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Prisoners 'to be chipped like dogs'

By Brian Brady, Whitehall Editor

Published: 13 January 2008

Hi-tech 'satellite' tagging planned in order to create more space in jails
Civil rights groups and probation officers furious at 'degrading' scheme

Ministers are planning to implant "machine-readable" microchips under the skin of thousands of offenders as part of an expansion of the electronic tagging scheme that would create more space in British jails.

Amid concerns about the security of existing tagging systems and prison overcrowding, the Ministry of Justice is investigating the use of satellite and radio-wave technology to monitor criminals.

But, instead of being contained in bracelets worn around the ankle, the tiny chips would be surgically inserted under the skin of offenders in the community, to help enforce home curfews. The radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, as long as two grains of rice, are able to carry scanable personal information about individuals, including their identities, address and offending record.

The tags, labelled "spychips" by privacy campaigners, are already used around the world to keep track of dogs, cats, cattle and airport luggage, but there is no record of the technology being used to monitor offenders in the community. The chips are also being considered as a method of helping to keep order within prisons.

A senior Ministry of Justice official last night confirmed that the department hoped to go even further, by extending the geographical range of the internal chips through a link-up with satellite-tracking similar to the system used to trace stolen vehicles. "All the options are on the table, and this is one we would like to pursue," the source added.

The move is in line with a proposal from Ken Jones, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), that electronic chips should be surgically implanted into convicted paedophiles and sex offenders in order to track them more easily. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is seen as the favoured method of monitoring such offenders to prevent them going near "forbidden" zones such as primary schools.

"We have wanted to take advantage of this technology for several years, because it seems a sensible solution to the problems we are facing in this area," a senior minister said last night. "We have looked at it and gone back to it and worried about the practicalities and the ethics, but when you look at the challenges facing the criminal justice system, it's time has come."

The Government has been forced to review sentencing policy amid serious overcrowding in the nation's jails, after the prison population soared from 60,000 in 1997 to 80,000 today. The crisis meant the number of prisoners held in police cells rose 13-fold last year, with police stations housing offenders more than 60,000 times in 2007, up from 4,617 the previous year. The UK has the highest prison population per capita in western Europe, and the Government is planning for an extra 20,000 places at a cost of 3.8bn including three gigantic new "superjails" in the next six years.

More than 17,000 individuals, including criminals and suspects released on bail, are subject to electronic monitoring at any one time, under curfews requiring them to stay at home up to 12 hours a day. But official figures reveal that almost 2,000 offenders a year escape monitoring by tampering with ankle tags or tearing them off. Curfew breaches rose from 11,435 in 2005 to 43,843 in 2006 up 283 per cent. The monitoring system, which relies on mobile-phone technology, can fail if the network crashes.

A multimillion-pound pilot of satellite monitoring of offenders was shelved last year after a report revealed many criminals simply ditched the ankle tag and separate portable tracking unit issued to them. The "prison without bars" project also failed to track offenders when they were in the shadow of tall buildings.

The Independent on Sunday has now established that ministers have been assessing the merits of cutting-edge technology that would make it virtually impossible for individuals to remove their electronic tags.

The tags, injected into the back of the arm with a hypodermic needle, consist of a toughened glass capsule holding a computer chip, a copper antenna and a "capacitor" that transmits data stored on the chip when prompted by an electromagnetic reader.

But details of the dramatic option for tightening controls over Britain's criminals provoked an angry response from probation officers and civil-rights groups. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "If the Home Office doesn't understand why implanting a chip in someone is worse than an ankle bracelet, they don't need a human-rights lawyer; they need a common-sense bypass.

"Degrading offenders in this way will do nothing for their rehabilitation and nothing for our safety, as some will inevitably find a way round this new technology."

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said the proposal would not make his members' lives easier and would degrade their clients. He added: "I have heard about this suggestion, but we feel the system works well enough as it is. Knowing where offenders like paedophiles are does not mean you know what they are doing.

"This is the sort of daft idea that comes up from the department every now and then, but tagging people in the same way we tag our pets cannot be the way ahead. Treating people like pieces of meat does not seem to represent an improvement in the system to me."

