In the USA...Texas Gov. Rick Perry: Americans have no right to freedom from religion
By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, June 13, 2013 17:15 EDT
During an announcement of the signing of the so-called “Merry Christmas Bill,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) said Thursday that freedom from religion was not included in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“I’m proud we are standing up for religious freedom in our state,” Perry said. “Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion.”
The new law states that students and school officials have the right to use religious greetings like “Merry Christmas” and display various religious holiday symbols on school grounds.
“I think it was Thomas Jefferson who said the price of liberty is eternal vigilance,” Nichols remarked. “One of those freedoms is the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and as the governor was saying the Constitution refers to the freedom of religion, not the freedom from religion.”
“So, challenges to these freedoms that we enjoy can come in a lot of different ways,” the state senator continued. “They can come in very large ways like the war on terror or our freedoms can be taken away in small ways like the removal of a Christmas tree from a classroom.”
Watch video, uploaded to YouTube, below:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mmqTCMdJBhY
***********Texas Democrats accuse Perry of vetoing equal pay bill
By Arturo Garcia
Friday, June 14, 2013 17:49 EDT
Democrats in the Texas legislature accused Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Friday of vetoing a bill that would have given women more chances to fight pay discrimination, the Dallas Morning News reported.
The measure, HB 950, would have allowed women to sue their employers in state court beyond the current 180-day period after receiving a paycheck they claim was unfair and sue for two years of discriminatory payments. It passed in the state House in April 2013 and the state Senate in May 2013. But a spokesperson for state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, who wrote the House version of the bill, said she was told by Perry’s office that he struck it down.
“I am very surprised that Governor Perry does not see the value in it,” state Sen. Wendy Davis (D) told the News. Davis introduced the Senate version of the bill.
Davis also told the Houston Chronicle that Perry vetoed the bill because it mirrored the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, a federal law passed in 2009. She questioned that reasoning in a press conference on Saturday, citing the bill’s provision allowing plaintiffs to sue in a state district court.
“These courts are less burdensome financially and are presided over by a judge elected by Texans, and consisting of a jury of their peers” Davis said at the press conference.
By vetoing the bill, Davis said, Perry showed “a callous disregard for the wages that are required to support Texas families.”
The state Supreme Court ruled in August 2012 (PDF) that the Lily Ledbetter Act may not be integrated into the state Commission on Human Rights Act.
Perry’s office did not comment on the allegations. According to the Chronicle, he has until Sunday to issue vetos.
***********The Republican Party is still ‘stuck on stupid’
By Crystal Wright, The Guardian
Saturday, June 15, 2013 8:33 EDT
Following two presidential election defeats in 2008 and 2012, the Republican party is still making the same mistakes
Stupid is as stupid does and, apparently, the Republican party didn’t get Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s “stupid memo” because it looks dumber by the day. After losing the 2012 presidential election the “GOP establishment” from former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich and every white man in between acknowledged that the party must make “the tent” more welcoming to minorities and women – where the votes increasingly are. So what does the GOP do? It keeps headlining white men behaving badly.
Americans were treated to a double feature of GOP stupidity this week brought to you by the senator from Arizona on 12 June. Republican Senator Jeff Flake had to apologize for his 15-year-old son’s unsavory remarks on Twitter. According to Buzzfeed, Tanner Flake tweeted he would find “the faggot” who stole his bike and “beat the crap out of you.” Tanner also posted screenshots of his scores from an online game “Fun Run” where he used the handle “n1ggerkiller”.
If this isn’t enough to make anyone’s eyes roll in disgust, Buzzfeed reported that Tanner’s Twitter account, which is now locked, revealed his repeated use of the racial slurs in January and February. Tanner made equally offensive comments on YouTube, including “nigger” and “faggot” along with calling Mexicans “scum of the Earth”. Strong words for a 15-year-old, who also gleefully reminded everyone his father was a member of Congress, according Buzzfeed.
Issuing an apology, Senator Flake wrote:
“I’m very disappointed in my teenage son’s words, and I sincerely apologize for the insensitivity. This language is unacceptable anywhere. Needless to say, I’ve already spoken with him about this, he has apologized, and I apologize as well.”
