Saturday, November 03, 2007

Waterboarding For Dummies: It Is Torture

The shorter version is here.

The fully monty, so to speak:
Last week the Attorney General nominee Judge Michael Mukasey refused to define waterboarding terror suspects as torture. On the same day MSNBC television pundit and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough quickly spoke out in its favor. On his morning television broadcast, he asserted, without any basis in fact, that the efficacy of the waterboard a viable tool to be used on Al Qaeda suspects.

Scarborough said, "For those who don't know, waterboarding is what we did to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is the Al Qaeda number two guy that planned 9/11. And he talked …" He then speculated that “If you ask Americans whether they think it's okay for us to waterboard in a controlled environment … 90% of Americans will say 'yes.'” Sensing that what he was saying sounded extreme, he then claimed he did not support torture but that waterboarding was debatable as a technique: "You know, that's the debate. Is waterboarding torture? … I don't want the United States to engage in the type of torture that [Senator] John McCain had to endure."

In fact, waterboarding is just the type of torture then Lt. Commander John McCain had to endure at the hands of the North Vietnamese. As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people. It has been reported that both the Army and Navy SERE school’s interrogation manuals were used to form the interrogation techniques used by the US army and the CIA for its terror suspects. What was not mentioned in most articles was that SERE was designed to show how an evil totalitarian, enemy would use torture at the slightest whim. If this is the case, then waterboarding is unquestionably being used as torture technique.

The carnival-like he-said, she-said of the legality of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques has become a form of doublespeak worthy of Catch-22. Having been subjected to them all, I know these techniques, if in fact they are actually being used, are not dangerous when applied in training for short periods. However, when performed with even moderate intensity over an extended time on an unsuspecting prisoner – it is torture, without doubt. Couple that with waterboarding and the entire medley not only “shock the conscience” as the statute forbids -it would terrify you. Most people can not stand to watch a high intensity kinetic interrogation. One has to overcome basic human decency to endure watching or causing the effects. The brutality would force you into a personal moral dilemma between humanity and hatred. It would leave you to question the meaning of what it is to be an American.

We live at a time where Americans, completely uninformed by an incurious media and enthralled by vengeance-based fantasy television shows like “24”, are actually cheering and encouraging such torture as justifiable revenge for the September 11 attacks. Having been a rescuer in one of those incidents and personally affected by both attacks, I am bewildered at how casually we have thrown off the mantle of world-leader in justice and honor. Who we have become? Because at this juncture, after Abu Ghraieb and other undignified exposed incidents of murder and torture, we appear to have become no better than our opponents.

With regards to the waterboard, I want to set the record straight so the apologists can finally embrace the fact that they condone and encourage torture.

History’s Lessons Ignored

Before arriving for my assignment at SERE, I traveled to Cambodia to visit the torture camps of the Khmer Rouge. The country had just opened for tourism and the effect of the genocide was still heavy in the air. I wanted to know how real torturers and terror camp guards would behave and learn how to resist them from survivors of such horrors. I had previously visited the Nazi death camps Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. I had met and interviewed survivors of Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Magdeburg when I visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. However, it was in the S-21 death camp known as Tuol Sleng, in downtown Phnom Penh, where I found a perfectly intact inclined waterboard. Next to it was the painting on how it was used. It was cruder than ours mainly because they used metal shackles to strap the victim down, and a tin flower pot sprinkler to regulate the water flow rate, but it was the same device I would be subjected to a few weeks later.

On a Mekong River trip, I met a 60-year-old man, happy to be alive and a cheerful travel companion, who survived the genocide and torture … he spoke openly about it and gave me a valuable lesson: “If you want to survive, you must learn that ‘walking through a low door means you have to be able to bow.’” He told his interrogators everything they wanted to know including the truth. They rarely stopped. In torture, he confessed to being a hermaphrodite, a CIA spy, a Buddhist Monk, a Catholic Bishop and the son of the king of Cambodia. He was actually just a school teacher whose crime was that he once spoke French. He remembered “the Barrel” version of waterboarding quite well. Head first until the water filled the lungs, then you talk.

Once at SERE and tasked to rewrite the Navy SERE program for the first time since the Vietnam War, we incorporated interrogation and torture techniques from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia into the curriculum. In the process, I studied hundreds of classified written reports, dozens of personal memoirs of American captives from the French-Indian Wars and the American Revolution to the Argentinean ‘Dirty War’ and Bosnia. There were endless hours of videotaped debriefings from World War Two, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf War POWs and interrogators. I devoured the hundreds of pages of debriefs and video reports including those of then Commander John McCain, Colonel Nick Rowe, Lt. Dieter Dengler and Admiral James Stockdale, the former Senior Ranking Officer of the Hanoi Hilton. All of them had been tortured by the Vietnamese, Pathet Lao or Cambodians. The minutiae of North Vietnamese torture techniques was discussed with our staff advisor and former Hanoi Hilton POW Doug Hegdahl as well as discussions with Admiral Stockdale himself. The waterboard was clearly one of the tools dictators and totalitarian regimes preferred.

There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

Waterboarding is a controlled drowning that, in the American model, occurs under the watch of a doctor, a psychologist, an interrogator and a trained strap-in/strap-out team. It does not simulate drowning, as the lungs are actually filling with water. There is no way to simulate that. The victim is drowning. How much the victim is to drown depends on the desired result (in the form of answers to questions shouted into the victim’s face) and the obstinacy of the subject. A team doctor watches the quantity of water that is ingested and for the physiological signs which show when the drowning effect goes from painful psychological experience, to horrific suffocating punishment to the final death spiral.

Waterboarding is slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of black out and expiration –usually the person goes into hysterics on the board. For the uninitiated, it is horrifying to watch and if it goes wrong, it can lead straight to terminal hypoxia. When done right it is controlled death. Its lack of physical scarring allows the victim to recover and be threaten with its use again and again.

Call it “Chinese Water Torture,” “the Barrel,” or “the Waterfall,” it is all the same. Whether the victim is allowed to comply or not is usually left up to the interrogator. Many waterboard team members, even in training, enjoy the sadistic power of making the victim suffer and often ask questions as an after thought. These people are dangerous and predictable and when left unshackled, unsupervised or undetected they bring us the murderous abuses seen at Abu Ghraieb, Baghram and Guantanamo. No doubt, to avoid human factors like fear and guilt someone has created a one-button version that probably looks like an MRI machine with high intensity waterjets.

3. If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives. The Small Wars Council had a spirited discussion about this earlier in the year, especially when former Marine Generals Krulak and Hoar rejected all arguments for torture.

Evan Wallach wrote a brilliant history of the use of waterboarding as a war crime and the open acceptance of it by the administration in an article for Columbia Journal for Transnational Law. In it he describes how the ideological Justice Department lawyer, John Yoo validated the current dilemma we find ourselves in by asserting that the President had powers above and beyond the Constitution and the Congress:

“Congress doesn’t have the power to tie the President’s hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique....It’s the core of the Commander-in-Chief function. They can’t prevent the President from ordering torture.”

That is an astounding assertion. It reflects a basic disregard for the law of the United States, the Constitution and basic moral decency.

Another MSNBC commentator defended the administration and stated that waterboarding is "not a new phenomenon" and that it had "been pinned on President Bush … but this has been part of interrogation for years and years and years." He is correct, but only partially. The Washington Post reported in 2006 that it was mainly America’s enemies that used it as a principal interrogation method. After World War 2, Japanese waterboard team members were tried for war crimes. In Vietnam, service members were placed under investigation when a photo of a field-expedient waterboarding became publicly known.

Torture in captivity simulation training reveals there are ways an enemy can inflict punishment which will render the subject wholly helpless and which will generally overcome his willpower. The torturer will trigger within the subject a survival instinct, in this case the ability to breathe, which makes the victim instantly pliable and ready to comply. It is purely and simply a tool by which to deprive a human being of his ability to resist through physical humiliation. The very concept of an American Torturer is an anathema to our values.

I concur strongly with the opinions of professional interrogators like Colonel Stewart Herrington, and victims of torture like Senator John McCain. If you want consistent, accurate and reliable intelligence, be inquisitive, analytical, patient but most of all professional, amiable and compassionate.

Who will complain about the new world-wide embrace of torture? America has justified it legally at the highest levels of government. Even worse, the administration has selectively leaked supposed successes of the water board such as the alleged Khalid Sheik Mohammed confessions. However, in the same breath the CIA sources for the Washington Post noted that in Mohammed’s case they got information but "not all of it reliable." Of course, when you waterboard you get all the magic answers you want -because remember, the subject will talk. They all talk! Anyone strapped down will say anything, absolutely anything to get the torture to stop. Torture. Does. Not. Work.

According to the President, this is not a torture, so future torturers in other countries now have an American legal basis to perform the acts. Every hostile intelligence agency and terrorist in the world will consider it a viable tool, which can be used with impunity. It has been turned into perfectly acceptable behavior for information finding.

A torture victim can be made to say anything by an evil nation that does not abide by humanity, morality, treaties or rule of law. Today we are on the verge of becoming that nation. Is it possible that September 11 hurt us so much that we have decided to gladly adopt the tools of KGB, the Khmer Rouge, the Nazi Gestapo, the North Vietnamese, the North Koreans and the Burmese Junta?

What next if the waterboarding on a critical the captive doesn’t work and you have a timetable to stop the “ticking bomb” scenario? Electric shock to the genitals? Taking a pregnant woman and electrocuting the fetus inside her? Executing a captive’s children in front of him? Dropping live people from an airplane over the ocean? It has all been done by governments seeking information. All claimed the same need to stop the ticking bomb. It is not a far leap from torture to murder, especially if the subject is defiant. Are we willing to trade our nation’s soul for tactical intelligence?

Is There a Place for the Waterboard?

Yes. The waterboard must go back to the realm of SERE training our operators, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. We must now double our efforts to prepare for its inevitable and uncontrolled use of by our future enemies.

