Israel is aiding an exiled Arab sheikh who is vying to seize control of a strategically important Gulf emirate only 40 miles from Iran.
The Israeli ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, has met Sheikh Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi, the exiled crown prince of Ras al-Khaimeh (RAK), who asked him to help with his campaign to oust the leadership of the northernmost state in the United Arab Emirates.
The meeting took place in London in March and has been followed by phone calls and wider assistance and advice, according to records of the relationship seen by the Guardian.
Khalid, who has been based in London and has hired a solicitor from Ickenham as his agent, is bidding to replace his ailing father, Sheikh Saqr, and half brother, Sheikh Saud, to take control of RAK.
Israel’s involvement in what would be a bloodless coup in one of the most sensitive regions in the world, would be “extremely uncomfortable”, according to Dr Christopher Davidson, an expert on the politics of the UAE at Durham University.
Khalid, who was sent into exile in 2003, claims RAK is now acting as a trafficking hub for nuclear arms parts to Iran and has spent more than £4m on an international public relations and lobbying campaign to persuade American politicians and the pro-Israel lobby in the US that it would be safer if he were in charge.
The alliance with Israel is the latest twist in the already extraordinary saga of Khalid’s bid to return to power. In June the Guardian revealed that his fighting fund was being channeled through Peter Cathcart, a 59-year-old miniature steam railway enthusiast and parish council chairman who runs a family firm of solicitors in Ickenham, west London.
He in turn was spending it on top Washington lobbyists, Californian PR consultants and military experts to draw up dossiers damning the regime in RAK.
Prosor has pressed his contacts in the US government on behalf of Khalid whose aides asked for help setting up meetings in Washington with anyone interested in their claims about RAK’s alleged sanctions busting, particularly concerning parts for the Iranian nuclear programme, plot records seen by this newspaper show.
An email from Cathcart to the ambassador’s office reports that “His Highness … very much enjoyed his meeting with the ambassador”.
In April Cathcart arranged for the two men to speak on the phone when the sheikh was in Oman and a note of the conversation recorded by Cathcart shows the ambassador “is working with certain people from his side” and “promised that the matter will be solved in his [the sheikh’s] favour”.
Sheikh Saqr is understood to be dying in hospital in Abu Dhabi and his son, Sheikh Saud, 54, the sitting crown prince, has been told to begin preparations for his wake, a significant event in emirates politics, which is likely to be attended by Abu Dhabi’s rulers, who will have a large influence over which of the sons will succeed him.
“By meeting with the Israeli ambassador, he is sending out signals to Abu Dhabi and Washington DC that he will be hawkish on Iran if it comes to war,” said Davidson. “This is a new kind of coup. It doesn’t involve slitting throats, but instead spending large sums of money on global communications. It is the first of its kind and I am betting on it being successful. I think by the end of the summer we will have a verdict.”
Asked about Israel’s involvement, Peter Ragone, a spokesman for Khalid, said: “There is significant interest in the current RAK regime’s relationship to Iran, particularly in the context of trying to stop the flow of arms, goods and technology from going through RAK to the Islamic Republic. Sheikh Khalid and representatives from his team meet with elected officials, high-ranking government officials and media representatives of various countries all the time. In fact, this week Sheikh Khalid’s representatives are in Washington DC meeting representatives of the US foreign policy/national security establishment who are very concerned about the activity in RAK.”
Odelia Englander, a spokeswoman at the Israeli embassy in London, declined to comment.
Banishment from Hollywood by Jews for saying that Jews control Hollywood
A furious Haim Saban has mounted a campaign to get Showtime to cancel its planned airing of Oliver Stone’s 10-part series, “A Secret History of America,” in the wake of anti-Jewish remarks by the outspoken director.
Stone’s apology “is transparently fake,” Saban said in an interview with TheWrap. “He has been consistent in his anti-American and anti-Semitic remarks. I respect his First Amendment rights. I hope he respects mine.”
The billionaire and outspoken media mogul told TheWrap he had contacted CBS chief Leslie Moonves to urge him to pull the series.
He said that WME chairman Ari Emanuel [brother of Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to Obama] had also called CBS privately to urge the series be pulled. update: WME had no comment.
Stone has previously said the 10-part “Secret History” series would put Hitler and Stalin “in context,” and offer an alternative crash course to the “grossly inadequate history” taught by American schools and proffered by mass media.
CBS, Moonves and Emanuel did not respond to emails seeking comment.
Saban also said he had called CAA partner Bryan Lourd, Stone’s agent, to follow the example of Emanuel, who recently dropped Mel Gibson in the wake of the actor’s latest racist tirade.
Saban said he considers Stone to be “clearly an anti-Semite and an anti-American.”
Israeli-American billionaire and media mogul Haim Saban isn’t buying Oliver Stone’s apology.
In venting his outrage, Saban has become the first big Hollywood name to publicly criticize Stone for his controversial remarks about the Holocaust.
“This guy should be helped in joining Mel Gibson into the land of retirement, where he can preach his anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism in the wilderness where he belongs,” Saban told TheWrap in an email.
Stone kicked off a media firestorm over the weekend for telling a reporter from London’s Sunday Times that Adolf Hitler, the subject of his upcoming documentary, did more damage to Russia than he did to the Jews. He also stated that the U.S.’s support for Israel is the result of Jewish domination of the media.
Stone apologized Monday afternoon saying his comments were “clumsy” and that contrary to his earlier remarks, Jews didn’t control the media or any industry for that matter.
That wasn’t good enough for Saban.
“His love of [Venezuelan president Hugo] Chavez has always bothered me, but here he went too far, and his apology is sooooo transparently fake,” Saban wrote. “He should be embarrassed by it, and has certainly done nothing to calm my outrage at this guy’s positions.”
Saban, a major stakeholder in Univision and chairman of Saban Capital Group, said he is spreading the word among his Hollywood friends to avoid working with Stone.
“Anyone who works with this guy, should be ashamed of him/herself, and shouldn’t share that fact with their neighbors, or kids for that matter,” Saban said.
It’s not certain that his appeal will reach sympathetic ears, as others in the movie business seem more willing to move on following Stone’s mea culpa.
For at least two years, there has been no anti-war “movement” worthy of the term – one that calls the aggressor by his name (starts with “O”) and gives no pass to apartheid Israel. There’s good reason to believe a corner has been turned, with last weekend’s anti-war conference in Albany, New York.
A renewed anti-war movement is under construction, one that breaks decisively from the Cult of Obama, demands an end to all U.S. aid to the Israeli “apartheid regime,” and calls for “immediate, total and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. troops, mercenaries and contractors from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and the immediate closing of all U.S. bases in those countries.”
Nearly 600 delegates – twice the initial expectations – took part in the United National Anti-War Conference, held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Albany, New York, July 23 through 25. The mission: to rescue the anti-war movement from the rubble of its collapse with the ascent of Black Democrat Barack Obama to the presidency.
As George Bush exited the White House, the phony anti-war forces – people and groups that only oppose Republican wars – exited the movement. Activist and author David Swanson’s list of those that have made their peace with Obama’s wars include: Campaign for America’s Future, the Center for American Progress, DailyKos, Democracy for America, Moveon.org, National Organization for Women, Open Left, the Out of Iraq Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Talking Points Memo, True Majority.
Black America, historically the most anti-war of all major U.S. demographic groups, remains emotionally invested in the First Black President – if not in his foreign and domestic policies. The great confusion in African American ranks over the true nature of Obama’s policies represents a huge problem for the Left – especially the Black Left. Yet, that façade, too, will crumble under the weight of events.
Organized labor’s reflexive instinct is also to back the Democrat in office, even when that means backing into a knife. But the reality of Obama, Inc. is by now inescapable to every honest unionist – and the anti-war movement only has need of the honest ones.
The conference voted to support the October 2 March for Jobs in Washington, DC, sponsored by the NAACP and both feuding wings of organized labor, as well as Rev. Jesse Jackson’s joint venture with the United Auto Workers for an August 28 mobilization in Detroit.
This writer pressed union-affiliated attendees on whether, in the end, labor and the NAACP will turn the October 2 march into a “rah-rah” session for Obama and the Democrats? “Not this time,” said a Black labor activist from upstate New York.
We shall see. Conference organizers were determined that there be a large and vocal anti-war contingent to the October 2 action. Leaders of the Black is Back Coalition say they intend to take part, as well, unless march organizers impose political conditions that make it impossible.
In the longer run, a “bi-coastal mass spring mobilization” is planned for New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles on April 9, 2011. Organizers envision actions in the interim that build momentum to the big events, when once again the anti-war movement might put many thousands of peaceful “boots on the ground.” To accomplish this, the scope of organizing must be widened. “A prime component of these mobilizations will be major efforts to include broad new forces from youth to veterans to trade unionists to civil and human rights groups to the Arab, Muslim and other oppressed communities to environmental organizations, social justice and faith-based groups.”
In addition to the demand for unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, the Conference called for:
“The allocation of the trillions spent on wars and corporate bailouts to massive programs for jobs, education, health care, housing and the environment. Compensation to be paid to the peoples whose countries the U.S. attacked and occupied for the loss of lives and massive destruction they suffered,” and
“Reverse and end all foreclosures. Stop the government attacks on trade unions, civil and democratic rights, and immigrant communities.”
Conferees endorsed a flurry of other “action plans,” from opposition to U.S. military intervention in Africa, to “no war or sanctions against Iran,” to the “immediate freedom” of imprisoned human rights lawyer Lynn Stewart.
U.S. aid to Israel was the most contentious issue to arise at the conference. Israel supporters employed delaying tactics in an attempt to derail the Palestine Solidarity Caucus’s proposal for an “end to U.S. aid to Israel – military, economic, and diplomatic. End U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the blockade of Gaza.” Opponents claimed inclusion of the resolution would make it impossible for them to recruit labor activists into anti-war ranks – as if Zionists rule everywhere in the House of Labor. After a series of dilatory maneuvers by the pro-Israel faction, the Conference overwhelming endorsed the Palestine Solidarity Caucus position.
Perhaps the most poignant moment of the weekend came when Ralph Poynter read a letter from his companion in struggle for nearly fifty years, Lynne Stewart, who had been part of the conference steering committee. “I have been out of the steering apparatus due to my unavailability,” she wrote. “Serve the people with honesty, kindness and respect. Love the struggle.”
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Much has been written about the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan, and the evidence is widely regarded as clearly pointing to North Korean culpability. In the Western press, the case has generally been presented as solid and the evidence irrefutable. The tragedy is seen as one more example of North Korean perfidy. Yet, doubts persist.
Following the sinking of the corvette Cheonan on March 26, the government of South Korea established the Joint Military-Civilian Investigation Group (JIG) to investigate and determine the cause of the sinking. Two months later, on May 20, the group completed its report and issued a press release outlining its conclusions. In its press release, the JIG firmly announced, “The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the torpedo was fired by a North Korean submarine. There is no other plausible explanation.”
The JIG concluded that the Cheonan was sunk by a “shockwave and bubble effect” from an explosion set off by a homing torpedo, which caused “significant upward bending” of the center keel. A bubble jet effect is created when an explosion takes place underwater and creates a dramatic change in pressure, resulting in the formation of a strong column of water that strikes its target with great power. In addition to the upward bending of the stern and bow sections at the point of severance, the JIG found “water pressure and bubble effects” on the bottom of the hull, and the ship’s wires had been cut with no sign of heat.
Furthermore, survivors reported “that they heard a near-simultaneous explosion once or twice,” water splashed on the face of a sailor at the port-side, and a sentry stationed on the shore observed a “pillar of white flash” rising about 100 meters for two to three seconds. No fragmentation or burn injuries were found on the bodies of the sailors who were killed, and seismic waves were detected at eleven stations. (1)
All of this evidence is consistent with the JIG’s conclusion that a shockwave and bubble jet effect from a exploding torpedo was the cause of Cheonan’s sinking. (2) As further damning evidence, components of a torpedo were brought up by a two fishing trawlers in the proximity of the site of the sinking. The components appeared to match that of a diagram the South Korean military had in its possession of the North Korean CHT-02D torpedo. Inside the propulsion system of the torpedo were written with blue magic marker ink the Hangul characters for “1 beon” (number 1 ). This was similar to a North Korean training torpedo that the South Korean Navy had obtained seven years before, in which there was written “4 ho” (unit 4). According to one expert on North Korea, “North Korea does not frequently use the term beon.” (3) However, it cannot be said that infrequent usage rules out the possibility.
The evidence appeared inarguable, yet from the first it was apparent that there was a troubling lack of transparency in the JIG’s approach, typified by the secrecy surrounding the investigation. The report itself remains concealed, and the public is expected to accept on faith that the JIG’s conclusions and brief explanations are backed by the evidence.
Various alternative causes of the sinking were briefly addressed by the South Korean Ministry of Defense. (4) The possibility of a floating contact mine was rightly dismissed due to the lack of signs of a contact explosion. However, most modern non-contact mines rely on creating a shockwave and bubble jet effect to sink ships. In general, the Ministry of Defense considers the possibility of a sea mine having caused the explosion as “unlikely,” given the maritime conditions and fast currents in the shallow waters around Baengnyeong Island where the Cheonan sank. Moored mines are rarely used in deeper waters, where currents and swells are stronger than they are closer to shore. According to Retired Rear Admiral Chris Bennet of the South African Navy, “Their major use is therefore limited almost exclusively to coastal or territorial waters.” (5) In other words, it is in areas such as around Baengnyeong Island where moored mines are best suited. But the South Korean Navy’s “detailed search” of the seabed failed to locate the anchor that a moored mine would have needed. No details were given to indicate the extent of the search beyond that one phrase.
Bottom mines rest on the seabed and are ideally suited for deployment in shallow waters, but the JIG dismissed the possibility of such a mine striking the Cheonan because it “cannot split a ship when detonated at a depth of 47 meters.” That was the depth of water at the location where the torpedo components were retrieved. However, when it sank, the Cheonan had been sailing in waters that were no deeper than 30 to 40 meters. (6) According to the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, “bottom mines tend to work in relatively shallow water (less than 164 feet).” That translates into just under 50 meters, well within the range necessary to have struck the Cheonan. (7) However, the JIG calculates the distance of the explosion as just three meters from the Cheonan’s gas turbine engine. (8) If the JIG’s calculation of the explosion distance is correct, then that would preclude the possibility of a bottom mine.
There is another type of mine, one which the JIG did not address in its summary of findings. That is the rising mine, which is similar to a bottom mine in that it sits on the seabed. Where it differs is that it contains an acoustic sensor, and when a ship approaches, the mine is programmed to float upwards and explode at a set distance beneath the hull. In essence, the result would be the same as a non-contact torpedo, creating a bubble jet effect. In shallow water, such mines tend not to be moored, hence there would be no anchor. (9) There is also the torpedo mine, which when detecting an approaching ship, opens up and fires a torpedo at its target. (10) This possibility, too, was not mentioned in the JIG’s summary.
The centerpiece of the case against North Korea is without doubt the torpedo fragments retrieved by trawlers. At the JIG press conference announcing the results of its investigation, a diagram said to be that of the CHT-02D was displayed. It was not until over one month later, after critics had pointed to discrepancies between the diagram and the torpedo fragments, that the JIG admitted that it had shown a diagram of the wrong torpedo, the PT-97W. This was said to have been caused by a “mix-up by a staff member while preparing for the presentation.” (11) That such a mistake could be made is indicative of a careless attitude concerning evidence.
This was not the only point of confusion. One day before the JIG’s final results were announced, a Korean government official was quoted as saying that investigators had determined that North Korea sank the Cheonan with a Chinese-made torpedo, as Chinese characters were written on the torpedo fragments collected from the site. It was said that the torpedo was thought to be a YU-3G, the type North Korea had imported from China more than twenty years ago. (12) One day later, nothing more was said of the matter, and now it was claimed that the torpedo fragments originated from a CHT-02D, with a Korean word written in blue ink. It is true that at one time Hanja (Chinese) characters were incorporated into general usage in Korea, but that practice has long since passed, and not since 1949 have they been used in North Korea. (13) Because the JIG’s report remains shrouded in secrecy, it is impossible to know whether or not Chinese characters were truly found on torpedo fragments. If so, that would be at variance with a report that U.S. intelligence had traced the propulsion system on the found torpedo to its manufacture two years ago at a North Korean factory. (14)
It should also be mentioned that the information South Korea had on the CHT-02D was obtained from an export catalogue, as the weapon is among those that North Korea sells abroad. In other words, the torpedo apparently has buyers, and therefore the source of manufacture does not automatically correspond to ownership. So, was the torpedo a Chinese-made YU-3G or a North Korean-made CHT-02D? Or perhaps something else altogether? It is a CHT-02D, the JIG now asserts, without addressing the discrepancy in its claims.
Traces of RDX, a high explosive chemical commonly used in torpedoes and mines, were found on the Choenan’s smokestack, stern, and in sand taken from the seabed. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young dismissed speculation that the RDX was residue from naval drills that had been conducted in the past in the area. Although one South Korean government source claimed that RDX is not used in mines, this was contradicted by the Defense Minister (15). Indeed, RDX has been used in naval mines since the Second World War. (16)
While the presence of RDX would be consistent with a torpedo attack, it cannot on its own be considered as proof of that. Consider that when Canadian authorities intercepted the Princess Easwary as it was transporting illegal immigrants, swabs taken from the ship showed traces of RDX. No torpedo or mine had struck the Princess Easwary. Its past history of gun-running meant that the mere presence of explosives had been enough to leave a residue. (17) The Cheonan, as a military vessel, routinely carried explosives and engaged in naval exercises. Among the Cheonan’s armaments were six Mark 46 torpedoes, two Otobreda 76 mm guns, two 40 mm Bofors guns, and twelve Mark 9 depth charges. (18) Both torpedoes and depth charges utilize RDX, and the bursting charge of projectiles fired by Bofors contain RDX. (19) Certainly, explosions from test-fired depth charges would have spread RDX around rather liberally.
It is a striking anomaly that none of the 58 surviving sailors of the Cheonan witnessed a rising pillar of water, without which it is difficult to imagine that a bubble jet effect explosion could have taken place. (20) Perhaps all of those on deck perished during the incident. That might account for this oddity, although it does seem unlikely, given that most of the casualties were said to be of those who were below deck. There is, of course, the shore-based witness, but one would feel more comfortable with his veracity were it backed by other witnesses. Indeed, the Korean organization People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy reports that survivors who spoke at the JIG press conference said they saw no pillar of water. They included port-side lookouts, who would have been hard-pressed to miss such a significant sight. (21)
The recovery of torpedo fragments in the vicinity of Cheonan’s sinking appears persuasive. It is a strong point in support of the South Korean government’s argument. Yet, it is not such an unusual event for torpedoes and components of torpedoes to be found underwater. All sorts of things get dumped at sea, including, it seems, dangerous weaponry. A live torpedo was inadvertently pulled up in a fishing net more than two years ago off the British coast, as was one off the coast of Rhode Island in 1985. (22) In a survey covering the period of March 2002 through February 2003, the British Royal Navy reported that “at least 15 items of explosives ordinance or their components had been recovered in the nets of fishing vessels operating in coastal waters around the British Isles.” Among the ordinance recovered were “torpedo components.” It was also noted that some items had been “dispersed from their original dumping or loss positions by water movements.” Oceanographic factors “can lead to quite substantial movements of large munitions.” In the 15-year period ending in 2000, German fisherman reported to officials in Lower Saxony having found a total of more than 11 tons of munitions, while Dutch fisherman net an average of ten explosives per year. (23) The torpedo recovered by South Korea may have been associated with the sinking of Cheonan, but it could also have been dumped at sea, or test fired during military exercises at some point in the past.
It should also be noted that the Cheonan was sunk in disputed waters. After the Korean War, the U.S. unilaterally drew the Yellow Sea border between the two Koreas with a line that curved sharply northward to North Korea’s disadvantage, rather than in a straight line, as existed with the East Sea border and which would have been common practice. (24) The area has been the site of periodic naval clashes between the two Koreas, and it is not unusual for North Korean vessels to cross over this line that it does not recognize.
The JIG did conduct a simulation to demonstrate how a bubble jet effect would have impacted a ship’s hull. It is an indication of the predetermined approach the JIG adopted that the simulation was not completed until after its report was finished and results were announced. Although a bubble jet effect is capable of severing a ship in two, the JIG’s simulation failed to do more than deform and cause a small break in the hull. (25)
Two Korean-American physicists, Seung-Hun Lee and J.J. Suh, are of the opinion that a bubble jet would have resulted in the hull being deformed in a concave shape at the point of severance, rather than the sharply angular shape seen in the Cheonan. This suggested to them that the pattern is “more consistent with a collision with a hard object.” (26)
What tied the recovered torpedo fragments to the sinking of the Cheonan was not only its proximity to the site of the sinking, but also a chemical analysis of adhered substances on both the torpedo and the Cheonan’s hull that were shown to be identical. (27) The physicists managed to obtain a copy of one section of the JIG’s secret report, in which it was stated that the compounds were a result of an explosion. These compounds were indeed the same on both the torpedo and the ship, the physicists concluded, but the data were not consistent with the conclusion that they had formed during an explosion. The samples, they asserted, “have nothing to do with any explosion, but are most likely aluminum that has rusted after exposure to moisture or water for a long time.” Korean-Canadian geologist Panseok Yang determined that the spectroscopic analysis of the compounds reported by the JIG closely matched that of gibbsite, a mineral formed under intense weathering conditions, and often found in clay deposits. (28)
When a South Korean congresswoman asked the JIG to release its samples, only two out of the three were made available. The JIG claimed that they had used up all of the third sample, yet the spectroscopic and X-ray analyses done are non-destructive. Seung-Hun Lee and Panseok Yang observed that either the JIG had completely mishandled the samples or they were intentionally hiding them. (29)
The South Korean Ministry of Defense rejected their conclusions, pointing out that the physicists’ laboratory tests did not fully replicate conditions during an explosion, and were thus invalid. (30) The physicists argued that their results were “consistent with previous scientific studies.” In their experiments they had scaled down both the weight of the explosive and the weight of the water in a metal container to retain the proportion equivalent to that of a torpedo. Full access to the JIG’s data and objective analysis would do much to bring us closer to the truth, whichever direction it leads, but Seung-Hun Lee finds that the JIG’s report contains “several serious self-contradicting aspects and their interpretations have serious flaws, to say the least.” (31)
The propulsion unit of the torpedo was severely corroded, an apparent result of the coat of paint having been burnt away by the heat of the explosion. It seems odd that the “number 1” written in Korean by a blue magic marker would survive intact. The boiling point for ink is less than half that of paint, so it would be more vulnerable to loss. (32) One cannot be sure that the handwriting was not added later by South Korean military officials for enhanced dramatic effect when presenting their evidence.
In the opinion of Seung-Hun Lee, “The government is lying when they said this was found underwater. I think this is something that was pulled out of a warehouse of old materials to show to the press.” (33)
It seems that the JIG’s investigation was something of a rush job, intended to be completed in time to give a boost to the South Korean ruling party in local elections. Among the members of the JIG were a small number of representatives from the opposition Democratic Party, one of whom, Shin Sang-cheol, felt disappointed that members of the team were not given briefing materials or basic information such as the navigation course record and other data. What struck Shin was that the investigation began with the premise that there had been a torpedo attack, and during his time on the team no effort was made to examine other possibilities. (34)
With the South Korean military’s mind made up before it began, little effort needed to be wasted on analysis. According to one anonymous South Korean military source, “If you leave out the time spent moving the torpedo, removing water and dust, and writing a report, the whole examination [of the torpedo components] only lasted about three days. The government has invited distrust by being excessively greedy.” In that span of time, the JIG was not able to even determine how long the torpedo had been corroding underwater. (35)
Shin Sang-cheol was quickly booted out of the JIG for not singing the same tune as the military authorities. With years of experience as a ship navigator and as a shipbuilding inspector at various Korean shipyards, he was not entirely without expertise. He sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, in which he included maritime maps of the waters around Baengnyeong Island. These, he pointed out, are marked by shallow waters and rock fields. It was his contention that the Cheonan had run aground, backed out, and then collided with some object. Among the indications Shin cited as evidence were deep scratches on the hull and propeller blades bent forward; that is, toward the direction of the point where the ship split in two, rather than away from it. Perhaps not surprisingly, Shin is being sued for libel by the South Korean military. (36)
Shin’s theory, however, does not seem particularly more convincing than that of the South Korean military. The JIG ruled out the possibility of running aground as the ship’s sonar remained undamaged. Shin counters, correctly, that a hull can run aground at one point while another is unaffected. But it could be that the ship’s propellers were damaged when the stern hit bottom after the Cheonan split in two. Or indeed, the damage to them may have resulted from some previous incident. It is far from certain that Shin’s theory accounts for what actually happened to the Cheonan. The JIG’s summary points out that there are no signs of collision on the Cheonan, and the hull damage does appear more consistent with that of an external explosion than of a collision. But the possibility of a collision did merit consideration. Actually, what is perplexing is that none of the various explanations that have been put forward quite seem to fit the totality of evidence.
One’s already low level of confidence in the South Korean military’s sincerity was undermined when it was revealed that it had deliberately fudged initial reports on the sinking of the Cheonan. The Naval Operations Command reported that the sinking occurred at 9:15 PM (which was later corrected to 9:22 PM) and that there was the sound of an explosion. The Joint Chiefs, however, altered the time to 9:45 PM and omitted mention of an explosion in order to cover up their slow responsiveness. Then the Ministry of Defense botched the release of thermal observation device recordings by using those from thirteen minutes after the sinking, while ignoring recordings taken from just three minutes afterward. Furthermore, when a South Korean vessel in the vicinity of the Cheonan reported that it had fired at an unidentified object, it was instructed by the Fleet to report the object as “a flock of birds.” It was also eventually revealed that the on-duty Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was drunk that night, and only arrived at command control headquarters at 10:42 PM, where he managed to stay awake at a meeting for ten minutes before falling asleep. (37)
That high-ranking military officers would so causally lie and distort facts during a moment of crisis does not encourage confidence in their reliability to objectively analyze data and come to a considered conclusion in the investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan. Certainly not when political pressure to reach a predetermined conclusion would have been so intense. Interestingly, the investigators who probed into the military’s mishandling of its initial response to the sinking of the Cheonan revealed only a portion of the problems they had found. Information which they considered militarily sensitive was excluded. (38) That would seem to imply that additional distortions or misrepresentations had taken place.
The South Korean military believes that it was a North Korean Yono (Salmon) class midget submarine that fired a torpedo at Cheonan. Of limited range, midget submarines must be ferried and launched by larger submarines. They can operate in shallow waters, unlike their larger counterparts. Even so, the waters around the sinking were too shallow even for a midget submarine, so it is thought that it had to have been operating from much farther away, in deeper waters. South Korea did track the departure of a Yono-class submarine and its mother ship from a North Korean port days before the sinking of Cheonan, as well as their return to base days after the incident. For the JIG, that constituted direct evidence of North Korean responsibility, although logically speaking, this is not in fact direct causal proof any more than a man would be proven guilty of murder simply because he was away from his home at the moment the murder took place. The most that could be said of the submarine tracking is that it is suggestive of a possible connection.
Oddly, the Cheonan’s sonar failed to detect anything unusual, but a South Korean military source pointed out that the ship’s sonar “is an old model with a limited range, so there’s a strong possibility that it failed to detect the torpedo which was launched from far away.” (39) That may be true, but one must add that sooner or later a torpedo fired from long-range distance would approach closely enough to be detected. Kim Jong-dae, editor-in-chief of D&D, a defense journal, observes, “A submarine is supposed to be difficult to detect militarily, but most torpedoes can be detected. It is doubtful they would have been completely unable to detect the launch.” (40)
No one would call the JIG’s investigation a model of transparency. It was led by South Korea, who chose the nations that would participate: the U.S., Great Britain, Australia and Sweden. On the Multinational Combined Intelligence Task Force, Canada replaced Sweden. Aside from Sweden, what all of these nations share is a uniformly hostile attitude towards North Korea. Sweden, according to CBS News, was “a reluctant partner in blaming the North Koreans.” (41)
Unquestionably, the South Korean government is sincere in its belief that a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo at the Cheonan. But in one sense that is the problem. So convinced was the JIG, that the team had a set of blinders on during the investigation, so that only one outcome was possible. And nothing would seem amiss if, whether knowingly or blindly, evidence was fudged or ignored to strengthen that case, as that would not change the overall facts as the team perceived it.
The report itself remains secret, and all requests for it to be made public have been rejected. A copy did go to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who pronounced the evidence against North Korea “overwhelming.” If the evidence is truly so convincing, it would only help South Korea’s case for it to be made publicly known. Or could it be the case that the evidence falls short of Clinton’s assessment? South Korean legislators have not seen the report, nor have they been given access to even partial information of relevance. Assemblyman Choi Moon-soon of the opposition Democratic Party comments, “We asked for very basic information – interviews with surviving sailors, communication records, the reason the ship was out there.” But no information was forthcoming from the government. (42)
North Korea vehemently denies the accusations being made against it. As the accused, North Korea is an interested party. It feels it has the right to see the evidence supporting the charges. North Korea asked on two occasions to send its own inspection team to operate under the joint control of both South and North Korea in order to conduct an investigation, but their requests were turned down by the South Korean government. North Korea sent a similar suggestion to the United Nations, only to be rebuffed by the United States, who indicated that the case against North Korea was already proven. Instead, the U.S. pushed hard for the strongest language in a UN Security Council statement, and attempted to browbeat China into going along. China, though, held firm in the interests of peace, ensuring that a more moderate UN statement resulted. With the U.S. and South Korea committed to taking a hard line, even North Korea’s proposal to reopen talks on denuclearization was snubbed.
China, which has received a modicum of information from South Korea, remains unconvinced. “I have to say the majority of Chinese policymakers and academics feel that the Cheonan report does not hold water,” remarks international studies scholar Zhu Feng. (43)
In order to bolster its case, South Korea agreed to allow a team of Russian naval military experts to visit and analyze the evidence. For the first time, there would be an objective assessment of evidence. There was good cooperation during the visit, and then the Russians returned home where they spent several weeks in analyzing the data. Russia, however, was in a delicate position when it came to publicizing its determinations. Openly backing Seoul would only encourage attempts by the U.S. to ratchet up tensions in the region, whereas dissenting from the JIG’s conclusion could strain relations with South Korea, an important trading partner. So it was not surprising when it was announced that Russia would not publicize its own report.
There have been, however, various leaks and comments made to the media which give a fair indication of the Russian team’s evaluation of the evidence, clearly regarded as inconclusive. Russia did supply its report to the U.S. and China, but not to the South Koreans, apparently in a bid to avoid antagonizing them. But it did not take long for South Korea to be apprised of the results, no doubt by the U.S. Whereupon the Russian ambassador was called to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where he received a heated reception.
According to a South Korean diplomatic source, “The Russian investigation team’s primary interest was in whether North Korea, which had been unable to produce its own torpedoes until 1995, suddenly was able to attack the Cheonan with a state-of-the-art bubble jet torpedo.” It has been pointed out that this technology is possessed only by a small number of countries, and the weapon has been successfully used only in test firings on stationary targets. The Russian team came to the conclusion that the recovered torpedo did not sink the Cheonan, nor indeed had any bubble jet torpedo done so. As that was the primary focus of their investigation, they did not offer a concrete cause, other than to suggest various proposed scenarios, such as a mine explosion after maneuvering problems. (44)
If a North Korean source speaking on condition of anonymity in Hanoi is to be believed, Russia informed North Korean officials that it did not trust the results of the JIG investigation. “The Russian delegation said if the truth is revealed, then South Korea and the United States could be caught in an awkward position,” an apparent reference to the manipulation of evidence. (45)
Yet there was still much that the Russian team was unable to determine. It sent requests for further information, but so far South Korea has failed to respond. “We still have some questions regarding the results of this work to which we have not received clear answers,” Naval Commander Vladimir Vysotsky said. Whether or not answers would be supplied, he added, “doesn’t depend on us.” (46)
It is interesting to compare the U.S. response to Cheonan’s sinking with its reaction to the Israeli attack on a ship bringing aid to the Gaza Strip, in which unarmed civilians were shot dead by soldiers storming the boat. Whereas in the case of the Cheonan, culpability remains uncertain and evidence is contradictory, there was no ambiguity about the Israeli action. It was an unprovoked attack on a ship operating in international waters. There was no question as to who attacked the ship. In response to that incident, U.S. officials worked behind the scenes to prevent the UN Security Council from giving the go-ahead for an investigation into the attack. U.S. officials argued that instead Israel should investigate its own action. U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff saved his harsh criticism for those who had been delivering aid, calling their effort “neither appropriate nor responsible.” (47) Punishment for Israel is swift in coming. The proposed U.S. 2011 budget calls for $3 billion in aid to be provided to Israel. (48)
Contrast that with U.S. plans for North Korea. That nation may be right when it claims that it had nothing to do with the Cheonan’s fate. But who needs an ironclad case when there are geopolitical goals to be achieved? The U.S. and South Korea launched large-scale joint military exercises in the East Sea, including the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, and for the first time U.S. F-22 stealth fighters flew in Korean airspace. The war games were clearly intended to be intimidating.
There are plans afoot for the possible deployment of an advanced airborne communications network on the Korean Peninsula, which would enable U.S. troops to overcome the limitations of communication in the mountainous terrain prevalent in North Korea. (49) Also on the U.S. drawing board is an expansion of psychological warfare against North Korea, including the use of internet technology, leaflets and radio broadcasts. (50)
More importantly, as political commentator Stephen Gowans puts it in a nice turn of phrase, “The United States has announced that it is adding a new tranche to the Himalaya of sanctions it has built up since 1950 against North Korea.” (51) The U.S. State Department and Department of Treasury plan to expand the list of businesses and organizations subject to sanctions, and to freeze bank accounts, work with various foreign governments to stop North Korean trading companies from doing business on the allegation that they are involved in illegal operations, impose travel restrictions, and implement a host of other measures. (52) Approximately 100 bank accounts linked to North Korea are to be frozen. “The U.S. has continued to consult the banks and will likely induce them to quietly close the accounts,” a diplomatic source revealed. (53)
The assertion that the accounts are linked to illegal operations is reminiscent of similar efforts by the George W. Bush Administration, when North Korean accounts engaged in legitimate business were closed and banks throughout the world were threatened with harsh financial consequences if they continued to allow North Korea to conduct normal international financial operations. All that was done under the unproven (and in some cases clearly dis-proven) contention that the accounts were connected with illegal activities. The intent was to dry up North Korea’s access to foreign currency, and thus its ability to import essential items such as food, spare parts and machinery.
Indeed, even before June the U.S already began freezing North Korean accounts held in foreign banks around the world. According to an unnamed diplomatic source, “The moves should be interpreted as a part of new sanctions on the North to hold it responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan.” U.S. diplomat Robert Einhorn plans to visit a number of countries in an attempt to pressure them to enforce sanctions against North Korea. (54) It is not difficult to imagine the effect on the people of North Korea. Already existing sanctions have caused a shortage of raw materials, says Korean economic analyst Cho Boo Hyung, which has led to reduced output. And a decrease in food production will trigger negative economic growth. Cho feels that sanctions could produce another famine in North Korea, comparable to that of the 1990s. (55)
President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea has also seized the opportunity presented by Cheonan’s sinking to further his goals. As a long-time opponent of the Sunshine Policy of his two predecessors, Lee never hid his ambition to dismantle all of the progress that had been made in recent years with relations between the two Koreas. No sooner had Lee taken office than he announced that he had no intention of observing the agreement signed by former President Roh Moo-hyun that set up a joint fishing area in the disputed waters at the Northern Limit Line, and which included measures to discourage military clashes there. Several economic agreements that had been reached were put on hold.
Once the JIG had announced the results of its investigation, Lee outlined a new policy with his northern neighbor. “From this moment,” he said, “no North Korean ship will be allowed to make passage through any of the shipping lanes in the waters under our control, which has been allowed by the Inter-Korean Agreement on Maritime Transportation.” In addition, “Trade and exchanges between the Republic of Korea and North Korea will also be suspended.” Relations between the two Koreas have deteriorated to their lowest point since the period of military dictatorships in South Korea, and U.S. sanctions will only exacerbate tensions.
Did a North Korean submarine fire a torpedo at the Cheonan? I do not know. It would have been foolhardy for the North Korean government to order such a strike. It had nothing to gain, and absolutely everything to lose by such an act. It may be that a rogue commander ordered the attack as revenge for an incident near Daecheong Island the previous November, when South Korean ships chased a North Korean patrol boat, firing on it and sending it up in flames, thereby causing the deaths of several sailors. That attack, incidentally, failed to elicit any concern whatsoever from the same U.S. officials who so sternly pontificate on the unacceptability of allowing the sinking of Cheonan to go unpunished.
It appears to me that the most likely cause of Cheonan’s sad fate was having had the ill fortune to inadvertently sail into the path of a rising sea mine. Given the fast-moving currents in those waters, it may be that over time a rising mine had gradually migrated from where it had been initially deposited, so that its position was unexpected. That is just speculation, of course, and other possibilities exist. A broad-based international investigation needs to take place, and its results made fully public. The 46 sailors who lost their lives when the Cheonan sank deserve the truth, whatever it may be. As do the peoples of both Koreas, whose future is intertwined in so many ways. But geopolitical considerations guarantee that no such international probe will take place. Tensions are likely to remain high as long as President Lee remains in office. No conceivable change in U.S. administrations will bring about an improvement in the security environment on the Korean Peninsula, but the 2012 election in South Korea might. That is something to hope for.
Gregory Elich is on the Board of Directors of the Jasenovac Research Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Korea Truth Commission. He is the author of the book Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit.
(1) “Investigation Result on the Sinking of ROKS ‘Cheonan’,” Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea, May 20, 2010.
(2) The video at this site illustrates the impact of a bubble jet effect explosion on ships:
(3) “Questions Raised Following Cheonan Announcement,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), May 21, 2010.
(4) “Investigation Result on the Sinking of ROKS ‘Cheonan’,” Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea, May 20, 2010. Much later, a video, photographs, diagrams and further details were appended to the May 20 press release.
(5) Chris Bennet, “Mine Warfare at Sea,” African Security Review, Vol. 7, No. 5, 1998.
(6) “How Did N. Korea Sink the Cheonan?”, Chosun Ilbo (Seoul), May 22, 2010.
(7) “Strait of Hormuz: Assessing Threats to Energy Security in the Persian Gulf,” The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law.
(8) “Investigation Result on the Sinking of ROKS ‘Cheonan’,” Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea, May 20, 2010.
(11) “Cheonan Investigators Presented Wrong Torpedo Diagram,” Chosun Ilbo (Seoul), June 30, 2010. Kim Deok-hyun, “Investigators Admit Using Wrong Blueprint to Show N. Korean Torpedo That Attacked Cheonan,” Yonhap (Seoul), June 29, 2010.
(12) “N. Korea Used Chinese-Made Torpedo in Attack on S. Korean Ship: Source,” Yonhap (Seoul), May 19, 2010.
(14) “U.S. Pinpoints Where Torpedo that Sank the Cheonan was Made,” Chosun Ilbo, July 23, 2010. “NK Torpedo Produced in Gaecheon 2 Years Ago: Sankei,” Korea Times, July 22, 2010.
(15) Chang Jae-soon, “Defense Chief Confirms Explosive Chemical Found in Sunken Ship,” Yonhap (Seoul), May 10, 2010. “Torpedo Explosive Detected in Sunken Ship: Official,” Yonhap, May 7, 2010.
(16) http://www.answers.com/topic/explosive-material Jung Sung-ki, “Defense Chief Confirms Explosive Residue Found on Sunken Ship,” Korea Times, May 10, 2010.
(17) Walter Jayawardhana, “Canadian Authorities Tell Immigration and Refugee Board that LTTE Ship Contained Traces of High Explosives Like RDX,” LankaWeb, November 25, 2009.
“Canadian Officials Find Three More Traces of Explosives on Tamil Ship,” Colombo Times, November 24, 2009.
(20) Jung Sung-ki, “Investigators Point to Air Bubble,” Korea Times, April 25, 2010.
(21) Junghye Kwak, Huisun Kim, Taeho Lee, “The PSPD’s Stance on the Naval Vessel Cheonan Sinking,” People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy Issue Report IR-20100601, Seoul.
(22) “Navy Detonates Torpedo Caught in Fishing Nets,” Defence News, January 29, 2008.
“Navy Detonates Torpedo Caught in Fishing Nets,” UPI, December 18, 1985.
(23) J. Beddington and A.J. Freng, “Munitions Dumped at Sea: A Literature Review,” Imperial College London, June 2005.
(25) Seunghun Lee, J.J. Suh, “Rush to Judgment: Inconsistencies in South Korea’s Cheonan Report,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 12, 2010.
(26) Seunghun Lee, J.J. Suh, “Rush to Judgment: Inconsistencies in South Korea’s Cheonan Report,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 12, 2010.
(27) “Investigation Result on the Sinking of ROKS ‘Cheonan‘,” Ministry of National Defense, Republic of Korea, May 20, 2010. Specifically mentioned in the detailed section appended to the May 20 press release.
(287) Seunghun Lee, J.J. Suh, “Rush to Judgment: Inconsistencies in South Korea’s Cheonan Report,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 12, 2010.
Seung-Hun Lee, “Comments on the Section ‘Adsorbed Material Analysis’ of the Cheonan Report Made by the South Korean Civil and Military Joint Investigative Group (CIV-MIL JIG),”
Seung-Hun Lee, Panseok Yang, “Were the ‘Critical Evidence’ Presented in the South Korean Official Cheonan Report Fabricated?”
(29) Seung-Hun Lee, Panseok Yang, “Were the ‘Critical Evidence’ Presented in the South Korean Official Cheonan Report Fabricated?“,
(30) Shin Joo Hyun, “Ministry of Defense Responds to Cheonan Claims,” Daily NK, June 23, 2010.
(32) Seunghun Lee, J.J. Suh, “Rush to Judgment: Inconsistencies in South Korea’s Cheonan Report,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, July 12, 2010.
(33) Barbara Demick, “Doubts Surface on North Korea’s Role in Ship Sinking,” Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2010
(34) Junghye Kwak, Huisun Kim, Taeho Lee, “The PSPD’s Stance on the Naval Vessel Cheonan Sinking,” People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy Issue Report IR-20100601, Seoul.
(35) Lee Yong-inn, “Questions Linger 100 Days after the Cheonan Sinking,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), July 3, 2010.
(36) S.C. Shin, “Letter to Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State for PCC-722 Cheonan,” May 26, 2010.For a clear view of the Cheonan’s propellers.
(37) “Cheonan Probe Says Military Made Grave Errors,” Dong-A Ilbo (Seoul), June 11, 2010.
“Uncovering the Truth About the Cheonan,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), June 11, 2010. “Wide-Ranging Incompetence and Cover-ups Took Place Night of Cheonan Sinking, Audit Reveals,”
Hankyoreh (Seoul), June 11, 2010.
(38) Ser Myo-ja, “Military Found Inept, Lying in Responding to Cheonan,” JoongAng Ilbo (Seoul), June 11, 2010.
(39) “How Did N. Korea Sink the Cheonan?”, Chosun Ilbo (Seoul), May 22, 2010.
(40) “Questions Raised Following Cheonan Announcement,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), May 11, 2010.
(41) “South Korea to Unveil Evidence of North Sinking Navy Ship,” CBS News, May 19, 2010.
(42) Barbara Demick, “Doubts Surface on North Korea’s Role in Ship Sinking,” Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2010.
(43) Sunny Lee, “China Has Different View on Cheonan,” Korea Times (Seoul), July 18, 2010.
(44) Lee Yeong-in, “Government Protests Russia’s Conflicting Cheonan Finding,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), July 10, 2010.
(45) Yoo Jee-ho, “N. Korea Warns ‘Physical Response’ Against South – U.S. Military Drills,” Yonhap (Seoul), July 23, 2010.
(46) “Russian Specialists Have Questions on S. Korean Corvette’s Sinking – Navy Commander,” Interfax (Moscow), July 24, 2010.
“Russian Experts Unable to Give Answers on Cheonan Sinking – Navy Commander,” RIA Novosti (Moscow), July 24, 2010.
(47) Colum Lynch and Debbi Wilgoren, “U.N. Calls for Impartial Probe of Israeli Raid,” Washington Post, June 1, 2010.
(48) Danielle Kurtzleben, “Despite Rift, Israel Gets More U.S. Aid Than Iraq,” U.S. and World News Report, July 6, 2010.
(49) Jung Sung-ki, “US to Deploy Airborne Network in South Korea,” Korea Times (Seoul), July 2, 2010.
(50) Michael Sheridan, “Clinton to Wage Digital War on Kim for Sinking Ship,” Sunday Times (London), May 23, 2010.
(51) Stephen Gowans, “The Real Story on North Korea and its Healthcare,” What’s Left, July 21, 2010.
(52) “U.S. to Impose Sanctions on N. Korea in 2 Weeks,” Chosun Ilbo (Seoul), July 23, 2010.
(53) “US to Freeze 100 N. Korean Bank Accounts,” Dong-A Ilbo (Seoul), July 23, 2010.
(54) Kang Chan-ho and Ser Myo-ja, “U.S. Froze North Korean Bank Accounts Since June,” JoongAng Ilbo (Seoul), July 23, 2010.
(55) Steve Herman, “Sanctions Expected to Harm North Korean Economy,” Voice of America, July 23, 2010.
If the release of the Pentagon Papers epitomized the value of government leaks as a means of speaking truth to power, Wikileaks at this point can claim no such distinction.
As if to underline the extent to which the Afghan war logs are making the fog of war more, not less, dense, Katrina vanden Heuvel says: “more than a few commentators — including Daniel Ellsberg himself — have called [the war logs] a 21st-century Pentagon Papers.”
She may understandably have been misled by a headline in The Guardian that read: “Daniel Ellsberg describes Afghan war logs as on a par with ‘Pentagon Papers’.” However, “These documents are not the Pentagon Papers — we still await their equivalent for Afghanistan,” is what Ellsberg unambiguously told the Financial Times.
While Wikileak’s founder, Julian Assange, is no doubt sincere in his hope that these intelligence revelations will expose the futility of war, the fact is, because intelligence is not intelligent it can very easily be used to serve a host of diverging political agendas.
If opponents of the war in Afghanistan now feel better armed, so do proponents of an expanding war in Pakistan. Likewise, those pushing for military action against Iran will welcome a new supply of ammunition served by Wikileaks.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported:
Cooperation among Iran, al Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups is more extensive than previously known to the public, according to details buried in the tens of thousands of military intelligence documents released by an independent group Sunday.
U.S. officials and Middle East analysts said some of the most explosive information contained in the WikiLeaks documents detail Iran’s alleged ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda, and the facilitating role Tehran may have played in providing arms from sources as varied as North Korea and Algeria.
The officials have for years received reports of Iran smuggling arms to the Taliban. The WikiLeaks documents, however, appear to give new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s senior leadership. It also outlines Iran’s alleged role in brokering arms deals between North Korea and Pakistan-based militants, particularly militant leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and al Qaeda.
Here we see one of the most bizarre twists in the story: US government sources now using the leaked documents to buttress the current anti-Iran narrative and in the process acting as though the intelligence reports are providing information that hadn’t been accessible inside government until they were leaked!
At the very same time, the State Department’s leading expert on Iran, John Limbert — a genuine source of intelligence and “the most qualified person on the Iran team at State in the three decades I have lived in the United States,” according to Haleh Esfandiari, head of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars — is about to resign.
At Foreign Policy, Barbara Slavin writes:
[I]t’s hard not to view Limbert’s departure as a turning point and yet another missed opportunity in U.S.-Iran relations. A number of players with more skeptical views about the prospect of rapprochement with Tehran — such as White House aide Dennis Ross and nonproliferation experts like Robert Einhorn and Gary Samore — appear to be driving U.S. policy now, and the president himself blames the Iranian government for failing to respond to his outreach.
What could please the attack-Iran lobby more than to see the departure of the most skilled American proponent of engagement and at the same time to be served a prize piece of propaganda by an outfit aligned with the anti-war movement?!
NEW YORK — John Young was one of Wikileaks’ early founders. Now he’s one of the organization’s more prominent critics.
Young, a 74-year-old architect who lives in Manhattan, publishes a document-leaking Web site called Cryptome.org that predates Wikileaks by over a decade. He’s drawn fire from Microsoft after posting leaked internal documents about police requests, irked the U.K. government for disclosing the names of possible spies, and annoyed Homeland Security by disclosing a review of Democratic National Convention security measures.
Cryptome’s history of publicizing leaks–while not yielding to pressure to remove them–is what led Young to be invited to join Wikileaks before its launch over three years ago. He also agreed to be the public face of the organization by listing his name on the domain name registration.
Operating a Web site to post leaked documents isn’t very expensive (Young estimates he spends a little over $100 a month for Cryptome’s server space). So when other Wikileaks founders started to talk about the need to raise $5 million and complained that an initial round of publicity had affected “our delicate negotiations with the Open Society Institute and other funding bodies,” Young says, he resigned from the effort.
In the last few weeks, after the arrest of Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning cast a brighter spotlight on Wikileaks, Young has been trying to trace Wikileaks’ money flows. On July 17, Wikileaks asked supporters for $200,000 to pay for Mannings’ attorneys, even though co-founder Julian Assange said a few days earlier that the organization had already raised $1 million.
CNET caught up with Young at the Next HOPE hacker conference here last weekend, where he was attending the Wikileaks keynote speech. Following is a transcript made from a recorded interview with Young, lightly edited for space.
Q: How many hours a day or days a week do you spend on Cryptome?
Young: Well, it varies. When I’m doing professional practice work, it’s very little. I just answer e-mail and when something hot comes in, I’ll put it up. Most of my time is spent on my architectural practice. So I do Cryptome between when I have time to get to it. It’s by no means a full-time activity.
What you’re doing sounds a lot like what Wikileaks is doing, no?
Young: Only superficially, Declan, because, and we can talk more about this, I initially thought that was what they were going to be doing when I first agreed to participate. But it became clear right away that they were going to set up an operation with multiple people involved. So the first difference is that I don’t run an operation. I don’t have any people working on this. This is strictly–and I like the term myself, but other people hate it–it’s strictly an amateur version.
It’s not like Wikileaks and their grand goals. I’ve never had any desire to overturn governments or do any of these noble things that they want to do. Or jack up journalism. This was just a way to get certain kinds of documents out to the public.
And so when they explained the amount of money they were going to try to raise, that was the basis for parting company with them. I thought it was going to be more like Cryptome, which is a collective of people contributing their time to it and not a centralized operation raising lots of money. Cryptome is not into that kind of thing. We parted company at that point. We’re still not like Wikileaks in that we don’t do any promotional work for our activities.
Who were the other Wikileaks founders?
Young: I’m not going to talk about those. I’ll say Julian (Assange) was clearly there. I elected to conceal those names when I published these messages. And I think it’s basically a violation of Cryptome’s policy–to publish the names of people who do not want to be identified.
You had a falling-out with the other Wikileaks founders?
Young: Yes. But it was over this: someone said that the initial goal was $5 million. That caught my attention. One, because I think the type of stuff I was going to publish, you should never do it for money. Only because that contaminates the credibility and it turns it into a business opportunity where there’s great treachery and lying going on.
And it will contaminate Wikileaks. It always does. In fact, that’s the principal means by which noble endeavors are contaminated, the money trail. That’s pretty obvious. I happen to think that amateur stuff is better than paid stuff.
How long were you involved before you resigned?
Young: Not long. A few weeks. It wasn’t long. However, one of the things that happened is that somehow I got subscribed to that list under another nym and the messages kept coming in. I got to keep reading what they were saying about me after they booted me off. The messages kept coming in. So I published those too.
Did they criticize you for, well, leaking about Wikileaks?
Young: They certainly did. They accused me of being an old fart and jealous. And all these things that come up, that typically happen when someone doesn’t like you. That’s okay. I know you would never do that and journalists never do that, but ordinary people do this all the time.
Because journalism is a noble profession in all its guises?
Young: That’s right. And there’s no back-biting there.
Over the years you’ve been running Cryptome, you’ve had some encounters with federal agencies. What visits did you have and what were the agents concerned about?
Young: They were most concerned that we published lists. The names of spies. That was the first issue that brought us to their attention. There was a request, so we were told, from one of the British intelligence people to have that list removed.
And did you remove it?
Young: No. And not only that, but the FBI was always very polite. They said you’ve done nothing illegal, we’re not pursuing a criminal investigation. These are just courtesies we’re offering other governments. We had one with the Brits and one with the Japanese that brought them to our door.
You had no other interaction with, say, Homeland Security?
Young: The other was when we started our eyeball series of publishing photos. That brought one visit and one phone call. But again, they were polite and said there’s nothing illegal about this. They never used a negative term. They just said the issue has been raised with us.
And by the way, I did a FOIA trying to get records of these visits, but I could never find anything. I did get business cards, though, and I asked for ID. They were very polite and gave me business cards and I published all that. They asked me not to publish their names. But what the hell, Declan, what else do I have to go with?
So if you’ve been publishing sensitive government information for so long, why have you not had the same encounters that Wikileaks has had? [Ed. Note: Wikileaks has claimed its representatives have been harassed by U.S. government agents.]
I don’t think they’ve had any encounters. That’s bogus. But that’s okay. I know a lot of people who talk about how the government’s after them. It’s a fairly well-worn path. You know it from your own field. It remains to be seen whether any of this stuff holds up or not.
One of the tests is: unless you go to jail, it’s all bogus. When I go to jail, you’ll say he actually did it, finally. He came up with something that offended someone. So far that hasn’t happened, no indictments or anything. These polite visits are the closest I’ve come.
Professionals are going to have nothing to do with Wikileaks, as you probably know if you check around. People who know security will not have anything to do with Wikileaks. But the public will.
Wikileaks pledges to maintain the confidentiality of sources and stressed that in the presentation over the weekend. Do you offer your contributors the same guarantee?
Young: No. That’s just a pitch. You cannot provide any security over the Internet, much less any other form of communication. We actually post periodically warnings not to trust our site. Don’t believe us. We offer no protection. You’re strictly on your own.
We also say don’t trust anyone who offers you protection, whether it’s the U.S. government or anybody else. That’s a story they put out. It’s repeated to people who are a little nervous. They think they can always find someone to protect them. No, you can’t. You’ve got to protect yourself. You know where I learned that? From the cypherpunks.
So Wikileaks cannot protect people. It’s so leaky. It’s unbelievable how leaky it is as far as security goes. But they do have a lot of smoke blowing on their site. Page after page after page about how they’re going to protect you.
And I say, oh-oh. That’s over-promising. The very over-promising is an indication that it doesn’t work. And we know that from watching the field of intelligence and how governments operate. When they over-promise, you know they’re hiding something. People who are really trustworthy do not go around broadcasting how trustworthy I am.
It sounds like you’ve become more critical of Wikileaks over time.
Young: It’s not just them. It’s also that they’re behaving like untrustworthy organizations. So yes, if the shoe fits, fine.
I don’t want to limit this to Wikileaks, but yes, they’re acting like a cult. They’re acting like a religion. They’re acting like a government. They’re acting like a bunch of spies. They’re hiding their identity. They don’t account for the money. They promise all sorts of good things. They seldom let you know what they’re really up to. They have rituals and all sorts of wonderful stuff. So I admire them for their showmanship and their entertainment value. But I certainly would not trust them with information if it had any value, or if it put me at risk or anyone that I cared about at risk.
Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating development that’s come along, to monetize this kind of thing. That’s what they’re up to. You start with free samples.
You’ve been trying to follow some of Wikileaks’ money flows. You contacted the German charity and posted their response. They said they’re going to have some information to you perhaps in early August. Does that make you feel any better about the money trail?
Young: No. To clarify, they’re going to publish it on their Web site. They said, “you could mirror it or point to it.” So it’s not just for me.
But it’s only a tiny sliver of what Wikileaks claims it’s raised. whether Wikileaks has raised a million dollars as they’ve claimed, or whether they’re trying to prime the pump, I don’t know. (German charity) Wal Holland has only handled a very tiny amount of this, and they’ve said that, “We know nothing about the rest.”
I notice that Wikileaks is touting the revelation that’s going to come. But it doesn’t fit the claims that Wikileaks is making about how much it’s raised. There’s nothing wrong with that. People exaggerate all the time for effect. So back to why I admire Wikileaks: they’ve got chutzpah.
What do you think of Wikileaks’ spat with Adrian Lamo? You’ve been publishing some of the correspondence.
Young: None of the stuff that Lamo has made available has been verified. Early on, I said chat logs can be forged, you can make this stuff up. So far there’s nothing of substance here. It’s a story that’s being played. I’m not seeing any credible information that this story has any substance at all other than as a story.
It’s being treated almost as if there’s something of substance here because the chat logs have come out. But I’ve not seen any verification. And chat logs are notoriously (easy to) forge by authorities and other people, as with other digital stuff. So I don’t know whether there’s anything to this or not. But I’m following it because it’s kind of a test of how gullible people can be with a good story. And all frauds work that way.
And I think Wikileaks is wary too. I think they’re not sure that anything’s actually happened here or if they’re not being sucked into a trap.
The kind of sacred character of these chat logs is weird. I don’t know why anyone believes these have any genuine quality at all, just because Lamo allegedly handed them over.
I saw the two e-mail messages that you sent to Adrian Lamo. Have you received a response to your questions? [Ed. Note: Lamo, an ex-hacker, says he tipped off authorities that Manning was leaking classified information.]
Young: Not yet, no. I don’t know if I will. But those are questions I would have liked to have asked at (Sunday afternoon’s) panel. Except there was no time.
There’s lots of interesting things going on if this is a genuine investigation. And since Lamo said (he would be) transparent so everyone would know what was happening, well, I happen to believe the whole legal thing should be transparent too. That was the basis of my questions.
If you want to get transparent, really get transparent. And don’t let the feds tell you what you can and cannot do. There are some interesting issues here because the feds don’t want this stuff to become public and yet they haven’t kept him from talking. So let’s see how far he goes. We’d all like to know more about how this is actually working.
There was suspicion from day one that this was entrapment run by someone unknown to suck a number of people into a trap. So we actually don’t know. But it’s certainly a standard counterintelligence technique. And they’re usually pretty elaborate and pretty carefully run. They’ll even prosecute people as part of the cover story. That actually was talked about at (Sunday’s) panel. They’ll try to conceal who was informing and betraying others by pretending to prosecute them.
How do you expect this affair to resolve itself? Do you expect Manning to be sentenced to a significant prison term?
Young: I don’t think so. Based on what I have seen so far, and these so-called State Department cables, as someone said on (Sunday’s) panel, does anyone know if they actually exist? The answer is no. Nobody knows if these exist or not. The videos are not terribly incriminating. The cables seem to be what’s being plumped as a crucial thing, but we don’t know if they exist or not.
91177info | July 07, 2010
If they refuse they are sent to prison. Young Israeli soldiers refuse to serve the occupation. They say that they don’t want to take part in war crimes and they are willing to go to jail for it.
In the war on global warming, why not steal Saudi Arabia’s nameplate, break it, and take photos of it in a toilet?
Gland, Switzerland, 28.07.10: Global environment organisation WWF apologised unreservedly for the actions of an employee who was involved in an incident at the June meeting of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The incident was gravely offensive to the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and to the meeting as a whole. It involved the taking and distribution of offensive photographs featuring the official nameplate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
An Oxfam employee was part of a discussion with two people from WWF that eventually led to one of the WWF employees taking the nameplate of Saudi Arabia. The nameplate was broken, put in a toilet bowl and photographs of it circulated around the convention center. The Oxfam employee did not take part in the act but was in the room when the nameplate was taken.
[June 11, 2010] UN climate talks in Bonn were rocked by angry outbursts on Friday after Saudi Arabia’s conference nameplate was vandalised and its national flag was said to have been abused.
If anyone ever wants to know why relations between Israel and the Arabs are so incredibly messed up, you have but to examine the story I’m about to tell. It will show you that Israel’s police, military and political leader are clueless when it comes to really understanding their Arab neighbors. In fact, one could say that decisions like the one described below indicate that Israel doesn’t want to understand Arabs, but rather wants to dominate them by force and even torture if necessary.
In 1994, the IDF kidnapped the alleged chief of security for Amal because he was believed to have held captured IDF Capt. Ran Arad for two years. They spirited Dirani to Israel for questioning. He was held for eight years. Mustafa Dirani afterward alleged that he was continuously tortured for one month by soldiers under the command of a “Captain George.” (For the life of me I can’t understand why Haaretz can’t fully identify a man who is now nothing but a police officer. Does his former status as a military intelligence officer confer lifetime anonymity? Or would revealing his identity reopen the embarrassing story of torture at Camp 1391?)
Here is how the victim described his treatment:
In 2004, he testified in court about being raped with a baton by soldiers under “George’s” command. Dirani said he was threatened not to reveal what had happened to him, had suffered continuous torture for a month and throughout that period was not allowed any clothes, only adult diapers.
“George” denied Dirani’s claims, except to confirm that one soldier had been sent into the prisoner’s cell wearing only underwear to threaten him with a sexual act. The Military Police investigation did not result in an indictment.
George was a senior office in Unit 504 of IDF military intelligence. He served at the notorious top-secret military torture facility (Abu Graibh anyone?) called Camp 1391 located near Kibbutz Barkai. The prison became so notorious that Israel closed it down. But not before the damage it did to Dirani and countless others. If you read Hebrew, you can regale yourself with the full panoply of torture techniques used by George and his boys there.
Dirani sued Israel for $1.5-million, but subsequently was released and left Israel. And poor Captain George was sacked. Unfortunately, the case is now dormant.
But here’s the kicker. Capt. George left military service and transferred to the Israeli police, where he was just promoted to be the official liaison between the Jerusalem police force and the city’s Arab community. So get this, an intelligence agent accused of conducting the brutal torture interrogation of an Arab is now performing a job described thus:
“The adviser must be an accepted and welcome figure in the Arab community, with excellent interpersonal skills – someone they feel they can trust, otherwise he cannot succeed in the job,” a senior police officer said.
Given his reputation as a butcher, the police appear highly satisfied with his work so far:
The police said: “There is no link between the previous role held by Major D. [“George”] and his current position. The officer is carrying out his duties to Franco’s satisfaction, and is contributing a great deal to the good relationship between Jerusalem police and the Arabs of East Jerusalem.”
You bet there’s a link. He was a torturer before and he’ll be a torturer again. If the police think this man can have anything but a bitter relationship with any self-respecting Arab in East Jerusalem, they’ve taken leave of their senses. But the statement above is window-dressing. What the police really want George to do is be as brutal with the local Arabs as he was with the Hezbollah prisoner. Brutality. That is what wins awards as far as Israel is concerned. The Arabs according to this code can’t be reasoned with. They can only be dominated. Weakness is death. Overwhelming force commands respect. That’s the ethos of Captain George and his fellow torturers.
And this, in a nutshell, is why there has not been peace and may never be peace between the two peoples.
So Wikileaks has exposed the truth about the Afghan/Pakistan war? 91,000 leaked documents expose the fact that war is a nasty, two-faced, dishonorable business with even (shock horror) covert operations set up to assassinate leaders of the enemy.
What is getting most attention, however, is the allegation that the ISI (the Pakistani Secret Service) is secretly backing the Taliban and other documents demanding that the Pakistani government turn decisively against the militants, creating a justification for US operations inside Pakistan and a possible pretext for full-on invasion of the country.
A few months ago we were reading that the US were funding the Taliban. There are many other stories of this kind from people like Webster Tarpley and Wayne Madsen.
All this ‘whistleblowing’ does little other than serve the interests of the US possibly expanding their war. No establishment figure is seriously compromised by these ‘leaks’, nor is policy undermined in any new way. The war is wicked? The people who care already know that and this ‘new’ information makes little difference to that perception one way or the other.
Why do the ‘leaks’ contain no embarrassing whistleblowing? Why is there no exposition of the betrayal felt by many soldiers and their officers who know the war(s) have got nothing to do with protecting America or the UK? (I have spoken to one British army officer who is acutely aware of the betrayal of his troops and of wider British interests and is waiting for [and working towards] the same revolution as myself. Meeting this man was the most encouraging moment of the last six months for me.)
Wikileaks made its name with this footage.
Again, innocent people get murdered by coalition troops. Evil… embarrassing… but tell us something we didn’t know.
We know that the powers-that-be are determined to control both sides of every argument. They lead the opposition against themselves. That’s why “Stop The War” will not even MENTION 9/11 Truth and exclude from the ranks of their leadership anyone who wants to raise reasonable questions about the events of 9/11.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is ‘annoyed’ by 9/11 truth. That there IN ITSELF makes him, to any sensible person, a placeman of the security services.
This, like the StopTheWar position, is called a ‘limited hangout’. There is no end of this kind of maneuvering out there as in, for example, Chomsky’s indefatigable support of Israel (“America” is the problem, not the international bankers who own it nor the Jewish Lobby who control it…. criticism most definitely never goes THERE. These are simply NOT issues).
‘Limited hangout’ is making a pretense at protest in order to disable genuine protest.
IT IS USING TRUTH TO SERVE LIES.
It is the Hegelian dialectic in action.
Many good people are led down futile paths when they trust and follow these people.
Even the name for the operation, ‘Wikileaks’, tells a story.
Here we see one CIA/Mossad operation supporting another. We are supposed to see ‘Wiki’ and think ‘truth’ as in that honourable internet encyclopedia ‘Wikipedia'(……whose ‘Mossad’ entry, by the way, does NOT include their famous motto, “By way of deception thou shalt make war”). There is a lifetime of work for somebody exposing the spinning and obfuscation in support of establishment narratives on this lousy site.
For a more detailed look at the ‘Wikileaks’ operation see here.
Uh-O. Lookee here… Wikileaks ‘reveal’ that Bin Laden was being tracked through Pakistan:
“In August 2006, a US intelligence report placed Bin Laden at a meeting in Quetta, over the border in Pakistan.
It said he and others – including the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar – were organising suicide attacks in Afghanistan.”
So there it is. That evil fiend, Bin Laden, is not dead (as most people who follow the information believe). He is alive and well and organising Al Qaeda, or is it the Taliban, to carry out suicide bombings against our boys in Afghanistan.
Well, now we know.