Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Inevitable Consequence

International Herald Tribune
UN expert calls Palestinian terrorism 'inevitable consequence' of Israeli occupation

The Associated Press Tuesday, February 26, 2008

GENEVA: A report commissioned by the United Nations suggests that Palestinian terrorism is the "inevitable consequence" of Israeli occupation and laws that resemble South African apartheid ? a claim Israel rejected Tuesday as enflaming hatred between Jews and Palestinians.

The report by John Dugard, independent investigator on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the U.N. Human Rights Council, will be presented next month, but it has been posted on the body's Web site.

In it, Dugard, a South African lawyer who campaigned against apartheid in the 1980s, says "common sense ... dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by al-Qaida, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation."

While Palestinian terrorist acts are to be deplored, "they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation," writes Dugard, whose 25-page report accuses the Jewish state of acts and policies consistent with all three.

He cited checkpoints and roadblocks restricting Palestinian movement to house demolitions and what he terms the "Judaization" of Jerusalem.

As long as there is occupation, there will be terrorism, he argues.

"Acts of terror against military occupation must be seen in historical context," Dugard says. "This is why every effort should be made to bring the occupation to a speedy end. Until this is done, peace cannot be expected, and violence will continue."

Israel's U.N. ambassador in Geneva slammed Dugard's analysis.

"The common link between al-Qaida and the Palestinian terrorists is that both intentionally target civilians with the mere purpose to kill," Itzhak Levanon said. "The fact that Professor Dugard is ignoring this essential fact, demonstrates his inability to use objectivity in his assessment.

"Professor Dugard will better serve the cause of peace by ceasing to enflame the hatred between Israelis and Palestinians, who have embarked on serious talks to solve this contentious situation."

Dugard was appointed in 2001 as an unpaid expert by the now-defunct U.N. Human Rights Commission to investigate only violations by the Israeli side, prompting Israel and the U.S. to dismiss his reports as one-sided. Israel refused to allow him to conduct a U.N.-mandated fact-finding mission on its Gaza offensive in 2006.

The report will be presented next month at the 47-nation rights council's first regular session of the year. The new body has been widely criticized ? even by its founder, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan ? for spending most of its time criticizing one government, Israel's, over alleged abuses.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jewish functionaries stirring the Clinton-Obama race

Haaretz.com Feb. 16, 2008

By Akiva Eldar

Tensions in the race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination are mirrored in the American Jewish community. As the gap between the front-runners narrowed in the primaries, the clash between the two Jewish camps has become more heated.

Official Israel is making an effort to maintain a respectable neutrality. Has-beens are being called into the ring, like a former ambassador to Washington, Dan Ayalon, who jabbed Obama in a sensitive spot - the volume of his support for Israel.

Ayalon is not alone. Jewish advisers and non-Jewish supporters are almost obsessively occupied with searching for skeletons in the black candidate's past.

The Republican Party's neoconservative clique is trawling archives for "anti-Israeli" essays by advisers who had been seen in Obama's staff. Robert Malley, who was President Bill Clinton's special assistant during the Camp David talks, joined Obama. The neoconservatives reached Malley's father, a Jew of Egyptian descent, who, alas, kept childhood ties with Yasser Arafat. Malley junior is accused of publishing a joint article with an Oslo-supporting Palestinian, in which they dared to argue that Ehud Barak played a major role in the Camp David summit's failure in July 2000.

Obama is working hard to allay the fears of "Israel's friends," a description reserved mainly for activists of the pro-Israeli lobby AIPAC and for Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents. As far as they're concerned, whoever doesn't support the Israeli government's policy 100 percent is unfit for leadership.

Clinton is reaping the fruit of her investment in the Jewish community and Israel since first running for a Senate seat in New York. She is also benefiting from Bill Clinton's popularity in synagogues, Israeli homes and among his rich Jewish friends.

A long list of initiatives and declarations has erased from the collective Jewish memory the first lady's "slip" in spring 1998, after Arafat threatened Benjamin Netanyahu with a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. Clinton then said at a gathering of Israeli and Palestinian youth, members of the Seeds of Peace organization, that it was important to have a "functioning modern" Palestinian state." She also said "it will be in the long-term interest of the Middle East for Palestine to be a state...responsible for its citizens' well-being...education and health care.''

Since then she has commended the Congress' decision to stop the aid to the Palestinians if they declared a state unilaterally. She also praised the separation fence and said that Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount was a "legitimate visit to a holy site."

She adopted a more aggressive stance than Obama about Iran.

Clinton's shift to the right on the peace process alienated some of her old friends on the Jewish left. But they remain convinced that if she wins the White House, she will quickly reclaim her old positions. Experience has taught that the link between a presidential candidate's statements and an elected president's actions is flimsy at best.

For example, since 1967 it's hard to find a candidate who did not promise to move the United States' embassy to Jerusalem. When Yitzhak Rabin reminded Gerald Ford of that promise, the president explained to him that life looked different from the Oval Office. The forecasts and evaluations regarding American politicians' basic positions regarding the Middle East also have a tendency to prove false. Thus, for example, Hafez Assad hoped for George Bush's victory over Al Gore. He counted on the Bush family's ties to the Saudi royal family and on its addiction to oil. The outcome is known.

And after all that, surveys conducted by Jewish organizations show that the candidates' positions on interior affairs, especially social issues like workers' rights, abortion, stem cell research and medical insurance, interest the Jewish Democratic voters more than their positions on moving the American embassy to Jerusalem or evacuating some illegal outpost in the territories.

That doesn't deter a few Jewish political wheeler dealers (elected by no one) from stirring the boiling cauldron.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Talking to a Wall: Palestine in the Mind of America

February 14, 2008
http://www.counterpunch.org/christison02142008.html
By KATHLEEN and BILL CHRISTISON

You would think that showing maps clearly delineating the truncated, obviously non-viable area available for a possible Palestinian state and showing pictures that define Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories would have some kind of impact on an audience of astute but, on this issue, generally uninformed Americans. We recently spoke to a small foreign affairs discussion group and devoted much of our presentation to these images of oppression -- images that never appear in the U.S. media -- in the probably naïve hope of making some kind of dent in the impassive American attitude toward Israel's 40-year occupation of Palestinian territory.

But our expectations that these people would listen and perhaps learn something were sadly misplaced. Few among the elite seminar-style discussion group seemed concerned about, or even particularly interested in, what is happening on the ground in Palestine-Israel, and the event stands as starkly emblematic of American apathy about the oppressive Israeli regime in the occupied territories that the United States is enabling and in many instances actively encouraging.

The maps that we displayed of the West Bank, prepared by the UN and by Israeli human rights groups, clearly depicted the segmented, disconnected scatter of territorial pieces that would make up the Palestinian state even in the most optimistic of scenarios -- Palestinian areas broken up by the separation wall cutting deep into the West Bank; by large Israeli settlements scattered throughout and taking up something like 10 percent of the territory; by the network of roads connecting the settlements, all accessible only to Israeli drivers; and by the Jordan Valley, currently barred to any Palestinian not already living there, making up fully one-quarter of the West Bank, and ultimately destined for annexation by Israel.

