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  • Thursday, September 28, 2006


    U.S. Consumers Should Boycott Citgo

    Citgo Petroleum Corp. is a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). PDVSA is run by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, who called U.S. President George W. Bush "the devil" during a recent speech at the United Nations.

    President Chavez may have had the right to say whatever he wanted at the United Nations. American consumers have the right to express their disagreement with President Chavez's remarks by boycotting Citgo gas stations and Citgo petroleum products.

    7-Eleven is terminating Citgo as its gasoline supplier. Florida State Representative Adam Hasner has called on the State of Florida to terminate Citgo's contract as the exclusive supplier of gasoline to Florida's state-owned gas stations along the Florida Turnpike.

    American consumers who are outraged by President Chavez's intemperate remarks should stop filling their vehicles at Citgo gas stations.

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006


    Review of Recent Jazz Album Release: Dead Men Are Heavier Than Broken Hearts

    Artist: Christopher Woitach and the Cathexis Orchestra

    Album: dead men (are heavier than broken hearts)/February 15-18, 2006/teal creek records TC2009

    Review: Christopher Woitach's second album as a leader signifies the breakout on the jazz scene of a highly evolved and still-evolving artist who dares to innovate with an astounding arsenal of unusual and powerful compositional tools to create a distinct sound that swings and bops and floats and grooves and surprises with shifting tempos, moods, layers, textures, and colors. While drawing on a thorough grounding in existing blues and jazz styles and traditions, Woitach blends these elements with thoughtful invention into an original synthesis that defies easy categorization.

    This 2006 album of original music composed, arranged, and produced by guitarist Christopher Woitach grew out of a project he began more than ten years ago to set music to the words of beloved American detective novelist Raymond Chandler. This is by no means an attempt at "film noir" music. While utilizing Chandler's writings as a creative spark and lyrical source, Woitach stays true to his musical vision as a jazz composer and guitar virtuoso.

    Woitach's harmonically-advanced, cool-toned, and subtle guitar playing is featured throughout the album. He is technically brilliant and versatile - using the guitar in different contexts as a percussive, harmonic, melodic, rhythm, and lead instrument. His improvisational prowess is demonstrated both vertically - building and smoothly manipulating dense chordal and harmonic voicings, and horizontally - propelling his compositions with polished, expressive, melodically-advanced, and flowing lines.

    Woitach includes generous space in his compositions for improvisations from his sidemen who are all first-rate musicians in their own right. Tim Jensen (flute), Keller Coker (trombone), and Tom Bergeron (alto) contribute outstanding improvisations on the album's first cut. Bergeron's alto solo on the third track blasts into orbit with a muscular free-jazz explosion reminiscent of John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman at their most untethered.

    Woitach's compositional sophistication, his use of counterpoint and canon and fugal structures, and the deployment of alto, trombone, flute, baritone, bass clarinet, bass, and drums in his arrangements is nothing less than inspired. For example, the album's opening cut interleaves improvisational sections with five-voiced fugue interludes of precise lengths determined by a descending Fibonacci number series. In the hands of a less-skilled composer and musician, such a calculated scheme might result in music that is overly mechanical, unduly complicated, and devoid of feeling.

    Woitach's breakthrough on this album is the culmination of years of applied effort to plumb the mysteries and depths of classical mathematical constructs to discover their underlying organic, natural, and musical implications. On this album, Woitach applies his complex compositional techniques to create jazz music that is impressively unconventional, atypical, and decidedly uncommon. Woitach does not emulate other composers and musicians. His music is not an exercise in intrinsic geekery or cybernetic noodling. Although knowledge of harmonic and contrapuntal music theory and applied mathematics no doubt enhances appreciation, it stands on its own as enjoyable jazz music. He captivates the listener with what I call "pure grooving" and music that is capable of expressing and reflecting a wide range of emotion, but he does so in his own uniquely refined yet mischievous Woitachian way.

    Jazz critic Scott Yanow once wrote: "The most important jazz musicians are the ones who are successful in creating their own original world of music with its own rules, logic, and surprises." By this criterion, Woitach's latest album is persuasive evidence of his emergence as an important jazz musician. Woitach has created and continues to create his own original world of music that exhibits internal logic and surprises that can be found in the music of no other.

    Woitach is an extraordinarily talented musician and composer, and with this album, he has succeeded brilliantly by creating music that simultaneously appeals to the emotions and the intellect - music that is interesting, dynamic, accessible, and rewards repeated listenings. The best part is that Woitach is still evolving, still exploring the ramifications of his creative genius. There is a lot of great music yet to come from, and the world would do well to pay attention to, this amazing artist.

