Friday, October 3, 2008

House backs $700bn bail-out plan

The moment the rescue package was approved in the House of Representatives

The US House of Representatives has passed a $700bn (£394bn) government plan to rescue the US financial sector.

The 263-171 vote was the second in a week, following its shock rejection of an earlier version on Monday.

The package is aimed at buying up the bad debts of failing financial institutions on Wall Street.

US President George W Bush praised lawmakers for their "spirit of co-operation" before signing the bill into law later on Friday.

The House adopted the new version after the Senate added about $100bn in new tax breaks to win Republican votes.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average had been buoyant ahead of the vote, surging up 250 points, but those gains were pared back amid profit taking and continued uncertainty, and it closed down 1.5%.

The passing of the bail-out plan is just the first stage and it will be several months before anyone can tell whether it is working
Greg Wood,
BBC business correspondent

In a televised response after the House vote, President Bush said: "In coming together we have acted boldly to prevent a crisis on Wall Street becoming a crisis in communities across the country."

Mr Bush acknowledged there were concerns about the government's role and the cost of the plan.

He said he believed in intervention only when it was necessary - but "in this situation, action is clearly necessary".

However, he warned the package would take time to have an effect on the economy.

New York Stock Exchange traders react as bail-out bill passes
Despite traders' celebrations, the Dow Jones finished down

His Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson vowed speedy action to get the rescue package up and operating.

And Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke applauded Congress, saying the bill was a critical step toward stabilising financial markets.

BBC North America business correspondent Greg Wood says the passing of the bail-out plan is just the first stage and it will be several months before anyone can tell whether it is working.

Avoiding 'catastrophe'

Legislators were hugely divided on the bill during the House debate.

Some who had voted "No" on Monday said they were switching because of the improvements to the bill but many of them still expressed serious reservations.

President Bush thanks Congress after the bail-out bill is approved

Others maintained their opposition, saying the bill was still a bail-out benefiting mainly Wall Street.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was one of many to refer to those suffering on America's Main Street and said that urgent action was needed "to avoid economic catastrophe".

"The bright light of accountability will protect the taxpayer," she vowed.

Democrat majority whip James Clyburn said: "We came together in a very strong, bipartisan way to deliver this decisive victory for the American people."

Georgia Democrat John Lewis reflected the views of many when he said: "I have decided that the cost of doing nothing is greater than the cost of doing something."

South Carolina Republican J Gresham Barrett added: "No matter what we do or what we pass, there are still tough times out there. People are mad - I'm mad. We have to act. We have to act now."

But Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling asked: "How can we have capitalism on the way up and socialism on the way down?"

Friday's vote showed 172 Democrats in favour and 63 against. A majority of Republicans still opposed the bill - 91 voted for it and 108 against.

The House rejected the earlier version by 228 votes to 205 on Monday.

The Senate passed an amended bill on Wednesday that raised the government's guarantee on savings from $100,000 to $250,000.

It also included tax breaks to help small businesses and to boost alternative energy, expanded the child tax credit and extended help to victims of recent hurricanes.

The US had experienced more evidence of the financial volatility ahead of the vote on Friday.

The Wells Fargo bank announced it would buy troubled rival Wachovia in a $15.1bn (£8.5bn) deal, while the US also reported its biggest monthly job loss in more than five years.

Original here

Russia to deploy new nuclear missile

By Michael Stott

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia hopes to deploy a new nuclear missile next year designed to penetrate anti-missile defenses and will build eight submarines to carry it, defense officials said on Thursday.

The latest statements underline Moscow's determination to upgrade its nuclear strike forces on land, sea and air. They are regarded by Russian commanders as the cornerstone of the country's defenses.

Colonel-General Vladimir Popovkin, head of armaments for the Russian armed forces, told the Defense Ministry newspaper "Red Star" that Russia's recent war with Georgia "compels us to rethink the current state of the armed forces and how they should develop further."

President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have both pledged to extend Russia's recent military build-up with extra funds to buy new, high-tech arms. On Wednesday, Putin announced an extra $3.1 billion of spending next year, partly to replace equipment lost in the Georgia war.