The maps make it clear that even the most generous Israeli plan would leave a Palestinian state with only 50-60 percent of the West Bank (constituting 11-12 percent of original Palestine), broken into multiple separated segments and including no part of Jerusalem. The photographs, taken during our several trips to Palestine in recent years, depicted the separation wall, checkpoints and terminals in the wall resembling cages, Palestinian homes demolished and official buildings destroyed, vast Israeli settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land, destroyed Palestinian olive groves, commerce in Palestinian cities shut down because of marauding Israeli settlers or soldiers.

We have shown maps and pictures like these myriad times before, but have never been received with quite such disinterest. Here was a group of mostly retired U.S. government officials, academics, journalists, and business executives, as well as a few still-working professionals -- all ranging in political orientation from center right to center left, the cream of informed, educated America, the exemplar of elite mainstream opinion in the United States. Their lack of concern about what Israel and, because of its enabling role, the U.S. are doing to destroy an entire people and their national aspirations could not have been more evident.

The first person to comment when our presentation concluded, identifying herself as Jewish, said she had "never heard a more one-sided presentation" and labeled us "beyond anti-Semitic" -- which presumably is somewhat worse than plain-and-simple anti-Semitic. This is always a somewhat upsetting charge, although it is so common and so expected as to be of little note anymore. What was more noteworthy was the reaction, or lack of it, among the rest of the assembled, who never disputed her charge but spent most of the discussion period either disputing our presentation or trying to find ways to accommodate "Jewish pain."

Our brief conversation with this woman progressed in an interesting fashion. We tried to engage her in a discussion about what exactly was one-sided in our depiction of the situation on the ground and what she would have liked to see to make it "two-sided." She did not answer but indicated that she thought whatever Israel did must be justified by Palestinian actions. "Someone had to have started it," she said. We laid out a little history for her, noting that the first action, the "who-started-it" part, could be traced back to Britain's Balfour Declaration pledge in 1917 to promote the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, at a time when Jews made up no more than 10 percent of the population of Palestine. Then we came up to the 1947 UN partition resolution, which allotted 55 percent of Palestine for a Jewish state at a time when Jews owned only seven percent of the land and made up slightly less than one-third of the population.

Her answer was, "Well, but it wasn't Jews who did this." We disabused her of this and briefly detailed the deliberate Zionist program of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian population conducted during 1947-48 war, as described by several Israeli historians, including particularly Ilan Pappe, whose The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is based on Israeli military archives. Her eyes actually began to bulge, but she held her tongue. Apparently deciding that she had no way of refuting these facts, she finally decided that going back in history was of no utility -- a common Zionist dodge -- and that Israel had not been established in any case to be a democracy but was a haven for persecuted Jews and as such has every right to organize itself in any way it sees fit. The moderator finally called on others who wanted to speak, and the discussion moved on.

But not very far. The talk now circled, for over an hour, around what passed for profound discussion: around someone's curious remarks about Zeitgeist, someone else's equally curious insistence that there was "something out there that no one would talk about" that was influencing the situation, a few remarks about Palestinians as terrorists and how even if Israel made peace with the Palestinians Hamas would still try to destroy it, a lot of talk about how to accommodate Jewish pain and, taking off from this, a psychologist's attempt to draw an analogy between Jews who live in fear of persecution and the rape victims she counsels who live in constant fear that they will be raped again or worse.

A few people did ask interested questions about the situation on the ground and about various aspects of Israeli policy. After the discussion had centered for quite a while on Jewish pain, one person pointed out that Palestinians too feel pain and live in fear, but no one else picked up on this. No one challenged the first speaker's personal charge of anti-Semitism against us, and in the end there was almost no mention of the destructive Israeli practices that had been the subject of our presentation.

We had occasion to email several of the participants the next day. In one message, we lodged a mild complaint with the three group organizers about the fact that the charge of anti-Semitism was allowed not only to stand but to set the tone for much of the discussion, with no refutation of the substance of the charge by anyone except us. In another message, sent to a man who had expressed puzzlement over why the Jewish vote was thought to be important in U.S. elections, we forwarded without comment an article from Mother Jones about Barack Obama's difficulties with the Jewish community and his concerted effort to demonstrate his bona fides by pledging fealty to Israel and justifying Israel's siege of Gaza.

Finally, to the psychologist, we wrote a comment on her analogy between Jews and rape victims, observing that as a psychologist she undoubtedly did not encourage her rape victim clients to perpetuate their fear or adopt an aggressive attitude toward other people, but most likely gave them tools to help them regain trust and move beyond fears for their personal safety. This kind of restorative therapy for Jews has never been employed, we noted, but on the contrary Israeli leaders and American Jewish leaders have encouraged Jewish fears, along with an aggressive, militaristic Israeli policy toward its neighbors.

These were all gratuitous overtures by us, but they were not inappropriate or uncivil. Yet not one of these people saw fit to answer our missives or even acknowledge their receipt -- indicating, we can only assume, the general level of unconcern among Americans about the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, including the siege and starvation imposed on Gazans. Then, too, the lack of response probably reflects feelings on the part of most attendees that we are somehow responsible for having involved them in a discussion that turned out to be fairly unpleasant for them.

Why is this interesting to anyone but us? Because this in-depth discussion with a small but representative group of intelligent, thinking Americans is indicative of a broad range of U.S. public opinion on foreign policy issues, and their level of disinterest in the consequences of U.S. policies is quite disturbing. The self-absorption evident during this meeting, the general "don't-rock-the-boat" posture, the overwhelming lack of concern for the victims of Israeli and U.S. power amount to a license to kill for the U.S. and its allies. The same unconcern allowed the United States to get away with killing millions of Vietnamese decades ago; it gives license to mass U.S. killing in Iraq and Afghanistan; it is the reason Democrats still, after seven years of Bush administration torture and killing around the world, cannot fully separate themselves from Republican militarism. It gives Israel license to kill and ethnically cleanse the entire nation of Palestine.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. She can be reached at kathy.bill.christison@comcast.net.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence officer and as director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Get Kucinich

Is Dennis Kucinich Being McKinney'd? Get Kucinich

By KEVIN ZEESE

On the Hill some call it being McKinney'd--the treatment Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney received when she was in Congress. Twice, rather than protecting the incumbent, the Democrats put up well funded challengers against her. Now, it looks like Dennis Kucinich may be facing the same treatment in Cleveland.

There is a report circulating the web that before the Nevada primary Kucinich was visited by representatives of Nancy Pelosi and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the right wing Israeli lobby. They told him that if he would drop his campaigns to impeach Cheney and Bush, they would guarantee his re-election to the House of Representatives. Kucinich threw them out of his office_ (http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2008/02/371899.shtml). Kucinich has aggressively challenged the Democratic Party leadership in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail on the issues of war, civil liberties, impeachment and big business control of government. He's even refused to pledge to endorse the party's presidential nominee.

