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How’s that Name-Change Working Out?

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Back in 2007, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced Senate Bill S 2398, the Stop Outsourcing Security Act. It collected a single co-sponsor, Senator Hillary Clinton.

The crux of the bill:

The use of private security contractors for mission critical functions undermines the mission, jeopardizes the safety of American troops conducting military operations in Iraq and other combat zones, and should be phased out.

It went nowhere.

Back in the heat of the presidential campaign, in February 2008, Senator Clinton said that:

“…from this war’s very beginning, this administration has permitted thousands of heavily-armed military contractors to march through Iraq without any law or court to rein them in or hold them accountable. These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised out mission in Iraq. The time to show these contractors the door is long past due.”

Indeed. And Clinton’s voice was not the only one raised against the damage done by mercenaries. A Congressional report found the same, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had tough words as well.

One of the main catalysts for those tough words was the company that now calls itself Xe but is still known to everyone as Blackwater. Although Blackwater’s contract for security work in Iraq was canceled after nearly five years of behavior that some might call scandalously reckless and I call bloodthirsty, the administration in which Clinton is now a key player has found itself unable to cut its ties to Blackwater. At a hearing last month of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, it was learned, as Justin Elliott reported at TPMuckracker, that Blackwater pre-qualified as one of the five companies to train Afghan police. It was learned too that Blackwater is the only company that handles security for State Department employees in Afghanistan. And it obviously has a security contract with the CIA for front line work in Afghanistan.

The question is why. Or, rather, what the hell? As if U.S. military interventions weren’t problematic enough, these cowboys still operate as if they were in some third-tier action movie. Not a low-budget one, however.  

As if all the sanguinary scandals and investigations of the past weren’t enough, all through December, the headlines fairly screamed “Blackwatergate.”

First came the news about Blackwater participating in CIA raids in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then a more than mildly perturbed judge ruled that the five company employees who had killed 17 civilians in Iraq couldn’t be tried because federal prosecutors had botched what should have been an airtight case against them by violating their constitutional rights. Then it was learned that two of the seven CIA operatives killed December 30 by a double-agent suicide bomber in Khost, Afghanistan, were Blackwater employees. Then it turned out that a third Blackwater employee was injured in the Khost bombing. Then two Blackwater employees were indicted for murdering two Afghans last May.

The news about the deaths at Khost sent Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, over the edge. She was launching an investigation she told Jeremy Scahill, a reporter at The Nation who has been following Blackwater since he began research for his outstanding 2008 book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Schakowsky said:
 

“The Intelligence Committees and the public were led to believe that the CIA was phasing out its contracts with Blackwater and now we find out that there is this ongoing presence. … Is the CIA once again deceiving us about the relationship with Blackwater?

“It’s just astonishing that given the track record of Blackwater, which is a repeat offender endangering our mission repeatedly, endangering the lives of our military and costing the lives of innocent civilians, that there would be any relationship,” Schakowsky said. “That we would continue to contract with them or any of Blackwater’s subsidiaries is completely unacceptable.”

Today, on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Scahill and Schakowsky. You can watch it, read the transcript at the link, or read the excerpt below:

JEREMY SCAHILL: … Let’s remember here that this was the worst attack on a CIA base that we know about since the 1980s. And here you have three Blackwater guys in the center of this blast at the time. Now, we’re not sure what the role was of the Blackwater guys there. That’s what Representative Schakowsky is investigating right now. But let’s say for a moment that they were doing security, because Blackwater has, since 2002, had a contract with the CIA to do force protection in Afghanistan for the CIA. They not only guard static outposts of the CIA, but when CIA operatives move around the country, Blackwater guys travel with them as their security.

So if they were doing the security there, and you have, on their watch, this incredibly devastating attack, not just against some random CIA outpost in the middle of Canada or something, but against the epicenter of the forward operating maneuvers that the intelligence community of the US is engaged in to hunt down Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, because this asset made it onto that base, we understand, claiming that he had just met with Ayman al-Zawahiri. So how is it that he walks in there with explosives? And then, I think that should be one of the things that’s investigated as Congresswoman Schakowsky takes this on.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Congresswoman Schakowsky, your concerns about this latest report and what you’re hoping to look into?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: You know, regardless of what the role that the Blackwater operatives were playing in this incident, why is the CIA, why is any unit of the government, the State Department, the Department of Defense—why would anyone hire this company, which is a repeat offender, threatening the mission of the United States, threatening, endangering the lives of American, well, CIA and military, and then—and also known to threaten and kill innocent civilians? It is just amazing to me, astonishing to me, that we still find Blackwater anywhere in the employ of the United States government at any place around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, during the primaries, Hillary Clinton supported a ban on Blackwater. President Obama didn’t. How does that relate to what you’re introducing now, the legislation that you’re introducing?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Look, I’m introducing legislation called Stop Outsourcing Our Security, and the idea of that is that when we have mission-sensitive activities, inherently governmental functions in battle zones around the world, that we should have only people that bear the stamp of the United States government. And that means that that would include no private military contractors at all in those operations.

Now, look, when we have a situation where you can question whether or not these contractors can get away with murder—after all, this case against those shooters at Nisoor Square has been dismissed—hopefully that there will be another effort by the Justice Department to go after these people, because it was dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct, which is true. I think there were many mistakes made. But right now, these contractors are in a legal limbo. And so, if these individuals can get away with murder, imagine—you don’t have to imagine, you know what it does to our relations with the Iraqi government and with governments around the world. And now you’ve got a situation where Germany is asking, what were Blackwater people doing in Germany?

Not just Blackwater. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairperson of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, pointed out in mid-December that from June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. In the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan doubled, to more than 10,000.

I suspect that the Stop Outsourcing Our Security legislation has no more chance of passing in 2010 than it did in 2007-08. That’s not merely troubling, it’s infuriating. Because whatever you think of U.S. policy in Afghanistan – and I think the White House is on the wrong track and we’ll all soon come to regret it – who can doubt that these private armies are a serious danger, and not just to U.S. “interests and image” abroad, but, quite possibly in the not-too-distant future, to citizens at home.  


