Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Sunday, 5 August 2007
Now when writing overseas - Big brother can read with no warrant
Now Playing: Whooooops! There it goes....... Hello My, Spying Government
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
"I'm not comfortable suspending the constitution even temporarily," said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), a member of the House intelligence committee.
"The countries we detest around the world are the ones that spy on their own people. Usually they say they do it for the sake of public safety and security."
White House Bill Boosts
By Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, August 5, 2007; A01
The Democratic-controlled House last night approved and sent to President Bush for his signature legislation written by his intelligence advisers to enhance their ability to intercept the electronic communications of foreigners without a court order.
The 227 to 183 House vote capped a high-pressure campaign by the White House to change the nation's wiretap law, in which the administration capitalized on Democrats' fears of being branded weak on terrorism and on a general congressional desire to act on the measure before an August recess.
The Senate had passed the legislation Friday night after House Democrats failed to win enough votes to pass a narrower revision of a statute known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The original statute was enacted after the revelation of CIA abuses in the 1970s, and it required judicial oversight for most federal wiretapping conducted in the United States.
Privacy and civil liberties advocates, and many Democratic lawmakers, complained that the Bush administration's revisions of the law could breach constitutional protections against government intrusion. But the administration, aided by Republican congressional leaders, suggested that a failure to approve what intelligence officials sought could expose the country to a greater risk of terrorist attacks.
Democrats facing reelection next year in conservative districts helped propel the bill to a quick approval. Adding to the pressures they felt were recent intelligence reports about threatening new al-Qaeda activity in Pakistan and the disclosure by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) of a secret court ruling earlier this year that complicated the wiretapping of purely foreign communications that happen to pass through a communications node on U.S. soil.
The bill would give the National Security Agency the right to collect such communications in the future without a warrant. But it goes further than that: It also would allow the interception and recording of electronic communications involving, at least in part, people "reasonably believed to be outside the United States" without a court's order or oversight.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto emphasized that the bill is not meant to increase eavesdropping on Americans or "to affect in any way the legitimate privacy rights" of U.S. citizens. Data related to Americans in communications with foreigners who are the targets of a U.S. terrorism investigation could be monitored only if intelligence officials have a reasonable expectation of learning information relevant to that probe, a senior U.S. official said.
"There are a lot of people who felt we had to pass something," said one angry Democratic lawmaker who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of caucus discussions. "It was tantamount to being railroaded."
In a sole substantial concession to Democrats, the administration agreed to a provision allowing the legislation to be reconsidered in six months.
Some House Democrats were still upset by what they saw as a deliberate scuttling by the White House of negotiations on a compromise bill. On Thursday, Democratic leaders reached what they believed was a deal with the government's chief intelligence official, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, only to be presented with a new list of conditions at the last minute. The White House and McConnell have denied that a deal had been reached.
"I think the White House didn't want to take 'yes' for an answer from the Democrats," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), an intelligence committee member.
The administration said that its bill is aimed at bringing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 into step with advances in technology, primarily by restoring the government's power to gather without a warrant foreign intelligence on targets located overseas.
Because the law has not kept up with advances in telecommunications, McConnell said in congressional testimony, the government "is significantly burdened in capturing overseas communications of foreign terrorists planning to conduct attacks inside the United States."
Civil liberties and privacy advocates and a majority of Democrats said the bill could allow the monitoring of virtually any calls, e-mails or other communications going overseas that originate in the United States, without a court order, if the government deems the recipient to be the target of a U.S. probe.
Last night, several Democrats said the bill would undermine the Fourth Amendment. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said lawmakers were being "stampeded by fearmongering and deception" into voting for the bill. Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) warned that the bill would lead to "potential unprecedented abuse of innocent Americans' privacy."
Republicans and administration officials argued to the contrary that the distinctions in the present law -- between calls inside and outside the country -- are outmoded in an age of cellphones that work on multiple continents. What intelligence officials seek, a White House official said in an interview yesterday, is the ability to "surveil a target wherever the call [or other communication involving that target] comes from," and that the new legislation would provide that.
In place of a court's approval -- which intelligence officials worried might come too slowly -- the NSA would institute a system of internal bureaucratic controls.
A senior intelligence official said that in cases in which an overseas target is communicating with people in the United States not relevant to an investigation, their names are "minimized," or stripped from the transcript, before it is disseminated. "You won't see data mining in there," the official said. "You won't see vast drift net surveillance of Americans. . . . What we do not do is target people in the United States without a warrant."
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, said that the Democrats would introduce legislation on surveillance in the fall and would conduct oversight of the administration's surveillance program.
A narrower Democratic alternative, which Democrats said they crafted partly in response to McConnell's concerns, won majority support but nonetheless failed because it did not collect the necessary two-thirds vote Friday night in the House. It failed after an emotional debate in which Republicans charged Democrats with being soft on terrorism and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused Republicans of not caring "about the truth."
Under the administration's version of the bill, the director of national intelligence and the attorney general can authorize the surveillance of all communications involving foreign targets. Oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, composed of federal judges whose deliberations are secret, would be limited to examining whether the government's guidelines for targeting overseas suspects are appropriate. The court would not authorize the surveillance.
The bill's six-month sunset clause did not assuage some critics.
"I'm not comfortable suspending the constitution even temporarily," said Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), a member of the House intelligence committee. "The countries we detest around the world are the ones that spy on their own people. Usually they say they do it for the sake of public safety and security."
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:01 PM PDT
Updated: Sunday, 5 August 2007 2:08 PM PDT
Saturday, 4 August 2007
Pakistan warns US of Asia arms race
Now Playing: Its Not Getting Better - it is getting worse!
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
Pakistan warns US of Asia arms race
By Jo Johnson in New Delhi and Edward Luce in Washington
Pakistan on Thursday night warned that the groundbreaking civil nuclear co-operation agreement between the US and India risked triggering an arms race in south Asia, in a statement likely to inflame already tense relations with Washington. The country’s National Command Authority – a committee of top generals, government officials and nuclear scientists chaired by President Pervez Musharraf – warned that the deal would upset the strategic balance in the region.