The Democratic leadership has insisted that impeachment was off the table since taking control of the House in 2006. Congressman Conyers, Chair of the Judiciary Committee, has even refused to investigate whether President Bush and Vice President Cheney have violated the law. But Kucinich pushed the issue. He introduced articles of impeachment against Cheney, then against Bush and he brought the issue up on the House floor. He pushed and pushed to try to make sure the president and vice president were not above the law. On the campaign trail he didn't let Senator Clinton or Obama get away with campaign peace rhetoric in the Democratic primary while they voted war funding with no strings attached in the senate. He pointed out that their rhetoric was not consistent with their actions. He pushed the issue of all troops being removed; while Obama and Clinton parse their words carefully making it clear they will withdraw only some of the troops and neither promising a complete troop withdrawal even by 2012.

And he pierced the veil of campaign rhetoric of Democrats who call for "universal health care" but put forward plans that will enrich their donors in the private health insurance industry.

On issue after issue Kucinich pushed against the Democratic Party leadership--now, it seems he is paying a price.

In Cleveland, Kucinich is being challenged by several candidates. The one that is getting the most attention and funding is City Councilman Joe Cimperman. He's served on the council for ten years and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from real estate interests to challenge Kucinich. He's been saying that Kucinich focuses too much on campaigning for president and not on the district. The Mayor of Cleveland and the Cleveland Plain Dealer has endorsed Cimperman.

Kucinich, who has been focused on the presidential campaign, has very little money in the bank (reportedly only about $30,000). He's been putting out fundraising appeals (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LehCxhHPXQ8) ) and has a fundraiser planned with Sean Penn.

Back home the issue of right wing Israeli lobby funding is becoming an issue. Cimperman put out a press release that urges Kucinich to refute a report in the People's Weekly World Newspaper that said the "Kucinich campaign charged" that Cimperman's effort to unseat Kucinich was financed in large part from "a right-wing pro-Israel group."

Cimperman has been somewhat theatrical in his campaign. He's been putting up signs "Where's Dennis?" and describing him as a "Missing Congressman." Cimperman took the poster to Kucinch's office and delivered a copy _on videotape (http://youtube.com/watch?v=Pd-8nwj7GWY) . Kucinich responded by asking Homeland Security to investigate the filming of government property. Cimperman responded with _another video (http://youtube.com/watch?v=lJsC99FDdeQ&feature=user) calling Kucinch a hypocrite for violating his privacy while railing against government intrusion into people's lives.

No doubt if Kucinch had kow-towed to Nancy Pelosi, been less aggressive in his comments in the presidential debates and agreed to endorse the Democratic presidential nominee, the Democratic Party would be discouraging opponents and coming to the aid of an incumbent who has been in the House since 1996. But elected officials like McKinney and Kucinch who challenge the Democratic Party line--who think for themselves and feel a responsibility to fight for their constituents and challenge corporate power--are a hindrance to the party leadership. They get in the way and let the public know what is really going on. So, they must be either tamed or made an example of. If Kucinich gets McKinney'd you can be sure the message will be received. Those, like Congressman Conyers, who've been around for awhile (Conyers has been in the House since 1965) know better than to step too far out of line. So, Conyers has remained silent on Bush's law breaking--protecting his committee chairmanship by being afraid to use it. Conyers has been tamed but Kucinich hasn't. So, Kucinich needs to be taught a lesson that other members will learn from. The growing revolt of the "Out of Iraq Caucus" needs to be kept impotent. Knocking out Kucinich will prevent others from too loudly disobeying leadership. Kucinich has faced tough battles in Cleveland before. When he was mayor he stood up to corporate interests that wanted to take over Cleveland's public utility and survived a recall election. And, Cimperman is not the only challenger, there are several, so the anti-Kucinich vote may be sufficiently divided for the congressman to retain his seat.

If he doesn't Kucinich may find new political opportunities that give him a bigger platform. Perhaps he will leave the Democratic Party with whom he has had so much disagreement and join Cynthia McKinney in the _Green Party (http://www.runcynthiarun.org/) (see -a party whose platform is consistent with his. If so a McKinney-Kucinich ticket could be an interesting development in the 2008 election year. The Democrats may regret their punishment of both McKinney and Kucinich.

Kevin Zeese is Executive Director of Voters for Peace www.VotersForPeace.US_ (http://www.votersforpeace.us/) .

Monday, February 4, 2008

The illusion of choice

The illusion of choice in US elections: Does it herald the dissolution of these United States of America?

Mazin Qumsiyeh
http://www.qumsiyeh.org/illusionofchoice/

The 2008 presidential elections were likened to the World Wrestling Federation matches: take time and energy but obviously fixed/staged. A more apt analogy would go beyond these elections: the whole political system in the US is a theater play with predictable script but different actors. Yet, the damage caused by elected officials is getting so severe that another four years may finish off the experiment that is otherwise known as the USA (whether those are of a Clinton, McCain, Obama, or Romney administration).

Candidates of both parties are allowed to advance to final rounds whether in congressional or presidential elections only if they are cleared by the real powers to be. This is evident from issues they can and cannot tackle. The cleared Democratic and the Republican nominees cannot for example tackle the broken system with no proportional representation and no system to allow instant runoff elections. Both cleared nominees must believe in maintaining the US Empire by force and are only allowed to differ in tactics of advancing the "white man's burden" of "civilizing" and "improving" the world. They will not be asked about why US troops are stationed in 140 countries. Cleared Candidates of both parties will continue to support pouring billions directly into Israel and many more billions to support conflicts perceived to help Israel (e.g. Iraq and Iran) or help bring money to coffers of wealthy corporations. ExxonMobile just set a world record with PROFITS in 2007 exceeding $40 BILLION. Both will ignore (or at best pay lip service to) the racial and economic divides that are growing. Both will ignore the inability to face-up to the US criminal history (Slavery, Genocide of Native Americans, support of brutal dictators abroad, militarism etc).

Both have no interest, let alone ideas, in tackling the entrenched military-industrial complex that is bankrupting the US. They all support the pathetic "stimulus package" (with minor variations) that will give some $600 tax rebates to 117 million Americans so that "they can spend it" and stimulate the economy. Yet the real issues gate keepers will not allow to be addressed: trillions in private debts (corporate and individual), $9 trillion in government debt (which means our children will have to pay for it), a multi-trillion dollar mortgage debacle involving large scale fraud, the scandal of a raided/depleted social security safety net, the collapse of the fiat currency otherwise known as the US dollar, and much more. Yes, some candidates maybe allowed to pay lip service to reducing government deficits but the system is now beyond that. Corporations (e.g. General electric, United Technologies) and governments (e.g. Israel) who sucked up these trillions are getting to a point where they do not need the United States as a functioning or stable economic system but only a military power overseas to guard their interests there.

Cleared candidates for presidential elections will never have to answer any real difficult questions about these economic matters or about the equally important legal and social matters. When was a candidate really challenged about the violations of the US Constitution, violations that they implicitly or explicitly support? Gatekeepers make sure that cleared candidates are not challenged on impeachment or on taking legal action against an administration that:
1) Violated International treaties repeatedly. Treaties like the Geneva Conventions prohibit most actions done in Iraq and beyond from torture to collective punishment to targeting civilians etc and these treaties are mandatory under the constitution as they were ratified by congress.

2) Violated the constitution in supporting warrant-less spying on US Citizens and now seeking retroactive immunity for companies that helped and immunities for officials who did this

3) Violated the constitution by holding people in jails without due process, without habeas corpus etc.