Until recently, only a few countries considered it effective. Now American use of the waterboard as an interrogation tool has assuredly guaranteed that our service members and agents who are captured or detained by future enemies will be subject to it as part of the most routine interrogations. Forget threats, poor food, the occasional face slap and sexual assaults. This was not a dignified ‘taking off the gloves’; this was descending to the level of our opposition in an equally brutish and ugly way. Waterboarding will be one our future enemy’s go-to techniques because we took the gloves off to brutal interrogation. Now our enemies will take the gloves off and thank us for it.

There may never again be a chance that Americans will benefit from the shield of outrage and public opinion when our future enemy uses of torture. Brutal interrogation, flash murder and extreme humiliation of American citizens, agents and members of the armed forces may now be guaranteed because we have mindlessly, but happily, broken the seal on the Pandora’s box of indignity, cruelty and hatred in the name of protecting America. To defeat Bin Laden many in this administration have openly embraced the methods of by Hitler, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Galtieri and Saddam Hussein.

Not A Fair Trade for America’s Honor

I have stated publicly and repeatedly that I would personally cut Bin Laden’s heart out with a plastic MRE spoon if we per chance meet on the battlefield. Yet, once captive I believe that the better angels of our nature and our nation’s core values would eventually convince any terrorist that they indeed have erred in their murderous ways. Once convicted in a fair, public tribunal, they would have the rest of their lives, however short the law makes it, to come to terms with their God and their acts.

This is not enough for our President. He apparently secretly ordered the core American values of fairness and justice to be thrown away in the name of security from terrorists. He somehow determined that the honor the military, the CIA and the nation itself was an acceptable trade for the superficial knowledge of the machinations of approximately 2,000 terrorists, most of whom are being decimated in Iraq or martyring themselves in Afghanistan. It is a short sighted and politically motivated trade that is simply disgraceful. There is no honor here.

It is outrageous that American officials, including the Attorney General and a legion of minions of lower rank have not only embraced this torture but have actually justified it, redefined it to a misdemeanor, brought it down to the level of a college prank and then bragged about it. The echo chamber that is the American media now views torture as a heroic and macho.

Torture advocates hide behind the argument that an open discussion about specific American interrogation techniques will aid the enemy. Yet, convicted Al Qaeda members and innocent captives who were released to their host nations have already debriefed the world through hundreds of interviews, movies and documentaries on exactly what methods they were subjected to and how they endured. In essence, our own missteps have created a cadre of highly experienced lecturers for Al Qaeda’s own virtual SERE school for terrorists.

Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle need to stand up for American values and clearly specify that coercive interrogation using the waterboard is torture and, except for limited examples of training our service members and intelligence officers, it should be stopped completely and finally –oh, and this time without a Presidential signing statement reinterpreting the law.
Link.

About the author:
Malcolm W. Nance is a counter-terrorism and terrorism intelligence consultant for the U.S. government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence agencies. A 20-year veteran of the US intelligence community's Combating Terrorism program and a six year veteran of the Global War on Terrorism he has extensive field and combat experience as an field intelligence collections operator, an Arabic speaking interrogator and a master Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) instructor. From Beirut in 1983 he has deployed on numerous anti-terrorism and counter-terrorism intelligence operations in Balkans, Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and other small wars in direct support to the principle agencies of the Special Operations and Intelligence Community. In 1997 at the US Navy SERE School’s Advanced Terrorism, Abduction and Hostage Survival program (ATAHS) in Coronado, California, he created and led the terrorism training team tasked to simulate the Al Qaeda organization and its tactics, techniques and procedures. In January 2001, he formed Special Readiness Services International to support the SOF in analysis of Al Qaeda and global Jihadi strategy and tactics. On the morning of 9/11 he eye witnessed the attack on the Pentagon and performed rescue/recovery at the crash site. For more than six years he has conducted operations in support of international, federal and state homeland security agencies as well as in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He is a renown international educator and lecturer on terrorism strategy and tactics, techniques and procedures and frequent guest analyst on Fox news. Nance is author of The Terrorists of Iraq – Inside the Strategy and Tactics of the Iraq Insurgency, the new edition of The Terrorist Recognition Handbook – A Practitioners Manual for Predicting and Identifying Terrorist Activity (2nd Edition), and the forthcoming books The New Field of Jihad- An analysis of Insurgent Combat Tactics 2003-2007 (fall 2007), Al Qaeda 3.0 – The Generational Development of the Bin Laden Jihad 1988-2008 (Spring 2008).

He is presently working on his doctorate while simultaneously attending Insurgency University’s School of Advanced IED and Suicide Bomber studies at Martyr Zarqawi Hall, Iraq Campus.

The World's Greatest Health System


It's really quite dizzying how deranged the health insurance industry can be. But of course, in even just a proto-fascist state, the corporation is the paramount entity and we -- citizens, people -- are just here to be sucked dry by them.

Kos has a story:
My daughter was born on April 7th of this year. We went to Alta Bates hospital, in Berkeley, which was pre-approved by our insurance provider, Blue Shield.

At the hospital, as is often the case in baby deliveries, my wife asked for and received an epidural. There was one Anesthesiologist in the entire hospital.

That anesthesiologist charged $1,032 for his services, which was passed on to Blue Shield.

After an initial refusal to pay, followed by several weeks of back and forth, they sent a letter dated May 14th that says:
This is in response to your inquiry concerning services provided by East Bay Anesthesiologist on April 07, 2007 in the amount of $1,032.00.

You contacted us to request that claim process at the preferred rate. After careful consideration of this matter, we will, in this instance only, administratively approve payment for the above mentioned services. The claim(s) in question will be processed and an Explanation of Benefits will be sent shortly for you.

Please be advised that our determination in no way alters the terms and conditions of the subscriber's plan. In making this decision, we do not waive any of our rights to enforce the provisions of the subscriber's plan on this or any other service plan or claim.
Well, that ended well, didn't it? Of course not. This is the modern medical system we're talking about.

Since that time, Blue Shield paid about $400 of that total, and refuses to pay the rest. Meanwhile, the anesthesiologist's office keeps threatening to send us to collections. We've literally called Blue Shield several times every single month since May, asking why they wouldn't pay the balance. Each time, they assured us they would.

Then today, a service rep said they would pay no more. They said that this sentence applied:
You contacted us to request that claim process at the preferred rate.
Their out is the line "preferred rate". And the preferred rate for that procedure was apparently around $400.

Of course, we never asked them to process this at the "preferred rate". We ask them to pay for the service. That's why we're paying over $800/month in insurance premiums. To be insured.

It gets worse, the office of the anesthesiologist has letters from Blue Shield claiming that the insurance company had sent us the money directly, so to bill us for the services. Of course, we never received such money. No such checks were ever cashed (which would be easy enough to verify if they were really interested in the truth, and not shirking their duties).

So they lie to us, claiming for seven months that they'll cover the procedure. They lie to the anesthesiologist's office, claiming they've already paid us the amount owed, and to bill us directly.

And now, finally, they truth comes out -- they have a problem paying what's owed and will refuse to do so, even though they sent us a letter saying they would.

As my wife tried to deal with Blue Shield, she asked the costumer service rep what her name was. She said, "Diane." My wife asked for her last name. The woman said, "I don't have to give you that!"

Then she hung up.

Nice.

How could a government-run service be any worse than these unaccountable, unethical, disgusting creeps?

I can't wait to see all the stuff they'll refuse to pay over my abdominal pain.

Update: SickOfBlueCross.com. You know you suck when entire campaigns like this are waged against you.
(Illo link.)

Big Media Journalism: The Downward Spiral; Their Out-Of-Touch Priorities

Just the latest example why news shows, news outlets of all sorts, are losing their audience.

This, as the young folk, is just fucked up. It's inexcuseable.

From the War Room:
We know it's still early in the race, but CBS's Hannah Storm made a strong play this morning for "Worst Interview of the 2008 Presidential Campaign." Her victims: Dennis Kucinich and his wife, Elizabeth.

You can watch the interview here, but we'll try to save you the agony.

Kucinich has said before that he believes, like Barack Obama does, that the president of the United States should be willing to talk directly with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. So it's a little strange that Storm begins her interview by asking Kucinich to react to Obama's statement that he'd "engage in aggressive personal diplomacy with Iran."

But anyway, Storm asks Kucinich if he thinks Obama's concept is a "smart idea." Kucinich says, as he has before, that he'd meet with Ahmadinejad himself.

"So," Storm asks, "you'd meet person to person, backdoor the State Department?" Kucinich again says that he'd meet with Ahmadinejad and, indeed, that "there is no one I wouldn't meet with to create more security for our nation and peace in the world."

Storm's next question: "Do you have plans to meet anyone there -- or Ahmadinejad?"

"I'm telling you," Kucinich says, "that I'd meet with anyone to make our nation more secure and to achieve peace in the world."

Storm, again: "All right ... are you going to request a meeting?"

Politely exasperated, Kucinich says: "You know, I just gave you a blanket statement." Storm says, "OK, all right," then turns the subject of the interview to the candidate's wife.

"You've gotten a lot of attention," Storm says to the candidate. "You have a core group of supporters for your political views, but a lot of people [are] talking about your wife and the fact that she's over three decades younger and she's statuesque and beautiful and has a pierced tongue. What do you make of the attention on her?"

"Well," Kucinich says, "the most important thing I would tell you, Hannah, as a professional, is it's important not to trivialize a woman who has worked on international humanitarian matters, you know, helping people in Africa get access to energy and to housing and to education, helping poor people and children ... in India, working with a group connected with Mother Teresa, working with the Mission to Seafarers in London. I mean, here's a woman of great accomplishment with a master's degree in international conflict resolution. And I hope that you're going to talk about more than a tongue stud."

Storm asks Elizabeth Kucinich one question -- "What do you think that you would bring to the White House?" -- then turns immediately to ... the tongue stud.

