I had really hoped I wasn’t going to have to write this post. Yesterday, Marcy emailed me a link to a Washington’sBlog post that breathlessly asks us “Was Ebola Accidentally Released from a Bioweapons Lab In West Africa?” Sadly, that post relies on an interview with Francis Boyle, whom I admire greatly for his work as a legal scholar on bioweapons. My copy of his book is very well-thumbed. But Boyle and WashingtonsBlog are just wrong here, and it takes only seconds to prove them wrong.
Shortly after getting the email and reading the blog post, I sent out tweets to this summary and this original scientific report which describe work on DNA analysis of Ebola isolated from multiple patients during the current outbreak. That work conclusively shows that the virus in the current outbreak is intimately related to isolates from previous outbreaks with changes only on the order of the naturally occurring mutation rate known for the virus. Further, these random mutations are spread evenly throughout the short run of the virus’s genes and there are clearly no new bits spliced in by a laboratory. Since I wasn’t seeing a lot of traction from the Washington’sBlog post, I was going to let it just sit there.
I should have alerted last night when I heard my wife chuckling over the line “It is difficult to describe working with a horse infected with Ebola”, but I merely laughed along with her and didn’t ask where she read it.
This morning, while perusing the Washington Post, I saw that Joby Warrick has returned to his beat as the new Judy Miller. Along with the line about the Ebola-infected horse, Warrick’s return to beating the drums over bioweapons fear boasts a headline that could have been penned by WashingtonsBlog: “Ebola crisis rekindles concerns about secret research in Russian military labs“.
Warrick opens with a re-telling of a tragic accident in 1996 in a Soviet lab where a technician accidentally infected herself with Ebola. He uses that to fan flames around Soviet work in that era:
The fatal lab accident and a similar one in 2004 offer a rare glimpse into a 35-year history of Soviet and Russian interest in the Ebola virus. The research began amid intense secrecy with an ambitious effort to assess Ebola’s potential as a biological weapon, and it later included attempts to manipulate the virus’s genetic coding, U.S. officials and researchers say. Those efforts ultimately failed as Soviet scientists stumbled against natural barriers that make Ebola poorly suited for biowarfare.
The bioweapons program officially ended in 1991, but Ebola research continued in Defense Ministry laboratories, where it remains largely invisible despite years of appeals by U.S. officials to allow greater transparency. Now, at a time when the world is grappling with an unprecedented Ebola crisis, the wall of secrecy surrounding the labs looms still larger, arms-control experts say, feeding conspiracy theories and raising suspicions.
Enhancing the threat is the facilities’ collection of deadly germs, which presumably includes the strains Soviet scientists tried to manipulate to make them hardier, deadlier and more difficult to detect, said Smithson, now a senior fellow with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, a research institute based in Monterey, Calif.
“We have ample accounts from defectors that these are not just strains from nature, but strains that have been deliberately enhanced,” she said.
Only when we get three paragraphs from the end of the article do we get the most important bit of information to be gleaned from the Soviet work on Ebola:
Ultimately, the effort to concoct a more dangerous form of Ebola appears to have failed. Mutated strains died quickly, and Soviet researchers eventually reached a conclusion shared by many U.S. biodefense experts today: Ebola is a poor candidate for either biological warfare or terrorism, compared with viruses such as smallpox, which is highly infectious, or the hardy, easily dispersible bacteria that causes anthrax.
Note also that, in order to make Ebola more scary, Warrick completely fails to mention the escape of weaponized anthrax from a Soviet facility in 1979, infecting 94 and killing 64, dwarfing the toll from the two Ebola accidents.
And lest we calm down about Ebola and the other bioweapons the Soviets worked on, Warrick leaves us this charming tidbit to end the article: →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
In the NYT, Peter Baker presents his version of George Bush’s decision not to pardon Scooter Libby as the best pitch for his new book, Days of Fire, Bush and Cheney in the White House. Given that the piece is not at all newsworthy (and as I’ll show, Baker’s version of it is badly flawed), I suppose Baker thought that Bush’s refusal to fulfill Cheney’s request supports Baker’s contention that Bush, not Cheney, was the dominant player in the relationship.
One piece of evidence Baker provides to support that contention is this quote from Alan Simpson.
