Muslim Groups In Sudan Not Satisfied With Conviction of Fuzzy Wuzzy Muhommed Teacher

Islamic groups in Sudan plan to protest against Gillian Gibbons for her Infidel Ways… They are clearly not satisified with the outcome of the court ruling.

Leaflets pass out by these groups promises a “Popular Release of Anger”, sounds live violence to me….

KHARTOUM, Sudan (CNN) — Muslim groups in Sudan, angry at a female British teacher for allowing her students to call a teddy bear “Mohammed,” are planning a protest in the capital Khartoum a day after she was sentenced to 15 days in jail.  

The decision by a Sudanese court to jail Gillian Gibbons late Thursday was widely criticized outside of Sudan as too harsh, with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband saying he was “extremely disappointed” the charges were not dismissed.

In leaflets distributed earlier this week by Muslim groups and seen by CNN, the protesters promised a “popular release of anger” at demonstrations called for Friday.

The leaflets condemned Gibbons as an “infidel” and accused her of “the pollution of children’s mentality” by her actions.

Sudanese media was reporting that the protests would take place outside the Unity High School where Gibbons worked as a teacher following Friday prayers. However, CNN was unable to confirm this.

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The teacher was convicted of insulting religion but cleared of two other charges of inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, Ali Ajeb, her lawyer said. Watch latest developments in the case Video

Ajeb said they were planning to appeal the sentence, which runs from the date she was first detained, November 25.

Gibbons, 54, is being held in a woman’s prison in the Omdurman district of Khartoum and she will be deported at the end of her prison term, British consular officials in the city told CNN.

Embassy staff said they were giving the teacher, from the northern British city of Liverpool, full consular assistance

YouTube & Yahoo Silence Human Rights Activist Misr Digital

A fellow blogger and Human Rights activist, who has won awards for his efforts is being silenced by YouTube and Yahoo!.

Yahoo has cancelled his email address and YouTube has taken down his videos. The videos, though graphic in nature, are live videos submitted by Egyptians, in hopes that the world will see the human rights abuses they endure.

YouTube claims to support his efforts, but the context of the videos are the problem. Well then, let’s put them in context, a country, like many Islamic countries, controls the Mass Media within and therefore the Mass Media of the World is never able to show the world what these goverments do. A blogger is able to bring the real deal to the world, which the Western Liberal Media had no problem showing when it was against the US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Please contact YouTube and Yahoo! to help bring to light the injustices being wrought in Egypt to the People’s Court of the World.

Members of the Press, Please for once do the right thing and support Wael in his efforts. Use your collective power to bring pressure on YouTube and Yahoo!

Politicians and Human Rights Groups, please take action to get important information like this reinstated.

Fellow Bloggers Spread the Word and Get the Attention of the Press, Politicians, Human Rights Groups, encourage them to take action NOW. See contact information at bottom of post

A prominent Egyptian human rights activist has been muzzled after YouTube and Yahoo! shut down accounts belonging to the award-winning blogger.

Cairo-based Wael Abbas regularly writes and posts video about police brutality, torture and sexual harassment in Egypt. He told FOXNews.com that he’s fighting an “electronic war” now that the providers have pulled the plug on his video and e-mail accounts.

“This is part of a campaign or a war — an electronic war — against me,” Abbas said from Cairo.

Abbas has used his YouTube account to post more than 100 videos of police brutality and public demonstrations over the past few years to further the fight for freedoms in his country. Many of the videos, taken with cell phones, are leaked to him by anonymous posters who find that Abbas will report on the stories when mainstream Egyptian media will not.

One of the videos — of an Egyptian bus driver being sodomized with a stick by a police officer — was used as evidence to convict two officers of brutality, a rare occurrence in a country where human-rights groups say torture is rampant. /**/

“I think this is a new technique that the government is using, which is complaining about the content of some Web sites or some e-mail addresses, in order to disable them — and disable their owners — from what they are doing,” Abbas said.

YouTube said the decision to remove Abbas’ videos had nothing to do with the Egyptian government, but was rather an internal decision.

“In terms of content that might highlight human rights abuses, of course we support users putting educational, historic, philosophical or documentary footage on the site — even when this may involve acts of violence,” a YouTube spokeswoman said. “However, the graphic nature of the content needs to be put in context so that users can easily understand what they are watching.”

Abbas has run his blog Misr Digital, or Egyptian Awareness, since 2004, covering freedoms of speech and expression topics ignored by mainstream Egyptian media.

His work won him the 2007 Knight International Journalism Award, in recognition of his effort to raise the standards of media excellence in Egypt.

Click here to see his blog (in Arabic).

Many of the videos of police brutality are taken by the officers with their cell phones, who then share them with friends, Abbas said.

Six videos taken down by YouTube and shared with FOXNews.com show alleged police brutality at stations in downtown Cairo and the Imbaba and El Haram neighborhoods of the capitol.

In two videos, a murder suspect confesses after being hung upside down. Her screams are of the pain in her hands, according to an independent translation by FOXNews.com.