Marianne Bordt Charged: Police Say Grandmother Drowned Child Over Divorce

January 6th, 2010 admin No comments

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A 71-year-old German woman drowned her 5-year-old grandson in a bathtub while they were vacationing in the Florida Panhandle because she didn’t want to see the boy grow up in a divorced home, authorities said Tuesday.

The grandmother, Marianne Bordt, tried to commit suicide after the drowning Monday by wading into the Gulf of Mexico wearing heavy clothes, authorities said. Bordt, of Nufringen, Germany, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Camden Hiers at a condominium on St. George Island, about 60 miles southwest of Tallahassee.

A public defender was appointed for Bordt, but no one answered at the office after business hours.

The boy’s parents had joint custody of Camden after they divorced in 2006, but he lived mostly with his mother in the Atlanta suburb of Roswell, Ga. His father, David Hiers, lives nearby and is on his way to Florida, according to his attorney.

“I don’t think anybody ever knows that a grandparent could be capable of something like this,” said Hiers’ attorney J. Thomas Salata. “David Hiers is extremely distraught and overwhelmed with grief over this incident.”

A phone message left at the mother’s home, Karen Hiers, was not immediately returned. She is Bordt’s daughter.

Bordt’s husband, Heinz, told police he came back from shopping to find his wife returning from the beach sopping wet from the neck down, clad in a red jacket and long underwear.

“Mr. Bordt said that when he went into the house he saw his grandson partial(ly) submerged lying in the bathtub with his face in the water,” according to a sworn statement by Franklin County Sheriff’s Lt. Ronnie Segree wrote. “Mr. Bordt pulled him out of the bathtub placing him on the living room floor.”

His wife tried to run away from the two-story condominium building, but he forced her into the car and the couple drove to the local fire station, Segree wrote. The boy was dead when authorities arrived.

Marianne Bordt was being held without bond and has been placed under a suicide watch.

Her case will be reviewed by a grand jury, which must issue an indictment before she can be prosecuted for first-degree murder. The panel also has the option of reducing or rejecting the charge.

First-degree murder convictions in Florida are punishable by either death or life in prison without parole.

___

Associated Press writer Dorie Turner in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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LSG Sky Chefs Faces FDA Restrictions After Inspectors Find Roaches In Kitchen

January 5th, 2010 admin No comments

DALLAS — A company that prepares food for major airlines says it has cleaned up its Denver kitchen after federal inspectors found live and dead roaches and listeria bacteria at the facility.

The Food and Drug Administration warned the company, LSG Sky Chefs, that it could be barred from selling food to the airlines at the Denver airport if it flunks further inspections.

LSG Sky Chefs said Monday it took the FDA’s comments seriously, fired the general manager and head chef, and believes it will pass a follow-up review.

LSG is owned by Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the big German carrier. Its U.S. subsidiary provides food to Delta, American, United and other airlines from 43 kitchens around the country.

According to an FDA letter to the company, inspectors who examined the Denver facility found live and dead roaches “too numerous to count” in several areas of the kitchen, including at least 40 live insects in the silverware station.

The FDA said inspectors saw employees touching food with bare hands or while wearing unwashed gloves. They also noted problems with the building, including water dripping from the ceiling into utensil-cleaning areas and holes in walls that could house insects or vermin.

H. Thomas Warwick Jr., director of the FDA’s Denver office, said in an interview that such conditions were more common 10 to 15 years ago but are seen rarely today because of better sanitation practices and more inspections by federal, state and local agencies.

LSG “has been pretty good” over the years, Warwick said. “This one sort of slipped a little. We will be back very shortly.”

LSG spokeswoman Beth Van Duyne said the company took the FDA’s findings seriously and fired the general manager and executive chef in Denver. When chemical treatments failed to kill listeria found in a kitchen floor drain, the company replaced the pipes and drain, she said. Listeria is a bacteria linked to food-borne illness.

“We make no excuses for this report,” Van Duyne said. “We’ve taken immediate and aggressive actions after we received the initial findings in October. We’re confident we’ll pass” the follow-up inspection.

Van Duyne said the company hasn’t received any reports of airline passengers becoming ill from its food. She said FDA inspectors were back in the Denver building on Monday.

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David Harris: Responding to the Critics on Israel and Airport Security

January 4th, 2010 admin No comments

Here, in the wake of the Christmas-day terrorist attempt, I thought I was writing about enhancing our flight security by seeing what we might learn from Israel, a country with its own share of experience in this area.

It turns out, instead, that for some readers my last piece, posted December 31, provided a handy excuse to unleash their unbridled hostility toward Israel.

Sorting through the chorus of critics, certain themes emerge. Let’s look at five of them.

The first essentially says: “We despise Israel and, therefore, there’s nothing we can learn from it.”

Hmm, that’s an intelligent approach to life.

This is not the time or place to speculate about the roots of this anti-Israel venom. But if a country has something to share with us — intelligence, technology, experience — that could save American lives, is it rational to summarily reject the information because Israel, for whatever unfathomable reason, is deemed beyond the pale? In fact, given Israel’s outsized role in technological innovation, such a dismissive attitude could cost us big-time if taken to its logical conclusion.

The second group asserts that an Israeli company manages security for Amsterdam’s airport and failed the test, which, ipso facto, disqualifies Israel from the discussion.

The security operation in Israel is run by the government. To date, it has been remarkably successful. All the pieces of the security puzzle appear to operate in harmony, so that no piece of relevant information gets lost or sidelined.

In Amsterdam, airport security is in the hands of a private company that works at the behest of the Dutch government. The two situations are not comparable.

Moreover, unless the U.S. government shared the information that the father of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab warned about his son’s radicalization — which it did not — or that American officials picked up intelligence chatter about a Nigerian with Yemeni connections planning an attack — which again it did not — how were security personnel in Amsterdam supposed to be on the lookout for him?

For that matter, if the facts that the plane ticket was purchased with cash and that Abdulmutallab had no luggage were not shared from the point of origin, i.e., Africa, how would this be known for a passenger transiting in Amsterdam?

And if the Dutch airport authority opted, for whatever reason, not to install advanced passenger scanning equipment at every checkpoint, this cannot be blamed on a security company, which, at the end of the day, doesn’t have a blank check to do everything it wants.

A third group claims that Israel gets financial aid from the U.S., siphoning off the monetary resources that could otherwise be spent to improve our own airport security.