The statement said that the US-India deal would have “implications on strategic stability” because it would “enable India to produce significant quantities of fissile material and nuclear weapons from unsafeguarded nuclear reactors”. “Strategic stability in south Asia and the global non-proliferation regime would have been better served if the US had considered a package approach for Pakistan and India . . . with a view to preventing a nuclear arms race in the region,” it added.US officials say Islamabad’s objections are based on a fundamental misreading of last week’s deal, which places India’s nuclear reprocessing facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
US officials are also careful to distinguish between the nuclear non-proliferation record of India, which they consider to be good, and Pakistan, which is seen as one of the worst proliferators.“We are not anticipating in any way, shape or form a similar deal for any other country,” Nick Burns, the US undersecretary of state, who led the US negotiations with India, said after the deal was announced last Friday. “Obviously Pakistan has a past in terms of nuclear proliferation which, with the AQ Khan network, was very troubling. India has a very different past.”The US remains concerned over the extent of the operation overseen by Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan’s one-time chief nuclear scientist, who in 2004 publicly admitted that he had traded nuclear technology with Iran, Libya and North Korea.
Pakistan has consistently objected to being excluded from the special deal that Washington is offering India, but never warned so starkly of a renewed arms race between the two nuclear powers, who have fought three wars since 1947.
The deal promises to end more than three decades of isolation for the Indian nuclear programme, notwithstanding New Delhi’s longstanding refusal to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).
The US has refused to extend the same nuclear co-operation to Pakistan. US President George W. Bush said during his visit to south Asia in March 2006 that the two countries had “different needs and different histories”.Both India and Pakistan developed their nuclear weapons as non-signatories to the NPT, which recognised as nuclear weapons states only the five countries that had detonated devices before 1967.
Washington is seeking to persuade the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the 44-country body that regulates trade in nuclear commerce, to make an exception to the NPT by allowing the sale of fissile fuel and technology to India under IAEA safeguards.
Pakistan argues that India will be free to allocate more of its scarce indigenous fissile fuel to its strategic weapons programme once the majority of its civilian or electricity-producing nuclear reactors are able to import uranium from overseas.
Analysts expect the burgeoning Indo-US relationship to push Pakistan into seeking even closer ties with China. Khurshid Kasuri, foreign minister, told the FT following Mr Bush’s visit that Pakistanis regarded China as a more reliable ally than the US.Experts believe Pakistan will seek assistance from China, which has already helped with the development of the nuclear facility at Chashma in the Pakistani province of Punjab.
ORIGINAL STORY AND CREDIT GOES HERE:
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:54 AM PDT
Updated: Saturday, 4 August 2007 12:59 AM PDT
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
Cheveron made so much money ITS LIKE THEY PRINT IT
Now Playing: Profits that will send "you" to the cleaners
Topic: CORPORATE CRAP
Cheveron Record Profits
Chevron's record profit's amazingly couldn’t satisfy Wall Street’s expectation’s as their just reported $4.35 billion second quarter earnings sent shares tumbling. I suppose profits 18% higher than last quarter which capped off the most profitable three-month period in Chevron’s 127 year history just doesn’t cut it in this hyper-active greed cycle energy investors are in. Revenues for this period were $53.5 billion.
"It was still like they were printing money. They just weren’t printing as much as everybody thought,” said industry analyst Fadel Gheit of Oppenheimer and Company".
I doubt Chevron CEO David J. O'Reilly care’s very much about the temporary drop in Chevron’s shares, since he made $8.8 million last year bringing his six-year compensation total to $37.39. I’m sure he thinks the future is bright indeed as he oversees Chevron’s insatiable thirst for massive amounts of profits no matter what the cost, including their involvement in the exploitation of oil in Iraq.
"Chevron and the other major oil companies profited greatly from failure. Long outages at refineries, aging equipment and lack of new capacity," said Judy Dugan, research director of OilWatchdog.org and FTCR".
"Chevron's refinery production in the first six months of this year was at the lowest level since Hurricane Katrina, yet it boosted profit to a new record as consumers paid outrageous prices at the pump."
Also, in March of 2007, the Iraqi parliament prodded by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, passed a law that privatized Iraq’s oil. Chevron stands to make huge profits from this law. Before the war, U.S. oil companies were excluded from profiting from Iraqi oil. With the passage of this new law and after the war, they will be in charge of it.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 12:55 AM PDT
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
WAR sucks ...now little kids get mistreated and are more at risk
Now Playing: Disgusting War Side Affects
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
Kids often mistreated when parents sent to war
Updated Tue. Jul. 31 2007 5:04 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Kids are at greater risk of being abused or neglected when one of their parents is an enlisted soldier who has been sent into combat, finds a new study in the: Journal of the American Medical Association.
While the study looked only at American soldiers, the study likely has implications for the families of Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan or in other areas of conflict.
The researchers found that the rate of child maltreatment during times when one of the parents was deployed was 42 per cent higher than the rate of maltreatment during times when the soldiers were at home.
As well, the rates of children being neglected was almost twice as high when soldiers were sent into combat compared to when the soldiers were at home.
Parental stress is believed to be mostly to blame, since combat-related deployments have been associated with increased stress among the parents left at home.
A team led by Deborah A. Gibbs, a health and social policy analyst at RTI International, looked at 1,771 families of enlisted U.S. Army soldiers who had at least one report of child maltreatment reported to the Army Family Advocacy Program. They compared rates of child mistreatment while the soldiers were at home compared to while they were sent into combat, between September 2001 and December 2004.
They found that the occurrence of moderate or severe maltreatment of children was about 60 per cent higher during deployment vs. non-deployment.
The rate of child neglect was almost twice as high when soldiers were sent into combat compared to when the soldiers were at home. In contrast, the rates of physical and emotional abuse were lower during deployment than during non-deployment.
"Although many military families manage to cope with the stress created by combat deployments, in other families this stress significantly impairs the parents' ability to care for their children appropriately," said study co-author Sandra Martin, professor in the Department of Child and Maternal Health at the University of North Carolina.
The study found that it was generally the mothers left at home who were more likely to commit the mistreatment. The rate of child maltreatment by civilian mothers was more than three times greater during times of deployment. And the rate of child neglect by female spouses was almost four times higher.
The occurrence of maltreatment during deployment was also elevated among fathers left at home but not significantly so.
The researchers note that the U.S. Army does offer a number of services to families to address the stress that deployment has on family members left at home, including child care and support groups for spouses of deployed soldiers.