Click here to see Pt. 1 of the video. (Warning: these videos are graphic and may be disturbing.)

Click here to see Pt. 2 of the video.

Another video from the El Haram police station shows one officer repeatedly slapping a suspect while others egg on the officer to “Hit him!” “Hit him!” The video was allegedly taken to make an example of the suspect among his friends, Abbas said.

Click here to see the video.

“What is important to me is to have these videos available online for anybody because the anti-torture campaign in Egypt hasn’t stopped,” he said. “There are people being killed in police stations everyday; elections continue to be rigged; there will be interference from the police inside the Egyptian university.

“So these videos are necessary to keep the world informed of what kind of ‘democracy’ that we have in Egypt and what kind of charade that we have here.”

A request for comment from Yahoo! was not immediately returned.

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Witness:

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CNN’s Report on this travesty of justice:

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) — An Egyptian human rights activist who posted videos about police abuse says YouTube has shut down his account because of complaints that the videos contain “inappropriate material.”

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Egyptian human rights activist and blogger Wael Abbas says YouTube has suspended his account.

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Wael Abbas, an award-winning anti-torture watchdog, told CNN on Wednesday that there have been 100 videos posted on his account containing images of torture, police brutality, demonstrations, strikes, sit-ins and election irregularities.

Now, material he had posted is no longer available on the popular video-sharing Web site, he said.

Abbas said YouTube sent him an e-mail saying they had suspended his account.

“They didn’t ask me to remove it. They said ‘Your account isn’t working,’ ” he said. Video Watch Abbas’ complaints about YouTube »

When asked about Abbas, a YouTube spokesperson said, “We take these matters very seriously, but we don’t comment on individual videos.”

YouTube regulations state that “graphic or gratuitous violence” is not allowed and violations of the Terms of Use could result in the ending of an account and deleting all of the videos in it.

“YouTube prohibits inappropriate content on the site, and our community effectively polices the site for inappropriate material,” the spokesperson said. “Users can flag content that they feel is inappropriate and once it is flagged it is reviewed by our staff and removed from the system within minutes if it violates our Community Guidelines or Terms of Use. We also disable the accounts of repeat offenders.”

Abbas agreed that some of the videos were “graphic,” but said strong images underscore the issue of abuse and make an “impact on public opinion.”

He said the graphic images he posted had an impact like the photos and videos of Abu Ghraib prison that emerged in 2004 showing mistreatment of detainees by U.S. troops and stoking international outrage.

“We managed to direct the attention of the people to something that was taboo, something that was never discussed before, which is police brutality and torture inside police stations,” said Abbas, referring to his videos.

The 33-year-old Abbas also operates one of Egypt‘s best known blogs, misrdigital.com, which owes its popularity in part to its frequent postings about police abuse.

In one prominent incident, Abbas posted a video on his blog of a police officer binding and sodomizing an Egyptian bus driver who intervened in a dispute between police and another driver.

The video was one of the factors that led to the conviction of two police officers, who were sentenced to three years each in connection with the incident.

“It’s the first time Egyptian people saw something like that,” Abbas said, referring to beatings and torture. “It was a shock to the Egyptian people.”

The blogger, who said he’s in a “state of shock” because he lost videos he’s uploaded for years, said he might resort to campaigning against YouTube.

“We thought that YouTube was our ally,” Abbas said. “It helped show the truth in countries like Burma. … With what they did now, it doesn’t seem like that anymore,” he said.

Abbas said he has also had a problem with Yahoo! because it shut down two of his e-mail accounts, accusing him of being a spammer.

The International Center for Journalists recently awarded a Knight International Journalism Award to Abbas for his work.

College Students Protesting Chavez’s Constitution Changes

Recent protests of Hugo Chavez has shown his reign of power of Venezuelans is not absolute, yet. For the past couple of years, my liberal friends have insisted that everyone in Venezuela supports Hugo Chavez. I have been arguing that is not the case. Well it seems the ability to spread news of of Venezuela has increased, I would imagine because of Internet based technology, and the truth is coming out. The Venezuelan people are not 100% behind Chavez.

Now with the upcoming referendum, I am sure the outcome will be in Hugo’s favor, there is still a fear amongst the people of Venezuela, a fear of Chavez and retribution.

The governments recent violent reactions to college protestors is a prime example of the tolitarian dictatorship Chavez runs, and explains why more people do not speak out. The college age students seem to have a deeper respect for their freedom and are taking the fight to Chavez with the World as their witness.

CARACAS, Venezuela  —  Venezuelan students in gas masks clashed with National Guard soldiers on Wednesday in protests against President Hugo Chavez’s planned reforms to the country’s constitution.Soldiers outside the Metropolitan University in Caracas fired tear gas to disperse the demonstrators and students were seen carrying peers as smoke wafted through the air.

Click here to view photos.

Meanwhile, Chavez took fire from one of his two ex-wives who urged Venezuelans to reject the slate of proposed constitutional changes that would greatly expand executive power.

Urging Venezuelans to vote “no” in Sunday’s referendum on the changes to the nation’s charter, Maria Isabel Rodriguez compared approving the referendum to a “leap into the dark.”