    For bookings, information, and other albums from Christopher Woitach, go here. The album dead men (are heavier than broken hearts) can be purchased here.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006


    Bush and Musharraf On Capturing or Killing bin Laden

    Joseph Curl of the Washington Times reports here on a September 22, 2006 joint press conference of President Bush and President Musharraf of Pakistan in which they said they are united in the effort to capture or kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, even though the Pakistani general has signed a treaty with tribes along the Afghanistan border thought to harbor members of the Taliban.

    According to the Washington Times: "Bush has said U.S. forces cannot simply walk into Pakistan in search of the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Gen. Musharraf did not invite troops to scour the mountainous border region, where bin Laden is thought to be holed up. But Mr. Bush also did not back off his pledge this week that if he had convincing U.S. intelligence that bin Laden was in Pakistan, he would send troops in to capture or kill him."

    If he had convincing intelligence that bin Laden is in Pakistan? Doesn't Bush already have this, and hasn't he had such intelligence for a long time? All Bush's flunkies claim, when asked, that bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan!

    Interestingly, while the Washington Times reported that Bush did not back off on his pledge to send troops into Pakistan to get bin Laden, the Los Angeles Times reported here that "President Bush, struggling with turbulence in the important U.S.-Pakistani relationship, eased back Friday from his vow to order U.S. troops to invade Pakistan, if necessary, to track down Osama bin Laden."

    According to the Los Angeles Times: "U.S. confidence in the Pakistani government has recently been shaken by Musharraf's decision to end his army's attempt to root out Taliban from the border territory of North Waziristan and to reach a peace deal with tribal leaders there."

    The Washington Times reported: "Gen. Musharraf said a peace treaty between his government and tribes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is not meant to support the Taliban, and that news reports had mischaracterized the deals.

    "The deal is not at all with the Taliban. This deal is against the Taliban. This deal is with the tribal elders," Gen. Musharraf said.

    Mr. Bush said: "I believe him."

    So the bottom line is the U.S. is trusting that the government of Pakistan will capture or kill bin Laden. It really looks to me as if, despite all of their "wanted dead or alive" rhetoric, capturing or killing bin Laden is not very high on the list of Bush Administration priorities.

    Friday, September 08, 2006


    Five Years After 9/11: Will the Realistic Risk Assessment Please Stand Up?

    The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Opinion page on September 7, 2006 presented two op-ed pieces that seem to reflect markedly different understandings of the situation with which America is presented five years after the 9/11 attacks.

    At the top of the page is former House speaker Newt Gingrich who believes we need to prepare for an imminent World War III. Underneath Gingrich's piece is City Journal contributing editor Heather MacDonald who, while advocating increased intelligence to ascertain their actual capabilities, apparently believes we may be overestimating the capacity of Muslim jihadist terrorists to attack the United States.

    According to Gingrich, President Bush is faced with a parallel situation to that which confronted President Lincoln in the summer of 1862, i.e., "the dangers are greater, the enemy is more determined, and victory will be substantially harder than we had expected in the early days after the initial attack." Gingrich believes American survival is at stake and President Bush's strategies are failing because, among other things: "They do not define the scale of the emerging World War III, between the West and the forces of militant Islam, and so they do not outline how difficult the challenge is and how big the effort will have to be."

    Among other things, Gingrich recommends:

    1. "President Bush should address a Joint Session of Congress to explain to the country the urgency of the threat of losing millions of people in one or more cities if our enemies find a way to deliver weapons of mass murder to American soil."
    2. "Congress...should pass an act that recognizes we are entering World War III and serves notice that the U.S. will use all of its resources to defeat our enemies, not accomodate, understand or negotiate with them...."

    Compare Gingrich's apocalyptic view with that of MacDonald:

    MacDonald writes: "Since 9/11, it has been generally assumed that Islamic extremists have an almost infinite capacity to wreak large-scale destruction in the U.S....There is reason to think, however, that we may have overestimated Muslim terrorists' reach."

    According to Macdonald, "In assessing where the country is five years after 9/11, we need to begin by recognizing that security and intelligence reforms have made it much harder for an Islamic terrorist to get into the country and inflict large-scale damage....Nor is there evidence that terrorists abroad have any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, or could obtain them in the foreseeable future....The domestic plots uncovered so far do not suggest that at present we face anything like an omnipresent, omnipotent enemy;....Yet the security-industrial complex continues to trumpet the notion that we are everywhere under growing threat...."

