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"News Fit to Transmit in the Post Cassini Flyby Era"

Hell To Pay * Ashcroft Foiled FOIA * Senate and ABM * Misc. Links

17 January 2002

"To preserve the cooperative, peaceful uses of space for the benefit of all humankind by permanently prohibiting the basing of weapons in space by the United States, and to require the President to take action to adopt and implement a world treaty banning space-based weapons."

-- Preservation of Space Act of 2001, H.R. 2977

{To learn about efforts to ban space-based weapons, visit and}

2) The Day Ashcroft Foiled FOIA
3) Petition the Senate on the ABM Treaty
4) Miscellaneous Important Story Links

Editor's Notes:

Item 1 follows along the lines of the last issue "corruption in the upper levels of influence polluting our environment," but it goes even further. This courageous author, William Rivers Pitt, writes:

"..The cozy relationship between Bush and the Taliban frustrated the investigative efforts of former Deputy Director of the FBI John O'Neill. O'Neill was the FBI's chief bin Laden hunter, in charge of the investigations into the bin Laden-connected bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993, the destruction of an American troop barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the African embassy bombings in 1998, and the attack upon the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.

O'Neill quit the FBI in protest two weeks before the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. He did so because his investigation was hindered by the Bush administration's connections to the Taliban, and by the interests of American petroleum companies. O'Neill was quoted as stating, "The main obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests, and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it." After leaving the FBI, O'Neill took a position as head of security for the World Trade Center. He died on September 11th, 2001, trying to save people trapped by the attack, when the towers came down on top of him. The irony in this is simply horrifying.."

In the last issue, Flyby News reported on efforts to stop the Bush administration from gutting the clean air act. Heat-trapping carbon dioxide is the main cause of global warming, and power generation is our nation's single biggest source of CO2 emissions. Stirling engines are inherently more fuel efficient than other forms of onsite power generation, and can use environmentally sustainable fuels for its operation. Stirling engines can convert any heat source into electrical generation. Since 9/11 many efforts to produce cleaner alternatives for power generation are failing due to lack of interest, focus, and funds. This is a big mistake. If you wish to consider learning about one project for researching and developing a cleaner technology for energy generation, visit Stirling Advantage, Inc. .

"O eons of darkness, eternal night
you are only the backdrop for wondrous light..
and here I might find, through the core of self,
the entrance to illuminate, to perceive,
to flow with atoms expelling light,
as a river of purity in the deepness of night."


By William Rivers Pitt

"Depend upon it, Sir,
when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight,
it concentrates his mind wonderfully."
- Samuel Johnson

Some time just before January 7th, 2002, an asteroid capable of pulverizing a good-sized nation flashed through the void, passing perilously close to Earth. Had it struck our planet, the impact would have had global consequences. The energy of the strike would have been equivalent to the explosion of a number of large atomic weapons. From the media perspective, it would have been the biggest story since the extinction of the dinosaurs.

At some point in the next six months, a small, darkened corner of George W. Bush's consciousness will wish the thing had hit us. The apocalypse he and his fundamentalist buddies have been waiting for would have been at hand, and a number of potentially calamitous questions about to be put to his administration would have been avoided.

Sadly for him, the planet spins on. Beneath the unpierced stratosphere, the electronic beams of news agencies like CNN and the Associated Press have begun to spread like a widow's web from city to city and house to house. Carried on this invisible wind are rumors of doom, negligence and greed. Each and every one of these rumors lead inexorably back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which will soon be issuing significant numbers of visitor passes to lawyers if the pattern holds much longer.

Whichever part of the nation that never heard of the energy giant Enron Corporation has recently been introduced to the company in odious context. The story thus far is nothing less than astounding: Enron, a company valued in the billions on Wall Street, suddenly filed for the largest bankruptcy claim in the history of the known universe. 4,000 employees were abruptly shown the door after having been barred from dumping the company stock, meant to fund their retirement, while it was worth something. Meanwhile, Enron executives in the know were able to dump the stock, back when it was the gold standard on the Street, for a cool $1 billion.

