Friday, June 30, 2006

Rumblings of Discontent: DOE's Classification Oversight Gets C+

Jenna Orkin

A few hours ago, the Government Accountability Office came out with a report entitled "Managing Sensitive Information: Actions Needed to Ensure Recent Changes in DOE Oversight Do Not Weaken an Effective Classification System." (The software would not accept a more elegant link to a PDF file.)

In these trying times of terrorism or, at any rate, terrorismterror, the GAO wanted to ensure that government agencies were classifying documents properly and that the offices reviewing the classification process were reviewing it properly. Is that clear? Anyway, the GAO's concern was evenhanded. Their report warns of the danger not only of letting a classified document slip into the welcoming arms of Al Qaeda, (shudder) but also of the risk cited by that bastion of wisdom, the 9/11 Commission, that overclassification could stymie the sharing of information between agencies.

You may be surprised to learn that the Department of Energy's been getting lax about classification oversight. Between 2000 and 2005, the DOE's Office of Classification produced a robust 34 reports reviewing the classification process. Mistakes were found in a mere 20 documents of [over] 12,000 that they reviewed, a rate of less than one sixth of 1%. Most of the misclassified documents remained classified, just not at the appropriate level. The GAO found the DOE to be among the best agencies at classification in the federal government. They could have just asked the Sierra Club.

But problems began in October 2005 when, in the interest of consolidation, DOE shifted responsibility for oversight from the Office of Classification to the Office of Security Evaluation which is also within the Office of Security and Safety Performance Assurance and is primarily responsible for the oversight of physical security at DOE sites containing nuclear materials (ie: Category 1 sites.) (p. 12)

After the shift and until February 2006, there was no review of classification; nada. Since then, there have been a measly two reviews.

The GAO recommends that the Secretary of Energy:

1) ensure that the classified information oversight program provides oversight to a similar number of sites as it had done prior to October 2005 and a similar depth of analysis.

2) strengthen the review of classified documents by applying consistent selection procedures when identifying documents of review.

3) disclose the selection procedures used for document review in future classification inspection reports.

The DOE says it's doing all that. The procedures for conducting oversight are still evolving, including the number of sites to be reviewed. Eight more reviews are in the works. If they're completed by the end of the year, DOE will be back on track reviewing its own classification process and will be able to reclaim its status as model paranoid to the rest of the federal government.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Urgent Message From Mike Ruppert

Between the hours of 7:30 P.M. Sunday, June 25 and 7:30 A.M., Monday, June 26, the FTW offices were burglarized. Four interior doors were smashed with a sledgehammer. All seven FTW computers were transported to a central location in the building. Their covers were removed and they were also smashed with a sledgehammer. No other significant property was taken and there was no other damage to any other fixtures or furnishings.

An active police investigation is underway with a named suspect. I do not believe that this incident was the work of the U.S. government. I do believe that this is the work of an organized meth ring that I prevented from infiltrating my business. As Dmitri Orlov has noted in Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century, when societies collapse, organized crime becomes much more assertive. As beautiful as Southern Oregon is and as happy as I am to be here, the challenges that will be facing all of us as Peak Oil hits are making themselves known.

We have ordered new computers and should be able to retrieve or restore most of our data. However more than one hard-drive will require expensive high- tech recovery processes. In all probability FTW will not be able to upload to our website for one week from today. When we come back online I will have a more complete story with photographs. Please do not send emails. We cannot read them.

Michael C. Ruppert

Mike is asking that this message be distributed widely until he can get back online.


I have just received a phonecall from Mike Ruppert. The FTW offices have been burglarized, the doors smashed with sledgehammers and every computer broken. Mike's fine (thank God!!!) and I believe we know who did it but FTW is non-operational at this moment. However, the blog is up and running.

Thank you for you patience.

Jenna Orkin

Saturday, June 24, 2006

WTC Illnesses Vs. Bird Flu in the Press: A Study in Contrasts

Jenna Orkin

Environmental disasters are a bore. No explosions. Nobody bleeding to death before your eyes. Just a dubious-looking landscape, a bunch of data and some talking heads.

Until the bodies start falling. Then even the mainstream press sit up and take notice.

And that's where we are five years after the environmental disaster of 9/11 (whose vestiges linger, however, in contaminated buildings downtown.) To date, fifty-seven workers have died of illnesses related to their exposure to toxic pollutants at Ground Zero. Thousands more are sick as are some residents, office workers and students from the surrounding community. And so a few weeks ago the issue graduated from the Metro Section to page 1 of the New York Times.