Despite the billions of dollars spent on them since Putin came to power as president in 2000, Russia's 1 million-strong armed forces remain poorly equipped, badly paid and reliant on a large proportion of unwilling conscripts.

The deputy commander in chief of the Russian navy, Admiral Alexander Tatarinov, said on Thursday that by 2015 Moscow would build a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to carry a new, nuclear-capable strategic missile.

"The navy has gone over to building ships and nuclear submarines by the batch," Tatarinov told Interfax news agency.

"A new state armaments program includes a plan to build a batch of eight nuclear submarines that would be armed with new Bulava strategic missiles."


Defense analysts based in Moscow say much of the extra spending has not reached the front line because of corruption or mismanagement and many weapons programs are running late.

One of these is the Bulava, a submarine-launched long-range nuclear missile which Putin says will be capable of penetrating any missile defenses -- a reference to Washington's plans for a new global system to shoot down hostile rockets.

The Bulava, a modified version of the land-based Topol-M, has had a checkered history with several test launch failures and is running at least two years late.

The navy pronounced the latest Bulava exercise on September 18 a success, saying the missile flew from the White Sea across Russia to the Far East.

Popovkin, who is also deputy defense minister, said he hoped the armed forces would accept the Bulava for service next year. Upgrading Russia's strategic nuclear forces remained a priority because they were the cornerstone of its defenses, he said.

"As long as we are a nuclear power, no hotheads will venture to attack our country," Popovkin said in the interview.

" ... We have already this year started fitting out strategic nuclear forces with the Topol-M missile," he added.

Russia also plans to modernize its nuclear-capable Tupolev TU-160 supersonic strategic bombers and to fully commission the first nuclear-powered submarine to carry the Bulava missile, he added.

The submarine, the Yuri Dolgoruky, was launched in February, six years after its original scheduled date, though it still lacks the missiles it was designed to carry.

Original here

Bill Maher vs. the "talking snake"

Beyond The Multiplex

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate

Bill Maher outside the Vatican City in "Religulous."

What if there was a religion, asks comedian Bill Maher, in which an all-powerful god from outer space decided to send his unborn son on a suicide mission to planet Earth? So this space-god impregnates a human female in some mystical, not-quite-physical fashion, and she gives birth to a baby who is both a human being and a divine incarnation, simultaneously the space god's spawn and the space god himself. (Oh, space god also has a third manifestation, one that's totally invisible.) So space-god junior is born on Earth destined to be killed, even though he's a space god and therefore immortal.

As you've picked up by now, the religion Maher is describing is not imaginary, and in various forms and guises is professed by most people in the United States, including every president we've ever had or are likely to have in the foreseeable future. (I'm sorry, that's right -- one of this year's candidates is a Muslim.) In the acerbic late-night talk-show host's new movie "Religulous," made with "Borat" director Larry Charles, Maher keeps bludgeoning you with stories like these to make the point that the central story behind mainstream Christianity, when considered at face value and taken literally, sounds every bit as loony as the oft-derided tenets of Mormonism or Scientology.

As in his TV work, Maher is best as a wry, outrageous commentator on the idiocy and hypocrisy of the world around him, a sourpuss Will Rogers who'll say things others are thinking. When he meets John Westcott, a Florida pastor and leader of the "ex-gay" Christian evangelical movement, Maher blurts out the obvious: Westcott is a neatly attired, well-groomed, handsome and athletic fellow who would immediately be hit upon by every gay guy in any bar of any major American city. (After they embrace at the end of the interview, Maher says: "Whoa! That wasn't a hard-on, was it?") Later, when interviewing the only two patrons he finds in a Muslim-oriented gay bar in Amsterdam, Maher says: "Well, I hope you guys find each other attractive, because otherwise ..."

In this Borat-meets-Michael Moore world tour of religious extremism, which encompasses Jerusalem, the London Underground, the Hague, an African-American megachurch in North Carolina and an ultra-Orthodox Jewish village in suburban New York, Maher is pretty good at making boobs and fanatics look like boobs and fanatics. He reveals Miami minister José Luis de Jesús Miranda, who has claimed to be both Jesus Christ and the antichrist, as an anti-Semitic moron, and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, a middle-of-the-road Arkansas Democrat, as a garden-variety American moron who refuses to commit to believing in either evolution or creationism. (As Pryor himself says, you don't have to pass an I.Q. test to be a senator.)