Apparently, Enron was ailing for quite a long time. The aforementioned executives were able to maintain the mirage of financial viability by stuffing the debt into what are called 'off-balance-sheet partnerships.' In essence, each of the executives built personal banking bunkers and hid what has been revealed to be staggering Enron debts within them, keeping fact that the company was hemorrhaging money off the publicly displayed balance sheets. This maintained the company's credit rating, and allowed it to continue doing business.

This went on for four years, which means several things. It means most of the Enron executives were aware of and/or actively participating in this highly criminal and irresponsible activity. It means the stockholders, including 4,000 loyal Enron employees, were lied to. It probably means that the executives knew the stock value was doomed when they bailed out and cashed in several months ago. It means they let their employees lose the retirement funds they believed were growing within their Enron stock portfolios. It means a lot of people got screwed by a pack of sharp operators who didn't give a damn about anyone but themselves.

All this could simply be chalked up as yet another story of corporate greed run amok, until the umbilical political and financial connections between Bush and Enron are illuminated. Enron's capo, Kenneth Lay, was perhaps the best financial friend George W. Bush has ever known. Lay and a number of Enron employees essentially bankrolled Bush's 2000 Presidential campaign, going so far as to lend Bush an Enron corporate jet for trips between whistlestops. Before Bush got White House stars in his eyes, he worked very closely with Enron on energy policy in Texas.

This close connection led to the Bush administration's hiring of a number of influential individuals within Enron's orbit for important government positions:

- Thomas E. White, Bush's Secretary of the Army, was once Vice-Chairman of Enron Energy Service, and held millions in Enron stock;

- Presidential Advisor Karl Rove owned as much as $250,000 in Enron stock;

- Economic adviser Larry Lindsay leapt straight from Enron to his current White House job;

- Federal Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick did the same;

- SEC Chairman Harvey Pitts was hand-picked by Kenneth Lay for the position, due to his notorious aversion to governmental regulation of any kind.

There are some thirty one Bush administration officials who had a line item for Enron in their stock portfolio, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. It is fair to say that the woebegone corporation held, and continues to hold, enormous influence over the day-to-day machinations of Federal government policy. One wonders if Bush's recent gutting of the Clean Air Act, a decision designed to improve the fortunes of companies like Enron, was the brainchild of people with deep connections to the energy industry.

The trail of influence left by Enron leads also to the scabrous heart ventricles of Vice President Dick Cheney, who admitted recently to six separate meetings with Enron executives while formulating the Bush administration's energy policy. Cheney, a former executive of the Halliburton Petroleum interest, was in charge of creating this policy. For reasons soon to be exposed by subpoena, Cheney refused to detail the specifics of the creation of this policy, which included the multiple Enron meetings.

The General Accounting Office was preparing to sue Cheney to reveal this information when the September 11th attacks took place. Those subpoenas may be dusted off and mailed within a month. In the meantime, the Justice Department is preparing a serious criminal investigation into the collapse of Enron. The democratically-controlled Senate is planning hearings on the matter as well. Columnist Robert Scheer has referred to the Bush administration's involvement in the Enron debacle as "Whitewater in spades."

One wonders if "Watergate" would be a more appropriate comparison.

Bush's own dealings within the energy industry carry a disturbingly familiar echo to the Enron situation: once upon a time, he was a high-ranking officer of a petroleum interest called Harken Oil. On June 22, 1990, Bush sold his Harken stock and made $848,560, earning him a 200% profit. One week later, Harken announced a $23.2 million loss in quarterly earnings and its stock dropped sharply, losing 60 percent of its value over the next six months. Bush made a bundle while the other investors lost millions. Harken was Enron in miniature, and might have served as a warning to the American people if the press had chosen to pay any attention to it during the 2000 Presidential campaign.

There is a school of thought, espoused primarily by Republicans, that any investigation into potentially dishonorable or illegal actions by the Bush administration is tantamount to treason. We are at war, undeclared though it may be, and Bush must be free to prosecute this war vigorously, so as to defend our freedom and bring the murderers of American civilians to justice. If reports recently aired on CNN have any credence, however, Bush and his people may well have to answer for actions that make the Enron catastrophe look like a jaywalking offense, actions that led directly to the incredible carnage in New York and Washington, D.C.

