23 December 2007

Hoover Planned Mass Jailing in 1950

This is chilling. It makes one wonder why the current administration has been so adamant in its drive to secretly arrest and imprison people by executive fiat--even whisking people away who are on U.S. soil. The latest news that the CIA has openly lied to Congress--the branch that's supposed to keep tabs on the Executive--doesn't inspire much confidence in our current system either. Who's compiling the current list of 12,000 unloyal citizens to be rushed to the prison camps to be tortured?

By TIM WEINER Published: December 23, 2007

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans in military prisons.

Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to “protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.” The F.B.I would “apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous” to national security, Hoover’s proposal said. The arrests would be carried out under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the bureau.

The names were part of an index that Hoover had been compiling for years. “The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States,” he wrote.

“In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus,” it said.

Habeas corpus, the right to seek relief from illegal detention, has been a fundamental principle of law for seven centuries. The Bush administration’s decision to hold suspects for years at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has made habeas corpus a contentious issue for Congress and the Supreme Court today.

The Constitution says habeas corpus shall not be suspended “unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.” The plan proposed by Hoover, the head of the F.B.I. from 1924 to 1972, stretched that clause to include “threatened invasion” or “attack upon United States troops in legally occupied territory.”

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush issued an order that effectively allowed the United States to hold suspects indefinitely without a hearing, a lawyer, or formal charges. In September 2006, Congress passed a law suspending habeas corpus for anyone deemed an “unlawful enemy combatant.”

But the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the right of American citizens to seek a writ of habeas corpus. This month the court heard arguments on whether about 300 foreigners held at Guantánamo Bay had the same rights. It is expected to rule by next summer.

Hoover’s plan was declassified Friday as part of a collection of cold-war documents concerning intelligence issues from 1950 to 1955. The collection makes up a new volume of “The Foreign Relations of the United States,” a series that by law has been published continuously by the State Department since the Civil War.

Hoover’s plan called for “the permanent detention” of the roughly 12,000 suspects at military bases as well as in federal prisons. The F.B.I., he said, had found that the arrests it proposed in New York and California would cause the prisons there to overflow.

So the bureau had arranged for “detention in military facilities of the individuals apprehended” in those states, he wrote.

The prisoners eventually would have had a right to a hearing under the Hoover plan. The hearing board would have been a panel made up of one judge and two citizens. But the hearings “will not be bound by the rules of evidence,” his letter noted.

The only modern precedent for Hoover’s plan was the Palmer Raids of 1920, named after the attorney general at the time. The raids, executed in large part by Hoover’s intelligence division, swept up thousands of people suspected of being communists and radicals.

Previously declassified documents show that the F.B.I.’s “security index” of suspect Americans predated the cold war. In March 1946, Hoover sought the authority to detain Americans “who might be dangerous” if the United States went to war. In August 1948, Attorney General Tom Clark gave the F.B.I. the power to make a master list of such people.

Hoover’s July 1950 letter was addressed to Sidney W. Souers, who had served as the first director of central intelligence and was then a special national-security assistant to Truman. The plan also was sent to the executive secretary of the National Security Council, whose members were the president, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state and the military chiefs.

In September 1950, Congress passed and the president signed a law authorizing the detention of “dangerous radicals” if the president declared a national emergency. Truman did declare such an emergency in December 1950, after China entered the Korean War. But no known evidence suggests he or any other president approved any part of Hoover’s proposal.

Neal N. Boenzi/The New York TimesJ. Edgar Hoover was F.B.I. director from 1924 to 1972. RelatedText: Hoover’s Letter to Truman’s Special Consultant (December 22, 2007) Documents: The Intelligence Community, 1950–1955 (state.gov) (pdf)

18 December 2007

Monkey math

Does this suggest that monkeys evolved from humans, perhaps from some of the smarter Duke students who wandered off into the surrounding forest?

Monkeys performed about as well as college students at mental addition, U.S. researchers said on Monday in a finding that suggests nonverbal math skills are not unique to humans.

