Today ACORN, Tomorrow … Lockheed Martin? Northrop Grumman?

Not much can top a federally-funded ACORN associate telling a (supposed) prostitute how she can launder her income — on camera. Except for maybe this:

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or this:

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Those are guards from the federally-funded ArmorGroup, which has a $184 million contract to protect our embassy in Afghanistan. When these photos emerged from a FOIA request by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), ArmorGroup fired 14 guards for a whole host of inappropriate, and perhaps even illegal activities. Subsequent reports indicate that the guards may have even been involved in running a prostitution ring.

According to Ryan Grim over at Huffington Post, the ironies have not been lost on Democratic lawmakers who have been whipsawed in recent days by legislation passed by the House and Senate to punish ACORN. The  House bill , however, would in essence de-fund any federally-funded organization guilty of a wide range of ethical and legal violations, including fraud. That, according to POGO, would apply not only to ACORN, but to possibly the ArmorGroup, and a long line of federal defense contractors, including tip-toppers like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. So far, they have identified 87 cases of fraud among 43 contractors.  Here’s the list — have fun.

Military to share classified intel with state and local fusion centers

Correct me if I am wrong, but this must spell an unprecedented level of domestic intelligence sharing. One wonders, is the sharing between the DoD and fusion centers — which incorporate local, state and federal law enforcement and homeland security agencies — both ways? Again, a big disappointment coming from a new President who promised all sorts of sunshine into the creepy darkness of Bush-era law enforcement/domestic security policies, but seems to be instead pushing forward into the gloaming of his own administration full throttle. Considering his justice department has announced it is pretty much all settled to extend the three controversial Patriot Act provisions set to expire at the end of the year, and now this story out of DHS, it is really hard to make out the sliver of sunlight between Obama and his predecessor.

From the ACLU tonight:

Fusion Centers To Obtain Access To Classified Military Intelligence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 15, 2009
CONTACT: Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org
WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that it was giving state and local fusion centers access to the classified military intelligence in Department of Defense (DOD) databases. The federal government has facilitated the growth of a network of fusion centers since 9/11 to expand information collection and sharing practices among law enforcement agencies, the private sector and the intelligence community.
Allowing fusion centers access to DOD classified information appears to be a shift in policy. The New York Times reported in July that “Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said … that fusion centers were not intended to have a military presence, and that she was not aware of ones that did.”
The American Civil Liberties Union has long warned the government about the dangers posed by fusion centers without proper oversight and, in 2007, released a report entitled, “What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers?” The report, which was updated last year, identifies specific concerns with fusion centers, including their ambiguous lines of authority, the troubling role of private corporations, the participation of the military, the use of data mining and their excessive secrecy.
According to DHS, there were 70 fusion centers in the United States as of February 2009. It is unknown how many include military personnel.
The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
“As fusion centers gain more and more access to Americans’ private information, the information about them being made available to the American public remains woefully inadequate. There is a stunning lack of oversight at these fusion centers and, as we’ve seen, these centers are rapidly becoming a breeding ground for overzealous intelligence activities. Opening the door for domestic law enforcement to gain access to classified military intelligence coupled with no guidelines restricting the military’s role in fusion centers is a recipe for disaster.
“Congress must take the necessary steps to ensure that a thorough and rigorous oversight mechanism is in place to ensure that Americans’ most sensitive information is protected. Without proper guidelines, fusion centers will continue to threaten our privacy while doing nothing to improve security.”
To read the ACLU’s report, “What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers,” go to: www.aclu.org/fusion

Shocked, Shocked! The Pentagon Is Profiling Journalists!

Published originally @TAC

I am glad that Stars and Stripes has nailed the story about the Pentagon profiling journos headed overseas for embed duty, not only because it is only fair that we know how our taxpayer dollars are being spent in so-called military “strategic communications” and that the Fourth Estate knows exactly where it stands with the military establishment, but that it was Stars and Stripes, virtually inoculated from any rightwing sniping about ‘flyover’ and ‘driveby media’, that has been bird-dogging this latest example of government manipulation of the news in wartime.

