Thursday, April 30, 2009

Huge New Biodefense Lab Is Dedicated at Fort Detrick


Huge New Biodefense Lab Is Dedicated at Fort Detrick

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 23, 2008; B01

The Department of Homeland Security dedicated a massive biodefense laboratory in Frederick yesterday, moving toward the facility's opening despite questions raised about the risks of deadly pathogens to be studied there.

When the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center at Fort Detrick is fully operational in March, about 150 scientists in the lab will be tasked with protecting the country from a bioterrorist attack through prevention or containment. Another goal is to allow investigators to fingerprint biological agents such as viruses and bacteria, quickly tracing their source and catching the offender.

But critics cite the case of Bruce E. Ivins, a researcher at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, also at Fort Detrick, as evidence that such installations might help bioterrorists get access to lethal agents. FBI investigators think Ivins, who committed suicide in July, was responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks.

Construction began in June 2006 on the $143 million, 160,000-square-foot facility inside the fort, the Army's sprawling medical research post in Frederick. The ship-shaped building will be divided between the lab's major divisions: a forensic testing center, which aims to identify the culprits in biological attacks; and the Biothreat Characterization Center, which seeks to predict what such attacks will look like and guide the development of countermeasures.

Scientists affiliated with the lab have been working in leased space at Fort Detrick, but officials who spoke at the dedication yesterday said they were anxious to move into the new center.

"This is a great day. Many of us have been waiting for this day for a long time," said Jamie Johnson, director of the Office of National Laboratories of the Science and Technology Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. "I feel very passionately about this facility, and I feel even more passionately about its mission. This is state-of-the-art, cutting-edge bio-forensics."

Barry Kissin, a Frederick lawyer who has strongly opposed the lab's construction, said he fears the facility would be used to create biological weapons even though the government said its mission is defensive.

"It's not only a huge threat to local public health and safety, it is in the forefront of the instigation of a brand-new arms race in the realm of bioweapons," he said. "Here we are, expanding by about 20 times the size of the program that we're now being told generated the only bioattack in our history."

Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.), who has a PhD in human physiology, said the closure of the U.S. bioweapons program in 1969 had perhaps placed the country a step behind other nations that continued to operate secret programs.

"As a scientist, I knew how important it was to be at the cutting edge," Bartlett said. "I don't have complete confidence that our intelligence community will be able to tell us what's going on at the cutting edge." The scientists at the new Detrick lab, he said, are "going to have to divine what's happening." But he said he has "great confidence that this organization will indeed be able to protect us."

Democrat Jennifer Dougherty, a former Frederick mayor who faces Bartlett in the 6th District race, said relations between the city and Fort Detrick have gradually improved.

"I think it's essential that we make sure there's a level of transparency and a level of trust between residents, the city and the post," Dougherty said.

The directors of the campus were eager to demonstrate the facility's security, leading guests and reporters through a tour of the lab. Construction required everyone to wear hard hats and protective glasses.

The facility was clean and bright, with large windows allowing most scientists in sealed labs a view of the outdoors. About 40,000 square feet will be taken up by Biosafety Level 3 labs, which handle agents such as anthrax. In addition, 10,000 will be dedicated to the Level 4 labs, which handle agents such as the Ebola virus.

Next to the windows, digital monitors displayed air pressure, ensuring that air would flow from the outside into the lab. The air is constantly filtered, and three large pressure cookers sterilize contaminated waste. To get into the Level 4 labs, workers must pass through a chemical shower that cleanses their suits.

The thick, reinforced concrete walls were painted white. The rooms were empty of the testing equipment, animals and biological supplies that the scientists will use for their work. Exposed wires and pipes were in evidence, and sheeting was taped to parts of the floor.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Torture and Treason

Published on Thursday, April 30, 2009 by

Torture and Treason

by Robert C. Koehler

None dare call it . . . what is that word again?

It's a word I associate with the McCarthy era and patriotic fanaticism; its commission is the cardinal sin against the nation-state and, as such, not only too easily flung at an ideological opponent but a frayed, simplistic concept, in that humankind ought to be reaching beyond national identities for global allegiance and a security that doesn't devalue life anywhere on the planet. It's a word I avoid. Certainly I've never accused anyone of it. Till now.