Cheney “never did anything in his time serving George W. that George W. didn’t either sanction or approve of,” said Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming and a close friend of Cheney’s.
If Baker believes Simpson’s claim, however, then his entire reading of Cheney’s involvement in leaking Valerie Plame’s identity is wrong (and not just because he quotes Liz Cheney pretending PapaDick had no role in the leak).
Baker provides dialogue suggesting that Bush and certain lawyers — Baker identifies them as White House Counsel Fred Fielding and his Deputy William Burck — debated whether Libby was protecting Cheney.
“All right,” the president said when the lawyers concluded their assessment. “So why do you think he did it? Do you think he was protecting the vice president?”
“I don’t think he was protecting the vice president,” Burck said.
Burck figured that Libby assumed his account would never be contradicted, because prosecutors could not force reporters to violate vows of confidentiality to their sources. “I think also that Libby was concerned,” Burck said. “Because he took to heart what you said back then: that you would fire anybody that you knew was involved in this. I just think he didn’t think it was worth falling on the sword.”
Bush did not seem convinced. “I think he still thinks he was protecting Cheney,” the president said. If that was the case, then Cheney was seeking forgiveness for the man who had sacrificed himself on his behalf.
Baker implies that Bush’s conclusion — that Libby believed he was protecting Cheney — convinced himself it would not be ethical to pardon Libby based on Cheney’s insistence. (Note, whatever you and I were paying Burck, it was far too much, because his logic as portrayed here is pathetically stupid.)
That would imply that Bush believed — Burck’s shitty counsel to the contrary — that Cheney played some role in the leak.
But Alan Simpson, who truly does know Cheney well, says Cheney never did anything without either Bush’s sanction or approval. Which would imply that whatever Cheney did to leak Plame’s identity, he did with the approval of Bush.
Which brings us to the other gaping hole in Baker’s account (aside from his complete misunderstanding of the evidence surrounding the leak itself). Baker uses the word “lawyers” 11 times in this excerpt, including (but not limited to) the following.
In the final days of his presidency, George W. Bush sat behind his desk in the Oval Office, chewing gum and staring into the distance as two White House lawyers briefed him on the possible last-minute pardon of I. Lewis Libby.
“Do you think he did it?” Bush asked.
“Yeah,” one of the lawyers said. “I think he did it.”
At the time, Bush said publicly that he was not substituting his judgment for that of the jury. So how would he explain a change of mind just 18 months later? That was the argument Ed Gillespie, the president’s counselor, made to Cheney when he came to explain why he was advising Bush against a pardon. “On top of that, the lawyers are not making the case for it,” Gillespie told Cheney, referring to the White House attorneys reviewing the case for Bush. “We’ll be asked, ‘Did the lawyers recommend it?’ And if the lawyers didn’t, it’s going to be hard to justify for the president.”
The following Monday, Bush had his final, definitive meeting with the White House lawyers, ending any possibility of reconsideration. There would be no pardon for Libby. [my emphasis]
Lawyers lawyers lawyers. Baker emphasizes how important the counsel of Nixon’s old lawyer and his apparently half-witted deputy were to Bush’s decision, and he implies, with his description of which lawyers Ed Gillespie referred to, that those lawyers were limited to official White House lawyers.
Nowhere — at least nowhere in this excerpt — does Baker mention that Bush also consulted with his own lawyer, Jim Sharp, as reported by Time 4 years ago.
Meanwhile, Bush was running his own traps. He called Jim Sharp, his personal attorney in the Plame case, who had been present when he was interviewed by Fitzgerald in 2004. Sharp was known in Washington as one of the best lawyers nobody knew.
While packing boxes in the upstairs residence, according to his associates, Bush noted that he was again under pressure from Cheney to pardon Libby. He characterized Cheney as a friend and a good Vice President but said his pardon request had little internal support. If the presidential staff were polled, the result would be 100 to 1 against a pardon, Bush joked. Then he turned to Sharp. “What’s the bottom line here? Did this guy lie or not?”
The lawyer, who had followed the case very closely, replied affirmatively.
Yet neither Time then nor Baker now considered the implications of Bush consulting with the lawyer who knew what questions he got asked when Pat Fitzgerald interviewed the President.
