of the Day
- January 22, 2010
some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood
activist across the country
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local
newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage
of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood
activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible
issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular
point of view ...
We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...
From LA Times
Villaraigosa plans to keep hiring cops while cutting civilian jobs
City officials plan to shed 1,000 jobs to patch a nearly $200-million budget gap. But the mayor wants to replace departing LAPD officers.
By David Zahniser and Maeve Reston
January 22, 2010
Even as city officials plan to shed 1,000 jobs to patch a nearly $200-million budget gap, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa intends to continue hiring police officers, a top aide said Thursday.
Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Szabo said Villaraigosa wants to keep recruiting enough officers to replace those who resign or retire -- leaving the Police Department with 9,963 sworn officers -- as he and the City Council press ahead with major reductions elsewhere.
"I think there's consensus on that concept," Szabo said.
Villaraigosa and five council members tried to display unity Thursday by releasing a letter calling for the job cuts. Yet at least two council members who signed the document, Bernard C. Parks and Jan Perry, said the city also needs to halt police hiring to balance the budget.
"I don't think you can avoid it," Parks said at a panel discussion hosted by the Central City Assn., a downtown business group. The session was titled "Is L.A. On the Road to Bankruptcy?"
"You don't continue to hire more people when you have people taking furloughs," said Perry, at a separate event.
Parks and Perry made their remarks hours after the city's top budget analyst revealed that midyear tax revenue is $186 million lower than expected. Tax revenue has declined by double digits for four straight quarters, the worst drop since the Great Depression, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said.
To deal with the downturn, Villaraigosa and council members have agreed to slash payroll costs by allowing 2,400 civilian employees to retire up to five years early. But the city's budget picture is so dire that Santana predicted 1,000 jobs would need to be eliminated, in addition to the 1,000 mentioned in Villaraigosa's letter, over the next two years to keep the city afloat.
"Our revenues are not going to catch up to the costs of our pension system and our salaries and benefits. [They're] just not," he said.
Szabo said hundreds of layoffs would probably be avoided if the city allowed additional employees to take early retirement. Or they could be moved to jobs not paid for by the city's general fund, which covers basic services including public safety. City leaders would also begin looking at services that can be done more cheaply by private contractors, he said.
"Our job is to make sure the job gets done, not necessarily to make sure it's done by a city employee," Szabo said.
That concept drew fire from a spokesman for the Coalition of L.A. Unions, which represents 22,000 city workers. Outsourcing city jobs would do little to solve the city's fiscal crisis and is not "structural change," said Victor Gordo, secretary-treasurer for the Laborers' International Union of North America Local 777.
"All it does is take money from employees and opens the door to giving it to private contractors, and in the end, it's the people of Los Angeles who will be left holding the bag," Gordo said.
Toyota issues new recall for 2.3 million vehicles
Sticking gas pedals can cause runaway acceleration. The action is separate from the beleaguered automaker's earlier recall of 4.3 million vehicles for gas pedal problems.
January 22, 2010
Toyota Motor Corp. launched a major new recall Thursday, saying a mechanical problem could cause the gas pedals to stick and cause unwanted acceleration in 2.3 million of its vehicles, including recent models of its popular Camry and Corolla sedans.
Most of the vehicles targeted by the new recall were also included in a separate recall of 4.3 million vehicles late last year involving floor mats that could jam the accelerator pedal open.
In issuing its latest recall, Toyota has for the first time acknowledged that a mechanical problem could cause its vehicles to accelerate out of control.
"In the past they've unequivocally said that floor mats are the problem," said Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies Inc., which has researched motorist complaints of sudden acceleration. "Now they suddenly find something else to blame."
The Times has reported that at least 19 people had been killed in U.S. accidents involving runaway Toyota and Lexus vehicles, more than all other automakers combined. It also found that complaints of unintended acceleration in Toyota and Lexus vehicles rose sharply after 2001, when the automaker began installing electronic throttle controls.
Kane and other safety experts say there is evidence to suggest that malfunctions by these electronic controls, sometimes known as "drive-by-wire" systems, may be a factor in the rising complaints.
In launching Thursday's recall, Toyota executives said the culprit appeared to be the pedal mechanism itself.
"We have not found any problems with the electronic throttle control system that would lead to sudden acceleration," said spokesman Bryan Lyons.
He added, however, that the automaker was continuing to investigate potential problems that could cause sudden acceleration and would "not rule anything out."
The issue first came to national attention after an August 2009 crash of a Lexus ES 350 near San Diego that took four lives and prompted a public apology from Toyota's president, Akio Toyoda. That led to the eventual 4.3-million-vehicle recall, Toyota's largest ever.
Toyota led all automakers in the total number of vehicles recalled in the U.S. last year, a first for the Japanese automaker.
"This situation is slowly spiraling out of control," said James Bell, executive market analyst at auto research firm Kelley Blue Book.
"As a company with a reputation for steadiness, these must be uncomfortable days for Toyota."
The new recall affects the 2005-10 Avalon, the 2007-10 Camry, the 2009-10 Corolla, the 2010 Highlander, the 2009-10 Matrix, the 2009-10 RAV4, the 2008-10 Sequoia and the 2007-10 Tundra.
Of the 2.3 million vehicles affected by this recall, 1.7 million were included in the floor-mat campaign.
The new recall also includes the 2009-10 Pontiac Vibe, which until recently was manufactured by Toyota in a joint venture with General Motors at their shared Fremont, Calif., plant.
Toyota said the new action was triggered by reports from motorists who complained that their accelerator pedals remained depressed after they took their foot off the gas.
"The condition is rare," Toyota said in a statement, "but can occur when the pedal mechanism becomes worn and, in certain conditions, the accelerator pedal may become harder to depress, slower to return or, in the worst case, stuck in a partially depressed position. Toyota is working quickly to prepare the correction remedy."
Toyota has not yet determined how it will fix the sticking-pedal problem, and in the interim it is asking drivers who experience the issue to halt the car with "firm and steady application of the brakes" and to notify a Toyota dealer immediately.
According to a letter filed by Toyota to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday, the automaker first heard complaints about pedal malfunction in the Tundra truck in March 2007.
It subsequently launched an investigation into the problem after similar issues arose involving two models sold in Europe. That led to a design change for vehicles using that type of pedal in Europe.
Starting last October, the letter said, Toyota began receiving more complaints of sticking pedals in the U.S. and Canada, a problem the automaker attributed to condensation forming on a friction surface under certain circumstances.
The letter also identified a single manufacturer, CTS Corp. of Elkhart, Ind., as the producer of the suspect pedal assembly.
Reached by telephone, CTS Chief Executive Vinod M. Khilnani said he was "aware of several Toyota recalls but not of any details beyond that."
He said that CTS manufactures pedal assemblies for Toyota in Canada, Britain and China, among other places, and that the parts could be on Toyota vehicles in numerous countries.
"We do sell them all over the world," Khilnani said.
Toyota spokesman Lyons said that the new recall affected only the U.S. and Canada and that he did not know whether the automaker was considering extending it to other countries.
Toyota's floor-mat recall is also limited to North America, and representatives have said that it wouldn't affect other markets because the mats at issue are not sold elsewhere.
In that recall, the automaker is replacing or modifying pedals, swapping out floor mats, altering interior carpeting and installing software so that the brake overrides the throttle.
Toyota declined to indicate how many complaints of pedal sticking it had found. It did indicate, however, that a recent case of a runaway Avalon could stem from that problem.
Three days before Christmas, a Pittstown, N.J., man reported experiencing sudden acceleration in an Avalon that appeared unrelated to floor-mat entrapment.