Storm: I know that your husband doesn't want to focus on your tongue ring, but you do have one, correct?

Elizabeth Kucinich: Yes, I do.

Storm: And would you remove it if you became first lady, or leave it in?

Elizabeth Kucinich: It's part of me now. It's been there 10 years. So ...

Storm: Can we see it?

Elizabeth Kucinich says no. Dennis Kucinich says seeing the tongue stud is his "privilege. And with that, Storm ends the interview.

Or at least she tries to. As she's signing off, the Kuciniches interject some news about his standing in the polls. The congressman says he's running fourth among Democrats in New Hampshire, and that "everything" will change if he can get to third. Storm's response: "When you get to third place or you meet with Ahmadinejad, we'll have you back."

Enjoy: Waterboardin', USA



Link.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Collater Damage From The War Against Terror: Us (But We Knew That, Right?)

Bruce Schneier is a rare bird: Hard core on security, intelligently designed (so to speak):
The War on the Unexpected

We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats.

This isn't the way counterterrorism is supposed to work, but it's happening everywhere. It's a result of our relentless campaign to convince ordinary citizens that they're the front line of terrorism defense. "If you see something, say something" is how the ads read in the New York City subways. "If you suspect something, report it" urges another ad campaign in Manchester, UK. The Michigan State Police have a seven-minute video. Administration officials from then-attorney general John Ashcroft to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to President Bush have asked us all to report any suspicious activity.

The problem is that ordinary citizens don't know what a real terrorist threat looks like. They can't tell the difference between a bomb and a tape dispenser, electronic name badge, CD player, bat detector, or a trash sculpture; or the difference between terrorist plotters and imams, musicians, or architects. All they know is that something makes them uneasy, usually based on fear, media hype, or just something being different.

Even worse: after someone reports a "terrorist threat," the whole system is biased towards escalation and CYA instead of a more realistic threat assessment.

Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to -- a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant -- now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it's a false alarm, it's not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he's wrong, it'll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he'll be praised for "doing his job" and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we're done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted.

This story has been repeated endlessly, both in the U.S. and in other countries. Someone -- these are all real -- notices a funny smell, or some white powder, or two people passing an envelope, or a dark-skinned man leaving boxes at the curb, or a cell phone in an airplane seat; the police cordon off the area, make arrests, and/or evacuate airplanes; and in the end the cause of the alarm is revealed as a pot of Thai chili sauce, or flour, or a utility bill, or an English professor recycling, or a cell phone in an airplane seat.

Of course, by then it's too late for the authorities to admit that they made a mistake and overreacted, that a sane voice of reason at some level should have prevailed. What follows is the parade of police and elected officials praising each other for doing a great job, and prosecuting the poor victim -- the person who was different in the first place -- for having the temerity to try to trick them.

For some reason, governments are encouraging this kind of behavior. It's not just the publicity campaigns asking people to come forward and snitch on their neighbors; they're asking certain professions to pay particular attention: truckers to watch the highways, students to watch campuses, and scuba instructors to watch their students. The U.S. wanted meter readers and telephone repairmen to snoop around houses. There's even a new law protecting people who turn in their travel mates based on some undefined "objectively reasonable suspicion," whatever that is.

If you ask amateurs to act as front-line security personnel, you shouldn't be surprised when you get amateur security.

We need to do two things. The first is to stop urging people to report their fears. People have always come forward to tell the police when they see something genuinely suspicious, and should continue to do so. But encouraging people to raise an alarm every time they're spooked only squanders our security resources and makes no one safer.

We don't want people to never report anything. A store clerk's tip led to the unraveling of a plot to attack Fort Dix last May, and in March an alert Southern California woman foiled a kidnapping by calling the police about a suspicious man carting around a person-sized crate. But these incidents only reinforce the need to realistically assess, not automatically escalate, citizen tips. In criminal matters, law enforcement is experienced in separating legitimate tips from unsubstantiated fears, and allocating resources accordingly; we should expect no less from them when it comes to terrorism.

Equally important, politicians need to stop praising and promoting the officers who get it wrong. And everyone needs to stop castigating, and prosecuting, the victims just because they embarrassed the police by their innocence.

Causing a city-wide panic over blinking signs, a guy with a pellet gun, or stray backpacks, is not evidence of doing a good job: it's evidence of squandering police resources. Even worse, it causes its own form of terror, and encourages people to be even more alarmist in the future. We need to spend our resources on things that actually make us safer, not on chasing down and trumpeting every paranoid threat anyone can come up with.

This essay originally appeared in Wired.com

EDITED TO ADD (11/1): Some links didn't make it into the original article. There's this creepy "if you see a father holding his child's hands, call the cops" campaign, this story of an iPod found on an airplane, and this story of an "improvised electronics device" trying to get through airport security. This is a good essay on the "war on electronics."
Link with important links.

That Crazy Colonel In Charge Of Bullshitting For Betray-us? Crazier Than Ever

Link.

Cartoon Of The Day


Link.

Rudy's Lies And Hypocricy: What's Good For Rudy Is Not For You

Really, even though the Big Media pundits have already given the GOP nomination to him (what with the fawning coverage and rigged e-voting that goes with that), I am getting sick of all my Rudy-bashing. But what can I do under the circumstances? And he's such an absolute piece of shit as well, maybe the only candidate that can actually make things worse than they are now....
To a politician pandering to his party's right wing, a role that Rudolph Giuliani plays every day now, citing his own recovery from prostate cancer as an argument against "socialized medicine" must have seemed like pure genius. The radio ad that went up this week in New Hampshire suggests that Giuliani not only faced down the 9/11 terrorists -- or something like that -- but triumphed over a terrifying disease as well, without the help of any government bureaucrats.

Or as Giuliani himself says in the controversial ad: "I had prostate cancer five, six years ago. My chance of surviving cancer -- and thank God I was cured of it -- in the United States: 82 percent. My chances of surviving prostate cancer in England: only 44 percent under socialized medicine."

Yes, it's another inspiring and instructive story -- or would be, perhaps, if only it were true.

The former New York mayor did survive prostate cancer, but otherwise his statistical claims were not difficult to debunk, as reporters for the New York Times, the Washington Post, MSNBC and other news outlets quickly discovered. Giuliani had picked up his numbers from an article in City Journal, a publication of the right-wing Manhattan Institute, and simply repeated them in public without bothering to check their validity. Unfortunately, they were essentially fraudulent figures, extrapolated inaccurately from old data (by a doctor who also advises the Giuliani campaign on healthcare).

Accurate and current data, easily available from public health agencies and medical authorities, shows that the survival rate from prostate cancer in England is better than 74 percent and in the United States is better than 98 percent. Even that difference, as experts explained, probably has nothing to do with the British National Health Service and much to do with the aggressive screening programs employed in this country. (And for the moment, let's merely mention another highly pertinent issue, namely that the great majority of prostate cancers occur in men over 65, which indicates that many if not most are treated successfully under Medicare -- our version of national health insurance for the elderly -- or by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which comes as close to truly socialist healthcare as any system in the world.)

The Giuliani ad's problems go well beyond a pair of phony numbers. Among the blogging wonks scrutinizing the relevant health data is Ezra Klein, who asked a separate but penetrating question: "Wouldn't it be interesting to find out if the gold-standard care Giuliani got during his prostate cancer came while he was on government-provided health insurance?"

As Klein surmised, Giuliani was serving as mayor and participating in a city of New York health plan when his doctor informed him that his prostate biopsy had come up positive. The coverage he enjoyed -- which resembles the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan -- permits all city employees, from trash haulers and subway clerks up to the mayor himself, to select from a variety of insurance providers, and it is not much different from the reform proposals adopted by his nemesis Hillary Clinton.

In the spring of 2000, when Giuliani learned that he had cancer and abruptly dropped out of the Senate race against Sen. Clinton, he was enrolled as a member of GHI, one of the two gigantic HMO groups that provide care for most city workers (the other is known as HIP). He underwent surgery and radiation at Mount Sinai Hospital, a prestigious institution that participates in the GHI plan, which means that his costs were largely underwritten by city taxpayers.

So does that qualify as "socialized medicine"?

At GHI and HIP, the city government pays the premiums for its hundreds of thousands of enrolled members, of course. On the board of directors of GHI, a nonprofit corporation, sit half a dozen officials from the city's largest unions, including Harry Nespoli, president of the Sanitationmen's Association Local 831, and Roger Toussaint, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100 (who led a tough, illegal strike against the subway system last year). Among the many state and federal regulations and programs that support the operations of these major insurers is a New York state "risk allocation pool" that cushions the financial impacts of certain kinds of mandated coverage.

If that isn't socialism, it hardly sounds like pure private enterprise, either. While that may startle a boob who accepted the premise of Giuliani's silly commercial, it is hardly surprising to anyone familiar with the pedigree of GHI and HIP, which were among the earliest examples of prepaid healthcare in the United States. Both were originally cooperative enterprises, founded by idealistic progressives whose hope was to make care more affordable for working-class families. (And their earliest supporters notably included Fiorello LaGuardia, a liberal Republican mayor of New York who happened to be of Italian descent.)

Naturally such hopeful initiatives outraged the reactionary ideologues and political mountebanks of that era. Back in 1937, the appearance of Washington's first group health plan for federal employees was denounced in Time magazine as a "blood-curdling new excursion into the practice of medicine" by the government, which surely meant the end of professionalism, declining standards, ruinous expenses and nothing less than the advent of "Soviet medicine."

We've heard it all before, Rudy. And 70 years later, it isn't exactly fresh.
Link.

And Prof. Krugman gives his informed, fact- and reality-based opinion here
.

How Our Beloved Leader Has Created And Led Us To The Golden Age

War Room:
On CNN Wednesday, Wolf Blitzer asked Republican National Committee chairman Mike Duncan to explain how it is that that the national debt shot up dramatically with a Republican in the White House and Republicans in control of Congress.