"Nevertheless, the greater rate of child maltreatment associated with deployments suggests the need for enhanced support for civilian parents in terms of additional resources, more effective services, development of services that those parents at greatest risk will be likely to seek out and accept, and greater outreach to connect parents to services," the authors write.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:50 PM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 July 2007 2:51 PM PDT
Monday, 30 July 2007
Technology helps with poverty cry for help
Now Playing: People in poverty are crossing the technology divide
Flood, famine and mobile phones
Jul 26th 2007
From The Economist print edition
Technology is transforming humanitarian relief—and shifting the balance of power between donors and recipients
“MY NAME is Mohammed Sokor, writing to you from Dagahaley refugee camp in Dadaab. Dear Sir, there is an alarming issue here. People are given too few kilograms of food. You must help.”
A crumpled note, delivered to a passing rock star-turned-philanthropist? No, Mr Sokor is a much sharper communicator than that. He texted this appeal from his own mobile phone to the mobiles of two United Nations officials, in London and Nairobi. He got the numbers by surfing at an internet café at the north Kenyan camp.
As Mr Sokor's bemused London recipient points out, two worlds were colliding. The age-old scourge of famine in the Horn of Africa had found a 21st-century response; and a familiar flow of authority, from rich donor to grateful recipient, had been reversed. It was also a sign that technology need not create a “digital divide”: it can work wonders in some of the world's remotest, most wretched places.
“Technology completely alters the way humanitarian work is done,” says Caroline Hurford of the World Food Programme (WFP), a United Nations body that is the single largest distributor of food aid. Once upon a time, when disaster struck, big agencies would roll up with grain, blankets and medicine and start handing them out. Victims would struggle to the relief camps, if they could. For aid workers (let alone recipients) there was no easy way to talk to head office.
Now, when an emergency occurs, the first people on the ground are often computer geeks, setting up telephone networks so other aid agencies can do their stuff. Donors keep track of supplies on spreadsheets and send each other SMS messages: this road has been attacked by bandits, that village cut off by floods. Transport agencies announce helicopter flights by e-mail. Aid providers can find out where exactly on an incoming ship their medical supplies are, saving hours hanging round the docks. Aid donors find it easier to locate the victims of disaster; and victims queue as eagerly for mobile-phone access as they do for food.
As a result, the organisation of aid is changing. On the ground, all big relief operations have communications centres where aid workers go to send e-mails, read the latest security updates and study satellite maps of the affected area. The UN's humanitarian-affairs office runs a portal called ReliefWeb, containing every map and document that might help aid donors; it got 3m hits a day after the Asian tsunami.
And aid agencies are reorganising themselves around the technology. Two UN agencies are in charge of ensuring communications work in disaster zones: UNICEF (the children's fund) does basic data transmission; the WFP does communications in insecure areas. Télécoms sans Frontières (TSF), a French voluntary agency (total staff: a dozen), goes in with the UN team that does the first needs-assessment in the hours after disaster strikes.
Even in the short life of TSF (which grew out of the Kosovo conflict in 1999) the technological landscape has been transformed. Satellite phones—often the only ones working right after a disaster—used to be clunky contraptions that could only transmit speech. In the past five years, transmission speeds have more than doubled, so that electronic data can flow easily. The traffic grows heavier all the time, in part because the ultimate backers of the aid agencies—be they governments or individuals—want efficiency and accountability, and think they can get both.
Disaster relief is basically a giant logistical operation. Today's emergency responders can no more dispense with mobile phones or electronically transmitted spreadsheets than a global courier company can. But unlike most couriers, aid donors operate amid chaos, with rapidly changing constraints (surges of people, outbreaks of disease, attacks by warlords). Mobile phones increase the flow of information, and the speed at which it can be processed, in a world where information used to be confused or absent. The chaos remains, but coping with it gets easier.
Better communications also favour information-sharing and co-ordination between agencies. In recent years, the problems of co-ordination have grown with the size and complexity of operations. The Asian tsunami hit 14 countries in Asia and Africa. At one point, 400 organisations were working in Aceh alone—“possibly 200 too many”, remarked Jan Egeland, then the UN's emergency-relief co-ordinator. Things like e-mail service and satellite links help to herd the cats. Donors drop into telecoms centres to send e-mails, but also to swap stories and gossip. This creates a new version of the office water-cooler. Toby Porter, emergencies director of Save the Children, adds that mobile phones can facilitate relations between aid agencies and local governments; this, in turn, makes it easier for charities to gain access to remote war zones.
The benefits of technology are not quite a one-way street. Equipment is expensive. It creates co-ordination problems of its own (because of different technical standards); to address them, a score of big NGOs set up a consortium called NetHope, which spreads the cost of satellite communications and internet links. And as Hugo Slim of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue points out, technology increases the flow of information not just to workers in the field, but to offices in New York or London; this may tempt bosses to micro-manage from afar—which can be disastrous.
Oisin Walton of Télécoms sans Frontières has a different worry: e-mail may supplant aid workers' conflict-avoidance skills; they may come to rely too much on e-mailed security warnings, and not enough on their instincts. And the Red Cross's Florian Westphal fears satellite or mobile phones will make warlords even more suspicious of aid workers; it is now harder to eavesdrop than it was when aid workers used open radio frequencies.
On balance, of course, technology is more of a boon than a problem, though the gains are uneven. Small NGOs will benefit most, since big NGOs and UN bodies already have decent information systems. Some sorts of technology have developed more than others: one big growth area is surveillance, broadly defined to include software that tracks supplies.
The benefits of easier surveillance are manifold. Take two cases: since the tsunami, Sri Lanka's largest telephone company has started an early-warning system which would send SMS messages to every mobile phone in an area at risk of flooding. And Amnesty International, the human-rights agency, is paying satellite-imaging firms to take aerial shots of Darfur and of parts of Zimbabwe. Amnesty used pictures of burned villages in the Sudanese region to prove that massacres had occurred, despite government denials. Images of Zimbabwe provided evidence for a lawsuit against President Robert Mugabe.
Surveillance technology also blurs the distinction between emergency and routine operations. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation draws vast detailed maps showing who is vulnerable to food shortages (“poverty mapping”). This same information can be used to map the areas affected in a more acute way by drought or famine. Similarly, the software that aid agencies use to track emergency medical supplies can help public-health officials gather routine information.
