30 October 2005

An Iraqi child holds a Meal Ready-to-Eat given to him by members of the U.S. Army in Mosul. Pic: Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr, USAF
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Iraqi students from the newly restored Al Aashreen Primary School, line up to receive their backpacks donated by the 6th Civil Affairs Group,2nd Battalion Attachment, 2nd Marines Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, in Kharma. Pic: Sgt. Paul S. Mancuso, USMC
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A member of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team exits a house during a neighborhood patrol in Mosul, Iraq. Pic: Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr.
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29 October 2005

A little girl continues her classroom assignment during a visit by Iraqi Soldiers and policemen passing out new back packs at Tibuk Primary girls� school, south of Haswa Firm Base. Pic: Lance Cpl. Michael J. O'Brien, USMC
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Iraq Army 8th Division soldiers off load from a Polish MI8 helicopter during an Air Assault exhibition. Camp Echo. Pic: Senior Airman Patrick J. Dixon, USAF
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Iraqi Soldiers participates in a squad infantry tactics in East Fallujah. Pic: Cpl. Bryson K. Jones, USMC
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Iraqi Soldiers participates in a squad infantry tactics during the Desert Protector Course in East Fallujah. Pic: Cpl. Bryson K. Jones, USMC
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SPC Michael Gendron cleans flex chutes from an AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter at Forward Operating Base Speicher,. Gendron is from Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, Fort Campbell, Ky. Pic: Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force
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Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division search for insurgents in Tal Afar. Pic: James Harper Jr.
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27 October 2005


NORRISTOWN - Senior Pentagon officials were warned not to let the USS Cole dock in Yemen two days before terrorists attacked the ship five years ago killing 17 sailors, according to Congressman Curt Weldon, who said the crucial intelligence was gleaned from the former secret defense operation, "Able Danger."

Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, revealed the information in a House speech that blasted the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) attempts to discredit Army Reserve LTC Anthony Shaffer, a DIA employee who worked as a liaison with the "Able Danger" team.
In June, Shaffer told The Times Herald newspaper during an interview on Capitol Hill that the now-defunct data mining operation at the Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) - now the 1st IO Command, Ft. Belvoir, VA had linked Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta to an al-Qaida cell in Brooklyn in 2000 - more than a year before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The military's Special Operations Command ran the high-tech dragnet that searched for terrorist linkages. The terrorist associations were mapped out on large charts, according to Shaffer and other of "Able Danger" colleagues, during the program that operated between 1999 and 2001.
However, following Shaffer's attempts to broker an arrangement that would draw the FBI into the operation, the program was shut down.
Weldon and Shaffer believe "Able Danger" intelligence may have disrupted - or even prevented - the Sept. 11 attacks if it had continued.
In August, Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott and James D. Smith, a defense contractor, corroborated Shaffer's story.
On Wednesday, Weldon again criticized the Pentagon for dragging its feet in its probe of the defense program's history, and continued his criticism of the CIA, which he said tried to protect its own intelligence turf from other government intelligence agencies.
"What we have here, I am convinced of this now, is an aggressive attempt by CIA management to cover up their own shortcomings in not being able to do what the Able Danger team did," he said.
Besides claiming to identifying Atta from a grainy photograph prior to Sept. 11, the intelligence team also tried to warn the Pentagon not to allow the USS Cole to make a refueling stop in Yemen five years ago, Weldon said.
On Oct. 12, 2000, a small boat loaded with explosives rammed into the side of the USS Cole as the ship refueled in port at Aden, killing the 17 Navy personnel.
"(Able Danger members) also identified the threat to the USS Cole two weeks before the attack, and two days before the attack were screaming not to let the (ship) come into the harbor at Yemen, because they knew something was going to happen," he said.
The "Able Danger" group operated at the Army's former Land Information Warfare Center (LIWA), in Ft. Belvoir, Va. After LIWA's intelligence gathering capability impressed Weldon, he tried to pitch the idea of a collaborative intelligence center to the CIA in 1999, but was rebuffed.
Also in his speech, Weldon accused the DIA of trying to smear Shaffer rather than come clean on why "Able Danger" was shut down.
Shaffer, who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan, had his top-secret security clearance suspended in 2004 allegedly because of disputes over travel expenses and phone bills.
But his supporters suggest Shaffer is being made a scapegoat for going public with the "Able Danger" revelations in August.
Two days before he was set to testify about the program before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 21, the Reserve officer's secret clearance was revoked, and the Defense Department barred him, Phillpott and Smith from testifying at the hearing.
Also in August, Pentagon officials told reporters at a press conference that "Able Danger" data had been deleted from computers. A former Army intelligence officer, Erik Kleinsmith, confirmed this at the Judiciary Committee hearing, testifying he was ordered to destroy information.
During the life of the program, the operation's team members created charts linking terrorists. However, during the recent investigation, none have been found.
The Pentagon, which claimed it is restricted from retaining intelligence on United States citizens and foreign residents living in the U.S., so-called "U.S. persons," for more than 90 days.
However, Weldon has previously said most of the program's data was open source information and not classified. According to guidelines in Army Regulation 381-10, intelligence data can be kept indefinitely if it was culled from open sources.
An unnamed "Able Danger official," Weldon said, was told by a Pentagon lawyer that it's okay to extend the time intelligence information is stored.
A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Chris Conway, said recently that Defense Department officials worried that any public testimony given about "Able Danger" risked revealing classified information.
"Prior to any testimony, we expressed our security concerns with Congress," Conway said. "We said in discussing Able Danger, (it) could inadvertently reveal classified information."
Defense officials said they would allow military personnel to testify about the program behind closed doors.
Previously, Shaffer said that Atta, an Egyptian, had been linked to the El Farouq mosque in Brooklyn, N.Y., a hotbed of anti-American sentiment once frequented by Sheik Omar Ahmed Abdul Rahman, know as the "Blind Sheik." Rahman is also Egyptian. Atta was not believed to be in the U.S., however, when he came to the attention of the team.
In 1995, Rahman was convicted of plotting to bomb various sites in New York City. Four of Rahman's associates were convicted in 2002 of conspiring with him to commit terrorist acts while he was in prison.
Though Shaffer was not allowed to give testimony at the Sept. 21 committee hearing, his attorney, Mark Zaid, did testify.
As a sobering reminder of "Able Danger's" unfulfilled promise, Zaid said the missing charts showing terrorist links likely still contained "several dozen" individuals yet to be captured.
"There are terrorist on the chart who may still be out there and planning attacks," Zaid said.

