TBR News September 14, 2014

Sep 14 2014

The Voice of the White House


        Washington, D.C. September 11, 2014: “The preliminary report on the downing of the Malaysian airliner has been released and we learn nothing from the text other than something brought the plane down. The photographs accompanying the article tell a different story. Several very clear pictures of the top of the pilot’s cabin show a series of very obvious round bullet holes. If a missile, fired by Russian-supported rebels, was used, the explosion would be beneath the plane, not on top of it, and round bullet holes would not be evident. The United States is determined to imply that the Russians were involved in this atrocity but it is becoming more and more evident that Kiev ordered the plane to change its course so that it was crossing the contested areas and then had it shot down by Ukrainian military aircraft, hoping thereby to blame Russia and her eastern Ukrainian supporters. Whether Washington was aware of this matter in advance is not known but they cannot but help to be aware of it at this point in time.


Did Major Countries Agree Not to Disclose Key Details in Downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17?

September 5, 2014


Professor Stephen Cohen says new reports raise questions about why the Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 298 people exploded and crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing everyone on board. “There seems to have been an agreement among the major powers not to tell us who did it,” Cohen says. While U.S. and Ukrainian officials say the Boeing 777 was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, it is unclear who fired the missile. “There are reports from Germany that the White House version of what happened is not true, therefore you have to look elsewhere for the culprit who did the shooting down,” Cohen notes. “They’re sitting on satellite intercepts. They have the images. They won’t release the air controller’s conversations in Kiev with the doomed aircraft. Why not?” See part one of this interview.

STEPHEN COHEN: So, bring NATO—I mean, bring Ukraine into NATO, and all this stuff will be up and ready. And then it will just take the shootdown of a Malaysian aircraft, about which everybody has forgotten. Still nobody knows who did it. There seems to have been an agreement among the major powers not to tell us who did it. Was suggested wasn’t the rebels, wasn’t Russia, after all. But it would take something like that, which can happen in these circumstances, to launch something that was unthinkable.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean there seems to be an agreement between the major countries?

STEPHEN COHEN: Well, in addition to the insurance company for the airplane, which technically has legal responsibility, the major countries that are doing it, Britain has the black boxes, the Netherlands are involved. There was a report the other day that these parties, these states, have agreed that they would not divulge individually what they have discovered. Now, they’ve had plenty of time to interpret the black boxes. There are reports from Germany that the White House version of what happened is not true, therefore you have to look elsewhere for the culprit who did the shooting down. They’re sitting on satellite intercepts. They have the images. They won’t release the air controller’s conversations in Kiev with the doomed aircraft. Why not? Did the pilot say—let me speculate—”Oh, my god, we’re being fired on by a jet fighter next to us! What’s going on?” Because we know there were two Ukrainian jet fighters. We don’t know, but somebody knows. You might ask—you might get somebody on who’s been investigating this to find out what they actually know.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you very much—

STEPHEN COHEN: That’s a digression. I apologize.

AMY GOODMAN: No, that was very interesting. Thank you very much, Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton, author of a number of books on Russia and the Soviet Union. His latest piece in The Nation, we’ll link to, “Patriotic Heresy vs. the New Cold War: Neo-McCarthyites Have Stifled Democratic Debate on Russia and Ukraine.”


How Not to Win Hearts and Minds in Africa

Hushed Pentagon Investigation Slaps U.S. Africa Command’s Humanitarian Activities  

by Nick Turse



[This story was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Additional funding was provided through the generosity of Adelaide Gomer.]


DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — Movie night in Mouloud, Djibouti.  Skype lessons in Ethiopia.  Veterinary training assistance in Garissa, Kenya.  And in this country on the east coast of Africa, work on both primary and secondary schools and a cistern to provide clean water.  These are all-American good works, but who is doing them — and why? 

As I sit in a room filled with scores of high-ranking military officers resplendent in their dress uniforms — Kenyans in their khakis, Burundians and Ugandans clad in olive, Tanzanians in deep forest green sporting like-colored berets and red epaulets with crossed rifles on their shoulders — chances are that the U.S. military is carrying out some mission somewhere on this vast continent.  It might be a kidnapping raid or a training exercise.  It could be an airstrike or the construction of a drone base.  Or, as I wait for the next speaker to approach the lectern at the “Land Forces East Africa” conference in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, it could be a humanitarian operation run not by civilians in the aid business, but by military troops with ulterior motives — part of a near-continent-wide campaign utilizing the core tenets of counterinsurgency strategy.

The U.S. is trying to win a war for the hearts and minds of Africa.  But a Pentagon investigation suggests that those mystery projects somewhere out there in Djibouti or Ethiopia or Kenya or here in Tanzania may well be orphaned, ill-planned, and undocumented failures-in-the-making.  According to the Department of Defense’s watchdog agency, U.S. military officials in Africa “did not adequately plan or execute” missions designed to win over Africans deemed vulnerable to the lures of violent extremism.

This evidence of failure in the earliest stages of the U.S. military’s hearts-and-minds campaign should have an eerie resonance for anyone who has followed its previous efforts to use humanitarian aid and infrastructure projects to sway local populations in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan.  In each case, the operations failed in spectacular ways, but were only fully acknowledged after years of futility and billions of dollars in waste.  In Africa, a war zone about which most Americans are completely unaware, the writing is already on the wall.  Or at least it should be.  While Pentagon investigators identified a plethora of problems, their report has, in fact, been kept under wraps for almost a year, while the command responsible for the failures has ignored all questions about it from TomDispatch.

Doing a Bad Job at Good Works

Today, the U.S. military increasingly confronts Africa as a “battlefield” or “battleground” or “war” in the words of the men running its operations.  To that end, it has built a sophisticated logistics network to service a growing number of small outposts, camps, and airfields, while carrying out, on average, more than one mission each day somewhere on the continent.  A significant number of these operations take the form of a textbook hearts-and-minds campaign that harkens back to failed U.S. efforts in Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 1970s and more recently in the Greater Middle East.

In Vietnam, the so-called civilian half of the war — building schools, handing out soap, and offering rudimentary medical care — was obliterated by American heavy firepower that wiped out homes, whole hamlets, and whatever goodwill had been gained.  As a result, U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine was tossed into the military’s dustbin — only to be resurrected decades later, as the Iraq War raged, by then-general and later CIA director David Petraeus.

In 2005-2006, Petraeus oversaw the revision of FM 3-24, the military’s counterinsurgency (COIN) field manual, and a resulting revolution in military affairs.  Soon, American military officers in Iraq and Afghanistan were throwing large sums of money at complex problems, once again with the objective of winning hearts and minds.  They bought off Sunni insurgents and poured billions of dollars into nation-building efforts, ranging from a modern chicken processing plant to a fun-in-the-sun water park, trying to refashion the rubble of a failed state into a functioning one.

As with Petraeus’s career, which imploded amidst scandal, the efforts he fostered similarly went down in flames.  In Iraq, the chicken processing plant proved a Potemkin operation and the much ballyhooed Baghdad water park quickly fell into ruin.  The country soon followed.  Less than three years after the U.S. withdrawal, Iraq teeters on the brink of catastrophe as most of Petraeus’s Sunni mercenaries stood aside while the brutal Islamic State carved a portion of its caliphate from the country, and others, aggrieved with the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad, sided with them.  In Afghanistan, the results have been similarly dismal as America’s hearts-and-minds monies yielded roads to nowhere (where they haven’t already deteriorated into death traps), crumbling buildings, over-crowded, underfunded, and teacher-less schools, and billions poured down the drain in one boondoggle after another.

In Africa, the sums and scale are smaller, but the efforts are from the same counterinsurgency playbook.  In fact, to the U.S. military, humanitarian assistance — from medical care to infrastructure projects — is a form of “security cooperation.”  According to the latest edition of FM 3-24, published earlier this year: 

“When these activities are used to defeat an insurgency, they are part of a counterinsurgency operation. While not all security cooperation activities are in support of counterinsurgency, security cooperation can be an effective counterinsurgency tool.  These activities help the U.S. and the host nation gain credibility and help the host nation build legitimacy. These efforts can help prevent insurgencies…”

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and its subordinate command, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, have spent years engaged in such COIN-style humanitarian projects.  These have been touted in news releases at their websites in lieu of candid information on the true scale and scope of AFRICOM’s operations, the exponential growth of its activities, its spy operations, and shadowy base-building efforts.  Take a cursory glance at its official news releases and you’ll find them crammed with feel-good stories like an effort by CJTF-HOA personnel to tutor would-be Djiboutian hotel workers in English or a joint effort by the State Department, AFRICOM, and the Army Corps of Engineers to build six new schools in Togo.  Such acts are never framed in the context of counterinsurgency nor with an explicit link to U.S. efforts to win hearts and minds.  And never is there any mention of failings or fiascos. 

However, an investigation by the Department of Defense’s Inspector General (IG), completed last October but never publicly released, found failures in planning, executing, tracking, and documenting such projects.  The restricted report, obtained by TomDispatch, describes a flawed system plagued by a variety of deeply embedded problems.

In some cases, military officials failed to identify how their projects even supported AFRICOM’s objectives on the continent; in others, financial documentation was missing; in still others, CJTF-HOA personnel failed to ensure that local populations were equipped to keep the small-scale projects running or effective once the Americans moved on.  The risk, the report suggests, is that these signs of Washington’s goodwill and good intentions will quickly fall into disrepair and become what one American official called “monuments to U.S. failure” in Africa.

AFRICOM reacted defensively.  In an internal memo, Colonel Bruce Nickle, the acting Chief of Staff of U.S. Africa Command, criticized the Inspector General’s methodology, questioned the IG’s expertise, and suggested that some of the findings were “misleading.”  Close to a year after the report’s release, neither AFRICOM nor CJTF-HOA has announced policy changes based on its recommendations.  Repeated requests, over a period of months, by TomDispatch to AFRICOM media chief Benjamin Benson and the CJTF-HOA Public Affairs office for comment, further information, or clarification about the report as well as a request to interview Nickle have all gone unanswered.

COIN and the Fountains

Across Africa, the U.S. military is engaged in a panoply of aid projects with an eye toward winning a war of ideas in the minds of Africans and so beating back the lure of extremist ideologies — from that of Boko Haram in Nigeria to Somalia’s al Shabab.  These so-called civil-military operations, or CMOs, include “humanitarian assistance” projects like the construction or repair of schools, water wells and waste treatment systems, and “humanitarian and civic assistance” (HCA) efforts, like offering dental and veterinary care.

Kindness may be its own reward, but in the case of the U.S. military, CMO benevolence is designed to influence foreign governments and civilian populations in order to “facilitate military operations and achieve U.S. objectives.”  According to the Pentagon, humanitarian assistance efforts are engineered to improve “U.S. visibility, access, and influence with foreign military and civilian counterparts,” while HCA projects are designed to “promote the security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”  In the bureaucratic world of the U.S. military, these small-scale efforts are further divided into “community relations activities,” like the distribution of sports equipment, and “low-cost activities” such as seminars on solar panel maintenance or English-language discussion groups.  Theoretically at least, add all these projects together and you’ve taken a major step toward winning Africans away from the influence of extremists.  But are these projects working at all?  Has anyone even bothered to check?

In a report titled “Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Needed Better Guidance and Systems to Adequately Manage Civil-Military Operations,” the Department of Defense’s Inspector General found record keeping so abysmal that its officials “did not have an effective system to manage or report community relations and low cost activities.”  A spreadsheet supposedly tracking community low cost activities during 2012 and 2013 was so incomplete that 43% of such efforts went unmentioned.

Nonetheless, the IG did manage to review 49 of 137 identified humanitarian assistance and civic assistance projects, which cost U.S. taxpayers about $9 million, and found that the military officials overseeing CMO “did not adequately plan or execute” them in accordance with AFRICOM’s “objectives.”  Close to 20% of the time, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa even failed to accurately explain the possible relationship of specific projects to objectives like countering extremist organizations or expanding AFRICOM’s “network of partners on the continent.”  Examining 66 community relations and low cost activities, investigators found that CJTF-HOA had failed to accurately identify their strategic objectives for, or maintained limited documentation on, 62% of them.

The task force also failed to report or could not provide information on expenditures for four of six projects selected for special review, despite a requirement to do so and the use of a computerized system specifically designed to track such information.  These projects — two schools and a clinic in Djibouti as well as a school in Ethiopia — cost American taxpayers almost $1.3 million, yet U.S. officials failed to properly account for where all that money actually went.  All told, officials were unable to verify whether almost $229,000 in taxpayer dollars spent on such projects were properly accounted for.    

Investigators only inspected four humanitarian assistance worksites — two in Djibouti and two here in Tanzania — but even in this tiny sample found one site where the U.S. military had failed to ensure that the host nation would sustain the project.  At the Ali Sabieh Community Water Fountains in Djibouti, renovated by the U.S. in 2010 to minimize waterborne disease, investigators found a scene of utter disrepair.  Doors, pipes, and faucets “had been removed,” while another faucet “had a collapsed top,” leaving the water “exposed to contaminants.”  Photographs taken two years after the project was completed display dilapidated, crumbling, and seemingly jerry-rigged structures.

One American official assured IG investigators of the necessity of obtaining host nation “buy-in” on such projects to achieve success, while another suggested it was crucial that local “sweat equity” be invested in such projects, if they weren’t to become “monuments to U.S. failure.”  In Djibouti, however, local residents were apparently given no information about upkeep of the Ali Sabieh project.  As a result, Djiboutians threw rocks into a well built by Americans, a method that works to raise water in indigenously built wells. In this case, however, it damaged the well so badly that it stopped working.

Examining a sample of projects, the Pentagon’s investigators found that 73% of the time CJTF-HOA personnel failed to collect sufficient data 30 days after completion of projects, to assess whether it achieved the stated objectives.  For example, five hours north of here at a medical clinic at Manza Bay, the U.S. built cisterns and a water catchment system.  The project was apparently considered a success, but the military had very little data to back up that claim.  In Garissa, in neighboring Kenya, a veterinary civic action project was evidently also declared a triumph without anything to prove it beyond vague upbeat claims of success in impressing local residents.

Winning Hearts and Minds or Losing Money and Influence?

After reviewing a draft of the Inspector General’s report last year, AFRICOM Chief of Staff Nickle offered a response clearly meant to undermine the Pentagon watchdog’s claims.  In his September 2013 memorandum, Nickle took particular issue with the Inspector General’s investigative methodology, decrying its lack of statistical sampling.  Since the report is restricted, the IG’s office refused to discuss the specifics of its analysis with TomDispatch, but Brenda Rolin of its Office of Communications and Congressional Liaison defended the methodology.  Non-statistical sampling, she explained, “can be used to obtain sufficient audit evidence.  This method is valid but results may not be projected to the entire population.”  Nickle also complained that the IG’s team did not include an expert familiar with all the types of humanitarian efforts AFRICOM carried out and that the investigators failed to highlight its successes.

Nearly a year has passed since the drafting of the Inspector General’s report.  During that time, neither AFRICOM nor CJTF-HOA has publicly addressed it or announced any changes based upon its recommendations.  In the meantime, the hearts and minds of allied African military leaders appear unswayed by AFRICOM’s efforts.  Over two days at the “Land Forces East Africa” conference here in Dar es Salaam, I listened to generals and defense analysts from around the region speak on security matters affecting Burundi, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania.  They touched on the key issues — extremism, terrorism, and piracy — that the American hearts-and-minds campaign is meant to counter, but the United States was hardly mentioned.  Tanzanian officers I talked with, for instance, were pleased to be receiving American funds, but less so with direct U.S. interventions of any type on the continent.  None I spoke with seemed aware of AFRICOM’S hearts-and-minds work like clean water projects or school construction in underdeveloped rural areas not so very far from where we’ve been sitting.

Even Egan O’Reilly, an Army officer attached to the U.S. Embassy here, whose job is to facilitate “security cooperation” activities, had little idea about AFRICOM’s humanitarian efforts.  Dual-hatted — answering to the U.S. ambassador in Tanzania and AFRICOM — he’s new to the mission but high on America’s efforts in the region.  “We’ve done everything from helping bring down trainers for military intelligence courses to building their own schoolhouse for intelligence work,” he tells me.

What about the building of primary and secondary schools, the humanitarian assistance projects?  “I haven’t seen a whole lot of AFRICOM work myself,” replies the West Point graduate and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  As O’Reilly told me, he had heard about the work of the Medical Civil Action Program, or MEDCAP — meant to provide medical care or increase local medical capacity in underserved areas — but that was about it.  And while such programs are “good and they make people smile,” he adds, they’re of limited utility.  Logistics training and engineering instruction for African militaries, that’s “the important stuff.”  

TomDispatch also sought interviews with U.S. defense attachés in Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya for assessments of the humanitarian projects in those respective countries.  The latter two embassies failed to respond to the requests, while a spokesperson for the U.S. mission in Ethiopia thanked me for my interest but told me that the defense attaché “is not currently available for an interview.”  No one, it appears, is eager to talk about the textbook counterinsurgency campaign being carried out by the U.S. military in Africa, let alone the failures chronicled in an IG report that’s been withheld from the public for almost a year.

For the last decade, we’ve been inundated with disclosures about billions of U.S. tax dollars squandered on counterinsurgency failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, stories of ruined roads and busted buildings, shoddy schoolhouses and wasteful water parks, all in the name of winning hearts and minds.  Below the radar, similar — if smaller scale — efforts are well underway in Africa.  Already, the schools are being built, already the water projects are falling to pieces, already the Department of Defense’s Inspector General has identified a plethora of problems.  It’s just been kept under wraps.  But if history is any guide, humanitarian efforts by AFRICOM and Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa will grow larger and ever more expensive, until they join the long list of projects that have become “monuments to U.S. failure” around the world.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch.com and a fellow at the Nation Institute.


Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks


September 6, 2014

by Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Congessore

New York Times


WASHINGTON — The agreement signed last year by the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs was explicit: For $5 million, Norway’s partner in Washington would push top officials at the White House, at the Treasury Department and in Congress to double spending on a United States foreign aid program.

But the recipient of the cash was not one of the many Beltway lobbying firms that work every year on behalf of foreign governments.

It was the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit research organization, or think tank, one of many such groups in Washington that lawmakers, government officials and the news media have long relied on to provide independent policy analysis and scholarship.

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.

The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments. And they have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law, according to several legal specialists who examined the agreements at the request of The Times.

As a result, policy makers who rely on think tanks are often unaware of the role of foreign governments in funding the research.

Joseph Sandler, a lawyer and expert on the statute that governs Americans lobbying for foreign governments, said the arrangements between the countries and think tanks “opened a whole new window into an aspect of the influence-buying in Washington that has not previously been exposed.”

“It is particularly egregious because with a law firm or lobbying firm, you expect them to be an advocate,” Mr. Sandler added. “Think tanks have this patina of academic neutrality and objectivity, and that is being compromised.”

The arrangements involve Washington’s most influential think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Atlantic Council. Each is a major recipient of overseas funds, producing policy papers, hosting forums and organizing private briefings for senior United States government officials that typically align with the foreign governments’ agendas.

Most of the money comes from countries in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia, particularly the oil-producing nations of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Norway, and takes many forms. The United Arab Emirates, a major supporter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House. Qatar, the small but wealthy Middle East nation, agreed last year to make a $14.8 million, four-year donation to Brookings, which has helped fund a Brookings affiliate in Qatar and a project on United States relations with the Islamic world.

Some scholars say the donations have led to implicit agreements that the research groups would refrain from criticizing the donor governments.

“If a member of Congress is using the Brookings reports, they should be aware — they are not getting the full story,” said Saleem Ali, who served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar and who said he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatari government in papers. “They may not be getting a false story, but they are not getting the full story.”

In interviews, top executives at the think tanks strongly defended the arrangements, saying the money never compromised the integrity of their organizations’ research. Where their scholars’ views overlapped with those of donors, they said, was coincidence.

“Our business is to influence policy with scholarly, independent research, based on objective criteria, and to be policy-relevant, we need to engage policy makers,” said Martin S. Indyk, vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program at Brookings, one of the oldest and most prestigious think tanks in Washington.

“Our currency is our credibility,” said Frederick Kempe, chief executive of the Atlantic Council, a fast-growing research center that focuses mainly on international affairs and has accepted donations from at least 25 countries since 2008. “Most of the governments that come to us, they understand we are not lobbyists. We are a different entity, and they work with us for totally different purposes.”

In their contracts and internal documents, however, foreign governments are often explicit about what they expect from the research groups they finance.

“In Washington, it is difficult for a small country to gain access to powerful politicians, bureaucrats and experts,” states an internal report commissioned by the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry assessing its grant making. “Funding powerful think tanks is one way to gain such access, and some think tanks in Washington are openly conveying that they can service only those foreign governments that provide funding.”

The think tanks’ reliance on funds from overseas is driven, in part, by intensifying competition within the field: The number of policy groups has multiplied in recent years, while research grants from the United States government have dwindled.

Foreign officials describe these relationships as pivotal to winning influence on the cluttered Washington stage, where hundreds of nations jockey for attention from the United States government. The arrangements vary: Some countries work directly with think tanks, drawing contracts that define the scope and direction of research. Others donate money to the think tanks, and then pay teams of lobbyists and public relations consultants to push the think tanks to promote the country’s agenda.

“Japan is not necessarily the most interesting subject around the world,” said Masato Otaka, a spokesman for the Japanese Embassy, when asked why Japan donates heavily to American research groups. “We’ve been experiencing some slower growth in the economy. I think our presence is less felt than before.”

The scope of foreign financing for American think tanks is difficult to determine. But since 2011, at least 64 foreign governments, state-controlled entities or government officials have contributed to a group of 28 major United States-based research organizations, according to disclosures by the institutions and government documents. What little information the organizations volunteer about their donors, along with public records and lobbying reports filed with American officials by foreign representatives, indicates a minimum of $92 million in contributions or commitments from overseas government interests over the last four years. The total is certainly more.

After questions from The Times, some of the research groups agreed to provide limited additional information about their relationships with countries overseas. Among them was the Center for Strategic and International Studies, whose research agenda focuses mostly on foreign policy; it agreed last month to release a list of 13 foreign government donors, from Germany to China, though the organization declined to disclose details of its contracts with those nations or actual donation amounts.

In an interview, John J. Hamre, president and chief executive of the center, acknowledged that the organization’s scholars at times advocate causes with the Obama administration and Congress on the topics that donor governments have funded them to study. But Mr. Hamre stressed that he did not view it as lobbying — and said his group is most certainly not a foreign agent.

“I don’t represent anybody,” Mr. Hamre, a former deputy secretary of defense, said. “I never go into the government to say, ‘I really want to talk to you about Morocco or about United Arab Emirates or Japan.’ I have conversations about these places all the time with everybody, and I am never there representing them as a lobbyist to their interests.”

Several legal experts who reviewed the documents, however, said the tightening relationships between United States think tanks and their overseas sponsors could violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the 1938 federal law that sought to combat a Nazi propaganda campaign in the United States. The law requires groups that are paid by foreign governments with the intention of influencing public policy to register as “foreign agents” with the Justice Department.

“I am surprised, quite frankly, at how explicit the relationship is between money paid, papers published and policy makers and politicians influenced,” said Amos Jones, a Washington lawyer who has specialized in the foreign agents act, after reviewing transactions between the Norway government and Brookings, the Center for Global Development and other groups.

At least one of the research groups conceded that it may in fact be violating the federal law.

“Yikes,” said Todd Moss, the chief operating officer at the Center for Global Development, after being shown dozens of pages of emails between his organization and the government of Norway, which detail how his group would lobby the White House and Congress on behalf of the Norway government. “We will absolutely seek counsel on this.”

Parallels With Lobbying

The line between scholarly research and lobbying can sometimes be hard to discern.

Last year, Japan began an effort to persuade American officials to accelerate negotiations over a free-trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of Japan’s top priorities. The country already had lobbyists on retainer, from the Washington firm of Akin Gump, but decided to embark on a broader campaign.

Akin Gump lobbyists approached several influential members of Congress and their staffs, including aides to Representative Charles Boustany Jr., Republican of Louisiana, and Representative Dave Reichert, Republican of Washington, seeking help in establishing a congressional caucus devoted to the partnership, lobbying records show. After those discussions, in October 2013, the lawmakers established just such a group, the Friends of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

To bolster the new group’s credibility, Japanese officials sought validation from outside the halls of Congress. Within weeks, they received it from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to which Japan has been a longtime donor. The center will not say how much money the government has given — or for what exactly — but an examination of its relationship with a state-funded entity called the Japan External Trade Organization provides a glimpse.

In the past four years, the organization has given the center at least $1.1 million for “research and consulting” to promote trade and direct investment between Japan and the United States. The center also houses visiting scholars from within the Japanese government, including Hiroshi Waguri, an executive in the Ministry of Defense, as well as Shinichi Isobe, an executive from the trade organization.

In early December, the center held an event featuring Mr. Boustany and Mr. Reichert, who spoke about the importance of the trade agreement and the steps they were taking to pressure the White House to complete it. In addition, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing later that month, Matthew P. Goodman, a scholar at the center, testified in favor of the agreement, his language driving home the very message Japan’s lobbyists and their congressional allies were seeking to convey.

The agreement was critical to “success not only for the administration’s regional economic policy but arguably for the entire Asia rebalancing strategy,” Mr. Goodman said.

Mr. Hamre, the center’s president, acknowledged that his organization’s researchers were pushing for the trade deal (it remains pending). But he said their advocacy was rooted in a belief that the agreement was good for the United States economy and the country’s standing in Asia.

Andrew Schwartz, a spokesman for the center, said that language in the agreements the organization signs with foreign governments gives its scholars final say over the policy positions they take — although he acknowledged those provisions have not been included in all such documents.

“We have to respect their academic and intellectual independence,” Mr. Otaka, the Japanese Embassy spokesman, said in a separate interview. But one Japanese diplomat, who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said the country expected favorable treatment in return for donations to think tanks.

“If we put actual money in, we want to have a good result for that money — as it is an investment,” he said.

Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — two nations that host large United States military bases and view a continued American military presence as central to their own national security — have been especially aggressive in their giving to think tanks. The two Persian Gulf monarchies are also engaged in a battle with each other to shape Western opinion, with Qatar arguing that Muslim Brotherhood-style political Islam is the Arab world’s best hope for democracy, and the United Arab Emirates seeking to persuade United States policy makers that the Brotherhood is a dangerous threat to the region’s stability.

The United Arab Emirates, which has become a major supporter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies over the past decade, turned to the think tank in 2007 after an uproar in Congress about the nation’s plan to purchase control of terminals in several United States ports. After lawmakers questioned whether the purchase would be a national security threat to the United States, and the deal was scuttled, the oil-rich nation sought to remake its image in Washington, Mr. Hamre said.

The nation paid the research organization to sponsor a lecture series “to examine the strategic importance” of the gulf region and “identify opportunities for constructive U.S. engagement.” It also paid the center to organize annual trips to the gulf region during which dozens of national security experts from the United States would get private briefings from government officials there.

These and other events gave the United Arab Emirates’ senior diplomats an important platform to press their case. At a round table in Washington in March 2013, Yousef Al Otaiba, the ambassador to the United States, pressed Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about whether the United States would remain committed to his country given budget reductions in Washington.

Mr. Dempsey’s reply was quickly posted on the Facebook page of the United Arab Emirates Embassy: The country, he assured Mr. Al Otaiba and others in the crowd, was one of America’s “most credible and capable allies, especially in the gulf region.”

Access to Power

Small countries are finding that they can gain big clout by teaming up with American research organizations. Perhaps the best example is Norway.

As one of the world’s top oil producers, a member of NATO and a player in peace negotiations in spots around the globe, Norway has an interest in a broad range of United States policies.

The country has committed at least $24 million to an array of Washington think tanks over the past four years, according to a tally by The Times, transforming these nonprofits into a powerful but largely hidden arm of the Norway Foreign Affairs Ministry. Documents obtained under that country’s unusually broad open records laws reveal that American research groups, after receiving money from Norway, have advocated in Washington for enhancing Norway’s role in NATO, promoted its plans to expand oil drilling in the Arctic and pushed its climate change agenda.

Norway paid the Center for Global Development, for example, to persuade the United States government to spend more money on combating global warming by slowing the clearing of forests in countries like Indonesia, according to a 2013 project document describing work by the center and a consulting company called Climate Advisers.

Norway is a major funder of forest protection efforts around the world. But while many environmentalists applaud the country’s lobbying for forest protection, some have attacked the programs as self-interested: Slowing deforestation could buy more time for Norway’s oil companies to continue selling fossil fuels on the global market even as Norway and other countries push for new carbon reduction policies. Oilwatch International, an environmental advocacy group, calls forest protection a “scheme whereby polluters use forests and land as supposed sponges for their pollution.”

Kare R. Aas, Norway’s ambassador to the United States, rejected this criticism as ridiculous. As a country whose territory extends into the Arctic, he said, Norway would be among the nations most affected by global warming.

“We want to maintain sustainable living conditions in the North,” Mr. Aas said.

But Norway’s agreement imposed very specific demands on the Center for Global Development. The research organization, in return for Norway’s money, was not simply asked to publish reports on combating climate change. The project documents ask the think tank to persuade Washington officials to double United States spending on global forest protection efforts to $500 million a year.

“Target group: U.S. policy makers,” a progress report reads.

Norway paid the Center for Global Development, for example, to persuade the United States government to spend more money on combating global warming by slowing the clearing of forests in countries like Indonesia, according to a 2013 project document describing work by the center and a consulting company called Climate Advisers.

Norway is a major funder of forest protection efforts around the world. But while many environmentalists applaud the country’s lobbying for forest protection, some have attacked the programs as self-interested: Slowing deforestation could buy more time for Norway’s oil companies to continue selling fossil fuels on the global market even as Norway and other countries push for new carbon reduction policies. Oilwatch International, an environmental advocacy group, calls forest protection a “scheme whereby polluters use forests and land as supposed sponges for their pollution.”

Kare R. Aas, Norway’s ambassador to the United States, rejected this criticism as ridiculous. As a country whose territory extends into the Arctic, he said, Norway would be among the nations most affected by global warming.

“We want to maintain sustainable living conditions in the North,” Mr. Aas said.

But Norway’s agreement imposed very specific demands on the Center for Global Development. The research organization, in return for Norway’s money, was not simply asked to publish reports on combating climate change. The project documents ask the think tank to persuade Washington officials to double United States spending on global forest protection efforts to $500 million a year.

“Target group: U.S. policy makers,” a progress report reads.

The grant is already paying dividends. The center, crediting the Norwegian government’s funding, helped arrange a November 2013 meeting with Treasury Department officials. Scholars there also succeeded in having language from their Norway-funded research included in a deforestation report prepared by a White House advisory commission, according to an April progress report.

Norway has also funded Arctic research at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, at a time when the country was seeking to expand its oil drilling in the Arctic region.

Mr. Hamre, of the center, said he was invited to Norway about five years ago and given a presentation on the Arctic Circle, known in Norway as the “High North.”

“What the hell is the High North?” he said in an interview, recalling that he was not familiar with the topic until then.

But Norway’s government soon began sending checks to the center for a research program on Arctic policy. By 2009, after the new Norway-supported Arctic program was up and running, it brought Norway officials together with a key member of Congress to discuss the country’s “energy aspirations for the region.”

In a March 2013 report, scholars from the center urged the Obama administration to increase its military presence in the Arctic Circle, to protect energy exploration efforts there and to increase the passage of cargo ships through the region — the exact moves Norway has been advocating.

Continue reading the main story The Brookings Institution, which also accepted grants from Norway, has sought to help the country gain access to American officials, documents show. One Brookings senior fellow, Bruce Jones, offered in 2010 to reach out to State Department officials to help arrange a meeting with a senior Norway official, according to a government email. The Norway official wished to discuss his country’s role as a “middle power” and vital partner of the United States.

Brookings organized another event in April 2013, in which one of Norway’s top officials on Arctic issues was seated next to the State Department’s senior official on the topic and reiterated the country’s priorities for expanding oil exploration in the Arctic.

William J. Antholis, the managing director at Brookings, said that if his scholars help Norway pursue its foreign policy agenda in Washington, it is only because their rigorous, independent research led them to this position. “The scholars are their own agents,” he said. “They are not agents of these foreign governments.”

But three lawyers who specialize in the law governing Americans’ activities on behalf of foreign governments said that the Center for Global Development and Brookings, in particular, appeared to have taken actions that merited registration as foreign agents of Norway. The activities by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Atlantic Council, they added, at least raised questions.

“The Department of Justice needs to be looking at this,” said Joshua Rosenstein, a lawyer at Sandler Reiff.

Ona Dosunmu, Brookings’s general counsel, examining the same documents, said she remained convinced that was a misreading of the law.

Norway, at least, is grateful for the work Brookings has done. During a speech at Brookings in June, Norway’s foreign minister, Borge Brende, noted that his country’s relationship with the think tank “has been mutually beneficial for moving a lot of important topics.” Just before the speech, in fact, Norway signed an agreement to contribute an additional $4 million to the group.

Limits on Scholars

The tens of millions in donations from foreign interests come with certain expectations, researchers at the organizations said in interviews. Sometimes the foreign donors move aggressively to stifle views contrary to their own.

Michele Dunne served for nearly two decades as a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the State Department, including stints in Cairo and Jerusalem, and on the White House National Security Council. In 2011, she was a natural choice to become the founding director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, named after the former prime minister of Lebanon, who was assassinated in 2005.

The center was created with a generous donation from Bahaa Hariri, his eldest son, and with the support of the rest of the Hariri family, which has remained active in politics and business in the Middle East. Another son of the former prime minister served as Lebanon’s prime minister from 2009 to 2011.

But by the summer of 2013, when Egypt’s military forcibly removed the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, Ms. Dunne soon realized there were limits to her independence. After she signed a petition and testified before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee urging the United States to suspend military aid to Egypt, calling Mr. Morsi’s ouster a “military coup,” Bahaa Hariri called the Atlantic Council to complain, executives with direct knowledge of the events said.

Ms. Dunne declined to comment on the matter. But four months after the call, Ms. Dunne left the Atlantic Council.

In an interview, Mr. Kempe said he had never taken any action on behalf of Mr. Hariri to try to modify positions that Ms. Dunne or her colleagues took. Ms. Dunne left, he said, in part because she wanted to focus on research, not managing others, as she was doing at the Atlantic Council.

“Differences she may have had with colleagues, management or donors on Middle Eastern issues — inevitable in such a fraught environment where opinions vary widely — don’t touch our fierce defense of individual experts’ intellectual independence,” Mr. Kempe said.

Ms. Dunne was replaced by Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., who served as United States ambassador to Egypt during the rule of Hosni Mubarak, the longtime Egyptian military and political leader forced out of power at the beginning of the Arab Spring. Mr. Ricciardone, a career foreign service officer, had earlier been criticized by conservatives and human rights activists for being too deferential to the Mubarak government.

Scholars at other Washington think tanks, who were granted anonymity to detail confidential internal discussions, described similar experiences that had a chilling effect on their research and ability to make public statements that might offend current or future foreign sponsors. At Brookings, for example, a donor with apparent ties to the Turkish government suspended its support after a scholar there made critical statements about the country, sending a message, one scholar there said.

“It is the self-censorship that really affects us over time,” the scholar said. “But the fund-raising environment is very difficult at the moment, and Brookings keeps growing and it has to support itself.”

The sensitivities are especially important when it comes to the Qatari government — the single biggest foreign donor to Brookings.

Brookings executives cited strict internal policies that they said ensure their scholars’ work is “not influenced by the views of our funders,” in Qatar or in Washington. They also pointed to several reports published at the Brookings Doha Center in recent years that, for example, questioned the Qatari government’s efforts to revamp its education system or criticized the role it has played in supporting militants in Syria.

But in 2012, when a revised agreement was signed between Brookings and the Qatari government, the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself praised the agreement on its website, announcing that “the center will assume its role in reflecting the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones.” Brookings officials also acknowledged that they have regular meetings with Qatari government officials about the center’s activities and budget, and that the former Qatar prime minister sits on the center’s advisory board.

Mr. Ali, who served as one of the first visiting fellows at the Brookings Doha Center after it opened in 2009, said such a policy, though unwritten, was clear.

“There was a no-go zone when it came to criticizing the Qatari government,” said Mr. Ali, who is now a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia. “It was unsettling for the academics there. But it was the price we had to pay.”


Did Certain Foreign Governments Facilitate the 9/11 Attacks? – and why is the US government keeping the evidence a secret?


August 29, 2014

by Justin Raimondo


Some thirteen years after the event, the shadow of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan and the Pentagon still darkens our world. The legacy of that terrible day has impacted not only our foreign policy, bequeathing to a new generation an apparently endless “war on terrorism,” it also has led directly to what is arguably the most massive assault on our civil liberties since the Alien and Sedition Acts. Getting all the information about what happened that day – and why it happened – is key to understanding the course we have taken since.

This was supposed to have been the purpose of the 9/11 Commission, whose massive report is now looked to as the primary source on the subject. Yet there is another, far more specific investigative report, the one issued by the intelligence committees of both houses of Congress, entitled “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”

If you actually take the time to read the report, all goes along swimmingly (except for occasional redactions) until you get to p. 369, whereupon the text is blacked out for the next twenty-eight pages.

What is in the twenty-eight censored pages? You aren’t allowed to know that, but members of Congress can read them provided they write to the heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees and get permission. If such is granted, they are escorted into a soundproof carefully guarded room in the company of various spooks, where they get to read the material: they aren’t allowed to take notes.

Do you get the impression someone has something to hide?

The censored section is entitled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters,” and the introduction – left largely intact – is instructive:

“Through its investigation, the Joint Inquiry developed information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States. The Joint Inquiry’s review confirmed that the Intelligence Community also has information, much of which has yet to be independently verified, concerning these potential sources of support. In their testimony, neither CIA nor FBI officials were able to address definitively the extent of such support for the hijackers globally or within the United States or the extent to which such support, if it exists, is knowing or inadvertent in nature.”

The alleged Saudi connection to the 9/11 attacks has had a lot of play: it is widely believed that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 special permission was given to fly members of the Saudi royal family out of the country when the whole nation was in lockdown. This raised suspicions, along with the incontrovertible fact that the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. In a 2002 interview with Gwen Ifill on PBS, Senator Bob Graham of Florida, then on the Senate Intelligence Committee, went public with the news that foreign governments were in on the 9/11 attacks:

“GWEN IFILL: “Senator Graham, are there elements in this report, which are classified that Americans should know about but can’t?”

SEN. BOB GRAHAM: “Yes, going back to your question about what was the greatest surprise. I agree with what Senator Shelby said the degree to which agencies were not communicating was certainly a surprise but also I was surprised at the evidence that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating the activities of at least some of the terrorists in the United States.”

In the years since his retirement, Sen. Graham has been steadily pounding away at this point, and his persistence has usually been interpreted as a demand to reveal the extent of Saudi complicity in the attacks. And while the Saudis may well have been involved, either directly or otherwise, I would bring your attention to Graham’s statement and the introduction to the Joint Inquiry report, which indicate that more than one foreign government was involved. But if it wasn’t just the Saudis, then who else was involved?

We don’t have to rely on pure speculation, in spite of the fact that us ordinary peons in flyover country aren’t allowed to read those 28 pages. That’s because a few members of Congress have taken the trouble to apply for permission to read them, including Representatives Walter Jones (R-North Carolina), Tom Massie (R-Kentucky), and Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts). According to their own accounts, they came out of that soundproof spy-proof room reeling. Here’s what Jones says:

“I was absolutely shocked by what I read. What was so surprising was that those whom we thought we could trust really disappointed me…It does not deal with national security per se; it is more about relationships. The information is critical to our foreign policy moving forward and should thus be available to the American people. If the 9/11 hijackers had outside help – particularly from one or more foreign governments – the press and the public have a right to know what our government has or has not done to bring justice to the perpetrators.”

“One or more foreign governments,” eh? Who in the Middle East – or anywhere else, for that matter – are among “those whom we thought we could trust”? That doesn’t sound like the Saudis to me. Would anyone really be surprised or “disappointed” to learn that they were playing games behind our back?

Rep. Massie’s statement is even more revealing:

“I had to stop every two or three pages and rearrange my perception of history. And it’s that fundamental – those 28 pages….It certainly changes your view of the Middle East.”

Would the discovery of Saudi perfidy “change your view of the Middle East” in a “fundamental” way? The Kingdom has been exporting its fanatic brand of Wahabism – fundamentalist Sunni ideology – spreading terrorism and political instability across the region for many years. So this is nothing new: and for those of us old enough to remember the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, their two-timing nature is taken for granted.

Graham has been explicit in accusing the Saudis of financing at least some of the 9/11 hijackers, as well as facilitating their entry into the United States. However, the Joint Inquiry indicates that more than this was involved: the phrase “foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States” jumps out at me, at least implying that it wasn’t just financing – after all, how much did the 9/11 attacks actually cost Al Qaeda in terms of dollars and cents? – but also that operational assistance was given on the ground.

Given – by whom?

In the wake of 9/11, while the smoke from the downed World Trade Building was still clouding the skies over Manhattan, I noticed a news item in the Washington Post that rang all kinds of alarm bells, or at least it should have – although our vaunted Fourth Estate was too busy signing on to the newly-minted “war on terrorism” to notice. The story was headlined “Government Calls Several Cases ‘of Special Interest,’ Meaning Related to Post-Attacks Investigation.” Reporter John Mintz related that at least 60 Israelis “of special interest to the government” had been rounded up and that several of these had training in counter-terrorist techniques. As I noted at the time:

“Well, spying is indeed a time-honored tradition, and something tells me these guys are no ordinary tourists, but since the US Government is keeping mum about everything connected with this investigation, we just don’t know. In rounding up untold hundreds of mostly Arab Muslim men, and interviewing thousands more, the Ashcroft Sweep is clearly designed to gather information that might lead them to the remaining conspirators. It could be that the Israelis, or at least some of them, fall into this category: while not being directly involved, maybe they know something. Nothing else could account for the government’s ‘special interest.’”

Not long after that, in the hard winter of 2001, Fox News ran a four-part series – part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 – reported by Carl Cameron that let the cat out of the bag. Part one started out with a bang:

“Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States.

“There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are ‘tie-ins.’ But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’”

The Fox series detailed an extensive and highly sophisticated Israeli spy network inside the US – including not only hundreds of agents on the ground masquerading as “art students,” but also hi-tech spying tapping into our phone system and US eavesdropping capabilities – with the first part ending in this dialogue between Cameron and Fox News anchor Brit Hume:

“HUME: Carl, what about this question of advanced knowledge of what was going to happen on 9-11? How clear are investigators that some Israeli agents may have known something?

CAMERON: It’s very explosive information, obviously, and there’s a great deal of evidence that they say they have collected – none of it necessarily conclusive. It’s more when they put it all together. A bigger question, they say, is how could they not have know? Almost a direct quote.”

Days after the broadcast of part four, the whole series disappeared from the Fox News site. The powerful pro-Israel lobby went after reporter Cameron, accusing him of anti-Semitism on account of his upbringing: he had grown up, in part, in the Middle East, where his father was an archeologist working in Iran. Pressure was applied to media organizations not to do any follow up reporting on this story of Israeli complicity.

Yet some major media organizations did pursue the story: Le Monde did a piece that added some new information:

“Six of the intercepted “students” had a cellular telephone bought by an Israeli ex-vice-consul in the United States. Two others, at an unspecified time, arrived in Miami by direct flight from Hamburg, and went to the residence of an FBI agent, to try to sell him artwork, left again for the Chicago airport to go to the residence of an agent of the justice department, then again took a plane directly for Toronto – all in one day.

“More than a third of these ‘students,’ who, according to the report, moved in at least 42 American cities, stated they resided in Florida. Five at least were intercepted in Hollywood, and two in Fort Lauderdale. Hollywood is a town of 25,000 inhabitants to the north of Miami, close to Fort Lauderdale. At least 10 of the 19 terrorists of 9/11 were residing in Florida.”

Noting that Hollywood, Florida, was the stomping grounds of “four of the five members of the group that diverted American Airlines flight number 11,” including ringleader Mohammed Atta, and going on to link others to the same area, Le Monde concluded:

“This convergence is, inter alia, the origin of the American conviction that one of the tasks of the Israeli ‘students’ would have been to track the Al-Qaida terrorists on their territory, without informing the federal authorities of the existence of the plot.”

Salon.com did an excellent follow up by ace reporter Christopher Ketcham, and some others followed suit, but only here at Antiwar.com did we continue to consistently report on this important story – arguably, along with the Snowden revelations, one of the biggest stories in the history of modern journalism.

            When I first started writing about the question of Israeli complicity in the 9/11 attacks, I was told that I would henceforth be consigned to the margins: I was a “truther,” a crackpot, and, naturally, an “anti-Semite.” But why, I asked, would Fox News – surely one of the most pro-Israel news organizations on the planet – have run a four-part series pointing the finger directly at Israel if it didn’t comport with the facts? Why is this a “conspiracy theory” if the CIA’s own National Counterintelligence Center was concerned enough about those “art students” to post a warning about them on its official web site? The NCC noted, in March, 2001:

            “In the past six weeks, employees in federal office buildings located throughout the United States have reported suspicious activities connected with individuals representing themselves as foreign students selling or delivering artwork. Employees have observed both males and females attempting to bypass facility security and enter federal buildings.”

             Ketcham, writing in Salon, theorized that the “art students” were a ploy to divert attention away from the hijackers, and, perhaps, to simultaneously shield Atta and his crew from US counterintelligence.

It would serve the Israelis well to concentrate exclusively on the alleged Saudi connection to 9/11, and this has been the case so far. Yet the public statements of those who have actually seen the censored 28 pages in the Joint Inquiry report do not comport with this narrow focus. What else other than evidence of Israeli complicity in the 9/11 terrorist attacks would cause these members of Congress to “rearrange” their “perception of history”? Can you think of a better description of the Israelis than “those whom we thought we could trust,” as Rep. Jones put it?

I would also note that both Massie and Jones took the unusual step of voting “no” on funding the Israeli “Iron Dome” antimissile system, along with a tiny minority in both parties. Why do you suppose that is?

So the question boils down to – Why? Why would the Israelis, who were tracking the Israelis on our territory, not only fail to let us know but perhaps act to shield them from law enforcement’s gaze? The answer, I believe, is indicated by the role played by Israel since the attacks in agitating for US military action in the Middle East. In 2003, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, anticipating the Iraq war, declared that Syria, Iran, and Libya had to be “disarmed” as well. And Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to a conference at Bar Ilan University in 2008, was more direct. As reported by Israeli news outlets Ha’aretz and Ma’ariv:

“’We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq,’ Ma’ariv quoted the former prime minister as saying. He reportedly added that these events ‘swung American public opinion in our favor.’”

What’s in the 28 censored pages of the Joint Inquiry into 9/11? We don’t know for sure – but if Israel is involved, then we do know why they won’t let us read those pages.

Representatives Jones, Lynch, and Massie have sparked a movement to declassify the 28 pages: go here for more information. This is a fight we need to win – but we can only do it by raising a huge stink. Call or write your congressional representatives and urge them to join the three congressmen who are fighting for your right to know. And spread the word.






Yellowstone supervolcano eruption would be disastrous for entire US – study


September 02, 2014



If the massive supervolcano at Yellowstone National Park erupted again, scientists believe it would blanket much of the United States in ash and potentially sever communication as well as travel between the country’s coasts.

According to a new study published by the US Geological Survey, cities about 300 miles away from the volcano’s location in Wyoming would be covered in up to three feet of ash as a result of a supereruption, the largest kind of volcanic eruption possible. More than 240 cubic miles of material would be expelled into the atmosphere, reaching cities like New York and Los Angeles on both sides of the United States.

In fact, the resulting ash cloud, or “umbrella,” as scientists called it, would be so strong that it would overpower normal wind patterns in North America, potentially grounding all air travel throughout the entire continent and radically altering the region’s climate. Electronic communication between the US’ East and West Coasts could also become complicated, if not hopeless.

“In essence, the eruption makes its own winds that can overcome the prevailing westerlies, which normally dominate weather patterns in the United States,” geologist and lead author of the study Larry Mastin said in a press release. “This helps explain the distribution from large Yellowstone eruptions of the past, where considerable amounts of ash reached the West Coast.”

In addition to taking out air travel, even just a couple of centimeters of ash accumulation would make driving accidents far more likely, due to reduced traction on roads. People would likely suffer from ash-related respiratory problems, while several inches of ash could damage buildings and jam water and sewage systems.

Although the consequences of such a powerful eruption are obviously serious, geologists still believe another explosion is unlikely at this point. The Yellowstone supervolcano has generated this kind of eruption at least three times in its history: once 2.1 million years ago, another 1.3 million years ago, and a third time about 640,000 years ago

With millions of tons of lava located underneath the supervolcano – last year the reservoir was found to be 2.5 times larger than previously thought – a supereruption would likely affect the entire world, not just the US or North America.

“It would be a global event,” Jamie Farrell of the University of Utah told the Associated Press last year. “There would be a lot of destruction and a lot of impacts around the globe.”

Fears over a possible eruption have spiked occasionally over the last few months, with a 4.8-magnitude earthquake striking the Yellowstone park earlier this year causing some to speculate that volcanic activity was to blame. As RT reported in July, one of the park’s major roads melted this summer as a result of extreme heat from the supervolcano.

Still, geologists say the chances of an eruption are unlikely.

“There is no evidence that a catastrophic eruption at Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is imminent,” the University of Utah Seismograph Station said in April. “Current geologic activity at Yellowstone has remained relatively constant since earth scientists first started monitoring some 30 years ago. Though another caldera-forming eruption is theoretically possible, it is very unlikely to occur in the next thousand or even 10,000 years.”


Rosneft President Igor Sechin: ‘Russia Didn’t Initiate the Ukraine Crisis’

Igor Sechin, head of the oil giant Rosneft, is considered by many to be the second most powerful man in Russia. In an interview, he speaks with SPIEGEL about natural gas deliveries to Europe, the Ukraine crisis and the damage caused by economic sanctions.

Interview Conducted by Gerald Traufetter and Matthias Schepp



His adversaries refer to him as Darth Vader; his admirers call him the energy czar. His power, though, is uncontested. And Igor Sechin, the director of Rosneft, the world’s largest listed oil company, is also reclusive. He only seldom appears before the public and the press.

But when Sechin, 53, enters the room for his interview with SPIEGEL, he is in a cheerful mood, immediately handing over his business card which reads: “No Name, No Company, No Address.”

The text on the card is his commentary on the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia and on leading figures in the country, such as Sechin himself. He is no longer permitted to travel to the US and Sechin has become persona non grata in the West due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

A thickset man with a degree in Romance languages, Sechin is considered to be one of the most powerful people behind Russian President Vladimir Putin in the complicated Kremlin power structures. The two have known each other since the 1990s, having worked together at the time in the St. Petersburg city government. As Putin rose to power, he pulled Sechin up with him, first as deputy chief of staff during Putin’s first stint as president and then as deputy prime minister.


Within a decade, Sechin created a company that controls more oil and natural gas reserves than the energy giant ExxonMobil. Each day, Rosneft produces 4.2 million barrels of oil, almost 5 percent of global consumption. The company’s headquarters, a Czarist palace across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, make Rosneft’s place in the Russian hierarchy clear. Behind the facade, though, the image is far less pompous, with cafeteria odors wafting through white-tiled hallways and offices numbered like rooms in a cheap hotel.

A map of all of Rosneft’s drill sites in the former Soviet Union hangs on the wall of the conference room. The trapezoidal conference table narrows at one end, where a green leather armchair occupies the place of honor. Sechin, though, chooses a less ostentatious perch.





SPIEGEL: Igor Ivanovich, the US government has placed you on the sanctions list and has blocked Rosneft from receiving oil drilling technology from the West. How bothered are you by the fact that you are no longer welcome in the US and Europe?

Sechin: Neither I nor my company have anything to do with the crisis in Ukraine. As such, there is no foundation for the sanctions against me and Rosneft. They represent a violation of international law. Rosneft is an international corporation with stockholders in America, Europe and Asia. After the Russian state, BP is our biggest stakeholder with a 20 percent holding. As such, the sanctions also affect our Western partners. I find it curious that Rosneft is on this list even though we work more closely together with American and European companies than any other Russian firm.

SPIEGEL: How painful are the sanctions against Rosneft and Russia?

Sechin: The oil reserves that we are able to tap with the means available to us today are enough for 20 years. The sanctions will not prevent us from fulfilling our supply contracts. The technology affected by the sanctions is related to future projects. Incidentally, I would like to quote an expert. Juan Zarate, who was an advisor to President George W. Bush, writes in his book “Treasury’s War” that America is waging a new kind of war. It is being waged without military attacks, preferring instead to make opponents suffer financially.

SPIEGEL: Are you trying to say that America has declared such a war on Russia in response to the Ukraine conflict?

Sechin: I’m just quoting him. Early on, the American geostrategist Zbigniew Brzenzinski warned Europe against turning to Moscow. He was referring to the natural gas pipeline deals between Russia and Germany. He wrote that the US should not tolerate a geopolitically united Europe that might challenge America. That would happen, he wrote, were Europeans to realize that Russia is their natural economic partner.

SPIEGEL: Despite the war in eastern Ukraine and the sanctions, Russian-American economic relations when it comes to oil seem to be quite good. Rosneft and the American concern ExxonMobil just opened an oil platform together in the Arctic. President Vladimir Putin even took part in the ceremonies via video link.

Sechin: We have enjoyed working together with Exxon for 20 years — and now with the northernmost oil platform in the world. We believe that there is as much oil there as Saudi Arabia has in its proven reserves. We plan to invest $400 billion in the Arctic by 2030. In addition, our platform Berkut, off the coast of Sakhalin Island, has broken a few records. It is the biggest in the world.

SPIEGEL: “Berkut” means “golden eagle.” But it was also the name of the special police force then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych used in his unsuccessful attempt to defeat the Kiev protests.

Sechin: Now you’ve let the cat out of the bag. You want to talk about Ukraine. For me, though, Rosneft and our strategy is important.

SPIEGEL: As a listed company with the largest oil reserves in the world, you are operating against the background of the crisis. The sanctions have now cut you off from global financial streams. With $46 billion in net debts, how do you plan to finance the immense investments you have planned?

Sechin: We will be able to easily pay our debts under our own power. Last year, Rosneft achieved a record profit. With a turnover of $80 billion, our profit for the first half of 2014 is $5 billion and it will be $13.5 billion by the end of the year. No Russian company pays as much in taxes as we do. In 2014, our tax bill will be more than $80 billion.

SPIEGEL: Why, then, did you recently request financial assistance from the state?

Sechin: Because we would like to tap into difficult-to-access oil reserves in eastern Siberia and build a refinery there. We would be pleased if the government were to make a bond issue available to us — I would like to underline that it is not a subsidy. If not, I don’t see it as a catastrophe. We’ll just complete the project a bit later. Rosneft does not have any financial difficulties.

SPIEGEL: When will the sanctions begin to really hurt Rosneft and Russia?

Sechin: Everyone is suffering under the sanctions. It is a mistake to expand them to companies and bring them into a political conflict. Sanctions are a kind of war. That is how hatred is sown and it produces vengefulness.

SPIEGEL: The sanctions target Rosneft because you are seen as a close ally of Putin’s. America is seeking to exert pressure on the president.

Sechin: Then the West doesn’t know Russia’s president very well. Putin will not allow himself to be pressured.

SPIEGEL: Have you offered the president any advice regarding Ukraine?

Sechin: The president makes his decisions by himself. It is absurd to believe that I have any influence over him. My relationship with Putin is also not such that I could approach him with such questions. The idea is just as absurd as placing me on the sanctions list.

SPIEGEL: You spoke of the vengefulness that becomes an element in economic warfare. Is there a possibility that Europeans might find themselves sitting in cold houses this winter because Russia has shut off deliveries of natural gas and oil?

Sechin: Everyone ends up sitting where they want to. But don’t worry, only the uninformed could believe such a thing were possible. Rosneft and other Russian companies will adhere strictly to their supply contracts, which are safeguarded by credits and contractual penalties. That is why contracts exist. As an internationally traded company, Rosneft is listed on the London Stock Exchange and adheres to its standards.

SPIEGEL: Are you concerned that Europe might buy less of its oil and natural gas from Russia in the future?

Sechin: Just like every customer, Europe has the right to decide on its own. But Europe has an advantage over competitors in that it can rely on cheap Russian energy reserves. Currently, there is a lot of talk about shale gas and other new exploitation technologies. But they would make gas more expensive for European consumers. I am sure of that. Ignoring advantages is irrational.


SPIEGEL: Has your cooperation with German companies like Siemens been negatively affected by the sanctions?

Sechin: No, the gas turbines and control systems that we buy do not fall under the resolutions. But in the first half of this year, our imports of technology from Germany as a whole have sunk by 15 percent. Nevertheless, there isn’t a deficit of such machinery in Russia. American and Asian companies have been more than happy to fill the void. Certainly, Germany produces quality drilling rigs and pipeline systems. But if Germany doesn’t want to deliver, we’ll just buy in South Korea or China. If Germany’s goal is that of preventing its own companies from earning money, then go ahead.

SPIEGEL: At the end of last year, Rosneft closed a $270 billion deal with China. Is Rosneft turning toward Asia?

Sechin: I wouldn’t call it a reorientation. We are simply diversifying our markets. Diversification leads to greater stability. Plus, the Chinese pay in advance and some of our storage facilities are near the Asian market in eastern Siberia.

SPIEGEL: Russia is writing off Europe?

Sechin: Please. China’s share of Rosneft’s exports today is merely 13 percent. Europe’s is 39 percent. We have four petrochemical factories in Germany and as such we are your largest Russian investor.

SPIEGEL: Yet raw materials have always been an element of politics.

Sechin: Rosneft closed its first contract with China in 2010, prior to the sanctions. The Indians, too, need oil. In the Asia-Pacific region, the need for liquid natural gas is immense. It is thus impossible to isolate Russia. The world today is different than it was a few decades ago. With its sanctions, the West is first and foremost limiting itself — when it comes to the importing of Russian raw materials and the exporting of machines and facilities.

SPIEGEL: One reason for Rosneft’s rapid climb was that it took over parts of Yukos, the oil and gas company owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, after it was dismantled by the state. The European Court of Human Rights censured Russia’s treatment of Yukos and the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ordered Russia to pay $50 billion to the company’s former owners. Will that have any effect on your global expansion?

Sechin: All large energy companies have bought up others. We weren’t part of the arbitration proceedings. Rosneft merely bought parts of the former Yukos corporation, just as Italian concerns Enel and Eni did, or Gazprom and others. The financial auditors were from PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I am not ignoring the possibility that the two verdicts were politically influenced.

SPIEGEL: On what is your suspicion based?

Sechin: There is a large, international PR campaign being pursued by former Yukos shareholders. There were procedural errors made. Jurists question the arbitration court’s verdict because the court has no jurisdiction according to the Energy Charter Treaty. The Charter is there to protect foreign investors. But where are they? Then-shareholders of Yukos like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Leonid Newslin are Russians and they exploited Russian oil. They merely registered their corporation via offshore companies. In violation of Russian law, they bought Yukos for $300 million with a loan from the Finance Ministry that was never paid back. Competitors were kept away from the auction. Two companies belonging to the Khodorkovsky bank Menatep, with the telling names Montblanc and Volna, which means wave, then fought hard against each other. I am being ironic.

SPIEGEL: You are thought to have organized the break-up of Yukos. Is that true?

Sechin: That is a myth. Many continue to see Yukus as the innocent victim of evil aggressors. What nonsense! Let me tell you about my first experience with Yukos. In the fall of 1999, I had hardly been named the head of Putin’s administration when I found Vasily Shakhnovsky, a Yukos shareholder, standing uninvited in front of my door. Quickly and directly, he offered me bribe money. At the moment, he said, we don’t need anything from you, but we would like to regularly pay you money so that you represent our interests. I threw the man out of my office. Later, Khodorkovsky noted that Yukos and I were “unable to build a good relationship.”

SPIEGEL: Shakhnovsky might see things differently. When Khodorkovsky was released in December, you said that he could get a job as a Yukos employee. Were you just making fun of him?

Sechin: I said he could approach our personnel department. These people weren’t joking back then. Those who stood in their way were shoved aside. Yukos’ path to the top was paved with corpses. Russian courts confirmed as much.

SPIEGEL: In a written interview with SPIEGEL conducted from prison in 2010, Khodorkovsky said that Yukos never applied physical violence. Is he lying?

Sechin: It was never proven that Khodorkovsky took part in murders, but his employees, including his closest confidant Leonid Newslin, have been implicated. I doubt that Khodorkovsky, as head of the company, knew nothing about all that.

SPIEGEL: What are the specific allegations?

Sechin: The mayor of Nefteyugansk, the Siberian oil town, wanted Yukos to pay fair taxes and was killed. Valentina Korneyeva, the owner of a small tea shop in Moscow, was shot in the head. She refused to sell her shop to Khodorkovsky’s bank Menatep, which needed the property. There were assassination attempts on uncomfortable minority stakeholders. Employees of Yukos executive Newslin hired outlaws to do the dirty work. A hustler, a man named Gorin, tried to blackmail Khodorkovsky. Then Gorin and his wife were brutally murdered in their garage, and the corpses eliminated. Only a bit of brain fluid remained behind on the floor.

SPIEGEL: You insist that you weren’t behind the breaking up of Yukos. And yet you even know the name of the tea shop owner who allegedly stood in the way of Mikhail Khodorkovsky back then. What gives?

Sechin: During my time in the presidential office, I had access to such information. Plus, the whole thing makes me angry. It is time to look at these things objectively! Khodorkovsky and Co. were not angels and aren’t angels now. These are people who shy away from nothing. Our intelligence agencies have information that Khodorkovsky and Newslin remain focused on vengeance, against me as well.

SPIEGEL: How great was the damage done to Russia’s investment climate by the breaking apart Yukos?

Sechin: The contrary is true. Yukos defrauded its shareholders by way of offshore firms. Today, there is greater transparency in Russia, greater tax equity and greater legal protection for companies.

SPIEGEL: In reality, the Yukos case had more to do with bringing a company, which had been privatized after the Soviet Union’s collapse, back under state control. Do you deny that?

Sechin: The Yukos case has nothing to do with ownership questions. It’s about a crime. The ownership question has to do with efficiency. In the 1990s, it was always said that a private ownership class would develop which, by way of effective management and high taxes, would pull up the entire country. That didn’t happen. The entire oil and natural gas sector was privatized for less than $7 billion. Two years ago, we got more than that for the sale of just 12 percent of Rosneft to BP, adjusted for inflation of course.

SPIEGEL: Does that mean you are in favor of state ownership of energy companies?

Sechin: It is approached differently around the world. In America, commodities firms are privately owned but strictly regulated. Regulation is the most important thing, I think. We have decided at Rosneft to reduce the state’s holding, but the state will still maintain a controlling stake, which is beneficial to our minority shareholders. According to Russian law, only those companies in which the state holds a majority stake are allowed to undertake offshore drilling activities.

SPIEGEL: Currently, your business activities are beginning to be negatively affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. As a company that operates globally, are you not interested in the quickest end possible to a conflict that Russia is nourishing with its support of the separatists?

Sechin: The most important thing is to stop the spilling of blood. A humanitarian catastrophe is developing in eastern Ukraine. I would prefer not to comment on your political assessments.

SPIEGEL: What will happen with Rosneft investments in Ukraine?

Sechin: By the end of the year, we had planned to open a refinery that we modernized in the eastern Ukrainian town of Lysychansk. There was no fighting there, but Ukrainian artillery has reduced the facility to rubble. We estimate the damages to be around $140 million and we will negotiate with the government in Kiev over compensation.

SPIEGEL: But isn’t Russia primarily responsible for the war?

Sechin: Russia didn’t initiate the Ukraine crisis. That is historical fact and it will become clear over time. As the president of Rosneft, it is my job to increase shareholder value. As the largest Russian investor in Germany, we are focused on further developing our cooperation. Our principles include trust, sustainability and respect for others’ interests. I don’t have time for political issues. After all, I also want to have time for my children.

SPIEGEL: Igor Ivanovich, we thank you for this interview.



From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2014, Issue No. 57

September 8, 2014





NASA’s orbiting James Webb Space Telescope will be “the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide, and studying every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.”

So why does its Director need to have a Top Secret/SCI security clearance, as specified in the job description posted last month on USA Jobs?

Clearly, the secrets of the universe do not lend themselves to, or require, national security classification controls, let alone non-disclosure agreements or polygraph testing.

But in practice, the civilian space program intersects the national security space program at multiple points, and former CIA analyst Allen Thomson suggested that the future Webb Director might need a Top Secret intelligence clearance in order to engage with the National Reconnaissance Office on space technology and operations, for example.

The Webb Space Telescope “will complement and extend the discoveries of the Hubble Space Telescope, with longer wavelength coverage and greatly improved sensitivity,” according to NASA. “The longer wavelengths enable the Webb telescope to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.”

The Webb Telescope has a projected launch date in 2018.





As Congress plumbs new depths of futility and irrelevance, analysts at the Congressional Research Service continue to churn out policy-relevant studies that are informative and free of partisan embellishment. How long can it be until they are punished?


The latest CRS products that Congress has withheld from online public access include the following.


Pakistan Political Unrest: In Brief, September 3, 2014


The “1033 Program,” Department of Defense Support to Law Enforcement, August 28, 2014


Special Immigrant Juveniles: In Brief, August 29, 2014


Unaccompanied Children from Central America: Foreign Policy Considerations, August 28, 2014


The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq: A Possible Threat to Jordan?, CRS Insights, August 28, 2014


The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), August 27, 2014


A Primer on the Reviewability of Agency Delay and Enforcement Discretion, September 4, 2014

Congressional Participation in Article III Courts: Standing to Sue, September 4, 2014


The Elder Justice Act: Background and Issues for Congress, September 3, 2014


Common Core State Standards and Assessments: Background and Issues, September 2, 2014


Designating Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFIs), CRS Insights, August 28, 2014


Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out?, August 28, 2014


The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP): Issues in Brief, August 27, 2014


“Dark Pools” In Equity Trading: Significance and Recent Developments, CRS Insights, August 27, 2014


Can Body Worn Cameras Serve as a Deterrent to Police Misconduct?, CRS Insights, August 28, 2014


Spies off line: New gadget to stop unwanted drone, Google Glass snooping

September 9, 2014




A new surveillance device has been developed that has the potential to stop drones and Google Glass wearers from hacking into one’s Wi-Fi network. Cyborg Unplug works by sending de-authentication signals to unwanted monitoring or spying devices.

The device is the size of a computer adaptor, so it can be transported anywhere and can be plugged into any mains socket. Once the Cyborg Unplug detects an unwanted appliance, it alerts the owner of the Wi-Fi network with a flashing light, or a sound through speakers, while it can also send a text message to the user’s cell phone.

The product, which was developed by programmer Julian Oliver, also kicks off devices trying to access the wireless network. He hopes he will begin taking orders for the device at the end of the month.

“Basically it’s a wireless defense shield for your home or place of work,” Oliver says. “The intent is to counter a growing and tangibly troubling emergence of wirelessly capable devices that are used and abused for surveillance and voyeurism,” Wired.com reported him as saying.

Oliver, who lives in Berlin, came up with the idea in the summer, after a friend complained that someone who was wearing a Google Glass device had potentially uploaded content from an exhibition he had put on. He managed to detect how the device had accessed the Wi-Fi connection and wrote a free program about how to prevent this in the future.

Such was its popularity that he became inundated with requests from establishments as varied as сasinos to restaurants who were wondering how they could use his program. In the end he decided to develop a device himself, which could help secure their wireless networks from unwanted devices.

“The dominant enthusiasts were women,” says Oliver. “They were concerned about guys at nightclubs taking a little bit home for later, or guys across from them on the train looking them up and down. Even if they didn’t know if the device was recording, they felt threatened by its presence.”

There are two devices being offered. A cheaper one just alerts the owner that their wireless network is being compromised through a flashing light. There is also a more developed model, which warns of intrusion through a flashing light, an audible noise through a computer’s speaker and also a text message to the owner’s mobile phone.

The product did not cost Oliver much to build and he was able to come across the parts relatively easily.

“It’s just modified router hardware, but instead of allowing devices to get to the internet, it does precisely the opposite,” he says.

The product also offers an “All Out Mode,” which will disconnect any surveillance device within its vicinity. However, the company advises against this, stating, “Please note that this [All Out] mode may not be legal within your jurisdiction. We take no responsibility for the trouble you get yourself into if you choose to deploy your Cyborg Unplug in this mode.”

The owner of a Cyborg Unplug can select the devices they choose to block, which will be automatically disconnected and will not disrupt any untargeted signals.



Sovereign Citizens

Issued July 2014


(U//FOUO) The anti-government sovereign citizen movement has been catapulted into the forefront of public attention due to an increase in criminal activity by sovereign citizens nationwide. The movement consists of individuals and small groups throughout the United States, guided and supported by adherents who share the core belief that Federal, state, and local governments are all illegitimate entities.1

(U//FOUO) For the most part, the sovereign citizen movement has been nonviolent, and its adherents have engaged in activities that are not illegal, such as renouncing citizenship and self-identifying as sovereign citizens. However, nationwide there have been individual self-identified sovereign citizens who have displayed extreme and sometimes violent behavior. The most notable violent incident between law enforcement and sovereign citizen extremists was the killing of two police officers by Jerry Kane and his son Joseph during a traffic stop in West Memphis, Arkansas, in May 2010. Although no encounters between sovereign citizens and law enforcement in New Jersey have resulted in death, some individuals who have self-identified during traffic stops or during court proceedings have become physical and/or confrontational during their interaction with law enforcement.2

Sovereign Citizen Activity

(U//FOUO) Many believers of the ideology conduct illegal activities, such as debt elimination and redemption, document fraud (false passports, birth certificates, and driver’s licenses), insurance fraud, money laundering, and residing in foreclosed homes. Many of the tactics used by sovereign citizens are common occurrences in New Jersey, with the exception of seizing foreclosed homes. In at least two incidents in New Jersey in the past three years, sovereign citizens either attempted to seize a home or successfully did so.

· In February 2013, a male identifying himself as a Moorish American National harassed a property owner in Aberdeen Township (Monmouth County) and falsely laid claim to the property.3

· In July 2011, Jolanda Bordley-Jackson El, age 41, of Vineland (Cumberland County) was arrested and charged with burglary, theft, criminal simulation, and fraud relating to public records, along with other charges, after she filed a fraudulent deed on a foreclosed home and lived there for three months before being discovered. Jackson self-identified as a member of the Moorish Science Temple.4

(U//FOUO) The seizing of homes may have an impact on fire personnel, especially those involved in code enforcement, due to the fact that many sovereign citizens who steal homes then place “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs on the property and in some cases threaten to shoot anyone who comes onto the property.5 While there have been no reported incidents of fire service personnel being targeted or coming in contact with confirmed or suspected sovereign citizens, it is important for them to become knowledgeable about the potential indicators of sovereign citizens and how to report them, using the fire safety reporting process.

* (U) Redemption schemes: The claim that the United States went bankrupt when it went off the gold standard in 1933, and that to pay the country’s debt, the United States used American citizens as collateral, registering their birth certificates as securities. Sovereign citizens claim that to regain control of these securities, individuals can file paperwork and gain access to the money in their accounts.

(U//FOUO) Indicators of sovereign citizens include, but are not limited to:

· Fake or strange license plates or driver’s license;

· Unusual modifications to their vehicles, such as placards or signs addressed to government officials;

· Use of unusual language regarding self-identity, such as “freemen,” state citizens, non-resident aliens, sovereign citizens, or common law citizens;

· Signs on property directed specifically toward law enforcement or government officials, including homemade “No Trespassing” signs;

· Making references to the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) or common law;

(U//FOUO) Protective measures when encountering violent sovereign citizens, according to Fire Safety protocol:

· Maintain total focus on your personal safety;

· Avoid arguing;

· If the situation is not safe, back away and request law enforcement assistance, and advise that you are dealing with a sovereign citizen.

Reporting Procedures

(U//FOUO) According to Fire Safety protocol all encounters with Sovereign Citizens should be reported to the Division of Fire Safety at 1 (877)-NJ-FIRE.

(U//FOUO) It is important to note that either career or volunteer members of the fire service may be considered government employees and/or wear uniforms that appear, from a sovereign citizen perspective, to be law enforcement or other local authority. Recognizing the indicators and employing the protective measures will increase your safety, and the safety of other first responders.

(U//FOUO) Any suspicious activity with a possible nexus to terrorism in New Jersey should be reported immediately following existing protocols specific to respective counties. Activity can also be reported to CT Watch, located at the ROIC, at (866) 4SAFENJ (866-472-3365), by dialing 2-1-1, or Tips@NJHomelandSecurity.gov.


1 (U//FOUO) OHSP, New Jersey Terrorism Threat Assessment, 2012

2 Ibid

3 (U) New Jersey Suspicious Activity Reporting System

4 (U) Press of Atlantic City, “Women Charged with Stealing House,” July 27, 2011. Available at:

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/press/atlantic/woman-charged-with-forging-deed-to-steal-house-inmullica/ article_40d54352-af40-11e0-b540-001cc4c002e0.html

5 (U) CNN, “FBI: ‘Sovereign citizens’ fraudulently taking over foreclosed homes,” March 8, 2011. Available at:



 Countries with significant Ebola infections:

Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Tanzania, Togo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar and Malawi

 U.S. Inspector: Billions in failed programs wasted in Afghanistan

September 12, 2014

by James Rosen



WASHNGTON — The top U.S. official for monitoring aid to Afghanistan painted a grim portrait of the country’s future Friday, saying it is riddled with corruption and graft. With most Americans’ attention riveted on Iraq and Syria, John F. Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan, said the United States’ unprecedented $120 billion reconstruction investment there is at risk. “The country remains under assault by insurgents and is short of domestic revenue, plagued by corruption, afflicted by criminal elements involved in opium and smuggling, and struggling to execute the basic functions of government,” Sopko said in a speech at Georgetown University. President Barack Obama’s vow that only 9,800 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan by year’s end, Sopko said, has left many Americans unaware the the United States will spend up to $8 billion a year on reconstruction projects for years to come. “If corruption is allowed to continue unabated, it will likely jeopardize every gain we’ve made so far in Afghanistan,” Sopko said.

The United States continues to pump billions of dollars into the South Asia country that its government can’t control.

“It appears we’ve created a government that the Afghans simply can’t afford,” Sopko said. “Accordingly, when we build things the Afghans can’t use and when we don’t take their resources into account, we’re not just wasting money. We’re jeopardizing our mission of creating a self-sustaining Afghanistan that can keep insurgents down and terrorists out.”

Among several wasteful U.S. programs cited by Sopko, he said that billions spent to fight Afghanistan’s flourishing opium trade have gone down the drain.

“The U.S. has already spent nearly $7.6 billion to combat the opium industry,” Sopko said. “Yet by every conceivable metric, we’ve failed. Production and cultivation are up, interdiction and eradication are down, financial support to the insurgency is up, and addiction and abuse are at unprecedented levels in Afghanistan.” Some Afghan soldiers and police are getting paid off by poppy growers to allow them to cultivate the illicit plant, Sopko said.

“The narcotics trade poisons the Afghan financial sector and fuels a growing illicit economy,” he said. “This, in turn, undermines the Afghan state’s legitimacy by stoking corruption, nourishing criminal networks and providing significant financial support to the Taliban and other insurgent groups.”

Sopko warned that Afghanistan “could well become a narco-criminal state in the near future.” Despite the widespread graft, the United States has no plan for countering corruption, Sopko said, and some U.S. agencies exaggerate progress in Afghanistan in order to justify the huge American investment there. “The United States lacks a unified anti-corruption strategy in Afghanistan,” he said. “This is astonishing, given that Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.”

The United States has spent more money in Afghanistan than it ever has spent in any other country, and more than it provided to rebuild Europe under the Marshall Plan after World War II, even with inflation taken into account.

Congress created the post of Special Inspector General for Afghanistan in 2008 in order to track the gusher of U.S. aid, and Sopko was appointed two years ago.

He said Friday that the United States and other countries are funding more than 60 percent of the Afghan government, with domestic revenues of $2 billion last year dwarfed by $7.6 billion in expenses.

“The sheer size of the U.S. government’s reconstruction effort has placed both a financial and operational burden on the Afghan economy and its government that it simply cannot manage by itself,” Sopko said.

As more U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, he said, 80 percent of its territory will be “effectively off limits to U.S. civilian oversight,” making it even more difficult to monitor how American aid is being used.





No responses yet

Leave a Reply