"I'll put some numbers up," Blitzer said. "The national debt when the president took office was $5.8 trillion, but now it's gone up. It's almost doubled, at least to $9 trillion. And this is money that our children and grandchildren are going to be owing to the Chinese, the Saudis, all the wealthy states out there who are taking these loans from the United States. What happened to the fiscal conservatives that were so important to the Republican base?"

Duncan's response: "Wolf, I could get into a long explanation about the percentages and why we actually are bringing down the debt and over the next five years ... but the bottom line is, what other president has faced a calamity like 9/11?"

We could stop there and call it an item. But Duncan continued, and so will we: "We had the economy go down during that period of time," Duncan told Blitzer. "[Bush] brought us back with a great tax program, and we're making progress. I could go into all these percentages, but it's giving hope to the American people."

Hope? A new USA Today/Gallup poll out today has 72 percent of Americans saying they're dissatisfied with how things are going in the country -- the latest gloomy number in what USA Today calls "the longest national funk in 15 years."


(Emphasis added.)

How Rummy Lied Our Way To A Pointless War

Just part of the story, of course, but new and interesting.

Via RawStory:
Ten months before the US aired formal proof of Iranian involvement in funding Iraqi insurgents, then-Secretary of Defense warned in secret Pentagon memos that Iran should be the "concern of the American people" and he issued explicit instructions to the military.

"[L]ink Iraq to Iran," Rumsfeld wrote in one of thousands of "snowflakes" -- short memos distributed throughout the Pentagon during his tenure.

The Washington Post obtained a handful of the memos and published excerpts from them Thursday. A newly disclosed memo, written in April 2006 as Rumsfeld faced retired generals' calls for his resignation, tied Iran and Iraq together and claimed failure in the latter "will advantage Iran."

The memo came as Rumsfeld was going to great lengths in public to avoid explicitly tying Iran's government to Iraqi insurgents -- although that was precisely the impression he left.

In March 2006, Rumsfeld and Army Gen. Peter Pace were asked about recent claims about Iranian-made weapons found in Iraq. Did the military have any "proof" Iran's government was fueling the insurgency?

"I do not," Pace acknowledged. Rumsfeld gave a more open-ended response.

"Unless you physically see it coming in ..., you can't know it," he said. "All you know is that you find equipment -- weapons, explosives, whatever -- in a country that came from the neighboring country."

The following month, when he was privately circulating the Iran-Iraq link, Rumsfeld publicly downplayed suggestions that the US was planning a military or nuclear strike against Iran.

"You know, someone comes up with an idea, runs it in a magazine or a paper; other papers pick it up and reprint it; editorialists then say, oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling, and isn't -- opine on this and opine on that. And to the extent anyone starts responding to the kinds of things that have been circulated, it's endless," he said, insisting that America was on a "diplomatic track" in dealing with Iran.

It would be more than a year until Vice President Dick Cheney took to the deck of an aircraft carrier floating in the Persian Gulf in an apparent effort to antagonize Iran. And it was February of this year by the time American intelligence agencies were reported to have reached a "broad agreement" that Iran was supplying weapons to Insurgents.

The New York Times reported the assessment in February of this year, based largely on anonymous administration and intelligence sources. It acknowledged that specious administration claims four years ago could create difficulty in paving the way to war with Iran.

"Administration officials said they recognized that intelligence failures related to prewar American claims about Iraq’s weapons arsenal could make critics skeptical about the American claims," reported Michael Gordon, the Times scribe whose by-lined accompanied Judith Miller's on several key discredited pre-Iraq reports.

The memos also show that Rumsfeld, who left the Pentagon's top job the day after last year's Democratic sweep of Congress, kept a tight reign on the military's image. He issued a flurry of memos instructing his staff to respond to critical news reports and suggesting "bumper sticker statements" to rally public support. He also mulled re-branding President Bush's signature foreign policy adventure, the "Global War on Terror."

"Rumsfeld, whose sometimes abrasive approach often alienated other Cabinet members and White House staff members, produced 20 to 60 snowflakes a day and regularly poured out his thoughts in writing as the basis for developing policy, aides said. The memos are not classified but are marked 'for official use only,'" reports the Washington Post which obtained a sampling of the memos Wednesday.

The memos reveal Rumsfeld was concerned about how Americans viewed the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he suggested strategies to improve public opinion.

"Make the American people realize they are surrounded in the world by violent extremists," Rumsfeld wrote in April of 2006 after retired generals began calling for his resignation. He suggested that people would "rally" to sacrifice. "They are looking for leadership. Sacrifice = Victory."

Rumsfeld suggested that the when the Pentagon responded to war criticism aides should "push people back, rather than just defending" Iraq policy, and he acknowledged privately that no "terminal event" would signal an end to the fight against terrorism. Eighteen months ago, Rumsfeld also urged military aides to begin connecting the war in Iraq to threats from Iran -- a strategy that has since become de rigueur within the Bush administration.

"Iran is the concern of the American people, and if we fail in Iraq, it will advantage Iran," he wrote in April 2006.

Rumsfeld also displayed concern with how the "war on terror" was being sold to the American people, and he suggested redefining the campaign as a "worldwide insurgency," according to the Post, and he even proposed focus grouping the proposed name change.

"[T]est what the results could be," if the war on terror were renamed, he advised aides.

A Pentagon spokesman accused the Post of using "selective quotations and gross mischaracterizations" from "some 20,000" memos Rumsfeld penned as defense secretary.

Indeed, Rumsfeld's snowflake production was prolific, and his instructions covered nearly every aspect of the Pentagon and were distributed to employees at all levels of the bureaucracy, sometimes rankling aides.

"Rumsfeld was into everyone's business. No one was immune," Bob Woodward recounted last year in State of Denial, which examined the Bush war policy. "Many in the Pentagon looked at the snowflakes as an annoyance. Others found them intrusive and at times petty. For some there was no way to keep up."

According to memos obtained by the newspaper, Rumsfeld displayed an increasing concern with battling a pessimistic media that focused on missteps and setbacks in the Iraq war. A handful of snowflakes asked aides to respond to columns in the New York Post and Philadelphia Inquirer that were critical of the war. Rumsfeld even asked for clarification of his own assessments of the war.

"Please have someone find precisely when I said 'dead-ender' and what the context was," he ordered one aide in September 2006.

How They Lie

President Huckabee: dishonest, unprincipled... another rightwing piece of crap....

TheRawStory:
Republican president candidate Mike Huckabee has recently come under fire from the conservative American Spectator magazine for having secured the parole in 1997, while he was governor of Arkansas, of a rapist who then murdered a woman.

"Governors don't parole anybody," Huckabee insisted to Fox News. He went on to blame the two Democrats who immediately preceded him in the Arkansas governor's office, saying, "The people who made that decision were all appointees of Jim Guy Tucker and Bill Clinton, who, in fact, commuted his sentence and made him parole eligible."

At the time, many Republicans were campaigning for leniency for convicted rapist Wayne DuMond, claiming that he had been railroaded in his original sentencing because the rape victim was a distant relative of then-Governor Clinton. Huckabee had met with DuMond's wife, expressed his intention of seeing the man set free, and shortly after becoming governor spoke privately with the parole board, which granted parole two months later.

Huckabee now says that he does not recall what he said to the parole board, but that he had changed his mind about DuMond and was attempting to deny clemency at the time the parole was granted.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Colonel/Bullshit Artist And The Blogger

Greenwald:
Howard Kurtz -- who dives head-first into every hysterical controversy manufactured by our nation's right-wing war cheerleaders -- was asked during his Washington Post chat today about the various emails I received from Col. Boylan yesterday (as well as objections raised to my having published the prior emails Boylan and I exchanged), and Kurtz replied (h/t Thomas C):

It's a very strange tale. I'm not sure what to make of it. I think Boylan's complaint had more to do with the publication of what he contends is a fake e-mail sent by someone else. These days, government officials know that if they send an e-mail to a reporter or commentator it's going to be used, unless specifically marked as an off-the-record communication.

Why isn't Kurtz "sure what to make of it," and why doesn't he do some work and find out? Ultimately, this "strange tale" -- which is a significant story regardless of what actually happened -- is not complicated. There are only two possibilities, both of which are self-evidently newsworthy. Either:

(1) Col. Boylan sent me that first polemical, blatantly politicized email and then falsely denied having sent it, or,

(2) someone has the extraordinary ability to fabricate emails which have every appearance -- even to advanced computer experts -- of being authored by and sent from the computers of some of our highest-ranking military officials in Iraq (or, worse, to obtain direct access to their Centcomm computers), a possibility about which Col. Boylan expressed total indifference and then refused to address.

If someone really is able to replicate emails from high-ranking military officials in Iraq, think about what a serious breach that is. Can the fabricators also send emails to commanders in the field or to political decision-makers in Washington?

If what Col. Boylan claims happened is what really happened, that would be a rather big story. Since Col. Boylan has indicated that he refuses to answer my questions about any of these matters ("What I am doing about it does not concern you . . . I w[ill] not take the time or efforts to engage with you"), shouldn't there be reporters somewhere interested in finding which of those two highly significant events has occurred?

Numerous commentators have suggested that, contrary to Col. Boylan's denials, the facts strongly support the conclusion that he was the author of that email. Numerous others have noted the vital issue which the exchange raises, regardless of whether the first email came from Col. Boylan or someone fabricating emails in his name: namely, the transparent ways in which many high-ranking members of the U.S. military in Iraq have become overtly political, partisan actors.

As Andrew Sullivan put it in his post, entitled "A Malkinized Military?," they are "operating primarily through partisan blogs and partisan journalists" while stonewalling and expressing outright hostility towards citizens and media outlets whose political posture they perceive to be less favorable. And as Digby wrote regarding Col. Boylan's behavior in yesterday's email exchange, including the emails which are indisputably authentic:

The conservative movement's Coulteresque dirty, take-no-prisoners political tactics have become standard operating procedure in every corner of the US Government over the past seven years and it is going to take a gargantuan effort to sweep it clean.

