January 19, 2006
Growing Democratic Issue Advantage
by Ruy Teixeira
DONKEY RISING PIECE HERE OR READ BELOW
Last week, I noted how an intense anti-incumbent mood seems to be brewing, unlike anything we've seen since 1994. This week, I draw your attention to some
In the Pew survey, they first asked respondents what they thought the most important national problem was, followed by a query about which party could best handle that problem. The result was a 41-27 advantage for the Democrats on handling the most important national problem. That 14-point gap is the largest measured by either Pew or Gallup since this question was first asked in 1987. By way of comparison, the GOP had an 11 point advantage on this measure in March, 2002 and a 3 point advantage in July, 1994.
These data can be broken down by the type of national problem cited by respondents. Democrats had strong advantages in every area but one (security/terrorism): the economy (+21); social/domestic (+22); Iraq (+19); and foreign policy (+30). This compares to last January, when Republicans were actually favored overall and on social/domestic issues (by a point) and Democrats only led by 5 points on Iraq and 17 points on foreign policy. Even on security/terrorism, while the GOP still leads by 18 points today, that is down from an overwhelming 39 point margin at the beginning of last year.
More evidence that we are headed for a very interesting election that could see some big changes.
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
Time Magazine finds 5 photos of Abramoff with Bush.
The President's memory may soon be unhappily refreshed. TIME has seen five photographs of Abramoff and the President that suggest a level of contact between them that Bush's aides have downplayed. While TIME's source refused to provide the pictures for publication, they are likely to see the light of day eventually because celebrity tabloids are on the prowl for them. And that has been a fear of the Bush team's for the past several months: that a picture of the President with the admitted felon could become the iconic image of direct presidential involvement in a burgeoning corruption scandal like the shots of President Bill Clinton at White House coffees for campaign contributors in the mid-1990s.
5 PHOTOS OF JACK AND GEORGE
UM...Maybe we shouldn't be too hopeful too soon......
ON SPYING ON FOLKS WHO DO NOT AGREE WITH BUSH
This sounds like a Rove/Cheney imperative.
UH OH! I guess that means over 50% of us are doomed for jail with no access to the legal system. How to contain 50 % of the population will be the next problem the pathetically incompetent Bush hired hacks will have to face.
The Truth Project gained national attention when NBC News reported last month that it was described as a "credible threat" in a database of suspicious activity compiled by the Pentagon's Talon program. The listing cited the group's gathering a year ago at a Quaker meeting house in Lake Worth, Fla., to talk about ways to counter military recruitment at high schools.
US ACCUSED OF SPYING ON PEOPLE WHO DO NOT AGREE WITH BUSH
ON STEALING ELECTIONS
More information revealed on Diebold and vote manipulations.
Four times over the past year Sancho told computer specialists to break in to his voting system. And on all four occasions they did, changing results with what the specialists described as relatively unsophisticated hacking techniques. To Sancho, the results showed the vulnerability of voting equipment manufactured by Ohio-based Diebold Election Systems, which is used by Leon County and many other jurisdictions around the country.
Johns Hopkins University computer sciences professor Avi Rubin, who is leading a group that has received a $7.5 million grant from the National Academy of Sciences to research election technology, said the vulnerabilities of electronic systems -- including new touch-screen voting machines -- point to the need for a paper trail in any election. "The more I see, I say we need voting to rely on paper," he said. About 26 states require paper ballots, according to Verified Voting, an advocacy group.
THE ABILITY TO MANIPULATE VOTER OUTCOMES THANKS TO DIEBOLD AND CORRUPTED ELECTION OFFICIALS
AND NOW THE PENTAGON IS SPYING ON US TOO
The Other Big Brother
The Pentagon has its own domestic spying program. Even its leaders say the outfit may have gone too far.
By Michael Isikoff
Jan. 30, 2006 issue - The demonstration seemed harmless enough. Late on a June afternoon in 2004, a motley group of about 10 peace activists showed up outside the Houston headquarters of Halliburton, the giant military contractor once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. They were there to protest the corporation's supposed "war profiteering." The demonstrators wore papier-mache masks and handed out free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to Halliburton employees as they left work. The idea, according to organizer Scott Parkin, was to call attention to allegations that the company was overcharging on a food contract for troops in Iraq. "It was tongue-in-street political theater," Parkin says.
But that's not how the Pentagon saw it. To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. Created three years ago by the Defense Department, CIFA's role is "force protection"˜tracking threats and terrorist plots against military installations and personnel inside the United States. In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy Defense secretary, authorized a fact-gathering operation code-named TALON˜short for Threat and Local Observation Notice˜that would collect "raw information" about "suspicious incidents." The data would be fed to CIFA to help the Pentagon's "terrorism threat warning process," according to an internal Pentagon memo.