Télécoms sans Frontières took the data transmitter and laptops it had used to track food aid during a famine in Niger in 2005 and adapted them to store facts about disease prevalence afterwards. Vodafone (a telecoms firm) and the UN Foundation (an American charity) run programmes in Kenya and Zambia that put information about disease and medicine on data banks for use by health ministries. In short, public-health information improves disaster response, and disaster response boosts public health. Surveillance technology is especially useful for spotting early-warning signals (by tracking the paths of locusts or hurricanes); so it helps more with “predictable” disasters than it does in cases (like earthquakes or tsunamis) where warning times are brief or non-existent.
While the joys of gadgetry may seem obvious to aid workers, how much has it really done to help victims? The full answer to that question has yet to emerge, and it is aid recipients who will give it. The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition, a group of agencies bent on learning from past mistakes, notes that “local people themselves provided almost all immediate life-saving action and the early-emergency support, as is commonly the case in disasters.”
As the example of Mr Sokor shows, people affected by catastrophe are not necessarily helpless or hapless. Their ingenuity is likely to change disaster response by rich-world donors in unexpected ways.
Already, mobile telephony is transforming the landscape. The World Bank says the number of mobile-phone subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa increased sevenfold between 2000 and 2006. India nearly doubled its mobile-phone subscriptions last year to 150m and the government expects 500m (mobile and land lines) by 2010. Natural and man-made disasters do not only strike rural areas; nearly a billion city dwellers (who use mobiles more) are vulnerable to disaster.
In several recent disaster zones, victims surprised their benefactors by asking not for food or medicine but money. Save the Children, at least, has responded: it has been handing out cash in addition to food in the Horn of Africa and South Asia, and it says UN agencies should do the same.
Aid agencies are also using technology to meet the victims' other key demand: contact with relatives. People in safe places who are worried about missing cousins, and victims who are in desperate need of support from the extended family, can make use of websites whose purpose is to reunite friends and relatives. A Red Cross website (familylinks.icrc.org) has details of 125,000 families.
More broadly, technology increases the role of extended families, migrants and diasporas in dealing with disaster. To take a small example, members of Zimbabwe's diaspora living in Britain can go to a website called mukuru.com, order and pay for goods such as petrol online—and have them delivered to family members back home. The operation depends not only on the internet but also on mobile phones, because when an order is made the recipient gets a code texted to his mobile, which he must show to the petrol station when he collects the goods. Other websites enable members of the diaspora to provide loved ones with a range of goods and services from food to mobile-phone credits.
As yet, such operations have made only a small dent in Zimbabwe's unfolding crisis. Mukuru, run from a flat in Clapham in south London, has about 10,000 clients. A drop in the ocean: the WFP reckons it will have to feed as many as 4m Zimbabweans by next April.
But the websites are expanding fast; mukuru plans to open in half a dozen African countries this year. And the possibilities for using mobile telecoms to help relatives are enormous. Family remittances are already a bigger source of transfers to poor countries than government aid. Mobile telephony and mobile-phone banking are spreading. As these trends converge, diasporas will move even closer to centre stage in the delivery of succour to the needy.
In any case, technology's effect on humanitarian relief is only starting to be felt. “In the humanitarian operation of the future,” says Save the Children's Mr Porter, “beneficiaries of emergency aid will use technology to tell us what they need—cash, food, or education—find out from us what to expect, and track its arrival, just as we can track an order from Amazon.com now.”
And it may all happen sooner than aid agencies expect. As Mr Sokor's case shows, victims' thinking often moves faster than their benefactors' does. Following his appeal, the WFP did boost rations in the Dagahaley refugee camp, albeit citing other reasons. That blunt text message may be a harbinger of things to come.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 1:17 PM PDT
Tuesday, 24 July 2007
Britain Protecting Herion Crops In Afganistan
Now Playing: CIA / USA & Britian help the Herion Industry Flurish
Topic: FAILURE by the GOVERNMENT
Britain is protecting the
"biggest heroin crop of all time"
This week the 64th British soldier to die in Afghanistan, Corporal Mike Gilyeat, was buried. All the right things were said about this brave soldier, just as, on current trends, they will be said about one or more of his colleagues who follow him next week.
The alarming escalation of the casualty rate among British soldiers in Afghanistan – up to ten per cent – led to discussion this week on whether it could be fairly compared to casualty rates in the Second World War.
Scroll down for more...
Killing fields: Farmers in Afghanistan gather an opium crop which will be made into heroin
But the key question is this: what are our servicemen dying for? There are glib answers to that: bringing democracy and development to Afghanistan, supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai in its attempt to establish order in the country, fighting the Taliban and preventing the further spread of radical Islam into Pakistan.
But do these answers stand up to close analysis?
There has been too easy an acceptance of the lazy notion that the war in Afghanistan is the 'good' war, while the war in Iraq is the 'bad' war, the blunder. The origins of this view are not irrational. There was a logic to attacking Afghanistan after 9/11.
Afghanistan was indeed the headquarters of Osama Bin Laden and his organisation, who had been installed and financed there by the CIA to fight the Soviets from 1979 until 1989. By comparison, the attack on Iraq – which was an enemy of Al Qaeda and no threat to us – was plainly irrational in terms of the official justification.
So the attack on Afghanistan has enjoyed a much greater sense of public legitimacy. But the operation to remove Bin Laden was one thing. Six years of occupation are clearly another.
Head of the Afghan armed forces: General Abdul Rashid Dostrum
Few seem to turn a hair at the officially expressed view that our occupation of Iraq may last for decades.
Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell has declared, fatuously, that the Afghan war is 'winnable'.
Afghanistan was not militarily winnable by the British Empire at the height of its supremacy. It was not winnable by Darius or Alexander, by Shah, Tsar or Great Moghul. It could not be subdued by 240,000 Soviet troops. But what, precisely, are we trying to win?
In six years, the occupation has wrought one massive transformation in Afghanistan, a development so huge that it has increased Afghan GDP by 66 per cent and constitutes 40 per cent of the entire economy. That is a startling achievement, by any standards. Yet we are not trumpeting it. Why not?
The answer is this. The achievement is the highest harvests of opium the world has ever seen.
The Taliban had reduced the opium crop to precisely nil. I would not advocate their methods for doing this, which involved lopping bits, often vital bits, off people. The Taliban were a bunch of mad and deeply unpleasant religious fanatics. But one of the things they were vehemently against was opium.
That is an inconvenient truth that our spin has managed to obscure. Nobody has denied the sincerity of the Taliban's crazy religious zeal, and they were as unlikely to sell you heroin as a bottle of Johnnie Walker.