Yes, as an ally in a dangerous neighborhood, Israel gets foreign military assistance from the U.S. (apropos, not only does Egypt get almost as much support, but also its debt to the U.S. of nearly seven billion dollars was canceled several years ago.) The bulk of that aid to Israel, however, must by law be spent in this country, which means the U.S. defense industry and the American worker are direct beneficiaries.

By the way, it may come as a surprise that total U.S. foreign aid to Israel, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, and scores of other countries, amounts to 0.2 percent of U.S. Gross National Income.

The U.S. also gets another return on its investment: Israel has tested American equipment in real-life situations, found ways to enhance it, and shared the knowledge with the U.S., which accrues to the benefit of our armed services. And it has scored many intelligence coups during and since the Cold War, which have also helped the U.S. defense posture.

On a related note, the decades-long American military presence in countries from Japan to South Korea, from Germany to Italy, is counted not in our foreign-aid budget, but in our defense budget. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars, if not more, protecting our allies with troops and treasure. That should put our support for Israel, which, incidentally, has never asked for American troops to defend it, in some perspective.

The fourth group conjures up all kinds of nightmarish scenarios of Israel’s security brutishness at airports, asserting that such behavior is not for America. Unverified stories are trotted out and exceptional cases, if true, are presented as the norm, and as if they never happened at any other airport in the world.

Israel has only one goal — to assure the flying public, irrespective of race, religion, or nationality, a safe journey. And Israel knows that safety cannot be taken for granted.

History has shown there are those who wish to do harm either on the ground or in the air, and Israel has no choice but to try to find them before they strike. Israel’s procedures have worked, with a minimum of inconvenience for the vast majority of travelers, who spend no more time at the airport than their American counterparts.

The fifth group of critics goes the furthest in suggesting that, were it not for Israel, terrorism would magically disappear and humankind would live happily ever after. Right!

Apart from the blindingly obvious fact that Israel is a front-line target of terrorism by those who wish its annihilation, there is another blindingly obvious fact: Those very same terrorist groups share in common a larger hatred — of the United States, irrespective of who sits in the Oval Office; the West; moderate Arab regimes; democracy; secularism; pluralism; and modernity (except for the modern tools they have at their disposal to pursue their medieval aims).

You don’t have to take my word for it. The terrorists shout it from the rooftops. They proclaim it in their charters and covenants. Their spokesmen trumpet it on videos and websites. And, of course, they act on their beliefs.

If Israel weren’t around, would 9/11 not have happened? Or the London bus bombings? Or the Madrid train bombings? Or the Bali massacre? Or the attacks in Morocco, Tunisia, and Turkey? Or the Fort Hood shooting spree? Or the daily strikes on civilians in Pakistan? Or the al-Qaeda presence in Yemen? Or the training camps in Somalia? Or the Taliban campaign to snuff out any glimmer of freedom for women? Or the latest attempt to kill a Danish cartoonist? Or Abdulmuttalab’s plan to blow up Flight 253?

It’s high time to grasp the essential fact that there exists a jihadist ideology driven by zealous belief, not downtrodden misery, which has us in its crosshairs — in the air, on land, and on the high seas.

Rather than pretending it doesn’t exist, or rationalizing it, or ascribing it to right-wing warmongering, or blaming everyone but those responsible, let’s get real and focus on those who wish us harm — not those, like Israel, who stand with us.

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David Kaufman: Black Man Rising: President Obama and the Anti-Defamation League’s "African-American Issue"

January 3rd, 2010 admin No comments

Just a few weeks ago, the venerable Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its list of the 10 “Top Issues Affecting Jews in 2009″. Published annually, the report detailed the key geopolitical incidents and concerns which shaped both the good and bad news last year in Jewish communities worldwide.

From the ongoing threat of a nuclear-armed Iran to June’s Holocaust Museum shooting in Washington, DC, the passing of the Federal Hate Crimes Bill to the UN’s highly controversial Goldstone Report, the ADL brief illustrates that both philo- and anti-semitism remained alive and well in 2009.

While all of the ADL’s “top issues’ were certainly newsworthy, the group chose one in particular to kick-off its missive: “Barack Obama became the first African-American to assume the presidency”. Although part of a larger talking point highlighting executive changes in both Washington and Jerusalem, the wording of this statement could not be more curious.

Because in honoring Pres. Obama’s election, the ADL chose to conspicuously lead with and solely focus on his race — not his campaign, his party-affiliation, education or any element of his administration or cabinet. Just his race. As the ADL makes abundantly clear, any Obama news worth reporting can legitimately begin by qualifying his ethnic origins.

WTF?

As the son of a Jewish-American mother and African-American father, I am intimately-familiar with the complex, collaborative and often contentious history between Blacks and Jews in this nation. And indeed, I am not wholly opposed to the ADL’s decision to highlight Pres. Obama’s race as an “issue” that affects Jews — and by association, Israel. What is bothersome, however, is the wantonness, randomness and insincerity of the ADL’s actions.

As an organization rooted in rooting out bigotry and discrimination, the ADL is well aware of the weight afforded to any race-based analysis of the Obama presidency — no matter how celebratory or minor. Well funded and unquestionably well connected, ADL officials are also clearly conscious of the import afforded to any document resulting from their press machine — particularly one with as loaded a title as “ADL Highlights Top Issues Affecting Jews in 2009″.

At best, the ADL should know better than to include Pres. Obama’s race anywhere in this critically important missive. At worst, one could legitimately ponder just what exactly they hoped to achieve with such race laden language.

The problem is we have no idea. Because after launching their report via race, the ADL’s release essentially never mentions it again. Instead, in its brief appearance, race is employed as a canard, a wild-card, a sound bite — the ADL is instructing us to believe that race matters, we’re just not told exactly why. With American Jewish leaders among Pres. Obama’s most vocal critics since his inauguration, such lack of context is reckless, insensitive and simply lazy.

This is not the first — and potentially not the last — time the ADL has highlighted Pres. Obama’s race when commenting on his politics or policies. Indeed, in a response to June’s historic Cairo speech — the one later lauded as “groundbreaking” in the Top 10 list — ADL national director Abraham Foxman not only made note of Obama’s race, he suggests it may be muddling his Middle Eastern agenda.