The examples of overt politicization by the U.S. military in the last year alone are numerous and are amply documented in my post from yesterday. In addition to those, as Eric Boehlert has demonstrated, it was the U.S. military which galvanized what was ultimately the right-wing humiliation of shrilly insisting that the Associated Press had fabricated a non-existent source in Iraq, police officer Jamil Hussein, only for it to be revealed that he existed and had served as a source for AP's news stories -- just as AP reported.

Time and again, the military in Iraq under Gen. Petraeus and Col. Boylan has aligned itself with the most extreme right-wing blogs and plainly partisan "journalists," and has either excluded or expressed outright hostility towards everyone else. It ought not be necessary to explain the significance of that development.

Either way, the bizarre exchange yesterday with Col. Boylan demands further inquiry, and there are several additional facts that are worth noting. The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum forwarded to me an unsolicited email sent to him last month by Col. Boylan in which Boylan wrote:

I read with interest your latest article ref General Petraeus (General Petraeus's PR Blitzkrieg) and couldn't help but wonder why you chose to use false and inaccurate information without taking the time to do the further research and even contact us for the rest of the story.

I forwarded the tracking information from that email to the University of Oregon's Peter Boothe, who compared the email Drum received to the "fake" one I received and wrote (via email): "The email headers on this one look substantially the same."

Drum, who exchanged a couple of emails with Col. Boylan last month, added via email: "when I first read your post, I immediately recognized his writing style. It's not proof of anything, but there's not much question that it sounds just like him. Weird game he's playing here." Others have advanced and documented the same conclusion.

On a different note, although Col. Boylan has not answered the last e-mail I sent him (asking him for clarity as to whether he is, in fact, denying that he sent the first email), one reader who e-mailed Boylan to indicate she comes from a military family and was disappointed in his conduct forwarded me (what appears from all indications to be) his response:

Thank you for your note and thoughts. However, as I have stated to Mr. Greenwald, I did not send him the note and only responded to his initial email to me to ask for authentication. I am sorry you feel this way and I thank you and your family for their service to our nation.

Our political press has devoted endless coverage to "scandals" of far less importance than whether Gen. Petreaus' top spokesman either dishonestly denied sending blatantly inappropriate emails or had his computer compromised by someone who did so in his name.
From the numerous computer programming and IT experts from whom I heard, simply reviewing email logs and the like would significantly assist in finding out what actually happened here. Finding out from Col. Boylan whether he has launched an "investigation" to find out who the the real culprit was would do the same. For multiple reasons, it seems highly worthwhile to find out.

UPDATE: In assessing whether Col. Boylan was being truthful in denying that he sent that e-mail, one should consider that Col. Boylan regularly sends unsolicited emails to bloggers when they write posts about Iraq that he dislikes. In addition to the email referenced above that he sent Kevin Drum, here he is sending a similar email to a blogger at Wired (h/t Christy Hardin Smith). Additionally, Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher forwarded me an email earlier today which he received awhile back from Col. Boylan objecting vociferously to an E&P editorial (as I understand it, Greg will write about that tonight).

On a separate note, as Mona first noted in comments, the original email which Col. Boylan denies he sent contains a fact which only he and I would know (or anyone with whom he spoke) -- namely, that he had not given me permission to publish the original email exchange we had back in July. The fact that the "fake" email contains a fact of which only he and I would have first-hand knowledge is certainly an additional fact to be considered in deciding if his denial is credible.

Finally, Stephen Bainbridge, a Professor at UCLA Law School, seems to agree that the military is becoming politicized, but says that it's the fault of people in the comment sections of liberal blogs. Referring to exposure of service members to "the fever swamp of the comment section of some leading left-liberal blogs," he says: "It would hardly be surprising if some folks in the military started wondering whether it was really worth risking their lives to protect the freedoms of people who seem to hate them and the cutural (sic) mileu (sic) out of which the soldiers came."

Bainbridge concludes: "If the military is being Malkinized, maybe the Kosites of the world will find an explanation by looking at themselves in the mirror." Col. Boylan clearly spends a lot of time reading liberal blogs, so perhaps Bainbridge is onto something.

UPDATE II: Editor & Publisher's article on this whole affair is now published and is worth reading in its entirety. It details the unsolicted email Col. Boylan sent them and notes:

Knowing that I had a brief exchange of emails with Boylan last spring, I went back and found them, with the Boylan in them sounding an awful lot like the Boylan in the disputed email to Greenwald.

That seems to be a pattern.
E&P:
A disturbing email allegedly sent by a top U.S. military spokesman to a leading blogger at Salon.com this past weekend is just starting to draw mainstream attention. Howard Kurtz at The Washington Post mentioned it today, for example. It requires a good deal of background information to fully appreciate it, so I will provide a link to Glenn Greenwald’s blog page at Salon where he has extensive postings (and updates) Sunday and today about the email purportedly from Army Col. Steven Boylan. But E&P has its own correspondence from Boylan, and I want to focus on that.

The long and short of the Greenwald postings: For months the popular blogger -- a former attorney and author of the recent bestseller "A Tragic Legacy" -- has criticized the growing “politicization” of the military attached to Iraq, starting earlier this year and peaking around the appearance of Gen. David Petraeus before Congress (and the media) in September. This was even before William Safire declared, this past weekend, that the general ought to be considered as a running mate for a Republican candidate for president next year.

In the past, Greenwald had received, and printed, emails from Boylan, a public affairs officer and chief spokesman for Gen. Petraeus, denying this trend and/or defending the general. So when he received an angry email from Boylan yesterday, he posted much of it on his blog (and linked to the entire message), while asserting that the views and language in it proved his point about “politicization.”

Then it got really interesting. Boylan in another note to Greenwald seemed to deny that he wrote the email, while denouncing Greenwald for publishing it. But he did not state this clearly and refused to respond to Greenwald’s subsequent request for clarity. Meanwhile, various purported computer experts compared past and present emails from Boylan to Greenwald and suggested (to the latter) that they did seem to come from the same military email address. But no one was certain and, at the least, it raised troubling questions about someone "hijacking" the email account of Gen. Petraeus's chief spokesman.

E&P contacted Boylan for a clarification about the email. Late Monday night he (or someone claiming to be him) replied: "I am denying writing and sending it. I know from past experience with Mr. Greenwald that any email exchange with him would be posted to his site as well as there is no need to discuss anything with him. I would only contact him in response to anything he would directly send to me as he did in this case. I have not contacted Mr. Greenwald since this summer" -- until Greenwald asked him to confirm the Sunday email, when "I told him it was not mine and I did not send it."

You can catch the whole thing (surely Greenwald will soon respond to the above) at:

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/index.html
***

Knowing that I had a brief exchange of emails with Boylan last spring, I went back and found them -- with the Boylan in them sounding an awful lot like the Boylan in the disputed email to Greenwald.

I had drawn Boylan’s attention with a May 9, 2007, column that followed an appearance by Gen. Petraeus, via a video feed from Baghdad, at the Associated Press annual meeting in New York, which I attended. This is what I wrote then: “Reporters should also ask Gen. David Petraeus, who is directing the ‘surge’ effort in Iraq, why he lied in responding to a reporter's question this week concerning widespread abuse by U.S. troops.”

A reporter on stage at the gathering asked about a U.S. Army Surgeon General study of over 1,300 troops in Iraq, released last week, which showed increasing mental stress -- and an alarming spillover into poor treatment of noncombatants. Petraeus, who said he had read the report, asserted that the survey showed that only a "small number" admitted they may have mistreated "detainees" -- a profoundly misleading statement.

Actually, the study found that at least 10% of U.S. forces reported that they had personally, and without cause, mistreated "noncombatants" (not detainees) through physical violence or damage to personal property.

The survey also noted that only 47% of the soldiers and 38% of marines agreed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect. More than 40% said they backed torture in certain circumstances. Even worse, nearly one in five said that all noncombatants "should be treated as insurgents."

About 30% said their officers had not made it clear that they should not mistreat civilians.

Only 40% of American marines and 55% of soldiers in Iraq said they would report a fellow service member for killing or injuring an innocent Iraqi. “Of course, this only guarantees that it will happen again, and again,” I observed.

That sparked an email from Boylan in Baghdad the next day. “I found your latest column to be less than fair and as many editorials, lacking context,” he wrote. “I find it insulting that you would even consider saying that General Petraeus lied to the gathering during the AP hosted event Monday. Simply put, you are in error and as such you even pointed it out in your own column….

”Because you don't agree with his words, detainee vice [sic] civilians, you are saying that he has lied. I am not sure how you come to that conclusion that he has lied? Would you be willing to explain that? I assume you could disagree on what is a small number or it is that you don't like his choice of words by using detainee.

”I am pleased that you can offer such a misinformed opinion based on one-hour event.”

I wrote back to him: “Surely you understand the difference between a ‘detainee’ and a ’noncombatant.’ Presumably Petraeus does as well. He said he'd read the report, where it clearly stated that the actions carried out by the 10% were against civilians or their property and without cause.”

In other words, Petraeus was suggesting to the media – if not directly starting -- that it wasn’t so bad a problem because it was (presumably guilty enemy) prisoners who were mistreated, not run-of-the-mill civilians. I didn’t even raise the issue in my email to Boylan of whether 10% was an acceptable, or appalling, number of bad actors. Petraeus had called this a “small number.”

Anyway, Boylan wrote back right away: “Yes, I clearly know the difference between the two, however, it was clear that he was saying and thinking detainee when he made his statement. I have not read the report, but either way, to state that he lied is at a minimum disingenuous and at worst, flat wrong on your part without even asking the questions, but making unfounded assumptions. I expect better professionalism from someone of your position based on your publication.”

