Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kelly's "Dark Actors" to Remain Hidden

This week, some recent announcements have been made regarding the investigation into the death of Dr. David Kelly:

70-year gag on Kelly death evidence


Evidence relating to the death of Government weapons inspector David Kelly is to be kept secret for 70 years, it has been reported.
A highly unusual ruling by Lord Hutton, who chaired the inquiry into Dr Kelly's death, means medical records including the post-mortem report will remain classified until after all those with a direct interest in the case are dead, the Mail on Sunday reported.
And a 30-year secrecy order has been placed on written records provided to Lord Hutton's inquiry which were not produced in evidence.
The Ministry of Justice said decisions on the evidence were a matter for Lord Hutton. But Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who has conducted his own investigations into Dr Kelly's death, described the order as "astonishing".
Dr Kelly's body was found in woods close to his Oxfordshire home in 2003, shortly after it was revealed that he was the source of a BBC report casting doubt on the Government's claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of being fired within 45 minutes.

David Kelly post mortem to be kept secret for 70 years as doctors accuse Lord Hutton of concealing vital information

By Miles Goslett
Last updated at 12:49 PM on 25th January 2010

Then today, in an attempt to make the appearance of a cover-up less obvious:

Doctors may see Kelly post-mortem report, says Hutton

David Kelly, governDr David Kelly
David Kelly's body was found near his Oxfordshire home in 2003

Details of the post-mortem examination of government weapons inspector David Kelly should be seen by doctors seeking an inquest, Lord Hutton has said.
The peer confirmed he had requested a 70-year gagging order on the material at the conclusion of his inquiry into Dr Kelly's 2003 death.
But he said on Tuesday the purpose of the secrecy order had been to avoid causing distress to Dr Kelly's family.
He has written to ministers saying the report may be seen by the doctors.

Dr Kelly's body was found in woods close to his Oxfordshire home in 2003, shortly after it was revealed that he was the source of a BBC report casting doubt on the government's claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction capable of being fired within 45 minutes.

Well, wasn't that thoughtful, censorship to protect the family. Sorry Lord Hutton, this just doesn't pass the smell test. I've always thought it was a neat coincidence that just around the same time that Dr. Kelly committed "suicide" (July 17, 2003), Valerie Plame had her CIA cover blown (July 14, 2003). I commented on this in the second edition of American Judas by focusing on one reporter who had a curious connection with Kelly and Plame: Judith Miller.

Following closely behind TF20 in the 75th Exploitation Task Force was Judy Miller. She had used Chalabi as a single source on information for her fictional WMD stories for the New York Times. http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Secretive_military_unit_sought_to_solve_0105.html Chalabi was instrumental in transmitting the erroneous claims of an Iraqi defector codenamed “Curveball” about mobile biological weapons laboratories that the administration used as part of its war rationale. http://www.rawstory.com/news/2007/Alleged_intel_fixer_Chalabi_to_head_0223.html In her quest to find the infamous WMD, to say Miller rubbed her military companions the wrong way would be a huge understatement. Military officials said she had an “imperious manner” and “nobody could stand her” and that “she’s lucky we didn’t shoot her”. Apparently while embedded with these soldiers, “she wore a uniform” and told them “she had an exclusive deal with the Pentagon”. “Judith was always issuing threats of either going to the New York Times or to the Secretary of Defense” and as a result, “she ended up almost hijacking the mission”. http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0923-14.htm Perhaps a deeper investigation into this “journalist” might uncover whether these claims were based on a real Pentagon deal or if it was just bluster, like many of her WMD stories. It might also reveal just how close she was to another Iraq war critic, British scientist David Kelly. He disputed the validity of mobile weapons laboratories in Iraq, as well as the claim by British intelligence that Iraq could fire chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of such an order. Maybe if the Hutton Inquiry, which ruled that Kelly committed suicide July 17, 2003, (coincidentally just three days after Plame’s identity was revealed in Novak’s column) had questioned Miller under oath, we might have a greater understanding why one of the last e-mails he sent on the day of his untimely death was to her, and what Kelly might have meant when he mentioned “many dark actors playing games”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Kelly


At this point, I think it's important to note that a former British ambassador quoted Kelly as having said “I will probably be found dead in the woods” if Iraq were invaded. What a coincidence that almost 4 months after Shock and Awe (or as Ari Fleischer dubbed it in a Freudian slip, Operation Iraq Liberation) began, that's exactly how Kelly chose to commit "suicide".

