombing victims filed suit against Jewell. A few days later, Jewell’s mother, Barbara Jewell, appeared on television, was weeping as she asked President Bill Clinton to exonerate her son.

But U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno refused to clear Jewell or apologize to him. He was labeled a ‘person of interest’. The FBI would neither confirm nor deny he was a suspect.

It was not until the following October that a US District Judge said he thought Jewell was not, at that time, a suspect. The US Attorney then told Jewell that he was no longer under investigation.

In August 1997, a year after the event, then Attorney General Janet Reno publicly apologized to Jewell and deplored the leak to the media that made his name known as a suspect. “I regret very much the leak that made him an object of so much public attention,” Reno commented. “I don’t think any apology is sufficient when somebody has gone through . . . what Mr. Jewell has gone through.”

But by that time Richard Jewell had lived for months under a very dark cloud. He appeared at a televised news conference, and said, “I am not the Olympic Park bomber. I am a man who has lived 88 days afraid of being arrested for a crime I did commit.” He said the FBI latched onto him “in its rush to show the world it could get its man.”

Another high-profile ‘person of interest’ is Dr. Steven Hatfill, a former researcher at the Army's infectious disease research laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland. Hatfill, 50, has been under FBI scrutiny since the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others. He has never been charged with a crime, simply designated a ’person of interest’.

The former Army researcher has denied involvement in the anthrax mailings and claims he was fired from a job because of the media coverage of the case. The Washington Times, which claimed that Hatfill might have been the culprit, eventually said Hatfill might have been framed by a team of government scientists.

His apartment and rubbish bins were searched several times. He has been under 24-hour surveillance. A swamp, near the government laboratory where he once worked, was drained by the FBI.

Hatfill told news media, "I've been in this field for a number of years, working until 3 o'clock in the morning, trying to counter this type of weapon of mass destruction, and, sir, my career is over at this time."

Hatfill sued then Attorney General John Ashcroft and the FBI, accusing the government of "a campaign of harassment" and unfairly singling him out. . Ashcroft had publicly called him a ‘person of interest’ in the anthrax probe in 2002.

Hatfill also sued the New York Times Co. and columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, claiming the paper defamed him in a series of columns that identified him as the likely culprit. The lawsuit said Kristof identified him as the anthrax killer to "light a fire" under investigators in their probe of the anthrax-spore mailings.

Hatfill accused Kristof of making "false and defamatory" allegations and the Times of engaging in "substandard and unethical journalism.''

In a series of columns in 2002, Kristof criticized the FBI for failing to
aggressively pursue a scientist he at first identified as "Mr. Z.'' He wrote
that the biodefense community had called Mr. Z a "likely culprit" and was
"buzzing about Mr. Z behind his back," in part because the scientist was
familiar with anthrax and was angered at the suspension of his top security
clearance less than a month before the attacks.

Kristof, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, later acknowledged that Mr. Z was
Hatfill. He also wrote that Hatfill deserved the "presumption of innocence" and
that "there is not a shred of traditional physical evidence linking him to the

No one has ever been charged in the investigation of anthrax-tainted letters mailed to media and government offices.

At the end of September 2003 – nearly two years after the anthrax attacks -- the new head of the FBI investigation says it is troubling that Hatfill was publicly labeled a "person of interest" in the case by top law enforcement officials. "The anthrax investigation has been beset by a number of leaks”, he said, and labeled this “unfortunate”.

Meanwhile, Hatfill remains unemployed, and perhaps unemployable.


By William Fisher

The Muslim scholar who was issued and then denied a visa to teach in the United States because of alleged ties to ‘terrorists’ is calling for an immediate moratorium on corporal punishments, stoning, and the death penalty that Muslim fundamentalists say is mandated by Shariah law.

Writing in the French newspaper, Le Monde, Tariq Ramadan said, in Western societies, “the infliction of corporal punishments, stoning, execution in the name of a religious standard that would impose itself on an entire society, cannot be accepted.” The Islamic world, he writes, “sends very contradictory messages: firm and definitive condemnations come from a small minority of Muslim intellectuals or social or political actors, while certain governments attempt to legitimize their Islamic character by the application of these repressive practices.”