It's been a one step forward, two steps back sort of battle. At one point the White House rescinded $125 million that had been allocated for health coverage. (It has since been restored.) And in spite of the glaring statistics, the premature illnesses and deaths, Ground Zero workers who have sought Worker's Compensation have routinely been told that their illnesses were not World Trade Center-related. The particles of glass, silica and other toxic substances found in their lungs were presumed innocent of WTC association until proven guilty by.... what? A stamp reading "Certified WTC Origin?" (Let's not get started on the quixotic quest, which was ultimately and ignominiously abandoned, for a WTC 'signature' or 'fingerprint.') Other workers, whose symptoms did not manifest themselves for several years, were told that the Statute of Limitations had run out.

So last Saturday the NYS AFL-CIO and NYC Central Labor Council along with DC 37 and other unions as well as Congresspersons Nadler, Maloney, Rangel and Fossella, the Sierra Club, NY Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, NY Environmental Law and Justice Project and 9/11 Environmental Action held a press conference demanding healthcare for all those affected. With the unions weighing in, this movement has now got legs like a centipede.

We always knew it would be this way. Those of us who warned from the beginning about returning downtown and who lobbied for representative testing and cleanup (routine EPA protocol prior to 9/11) knew it would be years before our dire prognostications would prove correct and that by then it would be too late for many victims.

But since the death of Police Officer James Zadroga at the age of 34, the first death officially linked to WTC exposure, the press have jumped on this issue, as have more politicians, with outrage and calls to arms. (Note: This is a simplified sketch of the last five years. Some press outlets have fought with us from the beginning. But, however tragic it is to say it, the way has been smoothed by the deaths of Ground Zero heroes.)

Why now, when prevention would have been so much more effective?

Because prevention isn't as sexy as death. Also there is the attitude of the mainstream press, one of whose members once explained: Until you have this sort of proof, to give air-time to views that deviate from the party line is 'irresponsible.' As in the old E.F. Hutton commercial, when the suits talk, people listen.

This is not the forum in which to point out the compelling evidence we in the alternative camp offered, starting in 2001, that all was not well in the state of Lower Manhattan. The point of this article is: The sort of conjecture that the above-cited reporter was disparaging is the lifeblood of the current bird flu hysteria.

According to a November, 2005 article by Michael Kane in From the Wilderness, 67 deaths had occurred as a result of bird flu in people, many of whose immune systems were compromised and who lived in countries with severely constrained health services. However the H5N1 virus which causes it had been 'isolated' only via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which, according to its inventor, Kary Mullis, cannot properly be used to isolate a virus. The correct method would be purification which has yet to take place.

Kane attributes the terror-of-the-week focus on bird flu to the potential of Donald Rumsfeld & Co. to profit. They'll certainly make out like bandits if the country buys Homeland Security Secretary Michael Levitt's blanket assurance, “If it isn‘t the current H5N1 virus that leads to an influenza pandemic, at some point in our nation‘s future another virus will.”

How long will it be before flu symptoms are added to the list of signs the NYC Transit Authority warns us to be on the lookout for? (In case you haven't been on the NYC subway system recently, when the doors close at each station, we get a recorded announcement to report 'suspicious packages' to the police or a transit system employee.) And what would those symptoms include? Fatigue? At any given moment half the train is asleep anyway.

Here's another possible incentive for the emphasis on bird flu when WTC-related illness is, so far, approximately as lethal and was initially preventable: Where does bird flu come from? China. Like Sars. Like all that gross pollution the New York Times spread across its front page a few weeks ago. (See "Leave us Alone; China Pollutes Too" posted on this blog June 11.)

I had a professor once who said, "The reason the devil gets as far as he does in the world is that there's a little bit of truth to what he says."

He could have gone further: The devil doesn't need to lie at all. All he needs to do is tell half the story.

And with the environmental disaster of 9/11, that's literally what he did. Local and state hearings on the issue caved to the government agencies' stipulation that if they couldn't testify first, they wouldn't come at all. I never understood what would be so terrible about that. But everyone understood why the agencies demanded it. By lunchtime, most of the press had fled to file their stories. In the afternoon, experts for the opposing view as well as we, the unwashed masses, testified to a room empty of those in power but for the lone City Council- or State Assemblyman who had called for the hearing and who would nod sympathetically while taking calls on his cellphone. (Note: The devil in this image is not the State Assembly or City Council per se both of which host some admirable members; it is the system.)

But bird flu! Ahhh..... A terror concocted in the laboratory of some mad genius-scientist that combines the august history of the 1918 flu with tabloid-like horrors - courtesy, Alfred Hitchcock - of lethal foreign agents masquerading as innocent creatures and soaring above our helpless border controls.

Just as the people get the government they deserve (or at least they did back when elections were honest) they get the press they deserve. The nation's watchdogs have been goaded with sticks and gorged with carrots to become lapdogs - strike that - pussycats. But the truth will out, like a weed. Long live the internet. Long enough for the majority to catch on.