“Every individual brings his own baggage (to the presidency),” Foxman said. “He’s an African American . . . and he has rediscovered his Islamic roots after two years. I don’t like it, but I understand it.”

What’s most troubling about the ADL’s Top 10 List is the way it reaffirms the organization’s — and perhaps American Jewry’s — historic inner-conflict with African Americans. On one hand, you have statements like Foxman’s above — which spuriously links the President’s race with Islam and unfounded anti-Israel sentiments. But then you have documents such as Rage Grows in America: Anti-Government Conspiracies — which bravely and dramatically highlights “the current hostility (that has) swept across the United States” since Pres. Obama’s election. The ADL releases an impassioned statement lauding Obama’s inauguration as “a true milestone in our history and it is, in one sense, a realization of the dream”. But then it shamefully stays silent when the President is viciously attacked for his race by a group of young Jewish Americans in Jerusalem this summer. I’m hardly alone in wondering just how quiet the ADL would have remained had those kids been Black and their target Benjamin Netanyahu!

I’m a Jew and a Zionist and firmly believe that anti-semitism must be identified and attacked by any means necessary. Five thousand years of history more than confirm that Jews can be unjustly, violently and murderously targeted even in the most progressive societies — from Moorish Spain and Weimar Germany to an isolationist 1930s America and even Israel itself.

Nonetheless, much like the folks behind the Marriage Equality movement, there remains something rotten, churlish and downright sloppy about the ADL’s relationship with Pres. Obama’s race. Indeed, the fickle, irresponsible and almost infantile behavior of leaders from both groups — American Gays and Jews — has been perhaps the most disappointing political development of the past 12 months. I may be premature in predicting an unholy alliance between the Homo-Left and Judeo-Right. But such a marriage of convenience can no longer entirely be discounted as both sides — mired in misguided thinking and embracing similarly incendiary language — strive to confirm the old Arab maxim that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

Pres. Obama is clearly no enemy to either group and his race has no part in any discussion highlighting political issues affecting…well…anyone. I asked the ADL to explain why they placed Obama’s race so prominently in their release and never received a clear answer.

Intended for and distributed among mostly Jewish- and Israel-focused organizations, I suspect the ADL likely figured their “African American issue” would simply remain “within the family”. But in this era of Web 2.0, the fact that ADL officials could assume such verbiage could possibly pass unnoticed is, perhaps, the most offensive misstep of all.

As we enter a new year — and new decade — here’s hoping the ADL’s next Top 10 list is written with far more sechel than its last.

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Guide To Breaking Cell Phone Security REVEALED

December 31st, 2009 admin No comments

FRANKFURT — A German security expert has raised the ire of the cell phone industry after he and a group of researchers posted online a how-to guide for cracking the encryption that keeps the calls of billions of cell phone users secret.

Karsten Nohl, 28, told The Associated Press this week that he, working with others online and around the world, created a codebook containing how to get past the GSM standard encryption used to keep conversations on more than 3 billion mobile phones safe from prying ears.

Nohl said the purpose was to push companies to improve security. The collaborative effort put the information online through file-sharing sites.

“The message is to have better security, not we want to break you,” he said of the move. “The goal is better security. If we created more demand for more security, if any of the network operators could use this as a marketing feature … that would be the best possible outcome.”

GSM, the leading cell phone technology around the world, is used by several wireless carriers in the U.S., with the largest being AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA. Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel Corp. use a different standard.

The GSM Association, a trade group that represents nearly 800 wireless operators, said it was mystified by Nohl’s rationale.

Claire Cranton, a spokeswoman for the London-based group, said that “this activity is highly illegal in the UK and would be a serious RIPA offense as it probably is in most countries.” RIPA, or the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, is a British law governing the interception of user logs and e-mails of suspected criminals by security and intelligence agencies.

It has already been possible to intercept GSM calls, but the equipment is generally only available to law enforcement. Regular wiretapping of cellular calls is also possible, since they travel unencrypted over standard wiring after being picked up by a cell tower. As a result, terrorists or criminals may talk in code and use prepaid phones they then discard.

Even with Nohl’s exploit, expensive and sophisticated radio equipment placed close to the target is required to pull the calls off the air.

Sujeet Shenoi, a professor of computer science at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma, said that while the code-breaking guide raises privacy issues, his main concern is that organized crime will take advantage of it to make money, perhaps by eavesdropping on transactions between consumers and merchants.

“It’s a shot across the bow” of the wireless industry, he said.

Nohl’s effort undermines the 21-year-old algorithm used to ensure the privacy of phone calls made on GSM (global system for mobile communication) cell phone networks.

That algorithm, dubbed A5/1, is a 64-bit encryption function and was adopted in 1988. Since then 128-bit codes have been implemented to ensure caller privacy on newer, third-generation networks. The GSM Association has developed the A5/3 algorithm, which it says is gradually being phased in to replace A5/1.

“The GSMA heads up a security working group which looks at all issues re: security and this isn’t something that we take lightly at all,” Cranton wrote in an e-mail to the AP. “We have a new security algorithm that is being phased (in), as the protection and privacy of customer communications is at the forefront of operators’ concerns.”

Nohl, who holds a doctorate in computer engineering from the University of Virginia, said that going from a 64-bit code to 128-bit code “makes it some quintillion times more difficult” to crack.

He said the codebook was compiled and posted online not for malicious intent but as a call to the cell phone industry to improve the level of security for those who use GSM phones that are found worldwide and offered through numerous network providers.

“Being security researchers, one thing we can do, and what we choose to do in this case, is to show how it can be done,” he told the AP on Tuesday by telephone.

“We have created a tool, a codebook, that’s used to decrypt GSM packets, or the GSM encryptions,” he added, noting that with the codes phone calls could be recorded using a high-end PC, a radio and some software.

“In GSM this flaw was pointed out 15 years ago, and 15 years seems long enough for the cypher to be replaced with something else. No one uses a phone that is 15 years old,” Nohl said. “If they had taken steps, they could have replaced everything three time times over.”

Nohl made the announcement Sunday at the Chaos Communication Congress in Berlin, a four-day event that ends Wednesday.

While there has been criticism, there is also some faint praise and admiration for the effort.

“We’re familiar with his work. It’s proper stuff,” said Simon Bransfield-Garth, chief executive of London-based Cellcrypt, which sells software to keep mobile phones secure.