In 1998, during the Clinton administration, the U.S.-based energy concern Unocal canceled plans to exploit massive natural gas deposits in Turkmenistan. They had planned to run a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, where the natural gas could have been processed for Asian and Western energy markets. The idea was scuttled after Clinton ordered the cruise missile bombing of Afghanistan, in response to a terrorist attack upon U.S. embassies in Africa which were planned and executed by Osama bin Laden.

The pipeline would have had to pass through Afghanistan, and Unocal was given the message in Technicolor by Clinton's people that Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was not to be given any sort of financial boon.

Apparently, the Bush administration found no moral dilemma in dealing with the Taliban to get to the gas. Immediately upon their arrival in Washington, a vigorous courtship of the Taliban was undertaken by Bush's people. In fact, if former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler is to be believed, the Bush administration had a vested interest in strengthening and stabilizing the Taliban regime, because a stable regime would compel investors to revive the Turkmenistan natural gas pipeline deal. The Taliban, demon of the moment, was the Bush administration's idea of a 'stable' government. Stable enough, anyway, to see the pipeline through.

The connections between Bush and the Taliban became so close that the Taliban went so far as to hire an expert on U.S. public relations named Laila Helms, so as to smooth the way between the two regimes. Meetings between the two nations continued at a high level, the last of which occurred in August, scant weeks before the September 11th attacks. All of these actions were taken to exploit the vast energy reserves in Turkmenistan for the benefit of American energy corporations.

The cozy relationship between Bush and the Taliban frustrated the investigative efforts of former Deputy Director of the FBI John O'Neill. O'Neill was the FBI's chief bin Laden hunter, in charge of the investigations into the bin Laden-connected bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993, the destruction of an American troop barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the African embassy bombings in 1998, and the attack upon the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.

O'Neill quit the FBI in protest two weeks before the destruction of the World Trade Center towers. He did so because his investigation was hindered by the Bush administration's connections to the Taliban, and by the interests of American petroleum companies. O'Neill was quoted as stating, "The main obstacles to investigating Islamic terrorism were U.S. oil corporate interests, and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it." After leaving the FBI, O'Neill took a position as head of security for the World Trade Center. He died on September 11th, 2001, trying to save people trapped by the attack, when the towers came down on top of him. The irony in this is simply horrifying.

In essence, the Federal agent who knew more about bin Laden than any living American was kept from investigating terrorist threats against this country. He was hindered because the Bush administration was desperate to cultivate the favor of the Taliban, who held terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden in great esteem, so as to gain access to lucrative natural gas deposits in Turkmenistan.

If these allegations prove true, Bush and his friends allowed this affinity to hamstring investigations that could have thwarted bin Laden's Sept. plans. If these allegations prove true, everything since September 11th has been a massive cover-up operation in which American soldiers and thousands of Afghan civilians have died. If these allegations prove true, the Bush administration has the blood of thousands of American civilians on its hands.

If these allegations carry even the faintest whiff of credibility, George W. Bush and members of his administration stand in taint of high treason and murder.

On November 7th, 2000, a clear majority of Americans came to the conclusion that George W. Bush was unfit to govern this nation. For a variety of dark and controversial reasons, that conclusion was thrown over. Sometime soon, if the media's electronic web continues to carry these sordid stories of corruption, greed and death, the American people will come to fully understand the consequences of that failed election.

It is one thing to coddle and court a corrupt energy company for political and financial gain. It is quite another to coddle and court a murderous terrorist-supporting regime, hindering anti-terrorism investigations in the process, for the purpose of exploiting valuable natural resources. The former cost a number of people their retirement funds. The latter has cost thousands of people their lives. One is criminal. The other is abominable. George W. Bush is deeply implicated in both. There will be hell to pay.