Rodriguez, a journalist, also urged opponents to go to the polls to prevent possible vote-rigging.

“It will be more difficult for fraud to take place if we all vote,” Rodriguez said at a news conference Tuesday. She divorced Chavez in 2004.

Chavez declared Tuesday that the referendum “cannot fail” and that its success will “open the path to a new nation.”

The president’s differences with his ex-wife reflect the polarization across Venezuela, as rallies for and against the constitutional changes are surging. More protests were planned.

Such gatherings have raised tensions ahead of Sunday’s referendum on reforms that would allow Chavez indefinite re-election, increase presidential terms from six to seven years and help the Venezuelan leader establish socialism in Venezuela.

In Caracas on Tuesday, about 300 placard-waving students gathered outside the Catholic University Andres Bello, occupying a highway for four hours and causing rush-hour traffic jams, to urge Venezuelans to vote “no” on Sunday. The students contend the new constitution would give Chavez authoritarian powers.

“We students will keep coming out onto the street to demand freedom and democracy,” said Roberto Diaz, a 21-year old law student at the university. Dozens of police and national guard monitored the demonstration that ended Tuesday evening without incident.

At the same time, about 5,000 mainly female Chavez supporters gathered in a stadium west of Caracas to back the referendum campaign. Participants in the “Women for Yes” rally, many dressed in Chavista red, waved posters with images of Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

“The women in this process have so much to gain and nothing to lose,” said Chavez supporter Luzbelia Marin.

In Puerto La Cruz, 150 miles east of Caracas, at least 300 students protesting the referendum clashed with Chavez supporters outside the private Santa Maria University, police said. Some Chavez supporters appeared to have guns, an officer said.

“They are hitting each other and there have been gunshots,” police officer Alexander Gonzalez said by telephone from Puerto La Cruz. He said there were no reports of injuries.

On Monday, a man was shot to death after he tried to cross a protest, near the city of Valencia. Chavez blamed violent elements within the opposition for the killing.

Some polls show Chavez faces considerable resistance in the referendum.

The government cites polls suggesting Chavez has an advantage, while the Caracas polling firm Datanalisis — in a nationwide survey this month — found 49 percent of likely voters opposed Chavez’s reforms and 39 percent were in favor.

While the pollster has predicted some of Chavez’s past victories, its results haven’t always been on-target. A poll released by the firm in June 2004 found that 57 percent of Venezuelans would vote to recall Chavez, but the president handily won the vote two months later.

Chavez himself has suggested that if it loses, his government “would have to enter a period of profound reflection.”

Yet, in a speech at an air base west of Caracas, Chavez was optimistic saying Venezuelans will vote “yes.”

Fuzzy Wuzzy Muhommed Teacher Officially Charged – Updated

The British teacher Sudan whose class named a teddy bear Muhommed, has been officially charged by the Sudanese government as previous reported.

Please need to get the word out and help put pressure on the Sudanese goverment to stop this assinine religious human abuse practice from being applied to this woman.

World Government and the UN need to speak up and stand up for this woman, this is a teach, there trying to help these children.

LONDON, England (CNN) — A British teacher arrested in Sudan after allowing her class to name a teddy bear “Mohammed” has been charged by authorities with offending religion, state-run media in Sudan report.

art.gillian.gibbons.jpg

An undated amateur photo of Gillian Gibbons.

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office confirmed Wednesday that Gillian Gibbons had been charged under Article 125 of Sudan’s constitution, the law relating to insulting religion and inciting hatred.

Journalist Andrew Heavens, speaking from Sudanese capital Khartoum, said Gibbons was expected to appear in court Thursday.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has summoned the Sudanese ambassador to discuss charges against Gibbons, The Associated Press reported Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman, Michael Ellam, as saying Wednesday.

The meeting would take place as soon as possible, AP reported the British Foreign Office as saying.

Gibbons, 54, is being held by police in the capital Khartoum after she asked her class of seven-year-olds to come up with a name for the toy as part of a school project, Robert Boulos, the head of Unity High School told CNN.

She was arrested under the country’s Islamic Sharia law after parents of some of her students complained to police.

Under Sudan’s Sharia law, insulting Islam is punishable with 40 lashes, a jail term of up to six months or a fine.

Boulos said naming the teddy bear was “a totally innocent mistake” and that Gibbons had never intended to cause offense.

He said Gibbons had asked the children to pick their favorite name for the new class mascot, which she was using to aid lessons about animals and their habitats.

Classmates took turns taking the teddy bear home with them, accompanied by a diary with the bear’s name written in the front of it, Boulos said.

“All this is a very sensitive area. I asked her (Gibbons) why she had done it and she said she didn’t chose the name, the children did,” Boulos told CNN.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Tuesday he was “very sorry” about Gibbons’ arrest and that the British embassy in Khartoum was “giving all appropriate consular assistance to her.”

He said all efforts were being taken to ensure her early release and that government officials were in touch with the teacher’s family in the northern British city of Liverpool.

