By Al Kamen
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Only two shopping days before Christmas and you still haven't found that special something for someone who's got everything? Stress getting to you?
Relax. We've got you covered. It's the National Counterterrorism Center's beautiful 2009 weekly planner, more jampacked than ever with insights, safety tips, historical data, and fine photos and drawings. In the right side of the 5-by-9-inch spiral, each day lists notable events in recent terrorist history.
Did you know that Wednesday, Dec. 24 -- 7 Muharram in the Arabic calendar -- is the 21st anniversary of the sentencing in France of Carlos the Jackal, who got life for three murders back in 1975? The left-hand page has terrorism facts and wanted posters, reward information, and some clues to help you locate some very nasty characters.
As usual, the first up is Osama bin Laden, still with a $27 million reward to anyone "for information leading directly to [his] apprehension and/or conviction." This year, for the first time, there's an altered photograph of bin Laden so you can see what he might look like if he decided he'd had enough of the fast life in Waziristan and settled down, perhaps as maybe the assistant manager of a Wachovia branch in Arlington.
And there's plenty of time to get a gift -- maybe a Predator missile strike? -- for bin Laden's birthday, which has been listed as July 30. Going to be a little harder to find Qari Mohammad Zafar, who is a suspect in a 2006 Karachi bombing. You can pick up $5 million for him, but the picture isn't a very good likeness. In fact, it's just a dark silhouette cutout. (He must be a shadowy figure.)
Somewhat distressingly, the calendar's most-wanted list continues to include many of our longtime favorites, such as Faker Ben Abdelaziz Boussora, a Canadian, who hasn't been caught even though he's got "prominently protruding ears and is believed to have a serious pituitary gland illness." Not to mention a need for serious orthodontic work on the uppers. A bounty of $5 million for Faker.
There's $10 million for former Taliban chief Mullah Omar, who's proven elusive even though he's blind in one eye from a shrapnel wound. (Maybe there are a lot of Afghans around Kandahar with that condition?)
One problem with the calendar is that, as these terrorist attacks continue, they are filling up all the space you need to jot down luncheon engagements or grocery lists. For example, Sept. 20, which next year is the last day of Ramadan, has so many memorable and not-so-memorable moments -- such as the anniversary of "US, EU pledge partnership against terrorism," there's hardly any space left. (Might be time to edit down some of the entries.)
The calendar also has helpful hints on what to do when there's an alert of an impending attack. For example, say there's a suspicious-looking white van on the street. If it's packed with explosives, then you need to run like hell until you're about half a mile away.
Or perhaps you're in a park and you see a "low-hanging cloud" at ground level. That "might be a sign of a chemical attack," your calendar warns you. But it may not be. So look for lots of animals or insects suddenly dropping dead. Or maybe you'll see "Numerous individuals experiencing unexplained water-like blisters, wheals" (similar to bee stings), who are all choking, coughing or keeling over. Probably too late, but you should try to repeat the action you took above.
Now you won't be able to buy this beautiful calendar just anywhere. Actually, you won't be able to buy it at all. A downloadable version should be available in January, but only 40,000 copies of the real thing are being printed. That's what makes it so special.
The calendar is given as a gift to folks in the counterterrorism community -- the intelligence spooks at the CIA, DIA, FBI and so forth -- and to visiting dignitaries and counterparts from allies or frenemies.
So you have to be in the business -- or know someone.No Bureaucrat, Wolfson
There's been chatter that the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign's communications director, Howard Wolfson, was in line to become perhaps assistant secretary for public affairs or some other top post in Sen. Clinton's new job at Foggy Bottom. We heard yesterday that that's not happening and that he may be landing a new gig in Manhattan.
Maybe he couldn't handle the salary reduction. The State Department position pays but $153,200 a year, a small fraction of his recent earnings. By one calculation, he was paid about $1 million for 18 months on the campaign trail. Another calculation has it at about $800,000.
Either way, government work would be a serious whack in the wallet.
By the way, for that kind of money, Clinton could have hired up to half a dozen Obama stars, including campaign manager David Plouffe, who received around $192,099; Steve Hildebrand (to win Iowa), $194,048; Jeff Berman (to work delegates), $161,589; and the communications team of Robert Gibbs ($194,847), Dan Pfeiffer ($152,515.51), maybe even Bill Burton ($147,438) -- but only if Wolfson's take was closer to the million-dollar estimate.Nice Approach
When Barack Obama teed off in Waimanalo, Hawaii, on Sunday, his golf partner was a 24-year-old campaign veteran who has risen to become one of Obama's closest confidants.
Eugene Kang, who was photographed on the course with Obama with his red golf shirt tucked in (while Obama was sporting cargo shorts -- what's with that?), is among a small coterie of aides accompanying the president-elect on his vacation.
His official duties include helping connect Obama with political leaders and elected officials across the country. He's so close to the president-elect that some call him "Reggie Jr.," after Obama's ever-present personal assistant, Reggie Love.
It's been a meteoric rise. As a college junior, Kang ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat in Ann Arbor, Mich. He worked for Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on the 2006 campaign that landed her in the Senate before he joined Obama's campaign, where he worked on Obama's outreach programs to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
That alone can't account for his ascent. Maybe it isn't lost on the president-elect that Kang has a good drive. He apparently played on his high school golf team.Moving Out . . .
Army Secretary Pete Geren, who was named acting secretary in March 2007 after Pentagon chief Robert Gates booted former secretary Francis Harvey in the wake of the Walter Reed scandal, won't be staying on in the Obama administration, a senior Army official said yesterday.
Obama transition officials told Geren, a former Texas congressman, that he would be there only until his successor is confirmed, our colleague Ann Scott Tyson reports. Obama transition officials were making calls to various Pentagon officials yesterday telling them they should be prepared to leave on or around Jan. 20.
Transition officials, with the Cabinet and most senior White House posts now filled, are starting to fill in the next tiers of top officials, the nearly 500 deputy and undersecretary and assistant-secretary slots.
At the State Department, career diplomat and Middle East expert C. David Welch, who has been ambassador to Egypt, an assistant secretary of state for international affairs and more recently assistant secretary for Mideast affairs, announced his retirement last week.
With Philip Rucker and Alice Crites