Congress and Senators cleared for final rounds actually supported these policies with laws like the renewing FISA, funding Guantanamou, funding the CIA etc.

Cleared candidates are also not allowed to be challenged on the broken US (In)Justice system: the highest incarceration rate in the world, more than three million people are in custody or on parole (and they cannot vote), a system that employs more people than anywhere else in the world, privatized jails etc. No wonder our economy has been called a service economy.

Ron Paul articulated that the Republican party of today bears no resemblance to the party of Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln for example was against the war with Mexico). But the media gatekeepers did not give Paul much airtime or exposure. Paul is also correct that despite the rhetoric of the cleared candidates in both parties, they are all pro big government, massive debts, and destroying the future of our children for short-term political gains. The differences are minor and relate to ratio of discretionary spending on the military vs. on domestic service industries: one wants it 60:40 and the other 40:60.

Cleared Republican candidates say that governments can't run healthcare or other social programs but this sounds hollow when they say in the same breath that government is to be trusted with our money to run the biggest government beauracracy in the world: the US military. The US with 6% of the world population spends nearly the same amount as all other countries combined on the war machine. With military industries, bases, and other outlets spread in just about every congressional district in the US, it is politically impossible to tackle this issue with logic. Thus when the Soviet Union collapsed of its own weight (a lesson there not understood in the US), that military industrial complex found it convenient to latch onto the offered alternative (offered by Zionists): the threat of "Islamic extremism".

Cleared Democratic candidates can talk all they want about the rich not paying their fair share. But a logical person asks if this rhetoric can mean anything in the real globalized world. Democrats know very well that if they try to tax the rich, all the rich will have to do is relocate to other countries who would welcome them. Some already have dual citizenship (e.g. British, Israeli). In fact, many have already done so thanks to laws they have lobbied for ("free-trade" agreements, globalization which means capital and its owners can move freely between countries whereas workers cannot). Many billionaires like the Zionist Haim Saban (the largest single contributor to the Democratic Party) have already concluded that the US has been squeezed to the max and are already positioning themselves in other countries. Rupert Murdoch is buying European media. Haliburton relocated its headquarters to Dubai (the same Haliburton which bilked taxpayers of billions supposedly to rebuild Iraq and ended up with no completed projects in Iraq). There are literally hundreds of examples. So even as the US dollar continues to decline and the US Middle class gets squeezed more, profits of these companies continue to rise. Worse comes to worse, those cleared elected officials can oblige with new wars/conflicts (look at Haliburtons profits before and after the war on Iraq as an example).

Six months ago, I stated that it is easy to predict who will be allowed to advance for final rounds of the US elections and who will be shunned and marginalized. I stated that the best indicator is to look who the Zionists in Israel and the US like. This is because Israel is not an ordinary country but is rather unique (see http://www.qumsiyeh.org/isisraelunique/ ). Israeli preferences were published months ago and those were more predictive than anything else. Those who got the lowest scores (on "friendliness to Israel" scale) were quickly marginalized by a compliant media (e.g. Ron Paul, Garver, Kucinich). Those with the highest scores were elevated and exalted in a media that is populated heavily by those to whom Israeli interests are number 1 (e.g. Wolf Blitzer used to be a Zionist spokesperson before he was to become a CNN spokesperson). Those in the intermediate levels like Barak Obama have to jump many times before he is taken seriously (he is called a Muslim, his middle name Hussain becomes a weapon to use against him, he is chastised for once accurately saying that no one in the Arab-Israeli conflict suffered more than the Palestinians etc). Of course Obama was attuned to this from the beginning and he started to pander to the Zionist lobby very early on when he ran for the Senate. In the past three years, he was thus supportive of Israeli war crimes in Lebanon in 2006, Israeli collective punishment of the Palestinians (crimes against humanity and war crimes), Israeli extrajudicial executions, Israeli settlement activities, maintenance of US occupation forces in Iraq (although like Sharon with Gaza, he called it redeployment to the periphery), and most recently a strong stance against Iran to serve Israeli interests. Obama even hired the services of Dennis Ross who was a lobbyist for Israel before Bill Clinton hired him and went back to work for the same lobby outfit after leaving government. Rabbi Lerner of Tikkun explained: "Jewish voters are only 2% of the U.S. population, but they are mostly concentrated in the states with the highest number of delegate and electoral votes (New York, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois), they contribute financially to politicians disproportionately to their percentage of the voters, and they are often in key roles as opinion shapers in the communities in which they work or live." Shlomo Shamir wrote in an analysis in Haaretz (in Hebrew not English version) that whether Obama wins or does not win the nomination or the election, that establishment Jews in the US supported him financially as a replacement to the aging black leadership which has always been looked at with suspicion (e.g. Jesse Jackson)

Of course Hillary Clinton is a bit to the right of Obama and so are McCain and Romney. McCain and Clinton from the beginning were the favorite with Zionists in the media who play the game of Democrat vs. Republican. They range from Charles Krauthammer to Thomas Friedman to Mort Zuckerman to Wolf Blitzer to Alan Combs. Giuliani was an interesting phenomenon. He was so wanting to please that Zionist establishment and distinguish himself from other pandering politicians that he chose for advisers, staff, and friends some of the most fascist/racist neoconservative and other Zionist extremists (from Daniel Pipes to Alan Dershowitz). This was a mistake on two fronts: 1) these are people who know nothing about winning elections in the US (they are mostly about a scorched earth policy abroad), 2) these are Natanyahu Likkud Zionists who alienated the other mainstream Zionist forces in the world (Labor Zionists, Kadima Zionists, even religious Zionists etc). Most Zionists were not disappointed when Giuliani dropped out of the race (actually most Republican Zionists in Florida voted for McCain). Giuliani himself emerges a winner, as he will likely be a vice president with the McCain administration. The template for that role will be Dick Cheney's relationship to Bush. Instead of Afghanistan and Iraq, this time it will be Iran and Sudan (or Syria). The actors are altered but the script is the same.

We must face the reality that while some candidates give lip-service to challenging special interest lobbies, this is a government by and for special interests (the Israel-first lobby, the Military Lobby, the Industrial lobby etc). So what can be done beyond voting for the lesser of two evils while ignoring how these people get cleared into the final choices? We must always remember that it is our (the citizens) responsibility. We must take this opportunity to protest and speak out. We all know that real social change occurs from grass root movements. We all know that that is what achieved ending the genocidal war on Vietnam, ending support for Apartheid South Africa, civil rights, women rights, labor rights etc. We all know that freedom is never freely given; that it must be demanded. Even the simplest things would help (like flyering and speaking out at all Candidates appearances in your state). We all know that we must look in the mirror and refuse the task given to us of being consumers rather than citizens. So if you do get your $600 check "for shopping" why not spend it only for activism. Why not join an activist group or build your own. Why not block congressional offices. Why not build the revolution that could transform the US and the rest of the world. After all, the alternative is far too disastrous and is becoming clearer every year.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Fear Factory (Rolling Stone)

www.rollingstone.com

The FBI now has more than 100 task forces devoted exclusively to fighting terrorism. But is the government manufacturing ghosts?

