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The Newburgh Four Sentencing: FBI Sting Operation Used the Men as Counterterror Lab Rats

7:31 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

(photo: NYC Socialist)

The bombs the Newburgh Four were planning to detonate to blow up three synagogues were fake. The Stinger surface-to-air missile the men were plotting to use to shoot down military aircraft at a National Guard base was not capable of being fired. The weapons were like this because they came from the FBI. And, now three of the four men have each been sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for their involvement in this FBI sting operation.

The men, James Cromitie, David Williams and Onta Williams (no relation to David) had been convicted in October 2010. The defense continued to present a case that the men had been swept up in a scheme of FBI entrapment. They highlighted how an FBI informant had posed as an Islamic extremist to convince them to become involved in a terror plot. They accused prosecutors, according to the Associated Press, of “introducing a Stinger missile into the plot because the charge that went with it carried a minimum 25 years in prison.”

US District Judge Colleen McMahon understood the men were only in her court for sentencing because the FBI “created an act of terrorism.” She understood the FBI scripted the plot from “start to finish.” But, afraid to upset superiors or government officials, she condemned the defendants’ anti-Semitism and their willingness to “kill, maim and destroy for money.”

“What you attempted to do was despicable,” said Judge McMahon. She guaranteed the men would be imprisoned under harsh conditions and said, “I imagine that you will be far from here, and quite isolated…I doubt that you will receive any training or rehabilitative treatment of any sort. Your crimes were terrible. Your punishment will indeed be severe.”

Let’s get this straight: it is despicable that the men, who were set up by the FBI to commit an act of terrorism, actually appeared to be willing to commit an act of terrorism, but the FBI’s operation is not despicable enough to disqualify the sentencing of the men to twenty five harsh years of life in prison.

Here’s some brief background on the case (and you can read more about it and two other similar cases of FBI targeting and entrapment in this Center for Human Rights and Global Justice of the New York University School of Law report published in May) —

David served five years in jail for drug dealing. Early in 2009, David’s younger brother, Lord McWilliams, was diagnosed with liver cancer. David had been a father figure for his younger brother and wanted a way to make money to pay for a liver transplant. He was offered an opportunity to save his brother’s life in April 2009, when an acquaintance, Cromitie said he could get him $250,000, luxury cars and financing for a barbershop if he helped to carry out a terror attack. David thought about the plan and decided he might be able to get the money without carrying out an attack.

On May 13, 2009, Hussain drove Cromitie, David and Onta and fourth man, Laguerre Payen, to the Bronx to conduct surveillance on various synagogues. They went to Connecticut to see the Stinger missile that would be used. A week later, Hussain drove the men to the Bronx again to the proposed targets. The FBI had placed two cars in front of the targets and Cromitie was to put the explosives in the cars’ trunks. David was dropped off and Hussain drove to the first car. Hussain turned off a recording device he had been wearing and the men were arrested.

Alicia McWilliams, David’s aunt, talked with me after the sentencing. She points out the FBI picked an isolated area because they knew there were criminals there. They didn’t go to Riverdale, they came to Newburgh to do their trickery.

“There’s no job training, there’s nothing in Newburgh,” explains McWilliams. “The town is going down because of the drugs and the gangs.”

The FBI is trying to divide a community. That is why they picked the synagogue, McWilliams asserts. Picking Jews as targets will bring attention especially media attention. And, it definitely will, if you are going after Muslims, she says.

Karen Greenberg, executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the NYU School of Law, likely agrees. In an article for The Guardian, she calls the government-sponsored anti-Semitism revolting. She points out Judge McMahon loathed Cromitie’s anti-Semitism but yet FBI informant Hussain was “caught on tape urging Cromitie to think about acting ‘for the cause’ – by attacking a synagogue – rather than merely lashing out at a few individual Jews. Hussain referred to Jews as “the root of all evil” And, Greenberg points out, Cromitie said he did not want to go that far.

Greenberg concludes:

This case has found headlines on the issue of entrapment. But its true significance lies in a much more disturbing fact. Who, if asked, would want a government agent to spread antisemitism as a means of inciting terrorism – particularly with a defendant who was characterised by his own attorney as the “biggest mouth” in town? Who really thinks that tax dollars are well spent to support utterances of antisemitism as a means of bonding with potential criminals and turning them into attempted terrorists?

Imam Salahuddin Muhammad of Newburgh told Democracy Now! in a report produced by Anjali Kamat and Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films for Democracy Now!, I believe that what we are seeing today with the FBI surveillance and the FBI allowing for agent provocateurs to enter into Muslim communities is the same thing that happened in the ’60s with a lot of the black nationalist organizations. That’s what I see happening today in the Islamic community. The FBI, they are sending these agent provocateurs into the community, and they are cultivating and nurturing and actually creating situations that would never have occured if they didn’t have their man in there to do that.”

McWilliams concludes the FBI is using the community as a “test tube” and asks, “Who holds our government accountable for their unjust deeds? What they did is despicable.”

She uses the phrase “test tube.” The men seem more like laboratory rats. The FBI sends someone into a community, a Pakistani, who doesn’t stick out like an FBI agent might, to enlist individuals in a plot developed by members of the agency. They ask men, who many in society would consider to be disposable, to engage in a scheme that is criminal and terrorist to see if they will actually commit the crime and engage in terrorism. Psychological manipulation through religion and monetary awards is employed. And, when the experiment is over, they are put back in their cages, like lab rats i.e. they are sent to trial and sent to prison because whether the plot was fake or not doesn’t matter.

To McWilliams’ question: who does hold the government accountable for its unjust deeds? They manufactured a crime here. If that isn’t acceptable, than it should be a crime. If a citizen of the United States did a counterterror experiment like this and then claimed he was only seeing if they would actually do it, not only would the men involved go to jail but so too would the person engineering the plot.