Although safety investigators had suggested it could be related to the sedan's electronics, Toyota spokesman Lyons said that the automaker had taken possession of the vehicle's throttle body and pedal assembly and had found that the pedal was prone to the sticking problem.
"It matches our recall finding exactly," Lyons said.
Michael L. Kelly, an attorney in El Segundo who filed a lawsuit last fall requesting class-action status against Toyota for unintended acceleration, said he was considering filing a second suit based on the new recall.
"I'm going to find one of these vehicles this weekend and tear it apart," Kelly said.
Quake a boon to Haiti salvagers
In Port-au-Prince slums, residents have long had to scavenge to survive. Amid the rubble from the quake, they have few tools, but they have ingenuity and determination.
By Joe Mozingo
January 22, 2010
Reporting from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti
In the smoke and dust along Rue La Saline, at the edge of a rubble-strewn dump, a little man with missing front teeth hammered away at a shattered pillar of concrete.
Jean Robert Lemer, 45, had been laboring for hours to extract a piece of the steel rebar that ran through it. But he wasn't making much progress.
If he had a hacksaw, he could cut off the exposed metal. But he had only a little household hammer.
The sun was taking a toll, searing through a pall of white concrete dust and the black smoke of smoldering trash.
Lemer started pounding at the portion of wire sticking out of the concrete, thick as a pencil, hoping he could at least break that off.
"I'm going to try to sell a little bit," he said, "and then buy a sledgehammer and get a big piece." In the slums of Port-au-Prince, residents have long been forced to scrape and hustle in the most desperate ways to survive. And as the economic consequences of last week's earthquake sink in, they will be hit the hardest, as they long have in times of political violence, floods and hurricanes.
But for now, they have rubble to scavenge.
Lemer's brother, Samuel, 49, crouched nearby, cutting foam from a cheap mattress into a square. The earthquake destroyed the upholstery shop where he worked. So he set about salvaging with his brother. He figured he could sell the foam to an upholsterer, if one ever opened again.
Samuel's backpack was already filled with sticks of wood he planned to sell as fuel.
"I'm not wasting my time with the hammer," he declared. "It's too hard."
Piles of white concrete chock-full of rebar lined the road for hundreds of yards. The man-made plateau of the dump rose behind, long sifted down to shredded plastic and dirt, and surrounded by vast slums made of the city's detritus.
The scavenging here is so thorough that in the slum of Cite Soleil, men stand over pots of boiling aluminum, melted down from whatever bits of wire and soda-can tabs people bring them. They pour the molten metal into molds and shape it into pots and utensils.
The earthquake's boon to scavenging is steel. For days, residents have loaded knots of the rebar onto bwet , wooden carts that sinewy men use to haul impossibly heavy loads across town.
A mason, Renel Francois, 35, had a hacksaw and a growing pile of rebar. He hadn't decided whether to sell it or use it to rebuild his house.
He pointed furiously at his stomach. "I am hungry," he said.
He was thin enough that in the United States he would be considered emaciated.
The price of food has tripled, he said.
"We were already hungry," he said. "Now it's just worse."
A couple of miles away, even a business that one would expect to do well after such a deadly disaster was struggling to survive.
Guy Jean Charles builds coffins. He normally bought his wood from the provinces, but transportation has been upended by a shortage of gasoline. Now his workers are scouring the city for planks of wood from fallen buildings. Most of the ruins, however, are concrete. The city's teetering old wood homes, called gingerbread houses for their fanciful fretwork, mostly survived.
The wood Charles' men had gathered was mostly rough and splintered and with no straight edges. He had no power tools except an air compressor for spraying paint.
Yet he had found a way. Under a rusty tin roof next to the city's main cemetery, one of his men cut lengthwise down an 8-foot board with a handsaw. Another used a trowel to coat a coffin with car body filler to cover the cracks.
The workers were running low on the lining for the faux satin interior but had enough for the time being. Shredded paper from office buildings constituted the padding for the occupants' eternal sleep.
By the time a painter sprayed them silver, the coffins looked professionally made, with different shapes and sizes and levels of quality. The workers were making two or three a day.
"Whatever I find I use," Charles said. "I have no choice."
Lancaster's dog ordinance is cited in helping to drive down gang crime
January 21, 2010
A Lancaster ordinance imposing stiff penalties on owners of “potentially dangerous” and “vicious” dogs is reaping positive results, and may have even helped to drive down gang crime in the city, officials said.
The law, adopted in January 2009, was primarily aimed at preventing gang members from using dogs, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, to bully people or cause physical harm, officials said.
City officials said that 1,138 pit bulls and Rottweilers were impounded last year by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control. Of those, 362 were voluntarily surrendered by their owners in response to Lancaster's ordinance.
“A year ago, this city was overrun with individuals -- namely, gang members -- who routinely used pit bulls and other potentially vicious dogs as tools of intimidation and violence,” Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said in a statement.
“These individuals delighted in the danger these animals posed to our residents, often walking them without leashes and allowing them to run rampant through our neighborhoods and parks. Today, more than 1,100 of these animals have been removed from our city, along with the fear they create. Lancaster is now a great deal safer because of it.”
Parris believes there is a correlation between the results of the dog ordinance and a drop in the city's gang crime rate. Lancaster's violent gang crime, which includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, fell by 45% last year, and there was a drop in overall gang crime by 41%, Parris said, citing statistics from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
Under the dog ordinance, a hearing officer can deem a dog to be potentially dangerous, for example, if the animal becomes aggressive when unprovoked. The dog can be impounded, and the owner must have it properly licensed, implanted with a microchip and vaccinated at his own cost before the animal's release.
Dogs deemed to be vicious can be destroyed if they are determined to be a significant threat to public safety, according to the ordinance.
It also requires owners of potentially dangerous dogs to ensure proper leashing and muzzling, complete a dog obedience training course, spay or neuter their animals, and pay a fine of up to $500 for each offense.
Owners of dogs deemed to be vicious face fines of up to $1,000 per offense, and they could be prevented from possessing any dog for up to three years.
Though city officials praise the dog law, some residents continue to challenge its fairness. They argue that “breed-specific” legislation is an injustice to canines, because irresponsible owners are to blame for a dog's behavior, not the dog.
California Supreme Court strikes down limits on medical marijuana possession
January 21, 2010
The California Supreme Court today struck down the state's limits on how much medical marijuana a patient can possess, concluding that the restrictions imposed by the Legislature were an unconstitutional amendment of a 1996 voter-approved initiative.
The decision means that patients and caregivers with a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana can now possess as much as is "reasonably related to the patient's current medical needs," a standard that the court established in a 1997 decision.
"I'm very pleased. They gave us exactly what we wanted," said Gerald F. Uelmen, a law professor at Santa Clara University who argued the case for Patrick K. Kelly, a medical marijuana patient from Lakewood who was convicted of possession and cultivation. "This makes it very clear that all of the rights of patients under the Compassionate Use Act are fully preserved."
The initiative did not limit the amount of marijuana that a patient could possess or cultivate other than to require it be "personal medical purposes."
In 2003, the Legislature passed a law intended to clarify the initiative and give guidance to patients and law enforcement officials. The Legislature decided that patients could have up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana and grow as many as six mature or 12 immature plants. The law also allowed a patient to have more if a doctor stated that amount was insufficient.
The court concluded that those restrictions improperly amended the Compassionate Use Act, which was approved by voters and includes no provision that allows the Legislature to amend it.
The NIMBYs of Malibu
Misguided residents succeed in blocking a fire camp staffed in part by prison inmates.
January 21, 2010
Los Angeles County Fire Department officials were considering using a station in Malibu as a temporary replacement for a conservation camp on Mt. Gleason that was destroyed last summer by the devastating Station fire. But when residents of the beachfront city realized that the camp would be staffed by prison inmates, they began organizing to stop it. They succeeded Wednesday, when Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman announced that he would look elsewhere.
