News from the Front 11/27/04

Report: FBI Finds Link Between 9/11, Madrid Bombs

Reuters - 1 hour, 27 minutes ago
The FBI has established the clearest link yet between the March 11 Madrid train bombings and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, a Spanish newspaper reported Sunday.  The FBI has told Spanish investigators that one of three men believed to have planned the Sept. 11 attacks from Spain in the summer of 2001 also gave the order to carry out the Madrid blasts, the newspaper ABC reported. 

Investigators have long concluded that the Sept. 11 attacks were partially planned in Spain in July 2001. Hijacker Mohammed Atta, believed to have piloted one of the airliners that crashed into New York's World Trade Center, visited Spain two months before the attacks and met two men. One was Ramzi bin al-Shaibah, who is being held by U.S. authorities, while the other was unidentified. ABC said investigators now believe that third man was the one who in December 2003 activated the Qaeda cell that carried out the March 11 attacks, which Spaniards call "our Sept. 11. 

ABC said investigators had narrowed his identity down to three candidates and believed he was a lieutenant of Mustafa Setmarian, increasingly considered to have been a leader of the Madrid train bombers and who may have held a leadership role for al Qaeda in Europe.  Setmarian, aged 45 and of Syrian origin, was already wanted as part of a separate investigation into Islamic militant activity in Spain and is the subject of a Spanish wanted notice issued through Interpol. The State Department said on Nov. 18 it was offering a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture of Setmarian, also known as Mustafa Setmariam Nasar or Abu Musab al-Suri. It described him as an al Qaeda member and former trainer at "terrorist camps" in Afghanistan.

Some 30 people are in custody or under court supervision for the train bombings for which one minor has so far been convicted. Seven prime suspects are dead and two or three other suspected collaborators remain at large.

Schooled in jihad
Chicago Tribune - 1 hour, 39 minutes ago
Clerics block education reform in Pakistan Musharraf seen as U.S. lackey

High Court Cases Show 2 Sides of Conservatism
Los Angeles Times - Sun Nov 28, 7:55 AM ET
It's law and order vs. limited government in medical marijuana and wine-shipping disputes.

30,000 Gallons of Crude Leak Into Delaware River
Reuters - Sat Nov 27, 8:27 PM ET
An oil tanker leaked about 30,000 gallons of crude into the Delaware River late on Friday, worrying local environmentalists and causing a section of river to be closed to commercial traffic, Coast Guard officials said on Saturday.

Yahoo! News - New CIA Director Goss Rattles Some Cages
With Tenet's successor, former Rep. Porter Goss, in charge and making changes, one of the longer periods of leadership stability in the CIA's 57-year history is ending. In an e-mail this month, Goss told employees of his plans for new procedures, organization and senior personnel. He reminded them that the CIA is a "secret agency," indirectly addressing media leaks widely believed to have angered the White House. Goss also said he intends to clarify "beyond doubt the rules of the road. At least five top officials already have left the CIA since Goss took over. There are those who view Goss' early moves as a purge. They worry that the Florida Republican who led the House Intelligence Committee until August is bringing a partisan background to an agency that traditionally has tried to avoid politics.

Dumb & Dumber ?

Hastert Launches a Partisan Policy (washingtonpost.com)
In scuttling major intelligence legislation that he, the president and most lawmakers supported, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert last week enunciated a policy in which Congress will pass bills only if most House Republicans back them, regardless of how many Democrats favor them

Social Security Plan May Put Bush in Saddle
Los Angeles Times - Sun Nov 28, 7:55 AM ET
An overhaul of the retirement program will be a tough sell, allies say, and Bush needs to ride herd on lawmakers if a bill is to succeed.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffery Scott Holmes, of Hartford, Vt
Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffery Scott Holmes, of Hartford, Vt., is shown in this undated family photo was was killed in Fallujah on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 2004. Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said the U.S. troops were ambushed by insurgents from inside a house as they entered it. Holmes, a 2003 Hartford High School graduate, was one of those two, Patti and Scott Holmes said the Marines told them

Air-cargo hazard detection criticized
USATODAY.com - Fri Nov 26, 7:14 AM ET
Eight years after an illegal shipment of oxygen generators caused the deadly crash of ValuJet Flight 592, the federal program for monitoring hazardous shipments aboard aircraft is still plagued by problems that could threaten aviation safety, a government watchdog report out today says

Iraq: Elections Must Go Ahead As Planned
AP - 54 minutes ago
Iraq's deputy prime minister said holding elections in January will be "a serious challenge," but he insisted Sunday they must go ahead as scheduled. As part of the effort to address security concerns, U.S. troops and Iraqi paramilitary police arrested 43 suspected insurgents in the northern city of Mosul, the military said.

Ukraine President Calls for Blockade's End
AP - 17 minutes ago
Ukraine's outgoing president called on the political opposition to end its four-day blockade of government buildings over the disputed presidential election, saying Sunday that compromise was the only solution to the crisis gripping this former Soviet republic.

Iran Apparently Agrees to Stop Enrichment
AP - 14 minutes ago
Backing down before a Monday deadline, Iran apparently has given up its demand to exempt some equipment from a deal freezing uranium enrichment programs that can make nuclear weapons, diplomats said Sunday.