The US market leader VeriChip Corp, whose parent company has been selling radio tags for animals for more than a decade, has sold 7,000 RFID microchips worldwide, of which about 2,000 have been implanted in humans. The company claims its VeriChips are used in more than 5,000 installations, crossing healthcare, security, government and industrial markets, but they have also been used to verify VIP membership in nightclubs, automatically gaining the carrier entry and deducting the price of their drinks from a pre-paid account.

The possible value of the technology to the UK's justice system was first highlighted 18 months ago, when Acpo's Mr Jones suggested the chips could be implanted into sex offenders. The implants would be tracked by satellite, enabling authorities to set up "zones", including schools, playgrounds and former victims' homes, from which individuals would be barred.

"If we are prepared to track cars, why don't we track people?" Mr Jones said. "You could put surgical chips into those of the most dangerous sex offenders who are willing to be controlled."

The case for: 'We track cars, so why not people?'

The Government is struggling to keep track of thousands of offenders in the community and is troubled by an overcrowded prison system close to bursting. Internal tagging offers a solution that could impose curfews more effectively than at present, and extend the system by keeping sex offenders out of "forbidden areas". "If we are prepared to track cars, why don't we track people?" said Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

Officials argue that the internal tags enable the authorities to enforce thousands of court orders by ensuring offenders remain within their own walls during curfew hours and allow the immediate verification of ID details when challenged.

The internal tags also have a use in maintaining order within prisons. In the United States, they are used to track the movement of gang members within jails.

Offenders themselves would prefer a tag they can forget about, instead of the bulky kit carried around on the ankle.

The case against: 'The rest of us could be next'

Professionals in the criminal justice system maintain that the present system is 95 per cent effective. Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is unproven. The technology is actually more invasive, and carries more information about the host. The devices have been dubbed "spychips" by critics who warn that they would transmit data about the movements of other people without their knowledge.

Consumer privacy expert Liz McIntyre said a colleague had already proved he could "clone" a chip. "He can bump into a chipped person and siphon the chip's unique signal in a matter of seconds," she said.

One company plans deeper implants that could vibrate, electroshock the implantee, broadcast a message, or serve as a microphone to transmit conversations. "Some folks might foolishly discount all of these downsides and futuristic nightmares since the tagging is proposed for criminals like rapists and murderers," Ms McIntyre said. "The rest of us could be next."


Thinking for Yourself is Now a Crime

What was the greatest failure of 2007? President Bush's "surge" in Iraq? The decline in the value of the US dollar? Subprime mortgages? No. The greatest failure of 2007 was the newly sworn in Democratic Congress. The American people's attempt in November 2006 to rein in a rogue government, which has committed the US to costly military adventures while running roughshod over the US Constitution, failed. Replacing Republicans with Democrats in the House and Senate has made no difference.

The assault on the US Constitution by the Democratic Party is as determined as the assault by the Republicans. On October 23, 2007, the House passed a bill sponsored by California Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman, chairwoman of a Homeland Security subcommittee, that overturns the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression, association, and assembly.

The bill passed the House on a vote of 404-6. In the Senate the bill is sponsored by Maine Republican Susan Collins and apparently faces no meaningful opposition.

Harman's bill is called the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. "When HR 1955 becomes law, it will create a commission tasked with identifying extremist people, groups, and ideas. The commission will hold hearings around the country, taking testimony and compiling a list of dangerous people and beliefs. The bill will, in short, create massive terrorism in the United States. But the perpetrators of terrorism will not be Muslim terrorists; they will be government agents and fellow citizens.

We are beginning to see who will be the inmates of the detention centers being built in the US by Halliburton under government contract.

Who will be on the "extremist beliefs" list? The answer is: civil libertarians, critics of Israel, 9/11 skeptics, critics of the administration's wars and foreign policies, critics of the administration's use of kidnapping, rendition, torture and violation of the Geneva Conventions, and critics of the administration's spying on Americans. Anyone in the way of a powerful interest group--such as environmentalists opposing politically connected developers--is also a candidate for the list.

The "Extremist Beliefs Commission" is the mechanism for identifying Americans who pose "a threat to domestic security" and a threat of "homegrown terrorism" that "cannot be easily prevented through traditional federal intelligence or law enforcement efforts."