But as I have pondered the recently released torture memos and the sudden, long-delayed trickle of national soul-searching they have provoked over the crimes of the Bush era, I find myself shocked into new emotional territory.

Consider this little item from a McClatchy Newspapers story last week: "The Bush administration applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees" - commonly known as torture - "in part to find evidence of cooperation between al-Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence official and a former Army psychiatrist."

Indeed, Guantanamo interrogators, in 2002 and early 2003, were under pressure from way high up to "produce evidence" - can you feel the moral drift here? - that Saddam Hussein helped bring down the Towers so we could go to war with Iraq. This was when Khalid Sheik Muhammed was being waterboarded 183 times and Abu Zubaydah 83 times.

"The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results," the psychiatrist, Maj. Charles Burney, told Army investigators, according to the McClatchy story.

Let us pause the news cycle here and strip away the desperate delicacy of this language. The Gitmo intelligence crew was being told, from the highest levels of the Bush White House and the Pentagon - think Cheney, think Rumsfeld - to keep slamming these guys' heads against the wall, to keep pouring water down their throats, to keep tormenting them with dogs and insects, until they blubbered, in their pain and terror, a word or two that would justify the long-planned (and completely pointless) invasion of Iraq.

This drags the torture "debate" out of the fog that mainstream pundits are paid to generate - does it work? is it legal? is it cruel? is it counterproductive? - and exposes something that is troubling at the level of the soul, and begs only one question.

Is it treason?

As I say, this is not a word I use with any comfort or certainty. It's a word I distrust. But I use it now, summoning not its legal or constitutional meaning (though I don't doubt that the U.S. Constitution was flushed down the toilet along with the Koran); but rather, the emotional core of the word as it bubbled up from Latin and French into the English language in the 13th century: to hand over, to betray a sacred trust. That was an age that, if nothing else, was serious about its values. Are we serious about ours?

Raise your hand, stand up, step forward if you think a deep moral violation has occurred in this scenario: An American president, or at least his primary advisors, circumvent international and domestic law to permit the use of cruel and occasionally fatal interrogation techniques on Muslim detainees (sometimes randomly arrested and completely innocent), not for the purpose of mining them for actual information, which might have national security value, but to get them, sheerly, to lie as instructed.

The question of the moment is now, no longer: Is torture un-American? It is: Are we, as a nation, bigger than our transgressions? Can we establish a commission or an investigation with a moral force greater than the trust that has been debased? Can we face up to what has been done in our name, establish accountability and find a way to atone and change?

Politically, the answer is no. Politics as we practice it these days - as the Democrats practice it, I should say - is just another form of market-based consumerism. It is trend-focused and desirous most of all of not offending. While the Republicans are masters at creating wedge issues and harnessing hatred in order to govern, the Dems lack the skill to harness the opposite force, compassion and empathy, so they govern without clarity or fervor. In the words of Michael Dukakis, they aspire to "manage."

As citizens who are sick of the treasonous assault on our values, we can't let up in our demand for a serious investigation into torture and other crimes of "the war on terror." Finding and addressing the root causes of what we have done is the psychological equivalent of sustainability.

Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at [1] or visit his Web site at [2]

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Baltimore Activist Alert - Part 1

Baltimore Activist Alert Apr. 30 – May 22, 2009


"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours.

The initiative to stop it must be ours." -Martin Luther King Jr.


Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center.  Go to  If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.  Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski [at]


The Baltimore IndyMedia Center publicizes peace-related events. Go to


1] Books, buttons and stickers

2] Web site for info on federal legislation

3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists  

4] Max is seeking housing/peace house is available

5] Buy Mankekolo’s book

6] Buy coffee through HoCoFoLA

7] Used stamps for humanitarian causes

8] Call-In to Stop Nuke/Coal – Apr. 30

9] Witness Against Torture 100 Days Campaign – Apr. 30

10] Innocent on Death Row – Apr. 30

11] May Day at UMB – May 1

12] WIB Inner Harbor peace vigil – May 1

13] WIB Roland Park vigil – May 1                  

14] White House vigil – May 1                   


16] Support Sheraton Workers – May 1

17] Support The Congo demo – May 1

18] Silent vigil at Homewood Friends – May 1


1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available.  “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Call Max at 410-366-1637.