Maher is kicked out of the Vatican in Rome and the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, and prayed for by the worshipers at the Truckers' Chapel in Raleigh, N.C. He avoids eviction at the Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Fla., and spends quite a bit of time with the park's Jesus impersonator, a slick bastard who stays with him quip for quip. He himself walks out on Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, an anti-Zionist Jew who attended Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's so-called Holocaust conference, and pretty much refuses to let British Islamic rapper Aki Nawaz (aka Propa-Gandhi) get a word in edgewise.

Himself raised in a mixed Jewish-Catholic family in suburban New Jersey, Maher has long used religion as a comic target. He used to riff on his family background, joking that the Jewish side compelled him to bring a lawyer into the confession box. ("Bless me, father, for I have sinned. I believe you know Mr. Cohen.") As he once observed during a discussion on "Real Time With Bill Maher," his HBO talk show, he objects to religion "because it makes people do stupid shit." He gets no argument from me on that point, and to the extent that "Religulous" is meant to bemoan the auto-lobotomized mandatory Christianity of American public life (I'd include such honorary Christians as Joe Lieberman), and to encourage atheists, agnostics and other doubters to come out of the closet and claim their share of the debate, it's performing a genuine social mitzvah.

As Maher observes, some 16 percent of the American public claims no religious affiliation, which makes the nonreligious minority a larger group than African-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Jews, Muslims or gays and lesbians. Yet those groups are recognized as legitimate stakeholders in American society, while nonbelievers pretty much are not. (As Maher says in our interview, he doesn't call himself either an atheist or an agnostic, although the latter term seems to fit.)

It's also arguably true that the most extreme and ludicrous forms of religion have been on the rise, or have at least become understood as normal and respectable. To have a major-party vice-presidential nominee who apparently believes in a literal-minded understanding of Scripture rather than in modern science would not, once upon a time, have been deemed acceptable. (Even three-time Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan, although claimed as a hero and role model by modern fundamentalist Christians, did not remotely believe that the Earth was created in six literal days a few thousand years ago.)

But as I gently tried to suggest to Maher during our recent phone call, his scattershot and ad hominem attacks against many different forms of religious hypocrisy don't add up to a coherent critique, and he's not qualified to provide one. Any serious theologian from the mainstream Christian or Jewish traditions would have eaten his lunch for him, and that's why we don't see anybody like that in this film for more than a second or two. During their brief appearances, for instance, Vatican Latinist Reginald Foster and astronomer George Coyne, who are both Roman Catholic priests, make it clear that contemporary Catholic theology resists literal readings of Scripture and is not in the least antiscientific. You can find liberal Christians who will argue that the resurrection of Jesus was somewhere between a con game and a dream sequence, and numerous Jews who treat the Torah as legendary material and God as a distant hypothesis.

It's perfectly legitimate to argue that all such people are putting lipstick on a pig, to coin a phrase -- that they're apologizing for a ruinous and ridiculous body of mythological literature whose influence on human history has been overwhelmingly negative. But Maher's idiots-of-all-nations anthology in "Religulous" doesn't even try to make that case; it's as if he doesn't even know that religion has centuries' worth of high-powered intellection on its side, whether you buy any of it or not. Maher and Charles' film also doesn't engage the value of religious narrative in moral or existential terms, nor does it even try to address the ubiquitous nature of supernatural and spiritual experience in human life.

Instead, like most of Maher's comedy, it's a scabrous, irreverent, hit-and-miss broadside against a society mired in pathological stupidity and mesmerized by faith in a "talking snake." That'll have to do for now. I spoke to Maher by telephone on Tuesday, just before "Religulous" was set to open in New York theaters.

Bill, you're a busy guy right now. You've got a movie and an HBO talk show to promote, and an election and a financial crisis to make fun of. But I wonder whether the current economic situation really lends itself to comedy.

Well, it is funny, if you can laugh through your tears. You've got to make fun of everything, and this is certainly something people are aware of and talking about. I try to talk about it in a kitchen-table way, but one of the difficult things about it is that nobody really understands it.

