TBR News March 24, 2016

Mar 24 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., March 24, 2016: “’Terror can only be broken with counter-terror’ Adolf Hitler said this at a situation conference discussing partisan activity. And in the  occupied eastern territories, such as European Russia and the Balkans, he did just that. The partisans were vicious, murdering wounded soldiers and trying to create fear and havoc among the German military. SS and Police units were brought in and turned loose on the partisans and from official German records, at least 700,000 partisans, Communists, Jews and local rebels were put to death. It is interesting to consider that the rich Sunni Saudis were the organizers of the Sunni SI and the United States CIA helped arm them with full Turkish support. Once Putin involved himself in the civil war in Syria and wreaked havoc with the looted oil and free-ranging IS people, the tide began to change. Press stories about ‘American led coalition’ action against IS are fictional but now that Turkey is having serious problems with here break-away Kurdish population, the coalition is showing signs of disintegrating. But they are still capable of Brussels-type terrorism and perhaps, to start a smallpox plague. As it is impossible to deal with fanatics, the comments by Hitler should be taken seriously by Western countries threatened by IS.”


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. 82

Date: Friday, May 2, 1997

Commenced: 9:45 AM CST

Concluded: 10:11 AM CST


RTC: Gregory, I was going to ask you if you could recommend a good coin dealer. I want to buy a few small gold coins for the younger relatives.

GD: In your area? I don’t…but let me look around. American gold?

RTC: Preferably,

GD: How about some small two and a half dollar Indian heads? You could get a few of these that are not a numismatic item and have the mounted in a bezel and worn around the neck. Any good jeweler could do this.

RTC: Numismatic?

GD: Yes. American coins are sold by date, condition and mint mark. You could have two identical coins of the same date but one would be selling for hundreds more because it was a Denver mark instead of a Philadelphia. I can check for you. Attractive coins but I can shop around for you.

RTC: Many thanks, Gregory. Are you into coins?

GD: No, but I had many friends who were and I understand the market.

RTC: I remember ten or so years ago, maybe more when gold was going up and up.

GD: Yes, and it came down and down. That was a rigged market, Robert. An artificial one pushed up by some for their own profit and then allowed to fall after they took the profit out. I remember getting some of my rich friends to buy Krugerrands oh around $300 or so. A bunch of them got together and I bought quite a few and even dipped into my own savings to get some for myself. Kept them in a dresser drawer until the weight collapsed it. What a mess. Anyway, gold kept going up and it got to be a South Seas Bubble type of rise. Feeding on itself and aided by the manipulators of course. Oh, it went to $500 and my buying friends were wetting themselves. And it went to $600 and all the real experts, who are dumb as posts, said it would go to a grand at least. More frantic buyers and up went the prices every day. It got to $700 but I began to feel very badly about the whole thing. My Grandfather was a banker who felt that the frenzied stock market was out of control in ’29 and sold out in September just a month before the huge crash. He said it was an unrealistic frenzy, like the tulip craze in Holland and such over-capitalization could not last. He was right and when the bottom fell out, Grandfather was holding all his profits in cash. The banks crashed too so he was better off than almost everyone else. During the war, he bought up commercial property at ten cents on the dollar and the war boom sent his holdings up into the stratosphere. But he taught me a good deal and you have to use common sense in dealing with these bubbles and get in early and get out the same way. Remember, catch a rising market and sell out before it peaks but just before the peak.

RTC: And the gold?

GD: Oh, yes. When it got to $810 I decided to sell but my dealer told me I was a damned fool and to hang on until it reached a thousand. I went home and thought about it and the next day, I hauled a big suitcase of coins, got a neighbor to help me because it was so heavy, and went to the coin store. It was noontime and it was packed with all kinds of professional types buying. Let me tell you that when I sold the contents of the case at $811, before I left the place, every coin was sold. And did they laugh at me. But a few days later, when gold plunged to $200 or so, I was the one who was laughing. And my investing friends, who were not aware of my sell out, told me that at least on paper they did very well. I informed them that I had sold out before the break and to come over and pick up their cash. I took out a modest commission plus the cost of repairing of the broken drawer bottom and we all did quite well.

RTC: Of course you might have not told them.

GD: Never happen. Never fuck your friends, Robert but keep that list small.

RTC: This South Sea thing…

GD: I was just reading about this in Mackay’s book on the madness of crowds. It was a stock scam and ruined a huge number of people. Early eighteenth century England. Supposedly the King of Spain granted a London company the trading rights in the Pacific and since the possibilities were enormous, the subscribers to the stock program were enthusiastic and many. Stock prices soared and many very influential Brits got involved. Of course it was a fraud. The King of Spain allowed one ship a year to call at his South American ports but the public was not informed of this. The whole thing got to be a frenzy like the tulip craze but like all of these things, it collapsed and took a lot of people and money with it. The gullible front men, mostly members of the nobility and the clergy, got the law onto them but the real crooks escaped across the Channel with their loot.

RTC: The book available?

GD: Yes, it was originally printed in England in the eighteen forties and reprinted again and again. Do you want the full title?

RTC: Why not? Always interested in new stories.

GD: Let me get the book


GD: Here it is. ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’ by Charles Mackay. My reprint is from ’63 so you should be able to find a copy.

RTC: I’ll ask Bill to dig me up a copy.

GD: They call these bubbles. Start out as con jobs with a grain of truth and sometimes, the public gets frantic and the rigged stock, or the gold coins, soar in value. That happened with the gold recently and it happened in ’29 with the market.

RTC: But the Roosevelt people put on so many controls over the market that I doubt if it could happen that way again.

GD: Yes. As long as the controls remain. But if some evil person or gang of persons managed to remove them, the thing will surely happen again. That’s the true nature of the capitalist system. Boom or bust, or rather boom and bust. Just look at the cycles at the end of the nineteenth century right here. If the market wasn’t under tight control, we would have it again. A few would get very rich and a lot, mostly middle class hopefuls would buy into the dream and get poor quickly.

RTC: Attacking our beloved system, are you?

GD: Marx was right once in a while but his basic premise was flawed. Like Christianity, Communism won’t work. Why? What do they say about this? From each according to his ability to each according to his need? Wonderful thinking but flawed. People are greedy and rapacious and others bleat like sheep. Let him take who is able and let him keep who can. Christianity is the same way. Much talk about brotherhood. Noble words and thoughts in church on Sundays and fuck them all the rest of the week. Well, our stock market is safe for now but surely the speculators will strike again whenever and wherever they can. God help the country if these types ever get into power.

RTC: Well, the Democrats are in now so we are not likely to have high rolling stock swindlers running things.

GD: Yes, but the pendulum swings and it always makes a full swing, Robert. Always. It’s like a wheel in that what is at the bottom today will be at the top today. And remember, shit always floats to the top of the septic tank.

RTC: So disrespectful, Gregory. No wonder Kimmel views you as the Antichrist.

GD: In older times, if you told the truth about sacred matters the Church would barbecue you but now they just ignore you and laugh.


(Concluded at 10:11 AM CST)


Islamic State Bragged That Its Attacks Would Help Break Up the European Union

March 23, 2016

by Murtaza Hussain

A newsletter circulated after Islamic State’s November massacre in Paris sheds light on what the group believes yesterday’s deadly attack in Brussels will accomplish, including weakening unity on the continent and exhausting European states economically.

An issue of the Islamic State newsletter, al-Naba, published weeks after the Paris attack, boasted in one section that “the Paris raid has caused the creation of a state of instability in European countries which will have long-term effects,” listed as “the weakening of European cohesion, including demands to repeal the Schengen Agreement…which permits free traveling in Europe without checkpoints” and “security measures [which] will cost them tens of millions of dollars,” along with “mutual accusations between France and Belgium” over security failings.

The same newsletter section also stated that a “general state of unease” created by terrorism would lead to decreases in tourism and new restrictions on travel, costing already cash-strapped EU countries “tens of billions of dollars” in revenue.

In this single list, the newsletter mingled facts from the aftermath of the Paris attacks with predictions about the future. At least some of the predictions have since held up. Earlier this year, several European nations announced major increases in their defense budgets, with analysts expecting an increase of up to 50 billion Euros in spending across the continent through 2019. Indications that European borders were closing, already available before the Paris attacks, proliferated in the months after.

Islamic State’s post-Paris propaganda attacks on the European Union appear particularly relevant after this week’s attack in Brussels, which is the EU’s capital and the site of NATO headquarters. Although local authorities have said they have yet to directly connect the two attacks, Islamic State yesterday claimed responsibility for the Brussels massacre in a statement that U.S. officials said appears to be genuine.

“Because ISIL recognizes that they can’t compete militarily, they employ a strategy that seeks to bleed stronger powers economically and politically,” says Amarnath Amarasingam, a fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism.

A similar strategy was famously outlined in 2004 by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who claimed that the goal of the 9/11 attacks were to draw the United States into costly wars abroad that would drain its resources and political will, while engendering backlash from Muslim communities worldwide.

“Sadly, in responses to terrorism, we often fall right into the trap set by these groups by overspending, over-policing and sacrificing our civil liberties. Its an endless cycle,” says Amarasingam.

“The smarter strategy is to understand that if we are going to be involved in foreign countries, as is probably necessary in today’s world, there is going to be some kind of backlash from a small subset of people. But if we start treating this as a civilizational war and start dismantling our own institutions, it becomes a self-defeating exercise.”

If EU countries do respond to the Brussels attacks by further restricting travel between member states, it would be a step towards dismembering the integrated political order that has preserved peace on the continent since World War II. That order was described by former West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer as “necessary for our security, for our freedom, for our existence as a nation and as an intellectual and creative international community.” That ISIL believes its actions undermine European integration suggests that there is a more sophisticated plan behind their attacks than simply engendering blind terror.

Before the wave of ISIL terrorism in Europe that started last year, the EU had already been shaken by a number of political and economic crises, as well as a refugee influx from the civil war in Syria that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently said poses a “near existential threat” to the continent’s integration.

Attacks like the one in Brussels are almost certain to exacerbate these dangers to the EU. Ironically, breaking up European integration is a goal that Islamic State also shares with far-right nativist parties throughout the continent, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The political right is ascendant all across Europe at the moment, so this is a particularly dangerous climate for this attack to occur,” says Muddassar Ahmed, a former British government advisor and chairman of the UK-based political risk firm Unitas Risk. “The fact that the attack occurred in Brussels is particularly notable, as the EU and NATO are two of the biggest stabilizing forces in Belgium, a country which is starkly divided upon regional lines.”

Islamic State has repeatedly made clear that the purpose of its attacks are to shock societies and thus exacerbate internal differences. In the wake of its February 2015 massacre at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, ISIL crowed that its attacks were “eliminating the grayzone” of coexistence that existed between Muslims and Westerners. The attack yesterday on Brussels, the capital of the European Union, seems calculated to exacerbate the divisions extant among European nations as well.

“This attack, along with other recent developments in the continent, are furthering the cause of Russia and local right-wing parties that want to see an end to European integration,” Ahmed said. “Looking at the political landscape, its clear that Europe is more divided today than it has been in any time in recent memory.”


The Real Background of 911

by Harry von Johnston, PhD


Given the weak origins of George W. Bush’s presidency, his father’s specialist, Karl Rove contemplated his own Reichstag Fire and when the Israeli Mossad reported to the top Bush administration officials that they had penetrated a group of Saudi terrorists working in Hollywood, Florida and that this group was planning an aerial attack on important American business and government targets, Rove had found his Reichstag Fire.

Bush was kept informed by the Israeli government at every stage of the pending attack but advised the Israelis that he did not want to interfere with it “until the last possible moment so as to be able to arrest the entire group.”

As the plot progressed and Washington learned that the major targets would be the World Trade Centers in New York, and the Pentagon and the Capitol building in Washington, someone high up in the administration, currently unknown, wanted the Israelis to convince the Saudis to attack the side of the Pentagon that was currently unoccupied due to reconstruction. There was no point, the plotters decided, to kill the useful Secretary of Defense who was a member of their team.

The attack on the Capitol would, they reasoned, fall when Congress was in session ( In 2001, the first session of the 107th Congress was from January 3, 2001 through December 20, 2001 and the House and Senate planned to begin their 10 day Thanksgiving recess, between November 17 and November 27 of that year) and this meant that if a large commercial aircraft, loaded with aviation fuel, slammed at high speed into either wing of the immense building while Congress was in session, it could reasonably be expected that a significant number of Federal legislators would be killed or incapacitated.

This, coupled with the attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC, would give the Bush people the very acceptable excuse for the President to step up, (after he returned from a safe and distant vacation,) and assume ‘special powers” to “protect this nation from new attacks” until Congress could be “satisfactorily reformed” via somewhat distant “special elections” to fill the vacancies created by the Saudi attackers.

Then, it would be quite acceptable, and even demanded, that the Army would establish “law and order” in the country and that other agencies would step forward to “guard this nation against” possible “ongoing terrorist attacks.” ‘Speak not of the morrow for thou knowest not what it might bring forth’ is a Biblical admonition that apparently Bush, Rove and Cheney never considered.

The aircraft designated to slam into the Capitol building and immolate at least one side of the aisle, crashed as the very fortunate result of its passenger’s actions and that part of the plan had to be shelved. But not so the formulation of the machinery designed solely to clamp down on any possible dissident voices in the country and ensure a very long term Republican political control.

The Saudi terrorist attacks went forward as planned, minus the one on the members of Congress and Bush indeed rose to the occasion and promised to protect the American public. A Department of Homeland Security was set up under the incompetent Governor Ridge but as for the rest of the plan for Republic permanence, it began to disintegrate bit by bit, due entirely to the gross incompetence of its leaders. The Bush-Rove-Cheney plan consisted, in the main, of the following:

  1. Federal control of all domestic media, the internet, all computerized records, through overview of all domestic fax, mail and telephone conversations,

2 .A national ID card, universal SS cards being mandatory,

  1. Seizure and forced deportation of all illegal aliens, including millions of Mexicans and Central Americans, intensive observation and penetration of Asian groups, especially Indonesian and Chinese,
  2. A reinstitution of a universal draft (mandatory service at 18 years for all male American youths…based on the German Arbeitsdienst.
  3. Closer coordination of administration views and domestic policies with various approved and régime supportive religious groups,
  4. An enlargement of the planned “no travel” lists drawn up in the Justice Department that would prevents “subversive” elements from flying, (this list to include “peaceniks” and most categories of Muslims)
  5. The automatic death penalty for any proven acts of sedition,
  6. The forbidding of abortion, any use of medical marijuana,
  7. Any public approval of homosexual or lesbian behavior to include magazines, websites, political action groups and soon to be forbidden and punishable.


ISIS, oil & Turkey: RT films trove of jihadist docs detailing illegal trade with Ankara (EXCLUSIVE)

March 24. 2016


An RT Documentary crew filming in northern Syria has seen Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL) documents abandoned by retreating terrorists and found by the Kurds that, along with captured IS recruits, provide a stunning insight into Turkey-IS oil trade links.

Shortly after the outbreak of the Syrian war, IS became a game-changer in Iraq and, in particular, Syria. Beheadings on camera, mass killings, and enslavement, as well as apparent connections to the Paris and Brussels attacks had become synonymous with the terror group, giving it wide publicity.

Running a viable militant organization with such remarkable capabilities would be impossible without some logistical and financial support from the outside

Turkey, which has been actively engaged in the Syrian war since the outset, has repeatedly denied claims that it is aiding IS. However, while Ankara insists that it is the jihadist group’s sworn enemy, facts on the ground often tell a different story.

RT has spoken to several witnesses who were involved in Islamic State’s trade activities and accessed the terror group’s documents, which provide insight into how and where foreign militants enter Syria to join the terrorist “state.”

Detailed oil invoices

The RT Documentary team did most of its filming in the town of Shaddadi, located in the Syrian province Hasakah, which has been partly overrun by IS jihadists. Following the liberation of Shaddadi, which is home to some 10,000 people, RT filmed Kurdish soldiers walking around what used to be the homes of IS fighters and examining piles documents that had been left behind.

Some of the files seized at the scene turned out to be detailed invoices used by IS to calculate daily revenues from their oil fields and refineries, as well as the amount of oil extracted there. All the documents had Islamic State’s symbol at the top.

The files showed that “IS has kept very professional records of their oil business,” said the author of the new RT Documentary on Islamic State filmed in northern Syria, who chose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Every invoice included the name of the driver, the vehicle type driven, and the weight of the truck, both full and empty, as well as the agreed upon price and invoice number.

One of the discovered invoices dated 11 January, 2016, says that IS had extracted some 1,925 barrels of oil from Kabibah oil field and sold it for $38,342.

IS oil goes to Turkey – IS fighters come via Turkey

RT spoke to local residents who had been forced to work in the IS oil industry about what it was like working at the terrorist-controlled oil refinery and where the extracted oil was sold.

The locals attested that “the extracted oil was delivered to an oil refinery, where it was converted into gasoline, gas and other petroleum products. Then the refined product was sold,” the RT documentary’s author said. “Then intermediaries from Raqqa and Allepo arrived to pick up the oil and often mentioned Turkey.”

Important information revealing the connection between IS and Turkey was provided by a Turkish militant previously captured by the Kurds. The IS recruit said on camera that the terrorist group does, in fact, sell oil to Turkey.

“Without even us asking the fighter directly, he admitted that the reason why it was so easy for him to cross the Turkish border and join IS was, in part, due to the fact that Turkey also benefited. When asked how, he said that Turkey gets something out of it – something such as oil.”

RT was also able to speak with a Kurdish soldier in the area, who displayed a collection of passports he had gathered from the dead bodies of IS fighters. The documentary crew’s exclusive footage shows the documents of several jihadists who had come from all over the world, including countries such as Bahrain, Libya, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Most of these foreign fighters seemed to have come via Turkey, as all of their passports contained entry stamps issued at Turkish border checkpoints.

A YPG member also provided some photos that were retrieved from a USB drive allegedly belonging to future IS militants. One photo showed three men standing in front of the Obelisk of Theodosius, known today as Sultanahmet Meydani, a famous landmark in Istanbul. The next photo showed the three among other fellow militants somewhere in Syria – all armed and equipped.

One of the IS fighters that RT interviewed revealed that there had been no border guards waiting for them when they crossed from Turkey into Syria.

Islamist propaganda printed in Istanbul

Turkey’s logistical support for extremist fighters trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, or at least its non-interference with their cross-border movements, has been widely reported, but little has been said about the ideological support coming from Turkish soil.

Among the documents left behind by the terrorists at an IS-run hospital, RT’s crew discovered an Islamist propaganda leaflet printed in Arabic titled “How to wage a perfect battle against the criminal Assad’s regime,” which described ways to combat the Syrian government.

Curiously, the brochure was printed in Turkey, with the cover openly displaying the postal address and phone number of an Istanbul printing house, supplemented by Facebook contacts.

“Many of the people spoke about the connection with Turkey. Turkey is the direct neighbor of IS. If it was willing to close the ‘connection’ between Turkey and IS, the terrorist organization could no longer survive,” the author of the RT documentary said, recalling interviews with Kurds and captured IS recruits. “If IS would stop receiving weapons, new recruits, food, and other help from Turkey, then IS would lose a big sponsor.”

Turkey benefits from Islamic State because the terrorist group provides it with cheap oil and is fighting both Syria’s government and Kurdish population. This is an opinion shared by both Kurds and their mortal enemies from the jihadist organization. The IS documents obtained by RT may provide additional evidence revealing the dirty game being played by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Syria.


‘Islamophobia’: U.S. cities face anti-Muslim backlash

March 23, 2016

by Mike James and Linda Dono,


WASHINGTON — Cities across the USA are preparing for the next phase that inevitably follows a terror attack: anti-Muslim backlash.

Across social media, in public forums on college campuses, and even in mainstream political rhetoric from presidential candidates, anger over the deadly terror attacks in Brussels has spawned discontent and suspicion directed at Muslim groups. After the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, leaders in California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and spoke out quickly to dissuade anti-Muslim sentiment.

The aftermath of an attack “is always a difficult time for Muslims in the United States,” said Nabil Shaikh, a leader of the Muslim Students Association at Princeton University.

“On Princeton’s campus, students took to anonymous forums like Yik Yak to comment that there are Muslims at Princeton who are radical and would therefore condone yesterday’s attacks,” Shaikh said. “These comments not only are appalling and inaccurate but also threaten the well-being of Muslim students.”

Unlike in Belgium and Paris following the November terror attacks, the backlash in the U.S. is not as confrontational.

Europe has seen occasional anti-Muslim rallies in Flemish cities such as Antwerp and Ghent. Some Muslim leaders have accused police in Europe of overtly targeting Muslim communities in lockdowns and raids of homes.

Muslim communities in the U.S. face opposition more in the form of rhetoric — but in an election year, such rhetoric can lead to sweeping change.

The day of the Brussels attack, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz said that the U.S. needs to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” His comments struck an already raw nerve in Muslim communities throughout the U.S. although Donald Trump praised Cruz’s idea.

President Obama called the approach “wrong and un-American.”

“I just left a country that engages in that kind of surveillance, which by the way the father of Senator Cruz escaped, to America, the land of the free,” he said, referring to Cuba.

Politics plays a role in fostering anti-Islamic sentiment, said Khusro Elley of Chappaqua, N.Y., a trustee at Upper Westchester Muslim Society in Thornwood, N.Y.

The average Muslim still feels intimidated, still feels scared, still feels insecure,” especially in a political climate where it’s become common to depict Muslims as terrorists, he said.

While brutal attacks on Muslims in the United States haven’t been reported to the Council on American-Islamic Relations since the Brussels attack, bullying and hate speech are growing, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Washington-based civil-liberties group.

“For girls, it’s pulling on the hijab and calling them terrorists, and for boys it’s saying that they have a bomb in their backpack and calling them terrorists,” Hooper said. Some politicians make the problems worse. “They really have mainstreamed Islamophobia.”

Children hear the hate speech on TV and hear their parents agreeing with it, he said. Increasingly, they’re taking the language to school.

In Louisville, more than two dozen Islamic leaders gathered Wednesday to condemn the attacks and urge the public not to link all Muslims with terrorism, describing a growing level of Islamophobia.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, a Democrat, called some Republican political candidates’ responses in wake of the Brussels attack “naive and unrealistic.”

“For them to play to people’s basest fears” to gain political support is “contrary to American values,” Fischer said at an interfaith prayer vigil, contending that such candidates are “masquerading as presidential timber.”

Muslims in Louisville haven’t felt fearful, especially since non-Muslim volunteers came out in force to paint over anti-Islam graffiti two days after the Louisville Islamic Center was vandalized Sept. 16, said Mohammed Wasif Iqbal, head of the center. But Iqbal said some have criticized Islamic leaders for not condemning attacks strongly enough.

“We will stand here every single time and condemn it,” he said, arguing that extremists should not define the Islamic religion.

Muhammad Babar, a Louisville Islamic leader with Muslim Americans for Compassion, called the Brussels attack heartbreaking.

“Do not see us through the actions of ISIL,” he said. “We are as American as you are.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Florida chapter has seen a fivefold increase in reports of hate incidents during 2015 compared with 2014, 26 vs. five, said Hassan Shibly, the chapter’s chief executive director. A grand majority occurred in the final two months of the year, after the Paris terrorist attacks.

“Unlike what happens after the mass shootings committed by white supremacists that happen almost daily in America, whenever an act of terrorism involves those who identify themselves as Muslims, politicians respond by calling for the curtailment or the rights of American Muslims,” he said. “Our enemies can never destroy us. We can only destroy ourselves if we allow fear and hate to turn us against each other.”

The national Council on American-Islamic Relations, founded in 1994, called for Cruz to retract his demand for law enforcement to secure Muslim neighborhoods.

“Mr. Cruz’s call for law enforcement to ‘patrol and secure’ neighborhoods in which American Muslim families live is not only unconstitutional, it is unbefitting anyone seeking our nation’s highest office and indicates that he lacks the temperament necessary for any president,” the national council’s executive director, Nihad Awad, said in a statement.

“I do feel that with the attacks in Brussels and especially after Paris, people feel like they are entitled to speak hatefully,” said Maira Salim, president of the Muslim Student Association at Wichita State University. “It’s actually a lot worse than what happened after 9/11. … I’m all for free speech, but hate speech is not OK.”

Contributing: Kevin Wong, Princeton University; Seth Harrison, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News; Chris Kenning, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal; Jennifer Portman, Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat; Kevin Brown, Wichita State University


Plane parts ‘almost certainly’ from missing MH370

Australia has concluded that debris found along the coast of Mozambique is likely from missing flight MH370. The discovery could provide a much-needed clue as to what happened to the Malaysia Airlines plane.

March 24, 2016


Australia said on Thursday that the plane debris almost certainly belonged to MH370, which vanished without a trace two years ago along with its 239 passengers.

The first fragment was found earlier this month by an American explorer in Mozambique. After Seattle lawyer Blaine Gibson’s discovery was publicized, a South African teenager who had also found a piece of the plane went public as well.

“The analysis has concluded the debris is almost certainly from MH370,” said Darren Chester, Australia’s minister for infrastructure and transport.

Confirmation of theory

Chester said the discoveries confirmed earlier theories that parts of the plane likely drifted toward Africa after supposedly crashing in the Indian Ocean.

The first major breakthrough in the investigation came when a wing from a Boeing 777 – the model of the MH370 plane – washed ashore on an island in the Indian Ocean.

Investigators are still hoping to locate the plane’s black boxes, or flight recorders, which are likely somewhere at the bottom of the ocean.

blc/jr (AP, Reuters)


Turkish tourism and economy struggle due to bombings, Russia chill

March 23, 2016

by Nevzat Devranoglu and Ece Toksabay


Ankara-Suicide bombings in Istanbul, a row with the Kremlin and hard times for the Russian middle class – all these factors spell trouble for Turkey’s tourist industry and its wider economy.

Nowhere is the mood gloomier than among shopkeepers in Istanbul, Turkey’s cultural gem and scene last weekend of the second suicide attack on tourists in the city this year.

“There’s zero business now,” said one clerk at a clothing store near the medieval Galata Tower, a top destination for foreign visitors.

“Everyone is nervous,” chimed in his friend a few hours after the attack – blamed by the government on Islamic State – which killed three Israelis and an Iranian in Istanbul’s most popular shopping district.

Their feeling that business, already bad, can only get worse is understandable. In January, an Islamist militant blew himself up near the fabled Blue Mosque, killing 12 people from Germany – which traditionally accounts for the largest number of visitors to Turkey.

Economists forecast that tourism revenue will tumble by a quarter this year, costing the country around $8 billion.

The risk is that better off tourists such as Germans will choose to take their holidays elsewhere while Russians, Turkish tourism’s number two market, will be forced to stay away due to an economic crisis at home and political tensions following Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane in November.

Overall visitor numbers to Turkey fell a relatively modest 1.6 percent last year, according to Tourism Ministry data.

But the signs are not good before the May to October peak season, when Turkey usually earns around 70 percent of its tourism revenues.


Unfortunately for Turkey, tourists from the richest countries, who tend to be the biggest spenders, are also the most easily spooked by security worries.

“Security concerns have the biggest impact on high-income tourist groups, who are most likely to change their plans to visit,” said Mehmet Besimoglu, an economist at Oyak Investment.

German travel group TUI has reported a 40 percent drop in summer bookings for holidays in Turkey and the picture for Britain, the number three market, is uncertain.

British holiday company Thomas Cook said more of its customers were opting to holiday in Spain, as well as the United States and Cuba. Fewer wanted to go to Turkey, it added.

Altogether Turkey has suffered four suicide bombings this year, bringing the death toll to more than 80. The other two, claimed by an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), struck the capital, Ankara, which relatively few tourists visit.

The violence is not new. Islamic State has also been blamed for bomb attacks last year that killed more than 130 people.

While these were in Ankara and near the Syrian border, the effect on tourism – which accounts for about 4.5 percent of the $800 billion economy and provides more than one million jobs – has already been felt.

Last year, for instance, the number of Italians visiting Turkey decreased by 27 percent while Japanese dropped off by nearly 40 percent.

Now, economists say, the drop-off in tourism is so pronounced it could have a broad economic impact. They estimate an $8 billion fall in revenue would knock more than half a percentage point off economic growth, which the government is targeting at 4.5 percent for this year.

With tourism accounting for more than half of Turkey’s current account earnings last year, this would also spell trouble for the central bank’s hopes that the deficit can be brought down from a yawning 4.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2015.

Some economists believe tourism could prove an even bigger drag on the economy. “If terrorist attacks continue and things get worse, the impact could be as high as one percentage point being deducted from economic growth,” said Muammer Komurcuoglu, economist at Is Invest.That would be unwelcome news for President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party, which is keen to show the economy is on track despite the insecurity.


Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has announced a plan to offer emergency support to the tourism sector, including a 255 million lira ($87 million) grant and a facility to allow firms to restructure their debt. It is unclear whether that will help.

Turkey is no longer able to rely on Russians seeking sunshine and southern beaches as a back-up due to the combined effects of economics and politics.

Middle class Russians have been hit hard by an economic crisis caused by the weak price of oil, the country’s main export earner, and Western sanctions imposed over the Ukraine crisis.

One result has been a dive in the Russian currency which has made foreign holidays, including in Turkey, much more expensive. Two years ago, Russians needed just over 15 roubles to buy a Turkish lira; now they need almost 24.

On top of that has come the chill in relations between Ankara and Moscow. President Vladimir Putin signed a series of punitive economic sanctions against Turkey, including a ban on charter flights, in retaliation for its shooting down of the Russian warplane near the border with Syria.

The biggest impact from the sanctions would be to tourism, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has said.

Numbers of Russian tourists declined by nearly a million last year, to 3.6 million. That could get even worse this year, said Ercan Erguzel, an economist at Morgan Stanley.

“Based on our talks with sector representatives, we have the impression that number of Russian tourists may even fall to below 1 million in 2016 in the most extreme scenario,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Dasha Afanasieva in Istanbul,; Editing by David Dolan and David Stamp)


Court asks: Do police need a warrant to track your cellphone for months at a time?

March 22, 2016

by Ann E. Marimow

The Washington Post

When high-powered rifle shots shattered a Florida judge’s living-room window and glass door, federal agents narrowed the list of suspects by pulling their cellphone records. After two California college students were fatally shot in a car parked close to campus, cellphone data put the suspects near the crime scene at the time of the shooting.

Investigators in Maryland pulled seven months of phone records to track the movements of two men later convicted in armed robberies around Baltimore.

Law enforcement officials have long relied on location details gleaned from cellphone towers as a powerful tool for tracing steps of suspects, particularly in the early stages of investigations.

But civil liberties groups and privacy advocates are increasingly challenging the practice. They are concerned that police and federal agents can too easily tap vast caches of information about people’s movements through devices most Americans carry in their pockets — trackings that could show how often someone goes to a doctor’s office, to a casino or to church.

Legislators on Capitol Hill have proposed updates to federal statutes, but no standardized rules exist for scooping up location data. Instead, local and federal investigators rely on a patchwork of state laws and inconsistent court rulings.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday will be the latest front in the legal debate, in the case that involves the Baltimore robberies.

The issue before a full panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Maryland and Virginia, is whether investigators need a search warrant before they can track suspects’ long-term movements through their cellphones.

A three-judge panel of that court, based in Richmond, ruled in August that accessing the location information without a warrant for an “extended period” is unconstitutional because it allows law enforcement to trace a person’s comings and goings across public and private spaces.

But two other federal appellate courts — in Florida and New Orleans — concluded that warrants are not necessary

If the full 4th Circuit upholds its panel’s 2-to-1 decision, there would be a clear split with the other federal appeals courts. That type of divide often attracts the attention of the Supreme Court, which has already expressed concern about the effect of long-term surveillance by law enforcement on individual privacy.

“There is a sense that judges and others have that electronic evidence [collection] presents a risk to privacy that other forms of evidence don’t. That anxiety is a thread through these court decisions,” said former federal prosecutor Jason M. Weinstein, who oversaw cybercrime and organized-crime enforcement in the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Texting, calling, and checking email or the weather from a cellphone generally involves connecting with the closest communications tower. Wireless providers log and retain records showing which tower a phone used at the beginning and end of every call, and increasingly, for texts and data connections.

In the Baltimore case being heard Wednesday by as many as 16 judges on the court, police obtained 221 days of data from the wireless provider of robbery suspect Aaron Graham. The 30,000 location points generated for his phone enabled authorities to map his whereabouts before and after two of six robberies and to corroborate evidence during a 2012 trial. Graham and co-conspirator Eric Jordan were sentenced to decades in prison.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has signed on in support of the pair’s appeal, took the records analysis even further and showed that authorities also could have connected the dots to place Graham at the office of his pregnant wife’s obstetrician.

“The more of this data you have, the more you are able to peer into the patterns of somebody’s life,” said Nathan Wessler, an ACLU lawyer who wrote a brief in support of the defendants that was joined by other groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

“We’re talking private locations and private information. We want the police to have to jump through a few hoops,” Wessler said. “That’s what protects us.”

The debate in court this week is over how high to set the hurdle.

Until recently, law enforcement officials had little trouble obtaining the cell-tower records with a court order, which requires them to provide less rigorous information than they would need to get a search warrant.

The distinction is a vital one to law enforcement.

A court order clears the way to the cell-tower records that early in an investigation are the building blocks needed to reach the gold standard of probable cause required for more-intrusive searches.

Without that early access through court orders, former prosecutors say, it will be more difficult to zero in on suspects and rule out others.

“There’s no question there will be crimes that are not solved,” said Weinstein, who also prosecuted violent crimes in Baltimore. “This is a stand the government has to make.”

In a series of recent Supreme Court decisions, the court signaled that digital devices are different when it comes to Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure because of the vast amounts of personal information stored on phones and tablets.

As a result, Justice Department policy now requires a warrant in most cases before agents install GPS-tracking devices on vehicles. Investigators generally must also obtain a warrant to operate cellphone-data collectors, called cell-site simulators or Stingrays,that are facing legal challenges, including in the nation’s capital.

The department generally distinguishes between real-time, pinpoint surveillance and the type of historical business records obtained in the Maryland armed-robberies case. The more precise the information and intrusive the search, the stronger the privacy interests and the higher the legal standard, according to Richard W. Downing, acting deputy assistant attorney general, who testified this month before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Law enforcement officials say the cellphone records in the Baltimore case are no different from landline telephone records or banking transactions that authorities have long been able to obtain without a warrant because the documents are business or “third party” records.

“When the government obtains historical cell-site records, it is not monitoring ongoing events; instead it is obtaining information concerning past events that was previously collected by a third party,” according to Maryland prosecutors whose argument won support from the dissenting judge on the initial panel.

In a sign of the importance of the data to investigators, the government’s case will be argued by Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

No matter which side prevails in the 4th Circuit, the final ruling could still be bad news for Graham and Jordan, the men in the Baltimore robbery case.

Even the initial panel of judges that sided with the defendants on the cell-tracking issue ultimately upheld their convictions, saying police had acted in good faith under the current rules.

The panel’s finding that warrants were needed applied to law enforcement requests going forward for the cell-tower data.


Erik Prince in the Hot Seat

Blackwater’s Founder Is Under Investigation for Money Laundering, Ties to Chinese Intel, and Brokering Mercenary Services

March 24. 2016

by Matthew Cole and Jeremly Scahill

The Interecept

Erik Prince, founder of the now-defunct mercenary firm Blackwater and current chairman of Frontier Services Group, is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal agencies for attempting to broker military services to foreign governments and possible money laundering, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the case.

What began as an investigation into Prince’s attempts to sell defense services in Libya and other countries in Africa has widened to a probe of allegations that Prince received assistance from Chinese intelligence to set up an account for his Libya operations through the Bank of China. The Justice Department, which declined to comment for this article, is also seeking to uncover the precise nature of Prince’s relationship with Chinese intelligence.

Prince, through his lawyer, Victoria Toensing, said he has not been informed of a federal investigation and had not offered any defense services in Libya. Toensing called the money-laundering allegations “total bullshit.”

The Intercept interviewed more than a half dozen of Prince’s associates, including current and former business partners; four former U.S. intelligence officers; and other sources familiar with the Justice Department investigation. All of them requested anonymity to discuss these matters because there is an ongoing investigation. The Intercept also reviewed several secret proposals drafted by Prince and his closest advisers and partners offering paramilitary services to foreign entities.

For more than a year, U.S. intelligence has been monitoring Prince’s communications and movements, according to a former senior U.S. intelligence officer and a second former intelligence official briefed on the investigation. Multiple sources, including two people with business ties to Prince, told The Intercept that current government and intelligence personnel informed them of this surveillance. Those with business ties were cautioned to sever their dealings with Prince.

Erik Prince Sought to Recreate a Blackwater-Style Operation

In 2010, amid public scandals and government investigations, Prince began to sell off his Blackwater empire. Using new vehicles, he continued to engage in controversial private security ventures, including operations in Somalia and the United Arab Emirates. Eventually, the former Navy SEAL and self-proclaimed American patriot began building close business ties with powerful individuals connected to the Chinese Communist Party. In January 2014, Prince officially went into business with the Chinese government’s largest state-owned investment firm, the Citic Group, and founded Frontier Services Group, which is based in Hong Kong. Citic Group is the company’s single largest investor, and two of FSG’s board members are Chinese nationals.

Despite the provenance of FSG’s funding and Prince’s history of bad publicity, Prince was able to recruit an impressive line-up of former U.S. military and intelligence officers to run the company. Key to Prince’s ability to retain such personnel, given FSG’s ties to China, has been the firm’s strictly circumscribed mission, which does not include military-related services. FSG is a publicly traded aviation and logistics firm specializing in shipping in Africa and elsewhere. The company also conducts high-risk evacuations from conflict zones. Prince has described his work with FSG as being “on the side of peace and economic development” and helping Chinese businesses to work safely in Africa.

But behind the back of corporate leadership at FSG, Prince was living a double life.

Working with a small cadre of loyalists — including a former South African commando, a former Australian air force pilot, and a lawyer with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Israel — Prince sought to secretly rebuild his private CIA and special operations enterprise by setting up foreign shell companies and offering paramilitary services, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept and interviews with several people familiar with Prince’s business proposals.

Several of the proposals for private security services in African nations examined by The Intercept contained metadata in the digital files showing Prince and his inner circle editing and revising various drafts.

Since 2014, Prince has traveled to at least half a dozen countries to offer various versions of a private military force, secretly meeting with a string of African officials. Among the countries where Prince pitched a plan to deploy paramilitary assets is Libya, which is currently subject to an array of U.S. and United Nations financial and defense restrictions.

Prince engaged in these activities over the objections of his own firm’s corporate leadership. Several FSG colleagues accused him of using his role as chairman to offer Blackwater-like services to foreign governments that could not have been provided by the company, which lacks the capacity, expertise, or even the legal authority to do so.

FSG’s CEO, Gregg Smith, a decorated former U.S. Marine who deployed twice to Beirut in the 1980s, vehemently denies the firm’s complicity in any such efforts by Prince. “FSG has no involvement whatsoever with the provision of — or even offering to provide — defense services in Libya,” Smith told The Intercept. “To the extent that anyone has proposed such services and purported that they were representing FSG, that activity is unauthorized and is not accepted or agreed to by the company.”

Smith said that any proposals advanced by Prince in Libya were not made on behalf of FSG, explaining that the company “has strict protocols in place and has a board-level committee to review any high-risk project, which would certainly include any proposal” involving Libya.

“He’s a rogue chairman,” said one of Prince’s close associates, who has monitored his attempts to sell mercenary forces in Africa.

That source, who has extensive knowledge of Prince’s activities and travel schedule, said that Prince was operating a “secret skunkworks program” while parading around war and crisis zones as FSG’s founder and chairman. “Erik wants to be a real, no-shit mercenary,” said the source. “He’s off the rails exposing many U.S. citizens to criminal liabilities. Erik hides in the shadows … and uses [FSG] for legitimacy.”

Last October, FSG’s corporate leadership grew so concerned about Prince’s efforts to sell paramilitary programs and services that the board passed a series of resolutions stripping Prince of most of his responsibilities as chairman.

FSG also terminated the contracts of two of Prince’s closest associates within the company after management became suspicious that they were assisting Prince in his unapproved dealings, according to two people with knowledge of FSG’s inner workings. Smith declined to comment on internal FSG personnel matters.

In recent months, FSG employees became alarmed when they began to hear reports from sources within the U.S. government that their chairman’s communications and foreign travel were being monitored by U.S. intelligence. According to three people who have worked with Prince, his colleagues were warned not to get involved with his business deals or discuss sensitive issues with him. “I would assume that just about every intelligence agency in the world has him lit up on their screen,” said one of the people advised to avoid Prince.

Operation Lima: Prince Exploited Refugee Crisis to Peddle Paramilitary Services in Libya

Prince developed the paramilitary services proposal for Libyan officials in 2013, before FSG was created, according to documents and two people familiar with the pitch. He made several trips to Libya to meet with government officials there.

The Libyan proposal, reviewed by The Intercept, was code-named Operation Lima. It offered the Libyans an array of military equipment and services — including weaponized vehicles, helicopters, boats, and surveillance airplanes — to help stabilize eastern Libya. The ground force, according to a person involved with the plan, would consist of a troop of former Australian special operations commandos. Given the instability of the government and Prince’s inability to navigate complex Libyan factions to vet potential partners, he had trouble finding the right power brokers to help sell the proposal.

By May 2015, Prince had rebranded himself and claimed a legitimate public reputation as FSG’s chairman. Without the approval of FSG’s management, he returned to Libya offering a freshly repackaged proposal, according to a person involved with the plan. Rather than a counterinsurgency force, Prince proposed a similar set of equipment and services, but with a new justification: The mercenaries would be there to engage in border security.

According to an internal slide presentation, Prince’s private force would operate in Libya for the stated purpose of stopping the flow of refugees to Europe. Libya is one of the main routes for migrants trying to enter Europe from eastern Africa and parts of the central Sahel region.

Prince told colleagues that he received preliminary approval for the border force from a senior Libyan official, but would need to secure European support to loosen up restrictions on Libyan money and weapons, which would otherwise impede the plan, according to a person who discussed the proposal with Prince.

By exploiting European fears of a mass exodus from the Middle East and North Africa, Prince believed he could obtain political buy-in from Europe to bring a foreign force into Libya.

Prince arranged a meeting in Germany to pitch the plan and also shared the proposal with the Italian government, according to two people familiar with his drive to drum up support for Operation Lima. In Italy, Prince found only lukewarm interest, according to a person with knowledge of the effort. The Intercept was unable to confirm the German response.

Prince’s May 2015 proposal for the Libya operations suggested, “Funding can be jointly shared by the EU and Libyan government from Libyan Investment Authority money frozen in European Banks.”

However, according to two people involved in the proposal, Prince grew frustrated with the failure to get European help in releasing the frozen Libyan funds, and began looking for other ways to get his border force funded.

By then, the U.S. government was already investigating Prince for possible weapons deals in Africa, according to the former senior U.S. intelligence official and the former intelligence official briefed on the matter. In the course of the surveillance operation for that investigation, U.S. intercepts revealed Prince appearing to discuss efforts to open bank accounts in China to help his Libyan associates.

“Money laundering for Libyan officials using a Chinese bank — that is the issue that pushed it over the edge” for the Justice Department, said the second former intelligence official.

The U.S. spies monitoring Prince soon discovered that he had traveled to the Chinese-controlled peninsula of Macau in an effort to open a bank account, according to two people familiar with the investigation. A well-connected source within the Macau banking community told The Intercept that Prince first attempted to open an account at the Macau branch of a European-connected bank, but was denied after a review by the bank’s European headquarters.

Later, Prince traveled to Beijing, where he met with Chinese agents from the Ministry of State Security, according to the second former intelligence official and a source familiar with the meeting.

In January, Prince returned to Macau and opened an account at the Bank of China, according to several sources, including the second former intelligence official and the source with close connections to Macau’s banking community.

“It was not a personal account,” said the former U.S. intelligence official briefed on the investigation. “He was doing it for the purpose of what is considered now — in the investigation — money laundering on behalf of the Libyans.”

The CEO of FSG China is a former Chinese security official who was once described by a defense trade publication as “Prince’s right-hand man in China, oiling the wheels of his relationship with the government.”

“If Erik is fucking around with the Chinese, I don’t even want to imagine what the U.S. government is thinking about,” said Prince’s close associate with in-depth knowledge of his activities.

Toensing, Prince’s lawyer, confirmed that Prince successfully opened an account with the Bank of China. “He opened an account on behalf of a business,” she said. Toensing declined to say for which business he opened the account, but said that it complied with U.S. banking regulations. “This is not an FSG bank account,” a spokesperson for FSG told The Intercept.

As for Prince’s alleged meetings with Chinese intelligence, Toensing confirmed that Prince had met with internal security officials in Beijing, but claimed it was in connection to medical evacuation operations. Toensing was unable to answer allegations that Chinese intelligence assisted Prince in setting up a bank account in Macau because she could not reach Prince, whom she said was not in the United States. “What he told me about visiting China was that he was there selling his book and he’s given various speeches there,” she said.

While Prince’s re-invented Libya “border security” proposal was framed as a means of stopping migration, sources with knowledge of Prince’s business strategy allege that he had greater ambitions in that country. One person involved in Prince’s plan said the anti-migration force was seen as a vehicle for Prince to build a “backdoor” for so-called kinetic, or lethal, operations in Libya — a form of mercenary mission-creep. “During the day, you do interdiction of migrants — not kinetic,” said the person involved in the plan. “But those routes are used by weapons smugglers and drug traffickers at night. Insurgents too. Erik’s guys can then be offered to the Libyans to help with their other problems. That’s how you get kinetic.”

The plan called for a series of “border security” bases housing intelligence centers, helicopters, surveillance airplanes, and weaponized vehicles. Prince proposed a fully equipped, contemporary military force to be staffed in part by foreign mercenaries.

“This is Erik Prince using the refugee crisis in Europe in an effort to put mercenaries on the ground in Libya,” said Malcolm Nance, a former U.S. Naval officer who trained special operations forces and has extensive experience in Libya since the fall of Qaddafi. “They think they’re going to solve the migration problem with technology and a bunch of Western mercenaries?” Nance, who reviewed a copy of Prince’s plan provided by The Intercept, called the proposal “fantasy baseball.”

Government Investigation Focuses on Violations of U.S. Defense Export Regulations

Among the concerns of government investigators is that Prince’s attempts to provide defense-related services to Libya and other countries violate U.S. defense export regulations. Under federal law, U.S. citizens seeking to offer military services or technologies to Libya must have a license certifying that the services or articles are approved under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR. “Many of these services and articles are designed to kill people or defend against killing people,” said John Barker, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for export controls. “To protect U.S. national security and foreign policy as well as that of its allies, the U.S. requires prior authorization.”

FSG officials told The Intercept that the company has no such licenses, nor has it sought them. “Since our inception, FSG has had bright-line policies against the provision of defense services and the purchase of U.S.-origin items that might be ITAR-controlled,” said Smith, the CEO of FSG.

The State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls, which issues the licenses, told The Intercept that it would not comment on what licenses companies possess or lack, calling them “proprietary corporate data,” and asserted that information on the licenses is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The Intercept has a long-standing FOIA request with the State Department seeking information on licenses granted to Prince and his former network of companies. To date, no information has been provided.

According to documents reviewed by The Intercept, as recently as 2014, Prince was registered as a defense services broker with the State Department through a limited liability corporation in Delaware, Westcomi LLC. That registration would permit Prince to engage in brokering without further authorization for some transactions in some countries, but not in Libya. Even with a valid brokering registration, according to legal experts, Prince would still need to get State Department approval for specific deals and report them to the U.S. government. “He could not solicit or promote the brokering of defense articles such as armored equipment delivered from abroad, or engage in or make a proposal to engage in brokering activities, absent prior U.S. government approval,” said Barker, the former state department official.

An FSG official said the company did not know if Prince obtained a license for his activities in Libya, but noted that he did not have one in his capacity as FSG’s chairman. One of Prince’s Libya proposals reviewed by The Intercept lists FSG as the commercial vendor for the project.

Last October, concerned about Prince’s unsanctioned international activities, FSG’s board approved a resolution clarifying that the company does not “engage in activities that require ITAR licenses.” A State Department spokesperson declined to comment, saying, “We are restricted under Federal Regulations from commenting on specific defense trade export licensing activities.”

Prince’s lawyer, Victoria Toensing, told The Intercept: “I’m not going to get into what licenses [Prince] has.”

“You push the buttons on the company, but the main bad guy gets away and does it again,” said an official who tried to prosecute Prince.

Prince has run up against ITAR in the past. In 2010, Prince sold most of his equity in the companies that fell under the Blackwater umbrella. Claiming that left-wing activists, Democratic politicians, and lawsuits had destroyed his companies, he left the United States and became a resident of Abu Dhabi. The remnant of his network was renamed Academi LLC. Federal prosecutors eventually attempted to prosecute Prince’s former companies, culminating in a 2012 deferred prosecution agreement to settle a lengthy list of U.S. legal and regulatory violations committed from 2005 through 2008 when Prince was in charge, including ITAR violations.A senior official involved with the Blackwater-related litigation, who has since left the government, told The Intercept that the Obama administration’s continued willingness to award contracts to former Blackwater entities while the case was active was a fatal impediment to a successful prosecution. The official, comparing the former Blackwater empire to a drug syndicate, added that prosecutors could not get anyone under Prince to testify against him personally. “This is very much the concern,” the former official told The Intercept. “You push the buttons on the company, but the main bad guy gets away and does it again.”

No criminal charges were filed against Prince.

In federal court filings, Prince’s former companies admitted to providing — on numerous occasions during Prince’s tenure — defense goods and services to foreign governments without the required State Department licensing. In some cases, they admitted to providing services even after failing to obtain a license from the State Department.

As part of their settlement with the government, Prince’s companies ultimately agreed to pay nearly $50 million in fines and other penalties and to implement compliance procedures to ensure such illegal activities did not continue. In September 2015, the deferred charges were dismissed after the U.S. government certified that the companies had “fully complied” with all of its conditions.

At that point, Prince was already deep into creating new companies registered outside of the United States and appeared poised to return to the conduct that had marked his time at the helm of Blackwater.

An internal document from Prince’s inner circle, reviewed by The Intercept, shows his team openly discussing the need to avoid U.S. and international defense export regulations and to mask the involvement of Prince and his cohort in efforts to provide mercenary services and military equipment to foreign governments. “Erik is always pressing the limits as to what is possible,” said the close associate of Prince’s.

Project November: Prince Offered Services to Nigeria to Fight Boko Haram

Several of the proposals for paramilitary services Prince has shopped around the world called for the use of a foreign force to conduct operations, according to the proposals and a person familiar with Prince’s plans. These documents, including one for Nigeria, were not authorized or approved by FSG and do not exist on any of its internal computer systems, according to company officials.

Prince has long been interested in raising a private military force to battle Islamic militant groups in a variety of countries. In 2014, he traveled to Nigeria and met personally with then-President Goodluck Jonathan to offer a $1.5 billion proposal to wipe out the radical Islamic group Boko Haram, according to a person familiar with Prince’s meeting. “It was a proposal to fix roads,” Toensing, Prince’s lawyer, said in a phone interview. “It was for fixing roads and not military related.”

But the internal proposals Prince and his team drafted, reviewed by The Intercept, offered a markedly different set of services than street repairs. They explicitly promised to confront the sabotage and theft of Nigerian oil, provide VIP protection for Nigerian officials, and engage in counterinsurgency activities. Code-named Project November, the Nigeria plans were originally created with the FSG logo, though the company’s emblem was omitted from the plan presented to the Nigerians.

Nigeria later hired Eeben Barlow, the legendary South African special forces mercenary — and Prince’s longtime business rival — to conduct a three-month operation inside the country to fight Boko Haram. Two sources close to Prince said that, as Prince saw it, Barlow had taken his plan and effectively stole the contract. “Erik was smokin’ hot” over that, said one of the sources.

In recent months, Gregg Smith and some members of FSG’s board, which includes retired Adm. William Fallon, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, began examining the possibility that Prince’s unauthorized activities could lead to a criminal indictment or other sanctions against the FSG chairman by the U.S. government. Toensing dismissed the notion Prince had broken any laws. “When he has legitimate business, he does legitimate business,” she said.

According to multiple sources familiar with Prince’s activities, as well as documents reviewed by The Intercept, Prince is considering an invitation to speak at a conference later this month in China sponsored by the country’s main domestic security organization, the Ministry of Public Security.

Internally, FSG executives determined that any presentations by the company’s U.S. citizen personnel at the conference could potentially violate U.S. laws against providing defense advice to China. Smith issued a directive that no U.S. personnel from FSG were authorized to attend. Erik Prince, Smith told his staff, would need to make his own decision.

Research: Sheelagh McNeill, John Thomason, Margot Williams, Josh Begley







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