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Russia Will Monitor Human Rights in Western Nations — Official

A public organization may be set up in Russia to monitor the observance of human rights and freedoms in Western countries, Public Chamber member and lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told the Interfax news agency.

Kucherena said he would come up with an initiative to establish a human rights organization responsible for monitoring the observance of freedom of speech and the fundamental human rights in the United States, Europe and other Western nations.

“We are used to hearing criticism targeting mainly only Russia and remarks pointing to shortcomings in our country. Why not carry out measurements on the problem of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in the U.S. and Europe?” he said. Kucherena accused some human rights organizations in the West of having a tendentious and biased approach toward the observance of human rights in Russia.

The lawyer, however, called for cooperation between human rights organizations in Western countries and Russia. “They want to help us resolve most problems related to human rights. We are ready for cooperation. Let them come here, interact with us and share their experience,” Kucherena said.

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Fox on Iran: You Could be Nuked, oh, Tonight

Melanie

Yesterday the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies issued a http://www.iiss.org/publications/the-military-balance/military-balance-2007-report saying that Iran is 2 to 3 years away from having a nuclear weapon. In August, 2005, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate judged Iran to be roughly ten years away from having a nuclear weapon. Yet the image presented on Fox News today (February 1, 2007) was of nuclear bombs going off over U.S. cities tonight.

In a segment captioned, "NY Times Says American is 'Bullying' Iran," based on today's Times editorial, Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis and radical radio talk show host, Paul McGuire were Cavuto's guests.

Their comments included:

Maginnis:

It's Iran that's the bully here. Iran's causing untold problems in Iraq...so I think the New York Times has it just opposite. ... This is common sense. If you're being antagonized and attacked by a bully in that region, you're going to do what is reasonable.

McGuire:

Unfortunately Neil, I think we're approaching the inevitable and the inevitable is that the United States of America, in order to preserve its freedom and survival...and to protect nations like Israel, must consider very seriously a military strike against the nation of Iran. ... Unfortunately, I think the Times' policy is suicidal and Neil, my heart breaks because I would hate to see multiple nukes going off in U.S. cities because we're appeasing the new Adolph Hitler, which is the regime in Iran.

Comment: Neil Cavuto did not ask either of his guests to substantiate their claims.

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Editorial

Bullying Iran

Published: February 1, 2007

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Given America’s bitter experience in Iraq, one would think that President Bush could finally figure out that threats and brute force aren’t a substitute for a reasoned strategy. But Mr. Bush is at it again, this time trying to bully Iran into stopping its meddling inside Iraq.

We have no doubt about Iran’s malign intent, just as we have no doubt that Mr. Bush’s serial failures in Iraq have made it far easier for Tehran to sow chaos there and spread its influence in the wider region. But more threats and posturing are unlikely to get Iran to back down. If Mr. Bush isn’t careful, he could end up talking himself into another disastrous war, and if Congress is not clear in opposing him this time, he could drag the country along.

The drumbeat began during Mr. Bush’s recent speech on Iraq, when he vowed to “seek out and destroy” Iranian and Syrian networks he said were arming and training anti-American forces. Mr. Bush also announced that he was sending a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Hours earlier, American troops raided an Iranian diplomatic office in Iraq. If anyone missed the point, aides let it be known that the president had authorized the military to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq.

Iran certainly is helping arm and train Shiite militias. But the administration is certainly exaggerating the salutary effect of any cutoff as long as these militias enjoy the protection of Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. If Mr. Bush is genuinely worried — and he should be — he needs to be as forceful in demanding that Mr. Maliki cut ties to these groups and clear about the consequences if he refuses.

In what passes for grand strategy in this administration, the president’s aides say he is betting that bloodying Iranian forces in Iraq, and raising the threat of a wider confrontation, will weaken Tehran’s regional standing and force its leaders to rethink their nuclear ambitions. Never mind that Mr. Bush’s last big idea — that imposing democracy on Iraq would weaken Iran’s authoritarians — has had the opposite effect.

Mr. Bush seems to be grossly misreading Iran’s domestic politics and ignoring his own recent experience. In a rare moment of subtlety, the Treasury Department has quietly persuaded some banks and investors to rethink their dealings with Tehran. That has made some in Iran’s permanent religious elite — already worried about future oil production — express doubts about President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defiance of the Security Council.

As ever, the one tactic the administration is refusing to consider is diplomacy. Mr. Bush has resisted calls to convene a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors to discuss ways to contain the crisis. There is no guarantee that Mr. Ahmadinejad can be persuaded that Iraq’s further implosion is not in Iran’s interest. But others in Tehran may have clearer heads. And any hope of driving a wedge between Iran and Syria will have to start by giving Damascus hope that there is a way in from the cold.