Those questions would have included whether — as Libby’s grand jury testimony recorded Cheney as having claimed — the President declassified the information, including Plame’s identity, Cheney ordered Libby to leak to Judy Miller. They also would have included why — as the note above shows — Cheney almost wrote that “
the Pres” had ordered Libby to stick his neck in a meat grinder and rebut Joe Wilson, before he cross out the reference to the President and used the passive voice instead. They would have also included questions about Bush’s public comments about rebutting Wilson in meetings. (I laid out these details in this post.)
Peter Baker pretends that Bush had no personal knowledge of the leak or — more importantly — of Fitzgerald’s reasons for suspecting Cheney ordered the leak. He somehow forgets that Bush consulted his own lawyer, along with Fielding and Fielding’s lackey, either to interpret what Libby did or, more likely, what implications pardoning Libby would have for his own legal exposure.
Which is pretty bizarre. While including these details might make Bush look like a self-interested asshole, they are the only details that make sense if — as Baker suggests with the Simpson quote — whatever Cheney did that required Libby’s protection, he did with Bush’s sanction.
Poor Joby Warrick. With Judy Miller so disgraced that Fox News had to issue a “she has nothing to apologize for” press release when they hired her back in 2008, Joby drew the short straw yesterday and was assigned to transcribe the
hyped bullshit concerns arising from Israel Syria’s neighbors that Syria might be contemplating use of biological weapons. The entire Warrick article needs to be read to get a full feel for its credulous recitations of completely unfounded speculation being passed off as actual intelligence, but I will stick with just a few paragraphs. Warrick opens by making a completely baseless claim:
Last month’s alleged chemical attack near Damascus has refocused attention on Syria’s 30-year-old biological weapons research and raised concerns about whether the government there could activate an effort to make a weapon.
Really, Joby? Aside from those “intelligence officials in two Middle East countries” who fed you this material, has anybody else voiced a concern that Syria is contemplating use of bioweapons, or even could produce bioweapons if they wanted to?
Even Warrick has to admit that any work on bioweapons in Syria is now over 30 years old. But that doesn’t deter Warrick and the spooks whispering in his ear:
Syria’s bioweapons program, which U.S. officials believe has been largely dormant since the 1980s, is likely to possess the key ingredients for a weapon, including a collection of lethal bacteria and viruses as well as the modern equipment needed to covert them into deadly powders and aerosols, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern officials and weapons experts.
Wow. the “US and Middle Eastern officials and weapons experts” guiding Warrick’s hands on the keyboard as he types are saying that despite not working on bioweapons for thirty years or so, they have the deadly organisms and equipment that would be needed to make “deadly powders and aerosols”.
Warrick and the spies who feed him have absolutely nothing on which to base this accusation. Let’s check a neutral source on what the real status of biotechnology capability in Syria is and whether it can be rapidly adapted to bioweapons. The Nuclear Threat Initiative provides a report on Syria’s potential bioweapons capability that was last updated in February of this year. They come to very different conclusions than Warrick (emphasis added):
In the past, unclassified statements by U.S. officials occasionally claimed reason to suspect Syria of maintaining an offensive BW program.  However, in contrast to discussions of Syrian chemical warfare (CW) capabilities, such claims have not included any details on the size and scale of Syria’s potential BW program, and are not presented alongside supporting evidence. Instead, discussions on this topic have focused on speculative extrapolations of Syrian dual-capable industry and on Syrian political motivations. Such analysis can be neither detailed nor comprehensive. Although the existence of a biotechnology industrial base would suggest that Syria has some indigenous expertise useful for developing a biological weapons capability, it does not imply and cannot confirm the existence of an offensive biological weapons program. Furthermore, given that Israel, a state that is understood to possess a nuclear arsenal and continues to occupy the Golan Heights, remains Syria’s primary security concern, and given the risk of “blowback” when deploying biological weapons, such weapons would be of questionable tactical desirability from a Syrian perspective. While public sources on the nature of Syria’s chemical and nuclear programs are limited, even less exists about Syria’s biological program, and “there is no hint of its existence from open sources.” 