You know, we've been asked to trust Secretary Paulson. Now I don't know this man, and maybe he's brilliant. What I know about him is that he's a Bush appointee, like Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Miers and Cheney. What I know about him is that he worked for Goldman Sachs, who are part of the problem. And I know that he was on his knees in the Oval Office recently. Maybe he was looking for change under the couch, but I don't think so.

Like everybody else, I guess, I don't quite know what to think. On one level, I understand that Congress was being irresponsible in shooting down the bailout the other day. On the other hand, doesn't everybody want to see those rich bastards get what's coming to them?

I guess the problem is, it's cutting off your nose to spite your face. You get the rich bastards, but our 401K plans are on Wall Street, that's our retirement money. It's all mixed together, and that's the problem.

The root problem, I think, is that Americans stopped making stuff. We used to make cars, houses, furniture. We were a manufacturing country. Now we just push numbers around on a computer screen. It's all about debt and margins and short-selling. Eventually that house of cards is going to come down. You find third-world countries and other nations doing better than us. The Chinese actually make things. OK, they make DVD players full of poisonous materials, lead and mercury, but at least they're making something. We've become a small-print economy. Not even a service economy, a small-print economy.

And, you know, we're such a religious country, at least supposedly. But charging interest is specifically forbidden by the Old Testament.

Right. Don't banks in Islamic countries actually obey that prohibition? Or at least find imaginative ways around it?

That's true. As usual with the Muslims compared to us, we pretend to be religious and don't really follow it. They actually walk the walk and talk the talk. Which of course is not a good thing when it leads to beheading homosexuals. We don't do that, we just dis them with Pat Robertson. But yes -- Muslim banks do not charge interest. They find other ways of making money; it's more about sharing with the customer.

I guess that brings us to the topic of "Religulous," which I read as this effort to get agnostics and atheists out of the closet in American society.

That's certainly one of the goals. I don't use the word "atheist" about myself, because I think it mirrors the certitude I'm so opposed to in religion. What I say in the film is that I don't know. I don't know what happens when you die, and all the religious people who claim they do know are being ridiculous. I know that they don't know any more than I do. They do not have special powers that I don't possess. When they speak about the afterlife with such certainty and so many specifics, it just makes me laugh.

People can tell you, "Oh yes, when you get to Paradise there are 72 virgins, not 70, not 75." Or they say, "Jesus will be there sitting at the right hand of the Father, wearing a white robe with red piping. There will be three angels playing trumpets." Well, how do you know this? It's just so preposterous. So, yes, I would like to say to the atheists and agnostics, the people who I call rationalists, let's stop ceding the moral high ground to the people who believe in the talking snake. Let's have our voices heard and be in the debate. Let's stand up and say we're not ready to let the country be given over to the Sarah Palins of the world.

It seems like your major target in this movie are the religious extremists, those who belong to the fundamentalist camps of various different religions.

That's not really true, that's not really true. I mean, take Sen. Pryor -- I don't think he'd consider himself a fundamentalist. I think he's like a majority of Americans. I mean, 60 percent of Americans believe the Noah's ark story to be literally true. To me, that's mainstream. When people say, "You're going after extremists," I say, well, to be religious at all is to be an extremist. It's to be extremely irrational. Not that everybody believes in Noah's ark, or the guy who lived to be 900 years old. But even to believe the central story of Christianity -- a lot of people would say, "I'm not like those kooks out in Kansas who believe the Earth is 5,000 years old. But I do believe God has a son, who he sent down to earth on a suicide mission, and he said, 'Hey, Jesus, I'm sending you on this suicide mission, but don't worry, they can't kill you because you're really me.' I, God the father -- wink, wink -- let's split up the work! OK? Because there's two of us, but not really! I'll go down to Earth first and I'll see if I can't impregnate a Palestinian woman so she can give birth to you." It's just as silly a story. We're just used to it.

Right, well, it's pretty funny when you argue that that story is every bit as ridiculous as the space-alien gods and billion-year-old beings and volcanoes of Scientology. But you could find liberal theologians, sophisticated intellectuals, who are not fundamentalists and who could argue their way out of any corner you try to paint them into.