They stamped out the opium trade, and impoverished and drove out the drug warlords whose warring and rapacity had ruined what was left of the country after the Soviet war.
That is about the only good thing you can say about the Taliban; there are plenty of very bad things to say about them. But their suppression of the opium trade and the drug barons is undeniable fact.
Now we are occupying the country, that has changed. According to the United Nations, 2006 was the biggest opium harvest in history, smashing the previous record by 60 per cent. This year will be even bigger.
Our economic achievement in Afghanistan goes well beyond the simple production of raw opium. In fact Afghanistan no longer exports much raw opium at all. It has succeeded in what our international aid efforts urge every developing country to do. Afghanistan has gone into manufacturing and 'value-added' operations.
It now exports not opium, but heroin. Opium is converted into heroin on an industrial scale, not in kitchens but in factories. Millions of gallons of the chemicals needed for this process are shipped into Afghanistan by tanker. The tankers and bulk opium lorries on the way to the factories share the roads, improved by American aid, with Nato troops.
How can this have happened, and on this scale? The answer is simple. The four largest players in the heroin business are all senior members of the Afghan government – the government that our soldiers are fighting and dying to protect.
When we attacked Afghanistan, America bombed from the air while the CIA paid, armed and equipped the dispirited warlord drug barons – especially those grouped in the Northern Alliance – to do the ground occupation. We bombed the Taliban and their allies into submission, while the warlords moved in to claim the spoils. Then we made them ministers.
President Karzai is a good man. He has never had an opponent killed, which may not sound like much but is highly unusual in this region and possibly unique in an Afghan leader. But nobody really believes he is running the country. He asked America to stop its recent bombing campaign in the south because it was leading to an increase in support for the Taliban. The United States simply ignored him. Above all, he has no control at all over the warlords among his ministers and governors, each of whom runs his own kingdom and whose primary concern is self-enrichment through heroin.
My knowledge of all this comes from my time as British Ambassador in neighbouring Uzbekistan from 2002 until 2004. I stood at the Friendship Bridge at Termez in 2003 and watched the Jeeps with blacked-out windows bringing the heroin through from Afghanistan, en route to Europe.
I watched the tankers of chemicals roaring into Afghanistan.
Yet I could not persuade my country to do anything about it. Alexander Litvinenko – the former agent of the KGB, now the FSB, who died in London last November after being poisoned with polonium 210 – had suffered the same frustration over the same topic.
There are a number of theories as to why Litvinenko had to flee Russia. The most popular blames his support for the theory that FSB agents planted bombs in Russian apartment blocks to stir up anti-Chechen feeling.
But the truth is that his discoveries about the heroin trade were what put his life in danger. Litvinenko was working for the KGB in St Petersburg in 2001 and 2002. He became concerned at the vast amounts of heroin coming from Afghanistan, in particular from the fiefdom of the (now) Head of the Afghan armed forces, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, in north and east Afghanistan.
Dostum is an Uzbek, and the heroin passes over the Friendship Bridge from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan, where it is taken over by President Islam Karimov's people. It is then shipped up the railway line, in bales of cotton, to St Petersburg and Riga.
The heroin Jeeps run from General Dostum to President Karimov. The UK, United States and Germany have all invested large sums in donating the most sophisticated detection and screening equipment to the Uzbek customs centre at Termez to stop the heroin coming through.
But the convoys of Jeeps running between Dostum and Karimov are simply waved around the side of the facility.
Litvinenko uncovered the St Petersburg end and was stunned by the involvement of the city authorities, local police and security services at the most senior levels. He reported in detail to President Vladimir Putin. Putin is, of course, from St Petersburg, and the people Litvinenko named were among Putin's closest political allies. That is why Litvinenko, having miscalculated badly, had to flee Russia.
I had as little luck as Litvinenko in trying to get official action against this heroin trade. At the St Petersburg end he found those involved had the top protection. In Afghanistan, General Dostum is vital to Karzai's coalition, and to the West's pretence of a stable, democratic government.
Opium is produced all over Afghanistan, but especially in the north and north-east – Dostum's territory. Again, our Government's spin doctors have tried hard to obscure this fact and make out that the bulk of the heroin is produced in the tiny areas of the south under Taliban control. But these are the most desolate, infertile rocky areas. It is a physical impossibility to produce the bulk of the vast opium harvest there.
That General Dostum is head of the Afghan armed forces and Deputy Minister of Defence is in itself a symbol of the bankruptcy of our policy. Dostum is known for tying opponents to tank tracks and running them over. He crammed prisoners into metal containers in the searing sun, causing scores to die of heat and thirst.
Since we brought 'democracy' to Afghanistan, Dostum ordered an MP who annoyed him to be pinned down while he attacked him. The sad thing is that Dostum is probably not the worst of those comprising the Karzai government, or the biggest drug smuggler among them.
Our Afghan policy is still victim to Tony Blair's simplistic world view and his childish division of all conflicts into 'good guys' and 'bad guys'. The truth is that there are seldom any good guys among those vying for power in a country such as Afghanistan. To characterise the Karzai government as good guys is sheer nonsense.
Why then do we continue to send our soldiers to die in Afghanistan? Our presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is the greatest recruiting sergeant for Islamic militants. As the great diplomat, soldier and adventurer Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Burnes pointed out before his death in the First Afghan War in 1841, there is no point in a military campaign in Afghanistan as every time you beat them, you just swell their numbers. Our only real achievement to date is falling street prices for heroin in London.
Remember this article next time you hear a politician calling for more troops to go into Afghanistan. And when you hear of another brave British life wasted there, remember you can add to the casualty figures all the young lives ruined, made miserable or ended by heroin in the UK.
They, too, are casualties of our Afghan policy.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 1:31 PM PDT
Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007 1:42 PM PDT
Monday, 23 July 2007
Joe Anybody - "NO LONGER SUPPORT THE TROOPS"
Now Playing: The troops are commiting murder and following a War Criminals orders
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 5:49 PM PDT
Updated: Monday, 23 July 2007 5:52 PM PDT
Friday, 20 July 2007
Outrageous abuse of Executive Privilege
Now Playing: Above The Law - Dictator Bush
Broader Privilege Claimed In Firings
White House Says Hill Can't Pursue Contempt Cases
By Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, July 20, 2007; A01
Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.
The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.
Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."
But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.
"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, added: "It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys."
Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance "astonishing."
"That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell said. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."
The administration's statement is a dramatic attempt to seize the upper hand in an escalating constitutional battle with Congress, which has been trying for months, without success, to compel White House officials to testify and to turn over documents about their roles in the prosecutor firings last year. The Justice Department and White House in recent weeks have been discussing when and how to disclose the stance, and the official said he decided yesterday that it was time to highlight it.
Yesterday, a House Judiciary subcommittee voted to lay the groundwork for contempt proceedings against White House chief of staff Joshua B. Bolten, following a similar decision last week against former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers.
The administration has not directly informed Congress of its view. A spokeswoman for Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), the Judiciary Committee's chairman, declined to comment . But other leading Democrats attacked the argument.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) called it "an outrageous abuse of executive privilege" and said: "The White House must stop stonewalling and start being accountable to Congress and the American people. No one, including the president, is above the law."
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) said the administration is "hastening a constitutional crisis," and Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said the position "makes a mockery of the ideal that no one is above the law."
Waxman added: "I suppose the next step would be just disbanding the Justice Department."
Under long-established procedures and laws, the House and Senate can each pursue two kinds of criminal contempt proceedings, and the Senate also has a civil contempt option. The first, called statutory contempt, has been the avenue most frequently pursued in modern times, and is the one that requires a referral to the U.S. attorney in the District.
Both chambers also have an "inherent contempt" power, allowing either body to hold its own trials and even jail those found in defiance of Congress. Although widely used during the 19th century, the power has not been invoked since 1934 and Democratic lawmakers have not displayed an appetite for reviving the practice.
In defending its argument, administration officials point to a 1984 opinion by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, headed at the time by Theodore B. Olson, a prominent conservative lawyer who was solicitor general from 2001 to 2004. The opinion centered on a contempt citation issued by the House for Anne Gorsuch Burford, then administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
It concluded: "The President, through a United States Attorney, need not, indeed may not, prosecute criminally a subordinate for asserting on his behalf a claim of executive privilege. Nor could the Legislative Branch or the courts require or implement the prosecution of such an individual."
In the Burford case, which involved spending on the Superfund program, the White House filed a federal lawsuit to block Congress's contempt action. The conflict subsided when Burford turned over documents to Congress.
The Bush administration has not previously signaled it would forbid a U.S. attorney from pursuing a contempt case in relation to the prosecutor firings. But officials at Justice and elsewhere say it has long held that Congress cannot force such action.
David B. Rifkin, who worked in the Justice Department and White House counsel's office under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, praised the position and said it is consistent with the idea of a "unitary executive." In practical terms, he said, "U.S. attorneys are emanations of a president's will." And in constitutional terms, he said, "the president has decided, by virtue of invoking executive privilege, that is the correct policy for the entire executive branch."
But Stanley Brand, who was the Democratic House counsel during the Burford case, said the administration's legal view "turns the constitutional enforcement process on its head. They are saying they will always place a claim of presidential privilege without any judicial determination above a congressional demand for evidence -- without any basis in law." Brand said the position is essentially telling Congress: "Because we control the enforcement process, we are going to thumb our nose at you."
Rozell, the George Mason professor and authority on executive privilege, said the administration's stance "is almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power. Congress has no recourse at all, in the president's view. . . . It's allowing the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers."
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:13 PM PDT
Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007 6:03 PM PDT
Thursday, 19 July 2007
Gas - The Fuel from Hell
Now Playing: Gas Kills
The Fuel from Hell
We always knew it came from deep in the ground, but until it had us by the wallet we didn’t know it was from hell.
By its very nature, gasoline is nasty stuff, probably the nastiest commercial fuel in the world. Swallow it, inhale it, or leave it on your skin too long and it will poison you. Burn it and it spews an array of poisons into the air. Over the years it’s fouled thousands of wells and retarded thousands, if not millions of people through lead exposure.
The system for transporting crude oil and refining it into gasoline is elaborate and vulnerable. After being pumped out of hell under, let’s say, Saudi Arabia, crude oil is piped to an ocean terminal and loaded into an oil tanker to begin an 8000-mile ocean trip to, let’s say, Beaumont, Texas. The trip is susceptible to terrorists, shipwrecks, storms, and engine failure leading to drifting onto the rocks. If the oil makes it to Beaumont (not spread over beaches, not coating oyster and clam beds and suffocating crabs and fish) it’s refined into gasoline and travels by boat or tank truck or pipeline 2000 miles to Howard County gas stations.
A disruption anywhere along this complex route—pipelines, tankers, refineries—hits us in the wallet. Some of the businesses in the gasoline distribution system responded to hurricane Katrina’s damage by instantly jacking the price of regular towards $4 a gallon. I think they call it “forward pricing.” In the case of a gas station it’s setting their pump price based not on what the gas cost them but on what they think their next tank truck load will cost.
One suspects these modern pricing systems are just cover for the old “charge as much as the market will pay” routine. During the Katrina price spike, one Baltimore station raised their price to $4.50, because (they said) they were afraid they’d run out of gas.
We can expect these same wallet-busting increases (indeed, we have seen them) in response to regional war, major terrorist attacks, tanker catastrophes, and calamities we haven’t yet imagined (remember, there used to be a time our imaginations didn’t include fuel-laden planes toppling skyscrapers.)
Danger and expense aren’t the only downsides to moving fuel along this long, tenuous route. It’s grotesquely inefficient: there’s less energy in a gallon of gasoline than the energy it took to make and transport it. A net loss! One study co-sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Energy and Agriculture found the energy used to find, pump, transport and refine a gallon of gasoline adds up to 20% more than the energy in that gallon. To say that another way, it takes 5 BTUs of energy to make gasoline that yields 4 BTUs.
Engines that use gasoline are inefficient, too, turning only about 30% of the gasoline’s energy content into work. Diesel engines are far better, about 45% efficient (more about this next time.)
And it’s explosive. Once crude oil is refined into gasoline, it’s no longer just flammable, mixed with air it is a very powerful explosive. Accidents involving gas-powered vehicles, stored gasoline, and filling stations can cause raging fires and sometimes lethal explosions. The same potential is available to terrorists.
If you’re like me, every vehicle you own and most of your yard equipment is powered with this fuel from hell. A grim picture. But what alternatives do we have? At this point, on the commercial scale, not many. But we’re seeing the beginnings, and very soon will see the blossoming of an entirely new class of fuels. If gasoline is the fuel from far beneath the earth, you could call these the fuel from the top of the earth. They’re all promising, but one—biodiesel—is remarkable.