Those suspected of CIA torture escape accountability. Attorney General Eric J. Holder agreed to drop ninety-nine out of a hundred cases on CIA interrogators unlawfully torturing detainees.

Top Bush advisers like former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice approved torture of terror suspects. But, as Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald details, President Obama not only shields former Bush administration officials from accountability, he meets with them to gain insight on domestic and foreign policy.

Economically, Wall Street executives were responsible for tanking the US economy, but, as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi points out, “Federal regulators and prosecutors have let the banks and finance companies that tried to burn the world economy to the ground get off with carefully orchestrated settlements.” Small fines are paid and often the bank that defrauded shareholders “use shareholder money to foot the tab of justice.”

BP executives likely commit one of the worst environmental atrocities in the history of the United States. They are criminally negligent before, during and after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon that costs the lives of 11 people and results in massive pollution of the Gulf of Mexico. There are no plans for criminal prosecutions.

Officials engaged in counterterrorism operations, who create terror operations to stop terrorism, are elevated. Wall Street executives like those at Goldman Sachs don’t just escape justice but are influential in economic policymaking decisions. In contrast, Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist who placed fake bids in a public land auction to disrupt drilling by energy companies, is convicted of a crime, even though the federal government admits the auction was illegal. Lt. Dan Choi faces federal charges and not the typical misdemeanor for protesting at the White House fence to call attention to the need to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Supporters of WikiLeaks become embroiled in federal grand juries that create this idea in the minds of Americans that they might have been involved in espionage. And, the US State Department will fine or incarcerate US citizens, who try to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The United States government will seek to hold activists that engage in freedom of association or freedom of speech accountable. It will seek to hold accountable those who have connections to Islam and hail from impoverished and neglected communities. It will look backward to prosecute those who try to call attention to government abuse and misconduct and those whose voice in society is doubted because of race, class and religion. On the contrary, when government officials stand accused of crimes, it will work overtime to move forward and prevent anyone in government from looking backward to hold accountable those in government that should be investigated for crimes.


To read more on how the FBI has transformed and expanded into a massive domestic spy agency since the September 11th attacks, here’s a story I recently wrote for AlterNet called, “5 Outrageous Examples of FBI Intimidation & Entrapment.”

On the Issue of the United States, Pakistan Is Playing with Fire

8:32 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The Dawn Media Group in partnership with WikiLeaks has been releasing the “Pakistan Papers,” cables from the trove of more than 250,000 US State Embassy cables that WikiLeaks obtained which specifically deal with Pakistan. Thus far, some of the revelations include the following: Pakistan’s military asked for continued drone coverage, the US has had troops deployed on Pakistan soil, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been financing jihadist groups in Pakistan and the US did not provide Benazir Bhutto with proper security.

I managed to connect with Raza Rumi, a writer based in Lahore, Pakistan, who regularly writes for the Pakistani weekly The Friday Times, The News and Daily DAWN. He’s also worked in various organizations including multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and has some writing on Dawn’s website on the Pakistan Papers.

The interview was planned for Sunday at 3 pm New York Time/midnight Pakistan Time. We were going to do the interview over Skype.

Just after 3 pm, I reminded Rumi that the interview was to begin. He logged on fifteen to twenty minutes after the time we had arranged and messaged me: “Sorry I got distracted. Never a dull moment here.” At that exact moment, the Mehran naval aviation base in Karachi was under attack from militants (an attack that Adnan Rehmat says highlights “the ability of al Qaeda to function effectively as an extremist, reactionary organisation post-bin Laden”). I mention this to highlight how gracious Rumi was to take time out from Pakistan to share with me, an American, his insights on what is going on in a country that some refer to as “a hard country.”

[The interview was recorded. To hear audio, click here. And, click play on the embedded player.]

I ask Rumi about the Pakistan military and what the Pakistan Papers release tells the Pakistani people and the world about how the Pakistan military has been deceiving its people.

…It’s not just the Pakistan military. I would say Pakistan’s civilian and military elites have never trusted their people and they have been posturing on the one hand on an anti-Americanism platform and on the other they have been negotiating and bargaining with the West and in particular the Americans. And so I think this is an absolute shame because the more you do such things in a country, which is armed with nuclear weapons and where you have very strong public opinion on the particular issue of the US, you’re playing with fire. It’s an irresponsible behavior by the elites.

I ask Rumi to address President Barack Obama’s assertion that the US has the authority and right to come into Pakistan and kill any “militants” or al Qaeda leaders the US deems dangerous and how that might further complicate relations.

Rumi mentions the Pakistan Parliament recently established a stated position in early May through a parliamentary resolution that says “Pakistan’s Parliament is seriously worried about the breach of sovereignty that the US operations such as the OBL operation caused.”
Read the rest of this entry →

‘Official History’ of Bay of Pigs Still, Fifty Years Later, Classified Under CIA Embargo

3:02 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Screen shot from an archive reel of footage from the Bay of Pigs

The National Security Archive has, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force the release of the CIA’s “Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation.” The lawsuit charges the CIA has “wrongfully withheld” a multi-volume study the Archive requested in 2005 that is “the most important and substantive CIA-produced study of this episode.”

Director of the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project Peter Kornbluh has called on the CIA to release the report under President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13526 , which states that “no information may remain classified indefinitely.” (Of course, denying FOIA requests doesn’t mean documents will be classified indefinitely. It just means they aren’t getting released now.)

One might wonder, how long does this have to go on before someone goes ahead and declassifies the material? What is the government hiding? Is there any chance someone will just leak the report to WikiLeaks and end this travesty?

The Bay of Pigs invasion is an episode in US foreign policy that is considered to be a sham. Beyond that, it’s unclear what has been learned from the incident.

