Terrorists Caught Before They Could Act!

Last Monday, counterterrorism officials warned mass transit systems, sports stadiums and hotels around the nation to step up security because of fears an Afghanistan-born immigrant under arrest in Colorado may have been plotting with others to detonate backpack bombs aboard New York City trains.

Investigators say Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old shuttle van driver at the Denver airport, played a direct role in a terror plot that unraveled during a trip to New York City around the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI is now conducting an urgent search for “a core group” of nine to 12 other people associated with Najibullah Zazi who may have knowledge of his plans.

Law enforcement officials still have “deep concern” that the government may have only partially disrupted a terror plot in this case.

In a case officials say are unrelated to the apparent New York terrorism plot, an Illinois man was ordered held on Thursday on charges he tried to blow up a federal building in the state capital.

Michael Finton, also known as Talib Islam, was arrested in Springfield, Illinois, and charged with attempted murder of federal officers or employees and trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, charges that could carry a life sentence.

Finton was arrested on Wednesday in Springfield as he used a cell phone to try to detonate the bomb he believed was inside a van he had just parked outside the federal building.

Since early 2009, Justice Department personnel have been watching Finton after being tipped that he may be wanting to commit a possible terrorist act against a target in the U.S. When “it appeared that Finton was on the verge of taking action, so it was decided to proactively provide him with an opportunity for action that we controlled, rather than merely hoping to be able to find out and stop him,” according to a government affidavit.

He was introduced to an undercover FBI agent who began working with him to plot an attack, but Finton was repeatedly told he could walk away at any time, according to the Justice Department. Eventually, Finton picked the federal building in Springfield as the target and on Wednesday he parked a van he believed carried one ton of explosives at the location.

In yet another case coming to a head last week, A 19-year-old Jordanian citizen, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi was arrested Thursday after he parked a vehicle laden with government-supplied fake explosives in the underground parking garage of Fountain Place, a 60-story Dallas skyscraper.

The arrest was part of an FBI sting operation that began after an agent monitoring an online extremist Web site discovered Smadi espousing jihad against the U.S. more than six months ago.

In conversations with agents posing as members of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell, Smadi said he came to the U.S. to wage jihad, or holy war. He told agents he wanted to target military recruitment centers, but eventually settled on financial institutions.

“I want to destroy … targets … everything that helps America on its war on Arabs will be targeted,” he told undercover agents in May. The sting culminated in Thursday’s arrest after Smadi parked a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac, supplied by the FBI, in the garage of the emerald-green glass office tower that is home to many businesses, including a Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office.

Inside the SUV was a fake bomb, designed to appear similar to one used by Timothy McVeigh in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Authorities say Smadi thought he could detonate it with a cellphone. After parking the vehicle, he got into another vehicle with one of the agents, and they drove several blocks away.

An agent offered Smadi earplugs, but he declined, “indicating that he wanted to hear the blast,” authorities said. He then dialed the phone, thinking it would trigger the bomb, authorities said. Instead, the agents took him into custody.

Two men charged in North Carolina last month with plotting terrorist attacks overseas also planned to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. A new indictment unveiled on Thursday charged Daniel Patrick Boyd, the group’s alleged ringleader, and Hysen Sherifi “with conspiring to murder U.S. military personnel” in connection with the planned assault on the Marine Corps base, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh said in a statement last Thursday. Boyd is a U.S. citizen and Sherifi is a native of Kosovo and a legal permanent resident of the United States.

The indictment offered no details, except to say that Boyd had undertaken reconnaissance of Quantico and obtained maps of the base in order to plan the attack and was in possession of armor piercing ammunition, and had stated that it was “to attack the Americans.” Prosecutors have said Boyd trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992, and fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

All seven suspects in the North Carolina case were denied bail after a hearing in Raleigh last month at which prosecutors played FBI recordings as evidence that they had discussed waging “jihad” as part of a conspiracy to conduct attacks in foreign nations.