Mr. Bush’s bullying may play well to his ever shrinking base. But his disastrous war in Iraq has done so much damage to America’s credibility — and so strained its resources — that it no longer frightens America’s enemies. The only ones really frightened are Americans and America’s friends.

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Revisiting 9/11 Failures

Senators are renewing calls for the declassification of a CIA report documenting the agency’s mistakes in preventing the 2001 attacks.

By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball

Newsweek

Updated: 4:13 p.m. ET Jan 31, 2007

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Jan. 31, 2007 - The Senate Intelligence Committee and the CIA may be headed for a new confrontation over an old issue: why an internal report documenting the agency’s failures in the run up to the September 11 terror attacks is still being withheld from the public.

The report, prepared by the CIA’s inspector general, is the only major 9/11 government review that has still not been made publicly available.

When it was completed in August 2005, NEWSWEEK and other publications reported that it contained sharp criticisms of former CIA director George Tenet and other top agency officials for failing to address the threat posed by Al Qaeda, as well as other mistakes that might have prevented the attacks.

In a letter sent just this week, three panel members—including Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller and ranking Republican Christopher Bond—revived the issue and asked that an executive summary of the report be declassified “without delay” and released to the public.

The letter was addressed to outgoing Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, but Oregon’s Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden—who has made the issue a personal crusade—said he intends to press the new DNI designate, J. Michael McConnell, on the matter at his confirmation hearings Thursday.

And, Wyden added, he doesn’t intend to stop until the report gets released.

“I’m going to bulldog this until it gets out,” Wyden told NEWSWEEK. “The bottom line is that this is an extraordinary important perspective on one of the defining events of the country’s history. I do not believe there is a national-security case for keeping this under wraps.”

Wyden added that if McConnell doesn’t reverse the decision made by Negroponte in refusing to declassify the report, he intends to use admittedly cumbersome intel-committee procedures to try to force the release of at least some of the inspector general’s findings. One concern, he said, is that “a desire for political security” is influencing the Bush administration’s refusal to greenlight the release of the document.

While Bush administration officials are hardly eager for a public rehash of the 9/11 intelligence failures, the issue is an especially sensitive one at CIA headquarters.

The inspector general’s report is believed to have documented multiple faults by the agency’s leadership during both the Bush and Clinton years, painting a picture of an intelligence community (which was then overseen by Tenet) that never fully mobilized to deal with the Al Qaeda threat—in part because it was embroiled in internal conflicts and bureaucratic battles, according to current and former officials familiar with the document who asked not to be identified because it involves still-classified information.

Among the matters covered in the report, the officials said, was the CIA’s alleged failure to develop a strategic plan to go after Al Qaeda as well as the failure to resolve disputes about sharing National Security Agency intercepts of Al Qaeda leaders with other government agencies—another potentially sensitive matter because the NSA chief at the time is now CIA Director Michael Hayden.

In addition, the report provides the CIA’s own internal account of what some believe was the most spectacular of the pre-9/11 failures: the agency’s failure to alert the FBI and other U.S. government agencies to information showing that two of the hijackers had entered the United States as early as January 2000.

In their letter, Rockefeller, Bond and Wyden noted that a Justice Department inspector general report on the miscommunications between the FBI and the CIA over the two hijackers—Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi—has long since been made publicly available. “There is no reason why that story, as told from the vantage point of the CIA inspector general, should not also be released,” they wrote.

What’s really behind the intelligence community’s refusal to release the report, the senators suspect, is a desire to protect the reputations of some of the main figures. Indeed, the committee staff late last year prepared its own redacted version of the inspector-general report’s findings, stripping out anything it viewed as relating to “sources and methods” or other national-security secrets. The panel then sent over a copy of its version of the report to Negroponte in hopes of getting it cleared for public release.

But Negroponte refused, insisting in a Nov. 13, 2006, letter that the committee’s version still contained sensitive national-security secrets. But the senators point out that he also gave another reason for refusing to clear the panel’s version: it would publicly identify current and former agency officials, some of them high profile, who had been faulted by the inspector general.

That remark especially bothered the senators. The fact that publication of even the redacted version would publicly identify officials who were being criticized “does not appear to be a valid basis for classification under current laws and executive orders,” the senators wrote in their letter, a copy of which was obtained by NEWSWEEK.

In fact, the committee version of the report did not actually name officials, like Tenet, who are criticized, but it did refer to them by title. In any case, the senators wrote in their letter, that worry could be addressed. “If you are concerned about damage to individuals’ reputations, we encourage you to permit them to release redacted versions of their respective responses to the report,” they wrote in a reference to the lengthy rebuttals prepared by Tenet and other officials faulted by the inspector general.