2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to  Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073.


3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR].  It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed.  It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq.


To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to  Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.  


THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe.  It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing.  To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to You will get a confirmation message once subscribed.  If you have problems, please write to the list manager at  

4] – Max is in need of housing.  If you have any leads, please call him at 410-366-1637.  Note that there may be an opportunity for two or three people to move into a “peace house.”  If interested, call Max.

5] – Rev. Dr. Mankekolo Mahlangu-Ngcobo has returned to live in Baltimore, and is writing her autobiography.  Consider purchasing her book" One A Day: Spiritual Vitamins. Be ready with daily Spiritual Vitamins from January 1 to December 31 in 2009.”  Send a donation of $10 with $3 shipping and handling to 3315 Mondawmin Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21216.

6] – You can help safeguard human rights and fragile ecosystems through your purchase of HOCOFOLA Café Quetzal. Bags of ground coffee or whole beans can be ordered by mailing in an order form. For more details and to download the order form, go to

Be sure you indicate ground (G) or bean (B) for each type of coffee ordered. Make the check out to HoCoFoLA and send it with your order form to HoCoFoLA, PO Box 94, Columbia, MD  21045. Contact Pat McLaine at 410-964-0960 or  The coffee will arrive some time the following week and you will be notified where to pick it up.

7] – Brad Hathaway spearheads an effort to sell donated used stamps to raise money for different humanitarian causes around the world. Go to, and click the link for the stamp ministry.  Carefully clip canceled postage stamps and send to Quaker Missions, PO Box 795, Mattapoisett, MA 02739. Send no small flag stamps or Liberty Bell Forever stamps.

8] – The NATIONAL GRASSROOTS CALL-IN DAY TO STOP NUKE/COAL SUBSIDIES is Thurs., Apr. 30.  KEEP CONGRESSIONAL PHONES RINGING ALL DAY LONG!  Use the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.  The basic phone message is pretty simple: No Nukes, No Coal, No Kidding! Congress must support renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, not waste more taxpayer money on obsolete, dirty nuclear power and coal technologies.  Go to

9] – Witness Against Torture will conclude its 100 Days Campaign on Thurs., Apr. 30.  There will be a 10 AM gathering at the Capitol Reflecting Pool. A procession to the White House will start at 11:15 AM, and a group, representing the detainees who remain in the Gitmo detention facility despite being cleared of any crimes, will risk arrest.  There are still 241 men in Gitmo. RSVP to daloisio at Go to   

10] – On Thurs., APR. 30 at 7 PM, hear INNOCENT ON DEATH ROW, Randy Steidl’s story of wrongful conviction, life on death row, exoneration – and inspiration, at the Peace Center of Delaware County, Springfield Friends Meeting House, 1001 Old Sproul Road, Springfield, Delaware County (just behind the Car Wash at the corner of Sproul Road & Old Marple Road) in  Springfield, PA.  Directions and more, visit Steidl recently played a high-profile role in abolishing New Mexico’s death penalty.  Call Terry Rumsey at 610-891-8969.


11] – May Day at UMB begins on Fri., May 1 at the UMB-School of Social Work Auditorium from 9 AM to 12:30 PM.  This is an opportunity to speak out about how the economic crisis has impacted your life and the lives of the people you serve.  Anyone planning to attend, REGISTER at Email or call 410-706-7927.


The Management and Community Organization (MACO) concentration of the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Social Work (UMB-SSW) invites you and/or a representative from your agency or community to participate in our “Speak Out on the Economic Crisis” event.  The Speak Out is designed to provide opportunities for community leaders and everyday people to show how the economic downturn has affected their lives and work. 


12] – Women In Black sponsor a peace stand/vigil on Fri., May 1 from noon-1 PM at the Inner Harbor, corner Pratt and Light.  Everyone welcome, wear black if you can.  See or write or call 410-467-9114.


13] – There is also a noon vigil on Fri., May 1 at Roland Park Place at 830 W. 40th St.  Call 410-467-9114. 


14] – A peace vigil takes place every Friday from noon to 1 PM on Pennsylvania Ave., by the press gate to the White House. It is organized by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Call 202-882-9649.