It has apparently been a busy few weeks for the FBI and other counter-terrorism organizations involved just to have stopped these acts of terror in the U.S.

Kudos to all involved in stopping these attacks!

Now, I have to wonder.  Officials say there was no connection between these would-be terrorists and they do not appear to be connected with each other in any way.

Let’s take a look at the individuals.

Finton (the Illinois terror suspect), converted to Islam while in prison on other charges. It said he idolized the American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, which is what drew attention to him by law enforcement authorities in the first place.  Finton also had traveled to Saudi Arabia as recently as 2008.

Smadi  (the Dallas suspect) is a Jordanian citizen who had pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and thought he was working with members of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell.

Nazibullah Zazi, (the man arrested in Denver in connection with the New York case) is an Afghan-born, Denver resident who federal sources believe is the central figure in a terror cell involving at least 12 people.  Informants inside Pakistan have told authorities they saw Zazi in an al Qaeda training camp during his admitted travels to the country’s lawless tribal regions in the summer of 2008.

Daniel Boyd (the alleged ringleader of the North Carolina terror suspects) trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992.

I’m not saying they are connected in any way, but I certainly hope someone is checking it out just to fill that square on the investigation!

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Obama’s Regulatory Czar – Cass Sunstein

Two weeks ago, Cass Sunstein, was confirmed by a Senate vote of 57-40 as the new Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), an agency of the Office of Management and Budget. For those keeping score, six Republicans voted yes  (Bennett, Collins, Hatch, Lugar, Snowe, and Voinovich),  five Democrats voted no  (Begich, Lincoln, Nelson, Pryor, Webb) and Independent Sanders voted no.  Senators Boxer and Byrd did not vote.  All of the rest voted down party lines with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Here is what the “Regulatory Czar” does: He regulates laws – past, present and future.

The position was created during the Reagan administration with the mission to be the regulator’s regulator, with the power to block proposed new regulations unless their costs are justified by their benefits.

During the Bush Administration, OIRA and its administrators (John Graham and Susan Dudley) were constantly under attack from the left, which saw them as imposing unwanted scrutiny on regulatory schemes.  Although they never had the power the left painted them having, regulatory burdens increased significantly during the Bush administration.  During those years, OIRA provided a key hurdle for those wanting to impose new regulations.

The nomination of Cass Sunstein caused an uproar on the talk radio circuit.  They cited articles written, interviews given and speeches made over and over in an effort to paint him as the most radical of radicals.  Admittedly, some of the positions Sunstein has taken can make a strong believer in the Constitution as written by the Founding Fathers take pause.  Indeed there were three Senators who have delayed this vote by putting a “hold” on the vote.

Animal Rights Activist

The Center for Consumer Freedom has targeted Sunstein, who it claims has a “secret aim to push a radical animal-rights agenda in the White House.”  Sunstein has indeed made provocative statements on the issue of animal rights.  In 2002, he wrote, “There should be extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, scientific experiments, and agriculture,”  in a working paper at the University of Chicago.  In the 2004, Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, which he was co-editor and contributed to, he wrote, “Animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives…Any animals that are entitled to bring suit would be represented by (human) counsel, who would owe guardian-like obligations and make decisions, subject to those obligations, on their clients’ behalf.”  And during a 2007 panel discussion on animal rights at Harvard, Sunstein said hunting for “sport and fun” as opposed to for food, should be “against the law” and that greyhound racing, cosmetic testing on animals, and the eating of meat raised in inhumane conditions ought to be eliminated. He also said at the panel that the current treatment of livestock and other animals should be considered “a form of unconscionable barbarity not the same as, but in many ways morally akin to, slavery and mass extermination of human beings.”