This bill is a boon for nasty people. That SOB who stole your girlfriend, that hussy who stole your boyfriend, the gun owner next door--just report them to Homeland Security as holders of extreme beliefs. Homeland Security needs suspects, so they are not going to check. Under the new regime, accusation is evidence. Moreover, "our" elected representatives will never admit that they voted for a bill and created an "Extremist Belief Commission" for which there is neither need nor constitutional basis.

That boss who harasses you for coming late to work--he's a good candidate to be reported; so is that minority employee that you can't fire for any normal reason. So is the husband of that good-looking woman you have been unable to seduce. Every kind of quarrel and jealousy can now be settled with a phone call to Homeland Security.

Soon Halliburton will be building more detention centers.

Americans are so far removed from the roots of their liberty that they just don't get it. Most Americans don't know what habeas corpus is or why it is important to them. But they know what they want, and Jane Harman has given them a new way to settle scores and to advance their own interests.

Even educated liberals believe that the US Constitution is a "living document" that can be changed to mean whatever it needs to mean in order to accommodate some new important cause, such as abortion and legal privileges for minorities and the handicapped. Today it is the "war on terror" that the Constitution must accommodate. Tomorrow it can be the war on whomever or whatever.

Think about it. More than six years ago the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked. The US government blamed it on al Qaeda. The 9/11 Commission Report has been subjected to criticism by a large number of qualified people--including the commission's chairman and co-chairman.

Since 9/11 there have been no terrorist attacks in the US. The FBI has tried to orchestrate a few, but the "terrorist plots" never got beyond talk organized and led by FBI agents. There are no visible extremist groups other than the neoconservatives that control the government in Washington. But somehow the House of Representatives overwhelmingly sees a need to create a commission to take testimony and search out extremist views (outside of Washington, of course).

This search for extremist views comes after President Bush and the Justice (sic) Department declared that the President can ignore habeas corpus, ignore the Geneva Conventions, seize people without evidence, hold them indefinitely without presenting charges, torture them until they confess to some made up crime, and take over the government by declaring an emergency. Of course, none of these "patriotic" views are extremist.

The search for extremist views follows also the granting of contracts to Halliburton to build detention centers in the US. No member of Congress or the executive branch ever explained the need for the detention centers or who the detainees would be. Of course, there is nothing extremist about building detention centers in the US for undisclosed inmates.

Clearly the detention centers are not meant to just stand there empty. Thanks to 2007's greatest failure--the Democratic Congress--there is to be an "Extremist Beliefs Commission" to secure inmates for Bush's detention centers.

President Bush promises us that the wars he has launched will cause the "untamed fire of freedom" to "reach the darkest corners of our world." Meanwhile in America the fire of freedom has not only been tamed but also is being extinguished.

The light of liberty has gone out in the United States.

Paul Craig Robertswas Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com


Be wary of biotech lettuce experiments
The Californian, 7 January 2008

The Salinas Californian recently reported on a talk by Professor Henry Daniell, who was here to promote cultivation of drug-producing lettuce.

The biotechnology industry has long hoped to use plants, including common food crops, to produce high-profit new drugs. It is worth noting that Daniell is not only an academic; he is also the founder of Chlorogen, Inc., a company that hopes to profit from these so-called "pharm" crops.

Salinas farmers should be leery of lettuce pharming. The California lettuce industry is still reeling from consumer fears of E. coli contamination. Imagine the uproar from healthy salad eaters when they learn that California lettuce growers are planting untested, experimental drugs near the lettuce that is destined for our supermarkets.

Scientists say there is no way to keep untested drugs produced in food crops out of the food supply. Even the editors of the pro-biotechnology science journal Nature Biotechnology warned: "Don't use food plants for producing drugs," because of the health risks.

Consumers, including our children, who may unknowingly eat pharmed lettuce could get an uncontrolled dose of an untested, biologically active drug - with unknown consequences.

As reported in The Californian, Daniell claims that farmers growing untested drugs in lettuce will face no new regulations. This sounds frighteningly similar to the promises made by the world's leading pharm crop company, ProdiGene, to Midwestern farmers.

Although the company promised farmers would face "no new growing practices" if they chose to plant ProdiGene's untested drugs in their corn, this lax attitude cost some farmers more than they bargained for. Half-a-million bushels of Nebraska soybeans were ordered to be destroyed when the unapproved ProdiGene drug-corn contaminated the soy crop.