The burning question is where did Tanner hear this kind of “unacceptable” language? Typically, children repeat things they’ve heard their parents say or those close to them. The fact that Tanner Flake used these words with impunity across various social media platforms for months suggests he’s quite at ease with bigoted thinking. Whether the senator knew about it or not, it’s just another example of why blacks and other ethnic minorities don’t trust the GOP’s words of inclusion.
On the heels of the son-of-Flake hate rant, the good ole boys of the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Representative Bob Goodlatte (a Virginia Republican), thought now is the time to pass an abortion ban bill and alienate more women voters. As Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank aptly noted with sarcasm, not one of the 23 Republican members on the House Judiciary Committee is a woman. They are all white males dedicated to legislating women’s health issues. Do you see the irony in this?
The bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks and has no exception for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest or when the mother’s health is in jeopardy. In all his male wisdom, Representative Trent Franks of Arizona said there was no need to include an exception because “the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low“. Interesting, particularly when studies prove otherwise.
The bill has no chance of passing, “even if it clears the House”, Milbank wrote, because the Democrat majority in the Senate would almost certainly vote it down. Introducing the bill makes Republicans look stupid, and I say this as a member of the GOP and someone who’s against abortion. Now is not the time to try and open up Roe v Wade.
America has a severe jobs and economic problem. Republicans in Congress should be focusing on those issues “not trying to legislate morality”, as a good friend told me. I’m against abortion and the horror of how Kermit Gosnell killed live babies in Philadelphia is a tragic reminder that we as a society need to focus on the inhumanity of abortions through churches, charities and parenting that teaches morals and the value of life to young girls and boys.
After two presidential shellackings in 2008 and 2012, the Republican party seems to be stuck on stupid and doing business as usual. It’s been three months since the Republican National Committee issued its 100-page autopsy report about what went wrong in 2012 and promised to reach out to more non-white voters.
The country is still waiting for the RNC to actually do something. What’s evident is the GOP has the same white guys in charge doing and saying the same stupid things that lost them two presidential elections. The Republican party is rotting, but boys will be boys and that seems to be the way everyone in the establishment likes it.
© Guardian News and Media 2013
***************Welcome to Utah, the NSA’s desert home for eavesdropping on America
By Rory Carroll, The Guardian
Friday, June 14, 2013 11:26 EDT
The NSA’s new $1.7 billion facility in the heart of Mormon country has the potential to snoop on US citizens for decades to come
Drive south down Camp Williams Road, a highway outside Salt Lake City, and your eye is drawn to the left. A gun-mounted helicopter and other military hardware marks the entrance of the Utah army national guard base. The ice-capped Rockies soar in the distance.
To the right there is little to see: featureless scrubland, a metal fence, some warehouses. A small exit – not marked on ordinary maps – takes you up a curving road. A yellow sign says this is military property closed to unauthorised personnel.
Further up the hill, invisible from the highway, you encounter concrete walls, a security boom and checkpoint with guards, sniffer dogs and cameras. Two plaques with official seals announce the presence of the office of the director of national intelligence and the National Security Agency.
A spokesperson at NSA headquarters in Maryland did not welcome a Guardian request to visit its western outpost. “That is a secure facility. If you trespass on federal property security guards will be obliged to do their jobs.” An interview was out of the question.
Welcome the Utah Data Center, a new home for the NSA’s exponentially expanding information trove. The $1.7bn facility, two years in the making, will soon host supercomputers to store gargantuan quantities of data from emails, phone calls, Google searches and other sources. Sited on an unused swath of the national guard base, by September it will employ around 200 technicians, span 1m sq ft and use 65 megawatts of power.
This week Utah roasted in near-record temperatures ideal for fires and thunderstorms, putting the state under a hazardous weather outlook advisory. The NSA could have done with a similar warning for the scorching criticism of its surveillance activities, a sudden reversal of scrutiny for the agency and its Utah complex.
Deep in Mormon country between the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains, nestled on the outskirts of Bluffdale (population 7,598), it was designed to be largely anonymous. Instead, after Guardian disclosures of data-mining programs involving millions of Americans, the Utah Data Center provokes an urgent question: what exactly will it do?