Iran Stands by Nuclear Centrifuge Research Work
Reuters - Sun Nov 28, 5:42 AM ET
Iran's Foreign Ministry insisted on Sunday on a right to do research on nuclear centrifuges in a threat that could scupper a deal with the European Union to dispel international fears Tehran seeks nuclear arms

Iran Says It's Ready to Help Iraq on Border Security
Reuters - 1 hour, 36 minutes ago
Iran said Sunday it was ready to co-operate with Iraq to stop militants crossing their mountainous 1,000-mile border to join the insurgency there

Shiites Reject Delay of Election
washingtonpost.com - Sun Nov 28, 5:23 AM ET
BAGHDAD, Nov. 27 -- Iraq's Shiite Muslim parties and the religious leadership headed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani on Saturday rejected a demand by other communities for a delay in nationwide elections scheduled for Jan. 30, in an escalating dispute that magnifies the country's ethnic and sectarian fault lines.

The Race to Steal Bases Heats Up
Los Angeles Times - Sat Nov 27, 7:55 AM ET
State and local leaders across the country try to guard military jobs as they lobby for more. California is in a position of weakness.

FDA whistleblower claims he'll be forced from post
USATODAY.com - Fri Nov 26, 7:14 AM ET
Food and Drug Administration whistleblower David Graham said Wednesday that he expects as soon as next week to be forced from his job in the Office of Drug Safety. "I'm going to be transferred, and I don't want to go," said Graham.

Ukraine fits Putin's need for bulwark against West
Chicago Tribune - 2 hours, 1 minute ago
In a speech to campaign workers before his re-election last March, Russian President Vladimir Putin chillingly hinted at what is clearly now a foreign policy crusade. Analysts say Putin is bent on stanching the creep of Western influence into former Soviet republics that the Kremlin has regarded as under Moscow's wing. Ukraine, they say, makes for a perfect line in the sand.

"The collapse of the Soviet Union is a national tragedy on an enormous scale," the former KGB agent told the gathering at Moscow State University. "We cannot only look back and curse about this issue. Putin's remarks were more than just lamentations. In nearly five years as president, Putin has seen the Baltic states join NATO  and the European Union  and the U.S. establish military bases in Central Asia. And he watched helplessly as last year's bloodless "Rose Revolution" nudged Georgia into the sphere of the West. The Kremlin needed a Maginot line, and its behavior before and after the widely disputed presidential election in Ukraine suggests the former Soviet republic has become that.

Opposition leaders in Ukraine say the Kremlin sank millions of dollars into the campaign of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russia candidate who last week was formally declared president before a court appeal put the election result in limbo. The Kremlin also dispatched an army of political advisers who helped Yanukovych in his campaign against Western-leaning reformer Viktor Yushchenko. And as demonstrators massed in the streets of Kiev and international leaders condemned the election as rigged, Putin twice went out of his way to congratulate Yanukovych on his victory--before and after official results were announced. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin was concerned by the West's attempts to influence events in Ukraine, "especially when some European capitals say that they don't accept the elections, and their next thesis is that Ukraine must be with the West.

Article: The 'blog' revolution sweeps across China
New Scientist

It took a chance online encounter between a software engineer from Shanghai and a teacher in a remote province of China to start shaking up the power balance between the people and the government of the world’s most populous nation.

Article: Everyone is a potential torturer
New Scientist

All humans are capable of committing torture and other “acts of great evil”. That is the unhappy conclusion drawn from an analysis of psychological studies. The researchers considered the circumstances surrounding how individuals committed seemingly inexplicable acts of abuse in the midst of the US military’s torture of Iraqi inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in 2003 and 2004. “Could any average 18-year-old have tortured these prisoners? I would have to answer: ‘Yes, just about anyone could have.’”, Fiske says.
Many forms of behaviour, including acts of cruelty, are influenced as much by authority figures, peer pressure and other social interactions as by the psychology of the individual, she says. “If we don’t understand the importance of social context and accept that almost anybody could commit acts of torture under certain circumstances, then we are setting ourselves up for situations where Abu Ghraib [atrocities] will occur again,” Fiske warns.
Peer pressure
The researchers identified situations where individuals feel provoked, stressed or taunted - such as during war - as conducive to causing aggressive acts. And they say that the need to conform to their peer group and obey those in authority - or act in a way that they believe their superiors would approve of - could lead individuals to behave in a way that they would usually consider unacceptable... strongly cohesive social populations such as the military can either encourage prejudice - as in the case of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners - or actively discourage it. For example, the US military offers the country’s best example of racially integrated cooperation between black and white Americans, she observes.
Climate of disrespect
“Our national leadership could act to see everyone as equal and connected, or as foreigners who can be ignored and excluded. If Iraqis fought alongside the US military, it would be harder for soldiers to dehumanise Iraqi prisoners,” she says. Robbins believes the general US prejudice against other nations is deeply ingrained. “Calling Iraqi nationals ‘insurgents’, ‘ragheads’ or ‘baddies’ automatically dehumanises them and leads to a climate of disrespect,” he says...  researchers note, there are always those few individuals who dissent from the group - “whistle-blowers” who alert authorities to abuse and prevent it continuing.  “People who opt out often have a strong sense of moral values or religious conviction that allows them to override their natural inclination to follow their superiors or fit in with their peer group,” Robbins says. But they are few, and because under certain circumstances almost anyone can commit torture, situations that could foster an atmosphere of abuse must be controlled, he believes.  “Any processes involving locking people up and interrogation need to be open to public scrutiny and not carried out by the military in secret,” he told New Scientist. “I find it extremely frightening that the American military in the Pentagon have been discussing which kinds of torture are acceptable and which are not,” he adds.


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