GUY LAWSON

"So, what you wanna do?" the friend asked. "A target?" the wanna-be jihadi replied. "I want some type of city-hall-type stuff, federal courthouses."

It was late November 2006, and twenty-two-year-old Derrick Shareef and his friend Jameel were hanging out in Rockford, Illinois, dreaming about staging a terrorist attack on America. The two men weren't sure what kind of assault they could pull off. All Shareef knew was that he wanted to cause major damage, to wreak vengeance on the country he held responsible for oppressing Muslims worldwide. "Smoke a judge," Shareef said. Maybe firebomb a government building.

But while Shareef harbored violent fantasies, he was hardly a serious threat as a jihadi. An American-born convert to Islam, he had no military training and no weapons. He had less than $100 in the bank. He worked in a dead-end job as a clerk in a video-game store. He didn't own a car. So dire were his circumstances, Shareef had no place to live. Then one day, Jameel, a fellow Muslim, had shown up at EB Games and offered him shelter. Within hours of meeting his new brother, Shareef had moved in with Jameel and his three wives and nine children. Living together, the pair fantasized about targets in Rockford, a Midwestern city of 150,000, with a minuscule Muslim population and the lone claim to fame of being the hometown of Cheap Trick.

The fact that Shareef was a loser with no means of living out his imagination didn't stop his friend from encouraging his delusions of grandeur. On the contrary, Jameel continually pushed Shareef to escalate his plans. "When you wanna plan on doing this?" he asked Shareef, talking about the plot to go after a government building. "Because we have to make specific plans and dates."

"I wanna case one first," Shareef said. There was only one problem: Jameel's car was in the garage getting repaired. "We can case one when you get the car back."

"What about time frame?" Jameel prodded.

"I like the holiday season," Shareef said, displaying an ambivalence unusual in a suicide bomber hellbent on murdering civilians. "Hell, we ain't gotta hit nobody –just blow the place up."

Finding a meaningful target to blow up in Rockford isn't easy. A hardscrabble town in the middle of America, the place is not much more than an intersection of interstates and railway lines, with little of note that might attract the attention of terrorists. So Jameel suggested the main attraction in town: CherryVale Mall, a sad-sack collection of clothing stores and sneaker shops on the outskirts of Rockford. "The mall's good," he told Shareef.

"I swear by Allah, man, I'm down for it too," Shareef said. "I'm down for the cause. I'm down to live for the cause and die for the cause, man."

When Jameel got his car back from the garage, the two men went to case the mall.

"If you ever wanna back out . . . 'cause, you gotta let me know," Jameel said. "I'm checking your heart now."

"I'm down," Shareef said.

"We ain't gonna get caught," Jameel assured him. "Don't worry."

"I'm not worried about getting caught," Shareef replied. "Not alive."

For all his bluster, Shareef was, by any objective measure, a pathetic and hapless jihadist – one of a new breed of domestic terrorists the federal government has paraded before the media since 9/11. The FBI, in a sense, elevated Shareef, working to transform him from a boastful store clerk into a suicidal mall-bomber. Like many other alleged extremists who have been targeted by the authorities, Shareef didn't know that his brand-new friend –the eager co-conspirator drawing him ever further into a terror plot –was actually an informant for the FBI.

As Shareef cursed America and Jews, he was under almost constant surveillance by the Joint Terrorism Task Force for the Northern District of Illinois. Since 9/11, the number of such outfits across the country has tripled. With more than 2,000 FBI agents now assigned to 102 task forces, the JTTFs have effectively become a vast, quasi-secret arm of the federal government, granted sweeping new powers that outstrip those of any other law-enforcement agency. The JTTFs consist not only of local police, FBI special agents and federal investigators from Immigration and the IRS, but covert operatives from the CIA. The task forces have thus effectively destroyed the "wall" that historically existed between law enforcement and intelligence-gathering. Under the Bush administration, the JTTFs have been turned into a domestic spy agency, like Britain's MI5 –one with the powers of arrest.

The expenditure of such massive resources to find would-be terrorists inevitably requires results. Plots must be uncovered. Sleeper cells must be infiltrated. Another attack must be prevented –or, at least, be seen to be prevented. But in backwaters like Rockford, the JTTFs don't have much to do. To find threats to thwart, the task forces have increasingly taken to using paid informants to cajole and inveigle targets like Shareef into pursuing their harebrained schemes. In the affidavit sworn by an FBI special agent in support of Shareef's indictment, the co-conspirator who called himself Jameel is known only as "CS" (Cooperating Source). In fact, CS was William Chrisman, a former crack dealer with a conviction for attempted robbery who was paid $8,500 by the JTTF and dispatched specifically to set up Shareef. Like other informants in terrorism cases, Chrisman had been "tasked" by federal agents to indulge and escalate Shareef's fantasies – while carefully ensuring that Shareef incriminated himself.

"The hope is that they will nab an actual terrorist or prevent a putative jihadi from becoming one," says David Cole, a law professor at Georgetown University and co-author of Less Safe, Less Free, a new book detailing the ways 9/11 has transformed domestic law enforcement. "It makes sense in general –but when you're pressing people to undertake conduct they would have never undertaken without an informant pushing them along, there is a real question if you're creating crime, not preventing crime."

In Rockford, "Jameel" repeatedly urged Shareef to dream up gory details of the havoc they would cause at the mall. Chrisman had received a call, he told Shareef, from a man he called "Cap" –a contact willing to sell them weapons. They could buy "pineapples" –code for hand grenades –from Cap for fifty bucks each. Cap, of course, was an undercover agent. Eleven "pineapples" were available, Chrisman said. Walking around the mall –the Dippin' Dots, the Panda Express –Shareef suggested they toss the "pineapples" in garbage cans to create shrapnel. They would fast for three days beforehand. They would shave their bodies. They would meditate and pray.

"Don't forget, man, we should get the grenades sometime next week," Chrisman said. "So you should try to get as much flous [money] as you can get."

"I got a little change in the bank," Shareef said.

"All you need is, like, $100. That's two grenades."

But the resourceless Shareef couldn't even raise that much money. So with the JTTF determined to push the "plot" forward, Chrisman announced that Cap had agreed to exchange the grenades for some used stereo speakers Shareef owned. On the following Saturday, as snow blanketed Rockford, Chrisman and Shareef engaged in the ritual of suicide bombers, recording video statements of each other reciting their last wills and testaments. The JTTF's affidavit doesn't reveal whose idea it was to stare into the camera and swear vengeance against America, but the prejudicial impact it would have on a jury was huge.

"My name is Talib Abu Salam Ibn Shareef," Shareef said, using his self-created nom de guerre. "I am from America, and this tape is to let you guys know, who disbelieve in Allah, to let the enemies of Islam know, and to let the Muslims alike know that the time for jihad is now."

The next Wednesday, the two men met with Cap in a parking lot under the gaze of agents from the JTTF. As Shareef swapped the used speakers for four nonfunctioning grenades and a 9mm handgun with neutered ammunition, he was swarmed by law enforcement. News of the bust traveled the world over. "It had all the makings of a holiday bloodbath," Fox News breathlessly reported. Shareef was charged with the ultimate crime in the so-called War on Terror: attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

The arrest of Shareef was yet another JTTF success, with the homeland again saved from a savage attack, this time from a man the government branded a "lone wolf."