So Boylan, who admitted he had “not read the report,” did not let that stop him from lecturing me and defending the misuse of its contents by Petraeus, who said he did read the report. Petraeus, at least, faced facts a short time later, writing a letter to his troops refreshing their memories about the requirement that they not abuse friendlys.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A General With Priorities

Betray-Us's B.S.er takes the time to write Greenwald:
From: "Boylan, Steven COL MNF-I CMD GRP CG PAO"
To: ggreenwald@salon.com
Sent: Sunday, October 28, 2007 8:15 AM

Subject: The growing link between the U.S. military and right-wing media and blogs

Glenn,

I had hoped to post this in response to your article, but apparently it is closed already.

I am not sending this as anyone's spokesperson, just a straight military Public Affairs Officer, with about 27 months overall time in Iraq who is concerned with accuracy, context and characterization of information and has worked with media of all types since joining the career field in 1991. The issues of accuracy, context, and proper characterization is something that perhaps you could do a little research and would assumeyou are aware of as a trained lawyer.

I do enjoy reading your diatribes as they provide comic relief here in Iraq. The amount of pure fiction is incredible. Since a great deal of this post is just opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinions, I will not address those even though they are shall we say -- based on few if any facts. That does surprise me with your training as a lawyer, but we will leave those jokes to another day.

You do have one fact in your post -- then Brigadier General Bergner did work at the National Security Council on matters concerning Iraq. Not surprising as he had returned from a year plus deployment to Iraq as the Multi-National Division - North Assistant Division Commander. It would seem reasonable that someone with Iraq experience would work issues at the NSC that was familiar with and had experience in Iraq. All else after that portion in your post about Major General Bergner is just your wishful thinking to support your flawed theory.

The claims about Steve Schmidt being out here on the staff in Iraq are just flat wrong. Pray tell, where do you think he is and how long have you fantasized that he has been here? Based on our records of who is in Iraq, I am really sorry to disappoint you, but he just isn't here. You are either too lazy to do the research on the topics to gain the facts, or you are providing purposeful misinformation -- much like a propagandist.

Schmidt was here, but at the time for the vote on the Iraqi Constitution, October 2005 for 30 days. He was never on the MNF-I staff and for that short period was actually detailed to the Department of State. He hasn't been back since. Sorry to burst your bubble, but a little actual research on your part would have shown that he is actually not here, but that would contradict your conspiracy theory. I am curious as to when you think the media relations or operations changed here in Iraq. I in fact do know exactly the day and time thatit changed and want to see if you are even in the same ballpark as reality.

For the third matter concerning the Beauchamp investigation and the documents that were leaked - it is very unfortunate that they were - but the documents are not secret or classified. So, there is your third major error in fact. Good thing you are not a journalist. The information that was released and it appears that has since been taken off the net is more of a matter concerning the Privacy Act. Since we don't know who released them, we are not able to take the appropriate actions and the media tends not to give up their sources -- good, bad or indifferent...I will not judge. That is our system and we must work with it.

As for working in secret with only certain media is laughable. The wide swatch of media engagements is by far the most diverse it could be. But you might not think it that way since we chose not to do an interview with you. You are not a journalist nor do you have any journalistic ethical standards as we found out from the last time I engaged with you. As we quickly found out, you published our email conversation without asking, without permission -- just another case in point to illustrate your lack of standards and ethics. You may recall that a 30-minute interview was conducted with the program that you claim to be a contributor. So instead of doing the interview with you, we went with the real talent, Alan Colmes.

I also noticed that you fail to mention the amount of material that is leaked to those other publications that I dare you to call right-wing like the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, etc. I do not condone or wish them to happen, but it happens. If you believe they are right-wing, then again, it is nice to live in a fantasy world.

I invite you to come see for yourself and go anywhere in Iraq you want, go see what our forces are doing, go see what the other coalition forces are doing, go hang out with the reporters outside the International Zone since that is where they live and work and see for yourself what ground truth is so that you can be better informed. But that would take something you probably don't have.

Steve

Steven A. Boylan

Colonel, US Army

Public Affairs Officer
And Greenwald responds:
As for the specifics of Col. Boylan's claims, such as they are, I'll simply note the following:
(1) Col. Boylan does not deny the central point of my post, because he cannot: namely, throughout the Beauchamp matter, the U.S. Army has copied almost exactly the standard model used by the Republican Party's political arm in trying to manage news for domestic consumption: namely, they deny access to the relevant information only they possess while selectively leaking it to the most extremist and partisan elements of the right-wing noise machine: in this case, the Drudge Report, Weekly Standard, and right-wing blogs.
As TNR's Franklin Foer wrote on Friday, the documents leaked by the Army to Drudge were the very same documents which TNR had repeatedly tried to obtain, but was denied access to them by the U.S. Army. As Foer documents, that is a continuation of a pattern that has repeated itself throughout this "controversy": namely, the Army blocks TNR from obtaining key information and then proceeds to leak it selectively to the most partisan appendages of the right-wing noise machine. That behavior, which Col. Boylan does not deny, by itself is rather compelling -- and self-evidently disturbing -- evidence of how politicized at least certain factions within the U.S. Army have become.

(2) Col. Boylan also does not deny, indeed says nothing about, the other vital piece of evidence I cited, one I believe to be even far more troubling than anything they have done in the Beauchamp case. Specifically, after months of boisterous accusations from right-wing bloggers such as Michelle Malkin and Charles Johnson that AP photojournalist Bilal Hussein's coverage of the war was sympathetic to Terrorists, the U.S. military detained the AP journalist with no charges (and, a year-and-a-half later, continues to detain him with no charges), refused to provide any information about this to the press (even including AP), but then leaked news of his detention to Michelle Malkin, who then blogged about it.
The evidence for all of this is abundant and was all linked in my original post. Those matters are far more significant and serious than any of the petty insults Col. Boylan hurled in his email, and I wish he had chosen to address those matters instead.

(3) As for Boylan's complaint that I published the prior emails we exchanged without his permission, that is nothing short of bizarre, though quite revealing. I'm not Tim Russert; therefore, I don't consider discussions with government officials presumptively confidential, to be used only if they give me permission. I honor (though try to avoid entering into) explicit agreements to keep communications off-the-record, but since Col. Boylan never requested that and I never agreed to that, it is absurd to suggest that I had some obligation to keep our communications secret.
We communicated as part of a matter of public interest about which I was writing -- namely, Gen. Petreaus' selection of blatant right-wing hacks as his interviewers. Of course I was going to write about the communications I had with his spokesman on that issue -- that was the whole point of my writing to him -- and unlike Tim Russert, I don't write about things I learn only after I first obtain the permission of government and military officials. The fact that Boylan expects journalists (or anyone else) to keep what he says a secret unless he gives permission speaks volumes about the state of our "political press."

(4) Most of Col. Boylan's claims of inaccuracy in what I wrote are grounded in his invention of "facts" that I did not assert. I never, for instance, said that Steve Schmidt (the Bush/Cheney P.R. flack and ex-Cheney "communications" aide) was currently on staff with the U.S. military in Iraq. Rather, I linked to an interview given to Hugh Hewitt by Mike Allen of The Politico, in which Allen reported that it was Schmidt who was sent to Iraq to improve the political efficacy of the U.S. military's war communications in Iraq:
HH: Why don't they put [Steve Schmidt] in charge of war message management, because the Bush White House is just not good at this.
MA: Right, and this is part of the talent drain that's occurring in this White House -
HH: Yeah.
MA: - because as you know, Steve was a very high official in the Vice President's office -
HH: Right.
MA: And he also went over to Iraq to look at the communications capabilities, and he came back with a number of recommendations about even some of the logistical things to help people get those stories out. Now I think the military's getting smarter about it, as you know. . . .
HH: Yeah.
MA: The military organized the O'Hanlon-Pollack tour, and I didn't know until I read your interview with Mike O'Hanlon that they'd had an interview with General Petraeus . . . .
HH: Right.
MA: That had not been reported before. That was very fascinating. But I think that shows you that the military's getting better at this.
The fact that the White House dispatched to Iraq a pure political hack -- the former Bush/Cheney '04 communications official -- to incorporate into the U.S. military those communications techniques is obvious evidence of the White House's deliberate effort to politicize the military's war communications.
Similarly, my reference to Gen. Bergner was linked to a report by The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin -- entitled "Bush's Baghdad Mouthpiece" -- which documents the numerous ways in which the claims of the U.S. military in Iraq have become more political ever since Bergner was dispatched by the White House to take over the military's messaging machine. While casting all sorts of aspersions about "inaccuracies," Boylan denies none of that, choosing instead to attack and deny statements I never made.
Many people, including myself, have documented in detail the palpably increased politicization of the military's war claims this year, ever since the "surge" began under Gen. Petraeus and former White House aide Gen. Bergner took over its communications arm. In this space, I have written about the incomparably propagandistic one-hour exclusive "interview" which Petraeus gave to Fox News' Brit Hume when he was in Washington to testify, as well as what Sen. Jim Webb calls (along with others) the highly coordinated "dog and pony shows" Gen. Petreaus has spent much time performing for the likes of Michael O'Hanlon. Moreover, Gen. Petraeus received a stern warning from GOP Sen. John Warner earlier this year for having made (with Joe Lieberman's prodding) blatantly political and inappropriate statements while testifying.
The leaks by someone in Col. Boylan's Army of highly sensitive documents to Matt Drudge is an extremely serious matter. The same is true for similar, prior leaks -- including ones containing apparently false information -- to The Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb, along with "exclusive interviews" given by the Army about Beauchamp to the hardest-core partisan right-wing bloggers.
I'm hardly the only one to observe that this behavior smacks of the sort of politicization that has infected all of our government agencies under this administration -- an infection that is far more disturbing and dangerous when the politicized arm in question is the U.S. military. As Think Progress reported the other day, the military had even been providing conference calls and other briefing sessions seemingly reserved exclusively for right-wing, pro-war bloggers (at least until TP's report). At Harper's, both Scott Horton and Ken Silverstein have previously detailed similar, highly inappropriate political steps taken this year by the U.S. military in Iraq.
I would think Col. Boylan would have more important matters to attend to than writing me emails about how Alan Colmes is the "real talent" and how I lack the balls to go visit him in Iraq -- beginning with finding out who has been working secretly with right-wing outlets in the Beauchamp and Bilal Hussein matters, if he does not already know. The linchpin of a republic under civilian rule -- as well as faith in the armed services by a cross-section of Americans -- is an apolitical military. Like all other branches of the government intended to be apolitical, this linchpin is eroding under this administration, and that ought to be of far greater concern to Boylan and Petraeus than hurling petty insults.