15] – Join CASA de Maryland and other National Capital Immigration Coalition members on Fri., May 1 in a march to the White House! There are several demands: Stop the Raids; Stop 287(g) agreements and police collaboration with ICE; and Pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2009!  There are buses leaving at 1:30 PM from several sites in Baltimore. Call CASA at 410-732-7777 or email Sarah Martin at smartin at

16] – Join a May Day Rally to "Support the Sheraton Workers!"  UNITE HERE Local 7 is asking you to appear on Fri., May 1 at 4 PM at the Sheraton City Center, 101 West Fayette St. Call 917-647-8930 or email

17] – There is a peace vigil to support the Congo every Friday, 4 to 6:30 PM at the Rwandan Embassy, 1714 New Hampshire Ave, NW.  Call the Rwandan Embassy at 202-232-2882 and register your concern about Rwanda's aggression towards the Congo.

18] – There is a silent vigil on Fri., May 1 from 5 to 6 PM outside of Homewood Friends Meeting, 3107 N. Charles St., in opposition to war with Iraq. Placards say: "War Is Not the Answer." The silent vigil is sponsored by AFSC, Homewood Friends and Stony Run Meetings.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Marcia Mitchell | Katharine Gun: The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War


t r u t h o u t | 04.07


Katharine Gun: The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War

Tuesday 07 April 2009

by: Marcia Mitchell, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Katharine Gun worked at the British intelligence agency when she discovered an NSA memo that she used in an attempt to stop the invasion of Iraq. (Photo: The New Statesman)

    Pigeons are coming home to roost in the prestigious halls of the United Kingdom's Parliament building. Whether they make it across the Atlantic to the US Capitol is a matter that should be of interest to all Americans.

    On March 19, Katharine Gun testified before British lawmakers, asking them to commit to a full public inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq. Gun is well-known to Members of Parliament. She was the young British secret service officer who was arrested for leaking an illegal US spy operation against members of the UN Security Council debating the decision for war. The operation, mounted by the NSA, targeted six nations whose vote for a preemptive strike was considered essential to winning broad international support for war.

    "What we were being asked to do was to politicize intelligence, and we subsequently found out ... that policy was being fixed around intelligence," Gun said in her testimony last week.

    The plot she revealed was conceived in America by an American intelligence agency whose director at the time repeatedly assured the US public - and the Congress - that the NSA "does nothing unlawful." Others saw it differently. Manipulating intelligence to fit policy was one thing, albeit both disgraceful and outrageous; manipulating people was tantamount to blackmail.

    If Gun and others seeking a new and full Iraq war inquiry are successful, the NSA misadventure will once again be a matter of investigation, at least in Great Britain. Not a slap dash of whitewash, but true scrutiny. And, because the United Kingdom agreed to join in the illegal spy operation at the request of the United States, a related issue will once again be back on the front burner - that of American influence over British decision-making at the highest levels.

    Five years ago, on the day following its collapse at the Old Bailey, members of Parliament hotly debated issues surrounding the Katharine Gun case. Especially troubling, and certain to be troubling again, was this question of whether the Americans led the British not only into spying against the UN, but also into an unpopular - and perhaps illegal - war.

    The words of MP Colin Challen, spoken during that earlier, historic debate, will come back to haunt this time around:

    "The substantive issue is whether or not we acted at the behest of the American government."

    The possibility of having been so seriously flummoxed by politicians across the pond was, and continues to be, painfully disturbing. The illegal spy operation and the preemptive strike against Iraq were linked in an enduring relationship by Challen and his colleagues. To reexamine one act is to reexamine the other.

    Earlier investigations into pre-war intelligence issues, such as those reported by Lord Butler and Lord Hutton in the UK and by the Iraq Intelligence Commission in the US, have not answered the most compelling questions about how and why the US and the UK went to war without a clear UN mandate and with reliance upon egregiously flawed intelligence. Neither have they addressed the issue raised in the Gun case from the beginning - the legality of the war.

    Hopefully, a new investigation into the how and why of it all will remind the world that "getting rid of Saddam Hussein," so often touted as the justification for war, ignores the existence of international accords prohibiting a preemptive invasion for the purpose of regime change. Thus far, few have taken notice of this inconvenient truth, especially in the mainstream US media - which essentially ignored the Gun case - and in certain high places on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The US Iraq Intelligence Commission was empanelled to explore, among its other mandates, the quality and value of pre-war Iraq intelligence. The problem was the mandate the commission did not have - one that relates directly to what happened a few days ago in London, and to those pesky pigeons winging their way to the House of Parliament.