Or it was an illusion, a fictional plot developed in a self-fulfilling and self-serving cycle of chasing ghosts.

For law enforcement, fear and the politics of fear have entwined to create a radical new paradigm. Even the term "law enforcement" has been rendered quaint by the Bush administration. These days, the term of art is "lawfare" –the confluence of police work and military tactics. With Joint Terrorism Task Forces set up across the country to coordinate the work of federal agencies and local cops, the FBI now devotes nearly two-thirds of its resources –some $4 billion –to waging war on terrorism. The approach today is not the traditional police work of investigating actual crimes but the far more slippery goal of preventing terrorist attacks before they occur.

To hear the Bush administration tell it, the JTTFs have been an unqualified success. The task forces have been credited with uncovering and busting up homegrown terrorist cells in Oregon, Seattle, Detroit, Miami, Buffalo and New Jersey. All told, the Feds have accused 619 people of "terrorist activity" since 9/11 –a record that the FBI insists has made America safer. In 2005 alone, more than 10 million terror inquiries were checked against the JTTF's Investigative Data Warehouse, a central repository for "terrorism-related documents." Such numbers create the sense that America is indeed under siege –and that the government is on top of the threat. "These extremists are self-recruited, self-trained and self-executing," FBI Director Robert Mueller declared in 2006. "These homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaeda, if not more so."

But a closer inspection of the cases brought by JTTFs reveals that most of the prosecutions had one thing in common: The defendants posed little if any demonstrable threat to anyone or anything. According to a study by the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law, only ten percent of the 619 "terrorist" cases brought by the federal government have resulted in convictions on "terrorism-related" charges –a category so broad as to be meaningless. In the past year, none of the convictions involved jihadist terror plots targeting America. "The government releases selective figures," says Karen Greenberg, director of the center. "They have never even defined 'terrorism.' They keep us in the dark over statistics."

Indeed, Shareef is only one of many cases where the JTTFs have employed dubious means to reach even more dubious ends. In Buffalo, the FBI spent eighteen months tracking the "Lackawanna Six" –a half-dozen men from the city's large Muslim population who had been recruited by an Al Qaeda operative in early 2001 to undergo training in Afghanistan. Only two lasted the six-week course; the rest pretended to be hurt or left early. Despite extensive surveillance, the FBI found no evidence that the men ever discussed, let alone planned, an attack –but that didn't stop federal agents from arresting the suspects with great fanfare and accusing them of operating an "Al Qaeda-trained terrorist cell on American soil." Fearing they would be designated as "enemy combatants" and disappeared into the legal void created by the Patriot Act, all six pleaded guilty to aiding Al Qaeda and were sentenced to at least seven years in prison.

In other cases, the use of informants has led the government to flirt with outright entrapment. In Brooklyn, a Guyanese immigrant and former cargo handler named Russell Defreitas was arrested last spring for plotting to blow up fuel tanks at JFK International Airport. In fact, before he encountered the might of the JTTF, Defreitas was a vagrant who sold incense on the streets of Queens and spent his spare time checking pay phones for quarters. He had no hope of instigating a terrorist plot of the magnitude of the alleged attack on JFK –until he received the help of a federal informant known only as "Source," a convicted drug dealer who was cooperating with federal agents to get his sentence reduced. Backed by the JTTF, Defreitas suddenly obtained the means to travel to the Caribbean, conduct Google Earth searches of JFK's grounds and build a complex, multifaceted, international terror conspiracy –albeit one that was impossible to actually pull off. After Defreitas was arrested, U.S. Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf called it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."

Using informants to gin up terrorist conspiracies is a radical departure from the way the FBI has traditionally used cooperating sources against organized crime or drug dealers, where a pattern of crime is well established before the investigation begins. Now, in new-age terror cases, the JTTFs simply want to establish that suspects are predisposed to be terrorists –even if they are completely unable or ill-equipped to act on that predisposition. High-tech video and audio evidence, coupled with anti-terror hysteria, has made it effectively impossible for suspects to use the legal defense of entrapment. The result in many cases has been guilty pleas –and no scrutiny of government conduct.

In most cases, because no trial is ever held, few details emerge beyond the spare and slanted descriptions in the indictments. When facts do come to light during a trial, they cast doubt on the seriousness of the underlying case. The "Albany Pizza" case provides a stark example. Known as a "sting case," the investigation began in June 2003 when U.S. soldiers raided an "enemy camp" in Iraq and seized a notebook containing the name of an imam in Albany – one Yassin Aref. To snare Aref, the JTTF dispatched a Pakistani immigrant named Shahed "Malik" Hussain, who was facing years in prison for a driver's-license scam. Instead of approaching Aref directly, federal agents sent Malik to befriend Mohammed Hossain, a Bangladeshi immigrant who went to the same mosque as Aref. Hossain, an American citizen who ran a place called Little Italy Pizzeria in Albany, had no connections whatsoever to terrorism or any form of radical Islam. After the attacks on 9/11, he had been quoted in the local paper saying, "I am proud to be an American." But enticed by Malik, Hossain soon found himself caught up in a government-concocted terror plot. Posing as an arms dealer, Malik told Hossain that a surface-to-air missile was needed for an attack on a Pakistani diplomat in New York. He offered Hossain $5,000 in cash to help him launder $50,000 –a deal Hossain claims he never properly grasped. According to Muslim tradition, a witness is needed for significant financial transactions. Thus, the JTTF reached out for Hossain's imam and the true target of the sting –Aref.

At trial, the judge brushed aside questions about why the government was after Aref in the first place. "The FBI had certain suspicions, good and valid suspicions, for looking into Mr. Aref," he told the jury. "But why they did that is not to be any concern of yours." For their role in a conspiracy confected entirely by the FBI, both Aref and Hossain were convicted of attempting to provide material support to terrorists and sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison.

"I am just a pizza man," the bewildered Hossain said at his sentencing. "I make good pizza."

Despite the rapid and widespread proliferation of JTTFs, very little has been reported about what goes on inside the War on Terror's domestic front. The FBI building that houses the JTTF for the Northern District of Illinois has been moved from the middle of the city to a more spacious, fortresslike building on the industrial west side of Chicago, a place out of the city's Loop, literally and figuratively. The glass tower is surrounded by a tall metal fence, and layers upon layers of security inside and out add to the sense of siege. When Special Agent Robert Holley, who supervises the JTTF's Squad Counterterrorism 1, offers to escort me to his office on the eighth floor, we are stopped by his superior before we even reach the hallway. The entire floor, the supervisor declares, is considered secure – there are classified documents on desks –and therefore off-limits to outsiders.

Holley, an ex-military type who is built like a bullet, rolls his eyes but complies. There is no problem finding another room for a meeting. There are acres of empty offices and cubicles in the eerily futuristic building, the premises far larger than current requirements dictate but ready for expansion should the need arise with another terrorist attack.