Simmering for over a week, the story is starting to sprout earnest legs, but given a few more hours and days, will likely slide off into familiar media narcissism, as more reporters begin demanding their profiles and posting them online. Given the hyper-competition in the foreign policy reporting space, one can easily imagine one scribe scrambling over the other with contempt for the Pentagon out of one side of his face, using the other to call attention to his overseas bonefides. Not all are that egotistical, of course, and seeing your life’s work clinically analyzed like a FBI background check has to be quite disquieting. Nevertheless, some may want to think twice before broadcasting their profile: the Pentagon may like you and that could be kind of icky, especially when you’re trying to pay it cool.

The thing that gets me is none of this is really a surprise. The Rendon Group didn’t come out of a hole in the desert, it helped start the war. In fact its propaganda and message management work for the government goes back decades. Meanwhile, the military has put all sorts of restrictions on its official embeds and that’s why we have independent reporters who risk life and limb to get the story. The military hired a covert PR firm to plant “good news” in Iraqi papers — why wouldn’t it want to keep tabs and try to manage journalists it couldn’t outright buy or silence?

It’s amazing, as I see the first signs of this profiling story on major television news networks, I recall how none of them — save PBS — would touch the explosive Message Force Multipliers story of 2008. Because it involved the corporate broadcast media participating in the Pentagon/Bush Administration-led Spin of the Century, they acted as though it never even happened. Now that they are the victims, it is a different story?

Franken Tells Pickens To Blow it Elsewhere

Billionaire gasbag “T Boone” Pickens has made a bold attempt over the last year to transform his image of oil-greased rightwing godfather to grandfatherly wind energy guru, endlessly blowing his hot air at bipartisan audiences in Washington (and reminding everyone outside the beltway that money can buy you anything in the Imperial City, even a new personae)

That’s why it’s refreshing when a senator steps up and reminds everyone that the emperor (in this case, audacious Texas oil man and corporate raider) has no clothes. Or maybe Sen. Al Franken is still too new to know when to keep his mouth shut. Or maybe he just cannot stomach the thought of a man who helped elect George W. Bush twice and funded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth over $2 million to torpedo a decorated Vietnam veteran’s presidential candidacy and reputation, getting the VIP treatment from his Democratic colleagues:

Five years after he put his money behind the Swift Boat ads that helped tank John Kerry’s presidential campaign, Senate Democrats gave T. Boone Pickens a warm welcome at their weekly policy lunch Thursday.

Or at least most of them did.

Kerry skipped the regularly scheduled lunch; his staff said the Massachusetts Democrat “was unable to attend because he had a long scheduled lunch with his interns and pages.”

Sen. Al Franken managed to make time for the lunch — but then let Pickens have it afterward.

According to a source, the wealthy oil and gas magnate and author of “The First Billion Is the Hardest” stepped up to introduce himself to Franken in a room just off the Senate Floor after the lunch ended

Franken, who was seated talking to someone else, did not stand when Pickens said hello. Instead, Franken began to berate him about the billionaire’s financing of the Swift Boat ads in 2004.

According to a source, the confrontation grew heated ….

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0709/25667.html#ixzz0N23eHrbA

Guarding the Surge Narrative While Iraq Burns

Looking at  Margaret and Jason’s close monitoring of the continued bloodshed in Iraq– something like 300 Iraqis  dead in bombings since last Monday — it’s becoming clear that nothing short of a nuclear bomb dropped on the Green Zone will get administration officials and their supporters in the Washington military establishment to acknowledge that something is really wrong in Baghdad.

There is obviously an agenda , and that agenda is to let the Iraqis have their holiday over our supposed departure on June 30. As I have written, and as Erik Leaver and Daniel Atzmon suggest today, there are a lot of smoke and mirrors engaged here and no one really knows how many U.S troops and private contractors will remain in trouble spots like Baghdad and Mosul after the end of the month.

But this is just one thread of the agenda. The integrity of the Surge Narrative is vital, and any sense that the stability gained in the last year is beginning to dissolve will put a lot of assumptions about the so-called “population-centric” Petraeus Doctrine (“clear, hold and build”) into serious question. That is probably why speakers at the big Center for A New American Security confab were pretty adamant that the recent violence is the mark of al Qaeda “remnants,” and definitely not a reanimated Sunni insurgency. No surprise that retired Gen. Jack Keane, known as the “godfather of the surge” for his work in writing the “plan for success” with Frederick Kagan at AEI and the “new” counterinsurgency manual with Petraeus in 2006, was on hand to suggest we don’t “overreact” to the recent bombings in Iraq.