It’s less toxic than table salt and biodegrades at the same rate as sugar. It’s very clean-burning and burns in standard diesel engines (without the black cloud of soot.) It’s less flammable than traditional diesel fuel, and isn’t explosive. It would boost the incomes of farmers across the country and its supply route is ridiculously short: the vehicles in every state in the US could be operated on fuel that originated and was processed in that state.
And the exhaust smells likes French fries. Make that Freedom fries: freedom from the fuel from hell.
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 8:06 PM PDT
Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007 8:36 PM PDT
Homeland Security Full-Scale-Terror-Drill in Portland Oregon in 2007
Now Playing: Police State & Homeland Security TOP OFF 4
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the TOPOFF Exercise Series?
Top Officials 4 (TOPOFF 4) is the Nation’s premier terrorism preparedness exercise, involving top officials at every level of government, as well as representatives from the international community and private sector. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), TOPOFF 4 is the fourth exercise in the TOPOFF (Top Officials) Exercise Series, a congressionally mandated exercise program. Each TOPOFF exercise involves a two-year cycle of seminars, planning events, and exercises culminating in a full-scale assessment of the Nation’s capacity to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks involving Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
2. What is TOPOFF 4?
Taking place from October 15–24, 2007, the Top Officials 4 Full-Scale Exercise (TOPOFF 4 FSE/T4 FSE) will involve thousands of Federal, State, territorial, and local officials. They will engage in various activities as part of a robust, full-scale simulated response to a multifaceted threat. The exercise will address policy and strategic issues that mobilize prevention and response systems, require participants to make difficult decisions, carry out essential functions, and challenge their ability to maintain a common operating picture during an incident of national significance. As in a real-world response, agencies and organizations will deploy staff into the field and will face realistic incident-specific challenges, including the allocation of limited response resources and exercise actions needed to effectively manage conditions as they emerge. Planning and preparation for the exercise will also help strengthen working relationships between departments and agencies that are critical to successful prevention and response in real emergencies.
3. Where will the TOPOFF 4 Full-Scale Exercise take place? How were the venues selected?
Joining DHS and other Federal agencies in this important effort are the States of Arizona and Oregon, the United States Territory of Guam, as well as three international partners: Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. As radiological incidents originate in Phoenix, Arizona; Portland, Oregon; and the United States Territory of Guam, State, territorial, and local officials in Oregon and Guam will conduct a full-scale exercise, while Arizona officials will participate in a functional exercise. In coordination with the U.S. Department of State, related activities will also take place in Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
States request participation in the exercise to support national exercise goals and to enhance their own preparedness. Typically, two States are selected for each TOPOFF cycle. For the first time in the TOPOFF series, a U.S. territory will take part in the exercise this year.
4. What is the difference between a functional and a full-scale exercise (FSE)?
A functional exercise focuses on coordination of decision-making and communications during a simulated disaster. It is a functional assessment of planning and decision-making in a time of crisis that engages multiple agencies in policy decisions and communications over several days.
A full-scale exercise adds on-the-ground first response activities to test participants on a wide range of capabilities and task areas, including incident response, incident command, cross-jurisdictional coordination, risk communication, and implementation of protocols and policies. Participants in both full-scale and functional exercises also exercise prevention and the intelligence gathering function, which are critical to preventing terrorist attacks.
5. How many, and what kinds of, agencies are participating?
There will be approximately 15,000 participants from government and private sector organizations in TOPOFF 4. Approximately 10,000 participants from more than 275 government and private sector organizations participated in TOPOFF 3.
6. Who participates in TOPOFF training? What top officials are participating?
The exercise engages participants at all levels of government, from Cabinet Secretaries to governors, mayors, and city managers; to local fire, EMS, police, and search-and-rescue personnel; to professionals in law enforcement, public health, and public communications; to members of the private sector.
TOPOFF 4 will enable top officials and relevant personnel to practice different courses of action, gain and maintain situational awareness, and deploy appropriate resources. Top Federal officials, State governors, county executives, mayors, and city managers, along with State, local, and territorial personnel will be key participants and play active roles throughout the exercise.
7. What are the objectives of TOPOFF 4?
TOPOFF 4 has overarching programmatic objectives in five areas, which provide a framework for enhanced interagency coordination, a more cohesive planning process, and a stronger overall exercise experience for participants, culminating in a heightened ability to prevent, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks and natural disasters. The stated objectives for TOPOFF 4 are:
- Prevention: To test the handling and flow of operational and time-critical intelligence between agencies to prevent a terrorist incident.
- Intelligence/investigation: To test the handling and flow of operational and time-critical intelligence between agencies prior to, and in response to, a linked terrorist incident.
- Incident management: To test the full range of existing procedures for domestic incident management of a terrorist weapon of mass destruction (WMD) event and to improve top officials’ capabilities to respond in partnership in accordance with the National Response Plan and National Incident Management System.
- Public information: To practice the strategic coordination of media relations and public information issues in the context of a terrorist WMD incident or incident of national significance.
- Evaluation: To identify lessons learned and promote best practices.
While working to meet the overarching exercise objectives, participating agencies, States, territories, and local entities also exercise to support their own individual objectives.
8. What role does the private sector play in T4?
DHS works through its Private Sector Office and Office of Infrastructure Protection to involve the private sector in the TOPOFF exercise cycle of events. TOPOFF 3 involved more than 5,000 members of the private sector participating at varying levels.
9. How does TOPOFF 4 differ from previous exercises in the TOPOFF series?
With each successive TOPOFF cycle, coordination and cooperation are enhanced, creating continuous improvements in the preparedness effort. The T4 FSE includes the greatest coordination to date, with concurrent exercises being conducted by the Department of Defense and, for the first time ever, will include a response from within a U.S. Territory. The exercise includes a strong prevention component, and is being interlinked with the Terrorism Prevention Exercise Program (TPEP), a component of the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP).
