Tags: Franken | in | Trouble

Al Franken in Trouble, Edwards Uses Fox, Jeb Bush, Geek Terrorist

By    |   Sunday, 20 January 2008 03:44 PM

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. ‘Computer Geek’ in London Was Top al-Qaida Cyber-Terrorist
2. Al Franken Fights Funnyman Image
3. Schwarzenegger Backs Term-Limit Changes
4. Jewish Voters Favoring Hillary
5. Edwards Hypocritical About Fox News
6. We Heard: Newt Gingrich, Hugo Chavez, Philip Anschutz, Jeb Bush


1. ‘Computer Geek’ in London Was Top al-Qaida Cyber-Terrorist

A young man in Britain described as a “computer geek” became al-Qaida’s top cyber terrorist, using computers in his small London apartment to help Islamic extremists wage a propaganda war against the West.

The Internet postings of Younes Tsouli, now 23, included messages from Osama bin-Laden and images of hostages being kidnapped and murdered.

Tsouli was jailed last year, but details of his case are only now emerging with the release of previously undisclosed information.

Tsouli arrived in London in 2001 with his father, a diplomat from Morocco. He studied computer technology at a college in London, immersed himself in the Internet, and soon became radicalized by images of the war in Iraq.

By 2003 he had begun posting his own material, including a manual on computer hacking, and a year later moved on to publishing extremist images and al-Qaida propaganda, according to The Daily Mail.

His user name was Irhabi 007, combining the Arabic word for terrorist with fictional spy James Bond’s number.

Before long he came to the attention of al-Qaida leaders in Iraq, who were making videos but having trouble getting them to a large audience, partly due to the difficulty of finding Web sites that could host them.

The Times of London, which referred to Tsouli as a “solitary computer geek,” explained how he and al-Qaida operated: “He was e-mailed links that allowed him to download videos from a server.

"He converted the material into various formats, including one that allowed the videos to be watched on mobile phones. The videos were then uploaded to Web pages so that a wider audience could see them.”

In August 2005, Tsouli became administrator of al-Ansar, a Web forum where extremists could communicate with each other, sharing such information as how to make explosive devices and how to get to Iraq to become a suicide bomber.

Evan Kohlmann, an expert on cyber-terrorism who testified at Tsouli’s trial, told the Times: “007 was working essentially as a matchmaker, setting up would-be suicide bombers with al-Qaida in Iraq.”

Cyber-trackers who monitor the Internet for extremists were aware of Irhabi 007, but authorities had little clue about where he could be located.

Their big break came on Oct. 19, 2005, when police in Bosnia arrested two men who were planning an attack in Central Europe. One of the men had posted a declaration on Tsouli’s al-Ansar site, and his phone records showed calls to an address in London — Tsouli’s address.

Police in London moved in and arrested Tsouli for his connection to the planned attacks — having no idea at the time that he was in fact Irhabi 007.

But authorities painstakingly examined several million files on Tsouli’s computers, and eventually compiled enough evidence to establish that he was in fact the cyber terrorist they had been looking for — and to convince Tsouli to change his plea to guilty halfway through his trial last summer.

He was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the sentence was increased to 16 years in December.

His conviction was the first for incitement to commit an act of terrorism through the Internet, and his arrest has led to a number of other arrests of terrorist suspects around the world.

Aaron Weisburd, an American who was one of the cyber-trackers monitoring Tsouli, told the Times: “Once you get on to one guy who’s important in a network . . . you get everyone he’s connected to.”

Editor's Note:

2. Al Franken Fights Funnyman Image

Al Franken is striving to convince voters he is a serious candidate in his campaign for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota — despite his past as a “Saturday Night Live” comic and wise-cracking Air America radio host.

“Franken, at least to the people who have followed the race closely, is clearly serious,” said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.

“This is not a comedy routine. He is working very hard, and he’s got an intelligent platform.”

But Cullen Sheehan, campaign manager for incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman, told ABC News: “Minnesotans are not going to be fooled by anyone, let alone a career comedian. Al Franken’s record of reckless statements, crude jokes, and attacks are no substitute for real positions on real issues.

“It is difficult to see how someone who’s made a career out of mocking people’s beliefs can be capable of working with people of different opinions or beliefs, to get anything done.”

Franken is known for saying that Karl Rove and Lewis Libby should be “executed,” called Rush Limbaugh a “big fat idiot,” threatened to sue the author of a book about liberal hypocrisy, called the founder of Air America a “crook” — and demonstrated his support for free speech by physically assaulting a heckler at a political rally.

He has also stated: “I’m a comedian first and foremost, which some people think that doesn’t give me the right to do what I’m doing.”

Franken’s first challenge will be to win the nomination of Minnesota’s Democratic Party, called the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, which begins its caucuses on Feb. 5 and will pick its nominee on June 7.

His opponent is wealthy trial lawyer Mike Ciresi, whose supporters believe he is less polarizing and stands a better chance than Franken of beating Republican Coleman in the general election, ABC News reports.

“Franken has got a record as a comedian that will be mined by his opponents, to portray him as outside the mainstream of Minnesota,” said Ciresi’s communications director, Leslie Sandburg. “All the polls reflect that Mike Ciresi is the strongest candidate to win in November.”

If Franken does win the nomination, beating Coleman will be a serious challenge as well.

Said Jacobs: “Coleman is just sitting there, like a Cheshire cat, waiting and hoping that Franken will be the candidate, because he has such high negatives so early on.”

Editor's Note:

3. Schwarzenegger Backs Term-Limit Changes

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has done an about-face and expressed support for a proposition changing his state’s term-limits law.

The Feb. 5 ballot measure would allow many sitting lawmakers to run for re-election this year instead of being forced out of the legislature.

