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web posted December 17, 2001

Professor punished for terrorist attacks remark

A University of New Mexico history professor who joked in class about the September 11 attacks has been barred from teaching freshmen for now, the school said December 10.

Professor Richard Berthold will also get a letter of reprimand and undergo review, said Brian L. Foster, university provost.

The 55-year-old tenured professor told a freshman history class just after the attacks that "anyone who can blow up the Pentagon has my vote."

Berthold has apologized for his comment, which he called "an incredibly stupid joke."

Berthold stayed off campus for a brief period while police investigated obscene and threatening calls to the history department. He also said he was assaulted in front of his home.

Neil Young defends terrorism crackdown, South Park creators are Republicans

Neil Young may be Canadian, but the veteran rock star was honored December 11 for promoting freedom and justice in his adopted country.

People for the American Way, a free-speech advocacy group formed 20 years ago to combat the so-called "religious right," presented Young with its Spirit of Liberty lifetime achievement award during its annual fundraising dinner in Beverly Hills.

Young, in turn, raised a few eyebrows among the liberal crowd by defending anti-terrorist measures that have angered civil rights groups. But he urged the audience to ensure the controversial measures were only temporary.

"Never let America forget that these are our rights and we can get them back," said Young, who recently recorded the song "Let's Roll" as a tribute to the doomed passengers who overpowered their hijackers over Pennsylvania on Sept. 11.

Also honored at the event were four filmmakers, who were presented with Defenders of Democracy Awards: "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker; "Boys Don't Cry" director Kimberly Peirce; and "Dogma" director Kevin Smith.

Parker, dressed in a garish stars-and-stripes suit, had his own surprise. He declared that he and Stone were proud Republicans. "It's true," he added, apparently earnestly, as the audience wondered if the wacky comic was just joking.

GOP's Armey: 'Time for me to stand down'

House Majority Leader Dick Armey told chamber colleagues December 12 that he will not run in the 2002 midterm elections, ending what would be 18 years of service to his Texas district.

House Majority Leader Dick ArmeyArmey, a key architect of the Republicans' string of legislative successes in the last three congressional sessions, said many of his priorities had been realized and now was the time to step aside.

"The American people deserve a government that knows their goodness and has the decency to respect it," Armey said in an emotional floor speech. "It is up to us to be that government, and I have complete confidence that we will continue to be just that.

"Because of this confidence, I am comfortable telling you today that the end of this 107th Congress is the time for me to stand down as majority leader and as a member of Congress," Armey added, ending speculation about his intentions and sparking what is likely to be a spirited war of succession within the House GOP.

The nine-term Texas representative confirmed to his party colleagues his intention to retire during a morning meeting of the House Republican Conference.

Rumors of Armey's retirement prompted colleagues the day before to leak word of their plans for leadership posts. Battle lines will shape up throughout 2002 as the second year of the 107th Congress adjourns and members devote attention to the pivotal midterm elections.

The new ranks of the House leadership, however, will depend on the ability of Republicans to maintain their majority following the election.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, a fellow Texan, will run for the majority leader's post, according to an associate of DeLay's. The source also said that U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, House deputy majority whip, will seek DeLay's position as whip.

Armey credited the Republican majority for a series of ideological and legislative gains since 1995, including two tax reduction packages, the 1996 welfare reform bill, the 1997 balanced budget agreement with the Clinton White House and a budgeting strategy that resulted in billions in surplus gains for the federal government.

"We should be proud of what we have done in our young majority," he said.

To his often bitter Democratic rivals, Armey offered an expression of thanks for their loyal service to the United States.

"To my friends on the other side, we have had many good contests," he said. "We are sometimes together but more often in opposition. Thank you my friends for being constant, consistent and reliable."

Democrats reacted with laughter and applause.

But Armey reserved his most moving comments for his wife, Susan, and their family.

"I am sad to say what we all know is true," he said. "Too often our service to our nation is a disservice to our family. … They live a life of hardship that is rarely supposed and even less understood."

Turning toward his wife seated in the House gallery, Armey said, "I want to thank you for all your years of sacrifice."

FBI admits existence of "Magic Lantern" application

An FBI spokesman confirmed December 12 that the U.S. government is working on a controversial Internet spying technology, code-named "Magic Lantern," which could be used to eavesdrop on computer communications by suspected criminals.

"It is a workbench project" that has not yet been deployed, said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson. "We can't discuss it because it's under development."

The FBI has already acknowledged that it uses software that records keystrokes typed into a computer to obtain passwords that can be used to read encrypted e-mail and other documents as part of criminal investigations.

Magic Lantern reportedly would allow the agency to plant a Trojan horse keystroke logger on a target's PC by sending a computer virus over the Internet, rather than require physical access to the computer as is now the case.

Malicious hackers have been known to use e-mail or other remote methods for installing spying technology, security experts said.