    So who is correct? Does WSJ's presentation of both opinions on the same page without an accompanying editorial expressing a preference for one over the other reflect some ambivalence on the part of the WSJ editorial board concerning this issue? MacDonald supports her opinion with quotes from anonymous former government counterterrorism experts and high-ranking intelligence officials. Gingrich does not cite any evidence to support his thesis that the U.S. is on the eve of World War III. Gingrich apparently believes his assertions are self-evident.

    Obviously, as Gingrich states, an enemy who believes in religiously sanctioned suicide-bombing is an enemy who, with a nuclear or biological weapon, is a mortal threat to our survival as a free country. The U.S. must obviously prevent such weapons from ending up in the control of factions or governments who would use or threaten to use them against the U.S. What is the U.S. government doing to accomplish this? What is the actual and realistic risk of such weapons going to the wrong people? How can the public obtain a clear answer to these question when the government refuses to disclose such information on national security grounds? Based on their record, which appears to be mixed at best, can we trust that those in charge of this are doing the right things? Whom do you trust in our government?

    Thursday, September 07, 2006


    Credulous and Ignorant Fanatics

    George Orwell in his novel "1984" described the ideal qualities for a member of the Party (i.e., the Party symbolized by Big Brother): "Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph."

    Isn't that such an apt description of all those fear-mongering and hate-spewing pundits such as Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, and all their imitators and other boot-licking "conservative" toadies who wax in adulation of the virtues of making war in Iraq, fighting terrorists, increasing the power of the President so he can do whatever he believes is right to "protect" Americans by creating secret government programs and operations with no oversight from any other branch of government, and diminishing the freedom and civil rights of all Americans, and who triumphantly and orgiastically proclaim the victory of their ideas over those morally-bankrupt and godless "liberals" who have the audacity to question whether the war in Iraq has anything to do with the so-called War on Terror, whether the President may be arrogating to himself powers that are not provided in the U.S. Constitution, and who have the audacity to be concerned about protecting and preserving the rule of law and the U.S. Constitution?

    Are there such credulous and ignorant fanatics in the so-called "liberal" camp? I am certain there are an equal or greater number than on the "conservative" side. James Carville? Al Franken? Frank Rich? Randi Rhodes? Maureen Dowd? Sidney Blumenthal? Paul Begala? Do they have the kind of self-righteous, snide, sneering, bombastic, and belligerent demeanor exhibited by Hannity or O'Reilly for example? Does one's opinion of their demeanor depend on the extent to which you agree with the points of view they express?

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006


    U.S. Attorney General Seeks to Reassure on bin Laden

    On September 5, 2006, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Blitzer asked some mildly pointed questions about the failure to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, to which Gonzales responded in his typically evasive manner with the usual empty platitudes.

    A very interesting point brought out by Blitzer is that, in the White House’s updated Counterterror Strategy, the list of “major challenges” set forth by the Administration did not include capturing or killing bin Laden or his second-in-command Zawahiri. Nevertheless, Gonzales sought to reassure the American people that “bringing bin Laden to justice” is an important priority of the Bush administration.

    Gonzales gave what I thought was a very telling response, in terms of his thought process, to Blitzer’s final question as to whether America remains vulnerable to terrorism today. Gonzales said, in essence, America is safer but not yet safe “because of the type of society that we have, because of the type of freedoms that we enjoy in this country, because of the type of enemy that we're dealing with.” Apparently, according to Gonzales, only one of the three reasons America is not yet safe is because of our enemy. The other two of the three reasons America is not yet “safe” are our fault because of the type of society we have (presumably he means a relatively open, egalitarian, and free society), and the types of freedom we enjoy. Therefore, one might ask the Attorney General if America would be safer if we had less freedom, and is he in favor of decreasing our freedom.

    Transcript of interview:

    BLITZER: Most Americans look back at five years ago, what happened on 9/11 and they immediately ask this question -- where is the most wanted man in the world? Why haven't you, the United States government, been able to find, capture or kill Osama bin Laden?

    GONZALES: Well, we have spent a lot of time and a lot of effort in trying to locate Bin Laden. And it again, as the president has said many times, it's not a question of if, it's simply a question of when. We are going to capture Bin Laden. And we're working with our friends and allies around the world to try to find out where he's at. But even if we --

    BLITZER: You want him more than any other criminal out there?

    GONZALES: I think it's very, very important.

    BLITZER: He's at your top priority?