A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. It's not clear why the Pentagon considered the protest worthy of attention˜although organizer Parkin had previously been arrested while demonstrating at ExxonMobil headquarters (the charges were dropped). But there are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations. A Pentagon memo obtained by NEWSWEEK shows that the deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that some TALON reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official who asked not be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.
CIFA's activities are the latest in a series of disclosures about secret government programs that spy on Americans in the name of national security. In December, the ACLU obtained documents showing the FBI had investigated several activist groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace, supposedly in an effort to discover possible ecoterror connections. At the same time, the White House has spent weeks in damage-control mode, defending the controversial program that allowed the National Security Agency to monitor the telephone conversations of U.S. persons suspected of terror links, without obtaining warrants.
Last Thursday, Cheney called the program "vital" to the country's defense against Al Qaeda. "Either we are serious about fighting this war on terror or not," he said in a speech to the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. But as the new information about CIFA shows, the scope of the U.S. government's spying on Americans may be far more extensive than the public realizes.
It isn't clear how many groups and individuals were snagged by CIFA's dragnet. Details about the program, including its size and budget, are classified. In December, NBC News obtained a 400-page compilation of reports that detailed a portion of TALON's surveillance efforts. It showed the unit had collected information on nearly four dozen antiwar meetings or protests, including one at a Quaker meetinghouse in Lake Worth, Fla., and a Students Against War demonstration at a military recruiting fair at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A Pentagon spokesman declined to say why a private company like Halliburton would be deserving of CIFA's protection. But in the past, Defense Department officials have said that the "force protection" mission includes military contractors since soldiers and Defense employees work closely with them and therefore could be in danger.
CIFA researchers apparently cast a wide net and had a number of surveillance methods˜both secretive and mundane˜at their disposal. An internal CIFA PowerPoint slide presentation recently obtained by William Arkin, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who writes widely about military affairs, gives some idea how the group operated. The presentation, which Arkin provided to NEWSWEEK, shows that CIFA analysts had access to law-enforcement reports and sensitive military and U.S. intelligence documents. (The group's motto appears at the bottom of each PowerPoint slide: "Counterintelligence 'to the Edge'.") But the organization also gleaned data from "open source Internet monitoring." In other words, they surfed the Web.
That may have been how the Pentagon came to be so interested in a small gathering outside Halliburton. On June 23, 2004, a few days before the Halliburton protest, an ad for the event appeared on houston.indymedia.org, a Web site for lefty Texas activists. "Stop the war profiteers," read the posting. "Bring out the kids, relatives, Dick Cheney, and your favorite corporate pigs at the trough as we will provide food for free."
Four months later, on Oct. 25, the TALON team reported another possible threat to national security. The source: a Miami antiwar Web page. "Website advertises protest planned at local military recruitment facility," the internal report warns. The database entry refers to plans by a south Florida group called the Broward Anti-War Coalition to protest outside a strip-mall recruiting office in Lauderhill, Fla. The TALON entry lists the upcoming protest as a "credible" threat. As it turned out, the entire event consisted of 15 to 20 activists waving a giant BUSH LIED sign. No one was arrested. "It's very interesting that the U.S. military sees a domestic peace group as a threat," says Paul Lefrak, a librarian who organized the protest.
Arkin says a close reading of internal CIFA documents suggests the agency may be expanding its Internet monitoring, and wants to be as surreptitious as possible. CIFA has contracted to buy "identity masking" software that would allow the agency to create phony Web identities and let them appear to be located in foreign countries, according to a copy of the contract with Computer Sciences Corp. (The firm declined to comment.)
Pentagon officials have broadly defended CIFA as a legitimate response to the domestic terror threat. But at the same time, they acknowledge that an internal Pentagon review has found that CIFA's database contained some information that may have violated regulations. The department is not allowed to retain information about U.S. citizens for more than 90 days˜unless they are "reasonably believed" to have some link to terrorism, criminal wrongdoing or foreign intelligence. There was information that was "improperly stored," says a Pentagon spokesman who was authorized to talk about the program (but not to give his name). "It was an oversight." In a memo last week, obtained by NEWSWEEK, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England ordered CIFA to purge such information from its files˜and directed that all Defense Department intelligence personnel receive "refresher training" on department policies.
That's not likely to stop the questions. Last week Democrats on the Senate intelligence committee pushed for an inquiry into CIFA's activities and who it's watching. "This is a significant Pandora's box [Pentagon officials] don't want opened," says Arkin. "What we're looking at is hints of what they're doing." As far as the Pentagon is concerned, that means we've already seen too much.
© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.
© 2006 MSNBC.com
NEWSWEEK PIECE HERE