Saturday, December 03, 2005

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TigerHawk - The disappearing ultimatum and interdicting Iran

TigerHawk: "By TigerHawk at 12/02/2005 12:08:00 AM

LGF links to a story in the Jerusalem Post that seems to have been considerably revised in its write-through. Charles reported that the story included confrontational statements from Israel's Military Intelligence Chief Aharon Zeevi Farkash, to wit:

After March Israel must be prepared to use means other than diplomacy to halt Iran's nuclear weapons program, warned the head of the military intelligence Wednesday.

Military Intelligence Chief Aharon Zeevi Farkash would not detail other options, but sources on the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which Farkash was addressing, said it was clear that Israel would have to consider taking military action against Iran.

The headline as described by Charles and confirmed by my Google search was 'Farkash sets deadline for strike on Iran,' but both the headline and the underlying text through both the LGF and Google links have been replaced with the less belligerant 'PM: Iran nukes unacceptable' and no quotation of Farkash. In other words, the Jerusalem Post entirely wrote through the original story and 'disappeared' the threat from Farkash. Also, it seems that Ha'aretz reported essentially the same story, and that it, also, has blown away the Farkash statements by putting a new story into the original link. Somebody decided that it was in Israel's best interest to erase Farkash's line in the sand. (Do I get a Blogitzer for pointing this out?)

In any case, Israel is clearly getting jumpy. There are those who assume that it is preparing a decapitating strike against Iran's hardened nuclear facilities, not unlike its destruction of Saddam's Osirak reactor in 1981. But that might be difficult, especially since the Iranians are smart enough to learn from that history.

Fortunately, overt destruction of Iranian facilities is not the only aggressive option in Israel's bag of tricks. Perhaps Israel will take out the Iranian program piecemeal. Terence Henry:

In the debate over how to respond to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, much attention has been paid to the "Osirak option"—a reference to Israel's successful 1981 air strike on Iraq's Osirak reactor, which was then on the verge of producing plutonium for a nuclear weapon. Considerably less has been said about the seemingly star-crossed history of the reactor, and those involved with it, in the years before the bombing.

Iraq bought the cores for the Osirak reactor from France. Originally they were to be shipped to Iraq in April of 1979, but shortly before their departure an explosion ripped through the warehouse that held them. An organization calling itself the French Ecological Group, which had never been heard of before (and hasn't been heard from since), claimed responsibility. Shipment was delayed for six months while the cores were repaired.

The next year Yahya al-Meshad, an important scientist in Iraq's nuclear program, arrived in France to test fuel for the reactor. The morning he was to return home a maid entered his Paris hotel room and found that he had been stabbed and bludgeoned to death. (The only person known to have seen the scientist the previous night, a prostitute who called herself Marie Express, was killed a few weeks later in a hit-and-run accident. The culprit was never found.) Soon afterward workers at firms supplying parts for the reactor began to receive threatening letters from a mysterious group called the Committee to Safeguard the Islamic Revolution. Bombs went off at the offices of one of the firms, in Italy, and at the home of the company's director-general. Over the next several months two more Iraqi nuclear scientists died in separate poisoning incidents. It is of course unlikely that these events were coincidental; most experts today believe that Mossad—Israel's secret service—was behind each of them, though it has never claimed responsibility.

My guess is that we will see buried stories about disappearing ships, strange explosions, and murdered businessmen long before jets with the Star of David racing across the Iranian desert.

[bth: in any event, all of the original links can be found at TigerHawks website. Its quite amazing how the articles changed in cyberspace as the threats of attack after March 2006 simply disappeared. My guess is that TigerHawk is on the money as to scenarios.]
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War on Terror Monthly Update

"December 2, 2005--Confidence in the War on Terror is up sharply compared to a month ago. Forty-eight percent (48%) Americans now believe the U.S. and its Allies are winning. That's up nine points from 39% a month ago and represents the highest level of confidence measured in 2005.

Just 28% now believe the terrorists are winning, down six points from 34% a month ago. The survey was conducted on Wednesday and Thursday night following the President's speech outlining his strategy in Iraq.

Huge partisan divisions on questions dealing with Iraq remain. Seventy-four percent (74%) of Republicans believe the U.S. and its allies are winning. That's up from 64% a month ago.

Just 28% of Democrats believe the U.S. is winning while 45% of Nancy Pelosi's party believe the terrorists are winning. Even that is a more optimistic assessment than last month when just 19% of Democrats said the U.S. was winning.

Among those those not affiliated with either major party, 40% now say the U.S. and its allies are winning. Thirty percent (30%) take the opposite view. A month ago, unaffiliateds were evenly divided."...
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Funds may be lacking for ample Iraqi army

"The U.S. general in charge of shaping an Iraqi army raised the prospect yesterday that the new Baghdad government will not have sufficient money to fund the 10-division army envisioned by the Bush administration.

Since Iraq's security is projected to depend on an army of that size, it raises the question of whether Iraq will have the right size land force to allow large numbers of U.S. troops to go home after 2006, when the new government would start budgeting more of its defense needs.

Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey said plans are to create a 160,000-soldier army, tapping a pot of $10 billion in U.S. funds that also will be used for a police force, border guards, highway patrol, navy and an air force.

'But they may not end up with 10 divisions in the future as they decide how to account for the budget share from their economy and apply it to modernization and to the addition of things like aircraft,' Gen. Dempsey told Pentagon reporters via teleconference from Iraq.

Asked after the press conference whether a smaller army jeopardizes a large U.S. withdrawal in later years, Larry Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said: 'I would caution against trying to make a direct connection between a single data point and any future force levels. There will be a variety of conditions evaluated and factored in.'

Defense officials have said 'data points' include political progress and the willingness of Sunni 'rejectionists' to lay down their arms and join the new government. But the key Pentagon data point has always been to stand up an Iraq army that can 'take the lead' in fighting the Iraqi insurgency and foreign terrorists led by Abu Musab Zarqawi.

"To defeat the terrorists and marginalize the Saddamists and rejectionists, Iraqis need strong military and police forces," President Bush told midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy on Wednesday. "Iraqi troops bring knowledge and capabilities to the fight that coalition forces cannot."

There are now 160,000 troops in Iraq, a number the U.S. plans to shrink after the Dec. 15 election to 138,000 and then possibly draw down to 100,000 next year.

Gen. Dempsey said the Iraqi Security Forces budget using Iraqi funds is now being studied by the transitional government, which will give way on Dec. 31 to a permanent parliament.

The current plan is to have a 10-division army in place by the end of 2006.

Gen. Dempsey said next year his training teams will put more emphasis on improving the quality of the police officers who walk a beat and investigate crime.

The force of 75,000, which is to grow to 135,000, is now marred by members of ethnic militias who have used their police power in some cases to attack other groups. Sunni Muslims in particular have complained that Shi'ite police commando units are nothing more than death squads.

Asked about militias infiltrating local police forces, Gen. Dempsey said: "The seriousness of it is more or less in that it undermines the Iraqi security forces that we're training and equipping as the sole provider, the legitimate source of authority and force in Iraq. ... We've got some work to do in that regard."

To underscore the importance of fielding first-rate Iraq Security Forces, Mr. Bush started a series of speeches this week on the war in Iraq with an address devoted almost entirely to the issue. And he acknowledged for the first time that mistakes were made in 2003 when training began.

"The training of the Iraqi Security Forces is an enormous task, and it always hasn't gone smoothly," he said at the Naval Academy. "We all remember the reports of some Iraqi Security Forces running from the fight more than a year ago. Yet in the past year, Iraqi forces have made real progress."

He said the now-defunct first civil defense cadres were not properly equipped.

"When our coalition first arrived, we began the process of creating an Iraqi army to defend the country from external threats, and an Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to help provide the security within Iraq's borders," Mr. Bush said. "The civil defense forces did not have sufficient firepower or training -- they proved to be no match for an enemy armed with machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. So the approach was adjusted."

[bth: So I thought it would be 2006 when we were asked to start picking up the tab for the Iraqi Army but I guess Chalabi showed up in Washington earlier this month with his X-mas wish list. Isn't it curious that the insurgents can go out to an ammo dump and find RPGs, machine guns and mortars but the Iraqi Army and police cannot?]
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US backed Timor invasion

"THE US knew well in advance of and explicitly approved Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975, newly declassified documents say.

Released this week by the independent Washington-based National Security Archive (NSA), the documents showed US officials were aware of the invasion plans nearly a year in advance.

They adopted a 'policy of silence' and even sought to suppress news and discussions on East Timor, including credible reports of Indonesia's massacres of Timorese civilians, according to the documents."...
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Iraq says troops have 'a long way to go'

"BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq's security forces have 'a long way to go' to deal with the bloody insurgency and violent crime, the government said in a report obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

The report concludes that Iraq's army - praised just this week by President Bush - needs more men, better leaders, new equipment and improved training to confront the insurgents without U.S. support.

The 59-page report, compiled by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari's office, reviewed the government's performance since taking office seven months ago. It was prepared for the administration that will take over after elections Dec. 15.

The document claims successes in the economy, improvement in the vital oil industry and in services but acknowledges that security remains a major concern.
'The number of insurgent attacks has continued to rise and they are becoming more indiscriminate, resulting in large numbers of civilian casualties,' the report said. 'While violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, has fallen, it remains at a high level.' It gave no statistics.

The government, the report said, 'is well aware that the armed forces and the police will need to become more effective' before they can come 'to grips with these huge challenges.'"...

Iraqi army and police commanders often complain that their weapons are inferior to those used by insurgents. They say that with sufficient firepower, they could take on the insurgents without help from the Americans, although they would still need armor and air support.

"We can defend our nation on our own," said Col. Ali Kazim, a senior officer in a police commando unit, the Wolf Brigade. "The Americans should only support us. Weapons are all that we need and the Americans can just support us."

[bth: I can guarantee you that this Iraqi report was slipped to the US news sources. Further note the repeated dicussion in the media this week about the need for more equipment to be given to the Iraqi forces and the need for cash to build and buy. Further note that Chalabi made this point during his visit. My guess is that the new Iraqi government coming in next year will discover much to their shock that once again the treasury of Iraq was looted by the present government just like Allawi (sp?) did last year by about 2/3rds of the defense budget. So what does this mean? It means you can count on Chalabi to follow the money and once again the US taxpayer will be asked to pick up the tab by keeping troops in longer and paying for the build up of Iraqi forces and the graft built into that system. I suspect this will be common news by mid-January when Congress is back in session and the new government in Iraq suddenly can't make the payroll to pay for soldiers and policemen because its bank accounts were once again drained.]

Reports: Senior Saudi Al-Qaida Member Sets Off Suicide Blast in Dagestan

According to various reports from credible mujahideen sources, Abu Omar Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Saif (a.k.a. Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Saif al-Jaber)--a top tier Saudi Arabian Al-Qaida commander in Chechnya and personal military advisor to Shamil Basayev--has been killed during a Russian counterterrorism operation in neighboring Dagestan. Unable to escape after Russian soldiers backed by helicopters surrounded his temporary hideout, Abu Omar allegedly detonated an explosive device he was carrying and collapsed the building on top of himself. Known as the "Imam of the Chechen mujahideen", Abu Omar was an original founder of the Arab-Afghan mujahideen movement in Chechnya and was named by Russian officials as a suspect in numerous Caucasus-linked terrorist attacks, including the Moscow theatre siege and the Beslan school hostage massacre.

[bth: I'll speculate that the Russian's cut a deal to get this guy in exchange for going ahead with the arms deals it had been negotiating with Iran as noted below. The timing is just highly coincidental and there have been other reports that Iran had started training Chechnyans as a way of putting pressure on Russia to follow through with its nuclear program deal.]

Iran and Russia sign $1 bln defence deal - reports

"MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia plans to sell more than $1 billion worth of tactical surface-to-air missiles and other defence hardware to Iran, media reported on Friday."....

"Moreover, practically all the weapons that Russia is delivering to Iran in the coming years are defensive rather than offensive in character," the source said.

One Western diplomat who closely watches Russia-Iran dealings said news of the deal was alarming and would further increase tensions.

"Russia has long positioned itself as a major peace broker between Iran and the West -- and all of a sudden they are throwing this bombshell. It just does not make any sense," said the diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous.
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Senate Intelligence Committee stalling pre-war intelligence report

"Phase II, the follow-up to the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq, is still facing opposition from administration officials and has seen little action from the committee's chairman, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), RAW STORY has learned.

Following a surprising move early last month by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D -NV), in which he shut down the Senate in an effort to force discussion on the inquiry, the Senate leadership established a six member bipartisan task force and set a Nov. 15 deadline for a progress report.

The six task force members selected were Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Carl Levin (D-MI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Trent Lott (R-MS) and Kit Bond (R-MO)."

A week later, on Nov. 8, the Senate Intelligence Committee staff briefed task force members on the investigative work done thus far.

The full Intelligence Committee met Nov. 9 for a briefing from staff, but according to Senate sources close to the Intel Committee, the task force is “unable to provide a timeline for Phase II completion.”

To date, there has been no Phase II report.

Senior Democratic Senate aides familiar with the task force’s activities say Republicans are stonewalling. One aide, who asked not to be named citing the secrecy of the investigation, explained that without the power of subpoena, Democrats are left with few options. “Phase II is dead,” the staffer said.

Others familiar with the task force say some progress is being made, citing draft reports on two areas of focus:

-The postwar findings about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and weapons programs and links to terrorism and how they compare with prewar assessments.

-Prewar intelligence assessments about postwar Iraq.

Exactly who has seen these drafts and what is in them remains a mystery. “Everything remains to be seen,” one source said.

Key Areas of Focus

Phase II is the second part of a larger investigation into pre-war planning and post-invasion failures. Phase I focused primarily on intelligence failures by the CIA, while Phase II focuses on five specific areas of inquiry:

-Whether public statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq by U.S. Government officials made between the Gulf War period and the commencement of Operation Iraqi Freedom were substantiated by intelligence information;

-The postwar findings about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and weapons programs and links to terrorism and how they compare with prewar assessments;

-Prewar intelligence assessments about conditions to be expected in postwar Iraq;

-Any intelligence activities relating to Iraq conducted by the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCTEG) and the Office of Special Plans within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; and

-The use by the Intelligence Community of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

Feith and the Office of Special Plans

Part of the delay is due to resistance from the Pentagon regarding its ultra-secretive Office of Special Plans (OSP). The group was set up by then Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Doug Feith. OSP was considered by many Defense Department officers and staff to be highly paranoid, secretive cabal of ideologues bent on creating a war with Iraq.

The group was tasked with finding intelligence that fit the administration’s anti-Iraq policy.

The Pentagon has specifically refused to address Feith's role and the activities of OSP.

Members of OSP included Larry Franklin, now charged with conspiracy to leak classified and defense information to a Washington pro-Israel lobby; Iran Contra player Michael Ledeen, hired by Feith as a consultant; and Harold Rhode, a staunch anti-Muslim said to have been directly involved in purging the DOD of anyone opposing the anti-Iraq policy who Feith also brought on as a consultant.

Other, “visiting,” players in the group included the now-discredited German intelligence source , “Curveball”; Ahmed Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, who fed bogus intelligence to the Pentagon and U.S. papers; and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who conveyed Chalabi’s falsehoods to the American body politic.

Under orders from Feith, Ledeen, Rhode and Franklin made un-authorized trips to meet with Manucher Ghorbanifar, another Iran Contra figure, in Rome and Paris in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The meetings have yet to be explained, but some suspect they are linked to the Niger forgeries.

More documents are needed

Democratic senators on the Phase II task force have requested interviews and documents from Feith’s office regarding Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress and “Curveball,” but have been denied access.

According to a Nov. 14 status report memo written by Democratic task force members Rockefeller, Levin and Feinstein, no agreement could be reached on how to handle Feith’s office, which has rebuffed requests for pre-war documentation and interviews for a year and a half.

The memo noted that Chairman Roberts asked the Defense Department inspector general to investigate Feith’s office and his activities, thus deferring a Senate inquiry.

Democrats expressed concern that the “Inspector General[’s] review should not take the place of the authorized Committee investigation and that it is essential that the Committee insist on the documents and interviews that the Department of Defense has denied us for the past two years, even if it means using the Committee's subpoena power.”

Subpoena power – the power to legally compel testimony and documents -- rests solely in the hands of Chairman Roberts, who has not indicated any interest in forcing the Pentagon’s hand. An earlier RAW STORY investigation of Roberts revealed a pattern of collusion with the Vice President’s office not only in stalling the investigation of pre-war intelligence, but also in thwarting inquiries into allegations of torture by the US military, the Niger forgeries and the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson
.

Sources close to the Intelligence Committee say that the three Republicans on the task force -- Lott, Roberts and Bond -- have yet to provide the agreed-upon progress report to Sen. Frist and Sen. Reid.

“They claimed they were verbally in touch with Frist so it wasn’t necessary," a senior Senate aide said.

Democrats are also pressing for documents and interviews which would cast light on the Vice President’s role in stalling the investigation and in withholding documents. They cite “…troubling reports that the Office of the Vice President overruled White House lawyers and withheld documents from Committee will require that we undertake additional interviews to obtain a complete picture of how faulty intelligence made its way into Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 2003 speech before the United Nations.”

Some insiders question whether the Office of Special Plans, and Feith in particular, violated the 1947 National Security Act.