Even without this 30-70 year censorship on the evidence in the Hutton Inquiry, I'm not confident that there was a concerted effort to uncover the truth. This examination by Rowena Thursby of testimony that was not censored is illuminating not for what it reveals, but for what the inquiry does not explore:

No Legal Inquisition

One feature of the Hutton Inquiry that is truly stunning is why there has been so little cross-examination of witnesses.

Almost nothing is cross-checked in relation to the discovery of the body - e.g. the Hutton legal counsel, Mr Dingemans, could have said to PC Franklin, the body-witness who followed DC Coe:

"You say that the body was found flat on its back, yet Louise Holmes says it was slumped against a large tree - can you explain that?"

Similarly DC Coe's evidence is neither questioned, nor compared with evidence from previous witnesses.

He should have been asked:

- whom did you see at Abingdon police station?

- who instructed you to make a house to house search?

- who told you about Ruth Absalom?

- why were you making a search towards the river?

- whom were you with at the time?

And finally, to force an explanation it should have been put to him:

"You say you with one other person - DC Shields - yet five previous witnesses have stated you were with two people - how do you account for that?"

As this type of questioning did not take place, one cannot help but gain the impression that DC Coe in particular was let off a very uncomfortable hook.

The fact that witnesses were not cross-examined on the physical circumstances surrounding the search for/discovery of Dr Kelly's body clearly suggests a cover-up.

DC Coe was due to testify on 2nd September but for some reason, did not appear. Counsel to the Inquiry, Mr Dingemans merely states: "we have not been able to get him here this morning." Is that because he was waiting for all other "body-discovery testimonies" to have taken place so that none that followed would contradict what he had said? If DC Coe was not to be cross-examined subsequently, then his testimony would not be analysed under the public glare.

Those watching the hearings would be left a little confused by Coe's contradiction of previous witnesses as to how many officers were with him, but reassured by his being a senior British policeman - a detective constable. A detective constable would surely be accurate about who he was with and what he was doing - senior policemen can always be relied upon - or can they?

Recall that DC Coe departs from the instructions he receives at Abingdon police station. Recall that he almost certainly lied about the number of individuals with him. Recall the body is reported as "sitting up" or "slumped" against a tree before his arrival, and "flat on its back" after he leaves the scene. This being the case, how far can his testimony be trusted?

Jim Rarey, in his recent article, "The Murder of David Kelly"(1) has pointed out that a Thames Valley Police operation, listed on the Hutton Inquiry website as a "TVP Tactical Support Major Incident Policy Book", actually commenced at 2.30pm on 17th July - many hours prior to David Kelly's body being reported missing at 11.40pm on that day - and finished at 9.30am on 18th July, around the time the "three individuals dressed in black or dark clothing" were sighted and DC Coe left the scene. The name of this operation? "Operation Mason". The evidence suggests that DC Coe's testimony - emanating from a figure in authority though it does - cannot, in fact, be trusted. However, it may be unfair to focus on DC Coe alone. He may have been but one link in a chain - a chain that was long, complex, and which involved many "dark actors".


If there is anything more in the written record of this "official" inquiry that might shine more light on these "dark actors", we won't see it until 2040 at the earliest.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

PROPOSITION: A Constitutional Amendment to End Corporate Personhood

Burning across the blogosphere is today's news on the Supreme Court ruling in the case Citizens United v. FEC (08-205). While this breaking news has yet to rank on CNN's top 5 Most popular stories right now (we'll see if that happens), here is a link to their report:

Supreme Court eases restrictions on corporate campaign spending

By Bill Mears, CNN Supreme Court Producer

January 21, 2010 2:05 p.m. EST

Washington (CNN) -- The Supreme Court has given big business, unions and nonprofits more power to spend freely in federal elections, a major turnaround that threatens a century of government efforts to regulate the power of corporations to bankroll American politics.