Calling for a robust debate over “the future of relations between civilizations, religions, and cultures”, Ramadan urges “an immediate moratorium in the Muslim world in the very name of Islamic principles themselves.”

“When we call for a moratorium” on the application of Shariah law, he says, “voices in the West assert: ‘That's unacceptable; it's not enough!’ Others in the Muslim world exclaim: ‘It's unacceptable; it's treason to our standards!’ “

Ramadan wonders how such a debate is possible given the hardened attitudes of both Islamic and Western societies.

At least one Muslim scholar, Prof. Omid Safi, Chair for Islamic Studies at the American Academy of Religion at Colgate University, believes this kind of debate is “not only possible but essential”. He told IPS, “It’s true that this kind of intra-Muslim conversation may be attractive to the West. But it is not for the benefit of the West that it should happen. It is for the benefit of Islam, and for all of us simply as human beings. The ‘fundamental debate’ Prof. Ramadan is urging will find its subject matter within the core of Islam itself.” Prof. Safi is chair of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMU), a relatively new, small but growing movement within Islam.

Safi, who is the editor of ‘Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism’, says of the movement, “Our aim has been to envision a socially and politically active Islamic identity that remains committed to ideals of social justice, pluralism, and gender equality. The aim here is not to advocate our own understanding as uniquely "Islamic" to the exclusion of the past fourteen hundred years of Islamic thought and practice.”

Ramadan voices a similar idea. “The evolution of minds,” he says, “will only happen in the Muslim world as a result of this debate, which should allow this universe to reconcile itself with the essence of its message of justice, equality, and pluralism rather than to be obsessed with its most repressive and violent aspects because of frustration with bad experiences or feelings of alienation fostered by the leitmotiv of Western domination.”

“Isn't it possible,” he asks, “to stipulate non-negotiable universal values (the integrity of the human person, equality under the law, rejection of degrading treatment, etc.), while recognizing and acknowledging the diversity and specificity of standards (religious and cultural), the histories that can lead to their expression and demand?”

In August 2004, the U. S. revoked the visa it issued to Dr. Ramadan to teach Islamic philosophy and ethics at Notre Dame University in Indiana. He received a visa from the State Department and was scheduled to start his classes in late August. But just days before he was set to travel, his visa was revoked without explanation at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security.

Ramadan, professor of Islamic studies and philosophy at Fribourg University in Switzerland, was barred under a section of the Patriot Act, which denies entry to foreigners who have used a "position of prominence . . . to endorse or espouse terrorist activity." He has been described by Time magazine as one of the 100 most likely innovators of the 21st century.

Prof. Ramadan is far from the first to be denied visas to the U.S. in recent months. A group of Cuban Grammy nominees was denied U.S. visas and could not attend the award ceremonies in Los Angeles. Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan historian and former Sandinista official, was excluded because of purported involvement in terrorist acts – even though she had traveled to the U.S. numerous other times. And a group of Chinese computer scientists met the same fate.

But it is unusual for a visa to be issued and then rescinded, as in Prof. Ramadan’s case.

Ramadan’s position on Shariah law suggests a solution. He says “the ulemas (scholars trained in Islamic law and theology) agree neither on the interpretations of the contents (nor sometimes on the authenticity) of the texts that refer to these practices, nor, by the way, on the prerequisite conditions and the socio-political contexts in which they are possible. In the absence of any consensus on the subject, we must, therefore, open a large and pluralistic debate, by deciding to stop the practices immediately.”

He adds, “The application of Shariah is used today by repressive powers that attack women, the poor, and their political opposition in a legal near-void in which summary executions of accused persons - whose human dignity is not respected, accused persons without defense, without a lawyer - are increasing. Contemporary Muslim conscience cannot accept these denials of justice.”

“Whole swathes of Muslim populations, from Nigeria to Malaysia, regularly demand the strict application of Shariah, and the majority of ulemas -- Muslim scholars trained in Islamic law and theology -- limit themselves to asserting that these punishments ‘are almost never applicable’, by insisting on the prerequisite conditions, but they avoid expressing themselves clearly on the question, most often so as not to lose their credibility with these populations.”