The NSA says it will not illegally eavesdrop on Americans but is otherwise vague. Its scale is not in doubt. Since January 2011 a reported 10,000 labourers have built four 25,000-sq ft halls filled with servers and cables, plus an additional 900,000 sq ft of space for technical support and administration. Generators and huge fuel and water tanks will make the site self-sustaining in an emergency.
Outside experts disagreed on the centre’s potential. Some said it will just store data. Others envisaged a capacity to not just store but analyse and break codes, enabling technicians here to potentially snoop on the entire population for decades to come.
William Binney, a mathematician who worked at the NSA for almost 40 years and helped automate its worldwide eavesdropping, said Utah’s computers could store data at the rate of 20 terabytes – the equivalent of the Library of Congress – per minute. “Technically it’s not that complicated. You just need to work out an indexing scheme to order it.”
Binney, who left the agency in 2001 and blew the whistle on its domestic spying, said the centre could absorb and store data for “hundreds of years” and allow agencies such as the FBI to retroactively use the information.
He said the centre will likely have spare capacity for “brute force attacks” – using speed and data hoards to detect patterns and break encrypted messages in the so-called deep web where governments, corporations and other organisations keep secrets. There would be no distinction between domestic and foreign targets. “It makes no difference anymore to them.”
James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, said the public had yet to grasp the significance of Utah’s data-mining. “It’s basically a hard-drive. It’s also a cloud, a warehouse. It’ll be storing not just text and audio but pictures and video. There’s a lackadaisical attitude to this. People pay no attention until it’s too late.” Bamford wrote a cover story about the centre for Wired last year.
Brewster Kahle, a co-founder of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based non-profit that hoovers up knowledge in a digital equivalent of the library of Alexandria, said technology facilitated near-ubiquitous snooping. “If one had the opportunity to collect all the voice traffic in the US it would cost less than the Pentagon spends on paperclips. Storage these days is trivial, it’s not a problem.”
A rack of servers the size of a fridge can store 100 TV channels’ annual output, said Kahle. “What’s slow to dawn on people is that this level of surveillance is technologically and economically within our grasp.”
Some, however, disputed the image of Utah as an insatiable data Kraken. It will have no “operational function” – no eavesdropping or codebreaking – and will struggle to store data exploding from ever-expanding use of the internet, smartphones and tablets, said Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian and author of The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency.
“The intelligence people I’ve spoken are warning of data crunch – a polite way of saying they’re drowning. They say they don’t have enough capacity and will be back to Congress looking for more money to expand.” If so the site can do so. “It’s designed to be modular, you can add clip-ons. There is plenty of land.”
Utah has a colourful history of data management. Pony Express riders such as Buffalo Bill used to gallop through its deserts with sacks of mail dodging peril. “Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred,” said the famous – and possibly apocryphal – jobs advert. Mormons have long stored microfilms and documents in excavated chambers known as the Granite Mountain Vault.
The NSA chose the state apparently for a more prosaic reason: cheap electricity. It also helped that its conservative politicians, notably Senator Orrin Hatch, who served on the senate intelligence committee, supported post-9/11 security measures.
Revelations about surveillance programs such as Prism and Boundless Informant caused a small backlash this week. Several dozen people rallied outside the state capitol in Salt Lake City complaining of constitutional violations. “It’s just plain creepy!” said one placard. Others cited the fourth amendment and George Orwell’s novel 1984. Local newspapers’ op-ed pages also fulminated.
Others, however, have seen opportunity in the NSA’s arrival. The University of Utah has created a data-management course for students in consultation with the agency, which has promised internships at the data centre.
Officials in Bluffdale shrugged off privacy concerns. “They’re not a very open entity but if someone reads my emails they’ll be pretty bored,” said Mark Reid, the city manager. A deal to extend utilities to the centre, and to recycle water, helped open up scrubland for commercial development, he added. “It’s win-win.”