On February 3, 1961, a memo for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was written titled, “Military Evaluation of the CIA Para-Military Plan, Cuba.” It detailed the following in relation to overthrowing the Castro Regime: the operation would be dependent on local Cuban support, the beachhead area would be the best area in Cuba for accomplishment of a Task Force mission, an airborne assault would likely not be opposed and thus would be successful, and an amphibious assault would be successful even if lightly opposed. The plan detailed in the memo had a “likelihood of achieving military success” depending on political factors like “the size of a popular uprising or substantial follow-on forces.” It would not “necessarily require overt US intervention.”

This document and other documents that have already been declassified and are in the public domain detail the reprehensibility of the invasion. Anyone reading them would be forgiven for wondering if those developing foreign policy and running the military and intelligence agencies in the US throughout the past decade have been inspired and influenced by plans developed for Cuba in the run-up to the Bay of Pigs.

The world might consider what has changed since then. US operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Colombia, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen all can be compared to the Bay of Pigs. WikiLeaks has lifted the veil on much of these US operations revealing that assassinations or extrajudicial/targeted killings of people play a key part in the global “war on terror.” Through the Afghanistan War Logs, it was revealed that the US has a unit, Task Force 373, which hunts top Taliban for detention or death without trial. The Logs also showed “non 373″ operations involving drones. Drones happen to be a 21st Century tool for the US that could be at the center of an assassination plot. What might have happened if the CIA under the Kennedy Administration had been able to employ drone technology to go after Fidel Castro?

Also, recently it was “discovered” the CIA had a secret al Qaeda assassination program that Vice President Dick Cheney possibly prevented the CIA from telling Congress about. Far more similar to the Bay of Pigs operations, the program that, in July 2009 was reportedly canceled , possibly involved “attempts to use assassins to kill or capture senior terrorists.” The plan involved the development of “small paramilitary teams that could carry out “surgical’ strikes on high-value targets” but supposedly was “bogged down” with “basic operational and logistical questions.”

While a 1976 order was signed by President Gerald Ford and banned the CIA from carrying out assassinations, the world was declared a battlefield in the aftermath of 9/11. (Actually, one might ask if the US has ever not thought the world is its battlefield.) Targeted assassinations of any terror suspects became permissible no matter the legal questions they raised. In fact, as Glenn Greenwald covered in June of 2010, the Obama Administration picked up where the Bush Administration left off and began to justify the government’s right to target Americans for assassination without giving them due process.

With the US intervening along with support from France, the UK and various other countries, it appears the Washington Consensus has not changed. CIA boots are indeed on the ground in Libya. What they are doing exactly is largely unknown (although it has been reported they are gathering intelligence). Furthermore, the issues officials thought “Cuban Exiles” could pose are the same issues those following the situation closely might warn about today when talking about the rebel forces in Libya.

The CIA counted on a sizeable number of indigenous volunteers and had arms ready for 1,500 volunteers. Officials noted that a “major problem could arise in control of indigenous personnel.” The invasion also called for contact with “guerrilla bands” operating in the general area of the operations.

“According to currently available intelligence, it is estimated that within a 25 mile radius of the objective area, five guerrilla bands with a total estimated strength of 660 may cooperate with the task force. Another guerrilla band with an estimated strength of 90 is operating approximately 30 miles west of the objective area. Two additional guerrilla bands are operating some 40 miles north of the objective area. The concept is for those bands to reinforce the invasion force in the beachhead area. This part of the concept is not considered sound.[emphasis added]

On local indigenous support, officials noted “continued support of the invasion would depend largely on the identification of leaders with the hopes and aspirations of the bulk of the population.” Noting the perils of “wholesale bombings,” officials understood force had to be restrained or else Cubans would, in reaction to a high loss of life, unite behind Castro.

April 15, 1961, eight B-26 planes from the Cuban Expeditionary Force carried out air strikes to destroy Castro’s air capability. Similar to what happened with the two Libyan pilots that defected to Malta, a Cuban pilot and three of his comrades landed at 7 am at the Miami International Airport claim to have defected from Castro’s air force. But, what happened was suspicious: They claimed to have carried out attacks against Castro’s airfields but reporters noted the planes’ machine guns had not been fired and the planes’ noses were made of solid metal while Castro’s B-26 planes were made of plastic.

The “Benghazi Rebels” of the Bay of Pigs invasion were to set up a “counterrevolutionary government” to be recognized on Cuban soil. The strategy involved a “propaganda action plan ” to maintain the morale of the anti-Castro fighting forces, instruct pro-patriot forces and tell them how to join the fight, intimidate pro-Castro forces and make them defect or become panic-stricken, confused and uncertain, present the desired picture of the internal fighting, and appeal to other government and peoples for support through the dramatic presentation of declarations of the fighting forces and new government. But, the invasion massively failed. The Cuban military forces were able to overwhelm the planned operation and many of US-backed forces involved were kidnapped or killed.

In retrospect, it seems that the CIA planners were hoping to be able to assassinate Castro and that would be ultimately how the Bay of Pigs operation would succeed. That’s not surprising given the following document titled “A Study of Assassination ,” which was likely published around December 31st, 1953. Detailing how assassination could be employed in foreign operations, the document took multiple Freedom of Information Act requests before the CIA finally declassified some fourteen hundred pages of over one hundred thousand pages estimated to be in the secret archives on the “Guatemalan destabilization program.”

“The Classifications” portion shows how the government planned to respond to an assassination attempt on a leader like Castro:

The techniques employed will vary according to whether the subject is unaware of his danger, aware but unguarded, or guarded. They will also be affected by whether or not the assassin is to be killed with the subject. Hereafter, assassinations in which the subject is unaware will be termed “simple”; those where the subject is aware but unguarded will be termed “chase”; those where the victim is guarded will be termed “guarded.”