    What the commission lacked, according to its own report, was the power "to investigate how policy makers used the intelligence they received."

    And there's the rub.

    It's going to take investigating decisions of the policy makers and intelligence manipulators, not the intelligence collectors - if the truth is to be revealed. Investigators need to knock on doors on Downey Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

    Former UK diplomat Carne Ross, who left the UK Foreign Office over questions about the validity of pre-war intelligence and the legality of the war, agrees. He told Members of Parliament last week that, "There should be a full public inquiry ... into the decision-making that took place."

    Katharine Gun agrees. Standing strong at the time, the young intelligence officer challenged the decision to go to war based on its legality and risked years in prison for doing so. She has outraged many by saying, "I have no regrets. I would do it again." This was her mantra even as the government was preparing to try her for high crime. It is her mantra today.

    Testifying with Carne Ross and others, she told Members of Parliament - who, as noted, remember her well, that "Working on the inside, there are people whose views are similar to my own, but they dare not speak their mind."

    If there is a significant paradigm switch, if truth becomes the essence of hope and the recorder of history, others, in both the United States and Great Britain, may find the courage to speak up.

    Gun has a platform in the UK and people are listening. In Washington, DC, she was featured last September at an American University symposium centered around publication of Gun's story in the US, "The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War," written by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, a former FBI agent.


Marcia Mitchell is co-author with Thomas Mitchell of "The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq War" and "The Spy Who Seduced America: Lies and Betrayal in the Heat of the Cold War."

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The criminalization of journalism


April 23- 29, 2009

The criminalization of journalism


The U.S. prohibited an overflight by an Air France airliner because journalist Calvo Ospina was on board

By Hernando Calvo Ospina                                                  


Air France Flight 438, from Paris, was to land at Mexico City at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 18. Five hours before landing, the captain's voice announced that U.S. authorities had prohibited the plane from flying over U.S. territory. The explanation: among the passengers aboard was a person who was not welcome in the United States for reasons of national security.

A few minutes later, the same voice told the startled passengers that the plane was heading for Fort-de-France, Martinique, because the detour the plan needed to take to reach its destination was too long and the fuel was insufficient.


The stopover in that French territory in the Caribbean would be only to refuel the plane. Exhaustion was becoming an issue among the passengers. But the central question, spoken in undertones, was the identity of the "terrorist" passenger, because if the "gringos" say it, "it must be because he must be a terrorist."


Looking at those of us sitting in the back of the plane, two passengers said no terrorist could be there because "nobody there looks like a Muslim."

Again in the air, and preparing for another four hours of travel, a man who identified himself as the copilot came to me. Trying to look discreet, he asked if I was "Mr. Calvo Ospina." I told him yes.


"The captain wants to sleep, that's why I came here," he said, and he invited me to accompany him to the back of the plane. There, he told me that I was the person "responsible" for the detour. I was astonished.

My first reaction was to ask him: "Do you think I'm a terrorist?" He said no, that's the reason I'm telling you this. He also assured me that it was strange that this was the first time it happened on an Air France plane.


Shortly before we landed in Martinique, a stewardess had told me that, in her 11-year career, nothing like that had ever happened to her.


Finally, the copilot asked me not to tell anybody, including the rest of the crew. I assured him that I hadn't the slightest intention of doing so. I returned to my seat. Perhaps through nervousness, I began to notice that the members of the crew walked by me more frequently, looking at me with curiosity.


After landing, before the plane even reached the airport building, a woman's voice asked for "Mr. Calvo Ospina" to meet with a member of the crew as soon as the plane stopped. I did so. The young man picked up a phone and called someone. After hanging up, he told me I was no longer needed and could debark. He told me he knew about my problem and wished me luck.


In an instant, on two pieces of paper I ripped from a newspaper, I wrote the telephone number of my home and gave them to two passengers with whom I had chatted, telling them I was "the problem guy." They assured me they would phone my home, but didn't -- or they couldn't read my numbers.