California's conservation camps are one of the very few bright spots in a dysfunctional state corrections system, one of those rare government programs from which everybody benefits -- taxpayers, hillside dwellers and prisoners alike. Under the program, minimum-security inmates who have no history of violent crime can qualify to serve at fire stations, where they're overseen by prison guards and county firefighters. The inmates are paid about $1 an hour and can earn two days off their sentences for every day served; these prisoners have fought many of the state's biggest wildfires and saved lives and property along the way, at a fraction of the taxpayer cost of regular firefighters. Some inmates benefit from the training and get jobs as firefighters upon their release.
Malibu's successful NIMBY campaign makes it tempting to suggest that the next time the historically fire-prone city goes up in flames, we should let it burn. Of course, that won't and shouldn't happen; not all coast dwellers are as irresponsible as the ones who halted the fire camp. But it does show how difficult it might prove for the state to implement its plan to build community detention centers.
In 2007, the Legislature approved $7.4 billion in bonds to add 53,000 prison and jail beds to cope with an overcrowding and healthcare crisis. Some of that money will be spent on 500-bed reentry facilities throughout the state, where inmates nearing the end of their terms will be sent. The hope is that these centers will reduce recidivism by helping prisoners make the transition from institutional life to the real world. We've been skeptical of this plan from the beginning, preferring strategies to reduce the inmate population over a prison construction program, but there's little question that these reentry centers would provide prisoners with a better chance to go straight than they have now.
A few far-flung communities have already approved reentry centers, but none have been proposed yet for urban areas. If other cities follow the lead of Malibu -- too hysterical to accept felons in the neighborhood even when they're protecting lives and homes -- it could be an uphill fight for the program.
From the Wall Street Journal
Al Qaeda's Deep Tribal Ties Make Yemen a Terror Hub
By CHARLES LEVINSON And MARGARET COKER Karim BEN KHELIFA
Men await work in the old city of San'a. High unemployment could potentially drive more people to join with the religious extremists.
SAN'A, Yemen—In nearly a decade of rebuilding its terror network here, al Qaeda has put down deep roots, a move that is now complicating U.S.-backed efforts to battle the group.
Unlike other chapters of the global terror network, Yemen's Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a largely homegrown movement, with carefully cultivated ties to the local population. That sets it apart from other affiliates of al Qaeda, and could make it much more difficult to dislodge.
The group's strategy: apply lessons learned from mistakes by affiliates in other Mideast havens, particularly Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
In both those places, al Qaeda's footprint weakened significantly as local support for the group turned sharply against it. To avoid a similar fate in Yemen, the group has worked hard to curry favor with local tribes—so much so that it is now largely interwoven in the country's tribal fabric.
"They've worked hard to put deep, and what they hope are lasting, roots that will make it very difficult for them to be rooted out of Yemen," says Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University. "They've done a good job of looking at the mistakes that other versions of al Qaeda have made elsewhere."
Since late last year, Yemen has emerged as one of the biggest and most dangerous hubs for al Qaeda operations. U.S. officials have tied al Qaeda militants based here to two attacks against U.S. targets, including the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing allegedly by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who told U.S. Officials that he received his training from al Qaeda operatives in the Arab country. The push into Yemen, say U.S. officials, shows the group's increased ability to wage jihad against the U.S. and its allies, a main al Qaeda goal.
In recent months, a top al Qaeda leader publicized moving his foreign family here, while another married into a local tribe. The group is providing social and financial assistance in some of the country's poorest areas, according to tribesmen, local residents and a former al Qaeda member. Its leaders have also tempered its message of global jihad to fit local grievances—including the lack of economic benefits from Yemen's oil revenues—to recruit new members.
In exchange, some tribal leaders are welcoming al Qaeda members, allowing their sons to sign up, and providing protection from government troops. That has made al Qaeda militants almost indistinguishable from many of the rugged tribesmen and sympathizers they now mix with.
"As long as Qaeda respects the tribes, some tribes will welcome them," says Sheikh Abdulqawi Sherif, the head of the pro-government Bani Dhabian tribe, whose land borders Mareb and Shebwa provinces, two areas where al Qaeda cells are based.
Gen. Yahya Saleh, nephew of Yemen's president and the head of one of the country's counterterrorism forces, acknowledges the alliances some tribes have with al Qaeda.
Still, he says, "the tribes in Yemen are practical. They know there will be a heavy price to pay for harboring al Qaeda, and more and more, [the tribes] will not be willing to pay that price."
Complicating the issue is a power struggle between the government and the patchwork of tribes across the country. Yemen's tribes remain one of the strongest social pillars in the fragile nation.
Government support from the tribes splintered after the December 2007 death of a longtime mediator between San'a and the tribal areas—Abdul lah al-Ahmar, a senior tribal sheik with decades of experience in Yemeni politics.
Western officials and members of Yemeni tribes credit Mr. Ahmar with brokering grievances between the largely rural tribal leaders and the central government.
Recently, heavy-handed tactics by security forces targeting alleged al Qaeda cells have helped push some tribal sheiks into alliances with al Qaeda, says Mr. Sherif and another tribal politician, Abdulrahman al Jifri, who hails from Shebwa province, an al Qaeda stronghold.
Some tribal leaders, they say, see government attacks against al Qaeda within their territory as attacks on the tribe itself.
Al Qaeda's tactic of courting the tribes already appears to be reaping big benefits, as the U.S. grapples with how best to help Yemen's government fight the group.
Anwar Awlaki, the U.S.-born preacher who U.S. officials say is an al Qaeda operative connected to both the Christmas Day bombing and last year's Army base shooting at Ft. Hood, Texas, is holed up in Yemen's remote southern mountains, in the Shebwa province. According to Yemeni officials, he is being protected there by his local tribesmen.
The Yemeni government says it's negotiating with tribal leaders from Mr. Awlaki's powerful clan for his surrender, and has promised to send the military in if those talks fail. But so far, there's been little indication the group will give him up.
In an interview with a local paper last weekend, Nasser Awlaki, the preacher's father and a prominent politician here, denied his son has anything to do with al Qaeda. But he said tribal fighters protecting his son may include the terrorist group's members. The father declined several requests by The Wall Street Journal for an interview.
"He now probably has some al Qaeda members protecting him because they are from the same tribe," he told the Yemen Post.
Like Afghanistan and Pakistan, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemen-based affiliate is known, boasts a large local membership base.
Yemen's national security agency director, Gen. Mohammed al Anisi, says that the leaders and foot soldiers are approximately 90% Yemeni, with only 10% foreign fighters rounding out the ranks.
The numerical strength of Yemen's dedicated al Qaeda fighters is only approximately 100, Gen. Anisi says. But those who sympathize with them are much more numerous. That includes thousands of young men living in the tribal regions without education or jobs.
Al Qaeda's links with Yemen have always been strong. Osama bin Laden's father was born here. Mr. bin Laden recruited heavily in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the 1980s during his campaign against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
Hundreds of Yemenis returned after that campaign to a hero's welcome. A decade ago, Yemeni-based al Qaeda leaders orchestrated the November 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden.
But at that time, the local Yemeni leadership lacked depth and was poorly organized around just two powerful chieftains. In 2002, the U.S. killed al Qaeda's top man here, Abu Ali al-Harithi, in a drone attack.
A year later, the Yemeni government arrested his deputy. Yemen's branch fell into decline, just as other affiliates across the Middle East started to flourish.
By 2004, hundreds of al Qaeda sympathizers had flocked to the Sunni tribal areas in Iraq to join forces with a loose network of Sunni insurgents and jihadis fighting U.S. troops and the Shiite-dominated government.