As a candidate in 2003, Schwarzenegger backed California’s term-limits law as protection against “special interests” getting too much power.

But in an essay published in the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday, Schwarzenegger said the law “went too far.”

"Under the current system, our elected officials are not given the time they need to reach their full potential as public servants," Schwarzenegger wrote.

"Imagine what would happen if we told a big-city police chief or a sheriff he could stay in the job just long enough to start mastering it and then had to move on."

Proposition 93 would reduce the total number of years a legislator can serve from 14 to 12. But it also would permit lawmakers to serve all of their time in either the Assembly or the state Senate. The existing law limits them to six years in the lower house and eight in the upper house.

The existing law has created a “relentless campaign cycle,” Schwarzenegger wrote in explaining his change of position, saying the cycle makes lawmakers more dependent on lobbyists and campaign contributors.

Editor's Note:

4. Jewish Voters Favoring Hillary

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has mended fences with the Jewish community and is now favored by American Jews ahead of her Democratic rivals.

Clinton’s embrace of the wife of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1999 was featured on the cover of the New York Post and upset many pro-Israel supporters.

But since taking office in the Senate, Clinton has taken a hawkish stance on Israeli security, helped win international recognition of the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, and fought anti-Semitism in Palestinian textbooks, The Politico reported.

“Like so many other once skeptical constituencies, Hillary Rodham Clinton has won over Jewish voters,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner, a New York Democrat who has endorsed her. “She is the favorite of the community now.”

In a survey late last year by the American Jewish Committee, 58 percent of Jews said they view Clinton favorably, compared to 38 percent for both Barack Obama and John Edwards.

Her strength among Jews could prove crucial in the Feb. 5 primaries in New York, New Jersey, and California.

Obama, on the other hand, has drawn criticism for taking on Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, as his national security adviser. Brzezinski has clashed with pro-Israel groups since the 1970s, according to Politico.

And Obama had to issue a statement strongly condemning the “anti-Semitic statements” made by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan after it was reported that Obama’s Chicago pastor had praised Farrakhan.

Editor's Note:

5. Edwards Hypocritical About Fox News

Presidential hopeful John Edwards wants to ignore Fox News — except when it has some good Edwards news to report.

Edwards was the first Democratic candidate to bow out of a debate scheduled to air on Fox News in August. Other Democrats followed suit, and the debate was canceled.

Edwards’ Web site said at the time: “Fox News has already proven they have no intention of providing ‘fair and balanced’ coverage of any Democrat in this election.”

But after Tuesday night’s Democratic debate on MSNBC, Edwards’ national press secretary Eric Schultz sent an e-mail to reporters touting the results of a focus group conducted by Frank Luntz on Fox, which declared Edwards the winner of the debate, The Politico reported.

The e-mail read, “On Fox News, Frank Luntz’ focus group from Las Vegas of 30 undecided Nevada Democrats declared Edwards the winner.”

Editor's Note:

6. We Heard . . .

THAT former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will be featured at a breakfast and lecture sponsored by the Palm Beach Republican Club in Florida.

Gingrich, author of “Rediscovering God in America” and “Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America,” will discuss the current political situation at the Saturday, Jan. 26 event.

A reception at 8:30 a.m. will be followed by the breakfast and lecture, then a book signing. The event will be held at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. Seating is limited. For more information call (561) 655-5545 or (561) 346-7787.

THAT Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is dating British-born supermodel Naomi Campbell.

According to the World Entertainment News Network, newspapers in the South American country are reporting that the pair began dating two months ago after Campbell traveled to Caracas to interview the Venezuelan leader for the magazine GQ.

During the interview, Chavez reportedly flirted with the 37-year-old model and invited her to “touch my muscles.”

Chavez, 53, has four children from two failed marriages. Campbell has dated Robert De Niro and other celebrities, but never married.

Campbell has made headlines for reasons other than her dating habits: She has been accused of and arrested for physically and verbally abusing several of her employees and associates. Last year she pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless assault against her maid and was sentenced to five days community service and ordered to attend an anger management course.

THAT Denver-based billionaire Philip Anschutz is bidding for three East Coast newspapers to add to his array of free papers.

Anschutz’s Examiner newspaper division is seeking to buy the free papers owned by Metro International in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia, according to a report in the Boston Phoenix cited by the Denver Post.

The Examiner chain already owns free dailies in San Francisco, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

But another Denver publication, the Business Journal, refutes the Phoenix report, quoting an Anschutz spokesman as saying: “There’s no truth to this.”

Anschutz runs a wide-ranging empire in telecom, sports and entertainment, and founded the fiber-optic company Qwest Communications in 1995.

His movie production company seeks to produce family-oriented entertainment, and had a huge hit a year ago with “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

THAT former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has announced the formation of a new non-profit organization aimed at “discovering, rewarding and fostering excellence in education.”

The Tallahassee-based Foundation for Excellence in Education’s programs will include honoring top teachers and their classrooms with awards of at least $2,500. Selection will be based on how their students improve on standardized reading and math tests.

The group is backed by some of Florida’s largest companies, including Disney and Gulf Power, and is staffed by several of Bush’s closest political advisers, the St. Petersburg Times reported.

During his two terms as governor, Bush brought significant changes to Florida schools, using the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to measure student progress, grade schools, and award teacher bonuses.

“Reform is never finished and success is never final,” Bush said. “A perpetual cycle of reform will lead to sustained improvement for the long term.”

Editor's Notes:

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. ‘Computer Geek’ in London Was Top al-Qaida Cyber-Terrorist2. Al Franken Fights Funnyman Image3. Schwarzenegger Backs Term-Limit Changes4. Jewish Voters Favoring Hillary5. Edwards Hypocritical About Fox News6. We Heard: Newt...
Sunday, 20 January 2008 03:44 PM
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