A few yards from the plane, at the entrance to the terminal, we were awaited by several civilians who asked for our documents. My throat was drying up, due to nerves. I submitted my passport and was allowed to enter. While I waited on line at the immigration desk, I saw several men looking for someone. They stood behind a glass partition, a few steps away from the immigration agents but at a higher level.


The line moved slowly. I was moving, without any choice, to where I felt the worst might happen. But what could I do? The scandal of a man designated as "a terrorist" by the United States could not gain me any supporters. I had to go on. Nothing weighed on my conscience; nothing weighs still.


Then I saw that the three or four men behind the glass partition had identified me. They looked at a computer screen and then at me. I feigned indifference. The man who looked like (and was) the leader, went down to the main floor to talk to the immigration agents. He pretended not to assume that I was "the culprit" but clearly he thought so. And the immigration agents looked into my eyes, unable to conceal that they knew I was the man they were waiting for.


My turn came. I greeted the man politely and he responded in like manner. He looked at the computer, wrote something and told me to wait a minute, said he needed to "verify" something in my passport. He asked me to follow him. I did. He led me to a room next to the glass-enclosed one. A uniformed agent was sitting next to the door, writing something. As soon as I put down my two valises, I told him I needed to go to the bathroom. He pointed me in its direction. I walked through two large semi dark rooms; I saw two people sleeping on the floor, on mats. The bathroom lights didn't work. I urinated without worrying if I hit the toilet seat or not. I couldn't see a thing.

I returned and sat down. I fumbled for a book, displaying tranquility, but my throat remained dry. A few minutes later, the same man who watched me from the glass enclosure returned and politely asked me to follow him. We walked into the glass-enclosed room, he sat behind a desk and asked me to sit in one of two chairs. As I did, I noticed that a man was standing behind me, to my left. A woman checked a computer and documents, paying no attention to us.


The first thing the man told me was that I shouldn't worry, that they only wanted to verify a few things. He said that "five information sources" in data bases had shown some information about me. He said they "simply" needed to make a "summary." He showed me a package that contained about 200 sheets of paper, stapled together in five booklets.


I calmed down, forgot about my dry throat and told him: "Ask whatever you want. I have nothing to hide." He repeated that it was a simple, brief matter and that I could leave later. Knowing the police, I had my doubts.


I asked him if those many sheets of paper said that I was guilty of something. The man who was standing answered that I was there at the request of U.S. authorities. He said I should know that, after Sept. 11, 2001, the Americans had stepped up their "cooperation" work.


Then I asked them: "So, am I to blame for the plane's rerouting?" They said no, they understood it had been a mere technical stopover. I told them they knew it wasn't so, that the plane's captain had told everyone that the stopover was due to a passenger. They smiled, looked at each other, and resumed the questions. They asked me for my name, date of birth, residence, etc. Nothing special, nothing that wasn't already in my documents. The seated officer kept repeating that I could leave without any problem in a few minutes. The standing officer posed the more "remarkable" questions.

"Are you a Catholic?" he asked. I answered no, but I am not a Muslim either, knowing how "dangerous" this religious belief has become to certain policemen.


"Do you know how to handle firearms?" I told him that the only time I held one I was very young; it was a shotgun and I was knocked down by the recoil. I never even went through military service, I said. In fact, I added, "my only weapon is my writing, especially to denounce the American government, whom I consider terrorist."


They looked at each other, and the seated man said something I already knew: "That weapon sometimes is worse than rifles and bombs."


They asked me why I was traveling to Nicaragua the following day, and I explained that I had to write a story for Le Monde Diplomatique. They asked me for my personal address, as well as the home phone and cell phone numbers, which I gave them without hesitation. They asked me if I had children. A girl and a boy, I answered. The standing man, who by then had sat down next to me, said calmly: "How nice that you have a boy-and-girl couple. That's nice." He sounded almost sincere.


That was basically the interrogation, which seemed more like a chat. The notes made by the seated man did not fill a page. The notes made by the other man did not fill a notepad page. It seemed to me that the latter worked for a more specialized intelligence agency. At no time did either official speak aggressively or threateningly. They were very courteous and proper.