The Iraq-based branch and its leaders were mostly foreigners, who put a priority on spectacularly bloody operations.
The group tortured and executed local men who refused to fight with them. They assassinated top tribal leaders working with the U.S.-backed government. Iraq's Sunni tribes eventually rebelled, driving al Qaeda leadership out of many of its safe havens.
Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia in 2003 and 2004, al Qaeda orchestrated two separate large-scale bombings aimed at civilian residential compounds. The attacks left dozens of Arabs and fellow Muslims dead, triggering a public backlash against the group, which earlier had gained some support for its operations targeting Westerners in foreign lands.
Saudi security forces took advantage of the mood swing and hunted down dozens of militant cells. In Yemen, meanwhile, al Qaeda has so far limited its strikes to targeted attacks on Yemeni security officials and Western targets.
"Unlike everywhere else al Qaeda has been active, here there is no al Qaeda violence against the society itself," says Mohammed Ghazwan, a former state security officer in the eastern province of Hadramut, where al Qaeda is believed to be active.
Many of the fighters who lost their safe havens in Iraq and Saudi fled to Yemen, according to U.S. and Arab intelligence officials. The migration coincided with a local prison break in 2006. In February of that year, 23 prisoners, including at least 12 senior al Qaeda leaders, broke out of a San'a prison.
The escapees dispersed themselves throughout the tribal areas of southern and eastern Yemen. Nasser al-Wuhayshi and Qassim al-Reimi, both Yemenis, took on the Yemen-based group's leadership. In 2007, they were joined by Said al-Shihri, a Saudi who had been released from the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay in December 2007.
In January 2009, Yemen's reconstituted organization merged with the remnants of al Qaeda's Saudi organization to form al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
A few months later, U.S. and Arab security officials started seeing a new migration of al Qaeda operatives, this time traveling to Yemen from Pakistan and Afghanistan, where U.S.-backed military operations were squeezing the group's movements.
The influx wasn't enough to dilute the Yemeni flavor of the group. Global and local al Qaeda leaders continued to appeal to Yemen's tribal sensibilities to provide safe haven for the militants.
In an audio tape released on Feb. 22, 2009, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Mr. bin Laden's No. 2, asked the Yemeni tribes to harbor al Qaeda operatives, just as tribes in Pakistan and Afghanistan had done: "I call on the noble and defiant tribes of the Yemen and tell them: 'Don't be less than your brothers in the defiant Pashtun and Baluch tribes,' " Mr. Zawahiri said in the recording, according to a translation provided by the NEFA Foundation, a think tank that focuses on terrorist organizations.
In August 2009, al Qaeda's online newsletter in Yemen, Sada al-Malahim, ran a congratulatory notice marking the marriage of one of al Qaeda's leaders, Mohammed al-Umda, to a local tribeswoman. Mr. Umda is Yemeni, but not from the tribal areas where al Qaeda now operates.
Another recent issue announced that one of the group's top three leaders, Mr. Shihri, the former Guantanamo Bay inmate, had recently relocated his family to Yemen from Saudi Arabia.
The group has also focused as much on local complaints as they have railed against perceived Western and foreign threats to Yemen. In the same August edition of its publication, the Yemen group ran an article on the unjust way the government distributes oil revenues pumped from wells located in the southern tribal lands of Mareb and Shebwa, two places known as al Qaeda strongholds.
The article urged tribes to take control of the wealth coming from their own land. "The inhabitants of [the southern areas] are paying for their own oppression," the article said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also started providing some basic services to locals in the country's rugged hinterlands, long neglected by the government, according to residents of the areas.
It's unclear how organized and widespread the social-welfare efforts are. But similar efforts have been important to the success of other Islamic militant groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
Nasser al-Bahry, a former bodyguard of Mr. bin Laden and a native of Shebwa, says al Qaeda has dug wells for the community, paid for medical treatments for locals, and is even paying monthly allowances to poor widows in the community.
News Yemen, an independent Yemeni news Web site , reported in November that Shebwa tribesman, frustrated by the central government's inability to provide teachers for their schools, turned to al Qaeda.
It wasn't possible to verify the report, but it underscores a growing perception among Yemenis that al Qaeda is stepping in where the cash-strapped central government has been absent.
"Here in Yemen, al Qaeda is made up of the sons of the tribes," says Mr. Bahry, who gave up his own militancy in 2000. "So, [al Qaeda members] take care of the tribes."
U.S. Leads Way in Aid Pledges, With Tally Likely to Skyrocket
By PETER SPIEGEL
WASHINGTON—The Obama administration has already spent more than $170 million in disaster relief for Haiti, significantly more than the $100 million the White House pledged in the days following the earthquake, and is expected to spend millions more in the coming weeks, according to U.S. officials.
The Office of Management and Budget's tally is likely to rise significantly as the White House receives a bill from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies for their current deployments and administration officials determine the level of reconstruction aid it will contribute to the devastated country. The United Nations, meanwhile, on Thursday tallied the U.S. contribution at $163.9 million.
In all, foreign governments have pledged about $1 billion in aid, according to a tally compiled by the Associated Press, with the U.S. and Canada by far the leading contributors. European Union countries, led by Britain, France and Sweden, have pledged a combined $575 million. China has pledged $4.4 million and has sent a rescue team. India has pledged $5 million.
The U.N. said it has so far received $195 million, and an additional $112 million in pledges, towards its $562 million appeal.
Despite the higher U.S. spending levels, however, White House and congressional aides said they didn't believe the administration will need to make a quick request to Capitol Hill for emergency spending because the earthquake hit early in the fiscal year and many of the federal government's existing relief accounts remain well funded.
"The accounts are flush," said a White House official, noting that combined, the federal government's existing relief funds total nearly $600 million. Still, senior Obama administration officials have said Haiti will require "substantial assistance" from the U.S. and international governments for years to come, and others involved in the process said they believe the White House may come to the Hill for more money as soon as Feb. 1, when the administration is expected to unveil its 2011 budget.
Of the total already committed by the U.S., most has come from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has spent $140 million, including $48 million in food aid.
The Pentagon spent $20 million of its disaster-relief budget. "It's going to be significantly more than that," said Diane Halveorsen, director of humanitarian assistance at the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
Additional funding to replenish aid accounts—as well as larger reconstruction projects—will require Congressional approval.
A month after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Bush administration requested $950 million in relief for the region. Congress eventually approved a $908 million aid package, about a third of which went to the Pentagon and USAID to replenish relief stocks and reimburse military services for their unexpected deployments. The remaining money went to reconstruction projects, primarily in Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
The Obama administration's request could outstrip those levels, given Haiti's historical ties to the U.S. and President Obama's public pledge of large-scale assistance.
Just how much Haiti will need to rebuild remains an open question. Last week, the U.N. made a "flash appeal" for $562 million in initial aid. At a conference this week in the Dominican Republic, Dominican President Leonel Fernandez suggested his neighboring country would need $10 billion over the next five years.
World leaders, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are expected to further discuss Haitian aid needs at a conference Monday in Montreal, though officials said new pledges of U.S. aid aren't expected to be announced there.
Angelika Wirtz, an expert on the costs of natural disasters at German insurance giant Munich Re, said accurate estimates of damage are impossible so early after an incident and will likely have to await the arrival of World Bank assessment teams in the coming weeks. Ms. Wirtz said the 2004 tsunami caused $10 billion in losses and a 2005 earthquake in Pakistan caused $4.5 billion.
Les Roberts, an expert on natural and man-made disasters at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, cautioned that the vast majority of damage done by such events are to personal property—cars, homes and other possessions—and that the cost of rebuilding a country's infrastructure is normally significantly less than top-line damage estimates.
