Category Archives: 9/11 & Aftermath

Did AG Eric Holder Commit Perjury? Whose Head Should Roll?

David Kravitz’s Wired article, How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error begins like this:

After seven years of litigation, two trips to a federal appeals court and $3.8 million worth of lawyer time, the public has finally learned why a wheelchair-bound Stanford University scholar was cuffed, detained and denied a flight from San Francisco to Hawaii: FBI human error.

FBI agent Kevin Kelley was investigating Muslims in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2004 when he checked the wrong box on a terrorism form, erroneously placing Rahinah Ibrahim on the no-fly list.

What happened next was the real shame. Instead of admitting to the error, high-ranking President Barack Obama administration officials spent years covering it up. Attorney General Eric Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and a litany of other government officials claimed repeatedly that disclosing the reason Ibrahim was detained, or even acknowledging that she’d been placed on a watch list, would cause serious damage to the U.S. national security. Again and again they asserted the so-called “state secrets privilege” to block the 48-year-old woman’s lawsuit, which sought only to clear her name.

The article includes a link to Attorney General Eric Holder’s declaration in Ibrahim v. DHS. It’s pretty awful — even worse than the article makes it sound. Here are the last two paragraphs (emphasis added):

16. On September 23, 2009, I announced a new Executive Branch policy governing the assertion and defense of the state secrets privilege in litigation. Under this policy, the Department of Justice will defend an assertion of the state secrets privilege in litigation, and seek dismissal of a claim on that basis, only when necessary to protect against the risk of significant hann to national security. See Exhibit 1 (State Secrets Policy),§ l(A). The policy provides further that an application of a privilege assertion must be narrowly tailored and that dismissal be sought pursuant to the privilege assertion only when necessary to prevent significant harm to national security. !d. § 1(B). Moreover, “[t]he Department will not defend an invocation of the privilege in order to: (i) conceal violations of the law, inefficiency, or administrative error; (ii) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency of the United States Government; (iii) restrain competition; or (iv) prevent or delay the release of information the release of which would not reasonably be expected to cause significant harm to national security.” !d. § 1(C). The policy also establishes detailed procedures for review of a proposed assertion of the state secrets privilege in a particular case. !d. § 2. Those procedures require submissions by the relevant Government departments or agencies specifying “(i) the nature of the information that must be protected from unauthorized disclosure; (ii) the significant harm to national security that disclosure can reasonably be expected to cause; [and] (iii) the reason why unauthorized disclosure is reasonably likely to cause such harm.” ld § 2(A). Based on my personal consideration of the matter, I have determined that the requirements for an assertion and defense of the state secrets privilege have been met in this case in accord with the September 2009 State Secrets Policy.

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.

I think someone should lose their job over this. Perhaps that someone is the person who misinformed the Attorney General as to the facts of the case, perhaps not. In any event, Attorney General Eric Holder owes us all an explanation as to why that someone is not him.

Posted in 9/11 & Aftermath, Law: Ethics, Law: Right to Travel | 8 Comments

Domestic Consequences of Being on Terrorist Watch List

I was very struck by this story from the periphery of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Protester jailed, denies he’s a terrorist, in which a local police officer argued that an arrested protestor should be held without bail during the convention because he was on an (unspecified) national terrorist watch list — probably this one.

As far as I am aware, this is the first documented example of a non-air-travel-related domestic consequence of being on a ‘terrorist watch list’:

Tyson, who describes himself on his Facebook page as a carpenter with a “veggie farm,” says he has no idea how he wound up on the government’s terrorist watch list. He just wants to save the rain forest. The only dings on his record, at least as far as he knows, consist of fishing for trout out of season and driving while impaired.

The 27-year-old, known as “Jimmy” around Charlotte’s activist community, was pulled over Sunday near a building where protesters plan their demonstrations. He was charged with driving with a revoked license. And then he was thrown in jail under exceptionally high bail — $10,000.

The arresting officer asked a magistrate to keep him behind bars for the duration of the Democratic National Convention, which ends Thursday night. He advised against releasing Tyson on his promise to show up for court.

“Why do you feel suspect is a risk?” a bail sheet asked, and the officer wrote: “Known activist + protester who is currently on a terrorist watch list. Request he be held due to DNC being a National Special Security Event.”

I should note that from one prespective the system did work, after some delay.

Tyson spent Sunday night and most of Monday in jail. He called a legal hot line for protesters and was given an attorney, Derek Fletcher. The Charlotte lawyer got before a judge, Lisa Bell, on Monday and convinced her to lower Tyson’s bail to $2,500. He walked free on Monday night.

On the other hand, speech was chilled:

“I have done nothing wrong and have nothing to hide,” Tyson said as he left the Mecklenburg County Jail. “I believe this is an attempt to stifle my First Amendment rights and keep my voice from being heard.”

He said he was no longer interested in protesting during the convention, believing police had targeted him. “At this point,” he said, “I would like to go home and visit my parents and play with my dog.”

