Entries from November 2010

Rep. King: Declare Wikileaks a ‘Terrorist Group’

November 29th, 2010 at 2:15 pm 8 Comments

The Hill reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should review whether WikiLeaks can be declared a terrorist organization, according to a senior Republican.

Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called for U.S. officials to get aggressive against WikiLeaks after the website published highly sensitive, classified diplomatic cables that reveal frank assessments of foreign leaders and the war on terror.

“I am calling on the attorney general and supporting his efforts to fully prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder for violating the Espionage Act. And I’m also calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare WikiLeaks a foreign terrorist organization,” King said on WNIS radio on Sunday evening.

“By doing that, we will be able to seize their funds and go after anyone who provides them help or contributions or assistance whatsoever,” he said. “To me, they are a clear and present danger to America.”

WikiLeaks has released thousands of cables that reveal embarrassing comments about foreign leaders and U.S. operations abroad. The White House and Clinton have been forced to conduct an outreach campaign to smooth the waters.

The Obama administration hasn’t taken legal action against WikiLeaks, but has condemned the release in the harshest terms. But the clamor for legal action by lawmakers in both parties increased the pressure for prosecution based on the leaks.

Clinton has the authority to declare an organization a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), a formal designation that allows the U.S. government some leeway in taking action. The current list of 47 FTOs includes al Qaeda and its various offshoots; Hamas; and a variety of other groups.

King expressed confidence that other lawmakers in both parties would rally to his strategy toward WikiLeaks. The website CNET published excerpts of King’s letter to Clinton on Sunday.

“I’m confident you’ll find many people in the Congress, the House and Senate, who will support my demand for the prosecution, and also the declaring of WikiLeaks to be a foreign terrorist organization,” he said.

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WikiLeaks Builds the Case Against Iran

David Frum November 29th, 2010 at 1:48 pm Comments Off

Some say that the WikiLeaks document dump has embarrassed the United States government.

Agreed — it is probably no fun to be the U.S. official in charge of calling Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to admit that our government noticed his Russian business dealings.

But here’s who really should be embarrassed:

• Those who pooh-poohed George W. Bush’s “axis of evil.” WikiLeaks confirms that Iran and North Korea have for years been sharing weapons technology.

• Those who suggest that it’s some “Israel lobby” or Jewish cabal that is driving the confrontation with Iran. WikiLeaks confirms that the region’s Arab governments express even more anxiety than Israel about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

• Those who have condemned Israel for inspecting or impeding Red Crescent ambulances. WikiLeaks confirms that during the 2006 Lebanon war, Iran smuggled weapons to Hezbollah in Red Crescent vehicles, including ambulances.

• Those who have appeased Red Crescent demands that Israel’s Red Magen David be excluded from international Red Cross organizations. The Red Crescent has been thoroughly penetrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and is regularly used as a tool of Iranian foreign policy.

• Those who lamented that Israel’s interception of the Turkish blockade-runner Mevi Marmara would alienate Turkey as a key U.S. ally: The U.S. government itself has for years regarded the Turkish government as trending on its own impetus toward anti-Western Islamist radicalism.

• Those who look blank-faced at the origin of cyber-attacks on Google and other crucial U.S. networks. WikiLeaks documents U.S. awareness that at least one cyber-attack on Google was ordered at the highest levels of the Chinese government.

This is not to deny that WikiLeaks has done enormous harm. The leakers or hackers or whoever it was who obtained and published this information have put individual lives at risk. Toby Harnden of the Telegraph notes that one of the released documents names a U.S. informant in the region. The document identifies him as a U.K.-educated engineer from a prominent pre-revolution Isfahan family who once owned a large factory in Iran and is a former national fencing champion of Iran, a former president of the Iran Fencing Association and a former vice president of an Azerbaijan sports association. Harnden aptly asks: How many such persons do you think are out there?

But here’s the ghastliest irony of the leak. If it was Julian Assange’s intention to use information hacked from U.S. computer systems to protect Iran from U.S. military action, he has very likely massively failed at his own purpose.

The leak makes military conflict between Iran and the United States more likely, not less. The leak has changed the political equation in ways that reduce the restraint on U.S. policy.

Public opinion in all U.S.-allied countries can now see that the dread of the Iranian nuclear program is not some artificial emotion whipped up by Israel, but a widespread fear among Arab and European governments. It’s Iran’s Gulf neighbors who have begged most urgently that the United States hit Iran’s nuclear sites.

Iranian recklessness and duplicity has been widely publicized — as has Iran’s contemptuous rejection of all diplomatic approaches.

President Obama’s hand has been strengthened inside the United States. Members of Congress can see the intimate details of the administration’s determined effort to restrain Iran by peaceful means. And they can see in equally intimate detail that the effort has failed, and failed entirely because of Iran’s obduracy.