The NSA rejected a request from county mayors to tour the perimeter last month but Bluffdale’s mayor, Derk Timothy, was not offended. “I’ve never been inside the fence but it’s kind of to be expected with a facility like that.”Revelations about surveillance did not prove abuse of power, he said. “I don’t think they crossed the line. They’ve been good partners to us, especially when it comes to water.” The NSA was now part of the landscape. “They’ve been building that facility as if they’re going to stay forever.”
© Guardian News and Media 2013
*************Al Gore: NSA surveillance program ‘not really the American way’
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Friday, June 14, 2013 19:56 EDT
Former vice-president – not persuaded by argument that program was legal – urges Congress and Obama to amend the laws
The National Security Agency’s blanket collection of U.S. citizens’ phone records was “not really the American way”, Al Gore said on Friday, declaring that he believed it to be unlawful.
In his most expansive comments to date on the NSA revelations, the former vice-president was unsparing in his criticism of the surveillance apparatus, telling the Guardian security considerations should never overwhelm the basic rights of American citizens.
He also urged Barack Obama and Congress to review and amend the laws under which the NSA operated.
“I quite understand the viewpoint that many have expressed that they are fine with it and they just want to be safe but that is not really the American way,” Gore said in a telephone interview. “Benjamin Franklin famously wrote that those who would give up essential liberty to try to gain some temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Since the 2000 elections, when Gore won the popular vote but lost the presidency to George W Bush, the former vice-president has tacked to the left of the Democratic party, especially on his signature issue of climate change.
Gore spoke on Friday from Istanbul where he was about to lead one of his climate change training workshop for 600 global activists. Such three-day training sessions on behalf of the Climate Reality Project are now one of his main concerns.
Unlike other leading Democrats and his former allies, Gore said he was not persuaded by the argument that the NSA surveillance had operated within the boundaries of the law.
“This in my view violates the constitution. The fourth amendment – and the first amendment and the fourth amendment language is crystal clear,” he said. “It is not acceptable to have a secret interpretation of a law that goes far beyond any reasonable reading of either the law or the constitution and then classify as top secret what the actual law is.”
Gore added: “This is not right.”
The former vice-president was also unmoved by some recent opinion polls suggesting public opinion was in favour of surveillance
“I am not sure how to interpret polls on this, because we don’t do dial groups on the bill of rights,” he said.
He went on to call on Barack Obama and Congress to review the laws under which the NSA expanded its surveillance. “I think that the Congress and the administration need to make some changes in the law and in their behaviour so as to honour and obey the constitution of the United States,” he said. “It is that simple.”
He rejected outright calls by the Republican chair of the house homeland security committee, Peter King, for prosecution of journalists who cover security leaks, such as the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald.
Gore did say however that he had serious concerns about some aspects of the testimony offered by national intelligence director James Clapper during testimony to the Senate intelligence committee last March.
Clapper, in response to pointed questions from Democratic senator Ron Wyden, had said during that appearance that the NSA did not collect data on Americans.
“I was troubled by his direct response to senator Wyden’s very pointed question,” Gore said. “I was troubled by that.”
Gore has long had qualms about the expansion of the surveillance state in the digital age. He made those concers public this year in his latest book, The Future: Six Drivers of Social Change in which he warned: “Surveillance technologies now available – including the monitoring of virtually all digital information – have advanced to the point where much of the essential apparatus of a police state is already in place.”
Within hours of the Guardian’s first story about the NSA, the former vice-president tweeted: “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?
He said on Friday: “Some of us thought that it was probably going on, but what we have learned since then makes it a cause for deep concern.”
© Guardian News and Media 2013
**************Suspected commander of Nazi SS-led unit found living in Minnesota
AP investigation alleges Michael Karkoc lied about his role in the second world war when emigrating to the US in 1949
Associated Press in Berlin
guardian.co.uk, Friday 14 June 2013 17.30 BST
A commander of a Nazi SS-led unit accused of torching villages filled with women and children lied to American immigration officials to get into the US and has been living in Minnesota since shortly after the second world war, according to evidence uncovered by Associated Press.