The report goes on to detail what Syria’s biological industries do (again, emphasis added): →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
Update: In his letter responding to AP’s complaints, Deputy Attorney General James Cole says these were subpoenas. Cole tries to argue the scope of the subpoena was fair. But what he doesn’t explain is why the government didn’t give the AP notice or an opportunity to turn over the contacts voluntarily.
I want to return to a question I introduced in my post describing DOJ’s grab of call records from 20 AP phone lines.
The assumption has been that DOJ subpoenaed these call records. While that’s probably right, I still think it’s possible DOJ got them via National Security Letter, which DOJ has permitted using to get journalist contacts in national security investigations since fall 2011. I’ll grant that AP President Gary Pruitt mentions subpoenas twice in his letter, once specifically in connection with DOJ’s grab and once more generally.
That the Department undertook this unprecedented step without providing any notice to the AP, and without taking any steps to narrow the scope of its subpoenas to matters actually relevant to an ongoing investigation, is particularly troubling.
The sheer volume of records obtained, most of which can have no plausible connection to any ongoing investigation, indicates, at a minimum, that this effort did not comply with 28 C.F.R. §50.10 and should therefore never have been undertaken in the first place. The regulations require that, in all cases and without exception, a subpoena for a reporter’s telephone toll records must be “as narrowly drawn as possible.’’ This plainly did not happen. [my emphasis]
But the entire point of Pruitt’s letter is to call attention to the way in which DOJ did not honor the spirit of its media guidelines, which are tied to subpoenas, not NSLs. That’s what the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide says explicitly (PDF 166) when it talks about using NSLs with journalists: when using NSLs, the rules don’t apply.
Department of Justice policy with regard to the issuances of subpoenas for telephone toll records of members of the news media is found at 28 C.F.R. § 50.10. The regulation concerns only grand jury subpoenas, not National Security Letters (NSLs) or administrative subpoenas. (The regulation requires Attorney General approval prior to the issuance of a grand jury subpoena for telephone toll records of a member of the news media, and when such a subpoena is issued, notice must be given to the news media either before or soon after such records are obtained.) The following approval requirements and specific procedures apply for the issuance of an NSL for telephone toll records of members of the news media or news organizations. [my emphasis]
For a variety of reasons, I think it possible the AP doesn’t actually know how DOJ got its reporters’ contact information. And thus far, the most compelling argument (one Julian Sanchez made) that DOJ used a subpoena is that they did ultimately disclose the grab to the AP; with NSLs they wouldn’t have to do that, at least certainly not in the same time frame.
But Pruitt’s emphasis is sort of why I’m interested in this question: either DOJ used a subpoena and in so doing implicitly claims several things about its investigation, or DOJ used an NSL as a way to bypass all those requirements (and use this as a public test case of broad new self-claimed authorities). Both could accomplish the same objective — getting call records with a gag order — but each would indicate something different about how they’re approaching this investigation.
Here are DOJ’s own regulations about when and how they can subpoena a journalist or his call records. Some pertinent parts are:
(b) All reasonable attempts should be made to obtain information from alternative sources before considering issuing a subpoena to a member of the news media, and similarly all reasonable alternative investigative steps should be taken before considering issuing a subpoena for telephone toll records of any member of the news media.
(d) Negotiations with the affected member of the news media shall be pursued in all cases in which a subpoena for the telephone toll records of any member of the news media is contemplated where the responsible Assistant Attorney General determines that such negotiations would not pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation in connection with which the records are sought. Such determination shall be reviewed by the Attorney General when considering a subpoena authorized under paragraph (e) of this section.
(g)(1) There should be reasonable ground to believe that a crime has been committed and that the information sought is essential to the successful investigation of that crime. The subpoena should be as narrowly drawn as possible; it should be directed at relevant information regarding a limited subject matter and should cover a reasonably limited time period.
(g)(3) When the telephone toll records of a member of the news media have been subpoenaed without the notice provided for in paragraph (e)(2) of this section, notification of the subpoena shall be given the member of the news media as soon thereafter as it is determined that such notification will no longer pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation. In any event, such notification shall occur within 45 days of any return made pursuant to the subpoena, except that the responsible Assistant Attorney General may authorize delay of notification for no more than an additional 45 days. [my emphasis]
US Attorney Ronald Machen statement about the grab largely echoes those parts of the regulations (though somehow he forgot to mention that “subpoenas should be as narrowly drawn as possible”).