Whether the new letter will shift the administration’s position is still far from clear. A spokesman for Negroponte’s office declined to comment today. A CIA official, asked about the letter, referred a reporter to a Oct. 5, 2005, statement made by former CIA director Porter Goss when he decided not to release a version of the report or to accept the inspector general’s recommendation that an “accountability board” be convened to reprimand current and former officials whose actions were criticized.

Goss said then the report identified systemic problems within the CIA during a “snapshot in time,” and he saw no reason to single out any current or former individuals for punishment. “Singling out these individuals would send the wrong message to our junior officers about taking risks—whether it be an operation in the field or being assigned to a hot topic at headquarters,” he said. The CIA spokesman said that Hayden, the current CIA director, “supports the decisions that were made by then-director Goss on this matter.”

As for Tenet, the former official whose reputation is perhaps most at stake, he is currently finishing up his book, titled “At the Center of the Storm,” which he hopes to publish this spring. The book is expected to deal extensively with his own version of the 9/11 story, including his efforts to alert the Bush White House to the prospect of an attack in the summer of 2001. A spokesman for the former director declined any comment on the senators’ letter.

© 2007 Newsweek, Inc. | Subscribe to Newsweek

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Several States Seek To Kill Federal 'Real ID' Requirements

By Kelley Beaucar Vlahos

Link

WASHINGTON — Risking broad penalties for their residents, lawmakers in several states are fighting implementation of the Real ID Act, a federal measure that seeks to prevent non-compliant cardholders from boarding airplanes or entering federal facilities.

Opponents say national standards for drivers' licenses would be a costly creep into the arms of big brother. Supporters say it is intended to protect Americans' from fraud and potentially terror-related crimes.

"We don't want it, we can't afford it, get rid of it," said Montana Democratic state Rep. Brady Wiseman, who authored the bill ordering the state not to participate in the federal program. The bill passed the Montana House of Representatives on Wednesday along with a companion measure, which challenges the Real ID law on constitutional grounds. Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer has spoken in favor of Wiseman's bill.

"Out West, people are very protective of their privacy and against an intrusive federal government that wants to collect a lot of data," Wiseman told FOXNews.com before the vote. "There’s a good whiff of a corporate boondoggle around this thing and they (state lawmakers) are finding reasons to reject it. They don't see much benefit to support the cost."

Montana is just one of at least 10 states considering bills to reject the Real ID Act, signed into law in May 2005 as part of the emergency supplemental relief bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for tsunami relief. Maine lawmakers last week passed a resolution rejecting the federal Real ID legislation and calls on the state to ignore the rules. Since it is a resolution, it does not require Gov. John Baldacci's signature.

Initiated by the Republican-controlled House to keep illegal aliens from obtaining drivers' licenses and state identification and to prevent would-be terrorists from gaining access to legitimate identities, Real ID takes its cue from recommendations by the Sept. 11 commission, which said a fraud-resistant ID system is necessary for better homeland security.

"The 9/11 commission itself said travel documents are as important to terrorists as explosives. That's why Congress passed the Real ID Act," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., author of the federal bill.

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley's nominee to be secretary of transportation, John D. Porcari, told members of the state House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that the administration is trying to meet the federal deadline without disrupting services at Motor Vehicle Administration branches.

"We want to strike a balance to be fair to all our customers, make sure customer service doesn't suffer and we're compliant with federal standards," Porcari said.

Among the challenges for Maryland, however, is the fact that the Real ID requires Social Security numbers, which state driver's licenses currently do not. Additionally, Maryland is one of seven states that issues ID cards to persons who are not lawful residents.

Under the federal law, those trying to obtain a new license or state ID must prove their legal residence or citizenship through a birth certificate or another acceptable document. Tamper- and theft-resistant technology like a barcode will be put on the card.

Maryland State Rep. Ronald George, a Republican who introduced a compliance bill last year, said the federal standards are good for everyone involved. Employers can use the new identification to ensure the people they are hiring are legal, and the IDs help fight the War on Terror, for which his state, bordering the nation’s capital, is very sensitive.

“It just makes sense,” George said. “We need to get in compliance.”

But critics say REAL ID goes beyond what the Sept. 11 commission envisioned. Instead of allowing states to develop standards according to national guidelines, under the new law, the federal government is penalizing residents of states that don't comply.

"Some states have considered the possibility that if they don't comply, will all their residents have to get passports to fly?" said Matt Sundin, a policy analyst for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which argued against the federal legislation two years ago, but is now focused on working with states to comply and keeping an eye on the states considering non-compliance.

