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Profile: Bill Richardson
Bill Richardson was a participant or observer in the following events:
Bill Richardson. [Source: BBC]Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul. (All such meetings are illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.) US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a “fabulous opportunity” and are especially motivated by the “prospect of circumventing Iran, which offers another route for the pipeline.” [Boston Globe, 9/20/2001] Richardson tries to persuade the Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden to the US, promising to end the international isolation of the Taliban if they cooperate. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 195; US Department of State, 1/30/2004]
Rich Levernier, a specialist with the Department of Energy (DOE) for 22 years who spent over six years before the 9/11 attacks running nuclear war games for the US government, says that the Bush administration has done little more than talk about securing the nation’s nuclear facilities from terrorist attacks. If Levernier and his team of experts (see February 15, 2004) are correct in their assessments, the administration is actually doing virtually nothing to protect the US’s nuclear weapons facilities, which certainly top any terrorist’s wish list of targets. Instead of addressing the enormous security problems at these facilities, it is persecuting whistleblowers like Levernier. Indeed, the administration denies a danger even exists. “Any implication that there is a 50 percent failure rate on security tests at our nuclear weapons sites is not true,” says Anson Franklin, a spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a DOE agency that oversees the US’s nuclear weapons complex. “Our facilities are not vulnerable.”
Too Strict Grading? - James Ford, who is retired, was Levernier’s direct DOE supervisor in the late 1990s. He says that while Levernier was a talented and committed employee, the results he claims from his mock terror attacks are skewed because of what Ford calls Levernier’s too-strict approach to grading the performance of the nuclear facilities’ security personnel. Ford says that Levernier liked to focus on one particular area, the Technical Area-18 facility, at the Los Alamos nuclear facility in New Mexico, though the site is essentially indefensible, located at the bottom of a canyon and surrounded on three sides by steep, wooded ridges that afforded potential attackers excellent cover and the advantage of high ground.
Complaints of 'Strict Grading' Baseless, Squad Commander Says - “My guys were licking their chops when they saw that terrain,” says Ronald Timms, who commanded mock terrorist squads under Levernier’s supervision. Timms, now the head of RETA Security, which participated in many DOE war games and designed the National Park Service’s security plans for Mount Rushmore, says Ford’s complaint is groundless: “To say it’s unfair to go after the weak link is so perverse, it’s ridiculous. Of course the bad guys are going to go after the weakest link. That’s why [DOE] isn’t supposed to have weak links at those facilities.” In one such attack Timms recalls, Levernier’s forces added insult to injury by hauling away the stolen weapons-grade nuclear material in a Home Depot garden cart. The then-Secretary of Energy, Bill Richardson, ordered the weapons-grade material at TA-18 to be removed to the Nevada Test Site by 2003. That has not happened yet, and is not expected to happen until 2006 at the earliest.
Rules of Engagement - The failure rates are even harder to understand considering the fact that the rules of engagement are heavily slanted in favor of the defense. A real terrorist attack would certainly be a surprise, but the dates of the war games were announced months in advance, within an eight-hour window. Attackers were not allowed to use grenades, body armor, or helicopters. They were not allowed to use publicly available radio jamming devices. “DOE wouldn’t let me use that stuff, because it doesn’t have a defense against it,” Levernier says. His teams were required, for safety reasons, to obey 25 MPH speed limits. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the DOE’s war games, Levernier says, is that they don’t allow for suicide bombers. The games required Levernier’s teams to steal weapons-grade nuclear material and escape. It is likely, though, that attackers would enter the facility, secure the materials, and detonate their own explosives. DOE did not order nuclear facilities to prepare for such attacks until May 2003, and the policy change does not take effect until 2009. Levernier notes that three of the nation’s nuclear weapons facilities did relatively well against mock attacks: the Argonne National Laboratory-West in Idaho, the Pantex plant in Texas, and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
Bureaucratic, Political Resistance - So why, asks Vanity Fair journalist Mark Hertsgaard, doesn’t the Bush administration insist on similar vigilance throughout the entire nuclear complex? They “just don’t think [a catastrophic attack] will happen,” Levernier replies. “And nobody wants to say we can’t protect these nuclear weapons, because the political fallout would be so great that there would be no chance to keep the system running.” The DOE bureaucracy is more interested in the appearance of proper oversight than the reality, says Tom Devine, the lawyer who represents both Levernier and other whistleblowers. “Partly that’s about saving face. To admit that a whistleblower’s charges are right would reflect poorly on the bureaucracy’s competence. And fixing the problems that whistleblowers identify would often mean diverting funds that bureaucrats would rather use for other purposes, like empire building. But the main reason bureaucrats have no tolerance for dissent is that taking whistleblowers’ charges seriously would require them to stand up to the regulated industry, and that’s not in most bureaucrats’ nature, whether the industry is the nuclear weapons complex or the airlines.”