“The unilateral condemnations that we hear in the West will not help things evolve. For the moment, we're living through exactly the opposite phenomenon: Muslim populations convince themselves of the Islamic character of these practices by virtue of Western rejection… the less Western it is, the more Islamic it is."

He concludes: “We have to emerge from this perversion, and Western governments and individuals have a major responsibility to allow the Muslim world to engage in this debate…”

Are We "Ugly Americans"?

By Jason Miller

Somebody please tell Karl Rove to quit holding up the applause sign. The minions he manipulates are cheering for an America that does not exist. The abstract concept of America, and its embodiment of liberties and human rights, is a fiction. Norman Rockwell's portrayal of America was an idealistic perversion of a landscape, that for many, has been littered with oppression, bigotry, greed, torture and even murder. Goya's brutal "Duel With Cudgels" would come closer to capturing the essence of the underlying mean-spiritedness of this nation that the Bush administration is working so hard to revitalize. Yes, there is a dark, brutish aspect to this self-proclaimed beacon of freedom and liberty, and I am going to delve into it. Read on if you dare to take an introspective look at the darker aspects of our national identity.

This nation's founders captured inhabitants of various nations or tribes
from the continent of Africa, brought them to the colonies against their
will, and allowed for their continued enslavement through our
Constitution. Abolitionists, like John Brown, were executed as terrorists.
A bloody Civil War and three Amendments to the Constitution still were not
enough to end the oppression of blacks in our nation. The specter of Jim
Crow arose in the south in the 1890's, and did not die out until leaders
like Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged in
the mid Twentieth Century. Even some peaceful opponents of black
oppression, like King, were slain for their beliefs. In today's world,
racism hides behind the veil of "political correctness", and those who
practice it often cower from the legal consequences of practicing their
bigotry openly. However, covert as it often is, racism is still a
pervasive part of American society.

The Native Americans have not fared so well in America either, at least
not since the Western Europeans invaded their continent. In 1830, the US
Congress passed the "Indian Removal Act", which eventually enabled the
federal government to resolve the problem of a growing population in the
state of Georgia by moving the Cherokee Nation to the state of Oklahoma,
In 1838, on the forced 1,000 mile march, 4,000 Cherokee men, women and
children died in what is now known as "The Trail of Tears".

Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader who organized opposition to forced Native
American colonization, showed his insight into the ugly aspect of America
when he spoke to the Osage tribe in 1812. In his speech, he said,
"Brothers, the white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled,
they are feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they
sting their benefactors to death."

Thanks to Howard Zinn in Voices of a People's History of the United States
for uncovering a telling quote from the Saturday Pioneer, a newspaper in
Aberdeen, South Dakota. Ironically, L. Frank Baum, who also wrote The
Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was the paper's editor in 1890, when the quote
appeared. Shortly after the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the subsequent
murder of Sitting Bull, Baum's paper wrote, "The Whites, by law of
conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American
continent....and the best safety of the frontier settlers will be secured
by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians." What a
heart-warming heritage for our nation.

America continued to demonstrate its imperialistic ways in the Mexican
War. Eager to expand US territory, President James Polk annexed Texas, and
sent American troops to help this future state gain its independence from
Mexico. In less than two years, America brought Mexico to its knees, and
proudly included Texas, New Mexico, and California in its borders. Maybe
the illegal Mexican immigrants of today are simply trying to find their
ancestral homes that were seized by conquest.

William McKinley came to office in 1896 to preside over a country that
still had a ravenous appetite for expansion. "Manifest destiny" was the
order of the day. Under McKinnley, the US waged war against Spain in Cuba,
and drove the Spaniards out, leaving a power vacuum that was quickly
filled by greedy US corporations. 500,000 Filipinos were killed as America
wrested the Philippine Islands away from Spain. McKinley also arranged for
the annexation of Hawaii and Puerto Rico during his reign, or, depending
on one's perspective, presidency.

