TBR News May 15, 2011

May 15 2011

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., May 15, 2011: “Someone, unknown, has sent out a computer disc containing hundreds of emails, some from high level U.S. intelligence sources, concerning the background and activities of WilkLeaks. Our government has been frantically squashing any press reference to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and threatening to charge the Australian citizen with treason to the United States! Many of the emails concern technical matters such as hiding sources and masking methodology but many others are obviously from U.S. government officials and many to other agencies as well as messaging to Assange himself.

At one point, the WikiLeaks people had approached John Young, a New York architect, who runs ‘Cryptome,’ which also purports to make “secret” government documents public. The file is full of the Cryptome correspondence and shows great interest on the part of Mr. Young to learn as much as he could about the Assange group. This is followed by a sudden reversal of attitude in which Mr. Young attempts to discredit WikiLeans, hinting it is “nothing but a CIA front.”

Now, I will publish a most interesting sending. It is from a very high level Department of State official to Assange and concerning his connections with Mr. Young. This also reveals something very interesting about Mr. Assange:

7 January 2007 [I have redacted the headings and will publish them later.]

J.(ulian ed) Be very careful of Young. He is not friendly to you at all. If he finds out about your connections, he will do his best to discredit you and WL. John is an asset of the Company and has been for some time. He is doing for them what you are doing for IPTO. Also, John is not well-balanced. He get into things, is supportive but when he sees you getting real fame, and most especially, fortune, he will turn on you. Be careful what inside information you send him and send coded warnings about this to your key people. The Company kept jya at a distance mostly but he is receptive to their needs. Just a heads up!

The sender is talking about John Young who runs Cryptome, an alleged “leak” site. The IPTO mentioned in the text is The Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) of DARPA, an adjunct of the Army! There are more references to Assange’s DoD employment that are explosive in that they clearly reveal a major, clandestine, war going on between the U.S. Army, its intelligence sources and the CIA. The Army saw, and sees, the CIA (aka ‘the Company’) as destabilizing foreign areas that eventually lead to situations that the Army has to become involved in i.e. Afghanistan, Iraq, etc so their program has been, and is, to offset the CIA’s disruptive campaigns (like the so-called ‘Orange Revolution’ in the Ukraine) by disrupting their plans.

More on this later.

Also, consider the Stuxtnet situation. A CIA-Mossad joint venture to disrupt Iranian atomic programs but used by the CIA for other programs. Much on this as well.

A huge file that must be carefully edited to take out trivial messages and organize into a coherent narrative.More to come!”

The DOJ and the Ensign-Hampton Affair

May 13, 2011

by Scott Horton


Yesterday, the Senate Ethics Committee released the fruits of its long-anticipated investigation into senator John Ensign (R., Nev.), who resigned last month in order to avoid being deposed by the committee’s counsel.

The report makes clear that Ensign’s resignation served another purpose: had he stayed on, he would have been the first senator since Indiana’s Jesse D. Bright in 1862 to face expulsion for ethics infractions. The committee has composed a compelling, well-written, and meticulously documented indictment of the abuse of power by a man who was once frequently mentioned as a presidential prospect. Its account is also striking for its bipartisanship, something Congress has managed only very rarely in ethics matters the past few decades.

Extensive summaries and commentary on the investigation’s results have been furnished by several web writers, most notably at Talking Points Memo. I won’t attempt to add my own summary, but I do want to juxtapose the report’s conclusions with the “investigations” undertaken by the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission, both of which closed their files without taking action against Ensign, at a time when even newspaper accounts pointed to the likelihood of criminal conduct.

Alarmingly, the Justice Department not only failed to act against Ensign, it actually indicted Doug Hampton, Ensign’s former senior staffer, who was clearly a victim of Ensign’s predatory conduct and who had blown the whistle on him. The new report does suggest that Hampton may have engaged in improper lobbying activities, with Ensign’s connivance. But it also makes clear that Hampton’s statements about what happened were truthful and complete, whereas Ensign’s were often cleverly misleading, and sometimes rank falsehoods. In this context, the Justice Department’s decision—to prosecute the victim who spoke with candor and against his own interests, and let the malefactor who lied about his conduct go free—is perverse. It is also completely in line with recent Justice Department pubic integrity prosecutions, which have displayed an unseemly appetite for political intrigue and an irrepressible desire to accommodate the powerful.

With the senate committee’s referral, the Justice Department will be required to take a second look at the matter. It should start that process by asking itself how it got things so embarrassingly wrong the first time, and should resist the temptation to defend its past mistakes.

Secret Desert Force Set Up by Blackwater’s Founder

May 14, 2011

by Mark Mazettl and Emily B. Hager

New York Times

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Late one night last November, a plane carrying dozens of Colombian men touched down in this glittering seaside capital. Whisked through customs by an Emirati intelligence officer, the group boarded an unmarked bus and drove roughly 20 miles to a windswept military complex in the desert sand.

The Colombians had entered the United Arab Emirates posing as construction workers. In fact, they were soldiers for a secret American-led mercenary army being built by Erik Prince, the billionaire founder of Blackwater Worldwide, with $529 million from the oil-soaked sheikdom.

Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.

The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest or were challenged by pro-democracy demonstrations in its crowded labor camps or democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.

The U.A.E.’s rulers, viewing their own military as inadequate, also hope that the troops could blunt the regional aggression of Iran, the country’s biggest foe, the former employees said. The training camp, located on a sprawling Emirati base called Zayed Military City, is hidden behind concrete walls laced with barbed wire. Photographs show rows of identical yellow temporary buildings, used for barracks and mess halls, and a motor pool, which houses Humvees and fuel trucks. The Colombians, along with South African and other foreign troops, are trained by retired American soldiers and veterans of the German and British special operations units and the French Foreign Legion, according to the former employees and American officials.

In outsourcing critical parts of their defense to mercenaries — the soldiers of choice for medieval kings, Italian Renaissance dukes and African dictators — the Emiratis have begun a new era in the boom in wartime contracting that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And by relying on a force largely created by Americans, they have introduced a volatile element in an already combustible region where the United States is widely viewed with suspicion.

The United Arab Emirates — an autocracy with the sheen of a progressive, modern state — are closely allied with the United States, and American officials indicated that the battalion program had some support in Washington.

“The gulf countries, and the U.A.E. in particular, don’t have a lot of military experience. It would make sense if they looked outside their borders for help,” said one Obama administration official who knew of the operation. “They might want to show that they are not to be messed with.”

Still, it is not clear whether the project has the United States’ official blessing. Legal experts and government officials said some of those involved with the battalion might be breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.

Mark C. Toner, a spokesman for the department, would not confirm whether Mr. Prince’s company had obtained such a license, but he said the department was investigating to see if the training effort was in violation of American laws. Mr. Toner pointed out that Blackwater (which renamed itself Xe Services ) paid $42 million in fines last year for training foreign troops in Jordan and other countries over the years.

The U.A.E.’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, declined to comment for this article. A spokesman for Mr. Prince also did not comment.

For Mr. Prince, the foreign battalion is a bold attempt at reinvention. He is hoping to build an empire in the desert, far from the trial lawyers, Congressional investigators and Justice Department officials he is convinced worked in league to portray Blackwater as reckless. He sold the company last year, but in April, a federal appeals court reopened the case against four Blackwater guards accused of killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

To help fulfill his ambitions, Mr. Prince’s new company, Reflex Responses, obtained another multimillion-dollar contract to protect a string of planned nuclear power plants and to provide cybersecurity. He hopes to earn billions more, the former employees said, by assembling additional battalions of Latin American troops for the Emiratis and opening a giant complex where his company can train troops for other governments.

Knowing that his ventures are magnets for controversy, Mr. Prince has masked his involvement with the mercenary battalion. His name is not included on contracts and most other corporate documents, and company insiders have at times tried to hide his identity by referring to him by the code name “Kingfish.” But three former employees, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements, and two people involved in security contracting described Mr. Prince’s central role.

The former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.

Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.

A Lucrative Deal

Last spring, as waiters in the lobby of the Park Arjaan by Rotana Hotel passed by carrying cups of Turkish coffee, a small team of Blackwater and American military veterans huddled over plans for the foreign battalion. Armed with a black suitcase stuffed with several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of dirhams, the local currency, they began paying the first bills.

The company, often called R2, was licensed last March with 51 percent local ownership, a typical arrangement in the Emirates. It received about $21 million in start-up capital from the U.A.E., the former employees said.

Mr. Prince made the deal with Sheik Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The two men had known each other for several years, and it was the prince’s idea to build a foreign commando force for his country.

Savvy and pro-Western, the prince was educated at the Sandhurst military academy in Britain and formed close ties with American military officials. He is also one of the region’s staunchest hawks on Iran and is skeptical that his giant neighbor across the Strait of Hormuz will give up its nuclear program.

“He sees the logic of war dominating the region, and this thinking explains his near-obsessive efforts to build up his armed forces,” said a November 2009 cable from the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi that was obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.

For Mr. Prince, a 41-year-old former member of the Navy Seals, the battalion was an opportunity to turn vision into reality. At Blackwater, which had collected billions of dollars in security contracts from the United States government, he had hoped to build an army for hire that could be deployed to crisis zones in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He even had proposed that the Central Intelligence Agency use his company for special operations missions around the globe, but to no avail. In Abu Dhabi, which he praised in an Emirati newspaper interview last year for its “pro-business” climate, he got another chance.

Mr. Prince’s exploits, both real and rumored, are the subject of fevered discussions in the private security world. He has worked with the Emirati government on various ventures in the past year, including an operation using South African mercenaries to train Somalis to fight pirates. There was talk, too, that he was hatching a scheme last year to cap the Icelandic volcano then spewing ash across Northern Europe.

The team in the hotel lobby was led by Ricky Chambers, known as C. T., a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had worked for Mr. Prince for years; most recently, he had run a program training Afghan troops for a Blackwater subsidiary called Paravant.

He was among the half-dozen or so Americans who would serve as top managers of the project, receiving nearly $300,000 in annual compensation. Mr. Chambers and Mr. Prince soon began quietly luring American contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq and other danger spots with pay packages that topped out at more than $200,000 a year, according to a budget document. Many of those who signed on as trainers — which eventually included more than 40 veteran American, European and South African commandos — did not know of Mr. Prince’s involvement, the former employees said.

Mr. Chambers did not respond to requests for comment.

He and Mr. Prince also began looking for soldiers. They lined up Thor Global Enterprises, a company on the Caribbean island of Tortola specializing in “placing foreign servicemen in private security positions overseas,” according to a contract signed last May. The recruits would be paid about $150 a day.

Within months, large tracts of desert were bulldozed and barracks constructed. The Emirates were to provide weapons and equipment for the mercenary force, supplying everything from M-16 rifles to mortars, Leatherman knives to Land Rovers. They agreed to buy parachutes, motorcycles, rucksacks — and 24,000 pairs of socks.

To keep a low profile, Mr. Prince rarely visited the camp or a cluster of luxury villas near the Abu Dhabi airport, where R2 executives and Emirati military officers fine-tune the training schedules and arrange weapons deliveries for the battalion, former employees said. He would show up, they said, in an office suite at the DAS Tower — a skyscraper just steps from Abu Dhabi’s Corniche beach, where sunbathers lounge as cigarette boats and water scooters whiz by. Staff members there manage a number of companies that the former employees say are carrying out secret work for the Emirati government.

Emirati law prohibits disclosure of incorporation records for businesses, which typically list company officers, but it does require them to post company names on offices and storefronts. Over the past year, the sign outside the suite has changed at least twice — it now says Assurance Management Consulting.

While the documents — including contracts, budget sheets and blueprints — obtained by The Times do not mention Mr. Prince, the former employees said he negotiated the U.A.E. deal. Corporate documents describe the battalion’s possible tasks: intelligence gathering, urban combat, the securing of nuclear and radioactive materials, humanitarian missions and special operations “to destroy enemy personnel and equipment.”

One document describes “crowd-control operations” where the crowd “is not armed with firearms but does pose a risk using improvised weapons (clubs and stones).”

People involved in the project and American officials said that the Emiratis were interested in deploying the battalion to respond to terrorist attacks and put down uprisings inside the country’s sprawling labor camps, which house the Pakistanis, Filipinos and other foreigners who make up the bulk of the country’s work force. The foreign military force was planned months before the so-called Arab Spring revolts that many experts believe are unlikely to spread to the U.A.E. Iran was a particular concern.

An Eye on Iran

Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.

The Emirates have a small military that includes army, air force and naval units as well as a small special operations contingent, which served in Afghanistan, but over all, their forces are considered inexperienced.

In recent years, the Emirati government has showered American defense companies with billions of dollars to help strengthen the country’s security. A company run by Richard A. Clarke, a former counterterrorism adviser during the Clinton and Bush administrations, has won several lucrative contracts to advise the U.A.E. on how to protect its infrastructure operation. International laws governing private armies and mercenaries are murky, but would the Americans overseeing the training of a foreign army on foreign soil be breaking United States law?

Susan Kovarovics, an international trade lawyer who advises companies about export controls, said that because Reflex Responses was an Emirati company it might not need State Department authorization for its activities.

But she said that any Americans working on the project might run legal risks if they did not get government approval to participate in training the foreign troops.

Basic operational issues, too, were not addressed, the former employees said. What were the battalion’s rules of engagement? What if civilians were killed during an operation? And could a Latin American commando force deployed in the Middle East really be kept a secret?

Imported Soldiers

The first waves of mercenaries began arriving last summer. Among them was a 13-year veteran of Colombia’s National Police force named Calixto Rincón, 42, who joined the operation with hopes of providing for his family and seeing a new part of the world.

“We were practically an army for the Emirates,” Mr. Rincón, now back in Bogotá, Colombia, said in an interview. “They wanted people who had a lot of experience in countries with conflicts, like Colombia.”

Mr. Rincón’s visa carried a special stamp from the U.A.E. military intelligence branch, which is overseeing the entire project, that allowed him to move through customs and immigration without being questioned.

He soon found himself in the midst of the camp’s daily routines, which mirrored those of American military training. “We would get up at 5 a.m. and we would start physical exercises,” Mr. Rincón said. His assignment included manual labor at the expanding complex, he said. Other former employees said the troops — outfitted in Emirati military uniforms — were split into companies to work on basic infantry maneuvers, learn navigation skills and practice sniper training.

R2 spends roughly $9 million per month maintaining the battalion, which includes expenditures for employee salaries, ammunition and wages for dozens of domestic workers who cook meals, wash clothes and clean the camp, a former employee said. Mr. Rincón said that he and his companions never wanted for anything, and that their American leaders even arranged to have a chef travel from Colombia to make traditional soups.

But the secrecy of the project has sometimes created a prisonlike environment. “We didn’t have permission to even look through the door,” Mr. Rincón said. “We were only allowed outside for our morning jog, and all we could see was sand everywhere.”

The Emirates wanted the troops to be ready to deploy just weeks after stepping off the plane, but it quickly became clear that the Colombians’ military skills fell far below expectations. “Some of these kids couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” said a former employee. Other recruits admitted to never having fired a weapon.

Rethinking Roles

As a result, the veteran American and foreign commandos training the battalion have had to rethink their roles. They had planned to act only as “advisers” during missions — meaning they would not fire weapons — but over time, they realized that they would have to fight side by side with their troops, former officials said.

Making matters worse, the recruitment pipeline began drying up. Former employees said that Thor struggled to sign up, and keep, enough men on the ground. Mr. Rincón developed a hernia and was forced to return to Colombia, while others were dismissed from the program for drug use or poor conduct.

And R2’s own corporate leadership has also been in flux. Mr. Chambers, who helped develop the project, left after several months. A handful of other top executives, some of them former Blackwater employees, have been hired, then fired within weeks.

To bolster the force, R2 recruited a platoon of South African mercenaries, including some veterans of Executive Outcomes, a South African company notorious for staging coup attempts or suppressing rebellions against African strongmen in the 1990s. The platoon was to function as a quick-reaction force, American officials and former employees said, and began training for a practice mission: a terrorist attack on the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. They would secure the situation before quietly handing over control to Emirati troops.

But by last November, the battalion was officially behind schedule. The original goal was for the 800-man force to be ready by March 31; recently, former employees said, the battalion’s size was reduced to about 580 men.

Emirati military officials had promised that if this first battalion was a success, they would pay for an entire brigade of several thousand men. The new contracts would be worth billions, and would help with Mr. Prince’s next big project: a desert training complex for foreign troops patterned after Blackwater’s compound in Moyock, N.C. But before moving ahead, U.A.E. military officials have insisted that the battalion prove itself in a “real world mission.”

That has yet to happen. So far, the Latin American troops have been taken off the base only to shop and for occasional entertainment.

On a recent spring night though, after months stationed in the desert, they boarded an unmarked bus and were driven to hotels in central Dubai, a former employee said. There, some R2 executives had arranged for them to spend the evening with prostitutes.

Mark Mazzetti reported from Abu Dhabi and Washington, and Emily B. Hager from New York. Jenny Carolina González and Simon Romero contributed reporting from Bogotá, Colombia. Kitty Bennett contributed research from Washington.

Challenging AIPAC’s Abuse of US Taxpayers Money

May 14, 2011

by Omar Barghouti


The Arab democratic spring, striving to end authoritarian rule and establish freedoms and social justice, has not been welcome by all. Israel and its main lobby in the U.S., the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), for instance, appear to have been caught off guard and visibly disturbed by the seemingly irreversible transformations that these uprisings promise to bring about in the Arab world and, to an extent, the world at large.

Having stood on the wrong side of history during the Tunisian and then the Egyptian revolutions, supporting the despots and authoritarian regimes against the people, Israel has a lot to lose from the democratic winds of change in the region. When Hosni Mubarak was about to be overthrown by the people’s revolution in Egypt Israel launched a diplomatic campaign to convince key Western capitals to support him lest stability is lost and Israel’s other tyrannical friends in the region feel abandoned.

In Tunisia, as well, the vaunted electronic surveillance apparatus of the former dictator Ben-Ali was run in close cooperation with Israel, as exposed by Tunisian civil society organizations. With more of Israel’s friends in the region being dethroned, it is becoming abundantly clear how much Israel and its Western partners have invested in safeguarding and buttressing the unelected, autocratic regimes in the Arab world, partially to make a self-fulfilling prophecy of Israel as the “villa in the midst of the jungle” — the myth often repeated by AIPAC. The impact of debunking that myth cannot be overstated. Israel has, for decades, extracted billions of dollars, not to mention diplomatic, political, and scientific support from the U.S. and European states partially based on this misleading image of Israeli democracy, and despite all the evidence to the contrary. A state that has been imposing an occupation regime for almost 44 years on Palestinians in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, that has denied on racial grounds millions of refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return home, and that is regularly condemned by its chief benefactor and ally, the U.S. government, for its “system of institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its own Palestinian minority carrying Israeli citizenship cannot reasonably be regarded as a “democracy.”

The fact is, U.S. citizens have been bankrolling Israel’s system of occupation, racial discrimination and denial of basic human rights to the tune of billions of dollars annually without knowing what they were funding and why. AIPAC is the main culprit in this process of defrauding the American people, while one cannot ignore the fact that the U.S. military and oil establishments have also stood to gain from Israel’s colonial expansion, endless bloody wars of aggression, and role as the police of the region, preventing popular revolt from threatening the pillage of its vast strategic resources.

For many years AIPAC has falsely advertised Israel as a democratic state that best serves U.S. interests in a turbulent and unpredictable part of the world, covering up Israel’s suppression of human rights and its very nature as a state premised on fanatic militarism, racial segregation and injustice, contrary to the supposed “shared values” with the “West” that AIPAC has fed to the American public so effectively with its well-oiled media machine and its unmatched power of intimidation as well as suppression of debate and dissent by anyone who dares to slightly step out of line and question the “Israel-first” agenda.

But given that Israel in the last few years, especially since the start of the recent Arab revolutions, has largely and quite demonstrably failed in hindering the outbreak of popular uprisings and democratic transformations in the Middle East, leading pundits have started to raise serious doubts about the taken-for-granted mantra of convergence between Israeli and American interests.

Furthermore, at a time when average Americans are losing jobs, benefits and hope, should the U.S. be spending billions to help Israel maintain its regime of oppression and violations of international law? When schools and hospitals in the U.S. are being closed, and when hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers are mired in endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and elsewhere, where they sow mass destruction and death among the populations of these countries, while they themselves suffer increasing casualties, should U.S. taxpayers continue to fund this immoral war agenda? Should Israel and its lobby groups be allowed to pull the U.S. into more wars or to continue to justify Israel’s own brutal and patently illegal wars of aggression, as the one against Palestinians in Gaza in 2008-09 and on Lebanon in 2006?

If members of the U.S. Congress dare not ask these critical questions for fear of AIPAC’s wrath – perceived and carefully marketed as invincible – and an almost certain loss of career, shouldn’t the working people of the U.S. pose them and demand accountability and, indeed, democratic regime change?

It is in this context that one cannot but highly admire the courage, creativity and resilience of human rights and advocacy groups in the U.S., like CODEPINK, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace and many others that insist on challenging AIPAC’s domination of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond and its detrimental and deeply corrupting influence over U.S. decision making in general. The CODEPINK-led campaign to “expose AIPAC and usher in a new foreign policy,” to be launched in Washington, DC in May is a badly needed and truly inspiring effort that should be widely supported by all those who care about the cause of justice and peace in the U.S. and, by extension, the entire world.

Take action by attending Move Over AIPAC, a gathering in Washington DC from May 21-24, 2011, to expose AIPAC and build the vision for a new US foreign policy in the Middle East! More information can be found at www.MoveOverAIPAC.org.

Omar Barghouti is a human rights activist and author of Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS): The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket, 2011).

Pakistan may cut Nato’s Afghan supply line after Osama bin Laden killing

Senior politicians vow to review ties to America after discord over drone attacks and assassination of al-Qaida leader

May 14, 2011

by Declan Walsh


The security of Nato‘s main supply line into Afghanistan came under threat on Saturday as Pakistani parliamentarians voted to review all aspects of their relationship with the US amid worsening political fallout from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The unanimous motion was passed in the early hours of Saturday morning at the conclusion of an extraordinary 10-hour parliamentary session when the military’s top brass offered apologies and admissions of failure, and the country’s spy chief offered to resign.

Condemning the 2 May raid on bin Laden’s house in Abbottabad, 35 miles northeast of Islamabad, as a “violation of Pakistan‘s sovereignty”, parliament voted unanimously to review the country’s terms of engagement with Washington.

In feisty speeches lawmakers warned against further “unilateral action”, including CIA drone strikes, and urged the government to consider cutting the Nato supply line that runs from Karachi to Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass and Balochistan.

Suspicious of Pakistan’s failure to capture bin Laden but recognising the importance of the supply line and pursuing other al-Qaida fugitives, the Obama administration is dispatching Senator John Kerry – the “good cop” of US diplomacy with Pakistan – to Islamabad on Sunday.

“We’re not trying to find a way to break the relationship apart, we’re trying to find a way to build it,” he told reporters in Kabul on Saturday.

Kerry arrives in Pakistan at a time of unprecedented criticism of the powerful military. On Friday night top generals were submitted to harsh questioning from parliamentarians during a marathon session that stretched late into the night.

The inter-services intelligence (ISI) chief General Shuja Pasha, one of the most powerful figures in the country, admitted to an “intelligence failure” on Bin Laden, insisting that the ISI had been kept in the “complete dark” by the US over the raid, and tendered his resignation to prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. It was not accepted – a sign that the government, led by Asif Ali Zardari, has decided to support the weakened military.

The fragile civilian government is gambling that its pro-army stance will guarantee it a full term in office. “It was politically a very astute move,” said Talat Masood, a retired general and political analyst.

Another striking revelation came from the deputy air force chief, who admitted that CIA drones take off from Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province. But he insisted that the drones were unarmed – those carrying missiles came from Afghanistan, he said – and that Shamsi was actually under the authority of the United Arab Emirates, which built the remote airstrip in the 1990s for rich sheikhs on bird-hunting expeditions.

Despite having been technically held in camera, details of the parliamentary session leaked out to the media. One MP told the news website Dawn that the air force chief claimed to have ordered his jet fighters to shoot down US helicopters with Bin Laden’s body on board when they were leaving Pakistan, but they were too slow.

Although generally apologetic, in some instances the generals struck back at their critics. When an MP from a religious party attacked Pasha, the spy chief told the mullah that was in no position to talk because he had received funds from Libya and Saudi Arabia.

The parliamentary motion appeared intended to deflect attention from uncomfortable questions about Bin Laden’s Pakistan sanctuary onto complaints about US breaches of sovereignty. But the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted from power in a 1999 military coup, said he was determined to seek greater accountability of army power. “The elected government should formulate foreign policy. A parallel policy or parallel government should not be allowed to work,” he told a news conference yesterday.

Deteriorating relations with the US are further complicated by a bitter row between spies on both sides. The fact that the CIA could run such a massive operation to capture Bin Laden had deeply embarrassed the ISI, said Vali Nasr, a former Obama administration advisor. “It’s not just a diplomatic embarrassment, it’s a counter-espionage failure,” he said. “Suddenly the ISI is scared of what the CIA is capable of doing.”

In a further sign of cooling relations General Khalid Wynne, chairman of Pakistan’s joint chiefs of staff committee, has cancelled a five-day visit to the United States due to start on 22 May.

The fragile civilian government is gambling that its pro-army stance will guarantee it a full term in office. “It was politically a very astute move,” said Talat Masood, a retired general and political analyst.

Another striking revelation came from the deputy air force chief, who admitted that CIA drones take off from Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province. But he insisted that the drones were unarmed – those carrying missiles came from Afghanistan, he said – and that Shamsi was actually under the authority of the United Arab Emirates, which built the remote airstrip in the 1990s for rich sheikhs on bird-hunting expeditions.

Despite having been technically held in camera, details of the parliamentary session leaked out to the media. One MP told the news website Dawn that the air force chief claimed to have ordered his jet fighters to shoot down US helicopters with Bin Laden’s body on board when they were leaving Pakistan, but they were too slow.

Although generally apologetic, in some instances the generals struck back at their critics. When an MP from a religious party attacked Pasha, the spy chief told the mullah that was in no position to talk because he had received funds from Libya and Saudi Arabia.

The parliamentary motion appeared intended to deflect attention from uncomfortable questions about Bin Laden’s Pakistan sanctuary onto complaints about US breaches of sovereignty. But the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted from power in a 1999 military coup, said he was determined to seek greater accountability of army power. “The elected government should formulate foreign policy. A parallel policy or parallel government should not be allowed to work,” he told a news conference yesterday.

The US has begun to look to central Asian countries to reduce its reliance on Pakistan for military supplies to Afghanistan. The cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has already threatened to have his supporters block military trucks passing through Peshawar.

But outside parliament, the gap between political rhetoric and ground realities is as stark as ever in Pakistan. On Friday a CIA drone fired missiles that killed five people in the tribal belt, the fourth such attack since 2 May.

Yesterday the death toll from Friday’s Taliban suicide attack on a paramilitary training centre climbed to 89; a Taliban spokesman said the vicious bombing was to avenge the al-Qaida leader’s death and warned of more to come.

Russia redrawing Europe energy map

May 14, 2011

by M K Bhadrakumar

Asia Times

Things couldn’t have been better for Russia’s energy giant Gazprom even before news came in over the weekend that curtains could be coming down on one of the keenest battles of the Caspian great game, and Moscow is on a winning streak.

Gazprom increased its gas supplies to Europe in April by over 21% on the same month last year. In 2011, Gazprom’s overall export revenue is estimated to be a whopping US$72.4 billion. In anticipation of increased supplies to Europe, the Russian company has begun plans to nearly double its underground storage capacities for gas by 2015 to almost 4.9 billion cubic meters (bcm) and by next year to 6.5 bcm.

Gazprom operates gas storage facilities in Austria and leasefacilities in Britain, France and Germany. This work is in anticipation of the vastly increased flow of Russian gas through the new pipeline systems known as South Stream and North Stream, which are becoming operational in the very near future.

The increased storage facilities in Austria will cater to the markets in Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany and Italy. A new storage, Katrina, which Gazprom is building as a joint venture with VNG in Germany, will support gas exports to Western European hubs. Gazprom built another joint venture storage facility with Serbia that will support gas exports to Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Hungary. Feasibility studies are being conducted on similar joint storage projects in the Czech Republic, France, Romania, Belgium, Britain, Slovakia, Turkey and Greece.

With this, the “gas map” of Europe, which was largely drawn in the Soviet era, is poised to undergo a phenomenal change. The great consolidation of Russia’s status as the pre-eminent energy supplier – Russia today supplies over 41% of Europe’s gas needs – is certain to transform east-west relations in the medium and long term and will figure as a key factor in the United States’ trans-Atlanticism.

Nabucco on backburner

When good news come, it comes in battalions. The latest heartening news for Gazprom is that the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, the pet project of the United States’ Caspian energy diplomacy that aims at reducing Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, has suffered a considerable, and potentially lethal, setback.

Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of Nabucco Gas Pipeline International, revealed that the project has been pushed back until 2017 – three years later than originally planned. The construction work stands postponed by one year at least to 2013. He left things delightfully vague, saying gas would flow through the pipeline “as soon as there are firm indications that gas supply commitments are in place”.

Nabucco was conceived to funnel gas 3,900 kilometers from Turkey to Austria and was designed to carry 31 bcm of natural gas a year from the Middle East and the Caspian region to markets in Europe. Bypassing Russia, the pipeline would run through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to a hub just outside Vienna for onward distribution all across the European Union countries. The Nabucco consortium consists of the energy companies RWE of Germany; OMV of Austria; MOL of Hungary; Botas of Turkey; Bulgaria Energy Holding of Bulgaria; and Transgaz of Romania.

The postponement of the project will almost certainly drive up its cost. European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger warns that costs could rise as high as $21.4 billion, up from an earlier estimate at about $11.2 billion. BP makes similar estimates of cost escalation. Indeed, ballooning costs put a big question mark on the project’s economic viability.

The main hitch, however, lies in the lack of availability of gas to feed the pipeline. The surplus capacity of Turkmenistan to feed Nabucco remains problematic, as Ashgabat cannot pursue independent energy policies that undercut Russian interests. Iran would be an ideal source to feed Nabucco, but US-Iran standoff precludes the possibility. Thus, Nabucco’s best hope lies in gas supplies from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz 2 field, which is expected to come on-stream in 2017.

The one-trillion-cubic-meter Azeri gas field is being developed by a consortium led by BP and Norwegian national oil company Statoil. The first phase of production, Shah Deniz I, started up in 2006 and produces a maximum of 8.6 bcm of gas annually; the second phase is expected to produce 16 bcm of gas annually when it becomes operational in 2017.

However, two other rival claimants for the Azeri gas have appeared: Interconnector Turkey-Greece-Italy (ITGI) and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP). Turkey also hopes to buy Shah Deniz II gas directly. Last week, Turkey signed an agreement with Azerbaijan to buy six billion cubic meters of gas from the second phase of the Shah Deniz gas field in 2017.

To be sure, the setback for Nabucco works as Russia’s gain. Nabucco versus South Stream (see map here) has been one of the most keenly fought sagas of the Caspian great game – perhaps, next only to the Baku-Ceyhan-Tbilisi pipeline which the Bill Clinton administration rammed through despite Russian opposition. Turkey worked solidly with the US at that time but now Ankara and Moscow are close collaborators in the field of energy.

Gazprom would be in a celebratory mood, as in comparison with Nabucco, South Stream project is cruising merrily. The 900-kilometer South Stream gas pipeline can carry 63 bcm of gas to central and southern Europe via the Black Sea. The project is expected to be completed by end-2015.

South Stream and North Stream are Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s trophies, which will stand out as his enduring legacy to the surge of the Russian economy and Russia’s return to the world stage. He pushed the negotiations with the European partners almost single-handedly. The defining moment for South Stream came in March when Wintershall, the energy subsidiary of the German chemicals giant BASF, agreed to join the project. BASF will hold a 15% share in South Stream.

At the signing ceremony in Moscow, Putin said, “The move indicates stability and is crucial for the entire energy market.” He welcomed Germany’s support for the market, “including the position of Chancellor Angela Merkel”. Russia’s “German connection” is almost entirely the personal handiwork of Putin’s untiring diplomacy. Wintershall also holds a 15.5% stake in North Stream, which connects Russia with an undersea pipeline through the Baltics with Germany, and E.ON Ruhrgas AG is Gazprom’s partner in constructing North Stream.

Russia can now be expected to go for the kill and bury Nabucco once and for all by negotiating more contracts for additional gas supplies to Europe over the next two years. South Stream and North Stream are poised to redraw the energy equations between Russia and the European countries.

US rallies “New Europeans”

South Stream bypasses Ukraine while North Stream, is expected to be launched in October, cuts out Poland as a transit country. In geopolitical terms, Russia can now negotiate with Ukraine and Poland from a position of strength as its dependence on these two temperamental transit countries for its highly strategic energy exports to Europe stands diminished.

Meanwhile, South Stream brings Russia back as a player across the board in the Balkans (a role that the US denied Russia by breaking up the former Yugoslavia). Europe now faces an uphill task to execute its plans to cut back on its gas purchases from Russia. North Stream undoubtedly uplifts the overall Russian-German strategic ties to a qualitatively new level of partnership.

South Stream and North Stream have trivialized the United States’ policy to fuel the latent feelings of antipathy among the Central European countries toward Russia, a policy that dates back to the late 1990s. President Barack Obama is expected to visit Warsaw later this month. The London Telegraph reported on Tuesday that Obama will confirm the deployment of F-16 aircraft in Poland as a mark of direct US guarantee in addition to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for the country’s defense.

In Warsaw, Obama is expected to have a summit meeting with the presidents of the Central European states. Evidently, the US is cranking up the Central European vector – famously called the “New Europeans” by George W Bush’s defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld – against the backdrop of Russia’s energy surge in Europe.

In a major policy speech at Bratislava in March, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs Philip Gordon said the Central Europe region as a bloc “plays a crucial role as a partner of the United Sates in promoting democracy and stability in Europe, but its contributions run far beyond Europe’s borders… efforts at cooperation with Russia will in no way limit the US or NATO’s capacity to deploy missile defense or other collective defense capabilities… none of the progress we have made in our so-called bilateral reset with Russia comes at the expense of any ally… we work very closely with Europe on every major issue, both internationally and within Europe… [and] Central Europe plays a crucial role in advancing this agenda.”

Clearly, the US realizes that energy is the lever with which Russia is undermining its strategy. So, it also has a few cards up its sleeves. It is gearing up liquefied natural gas terminals to export US natural gas to higher-paying markets overseas by 2015, and Europe is a major destination. The fact of the matter is that the US is becoming self-sufficient in gas. The Financial Times carried a sensational report last Friday about a potential shift in the politics of energy thanks to Europe’s potential shale gas bonanza, which would have the potential to reshape the continent’s supply, reducing its dependency on Russia and the Middle East.

However, these are rushed ideas necessitated by the unavoidable prospect of Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian energy supplies for the foreseeable future. Many challenges need to be addressed before commercial production from unconventional sources such as shale gas could become a reality in the European market.

The FT report says, “Shale gas is trapped in rocks thousands of feet underground. It is released by fracturing rocks using high-pressured water in a process known as ‘hydraulic fracking’. Fluids and other components such as sand are injected into a well bore under high pressure to force the release of gas from rock formations. One of the biggest environmental concerns is the impact of such fracturing techniques on the water table.”

Compared with the US, Europe lacks any detailed and reliable geological study, making it difficult to estimate the potential for unconventional gas.

From all perspectives, what emerges is that Nabucco’s promoters are stoically adapting themselves to the realities of an increasingly volatile global energy marketplace, shaken up by multiple factors such as the prospect of shale gas production, the upheaval in the Middle East and of course the killer tsunami in Japan that puts question marks on nuclear power. And the advantage goes to the Russian bird. The Europeans cannot but appreciate that it is better to keep it than hanker for two American birds in the bush.

M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).

WikiLeaks cables show race to carve up Arctic

May 12, 2011

BBC News

Secret US embassy cables released by Wikileaks show nations are racing to “carve up” Arctic resources – oil, gas and even rubies – as the ice retreats.

They suggest that Arctic states, including the US and Russia, are all pushing to stake a claim.

The opportunity to exploit resources has come because of a dramatic fall in the amount of ice in the Arctic.

The US Geological Survey estimates oil reserves off Greenland are as big as those in the North Sea. The cables were released by the Wikileaks whistleblower website as foreign ministers from the eight Arctic Council member states – Russia, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland – met in Nuuk, Greenland, on Thursday to sign a treaty on international search and rescue in the Arctic and discuss the region’s future challenges.

The cables claim the Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller joked with the Americans saying “if you stay out, then the rest of us will have more to carve up in the Arctic”.

Greenland is an autonomous Danish dependent territory with limited self-government; however, the cables show that US diplomats believe Greenland “is on a clear track to independence” and see this as “a unique opportunity” for American gas and oil companies to get a foothold.

The then-US Ambassador to Denmark James P Cain said in the cables that he introduced Greenland’s government to New York financiers “to help the Greenlanders secure the investments needed for such exploitation”.

Territorial claims

The grab for the Arctic accelerated in 2007 when polar explorer Artur Chilingarov used a submarine to plant a Russian flag on the seabed under the North Pole.

The US cables reveal a senior Russian official told the Americans that this was a deliberate move by the Kremlin and that Chilingarov was “following orders from the ruling United Russia party”.

They also report comments by the Russian Ambassador Dmitriy Rogozin to Nato saying “the 21st Century will see a fight for resources and Russia should not be defeated in this fight”.

The US embassy cables also expose US concerns about Canada’s territorial claims to the North West passage and to “seabed resources that extend to the edge of the continental shelf”.

They show that in 2008 the US embassy in Ottawa asked Washington to delay a new presidential directive requiring “the United States to assert a more active and influential national presence to protect its Arctic interests”.

Officials were worried that if it was released before the Canadian federal election the Arctic would become a big election issue and “negatively impact US-Canadian relations”. The directive was in fact delayed till after the Canadian election.

Rising tensions

The cables also report Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper telling Nato to keep out of the Arctic – an issue where he is in agreement with Russia.

He is said to have claimed that some European countries without Arctic territories were trying to use Nato to give them “influence in an area ‘where they don’t belong'”.

Tom Burke, who advises mining company Rio Tinto and the UK Foreign Office on climate change and business, told Newsnight that political tensions were rising because “the ice is declining much faster” than expected, so “everybody who thinks they’ve got a chance to get at those resources wants to get in there and stake their claim”.

Since the 1970s, Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University has made repeated trips under the North Pole in Royal Navy nuclear submarines to measure the thickness of the ice.

He told Newsnight the graph “has gone off a cliff” because the ice sheet has thinned as well as shrunk.

The Pan-Arctic Ice-Ocean Modelling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) which measures ice volume shows that last September there was only a quarter of the ice in the Arctic that there had been in 1979.

Prof Wadhams says in summer “it could easily happen that we’ll have an ice-free North Pole within a year or two”.

New sea route

British oil company Cairn Energy are in the vanguard of the Arctic oil rush. The company’s commercial director Simon Thomson told Newsnight “we’re leading the charge”.

Mr Thomson says Cairn Energy are “ahead of everybody else” in Greenland, but he knows the major oil companies are on alert saying “they’re all watching and they’re all waiting to see what we will find”.

He says that there is an awareness that although “it’s a substantial prize”, one big spill could endanger the whole Arctic oil project, therefore “we need to do what we do with an absolute focus on safety”.

However, the search for Arctic oil has been criticised by environmental campaigners, and Greenpeace protesters have already boarded a Cairn Energy rig currently heading for Greenland.

“Instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, oil companies like Cairn are rushing in to extract the very fossil fuels that caused the melting in the first place,” campaigner Ben Ayliffe, who is on the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, told Newsnight.

Some experts think that what is happening in the Arctic is like the Scramble for Africa in the 19th Century when European nations raced to secure resources.

However, it is not just a race for oil and gas. Russia hopes that the Northern Sea Route will open up and allow northern European shipping to get to the Far East a third quicker than via the Suez Canal.

New fisheries are opening up and Greenland in particular has mineral resources including aluminium and rubies.
Japan starts evacuation outside 20 km radius of troubled Fukushima nuke plant

May 15, 2011


The Japanese authorities have started evacuation of people who live outside the 20 kilometer radius from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, NHK TV channel reported on Sunday.

Families with babies and children up to kindergarten age and pregnant women are the first of the 7,700 residents of two towns to evacuate, the TV channel said.

Municipal officials have said they have secured temporary housing for almost all of the residents who want it.

Some farmers cannot evacuate soon as they have not been able to find places to move their cattle. Some families cannot move together to designated temporary housing or cannot decide on the place to go as they would be far from work or school, the TV channel said.

The Japanese government has expanded the evacuation zone around the plant to areas where cumulative radiation levels are 20 millisieverts or higher per year, the TV channel said.

An earthquake and a tsunami that swept northeastern Japan two months ago damaged the cooling system at Fukushima, which resulted in serious meltdown. In mid-April, Japan’s nuclear authorities assigned the highest level of danger to the Fukushima nuclear disaster for the first time after the devastating Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union in 1986.

EU warns Denmark over border controls

José Manuel Barroso says he doubts whether Denmark is complying with European and international law

May 13, 2011

by Ian Traynor in Brussels


The European executive raised the prospect of a legal showdown with Denmark over its snap decision to restore border controls within the EU’s single market and passport-free travel zone, turning the Danish move into a test case for prized liberties in Europe.

José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European commission which initiates and polices EU law, told the centre-right government he had “important doubts” about whether it was complying with European and international law. He warned the Danes against acting unilaterally and threatened to take Copenhagen to the European court of justice. “We will take all necessary steps to ensure the full respect of the relevant law,” he said in a letter to the Danish prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

Denmark stunned its EU partners on Wednesday by announcing, without consultation, that it was reintroducing customs controls and border checks on the frontiers with Germany and Sweden as part of a campaign said to be directed at combating transnational crime and thwarting mafias from eastern Europe.

Brussels suspects Denmark could be in breach of single market rules and the Schengen agreement, which has abolished passport controls in 26 countries, including 22 of 27 EU states.

The decision was a concession to the far-right populist Danish People’s party, which is not formally in government but whose votes were needed for the coalition to win support for long-term budget, welfare and retirement policies.

The commissioner for EU home affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom, a Swedish liberal, reinforced the message. “The commission’s preliminary assessment raises real concerns that, if implemented as announced, the measures foreseen could be in breach of the obligations assumed by Denmark under EU and international law.

“The commission stands ready to continue dialogue with Denmark,” she said. “But it will, if needed, use the tools at its disposal to guarantee the respect of EU law.”

Denmark’s decision was the latest in a series of setbacks for unfettered travel after France and Italy successfully lobbied for changes to the Schengen regime to restore national border controls.

Barroso and Rasmussen spoke by phone before the commission chief sent his letter. Barroso said the Danish planned for a permanent customs presence which implied building new facilities, the recruitment of additional customs staff, comprehensive video surveillance and police back-up at what has been an open border.

The Danes have said they want to start erecting the barriers within three weeks.

Barroso said the initial assessment by commission lawyers raised “important doubts about whether the measures would be in line with Denmark’s obligations under European and international law, in particular on the free movement of goods, persons, services, and capital and the provisions of Schengen”.

Systematic controls on the internal borders between most EU countries were not allowed, Barroso added, although spot checks were possible. Barroso said it looked as though Denmark, which insists the return to national border controls is compliant with the Schengen rules, was bent on erecting “systematic frontier controls” that “would appear to be contrary to [EU] treaty freedoms.”

Ship ‘with 600 people aboard’ sinks as refugees flee from Libya

May 10, 2011
by Catrina Stewart

A ship carrying up to 600 migrants has sunk off the coast of Libya, witnesses have reported, in what would be one of the worst accidents to have befallen refugees fleeing recent unrest in North Africa, if confirmed.

Accounts of the accident, at the end of last week, are only now beginning to emerge. At least 16 bodies, including those of two babies, were recovered from the stricken ship after they washed ashore, the United Nations Refugee Agency has said. It is feared hundreds more could be dead.

Thousands of refugees have attempted to escape fierce fighting in Libya and ongoing unrest in Tunisia for Europe in recent months, leading to overcrowding on boats that are often unsafe.

Witnesses on a second boat said the vessel broke up shortly after departing from a port near the Libyan capital, Tripoli, and gave accounts of bodies floating in the sea, according to the UN. Many of those on the second boat, which later landed in Italy, had relatives on the sinking ship and some said they refused to board after seeing the boat hit trouble, but were forced on to the second ship by Libyan soldiers.

The UN said it had no information regarding the nationality of those on the vessel, but said that many of those waiting in Italy were Somali. The agency added that it was unclear if anyone had mounted a rescue mission, but said that Nato was not involved in any search.

The refugee ship is one of dozens that have attempted the journey to Europe since the uprising in Libya descended into a protracted civil conflict. There is no official tally of how many refugees – most of them workers from sub-Saharan Africa – have attempted the journey from Libya across the Mediterranean, although 10,000 are thought to have reached Italy since mid-February.

The UN believes that at least three boats that left Libya for Italy in late March never made it to their destination, disappearing at sea. The agency alerted the Italian Coast Guard that they were on their way but the boats never arrived. “There’s been no way of charting for sure how many boats have left, how many people never made it. Some of them we will never know about,” Jemini Pandya, of the International Organisation of Migration, another aid agency, told the Associated Press.

Nato has denied that it ignored a vessel in distress carrying African migrants from Libya in late March, leading to the deaths of 62 passengers starvation and dehydration.

Shortly after running into difficulties at sea, the passengers made contact by satellite telephone with an Italian priest, and asked for help. A military helicopter with “Army” written on it later arrived and dropped water and biscuits, signalling to the vessel to stay put, before presumably heading off to fetch help, The Guardian newspaper reported. Help failed to arrive, and none of the Nato allies has admitted sending the helicopter.

At one point, the boat, which had run out of fuel, drifted close to an aircraft carrier, according to survivor accounts, and two jets flew low overhead while passengers stood on deck and raised two babies aloft.

The newspaper suggested that the carrier may have been the ship Charles de Gaulle, which it said was in the vicinity on the date in question. The French have denied the claim. The boat, which was unable to get any closer to the carrier, drifted for 16 days and only 10 of its passengers survived.

International maritime law requires that anyone, including the military, that spots a vessel in distress must go to its aid where possible. Nato said that the only carrier in the area at the time was the Italian ship Garibaldi, and that was 100 nautical miles out to sea.

“Therefore any claims that a Nato aircraft carrier spotted then ignored the vessel in distress are wrong,” said Carmen Romero, a spokeswoman for the alliance.

Comment: The website:  Iraqiwar.ru (http://iraqwar.mirror-world.ru/tiki-index.php)         headlined this story: US Navy torpedoed ship with 600 refuges just off shores of Tripoli. Obama suspected Qaddafi’s family members were present on the boat. So much for the blogs and truth. Ed

Georgia governor signs immigration crackdown

May 13, 2011

by David Beasley


ATLANTA (Reuters) – Georgia’s governor on Friday signed a tough new state law cracking down on illegal immigrants that is similar to one enacted in Arizona last year, handing new powers to police in the southern state.

The law authorizes police in Georgia to investigate the immigration status of criminal suspects they think may be in the country illegally.

It also makes transporting and harboring illegal immigrants a crime and requires many private employers to check the immigration status of newly hired workers on a federal database called E-Verify.

Republican Governor Nathan Deal said the measure, passed by Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature, will take a burden off schools, hospitals and prisons by reducing the number of illegal immigrants in the state.

“This legislation is a responsible step forward in the absence of federal action,” Deal said during a signing ceremony.

Enforcement of U.S. immigration laws traditionally is handled by federal, not state, authorities.

The Georgia measure is the third crackdown to be enacted by Republicans at the state level, following Arizona in April last year and Utah in March.

Critics have argued that the Georgia law could discourage tourism and overseas investment in the state and create a shortage of farm workers to pick crops.

President Barack Obama last month criticized the Georgia measure, saying, “It is a mistake for states to try to do this piecemeal. We can’t have 50 different immigration laws around the country. Arizona tried this and a federal court already struck them down.

A few dozen protesters gathered outside the Georgia Capitol before the signing and more were planning to rally against the new law at a nearby church Friday night.

J.P. Hernandez, a 20-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico, said the measure will encourage profiling of Hispanics by law enforcement officers.

“You’ll be innocent until you look guilty,” said Hernandez, a restaurant worker who was 2 years old when his parents brought him to the United States.


In addition to concerns about civil and human rights abuses, critics of the law said it could have serious economic repercussions for the state.

“Today is a dark day for Georgia,” said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, or Galeo.

Opponents warned of a possible economic boycott to Georgia, similar to one estimated to have cost Arizona more than $140 million in lost tourism and convention revenue last year, according to one study by a liberal group.

They also predicted costly and drawn-out litigation similar to what has unfolded in Arizona and Utah.

Last month, a U.S. appeals court upheld an earlier court ruling that blocked key parts of Arizona’s law from going into effect.

Among provisions stayed was one that required police to determine the immigration status of a person they have detained and believe is in the country illegally.

A federal judge temporarily blocked a milder immigration law in Utah on Tuesday, the same day the law went into effect.

Deal said Georgia anticipates a legal challenge to its law, which takes effect July 1, but said it was written to avoid the “pitfalls” of Arizona’s legislation.

The governor told reporters he hopes Georgia will not face boycotts but said those losses would be lower than the costs the state currently incurs from illegal immigration.

(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor; Edited by Colleen Jenkins, Jerry Norton and Bill Trott)

Census: Mexican Population Up by 35 Percent in California

May 12, 2011


LOS ANGELES  — California’s Mexican population increased by 35 percent in the last decade to 11.4 million and accounts for 88 percent of the population growth in the state, according to newly released 2010 census figures. California’s Latino/Hispanic population grew by 28 percent in the last decade.

However, according to Jeffrey Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center, the apparent increase in the Mexican population could be attributed to the way the questionnaire was written in the 2000 census, which tended to count the Hispanic population as one group and did not specify nation of origin.

About 82 percent of Latinos in California identified as Mexican in 2010, up from 77 percent in 2000.

Court: No right to resist illegal cop entry into home

May 13, 2011

by Dan Carden


INDIANAPOLIS | Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer’s entry.

“We believe … a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence,” David said. “We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.”

David said a person arrested following an unlawful entry by police still can be released on bail and has plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.

The court’s decision stems from a Vanderburgh County case in which police were called to investigate a husband and wife arguing outside their apartment.

When the couple went back inside their apartment, the husband told police they were not needed and blocked the doorway so they could not enter. When an officer entered anyway, the husband shoved the officer against a wall. A second officer then used a stun gun on the husband and arrested him.

Professor Ivan Bodensteiner, of Valparaiso University School of Law, said the court’s decision is consistent with the idea of preventing violence.

“It’s not surprising that they would say there’s no right to beat the hell out of the officer,” Bodensteiner said. “(The court is saying) we would rather opt on the side of saying if the police act wrongfully in entering your house your remedy is under law, to bring a civil action against the officer.”

Justice Robert Rucker, a Gary native, and Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, dissented from the ruling, saying the court’s decision runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally — that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances,” Rucker said. “I disagree.”

Rucker and Dickson suggested if the court had limited its permission for police entry to domestic violence situations they would have supported the ruling.

But Dickson said, “The wholesale abrogation of the historic right of a person to reasonably resist unlawful police entry into his dwelling is unwarranted and unnecessarily broad.”

This is the second major Indiana Supreme Court ruling this week involving police entry into a home.

On Tuesday, the court said police serving a warrant may enter a home without knocking if officers decide circumstances justify it. Prior to that ruling, police serving a warrant would have to obtain a judge’s permission to enter without knocking.

ACLU Sues Homeland Security Over Seizure Of Activist’s Computer

May 13, 2011

Targeting David House For Lawful Association With Bradley Manning Support Network Is Unconstitutional

CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

BOSTON – The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit in federal court today challenging the suspicionless search and seizure of electronics and personal data belonging to activist David House. The lawsuit charges that the government targeted House solely on the basis of his lawful association with the Bradley Manning Support Network when it seized House’s laptop, USB drive and camera, and proceeded to copy and possibly disseminate their contents.

“Targeting people for searches and seizures based on their lawful associations is unconstitutional,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “The government does not have the authority to demand information about whom you spend time with or what you talk about. We need safeguards to ensure that targeting of people based on their political associations does not continue.”

The ACLU lawsuit charges that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) singled out House at the border solely on the basis of his association with the Bradley Manning Support Network, an organization created to raise funds and support for the legal defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning, a soldier charged with leaking a video and documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the WikiLeaks website. In so doing, the government violated House’s First Amendment right to freedom of association and Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure of his personal papers and effects. The ACLU lawsuit seeks return or destruction of any of House’s personal data still in the custody of the government and disclosure of whether and to whom the data has been disseminated.

In November 2010, DHS agents stopped House at O’Hare International Airport as he returned from a vacation in Mexico and questioned him about his political activities and beliefs. DHS officials then confiscated his laptop computer, camera and a USB drive and did not return them to House for nearly seven weeks – after the ACLU sent a letter demanding their return. House’s detention and interrogation by DHS officials and the seizure of his electronic papers and personal effects had no apparent connection with the protection of U.S. borders or the enforcement of customs laws. Seven months later, House has not received an explanation of why his property was confiscated or what the government has done with the information downloaded from the devices.

“I feel like the American government has made me the target of intrusive and intimidating tactics simply because I joined a lawful group in order to stand up for what I believe is right,” said House. “The search and seizure of my laptop has had a chilling effect on the activities of the Bradley Manning Support Network, by silencing once-outspoken supporters and causing donors to retreat. Our government should not be treating lawful activists like suspects.”

This lawsuit is one in a series of legal challenges to the government’s practice of suspicionless seizures of computers containing personal information at the U.S. border. In a related case, the ACLU, New York Civil Liberties Union and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) last fall filed a lawsuit on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association, the NACDL and Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual U.S.-French citizen who had his laptop searched and confiscated at the Canadian border while traveling home to New York on an Amtrak train. That lawsuit challenges the DHS policy of searching, copying and detaining travelers’ laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices at the border when DHS has no reason to believe a search would reveal wrongdoing.

“In this increasingly globalized age, the cost of traveling internationally should not include submitting to boundless searches of the personal, private information we all keep on our laptops and cell phones,” said Catherine Crump, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “Allowing government officials to look through Americans’ most personal materials without reasonable suspicion is unconstitutional, inconsistent with American values and a waste of limited resources.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Alan Bersin and Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement John T. Morton.

For more information, including a video interview with House on the impact the seizure of his property has had, go to: www.aclu.org/house

Blessed Prozac moments: Report from the Nut Center

Man offers pet care should rapture occur

May. 10, 2011

by John Kelly
Washington Post

Bart Centre does not believe in heaven, but he’s pretty sure that if there is a heaven, your pet is not going there.

Centre is an atheist. But he knows that plenty of people do believe in God and heaven. Some of them also believe in the rapture, the day when true Christians will be called up to Jesus Christ. Some people, including a group that put ads on the backs of buses in the Washington, D.C., area, think the rapture is coming May 21.

The rapture could leave a lot of dogs and cats without owners. That’s where Centre comes in. In 2009, he launched Eternal Earth-Bound Pets USA. Centre guarantees that if or when the rapture comes, he or one of his 44 contractors in 26 states will drive to your home within 24 hours, collect your dog, cat, bird, rabbit or small caged mammal, and adopt it. (Rapture rescue services for horses, camels, llamas and donkeys are limited to New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho and Montana.)

The cost is $135, plus $20 per additional animal. Payable upfront, of course, and good for 10 years.

“Right now, we have over 250 clients,” said Centre, 62.

Conversations with the Crow

When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert  T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.

Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


Here is the seventy fourth  chapter

Conversation No. 74

Date: Friday, July 26, 1996

Commenced: 11:30 AM CST

Concluded: 11:45 AM  CST

RTC: Did you call earlier, Gregory? The phone rang but it stopped before I picked up.

GD: No, this is the first time,  Robert. Could it have been Clinton offering you the Medal of Freedom?

RTC: I doubt it. I don’t have enough money to bribe him.

GD: Yes, those people are not above taking a bribe now and then. But you aren’t Jewish so Frau Clinton wouldn’t be interested. I have a picture of her brother, wearing his beanie, stamping on a wine glass when he married Barbara Boxer’s daughter.

RF: A better-kept secret here, Gregory. But you mustn’t forget the unique suffering the Jews have experienced.

GD: No, for at least two thousand years, the poor Jews have been run out of every country they have moved to. Terrible. It must be a sort of international genetic plague that turns people against them. A list of nations and kingdoms that have kicked them out would fill a telephone book. I did some research on all of this once and the incredible number of expellers astonished me. Have you any ideas on this?
RTC: Not really. But I note that ever since they stole Palestine from the Arabs, whom they butchered in the process, we in Washington have become increasingly aware of how important it is to listen and obey. Personally, I think we should have tested our A bombs there rather than in the Pacific but I wouldn’t dare make such a suggestion, humorous though it might be. I would have a pack of screeching Hebrews defecating on my doorstep and pelting my wife with rotting bagles on her way to the market. And of course my pension would be cut off at once. I told Jim not to mess with his dear Mossad friends long ago but Jim never listened. They wormed their way into his good graces, stroked him mightily and got him entirely on their side. The Mafia did the same thing. I liked Jim but in essence, he was a whore.

GD: Did they pay him?

RTC: No, just rubbed him until he purred and did what they wanted.

GD: Actually, Robert, I would say he was a slut. A whore does it for money but a slut does it because it feels good.

RTC: A good analogy. Do you know, Gregory, if we suddenly declared neutrality in the Middle East, Israel would collapse overnight and peace would descend there. Of course we would never do that because the moment we did, legions of screaming Jews would descend on the White House, the Senate, the House and every newspaper and television station in the nation. You could hear the screaming in Montana in a blizzard. Old Joe Stalin had the right idea when he planned to uproot all the Jews in Russia and ship them to Siberia back in ’53. Too damned bad he died before he completed his project.

GD: There is a question about his death.

RTC: Yes. We discussed this before if I remember. Beria was afraid Stalin would shoot him. The old man was senile and very dangerous so L.P, got in touch with us and we, in turn made a deal with him. We would help him off Stalin and when he took over, he would liberate East Germany and establish the right of private property in Russia and normalize relations with us. We gave him the silent rat poison and it worked but Beria was too smart by half and Nikita got him. That one we could not deal with but he overreached himself in Cuba and his own people got rid of him. Last I heard, he’s still alive somewhere. Times do change.

GD: Josef sank a barge full of inconvenient political prisoners early on and said ‘No man: No problem.’ I always liked that one.

RTC: Josef was an inspired paranoiac. Smart as hell and just as crazy.  One moment as charming a fellow as you would want to know and ten seconds later, giving an order to shoot someone’s wife or grandmother. But not crazy enough to push a war on us. I’d like to read a really objective bio of Josef but it will be a century before that happens.

GD:  That’s the usual way. And we will see objective biographies of Hitler start to appear.

RTC: The Jews would never allow it. Why Adolf personally gassed twenty million Jews, didn’t you know? Between running the war from the German side, he flew back and forth to thousands of enormous death camps, personally shoving thousands of screaming Jews into gas chambers the size of telephone booths and gassing them. What a busy man.

GD: Well, perhaps not objective books about Hitler, or Stalin, but we can surely expect a new Holocaust book each and every year. The touching memoirs in thirteen volumes of a ghetto resident, filled with touching memoirs and designed to make lots of money for the Chosen People. An Army colonel once asked me what God chose them for and I told him to wait in line for the showers. He laughed for about five minutes. But we should back off in the Middle East. No good will come of sucking up to Israel unconditionally and that’s the only way they will allow us to suck up. Oh, they might throw a few Jaffa oranges at us from time to time but obedience is required.

RTC: Well, the Clintons toe the line, believe me, and so will their replacement and on and on.

GD: Oh, Robert, the wheel turns and what is at the top today will be at the bottom tomorrow Mark me, this always happens.

RTC: It would be nice if it happened in my lifetime, Gregory, but I am afraid not. Maybe in yours.

GD: There is always that hope.

(Concluded at 11:45 AM CST)

Dramatis personae:

James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy

James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.

William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.

John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.

James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.

Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.

Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.

Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organizaion eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.

Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”

Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.

Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.

Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarian and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.

Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers specializing in creative writing

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