If the CNN article by Ted Metzger and Ann O’Neill is accurate, I think this small incident is actually a big deal.

Posted in 9/11 & Aftermath, Civil Liberties | 3 Comments

I’m Afraid the Answer is ‘Yes’

Gilbert Cranberg has a question:

The Bush administration called the war Operation Iraqi Freedom. A more apt designation would be Operation Enduring Mystery. It’s a mystery not only why the U.S. fought the war but why Congress and the American people have been so incurious about it.

The toll in Iraq included 4,500 U.S. military fatalities, 30,000 American troops wounded (many grievously) and more than 100,000 civilian casualties. Those losses alone should have produced a resounding call: WHY?

The explanation offered at the time, Saddam’s alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, never materialized, but no one has ever been held accountable for the fiction. Nor has there been an apology for misleading the country into war. Throughout it all the U.S. press stood idly by.

Have we become so accustomed to being bamboozled that we can no longer summon righteous indignation even when human lives are lost in a misbegotten military adventure?

Like I said, I think I know the answer to that one.

Posted in 9/11 & Aftermath, Iraq | Leave a comment


I remember flying up to DC shortly after they turned the air traffic control system back on post-9/11. People here in Miami were weird about it — they treated it as a very dangerous thing to do. For some reason I didn’t feel threatened at all. That said, the experience at the airport, in which a great effort was made to search everything, and in the air, in which for the first time we told to stay in our seats for the last 30 minutes of the approach to DC, was decidedly off-putting. The atmosphere on the plane was oddly strained.

Now, once again I’m flying early Tuesday to the DC area (although actually landing at BWI and spending the day in Baltimore), right when the airport security staff are likely to be at their jumpiest. Who can blame them?

Still, I cannot help but think that the giant security apparatus, and the huge dead-weight costs of people going to the airport early and wasting time, is one of the clearest signs that that we are not, despite recent events, succeeding in the ‘war on terror’ because we are letting our choices and expenditures be defined by those who do not wish us well. Maybe we’d be better off trusting those metal cabin doors to protect us from hijacks, and accepting that even so there can be no perfect safety in a complicated world.

I’d take the risk, but I’m not the one who would have to explain it if something went wrong, and those who do have gigantic institutional incentives to be, and even more to be seen to be, risk-averse. Thus, the FBI openly is being transformed into a domestic intelligence agency, one charged with preventing rather then solving crimes. In a perfect world, of course, prevention is better than cure, and punishment is not even cure. But there is no way an FBI or any other public agency can seriously undertake this mission without, and there is no other word for it, spying on a lot of people. I think history has a few things to teach us about how that works out for societies as a rule, and I wonder how much we are heeding those lessons.

On Wednesday, I’ll be in DC visiting family and friends. On Thursday and Friday I’m going to the GIGANet Doubleheader. My part of the talking will be about IP numbers on Thursday, and about ICANN on Friday. There’s a written paper for the Friday talk.

Posted in 9/11 & Aftermath, National Security, Talks & Conferences | 1 Comment

This Week’s Best Headline?

Suspicious bagel.

A Florida professor was arrested and removed from a plane Monday after his fellow passengers alerted crew members they thought he had a suspicious package in the overhead compartment.

That “suspicious package” turned out to be keys, a bagel with cream cheese and a hat.

Ognjen Milatovic, 35, was flying from Boston to Washington D.C.on US Airways when he was escorted off the plane for disorderly conduct following the incident.

When confronted by the US Airways crew about his “suspicious package,” Milatovic got on his cell phone. The crew asked him to hang it up and sit down. When he refused, he was cuffed.

Milatovic was also charged with interfering with the operation of an aircraft.

Posted in 9/11 & Aftermath | Leave a comment

State GOP Starts the Sliming and Fear-Mongering

I haven't gotten mine yet, but someone was kind enough to send me a scan of a GOP mailer that is going to houses around here claiming that Democrats want to “surrender” to terrorism. This particular copy was sent right to the heart of FL-18, Annette Taddeo's district.

The content of this thing is pretty ugly. Here's a shot of the worst page. You can click on it for a larger .pdf version of that page.


This is accompanied by a smiling photo of Governor Charlie Crist, along with a message warning that terrorists want to kill us, and that we should vote for Republicans to “help keep America safe.” (You can download a .pdf of the entire mailer, if you want.)

Got that? The State GOP, which paid for this thing, and the formerly post-partisan Governor, are saying that Democrats want to surrender to terrorists. Talk about low-class smear jobs…

Does anyone actually think that Democrats want to surrender to terrorism? Most Democrats want to make an orderly exit from Iraq. So, the polls tell us, does most of the country. (And, for what it's worth, during the second Presidential debate it was Obama who took the more bellicose approach towards chasing down bin Laden, not McCain.)

It used to be that we only saw stuff like this in the last week before election day. But the GOP wants absentee ballots, and early voting starts soon, so here we go.

Posted in 9/11 & Aftermath, Florida, Politics: FL-18 | 11 Comments