A 5-4 conservative majority crafted a narrow overhaul of federal campaign spending Thursday that could have an immediate effect on this year's congressional midterm elections. The justices eased long-standing restrictions on "independent spending" by corporations and unions in political campaigns.


Hours after the ruling, President Obama responded, saying the court has given "the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington -- while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates."

In a statement, he said he is telling his administration "to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less."


While I certainly agree that President Obama and Congress must work together "to develop a forceful response" as the President says, I believe that if the focus of the response is narrowed to just this decision, we will be treating the symptom and not the disease. Citizens United v. FEC would not have happened if not for a precedent dating back to the 19th century, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. I'll let one of the leading critics of this decision, Thom Hartmann explain:

Transcript: Thom’s Corporate Personhood rant, 09 September 2009

Okay, let me just lay this out. Back in 1885, January 26th, 1885, Delphin Delmas was the lawyer who had been hired by the county of Santa Clara to argue this case before the Supreme Court. Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad. Prior to that, he had for free on behalf of the county, argued a case which actually led to the saving of the redwoods. There literally would be no redwoods left in the United States were it not for Delphin Delmas, this lawyer. An amazing man. And early around 1906 or 1907, he defended a famous murder case, a movie was made out of it called “The Lady in the Red Swing”. He’s got a very colorful history, this guy.

But in any case, before the Supreme Court the Southern Pacific Railroad argued in this case that the 14th amendment which says ‘no person shall be denied equal protection under the law’ should apply to them as a corporation. In other words, that as a corporation they should have rights under the constitution because the 14th amendment, when it was written to free the slaves in the 1870’s, the 14th amendment didn’t say ‘no natural person shall be denied equal protection under the law.’ Instead it says ‘no person.’ And for hundreds of years of common law we had this distinction between natural persons, you and me, and artificial persons: churches, governments, corporations.

And so Delphin Delmas, on January 26th, 1885, this is in my book, “Unequal Protection”. In fact, I think it’s the only place that it’s ever been published, because I actually found the notes, Delphin Delmas’s own notes of his arguments before the Supreme Court. This is what he said before the court. He said, “The defendant claims [that the state’s taxation policy]…” this had to do with two different counties taxing the railroad at two different rates, and they said, “that violates the portion of the 14th amendment which provides that no state shall be denied any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.” He said, “The shield behind which [the Southern Pacific Railroad] attacks the Constitution and laws of California is the Fourteenth Amendment. It argues that the amendment guarantees to every person within the jurisdiction of the State the equal protection of the laws; that a corporation is a person; that, therefore, it must receive the same protection as that accorded to all other persons in like circumstances. …

To my mind, the fallacy, if I may be permitted so to term it, of the argument lies in the assumption that corporations are entitled to be governed by the laws that are applicable to natural persons. That, it is said, results from the fact that corporations are [artificial] persons, and that the last clause of the Fourteenth Amendment refers to all persons without distinction.

The defendant has been at pains to show that corporations are persons, and that being such they are entitled to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment. … The question is, Does that amendment place corporations on a footing of equality with individuals?”

And then he goes on to the whole thing he says, “When the law says, ‘Any person being of sound mind and of the age of discretion may make a will,’ or ‘any person having arrived at the age of majority may marry,’ I presume the most ardent advocate of equality of protection would hardly contend that corporations must enjoy the right of testamentary disposition or of contracting matrimony.” And he goes on from there, basically pointing out that people and corporations are completely different things.

Here is the big problem. If this court rules that corporations can participate in political discourse, right now we have laws that prohibit, remember the whole Al Gore, the Buddhist temple thing, how some of that money was coming from off-shore. Turned out it wasn’t, but you know, it got the right wingers pretty hysterical for a while.

