Kidnappers Set New Deadline for Jill Carroll

Jill Carroll - AlRai / APTNChairman of the Kuwaiti television channel Al Rai, Jassem Boudai announced Friday that specific demands from the kidnappers of American Journalist Jill Carroll have been passed on to authorities via the network. The kidnappers threaten to kill Carroll unless the demands are met by February 26, according to Reuters.

Carroll is “in a safe house owned by one of the kidnappers in downtown Baghdad with a group of women,” according to Boudai’s statement to AP.

Carroll seemed calm in a videotape aired Thursday on Al Rai TV. She asked that all demands of her kidnappers be met as “there is very short time left.”

Natasha and J. Scott Tynes, both friends and former colleagues of Jill Carroll, update the story as it happens on Natasha’s blog.

Official statements and updates from Carroll’s employer, Christian Science Monitor can be found here. Click here for a timeline of events involving Jill Carroll.

And let’s hope that this ends promptly and peacefully.

Cowboy George Lassos ‘Liberty’ Tower

When captured Al-Qaeda “mastermind” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed admitted under questioning that a terrorist attack involving the largest building west of the Mississisppi was planned, federal officials shrugged him off, concluding that if the alleged plot was in motion at all, it was only in the early discussion phases.

This morning President Bush captured nationwide headlines by drawing out the details of this alleged plot involving a shoebomb-assisted entry into the cockpit of a passenger jet, which would then be comandeered into Los Angeles’ Library Tower by a terrorist. Apparently swept up by the drama of a 9/11 copycat attack averted, president mistakenly referred to the building (now commonly known as U.S. Bank Tower) as “Liberty” Tower.

Four months ago, in the aftermath of the Harriet Miers disaster, the president made a surprise address in which he praised homeland security and international allies in thwarting at least ten alleged terrorist plots – including the aforementioned (yet not with so much detail) Library Tower. Bush’s vague proclamation prompted broad questioning (see Keith Olbermann’s fascinating “Nexus of Politics and Terror” piece). The L.A. Times was prompted to headline a co-authored article “Is Bush Making Up Plots to Bolster Support for the War in Iraq?

While many are suspicious that Bush’s announcement this morning is to drum up support for his domestic surveillance program (only days after the not-so-satisfying testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales), it almost reads as if he is attempting to “terrorize” American citizens themselves — I mean, don’t statements clarifying the continued threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil despite the absence of such attacks since 9/11 sound like propaganda coming from al-Qaeda themselves?

Am I supposed to grab the wheel tight and glance up at U.S. Bank Tower in fear every time I drive down the 110? Can I expect to see visitors to Gehry’s Disney Music Hall milling about the rejuvenated downtown with concerned looks of imminent doom as they approach the shadows of the 73-story tower?

There is a good reason this is headline news throughout the country. Americans must be reminded that there have been numerous terrorist attacks throughout the world at the hands of al-Qaeda, including, most recently, the 7/7 (7 July 2005) bombings on the London Underground. Furthermore, we should be reminded that terrorists aren’t all that stupid, and therefore, it would be completely foolish to believe that they would use the same strategy again (fly a plane into a big building) when mass terror can be inflicted in numerous ways — the easiest of which we are in no way prepared for.

It seems irrelevant, and shows great weakness to point out alleged terror targets and attributing the claims to a captured al-Qaeda captain, who we now know was interrogated under duress if not tortured underwater.

Why not alert us of our security soft-spots that need more funding to thwart potential attacks such as the Port of Los Angeles (Long Beach)? Or, should we be attacked there, will we once again hear that nobody could have predicted the bombing of the busiest large-container port in the nation?

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for one, was blindsided by these new details, as was California Congressman Brad Sherman (audio).

NSA Hearings Day 1

AG Alberto Gonzales’ prepared remarks are here.

Glenn Greenwald is doing an excellent job, blogging on location in D.C.

Also – Think Progress: “Gonzales describes the situation as a choice between following the law (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and protecting America.”
more later.