I disagree again. This is the idea that people have in their heads, that somehow you can have a person who sounds very rational and can hold his own in a conversation about whether religion is silly or not. And I just disagree with that premise. If you're defending the story I just described, you are going to come out sounding ridiculous no matter who you are and no matter how intelligent you are. We interviewed Francis Collins in the film. He's the man who mapped the human genome, he's a brilliant scientist. But he says some pretty cuckoo things, some things that are just factually wrong and make him look foolish.

I said, "We don't even know for sure whether Jesus lived," and he said, "We have eyewitness accounts." I said, "No, every scholar agrees that the gospels were written from 40 to 70 years after Jesus died." And he said, "Well, that's close." That's close to an eyewitness account? Forty years after somebody dies, 2,000 years ago? This idea that there's somebody out there who can make a case for this and make it sound reasonable, that just doesn't exist.

Well, you've got these two Vatican priests in the film, and one of them, Reginald Foster, is this very funny guy who is totally not defending the most ridiculous aspects of Christianity.

He's actually debunking them! Here's a guy who lives down the hall from the pope. We saw where the pope lives. And he's just saying, "Ah, they're all just stories." It gave us a real insight that perhaps some of these people who are in the hierarchies of the religions -- they don't really believe it. But they understand that you can't tear it all down for the common man, that people need their stories. It's just amazing that he would say it to me publicly, and on camera.

Well, that raises a philosophical question, which maybe a 100-minute comedy film can't deal with. Do these stories serve a purpose in human life that isn't entirely negative, even if it's foolish to take them at face value? It seems to me you're arguing that they don't.

That's a good question, and of course no one can argue that religion hasn't done some good. Even in the world today, the Catholic Church certainly organizes a lot of antipoverty programs. It feeds the poor, runs soup kitchens, and so forth. I would argue that all that can be accomplished without the bells and whistles of religion. People behave ethically all the time without relying on myths. And I would argue that when you bring religion into it, yes, the comfort that religion brings comes at a terrible price. Probably the majority of wars in our history have been fought over religion.

Of course we're now involved in Iraq, and the main reason that conflict has been so difficult to solve is that there are two sects of Islam who have a disagreement about who succeeded the prophet Mohammed in the seventh century. This is the reason they're ethnically cleansing each other! Not to mention the Crusades and, you know, keeping women in their place and the repression of minorities and exorcism and burning witches and honor killings and suicide bombings and having sex with children. I mean, I could go on. Does religion have a place? Yeah, you kind of have to balance that against all the bad it does.

You deal with Christianity and Judaism, and toward the end of the film you wrestle with Islam a little bit. But there's no mention of Hinduism or Buddhism -- a religion that allows for considerable doubt and isn't so sure about the existence of God, for example.

We made the decision early on that in a 90-minute movie we weren't going to be able to delve into the Eastern religions. First of all, Americans -- and I'm one of them -- don't know that much about them. We don't have that intimate lifelong relationship with them, the way we do with Judaism and Christianity and, in recent years, with Islam. We go into Mormonism and Scientology, but people know a little about them because this is America. If we were going to go into Shintoism and Buddhism and Hinduism, that's another movie, and one I'm not going to make.

You've been pretty consistent on TV and in your stand-up routines in criticizing Islam, in arguing that the religion and its followers really have a problem they don't seem to be dealing with. You go after Islam again in this film, and you aren't especially delicate about it.

No, you can't be. You can't pull your punches, and you wouldn't be respected if you did. We show a little of the Theo van Gogh film ["Submission," which apparently led to the Dutch filmmaker's murder by an Islamic radical], which is pretty rough stuff. You see that woman with her face all beat up, saying, "This is what my husband does to me in the name of his religion." And we talk to a number of Muslim people and you hear me saying that I think when they talk amongst each other they're more honest about the predicament of their religion, but they won't say it to a stranger. I'm sure some of this is going to ruffle feathers, but you know what? The Christians don't love what we say about them either.

You've been called anti-Muslim from time to time. How careful are you, do you think, about raising criticisms that don't cross the line into prejudice and stereotype?