Note: Jenna Orkin represents neighborhoods beyond Lower Manhattan in a class action lawsuit against the EPA.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Get the National Energy Policy Development Group Records Released

Mike Ruppert

Tom Whipple of Falls Church News Press is formidable and brilliant. I have noted previously that he is a retired 20+ year CIA intelligence analyst. He must have been one of their best and most prized for he does what great intelligence analysts do: Before getting down to work, he finds the right questions to ask. That way he is able to extract meaning out of mountains of stimuli.

In his series of articles on Peak Oil, Tom has asked some of the most important questions on the subject: Exactly how much energy is left? Where is it? And what kind is it?

Of course, in Crossing the Rubicon I detailed how I believed that ascertaining that information was exactly the purpose of Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group. Remember them? They’re the guys who fought all the way to the Supreme Court twice to keep the records of what they did secret. It was unconstitutional but they did it. I have a whole chapter on it.

Since these are the vital questions, let's not waste time and money creating a whole new global inventory. Let's just do what it takes to get the NEPDG Records released. The work’s already been done.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

"Leave Us Alone; China Pollutes Too"

Jenna Orkin

When my son was twelve, he wanted to be a magician. As he underwent his sorcerer's apprenticeship, I picked up some tips. Rule number one was, when you're doing your sleight of hand, make sure the audience is looking somewhere else.

So it is with this morning's front page article in the New York Times about the pollution resulting from burning coal in China.

I'm not saying it's not a Godawful mess over there or that the mess won't spread around the globe. But when, as the article asserts about 9/10 of the way in, "the average American still consumes more energy and is responsible for the release of 10 times as much carbon dioxide as the average Chinese," isn't our focus on China a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

Not to sound like a fortune cookie, Chinese or otherwise, but in long articles, it pays to check out the last line:

"China is using subsidies to make its energy even cheaper, a strategy that is not unfamiliar to Americans, said Kenneth Lieberthal, a China specialist at the University of Michigan. 'They have done in many ways,' he said, 'what we have done.'"

Which brings to mind the last scene of Washington Square (or was it The Heiress?) in which the heiress sits unmoved upstairs while the suitor who once rejected her bangs on the door begging to be let in.

"How can you be so cruel?" her companion says.

She replies, "I have learned from masters."

China has learned from a master which is the United States. We showed the rest of the world the 'good life' and now we act affronted that they're going after it.

China's pollution is horrendous, as the many protests around the country attest. The point is, why are we focussing so much attention on that relative to what's in our own back yard?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dixie Chicks for President


Maybe three times in the last eight and half years I have indulged myself to write something just for fun, just to remind myself that getting light is sometimes the best way to respond to a heavy world.

The Dixie Chicks may not save the world. The Dixie Chicks may not stop the war. But the Dixie Chicks have certainly saved my spirits and sense of humor. Long before it became fashionable to dislike the Bush Administration, especially for Southerners from Texas, these magnificent ladies stood up and said “Bullshit!” – in so many words.

They took their lumps, they stood their ground, they took the long way around and they’re not ready to make nice. Their new CD “Taking The Long Way” has debuted at No. 1, selling 526,000 copies in its first week.

Whether they know it or not, their success is a success for all of us who have fought this madness for the last five years. We have taken our own lumps; some hard ones, some nasty ones, and although we haven’t found our own drink of affirming water in the long, arid desert yet, The Dixie Chicks are taking a drink for all of us.

I bought the CD myself and, aside from its monumental symbolic value, it just happens to be really good music. I have been privileged to know as friends, meet or interact with great musicians from Benmont Tench (keyboards for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Alanis Morisette, Don Henley and everybody else), to David Lindley (Jackson Browne & more), to David Baerwald (songwriter for Sheryl Crow, composer, singer), to Tom Waits (who bought a case of Truth and Lies of 9/11). Those who know me well, know that two decades ago I had a band and was briefly a working singer in the 1980s.

“Taking the Long Way is just brilliant, beautiful, toe-tapping, happy-thigh-slapping, tear jerking, emotionally satisfying music. That may be a biased opinion on my part but – as opposed to so much else in this day and age – emotions and music connect to an important life reality here. The music (certainly not all political) is easier to trust because the Chicks have earned emotional credibility with me and all music is ultimately about human emotion. Because I trust them, I believe their music.

I hope these ladies break every record in the book. I hope they outsell the Beatles. If that’s the best Americans can do for a “revolution” now then let it scream from the highest hills that we, probably well more than half of the American people, are sick and tired of lies, death, and the empty-soulness of our nation. Let’s reach out to the rest of the frightened and imperiled people on this planet and show them something. Seeing this CD sell 10 million copies in this country in six months could change the harmonics of the nation and maybe the planet itself.

I’m going out to buy five more now.

Dixie Chicks for President!

Mike Ruppert (yeah, it’s me)