Martha Nussbaum, a professor at the University of Chicago who co-edited Animal Rights with Sunstein, insists that his views are “not in the least” radical. According to Nussbaum, Sunstein eats meat and has no secret plan to force vegetarianism on the American people.  As for Sunstein’s argument that animals should have the right to sue humans, Nussbaum says it is simply a novel solution to a tough legal problem: The problem here is that when existing laws against animal cruelty are not enforced, nobody has “standing” to get the authorities to enforce them. Concerned citizens are held to lack “standing” because they are not the ones who are suffering. So what Sunstein is asking is that humans be able to go to court as advocates for animals who are being ill treated, when that treatment violates existing law.

 Censorship on the Internet

Kyle Smith writes in the New York Post about another aspect of Sunstein’s ideology:

 “Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor who has been appointed to a shadowy post that will grant him powers that are merely mind-boggling, explicitly supports using the courts to impose a “chilling effect” on speech that might hurt someone’s feelings. He thinks that the bloggers have been rampaging out of control and that new laws need to be written to corral them.”

About Sunstein’s new book, “On Rumors: How Falsehoods Spread, Why We Believe Them, What Can Be Done,” Smith writes:

“Sunstein reviews how views get cemented in one camp even when people are presented with persuasive evidence to the contrary. He worries that we are headed for a future in which “people’s beliefs are a product of social networks working as echo chambers in which false rumors spread like wildfire.” That future, though, is already here, according to Sunstein. “We hardly need to imagine a world, however, in which people and institutions are being harmed by the rapid spread of damaging falsehoods via the Internet,” he writes. “We live in that world. What might be done to reduce the harm?”

Sunstein’s book appears to be a blueprint for online censorship.  He wants to hold blogs and web hosting services accountable for the remarks of commenters on websites while altering libel laws to make it easier to sue for spreading “rumors.”

Smith notes that bloggers and others would be forced to remove such criticism unless they could be “proven”. The litigation expense would be daunting; the time necessary to defend a posting (or an article) would work to the benefit of the public figure being criticized since the delay would probably allow the figure to win an election before the truth “won out”.

Troubling to say the least since bloggers often raise issues to encourage others (perhaps with more resources) to further investigate issues.

Matt Cover of CNSNEWS.com writes about views expressed in the 2008 book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness,” where Sunstein and co-author Richard H. Thaler advocate a policy under which the government would “presume” someone has consented to having his or her organs removed for transplantation into someone else when they die unless that person has explicitly indicated that his or her organs should not be taken. 

In “Nudge,” Sunstein and Thaler argued that the main reason that more people do not donate their organs is because they are required to choose donation.  They pointed out that doctors often must ask the deceased’s family members whether or not their dead relative would have wanted to donate his organs. These family members usually err on the side of caution and refuse to donate their loved one’s organs.  “The major obstacle to increasing [organ] donations is the need to get the consent of surviving family members,” they said.

This problem could be remedied if governments changed the laws for organ donation, they said. Currently, unless a patient has explicitly chosen to be an organ donor, either on his driver’s license or with a donor card, the doctors assume that the person did not want to donate and therefore do not harvest his organs. Thaler and Sunstein called this “explicit consent.”
 
They argued that this could be remedied if government turned the law around and assumed that, unless people explicitly choose not to, then they want to donate their organs – a doctrine they call “presumed consent.”
 
“Presumed consent preserves freedom of choice, but it is different from explicit consent because it shifts the default rule. Under this policy, all citizens would be presumed to be consenting donors, but they would have the opportunity to register their unwillingness to donate,” they explained.

While the Sunstein and Thaler’s plan still leaves the choices up to We the People, it seems to give the government more control over our lives, even when that life is over.

Concerning the Right to Bear Arms, Sunstein’s views on the Second Amendment: “My coming view is that the individual right to bear arms reflects the success of an extremely aggressive and resourceful social movement and has much less to do with good standard legal arguments than it appears.”  In his book “Radicals in Robes,” he wrote: “Almost all gun control legislation is constitutionally fine. And if the Court is right, then fundamentalism does not justify the view that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms.”  As I understand Sunstein’s views, the Right to Bear Arms is not an individual right, it is a Federal right.