“The security situation in Iraq is truly a good one,” Keane asserted from the dais of the Willard Continental Hotel ballroom on June 11, a day after a car bomb ripped through a market, killing 30 people in Nasiriyah. Sure there were spates of violence, but “that doesn’t justify the troop presence we have.”

Maybe not. A lot of us don’t think a six-year occupation was justified in the first place. But that seems to be beside the point right now. People like Keane and the aforementioned administration officials are bent on playing down the heartbreaking,  relentless fragility of a people we deemed necessary to liberate and manipulate to our own geopolitical ends. But yet everyday the violence gets worse and the civil and political situation remains well, a basket case. Rather than suggest, perhaps, the Surge fell short of its exalted goals and gloried, storied distinctions, they will ignore what is right in front of their faces. Political expediency still reigns. If anyone thinks it will be any different for the people of Afghanistan (our other war) a year from now, I have a market to sell them in Adhamiyah.

Rolling Thunder, War and Memorial Day

Originally Posted @TAC

I had always revered Rolling Thunder — the romantic vision of a Band of Brothers, refugees from a South Asian hellhole whose common experience, really, was the only thing separating them from a certain reckless breed of motorcycle gang. Their annual sojourn to the National Mall for Memorial Day, emblazoned in leather with the simple demand, “Never Forget,” insisted we remember the 58,000 who fell in Vietnam, how they got there and the countless others we pushed away from our consciousness when they came home.

This morning, as I hear the distant roar of their convoys traveling up Route 50 toward the nation’s capital, I am not thinking, as I usually do on Memorial Day, of my uncles and friends who fought in Vietnam. I am mulling over instead the scars of our present war in the Middle East and Central Asia, and how Rolling Thunder disappointed me so, when a large swath of their riders became so patently pro-war under the thrall of rightwing provocateurs like Michelle Malkin, who fueled unfounded rumors that war protesters planned to urinate on The Wall, and deface other war memorials during a 2007 rally on Washington. They proceeded to revel in intimidating Americans who came to the Mall that weekend in peaceful resistance, allowing in effect, Bush Apologists and warmongers to interchange today’s critics of the Iraq and Afghanistan operations with Jane Fonda, Cindy Sheehan and all manner of spitting hippies. Many became tools, wittingly or not, shedding the vestiges of their rebellious origins, for the sake of propping up the Republican Party at a time when most Americans had turned against the war. They allowed their honorable name to be dragged through the partisan muck.

rt

I was at that protest, and watched as these burly guys — and gals — and their friends and followers lined up in menacing gauntlets outside of The Wall to intimidate activists, I was there when they waved the middle finger and screamed f–ck you! at protesters and told me personally, that it was not George W. Bush that got the country into such a mess, but weak-kneed lefties back home, badmouthing the war, not supporting the mission. Just like Vietnam.

Honestly, these guys always blamed Hanoi Jane, but I liked them better when they blamed Johnson and Nixon and McNamara too.

But I knew then, in 2007, that while the anger at hippies wasn’t forgotten, the mistrust of the government was. Probably still is — but I have a feeling, any problems with veterans and soldiers and future war policy, will certainly be blamed on President Barack Obama from now on.

That’s fine, because this weekend is for remembering. And reminding. As for this war:

U.S casualties:

Iraq (since 2003) — 4,300 deaths; 46,132 wounded (medical air transport only, doesn’t include illnesses or minor injuries, that would take the number over 80,000)

Afghanistan (since 2002) — 686 deaths; wounded — not available

Number of men and women who have served in either theater since 2002: over 1.8 million

Number of servicemembers returning with depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: 18.5 percent:

Number of Iraq/Afghanistan veterans seeking care at a VA since 2002: 350,000+

Estimated number of soldiers from Iraq/Afghanistan who have suffered a brain injury :  360,000

Number of U.S soldiers still in Iraq: approximately 134,000

Number of U.S soldiers in Afghanistan: 38,000 and counting

* Above photo provided by the Associated Press