Daniel Schulman

Senior Editor

Based in DC, Dan covers politics and national security. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine, the Village Voice, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications. He is the author of the new Koch brothers biography, Sons of Wichita (Grand Central Publishing). Email him at dschulman (at) motherjones.com.

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"Enough with the carrots. It's time for the stick."

| Fri Sep. 29, 2006 10:44 AM EDT

Yesterday, as the Senate cleared the controversial detainee bill and the House passed legislation authorizing the president's warrantless wiretapping program (with some restrictions), a little-noticed bill moved the nation a step closer toward a reckoning with Iran. Passed by the House, and now making its way quickly through the Senate, the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which would reauthorize existing sanctions against Iran, stops short of calling for outright regime-change but states that it should be U.S. policy to back "peaceful pro-democracy forces in Iran" and "to support efforts by the people of Iran to exercise self-determination over the form of government of their country."

The New York Sun reports:

The measure specifically does not authorize military action, but in the same way the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 foreshadowed events in the Gulf, the latest bill may come to be seen as an upping of the ante with the Islamic regime — or a step or two short of war.

As Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Republican who sponsored the bill, told the AP, "Enough with the carrots. It's time for the stick."

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The Fine Print in the Military Tribunals Bill

| Thu Sep. 28, 2006 10:23 AM EDT

The House passed the Bush administration's military tribunals legislation yesterday, which clarifies the rules for how terrorism suspects can be interrogated and tried, and the Senate is expected to vote on the bill today. The bill, which was rushed through Congress as the legislative session comes to a close, includes a host of troubling provisions. Among them, the bill, for the first time, defines the meaning of "illegal enemy combatant" and it does so in a very broad way. As The New York Times notes in an editorial: "...The bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted."

As The Baltimore Sun reports, this under-the-radar provision would also "for the first time legally endorse the fight against terrorism as equivalent to war," which would "give the fight against terrorism the legal status of an armed conflict." "Does it allow the president to basically define the war on terrorism as broadly or as narrowly as he wants?" Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat, told the Sun. "The answer is yes."

Another provision, dealing with the rights (or, in this case, lack of them) of detainees to challenge their imprisonment in federal court, would effectively "strip green-card holders and other legal residents of the right to challenge their detention in court if they are accused of being 'enemy combatants,'" according to the Boston Globe.

The part of the bill that worries advocates for immigrants most is the one stating that "no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination."...

In the original bill, the section banning "habeas corpus" petitions applied only to detainees being held "outside the United States," referring to the roughly 450 prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. But in recent days, the phrase "outside the United States" was removed.

Yet another provision makes "coerced evidence" admissible in court proceedings "if a judge considered it reliable — already a contradiction in terms — and relevant," according to the Times. Further, "coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses."

And that's just for starters.

Turn Up the Propaganda, Please

| Wed Sep. 27, 2006 10:35 AM EDT

Apparently not satisfied that U.S.-funded broadcast services including Radio Farda and the Voice of America are targeting Iran with a sufficient level of propaganda, a Pentagon report, prepared at the behest of an interagency committee known as the Iran Steering Group, has charged "that U.S. international broadcasts into Iran aren't tough enough on the Islamic regime," according to McClatchy Newspapers.

The report appears to be a gambit by some officials in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's office and elsewhere to gain sway over television and radio broadcasts into Iran, one of the few direct tools the United States has to reach the Iranian people.

U.S. broadcasting officials, according to McClatchy, view the report as a power play intended to usurp the independence of U.S.-sponsored news outlets. They also say the report is filled with errors. As Kenneth Tomlinson, the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, put it, "The author of this report is as qualified to write a report on programming to Iran as I would be to write a report covering the operations of the 101st Airborne Division."

That brings us to the author of the report, who sources told McClatchy is a Pentagon official and Iran specialist named Ladan Archin. Back in May Laura Rozen identified Archin as one of three officials who previously worked in the notorious Office of Special Plans, a clearinghouse for manipulated intelligence on Iraq, and are now working in the Pentagon's recently established Iran directorate. (Read Kevin Drum's take on all of this here.)

In recent months, the U.S. has stepped up so-called democracy promotion campaigns targeting Iran as a means to bolster the opposition and undermine the regime, including an $85 million State Department program to prop up dissident groups and ramp up anti-Iran propaganda efforts. As the U.S. and Iran continue on a collision course, expect the propaganda war to heat up.

Remember the Anthrax Investigation?

| Tue Sep. 26, 2006 9:52 AM EDT

Remember the anthrax investigation? The probe into the individual (or individuals) responsible for sending a wave of anthrax-laced letters through the mail just days after 9/11? After the initial flurry of media attention died down little was written about the case, but the FBI has quietly continued to investigate the attacks. Now, The Washington Post, among other news outlets, is reporting that there's been a new -- and somewhat discouraging -- development in the case:

Five years after the anthrax attacks that killed five people, the FBI is now convinced that the lethal powder sent to the Senate was far less sophisticated than originally believed, widening the pool of possible suspects in a frustratingly slow investigation.
The finding, which resulted from countless scientific tests at numerous laboratories, appears to undermine the widely held belief that the attack was carried out by a government scientist or someone with access to a U.S. biodefense lab.

It was originally believed that the agent used in the attacks was a rare, weaponized variety of anthrax known as the Ames strain, which could only be found in a handful of labs, among them the U.S. Army's Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) on the Fort Detrick base in Frederick, Maryland. "In my opinion, there are maybe four or five people in the whole country who might be able to make this stuff, and I'm one of them," former U.N. bioweapons inspector Richard O. Spertzel said in 2002. "And even with a good lab and staff to help run it, it might take me a year to come up with a product as good."

The alleged grade of the material and the significant expertise needed to refine it led the FBI to zero in on government biodefense researchers, in particular Steven J. Hatfill, a former researcher at USAMRIID who the Bureau designated a "person of interest" in the case. (Hatfill has sued The New York Times and Vanity Fair for defamation and the Justice Department for violating his constitutional rights in leaking confidential information to the press.)

Now, according to the Post:

The prevailing views about the anthrax powder, meanwhile, have been coalescing among a small group of scientists and FBI officials over several years but rarely have been discussed publicly. In interviews and a recently published scientific article, law enforcement authorities have acknowledged that much of the conventional wisdom about the attacks turned out to be wrong.
Specifically, law enforcement authorities have refuted the widely reported claim that the anthrax spores had been "weaponized" -- specially treated or processed to allow them to disperse more easily. They also have rejected reports that the powder was milled, or ground, to create finer particles that can penetrate deeply into the lungs. Such processing or additives might have suggested that the maker had access to the recipes of biological weapons made by the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.

If this is true, then it complicates the investigation significantly and makes the list of potential suspects much longer. The FBI, for its part, has described its suspect list as "fluid." This development also begs the very important question of how so many experts could have been so wrong for so long.

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