Beyond the Blast

MotherJones.com's guide to undercovered news, commentary and resources to help put the Sept. 11 terror attacks and their aftershocks into context. Updated throughout the day.

Fri Oct. 26, 2001 3:00 AM EDT

Some freedoms gone for good? -- Wired News
Congressional leaders have assured the American people that the most invasive sections of the anti-terrorism bill signed into law by President Bush today will expire in 2005. But Declan McCullagh points out that many of the bill's most intrusive measures are here to stay: for example, he reports, "police will have the permanent ability to conduct Internet surveillance without a court order in some circumstances, secretly search homes and offices without notifying the owner, and share confidential grand jury information with the CIA."

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The fabric of war -- The Boston Globe
In a move Pakistani officials are touting as payback for their support of the US-led bombing of Afghanistan, the Bush administration may soon ease limits on textile imports from Pakistan. Sue Kirchoff reports that US textile manufacturers aren't too happy about that. "Why in the world does the textile industry have to be the industry that's the donor here?" asks Douglas Bulcao, deputy executive vice president of the Textile Manufacturers Institute. "Why can't the response to Pakistan be aid, where all the taxpaying citizens share in the burden?''

Anthrax American-made? -- New Scientist
While several American officials have theorized that Iraq may have produced the anthrax strain being used in attacks in the US, Debora MacKenzie reports that the germ is most likely home-grown. "(T)he bacteria used in the attacks is not a strain that Iraq, or the former Soviet Union, mass-produced for weapons," writes MacKenzie. "In fact, it is either the same strain the US itself used to make anthrax weapons in the 1960s, or close to it." The strain could have been obtained from many repositories in the US, notes MacKenzie.

Saudi mufti: Killing unbelievers not OK -- BBC News
In what passes for good news these days, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Shaikh, has issued a religious ruling banning the killing of non-Muslims in Islamic countries, reports Frank Gardner. The ruling is a direct counter to Usama bin Ladin's exhortations that Muslims to do exactly that. but the Saudi religious leader's comments may not carry a whole lot of weight. The Grand Mufti is closely connected to the Saudi government, which many Saudis and other Muslims distrust, notes Gardner.

October 25, 2001

Israeli muscle for the FBI? -- National Review
The FBI says the terrorist suspects it has in custody aren't talking, perhaps because they're not scared of being tortured. For this reason, Michael Ledeen reports, bureau officials are thinking of sending the suspects to friendly Arab countries, such as Egypt or Morocco, where the fear of more vigorous interrogation will make them speak up. Not so fast, says Ledeen. While the US might be "hampered" by constitutional protections and lacking in interrogators fluent in Arabic or versed in Islamic culture, Israel is not, Ledeen notes. "There are scores of Israelis who have all these skills, and many of them are now retired, and would be delighted to help us," Ledeen argues, noting that the use of Israeli interrogators would also have "immense psychological advantages."

The fight for radio supremacy -- Index on Censorship
Tony Callaghan and Rohan Jayasekera say radio remains Afghanistan's "most vital information link," and argue that the October 8 bombing of a Taliban radio station was just the beginning of a battle for control of the Afghan airwaves. The intentional bombing of a civilian radio station -- in this case, the Taliban-run Radio Voice of Shari'a -- would normally violate international law, but Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld scoffs at the idea that it wasn't a military target. "They cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taleban and those harbouring terrorists," Rumsfeld claims. Meanwhile, Callaghan and Jayasekera report, the US military is using a fleet of six radio broadcasting planes to serve up programming that includes "traditional Afghan music, blood-curdling threats to the Taleban and soothing messages to the local populace in Dari and Pashto."

Berkeley paper in hot water ... again -- The Daily Californian
An advertisement in The Daily Californian, the student newspaper of the University of California at Berkeley, garnered so much attention that the issue rapidly disappeared from newspaper racks - stolen by protesters. The ad, titled "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism," was placed by the Ayn Rand Institute. Some Berkeley residents were so angered by the ad's appearance that they stole 1,000 copies of the paper, replacing them with a flyer calling for a boycott of The Daily Californian.

October 24, 2001

US attacks on Afghan soil an all-male affair -- Washington Times
While female military personnel are fighting in the skies over Afghanistan, they have yet to see action on the ground, reports Rowan Scarborough. The limited attacks staged on Afghan soil are being handled by all-male "special operations" units. While there are women working with special operations groups on psychological warfare and other non-lethal endeavors, federal law prohibits them from joining ground combat missions.

Marketing America to Muslims -- Newsday
Concerned about the less-than-favorable perception of America in many Muslim nations, the State Department is talking to the Advertising Council, a non-profit group that does ad campaigns for national causes, about a marketing campaign to restore the nation's tarnished brand image, reports William Douglas. Talk about a tough sell. "They could have the prophet Muhammad doing public relations and it wouldn't help," scoffs Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News.

A Taliban foe explains why they won -- Omaid Weekly
In an interview with the self-described "most widely read Afghan publication in the world" shortly before he was assassinated last September, former Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Masood offers an enlightening take on how the Taliban gained control in Afghanistan, and why they've since lost popularity. Key factors in their early success, according to Masood: good slogans and indirect US support.

October 23, 2001

From Green Beret to terrorist -- Raleigh News and Observer
Despite his open disdain for America, Egyptian immigrant Ali Mohamed was accepted into the US Army, trained with the elite Green Beret unit, and became an informant for the FBI -- before going on to help bomb US embassies in Africa in 1998. Mohamed later passed on his special forces training and knowledge of the US to other members of al-Qaida, report the News and Observer's Joseph Neffand and John Sullivan. The FBI "did a lousy job of managing him," a former CIA official tells the reporters. "He was holding out on them. He had critical information years ago and didn't give it up."

A Capitol offense -- Judicial Watch
As government agencies struggle to explain why they failed to immediately test and treat postal employees who processed anthrax-laden letters to Congress, the conservative nonprofit law firm Judicial Watch is launching the inevitable push for litigation: It's offering to represent any postal worker who file lawsuits "against the political elite for putting his or her life in jeopardy."

Fingering terrorists -- New York Post
The first-person account of the New York Post employee who contracted cutaneous anthrax on her middle finger.

October 22, 2001

Jerry Falwell wants your support -- Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Only weeks after apologizing for saying that gays, "abortionists," and the ACLU were partly to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks, televangelist Jerry Falwell is now using the controversy that ensued as a fundraising hook, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a watchdog group. According to a release issued by the watchdog group, an Oct. 4 appeal sent out by Jerry Falwell Ministries accuses the media, "liberals, and especially gay activists" of unfairly smearing Falwell's name, further claiming that the organization has lost $500,000 in income since the terror attacks. "Falwell has gone from apologizing for his hateful remarks to trying to cash in on them," says Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of AUSCS.

Can the war withstand the humanitarian crisis? -- Stratfor.com
The deepening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan will rapidly erode support for the US-led bombing of Afghanistan, according to Stratfor.com, a Texas-based strategic forecasting group. International aid organizations are already calling for a halt in the bombing, and the Stratfor.com analysis suggests that the United Nations "will likely voice similar criticisms as winter sets in and member states seek a culprit for ensuing starvation in Afghanistan."

The stimulus package, unwrapped -- Opensecrets.org
With the economy seeming to slacken by the day, Congress is mulling a set of targeted tax cuts for businesses. Total cost to taxpayers: as much as $100 billion. The Center for Responsive Politics provides this breakdown of which industries are in line for which breaks -- and how much they've given to the politicians who will decide whether they get such favors.

Compiled by MotherJones.com staff.

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