Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Steve Rosen is flashing a new weapon in his defamation suit against his former employer, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful lobbying group usually referred to as AIPAC.
Rosen, a central figure in the Israeli espionage scandal that shook official Washington a few years ago, made available to SpyTalk an e-mail that he said shows AIPAC, which feared a widening federal investigation into its ties to Israel, signaled it would “do right by” him down the road, even after they had fired him with public denunciations of his conduct.
AIPAC had fired Rosen, its longtime foreign affairs chief, and Keith Weissman, its Iran analyst, in March 2005, after they were implicated in the FBI‘s investigation of alleged Israeli espionage, saying their conduct did not "reflect AIPAC standards." The two were accused of passing along classified information not only to Israel but to news outlets including The Washington Post.
The Justice Department would eventually charge the two under espionage statutes, alleging they used “their contacts within the U.S. government and elsewhere to gather sensitive U.S. government information, including classified information relating to the national defense, for subsequent unlawful communication, delivery and transmission to persons not entitled to receive it.”
Reports were that the FBI was broadening its investigation into AIPAC-Israel ties, with more indictments to come. In their defense, Rosen and Weissman were preparing to subpoena top administration officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to make their case that the United States regularly used AIPAC to send back-channel communications to Israel. Last year, the charges were dropped.
Rosen says AIPAC fired him after the FBI played “a few minutes of highly edited excerpts” from surveillance tapes “to make me look very sinister,” portraying him as a secret agent rather than a lobbyist who routinely gathers inside information from officials and tries to influence policy.
“They fired me after they heard the FBI threatening that their investigation could be broadened at AIPAC,” Rosen maintained in a telephone interview.
“I was sacrificed like Jonah to save the ship and they were going to make things right” later on, he said....
[bth: worth reading in full. Note AIPAC cut its ties when it realized the investigation would broaden, probably into espionage.]
Investigators suspect that commanders controlling long stretches of highway share multi-million-dollar incomes each year by demanding $1,000-$1,200 for each of the trucks, making up to 10,000 trips a month under the contract.
Investigators also suspect that some of the funds from the contract end up in the hands of the Taliban, either through bribes paid by sub-contractors or extortion rackets run by militia leaders colluding with insurgents. Isaf says oversight procedures exist, but ad-mits relationships between sub-contractors and other entities are not transparent.
The militias pose a dilemma for the US military. Senior officers say they plan to work with the Afghan government to impose stricter controls during their planned offensive to secure Kandahar city, but troops admit they need the militia to keep the Taliban out of areas where they are stretched.
At a remote US Army outpost in Shah Wali Kot in northern Kandahar province, officers say Matiullah plays a vital role in escorting supplies on a highway north of the city.
"He's a huge asset," said Major Ryan O'Connor. "He's covering space right now where Isaf and coalition forces do not have a large and constant presence."
Ahmed Wali Karzai says he is helping the interior ministry register militias so they can be brought under Kabul's supervision. He said: "The only thing these people know well is how to fight . . . Let's say you have these 5,000 people loose in Kandahar. What will they do?"
But Carl Forsberg, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, says Mr Karzai relies on militias and security companies benefiting from US contracts to project power in the province.
In a report released last month, Mr Forsberg identified one of the companies that helps Ahmed Wali Karzai extend his influence as Watan Risk Management, an Afghan security company run by members of the Karzai family. The company is a big player in escorting convoys and also guards the $50m Dhala dam, Canada's flagship irrigation project in Kandahar, Canadian officials say. The company declined to comment on the report.
"You have about 30 oligarchs who have built little empires with Isaf money," Mr Forsberg said. "We are ultimately creating a shadow government."
[bth: ironically it looks like the best way to distribute funds into the general economy is to let the graft system manage things. If we really wanted to make a difference one wonders if we started buying fresh produce locally from districts that curtailed opium production what would happen? Let the capitalist system do a little of the work for us. We might find out that graft and bribes are one of the most efficient means of doing business in south central asia. Just a thought.]
He noted, however, an operation of such complexity would take at least a few weeks to put together. "I think you can very clearly say it was a coordinated effort," he told The Associated Press.
From a tactical point of view, the most alarming thing was how deeply outside the Sunni heartland the attacks took place, especially in the southern port city of Basra, far from the Sunni insurgents' territories.
The carnage came as political factions are still wrangling over the results of an election two months earlier that pitted the country's incumbent Shiite prime minister against a Shiite challenger heavily backed by Sunnis.
"It is clear that the people behind Monday's attacks want to ignite a sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis and brings Iraq back to 2006," said Sunni politician Abdel-Karim al-Sammarie, referring to the year Sunni and Shiite armed groups engaged in wholesale attacks on each other's neighborhoods.
The period was a high point for al-Qaida in Iraq until its Sunni allies turned on it and ushered in a fragile period of comparative calm that culminated in the March elections, which it was hoped would put Iraq's sectarian differences behind it.
Sunnis voted in droves for former Premier Ayad Allawi and his cross-sectarian platform, but no single group won a majority. The political paralysis has disillusioned many Iraqis - especially the Sunnis - as they watch conservative Shiites rebuild the same type of governing coalition they felt excluded them ever since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Juan Zarate, a counterterrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the attacks are particularly dangerous coming at a time of political uncertainty.
"I think this type of activity would be happening anyway but it has a sharper edge to it in the context of the political vacuum ... and the sense of vulnerability the Sunnis feel in the context of the wrangling," he said.
The worry is that attacks like Monday's could prompt ordinary Shiites to put their faith back into the militias for protection; there's already been indications that the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is experiencing a resurgence after al-Qaida strikes.
"If we begin to see the population turning to illegal groups to protect the streets, that will be a signal that the bombings are having a strategic impact and threatening the viability of the state," said Brett McGurk of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "That does not appear to be what we are seeing now but it remains the biggest risk to stability over the next six to 12 months."
Sunni politician al-Sammarie does not see the Sunnis or Shiites abandoning Iraq's government and flocking to al-Qaida or other extremist groups any time soon.
"The ordinary people are even more aware than the politicians themselves on the delicate and sensitive situation of which Iraq is in the midst.
[bth: the Iraqi government made vague statements implying that the latest wave of attacks was funded by Arab States which presumably means Saudi Arabia. It does suggest that the pattern of these attacks would indicate that it is trying to start a sectarian war or more properly said, re-ignite one. Where do American troops fit into this equation? ]
...First and foremost, the primary objective of the air campaign has been to disrupt al Qaeda’s external network and prevent the group from striking at the US and her allies. The campaign has targeted camps known to house foreigners as well as trainers and leaders for the network. Al Qaeda operatives known to have lived in the West and holding foreign passports have been killed in several Predator strikes. One such strike on an al Qaeda camp in South Waziristan on Aug. 30, 2008, killed two Canadian passport holders as they trained in the camp. Also, since May 14, 2008, the US has killed three of the leaders of al Qaeda’s external operations branch: Abu Sulayman Jazairi, Osama al Kini, and Saleh al Somali. Other senior operatives involved in a Qaeda’s external operations network have also been killed in the attacks.
Another major objective has been to disrupt the Taliban and al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan. The Taliban in Afghanistan receive significant support from within Pakistan. Taliban groups that are very active against Coalition forces in Afghanistan, such as the Haqqani Network, the Mehsud Taliban, and Mullah Nazir, have flourished in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. The US has targeted both Taliban leaders and fighters during these strikes. The Haqqani Network, for instance, is the most heavily targeted group because it both conducts operations in Afghanistan and harbors al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Several large Taliban training camps that are known to train fighters for the Afghan front have been the targets of attack. For instance, a training camp in Kurram operated by an Afghan Taliban commander was hit on Feb. 16, 2009. As noted Said al Libi, the top commander of the Shadow Army, and Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior commander in the Shadow Army were killed during a strike in December 2009. The Lashkar al Zil is al Qaeda's military unit that partners with the Taliban on both sides of the border.
Along with targeting al Qaeda's external operations network and the Taliban's Afghan operations in Pakistan, the US has also targeted Pakistani Taliban commanders who threaten the stability of the Pakistani state. The US hunted Baitullah Mehsud for a year before killing him in a strike in early August of 2009. Several of Baitullah's deputies have also been killed this past year. And Hakeemullah was the target of US strikes in January. The US only stopped targeting as it was thought he was killed. The US has an interest in preventing nuclear Pakistan from becoming a failed state and also needs to keep its supply lines open through Pakistan and into Afghanistan. More than 70 percent of the US and NATO supplies travel through Pakistan's northwest.
[bth: worth a read in full. I don't know who funds Roggio and the Long War Journal besides what they post on their blog but its the best open source of information of this type around. Some of its sourcing makes me suspect there is a government connection but that is unclear. One wonders if certain government agencies would want to see a site like this well funded and available when needed.]
The campaign to drive the Taleban out of Kandahar province has until the end of the year to succeed if it is to capitalise on maximum troop numbers and political unity, Nato commanders and Western diplomats told The Times.
“Our mission is to show irreversible momentum by the end of 2010 — that’s the clock I’m using,” Brigadier-General Frederick Hodges, the US Director of Operations in southern Afghanistan, said. “We’ll never have more capacity than we have by late summer 2010. We ’ll never have it any better.”
The joint Nato-Afghan campaign — codenamed Hamkari, which is the Dari word for co-operation — will use the biggest number of troops and police in the country yet. Thousands of Afghan National Army soldiers and paramilitaries are to combine with the existing coalition force in Kandahar as well as additional units from among the 13,000 troops being sent in the second phase of the US surge.
The military strategy involves combining regular US soldiers and special forces with Afghan police and paramilitaries to establish 32 posts around Kandahar city at every access point along the key route through the province. Afghan army units and coalition troops will then attempt to clear the Taleban from the outlying districts of Arghandab, Zhari and Panjwayi....
[bth: well then so there is the clock - calendar 2010]
Iraq: Aswat al-Iraq reported accusations by a provincial official that Arab states were involved in the two explosions in Basra today. Intelligence information confirmed that one Arab state supported and another planned for the blasts, the provincial spokesman said. He stressed that despite Arab involvement, the blasts were "carried out by Iraqi hands." Basra was targeted because it ranks ahead of other Iraqi cities in rebuilding and prosperity.
Comment: This is the first time that any official at any level has accused Arab states, meaning Sunni Arab states, in public of complicity in civil conflict in Iraq.
The nightmare scenario always has been that Sunni Arab state intelligence services would finance and otherwise support a Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq that prevented consolidation of a Shiite regime in Baghdad. The last thing the Saudi Kingdom will accept is a Shiite regime in Baghdad. The Saudis made that clear to the Bush-cheney administration.
Today's statement is the first open source indication that the Sunni Arabs have begun the campaign to limit Shiite power. In this hypothesis, Iraq will never be stable, but will be the battle ground between Sunni Arabs and Shiites backed by the Persians. It portends the second phase of the Islamic civil war in Iraq. This threatens to become a security problem more lethal than anything since the end of the Ottoman Empire.
US forces have no relevance to this fight, would make themselves a Christian target in an Islamic civil war and need to leave before it gets worse. Any time the Muslims fight among themselves, it strengthens the security of Israel and limits Iranian meddling in Afghanistan. There is no need for American children-soldiers to die to stop an Islamic civil war. Once democracy was instituted in Iraq, this outcome was inevitable.
A group of Somali pirates captured by the Russian navy in the Gulf of Aden and then set free in a boat are most probably dead after failing to reach the shore, a Russian defence source said Tuesday.
The 10 pirates were captured last week after seizing a Russian oil tanker but were then unexpectedly released, with Russian officials saying there was insufficient legal basis to keep them in detention.
"According to the latest information, the pirates who seized the Moscow University oil tanker failed to reach the shore. Evidently, they have all died," the high-ranking source was quoted as saying by all Russia's official news agencies.
The source said that radio signals from the boat stopped just one hour after it had been set free by the Russian navy. No details were given over the manner in which they could have lost their lives....
Russian shipping expert Mikhail Voitenko said reports about the pirates being set free in a boat could just be covering the possibility they had all been killed in the raid to free the Moscow University.
"I think this is linked to the fact nobody released the pirates and they were killed in the operation," Voitenko, editor of the Maritime Bulletin, told Moscow Echo radio.
"Then someone had the not very intelligent idea 'let's pretend that they were released in the middle of the ocean hundreds of miles from the shore without any navigational aids'."
After the tanker was recaptured, officials had also sent conflicting signals about the future of the pirates.
Russia's investigative committee of prosecutors had said steps were being taken to bring the pirates to Moscow to face charges but later backtracked, saying that this was not being discussed....
[bth: I wonder why they just don't say that they killed the pirates?]
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Democrat Alan Mollohan's 28-year run in the House of Representatives is over.
With 71 percent of the precincts reporting, state Sen. Mike Oliverio had nearly 56 percent of the vote compared to Mollohan's 44 percent.
Tuesday's vote made Mollohan the first House incumbent to lose his seat this year.
Mollohan was dogged by ethical questions. The more conservative Oliverio ran an aggressive campaign portraying him as corrupt and disconnected.
Conservative media rallied around Oliverio, along with anti-abortion groups angry over Mollohan's support of health care reform....
[bth: Mollohan is in fact a corrupt politician. Looks like WV finally had enough.]
North Korea-China: A Japanese new commentary from the 7th assessed that the main purpose of Kim Chong-il's unofficial visit to China was to show "the North Korean people and the world at large" that his regime has China's backing. It described Kim as "relying on China when things get tough."
There are other useful assessments, but one overriding image is that China stands by the Kim regime, with its blemishes. This should be a powerful lesson to Asian analysts because of the timing of the visit coincident with the investigation of the sinking of the South Korean patrol ship Cheonan. The Chinese behavior showed the leadership in Beijing did not let that simmering crisis tarnish the pictures of support.
Many years have passed since China stood so publicly with North Korea during a provocation against South Korea. South Korean officials said they officially informed China about their suspicions of North Korean instrumentality, apparently to no avail. Whatever China learned during Kim's visit, it is more important and higher priority than relations with South Korea at this time....
[bth: I find Night Watch's analysis always informative especially when it comes to Asia. So why does China feel that it needs to stay committed to this horrible N. Korean regime? Besides a buffer what is in it for them?]
Through key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I have just learned that reclusive Taliban leader and top Osama bin Laden ally, Mullah Omar has been taken into custody.
At the end of March, US Military Intelligence was informed by US operatives working in the Af/Pak theater on behalf of the D.O.D. that Omar had been detained by Pakistani authorities. One would assume that this would be passed up the chain and that the Secretary of Defense would have been alerted immediately. From what I am hearing, that may not have been the case.
When this explosive information was quietly confirmed to United States Intelligence ten days ago by Pakistani authorities, it appeared to take the Defense Department by surprise. No one, though, is going to be more surprised than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It seems even with confirmation from the Pakistanis themselves, she was never brought up to speed.
Over the weekend, Clinton accused Pakistani Government officials of “holding back” on bin Laden intelligence. ...
[bth: I'm skeptical that this is true. It beggars belief that it could be kept a secret for 2 months.]
A 28-year-old Pakistani man with explosive residue on his hands was arrested at the U.S. Embassy in Chile, national police said.
The man, who had been in Chile since January, was applying for a visa to the United States, said Lt. Col. Fernando Vera of the carabineros, Chile's uniformed national police. The suspect was arrested Monday at the embassy and turned over to Chilean authorities....
[bth: while its possible that we may be over reacting and this could be a false alarm, I would simply note that January corresponded with the date our NYC bomber left Pakistan. I wonder if there is more to this story. It would seem implausible that a guy would go into our embassy with residue on his hands and no bomb.]
Monday, May 10, 2010
Twin car bombs at a factory, followed by a suicide attack against emergency workers, and coordinated blasts targeting security forces killed 102 people on Monday in Iraq's bloodiest day this year.
Nearly 350 people were wounded in more than 20 attacks nationwide, a surge in violence that came as Iraq moved closer to getting a new government two months after an election seen as crucial to US combat troops leaving the country by August 31.
The deadliest attack saw two explosives-packed vehicles detonated minutes apart in the car park of a textiles factory in the central city of Hilla, 95 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad, as workers boarded buses to go home.
About an hour later, a massive blast, which an interior ministry official said was a suicide bomber wearing an explosives-filled belt, engulfed the area as emergency service workers treated victims at the scene....
[bth: its interesting to compare the murdering competence of these Iraqis against the clown that hit us in Times Square. What Iraq experienced today is about equal to the OKC bombing. I'm not sure America could handle a wave of these. We've come to expect some sort of exemption from the world's violence.]
WASHINGTON — Oil services contractor Halliburton Inc. says it safely finished a cementing operation 20 hours before a Gulf of Mexico rig went up in flames. In testimony prepared for a congressional hearing Tuesday, Halliburton says it completed work on the well according to accepted industry practice and federal regulators.
Halliburton executive Tim Probert says a pressure test was conducted after the work was finished, and the well owner decided to continue. A copy of the testimony was obtained by The Associated Press.
The cause of the April 20 explosion is under investigation, but lawsuits filed after the disaster claim it was caused when Halliburton workers improperly capped the well – a process known as cementing. Halliburton denies wrongdoing....
[bth: look how this is written. This entire 'leak' of congressional testimony to come was written by a lawyer almost certainly with a DC based PR spin firm in the room doing damage control.]
PAKISTANI officers have arrested a man at Karachi airport after batteries and an electrical circuit were found in his shoes as he tried to board a plane for the Middle East.
The 30-year-old civil engineer allegedly told interrogators he came from Pakistan's northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Taliban and Islamist militants have a presence, and had been scheduled to travel to Muscat by Thai Airways.
Mohammad Munir, Airport Security Force spokesman, said the bearded man, whom he named as Faiz Mohammad, was arrested when a scanner sounded an alarm.
The suspect was not found in possession of explosives, but Mr Munir described the circuit discovery as "worrying".
"He was on the way to board flight TG 507 for Muscat. After the machine gave the alarm, we checked him manually," he said.
"We have recovered four live batteries and a circuit, with a button to switch it on and off," Mr Munir said....
[bth: its a trial run.]
Sunday, May 09, 2010
The Afghan president and ten ministers will tell members of the US Congress they need billions of dollars to end the eight-year-old Taliban insurgency.
Ministers will ask American politicians to fund an ambitious scheme to use jobs, training, aid and amnesties to coax militants from the battlefield....
[bth: so he wants 22 billion pounds from us. I think its time to yank his chain. The Americans have got to start asking what we are getting out of this relationship.]
Afghanistan war supplemental bill needs to be passed this month, Reid says - The Hill's On The Money
Congress must pass a supplemental war spending bill before the end of the month, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday.
Reid, in remarks on the Senate floor, said that Defense Secretary Robert Gates told lawmakers they need to pass the measure to help fund the war in Afghanistan by the time they leave for the Memorial Day break.
President Barack Obama has called on Congress to pass a $33 billion spending bill so he can implement a surge of approximately 30,000 troops in the fight against the Taliban.
The war spending bill comes on top of other major pieces of legislation congressional leaders hope to clear for the president's signature in coming weeks. The Senate is expected to work through next week on a financial regulation reform bill. Democrats also hope to clear extensions of expiring tax provisions, unemployment benefits and the Medicare physician payment rate before June.
[bth: congress is going to pass this and not say a word.]