After a long hiatus involving unemployment, relocation, and a new career, the editorial staff here at Artorius is restarting. But this isn’t your father’s Artorius, if you are looking for bomb throwing, incendiary, political commentary, you will be disapointed. After the bruising battle to prevent ObamaCare, Climate Change legislation and rampant run away government growth, this space has had enough. Between the threats and accusations of everything from supporting Afghani Poppies being used to fund the War on Terror, to being racist for not supporting ObamaCare, we have determined that politics just aren’t fun to write about anymore.
Rather than tweak the noses of the moonbats and the Democrats, we think that we will try our hand at writing history articles. Oh, I’m sure the writing will be a little stilted, but to the partisan extent of the past, no. We certainly have our own views of historical events, but they have been shaped by years of research, study and investigation. We hope to present an unbiased view of the events we write about, but we will not parrot the mainstream norm for the sake of cutting corners.
So stay tuned, we have already begun laying the groundwork for a piece on Pope Pius XII and the whispered allusions and the outright accusations of the Vatican’s role in harboring and spiriting away of Croatian War Criminal Ante Pavelic after the Second World War.
The New York Times reported today that the Court that oversees the secret FISA court, upheld a 2007 ruling regarding a telecommunications company’s lawsuit over international communications. In upholding the ruling, the Court validates the Bush Administration’s claim that government has the right to monitor international communication in and out of the United States.
Released today despite ruling on 22 August of last year, the appellate bench agreed with the FISA, or Foreign Intelligence Act, that congress was right to pass the Protect America Act. The Act granted an encompassing eavesdropping power to the executive branch allowing them to listen in on international communications traffic.
The lawsuit stems from a telecommunications provider refusing an order to turn over records relating to international phone calls, faxes, and internet traffic. The provider has not been named, but the industry as a whole was against the policy.
Barack Obama, long critical of the wiretapping laws, claimed he would do away with eavesdropping courts on the campaign trail and it will be interesting to see what direction he moves in from here.
When the Democratic congress pulled the plug in 2008, then Senator Obama, threatened to filibuster it’s passage. Despite warnings it would harm National Security, the Democrats refused to renew the six month NSA program. Congress eventually came up a similar plan which gave the telecommunications industry immunity from lawsuits stemming from turning names and records over to the government. Senator Obama ultimately vote to allow wiretapping.
It is certain the law will be reviewed by the Obama administration, and changes can be expected fairly early in the Obama Administration.
This is only the second time in 30 years that the appellate branch of the FISA court has had to issue a major ruling.
Another counter attack, another terrorist killed, and another building in Gaza leveled or damaged. But not just any building, this is a United Nations building. Apparently banned white phosphorus was used too, on the United Nations school! But then one scrolls down a bit in the story to find that “shrapnel from nearby fighting, fell on the school..” Moving further down the article, you will find that the IDF did, indeed, fire upon the school because anti-tank missiles were being fired from the UN compound.
No, that is not right either. Moving around my cherished Google Reader, I could find at least 3 different versions of the one incident, all of them skewed toward the UN and Hamas, of course, just in varying degrees. White Phosphorus is only mentioned in CNN’s article, because “staffers” in the compound identified them as such. Oh, and to remind us they are illegal and that Israel had used them before. Such stilted and biased reporting is the norm to be sure, but in this case perhaps the media should try a little objectivity to hasten a cease fire agreement.
But the World needs a victim-downtrodden with no resources. The Global community needs to have a special needs child. Palestinians have been the abused and unwashed mass for the latter part of the last century. Oil rich countries poured money into the land, no, that’s not quite right, it was never really theirs, but never visited. Nor, did they ever invite refugees from the Strip or West Bank to live or start over in one of the many Arab countries that wrote checks to keep the “Palestinians” at arm’s length. But what is a Palestinian?
To try and define the borders of Palestine, you would need a very open mind. In trying to find a historical claim for the people of Gaza, there were more than 10 different maps and references through the ages. By most accounts, the term Palestine was around long before the times of Christ. In one view of or another, there is definite historical reference for the term, prior to say, the collation of the Bible.