The Act requires the heads of all departments to:

“keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities, other than a covert action (as defined in section 503(e)), which are the responsibility of, are engaged in by, or are carried out for or on behalf of, any department, agency, or entity of the United States Government, including any significant anticipated intelligence activity and any significant intelligence failure; and

(2) furnish the congressional intelligence committees any information or material concerning intelligence activities, other than covert actions, which is within their custody or control, and which is requested by either of the congressional intelligence committees in order to carry out its authorized responsibilities.”
“If Feith’s office was running intelligence activities that were unauthorized or not in compliance with this National Security Act and other legal requirements, then the activity may have been unlawful,” a source said
.

Others remain optimistic. During a Nov. 4 press conference, Sen. Levin said, “I just want to say that we're determined that this be finished, it be finished promptly, and it be finished thoroughly,” Levin said. “There is no justification for anything less than that. We owe it to the American people. We owe it to the families of the men and women who have given their lives and who have been injured in this combat.”

House and Senate likely to remain Republican in Nov 2005 (title mine)

..."Mr. Bush's decisions do not have to be driven by fears of heavy Republican losses in the 2006 midterm elections.

At a time of increasing Democratic attacks on Mr. Bush's handling of the war and a drop in public support for the conflict, Mr. Bush's political advisers assert that they can still hold Congress next year. By their reasoning, there will be only 35 to 40 competitive seats in the House of Representatives, and at this point they see no evidence that the war will be the determining factor in those races. While there may be Democratic gains in the Senate, both parties doubt that the Republicans will lose control. "

Democrats did not dispute the White House estimate of the number of competitive House races next year, but they said it was far too early to dismiss Iraq as a major factor in the elections. And Amy Walter, the senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which closely tracks Congressional races, said that most House races had not even started, and that the antiwar political climate "could still overwhelm the structural advantages of Republicans."

The longer term worry of the White House, Mr. Bush's advisers say, is that support for the war could drop so precipitously by the 2008 presidential election that a majority in Congress could demand withdrawal and start to hold back financing - the "cut and run" strategy that Mr. Bush both derides and fears....

[bth: so more of the same I guess.]

Rice to warn Europe to back off over detainees

..."The European Union has demanded that Washington address the allegations to allay fears of illegal U.S. practices. The concerns are rampant in among the European public and parliaments, already critical of U.S. prisoner-abuse scandals in Iraq and Guantanamo, Cuba.

But Rice will shift to offense when she visits Europe next week, in a strategy that has emerged in recent days and been tested by her spokesman in public and in her private meetings with European visitors.

She will remind allies they themselves have been cooperating in U.S. operations and tell them to do more to win over their publics as a way to deflect criticism directed at the United States, diplomats and U.S. officials said.

'It's very clear they want European governments to stop pushing on this,' said a European diplomat, who had contact with U.S. officials over the handling of the scandals. 'They were stuck on the defensive for weeks, but suddenly the line has toughened up incredibly,' the diplomat said"...

Top al-Qaida officer reportedly killed - International Terrorism

"ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The operational commander of al-Qaida, possibly the No. 3 official in the terrorist organization, was killed early Thursday by a CIA missile attack on a safehouse in Pakistan, officials have told NBC News.

Pakistani sources said that Hamza Rabia was one of five men killed at a safehouse located in the village of Asorai, in western Pakistan, near the town of Mirali.

Among those killed in the attack were two Pakistanis and three Arabs, said the Pakistani sources, who asked to remain anonymous. The attacks were carried out between 1:45 a.m. and 2 a.m. local time on Thursday. "

Local residents said that the men were killed by an unknown number of missiles fired by an unmanned Predator aircraft. The witnesses said that missile remnants bearing U.S. markings remain in the area. They also said they had heard six explosions, but it is uncertain how many of these were the result of missile attacks and how many may have been the result of the missiles detonating explosives inside the safehouse.

Officially, neither the U.S. government nor the Pakistani government would confirm a successful attack. U.S. officials confirm a missile attack took place, but would not confirm that Rabia was killed. A high-ranking Pakistani official confirmed that Hamza Rabia had been killed in a Predator attack.

Rabia had moved up al-Qaida ranks

Rabia has been sought by both U.S. and Pakistani officials for more than two years. Pakistan has offered a $1 million reward for his capture. He is believed to have participated in the planning for two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Dec. 14 and Dec. 25, 2003. At that time, Rabia was believed to be the chief deputy to Abu Faraj al-Libbi, al-Qaida's operational chief and the No. 3 man in the organization. In May, Pakistani security forces captured Abu Faraj and turned him over to the U.S.

U.S. officials have said that Rabia succeeded Abu Faraj as operations chief. Rabia was brought into al-Qaida by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's No. 2. Like al-Zawahiri, Rabia is an Egyptian. U.S. officials have described him recently as "top-five al-Qaida" and, as one US official said on Friday, "killing him would be indeed a very big deal."

Rabia was the target of another Predator attack on Nov. 5, according to local Pakistani officials. During that strike, in the village of Mosaki, eight people were killed in what is now described as an unsuccessful attempt to kill Rabia. Local officials have told NBC News that the dead included the wife and children of the al-Qaida leader.

Both the village of Asorai, where Thursday's attack took place, and Mosaki, where the November attack took place, are within 45 minutes of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The area is a hiding place for top al-Qaida officials, according to U.S., Pakistani and Afghan officials.

[bth: good news indeed! Also good to see that the CIA is still on the job in Afghanistan-Pakistan.]

Friday, December 02, 2005

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The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) Blog: Mitzvahpalooza [David Brooks]

"Most dads will sacrifice for their daughters. David H. Brooks, CEO of bulletproof vest maker DHB Industries, will throw a party costing $10 million for his. The scandal's in the decadence paid for by the US taxpayer who in return for millions got defective bulletproof vests.

Here's what one report said of the daughter's Bat Mitzvah: 'The girl and 300 of her closest BFFs were entertained recently in New York's Rainbow Room by Don Henley, Stevie Nicks, Kenny G, Aerosmith and, believe it or not, 50 Cent ...It was hosted by Tom Petty. The reported cost: $10 million. See the absurd pics here.'

Brooks made millions from selling vests to the US military (United for a Fair Economy says Brooks made $70 million in 2004; on behalf of Brooks, Bruce S. Rubin, of rbb Public Relations, said Brooks made $3 million that year--either way Brooks made more than a fistful of dollars).

Threatened by a Marine Corps Times investigation, 'the Marine Corps on May 4 issued a Corpswide message recalling 5,277 Interceptor vests.' Interceptor vests are made by Point Blank Body Armor, a subsidiary of Brooks' company DHB. Officials within both Point Blank and the Marines are to blame for the fielding of the known defective vests (at the same time there were many good government employees who urged the Marines to reject the vests after testing them):

...the Marine program manager responsible for fielding the vests, Lt. Col. Gabriel Patricio, and Point Blank's chief operating officer, Sandra Hatfield signed waivers that allowed the Corps to buy and distribute vests that failed to meet the Corps'minimum standards and specifications.

Here's what Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq war veteran and founder of Operation Truth, said to one reporter:

“It is already disturbing that anyone can live the high-life as a result of the booming war business, but it is particularly disheartening to hear about someone having their own private Lollapalooza, in part from the sale of defective equipment that put our troops in harm’s way. America must take a long, hard look at the idea of profit on the battlefield.”

Well said. POGO doesn't have a problem with lavish parties, just lavish parties costing $10 million paid for in part by defective bulletproof vests sold by a corrupt company.

[bth: please go to POGO that published this story for the full list of links and pictures.

I would add to this, Soldiers for the Truth, has found out that the Pentagon will not reneew the Interceptor body armor program because 60% of the plates are cracking in the field. This isn't confirmed by the Pentagon but I talked to Roger Charles over at SFFT and he confirms the validity of their research. Here is a link to the story from SFFT.

Its really hard to imagine how shameful David Brooks really is. There are a also a series of class action suits against DHB and him as it looks very much like he cashed out his holdings knowing that the armor was defective and before the news was public. I suspect DHB will be driven eventually into bankruptcy while he sits back with his $169 million in blood money and gives $10 million parties for his daughter..... is this what America has become?]


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Inside the Ring - IED detonators

"According to military officials in Baghdad, the terrorists are using at least three types of triggers for IEDs, including infrared-signaled garage-door openers, infrared automobile car-lock openers and hard-wired bombs. All are set off when vehicles move through a target area.

To counter the threat, the military has been using broadband radio-signal jammers. But the jammers create other problems; namely, they also disrupt communications used by military forces.

Navy Capt. Chris Field, commander of the Pacific Fleet's electronic attack wing, said in a speech Oct. 24 that EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare jets are being used in Iraq to disrupt IED signals, along with other terrorist communications.

[bth: what this article fails terribly to note is that infrared garage door openers, infrared automobile car locks and hard-wired bombs are not affected by radio-jammers! Our countermeasures to jam radio signals to cell phone, mobile radio and radio telephone detonators are proving effective though they still account for 85% of detonation. But the IR based systems aren't jammed because they don't use radio signals at all!

Gertz and Scarborough who are often the outlet for favored Pentagon sources really blew this story. Usually Gertz publishes scary Red Chinese stories every time there is an opportunity to improve relations with China usually sourced to an anonymous Pentagon source. It should be pointed out that the Washington Times is owned by the Moonies and are ardent anti-communist Koreans.

My guess is that this story was leaked out because the Pentagon thought that the American public wouldn't know the difference and they are under pressure to find jammers for pagers which have become a new detonator of choice (see Congressman Lynch story earlier this week in Boston Herald showing that our jammers aren't blocking this frequency set.) The navy has been given great responsibility for the IED counter-defeat program and so they discuss how the Prowler is used against IEDs, which is great but it doesn't do diddly against the IR based systems the article discusses. In the meantime while all the BS flies, the soldiers are left to patrol roads and while it goes largely unnoticed, the casualty rate has been increasing of late.]

Warner Seeks Military Response to Report It Paid Off Iraq Press

"Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Senator John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he asked the Pentagon to respond to published reports that the U.S. military has covertly paid Iraqi newspapers to print pro-American stories.

Warner, a Republican of Virginia, said in a statement that he has ``has no information to confirm or refute the report,'' and asked the Defense Department to brief the committee tomorrow on the issue.

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that stories written by ``information operation'' troops were secretly placed with media outlets in Iraq through a Washington-based defense contractor, Lincoln Group.

The stories are presented as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists, the paper reported. The articles praise the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and commend U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.

In Baghdad, Major General Rick Lynch, chief military spokesman, said today the U.S. has a program to counter lies spread by terrorists in Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, ``is continually lying to the Iraqi people, to the international community,'' Lynch said in a press briefing telecast from Baghdad.

``We do empower our operational commanders with the ability to inform the Iraqi public, but everything we do is based on fact not based on fiction,'' Lynch said. "...

[bth: Lynch is the general last week that said casualties were down 30% month over month but failed to mention that they were amongst the highest of the war. I suppose his statement then was factual, it was just deceiving, so to hear him how talking about how they only plant fact based stories in the Iraqi media which are then picked up in the US press is somewhat astounding. See this link which we posted last week regarding his Thanksgiving feel good message. ]

Murtha Says Army Is 'Broken, Worn Out' - Yahoo! News

..."Murtha predicted most troops will be out of Iraq within a year.
'I predict he'll make it look like we're staying the course,' Murtha said, referring to Bush. 'Staying the course is not a policy.'

Murtha, 73, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, expressed pessimism about Iraq's stability and said the Iraqis know who the insurgents are, but don't always share that information with U.S. troops. He said a civil war is likely because of ongoing factionalism among Sunni Arabs, and Kurds and Shiites.

He also said he was wrong to vote to support the war.

'I admit I made a mistake when I voted for war,' Murtha said. 'I'm looking at the future of the United States military.'

Murtha, a decorated Vietnam war veteran, said the Pennsylvania National Guard is 'stretched so thin' that it won't be able to send fully equipped units to Iraq next year. Murtha predicted it will cost $50 billion to upgrade military equipment nationwide, but says the federal government is already reducing future purchases to save money."...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

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www.GovExec.com - What's Lincoln Group? (12/1/05)

"It's tough to follow the history of Lincoln Group, a contractor that won a $100 million contract with the Special Operations Command to assist with psychological operations. The common denominator to the firm's history is Christian Bailey, listed on its Web site as executive vice president, capital markets. After graduating from Oxford University in England in the 1990s, Bailey moved to the San Francisco area around 1998, and in 1999, founded Express Action, an e-commerce company he apparently later sold. In the Nov. 15, 2002, issue of HedgeWorld Daily News, Bailey was identified as the founder and chairman of a New York-based hedge fund called Lincoln Asset Management. On March 1, 2003, the Alternative Investment News reported that Lincoln Asset Management had an initial $100 million in commitments to underwrite a leveraged buyout fund to acquire defense and intelligence companies.

In 2003, the Lincoln Alliance Corp. (a subsidiary of Lincoln Asset Management) made its debut, presenting itself primarily as a purveyor of what it called 'tailored intelligence services' for 'government clients faced with critical intelligence challenges,' and as an Iraq business development catalyst. Its Web site listed no officers, principals or partners, but described operations as focused on an ambitious mix of political campaign intelligence and commercial real estate. With one office in Baghdad and more projected, Lincoln would act as a clearinghouse for U.S. and foreign companies doing business in Iraq, providing 'the information, research and contacts necessary to develop and grow businesses' in the post-Saddam era.

During this time, Lincoln appears to have maintained a business address at 1130 17th St. NW in Washington, and shared phone and fax numbers with Omnicept, a firm located at the time at 1432 T St. NW. Omnicept described itself as an "advanced information technology and systems design firm" and "analytic and intelligence firm" comprising "experts whose experience encompasses military intelligence, education and academia, big business, money managers, political activists, law enforcement, entrepreneurs, artists, and more."

Paige Craig was listed at the same phone numbers as Omnicept's September 2003 point of contact for Internet solicitations for interns. He also represented Lincoln as vice president at the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority's Nov. 19, 2003, Industry Day in Crystal City, Va. According to phone records, the T Street address was a residence with listings for Bailey and Craig.

In late 2003 or early 2004, however, the Lincoln Alliance Corp. became Iraqex, and in a Sept. 27, 2004, Agence France Press news story, was referred to as "a U.S. firm involved in a range of activities from manufacturing construction materials to providing logistics for U.S. forces." In October 2004, it apparently added communications to its repertoire, scoring a $6 million contract from the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (formerly known as Combined Joint Task Force-7, which had operational control of all troops in Iraq) to design and execute an "aggressive advertising and public relations campaign that will accurately inform the Iraqi people of the coalition's goals and gain their support," as the contract's August 2004 request for proposal put it.

O'Dwyer's PR Services Report, an influential public relations trade publication, struck a somewhat skeptical tone in its coverage of the tender. MNC-I's contract officer refused to disclose the five other bidders. Bailey said "more information would be forthcoming" about Iraqex and its efforts. Little came, save a November 2004 brief in the trade publication, PR Week, that reported, "Iraqex has a policy of not speaking to the press regarding its work, but has hired 5W PR as its mouthpiece," and quoted 5W PR's chief as saying of Iraqex, "We have more experience working in Iraq than any other firm or organization anywhere in the world."

Oddly, at the December 2004 Destination Baghdad Expo in Iraq, Iraqex listed itself as Iraq-based, but provided only its Washington telephone and address. Then, in March 2005, it changed its name yet again, to Lincoln Group, a communications and PR firm "providing insight and influence in challenging and hostile environments." And on June 11, along with SYColeman and Science Applications International Corp., Lincoln Group got its JPSE contract.

While the group's current Web site does list noteworthy examples of successful endeavors apparently part of its MNC-I work, some find it curious that a firm set up by two thirty-something guys has come so far so fast. Also giving pause has been the company's apparent tendency to solicit staff by way of internships. And it is curious that records of Bailey's Republican affiliations have disappeared from certain Web sites since the JPSE contract was announced.

Bailey was a founder and active participant in Lead21, a fund-raising and networking operation for affluent young Republicans, some of whom have gone on to serve in the Bush administration. Click on the links to Lead21's site today and no mention of Bailey is to be found. But on a subscriber business and social networking site, there's an archived e-mail of Bailey discussing setting up a New York branch of Lead21, and his "personal network," which lists a half-dozen members of the organization's current board, including the chairman of the California Republican Party and the senior policy adviser to the Justice Department's chief information officer. "These are going to be the big supporters, the big donors to the Republican Party in five years' time," Bailey told The New York Times in an Aug. 31, 2004, video interview during a Lead21 party at the Republican convention in New York.

Neither JPSE nor Lincoln Group responded to verbal or written requests for interviews, but the Project on Government Oversight has reservations. "Any time we see leaders who cultivate political influence for a particular party suddenly receive major government contracts, it sends up red flags," says POGO spokeswoman Beth Daley.

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Top U.S. military officer contradicts his civilian boss

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's top military man, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, said American troops in Iraq have a duty to intercede and stop abuse of prisoners by Iraqi security personnel.

When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld contradicted Pace, the general stood firm.

Rumsfeld told the general he believed Pace meant to say the U.S. soldiers had to report the abuse, not stop it.

Pace stuck to his original statement.

The unusual exchange occurred during a discussion at a news conference about the relationship between U.S. forces in Iraq and an Iraqi government considered sovereign by the United States.

A questioner asked whether the United States and its allies might be deemed responsible for preventing mistreatment of people under arrest in Iraq, given that the U.S. and its allies train Iraqi forces.

'There are a lot of people involved in this, dozens of countries trying to help train these Iraqi forces. Any instance of inhumane behavior is obviously worrisome and harmful to them when that occurs,' Rumsfeld said. 'Iraq knows, of certain knowledge, that they need the support of the international community. And a good way to lose it is to make a practice of something that is inconsistent with the values of the international community.'

He added: 'Now, you know, I can't go any further in talking about it. Obviously, the United States does not have a responsibility when a sovereign country engages in something that they disapprove of.'

Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked what orders the troops have to handle such incidents. He responded: 'It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene, to stop it.'

He said soldiers who hear of but don't see an incident should deal with it through superiors of the offending Iraqis.

That's when Rumsfeld stepped to the microphone and said, "I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it. It's to report it."

Pace then repeated to Rumsfeld that intervening when witnessing abuse is the order the troops must follow, not just reporting it.

[bth: Well done General Pace!]
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Iraq Misses Deadline on Torture Probe

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's government missed a two-week deadline Wednesday to complete an investigation into torture allegations at an Interior Ministry lockup, a probe which Amnesty International warned may show a pattern of abuse of prisoners by government forces. "...

In Baghdad, Reality Counters Rhetoric

... "Multiple-death bombings reached an all-time high of 46 in September, a record likely to be broken this month. More than 400 people have died in bombings this month, compared with 91 a year ago. Every day, according to an estimate by the Brookings Institution in Washington, there are roughly 100 attacks, double the rate of a year ago, and each month between 200 and 300 Iraqi policemen and soldiers are killed. Ninety-three U.S. troops died in October, the fourth-highest monthly toll since the invasion of Iraq."....

Kurdish Oil Deal Shocks Iraq's Political Leaders - Los Angeles Times

"BAGHDAD -A controversial oil exploration deal between Iraq's autonomy-minded Kurds and a Norwegian company got underway this week without the approval of the central government here, raising a potentially explosive issue at a time of heightened ethnic and sectarian tensions.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls a portion of the semiautonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, last year quietly signed a deal with Norway's DNO to drill for oil near the border city of Zakho. Iraqi and company officials describe the agreement as the first involving new exploration in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003"

Drilling began after a ceremony Tuesday, during which Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish northern region, vowed "there is no way Kurdistan would accept that the central government will control our resources," according to news agency reports.

In Baghdad, political leaders on Wednesday reacted to the deal with astonishment.

"We need to figure out if this is allowed in the constitution," said Adnan Ali Kadhimi, an advisor to Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari. "Nobody has mentioned it. It has not come up among the government ministers' council. It has not been on their agenda."

The start of drilling, called "spudding" in the oil business, is sure to be worrisome to Iraq's Sunni Arab minority. They fear a disintegration of Iraq into separate ethnic and religious cantons if regions begin to cut energy deals with foreign companies and governments. Sunnis are concentrated in Iraq's most oil-poor region.

Iraq's neighbors also fear the possibility of Iraqi Kurds using revenue generated by oil wells to fund an independent state that might lead the roughly 20 million Kurds living in Turkey, Iran and Syria to revolt.

Iraqi legal experts and international oil industry analysts have questioned the deal. Oil industry trade journals had expressed doubts that it would come to fruition.

Iraq's draft constitution, approved in an Oct. 15 national referendum, stipulates that "the federal government with the producing regional and governorate governments shall together formulate" energy policy. However, it also makes ambiguous reference to providing compensation for "damaged regions that were unjustly deprived by the former regime."

Iraq's Kurds have argued that the country's existing oil fields and infrastructure, such as those in the largely Kurdish cities of Kirkuk and Khanaqin, should be divvied up by the central government but that future oil discoveries should be controlled by each oil-producing region.

In his speech Tuesday, Barzani, the nephew of Kurdish politician and former guerrilla leader Massoud Barzani, eschewed the language of the law and couched the deal in political terms. He invoked the Kurds' years of deprivation at the hands of the Sunni Arab-dominated government of Saddam Hussein.

"The time has come that instead of suffering, the people of Kurdistan will benefit from the fortunes and resources of their country," he said during the ceremony in the western portion of Kurdish-controlled territory.

The Kurds, who during the last several years of Hussein's rule maintained sovereignty in northern Iraq under the protection of U.S. warplanes, made millions in transit and customs fees as the Baghdad government smuggled oil to Turkey in violation of United Nations sanctions. Since the end of the sanctions, the Kurds have sought ways to make up for that lost income.

The eastern administrative half of the Kurdish region also is rushing to sign energy deals with foreign companies without Baghdad's approval. The government of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, based in the city of Sulaymaniya, has signed an electricity agreement with a Turkish company and explored a possible oil deal with a foreign partnership near the city of Chamchamal, the site of several dormant oil wells.

During months of painstaking constitutional negotiations, Kurds insisted on the authority to cut energy deals without Baghdad's approval. Under the draft charter, the task of determining how oil resources will be allocated is left to the National Assembly that will be elected Dec. 15.

The language in the constitution regarding the power of regions to pen such contracts was a major reason that the vast majority of Sunnis voted against the charter in October.

The announcement of the DNO drilling took many Iraqis by surprise Wednesday.

"This is unprecedented," said Alaa Makki, a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab group. "It's like they are an independent country. This is Iraqi oil and should be shared with all the Iraqi partners."

Makki said Kurds were trying to have it both ways, controlling the Iraqi presidency and several powerful ministries in the national government while also trying to lay claim to extra-constitutional powers in the north. Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, is the Iraqi president.

However, Helge Eide, managing director of Oslo-based DNO, said he believed Iraq's new constitution gave the Kurdish north jurisdiction over certain drilling and oil exploration activities.

"That was clearly pointed out by Mr. [Nechirvan] Barzani," said Eide, who attended the Zakho ceremony.

Oil companies have become used to operating in hostile and unstable territories. DNO, founded 25 years ago, is considered an upstart in the oil business, with projects in Yemen, Mozambique and Equatorial Guinea, the site of a coup attempt last year, as well as northern Europe.

Eide said his company was more than willing to work with the government in Baghdad, though it had not yet signed a deal with the capital for oil exploration. In April, the company signed a deal to provide the Iraqi Oil Ministry with training and technology as "the first steps" to being invited by Baghdad, as well as the Irbil-based Kurdish government, for future oil and exploration work.

Iraq, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, holds an estimated 115 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, mainly in the south, according to Oil & Gas Journal, an industry publication.

That places Iraq among the top five nations in oil reserves. Iraq could contain significantly more undiscovered oil where energy exploration hasn't occurred, an area that stretches across about 90% of the country, the U.S. Energy Department said.

Iraq exports about 2 million barrels of oil a day, according to the International Energy Agency in Paris.

[bth: the war might not have been about oil and the cash it produces but the peace certainly will be. Oil and gas is the only recurring source of revenue in Iraq so any viable government will have to control or tax that production. As the Kurds, Shia and Sunnis are able to disrupt production but not actually seize and hold territory their populations don't inhabit, my guess is that regional oil production deals will be the norm. Hence one might conclude that control of oil revenues at the regional level will define the sustainable governmental structures of that country.]

Weldon rips 9/11 commission over intelligence failures

"MARPLE - Still wearing his makeup from an appearance on CNN's 'Lou Dobbs Tonight,' U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-7, of Thornbury, told a packed house at the township library Tuesday evening about his concerns regarding the 9/11 Commission.

The congressman said the military intelligence unit Able Danger identified four Sept. 11 hijackers in 2000, more than a year before the attacks. He said the commission, charged with investigating intelligence failures, deliberately excluded the input from its July 2004 final report. Members of the commission have repeatedly denied the claims.

'I am convinced this is a bigger cover-up than Watergate,' said Weldon. 'More than 3,000 people were slaughtered and it deliberately kept the story from being part of its report because it would have embarrassed some of its members.'

Weldon, vice-chairman of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security committees, outlined the details in his latest book, 'Countdown to Terror.' The volume tells of a series of meetings with 'Ali,' an Iranian who correctly predicted five incidents before particulars about them were made public.

'The CIA thought he got the information from open sources, but I gave them the details one week to three months before the events happened,' said Weldon. 'The information was not made public by any source in the world before I gave it to the CIA.'

Earlier this month, Weldon also sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld requesting he allow former participants in Able Danger to testify in open congressional hearings. The correspondence had 246 bipartisan signatures, including those of senior members and leadership on both sides of the aisle.

In August, Army Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and Navy Capt. Scott Phillpott publicly stated Able Danger had identified lead hijacker Mohammed Atta. Weldon said the information, combined with other details gathered by the program, could have prevented or reduced the scale of the attacks and the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

"In America, I should not have to resort to writing a book to get the intelligence agencies to do their jobs," said Weldon. "That is a government out of control."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005



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America's unsung war dead

"When America marked the death last month of the 2,000th US service member in Iraq, many commented that this was a meaningless milestone made up by the media and no more important than any other death figures.

They were in fact right, but not for the reason they thought. America actually reached the milestone of 2,000 long before. The reason, however, nobody commented about it was that these fatalities came from America's other army; that of the private sector. As of November 14, at least 280 coalition contractors have been killed. "...

The lack of security in post-war Iraq has created an enormous demand for PMC services. In 2004, according to the inspector general for the CPA, at least 10 to 15 cents of every dollar spent on reconstruction was for security. For some contractors the security costs are substantially higher, approaching or even exceeding 30% of a project's cost. While firms are reluctant to reveal how much they are spending on security and insurance it is estimated that for every $100 in salary paid by the employer, at least $20 is spent on the life insurance premium.

For most of the time since the US invasion in 2003 nobody knew for certain how many PMCs operated in Iraq. Last year in response to a request from Congress, a CPA-compiled report listed 60 PMCs with an aggregate total of 20,000 personnel (including US citizens, third-country nationals and Iraqis). But that list was incomplete. Missing, for example, are companies implicated in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal such as Titan CAC and SOS Interpreting Ltd. News reports peg the number of interrogators from private contractors there between 30 and 40. Most of the armed personnel were the more than 14,000 Iraqi guards who worked the oil field security contract for the British firm Erinys. The Iraqi government has since resumed that task.

The total number of (non-Iraqi) PMC gun-toting personnel is certainly fewer then 20,000; perhaps as few as 6,000 security contractors. And despite claims to the contrary, PMCs do not constitute the second- or third-largest army in Iraq; they are not coordinated into one cohesive whole, nor do they engage in offensive operations.

...According to a report last month by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) there was a workforce of about 38,000 employees (including foreign nationals and subcontractor personnel) working on the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) in Iraq from March 2003 to November 2004. But at least 524 US military contract workers, many of them Iraqis, have been killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, according to an October 27 Bloomberg news report.

At least 25 Blackwater workers have been killed in Iraq. San Diego, California-based Titan Corp, which provides military translators, has lost 148, the most among the 43 companies that have filed death-benefit claims with the Labor Department.

At least another 3,963 were injured, according to Department of Labor insurance-claims statistics obtained by Knight Ridder news service. If one assumes the base is the CBO number, that works out to 10% of the total. Those statistics, which experts said were the most comprehensive listing available on the toll of the war, are far from complete. Two of the biggest contractors in Iraq, Halliburton and its Kellogg Brown and Root subsidiary, said their casualties were higher than the figures the Labor Department had for them.

The government's listing shows the contractors' casualty rate is increasing. In the first 21 months of the war, 11 contractors were killed and 74 injured each month on average. This year, the monthly average death toll is nearly 20 and the average monthly number of injured is 243.

...While some of them have been implicated in human-rights abuses such as occurred in Abu Ghraib prison, they have on the whole been far more professional than the regular military forces.

But, with the advantage of hindsight it seems clear that a lack of strategic planning has affected private sector operations in Iraq in the same way it has affected the regular US military. Coordination of PMCs was deficient, and they failed to be given sufficient early warning before the war about how much their services would be needed.

Things should improve in the future as last month the Pentagon finally released a long-awaited directive on the roles and functions of the contractor on the battlefield. But issuing and implementing directives are widely different things, so progress will be slow. ...


[bth: so roughly 13 killed American contractors per 100 soldiers killed and 1 wounded in action for every 4 soldier with the trend increasing. Disturbing]
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The men who ask the questions

"WASHINGTON - Dozens converged this summer on the US high desert town of El Paso, Texas, en route to spending six months in Iraqi prisons.

They were going not as prisoners, but as interrogators, walking a legal tightrope that stretches across the Geneva Conventions. Just for signing up, they got a US$2,000 check from a company that is rapidly becoming one of the key employers in the world of intelligence: Lockheed Martin.

After a week of orientation and medical processing, they flew to Tampa, Florida, and on to their final destinations - Iraq's infamous"
prisons, including Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper near Baghdad International Airport and Camp Whitehorse near the southern Iraqi town of Nasariyah.

Known in the intelligence community as "97 Echoes" (97E is the official classification number for the interrogator course taught at military colleges), these civilian contractors work side-by-side with military interrogators using 17 officially sanctioned techniques, ranging from "love of comrades" to "fear up harsh" - violently throwing detainees to the ground. Their subjects will be the tens of thousands of men and women put into United States-run military jails on suspicion of links to terrorism.

Jobs for this new breed of interrogators typically begin with a phone call or email to retired Lieutenant Colonel Marc Michaelis, in the quaint flour-milling town of Ellicott City, Maryland, about an hour's drive from Washington.

Michaelis, who is the main point of contact for new interrogators, came to Lockheed in February after it acquired his former employer, Sytex, in a $462 million takeover.

Lockheed/Sytex appears to have emerged as one of the biggest recruiters of private interrogators. In June alone, Sytex advertised for 11 new interrogators for Iraq, and in July the company sought 23 interrogators for Afghanistan.

Ads on several websites frequented by current and former military personnel offered an annual salary of $70,000-$90,000, a $2,000 sign-up bonus, $1,000 for a mid-tour break and a $2,000-dollar bonus for completing the normal six-month deployment. ...

Terrorist Has No Idea What To Do With All This Plutonium | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

"ZAHEDAN, IRAN�Yaquub Akhtar, the leader of an eight-man cell linked to a terrorist organization known as the Army Of Martyrs, admitted Tuesday that he 'doesn't have the slightest clue' what to do with the quarter-kilogram of plutonium he recently acquired."

"We had just given thanks to Allah for this glorious means to destroy the Great Satan once and for all, when [sub-lieutenant] Mahmoud [Ghassan] asked, 'So, what's the next step?'" Akhtar said. "I was at a loss."

The 28-year-old fanatic said he and his associates had initially assumed that at least one member of their group had the physics and engineering background necessary to construct a thermonuclear device.

"Many eyes were upon me," said Basim Aljawad, whose knowledge of physics did not extend to the principles of nuclear fission. "I make nail bombs. That's it."

Not knowing where to turn, the eight men consulted the Muslim holy book the Quran, which proved unhelpful. Said Akhtar: "Even Umar Abd al-Malik, who interprets the ancient scripture more freely than the rest of us, could not find an instructive passage."

Morale was temporarily buoyed when cell member Dawoud Bishr, a former student at the Sorbonne in Paris, was found intently examining the exposed plutonium, which he had lifted from its protective lead footlocker. Two days later, however, the others had to bury Bishr in a landfill outside the city.

Akhtar, in hiding in a small, spartan cellar in one of Zahedan's poorer neighborhoods, said that the only use he's found for the encased lethal substance so far is as a flat surface on which to lay out a map of a government armory outside Islamabad and a large piece of paper to make a blueprint for transferring the plutonium to an effective delivery system.

"I drew a circle to represent the plutonium," Akhtar said. "Then I drew a line pointing to it, and beside it wrote 'plutonium.' After that, I just hit a wall."

Akhtar and his associates initially planned to create a "suitcase bomb," but soon after they obtained the plutonium, they learned that such bombs weigh over 700 pounds, and are therefore too heavy for any of them to lift alone.

Said Akhtar: "The only thing this weapon of mass destruction is destroying right now is our ability to kill infidels."

"I have heard many in the corrupt Western media say that Muslim terrorists have acquired harmful radioactive materials that can be readily deployed," al-Malik said. "Whoever this terrorist group is that's all but ready to strike America with a nuclear device, we sure could use their help."

Unable to search for bomb-making instructions on his laptop for fear of being monitored, Akhtar has been forced to send another of his sub-lieutenants, 23-year-old Ibraheem Jaalal, to a local Internet café in hopes of acquiring the necessary data. According to Jaalal, the process so far has proven "unbearably slow" and "outrageously expensive," claiming he can't believe the coffee shop charges $4.95 for an hour of dial-up-speed Internet use....



What 'staying the course' really means

"Nearly three years into the war in Iraq, the Bush administration tells us that it wasn't about weapons of mass destruction or Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda, but about America's holy mission to spread democracy to the benighted regions of the Middle East. However, postwar Iraq is anything but a democracy. In fact, if Iraq manages to avoid all-out civil war, it is likely to end up with a government that is fiercely undemocratic - a Shi'ite theocratic dictatorship that rules by terror, torture, and armed might.

What President George W Bush has wrought in Iraq is just the latest in a long string of US efforts to make common cause with the Islamic right. But like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, whose naive and inexperienced use of magic blows up in his face, American efforts to play with the forces of political Islam have proved to be dangerous, volatile and often uncontrollable.

The problem goes far beyond the Shi'ites in Iraq. In the Sunni parts of the country, the power of Islamism is growing, too - and"by this I do not mean the forces associated with al-Qaeda. but the radical-right Muslim Brotherhood, represented there by the Iraqi Islamic Party, and other manifestations of the Salafi and Wahhabi-style religious right.

In Egypt, Syria and elsewhere, the radical religious right is also gaining strength. Meanwhile; sometimes deliberately, sometimes by sheer ignorance and incompetence, the Bush administration is encouraging the spread of political Islam. Were the US to "stay the course," not only Iraq but much of the rest of the Middle East could fall to the Islamic right.

Does this mean that al-Qaeda-style fanatics will take power? No. Whether in the form of Iraq's Shi'ite theocrats or the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Egypt, the Islamic right cannot be compared to al-Qaeda. Yet, just as the US Christian right has its abortion clinic bombers, just as the Israeli Jewish right spawned the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin and settler-extremists who kill dozens at Muslim holy sites, the Islamic right provides ideological support and theological justification for more extreme (and, yes, terrorist) offspring.

Even the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with a long history of violence, which once maintained a covert "secret apparatus" and a paramilitary arm, has not convincingly renounced its past, nor demonstrated that it sees democracy as anything more than a tool it can use to seize power.

Shi'ite "Islamofascists" rule Iraq
The case of Iraq could not be clearer. In 2002, as Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the White House and the Pentagon inexorably toward war, it was increasingly obvious to experienced Iraq hands that post-Saddam Hussein Iraq would be ruled by its restive Shi'ite majority. It was no less obvious that the dominant force within that Shi'ite majority would be the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, and a parallel force associated with al-Dawa (The Islamic Call), a 45-year-old Shi'ite underground terrorist party.

....Syria: The Muslim Brotherhood waits
Now, consider the broader issue of Bush's supposed push for regional democracy. That effort, it should be noted, is being coordinated under the know-nothing supervision of none other than Elizabeth Cheney, the vice president's daughter. She is currently the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs and is charged with the task of democracy-building in the "Greater Middle East".

Undeterred by the failure of the US experiment in installing democracy in Iraq, next on the chopping block - that is, next to receive the benefits of US-imposed democracy - is Syria. That small, oil-poor, militarily weak state is, at the moment, feeling the full force of Bush administration pressure. Its army and security forces have been driven out of Lebanon, at the risk of sparking civil war in that country again.

...Egypt, the anchor of the Arab world and by far its most populous country, is threatened with a Muslim Brotherhood-style regime. Virtually all observers of Egyptian politics agree that the Muslim Brotherhood is the chief opposition party in Egypt. Mere prudence suggests that the US should not press Egypt too hard for democracy and free elections, given how difficult it is to transition from an authoritarian state to a democratic one. Moreover, it is arguably none of America's business what sort of government Egypt has. The very idea that democracy is the antidote for terrorism has been proven false, most authoritatively by F Gregory Gause in his essay, "Can Democracy Stop Terrorism?" in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs magazine. ...

A formula for endless war
Iraq, Syria and Egypt are not the only places threatened by fundamentalism. In recent Palestinian elections, Hamas - the official branch of the Muslim Brotherhood there - has shown remarkable strength, threatening to undo the Palestinian Authority's accomplishments and wreck any chance of a Palestinian-Israeli accord.

Ironically, a great deal of Hamas' present power exists only because of the support offered its founders by the Israeli military authorities in decades past. From the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 well into the 1980s, Israel supported the growth of Hamas-style Islamism as a counterweight to the nationalists in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Ahmed Yassin, Hamas' founder, was backed by Israel during those years, as his followers clashed with PLO supporters in Gaza and the West Bank. Too late, Israel recognized that it had created a monster and began to wage war on Hamas, including assassinating Yassin.

From Israel and Palestine to Egypt, Syria, Iraq and beyond - in Algeria, Sudan, the Gulf states, Pakistan and even Saudi Arabia - the region is beset by Islamist movements. The right way to combat this upsurge is not through military action or a Bush administration-style "war on terrorism". That, as many observers have pointed out, is likely to further fuel the growth of such movements, not subdue them.

Only if the temperature is lowered throughout the region might the momentum of the Islamic right be slowed and, someday, reversed. Unfortunately, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have raised that temperature to the boiling point. So has the long-term American military build-up in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.

So have the proclamations from Bush and Co about a nonsensical "World War IV" against "Islamofascism". So has the Israeli policy of expanding settlements and building a giant barrier that virtually annexes huge swaths of the West Bank for greater Israel. All of these policies cause Islamist sympathies to grow - and out of them bubble recruits not only for organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, but for al-Qaeda-style terrorist groups.

The Bush administration has put into operation an utterly paradoxical and self-defeating strategy. First, its policies inflame the region, feeding the growth of political Islam and its extremist as well as terrorist offshoots. Then, as in Iraq - and as seems to be the case in Syria and Egypt - it seeks "regime change" in countries where it knows that the chief opposition and likely inheritor of power will be the Muslim Brotherhood or its ilk. This is a formula for endless war in the region. ...

[bth: every radical religious group needs its great satan to wrestle with. Does Osama bin Laden and Bush need each other?]

Saatchi's Roberts Advised DOD on Rebranding "War"

"NEW YORK -- Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts has been telling the Pentagon how to spin the war on terror.

His advice? "Call our struggle, the Fight for a Better World"

Roberts was invited by the U.S. Department of Defense to address "various U.S. Defense Intelligence Agencies" at a conference in New York held last March 9, according to a copy of Roberts' speech obtained by Brandweek. (A complete copy of the speech can be found HERE.)

His recommendation - derived from his 2004 book, Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands - bears a conceptual similarity to a term top Bush Administration officials used in August to replace the phrase "war on terror."

That phrase, "the global struggle against violent extremism," was widely ridiculed when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others began using it instead of "the war on terror."Government officials have since gone back to using the "war on terror" moniker.

Roberts - better known for his strong relationship with Procter & Gamble than his insights into suicide bombing - confirmed the March meeting. "I was surprised to be invited." he said, adding that "the audience was intelligent, engaged, open and pragmatic; they listened keenly and we had a very lively discussion."

Roberts said he did not know whether his words provided the thematic origin for the Pentagon's ongoing attempt to rebrand the war. But he stood by it last week: "They should change their language. The 'Fight for a Better World' is more inclusive, more optimistic and more engaging."

The Department of Defense did not return requests for comment."...

The Pentagon has lately begun to use marketing as a weapon. The Lincoln Group, Washington, this summer won part of a $300 million contract to improve pubic opinion abroad and to assist coalition forces with their Iraqi communications.

“If you want to influence someone, you have to touch their emotions,” Col. James Treadwell of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element told the Washington Post in June.

That echoes almost directly Roberts' speech, in which he said: “Using emotion instead of reason is a big, transformational idea . . . the most powerful relationships run on deep emotional connections.” Treadwell could not be reached for comment at press time.

This isn't Saatchi's first foray into global politics, either. It was Charles and Maurice Saatchi who remade Margaret Thatcher's image in the 1970s—softening her hair and voice—making her electable as Britain's first female prime minister.

And it was in 1999 that Roberts triggered a political scandal in his home country of New Zealand when he wined and dined premier Jenny Shipley. Her government later gave Saatchi a $26 million tourism ad contract while other government budgets were being cut. One newspaper called it the “Slippery Slope of Sleaze.”

--with Todd Wasserman

[bth: Is the Lincoln Group sending false information through the news media back to America?]


Roughly 3 months now since he gave his life for his country. Heather, just to let you know. We remember, we remember. Best wishes to you and the children. Posted by Picasa

Iraq bomber 'was Belgian woman'

"A Belgian woman who converted to Islam after marrying a radical Muslim carried out a suicide attack in Baghdad earlier this month, say Belgian prosecutors.

Other European extremists are known to have travelled to Iraq to fight the US-led forces, but she is believed to be the first female European bomber.

On Wednesday, police detained 14 people in raids on the homes of people thought to have links with the unnamed woman.

Authorities said they wanted to break a network sending volunteers to Iraq.

Nine of the suspects are Belgian, three are Moroccan and two are Tunisian. "...

CIA Realizes It's Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years | The Onion -

"LANGLEY, VA-A report released Tuesday by the CIA's Office of the Inspector General revealed that the CIA has mistakenly obscured hundreds of thousands of pages of critical intelligence information with black highlighters."...

 Posted by Picasa

U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press - Los Angeles Times

"Troops write articles presented as news reports. Some officers object to the practice.

By Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi, Times Staff Writers


WASHINGTON - As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The articles, written by U.S. military 'information operations' troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. "

Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.

Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles, with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism," since the effort began this year.

The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets
.

The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are pledging to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech in a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption.

It comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled "The Role of Press in a Democratic Society." Standards vary widely at Iraqi newspapers, many of which are shoestring operations.

Underscoring the importance U.S. officials place on development of a Western-style media, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday cited the proliferation of news organizations in Iraq as one of the country's great successes since the ouster of President Saddam Hussein. The hundreds of newspapers, television stations and other "free media" offer a "relief valve" for the Iraqi public to debate the issues of their burgeoning democracy, Rumsfeld said.

The military's information operations campaign has sparked a backlash among some senior military officers in Iraq and at the Pentagon who argue that attempts to subvert the news media could destroy the U.S. military's credibility in other nations and with the American public.

"Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it," said a senior Pentagon official who opposes the practice of planting stories in the Iraqi media.

The arrangement with Lincoln Group is evidence of how far the Pentagon has moved to blur the traditional boundaries between military public affairs — the dissemination of factual information to the media — and psychological and information operations, which use propaganda and sometimes misleading information to advance the objectives of a military campaign.

The Bush administration has come under criticism for distributing video and news stories in the United States without identifying the federal government as their source and for paying American journalists to promote administration policies, practices the Government Accountability Office has labeled "covert propaganda."

Military officials familiar with the effort in Iraq said much of it was being directed by the "Information Operations Task Force" in Baghdad, part of the multinational corps headquarters commanded by Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were critical of the effort and were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

A spokesman for Vines declined to comment for this article. A Lincoln Group spokesman also declined to comment.

One of the military officials said that, as part of a psychological operations campaign that has intensified over the last year, the task force also had purchased an Iraqi newspaper and taken control of a radio station, and was using them to channel pro-American messages to the Iraqi public. Neither is identified as a military mouthpiece.

The official would not disclose which newspaper and radio station are under U.S. control, saying that naming them would put their employees at risk of insurgent attacks.

U.S. law forbids the military from carrying out psychological operations or planting propaganda through American media outlets. Yet several officials said that given the globalization of media driven by the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, the Pentagon's efforts were carried out with the knowledge that coverage in the foreign press inevitably "bleeds" into the Western media and influences coverage in U.S. news outlets.

"There is no longer any way to separate foreign media from domestic media. Those neat lines don't exist anymore," said one private contractor who does information operations work for the Pentagon.

Daniel Kuehl, an information operations expert at National Defense University at Ft. McNair in Washington, said that he did not believe that planting stories in Iraqi media was wrong. But he questioned whether the practice would help turn the Iraqi public against the insurgency.

"I don't think that there's anything evil or morally wrong with it," he said. "I just question whether it's effective."

One senior military official who spent this year in Iraq said it was the strong pro-U.S. message in some news stories in Baghdad that first made him suspect that the American military was planting articles.

"Stuff would show up in the Iraqi press, and I would ask, 'Where the hell did that come from?' It was clearly not something that indigenous Iraqi press would have conceived of on their own," the official said.

Iraqi newspaper editors reacted with a mixture of shock and shrugs when told they were targets of a U.S. military psychological operation.

Some of the newspapers, such as Al Mutamar, a Baghdad-based daily run by associates of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, ran the articles as news stories, indistinguishable from other news reports. Before the war, Chalabi was the Iraqi exile favored by senior Pentagon officials to lead post-Hussein Iraq.

Others labeled the stories as "advertising," shaded them in gray boxes or used a special typeface to distinguish them from standard editorial content. But none mentioned any connection to the U.S. military.

One Aug. 6 piece, published prominently on Al Mutamar's second page, ran as a news story with the headline "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism." Documents obtained by The Times indicated that Al Mutamar was paid about $50 to run the story, though the editor of the paper said he ran such articles for free.

Nearly $1,500 was paid to the independent Addustour newspaper to run an Aug. 2 article titled "More Money Goes to Iraq's Development," the records indicated. The newspaper's editor, Bassem Sheikh, said he had "no idea" where the piece came from but added the note "media services" on top of the article to distinguish it from other editorial content.

The U.S. military-written articles come in to Al Mutamar, the newspaper run by Chalabi's associates, via the Internet and are often unsigned, said Luay Baldawi, the paper's editor in chief.

"We publish anything," he said. "The paper's policy is to publish everything, especially if it praises causes we believe in. We are pro-American. Everything that supports America we will publish."

Yet other Al Mutamar employees were much less supportive of their paper's connection with the U.S. military. "This is not right," said Faleh Hassan, an editor. "It reflects the tragic condition of journalists in Iraq. Journalism in Iraq is in very bad shape."

Ultimately, Baldawi acknowledged that he, too, was concerned about the origin of the articles and pledged to be "more careful about stuff we get by e-mail."

After he learned of the source of three paid stories that ran in Al Mada in July, that newspaper's managing editor, Abdul Zahra Zaki, was outraged, immediately summoning a manager of the advertising department to his office.

"I'm very sad," he said. "We have to investigate."

The Iraqis who delivered the articles also reaped modest profits from the arrangements, according to sources and records.

Employees at Al Mada said that a low-key man arrived at the newspaper's offices in downtown Baghdad on July 30 with a large wad of U.S. dollars. He told the editors that he wanted to publish an article titled "Terrorists Attack Sunni Volunteers" in the newspaper.

He paid cash and left no calling card, employees said. He did not want a receipt. The name he gave employees was the same as that of a Lincoln Group worker in the records obtained by The Times. Although editors at Al Mada said he paid $900 to place the article, records show that the man told Lincoln Group that he gave more than $1,200 to the paper.

Al Mada is widely considered the most cerebral and professional of Iraqi newspapers, publishing investigative reports as well as poetry.

Zaki said that if his cash-strapped paper had known that these stories were from the U.S. government, he would have "charged much, much more" to publish them.

According to several sources, the process for placing the stories begins when soldiers write "storyboards" of events in Iraq, such as a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on a suspected insurgent hide-out, or a suicide bomb that killed Iraqi civilians.

The storyboards, several of which were obtained by The Times, read more like press releases than news stories. They often contain anonymous quotes from U.S. military officials; it is unclear whether the quotes are authentic.

Absolute truth was not an essential element of these stories," said the senior military official who spent this year in Iraq.

One of the storyboards, dated Nov. 12, describes a U.S.-Iraqi offensive in the western Iraqi towns of Karabilah and Husaybah.

"Both cities are stopping points for foreign fighters entering Iraq to wage their unjust war," the storyboard reads.

It continues with a quote from an anonymous U.S. military official: " 'Iraqi army soldiers and U.S. forces have begun clear-and-hold operations in the city of Karabilah near Husaybah town, close to the Syrian border,' said a military official once operations began."

Another storyboard, written on the same date, describes the capture of an insurgent bomb-maker in Baghdad. "As the people and the [Iraqi security forces] work together, Iraq will finally drive terrorism out of Iraq for good," it concludes.

It was unclear whether those two storyboards have made their way into Iraqi newspapers.

A debate over the Pentagon's handling of information has raged since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In 2002, the Pentagon was forced to shut down its Office of Strategic Influence, which had been created the previous year, after reports surfaced that it intended to plant false news stories in the international media.

For much of 2005, a Defense Department working group has been trying to forge a policy about the proper role of information operations in wartime. Pentagon officials say the group has yet to resolve the often-contentious debate in the department about the boundaries between military public affairs and information operations.

Lincoln Group, formerly known as Iraqex, is one of several companies hired by the U.S. military to carry out "strategic communications" in countries where large numbers of U.S. troops are based.

Some of Lincoln Group's work in Iraq is very public, such as an animated public service campaign on Iraqi television that spotlights the Iraqi civilians killed by roadside bombs planted by insurgents.

Besides its contract with the military in Iraq, Lincoln Group this year won a major contract with U.S. Special Operations Command, based in Tampa, to develop a strategic communications campaign in concert with special operations troops stationed around the globe. The contract is worth up to $100 million over five years, although U.S. military officials said they doubted the Pentagon would spend the full amount of the contract
.


Mazzeti reported from Washington and Daragahi reported from Baghdad.


[bth: excellent reporting from the LA Times.]


[bth: it would have been nice if the LA Times had pursued who the Lincoln Group was. They would find that it was founded by some proteges of Karl Rove and Republican Party operatives and that it formed a UK subsidiary. As a passing note, it is legal to plant stories in overseas news agencies and if that information happens to get printed in the US then this allows the Pentagon to get around US law while planting propaganda as news.

Update: This link to
Source Watch shows details about Lincoln Group and fake news. Also this link which we read this summer from the Whiskey Bar describes the link between the Lincoln Group or Lincoln Alliance and the White House.]