13 December 2007

For my birthday

Now I know what I want for my birthday! A glow in the dark cat along with a fearless mouse (see my post below).

South Korean scientists tinkering with fluorescence protein genes say they have bred white Turkish Angora cats to glow red under ultraviolet light.

Say it ain't so-o-o

2007's still got a shot at being the year of bizarre news stories. The American Bar Association Journal has named Alberto Gonzales Lawyer of the Year. To those of us raised on lawyer jokes, there's something highly appropriate about this.

California vs. the feds and the lobbyists

I've always thought it odd that the federal government thought it could dictate emission laws to California. Since it's Californians that are dying in their smog filled cities, it seems to me like they should be the ones to decide on their own state laws. Another federal judge evidently agrees with me:

In a major defeat for automakers, a federal judge in Fresno ruled Wednesday that California could set its own standards on greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles. But the state still needs permission from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement the rules. "Both EPA and California . . . are equally empowered through the Clean Air Act to promulgate regulations that limit the emissions of greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, from motor vehicles," U.S. District Court Judge Anthony W. Ishii said.

In a sign of the times, it's rightwing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who's finding himself on the "left" of the current administration. Arnold called the ruling "another important victory in the fight against global warming," adding, "California and other states will prevail in our goal to take aggressive action on climate change."

California plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30% from 2009 to 2016, under a plan passed in 2004. More power to them.

12 December 2007


The country who brought us the classic novel I am a Cat has now engineered mice with no healthy fear of felines.

Rather than flee or freeze when confronted with their feline enemy, the mice sniffed and even played with them, blissfully unaware of the potential dangers.

What bill would Jesus vote for?

News these days is so bizarre that I can never tell if I'm not the butt of a giant prank:

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has introduced a resolution (H.Res. 847) saying that Christmas and Christians are important. This is a spoof right? Our representatives really aren't spending their time crafting this drivel?


1st Session

H. RES. 847: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.


December 6, 2007

Mr. KING of Iowa (for himself, Mr. AKIN, Mrs. BACHMANN, Mr. BAKER, Mr. BARRETT of South Carolina, Mr. BISHOP of Utah, Mr. BOOZMAN, Mr. BRADY of Texas, Mr. BROUN of Georgia, Mr. BROWN of South Carolina, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. CARTER, Mr. CONAWAY, Mr. DAVID DAVIS of Tennessee, Mr. DOOLITTLE, Mr. FEENEY, Mr. FORTENBERRY, Ms. FOXX, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. GINGREY, Mr. GOHMERT, Mr. HAYES, Mr. HERGER, Mr. ISSA, Mr. SAM JOHNSON of Texas, Mr. JONES of North Carolina, Mr. JORDAN of Ohio, Mr. KINGSTON, Mr. KLINE of Minnesota, Mr. KUHL of New York, Mr. LAHOOD, Mr. LAMBORN, Mr. LAMPSON, Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California, Mr. MCCAUL of Texas, Mr. MCINTYRE, Mrs. MCMORRIS RODGERS, Mr. MILLER of Florida, Mrs. MUSGRAVE, Mrs. MYRICK, Mr. NEUGEBAUER, Mr. POE, Mr. SALI, Mr. SHADEGG, Mr. SMITH of Texas, Mr. STEARNS, Mr. TERRY, Mr. TIAHRT, Mr. WALBERG, Mr. WELDON of Florida, Mr. WILSON of South Carolina, Mr. DAVIS of Kentucky, and Mrs. DRAKE) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.

Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;

Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;

Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;

Whereas Christians identify themselves as those who believe in the salvation from sin offered to them through the sacrifice of their savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and who, out of gratitude for the gift of salvation, commit themselves to living their lives in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Bible;

Whereas Christians and Christianity have contributed greatly to the development of western civilization;

Whereas the United States, being founded as a constitutional republic in the traditions of western civilization, finds much in its history that points observers back to its roots in Christianity;

Whereas on December 25 of each calendar year, American Christians observe Christmas, the holiday celebrating the birth of their savior, Jesus Christ;

Whereas for Christians, Christmas is celebrated as a recognition of God's redemption, mercy, and Grace; and

Whereas many Christians and non-Christians throughout the United States and the rest of the world, celebrate Christmas as a time to serve others: Now, therefore be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes the Christian faith as one of the great religions of the world;

(2) expresses continued support for Christians in the United States and worldwide;

(3) acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith;

(4) acknowledges and supports the role played by Christians and Christianity in the founding of the United States and in the formation of the western civilization;

(5) rejects bigotry and persecution directed against Christians, both in the United States and worldwide; and

(6) expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.

8 December 2007

Generals oppose torture

We keep hearing how torture is now necessary because of the type of war we're now in, that the American public just doesn't understand the realities of the battlefield. It's interesting then to note how McCain, the only candidate with experience as a POW, along with a coalition of more than a dozen admirals and generals, strongly oppose the use of torture. The chicken-hawk coalition (Cheney, Bush, Giuliani, and others who are for it) all pulled every string available to avoid combat in Vietnam. The "realities of war" that they understand is that you can tell one's underlings and proxies to commit the most vile acts as long as none of them venture into the walled-off enclosures of the wealthy elite.

By Joseph P. Hoar, and David M. Maddox, Stars and Stripes

We have watched with growing concern over the last several months the manner in which the issue of torture has been raised in the presidential campaign — in debates and on the campaign trail. We recognize that campaigns are often more about scoring points against opponents than responsibly staking out affirmative positions. In too many instances, the debate about interrogation methods and prisoner treatment has lacked an understanding about the impact that torture (or as some have termed it, “enhanced interrogation techniques”) has on the safety of American military personnel and the values they fight to defend.

We hope to change that. We are co-chairmen of a gathering of more than a dozen retired generals and admirals with extensive backgrounds in combat operations, intelligence, law and medicine who met last weekend in Iowa to address these issues directly in private meetings with seven of the candidates. We invited every presidential candidate from both parties to meet privately with us for a candid discussion of these issues. Our group is nonpartisan and will not endorse any candidate. Our goal is to ensure that every presidential candidate has the opportunity to hear firsthand from those of us who have made national security our life’s work the importance of getting it right on prisoner treatment.

We started these discussions in New Hampshire in April with several of the candidates. Now, with the first votes of the 2008 election only weeks away, our objective to reach every candidate on this issue takes on even more urgency. Our group is not a formal one, but we have come together because we believe that national policies governing treatment of detainees in counterterrorism operations have placed American military personnel at increased risk, undermined U.S. intelligence gathering efforts, and stained the reputation of the United States around the world. Most generals and admirals do not get involved in the political fray, even those of us who are retired. But we feel a responsibility at this juncture to do what we can to preserve the values we fought to defend and to uphold the standards of humane treatment on which those serving our country today — and those who will serve it in the future — depend.

Five former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have spoken out publicly urging that the U.S. not deviate from the humane treatment provisions of the Geneva Conventions. While some argue that this “new war” has outgrown the “quaint” rules of the Geneva Conventions, as military professionals, we learned that every war is a “new war” in some respects. It is certainly true that the nature of the threat has changed. But nothing in our logic or experience tells us that, by necessity, everything has changed. The basic obligations of an occupying power, a matter of settled international law, have not changed. The standards we apply to ourselves when dealing with captives — like those we expect our enemies to observe in dealing with captives they hold — have not changed. And, unless we are willing to concede defeat, who we are as a nation — our character and the values we espouse — has not changed.

Gen. David Petraeus, responding to a survey that revealed a troubling level of acceptance of abuse against noncombatants by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, underscored this in an open letter to the troops in May. “Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distinguishes us from our enemy,” Petraeus wrote. And while “some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy, they would be wrong.”

We agree. Whoever the next occupant of the Oval Office is, he or she will be the person to whom the men and women of our armed forces will look, not only for their orders but for the guidance and standards that inform those orders. Our troops need clear and consistent standards, and the military provides those to them. But if the commander in chief muddies that message by saying that he or she would be willing to authorize torture in exceptional circumstances, we cannot expect our troops on the battlefield, who face death every day, to eschew it.