Counterterrorism squads like the one overseen by Holley are assigned to monitor distant "Areas of Responsibility" –the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq. The six CT squads in Chicago are also divided into two categories: Five "substantive" groups like Holley's, which gather intelligence and conduct long-term investigations of specific individuals, and another squad that is charged with chasing down leads and determining the "threat profile" of suspects to decide if an investigation is merited. Holley's squad currently has some seventy-five open investigations – he won't give the precise number –in nearly every country under his purview. "A lot of our successes you don't see," he says. "We don't measure our success by the number of prosecutions."

When I ask what kinds of cases his CT squad has made, Holley cites the example of a local cab driver who came up on the JTTF's radar some time back –he won't say how or why. The man was East African, Holley says, a suspected Islamic extremist "connected to known bad guys overseas." After being interviewed by the JTTF, the cabbie decided to leave the country. Nothing criminal had occurred, and no charges were laid. The cab driver had simply come to the attention of the JTTF, and that in itself was enough to dispose of the matter.

"Can we consider that a success because we didn't put him in jail?" Holley asks. "Absolutely. This guy is no longer here. He is not a threat to one person in the United States."

"Was he ever a threat?" I ask.

"We opened up an investigation."

"But isn't that a circular argument?"

"Was he a bomb-thrower?" Holley concedes. "Probably not. Did he want to go into a mall and attack? No."

The next morning, I meet with three members of the Field Intelligence Group. The FIGs are designed to create a centralized approach to intelligence, both domestic and foreign. In northern Illinois, the group analyzes information from around the world, as well as that supplied courtesy of Operation Virtual Shield, the surveillance initiative designed to make Chicago one of the most-watched cities in the world. Thousands of cameras deployed on street corners, train platforms and buses now provide a nearly comprehensive visual record of all public movement in Chicago.

The unexceptional-seeming trio from the FIG dodge most of my questions on the grounds of national security. Mike Delejewski, a soft-spoken intelligence analyst, says that every call that comes into the JTTF is passed along to the FIG, which runs down every lead, no matter how improbable. Delejewski mentions a call received regarding the Sears Tower and three suspicious-looking men seen in the vicinity. That was all the report said. The FIG and CT squads responded. The men turned out to be Mexican tourists.

"We get a lot of those calls," Delejewski says with a laugh.

Many of the callers who contact the JTTF are intentionally misleading, hoping to take revenge against a boyfriend, neighbor or co-worker. Such hoaxes are so routine, in fact, that the JTTF's public-relations officer keeps a separate file stuffed with press reports of invented pipe bombs and unattended suitcases and lunch trucks packed with explosives.

None of the three analysts in the FIG have Arabic-language skills or extensive experience in the countries they are supposed to monitor. To keep informed, they read newspapers and intelligence reports. They then issue bulletins to police departments about perceived threats.

"What is the biggest threat?" I ask.

There is a long pause.

"I think it's very dangerous if we start to identify that," an analyst named Julie Irvine says.

"The enemy is listening," Assistant Special Agent in Charge Gregory Fowler adds later. "I drill that into my people's heads every day. Foreign-intelligence agencies and terrorists are listening. The FBI is on a war footing."

When I express skepticism at the nature of the cases being brought by the JTTF, and the wild-goose chases that seem to occupy its time, Fowler says people don't understand the "threat stream" facing the nation. There are two reasons, he insists, that cases brought by the JTTF end up being discounted. First, defense attorneys manipulate the public to create the impression that the accused are hapless –but since very few cases actually go to trial, this explanation is unlikely at best. Second, Fowler says, the FBI itself minimizes threats to prevent panic. As an example, he cites the case of "shoe bomber" Richard Reid, who pleaded guilty to terror-related charges. Reid, Fowler insists, was a much greater danger to America than is commonly appreciated –a refrain that requires the word of the JTTF be taken on faith.

"The public is never going to see the evidence we have," Fowler says. "We don't want to reveal our hand or tip our sources. You cannot judge the nature of the terrorist threat to the United States based on the public record."

"But with such strictures," I ask, "how does a citizen become informed about the threat?"

"I have access to the information," Fowler says. "I have a lot of faith in the judgment of the common citizen. A lot of people understand the nature of the threat."

To get a perspective on how the War on Terror is being waged by cops on the street, I meet with two local police officers assigned to the JTTF. Sgt. Paul DeRosa of the Chicago Police Department and Master Sgt. Carl Gutierrez of the Illinois State Police act as liaison officers for their respective forces. Both are on call 24/7 for 365 days of the year. Both are regularly summoned at three in the morning to investigate potential terrorist activity in Chicago.

"This weekend I had two calls," Gutierrez says.

When I ask what the calls were about, all Gutierrez will say is that they involved "suspicious incidents" which "could possibly have a terrorist nexus." An example: People traveling on a train see someone taking photographs and acting suspiciously, and phone the police. "You have to understand we take those sort of calls very seriously," Gutierrez says. "We have to. If we don't, and something happens, and it comes back to us and lives are lost, who's to blame?"

To illustrate the kinds of cases the JTTF generates, Sgt. DeRosa cites an incident from three years ago. Two Middle Eastern men boarded a bus on Lake Shore Drive. They were bearded, dressed in traditional Arabic garb and sitting next to each other. As they rode the bus, one man was clicking a counter – the kind used at nightclubs to keep track of the crowd size. A passenger on the bus called 911.

"A report was made, and our CT squad was notified," DeRosa says. "We went and got the film from that bus. We reviewed it. We could see them clicking. We ask ourselves, 'Are they clicking passengers? Are they clicking when they go past buildings? Are they clicking on how many cars?' We put out a 'Bolo' –Be on the Lookout. We found where they got on the bus, and we did a stakeout. Seven or eight cars set up on the bus stop. On the third day, we spotted the guy. We talked to him." No one was arrested. There was no crime alleged. But DeRosa says proudly that the JTTF succeeded in finding the Man With the Clicker.

"Why was the man clicking?" I ask.

"They had to say a Muslim prayer 50,000 times," DeRosa says. "At first, we thought that was nonsense. Since then we've had a few of these incidents. Are these guys terrorists? Probably not. But in three days, they were identified and interviewed by the power of the JTTF – city and state police, FBI, Secret Service. Does that send a message to their community?"

Chicago has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country –some 400,000, DeRosa estimates. "Experts say that between five and ten percent of Muslims are extremists. So you take it down to one percent. What's one percent of 400,000? Forty thousand? Technically there could be 40,000 –"

"You mean 4,000," I say.

DeRosa pauses. "Right," he says. "Four thousand." He forges on. "Most people who come to America who are Middle Eastern come for a good reason. But there's still a percentage that may be here that don't like us. They are with the extremists."

Gutierrez offers another instance of the JTTF at work. A man of apparent Middle Eastern background came into a Chicago police station and said he worked for the Department of Defense and he had top-secret documents in his truck, which had been stolen. He also said his roommate was a terrorist. The man appeared to be a kook. But an allegation had been made. The JTTF was contacted. Gutierrez was called out, and he interviewed the subject. He soon verified that the man was, in fact, nuts. But the matter didn't end there.