Other areas that Cass Sunstein is reported to have views that have caused some to be opposed to him being in this position:

  • Sunstein advocates a “Second Bill of Rights” even more totalizing and all-consuming than initially proposed by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” in the 1930s. Among these rights are a right to an education, a right to a home, a right to health care and a right to protection against monopolies.
  • Sunstein has written that he believes the United States should be spending the money spent on the war in Iraq on funding the Kyoto Protocol.  “For the United States, the economic burden of the Iraq war is on the verge of exceeding the total anticipated burden of the Kyoto Protocol. Because the price of the war increases every day, its total cost, for America as well as the world, will soon dwarf the expected cost of a remarkably ambitious effort to control the problem of climate change.”

To be fair, Sunstein is a stout supporter of cost-benefit analysis as a primary tool for assessing regulations, despite its imprecision and the ease with which it is manipulated to achieve preferred policy outcomes;

He supports such cost-benefit approaches as the widely condemned “senior discount” method for undervaluing the lives of seniors in cost-benefit analyses, an approach even the Bush Administration was forced to disown;

He rejects the “precautionary principle” as a basis for regulating, thus ensuring that dangerous pollutants and products will be given the “benefit of the doubt,” rather than well-grounded concerns about health and safety;

He has written that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration might be unconstitutional.

The Senate confirmation has already taken place, so we have to deal with it.  On one hand, Cass Sunstein may be a good choice for the position, but on the other hand there are all of his writings and spoken positions to think about.  We need to keep an eye on Sunstein’s activities and rulings to see which way he will go.  The questions we have aren’t going away simply because 57 Senators are satisfied.

Michelle Obama to Push Health Care Reform

The White House is planning to use First Lady Michelle Obama to push health insurance reform this fall.  “She will do things that fit in with what she cares about, like health care reform and the implications it has for family and kids,” said Camille Johnston, Obama’s director of communications. “She will spend her time focusing on where policy and people intersect.” 

Speaking to women’s groups at the White House on Friday, the first lady said concern over the country’s health care system “wakes her up at night.” She described reform as “very much a women’s issue” and said the current system is preventing women from obtaining “true equality.”

While Michelle Obama has often spoken out on health matters, she previously limited her focus to promoting good nutrition and exercise. She has also made helping military families a priority. Neither topic has drawn any partisan ire.  In fact, she’s amassed a great deal of goodwill — something her husband and his administration can certainly use in the fractious, rancorous health care struggle.

Friday’s event signaled the start of what could prove a more contentious agenda, however. When the first lady returns from Copenhagen, where she will lobby the International Olympic Committee to bring the 2016 Games to her hometown of Chicago, she plans to hold more health-care policy events.

She is qualified to discuss health care where policy and people intersect from her days as Vice President for Community and External Affairs at the prestigious University of Chicago Medical Center.  It was there that she developed the UCMC program known as the “South Side Health Collaborative” to solve the problem of her high profile hospital being forced to treat poor patients.   This program had “counselors” whose job was to “advise” low-income patients that they would be better off at other hospitals and clinics.

The program was so successful in getting rid of unwanted patients that she expanded it, gave it a new name, and hired none other than David Axelrod to sell the program to the public. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, “Obama’s wife and Valerie Jarrett, an Obama friend and adviser who chaired the medical center’s board, backed the Axelrod firm’s hiring.”  Axelrod helped the future First Lady formulate a public relations campaign in which the “Urban Health Initiative” was represented as a boon to the community actuated by the purest of altruistic motives. 

How will the White House manage Mrs. Obama’s events?  She is needed to get the women of America behind the President’s plan, but they will want to shield her from any serious scrutiny.  If she is allowed to get out among the people, somewhere, someone might just ask whether her husband’s plan is being packaged and sold in the same manner as her “patient dumping” plan in Chicago. After all, there was an “Obama-Jarrett-Axelrod Connection” in Chicago and now there is the same connection at the White House.

