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Government’s Psychological Evaluation of Manssor Arbabsiar Fails to Impress

2:31 pm in Terrorism by Jeff Kaye

Manssor Arbabsiar

Gregory B. Saathoff M.D. is the latest mental health professional to weigh in on the Manssor Arbabsiar case. Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel has been dissecting aspects of Saathoff’s narrative of events surrounding Arbabsiar’s interrogation and confession (see here, here, and here).

I want to look more closely at the claims Saathoff makes in an October 3 “Forensic Psychiatric Evaluation” on Arbabsiar’s mental status, symptoms and diagnosis. The evaluation was dated the same day as a government memorandum arguing against a defense motion to dismiss or suppress evidence drawn from Arbabsiar’s interrogation. The reason for such dismissal or suppression? The defense presented expert opinion that Arbabsiar had been in a manic episode during the period of his interrogation, having a previously undiagnosed case of Bipolar Disorder. As a result, he was not in his right mind when he waived presentment (presentation before a judicial official) and his Miranda rights.

For those who have forgotten, Arbabsiar is Iranian-born, but a U.S. naturalized citizen, a Texas used car salesman with a cousin in the Iranian Quds force. According to U.S. prosecutors, in 2011, Arbabsiar contacted a confidential DEA informant in Mexico, and, believing he was talking to someone in a Mexican drug cartel, arranged the assassination of Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. But the assassination and other alleged terrorist plots, of course, never took place, and Arbabsiar was detained in Mexico, flown to the U.S. and interrogated by the FBI at (it turns out) an undisclosed military base from September 29 to October 10, 2011.

Here’s Saathoff quoting FBI Special Agent Shalabi about what the latter called Arbabsiar’s “erratic” behavior during his “confession” in the early morning hours of October 3:

FBI SA Shalabi recalled in a September 7, 2012 interview that after having observed Mr. Arbabsiar sleeping soundly, Mr. Arbabsiar awakened at 3 am and expressed concerns about jail. “The first thing out of his mouth was “What is jail like in the United States? How harsh are the conditions? What should I expect?” After going into the bathroom [where elsewhere we learn he "washed his shirt in the bathroom sink" - JK], Mr. Arbabsiar came back out into the living area, and FBI SA Shalabi recalled Mr. Arbabsiar’s statements and behavior:

“You know what I did?” And I said “no”. Then on his own accord, without me asking, (I decided to keep my mouth shut) he told me he was in big trouble. Had gotten involved in big politics. Wife had a lot of financial demands. Son’s pregnant girlfriend added more to the stress. So he told me that he decided to go to Iran to solicit more help for [his] family… He said that his cousin was a “big general”, [who] was “senior” with decision-making powers. [He was] Approached by cousin to then give money to kill the Saudi Ambassador. As he was telling me this, he reflected back on the whole situation. As he told me the story, [as] he said that, he looked upset and [said that he] had been used by his cousin. Then he went back to smoking [elsewhere Arbabsiar is described as smoking four packs a day - JK], tossed and turned, and then fell asleep.

For the U.S. it was a propaganda coup, for it claimed that someone in the Iranian government was planning or instigating a terrorist attack in the U.S. against a foreign diplomat. The hawks in the U.S. government squawked loudly and long.

No one ever seems to notice that the only foreign diplomat ever actually assassinated in the U.S. was former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., Orlando Letelier, murdered in Washington D.C. in 1973 by order of the government of Augusto Pinochet. The hit man was Michael Townley, an agent for Chile’s intelligence directorate (DINA) who also worked for the CIA. In 2000, it was revealed that the mastermind of the terrorist attack, which also killed Letelier’s assistant, Ronnie Moffett, was Chilean intelligence chief Manuel Contreras, and he, too, was a paid asset of the CIA.

In the case against Arbabsiar, the evidence seems sketchy. Wheeler points out that Saathoff’s report explains the DEA informant Arbabsiar is supposed to have contacted “had a younger sister with whom he had a sexual relationship in 1992, while he was married to his third wife”! What a coincidence, one might say.

But particularly damaging to the government are the questions surrounding the veracity of his confession, which was attacked by top mental health experts brought in by the defense, who stated Arbabsiar, who had waived his rights within hours of capture (while possibly jonesing terribly for a cigarette), suffered from bipolar disorder and was not able to make a reasoned decision about his rights or actions.