UPDATE: For obvious reasons, several commenters have questioned the authenticity of the e-mail. The email address from which it was sent is the same (iraq.centcom.mil) email address as Col. Boylan used to send his prior emails (not knowing if that address is public or private, I didn't include it in the full e-mail I published in order to prevent him from receiving a deluge of emails).
Additionally, all of the adornments (titles and pre-programmed signature lines and the like) and formatting are identical. Most convincingly (to me), Col. Boylan has, as I noticed during my prior email exchange with him, a -- how shall we say? -- idiosyncratic grammatical style that is quite recognizable though difficult to replicate, and the e-mail I received this morning -- from start to finish -- is written in exactly that style. I don't see any reason at all to doubt its authenticity.

UPDATE II: If you are well-versed in analyzing IP addresses, email headers and the like, please email me (GGreenwald@salon.com).

UPDATE III: The following email exchange has now ensued with Col. Boylan:
GG to Col. Boylan:
Col. Boylan - Could you just confirm that this email [email forwarded] is authentic, written by and sent from you?
Thanks -
Glenn Greenwald
Col. Boylan to GG:
Glenn,
Interesting email and no. Why do you ask?
Steven
GG to Col. Boylan:
Only because it comes from your email address, is written in your name, and bears all of the same distinguishing features as the last emails you sent to me:
steven.boylan@iraq.centcom.mil
Did you really not notice that?
Col. Boylan to GG:
Well, since they were on the web, not surprising. If you do a search on the web, you will also see that I have been a victim of identity theft of late in Vermont and at least two other places trying to rent property and that person identified themselves as me and thankfully the State Police were able to get in touch with me about it while I am sitting here in Baghdad.
GG to Col. Boylan:
Well isn't it of great concern to you that someone is able to send out emails using your military email address? Do you plan to look into that?
And you labelled the email I recieved "interesting." What does that mean? Do you agree with its content, have any comments about it?
I'll post more as I receive it. Anyone who would like to have forwarded to them a copy of the email I received originally can email me and I will send it. It contains exactly the same header information as Col. Boylan's emails to me from several months ago (Boylan, Steven COL MNF-I CMD GRP CG PAO (steven.boylan@iraq.centcom.mil) and, when one hits "reply," it sends to his email address. None of that was published "on the web," at least not by me. He seems awfully indifferent about the fact that someone is impersonating him, sending email from what certainly appears to be his official military email address.
Independently, all of my points regarding the politicization of the military still stand, and I'm happy for the opportunity to have written again about this under-discussed topic. If the email I received is not, in fact, from Col. Boylan, then the parts of this post regarding him specifically (and there were very few such parts) would obviously be retracted. But the substantive points about the behavior of the U.S. Army in the Beauchamp and other matters would not be altered in the slightest.

UPDATE IV: After a crash course in tracing email headers and IP addresses and the like, the following appears to be the tracking information for the original email I received this morning from the email Col. Boylan is claiming is fake:
Return-Path:
Received: from 02exbhizn02.iraq.centcom.mil
(02exbhizn02.iraq.centcom.mil [214.13.200.111]) by rich.salon.com (8.12.11/8.12.11) with ESMTP id l9SBFSff004148 for ;
Sun, 28 Oct 2007 04:15:36 -0700
Received: from INTZEXEBHIZN01.iraq.centcom.mil ([10.70.20.11]) by 02exbhizn02.iraq.centcom.mil with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.3959);
Sun, 28 Oct 2007 14:15:05 +0300 Received: from INTZEXEVSIZN02.iraq.centcom.mil ([10.70.20.16]) by INTZEXEBHIZN01.iraq.centcom.mil with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.3959);
Sun, 28 Oct 2007 14:15:05 +0300
From: "Boylan, Steven COL MNF-I CMD GRP CG PAO"
To: (ggreenwald@salon.com)
X-OriginalArrivalTime: 28 Oct 2007 11:15:05.0804 (UTC) FILETIME=[CAF430C0:01C81953]
The IP address -- 10.70.20.11 -- does not appear to be recognizable from various IP locator programs. Time zones appear to be different, but the IP address on the original email I received matches the IP address used to send to me the following: (a) the emails today from Col. Boylan denying that the original email was his; (b) the emails I received back in July from Col. Boylan regarding an interview with Gen. Petraeus; and (c) the forms sent to me [at Col. Boylan's request (though not at mine)] for a Media Embed Credentials form. All three of those sets of emails came from the same IP address -- 10.70.20.11 -- as the original email I received today, so clearly that is an IP address used by the U.S. military in Iraq.
Here is the tracking information from the emails sent to me from Col. Boylan today denying the authenticity of the original email, which matches the prior ones I received from him back in July:
Return-Path: (steven.boylan@iraq.centcom.mil)
Received: from 02exbhizn02.iraq.centcom.mil (02exbhizn02.iraq.centcom.mil [214.13.200.111]) by rich.salon.com (8.12.11/8.12.11) with ESMTP id l9SFwT1S017514
for (ggreenwald@salon.com); Sun, 28 Oct 2007 08:58:33 -0700
Received: from INTZEXEBHIZN01.iraq.centcom.mil ([10.70.20.11]) by 02exbhizn02.iraq.centcom.mil with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.3959);
Sun, 28 Oct 2007 18:58:11 +0300
Received: from INTZEXEVSIZN02.iraq.centcom.mil ([10.70.20.16]) by INTZEXEBHIZN01.iraq.centcom.mil with Microsoft SMTPSVC(6.0.3790.3959);
Sun, 28 Oct 2007 18:58:11 +0300 Date: Sun, 28 Oct 2007 18:58:11 +0300
The IP addresses appear to be the same. There's a whole industry of IP address theories around and I'm the last person who is going to claim any expertise in that. I have no basis for claiming or suggesting that Col. Boylan is being anything but truthful in denying that he sent this email this morning. But all appearances -- including the IP address -- had the mark of authenticity, and I posted all relevant information, including his denials, as soon as I received them.
Finally, I received this email from Col. Boylan as I was writing this:
I am interested in this issue. What I am doing about it does not concern you. Interesting is what I find it.
Whether I agree with what the email says or not is not an issue I wish to discuss with you, as I decided after our last exchange that I would not take the time or efforts to engage with you.
Is there a reason why you posted this?
I'll just note again that he seems awfully blithe about the fact that someone is sending around emails in his name. Maybe he'd be willing to discuss with someone else the fact that someone seems to be sending out emails under his name, with his e-mail address, using his IP address. And the hostile attitude he is projecting here (which wasn't actually expressed this way in the last exchange I had with him back in July) does not seem all that different from -- actually, it seems quite similar to -- the original email which began today's process.
I'll continue to post all relevant information, from Col. Boylan and otherwise, and let everyone make up their own minds.

UPDATE V: The full, unedited email headers for every email I have ever received from Col. Boylan and/or MNF-Iraq is now published here. The IP address on each email is the same.

UPDATE VI: Several commenters and emailers have questioned whether Col. Boylan ever clearly denied having written the first email. To rectify that, I sent him the following email:
Just to be clear, since a lot of people are writing to say that it isn't: you do deny that you had anything to do with the sending of that first email that I sent to you at the start of this process today?
I have not received any reply, but will post one if and when I receive it.

UPDATE VII: Peter Boothe, a PhD student in the University of Oregon Computer Science Department, specializing in Internet topology, has published an analysis of the email tracking information and "conclude[d] that these two emails [the "fake" one and the real one] were written by the same person. Or, someone has hacked into the military infrastructure in an effort to discredit this one Colonel by sending cranky emails to bloggers. But one of the two, certainly."
I have received numerous emails from people with varying degrees of IP expertise, and there are numerous comments, suggesting the same thing. Some say that the information is inconclusive, but most reach the same conclusion Boothe has reached. I have nowhere near the knowledge necessary to form an opinion on any of that and offer this solely in the interest of enabling everyone to make up their own mind.
On a different note, John Cole highlights the key point here that should not be lost. Independent of the authenticity of the first email, Col. Boylan's subsequent emails to me were snide, hostile and nonresponsive ("What I am doing about it does not concern you"). Whatever else one might think about the views I have expressed, I don't think anyone can say I was anything but professional and civil in all of my interactions with him, yet his responses today were roughly the same as the ones encountered by The New Republic: arrogant and obstructionist stonewalling (Franklin Foer noted "a months-long pattern by which the Army has leaked information and misinformation to conservative bloggers while failing to help us with simple requests for documents").
As Cole notes, that behavior stands in stark contrast to the extremely eager and cooperative conduct in which they engage when passing on information to the right-wing blogs and pundits whose political views are apparently aligned with theirs. That takes us back to the first and most important point -- the U.S. military, which has an obligation to conduct itself apolitically and professionally, appears in many cases to be doing exactly the opposite.

Rudy's Lies, Today's Edition: He Was Ignorant Of Terror Before His Beloved 9/11 (Without Which He's Nothing)

Again via RawStory:
David Shuster, substituting for Keith Olbermann as host of Countdown, reported on Thursday that Rudy Giuliani's description of himself as the only candidate who foresaw the danger posed by al Qaeda before 9/11 has now been refuted by a leaked document.