"There is a deceptive notion about costs," said Mr. Roberts. "Cost of loss is huge; cost of rebuilding key infrastructure items—primarily water supplies, food services, roads—is actually quite modest, and there's some great efficiencies when you have a clean slate like this."
Because of a rise in the frequency of major natural disasters, federal agencies in recent years have requested increasingly more money to fill their annual contingency funds.
The Pentagon, for instance, has a humanitarian assistance budget this year of $20 million, which it can tap immediately to ramp up relief operations. Vice Adm. Jeffrey Wieringa, head of the agency that oversees Pentagon relief efforts, announced he was spending all $20 million to begin those operations last week. Officials said the department was pulling additional funds from other accounts. USAID has spent an additional $82 million from its Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance.
But retired Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, who headed the Pentagon's international assistance agency during the 2004 tsunami relief efforts, said Pentagon spending on current deployments—such as C-17 cargo plane flights and steaming of naval ships—will be tabulated in the coming weeks so that a request to Congress for reimbursements can be made.
"At some point, that money runs out," said Gen. Kohler, now an executive at Boeing. "When you think of deploying troops and using the airplanes, that money has to come from someplace." The Pentagon on Thursday declined to provide estimates on its spending thus far.
India Issues Plane Hijack Alert
By VIBHUTI AGARWAL
NEW DELHI – India Friday issued a security alert to all airports and airlines following an intelligence notification that some terror groups were plotting to hijack a plane.
"We (home ministry) have reliable information of a planned plane hijack by terrorists. We have advised the civil aviation ministry to take necessary steps," Omkar Kedia, spokesman at the federal home ministry, said.
Indian airports were put on high alert and security tightened following the federal home ministry warning, U.K. Bansal, a home ministry official, who is in charge of internal security, said.
Sky marshals were deployed on certain flights and passengers were being subject to intense security screening, Mr. Bansal said.
Indian news agency Press Trust of India said according to intelligence inputs terror groups linked to al-Qaeda and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba were planning to hijack an Air India or Indian Airlines plane flying in or from SAARC countries - Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
"Following the home ministry input, the civil aviation ministry has issued a hijack alert," said Moushmi Chakraborty, press officer at the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry Friday.
A statement issued by the civil aviation ministry said anti-hijacking measures had been upgraded, which included deployment of sky marshals on certain flights and introduction of ladder point checking for the safety of passengers.
The alert comes two days after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, traveling in the region, warned of possible strike by al Qaeda and its affiliates to destabilize South Asia and trigger war between India and Pakistan.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they became independent nations in 1947, and peace efforts over the disputed Kashmir region were derailed after Pakistan-based terrorists attacked Mumbai in November 2008, killing more than 166 people.
In December 1999, Islamic militants hijacked an Air India flight from Nepal's capital, Katmandu, to Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. It ended when New Delhi released three Islamic terrorists in exchange for 167 passengers and crew.
Interrogation Team Is Still Months Away
By EVAN PEREZ And SIOBHAN GORMAN
WASHINGTON—The head of a new elite terrorism-interrogation program said Thursday that it will take several more months to establish teams that could question high-profile suspects.
The teams are part of an overhaul of counterterrorism policy and have become an issue in a partisan battle over the Obama administration's handling of the suspect in a botched Christmas Day airline bombing attempt.
The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, will consist of three to five teams of interrogators based in Washington and largely drawn from the ranks of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with some from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department.
Andrew McCabe, a veteran FBI counterterrorism investigator who is leading the new program, said in an interview that the bureau can currently cobble together an ad-hoc team of interrogators if the need arises.
Some Republican lawmakers say the administration squandered a chance to get intelligence from Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was charged in the Christmas incident, by not declaring him an "enemy combatant" and putting him in military custody for interrogation.
Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, in an apparent gaffe Wednesday, criticized the FBI for not using the elite teams to interrogate the suspect. Later in the day, Mr. Blair retreated from the comments, claiming they were "misconstrued."
Mr. McCabe said Thursday that the interrogation teams will use methods already used by the FBI and other agencies. President Obama has ordered that the techniques must comply with the Army Field Manual, which prohibits interrogation methods considered to be torture.
"There's no magic in the hat; these teams will not have different tools from anyone else," Mr. McCabe said. "What the teams will have is the combined expertise of the agencies and a focused approach that brings together multiple disciplines, the best current intelligence on the target, and the benefit of having trained, prepared, and deployed together as a team."
Missouri Sen. Kit Bond, the top Republican on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the he was "steamed" after learning the HIG teams weren't yet functioning. "If [Osama] bin Laden were captured tomorrow, who would interrogate him? Detroit [FBI] Field Office agents?" Mr. Bond said.
The Justice Department disputed the criticism of the handling of Mr. Abdulmutallab's case. "Neither detaining Abdulmutallab under the laws of war or referring him for prosecution in military commissions would force him to divulge intelligence or necessarily prevent him from obtaining an attorney," said Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman.
Mr. Miller said that FBI agents interrogated Mr. Abdulmutallab on Christmas Day "and obtained intelligence that has already proved useful in the fight against Al Qaeda." It was only later that day, Mr. Miller said, "after the interrogation had already yielded intelligence, that he was read his Miranda rights. After the department informed the president's national security team about its planned course of action, Mr. Abdulmutallab was charged in criminal court."
The new interrogation program is intended to replace a CIA program that became mired in controversy over the use of harsh tactics that administration officials call "torture."
Administration officials say the National Security Council is still reviewing operational details of how the teams will operate. Mr. McCabe and deputies from the CIA and Defense Department are seeking office space in Washington's Virginia suburbs and preparing to pick members of the interrogation teams.
Initial plans are for the teams to be used overseas only, though the administration hasn't ruled out using them in the U.S. for incidents such as the Christmas bomb plot.
"It seems absolutely foolish not to use it domestically," said Philip Heymann, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and one of the chief developers of the new teams.
Mr. Heymann and other members of a small government advisory board proposed the development of the teams to replace the government's reliance on CIA interrogators for terror suspects. The recommendation was largely adopted by the White House in August.
"They were moving forward, but carefully, to set up their operation," Mr. Heymann said. He added that he wasn't troubled by the time it's taking to launch the teams because he expects them to be used for years to come and it's important they be carefully assembled.
The CIA has tapped a "seasoned" officer from its clandestine service as one of the teams' deputy directors, a U.S. intelligence official said, adding that the agency's main contribution will be it's knowledge of al Qaeda. "That's a key part of the substantive knowledge that will make this effort effective," the official said.
Another intelligence blunder.
Earlier this month, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan wrote a damning memo on the government's failure to "connect the dots" in the days before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded a Christmas day flight to Detroit. On Wednesday, Dennis Blair delivered an equally damning verdict on the government's handling of the terrorist after he was apprehended.
The Director of National Intelligence told the Senate that by immediately handing Abdulmutallab to the civilian justice system, the government all but slammed the door on its ability to interrogate him thoroughly. Specifically, the feds failed to avail themselves of a unit called the High-Value Interrogation Group, or HIG, which Mr. Blair says was created "to make a decision on whether a certain person who's detained should be treated as a case for federal prosecution or for some of the other means."
"We did not invoke the HIG in this case; we should have," Mr. Blair said. "Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people and, duh , you know, we didn't put it [in action] here."
That's our emphasis, and we put it there to underscore the scale of the intelligence blunder that was committed when Abdulmutallab was remanded to FBI custody, where he reportedly talked to investigators until advised by counsel not to. Now the government's only hope for Abdulmutallab to say a bit more is via a plea bargain, by which time his intelligence leads will likely have run cold.