If the assassin is to die with the subject, the act will be called “lost.” If the assassin is to escape, the adjective will be “safe.” It should be noted that no compromises should exist here. The assassin must not fall alive into enemy hands.

A further type division is caused by the need to conceal the fact that the subject was actually the victim of assassination, rather than an accident or natural causes. If such concealment is desirable the operation will be called “secret”; if concealment is immaterial, the act will be called “open”; while if the assassination requires publicity to be effective it will be termed “terroristic.”

Following these definitions, the assassination of Julius Caesar was safe, simple, and terroristic, while that of Huey Long was lost, guarded and open. Obviously, successful secret assassinations are not recorded as assassination at all. [Illeg] of Thailand and Augustus Caesar may have been the victims of safe, guarded and secret assassination. Chase assassinations usually involve clandestine agents or members of criminal organizations.

The section titled “Employment” is interesting given how adamant the US has been in recent history to preserve the tool of assassination:

Assassination is an extreme measure not normally used in clandestine operations. It should be assumed that it will never be ordered or authorized by any U.S. Headquarters, though the latter may in rare instances agree to its execution by members of an associated foreign service. This reticence is partly due to the necessity for committing communications to paper. No assassination instructions should ever be written or recorded. Consequently, the decision to employ this technique must nearly always be reached in the field, at the area where the act will take place. Decision and instructions should be confined to an absolute minimum of persons. Ideally, only one person will be involved. No report may be made, but usually the act will be properly covered by normal news services, whose output is available to all concerned.

[*For a full chronology of the Bay of Pigs that includes details obtained from documents procured through FOIA requests, click here.]

CIA Director Allen Dulles admitted in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, “I don’t think that the CIA should run paramilitary operations of the type in Cuba, and possibly not of the type run in [REDACTED]. The Cuban operation has had a very serious effect on all our work. I believe there should be a new set-up. I think we should limit ourselves more to secret intelligence collection and operations of the non-military.” But, as previously mentioned, the CIA continues to develop assassination programs. Half a century later, the CIA is taking heat for the destabilizing impact of its presence in Pakistan. Hundreds of American personnel have been asked to leave the country and Pakistani military and state officials want more information on the agency’s covert operations.

Add to that what unfolded with Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who the Obama Administration tried to pretend was a diplomat, and the continued use of drones in Pakistan, it is clear the CIA has learned very little from the Bay of Pigs invasion. If anything, it’s embraced many of the tactics that were part of plans with the hope that a do-over here and a do-over there might at some point produce a favorable outcome the agency can celebrate.

The CIA’s willingness to engage in such perversions as the Bay of Pigs should compel us to line up behind organizations like the National Security Archive. The more sunshine on the past half century’s activities and operations, the more likely we are to reign in a rogue element that has been given carte blanche for far too many barbarous foreign policy experiments. And, if the National Security Archive cannot use proper legal channels to get the information disclosed, then a courageous person should draw inspiration from alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning and just leak the remaining unjustifiably classified material already.

Former CIA Spy Who Runs Private CIA & WikiLeaks Cables on Afghanistan

8:22 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

U.S. Army Special Operations Soldiers at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan by The U.S. Army

The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reports that Duane R. Clarridge, who parted with the Central Intelligence Agency over twenty years ago, has been running a private network of spies from his poolside at his home near San Diego. Clarridge has “fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan. Since the United States military cut off his funding in May, he has relied on like-minded private donors to pay his agents to continue gathering information about militant fighters, Taliban leaders and the secrets of Kabul’s ruling class.”

Furthermore, Mazzetti reports that Clarridge, “who was indicted on charges of lying to Congress in the Iran-contra scandal and later pardoned,” “has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge’s suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict, associates say.”

Mazzetti paints a portrait of the 78-year-old Clarridge. He is someone who believes Washington is bloated with bureaucrats and lawyers who impede American troops in fighting adversaries and that leaders are overly reliant on mercurial allies. He has for years sent dispatches, “an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports,” to military officials and conservative commentators like Oliver L. North, “a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst,” and Brad Thor, who writes “military thrillers” and frequently appears on Glenn Beck’s show. His reports were used by officials in the U.S. military up to plan military strikes in Afghanistan until spring of last year.

Nowhere in the embassy cables that have been leaked by WikiLeaks are there cables that explicitly indicate the U.S. military and U.S. diplomats were working closely with Clarridge. Clarridge’s name never appears. But, they provide great context.

On President Karzai’s younger brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Mazzetti reports:

For years, the American military has believed that public anger over government-linked corruption has helped swell the Taliban’s ranks, and that Ahmed Wali Karzai plays a central role in that corruption. He has repeatedly denied any links to the Afghan drug trafficking.

According to three American military officials, in April 2009 Gen. David D. McKiernan, then the top American commander in Afghanistan, told subordinates that he wanted them to gather any evidence that might tie the president’s half brother to the drug trade. “He put the word out that he wanted to “burn’ Ahmed Wali Karzai,” said one of the military officials.”

One WikiLeaks cable from early in 2010 corroborates this revelation that the military was trying to “‘burn’ Ahmed Wali Karzai.” During a meeting between Senior Civilian Representative Frank Ruggiero (SCR) and Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK) on February 23, 2010, Karzai raised allegations of his involvement in narcotics:

Unprompted, AWK raised allegations of his involvement in narcotics, telling the SCR that he is willing to take a polygraph anytime, anywhere to prove his innocence and that he has hired an attorney in New York to clear his name. He suggested that the coalition pay mullahs to preach against heroin, which would reduce demand for poppy cultivation. AWK dismissed the narcotics allegations as part of a campaign to discredit him, particularly by the media, saying the allegations are “like a spice added to a dish to make it more enticing to eat.” [emphasis added]

The talk about media alleging he was involved with narcotics raises questions on whether the U.S. military or private individuals like Carridge were planting these stories in the Afghan media to discredit him. His desire to take a polygraph makes one wonder whether he had been intimidated and harassed for some time prior to the meeting and was using the meeting as an opportunity to end the harassment and intimidation once and for all.