We take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations. Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media. We must notify the media organization unless doing so would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation. Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws.
So either DOJ used an NSL, which would give them a longer gag, fewer express limits on the scope of the request, and zero expectation of giving notice beforehand (in addition, obtaining NSLs from journalists in national security cases doesn’t appear to require Attorney General sign-off). In which case Machen is playing the same kind of word games the DIOG plays, acknowledging there are regulations the spirit of which DOJ appears to have violated.
Or Machen maintains the following about the grab:
I wasn’t much interested in Mitt Romney’s latest efforts to change the narrative from the evil things he profited off of at Bain Capital and the tax havens he stashed the money he got as a result. Not only don’t I think journalists will be all that interested in Mitt’s claim that Obama’s White House is a leaky sieve. But I’m not about to defend the Most Fucking Transparent™ White House in Fucking History against such accusations.
Until Cheney’s thugs start leading the attack.
Such as Eric Edelman, who says we need “change” because Obama’s Administration leaked details of the Osama bin Laden raid.
Eric Edelman is this guy:
Shortly after publication of the article in The New Republic, LIBBY spoke by telephone with his then Principal Deputy [Edelman] and discussed the article. That official asked LIBBY whether information about Wilson’s trip could be shared with the press to rebut the allegations that the Vice President had sent Wilson. LIBBY responded that there would be complications at the CIA in disclosing that information publicly, and that he could not discuss the matter on a non-secure telephone line
Four days after Edelman made the suggestion to leak information about Joe Wilson’s trip, Scooter Libby first revealed to Judy Miller that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA.
But Edelman is not the only one of Cheney’s thugs bewailing leakers: (h/t Laura Rozen, who follows BabyDick so I don’t have to)
Romney today at VFW on contemptible conduct of Obama White House leaking classified info for political gain. Must read. http://tinyurl.com/bw4s4lt
Now, to be fair to dear BabyDick, unlike Edelman she has not been directly implicated in her father’s deliberate exposure of a US CIA officer working to stop nuclear proliferation. Unlike Edelman, she was not protected from legal jeopardy by Scooter Libby’s lies.
But she did co-author her father’s book, which was a whitewash of his treachery (even if it did reveal that Cheney had a second interview with Pat Fitzgerald, one treated as a grand jury appearance, just around the time Fitzgerald subpoenaed Judy Miller. BabyDick Cheney is complicit in the lies the Cheney thugs have used to hide what a contemptible leak for political gain the Plame leak was.
And now she thinks she should lecture others about far less treacherous leaks?
HuffPo has a good write-up of Friday’s Fourth Circuit hearing on whether James Risen is entitled to a reporter’s privilege in the Jeff Sterling case. It describes Judge Robert Gregory challenging DOJ appellate lawyer Robert Parker’s claims that there is no privilege at all. And while Charlie Savage described the two other judges as harder to read, both stories noted Albert Diaz calling Branzburg v. Hayes–the SCOTUS precedent–”clear as mud.”
I’m particularly interested in the way Gregory pushed back against Parker. He made a distinction between the crime that reporter Paul Branzberg witnessed–the preparation and consumption of hash–for which he was called to testify to a grand jury, and what Risen allegedly witnessed.
“I don’t think there would be a balancing test because there’s no privilege in the first place,” Parker said. “The salient point is that Risen is the only eyewitness to this crime.”
Gregory told Parker that the Supreme Court’s Branzburg v. Hayes decision — which Parker cited as precedent for forcing journalists to testify when they had witnessed a crime — involved the witnessing of a different crime, “not the disclosure itself.”
Parker said what Risen did was “analogous” to a journalist receiving drugs from a confidential source, and then refusing to testify about it.
“You think so?” Gregory asked, clearly unconvinced.
“The beneficiary of the privilege is the public … the people’s right to know,” Gregory said. “We need to know what the government is doing,” he noted. “The king never wants anyone to disclose.”