“People have been trying to crack GSM for a long time,” Bransfield-Garth told AP. “I think the science behind it is pretty sound,” he added. “Whether putting it in the public domain was wise, is an entirely different debate.”

___

Associated Press Technology Writer Peter Svensson in New York contributed to this story.

___

On the Net:

A5/1 Cracking Project: http://reflextor.com/trac/a51

GSMA: http://www.gsmworld.com

Cellcrypt: http://www.cellcrypt.com

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Blast from the Past. Gene Hasenfus: December 1986

December 28th, 2009 admin No comments

Twenty-three years ago, a complete unknown sprang into the international lime-light. His name was Eugene Hasenfus. Shot down Oct. 5, 1986, while kicking crated cargo to anti-government terrorists from a CIA plane over the back-country of Nicaragua, his capture by Sandinista militiamen led to the exposure of what would become known as the Iran-contra affair. Three other crewmen died in the crash, but Hasenfus, against orders, had borrowed his skydiver brother’s parachute and, luckily for him – his name in German means “rabbit’s foot” – it opened. He landed in a jungle where he would manage to evade a Sandinista militia patrol for less than 24 hours. Upon his arrival at the Managua airport, a Sandinista soldier smiled and asked the sunburned, grime-caked Hasenfus, “What now, Rambo?” With this auspicious event began what should have been the complete unraveling of the Reagan administration.  

José Fernando Canales, who shot down Hasenfus’s plane with a surface-to-air missile, leads his hapless captive through the jungle.

When it came to Central America, that administration, with its ex-CIA Vice President and neo-conservative hatchlings making their early moves to dominate U.S. foreign policy, no deceit was spared the American people. Whether it was Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua, we had your bold-faced lies, crafty lies, lies of the I-don’t-recall variety, revised memorandum lies, exaggerations, omissions, official misstatements, prevarications, phony redefinitions and historical revisions. Not to mention perjury.

From false cover stories about interdicting Sandinista arms shipments to Salvadoran rebels to denials about publishing how-to terrorist manuals, the Reagan-Bush administration observed no boundaries on fictional concoction. When, for example, the original leaders of the contras, the terrorist opposition to the Sandinistas, turned out to be too rough-edged for public consumption, a new set was selected and spit-shined into “freedom fighters.” They were helped in this by CIA-hired journalists in Honduras whose stories found their way back to the U.S. media, a place the CIA had been barred from putting journalists on the payroll since 1977. Various real journalists had for years been hearing hints of contra resupply missions, but they had repeatedly run into dead-ends and had been unable to find any major publications to publish their anonymously sourced, skimpily detailed stories. When queried about whether it was circumventing a congressional prohibition on aiding the contras, the White House denied, denied, denied.

Ultimately, sparked by Hasenfus’s capture and an anonymously sourced article in the Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa, it was incontrovertibly shown that the  government’s Central American policy had tendrils snaking all the way to Tehran, with huge profits from arms sales having accrued to ex-military and ex-CIA operatives. Several of the big dogs who engaged in this behavior necessitating those uncountable lies were pardoned by George H.W. Bush, who himself was a key player in the whole affair, but protected by “plausible denial.” One of those pardoned, neoconservative Elliott Abrams – who had been fined $50 and put on probation for his part in Iran-contra – was appointed Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy by George W. Bush in 2001.

You’d expect that officials with the moral calluses necessary for such lying would also have strong stomachs. On the contrary. Faced by encounters with the truth, administration always took a powder. Whether it was the World Court judging the legality of the CIA’s mining of Nicaragua’s harbors, or President Daniel Ortega criticizing Reagan at the United Nations, the administration ducked out the door. Every time one of the revolving-door ambassadors to Central America suggested diplomacy to resolve U.S.-Nicaraguan differences, the issue was avoided by replacing him. When journalists not on the CIA payroll, such as Ray Bonner, discovered massacres by death squads whose leaders had been trained in the United States, angry phone calls were made to their editors or publishers urging that they be removed from their assignments.

Hasenfus Joins Contra Resupply Effort

Having learned as a Marine how to kick guns and equipment out of CIA-owned Air America planes in Southeast Asia from 1960-65, the out-of-work Hasenfus signed up in June 1986 for the same duty over Nicaragua. His boss far up the secret chain of command was Lt. Col. Oliver North, who had also seen service in Vietnam as part of the infamous assassination program, Operation Phoenix. The colonel had a boss, too. After all, he worked for the National Security Council out of the White House basement. They called the contra resupply operation “Project Democracy.” Its planes were flown under the phantom front of Corporate Air Services, itself owned by the CIA’s Southern Air Transport based in Miami.

Every flight into Nicaraguan airspace added a $750 bonus to Hasenfus’s $3000 monthly salary. He had already made 10 trips. On the 11th, however, when a teenage anti-aircraft crew fired their Soviet-made surface-to-air missile and turned the plane into scrap, they killed pilot William Cooper, co-pilot Wallace Blaine Sawyer – both U.S. citizens –  and radio operator Freddy Vilches, a Nicaraguan. Hasenfus hit the silk and escaped with his life.

Within a day of his capture, every executive branch niche-clinger in Washington had disavowed any link to the downed mercenary and his plane’s cargo of 60 collapsible AK-47s rifles, 50,000 AK-47 rifle cartridges, several dozen RPG-7 grenade launchers and 150 pairs of jungle boots. Secretary of State George Shultz said the aircraft “was, for all we know, a plane hired by private people, apparently some of them American. … They had no connection with the U.S. government at all.” Yep. A maverick operation. Ring up retired Major General John Singlaub, some officials told reporters, fingering the right’s leading privateer. Singlaub denied it was his plane. And soon the scheme was being reported for what it was, a CIA and NSC operation from top to bottom, flown out of Honduras and El Salvador. As would also soon become known, the operation was financed by selling weapons to Iran as part of an arms-for-hostages deal with the ayatollah’s regime.

Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Elliott Abrams was the only member of the administration who stood up for Hasenfus, without conceding that he worked for the government. He gamely praised him as an American hero. In the months ahead, it was a label Ronald Reagan would pin on Lt. Col. North.