Michael Karkoc, 94, told US authorities in 1949 that he had performed no military service during the war, concealing his work as an officer and founding member of the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defence Legion and later as an officer in the SS Galician Division, according to records obtained by AP through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Galician Division and a Ukrainian nationalist organisation in which he served were both on a secret US government blacklist of organisations whose members were forbidden from entering the US at the time.
Though records do not show that Karkoc had a direct hand in war crimes, statements from men in his unit and other documentation confirm that the Ukrainian company he led massacred civilians, and suggest that Karkoc was at the scene of these atrocities as the company leader. SS files say he and his unit were also involved in the 1944 Warsaw uprising, in which the Nazis brutally suppressed a Polish rebellion against German occupation.
The US justice department has used lies about wartime service made in immigration papers to deport dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals. The evidence of Karkoc's wartime activities uncovered by AP has prompted German authorities to express interest in exploring whether there is enough material to prosecute. In Germany, Nazis with "command responsibility" can be charged with war crimes even if their direct involvement in atrocities cannot be proven.
Karkoc, speaking from his home in Minneapolis, refused to discuss his wartime past, and repeated efforts to set up an interview, using his son as an intermediary, were unsuccessful.
Efraim Zuroff, the lead Nazi-hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said that based on his decades of experience pursuing Nazi war criminals, he expected that the evidence showing Karkoc lied to American officials and that his unit carried out atrocities is strong enough for deportation and war-crimes prosecution in Germany or Poland.
"In America this is a relatively easy case: If he was the commander of a unit that carried out atrocities, that's a no brainer," Zuroff said. "Even in Germany … if the guy was the commander of the unit, then even if they can't show he personally pulled the trigger, he bears responsibility."
Former German army officer Josef Scheungraber – a lieutenant like Karkoc – was convicted in Germany in 2009 on charges of murder based on circumstantial evidence that put him on the scene of a Nazi wartime massacre in Italy as the ranking officer.
German prosecutors are obligated to open an investigation if there is enough "initial suspicion" of possible involvement in war crimes, said Thomas Walther, a former prosecutor with the special German office that investigates Nazi war crimes.
The current deputy head of that office, Thomas Will, said there is no indication that Karkoc had ever been investigated by Germany. Based on AP's evidence, he said he was interested in gathering information that could possibly result in prosecution.
Prosecution in Poland may also be a possibility because most of the unit's alleged crimes were against Poles on Polish territory. But Karkoc would be unlikely to be tried in his native Ukraine, where such men are today largely seen as national heroes who fought for the country against the Soviet Union.
Karkoc lives in a modest house in north-east Minneapolis in an area with a large Ukrainian population. Even at his advanced age, he came to the door without help of a cane or a walker. He would not comment on his wartime service for Nazi Germany.
"I don't think I can explain," he said.
Members of his unit and other witnesses have told stories of brutal attacks on civilians.
One of Karkoc's men, Vasyl Malazhenski, told Soviet investigators that in 1944 the unit was directed to "liquidate all the residents" of the village of Chlaniow in a reprisal attack for the killing of a German SS officer, though he did not say who gave the order.
"It was all like a trance: setting the fires, the shooting, the destroying," Malazhenski recalled, according to the 1967 statement found by AP in the archives of Warsaw's state-run Institute of National Remembrance, which investigates and prosecutes German and Soviet crimes on Poles during and after the second world war.
"Later, when we were passing in file through the destroyed village," Malazhenski said, "I could see the dead bodies of the killed residents: men, women, children."
In a background check by US officials on 14 April 1949, Karkoc said he had never performed any military service, telling investigators that he "worked for father until 1944. Worked in labor camp from 1944 until 1945."
However, in a Ukrainian-language memoir published in 1995, Karkoc states that he helped found the Ukrainian Self Defence Legion in 1943 in collaboration with the Nazis' feared SS intelligence agency, the SD, to fight on the side of Germany – and served as a company commander in the unit, which received orders directly from the SS, until the end of the war.
It was not clear why Karkoc felt safe publishing his memoir, which is available at the US Library of Congress and the British Library and which AP located online in an electronic Ukrainian library.
Karkoc's name surfaced when a retired clinical pharmacologist who took up Nazi war crimes research in his free time came across it while looking into members of the SS Galician Division who emigrated to Britain. He tipped off AP when an internet search showed an address for Karkoc in Minnesota.