The challenge is interesting as a threshold level, because the Obama Administration has built a lot of their attacks against leaks on the notion that journalists are witnesses to a crime (Patrick Fitzgerald obtained Judy Miller’s testimony on the same basis, though he did so though an application of the balancing test that Parker wants to throw out altogether).
Obama’s DOJ has gone further, though: they appear to have approved the use of National Security Letters to obtain journalists’ contacts in the most recent update of the DIOG. That would appear to allow them to learn the identity of sources journalists phone or email without any judicial review. Which in turn allows DOJ to determine a crime has been committed and based on that, eliminate journalists’ confidentiality because they were “witnesses” to what DOJ has unilaterally determined is a crime.
If Gregory rejected the government’s argument based on leaks being a different kind of crime, it would not only protect Risen’s sources for his MERLIN story, but it would mean the government would have to curtail its use of NSLs to get journalist contacts (at least in the Fourth Circuit).
But this passage is revealing for another reason. As I said above, Branzberg was subponaed because he witnessed the use of illegal drugs. But Parker, in constructing his analogy, said receiving classified information from a source is like receiving illegal drugs, not just witnessing them. Note what that misapplication of the analogy does: It is not illegal to witness the use of drugs, but it is illegal to possess illegal drugs.
In other words, though no law supports such a suggestion, DOJ is now arguing that journalists who receive classified information are themselves criminals, just like those who possess hash.
Someone’s smoking something awful at DOJ.
I’m going to disappoint Jim by not dedicating a full post to Judy Miller’s graceless rant about the AP’s Pulitzer win, in which she whines that the AP hasn’t taken Ray Kelly’s insistence that his NYPD’s spying is legal seriously enough. I already had to fisk Miller’s credulous regurgitation of Ray Kelly’s defense of the NYPD here and then remind her that journalists should be in the business of sorting out false claims from true ones here. Given her past failures to write credibly on the AP’s NYPD series, I trust no one will make the mistake of doing anything but dismissing everything she has to say about the AP series.
But since I’ve already started a post about mouthpieces for those in power, maybe I should take a look at what Miller’s close kin, Barbara Starr, had to say about expanded drone strikes in Yemen.
The lead in Greg Miller’s story on this emphasized how little intelligence we would have on the expanded drone strikes.
The CIA is seeking authority to expand its covert drone campaign in Yemen by launching strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed, U.S. officials said.
Securing permission to use these “signature strikes” would allow the agency to hit targets based solely on intelligence indicating patterns of suspicious behavior, such as imagery showing militants gathering at known al-Qaeda compounds or unloading explosives.
Compare that with the headline and lead in Barbara Starr’s version.
Intel influx leads to increased U.S. strikes in Yemen
The increased pace of counterterrorism strikes in Yemen by U.S. drones and aircraft is a result of what U.S. military and intelligence officials describe as improved intelligence about the leadership of the al Qaeda movement in that country.
One more point about the David Ignatius wankfest today.
In his story pitching OBL as a still-ambitious terrorist rather than an out-of-touch idiot, David Ignatius claimed the documents he based his article on had already been declassified.
The scheme is described in one of the documents taken from bin Laden’s compound by U.S. forces on May 2, the night he was killed. I was given an exclusive look at some of these remarkable documents by a senior administration official. They have been declassified and will be available soon to the public in their original Arabic texts and translations. [my empahsis]
But National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Vietor says that’s not yet the case.
A White House spokesman confirmed that the documents found in the raid are in a declassification process that is “still ongoing,” and National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said it “would likely be a few months before they’re fully available” to the media and public. (The CIA had no comment.) [my emphasis]
Either these documents are declassified, in which case the White House should be handing them out to anyone who asks, or they’re not yet declassified, in which case, someone should be prosecuted for handing them to Ignatius.
The most likely explanation, however, is that the Administration is playing the same game the Bush Administration played with Judy Miller, sharing still-classified documents with a reporter who will spin things in a favorable light, so as to pre-empt any response a
more open assessment of the documents will have. That the Obama Administration is doing it to support his reelection and not an illegal war doesn’t make the ploy any less cynical.