Mazzetti reports, “In early 2010, after General McKiernan left Afghanistan and Mr. Clarridge was under contract to the military, the former spy helped produce a dossier for commanders detailing allegations about Mr. Karzai’s drug connections, land grabs and even murders in southern Afghanistan. The document, provided to The Times, speculates that Mr. Karzai’s ties to the C.I.A. — which has paid him an undetermined amount of money since 2001 — may be the reason the agency “is the only member of the country team in Kabul not to advocate taking a more active stance against AWK.”

The story suggests that Clarridge particularly enjoys going after drug traffickers that have power in countries, which the U.S. has interests in controlling. Mazzetti does not talk about profiting off of helping private interests secure control of key land or resources in countries through his work. But, if that is what he has been doing, this cable mentioning Ahmed Wali Karzai might explain why Clarridge would go after Karzai:

As the kingpin of Kandahar, the President’s younger half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK) dominates access to economic resources, patronage, and protection. Much of the real business of running Kandahar takes place out of public sight, where AWK operates, parallel to formal government structures, through a network of political clans that use state institutions to protect and enable licit and illicit enterprises. A dramatic example is the Arghandab river valley, an agriculturally rich and heavily-populated district strategically located at the northern gate to Kandahar City, where the President’s direct intervention in the Alikozai tribal succession increased Karzai political dominance over two of the most valuable resources in Kandahar — fertile land and water.

What seems to be evident through cables like this is that Carridge’s work on Ahmed Wali Karzai was likely pushing the military to escalate its “courses of action” (COAs) against Karzai:

The first Nexus-Corruption Leadership Board, co-chaired by Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs, Ambassador Wayne, and ISAF J2 (Intel), Major General Flynn, met on February 4 to consider possible courses of action (“COAs”) that U.S. military and Embassy personnel may employ against criminal and corrupt Afghan officials in an effort to change their behavior. These recommendations were developed through the joint effort of the Embassy’s Nexus-Corruption Coordination committee (NCC) and ISAF’s Anti-Corruption Task Force (ACTF). The Leadership Board approved three recommendations: (1) to apply a set of minimum COAs against high-profile corrupt officials to signal a change in U.S. policy on corruption; (2) to begin a series of high-level demarches to persuade the Karzai government to follow through on promises to tackle corruption; and (3) to consider at the next Leadership Board meeting recommendations on applying appropriate COAs, including possible law enforcement actions, against three prominent Afghan malign actors in southern Afghanistan: Abdul Razziq, Ahmed Wali Karzai, Asadullah Sherzad.” [emphasis added]

In the comments section of the above mentioned cable, it is noted, “Given the fluidity of developments on the ground (e.g., rumors of Ahmed Wali Karzai’s appointment as Ambassador to Saudi Arabia or Oman, and Abdul Razziq’s initiative to form an anti-corruption task force in Spin Boldak), the time is right to determine an appropriate policy for dealing with such officials.”

According to Mazzetti, Clarridge has really worked to prove that President Hamid Karzai is a heroin addict.

Mr. Clarridge pushed a plan to prove that the president was a heroin addict, and then confront him with the evidence to ensure that he became a more pliable ally. Mr. Clarridge proposed various ideas, according to several associates, from using his team to track couriers between the presidential palace in Kabul and Ahmed Wali Karzai’s home in Kandahar, to even finding a way to collect Hamid Karzai’s beard clippings and run DNA tests. He eventually dropped his ideas when the Obama administration signaled it was committed to bolstering the Karzai government.

There are no WikiLeaks cables on Clarridge trying to collect “beard clippings” or “run DNA tests” (there are, however, cables detailing how diplomats were asked to collect biometric data on United Nations diplomats).

Mazzetti notes, “American law prohibits private citizens from actively undermining a foreign government, but prosecutions under the so-called Neutrality Act have historically been limited to people raising private armies against foreign powers.” Was Clarridge undermining a foreign government? Yes. But, isn’t that what occupying forces do? The military undermines foreign government to, to an extent, and that’s why Hamid Karzai has so much difficulty with governance.

Appropriately concluded is the fact that Clarridge’s story is “a startling demonstration of how private citizens can exploit the chaos of combat zones and rivalries inside the American government to carry out their own agenda.” Clarridge exploited the inability and failure of the CIA to provide information military officials could consider credible. Clarridge expanded the possibility that in the future the military would depend on private individuals to provide information that could be used.

Unless WikiLeaks has released all the cables from the embassy in Kabul, more cables will likely be released mentioning Ahmed Wali Karzai and Hamid Karzai (at this point only 2% of the 250,000 cables have been released). Those cables would provide context to this story that–in an age where everything is being made into a movie–is ripe for a Hollywood translation.

WikiLeaks Cables: CIA Ordered US Diplomats to Spy

2:58 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The CIA, which acts as the primary agency for collection of human intelligence (Humint), is implicated in the latest cables released by WikiLeaks, which reveal US diplomats took orders from the agency on what data to collect when spying on foreign officials at the UN and in countries around the world.

The Guardian has taken the lead on this story and is reporting, based on two cables they have cited, that not only were US diplomats asked to gather intelligence on Ban Ki-Moon and other senior UN staff, security council members and other foreign diplomats, but the directive to engage in spying, a possible violation of international, came from the CIA.

What is being referred to as “an intelligence shopping list” by The Guardian was drawn up annually by the manager of Humint, which was a post created by the Bush Administration in 2005 to help coordinate intelligence after 9/11. The manager set out “priorities,” which were sent out to the State Department on an annual basis. Intelligence analysts at the State Department provided input on what “priorities” should be listed.