Daniell claims that contamination would not be a concern because his drug-producing lettuce can't cross with natural lettuce varieties.

But, ProdiGene's corn did not cross-pollinate with soybeans: It contaminated soybeans with volunteer drug-corn from the previous season's seed grown on the same land. The drug corn went undetected in the soybean field that was harvested the following season.

Cross-pollination is one of many potential routes of contamination. Other unapproved biotech crops have contaminated safe, natural varieties during every stage of production. Contamination occurs through seed mix-ups, wind or animal seed dispersal, not thoroughly cleaned farm equipment and storage bins, improperly labeled seeds, and numerous other unpredictable ways, often from human error.

Danielle's system for avoiding cross-pollination relies on the hope that genes inserted into a plant's chloroplast cells will not be a contamination problem, since they are a part of the plant's DNA that does not mix in pollination. But, a 2003 study found that genes can move between the chloroplast and nuclei of plants, and they did so more often than researchers expected. This means that Danielle's untested drug plants could cross-pollinate with lettuce destined for our dinner tables.

Given all the potential human errors that could lead to contamination, and the biological reality that it is impossible to fully contain these untested drug plants, it is clear that lettuce pharming is a dangerous idea for Salinas.

If growers in the Salinas Valley are looking for new markets, they should look to safer, healthier, and organic markets, not an untested, risky pharm crop that will do more harm to the industry than good.

CHARLES MARGULIS is a spokesman for the Center for Food Safety, a national advocacy organization dedicated to challenging harmful food production technologies and promoting sustainable alternatives. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley and of the California Culinary Academy.


Meet The Man With The Blue Skin


Bush takes arms deal to Saudis

Bush's visit was timed to coincide with the announcement of a proposed $20bn arms deal [AFP]

The US administration is expected to formally tell Congress of a planned $20bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia, after George Bush, the US president, arrived in the Arab state as he nears the end of his Middle East tour.

The official announcement, expected on Monday, will start a 30-day review period during which Congress could try to block the deal.

The deal, which includes satellite-guided weaponry and high-tech munitions, has alarmed Israel and some US Congressmen since it was unveiled last July, especially as Saudi Arabia refuses to recognise the Jewish state.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia, his first visit to the oil-rich US ally, Bush hopes to rally support for his campaign to isolate Iran.

His administration, which has also announced a $30bn military aid pact with Israel, has argued the deal with the Saudis is needed to counter what it claims is a "major security threat" from Iran.

A senior US official said Bush will court Riyadh's diplomatic influence and financial muscle which "could make an enormous difference in places like the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations".

While Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has voiced concern over the rise of Shia Iran, it is opposed to another war after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that has strengthened the Islamic regime in Tehran.

Diplomatic tour

In the last few days of his Middle East tour, Bush has been courting Gulf Arab allies to help shore up a US-backed peace effort between Israel and the Palestinians and combat Iran's growing influence in the region.

Saudi Arabia is considered a linchpin for any broader Israeli-Arab reconciliation as Bush presses Israelis and the Palestinians to secure a peace deal before he leaves office in January 2009.

Iran was also expected to be an important part of Bush's talks with King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch, and was also discussed in Bush's earlier meetings with Gulf Arab leaders in the UAE.

While the Gulf leaders share US concerns about curbing their powerful Shia neighbour, they want to avoid another war in the region.

"All agreed it's a difficult problem that needs to be addressed, and at this point pursue in a diplomatic fashion," Hadley told reporters when asked how UAE leaders had reacted to Bush's entreaties on Iran.

Engaging Iran

Analysts say there are growing signs that America's Arab allies prefer to engage Iran.

Last year, Saudi Arabia invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, to undertake the Hajj, making him the first Iranian president to receive an official invitation to the annual Muslim pilgrimage.

Also in the region on Monday, was Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, who visited Qatar and was later to travel to the UAE.

At the start of his regional tour, Sarkozy also met kind Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, where he offered Saudi Arabia help in developing peaceful nuclear energy.

The French president expects to sign a a nuclear co-operation agreement in with the UAE on Tuesday.