We have corporations in the United States that are owned in large part by entities that are not in the United States. In fact some of them are owned by the Government of Communist China, large chunks of their stock. About 20% of the members of the boards of directors of the hundred largest corporations in America, the Fortune 100 companies, about 20% of their boards are non-US citizens. We’re talking transnational corporations. Their interests are not the same of those as a citizen.

And yet it looks like our Supreme Court is about to give them the rights that you and I have to political free speech. Because it is going to assert, and it has asserted over the years, in this case that I’m talking about, Santa Clara County VS. Southern Pacific Railroad, actually the court did not rule that corporations were persons, but they have been claiming that ever since then because the clerk of the court, John Chandler Bancroft Davis, former President of the Newburg and New York railroad, wrote into a head note – the commentary on the case – which has no legal standing, a quote from the chief justice who had since died, he was dying of congestive heart failure during the year the proceedings happened, he died the next year. This was published two years later. He wrote that the chief justice said, “a corporation is a person and therefore entitled to protection under the 14th amendment.” When nobody knows if the chief justice said that. Even if he did, it doesn’t matter. It’s not the case. So what this is going to come down to, is whether corporations have the rights of persons in the United States, whether they have free speech rights and, this is just a huge, huge issue.


The very idea that a transnational corporation is a person entitled to the same legal rights as any American citizen is insane. Especially when you consider that if you psychologically examine the way corporations behave, case studies conclude this type of "person" typically acts like a dangerously destructive psychopath without conscience. What is the solution? Thom Hartmann offers his:

"We the corporations"

On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions. The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule.

We Move to Amend.

We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution to:

Firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.

Guarantee the right to vote and to participate, and to have our votes and participation count.

Protect local communities, their economies, and democracies against illegitimate "preemption" actions by global, national, and state governments.

Signed by 23,343 and counting . . .


I signed this. I hope you will click the link and sign it too. It's a good start to ending the nonsense.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Peak Oil Deconstruction: Avatar

Warning to snobby intellectual purists: this is NOT some scrutinizing, academic, according-to-Jacques Derrida deconstruction. This is the ravings of a movie lover who for over five years views every experience through the prism of Peak Oil awareness. So every time that I review a movie on this blog, whether it be documentary or fiction, new release or classic, this is the filter that I am using to attain perspective; to explain its personal meaning. Trying to explain what the writer or director meant can only go so far before you start guessing what they meant. No such pretense exists in my reviews, I know exactly what it means to me!

Now, for my review of Avatar:

First of all, I get it. I get why this has become a cultural phenomenon to gross over $1 billion worldwide. I get why many compare their first viewing of Avatar to their first viewing of Star Wars when that movie (A New Hope, not the prequels) first came out in theaters. It is a singularly spectacular cinematic experience that comes along once in a generation. This is due not only to its groundbreaking special effects, but because the effects are in the service of a story that has a mythological quality to it; I regret Joseph Campbell is no longer around to point out the particulars with Avatar the way he did with Star Wars.

The conflict within Avatar is as timeless as a tribal war whoop and as timely as the blast of an IED. Our protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a paralyzed Marine chosen to replace his dead brother on a scientific mission to the planet Pandora in the year 2154. Ostensibly, he is chosen to help Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) with her work "collecting samples" of plant and animal life on Pandora and maintaining diplomatic relations with the Na'Vi, the indigenous blue people who live there. But almost as soon as he arrives, Jake is pulled aside by
Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who gives him the opportunity to act as a covert military operative and collect intelligence for the Colonel. Quaritch is the muscle behind a corporate-military entity called Resources Development Administration run by Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). Their goal is to obtain a mineral called Unobtanium, which exists in large quantities right where the Na'Vi reside.