Obama’s Decision to Cancel Missile Shield

The decision by the Obama administration to give up on the missile shield that was planned for Eastern Europe has less to do with Poland and the Czech Republic than it has to do with the Middle East and more specifically with President Obama himself.

The Iranians have agreed to enter into negotiations with the five permanent members of the U.N Security Council (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China) plus Germany over the suspected Iranian nuclear weapons program.  The countries had made it clear to Iran that if Iran refused to engage in negotiations by the time of the next General Assembly meeting (September 24), they would seriously consider imposing much tougher sanctions on Iran than those that were currently in place.

The Iranians have already won an initial victory in any negotiations by causing the delay of the beginning of talks for at least a week past the deadline given.  Furthermore, the Iranians have officially indicated that they are prepared to discuss a range of strategic and economic issues but are not prepared to discuss the nuclear program — which, of course, is the reason for the talks in the first place.

The European nations that will be involved are likely to be happy to get away with being able to say that negotiations have begun.  This will allow them to disregard the threat of further sanctions, which they don’t really want to have to be forced to impose.

The Russians, for their part, have made it clear that they would be opposed to sanctions of any sort.  This is primarily due to their desire to keep Iran as a problem for the United States.  They feel that as long as the United States is bogged down with its adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan and if Iran continues to be a problem for the west, they will be able to make further inroads in Eastern Europe.

All of this, I suspect was discussed when President Obama visited Moscow earlier this year.  The Russians would have demanded that, in exchange for their support of any threat of sanctions on Iran, the U.S. would have to give up on their desire to place missiles in Eastern Europe.

Domestically, President Obama badly needs something positive to happen.  His foreign policy efforts have not provided much success overseas and are seen as weak and ineffective at home.  His domestic policy is driving his poll numbers down at a rapid rate and he is losing the support of portions of his own party.

The president is betting that turning our backs on our friends and allies in Eastern Europe will be less damaging than a possible success in negotiations with Iran.

By giving up the missile shield, he is giving the extreme left of his own party something to cheer about.  Even if he can’t achieve anything in the negotiations with Iran, he will get to claim a victory at home with the left for at least talking with Tehran which he promised he would do.  That may be enough to sooth some of the more radical left wing party members to allow him to give some ground to the more moderate groups on health care.

Global Warming Discussion With My Daughter

A couple of months ago, my daughter made it clear that she believed that there is a global warming crisis and that scientists agree that, not only is the planet in peril of impending doom from this peril, but that it is entirely man made. She claimed that there are no scientists who disagree with the theory.

I realized that she gets virtually all of her news from mainstream media or cable news outlets (other than Fox News, of course), so she would never have heard that there may be members of the scientific community who disagree with the “consensus” claimed by former Vice President Al Gore and his United Nations confederates.

Former Vice President Gore has said repeatedly that there is a “consensus” in favor of his alarmist views on global warming and that the debate is over. The alarmists in the global warming debate have had their say–over and over again, in every newspaper in the country practically every day and in countless news reports and documentary films. They have dominated the media’s coverage of this issue. They have swayed the views of many people, including my daughter.

She would not have heard of the Second International Conference on Climate Change held this past March in New York which was attended by more than 200 scientists and other experts on climate change form Australia, Canada, France, Hungary, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Sweden and the United States.

She would not have heard of Arthur B. Robinson, president and professor of chemistry at the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, who has a different opinion than that of Al Gore, nor would she have heard of his petition signed by 31,000 U.S. scientists, including 9,000 who have Ph.D. degrees in the relevant sciences who, by signing, reject the claims that “human release of greenhouse gases is damaging our climate.”

Of course she has heard of Al Gore’s movie, An Incovenient Truth. But she’s probably never heard of Lord Christopher Monckton who has produced his own slide show documentary on the other side. It’s called “Apocalypse? No!”