In the early Twentieth Century, Upton Sinclair and his fellow muckrakers
cast a light into the shadows where ruthless corporations victimized
workers and consumers with their avarice-driven disregard for health and
safety. Sinclair's expose' of the corrupt and dangerous practices of the
meat-packing industry (entitled The Jungle)led to the passage of The Pure
Food and Drug Act of 1906. Prior to the efforts of Populists and
Socialists, America's system of unbridled capitalism and laisez-faire
economic policy by the federal government enabled ruthless corporations to
treat their workers like cattle and market products to consumers with
little regard for health or quality.

Eugene Debs and other war protestors who violated the Sedition Act during
World War I, paid the price with their freedom. As they sat in prison for
exercising their First Amendment rights, over 100,000 Americans died in
the "war to end all wars". Our government could employ flag-waving
propaganda to lure millions of young men to face horror and death, but if
an individual protested against their use of this propaganda in the "land
of the free", that individual went to prison.

Ask the Japanese citizens during World War II for their perspective on the
"American Dream". Or would it be more appropriate to say "Nightmare"? Over
100,000 of them were displaced from their homes and businesses and herded
into camps surrounded by barb-wire. Their "crime" was "disloyalty". After
the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the federal government first employed curfews
as a means to marshal control of the "enemy within". Eventually, they made
the decision to move 110,000 people of Japanese descent into ten
"relocation centers" throughout the United States. Most of them were
American citizens born on American soil, and they were imprisoned without
a trial and without being charged with a crime. Guantanamo Bay now makes
America a repeat offender.

America is still drunk with power, arrogance, and an insatiable appetite
for the accumulation of wealth. Based on a statement of principles drafted
in 1997, and a think-tank created to formulate ways to implement the
principles, The Project for the New American Century paved the way for
George Bush and his pack of so-called "neo-cons" to launch the unprovoked
and unsubstantiated invasion of Iraq. Several of the war hungry neo-cons,
like Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, signed the statement of principles,
and 9/11 gave them the excuse they needed to initiate their aggression.
Their imperial intentions are clearly outlined at Their
concluding paragraph states:

"Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be
fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on
the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our
greatness in the next."

The Bush administration has demonstrated its commitment to making the
Twenty First Century the "American Century". However, the reality is, the
invasion of a small country like Iraq has stretched our military to its
limits, and two years later there is still strong resistance to the
American imposed government, and much chaos. The sun is setting on the
"American Empire" as Bush and his people desperately struggle to fan the
dying embers and rekindle the flames. There are multiple countries with
nuclear capabilities. China is rivalling the US both as an economic and
military power. Terrorism has proven to be the David to our Goliath. With
a $7.5 trillion deficit, America is bleeding red ink, and the effort in
Iraq is costing billions that this country does not have.

Bush has launched a war with no end in sight against the "evil
terrorists", an elusive, shadow target which cannot be definitively
beaten. Perpetual fear and hatred of the "terrorists" motivate Americans
to support a seemingly endless war, and enable Karl Rove to manipulate the
masses, leaving the neo-cons free to pursue their policy of military
proliferation of American interests to their hearts' content. However, the
waning strength of this nation, coupled with the rising strength of
nations like China, make this model unsustainable.

In 1997, with the advent of The Project for the New American Century,
America laid out a publicly available plan for global domination.
Historically, Americans have pursued a policy of aggressive global
expansionism under the guise of altruism, the "right of manifest destiny",
or under the pretext of protecting its regional interests. The United
States flaunts its lofty Constitution and Bill of Rights, yet with each
passing day continues to deny basic civil rights to homosexuals (who make
up 5% of the population), defies the UN and Geneva Convention, earns an
annual per capita income of $34,000.00 (compared to the world per capita
of $7,000.00), and consumes 25% of the world's fossil fuels (while 2
billion people in the world have no access to electricity and Bush has
elected to withdraw from the Kyoto Treaty). In 2000, the Bush regime
installed itself to rule our Executive branch by manipulating the voting
process. This regime has engaged in a consistent pattern of false
propaganda to manipulate public opinion, unilateral decision-making
without regard for relationships with allies or the UN, and has rewarded
and promoted its staff members in spite of acts of incompetence and war
crimes. The US Senate is now considering a bill, the Constitution
Restoration Act, promoted by America's own religious radicals. The CRA
would, for the purposes of judicial review, recognize "God as the
sovereign source of law, liberty, or government." And Americans thought
the Muslim theocracies were frightening?