Traumatised veterans 'have killed 120 in US'
By Stephen Foleyin New York
Published: 14 January 2008

While public anger is directed at the Pentagon for sending American soldiers ill-prepared to fight in Iraq, an equally troubling problem is rearing its head at home. Military veterans are returning from the war zone just as ill-prepared for civilian life and dozens suffering from post-traumatic stress are committing murder and manslaughter.

A new study has identified more than 120 killings committed by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as psychologically troubled soldiers slip through the net of an overextended military mental health system.

The study, which was conducted from examining local news reports, and which may well dramatically understate the scale of the problem, suggested that killings by military veterans have almost doubled since the start of the wars.

Although the Pentagon immediately questioned the accuracy of the figures, the mounting number of incidents across the US add up to a social problem akin to the traumas of returning Vietnam veterans a generation earlier.

The stories are harrowing. About a third involve the killing of a spouse, girlfriend or other relative, among them two-year-old Krisiauna Calaira Lewis, whose 20-year-old father slammed her against a wall when he was recuperating from a bombing near Fallujah that blew off his foot and damaged his brain.

Many others implicate drink and drugs, an increasing refuge for veterans traumatised by deaths they have witnessed or caused during the counter-insurgency led by American troops. The US government is being sued by relatives of 25-year-old Marine Lucas Borges, who became addicted to inhaling ether after a tour of Iraq at the beginning of the war, and who was convicted of second degree murder for crashing his car into an vehicle while driving the wrong way down a motorway, killing the other driver and injuring four others.

Collectively, the stories attest to the inadequacies of the US military mental health system, which a Pentagon task force last year described as "woefully understaffed", poorly funded and undermined by the stigma still attached to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The disorder has been a major concern since veterans' associations found that 15 per cent of Vietnam vets still suffered from PTSD a decade after the conflict ended in 1975.

"To truly support our troops, we need to apply our lessons from history and new-found knowledge about PTSD to help the most troubled of our returning veterans," Brockton Hunter, a criminal defence lawyer specialising in these cases, said in a recent lecture.

The study of killings by military veterans was conducted by The New York Times. It showed an 89 percent increase from 184 cases to 349 in the six years following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan in the number of homicides involving active-duty military personnel and new veterans. About three-quarters of these cases involved Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

More than half of the crimes involved guns while the rest were stabbings, beatings, strangulations and bath drownings, the report said. Twenty-five offenders faced murder, manslaughter or homicide charges for fatal car crashes resulting from drunken, reckless or suicidal driving.

A Pentagon spokesman questioned the methodology of the study, which examined local press reports to identify cases, and rejected the comparison of post-9/11 coverage with the previous six years. The rise might be due to newspaper reporters increased awareness of military service, a spokesman suggested, and questioned the "lumping together" of different kinds of crimes.

The New York Times said its study was conservative. "This reporting most likely uncovered only the minimum number of such cases, given that not all killings, especially in big cities and on military bases, are reported publicly or in detail," it added.


Sensationalist Media Did Pentagon's Bidding in Fake Naval 'Provocation' with Iran
By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now !. Posted January 14, 2008.
National security expert: This is the "most egregious case of sensationalist journalism" in the service of Pentagon and Bush administration.

The United States has lodged a formal diplomatic protest against Iran for its "provocation" in the Strait of Hormuz on January 6. But new information reveals that the alleged Iranian threat to American naval vessels may have been blown out of proportion. Democracy Now! spoke with investigative historian Gareth Porter.

Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez: The United States has lodged a formal diplomatic protest against Iran for its "provocation" in the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday morning. But new information reveals that the alleged Iranian threat to American naval vessels in the Strait might have been blown out of proportion.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon released video of Iranian patrol boats approaching American warships and an audio recording of a direct threat in English. The accented voice says, "I am coming to you," and then adds, "You will explode after a few minutes."

Iranian voice: I am coming to you.

US naval officer: Inbound small craft, you're approaching a coalition warship operating in international waters. Your identity is not know. Your intentions are unclear. You're sailing into danger and may be subject to defensive measures. Request you establish communications now or alter your course immediately to remain clear. Request you alter course immediately to remain clear.

Iranian voice: You will explode after a few minutes.

US naval officer: "You will explode after a few minutes."