Specifically, the cables indicate: “US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, were ordered to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American socialist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. The US is concerned about an increasing Islamist terrorist presence in Paraguay, and the influence of China.”

Diplomats are urged to provide if possible: “office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information, such as telephone directories (in compact disc or electronic format if available) and e-mail listings; internet and intranet “handles”, internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information.”

A particular cable reveals the embassy in Paraguay was targeted because Washington believed Paraguay was harboring Iranian agents and Islamist terrorists. It specifically requested “information on the presence, intentions, plans and activities of terrorist groups, facilitators, and support networks – including, but not limited to, Hizballah, Hamas, al-Gama’at al-Islamiya, al-Qa’ida, jihadist media organizations, Iranian state agents or surrogates – in Paraguay, in particular in the Tri-Border Area (TBA).”

The intelligence gathering called for was intended to presumably help develop policy and actions around current issues facing the U.S. government, which are listed: UN Security Council Reform, Iraq, the Middle East Peace Process, Human Rights and War Crimes. UN Humanitarian and Complex Emergency Response, Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorist Threat to UN Operations, Burm and other issues.

Each issue in the cable has with it specific requests for information. For example: on Darfur/Sudan, views of UN member states on contributing troops and air transportation equipment to the UN mission in Sudan; on Afghanistan/Pakistan, plans and intentions of key UN leaders and member states on force protection in Afghanistan; on Somalia, UN views on deploying a maritime force to monitor piracy off of the coast; on Iran, plans and intentions of UN Secretary General and staff to address development, testing and proliferation of nuclear weapons in Iran.

In the case of North Korea, not only are the views of UN Security Council members requested but US diplomats are also urged to collect “biographic and biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats.” That means fingerprints, palm prints, or DNA, etc.

Given the work the US was engaged in to prevent Spain from prosecuting US officials for torture or war crimes, it is interesting that Humint called for “Plans and perceptions of member states toward establishment of new measures to prevent genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other systematic human rights abuses” and “plans and intentions of member states or UN Special Rapporteurs to press for resolutions or investigations into US counterterrorism strategies and treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo,” to be collected.

The cable also shows that, “Current technical specifications, physical layout, and planned upgrades to telecommunications infrastructure and information systems, networks, and technologies used by top officials and their support staffs.” The purpose of such information would likely ensure the US would have capabilities to spy on countries after they made adjustments to their telecommunications infrastructure and systems.

It was revealed earlier in the week that diplomats had been spying but who was giving the order was unknown. Then, U.S. Envoy to the U.N. contended, “Our diplomats are doing what diplomats do around the world every day, which is build relationships, negotiate, advance our interests, and work to find common solutions to complex problems.”

How collecting biometrics or very specific and often private biographical information is unclear. One idea is that the information could be used to blackmail individuals into taking certain actions or not taking action on things like investigating war crimes or signing a cluster bomb ban or halting rendition flights or choosing to not help the U.S. clean up its human rights mess and take a Guantanamo detainee.

Spokesman for the U.N, Farhan Haq, has pointed out that a “1946 treaty on ‘privileges and immunities’ of the U.N. states that its offices “shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action.”

All of this is not all that new although it does bring into focus a double standard. In May of 2003, the State Department expelled 14 Cuban diplomats who were accused of “inappropriate activities,” which included spying. The move appeared to be political since there was no specific espionage event. The charge was enough. The accused were not to be conducting diplomacy in the United States any longer.

On the other hand, that same year, when it was revealed that US diplomats were spying on countries in the UN Security Council, it was nothing to member countries. Ambassadors said, “It is life,” and, “It comes with the profession, with the job.” It wasn’t a surprise. So, the reaction was similar to the reaction unfolding now.

But, just because ambassadors are desensitized to the practice or don’t think it’s worth challenging because superpowers won’t stop spying doesn’t mean the practice of spying is acceptable. And, if the US is going to cite the practice as reason to expel diplomats (even when it can’t be proven spying took place), the United Nations leadership should be willing to expel US diplomats who violate world leaders and spy.

More on How Physicians Became Torture Doctors for CIA

9:01 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola




A good amount of documentation on the involvement of psychologists in the torture and abuse of detainees or “terror suspects.” And, a new study provides even more revelations on the involvement of physicians making it increasingly clear that medical professionals put limits on ethical standards they were expected to follow in order to help the CIA interrogate detainees.


The study, titled “Roles of CIA Physicians in Enhanced Interrogation and Torture of Detainees,” authored by Leonard S. Rubinstein, the president of Physicians for Human Rights, and Brigadier General (ret.) Stephen N. Xenakis, a former Army psychiatrists (who is now with the Center for Public Health and Human Rights), utilizes a previously secret document from 2004 and lays out the “guidelines for detainee interrogation” that physicians, psychologists, and other health care professionals developed and followed so they could serve the CIA.


Guidelines indicate the doctors, who were working for the CIA’s Office of Medical Services, conducted medical evaluations [experimentations] on detainees “before and during interrogations” and waterboarding “required the presence of a physician.”


Physicians documented the effects of “enhanced interrogation techniques” [torture] like waterboarding and decided waterboarding “created risks of drowning, hypothermia, aspiration pneumonia, or laryngospasm.” They ignored “clinical experience/research” and assured lawyers “there was no ‘medical reason’ to believe that waterboarding [would] lead to physical pain.”


It was established that “cramped confinement could result in deep vein thrombosis” and death could result from “lengthy exposure to cold water.” And, the physicians, psychologists, and other health care professionals working for the CIA developed “limitations” so that techniques like waterboarding, cramped confinement, sensory deprivation, stress positions, etc could be used on detainees.