    GONZALES: I think it's very important to get Bin Laden.

    BLITZER: But is he your top priority? GONZALES: Again -- BLITZER: In terms of America's most wanted.

    GONZALES: There are a lot of very important people that we want to prosecute and Bin Laden would certainly be at the top of that list. But I don't want the American people to believe that if he were captured that America would be safe. I think that would be important in our battle against terrorism, but there are others who are dangerous and would want --

    BLITZER: Who is at that level of Osama bin Laden?

    GONZALES: Well, I'm not going to get into specific names, but as I said, Wolf, capturing Bin Laden would be very, very important. It would be important for operational reasons. It would be important for symbolic reasons. So clearly, he would be at the top of the list.

    BLITZER: Because we hear from him occasionally, more often from his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. They show up on these videotapes and they make these declarations. You would think that that would be your number one priority.

    GONZALES: Well, there's a lot of effort that is expended by the U.S. government in trying to identify, trying to locate where Bin Laden so that we can bring him to justice.

    BLITZER: Because I asked the question, I read this morning this national strategy for combating terrorism that the administration put out. And in a detailed summary, I didn't see a lot of new information in there, but there was a lot of material about the war on terrorism. At one point though, there were a list of successes, what has been achieved over these past five years, a lengthy list. And then there's a list of what are called challenges. Some of the major challenges facing the United States right now in the war on terrorism. None of that -- in none of those challenges did I see any reference to Osama Bin Laden himself or his Deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

    GONZALES: Well I want the American people to know that that still remains an objective, an important priority for the administration is to get Bin Laden and to bring Bin Laden to justice.

    BLITZER: You have just come back from the region. You were in Iraq, you went to the Persian Gulf, you were in London. Do you, as the nations top law enforcement official, do you have a sense of where Osama bin Laden is right now?

    GONZALES: I do. I have a sense of where he's at but I --

    BLITZER: Where is that?

    GONZALES: Well, in the Middle East is all I'm going to say. But we have difficult terrain that we sometimes have to work with. We have sometimes sympathetic people in the region. Sometimes there are issues relating to cooperation with governments. And so there are challenges that we have to deal with in trying to find one individual in a region of the world. And -- but I guess what I want to reassure the American people is that we remain focused on this challenge and that there are obviously other challenges that we have to worry about, other issues that we have to worry about. But capturing Bin Laden remains an important priority for the administration.

    BLITZER: You keep saying an important. It's not the most important priority in this war on terrorism? Symbolically a man who ordered the murder of 3,000 Americans and others in the World Trade Center, Pennsylvania, and here in Washington?

    GONZALES: Perhaps the reason I don't say it is the number one objective, is because even if he were captured -- if we could capture him and that would win the war on terror, I think I could without qualification say that is the number one objective. But that doesn't end the fight. And so there are other challenges to this government and to our country that we also have to focus on. Because those continue and will continue even after Bin Laden is captured.

    BLITZER: And just to reiterate, America remains vulnerable today?

    GONZALES: I think America is safer today, but yes, it is possible because of the type of society that we have, because of the type of freedoms that we enjoy in this country, because of the type of enemy that we're dealing with. I think we're safer today but we are not yet safe.

    Friday, September 01, 2006


    After Five Years, Osama No Closer To Being Captured or Killed

    The Associated Press reports that hopes of cornering Osama bin Laden seem distant as ever:

    FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2006-->Published: August 31, 2006

    AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN BORDER The al-Qaida terror camps are gone from Afghanistan, but the enigma of Osama bin Laden still hangs over these lawless borderlands where tens of thousands of U.S. and Pakistani troops have spent nearly five years searching for him.

    Villagers say the CIA missed by only a few kilometers (miles) when it targeted bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, with a missile strike in January. Then in May, U.S. Special Forces arrested one of al-Zawahri's closest aides, suggesting the trail has not gone entirely cold.

    As for bin Laden himself? He may be nearby. Yet hopes of cornering the Saudi-born al-Qaida leader seem distant as ever. The last time authorities said they were close to getting him was in 2004, and in hindsight those statements seem more hope than fact.

    Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the most publicized manhunt in history has drawn a blank. The CIA has dismantled its unit dedicated to finding the al-Qaida chiefs. And the American military's once-singular focus is diffused by the need for reconstruction and a growing fight against the Taliban, the resurgent Afghan Islamic movement that once hosted bin Laden.