But just as there had been no Fawn Hall on board to shred the C-123’s incriminating documents before they fell into Sandinista hands, there would be no Hasenfus doll. No Eugeneburger. No lucrative book contracts. No movie producers nosing around. No calls to run for high office. In short, none of the trappings of late 20th Century herodom.

Gene Hasenfus at his trial in November 1986.

Instead, the Sandinistas, following the example of their Yankee tormentors, coaxed every pint of public relations juice they could from their prisoner, finding him guilty of terrorism, violation of Nicaragua’s public security laws and conspiracy. The Reagan administration ridiculed the proceedings before the People’s Anti-Somocista Tribunal as a judicial parody. At the time, the court had tried 243 people without a single acquittal. But no court anywhere could have found Hasenfus innocent. At the end of the trial attended by Hasenfus’s wife and brother came the first hints that he would be shown mercy. One of the nine comandantes of the Sandinista leadership, Daniel Ortega’s brother Humberto, called Hasenfus a “father” and “common citizen” who himself was a victim of the “irrational and unjust policy of the U.S. administration.”

Pleas for a pardon (aided by a swap for Sandinista soldiers held by the contras) were made by former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell and Senator Chris Dodd. On a visit to Nicaragua, Dodd told President Ortega that Hasenfus would be helpful in the congressional investigation of illegal arms sales to Iran funding illegal arms deliveries to the contras. “I think he’s got something to say. He expressed a willingness to talk to members of the staff and the members of those committees,” Dodd said. “I think it would be worthwhile to get him home.” So after he had served just 32 days of his 30-year sentence, the Sandinistas packed up their propaganda windfall and sent Hasenfus back to Marinette, Wisconsin, in time to enjoy Christmas with his family, a lucky fellow indeed.

Hasenfus Falls on Hard Times

But expenses from the trial put his house at risk to the bank. On the phone in the months after his return, you could hear the stress in his family’s voices. He’s didn’t feel so lucky those days. So he sued his ex-employers – retired Major General Richard Secord and Secord’s partner, Albert Hakim, as well as three companies, including Corporate Air Services. He sued the government and lost.

So what happened? Why didn’t someone in the network of millionaire contra donors bail Hasenfus out? Could it have been because he told the truth?

He had worked with two CIA agents, Hasenfus said, one of whom he knew as “Max Gomez,” but who was actually Felix Rodriguez, a CIA operative who had been involved in the 1961 fiasco known as the “Bay of Pigs,” wore Ché Guevara’s watch taken from the guerrilla leader’s body in Bolivia in 1967, and in 1986 had become the liaison between the contras and North. The other went by the nom de guerre of “Ramon Medina.” His real name was Luis Posada Carriles, who, with Orlando Bosch, had planned the 1976 bombing of a Cubana plane carrying a fencing team to Venezuela. Seventy-three passengers and crew died. Hasenfus also told his captors that he knew more than 30 other people working for the resupply mission based at the Salvadoran Air Force Base in Ilopango.

In the view of the contra resupply network, it was bad enough that Hasenfus admitted to the world that he was working for the CIA, just as he had done in Vietnam earlier. But then he admitted that he was only doing it to pay his bills, not for patriotic reasons. Most unheroic.

If he had wanted sympathy from the promoters of the contra war he should have lied, just as they had done. Or, as his handlers who told him not to wear a parachute had apparently intended, he should have gone down with the plane. For telling the truth about his mission and his paltry pay, they turned their backs on him. Lt. Col. North, on the other hand, lied under oath, criminally obstructed a congressional committee, destroyed public records to foster a cover-up, and accepted money under the table. He wrapped himself tightly in the flag and emerged a heroic icon who continues nearly a quarter-century later to rake in the dough.

Despite the adverse effects of the Iran-contra affair whose exposure Hasenfus helped catalyze, deceit remained alive and well on U.S. Central America policy. In October 1987, former U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, one of the original neoconservatives, gave a speech in Managua condemning the Sandinistas and reiterating what a high value she and the Reagan administration placed on democracy. She embraced opposition leaders, some of whom were still engaged at the time in blowing up schools and health clinics.

Six years previously, she was in Argentina praising and toasting the generals of that country’s oh-so-democratic military junta. They were at the time running their “dirty war” against dissidents, dropping them from helicopters into the Atlantic and adopting out their orphaned children to families friendly to the regime. She made no call for democracy. Hugged no opposition leaders. Shortly afterward, the CIA began paying some Argentine “specialists” to train the contras in more efficient killing. And soon. Lt. Col. North and the basement junta were dipping into the treasuries of sheikhs, sultans, ayatollahs and assorted other lovers of democracy to underwrite the contra campaign of sabotage and assassination in the name of undefined Nicaraguan freedom.

That murderous, unscrupulous effort didn’t quite live up to the administration’s wild fantasy of driving the Sandinistas back into the hills. But it nonetheless turned beautiful, impoverished Nicaragua into a garrison state where bullets were easier to come by than beans and the ideals of a flawed but hopeful revolution were shredded in mutual atrocities, vendettas and recrimination. Today, still suffering the after-effects of the U.S.-sponsored contra war as well as government and private corruption, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the hemisphere, and Daniel Ortega, the fiery comandante who, with his fellow revolutionaries stormed out of the hills in 1979 to topple Anastasio Somoza Debayle’s dictatorship, is again the freely elected president, just as he was when Hasenfus came floating down in his parachute. These days, Ortega is far less fiery, except when he is pushing draconian anti-abortion laws.

And Hasenfus himself? On Friday, I called the number listed for him to see if he would reminisce for a few moments. A man answered.
“Hello.”
“Is this Eugene Hasenfus?”
“Yeah.”
“My name is Timothy Lange, and I’m an editor at …”
Click. Buzz.

Hasenfus’s lawsuits failed and then he faded into his old life in small-town Wisconsin. On July 10, 2000, he was accused of indecent exposure in Brookfield, Wisconsin. On June 1, 2002, he killed a bear without a license and fined $260. He was accused of lascivious behavior a second time in January 2003, after exposing himself in the parking lot at Woodman’s grocery store in Howard, Wisconsin, and received probation. He was accused a third time on May 25, 2005, after exposing himself in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Marinette County, Wisconsin. This violated his probation, and he was forced to serve jail time in Green Bay, Wisconsin, until December 17, 2005, the 19th anniversary of his release from a Sandinista prison.