Limitations included: “exposure to specified temperature either up to time of hypothermia would develop or on evidence of hypothermia,” dietary restrictions up to “body weight loss of 10% or evidence of significant malnutrition,” “exposure to noise just under decibel levels associated with hearing loss,” up to 48 hours of exposure to stress positions “provided hands were no higher than the head” of a detainee, and no more than eight consecutive hours or eighteen hours per day of “confinement in a box.”


Much of this took place after 2003, after a CIA Inspector General investigation of “enhanced interrogation techniques” [torture], OMS physicians were asked to provide “opinions to the agency and lawyers on whether techniques used would be expected to cause severe pain or suffering and thus constitute torture.” Slowly, OMS physicians’ work for the CIA transformed into work, which violated “ethical standards,” prohibiting physicians from using “medical skills to facilitate torture or be present when torture is taking place.”


The physicians consulted directly with Department of Justice lawyers and were asked to provide legal cover by supporting “legal decisions” that “interrogators who applied enhanced interrogation techniques neither inflicted sever mental or physical pain or anguish and thus did not commit torture.” For techniques like sleep deprivation, they claimed the use thereof “could not lead to profound disruption in the detainees’ senses or personality (the legal definition of psychological torture).”


As suggested in the opening paragraph, it has been evident that physicians and psychologists have been involved in torture for some time, especially since Wikileaks leaked the Guantanamo Standard Operating Procedures Manual in November 2007.


The manual indicated that, “incoming prisoners were to be held in near-isolation for the first [four] weeks to foster dependence on interrogators and `enhance and exploit the disorientation and disorganization felt by a newly arrived detainee in the interrogation process.’” It outlines how isolation was to be used on detainees, a technique Physicians for Human Rights said can lead to symptoms of “`bewilderment, anxiety, frustration, dejection, boredom, obsessive thoughts or ruminations, depression, and, in some cases, hallucination’” and, if prolonged, could result in “increased stress, abnormal neuroendocrine function, changes in blood pressure and inflammatory stress responses.”


Then, it was known those involved understood how they could be prosecuted for violating international law. As an April 16, 2003, memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained 

"Caution: the use of isolation as an interrogation technique requires detailed implementation instructions, including specific guidelines regarding the length of isolation, medical and psychological review, and approvals for extension of the length of by the appropriate level in the chain of command. This technique is not know to have been generally used for interrogation purposes for longer than 30 days. Those nations that believe that detainees are subject to POW protections may view use of this technique as inconsistent with the requirements of Geneva III, Article 13 which provides that POWs must be protected against acts of intimidation; Article 14 which provides that POWs are entitled to respect for their person; Article 34 which prohibits coercion and Article 126 which ensures access and basic standards of treatment. Although the provisions of Geneva are not applicable to the interrogation of unlawful combatants, consideration should be given to these views prior to application of this technique."


The report is yet another indication of the need for more investigation, accountability, and reform from the Obama Administration. Yet, as demonstrated by a comprehensive report ("Establishing the New Normal") from the ACLU, the Obama Administration has avoided its obligation to accountability for torture and chosen to follow the dangerous mantra of “looking forward, not back,” a false choice because, as the ACLU states in the report:


“a strong democracy rests not on the goodwill of its leaders but on the impartial enforcement of laws. Sanctioning impunity for government officials who authorized torture sends a problematic message to the world, invites abuses by future administrations, and further undermines the rule of law that is the basis of any democracy.”


Gen. Petraeus’ Directive: Another Example of American Empire’s Fetish for Black Operations

6:17 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by Kevin Gosztola | You may know Gen. David Petraeus. You may even know Jack Bauer. But, do you know Gen. Jack Petraeus?

Gen. Jack Petraeus favors secret military operations. He is the leading cause of death in Middle Eastern men and, when taking action, he doesn’t need a translator. Torture is the same in every language (except maybe American English which refers to torture as "enhanced interrogation techniques").


The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reports Gen. David H. Petraeus has signed a "secret directive" that orders a "broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region."

According to Mazzetti, the directive was signed in September and would send "small teams of American troops" to "both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces." More importantly, "the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate."

Gen. Petraeus suggested at the bottom that this would give troops, foreign businessmen, academics and others "persistent situational awareness." This may be something like "total information awareness."Most likely it’s the general’seuphemism for paranoia.

Out of context, it might seem like permission for secret operations is going in a direction that America may want to consider not going in. Secret operations, especially if so-called terrorists knew to expect them, might lead to more destabilization of the world, more deaths and destruction. Do people really want that?

This would be a huge revelation if history didn’t indicate that departments handling foreign and domestic defense or security operations have claimed the authority to engage in covert activity time and time again.

Mazzetti ends the article reminding Americans, "During the Bush administration, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld endorsed clandestine military operations, arguing that Special Operations troops could be as effective as traditional spies, if not more so."

In 2004, The Jerusalem Post reported that Rumsfeld considered provoking Syria by deploying U.S. Special Forces to attack Hezbollah bases near the Syrian border. It outlined how this could satisfy U.S. strategy by pressuring Damascus into ending support for anti-Israel Palestinian groups, persuade Syria to abandon its WMDs and withdraw troops from Lebanon, stimulate a situation where Syrian leader Bashir Assad could be ousted, and crush Hezbollah and end Syria’s connections to al Qaeda.

Such a plan can be linked to those within the Pentagon who believe in order to fight the "war on terror" elite secret armies with permission to use all covert capabilities must be utilized. In 2002, William Arkin reported for the Los Angeles Times on Rumsfeld’s fetish for black ops and a briefing drafted by the Defense Science Board called the "2002 Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism."

The Board recommended, according to Arkin, the "creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it [dubbed] the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group, (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception.

P2OG would "launch secret operations aimed at "stimulating reactions’ among terrorists and states possessing weapons of mass destruction — that is, for instance, prodding terrorist cells into action and exposing themselves to "quick-response’ attacks by U.S. forces."

One might remember news from June 2009 uncovered by Seymour Hersh that an "executive assassination ring reporting directly to Vice President Dick Cheney" existed.

Of the ring, the Guardian reported, "Dick Cheney, the former vice president, ordered a highly classified CIA operation hidden from Congress because it pushed the limits of legality by planning to assassinate al-Qaida operatives in friendly countries without the knowledge of their governments." The "hidden operation [also] involved plans by the CIA and the military to launch operations, similar to those by Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, to hunt down and kill al-Qaida activists abroad without informing the governments concerned, even though some were regarded as friendly if unreliable."

The news made headlines for a day or two and then quickly dissipated as everyone went back to viewing their regularly scheduled programming. Most probably assumed that the program was over. No. Glenn Greenwald reported for Salon in January and April of this year that the Obama Administration was claiming the authority to assassinate U.S. citizens without according U.S. citizens who might be terrorists due process.

"No due process is accorded. No charges or trials are necessary. No evidence is offered, nor any opportunity for him to deny these accusations (which he [American-born Anwar al-Awlaki] has done vehemently through his family). None of that.

Instead, in BarackObama’s America, the way guilt is determined for American citizens — and a death penalty imposed — is that thePresident, like the King he thinks he is, secretly decrees someone’s guilt as a Terrorist. He then dispatches his aides to run to America’s newspapers — cowardly hiding behind the shield of anonymity which they’re granted — to proclaim that the Guilty One shall be killed on sight because the Leader has decreed him to be a Terrorist. It is simply asserted that Awlaki has converted from a cleric who expresses anti-American views and advocates attacks on American military targets (advocacy which happens to be Constitutionally protected) to Actual Terrorist"involved in plots." These newspapers then print this ExecutiveVerdict with no questioning, no opposition, no investigation, no refutation as to its truth. And the punishment is thus decreed:this American citizen will now be murdered by the CIA because BarackObama has ordered that it be done.What kind of person could possibly justify this or think that this is a legitimate government power?"

Presumably, the same infrastructure, individuals, and teams that were employed for Cheney’s assassination squads would be used for Obama’s assassination squads. And, this type of activity by government in the name of freedom and preservation of national security has been a feasible option for decades.

ABC News officially reported in 2001 (although it had been known long before 2001) that back in the 1960s, under President Kennedy, "America’s top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba."

The plan known as Operation Northwoods "included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities." All of this was to be done "to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba’s then new leader, communist Fidel Castro."

Perhaps, thirst for glory, super-patriotism, and the hyper-masculinity of all those involved in the military and defense agencies that put together secret operation plans has something to do with the willful disregard of human life and rule of law.

Members of the Pentagon and CIA probably view themselves as players in a Tom Clancy novel, stars in a Hollywood espionage-action-thriller, or perhaps consider their selves to be Jack Bauer-like heroes. They see themselves as actors who could be thrown into a ticking time bomb scenario at any moment.

Whatever motivations within defense and intelligence departments may be, it’s important to understand that Gen. Petraeus isn’t abruptly taking the Pentagon in a questionable direction; the Pentagon (and other parts of government) have been supportive of murky and illegitimate operations as long as the end justified the means for some time.

Allowing Gen. Petraeus to do this isn’t a mistake by President Obama either. This is what conventional wisdom within military and defense deems permissible in the "war on terror." This is what Congress allows to go on without any noticeable objection at all (that is, unless the public becomes aware of it. Then they can’t wait to put a stop to secret operations that have been happening without proper oversight.)

And, Congress wasn’t always this permissive of secret operations. Stephen F. Knott, author of Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency wrote, "in the aftermath of Vietnam, Watergate, and revelations of CIA assassination plots and domestic spying, Congress moved in the mid-1970s to "reassert’ its role in shaping American foreign policy, including the most controversial tool of that policy, covert action."

"Secrecy was seen as antithetical to the American way, and there was widespread agreement that "rogue" agencies such as the CIA were a threat to liberty. Proponents of congressional intelligence oversight argued that openness and accountability were the cornerstone of a legitimate foreign policy, and it was believed that Congress, due to its diversity of opinion, possessed greater wisdom than the executive branch. Spurred on by the sensational revelations of the Church Committee hearings in the Senate and the Pike Committee in the House, both bodies established permanent intelligence committees.

It is still widely believed that the Church and Pike reforms were an attempt to cure a "cancerous" growth on the Constitution that had developed during the Cold War, an era which witnessed an increasing reliance on executive secrecy and the creation of a "private army" for the president in the form of the CIA"

…"On some occasions, members of Congress threatened to leak information in order to derail covert operations they found personally repugnant. Leaks are a recurring problem, as some member of Congress, or some staff member, demonstrated in the aftermath of the September 11th attack. President Bush’s criticism of members of Congress was fully justified, despite the protests from Capitol Hill. Leaks have occurred repeatedly since the mid-1970s, and in very few cases has the offending party been disciplined. One of the Founding Fathers of the new oversight regime, former Representative Leo Ryan, held that leaks were an important tool in checking the "secret government."

Until the "war on terror" comes to an end, any number of fantastical and reprehensible plans will be drafted and implementedin secret until someone like Mazaretti publishes information about the plans. Then, they will be stalled, redrafted, altered, and reformed to seem new and different and unlike anything done before. This will go on and on and on as long as we are fighting "terrorists" over there so we don’t have to fight them over here or as long as we are accepting less liberty for more safety from people above described operations have radicalized.

From where I’m sitting, it looks like America’s going to be fighting this "perpetual war for perpetual peace" for the next century, which means anyone the U.S. wants to target will be put in the crosshairs.