William Pitt is a teacher in Boston (


2) The Day Ashcroft Foiled FOIA

In a memo that slipped beneath the political radar, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has vigorously urged federal agencies to resist Freedom of Information Act requests.

Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle
January 7, 2002

The President didn't ask the networks for television time. The attorney general didn't hold a press conference. The media didn't report any dramatic change in governmental policy. As a result, most Americans had no idea that one of their most precious freedoms disappeared on Oct. 12. Yet it happened. In a memo that slipped beneath the political radar, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft vigorously urged federal agencies to resist most Freedom of Information Act requests made by American citizens.

Passed in 1974 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, the Freedom of Information Act has been hailed as one of our greatest democratic reforms. It allows ordinary citizens to hold the government accountable by requesting and scrutinizing public documents and records. Without it, journalists, newspapers, historians and watchdog groups would never be able to keep the government honest. It was our post-Watergate reward, the act that allows us to know what our elected officials do, rather than what they say. It is our national sunshine law, legislation that forces agencies to disclose theirpublic records and documents.

Yet without fanfare, the attorney general simply quashed the FOIA. The Department of Justice did not respond to numerous calls from The Chronicle to comment on the memo. So, rather than asking federal officials to pay special attention when the public's right to know might collide with the government's need to safeguard our security, Ashcroft instead asked them to consider whether "institutional, commercial and personal privacy interests could be implicated by disclosure of the information." Even more disturbing, he wrote: "When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis or present an unwarranted risk of adverse impact on the ability of other agencies to protect other important records."

Somehow, this memo never surfaced. When coupled with President Bush's Nov. 1 executive order that allows him to seal all presidential records since 1980, the effect is positively chilling. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, we have witnessed a flurry of federal orders designed to beef up the nation's security. Many anti-terrorist measures have carefully balanced the public's right to know with the government's responsibility to protect its citizens. Who, for example, would argue against taking detailed plans of nuclear reactors, oil refineries or reservoirs off the Web? No one. Almost all Americans agree that the nation's security is our highest priority. Yet half the country is also worried that the government might use the fear of terrorism as a pretext for protecting officials from public scrutiny.

Now we know that they have good reason to worry. For more than a quarter of a century, the Freedom of Information Act has ratified the public's right to know what the government, its agencies and its officials have done. It has substituted transparency for secrecy and we, as a democracy, have benefited from the truths that been extracted from public records. Consider, for example, just a few of the recent revelations -- obtained through FOIA requests -- that newspapers and nonprofit watchdog groups have been able to publicize during the last few months:

- The Washington-based Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization, has been able to publish lists of recipients who have received billions of dollars in federal farm subsidies. Their Web site, has not only embarrassed the agricultural industry, but also allowed the public to realize that federal money -- intended to support small family farmers -- has mostly enhanced the profits of large agricultural corporations.

- The Charlotte Observer has been able to reveal how the Duke Power Co., an electric utility, cooked its books so that it avoided exceeding its profit limits. This creative accounting scheme prevented the utility from giving lower rates to 2 million customers in North Carolina and South Carolina.

- USA Today was able to uncover and publicize a widespread pattern of misconduct among the National Guard's upper echelon that has continued for more than a decade. Among the abuses documented in public records are the inflation of troop strength, the misuse of taxpayer money, incidents of sexual harassment and the theft of life-insurance payments intended for the widows and children of Guardsmen.

- The National Security Archive, a private Washington-based research group, has been able to obtain records that document an unpublicized event in our history. It turns out that in 1975, President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gave Indonesian strongman Suharto the green light to invade East Timor, an incursion that left 200,000 people dead.

-- By examining tens of thousands of public records, the Associated Press has been able to substantiate the long-held African American allegation that white people -- through threats of violence, even murder -- cheated them out of their land. In many cases, government officials simply approved the transfer of property deeds. Valued at tens of million of dollars, some 24,000 acres of farm and timber lands, once the property of 406 black families, are now owned by whites or corporations.