= = =
Source material was taken from my personal accounts in 1986-87, my hard-copy clip files, the Wisconsin Circuit Court Web site and here, here, here, here and here.
Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, widely known as the Walsh Report, named for independent Counsel, Lawrence E. Walsh.


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Steve Marmel: Vacation’s Over, Mr. President.

December 27th, 2009 admin No comments

2009-12-27-Obama_golf_art_400_20080813172616.jpg

What is wrong with this picture?

It’s December 23rd – I lug my tired butt to the airport, ready to leave for vacation. Carrying a bottle of very nice wine, I have to leave my place in the security line as I can’t bring it as a carry-on, check it in a bag, get a special box, go through security again and hope I – and my fancy wine – arrive intact. Despite some turbulence, we do.

It’s December 24th – I’m keeping track of some winter storms that could affect a few arrivals here and there. The weather could screw up air travel. That was the big fear. Weather.

It’s Christmas day, and the only thing that stopped 12/25 from feeling a lot like 9/11 was a failed detonator and a guy named Jasper Schuringa. Weather now seems like a quaint travel threat – like a cold does compared to the Bubonic Plague.

It’s December 26th, and the last of my guests arrive keenly aware of what happened over the skies of Detroit. Across America, everybody’s gut tightens and old fears and old wounds re-open.

Meanwhile, the president continues his vacation. News that he hit the gym 15 minutes after being briefed on the attack – and had a lovely time playing golf later that day – begin to trickle in.

America lucked out this holiday season. It’s as simple as that. Something terrible could have happened and It was the bravery of passengers, and the ineptitude of a would-be terrorist, that prevented it.

Not the police bottlenecking the only road into the airport. Not the nice lady making sure my liquids were in the right containers. Not the german shepherd sniffing my boy parts.

It was luck.

And if you’re like me – that scared the crap out of you. You probably wanted assurances. What will be done to prevent this? How are we reacting?

If you’re like me, you’re not looking for Attorney General Eric Holder, or Representative Pete King to be telling you how it could have been worse or how it will be managed.

When the nation is attacked, I expect to be informed and hopefully calmed by the President of the United States.

So I ask, one more time – of this President who understands that how a message is delivered is just as important as what the message is – What is wrong with this picture?

Yes, the President deserves a vacation. Especially this President, who I believe has worked so hard on issues he cares about to the best of his ability; who is attacked and stalled by enemies for every attempt to fix every ill he inherited over the last eight years.

This is a man who needs a break.

But that vacation should have been over moments after the plane landed at noon on Christmas day, and everybody was starting to do the math that once again, Al Qaida tried to strike at this country.

This is no “My Pet Goat,” or sharing birthday cake with John McCain while New Orleans flooded. But it’s close enough that it’s making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up… and I like this President.

Some things are too important to delegate to a subordinate, or manage through a blackberry.

It’s December 27th, and people are getting ready to travel for New Years Day. They’re going to get patted down, sniffed and searched. They will not be able to get up for the last hour of their flight. And God knows what else.

They will be inconvenienced, in a way that I’m sure every sane human being on the face of the Earth hoped that Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab had been.

And even if it were only for appearances – even if it were simply to make people know the Commander-In-Chief was in front of whatever buttons and levers are at his disposal to act and react to threats to this nation – the President should have been inconvenienced as well.

There are moments like these where it’s important not to simply just do the work, or be told by others that the work is being done. We need to see it.

And that could have been done in Hawaii. Just not from the back nine.

Back to work, sir. Back to work.

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Rabbi Abraham Cooper: EBay Listen Up: Who Do You Stand With: The Victims of Genocide or Those Who Celebrate Its Perpetrators?

December 25th, 2009 admin No comments

I’m currently in Jerusalem celebrating the birth of a grandson where I receive two emails from the headquarters of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, both related to the theft of an icon of evil — the Arbeit Macht Frei sign from the Auschwitz Death Camp.

The first came from the Midwest:

Hello, my name is Dan I read about the theft of the sign an wanted to see if I could be part of an effort to make a replacement. My father fought against the SS and he was affected by it for his entire adult life until his passing on Dec. 13, 2003. He never had a good nights sleep after being in the Ardens during the “Battle of the BULGE”. I am a Roman Catholic and am very saddened by the theft. I have fallen on extremely hard times, but I think I could rally some support to replace the sign in St. Louis if you think the original my not be recovered. Our family business is no longer, but we had an 83 year old steel fabrication plant. I have no treasure, but do have a desire to help. I may be able to recruit some people here to replace it if given the proper dimensions. I Don’t know about transportation .etc. I know people in the St. Louis Mo. Jewish community who may want to help. . At your service Dan…

The other email came from an outraged son of Holocaust survivors who sent me an SOS with a link to an online eBay auction. Here’s the description posted by a Pennsylvania man using the Nazi “SS panzergrenadier” title:

For sale is a sign in German meaning ‘Work for Freedom’ that dates back to the 1700s and was used in many Nazi Concentration camps. It was designed specifically from the sign over the main gate at Auschwitz. It measures about 7 feet long and is made from 1/4 round bar steel with 1/8 x 3/4 steel lettering…Gate is not included, just the actual lettering and boarder pictured.

To date there have been 7 bids, up to $142…

And eBay has also included these additional items in the auction: “Concentration Camp” armbands and various SS daggers among other hateful items.

2009 has been an especially painful year for the dwindling Holocaust survivor population and their families. They have watched in horror as Iran, a member state of the United Nations (founded 70 years ago to ensure the eternal demise of Nazism and everything it stood for) make Holocaust denial official state policy. There have been official Holocaust cartoon competitions and media interviews with “academic” experts. Worst of all, they see Iran’s soon to be nuclearized, Holocaust-denying President Ahmadinejad, threatening Israel, the Jewish state born out of the ashes of the Holocaust.

Whatever the motivations of the five thieves who stole and sliced up the Auschwitz sign, their actions reflects the growing sense of dread for the survivors, that as their generation leaves the stage of history, their suffering and their loved ones’ martyrdom is being debased, manipulated, and desecrated. “It’s like they are murdering my family again” is the sigh I have heard from too many survivors.