Typical of Giuliani's claims on the campaign trail is a speech he gave last summer in which he said of the pre-9/11 period, "Bin Laden declared war on us. We didn't hear it. ... I thought it was pretty clear at the time -- but a lot of people didn't see it, couldn't see it."

Wayne Barrett, a reporter for New York's Village Voice and author of Grand Illusion: The Untold Story of Rudy Giuliani and 9/11, has now obtained leaked memos describing Giuliani's testimony before the 9/11 Commission which directly contradict that claim.

Barrett told Shuster that taken as a whole, Giuliani's testimony "was a confession of ignorance. He basically said, 'I knew nothing about al Qaeda.'"

For example, Giuliani acknowledged that even though he had received information on threats between 1998 and 2001, "At the time I had no idea it was al Qaeda." He further told the commission that after 9/11, "we brought in people to brief us on al Qaeda. ... We had nothing like this pre 9/11, which was a mistake."

Giuliani's testimony, like that of other witnesses describing New York City's response on 9/11, was supposed to remain secret until after the 2008 presidential election.

Barrett also emphasized Giuliani's continuing ignorance of technological systems involved in the fight against terrorism. As late as April 2004, when he testified before the commission, Giuliani admitted that he didn't know much about a New York Police Department system called ComStat -- which he's now saying he'd like to see extended nationwide. He was also unable to answer questions about the malfunctioning radios which caused many deaths among firefighters or about a repeater installed in the World Trade Center after the 1993 bombing to amplify radio communications.

"He still wasn't studying the response issues," Barrett said.

Secrets Of Our Leaders' Leadership

Corrections/updates below.

Failure, incompetence and ineptitude are punished with a promotion, Hey, It worked for Beloved Leader, for one.

Via RawStory:
CNN reports that John "Pat" Philbin, the Director of Public Affairs responsible for FEMA's recent faked news conference, is effectively receiving a promotion. PRNewser was notified by an email which said that Philbin's new job was an "amazing opportunity to head the communications shop at ODNI."

Philbin is slated to become Director of Public Affairs for the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell.
Corrections/updates:

War Room #1:
About that promotion for FEMA press conference faker John P. "Pat" Philbin?

Never mind.

It seems that Philbin, who was supposed to leave FEMA last week for a new job as the director of public affairs for the Office of the National Intelligence Director, isn't going to be getting the new job after all. DNI spokesman Ross Feinstein tells the Associated Press: "We do not normally comment on personnel matters. However, we can confirm that Mr. Philbin is not, nor is he scheduled to be, the director of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence."
But, War Room #2:
...Philbin was supposed to be leaving FEMA last week to take over as the ONID's public affairs chief. But a spokesman for Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell tells the AP that Philbin's promotion has been put on hold so that McConnell can review the situation.

In other news, Paul Bremer, George Tenet and Gen. Tommy Franks retain the Presidential Medals of Freedom they received for their work on the Iraq war.
(Emphasis added.)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Scary Cartoon Of The Day

Maybe scarier than the thought of Rudy as president, maybe not....

Link.

Rich/Rudy

Yeah, yeah, it doesn't stop....

Frank Rich:

That this same Rudy Giuliani would emerge as the front-runner in the Republican pack six years later is the great surprise of the 2008 presidential campaign to date, especially to the political press. Since the dawn of the new century, it has been the rarely questioned conventional wisdom, handed down by Karl Rove, that no Republican can rise to the top of the party or win the presidency without pandering as slavishly as George W. Bush has to the most bullying and gay-baiting power brokers of the religious right.

When Rudy’s candidacy started to show legs, pundits and family values activists alike assumed that ignorant voters knew only his 9/11 video reel and not his personal history or his stands on issues. “Americans do not yet realize how far outside of the mainstream of conservative thought that Mayor Giuliani’s social views really are,” declared Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council leader, in February. But despite Rudy’s fleeting stabs at fudging his views, they are well known now, and still he leads in national polls of Republican voters and is neck and neck with Fred Thompson in the Bible Belt sanctuary of South Carolina.

There are various explanations for this. One is that 9/11 and terrorism fears trump everything. Another is that the rest of the field is weak. But the most obvious explanation is the one that Washington resists because it contradicts the city’s long-running story line. Namely, that the political clout ritualistically ascribed to Mr. Perkins, James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Gary Bauer of American Values and their ilk is a sham.

These self-promoting values hacks don’t speak for the American mainstream. They don’t speak for the Republican Party. They no longer speak for many evangelical ministers and their flocks. The emperors of morality have in fact had no clothes for some time. Should Rudy Giuliani end up doing a victory dance at the Republican convention, it will be on their graves.

Part of their demise, of course, can be attributed to the pileup of personal hypocrisies that have always undone Elmer Gantrys in America, from Jimmy Swaggart to Jim Bakker. The Ted Haggard revelations were in that tawdry tradition, and so was the news that the Christian Coalition’s front man, Ralph Reed, looked forward, as he put it, to “humping in corporate accounts” in collaboration with the now-jailed K Street lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Their fall from grace was synergistically augmented by their scandal-prone family-values allies on Capitol Hill. Even now, the virulent marriage defender David Vitter retains his Senate seat despite having confessed to unspecified sins after his name surfaced in bordello scandals in both Washington and New Orleans.

Also staying put in the Senate is Larry Craig, who, consciously or not, is calling the whole moral brigade’s bluff. After he was busted in the Minneapolis airport, Republicans insisted he undergo an ethics committee investigation on the assumption that he’d disappear before they could conduct it. Now they will have to make good on their word.

Mr. Craig is not just refusing to leave, but, as he demonstrated to Matt Lauer, he is ready, willing and able to re-enact his toilet pas de deux on national television. The Larry Craig show could be C-Span’s hit of the election season. It will culminate with its star’s return to the scene of the crime during the Republican National Convention, which, as perverse poetic justice would have it, is taking place in Minneapolis.

But the most significant — and happiest — explanation for the values czars’ demise as a political force is that white evangelical Christians and a new generation of evangelical leaders have themselves steadily tacked a different course from the Dobson crowd. A CBS News poll this month parallels what the Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick found in his examination of evangelicals for today’s Times Magazine. Like most other Americans, they are more interested in hearing from presidential candidates about the war in Iraq and health care than about any other issues.

Abortion and same-sex marriage landed at the bottom of that list; fighting poverty outpolled abortion as a personal priority by a 3-to-2 margin. To see just how large a gap separates that evangelical electorate from the values organizations that purport to speak in its name, just look at the Values Voter Summit that the Family Research Council convened to much press attention in Washington last weekend. In a survey of participants to determine which issue would be “most important” in choosing a presidential candidate, the summit’s organizers didn’t even think to list the war, health care or fighting poverty among the 12 hot-button options.

The Values Voter Summit’s survey of the attendees’ presidential preferences showed just as large a disconnect. Rudy Giuliani came in next to last (behind Tom Tancredo, ahead of John McCain) in the field of nine candidates, earning only 1.85 percent of the vote. By contrast, among white evangelicals nationwide in the CBS News poll, he was in a statistical dead heat for first place with Fred Thompson; indeed, Mr. Giuliani’s 26 percent among evangelicals nearly matches his showing among all Republican voters. The discrepancy between the CBS poll and the summit survey leaves you wondering who exactly follows Dr. Dobson and Mr. Perkins beyond the ticket buyers who showed up for their media circus last weekend at the Washington Hilton.

Of late Dr. Dobson has been throwing a hissy fit about Rudy’s rise, reminiscent of his 2005 condemnation of the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants for appearing in what he labeled a “pro-homosexual video.” Apparently suffering from the delusion that he has the pull on the right that Ralph Nader once did on the left, he has threatened to bolt to a third party. But for all this huffing and puffing, Dr. Dobson and his stop-Rudy brigade are as politically hypocritical as the Reverend Haggard was sexually hypocritical.

If they really believed uncompromisingly in their issues and principles, they would have long since endorsed either Sam Brownback, the zealous Kansas senator fond of using fetus photos as political props, or Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who spent 15 years as a Baptist preacher, calls abortion a “holocaust” and believes in intelligent design rather than evolution.

But they gave Senator Brownback so little moral and financial support that he folded his candidacy a week ago. And they continue to stop well short of embracing Mr. Huckabee, no matter how many rave reviews his affable personality receives on the campaign trail. They shun him because they know he’ll lose, and they would rather compromise principle than back a loser.

Backing a loser, they know, would even further diminish their waning Washington status in a post-Rove, post-Bush G.O.P. The more they shed their illusion of power, the more they imperil their ability to rake in big bucks from their apocalyptic direct-mail campaigns. They must choose mammon over God if they are to maintain the many values rackets that make up their various business empires.

Hilariously enough, some other big names on the right, typified by Sean Hannity of Fox News, are capitulating to the Giuliani candidacy by pretending that he, like the incessantly flip-flopping Mitt Romney, is reversing his previously liberal record on social issues. The straw they cling to is Rudy’s promise to appoint “strict constructionist” judges to the Supreme Court.

Even leaving aside the Giuliani record in New York (where his judicial appointees were mostly Democrats), the more Democratic Senate likely to emerge after 2008 is a poor bet to confirm a Scalia or Alito even should a Republican president nominate one. No matter how you slice it, the Giuliani positions on abortion, gay rights and gun control remain indistinguishable from Hillary Clinton’s.

“You have absolutely nothing to fear from me,” Rudy disingenuously told the assembled at the Values Voter Summit last weekend. Actually, there’s plenty for everyone to fear from a Giuliani presidency, starting with the mad neocon bombers shaping his apocalyptic policy toward Iran. But that’s another story. Whichever candidate or party lands in the White House, this much is certain: Inauguration Day 2009 is at the very least Armageddon for the reigning ayatollahs of the American right.