Aside from the interplanetary travel aspect, this is a very familiar story: an empire searching for natural resources without which they cannot grow their economy finds it in an area outside their political control. This is the story of Peak Oil, with a cornucopian twist: if you cannot have infinite growth within a finite sphere, find another sphere to plunder. Unobtanium is the symbolic equivalent of oil in the 22nd century. The etymology of the word unobtainium seems to foreshadow the futility of the quest for this empire. For within every region where valuable resources lie resides native people with their own prior claims and needs. Almost without exception this is a recipe for conflict. Nor is this the first time the invading forces in Avatar have faced this conflict. When Quaritch gives Jake his covert mission, he prefaces this by talking about his previous military tours of duty. I don't think it was an accident that writer/director James Cameron chose Venezuela as an example where Quaritch served.

While Jake begins his mission on Pandora linked with his Avatar, a genetically bred human/Na'Vi hybrid, he is separated from his team by a dinosaur-like creature that chases him off a waterfall. Jake survives, but because night ops are not allowed, his team returns to base without him. Alone to fend for himself that night, he is surrounded by a pack of wolf-like creatures ready to attack, but is saved by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a young Na'Vi female. She chastises him for his ignorance, but brings him to her tribe, the Omaticaya, because he has a "strong heart" and attracts the seeds of Eywa, wispy floating seeds of a sacred tree, which Neytiri says are "very pure spirits". After meeting her parents, the King and Queen, it is decided that the will of Eywa, their Goddess, is that Jakesully, as they call him, should live with the Omaticayan and Neytiri will teach him their ways.

Structurally, Avatar works because Jake is ignorant and curious. His journey becomes our journey. As he learns about the Omaticayan, how they survive on Pandora and their rites of passage, so do we. Learning about the people of Pandora also means learning about the environment of Pandora. There is a connection between the Na'Vi and the forests of Pandora that Jake learns from Neytiri: all energy is borrowed and one day we have to give it back. It is almost as if the Na'Vi have taken the law of entropy and given it a spiritual component. Understanding these connections, I fell in love with this beautiful world, just as Jake does. Every time Jake leaves his Avatar, there is a hunger to return that he feels and so do we.

As Jake falls in love, with Pandora and the Na'Vi in general and with Neytiri specifically, he comes to regret his covert role and the intelligence he has fed Colonel Quaritch. The intelligence that is most damaging is that the greatest concentration of Unobtanium rests where the Hometree stands, which is where the Omaticaya live. And as the impatient RDA starts bulldozing into the Na'Vi land, Jake is forced to make a choice between what he considers to be "the real world", where the Na'Vi live in communion with their planet, and "the dream", where human beings deplete the natural resources of the planet in the name of infinite economic growth. Quaritch tries to appeal to Jake's baser nature, asking how he could "betray your own race". But Jake is operating on a deeper consciousness of race. To quote blogger Ran Prieur, "Every one of us has ancestors who lived more or less like the Na'vi, and who were violently conquered by disconnected, resource-extracting cultures. If we all stop identifying with those cultures, the whole game is over. We did not conquer the Indians. The Babylonians, the Romans, the English, the Spaniards, the Americans conquered us... but not completely. The reason Avatar is so popular, and so important, is that it is helping us to remember who we are." Jake's real betrayal is of his resource-extracting culture which operates under a paradigm of infinite economic growth.

This choice is the same that we face on this planet in the year 2010. Peak Oil and Global Climate Change are flip sides of the same coin: overconsumption of fossil fuels are destroying the way we live and in a worst case scenario may destroy human life itself. It was a chilling moment for me when Jake pleaded for Eywa's help in leading the Na'Vi to victory by telling her, "See the world we come from: there's no green there. They've killed their mother, and they're going to do the same thing here." This is the voice of the Ghost of Christmas Future. This is what will happen if continuing the paradigm of infinite economic growth by any means necessary (i.e. war for oil) remains the policy of the industrial society. All the good will and best intentions won't save civilization until we wake up and understand as Michael Ruppert does, "Money represents the ability to do work and energy is the ability to do work. One is a symbol. The other is reality." We must change the way money works or we will perish. How will we achieve that? Ran Prieur has another good insight, "The important thing is that we make the shift from an extractive economy to a sustaining economy, and from the made world to the found world. And we might not be able to make that shift once and for all -- we might have to keep making it again and again."