Why were Americans surprised at the attack of 9/11? Certainly it shattered
our illusion of invulnerability. However, there are deeper psychological
forces at work. As Ward Churchill stated in "Some People Push Back",
"America's indiscriminately lethal arrogance and psychotic sense of
self-entitlement have long since given the great majority of the world's
peoples ample cause to be at war with it." It is time for America to stop
considering itself the center of the universe. America was not an innocent
victim on 9/11. The people who died that day were innocent victims, but
America as a nation was not innocent, and had been asking to be attacked
for many years. Our nation has oppressed and provoked people and other
nations since its founding, and has faced few consequences. 9/11 was a
wake up call. It is time for America to come down from its pedestal and
take its place amongst the world community, as equals, rather than as
condescending tyrants.

I will conclude by stating that I still believe in the inherent decency of
many of the people in the United States. My opinion is that the
Constitution and Bill of Rights represent a contract between citizens and
government that is unparalleled in its capacity to create a government
that represents and protects the rights and interests of its people. I
believe in an economic system based on capitalism, provided there are
reasonable government restraints on the power of businesses, and
government safety nets for the poor and under-privileged. Despite the ugly
stains on our history, we as Americans had been making great evolutionary
strides in the areas of civil rights, inclusion, justice, and toning down
our aggressive foreign policy. However, I am seeing many signs of that
progress eroding. America is a nation comprised of millions of people and
dynamics, and to expect it to live up to the idealized notions of truth,
justice, and the American way would be unrealistic. Yet, the fact that the
ideal is unattainable does not give us license to abandon the principles
of our Constitution to the extent that we have. Today, I have written
about the dark side of our nation to motivate those of us who are willing
to look at the uglier aspects of our nature to continue to work toward a
more spiritually evolved and enlightened place.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


By William Fisher

The Halliburton Corporation, already the Iraq war’s poster child for ‘waste, fraud and abuse’, got a double-whammy this week. A new report from the U.S. State Department accused the company of “poor performance” in its $1.2 billion contract to repair Iraq's vital southern oil fields. And a powerful California congressman charged that new Department of Defense audits showing additional over-charges totaling $212 million were concealed from United Nations monitors by the Bush Administration.

The new over-charges bring to $2 billion, or 42 per cent of the contract amounts, the total of questionable billings from Halliburton.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Reform, charged that “both the amount of Halliburton's overcharges and the extent of the information withheld from the auditors at the UN’s International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) were much greater than previously known.”

Waxman said the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), which monitors all Defense Department contracts, had identified Halliburton overcharges and questionable costs of totaling $212.3 million -- double the total amount of known overcharges under Halliburton's Iraq oil contract. In one case, Waxman said, the overcharges exceeded 47% of the total value of the task order.

But DOD – at Halliburton’s request – withheld the new amount from the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), the U.N. audit oversight body for the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), Waxman charged.

In letters to government auditors, Halliburton subsidiary KBR explained that it redacted statements it considered proprietary or "factually inaccurate or misleading" and gave consent for the release of the audits to international auditors "in redacted form." The Administration then sent the heavily redacted report to the IAMB overseeing the DFI.

Rep. Waxman’s letter to Subcommittee Chairman Shays says, “The extensive redactions in the audit were apparently made at the specific request of Halliburton…the withholding of this information is highly unusual and raises serious issues. The evidence suggests that the U.S. used Iraqi oil proceeds to overpay Halliburton and then sought to hide the evidence of these overcharges from the international auditors.” Waxman also renewed his request that the Subcommittee hold hearings on the Administration's “mismanagement of the Development Fund for Iraq”.

Previously, Waxman disclosed that DOD auditors found $108 million in fuel-related overcharges by Halliburton for work in Iraq under one of several Halliburton task orders for the importation of fuel into Iraq. He also revealed that, although Halliburton was paid in significant part from Iraqi oil proceeds in the DFI, the Administration — acting at Halliburton’s request — concealed these overcharges from the international auditors charged by the United Nations with monitoring the expenditures from the DFI, Waxman alleges.