When I read the Judy Miller/Richard Clarke op-ed defending Ray Kelly (this is Judy’s second go-around defending Kelly, btw), I realized something about the NYPD CIA-on-the-Hudson program. They write,
Yet NYPD efforts to engage with and selectively surveil at-risk populations are not only legal but essential. In 2002, Mr. Kelly decided that a “broad base of knowledge” about who lives in the New York area was crucial to preventing terrorism. “It was precisely our failure to understand the context in 1993″—after the first World Trade Center bombing—”that left us vulnerable in 2001,” he said. So police tried to determine “how individuals seeking to do harm might communicate or conceal themselves. Where might they go to find resources or evade the law?” Such “geographically-based knowledge” saved “precious time in stopping fast-moving plots,” he said last weekend. [my emphasis]
Ray Kelly and his defenders claim that the process of mapping out all the Muslim communities in the NYC area produces “knowledge.”
But after reading the two latest sets of documents released by the AP: mapping the Syrian and Egyptian communities, it became clear that this is less about knowledge and more about make work. The Egyptian packet, in particular, reads more like the kind of crappy composition papers you see from college freshmen learning how to write and think critically–complete with significant portions just cut and pasted from online sites (in this case, the NYC and CIA sites). How much “knowledge” did an officer gain by copying the NYPD’s own website to include this information in a report on Egyptians in the 68th precinct? (Note, the NYPD appears to have taken this tour guide information down in 2006 after this particular report was completed.)
The 68th Precinct provides police service to the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Fort Hamilton. These middle-class neighborhoods are culturally and ethnically diverse. Over recent years there has been a significant influx of people of Middle-Eastern and Asian descent into the area. One and two family homes dominate the landscape; however, there are also many four and six story apartment houses throughout the precinct. Residents and visitors enjoy the recreational amenities afforded by the area’s seven major parks, two theaters, golf course and spectacular waterfront along “The Narrows” between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Independent merchants, as well as some chain stores, provide for ample retail shopping and other services along Third, Fifth, Eleventh and Thirteenth Avenues as well Fort Hamilton Parkway and 86th Street. Over one hundred restaurants, bars and nightclubs provide for a vibrant nightlife. Fort Hamilton is the only active duty military installation in New York City.
Does repeating the NYPD’s own assessment that The Narrows is a spectacular waterfront really help find terrorists?
Then there’s the sheer repetition of it, which becomes apparent if you compare the Moroccan mapping report to the Egyptian and Syrian one. Between them the reports many of the same sites, including at least the following.
Of what value is it for the NYPD has paid officers to go twice in the same year to the same businesses to do these completely new profiles?
Egyptian Cafe, Moroccan Version, undated (other reports in same packet dated December 19, 2006 and April 13, 2007)
Judy Miller, first amendment martyr, has finally found an assertion that she distrusts enough to diminish by using the word “claim:”
NYPD’s critics have complained about potential invasions of privacy and disruptions of New Yorkers’ civil liberties. During the Occupy Wall Street protests, several reporters and citizens claimed to have been abused and arrested without justifiable cause. [my emphasis]
Now, to her credit, she also modified Ray Kelly’s assertion that those who have Occupied Wall Street are anarchists.
He defended the NYPD’s dismantlement of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park last fall and its handling of the protests that threatened to block vehicular and foot traffic on city streets. Handling such demonstrations, said Kelly, was “a contact sport.” “Sometimes we overreact,” he conceded. “We make mistakes.” But by and large, he concluded, the department had done a “good job” of enabling social protest while also protecting the city against violent disruptions caused by a minority of what he called “anarchists.” [my emphasis]
Not to get all Truth Vigilante on an esteemed journalist like Judy Miller, but these are both testable assertions. There are videos clearly showing journalists being pushed around and arrested even though they were properly credentialed. And any discussion of the treatment of journalists at Occupy Wall Street must go further, to talk about how journalists were managed to ensure they couldn’t cover certain things, and how more generally the NYPD refused to credential journalists so they could cover it. And while you’re at it, it might be nice to mention that regular people also were abused and arrested without justifiable cause, not just journalists.
But then you might also have to go further when challenging Kelly’s claims than simply scare-quoting them. In fact, in most cases, violent disruptions were caused by the NYPD, not protestors.
Though, I guess if Ray Kelly wants to call his force a bunch of anarchists, he would know.