I don't think I'm involved with prejudice. Prejudice comes from the words "pre" and "judge," and I don't think I'm prejudging. I'm judging. I reserve the right to make judgments. We all have to make judgments.

"Religulous" is now playing in New York, and opens Oct. 3 in major cities around the country.

FBI Prevents Agents from Telling 'Truth' About 9/11 on PBS

The FBI has blocked two of its veteran counterterrorism agents from going public with accusations that the CIA deliberately withheld crucial intelligence before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

FBI Special Agents Mark Rossini and Douglas Miller have asked for permission to appear in an upcoming public television documentary, scheduled to air in January, on pre-9/11 rivalries between the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency.

The program is a spin-off from The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, by acclaimed investigative reporter James Bamford, due out in a matter of days.

The FBI denied Rossini and Miller permission to participate in the book or the PBS "NOVA" documentary, which is also being written and produced by Bamford, on grounds that the FBI "doesn't want to stir up old conflicts with the CIA," according to multiple reliable sources.
Bamford, contacted by phone, said he could not comment because his publisher has embargoed his new book for release around Oct. 10.

The author of two other ground-breaking books on the NSA, Bamford also said his general policy is not to discuss his negotiations for interviews with intelligence agencies.

Pre-9/11 intelligence mishaps have been generally attributed to bureaucratic screw-ups -- a "failure to connect the dots," exacerbated by spy agency rivalries.

But Rossini and Miller, who were assigned to the CIA-run Counterterrorist Center during the run-up to the 9/11 attacks, are prepared to describe on camera how the CIA blocked them from sharing crucial intelligence with FBI headquarters - and then later pressured them not to tell the truth to investigators.

The first allegation is not entirely new, having been reported by author Lawrence Wright in his 2006 book, The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, among other places.

But what is new is that Rossini and Miller -- who still hold sensitive jobs in the FBI, and are identified here for the first time -- are prepared to say publicly that, under pressure from the CIA, they kept the full the truth from the Justice Department's Inspector General, which looked into the FBI's handling of pre-9/11 intelligence in 2004.

"There was pressure on people not to disclose what really happened," said sources close to the IG investigation.

Rossini, in particular, is said to have felt threatened that the CIA would have him prosecuted for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act if he told the IG investigators what really happened inside the CTC.

CIA officials were in the room when he and Miller, as well as a sympathetic CIA officer, were questioned.

The IG investigators showed them copies of CTC intelligence reports and e-mails.

But the FBI agents suddenly couldn't remember details about who said what, or who reported what, to whom, about the presence of two al Qaeda agents in the U.S. prior to the 9/11 attacks,

The IG investigators were suspicious.

Indeed, their report, which used pseudonyms for the CIA and FBI agents its interviewed -- Rossini and Miller were called "Malcolm" and "Dwight," a CIA analyst was dubbed "Eric" -- hinted at a cover-up.

"When we interviewed all of the individuals involved about the CIR [Current Intelligence Report] they asserted that they recalled nothing about it," it said

The focus of the IG was what the CIA had witheld about the movement of two al Qaeda operatives, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, from Malaysia to the U.S. in early 2000.

Dwight told the OIG that he did not recall being aware of the information about Mihdhar, did not recall drafting the CIR, did not recall whether he drafted the CIR on his own initiative or at the direction of his supervisor, and did not recall any discussions about the reasons for delaying completion and dissemination of the CIR. Malcolm said he did not recall reviewing any of the cable traffic or any information regarding Hazmi and Mihdhar. Eric told the OIG that he did not recall the CIR.
Subsequently, Rossini and Miller were not subpoenaed by the 9/11 Commission to tell what they knew, even though sources say they were eager to do so.

But he and Miller did come clean during an internal FBI investigation, which remains under wraps.

Sources with direct knowledge of the FBI's internal probe say that the agents provided the bureau with unadulterated versions of their CTC experiences, including orders they were given by the center's then-Deputy Director, Tom Wilshire, to withhold intelligence about the movement of al Qaeda operatives into the country from the FBI.

When the agents asked permission to tell that same story on television, the FBI initially agreed, but then cancelled at the last moment, two sources involved in the deliberations said, with the explanation that it didn't want to risk inflaming the CIA.