Reliable warning systems on Ali Base, Iraq, depend on a loud and clear Giant Voice. Airman First Class Sergio Santos, 407th Expeditionary Communications Squadron Radio Ground Maintenance, is troubleshooting a voice circuit card to isolate bad components. Airman Santos is deployed from the 52nd Communications Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base Germany. Pic: Senior Airman Jennifer Haas, USAF
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ALI BASE - Mr. Andy J. Lubber (left) and Senior Airman Michael S. Woods, 407th Expeditionary Communications Squadron cable antenna systems journeymen, place a wooden phone cable equipment distribution box in a ditch. The team dug a two-foot-deep ditch to lay cable that will allow phone service throughout tent city (Bedrock) and also provide the 407th Expeditionary Communications Squadron a means to get copper to the Army Technical Control Facility thus allowing the Army to call Air Force phone numbers. Pic: Master Sergeant Timothy A. Haase, USAF
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MG Joseph J. Taluto, Division Commander, 42nd Infantry Division (Mechanized), looks on as Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris K. Mikulcik, a radiology technician with the 506 Expeditionary Medical Squadron, demonstrates digital X-ray technology. Tech. Sgt. Mikulcik is deployed from Elgin Air Force Base, Fla., where she is assigned to the 96th Medical Support Squadron. Pic: Tech. Sgt. Ke, USAF

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116 BCT Commander, BG Alan Gayhart (L), presented 63 Soldiers of HHC, 116th Brigade Combat Team with the Combat Action Badge. Pic: SSG Jack White
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AR RAMADI - Cpl. Andrew Breen, a 21-year-old Oracle, Ariz. native and heavy equipment operator assigned to Task Force Roadrunner, works inside the cab of a high-speed high-mobility crane. Pic: Sgt. Josh H. Hauser, USMC
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AR RAMADI - Lance Cpl. Lance M. Simmons, a 20-year-old Starke, Fla. native and traffic management coordinator assigned to Task Force Roadrunner, directs a convoy to an offload area. Pic: Sgt. Josh H. Hauser, USMC
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AR RAMADI - Corporal Leonard B. Huebner (left), a 21-year-old native of Buchanan, Mich., and motor transportation mechanic, and Spc. Sandra S. Cardenas, a 25-year-old native of Exeter, Penn., and finance specialist, help unload a shipment of mail destined for service members based throughout Ramadi. Pic: Sgt. Josh H. Hauser, USMC
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AR RAMADI - Corporal Leonard B. Huebner (left), a 21-year-old native of Buchanan, Mich., and motor transportation mechanic, and Pfc. Brandon A. Hill, a 19-year-old native of Aberdeen, Md., and postal clerk, unload a care package from a shipment of mail destined for a service member based in Ramadi. Pic: Sgt. Josh H. Hauser, USMC
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Task Force Baghdad Soldiers excavate a weapons cache north of Baghdad. The U.S. Soldiers discovered the cache while conducting combat operations in the area.
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A Task Force Baghdad Soldier examines a crater caused by one of three car bombs near hotels in central Baghdad
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CSM Michael Buxbaum (middle), and COL Thomas W. Kula, commander, 130th Engineer Brigade, V Corps, Hanau, Germany, salute after uncaseing their brigade�s colors during a transfer of authority ceremony on the deck of the Joint Visitors Bureau at Camp Victory. The 130th is replacing the 20th Eng. Bde., XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C., for their second deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pic: Matthew Clifton
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SPC Michael Gendron cleans flex chutes from an AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopter at Forward Operating Base Speicher. Gendron is from Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, Fort Campbell, Ky. Pic: Tech. Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force
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24 October 2005

Ben Stein's Last Column...

For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column called "Monday Night At Morton's." (Morton's is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life. Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.

Ben Stein's Last Column...
How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?

As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonlineFINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.

They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.

By Ben Stein

22 October 2005

U.S. Army infantrymen assigned to the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, patrol a road in Mosul. Pic: Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr., U.S. Air Force
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An Iraqi policeman hands a new backpack to a student at a schoolhouse south of the Haswa Firm Base. Pic: Lance Cpl. Michael J. O'Brien, U.S. Marine Corps
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Iraqi police and U.S. Army Soldiers from the 411th Military Police Company cheer at the end of a successful joint cordon search mission in Jifr Najaf. Pic: SPC Gul A. Alisan, U.S. Army
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U.S. Army Soldiers with the 172nd Stryker Brigade from Ft. Wainwright, Alaska, search a home in Mosul. Pic: Staff Sgt. James L. Harper Jr., U.S. Air Force
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