Sunday super Sunday

The perspective from the United States seems more than a bit removed when it comes to racial baiting, unrest, and public debate regarding religion. We are so distant from such events as the recent civil unrest in France and the unqualified chaos that has resulted from the reprinting of months-old Danish cartoonery that not a soul flinches when our “born again” dear leader — aspiring liberator of all ten planets — concludes his speeches “may God bless America.” Talk about a blasphemy complex….

The debate over freedom of speech versus rules of faith rolled out into the streets of Syria Saturday, as fire was set to the Danish Embassy there. Journalists have been arrested and fired after reprinting the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten‘s infamous Mohammad cartoons. Managing editor of the Paris nightly France Soir also lost his job. The discussion has turned philosophical with references to Salman Rushdie. U.S. newspapers did not print the cartoon, avoiding inevitable karmic consequences, while the White House wisely stayed mum on the controversy. As Zakaria writes, Washington sounded convincing for some time in successfuly repressing Islamic fundamentalism.

In Iraqi oil news, the New York Times reports that “government corruption” resulting in the diversion of Iraqi oil revenues into the hands of the insurgency is “threatening to undermine Iraq’s strugging economy.” This follows an L.A. Times report of a mortar attack on a petroleum facility in Kirkuk on Thursday, described by an Iraqi oil executive as the “most severe attack we have ever faced on an oil installation.”

The Washington Post has further analysis on the results of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. The front-page article is critical of the program, noting that few if any of the nearly 40,000 employees in the NSA are even capable of translating the phone calls, and concluding that nearly all of the citizens suspected of terrorist involvement as a result of eavesdropping were later cleared. According to Time, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will assail the press for its coverage of the warrantless wiretaps story. Among the remarks prepared for Gonzales presentation to Arlen Specter and the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday:

“These press accounts are in almost every case, in one way or another, misinformed, confused, or wrong.”

The law profs weigh in: UofC’s Stone, Georgetown’s Cole, NYU’s Feldman.

hugo chavez fidel castroVenezuelan President Hugo Chavez continues with threats to jail U.S. diplomats in Venezuela and close oil refineries to the U.S. while he purchases more weapons. After Sec. Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Adolf Hitler on Thursday, Chavez compared President Bush to the Nazi leader. The U.S. depends on Venezuelan for about 15% of its annual oil consumption, importing 1.5 million barrels a day.

AP: The U.S. will release 50 Iraqi detainees on Sunday, however, none of the four known female detainees are expected to be among these. The kidnappers of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll demanded the release of all female Iraqi detainees as a condition for Carroll’s release.

Worldwide pleas for the Carroll’s releaes continue to roll in following the broadcast last week of a second video featuring the reporter in tears. Her friend, Jordanian-born journalist Natasha Tynes, has analysis.

jerome bettis beats the bears, c/o register-mailSeattle v. Pittsburgh. This better be a good one.

I like the “Bus” and “Big Ben,” plus they beat down da Bears this year — so I’m pulling for Pittsburgh. Either way, good Patriot-less football will be a bonus. Super Bowl XL.

Bush-Blair Memos Reveal Disregard for Diplomacy

Bush hearts Blair Happy Valentines DayDetails are finally coming in from the many-times FOIA‘d White House memos detailing correspondence between George W. Bush and Tony Blair leading up to the invastion of Iraq.

Revealed in the memo, minutes of a conversation between Bush and Blair on January 31, 2003:

President Bush assures Blair that violence is highly unlikely after Saddam’s regime is dismantled. Furthermore, the president expresses his desire to provoke war in Iraq with language that is unsupportive and downright insulting to the troops:

President Bush said: “The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach.”

The fact that PM Blair approved Bush’s decision to go to war without researching the legality of the invasion and the legitimacy of the U.S. WMD findings a major controversy In the UK.

BBC Channel 4:

“The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would ‘twist arms’ and ‘even threaten’. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.”

Prime Minister Blair responded that he was: “solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam.”

Think Progress documents the numerous times that Bush stated he was “not sure” about going to war with Iraq after presenting the idea as a sure thing in his conversation with Blair, i.e. “We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq.”

See Channel4.com’s special report.