Which brings us to the Internet. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has been monitoring digital hate for over a decade. There was one hate site in 1995. Today, well over 10,000. The Internet, it turns out is also tailor-made for big lie conspiracy theories from denial of the Holocaust to 9/11 as an American plot. Taking advantage of our First Amendment, many overseas extremist and pro-terrorist groups post on US servers, seeking to wrap their hate around the flag of Freedom of Speech.

But eBay is not about Speech, but about commerce. And if anyone has any lingering doubts of the unparalleled marketing power of the Internet, just look at the Nov 1- Dec 23rd, 2008 figure: $25.5 billion online — in a bad economic year!

Without a doubt, eBay occupies prime virtual real estate in our digital malls. Out in the real world, malls do not allow the KKK and neo-Nazis to rent space and pedal hate. They can and should do a better job at being good online neighbors–inviting bigots and those seeking to cash in on the suffering of others to take their pushcarts elsewhere. We don’t need new laws, debates or lawsuits, but the application of common sense and Menschlichkeit. The Jerusalem Post reports that …”there are no restrictions regarding facsimile signs from concentration camps listed under “offensive material policy” on eBay, but there are restrictions regarding other Nazi memorabilia including films, toys and most products containing a swastika.”

So how about it eBay: This Christmas send a clear message who you stand with: The victims of genocide or those who would like to see Hitler’s vision fulfilled.

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Earl Ofari Hutchinson: Bestowing Sainthood on Pius XII Ignores a Heinous Past

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to press harder to make Pope Pius XII a saint is not a hostile act against Jews, it’s an abomination. The Vatican’s mute silence on the Holocaust under Pius’s watch aided and abetted it. The Vatican added more insult to Pius’s disgraceful World War II silence when it ducked and dodged repeated demands that it fully disclose all Pius’s correspondence and actions while the slaughter raged. Six years ago the Vatican hinted after repeated demands from Jewish scholars and leaders that the Vatican would release more of its World War II-era files on Pope Pius XII. It didn’t. So far, the Vatican has released a handful of carefully scrubbed wartime documents that reveal almost nothing about the Vatican’s dealings with Hitler.

It was virtually an article of faith during the decade I attended Catholic schools that Pius XII would one day be canonized a saint. The priests and nuns routinely punctuated their prayers with paeans in praise of the goodness and greatness of Pius XII. They urged us to pray for his continued health and well-being. In the decades since his death in 1959 Pius XII’s march to sainthood has been wracked by fierce debate over his dealings with Hitler and his refusal to speak out on the Holocaust.

There was great hope that this would change when John Paul II took over the Vatican reins. Over the years, he raked Catholics over the coals for saying and doing nothing about colonialism, slavery, and the pillage of the lands of indigenous people. But his continuing unwillingness to confront the Vatican’s complicity in Hitler’s Holocaust was another matter.

Vatican defenders cloud Papal guilt in the Holocaust by incessantly reminding that the Nazis murdered thousands of Catholics in and outside of Germany who aided the Jews. They also remind critics that Pius XII poured millions into relief for war refugees, gave sanctuary to Jews inside the Vatican, and played a huge role in post war recovery efforts and the restoration of democracy in Western Europe.

In 1998, the church made a mild stab at public atonement for past injustices when it formally apologized for centuries of Catholic anti-Semitism and the failure to combat Nazi persecution of the Jews. But the Vatican made no mention of Pius XII’s stone silence on Nazi atrocities. And it’s this continuing blind spot that riles many Jewish and church scholars.

The Vatican continues to keep silent on its Holocaust involvement for a painful reason. Its silence was not due to the moral lapses of individual Catholics, or that the church was ignorant of, or duped by, Hitler’s aims. It was a deliberate policy of appeasement crafted by church leaders. Before he ascended to the papacy in 1939, Pius XII was the Vatican’s ambassador to Germany and secretary of state during the crucial period when Hitler rose to power, and knew full well what Hitler was up to.

In his well-documented work, “Hitler’s Pope: the Secret History of Pius XII.” John Cornwell, Jesus College, Cambridge University professor notes that the Vatican signed its ill-famed concordat with Hitler in 1933 to prevent him from grabbing church property and meddling in church affairs. In return the Vatican pledged the absolute obedience of Germany’s Catholic priests and bishops to Hitler. As Pope, Pius XII sent a letter praising “the illustrious Hitler,” and expressing confidence in his leadership.

Even as evidence piled up that thousands of Jews were being shipped to the slaughter in Nazi concentration camps, Pius XII refused to reverse the Vatican’s see-no-evil, hear-no-evil political course. He ignored the pleas of President Roosevelt to denounce the Nazis. He declined to endorse a joint declaration by Britain, U.S and Russia condemning the killings of Jews, claiming that he couldn’t condemn “particular” atrocities. He was publicly silent when the Germans occupied Rome in 1944 and rounded up many of the city’s Jews. Many were later killed in concentration camps. He continued to send birthday greetings to Hitler each year until his death. He did not reprimand the Catholic archbishop of Berlin for issuing a statement mourning Hitler’s death.

Pius XII’s one and only known pronouncement during the war on the mass murders was a tepid, vaguely worded statement denouncing the deaths “of hundreds of thousands.” By then there were millions, and he did not mention Hitler, Nazi Germany, or the Jews in the statement.

In an Alice in Wonderland twist on reality, Vatican defenders say that airing old dirty laundry and fingering the culprits within the church that turned a blind eye toward Hitler’s ravages could damage the many efforts the church has made to heal the rift between Jews and Catholics. But the call for Benedict to bare the Papal chest on church sins for the Holocaust is not an academic exercise in moral flagellation. The thousands of Holocaust victims still alive bear the eternal scars of the Vatican’s Hitler-era acquiescence to genocide. And the modern day killing fields of Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Cambodia are grim fresh reminders that the world still has not rid itself of the horrors of genocide.

John Paul II’s apology a decade ago for the sins of Catholics against the oppressed and Benedict’s many denunciations of the Holocaust was a step forward toward exorcising the wrongs of the past. But bestowing sainthood on Pope, Pius XII who said and did little while Hitler murdered millions is a huge step backward.


Earl Ofari Hutchinson
is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge (Middle Passage Press) will be released in January 2010.

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