If any doubt remains that a nuclear Iran would massively destabilize the region, WikiLeaks alleviates it: It’s there in black and white, according to Israeli sources, that Saudi Arabia would seek a nuclear weapon. And it’s a good question whether an increasingly anti-Western Turkey would likely soon pursue a nuclear weapon too.

I am not saying that a U.S. attack on Iran has suddenly become likely. Just that it has become more politically feasible than it was 72 hours ago.


Originally published at CNN.com.

How WikiLeaks Builds the Case Against Iran

David Frum November 29th, 2010 at 1:45 pm 53 Comments

There are legitimate fears in Washington over the damage WikiLeaks’ release of secret State Department diplomatic cables will cause.  However, as my latest column for CNN.com argues, the revelations may also help strengthen President Obama’s hand in dealing with Iran.

Some say that the WikiLeaks document dump has embarrassed the United States government.

Agreed — it is probably no fun to be the U.S. official in charge of calling Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to admit that our government noticed his Russian business dealings.

But here’s who really should be embarrassed:

• Those who pooh-poohed George W. Bush’s “axis of evil.” WikiLeaks confirms that Iran and North Korea have for years been sharing weapons technology.

• Those who suggest that it’s some “Israel lobby” or Jewish cabal that is driving the confrontation with Iran. WikiLeaks confirms that the region’s Arab governments express even more anxiety than Israel about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

• Those who have condemned Israel for inspecting or impeding Red Crescent ambulances. WikiLeaks confirms that during the 2006 Lebanon war, Iran smuggled weapons to Hezbollah in Red Crescent vehicles, including ambulances.

• Those who have appeased Red Crescent demands that Israel’s Red Magen David be excluded from international Red Cross organizations. The Red Crescent has been thoroughly penetrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and is regularly used as a tool of Iranian foreign policy.

• Those who lamented that Israel’s interception of the Turkish blockade-runner Mevi Marmara would alienate Turkey as a key U.S. ally: The U.S. government itself has for years regarded the Turkish government as trending on its own impetus toward anti-Western Islamist radicalism.

• Those who look blank-faced at the origin of cyber-attacks on Google and other crucial U.S. networks. WikiLeaks documents U.S. awareness that at least one cyber-attack on Google was ordered at the highest levels of the Chinese government.

This is not to deny that WikiLeaks has done enormous harm. The leakers or hackers or whoever it was who obtained and published this information have put individual lives at risk. Toby Harnden of the Telegraph notes that one of the released documents names a U.S. informant in the region. The document identifies him as a U.K.-educated engineer from a prominent pre-revolution Isfahan family who once owned a large factory in Iran and is a former national fencing champion of Iran, a former president of the Iran Fencing Association and a former vice president of an Azerbaijan sports association. Harnden aptly asks: How many such persons do you think are out there?

But here’s the ghastliest irony of the leak. If it was Julian Assange’s intention to use information hacked from U.S. computer systems to protect Iran from U.S. military action, he has very likely massively failed at his own purpose.

The leak makes military conflict between Iran and the United States more likely, not less. The leak has changed the political equation in ways that reduce the restraint on U.S. policy.

Click here to read the rest.

DOJ Launches Internet Fraud Crackdown

November 29th, 2010 at 1:18 pm 1 Comment

The Hill reports:

Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday the government crackdown on websites facilitating copyright infringement was timed to coincide with the holiday shopping season.

The government has shut down 82 websites in the past few days as part of “Operation In Our Sites II,” an effort by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments and nine attorneys general offices to debilitate fraudulent Web domains.

“As of today — what is known as ‘Cyber Monday’ and billed as the busiest online shopping day of the year — anyone attempting to access one of these websites using its domain name will no longer be able to make a purchase,” Holder said Monday at a press conference.

Holder said seizure orders for the domain names were obtained from U.S. magistrate judges.

The crackdown targeted websites that sell counterfeit goods, “including sports equipment, shoes, handbags, athletic apparel, sunglasses, and illegal copies of DVDs, music and software,” Holder said.

Some website owners were surprised to find their sites shut down during the weekend and replaced by an emblem indicating it had been seized by federal authorities.

Holder said the effort follows a similar crackdown over the summer focusing on first-run movie infringement. He said efforts to protect intellectual property also benefit employment and innovation.

“[Intellectual property] crimes threaten economic opportunities and financial stability,” he said. “They destroy jobs.”

It comes “as the holiday shopping season gets under way” in part to “remind consumers” they should be cautious about online deals, Holder said.

Click here to read more.