And she no doubt will have missed the possibly inconvenient truth has recently been presented to the international community by Russia’s Pravda: “The earth is now on the brink of entering another Ice Age, according to a large and compelling body of evidence from within the field of climate science.” She wouldn’t know that the same story states that the man-made global warming theory “is based on data that is drawn from a ridiculously narrow span of time and it demonstrates a wanton disregard for the ‘big picture’ of long-term climate change.”

I feel there is plenty of room for open discussion. I am confident that the debate is over for Al Gore because he refuses to even be in the same room with someone who is a skeptic of his theories. I don’t know whether my daughter has been swayed by any of the facts that I mention, but I can hope.

As George Will wrote, “people only insist that a debate stop when they are afraid of what might be learned if it continues.”

9/11 – Obama’s National Day of Service

From inside the Obama White House, green jobs czar Van Jones has been orchestrating a coldly, calculated campaign to erase the meaning of the September 11th terrorist attacks from the American mind using federal resources and a political which he founded.

The group, called Green for All, was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in California on Dec. 11, 2007 by Jones. Green for All is one of two groups involved in a campaign called Green the Block. Green the Block was created “to educate and mobilize communities of color to ensure a voice and stake in the clean-energy economy,” according to its website.

In what could be considered a conflict of interest, Jones presided over the White House endorsement of Green the Block in an online video conference on August 4th during which Jones touted Green the Block’s first major initiative which involved participating in the National Day of Service scheduled for this September 11th.

The Senate approved the Edward M Kennedy Serve America Act and it was signed into law by President Obama on April 21st. The bill triples the AmeriCorps program to 250,000 participants and designates September 11th as a “National Day of Service and Remembrance.” Few Americans associate 9/11 with the activities envisioned by Green the Block. Americans tend to think of the horrors of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but Green the Block is trying to change that.

The administration’s plans were outlined for this “day of service” in an Aug. 11 White House-sponsored teleconference call run by Obama ally Lennox Yearwood, president of the Hip Hop Caucus, and Liv Havstad, the group’s senior vice president of strategic partnerships and programs.

A coalition including the left-wing pressure group Color of Change and about 60 far-left, environmentalist, labor, and corporate shakedown groups participated in the call. Among the groups on the call were: ACORN, AFL-CIO, Apollo Alliance, Community Action Partnership, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, 80 Million Strong for Young American Jobs, Friends of the Earth, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Mobilize.org, National Black Police Association, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Council of Negro Women, National Wildlife Federation, RainbowPUSH Coalition, Urban League, and Young Democrats of America.

With the help of the Obama administration, the coalition is launching a public relations campaign under the radar of the mainstream media — which remains almost uniformly terrified of criticizing the nation’s first black president — to try to change 9/11 from a day of reflection and remembrance to a day of activism, food banks, and community gardens.

Of course, the annual commemoration of the 2001 terrorist attacks belongs to the entire nation, but President Obama and the activist left don’t see it that way. They view the nationwide remembrance of the murder of 3,000 Americans by Islamic totalitarians as an obstacle to winning over the hearts and minds of the American people.

On the conference call, leaders of these groups said that they view September 11th as a “Republican” day because it focuses the public on supposedly Republican issues like patriotism, national security, and terrorism. According to Progressives, 9/11 was long ago hijacked by Republicans and their enablers and unfairly used to bludgeon helpless Progressives at election time. Shifting the focus of 9/11 from remembrance to environmentalism and community service helps diminish the day as a Republican symbol, they believe.

“September 11th should not only be a day for mourning – it should be a day to think about our neighbors, our community and our country,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in support of the plan to change the meaning most of America has of that day. The effort is part of the broader plan to ease the country along in the fundamental transformation of America that President Obama promised during the election campaign.

Of this National Day of Service, Jones says little except that it will be a great opportunity “for people to connect, to find other people in your peer group who are also passionate about repowering America but also greening up America and cleaning up America.”