Gonzalez: That was an audio recording released by the Pentagon along with the video of the encounter between American warships and Iranian patrol boats in the Strait of Hormuz.

But a Navy spokesperson told ABC News Thursday that the threat might not have come from the Iranian patrol boats, but from the shore or another ship passing by. The spokesperson added, "I guess we're not saying that it absolutely came from the boats, but we're not saying it absolutely didn't."

Iran has denied all allegations of a confrontation and released its own video of the encounter. This is an excerpt of the Iranian video broadcast on Thursday showing what seems to be a routine exchange between an Iranian Navy patrol boat and the American ship.

Iranian naval patrolman: Coalition warship 73, this is Iranian Navy patrol boat. Request side number [inaudible] operating in the area this time. Over.

US naval officer: This is coalition warship 73. I'm operating in international waters.

Amy Goodman: Gareth Porter is a historian and national security policy analyst. His latest article for IPS News analyzes how the official US version of the naval incident has begun to unravel. He joins us now from Washington, D.C. Can you talk about everything that happened from Sunday, what President Bush said, what the Pentagon was alleging, and now what we understand?

Gareth Porter:: Well, this alleged crisis or confrontation on the high seas is really much less than what met the eyes of the American public as it was reported by news media. And the story really began from leaks from the Pentagon. I mean, there were Pentagon officials apparently calling reporters and telling them that something had happened in the Strait of Hormuz, which represented a threat to American ships and that there was a near battle on the high seas. The way it was described to reporters, it was made to appear to be a major threat to the ships and a major threat of war. And that's the way it was covered by CNN, by CBS and other networks, as well as by print media.

Then I think the next major thing that happened was a briefing by the commander of the 5th fleet in Bahrain, the Vice Admiral Kevin Cosgriff, which is very interesting. If you look carefully at the transcript, which was not reported accurately by the media, or not reported at all practically, the commander -- or rather, Vice Admiral Cosgriff actually makes it clear that the ships were never in danger, that they never believed they were in danger, and that they were never close to firing on the Iranian boats. And this is the heart of what actually happened, which was never reported by the US media.

So I think that the major thing to really keep in mind about this is that it was blown up into a semi-crisis by the Pentagon and that the media followed along very supinely. And I must say this is perhaps the worst -- the most egregious case of sensationalist journalism in the service of the interests of the Pentagon, the Bush administration, that I have seen so far.

Gonzalez: And there have been some reports about the apparent splicing of audio onto the actual video that appear to be from two different sources. Could you talk about that?

Porter:: Well, that's right. I mean, we don't yet know exactly what the sequence of events was in this incident. We don't know exactly when the voices that we hear making what appear to be a threat to the American ships, where--when that occurred in the sequence of events in this incident. And it seems very possible that indeed the Pentagon did splice into the recording, the audio recording of the incident, the two bits of messages from a mysterious voice in a way that made it appear to occur in response to the initial communication from the US ship to the Iranian boats. And it seems very possible that, in fact, those voices came at some other point during this twenty-minute incident.

So this is something that really deserves to be scrutinized and, in fact, investigated by Congress, because of the significance, in the larger sense, of a potential major fabrication of evidence in order to make a political point by the Bush administration.

Goodman: What about the timing of this, on the eve of President Bush's visit to the Middle East?

Porter:: Well, of course, there's no doubt that the motivation for the Pentagon to blow this incident up was precisely the timing of President Bush leaving on a trip to the Middle East, in which one of his major purposes was to try to keep together a coalition of Arab states, which -- a very, very loose and shaky coalition to oppose Iran and to support, hopefully, according to the administration's policy, the US pressure on Iran through diplomatic and financial means, through the Security Council and through its allies in Europe. So this is definitely part of the reason, very clearly, that what was a very minor incident which did not threaten US ships, as far as we can tell from all the evidence so far, was turned into what was presented as a confrontation and a threat of war.

Gonzalez: I'd like to ask you, I was watching the Republican debate last night on Fox News and was astonished to see one of the moderators spend quite a bit of time on this topic, questioning every one of the candidates as to whether they believe the Navy commander on the scene did the right thing by not blowing the Iranian boats out of the water. Surprisingly, only Ron Paul, the maverick, even questioned some of the facts of the incident as reported. Your response to this suddenly becoming a topic for the presidential debates?

