Dan is Mother Jones' deputy DC bureau chief. He is the New York Times best-selling author of Sons of Wichita(Grand Central Publishing), a biography of the Koch brothers that is now out in paperback. Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.
It's no coincidence that bills to expand justifiable homicide laws have popped up in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa. Meet the group that launched the effort.
Nick Baumann and Daniel SchulmanFeb. 28, 2011 4:01 AM
Americans United for Life at the US Supreme Court in January 2011.
First, it was South Dakota. Then Nebraska and Iowa. The similarly worded bills, which have quietly cropped up recently in state legislatures, share a common purpose: To expand justifiable homicide statutes to cover killings committed in the defense of an unborn child. Critics of the bills, including law enforcement officials, warn that these measures could invite violence against abortion providers and possibly provide legal cover to the perpetrators of such crimes.
That these measures have emerged simultaneously in a handful of states is no coincidence. It's part of a campaign orchestrated by a Washington-based anti-abortion group, which has lobbied state lawmakers to introduce legislation that it calls the "Pregnant Woman's Protection Act" [PDF]. Over the past two years, the group, Americans United for Life, has succeeded in passing versions of this bill in Missouri and Oklahoma. But there's a big difference between those bills and the measures floated recently in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa.
A state legislator pushes a bill that's even more sweeping than the South Dakota proposal that sparked a national controversy.
Nick Baumann and Daniel SchulmanFeb. 24, 2011 4:01 AM
Just when abortion rights supporters thought they had beaten a controversial bill they believe would legalize the killing of abortion providers, it has cropped up again—this time in a more expansive form that has drawn the concern of law enforcement officials.
Last week, South Dakota's legislature shelved a bill, introduced by Republican state Rep. Phil Jensen, which would have allowed the use of the "justifiable homicide" defense for killings intended to prevent harm to a fetus. Now a nearly identical bill is being considered in neighboring Nebraska, where on Wednesday the state legislature held a hearing on the measure.
ArmorGroup caused an international scandal and lost its State Department contract. Why's the company still protecting one of America's most dangerous diplomatic outposts?
Daniel SchulmanFeb. 17, 2011 7:00 AM
More than a year has passed since the State Department decided to drop its contract with the security firm protecting the US embassy in Kabul, following an international scandal featuring drunken debauchery fit for a Van Wilder flick. But the company that introduced the world to vodka butt-shots is still on the job—and it doesn't seem to have plans to stand down anytime soon. Long after the expiration of its initial contract, in fact, ArmorGroup North America is currently hiring more guards to protect the Kabul embassy.
The firm sparked controversy in September 2009, when a Washington-based watchdog group sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighting a list of violations by the company, from a chronic guard shortage to the hiring of personnel who couldn't speak English and would be unable to communicate with their colleagues in an emergency. But the most shocking charges concerned what the Project on Government Oversight called a "Lord of the Flies environment"—hazing and wild partying depicted in a series of graphic photographs showing members of the Kabul embassy security force drunk, half-naked, and engaged in an array of NSFW behavior.
You know why being a diplomat is so awesome? In addition to living in exotic locations and meeting interesting people, you also get to debrief colorful characters. Like Iranian ninja masters.
Reading through the latest diplomatic traffic released by WikiLeaks, I came across this September 2009 communiqué from the US Embassy in Baku, Azerbijan. Its subject line reads, "IRAN: NINJA BLACK BELT MASTER DETAILS USE OF MARTIAL ARTS CLUBS FOR REPRESSION." The cable details a meeting with a "martial arts coach and trainer," who tells an embassy official "that private martial arts clubs and their managers are under intense pressure to cooperate with Iranian intelligence and Revolutionary Guard organizations, both in training members and in working as 'enforcers' in repression of protests and politically motivated killings." From the cable:
xxxxxxxxxxxx observed that Iranian internal security forces are highly suspicious of these clubs as potential vehicles for organization and "combat" training of future protesters and regime opponents. Nonetheless, he asserted that their main motivation is seeking to control these clubs is less driven by such fears as by a desire to deploy their trained membership at will for "special tasks." According to xxxxxxxxxxxx these tasks range from providing martial arts training to Revolutionary Guard members and Basij, assistance in protest repression, intimidation, and crowd control, to political killings. He observed that use of these clubs and their members provides the security forces with "plausible deniability" for dirty undertakings, as well as trained fighters and potential trainers.
The trainer/ninja master went on to detail the exploits of one ninja hit man:
xxxxxxxxxxxx said he personally knew one such martial arts master whom he said was used by the Intelligence service to murder at least six different individuals over the course of several months in xxxxxxxxxxxx said that the victims included intellectuals and young "pro-democracy activists," adding that his assassin acquaintance was ultimately "suicided" by the authorities (i.e., killed in what was subsequently labeled a suicide).
I never realized that Iran had a big ninja contingent. Apparently they do. And if this video is any indication, they're pretty bad ass.
A State Department cable shows that US officials were poised to take action against Ahmed Wali Karzai and other allegedly corrupt Afghan officials.
Daniel SchulmanDec. 3, 2010 3:21 PM
Despite widespread allegations about his involvement in Afghanistan's drug trade and other illicit activities, the US government has never taken steps to prosecute Ahmed Wali Karzai, the younger half-brother of the Afghan President—though a leaked diplomatic cable suggests American officials may have come very close.
This revelation was contained in one of a series of Afghanistan-related communiqués released by WikiLeaks on Thursday. The document in question is a confidential summary of a February 4, 2010, meeting of an interagency group known as the Nexus-Corruption Leadership Board. The board—which was co-chaired by Kabul embassy official Earl Anthony Wayne and Major General Michael Flynn, then the top military intelligence official in Afghanistan—had convened to review potential anti-corruption measures. Specifically discussed were "possible courses of action ('COAs') that U.S. military and Embassy personnel may employ against criminal and corrupt Afghan officials in an effort to change their behavior." During the meeting, board members agreed to "apply a set of minimum COAs against high-profile corrupt officials to signal a change in U.S. policy on corruption" and to "begin a series of high-level demarches to persuade the Karzai government to follow through on promises to tackle corruption."
But there was also a more politically fraught matter on the agenda: "possible law enforcement actions, against three prominent Afghan malign actors in southern Afghanistan" including Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is a key powerbroker in the Kandahar region. Along with AWK, as he's widely known, the board also singled out a colonel in the Afghan border police named Abdul Razziq (the Washington Post recently dubbed him "The Afghan Robin Hood") and Asadullah Sherzad, the chief of police in Helmand Province.