What makes this debacle all the more extraordinary is that it would have been perfectly lawful to hold Abdulmutallab in military custody, which would have given the government time to interrogate him and consider whether it wanted to try him in civilian or military court. Instead, such was the apparent haste by the FBI that Director Robert Mueller testified that "there was no time to get a follow-up [HIG] group in there." Do our real-life Jack Bauers now travel by Amtrak?
Mr. Blair's testimony was almost instantly disputed by an anonymous Administration official, and he later issued a statement saying his comments had been "misconstrued." We think we heard Mr. Blair right the first time, and his departure from script reveals the dangerous folly of the Administration's policy of treating terrorists like common criminals.
Will Washington Pay for the Terror Trials?
A year of trying KSM could cost New York $216 million.
By JAMES Q. WILSON
The plan to put five terrorists on trial in Manhattan (and possibly to put other terrorists on trial in neighboring Brooklyn) has raised profound questions.
How can a civilian trial protect classified information? Will the judge dismiss the charges if the defense claims the defendants were tortured? Why should murderers be tried so close to the place where thousands of their victims died? Is there any chance of finding disinterested jurors in a city that suffered so much from radical jihadists?
Recall what happened when Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and his associates were tried in New York City for attempting to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. The government was required to disclose the identity of all of its unindicted co-conspirators in the case, a list that included Osama bin Laden and many of his followers. Bin Laden and others knew immediately that they had to be on the lookout.
But there is another question that deserves an answer: Why should New York City and law enforcement agencies there bear the burden of a trial foisted on them by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder?
The trial will take place in lower Manhattan. To protect the courthouse, the New York Police Department will establish a rigid inner circle bounded by Worth, Madison, Pearl and Centre streets. Vehicles entering the perimeter will be thoroughly screened and searched.
This secure perimeter will encompass several city blocks. Inside it will be a federal courthouse, the city's police headquarters, a New York State Supreme Court building, other governmental buildings and St. Andrews Roman Catholic Church. Also inside the cordon will be Chatham Towers, two 25-story residential buildings with hundreds of residents and a public parking garage.
This means that everyone who wants to get to the city's police headquarters, a court building or their homes in Chatham Towers will face road blocks, car searches, radiation monitors and pedestrian checks.
The NYPD estimates that a significant number of officers will be on duty around the clock inside the secure area. Outside the secure area will be a larger zone, bordered by Canal, Broadway, Park Row/Frankfort Street and St. James Place, which will have an enhanced uniformed police presence. On a larger scale, additional officers will be deployed throughout the city based on the latest intelligence data.
All of this will cost an estimated $216 million if the trial lasts one year. If the five defendants are found guilty, there will probably be an appeal that will be heard in a courthouse inside the secure area, which would require more months of stepped up security. And these figures do not count what the U.S. marshals, the FBI and other agencies will spend on activities related to the trial.
The city can't afford to pay the expense this trial will impose on it. Because of cutbacks, the NYPD has lost in recent years over 6,000 officers and does not have the resources to protect the area unless Washington pays the bills. City officials have asked the federal government to do just that, but so far they have not received an answer.
That is, perhaps, predictable. Before the Justice Department decided to hold this trial in New York City, there was no consultation with city officials. One senior police officer told me, "it will be terribly disruptive to the neighboring community."
There is an alternative: Try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four companions before a military commission located on a secure army base. A law authorizing this is already on the books. And the defendants, if convicted, would have the right to appeal the commission's verdict.
When asked why he does not do this, Mr. Holder has said that these terrorists should be tried in the place where they committed their crimes. And when asked what would happen if there is a hung jury, he said that "failure is not an option." But, of course, it is an option; that is why we have civilian trials.
Instead of addressing these issues, there are hints that Washington may wish to try more jihadists in the federal district court located across the East River from Manhattan in Brooklyn. And there are rumors that there may also be a terrorist trial in Washington, D.C.
No one knows when the trial in New York will start. When it does, don't plan on visiting lower Manhattan.
Mr. Wilson, who has taught at Harvard, UCLA and Pepperdine, is the editor, with Peter H. Schuck, of "Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation" (PublicAffairs, 2009).
Spare the Spanking, Spoil the Report Card?
What a new study and the Bible say about punishing children.
By MOLLIE ZIEGLER HEMINGWAY
Prior to becoming the devout, busybody next-door neighbor on the animated hit "The Simpsons," Ned Flanders was an out-of-control brat whose beatnik parents didn't believe in discipline. To reform Ned, a child psychologist enrolled him in the University of Minnesota Spankalogical Protocol, which included eight months of continuous spanking. It cured his rambunctiousness and set him on the path to becoming the cartoon world's most famously pious Christian.
Indeed, conservative Christian parenting is often unfairly presented as little more than "spare the rod, spoil the child," advice distilled from the Bible's book of Proverbs. Spanking—punishment delivered with an open hand, not a rod—used to be socially acceptable and frequently utilized by parents, even in public. But at some point in the past century, child-rearing books began discouraging spanking and encouraging such new proverbs as "let's all take a 'timeout' so that our anger might melt away, leading to fruitful conversation, peace and harmony in the home."
Some parents have taken the advice to such an extreme that they're hesitant to impose any consequences at all on their children. These include the helicopter parents who monitor their children's every move and the lawnmower parents who mow down any obstacle in their children's path. They, in turn, have spawned a backlash movement of free-range parents who encourage their children to roam freely and slacker parents (see the books "Bad Mother" and "The Three-Martini Playdate") who brag about who's been the most neglectful. It's a parenting free-for-all.
Those parents who still use physical discipline keep it on the down-low. That's not just because spanking is no longer politically correct but because some lawmakers are attempting to ban even the most benign swat. Massachusetts and California successfully resisted attempts to ban spanking in 2007, but some 25 countries—from Austria to Venezuela—have banned any and all corporal punishment. Antispanking advocates say that physical discipline isn't just immoral but also detrimental to a child's long-term adjustment.
Yet a new study by Calvin College's Marjorie Gunnoe found no evidence to support the claim. In fact, it found that those adolescents who were spanked as young children actually ended up having a sunnier outlook and were better students than those who were never spanked.
Compared with those who had never experienced physical discipline, those who endured parental swats between the ages of 2 and 6 were much more likely to report positive academic records and optimism about their future. Even those who received their last spanking between the ages of 7 and 11 reported that they volunteered more, compared with those who had never been spanked. In fact, the never-spanked group never scored the best on any of the 11 behavioral variables analyzed. According to Prof. Gunnoe, her research, which was based on surveys of 183 adolescent children, doesn't provide answers to parents as to how they should discipline so much as undermine the rationale for banning spanking.
But it does speak to the importance of a balanced approach to physical discipline. The group that had the worst overall social adjustment was made up of children who were spanked into their teenage years.
So often spanking is utilized according to the Ned Flanders model—all or nothing. And religious adherents are on both ends of the punishment spectrum. One controversial discipline manual that purports to offer Christian parenting guidance, "To Train Up a Child," suggests training children as the Amish train mules. According to the book, infants are to be lashed when they reach out for forbidden objects of desire. On the other hand, groups such as ParentingInJesusFootsteps.org argue against any physical discipline because it's not mentioned in the Beatitudes, Golden Rule or parable of the Prodigal Son. The United Methodist Church passed two antispanking resolutions in 2004, arguing that Jesus wouldn't approve.
While all these groups may appeal to the Bible, the Scriptures are actually much more nuanced about parental discipline.
Sure, the "spare the rod" instruction is Bible-based, though not a word-for-word quotation. And there are many more passages that likewise encourage correction, discipline and, if called for, physical punishment. Many of the Proverbs are focused on telling children to listen to their parents and telling parents to not give up on discipline, lest the children end up dead or imprisoned.
The passages aren't ending up on greeting cards anytime soon, but they do have the ring of truth: "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child"; "For whom the Lord loves He corrects"; "Chasten your son while there is hope"; and "Withhold not correction from the child."