The FBI's top spokesman, Assistant Director John Miller, did not address that issue directly.

But he said that the FBI had withheld permission for the agents to be named in various reports on 9/11 intelligence out of security and privacy concerns.

"These questions were examined extensively by several independent agencies and commissions," he said via e-mail Wednesday.

"It was determined that the two FBI employees would not be named in those reports because they continue to hold sensitive positions in the FBI as well as Privacy Act issues regarding current and former personnel."

Agent Douglas Miller has said that he doesn't have "a rational answer" to explain why the CIA blocked him from sharing information with the bureau, particularly a report of such obvious magnitude about al Qaeda operatives in the U.S. He speculated that CIA officials at the CTC were annoyed that he had encroached on their territory.

A CIA spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, ridiculed the allegations.

"I have every reason--every reason--to believe that's complete garbage," he said in a brief telephone interview. "Not only did the 9/11 Commission look at the matter in detail, but former Director George Tenet wrote about it at some length in his book."

But the Justice Department Inspector general contradicted Tenet's assertion that the CIA shared its intelligence on al Qaeda operatives in a timely fashion with the FBI.

"We reviewed whether this information was in fact passed to the FBI by the CIA, and based on the evidence, concluded that while the CIA passed some of the information about Mihdhar to the FBI, it did not contemporaneously pass the information about Mihdhar's U.S. visa to the FBI," the IG report said.

"We concluded it was not disclosed by the CIA until late August 2001, shortly before the September 11 terrorist attacks."

Another intelligence source said the CIA feared that if FBI headquarters learned of the suspects' arrival in the U.S., it would try to arrest them -- and bust up a sensitive CIA operation to penetrate al Qaeda.

Mihdhar and Hazmi were plotting an attack outside of the United States, the CIA believed, and wanted the FBI to stay clear of them.

"They said it has nothing to do with the FBI, the next attack will be in Southeast Asia," said a source familiar with the details. "They said, 'It's none of your business.'"

Rossini and other FBI counterterrorism agents were furious, according to a knowledgeable source. The FBI is responsible for investigating domestic-based plots.

"They're here!" Rossini protested to his CTC bosses. "It is FBI business."

The IG report criticized Douglas Miller ("Dwight") for not ignoring CIA objections and sending his crucially important report on Mihdhar to FBI headquarters.

But Miller, who held the relatively low rank of GS-12 at the time, told investigators that it was unthinkable for him to violate the orders of his CTC superiors. He would have been fired, "sent home," he told them.

Miller would be happy to give CIA officials the benefit of the doubt in a television interview, he has told friends, conceding that there may have been good reasons for their decisions that he was not aware of.

He has described the CTC as place filled with dedicated professionals who were "America's lowest paid professional workers on an hourly basis," for all the pressure-packed time they spent trying to detect terrorist plots.

But unless the FBI changes its mind, he'll have to keep that story to himself.

Original here

Why The Patriot Act of Finance Failure Prevents Dictatorial Control

So for those who are sitting in their soon-to-be-foreclosed-on homes financed with FHA or subprime mortgages, a little bit of righteous indignation seems to be in order over the rejection of The Bush Bailout Plan by Congress. That was your ticket out, right? Big deal if you bought a house you knew you couldn’t afford with taxpayer subsidies! You’re entitled to a rescue! Well, you might want to keep your shirt on for the moment, unless that was purchased with make-believe credit, too. The bailout plan put before Congress isn’t exactly something that would’ve been good for America. The plan contained a very sly stipulation that would’ve given Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson more power than God.

What They Tried to Sneak By

At face value, “bailout plan” sounds well and good to those who have no objections to socialist economic policies. Ah, but the plan was not so benign. The law contained the following insidious and downright frightening provision: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.” Translation: Henry Paulson can do whatever the hell he wants. To a lesser extent, so can his agency at its “discretion.” But beware-discretion is soon to be the new fascism.