Then again, we could just find a way to transport humans faster than the speed of light...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

It is "Official": Cock-up, Not Conspiracy.

Read this CNN headline and try to imagine George W. Bush saying the same thing on September 25, 2001; two weeks after that little intel failure while he squatted in the White House:

Obama on intel system: 'This was a screw-up'

January 6, 2010 9:13 a.m. EST

Click to play
Obama: 'The system has failed'

  • "We dodged a bullet, but just barely," official quotes Obama as saying
  • President made comments during and after meeting with security officials on alleged terror plot
  • Obama calls for preliminary reviews this week, then immediate reforms
Washington (CNN) -- President Obama said Tuesday that U.S. intelligence has had considerable success, but that the botched Christmas Day attack shows "the system has failed" in a major way.
"When a suspected terrorist is able to board a plane with explosives on Christmas Day, the system has failed in a potentially disastrous way," Obama said at the White House in a statement to reporters.
The president used even stronger language in a private meeting in the Situation Room with top aides, a senior administration official said.
"This was a screw-up that could have been disastrous," he said, according to the official. "We dodged a bullet, but just barely."

No, I can't imagine it either. This is one area where I expected more from Obama and his performance has met my expectations. But for one brief, disturbing moment earlier this week, there was the tantalizing possibility of so much more.

Wolffe:White House Investigating Whether Intel Was Intentionally Withheld re:Flight 253 Bomber-Updt7

Mon Jan 04, 2010 at 06:16:12 PM PST

Tonight on Countdown, Richard Wolffe dropped a bombshell (no pun intended) about the situation with the Flight 253 "underpants bomber," Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, by saying that there is a serious question about whether or not there was foul play, information intentionally withheld, and/or conspiracy.

Update 4: Link to Wolffe interview on MSNBC:


During the interview with Wolffe on Countdown, he repeated the phrase "cock up or conspiracy?" more than once and made it clear that his information was coming from the White House.
Wolffe was later on Rachel Maddow's show by telephone. His words were a bit calmer this time, but again he said that there is an investigation and that there is a question about whether or not the withholding of information was intentional. He said that there is a lot of finger pointing going on in intelligence community, that the president is really "steamed" and that there is a line of inquiry that goes to the heart of why this wasn't shared. He and Rachel talked about how the intent may not necessarily be malicious, but may be more political.
I think we should expect to hear more about this, as it looks like the White House put this information out intentionally, even if anonymously.