"We interviewed the roommate," Gutierrez says. "He was an Egyptian. We ran his name. He was here illegally. ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] was there within two hours. I've never seen ICE react the way they did. They came out and took physical custody of the guy. They kept him until his court hearing, and he was sent overseas."

"Was there any evidence or suggestion that the man was actually a terrorist?" I ask.

"You never know," DeRosa says.

"Have you ever found a terrorist cell?" I ask.

"That's kind of a vague question," Gutierrez says. "There are certain things we can't talk about, because it leads to more."

"Do I believe there's a cell in Chicago?" DeRosa asks. "I bet you there is. Do I have any direct physical knowledge? No. But I think there is one, and that's why we're here."

The two officers tell me about a close call at the Taste of Chicago food festival last year. Millions attend the annual street feast, with Chicago-style sausage and pizza and tamales on sale in booths along the lakefront. As with all major public events, the JTTF helped plan the security profile. A JHAT –a Joint Hazardous Assessment Team –set up at the festival, dotting the area with devices that detect signs of a chemical or biological or radiological attack. Suddenly, one of the devices went off: There was a radiological hit on one of the sniffers near a row of porta-potties. For an hour, the JHAT frantically tried to determine if Chicago had been struck by a "dirty bomb" –a weapon that spreads lethal radioactive material mixed with conventional explosives. Finally, after an anxious hour, the hit was traced to a particular outhouse –and the cause of the positive alert was determined.

"Someone who had chemotherapy had just done a poop," DeRosa says.

There is considerable skepticism in local police departments in northern Illinois about the nature and extent of the threat posed by terrorism. There are 415 local law-enforcement agencies in the district, many of which remain unconvinced that the threat is as dire as the JTTF maintains. Many departments refuse to allocate even one or two officers to spend four hours on basic terror training. Rather than consider the idea that the cops closest to the ground might have a better perspective on their communities, the JTTF addressed the problem by forming a TLOC –Terrorism Liaison Officer's Committee. The point is to merchandise the menace of terrorism to the police.

"It's a matter of marketing strategy," says Mark Lundgren, a special agent who oversees the TLOC. "These terrorism acts are trending toward the homegrown, self-activated, self-radicalized – the sort of thing that could literally pop up in your back yard. The typical things we would use to detect terrorism don't work, because these people are off the charts, so to speak. Nine times out of ten, for the next decade, it's going to be the local cop who stops the terror attacks."

Lundgren, who resembles a young Gary Busey, fairly glistens with certainty about the value of his work. "What are you trying to sell to the local police departments?" I ask.

"Awareness. Motivation," he says. "It's a very hard sell. You walk into a chief of police in a crime-ridden district. The first thing he's going to tell you is, 'The guys in this area are killing people. The guys you're telling me about –it's not make-believe, I understand that – but they haven't killed anyone lately in my district.' "

"Or ever," I say.

"Exactly."

When Derrick Shareef was arrested by the JTTF, the police chief in Rockford complained that his force had been told very little about the investigation. The city has one of the highest murder rates in the state, as well as raging drug and juvenile delinquency woes. Dominic Iasparro is a senior investigator who is working the case of an addict found dead on the outskirts of town. He tells me he has no real leads. There is a small FBI outpost in Rockford, with ten or so agents, but it provides no assistance on a homicide. Local police have scant interaction with the JTTF, and Iasparro doesn't exactly see terrorism as a top priority in northern Illinois. "We're not a big enough target," he says.

A thirty-five-year veteran, Iasparro follows JTTF bulletins and updates online, and he doesn't doubt the good intentions of the agents involved in the task force. But he also understands that the pressure on the federal government to avoid another attack is enormous. To a local cop like Iasparro, the amount of resources the government devotes to the effort is staggering.

"Do you think the JTTF is jumping at ghosts?" I ask.

He shakes his head in wonder. "I have never seen anything like it in my career."

The attitude of local cops frustrates members of the TLOC. They want to train cops to watch out for "suspicious terroristlike behavior," without revealing what such behavior might look like. "We're teaching police how to approach a suspicious person in a public place," Lundgren tells me. "How to probe that person. How to look at the body language they exhibit, how they answer questions, to determine if they are a threat or not – in a way that doesn't leave that person feeling they've been ill-treated. There are detractors out there that think our cases are without merit. That's a philosophical question that's easy to ask until you're a body part.

"Without getting too philosophical, remember the whole Dick Cheney one percent solution," Lundgren continues. "If there is a one percent chance that a device can be constructed that will kill thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of people, then we have to treat our response as if there were a 100 percent chance. That's a thing that gets lost in the view of the public when they see the intelligence-gathering of law enforcement. They get concerned about their civil liberties and the Constitution because of the way things are portrayed in the media."

In late November, Derrick Shareef pleaded guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Because of the video evidence against him, Shareef couldn't use a legal defense of entrapment. But in court, he said he had been "coerced into doing things and trapped into doing things." In Rockford, not long before his guilty plea, there was a "For Sale" sign on the small house where Shareef once lived. The house was empty, the furniture gone. Members of the JTTF told me that they wished they could reveal the rest of the story, to prove that Shareef was a true bad guy. According to the indictment of another accused terrorist, Hassan Abu-Jihaad, Shareef was involved in a larger conspiracy to attack a military base in San Diego. In pretrial proceedings, however, it emerged that Abu-Jihaad was egged on by none other than William "Jameel" Chrisman, the same informant who set up Shareef. Abu-Jihaad not only refused to participate in the alleged plot but on surveillance tapes can be heard dismissing Shareef as an idiot and a liar. "I ain't no jihadi," Abu-Jihaad told Jameel.

While real threats undoubtedly exist, what the Bush administration promotes as a nationwide pattern of terrorist activities is largely the result of its own policies in the age of lawfare. Last May, the FBI arrested the "Fort Dix Six," charging the men with conspiring to attack the New Jersey military base. The supposed terror cell was discovered when a clerk at Circuit City was asked to transfer to DVD a video of the men allegedly training for jihad in the Pocono Mountains and shouting, "Allahu Akbar!" [God is great!] As in other cases, the FBI itself proved to be the mastermind behind the plot. The men –who included three roofers, a taxi driver and a former delivery boy for Super Mario's Pizza – had little money and no connections to real extremists. All were in their twenties and spent their weekends playing paintball. Under the guidance of two informants for the JTTF, the men planned an assault on Fort Dix using rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s –none of which actually existed.

There are signs, however, that judges and jurors are getting fed up with such concocted "threats." In December, the prosecution of the "Liberty City Seven" ended in one acquittal and a hung jury for the rest of the accused. The supposed cell was accused of preparing a "full ground war" against America by bringing down the Sears Tower and other buildings. At trial, however, it emerged that the men had no operational abilities, that the plots were dreamed up at the exhortation of two paid FBI informants while smoking dope and that the group had been provided its camera, military boots and warehouse by the JTTF.

Despite 15,000 surveillance recordings of the men, including one in which they swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden, the jury refused to convict. "This was all written, produced, directed, choreographed and stage-designed by the United States government," Albert Levin, an attorney for one of the accused, said in his closing argument.

Undeterred, the government is taking six of the men back to court. The retrial was scheduled to begin on January 22nd.