Finally, they returned my identification papers after photocopying them. And we parted with a handshake. It was almost 2 a.m., Sunday, April 19, 2009. At 10:30 a.m. I boarded a plane for Managua without any difficulty. But I still think that it was a dream bordering on a nightmare. I still don't believe that I was "guilty of detouring an Air France 747 because of the 'fears' of U.S. authorities."


How much did it all cost? Only Air France knows. It had to pay for hotel rooms and food for at least half the passengers, who missed their connections. I witnessed the other passengers' exhaustion, especially the children, some of whom began to vomit, fearing that among them was a "terrorist." I also saw the tranquility of the crew members in my presence. Later I learned that all of them were aware of the situation, but it didn't seem to me that they believed I was guilty of a crime.


How far will the U.S. authorities' paranoia go? And why do Air France and the French authorities continue to keep silent about it all?


Hernando Calvo Ospina, a Colombian journalist and writer, lives in France.


Copyright © 2006 - 2009


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Lawyers try to force Army contractor exec to be deposed in suit


Wednesday April 29, 2009

Updated: 2:31 p.m.


Post-gazette NOW


Paula Reed Ward


Staff writer Paula Reed Ward has been a reporter at the Post-Gazette since 2003 and currently covers federal courts. Before that, she worked at the Savannah Morning News in Georgia and the Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald. Having grown up in Pittsburgh, she has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree in criminal justice from Armstrong Atlantic State University.


Lawyers try to force Army contractor exec to be deposed in suit

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

An executive of an Army contractor that has been sued for wrongful death in federal court can't have it both ways, say attorneys seeking to compel his deposition.

He can't assert on a newspaper editorial page that his company -- KBR -- had nothing to do with the electrocution death of a soldier in the shower in Iraq, and then claim he has no knowledge of the incident.

Attorneys who represent the parents of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth filed a motion in federal court yesterday asking a judge to order William C. Bodie, KBR interim president for government and infrastructure, to testify in the case.

Mr. Bodie wrote a rebuttal piece in the Post-Gazette earlier this month, claiming that KBR had nothing to do with Sgt. Maseth's death at Radwaniyah Palace in Baghdad.

Sgt. Maseth, an Army Ranger and Green Beret, died on Jan. 2, 2008, when the electricity in the shower facility short-circuited because an electric water pump on the rooftop was not properly grounded.

The lawsuit filed by Cheryl A. Harris and Douglas Maseth alleges that their son died because KBR failed to maintain the electrical infrastructure at the former estate of Saddam Hussein.

In a piece that ran April 17, Mr. Bodie wrote, "Sgt. Maseth's accidental electrocution was an unfortunate and tragic event, but it was not caused by KBR. KBR worked quickly to remediate problems when authorized to do the work."

But attorneys representing Staff Sgt. Maseth's parents believe that the writing of that letter shows that Mr. Bodie must have some knowledge of the event, and therefore he should be deposed.

KBR attorneys have said they would not produce Mr. Bodie, calling him in an e-mail to the plaintiffs' attorneys, a "high level executive [who] would not appear to have any first-hand knowledge of any fact or issue that is relevant to this case."

Patrick Cavanaugh, who represents Sgt. Maseth's parents, disagreed.

"This statement of counsel flies in the face of Mr. Bodie's own words in his letter where he takes positions on the contractual responsibility and the wiring of Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth's building and states definitively that KBR is aware of no fact showing that KBR is responsible for Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth's death," he wrote.

KBR's attorney, Joseph L. Luciana III, did not return a phone call seeking comment. However, in an e-mail to Mr. Cavanaugh, he wrote that Mr. Bodie's letter was simply a response to a Post-Gazette editorial. Further, Mr. Bodie said the wiring at issue was installed by the Iraqis and was not the responsibility of KBR to repair or replace.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer ruled that the lawsuit against KBR can move forward. The civilian contractor claimed that the issues raised by the complaint could not be heard in federal court because they would force the judge to question military decisions.

Judge Fischer, however, said that was not the case, ruling that the lawsuit does not revolve around any military combat operations. Rather, she wrote, it turns on whether KBR was negligent in maintaining the infrastructure at the former palace complex where Sgt. Maseth died.

KBR attorneys have asked the judge for permission to appeal her ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before the case continues.

Paula Reed Ward can be reached at or 412-263-2620.

First published on April 28, 2009 at 12:00 am

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs