"Several informed sources have told me that an appendix to this Report was removed at the instruction of the DOJ at the last minute. This appendix is reported to have information about a CIA officer, not agent or asset, but officer, based in the LA Station, who was in charge of Contra related activities. According to these sources, this individual was associated with running drugs to South Central L.A., around 1988. Let me repeat that amazing omission. The recently released CIA Report Vol II contained an appendix, which was pulled by the DOJ, that reported a CIA officer in the LA Station was hooked into drug running in South Central Los Angeles." Maxine Waters Oct, 1998https://fas.org/irp/congress/1998_cr/h981013-coke.htm
Jul. 31, 2005 - As the matt-black U-2 spy plane approaches, a sports car surges on to the runway and gives chase.
Within seconds, the car is right behind the glider-winged, Pinocchio-nosed jet, which seems to fill the windshield as it edges toward the ground.
"Four ... 2 ... 2 ... 1 ... nice job," the driver intones over a handset, guiding the pilot down while steering the sleek blue car one-handed at up to 130 mph (210 kph). "Welcome back."
It all sounds -- and feels -- like a one-off stunt for a big-budget action movie. Yet this chase is repeated many times a day at a handful of bases dotted strategically around the globe.
It is a vital and unique part of a routine that has kept one of the world's most hard-to-fly planes airborne near the edge of space for half a century to gather secret information for U.S. intelligence and the military.
"We are looking at something somewhere and helping somebody do their job or their mission in a very direct way," said Lieutenant-Colonel Scott Johnson, commander of 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, known as the "BlackCats."
"It is hard to hide from us and that can be a very good thing, I think," Johnson, 42, from Louisville, Kentucky, told Reuters during a rare visit to the squadron's high-security compound inside Osan air base south of Seoul. "It keeps everybody honest."
Originally designed for the Central Intelligence Agency, it could not be called a reconnaissance plane given the high secrecy around it. The air force decided to call it a utility plane and since U-1 was already taken they named it U-2.
The U-2 first flew officially on Aug. 8, 1955, and was soon conducting top-secret Cold War missions over the Soviet Union to assess Moscow's missile advances.
On May 1, 1960, that cover was spectacularly blown.
The Soviet Union brought down a U-2 piloted by Gary Powers and put him on trial. Washington initially said it was a civilian weather reconnaissance flight off course but President Dwight Eisenhower later said it was a distasteful but vital necessity to avoid a Pearl Harbor-style surprise attack.
Powers was later freed in a spy swap in divided Berlin.
TOUCHING THE EDGE OF SPACE
No one denies the U-2's existence these days, although much of its work remains highly secret.
Pilots with the BlackCats were frank about the dangers of handling such a delicate and outmoded aircraft. They were eloquent about flying so high they can see the curvature of the earth, thunderstorms like popcorn far below and the darkness of space above. But they were careful not to discuss their missions.
"The specific area of coverage of the U-2 is actually classified," said Major Brian "Bubba" Dickinson, who is 35 years old and comes from Oscoda, Michigan.
He and Johnson pointed to past missions such as the first and second Gulf Wars. A U-2 pilot died in a crash in the United Arab Emirates in June after a mission over Afghanistan.
The U-2 has probably been deployed to monitor every conflict involving the United States in some way in the past 50 years.
"I think there's little doubt that the U-2 continues to operate against targets like Iran and like North Korea," said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org, a defense policy think-tank. "It gives a persistent surveillance capability that drones and spy satellites simply don't provide."
North Korea -- which says it has nuclear weapons and is building more -- regularly accuses the United States of flying U-2s to peer at strategic targets on its territory from near the fortified Demilitarised Zone that bisects the Korean peninsula.
Wherever the U-2 is headed when it takes off, the pre-flight routine is identical and rigorous.
"It starts hours before I even show up for work," said Major Robert "Crash" Creedon, 41 and from Newbury Park, California.
At Osan, civilian and military maintenance teams check the plane and its top-secret sensors inside one of the BlackCat hangars. Look carefully and you might also spot a real black mascot cat known as Oscar on the prowl.
Elsewhere, intelligence and operations officers brief the pilot, who then heads for medical checks with physiology specialists and crucial help putting on the $250,000 spacesuit that will keep him -- or her -- alive.
There are three women among about 80 U-2 pilots worldwide, including Major Merryl "Hubu" David, a 34-year-old former navy helicopter pilot from the Bronx. The spacesuit deadens the senses and reduces mobility but pilots adapt.
"I don't find it that bad," said David. "I guess it's like putting yourself in a suit and putting yourself in a telephone booth for a couple of hours."
Pilots breathe pure oxygen in their suits for an hour before take-off and then throughout the mission to reduce nitrogen in the blood and so cut the risk of the bends.
Looking like an astronaut or cosmonaut heading to a rocket, the pilot then walks slowly to the plane for pre-flight checks.
"STILL KICKING BUTT"
Take-off is another carefully choreographed team effort. The wings are so long and full of fuel they droop at the ends and both are supported by unicycle-like "pogo" wheels that fall away as the plane leaves the ground.
The chase car roars along in its wake and a truck is not far behind to collect the pogos as the U-2 climbs out of sight.
"About the first hour of the sortie it's fairly task-intensive with setting up all of the sensors, completing all the checklists," said Dickinson.
Precisely how high the U-2 flies is classified but it is more than twice as high as a commercial plane.
"You see so much of the world," he said. "There is something about being up there by yourself that is truly rewarding."
Pilots have time to read or study intermittently for several hours while the plane is on auto-pilot but they are in regular contact with the ground and can switch course.
The final hour of the flight is probably the most demanding for the fatigued pilot. The plane has to land on one rear wheel and effectively glide to a halt. The pilot needs the car to count down as the runway cannot be seen over the plane's long nose.
The military says the U-2 remains vital even though it is older than any of its pilots and is difficult to handle.
"We're still doing what we're doing, and this is after 50 years," said David. "Even with our antiquated systems, we're still kicking butt."
Copyright 2005 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Copyright © 2005 ABC News Internet Ventures
U-2 spy plane pilot Major Robert Creedon walks to board the plane in a hangar at Osan air base, south of Seoul, July 11, 2005. Originally designed for the Central Intelligence Agency, it could not be called a reconnaissance plane given the high secrecy around it. Photo by Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
DIAMONDS and valuable works of art could be protected against theft using a microscopic barcode that stores encrypted information about the provenance of the items, making ownership easy to prove if they are stolen.
The barcode, which takes the form of a cube 30 micrometres across, is being developed by a team at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) at Teddington, near London. The cube is made of silicon coated with a 100-nanometre-thick layer of polymethyl methacrylate, a transparent plastic. It can be attached to hard surfaces using adhesive, or woven into the canvas of paintings.
To create the barcode an electron-beam lithograph drills 90,000 small squares into the plastic coat of each face at five different depths. The position and depth of each square is unique, so data can be encrypted using a key-based code and stored digitally. The cube is scanned line by line using an electron force microscope, which can detect differences in the depth of the squares. This scanning process takes around a minute, says Alexandre Cuenat, one of the team of researchers that developed the cube.
The technology has huge potential for storing information securely, says Cuenat. "You could get two copies of the bible, the King James version, on the sharp end of a pin."
However, in practice storing information on the provenance of an object would not require anything like this capacity.
The nanobarcode has three levels of security to protect objects against theft and counterfeit. First, thieves and fences are unlikely to realise that the item is protected. "You cannot see or feel the cube, even if you roll it between your finger and thumb," says Cuenat. Second, most fraudsters are unlikely to have the specialist equipment to read or write the nanobarcode, and so will be unable to duplicate it. And finally the encryption will be practically unbreakable.
"Theoretically all codes can be broken," says David Mendels, who led the NPL team. You just have to test all the different permutations. In this case, it would be possible to make the encryption extremely complex because of the cube's high storage capacity. "You'd need a computer doing a million calculations a second and it would still take more than 187 billion years," says Mendels. For day-to-day use, the encryption could be far less complex and still be virtually unbreakable, says Cuenat.
To break the code, it'd take a million calculations a second for 187 billion years
Once in mass production each device will cost about £1. Diamond traders have already approached the laboratory about the technology, which NPL hopes to license next year.
The nanobarcode could also protect other high-value items, such as bearer bonds and banker's drafts.
Owning IOS at Black Hat 2005
You may have heard of the trouble Michael Lynn got himself into with Cisco, ISS and maybe the Department of Homeland Security at Black Hat 2005 yesterday in Las Vegas. But Humphrey Cheung's report has some of the slides that Cisco's army of page cutters didn't want you to see.
Title: Owning IOS at Black Hat 2005 Author: Humphrey Cheung Date: 07/28/05 Page 1 of 6
Owning IOS at Black Hat 2005
Being arrested or sued is not positive experience, but for speakers at Black Hat and Defcon, it is a badge of honor. On July 27, Michael Lynn, a computer security expert, demonstrated how to gain administrator access to many Cisco routers and switches. This demonstration occured during Lynn's scheduled talk on the vulnerabilities of Cisco IOS at the 2005 Black Hat Briefings in Las Vegas. As a result of the talk, Lynn incurred the wrath of his former employer Internet Security Solutions (ISS) and Cisco Systems. In the space of a few hours, Lynn became unemployed and was also served with a lawsuit.
Michael Lynn looks on as he gains adminstrator privileges to a Cisco Router
While Lynn did not provide a step-by-step on how to break into Cisco routers, he provided enough details for experienced professionals to figure out the rest of the process. In this report, I will show you some of the slides used during his talk and give an outline of the steps.
Please Note: During the talk, I photographed the slides from the projector screen. The quality of these pictures is not great, but full-quality versions will probably reach the Internet within the next few days.
Introduction Why should we care about Cisco IOS? Misconceptions and Realities about Cisco IOS The Process of Hacking a Cisco IOS based router Final Steps and Covering Your Tracks Getting Rid of the Messenger and the Evidence
[ NEXT >> ]
Title: Owning IOS at Black Hat 2005
Author: Humphrey Cheung
Page 2 of 6
Troubleshoot & Manage Home Networks Easily
Owning IOS at Black Hat 2005
Why should we care about Cisco IOS?
Cisco’s Internetworking Operating System, or IOS, is the intelligence behind most of the networking devices on the Internet. Most computer users worry about their PCs being compromised by viruses and worms, but in the grand scheme of things on the Internet, these sorts of attacks are relatively unimportant. They make the user’s individual life painful, but they don’t generally have much impact on the rest of the network. But routers are the glue that holds the Internet together – especially Cisco’s gear, which is by far the most prevalent router hardware. A successful attack on Cisco routers can impact well, nearly everything.
Essentially, routers connect networks together. Just as there are multiple ways you can get to work, there are many ways a packet can cross the Internet. With the help of IOS, the main purpose of routers is to direct traffic across the Internet by deciding the path packets should take.
Lynn described a "Digital Pearl Harbor" scenario where a worm runs rampant across the Internet, breaking every router in its path. Without functioning routers, the Internet would cease to exist. To some, this scenario is a minor inconvenience that may prevent them from playing World of Warcraft. But for others, it could be a life and death situation. Important medical data such as prescription or other patient medical information may need to get to a hospital within minutes, and the Internet could be the only way.
Many Windows users are accustomed to regular patching and updating of their operating systems, but network administrators are understandably cautious about applying IOS patches without stringent acceptance testing. And in the face of a Digital Pearl Harbor attack, Cisco won’t be able to distribute patches over the Internet. Lynn says, "How are you going to ship out patches when every router is dead?"
Misconceptions and Realities about Cisco IOS
Lynn pointed out several misconceptions about Cisco IOS and then talked about the realites. As discussed earlier, many people think that routers and switches are mainly hardware, but in reality, the software is the most important piece. Routers have the reputation of being very stable and secure devices, but according to Lynn, routers are vulnerable to buffer overflows and can crash just like any other computer.
Misconceptions about IOS Slide
Higher level router features are based on low level functions. Any fixes to these low level functions must be cataloged and then tested under many conditions to determine that the fix actually works and doesn't affect the stability of the router. As a result, these low-level functions aren't often changed because they are so difficult and time consuming to fix.
As a result, Lynn's attack should work against most versions of IOS, because the low-level functions tend to remain the same. So a hacker must figure out by trial and error where the buffer overflows occur, and how to trigger the vulnerabilities. This is tedious, but hardly impossible – it’s the same technique used for all buffer overflow attacks, on Windows and Linux and Solaris as well as (now) on IOS.
The realites of Cisco IOS Slide
The Process of Hacking a Cisco IOS based router
At the beginning of his talk, Michael Lynn connected to a Cisco router, ran his shell script and obtained the "enable" prompt. The enable prompt means you can do anything you want, and is akin to the Administrator account in Windows or the root user in Linux. Lynn did not show the exact contents of the shell script, but gave a "30,000 foot view" of how he constructed the attack script.
At first glance, an overflow attack may be hard
The attack begins with a buffer overflow attack and tries to write information to the heap, which is an area of unused memory allocated when the router starts. At first this seems difficult, as Cisco IOS continually checks the heap for bad data. If bad data is detected, then the router reboots and starts fresh. But while this "heap checker" process usually works very well, it can be tricked into dying.
Are We Going to Crash?
As explained earlier, the heap checker will reboot the router if it detects bad data. Lynn disassembled the inner workings of Cisco IOS and discovered that this "abort" function will be interrupted if it sees that it is crashing already. Think of this as hitting Control-Alt-Delete several times in a row, but having Windows ignore it, because you already executed the key combination.
IOS doesn't crash if it thinks it's crashing already
So the trick is to make Cisco IOS think it is already crashing, before it actually does crash. This an example of a race condition, where events causes unexpected results when racing against each other.
Check Heap slide
Lynn was able to trick the router into thinking that it was already crashing by doing an uncontrolled pointer exchange. After this, you can overflow the heap for a few minutes, until the router completely locks up.
Final Steps and Covering Your Tracks
After gaining the ability to write to the heap, an attacker would then find the memory locations that correspond with starting a new process. Every command is stored in memory, and the trick is to find the proper location to execute the command. As discussed previously, this location is different for the different releases of Cisco IOS.
Setting up a TTY on a Cisco router basically tells the router that an additional connection can be made. Then a socket is created as sort of a loopback into that connection. This allows you to start the command shell, which gets you to the "enable" prompt. Lynn says that you can then kill the logger process to hide your tracks. This is similar to removing the sign-in book for a building.
Shellcode Check List Slide
What exactly can a attacker do after gaining administrator access?
Attackers who gain the "enable" prompt on a Cisco router can do almost anything with that router. For example, BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) is the main routing protocol used in directing traffic across the Internet. Lynn says that an attacker could change the BGP route metrics, causing traffic to either miss its destination or slow down the Internet. Depending on the skill of the network adminstrator, it may take a long time to discover the change, if it is discovered at all.
A router is an inherently trusted machine on the Internet. So Man-in-the-Middle attacks could also be performed, as a router is the ultimate man in the middle. After all, your email flows through several, if not dozens, of routers while traveling to its destination. Imagine if a router could be instructed to forward all packets to an alternate destination. Obviously this would be a horrible situation, especially if it were done to a router at a major network exchange.
Getting Rid of the Messenger and the Evidence
Michael Lynn faced two severe consequences for giving his talk. Literally just hours before the start of the talk, he was forced to resign from his employment at Internet Security Solutions and he knew that a lawsuit was about to filed against him. Lynn said during the talk, "Up until two hours ago I had a job, and I'm about to be sued into oblivion."
Michael Lynn was supposed to speak to the press after finishing his talk, but he mysteriously disappeared for a few hours. A few hours after the talk, process servers caught up with Lynn and served him with a restraining order from Cisco and ISS. There are rumors that the Electronic Freedom Foundation may help in his defense.
In addition to trying to silence the messenger, Cisco and ISS tried to get rid of the message. Black Hat attendees usually receive copies of all the presentation slides in a massive three inch thick red book, but this conference was different. Someone obviously didn';t want Lynn's talk to be available, and just a few days before the start of the conference, people were sent in to cut and tear the offending pages out of all the books. This is quite a feat, considering that a few thousand people attend Black Hat.
In addition to the printed slides, attendees receive a CD-ROM of the talks. Some of the CDs were already printed, but it is unclear if any have reached the wild.
Is This The End of The World?
Michael Lynn doesn't think the end of the world is coming and that you are probably safe if you upgrade to the latest versions of Cisco IOS. But he also thinks routers are still vulnerable. Many people do not upgrade IOS out of fear or ignorance. In addition, network administrators will often hold off on newer versions in order to not compromise the stability of their routers.
End of the World?
Although Cisco says that the April update of IOS is patched against this attack, it is unclear if it is an actual patch or if the attack just doesn't work because of a different memory offset from previous versions. Since the attack depends on hitting the right memory addresses where certain functions reside, new IOS versions will prevent the attack—that is until a hacker finds the correct addresses. Cisco could be claiming that the new version is actually a patch, when in fact it may just be a change in memory addresses.
Lynn wanted to help people and the government secure their routers by presenting what he discovered at Black Hat. He says that the IOS source code has been stolen twice and that hackers around the world are now working to exploit IOS. He has seen evidence of this on Chinese bulletin boards where hackers talk about performing exploits on routers.
"I want to prove the threat is real," Lynn said during the talk.
Story location: http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,68356,00.html
08:19 AM Jul. 29, 2005 PT
LAS VEGAS -- The FBI is investigating a computer security researcher for criminal conduct after he revealed that critical routers supporting the internet and many networks have a serious software flaw that could allow someone to crash or take control of them.
Mike Lynn, a former researcher at Internet Security Systems, or ISS, said he was tipped off late Thursday night that the FBI was investigating him for violating trade secrets belonging to his former employer.
Lynn resigned from ISS Wednesday morning after his company and Cisco threatened to sue him if he spoke at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas about a serious vulnerability he found while reverse-engineering the operating system in Cisco routers. He said he conducted the reverse-engineering at the request of his company, which was concerned that Cisco wasn't being forthright about a recent fix it had made to its operating system.
Lynn spoke anyway, discussing the flaw in Cisco IOS, the operating system that runs on Cisco routers, which are responsible for transferring data over much of the internet and private networks.
Although Lynn demonstrated for the audience what hackers could do to a router if they exploited the flaw, he did not reveal technical details that would allow anyone to exploit the bug without doing the same research he did to discover it.
Both companies knew in advance about Lynn's plan to talk and originally supported it. But at the last minute, the companies tried to halt the presentation or force Lynn to allow Cisco representatives to speak as well. They threatened Lynn with a lawsuit if he talked and made good on that threat after his appearance, when they filed a restraining order to prevent him from saying anything else about the flaw.
The company said the vulnerability was not new and that it had already patched the problem in April and sent revised software to customers. Lynn said, however, that Cisco did not tell customers exactly why the software was revised or indicate that the update was a critical patch. As a result, he said, system administrators didn't understand the urgency of the situation. Cisco denied that the flaw was as critical as Lynn said it was.
Prior to the talk, Cisco, with agreement from the conference organizers, hired temporary workers to rip out pages from a conference book that contained images of the slides from Lynn's presentation. They also replaced the conference CD-ROM with a new disc that was absent the presentation. This hasn't stopped people from obtaining the presentation, however: A site has posted it (.zip) for people to download.
The news of the criminal investigation came just hours after Lynn signed a settlement with Cisco and ISS releasing him from civil liability in exchange for meeting several conditions. Lynn was to provide a mirror image of all computer data he has and give it to a third party for forensic analysis. This was likely to determine if he had stolen proprietary information from ISS or Cisco or broken any other laws. His research material on the vulnerability would then have to be erased. Lynn also was prohibited from discussing the bug in the future.
"I was really mad at ISS before and now I'm extremely disappointed," Lynn told Wired News. "At this point, they're just trying to milk it for punitive damages. We already had a standing agreement, and now they're trying to attack me in some other way."
The FBI declined to discuss the case.
"Our policy is to not make any comment on anything that is ongoing. That's not to confirm that something is, because I really don't know," said FBI spokesman Paul Bresson.
But Lynn's lawyer, Jennifer Granick, confirmed that the FBI told her it was investigating her client.
Granick said, however, that she thought the agency was simply following through on a complaint it received when Cisco and ISS filed their lawsuit against Lynn and that the investigation wasn't initiated after her client reached his settlement with the companies. She didn't know the nature of the complaint but said it was probably something to do with intellectual property and that it most likely came from Cisco or ISS.
"The investigation has to do with the presentation," she said, "but what crime that could possibly be is unknown because they haven't found any (evidence against him)."
She hadn't spoken with the U.S. attorney in charge of the investigation but said she thought it was possible that the investigation would wind down soon for lack of evidence now that Lynn had reached an agreement with Cisco and ISS.
"There's no arrest warrant for (Lynn) and there are no charges filed and no case pending," Granick said. "There may never be. But they got a complaint and as a result they were doing some investigation."
Black Hat ended Thursday afternoon, but it's being followed by hacker conference DefCon, which runs Friday through Sunday in Las Vegas. Security professional Jeff Moss organized both conferences. Many of the same people who attended Lynn's talk, including FBI and other government agents who regularly attend security events, will be at the second conference as well.
Lynn said that if the case was not dropped, he thought it unlikely that the FBI would try to arrest him this weekend.
"I think they got burned with the Dmitry Sklyarov case," he said.
Sklyarov was a Russian programmer who, in 2001, reverse-engineered Adobe Systems' e-book software and handed out CD-ROMs at DefCon containing a program that would allow people to circumvent the copy protection in Adobe's digital books to download and read them without restriction.
The FBI, at Adobe's urging, arrested Sklyarov the morning after the conference ended before he returned home on charges that his activities violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The move launched protests against Adobe, which resulted in a lot of bad publicity for the company. The government ultimately dropped its case against Sklyarov.
Granick said she did not think the FBI would arrest Lynn.
"Definitely not," she said. "I don't have any sense at all that that's where they're going. I don't know what the circumstances are under which anyone contacted the FBI. It may very well be that given that we settled the civil case yesterday, this is over. I'm hoping that's the case but if it's not, there's a lot of opportunity for people to be very concerned about it."
Story location: http://www.wired.com/news/privacy/0,1848,68328,00.html
03:40 PM Jul. 27, 2005 PT
LAS VEGAS -- A bug discovered in an operating system that runs the majority of the world's computer networks would, if exploited, allow an attacker to bring down the nation's critical infrastructure, a computer security researcher said Wednesday against threat of a lawsuit.
Michael Lynn, a former research analyst with Internet Security Systems, quit his job at ISS Tuesday morning before disclosing the flaw at Black Hat Briefings, a conference for computer security professionals held annually here.
The security hole in Cisco IOS, the company's "infrastructure operating system" that controls its routers, was patched by Cisco in April, Lynn said, and the flawed version is no longer available for download. But Cisco didn't want the information disclosed until next year when a new version of the operating system would be out of beta testing and ready for distribution.
Routers are devices that direct information through a network. Cisco products account for the majority of routers that operate the backbone of the internet and many company networks.
Lynn likened IOS to Windows XP, for its ubiquity.
"But when there is a Windows XP bug, it's not really a big deal," Lynn said. "You can still ship (data through a network) because the routers will transmit (it). How do you ship (data) when the routers are dead?"
Lynn decided to speak now, he said, because the source code for Cisco IOS was recently stolen for the second time, and he felt he could no longer remain silent.
"Can anyone think why you would steal (the source code) if not to hack it?" Lynn asked the audience, noting that it took him six months to develop an attack to exploit the bug. "I'm probably about to be sued to oblivion. (But) the worst thing is to keep this stuff secret."
Lynn said that routers with updated firmware would likely be safe for now, but he was concerned that if one flaw existed, others did as well. It was possible to imagine a future scenario in which an attacker could write a worm that swiftly runs through Cisco routers and shuts them down behind it, essentially launching the kind of electronic Pearl Harbor attack that politicians have been warning about for several years.
"There are people out there looking for it, there are people who have probably found it who could be using it against either national infrastructure or any enterprise," said Ali-Reza Anghaie, a senior security engineer with an aerospace firm, who was in the audience.
The flaw that Lynn described would also allow more subtle attacks, because it permits a sophisticated attacker to gain complete control of the router. An attacker could sniff all traffic going over a network and alter it to, for example, read e-mail, prevent it from reaching its recipient or even change words in a message without the correspondents knowing.
During his talk, Lynn demonstrated an attack in real time using his own router, but did not allow the audience to see the steps. The attack took less than a minute to execute.
According to Lynn, ISS was working with Cisco to assess its products when the bug was found. The hole was discovered by reverse-engineering the IOS code.
Lynn said he had approval for his talk from both ISS and Cisco until last Friday, when the two companies suddenly changed their minds and threatened to sue him and conference organizers if he went through with his presentation.
Cisco spokesman John Noh wouldn't comment on whether the company threatened a lawsuit, but said, "Cisco believes the information that Mr. Lynn presented at Black Hat today was illegally obtained."
"It's unfortunate that he took on the route he did," said Noh. "As responsible corporations, Cisco and ISS have a thorough process of disclosure and communication in talking about matters such as this.... Those were the steps we were taking in terms of postponing this presentation."
An ISS representative claimed the company withdrew the talk because the "research wasn't quite complete."
"We were talking with Cisco to make sure the research was valid," said ISS spokeswoman Angela Frechette. "But it was a decision made internally at ISS."
Anghaie said the move made him mistrust ISS.
"A few years ago it was rumored that ISS would hold back on certain things because (they're in the business of) providing solutions," Anghaie said. "But now you've got full public confirmation that they'll submit to the will of a Cisco or Microsoft, and that's not fair to their customers.... If they're willing to back down and leave an employee ... out to hang, well what are they going to do for customers?"
Lynn closed his talk by directing the audience to his resume and asking if anyone could give him a job.
"In large part I had to quit to give this presentation because ISS and Cisco would rather the world be at risk, I guess," Lynn said. "They had to do what's right for their shareholders; I understand that. But I figured I needed to do what's right for the country and for the national critical infrastructure."
LAS VEGAS -- A researcher who showed off a way to remotely compromise Cisco routers has to turn over all materials and agree not to further disseminate information on the flaws or the technique he used to run code on the popular network hardware.
The settlement, finalized Thursday afternoon, brought to a close a controversy that exploded on Wednesday morning when researcher Michael Lynn tendered his resignation to network protection firm Internet Security Systems in order to give a presentation on Cisco security at the Black Hat Security Conference.
"I think I did the right thing, but it was scary," he told reporters in Las Vegas at a Thursday afternoon press conference. "There was a potential for a serious problem coming in the future. I didn't think that the nation's interests were served by waiting a year, when there would be a possibility of a router worm."
Lynn and his attorney agreed to a permanent injunction that prevents him from using any Cisco code in his possession for further reverse engineering or security research or presenting the same material at the DEF CON hacker convention which follows Black Hat. In addition, Lynn must hand over the names of any Web sites or people to whom he gave or sold the information. The permanent injunction does not prevent Lynn from doing further research on Cisco products provided it is done legally.
Cisco disputed that Lynn's actions were aimed at helping protect the Internet.
"Cisco’s actions (regarding) Mr. Lynn and Black Hat were not based on the fact that a flaw was identified, rather that they chose to address the issue outside of established industry practices and procedures for responsible disclosure," the networking giant said in a statement on Thursday. "It is Cisco’s opinion that the method Mr. Lynn and Black Hat chose to disseminate this information was not in the best interest of protecting the Internet."
On Wednesday, Lynn showed off a way to compromise Cisco Internet Operating System (IOS), the core software for the company's popular routing and gateway hardware. Using such techniques, which Lynn and other security experts believe the Chinese are likely already exploiting, an attacker could run programs on Cisco routers.
While some security experts at Black Hat said that they never doubted running code on the routers was possible, the prevailing wisdom was that Cisco network hardware had enough safeguards in place that external code could not be run on the systems.
"No one really thought this (running code on Cisco routers) was possible, until Wednesday, so no one really looked to defend against it," Lynn said. "A router is like any computer in that, when it has a vulnerability, you can hack it."
The presentation followed three weeks of negotiations between Cisco, Internet Security Systems and the Black Hat Conference management to resolve the situation. Under pressure from Cisco, ISS had withdrawn the presentation on Monday, and the Black Hat Conference management allowed the network giant's employees to rip out the 10-page presentation from the conference proceedings.
The settlement is reasonable, said Jennifer Granick, executive director for Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society and the attorney representing Lynn in the negotiations. Because it does not prevent Lynn from further research into Cisco's hardware and software, provided access to both is done legally, the researcher can continue to analyze Cisco's security measures, she said.
Moreover, Lynn would have been at a disadvantage if he tried to fight the networking giant, she said.
"Cisco has a gazillion dollars and he is an unemployed guy," Granick said. "It is hard to take on someone with deep pockets."
Other researchers believed that the settlement prematurely closed the chapter on a case that could have highlighted the legitimate concerns of independent security researchers.
"The whole attempt at security through obscurity is amazing, especially when a big company like Cisco tries to keep a researcher quiet," said Marc Maiffret, chief hacking officer for network protection firm eEye Digital Security.
Cisco will likely need to repair relations with the security research community, if they want cooperation, rather than contention, in the future, Maiffret said.
"People are definitely going to want to find more vulnerabilities," because they know they can gain control of a router, he said. "And now people aren't going to care to report things to Cisco."
The incident also foreshadows what future legal spats might look like, said Stanford's Granick. Cisco had argued during talks that reverse engineering is against the end-user license agreement (EULA). Such "no reverse engineering" clauses are a common provision in such licenses, and while the average user does not need to care about that, the provision could stifle legitimate security research if courts agree to enforce it, she said.
"You have EULAs that tell people they can't reverse engineer and companies who are ready to levy the most severe penalties for anyone who breaks those agreements," Granick said. "It is time to begin to worry about the rights that companies are trying to take away from us."
July 30, 2005 -- More evidence emerges that Rumsfeld's Pentagon is "running" Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organizations. Uzbek government reacts by expelling U.S. from K2 airbase.
July 30, 2005 -- Are the wheels falling off at the international neo-con propaganda machine called News Corp? First, an insightful article in Rupert Murdoch's flagship British paper, The Times of London, suggested a convenient CONSPIRACY, yes that is spelled c-o-n-s-p-i-r-a-c-y, involving the British government, media, and security services in manipulating and hyping the London Transport bombings. Then, Rupert's son Lachlan abruptly announced he was resigning as senior executive of News Corp. and moving with his family back to Australia. Lachlan had been expected to succeed his father as chairman of the global media empire.
July 29, 2005 -- Ex-GOP Senator Warns Bush administration planning to fire Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald as US Attorney for Chicago. The Chicago Tribune is reporting today that former Republican Senator Peter Fitzgerald, who championed current CIA leak Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for appointment as US Attorney for Chicago in Sept. 2001, is warning that because of the U.S. Attorney's high profile criminal investigations of former GOP Gov. George Ryan and Democratic Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, he may not be reappointed to his post when his four year term expires in late October. If Bush fails to nominate a replacement and Fitzgerald is not renominated, he will be able to serve as US Attorney until a replacement is named. It may not be coincidental that the Grand Jury investigating top White House officials for leaking the name of a covert CIA agent will also expire in October if it is not re-impaneled on a request by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald. With the clock potentially running out for Patrick Fitzgerald, if there are indictments in the CIA leak, they will likely be issued within the next few months. Peter Fitzgerald, who is not related to the Special Prosecutor, believes that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, as the dean of the Illinois congressional delegation, will recommend to President Bush that Fitzgerald not be reappointed as U.S. Attorney. It is no secret that top Illinois Republicans, as well as the Daley political machine, are gunning for Patrick Fitzgerald. Daley has been a major supporter of Bush's foreign policy who joined the GOP in criticizing Illinois Democratic Senator Richard Durbin for his remarks about the interrogation tactics used on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It is doubtful Patrick Fitzgerald would be kept on as Special Prosecutor by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales if he is rejected by the White House for a second term as US Prosecutor -- a decision that would be seen as a loss in confidence in Fitzgerald by the Bush administration. The recent resignation of Patrick Fitzgerald's friend, career Justice Department prosecutor James Comey, as Deputy Attorney General -- and Fitzgerald's immediate supervisor -- is also a warning sign that the Bush administration is growing uncomfortable with the direction of Fitzgerald's investigation. Comey is to be replaced by Timothy E. Flanigan, a conservative GOP political hack and a Federalist Society colleague of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts. Flanigan, along with Roberts, was a member of the 2000 Florida GOP recount team. Flanigan was later the general counsel for the scandal-plagued Tyco International Ltd., which is conveniently headquartered in Bermuda as a contrivance to avoid paying U.S. corporate taxes. While at Tyco, Flanigan liaised with tainted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his Greenberg Traurig law firm.
**** Plame leak damaged a major CIA investigation linking senior Bush administration officials to WMD proliferation. U.S. intelligence insiders have pointed out that the White House is using "Rovegate" and "Who in the White House said what to whom?" as a smoke screen to divert attention away from the actual counter-proliferation work Mrs. Wilson and her Brewster Jennings & Associates team were engaged in. The arrival of Timothy Flanigan as Patrick J. Fitzgerald's boss is likely related to the mountains of evidence Fitzgerald has now collected to indict senior White House officials, particularly, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, for criminal conspiracy in exposing a sensitive U.S. intelligence operation that was targeting some of their closest political and business associates. Libby, it will be recalled, was the attorney for fugitive global smuggler and multi-bilionaire Marc Rich, someone who has close ties to the Sharon government and Israeli intelligence. It is no coincidence that FBI translator-turned-whistleblower Sibel Edmonds uncovered nuclear material and narcotics trafficking involving Turkish intermediaries with ties to Israel at the same time Brewster Jennings and the CIA's Counter Proliferation Division was hot on the trail of nuclear proliferators tied to the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon and the A. Q. Khan network of Pakistan.
Feith and Libby: Ultimate targets of CIA counter-proliferation team?
An arrest in early 2004 points to the links between Israeli agents and Islamist groups bent on producing weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. According to intelligence sources, this was a network that was a major focus of Edmonds' and Valerie Plame Wilson's work. In January 2004, FBI and U.S. Customs agents arrested Asher Karni, a Hungarian-born Orthodox Jew, Israeli citizen, and resident of Cape Town, South Africa, at Denver International Airport for illegally exporting 200 electrically triggered spark gaps -- devices that send synchronized electrical pulses and are used in nuclear weapons -- to Pakistan via a New Jersey export company named Giza Technologies of Secaucus (owned by Zeki Bilmen -- whom the FBI has identified as a Turkish Jew who was already under surveillance by the CIA team). The cargo manifest listed the equipment as electronics gear [lithotripters used to break up kidney stones] for the Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, South Africa. However, the initial shipment of 66 triggers did not go to the hospital but to Karni’s Top-Cape Technology of Cape Town, South Africa. Top Cape, in turn, sent the triggers to AJKMC Lithography Aid Society in Islamabad, Pakistan through Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Top-Cape "officially" traded in military and aviation electronics equipment. It was during the summer of 2003, when Valerie Plame and her team -- at a critical stage of their investigation of the A. Q. Khan network -- were outed by White House officials Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and at least one other individual (possibly Elliot Abrams), that Karni received an e-mail from his long time Pakistani associate Humayun Khan (no relation to A. Q. Khan) asking for 200 triggers to be sent to his Islamabad-based company, Pakland PME.
After initially attempting to purchase the devices from a sale agent in France -- an attempt that proved unsuccessful when the French agent demanded a U.S. export license for the triggers because the end destination was Pakistan -- Karni managed to obtain the triggers from Perkin-Elmer's manufacturing plant in Massachusetts through Giza Technologies. Karni's e-mail traffic to and from Khan was being intercepted by a covert agent in South Africa and being forwarded to U.S. authorities. It is not known whether the covert agent was a Brewster Jennings' asset but it would not be surprising considering Karni was an important link in the A. Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network. By the time the initital shipment of 66 triggers were sent to Karni's Cape Town office, U.S. and South African intelligence were already closely monitoring the transaction and the key players involved. It is also noteworthy that Karni previously worked for a Cape Town electronic import firm called Eagle Technology but was fired after it was discovered by his boss that he was making secret deals to ship nuclear components to Israel, India, Pakistan, and possibly, North Korea. Karni had been in South Africa for 20 years after arriving from Israel. His time in South Africa coincided with the apartheid government's rapid development of its own (since disestablished) nuclear weapons program and very close military ties between South Africa and Israel.
A.Q. Khan link to Israeli smuggler: Designed to speed up Iranian nuclear development to justify U.S./Israeli attack on Iran.
As for Humayun Khan, the Los Angeles Times discovered that the Pakistani "businessman" had been involved in nuclear weapons smuggling since 1975 when he was engaged in business with a former Nazi named Alfred Hempel, who was the kingpin in a global nuclear smuggling network active throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Hempel died in 1989. In an interview aired by PBS's Frontline on July 26, Humayun Khan said he never realized Karni was Jewish, stating that the Israeli masqueraded as a Muslim. However, what is clear is that an Israeli-based network, involving key neo-conservatives in the Bush adminstration, were attempting to speed up the clock on the delivery by the A. Q. Khan network of prohibited nuclear material to countries like Iran, thereby justifying a pre-emptive U.S. (and Israeli-supported) attack on Iranian nuclear installations. It was this network that attracted the attention of the CIA and when it realized some of the "men behind the curtain" were in the Pentagon, they had their smoking gun evidence of double dealing by Bush administration officials and their compatriots in the Sharon government.
Although AJKMC, the Pakistani company, said it merely printed copies of the Koran, U.S. investigators pointed out the initials also stand for the All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, an Islamist opposition party that supports groups allied to Al Qaeda in Kashmir. Some anti-terrorism experts believe that Osama Bin laden may be hiding in Kashmir.
According to FBI insiders, wiretaps of phone calls in the Giza-Bilmen-Karni smuggling ring yielded the name Douglas Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense for Plans and Policy and one of Donald Rumsfeld’s chief advisers, and Turkish MIT intelligence members of the Turkish American Council. A Malaysian link was also discovered in Karni’s network.
Israeli nuclear arms smuggler Asher Karni: His links to Bush administration and Israeli officials may have been the real reason Valerie Plame and Brewster Jennings & Associates operations were exposed.
A Federal Judge in Denver said Karni could be released on $75,000 bail but the government appealed the decision to Judge Thomas Hogan of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. Hogan is the judge who ordered New York Times reporter Judith Miller to prison for her failure to testify before the Grand Jury. The federal prosecutors’ appeal failed and Karni was released on bail into the custody of Rabbi Herzel Kranz. Karni was ordered to wear an electronic monitor and was ordered to remain at the Hebrew Sheltering Home in Maryland.
July 29, 2005 -- Did Bush flip off the press after a pre-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) vote meeting with House Republicans? Considering Bush's past juvenile frat boy antics (calling a New York Times reporter a major league asshole and -- according to CIA sources, after an April 2002 President's Daily Brief -- this editor an asshole after being quoted in The Guardian that the 2002 Venezuelan coup against Hugo Chavez was backed by key Bush administration officials, for example), it should come as no surprise that Bush would flip off a Spanish journalist who attempted to ask him a question. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan hilariously told reporters that Bush's extended digit was his thumb as he was giving reporters a "thumbs up" signal on the upcoming CAFTA vote. Sorry, Scotty, it couldn't be Bush's thumb, because as we all know inside the Beltway, he's got his thumb up his own ass when it's not up your's.
July 28, 2005 -- FBI ratcheting up AIPACgate. As Rovegate continues to boil over, so do two other FBI investigations: AIPACgate and Niger DocuGate. Rovegate Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation has, as reported here on July 13, dovetailed with the FBI's probe of Pentagon accused Israeli spy Larry Franklin and his ties to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the crude forgeries of Niger government documents said to implicate Saddam Hussein in trying to buy uranium from the west African country. Haaretz is reporting today that the FBI wants to interview Naor Gilon, the political affairs director at the Israeli embassy in Washington, as well as several other Israeli officials, including intelligence officers, who are currently in Israel. Israel reportedly rejected the FBI's request for personal interviews of the Israelis, preferring written questions to be posed.
FBI investigators are often adept at determining whether a subject is lying when they conduct personal interviews and obviously Israeli intelligence is aware of this tactic. The FBI is also reportedly investigating whether a private intelligence network in Italy, with ties to the Ariel Sharon government, the Bush National Security Council, and the Italian government of Silvio Berlusconi, was involved in preparing and shopping around the Niger government forgeries. Rovegate is also now focused on the activities of then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in the leak of a covert CIA counter-proliferation operation.
SIDEBAR -- The untold story of Rovegate may be whether the White House not only leaked the name of Joseph Wilson's wife for purely political retaliation but also to close down her and her Brewster Jennings' team's work on counter-WMD proliferation. Some insiders believe that the CIA covert group was getting uncomfortably close to clandestine business deals that would have exposed members of the Bush family and their closest political and business friends. The following quote from George H. W. Bush is germane in this case: "If the people knew what we had done, they would chase us down the street and lynch us." The revelations at Intelligence Whispers regarding Saudi money movements through Texas are also germane to this story.
July 28, 2005 -- FBI Director says one of its counter-terrorism wiretap audio tapes is in a language US intelligence cannot identify. According to today's Washington Post, in response to a Justice Department Inspector General audit criticizing the FBI for failing to analyze more than 8,000 wiretaps of intercepted communications, FBI Director Robert Mueller complained that some tapes could not be translated because the languages were too obscure. Mueller said that of those wiretap recordings, many were in "obscure languages and dialects and one language could not be identified and translated by anyone in the US intelligence community." Mueller's defense is disingenuous at best. The National Security Agency (NSA) has linguists fluent in well over 100 languages. When Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi once used Berber speakers to fool US intelligence, he miscalulated, since NSA had, at the time, two Berber linguists. Unless the speaker of the "unknown" language was from another planet, it is doubtful that the US intelligence community could not have recognized it and sought out a translator among its ranks.
July 27, 2005 -- White House withholding Roberts' papers. The White House is stonewalling the Senate on releasing documents from John G. Roberts' time as Deputy Solicitor General in the Bush I administration. The documents may detail Roberts' role in the pardons of leading Iran-contra criminals as well as the eleventh hour commutation of the 55-year prison sentence of Pakistani heroin smuggler Aslam Adam. Roberts served under Bush I Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr, who was later the Independent Special Prosecutor of President Clinton in the Lewinsky Affair.
July 27, 2005 -- Iraq War vet seen as strong challenger to win "safe" GOP Ohio House seat. Iraq War Marine Corps veteran Paul Hackett is running a strong race to succeed Republican Rob Portman in Ohio's Second District, traditionally a safe Republican district. Portman resigned to become President Bush's Trade Representative. Hackett's opponent, Jean Schmidt, an anti-abortion activist tied to the Christian Right, is receiving help from the national GOP, including Tom DeLay, and President Bush. Hackett charges that Bush is a "chickenhawk" for not serving in Vietnam and believes that the Iraq War is a disastrous mistake, emphasizing that the United States should have gone after Osama Bin Laden instead. Hackett is attracting support from Republicans, independents, veterans and labor unions, something that could result in an upset in a district which has, in the past, voted more than 70 percent for Republican House candidates. Hackett also won the endorsement of the Republican-leaning Cincinnati Post. An upset victory for Hackett in conservative southern Ohio amid a statewide GOP financial scandal that has crept right into the office of Governor Bob Taft would serve as an important bellwether for Democratic hopes of recapturing Congress and the Ohio State House next year. National Democrats were slow to come to Hackett's assistance although now some prominent Democrats have belatedly campaigned in the district. The special election is August 2. Click here for more information on Hackett's campaign.
July 27, 2005 -- Some London police believe the "suicide" bombers were tricked into carrying bombs on board trains and bus. The New York Times is reporting today that a number of London police investigators are skeptical that the July 7 bombers knew that they were embarking on a suicide mission. EUROPOL investigators agree with the assessment of their British counterparts that the bombers may have been fooled into believing they were going to leave bombs with timers on trains and a bus and then escape. Police also believe that there is a single mastermind or a group of conspirators behind the bombings. The police reason the mastermind or major conspirators tricked the bombers into believing they were placing bombs with timers on the trains so they could not later identify those behind the plot. The theory that far right-wing elements allied with Islamist radicals may have been responsible for the terrorist attacks remains as a credible explanation. (See July 15-16 Story below).
ROME, Italy (AP) -- It wasn't their lavish spending in luxury hotels, their use of credit cards or even frequent-flier miles that drew attention. Instead it was a trail of casual cellphone use that tripped up the 19 purported CIA operatives wanted by Italian authorities in the alleged kidnapping of a radical Muslim cleric.
Italian prosecutors who have obtained arrest warrants for the 19 -- none of whom are believed to be in Italy -- presented evidence that the suspects used at least 40 Italian cell phones, some in their own names.
Experts say that either they were bumbling spies, or they acted with impunity because Italian officials had been informed of their plan -- a claim the government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi has publicly denied on several occasions. (Full story)
"If these were really CIA agents they've made a disaster," said Andrea Nativi, research director for the Rome-based Military Center for Strategic Studies. "They strained relations between Italy and the U.S. and between the CIA and Italian intelligence agencies."
Italian judges issued a first batch of warrants last month for 13 Americans accused of abducting Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, on a Milan street on February 17, 2003.
Another court this week issued another six warrants for a group the prosecution claims planned the abduction. (Full story)
The Egyptian cleric was flown from Aviano, a joint U.S.-Italian air base north of Venice, to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and then to Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured. The operation purportedly was part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval.
In his request for the latest warrants, prosecutor Armando Spataro wrote that an analysis of mobile phone traffic showed that most of them were present on the route that Abu Omar habitually took from his home to a Milan mosque, "including in the days before" the kidnapping.
A track of their cell phones also showed them on those streets "nearly 100 times" during the month before Abu Omar's disappearance, the prosecutor said. He concluded that the six were part "of a single group of Americans who came to Milan to carry out the operation."
Why they would use their cell phones so openly has baffled experts, particularly since prosecutors are certain that not all the names of the 19 suspects are aliases.
One has been identified by prosecutors as the former CIA station chief in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, who owns a retirement home in wine country in Asti, near Turin. Though police didn't find Lady there when they raided the house, they did discover a list of hotels where U.S. government employees received discounts, including hotels where prosecutors contend the suspects stayed.
Another person on the list has the same name as a man who now works at the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania.
Unless the power or the wireless antenna is turned off, a mobile phone remains in constant contact with the nearest cell towers even when it's not being used for a call. Information processed by the cells can be used to precisely locate or track the movements of a phone user.
Nativi, the military expert, called the use of regular cell phone accounts "a huge weakness in the operation."
It would have been more difficult to track anonymous prepaid cards, satellite phones or radios, he said.
The wireless system used in Italy and most of the rest of Europe relies on a stamp-sized smart card that is inserted in the back of every handset. This removable "SIM" card stores an individual's phone number and other account data.
A unique numerical identifier is assigned to every phone and every SIM, said Bruno Errico, director of consulting for Openwave Global Services, a company that provides tracking applications and other software to wireless companies worldwide.
Wireless companies are obliged by law to keep records of the unique data that each phone exchanges with the cell network as well as the numbers to which calls are placed, he said.
Since a phone is served by several cells at any given time, investigators can easily triangulate the location of a device, Errico said. In an urban area, where the network of cells is dense and overlapping, such tracking can have a margin of error of just a few yards.
Had the agents used non-Italian phones and SIMs, the local network would still have tracked them, but magistrates might have had a tougher time linking the phones to each of the suspects since not all countries require wireless users to provide identification, said Errico. To avoid tracking, the agents would have had to use other systems not available to the general public, such as radios, Errico said.
"As long as you use public communication systems, there is no way you can avoid being tracked," he said.
Or, as Nativi put it: "When you go on this kind of operation, you need to turn off your damn phone."
Yoram Schweitzer, a researcher for the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, said he wasn't surprised the operatives stayed in five-star hotels, which provide excellent cover for those posing as businessmen or businesswomen. But analysts did question whether using of credit cards was advisable.
Chris Aaron, a former editor of Jane's Intelligence Review magazine, said the team must have known that local cells phones put them at risk of being exposed.
"A CIA team would have been aware of the Italian ability to log calls and track their location, so they clearly weren't worried about that," he said.
The CIA in Washington has declined to comment on the case.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
MIAMI - A British mercenary was sentenced to nearly three years in prison Friday for plotting to buy a Vietnam-era attack jet to kill Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in the early 1990s.
David Tomkins, 64, pleaded guilty in June.
In 1991, Tomkins met an undercover U.S. customs agent pretending to be an arms dealer. The former soldier of fortune said he was looking to buy a plane able to drop bombs, and he made a $25,000 down payment on a $270,000 Cessna A-37B Dragonfly.
Prosecutors said Tomkins was acting on behalf of the Cali drug cartel, the deadly rival to Escobar's Medellin cartel. Escobar died in 1993.
The deal for the plane never went through. Tomkins feared he was being set up and skipped the country. But he returned in 2003, arriving in Houston to enroll in an Army chemical weapons training course needed to qualify for a security job guarding Iraqi airports.
He was arrested when his name turned up on a government watch list.
A story entitled "Fuck Natalee Holloway" was posted to our site a few days ago.
It is already the 2nd highest-ranked link on a Google search for "natalee".
Searching for her full name shows her official missing persons site 1st and our link as 2nd.
As such, the administration at K5 has received more hate mail than ever before.
Members have demanded that it be published in its near entirety, so here are all email responses received to date.
August 3, 2005 -- "Clean up man" takes over NSA. Army Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander took over as the Director of the National Security Agency on Aug. 1. Alexander, whose previous position was Deputy Army Chief of Staff for G-2, replaces Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, the current Deputy Director of National Intelligence. Hayden, the longest serving NSA Director, was widely criticized within the agency for outsourcing critical intelligence functions to private contractors; transferring critical intelligence jobs to Georgia, Texas, and Colorado; and instituting personnel policies that were designed to purge NSA of many career government intelligence professionals. Alexander's three star rank surprised some at NSA who note that past NSA directors have usually arrived at the agency with 2 star rank and were subsequently promoted to three stars. It is also significant that Alexander, unlike a number of previous directors, does not have a strong signals intelligence (SIGINT) background. His experience is primarily in tactical intelligence.
Although some NSA observers believe that Alexander will try and clean up some of Hayden's management and intelligence messes, the future for NSA and its over 20,000 employees remains rather bleak. For example, NSA employees will soon be required to wear a new security badge, one that contains "proximity locators" complete with Global Positioning System (GPS) chips. NSA employees will not only have to continue to provide personal financial details to the Kafkaesque NSA security directorate but now their travels and locations will be tracked as well. Some NSA employees who have already been issued the new badges, referred to as "LoJack badges," are placing them in copper foil sleeves when they depart Fort Meade. By September this year, the new "blue badges" will be issued to all NSA employees and contractors.
Hayden's selectee as Deputy Director, Bill Black, who was pulled out of retirement by Hayden, continues to serve in his post.
Meanwhile, the purge of NSA employees who don't kowtow to the neo-con party line continues. A recent case involves a female employee detailed from Fort Meade to the Pentagon having her security clearance suspended over a dispute over an intelligence policy issue.
It is certain that the ranks of national security whistleblowers from the CIA, FBI, DIA, Homeland Security, and other agencies will soon grow to include a fresh influx of career NSA officers.
Read more about Hayden and NSA: http://waynemadsenreport.com/nsa/heroes.htm and http://waynemadsenreport.com/nsa/nsasecrets.htm
August 3, 2005 -- U.S. ambassador to Iraq conferred with Islamist rebels allied with "Al Qaeda" at "Terrorist International" summit. More
August 3, 2005 -- Fitzgerald playing hardball with Rove. In another sign that Karl Rove is a top perjury and obstruction of justice target of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, two of Rove's aides, one a longtime associate of George W. Bush, were subpoenaed to testify before the Federal grand jury investigating the CIA leak by the White House. Bush's 1994 gubernatorial campaign aide Israel Hernandez and Susan Ralston, an associate of Karl Rove's best friend Grover Norquist and tainted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, were asked about a July 11, 2003 phone call between Rove and Time magazine's Matt Cooper in which covert NOC CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson was discussed. Fitzgerald's action follows a summer recess whispering campaign in Washington that has Fitzgerald being dropped by Bush as US Attorney for Northern Illinois and leaned on by incoming Deputy Attorney General Timothy Flanigan, a conservative GOP political operative who is linked to Tom DeLay and Abramoff.
The fall of the House of Saud.
By Robert Baer The Atlantic Monthly May 2003
Americans have long considered Saudi Arabia the one constant in the Arab Middle East--a source of cheap oil, political stability, and lucrative business relationships. But the country is run by an increasingly dysfunctional royal family that has been funding militant Islamic movements abroad in an attempt to protect itself from them at home. A former CIA operative argues, in an article drawn from his new book, Sleeping With the Devil, that today's Saudi Arabia can't last much longer--and the social and economic fallout of its demise could be calamitous
In the decades after World War II the United States and the rest of the industrialized world developed a deep and irrevocable dependence on oil from Saudi Arabia, the world's largest and most important producer. But by the mid-1980s--with the Iran-Iraq war raging, and the OPEC oil embargo a recent and traumatic memory--the supply, which had until that embargo been taken for granted, suddenly seemed at risk. Disaster planners in and out of government began to ask uncomfortable questions. What points of the Saudi oil infrastructure were most vulnerable to terrorist attack? And by what means? What sorts of disruption to the flow of oil, short-term and long-term, could be expected? These were critical concerns. Underlying them all was the fear that a major attack on the Saudi system could cause the global economy to collapse.
The Saudi system seemed--and still seems--frighteningly vulnerable to attack. Although Saudi Arabia has more than eighty active oil and natural-gas fields, and more than a thousand working wells, half its proven oil reserves are contained in only eight fields--including Ghawar, the world's largest onshore oil field, and Safaniya, the world's largest offshore oil field. Various confidential scenarios have suggested that if terrorists were simultaneously to hit only a few sensitive points "downstream" in the oil system from these eight fields--points that control more than 10,000 miles of pipe, both onshore and offshore, in which oil moves from wells to refineries and from refineries to ports, within the kingdom and without-they could effectively put the Saudis out of the oil business for about two years. And it just would not be that hard to do.
[Graphic omitted]The most vulnerable point and the most spectacular target in the Saudi oil system is the Abqaiq complex--the world's largest oil-processing facility, which sits about twenty-four miles inland from the northern end of the Gulf of Bahrain. All petroleum originating in the south is pumped to Abqaiq for processing. For the first two months after a moderate to severe attack on Abqaiq, production there would slow from an average of 6.8 million barrels a day to one million barrels, a loss equivalent to one third of America's daily consumption of crude oil. For seven months following the attack, daily production would remain as much as four million barrels below normal--a reduction roughly equal to what all of the OPEC partners were able to effect during their 1973 embargo.
Oil is pumped from Abqaiq to loading terminals at Ras Tanura and Ju'aymah, both on Saudi Arabia's east coast. Ras Tanura moves only slightly more oil than Ju'aymah does (4.5 million barrels per day as opposed to 4.3 million barrels), but it offers a greater variety of targets and more avenues of attack. Nearly all of Ras Tanura's export oil is handled by an offshore facility known as The Sea Island, and the facility's Platform No. 4 handles half of that. A commando attack on Platform 4 by surface boat or even by a Kilo-class submarine--available in the global arms bazaar--would be devastating. Such an attack would also be easy, as was made abundantly clear in 2000 by the attack on the USS Cole, carded out with lethal effectiveness by suicide bombers piloting nothing more than a Zodiac loaded with plastic explosives.
Another point of vulnerability is Pump Station No. 1, the station closest to Abqaiq, which sends oil uphill, into the Aramah Mountains, so that it can begin its long journey across the peninsula to the Red Sea port of Yanbu. If Pump No. 1 were taken out, the 900,000 barrels of Arabian light and superlight crude that are pumped daily to Yanbu would suddenly stop arriving, and Yanbu would be out of business.
Even the short pipe run from Abqaiq to the Gulf terminals at Ju'aymah and Ras Tanura is not without opportunity. If heavy damage were inflicted on the Qatif Junction manifold complex, which directs the flow of oil for all of eastern Saudi Arabia, the flow would be stopped for months. The pipes that connect the terminals and processing facilities can be replaced off the shelf, but those at Qatif require custom fabrication.
Promoters of Alaskan, Mexican Gulf, Caspian, and Siberian oil all like to point out that the United States has been weaning itself from Saudi Arabian oil, for protection against the effects of just such an attack on the Saudi oil system. Saudi Arabia may sit on 25 percent of the world's known oil reserves, they argue, but it provides somewhere around 18 percent of the crude oil consumed by the United States--and that is down from 28 percent in only a decade. What these people fail to mention is that Saudi Arabia has the world's only important surplus production capacity--two million barrels a day. This keeps the world market liquid. Not only that, but because the Saudis more or less determine the price of oil globally by deciding how much oil to produce, even countries that don't buy Saudi oil would be vulnerable if the flow of that oil were disrupted.
The Saudis have repeatedly used their surplus production capacity to stabilize the international oil market. They used it to break the OPEC embargo (but not before they had enriched themselves by tens of billions of dollars), in 1974. They used it again during the protracted Iran-Iraq war, to keep oil flowing to the industrialized West. They used it during the Gulf War, in 1990-1991; with help from a couple of other Gulf states, they produced an extra five million barrels a day, making up for the loss of Iraqi and Kuwait oil.
And they used it again on September 12, 2001. Less than twenty-four hours after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Saudis decided to send nine million barrels of oil to the United States over the next two weeks. The result was that the United States experienced only a slight inflation spike in the wake of the most devastating terrorist attack in history. Had that same surplus capacity been taken out of play with twenty pounds of Semtex, all bets would have been off. The U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve can support the domestic market for only about seventy days. And if Saudi Arabia's contribution to the world's oil supply were cut off, crude petroleum could quite realistically rise from around $40 a barrel today to as much as $150 a barrel. It wouldn't take long for other economic and social calamities to follow.
Americans have long considered Saudi Arabia the one constant in the Arab Middle East. The Saudis banked our oil under their sand, and losing Saudi Arabia would be like losing the Federal Reserve. Even if the Saudi rulers one day did turn anti-American, the argument went, they would never stop pumping oil, because that would mean cutting their own throats. This, at any rate, is the way we looked at the matter before fifteen Saudis and four other terrorists launched their suicide attacks on September 11; before Osama bin Laden suddenly became for the Arab world the most popular Saudi in history; before USA Today reported last summer that nearly four out of five hits on a clandestine al Qaeda Web site came from inside Saudi Arabia; and before a recent report commissioned by the UN Security Council indicated that Saudi Arabia has transferred $500 million to al Qaeda over the past decade.
[Graphic omitted]Five extended families in the Middle East own about 60 percent of the world's oil. The Saud family, which rules Saudi Arabia, controls more than a third of that amount. This is the fulcrum on which the global economy teeters, and the House of Saud knows what the West is only beginning to learn: that it presides over a kingdom dangerously at war with itself. In the air in Riyadh and Jidda is the conviction that oil money has corrupted the ruling family beyond redemption, even as the general population has grown and gotten poorer; that the country's leaders have failed to protect fellow Muslims in Palestine and elsewhere; and that the House of Saud has let Islam be humiliated--that, in short, the country needs a radical "purification."
We can try to wish this away all we want. But the reality is getting harder and harder to ignore. Per capita income in Saudi Arabia fell from $28,600 in 1981 to $6,800 in 2001. The country's birth rate has soared, becoming one of the highest in the world. Its police force is corrupt, and the rule of law is a sham. Saudi Arabia almost certainly leads the world in public beheadings, the venue for which is often a Riyadh plaza popularly known as Chop-Chop Square. Illegal arms routinely flow into and out of the country. Taking into account its murky "off-budget" defense spending, Saudi Arabia may spend more per capita on defense than any other country in the world (some estimates put the figure at 50 percent of its total revenues), and the House of Saud believes this is necessary for its personal protection. The regime is threatened by increasingly hostile neighbors--and by determined enemies within the country's borders. Popular preachers all over Saudi Arabia call openly for a jihad against the West--a designation that clearly includes the royal family itself--in terms as vitriolic as anything heard in Iran at the height of the Islamic revolution there. The kingdom's mosque schools have become a breeding ground for militant Islam. Recent attacks in Bali, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kenya, and the United States, not to mention those against U.S. military personnel within Saudi Arabia, all point back to these schools--and to the House of Saud itself, which, terrified at the prospect of a militant uprising against it, shovels protection money at the fundamentalists and tries to divert their attention abroad.
Recent examples of Saudi support for the fundamentalists abound. In 1997 a high-ranking member of the royal family coordinated a $100 million aid package for the Taliban. In Los Angeles two of the 9/11 hijackers met with a Saudi working for a company contracted to the Ministry of Defense. A raid on the Hamburg apartment of a suspected accomplice of the hijackers turned up the business card of a Saudi diplomat attached to the religious-affairs section of the embassy in Berlin. Most of the more than 650 al Qaeda prisoners being held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba--"the worst of the worst," according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld--are rumored to be Saudis.
I served for twenty-one years with the CIA's Directorate of Operations in the Middle East, and during all my years there I accepted on faith my government's easy assumption that the money the House of Saud was dumping into weaponry and national security meant that the family's armed forces and bodyguards could keep its members--and their oil--safe. "The royal family is like the fingers of a hand," my colleagues at the State Department liked to say. "Threaten it, and they become a fist." I no longer believe this. Saudi Arabia is more and more a breathtakingly irrational state. For a surprising number of Saudis, including some members of the royal family, taking the kingdom's oil off the world market--even for years, and at the risk of destroying their own economy--is an acceptable alternative to the status quo.
Saudi Arabia has existed as a formal nation only since 1932, when the tribal leader Abdul Aziz ibn Saud gained control of much of the Arabian Peninsula, named the territory after his clan, and proclaimed himself king. But the House of Saud had been powerful in the region ever since the eighteenth century, when the radical cleric Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, the founder of the puritanical Wahhabi movement, wandered into Dar'iya, near present-day Riyadh, and made a bargain with its ruler, Muhammad ibn Saud. The Saud family would provide the generals, and the Wahhabis would provide the foot soldiers. Until recently it was a marriage made in heaven.
If I had to pick a single moment when the House of Saud truly began to fall apart, it would be when Abdul Aziz ibn Saud's son Fahd, who has been king since 1982, suffered a near fatal stroke, in 1995. As soon as the royal family heard about Fahd's stroke, it went on high alert. From all over Riyadh came the thump-thump of helicopters and the sirens of convoys converging on the hospital where Fahd had been taken.
Among the first to arrive were Jawhara al-Ibrahim, Fahd's fourth and favorite wife, and their spoiled, megalomaniac twenty-nine-year-old son Abdul Aziz--or "Azouzi" ("Dearie"), as Fahd called him. Anyone who knew how Fahd's court ran knew the extent to which Fahd had come to depend on Jawhara, who helped him with everything from remembering his medicine to handling intricate problems of foreign policy. If a prince wanted a matter immediately brought to Fahd's attention, he called Jawhara. As for Abdul Aziz, he was the youngest of Fahd's children and the apple of his father's eye. Fahd indulged him in everything. Stories circulated widely about Abdul Aziz's riding a Harley-Davidson inside his father's palace, chasing servants and smashing furniture. Most of the royal family found the king's indulgence strange. Abdul Aziz was pimply, craven, a bit slow. Apparently, though, he was regarded as the king's good-luck charm. Fahd's favorite soothsayer had once told him that as long as Abdul Aziz was by his side, the king would have a long, fulfilling life. So Fahd did not complain when Abdul Aziz spent $4.6 billion on a sprawling palace and theme park outside Riyadh, because Abdul Aziz was "interested" in history. The property includes a scale model of old Mecca, with actors attending mosque and chanting prayers twenty-four hours a day, and also replicas of the Alhambra, Medina, and half a dozen other Islamic landmarks.
Next to arrive at the hospital, in a great show of solidarity, were Fahd's full brothers--Sultan, the Defense Minister; Nayef, the Interior Minister; and Salman, the governor of Riyadh province. To outsiders, they were a tight bunch. Their mother, from the Sudayri clan, had taught them from an early age to stick together or risk being elbowed out by the forty-odd other children of their father.
Other princes--the children and grandchildren of Ibn Saud's children--hurried to the hospital too, from all over the kingdom and the rest of the world. Private executive jets were lined up wing to wing at Riyadh's airport. These princes couldn't get anywhere near Fahd, but by being close at hand they could pick up more-reliable news and, just as important, demonstrate their fealty. Most of them lived off his largesse--royal stipends, which ran from $800 to $270,000 a month. The princes knew they were breaking the treasury--all told, their brethren numbered 10,000 to 12,000. Would Crown Prince Abdullah--Fahd's half brother, a seventy-one-year-old reformer who was next in line for the throne--cut back on their stipends, or even eliminate them if Fahd died? They had to stick around to find out.
At this point Fahd's brothers were calling doctors in the United States and Europe. They wanted to know not whether Fahd would ever recover his mental capacities, or what kind of life he would be able to live, but what it would take to keep his heart beating and his body warm. Money, of course, wasn't a problem. They told the doctors they were prepared to lease as many Boeing 747 cargo jets as needed to bring in mobile hospitals and medical teams. The doctors couldn't understand the reasoning behind the questions--but only because they didn't understand the politics of the kingdom. What the family knew and the doctors didn't was that Crown Prince Abdullah had long been eager to take power. The only way to keep him at bay was to keep Fahd alive--God willing, until Abdullah died.
Abdullah had always been the odd prince out. To begin with, his mother was from the Rashid tribe, traditional enemies of the Saud. Ibn Saud had married her to cement a trace with the Rashid, and although the Rashid were now loyal subjects, Abdullah was still mistrusted by Fahd's full brothers. Almost alone among the top members of the royal family, Abdullah had chosen the way of the desert, turning his back on the luxuries of Riyadh, Jidda, and Ta'if. He never vacationed lavishly in Europe, unlike King Fahd and his entourage, who typically spent $5 million a day during visits to the palace at Marbella, on the Spanish Riviera. Abdullah preferred to spend his time in a tent, drinking camel's milk and eating dates. He interspersed his conversation with Bedouin aphorisms and turns of phrase. All his children were raised according to the customs of the desert. It is Abdullah who has recently called publicly for democratic reforms, the reining in of the conservative clergy, and military disengagement from the United States.
The royal family hated being reminded that they had abandoned their Bedouin roots, but they hated still more that Abdullah was trying to cut back royal corruption and entitlements. Aping the senior members of the family, the lesser princes had fantastic financial expectations, and their stipends didn't suffice. The third-generation princes were getting only about $19,000 a month--a fraction of what they needed for the lifestyles they sought. To keep even a modest yacht on the French Riviera requires a million dollars a year. What were they supposed to do? In order to make ends meet they had been getting into nastier and nastier business, taking bribes from construction firms (mostly the bin Laden family's) seeking government contracts, getting involved in arms deals, expropriating property from commoners, and selling Saudi visas to guest workers. Another trick they'd discovered was borrowing money from private banks and simply refusing to pay it back. It wasn't as if the larger family could somehow discipline or shame them. There were so many princes that they didn't even all know one another.
Abdullah had made no secret of his intention to put an end to the thievery when he became king--and for a while it looked as if he might get his way even before becoming king. In the mid-1990s, as Saudi Arabia was facing increasingly dire financial difficulties, he persuaded King Fahd to appoint a handful of reformist ministers. Abdullah first had them zero in on expropriations. The practice had become so widespread among the lesser princes that it was completely alienating Saudi Arabia's traditional merchant class and fledgling middle class. A prince might walk into a restaurant, see that it was doing well, and write out a check to buy the place, usually well below market price. There was nothing the owner could do. He knew that if he resisted, he'd end up in jail on trumped-up charges.
The senior princes used their government positions to do the same thing, but on a much grander scale. One of them would pick out a valuable piece of property--maybe a particularly good location for a shopping mall or a new road--and then order a court to condemn it in the name of the state, which would clear the way for the king to award it to him. The money to be earned was staggering, and senior princes had started to rely on the practice to maintain their ever more bloated personal budgets. In Abdullah's view, however, crooked property deals and the like were only a small part of the problem. The off-budget deals were a much bigger part. In off-budget spending, revenue from oil sales goes directly to special accounts, bypassing the Saudi treasury altogether. The money is then used to pay for pet projects, from defense procurement to construction, with no government audits or accountability of any sort. Commissions and bribes are enormous.
As a reformer, Abdullah was kept out of the tight circle that gathered around Fahd after his stroke. Bitterness against Abdullah within the family was so deep that he was in fact blamed for the stroke. One version had it that Fahd and Abdullah had been on the telephone, arguing about who would attend a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Oman. It was a fundamentally unimportant decision, but relations between the two men had become so toxic, it was said, that Fahd's anger brought on the event. Another rumor in circulation held that Fahd and Abdullah had been arguing about what they always argued about--looming financial collapse. There were even whispers that Abdullah had intentionally provoked Fahd, knowing his health wouldn't withstand a shouting match.
It eventually became clear that Fahd would live, but the extent of his impairment also became clear--embarrassingly so when, during a therapy session not long after the stroke, Fahd defecated in his pool in front of his family. His mind was affected too. Those close to him knew that he would never truly rule again, though he is still led out for ceremonial appearances.
A year and a half after Fahd's stroke Sultan had come to so despise Abdullah that he stopped attending cabinet meetings chaired by him. For Abdullah, the feeling was mutual. In July of 1997 he simply bypassed the Council of Ministers, which was heavily stacked in favor of the Sudayri, and tried to get Fahd to sign off on decrees and laws he thought needed passing. Jawhara and Abdul Aziz teamed up to thwart him.
Mind you, it is not as if the rest of the Fahd clan is united. Sultan, Salman, and Nayef may have arrived at the hospital together in a show of solidarity, but they got a rude shock once they pushed through the front doors. Jawhara and Abdul Aziz blocked them from seeing their brother. The two had set up camp outside Fahd's hospital room and were deriding who and what would or would not get in. That included ministers, senior princes, and doctors, along with petitions, decrees, and everything else.
Saudi succession doesn't operate according to primogeniture. By tradition, senior princes come to a consensus on succession, usually choosing one from their ranks who is thought to have the necessary experience and wisdom. So far the system had served the royal family well, even though Abdullah had become a gadfly, but now Fahd's brothers were afraid that Abdul Aziz was trying to circumvent custom and place himself higher in the line of succession. For one thing, he had started getting more and more involved in national security, from foreign affairs to intelligence. Even the Americans noticed it. When the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, General J. H. Binford Peay, came to Riyadh to meet with Fahd, in July of 1997, he was surprised to find Abdul Aziz at Fahd's side, whispering in his father's ear. Where was Abdullah? What had become of Sultan? Peay had to meet with Abdullah separately, and even then Abdullah didn't talk about the issues at hand.
[Graphic omitted]What really worried some members of his family was that Abdul Aziz was funding radical Wahhabi causes and was gaining strength and popularity as a result. They had little doubt that money was going to clerics and causes that were associated with Osama bin Laden. Abdul Aziz hadn't rediscovered his faith, of course: he was courting favor with the Wahhabis because he knew he would need their support to become king. In September of 1997 he helped to coordinate that $100 million aid package for the Taliban, even though the Taliban were protecting bin Laden--a man who not only had vowed to overthrow the House of Saud but also seemed increasingly capable of doing so. Abdul Aziz was buying support wherever he could find it. In December of 1993 Abdul Aziz authorized $100,000 for a Kansas City mosque. On September 15, 1995, he opened the King Fahd Academy, in Bonn, and two days later he dedicated a new mosque there. Nine days after that he invited the head of the Islamic Society of Spain, Mansur Abdul Salam, to Riyadh. In May of 1996 he and Jawhara arranged for King Fahd to release Muhammad al Fasi from prison. Al Fasi had been imprisoned for opposing the Gulf War and the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia; in other words, he shared some of bin Laden's chief grievances. In December of 1999 the press finally caught wind of Abdul Aziz's penchant for backing radical Islamic causes. One regional account made available by U.S. translation services noted that he was believed to have been funding an associate of bin Laden's, Sa'd al Burayk, who in turn was giving the money to Islamic groups dedicated to killing Russian soldiers and civilians in Chechnya. Nayef promised to put a stop to Abdul Aziz and bring his charity back under control--but he appears to have done nothing.
All the while, throughout the 1990s, the royal family kept growing and growing. A prince might sire forty to seventy children during a lifetime of healthy copulation; however, the resources to support the growing population of the entitled were shrinking, not just in relative terms but in absolute ones. Young royals were pushing up from below, chafing at leaders who were slipping into their late seventies and eighties. The incapacitated King Fahd will turn eighty this year; Crown Prince Abdullah will turn seventy-nine. Many of the most active court intriguers are also in their seventies.
The House of Saud currently has some 30,000 members. The number will be 60,000 in a generation, maybe much higher. According to reliable sources, anecdotal evidence, and the Saudi gossip machine, the royal family is obsessed with gambling, alcohol prostitution, and parties. And the commissions and other outlays to fund their vices are constant. What would the price of oil have to be in 2025 to support even the most basic privileges--for example, free air travel anywhere in the world on Saudia, the Saudi national airline--that the Saudi royals have come to enjoy? Once the family numbers 60,000, or 100,000, will there even be a spare seat for a mere commoner who wants to fly out of Riyadh or Jidda? Reformers among the royal family talk about cutting back the perks, but that's a hard package to sell.
Saudi Arabia operates the world's most advanced welfare state, a kind of anti-Marxian non-workers paradise. Saudis get free health care and interest-free home and business loans. College education is free within the kingdom, and heavily subsidized for those who study abroad. In one of the world's driest spots water is almost free. Electricity, domestic air travel, gasoline, and telephone service are available at far below cost. Many of the kingdom's best and brightest--the most well-educated and in theory, the best prepared for the work world--have little motivation to do any work at all. About a quarter of Saudi Arabia's population, and more than a third of all residents aged fifteen to sixty-four, are foreign nationals, allowed into the kingdom to do the dirty work in the oil fields and to provide domestic help, but also to program the computers and manage the refineries. Seventy percent of all jobs in Saudi Arabia--and close to 90 percent of all private-sector jobs--are filled by foreigners.
Among men, at least, the Saudis have an admirably high literacy rate, especially for a place that only three generations back was inhabited mostly by nomadic tribesmen. About 85 percent of Saudi men aged fifteen and older can read and write, as opposed to less than 70 percent of Saudi women of the same age. But because in recent years the Saudi education system has been largely entrusted to Wahhabi fundamentalists, as a form of appeasement that many in the royal family hope will direct the fundamentalists' animus at foreign targets, its products are generally ill prepared to compete in a technological age or a global economy. Today two out of every three Ph.D.s earned in Saudi Arabia are in Islamic studies. Doctorates are only very rarely granted in computer sciences, engineering, and other worldly vocations. Younger Saudis are being educated to take part in a world that will exist only if the Wahhabi jihadists succeed in turning back the clock not just a few decades but a few centuries.
Then there's the demographic problem. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest birth rates in the world outside Africa--37.25 births for every 1,000 citizens last year, compared with 14.5 per 1,000 in the United States. Ninety-seven percent of all Saudis are sixty-four or younger, and half the population is under eighteen. The simple presence of so many people of working age, and especially so many just now ready to enter the work force, places enormous pressure on an economy--particularly one designed less to accommodate those who want to work than to provide sustenance for those who would rather contemplate original intent in the Koran. A middle class stabilizes society. Saudi Arabia's middle class is imploding.
The functioning of the world's most advanced welfare state is influenced overwhelmingly by fluctuations in the price of oil. In 1981, when the entire kingdom was in effect being put on the dole, oil was selling at nearly $40 a barrel, and the annual per capita income was $28,600. A decade later, just before Iraq invaded Kuwait, refiners were able to buy oil for about $15 a barrel. The Gulf War sent prices back up to about $36 a barrel before they quickly fell. Today a barrel of oil once again fetches around $40, but twenty years' worth of inflation, combined with a population explosion, has brought per capita income down to below $7,000. Because roughly 85 percent of Saudi Arabia's total revenues are oil-based, every dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil means a gain of about $3 billion to the Saudi treasury. In the early 1980s the kingdom boasted cash reserves on the order of $120 billion; today the figure is estimated to be $21 billion.
Given all these threatening forces, one might think that every map in official Washington would have a red flag sticking out of Riyadh, as a reminder that Saudi Arabia is on life support. The truth is quite the opposite. Before 9/11 the United States never issued an advisory indicating the obvious security problems for Americans traveling to Saudi Arabia. Dependents of U.S. citizens residing there were never advised to leave. According to official Washington, even today the country is stable: its government is in undisputed control of its borders; its police force and army are efficient and loyal; its people are well clothed, well fed, and well educated.
Consider the way the State Department has handled visas for Saudi nationals. Until 9/11, Saudis were not even required to appear at the U.S. embassy in Riyadh or the consulate in Jidda for a visa interview. Under a system called Visa Express a Saudi had only to send his passport, an application, and the application fee to a travel agent. The Saudi travel agent, in other words, stood in for the U.S. government. Just about any Saudi who had the money could book a flight to New York after a mere twenty-hour wait. Until recently Saudis were exempt from the new anti-terrorism entry regulations that apply to citizens of other Middle Eastern countries, despite the fact that most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis.
"The Saudi Arabian Government, at all levels, continued to reaffirm its commitment to combating terrorism," the State Department's 1999 report Patterns of Global Terrorism soberly asserted. The report went on to state, "The Government of Saudi Arabia continued to investigate the bombing in June 1996 of the Khobar Towers." This was false; Prince Nayef, Saudi Arabia's grim Interior Minister, had been stalling the investigation for years. Nayef told the kingdom's other senior princes that he was reluctant to help the United States with the Khobar investigation. In one heated meeting Nayef ignored Defense Minister Sultan when Sultan warned that stonewalling the FBI would end up causing a rift with the United States. To make his point Nayef went out of his way to avoid meeting the FBI's director, Louis Freeh, when Freeh showed up in Saudi Arabia to see what he could do to get the Khobar investigation going. Nayef put himself out of reach-on his yacht, anchored off the coast near Jidda, in the Red Sea--and turned the chore over to two low-ranking officials in the internal-security service, neither of whom knew anything about the Khobar investigation.
Even after the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which were organized by Osama bin Laden from his bases in Afghanistan, the Saudi royals continued to aid the Taliban and its main supporter in the region, Pakistan. This was hardly a secret: in July of 2000 Petroleum Intelligence Weekly, which calls itself the "bible" of the international petroleum industry, reported that Saudi Arabia was sending as many as 150,000 barrels of oil a day to Afghanistan and Pakistan in off-budget foreign aid that had a value of something like $2 million a day. Furthermore, the United States had known since 1994 that the Saudis were supporting Pakistan's nuclear development program, ultimately contributing upwards of a billion dollars. More recently, because Saudi law does not allow foreign agencies to directly question Saudi citizens, the FBI has not been allowed to interview Saudi suspects, including the families of the fifteen Saudi hijackers, about the 9/11 attacks. For more than a year after September 11 Saudi Arabia refused to provide advance manifests for flights coming into the United States--which could have led to a basic and potentially fatal breach of security. Although there are plenty of possible al Qaeda members awaiting trial, as of this writing there hasn't been a single Saudi arrest related to 9/11--not even of a material witness.
As for the CIA, the Agency let the State Department take the lead and decided simply to ignore Saudi Arabia. The CIA recruited no Saudi diplomats to tell us, for instance, what the religious-affairs sections of Saudi embassies were up to. The CIA's Directorate of Intelligence avoided writing national intelligence estimates--appraisals, drawn from various U.S. intelligence services, about areas of potential crisis--on Saudi Arabia, knowing that such estimates, especially when negative, have a tendency to find their way onto the front pages of U.S. newspapers, where they might have an undesired effect on public opinion. The CIA's line became the same as State's: There's no need to worry about Saudi Arabia and its oil reserves.
No need to worry, of course, means business as usual--and for decades now that's meant that almost every Washington figure worth mentioning has been involved with companies doing major deals with Saudi Arabia. Spending a lot of money was a tacit part of the U.S.-Saudi relationship practically from the very beginning: the Americans would buy Saudi Arabia's oil and would provide the Saudis with protection and security; the Saudis would buy American weapons, construction services, communications systems, and drilling rigs. In the global-economics game this is known as "recycling," and in this case it worked well: two-way trade between Saudi Arabia and the United States grew from $56.2 million in 1950 to $19.3 billion in 2000--an average annual growth rate of nearly 70 percent.
Consider the case of the Carlyle Group--a private investment company, founded in 1987, that almost since its inception has been conducting immensely profitable business with Saudi Arabia. From 1993 to 2002 the chairman of Carlyle was Frank Carlucci, who served first as Ronald Reagan's National Security Adviser and then as his Secretary of Defense. Carlyle's senior counselor is James Baker, who served as Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush--who in his post-presidency also happens to be a Carlyle adviser. Others who hang their hats at Carlyle include Arthur Levitt, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission under Bill Clinton, and now Carlyle's senior adviser; John Major, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain and the current chairman of Carlyle Europe; William Kennard, who chaired the Federal Communications Commission during the second Clinton Administration; Afsaneh Mashayekhi Beschloss, a former treasurer and chief investment officer of the World Bank; and Richard Darman, who ran the Office of Management and Budget under the first President Bush and also served as deputy secretary of the treasury under Reagan.
Carlyle isn't the only company in this business. Halliburton, run by Dick Cheney between his stints as Secretary of Defense under the first George Bush and Vice President under the second, has been a frequent beneficiary of Saudi money. In late 2001 Halliburton landed a $140 million contract to develop a new Saudi oil field. For many years Condoleezza Rice, now President Bush's National Security Adviser, served on the board of Chevron, which merged in 2001 with Texaco. The new corporation, ChevronTexaco, is a partner with Saudi Aramco in several ventures and has recently joined forces with Nimir Petroleum to develop oil fields in Kazakhstan. Currently on the board of ChevronTexaco are Carla Hills, who served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Gerald Ford and as a U.S. trade representative under George H.W. Bush; the former Louisiana senator J. Bennett Johnston, who made a specialty of energy issues while in Congress; and the former Georgia senator Sam Nunn, who served most notably as head of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Elsewhere, Nicholas Brady, the Secretary of the Treasury under the first President Bush, and Edith Holiday, a former assistant to the first President Bush, serve on the board of Amerada Hess, which has teamed with some of Saudi Arabia's most powerful royal-family members to exploit the rich oil resources of Azerbaijan. In 1998 Amerada Hess formed a joint venture, Delta Hess, with the Saudi-owned Delta Oil to explore and exploit petroleum resources in Azerbaijan. The Houston-based Frontera Resources Corporation joined the Azerbaijan hunt the same year, teaming with the newly created Delta Hess. Among the members of Frontera's board of advisers: the former Texas senator former Secretary of the Treasury, and 1988 Democratic vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen; and John Deutch, a former CIA director.
Just to make sure that no one upsets the workings of this system, perhaps by meddling in internal Saudi affairs, Saudi Arabia now keeps possibly as much as a trillion dollars on deposit in U.S. banks--an agreement worked out in the early eighties by the Reagan Administration, in an effort to get the Saudis to offset U.S. government budget deficits. The Saudis hold another trillion dollars or so in the U.S. stock market. This gives them a remarkable degree of leverage in Washington. If they were suddenly to withdraw all their holdings in this country, the effect, though perhaps not as catastrophic as having a major source of oil shut down, would still be devastating.
The U.S.-Saudi relationship would not be as cozy as it is without there being someone well connected on both sides who can move comfortably between them. That someone is the fifty-four-year-old Prince Bandar. Although he ranks low on the royal bloodline (his father is King Fahd's brother Sultan, the Saudi Defense Minister, but his mother was a house servant), Prince Bandar has been the Saudi ambassador to the United States since 1983. He is the only foreign ambassador to have a security detail assigned to him by the State Department. A daredevil fighter pilot in his younger years, a Muslim with a taste for single-malt Scotch, and an envoy with a perpetually open wallet, Bandar has proved adept at working both the public and the private sides of diplomacy. As the Saudi military attache to the United States, he scored a stunning coup in 1981 by persuading Congress to approve the sale of AWACS air-defense technology to his country, over the objections of AIPAC, the pro-Israeli Washington lobby. Later, as ambassador, Bandar conveyed the kingdom's thanks by secretly placing $10 million in a Vatican City bank, as reported last year in The Washington Post; the money, deposited at the request of William Casey, then the director of the CIA, was to be used by Italy's Christian Democratic Party in a campaign against Italian Communists. Later still, in June of 1984, Bandar started paying out $30 million from the royal family so that Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North could buy arms for the Nicaraguan contras.
It is on the personal front, however, where Bandar shines. A visit in the early nineties to the summer home of George H.W. Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine, earned the prince the affectionate family sobriquet "Bandar Bush." Bandar reciprocated by inviting Bush to hunt pheasant on his estate in England. For good measure he also contributed a million dollars to the construction of the Bush Presidential Library, in College Station, Texas. King Fahd sent another million to Barbara Bush's campaign against illiteracy. (He had donated a million dollars to Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign against drugs four years earlier.) Bandar was once Colin Powell's racquetball partner.
Press accounts portrayed Bandar as largely on the outside during the Clinton years, passing melancholy weeks at his mountain compound in Aspen, Colorado (more than 50,000 square feet, thirty-two rooms, sixteen bathrooms). If Bandar was less physically present, however, he was his usual useful self. In 1992 he persuaded King Fahd to donate $20 million to the University of Arkansas's new Center for Middle Eastern Studies, a gesture of respect for the Arkansas governor who had just been elected President. He is said to have played a role in persuading the Libyans, in 1999, to turn over two intelligence operatives suspected in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, over Lockerbie, Scotland. As he reportedly does at the end of every administration, whether he is perceived as friend or foe, Bandar also invited each of the Clinton Cabinet members out to dinner, at a restaurant of their choice, in a private room or a public one, depending on their willingness to be seen with him.
Prince Bandar once told associates that he is very careful to look after U.S. government officials when they return to private life. "If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office," Bandar has observed, according to a source cited in The Washington Post, "you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office". Practically every deal with the Saudis eventually becomes hard to trace, lost in some desert sandstorm back near the wellheads where the money sprang from in the first place. Many of Washington's lobbyists, PR firms, and lawyers live off Saudi money. Just about every Washington think tank has taken it. So have the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Children's National Medical Center, and every presidential library built in the past thirty years.
[Graphic omitted]Bandar hurried back to prominence after the election of George W. Bush, occupying a spot somewhere between ambassador and permanently enthroned visiting head of state. But after 9/11 he began to experience some difficulty in maintaining a positive Saudi image. In March of last year agents of the Treasury Department raided the northern-Virginia offices of four Saudi-based charities: the SAAR Foundation, the Safa Trust, the International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIIT), and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). Also raided was the local headquarters for the Muslim World League, an umbrella group funded by the Saudi government. All five organizations are located only a few miles from Bandar's mansion overlooking the Potomac River. The organizations can point to a long list of genuinely humanitarian causes they have aided and supported; but they also have a long list of alarming associations. Testifying before Congress in August of 2002, Matthew Levitt, a senior fellow with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, noted that Tarik Hamdi, an IIIT employee, had personally provided Osama bin Laden with batteries for his satellite phone--a critical link in the stateless world that bin Laden inhabits. IIIT and the SAAR Foundation are suspected of helping to finance Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the sponsors of some of the most lethal suicide bombers in the Middle East. From 1986 to 1994 Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to Osama bin Laden, ran the IIRO's Philippine office, from which he channeled funds to al Qaeda. Only excellent work by the Indian police prevented another IIRO employee, Sayed Abu Nasir, from bombing the U.S. consulates in Calcutta and Madras.
In mid-2002 word leaked to the press that the semiofficial Defense Policy Board, chaired by the notorious cold warrior Richard Perle, had sponsored a report declaring Saudi Arabia to be part of the problem of international terrorism rather than part of the solution. Saudi Arabia, the report stated, was "central to the self-destruction of the Arab world and the chief vector of the Arab crisis and its outwardly-directed aggression." It went on to say, "The Saudis are active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot-soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader." Within hours Colin Powell was on the phone to the Saudi Foreign Minister, assuring him--and through him, the royal family--that such apostasy was not and never would be the official stance of the Bush Administration. To reinforce the message, President Bush invited Bandar down to the family ranch at Crawford, Texas.
And yet the image problems have continued. In October of 2001, NATO forces raided the offices of the Saudi High Commission for Aid to Bosnia, founded by Prince Salman, and discovered, among other items, photos of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, before and after they were bombed; photos of the World Trade Center and the USS Cole; information on the use of crop-duster planes; and materials for forging U.S. State Department badges. His job wasn't made any easier when, in the fall of last year, Bandar found himself having to explain away the fact that about $130,000 in charitable contributions from his wife, Princess Haifa, might have ended up with two of the 9/11 hijackers.
In the wake of these revelations a U.S. delegation headed by Alan Larson, President Bush's undersecretary of state for economic affairs, traveled to Riyadh last November, ostensibly to prod the Saudis toward increasing the surveillance of their charities and financial networks. But U.S. and Saudi sources say that one of the main reasons for Larson's trip was to ensure that if the United States invaded Iraq, the Saudis would guarantee the flow of extra oil into the World market. The U.S. embrace of the House of Saud was as tight as ever.
Washington's answer for Saudi Arabia--apart from repeating that nothing is wrong--is to suggest that a little democracy will cure everything. Talk the royal family into ceding at least part of its authority; support the reform-minded princes; set up a model parliament; co-opt the firebrands with a cabinet position or two, a minor political party, and some outright bribery; send Jimmy Carter in to monitor the first election; and in a few generations Riyadh will be Ankara, maybe even London. The governmental mechanism may be faulty, the Washington view maintains, but the people who administer the government are for the most part committed to rooting out corruption, rounding up terrorists, and recognizing the right of the people to self-government.
It's utter nonsense, of course. If an election were held in Saudi Arabia today, if anyone who wanted to could run for the office of president, and if people could vote their hearts without fear of having their heads cut off afterward in Chop-Chop Square, Osama bin Laden would be elected in a landslide--not because the Saudi people want to wash their hands in the blood of the dead of September 11, but simply because bin Laden has dared to do what even the mighty United States of America won't do: stand up to the thieves who rule the country.
Saudi Arabia today is a mess, and it is our mess. We made it the private storage tank for our oil reserves. We reaped the benefits of a steady petroleum supply at a discounted price, and we grabbed at every available Saudi petrodollar. We taught the Saudis exactly what was expected of them. We cannot walk away morally from the consequences of this behavior--and we really can't walk away economically. So we crow about democracy and talk about someday weaning ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil, despite the fact that as long as America has been dependent on foreign oil there has never been an honest, sustained effort at the senior governmental level to reduce long-term U.S. petroleum consumption.
Not all the wishing in the world will change the basic reality of the situation.
* Saudi Arabia controls the largest share of the world's oil and serves as the market regulator for the global petroleum industry.
* No country consumes more oil, and is more dependent on Saudi oil, than the United States.
* The United States and the rest of the industrialized world are therefore absolutely dependent on Saudi Arabia's oil reserves, and will be for decades to come.
* If the Saudi oil spigot is shut off, by terrorism or by political revolution, the effect on the global economy, and particularly on the economy of the United States, will be devastating.
* Saudi oil is controlled by an increasingly bankrupt, criminal, dysfunctional, and out-of-touch royal family that is hated by the people it rules and by the nations that surround its kingdom.
Signs of impending disaster are everywhere, but the House of Saud has chosen to pray that the moment of reckoning will not come soon--and the United States has chosen to look away. So nothing changes: the royal family continues to exhaust the Saudi treasury, buying more and more arms and funneling more and more "charity" money to the jihadists, all in a desperate and self-destructive effort to protect itself.
The fact is that the West, especially the United States, has left the Saudis little choice. Leading U.S. corporations hire and rehire known Saudi crooks and known financiers of terrorism to represent their interests, so that they can land the deals that will pay the commissions back in Saudi Arabia--commissions that will further erode the budget and thus further divide the ruling class from everyone else. Former CIA directors serve on boards whose members have to hold their noses to cut deals with Saudi companies--because that's business, that's the price of entry, that's the way it's done. Ex-Presidents, former prime ministers, onetime senators and congressmen, and Cabinet members walk around with their hands out, acting as if they're doing something else but rarely slowing down, because most of them know it's an endgame too. But sometime soon, one way or another, the House of Saud is coming down.
Robert Baer served for twenty-one years with the CIA, primarily as a field officer in the Middle East. He resigned from the agency in 1997 and was awarded its Career Intelligence Medal in 1998. This article is adapted from the forthcoming book Sleeping With the Devil (Crown Publishers), to be published in June.
© COPYRIGHT 2003 The Atlantic Monthly Magazine
Cocaine users among the five million people who live in the Po River basin in northern Italy consume the drug and excrete its metabolic by-product, benzoylecgonine (BE). This goes from sewers into the river. So a team led by Dr Ettore Zuccato, of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, estimated the use of cocaine by testing the waters of the Po for BE, and for any cocaine that had passed through the body unaltered or reached the sewers in other ways.
According to official Italian statistics, 1.1 per cent of people between the ages of 15 and 34 admit to having used cocaine “at least once in the preceding month”. Almost all cocaine use occurs in this age group.
Assuming that there are 1.4 million young adults in the Po River basin, the official statistics suggest that there would be 15,000 cocaine-use events per month. But the evidence from the water suggests that the real usage is about 40,000 doses a day, a vastly greater figure.
“The economic impact of trafficking such a large amount of cocaine would be staggering,” Dr Zuccato said. “The large amount of cocaine — at least 1,500kg — that our findings suggest is consumed per year in the River Po basin would amount, in fact, to about $150 million in street value, based on an average US street value of $100 per gram.”
To confirm their findings, the team also sampled urban waste water from Cagliari in Sardinia, Latina in central Italy, and from Cuneo and Varese in the north — all medium-sized cities. The values they obtained from the undiluted waste water were far higher than those in the Po, as would be expected. But when translated into likely local use of the drug, they produced very similar figures — which suggests that the Po region is not exceptional in its cocaine consumption. The results cannot be explained by assuming that some drug trafficker was panicked into dumping his stash down the lavatory. If so, much more pure cocaine would have been found, and much less of its human metabolite, BE. In fact, the ratio of cocaine to BE was consistent throughout all the samples.
If anything, Dr Zuccato said, the method would be expected to underestimate rather than to overestimate cocaine use, because some would be lost or absorbed in sediments. So the real consumption may be even higher.
This method has previously been used by the same team to measure the by-products of widely-used prescription drugs, and has produced results consistent with known prescribing patterns. So it seems to work.
The technique has been developed by the Italian team and is complex, as it needs to be to detect such tiny residues — of the order of billionths of a gram per litre of water.
The scientists say that the method needs to be tested further before being brought into general use, but suggest that it would be a more reliable and much cheaper way of tracking trends in drug use than by using population surveys.
“The approach tested here, which is in principle adaptable to other illicit drugs, could be refined and validated to become a general, rapid method to help estimate drug abuse at the local level,” they report in the journal Environmental Health.
“With its unique ability to monitor changing habits in real time, it could be helpful to social scientists and authorities for continuously updating the appraisal of drug abuse.”
The levels of the drug and the metabolite found in river water are so low that any effect on natural life is very unlikely. But this is not true of all chemicals. Research indicates that chemicals that mimic natural hormones are having an effect on fish in many rivers, including “feminising” many male fish. The sources of these chemicals include hormones excreted by the human body and industrial chemicals that reach the waterways.
Story location: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,68435,00.html
11:00 AM Aug. 05, 2005 PT
Attorney Jennifer Granick represented computer security researcher Michael Lynn in his conflict with Cisco and ISS at the Black Hat conference. The following is reprinted from her blog with permission.
What follows is my take on "Ciscogate," the uproar over researcher Michael Lynn's presentation at this year's Black Hat conference, in which he revealed that he was able to remotely execute code on Cisco routers. I have been representing Mike during this crisis, so I'm clearly partisan, and what I can say is limited by attorney-client responsibilities. But while many people are speculating about the facts, there hasn't been much on the law, which turns out to be really interesting.
I arrived in Las Vegas around 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday. My plane had been delayed, and I was anxious to get to Caesar's Palace and get prepared for my presentation, scheduled for 3:15 p.m. My parents and sister also were coming to see me, and I had to get approval for their day passes from the Black Hat powers-that-be. I had heard that there was a chance of some legal problems with a talk that Mike Lynn had planned to give about Cisco router vulnerability and that the night or so before the conference, Cisco sent temp workers to cut Lynn's slides out of the presentation materials and to seize CDs containing his PowerPoint presentation. But I wasn't involved in the case yet.
When I arrived, someone pointed Lynn out to me. He was wearing a white backward-facing baseball hat with the word "GOOD" on it and chatting animatedly with friends. I introduced myself, and he told me that he'd quit his job and given the talk anyway, and that he expected to be sued. Lynn knew that Cisco had fixed the problem he found and stopped distributing the vulnerable code, but he was deeply concerned that the company did not do nearly enough to persuade its customers to upgrade promptly, or to explain to them why upgrading was necessary. Based on some web searching, he thought that Chinese hackers were working on breaking routers too, and that people needed to know. Up until very recently, Mike's employer, ISS, had approved his talk and was happy for him to give it. But very recently, they dramatically changed their minds and forbade him from giving it. They made Mike pick another topic. By the morning of the conference, Mike decided he had to quit his job and give the talk anyway.
(In subsequent conversations with Cisco attorneys, I was assured that Cisco and ISS were working on a presentation that would reveal the flaw without revealing what Cisco and ISS felt was proprietary information or giving bad guys a road map to an exploit. I never saw this presentation, and to the best of my knowledge Mike didn't either. If this is true, I don't know why Lynn, ISS and Cisco were communicating so poorly. Of course, I also don't know what Cisco and ISS were worried about, since Lynn's presentation neither revealed confidential information nor provided much assistance to would-be intruders. Cisco also told me that they offered to give the new joint ISS and Cisco talk, but that Black Hat refused. My understanding of Black Hat's position was that the speaking slot wasn't given to Cisco and ISS but to Mike Lynn, and if he wanted to talk about something else, he could, but they weren't going to give the slot to Cisco just because the originally scheduled talk was about their product.)
I'm generally a believer in the free flow of information. I've written an article on vulnerability disclosure, and generally don't like rules that stop people from telling the truth, for whatever reason. But I understand that exploit code, while communicative, can also be used as a dangerous tool. Lynn understood this too. His presentation did not give away exploit code, or even enough information for listeners to readily create exploit code. In fact, he said, Cisco employees who had vetted the information were themselves unable to create and exploit from his information. But Mike wanted to show people that (1) he knew what he was talking about and (2) he could do what he said could be done. He included just enough information to make those points. (Following the talk, other researchers who'd seen it agreed that it would take a lot of work to get from Mike's presentation to an exploit.)
After my talk, I caught up with Mike and discussed the possibility that Cisco or ISS would sue him. I told him to call me if he heard anything. Then my family and I went to Shintaro at the Bellagio for dinner. It was my parents' 37th anniversary.
Shintaro has three really beautiful jellyfish tanks in the front of the restaurant, behind the sushi bar. The restaurant is actually kind of large and sits on the Bellagio lagoon. We wanted a table with a window view, but the maitre d' said they were all reserved -- even though we had a reservation, it was 5:45 p.m. and there were very few other people around. No one came to sit at those tables the whole time we were there. We had sushi, which was really fresh and good, and then my sister and I shared the crispy lobster in black bean sauce. As with my father's lamb dish, it was really good, but the sauce was a little overpowering for the delicacy of the meat. The waiter was adept at explaining the sakes, and I ordered a really good one to share with my dad, a junmai ginjo called gissen, I believe. I would definitely go back if it were not for the snootiness of not letting us have a window seat even though no one cool enough to pre-empt us would dream of going to dinner so ungodly early.
By the time dinner was over, Cisco and ISS had filed a lawsuit and served papers requesting a temporary restraining order on Black Hat, but not on Mike. Mike had heard about the lawsuit, though, and called me. I met him at Caesar's Palace, where a reporter gave me a copy of the moving papers. Black Hat's PR person told me that Cisco and ISS were suing Black Hat and Lynn, and that they'd scheduled an ex parte hearing before Judge White in San Francisco for the next morning at 8:30 a.m. to ask for a temporary restraining order.
Now I had to decide whether I was interested in the case. I took the papers back to my room to read, and told Mike not to talk directly to opposing counsel. If they called him, he should tell them to call me. This is just habit that I can't break. As a criminal defense attorney, you never let opposing counsel get anywhere near your client. Even though Mike wasn't my client, and this wasn't my case, and it wasn't criminal, it was reflex to protect him at all costs from the prying questions of an opponent. Sure enough, the attorney for ISS and Cisco, Andrew Valentine, called Mike, and then called me.
Valentine is a pretty pleasant, reasonable person for someone who's sued someone I like very much. We started talking about the case, and I was asking what exactly he was claiming that Lynn had done wrong. It appeared to be three things. First, ISS was claiming copyright in the presentation that Mike had given on Wednesday morning. Second, Cisco was claiming copyright in the decompiled machine code that Mike obtained from the Cisco binaries and had included in his slides. And finally, Cisco was claiming trade secret in the information Mike had obtained by decompiling and studying Cisco source code. The complaint (.pdf) also alleged that Mike had breached his nondisclosure agreement with ISS.
I didn't and don't think much of the legal case, and I'll explain why in the next installment. But every attorney knows that an opponent's weak legal case is first and foremost an opportunity to get a good settlement. No party wants to litigate against a rich corporation if they don't have to. It's a different story for the lawyers, though. For me, no matter how much I care about the client, it's a job that I enjoy. I like to litigate a case if the issues are interesting and these definitely are. But the client comes first, so I asked Valentine what his clients really wanted out of all of this. We parsed and narrowed, and came to a point where I thought we might be able to cut a deal. I told him I'd talk to Lynn and Black Hat and get back to him one way or another.
When I first talked to Valentine, I wasn't even sure I wanted to be involved in the case, but as I read the temporary restraining order papers, I became really interested in the legal issues that the suit raised.
You'll remember that ISS claimed copyright in the slides Mike used on Wednesday morning. I hadn't seen the original ISS slides, but I imagined that they looked different but had similar bullet points or words. This wasn't very interesting to me. I would argue that the bullet points were unoriginal and not deserving of much copyright protection, or that it was fair use, or that Mike jointly retained the copyright with ISS, but none of this is particularly fun. The second copyright claim was Cisco's in the decompiled code. Certainly Cisco has copyright in the source code, and I suppose in the binary, too, and therefore it probably has copyright in the machine code as well. But Mike only used little edited snippets of the machine code to illustrate his points about how he found the IOS vulnerability and why it existed. This was classic fair use, something important to defend, but only kind of fun, if only because it was so damn obviously permissible.
The more interesting claim was the trade secret claim. They were suing under California's trade secret law. California has adopted the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which is relatively broad. It prohibits the misappropriation of trade secrets.
A trade secret is information that:
(1) derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to the public or to other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and (2) is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
So the first question is, what's the secret? The complaint says that Lynn had Cisco source code, but he didn't. He had the binary code. The binary isn't secret, since Cisco sells it. Is the decompiled code secret? Is it the fact that there's a vulnerability? Would the law allow a product flaw to be a protected trade secret? I've had lawyers argue it to me, but I can't believe that any court would think that's a good idea. Imagine if we did that with cars. The fact that it blows up if someone rear ends you is a protected secret, because people wouldn't buy the cars if they had that information? I'm not sure there's anything here of Cisco's that the law would protect.
The second question is, even if there is some kind of trade secret, did Mike misappropriate it. Misappropriation means acquisition by improper means, or disclosure without consent by a person who used improper means to acquire the knowledge. The law specifically says that reverse engineering (decompiling) is proper, not improper, means.
As used in this title, unless the context requires otherwise: (a) "Improper means" includes theft, bribery, misrepresentation, breach or inducement of a breach of a duty to maintain secrecy, or espionage through electronic or other means. Reverse engineering or independent derivation alone shall not be considered improper means.
So then the question is, did Mike use reverse engineering or independent derivation alone? It seemed that Cisco was claiming that Mike's actions were improper because he violated the End User License Agreement, which prohibited reverse engineering. So now I was having fun. I'm totally interested in EULAs and the circumstances under which they take away public rights that are otherwise guaranteed us. Usually, a breach of contract is no big deal. But increasingly in the tech field, we're seeing big penalties for what's essentially a contract violation. Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if you exceed your authorization to access a computer, you've committed a crime. Cases have said you exceed authorization when you breach a EULA, terms of service or employment contract. Other cases have said that EULAs can waive fair-use rights and other rights guaranteed under copyright law. Lynn's case presented the question of whether EULAs could subvert the legislature's express desire to allow people to reverse-engineer trade secrets.
I decided to get involved in the case. There were lots of ways to argue the case. I could say that the EULA wasn't enforceable. I could say that if Lynn violated the EULA, it was only at the behest of plaintiff ISS, and I could cross-claim for indemnification. But my best legal argument was that violation of an End User License Agreement is not a trade secret violation. "Improper means" includes a breach of a duty to maintain secrecy. But the EULA did not impose a duty to maintain secrecy. It was merely a promise not to reverse-engineer. A violation of that promise is a violation of contract, but not an improper means of discovering a trade secret.
There was the possibility that Mike had information that was secret as to ISS and that he had promised to keep secret under his employment agreement or NDA. But the complaint didn't identify any ISS trade secrets, and Mike hadn't disclosed any ISS information other than whatever was in the presentation, so this was a great legal argument.
Fortunately for Mike, I never got to make it to a judge, because we were able to settle the case within 24 hours. A lot of people have asked what the basis was for the injunction that the court entered, or why the court entered an injunction, or why Mike can't give out the slides from his presentation, and the answer to each question is the same. We agreed to an injunction to settle the case, and the reason we settled the case is because all Mike has to do is stuff he's mostly willing to do anyway, and Cisco and ISS will dismiss the lawsuit. At the point that you get sued, or even charged with a crime, it matters less what actually happened and whether you did something wrong and more what it takes to get out of the case as unscathed as possible. It's sad, but true, that our legal system can often be more strategy than justice.
Though I wanted to fight the case, as a good advocate, I had to explore the possibility of settling it as well. (And I definitely didn't want to have to fly back to San Francisco for a court hearing the next morning!) Valentine, the Cisco/ISS lawyer, was pretty reasonable, and able to clearly state what exactly it was that his clients wanted, at least at that time of day. I went back to Lynn and Black Hat with his proposal and could see that we were close to an agreement. I called Valentine and told him, and he sent me bullet points representing the essence of our agreement. It was 1:30 a.m. I e-mailed back some comments, but we basically had a deal. Then the Black Hat people and I double-checked that the impounded official video of Lynn's presentation was safe and sound, and I went to bed.
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. because the Black Hat lawyer and I were supposed to meet at 6 a.m. to get a copy of the settlement agreement that Valentine had courageously stayed up all night writing. We were hoping to get it signed before the 8:30 a.m. court hearing that day. Now, Valentine is licensed to practice in California and his bar number is close to mine, so we were admitted about the same year, and I imagine he's about my age, maybe a little older. At our age, staying up all night really sucks. For those of you in your 20s who are reading this, stay up all night now as much as you can before you lose the knack.
By the time Valentine sent it to us, he was pretty raw, I'm sure. Not thinking, I redlined his proposal pretty heavily and sent it back to him with a breezy note. He was getting ready to leave for the court hearing, and I think my redlines might have broken his usually reasonable brain. His position basically went from "we're close to a deal," to "forget this, we have no deal and I've got court to go to." I was seriously disconcerted. If I was going to have a temporary restraining order hearing, I would have at least written a brief, and maybe even have showed up in San Francisco. I reminded Valentine that we'd agreed that if we were close, we'd postpone the hearing, and we were definitely close. He said he'd have to talk to his clients and he'd get back to me.
So there I was, sitting with Mike on the Black Hat conference floor, unable to check my e-mail because you hackers sniff my password and lock me out of my own account, doing Lexis searches and waiting for word of whether we'd be arguing against a temporary restraining order in 30 minutes, or knocking out a deal. Luckily, there were bagels.
After chilling out during his long drive, Valentine was true to his word, and his clients were willing to talk about a deal. We frantically scrambled to make the speaker phone in the hotel connect audibly to the conference phones in the courtroom, then told the judge that with a little talking, we might be able to settle the case in its entirety. Judges love that. So the Cisco/ISS team, which was about six people, retired to the attorney conference room in the lounge upstairs in the Federal Building, the Black Hat lawyer, Mike Lynn and I settled into the Black Hat suite at Caesar's Palace, and we got to work.
Our basic agreement was that if Lynn and Black Hat agreed not to disseminate the presentation, the video or the decompiled code any further, and Lynn agreed not to disseminate any of the stuff he worked on while at ISS at all, then Cisco and ISS would drop the case. Everyone was cool with this. But if you've ever negotiated something, you know it is painstaking work. Even if you generally agree, you have to imagine everything that you might want and everything that you want to avoid. Then you have to draft language that describes clearly and precisely exactly that and no more, while still agreeing.
We had a couple of bullet points at 1:30 a.m. the night before, but once you got all the lawyers together, everyone was able to think about other terms and conditions that might be nice to have, as well as things that might theoretically happen that should be prohibited. Its kind of a code among lawyers that what's said in settlement negotiations doesn't get blabbed around. When working things out for our clients, lawyers sometimes take unofficial positions to see how it sounds, or think out loud, or act more rabidly than we really feel, staking out a position from which we can come down.
So I'm going to try to keep to the code but still point out a few things about the agreement process. Overall, the lawyers in the conference were relatively reasonable, under the circumstances, especially since there wasn't inherently a lot of trust between the two sides. If you read the settlement agreement, you can reverse-engineer the issues with which each side was concerned.
For example, ISS and Cisco insisted on stipulating between themselves that they had prepared an alternative presentation "designed to discuss internet security, including the flaw which Lynn had identified, but without revealing Cisco code or pointers which might help enable third parties to exploit the flaw, but were informed they would not be allowed to present that presentation at the conference." We insisted that the agreement specifically state that Lynn was not precluded from lawful discussions of internet security using materials lawfully obtained. Probably the most hotly debated provision was paragraph 9, where we all agreed that ISS and Cisco should be able to reassure themselves that at the end of this matter, Lynn would not retain any materials to which he wasn't entitled, and we all agreed that Lynn and others had privacy rights that should be honored, so we had to work out a process that would respect both concerns.
We worked almost nonstop from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., running on caffeine and cold bagels. Some lawyers were great with punctuation, some with grammar. I personally spent five whole minutes convincing everyone to change a "which" to a "whether." Sigh. At a certain point, you can lose sight of the forest because of all the trees. We had delays exchanging versions of the settlement documents because the Black Hat lawyer didn't have a laptop with him, and I kept getting my password sniffed and locked out of my e-mail account whenever I would use the wireless. (Did I mention how annoying this is? Oh, well. Live by the sword, die by the sword.)
But by the afternoon we had something everyone agreed upon. As we were wrapping up, one of the opposing lawyers asked me if I was happy. "Happiness is a relative term," I responded, "and I'm relatively happy." That afternoon we reconvened in court (the Vegas team by telephone) to file the document with the judge. The judge entered the stipulated injunction immediately, Cisco and ISS promised to dismiss the case once and for all when we complied with the terms, and Team Vegas breathed a sigh of relief and made a date to drink expensive champagne together that very evening.
Meanwhile, my parents retired to Vegas and I went off to have dinner with my mom and sister, and do some shopping in the Forum Shops. (The Granicks are from New Jersey.) It was Thursday at 6 p.m., and we were sitting at the Chinese place there, and my mother and I had just ordered a gigantic two-person Mai Tai. (Photo to be posted soon. Check back.) I was pix-messaging a phone photo of us drinking it to my father when the phone rang in my hand. The message was that there were two FBI agents looking for me and asking questions about Mike's presentation, that they were wandering around the floor of the Black Hat conference, that they were wearing suits and couldn't be missed, and that they "just wanted to talk." "Fuck that," I advised. Always judicious when dealing with law enforcement, I excused myself from my family meal, and ran back to the convention center to see what was going on.
To be continued....
Friday, August 05, 2005 *
Robert Murray, police sergeant Robert Pierson, undercover investigator Frank Riggio, police detective Dwayne Oklepek, reporter William Frapolly, undercover investigator Irwin Bock, police officer
Sarah Diamant, teaching fellow Phil Ochs, folksinger Allen Ginsberg, poet Bobby Seale, defendant Dick Gregory, comedian Timothy Leary, psychologist and psychedelic drug expert Abbie Hoffman, defendant Richard Daley, mayor Arlo Guthrie, folksinger Ed Sanders, festival publicist Cora Weiss, co-chair of New Mobilization Committee Linda Morse, peace activist Judy Collins, folksinger Rennie Davis, defendant Norman Mailer, author Jesse Jackson, minister (Abernathy incident)
Prosecution Rebuttal Witnesses:
James Riordan, deputy chief of police ("barnyard epithet" incident) Barbara Lawyer, cocktail waitress (judicial robes incident)
Defense Summation: William Kuntsler Prosecution Summation: Thomas Foran
Yoshinori Watanabe shocked Japan's underworld late July with the announcement that he was standing down as the kumicho, or chairman, of the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's biggest yakuza syndicate, according to Asahi Geino (8/11).
Even more surprising than Watanabe's retirement after 16 years at the helm was the announcement of his replacement - Shinobu Tsukasa, a 63-year-old who was only appointed as the gang's wakagashira, or number 2 man, just two months ago following an eight-year hiatus when nobody had occupied the position.
Hundreds of yakuza gang bosses from across Japan went to the Yamaguchi-gumi's Kobe headquarters for the July 29 meeting as they were watched by scores of police and media representatives.
Watanabe, 64, announced his retirement in a statement read out by Saizo Kishimoto, general manager of the syndicate's headquarters.
"I've been kumicho for 16 years, but been sick for the past four years and can no longer fulfill my responsibilities, so I'm retiring," Asahi Geino quotes Kishimoto saying on Watanabe's behalf.
Apparently, the huge meeting room where the gang bosses sat in silence while the announcement was made, with the hush broken only when some broke down in tears.
Watanabe then stood up and addressed his underlings.
"Lots has happened over the past 16 years," Asahi Geino quotes Watanabe as saying. "I hope you'll stick by me from now on."
In the lead-up to the day of the announcement, most media reports cited ill health as the reason behind Watanabe's retirement. Though it's true the gang boss has been battling a wide variety of ailments and was briefly hospitalized a couple of years ago, it seems the real reason for Watanabe's withdrawal from the underworld lies in a different area.
In November last year, the Supreme Court ruled that Watanabe, as head of the syndicate, could be held liable in civil cases brought about because of crimes committed by members of the Yamaguchi-gumi. The ruling meant that anybody who sued the yakuza gang could also name Watanabe as a defendant and be entitled to claim compensation from him individually.
Watanabe responded to the ruling by announcing the following day that he was taking a sabbatical. Ever since then, the Yamaguchi-gumi had effectively been run by a council of its top leaders, the men's weekly says.
Watanabe was the first ever leader of the Yamaguchi-gumi to be alive when his successor assumed office. His rise to the top came just four years after he had been appointed wakagashira.
"Everyone said at the time it had been remarkably quick, but Tsukasa, the sixth leader of the gang, was only made wakagashira in May and, just two months later, is now at the very top," a reporter for a national daily tells Asahi Geino. "It's simply unheard of."
Meanwhile, Tsukasa, whose real name is Kenichi Shinoda, will probably be preparing his sakazuki naoshi. Sakazuki is the traditional exchange of sake toasts to mark an agreement in the yakuza world. The sakazuki naoshi is the first time a yakuza boss formally shares a cup of rice wine with the gang bosses who fall under the organization umbrella. The exact date of Tsukasa's sakazuki naoshi remains unknown, but most observers have penciled in late September as a likely time.
Hanging over Tsukasa's head, though, is a possible jail term. The Osaka High Court has already ordered him to serve a 6-year sentence for allowing his bodyguard to be illegally armed with a pistol. Tsukasa has appealed the ruling, but if the Supreme Court backs the earlier ruling, the newly minted gang boss has no further course of appeal and will have to go behind bars, possibly throwing the Yamaguchi-gumi into turmoil.
Retirement for Watanabe means a shift in many areas for him, not the least of which will be a new home. He currently lives in part of the Yamaguchi-gumi headquarters in Kobe's Nada-ku. Although he will remain connected to the gang by acting as an adviser, he won't be involved in the day-to-day running of the Yamaguchi-gumi.
"They've already built a house for him owned by a company affiliated with the Yamaguchi-gumi," a gang insider tells Asahi Geino. "It's up in the (quiet) slopes of Mount Rokko." (By Ryann Connell)
August 5, 2005
AUGUST 3--Days before Private James Marshall Hendrix (Jimi to his friends) was officially drummed out of the military, Army brass delivered withering assessments of the 19-year-old soldier. Hendrix, Captain Gilbert Batchman reported, slept on the job, had little regard for regulations, and was once "apprehended masturbating" in the latrine. Sergeant Louis Hoekstra noted that Hendrix was a "habitual offender" when it came to missing midnight bed checks and that the Seattle teenager was unable to "carry on an intelligent conversation." Hoekstra added that Hendrix, who was once suspected of "taking dope," played a musical instrument while off-duty, "or so he says. This is one of his faults, because his mind apparently cannot function while performing duties and thinking about his guitar." Those are just two of the gems contained in the late rock star's nearly 100-page Army file, which TSG obtained from the Military Personnel Records center in St. Louis. You'll find highlights from the file on the following 18 pages. The documents track Hendrix's messy 13 months in the Army, beginning with his May 1961 three-year enlistment, which came with his assurance that he wasn't a Commie and a handwritten explanation about a juvenile burglary arrest. Hendrix, records show, was a terrible marksman and a recidivist truant. Weeks after ordering a physical and psychiatric examination of Hendrix (who was attached to the 101st Airborne Support Group in Fort Campbell, Kentucky), Capt. Batchman sought to discharge a soldier who was an "extreme intravert" and whose many problems were not treatable by "hospitalization and or counseling." Included in the Army's discharge request were various statements from fellow soldiers, all of whom thought Hendrix deserved to be bounced. James Mattox, for example, recalled an April 1961 incident in which he, Hendrix, and four other soldiers were assigned to wash a ceiling. When Hendrix, who occasionally napped during the cleaning assignment, disappeared at one point, Mattox went looking for him. He quickly found Hendrix in the latrine, where he was "sitting in the last commode. I thought he was sitting there sleeping so I stood on the stool in the commode next to his and...there sat Hendrix masturbating himself." For his part, Hendrix--who apparently hated life as an enlisted man--did not challenge the discharge request, according to a signed statement. At the time of his expulsion, Hendrix was allowed to leave the military with some parting gifts, including some Army-issued clothing. He also benefited from frequent dental care at Fort Campbell and California's Fort Ord, which probably made it easier for him to subsequently play that black Stratocaster with his teeth. (18 pages)
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September 12, 2003
WORLD MEDIA WATCH
BARBARA'S DAILY BUZZ
THE ANGRY LIBERAL
Robert Baer, Former CIA Case Officer and Author of "Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude."
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
Think About This: Whenever You Buy a Tank of Saudi Arabian Gas, You are Helping to Finance Terrorism.
Regular BuzzFlash readers know that we have regularly run articles, commentaries and editorials arguing that, in part, the invasion of Iraq was a Bush administration effort to divert attention from the primary financiers of terrorism -- and the source of much of the al-Qaeda leadership -- Saudi Arabia. Of course, there were other motivating factors for the Bush military action against Iraq, which we have detailed (see, as examples, The Perfect War and Endgame).
But a recent poll indicates that the American public still believes Iraq was behind 9/11, even though bin Laden received Saudi, not Iraq financing, and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. The Bush administration kept -- and keeps -- insinuating that Iraq was involved deeply in 9/11, while trying to sweep under the carpet much, much stronger indications of key Saudi involvement in the financing, strategy and implementation of 9/11. As a result, they have successfully misled Americans about who was really responsible for 9/11.
It is within this context that we interviewed Robert Baer, a case officer for the Directorate of Operations for the Central Intelligence Agency from 1976 to 1997. He worked out of the Middle East.
You may, like BuzzFlash, not agree with all of Baer's remedies, but his insights are invaluable. And, like BuzzFlash, he believes that the Bush administration is letting the country that is the largest financial and religious sect supporter of terrorism get away with it, while attacking Iraq, which only had the most tangential involvement with terrorism.
His book, "Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude," adds to a growing list of evidence that the Bush administration is conducting a war on terror that is politically calculated.
(You can purchase "Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude" Here)
* * *
BUZZFLASH: Let me begin by asking you, just to establish your background, you wrote a book called See No Evil, in which you talked about your career with the CIA. Can you explain a little bit more about what your background and areas of responsibility were with the CIA?
ROBERT BAER: I spent 21 years in the CIA as what’s called a case officer. That means that I went overseas and served overseas almost all the years I spent with the CIA, meeting with what we call agents. Those are foreigners who spy for the CIA. And you write up their reports and send them back to Washington. So I was a field officer, in short.
BUZZFLASH: In what area? You did serve in Iraq, if I recall, in reading your book.
BAER: I served in Iraq for awhile. A couple times I was there on a temporary basis. I was mostly in the Middle East – Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Bosnia as well as a couple of other countries.
BUZZFLASH: So you have extensive experience with the Middle East.
BUZZFLASH: As a gatherer of what is called "human intelligence."
BUZZFLASH: Now in reading through the book we’re going to discuss, Sleeping With the Devil, I noticed there are many thick black bars through it that I assumed were censored by the CIA. Is that correct?
BAER: Yes. They get the manuscript in advance of publishing.
BUZZFLASH: So the CIA basically vets it and approves it, minus whatever they feel is necessary to black out or censor.
BAER: Yes, they don’t mess with the content. They just say: Listen, this is our stuff. You can’t publish it.
BUZZFLASH: The book’s full title is Sleeping With the Devil – How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, and you cover several administrations. The claims you make here seem to apply, for the most part, whether they’re Democrat or Republican. And you, of course, focus on Saudi Arabia. What compelled you to write the book?
BAER: I’d always been fascinated by Saudi Arabia. And I’d always noticed that on general intelligence reports that are sent around in the field, and in Washington, there’s virtually nothing said about Saudi Arabia. Every Arab that I talked to – and I know a lot of them – kept on talking about the disputes in the royal family, huge contracts, the Wahhabi's funding Lebanese politics. It became clear to me, even though I wasn’t seeing much in the CIA traffic, or State Department, or anywhere else, that this was a key country.
So when I got back to Washington in ’95 – and I stayed there until I resigned from the CIA – I said, all right, I don’t know a whole lot about Saudi Arabia. What about Saudi Arabia? And I got onto the computer and I took a look around, and there just wasn’t anything useful. I mean, you, as a journalist, would have looked at this and said: It’s junk. There’s nothing here. And especially nothing that goes deep into the problems in Saudi Arabia.
At the same time, I started running into these assessments of the oil industry, and just how much damage you could do to the processing facilities, not the pipelines, if you were a terrorist and wanted to bring the Saudis down. And then 9/11 came along, and the 15 Saudis that caused it. So I took notes about everything that I’d ever learned about Saudi Arabia and the government. And I said, this would make a book. I asked myself: Why don’t we know more about a country that’s so vital to the United States? And this is my effort at explaining that. You’d get a different perspective if you asked James Baker about it or an academic. But this is the continuation of my memoir, my gut reaction.
BUZZFLASH: We were told, after the Afghanistan war, that indulging in drugs is supporting terrorism. But you also make the claim: Every time we buy a gallon of gasoline, if the petrol came from Saudi Arabia, the oil was used for the gasoline. So we’re also supporting terrorism.
BAER: Well, it is. In the first Gulf war, if Saudi Arabia hadn’t been there to pump the extra gasoline, and if we had let oil hit $80 or $90 a barrel for a long period of time, people wouldn’t have been buying all these SUVs in the ‘90s. I mean, Saudi Arabia really does balance the market out. I’m in California right now, and we use a lot of gasoline. As you drive around this town, it’s amazing all the SUVs and four-wheel drives that you see.
In any case, we just use a lot of gasoline, and we depend upon it, just as we depend upon cheap imports from East Asia, from China. All these cheap imports and cheap gasoline, and wood from Brazil, it becomes a dependency. These aren’t my ideas. I talk to a lot of people about the drug problem, and they say, well, with dependency, your perceptions change. And I think the best I can tell is that’s what has happened. It's as if Saudi Arabia is our boss and is paying us a good salary. It would be difficult to find another job, so we're not going to really worry about focusing on what our boss is really doing. We're too dependent.
BUZZFLASH: So that’s the basis of your claim that through our dependence on Saudi oil, we’re, in essence, financing terrorism – because you do say in your book that, over the past decade, Saudi Arabia has transferred half a billion dollars to Al-Qaeda, and at least a hundred million dollars to the Taliban.
BAER: Exactly. And it’s obviously not intentional on the part of consumers; there’s no conspiracy in this on this side of the ocean. People in Washington didn’t sit around and say, let's finance terrorism. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s this process of what I call slow accrual.
BUZZFLASH: Why do the Saudis finance terrorism? From reading your book and elsewhere, we deduce that there are probably two reasons. One is that they’re paying protection money. You set up the scenario, as you discussed earlier, that if they didn’t buy off al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, they might be the target of a plane that’s hijacked into their oil processing plants, and that would ruin them for years. The second reason is that the Saudis practice what we would view in America as a fundamentalist branch of the Islamic faith that actually becomes a breeding ground for terrorism.
BAER: There's a lot that we really don’t know. There are a lot of people in the royal family that sympathize with bin Laden. There are people in the royal family that feel humiliated by colonialism -- call it what you want -- by the United States, by Israel. And they’re humiliated that they are citizens or subjects of a country that has never fought a war, and yet spends so much money on defense. They’re humiliated that they don’t take the Israelis on, because their army is worthless. And maybe they’re not humiliated but rather disenfranchised because they can never advance up the ranks of the family, and it’s a very tough culture. They sit around and they read the Koran. And they get on these Islamic websites, and they watch Al-Jazeera. And they go to the mosque, and I think they’re believers.
You've got a very fragmented Saudi society. I can only identify a couple of those princes. There’s a senior one named Salman, whom I mention in the book, who had some sort of late conversion. But there are other ones. You hear rumors about them, and I didn’t dare put them in the book, because I’m not sure of the information. Then there are the other princes who are Westernized in the sense of their tastes: They drink, they like women, they like to spend a lot of money. They have the diamond-studded Rolex watches. They just love money for the power it gives them over other subjects. And they know they have a problem with the fundamentalists. They figure, if I can make gestures toward them, they won’t bother me. And the fundamentalists haven’t, for the most part.
If I were a fundamentalist and I wanted to take Saudi Arabia over, what I would do is I’d go after the royal family. I would set off a few car bombs and kill a couple of them. Destabilize the country. But for some reason, the royal family has not been the victim of terrorism that they claim they have been. You cannot name a single case where the fundamentalists killed a Saudi prince. They claim all the time that there are all these plots afoot, and they’ve stopped them. But all the terrorism has really been against the United States and other Western countries, or Western interests in Saudi Arabia.
That ’95 National Guard barracks bombing within Saudi Arabia – we don’t really know who did that. Could have been bin Laden. And you have the ’96 Kobar barracks bombing. There are a lot of people who say that bin Laden was involved in the ’96 bombing, though there’s no proof of it.
That brings me to the State Department. You’ve got ’95, ’96, and ’98 bombings that had a bunch of Saudis. The bombings in Africa [U.S. Embassy in Kenya] and the Cole [U.S.S. Cole] had a bunch of Saudis involved. And we were hit September 2001, and we still don’t have visa interviews for these people. How can you explain that? If you’re a Syrian, you have to wait 30 days. If you’re an Iranian, you have to wait 30 days before you get your visa. In Saudi Arabia, you just send your passport to the travel agent. It comes back, without an interview, without any sort of check, and you get a visa. And that’s what disturbs me.
BUZZFLASH: And of course, 15 of the 19 hijackers of 9/11 were Saudi.
BAER: The Saudi hijackers were spending time in these mosques paid for by the Saudi government. The clerics are essentially government employees that recruited these kids. I know why Americans don’t have time to think about the Middle East. It’s a very complicated place. I certainly don’t understand it all that well, but I’ve spent 25 years now doing nothing but trying to figure it out.
BUZZFLASH: You also mentioned how intertwined business relationships are with Saudi Arabia. Another point you bring out is that the Saudi Arabians keep possibly as much as a trillion dollars on deposit in U.S. banks. So how does that factor in?
BAER: Well, Kissinger set this up in the first oil embargo. He said, listen, fine, you can raise the price of oil. You’re going to get more money for your oil. But let’s be reasonable about this. Take this money and all this profit you’re making, and invest it in the United States, which is a perfectly good policy, by the way. Buy our arms. Keep your money here. It’ll keep our economy floating. We won’t go into a recession or a depression because of high oil prices. And we’re all going to win by this. And that worked fine.
But then that goes back to the dependency. We depend so much on Saudi investments in the stock market, in Citibank and other funds. This is not just Saudi money; it’s other Arab money too. If we go into a confrontation with the Middle East, especially with oil prices so high right now, and that money is not recirculated back in the United States, it’s going to do some real damage. Or if one day, they just completely pull their money out. I mean, that’s the perfect storm: an oil embargo, the Saudis and others' pulling their money out, and having the price of oil go up to $70 - $80 a barrel. We would be hurt, badly hurt.
BUZZFLASH: Another factor in terms of the relationship that you’ve described as sleeping with the devil, and that you detail in your book, is that the Saudis have very shrewdly given jobs and consulting contracts to politicians and American government officials as they leave their government jobs.
BAER: I could have sat down and done a list of all my former colleagues from the CIA who ended up on the Saudi Arabian payroll. Some of them are known, like Ray Close. Others have gone public, but there are others that haven’t. A bunch of my colleagues went to work for a public consulting firm where the initial capital was paid for by the Saudi embassy to lobby the Hill for the Gulf countries. A former member of the National Security Council under Reagan set this up. And it’s not like it’s a secret. Even Bandar [Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi prince and U.S. ambassador] has said, according to the Washington Post, that if I take care of people coming out of office, the new ones coming in are going to be a lot friendlier to Saudi Arabia once it gets known.
BUZZFLASH: And it’s worked.
BAER: It works great. I’d be really popular in Washington if I could throw around a couple hundred million dollars every year to law firms and others. Another thing the royal family does is cultivate the press through public relations firms.
By the way, I just heard today The New York Times refused to review my book.
BUZZFLASH: Is that right? And you have no idea why?
BAER: Maybe they didn’t like my English. Maybe they didn’t like that I mentioned one of their reporters in it. I don’t know.
BUZZFLASH: What about the Wahhabi sect of Islam that’s practiced in Saudi Arabia?
BAER: It is absolutely susceptible to terrorism because its world view is so black and white and Utopian at the same time. Many Saudis are disgusted with their own lifestyles now, and they look back to the 18th Century with Abd-al-Wahhab. And they say things were better back then when we lived out in the desert. Saudis have told me, we’ll keep the oil in the ground. You can keep your weapons. We’re going to go back and we’re going to live in the desert off of camel’s milk and dates, because that’s when life was pure. In the times of Muhammad, we were honorable people, and we were warriors, and we were in control of our own destiny.
So with that kind of mentality, it’s very easy to recruit young kids, whether they’re men or women. In Saudi Arabia, it’s mainly the young boys. And when the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a violent political Islamic faction, left Egypt and set up in Saudi Arabia, they had a lot of influence on the Saudis.
This combination of a Utopian view of the world, plus the Muslim Brothers' advocacy of violence, have made people susceptible to suicide bombing. And it’s a little bit different from the Palestinians who live in refugee camps, and who have been disenfranchised completely. The Saudis are more privileged, of course. The best that I can tell, it’s just this combination that has been so lethal.
BUZZFLASH: Well, what then are we doing? Is Saudi Arabia continuing to finance Al-Qaeda?
BAER: I think they are. I think they’re going to continue to finance Hamas. Smart people in the Middle East tell me that there are a lot of Saudis heading into Iraq right now to set up cells to attack American troops. There was an article recently about it – I think it was in the Christian Science Monitor. And Bremer has even said it. What to do? I offer one solution, which is Syria, 1982, where they confronted a fundamentalist problem. And I’ve been criticized by people that say that you can’t shell cities like Asad did in ’82.
BUZZFLASH: Well, he just wiped the town out, didn’t he?
BAER: Yes. And that’s not what I’m advocating. I’m just saying that one solution is to outlaw this sort of fundamentalism at the state level, as we would. For example, a Christian sect in the United States could not go into a church and advocate and preach violence, which results in violence. That would be a conspiracy and it's against the law. If those same norms and laws were applied to these countries, we’d be a lot better off. And so I take Syria as an example of a country who had a terrible problem, and who pretty much solved it. This doesn’t address the question of Syria's support for Hesbollah – the kidnappings in the ‘80s and the terrorism that went on outside Syria. But inside Syria, I just wanted to point out that it is possible to do something about it.
We need the Saudis to get in that same position where they need to be removing these clerics from the mosque who are advocating righteous murder. We need to get the Saudis to account for the money that’s going to the charities, to make sure it’s going to orphans and widows and not weapons. And we need them as partners. And we have to hold them accountable. They have to tell us who these Saudis were that were apparently involved in September 11.
BUZZFLASH: Well, according to numerous accounts, although it’s hard to tell how extensive, the Saudis were allowed to fly members of the royal family and others out of the United States immediately after September 11th without questioning, on private Saudi jets. I believe I read one account of a security guard, a retired police officer in Florida, who was asked to accompany a member of a scion of a Saudi family who was at a university in Florida to Lexington, Kentucky, which I believe was a meeting point for many of the departing planes. [BuzzFlash Note: Since this interview was conducted in August, the issue of the Bush administration allowing bin Laden and Saudi families to leave the U.S. without questioning, within hours after 9/11 when U.S. airspace was closed, has been confirmed.]
BUZZFLASH: One of the Florida papers, a mainstream daily, recounted this police officer's experience, and how he arrived on the tarmac in Lexington, and there was a whole fleet of Saudi jets there.
BAER: It’s crazy. There's a Syrian who's been convicted in Chicago and he has a Saudi wife. The Saudi embassy issued her a passport so was able to flee the U.S.; even though she was part of the case and shouldn’t have left. And the Saudis didn't really let us question Bayyumi [Bayyumi had showed up in San Diego with thousands of dollars and helped settle two Saudi 9/11 hijackers] But it was a controlled interrogation. You don’t get anything out of that.
BUZZFLASH: And it took awhile to arrange that.
BAER: Two years -- a guy that had met two of the hijackers and helped finance their stay!
BUZZFLASH: And wasn’t Bayyumi the guy that the wife of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. sent money to?
BAER: The wife of the Saudi ambassador claimed that she gave the money to charities. As it turned out, the money was going into an account under a Jordanian woman's name. And the Jordanians and the Saudis despise each other. The chances of a Saudi princess sending money to a Jordanian woman without somebody's recommendation are highly improbable. But we don't know who made the recommendation, because we’re not getting the answers. We’re not holding Saudi Arabia accountable.
BUZZFLASH: Well, given that Saudi Arabia has 25 percent of the world’s oil reserves? Is that right?
BUZZFLASH: And given that they have on deposit nearly a trillion dollars in the United States, and given all the intermingled business relationships, and the fact that they buy planes from Boeing, and the Carlyle Group is intertwined with them, what pressure could be put on them? What leverage does the United States have to actually get them to really crack down on the terrorist roots of many of the acts of terrorism?
BAER: Well, you hit the nail on the head. We don’t have a lot of pressure points because we’re so dependent on this oil. You could get rough with these people, but the problem is: Would the regime fall? As much as I despise Al Sa'ud, I wouldn’t want the regime to fall, for our benefit. It could lead to chaos. And I think that’s the problem Bush has: What do you do with these people that are clearly hiding something from 9/11, and have just said we’re not going to cooperate?
The Interior Minister said that 9/11 is a Zionist conspiracy. He said the Saudis had nothing to do with it. He stiffed Freeh [Louis Freeh, former FBI director] when he went out there in ’96 – just refused to see him. I don’t care what Freeh says now. He refused to see him, and no one did anything. The Saudis, and their arrogance, have gotten away with this for a long time because they think they have enough money to buy people off. Their attitude is: You don’t want to buy our oil, don’t buy it. We’ll sell someplace else. And what would happen if they did impose another embargo? Do we invade? I offer that possibility at the end of my book, but that’s if nothing else works. If the place is ready to go down, you have to consider it.
It wouldn't be an Iraq-like invasion with the stated goal of imposing democracy. An invasion of Saudi Arabia would be to save our economy.
BUZZFLASH: You’re very skeptical in your book on the possibility of imposing democracy in the Middle East.
BAER: I look at Iraq today. Yesterday, you had the Turkmen killing the Kurds. You had the Shi'a Muslims blowing each other up in Najef. I wouldn't even know where to begin to impose democracy on these countries. In order for a democracy to be established in a country, there has to be an intellectual tradition of democracy within the country. There needs to be some prior rule of law. For example, the Weimar Republic had a democratic rule of law in the ‘30s that laid the foundation for the post-World War II occupation. And the Russians had sort of a democracy in the early 1900's even though they’re not doing very well now.
It’s really hard to get people in countries like Iraq to understand what you’re talking about [when you talk about democracy], when they’re so tied up in religion and the rule of God. In Saudi Arabia, the rule of law is whatever the prince that comes along says; that's the system of justice. I think we can offer by example democracy in adjoining countries, but at the end of the day, we really can’t impose it.
BUZZFLASH: Also, you point out that if you offered democracy, the fundamentalists might win.
BAER: I’ve seen conversations we’ve had with the Saudi government – why they didn’t want to arrest bin Laden in ’96. They were very frank. They said: Listen, we can arrest this guy and put him in jail. There would be a national uprising in support of him.
So, I think that Iraq should find its own way to democracy. We should set the example wherever we can. If the Palestinian-Israeli thing ever gets solved – it probably never will in our lifetime – there would be a sort of working democracy with the Palestinians or the Jordanians. Democracy has to be created from within the country; they just won’t accept it from the United States.
BUZZFLASH: You mentioned Asad earlier, and what he did to the Muslim Brotherhood – just annihilated the town that was the center for the uprising against him. Asad and Saddam Hussein were similar. Both were ruthless tyrants with comparatively secular versions of Islam in their countries. The Saudis were financing people who were actually opposed to Asad. There’s a kind of irony here. We overthrew a country that despite how cruel Saddam Hussein was, he was not one to aggressively foster terrorism within Iraq. And yet you have the Saudis, who are our closest friends and who do finance terrorism, as you point out, to the tune of a billion dollars over the last decade. It seems like everything’s upside down.
BAER: Well, I think it is. I think it’s pretty clear now that Saddam was not supporting bin Laden to any degree that we can establish. And now suddenly this week, we’ve got bin Laden claiming the U.N. bombing in Iraq. So we have created a terrorist state where we didn’t have one before. Are we worse off with the terrorist state in Iraq now, or with Saddam before, who was out of his mind and could attack a country like Saudi Arabia? Who knows what he was going to do next. We’re facing two evils here. I’m frankly more scared of the fundamentalists than I was of Saddam.
BUZZFLASH: Many commentators, including yourself, say the CIA over the years started to depend less on people like you and more on electronic intelligence and technology to do the spying. And yet you were the nitty-gritty human intelligence type of operative. You got to know the Middle East pretty well. Is there black and white there, or just shades of gray?
BAER: Shades of gray. You know, on the intelligence thing, you really need it all. You need the human intelligence. You need electronic intelligence. And you need good analysis. You need people that know the area and spend their lives following it. And you need satellite photography as well. So those are the four things you need. And then you need governments. You know, that’s really even a fifth thing. It’s very important. Other governments helping you on the ground – what we really need in Iraq is a government to tell us what’s happening there, which we’re lacking.
But the problem in the United States is we don’t do well with foreign countries. So many Americans came here and they just don’t want to know about what is happening in their home countries. I’m out here in California, and national security? -- they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to know anything about it. They want to know about the movies. They want to know about the dot-coms coming back. They want to know about the latest diet book. So when we get into a war like Iraq, I don’t really think Americans know what the potential consequences are. And it's the same in the CIA and the State Department. You get more and more Americans that don’t spend much time overseas – certainly not in the Middle East. It’s harder for them to go up the learning curve on these countries. It certainly was for me.
BUZZFLASH: You’re in a small group of people that has had much contact with the darker side of terrorism, and you’ve had personal relationships that gave you an insight. The motivations for terrorism are multi-faceted. But we’ve been constantly perplexed by what one does about suicide bombers. If you’ve got the people who participate in 9/11 or Palestinians who blow themselves up on Israeli buses, you can’t punish them. You have no leverage to say: If you do that, you’re going to lose your life, because the mission itself involves their commitment to lose their lives by their own will. How does one gain an edge on that? And is there any way psychologically to gain that? Or is it purely a military function?
BAER: I think it’s more political. I think that the sooner we stop interfering in the Middle East, the more likely we'll be able to exact a truce with terrorism.
By going into Afghanistan, that was really acceptable to most Muslims, because we’d been attacked. They understand that. But going into Iraq will certainly irritate more people and add credence to bin Laden-type ideologies and zealots. We have to get together with the Europeans and solve this Israeli-Palestinian deal. And if it’s building a wall between the Palestinians and the Israelis, fine – let’s do it. We need to identify a leadership among the Palestinians that speak for 90 percent of them, for instance, and get a settlement. Even if we need to buy it, it’s really important that we do that because they’ve got such rotten systems in the Middle East that all they’re really allowed to think about are the Palestinian problems.
They can’t complain against their own governments. They can’t overthrow them. They can’t go into elections. So the governments, whether they’re Saudi or Jordanian or Lebanese, focus on Israel as the main misery in their lives. Of course, what do Palestinians have to do with the Saudis? Nothing, other than they share a religion.
But we don’t care about the Christians in Rawanda as Christians. So it’s a little hard for Americans to understand this. And if we could remove that irritant of the Palestinian problem, that would be a start. We need to wean ourselves from Middle Eastern oil with alternative fuels, with conservation, with better use of our own fuels, however you do that – I’m not a specialist in that – and just get out of that system because it so corrosive.
We can’t do it with a military force. It’s really sad that our military is up against this guerilla warfare in Iraq. And if they become the subject of terrorists and car bombs, it’s unfortunate for us, because we’re going to do some damage to an institution that’s very important in the United States.
BUZZFLASH: Meaning the military.
BAER: Yes, and ultimately we can’t do it. We can’t expect some private from Indiana to be out in the streets of Baghdad collecting intelligence on who these people are, what they’re doing, or even making raids. Because they’re knocking down people’s doors, and they have no idea who they are. The information’s hard to come by in that country, and there are a lot of fabricators. And you’re asking these soldiers to be policemen, which they can’t do at the end of the day.
BUZZFLASH: Do you think the Saudi royal family and their role is in danger of imploding? Are they less secure, more secure, than they were 10 years ago? What’s the outlook for their rule?
BAER: I think they’re more insecure, and I’m basing this on anecdotal information. The Crown Prince, 10 days ago, I think it was, said that they’re in the middle of a decisive battle – and it wasn’t very clear what he meant – and that the outcome is unknown. For a Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia to acknowledge that the royal family or the government’s in a battle with its own citizens is unprecedented. It's never happened before. Even when Islamic Fundamentalists took over the Mecca mosque many years ago, it was never construed as a battle between the people and the royal family.
So for the first time, a Saudi leader has acknowledged they're having some real problems. I certainly would be reluctant to give you a timeline when they fall. There are so many factors involved. If they continue to get a lot of money for their oil, they can maintain the welfare system for a long time.
Another factor is going to be Iraq because there was a poll saying that a majority of Americans think we should get out of Iraq. If we get out of Iraq and leave a mess there, sort of like Somalia, will it spread to Saudi Arabia? It’s a big desert out there and they have a lot of weapons. Who knows? It’s the Middle East. Anything can happen there. And that’s what scares me. I wrote an editorial on Sunday for the Washington Post saying we can’t get out now. And I’m one that doesn’t particularly like foreign engagements. So I don’t know. These are worrying times.
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The former CIA officer was one of the key men operating inside Iraq during the aborted uprising in 1995.
At the time, he was one of the CIA operatives who encouraged an uprising from within the country. The US of course didn't step in to help the revolution and it was brutally crushed.
Baer is a man with considerable intelligence experience and real experience of the Middle East.
Robert Baer on operation He worked for the CIA's Directorate of Operations for more than two decades and spent most of his career in the Middle East, with postings in Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq as well as Tajikistan, India and Europe.
He is also an Arabic speaker he was considered one of the best on the ground field officers in the Middle East.
He claimed the CIA was not listening, and criticised the organisation for not listening to early intelligence warnings about the September 11 attacks.
Baer added: "They'd made up their mind before 11 September that no terrorism was going to reach US shores and in 1993 the first World Trade Centre bombing was an accident, people got lucky and we don't have to worry about it."
He has also published a book about his time within the CIA. The memoirs are entitled See No Evil: The True Story Of A Ground Soldier In The CIA's War Against Terrorism.
... Maybe you could paint me a political picture of Lebanon in the 1980s, when you first got there. What was happening?
When I first went to Lebanon, it was in December 1982. A seminal event had occurred about six months before I got there, and that was the kidnapping of three Iranian diplomats, the charge d'affaires, and a Lebanese translator. They were murdered and they were buried in a Lebanese forces parking lot -- that's the Christian Lebanese forces -- in a part of Beirut. What we didn't realize as Americans, because we didn't understand Iran, is we were going to get blamed for that kidnapping.
The way it went down is the Iranians assumed, since the Lebanese Christian forces were our allies and the allies of Israel, that we had to be responsible for those kidnappings and the murders later. ... Even though we knew nothing about it -- the CIA didn't know about it, American government didn't know about it, we ourselves were asking what happened to these people -- for the Iranians, it was a key event which for them broke the contract.
So they started kidnapping, and shortly after that they kidnapped David Dodge, the acting president of the American University of Beirut and took him to Tehran. They got caught. We found out about it. We went to the Syrians; the Syrians forced his release. After [Dodge] was released, the Iranians then arranged to use surrogates in order to have plausible denial. ... They used the Hezbollah, a group in Hezbollah, to kidnap hostages.
Why do you think the Iranians were taken and killed?
Maybe it was for robbery. We don't know. We're not sure. ...
Robert Baer was a CIA case officer in the Directorate of Operations from 1976 to 1997, where he served in Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Lebanon. He is the author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism (Crown Publishers, 2002). Here, Baer says that there is evidence linking Iran to attacks on American interests, including the Khobar Towers bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, that killed 19 U.S. soldiers in 1996. He says that Iran has been mishandled by U.S. diplomats since the 1980s and that American foreign policy regarding the Islamic Republic is based on myths and misinformation. Baer was interviewed by FRONTLINE producer Neil Docherty on March 22, 2002.
How, at that time, are the Iranians looking at the world?
First of all, you've got to look at the 6 June invasion of Lebanon. The Israelis came across the border because of an Abu Nidal assassination attempt in London. For the Iranians, it looked as a pretext for Israel to attack an Islamic country, and they looked at Lebanon as an Islamic country, or a country that should be an Islamic country. So they looked at this as Israeli aggression, but backed by the United States. They simply do not believe that Israel invaded Lebanon without a green light from Washington. I don't know about a green light. Maybe there was, maybe there wasn't. But the point is, the Iranians held us responsible.
... [Then the kidnapping of] these three Iranian diplomats. Not only did they kidnap three Iranian diplomats, but the charge d'affaires ... is very close to [then-President] Rafsanjani. They're almost related. ... He takes it personally. The Iranian government holds the Lebanese forces and the United States responsible.
So you have these two events. And Iran says, "All right, we're at war. Undeclared war, but nonetheless we're at war." Their objective at that point is to drive the Americans out of Lebanon.
The first embassy bombing [in April 1983] I think they were involved in; the Marine [barracks] bombing in October 1983; September 1984, the second embassy bombing. And you know what? The Americans [then] leave. This is a successful policy for them [the bombers]. And what comes in place [after that]? Hezbollah is found in 1985. It's an alternative to the Lebanese government; it's an Islamic party. It mirrors the government in Tehran. ... And then you add on to this that Hezbollah drives Israel out of Lebanon, the first victory against the Israelis ever.
So what we have today, if you want to expand this analysis, [is] Hamas, the Islamic Jihad in Palestine and Gaza carrying out war successfully against Sharon. And the Iranians back in Tehran say, "We're winning. This is the way you fight a war. This is how you defeat F-16s, this is how you defeat aircraft carriers. We beat the United States, we beat the Israelis in Lebanon, and we're going to beat 'em in Palestine."
This is a strong message. I don't care how secular Iran becomes. They still look at the United States, Britain, and France as colonizing powers, and this is the final war ending colonization in the Middle East, using Islam. So for the Iranians, it's very, very logical. We as Americans say, "Well, it's not. We were peacekeepers in Lebanon." They don't look at it that way. Or as Americans, we say, "You can't kidnap innocent people, journalists, priests, people like that. It's wrong." They look at it differently. It's a war of civilizations for them. And it was very successful, frankly, and cheap.
Right. And what about Iranian fingerprints on Hezbollah? What is the evidence that Iran influenced Hezbollah?
Well, we know they influenced Hezbollah because they accept Khomeini and Khamenei as the spiritual leader of Hezbollah, [not Sheik] Fadlallah. Fadlallah is the senior cleric in Lebanon, but he was not the main impetus of Hezbollah. It was Iran. I mean, it's acknowledged; it's public that the religious authority is found in Qom in Iran, and the Iranian clerics. It's a very hierarchical religion.
The fingerprints on Iran in terrorism? There are a few of them. The Marines [bombing of the Marine barracks in October 1983], kidnapping of Charlie Glass, the American journalist, the death of Bill Buckley [the CIA station chief who was kidnapped in March 1984] , the fact that Dodge, the American University of Beirut acting president, was held in Iran in a prison, kidnapped by the Pasdaran [Iran's Revolutionary Guards].
The evidence is there. The fact that Father [Martin] Jenco saw Iranians deliver food to the place he was held in the Bekaa Valley, that was in 1984, I think. The evidence is just there. I mean, it's incontrovertible when you have a hostage seeing the people, you're watching this stuff by satellite, and you've got this intelligence information. And I think the only people that would deny this are people who haven't really followed the issue, or just made up their minds otherwise.
Or Iran itself -- it certainly claims it doesn't [and] won't sponsor terrorism.
The fact is, in 1984 and 1985, they were in control of the Sheik Abdullah Barracks in Baalbek. I saw with my own eyes, journalists saw with their own eyes, that the Pasdaran was guarding the places where the hostages were held. When [Jerry] Levin escaped, he escaped out of one of the buildings at the Sheik Abdullah barracks. They saw the Iranians deliver the food. It's just denying reality. The Iranians can't say, "We didn't know anything about it." It's crazy.
Fast-forwarding to today, what's your impression or your knowledge about their support for Islamic Jihad?
Early in the 1990s, they supported it. They provided training, weapons in the Bekaa Valley, supported morally. They've stated publicly they support these guys, the Qods force, which is part of the Pasdaran.
What they're doing today, I don't know. The Israelis claim that an agreement was made between Arafat and the Pasdaran in Moscow six months ago. I don't know. ... I don't trust the Israelis. They're in the middle of this fight. I no longer do intelligence. I have no way to measure the facts from propaganda. I think the Israelis would know. But are they going to tell us the truth? Who knows?
What about Buckley? Can you expand a little on what happened -- why he was taken, and what happened to him?
Buckley, the Iranians knew who he was. When he would go to the airport at Beirut International Airport and send visitors to the United States with intelligence connections, it was very clear. He lived in one apartment, always wore a suit, always meticulously dressed, always left at the same time. For the Iranians or their surrogates, the token surrogates who took him, he was a very attractive target.
You could get the ambassador; it would be great for the Iranians, but he was too hard to get. He had protection and an armored car. Buckley didn't. He was held for a while in Beirut and taken to the Sheik Abdullah Barracks where he was held. The winter of, I believe it was 1984-1985, he caught pneumonia. He'd been really roughed up, beaten up, tortured during interrogation. Combination of pneumonia and torture; his whole system collapsed, and he died in captivity.
Doesn't do much for Iran-American relations, does it?
No. Well, I mean, the Iranians have their case of the shah, the overthrow of [nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad] Mossadeq, the corruption of American companies and bribing people in Iran, our feting the shah, overlooking human rights violations. It was during the Cold War. And the Iranians say, "Well, so what if it was during the Cold War? You supported the dictator, you kept him in power." Washington's argument's going to be, "Well, we didn't keep him power. He was the Shah of Iran. He was there before we ever got involved. Iranians kept him in power because they tolerated his behavior."
There are cases for both sides. I have my own feelings, you know. I just don't think that you should attack innocents, like the World Trade Center. It's not the Western way. But my opinions are irrelevant in this. We have to look at it from the Iranian standpoint, why they did [the things they did] ... and what they want. ...
In the Middle East, it's about a people, the Arabs and the Iranians, who feel humiliated from the 19th century. It's got nothing to do with the United States. But all of a sudden in 1948, the United States inherited all these colonial problems. It inherited the Gulf from Britain in 1970. But we weren't capable of managing an empire in the Middle East. It's just not the American way. So we tweaked something here, send money, send troops.
And now we're dealing it militarily, which you can't solve this problem [militarily]. ... Afghanistan's been a failure so far. ... [W]e are gradually moving into a war unconsciously against Islam -- which you don't want to do. There's just too many people, there's too many countries. They own the oil, most of the world's oil resources, and hope we sidestep this.
But it's not because of the ill will of the White House, the State Department, or the CIA. It's a basic misunderstanding of what's happening in the Middle East, and it doesn't have to do with Democrats or Republicans. And one side is support for Israel -- that's the way [others] perceive it. ...
And how important is Israel in American foreign policy?
It's extremely important. But it's because we look at Israel as a democracy, one. ... And the Holocaust is very important in the American conscience, political conscience. It's a gut reaction. We support Israel for those two reasons, the Holocaust and democracy.
And Americans say, "Why can't the Arabs see this?" The Arabs, on the other hand, are saying, "We're not responsible for the Holocaust. We protected the Jews during the Second World War. They fled there. We didn't bother them. They are the ones that set up a country."
And then the more radicalized [the] Muslims become, the more they look at [Israel] as a colonial appendage of the United States that is meant to oppress them. The terms of their dialogue are being degraded by the day, too. And so [you get] these people that ran the airplanes into the World Trade Center, saying, "The West is hostile to us, and we've got to fight it."
But at the moment, we're talking war on terror.
Well, that's a mistake, because yes, it is war on terror. But we are going to need the Muslims to fight this war on terror. We need Saudi Arabia; we need to make Saudi Arabia feel comfortable. We need Saudi Arabia to go back to its schools and reform them and stop preaching jihad. We need Saudi Arabia to join the 21st century, give jobs to these people equally, and cut back on the corruption ... start giving these people in the south, Asir province, where the suicide bombers came from, a stake in life. But we can't do it with bombs. ...
And how important [is] Hezbollah? ...
It's extremely important. Hezbollah's divided into many parties. There's the Islamic Resistance in the south, which beat the Israelis. They attacked the Israeli army. They defeated the Israeli army on Lebanese soil. I do not know how we can describe that other than a national liberation movement.
I don't agree that Hezbollah itself is a terrorist organization. It delivers powdered milk; it takes care of people. It's a social organization; it's a political organization. It fights corruption.
Then there's the Islamic Resistance, which is an army, which is a guerrilla force, fighting for control of its own country. And then, under the Hezbollah umbrella, was the Islamic Jihad, which I call their special security, which was controlled by Iran, which carried out terrorism against the West. And you can paint Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. You can do that for political reasons, but strictly speaking, it is many things. Just as [with] the IRA, you got Sinn Fein and you've got the real IRA, which is conducting terrorism.
And is the distinction important?
It's very important.
Well, I mean if you're going to retaliate against terrorism -- what we call terrorism, [which is] the attacking of innocent people for political motives, not liberating your own country -- we have to distinguish the two groups. Fadlallah is not a terrorist. ... He was a spiritual leader in his organization. ... We can't label him a terrorist and fight Hezbollah as an organization in its entirety. We have to isolate the murderers and fight them.
But when [Hezbollah] was taking American hostages...
It wasn't Hezbollah; it was the Islamic Jihad organization which was taking [hostages]. It was a very distinct organization, which was separate from Hezbollah because you had the consultative council which only had a vague idea of what the hostage-takers were doing. The hostage-takers were taking orders from Iran. Hezbollah itself does not care about American citizens running around Lebanon, as it doesn't care today. I mean, as an ex-CIA officer, I can go see Hezbollah, I can talk to them. They don't care. ...
But explain that there is actually a different management structure here [that] we're talking [about]?
Absolutely. And it's very clear that special security in Hezbollah took its orders for all the important years from the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [in Iran]. Hezbollah itself accepted money and spiritual leadership from Iran, but it had nothing to do with terrorism. Ninety-nine percent of Hezbollah, people in Hezbollah, know nothing about it. They don't have the slightest idea how it works, who's behind it -- the Iranian role. And that nuance, I think, is missed in Washington today.
I think it's a mistake in U.S. foreign policy, first of all, to paint Islam as an enemy, because you get dragged into a cultural war which we can't win. You have to isolate the people who really do sponsor mass murder or kidnappings or individual murders of people, that are killing Americans in Kuwait today, that flew the airplanes in. Those are isolated individuals which don't have anything to do with Islam in general. Same way in Hezbollah. It's a small group of people kidnapping, murdering. But Hezbollah itself is not a terrorist organization.
And what about Iran? In that context, how worried should we be about Iran?
Well, if you drive Iran into the corner, Iran has the means to retaliate all it wants. ... Iran -- if it feels it's backed into the corner, it's at war again with the United States -- will resort to terrorism, because the people who were involved are still in Iran. They're free. They don't agree with the policies, [with] the way Iran's going now. They think there should be more attacks against Americans. Where they're going to be depends on how we treat them.
In that context, how did you respond to the State of the Union address and the "axis of evil" speech?
Well, that's American politics. I think the United States has no intention of attacking Iran or provoking Iran. ...
But was it a wise selection of words?
I think Iran has been mishandled by the United States since the 1980s, since 1979. We should have determined responsibility for taking over that embassy. It was an act of war, and we should have responded accordingly. By not responding to taking over that embassy in a graduated fashion, by that dumb hostage rescue thing, by not responding to that, we only encouraged people who advocated terrorism in Iran. And it wasn't the whole country that did [advocated terrorism].
We should have dealt with that, nation to nation, state to state. They violated sovereign law of the United States. So it's a series of mistakes. But now, to paint Iran as this evil country, we don't know what's going to happen, because we don't know what's happening in Iran. Will this encourage the moderates to change Iranian policy? I don't know. ...
Do you feel America doesn't know Iran?
No, it doesn't know anything about it. Doesn't know anything about it. I have seen no dialogue in this country, in the press, or in academia to suggest to me that we really know what's going on in Iran. We are dealing with myths, misinformation, a press that has no idea. It boils down to women's rights or wishful thinking about Khatami or misperceptions.
As a professional intelligence person, how would you rate American intelligence in Iran?
It's lousy ... because we don't have any people in Iran. You really need people on the ground in a country to give you ground truth. You complement that with other intelligence from other countries, from technical intelligence, and you can get a good picture. But once you don't have people on the ground, you really lose track of what's happening in a country.
I mean, North Korea has always been a black hole for us, because we don't have people there. We don't have people talking to the North Koreans. You have to hear people complain about the price of milk, you have to hear people. How do they view the United States? It's very important to get a feel for a country. I mean, I lost track of the United States because I was gone for so many years, and I'm an American. ...
Tell me about [Imad Mughniyah] and his importance.
He's very important but there's certain myths about him -- that he's running the whole thing, he's the master. There are no master terrorists. They're just a whole group of people. He's very effective, very efficient. He runs commando-style operations. He's got incredible security. He can tap people, go where he wants, change IDs. He was involved in many kidnappings. I'm not sure he was involved in the first embassy bombing; he probably was, but I know that from inference. It's very hard to pin these people down, because it takes patience. But anyhow, Mughniyah is very important. He's an important player, is involved in all sorts of terrorism operations.
What's his relationship to Iran?
He was paid by Iran. He had direct connection with a couple of Iranians. ... He was recruited in the Islamic Jihad movement in 1982-1983, like that, and agreed to carry out operations against United States. He's a believer, undoubtedly. But most of all, he's very effective. He can compartment[alize] operations, he's got people that are loyal. He's ruthless and he's ready to lose people. He's ready for himself to die, too, which makes him a formidable opponent. ...
Mughniyah is a professional terrorist. I've never heard an explanation [of] what really makes the guy tick. But it was very clear to us in the 1980s that he took his orders directly from [Iran's] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. ... He was paid by them, he took orders, he put out communiqués. Occasionally he would do things on his own, when he'd get angry about something. He was an independent player. He was probably a nightmare to run for the Iranians, but he carried out their orders. And I don't think there's anybody in the American intelligence community [who] would disagree with that. ...
What do you do with Iran when you're posturing against Iraq, when it's likely you may be taking some action against Iraq? If you're a CIA intelligence expert in the region, you must be getting a little worried about how we handle all this.
... What you have to do is put yourself in the position of the Iranians. ... An invasion of Iraq is going to cause resentment in the Islamic world, which is going to help the radicals in Tehran, who are going to say, "Listen, we told you all along. It's the United States against Islam. Stop this reformist stuff and let's liberate Jerusalem." ...
What about the Iran-Iraq war and America's position on that? How important is that?
It's very important. Iraq was under threat. The Reagan administration knew that if Iraq was overrun by Iran, there'd be total chaos in the Gulf. We provided help to Iraq during the war -- material help and information help -- which was extremely helpful to the Iraqis. The problem is, it built up resentment in Iran because the radicals said, "Look, they've always been against us. We've got to stop this." ...
What are the current links, do you think, between Iran and terrorism? How would you characterize or summarize it currently?
... Last thing I saw before I left the CIA was this intention to set up a relationship with bin Laden. There was a meeting which occurred in July 1996 in Afghanistan, where the Iranians went in to propose a strategic comprehensive alliance against the United States. And what that involved, whether it came to fruition or not, I don't know. In 1996, that was their intention. And that after that, anything I have to say is pure speculation. ...
Iran and the Taliban were not friends, right?
In the Middle East, my enemy's enemy is my friend. Just don't ever forget that rule. ...
[But] other than what you've said, we haven't really heard of any direct links with Al Qaeda. I guess the last one was they were letting some [Al Qaeda fugitives] escape into Iran. But we're not suggesting that Iran's fingerprints were on Sept. 11.
No. How would we ever know, though? Again, put yourself in the position of the Iranians, or an Iranian. Maybe not Iran as a state, maybe it's an individual Iranian that's carrying on this war. Would you convey these by telephone, by Internet, a decision to participate in Sept. 11? It's done orally, face to face, probably outside, so there's no room audio.
So we'll never know. It's just one of those questions we'll never know because the people involved will never talk. They don't keep a record of it. They don't need to submit receipts on their tax forms at the end of the year. We'll just never know. ...
And take me back to Khobar Towers. What do we know about Khobar Towers and Iran?
We know Iran was involved. We know Iran trained, gave alias passports, helped provide surveillance of American facilities in Saudi Arabia, and that Khomeini gave a fatwa to blow up Khobar. This has been acknowledged in the indictment, it's been acknowledged by Louis Freeh in The New Yorker.
Saudi Arabia didn't want to look too closely into it, because at that point, there was a reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and they certainly didn't want to indict Iran. It was another terrorism attack that was passed over. It was overlooked because we didn't want to do anything against Iran.
Iran is the third rail of American foreign policy in the world. Brought down Jimmy Carter, Iranian crisis, and almost brought down Reagan, almost, close, with Iran-Contra. So every president since then says, "Iran is bad, but we're not going to do anything about it. It's a sleeping dog, don't wake it up."
And along comes the latest president, George W. [Bush], and he strongly intimates we are going to do something about it, this evil empire.
What can we do about it? We can only cope with these problems inasmuch as we solve the problem of Israel and Palestine. If we can implement U.N. Resolution 242, we can internationalize Jerusalem, do something about the right of return of Palestinians to Palestine. And then go to the Middle East and say, "All right, now it's time to implement other U.N. resolutions." ... But it really does boil down to Israel, in a lot of ways. ...
And when you were in the CIA, was there an awareness of this? ...
No, but it's not CIA's business. These are the politics we saw, but we were never involved in this. We never had to worry about resolutions, U.N. 242. I mean, [we] read about it and cared about it. And I know when it was passed and I know this dialogue's always been going on between Syria and United States, Lebanon.
Our objective was to find out who was taking hostages in Lebanon, who blew up our embassy, who blew up the Marines -- and predict future attacks. At the same time, we were listening to our agents, people on the ground. That's how we spent our entire life.
... When we began, you mentioned the misunderstanding about the Iranians being killed in Lebanon. ... It struck me when you were saying that, that the relationship between America and Iran seems to be one completely fostered on misunderstandings of this sort. ...
... Yes, the misunderstandings go back to Mossadeq. [Editor's note: Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who wanted to nationalize Iran's oil industry and limit foreign involvement in Iran's internal affairs, was removed from office in a CIA-supported coup in 1953, which allowed the shah -- who was friendly to Western powers -- to return to Tehran. See the timeline for more background on Iran's history.]
The Iranians are generally, as people, pro-American. A lot of Iranians live here. The Iranian music industry is based in Los Angeles. There's a lot of travel back and forth. The Iranians have been normally in history pro-Israel as a balance to the Arabs.
But along came Mossadeq. And then you had the corruption in Tehran, all the American companies, this supplying of arms to Iran to fight the Cold War, all the military bases. The Iranians looked at this as if we were participating in the corruption of their society, American companies and American government. And then you had the revolution and then you had the Mujahedeen-e Khalq, which split off from the revolution, and a lot of them set up in the United States.
Then you had the Iran-Iraq war, and then our continued support to Israel. And the Iranians look at us as a hostile country, just as we look at the Soviet Union as a hostile country. ... There was a lot of misperceptions. And there's no dialogue.
So faced with that situation, what does one do? ... The hawks would argue, "Well, we've tried dialogue; we've tried blandishments. We've reduced sanctions on pistachios and other things. We've tried to talk to them, and these mullahs keep slapping us in the face. What are we to do?"
Well, I think that you set some clarity for standards of behavior vis-a-vis Iran. I think by not holding the Iranians accountable for taking over [the U.S.] embassy, by not holding them accountable for what happened in Lebanon, only encouraged the radicals. At the same time, we should have had a carrot, opened up some back channel with the mullahs, talk[ed] to them. Once you stop talking to people, you're lost. And I think the American tendency is, as is the Iranians', once this level of hostility arises, [to] stop talking.
The Iranians have desperately wanted a secret channel to the United States for years -- all the Iranians have -- to work out the problem, work out the problems in Jerusalem, work out the problems of oil, work out the problems of Iraq. We've always said, "No, here's our conditions for dialogue: Stop terrorism." ... There used to be three [criteria], I used to remember them.
Well, a big one is weapons of mass destruction and Iran building them. ... That fear has been around. ...
Well, look at the dialogue today, where we're talking about using tactical nuclear weapons against North Korea and the rest. Once this stuff leaks out, the Iranians say, "Well, look, they're going to use nuclear weapons against us. We need missiles."
And how credible is it in your experience that the Iranians are up to building weapons of mass destruction?
I have no idea. ... It's a big issue. They were getting a lot of stuff, but how advanced they are, I really don't know. Whether they're one year away from a nuclear bomb or 20 years away, I have no idea.
But presumably that seems to be one of the biggest issues for people in Washington: "How much time do we have before these guys end up with a weapon? What are we going to do?"
What about Pakistan? What about India? I don't trust either one of them, too. It's a catastrophe if Iran and Iraq get nuclear weapons. [They] will use them against each other one day. ...
I think what we're all talking about is, we all regret the end of the Cold War. In the Cold War, things were predictable, and you could have worked these things out. ...
This is such a slippery subject, terrorism, and if you start painting the whole Islamic world as terrorists, or there's the Russians as supporting terrorism, where does it all end? I don't know. ... There are terrorists, there are mass murderers, but we don't know who they are and who supports them and we don't know how to stop it. ...
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Robert Baer and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed: The operative bookends of the Official 9/11 Legend?
By Chaim Kupferberg
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December 30, 2003—Who, exactly, is Robert Baer? In the months after 9/11, Baer first emerged on the public radar scope as a "former" CIA official involved in counter-terrorism. After publishing his widely acclaimed book, See No Evil, Baer established himself as the mainstream media's "go-to" guy when making the case for pre-9/11 complacency and opportunistic blindness.
But his contributions to our understanding of 9/11 didn't end there. In addition to focusing attention on Saudi Arabia and the dominating influence of the neoconservatives on foreign policy, Baer has personally insinuated himself into the Daniel Pearl story. On September 30, 2002, Richard Sale of UPI reported:
"Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was investigating the man who allegedly planned the Sept. 11 airplane hijackings and attacks on New York and Washington when he was kidnapped and murdered in Pakistan, according to two Central Intelligence Agency officials . . .
" . . . 'I was working with Pearl,' said [Bob] Baer, who had written a book about his time as a CIA official and has acted as a consultant and source for numerous media outlets. 'We had a joint project. [Khalid Shaikh] Mohammed was the story he was working on, not Richard Reid [a.k.a. the shoe bomber].' "
Was Baer being truthful, or rather was he disseminating a blatant slice of disinformation? You be the judge. In Baer's latest widely acclaimed book, Sleeping With The Devil—published after the September 30, 2002 UPI article—Baer blatantly contradicts himself, as evidenced on page199:
"I have no way of knowing whether Pearl went to Karachi and asked about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The Wall Street Journal says no, that he was working on the shoe-bomber case."
No way of knowing? What about that "joint project" with Pearl? According to Baer's UPI version, back in 1997, Baer learned of efforts by the government of Qatar to shield Khalid Shaikh Mohammed from FBI apprehension. Khalid, at the time, was wanted for his alleged role in the aborted 1995 Bojinka plot. Yet when none of his former colleagues in counter-terrorism would follow up on Baer's leads, according to UPI, "Baer said he was frustrated and called Pearl . . ." telling him that "he had a hot story on terrorism . . ."
However, in Baer's book version, it was Pearl who had first initiated contact after hearing of Baer's leads from other sources:
"In 1998, when I was living in France, I got a call from a young Wall Street Journal reporter named Danny Pearl."
As for that "joint project" alluded to in the UPI article, here is how Baer sums up the course of their interaction in his book:
"We met in Geneva . . . I told him about KSM [Khalid] and Qatar. He listened, took notes, and promised to follow up on it one day. We saw each other from time to time in Washington. He would bring up the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed story, but neither of us had anything new to add."
And here is the version that Baer offered to UPI, describing the aftermath of his very first telephone contact with Pearl:
"Baer said to his annoyance, Pearl did not begin to work on the story. Nothing was done until the day of the Sept. 11 attacks when Pearl called to talk to Baer."
Thus are we faced with two alternate realities. In the quantum reality offered in Baer's book, Daniel Pearl is the dogged investigator who tracks down Baer for his story on Khalid, following it up on subsequent meetings with further queries of Baer, though neither has "anything new to add." Yet in the quantum reality offered to UPI, it is Baer who tracks down Pearl, and who subsequently becomes annoyed with Pearl's presumed disinterest in Baer's revelation—that is, until September 11, 2001. In Baer's book, three days after September 11, Pearl called Baer after sending him an email the day before. What follows is Baer's account of their very last conversation:
"I reminded him about our talks on KSM [Khalid] and Qatar. 'Worth thinking about,' [Pearl] replied."
Thus, in Baer's book version, that fateful phone call signals the end of their interaction, consequently leaving Baer with "no way of knowing" whether or not Pearl had picked up the ball and hustled on over to Karachi to flesh out Baer's initial lead on Khalid. Meanwhile, over in the UPI parallel universe, that post-9/11phone call marks the beginning of their "joint project":
"Baer said he gave Pearl all the old information he had and new information he had since obtained—for example, that there are files on [Khalid] in the Qatari Embassy in London.
"Baer said he and Pearl then 'began to work together'—in other words, Pearl would get info and check it out with Baer and Baer would feed Pearl what he was getting. It was 'a joint project,' said Baer. Baer was giving direction, but Pearl's contacts were not confined to Baer."
Simply based on the foregoing, one might reasonably conclude that Baer is either a quantum leaper or a bona fide fibber. But even if Baer's credibility is undermined by all this, what's the big deal? Isn't Baer, after all, just a retired CIA guy far out of the loop, trolling the media circuit as an "independent" critic? Or is he, rather, a key operative among an insular (though by no means rogue) counter-terror clique involved in the formation and presentation of the Official 9/11 Legend and its offshoots?
At the time of Baer's UPI revelation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had only been known to the public for less than four months—dating from the time in June 2002 when he was first introduced as the "official" 9/11 mastermind. Prior to that date, scarcely any details at all were offered to the public concerning Khalid—other than a generic "wanted" listing for his alleged role in the 1995 Bojinka plot. And, perhaps, a very brief, general reference to Khalid as an expert in the hijacking of planes in Baer's first book. Yet if we are to believe Baer's post-June 2002 account, Khalid was the object of intense concern to both Baer and Pearl—neither of whom had ever gone on record as evincing any substantive interest in Khalid at any time prior to Baer's September 30 UPI account. More curiously, by June 2002, with Khalid now making the headlines as the brains behind 9/11—and coming more than four months after Pearl's own widely publicized kidnapping—Baer was continuing to do the media circuit, promoting his earlier book along with his version of the 9/11 Complacency Theory, yet, still no word on his purported "joint project" with Pearl on the newly unveiled 9/11 mastermind. Rather, Baer waited until three weeks after the well-publicized apprehension of Khalid's alleged co-plotter, Ramzi Binalshibh, and only then broached the news of his "joint project" with Pearl, tying this in with the latest bombshell that Khalid had also likely killed Daniel Pearl. Curious timing, that.
So who, exactly, is Robert Baer—and, more to the point, why should this question matter? Baer—along with the likes of Vincent Cannistraro and Milt Bearden—is among the select few who have managed to "dirty" their hands with past CIA involvement with the Afghani mujahedin. Terror, drugs, arms-smuggling, and the Byzantine workings of Mideast geopolitics—Baer has personally seen it all. In Baer's chronicle of the past CIA/Bin Laden/Muslim Brotherhood nexus, there is really nothing particularly sinister in the fact that the CIA had originally fostered and funded a network that would later go on to unveil itself as America's foremost enemy. Baer characterizes it all as blowback.
But perhaps Baer manages to provide us a crucial—though probably unintended—insight as to how we may characterize all that purported blowback. In Baer's oft-repeated account of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's escape from Qatar, he reveals that Khalid had managed to slip away with another member of his al-Qaida cell—a man by the name of Shawqui Islambuli, whose brother happens to be the man who had assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is indeed an artful pairing—for these two men serve, on a symbolic level, as the operative bookends of the Official 9/11 Legend. At the tail end, of course, stands Khalid as the 9/11 mastermind. At the front end stands the Egyptian fundamentalist clique whose 1981 move against Sadat would coincide with its recruitment by Baer's CIA colleagues into the Afghan effort. One member of that Egyptian clique, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, would go on to become a CIA asset, and, after his acquittal in relation to the Sadat killing, would then be cleared to enter the United States in 1990 by way of a CIA-approved visa. Setting up shop in a Brooklyn mosque, the men in Abdel-Rahman's circle—Sayyid Nosair, Ramzi Yousef, etc.—would go on to be implicated in the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the plot to destroy New York City landmarks, and, most importantly, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
If the early shoots of what would eventually evolve into "al-Qaida" look suspiciously like an Egyptian-CIA hybrid, that is probably due to the fact that—from the vantage point of 1993—a suspicious number of Egyptian CIA assets (and/or FBI informants) were popping up all over the map. For one, a former Egyptian military officer (and FBI informant) named Emad Salem had managed to "infiltrate" former CIA asset Abdel-Rahman's New York circle, giving his FBI handlers the "heads-up" on the plot to take down the Twin Towers in '93. Meanwhile, another former Egyptian military officer (and subsequent FBI informant) by the name of Ali Mohamed would train Abdel-Rahman's men in the arts of bomb-making, formation of operative cells, and all the sophisticated military tactics Ali had gleaned from his three-year stint as a U.S. sergeant with the Special Forces at Fort Bragg. Ali had first entered the United States on a CIA-sponsored visa in 1981, in order to serve his first four-month stint with the Green Berets at Fort Bragg—incidentally, the same year in which Ali had reportedly joined the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood implicated in the Sadat assassination.
After being honorably discharged from service at Fort Bragg in 1989, Ali's resume would include the training of Abdel-Rahman's men, an ongoing stint as an FBI informant (carrying on even after the 1993 WTC bombing), the authorship of al-Qaida's training manuals, along with the training of bin Laden's personal security detail and the refinement of al-Qaida's military tactics. Publicly outed for the first time in 1995 as the trainer of the 1993 New York landmarks suspects, Ali would remain free to carry on his busy globe-trotting itinerary for three more years before being lured out of his cozy Sacramento digs in the aftermath of the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. Duly subpoenaed and then "secretly" indicted, Ali would go on to plead guilty, implicate his fellow conspirators, and then forever fade from public view (and scrutiny).
With just the foregoing facts in mind, it doesn't take a forensic expert to connect the dots and draw certain conclusions as to the likely paternity of what would later become known as "al-Qaida." From the vantage point of 1993, where were those suspicious dots connecting this close-knit terrorist network to Saddam Hussein? Or the Pakistani ISI? Or the Saudis? Or the Israelis? After 1995, however, there would be new dots to connect up, with new links subsequently forming in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, along with new al-Qaida cells springing up in London, Hamburg, and across the globe—and, in lockstep with the times, new investigative cliques forming across the US, UK, and the EU. Yet from that crucial, embryonic time period of 1981-1993, we can venture a reasonable guess as to which entity was most involved in coddling, handling, clearing, and funding this insular grouping of Egyptian-born radicals, from out of which would grow the full blossom of al-Qaida. And so we must ask what the likes of Bob Baer, Vincent Cannistraro, and Milt Bearden were truly up to in those years.
But that, perhaps, is a tale for another day.
Copyright © 2003 Chaim Kupferberg
Chaim Kupferberg is a freelance researcher, writer and frequent contributor to the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).
A running joke in Washington late last year held that Langley, the CIA's home in Virginia, was changing its name to Fallujah after the restive Iraqi town then held by insurgents. Like Fallujah, Langley - according to some White House wags - was full of rebels that needed to be cleared out. This would inevitably lead to lots of casualties along the way.
It is totally reactionary. It's like they woke up on 9/11 and just started shooting at anybody and anything. Former CIA agent Robert Baer But putting the jokes and bravado aside, many at the CIA's longtime base already knew that the winds of change were blowing their way, and were well aware of the reason why. George W Bush, his eyes by then firmly fixed on a second term, was consolidating his position. It was time to rein in those agencies and their operatives that were not always singing from the same political hymn sheet as the President and those closest to him.
In the months that followed, a new CIA chief, Porter Goss, would be appointed - as would a new director of national intelligence: John Negroponte. And there would be other changes too, in tactics and operations.
All of this has since set alarm bells ringing among human rights activists and security analysts who claim "hardmen" are back at the CIA helm with a whole suitcase full of revamped dirty tricks ranging from political assassinations and death squads to the shuttling of detainees to interrogation and torture facilities worldwide. Few people know more about how the CIA operates on the ground than former agent Robert Baer, one of the agency's top field operatives of the past quarter-century.
An Arabic speaker, Baer spent most of his career running agents in the souks and back alleys of the Middle East, before becoming disillusioned with what he saw as interference by Washington politicians in the CIA's efforts to root out terrorists.
He believes that at precisely the time when terrorist threats were escalating globally, the agency that should have been monitoring them was being "scrubbed clean" instead.
I put it to him that since 9/11, the cost of being complacent has been recognised and that the CIA is now getting its hands dirty again.
"Yes," says Baer, "but in the wrong direction.
"It is totally reactionary," he insists. "It's like they woke up on 9/11 and just started shooting at anybody and anything."
To give just one example, he says that what is referred to as "extraordinary renditions" - the controversial practice of secretly spiriting suspects to other countries without due process - is not only wrong, but often counterproductive for gathering intelligence.
"They are picking up people really with nothing against them, hoping to catch someone because they have no information about these [terrorist] networks."
According to Baer, what happened after 9/11 was a kind of knee-jerk reaction by the CIA, taking in thousands of contractors and dispatching everybody they could, at the expense of real expertise and experienced operatives.
This desperation, he says, led to a "do anything approach" and "that's why we ended up with Guantanamo and arresting a lot of people that were innocent."
It was on September 15, just a few days after the attacks on New York and Washington, that George Tenet - then director of the CIA - produced at top secret document known as the Worldwide Attack Matrix for ratification by President Bush.
It was, in effect, a licence to kill. Among the actions already under way or being recommended in the document were those ranging from "routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks." Implemented as outlined, the Matrix, "would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history."
Since then the agency has hacked into foreign banks, used secret prisons overseas and spent millions bankrolling "friendly" Muslim intelligence services. They have assassinated al-Qaeda leaders, spirited prisoners to nations with brutal human rights records and amassed countless files.
Some might say this is what secret services do anyway, but there are concerns about how far the CIA is prepared to go.
"Everything I've heard anecdotally about the primary suspects connected to September 11 says they are being truly tortured. They are not [merely] being made to feel uncomfortable," says Baer.
What did he know about the "Worldwide Attack Matrix," and was it the blueprint for current CIA activities?
"I think it was the blueprint right after 9/11. I don't know specifics about it, but I know what matrices are. You collect what you believe to be facts and identify people and get rid of them. Either by arresting them, or getting local government to arrest them, or kidnapping them and putting them in the extraordinary rendition system."
The Matrix document as drafted and presented to Bush specified targets in 80 countries around the world. The CIA even prepared a Memorandum Of Notification, which would allow the agency to have virtual carte blanche to conduct political assasinations abroad.
Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez recently accused the CIA of having a hand in the military coup that briefly deposed him in 2002, and says the agency were hatching just such an assassination plot against him as outlined in the Matrix.
Baer is quick to point out, however, that while such strategies are drawn up on paper, they only work if there is the political will to see them through. So the question is, does that political will exist, and who in turn is calling the shots now in the CIA's war on terror?
"I think it's the Attorney General and the President who are basically taking the attitude of murder in the cathedral, and ‘who will rid me of these guys, these terrorists?'," says Baer, noting that people further down the line are quick to interpret the orders as they see fit.
Certainly that political will is around today, insists Baer, "more so than in the 80s."
Having received the CIA's intelligence medal in 1997 and served in Beirut and Iraq at their worst, he knows all about what CIA orders often involve.
While Baer sees the agency's move towards getting tough as necessary, he says it is being done with scarcely believable clumsiness. Recruits able to get inside terrorist groups are not being admitted to the CIA in any numbers, those with language and specialist skills or backgrounds.
"To have got into Baghdad before the war you would have had to put people next to Saddam's sons - dirty oil traders, dirty arms traders, people that got their hands dirty.
"It's like joining a criminal organisation. You have to prove yourself; you have to do that to get inside, if that's you goal."
He also sees it as an uncomfortable necessity, "to do favours for such groups. And doing favours for them means getting exceptions under US law like trading oil with Saddam."
The danger, he says, is that the intelligence services might succumb to what he calls "pagan ethics".
Are the likes of new CIA director Porter Goss and National intelligence director John Negroponte the sort of men to succumb to "pagan ethics"? And what of their so called "clearing out" of the CIA house recently?
"Oh come on, the guy who oversaw collection on Iraq got it completely wrong and was promoted, what kind of house-cleaning is that?
"You don't reappoint the captain of the Titanic after he loses the boat," Baer complains.
If he could, Baer would do one thing immediately to improve the CIA's efficiency on the ground: change the clearance system to get recruits who can go places operatives can't at the moment.
"What you need is some Lawrence of Arabia kind of guy. He may not get you the keys to the kingdom, but at least he's familiar with the players."
© 2005 newsquest (sunday herald) limited
Who was that CIA operative, whose outing by a columnist has shaken the White House and sent a reporter to jail? Despite tons of ink about the increasingly intriguing (and complicated) Plame affair, the human being at its center remains largely obscure, in part because she shuns reporters. So Floridian called those who know her best.
SOME THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT VALERIE PLAME WILSON, SPY:
She was born in 1963 in Anchorage, Alaska, where her father, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, was stationed.
As a girl, she loved puzzles and dolls.
At Lower Moreland High School outside Philadelphia, she ran track.
She was the leader of a group of preppie, high-achieving friends.
The first few years of her life, she lived on or around military bases.
She told her parents she wanted to serve her country.
She was fiercely competitive at games like Sorry! and Monopoly, and sometimes (but not usually) cried when she lost.
She idolized her brother, Robert, a Marine 16 years her senior, and once tried to set him up with her grade school teacher.
When her yellow parakeet refused to come down from a tree, she was in tears until Robert whistled it down.
She loved it when he tickled her, even though she cried, "No! No!"
Her dad, Samuel, worked in the National Security Agency.
Her mom, Diane, still keeps a framed painting of a horse Valerie made as a girl.
As a fifth-grader, despite a so-so singing voice, she made her mom beam by belting out Daisy, Daisy to audition for a high school production of The Sound of Music.
She got the part.
Her parents kept a spic-and-span house.
They gave her a strict curfew, always knew where she was and carefully monitored her TV habits.
She wouldn't necessarily volunteer information that got her in trouble, but if they asked her a question, she told the truth.
She loved The Waltons.
Her favorite book was Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie.
She had a canopy bed, but no rock 'n' roll stars on her bedroom wall.
Her mom, a former teacher, never wanted to know Valerie's IQ and was satisfied to know she scored above 130 and "was smart enough to be and do anything she wanted."
She traveled a lot in Europe with her family.
In her teens, she worked as a waitress in various places, including a stint at a dude ranch near Yellowstone.
Her parents gave her an old Mustang her senior year at Pennsylvania State University, where she studied advertising.
She worked as a marketing manager at her college paper, where she is remembered as "a real nice girl."
She married and soon divorced her college boyfriend.
While waiting to get into the CIA, she worked a dull job at a D.C. department store that confirmed her longing for a challenge.
As a new recruit at the Farm, the CIA's training facility, her skill with an AK-47 stunned classmates.
She got master's degrees from the London School of Economics and the College of Europe in Belgium.
She speaks French, Greek and German.
With the CIA, she had nonofficial cover, or NOC, status and used a fake job title, meaning she lacked diplomatic protection if exposed overseas. Said to be the agency's creme de la creme, NOCs reportedly handle and recruit foreign agents.
She lied even to close friends and family about what she did.
In February 1997, she met diplomat Joseph Wilson, who was soon to be divorced, at the Washington, D.C., home of the Turkish ambassador, where she reminded Wilson of a young Grace Kelly and left him "hopelessly smitten."
She told him she was an energy consultant in Brussels.
"Ladies don't date married men," Plame told him when he tried to hold her hand.
She nervously confided her true occupation to him during their courtship, prompting his question: "Is your real name Valerie?"
The same year she met Wilson, the CIA brought her home to headquarters from overseas out of fear that double agent Aldrich Ames might have spilled her name to the Russians.
At HQ, she tracked weapons proliferation.
She married Wilson in April 1998 at Washington's City Hall, with her parents as the witnesses.
She gave $1,000 to Al Gore's presidential campaign in 1999.
She avoided talking politics.
She has a temper if you push the right buttons, but you have to push hard.
Even then, she remains dauntingly logical.
The balcony of her home in the Palisades area on the fringe of Washington has a spectacular view of the Washington Monument.
When she was decorating her kids' bedrooms, she shopped at Target.
She likes sales.
She drives a Prius hybrid, believing it socially responsible.
She is a great neighbor.
She told her next-door neighbor, Victoria Tillotson, she was an economic consultant to foreign countries.
"We live such quiet lives compared to them," Plame said, straight-faced, to her husband, when Mr. Tillotson mentioned he had once been a government lawyer.
When Mrs. Tillotson mentioned her granddaughter was having trouble sleeping, Plame suggested relaxation exercises that involved envisioning a sandy beach while flexing the toes and feet.
It is unclear whether the CIA taught her this.
When Mrs. Tillotson leaves town, she entrusts Plame with her pets, house key and alarm code, and has no fear Plame will misplace them.
In seven years as a neighbor, Plame has never knocked on the door to borrow sugar.
She keeps her house intimidatingly neat.
Even the walls are mind-bogglingly clean.
When Mrs. Tillotson wondered what the secret was, Plame brought her a box of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and refused compensation.
She brings the Tillotsons chocolate from Harrods in London.
She worried whether she'd make a good mother.
Her stepson has described her as "relentlessly cheerful," but after giving birth to twins in January 2000, she descended into a bout of postpartum depression that lasted months.
As a result, she became active in postpartum support groups.
Jane Honikman, who works with her in those groups, thinks of her as "your normal suburban housewife (with) a big sunshiny smile" and cannot picture her with an AK-47.
She still calls her brother to vent; he still calls her "Val."
She reads to her twins every night.
She doesn't hold grudges, except for maybe against columnist Robert Novak & Co.
When Novak outed her as a spy in July 2003, she worried whether she would have any friends left now that they knew she'd been lying to them for years.
She attends the same church, but not the same service, as Republican mastermind Karl Rove.
Once exposed, she took greater care with her hair and lip gloss, knowing everyone would be staring.
Valerie Plame is her real name.
She wishes you hadn't heard of her.
Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
Sources: Interviews with Samuel, Diane and Robert Plame; Victoria Tillotson; Candace Heckard; Jim Marcinkowski; and Jane Honikman; and The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies That Led to War and Betrayed My Wife's CIA Identity by Joseph Wilson
RUSSIA EASES DRUG LAWS
CARL SCHRECK MOSCOW TIMES - Under a new law, drug users can possess a greatly increased amount of an illegal substance -- for instance, 20 grams of marijuana or 1.5 grams of cocaine -- without the risk of being thrown in jail. The law has been criticized by the Federal Anti-Drug Service, which says it hampers the battle against drugs, but praised by those who work to rehabilitate drug addicts, who predict more addicts will now seek help.
President Vladimir Putin signed an amendment to the Criminal Code in December stipulating that possession of no more than 10 times the amount of a "single dose" would now be considered an administrative infraction rather than a criminal offense. Punishment would be a fine of no more than 40,000 rubles ($1,380) or community service. It then took five months to hammer out what would be considered the single dose of various drugs.
Ten times the amount of a single dose, as set in the government resolution that came into effect Wednesday, is 20 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of hashish, mescaline or opium, 1.5 grams of cocaine, 1 gram of heroin or methamphetamine, and 0.003 grams of LSD. Anyone caught in possession of these amounts or less cannot legally be detained, a spokeswoman for the Moscow branch of the Federal Anti-Drug Service said. Instead, a report will be filed and the fine will be determined by a court. This is a major change. Under the old standards, someone caught with 0.1 grams of marijuana, for instance, could be punished by incarceration.
The following is my transcription of a talk given on March 28, 1993, by Robert Parry, former AP and Newsweek and now independent journalist. Parry was one of the first reporters to break the story of Iran-Contra, and one of the first to report on the drug angle in Iran-Contra. Parry later pursued the strong evidence that Reagan and Bush made an all-out effort to sabotage Jimmy Carter's efforts to win the release of the Iranian-held hostages before the November election, the episode known as the October Surprise.
Parry is the author of several books, including Fooling America and Trick or Treason, both published by Sheridan Square Press. Currently, he publishes The Consortium, a newsletter that reports on current events by showing the historical backdrop to the events and players. He also publishes i.F. Magazine, named in tribute to both I. F. Stone and George Seldes' newsletter In Fact.
A talk by Robert Parry given in Santa Monica on March 28, 1993
Well, thank you for coming out tonight. I do want to first thank FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) for inviting me. It's always a pleasure to leave Washington and come to the West Coast. It's a fascinating aspect of how Washington and Los Angeles interrelate these days. I'm not sure which city is more used to producing fantasy than the other, but I always think that LA's fantasy is often more entertaining.
But there is this tremendous sense of both envy and concern between Washington and LA, but Washington will often look down at Los Angeles as a place that produces movies, sometimes like JFK, movies that were very upsetting to the Washington establishment because they suggested that there was a cover-up of the murder of the President back in the 1960s.
But you also find that people in Washington are incredibly attuned to what's happening out here. I was talking to a journalist friend of mine the other day who was saying that there was, for Spike Lee's latest movie, she saw Vice President Quayle in the line waiting to get into the movie, but he thought it was a Roman spectacular, Malcolm 10. And then someone else said they saw Clarence Thomas waiting to get in, but he thought it was an X-rated film. So Washington is a place that does keep track of what is happening out here. Of course, I'm not sure that Los Angeles could produce entertaining shows like the McLaughlin Group, but it does do it's best.
Tonight I'd like to talk about what I was doing in the 1980's. I was a reporter for the Associated Press. I started with the AP back in 1974, and worked briefly in Baltimore and then in Providence, Rhode Island, where I covered some of the problems of the Democratic power structure there - Freddy St. Germaine was of course involved with the banks in a very unsavory way. And eventually I was brought to Washington for the AP back in 1977 and covered the Carter administration. And I was examining some of their, what seem like today rather minor scandals, things like the General Services Administration, the waste and fraud that was going on there. And in 1980, after the election, I was assigned to go work on the Special Assignment team for the Associated Press which was there investigative unit.
In history, AP's investigative team was actually quite impressive. Sy Hersh had been there, a number of important stories had been broken out of that investigative unit, which at one time was ten, fifteen, twenty people. By the time I was there it had shrunk to about four. I was assigned to do investigations. Other people were doing things like columns about the State Department or about politics, and I was really the only investigative reporter so designated at the AP's Washington Bureau at that time.
But no one told me what to work on. And it struck me one day, as I was sitting around, that this administration had a thing about Central America. At the time there had been a number of atrocities that were occurring, and the four American churchwomen had been killed. And the explanations coming from this transition team were quite remarkable. If you remember, Jean Kirkpatrick suggested in one interview that these weren't really nuns, they were more political activists, which always struck me as an amazing suggestion that it's okay to kill political activists. Anyway, it seemed like a very important area to them, one that might end up driving much of what they did, at least in terms of foreign policy and national security issues.
So I began working on it. And that experience, in a way, shaped what I did for the rest of my time at the AP. And it was also striking to me that that experience was beyond anything I could have imagine, as an American citizen, watching. It was a case of wide- spread killing - political killing - of dissidents, torture, in the case of women often rape was involved; and this government was not just supporting it, not just providing the weapons and the military support, but trying to excuse it, rationalize it and essentially hide it.
Which is where I sort of came in and I think many people in the American press corps in Washington came in, and the press corp in Central America. At the time the press corps was still the Watergate press corp, if you will. We were fairly aggressive, we were not inclined to believe what we heard from the government, and sometimes we were probably obnoxious. But we were doing our jobs as I think, more or less, as they were supposed to be done. That is - to act, when necessary, in an adversarial way.
So when we began covering this topic in early 1981, we had some very brave people in the field in El Salvador particularly and throughout Central America, and some of them risked their lives to cover that story. And those of us back in Washington who obviously were not facing that kind of risk, were trying to get at things. Initially, and maybe we all sort of forget this, but I remember one of my first stories about this had to do with how the State Department was counting up the dead in El Salvador and who they were blaming. At that time the position was that the guerrillas were killing more than half of the people dying in the political violence and that the government was less responsible.
So I went over to the State Department to review their methodology, and what I found was that the way they got their figures was that they took the total number of people who had presumably died within a period of a month or so, and then each time the guerrillas would claim on a radio broadcast that they had killed some soldiers, if there was a battle going on and they said "We killed ten soldiers" and then the battle kept going on and it was twenty, and then it was fifty, and then another one of their stations would say fifty, what the State Department did was they added up all the numbers. And so they were able to create these false figures to suggest that the government that the Unites States was supporting was not as culpable as the human rights groups and particularly the Catholic church in ES were saying.
It began a pattern of deception from the very beginning. Even when there was something horrible happening in those countries. Even when hundreds, thousands of human beings were being taken out and killed, the role of the US. government became to hide it, to rationalize it, to pretend it wasn't that serious, and to try to discredit anyone who said otherwise. And the main targets of that were the reporters in the field, the human rights groups, and to a degree, those of us in Washington who were trying to examine the policies to figure out what was really happening and what was behind this. I remember again after the new administration came in and of course Secretary Haig made the remarkable comment that the four churchwomen were perhaps running a road block, which is how they'd gotten killed. And even people in the State Department who at that time were investigating this fairly honestly - they had not yet been purged - were shocked that the Secretary would say such a thing because they knew what the circumstances were even then. They knew that they'd been stopped, they knew that they'd been sexually assaulted, and shot at close range. None of that, of course, fit the image of running a road block, and exchange of fire.
But the reality became the greatest threat, even at that stage, to what the new administration wanted to accomplish, and what they wanted to accomplish was I think something they felt strongly about ideologically which was their view that the communists were on the march, that the Soviets were an expanding power, that you had to stop every left wing movement in its tracks and reverse it. And they were following of course the theory that Jean Kirkpatrick had devised that the totalitarian states never reverse and change into democratic states, only authoritarian ones do, which as we know now is perhaps one of the most inaccurate political theories. It's best if you're having a political theory, not to have it disproven so quickly, you know it might be best if you would, maybe fifty years from now you wouldn't really know as much. But Jean Kirkpatricks's was disproven very quickly but it was still the driving force behind the administration's approach to a number of these conflicts, and their justifications for going ahead and trying to conduct what became known later as the Reagan Doctrine which was to sponsor revolutionary operations or what am I saying, counterrevolutionary operations in many cases in various parts of the world and in the Third World in particular.
In ES of course, which was my first focus and the first focus of this policy, it was to protect a very brutal government which was at that time killing literally from a thousand to two thousand people a month. These were political murders; they were done in the most offensive fashion. I think any American, any average American, would have been shocked and would have opposed what his government was doing. So it became very important to keep that secret, or to minimize it, or rationalize it or somehow sanitize it.
So what we saw, even at that early stage, was the combat that was developing and the combat in terms of the domestic situation in Washington was how do you stop the press from telling that story. And much of what the Reagan administration developed were techniques to keep those kinds of stories out of the news media.
In some cases, as we saw later, in late 1981 of course there was, what is now fairly well known, the massacre in El Mazote. And this was a case where the first American trained battalion was sent out over Christmas time in 1981 into rebel controlled territory and it swept through this territory and killed everybody, everyone they could find - including the children. When two American reporters, Ray Bonner and Alma Jimapareta (?), went to the scene of this atrocity in January of 1982, they were able to see some of what was left behind and they interviewed witnesses who had survived, and came out with stories describing what they had found. This was of course extremely upsetting to the Reagan administration, which at that time was about to certify that the Salvadoran military was showing respect for human rights, and that was necessary to get further funding and weapons for the Salvadoran military.
And I was at those hearings which occurred afterwards, on the hill, and when Tom Enders who was then Assistant Secretary Of State for Inter-American affairs gave his description of how the State Department had investigated this and had found really nothing had happened or that they had found no evidence of any mass killing, and they argued with great cleverness that the last census had not shown even that many people in El Mazote - there were not the 800 or so who were alleged to have been killed - only 200 had lived there to begin with, and many still lived there, he said. Of course it wasn't true, but it was, I guess in their view, necessary - it was necessary to conceal what was going on. And, it became necessary then, to also discredit the journalists, so Raymond Bonner, and Alma and others, who were not accepting this story, had to be made to seem to be liars. They had to be destroyed. And the administration began developing their techniques, which they always were very good at - they were extremely good at public relations, that's what's they had - many of them had come from - the President himself had been an advertising figure for General Electric - and they were very adept at how to present things in the most favorable way for them.
But what we began to see was something that was unusual I think even for Washington - certainly it was unusual in my experience - a very nasty, often ad hominem attack on the journalists who were not playing along. And the case of Bonner was important because he worked for the New York Times, and the New York Times was one of those bastions of American journalism - this was not some small paper, it was not some insignificant news figure. So there began an effort to discredit him and the Wall Street editorial page was brought into play, Accuracy In Media was brought into play, he was attacked routinely by the State Department and White House spokespeople, there were efforts to paint him as some kind of a communist sympathizer, the charge would go around that he was worth a full division for the FMLN - the Salvadoran guerrillas - he was treated as an enemy - someone who was anti-American, in effect. And sadly, it worked. I was in ES in October of '82, I was down there to interview Roberto Dobesan, who was head of the death squads, and I was with a conservative activist, and after that interview we had lunch with the head of the political-military affairs office at the Embassy and the officer was then head of the military group, and on the way back to the hotel, they were boasting about how they had "gotten" Ray Bonner. "We finally got that Son-of-a-Bitch," they said, and at that time his removal had not yet been announced, so it was very interesting to hear that they knew what was about to happen, and he was, in fact, removed by early 1983, and then he was sort of shunted aside at the New York Times and eventually left.
So the message was quite clearly made apparent to those of us working on this topic that when you tried to tell the American people what was happening, you put your career at risk, which may not seem like a lot to some people, but you know, reporters are like everybody else I guess - they have mortgages and families and so forth and they don't really want to lose their jobs - I mean it's not something they aspire to. And the idea of success is to keep one of these jobs and there are a lot of interesting perks that go with it, a certain amount of esteem, you know, as well as you get paid pretty well. Those jobs in Washington - you can often be making six figures at some of the major publications, so it's not something you readily or easily throw away, from that working level.
But what happened in and around that same time frame, was the development, secretly, of another part of the Central America story, which was, of course, the covert war in Nicaragua. And William Casey and Ronald Reagan began putting this operation together, and it involved building up this paramilitary group called the contras, and they were supposed to be seen as an indigenous fighting force, the American role was supposed to be minimized or hidden, again, and that was how it was going to be sold to the American people. It was a classic covert operation, and then it was a legal one at that time - it had been authorized under the finding provisions of the National Security Act. But there were problems with this war from very early on, and one of the problems was that the Contra's weren't very good at fighting - they would go into some villages in Northern Nicaragua and commit atrocities, which began filtering back also to Washington. Congress began hearing about them lining up people in villages and killing them. But it wasn't a very effective group in terms of like taking territory. And there was one story which I did later but goes back to this time, when the CIA, in 1982, prepared a plan - it was written by the head of military operations, named Rudy Enders, and Mr. Enders had this timetable, and it talked about how the Contras were going to grow at a certain rate and where they'd be at a certain date and they had them marching into Managua by the end of 1983 - and so this was the plan. The plan was to, well, officially even to Congress the White House was saying we have no intention of overthrowing the government of Nicaragua - we're simply trying to interdict weapons going to El Salvador. In their own files at CIA, the policy file for the Contra war contained this timetable to overthrow the government of Nicaragua. So this was their plan - except that it wasn't working. And so by early '83, it became clear even to people at CIA that the Contras weren't what they hoped they'd be cracked up to be, and they ended up looking at this and saying we're going to have to do some different things.
Part of this problem though was still that, the longer this thing dragged out, the harder it was to keep all these secrets - plus the Contras were still going out and killing people left and right. So Bill Casey was stuck with a bit of a problem. And he approached it - as he was a very - Bill Casey is often, I think, misperceived - he was a very smart man, and he was extremely committed ideologically to what he was doing, and he was a person who believed in making things happen - whatever the rules might be, or whatever the red tape might be. And so he sat down and developed some strategies in 1983 on what to do. One thing is they would need more time to train the Contras - they weren't going to work the way they were going. Secondly, they had to create the impression the Contras were better than they were, so people wouldn't get tired of supporting them in Congress. So they decided the CIA would have to start sending in its own people, its own specially-trained Latino assets to begin doing attacks which the Contras could then claim credit for, like blowing up Corinto where they blew up this oil depot in the little town of Corinto on the coast, they sabotaged some oil pipeline in Porto San Dino, and these were all being done now by the CIA except that after they'd be done the agency guys would call up the Contra spokesmen, in this case often Edgar Chimorro, and they'd get them out of bed and say, "Now you're going to put a news release out saying that you guys have done this." Now the reason of course for that was to create the impression in the United States, to fool the American public and the Congress, to make the American public think the Contras were really quite effective - that they were now running sea assaults on Nicaragua - pretty sophisticated stuff for a paramilitary force.
And Casey had some other ideas. He also began to put together what became known later as the Psychological Operations Manual or the Assassination Manual, and he authorized that in the Summer of 1983, to be prepared - plus they prepared another little booklet on how if you're a Nicaraguan how you sabotage your own government - it was a delightful comic book which I later wrote about at AP - and it showed how you'd start off with, you know, calling in sick was one of the strategies to sabotage, and you'd build up to putting sponges in the toilet to make them back up, as if any of these things work in Nicaragua to begin with, and then they taught you how to make your own malatov cocktails, it was sort of - you graduated - you moved up in your sabotage - and they'd take these little comic books and the Contras were supposed to leave them behind wherever they'd go, so the people could then start calling in sick.
So that was one of his ideas. The other one was to do this book - this very sophisticated book in many ways. It made reference to ancient scholars, and how you gave speeches, but the most interesting part was that there was a section about how the Contras should use 'selective use of violence' to 'neutralize civilian targets' that is civilian officials, judges, people of that sort. And the idea was, apparently, that you would kill these people or at least, you know, incapacitate them somehow, but what was the most remarkable thing about that point was that, when this was finally uncovered when I did a piece on this a year later or so, the CIA then argued, "Well, you don't understand. We were trying to get the contras to be selective in their violence against civilians, not indiscriminate." And that became actually the defense that was used by the CIA to explain why they were running this booklet.
But anyway, these things were things that Casey put together in the summer of '83 but he had other plans, which is one section - one of the sections of my book deals with this most remarkable operation that he came up with at that time which is called the Public Diplomacy Apparatus. And what the Public Diplomacy Apparatus did was to make more systematic, to better staff, better finance this campaign to shape the reality that the American public would see. They had a phrase for it inside the administration. It was called 'perception management' and, with US. taxpayers dollars, they then went out and set up offices, mostly at the State Department - there was this Office of Public Diplomacy' for Latin America - but secretly it was being run out of the National Security Council staff. And the person who was overseeing it was a man named Walter Raymond. And Mr. Raymond had been a thirty- year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency and was the top propaganda expert for the agency in the world. He shipped it over to essentially run similar programs aimed at the American public. And overseeing all of this was the Director of Central Intelligence, William Casey.
The documentation on this now is extremely strong and clear, that even on matters of personnel, as well as on matters of general strategy, Casey would be given reports, asked to provide assistance, he would help or his people would help arrange bringing in people to staff this office.
They even turned to psychological warfare experts from Fort Bragg, who were brought up to handle the cable traffic coming in from Central America. And, as they say in their own documents, the purpose of these psychological warfare specialists was to identify exploitable themes that could be used against - with the American public - to excite the American public to be more and more angry about what was happening in Central America.
The documentation is also clear that the idea was to find our 'hot buttons' and to see what - how they could turn, twist, spin certain information to appeal to various special groups. They'd reached the point, and this was really being directed by the CIA, of breaking down the American people into subgroups, and there were people that they thought might be, for instance the press - they developed the themes relating to freedom of the press in La Prensa, which was the newspaper in Nicaragua, which was opposed to the Sandinistas. They targeted Jewish Americans - they had a special program to attack the Sandinistas or to paint them as anti- Semitic, which of course is one of the most, to my view, one of the most heinous things a person or any group could be. But, the idea in Nicaragua was to create this image, and then use it to build support among Jewish Americans for the Contras.
They did run into a bit of a problem with this, when they first devised it, which was that, they had not yet purged the US. Embassy of honest foreign service officers, so when they were preparing this, the Embassy, Ambassador Cranton (?? couldn't hear the name), sent up a cable - couple of cables - they were classified and I was later able to get ahold of them - which said it isn't true! That the Sandinistas are a matter of many things that are nasty and bad, but they're not anti-Semitic, and he said there was no verifiable ground upon which to make this charge. So what the White House did was they kept that classified and went ahead with the charge anyway. It was just too good a theme.
They also developed this - what they called the 'feet people' theme. This was one that was based on Richard Worthlund's polling data. Richard Worthlund who was this sort of legendary, conservative polling strategist did polling of the American people - they had special groups of people to sample these things with, and they'd found out that most of the themes about the communist menace in Central America left people cold. They didn't really take it that seriously - it just didn't hit the hot buttons right. But they found that one hot button that really, they could really use, was this idea of the Hispanic immigrants flooding into the United States. So they developed, what they called, the 'feet people' argument, which was that unless we stopped the communists in Nicaragua and San Salvador, 10% - they came up with that figure somewhere - 10% of all the people in Central America and Mexico will flood the United States.
Now, I suppose at this point already - and this was about '83-84 - we were sort of losing any touch with reality in Washington after we had been undergoing this stuff, but, if anyone had sat down and really said 'okay, now does this make any sense?', you were probably left with this opinion I think, which is that the massive flows of immigrants at that time were coming from El Salvador and Guatemala and of course, from Mexico - which was mostly economic - and in Guatemala and El Salvador it was that there were conservative governments in place, and at that time the flow from Nicaragua wasn't very great at all, and there was no 10% of the Nicaraguan people having fled, so that wasn't happening. There had been some flow of the wealthier Nicaraguans immediately after the revolution around 1979, but, it was not until later - much later actually - '85-85, actually '87-88, when the flow of Nicaraguans increased because as part of our strategy we were trying to destroy their economy. And after we destroyed their economy, people being people, they left - or a lot of them left.
But still, the feet people argument was considered very good because it played to the xenophobia of America, and it gave some political clout to Reagan in making this case, and he was able to use it with particular effect with border state congressmen and senators who felt politically vulnerable if their had been a sudden surge of refugees across the border.
So we had in place by this '83-84 timeframe, this Public Diplomacy office. And what it did was escalate the pressure on the journalists who were left, who were still trying to look at this in a fairly honest way and tell the American people what they could find out. You had cases, for instance at National Public Radio, where, in sort of a classic example of this, the Public Diplomacy team from State began harassing National Public Radio for what they considered reporting that was not supportive of the American position enough. And finally, NPR agreed to have a sit-down with Otto Reich - who was head of that office - and one of his deputies, and they were particularly irate about a story that NPR had run about a massacre of some coffee pickers in Nicaragua - and the story was more about their funeral, and how this had really destroyed this little village in Nicaragua, having lost a number of the men in the town - and the contras had done it so it didn't look to good, and Otto Reich was furious and he said 'We are monitoring NPR. We have a special consultant that measures how much time is spent on things that are pro-Contra and anti-Contra and we find you too anti-Contra and you'd better change.'
Now, the kind of effect that has is often subtle. In the case of NPR, one thing that happened was that the foreign editor, named Paul Allen, saw his next evaluation be marked down, and the use of this story was cited as one of the reasons for his being marked down and he felt that he had no choice but to leave NPR and he left journalism altogether. These were the kind of prices that people were starting to pay, all across Washington. The message was quite clear both in the region and in Washington that you were not going to do any career advancement if you insisted on pushing these stories. The White House is going to make it very, very painful for your editors by harassing them and yelling at them; having letters sent; going to your news executives - going way above even your bureau chiefs sometimes - to put the pressure on, to make sure if these stories were done they were done only in the most tepid ways. And there also was, in an underreported side of this, there were these independent organizations, who were acting as sort of the Wurlitzer organ effect for the White House attacks. Probably the most effective one from their side was Accuracy In Media, which we find out, from looking at their internal documents - the White House internal documents, was actually being funded out of the White House. There was - in one case we have because we have the records, the White House organized wealthy businessmen, particularly those from the news media, from the conservative news media, to come into the White House to the situation room where Charlie Wick, who was then head of USIA, pitched them to contribute a total of $200,000 to be used for public diplomacy and the money is then directed to Accuracy In Media and to Freedom House and a couple of other organizations which then support the White House in its positions, and make the argument that the White House is doing the right thing and that these reporters who are getting in the way must be Sandinista sympathizers or must not be very patriotic or whatever we were supposed to be at the time.
So you had this effect of what seemed to be independent organizations raising their voice, but, the more we kept finding out, the more we found at that these weren't independent organizations at all. These were adjuncts of a White House/CIA program that had at its very heart the idea of how we reported the news in Washington and how the American people perceived what was going on in Central America. I'm not sure this has ever happened before - I can't think of it, but it was a remarkable change in the way that the government, as I guess Ross Perot might say, was coming "at" the people rather than, you know, being "of" the people.
The overall effect as this continued over time was cumulative. Those of us in the press who continued - who were not smart enough to seek cover, found our work more and more being discredited, and us personally being attacked, because the game really became how do you destroy the investigator. And whether it be America's watch, which was finding that the Contras were engaged in human rights violations as well as the Sandinistas (I should say), or if it were the Catholic Church in El Salvador reporting upon the atrocities there, or it was some journalist finding out about the deceptions in Washington, the best way to deal with that was to discredit the people who were doing the investigation. If you made them look like they were unpatriotic, wrongheaded, somehow subversive, the overall effect was to, first of all make it harder for them to do their job, and secondly when they did their job, people would tend not to believe it. So it worked, basically.
So, as we get into the mid-80's, we're now in a situation where it's getting touchier and touchier to do these stories, but Congress, because of the mining problems and because of the bad publicity that followed, the disclosure that the CIA was actually doing many of these things which the Contras had been claiming credit for, when that was exposed in 1984 - accidentally exposed by Barry Goldwater on the floor of the Senate - what happened on that case was that Goldwater had gotten drunk and had gone down to the Senate and started talking about how the US. was mining the harbors of Nicaragua. And Rob Simmons, who was then staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee rushed onto the floor to grab this slightly drunken Senator and tell him that he wasn't supposed to say that and they - it was literally expunged from the Congressional Record, even though - this was before C- Span so you couldn't record it - it was expunged from the Congressional Record but a very diligent reporter, David Rodgers for the Wall Street Journal, happened to be in the press gallery and wrote it down so it ran in the Wall Street Journal and it got sort of out, and that contributed mightily to the problems that they had in continuing the war. So Congress stopped the funding for the Contras.
Immediately, and actually even before because they knew there was going to be a problem, the White House had this backup plan, and it was, of course, to have Ollie North become the point man. So North becomes, secretly, the point man. He is also being secretly supported by the CIA, and by the NSA, and by other US. intelligence services. That comes out much later. But Ollie North is now the man who is supposedly running everything but that's all secret too, at least from the American people. And he's arranging to get weapons and raise money, and they're doing their various things they did with Saudi Arabia and so forth, to get the money, and so we end up with a lot of us in Washington really sort of knowing about this. This isn't like, all that secret, you know. I'd met Ollie North in '83 and he was actually a source for many journalists because he would, as part of the deal he would tell you some sexy stuff about the Achilles Laurel or something, but you protect your source, so you wouldn't really write about him.
But I was writing about him. And by the summer of 85 - by June of 85, I did the first story about Oliver North. And it was a very tepid story, I must say, looking back at it. I had gone to the White House with it and they had flatly denied it. They said it was completely wrong, completely opposite from the truth - and I at that point had still not caught on to how dishonest these people had gotten. So I sort of softened it, but I still put it out - we had this story out for AP about Ollie North, and how he was running this Contra support operation, and how the White House was saying it wasn't happening, and that led eventually over that summer to a few other stories appearing, and of course it was all denied and the pressure on the journalists was so intense that the other news organizations backed away - the New York Times backed away, the Washington Post backed away, and it was left strangely to the AP and to the Miami Herald which was also following it with Al Charty's work to pursue this story - and really the story of the decade, but no one wanted it. It was an amazing story - it was a story about a really remarkable character, with a remarkable support cast, I mean, you know it was better than Watergate in that sense - I mean, you had Fawn Hall as opposed to Martha Mitchell, I mean this was a much better story! You had this secret war being fought, you had the government lying through its teeth every time it turned around, but no one wanted the story. The price had gotten too high.
So as much as I would like to say, like I was really some sort of journalistic genius who'd figured this all out, it didn't require that much. It just required sort of following the leads. They were all over the place. But we'd learned to sort of shield our eyes from the leads in Washington. And as we're doing this - I was now working with Brian Barger who we had brought on at AP - to help on this story, and we did the Contra-drug story in December of 1985, which was really well received around town [he said sarcastically], and we then proceeded to follow the North network into early '86 and we wrote the first story that there'd actually been a federal investigation in Miami, of what we knew as the North network. It had been suppressed because you weren't supposed to investigate this because it wasn't happening anyway, and the US. attorney who make the mistake of trying to investigate this, or the assistant US. attorney ended up in Thailand, working on some heroin case, and the investigation went literally nowhere.
So this was what was happening by the Summer of '86, when Barger and I finally did a story - we had 24 sources by this point - it was getting silly, you know? You know, it wasn't like two sources, or three sources, we were up to 24, and some of them named, and we did this story in June of '86 where we laid a lot of it out - we didn't have all of it, I'll grant - we didn't know about Secord's flights, but we had Rob Owen, and we had Jack Singlaub, and we had how the intermediaries were moving the weapons and so forth. So we get to this point, and we put this story out, and finally Congress - which had been very afraid of touching this - the democrats were extremely timid - finally Lee Hamilton, who was then Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee takes our little story with the rest of the Intelligence Committee over to the White House and they sit down with Ollie North and they say, "Colonel North - we have this story that says you're doing these things which are kind of illegal, uh, what about it?" He said, "It's not true," they said "Thank you," and they went back to Capitol Hill. And I get a call from one of Hamilton's aides, and he told me, he said - I'll never forget this, because it was probably my worst moment in the whole Iran Contra Scandal - I get this call from a Democratic aide who tells me that Lee Hamilton has looked into my story, and he had a choice between believing these honorable men at the White House or my sources and it wasn't a close call.
And so, at that point, we were, sort of, done. They could have - as Ross Perot might say - they could have stuck a fork in us. Barger was stuck on the overnight at AP and was sort of pushed out of the company - he left. I was basically told, more or less, well, you know, take your medicine like a man, you got it wrong, you know, and we were wrapping up our investigation - it was over. During that summer we tried to get a longer version of this into any publication, virtually none would take it. None would take it - I mean, we even went to Rolling Stone and they turned us down.
So that's where we were. This phony, dishonest, false reality had won out. And the reality had lost out, and anyone who was crazy enough to actually believe in the reality was a real loser in Washington.
And then, as it all looked like it was pretty much over, one of the last planes of Ollie North's little rag-tag airforce, was chugging along over Nicaragua on October 5th, 1986, and just because history is like this - history is kind of, you know, it's quirky sometimes - there was this teenager, draftee, never filed a SAM missile in his life, didn't even know how to fire it exactly, but he described after the fact how he sort of aimed it at this plane that was sort of lumbering along through the sky, and it went off! The SAM missile went off, and it went right at the plane, which really amazed this kid. They say it was Soviet made - I mean, what would you have thought? So the missile goes right at the plane and hits it right under one of the wings and the plane starts spiraling out of control. And another little quirk of history is that - most of the guys were kind of macho on board, and they didn't wear parachutes, but Eugene Hasenfus had just gotten a parachute sent to him by one of his relatives, and because he had the door open to start kicking out these weapons to the Contras, even though the plane spiraled out of control he could crawl to the door and pushed himself away from the plane and parachuted down through the Sandinistas.
And so, there was literally a smoking fuselage on the ground in Nicaragua, and the press corps in Washington suddenly said, 'oh gee! Maybe we had missed something after all.' But even then the White House initially - this was - it was an interesting meeting. October 7th, at the NSC - they were in kind of a panic. Ollie was out of the country working on the Iran project, so Elliot Abrams was chairing this meeting, and they were trying to figure out what to do - what was their story going to be. Later on I talked to one of the participants at this meeting and I said, "Gee, what did you guys think you were up to? Did you think you shouldn't just maybe fess up at this point?" He said "No. We had been so successful in managing the information, we, you know, just thought we could just do anything!" So the anything they did was that they just started lying again! And they put out - and it wasn't just from the State Department anymore, it was from the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, and virtually every senior official in the position to do anything about this, came out and said there is no US. government connection to this flight. And Elliot even sort of came up with this neat idea [sound lost for a moment] - I know Singlaub pretty well and I happened to put a call in, and he hadn't been told he was supposed to take the fall - they hadn't gotten around to telling him that. So when he flies back from Asia he lands, and he comes down off the plane and all these reporters are up to him saying, The New York Times has just run this story based on a senior official saying it was your plane and he said, "I had nothing to do with that plane!" So later on he told me that he have taken the fall if he'd only known that he was supposed to take the fall, but they hadn't told him he was supposed to take the fall, so, crazy enough, he told the truth.
So they were still looking for someone to take the blame on this, and then a very enterprising freelancer, an American journalist, went into the Salvadoran telephone office, and since everything's for sale down there, he bought the phone records for the safe house. They hadn't thought to, you know, take care of the phone records. And so he buys these phone records and, my goodness, there are all these calls to the White House, and to Ollie North's personal line, as well as by the way to the Vice President's office because Felix Rodriguez who was running the drops was calling virtually daily - well maybe, certainly weekly - the Vice President's office to talk to then George Bush's national security advisor Donald Greg. So they had to come up with some new stories again. And these stories kept shifting.
But what was incredible about the whole thing was the arrogance that pervaded the White House at this point. They really thought they could control how everybody in this country understood the facts. They could create the reality, and the press would go along with it, and through the press the American people would either be deceived or so confused that they wouldn't be able to do anything about it anyway. The perception management wasn't going to give up.
But that began to cause problems when the next shoe falls, which is the disclosure of the Iran initiative in early November of '86, and that is also a problem legally, because what they know inside the White House which we don't know yet, is that, in 1985 the President had authorized the first shipment of missiles to Iran through Israel without proper authorization. He had not signed a finding; he was in violation of a felony which is called the Arms Export Control Act.
So they had to cover that up. And what we saw was the next remarkable stage of this. And probably this is what changed a lot of how I saw journalism. Obviously I'd not been really too thrilled by what I was seeing up to this point, but the next phase was even more unbelievable. And the next phase is the scandal was broken - there are three parts to it basically: there's the illegal shipments of weapons to the Contras in defiance of the law, the Boland Amendment; there is the problem of the Arms Export Control Act, which President Reagan was violating back in '85; and of course there's what became the focus - the crossover - the use of residuals from the arms sales in Iran for the Contras - the so-called 'diversion' which many people feel was indeed a diversion of the public at least. So you had these three elements. The White House chose to make a stand on the latter one - the diversion, and they proceeded to lie about the other two. They put out false chronologies on Iran to show that the President did not know about the '85 shipment. They insisted - even as Vice President Bush insisted until December of '86 that he had no idea there was a Contra operation going on - even though it had been much of the press, he just hadn't bothered to read it.
So you had this decision to sort of deny straightforwardly, possibly accurately that the President did or did not know about the diversion - they said he didn't. And that became the focus for the press and for the congress as the investigation gears up, which is very bad enough because these other questions are very important. Was the President involved in a felony under the Arms Export Control Act? Was he involved possibly in another type of crime by defying a law which he signed into law - the Boland Amendment? Can the President just unilaterally conduct war using third country funding? All of these are very important questions to our democracy.
But the focus was on the diversion. And on that they felt they could contain it as long as John Poindexter said the buck stopped here, which of course he would do. However, what we began to see very quickly in Washington was a - almost a collaboration at this point to contain the scandal. Obviously the White House and the Republicans had a very strong interest in containing this scandal; they were politically in hot water. But the Democrats, and the press, were also inclined to contain the scandal. As the phrase went - nobody wanted another Watergate. The people may have wanted another Watergate - but that was the view in Washington - nobody wants other Watergate. And at this point, my last story for AP - AP and I had really had some struggles because although they were in a way happy with my work, but in a way I put them in some very tough spots, and they had not always been the best, but I must say they did put out most of our stories, eventually, and they did the most, of any news organization, but - my last story for them in February of '87 was - we jumped at one of the last firebreaks. We brought the story into the CIA. And I reported that the CIA had assisted North's operation, despite their denials; that North was using National Security Agency highly-sensitive secret cryptology equipment and had been passing it out like candy to all the people who were working with him - they all had these KL-43's as they were called which could send these secret messages back and forth, and so we'd broken that barrier. We'd broken into the CIA.
And then I went to Newsweek. Maybe a mistake, I guess, in retrospect, but I went to Newsweek. And I thought - I always think of Newsweek as what it used to be - sort of a gutsy magazine that had changed. So anyway I get to Newsweek and the first week I'm there, some stories about these phony chronologies are circulating and I call a friend of mine on the National Security Council staff and I say, "What are you doing now? You're doing false chronologies on how the Iran sales happened?" and he said, "Bob, you don't understand," he said "These were orders from the Oval Office. Don Regan sent down word that we were to protect the President and write him out of these events." And so, I tell my new Bureau Chief at Newsweek Evan Thomas, and he's real excited by this 'cause he gets excited, and he goes in and Tommy DeFrank, who was the assistant Bureau Chief, calls another source - well known person whose name I can't mention I guess, from the NSC, and this person said yes, that's exactly right, we were told to do it.
So Newsweek ran this - I have one copy of this because Newsweek sort of threw it away afterwards - but we ran a cover story called "Cover-up" and we recount how, to protect the President, the NSC staffers were ordered to put these phony chronologies out. And what we didn't realize at the time was we had just broken through the last firebreak. We were in the Oval Office with this story.
And the reaction was incredible. Many of my colleagues in the press attacked us. The Wall Street Journal, not just in its editorial pages but its news columns attacked us; Newsweek - of course, Don Regan, who was one of the people of course named here attacked us; and Newsweek decided that they wanted to retract the story. And they sent me back to my source, several times over the next period of time, to get him to take it back and he wouldn't. He said, I told you what I knew, and what do you want me to say, and I said well, we want to retract the story is what we want to do. Anyway, so one of my friends went around - because this was such an embarrassment to Newsweek - that he told me he went around Newsweek and got all the copies he could find and threw them away, so people wouldn't know - so there wouldn't be a reminder - it was sort of a 'nice thing' he was doing - so there wouldn't be a reminder of my big mistake. And I found out fairly recently - as recently as a year ago, Newsweek was going to Judge Walsh's office and asking him to give them information so they could retract this story - in their view - to fix the historical record. But of course Judge Walsh wouldn't help them on it.
So anyway, here we are, and the problem is - and, uh, it's hard to understand if you haven't lived in Washington it may not make a lot of sense, but I'll explain it anyway - there were three choices at this point:
Choice "A" was to tell the truth, to say that the President had violated a variety of laws, committed felonies, and violated our constitutional safeguards about the way we carry out wars in our country, and impeach him. Option A.
Then there was Option "B" - to tell the truth and have congress sort of say well, it's okay with us, which creates a dangerous precedent for the future, that is, that now President's would say well hey, look at the Reagan example, you know, if he can wage war privately, why can't I? So that was Option "B."
And then there was Option "C" - to pretend it didn't happen, or to pretend that, say, some Lieutenant Colonel had done it all. So Washington, I guess understandably, settled on Option "C."
And it didn't hit me until one evening in March of '87, the Tower board had just come out with its report, which basically said that the President was a little bit asleep at the switch, but hey, you know, it was really these crazy nuts who did it, and we had one of these Newsweek dinners - they're fancy affairs - and it was at the Bureau Chief's house, and they're catered, and there's a tuxedoed waiter, and he pours the wine, there's nice food, and I was new - I came out of AP which is kind of a working class/working man's kind of news organization so I wasn't used to this. And we had as our guest that evening Brent Scowcroft, who had been on the Tower Board, and Dick Cheney, who was then - who was going to be the ranking minority figure on the house Iran-Contra Committee, and we're going through this little delightful dinner, and at one point Brent Scowcroft says, he says "Well, I probably shouldn't be saying this, but if I were advising Admirable Poindexter, and he had told the President about the diversion, I'd advise him to say that he hadn't." And being new to this whole, sort of game, I stopped eating, and looked across the table and said "General! You're not suggesting that the Admiral should commit perjury, are you?" And there was kind of like an embarrassed little silence at the table, and the editor of Newsweek, who was sitting next to me, says - I hope partly jokingly but I don't know - he says, "Sometimes we have to do what's good for the country."
So that became - I somehow realized I was in a different place than I thought I'd been in you know? So what happened then was that played out. It played out. And it played out almost predictably, almost sort of with a sadness. And even when Oliver North finally told the truth, which was that he was ordered to do all this stuff, and that there was a cover-up going on - you see, he even told them there was a fall guy planned - it was the first cover-up that had been announced probably in front of 100 million Americans and still it was believed by Congress! So Lee Hamilton again, the same guy who had accepted North's word and other guys' back in August of '86, he decides, as Chairman of the Iran-Contra Committee, that we all should sort of say that it was just these 'men of zeal' - there'd been a coup d'etat in the White House, we'd find out - there'd been a junta of a Lt. Col and maybe an Admiral here and there you know who were running this policy and that somehow the CIA had missed it, the White House had missed it, NSA had missed it - it wasn't like the Russians were doing this, it was like, being done, like, under their nose! But, you know, okay - it's not very believable - a lot of Americans didn't believe it, to tell you the truth - but in Washington we believed it. We all believed it. Not all of us, but we pretty much had to believe it. And at Newsweek and elsewhere we were told in the press this was not a story anymore, this was not to be pursued, I guess because this wouldn't be good for the country to pursue it. And again, history being kind of quirky, there was this other element of the story, which was that these three Republican judges who picked independent counsel, picked Lawrence Walsh to be the independent counsel on this investigation, and Lawrence Walsh was sort of this non-descript sort of fellow - he's not a really sharp legal mind? But he's very honest - and maybe they thought they could manage him. But he just kept pursuing the leads, and despite all the lies and the cover-ups that went on, there were other breaks because he kept pursuing the leads, that you then had of course, with the North trial and the Poindexter trial, these guys - basically North saying - here's more and more evidence that these guys were running this thing, and then in the Poindexter trial Reagan comes out and makes a complete fool of himself and is just all over the place with his story.
But then another event happens that we really don't know much about - and that event is that this guy named Craig Gillan is hired to do a sort of clean-up operation at the Independent Counsel's office - just to get the loose ends together so they can wrap up the investigation and end this thing - it's 1990. And Craig Gillan finds out that there are a lot of document requests that had been sent out in the early days and some hadn't been answered! One was from Charlie Hill, who was an aide to George Schultz, and who was - last time I knew he was at Hoover up at Stanford - and so they write to Charlie and they say Charlie - you didn't give us your notes. And Charlie finally sends his notes, and in it they find this strange reference to Casper Weinberger taking all these notes! But of course Casper Weinberger told them that he had no notes. Then as they follow those leads they find that in fact there had been an Oval Office cover-up, and that what we had seen, and what remarkably the White House had been able to successfully maintain, in the defiance of all the logic and reason that should have been brought to bear - they were able to maintain for *six years* what amounted to a felony obstruction of justice out of the White House. And they did it under the nose of the Congress, under the nose of the Washington press corp, and the way they were able to do it was essentially this acceptance in Washington of an absolutely phony reality, one which is accepted in sort of a consensus way - what you'll hear if you listen to the McLaughlin Group or these other shows is a general consensus - there may be disagreements on some points - but there is a general consensus of the world that is brought to bear, and often it is in absolute contradiction to the real world. It is a false reality - it's a Washington reality.
And what we have seen at the end of these twelve years, and what I guess the challenge of the moment becomes is how that gets changed. How do the American people really get back control of this - not just their government, but of their history - because it's really their history that has been taken away from them. And it's really what the Washington Press Corps and the Democrats in Congress as well as the Republicans are culpable of, was this failure to tell the American people their history. And the reason they didn't was because they knew, or feared, that if the American people knew their real history - whether it goes back to the days of slaughters going on in El Salvador - if they had known about El Mazote - if they had known about the little children that were put in the house and shot to death and garroted - that they wouldn't have gone along with that. And if they had known that there were felony obstructions of justice being carried out of the Oval Office they wouldn't have gone along with that either, and there would have been a real problem - there would have been a political problem to contain I guess, but - it is not the role of the Washington press corp - maybe this is sounds like an understatement, but it's not the role of the Washington press corps to take part in that. Our job was supposed to be, I thought, to kind of tell people what we could find out! We go in, we act nice, we ask a lot of questions, find some things and run out and tell you! We're sort of like spies for the people, you know, and instead, we sort of got in there - and I guess it was real nice, we felt like we were insiders, we felt like these were all nice, respectable men - they dressed well - Casper Weinberger went to every single one of these press/government functions - the Grid Iron Club, the White House Correspondents' dinners, the Congressional correspondents' dinners - you'd always find Casper Weinberger there. And so when he finally gets indicted the Washington press corps comes out and says that's a terrible thing to do, 'cause Casper Weinberger's a good man! He went to all our parties! How could you think badly of him? And there was even a column by liberal columnist Richard Cohen in the Washington Post who said, it's a terrible thing to indict Casper Weinberger because we shop at the same store in Georgetown! He said Casper Weinberger even pushed his own shopping cart! And before Thanksgiving one year, Richard Cohen saw Casper Weinberger buying his own turkey. And so how could you think about indicting a guy for a felony obstruction of justice when he pushes his own shopping cart? This may seem funny out here but in Washington it's not! This is very serious stuff!
I know I'm taking too long, but one other thing I wanted to talk about was - well, you know life being what it is, and history being quirky as it is - so I left Newsweek in 1990 - I was not on the best of terms with them - because I wouldn't go along with this. I mean, I wouldn't - I kept saying first of all George Bush knew it and we should have told the people about it in 1988 when he was running for president - we knew what he knew, we knew that his stories were absolutely the most implausible, idiotic, embarrassing cover stories imaginable and they should not have been treated with the kind of respect they were treated with and we should definitely have pursued that. We also knew that there was a a cover-up going on - which I kept insisting on even though Newsweek kept trying to retract it, and so I left. And I was going to do this book, and this book was going to be about how Washington sort of works or doesn't, and about how the press behaved sort of cowardly, and then I get this phone call one day, in August of 1990, from PBS Frontline, and they asked me if I would do some investigative work on this project called the October Surprise. And I'd been through a lot, and I really didn't want to go through any more. And of all the taboos - obviously for a long time the North network was just a 'crazy conspiracy theory', and then the idea that Bush was involved was a 'crazy conspiracy theory', and the idea that there was a cover-up was a 'crazy conspiracy theory', and I'd seen all these conspiracy theories actually turn out to be true, so I really didn't want to discount anything without having looked at it carefully, I thought, and anyway I thought it would be kind of wimpy, you know, unprofessional and wimpy to say no. This was a reputable outfit - PBS Frontline wanted me to look at something and, as much as I had my doubts about it I thought, okay.
So, I went off on this little strange adventure. I had a producer named Robert Ross who's a wonderful guy who speaks Persian and has lived in the Middle East. We took our little camera - our little high eight camera - and we went around as cheaply as possible, and we went to Europe, we went to the West Coast - we interviewed some arms dealer over in Santa Monica - and we went around and put together whatever we could. And we found, to our surprise I think, that there was more there than we thought. We had doubts about a lot of it still, and we did not in our - when we finally decided to go with the program we wanted we were very I think skeptical - that we didn't feel it was proven, but that there was enough there that merited further attention, I guess that's a fair way to say where we ended up. So we did this program, and it aired in April of '91. Gary Sick the day before - Gary Sick was interviewed on our show - he was a former national security man under Carter and a very respected historian, and it was partly his decision to think that this had happened that influenced us to some degree, because it wasn't just crazy arms dealers and intelligence guys - it was also this fairly respectable guy, and the day before our show aired he did a piece in the New York Times describing his angst and how he came to this conclusion. And so this story that had sort of lived on the fringes for some time but which the government itself had brought in on the public record in a perjury trial in the Spring of 1990, and lost, this now moved into the mainstream much more, and it drew - even by the comparisons to the other stuff - this one was attacked, and continues to be attacked. Frontline commissioned a second program - an update, which we tried to do in just a very straightforward, honest way - because at that point the debunkers - The New Republic and Newsweek actually leading the way - we felt were wrong on a number of points. But we also felt that we didn't think it was anywhere near proven and we did a show saying basically that, and trying to track Casey's whereabouts and all the rest of the stuff we did.
Anyway, so after the second show, there was this Congressional investigation, which the Republicans fought, which George Bush personally strategized to stop, and it was stopped in the Senate with a filibuster, but the House approved an investigation - the Senate did a little one in one of the subcommittees, and it just has to be that Lee Hamilton was of course assigned to head the investigation. It wouldn't have been fair otherwise - see, Lee Hamilton was a very honorable man, in many ways, I think, except he doesn't believe anyone else can lie, I guess. He was chairman of the Middle East subcommittee when the Iran stuff was happening - the Iran arms stuff and he missed it. He was then chairman of the intelligence committee when North was going full board - missed that. He was then rewarded by being made head of the Iran-Contra investigation and he kind of missed that. And so, because of his sterling record they made him head of the House Task Force on the October Surprise! And of course then the House Task Force found that it was just fantasy, and they put out their report - and I must say I've read a lot of reports and I think it's the worst one I've ever read - but it was well-received in Washington but I'm going to tell you one little - I mean when people talk about fantasy in Washington - there is this section in this report, and this I think is emblematic of it, where the House wants to put Casey somewhere, and they decide that on August 2nd, 1980, Bill Casey was on Long Island. And you look for why they think that - this becomes important to the story and I'll make it brief. When you look back at this, what they have is that, on August 2nd, Richard Allen - who was then a foreign policy advisor to candidate Reagan, wrote Casey's Long Island phone number on the bottom of a sheet of paper. It was Bill Casey, 516, you know, whatever, and there's no notation of a call or conversation, and Allen when he testified he said I think I called the number, he said, but I don't recall talking to Casey or even if the call was answered. And there's no phone bill showing a call. So what normally people would say, even my four year probably would say, is that doesn't prove anything. That proves, like, zero! If someone calls my number in 703 in Arlington hey, I'm not there! And it doesn't matter that they call my number, or write it down. Yet this becomes conclusive proof to the task force that Bill Casey was on Long Island.
Now the reason that's important is because Bill Casey was really at the Bohemian Grove in upstate California. And what we had, was - he actually purchased their annual play book on August 1st at the Grove, according to the Grove. We had a contemporaneous diary entry from one of the people at the Grove that was in the same cottage Casey was in, Matthew McGowan, who describes meeting with Casey that weekend, and they throw out that evidence, because Richard Allen wrote Casey's phone number down and it was a Long Island number! And you go to them and you say how - Larry Burcello was the counsel here - I've had these arguments and I've said Larry, this doesn't prove anything, and they say, it does as far as we're concerned. They put Bill Casey - they wanted him to be there actually the week earlier, the last week of July, because if you put him there that weekend, which they do, that disproves one of the allegations about him meeting with Iranians in Spain that weekend. So by putting him there the weekend earlier, when he was actually there the first weekend in August, you disprove an important allegation, and that means that one of these guys was just a liar and a fabricator, and we can all go home and feel happy about it.
Anyway, that's a bit of a long way to explain that my last adventure was on this October Surprise thing, and I have written a second book, which recounts that little adventure, and it's called Trick or Treason, and it should be out, I guess later this year. This first book is more - basically I talk about how the "conventional wisdom" works, and I use that to sort string along a lot of great little stories about how - my investigative stuff and things that we found out along the way. The second book is really like a first person kind of magical mystery tour through strange people.
What I think is the bottom line of both books is that we are in great danger of losing our grasp of reality as a nation. Our history has been taken away from us in key ways. We've been lied to so often. And important things have been blocked from us. It was important to know that those little children were killed in El Mazote. I have four kids, and I know what they mean to me, and it's always been a part of my journalism that I don't want - that if any of my sons will ever be taken off to war someplace, I want it to be done for a real reason - not because somebody made something up. But I also feel for people who lose their kids anywhere. And I think that the idea that our government would be complicit, not just in the killing, but in this very cynical effort to lie about it, and hide about it, and pretend it didn't happen, and attack those who find out that it did happen, is in many ways almost worse. It is something that, as a democracy, we can't really allow to happen.
The main problem, at this point, is that we have a set of establishments in Washington that have failed us, as a people. Obviously the executive branch did it because it had its goals, and agendas, and it wanted to do these things, and maybe in some cases they were right. But they shouldn't have lied to us. They shouldn't have tried to create a false reality to trick us into this. Congress failed because it didn't have the courage to stand up and do oversight and perform its constitutional responsibilities.
But what is perhaps most shocking to Americans is that the press failed. The press is what people sort of expect to be there as the watchdog, the final group to sort of warn us of danger. And the press joined it. And the press saw itself - in the Washington press corp I'm talking about - saw itself at the elite levels as part of the insider community. And as that evolved and then grew in the 1980's, the press stopped performing its oversight responsibilities. And I think we have to figure out some way, as a people, to change that. There've been actually more changes I think in the political structure - whatever anyone thinks of Mr. Clinton, at least there's a change there. And he has different priorities. And in Congress there's even been some change.
But the press has gone from being when I got there '77 as a Watergate press corp, with its faults, with being maybe a little too overly zealous in pursuing some minor infraction, but still - it was there as the watchdog. What we have now, and its continuing into this new era, is the Reagan-Bush press corp. It's the press corp that they helped create - that they created partly by purging those, or encouraging the purging of those who were not going along, but it was ultimately the editors and the news executives that did the purging. It wasn't the White House or the State Department or the Embassy in El Salvador that drove Ray Bonner out of the New York Times; it was the New York Times executives who did it. And throughout that whole era it wasn't the State Department or the White House that ruined Paul Allen's career at NPR, it was NPR executives. And this was the case all the way around Washington. The people who succeeded and did well were those who didn't stand up, who didn't write the big stories, who looked the other way when history was happening in front of them, and went along either consciously or just by cowardice with the deception of the American people. And I think that's what we all have to sort of look at to see what we can do to change it. I think it will take a tremendous commitment by the American people to insist on both more honest journalism, more straightforward journalism, but also maybe even new journalism. There has to be some other way - some other outlets. In a way, I've grown to despair at the possibility of reforming some of these organizations. Maybe it can happen, but I think ultimately, we're going to have to see a new kind of media to replace this old one.
End of talk. There followed a question and answer session - one of which was to the point of this newsgroup. He was asked for his opinion on the Kennedy assassination.
End of talk. There followed a question and answer session - one of which was to the point of this newsgroup. He was asked for his opinion on the Kennedy assassination.
End of talk. There followed a question and answer session - one of which was to the point of this newsgroup. He was asked for his opinion on the Kennedy assassination.
Parry: He's asking what I might think about the assassination of President Kennedy. And I guess my answer about that would be I don't know. One of the great tragedies of losing our history which is what's been happening throughout our lifetimes, has been that, because of this sort of 'conventional wisdom' or 'conventional reality' that exists, certain things are not explored. I guess in '63 the conventional wisdom was of course that it was a lone gun acting by himself - a crazy man. And so the Warren Commission, like many other government investigations since, basically just reinforced - ratified that belief. They may have been right - I mean, I don't know. [Man interjects "there've been over 600 books on the subject written ] -I know! I've read some of them. But - all I'm saying is that if investigations aren't done properly within a certain period of time it's very hard to do them. I had a friend who was at Time/LIFE during that period and he was following up on the connections to New Orleans. But Time/LIFE was so angry about anyone even thinking that there might be another part of this story, that he used to have to put down different stories on his expense accounts - like if he would to go to New Orleans to interview some of these guys that might have information he'd have to say he was there for the Mardi Gras or something. He couldn't say he was there for the assassination of President Kennedy because he would have been considered some kind of a nut!
And in answer to a question about maybe the people don't really want to know the truth or take responsibility to pressure the powers that be to tell the truth:
And in answer to a question about maybe the people don't really want to know the truth or take responsibility to pressure the powers that be to tell the truth:
And in answer to a question about maybe the people don't really want to know the truth or take responsibility to pressure the powers that be to tell the truth:
Parry: I think probably a lot of people don't want to know. I agree with that. I think, because, it's hard to know. And I would hear that a lot. That would be an argument that would be used a great deal in the 80's after Iran-Contra was going along - it would be that people were bored, they were tired, they didn't want to hear about it anymore. My feeling though is that it was the responsibility of the reporter to tell the people what he could about important events as fairly and as completely as possible. And it was less my responsibility to decide what they should know or shouldn't know, or even wanted to know, but to make an honest judgment about what was historically of importance and tell them what I could. And even if it's 10% of the public that wants to know, they deserve to know. I don't think you should do polls to find out what people want to hear and then tell them what they want to hear. I think to some degree the press needs to inform the public about stuff that's important.
In answer to "do the people know they're being lied to":
In answer to "do the people know they're being lied to":
In answer to "do the people know they're being lied to":
Parry: Well basically, the American people I think, from the polls, believe - first of all they were interested in Iran-Contra, much more so than the press wanted to think. I remember once at Newsweek a poll showed 1/3 of the people following the story closely, 1/3 following them a little bit, and a 1/3 of them not following them at all, and they said - well, you see 2/3 of the people aren't following them very much at all, so therefore, you know - there were arguments that were kind of turned and twisted to make it appear that the public didn't really want to know. I think the public did want to know. Ollie North's book was a bestseller - a number have been bestsellers - that shows that they're interested. Plus, I think, they have a tremendous distrust of how the government's functioned and they want to know when they've been lied to. It may not be that they care as much about all the details, but they sure care if a man who is running for President has lied to them in a major way, and expect the press to try to make a good-faith effort to discover that, and not to sort of go along and say gee, it would be too disruptive if people knew that.
The thieves dug a 200m (656ft) tunnel into the bank from a nearby house in the northern city of Fortaleza.
Neighbours said between six and 10 men worked at the house, rented in the name of a company making artificial turf.
The theft happened over the weekend, but was not discovered until Monday morning because the bank was closed.
Neighbours reported seeing vanloads of material being removed each day.
It took three months to dig the tunnel "It's something you see in the movies... They dug a tunnel that goes underneath two [city] blocks. They've been digging for three months," investigator Francisco Queiroga told the Reuters news agency.
The Banco Central said the robbers opened five containers with 50 real ($22) bills.
Police investigate biggest bank robbery in Brazilian history
Fortaleza - Three months ago a house was rented for commercial use in Fortaleza, capital of the state of Ceará. The house was located some 80 meters away from the local Central Bank of Brazil (BC) builidng on a street that ran parallel to the street where the BC was located. A landscaping firm, called Synthetic Grass, opened for business in the house. For the past three months the occupants of the house have been doing some unusual landscaping. It was all underground. They dug a tunnel exactly 78 meters long, with interior lighting and air conditioning. The tunnel was dug 4 meters below the surface. It was 70 centimeters high, 70 centimeters wide and lined with canvas and wood. When the diggers reached their destination, the vault of the BC, they had to cut through 1.10 meters of solid steel-reinforced concrete before they could get to the money. That is what they did this weekend. The bank vault closed on Friday and when it was opened Monday morning a lot of money had disappeared and the robbery was discovered. The amount of money missing, in used, untraceable bills, totalled US$65 million (R$150 million), making it the biggest bank robbery in Brazilian history, and the second biggest ever (behind only a US$72 million robbery in England in 1987). The police say they have descriptions of the men involved and have begun a manhunt. The BC president, Henrique Meirelles, has ordered the bank to make its own investigation and report back to him. Meirelles is curious about how that much money, weighing an estimated 3.5 tons, could have been moved around without anyone seeing anything. There is also the problem of an alarm system inside the vault that did not work. Translator: Allen Bennett
Officials are still working out how much money was taken after the gang tunnelled 80m under neighbouring houses and a high street to come up under the vault of a regional Brazilian central bank office in Fortaleza, Brazil’s fifth-biggest city.
Officials found the hole in their vault when the office was opened on Monday morning after having been shut all weekend. Five containers in the safe had been opened and emptied of about three million banknotes.
The haul weighed about 3½ tonnes and was composed of used 50 real banknotes, worth about £12.50 each.
Despite the huge amount of money involved, the robbers got away cleanly as no alarm went off and no hostages were taken during the raid. Police have already extended their search for the gang beyond Ceará, the northeastern state of which Fortaleza is the capital.
The money taken had been withdrawn from circulation for testing and the bank planned to destroy notes in poor condition and put the rest back into circulation. Made up of used, non- sequential and commonly accepted banknotes, the robbers’ haul is virtually untraceable.
Police and an internal bank investigation will focus on how the gang managed to bypass the bank’s alarm system and the movement sensors in the vault. Cameras in the bank are said to have recorded nothing unusual after the office closed at 6pm on Friday. Police will also examine if the gang received inside information.
The tunnel used by the gang was traced by police back to a house one street away from the bank. The house had been rented since April to several men who had set up and run a landscape gardening company from it.
Called Synthetic Lawns and supposedly specialising in natural and artificial garden lawns, the company acted as a front for the men’s activities in the house. Police suspect that the gang chose a landscaping business to help to explain the movement of large amounts of earth from the property.
The tunnel running from the house was 4m below street level, had 70cm of headroom and was propped up with wooden supports and sandbags. It was also fitted out with plastic sheeting, electric light and air conditioning to provide some comfort for the tunnellers while they worked.
Up to ten men who are believed to have frequented the rented house are being sought in connection with the raid.
Local residents said that the men had been friendly and several of them drank in local bars in the months leading up to the robbery.
The robbery was almost identical to one carried out in São Paulo last October when a gang tunnelled 120m from a house into a money transportation company and eight armed men forced staff to stuff 4.7 million reals (£1.15 million) into bags.
Police believe that both heists may have been masterminded by Moises Teixeira da Silva, a convicted bank robber who escaped from São Paulo’s infamous Carandiru prison in 2001 after he and 100 other inmates — appropriately enough — tunnelled out.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Investigative TV journalism at its best.
Read the program transcript of Quentin McDermott's report into cyber-fraud, "Your Money and Your Life".
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Deep in the heart of the American intelligence community a global war is being fought against cyber-criminals.
JOHN P. WATTERS: The threats don't emerge from our neighbourhood or our neighbour's neighbourhood; they emerge from all over the world.
ALAN PALLER: Bad guys are winning the war. There's no question the bad guys are winning the war.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: This war is being fought by governments, by police and intelligence agencies, by banks and credit card companies. The enemy is out there in cyberspace.
TOM KELLERMANN: The governments of the world, the law enforcement communities of the world do not control the internet. They wish they could, but they can't.
DAN CLEMENTS: There are hundreds of chat rooms and there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of hackers that sit in these chat rooms and trade information, buy credit cards, sell credit cards, basically to commit crimes.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The casualties in this war are all of us. From London to Sydney to New York, anyone who holds a credit card or uses the internet for financial transactions is a potential target. And at stake is not only your wealth but also your very identity.
KEVIN MITNICK: Stealing identities in America is the fastest growing crime of the century.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tonight on Four Corners: how cyber-criminals are after your money and your life.
CARDSYSTEMS REPRESENTATIVE: On Sunday, May 22nd we became aware of a security incident within CardSystems.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Earlier this year, a massive theft of personal data was finally made public. The private financial details of up to 40,000,000 people had been compromised last year after cyber-criminals hacked into a credit card processing company in Tucson, Arizona. The company at the time processed millions of transactions for Mastercard and Visa. Around 130,000 Australians were affected.
It was a really major breach of security, wasn't it?
BRUCE MANSFIELD: We take all of these breaches very, very seriously. It was a significant one, yes. We're talking about over 20,000,000 Visa accounts in the United States which were compromised, and the vast majority of those accounts were American accounts. As you may know, and we've again reported that, over 200,000 of those accounts were from Asia Pacific.
TOM KELLERMANN: What people should worry about CardSystems is what other data was being held there. The verifying data that they ask you for over the phone to verify that you are the holder of that credit card, was that information stolen? That's what they should really worry about.
NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK EMPLOYEE: I can stop the card today and the new card will go out tomorrow.
DERREN JONES: This is the National Australia Bank's credit card fraud team. We monitor transactions on customers' credit cards. We do that 24/7, 365 days a year.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The CardSystems security breach was uncovered not in America but in Melbourne in this room here: the hub of the National Australia Bank's credit card fraud unit.
DERREN JONES: The fraudulent transactions were actually happening in Sydney, which made it even more difficult to find the point of compromise, which we obviously now know is in the United States. So it looked like normal customer spending, but obviously we're pretty sophisticated in what we do and through those normal procedures we found out that there was a breach in the US.
How many fraud transactions have you got?
NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK EMPLOYEE: Okay, we've got five here.
DERREN JONES: Were they all approved?
NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK EMPLOYEE: No, only one of them was approved.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: After discovering that a major security breach had occurred, Derren Jones and his team handed the investigation over to Visa, Mastercard and the FBI. The culprit, they discovered, was CardSystems. Normally card processors don't store cardholders' personal data. But CardSystems broke the rules and stored a range of sensitive personal details.
KEVIN MITNICK: The company's failure was storing this confidential data; it should have been encrypted and it was stored in the clear.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Was CardSystems sufficiently regulated and monitored by Visa?
BRUCE MANSFIELD: Yes, I believe so. Again, we take data security very seriously at all levels of the system. We have a very robust process, a very robust standard. That's been in place since late 2000.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Are companies like CardSystems sufficiently regulated and monitored?
TOM KELLERMANN: No. They're not sufficiently regulated or monitored. These entities - once again, they act, they participate in the financial scheme. They move digital data, which is akin to money because money is now digital now, and yet they're not forced to undergo any audits, assessments and maintain information security policies and a certain standard of due diligence.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Visa has now ditched CardSystems as one of its major card processors. The ripples from the CardSystems security breach are being felt far and wide – not just in the industry but by customers who were defrauded. It's part of a crime wave that law enforcement agencies are having trouble dealing with.
DET-INSP PETER WILKINS: Fraud in Australia costs up to $5,800,000,000 per annum. A healthy component of that is identity theft. A healthy component of that is credit card fraud.
NAB AD VIDEOTAPE: An ordinary credit card: friend of shoppers, good travelling companion but, in the wrong hands, capable of quite extraordinary feats of deception, like the case of the bearded lady.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Such is the scale of credit card fraud, costing hundreds of millions a year, that the NAB has produced its own dramatised warning, based on real stories.
PRESENTER: Check the name on the card fits the customer.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Some victims, it shows, are gullible business people.
BEN: Hi. You must be Zoe.
FLORIST: I am.
BEN: I'm Ben from nextdoor. Listen, our terminal's down. So I was wondering if I could use yours until they get ours working. Of course, we'll pay you five per cent for the inconvenience.
FLORIST: Sure, yeah. When did you want to start?
Guys? Guys? There seems to be a bit of a problem with some of these transactions, guys. Hello? $120,000 worth.
PRESENTER: Never process transactions for someone else. You will be liable for them.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Some make victims of themselves by handing over private data to perfect strangers.
DET-INSP PETER WILKINS: It's amazing how many databases you would personally be a part of. You may be a frequent flyer. You may be a member of a linen club. You may be a member of a wine club. Now, you're not 100 per cent sure in all instances of what those particular entities do with those data bases. If those data bases have been onsold to another marketing organisation, well, there's obviously further opportunity for your personal details to actually be gathered by somebody else.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: But, if credit card fraud and identity theft are significant problems here, they are dwarfed by the problem overseas, and especially in the United States.
PAULA ZAHN: Hi, everyone. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for being with us tonight. Right now, somewhere in cyberspace, a thief is hard at work trying to steal and sell your most personal information.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: California: home to a million dreams, where credit is king. In Silicon Valley, outside San Francisco, the IT boom is long gone. But one IT industry is growing: online credit card fraud. Here, the new niche market is in information security, and companies like White Hat Security are riding the crest of the new IT crime wave.
JEREMIAH GROSSMAN: The name 'White Hat' is a throw back from old US cinema, where the old spaghetti westerns and the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys always wore black hats, and the information security space has adopted the same moniker.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Their marketing pitch is protecting corporate America from criminal hackers.
And have any hackers ever hacked into White Hat Security?
MAN: Hope not.
JEREMIAH GROSSMAN: My personal aim and the aim of White Hat Security is to help organisations defend their companies, their networks and also their consumers. It will be law enforcement's job to pursue the actual criminals out there. We're simply arming the good guys with the information that they need to protect themselves.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: In order to commit credit card fraud or identity theft, hackers first need to get hold of a card-holder's private financial details. One of the most common, and effective, ways of doing this is by 'phishing'. Phishers send out fake emails purporting to be from banks or other financial institutions. These emails contain links to bogus web pages that look like the real thing.
WOMAN ON WEBSITE: He received this email, that looked like it was from his bank, that asked him to update his account information.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: These pages, in turn, offer banking or other financial services but ask the reader first to supply their personal financial details.
JEREMIAH GROSSMAN: A customer would type in their user name and password, and that information would then be transmitted to the hacker and the - or the scammer in this case, and the user would then move on, completely unsuspected.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Some of these scams in the past have been transparently fake. But the scammers are getting much more sophisticated. When we arrived at White Hat Security, Jeremiah Grossman had a surprise in store. He created a fake email containing a link to an entirely bogus Four Corners web page, linking this reporter with Al Qaeda. Worryingly, he succeeded in superimposing this page on the real ABC website.
JEREMIAH GROSSMAN: What is important to understand here is that the domain name is legitimate. It's http://www.abc.net.au. So it's completely legitimate.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Now, you're obviously an expert in this field, but how long did it take you to create these two fake pages?
JEREMIAH GROSSMAN: It would take myself or the average scammer maybe an hour or two to actually develop this type of scam.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: An hour or two?
JEREMIAH GROSSMAN: Yes.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Unsuspecting victims in Australia have been caught up in phishing scams of this kind. Fake emails have conned them into posting their private financial details on fake web pages which were superimposed on real bank websites. And the ever-inventive scammers, who talk to each other in internet relay chat rooms, have gone one step further.
DAN CLEMENTS: This chatter which showed up about three weeks in one of these IRC rooms, it shows a particular hacker who's saying to another hacker, "Hey, if you need a well-written email to do phishing, some email that you want to spam to try and phish people, well, you just go here to this anti-phishing.org site because they have a library of all phishes that have been sent around the world." Let me show you the actual email.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Dan Clements runs CardCops, a service for nervous subscribers, monitoring their credit card numbers and checking that they haven't been used fraudulently or traded online. CardCops' speciality is accessing underground internet relay chat rooms where stolen private data is up for grabs.
DAN CLEMENTS: Right now there's about 90 guys in here trading information, credit card information and personal information.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Just show me how it works.
DAN CLEMENTS: Sure. There's a lady here by the name of Monica, and what we have is her address and we have her phone number, social security number, mother's maiden name, driver's licence number, date of birth, obviously her credit card number and so forth and her PIN number and her bank name. Basically we have everything on this lady. It's here on the screen in real time so that these 90 people, who are all over the world, can grab this information and do whatever they want with it.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Okay. But aren't they trying to sell this information? Shouldn't they be holding it back?
DAN CLEMENTS: Well, some want to sell it but others post it in a public room like this to what they call burn it, and what they mean by burning it is somebody has ordered on this credit card already, online, merchandise, and what he wants to do then is post the information in a chat room so the other 89 people can order on that credit card. So, by burning it and posting it, it muddies the waters.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Very few of the hackers being traced from this tiny office in Los Angeles are American.
DAN CLEMENTS: They're mostly from Eastern Europe, but there are some from Indonesia as well, and they're generally, if I may stereotype, young males who are extremely bright, extremely smart as far as programming and hacking, not exactly literate in English, but they're very brilliant people who move at light speed. They move very, very fast.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: And do they work in gangs or individually?
DAN CLEMENTS: Well, you know what? They do work in what they call basically unassociated gangs. When they go into these chat rooms, they all have a specialty. One guy might know how to launder money, one guy might know how to build a website, one guy might know how to hack into a server. So they trade these resources amongst them. Basically like setting up a bank robbery team, they all have a specialisation.
TOM KELLERMANN: Cyber-crime is the most pervasive crime on the planet. Currently over $222,000,000,000 are associated with identity theft related to cyber-crime every year, which is greater than the sale of cocaine internationally. In addition, you have the costs of downtime and lost productivity and whatnot from the various worms and viruses, which are incalculable. But what is important to note is that organised crime has created a business model around hacking because money is digital and it is far easier for them to penetrate systems and steal identities and monies than it is for them to distribute narcotics.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Tom Kellermann recently left the World Bank, where he was responsible for cyber-intelligence. He believes law enforcement agencies have an almost impossible task dealing with the international nature of cyber-crime.
TOM KELLERMANN: The reality is most hackers - what they'll do is they'll transit through various telecommunications carriers in different countries before they launch an attack, or they'll hide their IP address, which is basically your - who you are and where you are on the net, by spoofing it, pretending to be another address or using someone else's computer, like, you know, Sally's, in Peoria, Illinois computer is connected to a cable modem. Her computer's working a little slower today. That's because, you know, Niko in Bulgaria is launching an attack at a bank from her computer, and she has no idea.
JOHN WATTERS: So we're based here, just outside of DC. This is our headquarters. Our business model, though, by the very nature of the business we're in, is a globally sourced intelligence network that's delivered locally to our customers, wherever they are.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: iDEFENSE is a worldwide operator in the field of information security, providing intelligence to both governments and big corporations. The company advises on cyber threats and monitors website chatter for signs of criminal activity.
JOHN WATTERS: This is just an example of a few, you know, screen shots of websites that we've monitored over the years that show you how this market place has evolved. So, for example, this one, this is in Russian language, and here it's a posting where somebody's saying, "I have information that includes social security number, mother's maiden name, date of birth", you know, "the BIN number of a bank", bank identification number, et cetera. And now we're starting to see the merchandising come in - you know, "pay for five, get one free", "pay for 20, get seven free". So they're really starting volume pricing, advertising, merchandising. So these guys actually have pricing models that drive how much they'll pay for different types of product, which is, to me, an indication of the level of sophistication in the market.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: As far as John Watters is concerned, however, credit card fraud is relatively small beer. Identity theft is the crime he's worried about.
JOHN WATTERS: User ID, password, credit card information, social security number, mother's maiden name, date of birth, driver's licence number, IP address, paid PAL account, checking account. This is concerning. So, if somebody has my credit card number, I don't really care. I mean, I don't like the fact they have it, but I'm not offended by that. Okay, somebody's trying to go make a profit in this underground economy. It's illegal. I don't support it, obviously. But that, to me, doesn't hit me at the core. If somebody has all of this information - routing number, PIN numbers, mother's maiden name - they can own me. That bothers me. They can go out and get a mortgage in my name. They can buy a car. They can establish a credit line. They can do all kinds of things to permanently damage my record. The real issue is I would rather see 40,000,000 cards in the marketplace than 10,000 complete IDs of people, I mean, because the damage you can do with those 10,000 is far more damaging than you can do with 40,000,000 credit cards.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The ever-present threat of identity theft became a shocking reality for a thousand UK citizens this year.
OLIVER HARVEY: Everyone went mad for the story. We're talking CNN, BBC World, everybody, all the Indian TV stations, Australia, US. It was an amazing reaction.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: British tabloid newspaper The Sun published a front-page splash revealing that the financial and other details of ordinary British customers had been sold to their reporter by an Indian call centre worker named Karan Bhari, caught here in footage which was secretly filmed by the British newspaper.
OLIVER HARVEY: He offered me a thousand British bank account details, credit card details, passwords to those accounts, expiry dates, the three-figure security number on the back of the card, sometimes passport numbers and driving licence numbers, and, after haggling, I paid him US$5,000 for those.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The Sun's sting was set up by Indian journalists who are still working undercover. One of them agreed to talk to Four Corners. He described how the deal with the call centre worker Karan Bhari was agreed.
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: We were absolutely amazed at how easy it was to buy data, and, secondly, the free flow of data was just astonishing. A good analogy would be paedophile or child porn sites on the internet. If you're in the know, if you're one of them, you swap your pictures with their pictures. That's how the trade carries on, and that's how they build up their databases. If you're an outsider joining for the first time, you've got to pay.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: India in recent years has built a thriving IT and call centre industry. British and American companies have led the way in using India to lower wage costs, but Australian companies, quietly, are joining the trend.
PAUL SCHRODER: All of the key players - your ANZs, Westpac, NAB, AXA - are all doing it, or all thinking about doing it, and, what's more, they intend to also use other companies as third parties, so EDS, IBM, other groups. Indeed, there's one company that provides a London, Melbourne and Bangalore quote for its IT work. So it's very, very substantial.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: For banks and insurance companies, it means the opportunity to outsource, for example, the processing of loans and claims. The young Indian graduates who do the work are skilled, industrious, and paid a great deal less than their equivalents in the West. It makes sound economic sense, but it also means opening up large, home-grown databases to offshore companies.
PAUL SCHRODER: These companies are sending this work offshore because it's cheaper to do it offshore, but they know there are doubts about it, they know there are risks involved in it, and of course, if the work's being done offshore, it's outside the direct control of the bank or the insurance company, and it's well outside the regulation and control of the Australian regulators.
KIRAN KARNIK: This is an industry problem. It's not a geography problem. It's not India or the US or UK. This is a problem of large amounts of data being accessed by individuals who have the right to access that data, and how do you make sure they don't misuse that right and take it to do something wrong?
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: In Delhi, the call centres are grouped inside a suburb called Gurgaon. It's a 24-hour hive of activity, with hundreds of workers servicing overseas companies and earning salaries which, by Indian standards, are high. But high salaries don't necessarily buy allegiance. Some staff, it's alleged, are moonlighting, stealing data from their own employers and setting up their own backyard operations.
OLIVER HARVEY: So you give them information?
KARAN BHARI: Yeah, I give them information.
OLIVER HARVEY: And where do you get your information?
KARAN BHARI: Vendors in Delhi.
OLIVER HARVEY: Vendors in Delhi?
KARAN BHARI: Vendors in Delhi. Centres in Delhi, in Gurgaon ...
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: You - can I just go? You give them free or you sell it to them?
KARAN BHARI: I sell it.
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: You don't give it – because we will have some.
OLIVER HARVEY: He's a businessman.
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: We'll have some. Can you give us some?
KARAN BHARI: I sell them.
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: You sell it to them?
KARAN BHARI: Yeah.
OLIVER HARVEY: Are the vendors the people that work in the call centres?
KARAN BHARI: Yes.
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: You've got internal employees on a full-time basis with a mother call centre hiving off data and setting up small 10- to 15-seater call centres, which they run themselves. So what has happened is that you've got a new class of person emerging from this industry: the broker, the data harvesting broker, who goes around selling harvested data to these call centres.
OLIVER HARVEY: Someone's put New Zealand there.
SPEAKER: A spelling mistake.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: In the wake of the call centre sting carried out by The Sun newspaper, industry representatives have been anxious to play down any risk to database security here.
KIRAN KARNIK: I can assure every Australian customer and consumer whose data is being processed or handled in India that in a comparative sense at least this is among the safest places and in an absolute sense this industry as a whole, despite some breaches, has been fairly good.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: But there's a culture of denial here. For the Indian end of this enormous industry to survive it needs to retain the confidence of the British, American and Australian companies that entrust their databases to the call centres here in Gurgaon. It needs to know that those databases are secure. It says they are. But they're not. Someone, somewhere, is putting Australian names and financial details on the market, and they've been offered to us, at a price.
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: You've got a full address here, again.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The undercover journalists who'd helped The Sun newspaper had also obtained a sample of personal and financial details belonging to Australians. This data came from a different, unidentified broker.
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: What he offered us was same sort of deal, that you buy en bloc. You can't go to these people and ask for 10 names. The minimum - it seems to us the minimum quantity they will deal with is 1,000 names, 1,000 leads.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The Australian samples appeared to have come from a call centre in Gurgaon, and the kind of details they provided was alarming, not just the names and addresses of Australian customers but also their telephone numbers, birth certificate details, Medicare numbers, driver's licence numbers, ATM card numbers, and one person even provided their passport number.
The undercover journalist we spoke to told us that the price of these personal financial details had risen in the weeks since The Sun's UK story broke. But the offer to us, to buy a thousand details or more, was still on the table.
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: After The Sun expose, where the brokers feel - like Karan Bhari in The Sun, where the brokers feel that people may be sort of tightening up or looking at them, the rate has now shot up to US$10.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Will the black market trade in data dry up now?
UNDERCOVER JOURNALIST: No. I believe it'll continue as long as the industry is in a boom period.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: We turned down the deal to buy the private details of a thousand Australians. But we did check the samples that were given to us, and those led to real people.
KEITH POOLE: They certainly make it hard, and they know how to ask the questions. They ask them in a way that they're just small talk.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: So do you get telephoned a lot by telemarketers from India?
Keith Poole is one of the Australians whose personal details were leaked from an Indian database. He told us he'd been contacted recently by a telemarketing agent offering him a deal on a new mobile phone using the Telstra network. The company selling the mobile deal is an Australian one called Switch Mobile. Its representative, a caller from a telemarketing company in India, said he wanted proof of Mr Poole's identity and made a strange request.
KEITH POOLE: When they first asked they asked did I have a passport, and I said, yes, I had a passport but I said I wasn't prepared to give the number on that.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Four Corners notified police of the security breach and also told Switch Mobile. The company was surprised and said they were as shocked as their customers by what had occurred.
The details which were leaked to Four Corners include birth certificate details, ATM numbers and, even in one case, a passport number. Are these the kinds of detail your company should be collecting?
DAMIEN KAY: We categorically do not require that kind of information. As I said, name, phone number, address and ID such as their licence in order to do a credit check and to obviously be able to bill the customer. Everything else is irrelevant to us. We don't require it. We don't want it. You know, we take our obligations under the Privacy Act very, very seriously. Whenever we gather information from a customer, we always do it in compliance with the national privacy principles, and it's very important that we do that. And we do do that, and, you know, what we found out today, through Four Corners, has absolutely devastated us.
DIANNE POOLE: Marital status, number of dependants, type of ID. Asked for a licence number. Time at this address, occupation. They know everything. Employment, job title, employer's business name.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Switch Mobile has told Four Corners that it contracted out its telemarketing to a Melbourne company called One Touch Solutions, which also has offices in India.
DAMIEN KAY: As per our contract with them, they are supposed to hold that information secure for only as long as required for us to provide that service and to finish the process with the customer. Then it is supposed to be destroyed.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: And that didn't happen?
DAMIEN KAY: As we've found out today, that has not happened. We're not very happy about it, and we've obviously found out that they've been collecting details that aren't, you know, restricted to those ones that I've just mentioned, and we're taking action as we speak.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: What kind of action?
DAMIEN KAY: We've terminated contracts today.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: With the telemarketing company?
DAMIEN KAY: With the telemarketing company.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The telemarketers in turn say they contracted out the calls made to Australians on behalf of Switch Mobile to a third, Indian, company, Brick & Click, thus creating a further layer of insecurity. But they deny leaking the details themselves or breaching their contractual obligations under the Privacy Act.
These details have now found their way back to us via a data broker who is selling this kind of personal information. How do you react to that?
DIANNE POOLE: I'm mortified, because it leaves us fairly open, doesn't it? You know, a lot of people could have our details by now. A lot of people have our details by now. I'm very concerned.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: What could they do with details of that kind?
DIANNE POOLE: Well, I think there's a lot of things they could do with that, having that. They could have, you know, licences, open up bank accounts, passports. They've got enough points there to open up anything.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: So they could steal your identity?
DIANNE POOLE: They could steal our identity, yes. It's very concerning.
DAMIEN KAY: The issue of personal information being sold that goes way outside of our authorisation in the contracts that we have is - you know, it's hard to express how we feel because it's just devastating. I mean I know how I would feel if my own information was provided and leaked.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Will you continue to use Indian call centres now?
DAMIEN KAY: No.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: What'll that do to the business?
DAMIEN KAY: We need to find other forms of acquisition. It's a shame. It's a very cost-effective method, but, you know, out of principle I don't think we should be using companies that are going to compromise our customers' personal details.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The lesson of what happened in India is that, however secure a company's computer systems may be, the most vulnerable part of that system is the humans who run it.
KEVIN MITNICK: The human factor of security, people like you and me, are the weakest link in the security chain, and usually the attacker is going to look for the weakest link and exploit it.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Back at iDEFENSE, the view is that there's a darker side to the problem of identity theft – the danger that our personal details stored on any number of databases worldwide will be accessed and used for terrorist activities.
JOHN P. WATTERS: You could have a group that was fronting as an electronic crime participant to gather information for different purposes, whether it's cyber terrorist activities, trying to get passports issued, establish lines of credit, establish fake IDs for people operating undercover. You know, so the information gathering protocol has been with inside the electronic crime group, but the use of that information could expand well beyond just this industry.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: And how many of these identities are for sale?
JOHN P. WATTERS: We've seen thousands and tens of thousands of identities for sale.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Close to home, there is disturbing evidence that relates to the Bali bombing and one of the men responsible, Imam Samudra. After he was convicted, Samudra wrote a triumphal book, defending the atrocity on religious grounds. It included a chapter on hacking and credit card fraud.
ANDREW MACPHERSON: It was one of the first examples in the open sources where you had someone, a real terrorist responsible for these 2002 attacks, advocating the use of an electronic form of fraud to raise funds. So clearly it is a milestone in their trying to get this information out there.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Computer experts in Washington examined Samudra's computer, and the chapter on hacking.
ALAN PALLER: They found direct evidence of carding software, meaning software that allows the theft of and reuse of credit cards on his computer. The chapter has very good instructions, not only on how to do it, but how to become good at it, so not just teaching - not just giving a man the technique but giving him the methods of becoming good at it.
PERSON IN AD: I used a credit card to treat myself to a little chunk of heaven, baby. That singles weekend in Tijuana – freaky-deaky.
ANNOUNCER: Worried about identity theft? Then you should call now and apply for the City Platinum Select MasterCard. You'll get City Identity Theft Solutions, with Fraud Early Warning – free.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: For the banks and credit card companies, playing down the consequences of identity theft is an essential part of their marketing strategy. In fact, they make fun of it.
PERSON IN AD: 64-inch plasma screen monitor.
PERSON IN AD: A leather bustier.
PERSON IN AD: Afford them mudflaps with the naked ladies on them. Grrr.
ANNOUNCER: So what's stopping you? We're ready to take your call.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Behind this lies the fear that, if fraud continues to grow unchecked, customers will simply run away from products like credit cards.
ANNOUNCER: So call now.
CHRIS JAY HOOFNAGLE: People are very concerned and confused about what's going on with identity theft, and the fear is that they will stop using credit cards or stop spending as much. In fact a recent survey showed an increase in the number of people paying only cash for items. So many people in the financial services industry who make a lot of money not only from revolving debt but also from fees associated with purchases do not want consumers to slow down the credit spending spree.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Chris Hoofnagle's concern is that those databases that hold our private financial details are virtually set up to fail.
CHRIS JAY HOOFNAGLE: There is a professor at George Washington Law School named Daniel Solove who has argued that systems of information place us in an architecture of vulnerability. That is we are constantly at risk to things like identity theft and credit card fraud because of companies like CardSystems. That risk, that lack of security, causes billions of dollars of cost to the economy and at the end of the day the consumer pays for it through higher fees, through higher interest rates, etc.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Isn't the problem at base that the worldwide web simply wasn't designed for the conduct of secure transactions?
TOM KELLERMANN: It's true. It was not designed for secure transactions, and whereas it can be made secure in a sense, in terms of you can manage the risk to an extent, the difficulty in securing IP based transactions, particularly with the use of wireless now and voice-over IP, is becoming more and more so everyday. The problems are almost becoming insurmountable.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The question for the average consumer is: what can I do to protect myself from credit card fraud and identity theft?
DET-INSP PETER WILKINS: If you display again all the normal prudent safety measures, such as your encryption, such as your firewalls, your virus protection, you're reasonably prudent as to where you shop online, so you don't go to sites that are dubious to say the least, on that basis you will minimise the chances of ever suffering an online incident.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: This advice is standard, and there's no shortage of it from banks and credit card companies. In fact, there's a great deal of advice, much of it complex and difficult to master.
ALAN PALLER: Their line is, "You users are to blame." They don't say it in those words. They say, "You users should follow our 16-step process." There isn't a grandmother in the world who can follow those, and there aren't many sons and daughters and even smart school kids who can follow that advice. Most of it was written by people who've never actually done it. If they'd done it, they wouldn't have written it that way. So the problem is that the people who sell the software, sell the hardware and sell the services have decided to blame the user.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: But even if consumers are careful, that's no guarantee that others will hold their information securely.
CHRIS JAY HOOFNAGLE: Big repositories of personal information remain a honey-pot for people who want to steal information. While federal regulators and banks tell you to keep your information private, that advice really doesn't work because your personal information is in these repositories. The hacker is not going to go to your home to steal your personal information. They're going to go to one of these repositories to get it.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: The United States has seen an explosion in public awareness about the dangers of identity theft, and hard questions are now being asked about who is responsible.
ALAN PALLER: Having someone take your name, borrow money in your name, not pay it back, do crimes in your name, creating a criminal record, that destroys a life. It's like a death, people have described it as. So the visibility of that in their front page articles in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, about that problem, that's what's causing the users to say, "Wait a minute, this isn't my fault. I didn't do anything wrong. Why don't the credit card companies, why don't the banks solve this for me?" The answer is they actually can. They just haven't because it would cost them some money.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: In California a law is now in force requiring companies to notify their customers about any unauthorised loss of their personal data. But Australia's credit card industry shows little enthusiasm for the California legislation, preferring instead to follow its own rules about how and when it will contact customers.
Do you support the California legislation requiring that individuals be notified when their personal data has been compromised?
BRUCE MANSFIELD: Well, clearly that's an ongoing issue in the United States in terms of the Data Protection Act and some of the notification requirements under the 14-day rule. We don't believe that's an essential part of good cardholder protection. We believe what's most important is to identify this activity before it occurs and to communicate to cardholders effectively when we see these activities occur and to give them the option, if they wish to do so, to have their cards replaced. So prevention, clear communication and swift action is a more appropriate way to deal with these things.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: So you wouldn't support similar legislation being brought in here in Australia?
BRUCE MANSFIELD: We don't believe it's the solution to an issue such as this, no.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Out there in cyberspace, the battle-lines are drawn. Black hats versus white hats, and it's not a computer game.
ALAN PALLER: We publish - the internet storm centre that we run publishes a number called the survival time of a new computer, and on average that is down under 15 minutes now. That's the amount of time a new computer put on the Internet stays alive before an attack script comes in and takes it over, if somebody very smart hasn't set it up.
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: So who's winning this war?
QUENTIN McDERMOTT: Who's winning it?
TOM KELLERMANN: We are not winning it. The internet is becoming more hostile. We are losing control of it day by day.
Please note: This transcript is produced by an independent transcription service. The ABC does not warrant the accuracy of the transcript.
Surveys of 1,200 Mexican adults in February and 1,200 in May, conducted in their homes, show that Mexicans' rising education levels have not weakened the desire to live and work in this country.
More than a third of Mexican college graduates say they would come to the U.S. if they could, and more than 1 in 8 would do so even if they had to enter the country illegally, according to the surveys, the first of their kind.
"Contrary to what people might expect, the inclination to migrate isn't contained among Mexicans who are poor or poorly educated or with limited economic prospects," says Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. "They're distributed across the whole breadth of Mexican society."
Mexicans' willingness to come is driven by a desire to improve their economic status and join friends and family already there, Suro says.
Despite improvements in the Mexican economy, "people with college degrees believe they have greater economic opportunities by migration to the U.S. - even illegally - than they would staying at home," Suro says. Mexicans are coming from richer, urban areas as well as poor, rural regions, he says.
More than half of Mexicans say they would be inclined to come if the U.S. established a temporary worker program.
A gangster who drove the stolen cab that almost became Sliwa's hearse told jurors that Gotti scoffed when a single bullet to the leg was proposed for the Guardian Angels' founder.
"No, I want it to be personal," mob turncoat Joseph (Little Joey) D'Angelo quoted the Dapper Don's son as saying. "I want him to know we had our hands on him and we could do this at any time. He's getting personal and I want to get personal."
Making his debut as a government witness, D'Angelo's vivid blow-by-blow account of Sliwa's abduction and shooting had jurors in Manhattan Federal Court on the edge of their seats - and occasionally in stitches.
Sliwa was shot three times on June 19, 1992, nearly dying after the attack. It was a crime the feds claim was masterminded by Gotti and carried out by D'Angelo and Gotti's co-defendant, alleged triggerman Michael (Mikey Y) Yannotti.
D'Angelo, a protege of former Gambino underboss Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano, said Gotti wanted to get Sliwa because the radio host was "badmouthing him, the Gambino family and John Gotti Sr."
D'Angelo recalled sitting in the stolen cab, shooing other hails away as they waited outside Sliwa's East Village apartment. He said they were just about to call off the attack when Sliwa took the bait and jumped in the cab for a ride uptown.
With Yannotti hiding under the dashboard, D'Angelo sped off and soon heard Sliwa say he was going the wrong way.
"Mike jumped up and said, 'Give me your wallet, give me your wallet,'" D'Angelo said.
D'Angelo said Sliwa stammered, "Okay, take it easy," then start slapping at Yannotti's gun.
"Mike shot him, I saw the flash," D'Angelo said.
He said he heard more shots, then suddenly saw Sliwa attempt a dramatic escape. The cab had been rigged so there were no buttons to unlock doors or lower windows in the back.
Bleeding from three stomach wounds, Sliwa made a leap for the front passenger window.
"I don't know if [Yannotti] threw him out or he jumped out on his own, but he went out the window," D'Angelo said.
Jurors laughed when D'Angelo was asked how he knew the cab was stolen and he replied, "You start it with a screwdriver, it's pretty much stolen."
Today: More testimony from D'Angelo is expected - and Sliwa could finally take the stand. Originally published on August 18, 2005
August 19, 2005
NUEVO LAREDO, TAMAULIPAS STATE, MEXICO: “There is a lot of cash in the drug business. It is a huge economy that is not being controlled. Or, better said, it’s getting out of control, and none of the authorities have any interest in finding a solution or alternative.” The journalist and fighter for human rights proposes a policy that inverts the pyramid of authority. “Society makes the proposals, utilizes the political parties to make sure they follow through on the initiative, and the president obeys. If we follow that model we can find good solutions, because the people would be the ones who give the orders.”
Neither is he the same Ray from later in the bar, repeating his welcome to this “sister republic of Hell” whose last hope is the tourism of the casinos that have still not been approved by the federal government, daring me to get out on the dance floor as we drank our Bud Lights and listened to the music of Los Kumbia Kings.
Now, sitting across a wide desk and in front of a television that monitors the outside street via closed circuit, he is Raymundo Ramos, president of the February 5 Group Human Rights Committee in Nuevo Laredo. This has been his night job for the last eight years. Eighty percent of the committee’s work involves legal assistance to victims of arbitrary arrests, the other twenty percent human rights education. But the phone calls I have observed here had to do with a different issue: the case of a missing migrant, who seems to have had problems in his legs. (Eight left from San Luis Potosí, Raymundo tells me, but only seven arrived at their destination in North Carolina. Some of the missing man’s companions say that he stayed behind; others say that they buried him. His family is asking us for help.)
Raymondo lights a candle next to some flowers above a file cabinet that serves as an alter. The flame is a symbol of hope for this border town, a port of entry to the immense cocaine market in the United States. My host himself is a flame, caught in a crossfire. What’s more, it’s also extremely hot.
Narco News: Can you describe the Committee’s work?
Raymundo Ramos: The majority of the work, eighty percent, is in legal counsel for arbitrary detentions, at the local, state, and federal levels. The other part, twenty percent, is in education, going to schools, to universities, to neighborhoods, to organizations, in order speak about human rights. Human rights and public security, human rights and justice, human rights and education. That’s what we do.
Narco News: Can we turn this fan off? [It is making a lot of noise.]
Raymundo Ramos: Sure, the switch is over here.
Narco News: When did the committee begin?
Raymundo Ramos: In August of 1997. It was a group of friends that realized that there were no human rights organizations in this city. We agreed on the necessity to work as a group, a civil group, a nongovernmental organization, and we created this group.
Narco News: You are a journalist.
Raymundo Ramos: I am a journalist by trade, with a degree in communication sciences, and I have worked for El Mañana in Nuevo Laredo for fourteen years.
Narco News: How did you get interested enough in human rights to start this project:?
Raymundo Ramos: As journalists, we are subject to certain limits. As employees of the newspaper, we are subject to what the editor or owner says, and as journalists, our obligation is to disseminate information, to make complaints and denunciations known. But that is all. Sometimes this is insufficient. The people are victims of attacks and abuse, and they want more than simply to have their story told in the media. And that was how we started to work with lawyers, because this issue has a lot to do with the law. I sought support from doctors, lawyers, teachers, social leaders, and religious people, so as not to go out alone on this adventure.
In 1997 we were still living in the last stage of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party, the ruling party in Mexico for nearly 80 consecutive years) era. There was still repression and civil liberties were restricted. The group was created as a pluralist one, with eleven members, most of them professionals. And we began to work, to make the Human Rights Committee take shape. Obviously, we had to go to training courses, to get advise from other national and international organizations, and… well, begin to work to have some kind of influence, in cases of human rights abuses and peoples’ liberties in general.
Narco News: What is the current situation with arbitrary arrests in Nuevo Laredo?
Raymundo Ramos: It is a culture that we have not been able to get rid of. The police think that by throwing more citizens in jail, they will win points and the chief will notice how hard they are working. To them, arresting immigrants, or vagrants, or gang members, or ordinary citizens, who are doing nothing more than enjoying some time in a public square… to them, this is fulfilling their duty. They have no concept whatsoever of human rights, of the right to freedom of movement; they have no idea that in trying to do their job they are violating the rights of others. If we add this to the extortion – the easy money they want, taking peoples’ positions during searches, thinking that no one will complain and that they will be able to keep it without any trouble – we have a big problem. That’s where we come in.
Narco News: Of course… because if they are going to extort, now they are not even arresting people in order to do their job, but just to get money.
Raymundo Ramos: The police in Nuevo Laredo are well paid. They make, on average, 6,000 pesos ($570 dollars) per month, which is equivalent to what a teacher earns who has studied for four or five years to do his job. These men, the vast majority of whom have no more than a high school education, get a badge, a gun, a uniform, and hit the streets with the law in their own hands. That’s where we need to be, as observers, responding to the people, monitoring what happens. When we don’t have complaints to attend to here in the office, we go out into the streets. And we also look at prisons to see how things are there. We talk to the prisoners when they are being interrogated, and that is one way to understand the situation. Arbitrary detentions happen every day. Of course, we don’t have the necessary people or equipment to really put a stop to it. That’s why we haven’t been able to eradicate the problem.
Narco News: What are the main types of arbitrary arrests?
Raymundo Ramos: Detentions in the street, and detentions at night.
Narco News: For what motive? What are the excuses the police give?
Raymundo Ramos: That they are vagrants, that they are loitering, that they have no identification and can’t demonstrate a place of residence, that they are drunk, that they are “bothering tourists” in a public place. The police have an endless number of justifications to make an arrest, from walking around too late at night, to being in a plaza bothering tourists, when we can see that such things are not true. Here, what we make the judges, security officials, and the mayor himself see is that a citizen’s statement is worth just as much as a police officer’s. And we often see that the citizen is not listened to. They put all their trust in the police.
Narco News: Can you give us a specific example? Or a case of a specific police officer?
Raymundo Ramos: There was the case of some boys who were on a corner at 11 o’clock at night. A special police squad passed by and picked them all up. One of them was drinking a beer. But there were eight of them. The police said that they were all drinking in public and that they had been fighting. We brought in some neighbors. “So, this guy lives in the house right on the corner. Do any of you have a complaint about these boys?” “No, they weren’t doing anything.” “Well, here they say that they were drinking beer.” The one boy who was drinking comes out and recognizes what he was doing. So, he should pay, right? But not the other two. So we asked them to bring the county medical examiner so that he could examine them and determine which ones had consumed alcoholic beverages.
The examiner arrived and certified that no more than one, out of the seven or eight of them, had been drinking. So, why do they arrest all of them if there is no complaint? And if no more than one of them was drinking, what are the charges? Creating a nuisance? Disturbing the peace? Loitering? That can’t be, because they were in their own neighborhood.
The chief didn’t want to listen to us. We went to the city hall and held a protest there. The mayor came out and said, “Let them go, just give a fine to the one who was drinking.” That is the kind of arrest that we need to show to the authorities, to demonstrate that it is wrong. And there are many like this one, in public squares, in movie theatres, in parking lots.
Narco News: And with immigrants…
Narco News: Have you ever been arrested?
Raymundo Ramos: No. I have been taken to court many times, for defamation, for disrespect for authority. Both the PGR and the MP (Mexico’s two justice departments) have opened investigations against me but have never proven anything, thank God. And in the past, we had to understand that this was the repression of a system that was on its way out, the PRI system. Now, with Fox, this hasn’t changed much, but there is a little more protection for both journalists and human rights activists.
Narco News: How often is the pretext used that the person was carrying drugs?
Raymundo Ramos: The detention of consumers is very common. Because it is the consumers they arrest more often than the dealers. When they’re dealers, we can’t do much for them, because it is an illicit business and we aren’t here to defend illicit businesses. But when they are consumers, we can. We have had cases where our lawyers have gone to demonstrate to the PGR medical examiner that the person is a consumer, and that his arrest was merely due to the fact that at that moment he didn’t have any money to pay what the cops were asking. When it can be proved that they are consumers, and that as in many cases it is their first arrest, they can be released, often without bail, on parole.
Narco News: This past June saw two major events: a team of AFI (Mexico’s federal investigative force, equivalent to the FBI) agents arrived to sack the Nuevo Laredo municipal police officers, and soon afterward the “Operation Safe Mexico” plan was implemented. Seven hundred police officers were confined to base under investigation. How has the situation of violence changed, from a human rights perspective, since the implementation of Operation Safe Mexico?
Raymundo Ramos: To begin, Operation Safe Mexico is a propaganda operation; it is not effective, not an operation that has to do with prevention or investigation. It is a propaganda operation to quiet the voices in the United States every time they complain about the violence and impunity that exist in Nuevo Laredo. There have been no results… or the few results there have been have been due to anonymous complaints. In the case of the forty-three rescued hostages, most of them were, in fact, rather than civilians with no ties to narco-trafficking, members of a criminal organization. There were some minors, there were some innocent family members, there was one other who was kidnapped in order to collect a ransom, but the bulk of the cases are people linked in one way or another to a criminal group.
On the other hand, the detention of those city police officers was a necessary measure. The Nuevo Laredo police were too corrupt, too rotten. It was a totally deteriorated image that no longer served the public interest, was no longer protecting the people. We do believe in this purging process. We do believe in the necessity of changing bad cops; of getting rid of them and letting the more committed ones do their jobs. It is difficult, very difficult, because the gangs offer cash, send threats, and put on pressure in order to dominate the police. But now that this effort exists in all three levels of government, for the first time since Fox’s administration began – and in its last year – well, those are the results.
Narco News: So, on the one hand it is a façade, a screen put up for the United States, but on the other it has had some results…
Raymundo Ramos: It is principally propagandistic, a media campaign. But those of us who live in Nuevo Laredo know what it’s about. We know that it was a necessary and urgent filter on the police. For that reason, we consider it valid. We are sorry to see it coming just now, in Fox’s sixth year, and after Governor Tomás Yarrington has already left. The good thing is that it is happening in the first year of Mayor Daniel Peña, and in the first year of Governor Eugenio Hernández’s administration, so that there will at least be some continuity on the municipal and state levels. At the federal level, we’ll have to see what effort the new president will make.
Narco News: So, Operation Safe Mexico’s benefit was, basically, this police purge, and the rest is a façade.
Raymundo Ramos: It is such a façade that the criminals continue fighting in the streets, despite the fact that there are patrols. The criminals keep facing each other, with submachine guns, with grenade launchers, with mortars, with bazookas, with weapons of war.
Raymundo Ramos: The daily violence continues. The abusive husbands, the thieves, they all continue, taking advantage of the lack of local police controls. The local police already know who the thieves are, who the abusive husbands are, they already know the common criminals. In some ways, when they must be arrested, they must be arrested. The state and federal police don’t know them, don’t know who’s who. They drive by and they don’t know whether the guy outside that house lives there or if he’s a robber. That is a disadvantage, and we urge the local police to get back into the streets. If not all seven hundred, than four or three hundred, however many are left, but let them return to their patrols.
Narco News: A small number is back on the streets…
Raymundo Ramos: Of all the units, thirty percent are back on patrol, but only downtown, in the tourist areas. Not in the neighborhoods.
Narco News: The forces that are here, from outside, are the state police and the Federal Preventative Police (PFP), with four hundred members, but they don’t offer services that are really tied to the community…
Raymundo Ramos: What they do is a so-called “carrousel” operation. This means that they go round and round the city, and when they come upon a crime being flagrantly committed out in the open, they attack it.
Narco News: And are they making arbitrary arrests?
Raymundo Ramos: Until now we have no reports of it. Just one possible one, from early June. They beat a boy because, according to them, he had shot at them, but they could not demonstrate this. They didn’t find any guns on him, and the ballistics tests came out negative. We did denounce that at the time. But, I repeat, they really only act on flagrant crimes.
Narco News: So, the purge did help to reduce the number of arbitrary arrests…
Raymundo Ramos: Yes, in a way, it did. Though there was this case of the migrants that I mentioned, which happened two days after the municipal police began their patrols again.
Narco News: What is the state of drug consumption in Nuevo Laredo?
Raymundo Ramos: It is high. I don’t have the exact figures. But there is no family in Nuevo Laredo that hasn’t experienced, directly or indirectly, drug consumption among some of its members. More among the youth; it is a problem of the young people. Drugs are reaching the barrios, the street corners, the discos, the dancehalls. The drugs are there. The problem is that there isn’t enough information. There is no preventative or informative health campaign, to tell the young people what drugs are and what are their consequences. Although our youth are very informed, with more access to electronic media, at the end of the day the information is insufficient, because they are falling into drug abuse.
Narco News: And we are talking about marijuana, cocaine…
Raymundo Ramos: And heroin.
Narco News: Heroin… you were telling me that heroin consumption had probably gone down. I know this isn’t your specialty, but…
Raymundo Ramos: We monitor such things by the number of dead. We have statistics about who is dying from overdoses. And when we started reading about cases of overdose in the press, it was from heroin. And this start to really alarm us. Ay caray, one a week, two a week, three, four. That was a difficult time for young consumers. They were dying from heroin. Maybe because it was bad heroin, maybe because they were taking too much; we don’t know. But then consumption started to go down again.
Narco News: When did it reach its peak exactly?
Raymundo Ramos: In May of last year.
Narco News: Why is there so much violence in Nuevo Laredo?
Raymundo Ramos: Because there are two groups vying for control. And this is surely the most important crossing point for goods between Mexico and the United States, a natural crossing point.
Narco News: Because the Pan-American Highway runs through…
Raymundo Ramos: Exactly. And we have 14,000 trailer trucks crossing every day into the United States, of which 10 percent are inspected. And, well, the idea of crossing with a trailer containing drugs, whether marijuana or cocaine, is very attractive. Too attractive. Each trailer can mean several million dollars. So, if we are talking about 13,000 trailers that are not inspected, and we can get a hundred or even ten through, well, now it’s an attractive business. And that’s when the gangs start fighting.
Narco News: What are the repercussions of the gang violence for society?
Narco News: Is there something that civil society can do?
Raymundo Ramos: Yes. Pressure the authorities. We are paying the price for not understanding that while the PRI keeps governing Tamaulipas and Nuevo Laredo, very little is going to change. These problems, of violence, organized crime, didn’t spring up yesterday or last year. They have been growing for ten, twenty, thirty years. Protected, planned, and encouraged by the government. Corrupt governments, like those of the PRI. As long as people keep voting for them, they’ll just have to deal with it. When someone comes here to the office and tells me “a cop hit me,” or “they raided my house,” the first thing I ask that person is, “did you vote in the last elections?” “Yes…” or “no…” they’ll tell me. ’Deal with it,” I say, if they tell me they didn’t vote. And if the person tells me that he or she did vote, and voted for the PRI, I say “deal with it, because you voted for the PRI.” Right? I mean, there are other options… I don’t think that the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) or the PAN (the National Action Party of President Fox) are going to end this, but at least commitments will be renewed, there will be new spaces that we can use to take this on.
But when it’s the same old PRI, we understand that they keep leaving behind a legacy of impunity, like what Tomás Yarrington passed on to Eugenio Hernández. Eugenio is not going to file any charges against Tomás; he won’t even launch an investigation. So we say to people, “keep voting for the PRI, and you’ll just have to deal with it.”
Narco News: Because, in this sense, it is the force of change, the benefit that alternating who is in power can bring…
Raymundo Ramos: New people need to come into positions of power, into the judiciary, into the legislature, and, obviously, into the executive office. New people. If they are the same politicians that already have relationships with the criminals, who already know how to make deals with them, it will stay the same.
Narco News: But on the other hand, if they change, if things get shaken up…
Raymundo Ramos: That’s right, things get shaken up. The city of Reynosa is an example. The PAN now governs in Reynosa, and there is less violence there than in Nuevo Laredo.
Narco News: Much less violence. I saw this in some statistics at a webpage on human rights in the area.
Raymundo Ramos: So, what happens? If the mayor has problems, he should be able to talk to the federal government, and the federal forces can arrive in full force. Quickly. When something happens here in Nuevo Laredo, the mayor first has to ask the governor’s permission so that he can ask for federal assistance. It becomes a triangle. Why? Because the mayor obeys the governor’s orders. That is, the governor’s will comes before the safety of the people of Nuevo Laredo.
Narco News: And on the other hand, the mayor of Reynosa is from the PAN, and he speaks directly to Los Pinos (the Mexican presidential residence).
Raymundo Ramos: And they speak directly to him, and give him an answer.
Narco News: What is your opinion on drug policy?
Raymundo Ramos: All I can say is that there is a lot of cash in the drug business. It is a huge economy that is not being controlled. Or, better said, it is getting out of control, and none of the authorities have any interest in finding a solution or alternative. We see many problems, but we don’t see many solutions. And if you consider that in Mexico we have three political parties that all think differently but that none of them offers a viable solution, we don’t know what’s going to happen. If the PRI gives a proposal, the PAN is going to oppose it and so is the PRD, when they should be trying to reach a consensus.
Narco News: As long as there is no such consensus and the violence continues, I think that there ought to be solutions that come from the communities, from civil society, from the neighborhoods… to deal with both drugs and safety issues…
Raymundo Ramos: At the meeting we had in Mexico City, I presented a model of an inverted pyramid. While in the traditional pyramid you have the politicians at the top, who “consult” the organized groups, political parties, etc., but they don’t take the rest of society into account. The orders come down from above. The model of the inverted pyramid is the other way around. Society makes the proposals, utilizes the political parties to make sure they follow through on the initiative, and the president obeys. If we follow that model we can find good solutions, because the people would be the ones who give the orders. In order for that to happen, we need to organize, need to make sure organizations are presenting proposals and alternatives, and using political parties and other organizations to bring those proposals forward. The figure of the president or the governor must be reduced to a point at the tip of the pyramid, rather than taking up the entire pyramid.
Narco News: Anything else you’d like to say?
Raymundo Ramos: That it’s really hot.
Laughing, we turn the fan back on. Ray asks me to take his photo next to the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Three days later he sends me the photo he took when we stopped in front of the house that had been hit by bazookas. The title of the email brings back a warm memory of him: Ray had joked about an idea to promote tourism selling t-shirts baring the slogan “Fui a Nuevo Laredo y no me pasó nada” (“I went to Nuevo Laredo and Nothing Happened to Me”).
August 23, 2005 -- In the spirit of the Soviet "psikhushka" psychiatric hospitals where anti-regime dissidents were sent, NSA is using psychologists to eliminate independent-minded intelligence analysts and other career employees. Adverse psychiatric evaluations of experienced NSA professionals are being used by the neocons controlling the agency to gut America's signals intelligence and information security capabilities. Former NSA Director General Michael Hayden initiated this process and he was rewarded with the post of Deputy Director for National Intelligence where he can now extend his psikhushkas to other U.S. intelligence agencies.
WMR has received the following letter from a long-time NSA employee who is a victim of the psychiatric abuse:
NSA's Own Nest of Cuckoos
NSA's tribe of headshrinkers consists of a trio of psychologically tortuous on-the-payroll psychologists led by Dr. John Schmidt. Dr. Marianne Moran and Dr. Dina Wieczynski are his fledgling understudies who directly execute orders from both NSA's Office of General Counsel and NSA's Office of Security. These three psychologists hold all the cards for continued access to employment but many question if these doctors are abiding by the ethics of their profession. Most unsuspecting employees targeted by NSA's network of neoconservative officials often endure repeated brutal types of mental interrogations. Reminiscent of the witch trials in past centuries, former co-workers or acquaintances of these "marked" employees for termination are welcomed to falsify statements to Federal law enforcement agents assigned to NSA. Schmidt, Moran, and Wieczynski salivate in anticipation of their next victim to abuse. All three are conducting their own sadistic method of torture; Dr. Schmidt prefers to make female subjects sexually uncomfortable, but tends to take a harsher stand with males. Dr. Moran, like Dr. Wieczynski, appears to diagnose everyone with "personality trait" disorders, despite non-Agency doctors finding to the contrary. Based on a series of documents, Dr. Wieczynski appears to have mastered the art of psychic-evaluation, where the employee doesn't even have to be present for an evaluation but she is able to give a complete "unbiased" analysis into the person's psyche. These talents are truly amazing considering the overwhelming number of agency-diagnosed employees with "personality trait" problems or, in essence, "sociopaths" who have freely wandered the halls of NSA over the past years. Particularly poetic is the fact that so many were never identified and rejected initially through the stringent security background investigations the agency conducts. On the other hand, the rising numbers of "insanity" cases could just reflect the Gestapo-like tactics generating massive paranoia throughout NSA. One former agency employee stated, "We are nothing more than lab rats for psychological testing at the whim of a hierarchy out of control . . . it is like being trapped in a fixed maze where there is no way to escape." How long will this career-fatal cat and mouse game continue?
NSA Security resorts to Soviet-style "Psikhushka" to intimidate and terminate career employees. The neocon assault on U.S. national security continues. It's beyond time to take action.
NOTE: This editor was attached to NSA in the mid-1980s. Although I have been a critic of the agency over the years -- on issues concerning NSA strictly abiding by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Constitution -- it is absolutely treasonous what is now taking place at Fort Meade. NSA is responsible for one of the most critical intelligence functions in the United States Intelligence Community -- signals intelligence, the discipline that ensured America's military victories in World War II. The neocons are not only rifling through sensitive raw intercepts of the personal communications of U.S. citizens but they are now conducting a purge of independent-minded intelligence analysts and technicians at NSA who refuse to kowtow to the "new normality" of quasi-fascist control of the United States Intelligence Community. Combine this neocon abuse at NSA with the outing of non-official cover CIA agents, punishing national security whistleblowers, and other outrages, and one must conclude that the neocons are extremely dangerous elements within the United States government and they must be held accountable for their destructive actions.
I am kicking off a letter campaign to the Congress when it returns from recess after Labor Day. It calls on Congress to immediately pass legislation requiring the Director of National Intelligence to order an immediate halt to and retroactive (to include the past three years) reversal of all personnel actions within the U.S. intelligence community that are based on blatant political vendettas. I will personally hand-deliver the letter to the relevant committees on intelligence, government affairs, and armed services. If you are a current or past member of the U.S. intelligence community (including military service and law enforcement elements) and would like to sign on, please send you name, city and state where you vote, and agency and division (if classified, merely send the cover title), and years of service to email@example.com. If you reside abroad, state your home of record (birth place or city and state where you cast your absentee ballot). If you are a current member of the U.S. intelligence community and wish to remain anonymous, merely provide your agency and city and state where you vote.
Dear Senator/Representative [XXXXXXX]
We, the undersigned members and veterans of the U.S. Intelligence Community are writing you to request that legislation be introduced that would require the Director of National Intelligence to order an immediate halt to politically-motivated adverse personnel actions that are directed against career members of the U.S. Intelligence Community. A number of experienced intelligence professionals who have strictly followed departmental and agency rules and regulations and demonstrated their commitment to the the Constitution and the national security of the United States have been victimized by an Intelligence Community-wide program of intimidation, psychological abuse, revocation of their security clearances, and wrongful termination. This witch hunt and purge must stop. We are also asking that all politically-motivated terminations of intelligence professionals over the past three years be immediately reversed by the Director of National Intelligence and a review of the individual circumstances of the adverse actions be conducted by a special congressionally-chartered commission staffed by professional mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Wayne Madsen, Arlington, VA, (LT, USN, National Security Agency 1984-85).
August 23, 2005 -- Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi took first international law enforcement action against Bin Laden. Libyan leader Muammar el Qaddafi's government issued an INTERPOL "Red Notice" arrest warrant for Osama Bin Laden over three years prior to the 911 attacks on the United States. WMR has obtained a copy of the original Confidential limited distribution INTERPOL arrest warrant issued for the arrest of Bin Laden and three of his associates on March 16, 1998. The warrant named Bin Laden and three confederates for the killing of two German nationals near Sirt in 1994. This was at a time when a French Eyes Only intelligence report stated that Bin Laden was still under the operational control of U.S. and British intelligence (see Aug. 21 article below). The Red Notice for Bin Laden was issued some five months prior to the deadly "Al Qaeda" terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. It was only after those attacks that the Clinton administration took military action against Bin Laden's operational centers in Afghanistan and Sudan. The Red Notice contains the curious statement: "Extradition will be requested from any country except Israel."
August 22, 2005 -- Four Americans flew with "Air Bin Laden" flight transporting Bin Laden family members to Saudi Arabia and Europe nine days after 911. The post-911 domestic flights of Bin Laden family members out of the United States with the sanction of the Bush White House were not the only instances where Americans have flown with the family that spawned "Al Qaeda" leader Osama Bin Laden. WMR has obtained a passenger list from a September 20, 2001 Aero Services private charter flight from Le Bourget Airport, north of Paris, to Geneva, and on to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (King Abdulaziz International Airport-OEJN). On the list are a number of Bin Ladens, as well as four Americans, including a Los Angeles Police Department officer named Jason Blum who flew to Le Bourget from Los Angeles. A previous list provided to Sen. Frank Lautenberg showed Mr. Blum departing from the Bin Laden party in Boston.The newly obtained list shows he accompanied the Bin Ladens to Paris Le Bourget. The other three Americans on the passenger list are J.P. Buonono, Joseph Allen Wyka and Ricardo V. Pascetta. Because of these discrepancies, it is uncertain whether the destination information as stated on the manifest provided to Sen. Lautenberg (and presumably the 911 Commission) was, in fact, accurate. However, French intelligence is in possession of documents showing that some of the Americans accompanied the Bin Ladens to Jeddah. In addition, two Bin Ladens with U.S. citizenship were also on the charter flight: Khalil Sultan Binladen and Badr Ahmed Bin Laden. A British citizen, Akberali [sic] Moawalla [sic], identified by French intelligence as the same Akbar Moawala (the Tanzanian in the French intelligence report below regarding SICO and Fluor Corp.), was also on the flight. A Brazilian, Yemeni, and Indonesian were on the same flight. A Saudi diplomatic passport holder named Kholoud Osama Kurdi accompanied the passengers to Jeddah. What is significant about Mr. Kurdi is that the Bush administration claimed the Saudi flights were purely "private" in nature. Shafig Bin Laden, who had attended a Washington, DC meeting of the Carlyle Group at the Ritz Carlton Hotel on the morning of September 11 (George H. W. Bush and James Baker were present at the same meeting the day before), left the charter flight in Geneva, one of the centers for George H. W. Bush's international slush funds. The parties arriving at Le Bourget for the onward flight to Geneva and Jeddah flew from Los Angeles International, Dulles International, Boston Logan, and Orlando International.
Click here for the Lautenberg list.
SPECIAL REPORT -- U.S. BUSINESS AND BUSH FAMILY TIES TO OSAMA BIN LADEN REVEALED. August 21, 2005 -- One of the top U.S. contractors in Iraq was also intimately involved in the Bin Laden global financial empire. The U.S. construction and engineering firm Fluor Corp. has raked in handsome profits from reconstruction contracts awarded by the Pentagon in Iraq. Fluor, which received the lucrative contracts because it was included by the Pentagon on an "invitation only" short list of eligible contractors, has contributed over $500,000 to Republican candidates since 2000. Kenneth Oscar, a Fluor Vice President, was the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Procurement and was conveniently in charge of a $60 billion budget. One of Fluor's board members is retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a former deputy director of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) director.
What is not known about Fluor is its long standing ties to the Bin Laden family's worldwide financial interests. WMR has recently obtained the copy of a French intelligence report on the Saudi Investment Company Organization (SICO), an operation controlled by the Bin Ladens. The report reveals that Fluor was an integral part of the Bin Laden financial empire through a network of interlocking off-shore companies and directorships registered in such locations as Curacao, the Cayman Islands, London, the Netherlands, and Virginia.
There is a stinking air of treason and involvement with terrorism surrounding the Bush family. Additional European intelligence provided to WMR confirms that Osama bin Laden has been a major kingpin in drug shipments to Europe and North America since 1991, when he established a major drug smuggling network in Sudan and Saudi Arabia. When Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan in 1996, he re-established the drug smuggling networks initially set up by the CIA during the Mujaheddin war against the Soviets. The drug baron who headed up the Afghan heroin supply network for Bin Laden was code named "Kandahar." The drug smuggling operations were based alongside Bin Laden's terrorist training and weapons of mass destruction procurement activities in Osama Bin Laden's "Arab enclave" located at Khalden in Paktia province. According to a French intelligence report marked "CONFIDENTIEL DEFENSE/USAGE STRICTEMENT NATIONAL" (Defense confidential, "French Eyes Only"), U.S. and British intelligence elements continued to control Osama Bin Laden and his Khalden-based terrorist corps as of 1995, fully two years after "Al Qaeda" was found to be involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and one year prior to the Khobar Tower bombings in Saudi Arabia, the point at which the late FBI counter-terrorism agent John O'Neill began linking Al Qaeda to the Saudi royal family and certain American "interests."
The Al Qaeda drug supply network remains in operation and continues to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for Bin Laden's global operations. All during the rule of the Taliban, Afghan drug mules hauling heroin abroad received a standard request for assistance letter from Mullah Mohammad Omar, the one-eyed Taliban leader. Mullah Omar dispatched a number of envoys to Washington, DC to have talks with senior Bush administration officials prior to 911. They all carried the same assistance request letter. The Mullah Omar assistance request letter is below:
The Bin Laden drug network also intersects with Geneva-based financial entities established by George H. W. Bush while he was CIA director and Vice President and President of the United States. Bin Laden and Bush money are held in some of the same financial tranches in Switzerland, the Isle of Man, and the Bahamas (see following story). The Bush family off-shore money tranches originated with gold bars and jewels spirited out of the Philippines upon the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. The Marcos fortune was the price exacted by Vice President Bush for his being granted asylum in Hawaii. The gold bars were transported from the Philippines to the International Diamond Exchange Vaults near Rockefeller Center. A CIA proprietary firm called Oceaneering International of Houston procured barges to move some of the gold from secured warehouses to a specially-configured Boeing 747 which then flew the cargo to New York. Oceaneering sealifted the remaining gold to Oregon. After George W. Bush’s victory in 2000, the last of the gold and jewels stored in New York was moved to UBS Bank in Zurich. Marcos and Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi set about to create Five Star Trust in 1983 as a means to create a vehicle to use the Philippine wealth to create and funnel fungible assets abroad. In 1989, Five Star Trust was officially established in the Isle of Man by a Houston-based attorney who was a close friend of the Bush family.
WMR is now in possession of a UBS letter to the Swiss Federal Police, dated October 30, 2001, which was in response to an October 2, 2001 request by the police to look for Bin Laden family "terrorist funds" (Terroristengeldern).The UBS letter states that two terrorist-related financial activities were detected with regard to the movement by Osama Bin Laden of suspicious funds in 1990 and 1991. [This was shortly after Bush's Philippine tranche of gold and jewels was established at UBS]. On 20/08/90, there was a $450,000 transfer of funds into Osama Bin Laden's account. The deposit included "jewels." On 28/10/91, there was a $482,000 transfer of funds into Osama Bin Laden's account from the Saudi American Bank in Jeddah, the same bank Israeli intelligence directly tied into Saudi terrorist funding in the West Bank. (See "Intelligence Whispers").
As reported in "Intelligence Whispers," on August 21, 2001, just a few weeks before the 911 attacks, a UBS Warburg/Paine Webber broker named Chung Wu advised his investors to sell their Enron stock, whereafter UBS quickly fired the broker. In addition, the "Intelligence Whispers" report regarding the mysterious Bush-connected Geneva and Zurich money mover who transferred $10 million and $10 billion in Saudi and other funds to Texas in 1995 and 1996, respectively, has been positively linked to Al Taqwa, a Swiss entity tied to "Al Qaeda." A $50,000 check drawn on the 1995 funds was written to Fayyaz Ahmed, one of the 911 hijackers. The 1996 $10 billion transfer was for Enron's fraudulent LJM Cayman Islands front and was to finance a deal with the Taliban to build the trans-Afghan CentGas pipeline. (Enron, Halliburton, Unocal, Zalmay Khalilzad, Hamid Karzai, and Mullah Omar were all involved in the 1996 CentGas negotiations, which were held in Tashkent and Houston). WMR is also in possession of an audit letter from Ernst & Young giving a clean bill of health to an "Al Qaeda"-affiliated "charity" based in Kuwait, Lajnat al Dawa al Islamiya, which, in reality, supplied Taliban and Al Qaeda forces with assistance in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
WMR can also confirm that the Bush administration's cozying up to the Sudanese government (which once provided Osama Bin Laden safe haven) is another indication that the Bush family continues to engage in joint financial activities with Osama Bin Laden. It is likely that Sudan's southern Christian rebel leader John Garang was encouraged to enter into a peace agreement with Khartoum in a ploy for him to let down his guard. Just days after Garang became Sudan's Vice President, he was killed in a suspicious helicopter crash along the Ugandan-Sudanese border, an area where Pentagon Special Operations forces are present. As Vice President, Garang was in a position to discover Bin Laden's past and present activities in Sudan, including those that involve Bush family interests. While Sudan claims it no longer has any relations with Osama Bin Laden, it can now be revealed that Osama Bin Laden continues to operate the Al Shamal Islamic Bank in Sudan that was identified by the State Department in 1996 as being linked to Al Qaeda and Bin Laden. The "Al Qaeda" leader invested $50 million in the bank. The bank was used in 1993 to transfer $210,000 to a bank in Tucson, Arizona to finance the purchase of a plane to fly Stinger missiles from Pakistan to Sudan. The plane was flown to Khartoum. (According to the French intelligence report, Bin Laden was still under U.S. and British intelligence control at the time of the plane purchase and in 1993 Sudan was on the State Department's state sponsors of terrorism list). It is significant that Al Shamal's assets were never frozen by the United States nor was it designated a terrorist-related organization. The Sudanese claim that Al Shamal is no longer in operation and the Bush administration has not countered these claims. However, in October 2004 this photo (below) was taken in Khartoum (the bank was open for business and very busy):
August 21, 2005 -- Five Star Trust involvement with Bush and Cheney illegal money movements into the United States confirmed. French law enforcement authorities who are investigating a major international fraud scheme involving bribes paid to Nigerian officials by Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown and Root subsidiary (while Dick Cheney was President and CEO) and its TSKJ business partners in return for a Nigerian liquefied natural gas contract, have confirmed that Five Star Trust, an off-shore entity with a presence in the Bahamas and the Isle of Man, and which is linked to the Bush family, is the subject of a major international criminal investigation. The scandal, known as the Technip Affair in France, involves French, American, British, Italian, Japanese, and Portuguese criminal investigations, As reported by the editor after the 2004 election, Five Star Trust funds were moved illegally into the United States from Nigeria and other off-shore locations through the use of counterfeit "markers" used to secretly transfer large sums of money outside normal (and surveilled) banking networks like SWIFT. For the 2004 article on Five Star, click here. After the article appeared, there was a concerted effort by the Bush administration and its disinformation plants in the "blogosphere" to cast doubts on the authenticity of the revelations about Five Star Trust.
UPDATE: Having been hospitalized the same week that her Labor colleague, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, suddenly died of a heart attack, former Northern Ireland Secretary, Ireland peace architect, and anti-Iraq War figure Mo Mowlam died on August 19. Mo Mowlam was 55. Britain has now lost two of its most prominent anti-Iraq war politicians. In 2002, Mowlam wrote the following in The Guardian during the buildup to the Iraq War, "It is hard now to see how George Bush can withdraw his bellicose words and also save face, but I hope that that is possible. Otherwise I fear greatly for the Middle East, but also for the rest of the world." Mo, we're all still fearing Bush. RIP.
Mo Mowlam, 1949-2005
August 20, 2005 -- Another Patrick Fitzgerald shot across the bow of the neo-cons. U.S. Attorney for Chicago (and special prosecutor in the Valerie Plame/BJ & A White House leak) Patrick Fitzgerald has indicted former Chicago Sun-Times publisher David Radler for the theft of $32 million from the Sun-Times parent company, Hollinger Corporation. Radler is also a past owner of Canada's Ottawa Citizen and Vancouver Sun.
Sign of things to come? Prosecutor Fitzgerald indicts Novak's former big boss at the Chicago Sun Times
Owned until 2003 by Conrad Black, Hollinger also includes the Jerusalem Post and London Daily Telegraph, two papers that have been propaganda arms of the neocon movement and at the forefront of attacks on anti-Iraq war politicians. Although Fitzgerald did not indict Black, it is believed the prosecutor will have Radler testify against his former business partner. Former Hollinger board member and arch-neocon Richard Perle was, in addition to Radler and Black, cited in a 2004 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) report on fraudulent financial activity at Hollinger. Black's wife, Barbara Amiel Black, a strongly pro-Israeli columnist for the Telegraph and Maclean's and a former Vice President of Hollinger, was cited in a class action lawsuit brought by Canadian investors in Hollinger. Amiel Black has been vociferous in attacking politicians, including British MP George Galloway, who have criticized the invasion of Iraq. The indictment of the Sun Times' former publisher Radler, who has been another strong promoter of Likud and neocon causes, is also significant in light of the Plame matter. The Sun Times syndicates Robert Novak, the first journalist to reveal in his column Valerie Plame's CIA identity and that of her Brewster Jennings non official cover company. That leak is at the center of Fitzgerald's probe of Karl Rove, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and others in the Bush administration for violations of national security laws.
Sun Myung Moon's empire of political influence and phony journalism may also be exposed soon. In what may not be an unrelated story to the Hollinger indictments, on Aug. 19, South Korean prosecutors raided the headquarters of the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) in Seoul, seizing boxes and computer disks. It was the first time the agency, once called the Korean Central Intelligence Agency (KCIA), has been raided by the authorities in its entire 45-year history. It has long been suspected that South Korean intelligence financially props up Sun Myung Moon, the owner of neocon Washington Times and other right-wing propaganda outlets around the world. The raid and investigation of the NIS may also result in exposures of Moon's ties to criminal elements in Asia and powerful politicians in the United States and other countries.
Motto to these two stories: It's not wise to irritate and inflame the US intelligence and law enforcement infrastructures. Pay backs, as they say, came be nasty.
Moon endangered by unprecedented raid of Korean intelligence agency?
August 20, 2005 -- More on Able Danger and the gutting of the U.S. Intelligence Community. In many respects, the Pentagon's non-action with regard to the warnings from the Able Danger counter-terrorism Special Operations team about the threat posed by Mohammad Atta and three other hijackers was as serious a breakdown in the intelligence system as the roll up of Valerie Plame Wilson and her Brewster Jennings & Associates non-official cover counter-proliferation team (and its global assets). This is what we now know about Able Danger. The team, composed of members of the U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, used data provided primarily by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) to track terrorist cells abroad and inside the United States. The Able Danger team used data mined by sophisticated DIA (for example, the four Trans World Information Warfare Support --- TWI --- groups, like the super-classified TWI-1, the Special Activities TWI group), NSA, and military service information warfare elements that used "deep drilling" web and non-web connected search tools to identify information linked to targeted terrorist cells. The threat and warning indication intelligence came from systems operated by the Army's Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia (now known as the Army's First Operations Command [Land]), the Naval Information Warfare Activity (NIWA) at Fort Meade, Maryland, and the Air Force Information Warfare Center (AFIWC) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Some cover names for projects associated with the data mining and reporting are Sensor Harvest (Air Force "Country Build" database system targeted on such threat nations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen), Oilstock (NSA geographic information system), the IW Mission, Planning, Analysis, and Command and Control Targeting System (IMPACTS) (Navy, offensive information warfare), Retract Barley (Navy), Constant Web (Air Force signals intelligence fusion), Rigel (Navy, counter-narcotics/narco-terrorist intelligence fusion system -- which may have alerted DIA and other intelligence agencies to Atta's reported heroin smuggling activities from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1990s -- see Aug. 21 stories above), THREADS (Threat Humint Reporting, Evaluation, Analysis and Display System) (Air Force/NRO), and Topsail (CIA-NSA-DIA).
It is also known that, along with US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) lawyers, it was USSOCOM Commander, Gen. Peter Schoomaker who put the kibosh on informing the FBI of the Atta team threat as early as 1999. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shocked the Army general staff when he pulled Schoomaker from two years' of retirement to become the Army Chief of Staff, a move still considered highly unusual in the Army. Since becoming Army Chief of Staff, Schoomaker has ensured a continued cover-up of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo torture, as well as hard evidence of U.S. war crimes (involving psychological warfare operations) in locations like Fallujah and Nasariyah, Iraq.
Special Operations Command's Able Danger team received threat & warning intelligence and targeting data about Mohammad Atta and his three-man team from DIA and other intelligence agencies beginning in 1999. Rumsfeld's hand picked Army Chief of Staff, then-Special Operations Commander Gen. Peter Schoomaker, prevented "Team Atta" from being taken out. Another indication that 911 was likely a "false attribution" program run by neo-con cells in the United States and abroad.
In addition to trying to lay blame on 911 on Bill Clinton, Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) has a vested interest in pushing the story about DIA's data mining successes in enabling the Able Danger team to track "Team Atta" prior to 911. Weldon's "NOAH" data mining pet project, which has been partially funded by LIWA's budget, is centered in his suburban Philadelphia district. For more information on Weldon, data mining, and NOAH, click here.
August 23 /August 19, 2005 -- Revelations about Satterfield and Able Danger are connected. The recent revelations that the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, David Satterfield, is the USGO-2 named in the Franklin-Rosen-Weismann indictment and the coming forward of the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and his evidence that the elite Able Danger force had Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers under surveillance in 2000 and was prevented from taking action are related stories. Shaffer was the liaison between DIA and the U.S. Special Operations Able Danger team that was tracking Atta and his cell in the United States and abroad. The Pentagon inaction is being blamed on lawyers for the U.S. Special Operations Command who prevented the FBI from being informed of the Atta team's activities. What is being overlooked is that there was a significant neo-con element within the Clinton administration. It included then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen (a Republican) and the career Pentagon officials like Office of Net Assessment chief Andy Marshall, the indicted Larry Franklin, and Harold Rhode, who all increased their power in the Bush administration. This network was close to Clinton State Department officials Martin Indyk, who lost his security clearance while ambassador to Israel, and Dennis Ross, now of the pro-Likud Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the think tank that provided a number of personnel for Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans, including David Schenker and Michael Makovsky (brother of WINEP Senior Fellow David Makovsky). WINEP's advisory board includes such neocon figures as Richard Perle, James Woolsey, James Roche (of Boeing-Air Force tanker contract fraud infamy), Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Max Kampelman. The pre-911 restrictions on Able Danger are evidence that the neo-cons were as damaging to the security interests of the United States under Clinton as they have been under Bush.
The two shill chairmen of the 911 Commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, have now said they did not consider the information about pre-911 U.S. military surveillance of Atta and his confederates to be "historically significant." 911 Commission Executive Director Phillip Zelikow swept Lt. Col. Shaffer's testimony under the rug. Zelikow is a close associate of Condoleezza Rice.
And in what represents yet another whistleblower situation from within the US Intelligence Community, Shaffer had his security clearance at DIA suspended in March 2004 and was put on paid administrative leave. It has been recently revealed that Shaffer's Navy colleague, who had also identified the Atta team prior to 911, Captain Scott Phillpott, has been reassigned from DIA to a staff project code named "Deep Blue." On August 23, the New York Times reported Phillpott confirmed that Able Danger had Atta and his team under surveillance in the United States in 2000. Shaffer's story has been treated shabbily by the Washington Post, not because it lacks merit, but because the story is getting closer to the neo-con cell operating within the Pentagon from the days of the Clinton administration.
WMR can also now report that the current and recent past Federal probes of various security leaks, criminal activity, and dirty money -- Abramoff, Kidan, CIA leak, Niger bogus documents, AIPACgate, election fraud, Indian gambling casino money laundering, dirty GOP campaign money, Clinton's "Pardongate" of Marc Rich, oil profiteering, the 911 false flag operations around the nation, and anthrax -- are all related to the deep penetration of the U.S. government by elements controlled by the Russian-Israeli-Ukrainian Mafia (RUIM). Justice, Treasury, and U.S. intelligence agents are well aware of the linked criminal networks which made their first foray into the United States after the late Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson (and his staff of neo-cons) pressured the Soviet Union to release the very elements who would later form a virtual "Criminal International" involved with weapons of mass destruction proliferation, narcotics, terrorism, the "security" business (including airline security), prostitution, "blood diamond" laundering, weapons smuggling, white slave trade, child pornography and prostitution, and bank fraud. According to Argentine and Brazilian intelligence sources from within the Triple Border region of South America, the RUIM has also managed, within the past three years, of smuggling two nuclear devices into the United States -- one suitcase nuke from a former Soviet Central Asian state and a "dirty" radiological bomb. They arrived in the United States via two drug routes operated by the RUIM: a Mexican border crossing used by the Juarez drug cartel and a Port of Newark, New Jersey shipment point run by the RUIM. There is more to come. Much more.
Is this their goal? America's security infrastructure's hands tied by neocon warmongers.
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To the Editors:
It is disappointing to learn that the Central Intelligence Agency filed motions in federal court in May 2005 to block disclosure of records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy forty-one years ago.
In response to the journalist Jefferson Morley's lawsuit brought under the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA is seek-ing to prevent release of records about a deceased CIA operations officer named George E. Joannides.
Joannides's story is clearly of substantial historical interest. CIA records show that the New Orleans chapter of a Cuban exile group that Joannides guided and monitored in Miami had a series of encounters with the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald three months before Kennedy was murdered. Fifteen years later, Joannides also served as the agency's liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. He did not disclose his role in the events of 1963 to Congress. The public record of the assassination and its confused investigatory aftermath will not be complete without his story.
The spirit of the law is clear. The JFK Records Act of 1992, approved unanimously by Congress, mandated that all assassination-related records be reviewed and disclosed "immediately."
When Morley filed his lawsuit in December 2003, thirteen published JFK authors supported his request for the records in an open letter to The New York Review of Books (www.nybooks.com/articles/16865).
Eighteen months later, the CIA is still stonewalling. The agency now acknowledges that it possesses an undisclosed number of documents related to Joannides's actions and responsibilities in 1963 which it will not release in any form. Thus records related to Kennedy's assassination are still being hidden for reasons of "national security."
As published authors of divergent views on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we say the agency's position is spurious and untenable. Its continuing non-compliance with the JFK Records Act does no service to the public. It defies the will of Congress. It obscures the public record on a subject of enduring national interest. It encourages conspiracy mongering. And it undermines public confidence in the intelligence community at a time when collective security requires the opposite.
We insist the CIA observe the spirit of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act by immediately releasing all relevant records on the activities of George Joannides and any records at all that include his name or relate in any way to the assassination story—as prescribed by the JFK Records Act. The law and common sense require it.
G. Robert Blakey, former general counsel, House Select Committee on Assassinations Jefferson Morley, journalist Scott Armstrong, founder National Security Archive Vincent Bugliosi, author and former prosecutor Elias Demetracopoulos, retired journalist Stephen Dorril, University of Huddersfield Don DeLillo, author of Libra Paul Hoch, JFK researcher David Kaiser, Naval War College Michael Kurtz, Southeastern Louisiana University, author of Crime of the Century George Lardner, Jr., journalist Jim Lesar, Assassination Archives and Research Center Norman Mailer, author of Oswald's Tale John McAdams, moderator, alt.assassination.jfk John Newman, author of Oswald and the CIA Gerald Posner, author of Case Closed Oliver Stone, director JFK Anthony Summers, author of Not in Your Lifetime Robbyn Swan, author David Talbot, founding editor, Salon.com Cyril Wecht, coroner, Allegheny County, PA Richard Whalen, author of Founding Father Gordon Winslow, former archivist of Dade County, Florida. David Wrone, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, author The Zapruder Film
Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- In the mid-1990s, long before oil prices topped $60 a barrel, U.S. companies sought access to Kazakhstan, a Central Asian nation that the U.S. State Department says will be among the world's top 10 producers of crude by 2015.
First, they had to win approval from Jim Giffen, a New York investment banker who became an official in Kazakhstan's government and held sway over its energy deals.
``You couldn't go to a Kazakh minister, particularly if you were an American company, without going through Giffen,'' says Ed Chow, who managed external affairs at Chevron Overseas Petroleum Ltd., a unit of San Ramon, California-based Chevron Corp.
Chevron, the second-largest U.S. oil company, avoided Giffen by arriving in the country before he amassed power, says Chow, 55, who's now an oil and gas consultant in Leesburg, Virginia. Others couldn't.
Now, federal prosecutors say Giffen, 64, cemented his power by bribing Kazakh leaders with $84 million that Amoco Corp., Mobil Oil Co., Phillips Petroleum Co. and Texaco Inc. paid to win access to Kazakh fields. In January, Giffen goes on trial in federal district court in New York in one of the largest overseas criminal bribery cases ever.
The four companies, which have since merged with rivals, haven't been charged.
Giffen denies wrongdoing. His lawyers, Steven Cohen and William Schwartz, say in court papers that Giffen's actions were condoned by the Central Intelligence Agency, White House and State Department to curry favor with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 65.
`Fear About Meeting'
The country borders China and Russia and has 39.6 billion barrels of recoverable reserves, which ranks Kazakhstan eighth in the world, above Libya and below Russia, according to the annual BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
The republic says reserves, in and on the shore of the Caspian Sea, may reach 100 billion barrels. Total world reserves are 1.19 trillion barrels.
Giffen and his lawyers declined to comment, as did the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Neiman.
``I have never had another case where I had as many witnesses, or really any witnesses, express the kind of fear about meeting with us that we had in this case,'' Neiman said in court on June 3, 2004, when the defense unsuccessfully sought dismissal of the charges.
The case is a cautionary tale of the perils of doing commerce in developing nations. ``Jim's role has been played by others in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America,'' Chow says. If he's convicted, Giffen may spend the rest of his life in prison.
Mobil Executive's Guilty Plea
It would be a steep fall for a man who owns an $80,000 Bentley Brooklands and an 11-acre estate in Mamaroneck, a New York suburb. The investigation has ensnared others, too.
A Mobil executive who ran the company's oil efforts in Kazakhstan, Bryan Williams, 65, pleaded guilty in June 2003 to tax evasion stemming from the case.
A grand jury is probing whether Mobil participated in a scheme to bribe leaders of the world's ninth-biggest nation by geographical area, Neiman said in an April 4, 2003, court filing.
Giffen paid $20 million in bribes to Kazakh leaders after negotiating a $1.05 billion deal that awarded Mobil a share of a major Kazakh field, the indictment says. Mobil, now part of Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, denies wrongdoing.
``Exxon Mobil has no knowledge of any illegal payments made to Kazakh officials,'' Exxon Mobil spokesman Tom Cirigliano says.
Texaco's involvement in Kazakhstan has also come under scrutiny, according to a copy of a Justice Department subpoena from April 14, 2003.
After Texaco, now a unit of Chevron, won access to a field, Giffen paid $7.5 million in bribes to Kazakh officials, prosecutors say. ``All payments made by Texaco were properly made to the government of Kazakhstan into government accounts as instructed by the government,'' says Jeffrey Moore, a spokesman for Chevron.
Edward Blessing, managing director of Dallas-based Blessing Petroleum Group LLC, which finances exploration projects, says some oil companies are still asked to pay bribes. Blessing, who worked in Central Asia, says he has never paid a bribe.
``We forget sometimes that that's an accepted way of doing business in some countries,'' he says. ``I had a Russian businessman tell me that the difference between a good manager and a bad manager was that a good manager would ask for a facilitation payment, as he called it, and he would sprinkle it throughout his organization. A bad manager kept it all for himself.''
`Play by the Rules'
Unnamed senior officials in Kazakhstan have urged the U.S. to drop the case, U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin said in a ruling in 2002.
By pressing ahead, the Justice Department is signaling the importance of U.S. laws outlawing bribery overseas, says Stanley Marcuss, a Washington-based lawyer at Bryan Cave LLP who helped draft the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The 1977 statute bars Americans from bribing officials in other countries to win contracts. ``It is based on an assumption that goods or services are sold on the basis of price, quality, timeliness and other commercial considerations,'' Marcuss says.
``And if they are sold on other-than-normal commercial considerations, those who play by the rules are denied an equal opportunity to participate,'' he says.
The U.S. Congress enacted the law, which also empowers the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to file civil suits, after more than 300 companies said they'd made at least $300 million in suspicious payments to officials outside the U.S.
`Bolts from Heaven'
Donald Zarin, a Washington-based lawyer at Dechert LLP and author of a textbook on the law, said the payments in Giffen's case are among the highest ever in an overseas bribery prosecution.
By the time Giffen was indicted in 2003, he'd spent half his life working in Central Asia. The son of a Stockton, California, clothier, Giffen challenged Cold War orthodoxy and began advocating trade with the Soviet Union soon after leaving the University of California, Los Angeles, with a law degree in 1965.
``It really was one of these bolts from heaven,'' says his ex-wife, June Hopkins, of his interest in the USSR. Before Giffen turned 30, he testified before Congress and wrote a textbook on trade with the USSR, with an introduction by then U.S. Senator Walter Mondale.
He joined Pittsburgh-based steelmaker Armco Inc. in 1973 and helped devise a plan to swap drilling equipment for Russian oil. ``He has a very sort-of brusque, tough, aggressive exterior manner,'' says Mark Siegel, 58, a Washington lobbyist who worked for Giffen years later in Kazakhstan.
Hopkins's grandfather was Harry Hopkins, a confidant of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and an architect of the New Deal, and Giffen often talked politics with his wife's father, an advertising executive, she says.
``He has a great sense of the United States, the uniqueness of America, and feels very loyal,'' Hopkins, 64, says of her ex- husband, from whom she got divorced in 1984. ``He felt very strongly about the duties that people have to their government.''
In 1984, Giffen launched New York-based investment bank Mercator Corp. while also leading a nonprofit group representing 300 companies that sought trade with the Soviets.
Though he speaks little Russian, Giffen by then had made 150 trips to the USSR, sometimes meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev, who became the leader of the Soviet Union the next year, he said in a 1984 television interview.
`No Such Thing as Can't'
``He had a wonderful way of perceiving what could be done,'' says Hopkins, who now teaches history at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia. ``There was no such thing as can't. He worked damn hard.''
In 1988, Giffen assumed control of another organization, the New York-based American Trade Consortium, which sought Soviet contracts for seven U.S. companies, including Decatur, Illinois-based Archer Daniels Midland Co.; New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson; and Chevron.
He mingled with Soviet apparatchiks, such as then Kazakh Communist Party leader Nazarbayev, and U.S. executives including Archer Daniels Chairman Dwayne Andreas. Giffen also intervened in politics, urging Gorbachev to allow Russian Jews to emigrate.
``He and Dwayne Andreas both were dealing very closely with Gorbachev at that point and linking better trade relations and better political relations with opening up the borders,'' says Siegel, who learned of their work as a member of the World Jewish Congress.
Archer Daniels spokeswoman Karla Miller says Andreas, 87, now chairman emeritus, declined to comment.
One of the World's Largest
At the time, Chevron was considering Soviet oil fields, though it hadn't targeted a specific region, former Vice Chairman Richard Matzke says.
Chevron scoured the region before seeking drilling rights in the barren salt flats along the Caspian's shore, he says. Today, Kazakhstan's Tengiz field is one of the world's largest, with as much as 9 billion barrels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Giffen, with his contacts in Moscow, worked first as an adviser to Chevron. After the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse, he was a consultant to the republic, former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan William Courtney says.
In April 1993, after four years of negotiations, Chevron agreed to pay about $800 million for a 50 percent stake in Tengiz, says Matzke, who led the talks. The deal spurred rivals to follow, and soon Mobil and others sought access to a former Soviet republic that had won independence 16 months earlier.
`Promising to Open Doors'
Almaty, covered in smog and ringed by the Tian Shan Mountains, was a city of fixers as well as Kazakhstan's capital when Giffen arrived.
``There were so many people around in those years who were promising to open doors,'' says Martha Olcott, 55, a senior associate at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and author of ``Kazakhstan: Unfulfilled Promise'' (Carnegie Endowment, 2001).
Mining companies desired Kazakhstan's mineral wealth, telecommunications firms wanted control of its communications network, and oil and gas companies sought a piece of its energy resources, she says.
As Nazarbayev's government sought to revive a stagnant economy by selling parts of industries recently dominated by the Soviets, Giffen, who had squired Nazarbayev around Washington on a 1992 visit, convinced the Kazakhs he knew how Wall Street worked and the Americans he knew how Kazakhstan functioned.
``It's hard to recapture the degree of ignorance of the people at that point in time, on both sides,'' Olcott says. ``The Kazakhs knew nothing about the outside world, and the Americans knew nothing about Kazakhstan, and they were really, really desperate to get in there.''
Caspian oil was beckoning. The Kashagan field, then undeveloped, is now the world's second-largest after Saudi Arabia's Ghawar, with recoverable reserves of as much as 10 billion barrels.
Giffen persuaded Nazarbayev, or ``the boss,'' as he called the president, to enlist his bank in the efforts to sell assets. Mercator, which would eventually employ 100 staffers and consultants, was hired to advise Kazakhstan on Dec. 31, 1994, court records say.
Giffen was appointed Nazarbayev's counselor eight months later, they say.
Broad-shouldered and nattily dressed in a blue blazer or tailored suit, Giffen found himself in the center of some of the world's largest oil deals. He traveled on a Kazakh passport and kept an office for his bank on Almaty's main street, court records say.
`Nothing Intimidated Him'
As visiting U.S. oil executives made the rounds through Kazakh ministries, an acquaintance recalls Giffen's wagging his finger and telling them, ``You've got to come through me.''
``Nothing intimidated him,'' says former Mercator board member Robert Knight, 86, a retired lawyer at Shearman & Sterling LLP, the 13th-largest U.S. law firm. ``He had the ability to negotiate very well. He knew what he was talking about.''
From 1995 to 2000, Mercator earned about $67 million in fees, counseling the Kazakh Oil Ministry on at least six deals, prosecutors say.
Among them was Mobil's $1.05 billion purchase of a 25 percent share in Tengiz in 1996; Amoco's 1997 acquisition of usage rights for a Caspian pipeline for $150 million; Texaco's 1998 deal for an interest in the Karachaganak oil and gas field; and Phillips Petroleum's acquisition of Caspian rights for $271 million in 1997.
Diverted $84 Million
Prosecutors say the deals enabled Giffen to solidify his power in Kazakhstan. Out of the companies' payments to Kazakhstan or Mercator, he diverted $84 million to accounts secretly owned by Nazarbayev, Oil Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev and a third Kazakh official, prosecutors say.
Nazarbayev got about $60 million; Balgimbaev, about $18 million; and the third official, $6 million, prosecutors say.
Giffen lavished gifts on the Kazakhs, prosecutors say: Nazarbayev got two snowmobiles, an $80,000 Donzi speedboat and his daughter's tuition at George Washington University in Washington, then $22,625 a year.
Giffen paid $36,000 in expenses for a house Balgimbaev kept in Newton, Massachusetts, near where the minister's children attended college.
``He understood the psychology of Soviet bureaucrats,'' says Zharmakhan Tuyakbay, 58, former speaker of Kazakhstan's lower house of Parliament and a challenger to Nazarbayev in elections anticipated for late 2005 or 2006. ``He probably knew exactly what to offer.''
`An Internal Matter'
The Kazakh government, which Transparency International ranked 122nd out of the 146 nations in its 2004 Corruption Perceptions Index, denies the allegations.
The government says that Nazarbayev, who hasn't been charged, instructed his ministers in 1996 to route funds to Switzerland as a safeguard in the event of an economic collapse. Asked about the case, Nazarbayev's chief policy adviser, Karim Massimov, says, ``This is an internal matter of the United States.''
At the trial, prosecutors say, they'll show how Mobil's $1.05 billion deal for Tengiz hinged on bribes to Kazakh ministers and illegal payments to a Mobil official.
According to court papers, Mobil in mid-1995 entered negotiations for a portion of the Tengiz field. In April 1996, the talks neared collapse when Mobil Chief Executive Officer Lucio Noto dispatched Mobil's Williams, who headed oil trading in the region, to revive the deal, prosecutors say.
Wired to Switzerland
After two days of meetings, Giffen, Williams and Kazakh ministers hammered out the $1.05 billion pact that awarded Mobil a 25 percent stake in Tengiz, court papers say. The sale closed a month later.
As part of the deal, Mobil agreed to pay an extra $41 million in fees to Giffen's bank, prosecutors say. From the $41 million, Giffen routed $2 million into an account, in the name of Alqi Holdings Ltd., which was established for Williams, prosecutors say.
Giffen later wired an additional $20.5 million to an account in Switzerland that prosecutors say is owned by Nazarbayev.
Balgimbaev also profited, according to prosecutors. In an effort to close the deal, Mobil agreed to make unsecured loans to a shell company that was supposed to help Kazakhstan sell gas condensate, they say.
From 1995 to early 1997, Mobil loaned the company, Vaeko Europe Ltd., more than $78 million, of which $30 million was never repaid to Mobil, they say.
About $1 million wound up in a Bahamas-based company owned by Balgimbaev, who used the funds to buy diamond jewelry and pay for his family's stay at a Swiss spa resort, they say.
``You can't work in Kazakhstan without paying bribes,'' says former CIA officer Robert Baer, who was stationed in Central Asia in the mid-1990s. ``It's that kind of Wild West. Everyone was doing it.''
On June 12, 2003, Williams, a lawyer and Vietnam veteran, became the first casualty of the Justice Department's probe. He pleaded guilty to tax evasion on money he secretly received from people with whom he negotiated on Mobil's behalf.
In his plea, Williams also explicitly exonerated Mobil. He said his former employer hadn't known of the payments. Williams, who's now serving a 46-month sentence at a Maryland prison camp, declined a request for an interview.
Noto, 67, who's now managing partner of New York-based investment firm Midstream Partners LLC, says he's not under investigation and declined further comment.
By the time of Mobil's Tengiz deal, Giffen, a whiskey drinker, was living large. The Chevron transaction paid him 7.5 cents on every barrel, earning him millions of dollars, people familiar with the contract say. Giffen lavished gifts on girlfriends and spent $500,000 in a Geneva jewelry shop in late 1998, according to the indictment.
Giffen didn't hide his relationship with Nazarbayev. ``He has this Christmas party every year in New York,'' lobbyist Siegel says of Giffen.
``One year, President Nazarbayev was at the Christmas party, and in his toast, he talked about Nazarbayev as a forward-looking leader, as someone who's going to bring democracy to Kazakhstan,'' Siegel says. ``And there were tears in his eyes. He's a true believer.''
Under Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's debt has won an investment- grade rating of Baa3 from Moody's Investors Service. The State Department has criticized Kazakhstan for flawed elections, human rights abuses, arbitrary enforcement of laws and a restricted press.
More Than Oil
Giffen's job included more than securing oil contracts. Elizabeth Jones, 57, who was U.S. ambassador to Kazakhstan from 1995 to 1998, says Giffen told her he spearheaded a restructuring of the Kazakh government.
Mercator's staff, including Giffen's son David, 42, who's also an independent music producer, helped open doors for a group, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law.
The Washington-based center wanted to reform Kazakh policy on nongovernmental organizations, ex-Regional Director Richard Remias says.
Siegel says he watched Giffen press Nazarbayev for laws supporting fair elections and robust political debate. ``The president didn't always listen to the advice of his consultants,'' Siegel says. ``But we kept trying, and Giffen kept urging us to keep trying.''
Baer, the former CIA officer who's author of ``See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism'' (Crown Publishing, 2002), says Giffen also injected himself into U.S.-Kazakh relations.
`He Was the Channel'
Baer, whose book criticizes CIA anti-terrorism efforts, says the State Department turned to Giffen when it wanted to stop Nazarbayev from selling surface-to-air missiles and other arms to North Korea and Iran.
He says Giffen reviewed a secret CIA report on government corruption in Kazakhstan. ``They went to Jim Giffen to make problems go away,'' Baer says. ``He was the channel.''
Defense attorneys Cohen and Schwartz say in court papers they'll point to such contacts as proof that the U.S. condoned Giffen's payments to build ties with an oil-rich nation in a strategic region.
They've demanded records of Giffen's communications with 15 former U.S. officials, including Secretary of State James Baker, National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and CIA Director Robert Gates.
Reported to CIA
The lawyers also say Giffen, as a Kazakh official, acted lawfully by heeding orders from Kazakh superiors to transfer funds to Switzerland. ``Mr. Giffen routinely reported to the CIA upon his return from his numerous trips,'' Schwartz said in court last year.
``When the government of the United States needed something to be done in Kazakhstan, Mr. Giffen was asked to do it,'' Schwartz said.''
Prosecutors deny Giffen played a special role. Ex-Ambassador Jones, who has left the government and is now a principal at consulting firm AEJones in Arlington, Virginia, says claims that Giffen thwarted a Kazakh missile deal are untrue.
CIA spokeswoman Michelle Ness declined to comment, citing pending litigation. White House spokeswoman Erin Healy referred questions to prosecutors.
What probably happened, Jones says, is that after U.S. officials met with Giffen in Washington -- as they routinely meet with U.S. executives working overseas -- Giffen returned to Kazakhstan and exaggerated his importance.
``He did the classic middleman thing,'' Chevron's Chow says. ``This happens everywhere. The guy flies in from Kazakhstan, comes to Washington and says, `I have a message from Nazarbayev.' So if you're the U.S. government, do you talk to him? Then he goes back to Almaty and says to Nazarbayev, `I have a message from Washington.'''
Kazakhstan, which supplied 29 troops for the Iraq war and landing rights for the U.S. in the Afghanistan campaign, may retaliate for the case by redirecting oil supplies toward China, says James Wertsch, director of International and Area Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.
Kazakhstan plans to develop a 3,000-kilometer (1,864-mile) pipeline with China. Others doubt Kazakhstan will punish the U.S. or its oil companies.
President George W. Bush said in a July letter to Nazarbayev that the countries are strategic partners, says Roman Vassilenko, first secretary in the Kazakh Embassy in Washington. National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones declined to comment.
``Kazakhstan needs foreign investment,'' says Lorrie Olivier, CEO of Houston-based TransMeridian Exploration Inc., a company that's drilling in Kazakhstan. ``The country has welcomed us with open arms.''
In Kazakhstan, where Nazarbayev watched a popular revolt in March unseat rulers in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, opposition leaders plan to publicize the trial as evidence of government corruption.
``The ongoing `Kazakhgate' trial in New York will have a most serious effect,'' says former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, who was ousted in a 1997 power struggle with Nazarbayev and is in exile in Europe after being convicted in absentia of tax fraud and accepting bribes.
The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe questions the fairness of Kazhegeldin's trial.
The Giffen case, with its tales of renegade oil traders, Kazakh missile deals, Swiss bank accounts and high-level corruption, may make waves from Caspian oil fields to U.S. boardrooms.
Depending upon the evidence, directors of Mobil and Texaco might not like what washes up.
To contact the reporter on this story:David Glovin in U.S. District Court in New York firstname.lastname@example.org.
MADSEN UNDER THREAT
FLEES WASHINGTON, D.C.
By John Caylor
Following months of harassment by the Bush administration, that includes getting him fired from his job at a think tank and attempting to strip him of his membership in the Washington Press Club, the Bush administration has stooped to new lows in trying to make former National Security Agency employee Wayne Madsen disappear. America has entered a dangerous new age of the Neo-Con and new Nazi movement that thrives on lies and propaganda from Fox News and right wing talk show hosts. With Pat Robinson pushing for assassination of foreign leaders are domestic internet journalists next?
Insider Editor's Notes:
"Dear Readers: At Wayne Madsen's request we are putting this message to him from a source high in a United States Intelligence agency. Wayne is now in hiding and on the run after his source revealed that a private contractor assassination team had been hired to take him out due to his articles and exposures in Insider-Magazine.com and WayneMadsenreport.com. We will keep you informed and If the assassination teams kill him then all the world will know where the orders came from..."
You now have what was sent to me by someone who has excellent bona fides. If anything happens to me -- send this far and wide. I am leaving Washington for a few days. wm ***
THE ultimate mapping tool enables computer users to zoom in on any location on the planet from outer space.
But the latest offering from the internet giant Google is causing headaches for security chiefs who worry that it could make the task of terrorists that much easier by allowing high-quality satellite pictures of sensitive targets to be placed on the web.
Britain's nuclear security watchdog has warned the company that it will act to stop detailed pictures of atomic power stations being made available.
The Australian government has already demanded that pictures of a nuclear plant should be removed from the site, while American soldiers are concerned that the software may have been used to help target US bases in Iraq.
The Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS), which oversees security at all the UK's civil atomic plants, says it regards the Google Earth software as a "security issue" and that it would act to prevent highly detailed images of British nuclear power stations being made available.
Google has said it is striving to improve the quality of the pictures available in the software, which vary between very detailed images for some cities - such as Glasgow - and low-resolution pictures of areas such as the surroundings of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria.
A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry, which speaks for the OCNS, said: "It is an issue for us. At present the quality of the images is such as not to give concern but if the pictures were of a higher resolution then that would be a different issue."
A source added: "If there were to be high-quality detailed images made available of security-sensitive areas then we would intervene to stop things like that getting out. We would have to take steps to prevent security being jeopardised."
The authorities in Australia have already called for Google to screen out images of a nuclear power station amid worries that the information might be of use to terrorists.
A spokeswoman for Google said the software did not contain any data that was not already available.
She said: "Google Earth is built from information that is already available from both commercial and public sources. The same information is available to anyone who flies over or drives by a piece of property."
Why doesn’t President Bush feel obligated to meet with Cindy Sheehan during his vacation?
Remember this statement by his mother, Barbara Bush, on Good Morning America in March 2003:
Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths, and how many, what day it’s gonna happen, and how many this or what do you suppose? Oh, I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?
The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.
Filed under: Iraq
Posted by Nico August 19, 2005 10:56 am
Permalink | Comment (222)
"Documents From the US Espionage Den"
400 Pages of Still-Classified CIA and State Dept Documents Seized From the US Embassy in Tehran
Part One (88 pages | 7.7 meg)
Part Two (88 pages | 7.8 meg)
Part Three (84 pages | 8.6 meg)
Part Four (70 pages | 7 meg)
Part Five (70 pages | 6 meg)
Right-click to save the file to your hard drive Mac users: Control-click to save
>>> "Documents From the US Espionage Den" is a legendary series of Iranian books containing classified US documents that were found in the American Embassy in Tehran when it was taken over by revolutionaries. These books are very hard to come by in the US, and until now there has been no concerted effort to post them. The National Security Archive is integrating individual documents into their electronic reading books on various topics, but we're interested in posting the whole set, volume by volume. As a first step, we're offering a smattering of the documents via the files above. We beseech anyone with access to the books - either the bound volumes or scanned versions of the English-language portions - to please get in touch.
Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy (part of the Federation of American Scientists) gave an excellent introduction to these publications in 1997:
Many people will recall that when Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran in 1979, they acquired a large cache of classified U.S. government documents, some of which had been shredded and painstakingly reassembled, which they proceeded to publish. What no one seems to have noticed, however, is that they never stopped publishing! By 1995, an amazing 77 volumes of "Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den" (Asnad-i lanih-'i Jasusi) had been collected and published by the "Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam" (Center for the Publication of the U.S. Espionage Den's Documents, P.O. Box 15815-3489, Teheran, Islamic Republic of Iran, tel. 824005). Each volume contains original documents along with Farsi translations and, for no extra charge, an inflammatory introductory essay. [Read the full article here]
Many people will recall that when Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran in 1979, they acquired a large cache of classified U.S. government documents, some of which had been shredded and painstakingly reassembled, which they proceeded to publish. What no one seems to have noticed, however, is that they never stopped publishing!
By 1995, an amazing 77 volumes of "Documents from the U.S. Espionage Den" (Asnad-i lanih-'i Jasusi) had been collected and published by the "Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam" (Center for the Publication of the U.S. Espionage Den's Documents, P.O. Box 15815-3489, Teheran, Islamic Republic of Iran, tel. 824005). Each volume contains original documents along with Farsi translations and, for no extra charge, an inflammatory introductory essay. [Read the full article here]
In a frequently referenced 1987 article on the subject, Edward Jay Epstein wrote:
...Iranian students seized an entire archive of CIA and State Department documents, which represented one of the most extensive losses of secret data in the history of any modern intelligence service. Even though many of these documents were shredded into thin strips before the Embassy, and CIA base, was surrendered, the Iranians managed to piece them back together. They were then published in 1982 in 54 volumes under the title "Documents From the U.S. Espionage Den", and are sold in the United States for $246.50. As the Teheran Embassy evidently served as a regional base for the CIA, The scope of this captures intelligence goes well beyond intelligence reports on Iran alone. They cover the Soviet Union, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. There are also secret analysis of arcane subjects ranging from the effectiveness of Israeli intelligence to Soviet oil production. [Read the full article here]
...Iranian students seized an entire archive of CIA and State Department documents, which represented one of the most extensive losses of secret data in the history of any modern intelligence service. Even though many of these documents were shredded into thin strips before the Embassy, and CIA base, was surrendered, the Iranians managed to piece them back together. They were then published in 1982 in 54 volumes under the title "Documents From the U.S. Espionage Den", and are sold in the United States for $246.50. As the Teheran Embassy evidently served as a regional base for the CIA, The scope of this captures intelligence goes well beyond intelligence reports on Iran alone. They cover the Soviet Union, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. There are also secret analysis of arcane subjects ranging from the effectiveness of Israeli intelligence to Soviet oil production. [Read the full article here]
It turns out that in keeping with the times, the majority of the "Espionage Den" volumes have been scanned and are available on CDs sold in Iran. A Memory Hole reader had an Iranian friend buy the two-volume set, which he kindly gave to us. The major down side is that while the CDs contain 68 volumes of "Espionage Den" in Farsi (totalling over 10,000 pages), they contain only two PDF files of the original English-language documents (totalling a meager 400 pages). Adding to the frustration, the English material is presented in completely random order. Each page is usually from a completely different document than the page before and after it. We're posting them as they appear on the CD (although broken down into five files instead of two, since the original files were so huge). If some enterprising reader wants to create an index, we'll happily post it here.
Most of these documents are labeled "Confidential" or "Secret" and remain classified to this day.
More info about "Documents From the US Espionage Den"
"Shredded Secrets" (excerpt) by Edward Jay Epstein
"Iran: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1977-1980" by the National Security Archive
Published: Sunday, September 04, 2005Bylined to: Bob Chapman
Posada Carriles sneaked into the US on a CIA shrimp boat via Mexico in March
THE INTERNATIONAL FORECASTER editor Bob Chapman writes: Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro militant accused of orchestrating the deadly bombing of a Cuban airline and other bombings, will present testimony before an El Paso, TX judge on whether he should be deported.
Posada, who is Cuban and worked for the CIA and is a close friend of the Bush family sneaked into the US on a CIA shrimp boat via Mexico in March.
We have covered Posada's history previously. His detention and the ongoing court proceedings have sparked international outrage with many governments demanding his deportation so he can be tried for the bombings. The CIA arranged for his escape from a Venezuelan jail in 1985. The Chief of the OAS said that the US should extradite Posada if there is evidence of links to the 1976 bombing. We will soon know if the elitists will defy world sentiment. If they do, there will be world outrage for protecting one of their own terrorists. If they do not, Posada Carriles will sing like a 'canario armarillo.'
At least 21 foreign nationals became naturalized US citizens before being charged or convicted as terrorists. Some used false documents to enter the US while others let their legal visas expire once in the US. In all, at least 94 foreign-born visitors accused of terror activity between 1993 and 2004 exploited federal immigration laws helped in part by our wide-open borders. Fifty-four of that 94 were either convicted or indicted on terror charges. Twenty-two used student visas and 17 visitor visas.
Here we are years later and we have no more control than we had four years ago.
Fewer than 50% of Americans know the purpose of the Patriot Act, and the more they know about it the less they like it. Only 42% of those polled are able to correctly identify the law's main purpose, which is to spy and control American citizens.
The government calls it enhancing surveillance procedures for federal law enforcement agencies.
The American people are clueless to what is being done to them.
THE INTERNATIONAL FORECASTER P. O. Box 510518, Punta Gorda, FL 33951, USABob Chapman email@example.com