Update 5 Transcript (done by me) of segment on Countdown with Richard Wolffe, and first part of interview with Arianna Huffington.
KO: Let's turn first to MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe, also author of "Renegade: The Making of a President." Good evening, Richard.
RW: Good evening, Keith.
KO: What is the focus here right now? Is it the push back, borders at other airports? Is it the indication that the intelligence such as what the NSA knew about Al Qaeda in Yemen using a Nigerian man for an attack was not maybe is not being utilized? Where is the focus right now?
RW: Well I was speaking to White House folks earlier today and it's clear the president is still deeply concerned and troubled even angry at the intelligence lapses but they see this more as an intelligence lapse more than as a situation of airport security faults. So the question is why didn't the centralized system of intelligence that was set up after 9/11, why didn't it work? Is it conspiracy or cock up? Is it a case of the agencies having so much rivalry between them that they were more determined to stymy each other or the centralized system rather than the terrorist threat or was it just that there were so many dots no one could connect them because it was just all too random to figure out. It seems that the president is leaning very much towards thinking this was a systemic failure by individuals who maybe had an alternative agenda.
KO: If airport security is the failsafe in that equation, what was behind the Bush adminstration's failure to establish the secondary checks overseas? Why are we suddenly rushing to this idea now? When did Mr. Bush and, I presume, Mr. Chertoff, drop that ball?
RW: Well there are more smart, more efficient ways to protect the country than to defend every airport because we know from our own airport system in this country that there are no failsafe methods, even with all the extra methods that you have out there -- people take off their shoes because of the shoe bomber, and then terrorists try and put the same explosives on another part of their body or another part of their clothing. The question here is why wasn't the intelligence directed at countries where Al Qaeda was reconstituting or establishing itself anew. That gets you to a strategic question which, unfortunately, the last administration failed to see because it was diverted, most classically, into Iraq.
KO: To your second point there, and we can sort of skip the Woody Allen joke, about how underwear will now be worn on the outside so we can check... your second point you suggested in there that the administration is looking into mixed, perhaps mixed motives, or misplaced priorities, I'm not sure exactly how you phrased that... in terms of what? Getting messages from A to B? Are people thought to have been deliberately withholding information so that the dots could not be connected?
RW: Right. The question is, was this information that was shared... remember, there was some sharing of information but it involves the father of this, in the end, terrorist, who walks in to see the CIA officials in a foreign embassy, this is an American embassy in a foreign country, and you know, that information wasn't shared fully. Why wasn't it shared fully? The question there is again, cock up or conspiracy. Was there a reason these agencies were at war with each other that prevented that intelligence from being shared?
KO: Is the implication there that there is at least a possibility that somebody understood how serious this could be and yet withheld information in order to make some other part of the counterterrorism system look bad?
RW: That has got to be an area that the White House is looking into and, you know, motives can be hard to assess because it's not clear that this person was easily identified as a terrorist. Even with the father coming forward saying they had concerns, was that more of a family concern or were there enough fingerprints here about the radicalization of this individual to suggest that it should have been taken to a different level -- at the very least a security level beyond more than a nominal sharing of information. That's where this inquiry, this internal inquiry, for the moment, has to go.
KO: Well, certainly, not to get too far ahead of what the information the White House doesn't have, and presumably you don't have and certainly I don't have, but that seems to me that what you're describing, at least in theory, is a far greater threat than a guy with explosives on an airplane, whether or not he succeeds in blowing them up.
RW: Well it's the most important line of defense. I don't know that it's a threat in itself. But you can defend every airport as much as you like, in the end though the most efficient, safest, border line for security has got to be human intelligence. There seems to have been plenty of human intelligence in this case.
KO: We're joined now by Arianna Huffington, cofounder, editor in chief of Huffington Post. Good evening.
AH: Good evening, Keith
KO: Ah, Richard's last point there, forgive me if I'm a little flustered, but that seemed a little startling to contemplate that in a day and age when presumably we're all, whatever we think of the threat of terror in this world, presumably we're all on the same side if we have something to do with this country, that somebody may be deliberately, in the counterterrorism system that we employ around the world, deliberately withholding information, no matter what the consequences might be. What do you think of that?
AH: I know, it was an astounding statement, especially since Richard said that he had talked to people in the White House who are leaning towards that conclusion in terms of a systemic failure in terms of how our intelligence system is operating...
Update 7: Transcript (done by me) of segment on The Rachel Maddow Show with Richard Wolffe and link to video.
Video: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/#34695158
Rachel Maddow Show 12/4
RM: We begin tonight with some breaking news on the White House investigation into exactly what happened with the Christmas day botched terror attempt. MSNBC political analyst, Richard Wolffe, will actually be joining us tonight by telephone with that. Richard, I know you shared some reporting on Countdown about a potentially very inflammatory development in the Christmas day terror plot investigation. What can you tell us about that reporting -- what else you've been able to learn?
RW: Well, Rachel, this investigation is still very much at a fact-finding stage where the White House is looking at, still, what happened. It's very preliminary. Obviously the president has just got back from vacation and just started prepping for his big session tomorrow, which, I'm told, is still going to focus on things like the screening processes that people face. But the question here, is whether or not the systemic failure that the president has talked about was anything more than human error. Was this some kind of failure because of the system's internal tensions or was there actually just a surplus of information that people didn't understand or report fully. So the question about how intelligence was shared is very much uppermost in the president's mind and he is still, I'm told, very steamed about this whole affair and the failings that led to such a serious breach of security. But it's still very early in the phase of where this investigation is going.
RM: Richard, I believe that the...I think the reason that your reporting tonight has such an exclamation point on it for so many of us who saw your interview on Countdown who were thinking about where this might lead, is the prospect not just that intelligence leads that should have been followed were not followed or that intelligence dots that should have been connected were not connected, that there isn't enough communication among the different parts of the American intelligence community -- that's important analysis but not new analysis. What's new and very worrying is the prospect that intelligence was deliberately withheld by one part of the American intelligence community from another -- either because of a grudge to make someone look bad or for any other reason that put petty politics above national security. Is that, in fact, the path that this White House inquiry is going down?
RW: I think you're ten steps ahead of where the White House is right now. I just checked in with White House people again and, look, there's lots of finger pointing going on the intelligence community where you have people who are in the center of it all who are tasked with pulling these things together who say the information was there and it wasn't flagged up or it wasn't shared adequately. So there is a line of inquiry that goes to the heart of, why wasn't this stuff shared adequately. I think the early suspicions inside the White House is that this comes down to human error more than this is some willful withholding but the questions are being asked and they're being asked because some people are saying this stuff wasn't shared adequately and they say it could have been.
RM: MSNBC analyst, Richard Wolffe, joining us, helping us sort out what's turning out to be both fascinating story a deeply troubling story about America's response to the terror alert or the terror incident on Christmas day and what we could have pieced together ahead of time. Thanks very much, Richard, for your time. We appreciate it.
RW: Thanks very much, Rachel.