    American soldiers climbing through the forested mountains of Afghanistan's Kunar province — where in the 1980s bin Laden fought in the U.S.-backed jihad against the Soviets — still hope to catch or kill him. But they say bolstering the Afghan government is their primary mission now, amid the worst upsurge in Taliban attacks in five years.

    "It is like chasing ghosts up there," said Sgt. George Williams, 37, of Watertown, New York, part of the Army's 10th Mountain Division pushing into untamed territory along the border with Pakistan. "Osama bin Laden is always going to be a target of ours as long as he is out there, but there are other missions: to rebuild Afghanistan and attack the militants still here."

    The top leaders of al-Qaida remain free despite more than 100,000 U.S., Afghan and Pakistani forces at the frontier. High-tech listening posts, satellite imagery, unmanned spy planes — not to mention a $25 million bounty on each man from the U.S. government — all aid the hunt.

    Yet both bin Laden and al-Zawahri are communicating to the outside world, posting messages on Islamic Web sites to inspire further attacks on the West. Although the al-Qaida leaders are too isolated to run directly a terrorist operation like Sept. 11, Pakistan says the latest alleged plot, to bomb U.S.-bound jetliners from Britain, may have been blessed by al-Zawahri.

    The frustrating campaign has frayed critical cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, neighbors separated by an ill-defined frontier and a history of mutual suspicion.

    Pakistan has captured most of bin Laden's lieutenants, including 9/11 attacks coordinator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and claims to have reduced the remaining al-Qaida command to mere figureheads. Pakistan has lost 350 troops fighting al-Qaida and Taliban-linked militants.

    Yet Afghan officials allege that Pakistan is sanctuary for Taliban rebel leaders and lets them recruit from radical Islamic schools. They even suggest that Pakistan is hiding bin Laden, perhaps to ensure Pakistan remains of strategic importance to Washington.

    "We believe he is being kept as a prize, as an ultimate bargaining chip," said a senior Afghan government official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of his comments.

    Latfullah Mashal, a former Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman, goes so far as to pinpoint bin Laden's hideout in a remote valley in Pakistan's North Waziristan region. He says there's a mountain fortress with a network of tunnels, guarded by African militants who never venture outside.

    Pakistan, which formally ended its support for the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks, rejects both allegations. It has about 80,000 troops in its wild tribal regions along the Afghan frontier, including a U.S.-trained and equipped quick-reaction force.

    "I don't think any other country has played a bigger role than Pakistan," said Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao.

    Retired Lt. Gen. Ali Mohammed Jan Aurakzai, who led the Pakistani army into the region after the Sept. 11 attacks, said sealing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan would require between 150,000 and 200,000 troops "and still there's no 100 percent guarantee that infiltration would not take place."

    Strained by the demands of Iraq, the U.S. has only about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan. The roughly 10,000 in the border area must cover about 78,000 square kilometers (30,000 square miles) of some of the most forbidding territory on Earth: jagged mountains, both arid and forested, that become impassable in winter. There are steep valleys and rushing rivers spanned by rickety rope bridges; dark caves that could be booby trapped. Deeply religious and xenophobic villagers also obstruct efforts to run down al-Qaida remnants.

    "Bin Laden has a network of contacts and places to go to if he needs to that's pretty close to 20 years old. He's a veteran of that region, so it's very hard to find him," said Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA's now-disbanded unit dedicated to hunting the al-Qaida leader.

    "Bin Laden's status as a hero in the Islamic world is also a telling factor in why he's not been caught."

    A senior former Pakistani intelligence official put it more bluntly. "These (ethnic) Pashtuns have their own traditions. They'll die but they'll not hand over bin Laden," said the official, who declined to be named because of the secretive subject matter.

    For U.S. troops, the Afghan mission is increasingly dangerous. At least 272 U.S. service members have died in and around Afghanistan since October 2001, including three recently from Williams' unit. Some 44 U.S. servicemembers died in Afghanistan in 2004, 92 in 2005 and 61 so far in 2006.

    Western, Afghan and Pakistani officials agree that the nearest they got to bin Laden was in the Tora Bora mountains, south of Kunar, in November 2001 when he was fleeing the U.S.-backed war that toppled the Taliban regime.

    The Pakistani intelligence official said Pakistan at first thought bin Laden was dead, perhaps killed by a bomb at Tora Bora, until a letter he penned to his family was recovered from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed when he was arrested in March 2003.

    After that, repeated attempts have been made to get bin Laden and al-Zawahri.

    -- In late 2003, Pakistani forces raided Lattaka, a village in North Waziristan, to get bin Laden but he wasn't there, said the intelligence official.