These are but a sample of the revelations made possible by recent FOIA requests. None of them endanger the national security. It is important to remember that all classified documents are protected from FOIA requests and unavailable to the public. Yet these secrets have exposed all kinds of official skullduggery, some of which even violated the law. True, such revelations may disgrace public officials or even result in criminal charges, but that is the consequence -- or shall we say, the punishment -- for violating the public trust.

No one disputes that we must safeguard our national security. All of us want to protect our nation from further acts of terrorism. But we must never allow the public's right to know, enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act, to be suppressed for the sake of official convenience.

Ruth Rosen is an editorial writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.


3) Petition the Senate on the ABM Treaty

The following is a work in progress. To get involved with this petition contact:
Carol Wolman

Dear Senator,

The Senate has the right and the duty to vote on whether the US should withdraw from the ABM treaty.

The Constitution of the USA assigns to the Senate the task of overseeing treaties. Thomas Jefferson addressed the issue of rescinding treaties in his Manual of Parliamentary Practice (1801). The president-elect recalled that the Constitution makes treaties the "supreme law" of the land. Hence, only an "an act of the Legislature alone can declare them infringed and rescinded...." The Founding Fathers intended that Congress must be involved in all treaties so that the USA doesn't become a monarchy. We are dangerously close to that situation.

The Congress has been entrusted with most foreign policy powers in the Constitution--as is especially evident in the requirement of a 2/3 Senate approval on treaties. This is because a treaty becomes the law of the United States and Congress is the Legislative branch. Similarly, once made a law should not be changed by Presidential fiat but by Congressional vote.

It is your responsibility to maintain the balance of power between the branches of government and vote on this matter. Please assert this duty and sponsor a resolution challenging the President's right to withdraw from the ABM treaty unilaterally.



4) Miscellaneous Important Story Links

SYDNEY - More than 250 peace groups, anti-nuclear campaigners, non governmental organisations and lawmakers sent a petition to India and Pakistan to step back from the brink of war, Friends of the Earth said yesterday.

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Flyby News Archives See item 5 Ancient City Found, Irradiated from Atomic Blast!,57133,

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US Does Missile Deal With Greenpeace USA For Five Years
Los Angeles (AFP) Jan 09, 2002

Sixteen environmental activists who delayed the launch of a US missile to protest against Washington's "Star Wars" defense scheme on Tuesday avoided long jail terms by striking a deal with prosecutors.

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Nuclear testing back on US agenda
By Walter Pincus in Washington

The United States is to suggest that it may resume underground nuclear testing to help maintain the safety and reliability of a scaled-back US strategic nuclear weapons arsenal, according to weapons specialists.

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- Missile Defenses Gets Organized With New Agency
Washington - Jan 4, 2002

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld announced this week the redesignation of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) as the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

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Who Fired Up the Missile Threat? Republicans in Congress Know
by Michael Dobbs - Washington Post Service
Tuesday, January 15, 2002

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January 13, 2002

Base uses space to guide war
by Janene Scully, Times Staff Writer


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Martin Sheen -- President Bartlet on NBC-TV's "The West Wing" -- is asking you to urge your senators to vote against drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Senate will vote in February, so please act today -- and forward this e-mail to your friends and family so they also can help stop Big Oil from harming this precious wildlife refuge. For the text of Martin Sheen's statement and link to take action, see:

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The U.S. ban on travel to Cuba -- started during the height of the Cold War -- has become an increasingly dated government policy that must be overturned.

To repeal the ban, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced the "Bridges to the Cuban People Act" (S. 1017/H.R. 2138). And a Senate committee is expected in the next few weeks to convene hearings on overturning this dusty relic of Cold War hysteria. Even the Defense Department has determined that Cuba no longer poses a significant military threat, rendering obsolete the government's prior justification for the travel ban.

Take Action! You can read more about this legislation and send a FREE FAX, urging your Members of Congress to support the repeal of the Cuba travel ban from our action alert at:

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Extinction Rate Reaches Historical Proportions
Austin - Jan 15, 2002 - Half of all living bird and mammal species will be gone within 200 or 300 years, according to a botany professor at The University of Texas at Austin.

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