If indeed this is what is actually happening, it would be astounding. The White House investigating whether someone or some group within the intelligence community is part of a terrorist conspiracy just doesn't happen. Slap whatever label you want, LIHOP, MIHOP, HIHOP, they are distinctions without a difference: conspiracy is conspiracy. Joke about the ineptitude of the Underwear Bomber if you must, but attempted murder is still attempted murder. That's what this conspiracy aimed to do: murder. There's no question that this was a conspiracy, others were aware of the plot to be carried out; whether they were in Yemen or the United States. It doesn't matter that
Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab was the only plotter to physically carry out the terrorist attack, though there is still a question whether that is true or not. Whoever was aware of the plot and didn't try to stop it is guilty of conspiracy.

But after reading the summary of the security review and the President's directive, it seems to me that the "official" view of the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas day is that those in the American intelligence community who had leads on the plot unintentionally failed to "connect the dots" prior to the attack. Perhaps my analysis that the official view is cock-up, not conspiracy, is premature. There is a footnote on page 1 of the summary that says: This report reflects preliminary findings to facilitate immediate corrective action. Neither the report nor its findings obviate the need for continued review and analysis to ensure that we have the fullest possible understanding of the systemic problems that led to the attempted terrorist attack on December 25, 2009. Note further that sensitive intelligence data was removed from this public report to protect sources and methods.

Perhaps a "continued review" beyond the "preliminary findings" will result in a report where the "failure" regarding the 12/25/09 plot will not be a reference to an unfortunate accident, which is where it seems to stand now. But I doubt it. My personal opinion is that the system will not allow such an extreme override. I don't think I'm alone in holding that point of view. As I have been in the habit of doing this lately, once again I shall quote the late, great comic genius on this subject, George Carlin:

"I don't really, honestly, deep down believe in political action. I think the system contracts and expands as it wants to; it accommodates these changes.

I think the civil rights movement was an accommodation on the part of those who own the country. I think they see where their self-interests lie; they see a certain amount of freedom seems good. An illusion of liberty.

The limits of debate in this country are established before the debate even begins.

And everyone else is marginalized and made to seem either to be communists, or some sort of a disloyal person; or 'kook' - there's a word - and now its 'conspiracy', see.

They've made that something that should not be even entertained for a minute! That powerful people might get together and have a plan! 'Doesn't happen! You're a kook! You're a conspiracy buff'!"


For anyone who bothers to click the link, I hope that we can come up with a better solution to this problem than the one Carlin does not "advocate".