While the rod passages get all the attention, that's not all the Bible says about correction. In his letter to the Ephesians, for instance, St. Paul reminds kids to obey parents. But he adds, "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath." In Colossians, fathers are told, "Provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." In First Thessalonians, the greatest affection is compared with the care a mother gives her own children, and Christians are routinely encouraged to be humble, gentle, forbearing and—most important of all—forgiving in all their relationships.
Clearly the Spankalogical Protocol would not pass biblical muster.
But with emerging research showing that spanked children compare favorably to those who were never spanked, it is time to stop pushing spanking bans. By the same token, those attempting to follow a biblical model of discipline should remember to balance out punishment with heavy doses of gentleness and forgiveness.
Ms. Hemingway is a writer in Washington.
From the Washington Times
Support swells for 3 accused SEALs
When a small team of Navy SEALs set out to capture one of Iraq's most-wanted terrorists in September, they never dreamed it would go so smoothly.
After all, Ahmed Hashim Abed, the suspected mastermind of a 2004 atrocity against U.S. contractors in Fallujah, was holed up in a safe house in Anbar province. Intelligence reports, which identified his location, said he kept a revolver under his pillow.
A helicopter set the SEALs down miles away. They silently approached the house and burst in to surprise a sleeping Abed. He never had a chance to pull the gun that, indeed, lay under his pillow. Subdued after a brief scuffle, he was marched to a landing site, where the helicopter took the SEALs and their captive back to Camp Schweidler.
"It went flawlessly," said a source close to the case. "They expected to get a medal."
This source, and others, recounted to The Washington Times how one of the most successful captures in the war's six years has turned into a nightmare for six SEALs involved in the mission.
Three have been charged with assault in their handling of the prize captive and with making false statements when questioned about the incident. Another three, including the platoon's two officer leaders, are refusing to talk unless granted immunity from prosecution. Their attorney told The Times that they did not see the detainee assaulted or know of any cover-up.
Four months after the incident, anger among the defendants' supporters has grown.
U.S. Central Command's treatment of the six SEALs as criminal suspects has stirred an outcry across the country. At least 100,000 people have signed up on a Facebook page, Support the Navy SEALs Who Captured Ahmed Hashim Abed. Members of Congress have written to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to intervene, which he has declined to do.
The Anbar-based SEALs arrived back in camp about 5 a.m. Abed stayed under guard several hours before he was transferred to Iraqi police, as was standard procedure.
It was during those several hours when Abed is said to have been assaulted.
The accusation came from the unit's master-at-arms, the sailor responsible for guarding Abed. He later told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that he saw Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew McCabe punch Abed in the stomach.
Petty Officer McCabe denies that he hit the detainee, setting up a confrontation with the master-at-arms, whose version seems certain to be challenged at a scheduled May court-martial in Norfolk, Va.
Sometime that morning, the platoon commander saw Abed with a bloody shirt, perhaps from a split lip. He conducted his own inquiry, during which all of the SEALs denied hitting Abed.
He forwarded the report up the chain of command, which then ordered the NCIS probe. It resulted in criminal charges against Petty Officer McCabe and two other SEALs brought by Army Maj. Gen. C.T. Cleveland, who heads the special operations component within U.S. Central Command.
Meanwhile, U.S. commanders and Iraqi authorities began a legal tug of war that September morning. When top U.S. commanders realized that the SEALs had captured a major terrorist figure, they implored the platoon commander to get him back from Iraqi control, which he did after hours of negotiations.
A military spokesman in Iraq said Abed is being held under orders from an Iraqi judge. He declined to say whether Abed had been charged.
Two other SEALs, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe and Petty Officer 1st Class Julio Huertas, face special court-martial proceedings on charges of lying about the incident. A military judge moved their trials to Iraq on a request from defense attorneys, who want to question Abed before a jury.
Three other SEALs are being cited as witnesses: the platoon commander, his second-in-command and a hospital corpsman, all of whom went on the mission. Their names have not been disclosed in court documents. In fact, prosecutors have not publicly disclosed their versions of events.
Now, the three witnesses are refusing to testify unless they are granted immunity.
Their attorney, Charles Gittins, told The Times that an NCIS investigator read them their rights amid suspicions of a cover-up.
Mr. Gittins said the three had no role in any effort to conceal details of the incident, but since they were read their rights, they want Gen. Cleveland to grant them immunity before testifying. They did not see anyone strike Abed, he said.
"The key point is they were cooperating and, out of the blue, [were] read their rights for obstruction and that's why they stopped cooperating," he said. "We as lawyers have to protect them."
A Navy spokesman declined to comment on the immunity issue.
Neal A. Puckett, who represents Petty Officer McCabe, said he has begun to receive the prosecution documents, including witness statements, but other classified information is still being reviewed.
Gen. Cleveland had the option of handling the case as a personnel matter, but when the three SEALs rejected nonjudicial punishment, which could have ended their careers, Gen. Cleveland granted their request for trial by jury, Mr. Puckett said.
The general has a number of thorny issues to settle besides the requests for immunity.
Mr. Puckett wants Petty Officer McCabe tried in Norfolk, rather than in Iraq, where a military judge has sent the other two courts-martial. He thinks it may be difficult to persuade some defense witnesses to travel to Iraq. If the government will not pay travel expenses, his client would have to cover the thousands of dollars in costs himself.
Military prosecutors have told defense attorneys that they will not bring Abed to the United States for the three trials.
"They claim that it's too difficult to arrange for everything," Mr. Puckett said in an interview. "You can imagine - transportation; permission of the Iraqi government; State Department problems. They just said they could not do it."
Mr. Puckett and the prosecution team are set to go to Baghdad next month to depose Abed on video. The government then would try to introduce the testimony at trial in Norfolk.
Gen. Cleveland has come under such intense criticism over the case that he felt it necessary to write an open letter last month to Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, saying the concerns expressed by at least three dozen lawmakers were "based on incomplete and factually inaccurate press coverage" of the case.
"These allegations are not founded solely on the word of the detainee, but rather, were initially raised by other U.S. service members," the major general wrote. "While the assault and resulting injury to the detainee were relatively minor, the more disconcerting allegations are those related to the sailors' attempts to cover-up the incident, particularly in what appears to be an effort to influence the testimony of a witness."
Mr. Burton rejected the general's reasoning, writing in reply earlier this month that his concerns were only "reinforced by your letter."
The congressman wrote, "The fact that fellow U.S. service personnel initially raised the accusations against Petty Officers Huertas, McCabe and Keefe strongly suggests that we have created a culture within our armed forces where our military personnel are now more concerned about protecting themselves from legal jeopardy for every action or statement than they are about fighting the enemy. Our troops and these SEALs need to be bold and decisive in combat, not hesitant and over-thinking every action for fear of prosecution."
Obama team pushes quotas
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Far from being a "post-racial" presidency, the Obama administration continues to pick the scab of racial discord. The prime culprit is the heavily politicized Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which under the Obama team won't act to protect the civil rights of white Americans but insists on finding white racism where it doesn't exist.
Ignoring statutory language and recent Supreme Court decisions, the Justice Department filed suit Jan. 7 to force New Jersey to stop using its long-standing written exam to screen candidates for promotion to police sergeant. The suit effectively accuses New Jersey of not producing the right quota of black and Hispanic sergeants.
The Justice Department alleges a discriminatory effect - what is known in legalese as a "disparate impact" or "adverse impact" - because 89 percent of whites passed the screening exam from 2000 to 2008, while "only" 77 percent of Hispanic candidates and 73 percent of black police made the grade. This relatively slim difference in passage rates doesn't even meet the official legal standards for triggering a discrimination complaint.