Porter:: Well, I think it's astonishing that you have this incident being regarded as a test of whether the United States is being belligerent enough, when the commanders of the ships themselves clearly did not regard this as a threat to the safety of their ships. This is the point, again, that the commander of the 5th fleet made very clearly. He was asked by reporters whether the commanders were close to firing on the Iranian ships, and he said, "No, that was not the case," that at no point were they about to fire on the ships and that they did not feel threatened by the Iranian boats. Bear in mind, what has not been reported by the media, that these are essentially small speedboats that are at most armed with machine guns, not with any weapons that were capable of harming those ships.

Goodman: This also comes right at the time that new documents have -- newly declassified documents have revealed that the Johnson administration faked the Gulf of Tonkin incident to escalate the war in Vietnam, to provide a pretext for increased bombing and increased troops there.

Porter:: Well, you know, this is an incident -- the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the policy shenanigans surrounding it are something that I wrote about in my book, Perils of Dominance, about the US involvement in the Vietnam conflict. And what actually happened regarding the Gulf of Tonkin was that the ships, because of anxiety on the part of the crew of these ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, they thought they were under fire originally. They sent back messages saying that.

But within a matter of a couple of hours, the commander of the flotilla had decided that they had been mistaken, and he passed that message on to the Pentagon, and the Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara was informed by early afternoon on the same day. And it is my interpretation, based on the evidence, that he failed -- he refused to inform President Johnson of that fact, and that's why Johnson went ahead with a decision to bomb North Vietnam, which had already been made at noontime.

Gonzalez: I'd like to ask you, going back to the incident also, one of the key contradictions now that have surfaced between the initial reports and certainly after the Iranian release of their own video is that initially the public was told that these were Revolutionary Guard boats, and now the Iranian government has said no, that they were actually boats of the Iranian Navy, and they clearly identified themselves as such.

Porter: I do not know what the provenance of these Iranian boats was, whether it was IRGC or Iranian Navy. We do have pictures, photographs of the IRGC small speedboats that clearly resemble the boats that are depicted -- at least one of them -- depicted in the video. But from the evidence that we have right now, it's really impossible to say what -- whether these boats belonged to be on IRGC or not. It is the case, however, that the IRGC does have, apparently, the primary responsibility to patrol in this area of the gulf. I heard yesterday a former commander of the IRGC state very clearly that they do in fact have the primary responsibility to patrol in that area. So it's certainly the -- it's a possibility, a good possibility, that these were IRGC boats.

Goodman: Gareth, I want to thank you for being with us, investigative historian, writes for Inter Press Service. His latest book is called Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam.


Pimp My Ride by Tucker Carlson


European press: It wasn't a miracle - Hillary won via a rigged vote

Planetary Movement By Michael Carmichael
Global Research, January 14, 2008

The mainstream Italian media are reporting both the rigging of the New Hampshire primary for Senator Hillary Clinton and the official demands for a swift, accurate and impartial recount. In an article written by Marcello Foa, one of Europe's most respected journalists, it appears that vote tallies for all Democratic candidates as well as Republicans were reduced by Diebold vote-counting machines.

In an analysis of the hand-counted ballots, the influential Milanese newspaper - Il Giornale, reports that all Democratic candidates except Senator Hillary Clinton made gains when the New Hampshire ballots were manually tabulated, while Senator Clinton made inexplicably large gains where ballots were tabulated by computerized scanners.

According to the report, Ron Paul should have finished third in the Republican primary rather than fifth. Thus, it would appear that both Barack Obama and Ron Paul were the primary targets of vote-rigging operations in New Hampshire.

Il Giornale cites the Princeton study that alerted public attention to the vulnerability of computerized voting machines used throughout America to deliberate vote-tampering and election-rigging via manipulation of the memory cards.

The state of New Hampshire is equipped with computerized tabulation machines manufactured by Diebold, devices that have received a massive amount of negative publicity after the public awareness of vote-rigging surged dramatically following the presidential election scandal of 2000.

In previous statements, former President Jimmy Carter - who has a global reputation as one of the foremost authorities on election procedures - has frequently pointed out that the United States of America does not meet international criteria for electoral security.

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