When word of Magic Lantern leaked out in published reports in November, civil libertarians said the program could easily be abused by overzealous law enforcement agencies.

When asked if Magic Lantern would require a court order for the FBI to use it, as existing keystroke logger technology does, Bresson said: "Like all technology projects or tools deployed by the FBI it would be used pursuant to the appropriate legal process."

Major anti-virus vendors this week said they would not voluntarily cooperate with the FBI and said their products would continue to be updated to detect and prevent viruses, regardless of their origin, unless there was a legal order otherwise.

Doing so would anger customers and alienate non-U.S. customers and governments, they said, adding that there had been no requests by the FBI to ignore any viruses.

The FBI set a precedent in a similar case by asking Internet service providers to install technology in their networks that allows officials to secretly read e-mails of criminal investigation targets.

While the FBI requires a court order to install its technology, formerly called "Carnivore," some service providers reportedly comply voluntarily, while court orders are relatively easy to get, civil libertarians argue.

Given the hijacking attacks of September 11, it is also conceivable that the U.S. government would enlist the aid of private companies to combat terrorism and help its war effort, said Michael Erbschloe, vice president of research at Computer Economics, which analyzes the impact of viruses.

"In previous wars, including World War II, the government had the power to call on companies to help; to commandeer the technology," said Erbschloe, author of Information Warfare: How to Survive Cyber Attacks.

"If we were at war the government would be able to require technology companies to cooperate, I believe, in a number of ways, including getting back door access to information and computer systems."

Most Americans support government surveillance, poll says

Efforts by the ACLU and other civil liberties groups to turn public opinion against the president's anti-terrorism initiatives are falling on deaf ears, according to a poll conducted by Zogby International.

"Despite the best efforts by the ACLU and other rights groups... the various anti-terrorist efforts by the president and the attorney general have strong public support," said pollster John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International.

The Zogby poll indicates that 54 percent of Americans favor allowing telephone conversations to be monitored; 80 percent favor allowing video surveillance of public places such as street corners; 67 percent favor roadblock searches of vehicles, and 67 percent favor having their mail monitored.

John Zogby says he finds it "shocking" that Americans are willing to allow the government to have greater access to their personal lives in exchange for security.

"We are in a moment where fear trumps other considerations," Zogby said. "Frankly, I guess I never thought [that] I would live to see the day when Americans would want their cars stopped and checked, or their mail monitored, but we certainly had that day."

Zogby attributes this new attitude to the fear of further terrorist attacks and feels it is too soon to tell whether the attitudes reflected in the poll will be permanent.

The influence of the ACLU and other civil liberties groups may have waned recently, but Zogby says the organizations should not be counted out.

"I don't think you can conclude that this is the end of the ACLU, or other [civil liberties] groups," he said. "Basically this is the moment in which we live."

American Center for Law and Justice Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow believes the ACLU and other civil liberties groups have fallen out of touch with the necessities of the post 9-11 world.

"The ACLU has really missed it and have inflicted a self inflicted wound," Sekulow said. "Americans are smart people and we know that we are in a war [because] we have been attacked in a way in which we have never been attacked before."

An overwhelming number of Americans realize that the Bush anti-terrorism plan provided a balanced approach to a complex situation, according to Sekulow.

"There are not any violations of our civil liberties [in the anti-terrorism law], and it is preserving our very constitutional liberties, and it is preserving our very form of government, which is really what was attacked on September 11," Sekulow said. "If you study the history of civil liberties in times of war, we have more civil liberties today than any time in U.S. history, and that is with the Patriot Act.

"There are more freedoms today than there were at the time of the Vietnam War, during the time of World War II, certainly the Civil War, and I can go back in history to the Revolutionary War," Sekulow asserted. "The fact of the matter is that we are fighting a new kind of war, which requires new kinds of approaches, and part of that new approach of course is engaging in this battle with a degree of sophistication including intelligence gathering."

Sekulow shares Zogby's assessment of the current attitude that prevails among most Americans.

"Americans are afraid... this is a war where they turn airplanes into bombs and letters into bombs and use the postal service to deliver their weapons of mass destruction," Sekulow said. "I think Zogby's information is correct here, and I think that the ACLU really underestimated that."

The ACLU refused comment on the results of the Zogby poll.

But, a spokesman for the Libertarian Party rejected Sekulow's opinion, that Americans are freer today than during any previous war.

"This [anti-terrorism law] has a provision in it called a sneak and peak provision which allow police to search your home while you are not there and notify you that it has happened while you [were not] there," Libertarian Party Press Secretary George Getz said.

Getz said no similar law was enacted during previous wartime administrations.

"Right now the government has unprecedented power to read the e-mail of totally innocent people without a warrant," Getz said. "If you compare the e-mails to the snail mail that existed back during World War II, as far as I know, the government did not have the power to read the mail of totally innocent people.

"We dispute what [Sekulow] is saying," Getz said. "It seems to us that the Bush administration is caving into terrorism by making America less free."

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