The Department of Labor promulgates what is known as the four-fifths rule, which states that "a greater than four-fifths [selection] rate [compared to 'the rate for the group with the highest rate'] will generally not be regarded by Federal enforcement agencies as evidence of adverse impact." New Jersey meets that standard. Moreover, in Ricci v. DeStefano last year, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of white Connecticut firefighters who were denied promotions they had earned through a fair exam. In that case, the high court was clear: It rejected anything approaching "a de facto quota system" and said the law "is express in disclaiming any interpretation of its requirements as calling for outright racial balancing."
The U.S. Code explicitly allows for disparate impacts of almost any size if the criteria used for promotion are not discriminatory in intent and are "job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity." Other case law makes clear that, as one text puts it, "the job in question has a direct impact on public safety." In the New Jersey cop case, the Justice Department made no effort to show evidence that the exam was unrelated to the job. Clearly, the test is designed to be both job-related and safety-related. NorthJersey.com paraphrases a Newark Police Department spokesman to the effect that "the approximately four-hour test covers traffic and criminal laws, as well as state guidelines."
If a police test covering traffic and criminal laws isn't both job- and safety-related, nothing is. And if about three-quarters of minority candidates pass the test, it's nonsense to assert it is discriminatory in effect, much less in intent. Yet the Obama Justice Department seems intent, in this case and in a series of others, on eliminating written exams for public-safety officers.
The Justice Department is way out of line. Most Americans understand that public-safety officers need to know the law. Objective tests are necessary to determine that they do, and mild statistical disparities should not invalidate such important examinations. When an administration's racial bean-counting threatens to stand in the way of public safety, the public won't see black and white - only red.
Islam's war against others
by Clifford D. May
In 2001, the monumental sixth-century Buddhas of Bamiyan were dynamited on orders from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. The United States and other Western governments issued protests. Afghanistan's Islamist rulers shrugged them off.
This year, the tomb of the prophet Ezekiel, Al-Kifl, near Baghdad, is being desecrated. On the tomb are inscriptions in Hebrew and an ark in which a Torah was displayed centuries ago. Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority, under pressure from Islamists, is erasing the Hebrew words, removing the Hebrew ornaments and planning to build a mosque on top of the grave.
So far, we're hearing protests from almost no one. This is not just another "Where is the outrage?" story, however. The larger and more alarming trend is that in a growing number of Muslim-majority countries, a war is being waged against non-Muslim minorities.
Where non-Muslim minorities already have been "cleansed" - as in Afghanistan and Iraq - the attacks are against their memory. Ethnic minorities also are being targeted: The genocidal conflict against the black Muslims of Darfur is only the most infamous example.
Connect these dots: In Nigeria this week, Muslim youths set fire to a church, killing more than two dozen Christian worshippers. In Egypt, Coptic Christians have been suffering increased persecution, including, this month, a drive-by shooting outside a church, in which seven people were murdered. In Pakistan, Christian churches were bombed over Christmas. In Turkey, authorities have been closing Christian churches, monasteries and schools. Recently, churches in Malaysia have been attacked, too, provoked by this grievance: Christians inside the churches were referring to God as "Allah." How dare infidels use the same name for the Almighty as do Muslims!
Many Muslims, no doubt, disapprove of the persecution of non-Muslims, but in most Muslim-majority countries, any Muslim openly opposing the Islamists risks being branded an apostate. Under the Islamist interpretation of Shariah, Islamic law, apostates deserve death.
Not so long ago, the broader Middle East was a diverse region. Lebanon had a Christian majority for centuries, but that ended around 1990 - the result of years of civil war among the country's religious and ethnic communities. The Christian population of Turkey has diminished substantially in recent years. Islamists have driven Christians out of Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank. Almost all Christians have fled Gaza since Hamas' takeover.
There were Jewish communities throughout the Middle East for millenniums. The Jews of Iran trace their history back 2,700 years, but about eight out of 10 Iranian Jews have emigrated since the 1979 Islamist Revolution; only about 40,000 remain.
The Jews of what is now Saudi Arabia were wiped out shortly after Muhammad and his followers established a new religion and began to build a new empire in the eighth century A.D. Jewish communities survived elsewhere until after World War II, when Jews were forced to abandon their homes in Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and other countries. In many cases, they were driven out by Muslims furious over the establishment of the modern state of Israel. But how odd is it to protest the creation of a safe haven and homeland for Jews by making your own Jewish citizens homeless and stateless?
In 1947, Pakistan also was founded as a safe haven - for Indian Muslims. The country's founding father, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was determined that Pakistan would be tolerant of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees and others - as much as 20 percent of the population at independence. It hasn't worked out that way, and as a result, non-Muslim minorities today constitute only about 3 percent of Pakistan's population.
When the dots are connected, the picture that emerges is not pretty: an "Islamic world" in which terrorists are regarded often with lenience, sometimes with respect and occasionally with reverence, while minority groups face increasing intolerance, persecution and "cleansing," where even their histories are erased. We in the West are too polite, too politically correct and perhaps too cowardly to say much about it.
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.
From Fox News
Judge Sets $20M Bail for Woman Accused of Kidnapping Jaycee Dugard
January 21, 2010
PLACERVILLE, Calif. —
A judge has set bail at $20 million for a woman accused of kidnapping and raping Jaycee Dugard and holding her captive for 18 years.
In setting the high bail amount, El Dorado Superior Court Judge Douglas Phimister said Thursday he considered Nancy Garrido to be a danger to the community and a flight risk.
Garrido has pleaded not guilty in the 1991 kidnapping and sexual assault.
Her husband, Phillip Garrido, also has pleaded not guilty. His bail was set at $30 million in September.
Also Thursday, Phimister appointed a new lawyer for Nancy Garrido and said a weeks-long dispute over her representation had sidetracked the case and could adversely affect the defendant's rights.
The next hearing is scheduled for March 25.
Missing Florida Girl's Father, Ex-Stepmom Arrested in Drug Sting
January 21, 2010
The father and former stepmother of a missing north Florida girl have been arrested in a drug sting.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office said 26-year-old Ronald Cummings and 18-year-old Misty Croslin were among several arrested Wednesday in a prescription drug trafficking sting. An undercover detective purchased nearly $4,000 worth of prescription drugs from them.
Click here for photos.
Croslin is being held on $950,000 bond. Cummings is being held on $500,000 bond.
Haleigh Cummings disappeared in early 2009 and has not been found. Misty Croslin was baby-sitting the 5-year-old girl at the time. Croslin later married Haleigh's father, but have reportedly separated.
From the White House
2010 Citizens Medal: Open for Nominations
Posted by Kori Schulman
January 21, 2010
For over 40 years, the Presidential Citizens Medal has recognized Americans who have "performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens." This year, the President is inviting you, the American public, to nominate candidates for the second highest civilian honor in our nation. So, who has inspired you? Who's selfless dedication to service has touched your life or the lives of others? Now's your chance to nominate that everyday hero for this high honor.
Past recipients of this award have included some of America's most respected public figures – from Muhammad Ali to Colin Powell; Claiborne Pell to Bob Dole. But also everyday heroes known only to the people whose lives they changed – heroes like Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman who left an astounding $150,000 – her entire life savings – to the University of Southern Mississippi so they could establish a scholarship fund for students in need.
Watch a video message from the President and tell us who you feel deserves this award.
Download Video: mp4 (22MB)
The 2010 Citizens Medal will recognize citizens who have performed exemplary deeds of service outside of their regular jobs. If you want to nominate someone for the 2010 Citizens Medal, please review the full criteria for this year's Medal . Nominees must be citizens of the United States, as required by the 1969 Executive Order. Additional awardees may be selected outside of the public nomination process. The deadline to submit is Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST.