TBR News March 23, 2016

Mar 23 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., March 23, 2016: The collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 has a parallel in the collapse of the American economy that was nearly simultaneous with it.

In this study, some of the factors in this disastrous plummet are clearly evident. Partially hubris, partially the perpetual swings of a capitalist economy, partially the criminal greed of the chief executives of almost all major American business entities, the fall, like that of Icarus who dared to venture too close to the sun, has been long and frightening.

In one sense, the great collapse of the stock market in October of 1929 has direct parallels with the economic collapse of the first years of the Millennium.

The economy had grown too large and rose too quickly. Taking advantage of the ascent, businesses expanded, loading themselves with debt that could be repaid only so long as the ascent and expansion continued.

Gravity is also applicable to economies and what goes up must certainly come down and the higher and faster it rises, the more rapid and deeper is the descent.

As we are taught by history, it is always those at the bottom ranks of the economic society that pay the largest bill. CEOs who gleefully engaged in unrestrained greed and deliberate criminal fiscal manipulations have, with rare exception, left their looted companies with huge financial rewards.

They have left tens of thousands of workers without employment and destroyed the savings and pensions of hundreds of thousands of former employees. And throughout all of this, none of these rapacious, amoral creatures show even the slightest sign of concern for the ruins they have left behind them.

Their criminal greed has created such a reservoir of disgust and distrust that it will be a long day’s journey into night before the deflated economy raises its head once more.

Most of them have no worries whatsoever about being dragged before the bar of public justice because it is a well-known truism that all American legislative bodies contain the finest men money can buy.

The largesse of such creatures as Kenneth Lay was lavishly stuffed into the pockets of such exalted public figures as the President of the United States and his Attorney General.

Small wonder that while lesser men might serve as scapegoats, those above them can retire in comfort and safety to their ranches in Texas, their beachfront homes in Florida or their immense country homes in whatever foreign countries the United States has not antagonized, threatened or subjugated.

In many ways, the tragedy of 9/11 will doubtlessly prove to be a major watershed in the history of the American people.

James Watt discovered steam power by blocking the spout of a boiling tea kettle.

The lid blew off.

“Be not deceived: God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatains 6:7


Conversations with the Crow

On October 8th, 2000, Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley’s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley’s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley, died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda, Md.           After Corson’s death, Trento and his Washington lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley’s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever

After Crowley’s death and Trento’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas. No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

Douglas had been in close contact with Crowley and had long phone conversations with him. He found this so interesting and informative that he taped and later transcribed them.

These conversations have been published in a book: ‘Conversations with the Crow” and this is an excerpt.




Conversation No. 80

Date: Thursday, April 17, 1997

Commenced: 2:21 PM CST

Concluded: 2:52 PM CST

RTC: Good afternoon Gregory. Did you get your car back from the shop in one piece?

GD: Yes, and it actually runs better now that they got the stroller out from under the engine compartment.

RTC: Now, now, Gregory, somehow I can’t believe that. How could a stroller get under your car?

GD: I like to run red lights, Robert, how else. And last night, I got a ticket for going twenty miles an hour.

RTC: Normally, that’s not so fast.

GD: Ah, but it was in the local mall.

RTC: Gregory, you must have been at the coffee again.

GD: What else? Glue is just too expensive. And when I used it in the past, my face kept sticking to the sheets. Oh, well, enough ribaldry so late in the day. And getting stuck to the sheets is a forbidden topic, I guess. Last week I dreamed I was eating an angel food cake and when I woke up, my pillow was gone. Enough, enough. How is life treating you?

RTC: Good days and bad days, Gregory.

GD: How is Emily?

RTC: Very good. Thank you for asking.

GD: Not at all. I had a privileged childhood. We were taught to be polite. I have no idea what good that does but I have been conditioned.

RTC: Bill Corson is thinking of running for Congress, by the way. Did he mention this to you?

GD: No. Is he serious?

RTC: Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell what is serious about Bill.

GD: Kimmel should run. The ladies would flock to his standard.

RTC: I think he’d spend most of his time on the platform discussing his grandfather and Pearl Harbor.

GD: Yes. He is a little limited in his scope. I was involved with politics one time and it was a hysterical romp in the sheep pen.

RTC: You ran for something?

GD: A speeding bus. No, I ran for nothing but I helped out a friend of mine who wanted to unseat a local judge. Interesting sort of thing. Do you want to hear about it?

RTC: Does this involve drag racing in the mall?

GD: No, actually it doesn’t but it had its roots in my friend, Marvin, and his Ferrari. He was going too fast in it and had a few drinks under his belt so the local cops grabbed him. The judge in his case, a local power, was nasty with him and Marvin loathed the man. Also, I note, Marvin had a lot of money. We knew each other, and he was aware that I could get things done in let’s say unorthodox ways. We had the same lawyer. Anyway, the judge, who was part of our local power elite, had been on the bench for centuries and was a permanent fixture. He was up for the standard reelection and Marvin wanted him booted off the bench. We made a deal, did Marvin and I. I would get rid of the judge and Marvin would pay my out of pocket expenses plus whatever he thought proper if I was successful. Now, we had some young attorney running for the job. He had no money and the sitting judge had all the local money behind him. How to unseat him.

RTC: You had one of your nasty friends shoot him?

GD: Now, you’re trying to use CIA tactics here, Robert. No, I was not going to shoot him or even run over him with someone else’s car on a rainy night. First, I went to see the young candidate. I asked him, in private, that if I got him elected at no expense to himself, would he throw out Marvin’s conviction for drunk driving and he laughed and agreed.

RTC: Did he?

GD: We’ll get to that in good time. Well, the first thing I did was to design a bumper sticker telling voters to vote for the judge. All perfectly straightforward. Took it to Frisco to a professional printer along with a phony purchase order I had drawn up using a letterhead from the judge’s reelection campaign. They printed 20,000 stickers and billed it to the judge. Next, I went to some of my Teamster friends for whom I had done a recent and significant favor and in return, we took all of these stickers and had the boys put them on the back of every car they could find in parking lots and other public places. Now note, I did not say on the rear bumper. They put them on the back trunk lids of the cars. Ever try to get a bumper sticker off, Robert? They stick like shit to a blanket. Many very angry citizens, Robert, many. Now, that was the first thing I did. The second was to write up a letter to every citizen in the town, telling them the reasons to vote for the judge. I ran off thousands at a girl friend’s church mimeograph service. For free, of course. Then we stuffed many thousand envelopes, sealed them and stuck labels on the front. I had the judge’s campaign office stamped with a rubber stamp on the front top and I had bought gummed labels for every registered voter in town. That I also billed to the judge. The stamps I had to buy. Now the overall theme of this mailing sounded as if it were written by a participant in the Special Olympics and the terrible sketches accompanying it were equally awful. We marked them as third class postage but sealed the envelopes, Robert, making them first class mailings. We, Marvin and I, dropped thousands of these into the main post office late at night and then a day later, we had so much fun. You see, the letters had postage due because they were not third class and notices were left for residents absent at work. The day after this, we drove past the local post office and I would have sworn that it had been snowing. There were vast snowbanks of ripped up letters all over the front lawn and sidewalk in front of the building as thousands of citizens flocked down there to pay their two cents only to discover really awful campaign trash.

RTC: (Laughter)

GD: Marvin did enjoy it too. And the next thing we did was to hire a sound truck to drive all over town early Sunday morning with a loud appeal for anyone hearing to vote for judge so and so the next week. My, my, so many irate late sleepers, wrenched from the arms of Morpheus, or their idiot sister, and having to listen to the message. Oh yes, we charged that to the judge as well. Let’s see now…yes, and then we got a couple of ladies I know to do a number. See, they would stand at bus stops in town around four in the afternoon, a block apart. One would get on the crowded commute bus and at the next stop, the other would. My, they would recognize each other and start a nice dialog that could be heard from one end of the bus to the other. They discussed the coming election and one said she would never vote for the incumbent judge because her cousin in the sheriff’s office had told her that the distinguished jurist had a fifteen year old black girl out in La Honda for weekends of endless fun. And they would then get off the bus, one stop at a time, and repeat the act again.

RTC: Now that’s really evil, Gregory.

GD: Oh, I thought so at the time. But creative and very, very deadly. See, when people hear something like that, they repeat it, Robert, but they don’t want to say it was gossip heard on a bus to they tell their co-workers or family members that an unnamed high level police official told them. And so the good work prospers. And I rather like what I did on the day before the election. You see, in that town, you could get a permit from the city and bag the parking meters, paying for the daily take in return for free advertising….

RTC: Jesus

GD: So I bought some bread bags in Frisco and had another printer up there indicate that there was free parking that day, courtesy of the reelection campaign for the judge. Naturally, people parked and felt they could stay there all day, thanks to the judge and his friends. I got my Teamster friends and we bagged every meter in town. Along came the parking cops who looked at the bags and then called in to check. When they found the bags were fake, they tore them off and ticketed the cars.

RTC: Oh lovely, Gregory. I always said we should have put you on the payroll.

GD: I don’t take blood money. Interesting election results. The challenger spent about $200 on silly ads but a whopping 90% of the electorate turned out and about the same amount voted him into office in a stunning landslide. They voted their annoyance. I understand the judge’s people had some terrible bills they challenged. Anyway, Marvin got his conviction overturned.

RTC: Did he make it good to you?

GD: Well, I gave him my out of pocket expenses, mostly stamps, and told him as for anything additional, I would leave it up to his generosity. He gave me a check for the stamps and another sealed envelope. Of course I didn’t open it because that would be in bad taste and after he took me out to a wonderful, and very, very expensive French dinner, I went home and opened the second envelope. Five hefty figures, Robert, five figures. I call that sowing seeds of kindness.

RTC: You missed your calling, Gregory.

GD: A wardheeler or a parson, Robert?

RTC: Not much difference in the end.

GD: Yes, and that’s where the judge got it.


(Concluded at 2:52 PM CST)


The truth about terrorist attacks: we don’t know whether they are on the rise

Flawed methodologies and media bias contribute to this unreliability, but trends do emerge when looking at where – and how often – such incidents occur

March 22, 2016

by Mona Chalabi

The Guardian

The deadly attacks in Brussels, which Isis has now claimed responsibility for, will have left many individuals in Belgium and elsewhere feeling frightened about a rise in terrorist incidents in Europe. Understanding whether those fears are justified, however, is incredibly difficult.

According to the Global Terrorism Database, three terrorist incidents were reported in Belgium between 2011 and 2014. Finding more recent (or, for that matter, older) data about the frequency of terror attacks is very hard to do, however, since these databases use a flawed methodology.

The Global Terrorism Database is as good a source as any, though. Located at the University of Maryland, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (AKA Start) was established in 2005 as a US Department of Homeland Security center of excellence. Start’s database covers the period between 1970 and 2014 and has information on more than 140,000 reported terrorist attacks.

In theory, that should make it easy to track how often terrorist incidents occur and where they are most likely to take place. However, the Global Terrorism Database draws on news sources (as well as existing datasets, books and legal documents) to track terrorist incidents. That makes things difficult: often media sources disagree about the location of an attack, the motives of the attackers and the number of casualties. Although researchers will try to weigh the evidence and select the information that seems most accurate, it’s still a judgment call.

It’s also problematic when media reports do agree – that can sometimes mean there are duplicated terrorist incidents in the database. And the overall rise in the volume of media reports over time can exaggerate the rise in terrorist incidents. I discovered this myself when using GDELT, an alternative database, to track kidnappings in Nigeria; my analysis was flawed because it couldn’t differentiate between a rise in terrorism and a rise in reporting.

Therefore it’s unwise to draw conclusions about whether terrorist attacks are becoming more common – but it is possible to take a glimpse at geographical patterns. That too should come with a substantial caveat, since the media are no doubt more inclined to cover incidents in certain countries. But there are nonetheless some differences so large that they reveal trends even after accounting for those caveats (and population size too).

Below are the 10 countries with the highest number of terrorist incidents reported by the media between 2011 and 2014. Countries in western Europe do not appear here. The United Kingdom is the only country in Europe to appear remotely close to the top in fact: with 338 reported incidents, it sits in 19th place. Of those, 288 occurred in Northern Ireland.

Over the same time period, 57 terrorist incidents were reported in the United States – approximately 0.02 for every 100,000 residents.

Reported terrorist incidents 2011-2014

Country           Reported terrorist attacks   Terrorist attacks per 100,000

Iraq                9,522                                27.4

Pakistan          7,021                                  3.8

Afghanistan   5,153                                16.3

India             2,806                               0.2

Nigeria            1,849                                1.0

Somalia          1,698                              16.1

Philippines      1,645                                1.7

Yemen            1,614                               6.2

Thailand          1,367                                2.0

Libya              1,082                              17.3



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 27

March 23, 2016


The “existence of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)” is Unclassified. So is “the fact that ODNI Headquarters is located within the Liberty Crossing Compound in the Tyson’s Corner Area of Virginia.”

However, “the names and abbreviations of ODNI locations in the Washington Metropolitan Area, both overt and covert” are classified Secret.

These determinations and many others of interest are compiled in a newly released ODNI Classification Guide, Version 2.1, September 30, 2014. The declassified Classification Guide was released by ODNI with limited redactions in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Stephen Revilak.

“The Guide implements ODNI classification policy and procedures for the use and dissemination of ODNI national security information,” the document states.

It covers a wide range of intelligence policy, technology and operational areas involving ODNI that are potentially subject to classification. (Unfortunately, portions of the document released by ODNI are poorly scanned and several pages are cut off at the bottom. Hopefully, a corrected version will soon follow.)

“The absence of an item in the Guide does not imply that it is Unclassified,” the reader is cautioned.

Moreover, “The fact that some ODNI information is marked unclassified does not authorize public release,” the Guide states.


New reports from the Congressional Research Service that Congress has withheld from online public release include the following.

Vacancy on the Supreme Court: CRS Products, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 21, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia: His Jurisprudence and His Impact on the Court, March 18, 2016

Merrick Garland’s Nomination to the Supreme Court: Initial Observations, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 17, 2016

Argentina: Background and U.S. Relations, March 22, 2016

U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians, March 18, 2016

Turkey: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, March 18, 2016

Cars, Trucks, and Climate: EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources, March 16, 2016

Transportation Spending Under an Earmark Ban, March 17, 2016

Aliens’ Right to Counsel in Removal Proceedings: In Brief, March 17, 2016

Federally Supported Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment Programs, March 17, 2016

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, March 18, 2016

Can Agencies Take Actions That They Are Not Expressly Authorized by Statute to Take?, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 22, 2016

Access to Government Information In the United States: A Primer, March 18, 2016


Trump says Muslims not doing enough to prevent attacks

March 23, 2016

by Guy Faulconbridge and William Schomberg


LONDON-U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Muslims were not helping to prevent attacks such as those that killed at least 30 people in Belgium, drawing a rebuke from Britain’s government and from Muslim groups in the country.

In an interview broadcast on Britain’s ITV television on Wednesday, Trump was asked what his message was for British Muslims after Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels and the attacks in Paris last November.

“When they see trouble they have to report it, they are not reporting it, they are absolutely not reporting it and that’s a big problem,” Trump said.

His comments were countered by British interior minister Theresa May who said he was “just plain wrong” to suggest Muslims in Britain were failing to report suspicious activity by extremists.

Trump, the front-runner in the race to be the Republican candidate in November’s presidential election, has made a series of controversial statements during his campaign. His supporters see him as someone who speaks uncomfortable truths but he has outraged many others in the United States and around the world.

Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, said it was “a disgrace” that one of the suspects behind last November’s attacks in Paris had been found after a long manhunt by police in an area of Brussels where he lived.

“He was in his neighborhood where he grew up and nobody even turned him in and supposedly this is retribution for that. It’s a disgrace,” he said.

Trump said there were signs that an attack by suspected Muslim extremists in California in December, which killed 14 people, could have been stopped.

“A lot of people in the community knew they were going to do it because in their apartment they had bombs all over the floor … and they didn’t report them,” he said.

“I don’t know what it is. It’s like they’re protecting each other but they’re really doing very bad damage. They have to open up to society, they have to report the bad ones.”

Britain’s May told parliament that Trump was mistaken.

“I understand he said that Muslims were not coming forward in the United Kingdom to report matters of concern. This is absolutely not the case – he is just plain wrong,” she said.

(Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Stephen Addison)


German president Gauck condemns Communism on China visit

German President Joachim Gauck has criticized Communist rule in eastern Europe, in a speech to students at a Shanghai university. Gauck also said he was concerned about developments in Chinese civil society.

March 23, 2016


Gauck on Wednesday hit out at Communist rule in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, telling students that people could not be happy under a “dictatorship.”

The German president, speaking to students at Shanghai’s prestigious Tongji University, said social justice and rule of law were essential for a truly healthy society.

“Most people were neither happy nor liberated,” he said of East Germany under Communist rule. “And the entire system lacked proper legitimacy.

“Free, equal and secret public elections were not held. The result was a lack of credibility, which went hand in hand with a culture of distrust between the rulers and those they ruled,” he added.

Gauck claimed that the regimes of Eastern Europe had silenced their own people by locking them up and humiliating dissenters.

The 76-year-old, who lived under Communism in the former East Germany, also expressed concern about development within Chinese civil society, without giving specific examples.

“Vibrant and active civil society always means an innovative and flexible society,” said Gauck.UN urges Beijing to free dissidents

Last month, China rejected comments by UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein that called for the immediate release of rights lawyers and activists. It followed some 250 arrests since July last year. Beijing said the remarks were “irresponsible.”Gauck has been urged domestically to pressure Beijing over human rights and freedom of speech. On Tuesday, he met five Chinese authors and literature professors in the converted former industrial park known as 798 Art Zone in Beijing, to discuss the role of literature in Chinese society.

The previous day, after meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, he held private talks in the German embassy with several prominent human rights lawyers and activists.

The German president is scheduled to visit the former imperial capital Xi’an before leaving China late on Thursday.


Europe faces ‘long period of terror’ – German police official

March 23, 2016


The head of a German police trade union says the Brussels bombings are an “alarm” and Europe now faces a “long period of terror.” EU police and security forces, he urged, must be better prepared, properly equipped and guided from a unified “defense center.”

“We have to bear in mind a long period of terror,” Rainer Wendt, chief of the German police trade union, told Passauer Neuen Presse newspaper on Thursday. The terror attacks in Brussels that claimed lives of 31 and injured at least 260 have been “an alarm signal for the entire Europe,” he said.

Germany, which has seen no jihadist terror attacks until recently, would surely be targeted by terrorists, Wendt warned. “London, Madrid, Paris, now Brussels. German cities will not avoid [similar attacks] in the long run as well.”

To counter the imminent terror threat, preemptive measures are required, Wendt said, praising the German federal police for the timely creation of a new counter-terrorism elite unit. Last December, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced he was forming BFE+, short for Beweissicherungs- und Festnahmeeinheit plus (“Evidence collection and arrest unit plus”).

The BFE+ was said to comprise 50 operators based at federal police base Blumenberg near Berlin, with another four teams of the same strength placed across the country.

However, German police and anti-terror units have to be adequately equipped, Wendt warned, citing the urgent need to procure improved weaponry such as bulletproof vests, helmets and armored vehicles. According to him, federal police officers until recently had to drive regular Volkswagen vans even on high-risk missions, including border control.

These immediate measures may seem as a race against time, “but an increasing [terror] threat was known for years,” Wendt said.

Facing the terror threat across the continent, EU’s security agencies should increase cooperation, he added, particularly ramp up intelligence sharing among European law enforcement and justice bodies.

“We need a European defense center,” Wendt said.

Earlier on Tuesday, German Interior Minister de Maizière told ARD TV channel that European countries need a system of personal data exchange compiled by security services of the EU member states. “The external borders of the Schengen zone have too many gaps in them. We need a log which shows, who is coming in and who is leaving.

“Europe as a whole is threatened and we need common solutions to terrorism,” de Maizière said.

Germany is on high alert following the Brussels bombings. Security measures have been tightened at airports and railway stations as well as in areas bordering Belgium and the Netherlands.


IS in Europe: The race to the death

March 23, 2016

by Peter Taylor, John O’Kane and Ceri Isfryn

BBC News

Tuesday’s devastating attacks in Brussels, in which more than 30 people died and scores were injured, are the latest phase of the war on Europe declared by the so-called Islamic State.

The attacks cast a dark shadow over last week’s triumph, the arrest of Salah Abdeslam.

The hope will be that Abdeslam, one of the leading members of the cell behind the Paris attacks, will provide crucial intelligence on the current state of IS’s network and its future plans.

Getting captured IS fighters to talk is one of the crucial ways in which Western intelligence services have built up the picture of its European network and in particular the role of its former commander, Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

The BBC’s Panorama programme has seen the transcripts of some important interrogations carried out by France’s equivalent of MI5, the DGSI. They reveal valuable details about the tactics used by Abaaoud to train and equip IS fighters in Europe.

Nicolas Moreau was one them. He was arrested in 2015 having left Nantes to fight jihad in Syria in 2014.

He, like many IS recruits, was a former petty criminal who had converted to Islam in prison and become disillusioned with life in France.

He told his interrogators he couldn’t stand the “injustice” and “couldn’t see any future in this country”.

He went on to provide valuable information about IS’s external operations department known as Amni, meaning “security”, that sends hand-picked trained fighters back to Europe to inflict death and destruction on their homelands.

“Each gets 50,000 euros (£40,000) to mount an attack,” Moreau said.

Amni, with 1,500 members, also had an internal security role “to detect spies in Iraq and Syria”, he said.

Crucially he then revealed the kunya, the nom de guerre of the person in charge of Amni – Abu Omar from Brussels.

In fact, Abu Omar’s real name was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the commander of the network that was to plan and execute a number of attacks in Europe in 2015, culminating in the meticulously planned massacres in Paris.

Another IS fighter, Reda Hame, captured in France in August 2015, gave more precise details about Abaaoud that helped intelligence agencies fill in the picture about how his network operated.

Hame’s value to Abaaoud was that his French passport was due to expire and Abaaoud wanted to get him back to Europe to carry out an attack while his passport was still valid.

He said Abaaoud was “a very tough person, very determined and very dangerous”.

Time was of the essence to take advantage of the expiry date. Abaaoud personally gave Hame a crash course in weapons training and then issued instructions.

Getting weapons in France, he said, was not a problem.

“I just had to ask for what I needed, in France or in Europe.”

Abaaoud also warned him to test the weapon thoroughly “as it wasn’t an option that the operation would be lost due to phoney stuff”.

But the most chilling instructions that Abaaoud issued were about the targets Hame was to hit.

“He just told me to choose an easy target like a place where there are people. Imagine a rock concert in a European country. If we arm you, would you be ready to shoot into a crowd?”

Abaaoud added that it was best to wait after the attack for the forces to intervene and then to die while fighting.

“He said that if many civilians were hit, the foreign policy of France would change.”

Interrogators then asked Hame if he was aware of a possible attack in France or Europe. He said he couldn’t be specific.

“All I can tell you is that it will happen soon. Back there [in Syria], it was a real industry. They were really looking to hit France or Europe.”

He said that given the motivation of the IS fighters he had met, he would not be surprised if there were actions soon.

He then reminded his interrogators of IS’s justification for their attacks on Europe.

“They just want the [coalition] airstrikes to stop.”

The interrogation of Reda Hame and his mention of a rock concert as a suggested target took place just three months before the Paris attacks and the assault on the Bataclan concert hall in which 89 fans of the heavy metal American band, Eagles of Death Metal, died.

However dire his Cassandra-like prophecy, it would have been unrealistic to expect the authorities to spend the following months monitoring every concert and public gathering in Paris. But the clear warning was there.

From intelligence we have seen, we now understand how 2015 became a desperate race between Abaaoud and Western intelligence agencies as they tried to find him and stop him.

From the beginning of the year they had no doubt about his key role in planning attacks in Europe.

Telephone intercepts indicated that he was behind an IS cell set up in the Belgian town of Verviers with the alleged aim of killing police officers.

The cell was neutralised when Belgian police, aided by France’s SAS equivalent, the GIGN, stormed the building, killing two members of Abaaoud’s cell who had been with him in Syria.

One of them, Khalid Ben Larbi, had flown from Syria and used the UK as a back door to Belgium via St Pancras. We’ve been told he was travelling on a passport belonging to a Dutch jihadi.

The telephone intercepts made to the cell in Verviers, were traced to Athens and were identified as having come from Abaaoud.

It was a golden opportunity to swoop and arrest him. Intelligence we’ve seen indicates that with the help of Israel’s Mossad, the CIA planned to intercept him but the plan failed.

Abaaoud slipped the net, returned to Syria and boasted in IS’s glossy propaganda magazine, Dabiq, how he had escaped under the noses of Western intelligence.

Through the summer, the warnings about the threat from Abaaoud and his network increased. One source reported that Abaaoud was now IS’s Minister for War.

The CIA warned that Abaaoud’s network was trying to get hold of European ID cards and that he was in contact with Turkish smugglers about trying to get recruits back to Europe. Alarm bells were now ringing ever more loudly.

There was concern, too, when it was discovered that Mohamed Abrini, a member of the Paris cell and one of Abaaoud’s closest lieutenants, spent time in the UK last summer.

We understand he went to Birmingham and when he returned to Brussels, he was interviewed by the police. Mohammed Abrini, unlike his fellow jihadi, Salah Abdeslam, is still at large.

We have learned that as summer 2015 turned to autumn, the race to find Abaaoud intensified.

A series of meetings were held between Western intelligence agencies, now seriously concerned about their inability to locate Abaaoud and increasingly worried about his network’s intent.

In October, MI6 and MI5 met with a European partner agency to discuss Abaaoud and their concern about a report that he was intending to send 60 trained fighters to attack Belgium, France, Germany and the UK.

Other agencies, too, were trying to find a way of countering Abaaoud and discussed setting up a specialist team to target an individual who was now Europe’s most wanted man.

The meeting to finalise the details was to be held in Paris. The original date in the calendar was ominous: 13 November, the very day of the Paris attacks.

The meeting was postponed before that date but it would have been too late anyway. The race was over and Abaaoud had won.

The grim statistics were the result: 130 people dead and almost 700 injured. Five days after the attacks he had commanded, Abaaoud was killed in a safe house in St Denis, a suburb of Paris – a suicide bomber hiding with him detonated a suicide vest.

attacks in Brussels clearly indicate that the IS network is still at large and no-one knows where and when it may strike next.

That’s the nightmare that keeps the intelligence services awake at night.

However intense their efforts to keep us all safe, they can never guarantee 100% security against such a ruthless and sophisticated enemy.

As Alain Winants, the former head of Belgium’s MI5, warns. “I fear that in the West we will have to live for the coming years with the threats of that kind of terrorism.”


Brussels terrorists likely used explosives nicknamed ‘The Mother of Satan’

March 23, 2016

by Thomass Gibbons

Washington Post

In the hours after the blasts that killed at least 31 people Tuesday in Brussels, investigators began piecing together how the Islamic State managed to detonate three bombs in the span of roughly an hour across the city.

Officials have found evidence of a peroxide-based explosive known as TATP in the apartment of one of the suspected bombers, although investigators have yet to say conclusively what type of bomb was used in the explosions Tuesday. But if TATP was indeed the primary ingredient in the bombs, the attack in Brussels would become the latest example of the chemical’s use in terrorist attacks across Europe.

Highly unstable, peroxide-based explosives such as TATP and its sibling hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMTD, have been used in terrorist bombs for decades. TATP first gained notoriety after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when Richard Reid, known as the shoe bomber, unsuccessfully tried to detonate a TATP-triggered explosive during a Paris to Miami flight in December 2001. TATP was also used in the 2005 London bombings that killed 56, as well as in the November 2015 attacks in Paris.

TATP’s ingredients, such as concentrated hydrogen peroxide and acetone, are extremely easy to procure and cook into an explosive. But the powdery substance is highly volatile and potent, earning it the nickname “The Mother of Satan.” A few grams of TATP can easily blow off fingers, while concentrated pounds of it are devastating

According to an Army explosive ordnance disposal technician, who requested that his name be withheld because of his current employment, TATP-based explosive devices are rarely seen in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan because of how temperamental the material is and because stable, military-grade explosives are readily available. TATP, he said, has become a terrorist staple in Europe because of its accessible ingredients and how they raise little suspicion when purchased individually.

According to Brian Castner, a former Air Force explosive ordnance disposal technician and author of the book “All the Ways We Kill and Die,” the use of TATP-based explosives in both Paris and Brussels could suggest that a terrorist network in Europe has mastered the cooking and handling of TATP.

“There are actually very few bombmakers in the grand scheme of things,” Castner said. “Once one finds a successful way to construct these things, they mass produce it.”

While there are still few details about the devices used in the Belgium attacks, some reports indicate that the bombs at the airport were detonated within suitcases, while a suicide vest may have been used in the metro bombing.

While a seemingly small distinction, the two delivery methods involve different constructions for the bombmaker. A TATP-loaded vest would be harder to build and maintain, as the substance is so volatile. A suitcase loaded with TATP would be easier to transport and less likely to accidentally explode, since the charges would more protected than if placed in a vest

Reports on social media indicated that nails, screws and bolts were used in the bombs. The types of fragmentation in explosives such as the ones used in Brussels often change between ball bearings, bolts, nails and anything else the bombmaker might decide to pack into the charges to increase the carnage.

Pictures posted online of three suspects pushing carts loaded with suitcases through Brussels Airport show two of them wearing black gloves on their left hands. According to the Army technician, the gloves would be big enough to hold triggering devices for the bombs.


Three bomb attacks kill five security force members in southeast Turkey: sources

March 22, 2016


DIYARBAKIR, Turkey-Kurdish militants killed five members of Turkish security forces in three separate bomb attacks on Tuesday near the Syrian and Iranian borders, the army and security sources said, in an intensification of conflict in southeast Turkey.

Hundreds of security forces personnel, militants and civilians have been killed since a 2-1/2 year ceasefire between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the state collapsed in July.

One soldier was killed and six more wounded in a bomb attack early on Tuesday in Nusaybin near the Syrian border, the army said. The area has been under a curfew since March 14 when security forces launched operations against militants there.

Two police officers and one soldier were killed and nine security force members were wounded in a PKK bomb attack on a military vehicle in the town of Yuksekova, near the Iranian border, security sources said.

A third roadside explosive device planted by the militants below up an armored vehicle in the Mazidagi district of Mardin province, also near Syria, killing one police officer and wounding three others, the sources said.

Separately, the military said 23 Kurdish militants were killed in clashes in Nusaybin, Yuksekova and Sirnak on Monday.The PKK, designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union, is carrying out a violent struggle for autonomy in the mainly Kurdish southeast. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since it began in 1984.

(Reporting by Seyhmus Cakan; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Andrew Heavens and David Dolan)


Fear of bloody attacks becomes part of life in Europe

March 22, 2016

by Karl Ritter


STOCKHOLM (AP) — Paris, Copenhagen, Brussels. In just over a year three European capitals have been ravaged by bombs and gunfire.

After each attack life slowly returns to normal. But it’s a new normal for Europe, where terror alerts are always on high and where people in cities so far spared major violence assume it’s a matter of when, not if.

“With each atrocity that occurs we change,” said Ian Duncan, a Scottish member of the European Parliament in Brussels. “We become less open. We pull down barriers and close doors. But it is a direction we are following now.”

The carnage in Brussels on Tuesday came as Europe was still reeling from the November attacks by Islamic militants in Paris that killed 130 people. In the following months France and Belgium have looked like countries at least partially at war, with soldiers in the streets, lockdowns and deadly shootouts with militants.

The rest of Europe has watched with trepidation.

“These were attacks in Belgium. They could just as well be attacks in Britain or France or Germany or elsewhere in Europe,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC on Tuesday. He said Britain’s threat level remains “severe,” meaning an attack is considered highly likely.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks at the Brussels airport and in the city’s subway that left dozens dead and scores more wounded.

French President Francois Hollande said the attacks targeted all of Europe and he warned of a long “war” ahead.

Though people in Western Europe have dealt with the threat of violence from Muslim extremists as well as homegrown nationalist and revolutionary movements for decades, the idea that a “war” is playing out in their streets is hard to imagine. But the recent frequency and scale of attacks have made some Europeans feel that it’s just something they have to get used to.

“Five years ago you didn’t think about it so much,” said Francesca Cervellini, a 20-year-old Italian tourist as she passed by the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm. “It didn’t happen so often before. Now it’s everyday life. It’s normal.”

In Moscow, security has been tightened notably at everyday locations in the wake of a series of attacks in the past 15 years. There are metal detectors at the entrances to all subway stations, all passenger rail stations do luggage scans, most indoor shopping centers have metal detectors and glowering guards. Airports do luggage scans at the entrance.

In Western Europe people are more reluctant to trade civil liberties and an open society for more security. But after each attack that equation changes, at least temporarily, said Catherine Muller, of the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton, England.

“Terrorism is one of the risks people normally overestimate because it is very scary and has a strong emotional effect,” said Muller.

While those fears are perfectly understandable, she said, it’s important to remember that “no matter what policies or laws are in place, there’s not going to be 100 percent security.”

In Germany the fear of terrorism is less acute than in France or Belgium, but the risk of such attacks is something far-right and nationalist groups focus on a lot, especially in connection with the influx of migrants from the Middle East.

There haven’t been any attacks by Islamic extremists in Germany since Arid Uka shot dead two American servicemen at Frankfurt airport in 2011. However there have been several attempted attacks that failed or were foiled.

German mainstream politicians have also been at pains to point out that Germany is a target for Islamic extremists and it’s probably a matter of when, not if, such an attack happens.

Even in small countries on Europe’s periphery the same fears are palpable.

Denmark witnessed an attack in February last year, when a gunman, apparently inspired by the Charlie Hebdo shooting massacre in Paris a few weeks earlier, opened fire against a free-speech seminar and outside a synagogue.

Sweden hasn’t seen an attack since a suicide bomber blew himself up in Stockholm in December 2010, but failed to kill anyone else. But reports of hundreds of extremists from Sweden joining Islamic State fighters in Syria and last year’s unprecedented influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa have sparked concerns that an attack will happen sooner or later.

“It could happen tomorrow or in a year or in five years,” said Dani Amouri, a 23-year-old Stockholm resident who left Lebanon five years ago. “In Sweden, Denmark, Germany, everywhere. There is no peace in the world anymore. Not even in Europe.”

Duncan, who represents the Scottish Conservatives in the European Parliament, was supposed to give visitors from Scotland a tour of the European Parliament on Tuesday. Instead they had to stay in their hotels.

He said the violence made him think about what, if anything, one can do to be more vigilant when moving in public places without overreacting.

“It’s not like a film where you can see the villain approaching,” Duncan said. “Is it someone carrying a backpack? Is it someone who doesn’t look like me? I can’t tell you what I should try to avoid.”

Associated Press writers James Heintz in Moscow and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.


U.S. hopes for talks with China about possible THAAD move to South Korea

March 23, 2016

by Andrea Shalal


WASHINGTON- The United States hopes to talk with China and address its concern about the possible deployment of the THAAD missile defense system that Washington is discussing with Seoul, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

Rose Gottemoeller, undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, stressed that the United States and South Korea had just begun discussions, and no decision had been made to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.

Gottemoeller also emphasized that the system was defensive in nature and aimed at North Korea, not China.

“THAAD is truly only capable of defending the territory on which it’s deployed. It is not capable of the kind of reach that the Chinese seem to be afraid that it has,” she told reporters at a breakfast meeting.

“We will be very glad and hope we’ll have the opportunity to sit down and talk with China about those very technical limitations and facts about the system,” she said.

Gottemoeller gave no timetable for a possible meeting.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, asked about the remarks, said THAAD was “certainly not a simple technology issue”.

“At present, the situation on the Korean peninsula is very complex and sensitive. We hope the relevant country cautiously handles this issue, and we demand they do nothing to harm China’s security interests,” she told a daily news briefing.

The United States and South Korea agreed to begin the talks last month after North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Feb. 7 carrying what it called a satellite.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday told a congressional hearing that Seoul and Washington had an “agreement in principle” to discuss deploying a THAAD system to South Korea. Doing so, he said, would protect “the entirety of the peninsula against North Korean missiles of greater range.”

Wang Yi, the foreign minister of China, North Korea’s neighbor and main ally, last month underscored China’s concerns about a possible THAAD deployment but seemed to open the door to a diplomatic solution.

Wang said China understood the desire of the United States and South Korea to ensure the defense of their own countries, but Beijing had legitimate concerns that should be addressed.

U.S. military officials have long said the THAAD system is needed in South Korea, but until North Korea’s recent satellite launch, Seoul had been reluctant to openly discuss its deployment given the risk of damaging ties with China.

Army Lieutenant General David Mann, commander, U.S. Army Space & Missile Command, told reporters that the THAAD system would result in a “huge increase” in missile defense capabilities on the Korean peninsula. But he said Washington understood the sensitivity of the discussions given the concerns raised by China, one of South Korea’s key trading partners.

“It’s very, very important that we clarify that that radar, that system is not looking at China,” he said. “If the decision is made to deploy it, that system would be oriented on North Korea and threats posed by the North Korean military.”

The system was designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles inside or just outside the atmosphere during their final phase of flight.

Mann said the Army would complete training for its fifth THAAD system by the end of the year. He said Japan was also interested in the system, as were U.S. military commanders in Europe and the Middle East.

Once a site was approved and prepared, the mobile THAAD system could be deployed “in a matter of weeks,” Mann said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Bernard Orr)



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