Iran Used Red Crescent Workers to Smuggle Weapons

November 29th, 2010 at 12:59 pm 3 Comments

The Guardian reports:

Iran abused the strict neutrality of the Iranian Red Crescent (IRC) society to smuggle intelligence agents and weapons into other countries, including Lebanon during the 2006 war with Israel, according to claims in a leaked US embassy cable.

The society, which is supposed to be independent of government, is alleged to have provided cover for members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG), the most powerful military force in Iran, to infiltrate a number of countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, according to a well-placed Iranian source who spoke to US diplomats.

The Iranian Red Crescent has strongly denied the allegations.

The claim of involvement by Iran will infuriate Israel, which has long claimed the Palestinian Red Crescent has helped to move Palestinian fighters around. Israel views Iran as a much more serious threat than the Palestinians.

Disclosure of the allegations comes amid a standoff between western powers and Iran over its nuclear programme. Tehran denies western allegations that it is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Iranian influence has spread since the US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq removed two enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.

The Iranian source, who had knowledge of the Red Crescent’s overseas operations, said the Iranian intelligence service breached the society’s rules of neutrality to send members into Lebanon to support the Shia militia force, Hezbollah militia during the Israel-Lebanon war. Among those allegedly sent in were members of the IRG’s elite al-Quds force, a covert group of intelligence officers and special forces chosen to export the Iranian revolution.

The source said: “The only true Iranian Red Crescent officers dispatched to Lebanon were the doctors and drivers. Shipments of medical supplies served also to facilitate weapons shipments.”

The source said IRC staff in Iran had seen missiles on a plane destined for Lebanon while delivering medical supplies to the airport. The plane was already half full of weapons before the medical supplies arrived. American diplomats regard the source as credible.

The cables say the IRC management was infused with hardliners after the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, and that purged former staffers “now considered the IRC an agent of the IRG”.

CT GOP Chair Healy Looks to Enter RNC Race

November 29th, 2010 at 12:20 pm Comments Off

Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy told FrumForum in an interview that he hopes to announce a bid for RNC Chairman this week.

RNC Chair candidates will be gathering in Washington, D.C. for a debate this Wednesday. Asked if he was going to be a speaker at this forum, Healy said, “I am right now.” An organizer for the event confirmed that Healy is expected to speak at the RNC Chair debate, organized by the RNC’s conservative caucus and moderated by FreedomWorks’ National Political Director Russ Walker.

But Healy emphasized that he wasn’t formally announcing just yet. “I’m trying to get as much comment, insight from members as I can. If there’s any support for what I’m talking about… I hope to [announce] by the end of the week… with a focus on creating the resources that are needed for 2012, and supporting efforts on redistricting,” he said.

Chairman Chris Healy has a history as a political operative, and serves currently as the full-time chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party. He served as a communications director in Congress, as well as a special assistant at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, before returning to Connecticut to work on campaigns and public relations.

Healy says that his tenure as state chairman has given him the necessary skills to be RNC Chair. “You need professional skills that relate to fundraising: I’m in what we call a ‘hard-dollar’ state, which requires a lot of asking and soliciting and creating confidence in donors… I have a pretty ridiculous work ethic when it comes to that.”

One of the criticisms that will be lobbed his way should he decide to run will be the poor performance of Connecticut Republicans in the last election. Republicans were unsuccessful in every congressional district, as well as in the gubernatorial and senatorial elections. “It’s a fair point, I think it’s a point I would probably raise, that’s a point that I’ll ultimately talk about,” said Healy.

In his defense, Healy says that the state party he ran did everything it could to make Connecticut more Republican, and that their actions ultimately made races in other states more competitive:

People don’t vote for the [state] party, they vote for the candidate. The test is whether the party has done everything they can to create opportunities for those candidates, and sustain and support those candidates on every level of their campaign. We did that in Connecticut – in fact I like to think we actually made Connecticut more competitive… the Democratic National Committee spent almost a month holding on desperately for Connecticut, with implications for races nationally.

Even as he declined to formally announce a bid for RNC Chairman, Healy was critical of incumbent RNC Chair Michael Steele’s tenure while expressing modest support for potential competitor Gentry Collins:

We need someone who has been a full-time, operative-type chairman, someone who can assess the damage that [incumbent chairman] Mike Steele has done to the party, but more importantly get things turned around on a dime. Whether that’s me, or someone else like Gentry Collins, that’s something we really need in the next chairman.

Healy also had nice things to say about other potential candidates. “I’ve been on this committee now for about four years, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of good people, and a lot of them are running. I don’t see this as a competition as much as it is trying to create a consensus that the next chair should… have a real plan to get the machinery moving very quickly because we’re running against a very skillful president,” Healy told FrumForum.