With a legitimate, historical name, the Palestinians set out to rid the land between the Jordan river and the Sea, of Jews, and the UN’s choice to partition what was then being call “The Mandate”, after the War was their chance to act. Administered by Britain as of 1920, their mandate ended in 1948. During that period, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was a pretty powerful figure, and as an Islamist was known to collude with Nazi Germany against the Jews in Europe and Middle East. As an aside, this Mufti Hussein, would be Great Uncle to Yasser Arafat, and the namesake of Saddam Hussein. Within days of the UN’s proclamation of 1948, the newly formed State of Israel was at war. They would be continue to be on a war footing until present times. Wars in 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 and the Intifadas of 1987 and 2000, which continues to today, have been launched against Israel.
In each conflict, Israel either gained land or took land back that had been taken from them. The West Bank, nor Gaza were in Israel’s pre-1967 borders, but by the spoils of war they were part of Israel until the Palestinian Authority was declared in the 1990’s. Since then, there has been nothing but trouble.
Money poured into Gaza, but for some reason, they still relied on Israel to provide utilities and basic infrastructure. The UN moved in and an airport was built. The PA was given a seat at the UN, and basically it was then up to to the PA to grow an economy, create jobs, and increase exports. The Authority has never gotten past the rock throwing and old hatreds.
Since the inception of the PA, Israel has had to swivel back and forth between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A wave of suicide bombings launched and approved by Nobel Laureate Yasser Arafat in 2000 through 2002, put Israel on alert status and they have been there ever since. They bulldozed Arafat’s Ramallah compound , but didn’t kill him. Then another rocket campaign from Gaza would turn the Magan David’s attention to the West.
And that is how it stand today. A country or an authority that refuses to grow up and shed the victim moniker derserves the UN, and certainly, the UN deserves them. When Israel retaliates for rockets, it has to be reported that they were provoked, not just that they shut off the water. (What happened to that De-Salinization plant that was built in Gaza?) The media has responisbilty to remind their readers and viewers that this is not just Palestinian victimhood being exploited by evil Jews. Aid agencies and NGO’s must screen and vet their employees before they give them access to money and policy. Most off all, it must be remembered that there two countries here, two cultures, and two peoples, not just victims and bullies. And still no proof of White Phosphorus use, either.
The problem with the treasury secretary-designate’s tax records.
By Byron York
Although it has been dismissed by some observers as a “hiccup” in an otherwise smooth confirmation process, treasury secretary-designate Timothy Geithner’s failure to pay self-employment taxes during the years he worked at the International Monetary Fund is causing some Republicans on Capitol Hill to ask serious questions about his actions. First among those questions is why he accepted payment from the IMF as restitution for taxes that he had not, in fact, paid.
Documents released by the Senate Finance Committee strongly suggest that Geithner knew, or should have known, what he was doing when he did not pay self-employment taxes in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. After his failure to pay was discovered, first by the IRS and later during the vetting process, Geithner paid the federal government a total of $42,702 in taxes and interest.
The IMF did not withhold state and federal income taxes or self-employment taxes — Social Security and Medicare — from its employees’ paychecks. But the IMF took great care to explain to those employees, in detail and frequently, what their tax responsibilities were. First, each employee was given the IMF Employee Tax Manual. Then, employees were given quarterly wage statements for the specific purpose of calculating taxes. Then, they were given year-end wage statements. And then, each IMF employee was required to file what was known as an Annual Tax Allowance Request. Geithner received all those documents.
The tax allowance has turned out to be a key part of the Geithner situation. This is how it worked. IMF employees were expected to pay their taxes out of their own money. But the IMF then gave them an extra allowance, known as a “gross-up,” to cover those tax payments. This was done in the Annual Tax Allowance Request, in which the employee filled out some basic information — marital status, dependent children, etc. — and the IMF then estimated the amount of taxes the employee would owe and gave the employee a corresponding allowance.
At the end of the tax allowance form were the words, “I hereby certify that all the information contained herein is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and that I will pay the taxes for which I have received tax allowance payments from the Fund.” Geithner signed the form. He accepted the allowance payment. He didn’t pay the tax. For several years in a row.
According to an analysis released by the Senate Finance Committee, Geithner “wrote contemporaneous checks to the IRS and the State of Maryland for estimated [income] tax payments” that jibed exactly with his IMF statements. But he didn’t write checks for the self-employment tax allowance. Then, according to the committee analysis, “he filled out, signed and submitted an annual tax allowance request worksheet with the IMF that states, ‘I wish to apply for tax allowance of U.S. Federal and State income taxes and the difference between the “self-employed” and “employed” obligation of the U.S. Social Security tax which I will pay on my Fund income.”
In a conversation today with sources on Capitol Hill who are familiar with the situation, I asked, “Was Geithner made whole for tax payments that he didn’t make?”
“Yes,” one source answered. “He was getting the money. He was being paid a tax allowance to pay him for tax payments that he should have made but had not.”
Geithner paid his 2003 and 2004 obligations after an IRS audit. He paid his 2001 and 2002 obligations after he was nominated to be treasury secretary. The Obama transition team argues that Geithner simply slipped up, saying Tuesday that Gieithner “mistakenly had not paid self-employment taxes” for the years in question. In a closed-door meeting with Senate Finance Committee members on Tuesday, Geithner explained his failure to pay the self-employment taxes as an oversight. In the days before his confirmation hearing, senators are going to want to know more about how that happened.
WEAPONS OF CHOICE Big Brother’s new target: Tracking of all firearms ‘This is nothing less than a declaration of war on American gun owners’
Posted: January 13, 2009
10:08 pm Eastern
By Drew Zahn
© 2009 WorldNetDaily
Among the more controversial provisions of the bill are requirements that all handgun owners submit to the federal government a photo, thumb print and mental heath records. Further, the bill would order the attorney general to establish a database of every handgun sale, transfer and owner’s address in America.
The bill claims its purpose is “to protect the public against the unreasonable risk of injury and death associated with the unrecorded sale or transfer of firearms to criminals and youth.”
Columnist David Codrea of Guns Magazine, however, calls it a “ridiculous affront to liberty.”
“This is nothing less than a declaration of war on American gun owners,” Codrea writes on Gun Rights Examiner. Rush’s proposed bill, H.R. 45, is alternatively known as “Blair Holt’s Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009,” named after an Illinois teenager killed by a gunshot.
According the bill’s text, “On the afternoon of May 10, 2007, Blair Holt, a junior at Julian High School in Chicago, was killed on a public bus riding home from school when he used his body to shield a girl who was in the line of fire after a young man boarded the bus and started shooting.”
The bill then argues that interstate firearm trafficking and children dying from gun violence create legitimate cause for the federal government to monitor gun ownership and transfers in new ways.
If passed, the bill would make it illegal to own or possess a “qualifying firearm” – defined as any handgun or any semiautomatic firearm that takes an ammunition clip – without a “Blair Holt” license.
To obtain a “Blair Holt” license, an application must be made that includes a photo, address, all previous aliases, thumb print, completion of a written firearm safety test, release of mental health records to the attorney general and a fee not to exceed $25.
Further, the bill makes it illegal to transfer ownership of a qualifying firearm to anyone who is not a licensed gun dealer or collector. Exceptions to this rule include transfer to family members by gift or bequest and loans, not to exceed 30 days, of a firearm for lawful purposes “between persons who are personally known to each other.”
The bill also requires qualifying firearm owners to report all transfers to the attorney general’s database. It would also be illegal for a licensed gun owner to fail to record a gun loss or theft within 72 hours or fail to report a change of address within 60 days.
And if a minor obtains a weapon and injures someone with it, the owner of the gun – if deemed to have failed to meet certain safety requirements – faces a multiple-year jail sentence.
H.R. 45 is a resurfacing of 2007’s H.R. 2666, which contained much of the same language and was co-sponsored by 15 other representatives and Barack Obama’s current chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel. H.R. 2666 was assigned to the House Judiciary committee, where no action was taken.
H.R. 45 currently has no co-sponsors and is likewise assigned to the House Judiciary committee.
By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 14, 2009; Page A01
The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”
“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.
Crawford, a retired judge who served as general counsel for the Army during the Reagan administration and as Pentagon inspector general when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, is the first senior Bush administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.
Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani’s health led to her conclusion. “The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge” to call it torture, she said.
Military prosecutors said in November that they would seek to refile charges against Qahtani, 30, based on subsequent interrogations that did not employ harsh techniques. But Crawford, who dismissed war crimes charges against him in May 2008, said in the interview that she would not allow the prosecution to go forward.
Qahtani was denied entry into the United States a month before the Sept. 11 attacks and was allegedly planning to be the plot’s 20th hijacker. He was later captured in Afghanistan and transported to Guantanamo in January 2002. His interrogation took place over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003, though he was held in isolation until April 2003.
“For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators,” said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani’s interrogation records and other military documents. “Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18-to-20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister.”
At one point he was threatened with a military working dog named Zeus, according to a military report. Qahtani “was forced to wear a woman’s bra and had a thong placed on his head during the course of his interrogation” and “was told that his mother and sister were whores.” With a leash tied to his chains, he was led around the room “and forced to perform a series of dog tricks,” the report shows.
The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described by other news organizations, including The Washington Post, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani’s heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.
The Qahtani case underscores the challenges facing the incoming Obama administration as it seeks to close the controversial detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including the dilemmas posed by individuals considered too dangerous to release but whose legal status is uncertain. FBI “clean teams,” which gather evidence without using information gained during controversial interrogations, have established that Qahtani intended to join the 2001 hijackers. Mohamed Atta, the plot’s leader, who died steering American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center, went to the Orlando airport to meet Qahtani on Aug. 4, 2001, but the young Saudi was denied entry by a suspicious immigration inspector.
“There’s no doubt in my mind he would’ve been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001,” Crawford said of Qahtani, who remains detained at Guantanamo. “He’s a muscle hijacker. . . . He’s a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don’t charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, ‘Let him go.’ ”
That, she said, is a decision that President-elect Barack Obama will have to make. Obama repeated Sunday that he intends to close the Guantanamo center but acknowledged the challenges involved. “It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” Obama said on ABC’s “This Week,” “and we are going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted, even though it’s true.”
interrogations never involved torture. “The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values,” Bush asserted on Sept. 6, 2006, when 14 high-value detainees were transferred to Guantanamo from secret CIA prisons. And in a interview last week with the Weekly Standard, Cheney said, “And I think on the left wing of the Democratic Party, there are some people who believe that we really tortured.”
“I sympathize with the intelligence gatherers in those days after 9/11, not knowing what was coming next and trying to gain information to keep us safe,” said Crawford, a lifelong Republican. “But there still has to be a line that we should not cross. And unfortunately what this has done, I think, has tainted everything going forward.”
“The Department has always taken allegations of abuse seriously,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in an e-mail. “We have conducted more than a dozen investigations and reviews of our detention operations, including specifically the interrogation of Mohammed Al Qahtani, the alleged 20th hijacker. They concluded the interrogation methods used at GTMO, including the special techniques used on Qahtani in 2002, were lawful. However, subsequent to those reviews, the Department adopted new and more restrictive policies and procedures for interrogation and detention operations. Some of the aggressive questioning techniques used on Al Qahtani, although permissible at the time, are no longer allowed in the updated Army field manual.”
After the Supreme Court ruled in the 2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld case that the original military commission system for Guantanamo Bay violated the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, Congress rewrote the rules and passed the Military Commissions Act, creating a new structure for trials by commissions. The act bans torture but permits “coercive” testimony.
Crawford said she believes that coerced testimony should not be allowed. “You don’t allow it in a regular court,” said Crawford, who served as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces from 1991 to 2006.
Under the act, Crawford is a neutral official overseeing charges, trials and sentencing, with ultimate decision-making power over all cases coming before the military commissions.
In May 2008, Crawford ordered the war-crimes charges against Qahtani dropped but did not state publicly that the harsh interrogations were the reason. “It did shock me,” Crawford said. “I was upset by it. I was embarrassed by it. If we tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same techniques? How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it.”
The harsh techniques used against Qahtani, she said, were approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. “A lot of this happened on his watch,” she said. Last month, a Senate Armed Services Committee report concluded that “Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there.” The committee found the interrogation techniques harsh and abusive but stopped short of calling them torture.
An aide to the former defense secretary accused the committee chairman, Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), of pursuing a politically motivated “false narrative” that is “unencumbered by the preponderance of the facts.”