In these new audit reports, he says, “extensive additional information has been withheld by the Administration from the IAMB. A review of these audits shows that references to overcharges and other questioned costs were blacked out over 450 times in the versions of audits sent to the IAMB.”

Rick Blum of advocacy group ‘’, said, “Once again, the secrecy system fails us. They wouldn't have done it if they thought anyone cared or would find out. If the public had known about this earlier, we could stop it, better protect our troops, and better use our taxpayer dollars to make our families safer. This should be a wake up call to ensure more openness to strengthen our national defense.”

And Scott H. Amey,General Counsel of the Project on Government Oversight, a non-partisan government watchdog, declared, “DCAA’s audit reports document a total of approximately $2 billion (approximately 37% of the total proposed value of the contracts) in questioned, unresolved, or unsupported costs. If a taxpayer was able to support only 63% of their tax-return, he or she would be brought to justice. In the case of Halliburton, however, the government continues to let it slide.”

The State Department’s report focused on Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), the Halliburton subsidiary contracted to repair Iraq's southern oil fields.

The report does not provide detail about what it called “poor performance and excess spending”, but it says that the American Embassy had issued a "Cure Notice," a threat to terminate the contract unless Kellogg, Brown & Root replaced some senior managers. It says the government remains dissatisfied.

As a consequence, one of KBR’s competitors, Parsons Corporation, has been asked "to execute some of the remaining work" in the south, originally meant for KBR. KBR has previously been criticized for excess spending in its multibillion-dollar contract to provide logistical support for the military and in an earlier, $2.2 billion contract for oil repairs and fuel imports that was granted secretly as the Iraq invasion began. KBR won the contract to work on northern oil fields.

The Embassy has reallocated an additional $832 million in planned spending away from huge projects managed by American companies toward smaller repairs using local businesses and the training of Iraqis to maintain power and water systems.

Halliburton has attributed its slow progress to attacks by insurgents, years of neglect and lack of investment in the country’s oil facilities, and delays in repairs. The State Department report says Iraq's oil output of 2.1 million barrels a day in February was lower than it was last fall.

Halliburton – of which Vice President Dick Cheney was formerly chief executive officer -- is the largest single contractor in Iraq. The Pentagon has already awarded the company contracts worth up to $18 billion for its work in Iraq. Many of them were no-bid contracts that drew widespread criticism on Capitol Hill and in the press.

The company says it performed well under difficult circumstances in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and that cost disputes "are part of the normal contracting process." But former Halliburton employees have alleged intentional and systemic waste.

Lower-than-expected oil exports are exacerbating the Iraqi government's budget deficit, which the report estimates could reach $5 billion this year. A quarterly update on Iraqi reconstruction that was delivered to Congress last week.

A former Halliburton employee, Marie deYoung, audited accounts for Halliburton subsidiary KBR. She claims there was no effort to hold down costs because all costs were passed on directly to taxpayers. She repeatedly complained to superiors of waste and fraud. The company's response, according to deYoung was: "We can be as dumb and stupid as we want in the first year of a war, nobody’s going to care."

The former Army chaplain produced documents detailing alleged waste even on routine services: $50,000 a month for soda, at $45 a case; $1 million a month to clean clothes — or $100 for each 15-pound bag of laundry.

"That money could have been used to take care of soldiers," she said.

Another former employee, Mike West, says he was paid $82,000 a year to be a labor foreman in Iraq, but never had any laborers to supervise. "They said just log 12 hours a day and walk around and look busy," he said.


William Fisher

Three quarters of American voters “support comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform proposal that combines toughness, fairness, a guest worker program, family reunification, and a path to legal residency for undocumented immigrants who are already here”, according to results of an opinion poll conducted by two leading immigration advocacy groups.

Sponsors of the survey, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the National Immigration Forum, said, “Americans understand that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. We cannot continue with the status quo.”