Stiff Resistance from Bush Administration - Devine acknowledges that both of his clients’ troubles began under the Clinton administration and continued under Bush, but, Devine says, the Bush administration is particularly unsympathetic to whistleblowers because it is ideologically disposed against government regulation in general. “I don’t think President Bush or other senior officials in this administration want another September 11th,” says Devine, “but their anti-government ideology gets in the way of fixing the problems Levenier and [others] are talking about. The security failures in the nuclear weapons complex and the civil aviation system are failures of government regulation. The Bush people don’t believe in government regulation in the first place, so they’re not inclined to expend the time and energy needed to take these problems seriously. And then they go around boasting that they’re winning the war on terrorism. The hypocrisy is pretty outrageous.” [Carter, 2004, pp. 17-18; Vanity Fair, 2/15/2004]
Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Rich Levernier, RETA Security, National Nuclear Security Administration, James Ford, Bill Richardson, Anson Franklin, National Park Service, Ronald Timms, Mark Hertsgaard, Tom Devine, Vanity Fair, US Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will later report that this evening, New Mexico’s Urban Search and Rescue Team leaves for Baton Rouge, where they will receive specific instructions on deployment. He also orders 200 members of the New Mexico National Guard to leave immediately. [New Mexico, 8/30/2005; Newsweek, 9/14/2005] New Mexico’s National Guard will be held in New Mexico, however, until they receive the required mission assignment from the Pentagon late Thursday, September 1
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson will call Governor Blanco today to offer assistance by providing National Guard troops from his state. Paul Shipley, Richardson’s representative, later recalls, “We were ready to go. We had offered our help.”
[National Public Radio, 9/9/2005] Florida Governor Jeb Bush and state emergency officials also reportedly offer their assistance to both Louisiana and Mississippi. [Palm Beach Post, 9/10/2005] New Mexico will deploy an urban search and rescue team to Louisiana on Monday (see Evening August 29, 2005), but its National Guard will not arrive until Friday
Presidential candidates Barack Obama (left), Tom Harkin, and Hillary Clinton stand for the singing of the National Anthem. [Source: Time]A chain email circulating around the Internet falsely claims Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), campaigning for president, “refused” to say the Pledge of Allegiance during an event and failed to put his hand over his heart. A photograph with the email shows Obama standing in front of an American flag with his hands clasped just below his waist. Fellow presidential contenders Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Bill Richardson (D-NM) stand beside him with their hands over their hearts. The email, noting Obama’s middle name is Hussein, claims Obama “REFUSED TO NOT ONLY PUT HIS HAND ON HIS HEART DURING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE, BUT REFUSED TO SAY THE PLEDGE… how in the hell can a man like this expect to be our next Commander-in-Chief????” The photograph was not taken during the saying of the pledge, but during the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner.” It was taken on September 16, 2007 in Indianola, Iowa, at the Harkin Steak Fry, an annual political event hosted by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA). The photo was printed in Time magazine; the caption said Obama and the others “stand during the national anthem.” Matt Paul, who helped organize the event, confirms that the photo was taken as someone sang the national anthem. Additionally, an ABC News video of the event confirms the photo was taken during the anthem. The email claims that “the article said” Obama refused to say the pledge and would not put his hand on his heart, but the article said nothing of the sort. PolitiFact, the nonpartisan, political fact-checking organization sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times, attempts to find another article making the same claim, but only finds blog postings repeating the email’s original assertion. Obama has said the email is false, and that he was singing during the anthem, a claim verified by the ABC video. “My grandfather taught me how to say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was two,” Obama recently said on another campaign stop in Iowa. “During the Pledge of Allegiance you put your hand over your heart. During the national anthem you sing.” He called the email “irritating” and likened it to others that have falsely said he is a Muslim (see October 1, 2007, December 19, 2007, and January 11, 2008). The Obama campaign has received strong support from a number of retired military leaders. “Senator Obama’s attackers are peddling lies and smears because they disagree with his strong opposition to the war in Iraq and the rush to war in Iran,” writes former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig, in a letter cosigned by retired General Merrill “Tony” McPeak and General J. Scott Gration. “We have served this nation for decades and we know a true patriot when we see one. Barack Obama is a patriot.” Some conservative bloggers have noted their belief that federal law for “patriotic and national observances” says that during the Star-Spangled Banner, “all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart; men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.” The citation is not a formal law, and experts say it is somewhat obsolete, though it is still cited in some military manuals. Modern custom does not require a hand over the heart, says Anne Garside, director of communication for the Maryland Historical Society, home of the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner. “I think the bottom line is that you show respect with your demeanor,” she says. “Whether you put your hand over your heart, hold your hat at shoulder level or waist level, is really in this day and age irrelevant.” [Time, 9/16/2007; ABC News, 11/7/2007; St. Petersburg Times, 11/8/2007]
Entity Tags: Tom Harkin, Tony McPeak, Richard Danzig, Matt Paul, ABC News, PolitiFact (.org ), Anne Garside, Bill Richardson, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, J. Scott Gration
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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