Although there is no ban in the Koran on images of Allah or the Prophet Mohammed, likenesses are considered highly offensive by Muslims.

Gibbons had been working at the school — popular with wealthy Sudanese and expatriates — since August, after leaving her position as deputy headteacher at a primary school in Liverpool this summer.

On her entry on the social networking Web site MySpace, Gibbons wrote: “I am a teacher in a school in Khartoum, in Sudan. I like to make the most out of life.”

According to the entry, she said her passion was travel and she was hoping to make the most of her time in Sudan by visiting nearby countries.

Gibbons was recruited to work in Sudan by QTS Worldwide, an education consultancy based in the northern county of West Yorkshire.

Update

Gibbons has been sentenced to 15 days in jail and deportation. She will receive credit 5 days served.

This is better than the possibilites of facing lashings, however it still demonstrates the criminality of govermnets controled by religion and religious law being enforced by the government. Not all people are of the same religion and the freedoms afford us here in the US are scarce around the world.

The British government and the rest of the world still need to stand up against injustices like this taking place.

Had this been the US, then we would be called racists if we even thought about charging someone with a crime like this.

Teachers around the world need to be protected from illegal actions such as these, the way our children learn to be the leaders of tomorrow begins with the Teachers of the world…

A Sudanese court found a British teacher guilty of insulting religion and sentenced her to 15 days in prison Thursday for allowing a teddy bear to be named “Mohammed,” British authorities and her lawyer reported. 

An undated amateur photo of Gillian Gibbons, who has been found guilty of insulting religion.

Gillian Gibbons also faces deportation from Sudan after her prison term, her lawyer told CNN.

He said that he was “very disappointed” with the verdict and that Gibbons planned to appeal.

Gibbons was not convicted of two other charges brought against her — inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, her lawyer said.

Gibbons, 54, was arrested Sunday after she asked her class of 7-year-olds in Khartoum to name the stuffed animal as part of a school project, the British Foreign Office said. She had faced charges under Article 125 of Sudan’s constitution, the law relating to insulting religion and inciting hatred.

Although there is no ban in the Quran on images of Allah or the Prophet Mohammed, Islam’s founder, likenesses are considered highly offensive by Muslims. Video Watch latest developments in the case. »

Appearing somber and dazed, Gibbons arrived at the central courthouse in Khartoum for her closed hearing early Thursday. A staff member from the British Embassy in Khartoum and defense lawyers attended the hearing with her. 

The courthouse was heavily guarded by police, who kept journalists — and, for a while, even one of her attorneys — away.

Gibbons could have faced a sentence of 40 lashes, a fine, or a jail term of up to a year, according to the Foreign Office, which expressed Britain’s dissatisfaction with the verdict.

“We are extremely disappointed that the charges against Gillian Gibbons were not dismissed,” Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement issued shortly after the verdict was announced.

“As I said this morning, our clear view is that this is an innocent misunderstanding by a dedicated teacher. Our priority now is to ensure Ms. Gibbons’ welfare, and we will continue to provide consular assistance to her. I have called in the Sudanese ambassador, Omer Siddig, this evening to explain the decision and discuss next steps.”

 

Clinton Against Iraq War From Outset – Hillary’s Run For President That Is…

On the campaign trail for Hillary, Bill is now saying that he never supported the Iraq War… His press people are spining the statement to reflect his long term views. What a POS, his wife already has been caught up in  a firestorm for her support, at least she has the balls to say she did support it, but changed her mind. Bill is lying and saying he never did support it, but when called out on past support of the war, now it is his long term view…

By the way, the longer term view his press agents are spewing is crap. His long term view that weapons inspectors should have been given more time is moronic, considering they had the eight years of Clinton’s Presidency and the additional 2 years under Bush, a Decade to determine the truth.

Considering Hillary is using Bill’s time in the White House and his policies, or lack there of, as part of her experience platform, I would say she has about as much experience as Bill does with being faithful….

Bill Clinton Says He Opposed Iraq War From the Outset

Former president Bill Clinton said on Tuesday that he “opposed Iraq from the beginning,” apparently glossing over the more nuanced views of the war he has expressed over time. Clinton made the remarks while campaigning for his wife in Iowa – a largely anti-war state for Democrats — as he expressed bitterness over getting a tax cut with money that could have been spent on the military.

“Even though I approved of Afghanistan and opposed Iraq from the beginning, I still resent that I was not asked or given the opportunity to support those soldiers,” Clinton said. He said he “should not have gotten” the tax cuts he received as a wealthy earner.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton voted to authorize the war in Iraq, and has never apologized for her vote, even as the Democratic nominating process has reached fever pitch and she has been drawn into a three-way tie with more ardent Iraq war foes, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards.

Both the former president and his wife have grown increasingly critical of the war’s management in recent years. Both have also pointed to their remarks, made before the invasion, in which they said they would like to see weapons inspectors finish their work in Iraq before launching an attack – a distinction that has allowed both Clintons to claim consistency on Iraq.

Sen. Clinton has, at times, even cited the experience her husband had dealing with the Iraqi regime in the 1990s as one reason she gave Pres. Bush the benefit of the doubt when she voted for the war in 2002.

Jay Carson, a spokesman for the Clintons, pointed to those comments about weapons inspections as evidence that the former president was not trying to rewrite history. “As he said from the beginning and many times since, president Clinton disagreed with taking the country to war in Iraq without allowing the weapons inspectors to finish their jobs,” Carson said.

But past remarks made by the former president do leave open a question about how fervently Clinton opposed the war in real time and before it grew widely unpopular. In immediate hindsight, Clinton did not sound like a fierce critic. “I supported the president when he asked for authority to stand up against weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” Clinton said on May 18, 2003, during a commencement speech at Tougaloo College in Mississippi.

–Anne E. Kornblut

Paris Riots Spreading But Less Intense

Last night, riots broke out south of Paris  in Toulouse as well as Villiers-le-Bel. Police report the overall situation was not as intense as the first two nights of rioting. France’s President Sarkozy is taking the hard line on the issue and reitterating that those that shot at police will be prosecuted.

Sarkozy is meeting the with family of the two boys who died prior to meeting with his security heads to determine which course of action to take.

Rioters are still burning cars and libraries showing it is nothing more than movement of destruction and nothing more.

PARIS, France (AP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday that rioters who shot at police would be brought to justice and called the violence that rocked Paris suburbs “absolutely unacceptable.”

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Armed masked police patrol the streets of Villiers-le-Bel Tuesday night.

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It was the first time Sarkozy, who had just returned from China, entered the fray since the rioting broke out Sunday night.

The violence ebbed Tuesday night after police were deployed in force and quickly rounded up youths lobbing Molotov cocktails and setting cars ablaze.

The violence has drawn comparisons with riots that raged through suburbs nationwide in 2005, and has shown that anger still smolders in poor housing projects where many Arabs, blacks and other minorities live largely isolated from the rest of society.

“We will find the shooters,” and they will “be brought to account before justice,” Sarkozy said after meeting with a wounded police captain hospitalized in Eaubonne north of Paris.

The violence erupted Sunday after the deaths of two minority teens whose motorscooter collided with a police car in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town on Paris’ northern edge.

Residents claimed the officers left without helping the teens. Prosecutor Marie-Therese de Givry denied that, saying police stayed on the scene until firefighters arrived.

Sarkozy described the teens’ deaths as “distressing.” But he added: “Shooting at police has no link to this incident.”

The French president was meeting Wednesday morning with the families of the two teens who died, and with the mayor of Villiers-le-Bel before having a security meeting with his top ministers.

While cars were set ablaze for a third night Tuesday, officials said the violence was less intense than the two previous nights. Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the overall situation was “calm.” Still, she said on Europe-1 radio, police presence would remain reinforced “as long as necessary.”

She said 39 people were arrested in the Paris region Tuesday night.

Bands of young people set more cars on fire Tuesday in and around Villiers-le-Bel. In the southern city of Toulouse, 20 cars were set ablaze, and fires at two libraries were quickly brought under control, police said.

The previous night, 82 officers were injured, 10 of them by buckshot and pellets, the police force said. The use of firearms — rare in 2005 — added a dangerous dimension.

Sarkozy was interior minister, in charge of police, during the 2005 riots and took a hard line against the violence. Even before those riots, he angered many in housing projects when he called delinquents there “scum.”

The violence two years ago also started in the suburbs of northern Paris, when two teens were electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police.

There have long been tensions between France‘s largely white police force and ethnic minorities in poor neighborhoods. Despite decades of problems and heavy state investments to improve housing and create jobs, the depressed projects that ring Paris are a world apart from the tourist attractions of the French capital. Police speak of no-go zones where they and firefighters fear to patrol.

Put Away Your Tin Foil Hats And Welcome To Reality

The conspiracy theorists are still at it over 9/11… This post from Pajama’s media is what I have been arguing all along with my liberal friends. They just keep coming back to the same unsubstantiated arguement, Well of course Bush Knew and The Special Lunch Meeting of CEOs, lets not forget the Bush wasn’t immediately evacuated from the school he was in, or how about the Jews who were called and told not to go to work at the World Trade Centers on 9/10…

Sixty-two percent of Americans believe it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that federal officials knew about the 9-11 attacks in advance and ignored this lifesaving information, according to this recent New York Post report.

The Post, in its typically calm manner, opines “Idiots in the majority.”

This characterization was too much for the blog ThinkProgress.com.

While eschewing conspiracy theories, the ThinkProgress blogger cited three pieces of “evidence” that “prove” that President Bush knew about the 9-11 attacks in advance: the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief; a July 10, 2001 briefing by CIA director George Tenet; and the FBI’s legendary Phoenix memo.

The “smoking gun” is supposed to be the August 6, 2001, President’s Daily Brief, a summary of vital intelligence prepared by the CIA. Its re: line seems to say it all: “Bin Ladin [sic] Determined to Strike in US.”

It seems like a rock solid case, but on closer inspection it is as flimsy as TV backdrop.

Exhibit A is the full text of the PDB, as it is known internally. Recently declassified, the document is clearly not a warning at all, but a rehash of old news reports and outdated intelligence cables.

Here is the briefing paper, in its entirety, except for two minor security redactions:

Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in USClandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and “bring the fighting to America.”
After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a …[redacted] … service.
An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an … [redacted] … service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative’s access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.

The millennium plotting in Canada in 1999 may have been part of Bin Ladin’s first serious attempt to implement a terrorist strike in the US. Convicted plotter Ahmed Ressam has told the FBI that he conceived the idea to attack Los Angeles International Airport himself, but that Bin Ladin lieutenant Abu Zubaydah encouraged him and helped facilitate the operation. Ressam also said that in 1998 Abu Zubaydah was planning his own US attack.

Ressam says Bin Ladin was aware of the Los Angeles operation.

Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.
Al-Qa’ida members — including some who are US citizens — have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two al-Qa’ida members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a … [redacted] … service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of “Blind Shaykh” ‘Umar ‘Abd al-Rahman and other US-held extremists.
Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

The FBI is conducting approximately 70 full field investigations throughout the US that it considers Bin Ladin-related. CIA and the FBI are investigating a call to our Embassy in the UAE in May saying that a group of Bin Ladin supporters was in the US planning attacks with explosives.

The bulk of the memo is a souped-up history lesson. The mention of “hijackings” comes from foreign intelligence service reports from 1998. Significantly, it does not mention flying hijacked planes into buildings—and it is uncorroborated. In other words, what spooks call “chatter.”

Next it mentions “FBI information” about “suspicious activity”—but does not mention the FBI reports from field offices in Minnesota and Arizona. Finally, the “surveillance” of “federal buildings in New York” is nearly worthless. It is not connected to intelligence about hijackings and, of course, the World Trade Center is not a Federal Building. Finally, the CIA notes that FBI is investigating a possible plot involving “explosives.”

Where is the warning here? A warning is a prediction about a future calamity. Yet, not a single sentence speaks of the future. Instead, every sentence is about the past or the present. A warning implies a degree of alarm. Yet every sentence is as passive as an encyclopedia entry. If the CIA had done its job properly and marshaled the pre-9-11 information that was later uncovered by the 9-11 commission, then, possibly, this document could have turned into a warning. But as it stands, it is not warning. It is a status report. And not a very good one.

Next, let us consider how this “warning” came to be written.

In July, the CIA learned that Italian police had intercepted a cell phone call in Milan. Al Qaeda had long been active in Italy. Italian police and intelligence had foiled plots to attack the U.S. Embassy in Rome and uncovered terror cells in Turin, Milan, and elsewhere. Some were arrested, but many more were the targets of roving wire taps. What the Italians overheard surprised them. Al Qaeda seemed to be planning to assassinate President George W. Bush during a state visit to Genoa, Italy in July 2001.

Security was stepped up. The Italian military supplied a battery of surface-to-air missiles to repel an air attack. The press treated it as simply overkill by the America’s Secret Service and did not probe any deeper.

President Bush was told about the al Qaeda assassination plot in his morning intelligence briefing. He wasn’t happy.

The president said that earlier attempts by President Clinton to capture or kill bin Laden were simply “swatting at flies.” He wanted to “bring this guy down.” He wanted a realistic action plan for killing or capturing Osama bin Laden. When he was informed that the National Security Council was already leading an inter-agency effort to hit bin Laden in Afghanistan, Bush reportedly told Rice that he wanted something more imaginative than a cruise missile strike, which would cost millions “to hit a camel in the butt.”

Bush also demanded a thorough review of all intelligence about terrorist threats from al Qaeda, including the possibility of attacks inside the United States. That is why the PDB, which was delivered on August 6, 2001, was prepared.

At Bush’s small ranch house amid the scrub pine near Crawford, Texas, the CIA presented its findings. Condoleeza Rice tuned in via a secure teleconferencing link from her White House office.

Neither Bush nor Rice was happy with the briefing. Rice later described the briefing as “vague,” a rehash of existing intelligence with no new analysis; it merely recited that bin Laden was dangerous, had plans to attack America, and that we should be careful. Not exactly a call to arms.

Little wonder that then-National Security Advisor Rice told the 9-11 Commission that “the country had taken the steps that it could given there was no threat reporting what might happen inside the United States.”

Certainly, the intelligence community was abuzz with “threat reports” with no specifics about where, when, and how al Qaeda would strike. Months before the September 11 attacks, the CIA Counter-Terrorism Center—known as the “CTC”—distributed a classified memo headlined “Threat of Impending al Qaeda Attack to Continue Indefinitely.” CIA Director George Tenet dismissed it as “maddeningly short on actionable details.” And that report was not distributed outside of the CIA.

Richard Clarke, the hard-driving “counter-terrorism czar,” testified before the 9-11 commission about pre-September 11 intelligence. He said that the number of “al Qaeda threats and other terrorist threats was in the tens of thousands—probably hundreds of thousands.” But none of it contained specific information that could be used to stop the 9-11 plot. Clarke is even more emphatic in his book, Against All Enemies: “Had we had any chance of stopping it, had we the knowledge we needed to prevent that day, those of us sitting as members of CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] would literally have given our lives to do so; many of those around the CSG table had already put their lives at risk for their country.”

What was lacking was “actionable intelligence.” To prevent the 9-11 attacks (or any terrorist attack), intelligence officials need to know the target, timing, and type of attack, what counterterrorism researcher Kevin Michael Derksen calls “the three T’s of tactical intelligence.” Without knowing all three elements—when, where, and how—an attack cannot be stopped. If you knew that al Qaeda was going to attack the World Trade Center on September 11, but assumed a truck bomb attack, you would be inspecting cars while the planes crashed overhead.
A State Department intelligence officer once described the analytic side of the spy business this way:

“Imagine your boss… placing a lunch-size brown bag twisted at the top on your desk and asking you to tell him what the contents mean? Dutifully, you untwist the bag and spill the contents on your desk. The contents are some sixty pieces of a puzzle. As you look over the puzzle pieces you immediately notice that about one-third of [them] are blank, and another third appear to have edges that have been cut off. As you look at the pieces that have some part of a picture on them, you sense that this is really a mixture of about four different puzzles. Now keep in mind that you have no boxtop to tell you what the puzzle should look like and you do not know how many pieces are in the puzzle…welcome to the art of terrorism analysis. We rarely see a majority of the pieces of a terrorist threat puzzle. When we do, action is taken.

Did the president—or any member of the intelligence community—have enough puzzle pieces to prevent the September 11 attacks?

Both the 9-11 commission and the U.S. Congress’ “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001,” exhaustively investigated this question. Both used professional investigators to comb through the public record, took sworn testimony from officials, and enjoyed access to reams of classified material.

Both identified dozens of intelligence failures, mostly relating to information sharing, bureaucratic infighting, computer problems, and boneheaded decisions. Still, both bodies came to the same conclusion: that the intelligence community did not know the timing, the target, or the type of attack. So the president had no actionable intelligence.

For those who are tempted to dismiss the reports of both the 9-11 commission and Congress’ Joint Inquiry as a “whitewash,” remember that the hijackers themselves did not know the three Ts. A December 2001 raid on an al Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan turned up a video tape, which featured a lengthy speech by Osama bin Laden.

“The brothers, who conducted the operation, all they knew was that they have a martyrdom operation and that we asked each of them to go to America, but they didn’t know anything about the operation, not even one letter. But they were trained and we did not reveal the operation to them until they are there [in the United States] and just before they boarded the planes.

Those who were trained to fly didn’t know the others. One group of people did not know the other group.”

The majority of the hijackers, until the morning of September 11, did not know the target or the type of attack. And the timing was not disclosed to them until a few days before the attack, according to the 9-11 Commission report. (Indeed, it was originally slated for May, then for July, before bin Laden chose September 11—the seven-year anniversary of the 1996 conviction of Ramzi Youssef, who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.) If the hijackers were apprehended before September 11, there is very little they could say—even if they wanted to cooperate.

So how would it be possible for the president to know something that the terror cell members did not?

Those on the right and left—everyone from the Washington Times’ Bill Gertz to filmmaker Michael Moore—who cling to idea that U.S. government had enough foreknowledge of the attacks to stop them usually cite a handful of reports. Let’s examine each of them.

Gertz, in his book Breakdown: How America’s Intelligence Failures Led to September 11, notes an interview with Kie Fallis, a onetime Defense Intelligence Agency analyst. Fallis told him: “I obtained information in January of 2000 that indicated terrorists were planning two or three major attacks against the United States. The only gaps were where and when.” That is akin to saying that you will win the lottery, the only gaps are the winning numbers and the day on which to play them.

It turns out that Fallis did not even know that al Qaeda planned to hijack planes and ram them into buildings. All Fallis knew is that four al Qaeda operatives, some of whom were tied to the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, had met in Malaysia in January 2000—and that they were up to no good. What exactly is the president supposed to do with this information?

Others point to two September 10 phone intercepts of the National Security Agency. The NSA overheard two Arabic speakers say “The match begins tomorrow” and “tomorrow is zero hour.” These seem to be coded conversations about an upcoming attack.

The intelligence community was not told about these intercepts until after the September 11 attacks.

This looks like a dramatic example of foreknowledge, but it isn’t.

NSA Director Michael Hayden was called on to the carpet in June 2002 by the Congress’ Joint Inquiry. He pointed out that the agency gathers some two million intercepts per hour. Analysts must make snap decisions about which ones to translate and pass on. The two intercepts were put aside as “unactionable” because they did not contain information about a target or a type of attack. All the NSA knew is that tomorrow, somewhere in the world, al Qaeda was hoping to strike somehow. Again, nothing to go on. Messages like this are intercepted routinely and analysts know that many such intercepts are disinformation, when there is no attack in the works.

Still others point to the arrest of Zacarias Moussaui, the so-called “20th hijacker.” Even now, terrorism analysts cannot agree if Moussaoui was supposed to be part of what al Qaeda high command called “the planes operation” or part of a planned second wave of attacks.

Here are the facts that are not in contention: A Pan Am International Flight Academy instructor became suspicious of Moussaoui because he wanted to learn how to fly a 747, but not how to take-off or land. The concerned instructor had to phone the Minnesota FBI four times and, even then, only got the attention of a Special Agent by blurting out “a 747 loaded with fuel can be used as a bomb.”
Moussaoui, who the FBI linked to an al Qaeda affiliate in Chechnya on August 26, 2001, refused to cooperate. When he did talk, months after the attacks, it became clear that he had no knowledge of the target or timing of the attack. It is unclear whether Moussaoui thought he would be part of a conventional hijacking.

Again, no actionable intelligence.

What about the famous “Phoenix memo”?

Kenneth Williams, a veteran policeman turned FBI Special Agent, interviewed some Arab men who were taking flight lessons in Arizona, men who had aroused his suspicions. One had a picture of bin Laden in his living room. Others were tied to an al Qaeda group in London. On July 10, 2001, he e-mailed the FBI’s Osama bin Laden unit and the FBI’s New York Field Office, which often takes the lead in counter-terrorism investigations. The so-called Phoenix memo was quietly shelved—until after 9-11.

Did it contain information that could have tipped off the federal government to the killers living among us?

The 9-11 commission did not think so.

“If the memo had been distributed in a timely fashion and its recommendations were acted on promptly, we do not believe it would have uncovered the plot.”
Kevin Michael Derksen of the University of Winnipeg investigated pre-911 intelligence for the specialist journal Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. He concludes that “security agencies should not be held responsible for failing to forestall what was an impenetrable terrorist plot. An examination of the evidence has shown that security agencies did not have the actionable intelligence they needed to prevent the attack or the means to obtain it.”

Even so, the intelligence services performed poorly. Here is a partial list of some of the intelligence failures uncovered by investigators.

* The very high barrier placed by the Foreign Intelligence Security Act prevented FBI and CIA counter-intelligence operatives from working together or sharing information.
* The FBI’s computer system was horribly antiquated. When the Phoenix office of the FBI issued a warning about the possibility of fundamentalists entering the United States to train on airplane simulators, Phoenix agents had no way of searching the FBI’s internal database to see if there were any other reports about fundamentalists taking flight training in the U.S. Some FBI offices could not even send e-mails to other offices.
* For more than two years, the National Security Agency had tapped the phones of an al Qaeda safe house in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. The NSA analysts had the ability to trace some (but not all) of the calls made from the safe house. In particular, they were suspicious about an al Qaeda operative named “Khalid.” But they couldn’t determine Khalid’s last name or where he was headed. As U.S. News & World Report reported in 2004, only after 9-11 did the NSA discover that the Khalid in question was Khalid al-Mihdar, who hijacked the plane that crashed into the Pentagon. The safe house belonged to al-Mihdar’s father-in-law.
* British restaurant worker Niaz Khan told the FBI in 2000 that al Qaeda was planning to attack the U.S. The FBI let him go, took no action (except to put Khan on the list of people banned from flying into the U.S). After Khan returned to Britain, he tried to contact British intelligence, but they didn’t want to hear from him. Only after he contacted Crimestoppers, a British television series, did anyone pay any attention to him.
* The FBI had several tips about a mosque in San Diego where some of the 9-11 hijackers had worshipped. Yet the bureau had no idea that the plot was underway, even though they had extensive wiretaps on some of the activities there.

Even if intelligence officers could have followed up on these leads, it is doubtful they would have uncovered “actionable intelligence” about the target, timing, and type of attack. Remember, the hijackers themselves did not know all of these details until the morning of September 11.

The only way that the president could have been warned prior to 9-11 would be if American intelligence had an “asset” among bin Laden’s inner circle in Afghanistan—and it did not.

Stubbornly, some believe that the CIA must have warned the president; essentially they assume that the CIA is omniscient. But as historian David McCullough, speaking in another context, told the Christian Science Monitor, “You can’t ever judge why people did things the way they did in the past unless you take into consideration what they didn’t know. Looking back, we say: They should have known, or listened to him or to her. It’s never that simple.’”

Why does this conspiracy theory linger? Historian Joseph E. Persico argues that it is simply human nature. Persico is an acknowledged expert on the last surprise attack on the American homeland, the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor. He notes that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had some inkling of Japan’s dark designs before the December 7, 1941 attack. Relations between Washington and Tokyo had been souring for years and the U.S. was opposed to Japan’s bloody invasion and occupation of eastern China. So FDR knew that Japan might attack at some point. But there was no intelligence suggesting that Japan would attack at Pearl Harbor or when it would attack or how. Still FDR’s critics and many others continue to suspect that he knew all along and that he allowed Pearl Harbor to happen as a “backdoor to war.”

“Why do conspiracy theories keep sprouting?” Persico asks. “Neat, suspenseful plots create high drama, while the truth is often messy, contradictory, even dull.”

Unfortunately, the same is true today. Bush’s critics are as misguided as FDR’s.