Bipolar Disorder with “Impaired Cognitive Functioning”

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Making Guantanamo Permanent, and Other Portents

7:43 pm in Military, Terrorism, Torture by Jeff Kaye

A motley crew of Senate Republicans, joined by Sen. Lieberman, have introduced a bill to make Guantanamo a permanent “terrorist” prison. Once upon a time, this could have been dismissed as GOP posturing. But recent events suggest this is more likely a harbinger of the future fate of the US Naval prison, as President Obama has already pronounced that he will support indefinite detention of prisoners based on unchallenged U.S. executive fiat.

It’s hard to believe these GOP national security groupies, and their jester Lieberman, could really get this passed, much less signed by the President. But the ways things have been going, who would be ridiculed for thinking such things possible?

Human Rights First reports (H/T Barry Eisler):

Washington, D.C. — Legislation introduced today [11 May] in the Senate to force the Obama administration to declare Guantánamo a permanent prison for terror suspects will inspire America’s enemies and undermine the American justice system, a leading human rights group said.

U.S. Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Scott Brown (R-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the “Detaining Terrorists To Secure America Act” (S. 944) – legislation that would keep open the Guantánamo Bay terrorist detention facility for the detention and interrogation of current and future terrorism suspects. The legislation also permanently limits the transfer of detainees to foreign countries and prohibits funding for the construction of terrorist detention facilities within the United States.

A perpetual Guantanamo to match the indefinite detention policy enshrined by President Barack Obama is truly a sign of the debauched times in which we live, ruled by those whose lust for naked rule and capitalist gain are rarely hidden anymore. I presume, by the way, that the torture via isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, exploitation of fears, stress positions and drugs — all fine and “legal” thanks to the near-universal acceptance of the 2006 Army Field Manual on interrogation — will continue “forever” at Guantanamo as well.

The Terrorist Who Lived Happily Ever After — in Miami

I can tell you one person who will not be sent to Guantanamo, even though he was involved in bombing hotels and tourist spots in the 1990s. Luis Posada Carriles walked a free man out of a Texas courtroom last month, only weeks before another terrorist was shot in the head, “taken out” by the “heroes” of Seal Team Six. An article in the Mexican paper La Jornada, translated and reposted at The Nation. It was translated by Machetera/Tlaxcala describes more of Posada Carriles’ fascinating career:

In addition to working for the CIA, it’s worth recalling that Posada Carriles participated in the US-supported invasion of the Bay of Pigs; that he was an officer in the US Army and that in 1976 he moved to Venezuela to head the intelligence service in that country. That same year he was arrested after being accused of being the mastermind of the attack on the Cuban airliner, and escaped before facing a civil trial for what was at the time the worst terrorist act in the hemisphere. In 2001, he was arrested in Panama, for planning to kill Fidel Castro with 200 pounds of dynamite and C-4 explosives, in a university auditorium filled with students in 2000, but was pardoned by then–Panamanian president Mireya Moscoso in 2004, showing up a short time later in the United States. In 2005 he was arrested here, which led to the beginning of the process that ended last Friday in El Paso with his acquittal.

Posada Carriles walked on charges of immigration fraud and obstruction of justice, and not for any of his terrorist actions, for which he was never charged by American authorities. The U.S. ignores extradition requests to Venezuela. With the latest court decision, the ex-CIA terrorist can return to Miami and sip cocktails and be lionized by the anti-Castro crowd, and the host of SOF that live in southern Florida. It’s enough to make me fantasize about leading a Cuban team in the extrajudicial rendition of Posada Carriles back to Cuba, where he could face his victims in trial. (I can’t even allow my fantasies the vicarious bloodlust that many Americans seem to luxuriate in, by imagining my neat placement of a kill shot straight through the eyeball of a non-human, reviled villain, monster of all fantasies.)

Will the Obama administration and the pathetic Democratic Party supporters, who have set forth their belief in indefinite detention for those prisoners it deems “unlawful” enemy combatants, who have shown inordinate lust for murder as it tries to assassinate even U.S. citizens (Al-Awlaki), or blow up more and more “enemies” with Hellfire missiles from drone aircraft buzzing with death in the skies, will they hesitate to move against the U.S. population itself with terrorist prisons, indefinite detention for those deemed “terrorists”? Damn if we are not already more than half-way there now.

Torture is the new state religion. The arguments between those who find torture effective and those who find it ineffective are like the arguments between Catholics and Protestants in the seventeenth century, articulated with great passion and earnestness, but totally besides the point. Underlying the actual conflicts and debates is nothing more than a raw grab for power, as the U.S. seeks greater instruments of repression at home and abroad in the name of securing the world for U.S. plunder for the greater good of a small clique of corporations and a coterie of military men, academics, and spies that keep the wheels of the machine well-oiled and ready to strike.

Bravo, Senators Ayotte, Graham, Lieberman, Chambliss, Brown, and Rubio. You have brought the logic of the “war on terror” to its true purpose. You have struck at the heart of the matter, and like the loyal knights-errant of a previous era, your adventures bring back to the King matter for great celebration at the castle. I know you will be well-rewarded.

U.S.-backed Yemen Govt Massacres Three Dozen Demonstrators, Hundreds Wounded

8:55 am in Countries in Conflict, Terrorism by Jeff Kaye

In news coming out of Yemen, the UK Guardian is reporting that “soldiers and plain-clothed government loyalists opened fired on protesters trying to march through the Yemeni capital” Sana’a earlier today, killing “at least” 35 people, including a child, and wounding hundreds.

Witnesses say the first shots were fired by security forces trying to disperse the protesters and they were joined by plain-clothed men who fired on the demonstrators with Kalashnikovs from the roofs of nearby houses….

“They shot people in the back of the head as they were running away,” said Mohammed al-Jamil, an Indian doctor treating the wounded. “Whoever did this wanted these people to die.”

The violent attack on demonstrators, who have been protesting the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, is not the first, but it is the most deadly in recent weeks in this country which fought a bloody civil war in the 1990s. The opposition is a disparate group of Islamists, socialists, Houthi, tribalists, and southern secessionists who seek a return to the days when South Yemen ruled itself. Al Qaeda has pledged support to the opposition, but has not been welcomed by the latter.

Just a week ago, the U.S. gave strong support to a supposed “reform” initiative proposed by Saleh (emphasis added):

“The idea of the president’s downfall is not a real solution to the country’s woes,” U.S. Ambassador Gerald Feierstein said in an interview with the state daily al-Syasiah….

Meanwhile, EU called for all Yemeni political parties to positively respond to the Thursday’s reform initiative of President Saleh, urging them to engage in an open and constructive dialogue….

The government said that while security forces are busy protecting the protests, al-Qaida wing on Friday gunned down four more policemen on a patrol vehicle in southeast province of Hadramout, bringing the death toll of security and army personnel targeted by the terrorist group to 20 since Feb. 11.

US President Barack Obama’s top anti-terror advisor John Brennan on Friday called Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh to welcome his pledge to devolve power and urged the opposition to support the plan.

The Saleh government’s lies about protecting protesters has been met by the truth of many dead. Xinhua is reporting this morning 41 dead, including a child, and more than 200 wounded.

This blood is partly on the hands of U.S. and EU leaders who are propping up a murderous, corrupt dictator — including by drone assassinations — while claiming the mantle of justice while attacking another dictator in Libya. The main difference? Libya has a lot of oil, while Yemen is running out of oil.

The cynicism of the Obama administration knows no bounds. Will the American press, which follows the rulers of America like a puppy dog, raise a fuss over this atrocity? Not while U.S. forces are operating in Yemen, and the administration screams about terrorists. While Al Qaeda is present in Yemen, the vast majority of the protesters have legitimate grievances, if not at times at odds with each other, as the opposition is quite fractious.

So while the eyes of the world are on Libya and the Japanese nuclear reactors, U.S. ally Saleh is given the green light to shoot protesters down in the street.

Where is the conscience of this country? Has militarism and fear completely taken hold so that, as I imagine the Pentagon and intelligence community believe at this point, the U.S. Executive Branch can do whatever they want, that there are no real consequences?

Gladio: A Conspiracy So Large, It’s Time You Learned About It (Take That Cass Sunstein!)

5:37 pm in Uncategorized by Jeff Kaye

I am pleased to link here the 1992 three-part BBC documentary by Alan Francovich, Gladio. Utilizing interviews from the many European and American principals involved, the documentary relates the story of the biggest "conspiracy" of our time (are you listening, Cass Sunstein?) — the existence of a covert terrorist network maintained throughout Europe by NATO, which utilized terrorism in an effort to discredit the political left.

These "stay-behind" networks originally were built up by recruiting fascists from the countries the U.S. and Britain occupied, meant to be a bulwark against a possible and feared Soviet invasion after World War II. When the invasion never occurred, the networks were not dismantled, but took on a different mission: to keep the left from gaining power in any of these states, from Sweden and Belgium to France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey and elsewhere.

The existence of secret "stay-behind" armies and groups, known today by the Italian name, Gladio, caused a sensation in the early 1990s, when they were revealed by then-Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Since then, Gladio-like operations, supposedly ran by the CIA and to some extent the British MI6, have been linked to a number of terrorist attacks, assassinations, and right-wing coups in Europe, e.g., the Bologna train station bombing in 1980, the 1967 generals coup in Greece, etc.

The sensationalistic charges have fed a number of conspiracy theories, particularly those around the existence of "false flag" government operations. Some have indicated they see the 9/11 attacks in this light, though I can’t say I have the kind of evidence to make such an assertion. But one can understand how any individual might come to seriously mistrust the U.S. government after learning of the Gladio history, which is extensive and well-documented.

Among other canards the Gladio story can put to rest is the silly belief that no large scale conspiracies can exist, at least in a so-called open, democratic society such as ours. And yet, Gladio proves that is not true. In fact, since the revelations of the early 1990s, there has been practically no discussion of this crucial aspect of contemporary history by U.S. historians or policy makers. The existence of this huge conspiracy and intervention against sovereign European states is almost never even referred to by the vast majority of political commentators, left or right, in the United States. I don’t see how anyone can intelligently discuss modern European politics without understanding the Gladio revelations and the fallout from them in the various European countries.

More Documentation on Gladio

The first academic examination of Gladio was published in 2005 by Swiss historian Daniele Ganser. Mr. Ganser is currently a Senior Researcher at the Center for Security Studies at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. His book, NATO’s Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, is available at last at not too outrageous a price at Amazon, and likely other book outlets.

(Caveat emptor! The paperback version was said to be unavailable, leaving only the $190 hardback edition! However, there is a Kindle version available for under $40. And moreover, clicking on a link on the latter page brings me to another Amazon page that lists the paperback as available, with new and used copies from $41 on down.)

Another excellent book that delivers a good deal of research on Gladio comes from British journalist Philip Willan, who writes for the UK Guardian and other papers: Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy.

I can’t say that I have mastered the above material. Nor am I sure how exactly this aspect of American and European history is being played out even now. I do know that it much too large a story, with way too many ramifications to be ignored. In fact, from a historian’s standpoint, or that of any commentator on the events of the past fifty or sixty years, it appears that many of the assumptions about the world we live in are seriously called into question.

At the end of this posting are some links to other online sites of interest, as we begin to assimilate this gigantic story, one which until recently, has been kept from the American people — outside of small websites, chat rooms, or in the comments of blog readers who get labeled as "conspiracy nuts." Some of the latter are intemperate and have not really examined the proof for many of their statements. But Gladio is not one of those instances. It is a true conspiracy, by men and women at the highest levels of our society. It was kept secret for decades. By indifference and neglect, it is kept out of public consciousness even now.

Part One – "The Ringmasters"

Part Two – "The Puppeteers"

Part Three – "The Foot Soldiers"

The Wikipedia entry on Gladio. Not bad, with lots of links.

Selections from Ganser’s book

An article on Gladio by Arthur Rowse, formerly at the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report.

Dr. John Prados, Senior Fellow at The National Security Archive, and who wrote the forward for Ganser’s book, discusses Gladio in his book on William Colby, which one can read in part at Google Books.

The ongoing ramifications of Gladio in Turkey, where the "stay-behinds" or embedded secret organization (take your pick) is called Ergenekon.

US ‘supported anti-left terror in Italy’
Report claims Washington used a strategy of tension in the cold war to stabilise the centre-right
Philip Willan, UK Guardian, 24 June 2000, page 19