In June 2005, Time magazine obtained 83 pages of Qahtani’s interrogation log and published excerpts that showed some of the extreme abuse. The report of a military investigation released the same year concluded that Qahtani’s interrogations were “degrading and abusive.”
Crawford said she does not know whether five other detainees accused of participating in the Sept. 11 plot, including alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, were tortured. “I assume torture,” she said, noting that CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has said publicly that Mohammed was one of three detainees waterboarded by the CIA. Crawford declined to say whether she considers waterboarding, a technique that simulates drowning, to be torture.
The five detainees face capital murder charges, and Crawford said she let the charges go forward because the FBI satisfied her that they gathered information without using harsh techniques. She noted that Mohammed has acknowledged his Sept. 11 role in court, whereas Qahtani has recanted his self-incriminating statements to the FBI.
“There is no doubt he was tortured,” Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, Qahtani’s civilian attorney, said this week. “He has loss of concentration and memory loss, and he suffers from paranoia. . . . He wants just to get back to Saudi Arabia, get married and have a family.” She said Qahtani “adamantly denies he planned to join the 9/11 attack. . . . He has no connections to extremists.” Gutierrez said she believes Saudi Arabia has an effective rehabilitation program and Qahtani ought to be returned there.
When she came in as convening authority in 2007, Crawford said, “the prosecution was unprepared” to bring cases to trial. Even after four years working possible cases, “they were lacking in experience and judgment and leadership,” she said. “A prosecutor has an ethical obligation to review all the evidence before making a charging decision. And they didn’t have access to all the evidence, including medical records, interrogation logs, and they were making charging decisions without looking at everything.”
She noted that prosecutors are required to determine whether any evidence possessed by the government could be exculpatory; if it is, they must turn it over to defense lawyers. It took more than a year, she said — and the intervention of Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England — to ensure they had access to all the information, much of it classified.
Crawford said detainee interrogation practices are a blot on the reputation of the United States and its military judicial system. “There’s an assumption out there that everybody was tortured. And everybody wasn’t tortured. But unfortunately perception is reality.” The system she oversees probably can’t function now, she said. “Certainly in the public’s mind, or politically speaking, and certainly in the international community” it may be forever tainted. “It may be too late.”
She said Bush was right to create a system to try unlawful enemy combatants captured in the war on terrorism. The implementation, however, was flawed, she said. “I think he hurt his own effort. . . . I think someone should acknowledge that mistakes were made and that they hurt the effort and take responsibility for it.”
“We learn as children it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission,” Crawford said. “I think the buck stops in the Oval Office.”
Researchers Julie Tate and Evelyn Duffy contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — Terror suspects who have been held but released from Guantanamo Bay are increasingly returning to the fight against the United States and its allies, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Sixty-one detainees released from the U.S. Navy base prison in Cuba are believed to have rejoined the fight, said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, citing data from December. That’s up from 37 as of March 2008, Morrell said.
The new figures come as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to issue an executive order during his first week in office to close the controversial prison. It’s unlikely, however, that the Guantanamo detention facility will be closed anytime soon as Obama weighs what to do with the estimated 250 Al Qaeda, Taliban or other foreign fighter suspects still there.
About 520 Guantanamo detainees have been released from custody or transferred to prisons elsewhere in the world.
Morrell said more than 100 detainees have been transferred or otherwise released over the last year alone.
“There clearly are people who are being held at Guantanamo who are still bent on doing harm to America, Americans, and our allies,” Morrell told reporters at the Pentagon. “So there will have to be some solution for the likes of them, and that is among the thorny issues that the president-elect and his new team are carefully considering.”
Morrell said the new numbers showed a “pretty substantial increase” in detainees returning to terror missions — from 7 percent to 11 percent.
He said intelligence, photographs and forensic evidence like fingerprints and DNA were used to tie the detainees to terror activity. He did not know where they had been released, or what missions they are now believed to have rejoined.
Human rights activists and defense lawyers for the detainees argue that many Guantanamo prisoners pose no security risk and should be released.
In a recent report, the Brookings Institution examined hundreds of pages of declassified military documents, and ultimately said it couldn’t tell whether many of the prisoners held for years without charges are terrorists or innocent.
The Washington think-tank concluded that only 87 of the 250 detainees described having any relationship with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or other armed groups considered hostile to the United States.