- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 25, 2003

New York Times

The Senate took an important first step Thursday in reining in the Total Information Awareness Program, a wide-ranging Pentagon monitoring scheme that could threaten the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans. Now the House must complete the job by agreeing to the Senate's language when the omnibus appropriations bill the amendment is attached to goes to conference, probably next week.

The war on terrorism requires heightened vigilance against a wide variety of threats. But this Orwellian project, entrusted to a man with an alarming record of sidestepping legal constraints, could undermine the privacy of millions of households and bulldoze vital barriers between external defense and domestic law enforcement.

Total Information Awareness is the brainchild of John Poindexter, the same man who, as Ronald Reagan's national security adviser, oversaw the illegal Iran-contra operation. Mr. Poindexter's conviction for lying to Congress in that affair was overturned because his testimony had been covered by a grant of immunity.

Mr. Poindexter has told interviewers that he has no wish to trample on civil liberties. Nevertheless, part of his stated ambition is to harness the vast networking powers of the computer to mine huge amounts of information about people — their backgrounds, their associations, their patterns of work and travel — and thus assist investigative agencies in anticipating potential terrorist activities. …

Senators recognized that the issues raised here go beyond normal partisan differences over where to draw the line between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberties. Total Information Awareness seems not even to recognize the existence of a line. That should be as unacceptable to House Republican foes of big government as to civil libertarian Democrats. Together they should finish the Senate's good work.

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States will resume its efforts to broker a peace between Israel and the Palestinians immediately after Israel holds elections on Tuesday. But there is another conflict in the Middle East that deserves at least as much attention as the standoff between Israel and the Palestinians: the conflict in the Arab world between what might be called medievalism and modernity.

The dimensions and dangers of this conflict were portrayed back in July in a United Nations report on Arab Human Development. It pointed out that the 22 nations of the Arab world have been held back — or have held themselves back — because of a lack of political freedom, the persecution of women and isolation from new ideas.

"The wave of democracy that transformed governance in most of the world," the report noted, "has barely reached the Arab states." Far from being an anti-Arab screed, this report was written by Arabs for Arabs, in the hope of bettering Arab society, not slandering it.

The stagnation of some Arab societies has become an increasingly urgent issue for the U.S., especially since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. These societies are seen as breeding grounds for hatred, intolerance and a view of America, its allies (especially Israel) and its values as evil and dangerous. Stagnation and paralysis breed terrorism. …

The Bush administration has made enormous efforts to prepare this country for another war in Iraq, and it has created a new department to protect the homeland's security from terrorism. Still, it has invested only a relative pittance in the quest to drain the swamp of ignorance and isolation that feeds anti-Americanism in the Middle East. That imbalance is not only out of whack; it is potentially self-destructive.

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Philadelphia Inquirer

Americans will tune in to President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night to hear about such weighty matters as the economy at home or the possibility of war in Iraq. They will look for reassurance that this country is one of the strongest on Earth.

But there is one more issue that some hope to hear about, a matter less weighty, a matter that, in fact, might be weightless.

Space scientists will be listening closely for clarification of a nuclear-powered mix-up.

The Los Angeles Times recently aroused the aerospace community by reporting that NASA will push development of a nuclear-powered rocket in hopes of sending a manned mission to Mars within 10 years. It said Mr. Bush might announce the project in his speech. …

The notion of a rocket that travels three times faster than currently possible rekindles romantic notions of interstellar journeys.

But the real issue with the rocket isn't actually its engine. It's priorities.

Americans will need to know why money should be spent on this project when so many federal programs are being squeezed by Mr. Bush's tax cuts, the sour economy, and the costs of heightened defense. Figure into the calculation the likelihood that Americans may soon be footing the bill for getting rid of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. …

This may not be the right time or the right way for President Bush to send astronauts to Mars. But President Kennedy launched the effort to send a man to the moon in the heat of the Cold War. President Nixon began the space shuttle program when the nation was in recession.

Here's hoping President Bush's State of the Union speech clears up this — and other — confusions.

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Baltimore Sun

Nobody has to believe that the French and the Germans are acting from pure motives as they try to throw a wrench into an early American war against Iraq. Both countries have had business dealings of a sordid nature with Iraq, both countries are wary of a further extension of American power, and both countries are evidently taking internal European politics — which have almost nothing to do with either Iraq or the United States — into consideration.

No. Their motives are complex but also largely beside the point. The important question is what comes next. …

But it's hard to think of any war in recent history in which the motives of the belligerent — the United States, in this instance — were held in such suspicion by so many others. Everyone knew that the American goal in Vietnam was what it was advertised to be — to stop the spread of communism. Everyone knew that the Soviet goal in Afghanistan was to install a communist regime. Everyone was very clear that Mr. Bush's father launched a war against Iraq a decade ago in order to liberate Kuwait.

But is this about weapons of mass destruction? Or oil? Or terrorism? Or democracy?

Why war? Why Iraq? Why now?

Good answers to those questions would shut up the French and Germans. Why, then, is the White House unable to make its case?

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Denver Post

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said this week that if the United States invades and wins in Iraq, our government will hold the country's oil fields "in trust" for the Iraqi people.

American Indians must be laughing themselves sick.

More than a century ago, Uncle Sam took control of Indian assets — including oil and gas fields. The government also took control of Indian grazing leases, timber rights and so forth, promising to hold the assets in trust for the Indians.

But the government never kept proper track of the money, making basic bookkeeping and legal errors that, if committed by anyone else, would have landed the trustee in prison. Among other things, the government mixed funds owed to some people with other accounts, failed to bill oil companies and other leaseholders for royalty payments and didn't keep tabs on payments to the Indians.

Today, more than 300,000 American Indians nationwide may be owed a total of $10 billion, say lawyers for the Indians, who sued the federal government over the issue.

The lawsuit was filed six years ago by the Boulder-based Native American Rights Fund and former Denver lawyer Dennis Gingold.

The case has dragged on through two presidential administrations and more than a half-decade. The government simply has not figured out how to fix the mess, despite installing a fancy new computer system and making innumerable promises to Indians and to Congress.

Now the U.S. government is assuring the world it can properly hold Iraqi oil fields in trust. If events unfold to place the U.S. government in such a position, two questions inevitably will arise.

First, the Iraqis may ask why they should trust the U.S. government to treat them any better than Uncle Sam has treated American Indians.

Second, if the U.S. government keeps its promises to the Iraqis and implements an efficient, honest accounting system, American Indians will have every right to demand to know why their government can't do the same for them.

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(Compiled by United Press International)




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