Judith Golub, Senior Director of Advocacy at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, declared, “We decided to see what the American people really thought about immigration given all the heat and noise portrayed in the media. The opinion research confirmed what we thought -- that American voters are ready for comprehensive immigration reform. We hope that the President and the Congress follow the American people's lead and put something concrete into action soon.”

AILA said in a statement, “The public supports the kind of reform promoted by President Bush and Congressional leaders, not the extreme proposals from the anti-immigrant lobby. Such reform will create a safe, orderly, and legal system – one that is characterized by just and reasonable rules, consistent with basic American values of fairness and equal treatment under the law. Our current system keeps families separated for long periods of time, makes it difficult for U.S. businesses to employ needed workers, and forces people to live underground, fearful that our government will separate them from their families and jobs. The current enforcement system fails to prevent illegal immigration and wastes precious resources that should be spent on enhancing our security on stopping hard-working people from filling our labor market needs.”

Among the survey’s key findings:

Support for (a Bush-style) proposal is solid across party, regional and demographic lines.

Voters support each component of the proposal as well as the overall package.

Support for the proposal holds firm after voters hear positive and negative messages.

Most voters do not base their support for political candidates on the immigration issue. However, even those that do are solidly in favor of this immigration reform proposal.

Over two thirds of all voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports this type of immigration proposal.

Voters overwhelmingly believe the immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. They want a controlled system that would replace an illegal immigration flow with a legal immigration flow.

The vast majority of voters believe that deporting the 10 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States is unrealistic.

More than 8 in 10 believe that if an immigrant has been in this country working, paying taxes, and learning English, there should be a way for them to become a citizen.

These poll results, based on a telephone survey of 800 likely voters nationwide, appear to indicate that most American voters reject the piecemeal approach contained in the so-called REAL I.D. bill. That bill passed the House of Representatives and is now awaiting action by the Senate.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, wants his bill attached to a massive “must pass” spending measure now wending its way through the Senate. The bill would provide support for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and help for tsunami victims.

But Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist appears to be resisting this move, and President Bush is also saying he prefers a more comprehensive approach to the whole immigration issue.

The REAL I.D. Act would establish stronger security standards for the issuance of drivers’ licenses, including proof of lawful presence in the U.S. All states would be required to comply, to “eliminate weak links in domestic identity security.” It would also set up tough physical security requirements to reduce counterfeiting, have drivers’ licenses expire when an alien’s visa expires, and close the three-mile hole in the fortified U.S./Mexico border fence near San Diego, California.

The bill also contains asylum provisions that have drawn fire from human rights organizations. These would tighten the asylum system, which Rep. Sensenbrenner says have been “abused by terrorists”, allow immigration judges to determine witness credibility in asylum cases, and keep terrorists out of U.S. by making all terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility causes for deportation.

Mark Dow, author of "American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons", said, "Sensenbrenner continues the congressional tradition of targeting genuine asylum-seekers to score rhetorical points against terrorists. He is simply unconcerned with the damage that his political maneuvering may do to human beings and their families."

Tim Edgar, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), declared, “It is deeply unfortunate that Chairman Sensenbrenner has made his top priority an unwarranted attack on immigrants and would even consider attaching such divisive ‘poison pill’ provisions to critical ‘must-pass’ legislation such as the Tsunami relief bill or supplemental funding for the troops in Iraq.”

Most of the Sensenbrenner immigration provisions were included in the House version of the Intelligence Reorganization Act at the end of 2004, but were removed because of strong opposition from the Senate and the White House. The intelligence measure enacted into law many of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission.

Rep. Sensenbrenner rejects the idea of putting the President’s proposals and his own together. He believes Congress should act first to prevent illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses and pass other immigration restrictions. "I think it's important to get this legislation enacted and we ought to divide the debate between security and immigration. If we mix the two, the word will get out that immigrants are a security threat," Sensenbrenner said.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, said, “The federal government must prove it can protect the nation's borders before Congress can pass a guest-worker program. He vowed that the House will insist that the emergency war-spending bill contain the immigration security provisions that passed in the chamber.

Thus, House Republicans and some conservative Democrats appear to be on a collision course with much of the Senate as well as the White House.