Recap on Dictators

Under the bailout plan that Congress had the good sense to shut down, Henry Paulson would have basically been allowed to make unilateral decisions, all while enjoying the unparalleled pleasure of an accountability-free reign. He could rule with an iron fist, toying with the nation’s economic equilibrium, and no one would be able to say a word. So let’s recap how this kind of dictatorial strategy has fared throughout history. Consider the following rip-roaring success stories and all-around just nice guys:

  • Benito Mussolini
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Fidel Castro
  • Kim Jong II
  • Henry Paulson (still in a dictatorship intern program…full honors come with the next bailout plan)

So What’s the Patriot Act Got to Do with It?

Sometimes “crises” force politicians to do foolish things. Even more so than usual. For example, 9/11 was the impetus for the Patriot Act, which also managed to completely circumvent court oversight. Abuses of power and a sort of extreme-sports eavesdropping went down, and the bill managed to totally buck any kind of judicial review. Thus, the scuttlebutt has pegged the defeated bailout plan as the Patriot Act of finances. And, really, who could argue? This moment calls for a cliché: absolute power corrupts absolutely.

We Have to Blame Someone

$700 billion voided check.

The government is an easy whipping boy when economic hard time strike. The media creates what I like to call a CINO (a crisis in name only), people panic, causing the market to take a dive, and, because it’s an election year, suddenly politicians are in a feverish frenzy to “fix” the alleged crisis. But, honestly, has the government ever really fixed anything?! Government attempts to correct the market always fail miserably, as do most government plans to remedy situations. It’s like when the dishwasher would break in your house, and your dad, eager to demonstrate his mechanical prowess, would refuse to call a professional and instead try to fix it himself. Before you know it, you’re sleeping on a mattress of dirty dinner plates, the kitchen’s on fire, you can’t find the dog, and the whole fiasco ends up costing you more, in stress, money, and time, than it would’ve if your dad had just stayed out of it.

Like it or not, we’re sticking with the dishwasher analogy. In the case of our economic “crisis,” the professional dishwasher repair man is what the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, called “the invisible hand.” Notice that he did not say the very visible hand (or iron fist) of Henry Paulson, Barack Obama, or Dubya (God love him). The market naturally goes through vicissitudes-ups and downs that are part of the economic cycle. What really screws the economy up is when Dad, representing almost any politician today, comes along and tries to fix something he’s incapable of fixing and probably had a role in breaking in the first place. A Henry Paulson dictatorship is not going to fix the economy. Remember “laissez-faire,” that vaguely familiar term from high school econ and the cornerstone of capitalism? Literally, it means, “let do.” In other words, leave it alone, Henry Paulson. Leave it alone, George W. Bush. Leave it alone, two buffoons who are running for president.

New Leadership: Our Economic Savior?

George Washington crying.

The current administration has taken its best shot at the economic crisis, and I use the term loosely, and failed. Congress rejected the plan, thankfully, but, had the bill passed, the equivalent of the Patriot Act of finances would have been upon us. I’m going out on a limb here, but Henry Paulson dictating monetary policy with unbridled power may not be the answer. So what IS the answer?? New leadership? Doubt it. Let’s evaluate John Sidney McCain III and Barack Hussein Obama II on this issue.

John McCain has entered Congress in 1982. His career in the Senate began in 1987. Age-wise, John is in his early hundreds. The point: McCain has had ample time to “fix” and perhaps even foresee this crisis, but he has seen fit to do so only in the month before a presidential election in which he is the Republican nominee. Something smacks of political expediency, wouldn’t you say? You have to remember when politicians throw around phrases like “suspending my campaign to fix the economic crisis,” this really can just be summed up in one word: gimmick.

Now onto the political Messiah, Barack Obama. First, recall that one of the biggest disasters that kick-started this economic panic was the failure of the Lehman Brothers, whose collapse was traced to corruption and abject stupidity at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two massive mortgage banks continued to survive, doling out loans to deadbeats who were clearly terrible credit risks to begin with, but how could any business manage that? The answer: political contributions. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were bedfellows with a number of senators in order to keep their unsound and floundering business afloat. Now guess the politician who received the second-largest amount of political donations from these banks, despite having only been in the Senate for four years. None other than Barack Obama.

Bottom line, we don’t need Dad, Obama, Bush, Paulson, or any other politician fixing our economic dishwasher. We have one Patriot Act, and that’s plenty.