TOPOFF 4 also utilizes a capabilities-based planning approach, allowing Federal, State, territorial, and local officials to identify and exercise multiple emergency response and recovery capabilities that would be employed against a wide array of real-world hazards. Some of the capabilities being exercised this year include: evacuation/shelter-in-place, mass care, and interoperable communications. This approach aligns TOPOFF exercise program with the National Preparedness Goal and associated documents such as the Target Capabilities List (TCL) (which identifies needed capabilities) and the Universal Task List (UTL) (which identifies the tasks necessary to execute each capability). It also gives participants an opportunity to become more familiar with the National Response Plan and National Incident Management System. This collective guidance forms the framework for how our Nation responds to all hazards in a coordinated and consistent manner.
10. What is the scenario for the TOPOFF 4 FSE?
The T4 FSE is based on National Planning Scenario 11 (NPS-11). The scenario begins as terrorists, who have been planning attacks in Oregon, Arizona, and the U.S. Territory of Guam, successfully bring radioactive material into the United States. The first of three coordinated attacks occurs in Guam, with the simulated detonation of a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD), or “dirty bomb,” causing casualties and widespread contamination in a populous area. Similar attacks occur in the hours that follow in Portland and Phoenix. An RDD is not the same as a nuclear attack. It is a conventional explosive that, upon detonation, releases radioactive material into the surrounding area. Although it does not cause the type of catastrophic damage associated with a nuclear detonation, there are severe rescue, health, and long-term decontamination concerns associated with an RDD.
11. How is the TOPOFF 4 scenario developed?
A team of exercise planners experienced in WMD, war gaming, law enforcement, intelligence, and international terrorist networks develop the scenario. The team also works with planners in the participating nations, States, territories, local jurisdictions, private sector entities, and Federal departments and agencies to ensure that the scenario can sufficiently sustain the exercise and meet participants’ specific training objectives.
12. How relevant is the TOPOFF 4 scenario to the war on terrorism?
The TOPOFF 4 scenario is based on research of actual terrorist organizations’ capabilities and news accounts of events that have transpired since September 11, 2001. The scenario is plausible, but purely fictional. It is not based on specific military or government intelligence and is not intended as a forecast of future terrorist activities. The scenario contains some artificiality to ensure conformance with agencies’ and jurisdictions’ training objectives.
13. Will real weapons be used?
Real weapons will not be used in the scenario, but the response will be mounted as if they had been.
14. How are lessons learned from past exercises used to inform and improve future exercises?
Lessons learned from each TOPOFF exercise provide valuable insights that guide future planning for securing the Nation against terrorist attacks. The Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) is a capabilities and performance-based program that provides a standardized mechanism for building on such lessons learned. HSEEP outlines an evaluation methodology by using Exercise Evaluation Guides (EEGs). These standardized guides ensure that emergency preparedness can be measured in the exact same way everywhere exercises take place. This makes it possible to assess current capabilities and measure preparedness over time for any jurisdiction—in every response area. In addition to establishing standard evaluation tools, this model gives guidance on gathering and reporting lessons learned, which help to identify strengths and areas needing improvement. This information is then folded back into the exercise process to enhance its relevance and realism for the next exercise in the series.
15. What does it mean to “play” in the exercise? How is exercise play prompted and regulated?
Play is the term used to describe how personnel from a variety of agencies and organizations act out the response to the scenario, as though it had actually occurred. Players are fed information by exercise controllers, based on a Master Scenario Event List (MSEL). The MSEL contains a number of key events that trigger the need to make decisions and conduct activities to exercise specific agency capabilities and achieve the exercise objectives.
16. What is gained from TOPOFF training?
Top officials from all levels of government gain valuable knowledge and experience dealing with complex issues related to terrorism prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. The exercise offers participants a mechanism to test plans and skills in a real-time, realistic environment and to gain the in-depth learning that only experience can provide. Training activities are based on the objectives of participating departments and agencies.
Several of the overarching objectives of TOPOFF 4 pertain directly to the assignment of roles and responsibilities, and the coordination of communications and operations. By exercising these objectives, participants are able to improve upon their overall ability to respond to major disasters, regardless of whether they are natural or manmade.
TOPOFF 4 also provides an opportunity to fully integrate and conform to Homeland Security Presidential Directive – 8 (HSPD-8), the National Preparedness Goal, and the National Exercise Program. DHS will introduce the five-year National Exercise Program plan during the TOPOFF 4 exercise cycle. This program combines exercise activities, affords departments and agencies the opportunity to reduce the number of separate exercises they must plan and participate in, and, more importantly, provides an opportunity to demonstrate that the government can operate effectively during an elevated threat situation.
17. How does TOPOFF influence Federal, State, territorial, and local preparedness capabilities?
The exercise will offer top officials at all levels of government an opportunity to practice and reinforce operations under the President’s National Preparedness Strategy. The exercise’s implementation of the National Response Plan (NRP) will include practicing capabilities in the areas of incident response, incident command, cross-jurisdictional coordination, emergency and risk communication, and implementation of protocols and policies. Significantly, the T4 FSE will help to introduce a more integrated approach to national preparedness, ensuring that existing preparedness initiatives are closely aligned and operationally synchronized. The T4 FSE also offers an important opportunity to aggressively exercise capabilities developed or strengthened as a result of recent events, including new technologies, policies, and procedures.
18. Is the exercise open to outside observation?
Because of the sensitive nature of the capabilities being exercised, external observation and information dissemination will be carefully managed. Some international, Federal, State, territorial, and local officials and emergency response personnel are invited to observe a portion of the exercise, so that they may better understand how we as a Nation are preparing to address terrorist threats. Members of the media will be able to attend briefings during and after the exercise. Some law enforcement and intelligence components of the exercise are classified and will not be discussed in detail.
19. What happens if there is a real terrorist attack or natural disaster while the exercise is taking place?
The exercise will be halted immediately. No essential personnel will be diverted from any type of actual emergency response effort to respond to simulated events, nor will ongoing preparedness efforts be compromised.
20. What information will be made available to the public about exercise outcomes and lessons learned?
There will be a formal evaluation of the exercise, and findings and lessons learned will be applied to ongoing efforts to improve national preparedness and security. Because of the need to maintain operational security and protect sensitive information about efforts to thwart terrorist activities, information released to the public must be carefully scrutinized. DHS and its partner agencies make every effort to keep the public informed, without releasing information that could potentially aid our enemies.
21. Who can I contact at DHS public affairs for additional information?
News media inquiries about TOPOFF 4 should be directed to the FEMA News Desk at (202) 646-4600 or send an email to FEMA-News-Desk@dhs.gov
Posted by Joe Anybody
at 2:57 PM PDT
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