Our country cannot hope to lead the world if it forsakes the most fundamental rules and standards it insists other countries uphold. And no candidate can effectively lead this country without a deep understanding of and respect for the values on which it was founded. We owe a duty to those serving our country in uniform to do what we can to secure that leadership.

Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar (retired) was commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994. Gen. David M. Maddox (retired) was commander in chief of U.S. Army Europe from 1992 to 1994.

It's a sign of the times, when the Stars and Stripes starts worrying about the slow creep of Fascism.

7 December 2007

A well-oiled political machine

The Senate is going to completely gut the package of energy measures recently passed by the House. Shrub, for his part, has promised a veto. None of us should be surprised--when you hire oil barons to run the country, this is what you get, a shortsighted plan to run the country into the ground while transferring as much wealth as possible to the wealthiest sliver of the population.

Destroying the evidence

We can learn a few lessons from the recent revelations that the CIA destroyed tapes showing torture:

1. Giant, powerful intelligence agencies tend to ignore government oversight and end up being an anti-democratic force. The CIA was explicitly asked in Congress if it had any such tapes and said (before the tapes were destroyed) that it didn't.

2. The CIA, like our current government, isn't above making the most boldfaced lies. The idea that the tapes had to be destroyed "for security purposes" is LUDICROUS. It's possible to put the tapes in a vault in Langley and not allow anyone but the head of the CIA (and members of the Congressional oversight committee who request them) to see them. The "security" is a reflection by the CIA that what they're doing is illegal and so needs to be hidden.

3. It isn't wise to give any government organization too much power--particularly when it repeatedly avoids oversight and engages in cover-ups.

4. Last but not least, the claim that waterboarding isn't torture leads us to some interesting dilemmas. Should the U.S. compensate the families of the Japanese intelligence operators who were hung after WWII for using waterboarding on U.S. prisoners of war? (If it's just a "frat boy" sort of thing, the Americans who were waterboarded should be more understanding, don't you think?)

5 December 2007

The 7 Deadly Sins, er, I mean, 7 Facts

I always thought I was far too intellectually superior to respond to one of these memes but that was before I was picked. So here's the juicy facts Glen (all the dirt you need when I run for president):

Seven Facts About Me

1) I don't know anything about cars, an intellectual lacuna that causes major embarrassments when shootin' the bull in standard male bonding situations. I have survived thus far by nodding a lot and muttering "totally awesome" when people talk about their souped up 486 chrome-plated whassamujigs that have totally awesome torque.

2) I'm never happier than when I'm standing on the peak of a mountain in the middle of the wilderness. If you hear of another McCandless-like character who didn't make it out of the Alaskan forests and Swerve Left has suddenly screeched to a grinding halt, you can make the right inferences.

3) I was the top wrestler in my high school and beat the guy who beat the guy who won the Washington State championship.

4) In college, I lived in a room that was just a little bit longer than I am tall. I had to sleep at an angle every night.

5) I have a gut aversion to capitalism that isn't even ideological. When I become king, we'll all wear long, gray Mao suits around as we all make exactly the same wage for unequal work. The system won't be terribly efficient but we'll perhaps get rid of some of the distractions from our endless chasing after plastic lawn ornaments. We will end up with some awesome park lands though. After I'm sent to hell for my years of dictatorship, I'll end up wandering eternally through endless strips of Walmarts with carts full of coupons and complicated credit card forms that I need to fill out to get that extra 20% off.

6) About the only place I like to visit in the city is old book stores. I rarely buy anything but spend hours browsing.

7) I'm becoming more and more convinced that Economic Growth, Family Values, Patriotism, and Capitalization Rules are all greatly overrated. Trout spearing and serial monogamy were the high points in human civilization.

For the next 7, I've tagged Katharine, Badtux, Vancouver Calling, Snowbabies, Cyberkitten, Mr. Anchovy, and Alicia Morgan.

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.