"Here was a chance to publicly confront a man who commanded a company alleged to be involved in the cruel murder of innocent people," said Stephen Ankier, who is based in London.
AP located Karkoc's US army intelligence file, and got it declassified by the National Archives in Maryland through a freedom of Iinformation request. The army was responsible for processing visa applications after the war under the Displaced Persons Act.
The intelligence file said standard background checks with seven different agencies found no red flags that would disqualify him from entering the US. But it also noted that it lacked key information from the Soviet side: "Verification of identity and complete establishment of applicant's reliability is not possible due to the inaccessibility of records and geographic area of applicant's former residence."
Wartime documents located by the AP also confirm Karkoc's membership in the Self Defence Legion. They include a Nazi payroll sheet found in Polish archives, signed by an SS officer on 8 January 1945 – only four months before the war's end – confirming that Karkoc was present in Krakow, Poland, to collect his salary as a member of the Self Defence Legion. Karkoc signed the document using Cyrillic letters.
Karkoc, an ethnic Ukrainian, was born in the city of Lutsk in 1919, according to details he provided American officials. At the time, the area was being fought over by Ukraine, Poland and others; it ended up part of Poland until the second world war. Several wartime Nazi documents note the same birth date, but say he was born in Horodok, a town in the same region.
He joined the regular German army after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and fought on the eastern front in Ukraine and Russia, according to his memoirs, which say he was awarded an Iron Cross, an award for bravery.
He was also a member of the Ukrainian nationalist organisation OUN; in 1943, he helped negotiate with the Nazis to have men drawn from its membership form the Self Defence Legion, according to his account. Initially small, it eventually numbered 600 soldiers. The legion was dissolved and folded into the SS Galician Division in 1945; Karkoc wrote that he remained with it until the end of the war.
Policy at the time of Karkoc's immigration application – according to a declassified secret US government document obtained by AP from the National Archives – was to deny a visa to anyone who had served in either the SS Galician Division or the OUN. The US does not typically have jurisdiction to prosecute Nazi war crimes but has won more than 100 "denaturalisation and removal actions" against people suspected of them.
Department of justice spokesman Michael Passman would not comment on whether Karkoc had ever come to the department's attention, citing a policy not to confirm or deny the existence of investigations.
Though Karkoc talks in his memoirs about fighting anti-Nazi Polish resistance fighters, he makes no mention of attacks on civilians. He does indicate he was with his company in the summer of 1944 when the Self Defence Legion's commander – Siegfried Assmuss, whose SS rank was equivalent to major – was killed.
"We lost an irreplaceable commander, Assmuss," he wrote about the partisan attack near Chlaniow.
He did not mention the retaliatory massacre that followed, which was described in detail by Malazhenski in his 1967 statement used to help convict platoon leader Teodozy Dak of war crimes in Poland in 1972. An SS administrative list obtained by AP shows that Karkoc commanded both Malazhenski and Dak, who died in prison in 1974.
Malazhenski said the Ukrainian unit was ordered to liquidate Chlaniow in reprisal for Assmuss's death, and moved in the next day, machine-gunning people and torching homes. More than 40 people died.
"The village was on fire," Malazhenski said.
Villagers offered chilling testimony about the brutality of the attack. In 1948, Chlaniow resident Stanislawa Lipska told a communist-era commission that she heard shots at about 7am., then saw "the Ukrainian SS force" entering the town, calling out in Ukrainian and Polish for people to come out of their homes.
"The Ukrainians were setting fire to the buildings," Lipska said in a statement, also used in the Dak trial. "You could hear machine-gun shots and grenade explosions. Shots could be heard inside the village and on the outskirts. They were making sure no one escaped."
Witness statements and other documentation also link the unit circumstantially to a 1943 massacre in Pidhaitsi, on the outskirts of Lutsk – today part of Ukraine – where the Self Defence Legion was based.Twenty-one villagers, mostly women and children, were slaughtered.
Karkoc says in his memoir that his unit was founded and headquartered there in 1943 and later mentions that Pidhaitsi was still the unit's base in January 1944.