Another challenge for states: the Department of Homeland Security, which has been tasked with administering the program, has only just finished writing the regulations, which require states to be in compliance by May 2008. The Office of Management and Budget has to review the regulations before they are opened to public comment this spring. After a review period of up to 90 days, the regulations are finally approved and put into practice, leaving states little time to get compliant.

“The department, in crafting our regulations, is aware of the time constraints and we did keep that in mind in drafting these regulations,” said DHS spokesman Jarrod Agen, adding that groups representing the state interests were involved in crafting the proposed regulations.

Critics say the cost to the states to shift over their current systems will be enormous. A study commissioned by the NCSL, the National Governors' Association and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators found that in total, Real ID will cost the states more than $11 billion to implement.

Last year, Congress appropriated $40 million for Real ID pilot funds. No funds were allocated for 2007.

An End the Law Before It's Enacted

Under the new Democratic-led Congress, several lawmakers have expressed doubts about the program and say it’s time to demand changes or a full repeal.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs oversight subcommittee, said he plans to hold hearings on Real ID. Just prior to the end of the last Congress, Akaka and Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., introduced a bill to repeal the Real ID Act.

Akaka said he wants the regulations to reflect a range of protections for individual privacy and states’ rights. He added that he wants to make sure personal data will be secured and other federal agencies and private entities won’t have access to the data. If not, he said he will work to repeal the law.

Alaska privacy activist Bill Scannell, communications director of the Identity Project and founder of the Unreal ID Web site, said he believes state pressure and new scrutiny by Congress will ultimately kill the program.

“It’s all about doing this to our own citizens. We don’t need to believe in black helicopters to see what the next line is … a national ID,” said Scannell. “It’s a big stinking pile of something repulsive."

Not all Real ID–related bills circulating through the state houses call for non-compliance or repeal. Since 2006, 13 bills have ordered the state to meet compliance rules.

And not every state lawmaker thinks REAL ID will be too costly, or will infringe on individual or states’ rights.

“We are at war in this country, and we have to step up to protect ourselves and this is part of it,” said Ronald Collins, a retired Maine state representative who last year helped usher through legislation requiring proof of citizenship for all drivers’ licenses. He said the additional requirement is little cost compared to the benefits a standardized federal ID will bring.

“If we have to put in for additional funding, so be it.”

CNS' Jonathan N. Crawford contributed to this report.

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Report: US plans strike against Iran

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The US was drawing up plans to attack sites where Iran is believed to be enriching uranium before President George W. Bush's candidacy comes to an end, the UK-based Times reported on Wednesday.

According to the Times, the Bush government has been inviting defense consultants and Middle East experts to the White House and Pentagon for tactical advice.

The Pentagon was reported to be considering ways for the US to destroy nuclear facilities such as Iran's main centrifuge plant at Natanz, despite the fact that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney hoped that diplomatic efforts to restrain Iran would succeed.

Senior Pentagon planners recently advised the White House, however, that they did not yet have accurate intelligence as to the whereabouts of all Iran's nuclear enrichment sites.

Iran's nuclear program has been generating world-wide tension in recent months, despite claims by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the research is for peaceful means. The UN has threatened to put sanctions on Iran if they do not abandon the program.

According to analyst Shmuel Bar of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center in Israel, an American strike would only trigger the Iranian regime's primordial survival impulse. This would almost certainly result in a full-scale Iranian assault on Kuwaiti and Saudi oil fields, in an attempt to exact a price that would dissuade the West from carrying its assault to the point of regime change, he told The Jerusalem Post.

In addition, there is a 'real danger' that the Iranian regime could instigate labor strikes among the Shi'ites of southern Iraq, said Dr. Ian Bremer, president of the risk consultancy firm, Eurasia Group. This could drop oil production from over a million barrels per day, 'even to zero for short periods of time,' he warned.

Furthermore, as several analysts pointed out, any strike that was not dramatic enough to bring down the regime and discredit Ahmadinejad outright would trigger a surge of popular support for Ahmadinejad's faction in the regime, giving him a decisive advantage in the complex power struggles that characterize Iranian politics.

According to the Times report, despite speculations and divided opinions, the favored US scenario is to attack the Iranian nuclear plant with a small number of ground attack aircraft flying out of the British dependency of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

The British would however have to approve the use of the American base there for an attack and would be asked to play a supporting role by providing air-to-air re-fuelling or sending out surveillance aircraft, ships and submarines.

The British Foreign Office has insisted that a diplomatic solution is still possible.

Haviv Rettig contributed to this report.

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