Add Tim on twitter: www.twitter.com/timkmak

Wagner Launches RNC Chair Bid

November 29th, 2010 at 12:15 pm Comments Off

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza reports:

Former ambassador to Luxembourg Ann Wagner entered the race for the Republican National Committee chairmanship Monday, becoming the second candidate to launch a potential challenge to Chairman Michael Steele.

In a video posted to her Web site, the former RNC co-chairwoman and Missouri GOP chairwoman pitches herself as the cure for the committee’s financial woes. The RNC finds itself in a large amount of debt and struggled to fund the party’s winning efforts down the stretch of the Nov. 2 election.

“2012 will be a challenging election cycle,” Wagner said. “The RNC needs to be funded to its maximum obligations. We must be efficient, relevant, professional and credible. We must start immediately to erase past debate and restore the confidence of our donor base.”

Wagner, like others eyeing the chairmanship, declined to criticize the chairman personally, but made plenty of allusions to the problems that have occurred on his watch.

Wagner also called for greater responsibility and transparency in the RNC’s budget – a pretty direct shot at the myriad financial problems that have occurred on Steele’s watch.

Those budget woes were detailed in a letter by recently resigned former RNC political director Gentry Collins, who is considering joining Wagner in the race for the chairmanship.

The only other candidate who has officially entered the race is former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis. Wisconsin GOP Chairman Reince Priebus and former RNC official Maria Cino have both taken steps toward a run, and other potential candidates include former RNC chairman Mike Duncan, Connecticut GOP Chairman Chris Healy, California GOP Chairman Ron Nehring and Republican Governors Association Executive Director Nick Ayers.

Former senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has said he might run, but only if Steele does not.

Steele has yet to say whether he will run for a second two-year term, but many expect him to.

Click here to read more.

Kirk to be Sworn in Monday Evening

November 29th, 2010 at 11:54 am 3 Comments

Politico reports:

When Illinois Republican Mark Kirk is sworn in as a senator Monday evening, Democrats will have an even tougher time passing pieces of their lame-duck agenda.

His arrival will narrow Democrats’ majority in the Senate to 58-42, meaning they’ll now need at least two Republicans to reach the 60-vote threshold to move forward on legislation, from a limited extension of Bush-era tax cuts to a repeal of the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

A five-term congressman, Kirk crosses the Capitol to replace Democrat Roland Burris, who was appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama after he became president in January 2009. Kirk, who defeated Democrat Alexi Giannoulias in the Nov. 2 election, will fill out the final weeks of Obama’s unfinished term and be seated for a full six-year term next January.

On the campaign trail, the Navy Reserve intelligence officer denounced Obama’s economic stimulus as a failure, called for the repeal of the health care law and an end to congressional earmarks, and vowed to ensure tax cuts don’t expire at the end of this year.

And though he considers himself a social moderate, he’s expected to vote no on two bills Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would try to pass in the lame duck: the immigration-related DREAM Act and the defense authorization bill that includes language to repeal the military’s ban on openly gay service members, the latter of which Kirk voted against while serving in the House.

Kirk is already setting himself up as less of a firebrand than other recently elected freshmen, urging bipartisanship in an op-ed published Monday in the Chicago Tribune.

Politicians, he said, need to “cast aside the partisan differences and work across the aisle” to erase Washington’s mounting debt. And Congress should “build bipartisan majorities” to support Obama’s request for a new line-item veto and a proposal by the late Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) for a constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget.

He said the first bill he’ll introduce in the Senate would create a new bipartisan “Grace Commission” to root out federal waste and make congressional recommendations to shut down military bases.

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WikiLeaks: World Leaders Profiled

David Frum November 29th, 2010 at 11:46 am 4 Comments

Wikileaks tells us that U.S. diplomats say this about Turkish prime minister Erdogan:

According to other papers, Erdogan lacks “vision” and “analytic depth”, reads “minimally”, ignores foreign ministry expertise and is guided by an “iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors… which partially explains… his susceptibility to [fundamentalist religious] theories.” He is said to rely on “his charisma, instincts, and the filterings of advisors who pull conspiracy theories off the Web.”

Good thing such a person could never hope to win a major party presidential nomination in the United States.

Obama Plans Fed Worker Pay Freeze

November 29th, 2010 at 11:19 am 29 Comments

The AP reports:

President Barack Obama will announce a two-year pay freeze for federal employees that the White House says is necessary to put the country on sound fiscal footing.

The White House said Monday that the freeze would apply to all civilian federal employees, including those working at the Department of Defense, but would not affect military personnel. The freeze will save $2 billion during fiscal year 2011, according to the White House.

Obama is expected to announce the pay freeze at the White House later Monday.

The chairman of Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission has proposed a three-year freeze in pay for most federal employees as part of its plan to reduce the nation’s growing deficit. The commission’s final report is due to be released later this week.

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