Another legion member, Kost Hirniak, said in his own 1977 memoir that the unit, while away on a mission, was suddenly ordered back to Pidhaitsi after a German soldier was killed in the area; it arrived on 2 December 1943.
The next day, though Hirniak does not mention it, nearly two dozen civilians, primarily women and children, were slaughtered in Pidhaitsi. There is no indication any other units were in the area at the time.
Heorhiy Syvyi was a nine-year-old boy when troops entered the town on 3 December and managed to flee with his father and hide in a shelter covered with branches. His mother and four-year-old brother were killed.
"When we came out we saw the smouldering ashes of the burned house and our neighbours searching for the dead. My mother had my brother clasped to her chest. This is how she was found – black and burned," said Syvyi, 78, sitting on a bench outside his home.
Villagers today blame the attack generically on "the Nazis" – something that experts say is not unusual in Ukraine because of the exalted status former Ukrainian nationalist troops enjoy.
However, Pidhaitsi schoolteacher Galyna Sydorchuk told AP "there is a version" of the story in the village that the Ukrainian troops were involved in the December massacre. "There were many in Pidhaitsi who were involved in the Self Defence Legion," she said. "But they obviously keep it secret."
Ivan Katchanovski, a Ukrainian political scientist who has done extensive research on the Self Defence Legion, said its members have been careful to cultivate the myth that their service to Nazi Germany was solely a fight against Soviet communism. But he said its actions – fighting partisans and reprisal attacks on civilians – tell a different story.
"Under the pretext of anti-partisan action they acted as a kind of police unit to suppress and kill or punish the local populations. This became their main mission," said Katchanovski, who went to high school in Pidhaitsi and now teaches at the University of Ottawa in Canada. "There is evidence of clashes with Polish partisans, but most of their clashes were small, and their most visible actions were mass killings of civilians."
There is evidence that the unit took part in the brutal suppression of the Warsaw Uprising, fighting the nationalist Polish Home Army as it sought to rid the city of its Nazi occupiers and take control of the city ahead of advancing Soviet troops.
The uprising, which began in August 1944, was put down by the Nazis by the beginning of October in a house-to-house fight characterised by its ferocity.
The Self Defence Legion's exact role is not known, but Nazi documents indicate that Karkoc and his unit were there.
An SS payroll document, dated 12 October 1944, says 10 members of the Self Defence Legion "fell while deployed to Warsaw" and more than 30 others were injured. Karkoc is listed as the highest-ranking commander of 2 Company – a lieutenant – on a pay sheet that also lists Dak as one of his officers.
Another Nazi accounting document uncovered by AP in the Polish National Archives in Krakow lists Karkoc by name – including his rank, birthdate and hometown – as one of 219 "members of the SMdS-Batl 31 who were in Warsaw," using the German abbreviation for the Self Defence Legion.
In early 1945, the Self Defence Legion was integrated into the SS Galicia Division, and Karkoc said in his memoirs that he served as a deputy company commander until the end of the war.
American life and children
Following the war, Karkoc ended up in a camp for displaced people in Neu Ulm, Germany, according to documents obtained from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The documents indicate that his wife died in 1948, a year before he and their two young boys – born in 1945 and 1946 – emigrated to the US.
After he arrived in Minneapolis, he remarried and had four more children, the last born in 1966.
Karkoc told American officials he was a carpenter, and records indicate he worked for a nationwide construction company that has an office in Minneapolis.
A longtime member of the Ukrainian National Association, Karkoc has been closely involved in community affairs over the past decades and was identified in a 2002 article in a Ukrainian-American publication as a "longtime UNA activist".
The lights were on at Karkoc's home on Friday morning, but nobody answered a knock from an AP reporter seeking reaction to this story.
Karkoc's next-door neighbour said he had known the Ukrainian immigrant for many years, and was stunned to learn about the Nazi past of a man he has shared laughs with and known as a churchgoer.
"For me, this is a shock," said Gordon Gnasdoskey, 79. "To come to this country and take advantage of its freedoms all of these years, it blows my mind."