    -- In 2004, amid a flurry of military action on both sides of the border, U.S. Lt. Gen. David Barno said he expected to bring bin Laden to justice that year — although officials now say they had no hard intelligence to go on. "It was all guesswork. No one ever gave us precise information that bin Laden or al-Zawahri is in such-and-such area, even a general area," said Pakistan's Aurakzai.

    -- Pakistan stepped up its military action in 2004 with a series of bloody operations in South Waziristan province. They busted al-Qaida bases complete with computer and communications equipment. However, most foreign militants at these sanctuaries were not Arabs close to bin Laden but Central Asians, Pakistani officials said.

    -- Sometime that year, Pakistan learned that either bin Laden or al-Zawahri was elsewhere in South Waziristan. "An operation was carried out where we were close to getting him but the trail got cold," said Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, spokesman for President Pervez Musharraf. He declined to be more specific.

    -- In the most recent case, in January, the CIA fired a missile from a Predator drone into the remote Pakistani village of Damadola, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Waziristan. The target was al-Zawahri, who was expected to attend a dinner there. Pakistani intelligence and local residents say the Egyptian doctor-turned-terrorist did not show, but they later learned he was at a supporter's home in Salarzi, about 11 kilometers (7 miles) to the east.

    The missile killed at least 13 civilians. Reports that a number of senior al-Qaida operatives also died were never confirmed, as none of their bodies were found.

    The associate who allegedly hosted al-Zawahri, a timber merchant and tribal chief called Haji Nader, was later arrested by U.S. Special Forces and taken to the American air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, said Commander Youssef, police chief in Naray, where the military also has a base.

    Youssef declined to give further details, but Pakistani intelligence officials and local residents said the arrest was made in May in Kunar province and that Nader's family in Pakistan had since received a letter from him, sent from Bagram. The U.S. military declined to confirm the information.

    Talk of al-Zawahri's whereabouts persists. In Pakistan's Bajur region, opposite Kunar, tribesmen say al-Zawahri moves with a small entourage between Pakistan and Afghanistan. They say al-Zawahri briefly visited near Damadola in July and got engaged or married to the teenage daughter of another local associate, Kawas Khan, and the ceremony was attended by tribal elders including pro-Taliban militants.

    Pakistani intelligence confirmed the reports but Aurakzai, who is now the provincial governor, maintained they were speculation.

    Getting solid information is a dangerous business.

    In Pakistan's border region, resentment has grown over the presence of the army. Until the Sept. 11 attacks, the military had left the semi-autonomous region alone since Pakistan won independence from Britain in 1947.

    Aurkazai said that since late 2004, about 70 tribesmen have been killed, mostly for cooperating with the government; other officials report more than 100 such deaths. A senior officer in Pakistan's intelligence service, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 30 of its informants were assassinated, often beheaded and their heads displayed in a public place.

    On Aug. 7, the decapitated corpse of a 38-year-old former militant-turned-informer, Loi Khan, was dumped in a North Waziristan village. An attached note read: "See this man's body. Anyone spying on us will face the same end."

    Another intelligence officer said it was harder for Pakistani agents to operate in their own tribal areas than inside archrival India. "In the enemy country, we know who is our enemy but in the tribal areas it is extremely difficult to differentiate between the enemy and the friends," he said.
    Pakistani intelligence officials say bin Laden and al-Zawahri likely live separately, each with a tight entourage of trusted Arab retainers and several rings of defense, the outermost ring manned by local militants.

    They use a complex chain of human couriers, rather than intercept-prone electronics, to get out their messages. Al-Zawahri has issued 10 video or audio messages this year. Bin Laden — last seen in video in October 2004 — has released five audio messages during 2006.

    Among the messages was a June 30 tribute to al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed north of Baghdad on June 7, and another soon afterward endorsing al-Zarqawi's successor.
    Although Pakistan claims to have reduced al-Qaida's leaders to symbols, Pakistani intelligence says its agents have heard that the alleged British-based scheme to bomb trans-Atlantic jetliners was blessed by al-Zawahri. If true, that would mean Afghanistan remains the headwaters of the world's most feared terrorist movement nearly five years after 3,000 people were killed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

    "There's a little bit of whistling past the graveyard when we say the organization (al-Qaida) is broken," said Scheuer.
    Associated Press writers Munir Ahmad in Islamabad and Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report. Paul Garwood reported from Kabul and Kunar province, Afghanistan. Matthew Pennington reported from Islamabad and Peshawar.

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